Saturday: Trinity SiteTrinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated, is only open to the public twice a year. It came up in conversation last week; since the 7th was one of the two open house days, I thought I'd go see it.
I've had a morbid fascination with the bomb project for years; growing up in New Mexico, it's probably a bit more obvious here (with both Los Alamos and Trinity Site). I remember reading books on the making of the bomb as early as junior high (so early 1980s). For whatever reason, though, I never managed to make it to Trinity Site.
Getting to sleep is hard for me, so I started the drive Saturday with very little sleep -- two days in a row of it, since I'd gotten up earlier than usual on Friday to watch the middle child for most of the day. So about 7 hours of sleep from Thursday morning -- not good for doing hundreds of miles of fairly monotonous driving.
Anyway, I got a reasonably early start, leaving home at 7:30 or so. I made it to Socorro in about an hour, grabbed some food and topped off on gas, then headed down to US-380 and the North Gate (at Stallion Test Range). Getting in was no problem, although I had a bunch of tools with me for the work afternoon, so when they asked me if I had any weapons, I had to think for a bit -- does a cordless recipro-saw count?
Driving on the base is always a little weird. It's military, so the roads don't have the same safety requirements as civilian areas, so lots of narrow roads with no shoulders. Their directions are good, and it's pretty straightforward to get to the site from the gate. (I think that they used to require convoys from both gates, not just the south entrance, but the north entrance is now unrestricted from 8a to 2p, and people were still arriving on the site as late as 12:30p.)
The site was much more crowded than I expected; the attendance figures for the April 2006 open house were 2700+ people, and I'd not be surprised if the October numbers were close to that. It was a little disconcerting, and a bit disappointing -- I'd hoped for a more quiet, contemplative visit, but that was not to be.
They set up a few different informational displays, but most of them (the pictures especially) I'd seen from other sources, so I concentrated on the feeling of "being there". While there's little evidence of the explosion itself, there's enough old tech lying around that I did get a bit of "wow, it really did happen here" feeling.
After visiting Ground Zero, I took the bus to the McDonald Ranch House. Again, not too much left, but taking the bus there and back was when I noticed the parallel poles that used to carry the signalling wires from the 10,000-yard-south bunker to the device at ground zero. For some reason, those poles really set off the most intense of those feelings of scary reality. On the bus ride back to the main site, there was a hawk or eagle playing in the scrub. Pretty. I miss all the raptors from my daily commute in San Diego.
The drive to Alamagordo was with the caravan (that left the site at 12:30). It was long and slow; while I enjoyed seeing the undeveloped terrain and the occasional mad scientist test equipment, my sleep dep was catching up with me, and it was really tedious to drive (and I couldn't pull over and nap, since I was in the convoy!). Anyway, I made it to Tularosa then down to Alamagordo where I stopped for lunch.
Driving to Las Cruces was uneventful, and it's over some roads that I used to know pretty well; sleep dep was the only real problem there. I scared myself awake on the climb up San Augustine Pass, and that gave me enough adreneline to make it to brotherkurt's place. (A nice writeup of this path, from the other direction, is here.)
(Note to self -- make a playlist for this. I was humming Rush's "Manhattan Project" for much of the time I was there, and now that I'm writing this up, I have Fluke's "Atom Bomb" going through my head.)
Sunday: The Non-Work Day
The original impetus for the trip south was to help brotherkurt do some planning and housework for NukeStock 2006, the 20th anniversary Halloween Party thrown by us and our friends from high school and college. The plan was to do work around the house from 1-4, then spend some time planning the party itself.
I skipped the first half of the work period to get together with my old buddies weilok, her daughter postcardstoyou, her other daughter C, and C's daughter. Was nice to catch up with them; I hadn't seen most of them in years. We looked at their house (which needs lots of work after some lousy tenants) and then had lunch at Napalito's. Mmmm, green chile!
The work day ended up being a bit of a bust; two people came over to work out front, and brotherkurt and ewbliette cleaned up inside. I got back and then promptly went on a quick shopping run (twice, since I forgot my wallet the first time, sigh).
A few more people showed up, but I think all of us were tired by that time. So some scheming for the party was done, but mostly we just visited, had pizza, and then people went home.
I headed back to Albuquerque Monday morning. There was some good rain getting out of Las Cruces, but it dried up a while later; which is good, as having the ladder on the top of the car was killing my milage. I stopped for a while to disassemble the ladder and roof rack, repack the car, then headed on wards; then I stopped for lunch at the Owl Bar in San Antonio for a Green Chile Cheeseburger. Yum!