The hail, you say

hail_2001As the old poem goes, the fog comes on little cat feet.  The hail on June 9th, 2001, however…well, that came in its own indescribable fashion.  The most noteworthy memory of this is the two underpasses on 7th and 9th Streets filling up with ice and water.  I was at a friend’s house that evening and remember walking to Thayer Avenue just east of St. Alexius to watch the city clearing chest-high piles of hail stones with a payloader and grader!

In the process of going through old motorcycle racing video tapes last week I found the footage of this event, footage I had presumed lost.  This was before I was into photography or videography, so even though I had a digital camcorder at the time I did not have a steady hand.  But shaky amateur footage is better than none, right?  Have a look:


Click on the YouTube logo to view in a larger window

it was over ninety degrees out that evening, so once all the hail fell it began to melt and give off steam.  That’s why it seems so dark and foggy, it was a sauna outside.  My camera gave multiple high humidity warnings before actually shutting down to protect itself. 12th Street was half river, half avalanche for the duration of this storm. It was unbelievable. The hail piled up in a low spot at 12th Street and Thayer Avenue, forcing the city to bring in heavy equipment and dig/plow it out.  . The clouds were incredible.  And the underpasses needed to be dug out and cleared by that same sort of heavy machinery.

Do you remember this storm?

I always knew that this would happen, but I was hoping not today

capitol_tree_32410Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with sadness that I announce this unfortunate news: the 2014 Christmas tree (pictured above) adorning the capitol’s Memorial Hall is the last live tree I will ever be able to photograph for you.  Starting today, the tree will be an artificial tree purchased for Christmas 2015.  Fire code dictates that they can no longer do a live tree, and let’s face it – North Dakota has already had one capitol burn down, and they’d like to avoid another.

I eagerly await the tree each year, and I took great pleasure in this post which shows how they brought the monstrous live tree into the building each year.  But the magic is gone, sorta.  After catching word that this year’s tree would be an artificial one, I decided to juice up on cold medicine, climb off the couch, and go visit the capitol.  I went at 5:00 before the doors were locked, hoping to get a glimpse of the new tree.  When I arrived, the assembly was just beginning.  Here’s how it happens now:

 

2015_capitol_tree_36003The tree is assembled in sections.  The wide bottom parts are large curved metal pieces with electrical wiring attached for lights.  One good part about this tree is that it will contain lights, something that was an absolutely no-no with the live trees.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36019A ladder is used to help in assembly, but the tree is intentionally designed to support the weight of people climbing it to complete the task and attach all the various accoutrements.  That’s good, because it is MUCH taller than the ladder.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36039Once they get to the narrower parts of the tree, it is no longer quite as sectional.  These hoops and point represent the top four sections.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36008These make up the foliage, which is designed to look like some specific kind of fir tree I forgot to mention.  And yes, they go in very specific locations just like your tree at home.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36009All lined up and ready to attach.  I was sick today, so I didn’t hang out to watch the foliage be attached.  I’ll probably check it out in the morning if I’m feeling better.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36023These are already pre-wired with pretty warm-white LED bulbs, something I already mentioned that was verboten on the old trees.  They look really nice and are going to be very bright once the pieces are all combined.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36012One of the things that makes the tree so special each year isn’t changing one bit: the decorations made by North Dakotans through the ND Council On the Arts.  They await in these bins, ready to adorn the new tree.

 

2015_capitol_tree_36072Here the guys get the top of the tree ready to mount.  It’s so high that they need to do this before they take it to the top of the tree. This tree is significantly taller than trees in the past.

The crew was working into the night to finish the tree when I bolted back home to my couch and some Theraflu to continue my recovery from the crud that’s going around.  I’m not going to try to get a photo of it until after all the decorations are attached, which is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, December first).

