Monthly Archives: June 2009

New Tools, Continuing Upholstry and No More Room

I got tools from Rio Grande this after­noon.

new tools

new tools

Clock­wise from the top. Ring man­drel — very pleased with the qual­i­ty and heft. Par­al­lel pli­ers — thank you Sarah L. for get­ting me addict­ed to those expen­sive lit­tle dears. Raw hide mal­let for bang­ing on met­al. Ring clamp for hold­ing onto things and not sand­ing my fin­gers, and a pair of tiny pointy snips for get­ting into tight spaces.

But there is no way that I’ll be doing any work at the bench for the next cou­ple of days.

there's a bench under there somewhere

there’s a bench under there some­where

I have to fin­ish the patio fur­ni­ture cush­ions first. (They are gonna be great!)

new cushions in the making

new cush­ions in the mak­ing

Feeling Nesty — Part I

Today we declared a scav­enger hunt day. We have a list of things we’d like to have for the house but haven’t found just the right one yet.

We were wild­ly suc­cess­ful.

two finds in the scavenger hunt today!

two finds in the scav­enger hunt today!

Our last gaze­bo was destroyed by the snow last win­ter. We final­ly found a gazebo/screen house that was small enough for the spot between the sal­ad gar­den and the house.

It comes in a long thin box.

amazingly compact

amaz­ing­ly com­pact

The last one was a right roy­al b* to put up. Oth­er than not being able to find one of the parts (we didn’t look hard enough) this one was pret­ty dang easy.

all ready for the table and chairs.

all ready for the table and chairs.

We have anoth­er find in the oth­er big box but right now it’s time to make some sup­per.

It’s a Big Dam Country — Final

Some inter­est­ing num­bers and ran­dom obser­va­tions:

Total miles: 6804
Gal­lons of gas: 257
Aver­age price/gallon: $2.69
Aver­age MPG: 26.47

(i’m skep­ti­cal but con­sid­er­ing the cruise con­trol was in use for most of the non-pho­to-op dri­ving it could be pos­si­ble.)

Hotels: 14
Pho­tographs: 3133
Spent on road food: $376.86
Blog Posts: 22 (not count­ing the chick­en update)
Hard dri­ves pur­chased: 1 — 320G

Dams vis­it­ed: 19
Con­flu­ences seen: 1
Con­flu­ences unseen: 1

List of dams:
Kit­ti­tas, WA — Wana­pum Dam
Yaki­ma, WA — Priest Rapids Dam
Kahlo­tus, WA — Low­er Mon­u­men­tal Dam
Hele­na, MT — Canyon Fer­ry Dam
Pierre, SD — Oahe Dam
Cham­ber­lain, SD — Big Bend Dam
Pick­stown, SD — Fort Ran­dall Dam
Yank­ton, SD — Gavin’s Point Dam
Pano­ra, IA — Lit­tle dam on the Rac­coon Riv­er
Clearview, WV — Pike Island Lock & Dam
Han­ni­bal, OH — Han­ni­bal Lock & Dam
New­port, OH- Wil­low Island Lock & Dam
Felic­i­ty, OH — Cap’t Mel­dahl Lock & Dam
Greenup , KY — Greenup Lock & Dam
Mark­land, IN — Mark­land Locks & Dam
Lousiville, KY — McAlpine Lock & Dam
New­burgh, IN — New­burgh Lock & Dam
Win­field, MO — Win­field Lock & Dam
Jamestown, ND — Jamestown Dam

Look for improve­ments in the exist­ing blog posts (links and key words) and pho­to gal­leries.

Thanks to every­one for rid­ing along!


It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 24

Not so much a trip report as a weath­er report.

There’s weath­er approach­ing from the north­west (hel­lo cana­da, hel­lo snow) and I’m head­ing, um, north­west. Some­where the snow and I are going to meet. I was just hop­ing to pick the spot.

I chose Billings, MT.

So off I went.

I did stop in Mal­ta, briefly. There was a clas­sic rail depot that’s still in use.

passenger rail service lives on

pas­sen­ger rail ser­vice lives on

And of course the grain ele­va­tor.

i haven't deciphered the sign yet

i haven’t deci­phered the sign yet

It start­ed rain­ing about then. Nasty, cold, Seat­tle in Novem­ber rain. Long straight roads with few oth­er vehi­cles. Kind of a zen thing — I go up the rise, I go down the rise, I go straight across the val­ley, I go up the rise, I go down the rise…

At one point I looked up in the sky and saw a heli­copter. A big heli­copter. It was green and gold and it was fly­ing low. WTF. Not state police and not life flight. No TV logos. Just big, and look­ing like it want­ed a place to land. Real­ly lousy weath­er to be fly­ing in.

