We receive email and comments fairly often, but we recently got our first piece of actual paper fan mail. Ace did a small favor for the family of seven year-old Miranda recently and she repaid him a thousand-fold with this fine drawing.
Ace is willing to accept "As" as an alternate spelling of his name, and "osomist" on the reverse side is OK, too. Finally, we have something to pin on the refrigerator with all those tourist trap magnets we've bought.
What can be more inviting than a new-fallen snow? Not much, that's what - but cool critters compel too. After this past weekend's snow has stopped falling, I headed out Sunday morning to see what the city looked like under 7" of snow. After a visit to a cemetery and before going to a movie I went down to Hutchinson KS's Carey Park in search of anything cool and snowy.
Eventually I ended up at the small but impressive Hutchinson Zoo. One of the things I admire about the zoo is its wild animal rehabilitation program. According to their website, in 2004 a record high of 655 sick or injured wild animals were cared for. Most were released, but if injuries make them unable to sustain in the wild, they may be housed here.
Ace Jackalope and I ran into Matt - one of the zoo's several keepers - who showed us around a bit.
I initially came here looking for snow-involved patterns like this, but was quickly pre-occupied by animals. I should have forseen that.
This Red Fox jumps over nothing. Foxes have learned to exploit urban areas due to competition for territory with coyotes, which are less urban-inclined.
Matt introduced us to Dakota, an Australian Shepard who's job is to keep geese off the pathways.
He seems to do pretty well at it. I was looking across the zoo's lagoon when a bunch of geese flew around me, followed by Dakota dashing around my legs and pursuing the geese to the edge of the water. Across the lagoon is the buffalo habitat. See that little dark spec across the pond, about 1/3 from the left edge of the picture?
Here's a closer view; it's an American Bison (Bison bison) resting in the snow - part of the zoo's small herd. At up to 6' in height and as much as 2000 lb., bison are the largest mammals in North America.
A couple days later I returned and shot this Hutchinson scene: A bison with a salt evaporation plant in the distance. The snow had already drifted off the trees. I have never seen a large herd of bison away from fences and such. A little research on this shows that I should go to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge north of here in McPherson county sometime soon.
A pelican flexes its wings among Canada geese in the pond.
Ace entered the Pronghorn enclosure. Jackalopes are said to be the descendents of jackrabbits and antelope, you know; as far as I can tell, a Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is not considered an antelope, but they're similar. The female was the first to investigate him; he stayed perfectly still so as not to startle her.
Less than half of female pronghorn have horns, and they aren't very long. Pronghorn usually give birth to twins and a four day old Pronghorn can outrun an adult human. In fact, Pronghorn are the fastest land mammals in the world; they can sprint as fast as 60 mph and can sustain a speed of 30 mph for several miles. I'd always heard that the African Cheetah was the fastest, but apparently the Pronghorn can sustain such a speed much longer.
The male Pronghorn takes a sniff. See the black patch on the jaw below the eye? Only males have those. I've sometimes heard these animals called "pronghorn deer" but they're not true deer at all. In fact, Pronghorn are the only living members of their family left. One of the zookeepers told me that Pronghorn "antlers" are problematic in classification so I read up on this. (If my anal-retentive ramblings get a little dull for you, just scroll down to the pictures of the cute otters.)
For contrast, here's a pair of true antlers on the zoo's white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Antlers are shed every year, and are made of bone. Horns are made of keratin (a kind of compressed hair) around a bone core and are never shed.
The horn sheath of a Pronghorn is made of keratin growing on a bony core, like true horns, but they are shed every year like antlers, so they do not quite fit into either catagory. The website of the Great Plains nature Center was my best resource in researching this, and offered a lot of other data about these animals. Their population dwindled - largely due to hunting in the late 19th century - from at least 40 million in the Great Plains to about 12,000 by 1915. They're back up to about a million now, and most live in Wyoming and Montana. Fewer than 2,000 Pronghorn live in Kansas - I saw a herd about 20 years ago in Gove county on the west end of the state - and attempts to reintroduce them to the Flint Hills of Kansas have not been successful.
The zoo's enclosed aviary was its own little winter world on Sunday, after the snow had stopped. I saw no birds in here this day, but that isn't why I came.
This is why. Willy (left) and Kyra are North American River Otters (Lutra canadensis) who live in an artificial stream in the aviary. Willy came from Louisiana and Kyra is from the Sedgwick County Zoo. According to signage at the zoo, otters were once common in Kansas but are now quite rare; they are usually only present in Kansas when re-introduced. The culprits are what you'd expect, excessive hunting and destruction of habitat, which is pretty much their story all over the country.
As soon as they spotted me, they piled out of their cave and stood eagerly just on the other side of their Plexiglas fence; I suppose they wanted food.
I don't know if Willy and Kyra are a mating pair, but according to the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web, it sounds like male otters have a fairly good time: "males often breed with several females, probably those whose home ranges overlap with their own."
The females have an interesting option pertaining to when to give birth; they can actually delay implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus and give birth as much as a year after mating, even though gestation only takes two months.
North American river otters normally live about eight or nine years in the wild but may last up to 21 years in captivity.
Otters can swim at average speed of seven miles per hour and, according to National Geographic, they can stay underwater for up to 4 minutes. Their entrance into the water would make an Olympic diver envious; they make barely a ripple. They're no sluggards on land, either; according to National Geographic, "They run a few steps and then slide on their bellies. One slide can be as long as 20 feet and may reach a speed of 18 miles an hour."
They're especially watertight, having valves that close about their ears and noses. Their long "guard hairs" form a tight seal around the skin, which may actually be dry under all that wet hair.
The otters, usually Willie, tend to do these back flips up against a wall. I asked two different zookeepers if this was "play" or if I was anthropomorphizing their behavior to call it that. They didn't really know, but several websites I searched said they do play, although the behavior also serves the purpose of honing skills used in hunting and escaping.
Here's a YouTube movie of it. Of course it's pretty low-res, but it's cute and I thought you might enjoy this little dose of ottery goodness. It's twelve seconds long and shows three back flips.
Here's a 17 second one - no flips, but they swim around a lot and look kind of like they're rehearsing a aquatic dance.
This is a long one at 56 seconds - a real stopper on dial-up - but you can hear them communicating as their species does, with a series of chirps.
This site's main page, thelope.com, has been linked by CNN.com's "i reports" section as a result of Ace's humble webmaster sending them a few photos from the recent ice storm in which we were lucky enough to be caught. Here's the CNN.com link. They say they'll send an i reports t-shirt. I wonder if they know Ace's size? Hmm...and how much would James Earl Jones charge to record an audio file that plays everytime someone opens this site? It took me ten minutes to write this...that's about 2/3 of my 15 minutes, I figure.
Eastside Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Hutchinson, Kansas, lies under a white blanket after a storm deposited 7" of snow this past weekend. I explored it a bit Monday morning after the snow had stopped falling. It was completely silent, save for the sounds of wind, creaking branches and the occasional fall of snow from the trees.
My favorite monument in the place is this one, a statue shared by Mary Elizabeth Harshsa (1864-1900), Edward Francis Harsha (1866-1897), Dr. John McClain Harsha (1819-1885) and Amanda (Slauson) Harsha (1840-1937). A list of cemetery facts in the office states that the statue was brought over from France in the early 20th century.
A sprinkle of snow drifting from trees overhead suggests the shape of a ghost.
Tree branches, bent under the weight of snow, reach for the ground and the graves. It was nearly monochromatic here, nothing but cold stone, white snow and deep shadows.
(Editors note: Writer Patsy Terrell accompanied Ace Jackalope on a Texas excursion earlier this month and was kind enough to take a few photos and document the trip. We're taking a break from our snow and ice coverage to present it.)
