Travel to Barnesville MN

Just a quick post after our travel day, about 250 miles and we are in site 3W at Wagner Park Campground in Barnesville MN right outside of Fargo ND. We have no wifi internet here so only have our Millenicom air card for connectivity. So I will have to run over to the library if we have any photo intensive posts. The park is quiet and has pretty large grass sites with full hookups. Neil has to order some Amazon stuff and we will get delivered via General Delivery at the post office in town. Hope that works all right. Here’s a shot of our site setup.

Cyas.

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Two Hike Day…Including the Mosquito Death March Hike

Well…at least one of our hikes was really nice yesterday.

After breakfast we packed up ourselves a picnic lunch and headed out about 15 miles from here to our first hike at the Homesteader Nature Trail in Brandon. This turned out to be a pretty decent hike…we had the park almost all to ourselves the whole time. On arrival we saw a fellow getting out of his car with his dog and heading off on the loop trail. We didn’t see where he went so wandered around a bit before finally finding the trail start…although we ended up taking a different path through the series of loops forming the trail than he did. We ran into him again about 3/4 of the way through heading the other way but he was gone by the time we got back to the parking area. We were alone through our lunch break sitting on the picnic table and another fellow and his dogs showed up right as we were leaving.

The land for this park was donated by the descendants of John Samuelson who originally homesteaded with his wife Anna in 1869 after they emigrated from Sweden. He built this cabin and it was used by his family and the 160 acres farmed by his descendants until 1967 when it was bought by the country and turned into the current park.

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Heading out on the hike we missed the sign for the entrance into the trail and sort of took the back way in.

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After crossing the creek through the property we got a couple of nice shots of the oxbow bends…the creek probably curved 2 or 3 miles in all as it passed through the 160 acre site (about a quarter of a square mile)…it was quite twisty and we crossed over it several times as we traversed the loop. The trail wasn’t marked and had numerous intersections with other trails…all of which appeared to be maintained so we generally kept our selves in a loop and used our the GPS on our iPhones to figure out which way to turn at each junction. Connie found the trail on her All Trails app…but there was no information at all in either the app or on a sign at the park so we were sort of on our own.

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This was a pretty nice little hike about 1.7 miles in total. We had put on bug spray but the critters weren’t actually bad at all and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Didn’t see any wildlife but it was still a nice walk through the woods.

After lunch we headed off to our second hike at the Valley of the Giants Nature Trail…no idea why it is called this as again neither All Trails or the trail signage said anything. This was supposedly a 1.2 mile loop hike out around a bend of the Big Sioux River…which eventually flows through Sioux Falls about 7 or 8 miles to the southwest of the hike location and over the falls there. We paid our 6 buck per vehicle entry fee and got parked…everything seemed normal and we headed out on the hike…everything seemed normal for a couple of hundred yards then we got into the mosquito zone. I tell ya…there wuz thousands of them and it seemed that the bug spray (even though we liberally applied some more) just attracted the little buggers. We pressed on hoping that it was just a localized thing…we’ve found on a lot of hikes that you’ll run into a patch of mosquitos either at a particular elevation or close to a small body of water and that climbing or descending just a few feet as you hike makes them disappear. No such luck on that one today though…we did have a few spots where we had less of them around but by and large it was continuous. We thought this was surprising as it wasn’t really a swampy hike with lots of standing water for them to breed in…the only real water was the Big Sioux River but it was flowing steadily so would not really serve as a breeding ground for them. So we ended up hiking pretty quickly and only stopped for a few photos…what with them buzzing around the camera and your head it made for a pretty lousy walk. Still good exercise but that’s about all you could say for it.

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We came home and had burgers and leftover couscous for dinner…then Neil went out and got another shot of a nice sunset over the freeway before calling it a day.

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Today we’re headed up to the Jazzfest in Sioux Falls…there are a couple of zydeco and New Orleans style bands playing…and we’ll have some barbecue or a hotdog or whatever while we’re there probably…I’m thinking they’ll likely have beer as well. Tomorrow we’re off to a local winery where they have music and sangria…can’t complain about that either.

Cyas.

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Day Trip to Sioux Falls to See…Sioux Falls

Well, today’s Fun stuff© was a quick trip to the city of Sioux Falls to see the namesake Sioux Falls on the Big Sioux River as it passes through town. Connie spent pretty much all day yesterday working and catching up…Neil went on a bike ride…then they had some pork stir fry for dinner last night.

Today it was soft boiled eggs for breakfast then we goofed off until lunch. After a ham and cheese sammy we headed off for our walkabout at Falls Park (Sioux is about 20 miles north of us), scouted out the location for this weekend’s Jazzfest that we’re going to on Saturday, stopped by the LBS (local bike shop) for some new inner tubes for Neil as he used his last spare, and stopped by the Hi-Vee for a few groceries that we needed. While there we also picked up some lamb chops to grill one night and some fresh fish (tilapia from Equador) for dinner tonight.

First up though…a couple of sunset shots from last night…hard to believe these were taken over the freeway isn’t it?

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Ok…Sioux Falls. Way back 80 million years ago the area around here was (heck, it still is) pretty much a plain and what we call the Big Sioux River flowed south past the site of present day Sioux Falls, SD. During the last Ice Age in North America about 15,000 years ago the course of the river was blocked by the western arm of a glacier…the glacier split around a high plateau north of here. The glacier blocked the river…which naturally found another way and created another channel…which it then eroded down to the bedrock here which is quartzite rock…this is harder than granite and almost as hard as diamond…so it didn’t erode and the result was the present day falls.

The falls has 3 drops totaling about 80 feet or so…the upper and lower falls are pretty small about about 10 feet each but the middle one drops a nice and impressive 40 feet or so. The water is pretty brown right now…lots of silt in it from the spring runoff after the winter snow melted. The city was established in the late 1870s…after the Civil War amazingly enough (we thought it was at least settled before that but we wuz incorrect) and grew up around first a flour mill and then a power plant that used the power of the falls to drive them. The flour plant was abandoned in the late 1890s and used for a variety of purposes until it burned in the 1930s the first floor walls were maintained as a historic attraction and there’s a picture of them below. The power plant was phased out in the 1950s sometime and turned eventually into a cafe/restaurant in the current city park that contains the falls and the remains of several water power related businesses.

The lower falls in the foreground and the middle on at rear…the upper falls are out of sight in this shot.

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The former power house turned into a cafe/restaurant.

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Lower and middle falls from the bridge across the river here.

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Closeup of the middle falls…a wide angle shot from about 30 feet away right at the edge of the river.

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An HDR version of the shot above…this is much more what it looked like to the eye.

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The middle falls from the left hand side…Neil was standing on the green spot you can see in the upper left of the above shot for this one.

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The abandoned flour mill, it’s associated turbine building is visible in a later shot.

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First wildlife sighting of the day…wonder if he’s radioactive like the bunnies out in Idaho at the Nuclear Prototype Training Site were.

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Female Blue Winged Teals.

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F-16…this guy and 3 of his buddies took off from the airport north of the falls area and screamed over us about 600 miles an hour…wonder where they were going in such a hurry. It was an hour or two after the initial reports on the news of the airliner being shot down over eastern Ukraine…so it was likely an increase in the air defense readiness for US forces ordered by the Strategic Air Command…which would have gotten a few fighters airborne. Nothing that can sustained easily over the long term but when readiness goes up the alert aircraft typically take off in case they are needed, the readiness increase comes out pretty quickly and with not too many details about what or why.

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Japanese beetle.

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The middle falls from the right side of the river…you can see the flour mill turbine house at the left. The close up shot was taken from the rocks below the turbine house and the shot from the other side of the river taken from the grassy area to the right of the turbine house.

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And finally a shot of all of the falls taken from the observation tower at the park. The lower falls is just visible (well, the top of them anyway) at the far left and you can see the upper falls in the background at right just below the railroad bridge. Most of the actual river flow doesn’t actually come over the upper falls but rather through a set of rapids underneath the left hand half of the railroad bridge then dumps into the main channel just above the middle falls. You can really see the silt in the flow from this viewpoint.

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With that our day was done. After a quick stop at the LBS for tubes and the grocery store for some needed supplies we headed home and will rest, dinner, and TV until bedtime.

Cyas.

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Slight Change of Plans

Well, we left St. Joseph this morning for our 220 mile trip north to South Sioux City, NE…our destination was the Scenic Park RV Campground run by the city and sitting right on the Missouri River. On the way up the park called and told Neil they would save us a water/electric site so we figgered we wuz home free.

