Paul’s Life Crest Vision Quest

July 21, 2009

I’ve been back for a while now. It turns out that Las Vegas and Washington, DC were not going to make it. I bailed on those stops. I ended up going to Washington, DC this past weekend, which, it turned out, was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo XI landing (Neil Armstrong, et al). That was a great time to be at the National Air and Space Museum (apart from the throng is humanity…)

You can check out related videos here (on my YouTube Channel).

Blog posts from the road (and later reflections) can be found here.

There’s also a huge load of pics I took while on the road. See them here.

—PRT
August 29, 2007

With my 40th birthday coming up, I’ve decided to take the month of October (my birth month) to go and see some stuff I’ve always wanted to see. In the process, I hope to see not just sights, but my life from a calmer and more objective point of view than I can get to day-to-day.

The way I see it, at 40 years old, I’m just about at my peak. I still have my mental faculties about me (and a more mature perspective), and still have reasonable mobility and physical stamina. I’ve come to the point in my life where I have just about as many days ahead as behind me. I’m not “over” the hill, yet, but I’ve just about reached its crest, and I want to take a little time to savor the view.

I’ve never taken what I would consider a “real vacation” and have decided that now is the time to put the rest of my life on hold for a little while, stop, and just breathe. Think. See. Understand.

I’ll be taking a journey that is as much physical as it is philosophical. I’ll be driving my little 2008 Scion tC across the continent and back again, planning to see, among other things:

  • The “Trinity” Site
  • Meteor Crater, AZ
  • The Anasazi Ruins at Chaco Canyon, NM
  • Hoover Dam
  • Johnson Sapce Center, Houston, TX
  • New Orleans, LA
  • The former site of NTC Orlando, where I went to Navy boot camp
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • My brother’s new house in South Carolina
  • The National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

I also plan to shoot a bunch of video and still pictures, blog, reflect, and maybe write a few songs and/or stories.

If you’re interested, you can keep up with me here.

Trinity Site
Where it is:

View Larger Map
About it:
Wikipedia
Bureau of Atomic Tourism
Viva New Mexico
National Atomic Museum
Why I’m going:
Trinity represents a turning point in human history, and a point of no return. It is the point of release of a very angry and powerful genie from a tiny, tiny bottle. It represents the duality of scientific work, writ large… The harnessing of the atomic nucleus is arguably the single most significant scientific achievement in human history. Like so many other products of scientific effort, Nuclear Energy can be used for benefit or detriment of mankind. Nuclear Weapons represent the gravest threat to the survival of human civilization, while Nuclear Power Generation may represent our best hope for sustainable, scalable energy to power the advance of civilization. Whether you think the US was right to use Nuclear Weapons to break the back of the Japanese Empire and bring an emphatic and decisive end to World War Two, or not, Trinity is where that corner was turned.

The threat of annihilation by Soviet-launched nuclear fire loomed overhead for the first half of my life. I grew up within a few miles of a Nuclear Power station, a US Navy Nuclear Submarine base, and the Electric Boat shipyard, which built the ballistic missile and attack subs based in Groton, CT and elsewhere. Certainly I grew up in a target zone. By the sixth grade I was already aware that escape in the event of an attack was futile, and had resigned myself to getting out a lawn chair and enjoying the light show, rather than surviving the blast, then suffering the slow, agonizing death by radiation poisoning that would follow.

That reality was a formative influence on my beliefs and attitudes, and it all started at Trinity.

Meteor Crater, AZ
Where it is:

View Larger Map
About it:
Wikipedia
Why I’m going:
Why not?! ;) I’m going to be in the area and I’m going to have some time on my hands… What a thing to see!

The Anasazi Ruins at Chaco Canyon, NM
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

Hoover Dam
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

Johnson Sapce Center, Houston, TX
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

New Orleans, LA
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

The former site of NTC Orlando, where I went to Navy boot camp
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

Kennedy Space Center
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

My brother’s new house in South Carolina
Where is it:
That’s for me to know.
About it:
Why I’m going:

The National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Where is it:

View Larger Map
About it:
Why I’m going:

The Plan (so far)
Day One: Warwick, RI to Columbus, OH

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Day Two: Columbus, OH to Tulsa, OK

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Day Three: Tulsa, OK to Socorro, NM

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If all goes according to plan, this will put me in Socorro, NM on Wednesday, October 1. It’s an ambitious driving schedule (three 12-hour days), but it leaves me plenty of breathing room for making sure everything is in order for Trinity on Saturday. It also leaves me some room to take it a little slower, although, to be honest, there really isn’t anything I’m really hooked on seeing along the way (apart from the giant cross just outside Groom, TX, because nobody back home believes there are people in this country whacked-out enough to erect such a thing).

While I’m in the Socorro, NM area (although I’m not sure if it will be before or after visiting Trinity), I’d like to check out the Very Large Array:

View Larger Map

After I’m done in Socorro, I’ll head up to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, probably by way of Farmington, NM. That’ll be a day… Where are we? Chaco Canyon by the 5th or 6th. The night after Chaco, I’ll probably be crashing in Farmington, then it’s off to Winslow, AZ, where I’ll stand on a corner. … and spend the night, to see Meteor Crater the next day. Meteor Crater is about 15 miles outside Winslow.

After Winslow, I’ll probably head over to Hoover Dam… I might find my way over to Las Vegas, NV… who knows… maybe I’ll go see Penn&Teller, depending on if they’re playing that night (they don’t do shows on Friday night). While in the Las Vegas area, it might be a hoot to go see Pahrum, NV (site of the Martian landing in Mars Attacks). That will probably sum up the Westernmost point in the trip, and I’ll probably start working my way back on the 11th, or so.

Next night, I’ll probably crash in Tucson, AZ. That gets me down to I-10, for the low sweep across the South. Now, we’re up to the 12th-ish. I’m assuming there’s nothing really compelling around Tucson that would make me want to spend more than one night there.

Then, it’s off to lovely Van Horn, TX (or thereabouts)… It’d be nice to get all the way to San Antonio, but I don’t know if I’ll be up to the drive.

From Van Horn, TX, with any luck, I can make it to Houston, TX in one shot, crash for the night, and hit JSC first thing in the morning. It’s the 15th, or somewhere around there. I’ll spend the day at JSC, and see how I feel. If I think the place deserves another day, I’ll take it.

Next stop is New Orleans, LA. Call it morbid curiosity, if you like, but I’d like to see first-hand what’s going on there. Don’t know how the timing will work out, but I doubt I’ll spend more than one night in the Big Easy.

Back on the road, it’s a long day driving, heading to Orlando, FL. I’ll crash there (should be some time around the 19th, then go over to Kennedy Space Center in the morning. Will it be worth 2 days? Who knows? While in the neighborhood, I’ll poke around the former site of NTC Orlando.

By the 22nd, I should be at my brother’s place near Greenville, SC. Hopefully, he’ll let me crash there ;)

On the road on the 23rd (or thereabouts) for Washington, DC, where I’ll crash for the night, and see the National Air and Space Museum on the 24th. There’s a new annex, in Richmond that’s supposed to be pretty bitchin’, and I may spend a second night in WDC to see that. Not sure.

By the 26th, I should be back on the road for home, and, with any luck, will be sleeping in my own bed again that night.

We’ll see how closely I stick to the plan ;)