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