Thursday afternoon, April 14:
THE ADVENTURE of the
T-AKE 12 WILLIAM MCLEAN LAUNCH BEGINS!
T-AKE 12 WILLIAM MCLEAN LAUNCH BEGINS!
Rick and I both leave school early, with Amanda and Bill Mitchell covering our final class time/period and head for Boise to catch our SW flight to Oakland and San Diego. Because we allowed a little extra time, we didn’t need it and it was smooth sailing right on in to Flying J for a break and then to the airport. First time we have ever parked in the Long Term section ($11.50 per day), but we will be reimbursed for the parking.
We check our one BIG bag and then Rick grabs a fish taco because he hasn’t had any dinner. I ate mine in the car en route. Smooth flight on down to Oakland. I drew two pictures I was behind in creating. Unfortunately, I LEFT clipboard in the seat pocket and lost not only the two I did, but also about 5-6 other completed ones that hadn’t been scanned into the computer yet. It bummed me out considerably, but I will not dwell on it and spoil my weekend!
A quick layover in Oakland and phone call to see if the boys are on their way, and then we are back in the air flying over San Francisco and on down the coast. A clear night and the lights of the coast and Los Angeles are spectacular! We are met in San Diego by a military man holding a sign with my name on it. He had seen a picture of me, so knew what to look for! The next 45 minutes were long – I tried to track down a way to reclaim my clipboard and Rick and Adam watched bag after bag go around the carousel, but none of them ours. I was starting to get concerned as all of our good clothes for the weekend were in that bag! Rick checked other carousels, but it wasn’t until he looked over in a corner, nearly an hour after we landed, that he saw our bag. Someone had taken it off the carousel and just set it down! AGGGHHHH!!!
Adam delivers us to another military driver who takes us to the Omni Hotel, right across the street from the Convention Center and a couple miles from NASSCO, the shipyard. Margaret and Rob are waiting for us in the lobby, but since it is now 11pm, Rob says we can skip the review and hands me my book to read! Whew!
Classy place, but as Rick says, “I can pay a third of the cost AND get a continental breakfast AND free wi-fi!!” True, but the view from our 13 floor window over the bay is beautiful. As I write tonight, the sun is lowering the western sky and it is gorgeous outside! I feel somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies in Hollywood, but for a weekend, this could be fun! Our room has a welcome platter with a bottle of wine, two waters, two chocolate covered strawberries, tiny little apples and plums, and a couple dishes filled with nuts and dried fruit. Wow! Not everyone gets this but because we are staying as guests of the launch, I think it was put out.
Thursday night is late, as we wait up for Jed and Luke to arrive at 12:50 am and then another hour visiting and sharing before we all tumble into bed. Had to give Luke his birthday hugs anyway as he has spent his birthday on the road!
FRIDAY, APRIL 15:
Up to a glorious sunshine pouring through the open blinds. I love it, but decide to close them tight which darkens the room so my “boys” can sleep a while longer. I do my Bible study, then dress and set off around 8:45 to see who of my family is up and moving. I finally find Mom and Mac down in the restaurant having breakfast and join them for a cup of coffee. I had already eaten my yogurt (drinking it from the container as I forgot to bring a spoon!). Rick went out and found the exercise room in the hotel and the boys slept!
We are “scheduled” to meet in the lobby at 11:15 to head over to the shipyard. Liz, Dave, Gretchen, and Shawn have arrived at this point (Gretch and Shawn flew in this morning) and they follow Jenny and Tom, Jed and Luke over in their cars. Mom, Marg, and myself, along with our spouses and escorts are driven again by our military man in a van. Basically we never have to worry about transportation the entire weekend.
|With our hard hats and ready for the tour.|
|Marg takes her practice swings.|
Then it is on to the boat…..the ship. And the closer you get to right up next to it, the more overwhelming it appears in size. We quickly witnesses the “first shore removal” ceremony where a female related to the shipyard knocks the ceremonial chock away holding the ship in place. Throughout the night more and more will be removed, so when the tide is right tomorrow night, and the gate is opened to let the waters flow in, the ship will be free to slip its mooring and slide back into the bay. I can’t wait!
