Daily Archives: July 16, 2020

A Big Boom & ‘the light of a thousand suns’ . . .

And we’ve been there.

Today was mostly a stay-at-the-rig day, except for running out to Denny’s for supper about 5pm.

The Ford Fusion we rented is not bad, not quite as nice as the Chevy Malibu’s we’ve rented in the past, but certainly not as bad as the Hyundai  Elantra we rented for a week and took back for something else after one day. I think that was the most uncomfortable car I’ve ever driven, and Jan agreed with me.


75 years ago today, at 5:29 am, the world entered the Atomic Age when the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site on what was then the USAAF Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, now part of White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, NM.

While waiting for the explosion, the scientists took dollar bets on how big the yield from the bomb would be. Edward Teller took 45,000 tons of TNT, Robert Oppenheimer bet 3,000 tons, Isidor Rabi bet 18,000 tons, Hans Bethe had 8,000 tons, and Enrico Fermi took side bets on incinerating the state of New Mexico or the entire planet.

With the explosion measuring 19,000 tons of TNT, Isidor Rabi won the pot. And I  guess everyone was glad Enrico Fermi’s bets didn’t pan out.

Meanwhile, a young Richard Feynman reasoned that the only real danger from the bomb at that distance was from hard ultraviolet rays, so he sat in an Army truck and watched from behind the protective glass windscreen, making him the only one to see the test with the naked eye.


April 3, 2010

“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.

Some people were worried about residual radiation, but a two-hour visit delivers a dose of alpha particles and gamma rays equal to about a tenth of the radiation that a person soaks up during a chest X-ray.

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 Café 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.

July 16, 2013

Who Needs A Water Park . . .

to get soaking wet, when all you need is a JetBoat.


Who knew that Camping World and Amazon were in on the scam too.

Peter must be so upset.

First off I want to thank everyone for their comments and support after yesterday’s blog. It’s much appreciated.

A couple of readers had asked about these ‘Cheater’ Boxes. And yes, that’s what they’re called, “Cheater Boxes”, and how they differ from what I did.

30 amp + 20 amp Cheater Box

30 amp 20 amp Cheater Box

These adapters plug into both the 30 amp and 20 amp receptacles on your pedestal, giving you a 50 amp supply.

Kind of.

Many RV’ers don’t realize that what we get from a 50 amp receptacle on a pedestal is actually two 50 amp circuits, for a total of 100 amps. That’s why you see two ganged circuit breakers in the box.

So this adapter actually gives you half of what you get from a normal 50 amp circuit, but it would allow you to run both AC’s

Kind of.

The one drawback with these adapters is that many times they don’t work. If the 20 amp receptacle on the pedestal has a GFCI on it, and most now days do, then this adapter will not work. It will pop the GFCI as soon as it’s plugged in.

So as Emily Latella says, “Never Mind”.

Since these adapters usually cost over $100, you might want think twice about getting one for the few times you would need it and be able to use it.


On a more fun note, Jan and I headed out about 10am for breakfast at Mitzi’s and then a couple of boat rides, one slow, and one fast.

Very, very fast.

So after a really good breakfast at Mitzi’s Family Restaurant, we headed down to The Original Wisconsin Ducks dock for a one hour, half land, half water tour through the Wisconsin Dells along the Wisconsin River.

We’ve taken Duck rides all over country, from Seattle to San Francisco to Washington and Philadelphia, and the Wisconsin Ducks are different.

First off, there are two duck companies here in the Wisconsin Dells, the only place in the country where that is true. In fact, starting 1946, the Dells was the first place in the country to have a Duck ride. And the back and forth story of the ducks is kind of interesting. Here’s the Wikipedia story.

