Friday, April 27, 2018

Paragliders in Corpus Christi

On our second day at La Blonte Park, a van pulled up and a couple of paragliders got out! It was a beautiful morning for flying (or is that gliding?) and we watched until the two eventually vanished over the horizon. A while later, we heard their gliders, and we were able to catch some photos of their landings. Since we know nothing about this sport, we'll just let you enjoy the photos!

Monday, April 23, 2018

USS Lexington Museum

During the WIT Rally, we had a few free hours on Friday morning. We decided to get up early, grab some breakfast tacos, and see the USS Lexington. We choose a taqueria at random, but hit the jackpot. City Tortilla Factory is a tiny hole-in-the-wall place that serves tacos to go. The tacos are big, hot, and tasty. You can get either salsa or green sauce, and the tacos are cheap.

Digression: If you are not familiar with Tex-Mex, there are typically four different sauces that you may be offered with your tacos. Salsa rojas, salsa made with tomatoes, and salsa verde, salsa made with tomatillos, are the most common. Green sauce is made by blending tomatillos and serranos with just a smidge of garlic - and is much spicier than salsa. Finally, there is creamy jalapeno, which is very mild, and made by blending jalapenos with ranch dressing and mayo.
Full and happy, we cruised on down to the USS Lexington Museum.
Admission is $14.95. Hours change depending on the time of year, so check the website before you go.
The USS Lexington (CV-16) was launched in 1942 and decommissioned in 1991.  Originally, the ship was going to be called the Cabot, but her name was changed to the Lexington after the 4th USS Lexington was lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The CV is a hull classification; C means the ship is a carrier and the V stands for aviation.
The museum offers five self-guided tours, as well as flight simulations, and several movies. The self-guided tours are well-marked, but be warned that the tour paths weave through the ship, and include many stairs and tight places. We saw several people who clearly hadn't expected touring the ship to be so physical.
How on earth did they get this model below decks?
 The Lexington is an Essex-class ship. There was 24 ships built, and no Essex-class was lost due to enemy actions. Many historians believe the Essex-class ships were largely responsible for the United States success in World War II.
There is a heart-breaking exhibit about the kamikaze pilots. Originally the pilots were volunteers, but the heavy losses of the Japanese military meant later pilots were conscripted into service. A Japanese flag on the deck shows where a kamikaze pilot hit the ship's island on November 4th, 1944.
 A display of knots. Knot boards have a long Naval tradition.
 The Lexington still has a brass shop, where volunteers work to restore and preserve the ship's brass.
 The ship's nickname, The Blue Ghost, came from the Lexington's unique gray paint. 
 The ship was modernized in 1953-1995, then recommissioned as a CVA-16.
 Of course, the most popular tour is the flight deck.
 This is a Texan, which was used by the Navy in the 1920s and 1930s.
 One of the reason's for the Essex-class success was the catapult system for launching planes from the flight deck. Interestingly, the Lexington was launched with only a 1H 4B catapult and did not have the 1H 4A catapult that was on most Essex-Class ships.
The Lexington fought in nearly every battle in the Pacific. The board shows the number of airplanes and ships the Lexington was responsible for shooting down or sinking. The USS Lexington holds many of the Navy's records, including the most traps (plane landings).
 Despite the retrofitting in the 1950s, the Lexington retains about 90% of her WWII appearance.
 The flag marks where a kamikaze pilot hit the island in 1944. Despite heavy damage, the Lexington continued to fight and shot down another kamikaze pilot who was targeting the USS Ticonderoga.
There are numerous planes on the flight deck, many of which have been restored by volunteers. The earlier Lexington, the CV-2, was the Navy's first aircraft carrier. Called the Lady Lex, she was sunk by the Japanese in 1942, with the lost of 216 men.
The USS Lexington was the oldest aircraft carrier when she was decommissioned in 1991. Instead of scrapping her, the Navy donated the Gray Ghost to Corpus Christi as a museum, due to her long and distinguished service.