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Fort Pickens Campground is located in The Gulf Islands National Seashore, being here means we have now visited six out of the ten National Seashores across the United States. Our travels today set a new record for us, 205 miles long, mostly due west, and for only the second time in our travels we are in the Central Time Zone. Today started out with a very scenic drive along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline on US98, through the small towns of Lanark Village and Carrabelle. For the first 50 miles in was just the sort of relaxing drive we enjoy most. Then it got ugly!

For the next 75 miles we traveled along US98 into what I can only describe as a disaster zone. It reminded me of the photos and newscasts from 1992 when the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida. This 75 mile wide path of destruction was caused by Hurricane Michael back in October of 2018. Just 2 MPH short of Category 5 status, Hurricane Michael had torn older looking homes right off their stilted foundations. It seems the stilts used to elevate the homes off the ground may have saved them from the storm surge of seawater, but could possibly have made them more vulnerable to the 155 MPH winds.

It took us nearly two hours to travel through this area due to all the road repair work still going on today, 4 months after the storm. It wasn't until we got a good distance west of Panama City that the damaged started to subside. Once we arrived near Pensacola you couldn't tell a storm had even come near this area of the Florida Panhandle.


YEAR #2 - STOP #11

Gulf Islands National Seashore is just over 50 miles long and that's just the stretch of beach that is located in Florida, there is more to be seen in Mississippi. We are only going to be visiting a 10 mile stretch of it between Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens.

Once you travel over the Pensacola Beach Bridge you are immediately located in the heart of where the college spring break crowds come every year. There are souvenir shops, surf shops, liquor stores, bars and restaurants, huge resorts like The Hilton and Hampton Inn, there is even a Margaritaville Hotel here now. You'll find yacht harbors and waterfront dining, heck even the water tower is painted to resemble a gigantic beach ball. It kind of reminds me of Duval Street in Key West, but with a beach.

A little further west on the beach you'll begin to see gated private residences, townhouses and condominiums. This all comes to an abrupt end about 3 miles down the road when you reach the protected dunes area of the National Seashore. This is where the ranger station is located and from then on everything is different. Nothing but sand and waves and one winding two lane road in and out, with just a few small sandy parking areas to give access to the shoreline. From the ranger station to end of the island at Fort Pickens is about a seven mile drive, with nothing in between but a campground check in station and of course the five campground loops themselves.

We are here for nine days, but Tricia has a lot of work to get done, so we'll see how much time we have to go sightseeing and enjoy our secluded surroundings.



Tricia will be working today and I have some errands to run. First thing to do before I forget is to fill up ROVER with gasoline, we're down to a little less than 1/4 of a tank, we never let it get that low. Next up is the Ace Hardware store to pick up some, what else, hardware, for another little project I have for tomorrow.

Now it's time for a little light grocery shopping, milk, butter, bread and cereal, that kind of stuff. But before I go into the store I call the company that makes the air shocks I had installed on ROVER to explain the latest problems I'm having. They had me pull the fuse that controls the whole system, basically a reboot, and now I'll have to reprogram both the bluetooth remote control and the phone app that controls the inflating/deflating of the shocks. Hope this solves my problems, but I think they are just grasping at straws now, trying to remedy my issues with their product. We'll see!

Once back at THE POD there is one more thing to do, put together another Amazon order for some much needed products. The mail forwarding service we use to get our mail is located right here in Pensacola, so later this week we'll drive in to pick up our mail and Amazon order, probably the only time we'll ever get to see the facility where all our mail goes.



Today's little project is to permanently mount the outside temperature and humidity sensor on the front of the trailer. I have been testing out this location on the back side of the propane tank cover for several months now to make sure we are getting accurate readings from here.

I also purchased a protective cover to keep the sun off and the rain out of the sensor to try and get more accurate readings. Here is where it is located in the shade and under the front window. I'm satisfied with this location.

I know it sounds like such a trivial thing but by permanently attaching it to the propane cover it's one less thing to set up and take down at every new stop!



We have a busy day planned for today! Even so we got a late morning start and the first order of business was to eat lunch. From all the places we could of had lunch, we chose the pirate themed hangout called Peg Leg Pete's and it just so happens to be the first restaurant you'll pass on your way out of the Fort Pickens Campground. We were not disappointed with our choice!

Peg Leg Pete's
Peg Leg Pete's on Pensacola Beach, FL

With lunch taken care of it was time to make the long drive over to Fort Barrancas on the mainland. Even though there is only about a mile and a half between the forts as the crow flies, it's a 30 mile drive all the way around Pensacola Bay to get there. I'll post details and photos in a separate post that will be coming soon. One thing you'll need to know if you wish to visit Fort Barrancas is that is it located inside the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS) and you have to pass through a true military check point to get there. After showing them our drivers licenses, a few questions about whether or not were we carrying any weapons and the nature of our business there, we were cleared to go. It was kind of easy to gain entry to the base, but a little intimidating at the same time. There were all kinds of signs marking SECURED AREA - NO ACCESS and if you make a wrong turn onto one of these roads I imagine your visit would come to an immediate and unpleasant ending.

