We survived Ian

Just a quick post to report our status…no pics because it’s just too hard from the iPhone…except for the two below that are on the phone already.

We are fine…no power or water but we have bottles of water, propane for the camp stove, liquid fuel for the backup backpacking stove, and gas for the generator to keep the freezer cold and phones and flashlights charged. And we have plenty of wine. Minor damage to our lanai screen and trees and shrubs took a hit.

The large screen panel at left to center and the smaller one right of the corner are the damaged ones along with one small one above the latter that you can’t see. This is looking SW toward the back of the lanai.

This is our downed tree…taken from just by the date palm at left above and looking the other direction. It’s laying in the pond but was originally blown over by the easterly winds and leaned on the lanai then as the eye passes and the wind reversed it went the other way into the pond. Looking about NNE.

Much of the rest of SW FL is pretty much trashed. Sanibel and the other barrier islands will be a tear down and rebuild or gut to the studs and redo…and many areas near the beach or river still have 3 feet of water. Everything is essentially closed and we are down to only about 75% of the county withouyI power.

Other than power and water and tree and shrub damage our community is pretty much ok…and yesterday the power guys were working on the substation servicing us so hopefully🙏 power soon.

We were within about 15-20 miles of the eye and were inside the eye wall as it passed to our west…winds maxed at 80 or so and we had relatively little rain…numerous everyday thunderstorms have dumped more here and Neil says it was way less rain and wind than any other hurricane he’s been through. He doesn’t think it was anywhere near the 155+ they said…based on what we saw and the central pressure reported seems like 130ish max is a better guess…but what do I know.

Oh yeah…the humans are fine too…as is Kara. He does have pics from our trip to Daytona last week…but with no power he can’t process them.

Connie is bummed that we will miss date nite today…he offered her McD’s as that’s the only thing open anywhere close…she declined so he’s doing chicken. She’s a lot less bummed than yesterday since we have phone signal back at least.

CYAs.

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

We survived Ian

Just a quick post to report our status…no pics because it’s just too hard from the iPhone…except for the two below that are on the phone already.

We are fine…no power or water but we have bottles of water, propane for the camp stove, liquid fuel for the backup backpacking stove, and gas for the generator to keep the freezer cold and phones and flashlights charged. And we have plenty of wine. Minor damage to our lanai screen and trees and shrubs took a hit.

The large screen panel at left to center and the smaller one right of the corner are the damaged ones along with one small one above the latter that you can’t see. This is looking SW toward the back of the lanai.

This is our downed tree…taken from just by the date palm at left above and looking the other direction. It’s laying in the pond but was originally blown over by the easterly winds and leaned on the lanai then as the eye passes and the wind reversed it went the other way into the pond. Looking about NNE.

Much of the rest of SW FL is pretty much trashed. Sanibel and the other barrier islands will be a tear down and rebuild or gut to the studs and redo…and many areas near the beach or river still have 3 feet of water. Everything is essentially closed and we are down to only about 75% of the county withouyI power.

Other than power and water and tree and shrub damage our community is pretty much ok…and yesterday the power guys were working on the substation servicing us so hopefully🙏 power soon.

We were within about 15-20 miles of the eye and were inside the eye wall as it passed to our west…winds maxed at 80 or so and we had relatively little rain…numerous everyday thunderstorms have dumped more here and Neil says it was way less rain and wind than any other hurricane he’s been through. He doesn’t think it was anywhere near the 155+ they said…based on what we saw and the central pressure reported seems like 130ish max is a better guess…but what do I know.

Oh yeah…the humans are fine too…as is Kara. He does have pics from our trip to Daytona last week…but with no power he can’t process them.

Connie is bummed that we will miss date nite today…he offered her McD’s as that’s the only thing open anywhere close…she declined so he’s doing chicken. She’s a lot less bummed than yesterday since we have phone signal back at least.

CYAs.

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

Random Thoughts

So…I guess ya heard that the queen died last week and there’s a new sheriff in town over in the UK…and it seems to me that the monarchy has probably changed for the worse with her death. She was polite, courteous and non political and her people generally liked her…and I don’t get the sense that Charles is held in the same esteem as she was. There was some unpleasantness towards Harry and his wife even though they were in the country and he ended up not being able to get to her bedside before she died…then was forbidden to wear any military uniforms as part of her funeral proceedings despite his two deployments in the Middle East and his ongoing charity work for disabled veterans.

I guess you also read about how the governors of FL and TX bused or flew a bunch of illegal immigrants to Marthas Vineyard, Chicago, DC, and NYC…and how unconscionable this ‘political stunt’ was against the poor immigrants…despite the fact that they crossed the border illegally and despite the fact that TX and AZ are bearing the brunt of almost 2 million illegals detained this year. Seems our friends on the left are eager to just let the border be opened up…but not in their back yard…no, don’t want them sent to where the progressives live.

And we continue to hear complete blathering from both sides in the former President vs the DoJ/FBI issues. Yes…he was probably wrong to keep the documents he did…but it’s certainly possible that he declared them to be unclassified…all the POTUS has to do to declassify anything is say so. There are some additional administrative requirements that should have been carried out afterwards…but if those weren’t carried out it’s an administrative problem and not a legal problem. Having seen the repeated claims of complete and undeniable proof of various misdeeds that’s been leaked to the media by various anti Trump folk and the investigating committee…I think it’s not entirely clear that whatever ‘evidence’ they have is either admissible in court, proves anything at all, or implicates him in an actual crime. I’m certainly not going to say he didn’t break any laws…but that whether he did cannot be determined by The NY Times or various other media sources…and it can also not be determined by the investigating committee since they have no power to indict or convict anybody. The decision to indict rests…despite claims to the contrary we’ve seen in the media…with the Attorney General Mr. Garland. The likelihood that charges will be filed without his specific approval is just about zero…Neil worked for the government and understands how it works. Mr. Garland is going to have to balance a whole passle of factors…any charges will be immediately decried as a political ploy and there would be a lot of truth in that objection. Add in the fact that the ‘evidence’ may…or then again may not…be either admissible or convincing to a jury…and you really don’t want to be the Attorney General that  brought charges against a former President and lost the case. We’re not fans of the former President…he was a better choice than Mrs. Clinton but in reality it was a choice between two bad alternatives…sort of like saying would you like to be hung or electrocuted if you’re on death row.

But the biggest problem is that any charges that are brought must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by an unbiased jury of his peers…and looking beyond the evidence and reasonable doubt argument…finding an unbiased jury I’m going to say is pretty much impossible. For better or worse…I’m thinking that pretty close to 100% of the people in the country have already made up their minds about the man. His supporters on the right won’t believe any of the evidence and will vote to acquit…and his detractors on the left will vote guilty before the trial starts. So…my personal guess is that eventually the whole thing will just blow over and die down. The DoJ or state prosecutors are much more likely to be able to have convincing evidence of some sort of financial crime…but there’s still the jury problem to some extent and the evidence problem to some extent because it isn’t enough to prove that his company broke the law…the prosecution has to prove that he personally directed and ordered the breaking of the law…and that might be a bit harder than the left thinks.

The Russians are still getting their butts kicked in Ukraine…and now they’ve warned the US that if we provide the Ukrainian forces with long range missiles that can reach Russian territory that it will be “a red line and make the US a party to the conflict”. You know…only the Russians are allowed to invade other countries…it says so right in their laws I guess. 

Connie and Neil got their new estate planning paperwork signed/notarized/executed today. Their old wills were written back in 2009 or so before they went on the road in the RV and were out of date. They were still valid but some things with probate issues now that they’re Florida residents made putting together a better plan a sound idea both tax wise and post life wishes wise. Plus…their financial folks added a new department late last year to do estate planning as part of their normal client services so the net cost of redoing things basically came down to paying an hour of a Florida lawyer’s time to review the paperwork and draft a different deed for their home here…and the net effect is that probate here in Florida is now a non issue for them.

The Elks lodge move to new digs is going…well, do the words Chinese fire drill or as we used to say in the Navy Charlie Foxtrot mean anything to you. Things are progressing but in our view at least there’s some wool being pulled over the eyes by some people and some dubious statements being made…but it’s Elk biz so I’m not going to put it all in here. It’s not worth arguing with them over though…as Neil is fond of saying “their minds are made up, don’t bother them with facts or differing ideas”.

Out west…well the water problem is getting really bad…and despite what some claim it isn’t solely because of climate change. Part of the problem is that people insisted in turning a desert into a tropical wonderland with tens of thousands of acres of grass, golf courses, and pools. I understand the people that live out west need water…but some of the ideas we’ve seen in the news the past month or so are ludicrous. One group wants to pump 100,000 cubic feet per second from the lower Mississippi River out to California…and they claim that this is less than 1% of the flow in the Mississippi. However…they used the maximum spring flood season flow to make their request seem less unreasonable. In reality…that much water could almost surely be diverted without harming the Mississippi River’s other uses but the trouble is that it would cost good knows how many hundreds of billions of dollars to build a sufficient pipeline to get it there and the operating costs of the pumps that would be required to pump the water from sea level up to 5,000 feet or whatever it is to get across the lowest pass in the Rockies is just being ignored along with the ‘how do we generate that much additional electrical power’ problem since the left is insisting that we need to shut down all fossil fuel powered generation and enter the renewables age completely. They seem to believe that they can legislate scientific progress in battery or other storage technology and still haven’t solved the problem of what do you do when the wind doesn’t blow or it is after dark…not to mention the fact that it isn’t the west’s water to divert. And we see that AZ and NM and CO have been been ordered to reduce their consumption from the Colorado River by up to 35% or 40% in 2023 while the PRC has been ordered to reduce their consumption by the massive amount of ZERO. Yep…no cuts for the progressive bastion out on the left coast.

And down here in Tampa…some guy drove a woman around to several gas stations around the county demanding she get him some money for drugs…and when she didn’t get it he crushed her car with an excavator. He has been arrested though…moron.

And out in the state of Hawaii…a contractor has filed a lien against Mark Zuckerberg. Seems he hired a contracting company to build him a cabin, tree houses, and house on his compound on the island if Kauai…then refused to pay the bill. His office claims that he’s paid all bills submitted but apparently the contractor doesn’t think so and there is a hearing in a couple of weeks to sort things out. I hate it when rich jerks refuse to pay their bills.

And we did have a wildlife sighting yesterday…our local Great Blue Heron decided to put in an appearance on our side of the pond so Neil got some nice shots.

DZ9 6763 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6768 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6782 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6787 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6807 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Interesting things found on the net.

Some thought required for this one.

ThatLookYouGet

ChargingATesla

Seems a bit harsh.

ABitHarsh

And as you can see from this chart that shows the transportation costs in calories per gram per kilometer traveled…believe it or not a human on a bicycle is the most efficient means of transportation by a factor of 3 over salmon which are in second place…and by a factor of about 4 over the next most efficient means which is an airliner.

