Since I got field trips in high school in the 1950’s, I thought I would continue the practice while I was raising Richard out in the desert.
By the time he was nine, we were kind of wandering around Antelope Valley, living in my Volvo station wagon, or camping out.
First field trip for Richard.
A visit to a boy’s reform school.
In the Central Valley of California there is a county farm and boy’s facility. We were living in the car at the time, and crewing for a sailplane pilot from Seattle. We camped at the airport that stood next to the school, and had plenty of time to “see the sights”. Besides the school there were fields of beans and alfalfa, a truck farm and an aircraft junkyard. After a week of playing in carcasses of wrecked obsolete helicopters and long hikes around the fields, I was ready for something different.
I asked if my son could visit the facility- talking my way in on the strength of having been a teacher and wanting my son to know what happened to miscreants his age.
At the time you might say Richard was “home schooled” as he did have a math course going and plenty of library books to read.
The authorities of the school welcomed him in to visit the inmates in their classroom while I waited in the reception area. After Richard came out I de-briefed him and learned a lot about the regime of the place. He was impressed by the fact that these boys had a school routine and strict behavior monitoring. Most important was that no one had time alone—they were always being watched! Every minute of the day was scheduled and every activity proscribed. Richard probably only remembers this visit for that element of restriction. Later on in life he would place himself under even stricter restrictions when he went into a three and a half year Buddhist retreat, so the experience resonated into the future.
Visit number two.
Where does your water come from?
Most people do not wonder where water comes from except when there is drought and they have to ration the lawn watering and car washing. One of the most impressive works for the transfer of water in California is the aqueduct of the Central Valley and the Pearblossom Pumping Plant that delivers it over the mountains to the Los Angeles Basin.
The pilot who patrols the aqueduct in the Antelope Valley was a friend of mine, so he got us the VIP tour of the interior parts of the plant.
There is a huge pipe going into the side of the mountain and since this plant is a few miles from the San Andreas earthquake fault I inquired as to what happens when the ground starts shaking.
We learned that this event has been prepared for in the shape of a huge tank called the surge protector. When there is sloshing in the open aqueduct, the backwash will not flood the plant or break the pipes.
The pilot patrols along the length of the aqueduct on alert for people in the ditch or fugitives. Checking for leaks at that time was not a big priority, but since this was written in 2001, the land has settled in spots by the over pumping of water from the deep reservoirs and has produced cracks in the cement sides of the aqueduct. The practice of an airborne patrol seems very prudent now.
Field trip three.
Los Angeles Center
Since I was a pilot, I wangled my way into a few restricted areas that women and kids normally do not see. One of those was the Air Approach Control for Southern California, located in Lancaster, California.
We stood and observed in the room next to where the traffic controllers peered into the big round screens and did their job of “pushing tin”.
Richard was especially delighted to be able to play with the practice console, using the roller ball as if it were a big video game.
So instead of repeated trips to Disneyland, I took my kids to desert museums, South Sea Islands, Benedictine priories, and dry lakes to pick up cans.
Later in life I was thanked for providing a view of the world that was more complicated than life in suburbia and the Mall. I reasoned that they should be aware of infrastructure.
I at least want to know that the water will be there when I turn on the tap, the planes will be guided safely to their destination,* and that there are lovely less traveled nooks and crannies to our world.
*Foot note- written before the 11th of September 2001.