Look! Up in the Air!

“Heritage to Horizons: A Century of Airpower since WWI.”  – Maxwell Air Force Base Air Show April 8-9, 2017

From the moment we decided to travel somewhere to see an air show I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas. We studied the schedules of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and the United States Navy Blue Angels to determine when and where would be the best place to see them. Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama was an easy choice. We could get there easily from Georgia, there was a great campground close to the base, and it would be nostalgic for me to return to a base where I lived for a year when my father was stationed there.

We arrived at Gunter Hill Campground two days before the air show. Both days we heard the planes as they were practicing and I kept looking in the sky to see what kind of planes they were. Both days I was rewarded when I searched the skies and saw four of the Thunderbirds pass right by the campground.

On the day of the show we arrived early so we could find a good spot to set up our folding chairs to catch all the action. We parked ourselves right in front of where the Thunderbirds were lined up. We could also see the French planes of the Patrouille de France.

United States Air Force Thunderbird
United States Air Force Thunderbird
Patrouille de France at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Patrouille de France at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show

The air show was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force and commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I. There were also historic planes on display.

After the opening ceremonies the show began with the Wings of Blue Parachute Team. Once the performers began it was non stop action all afternoon. From bi-planes performing stunts to the fabulous French team Patrouille de France to a reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Tora Tora Tora group there was never a dull moment.

Wings of Blue at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Wings of Blue at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Red Tails at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Red Tails at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Maxwell Air Show
Maxwell Air Show
Re-enactment of bombing of Pearl Harbor at Maxwell Air Show
Re-enactment of bombing of Pearl Harbor at Maxwell Air Show
Wing Walker at Maxwell Air Show
Wing Walker waving at the crowd at Maxwell Air Show

The French team Patrouille de France (The Patrol of France) were performing to honor the special relationship between the air forces of U. S. and France since World War I.

Patrouille de France at Maxwell Air Show
Patrouille de France at Maxwell Air Show
Patrouille de France2
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France Pilots
Patrouille de France Pilots on their way to sign autographs and pose for pictures

The final act was the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds. Before they began, a group of Air Force recruits were sworn in with their families watching them take their oath in front of the Thunderbird planes.

U.S. Air Force recruits being sworn in
U.S. Air Force recruits being sworn in

Before the pilots climbed into the cockpits their crews performed their pre-flight inspections as the pilots faced the crowd.

U.S.A.F. Thunderbird Pilots
U.S.A.F. Thunderbird Pilots
Thunderbird Pilot waves an American Flag as he taxies down the runway
Thunderbird Pilot waved an American Flag as he taxied down the runway
Takeoff!!
Takeoff!!
Maxwell-Air-Show-Thunderbirds6
Maxwell Air Show U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

Just in case you didn’t get enough of the Thunderbirds, here’s a video of one of their signature formations.

Spending the day enjoying this amazing air show was one of the coolest things we’ve done in a long, long time. If the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels are performing any where near you get out there and go to an air show!

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Alabama

Welcome to the first post in our series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride! I will be featuring the states alphabetically starting with

Alabama

Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819.  Montgomery is the capital and Birmingham is the largest city.

We’ve traveled through Alabama many times on our travels either at the beginning or the end of a long trip. All of our stays have been short so we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time exploring but we have enjoyed all of our visits there. Our travels never took us to the space center in Huntsville and we never had enough time to visit any of the Civil Rights museums or walk on the white sand beaches along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. We did enjoy many beautiful campgrounds and had fun cheering on the Dawgs when Georgia was the visiting team at Jordan-Hare stadium at the University of Auburn .

We spent our first ever night night on the road in Montgomery at the beginning of our cross country trip in 2006.

Our very first night on the road on July 14, 2006
Our very first night on the road on July 14, 2006

We discovered camping in Corps of Engineers parks on our way home from a three month trip in 2007.

Prairie Creek Campground - Our first COE Park
Prairie Creek Campground – Our first COE Park

Sunsets over the lakes and rivers in Alabama are some of the prettiest we’ve seen.

Sunset over the Alabama River at Prairie Creek Campground
Sunset over the Alabama River at Prairie Creek Campground

We love camping underneath Spanish Moss draped trees.

Spanish Moss at Gunter Hill
Spanish Moss at Gunter Hill

We love it when we discover a pretty, peaceful place to spend the night.

Sherling Lake
Sherling Lake

Scenic drives and walking trails made our stays at Oak Mountain State Park one of our favorite campgrounds of 2016.

View from the top of Peavine Falls Road
View from the top of Peavine Falls Roadgames in Auburn.

We planned a couple of fall trips around the Georgia-Auburn game in Auburn.

Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University
Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University

We didn’t get to walk on the beautiful Gulf beaches in Alabama but we did stop for lunch at Flora-Bama on the state line between between Florida and Alabama.

