Thursday, March 27, 2008

Green Canyons and Little Rocks

Being a lovely summer morning, I took a few more shots at the valley and then ran up the view tower, an old (been there all My life, anyway) wooden construct for daring tourists to conquer and take in some fresh air and scenery and wriggly kids to work off pent-up energies by. A test of one's ticker, at the least. But worth the climb when you're up for it and it isn't too hot or cold or windy or whatever...definitely stretches the limbs after being cramped up in a car for a while.
Buffalo River.
Scenic Point sign. You know you're in the Ozarks by those wooden shingles. They're an icon.
Wheee, looking down at my car, and a few other things. (No, no fear of heights...fear of landing is an entirely different matter, lol.)
View from within the wooden tower. Quintessential Arkansas here.
All about in the dark shadows of the wooden tower, walking sticks were busy making...more walking sticks. Apparently this was also the walking stick love shack. I've never seen so many huge ones congregated in one area!
This time the gift shop was open so I spent awhile gawking at the wares, and ended up buying more little stone critters. Then I went on to the next scenic stop, same one I'd seen the gorgeous Milky Way view in on the way up. I explored those fascinating plants some more. Somewhere in the back of my mind I kept thinking they were passionflowers or maypops (though I don't remember why I'd think that). I was later delighted when I looked them up on the internet and found that was exactly what they were! I have sticky brains, for what good that may be.
Ozark landscape flora...
Gotta even out the pretty with the devilishly fascinating. Here's a web-tent full of tent worms. Kinda neat...especially if you're a wasp. Then it's a grocery bag.
Last snap at the oldest mountain range on the planet...
With a passionflower chaser.
I spent some great time at Coleman's, a cool rock shop down the way, and at another place, and even snagged a couple of things in Hot Springs. I crossed back over the little lakes and retirement villages and grand resorts around Hamilton Lake and thought I'd get out and stretch a few minutes at Caddo Lake, but the turn I made led into a pay beach so I stopped and looked at my map--looking lost and stupid I got some park ranger directions. Not so much because I was really lost, but there was no way to turn around without going through the toll booth and I didn't want to pay a day use fee for a quick not-important picture. Oops. Fortunately the nice ranger let me turn around and told me how to get to the main highway, and I did that and headed on out of Arkansas.
Home again home again jiggety jog...I toodled along in the annoying afternoon light towards Dallas. Somewhere along the way I got gasoline, a soda, and some black walnut ice cream (another weakness). "Nutrition" and fueling attended to, I also warned Nancy C. that I was in the state, though didn't know when I'd be in Waco...probably not for dinner. The drive home was interesting--I saw a trucker pull over and get out and then his rig caught on fire! Later on the opposite side of the highway, I saw a car slam into something and a lot of us nearly slammed into each other since people started rubbernecking and stopping to get out. The ambulance came a good time later, but enough people had gathered around the wreck that they didn't need more. Must be something in the air. Indeed, I got in Dallas after dark and nearly missed becoming a statistic myself since the van in front of me suddenly fell off its axle or hit something as I was trying to get into the correct lane to merge toward Waco. That can be startling with a soda in your mouth. snort Dallas is never a fun place to drive in, though. Add this clutzy-clutchiness in the stars thing and it's rather scary...
But I managed to get to Waco, and find Nancy's place, and she generously took me in for the night, and even let me go again in the morning. Packed my stuff back into the minivan, tetris-style, and had a leisurely time of coffee and bird-watching out her window before bidding fond goodbyes. On I drove until I had lunch around San Marcos and called my sis to tell her I'd be there soon enough, and I made it all the way back home with light still left for unpacking. I emptied the car and did a few chores. I even plugged in the cooler and discovered to my awe that it had thoroughly dried out along the trip home so it was in ok working condition, if rather beat up (I cleaned it and later stuck it back in the back of the car for shopping...its present lack of a handle made it a bit cumbersome for anything else, but that's what I used it for 99% of the time anyway, so no biggie). My older jumper-battery didn't want to power anything heftier than a cell phone any more, though, so I retired it. Did banking, caught up with sister, bought some reading glasses, scrubbed and cleaned and slept oh-so-comfy in my own bed...oddly enough I haven't needed the glasses too often since. I do have problems seeing up close, but it is mostly defined by how tired I am. Sigh, getting old, finally. Darn it, figured I'd skip all that. Anyone can do THAT...;-)


I read that "reintarnation" was the act of being born again as a hillbilly. Technically speaking I was born a hillbilly this round, but in this particular instance I'd say it was heading back to the hills. After gassing up in St. Louis I floored it going west. Too late in the day to do much else, and there is nothing so delightful as driving straight into a setting sun. (ow)

Eh, who needs to see and drive, both?

