Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Summerdale, AL - More Excitement Than I Needed

The day began prosaically. Since it was Gary’s birthday (yep, he’s 68 now - as old as I am) we decided to go out for breakfast and then explore a town to the east called Fairhope where we had heard that there were lots of cute shoppes. Now, shoppes are not our style but, it’s a new place and we can explore, get our walk in and maybe walk along Mobile Bay.

Breakfast first and we tried a new place a bit north of Fairhope. I chose an omelet which came with toast and their ‘special grits’. I’ll have to admit, grits is nothing but tasteless corn meal mush to me. I realize that this is a regional taste and, I’m sorry, if I’m insulting anyone who likes grits but, I’d rather have hash browns or country fries (which they did not have, even as a substitute.) So, there’s the bowl of grits on my plate so I thought I’d add a bit of maple syrup to them. Anything to give them taste. Then I heard one of the guys at the next table ask why the grits are ‘special’ and I heard the waitress say that it’s because they add feta to them. He turned them down. OK, now, I’ve got maple syrup on my feta-cheesed grits. Well, maybe Gary will eat them.

At the end of breakfast, as we were paying, the waitress said ‘Happy New Year and we replied that it was a Happy Birthday and a Happy Anniversary too. Ah, that deserves two cookies and we walked out with two cookies: macadamia nuts, chocolate bits, oatmeal and sugar, lots of sugar. Made up for the maple sugar, feta grits.

Nice walk in Fair hope, down to the pier, along the waterfront. We saw a lot for $496,000. A lot, mind you, no house, no shoreline, not even a view of the Bay, For half a million? What do these homes cost?

Next was Walmart to use some gift cards from my brother. Picked them up at the post office yesterday, used them today. Easy come, easy go.

Pretty dull so far.

But the real excitement started when we got home and, after he brought in the groceries, Gary went out to check the propane tank. We knew that we were running on the hairy edge but thought we could make it to Monday when we left here and hit Flying J on our way to our next campground. Fat chance. The edge was hairier than we thought and Gary came into the RV saying - I think we’re out of propane. It’s 3:00 pm, it’s New Year’s Eve - who do you think is going to be open that sells propane? Well, we can try to survive on electric heat but that takes 24 of our 30 amps so we’s have to be really careful and watchful about what we turned on when: the electric water heater takes 11 amps, the microwave takes 13.2, the small electric heater takes 12.5, the refrigerator takes 5.5 and our computers take 7.4 together. Possible but do we want to do this for 2 days? and we’d still have to go out then. Why not just do it now?

So, I ran to the office, found the nearest propane dealer, called to see when they closed but mentioned that I needed propane for an RV and we were off and running. And, I do mean running. We had a short time to get the RV ready to move on down the road. By the time we were ready, I was hot enough that I didn’t need any heat.

We got to the propane store and - they were out - they ran out just after I called. Oh, no. All that and still no propane but there was a Feed and Seed Supply down the road about 2 miles that had propane. Whew. They were open, we got there and we now have a full tank of propane And, yes, we were really empty.

Now, remember, this is winter and the sun goes down really early. Really early. Earlier than it was when we got back to the campground. It was dark, we were coming at the space from the right and our campsite slanted to the left. Hey, we can do this. Well, if we have to jockey around, so be it - it’s not as if people are asleep at this time. And, let’s give them some dinner-time entertainment. I’m sure that they are sitting in their RV thinking, as I would have in their place, ‘Whew, luckily that’s not me coming in after dark.’ ‘Who in their right mind would come into a campsite after dark?’

I got out and put a head lamp on so Gary could see where I was. I stood in back so that he could hear me give directions to him through the back-up camera. And we did it, first try. What a surprise. No jockeying around, right into the slot, between the hook-ups that he had left and the mat we had left out. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, I’m just expressing surprise at how easy it went.

And that was more excitement than I expected.

Happy Birthday to my guy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Big Gar

Today is Gary’s 68th birthday, he’s finally caught up to me, since I was 68 in July. Yep, he was born on December 31, just in time to be a tax deduction for his parents in 1946. He was always on time. He was one of those kids born so close to Christmas that they always feel cheated, as if they missed out on a gift. I thought that this was a really good time to print some pictures of my guy growing up into the great guy he is now.

