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Another Blue Ribbon Tour of Pensacola…

Posted by on June 5, 2016

Jon should be a professional tour bus driver. He’d make a fortune in tips!  

ANOTHER BLUE RIBBON TOUR.  You’ve already met Jon York, our friend and the one who’s made our stay in Pensacola the best it could be.  The tour he gave us today was “top of the line.” In fact it was “over the top.” The guy is something else. Just when we think he’s already outdone himself and shown us all that Pensacola has to offer, we’ve been mistaken. And now it’s become obvious that he’s been saving the best for last, as we’ll soon be leaving the area to resume our Great American Adventure. We anticipate a bittersweet departure. We’re excited about getting on the road again, because we’ve been “grounded” for so long on my doctors’ orders that I take plenty of time to recover under their supervision.  But we’ll definitely miss seeing Jon regularly. We’ve gotten used to hearing his cheery voice every day or two, when he inevitably announces another activity he’s planned. We’re hoping to arrange a “meeting down the road.” Jon takes a 3 or 4 month trip in his motorhome each year. so, we’re exploring the possibility of meeting him for a few days when we our paths cross at the end of the year. It looks as if we will be heading west toward Texas as Jon heads east returning home to Florida. We’ll see what develops.



We’re hoping to meet Jon “on the road” for a few days at the end of the year. Here’s a photo of Florence pouring over the map to see where our routes might intersect. Florence does all the navigating and I do all the driving. With a rig as large as ours, we’ve found that it’s a two person job getting safely from one spot to the next. Thank goodness for GPS and for the Trip Adviser Software we use for navigating. See my Travel Tips Page for more about Trip Adviser.



Jon and Florence, posing as we begin today’s tour. Notice the electronic controller my wife’s holding. It’s a preview of things to come right here at our Great American Adventure.

OUR TOUR GUIDE, AS ALWAYS. A couple months ago I introduced you to our friend in Pensacola, Jon York. Remember him? I met him via my blog last Fall. After reading my very first blog entry dated June 3, 2013, he learned that I’m a Rail-hound and suggested that we plan a visit to the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada. Believe it or not, after successfully completing grueling a two-day class on freight train operation, I’ll be eligible to pilot a full size, real-life, formerly-retired vintage freight train locomotive for a 28 mile run down the tracks on the main line right there in Ely. l mean hands-on the throttle, hands-on the brake and hands-on the whistle driving.  I know, it’s hard to imagine. Check it out at the Nevada Norther Railway website and see for yourselves.



This is a file photo of the freight train I’ll become licensed to drive if I can pass a rigorous two day course of instruction at the Railway’s Headquarters in Nevada. It’s been quite a while since I’ve studied for a difficult exam, and the pre-requisite one here promises to be just that. Not legal questions like I encountered when I took the California Bar Exam but I’m guessing  just as challenging in other ways. It was a thrill to begin my law practice years ago and it will for sure be a heart-pounding, adrenaline-rush exciting experience to operate a freight train. Federal regulations require that a true engineer accompany me. I feel sorry for the guy already! I hope he’s got nerves of steel. 

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE TRAIN TRIP.  My freight train experience will have to await our arrival in the western part of the country. It would be too time-consuming and costly to drop everything and beeline all the way across the America just for a chance for me to don an engineer’s cap and pull a lanyard activating the train’s whistle.  And Florence and I haven’t really decided if our budget will allow me to do it anyway. However, since we just sprung for a brand new Phantom 4 Camera Drone. Florence will be the primary pilot, so I should have a little better bargaining position to nudge her into agreement about financing the train-driving experience in Nevada. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a go, so it’s safe for you guys to begin looking forward to riding along with me. There will be plenty of room in the cab for all of us. Just promise to remain silent while I’m driving. For your own safety, it would be wise not to distract me while we’re underway!


File photo of the Museum at the Nevada Northern Railway yard.

NOW, BACK TO OUR PENSACOLA TOUR.  Time’s a wasting. We’d better get back to our most recent Pensacola-area tour. You’re going to like it. Here are some of the photos I took along with descriptive captions. (A note to my newest followers who may not yet be aware of this: Most of my posts contain some self-deprecating humor and are “tongue in cheek.” Please set aside any initial impressions to the contrary. Don’t fret, you’ll get used to my writing style soon enough. Just keep coming back and before you know it all of this will be making perfect sense!)

