After doing nothing for three days (I have been pretty sick with a bad cold - UGH!!), we finally got to the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Randy really wanted to get there before we left because this is home to the National Museum of Naval Aviation. I've included a few pictures, but couldn't put them all here, so if you want to see more, go to our Webshots website and click on the Southern Alabama album. These pictures start on page 3 of that album.
I must admit, this was not number one on my list of things to do, but being the supportive wife that I am (okay, I hear you all gagging out there!!), I figured Randy should get his way once in awhile! However, once I stepped into the museum, I was amazed. When you walk in the front door, you are greeted with this huge old airplane overhead. Then you look beyond that and there's a sculpure entitled, "Spirit of Aviation" and it has an aviator from each war from World War I to Desert Storm. Pretty impressive. You can then wander through the museum at your leisure or take a guided tour. We opted to wander.
We watched the IMAX movie, "The Magic of Flight." It was narrated by Tom Selleck which was good enough for me! I figured if I didn't like the movie, I could always just close my eyes and listen! hahaha But, the movie was great. It took you through the history of flight and also showed us how the Blue Angels train for the show they perform. Of course, being an IMAX movie, you were right there in the cockpit for all of the dips and rolls - pretty darn cool!
After the movie, we wandered through some more. There was a display called, "The Raft." It chronicled a survival story of three men who ended up lost at sea in the Pacific Ocean in 1942 for about 35 days in a rubber raft! They were found 1200 miles off course, but alive. Phenomenal, huh?
The Skylab module and a replica of Mercury were on display with their histories. A life-sized diorama of an aircraft carrier allowed you to walk through and get a feel for the tight quarters these folks live in. There was a flight deck laid out with planes on it and the Operations Center set up. And throughout the entire museum, there were planes, planes, and MORE planes!! (Imagine that - at an aviation museum!) You cannot begin to realize how many types of planes are in use - at least I was surprised.
A cool display was of Bob Hope and his annual Christmas shows. There was a life-sized Bob Hope wax figure on the "deck" of a ship, with pictures behind him of real Navy personnel. They had an audio loop playing of Bob Hope during one of these shows. That was neat.
There was an area dedicated to the Coast Guard personnel. Of course I had to take pictures there so I could send them to my daddy. Even though he is not involved in the aviation side of the Coast Guard, I know he'll get a kick out of them. I'm pretty proud of Daddy as he takes such an active role in the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Ocean City, MD.
One of the most emotional displays for Randy & me was a Viet Nam POW display. There was a video loop of Oliver North and John McCain speaking of their experiences as POWs. The display included donations of clothing, letters, newspapers, etc., from actual POWs. Even though I was still pretty young when Viet Nam ended, I still remember all of the anger - of the civilians AND the soldiers. I believe that is not a very proud part of our heritage. Randy feels very strongly about this war as it was definitely his era and he lost some buddies to it. Needless to say, this was a powerful display for us - so much so I didn't even realize I took no pictures of it until we got home.
Of course, there was a Blue Angels display. After seeing the IMAX movie, you find yourself staring at this planes and thinking, WHY??? These pilots are just nuts! But they sure love what they do! I have never had the pleasure of seeing them perform in person, but it's gotta be fantastic.
Once we left the museum, we went over to the Pensacola Lighthouse which is on base. Construction on this lighthouse began in 1856 and was lit in 1859 and is still in use today! This particular lighthouse replaced one that was built in 1824 and located on the Gulf Coast. We also got a great shot of the Gulf of Mexico from the lighthouse.
It was a great day. I'm either easily amused or pretty ignorant of our country - probably the latter, or maybe both - because it never ceases to amaze me all of the wonderful things there are to see and do. We are having such a blast finding them. Some of them everyone knows about, like the Aviation Museum. Others, like the town of Gruene, Texas, you can only find out about if you're there. I hope you get a chance to experience this, too!