Close Encounters of The OMG Kind, Part X
Through the looking glass at Meteor Crater. Photo by Dustin Hodges (Omigod, Dibs!)
After being completely awe struck for an entire afternoon by the Grand Canyon’s grand beauty, it was time for us to go. We were really hesitant to go because we wanted to linger around even longer just to stare at this magnificent place even more. At this point in our trip we’d been on the road for 5 or 6 days, and the night before we’d camped out in the car, so we hadn’t taken a shower in a day in a half or so, and we were tired. We were ready to go home. We’d seen pretty much what we’d set out to see and then some. We were proud of completing our road trip mission, and ambitious enough to think that we’d be able to make it home within the next 24 hours. The Grand Canyon to Houston in 24 hours or less? No problem!
Well, we thought this was pretty much the end of our road trip journey through the southwest. We couldn’t possibly top the Grand Canyon, or even see anything that would get close to it between Arizona and Texas. Although, there are some pretty spectacular places to see in between these states, it’s just that on this trip it was our first time to get to see the Grand Canyon ourselves. I’m sure everyone knows how special it is to see such a natural monument as the Grand Canyon, and to see it our first time with each other made it all the more spectacular and memorable for us, and we were nearing the end of our planned time on the road anyway. So, you see, there wasn’t anything else that could possibly be just as interesting to us as that big ole canyon. Now it was time to head on home. The end.
… or so we thought. As we headed down Highway 40 East, just as we’d gotten some ways outside of Flagstaff, we spotted your typical ole road sign, one that was big and made of large old timber poles with a huge advertisement facing toward the road so each driver passing by could see. A roadside sign that looked no different than any other seen before it. Except for that special piece of advertisement plastered all over it. An advertisement noticed by the eyes of a specific individual that his eyes would send an electrical signal to trigger a specific emotional impulse to a specific part of his brain that would accept and process such a visual signal as something that would be accepted as a place to drive out of the way to go see. That sign was seen, it was processed, it was communicated to his wife within the vehicle, and it was unanimously agreed upon to go to the place the advertisement was created for. That specific individual was me, those eyes were mine, the communication was made by me to my wife, and that place was the Meteor Crater outside Winslow, AZ.
Once my wife and I immediately decided that we wanted to go see the crater, the feeling of exhaustion and thoughts of a long drive ahead became feelings of excitement and anxiety to hurry to get to our new destination. Who says road signs don’t work?! Just like any advertisement, they need to be seen by the right people! The people who will appreciate what they’re trying to communicate. It was another moment for us of being alert just enough to catch something that we would have otherwise missed and if we’d missed seeing that sign, we would have missed something spectacular and it would have been a huge disappointment to us if we’d found out about it later on after our trip.
I remember driving down a paved highway where the only things to see were desert land, native vegetation, the asphalt we were on and more signs along the way. Once we got close to the spot, we began seeing round signs that said things like, “First Proven Best Preserved Impact Site on Earth” and “Tune to 1610 AM for local information”. These signs and others were ones letting us know that we were close to an ancient crash site of an ancient space object. We could see what looked to be a hill in the distance where the entrance to the Meteor Crater site was, but this was no hill. What looked to be a hill from our perspective on the road turned out to be the outer structure of the impact site where the meteor blasted the ground out of the Earth. It was the walls of a deep crater that we could see in the distance.
Meteor Crater. Photo by Dustin Hodges (Omigod, Dibs!)
When we entered the fenced in area of the whole facility, we first walked into a building that gave a history of the site and information of the meteor itself. We even got to see a large fragment of the meteorite close up! It’s known as the Holsinger Meteorite, the largest discovered fragment of the 150-foot (45 meter) meteor that created Meteor Crater. Yes, that’s 150 feet or half the length of a football field! The Meteor Crater Natural Landmark is 50,000 years old. The diameter of the crater is 3,891-feet (1 mile = 5,280 feet). Modeling initially suggested that the meteorite struck at up to 45,000 mph (20 km/s) but more recent research suggests the impact was substantially slower, at 29,000 mph (12.8 km/s). So, that means an iron meteorite at 150-feet in diameter, that crashed 50,000 years ago traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 29,000 mph, with an impact energy estimated to be at around 10 megatons created an indentation in solid soil that is almost ¾’s of a mile in diameter. The Little Boy atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, was equivalent to 1.5 ×10−2 megatons or 15 kilotons of TNT. The meteorite had 666.67 times more energy than the Little Boy atomic bomb! That’s just cray-cray!
The guy who was there showing everyone around was excellent! He was actually from Houston, but had moved into the area there in Arizona years before when we talked to him at this time, but I forget his whole story. He was an interesting gentleman, not sure if he’s still there to this day, but he made a great guide and historian of the place. Once we made our way outside, everyone there at the time gathered around our guide to listen to him explain the crash site. Seeing a crater of that magnitude was incredible to think of what it must have been like 50,000 years ago. What would it have looked like falling to Earth? What did this part of Arizona look like and what was around 50,000 years ago right before the impact? I wonder what it must it have looked like right at impact and soon after? These questions and so many got the mind daydreaming and imagining each little detail.
After our guide finished informing us of the history of the crash site, everyone was able to scatter about on the deck outside that would lead you around different elevations along one side of the rim and interior wall of the crater. There were monoculars to peep through to see sections of the crater close up and grand views of the whole interior of the site no matter where you stood. It was truly magnificent to be able to stand within the site of an ancient impact crater and see what has been so well preserved for so long. It’s truly beyond any other piece of history I’ve gotten to see with my own eyes to date.
If you’re ever near the Flagstaff, Arizona area, we’d highly recommend stopping by the Meteor Crater. Mark it on your list of things to-do while you’re there. If you don’t go, you’re as cray-cray as the energy of the impact itself 50,000 years ago!
We don’t like to choose favorites on all things, but when it comes to locales within the United States, the southwest regions are truly our favorite sites to take a road trip through. The American southwest is some of the most beautiful terrain anywhere in the world with the most diversification of geology, biology, history, and culture you’ll see anywhere. There’s a little bit of everything that you’ll get to see on the road through the places we went through on this trip; Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada. These areas never get old to look at or drive through. We loved this journey so much that we can’t wait to do it again. We hope we’ll see you out there too.
Check out more pictures of this trip and more at our Instagram page @omgdibs