Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crazy Busy With the Sound Team, Setting Up for the 51st Escapade

Well it really hasn't been crazy busy, but we have been doing a lot of learning about sound systems as we helped to set up sound systems for the 51st Escapade. Luckily we have had the patience and kindness of  an excellent teacher Jerry who has explained every step needed to get the equipment up and running.
Renita and I actually set up a room ourselves and surprisingly it all worked. The sound systems for the rooms are pretty simple really but the main room is another matter. There we never did get the setup right until Lou showed up,(ok it worked but it wasn't perfect). His rv had broke down near the Powder River, and this being Wyoming, had required him to wait for parts for several days before getting fixed.
Now that we are set up things should be a lot easier. We have to check the systems every morning and then do a sound check with the seminar presenters before each session. Mainly this involves turning the equipment on and testing each of the three microphones, oh and telling the people not to touch any of the equipment,(oh and to swagger around as sound geeks can).
I did pick up a trick yesterday, if you carry a microphone cord around people think you are busy and so you can avoid a lot of last minute work, or at least help but sigh and say that you are needed elsewhere.

All in all it has been fun and we have met Jerry and JoAnn, Lou and Russ and it hasn't been any where as intimidating as we thought it was going to be! The Escapade starts today!  Clear Skies

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Week of Wire Wrapping At Keyhole

Tomorrow we will leave our favorite park and drive all of 45 miles to Gillette. There we will actually do something we have avoided, work as sound assistants at the Escapade Rally. We both have trepidations about it, it seemed like such a good idea, and I am sure it will be fun, bot the Irish in me well ok, I will leave it at that.
The past week had been idyllic. Each morning I launch the canoe and  paddle along Cottonwood bay casting for a few small mouth along the rocks. I actually caught a couple and I don't know who was more surprised, me or the bass. I released them so they could grow up and maybe bite my line next year.
After paddling we both have been doing some wire wrapping. Renita found a book with detailed projects, none of which we have ever done and so our goal has been to try new styles, techniques, and new forms, including rings.
I first made a simple copper ring as we use copper and brass while we are trying something new. Gold filled wire has risen to eighty dollars an ounce and sterling to almost fifty dollars. At those rates we won't be doing much else then copper and brass, but that's another story.
The book showed me detailed images of making two different styles of ring, a loop ring and one called a flower. After making simple ones of these two styles I was able to make another and added a small agate cabochon. Feeling brave I then made a silver ring and used a Montana Lavender Star Sapphire, of almost 20 carats. I had purchased it from a friend and I can't wait to show him when we return to Texas.
Renita made a beautiful sterling wire wrap of a cabochon she had ground and polished while we were down south. Its a type of agate called flower garden agate and looks like a bouquet of roses. She made a unique wrap and  she added a sterling group of flowers to the top.
Her work of course is always elegant and she takes the art to a level that I usually don't attain. More wrapping included a loop bracelet, a wire wrapped feather with a tiger eye cabochon, and a spinner ring. Like I said it has been a good week before going to work and the rally will really be fun as we will reconnect with other full timing friends. Clear skies