Here he is with his mother, Darlene on their street in Chicago, where the small family had moved when Lug got back from WWII.
Then Cathy, his sister was born and aren’t they a cute duo on their front step still in Chicago? You can see even at this early age, what a hunk Gary is going to grow into. But, that is one bad haircut. The bowl must have been on sideways.
We were both in the same 7th grade home room. Gary’s the guy with the string tie, all the rage in the 50’s (look at those dreamy bedroom eyes - even in 7th grade) and I’m the the innocent faced tall girl in the front row. I walked to Jr. High School about 1 1/12 miles, past two bakeries, one a pre-Krispy Kreme type and another was a homemade bakery that made the gooiest caramel sticky buns. One on the way to school and one on the way back. 3 miles a day and both Jean, my friend, and I still gained weight.
On to High School where Gary ran for and won the office of Student Body President. Little did he know that his big job was filling the soda machines in the teacher’s room. No, he also led the student council and opened each assembly. String tie gone and haircut much improved.
College (Gary’s in the middle.) Looks like laundry day in the dorm.
Finally the Navy. His mother saw this picture and went ballistic. She didn’t see the uniform, she didn’t see the hat, all she saw was the teeny tiny little cigarette in his hand. Her pure son was SMOKING. The story is: every other guy in Gary’s electronics group got to take a cigarette break while Gary, who didn’t smoke, had to keep working. Smart guy that he is, he took up smoking so he could have a break too. He quit pretty soon after he started. Strangely enough, for no other reason than I wanted to look grown up, I took up smoking in college only to quit soon after I realized that it tasted awful.
and he met me, again, out in Rhode Island where I was teaching and I saw a catch and snagged him. Who else would look as dorky as I do running a race?
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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sumerdale, AL - I Love a Parade

We took some time to drive along the southern Mississippi shore. Beautiful white sand and I got used to seeing houses on stilts. Obviously, after the hurricanes that the coast has had recently, I understand why they put their homes on stilts, high stilts. However, I can see how this would prevent water damage in your house but I am having a hard time wrapping my head around a house on 2 x 4’s matching up against the winds of a full force hurricane. Are those stilts really that strong? I like this one with a picture of the home on the sign. Although it looks like they had a change of plans - their house doesn't quite look like the picture.

But, usually these are smaller homes, I have a hard time imagining a two story home on stilts and thinking that the stilts will hold it in a 150 mph wind.

But it’s hard to dispute that the view is worth it.

Wherever there’s water and a plethora of marinas, there’s gonna be a night time boat parade. Sure enough, we heard about the Gulf Shores boat parade through the Inter coastal Waterway. We set up, along with at least several thousand of our new best friends and watched the boats parade through. They were moving too fast for a really good picture. But there were about 50 boats all together, all with lights, some with music, one with dancers and all in a very merry Christmasy mood. Everyone was yelling Merry Christmas to the shore and back and waving. A good time was had by all.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Summerdale - Are We Having Fun Yet?

Pretty boring over here. We actually have spent 2 of the last 3 days in the local libraries.
From open to about 5:30. Not my idea of excitement but it is what it is. Actually, Apple just released a large operating system update and, since we have 2 computers and 2 other devices, we knew that if we wanted to download it to all, we'd go way over our monthly data so - voila - a trip to the library. On Tuesday we hit the Foley library and it took all day to download the update to Gary's computer. Obviously, they cut back on downloads so it goes slower and slower as the day wears on. However, now, he's got the operating system downloaded, now he has to get all of his Mac apps downloaded, Numbers (like Excel) and Pages (like Word) and others. Thursday we headed back to the Foley library but it is closed on Thursday until 1:00. Oh, no, we're already out and packed so don't want to go home - how about the Gulf Shores library? AND - look, on the way is the Krispy Kreme. Now, on the whole, I don't like Krispy Kreme and won't ever stop there for a donut. Their signature donut has no taste, since it's only sugar, and no form - it just dissolves in your mouth. I want a donut that I get to chew - a cake donut. So, I figured I'd get some coffee and sit while Gary had a donut (he's not picky like I am). But they had the most marvelous apple fritters and - oh, my, calm my beating heart - they had a sour cream glazed donut - one of my favorites.  Maybe this trip to the library isn't a loss after all.

