Our second month in Lower Alabama has flown by. And, by the looks of the virtual stack of photos that are slated to be inserted into this post, it's obvious we had lots more fun. We kicked off the "second half" of our stay on Fat Tuesday by attending three of the last of the Mardi Gras parades in downtown Mobile.
When it comes to Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans may have the most famous. But, Mobile hosts the "original". They've been celebrating Fat Tuesday here since 1703. That was more than 15 years before The Big Easy was founded. The festivities in Mobile are very family friendly. But, like New Orleans, the day is all about the beads here, too. As Mardi Gras "newbies", we joined fellow Bella Terra guests in spending much of the day reaching for the sky and took home a bunch of beads. It was all very festive!
Between activities, Paul found time to complete a moose-sized waxing job. (My job, of course, was to be the official photographer!) With this annual job wrapped up, Bullwinkle is one super shiny moose!
A highlight of our stay here in Lower Alabama was a day trip to the nearby Naval air station at Pensacola, Florida, to visit the Naval Aviation Museum. We spent a morning here, and it really wasn't enough time.
Our visit began with a trip out to the "flight line" to view the planes on display outside. Our tour guide was this retired Naval aviator who added so much to the experience with his very personal perspective. His flight jacket alone told many stories.
Inside, in nearly 300,000 square-feet of exhibit space, the museum houses a most impressive display of more than 150 aircraft and spacecraft from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard.
NAS Pensacola is home to the Navy's Blue Angels. The squadron conducts practices here twice a week, but we were a couple of weeks early. These retired A-4E Skyhawks on display in the museum's atrium were as close as we got to this elite aerobatic team. (One of many reasons to come back!)
Can you guess what makes this helicopter famous?
This VH-3A Sea King helicopter was part of the Marine One fleet during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Doesn't Paul look presidential?
As a couple of kids who came of age in the 70s, we found the display saluting those who served in Vietnam particularly poignant. This replica of a typical Vietnam-era Navy stateroom was a reflection of that "groovy" time.
It had been years since either of us had seen a POW/MIA bracelet. But, this simple and powerful display rekindled vivid memories of wearing a simple metal band engraved with the name of a captured or missing member of the military whom we hoped and prayed would make it home safely.
The museum is definitely the type of place you can visit again and again. We look forward to making a return visit the next time we're in the area. It's a very interesting and special place, indeed.
We topped off our day in Pensacola with a wonderful lunch with fellow travelers. Marti and Paul (center) are new fulltime travelers whom we had yet to meet in person. And, we hadn't seen Chuck and Anneka since we tracked each other down at Winnebago's Grand National Rally in 2010. It was a real treat to see these good people and spend time getting to know each other.
Lower Alabama is a popular spot for winter travelers, which has made it a wonderful place to reconnect with friends. We enjoyed catching up with Darrell and Judy and Mike and Peggy over a delicious lunch in Gulf Shores.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Loralie and Lee, with whom we lunched in nearby Summerdale. These two fine folks are members of our fulltime RVing "Class of 2009", but it took the four of us a few years to cross paths. We're so glad we finally did.
We met lots of wonderful people during our stay at Bella Terra. A couple of our favorites are neighbors and new friends Christi and Kim. We thank all of our traveling friends for the great fun we've had together during our time in LA. We wish them all safe travels and look forward to seeing them down the road. As exciting as it is to visit so many amazing places, it's the people we meet that make this journey so satisfying. (Thanks, y'all!)
We marked off another stop on our "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" list and paid a visit to Panini Pete's in nearby Fairhope. The Muffaletta panini was a tasty reminder of our recent visit to New Orleans. And the handmade chips were worth every calorie. (And, of course, we washed it all down with some sweet tea!)
With all that food-oriented socializing, we made sure to make extra time to get out and exercise. We particularly enjoyed the trails in nearby Gulf Shores State Park. We spent enough time on these trails to log some much-needed miles and pick up a few geocaches, too.
Speaking of geocaches, we went back to the scene of our record-breaking caching day to break another record! This map shows more than 200 caches that have been hidden along a 30-mile stretch of a highway between Bay Minette, AL and the Florida state line. This is how our map looked before our return trip. The yellow "smiley faces" are the 67 caches we found on our first record-breaking day. (Click to enlarge and actually see those smiling faces.)
On our return trip, we picked up 100 caches! Here's the map after we logged all those finds. A "century day" is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these geocachers! The little green icons are caches we left for next time. (We will be back!)
The highlight of our record-breaking caching day was making our 1000th find. With that, it's official: We are geocaching geeks!
Between the parades, motorhome maintenance, tours, food, friends, exercise and geocaching, we have managed to make time to kick back, relax and just chill.
We're just following the lead of our boy kitty. When it comes to chilling, he's a champ!
As the sun sets tonight on the last night of our stay at lovely Bella Terra, we're looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow. It's always a bit tough to leave a place after you've fallen in love. We will take with us many wonderful memories, and we look forward to returning to this lovely spot again.