Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Sweet Home, Alabama!"

And on this day, the skies sure were blue!

I had to make a trip to Houston again. As can be expected, the history buff in me took over. Again! I heard the cry of "Damn the torpedoes!..." I had seen the movie "Under Siege." I had never been to the Gulf Coast, so I felt a brief stop in Mobile was in order.

The web site for Battleship Park recommended planning two hours for a thorough trip. I spent nearly that on the Alabama!

 I got in to the Mobile area after dark, and stayed in a hotel a few miles from town. Of course, I had to venture into town for a drink and a sample of the night life. I had just finished driving over 1,000 miles,  so my night wasn't going to be very lively. Mobile didn't disappoint at all, however. The Antebellum mansions and churches were enough to make the trip worthwhile. The atmosphere in the city made it even better. Everyone everywhere seemed to be having fun.

After a short stay, a good night's sleep, and an early wake up, it was off to the battleship. 10 years ago, I walked the decks of the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk. While enjoyable, there was a lot of the ship that was off-limits. This was not so with the Alabama. 

On the Alabama, you can walk the decks, climb to the upper decks, descend the stairwells into the lower decks, and even climb into one of the gun turrets, though this isn't easy. It is filled with displays on the history of the ship, battle honors, WWII displays, and various other bits of information on the ship and her past. While all of the ship isn't accessible, a large part of it is. The only things missing were a topless Erika Eleniak coming out a cake, a psychotic Gary Busey trying to drown his crew, an even more psychotic Tommy Lee Jones trying to nuke the World, and Steven Seagal kicking ass and saving the day!

After 1 1/2 hours exploring the beast, it was onto the hangar and its aircraft and vehicles on display. Sure, there was an F/A 18 Hornet, a P-51 Mustang, an F-14 Tomcat, and other planes and vehicles, but the highlight of the pavilion was the A-12 spy plane, the precursor to the famous, and infamous, SR-71 Blackbird. I was most impressed by the overall large size of the engines, and the relatively small size of the plane.

After a half hour in the pavilion, it was on to another WWII sea vessel, the submarine USS Drum. I had previously been aboard and spent the night on the USS Cod in Cleveland, but I had forgotten not only how cramped the subs from that era were, but also how overly complex they also were. I couldn't imagine having to diagnose, locate and repair a systems malfunction while at sea. The thought of being submerged and being depth charged made me shudder with fear. Like everything from that era, it took a special breed of man. Anyone who questions the bravery of a submariner has never been aboard a sub.

I spent another half hour or so wandering the park. There are various boats, including a replica of the Confederate Hunley, various aircraft, including a Vietnam-era B-52, and many tanks and mounted guns. The $2 park entrance fee is a bargain for all this park has to offer, but no visit is complete without exploring the Alabama. The $15 entrance fee is quite possibly the best $15 I've ever spent at an historic site. I highly recommend this place to everyone, and I'll definitely be going back!

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