On our arrival…the first sign of trouble was the crummy look of the city itself followed by the fact that the park is in sort of a bad neighborhood. The second sign of trouble was when we got to the park and they said they never talked to Neil today and had no spaces. Neil went in and talked to them and they admitted talking to us but still had no spaces.. So…we regrouped and talked about it a bit, checked on openings at our choice B…Ponka State Park in Nebraska nearby but they only had no hookup sites available.

So we picked another park up towards Sioux Falls SD and headed in that direction. About halfway up we stopped in a rest stop and checked out the campgrounds in Sioux Falls. There were several to choose from but all of them (at least the ones with full hookups) were right next to the freeway. Given that we decided that if we were going to be parked next to the freeway anyway we would stick with our original choice of Countryside RV Park about 18 miles south of the city. It was only 125 a week instead of 35 a night and a parking lot alongside the highway is pretty much the same no matter where you are.

So…we got to the park and got settled into site 23…an outstanding site for 125 bucks a week. There’s a little freeway noise but with so little traffic that will die off by about 2200 or so. We’ve got a nice view from reasonably spaced sites over a cornfield. Not as nice a view as Mount Ranier or the woods…but much better than looking over the highway.

We ended up 2 states (NE and SD) farther than we planned but I’m sure that Sioux Falls has interesting stuff to do just like Sioux City would have…and as a bonus we only have about 270 miles to go next week to Fargo rather than the 340 we originally were going to have.

We got setup and then ran into the closest town of Worthing and had dinner at Otis’s Bar and Grill…fried beef short ribs, some tater wedges, and a couple of draft Fat Tire Ales each and all was good. After that we came home and will rest in the recliner until bedtime.

Here’s a shot of our setup…I’ll try to get Neil to take one of our cornfield view tomorrow for ya.

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Not much else to report for today. Tomorrow Connie has some work to do…she had a conference call with her boss yesterday and has more work to do now. Thursday and Friday we’ll plan on some Fun Stuff© 

Cyas.

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Escape From Camp Horizons

Well…come Thursday morning we looked about and all the stuff that was gonna get done on the rig was done so we quickly packed up, paid our bill…which was much smaller than it would have been if we had gotten everything done…and hit the road. We’re sort of irritated that the two upgrades we wanted the most didn’t happen…but the service department just really didn’t seem much interested in trying to figure out how to get them. I’m guessing that New Horizons management has put their emphasis on production of new units for sale rather than trying to provide great after the sale service to current owners…more money in the former I ‘spose. Seems a bit penny wise/pound foolish to me as with no sales rooms and little to no advertising the company primarily relies on word of mouth from current owners to get new customers. That being the case…tales of great after the sale support and willingness to figure out how to meet requests would go a long way…but mebbe that’s jus me.

Anyhoo…we got on the road about 0900 for the 171 mile trip to St. Joseph MO where we pulled into the Beacon RV Park about 1330. On our approach from the highway we were going through sort of an automobile row part of town, ya know the one where there’s dealer after dealer in a row…and wondered whether this would be a nice place or not. The front office area didn’t look too great either but by the time we got pulled into site 14 we had changed our thinking. Once you’re inside the park it’s a pretty nice place with grass and trees around and it turned out to be pretty quiet…we’re downhill a bit from the main road so most of the traffic noise goes over us. The folks that run it are friendly…so we’re calling it a keeper.

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We lazed about the rest of Thursday afternoon out under the tree in the Zero Gravity Recliners…then had to close up the house and turn on the A/C by evening time as it didn’t ever really cool down inside…and the A/C has been on ever since as it’s been in the upper 90s all weekend.

Friday Connie worked awhile then we goofed off again…between the 3 week vacation and chasing repairs/upgrades all week in Junction City we were pretty beat down.

Saturday we headed off to the Pony Express Museum here in St. Joseph…which was the eastern terminus of the horse mail relay back in 1860-61. It was started by  William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell who were already partners in a freight business to the west at the time. The service (officially it was not the Pony Express but rather the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company) guaranteed 10 day service (15 days in winter) for mail from St. Joseph to Sacramento CA through the central route over the Rockies…through present day Nebraska and then via Fort Bridger WY and Salt Lake City UT to Sacramento…cutting north of most of the Rockies through South Pass and then over the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe. Cost was $5 per half ounce which was later reduced to $1 per ounce…the system operated for about 18 months from April 3, 1860 through October of 1861…when the cross country telegraph was completed in late 1861 it spelled the death knell of the service…which we found a bit strange because while you can do a lot by telegram there were still some things for which an actual paper document needed to be sent. While it was in operation it was far faster for getting mail from the east coast to California than any of the alternatives which included ship around Cape Horn in South America and a ship to Panama followed by coach to the Pacific coast of Panama followed by another ship to California. It grossed about $90,000 and cost $200,000 to operate so as a service went it was a money losing idea. We found it sort of funny that something that only existed for 18 months ended up being so famous in western lore. We didn’t take many shots in the museum…here’s one of the monument outside the restored stable.

