Life’s a Beach: Miramar, FL

The month of May and warm weather are here, and with them the urge to cool off in the pool or even better, take a dip in the soothing ocean waves. With our furry kids safely at home this time, we embarked in Lexi, our RV, and drove to the beach. For our second RV trip and our 10th wedding anniversary, we chose Destin, Florida area – Miramar Beach, to be exact.

The 8-hour drive didn’t seem too long when we took turns driving but being the slow poke on the interstate took some getting used to. It was interesting driving such a large vehicle and I used my side mirrors a lot. It was actually easier than I expected. The only frustrating part was trying to accelerate – Lexi is good at slowing down but gaining speed is not its thing. The fun part was that if I needed a snack or even a cup of coffee, I could walk back to the kitchen and get them while David was driving.

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We arrived at Geronimo RV Park early evening on a Thursday and checked in. Nicole, one of the park hostesses, guided our RV into the parking spot and we settled in nicely. David hooked up the power and water, and we opened up our awning. And even if our fridge was fully stocked, we headed out to Surf Hut, a beach-side restaurant for dinner, drinks, and watching the sunset over the water. The place was packed but we found a great table by the window with a perfect view of the beach. The fish tacos were OK but I had to fish around to find the fish in them. David had a wonderful bowl of gumbo, and we both sipped on a cool beer. We strolled back to Lexi and slept undisturbed.

In the morning, a temporary panic moment ensued when the door to Lexi wouldn’t open. When it finally did, we figured out that one of the two screws around the handle had rattled loose in transit, blocking the door. The other bothersome thing was the rattle of our A/C unit. With temperatures predicted in the high 80s, we didn’t want to risk not having cool air. So, the next thing on David’s agenda was to bike to the nearest store and get some supplies. My agenda looked a lot better: head to the beach!

The RV park was only a few blocks away. One small hickup was that I had forgotten to look at the paperwork that Nicole provided with the information about beach access… I asked a couple who was coming from the beach about public beach access, and they didn’t know where it was. They asked me where I was staying and when I mentioned the RV park, they pointed out the gate access for RV guests, partially-hidden by a giant magnolia tree. Nicole had mentioned the gate which was by the Surf Hut, a beach-side restaurant but in my enthusiastic rush to get to the water, I had forgotten to check the details… Thanks to the kindness of the two other fellow RVers, my toes quickly touched the white sugar sand of Miramar Beach, as my eyes feasted on the blue-green ocean waves. Hello, relaxation!

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After a nice swim in the ocean, when the heat of the day started to sizzle, I met David inside the Surf Hut for a cold drink and a light lunch. Back at the RV park, I headed out to the showers. I was impressed with the park’s facilities, which featured a nice bathroom and large shower, complete with all the hot water I needed, without worrying that I would run out. I parked myself on a comfortable reclining chair and air-dried my hair, which reminded me of beach-side summers back when I was a kid.

David emerged from Lexi’s rooftop, proudly proclaiming victory over the rattling A/C noise: the culprit was a missing bolt – an easy fix. Energized by his success, he hopped back on the bike and rode about 9 miles one way to the source of fresh local catch, Sexton’s Seafood Market. He might have underestimated the heat and length of the trip made more challenging by the construction on Hwy 98, but his wife – me – was very grateful to savor a lovely tuna steak and some delicious shrimp for dinner (for under $35, cash only).

Our next day brought about the same therapeutic beach visit in the morning and a Greek dinner at Aegean Restaurant on Hwy 98, only about half a mile away from our RV park. The decor was a bit questionable but the food was tasty and plentiful. The Greek potatoes were very satisfying and the baklava was big enough to have leftovers.

Another day in sunny Florida brought about another adventurous bike ride on Hwy 98 leading to a rewarding Mother’s Day brunch at El Mezcal. I am only a mother to furry kids – two dogs and a cat, but I still treated myself to a refreshing green salad topped with mango and grilled shrimp. David’s chicken enchiladas were topped with a savory sauce and nicely paired with cilantro yellow rice and black beans with corn. Yum! I wanted to sip on a mimosa – since no celebratory brunch is complete without one – but I wasn’t sure I would make it “home” on my bike, so I passed…

The morning came and with it a nice relaxing cup of coffee in the company of local wild-ish life: squirrels, blue jays, and a very vocal crow, perched atop the flagpole on the back of our neighbor’s class A.

