Well, the first thing everyone here in Minnesota asks when we tell them where we went on vacation is, "Did you see the oil spill?" We did go down to our favorite beach in Gulf Shores; while we didn't see oil on the water, there was a big cleanup effort on the beach, and when we looked carefully, we were able to find some tar balls:
They look like little black rocks, but we know from past visits that you don't generally see little black rocks on this beach, and when you squeeze them, they're squishy. For a Saturday morning in July, the beach was practically deserted . . . there were maybe a few dozen people scattered around, and only two or three wading in the water. Plus, there were maybe a dozen National Guardsmen on cleanup duty, a tractor pulling a sand-sifting device, and a very helpful park ranger who told us to stay out of the water -- and that people who had gone swimming had gotten a bad rash. He (and quite a few other people down there) was especially incensed about the dispersants BP was adding to the water. "You know, those are banned in Britain," he said. Here's a picture of the double red flag on the beach:
So we went to another nearby beach -- at Lake Shelby, in Gulf State Park. The water was bathwater warm, and the color of root beer -- you'd look down, and your body would be tinted a deep orange-brown; you couldn't see more than a couple of feet in it. This would have been a little disconcerting if there hadn't been lots of other people swimming who didn't seem at all put off. We asked another park ranger about it, and he assured us it was just the "sea grass" rotting in the lake.(I didn't think sea grass grew in freshwater lakes, but who knows?) The kids love to swim, so this suited them just fine.
As another beach alternative, we also visited the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, which is a smaller but no less cool version of our Science Museum of Minnesota. Most of the exhibits were different from ours, so the kids had a blast. Here is Bear's head on top of a table -- a magic trick that all the kids wanted to try out. They also got a kick out of the design-your-own-roller-coaster machine.
Here is Mouse with her Aunt Amy; those two are high-powered fashionistas when they get together:
And finally, here is a video of Mudpuppy -- he HAD been saying "goo" before I started up the camera!
We don't have as many pictures as usual -- but I am promised pictures from Starling's mom, so I will post them when they arrive.