It’s sad that we can’t have a real tree, but the Facilities Management folks did a lot of research before choosing just the right artificial tree for the Memorial Hall (subject to the procurement process, of course).  They understand the personal connection that North Dakotans have to the capitol Christmas display.  It isn’t their fault that there won’t be any more real trees, as it’s fire code that has finally ruled out.

One could be cranky about this, but I choose instead to appreciate the work that is put into decorating the capitol each year so North Dakotans can enjoy the season at our favorite local landmark.  I humbly suggest you do the same.

Presidents before “44” used today to thank God for His provision

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing objectionable about the Preezy’s 2015 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.  It would be nice if it mentioned God, though.  The only mention He received this year was within quotes from George Washington’s original Proclamation.  While there’s plenty of mention of gratitude and thanksgiving, the Lord is left out.  In doing so, this Proclamation misses the point altogether.  Gratitude, appreciation, community, togetherness…I maintain that those should be part of every day, as should thanks to our Creator.  But if we’re going to have a formal holiday centered around giving of thanks, those thanks should be directed heavenward.

 

For context, here are a few important Thanksgiving proclamations from the past:

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation: June 20, 1676
The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgements he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God’s Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.

By the Governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts


First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation – George Washington, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

1863 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

(Signed)Abraham Lincoln

1877 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
The completed circle of summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, has brought us to the accustomed season at which a religious people celebrates with praise and thanksgiving the enduring mercy of Almighty God. This devout and public confession of the constant dependence of man upon the divine favor for all the goodgifts of life and health and peace and happiness, so early in our history made the habit of our people, finds in the survey of the past year new grounds for its joyful and grateful manifestation.

In all the blessings which depend upon benignant seasons, this has indeed been a memorable year. Over the wide territory of our country, with all its diversity of soil and climate and products, the earth has yielded a bountiful return to the labor of the husbandman. The health of the people has been blighted by no prevalent or widespread diseases. No great disasters of shipwreck upon our coasts or to our commerce on the seas have brought loss and hardship to merchants or mariners and clouded the happiness of the community with sympathetic sorrow.

In all that concerns our strength and peace and greatness as a nation; in all that touches the permanence and security of our Government and the beneficent institutions on which it rests; in all that affects the character and dispositions of our people and tests our capacity to enjoy and uphold the equal and free condition of society, now permanent and universal throughout the land, the experience of the last year is conspicuously marked by the protecting providence of God and is full of promise and hope for the coming generations.

Under a sense of these infinite obligations to the Great Ruler of Times and Seasons and Events, let us humbly ascribe it to our own faults and frailties if in any degree that perfect concord and happiness, peace and justice, which such great mercies should diffuse through the hearts and lives of our people do not altogether and always and everywhere prevail. Let us with one spirit and with one voice lift up praise and thanksgiving to God for His manifold goodness to our land, His manifest care for our nation.

Now, therefore, I, Rutherford B. Hayes, President of the United States, do appoint Thursday, the 29th day of November next, as a day of national thanksgiving and prayer; and I earnestly recommend that, withdrawing themselves from secular cares and labors, the people of the United States do meet together on that day in their respective places of worship, there to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for His mercies and to devoutly beseech their continuance.

(signed)R.B. HAYES

1987 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
Thanksgiving Day is one of our most beloved holidays, an occasion set aside by Americans from earliest times to thank our Maker prayerfully and humbly for the blessings and the care He bestows on us and on our beautiful, bountiful land. Through the decades, through the centuries, in log cabins, country churches, cathedrals, homes, and halls, the American people have paused to give thanks to God, in time of peace and plenty or of danger and distress.

Acknowledgment of dependence on God’s favor was, in fact, our fledgling Nation’s very first order of business. When the delegates to the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774, they overcame discord by uniting in prayer for our country. Despite the differences among them as they began their work, they found common voice in the 35th Psalm, which concludes with a verse of joyous gratitude, “And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of they praise all the day long.”

