Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its fifth year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

May 2, 2017

AD & DAD—WESTERN WANDERABOUT: DAYS 3-5

... sometimes, rather'n "historical marker ahead," or, "visit the greatest blah-blah-blah, admission free," instead we just pull over and stop when we see really cool stuff ...

... while adrien was off mailing postcards, i found a nice spot to take a little break in the shade on the back porch of the mesa verde park headquarters administration building ... i closed my eyes and listened to echoing from a thousand years ago the laughter of children playing ...

... "why the t-shaped doorways," they asked ... proving he's both an excellent teacher as well as park ranger, "lots of ideas, nobody really knows" ...

... there are twelve little "villages tucked along this section of the cliff ...

... the anasazi culture flourished in the mild weather at the end of the first millennium ... they originally farmed the top of the mesa, but, when the weather began to slowly warm and dry, they gradually moved into more defensible dwellings ... eventually, as they had to forage further and further for wood, and their water supply became more and more contaminated by the refuse and waste they discard into the valley below, they came to the conclusion that they could no longer ignore the fact that the region's climate was changing ... overnight, literally, they packed their belongs and in a great diaspora to the southwest disappeared from history ...

... adrien and i wheezed our way to mesa verde's highest point, where i thought to myself, "unlike the anasazi, we have no place to go" ...

... in albuquerque we visited the "national museum of nuclear science and industry" ... when i first visited the "national atomic museum" in the early-70's it was much less polished a place, but i still think they should've kept that name ...

... the very first things that caught my eyes, and, as i'm sure to which adrien will attest, totally grabbed my attention, were exhibits which depicted things which would have been classified S/TS/RD/CNWDI when i was a 46350 nuclear weapons specialist ... this is a very accurate recreation of the experiment "tickling the dragon's tail" of the "demon core" ... in their rather clumsy attempts to determine the exact amount of material needed for the "critical mass" necessary to sustain a fission reaction, both harry daghlian and louis slotin were accidentally exposed to massive doses of gamma radiation which resulted in prolonged suffering and pain for both of them before their extremely gruesome deaths ... 

... ahhhhh ... !!! ... that tiny gold sphere, visible in what looks like a cd-rom turned slightly sideways ... that's an "u----n" ... !!! ... when i was in the service its very existence was so strictly classified that the concepts of its operation were still by the government considered to be "born secret" (that is to say, if a person came up with this idea independently, without ever having heard, read, discussed or communicated about it with anyone else, still it would have been considered "CNWDI/RD" ... raise your hand in physics class, "geezum, dr. jones, what if —" and the next thing you know you've a nice view of a kansas corn field from the barred window of your new government sponsored residence) ...

... a replica of "the gadget," the first experimental implosion device ... a test was necessary for the "fat man" implosion bomb, for the gun-type "little boy" used on hiroshima the concept and mechanics were so simple that no test was required ...

... a SADM, "special atomic demolitions munition" ... 51 pounds, i'm not sure if that includes the backpack (yes, you read that correctly, "backpack") ... enough bang to seriously urban-renewal a small town ...

... b28's ... of the six different bombs and warheads i worked with, these took up most of my time ... the part that makes the big noise, the w28 warhead, is only the middle third of these units ... the forward third is the fusing/firing set and the back third a humongous parachute, necessary if the air force intends to reuse the crew and aircraft ... each one of these bombs is 50-100x the force of those used against hiroshima and nagasaki ... eight of these, which a single b-52 bomber had the potential to carry, were more explosive energy than all the other explosions of any and all types used in both peace and war in the entire history of the world ... these two, by the way, are a bit dinged because the air force accidently dropped them on spain ... luckily, this pair remained relatively undamaged ... of the two in which the warhead's conventional explosive detonated—well, despite the proclamations of the "official history," the united states government never did completely clean up the spanish countryside ... (and, when you're dealing with the stuff that comes out of these things, "completely" isn't a word you want to qualify) ...

... a modern weapon with its accompanying security device ...

