Jeri and I had been to the Trinity Site once before. It was on July 16, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the detonation. It was friggin’ circus. The crowd then was much larger than the usual April or October hordes (The Trinity Site is usually only open to the public on the first Saturdays of April and October, when it’s cooler). Then there were the protesters. You know, nukes are bad, that sort of stuff. And they were somewhat encouraged to be obnoxious by the presence of CNN and other news trucks, broadcasting the revelries. The experience, while interesting, had a certain amount of distraction to it.
So it was time for a return trip, during a “normal” time. Does Easter weekend count as normal?
We hit the Stallion Gate to White Sands Missile Range around 8:30 AM (the gate had opened at 8 AM). I was surprised to see a backup. It took about 10 minutes to make it to the gate and find out why. We had to show picture IDs and they wanted to look in our ice chest. We guessed they were looking for alcohol. Now they had no interest in looking in the bed of our truck, where we could have had several cases of beer stashed, or a few hundred pounds of explosive. But our ice chest had to be scrutinized.
It takes about 20 minutes to get from the gate to the parking area at the Trinity Site. We were surprised to see a fair number of vehicles already there. But the Army guys were doing a cool job of getting everyone parked quickly.
Because of the crowds on our previous visit, we had jettisoned the idea of taking a shuttle bus to the McDonald Ranch house a few miles away. This was the location the bomb boys used to assemble the gadget, as they called it. This time we headed directly for the buses.
The ride to the ranch house was quick. It was not an impressive structure, but very familiar from the old Trinity pictures. The best part about the visit was that the porta-potties here had yet to be abused by the visiting public and weren’t a disagreeable experience. You have to have your priorities straight.
Hopping back on the shuttle bus, we returned to the parking area for Ground Zero and started heading for the main show. While we were at the ranch house, the parking area had filled considerably and more cars were streaming in.
Looking at the people around us, it occurred to me that this place was some sort of goober magnet. While it wasn’t exactly “People of Walmart“, it was contender enough to bring it to mind. There were some very bizarre folks here. I won’t try and argue that I don’t fit in. Fortunately, there was a concession stand offering up barbecued burgers and drinks to allow the more massive goobers to fuel up enough to make the quarter mile walk to the Ground Zero enclosure. How they would get back without stuffing Snickers bars into their pockets, I don’t know.
The actual Ground Zero is ringed by a fence which corrals all the touristas within a very large circle. Near the center is the darkly phallic Trinity Site monument, set in the center of the location the original tower was erected. There still remain some of the concrete footings of the tower.
Off to one side there’s a low structure that looks like a greenhouse for midgets. In fact it’s a cover to protect the last remaining portion of Trinitite, that cool, greenish glassy surface that was created by the atomic blast. Except for the area of Trinitite under the cover, the rest had been scraped up and buried somewhere (or sold on eBay, I’m not sure). That said, there were still small pieces of the stuff floating around on the surface, although it was illegal to gather it. That didn’t seem to bother many people though.
The only other item within the enclosure was a flatbed truck with a full size mockup of the “Fat Man” bomb, which was dropped on Nagasaki. This also attracted the goobers, who seemed to enjoy having their pictures taken in front of it. I suspect it had a slenderizing effect on them.
Seeing a surprising number of cars still streaming into the site, we decided it was time to get the hell outta Dodge. We stopped for a green chile cheeseburger at the Owl Bar in San Antonio, as it had a lot of rave reviews online. It was also frequented by the bomb boys in 1945, as they traveled between Los Alamos and the Trinity Site. I think the latter fact was more of an attraction than the food. It was an OK burger, and probably the best around for many miles. OTOH, there isn’t much else around for many miles. Still, it had a delightfully divey atmosphere.
Heading north, we decided on another eclectic stop: The April 24, 1964 Socorro UFO landing site. It wasn’t a UFO crash, it was a landing. Rather than me explain what this bit of weirdness is (I’m lazy), just read this. This was a spot Jeri and I also visited in July of 1995, and it had changed considerably. The dirt road heading out to the site now served as a driveway for a couple of nearby homes and a new high school was about a quarter mile away. When we were there last, we didn’t find the precise site, just the general area. This time, with the power of the modern Internet behind us, we found the precise location the object had been spotted sitting in the ravine bottom. There remained four circles of stone, which had outlined the depressions left by what appeared to be landing pads. I really enjoy this site, since it represents an incident that has never really been explained in conventional terms, had good physical evidence remaining and the witness was highly credible. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the stories of it being a test of the Surveyor lunar lander under a helicopter, but when you look at the site, that’s a laughable story.
And so concludes another weird adventure. There will be so many more….
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