Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Day 4, Pt. 1 -- Exit frying pan....

Thursday, August 18th

The rain that started the evening before felt overlooked and underappreciated, so during the night it turned up the volume and added a light and music show. Emily and Woodrow came downstairs around 3:00 and asked me to sleep upstairs with them. I have absolutely no idea how my snoring upstairs is any different than snoring downstairs, but I dutifully trudged up with my pillow and slept on the lone unoccupied bed. The lightning over the marsh was gorgeous, although I only saw five or six blasts before I was again sound asleep.

I am obviously a shoo-in for mother of the year, n'est-ce pas?

Wesley awoke at 6:00 and started preparing his ginormous breakfast from hell. I awoke at 6:45 and thought about biting everyone's head off. Yeah, early to rise, my rump. That was just inhumanly early. Still, we wanted to go to Patriot's Point, and we had been warned that the submarine wasn't air conditioned so we should get there first thing in the morning before it turned into a cast-iron oven.

Once again, my husband's idea of breakfast would have fed several small third world villages for a week -- bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, toast, jelly, coffee, milk, juice, and peaches. Oh, it was very good, it really was, but I have no idea how anyone really cooks all that food so early in the day, much less cleans it up after he's finished. I try to avoid anything that even *smells* like so much work. Unless it's Thanksgiving. I can understand cooking that much on Thanksgiving, but... I dunno. He's a crazy man, but he's a keeper.

We woke the kids around 7:00 and were out of the house by 8:20. Although it had rained so thoroughly the night before, it was already scorchingly hot when we got into the car and headed for Charleston.

As I approached the big city for the first time this trip, I realized I didn't bring my cell phone with me, so I couldn't even call my sister and tell her about the boat tour the day before. No matter -- it was too early in Las Vegas to give her a call, anyway. We drove the hour to Charleston and crossed the new bridge. Last year that bridge was still under construction, and it gave me vertigo just to look at it from across the harbor. They finished it sometime in the last year, and it gave me the heebie jeebies, anyway. While driving across the thing, I opened my eyes just enough to notice that there were people *jogging* on the bridge. Jogging! With absolutely no regard for their health or safety, that far up across the water!!!! Are they nuts or what????

Ahem. OK, I'm a weenie.

Patriot's Point is a ... museum of ships. There's some confusion as to whether the name is Patriots Point, Patriot's Point, or Patriots' Point. Their own literature and signage used all three spellings, so even they do not know what the proper name is. I'm going with the singular possessive because it was the spelling most often used, but it makes me very grumpy to do so. It's very clear to me that the name should be the plural possessive.

Anyway, they have an historic aircraft carrier from WWII, the Yorktown, and a WWII submarine, and a WWII-to-Vietnam destroyer, and a Coast Guard cutter. They might have other stuff. I'm really not sure, because I didn't see it all. We were all very excited to be going, because we've been looking across the harbor at the hulking size of the Yorktown for years without touring it. And there are two testosterone-poisoned guys in my family who grunted and scratched every time they thought about stomping around on it.

*I* was excited because my father was a Naval aviator who served on a WWII aircraft carrier, and it would be a chance in a lifetime to see the sort of equipment he worked with long before I was born.

Emily was excited because... well, Em's always excited.

We parked without difficulty in a near-empty parking lot, and while Wesley got our tickets, I ran to the ladies' room. This was the first indication that I wasn't going to have a good morning. I didn't know it at the time, though, so I thought nothing of it. I'm a chick. I always go to the ladies' room whether I need to or not. I figure I *will* need to eventually, so I might as well go whenever there's one handy. I'm trying to get ahead of the game. Also, there's still that unresolved childhood trauma about the Queen not stopping parades and the notches in my puckering string and all that. (See "Day 1" for complete history.)

