July 30 – August 3, 2014 – Robertsdale, Alabama
We left Carrabelle on Wednesday morning and drove west on Highway 98 along the coast of the Florida panhandle. We crossed into Alabama and are staying at Styx River Resort north of Robertsdale. Robertsdale is between Pensacola and Mobile and is about 30 minutes north of the coast. This is a nice resort and we have a large shady site.
Thursday morning we drove to Mobile and visited Battleship Memorial Park where we toured the Battleship USS Alabama. The Alabama was commissioned on August 16, 1942 and is the sixth naval fighting ship to bear the name. She earned 9 Battle Stars, and shot down 22 enemy airplanes during World War II and was decommissioned January 9, 1947. The ship is 680 ft. in length with a width of 108 ft. 2 in.
We were able to tour the main and upper decks as well as the lower decks. The USS Alabama self guided tour was better laid out than most of the other ships we have toured and more of the interior has been restored. Like the other ship museums we have visited there were a lot of World War II displays within the ship.
We had a great view of some of the tanks and guns on the grounds as well as the Mobile skyline from the bow of the Alabama.
After spending a couple of hours on the Alabama we headed to the submarine USS Drum. The Drum was commissioned November 1, 1941 and she earned 12 Battle Stars during World War II and is credited with sinking 15 enemy ships. Like all US submarines, Drum was named after a species of fish, specifically a variety that is capable of making a defensive drumming noise. She was decommissioned on February 16, 1946 and was used as a training vessel for naval reservists for over 20 years before being donated to the Battleship Memorial Park in 1969.
Nancy is entering the Drum through the hatch into the forward torpedo room. We were able to walk the length of the boat and see where her crew lived and worked before exiting through the hatch in the after torpedo room. The Drum had a crew of 7 officers and 65 enlisted men - we are amazed that so many could live and work in such tight quarters.
As we were leaving the park we stopped at the Alabama Korean and Vietnam War memorials. The Korean War Memorial flies the flags of all the United Nations countries that participated in the conflict.
The Vietnam War Memorial had a beautiful sculpture of a former soldier looking at the names of those Alabama residents killed in the war. He is dressed in civilian clothes and is holding a dog tag in one hand. This statue was sculpted by a Vietnam veteran and the entire memorial was designed by Vietnam Veterans.
The following was inscribed on the memorial:
Vietnam – war/pain/sorrow/mystery/jungle/swamp/mountains/hot
Vietnam means something – different but the same – to all of us
Vietnam has a lasting effect of one sort or another on all Americans
Vietnam can only be understood by those of us who were there - -
- - and we don’t understand
A Vietnam Veteran
Between these two war memorials was this wonderful sculpture is dedicated to war dogs and their Alabama handlers. The plaque reads “An unheralded breed of soldier… Let all who read these words of gratitude and praise know that tens of thousands of America’s fighting men and women owe their lives to the deeds and courage of war dogs and their handlers. Further, let it be known that many breeds of dogs, large and small, served our nation in times of war, all going into harm’s way with distinction and valor-unhesitating. Let us not forget these unsung heroes are soldiers, too. These valiant dogs protect our military men and women through countless perils, gibe comfort in uncertainty, and share the suffering and the risks in time of war. Over the decades, many of these dogs have made the supreme sacrifice, giving their own lives to shield our armed forces and military assets from hostile acts. Canines in the armed services continue that noble tradition around the world today…”
At the base of the monument are these bronzed paw prints next to a pair of bronzed foot prints. This is one of the best monuments to canine soldiers we have seen – again, a very moving tribute.
We really enjoyed our time here at Battleship Memorial Park. We are very interested in World War II history and enjoy being able to go aboard ships that fought in that war.
We next climbed the 177 steps to the top of the tower where we got a great view of Pensacola Bay.
We really enjoy visiting lighthouses and especially climbing to the top.
Across the road from the lighthouse was the National Naval Aviation Museum. Inside the front doors was this great sculpture honoring naval aviators.
