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Road Trips are Coming Back in Style

For me, they never left

By Susan Eileen Published 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
Road Trips are Coming Back in Style
Photo by Freddy Kearney on Unsplash

During my sixth-grade year, I took a road trip with my father. My father was a radio astronomer, professor at Umass, and part-time consultant at NASA. We went to California on business; it was the trip of a life time. We landed in Sacramento and travelled for three weeks on the road until we reached our destination. Airline travel was so very different then, but I learned a lot about his work in radio astronomy and we stopped at all kinds of little and unique places and that have given me a love for little and unique museums.

First, let’s talk about airline travel back in the 1980’s. Believe it or not, it is was a bigger dumpster fire than it is now. Nothing was on time ever. In fact, during a stop at the St. Louis airport, I decided the airline that I was on, called TWA, stood for trouble, waiting and aggravation. Who wants to be stuck in an airport for six, eight, eleven hours? Have you seen the prices? Could the chairs be any more uncomfortable? Can you be more bored and trapped? Planes dropped like flies out of the air too, whether by bombs left by terrorists, hi-jackers, or just simply engine failure. When they say that airline travel is safer than driving by car, remember that when a car crashes you have a pretty reasonable expectation of surviving the crash; not so much with an airline crash. Lockerbie Flight 303 changed my mind forever, as did DC-10's and obviously 9/11.

I learned a lot of my father’s job as well. As I said, he had a PhD in radio astronomy. He was a pioneer in the field, actually. His obituary (found on Google) reads “Professor (William) Dent was a key founder of the observational aspect of the Astronomy Program at UMass Amherst. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Bill had made the amazing discovery that the brightness of what were called quasi-stellar radio sources (quasars) varied with time. This required that the physical sizes of these objects be vastly smaller than had been postulated; many years later we have learned that quasars contain supermassive black holes, often with masses of billions of times the mass of our Sun.” We now call quasars, active galactic nuclei, but that is a different conversation altogether.

He taught classes at UMass, did consultant work for NASA, and observed the universe from the telescopes at Kitt Peak Observatory. While on site at NASA in California, I saw VETOLS – which stands for vertical take and off and landing. Not quite a helicopter and not quite a plane, it was supposed to be the future of air travel. On this road trip, I also met a man that worked at SETI, which stands for the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence. At SETI, astronomers look for radio signals that are coming from the universe, looking for a radio signal that might be coming from another world. We also stopped at Kitt Peak Observatory where he did “observing runs” for three weeks every summer.

My dad was a very intelligent man. One thing I’ve come to learn over the years, is that two signs of intelligence are wanting to be alone more than the average person and wanting to spend time with people more one on one. In fact, he was so intelligent that I feel like he was too smart for his own good, often ruining his own happiness. He and mother had four children, and I don’t what my dad thought fatherhood would be like, but being married with children did suit him at all. It was far too noisy for him, if you want to boil it down to basics. He preferred to spend time with us one on one, with sibling rivalry out of the way, he could actually enjoy our company.

We travelled from Cleveland to Sacramento by plane. There was a car waiting there in Sacramento that we then used to drive down the coast to Houston. We stopped at some of the most interesting and out of the way places. One of them was the Winchester House of Mystery. I had seen it on the TV show Ripley believe it or not; he must’ve made a mental note of my fascination and arranged for the trip.

The Winchester House of Mystery is quite the architectural oddity. From the official website here are the facts:

From 1886 to 1922 construction seemingly never ceased as the original eight-room farmhouse grew into the world’s most unusual and sprawling mansion, featuring:

24,000 square feet

10,000 windows

2,000 doors

160 rooms

52 skylights

47 stairways and fireplaces

17 chimneys

13 bathrooms

6 kitchens

Built at a price tag of the $5 million dollars in 1923 or $71 million today

It is believed that Sarah Winchester, part of the family that started the Winchester Rifle Company, was haunted by those who were killed by the Winchester Rifles. The ghosts tormented her, she said. She was a beautiful socialite, that withdrew from society and focused on her house of mystery. What prompted the constant the construction no one knows, but the construction led up to her dying day.

His love of travel has never left me. The experiential education you can get from a vacation is priceless. Two of my personality strengths are bravery and a zest for life, and I’m sure it has come from travelling. I have an optimism most people don’t have either.

The end of the trip came to a sudden halt though. We travelled to Houston, Texas specifically to catch the flight home. Little did we know that Houston had two airports, and we arrived at the wrong one. This is where the chronically late airline industry was actually a good thing. We had to drive across town to the OTHER Houston Airport. Because nothing was ever on time, I didn’t miss my flight home and we arrived at the correct airport two hours late. I do remember being so nervous about that flight because of the DC-10's recent engine failure. It was definitely an experience where the euphoria from vacation ending was annoying to say the least, but we all have to go back to reality at some point.

If you are thinking of taking a road trip, please do. It will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. You will learn a lot about the people you are travelling with and there will be seeds planted on that trip that you may not even notice until years later. Trust me. I know a thing or two about a thing or two.

family travel

About the Creator

Susan Eileen

If you like what you see here, please find me on Amazon. I have two published books under the name of Susan Eileen. I am currently working on a selection of short stories and poems. My two published books are related to sobriety.

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