Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

First Gator on Dauphin Island

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“That’s my very first gator!” our friend said, watching the reptile sun himself on the side of the big pond in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. We had taken the very short hike out to see the gators and the turtles, and any birds who might be migrating through this gorgeous February day between storms.

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(That’s not a stick; it’s a turtle head sticking out of the water πŸ™‚ )

We had a great day for a drive and a ferry boat ride. The car ferry only handles maybe thirty cars max on the trip across Pelican Bay from Dauphin Island to Gulf Shores. It cuts off a long long trip back into Mobile and around the huge Mobile Bay, and takes us along the beach back into Pensacola.

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February is a great time of the year to walk these areas and to take a day trip. We had a wonderful day, mild temperatures and calm waters – altogether a great adventure, counting in our unforgettable stop at Smokey Dembo’s Smokehouse en route along Douphin Island Parkway.

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February 11, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Wildlife | , , , | 2 Comments

Smokey Dembo’s BBQ Outside Mobile, AL

We had endured water aerobics, quickly dressed and hung up our swim clothes, and driven to Mobile en route to Dauphin Island with our visiting friends from Norfolk, old travel buddies and long time friends from Germany. As we left I-10. heading south toward the Island, we are starving, and all we see are McDonalds, Arby’s, fried chicken and Asian buffets.

“No! No!” we wail, and hold out for something better.

As soon as we saw it, we all knew. This was IT:

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Look at that cow’s head! You take one look, and you know this place is going to be an original. Little did we know . . .

As we drove into the parking, we asked some people leaving how the food was. “Excellent! The best!” they said, and other people leaving chimed in saying “You won’t be sorry.”

As we walked in, we were greeted by “Smokey” Dembo himself, who said “I saw you taking photos outside, don’t you want a photo with me in it?”

Yes! Yes! I do! I do!

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Smokey, as it turns out, is our kind of guy. Former military, from this small little town outside of Mobile, his dream was to own a place just like this, with his father, who taught him how to grill. One day, shortly after he retired, he was driving his daughter to soccer practice and he saw a for sale sign on this building, and on his way back, stopped – and made a deal. That was 11 years ago, and he’s never looked back. This is a happy man, living his dream.

He spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday marinating and preparing his meats. He is only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday (maybe Sunday, I can’t remember. Or maybe not; Sunday may be for church. Actually, you’d better call, because I might have gotten it all wrong. I KNOW he is open on Fridays and Saturdays, and I know he serves breakfast on Thursdays and Fridays, but the rest is foggy . . . . )

The aromas of BBQ are killing us; we have to order right away:

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As we are waiting for the food, we continue to talk with Smokey and to learn about his restaurant. He has a wonderful wall, a tribute to his family and his family history:

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I apologize. We were starving. When the food arrived, we totally forgot to take any photos at all, not a single photo of the boneless BBQ pork, nor of the potato salad nor of the cole slaw, nor of the baked beans. Although we are a very talky bunch, when the food came, we ate in awed silence. It was so GOOOOOOOD.

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We cannot wait to see Smokey again. This is some fine BBQ. πŸ™‚

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | 5 Comments

Dauphin Island and BBQ!

We got up early, remember? We worked up an appetite walking through the bird sanctuary and exploring the park and environs. One last stop to see those butterflies and we really need to get something to eat.

Fortunately, we passed just the place on the way in . . . Dauphin Island BBQ πŸ™‚

My friends, this is not a fancy place. There is no indoor seating. You order at a window, and grab your plastic utensils, and then you wait for your name to be called. You can fill little cups with condiments, including, of course, Tony Chachere’s special spices, and then you sit at a picnic table and eat out of a styrofoam container. This may not be your style. We like all kinds of styles πŸ™‚

By the time we decided, cars loaded with grandparents, children, lots and lots of children, parents, aunts and uncles, cars and trucks and big RV’s started pulling up and people crowding into Dauphin Island BBQ eager to eat. Clientele lining up:

We got there just in time. We got a good picnic table in the shade. I tried to order oysters, but since Isaac, oysters have been hard to come by. I had fried fish. It was hot and it was delicious.

AdventureMan ordered the pulled pork and said it was delicious:

Not elegant, but tasty, filling, and delicious. As you drive onto Dauphin Island, turn left and watch for this . . . umm . . .lighthouse. Dauphin Island BBQ is located just past this lighthouse-looking building.

If you want to stay on Dauphin Island, there is one Motel, several condominiums, and many rentals. One place to look for beach rentals is Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor also has a few hotel/B&B listings here, but be sure to tell TA to arrange by distance, or you may end up in Gulf Shores or Fairhope, LOL!

The one motel, Gulf Breeze Motel, is nothing fancy, but it is the best there is. Reviewers on Trip Advisor say ‘it’s not the Ritz’ but the prices are reasonable, and people seem to like it.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Dauphin Island: Fort Gaines

Imagine you are a retired military man who likes birds and butterflies and gardens and photography and military history . . .

Now, imagine you can find all of the above on one island. Dauphin Island is a paradise for AdventureMan.

Imagine you are a woman who loves road trips, beautiful beaches, taking pictures, taking walks, beautiful scenery, especially beaches and wading birds . . .

And that is also all on the same island.

We can’t wait to go back to Dauphin Island. Birding season is just kicking up again, after the heat of the summer and the threat of hurricane season. The birds migrating south have their final rest on Dauphin Island, before heading out across the big Gulf of Mexico to warmer climates for the winter.

And there’s an old fort, too!

These forts were built to protect the American southern coast from a variety of enemies, including at one time, our fellow Americans. They are built solidly, with great big cannons.

So what is the fort defending against now?

There is another way to get to Dauphin Island from Pensacola, if you get there at the right time and there isn’t much of a line, because this little ferry can’t take a lot of cars. It goes to Fort Morgan, still in Alabama, but across Mobile Bay:

AdventureMan says the forts are built in the style influenced by Marc RenΓ©, marquis de Montalembert, who is said to want to do for defense what Vauban had done for the attack.

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Safety, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dauphin Island: Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Shell Mound

After exploring the west end of Dauphin Island, we explored further, and found what we were really looking for – the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. It was even better than we had imagined. You drive in and park, open your doors, and it smells good, like salty sea fresh air and pine trees together. They have walking trails that are beautifully done; even ramps and areas for people in wheelchairs, special areas for picnics out just a short walk.

The trails are clearly marked, and have great signage.

A very short walk takes you to a lake area, with an overlook and lots of soft shell turtles poking their heads out curiously:

At one point, AdventureMan laughed and said the long needle pine has decorated this smaller tree for Christmas:

We know we will be coming back, so we saved the longer hikes for another, cooler trip. πŸ™‚

Dauphin Islanders have put a high priority on protecting their sea and bird life. They have bought up several parcels where the wildlife is protected and free.

We found the Shell Mound park, and it is magnificent. There is a road lined with trees dripping with Spanish Moss, and there is more wild lantana than I’ve ever seen in one place before. The butterflies are crazy about lantana, especially this orangey kind, and there must have been a thousand butterflies, just in this one small area; it was like butterfly heaven. Most of the butterflies we saw were Gulf Fritillaries or Sulphers, but AdventureMan says he also spotted a BuckEye. It was magical, just watching them flit so happily from blossom to blossom.

We are already thrilled we came to Dauphin Island, but . . . there is more to come!

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Education, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment