While in South Dakota in early August for a family reunion another place I sneaked off to was Falls Park near downtown Sioux Falls. I love it there. A huge park with lots to see and great photo opportunities. The Big Sioux River runs through the park and makes a bunch of beautiful cascaded water falls.
They are very beautiful.
For a time in the early part of the 20th century the energy of the falls was harnessed to generate electricity. Those days are gone but the old power house has been repurposed to a cafe. I will say it again, I love it when buildings are repurposed espcially when they are as beautiful as this one.
The falls are loud and are mesmerizing.
I climbed the nearby observation tower and took a photo of the one area of the park. Silly me didn’t take a photo of the observation tower.
And I found several geocaches while I was there. (Geocaching is an online treasure seeking game. Check this link to learn more.) I love geocaching.
There was a sculpture called The Farmer there. Farmers do lots of sitting and thinking of course if they want to be successful and of course they got to get up and do things as well.
Me, I’m not much of a farmer. I’m a retired natural gas guy. I just take lots of photos. I have 89,006 on flickr so far. Five or six of them are pretty decent. Not sure about the rest.
Back in August I ventured up to southeast South Dakota for a family reunion. While there the family attended services at Sioux Valley Baptist Church on land donated by my great great grandfather back in the 1800’s. So this reunion Sunday a family member Lutheran pastor led the service. So that was kind of cool. My uncle Glenn, 90+ years old, tells me that the interior furnishings and decorations are the same as they were back when he was just a boy.
So this is me, my cousin Robert, and our uncle Glenn at the site of what my mother called the “Damn Dam” in Flandreau, South Dakota. Glenn, my dad, and another brother and a friend of theirs jointly bought a canoe and used both upstream and downstream of the dam for years. So every year they all had to go visit the dam and take their wives who teased them about it the Damn Dam. So now Glenn takes me and my cousin to it and we tease him a little about but we all know it’s a fond memory of his.
Another place we visit in Flandreau is the Japanese Gardens. An old time dance hall from a long time ago. My grandmother used to talk about seeing Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk and others back in the day when they were touring the Midwest. I don’t know why they called the Japanese Gardens but I did find out that it temporarily named something else during World War II and then returned the original name a few years later.
I’ve seen it a lot but I’ve never seen it in use. So I was glad to see that a local developer had a cut a deal with the city to restore it and use it as an event space again. There was a large poster inside that laid out a lot of the performers over the years and I wish I had photographed it because it talked about rock and roll groups during the 50’s and 60’s that performed there. I couldn’t find any such information online. I just love it when old buildings are restored and repurposed.
Later on we went to the town of Dell Rapids. Glenn talked about swimming as a kid in the Big Sioux River as it ran by the city park.
Remnants of the old bath house still stand. Nobody goes swimming in the river any longer.
One thing that startled me is we stopped at a gas station and I saw these pumps where you could get either 70% ethanol or 55% for your specially equipped car. Egads!! I thought. I have never seen anything like this. The stuff is pretty potent liquorwise, 70% would be 140 proof alcohol and 55% would be 110 proof. I wouldn’t drink it though as the other component is gasoline.
Last week I posted about Cadillac Ranch on the west side of Amarillo. Once ou get through Amarillo, headed east, you come to a giant cross near, the town of Groom. Naturally, since I was by myself, I pulled off I-40 to check it out.
The cross is 190 feet tall. It was installed in 1995. In addition to the big cross their are other artworks on the site depicting the stations of the cross, the last supper, an empty tomb, a gift shop and other things. The name of the site is “The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries.” Hit the link to go to their web site. The cross and other attractions are free and there is plenty of parking.
The site was built by Texas oilman Steve Thomas and his wife Bobby. The story is that he always wanted to be a missionary but liked staying home so he built this because of its proximity to Interstate 40 and Route 66. So people come to him in a sense.
The Last Supper installation with the replica Calvary Hill behind it.
St. Michael the Archangel defeating Samson.
It’s a nice, restful stop, (complete with restrooms) and is nicely done. And if you are into such things there is a geocache on the property (yes I found it.)
As an aside, Steve Thomas built the site on land owned by another man, Ralph Britten. Mr. Britten is the owner of another attraction in Groom, the leaning water tower. The tower was built this way to publicize the Britten Truck Stop which is long gone. The water tower still stands today and is a long time Route 66 attraction.
Continuing my road trip from Springerville/Eagar Arizona for my first 50th High School Reunion. You may remember that I went by the El Malpais National Monument to see a natural arch and some spectacular sandstone cliffs. So after that I drove on into Albuquerque, spent the night and headed home to Tulsa the next morning.
Something that I have been meaning to see for decades was Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo. It was installed in 1974 by three architects from San Francisco who called themselves the Ant Farm, on land owned by a millionaire in nearby Amarillo. It was moved in 1997 to further away from the city. You can read all about it in this Wikipedia article.
I remember driving by it in 1977 when I left home after graduating with my engineering degree. I was on my way to Houston to start my new job with Mobil Oil Corporation. I saw the installation from I-40 and wanted to check it out but you know, I had a long ways to go and I was in a hurry. So here I am retired 46 years later and I took the time, finally.
It’s kind of a place. No admission fee but you can buy spray paint and people were making the most of it.
I just took it all in. In some places the paint is inches thick. According to the Wikipedia article it gets repainted now and again for television commercials, social protests, and once to mark the passing of the one of the founders of the ant farm.
I have had several people tell me that they came out originally to it in the 50’s and 60’s (it was installed in 1974). I just nod my head and say that’s cool!! That’s kind of common for Route 66 attractions. People talk about visiting places as kids when the thing wasn’t even built then,
I love that people are using really bright colors to paint with.
And what got me was the kids were really getting into it. Ordering their parents to go buy more paint, or bring them this or that. How does that work? I don’t really remember ever ordering my parents around. I would have remembered if I tried to do so!
Droplets of spray paint were wafting everywhere in the Texas breeze.
And I was glad that there was decent sky that day.
My advice is to not wait 46 years to go do something that you would like to do.
Have you ever checked out Cadillac Ranch? How about the Bug Ranch? It is a similar installation with Volkswagens on the other side of Amarillo. I posted about it about a month ago.
So continuing from last week, after I rode in the 4th of July Parade in Round Valley, Arizona I needed to head back home right afterward. A friend suggested a different route than what the apple maps app suggested. He said turn off at Quemado, New Mexico, head north to Interstate 40. There are some cliffs you will run into that I think you might like.
So I drove to Quemado and hung a left just past this beautiful little church and headed north.
And drove miles of road looking like this. Beautiful and desolate but no cliffs to be seen. After a long while I came to El Malpais National Monument and area of beautiful lava flows including lava tubes and other interesting things. No photos of any of that though. I was looking for cliffs. Pretty soon I came to an area where the lava flows came up against cliffs. And my friend was right, the cliffs took my breath away.
Truly spectacular with great skies that day.
Great views everywhere I looked.
And the La Ventana Arch just off the roadway. Aptly named as La Ventana means the window in English.
This shot is from the trail that gets you pretty close to the arch.
Lots of cactus in the area. This might be a cholla cactus.
I loved the blooms on the cactus.
So I loved the arch and the El Malpais. I was kind of mad at myself as well because I lived for years in Albuquerque, just 100 or so miles away and had no clue about the cliffs, the arch, the Malpais or any of that. Of course, that was back in the day when I was young and dumb, (I am now old and dumb.)
What a beautiful place this is. I intend to come back when I have more time.
Earlier this month, during my sojourn to Eagar, Arizona for a high school reunion, one of the things I really wanted to see was the Very Large Array, a radio telescope the feds built on the Plains of San Agustin. A huge, very flat, very dry, former lake bed in a remote part of New Mexico. My family left the area in 1971 and the facility started being built in 1973 and was operational a few years later.
