Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Redneck Riveria

April 6-7, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Seeing our Oregon license plates in Alabama often creates curiosity about what brings us here. While we were loading up our kayaks, a local resident of Wolf Bay came over and struck up a conversation. Anxious to have us experience the real Gulf Shores, this young man convinced us we couldn't leave without having a bushwacker at this area's most famous "roadhouse" called Flora-Bama.  Here is what Wiki-Pedia has to say about this place:
  • Flora-Bama is a beachside oyster bar, beach bar, and Gulf Coast cultural landmark, touted as being America's "Last Great Roadhouse." The Flora-Bama takes its name from its location on the Florida-Alabama border line. The bar is in fact located all within Florida, with the Alabama line being about six feet from the western outside wall.The Bama serves a local favorite known as the "Bushwacker." For the tourists visiting the area, the drink is a frozen concoction that has a coffee-esque taste and can be found at many bars around the area. The Bama is famous for being the last stop on the "Bushwacker Tour" where groups of friends set out in boats and start at Tacky Jack's Bar, on to Calypso Joe's Caribbean Grille, down to Pirate's Cove, and on the Bama to finish up. At each stop, a bushwacker is consumed by a member of the boating party until the boat reaches the Bama where everyone disembarks and parties at the bar.
He also told us about Pirate's Cove and recommended that we drive rather than kayak for two reasons: 1) it's a big destination for dogs as well as people; 2) there would be many power boats to contend with in crossing the bay. We decided to check out 'Bama on Friday night, drive with the dogs to Pirate's Cove Saturday morning, and take in Calypso Joe's Saturday night. (We had already been to Tacky Jacks.)

No amount of research or hearsay could fully prepare us for the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store. Imagine a scruffy-looking wood structure building sandwiched between a series of fairly new condos on the beach.  Cars are parked helter-skelter everywhere (actually mostly big trucks) and music is blasting from the place. Inside, the floors and walls are mostly plywood, autographed with hundreds of patron's signatures, photographs, and posters. We learned from the posters that an internationallly famous rite of spring is about to take place here the last weekend in April: the Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss drawing up to 100,000 people over a three-day period.

Couldn't resist this classic photo of a
 mullet-tosssing contestant (internet photo)

It's 6:30 p.m. on a Friday and things are just getting started on a night that for many will go 'til 3 a.m.. There are three floors and various decks attached to different parts of the building and at least thirty picnic tables out in the sand of the beach itself.  Walking around the place, we counted over twenty service bars--supposedly there were as many as forty before Hurricane Ivan destroyed parts of the building. We decided to check out the country music upstairs. Strung across the floor on a clothesline are hundreds of signed bras; the lead singer of the band is taunting the girls on the dance floor to display their ta-tas. We order bushwackers, stay for a full set, and come up with a simple conclusion: Alabamians know how to party.  Check it out:

On Saturday morning the wind was blowing about 20 knots with gusts up to 35 knots, not good for kayaking anyway.  Around 11 a.m, we loaded up the dogs and made the twenty-mile trip to Pirate's Cove.  The last part of the drive took us about ten miles down a narrow two-lane road that dead-ends in front of a secluded place on the bay where most of the clientele arrives by boat. The place was hoppin' and dogs are running around in the water, sitting by the bar, and begging at the indoor tables. The clientele runs the gamut with many in bathing suits carrying their own Tervis glasses to one of five service bars for bushwacker refills.  We found a great table by the beach, ordered burgers and beer (okay, I did have a bushwacker), and tried to keep our own dogs by our side before taking them for a swim.  The live music hadn't started yet (it was early afternoon), but we could only imagine how much fun it would be to hang out all day and then dance into the night.

After a full day of sun at Pirate's Cove, we decided to save the trip to Calypso Joe's for next year. We had eaten at Doc's Seafood on Friday night, amazing fried shrimp and oysters, so we decided to stay home and a seafood cioppino that I made (should've been gumbo, but I didn't have the necessary okra). Over dinner, we discussed an important lesson we learned this week.  When we first arrived, we weren't too impressed with this area (especially after Destin), but staying for a week allowed us to explore the local attractions and get a feel for what draws people to this part of the country. We ended up loving the honky-tonk atmosphere here and plan to come back next year to complete the  "Bushwacker Tour."
Another popular place nearby in Foley where you better be
prepared to catch a roll when it comes at you.

The flagpole back up and glowing in the night

Sunset in the campground

1 comment:

  1. LOVED the blog...sounds like you (and the dogs) had a blast!


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