October 25, 2013

10/11/13 - Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

When I think Arkansas, I think Hot Springs National Park.  I think Little Rock Crisis in 1957.  I even think Bill Clinton.  I do NOT think submarines.  It's a land-locked state--the Arkansas River does not flow straight into the Gulf of Mexico!
So there we were in North Little Rock at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the USS Razorback, (SS-394), a Balao-class submarine.  It was awarded five battle stars in WWII and four more during Vietnam.  Then in 1970, it was sold to the Turkish Navy (one of those Cold War political things) and conducted missions in the Black Sea until 2001, which makes it the longest-serving sub in the world.

The City of North Little Rock bought it and brought it to Arkansas.  If you're not from around here, you might not realize that Arkansas and Razorbacks go together.  The mascot of the University of Arkansas is a razorback--think wild hogs with sharp tusks and nasty temperaments.  This time of year there are flags with galloping red hogs flying everywhere!  However...the submarine was named after the "Razorback" whale, nickname of the Finback Whale, not the hog.  (I've learned such interesting things on this trip.)  I figure the people in North Little Rock just couldn't get past the name.
The only one that worried me was the door.  I got hung up on the "water tight" part.  Why does it matter?  Are we going to submerge?  Will we be underwater very long?  How deep?  It worried George too, but not for the same reason.  As you can see, he fits!  
(Note to George's daughter Judy:  I know you don't like me taking pictures of your dad's backside, but this is how he chose to go through these doors.  And since he made me go first, this is the view I got every time I took his picture coming through one.  Sorry.)
We wandered around in the museum until it was time for our tour to start, then gathered by the boat. We found out later that our guide (blue shirt/"Tour Guide" on the back) wasn't in the Navy.  He's active-duty Army Reserve.  He sure knows a lot about WWII subs though.  Go figure!
We climbed down the ladder to the Aft Torpedo Room. George wore a hat to cushion his head.  He's has experience going into caves--and this isn't a lot different.  His poor scalp gets scraped and bumped a lot.  It's hard to be 6'6".
I knew it was a tight fit in a sub, but I didn't know you had to sleep cuddled up next to a torpedo.  I wouldn't like that very much.
I think this is the Aft Battery Compartment. 
See all the wheels hanging all over?  Just in case the lights go out (yes, I'd scream!), the rim of each wheel is a slightly different shape so they can still do whatever they do by touch.  Except for the dark, and the underwater part, I think that's pretty clever. 
Our guide took off again, and we followed him through the Enlisted Men's Quarters and past the Galley.  I can't imagine trying to feed 80 or more people in a kitchen this size!
I must not have been paying attention because I don't have a clue what this area is.  I kinda like way those tubes or pipes fit together, but I don't remember what they're for.  I usually ask lots of questions but apparently I didn't here.  Whatever he's saying seems to be interesting. 
Eventually we got to the Control Room.
This is the submarine's WWII Battle Flag:  16 merchant vessels, 2 men of war, 5 American airmen rescued.
We went past the Commanding Officer's Stateroom.  Pretty big compared to what the other guys have, but I'd need to get promoted really fast!  
This is me swinging through a 38"x20" watertight door, just like I know what I'm doing.  It was fun.
Then we stopped for a little bit in the Forward Torpedo Room to learn more about subs...
...before we climbed up the hatch and outside again.  This is where we came up.  I've decided they make it look a lot easier in movies.  
Nice to be topside.  (That's sailor talk.)  There are two flags on the conning tower:  one's American, one's Turkish.  
The only other submarine I've been on was at Disneyland.  This was way better!  (And in case you're ever in North Little Rock, the Razorback is available for birthday parties and overnight stays.  Keep it in mind.)  

Click the link to see more pictures of the USS Razorback. 

October 15, 2013

10/10/13 - Clinton Presidential Library

Because of the stupid national park closures, we've already had to bypass a couple of parks I'd planned to visit--the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  We were on our way to Texas for a couple of months and I found a place to stay in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I figured the Clinton Library would be out of bounds too.

Although we didn't actually get to visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, we did get inside the building.  The two upstairs levels house the national archives and museum, located in the Clinton Presidential Center run by the Clinton Foundation.  Since it's a private organization, they had the lobby open.  You still had to go through a security check to see the Clinton video and go into a special exhibit.

We were staying at a city RV park just across the Arkansas River from the Park.
We walked across the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge (formerly known as the Rock Island Railroad Bridge).  Now it's part of the 14-mile River Trail.
The park is really nice.  That's downtown Little Rock in the distance (which isn't actually too far away).  Not a lot of skyscrapers in Arkansas.
The view of the Clinton Library from the bridge looks like's it's floating in the air.  Someone told us that when it was being built, it was compared to a double-wide mobile home.  Bet Hillary loved that!

George wandered into my picture again.  This is the right side of the building--the one that's connected to the ground.
Clinton's Presidential Limousine is in the lobby.  The volunteer told us that this is the last limo to be put into a presidential library.  Apparently they don't want the Secret Service technology available to the masses.  
The special exhibit is about the 1963 March on Washington called "And Freedom for All". The photography is by Stanley Tretick.
We joined the guy in the corner to see a video about Clinton.  It stopped before it finished and the lady couldn't figure out what was the matter.  (PLEASE NOTE:  At this point I make absolutely NO political or personal comments.  Feel free to fill in your own.)
Since we couldn't go upstairs, we headed back across the bridge. You can see where the lift part of the drawbridge was.  It's in a permanently raised position now.
We haven't visited any of the other Presidential Libraries--actually we still haven't visited one, now that I think about it. (There are only 13--we've had lots more presidents than that!  Wonder why nobody before Herbert Hoover got their own library?)  After looking at the brochure about the stuff that's upstairs that we didn't get to see, I think they'd be kinda cool.  So I wandered around behind an information desk (I asked!!!!) and picked up some brochures about the other libraries.  Maybe some day the government will open the parks again.  (This is where I'd put a nasty little comment about the whole shutdown and the way they're handling it in Washington, DC--if this were that kind of blog.  It's not, so I won't--but I'll tell you if you ask me.)

I'll probably put a few more pics on Flickr:  Click here.  Clinton Library