Texans get choked up when the Alamo comes up. We watched the video, went to the lecture, took the tour, visited the museum, asked some questions, walked through all the buildings and visited the gift shop. People from all over come to pay their respects at the Alamo.
The main building is a shrine and you are asked to refrain from taking photographs inside it.
Flags from each state represented at the Alamo are present in the main building, and each has a banner on it indicating how many people were there from that state. Tennessee had the most at 33. Kentucky was second.
The battle of the Alamo is well documented so there's no point in me going into it here, but suffice it to say that the approximately 200 people present there held off Santa Ana's Mexican Army long enough to give the rest of Texas time to prepare for battle. Once the wall was breached, however, the battle was brief.
Most of the people at the Alamo perished in the long barracks. Fourteen people survived - women and children. The long barracks is now a museum. Ace is pictured in a nook outside it, wearing a Texas sweater acquired on a layover in the Dallas airport back in October.
"America's first celebrity," as he was described by our lecturer, Davy Crockett, was one of the people who died at the Alamo. I'm sure that adds to its cachet.
It has not always been respected as a shrine, however. The long barracks where so many died was a retail outlet for many years.
Mi tierra is a San Antonio institution, and while you'll find plenty of tourists, there are also a lot of locals. The Cafe opened in 1941 and never closes.
The parking lot was largely Texas plates. It's the place everyone takes their visitors - not only because of the ambiance - but also because they can handle any size group. It's a big place.
You register with the hostess and get a little buzzer. Your "15 minute" wait seems to more likely be about three - a nice surprise.
While you're waiting you can browse the bakery case that runs the entire length of the lobby and get a little something to take home. The Lope and I can recommend the pralines - this may not be New Orleans, but they know their pralines nonetheless.
Strolling musicians are part of the appeal of Mi tierra, as these ladies discovered.
The ladies asked to see Ace.
Apparently, there was break to re-apply lipstick.
Texas is a friendly place.
Another local institution Patsy and Ace visited in San Antonio was The Barn Door, noted for its garlic salad dressing.
A week of ice in Joplin MO was over, and it was time for a change of scenery - sort of. Ace and I set out Saturday morning for Hutchinson, KS. I'd been wanting a snowy train shot for awhile but this was the best I could find en route - a Union Pacific diesel "pusher" at the end of a KCS train southeast of Pittsburg, KS. I thought I might have a couple more chances at train shots since I'd timed the trip to arrive in "Hutch" before an impending snow storm.
It didn't work that way. Why do I ever trust forecasts? Indeed, the snow was so heavy at times that I forwent my usual (and questionable) practice of taking somewhat carefully composed photos while driving. The autofocus didn't quite work on this one; it was dicey enough that I didn't check it or try again.
After 5 hours of driving, four of it in a snowstorm with spun-out cars on either side, we finally arrived in Hutchinson. Did I go home and check my house first? No. I called the friend you see walking in the snow and headed to Roy's BBQ.
Saturday night, as it continued to snow pretty hard, Hutchinson's fabulous restored art deco Fox Theater was showing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." Even in the snowstorm, over 100 people showed up for the film, a documentary on global warming.
The film was particularly appropriate because Hutchinson had declared this to be "Global Warming Awareness Weekend." I saw the film when it was shown again Sunday at 2PM and was impressed with it. Attendence figures were pretty good - about 700 for the weekend. The Kansas State Climatologist spoke after the film, and mentioned that although the average temperature in Kansas has not gone up appreciably in the last few years, the average winter temperature has, which can lead to ecological problems such as an abundance of insects that would ordinarily be killed over the winter.
I thought of the Winter frog we encountered last year about this time in Oklahoma, just a few miles from the Kansas border. It was 60 degrees that day.
Local auto dealers brought hybrid cars to exhibit; this is a Saturn Vue seen through the stencelled doors of the Fox. Opportunism or genuine concern? I don't suppose it matters. If there's a profit to be made by being green, then it'll happen all the more quickly. There were also a few energy-efficient appliances and such on display in the lobby.
