Monday, April 13, 2015

A day enjoying the history on display on Galveston Island Texas. Seawolf Park.

With the "Greatest Generation" that saw the world through the darkest hours of World War 2 and ushered in the modern era slipping away rapidly, it's a great thing that we have museums, and countless books, documentaries and other means to remind the world to never go back down that dark and sorrowful road...

One such spot where visitors can get actually hands on with real honest to goodness World War 2 military hardware is at Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas. 

Seawolf Park, featuring the American Undersea Warfare Center is located technically just north of Galveston, on Pelican Island, and is a memorial to the United States Navy Sargo-class submarine USS Seawolf (SS-197) mistakenly sunk by U.S. Navy forces in 1944 during World War II.

Seawolf park features a submarine, and the remains of a merchant ship, and a destroyer escort designed to conduct antisubmarine warfare all in one museum area. It is the home of two semi preserved U.S. Navy ships, the first as you enter the display area is the Gato-class submarine USS Cavalla (SS-244) and immeidately across the display area, the Edsall-class destroyer escort USS Stewart (DE-238), and the remains of the World War I tanker S.S. Selma, the largest concrete ship constructed, can be seen in the waters northwest of the park '​s fishing pier. Also displayed at the park is the tower of the Balao-class submarine USS Carp (SS-338) and the sail of the Sturgeon-class nuclear attack submarine USS Tautog (SSN-639).

There are facilities for having a picnic, and shore access inside, and out of the park where anglers can fish for common Texas Coastal fish such as Sea Trout, Speckled Trout, Atlantic Drum, Flounder, Gafftopsail Catfish and others. 

A tour through the park, and the naval installations can give the visitor a great understanding of the hardships the Greatest Generation had to go through, lacking in even the most basic modern conveniences and comforts. 

We recently took the trip to Seawolf Park, hopefully this photo tour will give you a feel for what things aboard were like for those that put their lives on the line for liberty...

The road in from the main island leads through Palm trees and sand until it all opens up to a view of a World War 2 era Destroyer escort ship. Quite a sight for sure!

The sign at the entrance gate gives a clue that this isn't your ordinary county park!

As you come through the ticket takers station, the first thing you are greeted by is the business end of a U.S. Navy Submarine, complete withe torpedo being fired, and frozen in time.

As you round the nose of the submarine, and walk between vessels, a beautiful sandstone and cast I believe it is bronze monument stands to honor the fallen.

Words far too many many have come to forget the true meaning of. 

Now we climb aboard the USS Cavala and take a tour aboard a real World War II submarine!

The decking of the Cavala was refurbished since 2000, but already is showing the impact of the harsh marine environment.

As you descend the stairs through the hatch, you immediately enter into the forward torpedo room. 

Thanks to the handy tour signage, we now now how torpedoes were propelled in World War II.

Moving on, let's let the photos do the talking, they say it so much better than I can!

Remember that sign about the Officers Staterooms? Well here they are!

You'd think Officers would have had better quarters, but then again, this isn't meant to be a luxury cruise ship!

Some of the areas of the exhibits, it is obvious that more modern equipment has been installed.

Now this next pic, shows just how much decay happens over 71 years, including a good number of those years, 1944 to 1971 being maintained in active service.... I'm no expert, but I suspect there is a LARGE number of missing valve handles here!

Somehow I doubt the poster in the Crews Mess is original to the sub from 1944.

And that is it for the sub pics for now... In order to keep in manageable, I am going to break this up into pieces that are easier to chew on as it were, so for now...

Get out there and find your own... road less traveled.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

An Introduction to Tents part 1. Size matters. Big Tents.

So it's springtime in Texas, that means 2 big things to most of our outdoor enthusiasts. Camping, and rain...

It would appear that God had something interesting in mind for outdoorsy folks in the spring when he made Texas. At the time of year the weather is not too cold, but cool enough to sleep in a tent, he threw lots and lots of rain our way just to make things entertaining....

Now there's nothing I like more than to be snuggled up with my wife listening to the rain hitting a taut waterproof rainfly. And there is nothing I hate more than being awakened at 3 A.M. in a torrential downpour only to find a river running through my tent, and the rainfly seam directly over my head leaking a steady stream of water onto my sleeping bag and saturating it and me....

So how do we manage to stay dry and warm when camping in the sog?

It all starts out with proper tent selection...

Let's start off talking about tent sizes.... Now I totally get it that you might want a nice roomy tent to move around in, have a dedicated area to get dressed in instead of trying to slide your pants on while wrestling against an airbed. But let's keep things in perspective. A couple probably doesn't need to be pitching a 10x20 tent for a couple of reasons.

#1. The larger the tent, the more the seams.
#2. The larger the tent, the more the zippers.
#3. The larger the tent, the more the tent is susceptible to the wind, and falling / blowing stuff that can punch holes in it.
#4. And lastly, the larger the tent, the more interior volume you have to either keep warm, or cool... Both are terribly challenging with greater interior volumes.

BUT, there are features found on larger tents that you may find highly desireable such as.

#1. Power Ports. If you camp where power is available, many family tents, and even some cheap models have Power Ports. This allows you to bring in outlets for things like chargers, small fans, or even a small space heater (Be extra, extra, extra careful with those!)  We have a Coleman Sundome 10x10 from about 2004 or 2005 that includes that feature. Very nice to have! We have a GFCI outlet strip that we plug a small portable fan into. We keep a small cooler that is just a spare, that holds a block of ice. We simply open the lid and have the fan blow across the ice. Keeps the test super cold through the night...

#2. Eyebrow windows. These offer the opportunity to have some fresh air flowing through your tent without fresh water falling though the screen, and the downward slope of the window affords you at least a small measure of privacy against those strolling by your tent.

#3. Partitioned spaces / rooms. This is great to allow mom and dad at least a tiny bit of privacy from the kids, or a couple of hunting buddies privacy from each other when it's time to hit the rack... The most popular reason to have a larger tent is in fact to keep families together instead of shoving the kids off in a tent on their own. This can easy many an anxious parent, or child until the child hits their teens and decides, that "Share a tent with mom and dad? Ewwww!"

#4. Higher center ceiling heights making it easier for taller adults to stand up, get dressed etc... in one.

#5. Typically lower cost as more expensive lightweight materials aren't used very often in larger / family sized tents. Not too many aluminum or titanium poles to be found here! Just shock corded fiberglass.

#6. Rugged, easily patchable, and nearly water resistant tub floors. These are typically made of the same stuff that heavy nylon / vinyl tarpaulins are made of. The floors do a great job of keeping water out, unless it is already in, where they do a great job of keeping the water IN.. Not by design of course, but you get the idea...

So you see there is a lot to be fond of in larger tents. Their upsides, depending on the application however, can be a real deal killer in other applications. Nobody is taking a large say Canvas cabin tent backpacking any time soon unless they are training for an ironman competition.  And many older, smaller camp sites just don't have tent pads large enough to pitch a big old tent...

So it's crucially important to keep your party size, level of comfort, and budget in mind when selecting a tent.

Once you are set up, take the next available opportuinty to...

Get out there, and find your own, road less travelled.