Nike Missile Site

It was 1973 and the Cuban Missile Crisis had ended. N-63 was the designation for the Nike Site in then Nansemond County, VA. The abandoned missile site had long been forgotten. A barbed wire fence enclosed the entire complex. It was still federal property, but the abandoned Army complex was a ghost town. I remember when my parents would drive down the road by the site, seeing the missiles raised from their underground hideaways, poised to strike as the army personnel performed their weekly preparedness exercises. I had always been intrigued by the site and as a senior in high school, Billy and I had this great idea. How about checking out the site late one night? What was inside of these missile silos that had been long abandoned? The idea started to gel in our minds until we just couldn’t stop thinking about it. We decided to take the plunge and commit to explore it. Telling our parents about our plan was out of the question. We would have to do this in subterfuge mode. It would have to be late at night when everyone was asleep. Billy lived farther away from the site than I did, so the plan was that he would come by my house and wake me up. My bedroom was on the second floor. How was he going to let me know that he was outside, ready for me to join him in our adventure? We had to think of a quiet plan. Early that day, we used a roll of heavy duty twine. We threaded it out my second floor bedroom window, down the side of the house and behind the shrubs to await Billy’s tug to action. The plan was to tie the end of the twine to my big toe. When Billy arrived, he was to wake me by “gently” tugging on the twine to wake me. I was all set. The twine was tied to my big toe, hanging out of the covers. Suddenly I heard one of my parents come upstairs, calling my name. I removed the twine from my toe and temporarily tied it to the foot board of my bed. I went to see what my folks wanted, stopped by the bathroom and finally jumped into bed. I was so excited about our impending adventure, slowly falling into a deep sleep. There was only one snag, I had forgotten to retie the twin to my big toe. It was still attached to the bed. Around 1 AM Billy came to my house, outside of my window two stories down and scrounged around until he found the end of the twine. He “gently” tugged on the twine …..nothing. He sort of “gently” tugged again on the twine……nothing. Next, he not so gently yanked on the twine and heard a clunk. He didn’t think anything of it so he hauled off and yanked and yanked on the heavy duty twine. He was lifting the bed off of the floor, banging it against the wall. Lights went on and my dad burst into the room asking, “What the hell is going on!” I acted dumb at first, then realized that I would have to think fast. I told him that I had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom and had fallen over my desk chair. Fortunately, he went for it, probably wanting to go back to bed himself. NOW, I was awake! I waited for my dad to go back to bed before I crawled out the window, onto the porch roof an scrambled to the ground. Billy was waiting for me and said, “What the heck was all of that noise?” I said, “You were lifting the bed off of the floor! Enough chit chat, let’s get going.” We were off.  It was about a mile to the Nike Site. Billy had brought two flash lights for us and we needed them as it was a pretty dark walk to the abandoned site. Once we arrived to the site, we looked around to make sure the coast was clear. The only thing that separated us from the missile silo was an eight foot chain-link fence and a few strands of barbed wire. The coast was clear so we made a run for the fence from our hiding places at the edge of the field. Scaling the fence was a pretty easy task, but maneuvering around the barbed wire was a little tricky. After a few carefully placed holds, we were on the other side of the fence. The site was almost all covered in solid concrete. We didn’t see much in the way of buildings, but what we saw next was pretty wild. We shined our flash lights toward a square box protruding out of the cement. It was about 18″ x 18″ with a steel handle on the top. We determined that this was a door of some type. We ran over to the door and lifted it up. The hinges were rusty as it opened up with a bit of squeaking. Billy shined his flashlight down the hatch. There were ladder rungs protruding from the sides of the walls of the hatch. I went first, down into absolute darkness. When I reached the bottom, I was standing in two feet of cold water. What the heck was this? I shined my light on the walls. This was a solid concrete underground bunker of some sort. Billy whispered, “What do you see?”. I replied, “This is really cool, come on down!”