Battlefield Visits, Epic Man Trip Edition – Part 5: Norfolk

From my travels, June 28, 2023.

Air Power Park

The museum at the Air Power Park. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The museum at the Air Power Park. – Photo by the author

This is a very cool city park in Hampton. Sadly, the outdoor aircraft display was closed because of construction, but the totally free museum here had HUNDREDS of model aircraft that people have built and donated. They also have an aviation-focused library, and some informational signs. The curator talked to us for a while, and you could tell that he really loved the subject matter.

Just a few of the hundreds of aircraft models that have been donated to the museum. The boys LOVED these! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Just a few of the hundreds of aircraft models that have been donated to the museum. The boys LOVED these! – Photo by the author

As a bonus for me, the entrance to the museum is flanked by two Nike Ajax missles – like the ones that were stationed at my office when it was first built.

Fort Monroe

Fort Monroe. Lots of history here. While there were no Civil War battles fought here, this is one of the first places that was used as a “contraband” camp during the war. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was also held here after he was captured. The museums at the visitors center, as well as the Casemate Museum, were all awesome.

This is another site that is operated through some kind of joint partnership with a local group and the NPS doing different things. They have a Junior Ranger program here that the boys participated in, so that was good. And it was cool to be able to drive around such a large Third System fort.

Norfolk Naval Base Cruise

After grabbing some lunch, we took a tour of Norfolk / Hampton Roads by boat about the Victory Rover. Norfolk has the largest naval base in the world. It’s impressive to see not only the fleet, but all the other infrastructure that goes into supporting it.

The captain / narrator was very good about explaining what we were seeing as we went past – including the sites of some old forts and all the modern facilities. We got to see some LHDs in dry dock, some Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (including the USS Porter, named in part for Civil War Admiral David Dixon Porter), and some Ticonderoga-class cruisers (including the USS Gettysburg). None of the aircraft carriers were in port, though – they’re quite busy these days. As we were turning around to head back, we did get to see a Los Angeles-class submarine heading out to sea.

Battle of Sewell’s Point – Civil War Battlefield #173

The earliest naval fight of the war, the Battle of Sewell’s Point was between the gunboat USS Monticello and Confederate shore batteries that had been constructed on Sewell’s Point (now part of the Norfolk Naval Base). Over a few days, shots were fired by both sides, with very little effect. Combined casualties were less than 10 men.

Confederate batteries were here on Sewell's Point. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Confederate batteries were here on Sewell’s Point. – Photo by the author

I was able to get a photo of the area that the batteries were in while we were on our harbor cruise.

Norfolk Tides

Being native Baltimoreans, my boys and I are Orioles fans. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to see their Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, while we were in town.

It was a beautiful night for baseball! We got tickets to the 6:35pm game against the Charlotte Knights. In the end, the Tides crushed them 12-5 and just check out that lineup for our baby birds: Mountcastle, Kjerstad, and Grayson Rodriguez pitching!

Also, it was $0.50 hotdog, popcorn, and soda night. That’s already a win and a dinner solution! Toward the end of the game they announced the attendance: 10,213, with 24,697 hot dogs sold.

Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum

From my travels, April 20, 2022.

The boys and I were on spring break and spending some time with their “Nene” and “Baba” in Columbia, MD. One of the things that we wanted to do together was visit the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air & Space Museum in Northern Virginia.

We wandered around the impressively large museum for a while – they have a huge collection of aircraft – some with a particular historical significance. That day, we saw the Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis that first broke the sound barrier (seemingly out here because of renovations happening to the museum in downtown DC). We also got to see the B-29 Enola Gay and I did my best to explain the complicated history around the use of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII.

The boys pose with the <i>Enola Gay</i> - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The boys pose with the Enola GayPhoto by the author

Both boys really enjoyed seeing the SR-71 in the collection – which set a speed record on it’s final flight from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, making the journey in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, to become part of this museum. On the day we visited, they had something of a remote, Zoom-like setup going with a large TV and an expert on the SR-71 who was giving a presentation and answering questions. Isaac got to ask her a couple and felt like it was the coolest thing in the world.

Of course, the Space Shuttle Discovery was also a hit. It’s the centerpiece of the museum’s space wing, and it’s impressive to see not only its size, but to know that this vehicle went into space so many times.

With the Space Shuttle <i>Discovery</i>. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
With the Space Shuttle Discovery. – Photo by the author

One of the more interactive exhibits was done by Garmin. They had a computer game-like display with a yoke that was attached to a model plane suspended in a glass box. As you moved the yoke, the plane moved, too, demonstrating the concepts of pitch, roll, and yaw. That was pretty neat.

At the end of our visit, “Nene” wanted to go up in the observation tower. Isaac went along with her, while the rest of us stayed a little closer to the ground.

I really like this shot of John overlooking the main floor of the museum. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
I really like this shot of John overlooking the main floor of the museum. – Photo by the author

When we arrived back at “Nene’s” house, the boys showed her their latest open source video game obsession: Minetest. We had set up a server for the boys to collaborate on building structures together, and much to their delight, “Nene” fired up her computer and joined them. It was a very sweet cross-generational moment.

LAN party at "Nene's" house! - <i>Photo by the author</i>
LAN party at “Nene’s” house! – Photo by the author