Flora Bama Bar
Flora Bama Bar on the Gulf of Mexico

Best Campgrounds of the year – 2016

Welcome to our third annual “Wandering Dawgs best campgrounds of the year” list.

Our 2016 wandering took us on a short trips to Florida, Georgia,  Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.

We prefer staying in state and federal parks and this year our top three all fall into one of those categories.

Number 3: Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, Alabama

Early Morning at Tranquility Lake
Tranquility Lake was just a short walk from our campsite

We stopped at Oak Mountain on our way to Mississippi and enjoyed it so much we returned to the same site (A28) on our way back home to Georgia.

Our site was spacious with full hook ups and nothing but woods behind us. This large state park has a golf course, archery range, equestrian camping and horse stables, nature and hiking trails, lake front beach, mountain bike trails, and scenic drives. The road through the park is a popular place for bicyclists. Nearby Pelham and Birmingham have restaurants and shopping.

View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook
View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook

Read more about our stay at First Stop on our Fall Football Road Trip .

 

Number 2: Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Fargo, Georgia

Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?
Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?

We love this place so much we have camped here numerous times in past 10 years. Our most recent trip was in March, 2016.

Just getting to the campground is an adventure. After turning off the highway, seventeen miles of driving through pine forests and palmettos takes you into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It is remote, quiet, and wild.

We camp in one of the large premium pull through sites. It is a short walk or bike ride from the campground to the marina where you can go on a guided tour of the Okefenokee Swamp, rent a boat or canoe, launch your own boat, or take a walk on the nature trail through the swamp. Alligators are often seen around the marina but we’ve never seen one in the campground.

Sophie the Mama Gator
Sophie the Mama Gator

You can read more about our stay at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Number 1: Fort Pickens Campground, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

Ready for Beach Chair Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico
Ready for Beach Chair Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico

Miles of white sugar sand beach in Gulf Islands National Seashore within walking distance from our campsite, an historic fort to explore, a nice campsite, nature trails, beautiful sunsets, fresh seafood, fishing pier, museums and a lighthouse nearby – what’s not to love?

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Read more about our stay at Gulf Islands National Seashore .

Honorable Mention:

  • We returned to Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, Arkansas, our “Best Campground of the Year – 2014“. I left it out of the top three to make room for three new campgrounds
  • Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, White Springs, Florida
  • Eastbank Corps of Engineers  Campground, Bainbridge, Georgia

Where do you think we will wander next year? Stay tuned…

First stop on our Fall Football Road Trip

After enjoying a relaxing summer at home, we are once again on a fall road trip to watch the Georgia Bulldogs play an away football game. This year we are on our way to Oxford, Mississippi to see the Dawgs play the Ole Miss Rebels. But in true Wandering Dawgs fashion, we are not taking a direct route to get there.

We started the trip in Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama, a few miles south of Birmingham. This is Alabama’s largest state park and it has something for everyone – mountain bike trails, golf course, lake with a beach, hiking trails, a scenic drive, a beautiful campground and more.

Wandering Dawgs in Oak Mountain State Park Site A28
Wandering Dawgs in Oak Mountain State Park Site A28

Every day Blondie and I walked on the trails around our campground loop.

Early Morning at Tranquility Lake
Early Morning at Tranquility Lake
Moccasin Nature Trail behind our campsite
Moccasin Nature Trail behind our campsite
Early morning walk in the woods
Early morning walk in the woods
Spotted this Heron on our last morning
Spotted this Heron on our last morning

One day we drove to the dead end of Peavine Falls Road on Double Oak Mountain. As we wound our way up the narrow road I was reminded of some of the drives we have made in the Great Smoky Mountains.

This sign was at the parking lot at the dead end at the top of the road
This sign was at the parking lot at the dead end at the top of the road
We had a picnic at the Peavine Falls Overlook
We had a picnic at the Peavine Falls Overlook
View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook
View from Peavine Falls Road Overlook

We enjoyed our stay and were even able to do a little shopping in nearby Pelham and Birmingham before continuing our journey west to our next destination.

A stop beside the Alabama River

As we traveled east from Louisiana to Alabama on I-20 we crossed the Mississippi River into Vicksburg and stopped at the Welcome Center to take a break. It was drizzling rain but we were still able to have a beautiful view of the mighty Mississippi.

After our short stop we continued on our journey. Our destination was Prairie Creek Campground near Lownesboro, Alabama, the first Corps of Engineers park we ever stayed in. Were we pleasantly surprised back in 2007 to find big sites, paved pads and a well maintained park. Ever since that first stay in a COE campground we look for them whenever we are traveling.

Our second visit to the campground did not disappoint. When we weren’t enjoying the view of the Alabama River from our site we took a drive to explore the dam.

The sunsets were gorgeous right from our site.

Sunset over the Alabama River at Prairie Creek Campground
Sunset over the Alabama River at Prairie Creek Campground

What a great ending to our spring road trip!