The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land
First a note about Journal #1. On the day it was posted our website garnered over 160 hit’s…..an all-time daily record! And the many positive comments addressing our first offering of the trip were overwhelming…..thank you all, we really enjoy reading the comments and they will remain a permanent part of the website. Also, most of you know this but, all I do is take the photos and hammer out the words and thoughts…..the fact that you can read and understand what I’ve written is credited to the editor, proofreader and wordsmith, Kit. I tend to spell phonetically partly because I’m a terrible spelr and partially because I have this fundamental belief that someone, many years ago, decided the way words should be spelled and ever since we have blindly followed this small group’s decision…..what made them right? Who anointed Johnson, Webster, Funk or Wagnall the supreme arbitrator of all things spelling? So, I have written Thu Eenglish Dikshinaire Ukordeng tue Bil…..soon available for purchase on Amazon! We now resume Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure already in progress.
Saturday, December 6 through Sunday, December 7, 2015-Pensacola, Florida: We need a few days off the road to reload, rejuvenate, recreate, replenish and rewarm…..and what better spot then on the shores of Pensacola Bay?!
On the first morning of our stay we woke to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise which the following photo does not do justice to.
After a hearty breakfast, we spent the day walking on the beach…..
…..and taking care of other pursuits of the moment, such as basically goofing off.
By afternoon, Kit was busy with Christmas Cards while I continued to rattle about our tiny camper. Getting a bit exasperated she said: “I need some space…..with you not in it”! So, being the sensitive guy that I am and able to read a woman’s mind, I gathered up a few of my kites and hastily departed the premises.
About a half mile down the beach lays a large open area, remote enough to safely fly these high performance, and very fast kites. After testing the winds with my old faithful 1.5 meter ram-air traction kite I broke out one of the smaller deltas.
If the kite above looks different than any of my previous half dozen, it is! We are on our seventh Excellent Adventure trip and this is my seventh kite…..just like the symmetry of a new kite for every new trip. All the kites are different, for different wind conditions and they display different performance characteristics. Never thought kite flying would become so high tech…..most of these things are incredibly light and strong being constructed of carbon fiber spars and state of the art fabrics. Most of the kites are dual line controlled, but I have two quad line kites as well. I tried to capture some video of my spastic kite maneuvering skills but this kite is fast, and I had to keep it in the camera view which was low to the ground…..at one point I was playing an impromptu game of Lawn Darts with the thing. Anyway, here is a short video of the kite in action:
If interested in seeing what an accomplished kite pilot can do check out this video:
Not sure how he controls that middle kite….maybe I don’t want to know!
And, my personal favorite kite video is at this URL:
Great control of a quad line kite and great music soundtrack as well!
Okay…..enough about one of my many irrational obsessions.
I’m always impressed at how clear the water is on Pensacola Beach and how white the sand is as well.
Locals call the blazingly white sand “Sugar Sand”! Just don’t sprinkle it on your morning cereal and don’t ask how I know this.
On our second day in paradise, I washed the grungy truck and trailer then made my 3rd visit of the past six years to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, just down the street from the RV Park.
Arriving in the lobby just as a guided tour was about to get underway I quickly hopped on board….. our guide was retired P-3/C-130 pilots by the name of Jim Veazey.
Do any of you P-3 folks know him? Jim was entertaining, knowledgeable and articulate, interspersing his narrative with personal flying stories.
Also in the tour group was a wheel chair bound older gentleman. Part way through the tour he mentioned that he had been a WWII aviator, crewing B-25 Bomber’s as a Navigator/Bombadier. His voice was weak and raspy but his grandson told the group he was very proud of his wartime service. I so wanted to take a photo of the gentleman, but somehow it just didn’t seem right. There are dwindling numbers of the Greatest Generation so it was a thrill to personally meet one…..especially today, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day!
The museums incredible collection of historic Navy aircraft is open year round to the general public and is well worth the time to explore. It contains original planes form the propeller era.
Including some unrestored WWII warbirds.
And, early aircraft carrier based airplanes.
There are many examples of combat aircraft sporting “nose-art”.
And, many examples from the early jet age…
In the main atrium there is a collection of retired jets formally flown by the famed Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team headquartered here in Pensacola.
In addition, there are some modern aircraft including this UAV, also known as a drone.
Spending about four hours at the museum, I was able to see all the newer exhibits…..if this would have been my first visit I could have very easily spent the entire day.
Back at the camper, Kit and I enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun set into the western horizon…..
…..before calling it a night, because um, well it was dark…..couldn’t very well call it a day, now could we?
Monday, December 8, 2014: Breaking camp, we were on the road at 1020 under cloudy skies and moderate temperatures. We decided to take US-90 for a bit which ferried us over Perdido Bay as we began our long trek toward the west.
Our new tow vehicle features a complimentary subscription to a variety of information and entertainment features. One of these is Sirius XM Radio, a satellite system that transmits commercial free specialty programing. We preselected the following channels out of the hundreds available: 50’s music, 60’s music, 70’s music, all acoustic music, and NPR. We have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the various channels as the mood strikes us and the variety in talk and music really helps make the miles melt away.
By 1145 we were within striking distance of a Camping World store, and since we had an empty propane bottle, and since there was sure to be something in the store we couldn’t live without, we pulled into their ample parking lot.
