Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day: Soaring With the Blue Angels

Heading east from Louisiana, we spent a few days at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, Florida before heading to our current location in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Hiking trails and boardwalks brought us to the quiet lagoon where alligator sightings were possible,

... but it was much more likely that a stately Blue Heron,

or beautiful Egret would greet us.

The beautiful views of the lagoon made us excited to realize that maybe, just maybe we have escaped "winter".

Hoping to walk the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, we drove five miles down the road to Johnson Beach Road. Gulf Islands National Seashore provided miles of white sand beach walking,

... as well as the sighting of dolphins eating, playing and just enjoying the open sea. We were reveling in the peaceful beauty when the roar of jet engines interrupted the quiet. Looking up, we realized that we were near the the Naval Air Base in Pensacola, home of the US Naval Demonstration Squadron ... more commonly known as the ...

Checking their website, we realized that we could see their midweek practices practically in our backyard and also drive down the road to visit the FREE Naval Aviation Museum (retirees like FREE).

Our first show location came as a result of the recommendation of a local resident. He swears that the nearby Walmart parking lot is the best viewing location. Lounging in the sun in Walmart's lot definitely gave us some great views as well as a good reason to get out the sunscreen in November!

We got just enough of an adrenaline rush to want to see them up close and personal. Time to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum!

There is an amazing amount of aircraft in the museum, so the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to get in on one of the many tours that take place throughout the day. These tours are often led by retired Navy pilots who share their passion for these special flying beauties.

One favorite story is about a lead pilot's reaction when he first saw the Blue Angel Aircraft hanging in diamond formation from the museum's ceiling. These aircrafts were supposedly spaced the same distance apart as they are when in the tight diamond formation in the air. "Pretty good," he said, "but you have them spaced too far apart. We are flying much closer than that when we are performing."

Other museum exhibits celebrated the military service of many of our brave citizens ... a few who went on to serve the country in other ways.

The exhibit on military life reflected some of the hardships these vets endured both in the air and on the ground. These shower rules in a southeast Asia camp may sound familiar to any RVer who has spent any length of time without full hookups!

The day we came to the airbase to see the show, the bleacher viewing area was closed off, but we enjoyed the show from the museum's parking area.

Seeing these majestic planes climb, dive, roll, and fly upside down thrilled us, but the biggest thrill was being surrounded by active military as well as proud Veterans ... men and women who served and sacrificed to protect our freedom.

Until next time ... thank those who soar to great heights to protect us ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Habitat For Humanity Build #9: Mandeville, Louisiana

We just finished up another two week Care-A-Vanner build with the Habitat For Humanity affiliate in Mandeville, Louisiana. This affiliate usually has three to five houses in various stages of construction, so we quickly learned to be open to any type of work during our time there.

During each Habitat build, Doug and I often discuss what type of work we like best. This time we got to work on the two homes that were in the final stages of construction. The work on these involved completing stairs and decking, building fences, touch-up painting and lots of clean up ... something in each of our skill sets!

During two days of our build, we moved to a site with a house in the early stages of construction. This third house was going to require far more carpentry magic than I possess, and I had to fight the feeling that I lack the talents and skills needed to contribute to the end product.

But one day as I was cleaning the months of construction grime off the windows, I had some time to think ... lots of time as it took me two days to remove the layers of drywall mud, manufacturer's stickers, paint splatters and remnants of spray foam insulation gone bad.

And in the end, what joy to see the bright Louisiana sunshine glow through the shiny clean windows and reflect off the shiny clean tile floors!

As I worked, I thought about how God is also busy removing the grime that may build up in each of us. He allows us to use our talents to let our light shine forth as we successfully complete whatever task we are given on the Habitat build.

Our Light Shines ...

... When two engineers work together to complete an
"over-designed" and "way over-thought" set of stairs!

... When two conscientious women search out and
cover up all the white splatters on the dark siding
because "we want it to look nice"!

... When team leader Cherilyn patiently
teaches us about power tools, 

... while team leader Joe knows who needs
"just a little closer supervision" as they lay concrete!

... When a step is "added to the construction plan"
by volunteer Mike in order to make access
to the shed safer for the future homeowner!