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After our tour we headed home with stops at CVS (cheater reading glasses), Radio Shack (headphones for Connie) and the Hi-Vee grocery for some more veggies…we’re trying to eat a bit lighter with more fresh fruits and veggies so that we can lose some weight and get back to where we want to be. We headed home then back out to Mass at 1600 so we wouldn’t have to get up early today. Dinner last night was seared Ahi Tuna…pretty good piece of fish we found…and we’re having steak tonight.

It rained most of the night and morning but looks pretty nice now so mebbe Neil will go out and get a ride in before dinner. He’s working on some computer backups as well…all of their 50 GB of photos taken on vacation need to get backed up to the  external drives Neil keeps in the car and BAT.

Cyas.

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Thoughts on Ireland

Hi, Gunther here again. I’ve resumed posting now that the adults have returned from their sojourn over to the Emerald Isle.

Even though I wasn’t there…I’ve discussed the pros and cons of going to Ireland extensively with Neil and Connie this week and thought that it might be appropriate to pass along a few observations, tips, cautions and whatevers just in case you ever think about going over there.

Ireland does a lot of things right…and while the converse of that might be that they do a lot of things wrong it’s more correct to say that they do a lot of things differently. Some small number of those might seem wrong to us but hey…it’s their country so I’m not about to tell them they’re wrong.

So…things that Ireland really gets right.

Top of the list is gas mileage in vehicles and the cost of driving. We spend a lot of time in America driving huge, gas guzzling cars for no true purpose other than we want big, fancy, and expensive. Ireland in particular…and I guess Europe in general…has actually proven that you can have cars that get good mileage and still get the job done. Most of their time was spent on the road with a 4 door VW Golf. Not a huge car but big enough and they averaged over 45 miles per gallon the whole time. A lot of this is done by tricks like using diesel engines instead of gasoline, having the car stop when you pull up to a traffic light and start again when you take your foot off the brakes to start up again, and having 7 (yep, 7) speed auto transmissions even in basic economy cars like a Golf to maximize fuel efficiency. With gas at an effective price of $7.50 a gallon for diesel (gas was 40 or 50 cents more) in the Republic’s when paying Euros and about $8.70 a gallon when paying in Pounds Sterling in Northern Ireland they have to be frugal. So…people have the size car they need and not the largest one they can afford. BTW…paying that much for fuel didn’t kill the economy over there either Of course…having smaller cars makes it easier to drive on their narrow roads…see things they do different later.

Second would be the service industry. While it’s common in America to pay waiters or bartenders a wage less than the minimum wage and force them to depend on potential tips to make a living…tipping is very rare in Ireland. The servers get a salary they can live on for doing their jobs…and strangely enough it hasn’t killed the restaurant business or bar business.

Pubs…we don’t really have anything like an Irish pub in America. We have bars and upscale restaurants but very few that have the atmosphere, great conversation, and generally nice-place-to-be attitude of an Irish pub. We ate most of our meals in pubs and usually sat at the bar (you meet a whole better class of people sitting at the bar then you do sitting by yourself with your family at a separated table.

Friendly people…we really found everybody in Ireland to be extremely polite, helpful and genuinely glad to meet us and either explain some intricacy of soccer (since the World Cup was going on while we were there), or correct a misinterpretation of something Irish (there were several of those along the way).

Courteous and civil drivers who didn’t try to run you off the road. Frequently on their roads (did I mention they were narrow with no shoulders, twisty, hilly, generally hard to see more  than 50 yards ahead and usually had speed limits of 50-60 miles an hour) you would meet up with another car. While most roads allowed enough room to pass (as long as it wasn’t a large truck) if you got way over and slowed down…there were many that made that impossible and the only solution was that somebody had to back up. This was almost always the guy that had the easier way to back up to a slightly wider spot…or if they saw you coming and had a wide spot right there they would pull over and wait; then give you a friendly wave when you passed. We did the same for others when we had the easier time of it and there was none of the “I drive a Beamer, get out of my way” attitude that a lot of drivers in America.

