A travel journal
to Pensacola by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: While Dad and Uncle Dave visited Florida in October 2011, we were able to visit some old favorites (Palafox Pier and Downtown Pensacola) and some new places (Fort Pickens). Also Mom and I visited a ship docked at Palafox Pier and more fun is to follow!
Attraction | "A Baseball Game, Military Appreciation and A Can of Spam"
Mom and I got to the Blue Wahoo's home at Community Maritime Park about two hours before the scheduled 7 p.m. game time. The parking lot was reserved mostly for employees and players and free parking around the park in downtown Pensacola was too far away. It wasn't far if we were going to a day game, but it is not recommended to walk around areas of Downtown Pensacola in the dark and Mom and I were not about to do that and we paid $3 for parking across the street from the ballpark and parked in a grass lot that looked like someone's backyard and its residents wanted to make money. The proceeds for this parking lot went to a local non-profit organization so paying a small price for safe parking was all for a good cause.
The gates to the ballpark were not open when Mom and I got there so we had to wait along with several Little League teams. Mom and I realized we came on Little League and Military Appreciation Night. They way these several of these kids were tearing around the gate chasing each other, I was hoping they were not going to be sitting anywhere near our seats on the left field side. Mom and I waited on a bench near the gate for the gates. Andrews Medical Center of Pensacola, who has done orthopedic surgery on several famous athletes, had a little booth across the way and I went over to look at what they had. I came away with free Pensacola Blue Wahoos rubber bracelets for Mom and me and a Blue Wahoo's schedule for the 2012 season.
The gates finally opened and that wasn't the end of the freebies for us. After getting our tickets stamped, Mom and I got two cans of SPAM. SPAM!? Yes, that high sodium can of mystery meat that fed soldiers and civillians alike during World War II and is the butt of several Monty Python skits and jokes. I couldn't resist saying to Mom, "I HATE SPAM!" We vowed that six little dogs were going to be spoiled rotten for the next couple of mornings with our treasured SPAM! Luckily, the little leaguers were seated in a picnic area behind centerfield away from everyone else. Mom and I noticed you can bring blankets and sit on the grass in that seating just like we did when we saw the Red Sox play in Spring Training in 2009 in Fort Myers. We were happy sitting in seats with a great view of the game from left field.
Mom and I found our seats in Section 113 in Row D, four rows up from the action. We were on the visitors' side of the ballpark and tonight's opponents, the Mississippi Braves, the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate, were already warming up in the bullpen. Mom and I were happy we were not in the Uecker seats as the great Milwaukee Brewers announcer and comedian made famous in a Miller Lite Beer commerical of the 1970's. The usher working our area of the stadium was really nice and wiped our seats so we wouldn't have to sit in dirty seats and looked after our coats and my scorepad while we took our purses and got something to eat. Mom and I each had the chicken tender basket along with a bottled water. The food is a bit pricey in the stadium but it was worth the $20 for both of us. Mom and I enjoyed our dinner while watching the Braves' pitchers and catchers warming up. I got some great shots with my camera during this time and was getting all happy seeing a ball game and the sights and sounds associated with my and America's favorite pasttime.
Mom and I found out why we got a free can of SPAM each when the game began. It was Military Appreciation Night and after the National Anthem there was a flyover of two jets stationed in Pensacola. Awesome! During the game, the small scoreboard displayed the action on the field along with pictures of the home team players and visitors as they came to bat, and we were entertained with trivia of the history of SPAM. SPAM is celebrating its 75th year of existence and since 1937, billions of cans of that gelatinous mystery meat have been served across America and around the world. Did you know that SPAM has 13 flavors, is available in hot dog form (SPAM in tube form, Anthony Bourdain would love that!), and has 3.6% sodium (for all of you on blood pressure or cholesterol meds, that is 790 mg so I would skip fried SPAM, SPAM and eggs, etc.!). During WWII, Mom remembers being fed SPAM with rationing making SPAM a cheap way to feed Americans. The military introduced SPAM to Hawaii and today, Hawaiians consume the most SPAM in America and several restaurants there serve SPAM on their menues in several incarnations.
