The momentum of The Great Loop seems to be always forward. On to the next destination! People always ask “where are you headed next?” It’s like a good story or series. It needs a new chapter!
But sometimes, “the story” is right where you are. If doing The Loop is meant to see America, as many say, then you need to take time to look around rather than just pass through. At least that’s how I see it.
We’re staying for several days at the Navy Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. It’s a somewhat odd place to “see America,” given that military bases are literal “gated communities,” with armed guards at those gates, and most Americans have probably never visited one. But we are looking around. It’s also been, for me, a chance to look in and reflect on my 30-year Navy career. Being surrounded by Navy people, terminology and history has mentally jerked me back by decades. What a huge part of my life the Navy was, and how the meaning of it changed over time!
The best part of staying here has been the chance to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum. We’ve gone twice already, and may go again. Yes, it’s that good — plus, it’s hard to absorb everything in one visit. You don’t have to be an aviation buff, or even a Navy buff, to enjoy it. Sadly, the museum has been closed to anyone without a DoD ID since the shooting on base almost two years ago. That’s because the museum is on the base, which is seeking a better way to balance security and accessibility. (A new gate that allows museum access is under construction.)
The biggest surprise, for me, was the connection to Antarctica. My work there was a highlight of my civilian (not Navy) career, and I’m ashamed that I forgot about the early Navy connection.
PS: I got out on a Sunfish today — in a cold 15-knot north wind. The sailing instructor invited me along as “ballast,” to help keep the small boat from capsizing. I hope to sail myself if the winds ease up.
PSS: It’s not that odd to take a stop on The Loop, even a long one. Many Loopers take a break of a month or so to return home. Several boats that we chased for weeks are far behind us now after stopping in a port. For most, family events or needs at home pull them away. Some just want to take a break. And everyone keeps an eye on seasonal weather patterns to help determine the right time to move on.