Of Missiles and Birds

I spent a couple days in Santa Fe with some friends from Knoxville. It was a nice visit with several nice meals in their home and eateries in Santa Fe. I mostly went back into my homebody mode. I was given a copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitare, which some weeks later I did finally start reading and enjoying. After breakfast and a shower, I set back on my way.

I was headed to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, which my Santa Fe friend had recommended with some urgency. In an email prior to my visit he said:

You can park your camper in the wildlife refuge at night so you’ll be awake at dawn to watch the display. You may say, “But I’m not interested in birds!” Doesn’t matter. Being in the Bosque this time of year is like being present at the dawn of creation, and who would miss that opportunity?

He was right. I’m not interested in birds. I admitted that seeing the earth as it was over 5000 years ago did sound pretty amazing. He was also right that it didn’t matter. The birds, as you’ll see, were pretty spectacular, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The birds were not that far from Santa Fe, and it made sense to find
something to do before I got down to birdland, as I was under the impression that dawn was the best time to see the dawn of creation. I headed to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. It turned out to be more aptly named “The Museum of Nuclear Bombs.” It was pretty cool. I expected there to be some entry fee, but I just walked on in and started following behind a group that was apparently on some kind of tour. I was not clear whether it was acceptable for me to be listening in, so I stayed toward the back of the crowd.

I noticed a woman whose hair was in a bun and thought that it looked surprisingly like a friend I knew from attending AERA conferences. I discounted that since a bun is a bun and what would she be doing here, anyway? A few minutes later, she turned around, and lo! It was my friend. I had totally forgotten that she was teaching science education at the nearby University of New Mexico. We were both rather surprised to see each other. She, of course, remembered that I was on a little trip and reminded me that she had invited me to come visit. Oops. It had been six months since the invite, and my notes were not very good.

We visited as long as we could, as she was supposed to be on the tour with her group of science teachers. We talked about having lunch or dinner or something, but her dance card was full, so we bid farewell, and I went back to looking at nuclear bombs and stuff.

I think that this thing was a nuclear bomb that never really got built. Those pairs of wires all detonate dynamite or some other explosive that shoots the uranium together to get the critical mass necessary for the chain reaction that makes the thing go boom. There are pairs of them in case one of them doesn’t work.


Outside they had cool stuff like a bunch of guided missiles. There are bunch of older men there who walk around begging to tell you stuff about the place. I also got to look at the bomb bay of a B52.


They had some rockets there too, the kind of rocket that you would use if you wanted, say, to participate in global thermonuclear war.


After contemplating ways to foster the end of Earth as we know it, I resumed my trip to see the beginning of it. I thought I would first go see where the refuge was so that I could find it in the morning. I noticed a bunch of cars stopped on the side of the road near some water. There were a bunch of birds coming in to go swimming and a bunch of people with Really Big Lenses, if you know what I mean.


I tried to get some pictures, but this was one of the few times that the length of my lens made me feel inferior. I did my best to get some good shots, but you may just have to take my word on this, it was pretty cool seeing hundreds of really big birds coming in and landing on the water. There was also a woman there with one of Walden’s brothers. We talked for a while about the birds and the fact that this weekend was the 24th Annual Festival of the Cranes. I included a link so that you would know that I was not making this up. I pondered whether I should prolong me stay to commune with the birders.


Since I was unable to get great shots of birds, I took this great shot of a bird photographer. Those black specs near the top of the picture are, I think, sand hill cranes with six foot wingspans.


As it got darker and darker my little lens, with not only it’s short length, but also tiny F3.5 aperture became more and more incapable. I got one last shot of the birds coming in and headed up to a campground a half a mile away.


After the birds went to bed I went and got a spot at a campground down the way and went to dinner at the Buckhorn Tavern, whose claim to fame is that it won in a Bobby Flay Throwdown. I had the famed hamburger with the green chilies and it was, in fact, pretty tasty. Walden and I returned to the campground, plugged him in the shore power, and settled in for the night. In this land of birds, I couldn’t get connected to the campground’s WIFI, but I learned that my 3G phone’s connection is fast enough to use Skype when tethered to my computer. Who knew?

If you want to see a few more birds or missiles, look here.

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