BikeEfficiency

For the math nerds…here is another way to calculate the value of Pi.

WallisFormulaForPi

So sad…

SoSad

Those sneaky Chinese.

SneakyChinese

And again…what is it with those Chinese people?

RemoveChild

In an amazing display of evolution…elk and caribou up in the arctic have developed vision that extends well into the ultraviolet. So this means that the wolves…which change their coats to white for the winter…actually still look black to the prey since the fur absorbs UV light wavelengths. Up top is what humans see…below is what elk/caribou see.

WolvesInUV

And finally…this has to be the most amazing resignation letter…ever. Written by somebody named Chris Holmes who has the moniker of Mr. Cake…because he bakes and decorates cakes starting as a side hustle but is resigning to do it full time.

ResignationLetter

Cyas.

Posted in Photography, WIldlife, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

It Has Been a Very Interesting Week…Not

Interesting…well, no. Crappy…yeah…that about covers it.

Let’s catch up first since my last post.

We had a trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary on 8/23…and it turned out to be a complete bust. We saw exactly 2…count em… 2…birds. A hawk of some sort about 200 yards away right at dawn to our east so it was silhouetted and unrecognizable. Then a Pileated Woodpecker flew by…he was a bit closer at only 100 yards our or so…but then he/she landed on the opposite side of the tree so we never saw it again.

We saw 2 squirrels but they weren’t worth it. The sanctuary was deathly quiet…far quieter than we’ve ever heard it and we been going there off and on for going on 50 years. No song birds, no taunting birds we couldn’t see, no waders, no hawks, no floaters…nuttin. Connie got a few shots of the lettuce for which Lettuce Lake is named and if I can get Neil to process them I’ll add them eventually but basically they’re just swamp pants.

We went and voted in the primary after the fruitless swamp trip.

And…that’s about it for catching up…until last Saturday.

Starting Saturday…well, actually Friday evening…Neil started seeing some flashes like lighting up at the top of his right eye…he figured it might be his vitreous separating (a normal aging thing) and they looked actually like it looked in 2019 when his left eye did it so he wasn’t all that worried about it. This continued on Saturday and then on Sunday he got a lot more of them out on his bike ride and also a bunch of eye floaters in that eye…so he figured it was worth checking out. He left an email for them eye doctor on Sunday afternoon and figured we would hear from them Monday.

Meanwhile…Connie started having intestinal issues on Saturday and by Monday AM it had settled down to a localized pain on her lower right side. She figured it might be another case of diverticulitis…she’s had it 5 or 6 times over the last 20something years…but only once before (the first time) on the right, it’s usually on the lower left side. By Monday AM she was feeling worse and also running a slight fever but when we got the call from the eye doctor we decided to wait until Tuesday to do anything about her issues. The eye doctor called, said it might be the start of a retina detachment, and that he should get in the car and come down there…like now.

So…he did, the optometrist examined him and said it wasn’t the vitreous but she thought there were a couple of minor tears in the right retina…but retinas are out of her area of expertise so she quickly transferred him to the retina specialist (an MD opthamologist) and she quickly confirmed that there were a couple of retina tears. She was in surgery that afternoon doing LASIX but said she would meet him at the office with the laser tool in the afternoon…and that he should be there. She was concerned enough that it could result in the retina detachment that she went out of her way at the end of her day to come and fix him.

Strangely enough…between Connie and Neil we’ve now seen about 6 or 8 retina specialists…and all but one of them have been women. Nothing wrong with that but he was wondering whether it was just the luck of the draw or if women particularly chose that speciality. Turns out they tend to choose it because of family life, retina specialists have relatively normal schedules. Nothing wrong with that either way but it was interesting.

Anyway…what they do for retina tears is take a laser and essentially weld them back down…then scar tissue forms which doesn’t affect vision in the long run and it fixes the tear. Here’s a shot of him as he was going into the procedure.

IMG 4045

Essentially they put the same numbing drop and dilation drop in your eye that is used on your everyday eye exam. Then they come back and put some super dilation drops in to increase the pupil opening…normally it’s just a drop but in his case they came back and put more in 3 or 4 more times after he took this selfie so that they pupil is completely fills the iris…this allows the laser to get in better.

Then you sit down at the instrument…it’s very similar to the blue light thing that they use to measure the inside your eyeball pressure except with a laser instead…put this jelly stuff an a really thick…like 1/4 inch thick…contact lens on and focus the laser aiming point on the tear and then use this short duration but very, very, very bright yellow (or sometimes red but in his case yellow) laser pulse over and over again until it’s sealed. The whole process from sitting down in the chair to done takes maybe 6 minutes…then the doctor says you’re done, go home. She had to run to do mom duties for her 5 and 7 year old kids so the staff rinsed all the goop out of his eye and sent him on his way.

Within about 10 minutes or so his vision was good enough to drive home…he had taken Connie with him just in case but since she felt bad he drove and she helped watch out for him as they proceeded on home.

So…on to Tuesday. She called her gastroenterologist and told them her symptoms…their response was “you have a regular appointment in 3 weeks, just come in then”…she decided and he agreed that with 100.3 degree temp and pain that wasn’t a good idea. The two of them had did a bit of research and decided it was either right side diverticulitis or appendicitis but not being doctors they decided they really couldn’t tell.

So…off to the urgent clinic we go and after an hour or so we’re done. The PA there said she thought it was probably diverticulitis but because it was right side it could be appendicitis so sent her for a stat CT scan. Got to the CT scan place, they did the scan…and the radiologist said it was all inflamed and he could not tell if it was appendicitis or a diverticulitis access…so they sent her to the ER. We headed over to Gulf Coast Hospital…our preferred location in the Lee Health System and headed into the ER. They reviewed the CT scan…again…and the ER doctor said it was either the abscess or appendicitis but couldn’t tell for sure…so they admitted her and called for a surgery consult.

We got her into the room and they plugged her up with 3 different IV antibiotics…which they would do regardless of the eventual diagnosis…and we waited for the surgeon. An hour or so later…the nurse said it would probably be tomorrow (it was 1830 by this time) as the surgeon had 24 hours to respond on a consult. Luckily…Dr. Bass showed up about 3 minutes after that and said that after looking at her CT 5 or 6 times and getting another radiologist to review it with them…they were able to clearly see her appendix and it was completely normal…so it was essentially a left side diverticulitis infection. Neil waited until the end of visiting hours at 2000 and then headed home to eat dinner…long day so he just had a burger on the way home. 

They pumped her with mucho different antibiotics last night and all day today and by 1500 or so her pain was remarkably reduced, no fever, and she was feeling pretty good. The surgeon came back in about 1600 and told her that as far as he was concerned she could go home and continue oral antibiotics since the pain was almost gone but deferred to the internist from our primary care doctor…who had said the night before they would defer to whatever the surgeon thought.

He headed home about 1700 to cook…he had taken out some pork yesterday so it either needed to be cooked or tossed…he made carne asada and it was pretty good. While he was eating Connie texted him and said that the nurse said they would most likely release her in the AM tomorrow (Thursday). 

So…long story short…his eye is better and although it is still dilated a little more than the left eye that’s a normal side effect of the super duper dilation drops and she’s improving as well. Her scan and colonoscopy have showed she has lots of diverticuli which is just the way it is…she’ll just have periodic bouts of diverticulitis and this is only the 2nd time in 20something years she needed IV antibiotics to take care of it. Usually she just gets oral ones…and they want to give her Flagyl which really tears up her stomach and intestine…she says the cure is almost worse than the disease as she’s nauseous for 2 weeks. They gave her Flagyl but IV and it hasn’t really bothered her…Neil asked the nurse and she said that was because the IV one is absorbed differently.

*** We interrupt this blog post for late breaking news. Our reporter on the scene…that would be Neil…reporting live at 1104 Thursday morning. Connie has been uthorized to move bout the country by the doctors, her remaining oral antibiotic prescription is being filled at Walgreens, and we’re waiting on the hospital people to bring whatever she needs to go home. We now return you to your irregularly scheduled blog post.***

Anyways…you’re all caught up now…except for the photos below. None of them are really what we could call ‘keepers’ but it is what it is.

I might not have talked about it here before…but their best friend from college is named Joe Claxton…he was Neil’s roommate and went to high school with him…we always called him Jodi. Back in college…he invented this color combination named sky blue pink which is what you see near sunset.

So as Neil was driving home last night he saw the most spectacular version of sky blue pink he’s ever seen and he grabbed some iPhone photos. 

IMG 4046

IMG 4047

IMG 4048

The black stuff on upper right is the glare thing on the windshield top center.

IMG 4049

Yeah…I know they’re crappy shots taken through the windshield with a phone…but don’t worry, he was stoped at a traffic light when he got the three above so he was safe…he don’t mess with the phone while he’s driving.

Once he pulled into our neighborhood he stopped and got out to get a wide pano of the whole sky. This is about a 200 degree panorama shot from south at left through north on the right. It’s also about 5 minutes later than the ones before so the effect wasn’t quite as dramatic…too bad there was no place to pull over when he got the shot above so he could get a pano without the traffic light in it.

IMG 4050

Anyway…that’s about all the news fit to print I guess.

Interesting things found on the net.

Husband with a death wish.

DeathWish

GoldCreditCard

Cat job perks.

CatJobPerks

This is an example of kirie which is a Japanese art of cutting a single piece of paper into art. Just wow.

Kirie

And finally.

SeniorCitizensDay

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody | 2 Comments

Couple o’ Critters For Ya

I dunno why but we’ve had a couple of critters show up out back at the pond in the past week or so…and Neil got a couple shots of them for ya. Nuttin’ all that exciting I s’pose but it is what it is. The heat keeps them down in the summer mostly and it’s been pretty brutal lately so I got no idea why they’re here. Speaking of brutal…Neil went biking on Sunday but since Connie was cantoring he didn’t get out until 1130 or so…and. It was miserable. Usually he tries to get out before 0900 during the summer…not that it isn’t hot then as well but it’s not as bad. On the bright side though…Sunday’s ride didn’t suck nearly as much as he thought it would.

Lessee…since my last blathering here what have we been doing. 

Neil had some blood work at the lab before his routine ‘am I still alive’ appointment next Monday…and he attended an online training session by the Nikon folks on his pretty new to him Z9 camera body…it was focused on the auto focus modes in detail so one knows better when to pick which one. Some of them focus on the closest thing in the focus area box, others use a color pattern recognition thing rather than the closest thing…and it’s important to understand that so you know when to choose one over the other. The Z9…being the professional body…has a lot more smarts and the latest focusing algorithms in it and it’s pretty amazing that it does as well as it does…but there are still times when it gets it wrong and knowing the quickest way to fix that is always good. Especially with birds or wildlife…getting the eye in focus is almost always the highest priority and the software is smart enough to recognize body/torso, faces and eyes…and is smart enough to work for some animals as well…but occasionally you still need to just select single focus point and put the itty bitty box over the bird’s face…and even then if the beak is sticking out toward you it’s important to make sure that the beak isn’t in the box or you’ll get the tip in focus but not the eyes. Neil usually focuses in that case on whatever part of the neck or head is at the same distance as the eyes are if it doesn’t see the eye…you can tell if it sees the body or face or eye by the focus boxes in the viewfinder.

