Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I wasn’t planning to blog about this short road trip, but found a few interesting things along the way, so here I am. My sister and I are taking our father to visit an Indian school in Montana, then heading south to visit his sister and her husband in Denver. We headed out this morning, driving up to Fargo, then west through North Dakota. We make frequent stops since our biological clocks aren’t in sync. It’s good to get out of the car and move around, so I’m not complaining.

The visitor center at Fargo has a woodchipper in front of the building, and another inside with a foot extending up out of it – the “friend in the chipper.” Fans of the Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, will appreciate the reference. The woodchipper inside is actually an original movie prop. It was purchased by Milo Durban, the Dolly Grip on the set of Fargo, who used it for a few years on his hobby farm in Minnesota. He later put it in storage, and when the Coen Brothers were filming A Serious Man in Minneapolis, he took a portion of the chute to have it signed by them. The Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau borrowed it for a weeklong tourism event, then purchased it when it proved to be a popular attraction. Oh, the things we learn on the road!

My sister saw a sign for a National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND. She’d been there years ago when her children were young, and it seemed like a good place to stretch our legs. Besides a frontier town, Jamestown has the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument. Put in place in 1959, it is 26′ tall, 46′ long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement over a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh. There are several real buffalo roaming nearby as well. In addition to the buffalo, there are the Village Goats, Fred and Ted.

The buffalo sculpture stands alongside a Frontier Village with several reconstructed buildings, including a church, a one-room school house, train depot, dentist’s office, bar and other buildings. It was a lovely day to walk through this little village, peek in the buildings, and even examine some of the antiques. We learned that several celebrities hail from Jamestown, the most noted being Louis L’amour and Peggy Lee.

Back on the road again, and we decided to try a scenic byway for part of the trip, beginning in the town of Hebron. The byway was gravel road, so we skipped that, but we did visit Fort Sauerkraut, a sod “fort” that had been constructed in the 1880’s when the townspeople feared an attack from some Sioux warriors who had recently escaped from the reservation. Fortunately, the town was not attacked. The original fort, the only sod fort ever built in North Dakota, is long gone. The current replica was constructed in 2004, with the hope that tourists would be drawn to the site. It worked for us! The name apparently stems from the fact that the town’s founders were German.

We also saw a couple of the wire sculptures that have been constructed along the Enchanted Highway, which stretches 32 miles from I94 exit 72 to the town of Regent. Local artist Gary Greff conceived the idea in the late 1980’s, as a way to attract people to small towns in the area, hopefully preventing their demise. The sculptures are made from scrap iron and can be seen for quite a ways. There are currently seven sculptures, including Geese in Flight and Deer Crossing which are located close to I94, and an eighth sculpture is under construction. We wished we had come through here earlier in the day so we could view them all. By the way, if you do choose to drive the route, Greff has built a hotel in Regent, called the Enchanted Castle.

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Pipestone National Monument

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It was so nice to sleep in this morning. Our first priority as we left Cheyenne was to find a car wash. Our car was so covered by dust that neither of us wanted to touch it. We found a manual car wash where, for $2, we were able to wash a significant portion of Wyoming down the drain.

We drove as far as Omaha today, with no adventures, just the joy of driving 80mph.

Wednesday, August 23

I have lived in Minnesota for five decades, and have driven past Pipestone many times on my west or back home, but I’ve never visited Pipestone National Monument. Mark had visited many years ago, so he was interested in seeing it again. It proved to be a nice break in our drive home. It was a perfect day to walk between the tallgrass prairies in the park to access the pipestone quarries at this site.

Native Americans have been quarrying pipestone here for three millenia. Many tribes accessed these quarries in peace. It was a place where differences were set aside to allow each other to work. The pink-bright red, durable yet relatively soft stone, was prized by many Plains tribes for making pipestones. In the 1800’s, the stone was named Catlinite, for George Catlin who sent a piece of the stone to Boston to be analyzed. It was previously unrecorded in modern science.  The catlinite occurs between layers of quartzite. It gets is color from iron compounds in the soil.

We enjoyed a short video about the history of the quarries and about the modern Native Americans who still quarry the stone by hand. We then headed out to see the quarries.

We left with a memento of the trip – our very own peace pipe.

 

 

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E-Day

Or…totality awesome!

Monday, August 21, 2017

We had been told yesterday that the park might be open by 4:30 am, so we set our alarm for 2am, which comes mighty early. I tried, unsuccessfully, to console myself with the thought that it was 3am back home, not so early after all. Oh well. We were on the road by 2:30, and we were definitely not alone. We could see plenty of cars in front of and behind us.

