Saturday, June 19, 2010

Missile Away

We are parked at the Wal-Mart in Dilworth, Minnesota (map), an eastern suburb of Fargo, ND.

We had a fairly short drive yesterday, because we first made a couple hour detour to the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site, where we took the one-hour tour of the "Oscar-Zero" facility. This is one of only two decommissioned Launch Control Centers (LCCs) allowed under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to be preserved for historical purposes; the other one is operated by the National Park Service and is located near Wall, South Dakota.

We both really enjoyed the tour. Given that there are still 45 fully operational LCCs, substantially identical to this one, in control of 450 nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, it's impossible to walk away from this tour without a mostly indescribable, somewhat disturbing feeling in the pit of your stomach. Also, it is remarkable just how boring and mundane is the job of ensuring mutual destruction and the annihilation of humanity.

One of the ten silos controlled by O-0 has been preserved just a couple miles east of Cooperstown, and we passed it as we drove away. There was really no place to park the bus, so we could not walk over to read the interpretive signs or view the silo blast door from outside the fence.

After leaving Cooperstown we had an uneventful but windy drive here. The wind was so fierce that when we were driving east, with virtually a direct tailwind, our fuel mileage went up by 60% or so. When we were driving south, I had to work hard with both hands on the wheel to stay on the road. To minimize the impact, from Page we drove east all the way to I-29 at Gardner, but then did the southbound portion on old US-81, where I could keep it to 45 or so. By the time we got here we decided to quit for the day and wait for less windy conditions, and we drove around the store until we found a nice spot partially in the lee of the building.

We needed a Wal-Mart stop anyway, because I was out of windshield repair kits, and they had none at our last Wal-Mart stop in Minot. We had taken a rock strike a few miles west of Plentywood, and I ended up using up both my kits on it, since the first kit I tried had a loose plunger and lost most of its resin without getting any in the chip. If you missed it, I described in great detail how we fix windshield damage in this post.

Now that winds are a bit calmer (but massive wind turbines in the distance tell us it is rarely still here), we will continue east. Our route from here will be on US-10, which will pick up the Mississippi River in Little Falls and follow it all the way to the twin cities. Tonight we might stay in Wadena, where our Elks guide says there is a lodge with parking, assuming it is still open after Thursday's tornadoes.

Photo of Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site by joevare, used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. When I was an AFROTC cadet (prior to becoming a 2LT in the AF) I did a 12-hour overnight shift at the minuteman LCC near Wall. I remember being a bit unsettled about the two red key slots that took two individuals to "turn." Thanks for the memory!


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