I made good time and crossed Missouri, dragging in to Springfield late in the evening. Needed to get some gas to be on the safe side (not to mention it was cheaper than in northern Arkansas) and it took a little while, but I found an acceptable pump at a convenience store. Unnerved a bit since it wasn't taking my card--thought, oh no, now what?--but it hit me that though there were no signs posted to the contrary, the pump simply didn't take that card so I gave it another one and it was content. Then I aimed my buggy south.

While I knew it wasn't the best idea to drive through the Ozarks in the dark in the wee hours when I was bushed, I wanted to make the Harrison reststop my camp. After numerous curves and some useless scenic view spots, I did make it there and tossed back the front seat and napped. Here it was hot and muggy, though, so konking out took a little doing, all the same.

But I got some rest, at least until the misty crack of dawn, when some fellow in a pickup pulled up to the payphone and had a heart-to-heart with his honey. Not that that is odd or funny, but since few others but some squirrels and early birds were about, he came off as rather loud, and went on for a couple of hours. Definitely getting his money's worth, LOL. When he finally completed his catch-up call, I got out and went to the welcome center restrooms to get readyish for the day, since I didn't seem to be getting any more sleep anyway. On this trip I found a wallet, and pondered on what exactly to do about it, given where and when I was. No one would be at the welcome center for hours, there was nowhere to really leave it...I looked inside for info and apparently it was a young man's. But he didn't live in the area, and there wasn't anything exciting in it but a few discount cards and a little change, though there were a couple of IDs he might need. So I figured I'd just take it in to the Harrison police. Not part of my travel plans, but, hey...

So I set off to find Andy and Barney, but passed a sign for the State Police along the way and decided this was more in their purview, since I was still outside of Harrison. I went down that road and stopped in. I didn't see anyone at home, but heard a voice behind me--one lone lady cop on duty Sunday morning. I told her I found the wallet at the reststop and she said to leave it on the counter. I did. Then I left. That was less involved than I'd thought. Being a walker I've found wallets before, and returning them ranges anywhere from a yeah-okay-thanks-we'll-take-care-of-it to a theft report/prove you aren't the one who took it. Never know who will handle things what way...

Swung into town and took a stroll around Wal-Mart, then ran around Harrison a few times. Probably ran around Hudson's (grocery) and a few other places too. Used to live here, still have some relatives in the area. Being Sunday morning, little was open or available except some eateries and churches. I debated about contacting my relatives...while it seemed the hospitable thing to do on the surface, I finally decided that unless they tripped over me, it would be too disturbing to call and say I was in town and under their noses right when they were getting prepped for church (or there already), since I couldn't stay very long. I had to be at work on Tuesday and still needed to stop in Waco at a decent hour, so I had to keep on truckin'. I gave the universe fair chance and went to McDonald's for breakfast, though. Something I rarely ever do, but I thought I'd live it up and got a breakfast platter and a cappucino. Read my paper and saw the weather on TV there, too, but it was an adventure all the same. To be fair it was pretty busy, with all the retiree tourists and pre-church folk and farmers...but the kid got my order wrong, 3 or 4 times, and I kept popping back up to the counter like a yo-yo, trying not to embarrass the kid or seem like I was a difficult customer...but I kinda wanted at least what I'd paid for. First part of the breakfast was missing, then she forgot the cappucino, then there were no condiments (and self-serve stuff was empty) and again I found I needed some sort of utensil to eat with, none being around...Finally I figured it was close enough and ate what I had best I could, lol. Rolled past a few more old haunts, noting all the changes in town (plenty!) and headed back down Scenic Route 7 South.

