Some of the most important films of my childhood were the ”Star Wars” trilogy. By which I mean the original trilogy, consisting of ”Star Wars”, ”The Empire Strikes Back”, and ”Return of the Jedi”. I was first introduced to the films by my mom, who didn’t really know much about ”Star Wars”. She’d seen it, so she thought it would be pretty fun for us kids. She bought two of the films on VHS tape, ”Star Wars” and ”Return of the Jedi”. You see she didn’t know what order the films were in so she just randomly picked two of them. It didn’t really matter to me, though. All I knew was that cool stuff was going on, and a short while later we got ”The Empire Strikes Back”.
In my opinion the most important scene in ”Star Wars” is one that has come to be known as the “binary sunset”. It’s about twenty-five minutes into the film, right after some exposition reveals that Luke doesn’t have it in him to be a farm boy. Luke walks outside and scrambles up a small hill. A piece of music known as the “force theme” plays. Luke has an expression the screams of his longing to be among the stars. I remember this scene fondly as a child. From the moment I first saw that scene I felt a strong urge to go outside, stand in a cool pose, with a dramatic look on my face, and watch the two suns fall in the sky.
I ran into a few problem in accomplishing my desires though. The first problem being that there doesn’t seem to be two suns here on Earth. The other problem was that I really felt that I should be standing on the sand when doing this. Since I knew that there would never be the two suns, I was resolved to at least make sure that the scenery was somewhat correct. Eventually I discovered the perfect spot to re-enact this scene.
When I was a kid we walked to school. The walk was approximately one mile. To the west of my neighborhood there is a canal that runs from the north to the south, a utility road runs alongside it. If you follow the canal to the north, you get to my school. That’s basically the route we took. Half of the route was through the neighborhood, then after that there was a walkway with fences on either side, the canal to the west, and private properties to the east. The walkway lead the rest of the way to school, ending at the playground to the west of the building. From the walkway you could see the canal road to the west. It was the perfect location to re-enact the scene. The road was on a hill to prevent flooding in case the water level in the canal rose too high. It was also made of dirt. The resemblance to the hill that Luke walked up was uncanny. I mean, on the other side of the canal there wasn’t an endless desert like there was in ”Star Wars”, there was a neighborhood, but it was about as close as I was going to get.
It was the perfect spot. The only problem being that it was fenced off, and the few gates that were along the fence had padlocks on them. And as far as I was concerned as a seven year old boy, padlocks meant it was illegal to go onto the other side of them. I would find out later, when I went to middle school, that it was service road, open to the public, and there wasn’t anything illegal about going onto it. Just safety issues I guess. In any case, I never did walk up onto the canal road and pose like Luke Skywalker. Not once. Not even after I knew that it was okay to walk along that road. It’s one of my regrets that I never did that. One of my biggest regrets.
If I wasn’t going to re-enact that scene, though, I was at least going to re-enact something from ”Star Wars”. The binary sunset is definitely the most important scene in ”Star Wars”, but it’s not the most important thing that happens. I’m actually not sure what the most important thing that happens is. Certainly Luke needed to be introduced to the force, and in that case, when Luke is using the helmet with the blast shield to fight the remote is the most important event. But that is really only important for Luke’s personal development. When we thing about the fate of the galaxy, though, perhaps the most important event is the destruction of the Death Star. So the scene that I chose to re-enact was Luke’s flight down the Death Star’s trench.
I don’t really know why the Rebel fighter pilots decided to fly down the trench. It basically put them in a position where they didn’t have much maneuverability, and were easy targets for all the cannons that happened to be along that tower. Not to mention the TIE fighters. I mean, if it had been me I would have just flown straight towards the exhaust port. Seriously, it’s not like it was guarded by so many cannons that the best way to approach it was along some trench, because after firing the torpedo Luke pulled up and he didn’t get shot by any cannons on the way out. So why didn’t he just fly straight towards it to begin with? Worse than those bad tactics, though, is the thing that defies all logic, the torpedo curves into the exhaust port. I don’t know if I’m seeing that scene wrong, but that’s the way it seems to me. In any case, if the fighter pilots had made a direct approach…
Okay, so I’m sure I’m not saying anything new here, so I’m not going to waste my time with it any longer, because of the fact of the matter is that flying down a trench is one of the coolest things in the world. I know how cool it is, because I’ve done it. Yes indeed. I have personally flown down a trench, and when you’re flying down a trench, you don’t care if what you’re doing is the most tactically sound approach or not. All you care about is knowing how cool it is, and knowing that if you make just one mistake you’re going to crash into the side of the trench and have your eyeballs torn out of their sockets.
