Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mobile

I'll try to add the pictures later.

We stopped in Mobile, Alabama to tour the battleship USS Alabama. The ‘Bama is a big girl, she supported operations in the Pacific with about 2500 crew members during wartime. Quoting from the Battleship Park’s official website, she is about half as long as the Empire State building is tall. Also in the park is a WWII submarine, the USS Drum, which the kids enjoyed exploring. Before entering the ship/sub area, we visited Vietnam and Korean War Memorials and passed several old helicopters and planes, including a B-29, which, according to Mom, is one that my grandpa flew during his WWII service in the USAF.

As we walked up the ramp to the ship, Jack pointed to the oil collected near the shoreline. Booms were in place, but hadn’t stopped this nasty stuff. Honestly, though, I couldn’t be sure that it was not from the old ship or possibly from local traffic & industry… Mobile is 30 miles from the Gulf and this is near a heavily industrial area. We could see the gantry cranes once we were on deck on the battleship, and we drove by a huge shipyard on our way out of the area.

If there was any doubt in our minds that this oil tragedy is real and is in Mobile, it was gone when we saw the pelicans. Henry pointed and said, “Look, they’re flying. They’re fine!”
I said, “Pelican bellies are white. Those aren’t.” During the time we were on deck, we saw several that were flying in spite of the oil on them. We only saw one struggling, its wing feathers stuck out, straggly with oil.

Another storm rolled in and we toured belowdecks. Henry’s ankle was bothering him and I was depressed, but when the rain stopped, we pushed on and toured the sub. (It was a lot smaller than the battleship.) The boys cheered up; they found it pretty cool in there. As in “interesting,” mind you. It was in no way “cool.” More like “sweltering.”

The littles got to pretend to steer and dive the sub at the direction of a retired sub operator who was on hand, and all three boys climbed up into the conning tower, which Henry proclaimed a “tight fit.”

The retired operator (sorry, kind sir, I neglected to remember your name or rank), when he got a good look at Henry descending the ladder, asked, “Holy cow, son, just how tall are you?” We told him (6’6”).

“I’m trying to imagine you assigned to a sub for 3-6 months. You’d have a permanent bruise on your forehead,” the man laughed.

We returned to the car and got Henry’s foot up. On to Biloxi. At some point during the drive, it stopped raining and a beautiful sun came out. Just in time for our rock-star treatment at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was time to shake off our malaise. It was time to play.

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