“The light of a thousand suns”…

We got up at 6:30am this morning (man, that’s early!) and after grabbing breakfast at the hotel, we headed about 85 miles south of Albuquerque to the town of San Antonio, NM.  San Antonio is the jumping-off place to Stallion Gate, the northwest entrance to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and Trinity Site.  I used to enter WSMR thru this gate back in the early 80’s when coming back from White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) in Los Cruces.

But before we left San Antonio I stopped and filled up at the one and only gas station in town. We had read that they also have fantastic homemade fudge, and it looked great. So we decided to stop back by on our way out of town.

After making the 12 mile drive out to SR 525 we turned south and entered Stallion Gate about 3 miles later. They had people handing out directions and security guards checking I.D.

Then it was another 14 miles out to Trinity Site itself.

Along the way we came across this sign several times.


If I hadn’t seen this sign in 2007 when we visited the WSMR Missile Museum I would have been very confused. This is an Oryx. And Oryx are native to Africa, specifically the Kalahari desert area. So what the heck were they doing here?

It turns out that in late 70’s, 93 Oryx were brought over from Africa and their offspring were introduced into the White Sands Missile Range. They were expected to stay on the Range, but apparently the Oryx didn’t read the signs and they began to wander far and wide as now animals have been spotted from 60 miles south of Albuquerque all the way down to West Texas.

And without any natural predators their population exploded. The coyotes and mountain lions in the area were no match for the large antelope with their razor-sharp horns.

Someone then looked at importing the Oryx’s natural enemy. But this came to a screeching halt when it was discovered that the Oryx’s natural enemy were lions. And no one could get the lions to promise to stay on the Range either.

So now there are over 5000 Oryx in the White Sands area, more than there are in the Kalahari.

It’s not smart to mess with Mother Nature.

Arriving at the Trinity Site parking area about 10 am, we found a large number of visitors already there.

Making our way to the entrance, we encountered Jumbo.


Originally it was 25 feet long, 12 feet in diameter, and weighed 214 tons!

This is what it looked like 1945.

Jumbo 2

Before testing the first A-bomb, called Fat Man, scientist were worried about whether the bomb would actually work the first time.

The bomb was to be triggered by a large conventional explosion which would then trigger the chain reaction. But, if the chain reaction didn’t occur, they didn’t want the precious plutonium scattered all over the area. But by the time of the first test, scientist were more confident of the bomb’s success, and Jumbo wasn’t used. Later the Air Force detonated 8 500 pound bombs in Jumbo, blowing out the ends as seen here.

Next we made the 1/2 mile walk to the fenced-in area of Ground Zero itself. There in front of us was the marker commemorating the first A-bomb.



Nearby are the remains of the 100 foot tower that held the bomb before the test.

TowerRemains 1

TowerRemains 2

This shows what a 10 million degree fireball will do to solid steel. And here’s what the tower looked like before.

Fat Man Tower

Also inside the fenced area was a mockup of the Fat Man bomb itself.

Fat Man 2

Fat Man

There’s a joke here, but I won’t go there.

Ground Zero is littered with Trinitite, a green rock/glass, created by the searing heat as it fused the sand into glass. It is a Federal Offense to remove any of this from the area.


Trinity Site is an eerie place to visit. It’s hard to imagine the destructive forces unleashed here, even hotter than the surface of the sun. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell anything ever happened here.

The scrub grass looks the same here as it does miles away. There is no crater remaining. In fact the original crater was only about 4 feet deep and 240 feet in diameter, more of a small depression, rather than a distinct crater.

The observers were in a bunker about two miles away when the bomb went off. Windows were blown out 120 miles away and the shockwave was felt 160 miles away. Other observers, 10 miles away, said they could feel the heat, like opening up an oven door.

To conceal the test, the Army said that a munitions storage area had accidently exploded at the Alamogordo Bombing Range. The secret wasn’t revealed until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th.

Leaving the site about 11:30 am, we were glad we had come early. There was a solid line of cars, about a mile long, lined up at the gate waiting to get in.


Arriving back in San Antonio, we decided to eat lunch at the Owl Cafe and Bar, one of only two restaurants in town. I had read about their great green chile cheeseburgers and we wanted to give them a try.

The place was already pretty busy and we waited about 10 minutes to put in our orders. A little later waiters were telling their tables that the food would be a “long” time, as a tour bus had come thru and they were being served first. Well, didn’t we feel special!

While waiting, I pulled out my Blackberry Storm 2 and started checking the Internet for recent reviews of this place. And they were uniformly bad. After talking it over, I left a $5 bill for my ice tea and we hit the road.

To the gas station right next door with the great fudge. And this time the reviews were right. The fudge is fantastic.

About 10 miles down the road we stopped at K-Bob’s Steakhouse, a western chain of restaurants. And I had a fantastic green chile cheeseburger, so there!

After topping off the tank at the station next door, we headed for Gallup, NM where we are going to spend the night.

Tomorrow, on our way back to Las Vegas, we plan on stopping off at the Petrified Forest National Park about 65 miles west of Gallup. The Painted Desert is also part of this, so we have a lot to see.

And now I have some sad news to report.

Moose is gone. Or rather, Moose 2 is gone.


This is 2nd Moose Antenna that has been stolen by nefarious moosenapping thieves, probably to be stripped for parts and sold on the black market.

He will be sorely missed, but quickly replaced by Moose 3. Or maybe Mickey Mouse, or an M&M.

Fame is fickle.