Recent Travels: Owyhees and Utah

Recent Travels: Owyhees and Utah

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I’ve been some fun places lately - so, this week, more of a photo-heavy travel log of the Owyhee Mountains and out to Utah!

So… if you don’t like close-up shots of Mormon Crickets and Orb Weaver spiders, you might hit page down a couple times now, though.

Volting about the Desert

A few weeks back, a friend from out of town was visiting, so we went hiking and climbing a few places - one of which was out past the Owyhee Mountains. Go past Murphy, keep going… turn off at a little road, go through a few buildings, hit the gravel… go for a while, few more turns, leave the gravel… and head down the best condition I’ve seen this dried riverbed in a long time! Some years back, I got a Subaru stuck out here, and this time, we had no trouble getting the Volt most of the way in, though the car wasn’t exactly happy about this whole thing.

A common critter out here, especially during the heat of summer, is the Mormon Cricket. Or, swarms of them some years. This year, they were just “everywhere,” but in no particular density worth note. Ugly little things, and prone to swarming and eating everything in sight. But my kids don’t mind them in the slightest and have a grand old time catching them.

They’re more colorful some years. We didn’t see any of the fun colored ones this year.

Just your standard glossy bugs!

We went hiking through here - it’s a slot canyon that opens into a nice area with a lot of little “side caves” in the sandstone to climb in, crawl through, and generally have a good afternoon in. Unfortunately, it was north of 105 degrees, which makes such places less than enjoyable for long periods of time, so we didn’t stay too long.

I enjoy places like this - remote, beautiful, and known to the locals.

The Volt, though… this really, really isn’t the right environment for it. It will do it, but it’s just hot and unhappy the whole time. The engine doesn’t “idle” so much as “turn 1400 RPM” in things like this (that’s as low RPM it will ever run), the coolant temps are well north of boiling (this is why cooling systems are pressurized, of course), and the fuel burn is disgusting. I think I managed 20mpg (!) on the gravel and dirt sections.

On the other hand, I did discover just how much rear suspension travel there is! More than I would have expected, by far. It was absolutely an inappropriate car for the situation, and upon pondering this, I realized that literally every other vehicle we own, to include the 1930 Willys, would have been more appropriate out here than the Volt. But it made it, and while we didn’t get all the way to the canyon with the cars, we got most of the way.

I Just love these single tracks. Though I might take a Jeep next time.

Animals in Celebration Park

We also went out to Celebration Park in the Urals, went on a decent hike out there, and found some other fun critters!

I like our local lizards! It’s actually something I miss about hiking in New Mexico - you saw lizards constantly. Here, they’re around in the desert, but a lot less common than out in NM. I also miss the roadrunners. We have a ton of quail, but they’re just not quite as fun as the roadrunners.

Out by the lake, we came across a few Orb Weavers too. Yay spiders!

Yes, I did get the macro mode on the handheld camera figured out pretty well, why? While I’m back to carrying my iPhone with me (the Flip’s keyboard just got worse and worse until it was almost entirely unusable), I prefer carrying a rugged camera while hiking - far less to worry about, and it’s got larger optics, at least. Plus a properly good macro mode.

Celebration Park! Some wonderful hiking in a river valley!

Heading to Utah

Several weekends later, my wife and I rolled out to Utah for a nice weekend away from the kids. Tour at our pace, hit a local musical, and generally just enjoy time as adults without having to run down kids constantly.

As always for highway trips, we passed various wind turbine blades. These things have gotten absurdly large in the decades since I used to pass them in Iowa. Oversize, indeed! I still wonder about the merits of putting a portable factory on-site for construction fields - if you’re not limited by road transport, you can theoretically build something an awful lot larger.

I also saw the largest gap between low and high octane fuel I’ve ever seen at a gas station. Slightly annoyingly, the first gen Volt takes premium. It just doesn’t require that much of it for normal driving.

