Romance and Retribution at the Arena

Thursday, January 05, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 1

PENSACOLA, Florida— With my shingles mostly over and our new MDX revved up and ready to prove itself on a long road trip, we left home and drove south through a sunny afternoon, landing in Pensacola, Florida, one of our favorite towns.  When we stopped at a local hotel to check on one of our letterboxes that had been reported missing, the presence of the Pensacola Civic Center across the street induced visions of hockey dancing in our heads.

A quick check of the Ice Flyers' schedule was enough to convince us to cancel tonight's reservations in Orange Beach and check in at the Pensacola Grand Crowne Plaza Hotel.  The post-New Year's slowdown in occupancy worked to our advantage as we were offered an upgrade to a suite on the 14th floor, providing a terrific view across the downtown area and the bay.


The hotel first attracted our attention because it includes the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger station, a classic rail depot constructed in 1912.  In 1984, the building was refurbished and became part of the hotel, which was built just behind it. The station was painstakingly restored and filled with many stunning period antiques. The hotel's lobby, shops, restaurant and meeting rooms are housed in the old depot.  Also included is a library for guest use, and that is where we hid a letterbox two years ago.

Letterbox Here... Hidden in Plain Sight
This particular letterbox happens to be one of our favorites of the boxes we have planted and has been enthusiastically received by those who have found it.  So we were relieved to discover that reports of its demise were inaccurate.  It was alive and well, having only had its location altered slightly.

More good news awaited us at the arena.  Spending extended periods in this area the past few winters, we have a soft spot for Pensacola's minor league hockey team, the Ice Flyers.  Though they have struggled this season, the team's acquisition of goaltender Steve Christie at the end of November has turned things around. 


Having lost only one game in their last nine, the Flyers were eager for the opportunity to exact revenge on the Louisiana Ice Gators, the team that interrupted their winning streak on December 27.  Pensacola took charge from the beginning, scoring just 5:42 into the first period.  There was never any question of which team would end on top, and the final score was Pensacola 3, Louisiana 1.


Not only were the Flyers vindicated for their loss last month, the win lifted the local team into a tie for fourth place with none other than the Louisiana Ice Gators.

After Pensacola scored their first goal, a couple seated in front of us jumped up, cheered, and like other locals around us, began high-fiving their fellow fans.  When they held out their celebratory gesture to us, we, of course, responded in kind, giving us the opportunity to start up a conversation with them.


Bert and Myrt are Flyers season ticket holders and enthusiastic fans.  Myrt proudly admitted to being 85 years old.  Bert, she said, "is much younger" though neither offered a specific number.  Both had retired in Pensacola, and both had been widowed when they met at a dance.  "I was a loose woman," Myrt whispered conspiratorially. "I asked him to dance."  The rest is romantic history.

Myrt, who hails from Philadelphia, has taught Texas native Bert to enjoy ice hockey, while he has introduced her to barbershop music, his hobby.  We enjoyed a pleasant visit with this charming couple, who also shared some recommendations for travel destinations.  Best of all, Myrt gave us our own cowbell to ring at hockey games.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Next stop:  Mobile

ROAD NOISE:
  • In Letohatchee, Alabama, we left I-65 briefly to stop at the Marathon convenience store for... convenience.  There we met John, who was working as cashier.  As we entered, he greeted us cheerfully and asked how we were.  When we responded and inquired how his day was going, he replied in rapid patter, "If I were any better, I'd have to slap myself, jump sideways off the bridge, swim to China and back, whistling Dixie..."  That's as much as I can remember, but what really stuck in our minds was how John tried to brighten the day of everyone who visited the store.  As we left, he asked us to return if we were in the area again.  I wouldn't be surprised if we did, just on the chance of seeing John again.
  • Considerate Invention of the Day:  Clipped to the drapery pull rods in our hotel room were Crowne Plaza "drape clips," a component in the "Crowne Plaza Sleep Advantage™" program.  Sure enough, they worked well to keep the sun from invading our dark room before we were ready to arise.  (They were not so effective at keeping the kids in the room down the hall from repeatedly slamming their door and running in the hall before 6 a.m.)
DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Peachtree City, GA; ended in Pensacola, FL
  • Miles driven: 314          (Trip total:  314)
  • States: 3 (GA, AL, FL)          (Trip total:  3)
  • Letterboxes found:  1  (confirmed still alive) 
  • Weather:  Sunny, 34° to 65°
  • Gas (premium):  $3.529 (Peachtree City)
  • Naps brought on by sun shining in car windows:  8
  • Trains passing beneath the hotel during the night:  3
  • Cowbells ringing at hockey game:  153