I'm a sucker for sleeping to the sound of crashing waves.
So when we found the Ho-Hum RV Park, just a few miles east of the town of Carrabelle in Northwest Florida and smack dab on the Gulf of Mexico, we had to pull in for a look. That's all it took. Even though it was raining at the time, finding a place to camp this close to the water is pretty rare.
Our Roadtreking friends Les and Kathy Shanteau had tipped us to this place and, as it turned out, the site we got (number 41) was the same one they camped on last year.
Our spot was just a few feet from the waves. I took an afternoon nap with Tai to the sound of waves out front and rain on the roof. Jen caught up on email and used the time to call the women she leads in a Bible study group back home.
Later, as the storm passed by, we went exploring, and got a chance to visit with several of our neighbors.
It's a delightful little park. Nothing fancy. But clean, neat and far from the over development that characterizes so much of the coastline of the Sunshine State. To the east, there were a couple of well-spaced beach houses. To the west, nothing but wild beach, bordered by scrub pine. One of our neighbors said he kept returning to the area because it was “Old Florida,” meaning the culture was laid back, very Southern, pre-development.
The park boasts a lighted 250-foot long fishing pier and a narrow little beach. Pets, on a leash, are welcome in the park, on the beach and even on the pier. Kids, not so much. It's billed as an “adult only” park.
Our neighbors were all snowbirds. Most seemed to be staying for a month or two.
Prices range from $29 a night off the beach to $39 on it. We splurged for the beach site, getting a Good Sam discount of a couple bucks off the $39. It was quite the bargain. At Camp Gulf, where we stayed a few days ago in Destin, beach front sites went for nearly $100 a night. And dogs couldn't be on beach sites in Destin.
We were the only Class B in the park. Most of the others were Class A giants or Fifth Wheels, with a couple of Class B rigs sharing beach space with us.
The beach we camped on has an interesting history. In 1942, Camp Gordon Johnson was opened nearby for the purpose of training amphibious soldiers on nearby beaches. The camp trained a quarter of a million men and was used to prepare for D-Day and Normandy. Many of those D-Day landings were practiced on the sandy shores right around us. The camp closed in 1946, but there is a great museum in town.
Carrabelle is a a sleepy little fishing town of 1,300 with a great sense of humor. On U.S. Highway 28, the main drag, Carrabelle boasts the world's smallest police station — a phone booth marked “Police.” It has a great history, as recounted on the city's website:
“The World's Smallest Police Station” came into being on March 10, 1963. The city had been having problems with tourists making unauthorized long distance phone calls on its police phone. The phone was located in a call box that was bolted to a building at the corner of U.S. 98 and Tallahassee Street. Johnnie Mirabella, St. Joe Telephone's lone Carrabelle employee at the time, first tried moving the call box to another building, but the illegal calls continued.
Mirabella noticed that the policeman would get drenched while answering phone calls when it was raining. So when the telephone company decided to replace its worn out phone booth in front of Burda's Pharmacy with a new one, he decided to solve both problems at once by putting the police phone in the old booth.
With the help of Curly Messer, who was a deputy sheriff at the time, Mirabella moved the phone booth to its current site on U.S. 98 under the chinaberry tree. The booth did protect the officers from the elements, but some people still snuck into it to make long distance calls. Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for tourists to make calls.
It has been featured on television shows “Real People,” “Ripley's Believe It or Not,” “The Today Show,” and “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” It was featured in the movie “Tate's Hell” which was produced at Florida State University. Along with police station T-shirts – the design is copyrighted – there are police station hats, visors, postcards, and calendars.
But life has not always been easy for the retired St. Joseph Telephone and Telegraph Co. phone booth. Vandals have ripped phones out of the booth and shot holes through the glass. It has been knocked over by a pickup truck, and a tourist once asked a gas station attendant to help him load it into his vehicle to take it back to Tennessee. It was knocked over and damaged by Hurricane Kate in 1985.
But it's still there, still being photographed by tourists.
For food, we tried the Hog Wild BarBQue. Oh Boy. We didn't have any BarBQue but we did have the buffet, loaded with Southern specialties – fried chicken, black eyed peas, lima beans, turnip greens, rutabaga, corn bread and meat loaf. All for $8.95, with a piece of cake for dessert.
The area is part of the so-called Forgotten Coast that I wrote about previously. In fact, from our site at Ho-Hum, we could see St. George Island, where we had stayed the night before.