Day 4: Denver to Idaho

June 28, 2009

Today I had to say goodbye to my aunt and uncle.  Last night I got to have a wonderful dinner with my cousing Tracy and her very cute and adorable daughter.  It was a great night!

TodayI also finally got to somewhere new.  This was the longest day of driving for my whole trip …. it took over ten hours with minimal stops.  Due north from Denver, then an arcing course on I-80 through southern Wyoming into Utah …. then bypassing Salt Lake City on a northwesterly heading into Idaho.

Wyoming is like Iowa is someone got rid of all the green and all of the people.  It is a desolate place.  The first thing you notice is the total lack of cars.  The only thing on the road were semis.  True, it was Sunday morning, but you get the impression that Wyoning is a place someone travels through, not a place you actually live.  There are farms, but almost exclusively livestock.  There is sparse plant life, but almost a greyish green sagebrush.

Of course, I did finally cross the Rockies … Denver is on the east side of the mountains, so it wasn’t until I got to Wyoming that I had any mountain driving.  Unlike Colorado, the driving here is much easier …. very few shard windings turns, and only two or three steep stretches of road.  I passed close to Cheyanne and thruogh Laramie, which are two of hte biggest cities towns.  They would barely qualfy to be considered alongside Crete, Illinois as a town.

As you came through the mountains, there were some beautiful buttes and mountains to finally see.

That continued into Utah.  I could see on the map that I was less than 20 miles from Salt Lake City, but I might as well have been in the middle of the Atas Mountains …. the scenery was tremendous with reddish buttes and snowcapped mountains in the background …. but considering I would be in the middle of Wheaton (relative to Chicago), I could hardly believe I was that close to a major city, and in the middle of total wilderness.

As I passed through Ogden, Utah, I could see the northernmost bay of the Great Salt Lake.  That small bay was considerably big, and while I know the Great Salt Lake is shrinking fast, it still has to be one enormous body of water.  No wonderBrigham Young got fooled into thinking he had reached the Pacific!  It is far easier to understnad now.

Idaho is a weird place … a combination of just a dab of Utah’s scenery, Wyoming’s livestock, and Iowa’s green farms (though noticably small crops .. I wonder what they could be?????)

But that is what else was different about Idaho.  You hardly ever crossed a river in Wyoming, and if you did, it looked sickly or dry. Idaho has rivers, and they look like rivers.  I crossed over the Snake, and it looked like a strong, helthy river … a couple of hundred yards across with a noticable current.  Hence:  in Idaho, you can grow things … in Wyoming, the cows and sheep eat the sagebrush.

Tomorrow, I head off on the last leg of my trip:  across the rest of Idaho, up through the northeast part of Oregon, and across Washington to Seattle.

Days 2-3: Lincoln to Denver

June 27, 2009

Note to teh people of Nebraska:  you need some excitement in your state.  Second note:  living off the glories of a college football program of the 1970s does not constitute “excitement”.

Iowa can at least claim those windmills.  Nebraska is an even longer drive, and far less to look at.  The only gracious thing is that you can legally drive 75 mph, in order to minimize your stay in the state.  I made it door-to-door in about seven hours, which is what I thought it would be.

I think the Colorado-Nebraska border was defined by a scnery change:  as soon as the scenery goes from mind mubing farm land to the foothills of the Rockies, you are in Colorado.  It is a beautiful state!  As you get about 30 miles from Denver, you can start to see the Rockies in the distance.  It’s also odd because downtown Denver is rather small, and as you approach the city, you can see ALL of downtown Denver.  I know it is bigger, but it only appears to be a few city blocks in size.

The highlight of course was to see my aunt and uncle, and my cousin, whom I dined with last night.  We then retired to a local Irish pub and heard soem Irish music.

Tonight I am dining with my cousin, and tomorrow I am off for Idaho.  This will be the longest part of my trip … about nine hours.  My cousin is a graduate of a university in the Seattle area, and has made this drive before.  She promised aome very beautiful scenery.  I just hope my luck with the weather holds up.

Day 1: Chicago to Lincoln

June 25, 2009

I have to compliment the Departments of Transportation for the states of Illinois and Iowa … they managed to make sure that they both completely tore up I-80 at the exact same time, just to slow me down.  A trip that should have taken a total of 7.5 hours took over nine.  In certain parts of Iowa dozens of yards of the westbound interstate were gone (no roadway, no dirt, just open air).  Also:  the weather was hot and humid:  perfect weather for staying awake!  I think states like this could save a lot off money by not buying signs that say “Construction Ahead” ….. instead, just buy signs that read “No Construction:  next mile”.  They wouldn’t need that many.

