Day Eight Of Our First Ever RV Trip: Pensacola Pier and Beach
Our Final Day
Thursday, July 7, 2016. Our final day of this vacation and we have decided to return to the beach once more but in a slightly different location. My wife desires to walk on the pier she has watched for months on a webcam. Since we decided to visit here she has had this webcam up on her computer nonstop, watching the weather and waves, people and such as she has the opportunity while working. Today, we determine if what we saw online will measure up with reality or if the reality is better than we hoped.
We decided to go back to Pensacola, this time right on the beach in town. On our first day to the beach we were forced to pass by the pier and beach area, moving farther west in order to find a place we could park and visit. This time we arrived earlier in order to get a parking spot near the pier itself. Tip: do this! By late morning the lot is full and this makes parking a real hassle. By arriving at 9:30 or so we had lots of choices to park. We chose one close to where we would enter the pier and the beach itself. Leaving our particulars behind we made our way to the pier, paid the nominal fee to enter it and walked out onto the ocean.
The pier rises as it moves away from land like a bridge. We moved along it, pausing here and there to peer over the side into the clear waters below. We stopped as we saw life there; a large sting ray here, perhaps three feet or more across; a school of fish there; even a large crab (well over a foot across) below. We were probably twenty feet or more above the water and the water ranged from three to five or six feet deep. Looking back at the shore we saw we were a couple of hundred feet or more from shore and the bottom of the ocean started shallow, deepened slightly then became shallow again. Farther out on the pier the water deepened once more and it was there that most of the fisherman gathered.
We were quite happy where we were and drifted from one side to the other, looking first on one side then the other. We watched pelicans and other birds diving into the water to catch small fish and smiled continuously as we saw the marine life swimming in the crystal clear green and blue waters.
Eventually we decided to go back to the beach and set up under one of the umbrellas strategically placed there with two beach chairs beneath. Back to the truck we went, getting our bags and towels and wandering across the sand to the beach itself. This beach was slightly different in that it was not a gradual slope to the water's edge but a rather steep drop of several feet then a level spot before plunging into the water. Once we entered the water it again had an abrupt drop of a couple of feet before again becoming smooth and easy for who know how far out into the ocean itself. It was here that all the play took place. Our children wasted no time in heading for the water and swimming hither and yon. Bailey ended up taking a tube and making her way a couple of hundred feet away beyond the first deeper section and into another shallow area where she could stand up and be in four or five feet of water again. Caleb stayed closer, content to wallow about in the waves nearer to shore.
Then a young man with a man-bun walks up to us and asked if we had set up beneath the umbrella. Yes, I replied not knowing where this was going. Okay he said then asked if we wanted to rent them for three hours or all day. I had no idea what he was talking about and got out of the water to speak with him. At first I thought this was some kind of a con when he stated "$20 for three hours; $35 for all day". Really? These are rentals? Turns out they are. He whipped his phone out of some hidden location in his swim trunks and snapped in the square card reader, took my card and slid it through to charge us for a three hour rental of the umbrella and chairs. He then asked if I wanted a receipt; yes I do. So he immediately sent me an email to the one I supplied to him and wandered away. I still wasn't sure if I'd just been taken but when the email showed up a minute later I realized this was on the level. Then I wondered, "How do you get a job wandering on the beach all summer in nothing but a swimsuit using your phone and charging people for sitting in chairs under an umbrella? Why wasn't this part of Career Day in school!?"
Anyway, I paid up and we enjoyed our three hours of paid beach life, alternately playing in the water, watching the kids and just enjoying ourselves. We watched as one man was metal detecting in the sands and waters of the beach; another suddenly struck out swimming to the East and we watched him for nearly a half an hour until we could no longer see him swimming. We never did see him stop. There were footballs and Frisbees, rafts and just about any floating device you could think of. Old, young men and women it was a true cross section of humanity speaking in every conceivable language.
I grew interested in the shipping freighters that were anchored off the shoreline. We had noticed them by their lights several weeks ago and it had appeared as though it was one which never left. As we sat there watching the one anchored in position, I noticed another one leaving the shore far to the East and heading towards the other one. As it closed I noticed activity on the stationary one and as the one approached the stationary one they both began to move closer to one another until I realized this was a safe anchoring place and these ships must be setting their anchors here as they wait to move to the docks and customs. That's why it seemed like the one we saw on the webcam never moved, it was a continuous in and out of these ships to and from customs.
One o'clock was nearing and with it our time paid for beneath the umbrella. Gathering our things we began our walk back to the truck, hot footing it across the white sands in order to get to the shadows along the bath house. There we rinsed off in the outdoor shower, went inside and changed clothes before getting back into the truck. We drove around Pensacola a bit more, just sightseeing and fixing in our minds as many memories of this beautiful place as we could.
We ended up back at the trailer around 4:00 PM and cleaned up and rested for a bit. Our plans for the evening were to go out to eat at an actual restaurant, not a fast food place but a real sit down and eat at a well cooked meal place. During the week we had asked a few of our new friends for suggestions, googled them and made a decision.
We would go to David's Catfish House in Milton. Every report said they were fantastic, well priced and great atmosphere. We were sold.
The drive was short, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes tops. The exterior was unassuming but well kept and it had a large parking lot that was fairly empty at our early arrival time of 4:30 PM. We entered and I immediately encountered a heavenly scent, one of deep fried catfish! Angels and saints preserve us!!
A very polite young lady asked our number: four. She then led us to a booth near the wall and provided menus for all. Of course, Caleb wanted chicken: that boy has feathers growing out of his ears, he eats so much chicken. Me? I was eyeing the catfish fillet, but which meal? For $12.99 I could get the three fillets, hush puppies, one side order meal or for $2.00 more the all you can eat fillet meal. Hmmmm.
Yup, I'm hungry! Let's get it on!!! All you can eat please!
My wife and daughter perused the menu, talking and thinking aloud on which seafood meal they would eat. In the end, they both decided on the Seafood Platter which offered a selection of oysters, clams, crab, catfish, shrimp both of the fried and peel and eat variety and various other sides items.
More people began to straggle in after our order was taken. The waitress brought our drinks: soft drinks for everyone but me. I had a sweet tea no lemon. As she delivered these she dropped off a pitcher. Curious, I looked inside and found it full of more sweet tea. All you can eat AND all you can drink! I love this place!
The aroma of our food arrived just before it did. Oh, my! Then it was before us and we began to eat. Caleb sampled almost everything but loved the catfish most, next to his chicken of course. We ate in silence, each of us lost in the wonderful flavor. Before I had finished my first three fillets the waitress was back asking if I was ready for more. Oh heck bring 'em on! Shortly two more fillets were on a platter before me, each as large as the first three. All total I must have eaten close to two pounds of those fillets! And the hush puppies were divine, green beans too. Lord forgive me for eating this much but it was so-o-o-o-o good!
Well, that was everything we could hope for and more! I waddled out to the truck, doing whatever I could not to fall asleep. Damn that was good! Everyone loved everything and this was the perfect end to our trip. Nothing left but go back, ready what we can to leave early and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I break out the Willie Nelson one more time.