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The Great Southwest
Titan, Trinity, and other legends of old
Route 66  (some of the same pictures)

The Southwest 2006
    This is the most desolate, mysterious, and unsettled (if not unsettling) part of the lower 48. Ironically, though these were some of the earliest areas to be explored by Europeans, these were some of the last parts of the country to be settled, and in many ways still don't seem to be quite connected to the rest of the nation. There are Indian reservations out here, and cities which seem more Mexican than American. There are also great stretches of country which seem to contain nothing at all. Changed from my first visit years ago, is the attitude of peaceful coexistence. There is a real problem down here now, and it will not be solved by using amnesty to shuffle the problem off into the future.
    I had been this way before, several years ago, and had decided to expand my visit a bit. On my previous trip, I had come to see the Grand Canyon. This time, my goal was the Trinity Site, location of the test site of the first nuclear explosion. Trinity is open two days a year, on the first Saturday of April, and the first Saturday of October. The rest of the year it is restricted. The site itself is within the White Sands Missile Range. White sands is one of a number of restricted sites, in this desolate area, used by the government to test newly developed weapons. Area 51 is another, as is the Nevada Test site, where there have been more nuclear weapons exploded, than anywhere else in the world.
    Arizona is one of the two fastest growing states in the country, the other being Nevada, so it will likely not be so desolate for very much longer. There are the usual sunbirds, and retirees, coming here; but there is also a large contingent of those who are seeking escape from California. The Golden State has lost much of it's luster, over the last decade or so. It has become an expensive, over regulated nightmare, for much of it's population. The descendants of many who sought freedom and opportunity in the California of a generation or two ago, are now looking east, to the comparative freedom and opportunity of these sparsely populated, and more open states. In their own way, however, these people will probably ruin the place, just as California has been ruined. Phoenix is already becoming a miniature Los Angeles. People need food, water, power, and a transportation grid, none of which exists here naturally.
      One of the things which struck me, about this part of the country on my last visit, is the multiple personality that seems to pervade the Southwest. There are the big cities, like Phoenix, which could be on the east coast, or west coast. There are also the ranches of the old west, as well as the remnants of Old Mexico. Though there is considerable history here, the place has not been exploited to the extent of the coasts, or the midwest. This is subject to change, of course; but I wonder how much further the population can grow here. The wisdom of locating huge metro areas, like Phoenix, in a land with no water, little arable land, great heat, and few usable natural resources, has always escaped me. Life here is fragile, hugely artificial, and very dependent on the outside. These places have only yielded to the intrusion of man, with great reluctance, and considerable effort, and planning. They have also, traditionally, only yielded to rather small concentrations of population.
      It's very emptiness, and the need to change it, in order to make it habitable, is what makes the land here, a chameleon of sorts. This land requires a firm hand, to be shaped into something that a human can call home. A variety of hands, of different generations, have shaped this area in a variety of different ways. There are few natural lines of least resistance to a land like this, so the geography here has less influence on the shape of life here, than is the case in other parts of the country.
      In the East, Midwest, and North, a man looks at the land, and decides what it might be best suited for. Here, man works against the land, or ignores it, shaping it to suit his tastes and needs. It is, compared to the more habitable parts of the country, a blank slate. Where a midwesterner might look at a plot of land and think that it might be a good place to graze cattle, grow wheat, or plant corn, a southwesterner looks at the land, and nothing in particular suggests itself. So since the land must be adapted, no matter what he may want to do with it, he first decides what he want to do, and then determines what will need to be done to the land. So the land here, at least where man has settled, is less a reflection of it's natural forces, and more a reflection of the people who have settled.
     This land is also slower to change itself, and thus slower to reverse the effects of man. In the midwest, we have old towns, logging camps, and even factories, from 100 or so years ago, which have been abandoned, and have virtually disappeared back into the landscape, except for their very foundations. In the southwest, there are old Indian settlements from hundreds, even thousands of years ago, which are still well preserved, except for disruptions from looters, or vandals.
      With people pouring into the southwest, particularly Arizona, it is hard to say into what profile the land might be shaped in the next generation or so. The only certainty here, is that the land will different. Some feel that the influx if illegals will make this into a virtual clone of Mexico. Others see it being transformed into a sunbird community, like Florida, still others see it becoming the next California, the way California was before being ruined. Too bad. I like the Southwest, and will miss it, after it is gone. This will take twenty to fifty years to occur, so I will go back. I want to see the area again, before it is changed into something else.
Return to the Southwest, and to the South.
This was my second visit to the Southwest. This Time, it was to visit the Trinity Site, as well as Carslbad Caverns, and the Standin on The Corner Festival, in Winslow Arizona. In addition, I rode to the top of Sandia Peak, took a short tour of Albuquerque, saw a bit of old Tucson, and traveled through south and west Texas. I spent a night in Roswell, NM; but was not kidnapped by aliens.
Photos Comments
Starting Out
The first day, was mostly a matter of mileage. Though I generally hate to travel this way, most of the places through which I traveled on day one, are places to which I have been many times.
Missouri, the Ozarks, and the Bible belt
The Midwest merges with the South, and the Southwest, as we cross Missouri.
First Night, and oversleeping in Oklahoma
After a pretty rigorous first day, I spend the night in my van at a truck stop and then sleep half of the second day away in Elk City Oklahoma
Flying through Texas
The largest of the lower 48, offers everything from plains to mountains, and desert to grasslands, with even a bit of forest thrown in here and there.
New Mexico
Land of enchantment, by it's own admission. Actually, this is not too far from the truth. Though I am more spellbound by the northern mountains in Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, New Mexico, and the rest of the Southwest, have a unique feel, and flavor.
Old Route 66
Old Route 66 touches, and blends with Albuquerque. This is one of the few places where the old road is almost exactly what you expect it to be.
KiMo Theater
Albuquerque's marvelous old KiMo theater, on America's marvelous old Route 66. Sadly, you can not simply go in and wee a movie; but the theater is open to visitors, during the day, and offers live performances at night.
Atomic Museum
This place is worth a visit, if you pass anywhere nearby. Whatever you didn't know about atomic weapons, or atomic energy, you can learn here.
From a little railroad town in the middle of nowhere, this has turned into one of America's great cities. There is a major university here, as well as industry, and some of the worlds premier R&D labs.
Sandia Peak
A visit to some of the mountains around Albuquerque. These peaks host skiers in the winter, hikers in the summer, and tourists all year long. There is a managed forest at the top, as well as hiking trails, food, and a little stone cabin.
Grand Canyon
I have been here before; but this place leaves an impression that lingers. A few days here, looking at the bones of the world, and several billion years worth of rock formations remind you that our 80 year life span is just a drop in the bucket.
Standin on the corner
Standin on the corner in Winslow Arizona. A neat little place, and the stereotypical American small town, in the middle of nowhere. An icon of old Route 66, and a pilgrimage, of sorts, for those os us who survived the sixties.
Southern Arizona
Cacti, mountains, and roads twisting through the desert, are just what one would expect form Arizona.
Titan Missile Museum
The last existing base for the largest, and most powerful ICBM America has ever produced. These missiles are no longer active.
On The Border
A very odd, and very desolate stretch of America, always in sight of the mountains of Mexico.
Carlsbad Cavern
This place is just too amazing for words, and even   the photos do not even remotely do justice to it. You have to see it to believe it.
Southern New Mexico (Roswell, and Carizozo)
Hot and desolate, the border area is the very definition of the middle of nowhere.
The site of the first ever nuclear explosion, and open to the public only two days a year. A most desolate place, it is located in the middle of cacti, scorpions, and lots of sand.