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

DSC_0385 (1)

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!

DSC03459 (1)

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.

IMG_20150630_173829_757 (1)

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

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