Western US Moto Adventure 7/30/2012: ID – Atomic Tourism Day (with bonus nuclear powered jet engines)

Today was just awesome. The really fun stuff is after the break, but I like to keep things in chronological order, so the beginning starts like this:

For the last several days, we’ve basically been following the salmon migration routes upstream from the coast. Our camp last night was on the banks of the Salmon River, at a location that also had a diversion from the river for irrigation. In order to prevent the young salmon traveling downstream from getting stranded in the irrigation ditches, the diversions have these neat self powered fish screens that keep most of the fish in the actual river.

This morning was a little cool, but wonderful once we got on the road. The mountainous areas of ID are just awesome, and I can see why the Kechum and Sun Valley areas are well known destinations. The airport near Sun Valley made both our jaws drop. I didn’t get a picture, but it had an incredible number of very high dollar private jets for such a small, regional airport.

The first goal of the day was to make it to the Craters of the Moon National Park around lunch time. After a picnic lunch outside of the visitors center, we took the short drive through the volcanic landscape.

Its hot, and dry, and I’m glad we didn’t camp here. The landscape certainly is bizarre, and in the middle of no-where. I’m also really glad we stopped to see it rather than ride by.

 

“We come in peace, take me to your wi-fi”

The desert heat was on full blast as we left the park.

Next stop, Arco, ID, the first town to use electricity generated from nuclear power.

There is not much of a town, and what’s there seemed like a shabby little western settlement (what do people do for a living here anyway?), so we continued on. We were headed for the Idaho National Laboratories area of ID, known as a center for nuclear power research and development.

Here in the desert of ID, miles from anything important, is the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR1). The facility is now a museum that lets the public tour the location that, among many things related to nuclear technology, generated the nations first nuclear power.

First, however, is one of the most insane and sort of awesome technological dead ends in history. In the parking of EBR1 are two nuclear powered jet engines.

The sign even says this concept was obsolete even before it began, but our government still spent billions pursuing the idea, and using these two stands as test beds for various experiments.

After we finished gawking, we retreated to the museum to escape the desert sun.

This museum is just really cool. By design, its fairly inaccessible, but we both thought it was completely worth the effort.

When we finally left the museum, we continued east through Idaho Falls, and eventually found a campsite in Targhee National Forest, near Swan Valley, ID. Ironically, we met a guy motocamping at the same campground who turned out to be a nuclear engineer, who works on the nuclear reactors that power naval carriers and submarines. This led to both interesting and frustrating conversation, as we knew that a lot of what we wanted to ask is classified. We tried our best to only ask questions he could actually answer. Although he’s lived and worked in PA for some time, he was originally from this area of ID, which, due to the National Laboratory, seems to have a pretty high population of engineers and PhDs. It was pretty fun to hear him talk about the long bus ride out into the desert every day to work on classified government (and some private) nuclear technology.

7/30/2012 – 324 miles. Nuclear powered jet engines.

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