INCREDIBLY AWESOME

Post #37 -INCREDIBLY AWESOME – Day 189, November 9, 2014.  On board:  Jake Mycofsky, Paul Coates, Jim K.

Panama City, where we arrived on Tuesday after a 50 mile run, was a complete surprise – I expected a significant-sized city, but in reality it is no bigger than a medium-sized town.  Buildings along the main downtown street are virtually all only two and three stories high, and the downtown area is not very large. The city also felt a bit like a time-warp, like it was still the 50’s or 60’s.  On the other hand, there were only scattered vacant storefronts on the main drag, so the downtown area seems to be surviving.  Here are some images from our visit to Panama City:

This is a picture looking down the main street in the downtown area, which seemed stuck in the 50's or 60's - even the movie theater was showing a Humphrey Bogart movie!

This is a picture looking down the main street in the downtown area, which seemed stuck in the 50’s or 60’s – even the movie theater was showing a Humphrey Bogart movie!

We did find a great, funky restaurant in an out-of-the-way part of downtown Panama City - accessed through a series of dilapidated, covered docks, the restaurant is behind the docks, built on piers and overlooking a lagoon. The only seating on a covered/screened porch area. The restaurant is rustic, and the seafood was southern and right off the boats - everything was homemade.

We did find a great, funky restaurant called Bayou Joe’s in an out-of-the-way part of downtown Panama City – accessed through a series of dilapidated, covered docks, the restaurant is behind the docks, built on piers and overlooking a lagoon. The only seating is on a covered/screened porch area. The restaurant is rustic, and the seafood was southern and right off the boats – everything was homemade.

Looking inward toward the kitchen at Bayou Joe's

Looking inward toward the kitchen at Bayou Joe’s

Actually, everyone was quite friendly -

Actually, everyone was quite friendly –

The marina on the waterfront at panama City was quite nice with great views

The marina on the waterfront at panama City was quite nice with great views

Our next stop was Port St. Joe, Florida – and we re-entered the Eastern time zone! Port St. Joe is a tourist town that seemed to have an unusually large number of antique shops, along with some other tourist shops. A couple of pictures:

The main street in downtown Port St. Joe

The main street in downtown Port St. Joe

Part of the commercial shrimp and oyster fleet at Port St. Joe

Part of the commercial shrimp and oyster fleet at Port St. Joe

Port St. Joe is located on a very large bay that is also open at one end to the Gulf, Therefore, this large lighthouse was built to guide maritime traffic

Port St. Joe is located on a very large bay that is also open at one end to the Gulf, Therefore, this large lighthouse was built to guide maritime traffic

It's important to always have a plan -

It’s important to always have a plan –

In the first section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway heading east from Mobile – between Mobile Bay and Panama City – the Intracoastal runs directly behind barrier islands and the scenery is dominated by dunes, sand, and beaches. After Panama City, the waterway turns inland a bit and large sections follow rivers and dug canals – the scenery in these sections is dominated by lowland forest along the banks of the Waterway.  Here are some images along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway:

We have not yet gone aground on this trip, but it can happen in a flash - this large freighter is agound in the bay off Panama City. Two tugs are attempting to free it

We have not yet gone aground on this trip (knock on wood), but it can happen even to large, commercial, professionally-operated vessels – this large freighter is agound in the bay off Panama City. Two tugs are attempting to free it

:

A sand cliff along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

A sand cliff along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

In some areas, the steep sides of the Waterway are susceptible to erosion, with sand constantly washing into the Waterway

In some areas, the steep sides of the Waterway are susceptible to erosion, with sand constantly washing into the Waterway

A dredge working to clear erosion that has washed into the Waterway

A dredge working to clear erosion that has washed into the Waterway

Portions of the Waterway consist of canals dug through the sand to connect bays, inlets, rivers, and estuaries to form a continuous waterway that is protected from the sometimes-rough waters of the Gulf

Portions of the Waterway consist of canals dug through the sand to connect bays, inlets, rivers, and estuaries to form a continuous waterway that is protected from the sometimes-rough waters of the Gulf

I think these boats can still be salvaged -

There are a surprising number of sunken boats along this section of the Gulf Intracoastal

It's not clear to me whether these boats sank from neglect or were sunk by a hurricane or major storm and then abandoned

It’s not clear to me whether these boats sank from neglect or were sunk by a hurricane or major storm and then abandoned

This is the largest sunken vessel that we saw

This is the largest sunken vessel that we saw

A waterside house along the way

A floating house along the way

The reflection in the water in this picture and the next two show how smooth and peaceful the water was as we passed through parts of the rivers/canal section of the Waterway

The reflection in the water in this picture and the next two show how smooth and peaceful the water was as we passed through parts of the rivers/canal section of the Waterway

More reflections -

More reflections –

And one more - the character of the scenery is constantly changing

And one more – the character of the scenery is constantly changing

I include this picture with a very sad note - as we passed by the vicinity of Tyndall Air Force Base, we watched in awe as pilots performed training flights in F-16 fighter jets.  However, about mid-morning, we heard a Coast Guard announcement on the VHF radio regarding a report of a plane that had crashed into the water, and to be on the lookout.  We didn't see anything, but the reports went on most of the day. It was later confirmed that the plane crashed about 50 miles south of Panama City.  The pilot was killed.

