26 February 2006

Historic Pensacola Village

On Friday the 24th, Bill and I drove into downtown Pensacola to check out the Historic Pensacola Village. (http://www.historicpensacola.org/) This was the site of the nations first settlement, St. Augustine gets billing for the nations first city because the settlement at Pensacola was quickly wiped out by a hurricane, a trend that would continue through the ages. When we first arrived the tour through the Historic Village wasn’t going to start for a couple hours so we walked a couple blocks to the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum.

This Museum is free of charge and hosts two stories of Pensacola history with the top floor (the third story) a place for kids to learn and play, called the Discovery Gallery. It’s set up as trading posts, a fort, a ship, and other things that kids can dress up and learn what it like during colonial times. Really a neat place. You can find more info about the museum and what’s inside at the link above. Probably my favorite exhibit was the one about the hurricanes that have devastated the area throughout history. They compare the two most devastating hurricanes in recent history, the 1926 and Ivan in 2004. This exhibit is bone chilling, they have recordings from 911 calls playing while you walk the exhibit and see how closely the timelines match from both hurricanes. At the end of the exhibit is a book with blank pages for people to write about their memories of Ivan, some of the writings are heart wrenching. You just don’t understand what these people have been through until you come here and see the devastation that still exists. All we hear about on the news is about New Orleans and Katrina, but these people are quietly still rebuilding their lives and homes from a year and a half ago. They aren’t bashing the government for not rebuilding for them, they aren’t looking for handouts and freebees, they got up off their asses and started rebuilding in whatever ways they could. I could never live here, not with the fact it’s a crapshoot every year whether or not my house will still be there. But it’s pretty awe-inspiring to see the people of this area just pick up and start all over. I’ve met a lady here in the Milton area (about a 30min drive from Pensacola) that was without power for 12 days because of Ivan and has only recently has her roof replaced, a year and a half ago…and she only had her roof replaced in the last couple of months. There just words to describe, there are entire roads and Florida State Routes that are still closed because of the destruction and mounds of sand that are blocking the way.

Anyway, after touring the museum we went to meet up with our tour group. The tour through Historic Pensacola Village is really a neat tour, it’s only $6.00 per adult and your tickets are good for seven days, you can come back and do the tour as many times as you want and your tickets also get you into two other museums and a couple more of the houses that aren’t on the tour. The tour lasts around 90min and is full of history and tidbits that are worth the walk. We ran out of time that day to check out the other two museums and houses so we plan on going back within our seven days. We will likely have more pictures and stories about it then. This village also acts as a Living History Museum, usually they have people dressed in period clothing doing period tasks throughout the village, I was told by my tour guide that they were short staffed that day, likely because of preparations for Mardi Gras, but that Saturday’s are the best days to come to see the Living History side of it. I’m hoping we can go back next Saturday and check it out.


16 February 2006

Trying to See the Gulf Coast...

Today is 16 February 2006, Bill and I drove out to the Naval Live Oaks Area (http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_ns/fl/nav_gulf.htm) and after walking the 2/3 mile loop we realized is was just a bunch of trees on the coast, they are special because people used them to make ships out of since they naturally bend and curve while they grow, the bends and curves work perfectly for ships. We also ran across this cute little guy hangin on one of the trees. The sad thing was that they have placards standing in front of what used to be the tree it showed on the placard, but the tree is now lying on it’s side having been ripped out of the ground by Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004. This kind of destruction is currently pretty normal for the area, driving around the Gulf Coast you will likely run into a road detour or just massive piles of rubble where houses used to be, and this was the damage from 2004, there are other areas who have been rebuilding just to be hit by Dennis in 2005, and also catching the edges of Katrina and Rita, etc. I could never live somewhere that it’s a crapshoot every year as to whether or not you’ll have a house.