... an atomic artillery shell ... problem was that if your target was in range of the cannon that fired it you were also going to be too close for comfort to a nuclear explosion ...

... a "lulu" ... nice name ... for use against submarines—what is it they say, "close only counts in tiddlywinks, horseshoes, and nuclear depth charging" ...

... i trained on these ... nasty-nasty-nasty ... the gbu-43/b the air force just used in afganistan is nicknamed the "mother of all bombs" ... the gbu has a blast yield of 11 tons tnt (remember that number) ... this b53, which, by the way, is less than half the weight of the gbu, has a yield of 9,000,000 tons of tnt (ref. wikipedia) ... that's 450x the hiroshima bomb ... (p.s. the b53 isn't the most powerful bomb ever made) ... 

... i liked the b61 because, unlike this sloppy example, we kept ours shiny with j&j floor wax ...

... up we went, to the top of sandia mountain, enjoying the view of albuquerque as we rode the third-longest arial tramway in the world ... 

... 7,720 feet between the towers ... at one point the floor of the car is over 900 feet above the rocky terrain ...

... later in the day we visted albuquerque's famous "rattlesnake museum" ...

... amphibians, too, it seems ...

... when we lived in nebraska i would earn movie money by catching these guys and selling them to the hospital where they did venom studies ...

... i think this fellow's relatives told him what i did ...

... "the pause that refreshes," even more so because it's mexican coke ...

... while exploring the old center of albuquerque adrien called my attention to this "tree art" ... 

... during our search of all the trinket and curio shops, on a quest for a particular piece of navaho craftwork that it turned out was rather difficult to find, we happened across a table where joe vandever was signing books ... still going strong at 96 years, joe is one of the very few living navaho code talkers ... his daughter volunteered that it was "okay to take pictures," so i handed adrien my fuji camera and sat next to joe ... joe and i spoke for a few moments, then he suddenly reached and held my hand ... both adrien and i knew that this was to be one of the high points of our trip, i know it will forever remain one of the high points of my life ... this—this is the very best of wanderabouting ...

... after a most pleasant time in albuquerque, which included the discovery of a "waffle house" and an imax showing of "the fast and furious," we headed south for the long drive to white sands and roswell ... along the way we stopped in the lava fields that bisect by state road 380 west of carrizozo, new mexico, and climbed a volcanic rock outcropping to view "trinity" ... at the very center of the photograph, 35.8 miles away, at 5:29am on july 16, 1945, another pandora's box was opened, one that yet may turn out to be our species' undoing ... everyone remembers robert oppenheimer's [supposed] quote from the bhagavad gita, "now i am become death, the destroyer of worlds," but, although clearly less poetic, to my mind it was kenneth bainbridge who more perfectly labeled the event, "now we're all sons of bitches" ...

after, we drove through landscape "like no place else on earth," then in the white sand that actually grows from the foothills which still echo that horrible moment adrien and i played and played and played until sense was restored to the day ...

... such peace and serenity in this spot, contrasting only ten miles to the north a huge circle of desert floor fused to a dark-green glass that to this day still causes a geiger counter to chatter ...

... on July 8, 1947, the military announced it had a "flying disc found on a ranch in new mexico" ... just over the horizon in this photograph is the spot the disc supposedly bounced off the earth before its final impact on the foster homestead many miles distant ... after that—well, in roswell adrien and i visited an entire museum devoted to the incident ... after carefully examining all the exhibits and evidence i'll freely admit that the only thing of which i was completely convinced was that this quaint little new mexico town is, indeed, the birthplace of "alt facts"—

—until, that is, i processed the photograph ... straightened the horizon, did a color correction, cropped it slightly so as to not show some trash piled against the fence ... i then zoomed in to look for any sensor water spots that might show in the sky, and—well, a bit more than 1/2-way above the horizon over the post on the left of the gate i found a tiny speck ... cropped out and enlarged so as to be more easily inspected, it's the second image ... i'll leave the rest to you ...

... [cue twilight zone theme] ... ...