Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Flowers Explore - Atlas Ad Astra Missile Silo - 2021/07/07

It's our very first stop on our very first night in the RV! When Theresa and I were repositioning the RV, we had the opportunity to stop by this Harvest Host site with a real Atlas Missile Silo! We would have arrived at 10pm which would have been really late, so we decided to skip it, but make it our very first stop with the kids!


After leaving Colorado earlier in the morning, we spent 5 hours in the car driving to Wilson, Kansas. 

Just a few miles off Interstate 70, Matthew Fulkerson has started turning an old abandoned Atlas Missile Silo into a tourist destination! You can read all about it at AtlasAdAstra.com
Matthew was great at keeping in communication with us. We texted him about when we would arrive and he was waiting for us, along with his dog Buddy, at the top of his driveway. He pointed us in he direction of where to park and I was able to back in the RV with my first real audience. 

While Theresa and I got the RV leveled and set up, the kids played with the frisbee. 

Our first meal in the RV is a quick one. Just sandwiches and fruit. We've got to be quick because there's something happening soon. 
At 7:50pm, Matthew stopped by the RV and let us know the tour would be starting in just a few minutes. 

Time to go meet up with everyone!

There's about 7 different groups are here tonight, and we all gathered on top of these launch bay doors. Matthew said we're standing on top of 10' thick concrete on the sides, and 3' thick concrete if we're standing on the doors. Beneath us, there's a 170' drop to the bottom! 
Matthew, along with an investor, bought this place back in 2013 and has been spending years getting it ready. He's hauled over 11,000 pounds of material from below back to the surface to get it ready.  
In 2018, he started giving tours, and slowly but surely, things are starting to come together. There's still quite a bit of work to be done, but Matthew is a dreamer. He's got big plans for all the different parts of his property, as we'll see. 

This site was built back in 1959 and was built to house an Atlas F rocket. It was in response to the Soviet Union successfully launching Sputnik, and the realization that Russia had the capability to launch a rocket and hit the United States. This site was number 8 out of 70 different silos where Missileers sat at the ready to launch an ICBM just in case they were called upon. In 1965 it was decommissioned. 

As we walked around the property, Matthew showed off a couple of his mulberry trees. Mulberry Trees!!! We love Mulberries! Our neighbors in California had a tree and said we could have as many as we wanted. Matthew said the same thing! Eat as many as you want!

It's nearly sunset but it's still in the 80s outside. And this is the country, so the bugs are out. We'll have to see who is sensitive to mosquito bites and who isn't... 

The sunsets in Kansas are beautiful too. 

We walked around the top side of the property where Matthew has different ideas going forward. Here he plans to put in a gourmet kitchen and showering facility with one-way glass where you can view the beautiful sunsets while you shower. 
I believe he said this used to be a water filtering facility, providing fresh water to the people below. This missile silo was built to withstand a nearby nuclear blast. 

There would normally be a giant antenna for the bunker to get signals, but if it gets knocked out, this hatch would flip up and another antenna would raise up out of the ground. 

If the main exit to the silo is somehow blocked, this escape hatch is the only way out. It's about 15 feet deep and would be filled with sand, such that it wouldn't collapse or get filled with rubble. The men inside would open the hatch door, which would then fill the lower level with sand. The thought is that the sand on top would turn to glass, so the soldiers were equipped with special hammers to break their way through. 

Here's a cut-away view of the next pieces that we'll be visiting. 
On the very left, you can see the entry stairway which leads down to a circular room with 2 levels. 
A corridor then takes you over to the 170 foot launch tube. The Atlas missile sits down at the bottom, waiting to be raised up to the top on an elevator. 

Now this is what we've all been waiting for! Let's go inside!

But not without a picture at the front. 

