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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tupelo Mississippi - Elvis Presley was born here

Well we got to Tupelo on Sunday and my brother John had prepped his famous ribs for us and while we had some wine and beer he finished them off. Here is what my first plate looked like. Didn't take a picture of the second plate since my hands were covered in rib juice and BBQ sauce. YUM!

The next day we got our "50 cent" tour and got to see Tupelo up close.
Tupelo airport with four 747's lined up
First we got to head out to the airport and see all the aircraft lined up for deconstruction and scrapping. Have not seen that many 747's in one place since I was last in JFK. Amazing.

Just down the road is the Tupelo Buffalo Park. Also strange to see buffalo, long horn steer and Zebras all mixed up in the same field.


And down the hill zebra and long horns
House were Elvis was born at the Elvis museum 

Got's to have your historical cast iron plaque

Elvis church that he went to all the time. Services were an all day affair.
Wednesday night for four hours for a mid-week pick-me-up!  
Then we went to old downtown Tupelo where we drove by the hardware store where Elvis got his first guitar on his 12th birthday. He really wanted a .22 rifle but his Mom made him get the guitar.

  Then we went through the older section of Tupelo homes. Man some really nice houses.

Well that's it for today.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Whats up with the weird buildings in Panama City?

So here we are in Panama City Florida and look what I see.

So I took a pic and after a search on the internet ... no farther ahead on this one. No history.

Then there is this collection at the same corner in Panama City.
Ripley's believe it or Not

Wonder Works Amusement park

Then I drive by this!

Man in the Sea Museum

U.S. Navy SEALAB-1
The world's first underwater living facility 

Assorted submarine modules & pods, known as Personal Transfer Capsules (PTC)
A collection of various submarines and pods for underwater studies. 
The PTC's were used to transfer pre-pressurized Heliox divers down to their working depth in the ocean. 

But since it was spring break and Panama City Beach is so very commercialized we ran for the hills or flats as they say in Florida.

So we stopped for lunch at Destin Florida. Real nice place... sorry we did not have the money to stay.

BTW every thing used Destin in its name. Sandestin, Destiny etc. too funny.

Then we escaped the traffic and the craziness and headed off to Mobile Al.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Parking for church members only. Violators will be baptized.

So Mary wakes me up this morning and says that some one stuck a note in our Pirus's door handle and that someone most likely hit it in the night. I yelled "What?" and jumped into some clothes and got out side and found this stuck in the car door handle.

That's why the quote from the Baptist Church sign that we saw today.

So why are we going along the east coast?

Well this trip is really an expeditionary trip to find a place to stay next year for a month. So the idea was to bump along the east coast until we got to Key West and then head up the gulf coast until we get to Alabama and then head up to my bothers place in Tupelo. So far we have found a couple of places that we like: Venice, North Clearwater, Dunedin, Ocala, and Apalachicola.

We have found a lot that we don't like for sure! St. Pete has gotten even worse from that last time I was there 4 years ago.

I think that the nicest place was Ocala, it looked like a mix of Westchester county in NY with all the beautiful Horse farms of Kentucky. Just lovely country.

Then as we headed over to Steinhatchee started to see a lot of trucks that we see up at the cabin in Canada.

Lumber Trucks
Seems that all the forests here on the gulf side of Florida are managed and managed well from what we could see. Where there was clear cutting done it was restricted and replanted very quickly. Nice.

On the gulf side from Steinhatchee to Perry and on to Newport every thing was very pretty and no traffic. Roads are in great shape and we tooled along at 55 to 60 Miles an Hour.  We also got really good gas mileage of about 52 MPG.

For lunch we have learned to stop at a Piggly Wiggly or a Win Dixie. We get a sandwich or a salad and off we go. Cheaper than a fast food joint and better for you too.

Here are some photos from a long the route.

Traffic as far as the eye could see.

Black Beach

Cedar Island

Need a hat?

 Oh Look! Another light house!

Not one, not two, not three, but rather a total of four lighthouses have marked the southern part of Florida’s Cape San Blas. The cape protrudes from the southernmost point of Florida’s Panhandle and resembles an L-shaped arm, similar to Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. In 1836, requests were made to build two lighthouses on the cape, one at the northern tip to mark the entrance to St. Joseph Bay, and a second at the cape’s elbow to mark treacherous shoals that extended several miles south of the cape. Due to a tight budget, only the St. Joseph Bay Lighthouse was built at the cape’s northern tip.

