Sunday, September 27, 2009

Final Day in Wyoming - and the Trip Home!

Monday, September 21 was my last day in Rock Springs. Since my presentation was set for 6 pm, I chose to remain close to town and visited the Rock Springs Historical Museum. And am I glad I did ... this place is a true gem of a museum. Mind you, it's a small museum, the displays are nice enough but the museum coordinator - Bob Nelson - was a font of information about local history! I learned about facts such as: (a) "Butch Cassidy" was not killed in South America but allegedly lived after the famous shoot-out and returned to Wyoming; in fact his grandson still lives!; (b) Rock Springs supposedly got its start thanks to coal (see above sign!) but actually it was the railroad that started building a town there to provide a temporary place for the workers to live.

If you are ever in the area, please take an hour to visit this museum -- you will not regret your decision!

The Rock Springs Historical Museum in downtown Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and three other 'outlaws' in a classic photo taken after they robbed a bank of about $32,000 USD.

A display on how Robert Parker picked up the name Butch Cassidy.

The museum has a small library containing a wealth of local historical records (newspaper clippings, photos, etc.) and information.

Mr. Bob Nelson - the museum coordinator. He can talk at length about the local history. He is very knowledgeable and very easy to talk to and will gladly answer all your questions.
The next day I flew to Williston, North Dakota. Turned out to be a terrible flight on Great Lakes Airlines (aka Great Mistakes Airlines). I was delayed 5 hours in Denver and barely made it to Williston in time for my 7 pm presentation! Thankfully, my flights home on Wednesday (9/23) were both ON TIME and I walked into my Houston apartment at 10:35 pm and collapsed into bed about an hour later!
Replies to Comments:
Hindsfeet: Thanks for visiting my blog! I may try to add more Alaska photos - once I get the time! And that is a major problem lately! I have a cranky customer in Kuwait who wants what he wants when he wants it! I simply MUST take care of his request this week ... so maybe later .....
John: Thanks, as always, for stopping by my blog! Always nice to know someone is looking in here from time to time!! Have a great Friday!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Weekend in Western WYOMING

I have the entire weekend to rest up and prepare for the final two presentations in my lecture tour next week. As I mentioned in my last posting, my previous visit to Wyoming was about 30 years ago and so I chose to spend Saturday revisiting those locations where I took my first field trip for my current employer: Big Piney and La Barge, Wyoming. By themselves, these locations are not "special" places. Neither town has any spectacular scenery or tourist sites to brag about, it's just that each place holds a lot of memories for me.

My day started at 8:45 am. I drove along Highway 352 to 191 and arrived at La Barge - my first stop - at 10:30 am. La Barge is the location of the oil field where my colleagues and I conducted a major field trial in the summer of 1978. Not much has changed in town although there are a few new stores, restaurants and a gas station!

Next stop: Big Piney. This is the town (population 404) where we stayed at the Big Piney Motel. Surprisingly the motel is still there!! Along with several new buildings which have popped up in the last three decades: a new elementary, middle and high school and even a Big Piney Fine Arts Center! And now there is the Big Piney Museum!! Add to this a new grocery store and a few new businesses (gas stations, restaurants, etc.) and you'd think there must be a lot more people living here nowadays. Surprisingly, however, the town's population has not changed much over the last 30 years!

The sign at the edge of Big Piney, Wyoming! This same sign was here in 1978!!

La Barge, Wyoming .... not much has changed in the last three decades.

An abandoned gas station .....

The same cafe in La Barge that we ate at 30 some years ago. Sadly it is closed!

Next, lunch in Pinedale. I ate at Stockman's Restaurant, after which I took a few more pictures of the surrounding area and then began the 165 mile journey returning to Rock Springs. I drove a total of 340 miles today in eight hours.

Dinner on Saturday was at the White Mountain Mining Company Restaurant. A nice local restaurant with good food.

On Sunday (September 20) I ventured south of Rock Springs and took in more of the Flaming Gorge reservoir and the surrounding areas.
So many unique rock formations .....

Never a dull moment when touring Wyoming!

Every time I turned a corner, there was another one of those "Wow" moments. So many truly amazing sights!

PS: One final word .... Coffee addicts, especially fellow bloggers, Madame Lefty and Ms. Cheryl, may be pleased to note that Rock Springs, Wyoming now has a STARBUCKS in town! The presence (or absence) of a chain coffee shop such as Starbucks in a town/city is one of my indicators of the presence (or absence) of 'civilization'!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 5 - Driving to WYOMING!

