Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We Are Still Rambling Around

We are still traveling. Shelley is just slacking on blog writing so here is a catch-up blog.
After leaving Iowa, (boy it seems like we were in Iowa a long time), we headed on west. We spent one night in Omaha Nebraska and one night in Big Springs Nebraska (is this exciting yet or what?)

We left Big Springs and headed in to Colorado – Land of Heat and Fires. Our destination was Longmont and en route we went through lots of smoke from the High Park Fire but luckily when we got to Longmont is was fairly clear. We could not see the mountains but at least we could breathe - well kind of since there is not much oxygen in Colorado to begin with the and I think the fire was sucking up what little O2 there is.

The reason for our stay in Longmont was to attend a fastpitch softball tournament that Shelley's cousin Ciara was playing in. Ciara plays for the Colorado Springs Thunder 14U team and she is amazing. Ciara is such a good player that she has been selected to play on an Adidas Futures team in Utah later this summer. The Adidas Futures tournament is where young softball players are showcased to college coaches. It is a big deal and we are really proud of Ciara. Ciara's sister Savanna is also a ball player and was recently in an All Star tournament. Way to go girls!

                                                                    Ciara blasts one!!!

                                                          Honey and Art at the ballpark

One evening while in Longmont we went to Boulder to meet Shelley's brother Tom and his son James for dinner. A short visit but a good one!

Left Longmont and headed to Cañon City, CO to visit with Shelley's Aunt Anna Lilac and more cousins. We look forward every year to our visit with family in Colorado and although this year's visit was kind of short – 5 days – we had a very good time and got to see DeAnna and Bill and their daughter Katie who live with Aunt Anna and one day we drove over to Salida to see Omar and Anne before their big move to Grand Juction and we spent more time with Art and Honey (Ciara and Savanna's parents). On Wednesday, Rose, daughter of Aunt Anna's oldest daughter Cheryl, flew in from Washington state so it was great to see her. Omar, Deanna, and Art are all Aunt Anna's children. Although we only spent 5 days there we will see Aunt Anna again in a couple of weeks in Oklahoma City.
                                         Monte, Bill, Deanna, Anna Lilac, Art, Katie, Rose

When driving to Cañon City, just after getting south of Colorado Springs we encountered lots of smoke. As it turned out it was the first day of the Waldo Canyon Fire. If you have been watching the news at all you know how huge this fire has become. We hope and pray that everyone stays safe.
First day of the Waldo Canyon Fire. 
Did not know when I took this that we would
soon be driving through much of this smoke.
Today it is far far worse.  The worst wildfire season
ever in Colorado and the summer is just getting started.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NCAA Track and Field Championships

After attending the Quarter Horse Show and the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, it was finally time to attend the event that we actually came here for - the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

The meet was held at Drake Stadium and we tried our best to cheer on the Florida State Seminoles that were competing.  FSU ended up 4th overall.  It would have been great to see the 'Noles win it all but we still had a great time.

Just try making it over the hurdle after you
 have run almost 2 miles

FSU pole vaulter on his way to failure :(

 No idea who this is
 or this
FSU long jumper - did not fair so well

 110 Meter Hurdles

 FSU Decathalete, finished 4th.  He will be in the Olympics this summer competing
for his home country Chile.

Maurice Mitchell - ran 3rd in the 100 meters and
won the 200 meters for the 2nd year in a row.

After sitting on aluminum bleachers for 4 days my butt is happy to be back in the passenger seat of the motorhome heading west.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pigging Out in Des Moines, Iowa

During our tenure in Des Moines, Iowa we are camped at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. 
Our purpose in being here is to attend the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. But, wherever we are we like to do whatever the locals are doing and far be it from us to turn down a chance to pig out - literally.

The fairgrounds is a busy place this week. There is a quarter horse show going on all week which we attended one day. However, the big draw is the WORLD PORK EXPO. Who ever knew that there was such a thing? A trade show for the purveyors of swine. Since it is here and we are here and we had some time to kill - we figured this is our one and only chance to attend this event.

This thing is huge - hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of gawkers. It truly is an international affair - we heard several languages being spoken and saw a great many people who did not appear to be stereotypical Iowa pig farmers. We saw displays for everything from pig genetics displays to pig confinement facilities to robotic pig tenders to pig cremation vaults (the ultimate pig roast).