After trying to see the beaches and FT Pickens (http://www.tulane.edu/~latner/Pickens.html) (we drove out there to see the Fort, but the roads where all closed as well as the fort because of construction and stuff), we hung out on the beach for a bit, collected some shells, and just enjoyed the beautiful beach and gorgeous weather, it got up to 72 degrees today…we’re having a heat wave…a tropical heat wave! Hi’iaka really prefers the beach to warm, me too. On our way to Pensacola from the beach we stopped and had lunch at Surf Burger….OH…MY….GOD…..they have really good food. Well, they have really good burgers. Bill and I both ordered the Surf Burger Fully Loaded, it had everything including jalapenos, it was a heart attack in a plastic basket and it was glorious!

Ok, enough about the food. From the beach we drove into Pensacola and stopped at Veterans Memorial Park. Here they have the only permanent replica of the Vietnam Wall, War Memorial. They have several memorials in the park that are incredibly moving and beautiful. It’s really a very nice tribute to our Vets! (http://www.pensacolawallsouth.org/)

From the park we drove back onto Naval Air Station Pensacola to check out some of the other things on base other than the Museum. The first place we went was Fort Barrancas; it’s really a cool place. In the pic of me I'm standing on the original part of the fort that the Spanish built in 1797. It was originally built by the Spanish in the late 1700s and then rebuilt and added to by the Americans. It sits across the water from Ft Pickens and together they defended the area. It was so cool to be able to walk through the halls and tunnels of this old Fort. You can see where the cannons used to sit and how they used to defend the bay. http://gorp.away.com/gorp/resource/us_ns/fl/his1_gul.htm

The last stop we made was the Pensacola Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1856, its height is 191 feet and can be seen for 27 miles. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=589

We had a pretty busy day today just driving around and trying to see the area. It blows me away how much destruction they are still cleaning up 18 months after the fact. There are several houses we’ve seen that are missing entire outside walls. You look at the house like you do a dollhouse, you can see all the rooms, some still have furniture, and it’s SO strange. This whole area was just devastated and is still working on rebuilding. There are TONS of property lots for sale if anyone wants beach property on the Gulf Coast.


13 February 2006


Ok, so we’re not laughing anymore, it was in the 60s+ when we arrived in the Pensacola area and has since dropped to the 40s-50s and gets down into the 20s at night…what the hell? I didn’t come to Florida to freeze my butt off, this just isn’t right. The good news is that it’s supposed to get back up to the 70s by the end of the week. Ok, so enough of my whining that it’s cold in Florida, the last several days that we’ve been here we’ve been playing catch up, catch up on doing the taxes, catch up on cleaning the house, catch up on getting our mail, catch up on life in general.

Today was the first day that we did something more than run errands, we drove into Pensacola and went to the National Museum of Naval Aviation at the Naval Air station Pensacola. What an amazing museum, this is by far one of the best museums I’ve been to…ever. http://www.naval-air.org/home.html Pensacola is referred to as the Cradle of Naval Aviation; it’s also the home of the Blue Angels. I don’t know if I have words for the museum, it’s just such a cool place. We would have pictures but we didn’t notice that the battery in the camera was dead until we got there, no worries, we are going back and will get pictures then.

It’s tough to choose, but if I had to I’d say my favorite part, or at least the part that first blew me away, was the underwater exhibit. http://www.naval-air.org/exhibits/underwater.html It’s not really underwater, but you walk into a room that’s lit to make you feel like you’re underwater and the planes are set up like you would view them on the lake floor. The display is of planes that were found at the bottom of lake Michigan. The South Pacific and Prisoner of War displays are close runners up for well done.

After tooling around the museum for a couple hours we watched the Fighter Pilot Imax show then tried to leave, I say tried because we were stopped by a reporter for a local paper wanting our (meaning Bill’s, he didn’t seem to have much interest in my opinion once he found out Bill was a Vet) opinion on his ‘hot topic’ for the week. Long story short, Bill talked to the guy, gave a quote and we were on our way.

