About a 12-hour drive each way from Austin to Gulf Shores, and with one big exception, the route was pretty clear and fast. That exception - Lake Charles, LA. Just west of town, they are doing a rebuild of a small section of bridge on I-10, not more than a quarter-mile section. To do this, they compressed all traffic on westbound I-10 down to one lane, resulting in a four-mile, one-hour-long backup late on a Saturday afternoon. The geniuses who set this up didn't give us nearly enough warning about the delay, no suggested alternate routes, nothing. Just hundreds of cars on both I-10 and I-210 sitting around.
The cheapest gas we saw on the trip was $3.39 near Houston. Most other cities were at least $3.60. And the nastiest Wendy's I've ever seen was the one we stopped at near Gulfport, MS - garbage cans overflowing, dollops of catsup on tables, nasty floors and bathrooms, just overall disgusting. And it takes some work for a fast-food restaurant to disgust me.
We had a smaller group this year, and so a smaller house, called "Summer of '42". All in all, a fairly average house - the common area was a bit smaller than I'd like, and there were a few "fit-and-finish" type issues. There was an outdoor shower, but no outdoor hose or doormats. Some dripping from A/C units inside. And so on. Not a terrible house, but we've done better in the past.
The beach was in very good shape, pretty much completely recovered from Hurricane Katrina a few years back. There wasn't much in the way of debris or seaweed, but we did have a few problems with jellyfish, primarily on one day. The first two days had fairly heavy surf (probably due to Tropical Storm Edouard, which formed just south of our area), not so good for fishing or kids but good for adult wakeboarding. After that, though, the surf calmed down and the kids had a pretty good time.
The fishing was a bit disappointing (for those members of our group into fishing - it's only a mild interest for me). It really only picked up the last two days, when our designated fisherman caught a stingray and a small shark, among other smaller fish. Nothing for eating, though.
Having red hair and fair skin, you might imaging that trips to the beach are fraught with peril. And you'd be right. I still remember back when I was a kid, one summer I got an amazing sunburn the first day out on the beach and had to curtail much of the outdoor activities for the rest of the week. So my parents took me out to see some sci-fi movie that had just opened that no one had heard about - which turned out to be Star Wars.
This year, H.E.B. (the main grocery chain around Austin) came out with their own store brand sunblock products, and had coupon deals to go along with the release. So, being the cheapskate that I am, I picked up a bunch. Sadly, I have to report that not only does it have a kind of strange odor (they apparently didn't go for the artificial coconut scent most others use), but that it isn't as sweat/waterproof as the major brands. I kept having to reapply more frequently than usual. So, H.E.B. Sunblock is denied the coveted A Site To Be Named Later Seal Of Approval.
I really only golf during holidays and our yearly beach trip. As usual, we had a couple of more "warm-up" rounds at the Gulf Links course, which is an executive, par-64 course. It's not bad, and the fact that it's a small executive course means we can get in whenever we want and finish quickly, to get back to the beach.
We finished up with a round at the Gulf State Park course, which is a full par-72 course, but still a fairly easy course. My goal here was simple - double-bogey golf. Yeah, I know - the actual golfers out there are scoffing, but I just don't play often enough to get better. I haven't ever broken 100, and the 110's are more my usual level, so double-bogey (a 108) was a reasonable goal. I had a little blow-up in the back nine, so I needed to finish bogey-bogey-bogey to get to 108, and I was pretty happy to make that.
And now the clubs go back in the garage until football season is over.
Not a stellar gaming week for me, as neither the cards nor the darts fell my way. I didn't do too badly at the start for darts, but I just can't get the bullys, and that means I can't close the deal on Cricket. We also had a Wii along, which was my first exposure to it. Frankly, I was a little underwhelmed. Wii Sports was pretty disappointing, as was Super Smash Bros. Brawl (and I'm a big Melee fan on my GameCube). Maybe we just didn't have the right mix of games along - didn't get a chance to see Madden.
The big surprise was Guitar Hero III. I've tried playing a few of these rhythm-type games before without either much success or much fun factor. But my first exposure to Guitar Hero III turned out to be a real blast. I got pretty far through several easy level songs and into the medium level in just a week's effort. And it was pretty fun in a group - even the seven-year old got into it. I'm not sure I'd actually go and buy a copy, just because neither of my game boxes (my Mac or my GameCube) support Guitar Hero III or any of the variants (Rock Band, etc.). But I'm at least a little tempted.
Knowing that Shiner would likely be few and far between in Alabama, I brought along a "Family Reunion" pack from Costco, containing four each of six different Shiner varieties. Sadly, none of the new (to me) brews will be going into my rotation - the Shiner Blonde, Light and Spezial Leicht were all just OK, but not up to the level of the Bock, Bavarian Black or Helles Lager. The Hefeweizen probably sneaks in as a good alternate.
As for the Miller Chill my mom brought along - eeeeeeeeyuck. Miller Swill.