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Better late than never Spring Break 2021 review

Posted 10-05-2021 at 08:58 AM by MEWright

I wrote this on the trip but never posted, hope you enjoy it..

Spring Break 2021 Trip to Dauphin Island

Normally I like to daily blog updates but this time I was busy and worked on it each night but will post as 1 long story. I hope you enjoy our trip.

BOOKING THE TRIP
This was the most bizarre year due to covid and travel restrictions, but we were determined to get out and have a 2021 spring break get away. We left early on 3/13/2021 for our spring break adventure in Dauphin Island, Alabama. Our family of 3 and our friends a family of 4, us in the Discovery and them in their Super C left at 9am fully packed ready for some beach time.
For all the RVers out there and more to the new RVers, finding a location can be ˝ the battle, especially now with the flood of new RV owners hitting the Covid home away from home trail.
I looked for a few weeks to find a spot that we would consider Covid Safe. The requirements were limited people, small RV campground with white sand beaches and clear water, so it had to be east of the Mississippi river, Texas and Louisiana were out. I first looked at the usuals, Destin, Panama Beach, all along the panhandle of Florida. RV spots for spring break ranged from to 150 to 350 PER NIGHT.. Too much money and way to many people so the pan handle of Fl was OUT.. I started searching in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia coastlines so for something that would fit the bill. After a few hours of google maps and satellite view I found Dauphin Island, Alabama. This little island fit all the bills, 8 miles long tip to tip, barley a mile wide at the widest point, easy access, white sands, blue water, (side bar—awesome fishing was a plus for the dads) with lots of little attractions and things to do. Now all I had to do was to find 2 spots.

Well, this turned into a real challenge. The family we are traveling with are newer to RVing than we are. This came into play quickly with back and forth discussions about where when how etc.. First RV park of the 3 on the island I called had 2 spots side by side, HOORRRRAAYYY,, BUT I did not secure them, as I needed to confirm with the other traveling family. In the 1 evening of conference EVERYTHING , EVERY RV SPOT on the island booked up… Seriously in 1 night..
Now the hunt was on. I was told by all 3 CG’s that the snowbirds typically pull out right before spring break and I needed to call daily to check as none of them had waiting lists and none would let you prepay just to secure spots. I zeroed in on one park. Pelican Nest RV Park at 1510 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island Al 36528, (251)-861-2338 Noni is the manager, Steve is the do everything guy here. I picked this place because Noni was super sweet EVERYDAY when I called, every day for 2 weeks. I think she kicked people out to give us 2 spots to stop me from calling. She did finally have 2 spots open, not side by side but if you google earth the park you will quickly understand why this was NOT important. The have 12 spots in a U shape around a small office store with amazingly easy access in and out. They have a small pool but no other “amenities” except that they are right across- directly across, 50’ away from, spitting distance to the main public beach access point. I did not even call our friends, I just booked and paid for the spots this time. Worst case scenario I would have 2 spots for us if they decided not to go. Now remember I said they don’t have amenities, but they do have bicycle and kayak rental, an ice cream shop, are amazingly friendly and smile every time you see them. Our kids love this place now. More about the spots a little later. Now I had to plan the route, rest stops, overnight boon docking on the way there and way home. Having owned our coach for 2 years now we have/had never boondocked, not once. No Walmart’s, no Cracker Barrels no parking lots nope nada not once. I found a Cracker Barrell in Lafayette LA that had several RV spots in back, easy on and off the highway and 1 exit past was a solid back up plan, Academy and Target parking lot all right off I10. Since neither of the families had boon docked I really wanted easy and safe, no truck lots or fueling stations, no rest areas and I did not want to get a transient overnight spot for us.

Enter ----Harvest Host---- I joined Harvest Host for Christmas so the wife and I could run into the hill county and spend a night at a winery, seemed like a cool date night thing to do and maybe we could use it during trips. Well, I completely forgot about it until I looked at the overnight options. Quickly I jumped on the Harvest Host site and found our overnight adventure waiting. I called our friends, told them to join HH quickly and we made reservations to stay at a living museum.


Day 1 Starting the trip
We took the typical week to pack. Our running joke is “What do you take on vacation in your bus? “EVERYTHING”
8am -- Run though our checklist, hook up the jeep, run down to the corner store to meet our friends and away we go. It’s about 1.5 hours down 71w from our houses to Buc-ees (if you do not know Buc-ees you have not traveled in Texas) our first rest stop and cheapest fuel around. Top off the drinks, use the potty (they are famous for the cleanest restrooms on the road), fill the tanks, and get 2 pounds of beef jerky for the trip and we are on the road again HWY 71 to I10 E. 7 Hours to Layfette LA. We hit a few rest stops on the way but all in all the trip was pretty relaxing. The only bad traffic we hit was the split for Galveston in downtown Houston and that interchange is always a train wreck.

Having never used Harvest Host, I was curious as to how it worked, arrival, set up etc…I had located what seemed to be a great option for both our first time HH and in the town. Vermilionville History Museum at 300 Fischer Rd, Lafayette La. When I called the manager, she informed me that they had 5 spots inside the locked gates and 3 outside the gates in the separate parking lot. She assured me that all were safe and quiet. The website did mention the pond in the center having alligators, so kids and pets need to be aware. This was in fact true as we did see small and med sized gators at night with head lamps. The kids loved this, and the dumb knowledge learned from “Swamp People” was used to spot alligator eyes with headlamps at night. The parking lot was huge, and with us included they had 5 RVs inside. The gates locked at 9 and were opened at 8am. We were the last 2 inside and the 1st to leave in the morning. We did arrive after hours and left before they opened so I will write them a genuinely nice letter thanking them for the stay since we could not come inside and do a tour. One HH request is that you patronize the spots where you stay.
Day 2 Lafayette La to Dauphin Island AL

