July 22, 2016 Largo, Maryland
The alert reader (that guy again!) will notice that – in a previous post – I thought the hotel was in Landover. Some of the navigation Apps think it is in Upper Marlboro, too. The hotel’s card has Largo as its address, so I’ll go with that. It seems to me that these Marylanders are very dislocated people.
The shop was supposed to release my truck Friday afternoon. Well, Friday has come and almost gone and Monday is the new Friday. So, on Friday afternoon I embarked on a Pilgrimage of sorts.
Not far from here is a place where a specific story is told that interests me greatly. It requires a trip only 15 miles. I could call Uber, but by the time a round trip is done, I would out $50. As I mentioned, waiting around for my truck to be repaired pays little or nothing and I don’t really like riding with strangers anyway. Besides, it turns out that a subway station is not far away and I can be whisked to a spot just a few blocks from the objective. The first step will be to get to the Metro station. Google Maps, right?
On the left, in dotted lines, you see the route I took. The solid line was slightly longer and though the many deviations seemed excessive, I can’t tell if there are obstacles that make them necessary. There were indeed unmapped obstacles. The orange “U” shaped segment you see near the station is where I had to walk around the huge, tall, unmapped wall that separated me from the station. There was no signage about the Metro station at all in that shopping center, that Google evidently wanted me to visit. The shops there are about 40% unoccupied and “dead mall syndrome” cannot be far away for the place, so they could use some “lost tourist” business.
On the right, in red, is how I returned from the station. That first segment out of the station is on nobody’s maps – except for the map in the station, of course. The diagonal in the middle is across a big empty field, also unmaped, but recently mowed and pleasantly shaded by tall trees. The last segment passed through a University of Maryland satellite campus whose parking lot backs up to the hotel. This part of the country has a tendency to put all their hotels and offices in one place. I have found by experience that parking lots are the great short-cut secret when walking around. People complain that Houston has nowhere to walk. Well, in my walking around here on Thursday and Friday (about 4 hours total) I passed perhaps 5 or 6 fellow pedestrians. This in a much milder climate. The habit of walking has dwindled to people walking for exercise. That is one reason I do it, but also because I find it more interesting than riding around with some anonymous driver.
Let’s get on with the trip, now. Buying fare for the subway is straightforward. You pay $2 for a card that can be “filled” with value to be read by the turnstiles as you enter and leave. Used cards can be “refilled”. I bought enough for a round trip, then added a buck in case I might fall into “peak hours” which cost that much more.
The subway looks a lot like every other subway I have been on, around the world (Singapore being the exception). I mean to say you can see that once, this miracle of public transportation was sleek, modern and clean, but now it is just…grimy. It was near one PM on a Friday and the trains were running mostly empty.
I arrived at the proper station and walked a few blocks North to get to the object of this search, which you should see below. This is Space Ship One, built by the legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan. You see it here in its “feathered” configuration to make for a stable re-entry from Space. At launch the twin tail booms are straight behind the wings.
On June 21, 2004, Mike Melvill piloted this spacecraft to an altitude of more than 328 thousand feet (62 miles and change), thus becoming the first “Commercial” Astronaut on the first privately funded human space flight. It is made all the more impressive by the fact that Mike did it all with manual controls -by that I mean cable and pulley mechanical connections and no auto pilot or computerized control. So, you ask yourself, “Where is this, anyway and why has Steve made this special trip to see this small spacecraft?
This is the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and I came here to see this because Mike Melvill was sixty three years old when he made that historic flight. And – somehow – that lifts my heart and makes my spirit soar.
At The Museum