grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

28-31DEC08 - Biloxi, MS & Pensacola, FL (happy new years!)

Sunday morning, 28DEC, we departed Rebecca’s and Raymond’s driveway enroute to the Atlantic Ocean beaches of Florida. Since most of our route eastward was on Interstate I-10, this gave us an opportunity to once again check out the casinos in Biloxi. Knowing that we might lose some money on the games of chance, we decided to minimize our expenses as much as possible. So we stopped at the Mississippi tourist center and checked out what freebie coupons the casinos were offering; and rather than pay to stay in a RV Park, we dry camped in one of the casino parking lots. With our two for one meal coupon, and minimal gambling loss, it turned out to be one of our cheapest days RV’ing.

The next morning we pulled into the military RV Park at Naval Air Station Pensacola. This was very nice, small, RV facility located on a beautiful beach on Pensacola Bay. NAS Pensacola is known as the cradle of Naval Aviation, and the home of Blue Angels. It is viewed as the cradle because it was the first Naval Air Station and for decades all Naval, Marine Corps and CG Aviators received their initial flight training here. Before the Air Station, the location was one of the first Naval Yards in the USA. After parking the RV we rode our bikes around the base. We found it to be a beautiful location with oak lined roads and large brick housing from the early 1900s. Unfortunately many of the brick buildings of the original Naval Yard were leveled by Hurricane Ivan.

First thing Tuesday morning we were at the Naval Air Museum located on base. Not only is this the number one Naval Air Museum in the world, it probably is one of the top five Air Museums. The number of aircraft on display, the dioramas, the things to do, etc, are overwhelming. Corrie lasted until lunch, Dan went until closing and could have spent two more days. There is an IMAX theater, motion based flight simulators, space exhibit, POW exhibit, WWI exhibit, WWII exhibit, mock-up of USS CABOT flight deck, art gallery, lighter than air display, etc. And the always popular CG aviation exhibit! In the CG aviation exhibit you will learn that LT Elmer Stone, USCG, was a very important person in the development of USN aviation – being one of two pilots to fly the first trans-Atlantic flight in the NC-4 in MAY 1919 (Lindberg was the first solo, but he wasn’t the first!), and later developing catapult and arresting gear systems for the first USN carriers.

One of the most interesting exhibits was the Cubi Bar Café, where we had lunch. The Cubi Bar was the Officers Club at the Navy Base Subic Bay, Phillipines, until Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991. After the eruption the USA decided to abandon Subic Bay and Clark Air Base. A group of individuals banded together to disassemble the Officer’s Club and rebuild it in the Naval Air Museum. So? you ask. Well it turns out that different naval aviation squadrons that were deployed on carriers on what is known as WestPac patrols (ie Western Pacific) would leave unit plaques to be place on the bar’s walls. What started out as the standard unit plaque, soon turned into a competition to see what squadron could be the most creative. Eventually the plagues turned into statues, and one was even done on a full size surf board. Apparently there are thousands of plagues that they don’t have room for in storage, and many of them are deemed too risqué for a family attraction?

Next day we drove into Pensacola for breakfast at the Coffee Cup Café, supposedly THE place to have breakfast in town. Sadly, it was closed in preparation for New Years eve. Luckily Dan had researched similar eateries and had a standby. So our next stop was Jerrys. Good thing we knew it was a café, because from the outside it looked like a bar with neon beer signs in the window. But once inside we discovered a neighborhood café quickly filling up with locals for breakfast. Of course Dan had being the more adventurous had to try the chicken liver omelet.

From Jerrys we headed to downtown Pensacola for some sightseeing. Turns out that most of the town was closed also in preparation for New Years. This year Pensacola was going to have their first ever lowering of giant pelican at midnight. Turns out that pelicans are the symbol of the city and there are many uniquely painted pelican statues throughout the city. Since most of the stores were closed and the police were blocking the streets in preparation for the lowering of the pelican, we headed back to the RV.

