Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vacation Day 7

Vacation Day 7 began like any other. Wake up leisurely. Watch "hotel" cartoons unavailable at home. Wear shades, everywhere, in the dark.

I should mention that in addition to Bridgette's health being slightly on the fritz post-enteritis, traveling is not conducive to normal sleep schedules.

Sure. We all know that.

But from day to day, we were definitely starting out more or less rested dependent on the day/night before. We started Day 7 on the tired side. Bridgette's stool output on Day 7 was higher than Day 6 (might have been all the peanuts), and we had been up several times during the night changing her too. By extension, she was up several times as well.

After some in-room breakfast (peanuts and pop-tarts), we hit the road and headed to San Diego Bay to see the one thing on the "mommy-must" list, the USS Midway. I had been in San Diego for a conference in 2004 when the Midway docked, but it was a full week before she opened to the public, and I had flown out the day of her maiden "tour."

I've always wanted to get back to San Diego just to see her. If you're interested in naval vessels and want the particulars of her life, please refer to the fount of all wisdom: Wikipedia: USS Midway (CV-41).

If you want to see lots of photos of the ship, please see this site:

This is a photo I took on the flight deck of "the island."

Now, I love my daughter. And I love a lot of the photos I've taken of her. But this next shot ranks right up there with the best photos of all time.

Seriously. Look at that face!

We had just received our headsets on the hangar deck, and she was nothing but concentration.

I don't know if she'll turn out to be a pro-wrestler, an engineer, a mommy, a painter -- none of the above or all of the above -- when she grows up.

But I'm pretty sure no one there would have guessed she had taken her first tentative "baby" steps only a few months before she was touring the Midway, as engrossed as any adult.

I'm including a link of all the self-guided tour stops, so I don't feel responsible for telling you about everything we saw:

The ship was really fascinating, and I enjoyed her as much as I thought I would.

Here we are checking out some of the luxurious sailors' bunks, although for reasons unknown Jeff seemed to think he might not be comfortable living on a carrier.

There were thousands of bunks, all crammed together in the most predictable places, like, wherever there was a tiny bit of room. As I understand it, sailors had under-mattress space as well as one locker for belongings.

And we can only hope that the sailors didn't have birthing hips to fit in their berths. We came to the conclusion that Jeff was too tall, and I was too girl.

After the sailors "quarters," we went to the fo'c'sle (forecastle) where we saw the mighty anchor chains (2,000 feet of thick chain plus 20-ton anchors) and met a skilled knottist -- for which there might be an official name, but I don't know it.

The knottist was a veteran of the Midway and had made a truly impressive display of master knots (not pictured). The display was matted in gorgeous ropemanship, and he told me that it had taken him 12 hours to complete every 6 inches of matting.

He was selling bracelets of rope for $3, and although I'm not a fan of jewelry in general, I was strangely compelled to buy one. In fact, he had various colors and styles, but I knew immediately which one was mine, as though it had a soul and was calling me. I've worn it quite often since then.

Bridgette tried her hand at a basic knot. She never quite mastered it, but she learned the word "rope," so that's something.

The Midway was propelled by steam turbines (12 boilers), and despite the namesake (Battle of Midway), she wasn't actually launched until March 1945. And even though it's a bit confusing, she's also a Midway-"class" carrier (following the Essex-class of WWII), Midway-class being one of the longest lived carrier designs in history.

This was taken in one of the four engine rooms.

Yeah, cool!

We've really got to get one of these for the playroom...

No family vacation is complete without a little time in the brig.

OK, so I pause in the photos to tell you a couple of anecdotes.

1) Bridgette had a rough day below decks. Once in a corridor, on a path to wherever, there aren't exactly baby changing stations. Nor are there trash cans. There are no benches. There's barely enough room to walk, and those metal, clanging stairwells are a bit steeper and skinnier than the city-standard norm.

