Maybe some places shouldn’t have those pet “bike lanes”

bike_lane_ip_5944Driving on Divide Avenue yesterday I noticed people swerving around an obstruction in the road.  I rolled up on it myself and noticed that the problem was one of those “bike lane” markings protruding into the driving lane, freshly painted and marked with a cone.  I think these are a bad idea in the first place, but they’re a real head-scratcher when found in places like this.


bike_lane_ip_5904Aside from mixing bike traffic with motor vehicle traffic in an unsafe manner, these markings are often placed in areas where that merging can’t possible work well.  Case in point: this is a hundred feet or so down the road from the previous photo.  Traffic on Divide is pushed into two lanes to provide a left turn lane at 4th Street.  Where’s the room for the cyclist here?  This bottleneck seems dangerous to me.


bike_lane_ip_5956If people have to cross the center line to get around the cone and paint, are they going to do the same to avoid a cyclist?  That’s better than hitting the guy on the bike, sure…but still not a desirable result on a busy street.

This is just one more example of how some of the starry-eyed “progressive” ideas of our community leaders don’t always translate into real world solutions.  If I find myself biking this area, I’ll just stay on the sidewalk, thanks.

Welcome, tree. Have a seat at the table

sitting_tree_34214While poking around in the trees, I came upon a picnic table which hadn’t seen a lot of love lately.  While the area nearby had been slightly maintained over the years, the immediate vicinity of this table clearly had not.  It had allowed some hearty young saplings the opportunity to reach toward the sky, regardless of what obstacle loomed overhead.  What made this noteworthy, however, was viewed from the other side of the table.


sitting_tree_34241Yes, I know.  It looks like a butt.  This tree looks like it’s sitting on the edge of the board.  I saw it, others I know saw it, even my little kids saw it.  Must be the groove in the middle.  I’m not going to the point of wondering if it’s an ash tree, though.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Saturday night’s all right for photo-ing

crown_butte_sunset_34261I took my boys to an area near the Square Buttes for a sunset tonight.  We managed to find a couple of ticks climbing on us and even a pretty decent sunset, before clouds on the horizon cut the show short by choking off those golden hour colors.

I’m still struggling to get back into the swing of things photographically.  Last year and the year preceding it were consumed with health-related issues for our family.  2015 is being consumed by happier circumstances, as we’re building a house to replace the one we gave up last year.

I keep telling myself that we’ll have more photo time soon, but I’m starting to realize that I have to make that time.  There have been times where I’ve been able to get out and pursue a certain shot but have simply been unmotivated, burned out, or just too darn tired to do so.  I know that getting into a new house is a huge task and that there will be plenty to be done, but having a home again really is the closure we’re looking forward to after the last couple of years.  Having reached that milestone alone will allow us to relax and take things as they come.  I expect to have lots of photo opportunities sprinkled in with all that.

Easing into it like a hot bath

crown_butte_33942Maybe it’s a guy thing – we go with what we know.  That would explain why so many dudes to back to their ex-girlfriends, or something.  Anyway, as I continue to resume my photographic journey, I find myself shaking the cobwebs by visiting some of my favorite sites…and this is one.  It’s a small no-maintenance road east of Crown Butte, from which I am able to get some pretty nice sunsets (if the sky will comply).

On this particular night, I was surprised to see that there was no water in the lowlands below the Butte.  Only a few remnants of last year’s cattails remained.  Given this week’s rains, maybe that has changed…but it was dry as a bone when I took this shot.

This was one of those nights where I hiked into position, photography buddy nearby, receiving my first tick (and bite!) of the year…and then something on the horizon flipped the OFF switch on our sunset.  Thankfully I was able to catch these colorful clouds before things fizzled!

Gray day

gray_house_34000_HDRMy calendar was clear Friday afternoon, so I decided to knock off early and head out with my camera. As the recent dearth of photos on this blog has illustrated, I haven’t had a lot of camera time lately.  I figured I could clear my head and work out any photo-atrophy that may have set in by venturing west.  I hadn’t been to Sims lately, so I figured I would check it out…most notably the Gray House.  While the title of this post could have actually referred to Friday morning’s sky, the sun came out by the time I rolled into Morton County.


sims_gray_house_34143I’ve tried this shot before but figured I’d take another crack at that too.  It’s a real challenge to match the interior light with the bright, sunny scene outside.


fallen_farm_34210I poked around the house a little bit, then pointed the camera in the other direction for an additional Fallen Farm.  I believe the concrete steps in the foreground are from the old Sims Schoolhouse, which has been relocated to west of Almont.