Connie went down to get her new crown installed…the prep work was done a few weeks back…it’s the far back molar and had her oldest crown…it was so old that it was still gold and not the ceramic type they use today. And for the second crown in a row…the new one cracked when they test fitted it so they drilled a bit more of the tooth off to make more space for a thicker crown and did all new impressions.

They went to Trivia Night at the lodge again and won one game out of the 3 and were 2nd in the other two. Five bucks a person to play all 3 games and they got a couple free well drink tickets out of the deal for the game they won. Tonight they’re headed down to the meeting to vote on the new digs…even though it’s pretty much a done deal Elks rules mean there still has to be an official vote and members have to be notified ahead of time in writing…but I imagine they’ll see the same dozen or so people that normally come to the board meeting and not too many more. I’m not sure how far along the construction in the new digs is but they’re supposed to move in early next month last we we heard.

We had to cancel Date Night last evening because Connie didn’t feel well…but she’s better today. It’s Neil’s fault they think, he fed her spaghetti the other night and used raw garlic instead of roasted like he mostly does these days…and for the 2nd time in a row after feeding her raw garlic she felt bad the next day so he will just use roasted instead from now on.

He was sitting out front yesterday morning after his bike ride cooling off a bit and thought this chopper was going to land on top of us. We’ve seen the same helicopter obviously crop dusting about 4 or 5 times the past 2 months. On looking at the map a bit…

Screen Shot 2022 08 17 at 12 10 22

…the blue dot is our house and the brown spot south and a little east of us at the center (just north of the other housing development) is a farmer’s field about 5,000 by 1,000 feet or 114 acres. The darker area north of the field is owned by the company building houses in our development but from the way the guy was flying it appeared he was spraying over that area and not further south over the field. 

He heard the guy coming from behind him (our house is on the east side of the N/S road it’s on and he was sitting out front of the garage) but then it flew directly over house from east to west, pirouetted over the house across the street only about 2.5 house heights in the air and flew directly east again…which appears to have put him flying mostly over the ‘houses to be built’ area rather than the field. He came back a minute or so later 2 houses to our south and then 4 houses to the south and then couple more passes but all of them appeared to be from what he thought over the development and not the field.

He can’t figure out why that area would be sprayed at all and even if it was over the field area spraying 4 or 5 times in 6 weeks or so seems like an awful lot of crop dusting spraying. He did a quick check on how much it costs to get your crops sprayed and it’s in the range of $10 an acre plus the cost of the chemicals so that’s over $1,000 plus chemicals each time. I dunno what he’s growing there but that seems like an awful lot of expense…but then none of us know the slightest thing about farming commercial so maybe that’s just part of the cost of doing business. Doesn’t explain why it looks like he’s not actually over the field though.

He grabbed a quick shot of the helo on his next to last pass as he worked east and west and shifting south with each pass…this photo is looking south from our driveway and the two houses you can see are our neighbor and the next one…there are another 3 houses past them before getting to the east/west street into the neighborhood that’s just south of the blue dot at our house. Doesn’t look like he’s much past that road which would put him well over 1/4 of a mile north of the field…go figure what he’s actually doing. I guess he could be spraying for mosquitos or something but 3-5 times spraying the same area in a month and a half while never spraying anywhere else in the area seems to make that idea doubtful…but then crop dusting that many times in the same period also doesn’t make much sense, particularly as it appears to not be over the field. The wind yesterday was from the east southeast as well…so obviously not depending on wind to help spread whatever he’s spraying over the field…and every time we’ve seen it the helo has been south of our house but over the same area that appears to be north of the field.

Not sure what kind of a helo it is…it’s obviously not a Bell 212 since that one has 2 blades instead of 3 but its about the same size so it is about 60 feet nose to tail. It covers about the same angular distance left to right as 1/3 of the roof of the 2nd house south of us and that’s about 40 feet…so his best guess is that it is either at or slightly south of the street south of our house making passes east to west…which as you can see from the overhead view above puts him not over the. field. Obviously he’s spending way too much brainpower trying to figure it out…but he’s a recovering engineer as you know so that’s what he does…dives willing down whatever rathole he can find.

DZ9 6698

‘Nuff about that though…let’s have some critters.

This grasshopper was probably 4 inches long…hung out on our lanai screen a couple days and then shifted to our neighbor to the north’s house siding and has been there since.

DZ9 6529 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6564 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

DZ9 6596 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Little Blue Heron in Changeling plumage…they’re white as juveniles and dark blue with a red neck when mature, and have this changeling phase for a year or 18 months as they grow up.

DZ9 6574 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Great Blue Heron…we’ve seen him (or maybe her, both sexes look the same) a couple more times since, he walks almost entirely around our pond looking for vittles.

DZ9 6645 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Even gave Neil an almost flight shot…and he was glad he grabbed the Z9 instead of the lower tech Z7II as the former grabbed right onto the eye.

DZ9 6661 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Interesting things found on the net.

These peoples counted cross stitch donation to the Van Gogh museum got rejected I’m thinking.

DonateEmbroideryArt jpg

My inner 12 year old will be giggling forever now that I know the Norwegian word for speed bump is farts-humper.

Farts humper 2

CableRepairTime

DoItYourself

DogLibrary

AmICrazy

ProjectNotWell

WifeCrashedCar

StartedWithAKiss

And finally…this is what happens when you say you don’t like broccoli.

SayYouDontLikeBroccoli

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Homebody, Learn Something New, Photography | Leave a comment

And Every Once In A While…Put A Bad Guy In Jail

Today’s title is shamelessly stolen/borrowed/appropriated/misappropriated/whatever from the opening credits of one of the law and order series we watch on TV…Lone Star Law. It’s a show featuring the Texas game wardens and as they say they like to protect wildlife and…well, you know…title.

I thought I had reported this before…at least the initial incident but don’t see it in the blog so apparently not. Back a few weeks ago our Elks Lodge got broken in early one morning. The doors are unlocked at 0600 for the building tenants and at about 0611 the building security system recorded a person with a hoodie, ball cap, and sunglasses coming in the back door. He left again at 0628. Figuring it took him 2 minutes each way on the elevator and out of that 17 minutes he was on our floor for about 13 minutes. In that time he…(a) broke the glass on our door and entered…(b) crowbarred the office door open, carefully removed the screws holding the case on the security camera computer in the office and removed the hard drive…(c) crowbarred open the liquor room which also had the safe in it bolted to a wood framework screwed to the wall…(c) crowbarred…again…the wood off the wall and the safe off the wood…(e) stole one of our wheeled trash cans to hide the safe in and exited the building.

The good news is that he was a courteous burglar. There are two wheeled trash cans, one next to the bar that had a plastic bag in it and another by the liquor room that did not have a bag but did have some box trash. He carefully stole only the one with the bag in it and courteously tied the bag shut before leaving it next to the bar. He also didn’t bother stealing any of the booze…even the good stuff…and left the quarters in the trust fund cylinder display on the wall.

Having stolen the safe with the week’s revenue in it and the camera hard drive with the close up of his face…although with his disguise he wasn’t recognizable or face recognition worthy according to the detective…it didn’t look like anything really would happen.

The cops came out and then the detective and took statements, pictures, and all that…but with no obvious DNA or fingerprints (he had gloves as well) everybody figured that it was gone permanently and that the case would go cold.

This week the detective came back and reinterviewed everybody involved on our end but apparently there was still no progress…at least he didn’t indicate there was but…and the plot thickens here…apparently there was some progress behind the scenes.

Neil recommended that after our upcoming move to new digs in September we do two things…first pay for a security system and second bolt the new safe to the floor as most safes have the ability to bolt through into the concrete from the inside of the safe… both of those things are happening he was told.

Based on the limited time he was in the building and the fact that he knew exactly where to go for the camera drive and safe…it was pretty obvious that it was some sort of inside information caper…and although the cops obviously would have interviewed building management and did review their security footage nobody recognized the bad guy…or maybe as it turns out they did but the detective wasn’t saying until the investigation was complete.

So Friday night it was announced that an arrest had been made…and it was the building maintenance guy…hence the idea that perhaps they did have a clue after all.

After his arrest…and I presume that he is so fired by now…he admitted in an interview with the police (Pro Tip…if you’re ever arrested by the police you should never, ever, ever talk to them…ask for a lawyer and shut up)…anyways he admitted that he knew what portions of the parking lot our building security cameras covered and carefully parked his getaway van where it wouldn’t be seen and then backed away from the building when he was making his getaway so that his license tag wasn’t visible. Unfortunately for him…he neglected to remember or think that perhaps the other buildings might have outside security cameras and…lo and behold (they did)…they identified the tag number, traced the van, brought him in for questioning, and he folded like a cheap tent I guess.

Good news…bad guy in jail…or at least he was until he made bail a few hours later but he’s got a court date in September. Bad news…no money or safe was apparently recovered, I’m sure the money is long gone on drugs or booze or whatever and the safe got dumped in a canal someplace to hide the evidence. But…small victories I guess

Speaking of our upcoming move…the building the lodge is in has been sold and will be demolished for construction of some more of those luxury high rise condos…which means we have to move. Management has been searching most of the year. Haven’t had much success but there’s an open air mall sort of place a couple miles south of the lodge that’s been purchased for eventual redevelopment into one of those ‘mixed use’ things…that means there will be some boutique businesses, some high priced rental or purchase condos, and perhaps a few lower cost units for the little people. There are leases that haven’t expired for other tenants in this pretty huge complex and it will be 18 months or more before all of those are terminated and moved out, permits approved, and any actual redevelopment started. In the meantime…the owner of the property is also a lodge member and was pitched by another local politician/lawyer type who’s also a member that perhaps we could move in there. That all came together and we are getting a real good deal on rent until the development starts plus he’s footing the bill for turning the going on twice as large former mortgage or title company office into a lodge with bar, office, storage, and liquor room…according to the owner and lawyer/politician type it “gives us a time period to hunt for more permanent quarters”. Yeah…I’ll believe that when it happens since human nature says nothing will happen until it’s a crisis. And there’s still no kitchen since some in management don’t want to deal with the hassle…despite the fact that most Elks lodge have some cooking facilities and offer at least bar food but typically at least one dinner a week to draw in the crowd and members and increase bar sales which is where the real money is made in the hospitality biz.

Lessee…what else is happening.

