Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mobile Alabama

While skimming through some of my photos tonight, I found a collection of pictures I had taken during one of our trips through the City of Mobile Alabama. We've been 'through' Mobile several times but never really drove into the City to look around. Jasmine had to be left at the vets for her periodic glucose curve, so we had the day to explore. We decided to simply drive around Mobile, catch some lunch and just enjoy the area. I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as I did taking them.

Let's start with the Bankhead Tunnel. This tunnel allows traffic to proceed to the downtown area under the Mobile River.  You may remember seeing it in the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"...Richard Dreyfus drives through the tunnel while chasing UFOs.

The tunnel itself was built in 1940 at a cost of $4 million. It was constructed in pieces, off site, then floated into position and sunk. The pieces were then connected underwater. When completed, the tunnel was then pumped dry and flood gates installed.

The tunnel is 40' under water to allow ships to pass above it.

Since Mobile is a major shipping port, many barges and container ships navigate the waters of Mobile Bay and the Mobile River carrying many different products. This area was used to off load several types of rock and gravel. The barges can be seen in the picture.

While looking for a place for lunch, we spotted this art deco style building downtown.

We finally settled on a small deli across the street from this beautiful park. Al Fresco dining on a warm summer day is a perfect way to enjoy life.

This fantastic building is the terminal for the Gulf-Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The GM&O was a major player in the railroad business from 1938 to 1972 before finally merging with the Illinois Central Railroad. It had almost 3,000 miles of track.

Besides product, the Mobile River and surrounding area is home to tankers coming to deliver crude oil to be used in nearby refineries. There are many holding tank farms along the river bordering Mobile.

Mobile, Alabama skyline.

Battleship Memorial Park is a military history park and museum located just off I-10 on the western shore of Mobile Bay.

On display are many different types of military aircraft, ships and tanks. It's famous for and named after the battleship USS Alabama, which is on display along with a Gato-Class Submarine, USS Drum.

The USS Alabama was commissioned in 1942 and saw service in World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was decommissioned in 1947 and assigned to reserve duty. She was officially retired in 1962 and delivered to Mobile Bay in 1964 where she remains as a museum.

The USS Alabama accumulated nine US Navy  battle stars for its' service in World War II.

After its' retirement in 1962, an effort by the State of Alabama was begun to save this great battleship from being scrapped. Alabama schoolchildren pitched in change from their lunch monies to raise over $100,000 towards its' preservation, with the remainder of the over $1 million necessary funds coming from corporate sponsors.

The ship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

In Mobile Bay, a lone fisherman tries his luck to bring home a bounty for his table.
I'm not sure, but I don't believe this puppy can fly. Someone spent a significant amount of time and money putting it together though. It didn't look like it had been moved in quite awhile....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fort Pickens, Gulf Island National Seashore, Pensacola Beach, Florida

We decided to step back in history a bit and explore the Historic Fort Pickens in nearby Pensacola Beach, Florida. While we were there, we thought we'd check out their campground as well. We had considered visiting there last year but decided on staying on in Destin instead so we missed checking it out then. We decided to visit Nevarre Beach first and come in from the East. From there, it's a long drive along the seashore to Fort Pickens which sits at the very end of the peninsula. This was also nesting season for many sea birds and sea turtles. As a result, the entire drive along the peninsula, some 35 miles, was limited to 25 mph or less. However, we did finally reach our destination and enjoyed the area around the Fort a lot. Unfortunately, we did not find the campground  suitable for a rig of our size. Following are some pictures of the Fort and surrounding area. It was well worth the trip.

Fort Pickens is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore which contains most of the barrier islands along the Florida and Mississippi coastlines with the Gulf of Mexico. Interestingly, some of the islands off the southern coast of Alabama were considered for inclusion but as yet, are not. The reason is unclear.

The entry road along the seaside is beautiful. It is home to many species of shore birds and turtles make it their home for breeding. The white sugar sands are perfect for breeding grounds. To understand how soft the sands are, we saw one species of shore bird dive right into the sand and disappear. Very interesting, but unfortunately I have yet to identify which species it was. They were tiny white birds and I'm still searching.

Fort Pickens has an interesting past.  It is a pentagonal, meaning five sides and angles, military fort on the Santa Rosa Island in Florida. It was completed in 1834 and remained in use until 1947. It was built to fortify Pensacola Harbor. Built with over 21.5 million bricks by African American slave labor,  Fort Pickens not only protected the island but the harbor as well. 

As you approach the fort, it's size alone is immense. Several cannons still adorn the walls sitting silently as though still protecting the fort, the island and the harbor. It was the largest of a group of forts built to protect this area and the islands.

Fort Pickens was manned by the United States forces during the American Civil War. In 1861 the Confederates mounted several attacks on the fort in an attempt to overcome the Northern army. Their attempts failed and Fort Pickens remained under the control of the Union forces. It was one of the few southern forts to remain in the hands of the Union army throughout the war.

Imagine the stories these walls could tell and the men who stood inside them to protect the surrounding areas.

In the mid 1880's Fort Pickens was used to house prisoners from the Indian Wars. Captives from the West were transported to the East and held in the Fort. From October 1886 to May 1887, the Apache War Chief, Geronimo, and several of his warriors were housed here.

I felt it important to include the entry gate into the Fort. Be sure to visit this interesting place if you're in the area.

How important was the Fort to protecting Pensacola Bay? From Fort Pickens, looking across the bay we see the Naval Base at Pensacola, home of the famed, Blue Angels. Keep this in mind if you're in the area as they practice weekly during the summer months, weather permitting and the viewing is free. Arrive early though as seating and parking is limited and it's always a popular event.

We saw many of these shore birds nesting in the soft white sands along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

Be sure to stop in Pensacola Beach on your way back to the mainland. While the trip along the Peninsula is quite long entering from the east, there is a quick exit near the west end of the Peninsula. This exit does take you across a toll bridge but for the $1.00 toll it's a perfect ending to a wonderful time spent in the area.
You'll find great shopping and fine seafood dining here.

Of course, no trip would be complete without some interesting items we found while out cruising, so I've included this picture and the one below it. I thought the architecture of this condominium complex was very interesting. It reminded me of a cruise ship.

At the entrance to a Skating rink, what better way to advertise than this way over sized skate shoe?

It appeared to be able to be driven, perhaps in parades.