Cacti & Missiles: A Day in Arizona

After yesterday's almost 400 mile drive, we delighted in spending the night in the Sonoran Desert. When we awoke, we meandered through it and it was pretty magical.

We strolled a path of numerous species of cacti. My favorite was the Saguaro,  one of the defining plants of this Desert (they only grow here). These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, although some never grow arms. These arms generally bend upward and can number over 25. The arms are my favorite characteristic.
Interestingly, with the right growing conditions, it is estimated that Saguaros can live to be as much as 150-200 years old. Yet, they are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall and can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall. When rain is plentiful and the Saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds.

  Strange and inscrutable
      the desert lies
Austere its every mood;
Yet peace and beauty
      here abound
In solemn quietude.
~F.J. Worrall
I love to discover things of which I know nothing (it's not a huge stretch at times). While searching for treasures to seek on Interstate-10, I happened upon the best travel website- You just type in the road you happen to be on and it tells you all the awesome sights to see along the way. The Titan Missile Museum could not have been more incredible.
We walked around pretty blown away and very underground. So dang cool. Unknown to us, during the Cold War, 54 Titan II Missile Silos were constructed in three States (completed in only 36 months). Their purpose was to prevent a nuclear attack, just by "being". Needless-to-say, they worked. The payload in each was frightening. According to our guide, Tim, if you took all the bombs detonated in all the WWII battles, including the two which devastated Japan, put them all together and multiplied that amount by two, you would have the power of just one of these missiles. Chilling. 
"Duck and Cover!" Bomb shelters, the Berlin Wall, weekly tests of the Emergency Broadcast System, the piercing sounds of air raid sirens, and the Space Race. These are the hallmarks of the "Cold War" era. The Titan Missile Museum showcases the dramatic vestiges of the Cold War between the U.S. and former Soviet Union and provides a vivid education about the history of nuclear conflict-a history of keeping the peace.
This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987. The others were destroyed as part of the Arms Agreement with Russia.

What an incredible tour, too. We were able to stand on top of the silo viewing platform and observe the Titan II missile in the underground launch duct. Then, using the Access Portal, we descended 35 feet underground into the hardened missile complex. Once underground, we walked through the Blastlock Area on our way to the Launch Control center where I was asked to to be the Missile Combat Crew Commander. My job was to "turn the key" for a simulated launch of the missile.  Yikes. 

After our one hour, very informative guided tour, we were allowed to explore the grounds. This image is looking down at the missile from the surface. This was unbelievable.
What was once one of America's most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world. This was an educational and fantastic detour.
In trying to understand this place better, I think President Reagan said it best, "The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression -- to preserve freedom and peace."

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Aquí Ahí Allá said...

I just reread this blogpost. I do hope we can do this on our road trip! I really wish we had more time. Another day or two would be ideal but I think we may be able to make it happen... :)

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