Feb8 RD8, AFHD 29
A short mileage day today following last night’s weather excitement and deluge. Amazing that it can rain so hard and so much and when you go outside after it’s over, there’s no water standing anywhere. We had planned on the visit to Pensacola’s fantastic air museum to be the prime mission for today, so not wanting to miss that opportunity or run short on time to make it a worthwhile visit, I followed the ST route to the little town of Milton and met up with Cathy there. It was going to be a very heavily traveled route on into Pensacola, so we loaded the bike on the RV and motored on in. The last 12 bike riding miles were sublime, again on a velvet smooth, wide railtrail. The air was muggy, but cool, and had me smiling like a Cheshire cat along it’s 18 mile length. I felt like I deserved it tho, since the 12 or 13 miles getting to it was anything but pleasant. I did break into a smile when I saw this road sign, however. It’s always nice to know there’s a place nearby where I could be sure to go for help if I needed it.
It’s not often that Cathy is driving on the same route as I’m biking, but today it was. The things that stood out most to her also got my attention. Keep in mind, we’re often on the most isolated of roadways. Eight out of ten house lots were fenced with wire netting (“hog wire” we’d say in Iowa) and nearly every one of those had “Mean Dog”, or words to that effect, displayed. “But why?”, we both wondered, on seeing what the property was like on the inside of those fences. I find it hard not to wonder how those pleasant young folks from London are going to feel when they’re on these segments of the route.
We had rendezvoused for the motor into Pensacola around 11 a.m., and hurried right on down the road to NAS, Pensacola. Apparently, February is the month they practice their Rapid Response drills, so the entry into the base is as it would be on an emergency footing: triple gates to get to the guardhouse, gate guards in full combat gear (helmet, vest, side arms, personal radio), and careful scrutiny of ID cards. We passed.
Entry into the museum is still free! And what an incredible display of Air History and Air Power it is! As with most institutions of this caliber, the corps of volunteers that it takes to make it more understandable to the public is the “secret ingredient” that makes it work. Amigo Ken Brust has done this type of work for many years in his native Tulsa, and I can see why he enjoys it so much. And they are almost all “of an age” that resonates with a huge percentage of the visiting public. I’m afraid I’ll institute sensory overload if I put up all the great pictures we took today, so I’ll add a few of them at a time in future days that don’t have as much to attract your interest.
History grabs at me from all sides when I’m inside such a storehouse of it. Amazing that within 15 years of the Wright Brother’s 850 foot powered flight, we Americans had already started working on how to combine airplanes with boats and water. The US Navy had almost as many LTA (lighter than air) craft as powered AC craft in those early, pioneering days. Seeing actual film footage of a biplane flying UNDER a powered dirigible, hooking itself to a trapeze suspended from said dirigible, and being hoisted INTO said dirigible, left my jaw agape. Stuff like this every where I looked in this utopia of flight. The actual seaplane, wingspan of more than 150 feet, that was the first to fly across the Atlantic ocean. Three mammoth engines pulling, and an equally large one pushing! Mind boggling!
It rained off and on while we were inside, and during one of the dry periods, we boarded a “trolley” that took us to the outside plane parking areas where more models and history await the restorers. This trip is worthwhile if only to show the huge amount of time and energy it takes to convert the “possibles” into the showpieces. Many of them are literally IN pieces, and only the will and energy of the restorers will return them to their original flying glory.
We left the facility literally as they were closing the doors behind us. We managed to fit in a couple of short films, including one that simulated the effects of riding with the Blue Angels during one of their exhibition flight routines. Anything BUT routine for us.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how close we now are to the winter vacation home for Tom and Sue Colley. I’ll be riding my bike on down this lovely coast tomorrow and hope to be spending the next couple of days off the bike with them.
Love to all. Thanks for being there for us.