The Lope: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pride of Kansas, 2009

During the Kansas State Fair, the Pride of Kansas Building holds entries in various agricultural contests, as well as one display that makes a bit of news every year - the butter sculpture.

2009's butter sculpture was of a man trying to shoe an uncooperative horse. I must admit that I still don't understand the source of the man's obviously pained expression, and each time I saw it, people around me didn't understand either. Maybe he is strained by pulling the horses leg up? This is probably one of those cases of "city boy doesn't get it." Sharon BuMann of Central Square, New York, did this year's sculpture using 1,275 pounds of the butter.

There's a celebrity or personality scarecrow category. I view the entries as a sort of pop culture barometer. For example, there were no pirates this year.

Kay Towle of Hutchinson made this scarecrow of Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series.

My favorite thing in the whole building was this scarecrow of an older Spock, brought by Katherine Moeckel of Plevna. Her improvisation in the selection of parts was...fascinating.

The face, made up of wooden fruit, reminds me of the fruit-faced paintings of sixteenth-century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Leonard Nimoy seems to be amused by unusual homages and might appreciate this rendition. Ace just had to pose with this one.

I'm not sure how Mr. Nimoy would take to being called "old Spock."

Teresa Rife of Nickerson envisioned Michael Jackson as a scarecrow.

Jackson was also represented as a pumpkin by Leanna Woleslagel of Hutchinson.

Austin Phillips of Hutchinson brought this pumpkin decorated as a spider. Thanks, Mr. Phillips, for helping usher in the Halloween season.

If you don't like anthropomorphic pumpkins but do like big ones, you might have enjoyed the largest pumpkin - 834.2 pounds - brought by Doug Armstrong.

This moon and stars watermelon was part of a set of watermelons brought by Ron Olavarez.

The horned African cucumber caught my eye. It looks like pollen as seen under an electron microscope. It was brought by Leland Headings of Hutchinson.

Sue Roush of Lebanon brought this potato, which reminds me of former jobs working at newspapers when I'd be dispatched to someone's house to photograph potatoes that looked like dead presidents. Grover Cleveland actually came up once in this regard, which still causes me to wonder: who walks around with a mental template of what Grover Cleveland looked like? Anyway, this one looks like a dog with eye placement by Picasso.

Ahh, the Kansas State Fair - folksy, artsy and darn amusing.

Heifer International

One of Ace's more interesting stops at the recent 2009 Kansas State Fair was the booth of Heifer International in the Birthing Center. Heifer International runs a program by which people can help purchase an animal for a family in an under-developed country, thus aiding them to become self-sufficient.

They also do a lot of other cool stuff, like stressing gender equality, sustainable agriculture and training people to take care of those critters - some offspring of which are passed to others. Not a bad deal, me thinks.

Ace helped buy a trio of bunnies for someone. Maybe they'll get amorous with some antelope and he'll have some relatives to visit.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"I Wonder Whose Car This Is?"

We saw them beside a convenience store along I-35 north of Kansas City last night at 7:42.

Pablo and Savannah they called themselves. They were dancing - and dancing well, I might add - on top of a car as we pulled around the store looking for a place to park while a friend used the facilities.

This is either a wanton act of vandalism recorded, or one of the most romantic things I've ever seen. Of course they could just be friends; one never knows.

And here's a clip of the pair dancing to In the Mood. "I wonder whose car this is?", he asks, preceding and provoking her laughter. I presume he was just being funny and it was one of their's:

Pablo and Savannah, please write and tell us your story.

Friday, September 25, 2009

McPherson Kansas Scottish Festival This Weekend

A kindly merchant equipped Ace with bagpipes last year at the McPherson Scottish Festival. The 2009 version of the event begins Friday, September 25, and runs through Sunday in Lakeside Park in McPherson, Kansas.

Just to get you in the mood, here's the City of McPherson Pipe Band:

They, and other pipe bands are part of the weekend.

I love bagpipes. When I was a kid in Joplin, Missouri, a pipe band practiced right across the street from my parents' house near Junge Stadium. The sounds of the McPherson Scottish Festival remind me of many a long-ago day when that music would waft through my screen window.

