Bon Secour and Points South…a Road Trip to The Gulf Coast

A Gulf Coast Road Trip

The Old Lad….oops! Excuse me. I mean my sweet young bride, had a birthday this month, and we took a road trip to the coast. Say what you want, but Alabama has a Gulf Coast, albeit an abbreviated version, just as spectacular as Florida’s. Snow-white sand beaches, sparkling green surf and a warm gulf wind make it a beach goer’s paradise.

Of course, no visit to the Gulf is complete without a visit to Alvin’s Island to look at the sea shells, rubber snakes and lacquered alligator heads. Also, with a recommendation from our neighbors Jeff Aker and Tish Pierce, we visited The Steamer Restaurant at SanRoc Cay Marina, on Perdido Beach Blvd, Deep water red shrimp, oysters from the back bay, blue crab…..!!!! Relaxed atmosphere and excellent food. Enough said, right?

Anyway, the sun shined and the waves sparkled, and I felt like an aging manatee among the svelte spring breakers, but what the…? The scenery was exceptional. One nice thing about the Alabama beaches is that no alcohol is allowed, so it was a very civil crowd. As long as you pack your Margaritas in nondescript containers and don’t dance naked in the sand, life is good. Sorry, if you were expecting photos of chicks in swimsuits or lifeguards with six-pack abs, you are out of luck. You’ll have to settle for the boats.

Bon Secour Bay Boats

We do tend to get off the beaten path when possible. This included side-trips to Fairhope, Bon Secour Bay, Bayou La Batre, and a few other places where the beach-goers seldom wander.

I also discovered that people in the area tend not to think of the Russian, Ivan The Terrible, when you mention “Ivan,” but the Cat-3 Hurricane by that name that struck them dead-center in 2004. Bringing with it 15-20 foot storm surges. The area made a remarkable recovery, but evidence of the devastation remains.

Pelicans on a pier at the Dauphin Island Ferry

Leaving the Fort Morgan Peninsula, we caught the Dauphin Island Ferry and headed west to Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Janet and I have also come to the conclusion that there are almost as many Dollar General Stores in Alabama as there are churches.

The latest update on the next novel, Valley of The Purple Hearts, is I’m still working with the feedback from my Beta-readers, Carol Carlson, Chris Davis, Ellen Morris Prewitt and Margaret Yates. The final manuscript should be ready to go to the editor in a week or two, and with some luck, published by mid-summer.

Coming Soon: Valley of The Purple Hearts

Valley of The Purple Hearts

Below is the cover for, Valley of The Purple Hearts, the next novel in my “Vietnam War Series,” along with a very brief story summary. The cover is designed by Todd Hebertson at You will notice this one will be a departure from the first three books in the series in as much as it is a more “conventional” story about one young soldier’s experience, without the intrigue of espionage. It does, however, have that inevitable love story—something I somehow seem unable to avoid having for all my protagonists. Think of it as a Vietnam War version of Farewell to Arms and Alice in Wonderland all rolled into one—no disrespect intended for Hemingway or Lewis Carroll. I think they will forgive me. I just hope my readers can.

So here is the story summary:

When eighteen-year old Buck Marino first meets Rolley Zwyrkowski, he little realizes the young sergeant and their next year together in Vietnam will change his life forever. The months following the 1968 Tet Offensive and the battles of the 101st Airborne between Hue and Phu Bai, and westward into the A Shau Valley, provide the backdrop for a story about boys becoming men in a paradoxical war. And when he meets Army nurse Janie Jorgensen, Buck believes he has found the love of his life only to crash into the reality that the war has left his heart and soul lost in a futureless void.

Historical military fiction, Valley of The Purple Hearts follows the men of Second Squad through the shadowy jungles and mountains of I-Corps as they fight main force Viet Cong and NVA regulars. With constant enemy contact, booby-traps, sniper fire and all-out firefights, Buck and his buddies follow their squad leader, Rolley, who puts the lives of his men first. As Rolley faces the young and inept Lieutenant Mallon, Buck realizes his squad leader is becoming jaded and has lost his sense of humor. When the young sergeant sacrifices his safety for that of his men, Buck must step up to face Mallon in the heat of battle, and try to save his friend.