Marg, Mom, and I must go to a short rehearsal for bottle swinging while the rest of the group takes off on their tour. We will rejoin them at some point. Mark and Ron go with us as well. We practice our “jobs” – mine will be to make sure Mom stays upright and sits in the chair provided if necessary and then to help “PUSH” the ship after the christening. That’s a ceremonial push because it will start to move on its own once the switch is thrown!
The tour is awesome! And filled with MANY flights of stairs. Anyone who works or lives on a ship of this size will be in shape because they go up and down stairs daily. Plus we had the additional 7-8 flights to get from the yard level to the flight deck of the ship. We saw the prop – a huge golden color at the back of the boat – and the words ‘WILLIAM MCLEAN’ written across the back of the ship. They have posted a number of photographs of Uncle Bill throughout the ships – in stairwells, etc. Most will be removed and then reinstalled once the ship is completely done. (It is at 88% right now – they have to launch before finishing because the ship gets too heavy to launch!) Mark find one picture of him and Uncle Bill working in the garage shop at San Diego – and the officer giving us the tour tells him to autograph it! So Mark whips out a pen and does so!
We eventually make our way up to the Control Deck – a huge room lined with big windows (at $5-7 thousand a pop due to the safety features kn the glass) that is currently filled with electrical cords wrapped and waiting for the ceiling to be installed. They make sure everything is all connected up before applying that last step. The windows are so special they will be covered again after the tour – they were unwrapped just for us!
|A little lunch outside in the fish taco cafe|
….many of us converge on the little Tin Fish Restaurant right next to the OMNI where they advertise fish tacos. Ends up everyone except Ron, Jen, and Tom who went to another place. But Marg, Mom, Mac, Liz, Dave, Gretchen, Shawn, and the four of us. I just ordered a salmon taco ala carte, which was perfect in size and taste!! It seems silly getting lunch at 3:30, but dinner isn’t coming for another 4 hours, so I guess that is reasonable! It is absolutely beautiful sitting outside in the patio area, with the palm treeing swaying, the light breeze, and SUNSHINE!!
|Dave and Gretchen all dressed up!|
We are given name tags with our table assignments. It seems the entire family has been broken up into groups of 4-6. Jed and Luke are with Tom and Jen, Rick and I with Mom and Mac at one of the reserved seating “head tables” . Marg and Ron are at the table next to us with the “big brass”! At the reserved tables, name tags designate the individual seats, with couples next to each other, but alternating man – woman, etc. Mac and Mom are on the far side of the table from us. Rick is sitting next to the wife of a NASSCO employee, and I next to one of the head employees of NASSCO. Both are talkative and it is easy to converse during the meal. I think Rick got the more vocal of the two of us, as I’m not sure she even stopped long enough to eat much of her meal.
|Ginger receives her gift from NASSCO.|
|The quilt Margaret made for the ship.|
|With Mom - wish Liz hadn't already left!|
Addendum: Forgot to share the story of Luke’s belt! In a nutshell, he forgot to bring one due to his 10 minute packing Thursday morning because he overslept6! So….this morning for the boat tour, we discovered underneath his shirt hanging out, he had used the tie from the white bathrobe to tie around his pants! We discouraged the same belt for tonight. So he and Jed went Internet shopping for a Goodwill, took a short walk to no avail (it had moved) and then Luke found a place called “Urban Outfitters” about 5 blocks from the hotel. He raced up there and back to the room shortly before 6 with what Gretchen later told him was a “ladies” belt! Ah well. It looked better than the white terry one!
SATURDAY, APRIL 16: LAUNCH DAY!
We enjoy a little more relaxed rising on Saturday, but do get up and going for a 9am (or so) departure to Point Loma and our family gathering at the Westminster Church park. We get Jed’s car out of the parking garage and with Ron and Marg’s car, get the 10 of us over to the park. The church is a busy place today with a plant sale going on, plus an AA meeting in the park from 10-11am! After we arrive, Jen and I head back in her car for the Von’s store to pick up the birthday cake we ordered for Luke, Jed, Gretchen, and Mark. Turns out to be a perfect addition to the sandwiches and fruit and veggie platters that Mark and Pat picked up.
