Mountains and malpaís

Red canyon

Before we headed to breakfast, we checked on road closings, and our route was to be open at 8am. The timing worked for us. Sure enough, WYDOT’s website indicated “our” highway was open at 8:05. Off we headed! This is Red Canyon. Guess why?!


At high elevations where there had been more snowfall, we saw several of these beasts. Fortunately, the sun was working in our favor, too.

Crows carrion

After days of seeing raptors cruising the skies, today we saw crows, eagles—bald and I’m not sure what, and magpies busy breaking down roadside carrion, but only a few hawks—still cruising above.

Kemmerer snow pile

We lunched in Kemmerer, at the only place that was open—yummy, BTW. I found the snow “removal” pattern interesting. I figure the plan was to remove the berm from the middle of the road. I have seen a central berm left in the middle of the street for all winter, but only when the road was about four lanes wide (in the summer).

Malpais roadside

Much later, we drove through malpaís, old lava flows that generally had little water and were tough to traverse. Mal país, or bad country, is a great name for this terrain.

Wind generators

As the sun set, we watched these blades turning at a stately pace, and were glad the wind we had yesterday—gusts, we were told, up to 50/60mph—did not haunt us today.

Plains to mountains


So, the agriculture in the high plains revolves around cattle farming, seems to me…usually black angus or these herefords—both mostly polled (a genetic mutation that renders them hornless).

Mill loading chute

Along with the natural grazing, there’s plenty of hay growing and baling, and a demand for grain, mostly grown where there’s irrigation. Some irrigation is from creeks/rivers, but mostly the water seems to be pumped up from the aquifer below (essentially non-renewable). Here’s a cattle loading chute and an elevator (grain storage).

Tank pigs

To make the plants grow, these tanks supply fertilizer or herbicides…I’m guessing mostly fertilizer. Go ammonium nitrate!

NPlatte again

We continued to climb westward toward the Rockies, crossing the North Platte again and again before we diverged from it above Casper. Yes, ice—not thick, but it’s pretty cold and the sun, which seems strong in the car, is rather weak out in the wind.


We’ve been looking for these four-foots, and finally found some, often gathered in fairly larger herds, some browsing and some resting. We also saw what we are pretty sure were mule deer; these were loners or up to a trio—not the large groups that the antelope have formed.

Side canyon

I read about a canyon in a Craig Johnson/Longmire book, and we checked it out…just an up-and-back side trip. The railroad was on the other side, and we saw a few fisherman. A sign indicated we should watch out for mountain sheep, but we saw zero. Here’s a side canyon opposite us.

Tunnel icicles

It was cold enough that the tunnels had interior icicles (that word is difficult to spell if you don’t do it very often). The train’s tunnels were only as large as they needed to be. I suppose that’s true for the highway (engineers are parsimonious in design, no?), but they didn’t seem so rigidly rectangular as the railroad ones.

Crooked hwy sign

Now, we’re up against the Winds, and it is windy, and as we approached town we could see that it was snowing in the higher altitudes…that’s snow making that grey-blue obscurity above the sign. (Is that our motel?) We hear we may get a bit of S tonight, but not much accumulation. We bought new -30°F windshield wiper fluid and topped off our reservoir, so hopefully it’ll tolerate the low temps—ATL fluid is limited to +32°F (save the environment!).

I noticed these photos tend to be very horizontal—that’s the way it is out on the plains. Now that we’re approaching the mountains, the vertical has rejoined us.

Changing light, landscape

Maize mountain

We started out the morning in a cloud of lightly blowing S (you know the winter “S” word…); however, the temp was just above freezing, so no driving problems. Whew. Farther along, the S stopped and we found a mountain of maize. We saw upwards of a dozen of these as we drove along. We discussed several theories about what the kernels were destined for…I’m still partial to the bio-fuel one. Sometimes the maize mountains were carefully covered and had a central device for removal. Those we thought may have been for corn syrup or oil, or perhaps animal feed. I’m guess all is subsidized by our tax dollars. Very green. Hah!

Full empty coal

From a bridge, we saw full coal cars headed for power plants for winter heating, and empty ones deadheading back to the Powder River area for refilling….

NPlatte ice

On this crossing of the North Platte, we could clearly see a skim of ice, as Canada geese pivoted above (not in this shot, though).

Chimney rock

Someone suggests this feather is called Medicine Hat, but I didn’t bite. (Say: Chimney Rock.)