So, with a run of changes needed every 30 minutes or less, we found ourselves ducking into some truly unusual spaces for diaper changes: under stairwells, in between seats in a mission briefing room, on the hangar deck... deck, etc.

I felt pretty badly for Bridgette because she's old enough to feel uncomfortable being changed in front of strangers, but there wasn't much choice there on the ship.

2) I didn't take any photos of the medical bay (probably my favorite part of the ship - sick bay, operating tables, etc.), but I found the self-guided tour commentary amusing. Some former medics were relating their daily battles with split-open heads because of the low doorways and plethora of pipes and sundry metal objects on which to smack oneself.

I don't know why I thought it was funny. I probably shouldn't have.

3) Aircraft carriers are called "a city at sea." In the case of the Midway, consider these factoids:

Crew 4,500:
$1.2 million in monthly payroll
5 physicians/3 dentists
200 pilots
600 men in engineering alone

Daily food requirements:
13,500 meals served daily
10 tons of total food daily
20,000 lbs dry provisions
1,000 loaves of bread daily
3,000 lbs potatoes daily
5,000 lbs vegetables daily
4,500 lbs meat when served
500 pies when served
225 cooks

1,001 feet long/258 feet wide
1,500 telephones
Compartments in excess of 2,000
200 miles of piping
3,000 miles of copper conductor
3.4 million gallon ship fuel capacity
260 gallons ship fuel used per mile
1.24 million gallons jet fuel capacity
gallons fresh water produced daily
18-foot tall propellers
18 decks
4 acre flight deck

20th century's longest serving carrier
327 days deployed, aircraft carrier record
Largest ship in the world for a decade
First ship too large for the Panama Canal
First carrier to operate extensively in the sub-Arctic
Midway pilots shot down the first & last MiG of the Vietnam War
Led evacuation of Saigon; rescued 3,073 refugees in two days
Flagship in Operation Desert Storm
Rescued 1,800 Americans fleeing eruption of Mt. Pinatubo
Has seen over 5 million visitors since opening as a museum

That doesn't include any information about ship's laundry, mail, etc., but you can see that it requires a lot to survive in the ocean with that many folks on board.

Here is a photo inside the island leading to the communications rooms. Please note the profusion of cables. One more visual cue as to the size and capacity of this beast.

The corridors in the island are actually wide and the doorways tall by comparison to below decks. On the other hand, the stairwells are much steeper. I didn't have any trouble, but they absolutely, resolutely deny any tourists below a certain height to tour the upper island. Children/babies cannot be carried either because the stairwells are so steep that if you fell forward you could easily crush an infant, and if it was on your back, you would probably knock its head on the small openings between decks.

I took this photo because it reminds me so much of the disaster exercises in which I've taken part. In the most successful communications drills I've witnessed, the radio operators manually track transmitted information on a white board.

But let's just say that our exercises are rarely this comprehensive.

I was pretty tickled by the "bunny tubes." Need to send a paper message somewhere within the ship? No problem!

Here is an image from one of the command information centers, adjoining the communications rooms. I was really digging the call-signs. Click on the photo to make it bigger/readable.

Bridgette started melting down about half-way through the below decks stops, so Jeff, in his kindness, said he'd take Bridgette to the flight deck while I finished the self-guided tour. I went to the lower decks and saw the galley, chow line, bomb elevator, CPO mess, sick bay, and machine & metal shops.

I already mentioned that my favorite was sick bay, but I was really impressed by the precision machinery too. They had to be able to repair or produce any part needed, no matter how large or small, on a carrier with 74,000 tons displacement, so I'm sure the machinists had mad skillz.

I don't know how I managed to miss ship's laundry, but I wished I hadn't. I bet they used a lot of hot water and soap and wash drums.

One thing I liked about the self-guided tour is that the recording first explained the area and how it was used, but then veterans (or their wives) shared personal stories too. The stories were sometimes touching, often funny.