Neil’s still trying to figger out how a 3 day trip to Daytona Beach for an Elks thing next month turned into a somewhat roundabout trip…by the road less traveled by…to VA to see he human kids/grandkid and NJ for Connie’s 50th high school reunion. Neil passed up his earlier this summer but for some reason she wants to go…and Daytona turned into Daytona Plus I guess. We’re retired though…so it really don’ matter a bit that we might be gone for a bit.

We’re also working on some plans for next summer to see Scotland and Wales…her Mastersingers choral group is going to London for a week for a couple of concerts and he is going to tag along anyway…so we’re working on spending some extra time there seeing the parts of Great Britain that we haven’t seen yet. GB is the island that contains England and Scotland and together with Northern Ireland which is on the island of Ireland compose the UK…and then there’s the Commonwealth and numerous other convoluted groupings of various countries independent and otherwise around the world that at one time were a part of what was known as the British Empire. It’s somewhat complicated figuring out all the relationships governmental, royalty, and otherwise but if you’re interested it’s all available on the interwebs for your research…I’ll leave that as an “exercise for the student” as they used to say in school. There will be castles involved…but only real castles, not like most of the buildings erroneously called castles we saw in Ireland. Everybody knows that a real castle has a moat and a moat has water in it…and while not all of the castles in England and Scotland are actually castles the proportion is a lot higher than it was in Ireland. We’re only looking at seeing a couple of the famous ones with tours and mostly interested in the ruins sort because those are the ones that meet Neil’s definition of a castle…and since he’s the photographer his is the only opinion that counts. We’re also going to a bunch of the areas that she’s enamored with due to watching various and assorted BBC drama series…but if we only went to parks and castles to make Neil happy she would be unhappy so he’s glad to do stuff she likes as well…’tis that whole partner/spouse thing.

We got Bingo at the lodge this afternoon so we went to Mass yesterday…well, Connie was the cantor and she did that again at the 0800 Mass today so he went yesterday and then got ready to make her a gourmet breakfast out of Friday Date Nite’s leftovers…we had gone to this new to us Mexican place on the way to the lodge…he had tacos (one each carnitas, beef, and chicken) and she had tacos al carbon (beef with guacamole in crispy corn tortillas)…she only ate 2 of her 3 while his were gone but as anybody knows a leftover taco makes a perfect frittata (that’s essentially an omelet you bake in the oven instead of making it in a pan). Chop up the taco, warm it up in a bit of oil, pour over gently the beaten eggs after carefully distributing the goodie taco bits around the pan, top with some grated cheese and put under the broiler until egg is set, cheese is melted, and it’s golden brown and delicious. Quite yummy.

Oh yeah…did ya see how we sent the new head of Al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri off to wherever his soul is now with the super duper Hellfire missile without killing anybody else including his family who were in the same building. Instead of using the explosive version of the missile apparently the variant used was the R9X which has no explosives at all. Just before impact it pops out six blades perpendicular to the body of the missile and it starts spinning…it’s colloquial name is the “Flying Ginsu Knife”…and it essentially chops the target into itty bitty pieces. He was known via intelligence to hang out every morning on his balcony by himself…and the DoD specifically didn’t want to kill anybody else. It still takes careful positioning of the launch platform and guiding of the missile though…it’s about 100 pounds, 5 feet long and flies at mach 1.3 or about 1,000 miles an hour…so rather than fly it straight into the balcony with the building behind you have to bring it in from the side I guess and pick the side so that the missile after it gets the target doesn’t hit the building so it collapses. Same thing we got the Iraqi guy with a year or two back…and probably used in other carefully targeted takeouts of people “that needed killing anyway” as the Texans would say. I saw a thing on the web from a guy that used to work for a charitable organization years back and that same villa was at the time used to house a bunch of their employees…he said that he liked standing on that balcony enjoying the view of the snow capped mountains so he could see how al-Zawahiri would have wanted to do the same and that it was surprising to see it on the news. Connie and Neil had a very similar occurrence when we saw whichever Star Wars movie came out in the past 6 years or so…the one that at the end shows the Millenium Falcon flying over the ocean towards a couple of islands and then eventually Luke Skywalker turns around for his cameo appearance in the movie. They had previously visited those islands…Skellig Michael…off the SW coast of Ireland back in 2014 and hiked up to the top. When the scene came on showing the Falcon flying in…they turned to each other and said “been there”. Then when the camera started closing in on Luke’s back up at the top…they again said “been there”…and then Neil said “yeah, exactly right there, we’ve stood at that very spot on the top of Great Skellig (the larger of the two islands and the only one that was ever populated). There was a monastery on top of Greater Skellig that was in use from about 600-1040 AD…the islands are about 8 miles off the coast and you have to take a ferry trip on a limited number of available daily tour boats…there are only a few companies allowed to go there and there are a maximum of about 50 or 60 seats on the daily tours…and about half the time the seas are too rough to land once you get there despite the dock being on the inward facing side of the island…the islands are in pretty deep water and even at the dock it is 50 or 60 feet deep. When we went in 2014 we got tickets about 3 months ahead of time but after the Star Wars appearance the groupies really all want to go visit and the last time he looked you had to make a reservation a year out to get a seat…so they’re glad they went when the did…back then it was a lesser known thing to do but it is now almost a Disney like tourist thing.

I looked on the web but couldn’t find the actual scene from the movie “The Last Jedi”…but there are a bunch of videos on YouTube showing the various parts of the island that were in the move (albeit without any actual copyrighted movie scenes in them)…but this is one of Neil’s shots from the island back in 2014. This view is looking north and as best as he can remember without seeing the actual scene again the scene was filmed in front of the wall just to the right of these huts. That wall is pretty much like the one you can see on the left but the view to seaward has much less island in it so that looked at from movie camera height all you see is him and the wall from our memory of the scene. Kinda cool to have been to the same place as the scene was filmed but we’re glad we went before it got crazy famous.

DSC 5845 2

Sorry…no images of wildlife today…Neil did spot a couple of rabbits out back the other day and got some shots but they haven’t been processed yet…but we do have a trip to Corkscrew on Aug 23 so we’ll have some then…and perhaps before then if he gets off his lazy butt and processes what he has.

Interesting things found on the net.

AreYouSmarter2

One pretty cool geological fun fact is that the Scottish Highlands, the Appalachians, and the Atlas are the same mountain range, once connected as the Central Pangean Mountains.
Details are here
. We knew about the Appalachians and the ones in Newfoundland being the same but Greenland, the UK, Norway, and Africa we did not. Pangea was a super continent in the Carboniferous, late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras fro about 385 million to 200 million years back…it formed from earlier continental units of Gondwana, Euramerica and Siberia during the Carboniferous. It then broke up and drifted apart over time as the current continents made it to their present positions. 

SameMountainRange

ZuchiniWarning

PlasticSurgery

SeemsLikeThePoint

WorldIsACat

SilentK

And finally…this one’s pretty cool but you really need to go watch the
whole video here
 …it’s the coolest art thing we’ve seen in quite awhile. Anywhere…there’s this ancient Japanese painting technique named Ippitsuryu…which is essentially painting with a single brush stroke.

Ippitsuryu

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody, Travel | Leave a comment

We’re Still Here

…we just ain’t doin’ much at all.

Headed out to the Elks a couple of times, had Date Night, cooked a bunch of good dinners…and hunkered down with the A/C on ‘cuz it’s Florida in the summer ya know. We had to reschedule a trip earlier this month down to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for the dawn opening…our house A/C quit working and that became more vital to get fixed. Luckily…it wasn’t the A/C itself but the drain line from the cooling cool to the outside was clogged. With all the heat down here and just a 1 inch PVC pipe to carry off the condensed water from the coil…it ends up with goo in the pipe, then the pipe fills up and picks up the float switch that says “I’m full” and the unit turns itself off and says “System Wait” on the thermostat. Solution is to pour some half and half water/bleach into the pipe after pulling the float switch out of position and then suck the water out with a ShopVac from the outside. It’s been about 8 or 9 months since he did it so he’s added an every 4 month maintenance item to our shared Note named Periodic Stuff where we keep track of everything from hearing aid batteries to HoA payments to contact lens replacement to house stuff and car stuff. All that goes on our calendar as a scheduled event as well so we get reminded when things are due but the Note is the combined log of when stuff got done…after all we got CRS ‘round here (Can’t Remember S***) as well as CDO (which is pretty much the same as OCD ‘cept it’s in the right darned order)…and the only way we can ‘member stuff is to write it down in a standard place.

Speaking of contacts…Neil got his annual…well actually it was about 19 months…eye exam and they changed his contact lens prescription. He’s got astigmatism in the right (dominant) eye which wasn’t corrected before and despite being told that his multi focal contacts were biased so the left favored close and the right favored distance that wasn’t actually true. He’s been using the same eye practice down here but switched offices (and hence optometrists) this year and the new lady one is far more competent than the guy he’s seen the 2 times he’s used this practice before. She shifted him to mono vision contacts with the left set for distance and the right for distance plus fixing the astigmatism…the net result is that both near and far are better overall…but the drawback is that the left one isn’t as clear at distance as the right. His brain is slowly getting retrained to use the left one for depth perception only and the right for detail…and the noticeability of the left one is going down as time passes.

We continue to see idiots in the news…both saying stupid things as well as the comments on the articles which are usually the best part to read. It’s starting to look like our former President is losing favor with his party as he was booed just this week when he claimed to be persecuted. 

For the record…the man is an idiot and while he won election in 2016 fair and square…he also lost in 2020 fair and square and we’re really getting tired of the same old ‘the election was stolen’ BS he and his sycophants keep blathering. On the other hand…we’re also pretty amazed that Justice Kagan this week said that the SCOTUS should pay attention to the public perception of the way things should be rather than the constitution or else they would lose legitimacy in the public eye…which seems like a pretty peculiar idea for a SCOTUS justice who is supposed to…ya know…interpret the law and constitution…to say.

And for those complaining that the right leaning justices always vote in a bloc…well, that ain’t actually true. One of the liberals voting with the conservatives almost never happens and there’s been at least a half dozen decisions this past month or two where one or more of the conservatives crossed over and voted with the liberals…and the 3 liberals almost always vote together.. So…the bloc seems to be the opposite way from what they claim in the media…but then the conservatives tend to vote on the law rather than on what the public thinks.