We plan on going back and taking the guided tour and maybe watching the other Imax show they have Flying With the Angels (or something like that). The museum and the tours are free…we only have to pay for the Imax shows.

That’s all for now

09 February 2006

Houston....We Have a Problem....

Ok, we left San Antonio on the 7th, a day earlier than we were supposed to. We were both done with Texas in general and San Antonio specifically. We left, headed for the Houston/Galveston area around 9am Tuesday morning, arrived in that area around 4 hours later and rapidly decided that this was not the place for us, that we were ALL the way done with Texas and we bailed!

Let me state as a side note that driving through Las Angeles was a dream compared to driving through Houston, Texas. I don’t know what it is that people find appealing about any part of Texas, but if they do…they can keep it. We even got flipped off….twice…because we had our Terrible Towel hanging in our back window of the RV. Texans just have no sense of humor. They can keep their fart smelling state all to themselves; I don’t want any part of it. Bill and I have decided that if we ever have to drive through Texas again, we will do it non-stop and just get through and out of there as quick as possible.

It was interesting driving through Louisiana and seeing the leftovers from the hurricanes that swept through that area. There were portions of I-10 that when you drive through, there are trees that are bent over and broken in half like they were match-sticks…and they are all bent and broken at almost the same height, it’s kind of spooky. There was major road construction on the I-10 also, they are working on installing drainage all along the highway…imagine that. For the most part Louisiana doesn’t look like somewhere that I’ll make a huge effort to get back to. We were going to stop in the Baton Rouge area, but the construction held us up and we arrived well after dark (it’s such a pain to set down in the dark, especially in an area you know nothing about), the only reason we were going to stop in the first place was to break up the long drive. We had already had a less-than-great experience in the Popeye’s Chicken (let me just say, there were 10+ people working in this tiny little fast food place, there were only three people in the entire restaurant, Bill and I were two of them, and it still took them almost 15 minutes to get us our food because they were all too busy socializing with each other to actually work) so we really couldn’t rationalize stopping. The only thing we would have taken time to see while there would have been the French Quarter in New Orleans and it’s only 10 days till Mardi Gras, guess where I don’t want to be for Mardi Gras? So we drove on.

Mississippi was uneventful, we only stopped once to get gas so I can say that I actually stepped foot in Mississippi, I have yet to step foot in Alabama cause we didn’t need to stop, although if we stay here long enough we drive back into Mobile. Driving through Mobile it looked like they had a good amount of cool stuff to see, we may do that if we have time. Anyway, we kept driving and finally landed in the Pensacola, Florida area. We arrived around midnight, sacked out in a Wal-Mart parking lot for a few hours, got up and drove to our park and have been here since about 8-9am of Wednesday the 8th. So 24 hours and five states later, we are in Florida and glad to be here.

Yesterday we spent setting up and had a little time to tool around the area. We found the beach, it’s beautiful and we got see the leftovers of the destruction that the hurricane left in this area as well. There are some houses still (probably vacation houses that the owners don’t spend a lot of time in) that are completely ruined, others that have finished rebuilding, there was a grove of trees that we drove by that were all completely bent over, not broken, just bent, it’s really strange, they don’t grow this way…they were bent by the hurricanes. There are massive amounts of construction crews everywhere you go hauling away debris, rebuilding houses, hotels, and the commercial buildings. Slowly but surely this place is rebuilding itself, one step at a time. I saw a gentleman out staining his new deck and smiling while he did it.

So, we are in Florida and mighty glad to be here. Everyone keeps talking about how cold it is here and Bill and I just laugh. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and I don’t care if it freezes, the sun is out and the sky is blue. There isn’t overcast, or rain, knock on wood, it’s supposed to rain on Saturday, but then clear up again. The best part is….its not Texas!!

03 February 2006

Alamo and the River Walk

Yesterday, February 2nd, we drove into downtown San Antonio to check out the Alamo and the River Walk.