        No, the library is as dull as it ever is. I worked a bit more on trip planning, a bit on address changes, a bit on editing and deleting some of our 40,000+ pictures and actually took a walk. I also got in a trip to Walmart. Meanwhile, Gary's updates are taking a bit of time and we didn't leave until 5;00, just in time to hit Walmart again for the milk and other perishables. Home about 6:30 - my, this is getting old. But the best part is still to come: we’ve downloaded the new operating system to Gary’s computer and now - it’s my turn. First the operating system and then the apps. I can’t wait.

Meanwhile we are taking the 5 weeks we have here in the Gulf Shores area to work on projects, projects that we have planned on doing for the last few years. Life just keeps interrupting and we still have these projects ahead of us. I have been wanting to put some personal pictures up in our RV for a while. There is only so much space to put up personal pictures in an RV: most space is either a cupboard, a sconce, a set of cabinets, a door or a window. Not much space is wasted here. And, of course, the decorating scheme is chosen for you - luckily, ours is pretty good - no wild colors or patterns. Finally, I picked up 2 frames that match the wood in our RV and spent some time gathering some pictures to print out. Here is what I finally put together. The left frame holds family pictures: parents and siblings. The right frame holds pictures of our travels. The goal is to change these pictures every year to reflect our new travels.
I’ve also been collecting articles from RV magazines over the 7 years that we have been RV’ing. And, I’ve got these all nicely organized in hang tabs: one for each state. And, of course, every time we got to a state, I’d pick up more. I had 2 plastic containers for all this. But, my, these take up so much space. Thus the goal was to scan most of them and put them into my computer so I’d have them organized but save lots of space. I’ve managed to condense them down to 1 plastic container so have moved right along.

In the process, I realized that we had 2 of these plastic containers with ‘Office Supplies’ in them. 2? We’re retired, how many office supplies do we need? How many hang tab files, how many folders and how many divider pages does a retired couple need? My answer was: precious few, especially if I’m on a condensing kick. I’ve also managed to condense all this into one, and, I’m sure, even that is too much. I’ll condense some more next year - to only 1/2 of a plastic container. What will we do with all this space?

Gary? What’s the sailor boy doing? He’s got his own projects and the first one is to finish our flooring. He got most of it in when we were in Altoona but there were a few spots he just didn’t have time for. Now, he has and he’s been working on it. Here he is hard at work. You might think this looks like a bedroom - but, as I explained in September when he did the most of the floor, it is really a workroom. (Note that fancy saw horse. No, that is not a waste basket now - it is a saw horse.) His father would be so pleased that he is using his old tools.
Speaking of his father, Milan, or, Lug, which was his nickname, always gave his kids and in-laws a 1 lb. box of Russell Stover candy for Christmas. We could count on it - and we all did. Delicious. Always on sale. Sometimes, he’s find a 2 lb. box on sale and we’d get that. Now he’s gone but we remembered him and his gifts by finding a sale on Russell Stover 1 lb. boxes and bought two. Gary didn’t realize, even when he was holding them that I had already stripped off the plastic, opened one of the boxes and had scarfed down the only chocolate truffle in it. Poor guy. Ah, but there is a second box for him.
Cathy, his sister, sent a picture of herself with a box of Russell Stover, too. We all remember the candy and think of him with every piece we pick up.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Time's A Wastin'

When we walk, putting in our daily miles, we both have lot of time to think. Sometimes, we talk but not too often. There’s not much to say since we’ve just spent the last 24 hours together. So, of course, there’s plenty of time to think. Me, my thoughts are usually pretty down to earth, nothing very deep. Sometimes I think of what I’m going to cook for dinner when we get back to the RV after our walk (about time I thought of this). Other times I’m thinking of the travel plans we have, where we’d like to stop and what we’d like to see. Other times I’m thinking of what I’m going to do in the evening. Nothing very deep here. No great cosmic thoughts about the universe. But, sometimes niggling at the back of my mind through all this, especially the trip planning, is the thought that I have only so much time left in my life. Even though I keep adding to my lists of places to go and things to see, I realize that I will always be adding to this list but the time for subtracting from it is dwindling.

