Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blue Angels Practice, Pensacola, Florida


As we mentioned before, the Blue Angels practice most Tuesdays and Wednesdays (weather permitting) just across the bay from the campground. At 8:30 this morning (right after revelry, which we hear every morning), there they were.  They flew over Pensacola Bay and the Fort Pickens campground. We got a few good pictures which wasn’t always easy – they move fast! Enjoy!!
 
 
 
 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida




We heard a lot of great things about this museum from a variety of people, so we definitely wanted to check it out. (Okay, let’s be honest ~ Brad was really interested, Suzanne mildly……) The National Naval Aviation Museum is on a navy base, so bring photo identification, as it will be checked.  The museum is free, as well as the parking. 



 
We arrived close to lunch time, so we ate at the Museum’s Cubi Bar Café. This is a replication of the famous Cubi Point Officers’’ club closed in 1992 that was located on a Philippine base. The original club was used by Navy and Marine squadrons and other military units for more than 40 years. All the original 1000+ plaques were sent to the museum where the layout and spirit of the original club was replicated as much as possible. We were we told that retired military personnel now come to the Museum’s Cubi Bar Café to find their names on the plaques and have a beer. The food was just okay. The sandwiches are probably the best thing to get on the menu. There is seating out on a deck overlooking one of the hangars of the museum. This helped make up for the food.



Now that we were fortified it was time to explore the museum. The museum is comprised of three hangars. The first floor of the main two hangars consists of an IMAX theatre, the gift shop, and various aircraft from WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, as well as various other naval aircraft. The second floor of the main hangars had a WWII carrier exhibit, Hall of Honor, four Blue Angel planes, an art gallery, space exhibit and a few different flight simulators. There were also a few cockpits one could go into ~ we’ve decided that Brad’s definitely too tall to be a pilot!

At each plane or exhibit were informative plaques explaining the purpose of the plane, strengths and weakness, as well as specifications including speed, distance it could travel and payload. The “skins” on some of the planes were open in sections so you can see the tight quarters the pilots and crew had to deal with. We were surprised that the WWI planes were wood frames covered by canvass. In addition, there were many airplane engines on stands next to the plane in which they were used. This included old piston engines as well as the turbines used in modern aircraft.  The information plaques for the engines included the horse power generated, top RPMs and other facts that a gear head like Brad would enjoy ~ Suzanne often overheard him say “wow” under his breath as he approached and studied an engine display. (Under her breath, one could hear her say, "What a dork." :-)
 
Hangar Bay One is a separate single story building which houses the Marine One helicopter for Presidents Nixon and Ford. There is also Coast Guard aircraft, an area dedicated to POWs, and even more modern planes.


The most interesting exhibit (fur us) simulated the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. This included real footage of helicopters and various planes taking off and landing. The simulation provided the intense sound, vibrations, wind and the smell of burn aircraft fuel. It was very interesting and left you with an appreciation of the enormity and sophistication of our military. This is one experience at the museum that you should not miss and it’s free to boot, unlike the other simulators and IMAX theaters.
 
The museum is a must-see if you are in the Pensacola area. Plan on spending 2-3 hours at least


Two other areas at the base that are open to the public are the Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum and the Gulf Islands’ Fort Barrancas. We passed on the Fort (since we plan to go on a range talk of Fort Pickens where we’re camping, and one fort is more than enough for us), but we did check-out the lighthouse.
The Pensacola Lighthouse was established in 1859 and remains an active aid to navigation to this day. For $5, one can climb the 177-steps to the top, but we passed on this, as we’ve been to the top of many lighthouses (and Brad was getting hungry again).

One other thing the public can do on the base is watch the Blue Angels practice sessions, of which one will be happening while we’re here.  Since the Gulf Islands National Seashore campground is just across Pensacola Bay from the navy base, we’ll be able to see everything from our campsite, so we plan to grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gulf Islands National Seashore ~ Pensacola, Florida

 
We are staying at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida for a few days. In two words ~ absolutely beautiful! After driving through Pensacola, over a long (two mile) bridge to Gulf Breeze, then over another bridge ($1 toll one-way) to Santa Rosa Island, then about eight miles west past beautiful white beaches and views of water (Pensacola Bay to the north, Gulf of Mexico to the south) lies Gulf Islands National Seashore and the campground, and here we are! :-)

We look forward to exploring more of the area over the next few days……
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Exploring the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Davis Bayou of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is just a bit south of Ocean Springs, which is the eastern-most point of the 26 miles scenic drive along the gulf coast. We enjoyed the drive, going through Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Louis. 