I include this picture with a very sad note – as we passed by the vicinity of Tyndall Air Force Base, we watched in awe as pilots performed training flights in F-16 fighter jets. However, about mid-morning, we heard a Coast Guard announcement on the VHF radio regarding a report of a plane that had crashed into the water, and to be on the lookout. We didn’t see anything, but the reports went on most of the day. It was later confirmed that the plane crashed into the water about 50 miles south of Panama City, and that the pilot was killed.

Our next stop was Apalachicola – what an interesting town!  My first reaction biking around town was that it looked like it was built 15o years ago and then time stood still – nothing changed.  A closer exploration, however, reveals a town with a storied waterfront/port town history which has managed to evolve with changing times but also holds on steadfastly to its roots and its authenticity.  While it accommodates tourists, the fabric of the town and its people is fishing, seafood, the river, and the Gulf.

The town is located where the Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, which is one of only three navigable southern rivers that flow to the Gulf. The town grew quickly based on the shipment of cotton from Alabama and Georgia – in fact, the town was first named Cottonton before it was renamed West Point, and then Apalachicola. The cotton was loaded onto shallow-draft boats to be taken to ocean vessels anchored offshore, then onto ports in the North and in Europe. The first cotton shipment left town in 1822, and by 1840, up to 160,000 bales each year were being shipped and Apalachicola was the third largest cotton port in the US.   As a result, Apalachicola was the first Gulf port that the Union Navy blockaded at the outbreak of the Civil War. While some shipments made it out by blockade runners, the shipment of cotton diminished drastically and never really recovered after the war, partly because alternate routes had been established and partly because of inefficiencies due to the shallow water in the river and the nearby Gulf which prohibited the use of larger ships. The railroads then ended the cotton-shipping business in Apalachicola, since they provided a faster and cheaper method of shipment.  The town then reinvented itself by turning to the lumber industry. With an ample supply of cypress and pine trees from Georgia and Alabama, lumber mills were constructed in Apalachicola and prosperity returned.  In addition, the sponge industry grew to be a lucrative business in town. Sponge harvesting boats would set out from town for a month at a time, carrying 12-15 foot dinghies, each of which were manned by two people – one slowly moved the boat forward with a paddle while the other scouted the sea floor for sponges using a wooden box or bucket with a glass bottom to peer into the water. Sponges were brought to the surface with a long-handle, 3-pronged iron hook. By 1895, there were 16 sponge-harvesting boats operating from Apalachicola along with processing plants on shore.  Early in the 20th century, Greek businessmen came into town and introduced the harvesting of sponges by divers attached to umbilical cords for air.  This method was more efficient. and was adopted over time by the local people as well.

However, as the 20th century unfolded, the sponge industry declined due to foreign competition and the growing use of artificial sponges, which were much cheaper. Worse for the town, by around 1930, the lumber supply had been depleted, so the lumber industry declined rapidly as well.  Once again, however, Apalachicola reinvented itself again via the seafood and fishing industry. Apalachicola oysters are renowned as some of the best-tasting oysters in the world, and are featured in restaurants and fish markets throughout the south – in fact, Apalachicola supplies 90% of the oysters consumed in Florida and 10% of those consumed in the entire US. The harvesting of Gulf shrimp is also a thriving industry in town.

Today, Apalachicola has many great restaurants featuring fresh fish, shrimp, and oysters offloaded from the boats daily, as well as an assortment of antique shops, galleries and gift shops. However, the shops do not dominate the town as they often do in other places, and the town retains some of its grittiness and authenticity. It appears that an artists community is starting to take hold as well, which adds diversity to the town.

