While in Pensacola, Florida we camped at The Blue Angels Recreation Area thanks to the hospitality of the US Navy. Being retired military does still have some nice perks:) The second day at Pensacola Bill got to spend six hours in the National Naval Aviation Museum. As you can see by the sign above, the Pensacola Naval Air Station is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Naval Aviation is three years older having been formed in 1911. When defining Naval Aviation today it is all about aircraft carrier operations. This photo is in the lobby of the museum. The museum is full of fascinating displays. This flying boat was one of the Navy's first. This Martin Marlin is one of the Navy's last seaplanes. It was used for primarily for search and rescue. There are propeller driven planes from pre-WWI vintage through WWII. This Stearman trainer was flown by George Bush (41st President of the USA) when he was a 19 year old Naval Aviation Cadet shortly after the outbreak of WWII. A TBF Avenger flown off US Navy Aircraft carriers in the Pacific during WWII. There are jets of all sorts. This is a Photo Banshee used in the late 1940s and early 1950s for Photo Reconnaissance. They were colorful “back in the day”. This is an F9F-6 Cougar also from the 1950s. Don't you just love the shiny floor? LOL There are helicopters of all sizes and shapes. This early Sikorsky was flown by the US Coast Guard in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This much larger search and rescue 'copter was also flown by the Coast Guard in the 50s and 60s and is credited with saving hundreds of lives at sea. This hall is devoted to Naval and Coast Guard aircraft flown during the Vietnam era (mid-1950s through early 1970s). Even space has a large place in the museum. This depicts the Lunar Lander used in one of NASA's visits to the moon. The Navy had its fair share of early Astronauts along with the Air Force. On the way back to the campgrounds Bill stopped by for a very quick visit to the Pensacola Lighthouse (got there at closing time). The light was first lit in 1859 and is still used as an aid to navigation today, 155 years later. Upon departing Florida we drove northwest through Alabama and into Mississippi. Everywhere we went there was wisteria growing wild. It's a vigorous vine and tends to kill its host tree, but when it's in bloom, it sure is beautiful! Mississippi is beautiful this time of the year. We avoid the Interstate highways as often as possible and seek out the more scenic byways. There's a lot less traffic, which is always a good thing. Even the secondary highways are well maintained, making for easy driving days. Vicksburg, Mississippi was our next special stop. Why? We both like history and as some of you know Bill is really into the Civil War. This is downtown Vicksburg.Vicksburg is the site of a major Civil War battle that began in May of 1863 and ended on July 4th after a 47 day siege. Once Vicksburg fell, the entire Mississippi River came under the full control of Union forces and the Confederacy was severed in half. Many of the streets are still paved with bricks. There are historic Vicksburg scenes painted on the flood walls along the edge of the river. The town is full of ante-bellum homes. Notice they even provide special tourist parking spaces. Boy that was a pleasant surprise. Typical ante-bellum home. Check out the sign. Vicksburg is famous for its siege, and most of the public information signs there relate back to the Civil War. This home was the Headquarters of Confederate commander, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. He surrendered the Army of Vicksburg to his West Point classmate, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4th, 1863. This is the historic Vicksburg City Hall. It sits on the highest hill in Vicksburg. Today it is a museum filled with fascinating artifacts. The flags flying from the front of the building are Confederate battle flags that pre-date the Stars and Bars. BIll took several hundred photos around the Vicksburg National Park. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy, so lucky for you, we'll only show you a few of them:-) More than half of the 80,000 Union troops engaged at Vicksburg were from the state of Illinois. This Illinois monument is the largest and most elaborate of the more than 1300 monuments on the battlefield. After touring Vicksburg we headed off to explore the Natchez Trace. The Trace was the overland route connecting Memphis, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi, a distance of more than 600 miles. It was used heavily between the 1780s and mid-1820s by all sorts of overland travelers going south and north. Most of them walked! By 1825 steamboats plied the Mighty Mississippi and provided a much easier route for those who could afford the fare. For those who couldn't pay the price, the Trace was still the way to go. Today this scenic two-lane highway commemorates the Trace by paralleling its route and offering tourists like us an opportunity to walk along some of its well worn paths. We drove about 60 miles along this road from Vicksburg to Natchez. Going by car sure beat walking…and we didn't encounter any highwaymen or hostile Indians:) Dogwoods were in bloom everywhere. The Park Service calls this "The Last Stand. It is the only remaining stand or stopover point/rest stop along the Trace. At the height of the Trace's use in the early 1800s there were 50 such stands where travelers could find a bed and a meal. Most of them were much more humble than this one. At one time people walked…we drove…but many find it a quiet way to ride their bikes. We met one man who was riding his bike all the way to Minnesota!On our next blog we'll take you from Mississippi through to Kansas. See ya then.