And once we got off the interstate, back to wonderful rural two lanes! Mountains in the distance, two lanes of tolerable enough blacktop in the foreground. I love it! Yes, we try to get off the interstate whenever we can, and it’s worth it!

Golden Spike National Historic Park, Promontory, Utah

Our first stop in Utah was the Golden Spike National Historic Park - which is where the original transcontinental railroad came together (despite both track grading teams having gone past each other in both directions, in a gamble for more money that didn’t pay off). This is a national park area at the original site of the connection. In addition to the little museum, they have replica locomotives that roll around under their own steam. They also do regular reenactments of the spike ceremony - including some of the epic flubs of the heads of the various railways, who seemingly never thought to practice hitting a rail spike before coming out to this event.

It’s not hard to get me to spend a bunch of time and take a bunch of photos of live steam, and there’s no shortage here! Which I did - and will be posting in another two weeks, because it turns out I like writing about steam locomotives too, and I’m trying to avoid more 5000+ word posts.

The Solar Farm

On the way in and out, you’ll go past a vast solar farm under construction. I believe this is a 100MW class facility, and it’s using some single axis trackers that I got some closer shots of, and those will be the subject of a future post as well.

Northrop Grumman/ATK Rocket Garden

Another fun stop if you’re out this way is the Rocket Garden, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a collection of test rockets and missile power sections that have a history with Thiokol/ATK/Northrup Grumman, and it’s notable for a full size SSRB - as well as a section of it down lower to really get a sense of scale of just how big these things are! The garden focuses on the propulsion sections of various missiles, so if things look a bit “not quite complete,” that’s because they aren’t. But there’s a great history of rockets in here, and it’s worth the half hour or so it takes to go through it. Perhaps more, if you’re a bit of a rocket geek and it’s not 100F out.

TX-683-12 Sidewinder

The Mk 36 Mod 9 rocket motor is the reduced-smoke propulsion system for the AIM-9 Sidewinder, close-range, air-to-air missile. It uses a steel case, a glass-filled phenolic nozzle and a fixed forward-end igniter with a mechanical safe-and-arm device.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is your standard infrared air-to-air missile, as made common in just about any air combat sim. Get aimed at the hot engine of something else, fire and forget!

TX-773 Hellfire

The TX-773 (M120E1) rocket motor is the low-smoke propulsion system for the AGM-114 Hellfire short-range, laser-guided, air-to-surface missile. it uses an aluminum case, molded cellulose phenolic nozzle and a fixed-forward-end igniter with a mechanical-and-arm device.

I assume they mean a mechanical safe-and-arm device? Proofread your signs! This is a far smaller engine, as it’s designed to go from a high speed aerial launch platform into the ground at speed. We use the Hellfire for… basically anything on the ground we want destroyed. There’s also a sword-based variant for high precision attacks without explosives, should you prefer to select who in the vehicle dies.


Thiokol held the patent for this integrally boosted, solid propellant, air-breathing rocket motor referred to as a ducted rocket. It was developed for the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s. After ejection from the launch aircraft, the conventionally fueled integral booster accelerates the missile to Mach 1.8 at 40,000 feet. The integral booster chamber then becomes the ramburner for the ducted rocket and the end-burning fuel-rich grain completes combustion in the ramburner.

I can’t find information on this missile beyond a few other photos of this rocket garden, but the design seems simple enough (in theory - practice involves blowing up a lot of things to get the details just right). This is the whole rocket section - and there are some air intakes at about the halfway point. The fuel behind the air intakes is “normal rocket fuel,” burning with both fuel and oxidizer. Once the fuel burns up to the air intakes, it switches over to a fuel-rich mix - so you’ve got more fuel than air in the gasses coming off the burn. These pass the air intakes, get the air they need to finish burning, and burn in the now-hollow rear section (“ramburner”) to provide thrust at high speed. It’s a self boosting, solid fuel ramjet, which is pretty darn cool as a concept, and something I’d love to see in KSP - SRB for some percent of the burn, then air augmented for the rest.

