Our next target was Santa Fe, about a five-hour drive away. It was a pretty easy drive so Mike wasn't too tired this time. We settled into the Santa Fe Skies RV Park, another quiet rural place about ten miles outside of Santa Fe. We had barely set down our leveling jacks when we saw a pack of four bunnies hopping around. Then we were treated to a beautiful New Mexico sunset. It was going to be a nice time. :)
We were disappointed to find that our replacement turntable for the microwave had not arrived yet, but we'll be here for over a week. Meanwhile a paper plate is filling the void.
That evening we met Val and Jim Smith from Asheville, NC, walking their dog Lovey. They recognized us from Moab; they had been next to us at Portal RV and apparently Mike's catbox is pretty hard to forget. We had a wonderful conversation about pets and traveling; they have two cats in addition to the dog. I hope we see more of them.
Albuquerque was about 45 minutes away and would afford our first major shopping opportunity since Las Vegas, almost a month ago. There was also the issue of my hair. I'd been putting it off, but the brown roots and the shaggy bangs were demanding attention. I'd thought I could get it done in Santa Fe, but it turned out all the yelp-recommended salons were well booked (and also pretty proud of themselves). I found a salon in ABQ, booked an appointment and crossed my fingers. As luck would have it, there was a Supercuts in the same shopping center as my salon, so Mike could get his own new 'do.
After the personal grooming was done and we had a spot of lunch, we headed for the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, a mouthful of a name which had good reviews on TripAdvisor. New Mexico is atomic central because of the Manhattan Project and its subsequent influence on the state, and the museum had plenty to offer on that haunting subject. Walls full of photographs and placards laid out the historical development of nuclear science. Uranium fission was first discovered in Germany in 1938; how would things have been different if that discovery happened later, or if there had been no war going on at the time?
There was memorabilia from the "Secret Town", Los Alamos, where all the Allies' top scientists worked for years to develop an atomic weapon. There were replicas of "The Gadget", the original test atomic device, and replicas of the casings of Little Boy and Fat Man, the two bombs dropped in Japan. There was a framed, charred automobile license plate recovered from the Nagasaki site.
There was a 1942 custom Packard limosine that had been used to transport scientists from the nearest railway station to remote Los Alamos. This vehicle was discovered rusting in a Gallup salvage yard in 2005 and restored for the museum!
The displays moved forward in time to the post-WWII arms race and the Cold War. The case shown at right was chock-full of litereture on civil defense and the hazards of radiation. It made me remember my grandmother's storm cellar which doubled as a fallout shelter.
The museum had a taste of everything nuclear, including the evolution of missiles intended to deliver atomic weapons. In the 1970s, Mike worked at Vandenberg AFB on the Minuteman program. The photo at left shows a Minuteman re-entry vehicle for a nuclear warhead. This particular one was actually shot into space to test the heat shield.
Outside the museum was a boneyard with several military airplanes and fragments of various missiles. Mike was especially excited to see the B-52; his best buddy in the AF had flown them, and Mike had never actually been near one before.
Also on display was a WWII B-29 Flying Fortress, the same type of bomber that delivered the two nukes to Japan. The museum has a campaign going to raise money to restore this particular plane.
It had been a full and successful day. We left the city shopping behind at 75 mph - yes, that's the speed limit - and returned to our peaceful country spot in time for another lovely sunset.