Category Archives: 50 States

We Got Planes!

EC-135A Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota

Years ago I hung out with a bunch of guys who were pilots.  Some of them owned their own planes – small homebuilt planes or private planes like a Piper Colt or Ercoupe.  I actually got my own private pilot license, although I haven’t actually driven a plane in about 30 years.  Photography is a very economical hobby compared to flying!  But I still like planes, especially big noisy ones. 😉

C-130E Hercules at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois
C-130E Hercules at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois
C-141B Starlifter at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois

One day a bunch of us were talking about going to the annual EAA Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  For a week at the end of July, the EAA “AirVenture” as it is now called, is the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration®.  Kathy was understandably skeptical about the idea of spending a week at an airport with a bunch of airplane geeks, so she asked, “is there anything to see there besides airplanes?”  One of the guys looked up and said to her in all seriousness, “well yeah, there’s parts!” 🙂

KC-135 Stratotanker at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois

We didn’t see many airplane parts on our western road trip, but we did see lots of planes.  We visited the static displays at Scott Field in Illinois and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota.  There are a few photos here, but for those who need to see more, I’ve posted a gallery of airplane photos on my Adobe Portfolio site.

B-52D Stratofortress at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
B-1B Lancer – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
A-7D Corsair II – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

View of The Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Our original plan was to stop at the visitor center at for a stamp in Kathy’s Passport book, take a few photos and move on.  But even though the weather was iffy when we got there, the scenery was so captivating that we decided to stick around until dark.  And we’re glad we did!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
View of The Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
View of The Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
View of The Painted Canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

The visitor center is situated at a rest stop along I-94 and is one of the few interstate rest areas where you can actually see bison.  We didn’t see any at the rest stop, but did see a lot of them in the park, both up close and from a distance.  The best way to see the park is to drive the loop road, which is what we ended up doing.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

A portion of the loop road through the park was closed due to some aerial spraying being done, but the road was open enough to get some good views from within the park.  “Prairie Dog Town” was a lot of fun, with hundreds of the cute little critters popping their heads out of their holes to peek at us.  We got a little “up close and personal” to some bison that wandered through a parking area right behind our car.  I was very glad to be in the car and not out wandering around with my camera!

Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Our visit could have been longer had we gotten there earlier or if the weather had been better, but it was longer than we intended, and that is a testament to being open to change and flexible in our plans.  It was a worthwhile detour, for sure!

A Truly Enchanted Highway

“Geese In Flight” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota

One of the “must visit” places on our recent trip through North Dakota was a place called The Enchanted Highway.  The Roadside America website gives this brief overview, and you can visit the link for more details:

“Thirty miles south of the nearest major highway, the town of Regent was dying, and Gary Greff decided someone had to do something about it.

A metal sculptor and retired school teacher, Gary started the work in 1990. His master plan was to create ten giant sculptures, one every few miles along Regency-Gladstone Road, paired with picnic areas and playground equipment. All the sculptures face north, toward the oncoming traffic from the interstate. Seven have been completed.

An additional sculpture towers along I-94, essentially an artistic billboard enticing travelers to exit and head south to Regent. Geese in Flight went up in 2001, next to the Gladstone exit — and it is claimed to be the World’s Largest Outdoor Sculpture.”

“Pheasants On The Prairie” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Tin Family” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Tin Family” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota

Our visit occurred on one of the nastiest (relatively in North Dakota terms!) of our trip.  We started off in the morning with rain and 35 degrees, went through 3-4 inches of snow at 31-32 degrees, then finally ended up in Rapid City where it had warmed to a welcome 40 degrees with light drizzle.  You can see the progression of rain to snow in the photos, as the snow increased as we went south on the route.

“Fisherman’s Dream” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Fisherman’s Dream” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Grasshoppers In The Field” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Teddy Rides Again” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota

It’s easy to see the mud that we found at all of the pulloffs, so I made good use of my “car-pod” to make the photos, only getting out of the car where I could do so without tracking through the muck.

“Welcome to Regent” sign along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
“Whirly Gigs” One in a series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota
The Enchanted Castle, a hotel in Regent, North Dakota at the southern end of “The Enchanted Highway”

These photos are a few of the highlights of our visit.  I’ve created a separate gallery on my Adobe Portfolio page for anyone who just needs to see more of The Enchanted Highway!

Series of metal sculptures along “The Enchanted Highway” between Gladstone and Regent, North Dakota

A Quick Visit to Montana

Custer National Cemetery at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t come anywhere close to doing Montana justice.  We basically cut enough of the corner between Wyoming and North Dakota to count it as a “visit” (even still, it was 300 miles!) but purposely decided ahead of time that it was a state we would revisit later to explore in more detail.

Custer National Cemetery at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Our visit was essentially limited to a stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  It was a cold, wet day with the precipitation fluctuating between rain and snow, and my photos reflect that.  While I’m sure that sunny weather like we saw for most of our trip would have made it more beautiful, the gloomy weather made for appropriate conditions at a place that has such a dark role in American history.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Rural countryside along SR 47 near Custer, Montana
Rural countryside along SR 47 near Custer, Montana
Rural countryside along SR 47 near Custer, Montana

Why Wyoming?

US-287 south of Laramie, Wyoming

As I sat at my computer working on photos from Wyoming, my mind was reflecting on how I feel about the state and our limited time there.  We did drive the entire length from south to north, but saw only a fraction of what Wyoming is all about.

Seven Mile Wind Farm near Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Wind farm along US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming
US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming

I suppose Wyoming, like any other state, elicits the gamut of opinions, from something like “miles and miles of nuthin’ but miles and miles of nuthin’” to “one of the most beautiful, pristine places in the world.”  I found it to be closer to the latter end of that spectrum.

US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming
US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming
US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming

The voice I heard playing in my head said something like this: Wyoming exudes a quiet confidence, as if to say “Welcome.  We’re glad you came.  If you decide to stay, we’d love to have you.  If not, we understand.”

Medicine Bow Museum and Train Station, Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Medicine Bow Museum and Train Station, Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Looking at my photos I was impressed by the lack of litter.  Evidently the people who live there respect the land and keep it clean.  The land is truly one of-wide open spaces.  Even the parking spaces are bigger in Wyoming, probably because there are lots of trucks.  The people we met were friendly, the food was good, and the scenery was beautiful.  Would I live there?  Probably not, especially in winter.  But it was a nice place to visit, and I can’t wait for an excuse to go back.

Lou Taubert’s Ranch Outfitters in Downtown Casper, Wyoming
Lou Taubert’s Ranch Outfitters in Downtown Casper, Wyoming
Wind farm along US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming

The Merry Old Land of Oz

Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas

One our stops in Kansas was at the Oz Museum in Wamego.  Kansas=Oz, right?  It was a very well-done museum, with lots of movie and book memorabilia as well as displays documenting various scenes and characters in the movie.  While I knew that the movie was based on a book by L. Frank Baum, I didn’t realize that the tale was actually comprised of a series of 14 books.  Now I’m going to need to read them all!

As I’ve been doing, there are a few highlight photos here in this post, and anyone interested can see more at this link: Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas.

Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas

Cars, Cars, Cars!

Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana

Kathy & I visited the Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana on our recent jaunt through the Midwest.  Here are a few photos from that visit.  For anyone who wants to see even more car photos, I’ve added a gallery in Adobe Portfolio with an expanded selection.

Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana
Dream Car Museum in Evansville, Indiana