I keep waiting for our congress idiots to pass some common sense gun laws, abortion laws, and voting laws…and I agree that while we do have the right to have firearms as clearly defined in the Constitution…I also agree that the ‘well regulated militia’ wording is frequently ignored by the far right gun rights people and that common sense regulations on guns are a good thing and allowed by the Constitution…but then I think we need common sense voting, abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, and interracial marriage laws. It’s just that my version of common sense on each of those is different from the version of ‘common sense’ that the far left and far right demand. However…I don’t think it will ever happen for a couple of reasons. First and foremost…any of them that vote for more middle of the road positions will get primary challenges from the idiots in their party and since the fringe idiots on both sides essentially are the ones that mostly vote in the primary we end up with extremist nominees and the reasonable ones tend to lose their job. Second…since both parties are mostly controlled by the fringe idiots…those people are only interested in my way or the highway and refusing to compromise and demonization of the other side is a good way to fund raise. Too bad our legislators are more interested in reelection, demonization of the other side, and making ridiculous demands that have exactly zero chance of becoming law instead of compromise so that everybody gets a little. Everything from filibuster to voting on judges to voting on spending or taxation or anything else has become far too much of a pissing contest where the goal is to be against whatever the other side wants no matter whether it’s a good idea or not.

I been thinking about whether the DoJ is going to charge the former President with something and frankly I’ll be surprised if they do. As I said before…the man is an idiot but being an idiot isn’t illegal. He’s also not guilty of dereliction of duty because there is no such law in the federal books according to what I read this week. Insurrection is really hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and whatever he did or didn’t do it doesn’t fall under the definition of treason. Charging him would just give the man more opportunities to get on TV and complain about being persecuted…but I think there are two even better reasons that they won’t. First…although we keep reading about the ‘startling new evidence’ in the hearings and the ‘proof’ that they’ve provided…there’s a clear difference between what could potentially be legally just hearsay and therefore not admissible and actual legally usable evidence. Second…and more important…is that the DoJ doesn’t want to charge him and potentially risk him getting acquitted for whatever reason…that wold be a PR disaster for the Democrat party, DoJ, and the administration…so my personal guess is that they’re going to find a reason to defer charging him and let the financial crimes folk in NY take that potential heat and publicity.

No photos this week still…the pond out back is pretty empty of wildlife in the summer although with all the rain we had in June and July it’s pretty full again…hopefully later on in the month we’ll see something down at Corkscrew.

Interesting things found on the net.

There’s this quasar named TON 618 located out in the constellation Canes Vinatici…there are 88 named constellations including the 12 Zodiac ones (I had no idea there were that many named ones). I didn’t bother googling precisely what makes a quasar a quasar…but one of the things it contains is a black hole…and we all know probably recognize what a black hole is. TON 619’s black hole however…is an anomaly in that it is one of the most massive black holes ever discovered…it has a mass of 66 billion solar masses (sizes of black holes are based on the mass or our sun)…turns out that this single black hole has more mass than the entire Milky Way galaxy since the latter only has 64 billion solar masses.  What’s even more amazing is the diameter of said black hole despite the fact that most people think that black holes are relatively small since the immense gravity due to the mass they contain makes them really dense and thus small (well, small in universe related dimension anyway). 

This image illustrates the relative size of our solar system (which is about 60 AU in diameter…1 AU or astronomical unit is approximately the distance from the earth to the sun or about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers) to a quasar known as S5 014+81 (this is one of the most luminous quasars known) which is 1,582 AU in diameter and the aforementioned TON 618 which is 2606 AU in diameter. Our entire solar system is just the little dot in the center of this image.

Actually…I did google what a quasar is…and it’s essentially a large (or super massive) black hole that is bright and a large radio frequency emitter. Once a black hole gets big enough…it has a disc of matter orbiting it which will eventually get sucked into the black hole. The hole itself isn’t visible but as the gas in the disk accelerates towards the hole it heats up due to friction and both glows and emits RF energy. TON 618…which is actually an abbreviation for Tonantzintla 618…and as best as I can figure out Tonantzintla is an observatory in Spain and 618 is the sequence number for the thing they were the first observers of…is about 18.2 billion light years away.

By comparison…Sagittarius A* which is the supermassive black hole at the center or our own Milky Way…is only 4.1 million AU so it’s about 1,000 times smaller than TON 618. You probably have seen the donut looking image of Sagittarius A* which NASA published earlier this year. Sagittarius A* is a mere 26,000 light years away and is only about 32 million miles or 0.34 AU in diameter…puny best describes it I guess.

Ton 618 Quasar

Somebody (looks like his name is Felix Descheines in the lower right so credit to him) put together this illustration of how much air and water we have compared to the size of the earth if you gathered the air and water into a ball at atmospheric pressure. All that air actually forms a pretty thin ball skin around the earth…the atmosphere is about 60 or so kilometers thick and the earth is about 12,000 kilometers in diameter so the atmospheric ‘skin’ is about half a percent as thick as the earth is across…the atmosphere would be less than a millimeter wide in the image below.

WaterAndAir

These need no explanation.

ChristmasDecorationsFire

 

BeforeAndAfter

GrandpaFinallyDied

DeadPeoplesThings

NoSmoking

Well…this one might need some explanation…but if you need it ask in the comments and I’ll add it…as they used to say in school this is left as an exercise for the student.

MostInterestingYardSale

NoSolicitiing

And finally…this actually happened…twice…at the same office of the Illinois DMV as reported in the thread on the Ugly Hedgehog photography forum where I found it.

TryAgainNextWeek

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody, Reality Based Blogging | 2 Comments

Vacation Part IV

I continue to be amazed at the sheer idiocy one sees on the web in both articles, comments, political rants, opinion pieces and pretty much everything else you see about the recent SCOTUS decisions.

It’s almost like none of them even read the decisions, know what they decided, know why they decided what they did, or what happens next…

The best one of the weekend was the right wing guy who started out explaining how how the constitution establishes 3 branches of government and what each one is supposed to do…so far so good. Then he went off the reservation and started to explain how all that was necessary to change the constitution was for Congress to pass an amendment and then the President could sign it into law…and that’s when I closed the page concluding this guy was just as lost as the rest of ‘em.

OK…in Part III of the vacation saga…the adults had finished up things in Lexington and were ready to leave. Since they only had about 110 miles to go to their next scheduled stop at Cumberland Falls State Park to see the waterfall…they took advantage of the free late checkout the GLo hotel (part of the Best Western umbrella) and didn’t leave until close to noon. We had figured out that there was no place to eat in the lodge and since the last 20 miles or so were on really narrow curvy roads with a speed limit that one could literally hardly ever reach and that we would have had to reverse that route…twice…to go eat we stopped for a late lunch at a bar and grill in one of the small towns we passed through. Connie had a salad and bowl of potato soup…good and bad respectively…and Neil had a Philly cheesesteak…pretty good. He saved about 1/3 of the sandwich to split with her for dinner and they planned to just graze on pretzels and chocolate bars as well as cookies for the evening rather than go back out.

We got to the park and headed down to the falls to check out the lineup since we were planning on being there right about sunrise the following morning.

The falls themselves are called colloquially the Niagara of the South…they’re about 125 feet wide and 68 feet tall although during the spring flood the get up to about 300 feet wide max. In the image below you can see how they can expand to image right about 20 or 30 feet before coming up against the wall of the gorge but there’s a much wider flat area out of sight photo left behind the trees…it’s just below the falls visitor center and gift shop and if the river level comes up about 10 feet then the width available doubles in size. This photo is looking just about due south in the late afternoon with the sun just a bit north of due west.

DZ9 0596 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Neil pulled out his phone and check on TPE…an app he has named The Photographer’s Ephemeris it basically gives you not only rise and set times for the sun and moon but also the times of civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight as well as the direction all of that happens in. This is laid out on a topo map so you can figure out ahead of time where to be to see sun or moon in your photo or to get illumination on a subject. In this case…the falls themselves face just about due north and sunrise was east northeast so the rising sun would light up the falls nicely once it got high enough to be over the tree line.

They headed back to the lodge and got checked in…ate dinner…grazed on snacks…and essentially zoned out for the evening…they did get a couple of shots upriver from the lodge terrace. We had paid for a ‘river view’ room and we could see it from our window but not the falls…they’re out of the image to the right about 1/2 a mile and around several more river bends.

DZ9 0597 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

In the morning they got up and got packed and ready to go…then headed back over to the falls…the plan was to spend an hour or so there, pick up the stuff from the lodge and hit the road on the way home.

And the light was nice…and with all of the mist coming up from the falls we even got some nice rainbows as the light was coming over our shoulder as we faced the falls.

Z72 4552 HDR

Z50 3690 Pano

Z72 4564 HDR

Z50 3720

Z72 4599 HDR

Z72 4624

Z50 3707

We had to wait a bit before we headed over due to fog on the river so it was a bit after 0800 when we were done. We headed out, loaded up the car at the lodge and hit the road for the 860 mile trip home. We stopped overnight at the Holiday Inn Express in Byron GA south of the last big city we had to make our way through (Atlanta), had a nice dinner at the local Mexican restaurant but it turned out the toilet in our room didn’t have any water supply. Neil told them immediately that it was a failed fill valve in the tank and not an actual water supply problem…but they insisted that they had a plumber out earlier in the day, that there was a separate water supply for the toilets (bogus he said), and that they would have to call the plumber. The hotel was nowhere near full and we had no idea why they didn’t just put us in another room but the front desk clerk said there were water outages all over the hotel and she couldn’t do that. By the time we got back from dinner…the manager had come in…she said the water was not out all over the hotel but we had to have the maintenance guy come and check it out. He told her again he had already done the obvious troubleshooting and the problem was the fill valve in the tank since the shower and sink both worked…but she knew better than him. About an hour later the maintenance guy showed up…without the plumber in tow…and he took one look and agreed with Neil…and told us he would have the desk change our room. We got a call about 10 minutes later to come and return the key before they would give us the new one…clearly the place has some management issues in addition to the facility issues. They put us in a first floor room with a bunk room obviously intended for families…the good news is that the toilet worked but the bad news is that the TV didn’t. By that time it was going on 2030 so we just lived with it since we were going to go to sleep early anyway after the long day on the road. So…pro tip…if you’re ever in Byron GA stay anywhere else but the local Holiday Inn Express.

We were out the door by about 0700 the next morning…breakfast at the hotel was mediocre at best even for hotel breakfast…and continued home with arrival about 1700. We had originally planned on stopping in Sarasota at the Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner but weren’t hungry yet when we passed so he offered her takeout sushi instead. We unpacked the car then she unpacked the suitcase while he went down and picked up dinner…followed by a shower and another early bedtime since we were tired.

It was a pretty good trip overall…and we learned some things that worked and didn’t work for traveling by car for longer periods which we’ll incorporate into our future plans.

Interesting things found on the net.