In 1946 a Milwaukee native named Mel Flath brought the first amphibious truck (DUKW) to the Wisconsin Dells. It was an impulse buy that he had made at a government auction in California; the trip’s purpose had been to purchase war surplus trucks. Mel opened the “Dells Amphibian Line”, which gave 90-minute tours in the Wisconsin River, exposing tourists to the area’s famous sandstone formations. Mel eventually sold his duck fleet to the Associated Boat lines in 1952, which renamed the company the Wisconsin Ducks, Inc. In 1952 the Wisconsin Ducks, founded by Jack B. Olson, began offering tours of the river dells and adjacent areas using decommissioned amphibious DUKW vehicles from World War II. However, duck competition was far from over after the 1952 sale. Flath opened up a duck ride again briefly from 1964 to 1966. When he was bought out again, the Soma Boat Company opened its own duck ride on Mirror Lake, near Lake Delton, which it called the Aquaducks. In response to the competition, Wisconsin Ducks, Inc. assumed the name “Original Wisconsin Ducks”. Aquaducks existed from 1968 until its sale to the boat lines in 1976. In 1977 yet another duck ride began, this one by Flath’s daughter and son-in-law, George and Suzanne Field, named Dells Duck Tours, Inc., operating from the same property as Mel had 30 years earlier. This time sporting a red, white and blue exterior, these ducks, while not the “original” ducks that were first brought to the dells, were still World War II production models. Today, the Dells Duck Tours, Inc. are known as the Dells Army Ducks after a paint scheme change in 2002.

The second thing is that this company has almost 90 ducks in service, not the 3 or 4 that most companies have. In fact this is the first time we taken a Duck ride without having a reservation for a particular time. Here you just show up whenever, and catch the next Duck, with one leaving every few minutes.

As it turned out, our Duck was a WWII original. Built in 1942, our Duck really looks it. It’s amazing that these things, built over 70 years ago, still are making 6 to 8 tours a day.

Wisconsin Ducks 8

But some of them don’t survive. Here’s the Duck Graveyard.

Wisconsin Ducks 7

The third thing is that we had Jocelyn, our first female Duck driver.

And she drives the Duck like a Indy car driver. Every other Duck ride we’ve taken starts out putt-putting through town at a sedate 20 mph or so. But the Wisconsin Ducks have their own race course, errr, roads.

They have 8 miles of paved single-lane, one-way roads through the woods and hills along the Wisconsin River. And Jocelyn drives like something big and mean is chasing her.

The Duck is capable of about 50mph on land, and I swear she had it floored all the way. Some of the dips felt like being on a roller coaster. Pretty good for a Pre-Dental College student.

The other thing that was fun is that most Duck rides drive slowly down the ramp and into the water. Our Duck went blasting down the ramp and hit the water at about 20 mph throwing up a large wave all around to the squeals of the passengers.

Wisconsin Ducks 1

But besides the excitement, we did have some very scenic views along the river and through the woods, hills and dales. Or is that dells?

Wisconsin Ducks 2

Wisconsin Ducks 3

Wisconsin Ducks 4

The competition: Dells Army Ducks.

Wisconsin Ducks 5

Wisconsin Ducks 6

So after our best Duck ride ever, we headed back into town for our next boat, the Dell’s JetBoat Ride

The one we were riding on, the Condor, is the fastest and most powerful on the river. At over 55mph, and with 3 400+hp V-8 engines, it literally flies across the water.

And stops on a dime. And then the bow digs in. And then a huge wave comes over the bow and soaks everyone.

The JetBoat’s other trick is to be bombing along at 50+ mph and then the pilot cranks the wheel all the way over. The boat goes into a flat spin, traveling 360 degrees, and then comes around and back out the same direction. Without ever slowing down.

But with the obligatory large wave washing over the side of the boat.

The trip out wasn’t too bad since we had a trailing wind for the most part. But coming back to the dock, the headwind sent the water over the bow with a vengeance. And we got soaked to the bone.

In fact we were so wet that on our way back to the rig, we stopped off to get the truck washed. And the bills in my wallet were so wet, the machine wouldn’t take them. Luckily I had a plastic bag that kept my camera dry for the most part.

But the ride was a blast!

And the scenery was great too.

JetBoat 6

JetBoat 1

JetBoat 2

JetBoat 3

JetBoat 4

JetBoat 5

Tomorrow, a train ride.

Thought for the Day:

“Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.” — Abraham Lincoln


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