New Mexico

I'm sorry, the pictures available in here are skimpy. I'm a kinda existentialist type road tripper, not a pop-up-one-meta-level-and-record-my-enjoyment type tourist.

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New Mexico


Table of Contents

New Mexico

New Mexico is pretty much my favorite place to visit. Open space, red dirt, friendly wierdos, poverty, and the highest per-capita drowning rate of any state in the U.S. The population is made up of, in descending order, Mexican, Native American, other people from points south, white military males, white trash, Los Angeles yuppie scum, and perverted "scientists" in the military/space/nuke/spy biz.

New Mexico also has a pretty interesting recent history of non-mainstream white (mostly) rebellious types. The people who fled the hippyization of places like San Francisco and such, came here and started various odd projects, most of which died off of course, or turned into reactionary survivalist pot-growers like in Nothern Cal, but there was some genuine interesting stuff done, and lots of it survives.

For example, Harry Hay, one of the founders of the gay-male-liberation group the Mattachine Society, came here and lived and worked amongst some people along the Rio Grande, in one of those rare honest working-together type things. He brought his organizing skills and learned about community. (Harry later founded the Radical Faeries, a gay-male group attempting to merge pagan stuff with politics and personal growth; I won't hold it against him that it's mainly spawned a bunch of self-righteous airhead middle-class snobs with pretentious and silly names.) Where was I.

So New Mexico has been invaded over the years with lots of weirdos, and since it's basically a very poor state with not much comercially-consumables (water, trees, malls, that sort of thing) that it's only recently being overrun with the consumer culture steamroller that's neutered and beiged places like Colorado.

In no particular order:

VERY LARGE ARRAY, Plains of San Augustin. On Route 60, about 90 mi. E of Arizona border. Closest map item, Datil Campground. The Plains of San Augustin is this 30 mile wide flat plain, flat as a pancake. High altitude, utterly miserable weather in the winter. Flat, flat, flat. As you drive into the bowl, you see... humongous dish antennas horizon to horizon. (Picture:38K) The VLA is a giant (27 mile) radio telescope, consisting of an array of 150-foot diameter (I think) dishes. There's about 20 - 30 of these "portable" dishes, paid out on a "Y" shaped array. Each disk consists of a giant building with electronics and a gymbal, cyrogenic equip (for the low-noise amps), etc. Each is about 200 feet tall. In September, horrid mosquitos, which hang out on the moo cows waiting for humans to stop moving about so much.

We're talking High Nerd. There is a vistors center, with a self-guided tour, and fannish stuff you can buy. There's a bunch of boring dioramas (though the first time I was there, there was an automated 5-minute video presentation about, I am not kidding, Fourier Transforms), but you get to walk all around the site, peering into buildings, etc. If you're lucky, the dishes will move to a new focal point (since the earth is constantly rotating, they can only look at one place for so long) and it's rather disturbing; out in the silent desert with a bunch of dumb moo-cows standing around, and all these things the size of police stations start groaning and seemingly hurtling accross the sky.

What's weird is that it's a movable array. Think of it as a 27-mile wide dish, with holes in it. A few holes, no problem. Well, think of the hols getting bigger and bigger... until it's about 99.9% hole with little tiny signal-gathering spots. Really. Big Fourier-transforms are done to reconstruct the image gathered from each of the antennas. Weak signal, great resolution.

So about 8 times a year, they have this MONSTER crawler that picks up each gargantuan antenna, and moves it onto these fixed pads acattered accross the plain. This thing is so huge -- there are two full-guage railroad tracks about ten feet apart that the crawler *straddles*.

The DATIL CAMPGROUND is a free campground, with really great tasty water. Back when they used to march giant herds of proto-hamburger beasts across the desert to the rail centers (like Las Vegas, NM), this was one of the water stops. And around here you get really amazing sky jobs here (picture:28K). There's reportedly a big white-nationalist-survivalist group in Datil, but I never seen 'em. Just adds to the excitement!

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, Route 25, about 150 mi. South of Albuquerque. A pretty grotty town, hot as fucken hell, claim to fame is it's named after an old TV show, on which the host offered $25,000 if some town would name themselves after the show? Or something equally ridiculuous. T or C obviously partook. The biggest body of water in NM, man-made of course, the Elephant Butte ('byoot' not 'butt', buttheads) Resevoir. RV hell. Skip this. Well if you're driving south on 25 you'll almost certainly stop there. You really don't have any choice.

