Friday, March 29, 2013

Naval Aviation Museum and the Blue Angels

I had read in several blogs about the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, and thought it looked like an interesting place to visit while we were in Gulf Shores.  Tom only needed to hear that it was free, and he was on board.

Naval Air Station

We were going to visit on the weekend, but then I heard on the news that the Blue Angels practice on weekday mornings, and it was also open to the public, and free.  Tuesday morning was their next scheduled practice, so we got up early to brave the frigid temperatures with hundreds of other spectators.

Big crowd gathered for the practice

Our view as we got out of the carWe should have gotten there a little earlier to get a prime viewing spot along the landing strip, but there really weren’t any bad spots – with the jets flying directly over our heads!



In formation over our heads

We missed the first part of the hour-long practice, but still saw plenty of fast flying and amazing formations.












After this move, each jet flew off in a different direction, then straight up, back down, and then they all gathered back together in a group.  I wasn’t quick enough to catch a good picture of any of them, but did catch one as it flew past right in front of us!

Not a great picture, but this tells you how close we were!

As the practice session wrapped up, they all gathered in front of the crowd to wave and create a huge amount of smoke, before they taxied back to their hangars.

Practice over - returning to the hangar

We really enjoyed the practice and were definitely glad we got up early to make the trip over here! 

Along with much of the crowd, we made our way back to the museum.

National Museum of Naval Aviation

It’s pretty amazing that a museum as nice as this does not charge an admission!  There were a lot of people there, so the first thing we did was get our tickets to the 11am IMAX movie, “The Magic of Flight”.  I had read in another blog that there was a homeschool discount available, so I made sure to ask for that.  Instead of paying $8.75 each, it was just $5 each – that’s a pretty good deal!

We had about an hour to kill, so we started walking through the exhibits on the first floor.  It started with early designs in aviation, and showed the progress made over the years.





There were so many planes, it was hard to decide which ones to take pictures of, and almost impossible to remember the significant facts about them!


I do remember reading about this plane, NC-4, on loan from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and seeing sketches of its early design stage in a notebook (I commented to Nick and Bryce how neat the handwriting was!!).

It was the first plane ever, and the only one of a fleet of 3, to successfully fly across the Atlantic, from New York to Portugal.  It made the 3000 mile trip in 19 days.  I can’t imagine being on a plane for 19 days!




It seemed HUGE in this room, but I’m sure would feel incredibly SMALL when flying over the vast ocean!


We tried following these guys around, thinking we might pick up some good tidbits of information!

New recruits in a training class

One plane that we recognized was the Ford Tri-Motor.  We’ve seen these in both the Smithsonian Museum and The Henry Ford.

Built Ford tough . . . Tri-Motor

Ford Tri-Motor








DSC_0380In the WWII display area, we saw this “water plane” that was used to fly the Navy Admiral over the destruction in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attacked.




Atomic Bomb


We also saw this display of an atomic bomb that was very similar to the one used to bomb Japan in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.








As we finished our tour of the main floor, the Alabama National Guard Band began playing in the Atrium, so we stopped to listen for a few minutes before we headed back to the Imax Theatre.

Alabama National Guard Band

After the movie, we walked through the 2nd floor which included several interactive displays – engine cutaways to study

Tom explains a turbine engine

and cockpits to sit in,

Nicolas tries out the cockpit

as well as a gallery of original artwork showcasing planes and Naval aviation history. 

Blue Angels in the Atrium


Our last stop was the Atrium, where several retired Blue Angel planes were on display.















From there, we headed out to Hangar Bay One,



passing by the National Flight Academy on our way.

The Hangar contains additional displays of specialty aircraft, including several Presidential planes.


This “Marine One” helicopter was used by Presidents Nixon and Ford,

Marine One (Nixon & Ford)

(and Gimmarro!), and this jet is the one that President Bush rode in to become the first sitting President to land on an Aircraft Carrier.


There was also another retired Blue Angel, this one available for photo ops . . .

Retired Blue Angel


That wrapped up our visit to the Naval Aviation Museum, and since we hadn’t stopped for lunch we decided to drive back to Gulf shores to meet our neighbors from the campground for an early dinner at the Oyster House.

