And the sound of air horns was heard by all

touch-a-truck_46115-7Last weekend Main Street in Mandan was home to Touch a Truck, put on by the Mandan Progress Association.  If you were coming into Mandan from the east and didn’t know what the heck the DOT sign flashing “TOUCH TRUCKS AHEAD” meant, your confusion probably only lasted a moment until you saw all the crane booms up ahead.

 

touch-a-truck_45992-4There were all kinds of trucks and various other equipment, with the cranes being the most prominent.  There were road striping trucks, sanitation trucks, bucket trucks, the works.

 

touch-a-truck_45759Of course, one doesn’t have to be a piece of heavy equipment or possess hydraulics with super powers to be an awesome truck.  The Bookmobile was there, too.  And it looked like it was getting a lot of attention from the kids.

 

_MG_45749See the giant crane?  Well, each of the four hydraulic cylinders holding it in the air is fed by a trio of the tiny little metal elbows you can see me pointing at on the left.  Crazy.

 

touch-a-truck_46049My favorite thing about the cranes, how they hoist Old Glory.  The colors were on display and waving in the breeze.

 

touch-a-truck_45971-3Tractors and other big equipment was present as well.  They may not have air horns like some of the other trucks, but they have plenty of stuff to climb on and buttons to push.

 

touch-a-truck_45980-2  Then there were the mini excavators, which were a hit.  I think there was a line to see them at one point.

 

touch-a-truck_45968-70This is only a drill. There, I did it.  You can’t stop me.  My kids don’t think I’m funny either.

 

touch-a-truck_45997Balloon animals were available, or in the case of my kids balloon swords.  Guess how long those lasted before popping in battle.  En garde!

 

_MG_45784Another attraction that amounts to playing in the box the toy came in:  These sections of conduit were a hit with the kids, who climbed in and promptly insisted their parents roll them around on the grass.  Yes, I did it too…rolling, not climbing inside.

 

touch-a-truck_46069-71These guys are heroes every time I place an order with B&H or Amazon.com.  Note the flag in the background.

 

touch-a-truck_46075-7I never get tired of shots like this.  The weather was perfect, the skies cleared enough to give me a sunburn by the end of the day, and the breeze kept everything comfortable and the flags waving.

 

touch-a-truck_45818-20One time my kids saw me running camera for a monster truck show, getting closeups of giant trucks doing wheelies and burnouts.  The next day my wife took them to watch me on a rooftop, shooting video and stills of a helicopter doing touch-n-go’s on a helipad.  When I was tucking them in, I asked if they thought their Daddy had a pretty cool job.  “Yeah,” was the reply, “But did you know that Uncle [my brother-in-law] is a mailman?”  He’d subbed in our neighborhood and let them walk his route with him for a bit, totally stealing my thunder.

 

touch-a-truck_45947-9It’s a small crane, but the kids got to operate it…lifting and moving a small load using the tethered controller.

 

touch-a-truck_45824-6This gives a whole new meaning to the term “Boom town”, doesn’t it?  I just made that up right now as I’m typing.  Seriously.

 

touch-a-truck_45959-61I bet I could set off these scales nowadays…I need to bike more and shovel less food into my head.  But when I keep coming up with things like blueberry ice cream float recipes, that isn’t very easy.  Actually, these scales did weigh my kids, so they don’t just work for heavy things.

 

touch-a-truck_45863-5This was a fantastic event, with lots of fun for kids and big kids.  I sure hope they do this again next year!  I may bring ear plugs next time, though, because they let the kids tug the air horns in the trucks.  It was a wonderful cacophony, don’t get me wrong, but they get pretty loud!

 

It’s a first, so you bet I was there

capitol_blue_line_45605-7_hdrIt’s past my bedtime, so I’m just going to share the photos.  I didn’t get out until after I got my kids put to bed, and I let them stay up late in the first place.  One more benefit of homeschooling.

Thanks to the legislature, this will be an annual event commemorating the men and women of law enforcement in our state.