Since I came up that way I hadn't planned on going back down the same path, but as I'd found out earlier in the year someone I'd planned to visit in Central Arkansas didn't want to see the likes of me, apparently, I thought I'd stay on a different road; plus I finally had an opportunity to hit the rock shops during daylight hours. Hopefully they'd be open on Sunday....There are some nifty rock shops on Hi 7, and carved stone figurines are a weakness of mine (as you can tell by the name of this blog). I often feel stupid spending good money on rocks, but everyone has their odd little passion. Anyway it's hard to find good additions to my collection these days, since I have most of the basic items and few places left to display anything. But I love to look.

I don't remember if I saw elk this trip or not. Sometimes you can catch site of a few deer or elk if you are around early enough. Again I stopped at Scenic Point, and took an array of photos of dawn over the Buffalo River Canyon area. Later I put them all together to make one big panoramic view. One of these days I should go down to the actual river!

Northeast to
Southeast. Here's the whole Ozarks package. (shrunk a bit to fit, though) Maybe I should have gone into geology. Well, Taureans are earthy sorts.... ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Day Spent Musing

I had known about the existence of the Art Museum but I'd never gotten around to inspecting it, but discovering that there was also a Museum of History was a complete surprise. I did circle the park again and meant to check out the zoo for a little while, but either it wasn't open yet or that day or I found something else to distract me before I found an open entrance. At any rate I went to the History Museum.

It was an impressive place, complete with gift shop and upscale eatery, with a few special exhibits requiring admissions in addition to the bulk of the museum's historical offerings. The bad thing about the place was the parking...there was only a little of it near the building, and that was complicated with one-way channeling and scary roundabouts. If you went to the back before finding a slot, you'd end out on the main street outside of the park, where due to road construction or something, it was traffic hell. Consequently it also took some time and effort to turn around and get back into the park to try again. After going on that merry-go-round a few times, I just parked on a side road. It was a good walk from the museums and my feet were already making me wince, but at least it was a spot easy to get to and see.

I explored the place best I could, including the gift shop. I didn't go into any of the special exhibits since I really wanted to see as much as possible (if I paid for something I'd feel obligated to absorb every crumb of information, unless it's really grand, well, I'm just cheap, heheh). A good part of the museum was devoted to the (1904) World's Fair...the park was once the fair grounds and the buildings, etc. a part of that. Ah. Lots of early twentieth-century stuff. I can relate. Hemisfair Plaza in downtown San Antonio is similar. Well, that one was in 1968, but space-wise it's a fair-days remnant...

There was also a monument or so to Thomas Jefferson... TJ's democracy and freedom themes are honored in many St. Louis monuments (Jefferson Memorial Gateway Arch, for example).

He makes for a handsome statue, indeed.

There were other statues and intriguing tidbits; there was a room on Lindbergh and, naturally, the Spirit of St. Louis. In fact one of the special exhibits was about the history of flight, I think.
Flying overhead, a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis. I toured the Lindbergh room, but did not opt for the whole history of flight exhibit. There was plenty on other things, stuff about St. Louis proper, exploration and history of the area (Lewis & Clark, etc.)...and there was an interesting room exhibit of American wedding dresses throughout time. No flash allowed and it was a very dark room, so I didn't bother with pictures. I didn't think it'd be too interesting at first, but some of the dresses were pretty old and did have some intriguing histories attached to them. There was a tour group of Red Hat ladies going through, so I caught a little extra info here and there. A few dresses were quite pretty, some were simply practical, the 1970's lace pantsuit was actually very was something to find out that a white wedding dress was a very new concept as far as the bridal gown went. Apparently anything would do, but blues and greens were preferred for the most part.

When I figured I'd had enough St. Louis history, I hobbled back to the car and found my way to the Museum of Art. This sat majestically on a hill overlooking a large and long reflecting pool with fountains, which some folks were getting ready to use as the backdrop for a wedding, it seemed, judging from all the tuxed types and limos and folding chairs at the bottom of the hill. A regal statue of St. Louis guarded the front of the art museum.

Dramatic view of the Missouri Saint. Well, the statue. Not the actual fellow.

Missouri Museum of Art. The special exhibit was on Napoleon. As it was I barely had time to run through the museum, much less tour the special exhibit, though. There were several floors, too. I even recognized a number of pieces as well as the artists. They had a maybe-Rembrandt or two, the dancer statue by Degas, one of Monet's big waterlily works, and several other well-known items. And many not-so-well-known but still fascinating pieces in their collections, including furniture, weaponry, and a variety of other types of artistic creations.

