In our working days my husband and I often daydreamed about that mythical
Consulting maps and our budget we ended up renting a condo on Okaloosa Island in Florida. Okaloosa is a small strip of land just off of the coast of Fort Walton Beach, in the Gulf of Mexico. We became part of the flock of Snowbirds making their way to Florida.
We left right after Thanksgiving, full of turkey and excitement, ready for our new adventure. The drive to Okaloosa, Florida from Mooresville, Indiana, with stops, takes about fourteen hours. Here is the thing about a drive of that length. It really is too far to drive in one day but the nearness of your destination after driving for nine or ten hours, compels you to finish the journey. So we made the decision to “drive straight through,” which is a euphemism for “why didn’t we just stop like we had planned.” Road weary and stiff jointed we arrived in Okaloosa in time to dine on the first raw oysters of our stay.
The next few days were a flurry of flying feathers as we fluffed out nest. We added our own homey touches; warm throws, an ivy plant, rugs for the bathroom and our favorite coffee mugs. We filled the cute little pantry in the kitchen with our “stuff” until it became a miniature version of our larders at home.
I can confirm that time does move faster here. December and now January have melted away in the warm sun. I think it might have something to do with the ocean breezes and radiant sunsets…..or a slipstream or something. I am not a scientist so can only speculate on this phenomenon.
Our view is spectacular, and by spectacular I mean it is a sparkling quicksilver of emerald greens and turquoise blues. The endless waves roll in and touch the beach like snowflakes, each unique. Some are coy, barely advancing while others surge out to snag an unsuspecting walker. The emotional ocean shifts from sulky teen to vivacious Broadway actress and just to make sure we understand it’s range, it whips itself into the high drama of rage.
Armadas of dolphins swim by, mimicking the rise and fall of carousel horses as they dive in and out of the water. Like fish detecting divining rods, squadrons of pelicans patrol the shore. Dropping from the sky in awkward kamikaze dives, to scoop up their prey. The gulls seek their fortune among the sparse beach goers. Filling the air with outraged screeches as they battle for the offered scraps.
Our Snowbird stomping grounds became, Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach and Destin. We discovered that the Publix grocery store make incredibly delicious Italian subs, that the best place to get raw oysters is the dilapidated looking Boathouse in Destin. To get eyeball-meltingly hot Thai food, delivered right to your door, call Thaiger the Thai restaurant in Fort Walton. The fishmonger with the best, freshest shrimp and fish is Sexton’s in Destin. Here we discovered the scrumptious Royal Reds, a deep-water shrimp with such sweet tender meat that we likened it to lobster.
We ate raw oysters by the dozen. Dabbing fiery horseradish and spicy cocktail sauce on the glistening mollusk, we lifted them from their crusty shells with tiny forks. Then slurping the briny wet perfection into our mouths we pondered, who was the first brave soul to decide these gray blobby morsels might be good to eat.
We made gumbo for our Christmas dinner and ate it watching the orange sunset from the balcony. On New Years Eve we shared shrimp bisque and surf and turf with family from home. Bringing in the New Year twice, once with Ryan Seacrest on Dick Clark's, Rocking Eve and again an hour later when the giant Pelican dropped in Pensacola.
Our time in Okaloosa will be over soon and we will be heading back to Indiana. Probably driving “straight through”, anxious to get back home to our family and friends. The thing that I take with me from my time as a Snowbird is this; being a Snowbird is more than an extended vacation. It is an immersion into a different life, a time out of time, a delicious space to do something or to do nothing.
For us it was an ending of an old year and a beginning of a new year in a place that offered nothing but beauty, warmth and gentle breezes.