Nobody drives the speed limit…except on those aforementioned really narrow roads that Neil slowed down on. On roads that more closely resembled what we would see in America driving slower than the limit was normal.

There were a lot (and I do mean a lot) of tractors pulling loads of hay or tanks of whatever driving down the roads. Ireland seemed to be mostly rural in nature so this was completely normal…as was the fact that they would pull over onto the shoulder if there was one or wave you by if you were having trouble seeing around them.

No passing lines on the road are just a suggestion.

Road rage…non existent as far as we could see.

Parking…well, let’s just say that it’s an art form over here. As long as there is no double yellow line indicating no parking then almost anything is considered fair game…cars parked facing both ways on both sides of the road and frequently had one set of wheels up on the sidewalk.

Traffic enforcement appeared to be mostly non existent as well…we saw a total of 2 Guard cars on the road and one speeding camera van parked…along with a couple dozen signs warning you of speed cameras. In spite of this…nobody was speeding, nobody parked illegally (well, not blatantly anyway).

Food was actually pretty decent. We ended up eating big breakfasts most days so had a late lunch that was more substantial then we were used to…which meant that usually dinner was a shared appetizer and a couple of beers. Bacon…on the other hand…was an adventure as was the sausage and the black or white pudding.

The beer was excellent…although always served at a warmer temperature than one would find back home. Stouts and porters in particular taste better at 55 degrees or so but even the ales, IPAs and Ciders were served at that temp. We had plenty of Guinness of course…but also a whole bunch of others that are rarer in the states like Beamish and Murphys…but then we had Franciscan Well Stout and Kilkenny Cream Ale (this has a head and texture like a stout but is a red ale like Smithwicks or Yuengling would be) that we thought were the best beers we had in the country. We also sampled O’Hara Stout and Irish Red, Bulmers Cider and another dozen or so beyond that…although our go to beers were Guinness and Smithwicks unless there was something local more interesting on tap. We saw a lot of craft beers but they were all in bottles so we didn’t try any of those.

The Irish whiskey was also excellent…and we had a distinct impression disproved. We pretty much thought that Irish was all smooth as opposed to Scotch which was usually peaty or smoky tasting. Turns out that there are many Irish whiskeys…particularly those made in the north and eastern parts of the country…that reminded us much more of Scotch than of Irish. We didn’t sample them all of course…but did have a dozen or so. Of those…Greenore, Yellow Spot, and Tyrconnell were the best as we decided that the smooth ones were much more to our liking than the peaty ones. Bushmills and Connemara were good but not our favorites. We got a recommendation from one of our pub men that we should try McKinnon’s Dark Spiced Rum as it was the original spiced rum but haven’t found any yet to actually try. 

Pancakes…these were excellent; the best Neil has ever had. Rather than the fluffy cake like texture we’re used to these were made of some combination of corn and wheat flour and had a very nice texture, chew and flavor to them. They’re pretty thin but very tasty indeed.

Chip and Pin credit cards. These are genius and much better than the swipe cards that we more typically see. The latter have essentially no security at all while the former have all the financial info on the chip and can’t be read unless one puts in the PIN number. The server or pub man always brings the card machine to you so your card never leaves your sight as it almost always does back home. We can’t wait for this to be universal in the US as it’s a no-brainer as far as maintaining security of your financial information.

Customs and immigration on leaving Ireland…although this may be more due to a US government request. We actually completely cleared US Customs and Immigration before we even got to our departure gate. On leaving we headed through the Irish equivalent of the TSA then over to the departure terminal. Once there we went through US TSA, Immigration, and Customs checkpoints and had all that jazz done before getting into the departure areas with all of the other international destination travelers. It was in an international cleared terminal area but was not separated by country.

Things they do differently.

Roads I already talked about…but didn’t mention that many of them (including the 60 miles and hour limit ones) might have livestock (mostly sheep) wandering freely across the road.

Driving on the other side of the road was disconcerting the first day or so but one pretty quickly gets used to that. Driving on the other side of the car (the right front seat) was a much more interesting idea. Neil actually found that much harder to do than driving on the left side of the road as one’s perspective changes and it makes it really really hard to stay in your lane and not either end up across the centerline or with the wheels on the shoulder (which might or might not be there).

