Churchill Downs and week 4 is in the books

Amazon Update

Week four is in the books, another 50 hour week, with voluntary overtime.  This week, they have called mandatory overtime for all shifts, as they are experiencing higher than expected volume for Halloween.  On a typical day, we are both picking 800 – 1000 items per day.  This week, at least 50% of the items were costumes or accessories.

At the beginning of each shift, and after lunch, we have “stand up”, where everyone is required to do stretching, and the managers will update us on the volume of the orders.  This week our manager stated 80% of all apparel that is ordered from Amazon is shipped out of our Fulfillment Center.  It is no wonder that this place is bursting at the seams with apparel everywhere.

Superman and Batman are running neck and neck in popularity this year, and Spiderman….what happened to you?  I have not picked many Spiderman costumes.  Anna is beating out Elsa,  for top honors with the Disney Frozen costumes. Star Wars and Star Trek are very hot this year.  And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to be very popular as well.

Time is going fast for us, which is surprising.  I remember our first year, it seemed to take a long time until our fourth week.  Personally, I think you need to commit to at least four weeks, before deciding to quit.  It seems everything seems to fall in place after the fourth week, and you realize “I can do this.”  We have had 3 Camperforce people quit so far.  One was due to a death in the family, another had a medical condition that made the job too difficult, and the other person said she just wanted to see what Amazon was like, but said it was more work than what she was interested in.  She quit in the 2nd week.

Churchill Downs

As with our last blog on Louisville Slugger, I am going back to 2012 when we visited Churchill Downs, and toured their excellent museum.   Churchill Downs opened in 1875 thanks to the efforts of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. the grandson of William Clark (of the famous Lewis and Clark explorers).  He leased the land from his uncles, Henry and John Churchill, which is where the name Churchill Downs came from.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Twenty years later, the grandstand, with the famous twin spires, was completed.  The finish line is the white post on the left side of the track on the photo below.

grandstand

grandstand

The age of the park shows when you walk around under the grandstands of the general seating area.

betting area under stands

betting area under stands

On the day of our visit, there were many trainers and jockeys out on the track with their horses.  It is easy to distinguish a trainer from a jockey, as jockeys must meet specific weight requirements (no more than 126 pounds, with equipment for the Kentucky Derby).

trainer with horse

trainer with horse

jockey with horse

jockey with horse

finish line in back

finish line in back

Churchill Downs has the Kentucky Derby Walk of Champions, where several past Derby winners are buried.  Usually, when a horse dies, only the head, heart and hooves are buried.  The head represents the will to win, the heart represents courage, and the hooves represent speed.  There are exceptions when the entire horse is buried, usually it is for distinguished champions, such as Secretariat.

past champions burial grounds

past champions burial grounds

The museum has a wonderful display of various memorabilia.  They have a large display on hats and outfits, donated from past patrons.

its all about hats

it’s all about hats

There is a display on the silks that jockeys wear, along with their other equipment they use.  The colors represent the horse and the rider.  The origins of the silks can be traced back to ancient Rome, when the chariot drivers wore specific colors so the crowds could identify them.

jockey silks

jockey silks

jockey accessories

jockey accessories

The museum also has a display honoring the current Kentucky Derby winner, showing them in the winners circle.  Anyone remember the 2012 winner?

2012 Winner

2012 Winner – I’ll Have Another

There is a large display listing the winners (and all the horses) of every Derby going back to 1875.

every winner displayed

every winner displayed

The first winner was Aristides.  The winning horse took home $2,850.00!  Compare that to this years winner, American Pharaoh, which took home $1,240,000.00.

The first Derby winner

The first Derby winner

And what would a visit to the museum be without trying my luck at racing?  They have a fun racing simulator that you can try out.  I had a lot of fun with this!

go, go, go!

go, go, go!

If you are ever in the Louisville area, this is a ‘must do’, in our opinion.  We had a great day visiting Churchill Downs and the Museum.

Quote for the Day:  “Until you go to the Kentucky Derby with your own eyes, behold the Derby, you ain’t never been nowhere and you ain’t never seen nothing.” – Irvin S. Cobb

Louisville Slugger Museum and Amazon update

Amazon Update

Week three at Amazon is in the books.  We have again signed up for voluntary overtime on Tuesday.  As such, we have not been doing too much on our off days, besides resting, laundry, grocery shopping and planning out the weeks meals (my crock pot is getting a good workout).  The work has been pretty steady, with more Halloween costumes, as well as winter coats, mittens and thermal underwear this week.

