Take These Broken Wings: Starship Pegasus

May 14, 2014 — The flight to Texas got bumpy toward the end, so I consoled my turbulence-averse friend with, “Of all the places we’re extremely likely to die, there’s no way it’s going to be Texas.” Later, as we stood beneath an ominously clouded sky under a pair of lightning-rod-like nacelles during a hurricane threat that would mere moments later incarnate into flash floods and lightning storms, I had to think about retracting that brazen prediction.

But I really wanted to see the Starship Pegasus.

Its name conjures romantic images of the exploration of galaxies full of colorful nebulae and bright pulsing stars in a noble spaceship hull-emblazoned with a magnificent winged creature out of oil-chested Greek mythology. The reality is that the Starship Pegasus is the derelict carcass of a science-fiction themed eatery drydocked in a parking lot beside a gas station.

At least, that’s what it is now. But I didn’t have to be a forensic archeologist to see that even through all the decay and abandonment, the place had once been pretty cool. After all, it still was in its own way.

The structure is about the size of a double-wide trailer, and its central feature is a low dome, out the back of which juts a rectangular caboose topped by two parallel nacelles that extend horizontally behind it, the tips of which were at one time lighted red to great effect. The whole thing looks like a home-made starship prop from a low-budget Star Trek fan film.

The Starship Pegasus was created in 2004 by a man named Andy Gee around a ready-made dome shell produced by a company called Monolithic, the headquarters of which is just across a field from the Pegasus. You can tell it’s their headquarters because one of the buildings on the property was a series of similar interconnected domes painted to look like a giant friendly caterpillar.

According to an article on the Monolithic company website, even though the shape was all Stark Trek, the name Gee chose for his grounded space oddity was a multifaceted reference to both science and science fiction: The USS Pegasus from the Star Trek universe, the constellation Pegasus, NASA’s Pegasus rockets, the famous Barney and Betty Hill alien abduction story (whose extraterrestrial captors supposedly came from somewhere in the Pegasus constellation).

But the place closed down less than three years later. I’m assuming MIB involvement. Today, as it has been since that time, it’s for sale, although every year the interstellar Blue Book value drops. Today, it looks less like a parked space ship than it does a crash-landed one. Peeking through the scrims that covered the glass doors, I only saw vacant space, although a large, UFO-shaped lighting fixture was still attached to the interior of the dome. I guess I expected to see the dusty bones of its crew inside.

The building is located in the town of Italy, right off I-35 and is part of a rest stop that includes a non-alien themed BBQ restaurant and gas station.

As we stood there under those nacelles and a sky much broader than we’re used to in New England, the wind whipping at our hair and the storm clouds assuming surreal, dark gray shapes like they were practicing for the Rapture, I thought it would be a great way to go, caught up in a hurricane in a space-shaped building. Instead, we got a terrifying drive back to the airport that felt more like being caught out on a rough sea.

In fact, our airplane trip back ended up being delayed interminably, so I contented myself with fantasies of stepping into the Starship Pegasus, giving a big middle finger to the entire state of terrestrial transportation, and flying off into space.

And I’m now even more confident that I’m not going to die in Texas.