Panama City Beach, Florida: Population = 13,980, elevation = 15 feet, average January low temp = 39.8, Average July high temp = 90, average sunny days = 239, annual snowfall = 0”, annual rainfall = 64.5”, air quality index = 65.3, water quality index = 100, comfort index = 24, median age of residents = 47.7
This time around, our journey from East Florida to West Florida runs through Nebraska. Marylu’s younger sister passed away peacefully, in her sleep, on the 16th. Plans are made and family members called from far and wide. Instead of going to Panama City Beach, we push on to Pensacola for the flight to Denver followed by a drive to Sidney, Nebraska. Siblings, children, grandchildren and cousins swarm together to laugh and cry and tell the stories of a big family growing up together in a small town. Catholicism runs deep in this family, guided by Marylu’s brother, Father Bill, a Chaplain in the U.S. Navy. Prayers are sent heavenward for the soul of the departed. The ceremonies offer solace and comfort to the family. At the cemetery, a cold wind rustles the pine trees with a whisper like the ocean waves, carrying a boat to sea. The church basement ladies deliver the classics while the family talks a little longer, hugs a little tighter, takes more photos, all the while suggesting that Deb surely arranged this event to gather the family together for the Christmas season. So long Deb, and best wishes for the next leg of your journey.
Our AirBNB hosts in Panama City Beach, Florida, were very sympathetic about the disruption in our travel plans and had some treats awaiting our belated arrival and even offered us a complementary two-day stay next year. Since we had explored the area last year, it helped to come back to a somewhat familiar place following the sorrowful and hectic pace of the previous few days. There aren’t as many must do sights to see or things to do as in other locations we’ve visited. However, there’s a lot to be said for just being beach bums, with toes in the sand, and eyes seeking treasures from the ocean.
Our last time here, we stayed in a little, probably soon-to-be-extinct hotel on the beach. This time around we are staying in a massive resort/timeshare with a few thousand other vacationers. Our building is one of the many people habitats stacked up, one after another, along the beach. All units have an ocean view; all units have parking in the ramp across the street. The three doors that open onto the beach have restrooms, vending, and foot showers. A pool and hot tub await those looking for a dunk without waves.
We spend some time revisiting favorite restaurants and taprooms from last time around. The Hofbrau Beer Garden still pours a great half liter of dunkel with their Jagerschnitzel. Dee’s Hangout still has good spicy Cajun seafood and po-boys. The Fishale Taphouse still has the best selection of the best craft beers. Outlaws BBQ still has the best smoked tuna dip, although Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Grill is a serious contender.
Along with past favorites, we check out places new to us. Eat My Pasty has many interesting things baked into delicate crusts. Moe’s Original Bar has good smoky BBQ. Local Steamer takes fresh-that-day shrimp the size of your thumb and steams them up with sausage, potatoes, and corn for a great messy meal. The Panama City Beach Winery has an amazing variety of sweet fruit wines (orange, cherry, mango, key lime, and more) that are worth the experience. Nivol Brewing is a new taproom that brews a good selection of beers.
Since we are here for the holidays, we get to enjoy all the glitter and schmaltz that is Christmas. There are decorations and lights everywhere. And that damn inescapable music is relentless (Humbug!) On New Year’s Eve there is a big deal at Pier Park, a local “mall village” or whatever they call it here. A street grid with lots of shops, restaurants, bars, a theater, and an amusement park, surrounded by parking lots. Over the main street, they have suspended mesh nets holding 10,000 beach balls, some with prize coupons inside. At 8:00 they release the balls and shoot off fireworks from the building tops. At midnight the ball drops and the BIG fireworks show fires off the pier. Once again, we have survived and enjoyed a year of life here in the USA. Once again, we wish a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to all.
I remain a little skeptical about PCB. It seems mostly pretty nice while we are here, but I suspect the summer would be a trip through the steamer. The locals say the ocean breezes keep it cool. Mostly. Guess I would have to try check it out myself. Maybe next year.
Up Next: New Orleans