Away from the subject of SPAM. The game was a good game. The Braves took an early 2-0 lead and then the Blue Wahoos tied it in the 4th inninng. But the wheels came off the Blue Wahoos' pitching and the Braves scored three times the next inning and the score was 5-2 and would end that way. The Blue Wahoos organization sure knows how to entertain the masses and there were many activities in between innings including an "Eyeball race" with a local eye doctor sponsoring three people in eyeball costumes like the Sausage Races in Milwaukee. A night at the Blue Wahoos is a great local entertainment for people of all ages. Tickets are cheap and the people who work there are very kind and accommodating to everyone who comes to the game. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, you can sit and watch the game in a cool night breeze with a cold drink and good food. I highly recommend a trip to see the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Mom and I enjoyed it so much, we gave my sister and brother-in-law tickets for their 11th wedding anniversary on July 27 and will be joining them for another great baseball game. As for the cans of SPAM that we got as a giveaway, Remy, Dustin, Dewey, Amanda, Marty and Eagi enjoyed their SPAMalot!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2012
Community Maritime Park/Blue Wahoo Park
449 West Main Street
Pensacola, Florida 32502
What is a Blue Wahoo one might ask? The Pensacola Blue Wahoo's original name comes from a type of mackeral or tuna fish that is native to the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean near Hawaii and the Caribbean Sea. It is a fish popular to fishermen for food and for trophies. When I went to my favorite seafood shop, Joe Patti's in Pensacola, they had Blue Wahoo filets for $9.99 a pound. The lady that was helping me with my order said that it was good firm fish and gave me another tidbit of information that the US Navy named several submarines after the dark blue fish beginning in 1941, the eve of World War II.
The history of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos doesn't start in the Spring of 2012. The team itself has been in existence since 1959 under several names and incarnations and affiliated with several Major League teams throughout its 53-year existence. In 1959, the team started in the South Atlantic League in South Carolina as the Charleston White Sox (Chicago White Sox). After two years in Charleston, the team moved to Savannah, Georgia for a year and was known as the Savannah White Sox. Then for two years, the team was in Indiana playing as the Evansville White Sox (1966-68). Now the team finally settled down for a while in Columbus, Georgia and had one more year in the White Sox organization (1969) before becoming an affiliate of the Houston Astros for the next eighteen years. The team was renamed the Columbus Mudcats in 1989 and then moved to Zebulon, North Carolina in 1991 for twenty years. In 2010, the city of Pensacola wanted a major league baseball affiliate in town and after selling the Independent League Pensacola Pelicans to owners in Texas to finance this move, acquired the Carolina Mudcats for two million dollars. The name Blue Wahoos was decided by a fan contest in the local Wendy's restaurants and their uniforms are several shades of blues and red that are in honor of the nearby Pensacola NAS. The Blue Wahoos Park is located at the Community Maritime Park on Main Street in Downtown Pensacola and is a beautiful park located on the Gulf of Mexico. It seats 5,000 people and all of the seating allows fans to watch games in a more up close and personal environment. There are two concession stands to feed fans on the third and first base sides along with several little beer and refreshment stands. The Bait and Tackle sells Blue Wahoos hats, t-shirts and other souvenirs if one wants something to remember their experience at the Blue Wahoos game. To me, it is one of the most beautiful little ballparks next to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (Hey! I am not going to give up my alliegance to my Red Sox) and tickets cost anywhere from $8-10. It is a hot commodity so get tickets ahead of team because several games are sold out. A Blue Wahoos game is the best thing in town now!
Restaurant | "Birthday Lunch at The Dock"
Mom and I arrived at Pensacola Beach about 11 a.m. on my birthday. We only planned to spend a couple of hours because we can't take much sun and we didn't want the puppies to trash our bedrooms if we were gone too long. First thing we did was see where we were going to eat. We looked at The Dock's menu which were located on the several picnic tables on the deck facing the beach. Then we checked a couple of other restaurants on Pensacola Beach before heading to the Pier and walking on that for a few minutes watching the fishermen trying to get the catch of the day. One woman seemed to be pretty lucky and had two good-sized fish flopping on the deck while she tried to get more fish.