Only took 45 minutes to lighten our wallets and we were once again on US-90 heading west. A half hour later we intersected I-10 and soon crossed Alabama’s Mobile Bay.
By 1323 we crossed the border into Mississippi and passed to the north of Pascagoula…..a small Mississippi town anchored by Ingalls Shipbuilding. Ingalls is direct competitor of Bath Iron Works and an area I know all too well spending some of my post-military formative years working there.
By 1445 we were entering the state of Louisiana and moved over to I-12 in order to skirt the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain toward the town of Covington. At 1545 we pulled off the interstate and made our way to the home of our oldest military friends, Johnny and Eileen, and our layover for the evening.
Their hospitality and friendship, as well as their accommodating circular driveway, make our stays here nearly perfect.
Following greetings and time to catch up on the doings of our respective families, we all headed out to one of Southern Louisiana’s premier eating establishments…..Lake Pontchartrain Po-Boy’s. This long established local favorite is by all accounts, and by personal experience, the best fried seafood place in the state! Of all the other great restaurant’s that Johnny and Eileen have introduced us to, Lake Pontchartrain Po-Boy is the one I long to return to in order to inhale their signature Fried Oyster Plate.
Being more prudent, Johnny and Eileen shared the Catfish and Shrimp Plate and Kit stuck with the Catfish, which I sampled; it was incredible as well!
One wall of the rather large restaurant was adorned with a mural of the long ago dismantled Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park.
This brought many stories from Johnny and Eileen about growing up in New Orleans and spending warm summer nights at the lakeside park.
Back at their home, we continued to enjoy their company and shared many stories of our early days as neighbors in Key West. As always, what a great visit…..thanks guys!
Thursday, December 9, 2014: On the road early, 0730…..hope I don’t wake Kit as she slumbers peacefully back in the camper! Just kidding, she’s bright eyed and, well…..you know.
About 3 minutes later we came to a screeching halt when we noticed the sign for Café du Monde. A bag of warm Beignet’s and two large cups of Chicory Coffee and we were set for the day’s travels! Jumped back on I-12 until we rejoined I-10 at 0915 and soon crossed the Mississippi River. This has become our personal demarcation point dividing the East from West.
Soon we were motoring through Baton Rouge, Louisiana the eastern boundary of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. At 1.5 million acres, this sparsely populated region is the largest tract of swampland in the United States. Very few roads bisect the wetland, and those that do are built atop the many levees that provide flood control. I-10 crosses this unique environment by way of an 18 mile bridge with incredible views of the swamp and its iconic Cypress trees.
Shortly after leaving the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin, we passed through Lafayette Parish and continued West on I-10.
And, at 1150 we crossed into Texas stopping at the Welcome Station for a lunch and walking around break.
Behind the Texas Visitors Center was an elevated walkway that took one over the surrounding wetlands of Blue Elbow Swamp.
Back on I-10, we trundled on West for another four hours before moseying into the River Bend RV Park and Horse Race Track in Luling, Texas. Upon checking in the proprietors ponied (pun intended) up an excellent discount for the night.
Yep, half the property is devoted to exercising and training thoroughbred race horses.
That’s a first for us there, pardoners!
Wednesday, December 10, 2014: Last night we contacted some old Maine friends who had transitioned to fulltime RV’ing and are currently in southern Texas. Rey and Darlene were only 30 miles away in the small town of San Marcos and graciously agreed to meet us at a nearby Cracker Barrel as we rolled through.
After parking their truck in front of ours to prevent anyone from blocking us in, we enjoyed a nice parking lot reunion. Then, following two hours of great food and even greater company we had to part ways as we needed to get moving on and they had a luncheon engagement.
Kit and I decided to stick to the back roads as we plodded on toward the west.
The weather was moderate but cloudy as we travelled through the towns of Wimberley, Johnson City, Fredericksburg, The Wal*Mart Nation, and into Junction, Texas where we found our way to South Llano River State Park for the evening. Since Kit’s sister Char and brother-in-law Don used to live in this part of Texas, we have extensively explored the area over the past six years so didn’t take the time to stop this year. However it is our opinion, that this part of Texas, known as The Hill Country, is the best of the state and deserves thorough exploration to fully enjoy all that it has to offer.
Also, since we used to dooryard surf in Char and Don’s driveway, we never took the time to stay at any of the areas State Park campgrounds…..until today!
Checking in at the office, the park ranger gave us directions to our campsite. Traveling down the camp road we soon came to this sign!
What the ………….? Stay tuned!
Kit’s Bit’s: As always, it’s wonderful to catch up with Johnny & Eileen. We both have very busy and hectic lives so rarely get to visit, just the four of us, except on these layovers each year. We missed seeing Gracen and Shelby this year but were able to see Kaitlyn for a bit. These girls are their beautiful Grand Daughters, with whom they are very involved with on a daily basis. It was also great to see Rey & Darlene again. We never seem to run out of things to talk about. Hopefully, we will see them again next summer, in Maine. Stopping to see the sights across the US is great! However, for my two cents worth, stopping to see friends and family is the very best part of our trips! We have very special bonds with each and every friend and family member we are able to see.