Monday, October 29, 2007

Saying Goodbye

A sailor should get used to saying goodbye to loved ones....but I doubt that they really do.

I am grateful to live in modern times, when I don't have to wait for the postman to deliver the long awaited letters from my sailor son. Now, he calls me on his cell phone while he stands in the hangerbay as they pull into port. While at sea, he sends an occasional email, his lifeline to the rest of the world. The only thing that hasn't changed in a sailor's life over the decades is the lonliness of being out to sea, and the boredom of nothing to do in what little spare time he has while out there. Already he is loosing touch with his friends from home. Even with email and cell phones, lives of one-time good friends begin to drift apart as they go their seperate ways. A hard lesson for any young soul to endure.

Once our bags were packed and stowed away, we drove away from our temporary beach front home, found something for breakfast and headed back to base. Eric had stayed the night with us in the motel, allowing him time to goof off with his brothers and feel like a part of a family, again.
We stood there in the parking lot, looking at the monsterous ships in full daylight for the first time from that perspective. Wow!

We were all silently dreading actually saying goodbye and parting again, already. So we just stood a little longer, watching as runners went by in a 9k Fleet Week run, and said very little.

We had a long drive ahead of us, again, and we didn't want to be getting back too late. So soon the brave hugs came, and the tearless goodbyes. We watched our son, once a boy, now a man, head back to the ship that will one day take him half way around the world. The ship that will take him to places my eyes will never see, and make him more strong and more brave than even I could have.

It was so good to be with him again, to see how much he's changed, and also how little! It was music to my soul to hear him laugh again with his brothers, to hear his voice, to wrap my arms around his neck one more time and tell him I love him and how proud I am of him.

I was now glad, for another reason, that I had gotten up so early that morning and spent so much time in the fresh air. I was tired...and I was ready to sleep, and not just sit for 600 miles staring out the window and think about leaving our son behind.
Driving out of Norfolk was easier than driving in. The traffic was much better and we were out of there in no time. We went back through the tunnel and over the bridges, only this time, it wasn't as exciting.

I think I was asleep before we were even out of town. I woke up a couple hours later and I saw mountains, again, through the windshield. I didn't take many photos on the way home. I slept most the way. I got just a couple, not so good photos, near a little gas station where we stopped for a rest and a few snacks.

The mood driving home wasn't as festive either. We now knew it could be after Christmas before we would see Eric again. That seemed like forever!

Watching the Sunrise

Our last day in Norfolk came quickly. We knew it would be a quick trip. But we knew it would be worth everything we had to do to get there. Seeing Eric and his friend was great, and fun. Being on the aircraft carrier out on the sea was more than we imagined. But there was one more thing I wanted to do before we left. See the sunrise on the beach!

I was dog tired come Sunday morning! We'd been living on very little sleep and just a bit of adrenaline for a full week. (Ah! I didn't tell about everything we had to do before going on this trip did I? Well, some of my readers already know.) So when I woke up at 5:30 in the morning I began debating in my mind if I really wanted to get up and go to the beach for photos. I knew I'd be going alone. It would have been nice to have someone come along, but alone was better than not at all. I did decide that 5:30 was too early to get up. So I dozed back off and awoke again around 6. I was sooo tired, I still, really wanted to just sleep! But something inside of me reminded myself, I could sleep all I wanted to on the way home. This would be my last chance to see the ocean for who-knows-how-long! It'd already been nearly 10 years since the last time I saw it (not counting the day before!). So I dragged my weary body quietly out of bed, got dressed as quietly as I could so I wouldn't wake the others (difficult in a tiny motel room!). I got the camera and made my way outside. By the time I got to the beach side of the balcony I realized I was underdressed. So I stopped by the van and grabbed one of the fleece blankets the boys left in there, and used it for a wrap. It was breezy and quite cool out there. But listening to the sound of the waves, I knew I'd made the right choice!

It was really dark out there, it was hard to see where I was walking and where the buttons were on the camera. I walked up and down the beach a little, listening and looking, even got my feet wet (brrr!).

The sun wasn't up yet, and I realized it would be at least an hour before I actually would see the sun. But there was already color in the sky, and I was so happy just to be there and not have anyone rushing me to go back, yet.

I saw very quickly, a bright shiny star (planet!) near the horizon. It's been too long since I read up on any astronomy, so I'll have to guess it's either Venus or Mars, most likely Venus(?). My first few shots I was moving too much and the star came out more like a streak, so I got out my mini tripod and got this one!

I even tried a couple shots with the self timer on the camera, since there was no one there to take a picture of me at the ocean.

It was almost too dark for any real good photos.
But I couldn't resist...

I watched the seagulls, ducks and even ships out on the horizon A helicopter flew over, and I remembered the ones that escorted us out to open sea the day before.

