#16 Arizona to New Mexico

Its been a crazy past week…. I finally feel like the road trip is in full effect! No more people to stay with, no more cozy floors to sleep on, just me, my truck and the road! Since we last left off I was still in Arizona preparing to take off to New Mexico. I decided to leave Phoenix and slowly make my way through Tucson on the way out of Arizona. I woke up early on Tuesday morning and made my way to the “Biosphere” which is about an hour outside of Phoenix. It is basically a research facility that hold more than 4 different environments or climates inside. If you ever have seen the movie “Bio-Dome” it is the same principal as that. The reason I chose to visit the Biosphere was more from a photography perspective as opposed to a scientific. Greenhouses and structures constructed of glass have always been fascinatingly beautiful to me and its a niche of architecture I have a special appreciation for. The combination of the plant life and the beautiful well thought design is stunning to say the least! Here’s a few photos.


Welcome to Mars!


Our lovely guide Orville (I think that was his name?)


An aerial perspective of the Biosphere captured with my DJI Mavic.

After finishing up at the Biosphere I made my way towards Tucson. On the way I remembered there was an abandoned Titan II missile silo not far.  I knew I had to go take a peek and see if it was accessible. An hour later and I found myself at the gate to what was once a heavily secured entrance to a nuclear missile base! Titan II missiles were commissioned for construction around the Tucson area in 1962, there were 18 sites in total that existed ready for launch. Your thinking to yourself, what in the hell is a Titan II missile? First and foremost its an “ICBM” which stands for “Intercontinental Ballistic Missile” meaning that its a guided missile with a minimum range of 3,400 miles…. shocking I know and to add to that, it also carried the largest warhead and payload of any American ICBM! I think the craziest part is that the military created eighteen of these sites just in the Tucson area alone costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars and now they all but sit abandoned. Most are flooded with rainwater, completely imploded or filled with sand and concrete save for a spare few that have been bought by Doomsday “preppers” who find the safety and security of living underground alluring. The missile sites around Tucson were later de-commissioned in 1984 and the remaining 45 sites around America were decommissioned too. The common misconception was that they were shutdown due to a “Weapons Reduction Treaty” but the reality of the situation was that they had become a dying breed and new successors were on the way with bigger, powerful and more efficient technology. Which brings us to today… the government wasted billions of dollars to create these weapons of massive destruction which are 100x more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima… Now their resting place sit… left for dead, most of them blemishes on the remote landscapes of our country. Think about all the good we could have done with the money, time and effort spent proving to Russia that we had “muscle”. Sometimes history boggles my mind and it becomes more and more apparent to me why “History is doomed to repeat itself” because kids my age don’t know about these things. Anyway… to continue, I crawled the over the gate disregarding the “Video Cameras in Use” sign because in reality who the hell sets up security cameras in the desert? Had there been old telephone poles or something that provided a nice vantage point I would have heeded the signs warning but after scanning the horizon I didn’t notice anything “camera like” and continued down the road. When I got to the actual hatch I noticed a rusted door over one corner that had a handle to open it up. My heart skipped as the excitement over came me… was I finally going to get into a Nuclear Missile silo?! I pulled the handle back and it wiggled open a quarter of an inch until it stopped… It was secured by a padlock under the main door handle… my hopes and dreams of exploring a Titan Silo vanished in an instant. Upon further examination of the handle I noticed a sticker presumably from the company who secured the site and it said ” Nothing inside here is worth dying for”. After reading that little piece of advice I couldn’t decide whether to feel disappointed or relieved. One way or another I will be making my way back there and finding a way in as I still haven’t explored a Titan Missile silo and its on my bucket list. I must sound like a complete crazy don’t I?


a nice aerial view of the Hatch, this is the best part about the drone, I can fly it up before even hopping a fence, it has already saved me a ton of time and given me a lot of intel on spots!


A higher aerial perspective of the Titan II site. I like to think about the fact that there is a considerable sized network of tunnels and a huge silo right underneath the earth… just sitting!

