Arizona – 2 July

July 3rd, 2011 - One Response

We started the holiday weekend with a good old, as American as apple pie, missile silo tour.

Right near here – in fact, we pass it most days on the way to and from work – is the only still-intact Titan II missile silo. There were 54 of these things buried in American soil for around 20 years of the Cold War – a true, concrete and steel implementation of the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. Well, a concrete and steel and nuclear warhead implementation, really. I certainly have a sense of “this rock keeps away tigers” around the whole concept of MAD. Sure there’s no proof it didn’t work, but from a tour of that place it’s pretty obvious that it could have gone disastrously wrong. Take for instance the example of the guy who, one day in 1980, dropped a three pound socket and caused an explosion that destroyed a whole silo, including most of the missile (fortunately not the warhead). If the wrong eyes had been watching, and mistaken that for a launch…

All that said, there’s no denying that it is an impressive piece of engineering.

Looking down through the silo doors.

The control center. Sorry this panorama is a bit rubbish, I was rushed. Note the frankly ridiculously large shock isolation spring in the background.

Vibration-isolated hallway between the control room and the silo proper.

This is a real Titan-II missile, but was previously used for training purposes and thus never had a warhead or fuel.

With the taste of that experience washed away by a 44oz (1.3L) cup of Dr Pepper, we spent most of the rest of the day wandering improbably large chain stores, punctuated only by a frankly outstanding lunch at Cafe Poca Cosa. Sorry I didn’t take a photo of this one (I’ve been saving some food photos up for a single blog post later on), but I will definitely be back there before we leave.

Yes, that says 79 cents

Arizona – 25 June

June 26th, 2011 - 2 Responses

Today we explored a chunk of Arizona’s southeast, and discovered some interesting places that were not flat, brown, or covered in tarmac.

First off we headed on down to the Mexican border town of Nogales, where you can see right across the fence to the where the huddled masses… huddle. It was quire a bizarre juxtaposition.

From there we struck out northeast, passing through Patagonia, where we had yet another quintessential American experience of being run out of town by the Marshal. Further east, the barren landscape gave way to grasslands and windmills.

Next up was Tombstone – the quintessential wild west town – for a cool root beer in a saloon, interrupted only by a brawl and a gunfight. The people in costumes and souvenirs were a bit tacky, but the impromptu tour we were given of the Bird Cage theater’s foyer, complete with numerous bullet holes, knife slashes, and genuine playbills, really brought home the fact that once upon a time this really was a place of cowboys and outlaws.

Then it was back along the I-10, a short stop at a border patrol station, and back to the villas for a swim in the 40 degree, 5pm heat.

Arizona – 23 June

June 24th, 2011 - No Responses

Finished with our inductions, and we are headed out of town for the first time to San Ignacio, 35 miles south, where we will be staying for the long haul. The urban sprawl gives way to low desert scrub, brown and dry. About 15 miles into the journey evidence of mining looms up to our west, and it stays there all the way to our destination.

Cacti outside our villa.

It's not rogue justice... it's Zane's Law.

Arizona – 21 June

June 22nd, 2011 - 2 Responses

The strip malls, parking lots and fast food franchises spread for miles. Tarmac stretches from horizon to horizon, crisscrossed with pickup trucks and SUVs.

I am not sure where the people come from to support this level of retail redundancy. There are no houses in this part of town, but every corner sports a cookie-cutter burger joint. Every block, a pharmacy or a supermarket. This strip mall alone sports three shoe stores (or warehouses, or “factories”), and there is another strip mall just like it across the way. Maybe this is zoning efficiency, rather than madness? Maybe.

Arizona – 20 June

June 21st, 2011 - No Responses

From the air, it is clear that this place is still very much the wild west in some senses. The small farming belts are dwarfed by the immensity of the open desert in between. Aside from the occasional vertebral protrusion of a hard rock mountain range, it is flat, and the roads stretch for miles and miles without a curve.

After 20 hours of sitting on planes and standing in queues we are about to begin our descent into Tucson, and the great American Southwest.