When I was but 11 or 12 years old (accounts vary about the actual date, 1974 or 1975), my family decided to take a two-week vacation to California to visit Mom’s sister Margie and brother-in-law Bill, and their children, our cousins Leslie, Stacy, Valerie, and Billy. We also saw the sights in southern California like Disneyland and Sea World, and took in much of the scenery to and from. (This trip is the backstory to The Zone [click to read] by the way.)
As the time to pile into our new used lumbering land yacht, a 1973 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, approached, I was getting very interested in aviation. I recall that I repeatedly asked Dad if we could buy an airplane. When that didn’t succeed, it dawned on me that the new car handled a lot like a very large airliner or a cargo plane, and decided that it would be wicked cool if I had a control yoke like one in a jet. To that end, I mentally sketched out a plan to build one out of plywood that I could keep in the back seat of the car so I could “fly” the car from Lawton, Oklahoma, to Thousand Oaks, California.
Okay, yes, I guess that image makes me seem a little autistic, slowly turning my crudely-fashioned plywood yoke left and right as the 5000-pound, 9-miles-per-gallon luxury car glided up and down the highways of the American west. But I would be flying, at least in my mind, something I wouldn’t get to do in reality until just before I turned 30.
Dad said no to my request, which I thought was grotesquely unfair. In retrospect, the cavernous Cadillac probably could have held an entire cockpit mock-up and still had room for all of us and our luggage.