But they had to close up before I could finish, so I ran through some areas to "skim" through and finally left the premises, taking a few parting shots before leaving the park. I still had to find gas, which took some time since I didn't see any stations on the immediate route I was taking, and wound up finding it well off on Watson Road of all places (which I also found later to be the address of a company used by the library I work in). Small world, eh? At any rate by early evening I bid St. Louis adieu.

St. Louis and the Dinosaurs

I wonder if that's anything like St. George and the dragon?
T. Rex is sneaking around behind the pine needles...
T. Rex's constant foe and companion, Triceratops, looks like he's found some tar pits. Actually the black strips are black plastic that's come up from under the gravel. Seems like Triceratops is compacting the garbage, though.
Tyrannosaurus Rex is looking bright and cheery against the grey morning sky.
Perhaps instead of sparring, he's about to suggest they go out for biscuits and gravy just this once.
I had to run around a bit but eventually the Science Museum opened and I went in to do some quick exploring, preferably the areas I hadn't done too much before on the other side of the complex. The Science Museum extends over the highway to another building, so there's usually quite a bit to explore if you have the time. Even the walkway is worth a few moments to stop and look down at the cars speeding by, and there are radar guns to point at them to see just how fast they are zipping past. So I glanced over the stuff I'd seen numerous times (though I can always make a whole day disappear at a science museum) and played with some of the newer things, and stayed a little while in the medical section.
Even met a nice fellow just hanging around.
There was a lady there too, but she was very transparent. She obviously felt boxed in.
Actually I was pleased and surprised the shots came out. Digital cameras Are neat.
I poked about in other areas, upstairs and down. There was a paleontology section and nearby, a large animatronic dinosaur display. It's one thing to stumble on a few staid dinosaurs in the park; it's another when they move and roar at you inside the building. The exhibit was fun to watch just for people's reactions to it...
I watched the real scientist
working with the fossils, went into the strange pressure-sealed room, gave the gift shop one or two goings-over, and finally pulled myself away. But not before getting a few parting shots of the robot lizards up close and personal.
The pterodactyl kept pretty much to himself, though. No one wants to mess with T. Rex.

Meet Me In St. Louis

I'd survived the storm but was starting to get a bit tired. All the same, I wanted to have some fun, and a nice place to have some fun is in St. Louis. There are a few places yet in the general area I'd like to explore some day, but weather was still a concern at the moment, so I wasn't sure where to go in regards to being interesting while not bound to cake my shoes with mud...I wanted to get a few shots of the arch with my digital camera, but I wasn't in the right lane and it wasn't such a big deal that I wanted to turn around. So I went into Missouri, over the Mississippi River early in the morning, passing the arch and heading towards Forest Park. Usually I go to the zoo and the science museum and the day is over, so I was debating about doing something different. I considered going to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, but I wasn't sure it was open at the time. So I went to the park and drove around to a different area. There was a sort of welcome center and café in one area, so I parked and walked to that. Many joggers and runners were about; apparently there was even some organized event going on, judging from tables of food and signs and joggers milling around. Anyway I went into the center and looked around, used the facilities and collected an assortment of brochures and maps and sat down to look them over. There were some cool science things, but also some immediately useful info. Turned out the Botanical Gardens were free or cheap at a certain time, if I wanted to go then; but also there were several museums in the park I'd never been to, that were free as well. Since it kept threatening rain, that was an appealing option. I decided I'd do whatever was open, wherever I was closest to at any given time.

So I wandered back out and started walking to see what was in the vicinity. That seemed to be a pond with a gazebo. The weather was spitty so I wasn't sure how far to go--at first I just kept near the little lake and tested taking pictures in the grey light.

Here's a weeping willow and clusters of other flora.