Sometimes I feel like the Crosby, Stills and Nash song - that I have only so much time left in my life and there’s so much more to see and do.

Look around me now, I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way it used to be
I am older now, I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started long before I did

And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away

I often wish that we could have started RV’ing sooner, that we could have decided much earlier that this was the life we wanted to live. However, we had family responsibilities (though ‘responsibilities’ makes it sound so cold) and didn’t want to reorder our lives any other way. We didn’t start to RV until my mother died in 2008 and we didn’t become full-timers until Gary’s father died in early 2013. Could we have done this any sooner? Absolutely not. We wanted to be there for our parents. They made us what we were and what we were was two kids that wanted to help our parents as much as we could.

So, even though I loved being there with our parents and have no regrets for the time we spent with them, somehow I do regret that we won’t get done all we’d like to get done. That’s where I get back to the CSN song, and feel as if somewhere along the way we have wasted time that we will never recover. But, as I will continue to diligently add to my list, I will also perform careful triage on that list: choosing those things that I want to do more than the others. I suspect that on the list of things we want to do, those things that we have checked off will be smaller than those we have not. But, on the other hand, shouldn’t that be the way it is? Shouldn’t we always have a list that we are adding to, a list of things we haven’t checked off yet?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Navy Boys

Sometimes, museums are big enough and good enough for a second tour and the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola was just that museum. Well, maybe we took too much time on the awful tour that we thought we’d better take some time to actually see the place. Or, maybe it was just a great excuse for a drive. Or, finally, maybe it was a great excuse to show some more pictures of Gary when he was in the Navy. Whatever, we were on our way.

Our second trip was much more interesting and we spent time where we wanted and read what we wanted. The base is the summer home of the Blue Angels and, during the summer they give free shows - well, they are really not shows, but practices. They need to practice and, for good will, they open their practices up to all who want to come. I hear that one day in the week, they also sign autographs. Pretty neat, huh? And even I, a jaded old 68 year old will plan on being down here some time in November when we can stop in to see a Blue Angels practice. Every now and then, as we tour this area, we see them up in the sky. Actually, first we hear them and then we see them. But to see them, you’ve got to look way ahead of the sound or else you’ll miss them.

This picture is actually from the Naval Aviation web site. 
Here is a plane called the N-C which was the airplane chosen by the Navy for the first flight across the Atlantic in 1919. 3 Nancies, as the places were called, took off for the flight to Europe with a stop at the Azores. Two places went down in the Atlantic, the crew of one was picked up by a passing Greek freighter while one actually sailed to the Azores, 205 miles away. Only the N-C4 successfully completed the 15-hour flight, landed in the Azores, refueled and took off and landed in Europe. The plane was huge for the time, had three propellers and, with that canoe like fuselage, could also float.
Most of the early places were only cloth stretched over struts. Here you can see where the pinking shears cut the cloth to fit. I was surprised to find out the Lindbergh flew a cloth plane over the Atlantic. Only the engine housing was metal. Because the plane is silver, I had always assumed it was meta. Nope, cloth.
They had a neat model of the Saratoga, the carrier that Gary was on in the Navy. I remember ‘sneaking’ onto Quonset Point, the Naval base in RI, to meet the Saratoga when it docked from its Mediterranean cruise. I parked my car about 1/2 mile away from the check point, hitch-hiked with a Navy guy through the checkpoint, and he dropped me off at the pier where I waited with all the families until 2 am when the Saratoga landed. Screams, shouts, tears, it was lots of fun and I really surprised Gary. Of course, who would suspect an upright young teacher like me to ‘sneak’ onto the base? I probably could have been arrested. Never occurred to me although I knew I had to ‘sneak’ onto the base - since I wasn’t related, I was only the girlfriend.

