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That and other factors pushed me to test my mettle at the next level: attaining the power of flight itself.
The mid-seventies were a tumultuous time, not just for me, but pretty much everyone. The oil embargo and recession helped put the kibosh on supercar enthusiasm, as well as much else.
Computers and the internet still didn't exist so far as the mainstream public was concerned. And the drug-culture of the sixties was still rolling along strong in the middle-seventies. Partly because the Cold War was still striking fear in the hearts of many, with its ever present possibility of global nuclear armageddon occuring at any moment.
I took the whole Cold War thing pretty seriously at the time-- maybe because I had my own kind of cold war going on inside, for reasons I could not understand.
To my mind back then, preparing for nuclear armageddon wasn't much different from prepping for a lifelong struggle against the state itself. Or simply living as free as you could, regardless of what the authorities might want to say about it.
So I did. Worked at putting myself into a state fit to live as a modern day mountain man beyond the law, and to survive and hopefully prosper no matter what insanity the top guys of the US and USSR decided to do to the rest of us, as they themselves enjoyed the best bunkers and support infrastructure money could buy and science could devise.
One of my first and most important steps was building a personal reference library. Collecting references on any and all subjects which might be relevant to living independently and self-sufficiently-- whether nuclear war came or not. Lots of the information consisted of pre-industrial knowledge which might be supremely valuable after the collapse of civilization, but hard to come by in the actual circumstance. Other chunks consisted of more modern elements which could be useful with (or against) virtually any level of technology likely to be in the hands of individuals or small, local organizations.
It was round about here that my first inklings of a radical aircraft concept began taking form.
One early concept I published much later on the internet under a pseudonym can be seen here.
But in the seventies a bonafide outlaw and potential nuclear war survivor needed much more than concepts like Project Fledgling could offer. After all, pretty much anything might have to be faced under the circumstances currently existing, and possibly to come.
And that's how Moonshadow came to be. That's what I'm calling it now, but at the time it had no actual name. In veiled references to the project among family and friends I usually called it a "truck". For it was a truck. An aerial truck. A really humongous aerial truck with a really tiny cargo carrying capacity.
Moonshadow was basically a semi-rigid airship which could hover over one spot, take off or land vertically, or comfortably 'nest' in the tree tops of forests. It could also shape-change during flight into a flying wing to substantially increase its top speed and improve its manueverability. When nesting the envelope could be rapidly deflated and the internal frame folded up, with the whole thing subsequently sliding down deeper into the tree tops.
Moonshadow only flew in the summers, and at night, rarely ventured into areas of civilization, and mostly just made the rounds between several small outlaw 'farms' hidden in the deep woods of a particular portion of the Appalachians.
As sometimes Moonshadow would remain unfolded and deflated while nesting during the day on or near a remote mountaintop or ridge line, the top surface was painted in camouflage patterns to match. The bottom surface was painted sky blue, just on the off-chance it might sometimes fly during the day. Moonshadow was meant to be a low altitude airship. I really wasn't comfortable with doing anything high altitude. I liked to keep the ground within 500 feet or so. Of course that could be tricky at night. But I developed a few techniques to help.
Moonshadow made good use of the technologies of the time, and on a budget so small as to possibly astonish many. At least when contrasted with the capacities of the finished product. I liked to think of it as my own real-life batplane.
Although just like Shadowfast (well, much worse than Shadowfast, actually) Moonshadow ended up demanding a lot more work on my part than I initially expected, it also for the most part delivered what I needed performance-wise.
Moonshadow's end didn't stem from any flaw in its design or breakdown on its part. Basically I only lost Moonshadow due to poking my nose where it didn't belong.
Yeah, yeah, other survivalists and ex-survivalists out there will point out that had an actual nuclear war came about at the time, flying around in Moonshadow would have been exactly the worst place to be-- at least downwind of a recent blast (fallout) or caught by the shockwave of a near strike. And yes, my little territory wasn't all that far from Oak Ridge at the time. Considerably less than 100 miles away.
But heck, it appeared most anyone who was going to survive and prosper after such a war needed to make some big buck preparations before-hand. Hence, the outlaw farm operation of which Moonshadow was a part. Sure, I was taking a gamble on the war not actually starting for a while yet. But so was everyone else in America. Plus, Moonshadow only flew in the summers, and then only for a few hours during certain nights. The rest of the season I tended to spend on the ground, basically working and camping out. In the mountains. Where quite a few folks might be likely to try getting to if a real war broke out. But I'd already be there. No, I didn't usually have a cave or real underground bunker handy out there, just in case the strikes came while I was there. But with a day or so of warning I could probably have high-tailed it to a place very like a bunker.
The rest of the years during that time I spent partly at college, taking a light course load due to my need to work full-time at the same time. Steve and other hometown college friends had moved on after I'd dropped out before. When I wasn't in school I might be working two regular jobs plus some self-employment on the side. I kept my car (this was post-Shadowfast) packed with survival gear though the whole time, including a couple months worth of freeze-fried rations. And when in school had scoped out the campus for the best bunker-like spots to possibly commandeer if necessary. I kept a terribly heavy small trunk in my dorm room with me in those days, packed with essentials for war. Yes, my roommate knew I was an odd duck. But he was considerably younger than I, and had yet to be bloodied in battle. On the other hand he was one of the best people I ever met, and smart as a whip. I envied his own apparent high school environment, which had offered up classes like calculus(!) and thermodynamics(!) to students, and where there seemed to have been virtually no day-to-day violence. Despite being a freshman, he often helped me in my struggles with junior and senior level engineering courses(!) So yes, this was a remarkable young man. And I must admit his youthful optimism that war was not imminent did carry the day. Then.
But at the time uncertainty was running high for a great many of the rest of us.
In those brief few months of every year I was actually using it, possessing Moonshadow was like having a license to spy. To see things no one else saw. To go where no one else could. To do what no one else could dream. Money almost literally was growing on trees around me. Or in this case, weeds.
Imagine having a really big helicopter no one could see or hear. A helicopter so light you could land it anywhere: a roof, tree tops, whatever. Now imagine having it from just prior to fall of 1976 through the summer of 1979. Fences would be useless against you. Guards could be observed and avoided. And even if by some near miracle someone discovered your incursion, they could not pursue you! Just watch you disappear into the sky-- if they realized that's where you went at all.
But being an outlaw and a snoop with radical technology can be trumped by other radical technologies-- expecially when the other stuff is even more far out than your own.
I created this page to serve as a handy index or portal to all my Moonshadow-related pages on-site. I hope you enjoy it!