The weather is perfect – sunshine, temps in the mid to high 70’s. Luke plays soccer, football, tag, and other games with Scott’s two children. Eventually John and Susan show up with their two boys as well (ages 6 and 10). ALL the McLeans are present and accounted for. Unfortunately John and Susan didn’t arrive in time for the group picture we took earlier. We will photoshop them into the picture!! We took several smaller family group shots as well, shared email addresses, and in general did a lot of visiting.
Who was there? Lynn Jones, Don and Pat McLean, Pat’s daughter Rhonda and husband Chris, daughter Courtney and boyfriend Greg, son Trevor, Rhonda’s son Ryan and his wife Heidi and son Brandon; Rick McLean and Scott McLean with his wife Trisha, and son Spencer and daughter Ashley; Mark McLean and wife Meredith; Debby McLean, husband Keith Kearny and son Jack; John McLean with wife Susan and sons John “Mac” and Peter; Jeff McLean; Margaret and Ron, Jen and Tom; Liz and Dave, Gretchen and Shawn, Jake and Nicole; Rick and I, Jed and Luke; Mac and Mom Mac. All nine of the McLean first cousins were together for the first time in our lives – isn’t that amazing? At age 54 through 67, we finally are all in one place at one time.
|Jed, Gretchen, Mark, and Luke with their cake!|
A few of us wander up through the plant sale to the Memorial Garden in a courtyard area of the church, where plaques to both Uncle Bill and Aunt LaV can be found. They were long time and supportive members of the Westminster Presby Church family, and instrumental in the construction of the park adjoining the church.
|You can learn to do anything on the internet!|
The pre-dinner reception is a little fancier tonight, with some “fire roasted vegetables” (artichoke hearts!), mini spinach filo treats, and other tasty morsels. The crowd is thick, however, and it is hard to keep track of who is where.
Tonight is a MUCH bigger crowd. The entire ballroom is wall to wall tables. The boys are with Jake and Nicole at Table 19. Rick and I will Mom and Mac, Mark and Meredith at Table 6. I am sitting next to tonight’s keynote speaker, a Rear Admiral who flew out from Washington DC for the launch. He spent two years at China Lake previously, so he and Mark were able to share some stories about people and places. He did mention a name that recently retired that Mark remembered from the 50’s. We were amazed that someone could spend a career in “experimental” explosives and retire 60 years later….intact! Rick sat next to another dignitary from DC, the assistant to the Pentagon for Ship Building – a lady! She flies out for most of the launches, but it was a first for the Rear Admiral, so we both were in the same boat (no pun intended!).
Dinner is beef – a cut of meat I wasn’t familiar with – somewhat akin to a pot roast in texture as it fell apart with the fork. Very tender and moist. Tiny potatoes, and full string beans draped over the top, plus a chunk of cooked tomato. All this after a romaine salad with a thin piece of ham on top and little dollops of cheese on the side. I skipped the dressing on the salad, but other than that thoroughly enjoyed EVERYTHING! (OK, so only a third of my roll and no butter either. I do have to weigh on Tuesday! But I have NO intention of even trying to figure out my points for the past two days.) Dessert was a pound cake type stack with cake, cream filling, and strawberry and blueberry. Not nearly as big looking as last night’s chocolate cake, but rather dainty and excellent tasting!
Then more speeches and presentations! They honor all the individual section leaders for the shipbuilders – both for the McLean and for the Chambers (T-AKE 11). Margaret, Mom, and I were back up front to receive a plaque for our part in the launch. The Rear Admiral did not speak at the dinner, but rather is the keynote at the launch itself. The whole dinner affair was over by 6:20 or so. We are advised to be ready for the prelaunch briefing (the “platform participants”) and be ready to board our Gold Star bus on time! I discover that you go about 10 ahead of time according to the military because everything takes place early.