Once again we found ourselves at Sexton’s Seafood Market – only this time the wiser: in a rental car and with cash. I’ve never seen tuna so fresh – the color was dark red and not the pale pink I usually see in stores! And wall-to-wall shrimp! We chose some pompano fish, and we got a good deal on a small tuna steak. The lady behind the counter explained how to spot local Florida hoppers – shrimp distinctly marked by a red dot and native to St. Joseph Bay, between Apalachicola and Panama City. We took about half a pound of these pink beauties and headed on back with our precious catch. This time I marinated the fish – olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of Old Bay. The grilled shrimp was perfect alongside a salad.

While driving around, we visited Beasley Park Beach (which had showers, vending machines, and free parking) and passed Crab Island Water Park, which looked like fun. We visited Harbor Walk Village and Marina, which was very colorful but we found to be very touristy. The freshly caught fish looked good, though – and the herons nearby agreed. But we had fish waiting for us in the RV, so we headed back to cook it. The pompano went into the skillet and a fresh squeeze of lemon when cooking it rounded the flavor. We made our own fish tacos and margaritas, and relaxed.

The next day we drove along the coast and visited Seaside and Watercolor. The two were picture-perfect pastel beach communities, with posh shops and restaurants – the quintessential beach community. In search for art stores, we walked into the Blue Giraffe, which had a nice collection of local artwork, and talked with the lady behind the counter at length. An artist herself, she enjoyed the laid back life in the beach community and meeting many interesting people passing through the store. We talked about following our true passions and living life to its fullest. In another small art shop, the owner was opening a bottle of wine, and offered us each a glass to enjoy. We strolled outside in a lovely park reminding me of the sweet and quiet elegance of Savannah, Georgia, with twisted trees and a squirrel taking a nap in the peaceful shade.

We walked through the maze of narrow streets among colorful homes, passed the amazing offerings of the food trucks, and headed toward the beach. A couple of twins strutted up the steps, with full swim gear on, and mom in tow. I told them: “You are so cute!,” to which one of the twins replied “I am NOT cute!” Surprised, I asked her, “What are you then?” She replied “I am BEAUTIFUL!” Her sister, though, took all of it: “I am both cute AND beautiful!” Mom, I think you’ve got your hands full with these two…

Although it wasn’t supposed to rain, an angry cloud in the distance pushed us to move away from the beach, passed the Watch Tower, in search for a quick bite. We settled on the terrace of Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar, where a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza hit the spot (we had Prosciutto di Parma: Prosciutto Ham, Arugula, Fresh Mozzarella). David tried a craft beer (Maui Coconut Porter) and I finally got my bubbly – I know, not the usual pairing with pizza but the prosecco was just the thing to enjoy after a walk in the day’s heat. The waiter introduced himself as Lazar and I immediately knew he was from my neck of the woods – indeed, he was from the Moldova, which is Romania’s neighbor to the East. It was fun exchanging some Romanian phrases with him, a sweet reminder of home.

The evening brought some heavy rain after all, so we huddled in Lexi, watching TV. At some point though, water started dripping from our slide into the dining area. We quickly closed the slide and wiped off the water. We had retracted the awning earlier for fear that the wind might damage it, so the slide was exposed to the weather. At least we weren’t the only ones who had that issue, as we found out the next day from one of our neighbors. It turns out that sometimes the rubber seal bends funny so the slide is not completely sealed off. Lesson learned…

May 17 was our 10-year wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with beach time and drinks at the Surf Hut, and later on with steak dinner – tuna steak, that is. When the heat of the day was winding down, we grabbed our chairs and headed off to the beach. It was the perfect thing to do: sit down and watch the colorful play of light brought by the sunset over the water. We tried in vain to catch one of the crawly crabs burrowing into the sand beneath the shallow water. Once the sun was down and the wind started to pick up, we headed inland.

Back at the RV park, the rest of the evening involved getting to know our neighbors, and sharing a drink by the fire. Even if it was warm outside, the fire made the conversation flow even better.

Friday morning came and after the obligatory cup of coffee (well, maybe two), we packed up the RV, said good bye to our new friends, and headed toward Knoxville. Once again, we took turns driving (two hours each at a time), so the trip wasn’t too stressful, even if some of us (David) had to drive through some heavy downpours. We arrived with plenty of daylight to allow for easy unpacking. We slept well, happy that our second RV trip was a success.

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