HIGHLIGHTS. Here are some of the photos I took on today’s tour. Let me know what you think. We’re finding that West Florida has more to offer than we knew when we got here last November. We’ll begin with a look at one of Jon’s properties where the tour begins.


One of the houses on the grounds. It’s surrounded by grassy fields and majestic Oak trees.




There is a collection of historical items inside the house. It’s almost like being in a museum.



Somebody keeps this place clean and tidy. With all the memorabilia on display there’s plenty of use for a feather duster!



This is admittedly not a very good picture. I’ve included it only as a point of reference to list Jon’s military pedigree. He’s a former Captain in the United States Marine Corps and a Fighter Pilot who flew combat missions during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s.



Salt and pepper shakers would have been fine. Just something.


I wish we’d started collecting something. 





See the distortion at about 1 o’clock? The combination of bright sun and humidity created a “perfect storm of conditions” to cause them.  I’ll “photo-shop them out” some time on a rainy day when I’m house bound.  Note: There’s a clue in this photo about things to come soon in my blog. See it in the foreground? 



Jon’s rig and our Jeep. We also had room at home in San Diego to park the motorhome on our property. It was a huge time-saver when the time came to pack, saddle-up and head down the road. It was also a good place for the kids to hang-out from time to time. They liked the privacy, access to the fridge, TV and sound system. We like a little peace and quiet.  


This is the main house on York’s property.


Next stop: The Pipes, a little beach on the River.




The access road isn’t well maintained, but it’s the only way to reach the The Pipes. There, we found a private little spot on the banks of the Perdido River. It separates Florida and Alabama. Jon thought the road might be impassible due to the recent rains and flooding. But I insisted we attempt it. After all, being able to drive these kinds of roads is exactly why we purchased the Jeep as our tow car for our Great American Adventure. As you’ll see, we got there easily. 







Looking across the hood of my Jeep at the road to the River. This spot looks disturbingly similar to the area where the movie “Deliverance” was filmed. Yet the kids we encountered were not the least bit frightening. To the contrary, they were representative of the gracious, polite young people we’ve met all over the South. God-fearing wholesome kids who spend lots of time with their families, attend school regularly and speak to adults with respect. What a refreshing change from some of the other places we’ve explored during our Journey so far.   


REMEMBER DELIVERANCE, THE MOVIE? The little beach on the Perdido River is reminiscent of some scenes in the movie “Deliverance.” But that’s where the similarity ends. The kids we encountered were really nice and we ended up chatting and horsing around with them for a while. They were only teenagers, but their parents had taught them to be comfortable around adults and to treat them with respect. I’ve been impressed over and over with how good the Southern people are, almost always!


The Perdido River separates Florida from Alabama. We made it to The Pipes and met some nice kids talking teen-talk and idling away a Saturday afternoon. They gave me a tip: When hanging out at the River, keep an eye out for Water Moccasins and Alligators!  “You bet I will.” But the reptiles don’t seem to really concern the locals. They still go into the water. They still paddle their canoes down the river. At the rental shack I approached on a lark, the owner told me I’d need to return another day. “Weekends are the busiest time of the week,” he said. I suppose that’s true, but the guy only had 4 canoes in his entire inventory. I get the sense that even when the river is “crowded” there’s plenty of room for all to enjoy. Oh well, if I’d been able to get a canoe I’d probably still be in the water fighting offf snakes rather than composing this post! 



No booze, sex or rock and roll for these kids today. They were happy to see us, well-behaved and totally comfortable in their own skin. They asked me if I’d like to take their picture. Wow, that’s an offer I don’t get often.  And when they learned we were from San Diego they regaled us with stories about their favorite swimming hole, a nearby bridge where they jump into the water and other things they do go for fun. I left with a smile on my face. 




  A Hungarian Catholic Church. I don’t really know what that means. 



A little church way out in the country.



This is the cemetery at the Catholic Church. There are four main types of cemeteries: Public, Private, Church and Military. Each is interesting and unique. Take a look at the “Old Cemeteries” Page on my blog to learn more on this topic. (It’s linked to an icon on the right side bar of the blog role.) These on-site church cemeteries are found all over the country, but most of them are in older cities such as those in New England.


