This has been quite the year of travel for me – five road trips through 11 states! My latest adventure was spur-of-the-moment. I traveled with my daughter Melissa and two of my grandsons to Pensacola, FL to visit Mack, my 18-year old grandson who is a Marine and attending flight training there. It appeared that he would not make it home for the holidays and he was very homesick and missing his family. My daughter asked me to go with her because it was such a long drive.
It took us two days to get there, driving over 1,000 miles each way and experiencing a few misadventures during the journey. We left very early in the morning on November 3 and drove in very dense fog through nearly the entire state of Ohio. To make things worse, my six-year-old grandson Elijah got car sick, setting us back an hour. After huge traffic backups in Kentucky and Tennessee, it was smooth sailing! The weather got warmer and warmer and our spirits were high; but by the time we reached the Alabama border it was time to stop, find a good meal and rest.
Refreshed after a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we finished the drive to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. Mack was beyond excited to see us and had the entire weekend free, but had to return to his barracks by midnight. Our hotel was located on the base, making it easy to spend time with him.
Mack gave us a tour of the base, which is the home base of the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. They perform perilous maneuvers at exhibitions all over the country and had returned home to Pensacola while we were there.
We spent Friday afternoon at the Pensacola Beach Pier on Casino Beach. Pensacola beaches have been described as a “slice of heaven for beach lovers” and we could see why.
The next day was spent shopping at the Navy Exchange and touring the National Naval Aviation Museum, which is among the world’s largest air and space museums with over 150 restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation.
The best part of the trip was on Sunday, when we were able to get together with some of Mack’s fellow Marines, who joined us for a day at the beach. The weather was warm and it was fun getting to know his friends who were also homesick and missing their families. We stayed well into the evening, enjoying a stunning sunset over the water and the full moon rising. We were all taken by surprise and thrilled when the Blue Angels flew over us just as the sun was fading.
As we drove home, I realized the trip wasn’t just about the destination but also the journey – both to and from Pensacola. We saw palm trees and stunning beaches in Florida, cotton fields in Alabama, mountain ranges in Tennessee and Kentucky. We saw the skylines of bustling cities – Nashville, Louisville and Birmingham. And we were guided by the full moon as we drove home way into the night.
We enjoyed good food and met many friendly people. We hugged Mack long and hard, not knowing when he would be home again. We made another memory for the Memory Book.
I can’t wait to get on the road again for our next adventure!