When I came up to meet my family, they weren't where I expected to find them. We had a good 30 minutes of searching (on my part) in which time I almost employed the emergency docent search & rescue alarm (they promised they could find anyone on the ship in under 5 minutes). But I figured I would keep looking on my own for a while, despite the gargantuan size of the ship and the many decks, planes, and nooks in which they could be hiding.

I eventually found them on the hangar deck. They had gotten hungry and had eaten at the Fantail Cafe. Mmm. It kind of reminded me that I hadn't eaten more than a pop-tart all day, but oh well, some things are really more important than food.

So then we separated again (cell phones equally distributed this time), so that I could tour the island. Bridgette spent almost the whole of my tour-time hanging out in the helicopter you can see on the far right in this photo. In fact, if you look carefully, you will see she and Jeff entering it near the tail.

The next three photos were all taken from the flight deck control room. In the second photo, you can see a couple of current nuclear-powered carriers docked across the bay (very large, yet very small). In the third photo, you can see the docent in charge of my island tour. He was a nice man and very knowledgeable.

I determined that if I were to serve in the Navy, I would want to be a navigator. The photo below shows where I would work. This room is outfitted with GPS, but in fact, carriers still navigate at all times by dead-reckoning. (That may change with the new class of uber-carriers planned for 2015.) The navigators also had back-ups available like the good old triangulating sextant.

One reason I'd want to be a navigator is because I like to navigate... numbers, maps, stars, planning, etc. But another reason is that it's one of a handful of positions above decks. The room, small as it was, even had portholes.

I think I'd go crazy without a little fresh air and sunlight in my life. (Jeff and I toured a retired Navy submarine in Portland. It sure was neat, but in the long-term it would have been too tight for Jeff and too dark for me.)

Well, ok. I guess I wouldn't mind being Captain Kelly either.

What's to admit?

The photo below was taken on the bridge. I'm sitting in the captain's chair, where 40 skippers and thousands of tourists have sat before. Also pictured are my new, wonderful rope-bracelet and some windows. The docent told us that for 10 years the bridge had no windows, just open gaps. So, in a gale the bridge crew would all hunker down behind the steel inner wall that protected (barely) the ship's wheel.

The captain's and admiral's quarters (also located in the island) were posh by comparison to everything else on board, so it felt like, "Wow! This is nice!" But then, when you compared the size of their quarters to the size of a master bedroom in an average house, you realized it was still pretty small.

All a matter of perspective.

They had 25 restored aircraft on display as well as flight simulators and isolated cockpits. There were docents all over the ship to answer questions and do presentations. They were great. I took this following a lecture about precision take-offs and landings.

Cockpit = Too Big

Cockpit = Too Small

Cockpit = Just Right

We stayed on board until late afternoon and arrived back in our little hotel room (that was still *much* bigger than a bunk and locker) around 5PM.

Bridgette was bushed.

We used so many diapers in the first 7 days of vacation that the entire Costco box of diapers we had packed (200 count) wasn't enough to cover our needs.

So I headed out into greater San Diego to buy supplies. I was gone a couple of hours (had to make a handful of stops), and by the time I came back, Bridgette was...

... still asleep.

After such a late nap, we had a very restless night.

Then it was on to Day 8!


Paul said...

Very cool, Kelly! The stuff about the Midway was fascinating!

Lore said...

I am enjoying your vacation with you, vicariously. Love the matching expressions you all share in the brig - even Bridgette. I have often thought that there should be human sized "bunny" (pneumatic) tubes too, for ease and speed of transport around large institutions - a la the elves, in "Polar Express"-style.

Lisa Merkley said...

I would have loved a visit there, too! Don't see a trip there in our foreseeable future, but when we do, I'll have to remember this one!

Jeff Johnson said...

Hi Kel you are a superb writer and cute wife. I love you.

Smith Family said...

It's been too long since I checked your blog! It was fun catching up with all your adventures!