Thursday, January 18, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day One

Today is day one of my eight day trip to visit children and grandchildren in Katy, Texas and Naperville, Illinois. I am now in Gulf Shores, Alabama where I'm spending the night and writing this entry.

I left my home in Winter Springs, Florida at 7:30 on a foggy, misty morning - not typical Central Florida weather. The clouds and fog reinforced my belief that this trip is probably going to be nasty weather the entire time. Driving was typical with heavy traffic and delays getting through Orlando this morning. Later the Florida Turnpike, I-75 and I-10 were busy but allowed me to make good time. I was going through Tallahassee by noon. Lunch was a Publix Cuban sandwich, apple, and banana. I was in Gulf Shores by 3:00 this afternoon as planned. With the thermometer in the 40's, it's much cooler here than Central Florida, but not uncomfortable.

On the way I listened to an audio book, Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. It is the story of the powerful hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900 claiming 8,000 lives. The book has lots of great details about the storm and it's aftermath and I enjoyed listening to it.

Aside from being half way between Winter Springs and Katy, this area of Alabama is attractive as a stopping off place because my grandparents Carpenter had a second home in Magnolia Springs on the river. Several years ago I visited the old house, but this time I couldn't find it. Either it's been torn down or changed so much I don't recognize it. After driving around for a while I gave up. The area has changed so much anyhow. The old general store on the corner is now an upscale restaurant and gourmet shop. The area around the river is packed full of homes. It's nothing like I remember from my childhood. I thought there might be some good photo opportunities, but the light was poor and nothing was attractive enough to stop for.

I'm staying in a new Courtyard by the mall. Gulf Shores reminds me of Gatlinburg, Tennessee with all the commercial development and amusement facilities. On the way from Magnolia Springs to the hotel, I went through Bon Secour, a little fishing village on the Bon Secour river, which empties into Bon Secour and then Mobile Bay. The Tin Top Restaurant in Bon Secour had a neon 'Oysters' sign in the window which caught my attention. After checking it out with the hotel staff, I decided to have dinner there. I expected it to be a local Oyster Bar restaurant and wasn't disappointed. It was more refined than I anticipated with a lot more restaurant than bar. The food was very good, the service great and the prices, while not cheap, were reasonable. I had oyster stew, an oyster po' boy sandwich, and fried green tomatoes. Apparently a lot of folks like the place since one wall was covered with write-ups. One was from the 'Mullet Wrapper', a great name for a local newspaper.

Tomorrow I'll leave early and plan to be in Katy around 3:00 PM.

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