While detaching our car from our motorhome last week as we settled into a spot outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a wintery-white beared man on a golf cart rode up beside me.
“I see you’re all the way from Texas!” He said hollering over the sound of our diesel engine.
Against my naturally introverted way, I high-kneed over the tow bar to greet the man.
“Actually,” I said, “we’re domiciled in Texas. We’re from Oregon”
I pronounced it correctly. Orygun. Not Or-ee-gone.
“Where?” He asked, leaning his bony shoulders forward.
“From Oregon,” I said again, but I could see it was lost on him. “The other side of the country,” I waved my arms as a Yankee does. “It’s a long ways away,” as if that would make it okay that someone from the states didn’t know the name of one of them.
“I’m the last remaining man to ever touch an atom bomb,” he said, and thrust his arm out in front of me, holding a business card closer to the size of a pamphlet.
“I helped load the last-the atom bomb guy at my campground who will remain nameless because I call him a liar
I will speak to any Organization, Group, or
Church about what I know about my part in the
loading of the Atomic Bomb
on to an air plane in Florida in the year
“Oh wow!” I said, turning the card over, “that’s pretty unique.”
The motorhome was idling loudly behind me, with the Tahoe was sticking in the road, waiting for me to unhook it.
The old man leaned over and placed his hand along the side of his mouth, mimicking a secret, “and I just might have helped put it on the plane.”
And with that, he waved, started his golf cart back up, and puttered away. It’s a golf cart. It’s not like he was ripping down the road.
I walked back up to the front of the coach, handed Jeremiah the oversized business card through the driver’s window, and shrugged.
Maybe I’m confused by what constitutes an atomic bomb, but I’m going to go ahead and say that no, he’s not the last person to see a nuclear weapon. At all. Not even the last American.
It’s likely the man is referring to Operation Plumbbob which was a series of 29 nuclear tests that took place in 1957. However, 1957 was by far not the more recent date that a nuclear weapon was detonated. Even if you only look at the USA, the last one was 40-some years later.
Am I calling the man a liar? Uh, yep. Even if it’s not on purpose, it’s absolutely untrue.
What is true is that even today, 75 years after the horrifying bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world continues to argue that dismantling nuclear weapons is up for debate. I’m sticking my foot out for this one. It’s not up for debate.
I’m not certain why he believes that was the last atom bomb, but I think I’ll wait to hear about post-Covid.
Unique Interactions on the road
I told one of my coastal friends about the man.
“Was that one of the most unique interactions that you’ve said you’ve had on the road?” She asked.
The question took me for surprise. Yes. I suppose it ranks up in the top five.
I don’t think a lot about nuclear weapons, or atom bombs. Other than formal education, it’s likely that I’ve considered the subject on a whole fewer than a dozen times, most of the time when I’m thinking about North Korea.
Nuclear Power Plants
Nuclear power, on the other hand, is something that Jeremiah and I chat about from time to time. In this portion of the country, much of the energy produced is nuclear. It’s one of the cleanest energy options but often portrayed as dangerous. Within the United States, nuclear energy accounts for 20% of the nation’s electricity: all without carbon emissions.
So why does it have such a bad rap? For one: the Chernobyl Disaster.
Second: it’s just associated with nuclear weapons. It’s as simple as that. Is it logical? Yes, and no. Yes, nuclear power plants create radiation, but it’s minimal when it’s dealt with effectively. Obviously, nuclear weapons do have huge impacts on the area’s radiation. It doesn’t automatically mean that a nuclear power plant is a weapon though.
In Oregon, we didn’t see nuclear power plants – never drove by them. Driving across the Eastern half of the United States though, we see them relatively often. There are disadvantages to nuclear power: it is not without waste– and radioactive waste at that. However, greenhouse gasses and associated deaths are lower in Nuclear energy than coal, natural gas, and even hydropower. Solar and wind have even fewer associated deaths but are higher when it comes to gas emissions. Yep. Seriously.
I’m not trying to lecture you. This blog took a turn from a strange anecdote to the reality that nuclear power is safe and clean. In Oregon though, I just never thought about it. Some of Oregon’s power comes from nuclear plants, but they’re not in the state itself.
Traveling offers new perspectives – nuclear power and other
Traveling has given me a wide array of peculiar interactions and perspectives I just hadn’t considered before. Seeing more has a way of doing that. If you haven’t traveled, you should try it- just not right now. Wait until the pandemic is a thing of the past.
The more I travel, and the more things I see – not just people that I interact with – the more I become who I think I’m supposed to be. Two years ago I was a different person than I am now. I was close-minded, and while I still think I’m correct 98% of the time, that’s a full percentage decrease from November of 2018. The ways in which I think (okay, know) that I’m right has been heavily influenced by the experiences of the last two years of travel. We are what we are surrounded by.
Where are we?
On a different topic, we’re planning on staying in the Chattanooga area through the winter, most likely. We had plans to go down to Galveston, Texas, but we changed our minds last minute. With the horrific hurricane season this year, and Covid-19 rampaging through all the United States, we figured this was a good of a place as any. While we won’t be moving around much for the foreseeable future, I’ll still be bringing you updates about RV life as we hunker in place for a bit.
What’s a peculiar interaction you’ve had recently? Is there an atomic bomb man in your life?