Days when the national news like CNN and Fox News actually cover something for more than a 3 minutes sound bite seems to be the huge exception to the rule today. That is, unless, there is actually something going on live they can’t manipulate into a proper commercial break spot. Lately I have come to loathe the repetition of information on the news and documentary-reality shows. This morning was one of those non-stop coverage points for the historic landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery, and an end to a space program, really the only one I have ever known in my lifetime.
Since this is really the only space program I have ever known in my life, it has been sad to me to see it being dismantled over the last 12 months, but I’m sure they know what they are doing and it’s time to move on. Being an average objective observer of the program over the last 30 plus years I certainly can’t offer any inside knowledge for anything NASA, I will just miss watching something I have known since I could was old enough to know what a rocket was. Discovery had a beautiful landing this morning on the back of that giant NASA Boeing 747SP-21 (see some pics here). Ben Cooper over on Airliners.net captured a great sunrise shot of the departing N905NA / 376 (cn 20107/86) captioned saying: “Farewell, Discovery! Shuttle Discovery departs Florida for the final time in history at sunrise, atop NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, bound for the Smithsonian in Washington DC.” Well said.
The football game yesterday was the first night game of the year and I ended up leaving my camera in the car, so I was left with taking photos of the game using my iPhone. I can’t wait to see what kind of camera the iPhone 5 comes with (reportedly it will be a great 8mp sensor), because the more I use my cell phone for actual serious photographic purposes the more I have grown to like it. Sure my Nikon DSLR would have done a better job overall but I was thrilled to have my phone, and not have to lug around a heavy body and lens for once. It also still proves the old adage that the artist is in the person (or the photographer) not in the camera.
Anyway, it ended up being one of the more enjoyable games we have been to this year. We didn’t get sunburned, die from the heat, or stress over the game (though we really don’t do that anyway). We did however get to see several friends around the tailgate areas, like Courtney (see her blog here) seen below with Deborah, and we ended up leaving early enough to get to see the end of the game from home. Normally we would stay but since I had to be at three services and a mission meeting early today, we opted for watching the end at home. By the time the next home game gets here against Florida I will have been to Uganda and back. The Florida game is actually the very next day after I get back from 36 hours of travel from the other side of the world, hopefully I will just be able to stay awake for the game. In the mean time enjoy some iPhoneography below.
Today we had a very last minute invite to St George Island, right across the bay from Apalachicola. This had to be our fastest trip ever down to the coast, no wait, second fastest… we once drove down to our Orange Beach marina for Thanksgiving in 2007 only to find out their wifi was not working and then made the 4-5 hour drive right back. We were there for about 60 minutes. This time we were down there for about 20 hours. It was plenty long enough to bake in the blasting heat, read another chapter in the Bonhoeffer biography (which is incredible), take a few pics for today’s Friday Feet, and make it back home.
Hard to believe how long it has been since Deb and I have been down to the gulf. We use to go down there about once a month but it’s been almost two years since we made the drive down there. I was instantly reminded why we use to go down there in December through February. The 100% humidity and 100*F weather going on right now was enough to make you run for cover.
Last night we went out to Chewacla State Park for a very quick trial run to test out the Dagger Axis 10.5 Kayak. This boat is much smaller than our previous kayaks but is very stable, easy to maneuver, and tracks quite well. We got to Chewacla too late to give it a real good testing but it was nice to get out on the water for a short time and to see the sunset together. It was a beautiful “fall” sunset, full of mosquitoes and 95*F weather, but as you can see from the photos it was well worth the trouble.
There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of review information about the Dagger Axis around the blogosphere but from a first impression it certainly gives a lot of bang for the buck and is one of the only kayaks that can seem to adequately cover both white water and recreational or touring flat water. From past experience you really can’t get a good feel for how a kayak handles until you have sat in one all day and paddled for hours (or miles), much like riding a street bike for the better part of 40-50 miles at a time. Hopefully the weather will cool off soon and we can do a little paddling during the day without having heat stroke. For now, here are a few pics from the launch (I’m the one with no hair), and one from the lake.
There is nothing quite like the power of God as seen through an incoming storm on the ocean. This week we planned on spending a few days in-between our two fall semesters down at the gulf, and of course there was a strong remnant of a hurricane from the Pacific on its way over right to our little spot. The ocean is even limited in our mind by as far as we can see, and only from the tiny little spot on the sand we can stand. But it changes every day. I have been to the Pacific, Atlantic, and of course the Gulf and it never looks the same, the ocean, even from our small perspective. The surfers were quite thrilled to see the 35-40mph winds down there today, and I took a few shots of the local surfers.
I finally got around to editing some of the photos from our camping trip last weekend. We stayed at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores Alabama, just down the road from where we use to live in Orange Beach at Bearpoint Marina. This state park is one of the larger ones, but a little less on the “camping” side and a little more on the RV side of camp grounds.
