A Day Trip

Trip Start Dec 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 01, 2011

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What I did
The Battleship North Carolina

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Monday, December 12, 2011

Today Gail and I had to make a trip into Wilmington NC to check out the airport. You see, Gail has to fly home for our Daughter Bonnie's wedding shower and flying out of Wilmington not only saves me about $200 but they offer much better flight times compared to Myrtle Beach. Off we go, snacks and a cooler full of bottled water loaded in the truck and OnStar armed and ready.

The ride north was a very nice one. Hwy 17 straight to the airport, how could we go wrong? The Hwy turns into a nice 4 lane country road about 10 miles outside of Myrtle Beach. Nothing but farmlands and pine forest with the occasional home or business thrown in. I immediately go into "sight see while you drive" mode.

Gail, being the great Co-pilot she is, keeps us entertained with her constant singing and sometimes unbelievable questions. You see, for all of her life Gail has just went for the ride. She could care less about sightseeing or different things one might witness while on the road. Now on the other hand, is a different story. She has come to life, spotting every detail on or off the road. Every sign is questioned, every building is spotted and it’s even to the point where she is calling out every name of every road kill down the road. If I see a creature up ahead that didn’t make it across the road, before we get with-in a few hundred feet of the carcass Gail is sounding out “possum, deer, or Coon”. What has happened to the person who 5 miles down the road was kicked back and “resting her eyes”, only waking five minutes before our arrival?

On our arrival at the airport Gail gave me the thumbs up and figured she would be able to navigate this small airport from drop-off to gate without issue. The green light was on to purchase tickets. Now that we were here in Wilmington I figured why not look around. The weather was not the best for walking around the city as it was overcast and a bit chilly so the next best thing was to explore some history.

The Battleship North Carolina is at berth just a short drive down the road. I had wanted to visit her ever since relocating to Myrtle Beach. I am a history buff and a tour of this mighty ship would make my day complete. As we pulled up alongside the ship Gail didn’t think she would enjoy it and started to come up with excuses as to why we should not visit. No, not this time. We were boarding this vessel and are going to explore her inner workings. My mind was made up. Up the gang way we went.

As soon as we entered through the door leading to below decks I could see Gail’s expression change. Moving down the tight walkways and climbing up and down the small ladders from deck to deck Gail stopped and looked and felt most everything in sight. Questions of life onboard and the amazement of how over 900 men lived and died on this mighty warrior were asked. Gail was overtaken at the sights of the living quarters and bathroom facilities these men had to endure. Tight bunks made of chain with a 2 inch thick mattress and bathrooms without walls or privacy. The bunks hung from floor to ceiling one after another, she could only imagine the heat and smell of these conditions while underway with a full crew.

We ventured into the engine rooms and we both became somewhat quiet and somber as I had explained that my father had spent 4 years on a naval ship in this area. The heat must have been unbearable, the noise intense. These men lived in this hell like area, only leaving to eat or get a breath of fresh air out on deck. I truly don’t know if I could have done it.

Off to the magazine area where all the ordinance is stored. Amazing is the size and girth of these explosives. 18 inch round barrels of gun powder about 20 inches long are handled and prepared in this area. Just to see the way these young sailors had to handle and load these things was unthinkable. Entering the electronics area of the ship, we could not believe all the old banks of switches, handles, and phones hanging from every possible space. The banks of electronics made a maze out of the entire area. A single laptop of today probably has more power and computing power then this whole arrangement.

Time for the upper decks. Gail led me up the tiny ladders to the main deck. Off to the bridge she went. One cannot believe after seeing a ships bridge of today’s ships what these true men of the sea endured. No electronic navigation or auto-pilot, just a compass, some weather dials and a big wheel. Missing are the full wall glass windows but instead is small porthole windows that make seeing the front of the ship a job in itself. Gail was amazed, and that’s when I think that it finally hit her. This mighty battle wagon was built for one purpose only – to do battle, to protect our country and its citizens. Her mighty guns used to deter, not just destroy our enemies around the world. Thousands of men lived and died on her protecting our shores. She now sits at birth in the state of her namesake as a monument to all that served on her. As you exit her deck and look to the back of this great vessel you will see she still proudly displays this nations colors, blowing in the wind. As you walk down the gangway one feels a sudden burst of pride and thanks for living in the greatest country in the world.

Until next time………            
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