Los Alamos

After a busy day of work and meetings, I took the bike back to Los Alamos to nerd out on some history. This is where the atomic bomb had been designed and assembled, and I was keen to see where it all happened. That’s the main reason I decided to take a small detour on my way to Santa Fe and camp out in the nearby woods for a few days. The resulting side quests were a pleasant bonus.

I started at the Manhattan Project Visitor’s Center, but before going in I spotted this fellow inmate from ADVRider.

I would’ve left a memento of some kind for him, but in this context, a Smokey Da Van sticker just wouldn’t have made sense. I should dig up my old “professional freelance writer” business cards for times like this.

Anyway, the visitor’s center is small but contains a great deal of information about the Manhattan Project. The building it’s in, as well as the surrounding grounds, are where the atomic bomb was actually designed. This is where it all happened. Except, instead of being the top-secret military installation of the 1940s, the ranger and volunteer on duty were happy to tell me all about what used to be nuclear secrets at the time. The volunteer, in particular, was a retired nuclear physicist, who explained in great detail both the complexity and simplicity of the first atomic bombs. I mentioned my visit to EBR-1 in July, and it turned out he actually worked with someone who previously worked there. Then he told me all about the meltdown that happened there, a detail the EBR-1 tour guide left out but I learned about afterward.

Then I explored the area on foot, starting with a stroll around Ashley Pond. No doubt the designer and builders of the atomic bomb took a similar walk on occasion.

This is the Fuller Lodge. It was built in 1928 as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School, where young boys were sent to “toughen up,” Teddy Roosevelt style. The US military took over the ranch and surrounding grounds in the 1940s and took advantage of the existing infrastructure for the atomic bomb project.

Next to the lodge are statues of Robert Oppenheimer, considered “the father of the atomic bomb,” and General Leslie Groves, the military head of the project.

This old sign must have gone up soon after World War II was over. It brags about being “The Birthplace of the Atomic Age,” and also clearly gives its position relative to surrounding towns, something that would never have happened in wartime.

Finally, I rode to the east side of town for the opportunity to recreate one of the famous Los Alamos photos of the past. Even though my KLR650 was made in 2005, it felt oddly appropriate to park a bike with a World War II paint scheme in front of a replica of the old Los Alamos main gate.

On Wednesday, after a midday company meeting, I packed up, drove into town, and parked at Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op, where I’m writing this right now. They’re a Harvest Host site, and I figured this would be a nice change of scenery from the more rustic places where I’ve been staying lately. I haven’t stayed at a Harvest Host in a while, so I might as well use it.

This place is right along Bathtub Row, which is the old ranch housing that was repurposed into housing for the military and civilian scientists once they took over the area. It got its name because these were the only real buildings here at first, with everyone else relegated to tents and huts. They called it “Bathtub Row” because these were the only residences with bathtubs. And here I am, parked in the middle of all of it.

This is where Robert Oppenheimer lived during his time in Los Alamos. It’s literally across the street from me! I’m a history nut, and here I’m soaking in it, surrounded by historic sites. It’s definitely appealing to my not-so-inner nerd.

Meanwhile, I’m inside enjoying an okTUBerfest lager. I have a few other flavors in mind to sample as the evening goes on, as well as make plans for Santa Fe, where I’m heading tomorrow.

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