Pensacola, FL-April 24-68 miles

Today we had a bit of an unusual start to our ride.  After breakfast, we all rode 2.5 miles to the Mobile Bay Ferry, scheduled to depart at 8:00 AM.  Our spirits were upbeat as we all took pictures and joked around about the ride.

Getting ready for the ferry














Then it was time to go.  As it turned out, we had the ferry to ourselves.

Getting on the Ferry














Our Subaru was the only car













Since the ride took about 30 minutes, we had time to check out our surroundings and take many more pictures.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth fell while walking down the steps and bruised her arm.  It must have been quite painful, but she was able to ride.  The Mobil-Exxon rig in the picture is drilling for natural gas.  According to what we read, it has a zero discharge policy, so operates in an environmentally friendly way.

Exxon Rig














Pasha and I enjoyed the wind in our hair.

What a beautiful day














As we departed the ferry, we saw Fort Morgan at the tip of the land.  It is interesting how Ft. Gaines on Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan protected US interests in the bay in the 1800s.  The construction of the forts reminded me of Fort Pulaski.  For more information on Fort Gaines see .  Fort Morgan became known during the Civil War, when Admiral Farragut led a fleet close to Mobile Bay.  In the confusing of battle, the USS Tecumseh seemed to hesitate.  At that moment he shouted those famous words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”  The fort operated until after World War II.At about mile 34 we entered Florida at Perdido Key. 

All along this route, we were both amazed and dismayed at the number of high-rise condos going up along the shore.  As in so many other places, soon there will be few beaches that the common folk can enjoy.  And, I would what would happen there if another Katrina hit the area.  It was rather challenging at times navigating around dump trucks, forklifts, construction barricades, etc.On the outskirts of Pensacola, our cue sheet indicated that we could turn right off our route to see the National Museum of Naval Aviation at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.  I had made up my mind early in the day that I would go there, since my dad, Howard Bland, had been stationed there during World War II teaching pilots to fly.  I was hoping to find some record of his having been there.  Alas, the database was under repair.  As I told the riders with me that I was going, one of them said she would go, too.  So, Barb and I entered the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and rode three miles to the museum.

Nancy at Naval Air Station














National Museum of Naval Aviation














Outside the museum














The museum was awesome with so many planes from different eras of naval air history. 

Plane in Museum




























This bronze depiction shows aviators from four eras, reliving a flight.

Tale of a flight













It was in 1911 that the Navy ordered its first airplanes and its first naval aviator, Lt. Theodore Ellyson reported for flight training.  Quite ironically, a John Henry Towers, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, was taught to fly by Ellyson and qualified as Naval Aviator Number 3 in September 1911.  He was the first commander of the naval aviation station at Pensacola that eventually became the flight training school for Navy pilots.  Hmmm, wonder if Matt might have a family connection there on his dad’s side?  Maybe his love of flying comes from both sides of the family.  After walking through exhibits for a while, we decided to see The Magic of Flight at the Imax Theater, featuring the Blue Angels.  Another irony was that a Blue Angel pilot was killed in Beaufort just last weekend.  The Pensacola Naval Air Station is the home of the Blue Angels.  Signs and flowers on the right are in memory of Kevin Davis, the downed Blue Angel.

Home of the Blue Angels














After having visited the Udvar-Hazy Museum in Virginia, I have a greater appreciation for aviation history.  There was so much to see.  I hope to visit this place again and spend more time, hopefully with Bill, Polly and Matt.  Leaving the museum, we still had 20 miles to ride.  While there was a lot of traffic, thankfully, we rode in a bicycle lane.  The final 5 miles were on Scenic Highway US 90, that follows a bluff along the Gulf.  It would have been a beautiful ride had it not been for rush hour traffic, unexpected hills and a small shoulder for riding.  We finally pulled into the hotel about 5:00, exhausted.  But, it had been a rewarding day.  Even though the detour had caused us to get in late, I was glad we went.

This entry was posted in 2007 Cross Country Cycling Tour, Cycling. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pensacola, FL-April 24-68 miles

  1. Paul Tillery says:

    Still enjoying reading about your travels and the beautiful pictures. Keep it coming.

  2. Mike Towers says:

    I didn’t know about a Towers connection to the Naval flight program. We have been doing some research into the family tree and will have to check it out. It is always nice to find some luminaries in the mix. Do you recall flying with Sandy Cocalis, former Marine pilot, to Pensacola in a crashing thunderstorm and then visiting Ft. Morgan when the weather cleared? That would have been around 1971. I think that landing was one of the few that had me wondering if we were going to make it. A few years ago Paige and Marc Rodriguez were stationed at the Pensacola where he got his wings. He later came back as a flight instructor and invited me to the USMC birthday ball which was held at the Naval Air Museum. Marc is now with the Air Force and deployed as a test pilot at Boeing in Seattle. Everybody seems to be sliding to the west coast.
    I have been vicariously enjoying your journey. Your courage in undertaking such an adventure came as no surprise to me. I am very proud of you.

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