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My Day at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola (Day 103)

October 28th, 2009 9 comments

Here’s how my Day 103 started:

pensacola_rainAnd thus the Blue Angels canceled their practice session.

It supposedly rained like three inches in Pensacola that morning, which seems like a lot. We were the top news on the Weather Channel that day. That’s right, The Weather Channel. Which, btw, has some good-looking on-screen personalities.

pensacola_museum-entry-rainOne day I’m going to find a flag that’s not flying at half-mast. Maybe.

pensacola_museum-glingFiercest of the Navy’s 1920s night-fighters: the Gling.

pensacola_f8f-cowlingF8F.

pensacola_sbd-dauntlessDauntless.

pensacola_p-40-tomahawkCome to think of it, we may have already been fighting Japan when they attacked Pearl Harbor.

pensacola_many-tailsIt’s like a tails and folded wings convention in there.

pensacola_artworkNavy art. I like the composition.

pensacola_blimp-videoI am deeply concerned about naval blimpery.

pensacola_wide-viewAny color you want, so long as it’s navy blue.

pensacola_t-28Trainer.

pensacola_blue-angelsForever stuck in formation.

pensacola_museum-entranceIt eventually stopped raining.

pensacola_chopper-rowChopper row.

pensacola_fat-albertFat Albert: always a crowd-pleaser.

pensacola_door-21You asked me once, what was in Room 21. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 21 is the worst thing in the world.

pensacola_blue-angel (1)Yes, it *does* seem to be listing to port.

Beyond that:

  • The museum is actually on-base, which I thought was very cool.
  • I think the one thing this museum has going for it that no other flight museum has is the Blue Angels practices. Which get canceled when it rains three inches.
  • The museum has some usability issues, for instance: some of the displays are hard to read (see: “gling”); it was difficult to tell what the organization at the museum was meant to be — there are grouped displays, but their locations seem randomly selected; and some of the aircraft did not seem to have signs describing them.
  • Dave, our flight line tour guide, was exactly what you want a retired-Marine tour guide to be. Well done, very entertaining.
  • For some reason the four Blue Angels displayed in the museum (the old A-4s) are angled in a downward attitude. Seems sort of wrong.
  • The other thing this museum has that I thought was unusual and pretty cool was the artwork. They got a ton of artwork and a lot of it rulz — especially the WW2 stuff, which covered subjects I always thought should’ve been covered on canvas, but which I hadn’t seen before. Wish the National Museum of the Marine Corps had had that (seems like it’d be the rightful place for some of these, for instance — or maybe I just failed to notice them there).
  • I don’t think this museum quite nailed The Navy’s Big Moment (IMHO, that’d be Midway). I mean, they talk about it, but it doesn’t come alive or command attention the way you’d think it should. IMHO. Always IMHO.

But it was fun. Again, I thought it was particularly great that the museum was on-base.

It was also interesting to me that the base has its own lighthouse (what base doesn’t?):

pensacola_lighthouseIt keeps PBYs from hitting the control tower, I assume.

Once I got over the lighthouse, I left the base and headed to Warrington, which is where my parents lived when my dad was stationed in Pensacola. This is what the house looks like now:

pensacola_505-e-sunsetI like the gully.

Anyway — big day of naval aviation. And it’s still sort of disappointing to go to these places where my parents (and siblings) lived before I was born and then to find them to not be stuck in the era in which my family lived there. I mean, how hard would it be for Pensacola to pull off 1961? Oh well: maybe next year.

bkd

Forest, Beach, and a Hundred Miles of Strip Malls (Day 102)

October 28th, 2009 2 comments

Panama City is the worst place this side of Gatlinburg.

Here are pictures of trees, though:

apalachicola_t-intersectionI took the road more-traveled. It went back to the highway.

apalachicola_treesThis is what trees look like in Florida (some of them).

