Sunday, February 27, 2011

Titan Missile Museum

Seems like I am getting into the ‘tour’ business, starting with the Queen Mine tour in Bisbee last time.

After a few days camping in the National forest near Parker Canyon Lake with friends from the area, we headed further west and toured the Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson.  It is a cold-war relic, and the only preserved missile location.  Almost the entire facility is deep underground to protect it from attack in the era of ‘mutually assured destruction’.

Here, the huge concrete cover is pulled back to reveal the top of the Titan rocket.


Radar sensors on the surface to detect intrusions; and missile silo cover.


This elevator disappeared completely underground when not in use. Most of us used the stairs.  There was an elaborate security system in place during crew changes including video surveillance, secret codes, and burning the code paper in front of the camera!  You have to pass through multiple ‘blast doors’ to get inside – each weighing about 6 tons! .


The main control room consoles, where the crews worked 24 hour shifts.  Most of the areas had to be attended by minimum of two men at all times, for safety and security.CIMG3997CIMG3998

Despite being buried deep underground and behind multiple blast doors, the entire control room complex was mounted on these huge springs to absorb shock.  All equipment is bolted to the floor, and the floor is not attached to the walls.  The red cabinet held the launch keys, and could only be opened by two individuals, each with their own combination!  The tour includes a simulated launch!

CIMG3999CIMG4001The technology was cutting edge at the time – including those rotary dial telephones!

A long tunnel from the control room leads to the rocket itself.CIMG4002CIMG4006CIMG4007CIMG4008CIMG4011CIMG4012CIMG4013

A view of one of the huge ‘blast doors’, viewed from above.


Outside, these various compartments held back-up communications antennas that could be deployed out of their secure compartments in the event that the regular antennas were, um vapourized in a hostile nuclear attack.  Scary times back then for sure.  Luckily, this missile site was never used, nor were any of the many others, except for test purposes.  This one was designed to be used once, and once only.


Since Hailey is just approaching her first birthday, she appeared to be quite unconcerned about nuclear holocaust, and the whole concept of cold war.


She was much more concerned about chasing butterflies and leaves around the campsite.


Hailey; high-centered on the head-rest.

CIMG3970After the missile museum, we asked the question of ‘Why’, or why not, and pointed out GPS towards Why, Az for a couple days in the BLM area there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

We are just finishing up our three day stay at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal Arizona. It is a popular wildlife viewing area, and a free camping area! It is popular mostly for the opportunities to view sandhill cranes, doves, Mexican ducks, mallards, pintails, collared peccary and mule deer.

Sandhill cranes.

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There are also a couple of great horned owls who have taken up residence under the large roofed shelter.

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Camping is free, but limited to three days, and the only facilities are tables and a toilet building.


I checked out another good potential boondocking spot mentioned by Al of the Bayfield Bunch, and have recorded it in memory for future use, and decided to take in the Queen Mine tour in Bisbee. The tour is all underground, and is guided by retired miners who actually worked in the mines till they closed in 1975. Everyone gets a hard hat and miner’s light – the same as the one I wore during my short underground mining career while attending college.

Everyone rides into the mine on a little narrow guage railroad, then gets off and visits a few areas on foot.


One of the stairways we climbed up into a huge open chamber. And a ‘railroad bicycle’ they developed for the foreman to get around!


Explosives box and one variety of rock drill.


Miner’s porta-potty!


Foreman’s ‘office’.


And the incredibly huge open pit mines right in the city.


Next, we’re headed east across southern Arizona …

WEST! I mean West across Az (thanks, Al!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Indian Bread Rocks

Anyone know what Indian Bread Rocks are?  I stayed there and I still don’t know…hmm?

After Hailey determined that we were no longer in danger from a Pancho Villa attack, we headed north from Columbus, and caught the I-10 westbound at Deming.

After a quick fuel stop at Lordsburg, we found ourselves back in sunny Arizona and looking for the perfect camp spot.  The road south of Bowie towards the fort of the same name looked promising.  The turn-off to Indian Bread Rocks was not marked, but our map showed the right road, so we vibrated down the washboard for three miles, then turned off at a likely spot – which turned out to be a corral and windmill.


It looked like a good spot to overnight, so we did.  In the morning, a short recon mission showed our destination to be less than a half mile further down the road.  It was such a nice spot, that after a hard five minutes on the road, it was easy to decide to stop again and set up.


The place had authentic rock art, a lovely picnic site under shady trees, incredible rock formations, and lots of peace and quiet.



The sign did not indicate where the ‘bread rocks’ were, so I suspect the term might refer to the shape of some of the boulders in the area?  But I did find these intriguing holes in the rock that made me wonder if they had been used to grind flour or corn, but perhaps they were natural?CIMG3899CIMG3900CIMG3901

It was hard to leave in the morning, and ‘rush hour’ was so bad that I got to chat with an older gentleman rancher who I met on the road, who provided some local history, and a welcome mat for future visits.  Then if was off down the road for a few miles, CIMG3905

and a hike in to the site of Fort Bowie, that was established in Apache pass to defend the water source and stage coach route over the pass.  It was a mile and a half hike in, with various historic and natural points of interest along the way.


An overview of the remains of the fort.CIMG3913

The fort used an ingenious method of communication with other forts in the area.CIMG3910Apparently there was poor cell service in the area, so they used these heliographs to harness the sun to send morse code messages.  On a clear day, they could send and receive messages with about 5 other military posts in the area, some of them over thirty miles away, from the high peak above the fort.  This allowed them a tremendous advantage in combatting the Apaches, with messages relayed hundreds of miles in a matter or hours. Heliograph info here.

After Fort Bowie we checked out a side road near Chiricahua National Monument. 

When I started to see double, CIMG3915I decided to turn around!  We ended up at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife refuge – where the sandhill cranes congregate.  Perhaps Hailey knew she was going to have company, because she insisted on having a bath before we got there.


We were surprised to find another handsome, leash-trained grey cat in the camper next to us, but her best efforts to capture his tail only resulted in hissing and a few swats.


Then, the next day, we used all of our rusty trained investigator skills to track down the one and only (drum roll), Bayfield Bunch!  We found us a high hill and looked for a Jeep in a cloud of dust – that led us straight to them.

Here they are with the doggy guys, while Hailey stayed in the truck.  If you look carefully, you can see her watching from behind Al’s right shoulder.  As usual we exchanged intelligence on best camp spots, communication devices, and the good life in the south country.CIMG3920

Now that their cover is blown, I suspect they will be moving on shortly! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!