We just missed the 10 am tour and the next tour was not until 1 pm so we walked around the museum for a while before having lunch at the museum café. After lunch we took the 1 pm tour and were delighted that our tour guide, Hal, was a retired naval aviator who took his flight training at Pensacola. He flew in the Korean and Vietnam wars and told us lots of great stories about some of the planes he flew. He called these planes his “honeys” and you could tell that he had a great love for the planes he had flown. He also was very knowledgeable about most the planes in the museum. This museum has all kinds of naval aircraft from the first US aircraft shown here to modern day space craft.
The Naval Air Station Pensacola is the home of the Blue Angels. We were told by our tour guide that when the Blue Angels are not on tour they do practice shows here and the public is welcome to come and watch these practice shows. What a thrill that would be but we were not fortunate enough to be here during a practice. These planes hanging in the atrium are a previous model of aircraft used by the Blue Angles. We also saw the current model being flown - an F/A-18 Hornet on display that flew its first air show with the Blue Angels in 1987.
This museum had so many aircraft and other displays that we could no way show all of it. This is just a sample of the many different types of aircraft on display.
This sculpture was between two of the buildings and is dedicated to “those who also serve,” the military service families. The inspiration for this sculpture was a photograph taken during a homecoming celebration at Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida, at which family members welcomed home squadrons from an extended deployment that included combat operations against Iraq as part of Operation Desert Fox.
This is a great museum and we really enjoyed touring it and meeting Hal and hearing his great stories about naval aviation and the planes he flew.
Saturday morning we took a drive along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. We headed south from Robertsdale and drove through Orange Beach and Gulf Shores – both are very touristy areas with lots of houses, condos, and motels along the beach. We next headed to Fort Morgan where they were celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay and the Siege of Fort Morgan. It was very crowded and hot so we decided not to stay and watch any of the reenactments and activities. We took the Alabama State Ferry from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island. We could see the Sand Island Lighthouse from the Ferry. You can only get to this lighthouse by private boat so we were not able to get any closer.
After arriving at Dauphin Island we continued across bridges to the mainland and drove to Bellingrath Gardens. Mr. Bellingrath was Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler and was advised by his physician in 1917 to buy an abandoned fishing camp on the Fowl River so that the overworked businessman could “learn how to play.” The gardens began to develop in 1927 after the Bellingraths hired local architect George B. Rogers to convert the fishing camp into a country estate. Flagstone pathways, fountains, a formal rose garden and conservatory were all part of the original design. In April 1932 the Bellingraths placed an ad in the Mobile newspapers inviting its citizens out on Sunday afternoon to see the spring flowers. Over 4,700 people took them up on the invitation and Bellingrath Gardens was born. A gate house was installed and in 1934 the Gardens were open year round. The first garden we saw was the rose garden which contains more than 2,000 plants representing 75 varieties and is a test site for the All-American Rose Selections roses.
The color of this beautiful rose caught our eye - unfortunately, none of the roses were labeled so we don’t know the variety.
After looking at all the beautiful roses we entered the conservatory where we saw many beautiful plants and flowers. We found this little green lizard on this pineapple.
More beautiful flowers – again none of the flowers in the conservatory were labeled so we don’t know what they are but they smelled heavenly.
We left the conservatory and started walking around these beautiful grounds. There are a lot of small side gardens and beautiful areas to just sit and enjoy.
We toured the house which was built in 1935 as the Bellingrath’s permanent residence. The 15 rooms in this beautiful house are furnished with the antiques collected by Mrs. Bellingrath. We were disappointed that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house as it was one of the most beautifully furnished houses we have toured.
After touring the house we walked to the north terrace that has a series of terraces leading down to the Fowl River.
We continued touring the gardens and came upon this beautiful flower. Again, we are disappointed that they do not label any of the flowers and plants so we know what we are looking at.
We enjoyed our scenic drive today and especially enjoyed visiting Bellingrath Gardens – what a pleasant way to spend an afternoon!
Sunday we took a day off from touring - did some grocery shopping and getting ready to move down the road tomorrow. We have enjoyed our visit to this part of Alabama.