The three-day festival is a mix of clan meetings, entertainment and activities.

There are informational exhibits on specific clans.

You'll see quite a bit of appropriate attire.

All ages were represented. Ace made friends with Rebecca (left) and Ashley of Wichita.

Scottish balladeer Alex Beaton will be a featured performer this year, as he was last year.

Celtic harpists RoJean Loucks (left), and Suzanne Shields, both of Wichita, played Aura Lee last year:

Loucks is scheduled to be back this year. I do not know about Shields.

Of course, as Ace's valet, I am always on the lookout for suitable lopewear. It's too bad these drink cozies sold by Kiss Me Kate's tea room in Baldwin City, Kansas, were a bit large.

Of course, adult garb is available. These are sporrans. A sporran serves the function of a pocket on a Scottish kilt.

A sporran is worn like this. I got the feeling some of these people had posed before.

Of course, you can always put your knife in your socks.

Need a kilt but don't want to give up those pockets you're used to? Celtic Ranch in Weston, Missouri, sold utilikilts.

Perhaps you need a medieval fantasy weapon.

Well, I hope you don't need one, but you'll probably find some.

Perhaps an inflatable mace is safer?

There were also thematic toys.

Not everything was exactly Scottish, but I did enjoy seeing this fiberglass lemonade stand. These used to be present at the Kansas State Fair, but were absent this year.

There was ice cream made with the help of a vintage John Deere engine.

The picnic shelter in McPherson's Lakeside Park is somewhat mid-century modern.

The full name of the festival is the McPherson Scottish Festival and Highland Games. This is caber toss, in which something like a telephone pole is thrown.

I was surprised to learn that the object is to have the caber fall directly away from the thrower, not to throw it the greatest distance. This young man's face shows the strain of having just thrown a caber.

There was also an exhibit of falconry. I'd love to have one of these beauties live in my neighborhood for awhile feasting on pigeons.

See the festival's website for admission costs and other details. I'll have to miss it this year due to a scheduling conflict, but I'll envy those of you basking in the sounds of the bagpipes.

"God does not deduct from one's allotted time the hours spent listening to street organs"

Two Kansas organ grinders will be in attendance at the McPherson Scottish Festival in Lakeside Park this weekend. I photographed both of them last September 28 during the 2008 festival and it was a visual and auditory treat.

Tom Griffith of Hays brought a vintage street organ with Max the Marionette Monkey. He says the monkey was made for him by a Franz Fischer of Germany, whom Griffith says was once associated with Jim Henson and the Muppets.

Here's a sample:

The organ reads paper rolls, which Griffith has in a wide variety of genres.

Griffith says his street organ rides on a 1898 Studebaker cart. His business card contains the quote I used as a title: "God does not deduct from one's allotted time the hours spent listening to street organs."

And what does Max do? Here you go...just be glad It isn't in 3-D:

The organist in the second half of the video above is Tom McAuley of Hutchinson. Last year he brought his German street organ from the firm of Jager & Brommer. It's a 20-note, three-register organ that plays music from paper rolls.

It features a clown figure that taps his cymbals in time with the music. Fortunately, it does not urinate.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fair Swag Review, 2009

Of course, the Kansas State Fair can be a place of learning, a place of edification, a place of...oh heck, you wanted free stuff and so did I. He's some of the best of it.

No, they weren't giving away giant fiberglass cows. Turkey Hill gave away little cups of ice cream - good stuff, too. Of course, what I really liked about this was that for ten days Hutchinson had a fiberglass giant. We're unfortunately short on those here.

An informed freebie shopper would enter at the the gate north of the 4-H encampment building and grab a U. S. Cellular backpack first. For the past two years they had these. I've actually found them useful on road trips; they don't look as threatening to museum security folks as a normal backpack does.

The Kansas State Union Label Council had a few goodies.

In addition to being the only place I saw with the ubiquitous pill cases, they had rulers and throwing disks. Another time I picked up a small fabric draw-string sack, such as one might use to contain small accessories.