Erika tells me that it's undergoing some sort of transformation, and become tres' chic or something. Wow! The weirdness factor is high here, and Route 25 is kinda dull, so likely you'll eat here and get gas (I just made that up).

Dear Tom,

Well, buzz around here was that some artists had moved down there and were starting to groovafy the place, but then I talked to someone who just bought a house there. She said that it's still really depressed, mostly retired folks, course she's moving there away from Madrid (the ex-lawless hippie town on Hwy 14 near Cerrillos) because it's getting too crowded and full of New York yups, so she wouldn't really want people to think it's too cool. The thing that's kind of funny about the place is that in the summer on 4th of July and Memorial day T or C is the second largest city in the state because of all the assholes that come to Elephant But(te) Lake to drink beer and fallout of their boats and drown because they can't swim because hey, NM is the desert. Anyways, TorC has a bunch of funky old hot springs motels. It used to be called Hot Springs until they got paid to change it by the old tv show. So it seems like there is a miniscule amount of{ speculation in groovyness, but nothing majo{ Hey, are th{s{ ~rat{n{o{{{_yix{ni{t?o] 6{x {AWQocW|{

(Genuine New Mexico line noise; really! Modem to local Delphi node dropped.)

LAS CRUCES, Route 25, 220 mi. S of Albuquerque. I know nothing about it, except I drove through it. Once, in 1991. I will visit and report back. I bet the surplus stores down here are real cool.

GILA CLIFF-DWELLERS NATIONAL MONUMENT. 30 mi. N of Silver City, SW corner. My my, is this remote! There is a tiny switchback road that goes on *forever*. It's hot, and at high altitude. It's pretty much worth it.

The cliff dwellings are pretty cool. They're in a tiny, rich shady valley, you can totally understand why people chose this spot. It's all weirdo new geology. Lots of little, shallow caves. There's a smallish brook, that was probably a small river 1000 years ago. You could live off it even now I think. The aforementioned dwellings are really giant overhangs, where the rocks spalled off. Amphitheatre-like. People built up walls, rooms, etc with local rocks. Pretty neat. Cold in winter, brr. All the ceilings are pitch-black with soot from hundreds of years of fires. All in all, pretty civilized living. According to the white-boy experts, it was more of a shared motel along a well-traveled route, than a permanent community, though my memory is fuzzy on details. Also if I remember right, they claimed there was three or so distinct sets of construction, which did seem evident.

Route 180 and 10 to Silver City are pretty dull. Silver City looks awful to me. It was all strip malls, car dealerships, etc. Yuck. A much better drive is Route 152. Long twisting passages, all different. Hits Route 25 just S of T or C.

ALAMOGORDO, Route 54, south and central NM. Pretty sleepy and militaristic, but has the WAY COOL Space Museum. Very high Nerd Factor. (I drove 400 mi. out of my way to visit this past September just to go there, my second visit.) Seeing how Alamogordo is smack in the middle of the White Sands Missile Base, you'd expect the Space Museum to be nothing by idiotic flag-waving extremism. Nope! As you enter the museum (four floors, you start on the top, working your way down, and "up" in time) you are greeted with xUSSR people and stuff. They give credit where due. Good for them! (I mean, in this particular venture, the US blew everyone away with the world-war-like deployment of gigatons of low-tech space gear! It's not much of a contest, there's no need to gloat.)

None of the displays are too far outside what you'd expect, though it's pretty good overall. Don't be mistaken -- Smithsonian it's not. If you take your time, you get through in a few hours.

My favorite period is the Apollo stuff, for many reasons, both obvious and non-. The moon landing is really a peculiar thing in U.S. history. Considering the scale of the project and how much it was part of the public discourse at the time, it's all but forgotten. (Erika pointed out, it was amongst other things a big Democrat project, and when Reagan et al crawled in, they flushed all that shit away. As inane a project as it was, it at least embodied a sort of idiotic enthusiasm and optimism, distinctly absent now.)

But anyways -- the striking impression of the Apollo project is -- BRUTE FORCE. It was completely fucking inelegant. I mean, you just gotta see this stuff to realize, just how macho a project it was. These Air Force type "super jock" pilots ran this crude -- I mean, like no computers man! -- manually-tweaked machine 238K miles out and back. Courses were plotted on the ground, and the pilots made course corrections manually!

