School is letting out. It’s raining every day. The termites are swarming. Cars are backing up on Government Street by noon on Fridays. It must be summer in Mobile!
As we approach this holiday weekend and kick off the most sizzling season of the year, there is no time I feel luckier to live in Mobile. (Well, until Mardi Gras rolls back around.)
Now sure, the heat and humidity will become almost as unbearable as the mosquitoes and the Bayway on a Sunday, but any experienced Mobilian knows there are ways to work around all of those minor inconveniences.
They are but small prices to pay for the many little pieces of paradise we have in our own backyard. Most people have to plan for weeks or months, pack up cars and drive for hours to enjoy places we can get to in less than an hour and on a whim.
With so many things to do, it’s hard to fit them all in just one summer. So I’ve been working my way through a Gulf Coast Summer Bucket List for a while now. Some of these things I’ve done multiple times, others only once and a few I have yet to mark off the list, but I feel lucky to have such a list to complete. (And also lucky to have friends with boats. That has been helpful for many of these. Thanks, guys!)
A day on Sand Island. — Dauphin Island
There is just something about packing up the boat with provisions (chairs, towels, a well-stocked cooler, snacks, maybe a tent) to journey to what at first seems like your own little private island. As other boats pull in and join the fun, the vibe turns from privacy into a party, which is a welcome change.
The tension in your neck begins to melt away as you lounge in chairs next to your best friends as your children play along the shore, scooping up hermit crabs. I have had some of the best conversations of my life sitting out on that little strip of sand. Some of those came with laughter, others with tears, as we talked about marriages and divorces, babies being born and parents dying.
I always feel such a great sense of peace and fulfillment as we begin to journey back in as the sun is beginning to set. We only have so many days on this Earth and one spent on Sand Island never feels like one wasted.
Being a freak with the freaks at Flora-Bama
It’s just a dingy little dive straddling the Florida and Alabama line but there’s no other place like the Flora-Bama. Maybe it’s because you are almost as likely to see a country music star or an NFL quarterback as you are a girl with a tramp stamp and a fresh hickey on her neck. Probably why it’s been immortalized in songs by Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton and JJ Grey and Mofro.
There are things my eyes have seen there that I still wish they could unsee, especially during what we will call the “talent competition” during the Miss Flora-Bama Bikini Contest one year. Yikes.
The people watching is always definitely worth the trip. And the raw oysters and Bushwackers go down really easy, too.
I don’t think you can mark it off your bucket list after visiting just once. To really have experienced it, you must have danced all night with the band, left there laughing, left there crying or left there missing a shoe, phone, credit card, purse, wallet and/or possibly someone in your group (and most likely your dignity). But hey, you only live once.
A burger and a Bushwacker at Pirate’s Cove — Josephine
Another bar with that special “it” factor, I finally made my first trip to Pirate’s Cove earlier this spring. I can’t believe it took me so long, but it was so worth the wait. With as many dogs running around as toddlers, it’s a feast for the eyes. A feast for your belly can be found in their legendary pizzas and burgers, which are delivered by servers who walk around screaming your name. Somehow it seemed to work perfectly.
I didn’t try the pizza but their burger was one of the best I have ever had. And their Bushwackers don’t play, so proceed with caution. On the way out, an actual pirate ship sailed by and blasted a cannon at us and threw some treasure (Mardi Gras beads) our way.
And since you can get there by land or by sea, everyone can enjoy it.
A rejuvenating plunge into the Cold Hole — Magnolia Springs
Come late July or August, when temperatures reach a level local meteorologists refer to as “ass hot,” it’s time to take a leisurely trip down the Magnolia River to dip in the ice cold but magically healing waters known as the Cold Hole. I don’t know what the actual temperature is but it feels something like 38 degrees. I’m pretty sure it’s not, as that would probably give you hypothermia, but whatever it is, it’s cold. And oh so refreshing! And I swear it really is healing. So long aching joints. Who needs a cortisone shot, when you can just submerge yourself in this magical mix of hydrogen and oxygen?
Gumbo Key Experience on Robinson Island — Orange Beach
This is one I still haven’t marked off of my bucket list but it will happen. The founder and mayor of Gumbo Key, Mac McAleer, describes it as “a tropical, mythical place that appears from time to time. This floating musical venue is a place for friends and family to meld together in our Gulf Coastal waters while soaking up the fine sounds of live Southern bands.”
Basically, they have a large barge-like boat out in the water near Robinson Island and a bunch of great bands play all day while you float around on a flamingo or other animal raft of your choosing. Sounds like a pretty perfect day to me!
It looks like this year Mayor McAleer’s mythical place will magically appear on June 17. Hopefully I’ll see you there.
A day of lawlessness in the Delta — Mobile Tensaw Delta
I also have not made into the Delta yet. And I am not sure that I want to. Mainly, because what I imagine happens in the Delta is probably way more exciting than what actually does happen in the Delta. So maybe it’s just one of those journeys better left in my imagination.
Known as “America’s Amazon,” I envision it to be a lawless world run by alligators, birds of prey and salty seamen on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, where scenes from “Breaking Bad,” “Deliverance,” “Lord of the Flies” and/or “Anaconda” could very well play out any time you venture into it. Murders* and arsons* will remain unsolved and the people who inhabit those mysterious camps there will never utter a word about those who have vanished without a trace.*
*I have no idea if there have ever been any murders, arsons and/or missing persons cases in the Delta, but it seems like there should have been, so please just let it stay mysterious for me until I see it for myself.
Relaxing, freaky, rejuvenating, mythical or mysterious, there are so many cool places to visit during the summer months. We really are so very lucky. And these are just a few that should be on our collective Gulf Coast Summer Bucket List. What other adventures should we add?