Pensacola – National Naval Aviation Museum

While staying in Northern Florida I was drawn to the Pensacola area since my family has some history here.   In the 1950’s my father was stationed at the Naval Air Station where he trained to be a helicopter pilot.  I was born at the military hospital but when I was six months old we moved away, so I really never “saw” or came to know Pensacola.  Mark and I visited this part of the Florida Panhandle on two different days.  The first was in late January when we drove along the scenic Gulf coast to visit Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens, completed in 1834 to defend Pensacola Harbor.  While exploring near the Fort, we watched jets from the Air Station practicing and Mark was able to get the picture above.  We were both pleased that he caught one plane flying straight and one turning.

On our second trip in early February, we visited the Naval Air Station that houses the National Museum of Naval Aviation.   Besides having beautiful, white sandy beaches, Pensacola is also well known for the Naval Air Station and museum.  It would have been fun to drive around the Air Station and see more of the place where I began, but these days you can’t drive around a military installation without a specific purpose and poking around doesn’t qualify.   When we first arrived for our museum visit, our GPS took us to the wrong entrance gate at the Station and the sentry had us quickly go out the exit and back through town to the right entrance.

This museum is a first class facility with more than 150 aircraft in two main buildings.  One building has two levels so it takes awhile to see everything.  When I visit aircraft museums I usually find it a bit daunting to try and take it all in and remember what I have seen and read.  So I try to take a different approach these days and not read and focus on each plane I come across but just catch the highlights.   In the picture above is a collection of Blue Angel jets.  The famous Blue Angels are based here at the Air Station and can be seen practicing over the museum for their air shows a few times each week beginning the end of March.  It would have been great to see them in action, but we were over a month too early.

Exhibits at the museum cover from the early days of flight to the present.  One of the more interesting to me was the NC-4 plane which was the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  On May 1919, the Commander and a crew of five men flew from New York State to Portugal.  The trip took 19 days with several stops along the way.  It was neat to read the information and see the plane (above) that first made this remarkable journey.


One of my favorite planes to learn about here was this Hellcat which was used for take off and landing practice from a training aircraft carrier on Lake Michigan during 1944.  The plane crashed into the lake and was at the bottom for 65 years before being hauled up in 2009 and restored.  They actually left a patch of the plane’s side as it was before restoring for the public to see before and after.  In the panoramic picture above, you can see this plane in the right foreground with #21.  Below, Mark stands next to the Hawkeye, introduced during the Vietnam War as a radar plane for the Navy.

The museum has other exhibits besides aircraft including recreated military camp scenes from the Pacific during WWII.   There was also a “Pensacola During Wartime” section with homes and buildings set up along a street to show everyday life for citizens during WWII.  Jake’s Garage put a smile on my face.

I found this “Raft” exhibit fascinating as it was the actual raft that three Navy men were adrift on after their plane made an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean during WWII.  They ended up on the raft with no food or water and only a pistol and knife.  During their 34 days at sea they lived on birds, fish and coconuts until they drifted to some islands.  I was amazed that the raft looked as good as it did after so many days at sea and so many years since the incident.  A book was written about this ordeal and it reminded me of the excellent book I have read called  “Unbroken” where Louis Zamperini also survives a plane crash in the Pacific during WWII and lives on a raft for 47 days before rescue.

It was a worthwhile trip to visit this very interesting museum – lots to learn and think about.  Thanks for following along with us!


Florida Gulf Musings

Before traveling to the Gulf in Northern Florida, I had visions of spending some time in the water and possibly even snorkeling if it was warm enough.  During the few weeks we were in the area, I never saw anyone swimming.  Even though it was Florida, it was still winter here in late January and early February.  Most people I saw walking along the beach were wearing jackets and long pants.  In the picture above, I am at Henderson Beach State Park in the Destin area.

Mark and I found it interesting that the beaches along the Gulf always have a flag to let visitors know the status of the water. There are four types – purple warns of potentially dangerous marine life; green is generally safe to swim; yellow means the ocean is rough, use caution and red is the most hazardous with potential high surf or dangerous currents.  In the photo above, Mark encountered a red flag at Henderson.

We visited Miramar Beach near Panama City on a cloudy and cold day.  I was disappointed at first that there would not be a colorful sunset, but actually I liked the cloud reflection on the sand and interesting lighting.  It was a day of beautiful grey clouds and I no longer missed having a sunset.  As I wandered down the beach, I met a group of “snow birds” that were glad to be in Northern Florida’s chill.  They had just arrived from their home in Ohio where the day’s high was 20 degrees.  Winter really is a matter of perspective.

At Miramar Beach I saw a sailboat stuck in the sand next to the surf.  I did some research and read that “Phantom of the Aqua” belonged to a Florida man who in October 2017 was attempting to sail to the Virgin Islands to assist residents after Hurricane Irma.  He got stuck in Hurricane Nate, abandoned the boat and was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.  He thought the boat would be destroyed in the storm and was surprised to learn several weeks later it washed ashore.  When we were there in late January, the boat had still not been picked up even though news articles written in October and November 2017 quoted the owner as making plans to get it off the beach.  I just read a follow up article that in mid February the boat was finally salvaged with the help of an excavator and a tug boat.  When the boat was pulled out to sea crowds on the beach cheered and the song, “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates was played.  In four months on the beach, the boat had become a celebrity to locals and visitors and people were sad to see her go.  The original owner was unable to get the boat out and ownership changed a few times before she was back on the water.