But it all reminds me of the overriding aesthetic of my youth, age 8 - 12; machined aluminum, teflon, fiberglas and red silicome rubber. Nuvistor and acorn tubes. Surplus Dynamotors. Germanium. 6L6's. Cordwood subassemblies. Ceramics and hand-wound coils. Ahh, youth.

Outside the building is space-detritus laying about. And a real, whole Saturn-V engine! You just have to see one. I want to *own* one! I would build a house around it, and mount it, with it's combustion nozzle (an intricate assembly in itself) attached, and let people climb on it. This particular model is just laying on it's shipping frame, you can crawl over it, and if you're particularly enterprising, remove parts. I did! It was made by Rocketdyne! Can you imagine working for a company called Rocketdyne, and making nasty chemical motors to put "men" on the moon! Wow!

NERD ALERT: I would trade just about *anything* for a Rocketdyne sew-on patch, from a jacket, etc. Seriously. Write me at tomj @ wps . com.

About four years back I met a sysop of one of the local FidoNet BBSs in a NAPA parking lot. Spotted by my license plate! Hi again!

ROSWELL, Route 285, SE quadrant. Pretty much a sleepy smallish town, it has a few notables. There's an art museum that has tons of Robert Goddard stuff. What a hacker! The rocket guy, of course. He was basically run out of some town in Massachusetts, where anything new gets you on the locals shitlist. Goddard was a premier Hacker Wizard Supreme of hardware. I mean this guy built *elegant* stuff. Spare, lean, smart, crude where appropriate and watch-like interiors. Each component served multiple functions, everything synergistically interlocking. Fuel under pressure drove the gyroscopes, ran the turbochargers, cooled the combustion chamber. This is 19-fucking-20! Wow! It is so totally appropriately in an art museum.

Speaking of which, Erika tells me there's some big art Patron in Roswell, that funds some sort of internship program, that puts up artists and pays them some money to do their stuff. Pretty cool. The local university does a lot of weather research, and published an incredibly obscure book I read about a mountain-top lightening research center, complete with metal-domed lightening strike/observation chamber.

Just outside of town is the BOTTOMLESS LAKES STATE PARK. Well, rest assured they're not bottomless, though I suppose in dry NM the 400? feet depth seems so. The "lakes" are really oddball sinkholes, a hundred or so feet across. They are exceedingly creepy, in a rugged broken rock salty wash area, surrounded with shrubbery-looking tree things, you wonder what sort of things are down there. Murky water with scary skittering bugs. Cool!

CARLSBAD CAVERNS in Carlsbad, S corner, on Route 285 is in really beautiful desolate country. It's also where the fucking feds wanna dump commercial and fed nuke waste via the "WIPP" (Waste Interrment Project P-something). A big scame. These dimwits, want to put stuff into underground salt domes. Duh. #WIPP graphic#

The cavern is really cool, in spite of it being a total tourist trap. Luckily it's way out in the middle of *nowhere*, so people don't just drop in. You take this looong elevator dooown. The underground landscape is gigantic and utterly alien. Makes you want to live there. (Alas the nearest fag-run cafe is 300 miles away! Never mind!)

When I was there, 1990?, it looked like all the dykes in the area got jobs there. It was cool! All these butch women instead of Dudley-Do-rights. Take a drive through the LIVING DESERT State Park, it looks like a damned garden, what with the high-desert flora stuff around. Unless that goddamn WIPP (Waste Interrment Project) idiocy goes through, where the feds and crooked contractors wanna bury nuke waste in natural salt domes. Duh.

GALLUP, on Route 40 at the Arizona border, doesn't have much going for it really, but it kinda grows on me as I pass through it, more and more. It has a long, ugly strip along side a railroad. It's quite a rail center, still. The main reason I go here is to buy LPG, and you pass through it when you start off through the Three Mesas, up Route 666. One of these days I'll steal myself a sign...

AZTEC is a place all the yups rave about. It looks definitely far different than the surrounding towns. Mostly you'll notice the Whole Earth-type aeasthetic has overrun everything. Lots of shoppes selling Nice Things. It's related to the ski biz in S. Colorado. Probably people from Farmington drive to buy food in the natural food stores here. I'd sure as fuck would rather be a bored tenager in Aztec than Farmington!

CHACO CANYON, in the NW quadrant is well-known but little-traveled. Mainly because it's a 30-mile *dirt* washboard road. Some of my dashboard instrumentation literally shook to pieces. Also, it's about 10,000 degrees hot so your windows are down, and when a vehicle passes you a bucket of fine sand filters over all of your stuff.