So I hadn’t seen the area around my campground prior to waking up, given that I’d pulled in way after dark. And that was what it looked like. There was a lake by my campground too, as it turned out, with fish in it. I saw one fish jump out of the water about four feet, fly sideways for a bit, then go back in — and then it kept doing it until it had made a complete circle in the lake. Fish don’t do that where I’m from.

And if they try? We stop them.

Went to some fort near the campground also (Fort Gadsden — named after the Purchase guy, not the Flag guy). There wasn’t much of a fort there, but the site caretaker’s dog ended up being a stalwart tour guide. Hopefully she found her way home once I lost her in the cemetery. And hopefully she’s not a digger.

Then I went to the beach. Pretty much all southern beaches look something like this one on St. George Island:

st-george-island_duneThey always have dunes like this.

st-george-island_grassAnd grass like this to keep the dunes in place (picking a blade of grass results in a $500 fine!).

st-george-island_stairsAnd boardwalks and stairs to get you over the dunes and grass.

Went swimming this time. It’s colder than it looks, but warmer than the Pacific on OC beaches in August (not that that’s saying much).

After the beach, I turned the truck toward Pensacola — 120 miles from the beach, IIRC, which was about as far as it was from Tallahassee, even though I’d driven 150 miles somewhat west-ish since  Tallahassee. I checked Google Maps when I was still 100 miles away from Pensacola and it told me it would take over 2.5 hours to travel those 100 miles. Because the rest of the highway was littered with strip malls and suburbs-without-cities. Que triste! I’m so pitiable. Anyway: they should probably build a new highway from Panama City to Pensacola, an interstate maybe even. And develop a logo so that we know how brilliant the current government is for paying for it.

And there were an unreal number of Air Force bases along the way. I guess they need to give the hurricanes something to aim at.

bkd

Florida State Line (State #35)

October 28th, 2009 No comments

That’s what the top sign says anyway. No idea on the bottom sign. But check out my windshield!

welcome_floridaY’know, one good rain would take care of this problem.

Also had my worst sleep-finding experience of the trip so far on Night 101 (how fitting!). Got to Tallahassee around 8 or so and then drove out to the NFS campground about 20 minutes west of town. Turns out they don’t allow camping there — just ATV’ing. No problem. There were a bunch of others in the Apalachicola National Forest southwest of Tallahassee. An hour later, I’m cruising down dark, dirt roads looking for any of three different campgrounds purported to exist there. Three strikes later and I was — oh man, baseball reference fine, but nothing *that* lame. Sorry.

So I headed back down to the coastal highway and it was maybe 10:30 or 11 by then. Figured I’d just stop at a motel somewhere. And then from behind, as is (apparently) southern custom, someone started tailgating me, so I pulled over first half-chance I got so they could pass. Instead of passing, they pulled up next to me and stopped. It was the local sheriff wondering what was wrong. “Just wanted to let you guys pass me,” I said. “You sure there’s nothing wrong?” I was *pretty* sure. Anyway — they thought there might be a campground open in the next town, 20 minutes down the road. But they were wrong.

There *was* a motel there, though — it was about 11:30. The motel had three cars parked in front of it, but when I got to the office door it said “no vacancy”. Sure. Back in the car. Per the map, I could take another little highway through Apalachicola National Forest again and if it didn’t work out *this time*, then I’d be back on the 10 in 60 miles. Went up the little highway and found a state park sign that said there was camping there. Unfortunately, past the sign was just a mess of roads and when I found a trailhead that didn’t include a campground, I turned back. But on the way back, I saw a sign that said that whatever sand-spur would lead me to a campground. I followed it in and found the campground. Except that it said I needed a permit that I was supposed to get in some town somewhere. Naturally, I couldn’t violate the law.

So I headed back out to the highway, but not before getting on my Blackberry to see if I could verify that one of the two NFS campgrounds that Rand McNally said existed actually existed. To my surprise, they both seemed to and I found Actual Directions on how to navigate FS roads to get to one of them. And then I did that and it was a real campground and it cost $3 and it was barely even 1 AM when I went to sleep.

I didn’t say it was an *interesting* story.

bkd

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