Last September, my husband celebrated a big birthday and said what he’d like more than anything would be to take a balloon ride. I certainly couldn’t let him do something like that by himself, so he received the trip as a gift and I added a ticket for myself.
Balloon rides are highly dependent on weather, of course, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the gift in September… or October… or November or December. As a matter of fact, we had been home from our January trip to Panama City Beach about 15 minutes when we received the call that the next day was going to be a perfect day for a hot air balloon ride.
The day dawned clear and with a mild breeze. In the afternoon we met the pilot and 4 other excited participants in west Oklahoma City. From there we were transported to a field further north. The pilot’s wife and daughter were with him to help get the equipment set up and to follow us once we were aloft to pick us up and return us to the meeting point.
The whole process of unloading the basket, the balloon, a fan on a generator, the heaters – that in itself was interesting. As we watched and participated, the balloon was connected to the basket, filled with air from the fan, and inflated; then we all climbed aboard the basket.
The pilot, Keith Mills of Free Spirit Balloons, used the heaters (there were two) to launch the balloon and away we went! As we slowly lifted and began to move in a southeast path, we had the opportunity to see the countryside from treetop height. We continued to rise as far as 3,000 feet and drifted along, catching airflow where possible. As Keith put it, the hot air balloon can rise and lower with the force of the heated air, but only God can determine the horizontal direction.
All of the participants declared the afternoon an unqualified success. The trip had been a surprise 40th birthday gift for one lady, and she and the giver of the gift were among the riders. It had originally been planned as a venue for a proposal for a young couple, but work and weather circumstances had prevented that from happening in a timely manner, so they finally took the ride as an “old married couple” of two years. And of course, my husband and I were celebrating his birthday a few months late.
A hot air balloon ride is a wonderful way to celebrate a special occasion, making it even more memorable. But it would also be a great way to just spend a beautiful morning or afternoon!
While traveling through Alabama on our drive to the Florida panhandle, my husband said we were “in the toolies” when asked where in heaven’s name we were. This precipitated a conversation about using the word “toolie” even though he couldn’t exactly define it. It is just a word he learned as a child, and I learned it from him, but our friend had never heard the term.Not one to just let it go, I grabbed my smartphone (a great thing to do when relegated to the backseat on an 8-hour drive) and proceeded to ask Google for a definition. Well, imagine our surprise and confusion when it gave the definition as “a gatecrasher at a schoolies’ event”! Since that didn’t seem at all relevant, I searched further and found a blog called “Ask Your Grandmother” that had entire post about toolies! According to the blog author, a toolie means “out in the middle of nowhere.” And sure enough, we were!
The other particularly notable laughter came from a conversation on our last evening in Panama City Beach. This is the evening we chose Montego Bay Seafood House for dinner. The food was delicious and our waitress was a charming young lady named Michelle Mann. Even though we were full when our plates were empty, we decided we should indulge in some dessert, since we hadn’t done that any other nights.Michelle named off the desserts available, which included bread pudding and Key lime pie. Bread pudding is a favorite choice of my husband’s, so he readily ordered it. Our friend had been talking about how he loved cobbler and asked Michelle if they had cobbler. She said that they did not but did have the bread pudding. He asked if bread pudding was anything like cobbler, and Michelle said, “Oh yes, it is. It touches that sweet spot in your heart just like cobbler does!”
Needless to say, we had a wonderful chuckle at that and thoroughly enjoyed the way the bread pudding touched that sweet spot!
When taking a trip to northern Florida in the winter, one of the things you quickly discover is that many of the locals head further south for the winter. This means that you need to be sure to call ahead. Is the fishing trip you were planning on still available? Is that restaurant you were dying to try open?
Panama City Beach has a number of amusements for children, including a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, several miniature golf courses , marine displays, etc. However, we didn’t see any of these open the week we were there.
Just a quick few notes about places to eat while in Panama City Beach… besides Margaritaville, that is, since I already mentioned it earlier.
Because of the timing of our trip, we wanted to be sure to have a good place to watch some good Oklahoma-based basketball and the BCS National Championship, so we spent one afternoon at Buffalo Wild Wings at Pier Park. It’s good to know that you can go almost anywhere and still catch anything from that championship game to OU women’s basketball to the OKC Thunder games, isn’t it. And don’t be afraid to ask the manager to tune in to the game you want to watch, if it isn’t already on one of the screens. The servers and managers are most accommodating.
Salty Sue’s offers great seafood and barbecue. We stopped in there for a seafood dinner and were so impressed with the food and service and friendly owner, we returned another day for the $5.99 barbecue sandwich special. The owner told us that he had been serving barbecue for over 30 years but had expanded the menu when he rebuilt the building a few years ago following a fire.Another very good place had been recommended to us by an Oklahoma City friend (thank you to Kristin Larson of The Cookie Princess), so we knew we wanted to eat at Sharky’s. We dined on crab cakes and crab legs until we were happily miserable. The food was delicious, and once again, the friendly staff made it even better. Our waitress that evening was a college student (Gulf Coast Community College and Flordia State University – Panama City share a campus in Panama City) who was originally from Russia. She came to the U.S. by herself to go to college and has since married and will stay in Florida. Her degree in chemistry will undoubtedly give her lots of professional opportunities. But, I digress…
We drove in to Panama City one day to check out the marinas (for that fishing trip that wasn’t to be), and wound up at a local establishment there, Gracie Rae’s, which had wonderful oysters and calamari. It was fascinating watching the bartender prepare for the lunch and dinner crowd by shucking hundreds of oysters.
When we were in PCB before, we enjoyed most of our breakfasts at Another Broken Egg, and we returned, just to be sure it was still as good as ever – and it was.
On our previous trip we had also had breakfast at Oceans, which is part of the Edgewater Resort properties. We decided to try it for dinner one evening and found it to be just as good for that meal. Soup, salad, steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables – all were very tasty.
On our final evening we decided we should find a special place, so after reading through numerous brochures, we decided Montego Bay Seafood looked like just what we were wanting. We had a little trouble finding it because the sign had been blown down, and when we walked in, we were more than a little dismayed. It was small, more of a local diner type of restaurant, with a few chairs at a bar, a few booths, and a few tables in the center. We decided we would brave it, though, because the reviews we had read gave it glowing marks. Each of us ordered something different and no one was disappointed in the least. While the ambiance may have been lacking, the food was not!
As you can tell, we love to eat!
Some people like to travel to a new destination with each trip they take, while others prefer to return repeatedly to the same destination, or at least the same locale. Those in the second group may choose to purchase a timeshare property. This gives them the flexibility of returning to a particular condominium, while also allowing them the capability of using points to vacation in different spots.
We recently joined a friend who used some of his accumulated points to secure a condo for a week at Panama City Beach, FL. When we visited PCB in September, we were on an OU football trip and had very little time to relax, enjoy the beach and sightsee. Spending a week there in January gave us the opportunity to do some of that.
This trip to Florida was a driving trip, so we saw lots of interesting countryside as we drove east on I-40 to Memphis and southeast to Tupelo, MS and from there, on to Florida. It was a pleasant start to the trip to eat dinner on the outside patio at Vanelli’s, an Italian and Greek restaurant in Tupelo. Quite a change from the cold temperatures we left behind in Oklahoma!
Interestingly enough, by the time we checked in at our condo in Panama City Beach the next evening, the cold temperatures had arrived there and it was too cold to sit outside for the “Volcano Nachos” at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Pier Park.