 

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Show of support

community-support-decalsWe North Dakotans, residents of Bismarck-Mandan in particular, love our law enforcement personnel.  The last eight months haven’t just been trying on them, but on the community as a whole, and as a result I think the bond between citizens and LEOs has been forged even stronger.  You’ve probably noticed many cars sporting the above decals, which I believe are still available at Signs and Wonders along with other places.

 

Cx_FrCLUUAAeT-3.jpg largeUnderstanding that relationship, I put together this quick meme early on in the conflict. It may seem prescient now, but I really just understand the fact that our community respects those who put it all on the line to keep our community safe and uphold the law.

 

backtheblue_flag_44573And we ain’t done yet.  Back the Blue billboards have sprung up around town, events are in the works to celebrate the law enforcement community, and there’s even legislation in the works to honor them.

 

capitol_backtheblue_mockup_44339Yes, that’s right.  Senate Concurrent Resolution 4015 (PDF) will not only designate a special day as Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor fallen law enforcement officers, but it also calls for a blue light display to adorn the capitol on an annual basis.  I made this hasty mock-up as an example of what I can envision the capitol looking like each May.  (Yeah, without the snow.  I discovered that I haven’t actually taken any night time photos of the capitol unless the windows are all lit up with something, so I had to do some heavy-handed Photoshop on the easiest shot I had available.  Cut me some slack.)

The resolution has been in the House awaiting a floor vote since March 20th.  If you feel motivated, let your legislators know how important it is that SCR 4015 gets passed.

So yeah, we support our law enforcement.  I sure hope that their tough jobs are made a little easier by knowing that they’ve got the appreciation of North Dakotans that respect them, pray for them, and acknowledge that (while nobody’s perfect) they protect our communities with dedication and professionalism.

Backing the Blue on the road less traveled

back_blue_pallet_60d_15054-6_hdrFor the past few months, Highway 1806 has pulled different duty than usual.  If you don’t live south of Mandan or have things to do at Huff Hills or Fort Lincoln, you probably haven’t been down this road in a long time.  Oh, unless you’re in law enforcement, that is.

This pallet is a nice way for someone to Back the Blue on that road, as plenty of law enforcement would go by over the period of several months.  I’ve seen a lot of things done with pallets, but this one has got to be my favorite!  I’m all for showing our community’s appreciation for our law enforcement heroes.

Hornets visit Bismarck-Mandan in February (updated)

f18s_44360I got a tip that a group of F-18s were inbound for Bismarck yesterday, so I took a long lunch break to wait for them to arrive.  I love few things as much as military aircraft, despite being afraid of flying myself.

f18s_44378Aren’t they breathtaking?  There was a group of seven of them en route to Washington state, returning from a few weeks in Florida.  A friend of mine who moved up here from Pensacola said he got to see F-18s in the air all the time.  That’d be amazing, until you’re trying to take a nap with the Sound of Freedom roaring overhead.

f18s_44504-6Three of the planes stopped in Sioux Falls, but four of them were able to come to the Bizzo and tank up on fuel from Executive Air and pizza from A&B (of course).  If you were only in North Dakota for an hour or two and wanted pizza, wouldn’t you pick the best too?  I actually think it may have been complimentary for them.  Awesome.

f18s_44522-4I watched as one truck was drained dry and another came up to finish the task.  Perhaps it’s good that they weren’t trying to top off all seven!

f18s_44459-61 Nice tail. Just sayin’. I’ve been told that these are F-18F Super Hornets, which are two seater models and used for electronic warfare. They’re part of VAQ-129, an Electronic Attack Squadron based out of Whidbey Island naval air station in Puget Sound, Washington.

f18s_video1These pods on the wings house antennae.  Lots of ’em, apparently.  So since it’s the navy, the wings gotta fold anyway (for carrier space limitations?) but I’m guessing they also want to protect these from damage.  I forgot to ask if that’s a secondary reason why they folded ’em up when they parked.