One evening Panama City beach pier afforded us a lovely sunset.  We arrived to the beach just in time to see the sun go down behind the pier.  It made for a great photo op.

I wanted to share some pictures from our RV park called “Live Oak Landing.”  It was located about a 20 minute drive north from the nearest Gulf beaches between the towns of Destin and Panama City.  We stayed here for two weeks and this was one of my favorite parks on our trip – a lovely, quiet, tree filled park in the country with a scenic river next to the RV sites.   The river system, called “Choctawhatchee” – (wow, that is a mouthful) was my favorite part of the park and a great place to hang out.   The river’s course seemed a little mysterious to me as we never saw it outside the park and there were no nearby parks where we could see the river flow.  Our park had a small pontoon boat that could be rented and I thought it would be interesting to explore this swampy river and see where it went.

Mark seemed interested to give the boat a try, but changed his mind when he stepped on it and was sure that it would easily tip over.  It is hard to change the mind of someone who is not a water or boat person, so the river’s course remained unknown.   And so I close with an evening picture along the river.

Thanks for reading!  In my next blog more exploring in South Carolina.

That Turquoise Water

Recently I mentioned writing about more current locations and from time to time interspersing posts from earlier traveling as well.   In this post I wanted to talk about some of our exploration along the Gulf of Mexico in Northern Florida, also known as the “Panhandle.”  Although our RV site was not located near the ocean, we had a fairly easy drive of about 20-30 minutes to the beach towns.    Before getting to Florida, what I was probably looking forward to the most was seeing the beautiful turquoise Gulf.  In fact, the Florida Panhandle is known as the “Emerald Coast.”

Like California, Florida has many state parks – about 171 in total.  I really enjoy visiting the state parks in California and wanted to see some in Florida as well.  Luckily, there are half a dozen or so parks along the Emerald Coast.  Our favorite park to visit was St. Andrew’s near Panama City which we visited twice.  It was here I first got to see the turquoise water up close when I walked out on the pier.  I think I exclaimed in joy at the color around me!  In the picture below, Mark looks for dolphins which we saw swimming near the pier.

The beaches on the Gulf are known to have the most beautiful white sand.  I spent some time here gathering sea shells and enjoying the bird life.  The birds, including Ruddy Turnstones and Willets were so calm they even walked close by me as if I wasn’t there.

The dunes in this park and in many of the coastal state parks in Florida really add to the beauty of the beaches.   The sea oats pictured below are an important part of conserving the dunes as they stabilize, increase dune growth and provide a habitat for birds and animals.  These grasses are protected with no trampling or picking allowed.

After hanging out on the beaches for awhile, we visited the rest of the park.   There are a  few different trails for walking and hopefully seeing wildlife.  We checked out Gator Lake with the heron rookery and nearby forest.

I loved walking among the coastal scrub with twisted, dwarf trees and palmettos.  Deer can be spotted here like the one I found below.

Thanks for checking in!  Next post I plan to talk about a Civil War era fort we visited in Georgia.

From Sea to Shining Sea – 6 Months

After selling our house and moving into our trailer on August 25 last year, our first stay was at an RV park in Mosslanding, California on the Pacific Coast.  This had always been one of our favorite places to visit and once we had an RV, it became a favorite place to camp as well.  We loved being right next to the harbor and marina with a short walk to the beach.  We heard seals barking throughout the day and night and sea otters hang out at a little inlet next to the park.  A few times I have done whale watching trips that left from the harbor just steps away.   And down the road is perhaps our favorite seafood restaurant, “Phil’s” with the best Cioppino I have eaten.  So it was fitting that we begin our journey here before heading on our adventures to the  east.  Below is a picture of me in the town of Pacific Grove during a day trip from Mosslanding.  It was a grey, foggy day on the Pacific!

As I write this, a few weeks ago we reached the Atlantic Coast in St. Augustine, Florida and have traveled as far to the east as we can go.  So, when I was thinking of a title for this blog, the first thing that came to mind was “sea to shining sea.”  (Mark also added, “with the Gulf of Mexico in between.”)  We also reached another milestone on February 25 – six months of full time RV living.  We have traveled in 12 different states (including California) and stayed in 29 different RV parks.  It has been a great adventure and a wonderful learning experience!  Below is a picture of the Atlantic across the road from our RV park in St. Augustine.

Just like Mosslanding on the Pacific was so special, I have found our park and the city of St. Augustine on the Atlantic to be very special as well.  I plan to write more about our stay here in a future blog, but so far this has been my favorite spot since leaving California.

And now, I would like to discuss the direction of the blogs.  Mark and I would like the blogs to be more current, since I have always been behind this past six months and unable to catch up.  I plan to start making them more up to date now which will mean not writing about all our Florida adventures right away.  The thought is to write about our current adventures and intersperse some of our past travels in Florida from time to time as well.  In addition, I plan to select just a few highlights from each area that we travel through and write shorter blogs in the process.  I believe by making these changes that the blogs will become more manageable and readers will finally have a more real time idea of where we have been and what we are doing.  The hope is the blogs will be easier to write and more interesting and you all will find them more enjoyable to read as well.

We are also working on upgrading our ability to work with photos.  It has been frustrating for me not to be able to crop, edit or make changes to the photos.  It has been a challenge but should be soon resolved.

We appreciate you following along these past six months and look forward to sharing more of our adventures as we enter into our next six months of traveling!

In my next post, I will be writing about our brief stay on Jekyll Island, Georgia.