”What?,” you may be asking. ”How do you have your eyeballs torn out when you wreck in a trench? Wouldn’t you just explode?” You would think so wouldn’t you? And you’d be right if we were talking about an actual trench on an actual Death Star, but it was a different trench that I flew down. Remember how that walkway leading to my school had a fence on either side? It basically formed a trench. I didn’t have an X-Wing to fly down that trench with, but I did have a 10-Speed Huffy bicycle. Normally you’re not allowed to ride a bike on the walkway, at least not an hour before or after school. You might run over some poor first grader if you did that. But once the safety patrol is up, it’s public property and you can ride your bike on it to your heart’s content.
Here’s what you do: You ride up to the walkway. There is a metal bar at the head of it to prevent vehicles from entering. If you’re good, you can ride your bike through the bars. If you’re not so good, you might have to get off your bike. I was good. Then once you’re on the walkway it’s time to lock your S-Foils into attack position, and it’s weapons free.
The walkway isn’t quite like the ”Star Wars” trench. You can see from the satellite photo that it actually has a little bend in it about an eighth of the way in. The walkway zigzags about two meters to the right. Which makes maneuvering down the trench even more advanced than anything that Luke Skywalker did. I know what your thinking. That’s nothing. You used to maneuver around womp rats back home, and they weren’t much more than two meters wide. Imagine, though, peddling an unbelievable fifteen miles an hour and trying to maneuver through a two meter shift! Doesn’t sound so easy now does it? Some times I had to slow down a lot to make it. Other times I was more ambitious. Always, though, I knew that no matter what I couldn’t wreck. You see, there are parts of the walkway that have barbed wire at the top of the fence. Imagine crashing into a barbed wire fence while riding fifteen miles an hour. That’s why I said that one wrong move could have you searching for your eyeball with your one good eye.
After the zigzag it’s pretty much a straight shot all the way to the end. So you pedal as fast as you can. And I mean as fast as you possibly can. In fact on the half mile ride to the walkway, you need to pedal slowly because you need to save your energy so that you can pedal as fast as humanly possibly once you’re in the trench. You’re trying to be like Luke Skywalker after all. You can’t just sort of slowly pedal your way down the walkway. You’d get hit by a cannon if you pedaled too slowly. It’s literally half a mile of trench flying bliss. You see the chain-link fence flying past you. It’s going by so fast you can’t see beyond it, so there is no visible difference between what you see there and the ”Star Wars” trench. You can maneuver a little bit. Not much though. For the most part you got to say in the middle. When there’s a TIE fighter behind your, you’re screwed, just like the guys in ”Star Wars” were screwed. You’re going to get blown up.
As I’d ride down it, sometimes I was Luke Skywalker, but sometimes I was Darth Vader, chasing after Luke. Sometimes I wasn’t even in the Death Star Trench, sometimes I was in the forests of the Endor moon, riding on a speeder bike. When I was in the forest I’d like to raise my chin up slowly and lower it, the way the storm trooper does as he’s cruising along. That’s how you go to do it. When you’re re-enacting a scene from a movie in your mind. You got to capture the little things. The smallest motions that the characters make. All that stuff really adds up into having a truly great experience.
Near the end of the trench, at the end of the walkway, there are another two metal bar to prevent vehicles (other than Huffy brand X-Wings). This one is a tighter fit. You can go through the middle or two the right. Going left is impossible. This is your escape route. Right before that you fired the proton torpedoes. I know from experience that going through the center is safer. The opening is way bigger on that end. Going to the left is rough. A bicycle’s handlebars won’t actually fit through it directly, but if you start turning just before the exit your handlebars will be at an angle and they’ll fit. Going to the right is kind of the expert way to go. I’d go both ways. Admittedly I’d take the right escape more often, just to prove I could do it. Every time I did it, though, I’d hear Han Solo telling me, “Don’t get cocky.”
After that the Death Star is destroyed. You’ve saved the galaxy. You’re going to get a medal. There is just one thing I don’t understand. One thing that never made sense to me about the whole experience, and I’ve flown down this trench dozens of times, so you’d think I’d know everything there is to know about it. You arrive at school afterwards, and the halls of the school have an uncanny resemblance to the halls of the Death Star.