Monday, March 26, 2012

Waking up to the roar of lions

March 25, Panama City Beach, Florida
The panhandle  is a place I have never been before—almost a first for me on this journey.  It doesn’t even feel like Florida—even the time changes to Central Standard Time.  It is way more open and greener and the air feels crisper—could also be the absence of live oaks dripping with moss.  There also seems to be less poverty—maybe because we are in tourist areas.  The park we chose, Emerald Coast Beach RV Resort, was a gorgeous surprise. We are staying in one of their older sites, but it is spacious with beautiful landscaping. There are two pools here, one salt and one chlorine. 
The new area of the park has wide sites with pavers centered around a lake with sand volleyball, bocce ball, basketball court, shuffleboard, and fenced dog run. 

Dog bath at Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort

The most comical part of the park is that the old section backs up to a zoo.  We actually awoke to the sound of a lion roaring and a monkey screeching.  I loved it! Apparently, there is a giraffe that pokes his head through into the park from time to time.  We were so impressed with the park that we inquired about monthly rates and were surprised to learn that their high season is March-August. Apparently, many tourists from the interior southern states come to this Emerald Coast in the summertime.  Rates during high season were about $1000 a month and $700 during low season including elec., cable, and taxes—not bad for such a lovely park less than fiive minutes to the Gulf beaches.
Our friends who live in Panama City Beach, Gavin and Betty, came to the park to see our motorhome and learn a little more about our new lifestyle before heading to their home(only ten minutes away) for dinner.  Even though it had been almost ten years since we had last seen them, it was easy to rekindle our friendship and spend the evening catching up on the past decade of our lives. Vic and I were especially intrigued to learn what drew them to this area (beyond employment) as our first impressions were much more positive than we had anticipated.
The next morning, we took time to check out the beaches in the area.  Evidence of spring break with college students was everywhere as there were music venues set up all along the beach with big banners welcoming students from across the nation (even Oregon State was included).

The sand felt like baby powder and looked like white sugar; the water had the typical turquoise color of the Gulf of Mexico but looked even more dramatic in contrast with the white sands. We were a little surprised by the presence of tall condos and hotels, but they took up only less than a mile of the shoreline. Something about this area reminded us of the golden zone in Mazatlan. For us, that is a very nostalgic feeling as we miss Mexico so much. One thing for us to keep in mind was the weather this winter in Florida has been much warmer than typical.  The high today was supposed to be in the mid-80s, about ten degrees warmer than usual.  Spending a winter in the panhandle would not be nearly as warm as Naples or even the Bradenton beaches, and this doesn’t seem to be a shelling beach.  Might be a good place to spend November or April of next year?

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