Next up is a visit to the mail forwarding company we use. For the first, and probably only time, we were able to pickup in person our mail and Amazon packages. As usual it seems not all of my Amazon packages with guaranteed delivery dates actually made it on time. Two out of the six items I ordered failed to get here, which means if they don't show up before we leave the area on Wednesday I'll have to once again pay to have them shipped to where we are going next. I called Amazon to complain and was pacified with a $10 off coupon on my next order which will barely cover either my gasoline to go pick them up or the extra shipping costs. The associate on the phone said it was the best they could do for me, better than nothing I guess.

Now for the fun part, we have three weeks worth of laundry to do. At least we were lucky to find a laundromat with extra-extra large washers and dryers and we were able to save a little money by using them instead of several smaller washers that most small town places seem to have.

By the time we arrived back at the campground it was dark and after hours, so we had to use our gate code to gain entry. It was very eerie driving through the six miles of sand dunes at night, with no street lights or moon light, due to the heavy cloud cover that seemed to arrive with us back on Monday. Once back at THE POD our work still was finished, we still had to put the laundry away and rustle up some dinner.





While we were inside the Pensacola NAS on Thursday we noticed the National Naval Aviation Museum was also located on the base. This is the home of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels team and where they practice for their air shows. Unfortunately for us they only fly March through October and of course we are here in February. We were told that you can sit on the shoreline right outside the campground on most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and watch their practices in the skies overhead. But if you want one of the pilot's autographs you'll have to get on base and visit the museum. If you're lucky enough to catch one of the 1000 seats in the viewing area bleachers you'll have a relatively comfortable place to watch from.

Boardwalk access to the shore just outside of the campground

Is this where the boardwalk truly ends?

Miles and miles of uninhabited white sandy beaches.

I guess technically we have been visiting the Gulf Islands National Seashore since our arrival here on Monday, but you can't really consider it a visit if we spend most of our time inside THE POD working. While we were out on the beach today we grabbed a small sample of sand to add to our National Seashore collection. As soon as I figure out a proper way to display our collection I'll share it with you.

Today however we are going sightseeing and will be exploring Fort Pickens, just a half mile from the campground. Once again we will be sharing our visit to the fort in a separate blog post, complete with details and photos.

Back on Tuesday when I was running around doing errands I tried lunch at a What-A-Burger location over in Pensacola. Funny how when I lived in South Florida near a Wendy's I thought they made the best cheeseburger in town, as far as fast food restaurants go anyways. Then we started traveling and seeing other hamburger chain restaurants and trying them. Hardee's makes a good burger and that was our favorite for a while. Then there was Steak 'n Shake and Five Guys at the top of our list for awhile. Now our new go to burger place is What-A-Burger, since Tricia and I both went there for lunch today. Places we've been once and won't be revisiting are Krystal's, Sonic, Checker's and Rally's.

Now I know it sounds like we eat out a lot, and we probably do, but getting burgers while we are out is usually cheap and filling, without all the mess to clean up afterwards. We usually only eat out on errand or sightseeing days when we are away from THE POD during lunchtime. Every once in a while we'll treat ourselves to a real good meal, like the gumbo and fresh fish sandwiches we had at Peg Leg Pete's this week, but we can't afford a $40 (with tax & tip) lunch to often, no matter how good it was!







With Tricia working today I have some errands to run. I woke up at 6:30am today and Tricia was already at the dinette table working. So as not to interrupt her working I changed clothes and was on the road by 6:45am. First order of business to take care of breakfast, I'm sure there is a Waffle House nearby, there always is!

Next is Walmart and Lowes, they share a parking lot about 7 miles up the road from Waffle House. Nothing to critical from Walmart is needed, a couple rolls of paper towels, some wet wipes for cleaning up and some snack crackers for our drive tomorrow. At Lowes I pickup several needed PVC items for another project I'll share next week.

Now that I'm just a few miles away from the touristy area of Pensacola Beach the gasoline prices are 10-12 cents a gallon cheaper so I fill up ROVER with nearly $40 worth of gas, and it was only half empty. That 36 gallon gas tank sure makes it easy to travel several hundred miles and then go several more days without needing gas, but ouch, it hurts to put that much in the tank at one time.

Only one thing left to do and that is one more trip way out to our mail forwarding company to pick up the two late arriving Amazon packages, along with Tricia's monthly paycheck that will be deposited into our special savings account.

Well I'm all done at it's only 11 o'clock, what will I to do with the rest of my day?

Who will be the first to correctly guess our next location?

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