Tightly arranged metal storage closets and bureaus opened to create small desks and hide a secure safe. Organizational efficiency rivals an RV, with thoughtful touches such as reading lights and even a bedside shelf for a paperback or watch. Oddly, a pair of bean bag chairs had been left behind by the previous tenants, along with Paul Reiser's book "Couplehood."
The chief luxury was the 19-inch television precariously perched on a plastic shelf. The onboard TV studio played movies around the clock and offered CNN live as reception permitted, though image quality made Web-based video streaming seem leading edge.
As the ship motored away from port, we climbed topside to the mammoth flight deck. The expansive surface seemed like a mall parking lot, home to a few token GSEs (ground support equipment, essentially little tug cars) and a single F-14 Tomcat. With the sun shining, a steady breeze, and the gargantuan ship under our feet, it was truly an exhilarating experience. The shore whizzed by as we increased speed exiting San Diego Bay. A destroyer, submarine, AEGIS cruiser, and another carrier passed us as they headed to port. Out in the ocean, with our speed nearing 30 knots, wind was calculated at 75-80 mph, making shooting video impossible and transforming the walk back into a near effortless sprint.
We headed to the officer's wardroom for dinner, joining the queue of eager eaters. We were quite surprised that the food wasn't the gruel slop movies taught us to expect. Rather, the mess hall shamed a high school cafeteria with abundant choices of fresh food. A couple entrees were offered that first night (steak and chicken nuggets), with several side dishes, fruits, salad bar, breads, and numerous beverages. Dinner was downright civilized. No surprise, as it's crucial to keep the crew satiated and nourished when they are thousands of miles from home cooking.
When carrying a full 6000-sailor complement, the Abraham Lincoln personnel consume 660 gallons of milk, 620 pounds of hamburger, 800 pounds of vegetables, 900 pounds of fruit, 180 dozen eggs, and 13,000 sodas over the course of 20,000 daily meals. Multiply that out by several months of constant duty, and that is a colossal volume of food.
After dinner, sailors were playing basketball and tossing footballs in the main hanger deck awaiting an ice cream social. After a few words from the captain, the feeding frenzy began. The servers scooped ice cream with all the zeal of third-world bazaar merchants, trying to convince each desert-seeker to try their flavor or sugary topping. Clearly, these boys have been at sea too long.