. He started down the rungs and found the same cold surprise that I had. “Dang! What am I standing in?” Billy said. “It looks like they have flooded this place with water for some reason; probably to keep people out.” I quickly replied as I tried to figure out where to go next. The room was only about 10 x 10. There were painted outlines on the walls where wrenches and tools would have been kept. On the far side of the room was a solid concrete door, at least 12″ thick. Fortunately, it was partly open, because if these hinges were rusty, there was no way that we would have been able to budge that door. We waded through the water, down a concrete hallway. This entire place had been made of reinforced, poured concrete. I felt something in the water. I shined my flashlight down into the water to see a piece of wet fried chicken bobbing up and down. We were either not the first to be down here since this place had been flooded or we finally found the location where Colonel Sanders came up with his secret recipe. The water was pretty clear, it was just cold. Billy said, “Where does this tunnel go?” I replied, “There is only one way to find out.” We both continued down the hall approaching another solid concrete door. It was open enough to squeeze by, but we tried to open it further. It would not budge. We tried a little more only able to get it open a few more inches. As we squeezed past the last concrete door it seemed as though we were in a much bigger room. Both of us shined our flashlights up and around the room. We both slowly said, “Whoa!” We had hit the mother lode. This room was huge. It was about two times the size of our high school gymnasium. The ceiling seemed to be about 20′ high and there were strange tracks and ladder rungs in the side of the walls that ascended to the top at the far side of the room. In the middle of the ceiling were two huge plates of steel, 30′ long by about 20′ wide that met in the middle. We figured that these were the two retractable doors that lifted out of the way to allow the missile to be raised into launch position. We wanted a better look, so we walked closer, almost under the doors when for some unknown reason we just happened to shine our flashlights into the water ahead of us. “Stop!” I yelled to Billy. Under the water, in front of us was a chasm that was so deep that our flashlights could not make out the bottom. “That was close!” Billy said as we both backed away from the missile pit. One more step and Billy would have had an underwater look at were the missiles used to sleep. As we wandered around the cavernous concrete room we had this awesome idea. This cool place is just going to waste. It’s been forgotten by the military and is a waste. This would be a really cool place to have a club where our friends could bring their guitars, drums and amps to have a rocking band practice area! All we would have to do would be to get a gas powered pump and pump out all of this water, then when it dried out, we could use gas powered generators to supply the electricity for our amps and guitars. Wild ideas ran through our minds as we decided it was probably time to head back. We waded through the water, past the two concrete doors, tunnel and back to the tool room. We shined the flashlights one more time around the tool room and past the fried chicken drumstick bobbing in the water. Billy climbed up towards the hatch as stars reappeared in the night air. As I climbed up, I was trying to imagine what this place was like when it was an active Nike Site; better yet, what it would have been like not to have to wade around in two feet of cold water, and who would throw away a perfectly good piece of KFC. We approached the chainlink fence once again. Scaling it was just as easy as the first time except my wet pants leg got caught on the barbed wire at the top, making a ripping sound as I tried to throw myself back over the fence. We were both finally back in the land of the free, or should I say the “legal side”. Our flashlights were beginning to wane and the walk back home seemed to take twice as long as our shoes made a lovely squishing sound as we took each step. As we reached my house, I told Billy not to mention a word to anyone about our find. I crawled up the porch railing, reached the porch roof, slowly slid open the window to my room. I stowed my wet clothes under my bed and slipped into bed dreaming of how cool we were going to be, having the only underground abandoned Nike missile silo band rehearsal place. Forty years have passed since that exciting night with Billy. For some reason, neither Billy nor I really talked about our adventure again. I don’t know why. Maybe we both realized that it was unrealistic. I don’t know, I just know that as a 16 year old in Nansemond County, that cold April night was one of the best adventures of my life!

