Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mobile - U.S.S Alabama

Since my childhood years I've been slightly obsessed with WWII. You'll have to forgive a young boys childish impression of a war as a great adventure. The evil nazis, the battered allied forces that barely manage to turn the tides of war. It's one of those moments in time where fact is greater than fiction. Growing up witnessing the wars of our time I realize of course wars are terrible, terrible things, however I have kept my fascination with anything WWII-related. On with the story.

Between the coast of Florida and the coast of Mississipi, the state of Alabama claims a small piece of the coast of the mexican gulf. Located here is the city of Mobile. And in this city there is something I had been dying to see. An actual WWII battle ship, the U.S.S Alabama, which served in the pacific campaign.

It was a good stop anyways for us travelling from the panhandle to New Orleans. We arrived noon-ish and the drive there was pretty neat following the coast. Even from a distance you could make out the gigantic landmark that the ship has now become. Compared to a modern time aircraft carrier I guess it's not as impressive but I was in awe for sure. The ship is now a museum and besides the ship there is an old WWII submarine, a bunch of airplanes and some tanks, all from that era. Admission is damn cheap if you ask me. 2 dollar parking and 12 dollar admission to the park for each adult. And for that you get a lot. We started out touring the ship and as we boarded I was awe struck once more. What a beast of a war machine. There is guns in any direction and caliber you could think of. And that brought a certain reality check to what life must have been like on a ship like this during wartime. The feeling intensified as you toured the crews living quarters. This was their home and only life support out on the great ocean. With nowhere else to go their only chance of survival was to fight of their attackers or perish. All the sudden the guns made a lot of sense.

It's pretty weird standing on the deck of a warship in the hot july sun, staring down the barrel of a machine gun, while kids are running around laughing and tourists are taking photographs. But you get a small sense of what it must have felt like back in the days. Staring at the sky, waiting for what's to come. The ship is a labyrinth of stairs and ladders, and it does take a lot of climbing and squeezing through narrow passages to get around. Funny enough my two greatest fears are heights and narrow spaces, but I guess the pure excitement made me forget all about it. I made it all the way to the top while M decided to wait a few storeys down.

On the way to the submarine you pass trough a hangar with some really neat fighter aircrafts. Best part of the hangar though is that it is air-conditioned. The submarine, the U.S.S Drum also served during WWII. Sinking cargo ships and laying out mines were some of her tasks. This is the most claustrophobic part of the tour. I had to push myself to go in there. The ship is in really great condition and most def worth it if you have it in you. It blows my mind that people lived here for weeks during missions. After just twenty minutes I was dying to get out. It's small, dark and extremely hot in there.

To end the tour we went and checked out some WWII-tanks on display out by the parking lot. By then we felt like we'd seen more war memorabilia then you can take in, in a day so we gave em a quick look and huddled back to the car. If you ever pass this way I do recommend a stop. It's fairly cheap and I doubt you'll ever find such a collection in one place somewhere else. Stay tuned for more. Next up is the big easy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Panama City Beach - Exploring the panhandle

An explanation is at place. Some of you will have noticed that the blog hasn't been updated for a long time and that there is quite much left to write about. As we arrived in Sweden we were met by some really bad news that occupied our thoughts for quite some time. Now everything is OK again and I will do my best to finish writing about our road trip, even though school has started again. Here goes...

Life is a beach. At least it should be. Just an image of a beach - be it a picture or a painting sets off a firework of emotions in me, and I find myself longing to be there. The sound of waves, soothing like a lullaby. Each wave with the promise that after it's hasty return a new one will take it's place. Again, and again, and again. It's infinity in the making, and in it's presence I feel part of that infinity in a way that every moment seems like it will last forever. And what better place to spend infinity than with the warm sun in your face, your feet buried in the soft white sand, tuning yourself in with the universe. Needless to say we love the beach and we are always in search of that perfect one. That search led us to Florida's panhandle, famous for it's stunning beaches.

The panhandle - named so since Florida looks like a giant pan(debatable I guess) and the westmost part as it's handle, has a great number of beaches to choose from. After thoughtful consideration we chose two spend our two available nights at Panama City Beach. It seemed a perfect combination of a great beach and good nightlife. More then any people I know americans like to enjoy themselves while on vacation. That's probably why there are so many places spread out through the country, that seem to exist for the sole purpose of providing entertainment for the whole family. Panama City Beach is one of those places. Motels and hotels facing the water were priced in the upper scale, but not wanting to waste valuable beach time we soon settled for one that looked at it would give good value for those dollars. The Chateau motel had really luxurious rooms facing the ocean, and after checking in we had but to walk out our doors to grab a sun chair on the sun deck. A few cold ones later we decided to check out the nightlife along Front Beach rd. The road that runs parallel with the length of the beach, is packed with surf shops, bars and restaurants. Youngsters rented scooters from the many vendors located here and tried to race up and down this main road, only to be caught in the ever growing weekend traffic. Cars packed with hopeful vacationers like us trying to get the last available rooms. Seing this chaos we grew confident our choice to pick a place no matter the price was the right one. 

We only had to walk to the neighboring restaurant for our first Margarita on a patio by the sea. The house band were playing super cheesy covers which fit perfect with the tacky theme. The atmosphere was family friendly and it suited us just fine after our crazy week in New York. The rest of the night was spent strolling up and down Front beach Rd just enjoying the laid back bars and night clubs.

Next day we hit the sun deck as soon as we woke up. When ever you got to hot from laying in the sun you would just run down to the ocean to cool off. It was magical. After a few hours we started getting hungry and decided to grab lunch at Hooters. Hooters is a tacky chain of restaurants with the only requirements for their staff, to be female and have the "right" size bra. However it is nothing like a strip club, it's pretty much your everyday budget restaurant. We've been somewhat reluctant to try it out in the past but since it was right next to our hotel and had a patio facing the beach we gave it a go. Try everything once right?  Not many vegetarian options but the deepfried jalapenos made it all worthwile. They also served some mean margaritas that improved the rating for us. The rest of the day was pretty much a copy of the night before so I'm not gonna go in to details on that. Especially since there is so much more interesting stuff coming up that I wanna share. So stay tuned....