20 May - 28 June 2014 Treasure Island - Three Rooker Bar - Carrabelle - Ft. Walton Beach - Pensacola

     More than a month has passed since I last tried to "catch up" on this blog.  It's difficult to play and then have time and energy to write but if I don't make haste and get cracking on getting you up to snuff as to where we are this day---7 July---this blog will be worse than ancient history, yellowed with age, and covered in cobwebs so probably more photos than text...again.

     While in Fernandina Beach in April, we met "new friends", Gary and Carol, who live on Anna Maria Island, FL.  Just before we departed Marina Jacks in Sarasota, they chauffeured us around the city, across to Siesta, St. Armand's, Lido, Longboat, Bradenton Beach, then to Anna Maria.  

     There is one area where peacocks run free----dozens of them.  When they drove us over to see them, there must've been a mass exodus just before we arrived because we saw only a couple...but all the lawns are really green.  The end of the island chain is Anna Maria where we visited in their lovely home, admired Carol's creative decorating touch as an interior designer and also enjoyed many of her pieces of artwork in various mediums.  She's certainly a talented lady.

     We love "joints" like this but how did Carol and Gary know???!!!  After more sightseeing, we had lunch here...a little restaurant on the water with dining outside beneath the sprawling trees, under a covered patio, or inside.  Of course we did not opt for inside.  Wouldn't you think that living on the water and looking at it day and night, we'd want a change of scenery?  We don't and we take every opportunity to dine with a water view.  65% of an adult man's body is water and for an adult woman, about 55%, so maybe we just have an uncontrollable yen to return to the seas.  I could stay in the water swimming forever and never want to emerge...but not Bill, so much.  Often I wonder if I was fathered by Neptune.

The outdoor seating provides such an unruffled sphere for a leisurely meal.


                       A few additional photo ops found while still in Sarasota.




                  One of our bike rides delivered us to this beautiful spot

     
     Pressing on to Treasure Island, we had yet another serendipity.  Active Captain is a site we heavily depend upon and daily put to use.  There was a posting that a couple in Treasure Island moved their boat to the Chesapeake so their dock is available for anyone who may wish to use it. We took advantage of their kind offer resulting in two new friends.  They said that often their friends ask why they offer their "back yard" to total strangers and the reply, "Why not?  All cruisers are brothers."

     On our walk across a bridge to see the immense expanse of the Treasure Island beach, these little guys graced sections of the overpass and since we travel slowly and carry all our worldly possessions with us (and our house/shelter) I have an affinity for turtles.


     Treasure Island is unquestionably "Old Florida".  The distance from the street to the water--which comprises the "beach" must be the distance of 3 city blocks before ever reaching the water.




     I love sand sculptures!  The time, focus, and patience it must take to form one of these creations is beyond my comprehension.  Think I must've been behind the door when the gift of patience was doled out.


     After parking the car, a beach-goer/sun-worshiper would probably look very closely, making sure they had everything they need for their day of beach frolic
because you can see how far the yellow beach umbrellas are from the street.  Visitors who come to Treasure Island Beach are almost knocked over by the shear width of it.  The city bills itself as having the "Widest Beach on the Gulf Coast" and I doubt that that's arguable.  The sand isn't as Mother Nature created it a few million years ago because it's been "renourished".  We can point our collective finger to big storms and erosion to blame for the loss of the beautiful soft sand for which Florida beaches are known.



     Time to thank the Wrights, our generous hosts, for the use of their slip and continue our adventure where our next stop will be Three Rooker Bar (as in sand bar).  We spent a couple nights here on the hook and took the kayak in to the bar/spit of beautiful sand, to play in the Gulf.  Hundred of shells, small pieces of driftwood, and sponge fragments were littering the beach.  This  is a beautiful spot with water so clear I could see my feet no matter how far out I swam.


     
     Look at the mass of humanity that converges on the weekend and a great diversity of boat handling skills and seamanship, or the lack thereof.

     We began our first and extremely dreaded overnight crossing from Three Rooker Bar. Unless necessary for some very dire cause, our ideal cruising limit is about 5 hours but sometimes we'll do 8.  We love to be anchored mid-afternoon and kick back with a book or an on-going project.  Lots of friends are no strangers to overnight passages but it has never been an experience that we've coveted.  At noon we departed this beautiful anchorage to inaugurate our virgin overnight 19 hour crossing to Carrabelle, FL.  No moon and a total absence of traffic for the entire crossing.  Radar, Auto Pilot, and AIS running; chart plotter and iPad with Active Captain Companion were all lit up at the helm station.  We did really well till about 0100 or 0200 when we both silently began subtracting the current time from our projected ETA of 0700.  We confessed later that we did that often thinking we'd ticked off another hour but it was only 5 or 10 minutes since our last calculation.  Dancing!  Singing!  Jumping Jacks! Push ups!  Running in place!  What ever it took to stay awake, we employed.  And sunrise at last assuring us that our destination couldn't be too much longer.