I had read and seen photos of the giant antennas at the site. There are twenty eight of them and they are ninety feet tall. When I dropped out of the mountains to the plains where the VLA is located, the plains are so vast that the antennas looked like small mushrooms popping up on a large football field. But when you get close, the antennas are indeed gigantic.
There are twenty eight of these antennas spread out on three rails going out from a hub. The rails are in a Y configuration and and are about ten miles in length give or take. This allows the towers to be wide apart to focus in on details. You see the tires are all wired together with fiberoptics and are connected to a supercomputer. So it simulates up to a 22 mile wide telescope. I am not sure that I understand it all but fortunately they have a comprehensive web site with all sorts of videos, photos, and other things to help you make sense of it.
They have a very good, self guided, walking tour. They ask that you register in advance. It only costs a few dollars per person.
This is big science but it is retro big science. They first started making images there in 1980. They have upgraded the software, wiring, and computational capabilities so they keep the site current.
The VLA is in this remote site because of the flat terrain, high altitude, and low humidity. The mountains that ring the plains help keep out radio waves. Warning though, the site has not very good cell phone coverage and the facility has no street address so they suggest you download the map on google maps or may never get there. They actually don’t like cell phones and ask that you turn yours completely off when visiting. They said the cell phones can kind of fog the images. In fact everything you have that is wireless including blue tooth just turn off.
This is the admin building where the technical stuff and people are. They let you walk on the balcony but you cannot go inside.
This is the barn where they do maintenance and upgrades on the antennas.
This is the transporter that picks up and moves the antennas. They change their configuration of the towers every several months.
Check this link for a video narrated by Jodie Foster explaining the VLA. She does a lot better job than I can. She made a movie, Contact, that had her at the VLA communicating with aliens.
On my recent trip out west for a high school reunion I stopped at the old mining town of Magdalena, New Mexico. Ever since I was a little kid I was intrigued by old mining town of the west. At the time, the early 1970’s the town reminded me of the desolate towns in Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars movies. Magdalena was a town where we never stopped, we just went through. My dad worked for the US Forest Service and they had a ranger district in Magdalena and my mother would thank her lucky stars that dad never been transferred there. So here I am years later able to stop. I didn’t spend too long though.
The Magdalena area was of course populated by Native Americans prior to, and after, Europeans arrived. Spainish soldiers explored the area in the 1500’s but I don’t think they stayed. In the 1860’s miners were digging for lead, gold, and silver and the town became incorporated in 1884. A railroad spur was built to the area about then. The railroad helped spur the cattle and wool industries in the region. Most of the mines were up the canyon in the little town of Kelly.
After World War II Magdalena started a long decline as the mines had depleted also wool and cattle prices declined. The railroad quit operating and the tracks were pulled up in the early 1970’s. Ranchers were shipping their cattle by truck by then.
The town has less than a thousand inhabitants but has kind of turning into a funky location. The town’s hotel and other buildings have been restored and there is kind of a funky vibe in the air. The Very Large Array Radio telescope is within a half hour and that has added some spice to the mix. They still have that beautiful blue New Mexico sky overhead as well as an intense sun beaming down despite relatively low temperatures.
I drove up the canyon the short distance to the old town of Kelly where the mines actually were. Lots of old mine entrances fenced off and violators will be violated signs. I don’t think anybody lives there any longer but it looks like a great place for the local high schoolers to party. The only building still standing was this old church.
I was up there all by myself and then this old guy in a truck with Texas plates shows up and he comes over and we start talking. Texans are like that you know. His family has a ranch in west Texas and it had an old abandoned mine in it. The guys brother was poking around in it and found some old metal parts of some kind labelled Magdalena Smelting Company, or something like that so this guy was always intrigued by that and so was scouting things out. He wanted to explore some more and I had a timed entry admission to the Very Large Array and so we parted ways.
On the way out of Kelly I came across these old foundations. Who knows maybe that was Magdalena Smelting Company?
So I got to visit Magdalena after being intrigued by it 50 years ago. Never give up is what I say.