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Montana Moss Agates

It was a really pretty snake, about four feet long and colored with yellow and green stripes. I noticed it when I almost stepped on it and Renita heard my initial yell, "Snake",(ok maybe it was a scream). I have never particularly liked snakes since I was about five years old and my brother scared my sister Connie and me at a place called Witches Cave,(He later went on to become a herpetologist).
We were at the Matthews Recreation area outside of Miles City, Montana, looking for Montana Moss Agates and not having any luck. See the usual method is to wade the shallow Yellowstone river but it is still too high and the rocks are mostly underwater, too much water to see the agates.
Deciding to find another place we drove to the Kinsley Bridge and I had to stop for some photos. The bridge looks like it was made a long time ago and is a four span single lane bridge. The one lane is sheet metal planks covering a wood base and it looks like it hasn't been repaired since Custer made his fatal trip to Little Big Horn.
Taking some images I watched as several cars drove across the bridge and as I walked back along the river rock road I found some rock that was pretty close to agate. As I neared the truck Renita got out, bent over and picked up a beauitiful Montana Moss Agate from the road. Goodness gracious the girl sure can spot rocks from the passenger seat!
Looking around she found another piece and I found some pretty rocks, aren't they all really, but nothing compared to hers. We decided to cross the bridge and as we did so I noticed gaps where the metal sheeting had broken, hmmmmm, but we made it across and parked alongside the road.
Now the road looked to be river rock that had been dredged from the river and before long I found my first Montana Moss Agate. Road picking is actually a pretty good technique when all else fails. We ended up picking up quite a few specimens and the day was a success,(well every day is a success when we don't work and  finding beautiful rocks is a bonus).
Many of our friends think that we have found all the rocks we work and a lot of it is, but we also work lots of rough we buy as we rock pick flea markets, rock shops, and antique stores. We also have quite a bit given to us by people who have gotten tired of their own or inherited rock collections.
We ate lunch along the Yellowstone river and then hunted along the road finding more agate. We decided we were tired and it was time to visit the Pirgoue State Park, a place known for where you can wade across to the island and hunt moss agates.
Unfortunately the river was again to high for wading and we thanked our lucky stars for the agate we had found. On the way into town, Renita called a local rock hound who invited us to his house. It was a worthwhile trip as Ray invited us in and then proudly showed us his collection.
His specialty is Montana Moss Agates and he has about as fine a collection of cabochons as we have ever seen. Ray showed us some of his other collections and our mouths drooled as he proudly held up his huge mammoth molar!
Going into his back yard he showed us his two piles of moss agate rough and we bought some to go along with the rough we had found,(We keep found separate from bought). We arrived back home, our fifth wheel, with twenty more pounds of rock for the road! A fine day along the Yellowstone!  Clear skies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Walking Among the Petrified Cypress, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

It felt so strange to be walking among an ancient forest of cypress with logs and stumps everywhere littering the horizon. It hadn't been that long ago that we had canoed the Suwanee river and admired the towering cypress of Florida and now we were here in North Dakota enjoying the cypress again.
I thought of how my brother in law Gary makes furniture from old logs, recovered from the beach of Louisianna after storms, logs that had been buried in mud but not yet pertrified. I knew the forest was millions of years old and it made everything seem timeless.
I remembered Huttons Uniformity Of Process, that everthing really is the same through geologic history and this was such a great example.We shared the petrified forest with a few other visitors but we were alone for most of the hike and that's so rare in a National Park.
Sitting down for lunch I thought of my Geology summer field camp and this was so much like the months I spent mapping while I had been hiking Wyoming. I wanted to take a short cut to the north unit of the petrified forest, but as was said in the Lord of The Rings, short cuts can make long delays, and we didn't have that much water.
Playing among the stumps I watched Renita peering bewtween a crack and I was reminded again of the girl inside her and of the child still within us all. Returning to the truck we were both surprised that we had hiked 4.8 miles, at least thats what our gps said.
It was a fine day and we decided not to hike the trail to the northern forest but to save it for another visit. Driving back we passed new oil wells, evidence of the North Dakota boom and again I said a silent thank you to Teddy Roosevelt for saving such a place from future oilmen. Clear Skies

ps Among the pleasures of fulltiming are the many friends we make along the way, and friends we meet again as we travel down the road. It was a real pleasure to run into Jim and Nancy, who write the blog, Running Down Our Dream, a recording or journal of their travels. If you haven't read it, you can click on the blog list along the side. Jim, a retired social studies teacher lets us see a different view of  the places they visit!

Cottonwood Campground, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The air was still but it wasn't silent, it was filled with the sound of cicadas humming their siren call from the tops of massive cottonwoods. The cottonwoods along with junipers filled the campground along the Little Missouri River’s valley floor. No police sirens, no cars driving along filled city streets rushing to work. Just the sound of cicadas from treetops….