In talking with some full-time employees, they are anticipating a better “peak season” than last year at this center.  When we arrived last year, it was crazy busy and chaotic.  We have not seen that yet this year.  Last year they started their peak in August, and the employees had mandatory overtime from August through December.  It is mostly voluntary overtime at this time. This year they are expecting peak season to start in mid-November.  And as of now, they may not need to work the 11 hour shifts like they did last year.  Some employees are happy about that, others wanted the overtime (more money).  We shall see.  Ultimately, the customer drives the business.

Louisville Slugger Museum

In June of 2012, a year before we went full-time, we attended the Good Sam’s Rally in Louisville, Kentucky.  We were able to look at hundreds of RV’s, attend seminars, and talk with many full-time RVer’s.  Many of them made the same comment:  if I could do it all over again, I would have started sooner.

During the seminar, we took some time to explore the Louisville area, including a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum, right in downtown Louisville.  The museum is part of the factory, where they still make over 8,000 different models of bats for both professional and amateur players.  The museum and factory have a distinctive 120 foot tall bat located outside.  It is made of steel, and painted to look like wood.  It is a replica of Babe Ruth’s bat.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum

The museum has on display bats from many players, including this Babe Ruth bat from 1927, the year that Ruth hit 60 home runs.

The Babe

The Babe

They do allow you to hold several bats used from several hall of fame players (after you put on some protective batting gloves).  I was able to take a few practice swings with a bat used by Mickey Mantle.

swinging away

swinging away

They have a tribute to the women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (remember that Tom Hanks/Madonna movie?).

There's no crying in baseball!

There’s no crying in baseball!

We toured the factory (no photos allowed inside) and watched several bats being produced.  They used to hand carve the bats using a lathe, but now can produce several bats in just minutes on a machine.  In the museum, there is one window that looks into the factory.  The blue machine is what is used today to manufacture bats.

inside the factory

inside the factory

They have a boring machine that is used to extract billets from a log.  The billets are then placed into the machine and carved into the bats.

billets in a log

billets in a log

It’s a very interesting tour, and everyone receives a souvenir mini bat when you leave.

hanging with the Babe

hanging with the Babe

Quote for the day:  “Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half physical.” – Yogi Berra

Back to Wisconsin and a Few Side trips to Idaho

Our time in West Yellowstone has ended.  Sunday morning we hitched up and headed East.  We had several very long travel days (we took turns driving) and our currently parked in Wisconsin at Dan’s sisters house.  We will have a very busy two weeks here, before heading down to Jeffersonville, IN at the end of the month to start our fall work camping job with Amazon (year 3).

This morning we did our drug test for Amazon.  The woman at the lab remembered us from last year, and said she is still trying to convince her husband they need to follow in our footsteps!  We will be driving to MN for a bridal shower this weekend, and then down to the Milwaukee area for dentist and doctor appointments early next week.

We really enjoyed our jobs this summer at the Homeroom at Madison Crossing.  The owner asked us every day for the past several weeks to come back for next year, but we have always maintained we want to see other parts of the country each summer.  We have a few ideas in mind for next summer, but nothing definite at this time.  Hopefully we can solidify next summers job before this year is over.

In the meantime, I do have one last blog from our time this summer.

SIDE TRIPS TO IDAHO

We took advantage on some of our off days this summer to venture over into The Gem State, Idaho.  Most people would consider Idaho to be the potato state, as that is what it is most famous for.  But they are called the gem state for its abundance of natural resources and scenic areas.  The mountains contain veins of various minerals.

We checked out many of the local scenic areas that were a short drive from West Yellowstone.

Johnny Sack Cabin

Located in Island Park, Johnny Sack Cabin is a popular tourist destination.  Johnny Sack purchased a parcel of land from the forest service in 1929, and spent the next three years building a cabin and water-wheel on Big Springs.  The scenery is beautiful, and the water is crystal clear and a perfect spawning area for trout.

Johnny Sack cabin

Johnny Sack cabin

Big Springs

Big Springs

cabin with outhouse

cabin with outhouse

water wheel

water wheel

kitchen

kitchen

stone fireplace

stone fireplace

Mesa Falls

About 51 miles from West Yellowstone is the Mesa Falls Recreation Area which contains two water falls, along with Big Falls Inn, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Mesa Power Company built the Inn between 1912 – 1914, possibly as an office.  There were plans for a dam and power plant, but they were never built.  The Inn became a stage-coach stop and hotel for travelers to Yellowstone, and served many other purposes over the years, before being acquired by the Forest Service  in 1986.