After poking around the site for a little while, I took off for a date night with my sweet wife.  We still have a lot to keep us busy in the next few months, but I’m hoping for plenty more opportunities to get out with my camera and share the results here.

It’s been a while, so here’s a Fallen Farm

fallen_farm_33913It’s kind of ironic.  The latest reason why I haven’t been able to enjoy my photo hobby, and share the fruits of it here, is because we’re building a house.  So when I do get a chance to go out and capture some North Dakota for y’all, I photograph something that’s being slowly deconstructed by time.

I’ve approached this particular barn from other angles in various seasons, but for this shot I was able to locate the proper people to ask permission to approach it closely.  It looks much better this way than it did from the road!

Meanwhile, my project is coming to fruition and I hope to be a homeowner again soon.  Then you can expect a lot more rants here about property taxes!  I’ll try to smother them in fresh, new photography though.

Let the Day begin

Here’s to the babies in a brand new world,
Here’s to the beauty of the stars…
Here’s to the travelers of the open road,
Here’s to the dreamers and the bards…
Here’s to the soldiers on the desert dunes,
Here’s to the farmers in the fields…
Here’s to the preachers of the sacred Word,
Here’s to the loving God who heals…
Here’s to you, my little loves, with blessing from above, now let the Day begin.

Just sharing a friendly good morning and a now-historic photo of the windmill which used to stand near Farmer’s Livestock southeast of Bismarck (it’s a parking lot now).  Lyrics modified from one of my favorite songs by The Call.

It’s no secret that I’ve been posting very little lately.  Naturally that’s because I haven’t been out with my camera lately.  I’m hoping to rectify that, but it’s going to take a little bit yet.  I have good reason:

  • As you’ve probably discerned, nearly everyone in my little family has had a very serious medical predicament.  No two have been alike.  I myself have had to make multiple trips to Mayo Clinic for complicated surgeries, the first of which failed.
  • In the midst of all that, we gave up our house and were homeless briefly.  Now we’re apartment dwellers, with most of our lives in bins as we await the next stage of life.
  • Happily, we are building a new home far away from the hustle & bustle of the previous one.  That’s been occupying my typical sunset-chasing time, but I’m thankful for an able body to perform such labors of love.  The hardest work is done for now, and the waiting game we played all winter is a distant memory as the last stage of construction flies by.  I look forward to some quiet (except for frogs croaking along the water).

I’ve learned a LOT over the past two years.  God has brought us through many serious situations.  He’s sent a lot of people our way to provide assistance.  We’re humbled as we look back over the past two years and, although we’re not out of the woods completely, we’re excited to see what He has in store for us.

Ray of light

airport_rays_4599Clouds can make or break a photo.  Sometimes they obscure the sun just as the skids are about to get interesting.  Other times they provide just the right circumstances for a dramatic photo.  This is obviously the latter.

Taking a sunrise or sunset photo without any clouds just doesn’t work.  They perform an essential service in making the skies more interesting.  Whoa..did I just stumble upon a metaphor for life just now?

An article the Bismarck Tribune probably doesn’t want you to see…but then again…

tribune_against_guns_2015-0415A couple of days ago the Bismarck Tribune ran an editorial against a bill restoring expanded rights for those of us who are licensed to carry concealed handguns – apparently without even reading the bill in question, by the way.  They make the dubious claim, “Don’t get us wrong, we are strong defenders of the Second Amendment.” while advocating against the rights of legal gun owners.

I’m not the least bit surprised that the birdcage liner newspaper of record here in Bismarck-Mandan would take such a position.  In fact, twenty-two years ago they pulled a stunt on par with the Fargo Forum’s recent attempt to use its front page to “shame” legislators who crossed the homofascists (oops, I did it again) by following the will of their constituents and voting against SB2279.

In this article from December 19th, 1993, the Tribune decided to “out” legally licensed concealed weapons permit holders just like the Forum decided to “out” those legislators.  The article actually listed the name of every concealed weapon permit holder in Burleigh and Morton Counties!

The article has not appeared online as far as I know, until now as I post it.  This is from the Tribune’s own computerized archive.  Sorry for the lack of formatting – apparently that’s a luxury the old computer system couldn’t afford.  I’ve stripped out the list of names.

