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Hill Country Living

Putt-Putt Golf Parks Trump Natural Beauty

By Coulter Fussell

Summer is here and my family survived our first official beach vacation. So we’re off to a good start. My oldest kid just turned 8 and, yes, we just took our first official beach vacation. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been many places before (a couple of them beaches) but they were always tagged on to the end or beginning or middle of one of my husband’s tour jobs so we would be in places, like, say Estonia. What we just got back from was our first official good old fashioned southern family beach trip. Gulf Shores to be exact and, man….that was definitely not Estonia.

First of all, I would like to say that Water Valley needs an amusement park. There I was, taking my children to arguably the greatest defining and natural feature of our entire region of the country – the beautiful and precious Gulf of Mexico – and all my kids did was scream like hysterical banshees every time we passed a putt-putt. And there were about 50 glorified putt-putts on the two-mile drive from our river cabin to the beach.

So, if the Main Street Association is looking for a way to draw money-throwing tourists into Water Valley, then build a huge fake volcano surrounded by a tire-laced go-cart track and erect some kind of fatal bungee tower that looks like a torture de-vice for giants. Paint everything so bright that it looks like a real-life cartoon and name it something having to do with pirates. Oh, and put an enormous plastic gorilla on the volcano. There will be a line for miles to get into town. You’ll have to start charging admission at the 7/9 split.

The one my kids really wanted to go to was called Waterville. I’m gonna go ahead and call Waterville’s creative team lazy on that one. And this coming from a creative-type in a place called Water Valley. Water-ville was a small water park….next to an enormous ocean. Waterville was $34 a person. Waterville included attractions such as “waves,” a “river,” a “shrimp boat village” and a place to body board called a “flowrider.” Thank goodness for Water-ville because I have no idea where else on the Gulf Coast one could find all those attractions at such a low price!

We did indulge at one point and rented some kayaks, spending several wonderful hours going six miles up and down the Bon Secour River. Bon Secour means something close to “safe harbor” in French and it certainly felt that way. The river was beyond beautiful and kayaking it was the highlight of our family’s trip. Granted, my four year old was no help at all in the kayak and I had to utilize stomach muscles that I haven’t seen since highschool to be able to paddle the entire trip, but he sure was cute pointing in awe at brown pelicans flying low across the water and watching the mullet jump in panic as fishermen threw their nets or letting his foot fall over the edge of the kayak so that his tiny little barefooted boy toe skirted across the clear river water…water that would flow out into the bay and eventually into the ocean, flowing through the seaweed and swirling around the sharks, like the one airbrushed on his little t-shirt. It all circles back, going around and around again.

It was a dreamy few hours. We let our kids jump off the kayaks to swim for a bit in the Bon Secour. They laughed and splashed and the afternoon sun beamed down on the four of us. It was better than Estonia.

Then a local man boated by and told us that’s where the alligators live. Back in the boat, kids! Time to go to Waterville!

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