This year, of course, our Thanksgiving Day celebration coincides with the Bicentennial of the Constitution. In 1789 the government established by that great charter of freedom, and “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed,” were cited by George Washington in the first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation as among “the great and various favors” conferred upon us by the Lord and Ruler of Nations. As we thank the God our first President called “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,” we have even greater cause for gratitude than the fresh triumphs that inspired Washington’s prose. We have seen the splendor of our natural resource spread across the tables of the world, and we have seen the splendor of freedom cursing with new vigor through the channels of history. The cause for which we give thanks, for which so many of our citizens through the years have given their lies, has endured 200 years – a blessing to us and a light to all mankind.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1987, let us, in this unbroken chain of observance, dedicate ourselves to honor anew the Author of Liberty and to publicly acknowledge our debt to all those who have sacrificed so much in our behalf. May our gratitude always be coupled with petitions for divine guidance and protection for our Nation and with ready help for our neighbors in time of need.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 26, 1987, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.

(signed)RONALD REAGAN


1989 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
On Thanksgiving Day, we Americans pause as a Nation to give thanks for the freedom and prosperity with which we have been blessed by our Creator. Like the pilgrims who first settled in this land, we offer praise to God for His goodness and generosity and rededicate ourselves to lives of service and virtue in His sight.

This annual observance of Thanksgiving was a cherished American tradition even before our first President, George Washington, issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. In his first Inaugural Address, President Washington observed that “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” He noted that the American people – blessed with victory in their fight for Independence and with an abundance of crops in their fields – owed God “some return of pious gratitude.” Later, in a confidential note to his close advisor, James Madison, he asked “should the sense of the Senate be taken on … a day of Thanksgiving?” George Washington thus led the way to a Joint Resolution of Congress requesting the President to set aside “a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal Favors of Almighty God.”

Through the eloquent words of President Washington’s initial Thanksgiving proclamation – the first under the Constitution – we are reminded of our dependence upon our Heavenly Father and of the debt of gratitude we owe to Him. “It is the Duty of all Nations,” wrote Washington, “to acknowledge the Providence of almighty God, to obey his Will, to be grateful for his Benefits, and humbly to implore His Protection and Favor.”

President Washington asked that on Thanksgiving Day the people of the United States:

“unite in rendering unto [God] our sincere and humble Thanks for his kind Care and Protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation; for … the great degree of Tranquility, Union and Plenty which we have since enjoyed; for … the civil and religious Liberty with which we are blessed, and … for all the great and various Favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

Two hundred years later, we continue to offer thanks to the Almighty – not only for the material prosperity that our Nation enjoys, but also for the blessings of peace and freedom. Our Nation has no greater treasures than these.
As we pause to acknowledge the kindnesses God has shown to us – and, indeed, His gift of life itself – we do so in a spirit of humility as well as gratitude. When the United States was still a fledgling democracy, President Washington asked the American people to unite in prayer to the “great Lord and ruler of Nations,” in order to:

“beseech him to pardon our national and other Transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private Stations, to perform our several and relative Duties properly and punctually; to render our national Government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a Government of wise, just and constitutional Laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations … and to bless them with good Government, peace and Concord.”

Today, we, too, pause on Thanksgiving with humble and contrite hearts, mindful of God’s mercy and forgiveness and of our continued need for His protection and guidance. On this day, we also remember that one gives praise to God not only through prayers of thanksgiving, but also through obedience to His commandments and service to others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.

While some Presidents followed Washington’s precedent, and some State Governors did as well, President Lincoln – despite being faced with the dark specter of civil war – renewed the practice of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. This venerable tradition has been sustained by every President since then, in times of strife as well as times of peace and prosperity.

Today, we continue to offer thanks and praise to our Creator, that “Great Author of every public and private good,” for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. In so doing, we recall the timeless words of the 100th Psalm:

“Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 1989, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the American people to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us and our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fourteenth.

(signed)GEORGE BUSH


2007 Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation
Americans are a grateful people, ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed. On Thanksgiving Day, we lift our hearts in gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the gifts of our prosperous land.

Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace. The early explorers and settlers who arrived in this land gave thanks for God’s protection and for the extraordinary natural abundance they found. Since the first National Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by President George Washington, Americans have come together to offer thanks for our many blessings. We recall the great privilege it is to live in a land where freedom is the right of every person and where all can pursue their dreams. We express our deep appreciation for the sacrifices of the honorable men and women in uniform who defend liberty. As they work to advance the cause of freedom, our Nation keeps these brave individuals and their families in our thoughts, and we pray for their safe return.

While Thanksgiving is a time to gather in a spirit of gratitude with family, friends, and neighbors, it is also an opportunity to serve others and to share our blessings with those in need. By answering the universal call to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves, we make our Nation a more hopeful and caring place.

This Thanksgiving, may we reflect upon the past year with gratefulness and look toward the future with hope. Let us give thanks for all we have been given and ask God to continue to bless our families and our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2007, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.

(signed)GEORGE W. BUSH

Heavy duty floppy

I had the opportunity to take my little fellas to the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Historic Site recently, a site which I’ve visited multiple times.  I wrote a magazine article about this site when it first opened, and for that article I was able to spend the entire day below ground in the capsules taking photos.  I’ve been back since from time to time, but this was the first opportunity I had to bring my kids with me.  This time I spotted a couple of things I hadn’t looked at closely before.

lcm_floppy_35157Yes, it’s a heavy duty floppy drive.  There are actually two in this rack, mounted side by side.  I must admit I’m actually impressed that it looks like a 5 1/4″ drive, not the old 8″ drives that I would have expected.

 

lcm_modem_35156And how about this?  A modem!  Another term that most people don’t hear often, unless they’re cable internet subscribers.  Even then, we’re talking about baud versus megabit these days.  I remember 300baud or bps in my freshman year of college…that was painful.  Compare that with the 70+ megabit service that I enjoy in my home office now, and it makes it seem like I was computing via telegraph!

It just goes to show that there’s always an opportunity to encounter, and be fascinated by, something you’ve previously missed.  If you’d like to look at many more photos from this intriguing historic site, click here for the photos from my first trip to the newly-opened site.

This post takes the cake

125th_cake_32051I mentioned a while ago that I was able to play with my new macro lens and grab some close-ups of the various decorations adorning North Dakota’s 125th birthday cake.  Here are a few…and by a few, I mean many.

 

125th_cake_31991I’ll start off with a piece that you’ve already seen: the state capitol building.  It’s missing the J-wing, but that’s alright.

 

125th_cake_32025Let’s start with the eastern border of the state.  Down near the Wahpeton area we have sunflowers…

 

125th_cake_32028To the north a bit we have Roger Maris’ record and Cass-Clay for the Fargo area…

 

125th_cake_32004Let’s not forget the NDSU Bison…

 

125th_cake_32030Then of course we have the sugar beet and (I presume) wheat or other crops…

 

125th_cake_32023As we reach the Grand Forks area we have a catfish (and UND, in the background)…

 

125th_cake_32033Topping off the Grand Forks area is, of course, the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

 

125th_cake_32012I presume this is a tribute to the North Dakota honeybee, who are all probably wintering down south somewhere at the moment.

 

125th_cake_32013Hat tip to Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake nation.

 

125th_cake_32009We then move westward to Rugby.

 

125th_cake_32010Here’s the Floral Clock, one of the attractions at the International Peace Garden.

 

125th_cake_32011Turtle Mountain representin’.

 

125th_cake_32035Good ol’ Lake Sakakawea and the Garrison Dam are featured.

 

125th_cake_32017To the northwest we have a tribute to oil country.

 

125th_cake_32016Here’s the far northwestern corner of the state.

 

125th_cake_32008Now we head south into Roughrider Country.

 

125th_cake_31997Here we have the Bully Pulpit and Medora.