Be passionate about what you do

Life is too short to spend 8 hours or more per day of your waking 16 hours working at a job you hate. Ok, so you can’t just quit and then seek your ideal job; you have responsibilities, possibly a family to support. The way I look at it, you can either breathe some excitement into your current job or start searching your soul for what would be that ideal job where you would actually look forward to going to work each day. Some of us have avocations that bring fulfillment to our lives, but is it enough to offset the 8 hr. routine? It’s never too late to do some research on a possible career change. Read up on things that interest you and people who have turned these interests into careers.

Launch to the moon

The year was 1969. The Apollo program was in full swing and I felt as though I was a part of it. I was 14 and I envied the astronauts. I wanted to go up in space, but first I needed training. How can a 14 year old get training to be an astronaut? How would I stand the confines of a space capsule for 4-5 days? I had an idea! My dad had built us a tree house around a tree. It had 8 sides and a pointed roof. It almost looked like a space capsule. I could use this for my “training mission”. A friend of mine, who was crazy enough to sign up for this adventure, agreed to submit himself to this training mission. He and I came up with the idea to use the capsule/tree house as a training environment. First, we had to make the inside look as if it were a capsule. I found a roll of aluminum foil in my mom’s kitchen. Armed with a staple gun and aluminum foil, I methodically lined the inside of the tree house walls and ceiling with the aluminum foil; of course one roll wasn’t enough. After 5 more rolls of aluminum foil, the inside of the capsule was almost complete. All we needed now would be loads of switches, buttons and lights. Using a soldering iron, wires and 12 volt batteries, I built a control panel that didn’t do anything but it sure did light up. Ok, the interior was complete, but how to get food to us? We didn’t have any of that cool space food in toothpaste tubes. All we had was Tang, the official drink of astronauts. it was time for another invention. I rigged up a pulley and rope system between our house and the window, I mean space observation area, of the capsule. My little brother Drew agreed to put food into the box of the pulley conveyor and send it to us daily. The big day had arrived. We wanted to look the part so we took our mom’s hair dryers, which in those days was a box that had a hose connected to it and then a bag that you put on your head. This looked almost exactly like what the astronauts carried into the space capsule. My buddy Bill and I donned jump suits and modified hair dryers, to supply needed oxygen and climbed up through the bottom of our tree….I mean space capsule ready for lift off. We were ready to begin our training mission. As we got settled in to our modified lawn chairs, we switched on our control panel to begin launch sequence when it occurred to us that we had not thought of a way to get rid of our food, rather our waste. Another great idea. I told my little brother that we would do our business in baggies and drop them out of the bottom of the space capsule escape hatch door for him to do as he pleased. He said, “You have got to be crazy!!. I didn’t mind making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sending them to you on the pulley transport but I REFUSE to get rid of your refuse! I quit.” For some reason, my mom and dad didn’t fancy the idea either. My buddy Bill and I looked at each other. Our mission had been scrubbed.

A new town, new friends…

Have you ever tried to put a polarized plug into a receptacle backwards? It doesn’t fit does it; try as you may, you just have to turn the plug around so that it will finally fit. That’s kind of how I was feeling back in VA for the past 10 years. I don’t know if it is due to the large military population in Tidewater, but the people we would meet would slowly move out of the area, many times due to being transferred or moving due to work. Going through a divorce didn’t help things. A normal byproduct of going through a divorce is losing relationships. It’s a hard reality I have had to deal with. Now that the kids are on their own, Brooke is at High Point University, Eric married, Allison living on her own and Steve doing his thing, well, there wasn’t a whole lot holding us in VA anymore. For the past 3-4 years, we have traveled to CO, trying to find a town that would meet most of our wish list. We finally settled on Estes Park, CO. That choice has been confirmed since we moved here September 1st. Estes Park is a small community. Everyone knows everyone. Nobody is really from here. Everyone is from somewhere else in the U.S; because of this, people seem to be more open. There are so many organizations that you can join. We are going to a new group on Thursday called Estes Park Newcomers Club. It’s a way for people to get to meet one another. There are all kinds of personal interest groups within the club. There are many retired people in our town, which reminds me of the Outer Banks. We are not retired, but hey, we are not too far from that time in our lives. That takes some getting used to, slowly realizing that I am closer to retirement than closer to raising a young family. You just can’t fight the reality of your age. That doesn’t mean that you give up and coast, it just means you realize where you are in life, what you want to accomplish and then, using your past experiences with a dose of reality, go for it! For those of you back east, we miss you, but we are loving our new surroundings and the new friends we are meeting. A new town, new friends…