The ominous stairs leading down. Ian thought it was a little spooky. Others commented that it seemed like a place out of a video game, and yes, it totally had that feel. 
Matthew warned us that it's still very much a construction zone, so be careful where you step. He's not kidding. There's rails that are at about knee level when going down stairs, holes in the floors covered in plywood, and tools scattered around this work zone. 
The part we were all enjoying the most was the temperature difference. Matthew said it could be over 100 degrees or -10 degrees outside, and that inside here it's a constant 60 degrees. It feels so cool compared to the heat outside, plus there's no bugs in here! The walls here also "sweat" due to the change in temperature, and there's a bit of moisture dripping down to the floors.  

After walking through a series of switchbacks, meant to lessen the pressure wave from a nearby blast, we came to this massive Manganese door. 

And the walls here are super thick concrete too. 

Matthew said that as part of proving to the inspectors that this silo was decommissioned, the doors to the facility had to have giant holes cut into them, to show that they could no longer withstand a strike. 

Here's the first of the circular rooms in the diagram, along with the escape hatch we saw above. 

Here Matthew shared his vision. His goal is to change this relic of the past, into a vision of the future. There's a heavy emphasis on environmental sustainability, and thinking of new ways to move forward in the future with home-grown food with vertical farming and aquaponic fish farms to fertilize it, recycled water, fuel from bio-waste, light from new technologies where the components won't burn out, and much more. 
Matthew believes that for our future extraterrestrial planet exploration, we're going to be living underground instead of on the surface to deal with the high radiation levels. He plans to start a Space Camp here where kids can train to become astronauts. That really got Ian's attention, and he wants to come back here when it's ready. 
It's amazing what all Matthew has been able to accomplish himself down here over the last few years on his own. But he's always looking for investors and unique technology companies to help bring his vision to life. 

Next, we went down to the second level to see the launch controls. 

From this desk, soldiers stood at the ready to turn their keys and launch their missile if called upon. Thankfully that never had to happen, but from that time of heightened tension during the Cold War, the Space Program was born. The Atlas Missile Silos might have been decommissioned, but it was an Atlas rocket that took the first Americans to space back in the 60s. 

Don't touch those controls kids!

What the kids were really interested in though was the punching bags. They went to town on them (needing a little work on their form). Why are there punching bags down here though? This is where Matthew works on his kickboxing as he trains to be an American Ninja Warrior. He actually got to run the course back in 2018 as the Missile Silo Ninja. Unfortunately he went out on the 2nd obstacle and didn't make it into the final edit for TV. But he does have plans to put a ninja warrior obstacle course on his property for kids to come train at, and then he'll try out to be on the show again. 

It's time to see what we've been waiting for. That big hole in the ground where a missile used to be. 

These giant blast doors were previously locked shut from the inside. Matthew had to harness up and get to it from the inside to cut the locks off. 

Up top we see the bottom of those giant blast doors. The kids were a little freaked out to be standing over this huge hole, with railing that was right at their eye-level, and some (but not nearly enough) rope to keep them from falling through. 

Previously this would have held a giant elevator, along with multiple working levels for the maintenance crew. Now it's an empty hole that's about 100 feet deep. The remaining 70 feet of it is filled with water. Being below the water table, the interior is constantly collecting water unless it's pumped off. There's a nearby holding pond where it used to be pumped into in the 60s. Matthew's plan is to turn that holding pond into a swimming pool. 

Just about an hour after we started, the tour ended. 

Theresa and I enjoyed the tour. The kids liked the punching bags. 
For the tour (plus being able to park on the site overnight), it's: Adults $25, Veterans $20, and Kids $15. 

As we emerged, the sun has set and the sky has turned a beautiful combination of blues and oranges. 

The kids had one thing on their mind though. They want to go back and pick some mulberries! I grabbed the stepladder from the RV and we picked as many as we could in the fading light. This tree is on the tour, so I think it's already a bit picked over. The kids got a couple of small handfuls, enough to know that they were delicious, and vowed to find more in the morning. 

