Saturday, April 3, 2010

We've seen the Trinity bomb site

We finally gave up relaxing with full hookups and hit the road again on Friday. We were up by 5:30 AM so that we could get most of our driving in before the winds pick up here in New Mexico. They have had winds up to 40 or 50 mph with gusts going upwards towards 60 or 70. As they say, it is not good traveling for high sided vehicles (such as our motorhome.)

We spent last night in the friendly confines of the Walmart parking lot here in Socorro, NM. We were only one of 12 rigs that spent the night here. Today, all are gone except for two of us that went touring.

Our touring was to see the site where the first atomic bomb exploded, which is about 40 miles southeast of town. We were up at a reasonable early time. We arrived at the entry gate line at 8:30 or so and headed in after a 20 minute wait in line. From the gate, it is another 20 miles to the test site.

While we thought we were early, the parking lot they have set up was nearly half full. We immediately decided that it would be best to see the farm house first, especially since there was not a line to get on the bus. The farm house is 3 miles from ground zero and is where they assembled the bomb core material. It was nothing fancy and the blast blew out the windows and severely depressed the roof. But 40 years later, they finally woke up and made it a historical site and redid the house so that it looks exactly like it did in 1945.

Of course a farm boy has to look at the farm related items, like the windmill and the pump jack. I think each blade on the mill was about 4 or 5 feet long (it was laying on the ground). The pump jack was connected to the pump rod via a rocking horse beam, about 8 by 16 inches and 12 feet long. The original rancher used the ranch house as the headquarters for a ranching operation with about 20,000 sheep and a 1000 cows. I have no idea what they found to eat, as there certainly wasn't much around the house.

From the house site, we caught a bus back to the ground zero site and ran into lots more people. Or should we say, "People everywhere". The actual bomb site has been reworked some to remove as much hazardous waste as possible. The crater (about 4 feet deep) was filled in to prevent any radioactive dust from moving about. They have 3 fences around ground zero to control the entry. the inner fence is a 6 foot chain link fence encompassing about an 800 foot circle. then they had a second fence out about another 200 feet or so and finally there was a barbed wire fence encompassing about 40 acres or more.

The only historical item to see was one of the concrete pillars that had been pretty well trimmed down to nearly ground level. (I'm sure the upper part was radioactive and was removed.)

What was interesting to me was that while they had some really high tech equipment, especially for the photos and shock wave measurements, the actual assembly was just plain old man power. I don't know how much the core material weighed, but it looked like it was an arm load for one man to carry it into the house. The clean-room assembly area was the house master bedroom with plastic sheets taped over the window openings. At the doorway, painted on the door trim was a sign, "Clean the dust off of your shoes before entering".

For the rest of the day, we're relaxing in our friendly Walmart parking lot. Tomorrow morning, we'll attend Easter services at the local mission church and then head out somewhere.


  1. Gene:

    Wal-Mart should only be used as an overnight spot. That is why all but one of the other RVs left the first morning. Please don't ruin it for all of us by using it as a free campground. Here are some common sense rules about staying the night at Walmart:

    No pop up trailers or tents.

    Don't stay if "No overnight parking" signs are posted.

    Obtain permission from a qualified person at the store that it's okay to stay. However, if there are already many RVs parked nearby each other in the parking lot, you can probably assume overnight stays are allowed.

    Park in an out-of-the-way corner of the parking lot. You will often find other RVs already there.

    Do not set up awnings or pull out your barbecue or lawn chairs or do anything else outside your RV that suggests you are "camping." In other words, "blend in!"

    Do not use hydraulic levelers. You'll hurt the asphalt.

    Make no noise. Don't use your generator unless you are parked in a far corner of the lot with nobody around including nearby residences.

    Don't extend your RV's slideouts unless absolutely necessary.

    Limit your stay to one night. Never consider a Walmart a campground, only a place to stay a night while on the way to somewhere else or as a place to get some sleep when you are so tired that it would be dangerous to keep driving.

    Buy something from the store before leaving. Support the RV accessories department.

    Never litter. And pick up and dispose of any litter that is already there.

    Don't stay if your RV has a leak in a waste holding tank or is dripping any oil or other automotive fluid.

    Carry a pack of post cards with you. After you leave the store after staying the night, send one to the manager thanking him/her and noting that you purchased something while there (if you, in fact, did).

    Remember, the more people who abuse these rules, the more stores will post "No overnight parking" signs.

    Tell any RVer you observe violating these rules that you do not appreciate his or her behavior.

  2. Thanks for the nice description of the bomb site. I've never been there but your narrative made me feel like it was just outside my window. Nicely done!