arizona by road

what a weird world

Near Thanksgiving of the year 2010, we set out from California with the destination of the Grand Canyon. We rented a 4x4, expecting harsh conditions, but got more than we counted on when we hit a whiteout blizzard just north of Flagstaff. So instead we turned south, exploring all the weird stuff in the desert near Tucson. And believe me, there's plenty of weird stuff down there.

Titan Nuclear ICBM Silo

Just outside of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum. The museum is a former nuclear ICBM silo, and visitors tour underground through silo itself and the control bunker. Tucson was one of three cities in the United States to host a battalion of 18 Titan ICBM silos in operation between 1963 to 1987 (the others were Little Rock in Arkansas, and Wichita in Kansas). This is the only preserved Titan missile site left; the others have all been scrapped or destroyed.

Biosphere 2

North of Tucson by about an hour, in what is an otherwise desolate, arid area, is an enormous structure of glass triangles and geodesic domes. In all the crazy things I've seen, there really is no comparison. This is the Biosphere 2, so named because the Earth's natural biosphere (a.k.a. the environment) is Biosphere 1, and so this building houses the sequel. Yes, you read that correct, it is as crazy as it sounds. A crazy rich futurist Texan (not Ross Perot) was obsessed with human colonization of space in a serious way. Not just content to support NASA and let them take care of the details, he instead constructed this sealed environment, imported dozens of species of flora and fauna into five discrete environmental "biomes" (desert, tropical rainforest, ocean, savanna, and wetlands), and locked up a team of willing participants inside for two years to see what happened. There are articles and books written about the whole thing if you want the full story.

Arcosanti

In the middle of Arizona lies a very unusual community. Beginning in the 1970s, conceptual architect Paolo Soleri realized his dream of creating an arcology a blend of architecture and ecology. His experiment, called Arcosanti, explores "a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban form that is the opposite of urban sprawl." [source] The arcology is a proof-of-concept that living areas and working areas, including industrial facilities, can be in close proximity to one another, using architecture designed to create separate but intertwined spaces in a small volume.

And more...

We also visited Kitt Peak (a mountaintop covered in observatories), Tombstone (the real-life town that hosted the Gunfight at the OK Corral), Montezuma Castle (a Native-American fortress carved into the side of a cliff), and stopped at many other minor sights in between. We will have to return one day, too, since we missed visiting the Boneyard, where all the old aircraft are stored for eventual deconstruction.

The beautiful red rocks of Sedona Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Montezuma's Castle Arcosanti—an arcology Kitt Peak Observatory Looking up the tube of the Solar Observatory Titan ICBM Biosphere 2 The ductwork beneath Biosphere 2 The rainforest habitat in Biosphere 2 The massive "lungs" of Biosphere 2 which keep the air pressure stabilized with the outside world

First published on 26 Nov 2010; last updated on 28 Jan 2017.

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