Here is a video of the ghost town of Kelly made by not me. I tried to find old photos and there a bunch of them and many of them very cool old cowboy, ranching, mining stuff but all rights are reserved so I am not touching them.
On interstate 40 last week on the way to a class reunion in Arizona. The Texas Panhandle is pretty flat but the skies were interesting. Lots of people tell me how “boring” this stretch of road is. I don’t find it boring at all! Oh no, I see all sorts of interesting things while driving.
I stopped for gas in Shamrock, Texas. Shamrock is home to the Tower Gas Station. A beautiful art deco structure from the 1930’s. It has been restored and is beautiful. It is no longer a gas station but more of a visitor center.
Attached is “Do Drop Inn” a former restaurant that has also been preserved. Roadside America has a post on this stop. The gas station and former cafe are big stops for Route 66 fans.
Further to the west on the freeway is the Bug Ranch. It is kind of like Cadillac Ranch (for a later post). I found it fun. It’s free and they take donations so I gave them a couple dollars. It’s another Route 66 attraction. Most references call it the slug bug ranch.
You can buy spray paint but I declined. I just wanted to take photos.
They had a couple of other vehicles as well.
I love road trips. The rest of my family hates them. I kind of like the Route 66 attractions but I don’t spend much time driving Route 66. Too slowwww!!!
This weekend was the second annual Route 66 Roadfest at the Fairgrounds here in Tulsa. It was a little subdued just because of all the rain that we had. I went last year and really enjoyed it. They have a lot of information grouped by decades of the history of Route 66 and how it was gradually supplanted by interstate highways and is now in a full blown revival. So all that was fun to read and review. I was also interested in the cars. They have a lot of vintage cars on display as well and took lots of photos of them. I love the styling of old cars but I like driving new cars. The old cars were very unreliable and required lots of routine maintenance.
A VW Microbus. My wife’s parents had one and they went camping in it all the time. They talk in warm tones about them. I remember back in the 60’s they were everywhere. Now going up mountain passes? That was not their jam. Lots on the side of the road cooling off. I love the train case on top of the bus. Remember train cases? All the traveling ladies had train cases. I haven’t seen one in years.
And some people had stickers, some had many stickers. We were never a sticker family. The only sticker I have had on my car ever was a Dallas Cowboys sticker. I no longer have one. Being a Cowboys fan is not anything to be proud of these days. But I am still a fan! A stealth fan!! Don’t tell anybody, you are sworn to secrecy. Too late for you to back out now. I’m watching you!!
And an old 60’s model Chevrolet Corvette. Time was only airline pilots, millionaire’s and IBM salesmen had them. Now it’s just old boomers dreaming of the good ole days.
Back in the day even family sedans had lots of chrome, swoopy curves, and whitewall tires. Now all the cars look like Toyotas. Now I like Toyota’s don’t get me wrong but you won’t see me posting any photos of them.
And a little bit older car. Look at all that chrome and paint job!!
More chrome and two tones of paint.
I had a lot of fun. I’ll post more car photos later.
Tulsa Tough is a mult-day series of bicycle rides and races ranging from long distance bike rides to short “Townie Rides.” I rode in a short ride of about 30 miles four years ago that kicked my butt. The actual races are criterium rides where the riders go round and round a short circuit and they are pretty exciting. They have all sorts of categories for men, women, age grouped amateurs and professional riders.
The criterium rides have lots of spectactors who cheer the riders with cowbells, cheers, and beer. My favorite is the Riverparks Criterium. It features a steep ride up a hill, called “Crybaby Hill” for some reason and then a fast ride down to the bottom of the hill with a sharper than 90 degree turn at the bottom. You really have to know what you are doing.
I had some family stuff Sunday afternoon so I just spent a short time at the criterium watching the racers. I did not ascend Cry Baby Hill this year to witness the rowdy goings on. I’ve done it a few years over time and I recommend everybody to do it at least once unless you are easily offended by things.