I’ve never been to Chicago before until I did extended layovers between train rides out west and back. Chicago is a pretty neat city. It has a nice mix of old and new buildings. At least one really neat park. [There are probably more, but I didn’t get to them.] It also has a really nice riverwalk along parts of the Chicago River. It is definitely a city that I need to get back to and explore more. Note to any engineers or geeks reading this: If you are in Chicago, go see the historic water tower. It is a gorgeous building that was built to house a standpipe. Across the street is a pumping station in an equally gorgeous building. You can actually go into the pumping station and walk along a small portion of a balcony to see the pipes and pumps.
Previously I visited the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-01 which was the launch control center as well as where the crew lived. Yesterday, I visited the Delta-09 site, which was where an actual missile was. The missile with the nuclear warhead has been removed, but there is an unarmed missile in it now, so visitors can see what it looked like. You can walk around the surface, which is a fairly small area, but you can see some of the support infrastructure like an antenna and manholes.
In the photo above, you can see lines of vegetation. The entire area was mainly devoid of vegetation, but the vegetation it did have followed neat lines. I can’t figure out why, and I presume it has nothing to do with the site. I considered if the site had water pipes, perhaps if they were leaking, then vegetation might follow along the pipes, but I am fairly sure there are no water pipes. I know some plants develop root runners, but I have never seen any that are that linear. If anyone knows why plants would do this, I would love it if they would leave me a comment.
I took a ride today on the 1880 Train, whose route goes back and forth between Hill City and Keystone SD. It uses an old mining and mill railroad for its track. The round trip takes two hours, and it is a nice, relaxing ride through some beautiful countryside.
This afternoon was spent in the Black Hills. I first visited the Crazy Horse memorial being built. The scale of it is amazing. I spotted it from the road, and I was in awe. They are carving a sculpture out of an entire hill of rock. Only the face is complete thus far, but the work is impressive, and it is interesting to watch it being carved.
Next I visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I have to say, after visiting Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore was slightly underwhelming. The carving is really impressive, especially considering when it was all done without some of our modern day tools. However compared to Crazy Horse, it is kind of small. Calling Mt. Rushmore small is ridiculous, but in comparison, it is.
After visiting Devil’s Tower, I decided to visit Deadwood just because. I took the scenic route through Spearfish Canyon. If you ever in the area, I highly recommend this scenic drive. It is lovely. I then arrived in Deadwood and had only been there for a short time before a gun fight broke out. No worries, it was on schedule. They have a gun fight several times a day, every day, although this may only be in the summer. There is a fight over a card game, and then a dual on the street. Of course all I was thinking was wondering if these actors wore ear protection because that’s the type of person I am. In any event, many of buildings in Deadwood have been restored to their original design. The buildings are kind of neat. The old train station is now the visitor’s center. Much of downtown though is casinos and tourist shops, so if you are not into those activities, and I am not, Deadwood only needs to be a short visit. Unless you just like watching fake gun fights.
Today started with a trip to a bit of a hidden site, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. National Park Service offers tours of one of the launch control facilities that could launch the missiles sitting in underground silos. Above ground are the support facilities, which on the outside look a bit like a pre-fabricated house or some small commercial building. The underground launch control center was connected by cable to ten missile in underground silos that it could launch. The control center was also connected to other launch control centers that could launch its own missiles. I found the tour rather interesting, but I also found it somewhat unnerving. The visitor’s center has a nice exhibit about not only the site but also the arms race and the members of the military who worked at these sites. The visitor’s center also has information about close calls during the Cold War. I found it all scary. I also consider current events, and it still scares me.
Inside, the above ground facilities pretty much resemble a dormitory. About the only way it differs from a dormitory is the security room, which is far more equipped than any college campus.
Through the security room is an elevator and ladder to the underground portion.
The underground portion consists of a small locker area that then leads to a giant steel door to the launch control center.
The launch control center is enclosed in a giant steel cylindrical container.
There are numerous support utilities connected to the launch control center. The center was made to withstand a nuclear blast, although not a direct hit. Numerous cables connects the center to the missiles it could launch as well as the command centers. It has support utilities like electricity and air.
Inside is rather antiquated looking equipment that could have been used to start World War III.
Last week I went to historic St. Michaels, where I walked around town and also visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. St. Michaels is a cute little town with many shops selling interesting items, especially items with a crab theme. The museum is nice and informative. It focuses on the Chesapeake Bay’s history, economy, and people. I also got a chance to cruise aboard the Schooner Sultana. The Sultana is a reproduction of a merchant vessel that served in the British Royal Navy from 1768 to 1772.
While in Boston for a few days, my friend Kristen said I need to get out the city and see Massachusetts’s northern shore. I think she was hunting lighthouses, but I was just looking for pretty views and classic New England. We found all of that visiting Gloucester and Rockport.
While in Boston, I walked the entire 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. It is a nice walk except for avoiding all the street construction. I have to admit also, as a tourist, it is nice not to really have to check a map, but rather just follow a red brick path in the sidewalks. I previously posted photos of the Massachusetts State House and the Bunker Hill Monument. Here are a few more photos from sites and just views along the Freedom Trail.
A brief explanation of why I am posting the below photo. There is a T (subway) train station right below the Old State House, with an entrance through the building. As an engineer, I find this amazing. Consider how old the building is and the studies of the building that must have occurred to determine it could handle both the space being dug out of its foundation and also the ability to take vibrations from the subway and people going in and out of it.
I was in Boston for a few days, and I decided to walk the Freedom Trail. I got to the Bunker Hill Monument, and I was told I should go to the top because the views are great. This seemed like a perfectly good reason to climb 294 steps. My legs afterwards had some thoughts on this idea. Anyway, here are some photos from the top, so you don’t have to climb it.