Soon, the sky grew lighter and I tried many attempts at capturing shots of the gulls as they flew around or walked along the water's edge.

I could now get a better view of the bridge we drove in on Friday when we came out of the tunnel.

By now I was sitting on a dune, just soaking it all in and getting carried away watching the birds (and took way too many photos of them!), and playing in the sand.

I was so caught up in watching the birds, I nearly missed the moment that brought me here! I looked to my right......and there it was! Day Break! AHHH! HOW BEAUTIFUL!

And every moment it grew more beautiful!

Even the gulls seemed to enjoy watching the surf and the sunrise!

I stayed on the beach at least another hour. It was just too good to leave so soon. The sound of the surf, the feel of the air, and the realization that a lonely beach was anything but boring! I wished I could stay forever!

The new light of the day allowed me to see things I didn't see when I first came out.

The birds continued to play, occasionally a jogger would pass by, even another shutterbug strolled by for a few snaps and we chatted for a moment.

Soon my camera card was full. I hadn't brought another one to the beach with me either. I didn't know how long I had been there, but could guess it must be time to head back to the room.

I headed back to the fence that separated the parking lot from the beach, and as I came around the end of the fence, there was my husband at the van. Everyone was awake and most the things were packed already.

The part of the trip that I dreaded had come. Saying goodbye to the ocean, and even more dreaded...saying goodbye to our son.

The room seemed hot after being out in that ocean air so early. I unrolled my pants cuffs, and laughed quietly as I watched a small pile of sand fall out of each of them. Why did I laugh? One of my grandpa's nicknames for me when I was a little girl was.....Sandy Pants!

It had been a beautifully peaceful morning, one like I could only dream about before now. I was glad I decided to get up and take photos and spend time alone on the beach. These photos, and a few rocks to hold down the letters from my sailors on my desk at home, were my souvenirs of a fantastic weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An Awsome Beginning to an Awsome Day!

NOTE: All photos in this blog can be enlarged simply by clicking on them. Just hit the Back button on your browser to return to the place you left off. Most of these photos are better viewed Large!

Our adventure began when the alarm went off at 4 am! We made sure everything was ready to go the night before, so all we had to do in the morning was get dressed and get to the ship by 5:45 am. Getting to base was easy, the traffic was almost non-existent. We arrived to a full parking lot, however, but everything was orderly and efficient. I have found that military crowds are the some of the most tolerable crowds to be in.

In no time at all we were in the hanger bay with Eric and his buddy, Briard. Breakfast was being served, and there was a sleepy, festive atmosphere on the ship.
Eric had to report for duty at 6:30 until 10:30, but we did get to have breakfast with him, and his buddy escorted us around for a little while after that.
We all wanted to be on the flight deck by 7 when the ship was to get 'underway'. So up we went, the same way we went the night before.
Here is Briard and the boys looking at the skyline
from the flight deck->
Looking out over the pier and parking lot from the flight deck, just before sunrise:

The sun was just starting to come up as we pulled out of port:

The sky grew light quickly, and gradually photography became easier and more inspiring.

At one time the sun even appeared to be rising over the flight deck of the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)

As we moved out through the bay, there were many things to capture our attention and focus the camera on. Here is the Cape Henry Lighthouse, located near Virginia Beach:

We actually passed over two tunnels (the captain joked that may not be a good place to drop the anchors!). Here is the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Everyone asks why the flag was half-mast, but I never heard an answer. I imagine it had something to do with the war.

We were escorted out of the bay by police boats and Blackhawk helicopters. They kept other boats a comfortable distance from the ship.They also captivated most of us for quite awhile

The ship's 50 cals were ready, just in case anyone got past the boats and helicopters:

We spent as much time as we could just looking out to sea, as we passed quickly through the bay, watching the boats, helicopters, birds, the shoreline and the sunrise change at every moment. I tried to absorb every possible moment and take in all that my senses could.

It was a bit chilly on the flight deck, and quite windy. Here is Travis and I at the Bow, feeling the full force of the wind. He is leaning into it, I'm hoping my ponytail doesn't fly away!

We could not feel the ship moving hardly at all. Most of the time the only way we knew it was moving was by looking down at the water or at the horizon and passing scenery, or watch the police boats try as they might to stay caught up with the mighty aircraft carrier and all it's crew and guests!

The sky was as beautiful as the sea! I took loads of photos of the sun breaking through the clouds with many rays of glory.

As we were going out, we passed the Iwo Jima as it was coming in. (for those of you who are curious about ships, it's the LHD-7, a Wasp Class Amphibious Assault Ship. Eric says the Marines use it. It also docks very near the GW.)

As the Iwo Jima was passing, we saw dolphins playing between the ships!

The crew was to called to order as it passed as well.

The day had barely begun, but already we had experienced so many things we had never experienced before! What an adventure already!