Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Enjoy Blue Angels... with 27,000 of Our "Closest Friends"

The day is perfect. The sky is a brilliant blue, the temperature is a nice 60 degrees and there is very little wind.

We were so excited… we somehow ended up in Pensacola the day the Blue Angels had their first practice show in over a year.  This is a practice of the show the Blue Angels perform around the country.  Due to budget cuts, in 2013 the Angels only performed two shows.  Previously the largest crowd on record was 14,000 people.  Today 25,780 people stood or sat together thrilled by the show.  We could feel the excitement in the crowd.

We arrived 3 hours before the practice show was scheduled to start.  We thought we would have plenty time to go through the National Naval Aviation Museum.  I mean really… 3 hours is early even for us (generally referred to as "Price Time").   As we drove into the parking lot, we were directed to the back of the parking lot—right next to the entrance of the upcoming show.

We walked back over to the Aviation Museum and quickly went through a couple of the buildings of various Naval aircrafts and memorabilia.

As we were walking through the museum, we realize the crowds of people are rapidly increasing.  We start making our way back to the practice field for the practice show.

We were sitting in our jeep waiting for the show to start when a couple walked by the jeep talking about having seen “Colorado Springs” on our license plate.  They did not realize we were sitting IN the jeep.  We got out and started visiting.  We found out they also are from Colorado Springs.  We now have new friends, Lee and Ruth Ann Baldwin.  We visited for the next several hours, while enjoying the show together.  We are looking forward to a time when we may be able to connect again.

There were volunteers everywhere, ready with a friendly smile, information or directions.   Throughout the show, Dave, gave us information and entertainment.  His knowledge of the Blue Angels and their show is amazing.  He directed our eyes to the approaching planes.  He pointed us toward their entry and the direction they would be flying.

The Blue Angels were established in 1946 in an effort to boost Navy morale, demonstrate naval air power and maintain public interest in a naval aviation program.  This program can cost up to $37 million.  Programs like the Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds increase public and political support.  I'm a believer! These Blue Angels often defy physics with their amazing aerial feats.  They thundered past us.  They climbed vertically into the sky appearing to reach heaven.

The fastest speed these planes reach during a show is 700 mph; although they are able to fly up to 1400 mph (just under Mach 2, almost twice the speed of sound).

These amazingly skilled pilots may soar vertically as high as 15,000 feet.

One of the fly by maneuvers seemed to be only 50 feet off the ground.

The smoke the planes produce is biodegradable, paraffin-based oil.  It poses no hazard to the environment.  The oil is instantly vaporized into smoke.

Although, we both wore ear plugs, I cannot describe how loud it was.  We could hear it and we could FEEL it.  It was thrilling!

They blaze pass each other, appearing only inches apart.

Some fly upside down, while the plane inches off their wing fly right side up.

As the show finished, we were left with a feeling of awe.  A reminder of how Proud we are to be American.
As you can tell, we loved this show.  I tried to think of one word to describe how we felt about the show…  Fabulous, Amazing, Outstanding, Mighty, Impressive, Stunning…Spectacular. I guess one word just does not do it.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Fairhope, Alabama… a Hidden Treasure

Today we went into Fairhope, AL, a small boutique town on Mobile Bay.
There was a beautiful city park, Fairhope Municipal Pier.  

We enjoyed walking down the pier.   

We watched a fisherman net fish for a long time.  Neither of us had seen this type of fishing before.  I still prefer fishing at the fish counter in the market, but it is always entertaining watching people who like to fish.

This area has become a bird sanctuary, which was evident by the different birds we saw.

The town has a sweet downtown with eclectic shops and restaurants.  We went into several stores—but shopping just isn't as much fun as it has been in the past.  We realize that if something comes into our little traveling home—something has to be taken out.  You cannot imagine the restraint this knowledge brings to me.

On our way out of town we drove by a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church.  Other people like Disney World… we like seeing houses and churches across America.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Exploring Mobile, Alabama

Our campground is between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida.

Today we drove to Mobile.  As with the other cities in the south, the people in Mobile are very friendly.  This city seems to have a little bit of everything.  The downtown has very interesting buildings. 

There are several different Historic neighborhoods throughout the city.  Many of the houses are similar to those we saw in New Orleans.

The streets around Ft. Conde' are paved with bricks.  There are houses and churches from the 1800’s.  I closed my eyes and imagined the battles that were fought on this ground to protect homes and land.  In my minds’ eye I can see hoop skirt and bonnet clad ladies sipping tea.