After walking the Pier, Mom and I went to the water and got our feet wet. The water was about 65 degrees but felt warmer than that because of the humidity. The sand was cool under our feet as we walked to and from the water. After taking pictures we went to lunch at The Dock since Mom was tired from the sun and walking, and it was the closest and least expensive place.
Mom and I arrived at The Dock and took a seat at a table facing the water. The place wasn't that busy being a Monday and only tourists and locals who were off from work or on vacation were there. Our waitress, Emily, came to our table and took our order. Mom had eaten something after having a fasting blood test done at the Sacred Heart Clinic in Pace, so she wasn't hungry but let me order my birthday lunch, The Fish Po Boy ($9.95). We got water to drink since we were thirsty and needed to rehydrate after walking around the beach. Emily took our order then left to get other orders, but then came back because she forgot what I ordered. Emily apologized and I told her it was OK, I was in no rush being it was my birthday. Emily wished me a happy birthday and said it was nice to meet a fellow Taurus (her birthday was May 12). The Dock is also a full bar and there were people there having a cold beer or having lunch. After a while waiting, my Po Boy showed up, and it was kind of a disappointment. My sandwich came on a soft roll with only three smallish pieces of lightly breaded fish (flounder I think, not one of my favorite fishes) and tons of no nutrition iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes. Tartar sauce came on the side along with homemade potato chips that could have used some salf in my book. Mom kept grabbing some of my chips even though she wasn't hungry and I kept asking her if she wanted a salad but she said no. My Po Boy was kind of bland and mushy, but I ate it because I was hungry but I wasn't satisfied. Emily kept coming over to make sure all was well and filling up our water cups. The meal came to about $10.70 plus tip, and Mom and paid Emily and headed back to the car for the ride home.
I would probably recommend The Dock for a cold drink during a day of beaching, but I don't know if I will recommend it for lunch. The menu was small with some appetizers, salads, burgers, hot dogs, and two desserts. The prices were what is normal for the beach, but if I was to do it again, I would probably try another place on Pensacola Beach for lunch. Service was great though.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 6, 2012
Fort Pickens Road
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Mom and I arrived at Palafox Pier and got out of the car and started to walk. To our left low and behold was a ship built in the time of old. After our louzy experience about a year ago with the Christopher Columbus replicas, the Nina and the Pinta that wasn't worth the $7 admission price, we were apprehensive about another bad touring experience. We looked at the sign posted at the ship's entrance and noticed it was named The Peacemaker and it was free to tour the ship. Mom and I were glad for that because I wasn't about to shell out any money for something that might be a disaster or waste of time and money. So Mom and I boarded the Peacemaker and grabbed a copy of their newsletter with a history of the ship and the crew's mission.
The Peacemaker is an American barquentine ship built in Brazil starting in 1987. It was built in the Tall Ships style of construction and the construction crew only used indigenous woods and traditional shipbuilding methods. That means no electric tools were used during its construction. Construction of The Peacemaker was completed in 1989 and it was launched shortly afterwards. The first owners named the ship The Avany and it was planned to bring the ship to Savannah, Georgia for educational reasons, but things didn't go that way and the first owners sold The Peacemaker to the Twelve Tribes religious group in 2000. The Twelve Tribes is an American religious group with about 50 communities scattered throughout North and South America, Europe and Australia. After seven years of remodeling and making the ship more seaworthy for their missions around the world, The Peacemaker was relaunched in 2007. Today The Peacemaker travels around the world promoting their religious beliefs and gives apprenticeships to people who want to become sailors the arts of sailing, seamanship, navigation and ship maintenance. Their homeport is Brunswick, Georgia but the crew spends most of the year at sea.
Mom and I were not greeted by the crew members that were on board and we noticed their hand-made clothing and the presence of children on board. The members of the Twelve Tribes homeschool their kids when they are at sea and they support themselves with donations and selling homemade organic baked goods such as carob bars. If you are lucky to live near the water and The Peacemaker is docked in your town, make the effort to go and check it out. It is worth a few minutes of your time. The crew keeps to themselves most of the time but if you have questions or want to know more about the ship, they will talk with you.