     We're arrived at last...and safely.  After a coveted nap, we deployed the tender for some Carrabelle exploration.  So many friends have said, "you've GOT to stop in Carrabelle" so we were expecting grand and glorious stuff.  Wow!!!  We were over-whelmed, not with the beauty, but with abject poverty and squalor.  Windows of houses and buildings were broken out with shards lying everywhere; trash and garbage strewn far and wide; raggedy old vehicles; everybody looked alike and not too many of them had all 28 teeth.  We went into the only grocery store and the prices were exorbitant.  It's a wonder these people can afford to feed their families.  There were several little restaurants hanging out over the water and we like "shabby" but this were an appalling kind of poverty-stricken shabby. After a walking tour that was unnerving even in the day time, we were happy to return to our home at anchor just off Carrabelle Beach.

     Next morning we were rested and looking forward to moving on.  As we cruised we came upon this atypical sight of a small boat moving this contraption with a side tow.  
       Then a bit farther along nearing Apalachicola, we spied this sad sight.  


      
     Stemming back to my days spent in Ft. Walton Beach and Destin as a fresh-out-of-college secondary teacher, I became enamored with oysters on the half shell and since Apalachicola is "famous" for their oysters, I wanted to stop there for some and call that lunch.  (Bill can't even bear to look at them.)  We were in a month without an "R" so I googled what I thought to be an Old Wives Tale.

     Most folks will say that "R" month rule doesn't matter anymore and it doesn't if they're grilled or fried---they're about the same year round.  But to eat them raw in a "R" free month is gross.  On the Gulf Coast the temps are too high in the summer and that's also their spawning season.

     Apalachicola is more village than town and there's only one electric street light in the whole place.  They sport an unusual number of restaurants  featuring mostly seafood which isn't surprising since greater than 186 species of fish are found in Apalachicola Bay with their oysters earning worldwide attention.  This is one of the only places in our country where wild oysters are still harvested by tongs from small boats.  As we flee winter temps heading south, we should be in an "R" month and I'm anticipating some big ol' succulent oysters on the half shell.
     We anchored later that day in Wetapoo Creek.  An engaging setting but such a strange name reminding me of what a young puppy could be called sans "Creek".






     Moving right along and now we're in Destin/Ft. Walton Beach area, my old stomping grounds from long ago and far away.  Sadly and from my perspective, Destin has lost it's charm.  Nothing quaint about it anymore and it looks like any Myrtle Beach, USA or Pigeon Forge on the Beach.  We walked the entire area looking, unsuccessfully, for anything recognizable.  This old VW Thing is still cute and a great eye-catcher as a proclamation of their rental jet skis.


      A.J.'s is a boater-friendly restaurant overlooking East Pass.  It's fine with them if you tie up at their dock to explore the town or if you choose to stay there overnight, they're fine with that, too.  We enjoyed a great meal on their deck overlooking the anchorage and pass.  This is their picturesque schooner.



     We dinked across to the sand dune separating the anchorage from the Gulf and East Pass.  Now this is just as pretty as I remember it but this could be probably many places along the Gulf Coast.



     This is pretty, I suppose, if you never knew Destin in the "olden days".  Back then there wasn't anything much taller than a little 1 or 2 story cinder block building.

     Leaving sad and commercial Destin in our wake we're teaming west toward Ft. Walton Beach to get together with 2 other cruising couples we've met in the past year.
     What-a-Burger is a rare sight.  My children's dad, when he was a kid, used to work at one back in the...'olden days'.  Had no idea they were still in existence. A deja vu!  



     I'm disappointed that there are no photos from Ft. Walton Yacht Club and our friends, Roy and Kim, and Matt and Deanna.  We had a rockin' blast with them so guess hilarity, levity, and high spirits eclipsed the desire to immortalize those moments.  Sorry, guys!  The yacht club is just down the street from where, Joanne, my college suite mate and later, school marm housemate, used to live right there on Cinco Bayou.

