"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own instead of someone else's."
– Billy Wilder
This quote has nothing to do with our travels this week. I just thought it was an interesting perspective on life.
Hello from the Florida Panhandle!!!
What a fabulous place. The water here is a beautiful emerald green color, which is probably why this is called the Emerald Coast. As I said in our previous post, we met a man named John who gave us tips on two great places to stay in Florida. I begin first with Fort Pickens Campground, which is part of the U.S. National Parks Service and located on the Gulf Islands National Seashore just south of Pensacola. GORGEOUS!!! The campground is just east of the Fort on an island called Santa Rosa that is about 1/4 mile wide. Being such a slim piece of land, the campground has water on two sides - - the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Pensacola Bay on the other. The sand is white and very fine and contrasts nicely with the beautiful sage and rosemary that grows in bushes along the dunes the line the shore. The weather here has been awesome too - - sunny and warm with great breezes.
While in the Fort Pickens area, Steve and I had a great time checking out Pensacola. One of the greatest finds of our trip so far has been stumbling upon the National Naval Aviation Museum. This museum featured more than 150 aircraft of the U.S. Navy, several excellent models of some of the more prominent aircraft carriers, great IMAX movies, cockpit trainers and simulators, and a tour of the tarmac that houses the planes too large to fit inside the museum proper. The amazing thing about this museum was that it was completely FREE. I cannot believe this place isn't more well-advertised than it is because it is truly one of the best museums that Steve and I have visited in this country so far. Anyway, it was a full day's time to see everything there because the exhibits are just so well done you want to take your time with each of them. While there, we met a man named Bob Bothfeld who works there part time as a volunteer tour guide. Bob's claim to fame, however, is the TDR-1 Assault Drone hanging in the main part of the museum. Bob was the engineer in charge of the design of this top secret piece of military equipment. He spent two years of his life working on this drone during World War II and couldn't tell anyone about it. He told us great stories about some of the pieces there at the museum, which made our time there that much more enjoyable. Lastly, this museum is located on the base that is home to the Blue Angels. Sadly, however, they are in California this time of year preparing for the air show circuit so we didn't get to see them live. We do plan to see an air show while on our world tour so we can see them in action. I remember seeing them when I was younger. My mom and dad took us to air shows when we were kids and I was always fascinated by their speed and precision. A couple of years ago, they were featured at an air show at the Willow Run Airport and since Visteon is located within spitting distance of that airport, they practiced right over our Corporate campus. That was cool too. Steve and I are both looking forward to seeing them in action again.
In addition to the Naval Air Museum, the air base houses the oldest lighthouse in Pensacola. Steve and I climbed the 177 stairs to the top of that lighthouse (which of course has a fresnel lens - - we learned about those at the Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, Michigan). What an awesome view from there. We could see our campsite right across the bay as well as the airfield on the base. One of the cute things that the city of Pensacola does is display numerous pelicans around the city that are painted to represent various things about the city. There was one of the pelicans here at the lighthouse. We took pictures of some of these pelicans so you can see what I'm talking about. They reminded Steve and I of the frogs that were painted and posted all over the city of Toledo. Fun!
Before leaving Fort Pickens Campground, Steve and I toured this great piece of history. First, this fort was built in 1829 and was used by the U.S. military until 1945. It has an interesting history, which I cannot do justice to, so I am including a link to the website that describes it - - http://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm. We had fun crawling around this impressive fortification and highly recommend a stop if you are in the Pensacola area.
From there, Steve and I traveled on to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. Again, BEAUTIFUL!!!! This state park was rated the best state park in Florida twice and I can see why. The campsites are awesome. Each is in a very private setting and has a large area that contains a nice fire pit and picnic table. There is also about a mile long section of private beach that is designated just for the campers and park visitors. This beach is phenomenal and is reached via a boardwalk over the dunes that is about a quarter of a mile long. The walk to the beach is breathtaking and the park service does a nice job describing the flora and fauna of the area. We've not done a lot of sightseeing in the Destin area and don't plan to. We bought a cool kite and will be flying that on the beach either today or tomorrow, depending on the storms that are expected. Sometimes it's just nice to do nothing and that's what we plan.
Steve and I went walking on the beach, not just for a relaxing walk, but specifically to see the Portuguese Man O War that were washing up on the shore. It was a particularly bad day for beachgoers because both the red and purple flags were flying - - meaning, don't go in the water and if you do go in the water you are stupid. The red flag indicates that there are severe rip tides present. The purple represents dangerous sea life present. Hence, our desire to check things out. Steve took some great pics of these things which numbered in the thousands that had washed up on shore. They are the prettiest color of blue and look rather creepy. The fin is actually clear with pink highlights along the top edge and down the ridges. The tentacles were about two-feet long. While walking the beach we met a nice couple who were from Gladwin, Michigan and are familiar with the Klott family. His grandparents sold the land that now makes up the Sugar Springs resort where a number of Klott family members own property. Anyway, he told us that these tentacles can reach 30 feet in length and that if you are swimming in the ocean and can see one near you, you are too close. The tentacles could probably reach you at that point. They also told us that there are dolphins present just off shore and that the sea turtles have been coming in from the water at night to do whatever it is they do. Lay eggs maybe. Unfortunately, a big storm was coming in so we couldn't hang out and wait for the turtles, but hopefully we can get out and see them tomorrow before we leave. We will have to rely on moonlight to see them as flashlights are prohibited. I guess the artificial light confuses the turtles and causes them to crawl away from the ocean instead of back to it.
Can I ask you a favor? Can you let Steve and I know of places that you have been on the eastern part of the U.S. that you think would be interesting for us to visit. We have found that the people we meet are giving us ideas to visit some of the most interesting places that we have seen - - most of which we would not have visited if it weren't for their suggestion. So if you have an idea of something east of the Mississippi that you think would be cool for us to see, please contact us using the tab above. We would really appreciate seeing the "off the beaten path" type of stuff most but anything cool would be appreciated.
Alrighty folks. That's it for this week's update. I close this blog by including a link to a TV segment which features my son, Terry. He uses his trail name of "Serial" in this piece as he explains the beauty of living in his hometown of Damascus, Virginia and why it deserves to be named "America's best small town". If you could, too, please visit the website mentioned in the video and vote for Damascus. It really is a cool little town and should get more press so that others can learn of it's beauty and charm as well. http://www.wcyb.com/video/index.html.
Thanks Everyone! Stay warm!
P.S. Here is a map of the U.S. showing which states we have visited so far. Twelve so far since September 1, 2011. The balance of the Eastern states will be done in 2012. West of the Mississippi will be our 2013 journey (including Alaska) so stay tuned!