I don’t take vacations. To be honest, I hate to travel. It’s a pain in the ass that takes me away from places I find familiar, and there’s always that uncertainty that comes with the adventure that drives me nuts. Motels are expensive and I don’t like the camp, getting gas is a pain in the ass, and I don’t like public transportation because I always catch something.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was in my early twenties I traveled all the time. I always asked for trips for my birthday. On my twenty-first birthday, we went to Reno so I could drink and gamble. On my twentieth birthday we explored the Newberry caldera. I don’t know how many train trips I took, or how many times I gritted my teeth, swallowed my aviation fear, and flew to visit my sister.
Every summer I went down to Mammoth Lakes, where I spent the season hiking in the mountains and studying volcanic formations. It was an annual trip for five years in a row. Even if one year I came home with a second degree sunburn on my legs, I still enjoyed myself. (That was pretty gross, by the way. It swelled up and oozed this orange grease. Ah, the wonders of travel!)
I’m not sure what happened. One day I thought of taking a trip and felt so weary I didn’t bother again. I no longer wanted to explore the volcanoes of the West. I wasn’t interested in getting in my car and just driving. I was tired of camping and motel beds made my back hurt. The bother of packing my stuff and driving in my car just seemed too much. And don’t even get me started on the money.
It’s weird, because I can’t think of anything traumatic that happened to make me not want to travel anymore. I’m certainly not “too old for this shit.” But one day I woke up and decided that I didn’t like to travel anymore.
Maybe it’s not as much the traveling as the fact that I need a purpose to the traveling now. I have several friends who just get in their cars and drive to see where they end up. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but this doesn’t appeal to me anymore. If I’m going to bother to get in that car, plane, or train, I want it to be taking me somewhere pre-determined.
There are a few places I’d like to visit. The government opens up the Trinity Site every April. I’d love to go there and look around. In fact, I’d love to do a whole documentary series of all the places that are related to the Manhattan Project. That would be a trip I’d be interested in doing.
I’d like to go to the Big Island of Hawaii and explore the five volcanoes there. Three of them are still active, though one of them hasn’t erupted for a long time now. With my luck, a certain volcano will be erupting when I get there, and I can see lava erupting live.
Well, technically, I’ve already seen lava erupting live. Back during the 2004-08 eruption at Mount Saint Helens, I headed to the mountain with my family for a look around. The thing was making the weirdest noise, though I was the only one who heard it. It sort of sounded like continuously squealing brakes, like the mountain was screaming. There was some snow in the crater, and on that snow was a distinctive pink glow from hot lava oozing into the dome.
But no, I mean actual basaltic lava. The liquid red stuff that spews out in fountains and runs down the side of the shield. I want to see that kind of eruption. I’d travel for that. I’d even get into an plane for that.
It’s funny about my fear of flying. Like my aversion to travel, I don’t know where it started. When I was a little kid, I flew on a plane and was excited. I remember looking out the window at a cloud deck and imagining there were Care Bears living in it.
We did hit an air pocket on the way home, which sent the plane into a temporary dive, but I just thought it was cool. My orange juice rose out of the glass in the shape of the glass before splattering all over the place. Even when the guy in the back panicked and had a heart attack, I still wasn’t traumatized. Ambulances met us at the gate and we had an exciting story to tell Mom when we got off.
No, the fear came many years later. One day I took a flight from Oregon to Reno with Dad and it wasn’t such fun anymore. I looked down from the window and saw how high we were, and it disturbed me to think of falling out of the sky from that height. Every bump and rattle startled me. It was a smooth flight, but after that I couldn’t set foot in a plane without ample amounts of alcohol in my system.
It wasn’t the incident in my childhood, either. I’ve been an both an air emergency and a railroad emergency, and I’m not afraid to take the train.
I remember that incident well. At the time, I was leaning back in my seat listening to a peaceful Chinese song called “Birds Flying in the Sky” and closing my eyes to imagine the scene. That’s when I felt the train lurch and heard a loud crunching, ripping sound. The emergency brakes began to squeal and people were thrown all over the car.
As the train was taking several football fields to stop, I saw this strange white debris flying through the air. That’s when I saw half a motorhome pulling to the side of the road. Down the middle of the thing, you could see a very stiff man driving, with a woman in the passenger’s seat waving her angry fist at him. The idiot tried to race the train over the tracks and lost.
Fortunately no one was seriously hurt. A worker in the dining car fell and broke her arm, but that was it. When the train got to El Paso a couple days later, everyone went up to the front to see the little dent in the locomotive where it tore apart the motorhome. It finished the long journey to Los Angeles without any problem.
Anyway, back to my fear of flying. I eventually found a series called “Mayday,” which investigated aviation incidents in detail. I watched this, along with several YouTube channels run by pilots, and I discovered that planes will stay in the air under the most amazing circumstances.
There was one incident in Indonesia where a plane flew through an ash cloud from the Galungang volcano. All four of its engines failed and it essentially became a giant glider for several miles. Eventually they got out of the cloud and were able to start the engines again, and they landed safely at an airport.
You’d think that watching all this stuff would make me even more afraid to fly, but it actually had the opposite effect. I haven’t done it yet, but I think I can get into a plane without four shots of tequila now. If a 747 can survive all four of its engines shutting down, I can fly in a plane.
Anyway, will I ever take a vacation again? I mean, a vacation where I actually travel somewhere. Perhaps someday. I’ll go to the Trinity Site, or see volcanoes on the Big Island, or maybe I’ll take a longer trip and collect all the Decade Volcanoes. I don’t know. We shall see in the future.
What about you? Are you one of those people who likes to get in their car and drive any old place or do you have to have a destination to travel? Have you ever thought about why? It’s an interesting thing to explore.