Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009 Corpus Christi, Texas

January 31, 2009
Easy drive from San Antonio south to Corpus Christi. We are still in search of warmer weather, sun and a place for the "boys" to go fishing. Peg and I are starting to call them "Thing One" and "Thing Two", like the the little trouble makers that ran around with "The Cat in the Hat". They certainly keep each other amused. We came into Corpus early in the afternoon, and found that the main drag basically dead-ends at the South Gate of the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. Got into the gate with no problem after flashing our Military ID that proclaims Jeff as a 100% DAV. A nice little fellow in camo filled out our visitor passes and sent us to the RV Park with some sketchy directions. Honestly .... I have shoes older than the kid who was armed and ready to shoot us if we made a wrong move. He had eyelashes like a girl and big blue eyes... black hair and freckles. I wanted to pinch his cheeks and give him a kiss. Cleverly, I restrained myself. (Lord ... I hope he never reads this!)

Like every other Military Base I have seen, the top security buildings are very clearly marked .... Naval Command Headquarters ... Strategic Military Planning Division ... fire & Emergency Rescue ... Coast Guard Headquarters ... etc. However ... Commissary, Exchange, Post Office, Campground ..... those you could wander around for a while trying to find. We made one wrong turn, did a quick fly-by through the commissary parking lot (imagine 2 motor homes and tow vehicles doing donuts in the Acme lot) and found the RV park. Doesn't get much better than this. We pulled up facing the Corpus Christi Bay .... Peg & Kent backed in so we could have our doors opening up to each other. Between, we created our very own "Patio" and Bar-B-Q center. We are in the overflow area ... all the regular campsites are full. BUT... we have lovely privacy and we can run our generators without fear of disturbing anyone and we are 15 feet from the water. We watch the sun come up out of the bay ... egrets, gulls, herons and other fishing birds(like pelicans) are very active. Dolphins come chasing fish to shore every morning for their breakfast. There are about 5 that we see almost every day. The base restaurant, The Bay Club, is in walking distance and a fair meal is $6.25. The laundry is $1.00 a load to wash and the same to dry. The propane guy comes around to your rig to fill you up. In less than an hour you can move your rig to the dump station and then to take on a tank of fresh water and be back in your parking spot. Once you learn the secret, you can fish every night and catch your dinner of Black Drum, Red Drum, Trout, Sea Bass or Catfish. And all this for only $6.00 a day. Life is good.

Jeff and I took an afternoon to go to see the U.S.S. Lexington, also known as the "Lady Lex". It is an aircraft carrier of the same class as the "Shangri-La", one of the ships he served on. This ship was very active during WWII ... saw a lot of action in the Pacific. It was torpedoed more than once, and was rumored to have been sunk so many times that the Japanese called it "The Blue Ghost". It is a National Historic Landmark, now, and has loads of donated exhibits, artifacts, planes, helicopters and personal items on board. You start on the Hangar Deck ... where the planes were worked on by the mechanics and readied for their missions. When I saw the size of the place and Jeff told me how they would open the side doors, run the engines up to full power to test them after repair and realized what the noise level must have been ... I know why he lost his hearing. The place is immense. They had a crew of about 3000 or so on board. The flight deck did not seem big enough, when Jeff told me how planes would be landing on one end (catching the big wires that are fastened on the deck with their tail-hooks) and taking off on the other. Big plates lift up out of the deck to catch the jet blast and a catapult flings the plane out over the ocean at 120 knots. A big hole opens up in the deck and more planes go up and down by elevator. All this is covered over and puttied and painted over, but if you worked on one, you know where to look for the outlines of the openings. There are HUGE letters on the side of one wall that say ...."BEWARE OF JET BLAST PROPELLERS AND ROTORS". That seemed kind of a "Duh" reminder to me, until Jeff explained that when you are working non-stop at a very hectic pace, wearing earmuffs and have things moving all around you it is very easy to lose track of where you are. Apparently, guys walked in to spinning propellers all the time. I think you only do that once ... no second chances. Nor is there a do-over if your plane comes in a little low on the landing. You miss the deck by just a little, and you hit the back of the ship. It is very sturdy, back there ... the "poop deck" ... and you die, they scrape everything off into the ocean and write a sorrowful letter home to your family. I think it happens more than we ever hear about. Anyway ... the Mess (where they served 3000 meals 3 times a day and were open 23 hours our of every 24), the bunks(that are half as wide as a single bed and have a 3 inch mattress and almost no storage), the sick bay (which was very scary), the work areas, the smell of grease and diesel and 3000 other people that you can NEVER get away from .... I don't know how he did it.
And the BRIG!!!! About 4 foot square with a little place to sit in one corner, no place to lie down. You get shut up there for 3 or 4 days with nothing but bread and water (yes, that's what happens!!) and you don't want to go back. Unless you are a hard-head like Jeff, who spent a fair number of days there. I got him to go in one for a photo ... for old time's sake.
We now have permanent decals on our vehicles, and will have a faster entrance onto other bases. There are lots of folks who come here for 2 or 3 months every winter. I can see why, as it is a really laid back area with nice amenities and pretty decent weather. We have had days in the 60s and 70s each day .... cool at night for sleeping, but not cold. The wind can be something else, though! The gusts today have been 30 or 40 MPH, and they are increasing as the weekend progresses. We are planning to head out tomorrow for places farther south ... Mission, Harlingen and McAllen ... almost to the Mexican border. Apparently, this is where huge numbers of old farts go in their RVs for the winter. We want to take a look to see if it seems appealing or appalling. More on that later.

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