In the town where I grew up — Memphis, Tenn. — Tad Pierson has made a career out of his love for cars and American music by working as a tour guide. We meet in the grand lobby of the Peabody Hotel, the downtown landmark famous for its ducks and Southern elegance. But it's also considered the starting point of the Mississippi Delta, a region steeped in the blues.
On a scorching hot summer afternoon along the banks of the Little Bighorn River in Montana, seasonal ranger Mike Donahue brings the historical Battle of Little Bighorn to life with remarkable enthusiasm and passion.
At a recent presentation, Donahue welcomes a crowd to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. "Why did it happen in the first place?" he asks during the presentation. "Because you had two peoples that really didn't understand or appreciate one another very well."
Take a tour of the Hanford site, a nuclear production complex in Richland, Wash., and you'll see the hundreds of mechanical water pressure gauges wired to the process tubes inside the core. Tour guide Paul Vinther warns that bumping these gauges could throw off the readings enough to trigger a an emergency shutdown of the reactor.
People tend to remember that the atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge, Tenn., but they often forget about a third nuclear production complex — the Hanford Site in Richland, Wash. It's where they built the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor.
The "B Reactor" is a windowless, cinder block hulk out in the middle of nowhere. You might mistake it for an abandoned cement plant. But inside, it's a lovingly preserved time capsule of the Atomic Age. If you're lucky, your guide will be one of the people who worked here when the place was still new.