Bacon…well, Irish bacon isn’t. It’s pork belly all right but it’s much more like a salt cured ham than what we would call bacon. Tasted pretty good…like ham…but it just wasn’t bacon.

White (or black) pudding. The closest I can come to describing this is a meatloaf like consistency with very finely ground pork mixed with some sort of grain that Neil could not identify. It tasted OK but he only had a couple of samples before giving it up as not something he wanted to eat every day. Black pudding is the same but has blood added so it’s the color of a blood sausage…tasted really livery.

Sausage…Irish sausage only comes in links (no patties) and is much more finely ground pork than American sausage is. The flavor was close to what we have back home but had a unique something in the spice mix so it tasted just a bit off. No texture at all. We decided that Irish people must not like texture in their food as a whole lot of it is pureed…potatoes, parsnip, carrots…as well as the soups. With the exception of vegetable soup it’s all processed through an immersion blender (what Emeril would call a boat motor) before being served.

Eggs. I think the concept of a liquid yolk must be illegal or something.

Weather…Irish weather has the reputation of being lousy but either the reputation is wrong or we were extraordinarily lucky. It never got hot or cold…we had to wear a fleece or rugby shirt in the early morning or late evenings but it was comfortable the rest of the time with high temps in the 70s. We had 2 days that were really rainy, 3 that were beautiful all day and the remainder of them were partly cloudy to partly sunny depending on time of day. All in all we thought we had great weather outside the 2 rainy days.

Ice…again, ice must be illegal or something. Most places had none and those that did you would get maybe 2 cubes in your glass of soda (not that we drank any soda of course…it was more expensive than beer). The whiskey we drank neat with just a few drops of water added to help the flavor bloom.

The Republic of Ireland was nicer than Northern Ireland which is still part of the UK and the people were a bit nicer in the Republic as well…not to say that their northern brethren weren’t nice but they just lost a bit in comparison. The north was more industrialized and the cities and towns looked a lot more like US inner cities do rather than the quaint and charming little towns you saw in the Republic. Even the bigger cities in the Republic like Dublin, Sligo and Killarney were nicer looking than their northern counterparts. This doesn’t mean I’m suggesting not going to the north…they have some sights like the Giant’s Causeway and the Glens of Antrim that definitely make the trip worthwhile…just plan on spending most of your time in the Republic. Three and a half weeks overall is just about the right amount of time…you can’t see everything but you can see a lot and you can proceed at a pace that keeps you from getting run down…we enjoyed not having to be in “vacation mode” as that’s much more tiring once you go over about a week or so.

OK, let me toss in a few photos you haven’t seen yet…no blog post is complete without some pictures.

The library at Trinity College Dublin.

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Wicklow Mountains National Park.

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A charming 250 year old country cottage…with a satellite dish on the rear that you can’t see.

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The Rock of Cashel.

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One of the few castles we saw with a moat.

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Grey Heron…very similar to the Great Blue we have back home.

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Fourteen Arch Bridge in some small town we passed through…we actually stopped to find a rest stop and spotted this.

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Cliffs along the Dingle Coast.

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Puffins at Skellig Michael.

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The monastery on top of Skellig Michael with Little Skellig in the background.

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Leaving Skellig Michael…the monastery is right above the large section of green to the left of the peak.

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Cliffs of Moher.

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Fourth and a Foot Mary.

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Giant’s Causeway.

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All in all…a really great vacation. But we’re happy to be back home and ready to head off from Camp Horizons tomorrow.

Cyas.

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Travel to Dublin For The Flight Home and Brú na Bóinne

Today we had a pretty easy 120 mile drive back to Dublin from Belfast with a couple of stops along the way…including Ireland’s last World Heritage Site that we haven’t been to yet.

Our first stop was Saint Patricks Catholic Cathedral (the Catholic one) in Armagh still in Northern Ireland. The town is built on the former site of Ar Meagh which was the ancestral home of the kings and queens of Ulster. Supposedly Saint Patrick stood on the hill in town in 455 AD and said “Build a church here.” and they did…then tore it down centuries later and built a cathedral named after him. It’s the tallest cathedral in the entire country of Ireland and Northern Ireland and was constructed in stages from 1841 through the late 1890s. So…it isn’t that old but the church it replaced was really old.

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Hmmm…only 11 apostles above the door…guess Judas didn’t make the cut.