By far the most potentially valuable freebie was a free blood screening for prostate cancer offered by the Red Cross. I remember the days when Bob Dole would stand in the aisle outside their booth, holding his pencil and offering "would you like a free prostate exam, sir?"

This ended before his 1996 bid for the presidency. I imagine some astute handler told him the line was too ready-made for Saturday Night Live parody.

The Department of Veterans Affairs in the Meadowlark Building had lots of swag; this is only some of it - balsa wood gliders, b-b puzzle pens, hand sanitizers in little carriers (very topical right now) and a combo flashlight/screwdriver set so you can see better in the dark when you're...working with screws.

Also in the Meadowlark, Newman College had magnetic clips and carabiners.

I used to leave the fairgrounds with heavy and bulky Wichita Yellow Pages, which I actually used quite a bit. These days I pretty much look up everything on line, but the Yellow Pages on DVD isn't a bad thing to have.

The National Guard had backpacks in its drug awareness booth, but gave all of them away by mid-week. They did have a good supply of other goodies, though, for answering simple questions about how drugs impair people.

If you were just visiting and wanted a souvenir that said "Hutchinson", the free key chains in the Hutchinson information area would suffice.

Freebies were scarce in the Eisenhower Building; KDOT had maps but not the usual ice scrapers. The best swag, by far, were the prizes given for taking a short boating safety quiz.

The boating safety booth also gave away what many thought were can cozies as prizes. Obviously, these were actually specialized life jackets.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fossil Megaliths

Autumn begins today in the Northern hemisphere. Usually I present something Neolithic on solstices and equinoxes, and a delightful entry in the recent 2009 Kansas State Fair allows me to show you something really cool.

Morgan Reves of Pottawatomie County, Kansas, treated the public to this special exhibit: two models of Stonehenge - past and present - made of fossil crinoid stems.

This is Reves' rendition of Stonehenge when it was finished into its final configuration. I like the way the mineral coloration on the fossils echos the lichen on the real Stonehenge.

And here's Reves' model of the Stonehenge of today - ruinous but beloved.

Much explanatory text, as well as this site map, was included in the display. I like the way Reves has taken one of the most common fossils and done a piece of educational folk art.

Some previous solstice and equinox posts:
Summer, 2009
Spring, 2009
Winter, 2008
Autumn, 2008
Summer, 2008
Spring, 2008
Winter, 2007
Autumn, 2007
Summer, 2007
Spring, 2007
Winter, 2006
Summer, 2006
Spring, 2006
Winter, 2005

Sonic Rain

A crescent-shaped storm system moved across parts of Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas yesterday, depositing heavy rain. I was driving a party north on hwy 540 near Greenland, AR, when I sought shelter (and a hot dog) under the canopy of a Sonic drive-in:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Helicopter Ride at the 2009 Kansas State Fair

Schreib-Air of Augusta, Kansas, sells five-minute helicopter rides at the 2009 Kansas State Fair for $40 - down $5 from last year. I took a ride in this sporty little red one.

Photographers should note that this little red one has the doors off and is a two-seater. The other seat is occupied by the pilot, which guarantees you'll not be shooting over any other passengers and you'll have a great view to your left.

They generally use larger helicopters like the one above that hold more people; they do not guarantee your position as to seating. Also, the other copters may have doors which can make photography problematic. I was able to get the small, red two-seater because I asked, but mostly because the larger ones were not in service at that particular time. In my experience, their employees were easy to work with.

And here's the ride:

2:39 to 2:52 - The rather imposing Reno County Courthouse is one of Hutchinson's great Art Deco buildings.

3:08 - The troubled Wiley Building is attached to another of Hutchinson's Art Deco treasures, the fabulous Fox Theatre to its right.

3:22 - The Landmark apartment building - formerly the Stamey Hotel - was built in 1922.

4:22 - This view of Ye Old Mill shows the layout of channels that carry patrons through this 1915 water dark ride.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Talking Like a Pirate

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, 2009!

While on shore leave in Denver, at the Denver Modernism Show, I happened upon this fine treasure - the head of a fiberglass "muffler man", which was customized just for this occasion. To get some idea of what a whole one would look like, see this.