We heard that the Saratoga had recently been shipped to Narragansett in Rhode Island where it was to be retrofitted to be a museum. Did we ever get excited about seeing it when we got to Rhode Island. However, we read here in the Naval Aviation museum that no one had the money to make the necessary adjustments and it was sold for 1 penny to a salvage yard in Texas. It was at that very moment sailing its last voyage to Texas for scrap. Shucks.
Which brings me to Gary’s Navy career. He graduated from college and planned to go on for his master’s degree - but college deferments had been tossed and, knowing that he would be drafted, volunteered for the Navy. Of course, his father had been in the Navy and so was my father, coincidentally. And, here are Lug and Ferg.
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But here’s Gary with his sultry bedroom eyes standing on his parents front stoop. But my favorite picture is Gary with his sister Dawn, on the right and one of her friends.
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It wasn’t all work in the Navy. And here’s Gary with a wig and a guitar.
We saw the lunar module and on a TV behind it was a film of Kennedy giving his first speech about it at Rice University in September of 1962. He is proposing that America go to the moon and explaining why it is a worthy goal for a great nation.

        ‘We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but         because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that         challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’

As I thought about that speech, I wondered if we could do that today, if we would have the will to take on such a great challenge. We can’t even feed all our children today, we can’t even get a road built, we can’t build ports large enough for the world’s ships, we can’t build new infrastructure. Build things, heck, we can’t even repair our infrastructure. Sometimes I wonder about the America that used to build and do great things. What happened to the America that built huge dams, that built the Interstate highway system, that built the Verranzano Bridge and the other bridges that span our great rivers? Sometimes, as we travel in our RV over one of those bridges, we laugh nervously, and ask each other where on the list of needed bridge repairs this particular bridge would fit. Is it ‘functionally obsolete’? Is it ‘structurally deficient’? Is it as good as the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis? Then we try to distract ourselves and drive on. But there’s always another bridge ahead.

Leaving all that aside, we also wanted to tour the nearby fort built after the War of 1812, Fort Barancas, which was also on the base. I asked one of the volunteers at the Aviation Museum for a map and he told me that I didn’t need one that it was: left at the first light, right at the second and there it was. But, I insisted on a map and, when he pointed out where was leading me, it was nowhere near Fort Barancas, which was actually right across the street from the Museum. With map in hand, we set off across the base, 1/2 mile to the fort.
Above is the diorama in the Visitor Center. The fort is the diamond-shaped section and you can walk all the way around the inside of it through a long hallway called a scarp (pictured below). Each alcove in the scarp gallery had gun slots pointing out towards the ditch. You can also walk inside of the V-shaped section, called the counter scarp, around two sides of the fort. This also had alcoves with gun slots pointing towards the ditch. Now the only way to attack it from land was to go over the top of the V-shaped section, into the ditch, the dry moat between the gun batteries in the scarp gallery and the gun batteries in the counter scarp. Any attacking army that got into this ditch would suffer heavy casualties from the muskets and cannons pointed at them. They didn’t have a chance. Pretty impregnable. The white section was the gun emplacements facing the water.

Here is one of the arms of the gallery that we walked through. Neat to see the sun shining through the slits for the guns in each alcove.
Originally the fort was built in 1698 by the Spanish who wanted to protect their holdings in the Gulf from the British and the French. The French captured Pensacola and destroyed the fort in 1719. Then the French lost to the British in 1763 and the British took it over and rebuilt another fort. Then, during the American Revolution, while the British were otherwise engaged, the Spanish recaptured it and built the water battery (white in the diorama). Finally General Andrew Jackson of the US seized the fort from the Spanish in 1814 and, when the Navy chose Pensacola Bay as the site for a Naval Ship yard, the US made improvements to the water battery and built this fort over the Spanish Fort. We also built two more forts around this bay to guard the entry from several points.

During the Civil War, Confederate troops from Alabama and Florida held this fort but the Union forces held the two other forts, Fort Pickens and Fort McRee, on each side of the water route into the bay and could prevent any ships from entering. The Confederates and the Union lobbed shells at each other for a while to no avail but finally the Union bombarded the Fort so heavily that the Confederates abandoned it in 1862 and the area saw no further action.

Finally in 1947, the fort was deemed surplus and the National Park Service took it over in 1971, completing repairs to the fort in 1980 and opening it to the public. An excellent example of the type of forts that surrounded the coast of the US and protected us from enemy incursions. On the other hand, this type of fort had a short life span since armaments improved so much during the Civil War. Stronger, rifled cannon and ironclad ships developed during the Civil War made masonry forts like Fort Barrancas outmoded.