YardSecuritySign

LazyAndFat

NotHaunted

OurCrap

OneDayThisWilLBeYours

Cyas.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | 2 Comments

Vacation Part III

So…last time after leaving the Blue Springs Cavern we headed on to and arrived in Lexington then after checking, resting, and shower we headed 2 blocks down the road to the Sedona Taproom for dinner as I told ya then…with good cocktails, wine, and pizza/flatbreads for dinner

Next morning (Saturday)…we headed out to what we went to Lexington for in the first place…the Bourbon Trail. We’ve done this twice before, once in Lexington and the other time out at Bardstown west of Lexington…and like the last t time we picked distilleries that we had not been to before…there are 41 on the Trail now and it’s always expanding so we may (i.e., will) visit again to check off some more of them. However, we’ll stick to just doing 2 per day and probably only 2 or maybe 3 days doing it since one gets burned out as a lot of the tours are pretty repetitive as there’s only one way to make bourbon. This time…we decided to also focus on both large and small distillers and really picked ones that seemed to have character or what we used to call the ‘it factor’ while in the RV.
After breakfast we headed off to our first destination…west to the town of Lawrenceburg to the Four Roses distillery. This is a pretty big place and produces a lot of product…not as big as some of the huge ones like Jim Beam but definitely in the larger category. On pulling up into the parking lot you’re greeted by the house that the founder…Paul Jones, Jr…built for himself and his bride into 1880s. Turns out that he had become smitten by a certain southern belle and sent her a letter proposing marriage. Her response was that if she showed up at the upcoming grand ball with a corsage or roses on her gown her answer would be yes…I guess that was a delaying tactic to give her time to think about it as I’m sure she was already well acquainted with him. He went to the ball and waited breathlessly for her arrival…she came in ion a deep black gown with a corsage of four red roses. They subsequently married and since he had been running a distillery since the late 18602 named it Four Roses bourbon after his beloved wife. Four Roses was one of the top sellers in the 30s through 50s but as younger drinkers switched over to clear liquors in the 60s the company (since sold to Seagrams) concentrated on overseas markets. In 2002 the company was bought by Kirin brewery company (a Japanese firm ) which still owns it today and the brand was reintroduced to the US market. 

You’re probably wondering just what the heck is bourbon and how does it differ from whisky (or whiskey as they spell it in Ireland). Well…whisky/whiskey is simply a spirit distilled from grain…and beyond that there really aren’t any rules on aging or content or pretty much anything else. Bourbon…on the other hand…has a list of requirements.

  • Made in America…you can’t make bourbon anywhere else
  • The mash bill (mix of grains) used must be at least 51% corn…the remainder is almost always some mix of malted (or sprouted) barley, rye, and wheat
  • Distillation output must be no more than 160 proof or 80% alcohol
  • It must be aged in brand new white oak charred barrels and placed into the barrels at no more than 125 proof…for efficiency most is distilled at 155-160 and then diluted to 120-125 before barreling.
  • It must be aged a minimum of 2 years…at which point it can be labeled as ’straight bourbon’ and if aged less than 4 years it must be labeled with the duration of its aging
  • It must be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof
  • If an age is stated on the label it must be the age of the youngest product in the barrel

Straight rye whisky must be at least 51% rye, aged a minimum of 2 years, no artificial flavor or coloring, and all the product in a bottle must be distilled in the same state. There are additional legal requirements for products labeled as rye whisky, Kentucky bourbon, bonded (i.e., bottled in bond) whisky, finished/flavored whisky, wheat whisky, corn whisky, or moonshine (although actually the first rule for moonshine is that there are no rules)…but those other rules are irrelevant to bourbon which is what we’re discussing here…mostly. 

The mansion which houses corporate offices today.

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Closeup of the clock seen on edge above.

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The tasting room…it’s huge…but then this is the largest distillery we visited this trip.

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Really nice inside the place though.

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And we sampled 4 of their current offerings…cheapest on the left and most expensive and exclusive on the right. We did ask if single barrel really meant a single barrel or whether it was a group of similar barrels…our tour guide found somebody that knew that answer after the tasting and it does mean single barrel. Neil asked him if that meant the bottling line was cleaned before the next single barrel was poured into the input section and he said it wasn’t…the single barrel was used until the pumps ran dry but no cleaning so a little of the previous barrel made it into the next barrel. Each barrel is bottled at barrel proof which means its proof is exactly as it was in the barrel…so the proof varies slightly from one barrel to the next…but each barrel’s output gets labeled with which mash bill it was produced from (there are I think 4 of those) and what the exact proof of that barrel was. Small batch means the master distiller picks out a small selection (small being a somewhat nebulous and variable number) of similar barrels or ones that have the right combination of whatever it is that master distillers make these sorts of decisions on. Those barrels are then blended in a big tank and watered down with the same water the original mash is made from to a consistent proof. The left hand regular bourbon is similar to small batch but in much larger numbers of barrels so as to maintain a consistent flavor for that particular brand and again it’s diluted to a fixed proof. Finally…the small batch select is just like small batch except it’s bottled at barrel proof instead of being diluted to a constant proof. The amount of aging in the barrels also increases from left to right…and the amount left over in the barrel after aging decreases from left to right as some of the alcohol evaporates and departs the barrel over the aging process…this is known as the ‘Angel’s Share’

And…for those of you who don’t know exactly what proof is…it tells you the alcohol concentration and the proof is exactly twice the alcohol percentage…so 100 proof is 50% alcohol. Proof was invented back in the day because a person who was buying your corn liquor tested it to see if it would burn (supposedly) and anything less than 50% alcohol wouldn’t’ burnt although I’m not sure that is actually correct). Since no marketing guy ever would sell something and call it 50%…they invented proof because the fact that it burned ‘proved’ that it was good stuff and everybody knows that good stuff is 100% but since it wasn’t actually 100% alcohol they invented the term proof instead.

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Next up…was lunch…which was supposed to be at the Hassmer House in nearby Versailles…but when Neil punched the address into the GPS it said it was 3 hours away and we knew that Versailles was only 10 miles or so away. After some consternation and what the heck discussions…we figured out that the restaurant was in Versailles IN instead. Now neither of us knew that there was a Versailles in IN…and Connie was making reservations in both Vincennes IN and Lexington KY area in the same time frame…and she just got a bit confused and…the technical term is…messed up. Anyways…this is only the second failure of the DLETC in a long string of successes so we’re just gonna let it slide.

Instead…we looked through the available eateries in Versailles KY and quickly settled on Ricardos Grill and Pub in downtown. Quickly assuming our normal seats at the bar we had a couple of iced teas to drink and a medium sized lunch…Neil had fish fingers and Connie had a salmon thing…both were labeled as appetizers on the menu but could easily have served as an entree. 

Following that…and the largest distiller of the trip in the morning…we headed to the smallest distiller on the trip…the Barrel House Distillery in downtown Lexington. Situated on the old brewery row which has been revitalized or gentrified or whatever you call it into an upscale eating and drinking place in the evenings…but it’s still a really small distillery with an even smaller tasting room which essentially consisted of a small bar about 8 feet long over in the corner of the gift shop. Somehow though we didn’t get a shot of the tasting room though.

This is one of their 300 gallon fermenting tanks…once the grain is ground and cooked it’s put in one of these with yeast and it ferments. This ends up at between 8% and 10% alcohol and is essentially the same as beer except it has no hops in it…the mash at this point is named distiller’s beer. We tasted it and it’s similar to what one would normally call skanky beer since it’s unfiltered or aged at this point.

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From the fermentation tank it gets pumped into a 300 gallon still which is surprisingly not what you see in this shot…this is the 150 gallon still that does the second distillation. The 300 gallon still is behind the black plywood for heat purposes but our tour guide told us it looked pretty similar to the 150 gallon one you see. We also sampled the output from the first distillation process…it’s clear by the way because all of the coloring and most of the flavor in bourbon comes from the aging process in the charred barrel…it was about 140 proof and essentially tastes like the White Lightning we used to make punch out of in high school back in LA.

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There’s no aging building…or rickhouse…on this property so they do their aging in a barn on the horse farm of one of their owners out of town…the city wouldn’t let them build a rickhouse in town because if one of those catches on fire…well, it’s a wooden building filled with wooden barrels of flammable liquid and you’re just not putting the fire out…the fire department just lets the rickhouse burn and concentrates on not letting the fire spread. BTW…the term rickhouse for the aging buildings comes from the ricks (or racks) that the barrels are stored on inside the building. Some distilleries move barrels around between the ricks and floors and some don’t…and the ones that move them claim it improves the product while the ones that don’t say it doesn’t matter because two barrels that were aged right next to each other can have different flavor, color, and final proof because of all the factors beyond weather. 

The aging process in the rickhouse includes hot summers causing the barrels to expand and the whisky to enter the charred wood and then cold winters which contract the barrels and push the whisky (and the tannins it picked up from the barrel) back out into the liquid. At the end of the aging process…somewhere between 70% and 90% of the contents (maybe 50% for really long aged stuff) is left with the rest being the Angel’s Share mentioned above.

With our day’s activities over and it being about 1400…it was once again…you guessed it…back to the hotel for rest, shower, and then we headed out to Distilled on Jefferson for dinner…another really excellent pick by the DLETC. Cocktails and wine again were procured and savored…and then we each had a bowl of she crab soup for dinner…rich, buttery, and full of cream, crab, and caviar. We originally were going to eat but the soup was so rich and the bowl so big that we just split a chocolate mousse for dessert along with a complimentary Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) from the very posh lady bartender.

Sunday…was pretty much similar to Saturday.  

After coffee at the hotel we headed out to the Cathedral of Christ the King for mass, then had breakfast at a little place downtown before heading over to our first destination of the day…Lexington Brewing Company. Yep…I said brewing but that’s because they’re either the only or one of a few distillers that also brews beer…and the beer they brew is named Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale which is one of our favorites. They used to make one called Bourbon Barrel Stout which was also a favorite but that has been replaced by Kentucky Coffee Bourbon Barrel Ale…they claim the latter is the same as the stout but the recipe has clearly changed as it was very heavily coffee flavored and the stout was much less coffee forward notes. And…they distill their bourbon from the same beer that would be barrel aged and bottled.

This is the cooker section of the brewery…after grinding in a room I’ll show you in a sec the grans go into these for cooking which turns the starch into sugar which is eventually destined to be eaten by the yeast producing carbon dioxide and the alcohol that’s the whole point of the process.

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Rotating about 30 degrees to the left you can see the fermentation tanks and the ramp down to the grinding room and the other 10 or 12 fermentation tanks. From here…the beer is either piped over to the distillery section or sent to the barreling section which is in another building.

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The distilling building contains these two stills as well as the tall skinny one you see in the center background so their product is eventually triple distilled. Most distillers that use pot (i.e., batch) stills use multiple stills to get the final distilled proof as close to 160 as they can. Really large distillers like Makers Mark use what is called a continuous column still in which the mash is pumped into the top of a large column with alternating plates as it flows to the bottom where the spent mash is exhausted. Continuous stills don’t need multiple distillation processes…the way they’re built gets you 160 proof in a single distillation. And speaking of spent mash…it’s not disposed of…distillers sell it to cattle farmers to feed their stock as it still has a lot of nutritional value left in it.

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Close up of the bottom section of the still…about 8 feet in diameter.