This is what the sky looked like. When it wasn’t rain­ing.

low clearance ahead

low clear­ance ahead

At Billings I stopped and called home for recon help. It looked like­ly that I could make Liv­ing­stone before it start­ed to snow/get dark. Jim sweet­ly made me a hotel reser­va­tion. I grabbed a star­bucks and head­ed west again.

About 10 miles out­side of Liv­ingston the rain turned to snow.

yup, snow in june

yup, snow in june

Even the locals are a bit non­plussed.

OTOH My life isn’t as bad as the guy I just met in hotel hall­way. Remem­ber what I said about a big green and gold heli­copter? They just bought it and are try­ing to fly it to the coast. Maybe they should rent a truck?

Ran­dom Stuff:

If wish­es were wings I could fly to the moon.

The music to day was unre­mark­able. Except, maybe, a cou­ple of Pat­sy Cline tunes.

Today’s Route:

View It’s a Big Dam Coun­try — Day 24 in a larg­er map

It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 23

From Minot, ND to Glas­gow, MT. Cool, over­cast. It didn’t actu­al­ly rain but it was very threat­en­ing.

Hwy 2 is often an inter­est­ing road in that it varies between two-lane and new­ly divid­ed four-lane. This occa­sion­al­ly leads to con­fus­ing lane strip­ing on the por­tion that used to be two-lane.

that bit between the two yellow lines is the left hand west-bound lane.

that bit between the two yel­low lines is the left hand west-bound lane.

I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Willis­ton. Couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from the W-Ms near home if they tried to be. Huge, wide aisles, well lit, well signed, *clean*. Replen­ished some sup­plies and head­ed back out. Head turn­er on the way out of the park­ing lot. You’ll notice that the Wal-Mart Logo is nowhere near the sign that says Liquor.

tires, groceries, lawn furniture, and tequila

tires, gro­ceries, lawn fur­ni­ture, and tequi­la

Along the road there are lots of these lit­tle oil pumps slow­ly mov­ing up and down. Hyp­not­ic.

oil for america

oil for amer­i­ca

The main attrac­tion for the day was the con­flu­ence of the Mis­souri and Yel­low­stone rivers. Unlike that oth­er con­flu­ence I tried to see this one is open and invit­ing. The North Dako­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety main­tains an inter­pre­tive cen­ter that sits in the mid­dle of a wet­land wild-life refuge.

The Yel­low­stone Riv­er is the longest un-dammed riv­er in the con­tigu­ous Untied States.

missouri on the far left, yellowstone on the mid left, wetlands on the right

mis­souri on the far left, yel­low­stone on the mid left, wet­lands on the right

The coolest part of the vis­it was eat­ing lunch in the com­pa­ny of 20 or so Goldfinch­es. The cen­ter puts out feed­ers and keeps them well stocked.

two fellows and a lady dining

two fel­lows and a lady din­ing

waiting his turn

wait­ing his turn

This lit­tle guy is not a goldfinch but he was very inter­est­ed in what I was hav­ing for lunch…

what have you got there?

what have you got there?

One more goldfinch.

thistle feeder

this­tle feed­er

Next door (sort of) is a recre­ation of the Fort Union trad­ing post. Built by the Amer­i­can Fur Com­pa­ny in 1828 it was not a mil­i­tary instal­la­tion. Trade con­tin­ued until 1866 when Fort Union was torn down and the tim­ber etc. was used to build Fort Buford. (Which was a mil­i­tary instal­la­tion.)

a place to trade furs

a place to trade furs

It looks way too much like a Dis­ney­land recre­ation to me but the orig­i­nal was white washed at the insis­tence of the man­age­ment who though it made the place more ‘impres­sive’.

There were these love­ly blue flow­ers in the park­ing lot. I have no idea what they are — except pret­ty.

blue but not bachelor buttons.

blue but not bach­e­lor but­tons.