And here's a mediocre picture that serves as time capsule. A 2007 car (Toyota Prius) in front of a 1930s theatre showing a film that crystalizes concern about a 21st century issue. In a few years this could either illustrate America's fleeting flirtation with hybrid cars or help typify a turning point in the greening of the country.
Sunday I also drove around looking at the snow (deepening my carbon footprint all the way). Here's a typical Hutchinson scene: two grain elevators seen down the old Missouri Pacific (now Watco, I think) tracks.
I enjoyed seeing a last gasp of Christmas, displayed in appropriate weather. These decorations are on a house on South Cleveland Street.
And these large Yule lamps (former municipal decor, I would think) grace the yard beside an antique store on South Main Street.
And finally, snow rests atop the letters in the old Kress building downtown. I also shot snow pictures in a cemetery and the zoo, which I'll deal with later.
An ice storm struck the Midwest, beginning Friday January 12, causing widespread damage and some loss of life. Large parts of Missouri and Oklahoma have been declared disaster areas. That doesn't mean it doesn't look good. All photos were taken in Joplin, MO. The next few were taken on Monday the 15th.
Bunny tracks and frozen grass
A parking lot light at Charlie's Chicken looks like a beaded swag lamp.
Where power still existed, trees were backlit by streetlights.
Crossroads on the bunny trail
Walking on frozen grass
Main Street, Joplin, looking south from 26th street. By Tuesday, January 16, 2007, the main streets in Joplin were mostly cleared but ice still coats the trees.
However, most side streets were not cleared. Many are simply sheets of very thick ice.
bush in front of the South Main Street post office
Ice Milk? Southtown Meats on Main Street
Route 66 sign on Langston Hughes (formerly Broadway) near Florida Street
Snow and ice are removed from rt66 in front of the Cobblestone Cafe on Langston Hughes on Tuesday the 16th.
St Louis Avenue along its Route 66 stretch, looking north, Tuesday, January 16th.
Trees south of Murphy Blvd.
30th Street, between Delaware Street and Brownell Avenue
Wednesday January 17: The ice is still largely intact in the trees and on the ground. Birds are having difficulty finding food, and perching is problematic on icy branches.
A bit later in the day, I started to excavate the afore-pictured Buick. Until now I had, fortunately, had a garaged car to get about in.
This is on the roof of the car. That's 2.5 inches of solid ice, with about 1/2 inch on snow on top. YOu can actually see strata which represent different parts of the storm in these ice pictures.
It's even thicker where the sleet had piled at the bottom of the back window. That's 4 inches of ice.
The base of the front windshield was about the same. Heating the car from the inside didn't help much, nor did a plastic ice scraper. I ended up using a metal pitchfork to chip away the ice cocoon.
Thursday, January 18: A trip over to a relatives house on the edge of Joplin reveals that deer have been out foraging - with little success - I'd think, for something to eat. The temperature got just a hair above freezing today with no additional precipitation, but the self-refrigerating quality of all that ice seems to have kept it on the roads and trees.
Tracks of cars, people and deer share a driveway.
Friday, January 19, one week after the ice storm began, ice still clings to trees in this, the first clear dawn in a week. It's supposed to be significantly above freezing today.
Temporarily ice-bound in this Midwestern storm, Ace read a story about how British soccer icon David Beckham is coming to play for a US team, the Los Angeles Galaxy. Wondering if he might enjoy the sport, Ace discovered two things:
1. Ice is slippery.
2. Antlers would not be a great asset.
It's not the first time I've seen a ruined or lost soccer ball. This one found a quiet and dignified place to rest by a tombstone in London's Highgate cemetery, having probably been kicked over a nearby retaining wall. I looking into the design history of soccer balls and discovered that this one is an older design and predates today's "Buckyball."
This is a Buckyball, and it represents one of those delightful times when peoples' different interests meet. If you like 20th-century architecture, you've seen the geodesic domes designed by American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller. If you're into roadside attractions you may have seen a few of these, like the one at Meteor City, Arizona. The Buckyball is a soccer ball designed by Fuller himself of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons. I shot this one floating down the Thames River in London while we waited to board a river tour last October.
