Jun 18, 2012

Mobile Bay - loving it (WARNING silly amount of pictures)

The thing about road tripping down here is that it really doesn’t take much time to go anywhere even if you aren’t using the freeway. I took the scenic path of highway #9, then in Montgomery after some sleep I got on the 31 and before I knew it I was skirting the Alabama coastlines in Mobile. I was in Mobile to see the USS Alabama at Battleship Park and I was hoping that since it was Memorial Day weekend there would be some fireworks or something…which there wasn’t, or at least no one I spoke to knew about them.  

 But after mulling over the “what to do” side of Mobile for a few minutes I decided that I would drive out to Blakely Historic State Park and camp for the night. Now to this point I have been steadily getting less and less comfortable at night as it gets hotter. I have a fantastic fan, and I bought a small ground fan awhile back…but neither of those help when your tin can gets to be 120f inside (just a guess…my thermometer broke awhile back). So in Blakely I was so happy to find some shade.

Hotter than it usaully gets in Calgary...in the peak of summer (and it's only may)

Camp Howard

Original ramparts from the Battle of Blakely. This was raw war, no cannons, no fancy forts...ditch digging, sweat, blood and tears

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It was the memorial day weekend and the soldiers had left their uniforms behind. Can you imagine...wearing wool uniforms while digging trenches. The actors wore the same uniform and the one kid from new York said he thought he was going to die...and now he wonders if a modern soldier could do what they used to do without breaking. My vote it...99% of todays people would break if given the tasks these men were charged with everyday just to survive


 It’s a nice campsite, full hook ups and all but I found that since I had no way to cool the van down…the shower that I took was essentially useless as my 10minute bike ride back to the van just left me sweaty…with wet hair instead of sweaty with dry hair. I was cleaner…but I was sweating so much I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. It was at that point I decided that I either had to get something to help with the heat or I’d need to help north as there was no way I could continue to be that hot. 
 First things first though…Battleship Park!! 

I only know one Vietnam Vet - Al Garrett - while the reasons for the war may be clouded in murky details, lies and misdirection, anyone from anywhere that volunteered, lost friends and came back alive deserves respect. Those unfortunate souls that were drafted and forced to fight a war of lies deserve respect as well for it was not their choice to go and not everyone believes that running away is the right thing to do when your country calls on you. They were all people, war made some of them animals but the politicians who didn't serve, didn't enlist their children and washed their hands of it afterwards are the real animals.

stickers? Come on guys...if you want something on display at least shoot it for real...it's not like you don't have the technology

Super cool chopper


You can't help but be affected by the patriotism of the US. Agree or disagree with their current or past actions...the brotherhood of the Marines has stood strong for hundreds of years.

The big guns on the USS ALABAMA

40mil anti aircraft
This picture really makes me smile. When I saw it I could hear my brother "Saying "Lead em...lead em" from the days of endless video games and fun!

The barber shop aboard the Alabama

You think you have a grasp on how large a battleship is...but you don't. This is one kitchen...bigger than most hotel kitchens

Spare Machine gun Barrels...when you fire that many rounds...they tend to get a little hot

The idea of engineering something like this is wild...every nook and cranny is used, everything was drawn out first...it's about a house x 100000


The Alabama is the only place in the world where you can check out the actual 16" gun turret...look at those shells. Accurate to 20+ miles away...

these guns are fairly ineffective against a fast moving plane...but you see all those videos where thousands of tracer rounds fill the sky...it would be enough to make any pilot shit his pants

Looking down the barrel of a gun some of a bitch gettin paid getting rich....*beastie boys*

Fully loaded

Pretty darn simple ;)

Not so simple...wow...if the engineering on the Alabama was mind blowing...the USS DRUM is just off the hook

I really couldn't say enough about this display. It was eye opening, heart wrenching and if you left it with the same mind you came into it with...you didn't pay attention. It was an awful thing for these pilots to come back to America and be subjected to the colour segregation that was occurring at the time. Segregation is horrible for all involved period.

Big flak cannon on the way out

 Then I drove around Mobile for a while and checked out the downtown scene, it is a pretty funky city. I had sent a few people  a request on Couchsurfing but since I am not much for planning, requesting a place to park on Memorial Day weekend wasn’t something that anyone responded to in time. So I stayed another night in the area, meeting a guy who was also a vandweller albeit a more permanent one who lives full time at a local campsite. We talked about how to survive the heat and he said mount an a/c unit in the back window. Only problem was….no saw and no way to cut the mount. So we shook hands and parted ways…I headed down the road towards Dauphin Island where the reality of the heat sunk in. 

