Tuesday morning it was back on the road to complete our drive to Navarre, FL. After an uneventful drive we arrived at the RV park after lunch, & immediately met up with our friends Anneke & Chuck Guldenschuh. We have been friends with the Guldenschuhs since the late 70s, & usually our RV paths cross about once a year. For our last visit with them see the following BLOG link:
That evening it was dinner at their daughter’s Heather's & husband’s, Ryan Baxter, house. We attended their wedding in DEC04; & where we celebrated New Year’s in DEC07 at the very same house. The following BLOG link contains details on that New Years visit. Heather & Ryan are expecting their first baby in about a month; so Chuck & Anneke plan on being in the area for several months at least.
Wednesday morning the four of us got together for coffee & a short walk on the beach. Back in JAN09 we discovered a Goofy Putt-Putt Course that we took pictures of, but did not play. Supposedly this is the oldest Goofy Golf putt-putt course & is over 50 years old. A couple of years ago the owners celebrated their 50 year birthday with the return of “Hammy”, a freshly restored mint-green T-rex, which had collapsed in 1993. This Goofy Golf course (& a sister course in Pensacola) served as working laboratories for the elaborate statue concepts that were built (& still stands) at the Panama City Beach Goofy Golf, 50 miles to the east.
So it was decided to get together with Heather for a round of putt-putt golf at the Goofy Golf course. Even though it was very cold, the place was packed with families & even groups of teenagers taking a break from their electronic distractions. After a spirited round of putt-putt where Dan “let” Chuck win, it was off to old Fort Walton to find a 15 foot Coca Cola bottle for a photo op.
First thing Thursday morning, 30DEC, we headed to the local Camping World to buy a new water pump, which Dan had installed by lunch. Normally we hook a water hose up to “city” water & don’t need to use the auxiliary water pump. But it has been acting-up recently & we will need it in a couple of days; so we elected to replace it now. Then it was time for a scenic drive down Santa Rosa Island to the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Florida & Mississippi units) Visitor Center at Fort Pickens.
Fort Pickens was one of three forts built to defend the entrance to Pensacola Bay. The placement of the forts was such that any vessel attempting to enter the bay could be fired upon by at least two of the forts! As you can see from the BLOG link, Dan previously toured Fort Barrancas in Pensacola, FL, back in DEC08. (The third fort, McRee, was destroyed by wind & waves.) Fort Pickens is unique in that it contains examples of all of the different coastal defense systems built by the USA from 1817 to the middle of WWII. So in one location you can see how brick forts like Pickens evolved to concrete casements w/disappearing guns in response to rifled cannons; & eventually to fixed guns in concrete casements to protect them from planes. We also observed that the north west corner of the fort was “gone” a result of a fire & black powder explosion, not enemy fire.
Although almost all other coastal forts in the south were overwhelmed by Confederate forces, or surrendered without a fight, at the start of the Civil War; Fort Pickens remained in Union hands throughout the war. This was because 50 Army & 30 Navy personnel loyal to the Union refused to surrender & held out until Union reinforcements arrived. Because of their actions the port of Pensacola & the vitally important Navy Yard located there were lost to the Confederacy for the entire war!
Trivia – what famous Apache warrior was imprisoned at Fort Pickens?
After several hours of exploration we started our drive back to the RV stopping for baked oysters & fried clams at Pegleg Petes, where we had dinner back in DEC09. On the return trip we made a stop at the Naval Live Oaks Area Visitor Center, also part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. (Note – the Florida National Scenic Trail administered by the National Forest Service is also contained in the Live Oaks Area.) Live oaks are a distinct type of American oak that was found to be far superior to all others for building warships (ie Old Ironsides). Once this was realized by the Federal government, hundreds of thousands of acres were set aside to only be used for the building of USA naval vessels. In fact, one of the earliest problems the new government had after independence was the theft of live oaks from federal lands! After an excellent day exploring we joined Chuck & Anneke at Heather & Ryan’s for dinner & a couple of games of Apples to Apples.
Trivia – where was the first dedicated tree farm in the USA?
New Years Eve Day we headed back to the Naval Live Oaks Area for a walk with Gumbo the one eyed Jack Russell. Then it was back to the RV to prep it for our departure Saturday, New Years Day. Early that evening we met up with the Guldenschuhs at Heather & Ryan’s for a traditional "dutch" New Year's Eve dinner of ertwensoep (dutch split pea soup w/ham & sausage), and ollie ballen (think donut holes on steroids); followed by different games like Cranium, Mexican Train Dominoes, Uno, etc. Since we were able to watch the Time Square celebration real time (ie East Coast time), we were able to make our good-byes and get back to the RV before midnight local time (ie Central time). As always it was great time getting back together with old friends; & as the Dutch say - GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR!!! De beste wensen voor 2011!!!
ps – you can check out Guldenschuhs summary of our visit on their BLOG: