Traveling With Kids – San Diego – USS Midway

Inside the Belly Of the Beast

IMG_0552 (800x600) (2)Would the USS Midway be fun for anyone but me?

In a text message, Schmennis joked – “Tell the oldest this is a ‘no fun’ area and all personnel caught having fun will be keelhauled. No smiles. None. There’s a morale suppression squad on board and they’re very good at their job.”


The USS Midway is HUGE. It’s hard to believe how huge it is until you walk onto the lower hanger deck (and this is nowhere near the biggest aircraft carrier.) It’s awe-inspiring to see such an amazing feat of engineering. That so much metal could actually float amazes me.  Wooden ships I get. But 64,000 tons of steel made into a ship that’s 972 feet long… come-on, that’s impressive.

It is, however, still shorter than the Empire State, the oldest proudly declares. I ask if the Empire State can float? No. Can the Empire State launch an airstrike that can destroy an entire navy? No. Then my aircraft carrier defeats your building, ha!

There was so much to see and do on board. WW2 vintage planes to look at. Ejection seats to sit in. Stories about epic battles to be read. Cockpits to climb into and stare out at the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, fun facts to be IMG_0554 (800x600) (2)recited to anyone who was near me, jets on the upper deck to gawk at, a tour of the lower deck to go on, and, of course, a flight sim.

For the youngest to have the best time, he needs to be able to touch things, climb on things, climb into things, climb under things, photo-bomb people and be shout instead of talking quietly.

He could do all those here. He must have gone into every cockpit there was.  He even strafed his mom once and, like most boys, he did a pretty good machine gun sound. Apparently mommy was invading his island. I’m pretty sure he also dropped bombs on her, too, but his explosion sounds were less convincing.

IMG_2261 (598x800)The oldest, from the moment he entered the hanger deck, wanted to go on the flight sim.

“Can we go on the flight sim, now?” “What about now?” “How much longer until we can go on the flight sim?” And all of this while we stood in the ticket line.

He was clearly in violation of Schmennis’ ‘no fun’ zone rules, but he loved his sim experience in the Air and Space Museum and this one promised to be even better. Why? He could shoot other planes down. None of this ‘driving into houses’ for sport, this was full-on combat against the Japanese hordes in WW2 (I want to say he flew a Hellcat, but don’t quote me.)

So we climbed in, I assumed the role of gunner, which was not terrible realistic as the Hellcat was a single seat fighter, but whatever. We roared off a jungle airstrip and engaged the enemy. He swerved and dove and rolled as I tried to keep an eye on where enemy planes were and shoot them down.  He laughed and cheered and shouted insults at the enemy.

In the end, we shot down exactly 0 Zeros. 0.

And we got shot down, mostly by other Hellcats, about a dozen times.

As I stumbled out and towards the deck tour, I felt sick to my stomach. It wasn’t from trying to kill other people, that never bothers me, but from his aerial acrobatics. Now understand, I don’t ever get airsick, I don’t get car sick, I don’t get seasick and I can watch any movie in IMAX and not want to throw up afterwards.

But trying to keep an eye on the enemy planes while the oldest spun in wildly erratic (let’s say defensive) maneuvers, it was more than my brain could take. It took me a few moments to get over being queasy.

IMG_3730 (600x800) (2)On the tour of the crew decks, we all had a different experience. Amazingly, it was the youngest who wanted to listen to all of the audio information about the crew and their quarters, about the galleys and messes and elevators and birthing compartments (I know, odd name), and laundry areas  and… well, a lot of stuff.

The rest of us were happy to cherry pick the information.

IMG_3728 (600x800) (2)IMG_3726 (800x600) (2) Me, I loved ‘experiencing’ the ship. The thick IMG_3727 (600x800) (2)paint coated on the walls and floor. The smell of cloves in the dentist’s office. The snaking mass of wires overhead. The signs on the metals walls. The lingering odor of oil and metal and paint and lino. The small space set aside for each sailor. The wooden walls in the captain’s quarters. The solid metal doors that could be sealed to stop flooding or fire from spreading. The horror of being trapped if those doors were shut.

I loved that we had to duck so as to not bang our heads on the hatches. I loved that we also had to lift out feet as well  or trip. It kept me alert. I super loved no one banged their head until the very end. I loved walking up and down the steep, steep stairways and looking down elevator shafts and reading the funny plaques in the Chief Petty Officer’s Mess (they claim, with some justification, that they actually run the ship.) And I loved that there were dozens and dozens of old veterans onboard to answer questions, tell stories and thank us for coming.

IMG_0564 (600x800)But it was a long tour, self-guided, and even though we only got to see a small % of the actual space, it gave us all an idea of what life would be like.

The oldest vowed he would never join the navy. Too claustrophobic. He would, in a second, join the air force if they let him fly planes. The youngest would have gladly joined the navy if he was made captain.

And if they let him play on the elevator and load big shells. I didn’t have to heart to tell them they would also require that he get up on time and keep his room clean.

But the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world couldn’t shake the bad feeling she got on the lower decks. She got a bad feeling in the infirmary. She got a similar feeling in the coliseum in Rome. An unsettling feeling of death and pain.

I find it amazing she is so connected to the world that she can feel such things. I barely feel the world unless I’m hit in the face by a tree branch or trip on a  grass-covered hole.

IMG_2269 (800x599)But by the time we were done with the tour, people were hangry and that was not good, there was still the upper deck and all the shiny jets to see.  An F-14 Tomcat, A-4Skyhawk, F/A-18 Hornet, A8 Crusader, F-4 Phantom, A-6 Intruder (though I had to look up what the A-6 was called), an E-2 Hawkeye, an A-7 Corsair and a bunch of helicopters that I didn’t know the names of.

IMG_0574 (800x600) (2)IMG_2272 (800x598) (2)So, while the boys climbed in and out of another cockpit, while the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world caught a bit of sun, I ran around the flight deck looking at the planes, taking a quick picture, reading the call-signs painted on the sides, and trying to catch a bit of the cool lecture giving by an old F-4 pilot who’d fought over Hanoi.

Oh, I would have loved to spend a MUCH longer time there, but hangries trump planes so we headed off in search of food, leaving the planes and the history behind.

More adventures awaited.



Traveling With Kids – San Diego Air and Space Museum – It's No Ripley's –

Are You Not Entertained?

IMG_2152The oldest is like the best version of me in a museum. Respectful, reads all the information on a display that interests him, doesn’t touch sh*t he’s not supposed to touch. Like the Prettiest-girl-in-the world. The youngest is like the worst version of me. Giddy at some exhibits, wanting to climb on others, happy to stay with the family until he’s not, until there’s something cool to look at longer than the others would like. Plus, if he gets excited about something, he won’t stop talking about it. Just like me sometimes.

I figured 50/50 that we would make it out before being asked to leave.

I was the first one to crack.

events air and spaceForget all the things I could see… they had a room filled with planes set aside for a special function, planes that I wanted to see. Not that I couldn’t see the planes from the windows, it’s that I hate anything that stops me from doing stuff.

It’s a flaw in my character.

If I see a sign that says do not touch, I desperately want to touch whatever it says I can’t touch. Like at whistler, there was a sign that said do not touch the honet’s nest. Seems like good advice, yet it took every ounce of my self-control not to touch it.

Here it took every ounce of control not to wander into that room filled with people in suits and dresses, planes overhead, chefs in white outfits standing behind their creations, and overly hot-looking waitresses carrying silver plates of tasty-looking yummies. If I’d been alone, I would have likely wandered in there by ‘mistake’ and grabbed a few snacks before I was escorted out of the event.

However, today, I am very respectful of museum rules. Mostly. So I didn’t go in. That and likely the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world would have left me rot in jail.

IMG_0323IMG_2172The youngest, too, was well-behaved. He loved that he could stuff himself in a small plane or climb into the cockpit of a helicopter. He asked all about the WW1 planes (though it could be he didn’t ask at all, maybe I just started going on and on about them and how they flew and fought.)

But he didn’t much care for the rest of it. In fact, much to my horror, no one cared that they had a P51 or Spitefire or F-18. Like right there!

You could even touch it!

IMG_0327Also, no one wanted to hear my incredibly entertaining and informative talk on WW2 and planes. Not even my epic story about the battle of Britain and how we owe so much to so few. In hindsight, I should have talked about how my dad had worked on those planes or mentioned that Finn and Jake flew them in an alternate universe. In fact, I was so boring that I was left talking to myself at one point, looking up at a ME109 swooping down from the ceiling. *sigh*

Another dad looked over at me, as I glanced around to where my family had gone and just shook his head and smiled. He too was alone, his family standing in line to get rewards for completing the Ripley questions.

However, for the oldest, there was highlight. Something that he actually enjoyed.

IMG_2173I took him on a flight sim. An F18, blue angels sim.

The youngest refused to go. He knows his limits. It’s one thing to climb into a cockpit that doesn’t move, another thing entirely to be locked in a large coffin-like box that could spin upside down.

So the oldest and I were belted inside one of the sim machines., told about the controls, then sealed inside.

He was a bit nervous. Excited, too, but nervous. I was dead proud of him for even trying this out. It was going to take him well beyond his comfort zone.

Then the sim started.

The oldest roared down the runway then into the sky. The controls were hard to understand, at first. He flew into buildings, the ocean, the runway, and a mountain. But then he began to get the hang of it. We shot straight up, the sim tilted 90 degrees. We spun in the air, the sim rolling us upside down. We barrel rolled and banked and dove, over and over and over again.

IMG_2176I held on for dear life while the oldest laughed and giggled and shouted with pure joy.

However, apparently there was a camera in the sim. The prettiest girl in the world said I looked like I wanted to get out.

And throw up.

I told her that’s my usual face, but it was all I could do to hold on as the oldest flew the hell out of that plane.

It only lasted 10 min, but it was an amazing 10 min.

He wants one for his home now.

Afterwards, we collected the little rewards for having completed the Ripley believe it or not questions (though, to be truthful, the youngest had decided to tick every possible answer box, but they gave him a gift anyway – which was probably based on numerous previous meltdowns experienced by younger children.) The oldest got a pencil which he dubbed his magic wand. The youngest got something he hit his brother with on the way home but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was.

IMG_2154However, despite my failure to interest anyone in the epicness of flight and warplanes and tales of WW1 and 2, we hadn’t got kicked out, both boys had a bit of fun at some point and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world hadn’t had to explain why her boys (me included) had done something silly.

So, a success, I guess.

But we still had some time left in the day.

What to do, what to do?

Luckily our secret San Diego spy, Schmennis, had a suggestion.

The day was not done yet!