We enjoyed a shrimp & fries lunch at a local favorite restaurant, Ed’s Shed.  They are known for the "Yo Mamas Platter"—which has every local seafood imaginable on it.  Although we were entertained by the idea of this giant “sampler” plate; the food on this plate could have fed a small family, so we passed and were happy with our shrimp.
We head back to our RV earlier than we had planned.  I have been struggling again with joint pain.  I take pain killers to help me get through a normal day—but sometimes they just do not cover it.  I did not sleep at all last night because of this pain.  We wish we could figure out why some days the pain is much worse than others.  Anyway, I was ready for this day to be over.  I always believe “Tomorrow will be a better day”.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Alabama Travel Day

We are now in Robertsdale, Alabama. This was the first time I have needed to drive the jeep behind George in the 5th wheel.  We only traveled 2 hours—so it was not a long trip.  There are definitely advantages and disadvantages.  When I get to ride with George in the truck, we tow the jeep behind the 5th wheel.  That makes us 75 ft. long.

I have some road anxiety when I'm in the truck… "You are too close to that car in front of us.  Slow down, I know you are below speed limit, but it is too fast.  You do not have space to pass those 3 semi-trucks.  If you do not slow down, I’m getting out of this truck while it is moving."...  You get the picture.   The down side of my being in the jeep is I have to pay attention to the road and not the sights around me.  And if I see something entertaining, George cannot hear me clear up there in the truck.   We use walkie talkies and our cell phones to talk, but we only do that to confirm travel directions.

Alabama is such a pretty state.  There are green trees, lots of green grass and pretty lakes along the away.  We are really excited to see what treasures there are in this state for us to discover.  We are staying near the gulf coast; we will only be in Alabama for a week.  There is so much history in each of these southern states, we could spend a month and still feel like we did not see everything.

We pull into Styx River Resort in Robertsdale.  It is a nice RV resort.  We were driven around in a golf cart to see all the sites that are available.  The sites are reasonable size—we are able to park both the truck and jeep in our site.  There is a little concrete patio and picnic table at each site.  There are nice trees throughout the campground.  Although it is close to the highway, it is quiet.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mississippi… Here we Are

We moved forward to Pass Christian,Mississippi—TLC Wolf River RV Resort. It was a very short travel day, and I was glad of that.

When we checked into the resort, we were told this campground had been completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and rebuilt.  The Resort kept one of the cabins that was not destroyed by the hurricane.
The town of Pass Christian has approximately 8,000 houses; all except 500 homes were either damaged or completely destroyed.   We later drive through the town and see many empty lots where the concrete foundation remains, but there is no house.  There are driveways leading to what was previously a home.

They continue to rebuild the area.  All of the houses that are built now, are built up on stilts to try to prevent to flooding and being completely destroyed again.

After setting up, we head out to see the area.  I was so excited when I realized we were only about ½ mile from the Gulf Coast. It looked very close on the map; but I had not paid close attention to how close it was to the beach—I was just trying to get us to the campground without getting lost! 

We saw little dirt/mud mounds throughout Louisiana and now again in Mississippi.  We found out the are crawfish mounds--crawfish homes.  In some areas, there are so many together that it looks like a Crawfish housing developments!

The only note about our travels today… we missed our turnoff to the campground and were forced to go further down a 2 lane country road.  Let me remind you that we are 75 feet long with our jeep behind the 5th wheel.  We found a very small area to make a U-turn (I honestly did not think it could be done) George turned those 75 feet around like it was a VW bug!  He really is very good at driving this thing.

We loaded up our lawn chairs and headed to the beach.  The sky was the most beautiful blue, it was a perfect temperature and the sand was white and soft.  We sat for a couple of hours enjoying the beautiful view, listening to the waves and watching the various birds near the waters' edge.  George had a good time marking the movement of the tide and picking up "beach treasures". 

It was so relaxing.  This was definitely a “perfect moment”.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Orleans--Beauty Within the Craziness

We decided to take advantage of our last day in the area and head toward New Orleans—there were a few things we had wanted to see before leaving. We made our way toward Jackson Square. We want to see Saint Louis Cathedral.

We were shocked to find crowds of people. We hunted forever to find any kind of parking. There were people everywhere—again I asked “Where do all these people come from? Does no one have a daytime job anymore?” The square was full of people enjoying the sidewalk musicians, fortune tellers and gymnasts that thrilled the crowds with their jumps and flips. 

We enjoyed the sights and sounds, but were overwhelmed by the number of people.
We went into Saint Louis Cathedral. Various churches have been conducting services on the site of this cathedral since 1721. The Cathedral has been standing since 1793; it has had additions and embellishments since that time.

It was an amazing place to see. The walls are lined with the most beautiful stained glass windows.

Mass is still held daily in the magnificent church.

I could not help but think of the money changer story in the Bible when I saw the fortune tellers, musicians and magicians in front of the Cathedral.

We did not visit the museums or stores in the area, because we were ready to be home.

We took a wrong turn and ended up in a neighborhood that was riddled with poverty. There were bars on the windows and graffiti on most empty surfaces, so it did not feel like a safe place; we were both happy when we reached the correct road. We made our way across the Lake Pontchartrain causeway. Although this impressive body of water is only 12-14 feet deep, it is 24 miles wide and 40 miles long—so you cannot see from end to end.