Minuteman Stage 1

The Minuteman ICBM Stage I motor (the M55 or TU-122 motor) was developed and manufactured in Utah. It first flew in February 1961. This motor has four independently actuated nozzles for thrust vector control to “steer” the missile. This first-stage design was used on Minuteman I, II, and III missiles.

All three stages of the Minuteman are solid fueled. Each of the motors here can pivot left and right relative to the edge of the rocket, which is sufficient to provide for all your general rocket guidance needs, including roll. The motors can still pivot with a bit of effort on this model - notice that both the left and right motors are angled down.

Whatever the electronics and control box was built of hasn’t survived in the wild very well, though it’s hardly a problem on something that’s kept in climate controlled silos before use.

TU-772 Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor

The space shuttle reusable solid rocket motors (RSRM) were the largest human-rated solid rocket motor ever flown and, at the time, the only boosters capable of recovery and reuse. Developed for NASA by Thiokol in the mid-1970s, the RSRM was successfully static tested on July 18, 1977. During the first 122 seconds of each flight, two RSRMs provided 80 percent of the thrust needed to accelerate the shuttle to a speed of 3,049 miles per hour before separating from the orbiter and external tank at an altitude of 24 nautical miles. Nearly seven minutes after separation, the spent boosters parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean approximately 140 nautical miles downrange from Kennedy Space Center. The recovered boosters were disassembled in Florida and returned to Thiokol’s plant in Utah, where they were refurbished for use on future space shuttle flights.

There’s a difference between knowing something is huge, and actually seeing it up close and in person, appreciating just how huge it is. The SSRBs are huge. Elsewhere in the rocket garden, a section from one is available for you to walk through and try to climb the walls - and it puts that 12 feet into a very usable scale.

Blogger for scale.

The Seprat… er, Space Shuttle Booster Separation Motor

The booster separation motor (BSM) was designed to push the reusable solid rocket motors (RSRM) safely away from the space shuttle’s main liquid fuel tank and the orbiter itself. At the time of ignition, the BSMs are traveling through the atmosphere at more than 3,000 miles per hour at an altitude of approximately 24 nautical miles. Eight BSMs were attached to each of the two RSRMs, four in the forward skirt and four on the aft-skirt. All 16 BSMs fired simultaneously to ensure a safe launch-to-orbit.

I can’t believe it’s not a sepratron! For when you want to ensure that A and B are moving apart from each other very rapidly.

Several Species of Small Furious Rockets

TX-31 T-2006 Loki

Originally designed in the 1950s as a high-velocity anti-aircraft rocket, Loki was also used for sounding rocket applications. It was built for the U.S. Army.


The T-40 was manufactured in the 1950s and used primarily as a booster of various flight models for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

2.75-Inch Rocket

The 2.75-inch rocket is primarily an air-to-ground helicopter-launched rocket. It can also be configured for launch from fixed-wing aircraft or ground locations. Warheads, typically loaded with high explosives, can also deliver smoke screens, visible and infrared illumination flares, or kinetic energy devices.

TX-55 Falcon

The TX-55 was developed in the mid-1950s for the U.S. Air Force’s AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile. This type of motor was also used for the Quill round by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and for the propulsion sleds in warhead tests by Aberdeen Proving Grounds.*

TX-58-4 M58A2 Falcon

The TX-58-4 was used in the U.S. Air Force’s GAR 1 (AIM-4A) and GAR 2 (AIM-4C/D) air-to-air missiles in the 1950s. It was an upgraded Falcon motor that incorporated a permanently installed, headend-mounted igniter. This motor had a 100-percent flight reliability record.

TX-18-4 XM-46 Falcon

The TX-18-4 was manufactured in the late 1950s for use on the U.S. Air Force’s Falcon GAR 3 (AIM4E/F) and GAR 4 (AIM-4G) air-to-air missiles. Production Falcons were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1954 and remained in service with the U.S. Air National Guard units until 1988.

