Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life's A Beach!

Well we made it safely to our first destination – Pensacola Beach, Florida. This is a place we know well and have frequented during our tenure in New Orleans. Over the years, we have taken advantage of the ease of making a 3-hour drive (or 5 hours if you drive a 15-ton motorhome) to end up on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

What makes Pensacola Beach so beautiful is the sugar white sand and emerald water. Marry that with great beach bars, restaurants, boardwalks, shopping, museums, historic sites, and splendid natural beauty and you have a great vacation destination. 

Pensacola Beach is located on Santa Rosa Island, one of the world’s longest barrier islands, formed 5,000 – 10,000 years ago. The entire beach is public and many access points are located on the island. Casino Beach is undoubtedly the most popular. This beach is populated by a much younger “active” crowd who enjoy seeing and being seen. There are restaurants, a fishing pier, bathrooms, amphitheater, and plenty of water activities. Our favorite beach is located within the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Small parking lots are scattered along the road and provide access to unspoiled, quiet beaches.

Pensacola Beach is known for the “sugar white sand” that blinds beachgoers in the bright sunlight. Also called “singing sand,” the soft powdery white substance is extremely fine-grained and squeaks when walked upon. The white sand comes from quartz which is the foundation of the Appalachian Mountains. Located far north of the gulf coast, the quartz makes its journey from the mountains to the sea by riding down rivers over millions of years. The fine-grained particles are easily scattered by the wind. Once the winds subside or they reach an obstacle, such as a blade of grass or driftwood, they fall out of suspension and begin to accumulate, hence forming dunes. A vital part of the beach ecosystem is sea oats. A widely-recognized beach plant which trap sand particles and provide stability to the dunes.

If you have never seen a Blue Angels air show, you are missing out. We are Blue Angel groupies - so much so that we just call them the “Angels” and never miss an opportunity to see them when we are here. The Angels are based out of the Pensacola Naval Air Station and dazzle the morning sky with their air aerobatics during their monthly practice sessions (which are also called “training maneuvers,” but never “tricks”). The air strip where the Angels take off and land is open to the public and makes for a great up close and personal view, albeit very loud! Bleachers and narrators make for an even better show and you are sure to watch with goose bumps and baited breath as their maneuvers appear to be humanly and mechanically impossible.

Located on the base is the National Naval Aviation Museum. I know what you are thinking….how interesting could a naval aviation museum be? Totally captivating! This is a really first-class museum (and not just because it is free) that is sure to entertain anyone for hours. The museum houses over 150 beautifully restored aircraft (representing the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), more than 4,000 artifacts, IMAX films, F-14 fighter plane simulator, guided tours, and the chance to mingle with retired veterans.

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