I was there on the Fourth of July weekend, in the campground, and there were still extra space left. I did not see any fire works, and the only drunks were a bunch of Apple employees who had flown to some place then drove rented Yupmobiles to have a big beer/foodfest. They were quite civil however. There was also one damn Winnebago clone, scourge of the highways, with a goddamn fucking GENERATOR rat-a-tat-tating all afternoon, probably running their fucking AIR CONDITIONER, why the FUCK are they out in the DESERT.

Chaco was a rather huge town about 1000 years ago. I mean, like 5 story buildings with what were essentially apartments. Stone-paved walkways, benches, beuatuful views, etc. After a kiloyear (decimal) all that's left are wrecks (Picture:36K). Stone-stupid pop-histories declaim, "why did the indians build a town out in the desert where there's no water! The unsolved mystery! Etc!" Well any damn idiot can see once you get here, there is a damned river, and it dried up, mostly. Some mystery.

It was 104 degrees that weekend. HOT! I partook of some shrooms, drank a gallon (really) of water, and carrying another half-gallon with me, headed out one of the designated hiking trails. There's a book you sign as you head out, so they can find you if you get lost. I signed it, thinking, pah, anyone who'd get stuck out here is an idiot. Well!

I marched out about two or three miles, and I can tell you, it is really easy to see how you could fuck up. At 104 degrees, and essentially zero degrees humidity, the water is *pumped* out of you. I was out about three hours. Two quarts of water is NOT ENOUGH. OK so the mushrooms amplified it, but you can feel the water fleeing your body; you walk or stand in a sort of fog of moisture around your body. I am not exaggerating.

I mean, I do lots of desert camping, but I'm not much on hiking out into the wilderness type stuff. I do zero-impact #car camping# (where zero is any arbitrarily small number). So consider this "advice", from someone who regularly travels CA/AZ/NV/NM in summer in my desert-proofed Rambler.

ALBUQUERQUE. What can you say about a city? I'll skip it. It's kinda sleepy, I wish I could convince people to move here, then I would follow. It's kinda cool here. Absolutely *NO ONE* lives in commercial buildings, it would be a great place to rent or even buy a commercial building and do stuff. There's a lot of hippies, a reasonable number of punks, and a pretty together gay community, though most of it is the usual tired bars and crap, though there's at least one reasonably radical gay/lez bookstore (whose name I forget, alas).

The very first time I drove into town, in February 91, having skipped in in previous trips, I got out of my car on the main drag whatever it is called, and as soon as I stepped out a pickup with boneheads in it yelled "fag!". Oh well.

There is some sort of "nuclear museum" in the Air Force base, which happens to be right in the city(!), that sounds really, really, *sick*. I must see it one day.

SANTA FAKE. The population just (1992) reached 50% white, and the locals are quite upset. It doesn't help that most of the influx are yup-scum fleeing cities, and importing their overpowering cultural baggage. ("Imperialism" is the only word that works, but it's so cumbersome.) SF requires all new construction to conform to this made-up adobe look. It's bloody *awful*. I mean, the real thing is cool, it's an architecture and construction method tuned to the local environment, but when it's four stories of concrete-block based shopping malls, all painted reddish beige, it's kinda scary. Block after block after block of it! Lots of little shoppes everywhere. The downtown square is totally lost, with only a Woolworths and bored teenagers holding down any resistance.

TAOS. Skip it! Newage runs in the streets, and noone seems to mind. White Light Nazis set the tone here. Luckily the Taos Hum, like the tiny roar from Whoville, is maybe a sign that the local terrain itself is starting to rebel.

When I was a kid, in 1970, our entire family went on a two-week camping trip, Grand Canyon and all that. We stayed in a KOA Kampground on the (then) outskirts of town. I remember the wide open view to the mountains, and the giant anthills all over. 15 years later, I locate that same KOA, now solidly within the commercial strip, and become a $22/night RV pit of hell.

Just south of Taos is an amazing place, I wish I could recall the name... it's a deep gorge along the Rio Grande. It's a little bit dumpy, looks like a local drinking spot as well as family picnic area, but it's a great place to camp for free. Deep rocky canyon, and some great ruins (this or last century) to park in.