Before a Yes/Asia concert in Denver this past July, we were able to meet Carl Palmer, drummer for the progressive rock group, Emerson Lake and Palmer.

What does ELP have to do with pirates? Well, they had a fine pirate song on their "Works" album, called, simply, "Pirates."

I haven't seen a lot of pirate stuff in the last year, so here are some our previous posts. In 2006 we explained the whole thing, as much as one can explain International Talk Like a Pirate Day - in Avast, me Beauties!

In 2007 I got a bit scholastic and looked at a real life pirate, Sir Francis Drake.

Last year, we featured some pirates from the Great Plains Renaissance Festival along with some fine wenches.

Speaking of piracy, this is one of my most pirated photos. Just do a google image search for "pirate jackalope" and you'll see. The photo comes up twice on the front page the time of this writing, but in neither case is it on my website or under my control. In one case I've managed to get the photo deleted from someone else's flickr account. I'm working on the other case.

This sort of thing, by the way, is why I started watermarking my photos with "" last year. I'm slowly going back through older photos and inserting the watermark, as I did in the photo above after it was stolen, but it takes time.

The 2009 Kansas State Fair is in progress as I write this. Unlike 2007 when the above photo was taken, there's an appalling lack of pirates at the fair, perhaps due to the lack of a Disney pirate movie at the moment.

About the only trace of state fair piratical coolness I found was in the booth of Don Burton under the grandstands. Burton sells two styles of pirate flags, including the one at top.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bugs and Rocks 2009

Once again I am delighted to see the diversity of insects and fossils displayed by the 4-H'ers of Kansas during the 2009 Kansas State Fair. Really, the 4-H building is sort of a museum at this time. Ace found an actual use for the ruler given away by the Propane folks in the Pride of Kansas Building when he measured this walking stick's body at about 5 1/2 inches.

Check out the detail in this crinoid fossil from Wilson county. It is displayed by Devin Pearson of Cherokee county. In life, a crinoid would resemble the modern sea lily.

The mother of pearl finish on this ammonite is partially intact. It is brought by Morgan Reves of Pottawatomie county.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Montgomery Gentry at the 2009 Kansas State Fair

I'm not a country music fan, but when tickets to the 2009 Kansas State Fair grandstands shows went on sale, friend and fellow blogger Patsy Terrell suggested we see Montgomery Gentry.

I promptly asked "who's he?" She told me it's a duo.

Neither of us were fans, but the last time we went out on a limb and decided to see a show by a group we weren't really into, it was Air Supply and we had a blast. Who'd a thunk it?

So, off to the fair we went this past Saturday. For me it was my first fair event since I'd been out of Hutchinson Friday and most of Saturday.

The shadows behind the curtain were a good touch and reminded me of Alice Cooper's opening on at least his last two tours. Of course Alice was acting out an atmospheric Jekyll and Hyde murder in silhouette. I don't think country singers do that sort of thing, so that would be too much to hope for.

That's Eddie Montgomery on the left and Troy Gentry on the right.

Troy Gentry seems to be the talent of the two. He plays the guitar and sings.

These guys have really, really white teeth - the kind we are not really equipped with by nature. Montgomery spent a lot of time walking back and forth, connecting with the audience. He sings, but it's pretty clear that he's the showman of the two.

Here are a few more for you Montgomery Gentry fans:

For more info on their tour, see their website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Monster Returns to the Mill

A welcome re-addition to the "Ye Old Mill" water dark ride is the huge automated demonic skeleton. It's a "Skelerector", made by Scare Factory, but the staff just calls it "the monster." This year it is inside, by the entrance to the "Tunnel of Love" - yeah, it turns out that love is scary.

The monster was added in 2005 as an outdoor barker for the attraction (2005 photo with the vampire jackalope).

It broke down during the fair in 2007 and was absent in 2008 (2007 photo). The monster seems to be plugging along just fine so far this year. Maybe keeping it out of the wind and weather helps.