After accepting defeat at the Titan II site I hopped back in my truck and began the rest of the drive to Tucson. I knew that their were a few airplane graveyards around Davis AFB south of Tucson so I decided to go their for sunset and see if I could get photos of anything cool without getting my head blown off by Military Police! I arrived at the tail end of the sunset in a junk yard area of the base, I knew I wasn’t gonna haphazardly scale a twelve foot fence with razor wire on a  whim so I opted to put the drone up in the air and get some shots with that. What I didn’t realize was that there was a military helicopter doing descending rope drills with troops not more then a half mile away… I didn’t notice this until my drone was already in the air but by then it was too late and I figured if I just stayed in my little zone they wouldn’t notice me. I managed to get a few cool shots of the planes and then landed the drone deciding to quit while I was ahead. Below are a few shots, the really good ones will be saved for my book. Thats going to be the theme of my blog from here on out. The shots I post will be good, but the real “good stuff” will be in my book! No more giving away my work for free!




Notice the helicopter in the background, if you look closely you can see one of the ropes hanging!

After shooting as much as I could before the sun set I drove around the base for a little and kind of just took it all in. I was blown away by all the military equipment, tanks, trucks etc that are just sitting… waiting to go to war. The United States lives and breathes war… and its scary. With what little energy I had left (it was a long day!) I made my way to the closest Walmart and crawled into the back of my truck to rest up for my drive to New Mexico the following morning. When I woke up the next morning I was ready to hit the road… I was feeling the positive health effects of sleeping in a good ol Walmart parking lot haha! I hit the I-10 and began the journey through the south of AZ towards the southern end of New Mexico. While I was cruising along I noticed a squad of biker dudes who were definitely on a group ride to an event or bike festival. It reminded me once again that after I finish exploring America in my truck the next step will be doing so on a Motorcycle. It might not be for a few years but its definitely on my bucket list! Continuing on though… the boys cruised past me and I was inspired to try and catchup to them and capture some photos out my window. I ripped my camera out of my bag, got my settings dialed, opting to go with a slow shutter speed to try and get some “motion blur” which is one of my favorite effects in photography. Most of my shots turned out out of focus which is one of the challenges when your driving 80mphs, holding a camera out the window and shooting with a fully manual focus lens! But the shots I did come away with came out great and got me excited to shoot more fast moving action in the future! Heres one that I am pretty damn proud of! I wish it was a bit more in focus but I like the out of focus look as well!


Easy Rider

Along the way I passed by the almost defunct town of Wilcox, Arizona which I had seen in a fellow explorer Jim’s blog (theplacesthatwere.com). Although the town was littered with small dilapidated buildings, the drive into the town was more interesting to me than the town itself. Wilcox is located right next to a “playa” which is a massive alkaline flat, similar to what the Salton Sea would be if it were to dry up. The vast expanse of flat land combined with the desert winds creates a scene that would remind you of something out of a movie. As I was plugging down the detour road along I-10 getting closer and closer to Wilcox I couldn’t help but notice a massive sandstorm combined with numerous sand twisters advancing across the plain in my direction. For some odd reason I have no problem breaking into abandoned jails or exploring defunct missile silos but when it comes to mother nature… I do not fuck around. Whats the worst that could happen? its just a sandstorm, Right? Thats the exactly mentality I do not have when it comes to dealing with the elements and hopefully it will prolong my time here on Earth! Some people do not give Mother Nature the respect she deserves! With that being said… I put the pedal to the medal and made the last 5 miles to Wilcox go by real quick. Once in the town I snapped some cool pictures of an abandoned motel and then continued on my way. As I made my way closer to New Mexico I stopped at a few more abandoned Titan II sites on the way. Some seemed more promising than others but in the end they all seemed to be grazing territory for the desert moo-moo’s (cows). I did manage to get some pretty incredible aerial photos of a Western Pacific train close to the Arizona / New Mexico boarder which ended up being more rewarding then stopping to investigate the Titan sites.


You can see the dust blowing across the town in this image!


Now defunct hotel/motel

Once I got into New Mexico I decided I would drive to Las Cruces and then crash at the Walmart in town. Along the way I spotted what looked like an abandoned power plant off the I-10 and decided to satisfy my curiosity. When I finally arrived at the parcel of land I was in fact right that there was a behemoth industrial abandonment, what I didn’t anticipate was that somebody was living on the property in a trailer. Fortunately it wasn’t a total loss as the drone always offer the opportunity to get some shots even when its not worth hopping a fence!


I continued on my way to Walmart where I crashed and then began my first day of real adventures in New Mexico the following morning…. more to come on that.


To be continued…


  • J.J

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