Preparing for a Voyage to the Moon
School has ended for the year and my youngest son has graduated from high school, our exchange student from Denmark will soon be going back to his home, and my next to youngest son is in the middle of his second semester of classes at BYU-I in Eastern Idaho. Time is short and in this last few days of a great year, my sons and I have sought to make some lasting memories, so we took off for the moon.
After a breakfast of cold cereal, my son Jonathon, Kasper from Denmark, and myself began the day with an early start and we drove to Rexburg.
A Witness to History
On our way we picked up my mother, then we picked up my son Jared, and we drove to the rehabilitation center where my father has been for three weeks recovering from a series of small strokes. He is actually doing better than we feared he would do. There the six of us visited and my dad told of his experiences as an M.P. in the army during the war crime trials in Japan and how it was his task to protect and keep Tojo alive during that time period so he could later be executed for his war crimes. The stories my dad shared were very interesting and my son Jonathon, like most teenagers, has a smart phone, so he pulled up pictures of the war trials and sure enough there was his grandfather guarding Tojo. Did I mention that this trip to the moon took place on Memorial Weekend. History truly came alive there in that rehab center listening to a veteran tell of his experiences of long ago.
We left my mom to spend the day with my dad and the four of us took off to explore the moon. Traveling due west on Hwy 33 we headed for the horizon, through Sage Junction, Mud Lake, and Terreton. Past the hanger that was built to house the first nuclear fueled bomber, an airplane that only flew in the imagination of the engineers for it was never completed.
Then we turned south through the little place of Howe, along the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains and eating our lunch of Peanut butter sandwiches as we traveled we were indeed launched from the plains of Idaho into the realms of science.
Docking at EBR-1
Our first stop during our voyage to space was at EBR-1, the very first nuclear reactor used to produce electricity, which is now a museum. Outside the reactor sits the tested, but not used, nuclear engines that would have given an aircraft flight had programs not been cancelled. Then inside the museum we took a self-guided tour, though guided tours were available, we preferred wandering on our own.
A faulty space helmet
There is much to see and to learn walking through a once functioning reactor. We found ourselves following Jonathon through the chambers and up and down metal stairs until we followed him into the basement. Then he entered a room that I was not sure if he should go into. It was a room that had once housed the rods and it had two windows, one on each side of the room where workers had once upon a time peered through glass 18 inches thick at the rods in the room. I followed Jonathon in and on my heels were Jared and Kasper, explorers each of us. I said to them, “I’m not sure we should be in here.” It smelt strange in there and Jonathon commented on the funny odor. Kasper headed out and closed the glass door upon us, it is this door that made me think that we were not to be in there for the other such doors were all closed and people were to peer through them at the rooms. That is when Jonathon said that he could not breathe. It was only a brief moment that Kasper held the door shut and then we were out and Jonathon was talking about radiation and his not being able to breathe and yet even with this locked air pocket between subspace we went on with our journey of science as though we had but only fueled up at a space station. Jared and Kasper were very intrigued with the place but now Jonathon had lost his interest.
Orbiting the Moon
Out of the museum and walking to the car Jonathon complained again of distress and I being the captain of our crew, I said to him, “You’re okay, you’ll be fine out in the open where you can get some fresh air.” The atmosphere couldn’t have been better on a clear sunny day with a cool breeze blowing and I believed my judgment. The remainder of the journey to our ultimate destination was a very short flight through Arco, the first town ever powered by nuclear fusion, and on to the National Park of the Craters of the Moon where we landed our lunar pod, my Oldsmobile.
We all got out to head into the visitor center, all of us but Jonathon, he said he would wait in the car. I left him the keys so he could roll down the windows and though a warm day the breeze was cool off of the mountains whose peaks still were white with snow so he would be fine. We were inside only long enough to acquire a cave exploring pass and for Kasper to find some post cards and a great book on Idaho. Back to our lunar pod we were off to explore. Jonathon however, no longer wanted to explore.
Landing on the Moon
I pulled up and parked at the first point of interest and told Jared and Kasper that they could go on without us. By now it had become apparent to me that Jonathon’s distress was settling in for the long haul, a casualty of space exploration. Realizing that the odor in that basement room had triggered a reactive asthmatic condition in my son and that his anxiety was contributing to his distress I proceeded to talk to him about different subjects that were of interest to him so to keep his mind off of his fears which were making him have the feeling that he could not breathe. My distracting him seemed to help calm him and improve his distress, being anxious can make breathing so much more difficult.
Soon the explorers were back and we moved on towards the next place. From then on Jonathon and I remained in the car at every stop and we waited long periods of time for the spelunkers to return from their exploration of the caves. Never did Jonathon walk on the moon that day. He was the astronaut who stayed in orbit. Eventually he was able to relax enough to sleep and he took a nap in the car. When he woke he was much improved. He has had these asthmatic attacks before but they are sometimes years apart and this one caught us unprepared. Jonathon and I talked about leaving the two explorers and going to a medical facility in Arco but I was not sure that they still had one, nor would it be open on a holiday weekend. I left the choice to him and he chose not to go. So I stayed at his side as his private nurse for I had two roles on this voyage, that of captain and chief medical officer. I am grateful for a cool Idaho breeze.
A successful re-entry
Some would consider this trip wasted but I don’t for Jonathon and I were able to accomplish some much needed communication and we conversed about things of the past, the present, and of his future. I shall remember this trip for years to come for there were many memories built, yet I will remember it most for the time with my Dad where my sons experienced history first hand and for the time spent alone with my son where he and I were able to share our inner thoughts and feelings. How often do teenagers hear the tale of a historical event from the mouth of a person who has lived it? How often does a mom and a teenage son find them selves confined to a cubicle the size of a space pod on the surface of the moon? By the time we landed at home that evening Jonathon had mostly recovered and he was able to go off with friends. Yes we were back to Earth.