Margaritas, Missiles & Missions (by John)

National Margarita Day
While we were waiting for Tucson Dodge to service the truck, I learned that February 22nd was National Margarita Day. At least according to the chatty ladies on the TV, who were drinking from a fish bowl size margarita at 9:30 in the morning. How is it that I don’t know this stuff? Good thing the appointment for the truck was at 9:00 or I would have missed it.
I wasn’t done learning new stuff. The transmission overheated towing over the mountains coming in from California earlier this month, which I attributed to cockpit error. So when I scheduled the service I made sure it included exchanging all the fluids in the transmission. I also asked to talk to the mechanic, so before I left Ernie the transmission guy came out and we went over how to tow over mountains. Here’s what I learned: disable the cruise, lock out the overdrive and slow down. With the overdrive locked out, this will boost the engine rpms and improve cooling to the transmission. This also applies to towing down a grade, which was the new part (the transmission had actually overheated on the down side of the mountains). Boosting the engine rpms on the down grade will also help the exhaust brake limit the speed of the rig. Makes sense. Thanks Ernie.
Titan Missile Museum
The Cold War revisited
So we still had all afternoon to do something. Tucson has lots of stuff to do, but we decided to visit the Titan Missile Museum which included an actual missile silo with a real Titan II ICBM still in it. Cool. I didn’t know the Tucson area had any missile silos, but before the Dakotas became a nuclear power our Cold War policy of Mutual Assured Destruction depended on the Titan II missile sitting in 54 silos around  Tucson, Little Rock Arkansas, and Witchita, Kansas. This all came to an end in the 80s with the SALT agreements which included the destruction of all 54 silos and their Titan missiles with their nuclear payloads. We were happy to comply with SALT since the liquid fueled Titan missile was too expensive to maintain and had since been replaced by the smaller/cheaper solid fueled Minuteman. One silo was spared on the condition that it would be crippled in such a way that was easily verified by Russian satellites. A Titan missile that had never been fueled (the fuel was very toxic) was put in the silo and a square was cut out of the nose so the satellites could see it was empty. This was where we were headed.
We joined a tour that began with a short movie about the missile and the incredible destructive power of the nuclear payload it was designed to deliver to somewhere in the USSR. Our response to the USSR launching their ICBMs at us. Then we got our first view of the actual missile sitting in the silo (the cover of the silo was partially open with a glass cover the open part). It was big. A very powerful looking machine. We also got a quick look at the various antennas that would allow the crew of four to communicate with the outside world (at least one of the antennas was manufactured by Collins Radio). Then we went underground; down 54 steps to the missile control room connected by a tunnel to the missile silo.
The antenna for the Collins Radio
Here Janie promptly volunteered to sit in the commander’s chair and turn one of the keys that would start the launch sequence. Several safeguards insured that this is what she should do. You don’t want to make a mistake, because once the launch sequence starts, it can’t be stopped. She didn’t actually know the target, just that it was number two, somewhere in the USSR. The missile was set for an air burst, so it would scoop out a shallow crater and wreak havoc with all things electronic for hundreds of miles. No hesitation from this one. On command, she turned her key and we watched the control panel lights begin the launch sequence.
No missiles were ever launched. We promised to never launch except in response to a launch against us, hence the mutual assured destruction. Mission accomplished.
Its D-day!
San Xavier Mission

We felt like we needed something a little more peaceful after the Titan Missile Museum, so we stopped at the San Xavier Mission on the way home. The mission is open to the public, but Catholic Mass is still said every morning. Very ornate. Very quiet. Very peaceful.
Got back in time to make some margaritas before dinner. It’s National Margarita Day you know.


  1. Cheers! I coulda sworn I saw a missile fly over...oh yeah it was the space station :)

  2. Thanks for a virtual trip back to two of the places I remember visiting on our first visit to Arizona. Biosphere II was an interesting place to spend a few hours as well.


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