 

125th_cake_31996If I’d gotten the focus right here, you’d think that Dickinson was known more for the Dinosaur Museum than for I-94.  In the low light I had to use a wide aperture, making the depth of field very shallow.  Excuses, excuses…

 

125th_cake_31995Not much in southwestern North Dakota.  I’d have put a police car with a mannikin in it to celebrate Amadon, at least…but instead we head east toward Standing Rock and a hunting scene.  My friend Nathan just got a big buck like this one.

 

125th_cake_32019Strasburg celebrates the home of Lawrence Welk, don’tcha know.  Bubble machines come to mind.

 

125th_cake_32020Next we have Gwinner and the Bobcat plant.

 

125th_cake_32001I’ll wrap this up with the enormous bison at Jamestown.

There were a couple of other fittings on the cake, such as some tractors and nods to the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Wheat Commission.  It was a really cool tour around the state, and I made sure to get a slice of Slope County, where the cake is thickest.  See, it helps to know a little bit about my home state of North Dakota!

32,000 at 125

125th_cake_32000Yesterday was a day of milestones, one of which was the 32,000th photo through one of my cameras.  I captured it with my new macro lens, and the subject was the North Dakota state capitol.  Well, it was actually a facsimile there of, as I’m sure you can see.

 

125th_cake_31990This was part of the state’s birthday cake, as yesterday marked the 125th anniversary of North Dakota’s statehood.  I’ll have more on this cake at another time, featuring many of the unique decorations from around the state.  Yes, I did get a chance to eat a chunk of Stark County late in the day.

Happy Birthday!

capitol_125th_31825Lots of events are planned at the Heritage Center / State Museum today.  I know that our neighbors to the south are celebrating a birthday as well, but we here in “Best Dakota” are going to have a blast with ours.

Rumor has it there’s free cake at the Heritage Center!  Don’t tell anyone…

Panning for gold

sac_museum_pan_1302I promised more pics from our Cold War Mancation trip to the Strategic Air & Space Museum.  On day one I didn’t even take my camera bag out of the car; we just used the day to take it all in, climbing all over everything that could be climbed, with an occasional iPhone photo.  I have grown to love the panorama feature, so I thought I’d share.  You can click on each of these photos to pop up a larger version.

sac_museum_pan_1288As I pointed out before, you’re greeted by one of my favorite aircraft ever: the SR-71 Blackbird.  It’s simply breathtaking, and this one resides in a suitably breathtaking lobby for display.  When you take the escalators up or down between levels you travel right under this bird, and it allows a true sense of how gigantic it is.

sac_museum_pan_1275This is the main hangar.  It contains lots of displays, models, consoles from Minuteman and other launch control facilities, videos, simulators, and rare aircraft.  Here is where I got to see a U2, the B-36 behemoth, and the B-58 supersonic bomber.  Those were three things on my aircraft “bucket list” before I ever even discovered this museum.

sac_museum_pan_1316This is hangar two, containing spacecraft, a Soviet MiG fighter, a Space Shuttle bouncy house for the kiddos, and room for more aircraft.  They have an Avro Vulcan bomber in back awaiting restoration, which is something I’d really like to see.  That merits a return trip in the future once my boys are old enough.

sac_museum_pan_1286Did I mention the SR-71?  What a beauty.  In addition to a ton of other cool items in the gift shop, many of which I brought home, they have a Hayne’s Owner’s Workshop Manual for this airplane.  Its pages actually include extensive history and data on the aircraft, and if I wasn’t on a tight budget I’d own one.  Someday…

You can check out more about the Strategic Air & Space Museum online, of course…that address is www.sasmuseum.com (opens in a new window).  I recommend not only scheduling a trip to visit and support this facility, but to make sure you set aside two days to take it all in.

Five years ago Sunday: Memorial Bridge demolition

Five years ago on October 6th the first span of the old Liberty Memorial Bridge came down.  Taking down this landmark was particularly tricky on the Mandan side, because the old and new bridges were so close together. Drop the old one incorrectly, and we’d be picking pieces of TWO bridges out of the Big Muddy! Nobody wanted that.

