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. 😉
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!” 🙂
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.
I hardly ever see film anywhere any more. So I was a bit surprised to see this at a gift shop at Wall Drug. I didn’t check the expiration date. I wonder if they also sell Kodak mailers for processing? 😉
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
One of the things that really struck me about the midwest was how far you could see without seeing anything but grass, snow fences and (sometimes) wind farms. This is just one of the many roads we traveled and happens to be in Wyoming. I could have taken many photos like this but it would be hard to tell them apart. 😉
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!
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.