A (Rather) Temporary Home and a rather long post

We arrived in Miramar Beach, on Florida’s Panhandle coast, on Saturday afternoon for a one-week stay. Angie had found several possible short-term rentals on the VRBO website, and we were able to book the one that looked the most appealing to us. Across from the beach on Scenic Gulf Drive (98), the Maravilla complex is populated primarily by short- or medium-termers, and markets itself as pet-friendly, which means you can have pets in the units, and in the small and increasingly treacherous pet area on the far side of the complex!

Of course, the day before we arrived, the motor broke down in the elevator by our unit, which is on the fourth floor, so we’ve been trucking up and down 48 steps every time we need to go in or out. On the up side, there is an elevator at the other end of the passage, and the complex supplies carts that guests can use to move their belongings into and out of the units.

The unit itself is great and in good condition. If the weather was nicer we would have eaten on the relatively spacious balcony more than the one time we’ve been able to so far. It has a sea view from certain angles, so that is cool. This picture was taken back when the sun was shining last weekend. We haven’t seen it much since!

We are in a two-bed, two-bath unit, though we are using the second bedroom only to store all our bags. It also comes with a washer and dryer and a pretty well equipped kitchen. In fact, the only items I’ve found lacking so far were a grater, a steamer, and cup measures. There’s a lot of cookware, which is really nice. So many of the places we’ve stayed, we’ve been lucky to find two pots and a skillet. The knives always leave something to be desired but at least on this leg of the trip we have the two picnic knives we often carry when we travel, a paring knife and a multi-purpose knife that excels for bread slicing among other things. Although no herbs or spices are really provided, we have a few of our own, and we’ve been able to eat almost as if we were in our own kitchen: roast chicken, our beloved Caldo Verde, and a delicious new recipe of fresh Red Snapper with cilantro, garlic and lime.

The living area is comfy, with a sofa, loveseat and large, round dining table. There’s Wi-Fi (so-so signal strength) and three TVs with a reasonable selection of stations but an illogical tuner on the one in the living room. But we’ve been able to watch Downton Abbey and Tottenham Hotspur (not the Europa League game though), so who cares? We’ve also been able to watch episodes of some of the shows we haven’t seen since before we went to Europe, which I think, along with being able to have at it in the kitchen, has given us a feeling of “home” for a few days.

We picked the location in part because it’s more affordable at the moment than the east coast of Florida (by far). This is partly because it’s still the off season here, whereas it’s already high season to the east. We both also wanted to visit the Panhandle, and it’s on our way to the next phase of our travel adventure, following our change of plans. We knew the weather would not be as appealing as it’s been/is on the east coast or the lower Gulf coast, but we were prepared for that. However, it’s only been decent biking weather one day so far, and on the Wednesday of our stay it rained all day, in torrents at times. Even though the weather hasn’t been so great (temps in the 40s and 50s mostly), it’s been great to be so close to the sea. We can actually see the waves breaking from our balcony, and we’ve taken several walks along the road above the beach. Though we’ve seen dogs on the beach, they are banned or must have a permit to be on most beaches, and of course not only are we rule followers, but we have no clue what we would have needed to do to obtain a permit. Angie took a walk on the beach on Wednesday before the rain started, and I’m hoping I get a chance to do the same before we leave, but even if I don’t, it’s been great to watch the waves breaking. A few of the days, they’ve been pretty high and there have been riptide warnings, though I don’t know enough to know if these two things are connected. We’ve seen people out on the water but they haven’t seemed to catch many waves. I hope they have really good wetsuits.

We biked on Sunday, which was our first full day here. We drove to a starting point in a state park a few miles away, Topsail Hill State Preserve Park. We didn’t know if there was any free parking along the route so we figured we’d at least support the state coffers a bit. We parked in the park lot and set off on our bikes outside the park to ride along a part of the Timpochee trail, which seems to largely follow County Road 30A. We were expecting it to go more along the coast than it did, but it was relatively pleasant, heading by a lot of residential areas and some restaurants and other businesses. We turned around after about 7 miles and enjoyed the tailwind on the way back. We then headed back into the park to ride along the bike trail there, which was also very nice but also did not get very close to the sea. We managed to total about 18 miles on the day and saw quite a few recreational cyclists along the way.

Once we were home and before we settled in for the evening, we walked around the complex with Rebbe. There are four large condo buildings, but there’s also a small neighborhood of houses, many of which are also for rent. It’s pretty quiet here, if you don’t count the noise from the bucket trucks being used to work on the outside of the units today, which seem to have been incessantly in reverse, and therefore beeping, all day today (Thursday). I’m glad we got out and get a ride in on Sunday, because after dark it looked like this: 

A good evening for a lovely roast chicken dinner!