A couple days later, I happened across this deceased Buckyball at rest in the holly of Highgate cemetery. It was just a few feet from the other one; they were so abundant among the decrepit tombstones in one area that I stopped shooting them. (My apologies to my British readers. Yes, I know it's called "football" where it holds sway.)
Because the soccer balls were shot there, this has been a small installment of
"Everybody loves the monkey" quipped the woman who passed me on the sidewalk as I knelt down for another angle from which to see the blue neon simian one crisp October day last year. I gather I wasn't the first person she'd seen photographing this neon masterpiece.
The monkey has been climbing the palm tree for 53 years at, appropriately, the Palms Motel in Portland, Oregon. The motel and the sign were built in 1954.
Three little words: free wireless internet. That's what I want to see. Aside from its usefulness, I do love the contrast in eras represented here.
It used to be that "Free TV" would get us excited. Now we need free Wi-Fi. Of course, while "Free TV" and "Pool" were often made permanent neon-scripted parts of a sign, "wireless internet" probably never will be - a sign of these fickle times, destined to be spelled in removable letters and replaced by the next free gotta-have perk. It's a shame, really. There'll be no 50-year-old signs to remind us that we got really excited by being able to scope out a city by checking out the websites of our own subcultural interests from the comfort of our motel rooms.
I suppose that decline began with "Free HBO", which, though sometimes painted on, is seldom a permanent compositional part of a sign.
A subtle thing I like about the Palms sign is that the message display part of it looks quite natural.
It's not a clunky, too brightly lit add-on as is seen on many motel and restaurant signs and does not burn out in time exposures as so often happens.
I love the term "motor hotel"; it evokes so clearly the car-crazy era in which such places were built.
You know you're looking at a really big neon sign when its reflection is two stories tall.
Location, location, location - The Palms happens to be a coconut's throw from the Alibi, a vintage Portland tiki restaurant and bar.
What's the Palms Motel like inside? I have no personal knowledge of this, but mid-century maven Humuhumu shed some light on the Palms' interior in a post to Tikicentral: "I love the Palms! It's definitely not for everybody, though."
"It's not the nicest digs, to be sure" she said, "When I last stayed there, I was given a room with a deadbolt that didn't line up with the door frame, and curtains that when closed left a 3" gap looking right into the room (the Palms is a courtyard-style motel). The room wasn't the freshest, in either aroma or appearance, but... that sign! That short jaunt to the Alibi! It did the trick for me."
"It's a little gross, a little scary, a little weird" she continued, "but dang if it hasn't given me some great laughs and memories."
"I have my days where I want something predictable and comfortable, but usually I like a little more spice in my stew. It's for adventurers only," she concluded.
The bathtubs - both regular and the hot tub - have been mentioned as being rather small. "Sputnikmoss", another mid-century enthusiast from tikicental, wrote of a Valentines Day date with her husband that involved the Palms' hot tub: "It was hilarious, especially being that we shelled out an extra 15 bucks for it. I don't think even I could have fit in the tub by myself...and since a dead horsefly was already enjoying it, who was I to kick him out!" Overall, she commented: "It is a dive but in a good way."
All that being said, I'd stay there if I had the chance.
A huge picture I recently posted of a Christmas tree went over well. I don't want to clog the front page with another huge picture right now, but if you want a 700 pixal-wide shot of the Palms' sign, click here. I'll probably add it, and more pics, when this is off the front page.
You too can love the monkey at the Palms Motel, 3801 N Interstate Avenue, Portland, OR. Just drive down Interstate Ave; you'll know it when you see it.
Part of Ace's Northwest Passage series Ace's Northwest Passage (Oregon, Washington, Canada) posts (so far):
We don't go to Tulsa often enough. The city is chock-full of routie goodness for Route 66 aficionados like ourselves, and there's plenty of fine architecture and signage off the route too.
