To Albuquerque – A Chance Discovery (Part 2)

I arrived in Albuquerque just before 2pm local time having very almost done a ‘Salt Lake City’ on the interstate. As you enter any big city the interstate transforms from a two-lane dead-straight country road into a eight-lane beast with lanes joining and leaving every quarter-mile and random lanes on the left or right of the throng being arbitrarily designated as ‘exit only’ lanes, suddenly steering you off to somewhere you had no intention of going. It was only by moving across four lanes of traffic in pretty-much a straight line that I was able to get off at the correct exit at all. 

I checked into my hotel and then immediately headed off out again. In the tourist information centre at the New Mexico boarder I had found out that the ‘National Museum of Nuclear Science and Technology’ was located in Albuquerque. I couldn’t not go to this so programmed the sat-nav and set off. Unfortunately the maps in the sat-nav are around five years old and, in that time, the museum has moved into new premises. I didn’t realise this prior to turning up at the old (now abandoned) location. Once that minor hiccup was resolved I successfully arrived at the new location of the museum and spent the next hour-and-a-half looking around. 

I won’t bore you with (too many) of the details here except to say that it’s probably one of the best museums on the history of nuclear technology and power there is. It does focus more on the initial years and the developments that were carried out in the various secret laboratories in New Mexico but that’s to be expected really. It’s easy to forget that pretty-much all of the early development work on the Manhattan Project was carried out by a bunch of British scientists who were relocated to New Mexico. The state built on this early work and is now home to the majority of the US national nuclear laboratories. 

Something of particular note was this development version of the Trinity test device, which heralded the nuclear age when it was tested in New Mexico in 1945:

Another ‘interesting’ exhibit was this prototype low-yield nuclear demolition charge – for use in the controlled demolition of large civil engineering structures (yes, really):

And the good old ‘atomic cannon’, again, not the best idea when you sit back think about it:

My personal favourite though was the submarine that had apparently got a bit lost:

Shortly after the above picture was taken a small monsoon hit and I again got comprehensively soaked while heading back to the car. I drove back to the hotel via four locations from the Breaking Bad television series. Perhaps the most well-know is this car wash, which plays quite a central role in the show:

There seemed to be more people photographing the car wash rather than actually washing their cars – and most of the people taking pictures had out-of-state license plates. 

To get round all the locations I had to drive through a fair chunk of Albuquerque. I must say, there are areas of the city that explain perfectly why a series about a crystal meth dealing ring was set here but, there are also areas that are simply stunning. I was up in the hills as the sun started to go down and managed to get a series of pictures of the sun setting over the city. This is one of my favourites:

So in the end, not a bad day considering I had to tear up my plans and start again at 6am this morning. I’ll be up again early tomorrow to head out across New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. It’s going to be another long day! 

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