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.


PIN FOR LATER

  • While in Italy, we took a cooking class in the home of a the owner of a small vineyard. During the class, we learned to make several dishes including pasta (which we rolled and cut by hand) as well as Tiramisu. Looking at this picture, we can still taste the freshness of the pasta, the tomatoes picked that morning from vines in the yard for the sauce, and the herbs clipped from a pot on the porch. It was a magical meal, paired with wines they had produced using grapes they'd grown on their own land. Talk about a farm to table meal.
  • The Enchanted Highway near @visit_dickinson, North Dakota, is a 30 mile stretch of road that runs from I-94 to Regent. Along the way you'll find a number of huge metal sculptures that have to be seen to be believed. The size and scale of these creations is such that you'll be filled with a sense of wonder, and a desire to drive on to the next one. This particular creation is called, appropriately enough, "Grasshoppers in the Field." This road is just one more reason for you to hop on up to North Dakota. @NorthDakotaLegendary
  • One of our favorite restaurants whether on land or at sea is @celebritycruises Luminae restaurant. Every morsel of every dish has been thoughtfully considered, prepared, and presented. Take this Chocolate Palet dessert for instance. It's so rich that more than a few bites would be almost overwhelming. But that's okay, as the serving size is perfect. Paired with the scoop of gelato on a bed of chocolate crumbles? Well, it makes a perfect end to a scrumptious meal. A true masterpiece.
  • One of the things we love most about traveling is discovering new things. New destinations, new foods, new cocktails, and new people. What do you like to discover?
  • Our imaginations run wild when we find ourselves in a place so chock-full of history like Deadwood, South Dakota. As we took in the town, we closed our eyes and listened for echoes from the past when Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok lived here. If only the streets could talk. @tripscout @midwestliving⁣
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#southdakota #blackhills #mwtravel #midwestliving #midwestlivingmag #mymidwest #midwestmoment #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #deadwood #dakota #wildbill #calamityjane #historic #mainstreet #historytour #familyvacation #summervacation #tourists #mainstreetusa #
  • Standing on a hill in present-day Rome, you can look down on the Roman Forum, the center of activity in ancient Rome. We've all heard of Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Marcus Agrippa, and the Apostle Paul, and we know them as ancient historical figures who almost don't seem real. And then you see this space, the very streets where they walked and the buildings they knew. This is why Rome is the eternal city. You can still walk streets and cross bridges built thousands of years ago. Being there makes it's real, and suddenly history comes alive.
  • Is there anything more relaxing than the thought of a beautiful sandy beach? How about one with pink sand, like at Horseshoe Bay in Bermuda? We made a stop here during our visit to the island nation and loved seeing all the folks there enjoying their time splashing in the warm summer sun. ⁣
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Would you like to visit this beach?
  • Yes, you're seeing a bunch of steaks stuck on a pitchfork. It's all part of the pitchfork steak fondue served at the Medora musical. After loading up this farm implement with thick steaks, they stick it in a pot of boiling oil to cook the steaks. Served with sides like baked beans, cole slaw, and garlic bread, this is a unique dining adventure that is as much about the experience as it is the food. @midwestliving @tripscout @NorthDakotaLegendary @medoracvb @Medora_ND

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