When trade in the bay diminished due to the abandonment of the town of St. Joseph, permission was granted in 1847 to build a lighthouse at the cape’s elbow, on the condition that the St. Joseph Bay Lighthouse would be discontinued, dismantled, and used to build the new lighthouse. A site that was "deemed to be entirely secure from overflow or inundation" was selected for the construction of an 85-foot tower. Edward Bowden from nearby Franklin County was awarded the contract for the tower, while the revolving lighting apparatus was supplied by Winslow Lewis. Completed in April of 1848, the Cape San Blas Lighthouse collapsed during a gale on August 23-24 of 1851. The same storm also destroyed neighboring lighthouses at Cape St. George and Dog Island.

A year after the loss of the first lighthouse, Congress appropriated $12,000 for a second brick tower for the cape. Due to an outbreak of yellow fever and delays in obtaining the lantern and Fresnel lens, the tower was not lit until November of 1855, when Keeper Joseph Ridlin was transferred from Dog Island. Ten months later, on August 30, 1856, another hurricane struck Cape San Blas. A Lighthouse Board report described the destruction inflicted on the station. "The sea rose so high that the waves struck the floor of the keeper’s dwelling, elevated 8 feet above the ground, and about 14 feet above the ordinary tides. A lagoon now occupies the site of the lighthouse."

Third Cape San Blas Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy State Archives of Florida

On March 3, 1857, Congress allocated $20,000 for a third brick tower, which was first lit on May 1, 1858. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, the Confederate lighthouse superintendent had the lens removed from the Cape San Blas Lighthouse before Union forces could claim it. During the war, the keeper’s dwelling and the wooden portions of the tower were burned. The lighthouse returned to operation on July 23, 1865, after repairs had been made and a new lens was supplied.

By 1869, the beach in front of the lighthouse had mostly disappeared , and the gulf was starting to threaten the tower. The Lighthouse Board requested $5,000 to build a jetty to stabilize the beach, but a sum of only $2,000 was granted. That amount was deemed insufficient for any kind of protective measure, and no action was taken. The report of the Lighthouse Board in 1881 details the dire condition of the tower. "The sea has been encroaching on this tower until its base is in the water. Brush mattresses were made, pinned down to the sand with small iron screw piles, covered with sand and occasionally blocks of concrete, to further check such encroachment, but the almost constant surf, beating against the mattresses, tore them to pieces. An appropriation for a new tower, further inland is badly needed. It is recommended that a skeleton iron tower be erected; then if the sea again encroaches, it could be taken down and reerected." The brick lighthouse lost the battle with the sea on July 3, 1882, when the surf undermined the foundation of the tower and toppled it into the waves.

In 1883, $35,000 was granted to build an iron skeleton tower as requested by the Lighthouse Board. The tower was fabricated in the North, and then loaded on a ship for its journey to the cape. En route, the ship went down along Florida’s west coast. Fortunately, the wreck was in shallow water, and most of the material was salvageable. Before the tower’s third-order Fresnel lens was first lit in June of 1885, a temporary light had been displayed from the top of a tall pole.

The new skeleton lighthouse had four iron legs that ran the length of the tower and were tied together with a network of braces. The central column, which housed the spiral staircase, was different from most used at other lighthouses as it did not extend all the way from the lantern room to the ground. Instead, it stopped twenty feet from the ground, and an external metal stairway was used to access the door to the tower. This arrangement would hopefully keep the entrance to the tower above any waters that might encroach on the station. The bottom portion of the tower was also supported by four additional legs that extended midway up the tower.

The 98-foot tower was originally placed 1,500 feet from the shoreline, but by 1890 only 144 feet of sand separated the tower from the breaking waves. The tower obviously had to be moved or it too would be lost. Congress provided $20,000 for the task. Originally, the new site was going to be a point on the inside of the cape, about 1.5 miles from were the tower stood. However, obtaining title to the property proved difficult, and on October 8-9 of 1894, a powerful gale damaged the iron tower and left it standing in water.

The decision was then reached to move the tower to Black’s Island, located a few miles north of the cape in St. Joseph Bay. Work on preparing the island and dismantling the lighthouse started in early 1896, but after a couple of weeks of work, funds ran out. Before work recommenced, the Lighthouse Board again changed its mind, and decided the lighthouse should just be moved further north on the cape. Before any action was taken, the beach started to build up around the iron tower, and it was decided to just leave the light where it was.

The tower was safe until a hurricane struck in 1916 and stripped away the beach protecting the lighthouse. Plans were again made to move the tower farther inland, and in 1918 the tower was moved a quarter of a mile from the shore. The light was first shown from its new location on January 22, 1919.

Life on the cape was obviously difficult for a lighthouse, and it wasn’t much easier for the keepers and their families. The station was quite isolated, with a trip to the nearest settlement requiring a one-way trek of twenty-three miles. Keeper Ray Linton found "the lonely vigil and wide expanse of the Gulf too great a burden," and in 1832, he took his own life. Six years later another keeper lost his life prematurely. Keeper Marler, a 38-year-old father of four children, was attacked and stabbed in a workshop at the station. His six-year-old daughter discovered her father’s body, when she went to call him for the noon meal. The identity of the perpetrator was never discovered.