From Fort Union I tried to get back up to Hwy 2 using 58 North. Didn’t get far before the “pave­ment ends” sign sent me back the longer way around. It wasn’t the first time I’ve ques­tioned my choice of vehi­cle. There have been a lot of local dams up 5 -10 miles of grav­el road that I have passed on. On the oth­er hand absolute com­fort at 70(nominal) with the top down is just too good to pass up.

Got a whiff of nos­tali­gia when I stopped for gas in Cul­bert­son, MT. Do you remem­ber this guy?

an old friend

an old friend

Two more quick images from the road between Cul­bert­son and Glas­gow.

This is rail­road coun­try — here’s anoth­er piece of main­te­nance equip­ment. I’m stay­ing in the largest hotel for 100+ miles around. There are two full size bus­es and 5 of the large trucks that can also run on rails used for main­te­nance-of-way
trucks. (BTW the Wikipedia link is a stub — any­one have a good links for iden­ti­fy­ing the types of vehi­cles?)

no doubt this does something very cool

no doubt this does some­thing very cool

All over the west you find hous­es that have been aban­doned. Some­times with new hous­es built right next them. This one doesn’t have any­thing near it except the range fence.

what happens when you son't fix the leaks in the roof

what hap­pens when you don’t fix the leaks in the roof

Ran­dom Stuff:

70 mph on a divid­ed four-lane is not con­ducive to stop­ping for the odd pho­to-op. 70 on a two-lane is bet­ter. 60 on a two-lane is even bet­ter and not at all hard to get away with out here. Locals are usu­al­ly dri­ving that slow­ly any­way and the rest know how to pass polite­ly.

Towns along Hwy 2 in Min­neso­ta, N. Dako­ta, and much of Mon­tana exist to house/service grain ele­va­tors and the rail­roads that trans­port the grain.

I need one of those lit­tle wifi detec­tor things. There is no cell phone data ser­vice out here — but I know that most towns have a town hall, library, school, or com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter with open wifi that my Crack­ber­ry could talk to. I just don’t have quick way of detect­ing them.

Song and Lyric of the Day:

The moments of plea­sures nev­er do last
Are gone like a suit­case full of your past

Ash­es by Now — Emmy Lou Har­ris

More sign­ers should cov­er Spring­steen songs.

The changes in the col­or of the worn asphalt make road pic­tures iden­ti­fi­able to the expe­ri­enced trav­el­er. (Ooo, rose beige — that would east­ern Mon­tana)

I have fin­ished read­ing Gruber’s Forgery of Venus (good) and begun Giaman’s Nev­er­where.

Today’s Route:

View It’s a Big Dam Coun­try — Day 23 in a larg­er map

It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 22

Oh my, it’s a windy damn coun­try. Blow­ing hard enough that the upwind car door is almost too heavy to open. Yipes.

I was plan­ning on two dams today but only made one. Saw a lot of oth­er stuff instead.

All along the roads there are trees plant­ed as wind breaks and plant­ed in between the trees area lilacs. Like these:

all colors from white to deep purple

all col­ors from white to deep pur­ple

This set was locat­ed at Hwy 46 and 151st Ave SE.

very nice signage

very nice sig­nage

This is 151st Ave SE. If you’ve been to our place you get the joke.

just like home

just like home

Near the town of Ender­lin I found this church up on blocks in someone’s front yard.

better than the neighbors' impala

bet­ter than the neigh­bors’ impala

arty shot of the day

arty shot of the day

Ender­lin is a major hub for the Cana­di­an Pacif­ic Rail­road.

push me - pull you

push me — pull you

There’s a nice city park right next to the rail yard. I stopped for lunch and found this lit­tle guy look­ing for a drink.

looking for a drink

look­ing for a drink

Chat­ted with the UPS guy about the wind. I have noth­ing to com­plain about — I’m not dri­ving a big brown box.

After lunch I moved on the dam of the day.

The Jamestown Dam is small­er than most I’ve vis­it­ed. It’s a Bureau of Recla­ma­tion dam that pro­vides flood con­trol on the James riv­er.

jamestown dam

jamestown dam

There’s an out­let on the far side.

downstream side

down­stream side

The parks next to the dam includ­ed a des­ig­nat­ed kite fly­ing field. It thought it was a mod­el air­plane field when I first saw it.

flying field sign

fly­ing field sign

There’s an open field and a line of pic­nic tables. All nice­ly land­scaped.

wings on strings home ground

wings on strings home ground

I’m in Minot for the night. On to the con­flu­ence of the Mis­souri and Yel­low­stone rivers in the morn­ing. Because, damn it, the uni­verse owes me a con­flu­ence. Then the Fort Peck Dam.

