The Two Weeks That Were

I don’t like to post anything about being on vacation when we are actually away. However, now that we are back home for a week it is fair game.

For the last four years we have been vacationing with the Complementary Spouse’s two siblings and their spouses. We have been doing it at the end of October and beginning of November in the Panhandle of Florida. The last two years we have been fortunate enough to make it for two weeks. Last year was especially good as I had retired a little more than a month earlier and I was still unwinding from the stress of work.

We did a little bit of everything this year. We visited a distillery, we did a bourbon tasting, we compared Key Lime pies, we ate seafood, we hung out at the beach, we visited the Air Force Armaments Museum, and we went flying in a small plane. We were joined by friends of my sister-in-law Cindy and her husband Scott who were camping nearby. Laura and Don were a fun addition.

The last, of course, was probably the most memorable. The plane, a Piper PA-28 Cherokee was owned by Rick who was an old Air Force friend of my brother-in-law Larry. Rick had flown as an EWO when Larry piloted the EF-111 out of Mountain Home AFB. Rick had his Cherokee hangered at Ruckel Airport which is a small private airport with a grass runway in Niceville, Florida. Larry and Rick had stayed friends after their Air Force service and Larry arranged for us to go flying.

Taking off:

Flying the plane though a few turns:

Preparing to land and afterwards:

I have to give the Complementary Spouse a lot of credit. She was a bit unsure about going up in such a small plane but she did it. So did her sister and, of course, her brother who said he had not flown since Delta and the FAA forced him to retire last December due to turning 65. With a shortage of experienced pilots in the airline industry, that is a stupid rule especially given the stringent oversight of the pilot’s health.

As I said earlier, we ate a lot of seafood. We visited Stewby’s Seafood Shanty on Okaloosa Island three times and I can highly recommend it. Between us all, I think we tried almost all their dishes and none disappointed. The shrimp, whether boiled or fried, were fresh and tasty. It was smart how they had everything set up. In one building, they had their steamed seafood and seafood market. In the other building they had all their fried specialties. In between was a courtyard with picnic tables. You could take food from one side to the other and eat inside or in the courtyard. I thought this was a smart way to do it.

30A Florida Distillery is a newer start-up. It has been in business for only about 18 months and is located in Santa Rosa Beach. They distill their own rum, gin, limoncello, agave spirit (tequila), and vodka. They also had sourced rye and bourbon. After doing a flight of gin, aged gin, and orange rum, I came home with a bottle of their Santa Rosa Beach Citrus Rosemary Gin.

Photo from 30A Distillery

Continuing with the spirits tasting theme, three of us, Larry, Don, and myself did a whiskey tasting at Beach Liquors in Destin. They had a tasting room where you could get 1 oz. pours of a number of bourbons, ryes, and whiskeys. They also had many craft beers of tap. While they had set flights of bourbons and ryes, you can also make your own flight and pay accordingly. My own flight was made up of a Bardstown Bourbon bottled in bond, a Peerless Small Batch bourbon, and a Barrell Bourbon cask strength. Given the weakest was 100 proof, I’m glad my brother-in-law Scott was the designated driver.

Larry, me, Don

We tasted a lot of Key Lime pies. We had pies from Publix (big supermarket chain in Florida), the Donut Hole (bakery in Destin), a Stewby’s “shanty pie”, Edwards, and Marie Callendars. They were all good. Some were more cheesecake-like, some had more lime flavor, and some had better crust. I will say we didn’t like the fake whipped cream that Publix used but the rest of their pie was very good. I know this may sound like heresy to Floridians but I liked the Edwards Key Lime pie the best as it had the most tartness.

Every day was concluded by watching the sun set. The Complementary Spouse got some great sunset photos.

I’m sure, God willing, we will aim to do this trip again next year. Late October into November is a great time to visit the area. The weather is warm but not hot. The water is still warm enough to go into the Gulf. The crowds have left and traffic is not bad. Most places have not closed for the season. All in all, it is a great time to go and this year was no exception.

4 thoughts on “The Two Weeks That Were”

  1. An old farmer and his wife went to the county fair. There was a pilot there giving airplane rides. The farmer and his wife had never been in an airplane before so they asked the pilot “how much for a ride”?

    “$100 for the two of you” replied the pilot. The farmer gave it a little thought and then said “well, I’d surely like to try an airplane ride, but that’s a lot of money, I think we’re going to have to pass”.

    The pilot quickly said “I’ll tell you what…I’ll give you a ride and if both of you can finish the entire ride without making a sound, the ride’s free, but if you yell out or scream or anything, you pay me the $100. Deal?”

    The farmer thought about it for a minute. He knew both he and his beloved wife were tough people and he was pretty sure they could finish the ride without expressing any fright, and he really did want them to experience an airplane ride once in their lives, so he agreed.

    They got in the back seat of the plane, the pilot started it up and they took off. After gaining some altitude, the pilot immediately started employing the most violent maneuvers he could think of…started out with steep dives, climbs and banks and slowly ramped it up until he was doing loops and Immelmanns and barrel rolls, but no matter what he did, he never heard a peep from the backseat.

    Impressed with the old couple, he finally surrendered and returned to the airfield for a landing. After putting it on the ground and shutting down the engine, he said over his shoulder “Well, I guess you get the ride for free, I’ve got to say I’m very impressed with how you controlled yourselves.” To which the farmer replied “well…I’ve got to admit, I almost said something when the wife fell out, but a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks…”


    That was my dad’s favorite joke. He told it any time he got a chance. He’d gotten his pilot’s license when he was just out of high school and used to rent a Piper cub to take us up when we were little. Good memories.

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