LOS ALAMOS -- sick, sick, sick! What a cool awful place! Erika hates it, but I'm fascinated. It looks like a town from a PK Dick novel, where the world was overrun by a military coup, long ago and no one talks about it, and everyone is forced to take thorazine all the time. Plain block buildings, beige, beige, beige, military coded signs, hidden watch stations, giant tanks along the road marked DANGER: CHLORINE. Far too many churches. The mini-malls have the cheap, shabby 60's look, and everything looks sort of abandoned. The McDonalds is rumored to sit on the "hottest" (radiation-wise) commercial site in the US. I always make sure I eat there! They have a giant suicide rate amongst the kids, and a high-pressure school system.

Amidst all this is the irritable and inimitable Ed Grothus. Ed used to work in the labs here years ago, but instead of turning him into a pod-person, he came to become quite opposed to the technologies developed here, through first-hand knowledge, and has since become quite a thorn in the side of the locals, who are constantly trying to pressure him and his lab-surplus LOS ALAMOS SALES COMPANY out of existence. It won't work. I dream about this place when I'm not there, and visit every time I'm in New Mexico. Ed has some particularly choice goodies he's collected over the years that he wants to feature in a nuclear age museum in town. Needless to say he doesn't get any support locally. If you're in the area, absolutely set aside time to drop in and chat and buy some goodies.

Ed recently renamed the place THE BLACK HOLE, as it seems to have sucked into it a lot of lab history (and a pun on the fact that sometimes Ed won't part with the occasional choice goody; more than once when I've brought something up to buy, Ed grabs it saying "oh no, that's gotta go in the museum...") Here's a shot of front of the store that's not scratches on the photo, but April sleet (7000 foot altitude); a closer view of the Black Hole sign over the door (the artist also did some amazing artwork that's inside the store; due to technical errors the photos didn't come out). Here's me in front of some stuff awaiting pickup outside the store.

LAS VEGAS Route 25, 70 mi. E of Santa Fe. A peculiar place. It was the center of the West's commerce for a while, being a giant rail center where they took herds of walking hamburgers to load on trains to the Least Coast. Then that went away, and Las Vegas shrivelled up. That happened around the turn of this century. There's now abandoned buildings next to City Hall. Hmm.

I wish it wasn't so hateful, cuz it's a kinda cool scary town. (Note along the way; during the Gulf Oil War, the local repeater of the university radio, with NPR and other collegie anti-war bent stuff, went silent. A tech goes up on the roof to fix it, to be met by some locals with a shotgun saying "stop broadcasting that commie shit". Oh well.)

This upper-right quadrant of NM is kinda depressed. There's Mora up Rt. 518 into the mountains, it's really scary, just all the money sucked out.

ESPANOLA is about 25 mi. N or Santa Fake. It's a big cholo culture town. Wow! Low riders! Cool tatoos! What a neat place! Kinda tacky, sprawling town, looks like some are trying to make it a "bedroom community" (fucking yuck) for the white yups. A little vandalism goes a long way towards solving that!

KIM CARSON NATIONAL FOREST, well on the map it's called "Kit Carson", but this is much better. North and slightly east, a pretty nice foresty place to drive through and camp. This is the area through which a lot of W.S. Burroughs' more recent sexy novels take place.

(Future expansion: Rt 54 N of Alamagordo (carizozo, 3 rivers))

VALLEY OF FIRES, on Rt 380, from S. of Socorro (Rt 25) and Carizzozo (Rt 54). This runs a long the top of the WHITE SANDS MISSILE BASE, so you get to witness a bunch of wierd dogfights, etc. Then you pass through the Valley of Fires (not the one in NV near that other Las Vegas), which is some amazingly recent (geologically speaking) volcano type action. It looks like big turds, which I've only seen elsewhere in pictures of Hawaii. Absolutely amazing plants, cactuses, etc, completely untouched because no one can figure out a way to get in there to fuck shit up, what for all the jumble of boulders. There's a campground I did not stay in but looks great. PS: there's lots of motorcycle cruiser types, typically afflicted with that motorcycle-store bad sense of color. Route 385 (admittedly a beautiful driving road) must appear on run guides or something.

TRINITY SITE is a story unto itself. One day at work, Edgar asks, "I wonder when the Trinity site is open to the public?", the Trinity Site, in case you didn't know, is where the first nuke-ya-ler explosion took place, on what's now the White Sands Missile Base, in southern New Mexico, in 1945 or something.

It was common lore that the Trinity site is opened once a year to civilian visitors, the site is well within a quite-active military test range, though facts about it were a little rare. So I called Erika and Scot in SANTA FAKE; Scot found through some mystical method, that in fact, the annual opening was in two weeks, on October first! And lo, Southwest Airlines was having a two-for-one sale!