We left Vermilionville remarkably close to 8am as planned. Seems easy enough with 1 coach but with 2 and full of kids and dogs, these morning schedules are slightly more complicated. Back on I10 in a few minutes. The drive across the rest of LA into MS was nice. Once in MS we pulled into an exceptionally large rest area for lunch. The rest area was incredible. Huge RV spaces covered picnic tables and a dump station. This was a first. Not sure I have seen or noticed a dump station in a rest area before. Hammer down some lunch, walk the dogs, walk the kids, drivers walk the entire rest area to get blood flowing back to our legs then we area off again. I noticed the rest area (we did not stop here) in Al seemed to be as large as the one in MS and from what I saw was as nice. The sign for the rest area did note that they also had dump stations... Wow, pretty cool but we did not need to stop again so we blew on by. 4 exits into Al and a right turn and we were headed to Dauphin Island.
We got to the CG about 2pm. Steve met us outside and helped us get into our space. It is a little tight in the drives, but this space (#2) is awesome. Concrete pad under the coach, all others have crushed rock, a concrete 20x30 pad outside full service. The internet is good, the cable is very basic, but they get 50 digital channels with a digital receiver so its ok. We are running apple tv over the Wi-Fi with little to no issues also.
For large Class A’s I would recommend spots 1,2 or 10. 2 and 10 are the best, 2 is a back in 10 is a pull through. Our friends are in space 5, a pull through site that is comfortable.
Day one was learning the island. Its 8 miles long and 2 blocks wide. This took about 15 min. Everywhere is bike accessible and we have one wheels so we jetted around on those. An E Bike would be great here. We tow a jeep JKU so we have transportation and our friends rented a golf cart for the week (4 seater Yamaha, $360 for 7 days). The kids ran out to the beach immediately and spent most of day one there. The beaches here are awesome. No people, not what we are used to at least, the water was chilly but ok. We planned all our meals well and had 99% of what we needed and made do for the rest. We only planned on eating out 1 night and that was way harder than expected. There are only a few restaurants on the island, they don’t have the island cuisine we expected to find. The highest rated place here is Skinners, a fish market that does steamers to go, fish, shrimp catch of the day but no sit-down meals, the other restaurants we found were not doing take out or closed early. In a nutshell, if you plan on eating out or doing take out here plan it early so you know what to do. We ended up taking out from a restaurant that was 12 miles away (they said it was 4 or so—NOPE 14). I had a decent blackened snapper was really good but took a long time to get, long drive and more of a PITA than it was worth. To do it over, I would only buy fresh from skinners and cook it on our grill which by the way the RV park has loaner grills for the tenants.

Day 2-5 were pretty much the same, kids on the beach, dads played golf. The golf course is ok-ish.. Take a lot of spare balls. The roughs are ROUGH, thorny and deep. Water holes have gators so if you are off the fairway then chances are you lost a ball. The fairways are not so fair but for a cheap 18 it’s a great little course. If you don’t have a car then Steve will run you to the course and pick you up for a little tip.
We visited all the points of interest here and I recommend them all. The Fort is awesome if you love history, though we did not make it across the bay on the ferry to see the other sister fort. It was very windy and I did not want to do a 45 min ferry ride each way with the kids. It was just too rough for that to be fun. I would however make it a point to do it on our next trip here, bike to the ferry, bike around the other point then home. No car needed. I went to the fishing pier to get an update. The pier was hit hard during the last hurricane but is well under way to be completed soon. It is open but only about 75% usable. The owner said the reds hit there pretty hard at night. It is over a large oyster reef and has many lights over the water. They rent gear and sell bait and beer. Once fully open it would be a great place to take kids for a night fish.

The estuarium was a pass. Or neighbor at the CG said most of the interactive exhibits are closed due to Covid restrictions still being in place. They did not recommend going until it was re-opened fully.

We did drive to the west end of the island and walk a few miles down the beach shell hunting. Since the hurricane, the west end is almost closed. There is not parking lot there currently. It is closed access until after 5pm. We had my wife drop us off at 5:10p and we walked about 2 miles down before we started looking for shells. We took few med sized buckets that the kids quickly filled. The beach was loaded with good shells and fossilized corals. The parking lot on the west end should be open soon and is well worth the experience. It is called the best sunset in Alabama and it fully deserves this moniker. It was stunning.

Our last day here, the weather turned slightly. High winds overcast and 50s so our friends left a day early. We stayed to enjoy the peace of doing nothing. We spent the day packing and cleaning slowly, did some last-minute shopping, took a nice late beach walk and left in the morning.
It took us 12 hours to get here, and I expected the traffic to be a bit worse going home the last weekend of spring break. I figured there would be allot of Florida traffic headed back to TX.

We left at exactly 8am. The only thing I had to do was unhook power, pull in the slides, pull out of the space, and hook up the jeep. We had everything ready for departure the night before.

Our plan was to make it to Beaumont and spend the night there. We did stop at the MS rest area again for a quick snack, dog and people walk. We made Beaumont by late lunch, absolutely no traffic. Pulled into a large rest area between Beaumont and Houston on I10 about 2:30p and decide to go ahead and push it home. 5 hours from the rest area home. The drive was exactly 12 hours with our stops. 8am drive out, 8pm pulled in the driveway, 2 hours after our friends (they live 2 blocks from us). More than I like to drive but, on the way home it seems easier to drive straight through if you are close enough and its early enough.

This trip was an amazing journey and a total success. Having done it with friends, staying safe and actually having great spring break weather.

I would recommend that NO ONE EVER visit this place. Hidden gems are best left hidden!
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