Attraction | "I Finally Made It To Fort Pickens!"
I had tried a few times unsuccessfully to come to Fort Pickens when we first moved to the Florida Panhandle in 2008. The first attempt was cut short due to torrential downpour that had Mom and I taking shelter at the Gulf Breeze Starbucks until the rains calmed down enough for us to drive back home. Second time, I was hoping to visit Fort Pickens while Mom was away visiting her sister in Georgia. I ran an errand in Pensacola but as was heading to the airport to pick up my tickets for my Alaskan vacation, I got a flat tire and had to spend the rest of the day waiting for a tow truck to put my donut tire on and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the WalMart on Creighton Road in Pensacola getting a new tire. I guess three times was the charm and the afternoon of October 28, 2011, we were on our way to Fort Pickens.
Fort Pickens was constructed from 1829-1834 because the War Department and Army felt that all American ports needed protection after the War of 1812 that had several ports (Baltimore, New Orleans, etc.) invaded by the British Army. Fort Pickens was named for Revolutionary War hero and General Andrew Pickens and was constructed mostly of brick and with slave labor. Several slaves died from accidents or illness during the five years Fort Pickens was under construction. Fort Pickens is 850 acres and is in the shape of a pentagon. It is the largest fort in Pensacola and one of three forts in the area (Fort Barrancas and McRee are the other forts in the area).
The US Army occupied Fort Pickens for the duration of the Mexican-American War (1845-48) and until the beginning of the Civil War, it was unoccupied. On January 8, 1861, the War Department felt that Fort Pickens needed to be protected from Confederate attacks and a platoon under the command of Lieutentant Slemmer occupied Fort Pickens shortly afterwards. The history books say that the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina was the start of the American Civil War, but many locals in Pensacola will tell you other. Shortly after the US Army occupied Fort Pickens, a group of locals loyal to the Confederacy tried to attack Fort Pickens but were held off by the Union garrison. Fort Pickens was one of the few forts in the southern USA that remained in Union hands throughout the whole Civil War.
After the Civil War, Fort Pickens remained a garrison for the army but also became a prison for Native Americans captured during the battles with the Army during the late 19th Century. One of the captives was the Apache leader Geronimo and several of his warriors. Geronimo was separated from his family and was sent to Fort Pickens with his warriors and spent seven months as a prisoner in Fort Pickens before being sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he died in 1909. Geronimo's family had been sent to Fort Marion while he was incarcerated in Fort Pickens. Dad, Uncle Dave and I saw his cell while we were there, and it was small with a window overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Throughout the years, Fort Pickens underwent some changes along with new gun batteries and the Fort within the Fort that was used for training of soldiers in the early 20th Century. An explosion of ammunition occured at Fort Pickens in 1899 injuring two soldiers and in 1906, a hurricane destroyed many buildings in Fort Pickens. Today, Fort Pickens is part of the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the National Park Service.
Dad, Uncle Dave and I spent a couple of hours enjoying Fort Pickens from the inside and out. I walked the fortress walls outside taking pictures of the fort and the views from the Gulf. Dad and Uncle Dave looked at the many displays and cannons in Fort Pickens. My word of advice when seeing Fort Pickens is to definitely wear sneakers or any thick soled shoe or boot. I had my flip flops on in the car on the way over but changed into my boots. Good thing I did because there are many burr or goathead plants throughout the fort and those nasty things can go through a thin soled shoe or flip flop and make your time at Fort Pickens a real pain. When I got back to the car, I was whacking my boots on the curb near the car to get the burrs off the bottom of my boots. Also Fort Pickens does not have any shady areas so bring sunblock with you to avoid a sunburn while you are exploring the fort's exterior.
The $8 admission price that Dad grumbled about is by the carload and the pass will last you a month. I would have been glad to go back to Fort Pickens on my own with the pass after Dad and Uncle Dave headed to Arizona but that didn't happen. I hope to return there again in the future and I highly recommend that you make a visit to Fort Pickens if you are ever in the Pensacola, Florida area.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 7, 2012
Santa Rosa Island, Gulf Islands National Seashore