The rhythmic sounds of the Ye Old Mill's water wheel furnish a sound track while the monster fires up and goes through his motions every few minutes:

Here's the exterior of Ye Old Mill in 2009:

And here's a complete ride through the 2009 version of Ye Old Mill:

Note the spray mist in the first part of the ride. Photographers beware.

Monday, September 14, 2009

He's Baaaaack

I'm delighted to report that the Women's Christian Temperance Union brought the better of the their "little man" automations to the 2009 Kansas State Fair. Here's the entrancingly creepy guy and a full look at the pages he turns. This Twilight Zonish Americana at its finest:

I know I've covered this before, but these posts are often found by a search engine and must stand alone, so here's its history and a look at the two different versions of the automation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009 Kansas State Fair Begins

The 2009 Kansas State Fair started Friday and I'm stuck out of town at business meetings.

Right now I want a Pronto Pup with an unholy passion.

And roasted corn. Never mind that I have sweet corn at home growing in my back yard. I want their corn, and I want it on a stick.

Which of two precious demons did the WCTU visit upon us this year? Maybe you already know. I can't wait to find out.

What rides will there be this year that don't make me puke, yet provide a thrill for some rough semblance of value per dollar?

Did Ron Diamond bring the Hypno-Monkey?

What cool gizmo will offer the best photo-op?

What creature will remind me most of a Dr Seuss creation given life?

Will people dance in the artificial rain?

When comes the storm?

What waits around the curve this year in the dank, dark tunnels of Ye Old Mill? And will those guys with the flashlights be as vigilant?

The 4-H kids usually have a few fossils worthy of a museum. What will they be this year?

Which kiddie ride will look the most like something I'd want to strap on a car roof and run in a parade?

What domesticated animal will look the most like Phyllis Diller?

What freebie will be the most useful...

...and the least useful (but something I end up taking home nevertheless)?

What time-tested novelty will arise again?

And what miracle product will look the weirdest to use?

Who'll be incarcerated? Actually, I know that one. Nobody will. I hear the jail cell has been removed from the Department of Corrections building.

Of course, Kathleen Sebelius won't be there this year.

But still, I'm looking forward to banquets on a stick, rocks, bugs, the train, Ye Old Mill, the WCTU "little man", Heart belting out Led Zeppelin, ice cream under the grandstands, and - most of all - long walks with friends through thick slices of Americana.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Surprise Waterfall

Storms over Kansas dumped more than four inches of water over parts of the state in the middle of this past week. Here's one of the storm clouds as it approaches Hutchinson last Tuesday night.

Kansas isn't as flat as it is reputed to be, but we don't usually have roadside waterfalls.

The one above was just east of Cedar Hollow Creek along highway 400 in southeast Kansas this past Wednesday afternoon.

I was driving from Hutchinson, KS, to Joplin, MO, for a business meeting. Very rarely have I seen flooding actually reach over the pavement on hwy 400, but here it is just east of Parsons, KS.

This view is looking west at the same area.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Night Owl Driving

It didn't start as a night trip. No, this road trip was supposed to start at 2PM this past July 8, but things happen and before you know it it's eight o'clock. So be it - time to trust in serendipity and hit the road.

The gods of travel take special care of those on old highways such as US 50, and that was the path of choice for a friend and I - west out of Hutchinson Kansas and bound for somewhere in Colorado. Our goal was to attend a concert in Denver on the 12th and photograph a whole lot of cool buildings, scenery and cicadas on our rather circuitous route.

8:52 PM - pleasantly striated clouds complement the setting sun as it silhouettes irrigation equipment along US 50 near Stafford, Kansas. This was my first shot of the trip; I was also testing a camera, the Canon SX1IS, and wanted to see how close this less-expensive alternative to a DSLR could come to DSLR performance.

11:42 PM - "Soda and ice cream parlor" neon beckons from the sign of Clark Drug in Cimarron, Kansas.

I've been here a few times before and know what treasure waits behind those locked doors. Aye, there's a soda fountain here and it's an old one, too.