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Mark had identified an alternate entry into the park that we decided to try. This meant leaving the Interstate about 20 miles south of Glendo and taking some country roads. As we approached the town of Guernsey, it was lit up like they were expecting a UFO visit, ala Devil’s Tower in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I doubt those lights are dark sky compliant, and I don’t know how anyone in that town can sleep at night. Our son and his wife were staying at a ranch about 15 miles away, and they commented that the lights from Guernsey interfered with their star gazing.

We stopped by the ranch to see about parking there, but it was 4am, and no one was up, so we continued on to the park. It is very dark in most of Wyoming, Guernsey excepted, and we came frighteningly close to several deer before seeing them. The back entry to the park is a gravel road, a very dusty gravel road, that twists through about 6.5 miles of ranch land, all posted “No Trespassing,” and all unlit. We saw a number of vehicles and campers parked along this road – our backup plan was to park here as well if there was no access to the park. Fortunately, there was access – YAY!

We found our spot a little before 5am. There was still plenty of parking available. The park limits the number of campers to prevent crowding, plus this was at the far end of the park road. It was obvious that most of the others had been there all night, as many were sleeping in their cars. We kept the lights off and did our best to be quiet.

After the sun came up, and people started stirring, Mark set up camp. It was a lovely location, with a low rise where we could have an unblocked view of the activities. Mark had several cameras to set up. He was determined to capture as much of the event as possible. He even set up a white background to capture what are called shadow bands, thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-colored surfaces immediately before and after a total eclipse.

The show started at 10:30 am and lasted until 1:13 pm. Totality lasted almost 2.5 minutes. I did take photos, but they weren’t very good. I was surprised to find that my phone took better photos than my camera did. Hmm, time for a new camera? I will only share a few of my shots. In fairness, I didn’t take the photos of totality – those came from our son, who, as you can tell, is a much more skilled photographer than I am.

We did see the shadow lines. We also notice that shadows of normal objects became fuzzier as we approached totality. There was a noticeable drop in temperature as the eclipse event progressed. At totality, we could see some of the brighter stars and planets in the sky. It wasn’t truly dark, more like dusk. It was an exciting show, and we’re happy we could experience it here at Glendo State Park.

We packed up and left the park, again using a back road, but one that was a little straighter. We connected with our son and daughter-in-law at the ranch where they spent the day, and decided to go to the nearby town of Guernsey for lunch. The first few miles weren’t so bad, but when we reached the first turn at Hartville, traffic was already backing up. We visited with one of the volunteer firefighters who was helping to direct traffic, and he told us that the interstate was backed up for miles. We decided to go north to Lusk for lunch while our son charged his Tesla.

When we reached the supercharger at Lusk, there were four cars charging, and a half dozen waiting in line. It seemed like a good idea to grab lunch and come back later when the line would be shorter. Hah! It was twice as long when we came back. We left them there and started heading north. Traffic flowed smoothly until we hit I25 near Glendo. The traffic in town was backed up several miles just waiting to enter I25. I read later that there were an additional 217,000 vehicles on the roads in Wyoming yesterday. We saw them, actually we saw the same few travelers for hours. We heard their arguments, watched them exit their cars to visit the ditch, compared their dust to ours, and commiserated over their flat tires, empty gas tanks and full bladders. We were monitoring our fluid intake so we could last. I was so glad I had my GoGirl just in case.

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In the first hour, we made 5 miles; in the second, almost 20; and in the third, Mark plotted an alternate route (50 extra miles, and 3 hours less driving. We weren’t the only ones who chose this alternate, and most of the others were in a big hurry to get home. I chose to take my time (5-10 miles below the speed limit) since I’d been up over 20 hours already, I wasn’t familiar with the road which wound around a lot, it was very, very dark, and I was watching for wildlife that might jump out in front of me. I was happy to let the others pass me, even hugging the side of the road to give them more room, but a few drivers were less than appreciative, flashing me as they approached (probably gesturing as well.) At one point, I saw two cars behind me racing each other to be the first to pass me. After they did pass, they continued to race each other, jockeying for position. Were they Teslas, using ludicrous mode? Scary! I was more than grateful to pass the driving off to Mark after that episode.

We got back to our hotel around 1am. The interstate was still very busy at that time, mostly Colorado residents, anxious to get home before work I suppose. We’d been up for 23 hours. It took us over six hours to drive from Lusk to Cheyenne, normally about a 2.5 hour drive. We spoke to others the next day who stayed on the interstate and whose drive took about three hours longer than ours. Thanks, Mark, for plotting a new course.