f18s_44432-4If I was expected to fuel up visiting aircraft on a daily basis, I’d absolutely live for days when a pack of military jets roll in for some juice.  I’d probably be humming the Top Gun theme, even though they flew F-14s in the movie.

f18s_44355Love the colors on that bubble. It takes a while to fuel four of these, which thankfully left plenty of time for conversation.  A friend’s brother is one of the crew here, so we got to chat him up about the flight.  They were all very nice and accommodating.

f18s_9612Joe gives an interview to…somebody.  Since I don’t work in television anymore I have no idea who most of the reporters are.  I haven’t seen any reports online, and the cameras these days are too small to slap a logo upon, so your guess is as good as mine.

f18_44504-6Last one to get gas.  Yes, they do actually have Navy credit cards they use to pay for their fuel, one per plane.  How’d you like those bonus points?

f18s_video3Then it was time to fire ’em up.  What’s cool about these is that they can start themselves; no need for an APU to power ’em up and get the engines turning.  No remote starter, though, although we joked about that.

f18s_video2Then, with a wave it was time to roll out, one at a time.  They didn’t leave close together, as you can probably tell from the open cockpit in the back.  I suppose they bunched up later after everyone was in the air and headed westward.

I took a little ShakyCam™ (I haven’t trademarked that, but I should) video of the arrival and departure.  Using a still photo lens not suited for video, I still got some passable results.  I do enough video work with actual video cameras that I don’t care to do it with still cameras, but if I do more of this I’ll probably have to nab a stabilizer rig to have with me.  Anyway, here’s the video.  If you view it full screen it’ll be 1080p.

It has been a LONG time since I’ve been able to get out with my camera. This was incredibly therapeutic, even if it was dreadfully cold outside. Getting some photo time feels GREAT!

Uh oh … we could have a LOT more mouths to feed

mantie_7407My youngest boy catches the strangest things as if it’s second nature.  That’s why I was elated but not altogether surprised when he brought home Mantie the praying mantis.  She’s huge, ferocious, and entertaining.  We even let her spend a few days at the boys’ dentist’s office, where I’m told she was a big hit.  And now she’s about to have company.

As you can see in the photo above, she’s just laid an enormous egg sac.  We suspected this was coming; she’d been blimping out like crazy since we got her.  Male mantises are much smaller than Mantie, and often don’t survive the mating process, so I had no doubt that Mantie was a girl.  Whether or not she was going to lay eggs was another matter.  Finding a praying mantis in North Dakota is rare enough; what are the odds of that mantis getting a date?

I’m told that there could be upwards of 200 little Manties in there.  While I’m okay with keeping a cricket farm for Mantie’s nutritional needs, I have no idea where I can get aphids – especially enough to feed a dinner part of 200 – so I’m planning on stashing the egg sac out by the water behind our house.  It should ride out just fine until Spring, and then maybe I’ll have an army of mantises to take care of mosquitoes.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

The trick now is to get the egg sac outside in the cold so it doesn’t hatch.  Otherwise the warm indoor air will trigger something for which we’re entirely unprepared.  Yikes!

A visit to my favorite local 2,063 footer

kvly_tower_35148On the way home from Fargo last weekend I decided to show my boys the fourth tallest man-made object in the world: KVLY’s tower near Blanchard.  It was weird stopping by there as a former employee of NBC in North Dakota, but I still take pride in this structure.  It’s a biggun, as they say.  The massive structure above is just one set of guy wires and anchor holding it in place.

 

kvly_tower_35119This tower is enormous, and for quite some time was the tallest man-made object in the world.  It has since been dethroned, but aside from the Burj Khalifa its competition edges it out by fewer than ten feet.  There’s phone booth sized elevator that goes up the center of this tower…scary.  Rumor has it that the former chief engineer would ride up on top of the elevator so that  second person could ride inside to go up the tower.  I never asked him.