So we immediately planned our trip. Edgar and I were definitely going, and my boyfriend Josh and my roommate Dina wanted in. At the last minute, Josh couldn't get time off from work, so Fish, a friend of ours decided to be "Josh" for Southwest Airline type purposes.

I felt almost guilty flying to NM. it just seems wrong to not drive the 1500 miles. Rather than my usual relaxed ritualistic trip, it was rush, hurry, pack too much shit, take too many clothes, complicated sort of trip. Nothing to do about that though, due to the scheduling hell.

We stayed at Scot and Erika's in Santa Fake. On Friday, September 30, Edgar and I went to Los Alamos Sales(link), run by Ed Grothus. Ed's been collecting LANL equipment, parts, tools and other nuclear surplus fallout for 20 years. Ed's real cool, a slightly crusty smart and smart-ass anti-nuke, living in the middle of nuclear fantasy land itself. Hence his crustyness. Dina and Fish went to a hotsprings in Jemez Springs area, but I wanted to crawl around dusty old junk for six hours instead. (It's slightly scary and depressin when standard boy/girl pops up -- or is it coincidence?) I know that Edgar and I made the right decision.

Saturday morning we got up and some unreasonable hour, had grease'n'eggs at some chain restaraunt, and headed south down 25 in our rented Furd Escort. It's about 150 miles down to San Antonio. Now, Erika and Scot had done this trip some years back, but details were lost in a neuronic fog of tangled memories. We didn't really know where the Trinity site was. Scot recalled a plywood sign with spraypaint on it out on route 380, east of San Antonio, so that's where we headed. Well, as we passed the giant, fading white WHITE SANDS MISSILE BASE sign, there's one of those tiny roadside markers that said ("trinity site") on it. As we slowed down, we noticed just a few too many cars on a tiny road south. (More than a car every 20 minutes on 380 is too many.) So we headed south, as it turns out, into the missile base. A few miles in was a woman at a guardpost handing out xeroxed brochures about White Sands Missile Base (!?). We ask, "umm, is the Trinity Site this way?" Yes, she says, seven miles further on.

We passed some lovely scenery in the desert surrounding the missile base. The natural beauty is only surpassed by the architecture and road side attractions. (A "history" of the project intimated how the scientists and staff working at the Trinity site during the final stages hunted the antelope herds with machine guns, and how during WWII fighter plane training, the trainees we told to fire upon antelope and whatever to sharpen their skills.)

We finally reached the site, easily found since the road was blocked off with some guy with a gun and a non-yuppie Bronco-thing with a flashing blue light, directing the traffic (such as it was) into the dirt parking lot. I foolishly did not take pictures of the reception area -- you have to recall, this is a missile base, not a national park -- a few dozen LARGE white and black men (humans chosen for sheer bulk are always either black, or white) in standard fag-bar camo and stomping boots and all carrying .45's (unlike in bars; too bad). Big sweaty refrigerator-men. And not really liking us weirdos from the looks of it. Throughout our visit, the looks we got from the "staff" were an inscrutable mixture of curiosity, fear and hatred, so rarely seen near cities; we all need this occasional reminder that standard-issue military and general-purpose religious baggage and guilt still has a purpose -- to keep in check the behavior of otherwise utterly uncivilized humans.)

In the dirt parking lot were the usual array of winnebagos and winnebago people. The Trinity site itself is shaped like a mushroom cloud. I am not kidding. Startin from the big parking lot, there's a 200 yard/meter long, 10 yard wide path (stem of the 'shroom) that leads up to the large circular area, about 400 yards/meters in diameter that contains the original ground-zero, the monument, and the stations of the cross and the diorama (see below). Back in the parking lot are three portable curio-shoppes and a hotdog stand. I bought Josh a t-shirt that has a mushroom cloud on the front with the legend TRINITY SITE, 1945 on the front, and a picture of the monument on the back with the same legend. Cheap polyester of course! The other shoppe was a Parks Dep't type setup with little booklets and such, mostly dull, though I really regret not buying a booklet published by some of the wives of the Los Alamos staff who lived up on the filthy mesa (beautiful before they moved there) and went slowly nuts while their husbands made a big toxic bomb.