By the way, our Prius has an interesting safety feature that we weren’t aware of. If it detects that your driving is less than safe, perhaps you are drifting in and out of your lane, or your speed is erratic, it pops up a message asking if you need to take a rest. The answer was “YES,” but there was no opportunity. We envied the RV drivers who could simply pull over and take a break.

Although we complained excessively about the traffic, it was worth it. It’s sort of like giving birth – horrible when you’re going through it, but easily forgotten in the joy of the result.

 

Posted in Astronomy, Eclipse, Glendo State Park, Prius, Tesla, USA Travel, Wyoming | Leave a comment

Chasing the Eclipse

Or…5 very long days.

How do you pack for a trip like this? Our checklist included things like:
– Eclipse glasses (legitimate ones purchased several years ago)
– Hiking shoes
– Floppy sun hats
– Sun screen
– Rain coats (fortunately, not needed)
– Water
– Snacks
– Cameras
– Tripods
– White background to capture shadow bands (more about this later)
– Camp stools
– Hand sanitizer
– Wet wipes

What we forgot and had to purchase on the road:
– Cooler (duh!)
GoGirl (It levels the playing field for women when they’re out in a field, or on a trail, or in a tent. I could also say it gives them equal standing with men.)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

We took the Prius on this road trip because we were concerned about spending too much time charging the Tesla on the way. It would have required 2-3 stops just for that, each about 45 minutes, and we were in a hurry. This turned out to be a good decision.

We left home very early today, headed to Rapid City, SD. It’s a long haul across South Dakota, especially in the summer. By mid-afternoon, the temperature was registering 100 degrees. On the upside, the speed limit was 80 on I90, and I definitely took advantage of that, since we had to cover 575 miles today. In states with lower speed limits, many drivers go 80 anyway, thinking there is some leeway. Here, they all stay at 80 or under, so I think it must be strictly enforced.

There was plenty of sun, not only in the sky, but also in the thousands of fields of sunflowers. It turns out that South Dakota is one of the top producers of sunflowers, 1.6 billion pounds last year. It’s a cheery sight, truly beautiful. There are two types of sunflower grown here – oil-type and confection. Oil-type have smaller seeds that are used for bird seed and oil, confection are larger and are used for consumption – the ones we buy for snacks. The flowers follow the sun throughout the day, and reorient themselves at night. I wonder what will happen during eclipse totality.

At one of our rest stops, Chamberlain, SD, there was a beautiful stature of a Native American woman. The 50′ statue, named “Dignity”, was designed by South Dakota artist Dale Claude Lamphere, and paid for with a $1 million donation by Norm and Eunabel McKie. It was installed in 2016.

Sunday, August 20

We didn’t take the time to visit any of Rapid City’s attractions, as we are planning to do a road trip in the near future when we’ll have more time to be tourists. However, we did stop at Wind Cave National Park to see if we want to spend more time there in the future. There are several tours offered each day, but we would have had to wait at least two hours to get on one. We did take advantage of the opportunity to purchase the Senior Pass for Mark. (I got mine 5 years ago, but I left it at home.) The cost of the pass is going from $10 to $80 after the end of this month – definitely a good investment. We’ll be back.

Our next stop was Lusk, WY, to see the Tesla Supercharger there. When we stopped, there were three Tesla owners charging their vehicles, and we visited with them for a while, then walked a few blocks to a Stagecoach Museum. On the way, we saw several residents with kiosks in their front yards, selling homemade rugs, food, and other handiworks. The local bank had a sign saying that it would be closed on Monday for the eclipse. Another sign said they didn’t have an ATM machine – small town, for sure.

The Stagecoach Museum was interesting. I think they probably had more visitors this weekend than they do for the rest of the summer. According to the website, admission is $2. However, like everything else in the area, the price was inflated for this weekend, in this case to $5, not enough to break the bank. We got our money’s worth. Besides stagecoaches, there were dishes, clothing, farm equipment as well as a one-room schoolhouse and frontier store.

Our next stop was in Glendo, WY, the area we identified a year ago as being the best location for viewing the eclipse. We weren’t the only ones to make that decision. Several land owners in the area were selling parking spaces for the day. We saw many, many RVs, campers and tents set up all around the area. The normal population of Glendo is 280, with two bars, a church and maybe 50 houses. We stopped at one spot that was selling parking for $40. I was ready to buy, but Mark wanted to check out other options first – wise decision.

