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Ft. Lewis; BCC; Tacoma Narrows; Flattops; Pom Poms; Peek-a-Boo! A Great Book

We spent two delightful nights at the Army campground at Fort Lewis, now part of Joint Base McChord, just south of Tacoma, and 30 miles south of Seattle. Traffic in this large metropolitan area was busy as we transited on I-5, but as we had noted when Suzanne had her commanding officer tour at the nearby Bangor Submarine Base back in 1998-2000, almost everyone is law-abiding here, especially on the freeway. 60 mph meant 60 mph. It was a nice change from the East Coast’s I-95 with all its crazies.  Our campsite alongside American Lake was also very nice; here is the view from The Coach… the only problem has been the rain, which has fallen for about 65% of the time we have been here since crossing Snoqualmie Pass. (And this is the dry season!) 

As some of you may know, there is a big difference between the Army and the Navy. For example, the Navy deals with beaches a lot, and any Navy guy can tell you that beaches are very changeable. If you’re trying to land on a beach in combat, wind, waves, tides, currents, beach gradient and other environmental conditions make it an interesting and often challenging evolution. The Army, on the other hand, has evidently decided to exercise superior strength and establish dominion and control over the beach… as this sign confirms… 

Suzanne gave two radio interviews on Monday. The first was for a Vancouver station called Synchronicity Radio and the second for Rev. Temple Hayes’ show “The Inspirational Life” on Unity Radio.  We departed Ft. Lewis following her interviews and headed across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This bridge is infamous- when it was built in 1940, it was nicknamed Galloping Gertie for its shaking in high winds. Shortly after its completion, it collapsed into Puget Sound, and was not rebuilt for 10 years. At the time of their construction, the twin spans were the third-longest suspension bridges in the world, after the Golden Gate and George Washington Bridges. The view from the bridge is great, but in windy conditions, you don’t want to take your eyes off the roadbed. 
We were planning on staying at an Elks Lodge on the north side of Bremerton, WA, and we had to pass the Naval Shipyard where these four mothballed Forrestal-class aircraft carriers are moored. They are USS Ranger (CVA-61), USS Independence (CVA-62), USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63), and USS Constellation (CVA-64), all of which saw service in Vietnam. (In fact, my first destroyer plane-guarded for most of these carriers on Yankee Station off the Vietnamese coast, and my frigate and I deployed with Ranger to the Middle East in the 80s.) Their nicknames while on active service were Ranger, Indy, Hawk and Connie. Not seen here is USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), an active flattop that calls Bremerton home. The mothballed ships were all conventional propulsion (oil-fired boilers and steam turbines) while Stennis is nuclear powered. For the last year Suzanne was stationed here, we lived in a house overlooking the piers. A visitor to our house once looked down at the ships, and seeing the huge 64 lighted up, said, “How nice, the ship even tells you the temperature…”  

Pom poms… are we thinking of cheerleaders with handheld decorative paper balls? No, we are thinking of these 40 mm anti-aircraft guns we passed on our way through Bremerton.  They were originally designed by British Vickers Armstrong in 1940, and later modified by the US Navy Bureau of Ordnance for our ships. The name came from the sound they made, and thousands of these anti-aircraft guns were placed aboard ships during WWII. They helped knock down hundreds of attacking Japanese aircraft, in particular the kamikazes (“divine wind” in Japanese) introduced late in the war. 

As an aside, when I was the commanding officer of the US naval base in Sasebo, Japan, I had two very Japanese acquaintances who were then in their mid-60s. They caught me off guard over dinner one night when they mentioned that at the end of the war, they had been in training to become kamikaze pilots. They both stated that they had not been volunteers, and were very happy that the war had ended before they completed their flight training…   

It has been raining a lot the past few days, and today was no exception. We were awakened at 0500 by rain, which lasted until about 0800. Then we had glorious sunshine for several hours, so we drove to a nearby bay near Poulsbo, WA, and launched our kayaks. We had just reached the breakwater when Suzanne spotted this harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) playing peek-a-boo. Harbor seals share several characteristics with its fellow mammals Homo sapiens. They are gregarious; males fight over females with whom they wish to mate; females’ gestation period is 9 months; females live longer than males; and males often laze about on the beach or rocks hoping to attract females.  

Lastly, I would like to recommend a book for your summer reading pleasure that Suzanne and I agree is one of the best novels we’ve ever read: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. It is told in the first person by a philosopher dog named Enzo about his life with his master Denny, an aspiring race car driver. It is spiritual, funny, sad, uplifting, and has some great moral lessons for us all.   Suzanne’s sister recommended it months ago and we just got around to reading it. Don’t wait as long as we did.  You will love it. 

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