ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 7 – What is “The Thing?” and Jets in the Desert

I woke up Sunday morning in Deming NM, after popping into town just after dark watching an old episode of Star Trek and crashing. he hotel didn’t have a charger but the city did, just up the road at a truck stop with a nice diner. Plug in, eat some eggs and bacon (mmmm bacon!) and get back on the road.

On my quest for roadside attractions I stopped to see “The Thing.” If you are familiar with the series of billboards on I-95 directing you to “South of the Border:” on the SC/NC line, you will be familiar with advertising for “The Thing.” For $5 (plus tax) this roadside gas/DQ stop asks the question “what if Aliens and Dinosaurs existed at the same time” and then plays out the question in animated detail. It all builds up to seeing “The Thing” which I’m not going to share, so break out a Lincoln and spend the 10 minutes to see it yourself next time you are on I-10 in Arizona.

On to Tucson and the Pima Air Museum. I loved this museum. In fact I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the top three aviation museums I have visited. Three hours of walking more than three miles inside and outside this amazing air and space showcase and I was left thoroughly stunned. I expected to see a few wind blown old jets, what I found was a broad aviation and space museum.

A couple of particularly interesting highlights from some pictures I grabbed: I had seen several Wright Flyer replicas before, but I don’t remember any deep looks at the engines, so that was an interesting thing to see as I walked in. Also I don’t remember seeing 3 different flight demonstration planes, one from the USAF Thunderbirds, one from the USN Blue Angels and a Canadian RAF Snowbird all in once place. And who expects to go to an aviation museum and see a quote from the movie “Airplane” or a building named “Area 51.” Lots of fun.

If you want more military planes than Pima has, then you need to go to the Museum of the USAF in Dayton, OH. If you want to see the “first / best” of everything go to the Smithsonian. If you need one aerospace museum that has a little bit of everything, I’d be hard pressed not to pick Pima.

As part of the Pima Air Museum they had a building dedicated to B-17 crews in Europe during WW2 which made me want to find out more about family service. I later found out one of my Grandfathers was with the 924th Engineer Aviation Regiment, so that was interesting to dig into.

I also drove by the “boneyard” section of Davis-Monthan AFB. You can’t go on the base but seeing the rows and rows of military planes being stored in the desert is intriguing. About 30 miles up the road is Pinal Air Park where airlines send their planes which I drove by the next day.

At the end of week one I had traveled 2,525 Miles

TikTok: Day 7 Update | Week 1 Recap with a Tesla Update

Google Photos: Planes in the Desert – Davis Monthan and Pinal Air Park

Fine Art America – Trip Photos Available for Purchase: 2021 ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 6 – The Trinity Site… Plus

Art Prints

For most of this trip, I could have gone any time of the year I wanted. Fall is generally cooler, and kids are back in school in September and October, so it’s nice not to have to compete with that, but the whole trip was really timed around this Saturday morning.

The Trinity Site is the location where mankind tested the first atomic weapon in July 1945. What happened at that site almost 20 miles from the northern access road to White Sands Missile Range is truly where the Atomic Age began and I wanted to see it. The Army allows access 2 days a year, the first Saturday in April and the first in October. It was unfortunate that due to COVID-19 the site had not been opened in 2 years, so this was the first viewing opportunity since the 75th anniversary had past.

A beautiful sunrise and a few cows greeted me on the way in from Socorro. I lined up behind about 60 other cars before the gates opened at 8 AM. From there it’s a 17 mile drive in the White Sands Missile Range to the site.

It was amazing to see both the site itself, marked by a lava rock oblisk but the people attending. It was expected to draw more than 5,000 on that day, I counted hundreds just walking around, and I was there early in the day. Cars were still coming in as I was leaving.

The visit to the Nuclear Museum on Thursday put this in a lot of context. Only by visiting though do you get some of the perspective. The closest person to the blast were the scientists 10,000 feet away. The nuclear test was preceded by a TNT test for “calibration” of the equipment. The mushroom cloud you see doesn’t form for 10-15 seconds. The sand, bomb fragments and remains of the tower have turned into a material called trinitite. The bomb that was tested was the relative size of the “Fat Man” device that was dropped on Nagasaki. The “Little Boy” version was used on Hiroshima.

