To Fly, or Not to Fly?

The other day there was an announcement on a tarmac in Pensacola, FL that got my attention.

Sadly, it was not the announcement that the Blue Angels would once again resume their schedule of air show performances that had been cancelled for the remainder of the year. This tarmac announcement was east of where the Blue Angels fly but it did involve blue planes albeit ones that are a bit larger.

Southwest Airlines will fly non stop from Houston to Pensacola starting in November. Photo R. Anderson

Southwest Airlines will fly non stop from Houston to Pensacola starting in November.
Photo R. Anderson

The announcement in question was that starting in November Southwest Airlines would offer nonstop service from Houston to Pensacola.

Now I realize that this announcement of better flight options will probably only interest a select few Triple B readers. Primarily the interested parties will be those located in Houston with a desire to fly to Pensacola.

Previously if I wanted to fly to Pensacola from the closet airport to my house it would involve flying over my destination, switching planes in Atlanta and then back tracking until I landed where I was wanting to go.

Depending on the layover between flights in Atlanta this option could actually end up taking as long as it would take to just drive there.

Blue Angels jet at the Florida Welcome Center. Photo R. Anderson

Blue Angels jet at the Florida Welcome Center.
Photo R. Anderson

As mentioned before, Pensacola is one of my favorite go to spots when I need a quick fix of Florida sun and sand.

By car it is around nine hours from my doorstep to the sugar sanded shores of Pensacola Beach.  A plane ride on a Boeing 737 with the words Southwest on the tail would take significantly less time.

But that begs the question when is a plane ride better than a car ride?

While the plane option is certainly the winner when it comes to getting there the fastest it would involve increased costs and the need for a rental car once the final destination is reached.

Planes also involve getting squished up against people that you probably would not want to be that close to in normal situations.

Pensacola Beach is now just a Southwest plane ride away but driving still has its benefits. Photo R. Anderson

Pensacola Beach is now just a Southwest plane ride away but driving still has its benefits.
Photo R. Anderson

In terms of safety of air travel versus car travel, statistics show that one is far more likely to be involved in a car accident than a plane crash so the whole danger of flight argument is pretty much tossed out the window.

With a car ride the driver can control the pace and stop as often as they want without inconveniencing 100 other passengers.

So as much as I have longed for the day to come when I could travel nonstop by air between my house and the beach, it just doesn’t make sense to do.

There are other reasons why it is preferred to drive as opposed to fly for me.

The most glaring of these reason is I really enjoy a good road trip and for the past 13 years or so I have made the drive to Pensacola around twice a year on average.

This frequency of travel has allowed me to see many sights along the way and has led to the desire to to visit a few regular stops along the way.

So join me if you will for a virtual look at some of the things worth stopping at during the nine hour drive from Houston to Pensacola.

Petting Minou is one of the things that makes driving to Florida worth it. Photo R. Anderson

Petting Minou is one of the things that makes driving to Florida worth it.
Photo R. Anderson

The first stop on our journey east is a stop in Louisiana.

For those of you who have never been to Louisiana let me start by saying the lower portions of the state consists of a lot of swamp area and a lot of bridges over those swamps.

One of my favorite places to stop along the way is a Welcome Center in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin.

The bulk of the basin falls between Lafayette and Baton Rouge and is also known as Cajun Country.

The Welcome Center provides an inside look into the history of the Cajuns and their exile from Canada to the Louisiana swamps.  If you have the time it is definitely worth the stop. Plus, as one of the few rest areas along the 23 mile bridge there are other good reasons to stop there.

Rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center. Photo R. Anderson

Rocket test stand at Stennis Space Center.
Photo R. Anderson

And if you do stop there be sure to say hello to Minou (pronounced me new) the cat.  Minou is a sweet kitty that has welcomed me for many years now and I always take time to pet her on both the eastern and western legs of the journey.

The next state on the eastern journey is Mississippi. On the western border to Louisiana is Stennis Space Center.

At the Mississippi Welcome Center there are many space related items to see as well as a new science center named Infinity to check out.  Again, if you have time to see it the tour of the rocket test stands is definitely worth taking.

After leaving Mississippi behind it is time for Alabama.

To be honest I usually just drive right through Alabama since it only takes about a half hour to cross through. There is a very nice skyline and a tunnel in Mobile to check out while driving by though. Although I have never had the chance to stop there myself there is also a battleship exhibit in Mobile Bay that is worth a stop. During my last drive thru Alabama I was also greeted to the sight of the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph undergoing repairs.

The sign that shows the journey is nearing its end. Photo R. Anderson

The sign that shows the journey is nearing its end.
Photo R. Anderson

And then with Alabama in the rear view you reach the destination of Florida. A quick stop at the welcome center complete with free orange juice and a look at some former Blue Angels planes and it is just a quick hop skip and a jump to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

So, while Southwest’s announcement of non stop flights from Houston to Pensacola seems appealing at first glance I think I will continue my arrivals by car so I can enjoy all of the sights and sounds along the way. Besides what would Minou think if I flew on by without saying hi?

Of course one of those quick wanna get away weekends a plane ride might be in the cards so I guess it is best to never say never.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to plan another road trip.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson