Thursday, October 30, 2014

USS Alabama

Leaving Panama City Beach in the early morning, I rode along the coast passing a few interesting structures.  These are part of "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" Odditorium.  The ship and the upside down building look very interesting.  No, this IS NOT the USS Alabama, continue reading.

I enjoyed the slow ride along the coast making various stops for photos and to simply enjoy the scenery.  Being able to stop whenever you feel like are the benefits of travelling solo.  Drinking lots of water was a necessity with the temps hovering in the low 90's.

I continued towards Pensacola passing Miramar Beach, Santa Rosa Island, Navarre and finally Gulf Breeze before crossing the bridge into Pensacola Beach.  

Pensacola Beach is like any beach town, lots of condos, motels and hotels mixed with restaurants and entertainment joints.  I didn't want to spend too much time here, my main target for today was the USS Alabama in Mobile.  I had a snack by the beach and another bottle of water, the temperature was in the low 90's and I was riding with full gear.  Beautiful white sandy beaches.

I crossed back into Pensacola and quickly passed the city avoiding most of the traffic by following 90 west.  I could have have gone faster had I taken I-10 but I prefer the slower country roads.  I knew I had entered Alabama when I started seeing white fields.  I had never seen cotton fields, only in movies, it was a pretty amazing sight seeing the white fields disappearing into the distance.

I get to Spanish Fort just before crossing the bridge into Mobile and pull into a gas station for gas.  I go inside and ask the young attendant the easiest way to get to the USS Alabama, to my surprise she asked what was I looking for.  I repeated the name, "USS Alabama Battleship" and she still didn't know what I was talking about.  When I said the old WWII ship memorial some other girl working there finally realized what I was talking about.  They told me I was near it, just had to cross the bridge and I would see signs for the park.  I couldn't believe these young people living near the ship didn't know what the USS Alabama was, I left shaking my head.
The entrance was just on the other side of the bridge over the Mobile and Spanish River.  I stopped close to the gate to get a photo of one of my favorite planes, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom.

Outside the memorial there's a few planes on display as well as a few tanks.  This North American B-25 Mitchell was my favorite.

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF designation) was/is one of the most iconic planes since World War II.

The photo below was taken from the top of the most accessible high point on the USS Alabama (BB-60).  The battleship was the highlight of my trip on this day.  I have visited the USS New Jersey, an Iowa-class battleship and wanted to see the Alabama, a South Dakota-class battleship.  These ships are enormous, have devastating power but I find them beautiful at the same time.  Click the links at the bottom of the post for more info.

The weapons on these battleships are impressive.  9 × 16 in (410 mm)/45 cal Mark 6 guns, 20 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal guns, 24 × Bofors 40 mm guns and 22 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons.  I stood there imagining the sound of all these guns firing in anger at Japanese bombers and kamikaze fighters coming down on them.

From underneath the forward turret with the 16 in barrels capable of ejecting a shell to 22 miles.
Maximum range with the heavy AP shell (2,700-pound (1,200 kg) armor piercing) was 21.0 mi (33.7 km).  At the same elevation a lighter 1,900-pound (860 kg) high capacity (HC) shell would travel 22.83 mi (36.74 km).

This is inside turret number 2 and it's the sighting mechanism used by the gun operators.  

A few bunk beds in the sleeping quarters but there were bunk beds all over, even inside some of the eating or working places.  The mail room and one of the various kitchens.

The 2,700-pound heavy AP shells lined up under the turret and one of the communication rooms.

I think I visited every possible location on the ship but I wish I had more time to read all the info spread throughout the ship.  Had to ask another visitor to take a photo of me, a nice old lady took these shots. She cut my foot on the second photo but she was so nice I didn't want to bother her to retake it.  For some reason most people tend to put the face of the subject in the middle of the frame and often cut the feet while leaving lots of open sky above. 

Each gun was 736 inches (18 meters) long and weighed 192,310 lb (87,230 kg; 86 long tons) not including the breech; the turrets weighed slightly over 3,100,000 lb (1,410,000 kg; 1400 long tons)

Took this photo of the Phantom from the battleship.

A Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 and a Republic F-105 Thunderchief.  Notice a rain drop on the camera lens.  It had started raining and soon I would be caught in a torrential downpour.

My Super Tenere looks tiny next to a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber.  The bomber is capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons. Look at the threatening clouds in the background perfectly complementing the B-52 destructive power.

Made one last stop on the way out to take a photo of this Grumman HU-16 Albatross.  I left the memorial and headed west on route 90 but hadn't been on the road for 10 minutes when a torrential downpour started.  I quickly find a gas station before the water is too much and waited about half an hour for the rain to stop.  The good thing about these storms in the south is that they don't last long.  It was getting dark, I find a motel west of Mobile and call it a day.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Panama City Beach

On Sunday, I woke up at 7 am and the sky looked stormy to the south and west of Atlanta.  The guys wanted to go out for breakfast but I had a little over 300 miles to ride and wanted to get going.  By 9 am I was on the road leaving my friends apartment and heading towards I-85 south.  I hadn't put on rain gear and within 5 minutes of entering the highway the sky opens up, light rain at first but I could see black sky ahead and knew worse was coming up.  I quickly pull off the highway and head to the first McDonald's I see for breakfast.  Soon there was torrential rain but 15 minutes later it had stopped.  I get back on the road and take I-185 towards Columbus.   The road was pretty much empty and I had the chance to take a few pictures of my new helmet.  I love taking these shots.

After Columbus I took route 431 south towards Eufaula and enter Alabama, another state scratched off my list of ridden states.  The road was good but a bit monotonous, not much to see on either side until I get to Eufaula.  As I approach Eufaula I see a VFW and a memorial with a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey).  I love military equipment and had to stop to get a photo of my Super Tenere next to the Huey.

Next I enter Eufaula and start seeing some beautiful old homes.   I stop a few times to take photos and then stop for a quick lunch.  The bike needed gas too, a quick stop for gas and I was on my way south again.

A few miles down the road I start seeing lots of white, many white fields.  I had never seen cotton fields, pretty amazing to see white fields.

The next town I pass through, Dothan, seems to be struggling a bit, lots of boarded up homes, old cars and run down gas stations.  I stop at a Kangaroo Express for a bottle of water and an old guy pulls in on a beat up Kawasaki cruiser. We start chatting and he tells me he's down on luck, bike has problems and he has no money for food. I gave him a few bucks for food, he thanked me a lot and then went inside and I saw him buy food. We chatted on the way out and then parted ways. Made me sad.  Paying forward I guess.

Soon I was leaving Alabama and entering Florida but as I'm about to enter Florida I see the visitor center for Alabama on the north going side of the road and another Huey.  I quickly turn around and snap a few more photos of the bike and the Huey.

I turn around again and head south entering Florida and take a photo of the sign even though the sign said "Emergency Stopping Only", I'm a rebel.

I arrive in Panama City Beach and start looking for a campsite.  Lots of motels but soon I find Campers Inn, a nice little campsite on the opposite side of the main road that runs along the beach, perfect location.  I quickly setup my tent, put on a bathing suit and head to the beach with my camera.  The temperature was in the low 90's and the sun was about to set.  The beach is stunning, beautiful white sand and the water of the gulf always warm.  

I can't take sunset over water pictures in New Jersey so whenever I visit Florida I try to take as many photos as I can.  I was lucky on this day, stunning sky and sunset.

Took a few photos of the stunning sunset and then noticed people pointing at the water.   I get closer to the water and then realize what the commotion is all about.  There are stingrays swimming around close to shore.  I chat with a few people and I'm told the stingrays love to feed late in the afternoon.

I get back in the water and try to take a few more photos but it was getting dark fast.  I tried using the flash to see if it would cut through the water and managed to get a few more photos.  It was an amazing feeling knowing the stingrays were swimming all around me but don't come close to me.

I head back to the campsite, take a quick shower and then head out for dinner at a nearby place.  Two fish tacos and a beer later and I was heading back to the campsite.  Didn't even bother getting the sleeping bag out, put the self inflating mat inside the tent and laid on it.  I was quickly asleep like a baby.  
Tomorrow I will ride along the coast past Pensacola and eventually Mobile, Alabama.