We arrived at the fort about 3:00 and were the only two visitors for about 1/2 hour. Several other families came then but, we seemed to be the only ones who were really interested and asking questions, so we got the whole tour. The Ranger even opened several doors for us to see things that other tourists don’t usually see. That was fun. Finally, at 4:45, we left, walked back to our car and headed on back to the RV.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Moonpies Over Mobile

Good beginning - at Panera. We had our usual: I had a bear claw, Gary had a cinnamon crunch bagel and a chocolate chip bagel and we both had coffee - one of those bottomless cups. Then a good friend of ours called and we chatted for a while catching up on each other’s activities. She’s in a ‘dead zone’ as far as wi-fi, and cell phone service so, while she and Jerry, her husband were in the ‘outside world’, she called.

I’m batting 1.000 so far. Let’s keep it up. Into Mobile and Fort Conde which is a rebuilt fort with a VC in it. Nicely redone fort with several rooms of artifacts and a short military history of the Mobile Bay area. Then to the Mobile Museum and what a pleasant surprise. It was a marvelous museum, covering not only Mobile history but filled with special exhibits like: Mobile disasters, the Civil War in Mobile, slavery and the Jim Crow laws, Mardi Gras, famous sports and music figures in Mobile and several others. My favorite room was a huge banquet room with pictures of famous Mobilians covering the walls.
At the door was a book with the pictures and a description of what each of the people pictured on the wall did for Mobile.

Many cities sometimes neglect to cover the warts or they put a few pictures in the corner, hoping no tourist will spot them. Obviously they want to protect their reputation. Not Mobile, they cover the warts as well as the beauty marks. There is a nice exhibit about the musicians who made Mobile famous, there is an exhibit about slavery,
there is an exhibit about Mobile’s importance in the Civil War and there is a section on the Jim Crow laws.
They had an old 14th C dugout canoe. One August day in 1976, a Mobile area father and his son were out fishing in a lake north of town when they discovered a hollowed-out canoe stuck on a sandbar and partially submerged in water. Carbon dating took it back to about 1320 AD, 2 centuries before Europeans arrived on the shores of the area. It was made out of a cypress log with stone tools. What a find.
They had a separate room devoted to 6 miniatures built by Aaron Friedman. AFter he had built 2 miniatures, his wife asked him is he was going to make one for her. She wanted a Colonial with 6 columns and here is her house.
I particularly liked the circular staircase in the middle of the house.
When he was done, she needlepointed rugs and curtains while he make parquet floors.
We saw a 1940’s film on the effect of WWII on Mobile. The town of about 78,000 ballooned to 150,000 when shipbuilders geared up production during the war and workers streamed in. Obviously, Mobile did not have the infrastructure to accomodate all these new residents. Hommettes (pre-fabricated boxlike structures) were erected to provide temporary housing and ‘hotbedding’ was prevalent (with shifts, several people shared a bed and it was always warm from the previous resident). New schools were built but there were never enough seats for all the kids in town. Plumbing, electricity and sewage were terribly strained, roads, churches, parks, restaurants - all were needed. Then, when all was built, the war ended and many workers left and the new homes, schools and all the other infrastructure was left. Marvelous little film produced in the early 40’s, grainy, black and white but full of neat old news movies.

One display was about a local postman who was very involved in the Civil Rights movement. He typed over 50,000 and sent them to various officials in national, state, county and local governements. I really liked the display they made to show how many letters 50,000 is.
We both really enjoyed this museum and were there about 4 hours. It has good displays, a wealth of artifacts, great explanation about it all and it was extremely well presented and easy to follow. Sometimes, we don’t know which way to go in a museum, we turn the wrong corner and our chronology is all mixed up. Whoever manages the museum combines curatorial skills with great placement and a nice eye for arrangement.

Still batting 1.000. Now for a walk of the city. Nice day, lots of families downtown going to the big party at the Science Center, other tourists with cameras, a small family group singing carols at some of the local shops (just the food shops, however, maybe they had an ulterior motive) and just some hustle and bustle.