Glendo has a beautiful state park which seemed like a possible option. We headed to one of the entrances and purchased a day pass for $6. We also were advised to go to the other entrance tomorrow because that was where everything would be happening. Not willing to take someone else’s word for it, we drove to the other entrance where another volunteer told us we wanted to go in through the first entrance. He also recommended some good spots in the park. We decided to investigate for ourselves, and took a drive through the park.

Glendo State Park is quite large, comprising almost 3,500 acres of land, over 18,000 acres of water, and 45 miles of trails. An earthen dam, constructed in the 1950’s, created the large reservoir in the park, popular for boaters and fishermen/women. We drove in about 13 miles to the far end of the park, and found where we wanted to be, very close to the midpoint of totality. It was also close to toilet facilities, a must as far as I was concerned.

We spent a little time in downtown Glendo, about three blocks long. We saw an Eclipse ATM on the street that we thought was just named that because of the coming event. No, there is actually a company called Eclipse ATM. While enjoying a cold beverage at one of the two bars in town, we noticed a cute “steer” built out of PVC – pretty clever.


From there, we drove to Cheyenne, the closest lodging we could find even a year ago, 100 miles away. We set our alarm for 2am the next day, so we could beat the traffic.

Posted in Astronomy, Eclipse, Road Trip, South Dakota, USA Travel, Wyoming | 1 Comment

La Nouba, or Let’s Party!

Monday, March 27, 2017

We are spending a few days in Orlando for a business meeting.  Today, we segwayed through Celebration, Disney’s planned community developed in the 1990’s. It really is a lovely area, and the weather was perfect for such an activity. I managed to get through most of the ride without mishap, I collided with a cement bench just a block or two from the end. Cement benches do not give way to segways Oh well, just a few scrapes and bruises, not to mention my damaged pride.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

With some time to kill, we headed to Disney Springs, Disney World’s downtown, is full of shopping and dining opportunities. You can find any Disney branded item you need, or don’t need, at Disney Springs. Mark and I managed to resist most of these. We didn’t realize that Disney owns Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm. We enjoyed walking through the area on this gorgeous day.

When we neared the Cirque du Soleil theater, we were approached by one of their employees offering us the opportunity to watch a rehearsal later in the afternoon. We are major Cirque fans, so jumped at the opportunity. Mark and I did kill some time at The Boathouse restaurant, quenching our thirst with a lemon drop martini and blueberry lemonade respectively.

The rehearsal for La Nouba was about 30 minutes long. La Nouba is French for “let’s party,” and the show was created to appeal to children. The theater here was designed and built for Cirque du Soleil, and La Nouba has been playing there since December, 1998. It is scheduled to close in December this year.

It was fascinating to see the performers without costumes, and performing on surfaces that weren’t lit or covered for the performance. The stage has four retractable power track floors, each with the capability of moving up to 2 feet per second. The trampoline bed uses a second generation of springs, which allows the performers to jump higher and faster down the track.

We watched the performers tumble, turn aerial somersaults, and “run” up the sides of a building on stage. I apologize for the quality of the photos, but the performers just wouldn’t hold still! It looks like an amazing show. We were disappointed that we wouldn’t be in town long enough to take in a performance. Maybe we can come back before December.

At the end of the rehearsal, two performers and another Cirque member answered questions. Many of the performers are former Olympians, all trained for decades before becoming qualified to work for Cirque du Soleil. They range in age from mid-20’s to upper 50’s. Young children are also used for some roles in the performance. It’s a career that keeps a person in shape.

 

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Let There be Light

Friday, March 24, 2017

We learned of  the “Bruce Monro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” exhibit at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum a few months ago, and knew right away that we wanted to see it. It’s been at the Arboretum since mid-November, but we’ve been too busy until now. It will be ending in mid-April, so we needed to make it a priority. Good decision!

Bruce Munro is a British artist who has been producing large light-based installations for several decades. He has had numerous exhibits in the US, the UK and Australia. Among the materials he uses are CD’s (a good way to recycle a dying technology,) acrylic, hay bales, fiber optic and water bottles.

There are seven installations at this site, two indoors and the others outdoors.  Over 2,700 hours were spent to design and construct them in the UK, then another 3,200 hours to install them here in Minnesota. They include over 70 miles of fiber optic cable.

We were first greeted by “The Good Seed,” inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia. It includes 19 lampposts that branch out like a seed head (reminded me of a dandelion.)

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Inside the Arboretum’s lobby were hanging three “Chindi,” inspired by dust devils that Munro had seen while living in Australia. They are built of acrylic rods suspended in a helix form and lit using optical fiber.

The other indoor exhibit, “Reflections,” projected light onto five smooth surfaces, displaying changing colors and sound. Each had a different pattern.

