Retired at Last! travel blog

Missile Launch facility

Sleeping quarters (above ground) at the Missile Launch facility

Recreation area (above ground) at the Missile Launch facility

Kitchen (above ground) at the Missile Launch facility

First launch control console (below ground) at the Missile Launch facility

Second launch control console (below ground) at the Missile Launch facility

Picture of the underground control center before it was covered with dirt

Painting in the underground facitlity

Door into the underground control center

Missile silo at Delta-09

Unarmed missile at Delta-09 launch site (1)

Unarmed missile at Delta-09 launch site (2)

Sign at Badlands National Park

Badlands rock formation (1)

Rainbow over the Badlands (1)

Rainbow over the Badlands (2)

Badlands rock formation (2)

Badlands rock formation (3)

Badlands rock formation (4)

Badlands rock formation (5)

Badlands rock formation (6)

Badlands rock formation (7)

Badlands rock formation (8)

Yellow mounds in the Badlands (1)

Yellow mounds in the Badlands (2)

Badlands rock formation (9)

Badlands rock formation (10)

Badlands rock formation (11)

Badlands rock formation (12)

Panorama shot of the Badlands (1)

Panorama shot of the Badlands (2)

Three prairie dogs watching us

Prairie dog ignoring us

Prairie dog

Antelope (1)

Antelope (2)

Sheep (1)

Sheep (2)

Sheep (3)


Leaving Nebraska, we headed up to South Dakota to see the Badlands National park and the Minuteman Missile National monument. It was the last week of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, so there were bikers all over the place. Rog counted 400 motorcycles in one 10-mile stretch of Interstate 90. We knew it would be a busy time in South Dakota, but we were able to do whatever we wanted to do without any problems. Case in point, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get spaces on a tour of the underground launch control center because of the crowds. Poor Rog got up and went to the visitor center 2 hours before it opened so he could get us a spot. He was successful, but there was no need for him to go over there that early, contrary to what the Ranger indicated the day before.

The Minuteman facility was neat to tour. I remember hearing about these facilities when they were first built. If launched, a missile could have flown over the North Pole and reached Russia in 30 minutes. Minuteman II’s warhead was the equivalent of over a million tons of dynamite. The guided tour was at Delta-01, which was the launch control center. The guys who were in charge of launching the missiles worked a 24 hour shift below ground, then were helicoptered back to the base. They could take books, hobbies, etc. to help pass the time, but they spent most of their time making sure the systems were operating properly. The people upstairs (the guards, the cook, etc.) spent more days at the facility per shift, but they had a television and a rec room to keep them from being too bored. And if there was a blizzard or something that kept them from leaving when there shift was over, they stayed at the facility until the roads cleared or whatever. Nobody sent helicopters to make sure they got back to base. There were always 2 people below ground because it took 2 people to launch a missile. It required 2 sets of keys to launch a missile and the locks were spaced 12 feet apart to insure that no one person could activate the system. They really took a lot of precautions to make sure war wasn’t started accidentally.

We also went out to the Delta-09 missile silo. Out there, they have an unarmed Minuteman II missile in the silo. From the road, you may not even know you are looking at a missile silo. All you see is an acre or two of ground with a concrete slab in the middle and some posts and poles sticking up behind an 8-foot high cyclone fence. Delta-09 is set up for tourists, but Rog spotted another silo while we were driving around the Badlands National park. The government moved all the missiles out of South Dakota following the signing of the SALT treaty with Russia, but we still have missiles in other states like Montana.

Another day we took a driving tour through the Badlands National park. The rock formations are beautiful. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.



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