Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

When I began looking for last-minute lodging in the Gulf Shores area a few weeks ago, I never dreamed that Bill and I would find ourselves “holed-up” in a fifth-wheel travel trailer under a grove of giant oak trees just off County Road 9 near Magnolia Springs, Alabama. Not only did the HomeAway site, which I stumbled upon in my search, connect me to a privately owned camper, but it was listed as a B&B!
Now truly, have any of you out there ever rented a vacation camper that included a five- star breakfast?? Oh my! The first morning we were given just what we ordered, traditional ham, eggs, juice (three choices) and wheat toast with jam. The ham was smoked on the owner’s outdoor grill and it was heavenly. For day two we told the delightful couple in charge of our meals (the owners, Patti and Ray Girard) that “anything would be fine.”
“Anything” turned out to be the best blueberry pancakes on this planet! With maple syrup brought from Canada especially for these famous pancakes. Turns out Ray, our host, was from Canada and encouraged visiting friends smuggle the syrup out of Alberta and down to South Alabama! Well, maybe not smuggle, but it was the richest, yummiest syrup I’ve ever tasted, and there probably is a law about letting it out of Canada!
Chance encounters with people like the Girards are just the stuff that makes life so interesting and so much fun. Bill was not always one to embrace my ideas of an “adventure,” but I dragged him along through underground rivers on an inner tube in Central America, on a week-long journey through Switzerland while I was eight months pregnant in a VW beetle that was built just after WWll, and, much later in our marriage, to the rim of the Grand Canyon at 6 am to see the sunrise accompanied by a small herd of Moose (meese?). I did not arrange for the large entourage of moose. Some things just happen spontaneously and add to the excitement of my version of “off-roading.”
Who knew that the reservations that landed us in a newly-refurbished fifth-wheeler about 20 miles off the beaten path to Gulf Shores would include making the acquaintance of a gentleman who spent his life traipsing the globe in the oil well drilling business and who was happy to show us a five foot tall bow he had been given by a monkey-hunter deep in the jungles of South America! Take a breath! Leaning along the wall of his home where we breakfasted were a collection of fierce looking spears, each with a sharp tip designed to be coated with some poison deadly to any small or large mammal who might find itself in the path of a pygmy hunter. Chilling!
On the other wall were three guitars…well, sort of. At second glance one could see that the body of the guitars were made of vintage porcelain bed pans. Yep. You heard me right. Those hated instruments of torture often presented straight out of an icebox by a fiendish nurse asking, “Would you like to use the bedpan?” Sure. And I would like to be given an enema and a penicillin shot in my hip!
Often, chance encounters lead to wonderful memories, and occasionally long-term friendships are forged from meetings that seem completely casual and not unusual at first glance. Like the precious friends we made in Germany when we were looking for an apartment and the couple who were vacating the place we eventually did move into became our dearest friends. We met only because Edwina (Eddie) and Pete were at home when the landlady showed us the apartment. Eddie became a lifesaver during our first months learning to manage in that foreign environment. And she, an English nurse and Pete, a German pilot, became our “best friends.”
Perhaps, if you think for a few moments you can remember occasions where chance encounters have led to vacation adventures or to important, life-long relationships. Like maybe where you met your spouse. Or how you got your first or best job. I met Bill over fifty years ago at the wedding of our first cousins, and later he found his career position because our daughters and the daughters of the couple who lived behind us became back-yard playmates. The manager of a department with the Georgia Pacific Corporation needed an accountant type. Bill was his man, and Bill retired from that company many years later.
Coincidence? Chance? Don’t bet the farm on it. We believe that as Jeremiah 29:11 says, God indeed has a plan for each of us who love and trust Him.
So, the first week in October will find us back in Gulf Shores where we will be staying in our little Time-Share condo across the street from the beach. Not the fifth-wheel adventure this time. But you had better believe that we will be visiting with our new friends, maybe eat some pancakes, for sure tell some stories and be on the lookout for some exotic memorabilia from Patti and Ray’s life journey. Sweet.