Next Dan headed down the road on his bike to tour Fort Barrancas & its Advanced Redoubt parts of the Gulf Island National Seashore. He was lucky enough to catch the daily Ranger tour. Turns out these coastal defenses were part of a national system of coastal forts called the “Third System” built between 1816 to 1867. It took 4 million hand laid bricks to build Fort Barrancas, and the labor of 60 men (slaves) over five years to build. As usual with static military defenses, they were obsolete upon completion.

As has been the case for the last several years, we didn’t make it until midnight to ring in the New Year. In any case may 2009 be a good one for you and yours!!!

Trivia: There were 14 British colonies in the New World, why do we only learn about 13 in USA history? The first battle of the Civil War was at Fort Sumter; but where were the first shots fired? What does the Thach Weave have to do with Naval Aviation?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

23-27DEC08 - Houma, LA (merry xmas!)

This was our first Xmas with Rebecca and Raymond and we immediately noticed one difference Christmas morning compared to previous ones. Now that they are young adults they don’t wake up before sunrise and ask you if it is time to open the presents? In fact we had to wake them up so that we would have enough time after gift giving to finish preparing the Xmas dinner. We also noticed the difference between the generations in the choosing of gifts. They gave “fun” gifts like jewelry, cologne, and video games; we gave “practical” gifts like pots, pans & vacuum cleaner.

The hit gift of the day was a video game called Guitar Hero. For all you “air guitar” rock and rollers out there, you may want to check this game out to see if you truly have what it takes. Dan found it interesting that over half of the songs are “classics” from the late 60s and the 70s. Rebecca & Raymond also got two small balls as gifts for their dogs, Gracie & Jake. Gumbo the one eyed Jack Russell terrier immediately attacked Jake, took the ball away from him, and destroyed it within five minutes. So much for the Christmas spirit?

In the early afternoon we had Xmas dinner. Frank Garcia, workmate of Raymond’s, came over to join us, like he did for Thanksgiving. Our food must not be too bad, since he came back for a second time.

One of the benefits of moving around with the Coast Guard when Dan was active duty, was the experiencing of different cultures and traditions, especially for holidays. In Southern Louisiana during Christmas you have Celebration in the Oaks at City Park in New Orleans, the lighting of bonfires to guide Papa Noel, etc. But one that you can check out on the internet, are the Xmas music videos by Benny Grunch & the Bunch. Benny and his friends are from a small section of New Orleans known as “Yats” (as in: Where y-at?). Anyway, every now and then they write a humorous Xmas song and then film their own music video. So check out the internet link below and watch how a “six pack of Dixie” becomes a “dix pack of Sixie” on the song – The Twelve Yats of Christmas!

Our intention after returning to southern LA was to take small trips now and then and not sit in the kid’s drive way for an extended time. But with the never ending concrete work and refinishing kitchen cabinets, it seems like we were becoming a permanent fixture in their driveway. Anyway we decided that we would push to finish the concrete work and then take off for the Atlantic coast of Florida, before returning to Houma for medical appointments in mid January. Friday and Saturday after Xmas Dan and Raymond finally finished the pouring the last of the 3 by 8 foot concrete sections. So by Sunday, 28JAN (oops! that's 28DEC), we should be back on the road!

Monday, December 22, 2008

01-22DEC08 - Houma, LA (o tannenbaum, o tannenbaum)

Continuing with “firsts” at Rebecca & Raymond’s first house/home was the purchase of their first Christmas tree. Of course this also entailed purchasing ornaments and lights for tree. They purchased a very nice tree and we had an enjoyable time decorating it. Now the fear is that one of the dogs (Gracie or Jake) will knock it over.

Meanwhile we keep working on the kitchen cabinets and pouring concrete outside. These projects are taking longer than planned because Raymond has had to work three weeks straight, including weekends. Raymond is part of a maintenance crew for private jets owned by the Chouest family. The Chouest’s operate a very large, privately owned, offshore supply vessel company (can you say billionaires?). Anyway, Raymond usually works seven straight days, followed by seven off; but due to personnel shortages he has had to work three weeks straight. Even with this work schedule, we did find time to go to the local bingo hall where none of us won.