June 2017

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Wednesday was Bobby's 34th birthday and also the last day of our trip, so we saved the excursion we were looking forward to the most for this day. Shell Island, as I noted in the last post, was created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the channel between the Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico to allow for the passage of shipping traffic. It is an uninhabited section of the park with absolutely no amenities and accessible only by boat. A shuttle boat runs regularly from St. Andrew's to Shell Island. There are some wooden poles stuck into the water to show where the shuttle boat will ride up onto the sand, but that is it. There are signs posted at St. Andrew's: Shell Island contains no water, shade, or bathrooms. If you want it, you have to bring it over with you.

The NO SHADE worried me the most. We brought over two big bottles of water, and if I needed the bathroom, it would not be the first time peeing in a wild place (or the ocean ... tmi!) by far. Despite properly applying sunscreen the day before, I was becoming tender in places, as was Bobby. So that morning, we stopped at the Ron Jon surf shop and picked up a pair of rash guards with SPF 50+ so that we could spend the day in NO SHADE in comfort.

We had lunch again at Finn's--the third time! The food was delicious and the open at 10. We had the scallop ceviche this time and I had the shrimp crunch wrap ... which, yes, is like the things they make at Taco Bell but about 100 times better! At St. Andrew's we rented a tandem kayak for the day, which was loaded onto the shuttle and across we went.

Shell Island was beautiful and wild. We donned our rash guards and launched our kayak and headed out along the coast on the channel side. I love rowing--there is something immensely satisfying about pulling yourself through the water--but I kept getting a crick in my right bicep that was annoying and sometimes painful. We pulled to shore so I could give it a rest and also to explore the island.

More and pictures below the cut ... )
On Tuesday, we were to receive the paddleboards we had attempted to rent the previous day and return to St. Andrew's State Park. Bobby had found a highly rated Mexican restaurant in the area that opened at 10 for lunch, so we planned to grab a bite to eat there and then head over to the park. We had a catamaran cruise scheduled that evening and had to be at the marina at 5, so we actually were working on a schedule for once. (Usually, our schedule more or less matches the sun: When the sun starts to set, we come off the beach and get supper.)

Of course, we showed up at the restaurant, and they were closed. Allow me a brief grouse about places that make changes and don't update their websites. Seriously, folks, as someone who has managed a website for eight years now? It's not that hard. Bobby found another lunch place that was supposed to open at 10. We drove out, found it ... and they were also closed because this was the day they were having a new stove installed. We were both grouchy at this point. I made a snarky remark about just going to someplace I invented in my grouchiness called Happy Jack's Happy Flappy Flapjack House. I just ... don't like breakfast. Well, I like Bobby's breakfast, which has been carefully honed over many years to my tastes. I don't like dessert, so why would I want to eat what amounts to dessert at the beginning of the day too? We ended up at a Waffle House because it is one of the few places that has breakfast that I like: a peanut butter waffle (with no syrup for the love of all things holy!) and a double hashbrown with cheese, onions, and jalapeños. When this is the biggest blip in your vacation, you're doing alright.

We headed over to the park, and Bobby called the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rental guy. Within ten minutes, he was pulling into the park with the boards strapped to the top of his truck. So the day was looking better already.

Bobby mentioned wanting to try SUPing about two years ago, when we saw people doing it in Ocean City. At the time, the joints in my feet were so swollen and painful that I wanted to weep for the thought of standing on a board and trying to float across water on it and them by extension. I made up my mind that I would miserably have to endure it for Bobby's sake. Well, thank goodness that chapter of life is behind me. I was actually able to enjoy it--it was quite a lot of fun!

St. Andrew's State Park is located at one end of Panama City Beach. In the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Gulf-Bay Pass to allow for shipping traffic to pass between the Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. On the west side of the channel is St. Andrew's State Park; the east became Shell Island, which I'll say more about when we go there. Several rock jetties were built, which on the St. Andrew's side, block most of the effect of the surf and create a very calm area for swimming ... or learning to SUP, in our case!

More and pictures below the cut )

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