When Ann heard about an event in Orange Beach, Alabama, called the Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip, she thought it sounded like a great idea. Knowing full well which one of us would get to run headlong into the Gulf of Mexico on New Year’s Day, (and who would stay dry to take pictures) I had to think about it a little. So, after very little thought and a Bushwacker drink, I agreed to take the plunge.

Into the Gulf of Mexico

I’ll admit that shortly after agreeing I began to have second thoughts. Did I really want to immerse myself in the Gulf of Mexico in the middle of winter? I wasn’t so sure. After all, I enjoy maintaining a regular body temperature. But at the same time, I thought it might be fun and it was one of those things I could forever say I’d done.

Flora-Bama Lounge and Package

During our 5,000-mile road trip across the south, we found ourselves in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for the new year. On New Year’s morning, we drove east down the highway to the Flora-Bama Lounge. Located right on the beach, smack dab on the Florida-Alabama state line, they have made the Polar Bear Dip one of their signature events. Participants who go completely under water even get a free meal and a beer. We got there almost an hour early, found a place to park across the road about a block away, and headed in not knowing what to expect.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip costumes

On entering, I knew we’d made the right decision to come. Sure, I was still a little nervous about hypothermia, but was too busy taking in all the crazy-fun costumes that people had worn to the event to care. It turns out that people dress up to jump into the water and freeze. This gentleman, for instance, was feeling quite patriotic.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

We wandered around, chatting with people, and sipping on one of the Flora-Bama’s signature drinks, the Bushwacker.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Bushwhacker

I’m not sure what all is in this frozen concoction (they don’t tell you), but I will say that it was tasty. Throughout our time, we kept snapping photos of folks in costumes far more creative than my Postcard Jar t-shirt.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

Heading to the beach for the Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip

Finally, the time came to bite the bullet and take part in the Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip. With the sun shining and the temperature at 74 degrees, the idea of jumping into the Gulf of Mexico actually started to appeal to me. We made our way out onto the beach with about 5,000 other participants, learning along the way that this was probably the most participants in the event’s 32-year history.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

We spent a few minutes waiting for noon to arrive, and loved walking around the beach taking in all the different groups in costume.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Costumes

The Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip

Finally, noon came and the crowd began to move. Someone threw something into the water, and the owner’s dog went to retrieve it, leading the way and kicking off the event. With a great shout, several thousand people ran, following the dog into the water. I stumbled in, lost in a mass of humanity. I dodged flailing arms and legs and felt the chilly water cover more and more of my legs, then my waist. Finally, I found a place deep enough to drop down under the surface of the chilly water and let it wash over my head. If I hadn’t been awake before, I was now. I made my way back to shore, dodging people who were behind me still running in.

Flora-Bama Polar Bear Dip Steve

I’d done it. For a brief moment I felt strangely proud of this accomplishment. Then, remembered there are people who do these dips in places like Minnesota where they cut a hole in the ice. Oh well. I forever get to say I did a polar bear dip, and I didn’t have to freeze that much.

All the picture takers!

Ann, for her part, said she would take a video me taking the dip. But, as there were a couple thousand other people who also had planned to video, and Ann is just 5’4″, things got a little out of control. Here’s the video Ann got.

After getting back to shore, I found Ann, grabbed the towel, and dried off. We wandered back off the beach, opted to skip the line for lunch and headed back to the car, the hotel, and a warm shower. As we pulled out, the line of cars parked along both sides the road for this event ran for almost a mile! It turns out that going a little early had really paid off.

For me, travel is all about experiencing new things, even when it involves plunging into cold waters. And, it turns out, I’d like to this thing again someday.


  • Just over two years ago, we stopped in Pawhuska to have lunch at Ree Drummond's @PWMercantile. From the person opening the door for us to the folks tending the line giving us water, we felt welcome from the moment we set foot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.⁣
But it turns out it wasn't just @thepioneerwoman and her husband, Ladd, who went above and beyond to welcome visitors. No, it turns out what they did was just par for the course in this town that's home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we've met in all our travels. ⁣
So we bought a house there. We got it in part, so we could be a part of the community we've come to love. But we also got it so we could help welcome folks to town and let them know how glad we are they came to visit. Come and see Pawhuska. And when you do, stay awhile.
  • Fried dill pickles are a little different in North Dakota than they are in most other places we've been. Instead of just dipping some dill chips in batter, dropping them in the fryer, and then serving them in a basket with ranch, the folks there take their time and make a dish to remember.⁣
They start with a dill pickle spear, wrap that in Havarti cheese, then put a wonton wrapper around it all. Then, they fry it, and slice it open just so before serving them alongside a spicy aioli dipping sauce. We had these at a complimentary meal at Outlaws Bar and Grill in @visitwilliston, North Dakota.⁣
Let's be honest, these pickles are just one of many reasons we look forward to our return to @northdakotalegendary next year.
  • Have you ever had the chance to watch a cruise ship come into or leave port? These massive ships, often 1,000 feet or more long, can maneuver themselves by the dock so gently that you don't even realize you've stopped (or started) moving.⁣
In Bermuda, we had the chance to watch the Norwegian Escape depart. We watched as she pushed away from the dock, then spun 180 degrees on a point before heading out to sea.⁣
We've seen ships do this dozens of times. In fact, we've been on ships and have been part of this type of maneuvering dozens of times. And yet, given the sheer size of the vessels, it never ceases to impress.
  • You know you want to. Do it. Just book the ticket and go. At the end of your life, you likely won't remember most of the stuff you bought in 2019, but you will always remember the journey you took and the experiences you had. So enrich your life and go. We've never regretted spending money for a trip.
  • This just might be the sweetest, best pecan roll we've ever had. At the @PWMercantile, they bake these delicious treats daily. Covered in a luscious caramel and finely chopped pecans, these rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. Have you had one?
  • Smack in the middle of Portland, Oregon, we found the International Rose Test Garden. Set on 4.5 acres of land, the garden offers visitors a chance to see 10,000 rose bushes from about 650 different varieties. ⁣
We spent more than an hour walking the carefully tended paths, snapping photos, and just enjoying the beautiful flowers. Our visit here made us glad that we literally scheduled time on this trip to stop and smell the roses.
  • Set in a renovated middle school in Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell is one of our favorite boutique hotels. The owner thoughtfully designed the space and included touches from school including “Hall Pass” key card sleeves, and a bar cleverly named, “The Periodic Table.” We wrote a story on this hotel, you can read all about it on our blog. Link in bio. @hotelgrinnell #hosted @traveliowa
  • Everyone has a happy place, a spot where the world melts away and a sense of relaxation and calm settles in. For Steve, this place is on board a cruise ship, out on open water. He can spend hours sitting and watching the water, the ship's wake, and looking out for other ships. He loves soaking up the sun and fresh ocean air while cruising along on the sea. ⁣
What's your happy place? ⁣
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