This week, The Freewheeling Freelancer continues the bicycle journey around the Iberian Peninsula. As usual, the articles there will alternate with the stories here, so you can travel with me across time and space each week.
Next week, a sea story about the French Riviera.
Dark. Absolutely dark. Deep inside USS Little Rock (CLG-4), the lights were all red, so that the night watch could accommodate their eyes. It had been more than four hours since I had seen white light, and I had gone out on deck early to let my night vision become as sharp as possible. It also helped that I knew the location of every knee-knocker and trip hazard by feel and by heart.
I reported to the bridge at 23:35 and sought out the Officer of the Deck (OOD). As Jerry gave me the run-down on the latest details, my bridge team was doing the same: lookouts, quartermasters, helmsmen, messengers, and status board keepers. The Captain was coming and going between Combat Information Center (CIC or “Combat”) and the bridge. He was always aware of where we were and what we were doing, but he knew that his OOD was driving the ship.
“On the bridge! This is Lieutenant Hine, Lieutenant Lonquist has the Deck!”
“This is Lieutenant Lonquist. I have the Deck.”
“Aye, aye, sir!” the seven men on the bridge watch shouted.
I headed down the starboard side toward the signal bridge. The sky was brilliant with stars, but no moon. We were cutting through the smooth, dark waters of the Eastern Mediterranean at an easy 20 knots, heading East-Southeast.
I felt a mixture of excitement, elation, and exhaustion as I headed for the door leading to my stateroom, eight decks below. Tomorrow, we would be arriving in Alexandria, Egypt, for the first official visit by an American warship since 1958. Sixteen years is a long time in Mideast politics, and a lot was hanging on this visit. Continue reading
When USS Little Rock (CLG-4), the Sixth Fleet flagship, pulled into Tangiers, Morocco at the end of January, I had a more important mission than building US-Moroccan relations (which I helped do anyway). This was one of the few ports where my wife Carol (a singer with the Sixth Fleet Music Show) would not be with me. She had issued clear-cut orders to come home with a handmade, wool Moroccan rug. Not some little runner for the hall, but a full-sized beauty to lie beneath the entire living room ensemble. Continue reading
Gaeta, Italy. Most mornings when the US Sixth Fleet flagship was in home port, I would coast down the steep hill from our apartment building on the very top of the Monte Elena. Stopping my bicycle at the kiosk in the town square, I would buy the daily papers from Naples, Milan, Paris and Rome, then ride to the ship. Continue reading