Mmm…Crater

The words “meteor crater” do not generally bring excitement to people in my 18-25 age group, unless a) they’re geologists or b) they’re space nuts.

For some reason, over the last couple of years, I have turned into the latter, although more about the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo era than now, since then, there was this marvelous sense of purpose, and recently, it’s begun to feel we’re just kind of putting things up there.

So I knew that there was an extremely large meteor crater out in Arizona, where many of the astronauts who had walked on the moon had trained in field geology, so that they wouldn’t get up on the moon, look at a moon rock, and say, “Wow, ain’t that a purdy one?”

What I did not know was that it’s only a few miles off of I-40, about 50 miles east of Flagstaff. I had given up on getting farther than Albuquerque that day, so when I saw signs for it on the Interstate, I figured what the hell, I’ll go take a look.

What it turned out I also did not know was that a really shitty visitors center had been erected and the crater had been fenced off, so you couldn’t get a real great look at it, and you also had to fork over 12 bucks to see it and the craptacular museum now built into the side.

The museum actually wasn’t that bad, with a “create your own meteor” computer simulator that let numerous small children obliterate the earth with monstrous space junk, much to their delight.

There was a lot of stuff there for people who were attracted by the idea of something, anything! between Flagstaff and Albuquerque besides breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Beautiful scenery is apparently not educational enough for some folks.

The crater is kind of weird, because it actually sticks up quite a bit from the surrounding desert. It looks kind of like a mesa, but you can’t tell that it’s anything but a mesa until you go up and look down and, oh, it’s a giant goddamn crater.

The crater, according to the Museum, was formed by a meteor 150 feet across, weighing 300,000 tons, and traveling at about 40,000 miles an hour. Things like this (like my experience at the Hoover Dam) tend to be irrationally obsessed with measurements.

Like the statement on the website and repeated in the museum, that “The force generated by its impact was equal to the explosion of 20 million tons of TNT.” That’s wonderful to know, in case I should ever run into 20,000,000 tons of TNT, with the fuse going.

At least I’ll be able to react better than Wile E. Coyote (who’d just sit there and blink, or possibly open a weensy umbrella), and say, “Hey, this is about to blow a crater the size of…” before getting blown to smithereens.

To be fair, it’s also not a museum designed for people who know a lot about the space program in the 1960’s, which I freely admit, I know an inordinate amount about, especially for someone not even born until the 1980’s.

The fact that you can’t go down into the crater also kind of bites, but is understandable because you don’t want someone tracking your geological evidence around and screwing it all up, and/or spitting gum in your geological evidence.

Anyway, if you’re into geology or space-type junk, or if you really like holes (best Simpsons line so far this season: “Did you know the natural enemy of the hole is the pile?”), I’d recommend stopping by if you’re in that neck of the woods.

Otherwise, save your 12 bucks and fly past it at 85 miles an hour, like most of the sensible people do.

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