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The tabernacle in the right side transept.

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Another beautiful organ.

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One of the angel sculptures on the ceiling…you can see their location 3 photos back…they’re up on the ceiling immediately to the sides of the darkest brown portion of the roof structure.

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And the top of the Anglican Saint Patricks Cathedral across town…taken from the top of the hill where we were standing…this is known as Meagh Hill after the original city.

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From there it was off to Brú na Bóinne…which is better known as Newgrange and Knowth which are passage tombs. Newgrange which we visited is about 200 feet in diameter and 40 feet high sitting up on top of the hill. It was built with a single passage facing due east so that on the Winter Solstice the sun would rise and illuminate the cross shaped chamber at the center of the tomb. This tomb, nearby Knowth, and the 40 or so smaller satellite tombs around the area all date from about 3,300 to 2,900 BC…which makes them 500 years older than the Pyramids in Egypt and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge in England. The builders were clearly sun worshipers but nothing is really known about what the purpose of the structures was. Cremated human remains were found inside during archeological excavations…but whether they were solely tombs or also served other religious purposes is unknown. Nothing remains of the megalithic tomb builders societies except these mounds. The mounds were abandoned about 2,500 BC…whether this was due to changing religious beliefs, famine, warfare, migration or some other cause is again unknown. The builders just left. The tombs fell into disrepair and were overgrown with vegetation until they were rediscovered in the 1700s. They were left open for public access until the 1800’s at which time they came under the control of the government for preservation. Detailed archeological excavations were undertaken starting in the 1800s and continuing through the 1950s.

The River Boyne…which you have to cross on a foot bridge to catch the shuttle to Newgrange.

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Newgrange complex looking north.

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The entrance to the passage at Newgrange…the upper square opening is where the sunlight enters between 0858 and 0915 on Dec 21. There’s a lottery for people to come and actually stand inside the chamber to watch the sunlight come in…but they don’t guarantee the weather and it’s winter in Ireland so most years there’s overcast which means no sunbeams coming in. The stone with the spiral art dates from the earliest period of construction of the complex…again it’s older than both the Pyramids and Stonehenge. The passage is about 4 feet high and varies between 2 feet and less than 1 foot wide. The interior of the chamber is about 12 feet high and all of the stones are held together by gravity alone…no mortar was used in the construction…and it’s lasted over 5,000 years. Pretty good engineering for a society that generally survived by farming and who we would consider primitive. Inside the chamber are large basin shaped stones that were put into place before the structure was built and then it was built around them as they’re too large to fit through the passage. An outstanding engineering feat I think…having to have it all laid out so that when it was eventually finished some 300 years after construction started the portal and passage lined up perfectly with the solstice sunrise.

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One of the smaller satellite tombs about 50 yards away from the main complex…this one is about 40 feet across.

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This is some sort of inscription stone covered with writing that looks a lot like hash marks…again nobody has any real clue what it means.

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Another shot of the complex looking basically west…I left a few people in the picture on the left hand side so you can see the scale of the thing. It’s huge.

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From there we journeyed to the Hill of Tara…which has some spiral shaped earthen structures. At least one of them is a tomb and the two largest ones are maybe 50 yards in diameter. Unfortunately…by this time it was raining on and off so we didn’t get any really decent photos. Here’s what we got though. You can’t see much of the spiral structure in the ground level photos so I’m including one that Neil cribbed from the Smithsonian site so you can see what it is supposed to look like.

With the rain and lack of an airborne camera…this one was actually sort of underwhelming though.

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The tomb in the small mound on the left of the airborne shot.

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An overhead view…courtesy of the Smithsonian site. We climbed up to the top of the larger spiral and the view didn’t get any better…in fact it started raining harder so we zipped up our rain gear and headed back for the car.

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We hopped back in the car and made it to our hotel in Dublin. We’re at the Pembroke Townhouse B&B which is more of a guest house/small hotel than a B&B as it’s got probably 40 rooms in an old Victorian brownstone house. We got our stuff repacked for the plane flight tomorrow and then went down the street to Searson’s Pub for some dinner and brews…then came home and rested.

So that pretty much ends our vacation to Ireland. Off to the Dublin airport in the morning and we’ll pass through Dulles in DC before arriving back in  Kansas City in early evening. We’ll overnight near the airport then drive on to check on the status of our house upgrades and repairs Monday morning.

Cyas.

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