 

kvly_tower_35126I haven’t been inside this building for a while.  Structures near towers like this have heavily reinforced roofs, as enormous chunks of ice come crashing down over the winter and spring months.  In fact, I’m pretty sure one has to make a mad dash for the building if going out there in the winter!  Facilities built early enough, like this one, have living quarters inside…a throwback to the days when an engineer actually remained on site during all hours of transmitter operation.

 

kvly_tower_35135Silhouette.  Can you imagine how long a shadow this tower casts on a winter day?  Its counterpart, by the way, is nearby… a short little 2,060 footer.  That tower, belonging to fellow Valley News Live station KXJB, fell twice: once after being struck by a helicopter, and a second time during the storms of 1997.

I’m so accustomed to dropping by this tower when in the neighborhood, hoping the engineers might be there servicing the transmitter, that I didn’t even stop to check if they’ve posted the access road.  If you go out this way, check that out.  I’m just used to the old days of being able to approach, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been “in the neighborhood”.  But something this big has to be seen.  If you want more information, Wikipedia is probably your best bet.  I don’t think the Valley News Live page has the same tower information page that the old KVLY site did.

I had to see it for myself

ice_ring_32918After we got done with the video gig for the bull riding last night, I decided to get a photo of this giant spinning ice disk.  A friend with Mandan PD told me where to find it, so I ventured out to get a nice nighttime shot of it.  I’ve seen video of it on TV and Facebook as well as a few photos, but I wanted to see if I could add my own perspective to it.  Pretty cool!

It’s supposed to be warm today…I wonder if this will survive the warmth?

Capitol Christmas tree scheduled to arrive today

I have a meeting this morning and it’s wicked cold, so I won’t be able to catch the arrival of the 2014 tree.  That’s okay, I can share this experience from a couple of years ago to show how that enormous tree is brought to the capitol building’s Memorial Hall for us to enjoy.

 

Each Christmas one can see a beautifully adorned and rather huge Christmas tree standing in the Great Hall of the state capitol building. It’s lit at night so that people driving past the front of the building can see it, and the display is readily available for you to visit from around 7:30 am until 5:30 pm each weekday. One can’t help but wonder: how does such a large tree find its way into the capitol building in the first place?

 

Of course, the direct approach is the most effective. Rather than trying to thread any hallways or turn any corners with the cumbersome tree, it comes right up the front steps and through the revolving doors. Conveniently, the panels these doors are able to collapse and slide out of the way to allow a wide berth for anyone wishing to wrestle a formidably sized conifer through the doorway.

 

These doors were actually designed to do this; while bringing anything larger than a briefcase through the revolving doors might pose a challenge, these doors are designed to pivot completely out of the way and provide an even wider opening than most conventional doorways.

 

The tree arrives on a flatbed trailer in the morning. There are some preparations that need to be done before it enters the building: a slice needs to be trimmed from the bottom of the trunk, so that it can take on water; and branches need to be trimmed from the bottom to provide around sixteen inches of clear trunk to fit the stand. After that it’s a question of manpower.

 

Dudes from the facilities crew grab an armful of tree and march it up the steps, wrangling through the doorway with plenty of clearance. After that it’s simply a short left turn and a matter of bolting the tree stand to the bottom of the tree’s trunk.

 

A rope is used to move the tree into position, first by tugging the top into line while the adjusters in the stand are tightened or loosened to make sure that the tree is standing straight. Once that is completed, the rope is pulled down from the top of the tree and wrapped around the stand’s base, which is then pulled into position at the center of the windows of the Great Hall.

 

After a bit of sweeping and other cleanup, the binding wrapped around the tree is removed and the branches allowed to relax. The stand’s remote water tank is filled to provide the tree with ample hydration. Later in the week, the tree will be decorated with items made and/or donated by North Dakotans, through the ND Council on the Arts. I hope to submit one for next year, because i ran out of time this year. The tree now sits as you see it above until it gets decorated on Thursday and Friday. The official Tree Lighting Ceremony is next Monday.

So, there you go…one more geeky question answered by yours truly, a geek who chases down the answers to questions which haunt the most neurotic among us.

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!