Here’s an interesting fact about the double edged sword that is scientific exploration. Yes, the United States is the only country that has landed humans on the moon. It’s also the only country that has unleashed a nuclear bomb on citizens of its home planet. It’s an amazing duality in my mind. The whole thing left me unusually speechless.

Before I left, I had an inadvertent chore to take care of. To get on to the range I had to show my drivers license. In my excitement, I jammed it in my pants pocket once I was through the gate. In my later excitement, I dropped it on the ground while pulling out that camera phone. So, I wrapped up that visit by finding my lost drivers license at the information desk, thanks to the MP’s who found it after it fell out of my pocket and turned it in. Whew!

Saw a few protesters on the way out from the range and headed back to Socorro to pick up a forgotten item, then down to Truth or Consequences to charge and prove that the city really exists. Mark Arum on WSB had been surprised a few weeks earlier to hear of T or C being named for a radio game show, so I thought he would like a short video.

In my original plan at this point I was going to go to Spaceport America but it’s locked down to tours only and those were sold out so I set my sites on Alamogordo, NM. On the way, I had a chance to stop at White Sands National Monument which was very interesting to learn about. The wind blows material off the mountains and it accumulates into this old sea bed with a water table that doesn’t drain to the sea so it keeps it in these beautiful dunes.

Alamogordo has a space museum too, but unfortunately I was 20 minutes too late to see that. I did get to see one of my best friends military bricks, which made the whole visit to the area extra special for me.

On from there to Demming NM for an overnight.

TikTok: Day 6 Overview | The Forgotten Sign

Google Photos: Trinity Site Photos

Fine Art America – Trip Photos Available for Purchase: 2021 ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 5 – ABQ to Socorro

Canvas Art

Day 5 was set up to be an intentional light day, I built it in as a buffer I could use to catch up if needed since Saturday was a key date on the trip, something that couldn’t be moved. So I started the morning with a self-guided tour around Old Town Albuquerque.

Some cities embrace their history in different ways, like Dodge City or Deadwood for westerns. So it was interesting to see several things in this old town area embrace the town’s image from Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul. While I probably could have spent half a day tracing Walter White’s footsteps, it was enough to walk past the “Breaking Bad” store and see buckets of “Los Pollos Hermanos” fry grease in the window and pick up some “blue” rock candy. Trivia – the TV version of the blue meth was actually rock candy made here in Old Town. I grabbed up a couple of bags from this nice guy named Heisenberg.

The real old town was centered around a church and convent, very interesting. Of course it was triggering for my nerddom tho, the clock on the church was wrong. I just think it’s one of those things that is a responsibility if you are going to have a public clock. That’s my cross to bear though, in the meantime, you might like these photos from around the Old Town area.

Headed south to visit some “satellite dishes.” I have been to a couple of larger radio telescopes before, one at St. Croix and several at Green Bank WV but I wanted to see the Very Large Array popularized by the movie “Contact.” It’s about 50 miles west of Socorro NM. I wish the visitor center had been open (COVID again) but it was still worth the trip for me to see the beautiful valley full of dishes. One thing I was wondering about, in Green Bank they have the area marked off as the “National Radio Quiet Zone” to protect the dish from surrious radio signals. No such quiet zone here although I have to say it’s natural setting makes it a bit more immune to radio signals, no cell service for me in this area.

Trip Milestone – My GPS read 7,198 feet at the top of the pass between Socorro and the Very Large Array. That’s the high point of the trip so far.

Back to Socorro to the only hotel with an EV charger within 50 miles, the Best Western. They had a very nice facility. I took a down evening and caught up on laundry and a few other items.

Photo AlbumsOld Town ABQ | Very Large Array

Tik Tok Day 5 Overview | Dryer Races Start | Dryer Races Winner

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 4 – Shamrock to ABQ

Canvas Art

Day 3 may have been one of the latest nights I pulled into the hotel, it was well after dark but an easy ride on I-40 the night before. Really friendly folks at the Holiday Inn in Shamrock and I knew with a 400+ mile day of driving ahead, I wanted to get a walk in before I started. So I pulled up to the Tesla Supercharger before sunrise and was pleasantly surprised to find the charger was behind the beautiful Conoco station you see above. It really does look like where Tow Mater from Cars is from, and you can see a truck peeking out from the end of the building. While I strolled around the streets of Shamrock, which has a Taco shop on one side of the street across from a Burrito building, I was able to catch the sunrise.

