April 14, 2016


“The universe is a pretty big place.  If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”  Carl Sagan, “Contact”

Carol writes:  As the calendar page flipped over to April, we were looking forward to spending four days camping in New Mexico at the Kiva RV Park and Horse Hotel

with our Las Cruces friends Barb and Jim. 

Yes, this small family-run campground, along a very deserted stretch of I-25 south of Albuquerque, offers horse lovers a place to board their horses while they camp.

Photo courtesy of Barb

The entire campground was filled with chirping sounds of hundreds of black birds throughout the trees bordering each campsite. 


We arrived a day ahead of Barb and Jim, so we decided to take a drive to the central grasslands east of the interstate to visit the Abó Ruins site of the Salinas Pueblo Missions. 

Over 300 years ago, a community of pueblo Indians lived at Abó where they had developed an agricultural society. With the arrival of Spanish explorers in the late 1500s, and soon followed by the arrival of Franciscan priests from Spain, the Anasazi religious culture began to disappear as a result of massive conversions to Catholicism.

The remains of a 17th century multistory mission church integrated into the remains of a pueblo-dweller community,

including its kiva, was well represented at Abó.  

This snapshot of archeological remains in the Salinas Valley perfectly illustrated a unique time in early New Mexico history when a cultural mix occurred between the pueblo dwellers and the late 16th century Spanish Christian explorers.


A visit to the Very Large Array, the world’s most powerful radio astronomy observatory, had been on our bucket list for quite a long time.  Since the  Kiva Horse Motel was only 70 miles away, and we had gloriously clear blue New Mexico skies, we jumped at the opportunity.

This radio astronomy observatory consists of 27 giant dish antennas that are aimed day and night out into the universe surrounding our planet for the purpose of collecting radio waves traveling through the vastness of space.

These magnificent brilliant-white dishes are 82 feet in diameter and, depending on the study, are arranged in various configurations by means of movement on a transporter along railroad tracks.

The radio data from each telescope is combined and the numbers crunched by a state-of-the-art supercomputer to create a better image.
This mind-boggling observatory was an incredibly beautiful sight to behold in its chosen location in a vast rural desert with miles and miles of flat space surrounded by mountains in the distance.  The entire telescope array actually rotated simultaneously several times while we were there, and once nearly completed a revolution!  One can only wonder what source of invisible radio waves from outer space had grabbed its attention...

The talented scientists who work at the VLA are on the cutting edge of advancing our knowledge of the universe, from its creation in the ancient past to what may lie in the future.  It doesn’t get more profound than that…


Many months earlier in our travels at White Sands Missile Range we had learned that Trinity Site, ground zero for the detonation of the first atomic bomb in July 1945, was open to the public only two days a year—the first Saturdays in April and October.  Since we had planned to arrive in Colorado Springs in mid-April, the Trinity Site schedule coincided nicely with ours.  Barb and Jim had been to Trinity Site once before, but they were game to share a weekend of camping with us at the Horse Motel.  So, we broke out the cards, the marbles and our custom-made Carbles board and had several great games together.

While Barb stayed back at camp to sit with the pups, Jim accompanied us early Saturday morning as we headed out to Trinity Site.

Our first destination was to the McDonald Ranch House,

a modest stucco home with a tin roof where many of the scientists who designed the atomic bomb lived and worked.  The master bedroom was turned into a clean room for assembly of the bomb core.

The other rooms were poignant in their simplicity.

This thick-walled cement tank served double duty as a water reservoir and also as a swimming pool for much-needed relaxation.

Ground zero at Trinity Site was marked by a simple stone obelisk made out of lava rocks.

This display of “trinitite” (a light green glass-like substance formed out of grains of sand that have been fused by the intense heat of the blast) showed just how powerful the plutonium explosion was.

During his time at sea with the Navy, Al recalled solemn visits to Japanese memorial sites in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Al’s sea days had also taken him to the island of Tinian in the Marianas, the launching point for delivery of both atomic bombs.  Somehow the journey seemed complete with our visit to McDonald Ranch House where the bomb was assembled and, finally, to ground zero where nuclear bomb possibilities were born and... in the wrong hands... have been a threat to human existence ever since. 

“Two things are infinite:  the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  Albert Einstein

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