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“Oreum,” one of the outdoor exhibits is truly a Field of Light. Thousands of stems are topped with bulbs that constantly change color. The stems sway with the wind, adding another dimension to the show.

Ten (if if counted correctly) “Water Towers,” each include 252 bottles of water with light filaments that change colors. Inside each tower are speakers that broadcast music. They are intended to represent Earth’s natural pulse. It was very moving.

“Rhadamanthine Club” is a delightful take on a parliament of owls. Munro uses round hay bales, sides covered with black plastic, fronts covered with white plastic and a center black pupil. Colored spotlights blink on and off for each pair of bales, creating the owl’s eyes. We had seen them from the road as we drove up to the Arboretum, but we really couldn’t get the full effect until darkness fell.

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The last installation, “Minnesota Gathering,” was created specifically for the arboretum. It is set in the sugar maple grove, where tubes run from the trees to the collection tubs. The sap started running early this year, in late February, and was still being collected today. Munro uses these tubes as perches for noisy birds. Tropical birds are represented by colorful clothes pins and a cacophony of sound.
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Fair Winds

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The original name for Buenos Aires was Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (Our Royal Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds is my best guess. The city of Buenos Aires was founded in 1536 by Pedro de Mendoza, a Spanish explorer. It is the fourth largest city in the Americas, with a population of 3 million people.

Our hotel, the Hilton, is located near the old harbor. There is a canal that was used for shipping in the past, but now is used mainly for recreation. Many of the former warehouse buildings have been converted to shops and restaurants, and the area is now a promenade, with many citizens enjoying the beautiful day. There is a beautiful walking bridge cross the canal, Puenta de la Mujer (Women’s Bridge.) The design is supposed to represent a man leaning over a woman, doing the tango.

We spent the early part of the day at a Sunday market near our hotel. There are numerous such markets throughout the city, and they can stretch for blocks. You can purchase leather goods, trinkets, antiques, clothing, and on and on. Mark and I snagged some leather fedoras, and we look quite snazzy as we enjoy our last lunch in Argentina.

We also took a city tour, to see some of the highlights. Our first stop was at the square outside of Casa Rosada (Government House.) It was at this building that Madonna was filmed singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” in the movie, “Evita.” 

Between 1976 and 1983, many young people were “disappeared” during a corrupt military regime. Some of these young people were pregnant at the time. Once the baby was born, the mother was murdered and the child “adopted” by a military family. The group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, was founded to try to find out what happened to their children and grandchildren. They protested at the Plaza de Mayo, across from Government House, trying to get some resolution. It’s estimated that 500 babies were stolen, and only about 1/4 have been reunited with their families to date. The street around the plaza is painted with “white scarves” as symbols of the grandmothers who marched here.

The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis served as Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is located across from the square. The citizens are proud of their connection to the Vatican, and the pope’s image is displayed everywhere.

We spent a little time in the La Boca (the mouth) neighborhood, which sits at the mouth of the Matanza-Riachuelo River. Unfortunately, the river is contaminated by arsenic and lead from centuries of pollution. It’s a very poor neighborhood, overall. The area was settled by people from Genoa, many of whom worked at the old port here. Tango originated in this neighborhood, originally danced by men together while they waited to visit a prostitute. After the tango became popular overseas, men and women began dancing it together. 

This is a colorful neighborhood. The immigrants who settled here couldn’t afford traditional building materials, so they used metal and wood from shipping containers at the dock. They also used the remaining paint after a ship was repainted, and that was rarely enough to paint the entire house, so many are multi-hued.

We walked Caminito Street, home to many artists.

Our final stop was at La Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of many famous and/or wealthy people, including Eva Peron. Eva was hated by the military, and after she died, they stole her embalmed body and attempted to hide it from the public. However, the people always found the location, and came to visit and leave flowers. For almost 20 years, it was moved from place to place, then, with the assistance of the Vatican, to Milan, Italy. She was finally returned to Argentina, and is buried in her sister’s family mausoleum, the Duarte family.

Mausoleums here can sell for as much as $150,000, although many are only $50,000. They can be very elaborate or quite simple, and can be as deep as almost 50 feet. It belongs to the family in perpetuity. They can be bought and sold just like houses. We noticed some that appear to be abandoned. If that’s the case, the cemetery tries to locate any remaining family members, who may not even be aware of the existence of the mausoleum. If no family members can be located, the cemetery waits another 20 years, then puts it up for resale. 

After a bit more touring, we returned to the hotel in time to catch our ride to the airport. An overnight trip brings us home on Monday morning, March 6.

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