The sun was up when I started heading west on I-40 on a Thursday morning. I was in Amarillo by morning, the blustery wind and 50 degree temps stayed with me most of the day, so it was smart to wear shorts (eye-roll). It was a big roadside attraction day. The Helium Time Monument was interesting, I had no idea that Amarillo was a big helium town. I really like that it was not only 4 different time capsules, two of which have been opened, it was a sundial. Unfortunately no sun to give me the view of that.

Bug Ranch, which is some old VW beetles buried, was unimpressive. Maybe if you are a VW lover it’s worth a stop but otherwise pics will do. Cadillac Ranch is better, but don’t be fooled by the RV park like I was.

Trip Milestone: My first day more than a mile high on the trip, passing 7,000 feet on the pass into ABQ.

The next stop sets up events over the next 3 days in New Mexico. The National Museum of Nuclear History and Science is right near the gate of Sandia Labs in ABQ. The museum primarily focuses on the nuclear weapons aspect of atom-splitting but there are some other shout outs to things like Nuclear items in pop culture and Nuclear Medicine. It has a well done version of “The Gadget” which was the first nuclear bomb tested and replica of the tower used at the Trinity test site. It would have to be a replica because the original one went boom. I think what really surprised me was the breadth of ways that the US had created nuclear weapons, from backpacks to missiles to air burst (oh my!).

I was excited to buy a little piece of history at the Nuclear museum. When the test was conducted at the Trinity site, it created a glassy debris called trinitite. It’s fairly rare but they sell small samples at the museum. I bought 1.2 Ounces for about $60. Here’s my sample of nuclear waste.

Local pizza and a quiet hotel room (Holiday Inn Express) finished off the night.

PhotosSelected Day 4 Pictures

TikTok Archive – Day 4 Recap | Flashback – Blue Hole Stop 

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 3 – Tulsa to Shamrock

Up in the morning and off to… Safelite. Remember that big rock that smashed my windshield on the way from Memphis to Little Rock? Well, I was able to make an appointment at Safelite in Broken Arrow OK and they were great! I was the first appointment of the day, they took my car back early and I was in and out in less than an hour! Gotta love it when you get good service, so mad props to them!

I had a brunch planned for the morning of day 3 with a friend of mine, but with Safelite done so early, I had a chance to get out and take some pictures along a different stretch of Route 66 in Tulsa. This one is my favorite, it’s a charector named “Buck Atom” and even though it was late September, he was dressed for halloween.

Canvas Art

If you like this picture, click on it and it will take you to the Fine Art America site when you can get prints and phone protectors and tea towels of it if you like. If you are interested in other photos from Route 66 in Tulsa I have an album on Google Photos.

So, brunch was a lovely diner style meal at a place called Savoy and I was off down the turnpike to Oklahoma City. I thought it was interesting that the only state on the whole trip that charged a toll was Oklahoma, in fact I payed more than $20 in tolls to go around OK. Now, you do get the benefit that some of those toll roads have an 80 MPH speed limit, but 75 and free would be OK with me.

Oklahoma Science Museum was the big stop of the day and let me tell you this is a top tier museum. Not only does it incorporate the STEM elements of a place like the museum in Little Rock it has some great exhibits. OKC being a railroad town I enjoyed seeing an old Pullman car and some of the exquisite model railroad work. A nice planetarium show that was interactive with the audience was something I didn’t expect to do but really enjoyed.

I loved the broad view of science and engineering. They have an enticing view of scientists that allows you to pick your favorite. I wanted to pick Tesla however they were sold out of those pins, so I settled for Newton. I really think there is something here for people from 5 to 15 to 50.

In addition to a giant Tesla coil, which I always get a charge out of, they had a really nice display of Apollo items, particularly focused on Apollo 10 and astronaut Tom Stafford. It was a big surprise to see Stafford and the other A-10 astros received an Emmy for an out of this world telecast.

I did not end up stopping at the OKC memorial. I could claim time as an issue, but I’m familiar enough with it and I just felt it was better personally to roll on.

