11 August 2010

First Week in August 2010

Monday and Tuesday were kind of chill days. Wednesday was a fairly crappy sick day. I did manage to get up and in the late afternoon and head to the zoo for Shannon's birthday. It was nice to visit Madagascar with her and the kids. After I got home, I started getting ready for the road trip on the weekend, and that's what I finished on Thursday, I mapped out my driving path, and finished packing up.

I was leaving after a half day at work, and Stacy was riding with me. I knew a couple facts, I like to map out my driving plan for maximum efficiency, and everyone else would be leaving around 1000. My plan was to pull in and have everyone wonder how I got there that fast. Work came to an end, I headed downtown, got Stacy loaded (or her stuff), and we hit the road at 1331. Stacy laughed at me because I had the gas stations we would be stopping at all planned out in advance, and it was probably well deserved laughing. However, my plan worked, I didn't arrive much after everyone else: 305 miles in 5:11 with two stops.

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Here is the view from our camp.

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After we set up, we took a few minutes to eat, then went to check out the river ... the first thing we saw was a wild Matt in it's natural environment.

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In a recent survey, only one out of every three ladies wanted to stand in a river.

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Jenny got us lost walking back to camp, well not really at all.

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After we got back, Jon decided to experiment with Mento's and Diet Coke.

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Later on after some frisbee, we took a short walk to see the sunset, we were a little late, but it was pretty.

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The girls did a dance I didn't know to a song I didn't know.

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When the sun sets, you have to have marshmallows.

Then the real show began. There were no clouds, no moon, no light pollution, our campsite was at 2200 feet in a valley, and we had clear, dry air. The milky way was prominent across the sky. We moved away from the fire and sat out watching the stars and shooting stars. I couldn't get enough, so I woke up at 3:45 and walked around for a half an hour. The big dipper sat low in the northern sky, I tried to get a picture of it, but the results were questionable at best. I don't know when the next time I'll see all those stars like that and I cherished the moment.

Saturday dawned beautifully, it was supposed one of the hottest days all summer long, but wasn't bad at all when we got up.

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I'm not for being awake at sunrise, but if I have to be, I'll take this.

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We were all ready to go and in place by 0815.

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We reached our starting point by 0915 (yes, Stacy, I'm not mentioning that)...

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...and we we're off. Five canoes; Jon and Ross, Stacy and Anne, Me and Jenny, Chris and Heather, Matt and Vivian, and one kayak with Keith in it.

First stop: a ridiculously cold waterfall that they made me get under twice to get the picture.

Second stop: Smith Falls...

...Matt, Vivian, Jenny, and I walked up to the falls while everyone else ate ... Photo credit: Matt

...peanut butter and jelly. It tastes better when you are really really hungry. Photo credit: Matt

Back on the river, we canoed for a while, then we decided to relax. Ross and Jon met up with Anne and Stacy, then Jenny and I joined them.

Then the excitement began. Anne was holding the ropes to the canoe on either side of her, and got tired of it, so she tied off the boats in the back of their canoe. Keith then came up behind us in the kayak and he got tied off too. So there we were happily floating down the river enjoying the day and generally goofing off. We saw Chris and Heather on the side by another waterfall, Keith tried to stand up in the kayak, and spun it over. It's only a couple feet of water so there was no danger, but now we're dragging a kayak full of water behind us, which Anne was trying to untie, and we're all looking back ... I turn around and see we've drifted to the side and we're headed for a log that was sticking out into the river.

"Untie us, untie us, untie us! We're gonna flip!" I yelled at Anne as we tried to paddle quickly to get the canoes away.

"I can't, it's too tight." she said, trying frantically to get the knots untied, until crunch, we hit the log. Jenny and I tried to push off of the log quickly, but when it became obvious it wasn't going to work, I grabbed my camera and got out. Kersploosh! There goes my shoes, and Jenny's camera (which was waterproof), and other stuff! I put my camera in one of the other canoes, grabbed my shoes and threw them at Heather who was sporting a classic 'what-do-I-do?' look. Jenny was fine, and the only thing we had left was to struggle to get the entire contraption onto a shelf that was only under about four inches of water.

So in the end, the total cost was one pair of sunglasses (Jenny's), a half a water bottle (which was humorously recovered), and a whole lot of pride. Anne blamed herself for the debacle, but really we should have been paying attention and not let her tie the canoes off tightly. Yes, Matt and Vivian missed all of this.