... When these two newbies tackle the task
of marking the studs in order to facilitate the nailing of the siding,
and leave behind a few kisses and hugs!

... When the enthusiasm for cleaning the floors
brings out the song and dance,

... and finding a cleaning bucket becomes
a playful game of tug-of-war!

And Our Light Shines in the Smiles of the Future Homeowners ... 

... Anticipating making Christmas dinner
in her new kitchen!

... Looking forward to
"catching the bus" from their new front porch!
... Planning to give her teenage niece
a stable home with a "room of her own"!

A Habitat build can be difficult at times, but by letting our light shine, we help bring that dream of a peaceful home closer to reality for so many deserving families!

Until next time ... let your light shine ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Orleans and All That Jazz

Our most recent Care-a-Vanner build brings us to Slidell, Louisiana. Located on the "North Shore" of Lake Pontchartrain, it is a 45 minute drive into New Orleans. While our Habitat "work-ateering" (a little work with all the fun of volunteering) keeps us busy Tuesday through Saturday, we were able to explore the "Big Easy" on a few days off. Equipped with the AAA Travel Book and our "guides" Joanne and Gary, we explored the architecture, food, music, culture and All That Jazz that makes New Orleans unique.

Warning: getting in and out of New Orleans parking lots can be a bit of a challenge. One evening while listening to the jazz that filled the streets, Doug got a text that our parking was about to expire. But no worries, it was easy to pay for another hour electronically which is what he did ... only to get back to the car an hour later and find our tires had been locked for overdue parking. Thankfully, he was able to show the attendant the text extending our time ... thus saving us a $200 fine and unlocking fee!

Despite the challenges of traffic and parking, the strolls along the streets of the French Quarter

and the Garden District reveal the reward of strikingly unique architecture.

One afternoon we took a ride on the St Charles Avenue Streetcar (a bargain at $3 for a day pass) alongside the majestic live oaks and antebellum mansions of the Garden District.

Our walk among the pristine homes and gardens of the unique neighborhood revealed historical and architectural treasures of all kinds.

The house where Jefferson Davis,
President of the Confederacy,
passed away in on Dec 6, 1889.

Lafayette Cemetery
... looks like this site has an "opening"!

Ornate iron fencing

... that protect elaborate gardens.

Multi-million dollar mansions just
tempting us to become homeowners again
... NOT!

There are also culinary experiences that need to be on every tourist's list when visiting New Orleans.

Cafe du Monde's 
beignets and chicory coffee to jump start
your day ... or evening ... or night as it is open 24 hours a day!

 The Muffuletta, the traditional sandwich of New Orleans,
layered with Italian style meats, cheeses and the
"oh, so good" olive salad!

Shrimp, crawfish, catfish, crab, or oysters by themselves ...
or all together in one of New Orlean's famous seafood gumbos!

The Hurricane from Pat O'Briens ...
a fruity concoction with a wee-bit of alcohol
that goes down just a little too well on a
hot and humid New Orleans afternoon!

And for Doug and all the non fru-fru drinkers out there ...
numerous craft breweries
and at least one New Orleans' souvenir coaster! 

Music ... and specifically ... Jazz is the heart and soul of New Orleans.

From the street corner musicians,

to the Bourbon Street bars,

to the open courtyard cafes,

to the historical
Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Orleans' establishments and musicians are entertaining while preserving the unique sound of Jazz for all ages to enjoy.

But probably the most surreal experience for these tourists was the distinctly unique culture of New Orleans. 

Located along the lower Mississippi River, this town has embraced the vibrant cultural influences of many people, past and present. As tourists, we quickly learned ...

that people of all walks of life ... young, old, rich, poor ...
embrace the Bourbon Street scene in spite of the
unsavory smells of liquor and garbage that linger in the street.

that Jazz, Rock n Roll, and Rap musicians,
alongside young kids drumming on plastic buckets,
fill the streets with pulsating beats,

that friends can smile through a Hurricane,

And enjoy 
All That Jazz ... together!

Until next time ... embrace All That Jazz that surrounds you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Mardi Gras Beads for Minnesota Viking Fans!
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