Everyone you talk to that has been to San Antonio says, the Alamo isn’t that big a deal, but you have to check out the River Walk. The Alamo was better than I was expecting, but strange in the fact that it’s hard to feel the vibes of standing in a truly historic place when you are standing in the middle of a major city, almost like the Alamo was an afterthought, not an historic piece of land, it’s really strange. We bought the History Channel DVDs on the Alamo and watched part of it last night. It was really interesting to watch the DVDs after having been there. It’s also interesting to see them start to come out with what really happened at the Alamo and not the Hollywood version. The Alamo is shrouded in mystery and no one really knows most of the details of what happened there, they don’t even really know if David Crockett died there or was taken prisoner, the Alamo seems to be all myth and mystery.

After the Alamo we checked out the River Walk, which was really pretty and very touristy. It’s a novelty that you have to do if in San Antonio, but not something that would bring me back. We ate lunch at Casa Rio…awesome food!! It’s the oldest existing restaurant on the Walk and is still owned and operated by the same family, three generations running. The food is excellent, the prices reasonable and you can sit right on the river to eat. The only draw back to this is that people on the river walk will continually stream past, most of them smoke…gross! Our waiter compared his job to playing Frogger, I laughed and tipped him well.

Along the river walk is La Villita http://www.sanantonio.gov/sapar/villitahis.asp?res=1280&ver=true an artist’s community that they make sound way cooler than it actually is. It has some neat old buildings and tile work mixed in with modern buildings of the city, but mostly is has a bunch of stuff they call art for really inflated prices…that’s just my opinion. Maybe we're just here during the wrong part of the year, but I doubt it.

After that we walked to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum,http://www.buckhornmuseum.com/ I have to say that so far this was my favorite thing. It’s a little disturbing, but also fascinating. They advertise as being “The World’s Oddest Store” and they just might be right. The taxidermist who did their work must be living fat and happy somewhere, it was just amazing the amount of stuff they have there. I was torn between the horror of all those animals dieing to hang on the wall, and the fascination of being able to see them that close. They also had some funny stuff in their museum. I chuckled at the Manboon and the River Raptor; hopefully you’ll be able to read the sign here. The Buckhorn Saloon and museum was by far the most entertaining place we visited yesterday. I even learned how to properly shrink a head, so watch out world!

I can say that I saw some better sides of San Antonio today, but it’s really just not my thing, I understand that some people may come here and this would just be it for them the way Southern AZ is for Bill and I….but San Antonio will not be a regular stop for us.


02 February 2006

Austin and Round Rock

February 1st Bill and I drove up to Austin, Texas to check out the University of Texas as well as drive a little north of there to Round Rock for the Round Rock Donuts.

The University of Texas was uneventful, it’s a fairly nice campus surrounded by a not-so-fairly-nice area of town. The more colleges we see and the areas they are in, the gladder we are that Bill’s sons attend school where they do. When we got there they had one of the major streets completely closed off, I think they hit a gas main or something because the whole area was surrounded by firefighters and it smelled like ass…not that that’s particularly odd for Texas, but whatever.

The Round Rock Donut thing was something that we saw on the Travel Channel and figured we’d give it a try. http://www.roundrockdonuts.com/ They are Ok…they are like any other donut shop, the only difference is they serve them warm all day long, and their batter is orange-ish. Anyway, it’s just another donut.

So far I’m not really impressed with Texas, the way they set up their freeways and loops and whatnot is a pain in the ass and the drivers here are all insane. Bill and I have decided that the safest bet is to play the ‘when in Rome’ kind of thing, and drive like everyone else…with a complete disregard for our lives and the lives of anyone else.

I guess I can sum it all up by saying that so far the best experience we’ve had in Texas was the Wal-Mart, scary stuff that.

We are going into downtown today to see the Alamo and do the River Walk…maybe after today I’ll have more positive things to say about Texas, but so far this is yet another place we will add to our “places we won’t ever live and likely won’t ever come back to” list.