Decent food also abounds in Tulsa. My lovely significant other was in the mood for Mexican and I wanted to see the Rancho Grande sign at night so it was our choice. I'd first noticed the sign last June when I drove by just as they were maintaining it.
We headed to the Expo Square Pavilion to catch the last of a basketball game. The pavilion, part of the Tulsa fairgrounds, was built in 1937 and renovated in 2001.
The building features beautiful decorations outside, which are echoed inside - the top picture of this post is one of the inside panels.
Here's one of the panels behind a Tulsa player who would really like an opposing player to not get the ball.
Why was I - not a sports fan - interested in a basketball game? Well, the team name, the "Tulsa 66ers" was inspired by Tulsa being a Route 66 city.
It should be noted that the fairgrounds is about a half-mile from Rt66 and the team was only formed in 2005. There's no history here, and I suppose the naming of the team could be yet another case of something being hitched to the current 66 bandwagon, but in any case, I suppose the name does serve to increase awareness of Tulsa's Route 66 heritage.
This night, January 5, the 66ers played - and lost to - the Sioux Falls (SD) Sky Force.
The 66ers are an NBA "D-team."
As near as I can tell, the NBA uses such development teams as a training ground for players who are not quite ready to be on mainstream NBA teams.
I am told that the NBA also uses such teams to try out new ideas, like female referees.
The 66ers mascot is "Routie", a reference to fans of Route 66. Routie the roadrunner is not the first team mascot Ace has investigated.
In this photo with Routie, you can see the 66ers shield logo on Ace's shirt.
Ace met team president Joe Berry.
Of course, the oft-tattooed players and a man dressed as a bird are not the only attractions in the pavilion. The team's cheerleaders are the lady 66ers.
If I read the program correctly, this is Candace (left) and Jenni.
After the game, we drove up Yale Avenue to 11th Street so we could take Route 66 out of town, At the corner of 11th and Yale is Tally's Good Food.
We've stopped there before, but not this time.
This retaining wall on the south side of 11th Street, just east of Yale Avenue, pays tribute to the street's Route 66 heritage.
Moving on east, I've never stayed at the classic Desert Hills Motel, but I've heard good things about it. I've photographed the sign, along with many is Tulsa, in previous years but it's easier (and more current) to shoot it anew than it is to find all my old paper prints and scan them. That ribbon of pavement to the left is route 66, 11th Street in Tulsa.
On our way out of town, we stopped to photograph my favorite Tulsa sign, the boomeranged bit of neon googie goodness that marks the Oasis Motel in east Tulsa.
We continued east on I-44 after Tulsa. At Big Cabin we stopped to check out Standing Brave, a huge roadside statue that appeared early in the millennium to grace our roadside-junkie lives. As the four-state area of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas is almost devoid of roadside giants, we welcomed the addition to our landscape. Standing Brave's job, aside from amusing me, is to promote a truck stop and a common type of Oklahoma business: a smoke shop.
It's been a long time since we've noted any of the rules Ace lives by, but rule #22 is "Always stop to investigate a giant anything." In this case, "giant" would mean, according to Roadside America, 46 feet tall on a five-foot pedestal for a total height of 51 feet.
We checked out the accompanying convenience store and restaurant for any clothes or accessories Ace could use, but found none. We've generally had a good track record of this, having found enough Indian accoutrements in tourist traps out west to assemble a fine Indian costume. We did, however find this man-sized version of Standing Brave in the restaurant.
An addendum to rule #22 is apparently: "always pose with a replica of a giant anything."
In his explorations of human culture, Ace has come to understand many things. Despite disguising himself as a football fan, football isn't one of them. I believe his basic question is: "why does not one team merely kill the other and retain permanent possession of the coveted ball." More observation is obviously called for.
As to the Chiefs' imminent loss to Colts (it's the third quarter as I write this), veteran football fan L.V. Oxendine of Joplin, MO remarked: "It looks like the Colts coach is telling the Chiefs what to do."