Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh Kenny!

Kenny Chesney was just one of the big names performing in the evenings at Cheyenne Days, but the only one I had tickets for. Unfortunately, they were just about the worst seats in the house, but I had my 10X zoom camera. And fortunately, there were also big screens to watch on.

Kenny has had more than 30 Top Ten Country songs, including 17 Number One's. He is quite a performer, and has a terrific band of about 12 members.

Earlier, the show opened with Jake Owen, the 2009 Top New Male Vocalist.

Now, you don't think I left without getting some illegal videos, do you? Sorry the quality is so bad, but I had to tape them from the giant screen, since I was so far away.

Jake's first Top 10 hit, "Startin' with Me," spent 35 weeks on the country charts. It's a song about regrets. To hear the whole thing, click here.

His latest big hit reached #2 on the country charts, "Don't Think I Can't Love You." Both are beautiful songs.

Then Kenny came on and the crowd went crazy. Here's part of his big hit, "Don't Happen Twice."

And Jake came out to join him in my favorite, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."

After the final song, the crowd demanded an encore, and Kenny and the band came out and had fun performing non-Kenny songs. It was quite unique.

All together, a great evening!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Daddy of 'em All

The Daddy of 'em All has been kicking up dust since 1897 with the world's largest outdoor rodeo and Western Celebration. It starts out with Bull Riding. These are the biggest bulls I've ever seen. Look out!

This guy got his 8-second ride, and then had to scramble.

Some of the Bareback riders were so good that they dismounted by bouncing off and landing on their feet.

Saddle Bronc Riding featured some of the most famous cowboys. This is Billy Etbauer, 5-time World Champion. He has won over $3 million in rodeos.

I liked the Steer Wrestling. It was hard to get a picture because of all the dust it created, but the steer usually won.

Barrel Racing is the only thing the cowgirls get to do.

Between the events, they had "Special Events." The Percheron Draft Horses pulled the Air Force Thunderbirds around and around. Aren't they cute in their matching cowboy outfits?

The funniest one was the Dinner Bell Derby Mare and Colt Race, otherwise known as "The Run for the Milk." They put the mommies at one end of the track and the babies, shown here, at the other end. There was also a goat involved, but I'm not sure why.

And they're off! Who can find mommy first?

The last event was the Wrangler Wild Horse Race. Ten teams of three attempt to saddle a wild horse that had never been ridden before, and ride him around the track. Only two of the ten succeeded.

After the rodeo, we went to the Carnival Midway, and made our way to the Buckin' A Saloon for a little dancing.

And who was there but some of the Thunderbirds! Aren't they cute? They were applying a temporary tattoo of the Thunderbird symbol to this young lady's belly button.

Then they all took pictures of it with their cell phones. (Did I mention I thought they were cute?)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pancakes and Thunderbirds

There is a free pancake breakfast at Cheyenne Days, not just once, but three times! Each time, over 10,000 folks are fed pancakes and ham.

The line wound up and down different streets, for a total of about 20 blocks, but it really moves.

Just 45 minutes later, I'm very near the prize.

Just how much food it takes to feed 30,000 breakfast? Here's the answer.

The story is that they mix the pancake batter in a cement truck.

After the pancakes are cooked, they are thrown over the cook's shoulder to a waiting Boy Scout.

I made it!

Now to find a place to sit....

Looks good, huh?

We were even entertained while we ate.

Later that morning, the Air Force Thunderbirds had a show.

They were REALLY far away, very hard to get a good shot of their F-16s.

Finally at the end of the show they went overhead on their way to their landing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More Trains and a Near Hanging

Union Pacific runs an excursion train between Denver and Cheyenne. The yellow cars parked here in front of the beautiful Cheyenne train station are part of that train.

But the big attraction is what pulls the cars. The 844 is a steam locomotive owned by Union Pacific Railroad. It was the last steam locomotive delivered (in 1944) to Union Pacific and is unique in that it is the only UP steam locomotive never retired

The 844 comes out of the shop and reattaches to the cars.

I am not the only train nut here. I saw the 844 the last time I was in Cheyenne, but wasn't able to get this close to it.

