Day five, Wednesday

Daniel F. Smith in Arizona

There were only two motels in Green Valley: a Best Western and a Holiday Inn. That meant I had to be treated like I was on business. But the Best Western wasn't so bad---at least it had a pool and breakfast even if it didn't have a holiday atmosphere. I staggered out rather late and went to the museum.

The Titan 2 missile weighed 150 tons, was propelled by a hydrazine/something and nitrogen tetroxide fuel-oxidizer combo. Nasty stuff. It carried one warhead in the megaton range. Nastier stuff. But it lived in a hole in the desert, under 750 ton blast doors, so that was nice.

Titan 2: the missile, sitting in its bunker. One of the two blast doors is closed and wedged in with concrete blocks that could be removed in three or four minutes, despite what they said about them being permanent. Payload: the rocket was kept refueled to launch at sixty second's notice. This particular rocket was always a test vehicle and was never fuelled. That was because the oxidizer forms nitric acid when it contacts water and dissolves everything. Titan landscape: if the Titan 2 launch crew emerged from their bunker after 30 days, how would they know if the landscape was barren anyway?
Stage 1 engine: the main launch engine. Mostly pumps for the oxidizer and fuel. There was one hydraulic servo on each nozzle, I didn't see a second, but I didn't look very hard and the guide was eager to find some air conditioning. Rocket science: ah, yes. Axial view up the nozzle: this was rather interesting. The burn plate was planar, with tiny outlets releasing fuel and oxidizer in close proximity. It was beautifully engineered.

The guides were volunteers and seemed knowledgeable and courteous, though perhaps a bit efficient. It was interesting the way everything tactically important in the bunker was mounted on springs so that it could keep working during a blast. What was frightening though was that to launch the thing, you had to press one of three buttons to select a target, then turn two keys. The rest was automatic---no abort, nothing to monitor until after take off (when there would apparently be numerous fires to put out) and nothing to do but stay in the bunker for 30 days until the food runs out. Crews of four on regular duty would be in the bunker for 24 hours, then have 72 hours out. Even though the site was decommissioned several years ago, the equipment seemed to have been kept in cosmetically working order, and buzzers and alarms went off periodically. But overall, it was kind of ho hum---I really ought to be grateful that there was little to get excited about when you can destroy millions of people in less than half an hour.

Launch: how to kill a million people. First select the target (one of the three buttons in the top left of the panel---target 2 is selected here). Then turn the key for five seconds (with a friend). After that, there's no abort button and no turning back. You just have to worry about putting out the fires in the bunker before the enemy tries to annihilate you (the red flashing lights in the lower panel indicate which pieces of equipment are covered in burning rocket fuel). Antenna: one of the larger antenna arrays at the Titan 2 complex. Build your own Titan 2 missile: with these simple to follow directions and plans.

I found the U.S. Post Office in Green Valley before heading north. This probably wouldn't warrant a mention except that I had only previously been past only closed Post Offices and was getting slightly frustrated. It was nice and airily air conditioned inside, and rather grand too. Green Valley is what they call an adult resort; basically retired people live there. Golf carts were not out of place on the streets, and people made jokes about pensions all the time.

Back to Tucson again and out the other side. Today would be mostly driving to try to get to the Grand Canyon. A brief stop at the I-10/I-8 interchange for food and a map and then to Phoenix for gas, then north again to Flagstaff. Listening to the radio I heard about all the wonderful snarl-ups that I'd missed by less than an hour. I glanced at the map---whoa! I'd nearly forgotten about the Meteor Crater! I was heading in the right direction so I continued to enjoy the cactus forests. As the road climbed, so the hills became more common than the flat plains, and brown gave way to green and gold. The view overlooking Camp Verde was superb---an oasis of green in a ring of mountains. Why do people live down south anyway? My new map said I could reach the Meteor Crater by heading towards the small village of Strawberry and coming up on it from behind. It was well worth the detour, as I found myself in a forest woodland very different from the desert. Unfortunately, the Meteor Crater was not reachable from round back, and was probably 25 miles away from where my guide book said it was. I got there just after 8pm. It had closed at 6pm. But the views on the way were worth it---maybe next time.

Horn-blowing man: this chap turns up all around Arizona, and is one of the many petroglyph images left on the rocks. He parked his pink car in Camp Verde. Forest deer: the horn-blowing man guarded the entrance to the Coconino Forest and its population of deer.
Forest plateaux: lots of these large outcroppings in the Coconino Forest. Desert plateaux: they just appear out of nowhere.
Shortcut sunset: my cartography may not have worked for the Meteor Crater, but it was a nice ride all the same. Meteor Crater: well, maybe next time.

Up in Winslow I found the cheapest motel yet. On day one, a Motel 6 was advertising $34. A few days later it was $32. But then in Phoenix earlier today I'd seen a $27, then a $24. Wow, tough to beat that. In Winslow, there was a $20 joint. Impressive stuff---right on Route 66 and not a dive from the outside. I wanted to get to Flagstaff though, so I had to pass it up.

In Flagstaff the Howard Johnson was offering $26 rooms for $46 so I took one of those (perhaps the sign is hard to reach, but it's a good value room all the same). There was a adjoining restaurant that stayed open late as well---hurrah! It seems like I was in luck because it had a friendly small feel to it. A fellow englishman, with long, wavy, unkempt hair, a face full of stubble and an experienced face, and was called Jonathon also liked hanging out there. He was from Leicester and, thanks to some strange set of circumstances involving an inheritance, was able to live from day to day all his life without having had checks, credit cards, computers and a career. I had been driving nearly all day and was grateful for the conversation that ensued. He is currently living with his girlfriend, helping her to set up a day-care center in their garage. He supports Tottenham Hotspur, misses real fish and chips, and delights in making Americans try mushy peas. I learned quite a bit about him, as he toyed with his beer and a cigarette ("Picked this 'abit up in the Alps, nothin' to do up there---worst holiday of me life"). It was significantly beyond closing time when we got out. Luckily, all the waitresses and cooks and Jonathon were friends (my waitress was originally from Port Orchard, WA, and she loved the view of Seattle across the Sound), so it was just a congenial communal conversation while they wrapped silverware and made faces whenever mushy peas were mentioned.

Jonathon did recommend that I do the Grand Canyon in an afternoon, because there was a much better place just south of Sedona that I should do in the morning. Red Rock and Slide Rock are apparently mostly devoid of tourists, and are great photo opportunities (and there's a place to swim too). He was there yesterday and would rather be there than anywhere else, and would take it every time over some silly Canyon that it takes days to hike into.

Right at the end of the conversation, Jonathon told me how he was converted to Christianity in England. I certainly do not doubt his faith that God will provide. There are these few people in the world who just leave everything to God. It's a wonder they survive, and a testament to scripture. Jonathon's goal was to tithe 90%, and live off 10% of his income. That's faithfulness.

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