Nearly 2,000 North Dakotans can legally carry a loaded, hidden handgun. But they're not law officers. These are the state's farmers, legislators, lawyers, service station attendants, salespeople and who, for protection and convenience, accessed the state's admittedly easy concealed weapon permit process. People like David O'Connell, a Democratic state senator from Lansford. ""I was threatened as a House member, a representative. I introduced a bill and I was told to withdraw it,'' he said. ""I had threats against me and my family.'' Since then, at the urging of law officers, a short-barreled .357 Magnum revolver travels with him on the 50,000 miles he logs yearly in District 6. Or Sen. Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, who applied for convenience: His permit lets him take his Smith & Wesson .44 revolver to the field and range without attracting attention from law officers. ""I don't use it so I can walk around Kirkwood (Mall) with a pistol,'' he said. Or Todd Porter, who directs Metro-Area Ambulance Service and also carries a handgun in his vehicle for protection. Or 89-year-old Fred (last name redacted by Bismarck-Mandan Blog) of McClusky, who worked for years with the Sheridan County Sheriff's Department. Now, his permit is insurance. ""When I retired, the sheriff says, "Why don't you get a concealed weapon permit, in case sometime we might need you.' '' Or Paul (last name redacted by Bismarck-Mandan Blog), who said his license allows him to target shoot and keep a handgun in his work van without worrying about the sheriff. His wife and son also have a permit. Or 1,978 others: Men, women and families from Rhame to Pembina, Wahpeton to Williston. ""These people who have concealed weapons permits are law-abiding citizens,'' said Burleigh County Sheriff Bob Harvey. Generally, law officers don't worry about those who legally carry concealed weapons. ""I'm more concerned about the criminals who are carrying guns,'' said Morton County Chief Deputy Ken Helmer. ""It's the unknown out there that we worry about.'' Still, those responsible for issuing permits say requirements should be tightened. Now, 10 open-book test questions and seven shots from seven yards separate the legal from those who'd face a class A misdemeanor if caught hiding a handgun. ""It's not that hard. If you took your hunter safety test, I'm sure you took a tougher test,'' said Bismarck Police Chief Robert Matzke. ""The actual shooting should be more difficult.'' And Bill Broer, director of the state Bureau of Crimimal Investigation, would only say the test ""isn't that difficult.'' Only people convicted of felonies, some violent misdemeanors and those with confirmed mental problems are ineligible. In Bismarck, the sheriff and the police chief must clear the application - by conducting background checks - before it's forwarded to BCI. Local law officers, lacking discretionary powers, admit they've had to uncomfortably approve shady-looking applicants. ""I've had a few of them,'' Morton County Sheriff Leo Snider said. ""There's a lot of people I don't trust with a weapon.'' If they meet legal requirements, Matzke said, all he can do is ask hard questions. ""I question some reasons,'' he said. ""I ask if they really need it. But if they demand it, I really don't have the authority to deny it.'' The shooting test requires the applicant to fire 10 rounds in five minutes at a large target seven yards away, and hit a human silhouette at least seven times.But the test's aim, said a Bismarck firearms instructor, isn't to ensure marksmanship, just competence. ""If the state was looking for accuracy, it would be too easy,'' said Mike Stensrud. ''If the state was looking for proficiency - know how to load the gun, know how to shoot the gun - I think it's adequate.'' So far this year, 42 Bismarck residents have received concealed weapon permits. And recent changes in Washington affecting handguns have at least raised local interest in the permit process. ""There's been more questions,'' Matzke said. ""But nothing to show an increase.'' Applicants list their reason for applying on the application. ""Most people list self-protection, or they want to carry it out for target practice,'' Harvey said. ""And some people just feel better with it.'' But packing a gun for protection isn't always the safest course if a struggle erupts, Harvey said, because sometimes it's pointed in the wrong direction. ""Any person carrying a gun could cause their own harm, could cause their own death. A lot of people have been shot with their own gun.'' Gun owners and target shooters often apply for concealed weapons permits, Matzke said, even when they don't need it. In North Dakota, a handgun is usually legal as long as the handgun isn't tucked under a seat, shoved in a glove box or hidden from view under a coat.

The following fields overflowed:
PUBDATE = Sunday, December 19, 1993

Morton County residents permitted to carry concealed weapons:
(List of names redacted by Bismarck-Mandan Blog)

(Source: Bureau of Criminal Investigation.)

The following fields overflowed:
PUBDATE = Sunday, December 19, 1993

Burleigh County residents permitted to carry concealed weapons: 
(List of names redacted by Bismarck-Mandan Blog)

(Source: Bureau of Criminal Investigation)
The following fields overflowed:
PUBDATE = Sunday, December 19, 1993

I used to think that the Tribune would probably prefer that North Dakotans forget that they ever pulled this childish little stunt, basically publishing a shopping list for gun thieves and possibly putting people’s safety at risk (including mine)…but given another recent display of animosity toward North Dakotans lawfully carrying concealed weapons, after passing the required background checks, I’m inclined to believe that they aren’t ashamed of it at all.

So tell me again how the Tribune staff are “strong defenders” of the Second Amendment?