Flashback: I'd visited Clark Drug back in February and poked around looking for dates of manufacture on the counter. I found a patent date of November 22, 1927. Though parts of it are hybridized with a later counter, most of it is similar in construction to one that used to grace Fraese Drug in Hutchinson, Kansas, when that business was in the now-defunct Wolcott Building, before Fraese moved to the oft-controversial Wiley Building.

Back in February, Ace partook of an Oprah smoothie - a drink named for the talk show queen after she ordered a smoothie of this type on a stop here during cross-country trip a few years ago in which she had a bit of friction with the Kansas beef industry.

But now it's 11:43 PM, five months later. There'll be no smoothies tonight.

Here's one more Clark Drug sign - this one on the US 50 side of the building.

12:10 AM: Syracuse, Kansas - It's actually been almost an hour and a half since Cimarron, but we've crossed into the Mountain Time Zone now.

It's a funny thing, you see, the Central/Mountain time border follows the Kansas/Colorado state line at the north and south ends, but Mountain time juts out in a roughly bordered rectangle to claim a strip of Kansas about 20 miles wide for about 90 miles of the border. Why? I have no idea.

The Northrup Theatre is the first thing I shot in this strip of what I like to refer to as "Kansas Mountain Time". Despite changes within and without, the Northrup has remained open for all but a few years since its opening in 1930, when 35 cents could buy you a flickering refuge from the depression. I've read the interior is Art Deco. Oh yeah, a day trip is in order.

On a trip out here this past February - also a night trip - I'd shot an old hotel sign and a former gas station in Syracuse. Both were still there when I passed through on the trip now being documented.

12:28 AM - An honest to goodness phone booth waits outside the Pioneer Telephone Association in Coolidge, Kansas.

Close by, a concrete Mexican stands guard next to the Border Town Trading Post.

12:40 AM and we're within yards of the Kansas/Colorado border: I was intrigued by this structure - an old gas station or motel office, I am thinking.

While I was photographing the building, I apparently trespassed on the territory of two barn owls. In the middle of the night an unexpected SCREEEEE! and a large pair of wings swooping in from your peripheral vision can be startling. Not being too terribly bright, I tried to provoke them by moving further from the road so that I could try to get a photo of them in the air. That didn't work due to the camera's inability to focus on a moving target in moonlight, so I decided to try and get a shot of one when it perched in a tree.

That worked - eventually. The hot shoe on the SX1IS was valuable because I needed the power of my old Vivitar 283 flash to throw that much light, and even still this is at ISO 400, f:4.5.

The problem was focus. Auto focus couldn't home in on the owl or the tree branches; I even tried the auto focus assist beam to no effect. This is a problem with the SX1IS and its less-expensive sister, the SX10IS - neither seems to be able to cope with dimly lit subjects even if there is a lot of contrast. I switched to manual focus but found that manual is a stepped process for the SX1IS and the owl was between two steps, so I actually had to change my position to get the bird sharp as I could.

But about the owl: the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is typically about 18 inches tall and has a wing span of over 40 inches. It sees better in the dark than almost anything but its hearing is also used to home in on its food - rodents, mostly - but it'll also take insects, snakes, lizards, frogs, crayfish and, rarely, another small bird. Fortunately for me, it doesn't take fools with annoying cameras at 1 AM.

This view, also used at top, was shot at full zoom, 35mm equivalent 560mm, ISO 800, f:5.7 (maximum aperture for the lens at full extension). I was really lucky the owl stood still for the 13 minutes it took me to toggle the focus, wait for the resultant image to display, then try something else.

At this point, a plane was flying over and the owl actually turned its head well over 90 degrees to track it.

1:13 AM - Within a few yards of the old building and the owls lay the border between the Sunflower State and Colorful Colorado. The big dipper took a scoop of night sky behind the welcome sign.

More technical stuff; sorry about that for those not interested, but believe me, people who are camera shopping for a super-zoom point and shoot (also called bridge cameras) want to know this stuff. I made the unpleasant discovery at this point that the Canon SX1IS does not have the 15 second shutter speed available in manual mode like the SX10IS does. In fact, its longest shutter speed in manual is one...yes one second. That's crazy.