Cemeteries often tell about history written in stone. Here’s an example. Ida May died when just two months old. What can we learn from this statistic? Infant mortality has long been considered an important indicator of a nation’s health and well being. So it may be reasonable to conclude that as a nation the US was not as sound as it is today, when the is far lower than it was in 1895.




Directly across the street from the Hungarian Catholic Church is Rhodes Horse Farm. You’ll recall we visited lots of huge Thoroughbred Farms when we were in Ocala, Florida last October. 



Visitors by invitation only.



The driveway leading to the main house. 



Our last stop today was at Jimmy’s Grill for dinner. And once again, the folks inside were as friendly and chatty as everywhere else in the South. The servers seemed so glad to see us you’d have thought we were regulars.



Jimmy serves a lot of pork and his regular customers recommended it to us. I had pork chops and they were good. I don’t recall what Jon and Florence ordered, but they each had collard greens and black-eyed peas, traditional Southern favorites.



If you happen to miss the sign outside, Jimmy has a mural on one of a wall inside the diner that insures all are informed that pork dishes are the specialty in this eatery. 



A bit of Americana. You won’t find anything like this back home in San Diego. I’m really drawn to places like Jimmy’s and I’ve rarely been disappointment with the fare. As you know, I often try to chat with either the owner or the manager of the restaurants we patronize. I like to talk shop. Poor Florence has heard me tell of my restaurant or diner ambitions she just cringes when I get going with one of these guys like Jimmy. However, she’s enjoyed many a true “cook’s tour” because I’m so chatty these days. When last I visited my old San Marino friend David at his home in Sedona, I noticed he’d become the same way. Funny how we change as we get older. 



Jimmy’s Diner is the perfect spot for a Norman Rockwell print to be displayed. I asked Jim if he’d ever been contacted by Guy Fieri about having his place featured on the TV show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives. Jim had never even heard of it. How refreshing. Folks in this part of the world are simple and unaffected. They’re pleasantly naive.  



We skipped dessert at Jimmy’s but when I spotted this peanut truck I pulled over and got a bag of boiled peanuts,  just plucked from the boiling water and warm to the touch. Boiled peanuts: A Southern Specialty made famous by Jimmy Carter. Not! Our former president was not only a navy submariner before he took office but he was also a peanut farmer in Georgia. However, I’ll admit I was just pulling your leg again. I have no idea whether President Carter’s operation had anything to do with boiled peanuts.



I talked with the owner of the peanut truck for a while as my nuts were coming off the boil. No pun intended. (Are you newbies starting to get it?) He survived a fire at sea aboard his Navy ship years ago. 45 of his shipmates perished. He told me he has nightmares to this day about the accident. He and some of the other injured survivors have been fighting to get disability ratings consistent with their injuries for years! So far they’ve had no luck. Just another example of how our vets’ needs are so often ignored. Maybe once Obama’s no longer running the show things will change. Hope so. This guy obviously needs the support he should be receiving. He wasn’t complaing to me, but his anger and resentment showed. 


Last on today’s tour was a stop so I could get a snapshot of Rich’s Barbershop. This is what a barbershop is all about. Are you old enough to remember these kinds of barber shops? There would usually be just one or two barbers, haircuts would cost about $5 and in addition to a 45 minute hand-scissored cut, you’d get all the local gossip from around town. And if you were lucky, the owner would have the new Playboy Magazine in his magazine rack, discreetly covered by another magazine…probably “Life.” But everyone knew where to look. It’s just that nobody talked about it.

THAT’S IT FOR TODAY. And that’s the end of today’s sightseeing trip. We’re planning a day-long drive along Florida’s famous coastal Scenic Highway 30A in a few days when the weather will likely be sunny and calm again.  An overnight stay in nearby Mobile, Alabama to see the country’s largest Mardi Gras Museum is also in the queue.

WEATHER CONCERNS ARE BUILDING. But right now we have some developing weather concerns. The forecast is a little frightening. The National Weather Service advises that Tropical Storm Colin is forming in the Gulf of Mexico and severe storms are headed our way. 50 mph winds are expected overnight and rain totals for the next 24 hours are expected to exceed six inches. That’s a lot of weather for a couple of folks like us from sunny San Diego. But we’ll deal with the storm. At this point, as I’m sure you can understand, “The show must go one.”

SEE YOU SOON. Stick around. We’re going to have lots more fun before we put Pensacola in our rear view mirror in about three more weeks.


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