     Pensacola is where I grew up.  My parents had a house built and moved in 2 weeks before I was born.  They lived in that house till the age of 96 when they moved nearby to an assisted living facility and both died at 98 years old within a few months of each other.

     Retracing my steps of yore on my bike was a fun trip down memory lane for me.  The house below has looked exactly like that since I was a child.  After church on Sunday night it was a ritual to go there and park outside to watch the widow swinging her lantern to signal her husband who'd been lost at sea.  This is right on the waterfront and although it was a reflection of a light somewhere, we didn't want to delve into the truth because it was more fun to believe the house was haunted.
     

     Pensacola has made two enormous mistakes as far as preserving the history of the city.  Razing the San Carlos Hotel and building an ugly nondescript monster in its place is number one.  Purging Trader Jon's of the contents of memorabilia that no one seems to know where it might be sequestered, is the 2nd travesty. 

     Trader Jon's was founded by Martin "Trader Jon" Weissman and his wife in 1953.  He was a former WW II Army paratrooper. He and his wife had operated bars in Miami and Key West prior to moving to Pensacola. The naked building remains and dates back to 1896 when a ship chandlery operated from there but when the Weissman's purchased the building, it had already become a bar.

     The bar was widely known for the eccentricities of Weissman who didn't set prices for drinks--they varied depending on his mood and how well acquainted he was with the customer.  He wore mismatched socks and promised a reward for anyone who ever found him wearing a matching pair.  His collection began when he set about exchanging drinks for bits of Navy memorabilia which led to the bar's signature collection and helped reinforce his "Trader" moniker.

     This bar was the basis of the fictional club "TJ's" in the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, and whose inspiration came from the Officer Candidate School at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

     There was an exhaustive collection of Naval Aviation paraphernalia inside the bar and soon became a tourist attraction and a sanctuary, not just for Navy pilots, but for aviation enthusiasts from all over the world.  Weissman offered a tour when he'd point out pieces that he was particularly found of such as the Tailhook Rhinoceros.  I'm kinda guessing at the meaning so if someone knows, please set me straight.  The F-4 Phantom was nicknamed the Rhinoceros and since they did carrier landings, I'm guessing this is the tail hook from an F-4.  As rabbit trail---the F-4 was also known as the Double Ugly but I always really found that aircraft to be "esthetically appealing"--to me. Trader's tour spiel could never be substantiated but he recited the allegories with such sincerity that it was impossible to consider that they might be anything but the gospel.  One of his tales was told when he pointed to a musty saddle claiming that it was a gift from John Wayne. Mr. Wayne did actually frequent the bar when in Pensacola so who knows---maybe the saddle was his. He also declared that Trader Jon's was in the Guinness Book of World Records for having "the largest Civilian collection of Naval Aviation Paraphernalia", which, if it wasn't, it certainly should've been.

     He was most proud of the Blue Angel Museum that he opened in the annex adjacent to the main bar.  This was his pride and joy.  It featured composite photos of the team from years back and also showcased pictures of the Blues all the way back to the team's inception.  Every November when the Blues would return home, Weissman threw a huge Homecoming Party for them.
     
     Trader Jon's closed in 1998, a year after the owner suffered a debilitating stroke and he died 2 years later.  A group known as the Trader Jon's Preservation Squadron led by a former Blue Angels lead pilot and a USMC major, raised $300,000 to preserve the bar and its contents as a restaurant and museum.  Their purchase offer was rejected by Weissman family who wanted to see the club remain open.
       In 2000, a Navy flight instructor and his wife purchased the business for $465,000 and spent an estimated $150,000 on renovations.  They reopened the bar on September 1, 2000, which would have been Weissman's 85th birthday.
     The bar closed for good November 2003 when the IP and wife divorced.  The building was sold for $565,500 to a couple who planned to expand their women's boutique into the space...but these plans were later scrapped.
     The collection of Navy memorabilia was appraised at approximately $2 million, purchased by a law firm, and donated to the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.  The hackneyed "they" said that the collection will be featured in the Admiral John H. Fetterman State of Florida Maritime Museum and Research Center.  Prior to the admiral's death, he stated that his desire was to see the Trader Jon's name return in the form of the museum's restaurant.
     The most recent update I could find regarding these "plans" is dated 2008.  The museum was intended to be built on the waterfront where the new baseball stadium calls home.  As of June 2014, sadly, none of this had even begun.