Well, I have completed four of the six presentations scheduled for this first lecture tour! Turnout has been great - with the exception of the meeting in Vernal where only a small 'crowd' of eight folks showed up. I had about 100 people listening to me speak in Anchorage, 37 in Bakersfield and 62 in Denver. Thankfully, the next presentation on this lecture trip won't be until Monday (Sept. 21) and thus I have the entire weekend off to rest and recuperate. Instead of flying to my next stop, a colleague offered to drive me to Rock Springs, Wyoming. The drive from Vernal, Utah covered 110 miles and usually takes about two hours but took us about three hours as I wanted to stop frequently and take pictures along the way. This offer of a ride allowed me to cancel the flight (fright) on Great Lakes Airlines and simply drive to my next destination ... which is here in Rock Springs. It has been almost 30 years since my last visit to this wonderful state so I am looking forward to spending the weekend here and reconnecting with some of the same locations I first visited in 1978!

I departed Vernal, Utah at 9:30 am and headed north on Highway 191. We passed over the Flaming Gorge Dam (located in the northeastern corner of Utah - just below the border with Wyoming) and took in some truly wonderful scenery. I managed to snap a few pictures and you can see them here. Enjoy!

Wyoming reminds me of Alaska - a true frontier state with few people and a LOT of wide open land and wide open spaces. For someone like me who lives in a big city, this place is a welcome change in venue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 4 of my Lecture Tour - VERNAL, UTAH

Greetings from Vernal, Utah! Thankfully, my presentation today in Denver went extremely well and was attended by 62 people. Then came the fun part ---- a flight on Great Lakes Airlines flight #5125 from Denver to Vernal. Oh boy .. what an experience! A very small plane (seats only about 14 people; no toilet and no flight attendant!). Seemed as though most of the Great Lakes flights this afternoon were being delayed for maintenance reasons. Our flight was no exception. We departed Denver 35 minutes late and arrived into Vernal at about 8:38 pm Mountain time. A colleague picked me up and I checked in to a simple room at the Weston Plaza motel. Trust me, this place is nothing fancy! I walked across the street to a Walmart for some food and now it's time for bed to get some badly needed rest. Tomorrow I give my presentation yet again. The 'crowd' here in Vernal is supposedly going to be a LOT smaller than the crowds I had in Anchorage and Denver - they expect about a dozen people to show up at best! Ah well, c'est le vie! I'll give it my best no matter how many people show up!!

Thankfully, after tomorrow's presentation, I am allowed to rest up the weekend and I'll give two more presentations (in two other locations) next week before returning home to Houston. Sorry for not posting any photos but I have simply been so pressed for time!

More later ....
UPDATE (Thursday, Sept. 17): I managed a reasonably decent night's sleep although I could have used a few more hours of rest. Still, the "show must go on" and my presentation is scheduled for tonight (Thursday) at 6:00 pm local time. By now, my nerves are settled and I have my lines fairly well rehearsed so that the flow of the actual presentation is quite smooth - if I say so myself!
UPDATE (Thursday, Sept. 18): There were only eight (8) attendees present for my lecture. Apparently the Uintah section of the professional society to whom I was lecturing is so small that it is normally hard to coax members to show up for these monthly seciton meetings.

The weather today is excellent!! Sunny skies. Not a cloud around. Sadly, however, I have no rental car and hence must remain here at the motel (the 'Bates Motel' ??). I may walk outdoors a while just to get some fresh mountain air.
Replies to Comments:
Searching Soul: Thanks for sharing your concern about small planes! I wish I had a picture of the twin-engine propeller Beechcraft. This was a night flight and when one passenger turned off her reading light, the ENTIRE cabin became so dark that the star light outside the plane was brighter than the inside of our cabin!! At least the flight to Vernal from Denver was smooth. Mountain flights can be BUMPY. A colleague here in Vernal has given Great Lakes Airlines the nickname: "Great Mistakes Airlines"!! Or just "Great Frights"!! Care to book a flight?!
Al: Indeed I will get some rest!! Keep up the woodworking!!

Day 3 of my Lecture Tour - DENVER, Colorado

Here it sit preparing myself for my third presentation of this lecture tour. Today I am in Denver, Colorado. I flew in last night at 9:45 pm and after a 40 min taxi ride, I arrived at my hotel room (the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Denver) at shortly after 11 pm. I managed to nod off to sleep OK and now - after a pleasant breakfast buffet - I am getting ready to walk over to the building next door where I must summon up enough energy and mental concentration to deliver my presentation (and answer all the questions thrown out after the talk) in a way that all the attendees can appreciate and enjoy. Sadly, there is not time to snap pictures and hence no picture to share with my postings. Perhaps I will catch up on my picture taking efforts sometime during this weekend!!