Low light tree

Late in the day, the sun came out fully, and I found the effect of the oblique angle stupendous. Yay for cottonwoods! (And the train tracks stayed with us all day.)

Meal stories

Red utility trucks

We were driving along and feeling the beginnings of “time to figure out a lunch spot,” and did online research, and made a pick. The way the roads were, we drove past the place (right over there, on the opposite frontage road), then had to loop back to the…place (combo grocery and café—sounds strange, I know; it was only a little odd). Of course we eyeballed the place—especially looking to see if it had many customers—almost always a good sign. As we drove past, the vehicles were numerous and 75% were red trucks like these two. Turned out a utility crew was relocating, and had stopped for lunch. And their order, by something like 40 line-dudes (or whatever their job descriptions were—I didn’t see any lady utility-workers), was in front of ours. Which was really, The Guru’s steak, as I had the all-you-can-eat sah-lahd. Anyway, the waiter/cashier took pity on us for the long wait he could not fix, and charged us $6 for everything. All because of the red trucks. (Well, the people they carried.)

Supper club pillar

That was mid-day. For our late-day meal, again we searched the area likely to have a real restaurant (not a chain place) at the right hunger-point. Came up with an old-fashioned supper club kind of place. Just look at the decorative detail in the main dining room! …Famous for their fried chicken (good, very crunchy) and for their gravy. The gravy was as rich as dessert. Cream? Certainly. And butter. Salt, too; not shy about any of those…. Yum.

I realize I haven’t mentioned b’fast. It was not special, and had no memorable qualities. The pre-scrambled eggs were hot, there were biscuits, oatmeal, and sausage patties. Coffee: choice of decaf, gourmet, or bold. See—nothing special.

Vote-count day

Vote here sign book depository

Of course, the headline is that this is election day. Or at least, it’s the day the polls close. And the predictive polls become irrelevant (when the vote-counts come in). We voted in mid-morning. We got in line, and had finished voting 40 minutes later. Nice weather. Lots of faces turned down toward smart phones…. [BTW, keep electioneering and guns away from the polling place.]

Bus switches

If you want to think about something else, here’s a control panel from a (an electric?) bus we saw on Sunday…designed back when the paradigm was to have knobs carefully identical in form and spacing, and black commonly predominated. Graphic designers have made headway with engineers in the intervening years, and the repeated sameness largely has disappeared….

And not nice.

Nice script

The other day I meant to tell a mail-order delivery story. I ordered an item from Amazon. We are Prime people, so two-day delivery. On the appointed day we were out all afternoon, and JCB remembered to check the front step well after dark (delivery was supposed to be by 8pm), and no package. Amazon’s webpage indicated it had been left in a “safe place.” He checked under leaves and behind bushes. No package.

So he called. Short story is that the delivery was to be accomplished by Amazon, not brown, not USPS. And the delivery person drove our package back to the distribution center (out of laziness? obstinance?), but marked it delivered in the computer. Sooooo.

Our package was delivered a day late and we get a refund. BUT, Amazon, if that is the new Amazon way, NOT GOOD.

Arty shapes

Chihuly in Japanese garden

Many of the Chihuly pieces have been removed. The garish holiday lightshow is being installed. Maize? Ladybugs? Sheesh. [I could not bring myself to photograph them.]

Chihuly in Sibley fountain

I do like the glass that remains in the Japanese garden, above, and the Sibley fountain….

Sandstone step

Too much glass art? Here’s MaNachur’s work…sandstone, I suspect.

Shapes and colors

Pastel tiedye pumpkin free library

No goblins, no ghouls. Yes…princesses and ninjas. And a tie-dyed pumpkin decorating a nearby free library.

Golden leaflets

Meanwhile, let the local leaf report show a golden glow.


Eloise not posing

Meet Eloise. She has no interest in posing, just getting a pet.

Blowup cat

This cat, however—all it does is pose…ready to jump! With fangs bared!

Yard light icecream chair

Liked the dramatically backlit ice cream chairs, and that bush over to the left.

ABG exploration

Kids at sibley feature

We visited the ABG with the lovely B. It was kids Halloween costume day, along with many kid-focused activities, formal and informal.

Fountain focus

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure that many families burned through many pixels.

ABG ponyrides

I’m thinking there are few things more charming than an angel riding a pony.