There was a huge crowd of people touring together, and they had nametags on, but unlike the Brazilian tour groups you see in WDW, there was no leader with a yellow flag hollering in a foreign language. It turned out that the large group was a Vietnam veterans' group who were apparently having a reunion somewhere nearby. They were accompanied by wives, grown children, and grandchildren, and those were the happiest guys I've ever seen in Charleston. They were so excited to be there.

Our first stop was to have our picture taken in front of a green screen. We were informed that the photos would be "on the board" when we came back. Then we walked across a long.... pier or sidewalk or something toward the Yorktown, which loomed huge in the distance.

Most of these early-morning tourists went directly to the aircraft carrier. We went past it and went all the way to the Laffey, a destroyer, because we figured we would tour backwards and work our way back toward the exit, saving the Yorktown for last.

We toured the Laffey extensively, and before I had been on that ship for five minutes, sweat was dripping down my torso, running down my legs, and soaking my most comfortable, most broken-in walking shoes. I realized very quickly that there was something wrong with me, and that I needed that ladies' room to be bigger, closer, and more air conditioned.

But I really didn't want to say anything, and I didn't want to stop touring. I did not want to be the damper on anyone's day. We talked to a few of the veterans who had also rushed to the Laffey. They had been stationed on a destroyer just exactly like this one when they served in Vietnam, and to see that little ship through their excited eyes was truly an experience I'll never forget. They talked about all the little things, and how they used to slide down the ladders, and how the ship *smelled* the same, "a combination of engine grease and paint and salt!"

We finally left the Laffey, and I told Wesley I really didn't think I could tour the Coast Guard cutter. The kids wanted to see the submarine, anyway. We were reading informational plaques left and right, and I walked across the gangway to the sub. One look into its dark stairs and I knew I couldn't go in there. I turned around and stood back while other tourists climbed down the ladder. I pointed to a shady place under the stairs that led to the Yorktown and told Wesley I would be over there. He and Woodrow went into the sub. Emily, sensing that there was something drastically wrong with me, stayed with me.

I slowly made my way to that shady spot under the stairs, where water dripped off the ship and onto the benches. This was something of a comfort zone, put together by someone who realized some tourists just aren't up to climbing two flights of stairs to tour a WWII aircraft carrier. There were vending machines. Emily checked the price, and I started digging through my purse to find the funds necessary for something cold to drink, which I hoped (in vain) would help me somewhat.

But oh, I had forgotten to get any cash from Wesley, and I had left most of my pocket change back at the rental house on Edisto. I emptied my coin purse. I went through everything in my wallet. I scrabbled around in the pockets and bottom of my purse in search of the right amount of money to get a drink, and finally came up with enough -- with some help from Emily. She brought me lemonade (bless her), and I pressed the cold bottle against my neck in an effort to cool myself.

Wesley and Woodrow joined us about twenty minutes later. I know Wesley could not figure out what was wrong with me or why I was being such a killjoy about it, but I just could not climb those two stairs and walk around an aircraft carrier. He and the kids went upstairs and I waited.

They came down forty minutes later to see if I would join them. I did not. They went back up, commenting that their next stop was the flight deck.

Bear in mind that I didn't have anything to read and was just people-watching and wishing I could go back to the house and die or something similarly soothing. I'll be honest. I cried a lot and felt really stupid and very sorry for myself. I drank my lukewarm lemonade (having warmed it up on my nice, toasty neck) and felt like a heel.

Finally, a trio of tourists came down to my shady spot to smoke, and they told me two really important things. First of all, the Medal of Honor Museum on board the ship was thoroughly air-conditioned, and although there were no chairs or benches there, I could sit there on the floor as long as I wanted. Secondly, there was a ladies' room up there.

All I had to do was to make it up two flights of stairs.

I gave myself a silent lecture, stood up, and walked up those stairs before I could psych myself out. And then I went to the ladies' room, where I spent a good bit of time splashing water all over myself, every part of me that I could reach, and then stood directly in front of the fan. Then I went to the Medal of Honor Museum and sat on the floor for a few minutes. ...


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