Update (Sept. 18th): A total of 62 section members showed up for my presentation!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 2 of my Lecture Tour - BAKERSFIELD, CA

Just a short note to update my followers. I departed from Anchorage on Monday after delivering my 45 minute presentation and managed to catch an early flight out to Seattle and then it was onto a connecting flight to Fresno, California. I arrived at my motel room in Fresno at 11:30 pm and thankfully managed to drift off to sleep quick enought. After 6 hours sleep I drove 1.45 hours (113 miles) to Bakersfield and deliverd my presentation to 37 people.

Now I am awaiting my flight to Phoenix and then connect to Denver where I shall deliver my presentation tomorrow at noon. This lecture tour is physically quite tiring!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

North to Alaska - My First Visit to Our Nation's 49th State!!

Greetings from Anchorage, Alaska! (My first visit to the great state of Alaska!!!) I arrived here from Houston on Wednesday (Sept. 9) after a 7 hour flight. After some work on Thursday, I had two fun-filled days available to play tourist and take in some of the most wonderful scenery in America!! I will share just two photos in this post but will take more time later to share some additional photographic gems.

FYI: I am on a multi-city lecture tour starting with Anchorage. Once I start my first lecture (Monday, Sept. 14 is Day 1), it will be a different city each day so I am sure I will be rather tired and ragged and hence may not have time to blog until AFTER my entire lecture tour is completed. In the meantime, I hope all of my loyal followers will have patience. And wish me luck - I hope I have smooth flights and no missed connections all the way.

The bald eagle - symbol of the USA.

The face of the Blackstone Glacier in Prince William Sound off the coast of Kenai Peninsula (about a 1.5 hour's drive SE from Anchorage).
Replies to Comments:
John: Breathtaking indeed!! And, yes, it sure was cool standing on the deck of the boat! The tour guide explained that glaciers have their own weather. The prevailing outdoor temperature in Alaska that week was in the 50's (ca. 10 deg C) but at the face of the glacier I'd have to estimate it was in the 40's F (ca. 5 deg C). Still it was worth taking the time and making the effort to visit a glacier!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Gravenstein Apple - A Vanishing Gem

As promised in my prior posting, I just want to take a few moments to devote some space in my blog to tell my followers of the plight of the humble Gravenstein Apple - one of nature's finest creations! One of the highlights of my recent vacation in Northern California came on Monday, August 24 when I had the good fortune to get a first-hand view of apple production at two of Sononma County's largest apple growers.

My first stop came at Ratzlaff's "Apple-A-Day" ranch where one of the owners - Mr. Ratzlaff himself - pointed the way to two large bins containing some of the ripest Gravensteins ever - these apples are perfect for making apple sauce. Mr. Ratzlaff weighed out the 18 pounds of apples I had personally selected.

I purchased 18 pounds of orange-red Gravensteins .... puuuuurfect!!

The second stop came at Walker Apples. The young Mr. Walker was so kind and gave me a tour of his orchard.

During the walk through his orchard, Mr. Walker told me of the many problems he and the other apple packers in Sonoma County are facing. Turns out the USA is literally being flooded by a sea of imported apple juice from Asia! That, coupled with the rising value in grapes and the replacement of many orchards with vineyards is threatening to cause the demise of the Gravenstein Apple. Most folks who read this posting may not care about all this ... BUT if you have ever tasted a sweet Gravenstein apple, well, you would know of which I speak!! Sure there are many other apples sold in grocery stores, many quite satisfying. Sadly, however, Gravensteins are only grown in Sonoma County and if they stopped growing these little gems, that would represent a true loss in what the locals refer to as biodiversity.
For more details, I refer you to the following WEB sites:
Walker Apples is the LAST actual apple packer in the county. There are still other orchards in the area but they only sell to the public directly and don't ship the apples around the country as does Walker Apples.

The finished product - delicious apple sauce. No sugar was required to make this sweet pleasure. Mmm-mm good!!

If you made it to the end of this posting, many thanks!!! I would certainly appreciate any and all comments!

And now - assuming all goes as scheduled - it is time for yet another trip! See you later this week ....