All aboard!

Before the train left, I put a penny on the track. It worked! That's one really squished penny.

After the train left, there was a gunfight scheduled to go down nearby. Cool! The bad guys robbed the bank and the good guys went after them.

But then the bad guys got distracted and decided to hang the worst-dressed guy in the crowd. Now I don't think Phil dresses badly, but apparantly a t-shirt, shorts, non-cowboy hat and Crocs are not acceptable in Cheyenne. (especially the Crocs!)

So they decided he had to swing. Oh no!!!!

Fortunately, the sheriff intervened and made them make Phil more acceptable by giving him a cowboy hat if he promised to spend a lot of money in town. All's well that ends well...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome to Cheyenne Frontier Days

I'm here for 10 days of rip-roarin' fun, starting off with the first of 3 parades last Saturday.

This is horse country, and there are some beautiful huge horses in the parade.

And some tiny ones too!

These ladies dressed up their horses to the nines! Notice the one on the right is carrying a drink.

But after all those horses, you'd better watch your step if you're in the band!

There's a seemingly endless stream of beautiful carriages, wagons, and the horses pulling them.

Oh yippee! My favorite thing - rusty stuff!

This town takes care of their senior citizens too. These men and women have their own personal wagon trains.

And anybody who's anybody can be in the parade - even the county coroner.

"Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy!" I think that was real beer they were throwing around - it sure smelled like it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trains Galore!

North Platte, Nebraska has a place to see that my father, the train addict, would just love. Open just over a year, the Golden Spike Tower allows an aerial view of Union Pacific's Bailey Railroad Yard.

It costs $5 to go in, although I should have asked for a discount because the elevator wasn't working. Only 8 stories high, I figured I could walk. What they didn't tell me was that each story was 24 steps high.

Whew! Made it! At least there are chairs up here.

Bailey Yard is the largest classification yard in the world; drawing railfans from all over. The massive yard covers 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles.

Every 24 hours, it handles 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted daily in the yard's eastward and westward yards, nicknamed "hump yards". By pushing cars over a mound, these two hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 "bowl" tracks where they become part of trains headed for dozens of destinations.

This shows the eastbound bowl and "hump." You can see cars in the back about to be "humped." They send 1-3 cars at a time into the bowl, and there are 3 brake retarders on the line to slow the cars to 2 mph.

In this Google Earth picture, the East bowl is on the left and the West bowl on the upper right. There is a total of 351 miles of track in the yard. The Golden Spike Tower is at the very bottom, a little to the right.

On the bottom left is the diesel repair facility, which can repair 20 cars per hour, and runs 24 hours per day. They fix 750 locomotives annually.

An aerial view of my rig!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Omaha's Zoo

I love zoos, especially playing with my new Canon PowerShot SX110is, but have become a little choosy on which ones to visit so as not to OD on them. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo is well worth it. I wasn't all that close to this zebra, and you can see how sharp the camera is even when zoomed a lot.

The outside exhibits are nice, but the indoor ones are fantastic. The Butterfly Pavilion makes for some easy photography.

Next was the aquarium, worth the price of admission all by itself. First there is a cool (or maybe cold) penguin exhibit. This little guy is trying out for the movie "Happy Feet."

Next, a glass tunnel offers underwater views of sharks and other ocean dwellers.

Another exhibit had lots of cool jellyfish.

And yet another one for seahorses. This is a Leafy Sea Dragon, camouflaged to look like a piece of floating seaweed.

Gorilla Valley offers places for you to watch the gorillas, and others for them to watch you. It must have been siesta time.

I couldn't get over their hands.

The cat complex has all the usual big cats, and some unusual ones as well.

There's an indoor jungle with big waterfalls and lots of monkeys and parrots. There's also a building containing one of the world's largest deserts. Lots to see, and an IMAX movie theater besides.

Out of town, the zoo has a drive-through Wildlife Safari. Not as good as the zoo, but still worth the $5 admission. The buffalo are kind of hidden by the tall grass.

They had lots of big boy elk, but I didn't see any females. Guess they don't want any competition.