With a family of four and the youngest at six months there was no way Jo Ann could make the long drive from Hazleton, PA to Asheville, NC in the spring of 1960. We were very busy at the Beryllium factory and they only allowed me a long weekend to drive the family home for the summer. The Interstate system was under construction but only a few miles only a few miles were completed for this trip.
We loaded the kids on a mattress behind the front seat of a 1958 Ford station wagon so they would sleep most of the trip mostly down US 11 through Virginia. By noon Saturday the family was home for the summer. Jo Ann needed the car and airline ticket cost made flying back to Hazleton out of the question. Bus service would take two days at a minimum. For the next to the last time in my life the thumb was stuck out. This time I was dressed in a business suit with a brief case very early on a Sunday morning. The first person to pick me up was Billy Graham on his way to Greensboro, NC for a church service. The next ride was up US 29 up to the middle of Virginia then a short ride across US 60 to US 11 at Lexington, VA. The final ride got me the bus station in Harrisburg, PA just about sunset. After a couple of changes I arrived in Hazleton where Jo Lona picked me up at the bus station in time for work on Monday morning.
Joe's new bride, Pat, had a 1951 green Chevrolet that Joe considered excess to his family needs so Pat sold it to me for $100. Pat would never quite forgive me and Joe for that transaction and I would drive that car for at least 100,000 miles before the old Chevy gave up.
Hank Rowan told me that he had a trip planned to Savanna River in July and would be pleased to give me a lift. We agreed on a date that included a weekend. The tail number on his twin engine Apache was 007P. I would buy this plane from him eight years later.
The Atomic Energy Department used the Savanna facility for production of Plutonium and other items for the atomic bomb. Both Hank and I had "Q" clearances for top secrets on a "need to know" basis. I did not tell Hank what we were making in the back room in Hazleton and he did not tell me what he was going to be doing in Savanna River.
Hank picked me up on a Friday afternoon for the three-hour flight to Asheville. The weather forecast was good and I enjoyed sitting in the co-pilots seat until we saw a cloud bank ahead in the mountainous region of northwest North Carolina. Just to the south of our position was the highest point east, Mount Mitchell at 6684 feet. Hank started a climb to go over the clouds but at about 13,000-feet he gave up and turned to the west toward the Tri-Cities airport in northeast Tennessee. We ran into a rainstorm and Hank did not have his instrument rating. For a few minutes my knees were knocking uncontrollably until Hank asked me to turn the knob on the radio station to find the tower at Tri-Cities airport. The tower asked if he was in trouble and wanted to declare a "May Day". Hank replied that he was in clear skies and just wanted help to find the airport.
We soon broke out of the weather with a clear view of the landing strip. The controllers chewed out Rowan but did not write him up. I told Hank I would hitch hike the last 80-miles and this was really the last time at the age of 29.
I was in bed before midnight at my parents home in West Asheville on the hill that overlooked the French Broad River. The next morning Hank filed a VFR, visual flight rules plan to continue to Savanna but got socked in before he reached Knoxville. He decided to fly up the French Broad gorge to Asheville hoping to find the good weather forecasted for the region. This was a dangerous route and he had to fly on instruments most of the way before landing at a small airport a few hundred feet from where I was sleeping. We did not discuss this night until many years later.
On the way back north the family were to learn a strict set of travel rules that would continue until they were young adults. Bathroom before we move, hold it until the gasoline tank needed filling, lunch with chicken drumsticks, mashed potatoes and a glass of milk. No exceptions.