Titan Missile Museum

Growing up in the 80s, my big fear was nuclear war. I knew that lurking across the ocean were the commies and their arsenal of missiles, just waiting to nuke us if they had the chance. I saw "The Day After", so I knew what was in store for us if they ever did push the button.

Well, the 80s passed, The Wall came down, and we're still here to reminisce about the good old days of listening to "Flock of Seagulls" songs and dying of radiation sickness. The silos for the Titan II missiles that were our defense against the commies have all be decommissioned, and now, we've got even better weapons to nuke them if things go south. But there is one Titan II silo left, and you can tour it to enjoy all the Cold War fun your heart can stand.

South of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley where you can get up close and personal with how the facility worked, and the life of the operators that were responsible for these massive towers of death. We have a lot of things in Michigan, but enormous nuclear missiles (or even small nuclear missiles) is not one of them.

The tour starts with a brief introductory video in a briefing room, with a explanation of why the silos were there, and a quick overview of how the silo worked. The tour moves outside to get a look at the surface security systems, so the commies couldn't sneak up on the site operators. It was pretty sophisticated stuff, both from the technology and the process operators went through when a relief crew came to man the silo.

Next, the tour continues down the stairs to the actual operations room. Passing through a serious blast door, there is an in-depth look at the procedures and equipment that the operators used to monitor the systems, and the sequence of events they would go through in order confirm a launch order, and actually launch a missile. I especially liked the red box of secret codes. I miss the old days when our enemies spoke with Russian accents and wore trench coats.

The actual console where the operators could launch a missile. Part of the tour involved a simulation of the command codes coming through the speakers, which the operators would have to verify before they could launch the missile. There were all kinds of steps to go through, and I can't remember all checks that were required to make sure a launch request was valid. There certainly wouldn't be an accidental launches. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's a good thing.

The tour proceeds down a long corridor to view the actual missile. Yep, it's still there, but without its teeth - no warhead and no engine. The tour concludes with returning to the surface and a look at the missile from above, as well as the engine, the silo cover, and a closer look at some of the surface defenses. The tour concludes with a look in the gift shop. Of course. I couldn't resist buying the Nuclear War card game that kept my friends and I entertained in high school.

History and military devotees will love the look into the Titan Missile Museum. Though the danger of missiles flying out of the silo are long gone, it's still Arizona, you have to watch your head, and your feet. And probably other body parts, too.

Mission Xavier del Bac

Our last day in Tucson took us south of the city to the beautiful Mission Xavier del Bac, the oldest European building in Arizona. Though well outside of the main tourist spots of Tucson, it's still very well attended, and once you're there, it's easy to see why. Whitewashed exterior, beautiful Baroque interior, and that feel of south of the border religion that was far different from the church I attend. Mine has a lot less gilding. There is something to be said for those 18th century Spanish architects.

The interior was loaded with figures and artwork, and an interior you would expect to see in a remote corner of the desert.

The wind-blow dust and sand gave the place a remote feeling even with a parking lot full of cars. I wanted to put on my Lawrence of Arabia robes and march out into the desert to explore. But, it was hot, and the though our rental Sentra's air conditioning didn't work that well, it was better than nothing, which is what I would have had out there in the rocky scrubland.

The small museum just to the east of the nave had a model of the mission, as well as clothing and items used in the times of the Spanish. The covered walkways allowed the view of the courtyard and fountain, and beyond that, a wide field of greenery north towards Tucson. And a gift shop, of course.

Read more about the mission at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Xavier_del_Bac

Sabino Canyon, Tucson

As I researched our nine-day trip to Tucson, Sabino Canyon was listed on the "things you must do or you won't be invited back". Though I didn't check "Cat Fancy", I'm sure they would also have put Sabino in that category as well.

The big appeal of the canyon is the hiking, and it is a big appeal - it was easily the busiest trail of the half-dozen or so on which I hiked in the Tucson area. The entry fee gets you into the parking lots, and the optional shuttle ride provides a narrated ride to any of the nine stops along the paved road that goes three miles into the canyon. It's a relaxing ride up, and the driver provided lots of interesting information about the canyon history and flora / fauna.