rain! Rain, rain, rain!
98% chance it will rain all day. The other 2% is that it will thunderstorm.
I'm quite sure this was not in the 10-day forecast that I checked before we left Omaha. Sigh.
We did make it to Pensacola late last night. It was a long day of diversions, really. We started with the Louisiana Highpoint, Mt. Driskill, near Arcadia. It's under 600' and one of the lowest highpoints in the US. (We'll bag the very lowest here in Florida today. Britton Hill, near DeFuniak Springs, is only 345'. Since it's a drive-up, the rain won't impede that lofty goal.) Mt. Driskill is 1.8 miles round-trip, but we took an hour to summit. It was 95 degrees, a beautiful day, and we just took our time. Henry did fine, though he is sporting an impressive green and yellow bruise around his ankle now. It was a good idea for him to take the cane on the walk. Not only did it provide some insurance / stability, it inspired an impromptu game of pinecone croquet! Since our trip means we'll miss the Sacred Heart Croquet Tournament this coming weekend, I guess we had to make our own. (And if the camera cord were working, you'd have a picture.) Fourth of July, and Sunday, we missed being at Mass this morning, so of course we had to listen to our Freedom Choir CD. It fit.
Stopping at the Mississippi Visitor's Center, just over the Miss. River, we were saddened to learn that the oil has, in fact, reached Florida.
You'd never know it, watching all the "Visit Pensacola...the beaches are fine, we swear!" commercials on television in Omaha. The woman with whom we spoke broke down while we talked, wondering why, as she said, "everyone seems so nonchalant when this whole Gulf ecosystem is dying right in front of us." She said this is the worst crisis she's seen in her 60+ years, and that includes the economic crisis. She also said that none of the beaches in Florida had closed yet, in spite of the fact that they have started seeing the tar balls wash up. They (who, exactly?) say it's safe. I'm hearing JAWS music, aren't you? What would Captain Brody do, in a situation like this? And don't you wish it were just a maniacal great white shark instead?
People walked past us as we spoke. Other volunteers helped them find maps, brochures, the coffee maker, or the restrooms. They glanced over, then glanced away. The mood in the place was somber.
Continuing my sober mood, I drove through so many areas whose names I recognized from my school days' history books. We'd already driven through Pea Ridge, now here was Vicksburg. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to stop. We bought the drive-tour CD in the gift shop. Noah picked out some blue and grey soldiers, who were later wiped out in the back seat by Iron Man.
The audio tour was well-produced, high quality. We drove through the grounds, impressed by the monuments and displays, and learned amazing details of the 47-day battle that left 17,000 Union dead under this very grass. 13,000 of those buried here were never identified. I had to pull over when I heard that. The kids were silent. "Can you imagine," I asked them, "All those mothers who sent their boys off to war and never learned exactly what happened to them?"
Interestingly, the number of Confederate soldiers killed was not mentioned.
Do you think we'd be out of Afghanistan if we lost 17,000 soldiers in 47 days? What a no-brainer. But it's not about the numbers, is it. Every soldier has a family worrying about him or her.
Did we really allow deep-water drilling in the Gulf to end our dependence on foreign oil? Or was it just to get a piece of that giant, crude, black, gushing pie? Did we want it so badly that we failed to perform due diligence in confirming BP's safety procedures?
We are not on this trip to stage protests or sit-in's or chain ourselves to an oyster bed. We are here as witnesses. This is a family trip, so everything has to be flexible and we have to make time for play. But at the end of the day, I hope that we are showing our support for the Gulf region by being here, and by talking about it.
I had hoped to walk along the beach this morning, but it's still pouring. Though we arrived quite late last night, this area was hopping with a lot of young people having fun. In fact, even at midnight, there were people absolutely everywhere. (It wasn't raining quite yet.) And though I was required to pay close attention to signs and routes, I could not fail to notice all of the "rescuse the gulf dot com" and similarly-labeled vehicles. We'll see what the locals think about that.
And PS: We've had our first encounter with local wildlife. While stopped in Alabama for fireworks, I realized too late that I had been standing on a mound of fire ants. YOW! Thank goodness it was me and not one of the kids, but YOWWWW!
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