With a little luck, I hope to have it out by late summer. Meanwhile, if you have read any of my other books, liked it, and not left a written review on Amazon, please do. Reviews are an immediate measure of a book’s worthiness that readers depend on. Fewer reviews often equate to fewer readers taking a chance on a book. Therefore your help will be very much appreciated.


Memories for Those Who Gave it All

This blog-post is dedicated to memories of friends from old times….

I looked up early this evening to see Orion the Hunter rising above the eastern horizon. It gave me pause as I thought about some friends from long ago. My hands-down favorite constellation, Orion has blessed me with a hunting life fabulously rich in experiences. But now, I suppose age has tempered the passion I once had for making that last trip to the woods before the end of the hunting season. There’s plenty of venison in the freezer, and the little lady would have a hissyfit if I went out and caught some old wall-hanger standing flat-footed, thinking the season had ended.

An old buck

It seems a long time till spring. Maybe we’ll go back up to the Rockies again this year. Neither of us could make the mountain hikes we once made, but it would be nice to gaze up at the Tetons again, take some

Mount Moran and the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River.

photos of the antelope and maybe catch an old griz willing to pose without gnawing my head off. And maybe like that morning many years back when I was with two of my closest friends and our wives standing on the bank of the Snake River at Oxbow Bend, I will once again hear the wolves of the Pacifica Pack howling a greeting to the morning sun. The crisp morning air will bring a mist off the river as otters cruise by, and I’m sure the elk will be whistling in the surrounding hills.

Looking out over the Willow Flats at Jackson Lake, we can watch the Elk herds, and later we can drive up to Hayden Valley and watch Bison big as Volkswagen buses. The Jackson Hole Valley, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and traveling north up the Bear Tooth Highway, through Missoula and up to Glacier—it is all a memory I wish I could share with my children and grandchildren, but they will hopefully have their own opportunity someday, because I am saving this memory for others.

I’ve seen thousand-pound bull elk crashing into one another, the sound of their clashing antlers echoing against the mountainsides.


I’ve seen a mother grizzly flipping boulders in the air with the flick of a claw—boulders big as basket balls and all but buried in rock-hard clay. The muscles beneath her thick fur rippled in the morning sun, as she stepped back to let her cubs feed on the unearthed grubs.

And the question I am certain that comes to mind is that those weren’t hunting experiences, but yes, they were. I always hunt, but quite often it is with a camera. I’ve photographed caribou, moose, wolves and griz in Denali. I’ve walked with my camera amongst a group of Whitetail bucks in Mississippi, fighting so hard they didn’t know I was there until I had taken several photos. I’ve photographed hummingbirds, butterflies and just about anything that would pose in front of my lens.Lorem for the average users an iimage of a bird

Now, it’s no longer so easy. Once I could crawl on my belly to the base of a giant Cypress beside a bayou and film a duck, a deer or a heron. That was “once.” If the passion strikes now—which is seldom—I must stand up right and do my best not to stumble over the cypress knees as I stalk my prey. And by now, if you should begin to believe this is some pathetic whine about getting old, it’s not. It is a celebration for getting here—for living a full life—the mortgage on which was paid in full by others. They are the ones with whom I want to share these memories.

They are those young soldiers who never lived long enough to experience it. They died on some remote battlefield in some foreign country well before their time. No, this memory is not a complaint, but a celebration of a lifetime of memories which I hope someday to take with me to the other side and share with those that made the ultimate sacrifice. This lifetime of memories is for all those young Americans who gave their lives so that I might live mine. I stand in humble honor of my brothers in arms who never came home, because they made these memories possible.

Shoulder Patch 82nd Airborne Division

Rick DeStefanis

The photos here are mine. I made them, which means they’re copyrighted, but if you want them, take them. Just remember what other vets did for you.