I normally don’t publish details of my vacations for public consumption, just a few fun photos. For one, when people talk about their trips, I only want them to hit the highlights. Just the facts, ma’am. For another, vacations are all relative; one person’s camping is another’s grand European tour. To each his or her own.
This one is different, however. It follows the publication of my feature in No’Ala magazine for Sept/Oct, “A Tale of Two Pretties: Cella and Pearl.” I promised a follow-up with our Airstream we call Cella after her maiden voyage to Miramar Beach, Florida. 1. Did everything work? 2. Could we stand being together in such a small space? 3. Was camping on the beach everything we had dreamed? So as not to build suspense, I can easily answer: 1. Almost, 2. Yes! and 3. And how!
So, here’s our little trip with a bit of commentary and cellphone snaps:
August 15: We arrive in our tonneau-covered diesel Ford truck, Cella in tow. We find Camp Gulf easily and follow the directions to get Cella parked in #815, the choice spot in the entire campground (says me). It is evening, and the sun is about to set. Time to unfold the Walmart plastic outdoor rug, unroll the aluminum table, splash some wine in a plastic wineglass, pull out the directors’ chairs, and enjoy the site. We are 66 feet from the ocean, the waves crashing into the surf loudly enough to make us shout to each other to be heard if we step away from the table. We are in paradise. As the sun sets, and the moon makes its way across our horizon, we see its glittery reflection on the tiny waves. It is as if the beach is showing us its glory, telling us that the majesty of the ocean is as dazzling at night under the moon as it is under the bright sunshine by day.
After dark, Kerry decides that he wants to cook our shrimp boil. He pulls out our Coleman stove and dons a headlamp because we didn’t think about outdoor lighting before we left. We eat, his bobbing lamp illuminating both of our dishes, and we decide it is the most delicious shrimp boil we have ever tasted. We later fall asleep watching a movie on our wee television in our room. Kerry lasts ten minutes. I last maybe thirty. It’s okay—it’s a Quentin Tarantino, and it’s quite slow starting. We’re too sleepy anyway for the upcoming onslaught that is surely to ensue as is his wont in films.
August 16: We awaken for the first time in our own little house. We stretch out on the bunks and revel in our comfort. We doze and read. We are in no hurry to venture out of our cocoon. Kerry gets froggy and sets up the Coleman stove for breakfast, the first of nearly all breakfasts he will make for us on our trip. We eat outside, sipping our tea and thinking that we will not have to leave our site to enjoy the ocean, especially since we both wish to avoid the sun. After a bit, Kerry gets the television connected, and I walk around Cella, marveling at our good fortune. She is not the newest of the travel trailers on the campground; she may, in fact, be the oldest. (From 1989, that makes her vintage at 26 years old!) She not the smallest by any means at 25 feet. There are several campers that are essentially teeny tiny vans, though they are new and, I’m sure, very well appointed. Cella and her kindred Airstreams (a new and tiny Bambi and a bigger International) are, to us, the most charming. They just seem classically iconic with their silver sheaths glistening in the Florida sunshine.
Later, maybe it’s lunchtime, we don’t know because we have no concept of time on the beach, we lock up Cella and take a little excursion around the Destin/Sandestin area. We are familiar with this part of Florida, and we love seeing new places that have sprung up while feeling the satisfaction of familiarity. We realize we may become more adventurous at some point in our Cella-camping-years, but for now, we are creatures of habit, and we don’t care. We enjoy a scrumptious cappellini pasta at my favorite, Ciao Bella (in Silver Sands Outlets Mall), and shop for things we realize we forgot like outdoor lights. Later, Kerry raises the awning and strings the edges with lights found at Stein Mart. Our setting is even more perfect, so I take shots of the full moon under the awning and step out to see Cella with her adornment. She is festive, and I could not be happier.
August 17: We spend another morning eating under our awning and deciding that we don’t care to slather on sunscreen and sit on chairs by the ocean. Our perches under the awning will do just fine. So we avoid the midday heat and drive over to Grayton Beach to eat at The Red Bar, my other favorite haunt. After our very late lunch, I buy tee shirts for the kids and me at The Red Bar’s shop because they really are the coolest tees around. Kerry doesn’t want another tee, he says. We then browse The Zoo Gallery, and I find the most beautiful Kimono-covered hair clips for the girls and me. I also do something that I don’t know is a no-no, but Kerry points to a sign and tells me it is. Do Not Photograph Art. We Protect Our Artists, it says. Oops. Too late. I have pics of the clever Airstream cooler that Kerry promises to make for me. Later, I don’t feel quite as bad for my rule-breaking because I find complete photos on the artist’s website with measurements. Whew!
Later that evening, we take a walk to the surf’s edge and then down the beach a bit. The sand is cool and feels like satin under our feet. I decide to venture out and see how others set up their campsites as Kerry returns to Cella to make popcorn and peanuts. Kerry cautions me that we aren’t exactly savvy campers and might not know the proper campsite etiquette. I think what he’s really saying is that I shouldn’t be too friendly and drum up a party at Cella. The man knows me too well! I do meet a family from Chicago in a bus as large as a rock star’s. It has a deck and ginormous televisions that can be watched outside on three sides. I also meet a group of five women from Fort Worth, Texas, who also came in a giant bus driven by one of the women (who will forever be my hero). I realize I need to “woman up” and learn the ins and outs of the electricity, plumbing, etc., for Cella. I sigh. Another trip perhaps.
August 18: We decide our meal out for the day will be breakfast. I get my favorite Bananas Foster Pancakes at The Pancakery in Destin. Kerry and I resolve that next time we will split an order of pancakes since neither of us could eat more than half. After breakfast I shop for my nephew at one of the touristy shops, and we spend the afternoon touring the ocean spots. We also shop in a few of the pretty amazing thrift stores lining Hwy 98. I find a real treasure: a vintage sleeve ironing board that looks like a miniature wooden ironing board. I decide if daughter Claire doesn’t want it in her new laundry room I will save it for mine. Or rather, the one I will have once the master bathroom moves out.
For dinner Kerry pulls out the little Smokey Joe grill and cooks us the most delectable steaks we have ever eaten. I use Cella’s oven for the first time to bake potatoes and roast asparagus. We decide that the meals we cooked ourselves were the best of our trip.
August 19: Kerry discovers a leak around a water tank seal. Although I don’t want to cut our trip short, Kerry insists that we cannot stay and leak gray & black water onto the sand. We must leave. After a morning migraine, I agree. These things, however, do not diminish the rousing success of Cella’s maiden voyage. This trip has been one of the best if not the best we have ever experienced. Away from home responsibilities, in our own little home on a private beach spot, we experienced paradise. And, since we will be taking our travel house with us, we know we can step outside our main house and spend as much time as we like in Cella. A rainy Sunday afternoon reading a book or working the crossword puzzle. Researching Airstream plumbing on the Internet. Taking a nap. We don’t need the beach to do those things.