One thing I love seeing, now that I'm in the right environment, are Lightning Bugs! These little insects are magical! The fields surrounding the silo were filled with these awesome little creatures. I set up my camera for a long exposure and combined multiple shots into one for this photo. 

After it started getting dark, Matthew set up a fire pit, right on top of the missile silo doors for all his guests to come enjoy. 

And there's bean bag toss too!

The kids loved playing each other in that. 

Theresa and I enjoyed chatting with the other RVers who are here, and listening to their stories of how they got to be out here. Like Jackie and John who are from Connecticut and driving all the way out to Oregon to visit with their daughter, but stopping at lots of sites along the way. Deb and Mike who only get away for a couple weeks at a time locally, but still enjoy the time out. And Nelson and Nelson who have converted a school bus into a full-time RV and have been on the road for the last 3 years! 

Marshmallows should have been on our list of RV foods to bring, but we didn't. Thankfully Mrs. Jackie said she bought some of these new chocolate filled marshmallows that she really wanted to share with somebody. Matthew stopped by and said that a previous guest had left a box of graham crackers and chocolate behind if we wanted to make s'mores out of them. 

Mrs. Jackie gave the kids a couple marshmallows and wire sticks to roast them, and the kids just loved it. 

So good! Just what the kids need. Lots of sugar before bed. 

It's their first night sleeping in the RV and they are excited. I was totally expecting them to be awake and talking for a while, but it's been such a long day, and we've done so much, that they're both exhausted. They both fell asleep shortly after we told them goodnight. 

Theresa and I however would head back outside, enjoying the occasional lightning bug, watching the meteors streak across the sky, and gazing at the stars. The view here... Wow. It does not disappoint. 

The next morning the kids were awake and ready to start collecting more mulberries, now that they could actually see them. We started with the tree that was on the tour, this time trying to go a little higher than most people could reach. 

Found one, did you? 

Matthew said that there's lots of Mulberry trees on his property, and he's cut a 1 mile loop around the fence where guests could go on a hike. We grabbed our berry buckets, I carried the ladder, and we set out to find them. 

According to the kids "We hit the motherlode!" It's a mulberry tree with lots of berries that hasn't been picked by anyone! In our mile loop, we found two such trees, and the kids excitedly grabbed as many ripe berries as they could. 

T washed them up in our sink, and the kids enjoyed them with breakfast. They sure do stain a lot! My fingers are still purple!

Well it's been a fun time here at the Atlas Ad Astra Missile Silo, but it's time to move on to our next adventure! Theresa and I will be keeping an eye on the Atlas Ad Astra project to see when Matthew brings his dreams to life.

I asked the kids to write up their favorite parts while we were traveling in the car to the next spot. 

Alli - Mi favorite part was gitig a smo. I was happy wen I got a malbre. I also like eying malbares. (My favorite part was getting a s'more. I was happy when I got a mulberry. I also like eating mulberries.)
Ian - My favorite part was getting s'mores. I liked the silo. I like the punch bag. I love the mullbarys. I might come back for space training. The s'more was not sticky. I caught a lightning bug. It was a air force base. There was a lot of water in a big hole (which I did not like because it had bad bar rails). 

1 comment:

  1. What a tour!...that deep hole would have freaked me out, too (don't like heights!)...so much to see and so much history shared by Matthew. Will be interesting to see Matthew's vision play out in the future. Ian's looking forward to the space training part, for sure. The mulberry mother lode was a unanimous favorite with the kids, along with the s'mores :-) That starry night was quite a capture...very beautiful. The sunset coloring the land was another beautiful picture to behold. Real fireflies, instead of the POTC version for us LA people :-) Also fun to chat with the other RVers to hear their travel stories...you'll be hearing a lot of interesting ones (to go along with your own) as you continue your adventures. P.S. Very helpful to see the map and the travel route...helps to visualize where the family is camped out. Great 1st stop! EOM

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