Since visiting New Orleans we have been told by multiple Louisiana residents, most people avoid New Orleans if possible. Apparently, it has become a dangerous, dirty city. Although we were only in the city 2 times, our assessment was the same. However, there are museums and some historic sites; it would have been a shame not to have seen them.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Orleans… Two Sides of the Same Coin

One of the joys of this full-time life is making new friends. We continue to be amazed at "what a small world" the RV community is.  We had met a great couple, Randy and Stephanie; at the Tabasco tour on Avery Island last week.   We were so happy to be able to reconnect with them, and we are already looking forward to our future visits together.
We all decided to go into New Orleans together.  We start with a short driving tour and enjoy seeing the typical New Orleans houses.  New Orleans is known for its French and Spanish architectural influence.   

These houses and neighborhoods are exactly what I had in my mind when I pictured New Orleans. There are large trees dripping with Spanish moss. 

The houses generally have a large front porch and a matching upstairs balcony.

Then we headed to the French Market, an open air, shopping pavilion.  It reminded us all of the Pike Market in Seattle.  There were a wide variety of vendors in the Market—selling everything from purses and jewelry to Mardi Gras masks and voodoo dolls; and food vendors selling anything you might be hungry (or not) for. 

We bought a few small treasures and then move toward the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. 

We walked down several narrow streets toward Bourbon Street.  The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are 2 things listed on every “must see” list for New Orleans.    I felt very naïve as we walked through this history riddled neighborhood.  I did not realize this area is best known for its bars and strip clubs.   We are here less than a week after Mardi Gras and so there are decorations everywhere.  There is also a smell that confirms this was the location of a huge party.  (That is really the nicest thing I can say about it; but be very thankful we do not have “smell-a-vision”)  Many streets had trash piled on them and people wandering around drinking.  I didn't take pictures of the less desirable sights--I really like to remember the parts I like. 

Honestly, we might enjoy this area more if we drank or liked to party.   We all enjoyed seeing the architecture and New Orleans style houses.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Still in Louisiana and Loving It

We hit the ground running today.  We have a very full day planned so we want to be at our first tour when they open.  Most days we get up and move slowly, enjoying the fact that we are not on a schedule.  

We started at the Konriko Company Store;  America’s Oldest operating Rice Mill.  It was a low cost and very interesting tour.  The Rice Mill was built in 1912 and the equipment and building are original.  They still mill and package the rice the way they did in years gone by.

Visit to order their rice products which are all gluten free, organic, MSG and GMO free.  We were able to sample their Pecan rice—which was delicious.  It is as healthy as brown rice, but fluffy like white rice.

We enjoyed taking a driving tour of this Louisiana town.  

There are large plantation style houses with huge cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss.  These houses are exactly what I see in my mind when I think of Louisiana.  This town, as with others we saw yesterday; ooze with history of the area. 

We enjoyed a Seafood Po’ Boy at Bon Creole.  This restaurant is local favorite.  I probably would not have gone inside, if it had not come so highly recommended by the lady at Konriko.   We tried this sandwich because it had a variety of seafood:  Shrimp, craw fish,oyster and catfish.  It was a delicious treat and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant—we were glad we did not let the outward appearance keep us from enjoying this local gem. 

The chandelier is made with different size Tabasco bottles.

We sampled sauces, dips, pickles and even ice creams.

After lunch, we move toward Avery Island.   Avery Island is the home of the Tabasco pepper sauce factory.  This is the ONLY place Tabasco sauce is made.  Throughout this tour we think of our daughter, Catrina and grandson, Justin.  They both love hot foods and hot sauces—so we think of them often throughout this tour. 

Tabasco was invented in the Civil War era, and has been produced here on Avery Island since that time.  Many of the peppers are actually grown on the Island, although some are now grown in Central and South America.  The peppers are hand-picked and then placed in oak barrels covered with salt and left to age for over 3 years, creating a chili pepper mash.  This mash is mixed with vinegar and left to stir non-stop for a month.   There are,of course, other “secret” steps to add special spices depending on the variety of sauce or product you get.  We were amazed at the time that goes in to creating Tabasco. 

During our tour we met another full-timing couple.  It is always fun to meet new people that have also chosen this full time lifestyle.  It was as if we had been long time friends.  We talked for a long time and found that we will be at the same RV Resorts at the same time over the next couple of months.  Next week we will both be at the Abita Springs RV Resort so we make a plan to share dinner and possibly go on a tour together.

On our way back to the RV we drive by a Lao Buddhist Temple.  It was an intricate temple.    This was something they we had not expected to see in this Cajun community.

Another long day, but we loved each sight that we visited and
 the new friends we met along the way.

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