Right at the entrance to the site itself is "Jumbo", an 8-inch thick cast steel container designed to hold the proto-bomb, to recover the plutonium -- the entire world's supply at the time -- in case the bomb failed to work. By the time they got around to blowing it up, they were confident that it would work and abandoned Jumbo. (The Army later blew it up, apparently for no good reason, years later. The place seems to be filled with places and objects blown up for no really good reason. Really. To be honest, if I worked there, and could design projects that gave me access to high explosives and could occasionally blow things up for fun, assuming I made up a good excuse, I most certainly would do that. Wouldn't you?)

Our trip begins! What fun! A sign indicating the start of the family fun area. Here we are behind some other tourista's walking down the path towards the Trinity Site. You can't see us, because we're behind the camera held by myself, me. Edgar, Dina and Fish are behind me, also not shown.

Just before you enter the fenced-in Ground Zero area, you're greeted with this sign. Either makeup makes the big Army guys nervous, or else it's so you won't attach radioactive dust to your skin with sticky stuff. REMOVAL OF TRINITITE IS PROHIBITED -- yeah right. If you can find any left. To the right here, where you can't see, is some local volunteer nuclear apologist woman, with a geiger counter and a bunch of stuff like a radium watch, potassium salt ("salt substitute") some mil-surplus junk, and some trinitite. Click, click, click. DAMN FOOL I am, I forgot to note the actual background radiation level with the geiger counter, nor that of the trinitite, though it was essentially the same as the background.

OK here's the monument. Boring. Next.

Here's the famous remaining-leg of the 100 foot tower that held the bombe. This is where I found my piece of green trinitite, mixed in with all the bunny poops, which are brown. A interesting factoid for you: in 1945, the entire on-site scientific crew walked all over ground-zero the morning after the plutonium explosion, including the arch-piggy Oppenheimer; this leads me to believe they really didn't think it was all that dangerous at that time. There's a picture of some bunch of them standing at this last-remaining artifact post-boom.

Another shot (that's a joke) of the boring monument. The circular containing fence, is about 30 yards/meters beyond the monument. All of ground zero, out to some unknown-to-me radius, was burned clean of organic matter, and fused into the crappy green glass they later named "trinitite". It's just low-grade, bubbly glass with sand stuck to the bottom. We were told they bulldozed the entire surface and buried it on the site, some years back.

Along the back fence (the top of the "mushroom cloud") the Army guys cable-tied a bunch of pitchers glued onto plywood. I called this exhibit the Stations of the Cross, just like the Catholic thing, some dozen "stations" where you're supposed to pray or something. Most of the pictures are the ones you'd see if you'd bother to read the histories done by the LANL people. Here's another photo, standing at the Stations looking back towards the entrance.

Here's a look inside the "diorama", which is really a big wooden box with a glass front, sitting on the ground, showing what the "original" surface, post-explosion, looked like. Unfortunately it was built *after* they bulldozed it all, so the value of this is somewhat obscure to me, though there is a fair amount of trinitite sitting in little puddles. Maybe this is really interesting to look at if you get to blow lots of things up, like laughing at the frog-guts after you blew one up with an M-80. (The terrible photo was taken through the glass front in daylight, with flash.)

I forgot to mention, you also get to visit the McDonald ranch, so-called. Back in the parking lot are these behemoth diesel busses shuttling people from the parking lot to the ranch. The ranch is where they actually assembled the bomb, sometime before having kicked out the actual owner ("McDonald" one would presume.) No further word from him during the tour. Unfortunately, my cheap-shit Walgreen's camera started acting up so all only got a few lousy pictures. I'm a terrible photographer anyways. Here's the welcome sign, with Fish (left) and Dina in front.

The ranch house was actually quite beautiful; it was built by a German immigrant at the turn of the century. Adobe and plastered walls; low windows, great design, plain wood and amazing view of the plains, called by the locals "Jornada del Muerto, aka Journey of Death, since there's almost no water. They assembled the plutonium core in the front room here; when the bomb went off, it blew all the windows out. Sigh, now boys...

The usual boring dioramas and such setup inside. I fucked up the photo of this amazing White Sands Missile Range painting, of a pair of fatherly, loving hands launching a leaping hot'n'hard missile. Also not pictured (aargh) is a reproduction of the original logo/badge assigned to all of the military personel on the project -- basically, its a pinkish brain in the shape of a mushroom cloud; the brain stem/spinal cord is a lightening bolt, which at the bottom is splitting an atom rendered as your standard grade-school three atoms circling a nucleus.


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