The camera does have up to 15 seconds available in one of its specialized modes - "long shutter" in the "scene" mode - but in that mode the camera picks its own choice of ISO and mine seems to always pick 80. Again, this is nuts, and quite insulting to anyone who knows their way around time exposures and just dropped a few hundred bucks. Fortunately, I had brought one of my previous cameras, a semi-functional Sony DSC H2 along, and was able to use its 30 sec shutter speed for this shot.

Along any highway there are strewn signs of former motels like this one in Holly, Colorado. I can't read the neon on this one for sure - "Niles Courts" or maybe "Miles Courts" - but what struck me was the Master Charge (not Master Card) sign. (photo from a previous trip in February of 2009)

3:21 AM and we're in Lamar, Colorado. The Lamar Theatre opened, according to Cinema Treasures, in 1946 and is Art Deco within and without.

One could make a most enjoyable trip out of a connect-the-dots tour of towns with operational classic theatres. Here's a shot of the theater I took back in February when I was through Lamar early enough to catch the neon lit.

At Olive and Main streets, a road crew is melting white strips onto the pavement.

The workers explain that these plastic strips contain glass beads for reflectivity.

The strips are melted into place with what I am told is called a trident. Cool!

Now think about this: these guys are being paid to burn plastic stuff on Main Street in the middle of the night. So...when I was melting all those plastic soldiers in my childhood back yard, I was learning a useful skill. I always knew that.

Kids like the one commemorated in this statue never saw plastic. This is a Madonna of the Trail statue. In 1928 and 1929, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed one of these statues in each of the twelve states through which ran the National Old Trails Highway. The original was sculpted by August Leimbach of St Louis.

The old Lamar train depot still serves passengers using Amtrak. There's a nice Thai restaurant, Thai Spicy Basil, next to it.

A number of relics are displayed near the depot.

In stark contrast, a modern windmill blade rests nearby. Could the settlers have dreamed of one windmill blade this big? another shot

There is a preserved steam locomotive here. It is the only one I've ever seen rigged with working lights; that was a nice touch.

A nearby plaque gives the facts on Santa Fe steam locomotive number 1819, a product of the Baldwin Locomotive Works from 1906. It was retired in 1953 after logging 916,626 miles in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado pulling freight and passengers.

Here in the middle of night, I remembered a presentation about Peter Tellin, a deceased resident of Hutchinson Kansas who was a Santa Fe engineer in these parts until 1912. I wonder if he ever plowed this thing through deep snow drifts.

The best piece of roadside treasure in Lamar is one I shot on a trip back in February, but I'll use the pictures here. Much of this former gas station is made of petrified wood.

The hype for the building doesn't mention that only the front and sides are of petrified wood. Unfortunately, there were many cars parked around front, resulting in these odd angles. another shot

We left Lamar at 4:08 AM.

4:32 AM - I shot the near-full moon, our companion since night fell. The thing about the moon is, it's a sun-lit object, so you can use a pretty decent shutter speed. This was ISO 80, 1/400, f:5.7, 400mm (35 mm equivalent 560mm). This is not enlarged or sharpened but is a 100% crop from the center of the 3644 x 2736 frame, 180 dpi. I didn't use a tripod; this is steadied on the car window frame. This is not as sharp as a photo taken with a DSLR and a better lens, but not bad for what is basically a tricked-out point and shoot.

4:39 AM, east of Las Animas, Colorado on hwy 50 - I liked the clouds. They would have looked better with a longer shutter speed than the SX1IS' one second, but the area of the sky with the moon would have over-exposed even more due to a light haze. Shortly after this, we bid farewell to the road and settled into adequate lodgings at The Best Western Bent's Fort Inn at Las Animas, Colorado, which we reached at 5 AM.

Oh, our distance was 314 miles, according to Mapquest, which says it should take five hours and 34 minutes. It took us ten hours. Obviously, Mapquest doesn't stop and take pictures...too bad.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Birds

Dear Alfred Hitchcock, I'm so sorry I forgot your 110th birthday back on August 13. This photo I shot at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas back in February reminds me of you. I don't know why.