Later a storm front roared in, again the only sound of its arrival the cottonwoods swaying in the breeze. The sky took on a green that I have only seen a few times before and a massive wall cloud appeared in a break in the trees and we saw cumulus mammaltis clouds filling the sky! To hear the sky change from the hum of cicadas to the winds roar of a massive storm.

After the storm passed  we  got into our truck and drove to an open spot, all the while Renita continued to watch the radar on her smart phone as I gazed around the sky, our camera in  hand. We never did see any circulation but we watched cloud to cloud and cloud to ground bolts of lightening dance across the sky.

To think we had seen the grandest shows in only a few hours. It’s a small wonder why we love the west and I really feel that Teddy Roosevelt felt the same way we do. He may have even watched as a storm swept across this valley and surely he had heard the cicadas sing from the tree tops of his Elkhorn ranch. What a great man to have saved so many wild places.

I don’t really know what I expected, coming here to his national park, I expected to see some beauty but not to be so moved. Tomorrow we will explore more and we already has discovered another unexpected treasure, North Dakota magic. Clear skies

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kawishiwi Falls

As we travel we see many unexpected treasuries and one such is Kawishiwi Falls near Ely, Minnesota. Just east, on 169, a left turn takes you to a gravel parking lot and the trail head. Its only about half a mile through the dense northern forest to the falls.
As you hike the short trail the roar of the falls gets louder but you don't get a glimpse through the foliage until you reach the gorge. The falls splits into two ribbons of water as it cascades over a fifty foot drop. There the water makes a short trip to Fall Lake. As we reached the stream, below the falls, I spotted four otters playing in the water, but they quickly headed downstream to the lake, too quickly for me to take an image. Red head ducks were paddling around, well being ducks, and they ignored the people enjoying the falls.
I wanted to get below the falls and wade up to the cascade but there didn't seem to be an easy way down so instead we walked along the path and scrambled out to the edge of the river. You could see that the water flow was reduced from the spring torrent that usually sprays one as you reach the gorge, or that's what our new friend Gail says happens..Just above the falls a large cement dam looms where a power plant was built that's still in use today. Thank goodness they built the dam above the falls and didn't destroy the beauty of the place.
All in all a nice short hike, a beautiful place, and a beautiful falls, just don't forget the mosquito lotion! Clear skies

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Family Reunion at Fall Lake, Ely, Minnesota

It is surprising how fast the years go and they even speed up once you retire. It had been too long since Renita and her brother and sister had all been together and so Pam set up a reunion at Fall Lake, near Ely Minnesota. Reunion time for the Chandler kids!
The drive was pretty easy from Wyoming to Minneapolis, but as we got north the roads deteriorated and Highway 169 was as bad as any Louisiana road. We arrived at Fall Lake to discover that our extension for our counter top had broken and was hanging from the other metal hinge. A few trees had to be cut down to drive into our campsite, we are staying at Phils Mother in Laws land, but there was enough room to park our fifth wheel along side the garage.
We were soon catching up on all the news and other families and as we sat there a bald eagle landed on the island right in front of the house. The eagles here are pretty used to people and we even later had one try to take a duck that was sitting on the beach within fifty feet of us!
Of course I had to unload the canoe and so our days have been filled with visiting, canoeing, swimming, and basically just enjoying the beautiful lake and its surroundings. The fishing is great but the catching is slow and we haven't added any fish to a planned fish fry, but cornbread tastes good as fish when you don't have any fish!
My highlight so far has been a morning canoe trip with our daughter Jenny. We paddled down to the power plant and waterfall, passing eagles perched high atop red pines. We weren't able to see the waterfall near the plant but we did see a flock of young grebes and a mother redhead with her ducklings.
This is our second time, this year, in Minnesota and we have driven more this year then any other, but the drives have been to family outings and so we have been truly blessed. From here we are heading back to Wyoming and the Escapee Rally, but we are going to avoid South Dakota and the nightmare of the Sturgis so it looks like we will cross North Dakota. Clear skies.