Something I did notice on my travels through Iowa:  I passed a lot of truck heading the other way that had these long, somewhat cylindrical white looking things on their trailers …. always in pairs, and everyone (at least a dozen) with wide load cars preceeding them.  I couldn’t figure out what they werer until I got to southwestern Iowa.  Apparently, southwestern Iowa has invested heavily in wind power.  I passed three large wind farms with the enormous modern three arm windmills.  The second one I passed might have had as many as 70 of them spread over several square miles.  I think the trucks were carrying these arms for new windmills.  I can only hope they were going to Illinois, though I suspect they were not.

I did take an hour to visit one of my favorite museums:  the Strategic Air and Space Museum, which is near the former headquarters of the Strategic Air Command (between Omaha and Lincoln).  They have a gret many artifacts, uniforms, weapons, bombs, missiles … and a few airplanes. 

They have numerous exhibits related to science and history, generally as they apply to the military or aerospace technology.  The new exhibit was a film and photo exhibit of survivors from the Buchenwald (sp?) Concetration Camp (which I think was the first camp liberated by American soldiers).  Next year there will be an exhibit on the inventions of DaVinci.  One of the more moving (maybe morbid, but ccertainly educational) exhibits covers how the military handled MIAs in Korea.  It includes blowups of leters and telegrams sent to the families (I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to get one of those).  It included notes and research done by researchers who would try and determine the relative likelihood of a person being missing, and possibly alive, vs. missing and most likely dead.  Obviously, this is something that the military does not want to screw up, and it was interesting to see how the researchers operated (in one case, a Korean War pilot’s death was confirmed based partially on discussions with Soviet military people;  they weren’t directly involved, but were observing what was happening, and help pinpoint where things happened and the likelihood of a survivor.  It has a little bit for everyone, given there is as much  about “the people” (pilots, mechanics, airmen, their families) as there is about the hardware.  There is a smaller section that focuses more on space, but it is rather small by comparison to the rest.

The planes are all restored there by volunteers in a giant restoration room (which you can’t enter, but it does have a viewing gallery), then they are put on display.  You can walk up to them, touch them (just can’t go in them …. though in a few cases they have parts of the cockpit available for you to sit in).  There is a B-52, a B-29, and one of the actual Doolittle radiers.  The SR-71 is in the main lobby (very cool).  The last time I was there, they had received a B-1 which was being restored.  It is now on display …. and had one of the actuators taken out and on display that controlled the swept wing function.  There is also a former hydrogen bomb (sans warhead …. I think).  All in all, very cool.  I did buy myself a tie that shows pictures of the sun in various wavelengths.

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was informed that Michael Jackson had passed on.  I was never a fan, though my brother was a big fan in the day.

Tomorrow, I am off to Denver, and I will take the day after that off to spend time with my aunt, uncle and cousin and her adorable daughter.

Grand Tour

June 24, 2009

I like to travel and like to do nothing more than stare at beautiful scenery (that usually gets me in trouble with women …. ba dum dum).

There are only three parts of the country I have not bee too:  the Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont area ….. Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas-Louisiana …… and Big Sky Country.  I have >>zero<< inclination to visit Texas, Louisiana, Kansas …. and no major impetus to visit Oklahoma.  With gas prices seeing their almost certainly last really cheap prices, I have decided that it is now or never (I should note I am not getting any younger).

So, tomorrow morning, I start off …. I will be in Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow night, and in Denver the day after that.  I will be taking a day there to see relatives.  Then it is off to Idaho for a night, and finally up to Seattle to help friends move.

The route home will be shorter, but it will take me through Montana and South Dakota.

So, I will be out for a while … I once again will miss the once -every-four-years Godzillafest at the Pickwick in Park Ridge 😦 …. but oh well.  The mountains and forests beckon.

Toys and movies

June 22, 2009

This summer sees two major films coming out based on toys of the 1980s: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  Someone has assembled some short trailers depicting what some other toy based movies would look like, if other prominent directors took them on as projects.  They must be seen to be believed (unfortunately, embedding is not working):

Personally:  John Carpenter’s: Alf and Peter Jackson’s The Smurfs were my favorites.

My socialist health report …

June 17, 2009

My health report arrived in the mail today.  Surprisingly, I am not in as direly bad condition as I thought.  My sodium and glucose were actually normal (I guess that I did stop gulping salt shakers and sugar packets at restaurants soon enough to avoid permanent damage.  Not so shocking, my triglycerides, cholesterol, and LDL were high as a falcon on yehyoh, and my HDL was lower than it should be.

Most of the other problems were likely due to lack of exercise of late, and a family history of high cholesterol.

To be honest, my cholesterol, high as it was, was 248, which given my aversion to hurting plants and eating them, is not a number beyond human comprehension.  Interestingly, the survey I took never asked me about family history.

I am going out to celebrate at McDonalds!

(not really)

Dad update …

June 16, 2009

I briefly spoke to my dad while he was coming home from the VA hospital this afternoon.  I believe my mother is having him move out to a half-way house.

He asked if I knew anyone who ever used a cane, and that from now on I should call him by his first name, and no longer call him “dad” or “father”.

I am wondering if I should let him off easy and give in to him like that.