One of the first things we noticed was how high some of the homes were built – much higher than those we saw in Louisiana, and the second thing we noticed was large areas of vacant lots, with what appeared to at one time had homes (and large opens at that, since there were quite a few multimillion dollar plantation homes along the route). We learned at the Biloxi Visitor’s Center that these are both the result of Hurricane Katrina (2005) ~ homes that were deemed 50% or more destroyed would only receive money to rebuild if rebuilt on high stilts, which made no sense for the plantation homes, and only those with 50% or less damage could be fixed as-is, no stilts needed.   
 

One strange, yet popular, attraction in Biloxi is the lighthouse in the middle of the road – placed there before the road was built, and just like an old oak tree; the periphery was built around it.
We enjoyed lunch at a popular restaurant around here ~ Shaggy’s ~ Brad enjoyed a Caesar salad with local shrimp and Suzanne had just a regular ‘ole sandwich, not being a shrimp eater.


We walked the beach a bit ~ the sand is quite fine and soft, the water this time of year a bit cool, but swimmable (in Suzanne’s opinion, not Brad’s).

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gulf Islands National Seashore ~ David Bayou, Mississippi

  

We are staying at the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi for a couple days to explore this area ~ neither of us has been to Mississippi and we thought that it would be fun to explore the Biloxi area and the Mississippi gulf shore.

Gulf Island National Seashore is two separate parks – this one, on the Davis Bayou, and one in Florida, where we are actually headed next.  The campground is fairly small, only about 50 sites, each with water and electric.  There are four free showers with “hottish” water and good water pressure. The campground is a bit tough to navigate with a big rig due to low-handing branches, and a few sites are a bit difficult to maneuver into with our fifth wheel, but overall it’s a nice, quiet campground, quite woodsy and on the water. 
  
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good-bye Betty's RV Park & Cajun Country........


Above is a photo of a nearby cemetery -  yes, it's true that the dead are "buried" above ground due to the low water table and frequent flooding in the area. Normally not ones to be bothered by cemeteries, it was a bit eerie to walk among the dead and have them above-ground.
Guess it's what you're used to......
~~~
Below is a photo of a gumbo potluck at Betty's a few days ago ~ once or more a week, Betty makes a popular main dish and those staying at the park join-in on the meal.  That's Betty on the bottom right, in the bright blue shirt, opposite Suzanne. She opened his park to keep busy after retirement - it's really just a way to entertain, meet people, and enjoy her retirement ~ she's really created a community here, and we've really enjoyed ourselves. 
 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Suire’s Restaurant & the Rip Van Winkle Home and Gardens, Cajun Country, Louisiana



Suire's Restaurant
We heard a lot about Suire’s Restaurant – basically a small grocery store with great Cajun food, so we went with some fellow Betty RV’ers ~ JC & Bev (whom we also saw in Austin) and Karen & Michael, a very new (two months) fulltiming couple from Seattle.

Well, it was unanimous ~ not great food at Suire’s.  We were disappointed – the pistolettes and boudins were greasy and the food just okay.   Bummer, as we’ve really been touting the food here in southern Louisiana. We guess one miss is to be expected……


Rip Van Winkle Home & Gardens
 
We six then went to the Rip Van Winkle home and gardens ~ another area where fellow RV’er shave been sharing that is wonderful.  In a nutshell, Joseph Jefferson made his fortune playing Rip Van Winkle and built this home (among others) in 1870.  Eventually the home and land were sold and the gardens were developed in the 1950’s, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and place to tour, enjoy a lunch, or even have a wedding.





At a cost of $10 per person, one can self-tour the garden, see the (not very good) movie, and take a tour of the first floor of the home (which start every hour on the hour).






  

Let’s start with the good:
  • The tour was very nice and out tour guide very knowledgeable, friendly, and affable, especially considering we were a bit of a rowdy crowd.
  • The lake was lovely with a nice cool breeze.
  • Although we did not eat in the dining room, we’ve heard the food is great (albeit a bit pricy).






And now the areas where some improvement could be made:
  • The sales associate of the gift shop, with whom we also paid our entrance fee, was not friendly, not nice, not welcoming ~ a serious course in customer service is  needed, which Suzanne is more than willing to teach if the proprietors are so inclined.
  • The movie (again, this seems to be a theme with the movies we keep seeing in this area) was not well done – we walked away wondering what it was all about……. 
Overall, the gardens were nice, but we aren’t here at the right time of year to really see things in bloom.  We did see a few peacocks and a few blooming flowers, but we hear spring is the best time.
 






Would we come here again…….probably not. We enjoyed more, and learned more, at the Shadows-on-the-Teche antebellum home in New Iberia, and their gardens were, in our opinion, nicer. We did get a few nice pictures, so enjoy!
 
 
 
Brad waiting for someone to bring him a Mint Julep.
 
 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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