By Rob Romash (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Once you are either off the airplane in Albuquerque or exit Interstate 25, there are only two ways to drive get to Springerville, Arizona—home of the Springerdome, affectionately called “The Enormodome,” and the site of this year’s Indoor Nats. Either route takes you more than 100 miles into the desert, heading west.
If you like geology, then route number one is for you—with hundreds of miles of ancient lava flows on one side and 300-foot cliffs on the other. It’s a nice curving road with plenty of possible elk/car collisions and one of the US’s few natural stone arch bridges. A quick hike gets you right up inside of it from the roadside rest area. There are spectacular views.
The other way is for the tech and sci-fi nerds. A bit more south from the above is route two, where will you come across another cool spot. If any of you are Carl Sagan fans and have read his book Contact (Jodie Foster starring in the movie version of the same name), you hit the Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, New Mexico. The VLA consists of 27 radio telescopes, each 25 meters in diameter, arranged in a Y-shape configuration. All 27 telescopes are used simultaneously to observe a target. Adding them up makes one of the largest radio telescopes ever made and an interesting sightseeing stop as the expanse of flat white sentinels quietly await the next discovery.
Springerville proper, and Eagar, only separated by a road, are a small oasis in the vast landscape. As the saying goes, if this isn’t the middle of nowhere, you can sure see it from here. It’s a two-police car town with a Safeway, a few hotels and bars, plus a smattering of small houses, and of course, the dome. The dome is one of the only, if not the only, high school football fields covered by a roofed structure. And a very cool structure it is. It features a laminated wooden, arched geodesic dome that is the highest category 3 site on the planet at just 6 inches under max height.
The dome sounds great on paper, but has some pros and cons. On the positive side, it’s almost impossible to get a rubber model hung up in the ceiling because there is nothing to get hung upon—you just bounce. The con side is that this is one of the only indoor high ceiling sites with consistent lift and sink to be taken advantage of or it can knock you out of the air. At a 7,000-foot altitude, you have 1/4 less air density to fly with.
During the coming days, we will see how the first-ever Nats here goes and who comes out on top. Day one is scheduled for registration until 4 p.m., with both FAC and AMA glider events kicking off the competition. Day two will have the same glider events in the morning and the first round of the lightweight AMA events in the afternoon. Stay tuned ...