Then we saw the Moonpie Drop. Ooh. Here we are in Mobile, home of the famous Moonpie Drop. Maybe a little background, though it is a thin slice. Mobile has a large month-long Mardi Gras celebration every year and back in 1974, someone threw Moonpies to the crowd from one of the floats. And, the tradition just grew. Today, Mobile consumes more than 4,000,000 Moonpies annually and has adopted this sweet treat as a city icon. To comemorate this city favorite, Mobile and Chattanooga Bakery, the maker of the classic Moonpie have teamed up to drop a 12’ tall electronic Moonpie from the 34-story Trustmark building on New Year’s eve.
Now, I’m not sure that we’ll be here on New Year’s Eve at midnight to witness the Moonpie Drop first hand. In fact, I can almost guarantee that we will not be here. However, we decided to check out the Moonpie which is already in its rigging for its midnight drop. At the top is the rigging with the Moonpie at the bottom ready to be lifted 34 stories up and dropped at the stroke of Midnight.

Nancy and her new best friends all got the clothing memo.
We then wandered a bit more and found the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with its glorious stained glass windows.

Here’s the ‘ugliest building in the city’ according to a Museum staffer. ‘And, it’s not even practical’, she said, ‘it leaks and whenever there is a big rainstorm they have to evacuate the building.’
I liked the skyline.
Finally, we had to leave since we wanted to be in Gulf Shores for the Christmas Boat Parade.

Lots of spectators lining the Intercoastal Waterway but the parade was a bit short and a bit disappointing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Washington

Today it was home time. Gary worked on our bathroom door which had been a bit damaged when one of the guys repairing our refrigerator backed into it to get a better push. Oops. The door opened into the bathroom and Gary had to take off the door frame, pull the door out and replace the frame. If only it were that easy and, in RV’s nothing is easy. Seems that the frame was not quite cut right so that the corners met exactly so, as part of the process, Gary made them meet exactly.

Me, I just worked on our travel plans for our trip up the Eastern coast of America to match our rip up the Western coast last year. I do believe that this will be more elaborate and expensive than last year’s journey. But then I’ve always heard that RV’ing through the east is trickier and spendier than the west.

I just finished a biography of George Washington and was amazed at the similarities between the attacks he endured and the attacks Presidents today endure. Since we’re 200 years removed from his Presidency, to us he’s the ‘Father of the Country’. To many people of his time he was just a numbskull who couldn’t get anything right. Exempt from attacks at the start of his presidency, Washington was viciously attacked in the press by his second term. His opponents accused him of everything from being an inept general to wanting to establish a monarchy. He was called a traitor, a monarchist, a hypocrite, a liar and other terms along the same vein. In most cases he ignored these comment but at one point, he said that not a single day had gone by that he hadn't regretted staying on as President.

Some Congressional techniques are not so different from today’s either. ‘After Washington won the battle over the Jay Treaty the House Republicans launched a prolonged campaign to starve the treaty by refusing to appropriate money for it.’ And haven't we heard of this recently?

Washington certainly saw the irony between fighting for freedom and owning slaves, which he did. He saw how immoral slavery was and how inefficient slavery as a system was but, as a Southerner, bought and sold slaves freely, and, when one escaped, he worked hard to get the slave back. He hated to split up families and often had more slaves that his plantation could afford. Being such a hard worker himself, he could never understand why his slaves didn’t work as hard as he did. Duh. Two of the favorite slaves of both Martha and George escaped to freedom and, even though Washington used all the governmental resources to get them back, he failed. One, Hercules, seems to have disappeared while Ona Judge, Martha’s personal servant, escaped to Portsmouth, NH which was a free state.

His will stipulated that his slaves be freed - but only after Martha died so that she could benefit from their use on the farm while she was still living. OMG, Martha thought (well, maybe she didn’t actually use that phrase but it is certainly what she thought), what if they kill me to move their date of freedom up sooner? So, terribly unnerved, she decided to free those slaves ahead of schedule, only a year after her husband died.

Really interesting book and it really clarifies what a marvelous first President Washington was and how he set the tone and established precendents for all other Presidents to follow. And, then he retired, something that kings never did and that set America on its course.

Summerdale, AL - Men are Idiots

I’m sure that you’ve all heard of the study that proves that Men Are Idiots. Yep, a whole new study comes out with this tidbit of knowledge. But wasn’t this proven before? How many studies do we need? How much more money will we waste? Just ask a woman. No, that’s just anecdotal evidence. We need facts and this study actually studies facts like hospital records and comes to the same conclusion that women did millions of years ago.

