San Diego Botanic Garden

Wednesday, Dec 6, 2017

Happy 95th Birthday, Dad!

The San Diego Botanic Garden is just a few miles away, so we spent several hours there this afternoon. The weather is perfect for walking, mostly sunny and a little windy, with temperatures in the low 70’s (it’s in the low 20’s back home!)

This park is set on 37 acres, with sections devoted to different types of landscapes, South Africa, New Zealand, South America, Central America and others. There is even a rainforest with a waterfall – in a dry climate. Sprinklers go a long way to giving this a realistic feel.


The Mexican Garden contains several topiary exhibits.

There are several pieces of artwork throughout the park, ranging from about $800 to about $15,000. They are available for purchase if you’re interested.


We left the park and returned after dinner for their “Garden of Lights,” where much of the garden is lit for the holiday season. There was also live entertainment and horse-drawn wagon rides. Tonight’s performances were conducted by the local YMCA Dance Group – we saw lots of giggling girls in dance costumes throughout the park.


It was interesting to contrast daytime with nighttime views.

Everyone seems to be in the Christmas spirit here.


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Balboa Park

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

We met our new friends, Dave and Kathy, at Balboa Park this morning. It was a perfect day for wandering around this beautiful city park, which sits on 1,200 acres, and includes 15 museums, 17 gardens, several theaters and the San Diego Zoo.

The site was first placed in reserve by the Mexican Government in 1835. After Mexico ceded San Diego to the United States, the city put the land into a permanent reserve. Park development occurred in the early 1900’s in conjunction with the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, set to coincide with the opening of the Panama Canal. Much of what we see today was built for the Expo. The park also hosted the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition. Balboa Park was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

It was a perfect day for examining the park, but there certainly wasn’t enough time to see everything that it offers. We did visit the Botanical Building, which had many poinsettias in addition to the regular flora.

We walked by the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, which houses the world’s largest pipe organ in an outdoor venue. John D Spreckels (Spreckels Sugar Company) donated money to purchase the organ and build the pavilion for the 1915 Expo. We were not able to see the organ as it is only open during concerts. Free concerts are held every Sunday afternoon.

Currently, there are eight Christmas story tableaux set up in the pavilion, telling Christ’s story from the Annunciation to Resurrection.

Mark visited the Air & Space Museum, while I spent my time more productively – checking out the museum shops.

We can watch the sunset from the balcony of our condo. They have been beautiful – made so by the wildfires north of us. Beauty and destruction go hand in hand, unfortunately.


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New Relationships

Monday, December 3, 2017

We flew back to Minneapolis, stayed overnight, and caught a flight to San Diego on the 3rd. We are staying at a vacation timeshare in Carlsbad, California. It looked like a good place to visit, with lots of touring opportunities both north and south of here, and we booked the trip this past spring.

A few years ago, I submitted a sample to AncestryDNA. If you allow it, the Ancestry site will make your information public to other members who share your DNA. It’s been fun to review the information, but there were no surprises. Until a few months ago, that is, and after we had already planned this trip.

This summer, I heard from someone whose test indicated a relationship, someone I had not heard of before. He was born not far from me in Iowa, and was adopted as an infant. He never knew who his father was, and still doesn’t know for sure, but we’ve been able to narrow it down to his being either a first or a second cousin of mine. He lives in San Diego, so this trip provided an opportunity to meet him and his wife. We spent an enjoyable day with them, and will be spending some more time with them while we are here.

He looks like family! Similar coloring and similar profile, even his voice sounds somewhat familiar.

Dave and his wife took us to lunch at a lovely restaurant in Oceanside, Ruby’s Diner, then did a bit of exploring. They have plans to show us around San Diego, visiting some of their favorite sites. We’re looking forward to it.

We stopped in Cardiff-by-the-Sea to see the Cardiff Kook (not an official name,) a surfer statue on the beach. The locals enjoy sneaking over there at night to dress the surfer, even though it’s illegal. Currently, the Kook is celebrating someone’s birthday.

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Brain Candy Live!

Friday, December 1, 2017

It’s winter travel season again. We’d already booked a trip to San Diego on December 3, when we learned from our son, Ian, that Adam Savage and Michael Stevens were bringing their science show, Brain Candy Live!, was coming to Minneapolis on that day. Well, Mark and I are fans of Mythbusters (the original version, that is,) plus Mark has enjoyed Stevens’ Vsauce science podcasts on YouTube. We really wanted to see the show, so I went online and found that they would be in Milwaukee on December 1. I booked flights for the 1st, and we headed to Milwaukee this morning. It was so worth it.

Adam and Michael have created a very entertaining show about science and how things work. It’s easy enough for the layperson to enjoy, and entertaining enough for young people. In fact, we believe it was mostly directed toward kids, hopefully getting them excited about science.

Most of the demonstrations went off without a hitch, but Adam had to pull out his Leatherman a few times to make adjustments to the equipment. That provided more opportunities to explain what went wrong, and how to fix it. One demonstration involved creating a hovercraft using a trampoline base and hairdryers. They brought up a young girl to ride it. She gleefully explained her love of science (Yay!)

A few involved ping pong balls, one with a ping pong ball machine gun, another a ping pong cannon, and yet another with a garbage can and exploding soda bottle (plastic, not glass.) We brought home four Brain Candy ping pong balls.

Another demonstration explained how high and low pressure affect weather patterns. Soda bottles were involved again. I never understood what it meant before – low pressure means cloudy skies, high pressure means clear skies.

Best of all, we had tickets that allowed us to attend a “Meet and Greet” with Adam and Michael. They answered a few questions and we got our picture taken with them. This allowed me to thank Adam Savage for a podcast that he did a few years ago about Talking to My Kids About Sex in the Internet Age (but really about respecting girls and women.) He is one of my heroes for doing this.

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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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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.


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.


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