T47E2 Falcon

The T47E2 was manufactured in the 1950s for the early flight tests of the U.S. Air Force’s AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile.

TX-59 Hawk

Developed in the mid-1950s for the U.S. Army, HAWK uses a two-level-thrust motor incorporating a dual-chamber design. Gas from the sustain phase burn exhausts from a tube running through the boost-phase chamber. Both phases exhaust out the nozzle extension tubes that bypass the guidance equipment installed at the aft end of the missile. The TX-59, used for early HAWK development flights, is believed to be the first dual-chamber-design motor.

Yet another motor in which the only references I can find to it are from this site! Boost phase out the outside, sustain phase out the inside. I can’t help but think the efficiency with such choked nozzles was far from good… and that the design seems to have gone nowhere since argues this point.

TX-14 Big B “The Klunker”

The TX-14 Big B motor, known as The Klunker, was a test vehicle for evaluating high-performance propellant and insulation materials in very large solid rocket motors. It was manufactured in the 1940s for the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency.

When you want to test a rocket motor, you need to test a rocket motor. This is a stationary motor for testing rocket fuels. Fat. Round. Heavy. I’d expect many of these were blown up inadvertently in testing.

TU-876 Mk 104 “Standard Missile 2”

On the way back out, we passed what are quite clearly explosive storage bunkers. These are widely separated from one another, with angled walls serving to (hopefully) deflect the shock wave of another bunker exploding away. You’d prefer one bunker to blow up and not then cause all the rest to detonate, though I’ve no idea how well this works in practice and would rather not be anywhere near the tests to find out.

And as we headed further into Salt Lake City, yet more beautiful, winding, mountain and desert roads!

A hard climb, a pass… and a beautiful descent into the valley containing Salt Lake City and the rest of that entire metro area, with the usual farm fields awaiting conversion into subdivisions.

The Natural History Museum of Utah

Finally, we took a nice day through the Natural History Museum of Utah - without kids. So we could go at our pace! The outside of the building is an interesting collection of panels of different metals (some copper, some others) that are intended to age differently and give the building a unique patina over time.

There’s plenty see, and the museum is easily most of a day - though I doubt most kids will be good for more than few hours.

I’m sorry, leaf lizard. Your camo just doesn’t work quite as well on the glass of your enclosure as it would in the wild…

Though against a tree? This would work very well indeed!

One of the exhibits was a traveling setup on color - so, in the spirit of color, a collection of artifacts from the museum across the color spectrum.

And I learned about some interesting projector lens designs that can reflect the light around 180 degrees. The color exhibit had a lot of interactive things with projectors and Kinect units, though many were somewhat out of calibration by the time we went through it. But I’d never seen a 180 degree underslung lens before!

They also have a very nice dino fossil exhibit - plenty of very sharp teeth and very large mouths!

As well as a ceratops wall, showing the relationship between various observed skulls.

And if you have a 3D printer, I’m seeing tons of these little “flexy animals” all over, for markups ranging from “Wow, that’s a solid profit!” to “Entirely obscene.” Think $15 for one of these…

Where’d the Shoes Go?

Finally, on the way back through… I got some photos of the shoes out on Kuna Mora road. Or, rather, the entire lack of them! At some point since last November, it seems someone has gone out and cleaned off the fence posts. There’s a new Meta datacenter going in out here and some other construction, but… I guess someone was upset about the local flavor. Screw that. If you’ve got worn out shoes that need to go in the trash, go put the local flavor back!

I saw a few starting to go back up, though - or that hadn’t been taken down, but I can’t imagine someone would have cleaned the whole thing up and left a few behind. So, hopefully, the miles will be repopulated soon.

Because we really, really need a Meta datacenter out in Kuna… maybe they’ll bring more fiber through.

In any case, we had a grand time enjoying traveling as adults, doing what we wanted, and not having to run at kid-pace throughout the weekend!


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