Ted didn't plan for us to tour the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for Arden and Charis's birthday, but when the opportunity presented itself for us to see a piece of history, he jumped all over it. And since our tour date (October 18) happened to coincide with the birthday of two of our favorite people, well, all the better!
Children 5 and under were not allowed on the carrier, so we left Kenna, Lucan, and Zaden in the capable hands of "Miss Hannah." Ted drove us in his little beater downtown Naples, where we found a parking garage and walked to the dock where we were to check in. A boat ferried us out to the massive thing that is the U.S.S. Enterprise. This particular ship, the 8th one to be named Enterprise (or "Big E"), is retiring after over 50 years of service. How exciting to get to see it just before it heads home following its last deployment!
I don't remember all the stats, but I think the Enterprise carries close to 5,000 crew members (including the ship's company and the air wing). It has 8 nuclear reactors and can carry almost 80 aircraft. This thing is seriously huge. I don't think the pictures we took even really come close to showing how massive it is! The tour was long, but definitely an amazing experience--it held the kids' attention, and I think they actually can appreciate what a unique opportunity they had. (I hope so, anyway! And as a funny aside, we heard one of the sailors comment when he saw the kids, "Those are some lucky #$& kids...I would have killed for a chance to do this when I was their age!")
We walked around the hangar bay area, climbed up to the flight deck, climbed WAY up to the bridge, climbed back down to the flight deck, then took the elevator (which can carry two airplanes!) back down to the hangar. Then more climbing to get back down to our little boat, where we gratefully rested our weary feet and backs. It was definitely one of the most memorable birthdays I think Charis and Arden have had! We fully intend to celebrate with friends and have a "real" party after we're settled in our house, but we did have a good lasagna dinner with Hannah and Tuba followed by cake and ice cream, and our friends the K family showed up with presents for the birthday kids, too, so I think it was a pretty special day for them!