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   There are a lot of things people think about when they think of the American West.  One of the images that comes to mind for me is a biker.  While this shot could have used a higher powered lens, I think it captures a American West cliche.

June 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Pluvius!

   I was actually excited to see a warning sign for Rattlesnakes.  I did not see one, nor did I get off the path to search for one, but the idea I was in a place were they actually exist was exciting.
   Birthday shout to Pluvius.

June 15, 2013

North-west trip day 14

Wind turbines

Wind turbines

   The last day of driving began.  I planned to meet up with a friend in Cedar Rapids.  So I drove until early afternoon before I reached Cedar Rapids.  There I took a shower and we went out for coffee and conversation.  Afterward I knew I had just 3 hours before I was back home.  At this point I had been driving for so long 3 hours sounded like a blink of an eye.  I pulled in the drive way and ended the longest road trip I've yet undertook.  In all I covered some 6,230 miles and 14 states, 11 of which I had never been.  I accomplished most of the things I had set out to do: I saw the Rockey Mountains, visited Devil's Tower, saw a geyser, hot springs, maybe a glacier, played in snow in June, saw the Pacific Ocean, saw a giant Redwood, and visited a couple of people along the way.

June 14, 2013

North-west trip day 13

Wind sock in Nebraska

Wind sock in Nebraska

   Today was the trek across Nebraska.  It looked much like South Dakota, but at a temperature of up to 103°F (39°C).  Again, I got lucky and had a cloud front move in and at least remove solar heating.  Every time I got out of my car it was like stepping into an oven.  Normally one cracks open their car windows a bit when it is hot outside to keep the car from getting too hot.  But I kept mine closed to keep the cold in and that worked better.
   Most of the day I drove, but I stopped at a truck stop for a shower and food.  There I looked for a skating rink in Nebraska and found one in Omaha.  While at the truck stop I looked at the weather and found a powerful thunderstorm moving into the area.  This would keep the sun away at least.
   With the time changes I found I arrived in Omaha right on time to skate, and I skated the whole session.  The floor was hardwood, in good shape, and about the same length at Watertown but just a little more narrow.  While the facility was in good shape, I felt the staff was not attentive at all.  I witnessed a young girl fall and break her wrist.  There was no one on the floor who worked there and it took some time to get their attention.  When we did, they didn't seem to have much of a procedure.   I've never actually seen anyone break a bone while skating, but at other rinks where there is a serious fall they normally turn on the lights, turn off the music and clear the floor until the situation is dealt with.  Here, they didn't do any of this and after about 5 minutes moved the poor girl off the floor.  She was made to sit in the side lines until paramedics arrived, holding her broken wrist.  I had stood in front of the girl from shortly after she fell keeping other skaters from hitting her, but in hindsight I should have helped her off the floor.  Anyway, I was less than impressed with how those who worked there handled the injury.
   I walked out of the rink tired and into a spectacular light show.  The weather was still quite warm and very humid, and it had clearly just rained.  Lightning flashes were almost continuous in the distance.  Being so close to Iowa, I figured there would be a rest area fairly soon along my drive.  This was true and I pulled over for the night just inside Iowa.

June 13, 2013

North-west trip day 12

Wyoming

Wyoming

   Mostly a day of driving.  The goal was to reach Denver, Colorado.  Originally I had two people in this area I was hoping to meet up with.  One was now in northern Nebraska, and the other was in Finland for work.  Still, I decided I should visit Denver if for no other reason than to solidly place Colorado on my list of visited states.  I arrived at rush hour and slowly worked my way to a park.  There was a skating rink that had a Tuesday adult session I was curious to visit, but I needed to burn a couple hours.  So I ate, saw some prairie dogs, and updated my trip log.  Afterward I skated at a rink in Arvada, Colorado.  I estimate the rink was about the size of the one I'm use to skating in Watertown, WI.  The floor either wood or linoleum, painted white for hokey—seems everything in and around Denver is competitive.  After skating I was finished being south and the remainder of the trip would be working my way east-north-east.
   I stopped in Wiggins, CO for the evening.  It was much warmer then I would have liked, but I found my keeping the lid to the trunk open a little I could get a breeze that helped make sleeping more tolerable in temperatures around 70°F.