As we made our way through the exhibits we dined on fine swine. We ate pulled pork, pork burgers, ribs, and brats. Feeling like porkers ourselves we passed up tent after tent of free pork comestibles.

After eating we moved on to pig on the hoof. Hundreds of pigs in pens waiting for their chance to strut their bacon. These swine are very pampered on their way to being baby back ribs. They are brushed and shampooed and get to eat like pigs. Then they get to run around a show ring and be judged. A much better life than that of the average pig I assume.

So although this event was not on our bucket list - we are glad we had the opportunity to attend. Once and done.

And by the way - there's an App for that! On both iPhone and Adroid so run right to your app store to download it for free.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois and the Finding of Uncle Frank

The Rock Island Arsenal is located on Rock Island in the Mississippi River. Originally established as Fort Armstrong in 1816 the Arsenal has been an active manufacturer of military equipment and ordnance since the 1880's. The Arsenal is the only active U.S. Army foundry and manufactures artillery, gun mounts, small arms, grenade launchers, weapons simulators and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The museum was fairly interesting. It is the second-oldest US Army Museum in the US after West Point. They have an enormous collection of small arms weapons and lots of interesting facts like the Arsenal is the sole supplier of paper targets to all of the US Armed Forces.

This horse was used as a mannequin when the Arsenal
was making saddles and other horse related

What really drew us to the Museum was the fact that during the Civil War the Island was home to a large Union army prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. The camp was operational from December 1863 until July 1865 and housed over 12,400 Confederates. Of those a total of 41 Confederate prisoners successfully escaped while many others tried and failed.

According to oral family history, one of those, who was a member of the unsuccessful and the successful was Shelley's great-great Uncle Franklin Shields Rhodes who was in the cavalry in the Army of Northern Virginia. Although most of the records have been lost or destroyed what has survived had been put on microfiche and has since been transcribed and digitized and is available to be searched at the Museum. From the time Shelley sat down at the computer until she located Uncle Frank's record of escape was about 30 seconds! It was true! He escaped successfully in December 1864. The story goes that after being incarcerated for a few months he escaped but was recaptured and returned to the prison. The second escape attempt was a few months later in December, the river was frozen over and he and a Dr. McGill were able to successfully make their escape. The record does not reflect his initial incarceration or escape attempt. It has to be surmised that the first attempt was in October 1864 as that is the date that it shows him being captured. Shelley was pretty stoked at being able to find this record.  Uncle Frank was Shelley's maternal grandmother's favorite uncle.  He had no heirs.

                        I know you cannot read this copy from the microfiche but - the info is there.
                                                 This is the transcribed information.

These types of finds just makes history come alive.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Moline, Illinois - The John Deere Journey

In many cities the colors you see are associated with Universities, in Tallahassee the colors are Garnet and Gold and you see it everywhere, in Oklahoma City it is Crimson and Cream and they are ubiquitous. In Moline the color is John Deere Green.
We started our John Deere journey at the John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline about a block from the Mississippi River. Since 1997 the Pavilion has told the story of JD's history, the products it makes and of the company's contributions to agricultural development. There are the static displays that you would expect and product simulators that were a lot of fun. 

The simulators are the same ones that are used to train professional operators. Monte did pretty well operating the machines– Shelley not so much. 

The next stop on our JD journey was in East Moline at the John Deere Harvester Manufacturing Facility. WOW! What a great tour. Other than the fact that no pictures were allowed (what's up with that? Seldom are we allowed to take pictures in a manufacturing facility) it was a great tour. We were driven by tram around the main manufacturing area. The tour took an hour and a half so you can imagine how huge this place is. We saw every facet of the process from stamping out and bending huge sheets of steel to lasers, to welding and painting and wiring, and adding hydraulics and I don't know what all but just all of it from raw steel to the ignition key being turned and the harvester being driven out of the plant. These machines are MAMMOTH.  Again – great tour.

Of surprising note were the numbers of folks from other countries taking tours. There was a bus load of 50 from Uruguay. Uruguay? Yes, if you lived in South America wouldn't you want to come to East Moline Iowa on your vacation? Okay – so maybe it makes more sense for people from France – a group of 30 or so, and in our tour group were about 20 from Sweden.
So – if you ever have an extra half mil or so just sitting around and want to buy a new toy – a John Deere Harvester might just be what you need. And if you take that journey then you would be a Gold Key VIP and would get your own private tour – how's them potatoes – oh wait – I don't think they make a potato harvester...