Down the rabbit hole
Originally published 18 February, 2014
Titan Missile silo
We started our day early this morning...........we had to be somewhere at 8:45 sharp...and it was about an hour away. We got up, got a bite to eat, and headed out. Our destination was the Titan Missile Museum.
The Titan Missile Museum is unique. It is the only missile silo in the world open to tours and preserved as a museum. The site is pretty much as it was when it was an active, working silo. We arrived a few minutes early and were milling about before our tour, taking notice of the signs all around the property that said "Watch for rattlesnakes". Good advice. One must be reminded that we are in the desert...and that's where rattlesnakes live.
Blast doors in the silo
We go in and register for the tour. I had reserved space for us on a special tour, only given once a week. The tour is led by a former "missileer", who staffed a silo just like the one we are to tour. Our tour guide was a long time volunteer at the museum named Marge. She was a former Air Force captain, and one of the crew leaders on a missile team back in the day. I was excited we were able to get on this tour, as first hand knowledge is difficult to beat.
Marge explaining the launch console
We started out with a movie, explaining how the silo worked and why it was there. Being a history/technology buff, these are another thing I've read about for years...but never thought I'd see one in person. I was pretty stoked to check things out...so as soon as the movie was over, Marge led us down the stair tower down into the crew quarters and work area of a genuine nuclear missile silo.
We went to the control room, where procedures and equipment were explained in great detail. If you're unaware, any launch/use of any nuclear device by the United States is only a retaliatory response. U.S. policy is that we never shoot first...........we don't start fights, but we finish them. In that we had a very viable threat to the Soviets at the time, they didn't want to use their missiles as a strike by them would bring an equal or greater strike by us.
Launch code books
This was known as MAD, or mutually assured destruction. I grew up in the 60's and 70's.....and you can knock it if you want...but the policy of MAD worked. No one ever authorized use of or used a nuclear weapon on either side....a good thing for all of us. One should never question success.
It was explained how messages were received, launch codes kept and validated, and how an actual missile launch occurs. One was even simulated with the consoles, using Marge and one of the tour members. Missileers work as a team, and any launch MUST be initiated by two people. It is physically impossible for only one person to do it.
Launch code safe
The safe with the launch codes is locked with two locks, and only one person has the combination to either of the locks...while someone else has the combination to the other. Once the launch codes are taken out and validated and the target package selected, the launch keys on the console are turned to initiate the launch. The targets were numbered one, two, and three. There is no indication what or where the targets actually were. The idea was that one person, if unstable, would not be able to launch on their own.
After the control room, we walked to the missile bay and got a look at the missile. From there, we went to the surface, got to look down in the silo, and check out the areas around the silo. A typical missile base was maybe 150 yards by 150 yards........and it looks like a gravel parking lot. All the intriguing stuff is underground. This was a great tour, and a huge piece of cold war history. If you are in this area, this would be very high on my list of things to see. An actual nuclear missile silo is about as unusual as it comes. And if Marge is your guide, she's incredibly informative and very good at it.
Laurie and a barrel cactus
We left the missile museum and headed to the town of Tubac. It is supposed to be an artists enclave with many galleries and a bit of historic stuff. We drove to Tubac and started wandering the town.....it seemed as if there were about a hundred galleries here. It's dirt streets and squat single story adobe buildings. It is a very old village, from sometime in the 1500's, and we toured some of the old buildings.
After the historic stuff, we hit the galleries. We were somewhat disappointed as many sold the same items, which were obviously imported from production shops in Mexico. These included a lot of "lawn art" stuff, big mexican pottery, things like that. We are in the art business, so we know what we call buy/sell when we see it. There were several real artists who produced the work they sold, or galleries with real artist produced work....so it wasn't totally devoid of merit.
When done in Tubac, we headed back to the motorhome and the RV resort we're staying at. We took a few pictures on the side of the road with monster saguaro cactus, and returned to the RV for dinner.
Observatory at campground
We took a walk around the park, probably the nicest campground I've ever stayed in. It has a heated pool, hot tubs, community hall with activities, laundry.........like I said, it's very nice. We are one of if not the youngest couple in the campground. Most are retirees and older than us......some staying here for months at a time. They are usually escaping places like the Dakotas, Idaho, or other cold places.
Our campsite, Benson, Arizona
Tomorrow, we head south to Nogales. We'll decide whether we cross over when we get there. More tomorrow!
Quote of the day: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds". - An ancient hindu text, most often noted for the person who repeated it in his writings.....Robert Oppenheimer.
Song of the day: Russians- Sting, from the album "The Dream of the Blue Turtles".
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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