Beaches and Birds in Gulf Shores, Alabama: A Road Trip with Max
by Laura Kammermeier
Travel Writer Laura Kammermeier, mother of two teenage boys, plays hooky with her son and puts a whole new twist on Take Your Child to Work Day.
My husband and I are raising two boys. They are already teenagers, my lord, and I’m afraid to blink, because one day this will all be over. I already see myself hunched over a box of photographs in the attic, clutching a hankie, boo-hooing about all the things we didn’t have a chance to do, the places we didn’t yet see together.
Summer vacations are a time to bond. But traveling with family is a balancing act. My kids love the beach, and I love nature and birds.
For years, I’ve been dreaming of a Gulf Coast vacation that blends the best of both worlds. In my dreams, I've heard gulf waves lap against the shore, heard the rush of water liberated from crab traps as they are pulled onto the docks, watched dolphins frolic at sea, and photographed sandpipers shuffling along the beach.
But my kids enjoy a different, more active, aesthetic. They like to spend hours on the beach, feasting at the local burger joint, and bouncing on beds in the hotel. Watching birds is not on their priority list.
So when I was offered a travel assignment down in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I said yes right away. And though I could not bring the whole family, I broke my eldest son Max out of school and brought him along for a mother-and-son road trip.
Our mission was to explore the best natural spots that Gulf Shores region has to offer, find migrating birds, and see how Gulf Shores ranks as a family-friendly nature destination. Max is more of a game and parkour enthusiast than a nature explorer, so my goal as Mom was to do this without overdosing him on birds and sending him into a nature-induced trauma.
Could we do it without killing each other? What would it be like to travel as only HALF our family? What would it be like to immerse Max in my professional obsession of bird watching for two days?
"Wouldn’t you know, a ‘biblical storm event’ had occurred the day before we arrived; flooded roads interrupted our route and an electrical storm illuminated the charcoal sky. But both added to our growing sense of truancy and adventure."
© 2014, Laura Kammermeier
Travel writer Laura Kammermeier is a well-known birder based in Rochester, NY.