The west span came down in a blaze of glory, being cut into pieces by shaped charges and dropped into the drink in 26 large chunks (plus assorted debris).

I staked out a place on the fake riverboat at Steamboat Park early that morning. At 7:30 people were already parked and waiting. I got a great spot, met lots of really neat people, and got some great photos and video. Click below to watch the big bang, both in real-time and slow motion. You’ll hear my camera shutter going mad in the background.

 



Notice how the camera shook from the shock wave. I don’t think anybody, myself included, expected such an enormous BOOM from those charges!

 

This was the debris pile that was removed piece by piece.  The concrete piers were detonated and removed separately later on while workers prepared to detonate the remaining spans later in October.

 

Getting photos of the remaining spans’ detonation was more difficult.  I hiked a long ways from the Mandan side, humping some very heavy gear all down the Lewis & Clark walking trail and parking on a sandbar beneath the NP railroad brdige.

 

Initially here was a lot of confusion among spectators as to why the middle span came down in one giant piece. I’ll tell you what the explosives expert of the demolition crew told me. Before they install their shape charges, they cut the bolts anchoring the bridge spans to the pilings. They can’t be cutting them with a grinder and sending sparks all over their explosives once they’ve been placed, after all. They had the east span rigged as well as the bottom of the middle span, but then the winds came up. They didn’t want to risk their guys being on the top of the middle span if the wind blew it over, so they opted to drop it and finish cutting it on the ground with torches. Notice that in the days before the demolition, they pushed rocks and dirt out below the bridge. That allows the crews to have land on which to salvage the steel, much easier than hunting around the water.

 

Notice the piece on the right hand side, the top of the pier that underwent repairs in an attempt to help the old bridge limp along. The repaired areas served their purposes, keeping the old bridge in operation until the crews were ready to take ‘er down.

 

How about those jaws? This machine reminds me of that James Bond villain. This guy’s got a pretty fun job, I bet. Chewin’ up steel. I can see how a feller could derive a great deal of satisfaction from it.

 

Nobody was more devastated than the local pigeon population; they were violently deprived of their perching, nesting, and pooping grounds!  They hung around the concrete for a while until that, too was demolished.


I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that the last vehicle to cross the Liberty Memorial Bridge before its official closing was a motorcycle: yours truly.

 

Coolest souvenirs of the day: these are pieces of shrapnel from the shaped charges that brought down the mighty Memorial Bridge. I got them from the demolition crew that was doing the aforementioned cleanup. They appear to be copper, and I guess they flew away from the detonation at an extremely high rate of speed. Thankfully these two managed to land in my hands. I’ll keep them forever as a souvenir of the old humming bridge.

Capitol observations

I had the opportunity to go to the state capitol building today, and after accomplishing my errands I took a quick zip to the top observation floor and also down to the Memorial Hall.  Here are a couple of things I noted:

capitol_elevator_31000.jpgAmong the depictions in the brass on the elevator doors is a depiction of a more hostile time.  It’s interesting to look at the brass in the elevator areas as well as the revolving doors in the Memorial Hall and note some of the figures depicted thereon.

 

capitol_mall_iphone_1174Uh-oh.  Notice that patch of yellow?  The leaves are changing, and they’re going to do so quickly.  Get those cameras ready!

memorial_hall_pano_iphone_1180I used the iPhone’s panoramic feature to do a quick pan of the Memorial Hall.  Click on this image for a larger version.  This is a great feature that came out with the iPhone 5 and iOS 6.  I’m not about to upgrade to iOS 7 unless I absolutely have to.

I used to run around the capitol with my little guys a lot, but it’s been quite some time since we’ve been able to do so.  I enjoy it as much as they do, and I suspect that there are many who share the same fondness and memories about this historic building.  When’s the last time you paid it a visit?