If you spend any time on River Road, you have no doubt seen the new "Reflections" sculpture constructed near Keelboat Park. It appears to be near completion now, except for signage, and prompted me to wonder, "how much did we pay for that?"
Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with the sculpture. It's not like it's a monstrosity or anything, like the Thunderbirds debacle up by the riverboat dock. It's actually quite neat; in fact, it allowed me to get this interesting sunset picture:
Some days, however, I question the expenditure. I've heard rumours of $50,000 grants for each of these (there are three that I know of so far) and figure that there must be some better way for us as a city to spend that money. I found lots of press releases online, but nobody would mention what those statues cost. I'd like to know. Perhaps when it's dedicated on November 3rd at 1:30 pm, someone will ask that question. If you do, post it here.
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Yes, I'm starting off the week with one of those post-race motorcycle entries instead of something local. Actually, since I've talked to the guy on numerous occasions over at our home track in Brainerd, it feels local. This weekend was the deciding race in the MotoGP World Grand Prix Championship. If you watch SPEED Channel, and you really ought to, they'll be talking about this all day Monday.
Nicky Hayden, one of three roadracing and dirt tracking brothers from Owensboro Kentucky, has been racing in the most advanced series in all of motorcycle racing for a few years now, and his hard work has finally come to fruition with a world title. This has been an up and down year for him, with tbe biggest downer last week: while in the points lead for the championship, he was t-boned by his own teammate and didn't score any points at all. He basically had to win or crash this weekend, and had to beat his championship rival by a certain number of positions to wrap up the title. And he did. Misfortune plays no favorites at this level, and his rival, Valentino Rossi, crashed early in the race. While he was able to get back on the bike and continue, he was unable to catch up and earn a points position that would preserve his lead. Nicky had a disaster last weekend, the tables turned this weekend.
Michael Jordan was in attendance, of course. You see, MJ is a huge motorcycle fan and sponsors his own team. While he was playing professional sports, his contracts prevented him from riding motorcycles. Nowadays, however, he not only rides, he sponsors a team of his own. So it's a given that when we're at the races, he'll likely be there. A lot of times he'll be joined by some of his NBA friends, too. There's not a lot of overlap between NBA and Superbike, so he doesn't get mobbed too badly...rather, he's just been accepted as "one of us."
This is MJ's black Ducati that he's got all tricked out - I'm not sure if he has a new one since then, but this wasn't the newest model when we took this picture. Having a good motorcycle isn't about having the latest & greatest - it's about having one you like, customized to your tastes. In this picture I was doing some video/photos for the Ducati factory from Italy, and they were about to give MJ and some other Ducati riders a couple of laps around the track during intermission. Later on I met with the Italians about a possible Ducati dealership here in Bismarck, but never moved ahead with that. If you wanna help me finance it, send me an email.
This is back when Nicky raced in the AMA series, so we could talk to him here in the garages. When things allow, he's here to watch his two brothers race...although that doesn't always work out, with his races being all over the world. All three of the Hayden brothers - heck, their whole family, really - are really nice people that you want to know. I remember seeing them all in the chapel service in the racers' lounge every Sunday before the racing started, and that leads me to my next point:
I want to quote an excerpt from Nicky in the post race press conference. Rather than talk about himself, he's really all about the people who surrounded and supported him. Racing is a team effort, and it's not just the rider, the mechanics, the designers...it's the synergy of all those people, plus the family who's stuck by him from the start. Nick was uprooted from the AMA series and placed in an environment where he faced language and cultural barriers, a microcosm where Americans aren't always looked at favorably, and the most intense pressure to perform that a rider could ever face. Thanks to his character and that of those surrounding him, he has performed and matured admirably. In the post-race press conference, he was eager to give credit where he feels it's due: ...my friends, my family, everybody back home in Kentucky, to the Lord, too...man, I'm so blessed, and so fortunate that I'm just really humbled by this, and it's a great day for me." As a Christian, I'm pleased to see that he's still sure of where all good things come from. While a vocal Christian is hard to find in Nick's environment, the character of the Hayden family is known worldwide. They have a great testimony, and I'm grinning ear to ear as I report his success this weekend.
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I was about ready for bed last night when I got an exciting call from a friend: the Northern Lights are bright tonight! So I grabbed my wife and a couple of good friends, hopped in the truck, and blazed up north. The auroras were visible, the night relatively calm but cool. And while the sky the was lit to the north, it pretty much sat there and teased us for a while before settling down.
Don't get me wrong...any Northern Lights are a treat. This one I'd hoped would be a little extra special because one of our friends who came along is from "the South" and I was hoping for a spectacular show for her. While we saw a lot of shooting stars, likely stragglers from the Orionid shower last week, the auroras didn't really live up to any of my stories of past experiences. Bummer.
I take stargazing pretty seriously. I tend to measure and schedule things in 15 minute increments, and within one of those periods I can have the truck rolling with my standard stargazing setup:
- Camera equipment
- Folding camping chairs
- Jackets and gloves
- Cooler of water, Dew, or Red Bull from the fridge in the garage
- Speaker system for the iPod
- Inverter & extension cord to power 'em
- Sunflower seeds, jerky, etc.
- Can of spare fuel from the garage pump (in case we go crazy)
- GPS receiver, now that I finally have one
I have a standard set of stargazing music ready to go on the iPod, too. We stood outside the truck with the music going for a while last night, just looking at the amazingly clear view of the stars and exclaiming when a meteor would zip past. All was not lost. But I really hope for an opportunity to show Jenny and my other Southern friends what the Northern Lights can really be like here in North Dakota.
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So, after spending all day hiking around a coal mine and filming from a 10 million pound crane (cool!), I decided that the cure for standing out in the cold and hiking all over was...yes, that's right: standing out in the cold and hiking all over! Bismarck, however, was ever so slightly warmer than the mine where I'd worked all day. The wind had toned down a little, too.
I had this grand idea about how the sun, since it now travels so low in the sky, would be perfectly framed if I stood at one end of the historic railroad bridge and it appeared at the other end. A combination of fatigue, sky conditions, and a reluctance to be a tresspasser changed my mind. But I did find a couple of really nice sunset photos from the bike path up on the hill.
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Obviously this picture wasn't taken this week; the phase of the moon and the leaves on the trees betray that. But it's one of those photos I've got "in the holster" for when I need them, and it came to mind tonight as I read an article by Tessa Sandstrom in the new issue of the Dakota Beacon.
In her article, Ms. Sandstrom talks about the history of this building and its importance during Bismarck's railroad days. She's got some neat historic photos to accompany her research and a few neat odd facts to boot.
If you haven't picked up an issue of the Dakota Beacon yet, you don't know what you're missing. There are complementary copies available at many Bismarck locations, including an honor-system box in front of the Post Office on Rosser. I highly recommend that you read and subscribe to this magazine - I do! You won't be disappointed.
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