I'm at WorldCon/Denvention3 this weekend. The altitude in Denver hasn't been much of a problem, even if getting access to the internet has been... and I'll tell you more about WorldCon later, but this blog is about Thursday.
Guys my age all, almost without exception, have a fond place in their hearts for the Cheyenne Mountain military base a.k.a. NORAD. So when I found out that I'd be given the opportunity, along with a group of writers, editors, and other sundry cool folks, I leapt at the chance.
Cheyenne Mountain is no longer home to many missions that it had during the Cold War, but it's still the home of Missile Command. The base itself is a study in contrasts. Even approaching the base, we saw a sign for a subdivision on the right and the road marked "Authorized Military Business Only" (onto which I turned with no small amount of trepidation) on the left. We got out of the cars (leaving behind all of our electronic devices and media storage) and were taken by bus through the gates, but only after our driver's licenses or passports were scanned and verified.
The first stop on the tour was a small building containing memorabilia from NORAD's past as well as tokens of good will given to the organization by various visitors over the years. My favorite? An orphaned glove from the suit of an astronaut who accidentally sent the matching glove drifting into space.
We were briefed on Cheyenne Mountain's history and its current mission, given security badges (that had to be removed before and replaced after each and every photo taken by the staff) and escorted through an airport style metal detector.
It first felt like an amazing trip when the bus took us through the roughly mile long tunnel to Cheyenne Mountain's multi-ton front doors (18 tons each IIRC). Bolts were sunk in the cavernous walls of the hollowed out mountain with chain link fences fastened over them to trap any large piece of debris that might be broken loose by seismic activity.
Inside, the base divides into five buildings that can be sealed off from one another, all of them on two thousand pound springs to allow the buildings to sway up to a foot in any direction. The inside of the base, however, seemed like a outdated office building, punctuated by amazing glimpses of the cavern both above and below the buildings.
We weren't allowed into the control room due to the unfortunate timing of a secret drill, but we were granted access to the PX and the Power Control center. Heck, I even bought a Cheyenne Mountain teddy bear! :)
Afterwards, we were lucky enough to get to drive out to Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta's castle for buffalo burgers and other assorted good eats... but that's a tale for another time.