The park gazebo...well, bandstand actually, I guess. Nice echoing reflection.
Flowers were planted all about...
On the other side of a large patch of rose bushes was the Municipal Theatre. At the time I didn't know that...all I could see were a lot of colorful flags and banners. But later I walked around and discovered it was a fancy place for actors to do some board stomping. Or trodding.
Facial farding. Other emotive operations...
Then I walked back by the bandstand and around the pond, and decided to see if the Science Museum was open yet. Or anything else. Unfortunately it was still too early for most things, I walked behind the Science Museum to greet my old pals, the dinosaurs. I don't know how long they've been at it there, but I think they must have gotten some fresh paint at some point. They looked a little different. Of course, I don't think the tree had fallen on them before. And I tried to get different angles of them, so they'd look slightly more realistic. Eek, what you find while walking in a Missouri forest!! Tyrannosaurs and triceratopseseses!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Three Rivers Michigan, Vacation Paradise

Of course one man's vacation is another's torture. The truth, of course, is that everywhere has its pluses and minuses ...Now, back to our golf game.
Our intrepid and accomplished midwestern bowler is acquiring great new skills in spherical manipulation with every swing.
First, locate the ball...
Then we can go for the putt.
And after a few zillion putts, we can attempt a full swing for a long shot. Or go for the swing first, if aim isn't a priority...
And with a little help from our friends (very little), there we go, wheeeeeee!

As the lasses finished up their hits and tallies and parred and sparred, I looked for pretty things to capture with my lens. There's only so many shots of people standing over tees you can get excited about. Here's a lovely water hazard, ever so inviting to the hot and sweaty golf ball.
Another bit of the landscaper's art.
Some pretty summer blossoms.
A couple hours later it was done. I'm not sure who won, probably me. I got the pictures and didn't break a sweat. Lorraine and I stopped by a Wendy's and I got a drink or a Frosty or something and Lorraine got something for her supper and we went back to her house and teased cats.
Though I'm pretty sure the cats always got the best of any situation, sooner or later.
I rested up at Lorraine's as she mostly went about her normal business; I caught up with my email, called Amy to tell her I was still on this side of the plane of existence, called Nancy C. to keep tabs (she still had all my art held hostage, after all), generally kicked back a bit. Just as I had decided to get off the computer, all the electricity went out. That was certainly a neat trick, but I didn't think my psychokinetic abilities were quite that developed....Three Rivers started getting some rather violent, extremely fast windy storm weather. A storm ripped through town quickly and many trees and signs and other big scary things fell over all around town. Streets were blocked off either by nature or police tape, as lines were down dancing and sparking on the asphalt here and there. That was in the late afternoon, and we went to Lorraine's church meeting both for her to do that and to check out the neighborhood. I didn't so much attend the meeting as guard a sofa in the back of the room while she did the meeting stuff. It was somewhat interesting in that it was mostly in the dark, being in the church basement and most of the electricity around town having been cut off. If people weren't sitting around candles quasi-conspiratorially and talking, I could have had a nice nap. Pity I didn't have my camera with me then (or it was too dark for the camera); some of the storm damage was actually impressive.
This weather thing changed a few matters...we had to do stuff we wouldn't have had to otherwise, and couldn't do some things; the next day we had to help out with Lorraine's sister's
freezer situation, seeing as the electricity wasn't coming on fast just everywhere, or at least not dependably at any given time, and more storms of the same ilk were predicted. In fact Chicago was being blasted, and a really big blow out was expected about the time I'd be heading that way. I couldn't just wait out the weekend since I had to be back at work the next week, so I had to leave sooner than planned and double-back east, or risk taking an express tornado ride to some unscheduled destination. L and I brunched at Burger King and said our good-byes, and I headed back to Coldwater and towards Fort Wayne, Indiana, rather than Gary.
If I had gone straight to Illinois then, I am not sure whether I would have made it or not...when I started it was fairly sunny except for clouds building to the west, and the ride was reasonably uneventful except for growing traffic. However, by the time I got near Indianapolis, the storm front was black and well-defined, a big scary WALL to the west. I managed to get through Indy and aim southwest-ish when it hit. I am pretty sure I just skirted the storm, but that was truly bad enough. It became midnight-dark and the rain was so thick there was no seeing...wind lashing and moaning...there wasn't really anywhere to pull over safely at this area either, so everyone crept along and hoped to see tail lights. Some cars did get swept over the side, and of course there were a couple of fools who didn't slow down--fast enough. After a time of white-knuckling the steering wheel, it let up enough to get through, and finally it was back to just a normal rainstorm. Definitely scary to be in, alone in a car. I've been in them in the ol' van but this was my first really bad one in the minivan. Finally when I'd made southwest Indiana, it was all to the north, and I decided that considering everything, I'd done the smart thing with the course altering. That was a HUGE and nasty storm. I nicked it but I didn't drown. I think I weathered out the rest of the storm and the night at an Illinois reststop.