Mesa Falls Inn

Mesa Falls Inn

There is an easy walking path from the Inn to Upper Mesa Falls, which is 114 feet high.  The falls is a very popular spot for photographers, because there always seems to be a rainbow present.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls is located about one mile downstream from the Upper Falls.  There is a distant overlook to view the 65 foot high falls.

Lower Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls

Our co-workers Tom and Ellen recommended we stop at Frostop in Ashton, Idaho for lunch.  They had delicious hamburgers, outdoor service and ice cold root beer.  We were too full to enjoy desert, which also looked good. This place was a blast from the past!

Frostop

Frostop

Sawtell Peak

When you approach Island Park, you can see a big metal ball on top of one of the mountains.  What most visitors don’t know, is that you can drive up to the top of Sawtell Peak.  Those that do venture up the 12 mile gravel, windy road full of switch backs, will discover spectacular views.  You can even see the Grand Tetons from the peak, which is amazing considering they are over 60 miles away (but difficult to get in a photograph).

Why is there a road going up to the top of the 9875 foot summit?  The big round ball is actually a FAA flight traffic radar control unit.  Our GPS shows how windy the road to the top is!

GPS of Sawtell Peak

GPS of Sawtell Peak

spectacular views

spectacular views

Big Sky, MT

Big Sky, MT

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When I saw Dan walking back up the hill, I immediately thought of Julie Andrews singing “The Hills are Alive” in the Sound of Music movie!

The Hills are Alive!

The Hills are Alive!

Idaho, from the small amount that we have seen, is truly a “gem” state.  We hope to return and explore many more areas in this area..

Quote for the day (in remembrance of 9/11):  “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

Things to do in West Yellowstone

For a town of 1200, West Yellowstone is a fairly good-sized “small town”, with many hotels, restaurants, and a few tourist attractions.  It is land locked, with the park on one side, and US Forest Service land on the other.  If you will be staying in this area on your visit to Yellowstone, there are a few things to see.

Fishing is a big attraction, and this area is one of the top fly fishing areas in the country.  Dan has gone fishing a few times with our co-worker Tom in various rivers and lakes in the area.  (they have not had many keepers though)

Tom fishing

Tom fishing on the Madison River

Launching boat on Hebgen Lake

Launching boat on Hebgen Lake

Museum

The town has a very nice museum that details the development of the region, and how tourism has grown over the years.  The early visitors to the park arrived by train, and the museum is housed in the historic Union Pacific train depot.  On display are several stage coaches that transported visitors into the park, as well as other historical artifacts.

Museum

Museum

They left most of the train station in its original state.

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

early days of travel

early days of travel

Two excellent movies are also featured, one on the impact of the 1959 Earthquake, and the other on the 1988 wildfires that burned out of control in Yellowstone.  We gave both “two thumbs up”, but if you only have time for one, watch the one on the fire.  That alone was worth the price of admission ($6).

There are displays on fly fishing, including this unusual Singer sewing machine, which was turned into a machine to tie flies.

not your grandma's Singer!

not your grandma’s Singer!

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Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is another very popular attraction in town.  It is a non-profit wildlife park featuring several wolves, bears and birds of prey that would have euthanized if not for the center taking them in.  Your admission ($11) is valid for two days.

The wolves are always in their habitats for viewing, and are well fed.

DSC_0304 (1)The bears are taken in and out of the bear habitat on a rotating basis.  Before they switch out the bears, the staff will hide food under the rocks, and then a few bears will be let out to look for food.  They have some nice sized grizzly bears on display.  The ravens patiently wait by the bears and clean up all the scraps of food.

DSC_0367 (1) DSC_0371 (1)They do have a children’s program where they let the kids come in and hide the food, which they seemed to enjoy, although some kids wanted nothing to do with touching the  fish!

DSC_0399 (1)

The center also tests out a lot of containers to see how “bear proof” they are, and have worked with companies to make bear proof garbage cans.

DSC_0337Although we enjoyed our visit, we thought Bear Country USA in Rapid City was a much more enjoyable experience, as the animals are left in a more natural environment.  But they did have a nice couch in their gift shop!