     


     When Bill wanted to make reservations in Pensacola for a month I thought that was far too long thinking we could see and do it all in a week with days left over.  A month was NOT long enough.  We're making a bucket list for our return there in the fall.  The NAS Museum is more than a day's worth.  We arrived when it opened and they ran us out at closing.  Planned to go back for day 2 but ran out of time.  We were there when The Blues practice behind the museum.  That's always a skin-prickling treat.

     Concluding our morning walk/run/ride, we ducked into Seville Quarter, a very old building with character, history, and ambience galore, for coffee and beignets.  I was all puckered up for NOLA Cafe Du Monde beignets...to which these bore not the slightest resemblance.  The coffee was wonderful and comes from Ft. Walton which seems a bit unusual...but that's what our server told us.



     Are we using these morning exercise time allotments truly for exercise or are our feet just our transportation to pig out?  We do love Bagelheads and never a trip to Pensacola is complete without breakfast there.  Their coffee's good, too, but not as good as the quaint historic place above with the pseudo-beignets.

     Our day spent at the NAS Museum was priceless.  There is so much naval history there and the docents are old, little, retired Navy pilots and as they tell the stories, their eyes glisten with the exciting memories of their days defending our country as they flew missions.

     This is the Pensacola Light House that we wanted to visit and climb to the top but that's an item on our Bucket List for the fall.





     Never am I able to capture the true beauty of the moon.  This was the view from our slip at the end of Palafox Pier reflecting off Pensacola Bay.

     Our oldest son, Chad, and his little family live in Daphne, AL, very close to Pensacola.  He came by himself to spend a weekend and we wanted him to experience cruising and anchoring out.  They have a boat but it's a go-fast, have-fun, and maybe do some fishing boat.  We took him to the Ft. McCree Anchorage within sight of the NAS, thinking it'd be a treat for him but unbeknownst to us, he and his family go there all the time!!!  Seems to be the hanging out spot for boaters in that area.  Other than his view being familiar, he enjoyed the lifestyle for a brief moment that his mom and step-father experience day in and day out and of which we never weary.  We fought the "flying teeth" as we walked around Ft. McCree seeing a bit of history, but returned to the boat with less flesh and blood!

     This struck us as being a strange raft-up----a sailboat, a deck boat, and a go-fast boat.  These aren't even remotely bed fellows, especially the sail and go-fast so thought it made for a Kodak Moment.
The Pensacola Light is always keeping a watchful eye and we feel that we're in her care.

     
     I've had this Eddie Bauer kite for probably 25 years and even though it aged, I didn't and I still extract it when the wind is right for kite flying.  But I wasn't the only child out there who was flying a kite!
     
     We enjoyed Chad's visit so very much.  I don't get enough opportunities to spend unhurried one-on-one time with him.




     While in Pensacola I got to spend time with my friend from the 3rd grade, Emily; my friend from kindergarten who has a memory like a steel trap, Bob; my deceased parents next door neighbors (then)--Jean Elise, CoCo, and LeLe; made new friends; rode our bikes all over the place; gave public transportation a whirl but it is in need of major improvement in scheduling; accomplished our semi-annual dental prophylactics; took some yoga classes; every Thursday night found us at Seville Square for great concerts; Father's Day we went to the Little Theatre to see a young group (none older than 18) perform Taming of the Shrew; Bill connected with Gary, a friend from years ago when they both worked at Michelin; couple of trips made to the cemetery--not generally a place I hang out but wanted to find head stones from my maternal side of the family and in the process I found many names that rocketed back memories of people I hadn't thought of in decades or half a century; and by myself, I took a couple of long nostalgic bike rides down memory lane--some were heart warming; some were sad and one just set my teeth on edge causing me to pedal as fast as I could to remove it from my line of sight.  I stopped in front of my kindergarten, elementary and junior high schools; visited the sight of my friend, Bob's, family pharmacy where I proudly announced upon my arrival home from school one day when I was in 4th grade that "I wrote my name on the window sill of Bob's dad's drug store."  Everybody else always did things like that and that was my initial offense.  Got to hear the little poem about "Monkey's names and Monkey's faces are always seen in public places" and strict orders to return to the scene of the crime with a very good eraser and eradicate every single pencil mark that that was ever emblazoned there for all to see.  Didn't make it to the high school but we were there just over a year ago for my 55th reunion and it's not changed.  

     Our too short month there made us reluctant to leave...but it was time.  I'm feeling so relieved to finally be "catching up" on our continuing saga and will leave you here because out next stop is the beginning of our trip up the rivers.

Till sooner than later, I hope---
Bill and Laura aboard Kindred Spirit III
7 July 2014

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