A study recently published in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) actually looked at the past winners of the Darwin awards. Now, many of you have heard of these but, if you haven’t, here is the jist of the criteria: people who die in such an idiotic manner that ‘their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive.’ Sucinctly, it removes one idiot from the gene pool. I point you to the Darwin Awards web site for the gruesome details. OI have here two of the less gruesome stories.

Two examples of past winners: the man who shot himself in the head with a "spy pen" weapon to show his friend that it was real; and the terrorist who mailed a letter bomb with insufficient postage and who, upon its return, opened it. Then there was the story about the 2 men, drunk as skunks, who braved the subway, one lying between the tracks theorizing that the train would pass over him, the other lying to the side theorizing that the train would pass near him. Unfortunately the train was wider and lower than they theorized.

But, back to the study - again the Male Idiot Theory was proven.

Having read this new news, my honey bunch, stud muffin turned to me, grinned and delicately asked: ‘Sweetie, if men are idiots then what are you women who marry them?’ Well he had me there. Then he reminded me that we tied for grade point average in our graduating class. And we women spend bundles of time and effort trying to attract these idiots. I think we need another study.

We still have acorns in the oak trees above us. We’ve had so many fall on our RV that I thought they’d be all gone by now but, nope, lots still up there just waiting for a quiet moment to drop and scare the begeebers out of us. Gary actually checked the roof to see how many were up there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Summerdale, AL - Navy Guy

We got up early today to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum Pensacola, FL. MY first time ever in Florida. Huge museum, filled with airplanes from WWI to recent fighter jets.
They say they have over 150 restored aircraft and I’d believe them. But, first we’ve got to check out the two handsome hunks in front of the museum.
But, I’ve got even better pictures:

Yep, that’s the Navy boy in all his glory. You can see why I fell madly head over heels in love with him, right? Look at that smile.
But, back to the present. We decided to take the 1 1/2 hr guided tour along with 16 or so others but the guide was so boring that he had only Gary and me at the end. Actually he wasn't so boring as so full of himself. He kept grading us as a tour group based upon our questions and interest. He also graded himself on his ability to answer our questions. At the end of each section, he told us our grade and his. Strangely enough, his grade was always an A while ours varied between a C and a C-. His information was fine but his personality was, well, let me give him a D. Any guide who loses almost all his tour ...

There are exhibits on WWI, the Blue Angels who fly out of this air station, WWII aircraft, several flight simulators, an IMAX theater, lots of other exhibits and a cafe that was moved piece by piece from the same cafe in the Philippines. We especially liked the virtual carrier flight deck where you are in a theater and the scene before you is the flight deck of a carrier. Now, Gary actually has been on the flight deck so he knows the real thing but still liked it. On a flight deck, everyone is in a different colored shirt depending upon their job on the deck. Gary wore green which meant that he was an air wing maintenance person.


We ate lunch in the Cubi Cafe, amidst all the plaques for all the different groups who were there in the original Cubi.

After this we headed on over to the IMAX theater where we saw the DDay movie. Very interesting but it had lots of strange animation and both of us agreed that the WWII movie in the National WWII Museum in New Orleans was much, much better. That one is not to be missed.

We wanted to visit Hanger 1 which was under repair at the time but we will return to see this. Here is a model of the Saratoga, the carrier on which Gary was stationed, a Blue Angel 4D theater, an exhibit dedicated to Bob Hope and some other exhibits.

We then checked into getting to the Pensacola lighthouse which we could see - just over there. We checked our GPS and - only 1 block - we can walk this one. And, of course, we saw some Blue Angels practicing. (Gary always teases me about getting a butt shot of every animal we see. Guess what? I can get a butt shot of jets too - although blurry since he was going so fast. I asked him to slow down for the picture, but he listens to me as well as Big Gar.)
It is still a working lighthouse with a 1st order Fresnel lens.
A real puffer of a walk up the 177 steps to the top with the people going down having the right of way - and the handrail on the outside of the stairwell. That means that those ascending not only do not get the right of way but have no handrail going up. Whoo-eee. But the views are worth it.
Then a walk on the beach before heading home in the dark.