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They had this display of various barrel sizes each with a name and size that are used (or have been used) over the years by a variety of industries. As you can see…Connie is standing next to a barrel that is named a butt…this is like 110 gallons or something. So the saying that Neil has used for years and that I’ve echoed here in the blog…a metric butt load…is actually a real, actual measurement…and you probably thought it was just something we made up. Bah we say.

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We were unable to sample actual bourbon here since the distilling part of the operation has only been in operation about 3 years but we did sample one of their single malt whiskys which is made from pure malted barley …hence the name…as well as a gin they sell as well as a couple of Irish whiskeys and one of their barrel strength whiskys which is currently being sold. They expect to sell their first bourbon next year assuming things go well with the aging process.

We decided to skip lunch and just had a few pretzels on the way to our last distillery of the trip…again about 40 miles out of town to the west in the middle of Nowheresville, KY. This was the Castle and Key distillery out in Frankfort KY.

As I said earlier…we really found the stories about the why much more interesting than the distillery tours themselves…after all bourbon is made essentially the same way by every distiller and if you’ve seen one tour you’ve pretty much seen them all except for the different scale between large and small. Color and flavor of the final product depends on mash bill, the vagaries of the aging process, and the skill of the master distiller in blending…or not…his barrels of bourbon. But the stories are really interesting.

Castle and Key was founded in 1887 as the Taylor Distilling Company by James Taylor who was really the originator of the idea of something he called a ‘bourbon destination’ where one would go just to see the place, have parties, stay overnight, and sample their wares. Back in 1887…this was so far out in the boonies that Nowheresville was the big city you passed through before you got here. He persuaded the railroad to put in a spur line out to the property and then got down to building things. First up…he decided he needed a castle to attract people so…he built one…only instead of it having rooms it was really the distillery itself.

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In addition to the castle…he built the largest rickhouse in KY.

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And an English garden along side it…as you can see above with the railroad running between the two to the station where you got off to commence the partying you came here to do.

The distillery closed in 1920 due to prohibition…and while it did reopen under different ownership when prohibition was repealed and distilled under several owners afterwards it was closed and essentially abandoned by about 1970. Then in 2012…one of the two current owners named Will Arvin came across some pictures of the abandoned property, thought he should reimagine and reinvent the bourbon experience…after all by 2012 bourbon was back in vogue…so he and his wife came out and toured the property. They found boarded up windows, caved in roofs, and vegetation so overgrown he needed a flashlight in the middle of the day to see…but they liked what they saw and set about doing just that. He contacted a friend of his named Wes Murry…they were both either doctors or lawyers in Lexington…and between the two of them decided to purchase the property and restore it to what it used to be. Purchasing the property in 20145, they spent I’m guessing a lot of money fixing roofs, evicting raccoon families from buildings…in fact one of them actually had a tree growing up in the middle of the building’s first floor through the roof…and fixing things up. Included in this were the original mash cookers, fermentation tanks, and stills from back in the early days…all of that is still used today. They distilled their first product in 2016 and shipped their first bourbon last year. To make some profit in the meantime…they also produce vodka and gin as well as rye whiskey…we sampled all of these but alas…no bourbon remains from last year’s release so we’ll just have to get some later this year I guess. They also rent space to assorted small distilleries in their rickhouse including the Lexington Brewing Company that we visited in the morning.

Connie was really impressed by the stalls in the ladies room at the distillery.

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And since every castle needs a moat…heck, everybody knows that…Mr. Taylor built one. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any water in it this time of the year.

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The entrance to the castle where we started our tour.

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This is the lower about 2/3s of their two column stills used for the first distillation. They’re about 4 stories tall. Crappy pano with the iPhone but the best Neil could do given the tight quarters involved…and like the morning’s tour this is an in production facility and we met several of the staff as we went through.

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The collapsing building in the background with the vine covered exterior is what the whole place looked like back in 2012 before it was purchased for restoration. 

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Since the original distillery closed as a result of prohibition…which as you know didn’t really get rid of alcohol but just drove it underground into the speakeasy and bathtub gin environment…the new owners put the tasting room in one of the old around the back originally used for something else rooms in the castle and used this industrial looking door for the entrance…so it looked like you were entering a speakeasy.The old rail bed (now a paved street) is behind where Neil was standing and you had to go up an old industrial set of stairs over some pipes and between the rusty old tanks to get there. 

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Our samples. The vodka was really, really good and was bottled at 80 proof. The gin is pretty expensive as gin goes and is 106 proof. Our tour guide said that a lot of people had told him they don’t like gin…Neil raised his hand in agreement when asked. What he said was that the reason most people don’t like gin is because what they really don’t like is cheap gin…because cheap gin has a couple of problems with it. When you run a still and catch the output you get three separate sections…the heads at the beginning which contain both the good ethanol that we like to drink as well as methanol which is poisonous in large quantities, and various other organic compounds that just don’t taste good…then you get the hearts which is the good stuff only…and then the tails which again has lots of not so tasty stuff. Cheap gin makers use a bit more of the heads and tails in their output because that gives them more to sell per batch and lowers their costs. Good gin makers only use the hearts…according to Rich…and just accept they’ll need to charge more for it.

In addition…cheap gin makers use almost exclusively juniper to flavor their product…gin is essentially vodka (or pure alcohol and water) mixed with flavorings in the second distillation. A lot of juniper gives the final product the typical gin flavor which is essentially…for gin haters that are really cheap gin haters (again according to Rich)…like drinking a Christmas tree. Good gin makers on the other hand…use a whole series of botanicals and herbs and other nice tasting things to put in their flavor.

The result…this gin while you can still tell there is juniper in it…is pretty mild and mellow as far as juniper goes. Smelling and tasting it you get all the other good things more than the juniper…which results in a good gin…in fact Neil actually liked it. He still wouldn’t go out of his way to drink gin including this one…but he pronounced it drinkable and actually said it tasted good. 

Another true story…you’ve probably read in books and seen in movies about how the British in India drank gin and tonic quite regularly. Well…actually they needed to drink something…it was tropical India after all and a backwater compared to being home in the UK…but what they really needed was a daily dose of quinine to ward off the malaria. Quinine is what is used to give tonic water its flavor and it was used to deliver the medicinal quinine to the Brits. However…quinine is bitter and even more people don’t like it’s taste than don’t like cheap gin…so the gin and tonic was invented along with the strongly flavored juniper gin to hide the taste of the quinine…so the Brits could get loaded and medicated all in one fell swoop.

India…btw…is also why we have that beer called IPA. That actually stands for India Pale Ale and again it was invented for the Brits in India. Most Brits at the time at home drank either stout beers or dark ales…mostly dark heavier stuff…and they needed to ship beer to India for their folks to drink out at the backwater. Stouts and Brown Ales don’t travel well so the brewers invented pale ale. Now all beer has hops flowers in it…that is what gives it the bitter notes in the taste…but the brewers discovered that hops also has preservative properties which came in handy on the long sea voyage to India as the Suez Canal didn’t exist yet.

See…in addition to blathering about Fun Stuff©…this is an educational blog:-) 

The rye whisky was also good…although because its rye it has a much sharper, less mellow, less sweet corn taste than bourbon does…but it is still pretty tasty.

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And finally…our tour guide Rich at the bar in the tasting room. Rich wins our award as “Best Tour Guide in the Last Ten Years”…enthusiastic, knowledgable, and and all around great guide.This is another iPhone pano…and while a lot of the time iPhone pano shot give you that rounded sort of look for close subjects rather than the straight appearance that a more distant subject would provide…that’s not the case for this shot. The bar was actually an L shaped bar and he was sitting right at the apex of the cure in the L…or does that make it a J shaped bar since an L has a corner in it and a J has a curve instead of the corner. Eh…whatevers. Neil gave him a nice tip for the tour and he rarely does that.

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Once we finished our tasting we headed back into town and had our usual rest/shower before heading out to dinner…he got a shot of her waiting for the elevator.

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We headed out to Malone’s which is a local Lexington chain…the steak place she wanted to eat at didn’t have any reservations…she was irritated that she didn’t get it earlier during the planning for the trip but figured that on Monday night with no festival or anything going on reservations wouldn’t be a problem.

If you ever go to Lexington…under no circumstances should you eat at Malone’s. The bread was hot and delicious and the Caesar salad was right up there with the best we’ve had since all the thick chewy ribs in the Romaine had been removed. Unfortunately it was all downhill after that. Both Connie’s steak and Neil’s Halibut were grossly over salted to the point of inedibility and all the waitress…who was pretty good and the food wasn’t her fault at all…could do was offer us a free dessert which we declined. No manager or supervisor or offer to redo the meals…they were terrible and it didn’t seem like management cared at all. She gave them a scathing review on Open Table and they’ve replied asking for her contact info so a manager can talk to her about it…Neil’s still waiting on her to do that almost a week later but if she does and if they respond I’ll update you on the results. All in all…it’s the worst $150 meal we’ve ever had and would make the worst $30 meal we ever had look good.

Interesting things found on the net.

DadsUrnMantle

PossibleBritishRecord

WIfeBirthday

TakeThatKale

Cyas.

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Vacation Part II

When last we left our intrepid travelers and their stirring story of adventure and Fun Stuff©…they had finished up with Indianapolis and were headed about 150 miles or so west to Vincennes. Vincennes sits right on US-50 and was planned to be visited on our US-50 trip back in 2019 that was so rudely interrupted by what we now know as the ‘Cody kidney stone incident’…so like the places we visited in Indy the primary purpose of this trip…beyond just getting out of the house and doing *something*…was to catch up on the things we missed there.

We picked up a Subway sandwich for lunch later on and made our way to the metropolis of Shoals, IN to see something called Jug Rock. Having looked at some photos on the intertubes…we had no idea just why it got the name but nonetheless decided to go visit anyway. According to the wikipedia…it is the largest free standing table rock (or mushroom rock) formation east of the Mississippi and was formed somewhere between 286 and 325 million years ago which then eroded along fracture lines to its current shape. It didn’t sound like much to any of us…but we stopped by a lot of strange attractions on US-50 and this was on the list…so there we planned to be. Unfortunately…this was one of two failures we had during the trip through no fault of our own. The problem is that you can really only see the thing from the roadside during the winter when the trees don’t have any leaves on them and as any moron knows June is not the winter in Indiana…so the view from the extremely small you gotta sorta block this little road to park at all parking area was…non existent. Undeterred…Neil ventured the hundred yards or so down the trail to its location in hopes of a decent photo opportunity…but regrettably…not even with the super wide angle 14-30mm lens was he able to get any sort of view at all…so he headed back up to the car. Pro tip here…if you’re going to hike down the steep muddy trail…switch from your everyday Merrell shoes to something with a little more traction…his foot slipped off a root on the way up and he bunged up his knee a bit. Nothing serious, just left some skin behind on the root and had a decent scrape for the next week or so. Since he didn’t get a shot himself…here’s one he borrowed from the interwebs. It’s about 40 feet tall I guess…apparently there’s a companion rock named House rock opposite it but he saw nothing either opposite it or remotely resembling a house…there was a cliff nearby that Jug Rock used to (millions of years ago) be part of. 