In 1952, a LORAN radio station was installed near the Cape San Blas Lighthouse. Later that decade, the Air Force established Test Site D-3 on the majority of the rest of the cape to provide radar tracking capabilities for over-water test and training missions. Steve Barnold spent a year at Cape San Blas as an ET2 (Electronics Techinician Second Class) starting in October of 1977. Barnold was responsible for maintaining and repairing the LORAN transmitter andprotecting the station from pesky civilians. In 1981, after the LORAN station was deactivated and the lighthouse was automated by the Coast Guard, the Air Force received a five-year permit to use and maintain the lighthouse property. When the permit expired, negotiations were entered into for an extended 25-year agreement. Apparently there was some question over who would care for the keeper's dwellings, and they were excluded from the agreement.

The dwellings were left unattended for several years, and they began to deteriorate. In 1996 the lighthouse was deactivated, and two years later, the dwelling that was closest to the shore received considerable damage from Hurricane Earl. In 1999, after the Air Force finally assumed responsibility for the keeper's dwellings, the two structures were moved from their position on the shore to a site next to the tower. The dwelling that was in the best condition was restored at that time, while the second dwelling had to wait until 2005 for its turn.

The restored keeper’s dwellings are evidence of what an attractive piece of history the lighthouse and dwellings could be if proper care were afforded them. While sensitivity to the Air Force’s needs should be shown, it would be great if a cooperative arrangement for the restoration and interpretation of the site could be worked out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Off to Weeki Wachee Mermaids!

But first.. How do we get Boo in his throne in the morning to travel safe and high enough to see out all the windows. Boo needs to see where we are going so that he does not get car sick. So after a number of tries I got this setup working great. First we take one of those folding crates and fill it with his food and stuff. Left over space we get to fill.
The crate goes in first in the back seat

I cut a piece of 1/4 inch plywood and glued some cleats on it so that when its turned over it will not slide off the crate.

Ready for Boo's bed to be put on top.

I pull some of the seat belt up and then tie a knot in it to create a loop that  I then thread through a large dog collar that then goes to Boo's harness. 

The result! Boo has room to move and if we hit anything the seatbelt will lock and he will be held in place in his harness.
Also the Prius has this great cover thing that you can use as a  dryer during the days travel. Just remember that they are there when you open all the windows at 60 miles an hour.  
Mary and I both have heard of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids since we were little kids so I planned our route so that we could swing by and see if it was still in operation. 

Well they are and we just missed the Mermaid show. Dang!

So on we went to the next throw back hotel. Howard Johnson's. Yep good old Ho Jo's.

Good price and good honest food. Now we just have to see how we sleep with all the truckers and young kids yelling and crying in the room next store. But ... never mind thats what ear plugs are for. :-)

Now some history of the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee:

The History of Weeki Wachee Springs
The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 72-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver’s mask off. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and there, where the mermaids swim, 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles an hour. It’s quite a feat for a mermaid to stay in one place in such a current.

altThe Weeki Wachee River winds its way 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained SEALS to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries, and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.
The spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared out and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped onto the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus.

altAn 18-seat theater was built into the limestone, submerged six feet below the surface of the spring, so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.
Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.
The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 -- the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

altIn those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.
In the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops. The attraction received worldwide acclaim. Movies were filmed at the spring, like “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.” Sights at the park included the mermaid shows, orchid gardens, jungle cruises, and Indian encampment and a new beach. The mermaids took etiquette and ballet lessons.

altWeeki Wachee’s heyday began in 1959, when the spring was purchased by the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) and was heavily promoted. ABC built the current theater, which seats 500 and is embedded in the side of the spring 16 feet below the surface. ABC also developed themes for the underwater shows, with elaborate props, lifts, music, and story lines such as Underwater Circus, the Mermaids and the Pirates, and Underwater Follies. The mermaids performed Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, and Peter Pan.

altIn the 1960s, girls came from as far away as Tokyo to try out for the privilege of becoming a mermaid. The glamorous mermaids performed eight shows a day to sold out crowds -- as many as half a million people a year came to see the Weeki Wachee mermaids. Weeki Wachee Springs employed 35 mermaids, who took turns swimming in the shows and captivating the crowds by playing football and having picnics underwater. Some of the mermaids lived in the mermaid cottages out behind the attraction. The mermaids wore one-piece suits and were treated like royalty wherever they went in Florida.

altAll sorts of people stopped to see the mermaids, even Elvis. Don Knotts, Esther Williams, and Arthur Godfrey all came to Weeki Wachee.