Northern Tier 2010

August 2, 2010

Oscar-Zero

Filed under: North Dakota, Section 04 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


Today was hot and humid, but the winds were gentle (and even helpful at times), the roads were good, yesterday’s rest allowed for a lot of recovery, and we had an excellent day of riding to Arthur, ND — about 30 miles shy of Fargo.

Along the way we noticed a sign near Cooperstown pointing west to a Cold War museum four miles off of our route (we were headed south). During what was intended to be a brief breakfast stop, I asked a man on the street about the museum, and he quickly warmed up to us and recommended the museum very highly. It turned out that the man grew up in Cooperstown, but he now lives in Boston. He served in the Navy and was in Cuba during the missile crisis, so his connection to the Cold War and its local relevance is very strong.

Several days ago Seth noticed what he thought was an active missile silo on our way to Minot. We’re now sure that’s what it was (and that it is active), and that there are many more in this region — literally hundreds, which is way down from a peak near 1,000 prior to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed by the U.S. and Soviet Union in 1991.

The museum near Coopertown is from the “Oscar-Zero” launch facility which was decommissioned in 1997 due to START, and recently turned into a museum. There were many other such facilities, but the majority were destroyed. The building doesn’t look like much from outside — the impressive stuff is deep underground.


The elaborate infrastructure alone was impressive, let alone the incredible power of destruction at the ready. The tour we took primarily focused on how the crew lived while operating the facility, but we did get to go down 60 feet in an elevator to see the actual launch control room. Hollywood has done a surprisingly good job recreating the, appropriately so, Byzantine process for initiating a launch.

It was sobering, to say the least, to get such a striking, authentic visual of how prepared we have been (and still are, for that matter) to cause unprecedented destruction.

After the Oscar Zero experience it felt incredibly luxurious to be on such an indulgent bike ride. We took a long lunch break in Hope and had such a good experience that had it been a little later we would have made camp for sure. But, it was still early so we pushed on to Arthur for a total of 90 miles. That’s more than I had intended, but today was one of those great riding days for which the miles just seem to roll by, especially compared to living under the threat of widespread thermonuclear war.

If interested, see below to see what I ate today:

2 blueberry muffins
1 pint of cottage cheese
1 3-egg, ham, cheese and veggie omelet w/ hashbrowns
1 “large” pancake
1 ham and cheese croissant
1 pint of blackberries
~12 oz of spaghetti w/ sauce
1 large soft-serve ice cream cone
1 fry bread taco platter
1 grilled chicken sandwich … And THEN:
1 chocolate donut

My perception is that this is less healthy than usual (and perhaps simply more calories as well, but my appetite was huge today so I ate whatever crossed my path). I don’t make it a habit to record what I eat, so I thought I’d write this down because I think I can remember everything.

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1 Comment »

  1. A thoughtful post, Henry. Joanna and I both have been escaping our chore-filled daily litanies by reading your travel narrative and looking at your photos from the road. Today you provided us with a reminder of how lucky we are to have the company of our kids, a house with a mile-long “honey-do” list, and a domesticated friend named Heidi who knows nothing of thermonuclear war, just that she would like another walk.

    Wishing you more tailwinds and less silos,

    Comment by Kevin — August 3, 2010 @ 4:31 pm


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