Pensacola: Day 1

The day started at the buttcrack of dawn… somewhere around 3:30 a.m. The plan was to be up and on the road by 4:30 to make it to Omaha an hour later.

We arrive in Omaha, do the whole check in with the airline thing (which is all computerized now), and proceed to security. Security gave us little hassle, just a little word about leaving our bag of 3 oz. shampoos, soaps, etc. out. From there it was on to the gate to wait for our flight. I think y’all know the whole boarding procedure.

Our flight paths into Chicago and later Houston went as scheduled with no incident. It was the flight into Pensacola out of Houston that things got really interesting for me.

From the minute we reached our cruising altitude, everything outside the window ow my seat was familiar. From the sight of the barrier islands that scan the Gulf Coast to the pine trees and red clay that mark up the inland areas, it was all familiar. Closing in on Pensacola, it hit even closer to me. I could spot different high ways, such as I-10 and U.S. 90, to sections of town like Olive, Pine Forest, and Ensley; all just by some of the buildings that were there when I left 12 years ago.

At this point, it all hit me to just how important this city was to me. I’ve always said that this city was why I am the way I am. From how I act, dress, and speak to what I eat and the teams I root for, it’s because of Pensacola. The city is my identity.

Frankly, I’ve never been happier to be in a place in my entire life. Only to add to the excitement was to see my dad for the first time since I made my last trip down at Christmas of ’95. Coming down the concourse, I could see him and my brother (who hadn’t seen him in even longer) standing by each other just past security. It was something to me to see how much he had aged to where he didn’t look like someone in his early 60’s but more like late 60’s to early 70’s. Still, I was excited to see him and made sure I got a hug in.

We made our way out to his Subaru and then in Pensacola itself. I sat up in the front seat so that I could see everything I could. It was a thrill for me to see not only the city itself, but how much it had changed. I noticed that the city had more palm trees from what I remembered. Come to find out that after Hurricane Ivan, businesses used palms to re-beautify the area, due to their low cost. It was a welcome change, nonetheless.

Another nice thing about Pensacola this time of year was that the azaleas were out in full force. The majority of Pensacola was littered with these pink blooms to compliment the greenery around them. Compare this to Lincoln, where the trees were still bear and the grass was still brown from the winter season.

There was plenty of change on the west side of Pensacola, where I grew up. Gone was Mariner Mall and the old Albertson’s supermarket at the corners of Fairfield and Mobile, replaced by a smaller strip mall and a Home Depot. The small strip mall where we used to visit the included Godfather’s Pizza was totally gutted out and shacky looking. Dad told us that the entire corner was blighted after Hurricane Ivan.

We continued on down Blue Angel Highway onto Pensacola NAS, where the cabin we were to stay in for the coming five days was located. The cabin couldn’t of been in a better spot; only about 200-300 feet from the beach itself.

Once inside, I finally met Carolyn, my dad’s not-so-new anymore wife for the last 8-plus years. First impression was that she was a very friendly person. From what I’ve heard over the years, she’s done nothing but influence my father in a good way. Nothing wrong with that.

Over the next couple of hours, we talked, ate the Subway sandwiches that we picked up just outside the base, and talked some more. It was close to dark before dad and Carolyn left. Overall, things went really well for not seeing the man in person in a little over 11 years.

After they left, I went out to take a few night shots on the beach and hopefully catch sunset. Unfortunately, I was not only a little lat to see the sun descend behind the horizon, but I found the way the section of beach we were on curved enough that the sun actually set well into the trees that surrounded the cabins. I figured I would still try to take some nighttime shots along the beach. This is when I found out just how difficult nighttime shots are with a digital camera. No matter what scene setting I put the camera on, I’d get nothing but blurred shots. This whole situation screamed for a tripod. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how I would go about changing the aperture settings. So, I didn’t have as many shots as I would of liked to get in.

Still, I hope to have plenty of pictures to share with y’all as this trip moves along. As far as this night goes, I have to say things went very well and I hope things continue to move along in the same fashion.



~ by Steve L. on March 20, 2007.

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