Monday, August 19, 2013

No Red Bull, Just Bull

One of the pleasures of living in Tucson has been the opportunity of sharing some two-wheeled miles with my son Daniel who has lived here for about 9 years. He is in that insanely busy decade of life (30's) when family, career, graduate school and more graduate school are nearly all consuming. (I remember well that decade of my own now 30 odd years ago). But yesterday was a special day for Daniel and me. His wife and 2 young children were out of town and we grabbed the opportunity for a long ride. 

We opted for an 80 miler heading down to Green Valley by way of Mission Rd., breakfast at Mama's Kitchen, and a Tour of the Titan II Missile Museum just 4 miles from breakfast, before catching an awesome tailwind and heading back to Tucson. 
Link to our Route from our MeetUp location:

I just love Mission Rd south of Valencia. I love that I'm on the San Xavier Indian Reservation; I love the 20 mile steady climb (about 1,700' in 20 miles; I love the virtual absence of traffic; I love the dense desert vegetation of Chollas, Palo Verdes, and Prickly Pears; I love the free range cattle I get to see nearly every ride; and am saddened by the inevitable road kill, this time rattlesnake and jackrabbit. While one of the cattle we saw was very dead, it was not a victim of roadkill; disease or dehydration I would imagine.

I have always wanted to visit the Titan II Missile Museum; geez, its original silo is only 15 miles (by car) south of Tucson. Growing up in the Cold War era under the roof of distrusting alarmist parents who built a bomb shelter in our basement, I wanted to understand this period of our history a bit better.

The Museum is underwhelming at first blush--about 12 exhibit cases, a gift shop and a ticket seller. Makes sense, though, as the missile, the control center, and more are all subterranean.  The docents, were, however, most accommodating allowing Daniel and me to bring our bikes inside for safekeeping during the hour-long tour since I foolishly forgot a bike lock for us. 

Turns out back then there were 3 sites for these ICBMs in the US: Tucson, Kansas, and Arkansas. For 20 years, basically 1962-82, two officers and two non-coms worked at the control panel 24/7. They were assigned to the Davis-Monthan AFB and commuted the 30 miles to and from the AFB and the Silo. The control panels they monitored, now 50 years old, are frankly scary simple looking given what their job was to monitor. 

I found myself having those same kind of butterflies in my stomach thinking about these highly trained USAF folks staring at the silent lights on the control panel 24/7 for 20 years. They were the same kind of butterflies I get when I've got motorists bunched behind me on a road where I can't get over to give them room to pass. How long will they be patient? How soon before they will just jump, take a risk, attempt to pass putting me and many at risk? 

The big buzz phrase was Peace Through Deterrence. Sounds a little euphemistic to me, but apparently it was effective since none of the ICBMs were launched with payload. 

It was good to hear that after the missiles were "decommissioned" as warheads, they were used to launch satellites of various kinds into space.

Consider a visit if you're in town.