Here are some images from our stay in Apalachicola:

The buildings downtown retain their character from the thriving days of cotton

The buildings downtown retain their character from earlier times. This building was built in 1901 as a restaurant and rooming house. It was known at that time for the chef’s specialty, a “Whole Loaf” – the chef would hollow out a whole loaf of bread, then stuff it with oysters and sauces, then bake it. It sold for 20 cents. The restaurant also had a soda fountain where they made ice cream with a kerosene-driven freezer

One of the downtown streets -

One of the downtown streets –

Another historic downtown building -

Another historic downtown building –

 

There is a performing theater in downtown, but performances are help only during the winter months

There is a performing theater in downtown, but performances are held only during the winter months

Some of the antique stores in town are truly unique, with many unusual nautical items from the town's rich maritime history

Some of the antique stores in town are truly unique, with many unusual nautical items from the town’s rich maritime history

There is even a sponge shop in town, as commercial harvesting of sponges has reopened in recent years and locally-harvested sponges are available. Sponges today are still harvested by divers, much as they were 100 years ago after the Greeks introduced that method to Apalachicola early in the 20th century

There is even a sponge shop in town, as commercial harvesting of sponges has reopened in recent years and locally-harvested sponges are available. Sponges today are still harvested by divers, much as they were 100 years ago after the Greeks introduced that method to Apalachicola early in the 20th century

A thriving art community seems to be taking hold in Apalachicola

A thriving art community seems to be taking hold in Apalachicola

The Joint Adventure at the dock along the river in Apalachicola - even the waterfront is somewhat rustic and authentic, as seen in the next two pictures as well

The Joint Adventure at the dock along the river in Apalachicola – even the waterfront is somewhat rustic and authentic, as seen in the next two pictures as well

A small boat coming into the dock next to the Joint Adventure

A small boat coming into the dock next to the Joint Adventure

riverfront houses next to the dock, as seen from the bridge of the Joint Adventure

Riverfront houses next to the dock, as seen from the bridge of the Joint Adventure

Houseboats along a long boardwalk that goes out to a gazebo overlooking the bay - a spectacular place to watch the sunset

Houseboats along a long boardwalk that goes out to a gazebo overlooking the bay – a spectacular place to watch the sunset

We ate dinner on the upper deck of a restaurant called Up The Creek - located, appropriate, up a creek in Apalachicola. This picture is taken from the upper deck with the rays of the setting sun on the grasses as the sun was setting behind us

We ate dinner on the upper deck of a restaurant called Up The Creek – located, appropriately, up a creek in Apalachicola. This picture is taken from the upper deck with the rays of the setting sun on the grasses behind us

This picture was taken from the same spot, a couple of hours later after the rise of a full moon over the creek

This picture was taken from the same spot, a couple of hours later after the rise of a full moon over the creek and river. Notice the sky!

Come on, Dad, how long does it take to drink a beer?  We've been waiting here FOREVER!!

Come on, Dad, how long does it take to drink a beer? We’ve been waiting here FOREVER!!

By the way, we have really become ice cream snobs. One of us (the guilty shall remain unnamed…) was looking in town for an ice cream parlor, but instead came upon a place that only served gelato. This person bought some gelato, and started to enjoy it as he walked down the street. Three stores later, he came upon a real ice cream parlor. What would you do?  This unnamed person discarded the gelato and bought an ice cream.  A true ice cream snob…

So – our trip has been incredibly awesome for us so far, but that’s not what the title of this post refers to. When we visited the National Navy Museum last weekend, we learned that the 2014 Homecoming Show in which the Blue Angels officially return to their home base in Pensacola would be this weekend. We were only 4 hours away by car, so I rented a car Friday evening and set the alarm for 5:00 AM on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, Jake needed to get the airport in Panama City on Saturday morning, which was on the way to Pensacola. I therefore dropped him off and arrived at the air show by 9:30. If you’ve never been to a Blue Angels show, I suggest you put it on your bucket list. They tour the country, so will likely perform somewhere within driving distance of wherever you are within the next year or two.  In any case, I found the show to be Incredibly Awesome:

This was the sunrise, taken on the way to Pensacola on Saturday morning

This was the sunrise, taken on the way to Pensacola on Saturday morning

The show started with acrobatic biplanes from the early "barnstorming" days - these planes did dives, spirals, loops - you name it

The show started with acrobatic biplanes from the early “barnstorming” days – these planes did dives, spirals, loops – you name it

I was a hair slow on the trigger, but you can see the tailspin that the pilot put this plane into, pulling out just before he and the ground met

I was a hair slow on the trigger, but you can see the tailspin that the pilot put this plane into, pulling out just before he and the ground met

A loop, flying straight up, then stalling and falling backwards -

A loop, flying straight up, then stalling and falling backwards – in unison!

All the military personnel on the grounds stood at attention and they played the National Anthem as this paratrooper descended with this American flag

All the military personnel on the grounds stood at attention and they played the National Anthem as this paratrooper descended with this American flag

What airshow would be complete without the Budweiser Clydesdales marching by?

What airshow would be complete without the Budweiser Clydesdales marching by?

Awesome animals!

Awesome animals!