Jed and Luke leave to head up to the room to gather up their bags, pick up the car, and drive down to the parking area. They will be leaving after the launch and dessert to drive back to Tucson tonight….a LATE night! Rick and I, along with Mom and Mac, Marg and Ron, etc. all board our VIP bus and are whisked down to the shipyard and dropped off right next to the ceremony area. I could get used to this kind of treatment!
The next two hours are incredible. What an experience. The ship is gorgeous – bedecked now with patriotic banners all around the top of the bow, giant red, white, and blue balloons waving in the air from the deck. The platform and ceremony area is absolutely covered in floral bouquets of red, white, and blue flowers. A military band is playing, the Marine color guard is ready. There is a festival feeling and high energy in the air of anticipation and excitement.
|Mom, Marg, and I with Don and Mark's wives.|
|What a ship!|
|Marg breaks the bottle!|
of Jeff McLean!)
Mr. Harris is a big fan of fireworks, and the spectacular show we had because of the night launch was because of him. Evidently, environmentalists halt more fireworks over the bay if you apply for the permit within the normal 60 day window. But if you apply for a “last minute” permit within 6 days, it goes to a different agency and is approved! We had at least a 5-6 minute show with a great finale!
|Luke and Ashley after watching the fireworks.|
Shortly before 10, the boys make the rounds with their goodbyes to family and friends, board the shuttle back to the parking lot, and take off for Tucson. They promise to text when they arrive…SAFELY! Mom and family are some of the last to leave the party….guess it is a lot like coffee hour after church! NASSCO pretty much has to kick us all out. One other family member I saw at the launch was Jo, Don’s ex-wife. That was pretty neat for her to be able to come. She knew Uncle Bill, and of course enjoyed seeing her sons Rick and Scott and family.
Back to the hotel to crash! What a day! What an experience! Oh – prior to the program, the three of us were approached by a young lady who said she was one of the matrons for T-AKE 9, the Commodore Perry. She said we would be given the opportunity to go out with the ship on its preliminary sea trials, scheduled for the end of August. Her words were, “Don’t miss this chance. It is a great experience! Cancel anything, but go!” We appreciated that because we hadn’t heard anything about that until today. A good reason for me to be retiring! I’m free!! (Hm…..I doubt the Navy will be paying for that airfare. Maybe I can take it out of the mega federal taxes Rick and I just paid!)
All day long I kept thinking to myself that Uncle Bill would be humble with all this attention and pomp and circumstance. Aunt LaV would be in her element and love every second of it. But both of them would have deemed it all a wonderful reason to bring the family together, and for all of us, that was the most special part of all. The chance to gather and pay tribute to Uncle Bill especially, but overall to three incredible sons of some amazing parents, my Grandparents, Robert McLean and Clara Blohm.
SUNDAY, APRIL 17:
Travel day for many. John and Susan, their sons, and Jeff left early this morning headed for Seattle. Debby, Keith and Jack are staying in San Diego for the week. Marg, Ron, Jen, Tom, Mom and Mac are driving up to Oceanside and the condo to join Liz and Dave for the drive back up to Sacramento. (Margaret had a McLean challenge of packing her car and would have done Dad proud. In fact, the valet at the hotel complimented her on an amazing packing job as he watched her for 20 minutes!) We had a text this morning from Luke on a safe arrival in Tucson. Now to pray Jed homeward to Socorro today.After coffee with Mom and Mac while they breakfast in the coffee shop, Rick and I finish up our packing and find Adam Cox waiting for us with our driver – 15 minutes ahead of time!
Not much more to write - a smooth trip home, although bumpy out of Phoenix and into Boise. Flight from Phoenix was filled with young families and babies. Fortunately the one behind us with the piercing scream settled down eventually and slept the rest of the flight. Home to Baker City by 6:15 and early to bed! After checking in with Jed and Marg to find all have arrived safely! WHAT A WEEKEND THIS WAS!
Click HERE to view MORE pictures from our weekend.
Click HERE for a video of Margaret's speech during the Sponsor's dinner.
Click HERE for the video of the launch posted by Jen, Margaret's daughter.
HERE is another video from a different perspective - that of the NASSCO workers preparing the boat!