DSC_0402

Playmill Theater is a wonderful little theater right in downtown.  This summer featured three different plays, Damn Yankees, Mary Poppins and Foreigner.  We did receive a free pass ($26/per person) and saw a great musical performance of Damn Yankees.  Most of the cast is made up of college students from Idaho, Montana and Colorado.  Before each show, they have a quick variety show, displaying the talents of each member.

This is a photo before the play started/no photos during the play.

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If you have time for only one thing in town, this would be it.  Make sure you book your tickets ahead of time, as the theater is very small, which assures you every seat is a good one. For those of you who like movies there is a giant screen theater in town where we were able to see a nice 45 minute documentary on the history of Yellowstone.

Quote for the day:  “The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does.” – Immanuel Kant

Two days, two different experiences in Charleston, South Carolina

We left Florida Monday morning and ventured up I-95 to Charleston, SC.  Our trip was uneventful, other than seeing three different men peeing on the side of the road while going through Georgia.  Perhaps the state should put up a rest area on that short 105 mile stretch through that state!!  And if you have a four-door vehicle, open both doors and stand in the middle….just a thought!

After getting set up in our campground, we were excited to visit historic downtown Charleston.  Unfortunately, we arrived the day after Easter, when many families were on Spring Break.  It was a traffic nightmare!  After driving around for over an hour, finding parking lot after parking lot, full, we just gave up.  And then spent another hour in bumper to bumper traffic to go 15 miles to back to our campground.  We were both very frazzled and disappointed!

After taking the dog for a long walk to calm our nerves, we turned on the news, and the lead story was coverage of a meeting going on in Charleston to try to improve visitors experiences to the city!  We both laughed at the irony.  They are trying to figure out what to do about the traffic jams and the lack of parking.  Hopefully they will come up with a solution.

Today we got up early to beat the traffic and head over to Mount Pleasant, SC to see Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.  Unlike yesterday, today we had an awesome experience!  If you are in the area, we would strongly recommend spending time visiting this place.  Patriots Point is home of the aircraft carrier  USS Yorktown (CV-10), Destroyer Laffey (DD-724), Submarine Clamagore (SS-343), Medal of Honor Museum and The Vietnam Experience Exhibit.  Admission is $20, and you can easily spend all day touring everything.  We spent about 5 hours, and could easily have taken more time to read all the exhibit signs.

Here is a view of all three in the water.

Patriots Point

Patriots Point

The USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier was commissioned on April 15, 1943 and fought in many historic battles in World War II.  She was converted to an antisubmarine carrier in the 1950’s and served in that capacity in the Vietnam War.  In addition, the carrier recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and their capsule after they returned to Earth.  The carrier is very impressive in size at 888 feet in length.

USS Yorktown CV-10

USS Yorktown CV-10

Dan on flight deck

Dan on flight deck

Bridge of carrier

Bridge of carrier

view of flight deck from bridge

view of flight deck from bridge

some big guns

some big guns

more views of flight deck

more views of flight deck

The self-guided tour allows access to many areas of the carrier, giving you a good idea of what life was like on board.  During WWII, 3,088 enlisted men along with 380 officers served on duty.  They had 90 planes on board between the flight deck and the hangar, which is just below the deck.

long hallways

long hallways

The tour provided access to all levels on the carrier.  There is an extensive medical and dental area.

open wide!

open wide!

operating room

operating room

Pilots Ready Room

Pilots Ready Room

The enlisted crew did not have much privacy, as they had a bunk and a small locker.

Crew's Berthing

Crew’s Berthing

The carrier had their own bakery, and they had several recipes on display, including this one to make 10,000 chocolate chip cookies!

a bakers delight

a bakers delight

The Destroyer Laffey seemed rather tiny next to the Yorktown Carrier, although it is still 376 feet long.  The Laffey was involved in the D-Day landing of Allied troops in Normandy. Just four months later it was out fighting in the Pacific.  On April 16, 1945, the Laffey was bombed by the Japanese and several kamikaze planes.  32 men were killed and the ship sustained heavy damage.  Yet the crew of 336 continued fighting and shot down their attackers.  The destroyer earned the nickname “The Ship that Would Not Die.”  This is a view of the Laffey from the deck of the carrier.

Destroyer Laffey DD-724

Destroyer Laffey DD-724

The front gun mount on the Laffey was the area struck by the bombs. It was rebuilt and now they show a short, but sobering film about the attack and the men who were working inside the mount.  As with the Yorktown, you can view many levels and rooms.