Yes, all the cases of beer on the wagon are full of beer - so says the announcer, in any case

Yes, all the cases of beer on the wagon are full of beer – so says the announcer, in any case

If you look closely, you'll see that there is a "wingwalker" standing on top of the airplane.  It is a 50 year old woman named Theresa Stokes who is an internationally acclaimed aviation and space artist - her portfolio includes works of art for several major rock bands, such as the artwork on the inside of Aerosmith's "Rocks" album. She wingwalks as a hobby, and is recognized as the top stuntwoman wingwalker in the world. She does so without a parachute or safety line. At the show yesterday, she did flyovers on the wing, on the top of the airplane, and one standing on her head!  Not only that, she lives on a boat!

If you look closely, you’ll see that there is a “wingwalker” standing on top of the airplane. She is a 50 year old woman named Theresa Stokes who is an internationally acclaimed aviation and space artist – her portfolio includes works of art for several major rock bands, such as the artwork on the inside of Aerosmith’s “Rocks” album. She wingwalks as a hobby, and is recognized as the top stuntwoman wingwalker in the world. She does so without a parachute or safety line. At the show yesterday, she did flyovers on the wing, on the top of the airplane, and one standing on her head! Not only that, she lives on a boat!

Part of the show featured ten planes flying in unison and doing acrobatics

Part of the show featured ten planes flying in unison and doing acrobatics

Amazing -

Amazing –

Truly amazing -

Truly amazing –

This is the Blue Angels supply plane known as "Fat Albert" that accompanies them on all of their trips throughout the country bringing thev support crew, spare parts, etc.  I believe it is a C-10 Transport, the type that carries tanks into war zones - does anyone know for sure?

This is the Blue Angels supply plane known as “Fat Albert” that accompanies them on all of their trips throughout the country, bringing support crew, spare parts, etc. I believe it is a C-10 Transport, the type that carries tanks into war zones.

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18's. Nothing I can add to the next series of pictures -

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18’s. Nothing I can add to the next series of pictures –

AABA-jets2

AABA-Jets10AABA-Jets9

AABA-Jets4

AABA-Jets3

AABA-Jets5

AABA-Jets6

AABA-Jets8

AABA-Jets7

This picture was taken at an earlier time by my daughter Jessie - she's serving in the Navy JAG Corp, and is working on several legal issues involving the Blue Angels - as a result, she comes to Pensacola from her home base in San Diego regularly and gets to see the Blue Angels fly

This picture was taken at an earlier time by my daughter Jessie – she’s serving in the Navy JAG Corp, and is working on several legal issues involving the Blue Angels – as a result, she comes to Pensacola from her home base in San Diego regularly and gets to see the Blue Angels fly

Incredibly Awesome!!

The next leg of the trip will be one of the more challenging segments. The Gulf Intracoastal, call the Big Bend, is interrupted by about 175 miles of open water where the coastline of Florida bends in a southeasterly direction as it transitions from the panhandle to peninsular Florida. There are two possible approaches to this section – one is to “cut the corner” and go straight across, usually from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs. Fast boats can complete this crossing in daylight and do it in one day.  Slower boats must undertake an overnight passage of up to 20 hours, leaving in the morning or early afternoon and arriving in daylight the next day.  The alternative is to hopscotch along the coast, going into various harbors along the way.  However, there are challenges with this route: First, the harbors along the way are located up rivers, some as much as 22 miles off course or up a river. Therefore, the hopscotch route adds over 100 miles to the Big Bend crossing. Second, the water is very shallow throughout the area – channels are narrow, and some have only 3 1/2 feet at mean low tide – and that’s IN the channel, with shallower depths if you wander outside the narrow channels. Therefore, trips have to be planned to enter harbors on a rising tide, after mid-tide has been reached.  This is problematic, since the runs tend to be fairly long and there is only one rising tide cycle during daylight hours per day.

So – all that being said, there are some interesting places to see along the Big Bend route and we really don’t want to stay up all night and do an overnight passage, so we are opting for the “hopscotch” route. Depending on weather and tides, it will likely take 5-10 days, but it should be quite interesting. We’re on our way to Carabelle this morning.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Standard

3 thoughts on “INCREDIBLY AWESOME

  1. Jason Wilson says:

    Jim,

    Another great post. I’m a huge aviation buff, and the pictures from the airshow are terrific. Truth be told though, that shot of the sunrise on the way to Pensacola is just a little more incredibly awesome still:) Good luck on your hopscotch run down the coast this week!

  2. Barb says:

    We saw Blue Angels at USNA commissioning-were out on the Chesapeake for their rehearsal day and then on the yard for the real show. They then do a fly-over on commissioning day, and it truly is amazing! I was very glad Julie was going Subs and not Pilot!

    have fun-stay safe!

  3. Chrissie says:

    Jim, I’m reading every post and look forward to the new one each week. If you ever get bored with retirement (fat chance) you could always do photography for the Blue Angels! Those are incredibly awesome photos. Good luck with the hopscotch run. Say hi to Paul.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s