Sunday, August 31, 2008

Exploring Rocky Mt Natl Park

On my first day exploring the park, I wanted to do a hike to Mills Lake. But this is bear country and my rule is to find one person that I can outrun. My first choice was this woman in a long skirt. She was younger, but really hampered by that skirt!

But wait! Here's a better choice. Graham, in the red shirt, is celebrating his 83rd birthday by hiking with his family. He looks in pretty good shape, but I still think I can outrun him.

Along the way is beautiful Alberta Falls.

The trail has some great scenery, but the it was pretty rocky.

Finally, Mills Lake! Almost 3 miles from the trailhead.

This is the view looking back the way I came.

I walked a little farther to the next lake, Jewel Lake.

When I came back to Mills Lake, Graham and his family were having their party.

A very friendly ground squirrel-chipmunk(?) climbed on my leg and tried to get some of my lunch.

There were several sets of workers along the way improving the trail. On my way to the lake one of these three was working while the other two were supervising. But when I came back, they were getting their picture taken and all 3 appeared to be working!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Moving On to Denver

In Sterling, Colorado, we went on a hunt to find the "Living Trees." After a terrible winter freeze in 1982 which killed many large trees in town, sculptor Bradford Rhea brought some of the trunks back to life by carving them into works of art.

Over the years, the weather took a toll on the sculptures, and they were moved indoors. Two are in the town library. This is called Seraphim and was made from a cottonwood tree.

Also in the library is Windlace, which symbolizes the courage, grace and evolution of women in our society.

Bronze versions of some of the sculptures were made and placed back outdoors. The original wooden version of Skygrazers is currently being restored.

Another bronze version, Metamorphosis, shows a caterpillar spinning a cocoon which bursts into a butterfly ready to take flight.

All through Nebraska and northeastern Colorado, sunflowers line the side of the road. Please excuse the "drive-by shooting"....

After settling in at the Longmont Moose lodge, I had to run into downtown Denver to take care of some business. I had no idea that I was next to the Convention Center until I tried to get out of town!

There were lots and lots of T-shirt vendors.

And I tried to get a shot out my window of Barack and Hillary. Don't know who's in the front seat - it kind of looks like John McCain with a broken neck?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Across Nebraska

I had to hustle across Nebraska, but did stop to see a few things. One is the Great Platte River Road Archway, which was built spanning I80 in Kearney. Through a series of dioramas and videos, the Archway presents the history of transportation along the Platte River.

The entrance up to the two-story arch is an escalator ride into history.

Headsets provided the sounds of each scene, and changed when you entered a new room. The first few rooms showed the struggles of the wagon trains on the California, Oregon, and Mormon trails, all of which went along this river.

Accidents and diseases hounded the pioneers, killing 1 in 17 who started out. Weary travelers were forced to lighten their load by tossing out family heirlooms along the route.

The Overland Stagecoach also traveled this route. Mark Twain, shown here, was one of the riders who paid $500 for a very uncomfortable ride to San Francisco.

Five days after the completion of the cross-country railroad in 1869, Union Pacific began regular train service to the West. A ticket cost only $50. Almost immediately, covered wagon migrations slowed to a trickle.

In 1913, the first coast-to-coast "highway" was completed and ran through here.

This area is still very important in transportation. Interstate 80 is the busiest cross country highway, and the Bailey Railroad Yard is one of the largest classification yards in the world.

They have a new observation platform here, but unfortunately it was closed the day I was there. The view was probably better from the bridge anyway.

I saw my first cowboy in Walmart, so I know I'm back out West. Sorry I didn't get a picture...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Day the Music Died

On February 3, 1959, just north of Clear Lake, IA, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson (The Big Bopper) were killed in a small plane crash.

They had just finished performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

We went inside and were invited to go up on the stage. We even danced a little.

The last known picture of Buddy Holly.

Many other famous performers have appeared at the Surf, both before and after that fateful night.

Including two of my favorites, Toby Keith,

and Josh Turner.

I was even allowed to see inside the Green Room, where all the performers have signed the wall.

The most amazing was the first verse of the song "American Pie," which tells about that night, handwritten by Don McLean himself.

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Completing the Circle

We're back were we started - in Duluth, MN - after our trip all the way around Lake Superior. Here's the 1000' long Walter J. McCarthy Jr. going under the I535 bridge to get a load of coal. Mr. McCarthy was Chairman of the Board of Detroit Edison until 1990, and he and his wife still make a trip on the ship each year.

A more unusual bridge is the Aerial Lift Bridge. I saw it go up several times.

But instead of posting one of my pictures, I saw this great shot of the tall ships going underneath it a couple weeks ago, and shamelessly copied it.

There was an arts and crafts fair going on at the Glensheen mansion, which meant I got on the grounds for free, always a good thing. This place has quite a murderous history, and is now owned and operated by the University of Minnesota.

After leaving Duluth, we went south, stopping at Forest City, IA, at the Winnebago factory. You can stay free in their parking lot, and they even had hookups! It's been over 3 months since I've had any, but I remembered how to plug in. I even ran the A/C.

The next morning, we went on their tour. They seem to be making a lot more small units, on Dodge Sprinter chassis.

All different models move down the assembly line at the same time, and the right parts and pieces magically appear. The line moves a foot a minute.

Winnebago is the only manufacturer to drop a test rig upside down to see what comes loose. They emphasized that this was a test rig, not your rig!

In the visitors center were a 1959 Winnebago trailer, and a 1967 Winnebago motorhome.

The original invoice for the trailer -- $793.06, including tax and shipping.

Remember in the 70s when we thought these colors were great?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two Harbors

The next stop on the WIN circuit of Lake Superior was Two Harbors, MN. Just north of there is one of the most photogenic lighthouses, Split Rock. Almost 200 feet above the lake, it was built in 1910 after a disasterous storm in 1905 damaged 29 ships in the area. It's retired now, but still a beauty.

Oh no! Another waterfall! Gooseberry Falls is a series of 5 falls just south of Split Rock Lighthouse. Middle Falls and Lower Falls are show here.

And this is Upper Falls on the other side of the highway.

In Two Harbors, we all squeezed into the area around the Moose Lodge near the harbor area. Agate Bay Light Station was built in 1892 and is the oldest operating light station in Minnesota. It also now houses a B&B.

Agate Bay also has the most visible year round ore dock operations on the entire Great Lakes. Giant ore boats 1000 feet long dock for loads of taconite - low grade iron ore made into pellets and shipped to blast furnaces on the lower Great Lakes to make steel. The docks are pretty impressive -- would have been more so if I had gotten a picture of a ship. Oh well...