Laffey DD-724

Laffey DD-724

The Laffey contained this very interesting US Navy QH-50D Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) from 1966. Many people commented on this “old school” style drone. Drones have certainly come a long way in design and technology!

1966 style drone

1966 style drone

The submarine Clamagore was commissioned in 1945, near the end of WWII.  This diesel-powered sub remained in service until 1975.

Submarine Clamagore SS-343

Submarine Clamagore SS-343

The sub in not for someone afraid of confined spaces!   There are a lot of small spaces to navigate through.

small openings

small openings

Torpedo room and bunks for the men assigned to this detail.

Torpedo and bunks underneath

Torpedo and bunks underneath

Patriots Point also has an area on land entitled The Vietnam Experience, to show what life was like during the Tet Offensive on a US Navy Advanced Tactical Support Base and a US Marine Corps Artillery Firebase. It was a very moving exhibit.

Vietnam Experience

Vietnam Experience

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inside of helicopter

inside of helicopter

This was truly a wonderful display of military history. We want to thank everyone who has served our country in the military including some of our family and friends.

Quote of the day: “When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship.” – Dick Gregory

Chapel in the Hills

Rapid City, SD is home to the Chapel in the Hills, an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke built around 1150 in Laerdal, Norway.  A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building, named because the load-bearing posts are called stav in Norwegian.  The Chapel, completed in July of 1969, was originally built as the home for the “Lutheran Vespers” radio program.  When that program moved to Minnesota in 1975, it left no support for the Chapel, and a non-profit organization was formed.  The Chapel is now an ELCA church, although it has no congregation, and receives no funding from the organization. Private donations, gift shop sales and wedding fees support the Chapel.  It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

front view

front view

The front door of the Chapel is known as the “men’s door”, as men stood on one side of the church, women and children on the other side, in early times of the church.  Women and children entered through the side door, known as the women’s door.

side view

side view

 

inside facing altar

inside facing altar

In the photo below, Dan is looking though the leper’s window.  A person with leprosy, an infectious skin disease, was not permitted to enter the main church, but could receive communion through this window.

the leper's window

the leper’s window

A prayer walkway has been added to the grounds behind the Chapel.

view back on prayer path

view back on prayer path

There are sculptures along the path with inspirational messages.

never lose faith

never lose faith

The gift shop has a grass roof and displays the flag of Norway.

gift shop

gift shop

There is also a small museum, in an original Norwegians settler’s log cabin, that was relocated from Keystone, SD.  The museum has many items used by the early immigrants.  And of course, they have statues of Ole and Lena in front!

Ole and Lena

Ole and Lena

inside their cabin

inside their cabin

We were surprised at how tiny the Chapel was, but enjoyed the visit.  It would be a nice place to have a small wedding at.

Quote for the day:  (well it’s more of a Norwegian joke of the day) “One Sunday morning, the Lutheran pastor noticed Ole standing in the foyer of church staring up at a large plaque.  It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it.  The old Norwegian had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside Ole, and said quietly, ‘Good morning Ole.’

‘Good morning Pastor,’ he replied, still focused on the plaque.  ‘Pastor, vat is dis?’  The pastor said, ‘Well, it is a memorial to all the men and women who died in the service.’  Soberly, they just stood together staring at the large plaque.

Finally, Ole’s voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked, ‘Vich service, da 8:30 or da 10:45?’

A day of Geology and Geography

We are currently in Kentucky, but I will be posting a few more blogs from South Dakota.

With a dog sitter in place for Makena (thanks Dick and Cheryl), we took a day trip over to Devils Tower, Wyoming, about 120 miles from Custer, SD.  In 1906, Devils Tower became the nations first national monument.  It plays a prominent part in the classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” movie from 1978.

a view from afar

a view from afar

There are two theories about how the tower formed, one from geologists, and the other from Native Americans.  Geologists agree that the tower is an intrusion, formed by magma, and has been exposed by erosion.  There are multiple theories on how this occurred, but in simple terms, as the rock cooled, it contracted and formed hexagonal columns.  (Todays math lesson: a hexagon has 6 sides)

The Native American legend is several girls were playing and a bear began chasing them.  As they tried to get back to their tribe, they jumped on a rock and began praying to the rock to save them.  The rock, only several feet in height, began rising out of the ground, out of reach of the bear.  The bear attempted to claw its way to the top, forming the “claw” marks on the tower, but was unable to do so.  Devils Tower remains sacred to many tribes today.

getting closer

getting closer

 

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

There is a relatively easy 1.3 mile walking trail encircling the tower, affording many different views of the columns.  The base of the tower has a large rock pile, from the rock believed to have fallen off after the magna had cooled.  The rocks at the base have been slowly eroding away, further exposing more of the columns of the tower.