 To say that I enjoyed Dauphin Island would be a gross understatement. I found myself at the end of a dead end street parked right on the Mobile Bay side of the ocean. It was about 4:30…it was damn hot (95) and I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive. Back home you might catch yourself out in -25c and wonder how you will survive and that is literal as freezing to death takes a lot less time than cooking to death…the slow cooker is what I should paint on the side of the van :)
Oh those crazy masons

Like the rest of the south..Mobile has some serious history

Ahhh...Dauphin island!!!

My beach friend

The ignorance of the white man regarding the native "mounds" of the US indians is tragic. Many of the are so big that you would never assume they were man made. Many others are regarded by americans as "hills" and the significance of the is completely lost. An entire civilization alive and well...before Columbus, before Christianity, before materialism...at one with nature for thousands of years.  

Going down!!!

I couldn't believe how bright it was long before the sun set. It certainly is a different sky down here than the one I'm used to from back home

The gulf side of Dauphin...soft white sand, heavenly

I see rigs all the time back in Alberta, donkeys, stand ups...they sort of go unnoticed....but I could count with my naked eye 12 offshoe platforms in the Gulf while taking the ferry across and it was a bit strange after the gulf spill. Some people said that they are still finding tar balls show up and some are really really worries about what waits in the depths due to all the corexit that was used to cover up errr..assist in the cleanup

the slowcooker on the ferry...
 I decided that I would not be camping on the island (in a camp site), every review I read in Mobile on the Dauphin island campground was just horrible. I don’t always listen to reviews but out of 10, 9 said it sucked…those are some pretty bad odds so I skipped it. 

 While reading and enjoying the white sand (small) beach a local came up and starting asking about the camper. He was great and lived in the house right at the end of the dead end. I told him my plans to just stay parked there and he didn’t seem to have any concern over it so I was good. Ironically the sheriff’s station is about 2 blocks away down the same street…but I figured that with no trouble there was really no need for them to check out a dead end street…and I was right! :)
 So there I was, in heaven, weather was fantastic, view was fabulous and I could do very little but just smile!! In the morning I grabbed some breakfast (since it’s so hot I haven’t cooked anything in ages…just fresh fruit and sandwiches) and headed back to the beach. Now if you knew me you might think that at this point I would be as red as a boiled lobster…not so mon cherie, it appears that my time spent lounging in the loving rays of the Okanagan sun has awoken something within my flesh and I now am…tanning…what the flip? Sure enough, it was may 27 and I had a sandal tan line…unheard of in the life of Brian Howard. I am a little shocked myself though that I haven’t burned and my stay outside on the beach switching through umbrella shade (I’m not dumb) and a single application of spf30 cream (I know…it was silly to not remember to do it again…6 hrs later)..I was just fine. 

 I say umbrella…we’re not talking about an awesome 6ft beach umbrella…nope, all this white boy had was a rain umbrella bought back in Tennessee AFTER being rained on in the Smokeys and not having one. Rain gear is one thing…but having an umbrella is so much nicer than being pelted directly by savage rains. I had the same experience in Tofino but the winds there would have made short work of the umbrella. That said, I was thankful to have bought it, cursed it for being 3ft and praised it for saving me from a blistery grave. (and…I went and bought a real beach umbrella as soon as I got off the island, hindsight doesn’t always lead to foresight and that’s a bitch, on hindsight). 

 But night two brought a fabulous sunset, some local fried shrimp and a smile…a smile that spread like the grinches smile when Christmas entered his heart. I was on the beach man….again!!! 

 I wrote a list down last September. “I have never ……. “ and the number one thing I wrote was “never spent the day on or at the beach just to be there, to enjoy it, to bask in the sun and to just be”. I remember writing it…I was laying on the beach in Summerland, BC after visiting the bench that was donated to my Uncle Al and Auntie Bunny. I had places to be, my sister was waiting for me down in Seattle, the road was there, the van was ready…but that time on the beach, hopefully I will never forget that. For the first hr I kept thinking about everything, too much thinking, then the sun started to bake me, thinking stopped, took a swim…pure enjoyment began. Peaches, sand, stillness and zen…. 

