Los Alamos Revisited

A Road Trip to the Great Southwest

This article is part of the PPSA Online Magazine
By David Gay
(God Emperor of the European Union)
Volume 7 Number 2 - Winter 1994

Before I begin the story of my road trip to the Great Southwest, I should probably introduce myself. I have only met a few of the other members of the Great PPSA. Even though I have tried (Right John? It was not my fault that your sister had to get married).

Many years ago, in a place far away (from London). I started my undergraduate education studying Physics at MTU in the year of Our (Dv) Bob -3. Or should it be 3 BB? Anyway, I had the awesome responsibility of breaking in Dv. Bob with 2 terms of graduate level Mathematical Physics during his first year of teaching at Tech. Many of you have seen the effects of these early graduate level courses, since you encountered Dv. Bob after he mellowed.

I started Graduate School studying intermediate energy nuclear physics, at the University of Minnesota. During this time I worked on some experiments at LAMPF. For some reason I decided to go to Minnesota instead of Michigan State. After the stories I've heard from Scripter, it was a good choice. Not seeing much of a future in nuclear physics, I started my own company doing computer programming. I got bored writing accounting programs and went back to MTU to get a PhD. This is where I met Sue Hill and later Charles (have you had many overdue books lately?) Scripter who introduced me to the PPSA.

After finishing my PhD, I followed Sue and took a postdoc at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Now, I am starting my fourth year here in London. For some reason it does not snow as much here as in Houghton even though it is much further north.

Meanwhile, back at the road trip...

For the last couple years I have visited San Diego twice a year for about a month each time. During the last visit I was invited to go to Los Alamos to give a talk. I remembered that THE GOD EMPEROR of the PPSA was ruling from Los Alamos. I thought we might be able to get together, have a few beers and share Dv. Bob stories about the old days at Tech. After contacting John, he told me that he was going to be out of town! After being there for the last 2 years, I thought it was in poor taste that he decided to leave at this time! He gave some lame excuse about going to his sister's wedding... He did offer to tell me where his house was so I could look at it. After seeing the picture of the toilet from the house I own in the last PPSA newsletter, I should have taken him up on his offer.

I suppose this journey really began in San Diego. My wife (Yvonne), daughter (Rachel 1.5) and I had been enjoying sandy beaches and sunshine. We don't get much of either in Britain. The only sandy beaches are on the oceanic equivalent of Lake Superior. We were getting ready to fly to Minnesota, via what should have been International Airport Denver (does anybody know if it is open yet?), on our return trip to England, and I turned on CNN to find out what the weather would be like in Minneapolis. The previous day, a Boeing 737 had crashed in Pennsylvania, for no apparent reason. I knew we had to fly on two 737's to get to the Twin Cities. They never did get around to talking about the weather...

I arrived in Albuquerque from Minneapolis, and headed for the Budget booth, where the great Korean steed of steal waited (a Hyundai Excel). The powerful 1.3 (+/- .5) litre engine growled in the very direct New Mexican sunlight and accelerated the nimble steed steadily as we headed north. It had been over a decade since I had been in this part of the world, and my memory of the way was weary. Fortunately, there was only one road to choose from and we eventually found our way through Sante Fe to the great Metropolis of Los Alamos.

As we climbed to higher elevations, the mighty steed wheezed and tried to catch its breath struggled to find the proper gear. Desperately, I tried the Economy/Power switch for the transmission, to no avail. Oh, for a manual transmission! We eventually staggered up the side of the cliff onto the great mesa containing a Metropolis. The first stop was the Hotel, where a room had been reserved for me. Not!


No problem, I have my host's phone number and I'll give him a call. Voice mail... Check the watch... lunch-time... Shit! I'll just get some lunch.

The Taco Bell was gone. A McDonald's had taken its place. Otherwise not much had changed. The pond was still next to City Hall. The WWII housing still dominated the eastern end of town. The ducks and geese still ruled the pond.

Grab a burger and head on to the Lab. But where? I know, visitor's reception. Spend an hour alternately waiting and trying to call my host. I hate voice mail... Doesn't anybody have real secretaries anymore?

Eventually, I am rescued from reception and head off to do some serious visiting, science and looking for a place to sleep. I end up staying across the street from the pond. My talk went well none of the 7 attendees fell asleep. The visiting and science was good. After another night in Los Alamos, I head back to Albuquerque. Not much else to do in Los Alamos. It is nice to know that some things never change.

I made a vain attempt to find the site of the bowling alley/movie theater, and end up buying the postcards from the drugstore that was next to the Safeway (used to be anyway) as I head out of town. Hoping, the mighty steed could handle going downhill better...

It was interesting to see Los Alamos again. Too, bad John wasn't there. Maybe, next time...

John, if you ever decide to come to London, I'll tell you where my house is...

Last Updated 04/14/95.© 1996 PPSA