Close Encounters

Close Encounters

 Devils Tower, at a height of 867 feet, is a very popular park for rock climbing.  There is a voluntary closure during the month of June, as many Native American Tribes hold ceremonies during this month.  We were able to watch 3 climbers for a while.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the three, one at the top center, middle left, and bottom center. (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge it)

3 hikers

3 hikers

In 2008, Japanese sculptor Junkyu Muto installed a sculpture on the property, “Circle of Sacred Smoke”.  The sculpture represents the first puff of smoke from the pipe used by Native Americans during their ceremonies.  The two granite boulders beneath the sculpture are blast fragments from Crazy Horse Memorial.

scultpure

sculpture

view thru sculpture

view thru sculpture

After soaking up all the geology, we heading over to Belle Fourche, SD to finish up with some Geography and History.  Belle Fourche (pronounced Bell Fuush), is the geographic center of the United States of America.

Belle Fourche, SD

Belle Fourche, SD

There is a large monument, with a geographic marker that I am standing on.  Been there, done that!

standing in the middle

standing in the middle

All fifty state flags surround the monument.

the monument

the monument

Also at the monument is the Tri-State Museum (free admission, donations welcome) which has some interesting items on display.  For the ladies that wanted curls, they could go down to the beauty parlor and sit under this machine, that looks like something found in a Frankenstein movie!

high tech perm machine

high-tech perm machine

The museum had a photograph showing a women getting her hair done.  It did not state how long this process took.

getting a perm

getting a perm

Vacuum cleaners have come a long was as well.  This is the Great Northern Vacuum Cleaner, made in Chicago, Illinois.  It is not electric, but a suction plunger model.

vacuum cleaner

vacuum cleaner

This is the Ironrite Mangle, a 1940’s model ironing machine.  You would feed your clothes into the heated roller.

ironing machine

ironing machine

Below is the Hodge Bootery X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine, which was popular in the late 1940s and early 1950’s.  The shoe salesperson would take an x-ray of your feet to determine your proper shoe size.  In 1950, they realized the hazards from the radiation, and by 1970, 33 states had banned the machines.

shoe x-ray machine

shoe x-ray machine

The museum was also selling a poster of ‘Crazy Horse’, with a disclaimer that it is “believed” to be the only known photograph taken of him, in 1877.  In reality, no known photograph of Crazy Horse exists.

Crazy Horse??

Crazy Horse??

It was an interesting day, and the museum was a nice little find.  We would recommend a trip out to Devils Tower if you are staying in the Black Hills, or as a stopover on the way out West.

Quote for the Day:  “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” – Nate Berkus

 

 

 

Crocidiles, Snakes and Lizards….oh my!

If you love snakes, spiders, alligators, crocodiles and birds (and who doesn’t?!!), then Reptile Gardens, located just South of Rapid City, is a perfect place to spend an afternoon.

Hello!

Hello!

Good to know

Good to know

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Reptile Gardens has more species and sub-species of reptiles than any other zoo or park in the world.  They offer several informative programs every day, on snakes, birds and a popular alligator/crocodile show.  One of the more popular residents of Reptile Gardens is the giant tortoise.  There are two species, Galapagos (which is endangered) and Aldabra  (which is a threatened species).  They average 500 pounds in weight, and 4 to 5 1/2 feet depending on the species.  They are very gentle creatures, and it was fun getting to pet them.

making new friends!

making new friends!

These little ones seemed to be having some fun!

just playing around

just playing around

The Sky Dome contains a tropical jungle with birds, lizards, and small turtles roaming around.  It also has a beautiful display of tropical plants and flowers.

Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens

They have several different species of Amazon and Macaw birds on display, that seemed quite happy with their surroundings, and were oblivious to us humans.

Macaw's

Macaw’s

The Alligator/Crocodile show is very popular, and educational as well.  The handler discusses the difference between the two species, and will show you how to wrangle them, if you so desire!

don't try this at home!

don’t try this at home!

During the show, the handler comes out with a bucket of raw chicken legs, which they seem to enjoy and swallow whole.

yummy chicken!

yummy chicken!