 I felt the same way down here in Dauphin…maybe it was the island being so laid back, maybe it was just the moment…or maybe it actually takes practise to let it all go. You can’t just wake up in the morning and change it like you do your sheets…there is a process to everything and I believe that I am still in the beginning stages of finding a way to drop the weight that we all carry…but if it feels this good, I will keep practising it for the rest of my life. (not drop as in discard, more like, repack, move the heavy stuff to a lower center of gravity so it’s easier to carry. Breathe…space…more room for the new or enjoyment of less, which ever you prefer). 

 So after two days on Dauphin I jumped ship (ferry) and crossed over to Fort Pickens ferry. Before we took off I spent some time checking out Fort Gaines…again the path of conflict has led America to where it is today. Will there ever be another civil war? Really it depends on who has the money. I think it’s important to look at the fundamentals of the civil war. It wasn’t about slavery, that was a part of its outcome and everyone has this view of the south like the entire south whipped blacks by the thousands and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in ridiculous irony the north was allowing the practise of slavery after the south had outlawed it. 

 No the war was about control and a means to control someone is to give them what they want…at a price. Not that at the time it gave any advantage to the blacks of America anyway, slavery or not, they were designated second class citizens and nothing would change about that until the days of MLK a few hundred years  later. It did stop them from being items of property and through the never ending determination of some, the seeds that were planted back then sprung forth and finally changed (it didn’t break it but it changed it)…the horrible cycle that black americans had been living in. 

 Today has brought some relief; the opportunities now are individuals for the taking for the most part. People can no longer hide behind the pain of the past and must now create a better future or choose to continue a stagnant path. Since I’m down here it’s important to note the “pursuit of happiness” in the threads of the American hemp paper document that so many refer to. While this has not always been the case today it is. Sure there are ghetto’s, their remains racism, there continues to be a divide between the haves and have not’s. Putting some pepper into the traditionally salty pool of riches does not indicate liberation. As I saw in the Red Clay “Trail of tears” display…you can play all the ball you want but in the end the umpire decides the call and no arguing you can do will change it once it’s been decided on.  Do I think that rights will ever be taken away on a civil level like that, not in my lifetime. But does it mean that people should drop their guard and allow the gov’t to do things like remove privacy rights, add surveillance allowances, create illegal jails, remove constitutional rights…all of these things spell bad things for the individual who wants to make change in the future. All of these spell trouble for those who are asleep working 9-5 just to survive in a constant cycle of time for money exchange instead of viable goods or production for money. An example – A sign above Churches Chicken in Detroit reads “Bridge Cards now accepted” (like a debit card loaded with your social assistance money)..This is not a productive economy. Allowing the social assistance money that has been gifted to you (hopefully temporarily) to be spent on a franchise that employs people at the lowest wages possible, which then pays it’s CEO mega bucks for making a cheap shitty product palatable and desirable to the American consumer, which makes the shareholders happy…is not productive at all. Now people need to eat, that’s a given…and in a free market, who am I to say how people can spend and corporations can make their money. I’m just pointing out the negative cycle that a transaction like that makes and if you are so inclined you can think it through to the end. 

 What brought this on….I guess the Fort, the overabundance of civil war history down here and…the Tuskegee airmen video that I watched while touring the Aviation section at Battleship Park. I didn’t know anything about these guys until I watched a video there. I’ll wrap it up in a quick condensed  version….black pilot who was already dealing with the racism in America comes home from Korea after becoming an ace pilot and performing heroic feats…waiting at the bottom of the gangplank of the aircraft carrier was a simple sign that says it all…hundreds of years later “Coloured Soldiers --->  Wow……that made me well up a little after all the tales they told about the airmen (the only black air squad in the war as far as I know…hopefully that’s right) and their heroic deeds, all the same as any white soldiers, just not glorified as much. It was a sad thing to see. 

 Last words…I figured since I was in the thick of it now I had better read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. First printed in 1852 it contains many of the stereotypes we use see and remember today. It has never been out of print (although it has been hard to find at points), never banned and has been translated into 37 languages. Obviously I’m not done it yet…but I’m working on it and so far it is a great novel. You won’t get a book report on it but I may mention it in the future if I remember.

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