There is a certain comfort level in familiarity, but there is also the saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”. Being in a new place is exciting, but there is also the lack of familiarity that is a little unsettling. It’s never 100% just one way, with new surroundings come discoveries and new adventures, but with new surroundings come getting out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. We moved from Elizabeth City, NC to Estes Park, CO. This has been a great move. I can’t say I miss Elizabeth City, NC, except for a few people that had become my friends. I miss my friends at Muddy’s Coffee shop and the 2 or 3 neighbors around where we lived. I miss my 6 bay garage and our house that we had renovated, but I do love Colorado, the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains, and the friendly people who have moved here from all over the US. We have a new coffee shop here in Estes, they just don’t allow us to bring in our dog. I miss being able to see my family whenever I want as well as interacting with my employees, but I knew this before I moved. I always like a new adventure, a new mountain to climb. There are plenty of those to climb around here. As the snow starts to arrive, it is time to reflect, write and settle down to find new relationships and activities in my new surroundings. Here is to the new adventure!


I’m learning, a little late about databases. Running an e-commerce business, you would think I would know a thing or two about db’s. Well, there is a saying in the bible, “you have not, because you ask not..”. I am learning this the hard way; because I didn’t know I could have something done a much quicker way, I was doing something manually, one line at a time, taking weeks. I had a db guy look over what I was trying to get done. I gave him a task that I had predicted would take me 125 hrs to do, he completed it in 1.5 hrs. Ugh! How much more work am I doing and have done that could have been completed in a nano-second if I had only asked. “You have not, because you ask not.”

So, why Colorado…

Before Laurie and I moved to Colorado, people would ask, “Why Colorado?”. Why not Colorado? Ever since my parents took me to the Shenandoah mountains when I was 13, I fell in love with the mountains. The view from the top of a summit is awesome. To me, I can see the beauty of God’s handiwork. I used to read books on rock climbing.  I loved the outdoors. I spent many weekends on scouting trips and camping. I knew I was really hooked was in 1973 when my parents took my brother and I on a road trip to Alaska where my mom was raised. Mountains took on a whole new meaning with the shear size of them rising from the ocean. Even though my mom is from Alaska, she loves to go to the beach. The outer banks of NC were her idea of God’s beauty. To me, it was just sand, sand and more sand; let’s don’t forget the intense heat and humidity to go with it. The mountains were in my blood. I love to ski, even though I’m nothing to write home about. We went snowshoeing last winter for the first time. I found the forest to be so quiet, especially when there is snow to absorb the sound. Another way to enjoy the outside is camping. It is a great way to get away from it all. Hiking during the day, then coming back to camp to enjoy a great dinner by the fire with only the stars as your only light.  The air is dry here, so there is very little humidity. You can go outside during July, take a hike and barely perspire. Here in Estes Park, you never run out of things to do. We are at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Downtown Estes has some sort of festival most weekends until around November. Boulder is only about 1 hr away. In Estes Park, everyone is from somewhere else, so you don’t end up with attitudes about you being new. It’s sort of like a melting pot. We have found the people to be extremely friendly throughout the state. Leaving family back east has been hard; fortunately, our parents will be flying out for Thanksgiving to spend time with us. My youngest, Brooke, just left for college, so she is busy with her new surroundings. Our other children are in their mid 20’s to 30’s so they are very busy with their lives. We do miss seeing them, but hopefully we will fly them out here for Christmas. Eric, my youngest son of 27 years will hopefully move out here in spring with his new bride to work for me at our company. We hope he will send this very contagious bug back east and who knows, we might see a few others follow him here. So, why not Colorado!

Coal Creek

Allison and Brooke came up to Coal Creek Canyon last February to spend a couple of days skiing and snowmobiling. This is a pic of us on the back deck of the cabin we leased for 6 months. My brother, Drew, came up and spent time with us as well.

A man needs a garage…

After 5 weeks, I have finally squeezed the contents of a 4 car garage into my new 2 car garage. Believe it or not, both cars will fit. With the help of Laurie, I have managed to organize, re-organize, squeeze tools into every nook and cranny. I don’t know what it is about a man’s garage. You can have a really nice home, very comfortable den and beautiful kitchen, but just let me hang out in my garage. I even know some guys that have a TV, comfortable chair, mini-fridge and stereo in their garage. If you are organized so that you can put your hands on any tool you need, you can do almost anything. So, now work can begin on the INSIDE of the house.

Follow Gill

Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: