We drove through Wall, SD on our way here. Of course we had to stop for lunch. It’s the American thing to do. Road signs for Wall Drug started showing up 30 miles away. And, just like the Burma Shave signs of old, they used humor to enticed you to try it. Norm had been here before but not Vicki. So we stopped…..
The store is a block long. They sell everything, literally. Even drugs! They can seat 500+ diners.
After a world famous burger we headed on to Interior. Interior sits down and inside Badlands hills. Here’s some of the sites along the Badlands Scenic Loop….
The Badlands Motel and Campground, along with most everything else was built on what appeared like a desert floor. Some trees, but very little shade anywhere. And with the expected 85-95 degree day’s coming up, our rooftop air conditioners will be taxed. Making matters worse we were advised not to put out our awnings due to prevalent high winds. And to make matters really worse we only had 30 Amp service so we were limited to running one AC unit at a time. UGH! Oh well. We’ll survive. Got the generator!
Tuesday, 7/23, Hiking the Baddies.
Our first full day here included 2 hikes and a ranger talk. Our first hike took us up to a viewpoint that required walking around an outside ledge that was skinny, sloped down and away and gravely. Nope! That was our stopping point. We did manage the “ladder” climb. From the bottom….
At the top on the trail…..
And Norm descending from the top…
The second hike was on a boardwalk that had educational placards describing the fossils discovered here in the park. The Ranger talk doubled-down on the animal fossils and went on to show pics of what the local paleontologists thought the animals looked like. They actually found ancient, fossilized poop too. Vicki was fascinated….
Enough for one day; wouldn’t you say?
Wednesday, 7/24 was “Nuclear” Day. Vicki had made reservations for us to be included in a Minuteman Missile tour. They only take 6 at a time.
The tour included visits to three locations: the Visitors Center, the Missile Silo and the Launch Control Facility. They were about 15 miles apart. First, a little background courtesy of the Visitors Center.
The USSR and the US were Cold War enemies from the 60’s into the 90’s with both nations building Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems capable of annihilating each other. The difference was theirs were liquid propelled which took up to an hour to get ready; and ours were solid propelled that could be in the air in minutes. The other big difference was the number of ICBM’s available. While the USSR had about 7,000, the US had 30,000.
The fall of the Soviet Union led to treaty’s that drastically reduced the number on each side. All of the facilities in S Dakota were destroyed except the one we visited here which was allowed to remain open but inoperative for historical purposes. Of course all nuclear warheads were removed. (That’s a really small nut-shell explanation of events back then; but, you get the picture). On to the facilities. First the silo.
The facilities at the missile silo included the silo, of course, a tall motion sensor that would alert launch control of intruders, and a cone-shaped antenna that communicated with airborne control centers. If the command came from launch control, the 90 ton silo cover would slide out of the way and the a Minuteman missile would blast off to a target thousands of miles around the earth.
The cover, adapted for public viewing. The tall white pole on the other side of the cover was the motion sensor…
The antenna for airborne communications. It could take a nearby nuclear blast and still function. It would be used if cable communications with launch control were lost……
The missile silo and missile. The silo was 8 ft wide and 30 ft deep. It walls were 2-feet of concrete covered by a steel liner. Each Minuteman missile was 80 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It’s solid fuel was stable enough to last decades while still making the missile able to launch in minutes.
Norm is standing in front of the personnel access hatch.
The small locked hatch to his left exposed the coded controls for opening the larger hatch to his right. There’s also a better view of the motion sensor. It was capable of sensing a rabbit.
Launch Control was another short drive away.
A Ranger met us at the gate..
Each launch facility had a crew of about 6 soldiers. A CO, a cook, 2 military police, and 2 Missilers. The MP’s and the Missilers worked 12 hour shifts. The Missilers worked in the capsule. All others worked above ground in those buildings.
The MP office. They had a view of the road and all access points….
The above-ground buildings also included bedrooms, baths, kitchen, dining and living area.
The CO’s room….
The MP’s room. Notice the blackened windows….
Technicians/guests room was similar but the windows were not blackened.
The kitchen, dining and living areas. Expand the pic and read the daily menu. Heart healthy!…..
There were three Launch Control Centers (LCC) in S Dakota. There were others in other states. Each LCC had responsibility for maintaining, securing, and launching operations for 10 silos, typically arranged in a circle around the LCC about 3 miles apart. You’d think that meant 30 warheads. But no! The Minuteman II missile had multiple warheads each set on different enemy coordinates. Those coordinates can be changed within seconds of launch by the LCC (or the airborne launch command if necessary.)
The Missilers worked in the capsule that was 30 ft below the surface and designed to protect them from a nuclear blast. It was made of four-foot-thick concrete reinforced with three-inch-thick steel bars. It was also suspended from shock absorbers. This pic makes it look small….
We hopped on a 6-passenger elevator to go down to the capsule.
The coded door to the capsule was quite large; larger than a bank safe..
The capsule was a “No Lone” area meaning there had to be two Missilers at all times..
Once in the capsule……
You see two chairs at the electronic control boards. Each Missiler must remain in view of the other at all times. But the chair at the far end didn’t allow that. Hence, the mirror on the far wall, up and left.
Notice the red cabinet with 2 padlocks in this next pic. Each Missiler had a separate key to the cabinet. It held the firing codes and launch keys. In order to actually launch any missile, the two Missilers here along with two Missilers in another location had to have the proper codes and launch keys. The launch keys had to be turned by all four within 3 seconds. Boom!
This cot was available for short rests as needed….
The Treaty didn’t require that all missiles be destroyed. So, some are still working sites; just not in S Dakota. Well, we all feel safer now!
Thursday 7/25, will be Buster cleanup and bill-paying day. Get in line!
Friday and Saturday, 7/26 & 27 will be travel days to the Minneapolis area for visits with some of Vicki’s relatives.
Stay tuned. They’re crazy…..fun!