If you read Part 10 and Part 11, you saw a lot of me nattering on about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, that fabulous nature spot with animal pens up the side of a mountain, but not so much about the zoo animals beyond the meerkats. This, then, is the one with a bunch of other animals in it.
It’s the kind of moment a man hears can happen, but never sees coming. He’s walking around by himself, minding his own business, lonesome in a crowd but trying to keep up his spirits. Then out of nowhere a young lady walks up to him without preamble or any sign of hesitation, stares him down point-blank, and hits him up with the kind of once-in-a-lifetime proposition he’d have to be a fool to refuse:
“Hi! Would you like to help feed the meerkats?”
Welcome to Cheyenne Mountain! One of the most distinctive sections of the Rocky Mountains in the Colorado Springs area, this mass was once home base for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. If you saw a movie or TV show in the ’80s or ’90s in which grouchy American military officials glowered at each other in a secret underground bunker and tossed around terms like “mutually assured destruction” or “DEFCON 1” or “the football” or “Russkies”, chances are they were filmed in a sterile Hollywood soundstage but fronted by a stock photo of thick, beautiful Cheyenne Mountain.
NORAD isn’t quite the hotbed of top-secret nuclear management it once was, having transferred its primary functions to nearby Peterson Air Force Base. (No public tours. I checked.) Today it’s a mountain with a lot going on around its base, not much of it related to national security anymore.