At the end of the show, the handler goes around with Fluffy, their baby crocodile.  Who can resist petting her?

petting a baby crocodile

petting a baby crocodile

They do have an exhibit of a Komodo Dragon, which is the largest lizard in the world.  Males can reach up to 10 feet long.  The Dragons will eat snakes, pigs and pesky tourists, according to the sign at the display.

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

But the highlight of Reptile Gardens is their impressive display of snakes.  What is the worlds most deadliest snake?  According to Reptile Gardens, it is the Inland Taipan, as it has the most toxic venom of any snake known on the planet.  However, because of its limited range of living in remote Australia, there are no known deaths from this snake.  This snake was hiding out in the back of the display, so I was unable to get a good picture of it.

Inland Taipan

Inland Taipan

The Rough-Scaled Python, is considered to be the rarest snake in the world.  It is non-venomous.  The species were first found in 1976, but a second one was not located until 1983.  They were found in Northern Australia, and Reptile Gardens was the first place to have, and to breed them, outside of Australia.  They live in sandstone crevices and usually come out after dark to warm up on heat stored in the rocks.

Rough-scaled Python

Rough-scaled Python

The Boomslang, found in Tropical Africa south of the Sahara, is the most venomous rear-fanged snake in the world.  The snake is able to open its mouth a full 180 degrees, to display its potent fangs.

Boomslang

Boomslang

The Black Mamba, found in Central and South Africa, is the second longest venomous snake in the world, growing up to 14 feet in length.  If left untreated, 100% of Black Mamba snake bites are fatal.  Just 2 drops of their venom is lethal, and a bite will usually deposit 15 drops.  This snake just shed it’s skin, which was left in the cage on the left.  The snake is sprawled out on the right side.

Black Mamba

Black Mamba

The Australian Scrub Python, a non-venomous snake, is the largest species native to Australia.  They can get up to 28 feet, although 16 feet is the norm.  There are two snakes in the photo below, all wrapped up together.  They are the only 2 in the United States.

Australian Scrub Python

Australian Scrub Python

The Anaconda, a non-venomous snake, is the largest, heaviest and second longest snake in existence.  (the longest snake is the Reticulated Python) They can weigh up to 300 pounds, and grow 22 feet in length.  The females have been known to eat smaller males!

Anaconda

Anaconda

The very large, non-venomous Burmese Python can lay up to 100 six-inch eggs.  They are unusual in the reptile world in that they will incubate their eggs by coiling up around them, and raising their body temperature about 7 degrees.

Burmese Python

Burmese Python

This is the skeleton of a Burmese Python, which contains 328 pairs of ribs and 400 vertebrae.  It is estimated this snake weighed 150 pounds and was 19 feet in length.

Burmese Python Skeleton

Burmese Python Skeleton

The cost for Reptile Gardens is $16.50, which includes a pass allowing you to return all season.

Quote of the day:  “Do not insult the crocodile until you have crossed the river.”  – Chinese Proverb

South Dakota Air and Space Museum

Next door to Ellsworth Air Force Base in Box Elder, SD is the excellent South Dakota Air and Space Museum (free to everyone, donations happily accepted), which contains dozens of airplanes, helicopters and missiles both indoors and outdoors.

B-1B

B-1B Lancer from the front

The exhibit includes planes that were flown out of the AFB, such as the B-52 Stratofortress, EC-135 Looking Glass, B-29 Superfortress, and the B-1B Lancer, which is currently in use at the base.  There is an optional tour available of the base ($8, free with VIP pass).  It was the first time we had been on an active military base, and we were happy to venture out with our friends Forrest and Mary for the tour.  Our tour guide stated they normally do not put a “current model” out on display, but this plane had been heavily damaged, so they scraped it for parts, and placed it prominently on display in front of the museum.

B-1B Lancer

B-1B Lancer

We were impressed by the massive size of the B-52 plane.

B-52 Stratofortress

B-52 Stratofortress

It’s predecessor, the B-29 Superfortress, was also a great looking plane.

B-29 Superfortress

B-29 Superfortress

The EC-135 Looking Glass was another plane used at the base.

EC-135 Looking Glass

EC-135 Looking Glass

The photo below has the Nike-Ajax Missile in the center, the F-101 Voodoo on the far left, the C-47 Gooney Bird and the C-131 Samaritan on the far right.

Nike-Ajax Missile

Nike-Ajax Missile

More planes on display

various planes

various planes

The photo below has the T-38 Talon on the left, and the A-7 Corsair – II on the right.

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The tour of the base was approximately one hour, with a stop at the Minuteman Missile Silo right on the base.  Currently, there are over 3,000 people living on the base.  At its peak, during the Cold War era, over 7,000 members were assigned to the base.

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The AFB used to contain the 44th Missile Wing, which was in charge of the Minuteman Missile Sites.  The base contains a silo that was used for training on all facets of the program.  The first silo was installed in 1963 near Wall, SD.  By the end of 1963, over 150 missile silos were dispersed across South Dakota.  All training for the personnel was done at the AFB.    The end of the cold war was reached in 1991, and the missiles were deactivated.  The 44th Missile Wing was disbanded in 1994.  You can read more on the history of the 44th and the Minuteman missiles here.

The missiles were brought to the sites using the maintenance vehicle below.  The back-end of the vehicle would raise up and over the missile site in the ground, and they could lower the missile down into the silo.

maintenance vehicle

maintenance vehicle

The next vehicle to arrive would contain the actual nuclear warhead and would also sit over the site.  They would put covers down over the hole, and would complete work on the installation.

2nd maintenance vehicle

2nd maintenance vehicle

The entrance into the silo required a secure, double entry system.

double entry

double entry

Since this was a training facility, the officers grew tired of having to go down the hatches every day, so stairs were built at this silo.

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We were able to look down into the silo at the missile.

maintenance opening

maintenance opening

deactivated warhead

deactivated warhead

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There are electrical components surrounding the silo.

electrical components

electrical components

 

The museum also contained a display of the launch control center, which were capsules buried underground throughout South Dakota.  Each center was in charge of 10 missile silos.

launch control center

launch control center

The museum and tour of the base was an excellent and informative lesson in our military history.  It is definitely a “must see” item if you come out to this area.  There is also a Minuteman Missile Site and Launch Control Facility operated by the National Park Service about 60 miles East of the base.  We have not yet visited that facility, but hope to do so before we leave this area in a few weeks.  You are not able to go down into the missile silo at the park service facility, as they do not have stairs like the AFB had put in their training silo.  But they do offer tours of the launch control facility on a first come-first served basis.  And they are only able to take 6 people down at a time in the control center.  So if you are interested in the missile site, it would be a good idea to tour the museum and Ellsworth Air Force Base as an alternative.

Quote for the day:  “If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.” – Chuck Yeager

 

 

 

 

 

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

During our Sturgis visit, we spent about 45 minutes touring the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.  During the rally, admission to the museum is $10.00, free with our VIP pass.  There are 2 levels of exhibits to the museum, and covers a brief history of motorcycles and the history of the Sturgis Rally.

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

They have several dozen motorcycles on display, including many brands that we never heard of.  In 1938, Indian Motorcycle Dealer J.C. “Pappy” Hoel and the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club held the first races in Sturgis.  This became the basis for starting the Sturgis Rally in August.  This is a 1938 Indian Chief.

1938 Indian Chief

1938 Indian Chief

Just 10 years later, the Indian Chief model:

1948 Indian Chief

1948 Indian Chief

Here are some earlier models of the Indian motorcycles:

1923 Big Chief

1923 Big Chief

Indian motorcycles were very popular racing bikes, before Harley Davidson started producing racing models.

1911 Indian

1911 Indian

In 1914 Harley Davidson started sponsoring motorcycle racing, and hired engineers with racing experience to come up with this “speedster”

1915 HD Board Track Racer

1915 HD Board Track Racer

The Flying Merkel was known as one of the fastest racing bikes in its time.

1912 Flying Merkel

1912 Flying Merkel

This chopper was built by OCC Choppers Paul Tuetel, and is supposed to mimic BIC’s Flex 4 razor (or so the sign says!)

BIC Flex 4 Chopper

BIC Flex 4 Chopper

Many motorcycles from other countries are on display as well.

 

lots of other brands

lots of other brands

In 1949, the Indian motorcycle company tried to go with a more European style, to compete with the many imported motorcycles that were gaining popularity in the US.

1949 Indian Arrow

1949 Indian Arrow

This motorcycle was designed specifically for London’s fog and rain.  It can hold up to 4 people, and keep the riders relatively dry, due to the larger windshield and lower leg fairings.

1966 Matchless w/sidecar

1966 Matchless w/sidecar

Perhaps this is why people enjoy riding motorcycles so much?

sign in museum

sign in museum

Quote for the day:  “Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.” – author unknown