Great view of the sunset as I drove west. I mentioned in one of my TikTok’s that it was cool to be able to charge in places that are likely powered by alternative fuels. In Arkansas it was nuclear and in Western OK it was wind, they have very impressive wind farms. Rolled into Shamrock after dark and called it a night.

TikTok ArchiveAlternative Fuel Tesla Charging | Day 3 Recap

ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip Day 2 – Memphis to Tulsa

Art Prints

My trip out of Memphis started on Interstate 40 now which meant trucks trucks trucks, mostly of the tandem Fed-Ex variety but they were not the only big rigs on the super slab. (I may have listened to “Convoy” once too often on the trip). The first stop was Little Rock once I could get into the rocking-chair for a few minutes. However, due to no fault of the trucks, but just an awful stretch of terribly maintained road, I had my first and only vehicle issue of the trip, a “lovely” rock chip in my windshield. It’s OK, that can be patched.

Big stop of the day was the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock. I was expecting more of an adult science museum but this was really targeted toward the younger set. I did get to see a nice tornado simulation there, and having been through a tornado while living in Wichita I give it a 8 out of 10 for pucker-factor accuracy. The big draw at the museum for me was a large Tesla Coil, but was off-line for repairs awaiting the Tesla Coil expert. That’s OK, I’ll catch a few more as I go along.

I enjoyed the remainder of my couple of hours in LR. I had a nice stroll around the riverfront area. They, not surprisingly call it the Are-can-saw River there, but in Wichita I learned it was really the Are-Kansas river. I liked seeing streetcars running along, a cool feature which I am kicking myself for not taking a few minutes to ride. I had hoped to spend a few minutes at The Clinton Library but it was not open due to COVID, I settled for a ride by.

On this trip I really wanted to be committed to seeing the strange and unusual roadside attractions, you know, things you see on billboards along the highway like “The Thing” along I-10 in Arizona. I did try to hit two, one was a Submarine off the turnpike in Oklahoma and another was a train station on the eastside of Arkansas but no both were closed, so an early arrival in Tulsa allowed for dinner and a trip downtown to see the Route 66 display.

Take a look at the picture above as just one example of the beautiful area the city has created from an original US-66 road bridge and plaza. I’m making several pictures available for purchase from this trip. Click on the image above to get info on pricing.

Trip Milestone – Tulsa was the northernmost city on the route. GPS says 36.14 Deg N.

TikTok Archive – No Luck On Roadside Stops | Day 2 Recap

2021 ATL-LA-ATL Road Trip – Day 1

Atlanta to Memphis

In the original plans day 1 started a little later than 6 AM ET, but I had something timely to do on Monday afternoon so off we went. Traffic through Atlanta was great and I think that helped to get things off on the right foot.

No roadside stops on Day 1, partially because of the time crunch, but partially because there didn’t seem to be much between Atlanta and Memphis.

Graceland. I had been there once about 10 years ago, and it was alike a little street scape before you went across to see the mansion. Now it’s a much better showcase of memorabelia and I was impressed by the music hall they have added too, I think that’s a wonderful idea. I thought $75 for the mansion and museum tour was a bit high, but I understand only so many people can go through at a time.

After going through Graceland a second time, I feel it’s right to advance the theory that Elvis is a HUGE nerd. I get into this a little more on TikTok. Look at this desk above, he’s got a Radio, TV and 8-Track all in one console. I totally think RCA, his record label, helped foster the idea because he ended up with over 50 TV’s. However, what better way to sell your stuff than to have the King of Rock and Roll behind it.

Crashed for the night at the Homewood Suites in Memphis. I probably wouldn’t stay there again. It’s right off the freeway and I heard that all night, plus I was not impressed with the upkeep.

Other TikTok’s – Day 1 Recap

I could drive 5,000 miles…

On Monday (September 24) I am going to hit the road for a 3-week, 5,000 mile road trip across the US from Atlanta to Los Angeles and back. It’s going to be a big vacation for me, with plenty of areospace related things to see.

If you want to follow me, the best place is my new TikTok channel. You can go there now and see prep for the run.

Planned Westbound Route

And the Eastbound Run

Happy Motoring!