On Monday, we did not venture very far because the crummy weather was coming in, but we did go for a couple of nice walks with Rebbe before coming back and making some tasty Caldo Verde soup.

On Tuesday, Angie suggested an outing, since the forecast for Wednesday was pretty awful. She thought it would be good to get out for a while before we had to batten down the hatches. She figured we could take a drive to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the hope that we could take a walk there with Rebbe. It was a longer drive than we expected, close to 30 miles, but it was interesting to see the coast west of Destin, which is the main town near where we’re staying. Much of the national seashore, which extends to Mississippi also, is found on barrier islands, which are, as you might expect, quite long and narrow. To get to the part of the shore we we headed toward, it was necessary to cross what I thought was a pretty bridge and causeway into Navarre. Angie might beg to differ on my characterization, since she’s less of a fan of bridges than I.

Turned out that the only way you can walk in the park is along the shore (prohibited for Rebbe) or along the roadway (what do you think we are, nuts?). Therefore, we drove into one of the seashore areas past Navarre and looked around and took some pictures.

After that we backtracked a bit and parked in one of the public lots. Wisely, we had packed some sandwiches, so we ate them before talking a longish walk through a residential strip that also had a dedicated and separate bike/walking path, similar to what we have in the area by our condo. It was pretty chilly out but we still managed to walk almost 3 miles.

Had to include this picture from our walk. We wonder how people can sit on these benches without their knees meeting their chins:

Since we are by the sea, we felt like some sort of fresh fish was in order for dinner on this day, especially since we were out and about. There are at least three dedicated seafood markets in Destin (aka fishmongers), so we stopped at one of them and bought some fish. There were some local specialities, like pompano and amberjack, but we were not quite sure what to do with them and the store was too busy to ask the saleswoman. Angie thought the red snapper looked good, and though I was a bit skeptical, we bought some. It looked super-fresh so I was hopeful I’d like it more than when I’d had it previously, when I’d been unimpressed. As we drove away from the store I began looking up recipes on my phone, so we could figure out how to prepare it. At first we were thinking a rosemary-lemon preparation but then I found a recipe that sounded even more appealing, so we stopped at the supermarket for limes and cilantro, and we were off to the races. Although the prep could have been a one-person task, Angie and I collaborated on it so we could manage the timing of the rice and kale chips that would accompany the fish. This was the first new recipe we’ve tried since we started traveling in August I think, and we both really liked it. Angie doesn’t usually like skin on her fish, and this preparation calls for it to be broiled skin-side-up, but she found it to be pretty good. We are definitely holding onto this recipe for future use. 

As anticipated, Wednesday dawned cool and dark and portending rain. Angie said she wanted to take a walk on the beach before breakfast, so I stayed with Rebbe and drank my coffee while she was gone, in the hope that I could follow suit later in the day. That was not to be, since it started raining shortly after she got back and it did not let up until some time into the evening. In fact, as then went on, the rain got heavier, and even torrential at times, making even taking Rebbe out to pee a challenge. Though I didn’t get out for a proper walk, I was grateful that I had made it over to the workout room in the complex on Tuesday to spend some time on the elliptical machine.

We made the best of a bad weather day. Angie got some work done for a contract project, and we read and snuggled with Rebbe. We also got some more blog posts up, after I had a call with our dear friend Sue Foppé to figure out some formatting issues that were coming up with the iPad WordPress app.

We had a great evening: leftover roast chicken for dinner and the season premiere of The Amazing Race, one of our regularly watched shows during our previous life. I think that the feeling of being “home” for a week, in our own space, making nice dinners and watching some of our favorite shows, has given us a great sense of comfort this week and has given us some “brain space” to think again about what we’re going to do with our lives. We were doing this a lot when we were riding in Europe, but not as much since we’ve been back and in a whirlwind of making travel plans and visiting friends and family.

Don’t get me wrong, a large reason for taking this year off was to visit with people we may not get extended time with very often, and we have both really really loved it, but we know it can’t last forever and we have to start making some practical decisions and taking some actions to move towards our next phase, probably prior to the official end of our gap year in August. Some people call this an encore stage but we are both hoping that the next stage of a working life for us is the part that has the most meaning of our careers. I’ve been struggling for years to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, and I think we both might be coming to some conclusions and decisions about that. We’ve talked a fair amount this week about what that might look like if we can make it work. Of course I’m going to leave everyone in suspense for a while because I don’t want to jump the gun, or give it away until we have figured out at least some of the moving parts. We are still trying to figure out a way we can do something collaboratively, even if one or both of us had to take a day job for a while. 

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