On our way out of the base, we drove through the campground to take a look.  It’s a good-sized campground, right on the water, with nice big paved sites . . . this wouldn’t be a bad place to stay!

If you are in the Pensacola area, this is definitely worth the visit, and check the Blue Angels’ website to see if they are practicing when you’re there!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mustang Car Show

032013_Gulf Shores

We heard about a Mustang Car Show going on in Pensacola on the weekend, and Nicolas is always interested in a good car show, so we headed over there on Saturday.

The day was overcast, and severe weather was threatening, but there were plenty of cars and plenty of people walking around.


DSC_0239We saw old Mustangs, and new Mustangs, convertibles and clowns! 

This guy saw me taking his picture, and stopped to pose with the boys.









Once we saw everything outside, we headed into the exhibit building to see a few more . . . and these were some of the fancier ones!

I really liked the color on this Mustang!


Tom thought his Dad would like this old T-Bird!


Another building housed the Falcon Club,


and we found one that had been to our neck of the woods!


It wasn’t all “guy stuff” at the car show . . . this Falcon has a definite feminine side showing,


and this guy was certainly comfortable with his feminine side, too!


I also saw a great project for Kim to make from Joe’s old car show T-shirts . . . quilted throws for the seats of the Cougar!


Outside, there were a handful of non-Ford vehicles, too . . . Bryce liked this little Chevy Truck in particular -- maybe it’s the color!


By the time we finished walking around, the sky was looking a little more threatening, and people were starting to pack up their cars.  We headed out, too, and made our way back to the campground in time for Bryce to watch Michigan State beat Memphis . . . and we never did get any rain!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Moving Day to Gulf Shores, AL

Friday was moving day for us, and there was potentially severe weather moving in for the weekend, so we got up early and got ready to move.  Packing up went pretty quickly and we pulled out of the site without incident.


We had a few trees to work around, but at least the roads had dried up from the rain early in the week.  We made our way to the dump station, and Tom took care of the dirty business!


With that job done, we were ready to hit the road!


Since the state park was so far from the interstate, Tom hadn’t taken the truck out to fill it with diesel, so our first destination was a truck stop about 40 miles away.  Diesel was $4.05, and I topped off the car too, for $3.57 – not too bad!

We headed west on I-10 to Pensacola, exiting on St. Rt. 90 which took us over the Perdido Bay,

Crossing Perdido Bay -- from Florida to Alabama!

and into Alabama – a new state for us!

Alabama - a new state for us!

Once in Alabama, we took county roads until we reached Magnolia Golf and RV Hideaway in Magnolia Springs.  We almost missed the turn because the RV Park is tucked behind a par 3 golf course, but we found it and it’s quite a gem!  Concrete Full-Hookup site for $16 . . . not bad at all! 

Magnolia Springs_site 44

We needed to unload the garage in the middle of the road, and our activity drew quite a bit of attention!  We had quite the audience, and no shortage of helpers, when it was time to back the RV into the site!

The folks here are super friendly, and we quickly received plenty of recommendations for grocery shopping and dinner, and were invited to a picnic on Sunday!

We hadn’t had any lunch, and since it was Friday, we decided to go out for pizza in Gulf Shores and then to Walmart to stock up on groceries. 

After dinner, we took a drive through Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park.


We didn’t pay the $2/person entrance fee to walk on the pier,

Gulf State Park pier

but we did walk on the beach for a bit – nice sand, and not so many shells!, and we paid the $1 fee to drive through the campground.  The sites are all FHU and plenty big for any rig, but the campground is pretty much wide open without many trees.  They do have a really nice outdoor pool, though. 

From there, we drove along the beach to checkout the many hi-rise hotels and colorful pastel rental beach houses.

Brightly colored beach houses

Gulf Shores reminded us a lot of Myrtle Beach . . . but not as crowded, and the hotels and houses are more spread out – you can actually see the beach between them, which is not true in Myrtle Beach!

When we had had our fill of Gulf Shores, we drove north on AL-59 to Foley, where we went to Walmart.  Foley is actually a pretty big town, with plenty of shopping and restaurant options.

We’ll be here until the middle of the week, and are looking forward to exploring the area!  It’ll probably take us that long to get used to Central time!