Corpus Christi—Back in 2013, we took you down to Corpus Christi to visit the USS Lexington. This amazing aircraft carrier built in the early 40’s is a true marvel to explore, so when we found out they added something very unique to the ship, we figured it was about time to check it twice!
“Most of us naval aviators have a big attachment to the ship you did your first landings on and Lexington was the home for most of us,” said Rocco Montesano.
One the very first season of The Texas Bucket List, we meet Rocco Montesano, the executive director of the USS Lexington. The former Navy pilot served for 27 years and worked on the Blue Ghost for 20 years. In 2018, the man who loved this ship set sail for the sea in the sky, but his inspiration lives on.
“A lot of times you can’t drag your kids to a historical monument so we have to make ourselves more of an attraction. A fun place,” said Rocco.
“He was a mentor of mine, a friend, and a just an incredible guy. We miss him dearly,” expressed Steve Banta.
Steve now fills the sizable shoes Rocco left behind. Fortunately, the former Navy captain is holding the ship steady by continuing the mission.
“We are always looking for ways to make this place relevant. It’s important for us to preserve the history of the USS Lexington and then share that with all of our guests,” he said.
The crew decided to take it up a notch by adding an escape room that gives brave visitors an escape from reality.
“It’s the only one that’s on a historic aircraft carrier in the entire world,” said Steve.
“The idea of trying to escape from an actual World War II aircraft carrier seemed to me very cool,” said Rodolfo Magnus.
Rodolfo is the technical advisor on the ship and he was locked into the idea of adding this engaging expansion.
“When I approached them in the beginning it was ‘Oh, you’re crazy. It’s not happening,’” said Rodolfo.
“I was a little skeptical just because I wasn’t sure. It was brand new for us, but the fact is he has been very successful in his ideas with us in the past, and…it was a worthwhile experiment,” explained Steve.
“So this is the entrance to the escape room area of Lockdown On The LEX. We have our first mission. Beat the Blast… A guy stowed away on board the ship. He’s got a nuclear bomb and you’ve got to defuse it,” said Steve.
If you’ve never been in an escape room, the basic concept is you must use clues in the room to advance to the next room and eventually escape. Some can be extremely detailed and without a doubt, this escape room has an all too real feeling and deals with subject matter that actually pertains to the ship’s history.
“This ship’s last operational mission was in the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. So the basic story is there’s a guy, his dad, a Russian guy, was disgraced by the Cuban Missile Crisis. They did not get what they wanted. The son grew up knowing that, he’s bitter about the Lexington, and so he has stowed away on board the ship, smuggled in a nuclear bomb and he’s allowed you to have one chance to help and solve it, so that you can save the day,” said Steve.
“I think it was a brilliant idea to tie the escape room story to the actual history of the ship. So then we had to think about how to tie it to real events that happened on this ship,” said Rodolfo.
“We love sharing the history of this amazing ship, but there are people who maybe aren’t into museums and history, but they’re into these kinds of games. And so we’ve got this whole new demographic that comes on board,” said Steve.
“So when the timer goes off and you start, you hope that the team will work together by separating and finding things and telling each other what they’re finding… if we’re not communicating you’re not going to make it out,” he said.
“You will operate real Naval equipment that sailors used onboard this ship, radar scope, communications gear. It might help to know Morse code.” said Steve.
“It’s a unique opportunity to interact with real World War II equipment inside of a real World War II aircraft carrier,” added Rodolfo. “In all my life I wanted to have a big countdown clock over a bomb. Well now we have it.”
So if you’re into history, teamwork, and unique adventures that make you think, experiencing the escape rooms of the USS Lexington, it’s all hands on deck on The Texas Bucket List.
“This ship, I mean it’s an icon for the local area,” concluded Steve.
“You can have a lot of fun aboard this magnificent piece of a US history,” remarked Rodolfo.
“Come for the fun of it and we’re going to slip some education and history while you’re here,” said Rocco Montesano.