Ran­dom Notes:

The sound track from Grosse Point Blank is excel­lent dri­ving music.

Trav­el­ing Light should be on the Road Trip Music List. But which ver­sion?

Hav­ing a turkey vul­ture strafe your car is much scari­er than hav­ing a pheas­ant run out in front of you. Also turkey vul­tures have big feet.

Today’s Route:

View It’s a Big Dam Coun­try — Day 22 in a larg­er map

It’s a Big Dam Country — Day 21

Spent much of today vac­il­lat­ing between ‘I want to be home right now — how fast can i get there?’ and ‘the inter­state is killing me — how much extra time will it take?’

Some­where around Sergeant’s Bluff IA I had the motorists’ equiv­a­lent of a flash­back freak-out and took the first north bound turn off of I-29. That would be 75 just to the east.

Interstate’s are dan­ger­ous­ly hyp­not­ic in their same­ness. I start to assume stu­pid things and pass trucks at 85 mph with­out being able to see all the way around them. I mean that’s why there are two lanes north­bound, right? Cue dod­der­ing old fart in ’56 chevy pick­up with orig­i­nal tires doing 45 in the left hand lane. I don’t make those assump­tions on state roads. I’ll live longer on the state roads.

On with the reportage.

The corn that I saw being plant­ed on the way through going east is now up out of the ground. There’s a lot less heavy farm equip­ment on the road. Here’s a shot from Kim­bal­ton, IA

getting tall already

get­ting tall already

North­west Iowa seems very pros­per­ous. All the hous­es have new paint on them and all the out­build­ings are stand­ing straight. There are a lot of cows, some sheep, and a bunch of hog barns. Not the rows and rows that you saw on tele­vi­sion a cou­ple of months ago. Two or three barns at a time. Clear­ly pays well, though.

classic iowa countryside

clas­sic iowa coun­try­side

I skipped the vis­it to the Muse­um of Reli­gious Arts. (Yes that was a plur­al) I was feel­ing kitsch chal­lenged today. The brochure I picked up at the visitor’s cen­ter looked love­ly…

A ride up I-29 that didn’t feel com­fort­able. Then a rest stop and some rethink­ing. On to Route 75.BTW Iowa rest stops are non-smok­ing. (Though no one seems to take the signs seri­ous­ly.)

honored in the breach if at all

hon­ored in the breach if at all

Route 75 fol­lows the train tracks pret­ty close­ly. All along are huge grain ele­va­tors. This is the one in Hin­ton, IA.

hinton co-op elevator

hin­ton co-op ele­va­tor

The ground changes some­where around the Iowa/Minnesota line. There are gran­ite slabs and boul­ders in some of the fields.

cows, rocks, sky

cows, rocks, sky

From Madi­son, MN I give you Lou. He’s been stand­ing there pro­claim­ing Madison’s claim to fame — lute­fish — for 25 years.

local media star

local media star

There’s a hotel down the block called Lou’s Lodge. I should have stopped but was hop­ing for some­thing with a cou­ple few­er hunter’s trucks parked out­side.

There were no rooms avail­able in Ortonville. Next pos­si­bil­i­ty — Wheaton.

Big road detour around con­struc­tion on 75. Wheaton is in the mid­dle. No idea which end of the detour you can get to Wheaton from. Not will­ing to back­track if I was wrong. Onto Breckenridge/Wahpeton.

Found a hotel about 9:30. Grabbed some din­ner — Burg­er King sal­ads are awful. Tried to write, too hyper and too tired at the same time.

But I could see this out of the win­dow. I love the sound of trains. Instant nos­tal­gia.



Then I fell over asleep.

Ran­dom bits:

The red-winged black bird con­tin­ued to be the dom­i­nant road-side species. Added some sort of dove near the Iowa/Minnesota line. Also saw the pheas­ant sac­ri­fice of the west­bound trip about then.

There is no more hon­ey­suck­le. Must be an Ohio Riv­er val­ley thing. I kind of miss it, so much bet­ter than ag chem­i­cals.

The answer to the ques­tion posed at the begin­ning is about 18 extra hours of dri­ving time. (The dis­tance is with­in a cou­ple hun­dred miles.)

Today’s Route:

View It’s a Big Dam Coun­try — Day 21 in a larg­er map