Friday, August 21, 2009

Before school started....

I'm way behind here...unfortunately, summaries aren't my strength. I'll try anyway.

We returned from camping early, after a small sampling of a fascinating state park that is unfortunately on California's closure list. An odd characteristic of that park is that all the attractions are man-made, including a 550-foot drainage tunnel that Gabriel and I climbed through (Julian chickened out). A forest fire and rustic accommodations chased us home early, though not before we did a little gold panning in Humbug Creek. We didn't get rich -- "humbug" is a goldminer's term for a dud resource without substantial gold.

Katrina has daycare every day this month, which I took liberal use of to do bigger-kid things with the boys in the last remaining days of summer.

First I took the boys swimming at Blackberry Farm. It's different without Katrina, since then I can go swimming with the boys, and not have to stick by Katrina's side the whole time. Incredibly, I ran into a mom there I'd met once before at a 2006 Las Madres playgroup last week. I was very glad to meet her: she too has two boys at the same school (in 3rd and 5th grades), and a 2006 girl! She's in the background in this photo, with her two boys and holding her toddler girl (who's much more fun in the water than Katrina). I can't exactly say that swim lessons have entirely paid off, but at least the boys can jump in and move around in the water with some ability and confidence.

The day before the first day of school, I took the boys to -- what else -- an aircraft carrier!

First, some research on the way.

We drove to what I think is a Navy shipyard in Alameda, where the USS Hornet is docked. It served as an aircraft carrier starting in WWII, and ended its career by picking up two of the Apollo missions in the 1960s. Now it's a museum, that you can walk through to see the original aircraft carrier, but it also has many other displays -- and a flight simulator.

No idea what these boats are next to the Hornet, but they were impressive.

The USS Hornet's, stern? Now that I think about it, I'm not completely sure which end is front.

The side of an aircraft carrier.

This isn't a parking's a boat. A floating airport.

The flight deck, where planes take off and land. And not from the same place, we learned! Takeoff is from a catapult off one end of the boat, at least for jet planes. Prop planes have more lift and don't need the catapult, but still take off from the same end.

The landing runway is angled so that if a plane doesn't catch the arresting cable, it just flies off the side and tries again, instead of crashing into everything else on the flight deck.

A few planes were stored on the flight deck to view up-close.

The "island" is where air traffic control and general guidance of the carrier occurs. The docent who took us up the 5 flights of ladders to the control room said we're seeing more of the "island" than he did in 3 years of service on this carrier during the Vietnam war. (The control room was too cramped for good photos.)

After a thorough investigation of the top end, we went down to check out the digs: the kitchen, laundry, crew quarters, hospital, even a post office. The boys weren't too interested in the lower deck but stuck out a quick tour.

We went back up to the hangar deck to check out the airplanes on display while we waited for our scheduled flight simulation (an extra I paid for upon entering).

A torpedo bomber!

Then we went inside this simulator for a "flight experience." I have a hard time believing they use this to train pilots; it was OK but pretty tame, I thought. A good flight simulation should have scared the cr*p out of Julian. I think I recall from my one foray to Disneyland 15 years ago that one of the rides (Space Mountain?) was far more challenging and thrilling, with sharper visuals and faster movement. Still, for 6 bucks each, it was a kick for little boys.

A final peek off a deck on the hangar level at neighboring ships.

We squished some pennies in a machine for souvenirs -- as a scrapbooker I appreciate a nice flat embellishment -- and bought some airplane toys at the gift shop. Because of all things the boys are interested in at a museum, the biggest attraction is the gift shop.

This was a really fun outing, and the boys -- and I -- got a big kick out of it. I love doing this sort of thing with them. These outings are ones I'd want do myself anyway, but is greatly enhanced by having them there to share it with and talk about together. How much time do I have, I wonder....when does a kid get too old to want to go with his mother to military equipment museums? Fortunately there's plenty of time to take them to a WWII-era submarine in San Francisco -- that's next!

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