We have visited this park several times before and it is a very well developed area just on the other side of the main road from the beach. It does border the lake that is in the area and there is a golf course in the park as well, but if you are looking for a camping spot on the actual beach this is not it (nor were we expecting it to be). It does have great access to the Gulf State Park beaches which are starting to get a little crowded at this point. If you want an empty beach in the same area, same beautiful white sand, just take a short drive down to the National Seashore in Florida called the Gulf Islands National Seashore (though they don’t allow pets on the beach).
One thing about this area is the hurricane damage that is still present in the tree line. Several years ago a hurricane topped all the tress around here so if you look at what is normally a pretty full pine tree forest type area, you see sort of a tree trunk grave yard. Pretty weird looking but some of the photos below are a few trees that made it among all the ones that were topped, and the smaller ones that have emerged.
We have been to all these beaches and most of the restaurants in the area so many times that we will probably make our way east next time toward Panama City where we haven’t spent so much time. All in all it was wonderful and relaxing as always, and I did get to take a few photos while we were there. You can see the complete slideshow of photos here on flickr.
Auburn went back to the conference play today and we went to see the 1:00 pm start in Auburn against Vanderbilt. Perhaps a game Auburn should have won but in the end Auburn came up short. It was all offense on both sides today with no one playing a tight defense. As always Deb and I enjoyed the game but as I sit here and watch the Florida vs Tennessee basketball game with a packed house, I would like to see the same thing down here in Auburn. It isn’t an ACC thing and SEC doesn’t have basketball teams, they have plenty of good teams, Auburn just hasn’t won games in a few years now and not many come out to support the team on a consistent basis.
For Deb and I that isn’t what the games are really about. It is about spending time together and getting away from the normal routine of work and distractions to enjoy something together. Out of all the sporting events that take place at Auburn, Basketball is probably Deborah’s favorite. It is indoors, she can bring her knitting, and no one generally dumps a rum and coke on your camera or throws up their lunch a few seats next to you (both happened at the football games this past season).
Nope, the games are usually quiet, plenty of seats, not a crowded area, generally no commercial time-outs, tickets are CHEAP, and the games only last 2 hours at most. Of course, we actually hope that changes when the new area opens in 2011, but either way, we will still try to go to the basketball games when the weather outside gets cold. Here are a few photos I took at the game today. Click on the images below to see the larger size.
It usually gets to be about this time of year when I start dreaming about being some place warmer where the days are not 50-60* and gloomy (yes I know if you live anywhere farther north than the deep south 50 is not cold, but it is to us). One of our favorite spots to go this time of year is the Florida Keys. We have made more than a dozen trips down there over the years but a few years ago we did something different and road our motorcycles from Auburn Alabama to Key West Florida.
You may be saying big deal, who cares, but if you have never ridden a bike, or haven’t ridden more than about 50 miles at a time on a bike, it was a pretty big deal to us. It is about 850 miles from here to there, and by car, usually takes us two days if we stop in Orlando. That means long driving time in short light, and cold. It was a great trip, and goal achieved, but one of the best and most memorable trips we have taken down to the keys (other than this one). We didn’t make it all the way to Orlando the first night, and we only made it to Islamorada the second night, so it was a whole lot of very sore riding by the time we made it to Key West, but a memory I wouldn’t trade for anything.
So there are a few shots done with a point-n-shoot a few years ago, one while I was riding next to Deb while she was on her Honda Shadow VLX 600. I was riding a Honda Nighthawk 750 at the time and loved to take pics of Deb while she was riding (of course). We took many trips on these two motorcycles but this one trip to the Florida Keys was one of our favorite, and in one of our favorite spots in the country.
Today was our first and last full day on the gulf coast. For January, the weather was beautiful but very very windy. We went to one of our most favorite places in the Perdido Key area, the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We never really stay for more than a day or two down here but you pay for a 7-day pass ($8) and have access to one of the most wonderful white sand beaches on the Alabama/Florida gulf coast shore lines.
Every time we have been here the 5-7 mile stretch of beach has only a handful of people (today almost no one) and it seems to be one of those few areas in the country that still has pristine beaches and little sign of city life. Our other favorite area like this is over on the Outter Banks of North Carolina which also has some of the most untouched beaches in the country. So for my Friday Feet post today, here is my feet image, and also a few more. Tomorrow is it back to Auburn and back to work.
This is just one of probably 5,000 images I have of an empty beach. People often tell me they can’t find any beaches without big crowds anymore, especially here in the continental U.S., but I beg to differ. More often than not, Deborah and I find ourselves on a beach with less than 10 people in a 5 square mile area. This beach is one of our favorites. In North Carolina you can go to the Outer Banks and find empty beach after beach.
Of course one of the keys to finding an empty beach is going when everyone else doesn’t want to go. This may sound stupid, but if you want to get a tan and lay in the sun, then go where everyone else is going. If you are interested in walking on a place like the photo below, go in the off season, it is great. So far, we have been able to find empty beaches in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and some incredible ones in Alabama.
They are certainly nice places still left, you just have to look. This is one of our favorites spots, and it is usually empty all year long with white sand and no trash. It is COLD in the winter winds, but still a great place to spend an afternoon, and today, it is the image of the day.