June 12, 2013

North-west trip day 11

The Great Salt Desert

The Great Salt Desert

   A full day of driving.  I stopped in Reno, Nevada for a truck stop shower and found one of many fulfilled clichés I had about Nevada—the smokey casino located any/everywhere.  I then started my drive across Nevada.  It was exactly what I had expected.  Arid landscape with small shrubs in the rocky soil.  There was a strong wind from the south this day and tumbleweed was regularly blowing across the Interstate.
   I reached the Great Salt Desert as I entered Utah.  Also exactly what I expected.  Very flat light colored sand, even more baron then Nevada.  The winds were constant and strong, and the Interstate signs warned of gusts over of 35 MPH.  I found regular wind socks placed along the highway, presumably for truckers.  All were horizontal from the strong south winds.
   Although the temperatures was in the 90ies, clouds had moved in keeping the sun from exacerbating the situation.  Nonetheless, I kept the air conditioner on high the whole day. 
   There was the question of where to stop for the evening.  I had been sleeping in my trunk the entire trip, which works great when the temperature is 60°F or below, but tolerable to around 65-70°F.  But when I checked the forecast for Salt Lake City, the temperature was not getting anywhere near comfortable.  My only hope was in Wyoming where the temperature was forecast to be a little lower, presumably due to altitude.  So while I had no other objections to staying the night in Utah I didn't stop because of temperature.  I found a rest area near Evanston, WY.

June 11, 2013

North-west trip day 10

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park

   Much of the drive yesterday followed Interstate 5 southbound, and today it was time to head back to Highway 101 along the coast.  I stopped along the beach in Crescent City, California.  I also found a road side art gallery by Val Polyanin.  There isn't much else I can find about this artist, but I enjoyed it's grotesque style.
   A couple more hours of driving, and I reached my destination for the day: Redwood National Park.  I had seen pictures of giant redwood trees and wanted to see one in person.  My experience seeing one of these giants in person can not be overstated—it was truly moving.  Their size is humbling, but I think it's their upward reach that really inspires awe.  I wasn't expecting the experience to be so profound, but it was more so than seeing the Rockey Mountains in the distant for the first time, any of the magnificent rapids running through valleys I saw, the unexpected drop in the badlands, or even the outer worldly pronominal caused by the Yellowstone hot spot.  So I learned something new about myself: I'm moved by seeing Cetacea (whales and dolphins) and now also Sequoia.
   Naturally I attempted to photograph these majestic colossus, but much like mountains there isn't really anything that can put their size into context—that one has to experience themselves.  So I tried for general documentation.  In this trip I did not encounter the truly massive redwood like those seen in photos with people driving cars through.  When I return one day I will make a better effort to seek out more redwoods groves.
   This part of the trip marks the end of what I desired to reach in the in the westerly direction and it now was time to work my way back east.  The Black Rock Desert laies on the east side of the California, and the mountainous terrain and sparse population means there are not a lot of options for roads.  While mountain driving with it's tight turns and attentive driving requirements can be fun, I had been doing it for the last several days.  I wanted to get on a main road where the driving isn't so involved, and gas stations are not such a rarity.  So I decided to work south-east toward Reno, Nevada.  A nice lady at the Redwood National Park visitor center recommended a route for me she said was a very pretty drive, and she was correct.  The route rook me though Lassen National Forest and afterward as darkness fell I stopped in a rest area in Janesville, California.

June 10, 2013

North-west trip day 9

   Started making my way south along Hwy 101.  Today was the first day I could see the Pacific Ocean.  I stopped to fill a bottle with ocean water so it can sit next to the bottle of Atlantic Ocean water I gathered from last year's trip out east.  The drive was pretty but slow going.  I made a stop at Mount St. Helens visitor center, although I was unable to identify which mountain in the background was Mount St. Helens.  I stopped just outside Portland, Oregon and found a Gresham Skate World roller skating rink.  It was supprising to find one open on a Monday night, but there was one.  Probably the largest floor I've ever skated on with some kind of linoleum floor that was in fairly good shape.
   After skating I continued south for awhile.  I found that on the north-west coast, it is still twilight at 10:00 pm local time.  So I normally stopped around 11:00 pm.  I stopped at Mantaniza Rest Area just north of Grants Pass, Oregon.