© Norman Sperling, March 1, 2011
In 1981-82, after leaving Sky & Telescope, and planning to move to the Bay Area, with no job or attachments on either end, I went sight-seeing. I traded my car for an RV, left Boston on Winter Solstice 1981, and settled in Oakland on Astronomy Day 1982. I meandered far and wide, seeing astronomical sights that I'd missed at conventions - observatories, planetaria, star parties, etc. I visited interesting companies and people I'd met, but concentrated more on folks I'd heard of and maybe corresponded with, but had never seen.
That trip was one of the highlights of my life. I took lots of photos that I still teach with. I'm still friends with a number of very interesting people I went out of my way to meet. I encountered many curiosities, neat stuff, different ways of doing things ... .
Now I'm finishing a couple decades on Daddy-Duty, and the travel bug is biting again. By January 2013 I hope to start driving anywhere in the US and Canada for 2 or 3 years. I may fit in short excursions before then.
Since I'm in my 60s this is my best remaining opportunity - of course everything is "health and budget permitting". I'm no longer so nimble, and have to watch my diet. I can dawdle and go way off the beaten path. Electronics will make it easier this time, with a laptop, WiFi, WWW, GPS, cell phone, digital camera, etc.
A detachable camper trailer seems good - the type called a "toy hauler", with the big fold-down ramp making it easy to move stuff in and out. I need functions of office/ store/ warehouse/ workshop more than the rooms of a house (in fact, many people change their houses' rooms and garages into offices/ stores/ warehouses/ workshops). So far, every motorhome I've seen tries to be a house, not the office/ workshop/ store I need. I hope I don't have to invent it all myself. I'll need a computer work station (even if the computer itself is a laptop); a drawing desk; and a package-wrapping table. Those could all fold out of the way when not in use. Of course I'll need lots of volume for goods that I buy and sell.
Park the camper for a week. There are trailer parks everywhere, and some folks might let me hook up a hose and extension cord to their garage. I'll probably pull the toy hauler with a powerful American SUV since, away from the coasts, service is said to be harder to find for imports. Get around town and take day-trips in the SUV.
THE GREAT SCIENCE TREK
It might take a week to "do" a city:
* Visit Big Science labs and institutions - academic, government [DoE, NASA, USDA, ...], whatever
* companies that make scientific things
* speak to the astronomy club
* speak to the skeptics (skeptical of pseudoscience)
* speak to the science writers and bloggers
* participate in Science Cafes
* give JIR-humor talks in labs and on campuses
* meet JIR authors and subscribers
* meet this blog's readers
* meet each area's science retailers
I hope to sell subscriptions and goods at most talks.
Tell me where to go! Please recommend:
* Science, technology, and medical places,
* ... sanctuaries and reserves,
* ... personalities, and
* ... companies
* Big Science / Research laboratories / Institutes
* Where scientific headlines happened
* Scientific white elephants
* Conventions, science festivals, science cafes, and star parties
* Life-list experiences
* Factory tours
* People who make neat goods that scientists and doctors would buy
* Authors / Writers / Bloggers
* Must-see buildings / structures / views (I love strong verticals and lots of ins-and-outs)
* Distinctive and off-beat museums
* Natural phenomena
* Scenic byways
* Geological faults and exposures
* Your ideas
* "Don't Go There": where to avoid, and why
Include noteworthy things that miss my criteria by a factor or 2: I can't drive to Arecibo but it's on my wish-list anyway.
Along the way, I'll turn what I learn into books, websites, articles, shows, blogs, or other media. I'm planning half a dozen book-like projects. For example,
* I want to touch rocks deposited during every geological epoch, and probably every age. How old are the rocks exposed near you? Are there any nice, multi-layer road cuts or cliffs?
* I'll visit sites for my forensic-astronomy book, Convicted by the Sun, Acquitted by the Moon. There's room for more cases, if you know of any.
* In historical science, I'll examine scientific White Elephants, including potential future ones.
* In entomology, I want to learn how locals cope with their pests.
I welcome your recommendations and comments on all of this: normsperling [at] gmail.com.
References I've combed as of May 2012:
David Alt & Donald W. Hyndman: Roadside Geology of Northern and Central California. Mountain Press 2002.
Karen Axelrod & Bruce Brumberg: Watch it Made in the USA. 3d ed 2002.
Bishop, Oesterle & Marinacci: Weird California. Sterling 2006.
Robert Burnham, ed: Caves Cliffs & Canyons. Discovery Insight Guides 2000.
Robert Burnham, ed: Star & Sky. Discovery Insight Guides 2000.
Richard Cavendish, ed: 1001 Historic Sites you Must See Before You Die. Barron's.
Glennda Chui: "The Particle Physics Life List". Symmetry, v4 #6 pp10-19, August 2007.
Albert G. Dikas: 101 American Geo-Sites You've Gotta See. Mountain Press 2012.
Chris Epting: James Dean Died Here. Santa Monica Pr 2003.
Chris Epting: The Ruby Slippers, Madonna's Bra, and Einstein's Brain : the Locations of America's Pop Culture Artifacts . Santa Monica Pr 2006.
John Graham-Cumming: The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science & Technology Come Alive. O'Reilly 2009. 542p.
Peter Greenberg: Don't Go There!. Rodale 2009.
Gerald & Patricia Gutek: Experiencing America's Past: A Travel Guide to Museum Villages. 2d ed, U So Car Pr 1994.
Jim Heimann & Rip Georges: California Crazy: Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicle 1980.
Harry Helms: Top Secret Tourism. Feral House 2007.
H. Tom Kirby-Smith: U.S. Observatories: A Directory and Travel Guide. Van Nostrand Reinhold 1976.
John Margolies: Fun Along the Road. Little, Brown 1998.
Mike Marinacci: Mysterious California. Panpipe 1987. 142p.
Daniel Mathews & James S. Jackson: America from the Air. Huffin Muffin 2007.
Gary McKechnie: USA 101. National Geographic 2009.
Mark Moran & Mark Sceurman: Weird U.S. Barnes & Noble 2004.
Duane S. Nickell: Guidebook for the Scientific Traveler: Visiting Astronomy and Space Exploration Sites Across America Rutgers U Pr. 2008.
Duane S. Nickell: Guidebook for the Scientific Traveler: Visiting Physics and Chemistry Sites Across America Rutgers U Pr. 2010.
Jerome Pohlen: Progressive Nation. Chicago Review Pr. 2008.
Reader's Digest: America’s Historic Places. Reader’s Digest 1988.
Saul Rubin: Offbeat Museums. 1997.
Norm Sperling: "Touring American Observatories", Sky & Telescope, vol. 53, no. 1, January 1977, 14-19.
Mabel Sterns: Directory of Astronomical Observatories in the United States. Edwards 1947.
Salvatore M. Trento: Field Guide to the Mysterious Places of the Pacific Coast. Holt 1997.
Mark Usler: Hometown Declarations. DM 2008.
B. J. Welborn: America's Best Historical Sites. Chicago Review Press 1998.