March 8, 2012—I can almost see home. Well, not really. We’re outside of Pensacola, in the Fort Pickens Camping area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Home is clear across the state—I would guess probably 375 miles to go. That’s a drop in the bucket, compared to the thousands of miles we have traveled since leaving Jacksonville January 8.
|Gulf seashore at Fort Pickens|
We left Biloxi around 9:30 yesterday and decided to take the scenic route (US 98), which runs along the gulf. (We may continue that route, in which case we probably won’t get home for a few more days.) Jim stopped at the Florida visitors’ center to get brochures on the gulf shores area. One of the things he wanted to see was the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
We searched our various directories for an RV park, and almost went to one about 15 miles from Pensacola. Before we headed out, however, I checked for camping areas in state and national parks. That’s how we found Fort Pickens, a really neat campground, where we were lucky (as walk-ins) to get a camping space for two nights. The price was right, too--only $10 a night for us old foagies. The campground is nearly full.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore actually includes barrier islands in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. The sanctuary where we are was built on a fortified barrier island, Santa Rosa Island. Fort Pickens was built in 1829 and was “relieved of duty” after World War II, in 1947. It was the largest of four forts built to defend the Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. Sadly (for our history), it was built by slave labor brought in from New Orleans. The slaves laid 21.5 million bricks to build the fort—most of which were made locally and barraged to the island.
Throughout the island you find batteries that housed cannon and big guns.
|Jim walking toward the main part of Fort Pickens|
|Jim standing on top of a battery|
|That's me, walking around a battery|
|One of the big guns, actually a cannon turned into a rifle, left on the property|
Although the fort was built to defend against intruders, the only action it saw was during the Civil War. Fort Pickens was a Union fort; Fort Barrancas, situated across the bay in what is now the Naval Air Station, was held by the Confederates. They barraged each other in October and November of 1861, until the Confederates abandoned Pensacola in order to boost sagging defenses in north Mississippi and west
Tennessee. As a side note, the fort also incarcerated Geronimo, the famous Indian warrior.
The National Air Museum is housed on the Pensacola Naval Air Station Base. It was built by donations and is run by volunteers, although the Navy provides maintenance on the facilities. With one exception, all displays of aircraft in the two hangars, which comprise 55,000 square feet, are original. Most are restored (by volunteers) to near-running capacity. They are truly beautiful to look at, even if you aren’t very interested in naval history and war (like me). Jim, of course, loved the museum.
|Those are actual planes once flown by the Blue Angles|
|Jim loved the airplanes|
|I'm sitting in an ejection seat|
Tomorrow we are off again. My personal wish is to head directly home so that I can begin writing the book I am commissioned to do and to begin working editing some articles I agreed to do for Reed Elsevier, a big publisher—and to do my taxes. But then, again, I am not driving.
Your Reluctant RoVer,