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Nuclear Secrets

Minuteman National Historic Site

Your intrepid travel blogger risking "deadly force" to uncover and document nuclear secrets.

Judging by how hard a time we had finding the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site you’d think its location is still a national secret. Directions from the National Parks Service lead you to a small building so cleverly hidden I drove by it, twice. Once inside, a park ranger hands me a photocopied map with directions to the actual minuteman missile silo. “You mean it’s not here?” I ask. “No, sir. Launch facility Delta-9 is located another 15 miles west.”

Back in the car, back on the highway, down a dirt road to a chain-link fence sporting a sign informing me that I’d likely be shot if I ventured inside. But while the sign said “no” the partially ajar gate said “yes.” So in I went.

I don’t know what I expected to find, but a Plexiglas covered hole in the middle of nowhere wasn’t exactly it. For something with so much destructive potential it seemed completely benign – even small and inconsequential. And yet the ground I stood on, with no other visible structure for miles around, was almost certainly a higher priority Soviet nuclear target than any city I’ve ever visited.

Hidden in plain sight, visitors can find the “Delta-9” missile by exiting South Dakota’s I-90 at 116 and heading south about a mile and a half. Just ignore the warning sign.

Photo of the Day: Badlands South Dakota

Badlands South Dakota

Another Giant Head

Crazy Horse Memorial

Begun in 1948 the Crazy Horse Memorial is still far from finished with no completion date scheduled.

The Black Hills region of South Dakota is unofficially the world’s capital of giant heads; four on Mount Rushmore and one memorial to Crazy Horse.

After a long drive to an aborted hike took us within 10 miles of the memorial, we decided to swing by and check it out. At the foot of the mountain we found a small information booth and figured we could get directions to a new hiking trail – the day was not completely lost. Or so we thought. When I approached the booth I must have missed the quote marks surrounding the word “information” because none was to be had there.

Resigned to the fact that hiking was not in our immediate future, I asked about the price of admission to the memorial. “$10 each.”

“But it’s not even close to being finished,” I protested. “Twenty bucks seems kind of steep, don’t you think?” A disinterested shrug answered my question. I persisted by pointing up the mountain. “I can see it from here for free.” Another shrug.

Closing my wallet, I promised to return once the memorial is finished. Expected completion date: undetermined.

Giant Heads

Mount Rushmore South Dakota

There are few places as uniquely American as South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. No U.S. road trip would be complete without a stop at the giant granite visages of these four historic presidents. Yet it is also one of those places that everyone has already seen in pictures, and pictures do it justice.

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