Commercial aviation has always interested me and the whole airline industry seemingly sparks major conversations. In December 2018, planning our traditional daughter-father trip, our Australia plan didn’t turn out due to flight loads to Los Angeles. San Diego, our back up plan in visiting the USS Midway aircraft carrier, surely worked out and boy were we pleasantly surprised.
This time around, we wanted to experience the Navy aviation aboard one of America’s longest running aircraft carriers. USS Midway.
After a great night sleep and tasty hotel breakfast, we venture to the USS Midway museum. The day was fresh and crisp with only a few clouds contrasting the baby blue sky. We knew San Diego was a Navy town but if one didn’t know, the giant sailor statue would surely give it away.
We sprint through the light line, climb a few stairs and pick up our audible guide phone like contraption. So clever that throughout the ship, strategically placed posts with yellow placards would give history and information once the handheld device would connect to it. Actual pilots, sailors and crewmen would be recounting stories of their time on board.
Seeing the vessel was commissioned for service in 1945, all furniture, appliances, instruments, and equipment clearly depicted that era. We start with the below decks and visit the laundry, galley, sick bay and engine room. They were describing on how the steam would be so unbearable but the sailors had no choice but work endless hours.
The dentist and operating medical facilities were capable of performing life saving measures and complete dental care. Being out at sea for long periods of time, the well-being of all on-board would require all of these facilities to run smoothly.
The corridors, doors, showers and toilets were extremely small that even an average person would continuously need to bend to get by. The enlisted sailors’ bunks were in such confined quarters that if one is not used to this, they would surely feel claustrophobic.
Continuing with the lower deck, we visit the ship’s Chapel and several of the flight debriefing rooms. It was identical to several scenes seen on Top Gun and Alessia tried to do her own debriefing.
True size mannequins were placed throughout the ship to give the visitors a sense of space and size. The electronic quarters had rooms filled with some decoders that were used to intercept signals to gain any advantage possible. The communication area was dimmed with display needles circling radars trying to detect object enemy line. This was truly like the movies. Talk about the “heart” of the operation.
We also couldn’t help notice the size difference in the rooms from Sailors to Pilots to Admirals. Rightfully so with more room and privacy for the higher ranked officers. The museum was so well laid out and extremely well done, that it brought us visitors thinking how the crewmen actually lived on the carrier.
We move up to the flight deck and visit the many fighter planes and helicopters displayed. We attend quick seminars and listen to veterans explain the intricate details of how the catapult and trap works. I thought that the racing F1 team needs to be in sync when a vehicle comes in for tire change, but the true display of zero percent error is when these planes latch on and get sling-shot every 90 seconds on a floating runway. Different color sweaters mean different job function and each have to systematically maintain communications for all planes arriving and leaving. Unbelievable team work!
The main display was visiting the Island which is basically the flight tower. The wait was a little long but definitely worth it. We’re met by a former pilot that has actually flown during the Vietnam war and describes every next step. He explains many functions of different rooms, offers stories of what they used certain things for, how they calculated distances from objects using the horizon and ultimately giving us the opportunity to touch the main brass fly-wheel. The US Navy really seems to have this down perfectly.
We end the tour by heading back to the main hangar and sit through a 15 minute movie called the “Battle of Midway”. Informative, emotional and well documented that explains the US Navy’s greatest victory. After a full 5 hours of touring the museum, we head down to the Seaport Village.
We walk along the port and take in the small stores, restaurants, hotels and very expensive yachts. Establishing all these memories with my daughter are moments in time that will never be forgotten. Something about memories that become more important as time goes by. We find ourselves in a beautiful calm park area along a pond and see several turtles and ducks that are definitely used to the public.
We take the local train back to the hotel and catch the shuttle for Old Town. Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego and site of the first European settlement. The area has great authentic Mexican restaurants and quaint shops. To our surprise, we even walked along Whaley House, which is deemed as one of the most haunted houses in San Diego. To be honest, we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and in our eyes, a simple money grab. It was, however, great to see the 1857 Greek Revival style residence; a California Historical Landmark.
We end the night with great food at the Cafe Coyote and couldn’t help wonder on how the local eateries were mass producing the freshest tortilla breads that I’ve ever tasted.
Balboa park is our next stop and for some reason it seems that every tourist area in San Diego promotes calmness and peace. Huge grounds with many museums, gardens, ponds and open area that you can sit for hours and either read a great book or stare out at nature. Just before noon, a barrage of food trucks slowly creep in and prepare themselves to feed the public. We end Balboa Park by taking in a gallery at Timken Museum of Art and with no time to spare, we Uber to La Jolla. Beautiful landscape of caves and rock formations along the Pacific coast.
Walking is surely the main activity we do on these trips and when that is coupled by beautiful scenery, we simply lose track of time. With the water crashing the rocks, with the crisp wind from the ocean whistling along, they simply make us realize how lucky we are to venture the world. We continue the coast line until we arrive the area in which seals have made certain patches of rocks their permanent home. They’ve become so friendly that both man and mammal share a common geographical area. In fact, I believe it is more their home than ours. These creatures are so beautiful and seeing them play in the open waters or simply lounging along with no care in the world, their actions can’t help us feel so peaceful. With Alessia’s love for animals, it doesn’t take her much to get a high-five from a seal.
We continue our walk for a few more hours taking in all the scenery possible and with some outdoor wedding in progress, we know that the background of their wedding photo album will be breathtaking. Simple and peaceful.
We head back to the hotel, last supper at Old Town and quick night retreat since our morning flight was early. Yet another quick get-a-way completed and as the years pass, time becomes more precious. With life, the more precious it gets, the less we have of it.