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Five minutes later, we were all smiles!

We swapped up the canoes at this point, I was with Stacy, and Anne was with Jon, Chris and Heather were still together, but then Jenny took the kayak, which left Ross and Keith in the last boat, but that's not what they were doing when we got to the next spot. We looked up ahead and saw Vivian yelling at us to come here, so we did. It turned out to be the swimming spot.

The water was actually over our heads in this one spot. I was 'assisting' Jon get in the water here. Photo credit: Matt

We all jumped in at once. Matt has video of this, and more of me picking up Anne and chucking her in (sorry about the lost sandal), can't wait to see it. Photo credit: Matt

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There were 'rapids' on the other side of the swimming area.

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Jon found a deep hole, I don't think he'll drown.

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After about 45 minutes we were back on the river...

...and finished in about 45 more. Stacy and I finished first ... of course then everyone else said it wasn't important, but that's just because they weren't winners like we were. We got cleaned up, sat down around the camp, and we were all quickly napping. I woke up, got some dinner, and we sat around the fire and then out looking at stars. Then sleepy time.

Sunday dawned and we packed up. Our plan in our car was the opposite of how we got up there, we were going to take our time getting home. Stacy (and everyone else) wanted to go to Snake Falls, so I agreed. We headed off to Valentine first, and then twenty more miles to Snake Falls.

Okay, it was worth the trip. We had the place completely to ourselves...

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...except for one interloper.

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There was a little shelf behind the falls you could stand on...

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...so I did, and took this picture of Chris, and several others.

Matt has a certain way of catching the worst pictures possible. Seriously, I'm only jumping four feet, how can I look that dorky? Photo credit: Matt

We then drove back to Valentine and ate lunch at the Subway. This is where everyone split up ... well at least Stacy and I were going to take our time for certain. Our first stop was Long Pine, Nebraska. The story here is that back when I worked for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1989-93 I was dispatcher for the line that ran from Fremont (USA) to Chadron, Nebraska and then up to Belle Fourche, South Dakota. It was all such a mystery, Nebraska out to the Sand Hills. In my mind, railroading is romanticized anyway, and no more so to me than thinking about how these small towns in Nebraska were (nearly) only tied together by railroad running through them at one time. I know that I caught the railroad bug late in the life of the Cowboy Line, but I am happy that I had a little piece of it for a while.

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The train 'station' behind me and the crew quarters (making assumptions) to the right.

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Stacy stands on the old rail line, now a bike trail.

We left Long Pine and hit the road again. We only went about ten miles when...

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...inside jokes are so much fun.

About ten miles more and it became obvious that we were going to run into a storm.

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The rotation in the upper right picture wasn't fast, but you could definitely look up and see it. Check out the face in the clouds in the lower left picture.

We got through the storm quick enough, but it chased us half way across Nebraska. We went through Stuart at about ten to twenty minutes in front of when the official storm report says they got hail there. The gas station picture was in Atkinson, we went through O'Neill (the sirens sounded there), and all the way to Neligh, where there was wind, rain, and lightening.

Our next stop was in Neligh. Stacy lived there at a much younger age, so we were looking for a park she remembered as a kid. We didn't find that, but we did find a washed out bridge from the flooding earlier in the year. We also found a way to get turned around and drive the wrong way out of town. Our next stop was in Battle Creek, to take a surprise picture for Sarah M. Next we stopped at Culver's in Norfolk, cause you gotta have ice cream. Our final stop was in West Point. When we were out earlier in the summer for Mass Chaos, Deacon Kevin talked about the flooding, so I wanted to see it for myself.

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So I 'made' Stacy take this long walk across a field to look at the flooding on the other side of this dike ... oops, no river, no dike, railroad bed.

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Stacy wanted see what it was like to be really tall.

Then we were home. I got a tragically funny stripe of sunburn on my tummy that makes me laugh every time I see it. It was an awesome vacation, and a big big shout out to Jenny for putting it all together. If you want to see all 317 pictures I kept from my trip, check them out here, Matt posted a herd of pictures too, you can find them here. I know Anne took some pictures, but they aren't available yet, and neither are Jenny's. Watch Matt's YouTube video too. What a great weekend!

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