But anyways. We had a great time on our trip, mostly because of the very fun group of friends we went with. It was fun to get away and have some time with just the three of us and some time to visit with friends we don't see as often as we wish.
The drive was probably a tad too long to just go to the beach for a few days, but we made it fun by stopping somewhere pretty on the way down and back. In both directions, we stayed in Opelika, AL, which is near Auburn University. The hotel is on the Robert Trent Jones Golf trail and it was beautiful out there. On the way down, we even got there in time to have a nice dinner outside as the sun set.
Charlie did great on the drive for the most part. He is a bit of a challenge to keep busy, but he was usually happy if I climbed in the back seat and sat next to him. We spent plenty of time wherever we stopped for lunch or dinner so he could play and get some energy out. Overall, I think he was a real trooper on the trip.
There were two little girls for him to play with when we got there and Charlie referred to them as "the kids." This didn't sit too well with the older girl, who turns 5 soon. She is not a kid! Whenever Charlie would cool it with the "kid" garbage for a bit, she seemed to really warm up to him! Charlie got very attached to these two little girls. He would get upset every time we got in the car, not realizing we were all going to the same place for dinner or whatever. Charlie sure does love the kids.
All three kids seemed to enjoy playing on the beach. Charlie shocked us all by just running and jumping in the water a few times. Fortunately there was always an adult nearby. The first time he did it, I hadn't even had time to set down my stuff before I had to run in after him! I will be signing him up for swimming lessons VERY soon.
Charlie seems to think he can swim already. Whenever Brad or I would take him out in the water, he would push on our arms and tell us to let go. Uhhh, and THEN what Charlie??
Gulf Shores as a vacation destination is pretty nice. The sand is white, there are plenty of places to go out to eat, there's an outlet mall about 5 miles away and other attractions to keep everyone busy.
I do have to say, though, if you have ever been to the Florida panhandle for vacation (Seaside, Santa Rosa, etc.) you will most likely be disappointed in the water at Gulf Shores. It is more murky and Texas Gulf-like. Not the clear emerald color that they have in Florida. The houses and the town are not as quaint and cute as Florida beach towns either. I hate to be a beach snob. But I am.
Gulf Shores is called the Redneck Riviera. I'm not entirely sure why, as the beaches were almost empty last weekend. If they are typically populated with rednecks, I can't vouch for that. I guess the beach was empty because school has already started in a lot of places in the South. Or maybe because it was so stinking hot. I mean, painfully hot. Like none of us wanted to back on the beach the 3rd day. Well, except the kids. And they got vetoed.
On Saturday morning, the moms headed out to the outlet mall and the dads took the kids to ride go carts, play games, ride rides and go out to lunch. It sounds like they had a really fun time! Charlie is still talking about it. Each time Brad would call from Dallas this week, Charlie would talk about the go carts. I think it's been a refreshing change from discussing the lawnmower and weed eater.
Charlie and his little friend Rhyan even rode this airplane ride all by themselves! I was really impressed when I saw the pictures. Neither of them seems the least bit scared! And the planes went up in the air and everything.
I found some killer stuff at the outlets and was pretty excited. There were no crowds, great sales and things weren't really picked over at all. I found a cute denim jacket and some leopard print flats, among other things. Of course, when Charlie found out I'd been shopping, I got "the look" from him.
Mom, I thought we had discussed you leaving me for any reason.
We ended up leaving the beach about 12 hours early. Brad and I were anxious to get back and take stock of the house after the hurricane passed through. The two girls had a rough car trip on the way down so their parents all decided to break it up into two chunks.
While we were packing things up, Charlie spied a beach toy golf set that Rhyan's dad had bought her and he threw an absolute fit that he couldn't open it. So because Brad and I are a couple of suckers, we stopped at a tourist trap shop and got him one on our way out of town. He held on to it the whole ride in the car that night and even wheeled his plastic golf bag into the Marriott that night.
The next morning, before we started our final leg home, he and Brad played some plastic golf out in front of the hotel. A small group that was there for a wedding stopped and watched and got such a kick out of Charlie and his clubs. He takes his golf very seriously. Brad's best friend Sam asked him right before we left, Charlie, are you going to be the next Tiger Woods? And Charlie told him yes.
Speaking of Sam, besides "the kids", Sam was Charlie's favorite person on the trip. Every time he saw him, he'd say "Hi Sammy!" just like Brad calls him. It was really cute. It's like he just knows that's his dad's best friend and he's going to be close to him too. He gave Sam a big hug before we left and it was so sweet.
We're hoping to head back to the beach next summer since Charlie loved it so much. Or maybe in the spring when it's not as hot. I'll still have to huddle under an umbrella because of the whole melanoma thing, but it is so worth it to see Charlie having so much fun.