Friday, August 22, 2014

Very Large Array (VLA)

I am really behind on posts. Oops! A few weeks ago it was supposed to be rainy in the Jemez Mountains which was our original hiking plan. Since we have been getting caught in hailstorms and lightening we opted to head south toward Socorro instead. It was a little over 2 hours to get to the VLA (Very Large Array). This seemed like a good destination with the main intent to drive around and see different parts of the state! We drove toward Albuquerque and soon left it behind. Albuquerque is nice because it is big enough...but small enough to never have traffic, for you to know your way around (look for the mountain), and for you to leave when you want to get away from people. LOTS of space here for that! So we drove out of Albuquerque and were soon on small roads (all maintained) in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but fields/prairies all around. We drove through a few small towns and it was very scenic. When we got within 100 miles of the place we started to see signs for it...all they said was VLA. That's it. No other reason to go out in that direction unless you were going there so I guess the sign VLA was enough. (should have gotten a picture) You drive and drive and then they just sort of appear out of nowhere as an organized little blip in a field. As you get closer you realize how HUGE these things are. It just doesn't seem real.

You keep driving toward them for a bunch more miles. The array is in a Y shape with each leg of the Y extending 13 miles! On these railroad track like rails there are 27 radio antennas that weigh around 230 tons each. The dish diameter for each is 82 feet across. They are HUGE. We went in and went on the tour (which is free). Jeff enjoyed the tour and the interpretive-type museum center. I just wanted to see the big things before it rained so I could photograph them. I was impressed by the structures themselves and what they do doesn't really matter to me (illiterate, I know). Finally we head down from the control room. Unfortunately you can only stand around the base of one of them so there isn't much you can do photographically but oh well, some things are meant mainly just to see! We looked at them, at the weather rolling in, and at a small and colorful group of birds. The antennae were like hats all tipped at the same direction (except a couple broken ones) posing in some obscure dance no one knows about. You kind of keep looking at them expecting them to move (behind your back). I had asked earlier about that and they weren't gonna move for another 8 hours or so. Bummer. We spent some time looking and then it was back in the car to head home.

We drove a ways away to try to fit the whole scene in a photograph but it is just too large. I want to go back when there is the more typical harsh bright light - I want to photograph all the shadows these things must make. I think it would be even more impressive! They had a display that would cast neat shadows - Here's my selfie reflected in the ball. At night there must be a zillion stars out. I wonder if the things make a humming noise or anything? We drove into town for coffee and a dessert. Unfortunately we didn't continue on to PieTown which we hear has excellent...wait for it...pies. Instead we went to the mineral museum located in a few rooms of a University of New Mexico campus way out there in no man's land. There was a very impressive collection of minerals there. You kind of have to know about it though and we did because Jeff had gone there before (but somehow skipped the VLA). Another stop on the way back was a nature preserve. Since it was wet we couldn't drive on the "two-track" road which is another way of saying a dirt road for miles and miles with nothing around, washboard, ruts, puddles, arroyo crossings, sand and other trap-your-car dangers. Should have gotten a 4 wheel drive vehicle (except I LOVE my car). Finally we did head home after a pretty full day. Definitely somewhere we will go again!


Anonymous said...

Will you guys be writing any more about Puerto Rico? Found your link here ( today.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Nope - we have successfully escaped Puerto Rico and are very done with it! Happy to be out!!! K