Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

7/18/2014

Marine Mammals and more

Filed under: — stan @ 5:17 pm

After leaving the Nike Missile Museum, we went just a short distance away to visit the Marine Mammal Center. This used to be another Nike Missile site, but it has been turned into a hospital and care center for sick and injured marine mammals. We saw seals and sea lions there. They sometimes have sea otters there, but there weren’t any today.

Leaving there, we headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge. And when we were about halfway across, traffic suddenly came to a dead stop for no apparent reason. We sat there for a few minutes, and when it became clear we weren’t going anywhere soon, everyone got out of their cars to look around. After a few minutes more, we noticed that there was no traffic coming the other way, so the northbound side of the bridge was completely empty. That’s got to be fairly rare, so we all started walking over there to take pictures of the nearly-empty bridge. And after a few more minutes, we saw some flashing lights, and a tow truck came across on the empty side of the bridge. They told us that we would be moving again in just a minute, so we all packed up and got back in our cars. We never did find out what had happened, but all the way back to our hotel, we could see the traffic headed for the bridge backed up all across the city.

For dinner, we’d planned to take the cable car over the hill to the wharf to go see the sea lions at Pier 39. But when we got down to Powell St, the cable cars were not running. They said that there was a problem with the cable, and it was going to take some time to fix. So instead, we took the F-line streetcar up Market Street and over to the wharf. We looked a the sea lions, and then had dinner there. It was a pretty entertaining day.

Cold-war nostalgia – The Nike missile site

Filed under: — stan @ 2:55 pm

One of my hobbies is collecting memorabilia from the Cold War, and visiting sites related to it. I’ve been to see the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona, and took a bike ride up in the San Gabriel Mountains to visit the remains of a Nike missile site there. Since we were in San Francisco, I wanted to visit Golden Gate National Recreation Area, since I’d read that an old Nike missile site there had been restored and turned into a museum.

The Nike missiles were intended to shoot down Russian bombers. The first iteration was the Nike Ajax, which was a slim missile with a conventional warhead. It was intended to shoot down bombers that flew higher and faster than regular anti-aircraft guns could hit. Later, as bombers got faster in the late 1950s, these were replaced with the Nike Hercules, which could fly higher and faster, and could carry a nuclear warhead.

The tour started in the little building where they had a disassembled missile for us to look at. We got to see where the solid-fuel rocket motor was installed, and where the nuclear warhead was mounted. Then we went outside to see the radars and the little building where the controlled the missile. In the days when the site was operational, those were located a couple miles away from the launch pads. Something to do with how the radars tracked the missile for guidance meant that they couldn’t do it well if the radar was right next to the launcher. Of course, when we were in the control trailer, everyone wanted to get a picture with the big red button marked “FIRE”.

The next stop was the building where they assembled the missiles. They had both an Ajax and a Hercules missile on display in there. And then we headed underground to the actual missile magazine. Each site had two magazines, each with six missiles in it. The showed us how the missiles were mounted on rails, and they were really pretty easy to move. In the center, there was a big elevator that could lift one missile up to the launcher above, which they demonstrated for us:

After they raised the missile up, we all came back outside, and they showed us how the launcher would raise the missile up to its launch angle, which was something like 85 degrees. Not quite vertical, since they didn’t want the first-stage booster rocket to fall back down on the launch site.

This was a fun and interesting little bit of Cold War history.

A stairway interlude

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 am

The Grand Hyatt is probably the swankiest hotel we’ve stayed at. When we were checking in, they were telling us about the amenities, including that there was a gym on the 35th floor. So on Friday morning, I went to the gym. Three times. I didn’t use any of the equipment. I just climbed the stairs to get there. The hotel stairs were just regular steel stairs, 17 steps per floor in a 9/8 configuration. Hotels have shorter floors than office buildings, so my times were pretty fast, even though I wasn’t really trying to go especially fast. But I was still pretty sweaty, and it was nice that they had towels at the gym.

For future reference, stairway 2B was the best one to take to the gym. I had to enter the stairs on 3, and they skipped 13. Stay fit at Hyatt!

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