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Yep…bust.

Undeterred again…he wiped the blood off of his knee and we pressed on. There was supposed to be a park nearby where we were going to eat lunch and kill some extra time until 1500 checkin time at the hotel…emphasis on the ‘supposed to be’. Couldn’t find it so we had our lunch on the road and proceeded on to some other small town we can’t remember the name of and stopped by there to kill said time…but it was brutally hot by then so we ended up going on to our hotel in Vincennes with the thought that if we couldn’t check in early we would just wait in the air conditioned lobby. They weren’t quite ready for today’s customers when we arrived but after 20 minutes or so they had some rooms available so we checked in and had a nice rest until dinner. We headed out to the Elks Lodge 1208 with the intention of having Happy Hour and eat dinner if they had anything for dinner…but they only had bar food so we had some popcorn instead. We had originally planned on heading across the street to a wine bar/restaurant if the Elks had no food but decided we were mostly full so we just went back to the hotel and mushed on pretzels, chocolate bars, and cookies…or as we call it…we grazed.

Thursday morning after breakfast we headed out for our Fun Stuff© in Vincennes and started our day at the Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier which was founded in 1732 while Vincennes was the capitol of the southern portion of what was then known as French Canada. French Canada included both the French speaking portion of what is today Canada as well as what became known later as the Louisiana Purchase…essentially it extended from the Montreal/Ontario area all the way south to New Orleans and westward toward the Pacific. It was divided into upper and lower sections each with their own capitol essentially due to distance and transportation difficulties in the 1700s that far west and Vincennes washout 80% French and the other 20% friendly natives in the area. Like most colonization efforts…the settlers wanted to convert the natives to Christianity…hence the church which because a cathedral which became a basilica later on. There were several churches on the site with the current building being started in 1826 based on plans of the cathedral in Bardstown KY.

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Looking toward the altar from the entrance, note the ambo on the right side of the sanctuary with the stairs leading up to it…like many churches of this area the priest read the Gospel and preached from this elevated position.

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Painting on the altar…essentially a copy of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

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Baptismal font…again typical of the period. We met a very nice lady who had resided in and retired in Vincennes. She was part of the volunteer staff and we chatted with her for a bit about where we were from and why we were visiting Vincennes.

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Looking back from the altar to the rear of the building with the pretty nice looking pipe organ. 

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Following our church tour (self guided mostly) we headed off to our second visit of the day to the George Rogers Clark Memorial site.

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Clark was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War…he served not with the main army under General Washington but rather stayed in the west and was responsible for bringing the Indians on to the colonists side rather than the British side, captured several British forts although he never tried to take Fort Detroit from them but essentially he stalemated the British forces in the west and kept them from being withdrawn to assist with the efforts against Washington. The shot above shows the visitor center with the memorial in the background to the right.

Walking out the back of the visitor center we spotted this Revolutionary war era cannon with it’s associated pile of shot…and for those of you not familiar with these things the plate under the cannon balls is known as a brass monkey…it has holes cut in it for the bottom layer of shot and the other layers sit on top of that. It’s made of brass because brass does not corrode and the shot would not stick to it due to corrosion…and the shot was stacked to prevent it from rolling around on the ship which was where the design concept originated. However…since brass is a different metal than the iron shot…it has different heat expansion/contraction characteristics and in extremely cold weather the geometry changed enough so that the shot would not stay stacked on it…hence the origin of the saying cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey…at least according to some articles on the interwebs but apparently there is some disagreement on the origin of that saying. Snopes.com says that the actual origin of the saying is unclear but rates the above as false since they don’t believe such a stack would remain in place anyway on a warship underway in the ocean and they could find no evidence that they were stacked in such a fashion. Wikipedia likewise has several possible explanations for the saying.

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Francis Vigo was a Vincennes resident who assisted Clark in his early efforts to pacify and ally with the Indians…this statue is on the far side of the memorial as seen in the first photo just adjacent to the Wabash River beyond it.

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The back of the memorial from the visitor center…it wasn’t clear that this wasn’t the front until later on in our visit.

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Pano of the Wabash River from the far side of the memorial looking away from the visitor center and memorial.

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This is actually the front of the memorial…it’s facing to the right in the first shot above…you can see just the back of the visitor center on the far left of this shot.

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Heading up the stairs…Neil hummed the theme from Rocky and Connie said “Wrong steps”…we went inside to this view.

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About a 9 foot tall sculpture of Clark on top of a granite pedestal with artwork around the inside of the cylindrical memorial depicting various scenes and battles from his efforts during the way. The art was done on linen and then somehow attached to the wall. We actually thought this was a pretty cool memorial.

This is Grouseland…which was the home of William Henry Harrison before he became President. It’s next to both the memorial and the basilica…but then Vincennes is a pretty small town so pretty much everything is nearby or next to everything else. We could have paid for the tour…but didn’t have much interest so we didn’t.

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Next stop was the Vincennes Historical Site maintained by the state department of history…we had scheduled a tour of both Fort Knox as well as a tour of the recreated early capitol town. Things weren’t quick clear on their website but the young fellow who gave us the tour of the buildings clued us in.

There were actually 3 different Fort Knox fortifications back in the day…and none of them exist anymore. The original Fort Knox was on or near the site of the current Clark Memorial on the bank of the Wabash with the town growing up around it…and it was named something else by the original builders (the French) before being renamed Fort Knox by the Americans. The townsfolk had a number of issues with drunken soldiers and partying and such…so a bit later in history when Indian attacks were less likely they forced the fort to move away from town to keep the riff-raff away essentially…so it was moved about 3 miles or so upriver but still named Fort Knox. That’s the one we thought were getting a tour of…and while the nice young fellow said he would go up with us if we wanted his tour essentially involved reading the signs at what is now called Fort Knox II. Then a bit later Indian attacks started up again and the fort was again moved back to near the town although not to the original site…and it was still named Fort Knox. There are no remaining trace of either the first or third incarnation and very little of the second.

The upshot of our confusion was that instead of doing the building tour at 1030 as originally scheduled…we did that part right away, left for a self tour of the second iteration just north of town, then headed back for lunch rather than going for the scheduled 1400 fort tour. He explained that the Vincennes site didn’t really do scheduled tours but more of on demand tours but that the state folk insisted that they use the state website including the overly complex reservation system.

Nonetheless…pressing on with the historic buildings tour…none were originally at this location…several are original buildings that were moved from over on Main Street and the others are reconstructions using recycled materials from period buildings.

Left is the visitor center which is a reconstruction, the red building is the original capitol (it was a tailor shop before it was the capitol building) and the white print shop is another reconstruction albeit it with the original press inside. The capitol/tailor shop was moved twice…once from it’s original location on Main Street because the city wanted to make the street wider and the second time because the park across the street from this final location where it was originally moved became part of Vincennes University.

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This is the Senate chamber in the capitol…it’s upstairs in the second story because the Senate is the ‘upper house’. The President of the Senate sat on the dais with the clerk in front of him (and the clerk was the most educated/literate man in the room). The clerk wrote out legislation on paper and then handed the pages to young lads to run back and forth up and down the stairs to the House chamber below…this is where the term pageboys came from. 

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The original printing press used to produce the newspaper. According to our tour guide it still is operable although he wasn’t allowed to operate it.

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From there we headed up to what is now known as Fort Knox II…but other than some signage there wasn’t really anything there…and we were getting hot again so we did that tour pretty quickly and then headed back to town for lunch at the Pub ’n Grub…they advertised BBQ as their specialty. We had a couple of brews to start and then Neil told the bartender “you had me at brisket sandwich” and ordered that. Connie had a smoked pulled chicken sandwich. Both were excellent along with their highly recommended onion rings (according to Yelp and Yelp was quite correct in their evaluation) and it was going on 1430 by the time we were done with lunch so back to the hotel it was for…you guessed it…nap, shower, and get ready for dinner.

We were still pretty full from lunch so just headed out to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner which turned out to be cocktails, wine, and a couple of Caesar salads for dinner…along with the excellent fresh baked bread and honey butter they serve.

Friday we had breakfast and then headed for Lexington KY by way of Blue Springs Caverns IN…about 300 miles in total. Blue Springs Cavern is…naturally…a cave but this one has an underground river and the tour is on a little boat propelled by what looked like an electric trolling motor. We got there just after they opened at 1000 and paid for the 1000 tour which actually started at about 1020. From the office you head down about 40 feet underground to the boat landing then after boarding we headed upstream about 3/4 of a mile I guess before turning around and returning to the landing. Connie…as you know…loves boats rides so despite the fact that ordinarily she doesn’t like caves she picked this one anyway…and we had a nice time albeit a little chilly one as it is always about 52 degrees down in the cave.

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This is our tour guide Ashton…college kid working for the summer.

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The water ranges from inches to about 20 feet deep…and the width of the cavern from about 6 inches wider than the boat to maybe 20 feet. Ceiling height ranged from about 4 feet above the water to perhaps 30. The very manmade looking edges on this block are actually natural.

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A view of the rectangular blocks from the other side on our return trip…this one was taken with flash by Connie so is probably a better overall indication of the color of the rock…all the others are done sans flash by Neil using the lights mounted on the boat.

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Some debris from the recent spring flood…apparently the water level in the cave came up about 30 feet for several weeks meaning it was all underwater. Ashton claimed the current in the cave was running 70 mph during the flood…that seems pretty excessive to me and there’s no way they could get down there to measure it anyway. The boats were apparently stripped of equipment and left in place during the flood according to Ashton…which again seemed pretty far fetched. Neil thought it was much more likely they were just hauled out by hand or an ATV…they didn’t look like more than 200 pounds total for the aluminum boat.

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You can see the layered sedimentary rock in this shot.

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After leaving the boarding area on the way out…Neil got this shot of the river as it continues downstream but isn’t sufficiently deep or flat enough for a boat…this section of the cavern is about 40 or 50 feet high and about the same wide.

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Following the tour…we continued along to Lexington…stopped to grab a couple of chicken sandwiches from McD’s for lunch and we got to our hotel there just about checkin time. After yet another nap, shower period we headed about 2 blocks down the road to the Sedona Taproom for dinner…Old Fashioned for Neil and a Lemon Martini for Connie followed by a glass of wine each and a couple of flatbreads for dinner. All was excellent although the flatbreads were more like flatbread shaped pizzas than what one normally thinks of as a flatbread…nice crispy crust as one expects but rather than a light topping selection regular pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese. Still tasted good though…afterwards we headed back to the hotel for cookies, TV, and bed in anticipation of Saturday and Sunday on the Bourbon Trail in Lexington…but that’s still another blog post to come.

Cyas.

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