Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Walmart experience

 A typical Walmart parking lot.
The RVs usually park over in a back corner away from the store.

It seems that the signs are not enforced.
Usually the signs are required by the local city ordinance,
but Walmart doesn't enforce the rule because us campers do our shopping there.

The owner of this old crippled van has been here for 5 months!
Just moves it to a different spot every couple of days.
He says that the van needs lots of work and he can't afford it,
so he's just existing here on social security......
And he's not the only one in that fix......

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Cushing oil hub

Flying from Stroud, Oklahoma.

This the 'Oil Hub', near Cushing Oklahoma.
It's the largest oil storage site in the USA, with 43 million barrels!
From here pipelines go every direction, 
one can be seen headed to the lower right corner.
It would (will) be the southern end of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta Canada.
Now there's concern that earthquakes may disrupt the security.
There have been many small quakes recently, with a 4.5 quake in October 15.
It appears that these quakes are caused by the pumping deep underground
 of dirty waste water from fracking,
See the story here

This is the northern end of that proposed pipeline at Hardisty Alberta.
Photographed a couple of years ago.
Now they're really hanging out for that pipeline to be built.....

Friday, 25 September 2015

Tallgrass Prairie

Flying from Puwhaska, Oklahoma.

This is in the Tallgrass Prairie Reseve in NE Oklahoma
It's the largest remaining undisturbed prairie reserve,
most of the rest has gone under the plow.
This rich natural prairie used to extend from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

 There's even a large herd of bison roaming free here.

There's a really interesting history of this area.
The Osage Indians originally lived in the Ohio valley,
but that was prime agricultural land, so of course they were pushed out by white invaders.
Chief Pawhuska was very wise and cunning, 
and managed to to get a good price for the land that his tribe vacated.
Then he arranged for them to buy this land in the Flint Hills.
He chose it deliberately because it had very shallow rocky soil that couldn't be plowed, 
and if it couldn't be plowed then white men wouldn't push them off again.
But it's excellent pasture for bison, 
and he was doubly cunning in demanding all the rights for anything that was under the land.
This is limestone country so there'd be no chance of gold, 
so the government granted those rights.
Then they discovered oil, lots of it!
So the town was soon filled with  lawyers, 
supposedly advising the Indians how to manage all that money,
but really trying to extract all that they could.
At one time there were over 1000 lawyers in this very small town, 
but now the grand brick buildings built to house them are now empty,
witness to the history.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tulsa Gun Show

I heard that a gun show was on in Tulsa Oklahoma.
So to have a look at American 'gun culture' I went there...
(Trying to be discrete in taking photos to avoid identifying people...)

Just amazed at the quantity and variety of tactical assault weapons....
Very sophisticated and deadly weapons for killing people.....
Very different from the hunting rifles and shotguns that I was raised with.....

I assume pink ones for the ladies??

Big ones, little ones

This was just a small gun show.
In November there's one here that claims to be the biggest in the world,
with 5.7 miles of display tables....
Note that they say:
"...Guards can hold your ammo at the door so you don't have to walk through parking lot unarmed..."

I've travelled rough in 80 countries for 55 years,
slept rough beside motorcycles in Africa and Central America,
worked in the bush and jungles of many countries,
which entailed camping alone a tent in remote parts of
Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, 
Colombia, Equador, and along the Amazon in Oriente Peru,
and never once felt the need of a gun for self defence....
(except for grizzly bears in Alaska)
Surely all that experience was more than just good luck......
So it's difficult for me to imagine how that parking lot could be so threatening,
except for all those loaded guns, some of them carried by nut cases......
and unfortunately, nut cases are attracted to fancy guns......

I'm really comfortable with the way Australia handles it's gun situation.
Some false propaganda says that they took all our guns away, but it's not true, 
(my neighbour has 13 legal firearms),
They only bought back the 'weapons of mass destruction',
 semi-automatics and pump action shotguns,
and of course we never did have, or need to have, hand guns.
(They paid $450 for my 40 yr old Remington Wingmaster, which always was a cheap gun)
We still have long arms in case of emergency, and know how to use them,
so we don't need rapid fire, cause the first shot will be true.....
But the guns we have must always be locked away in a steel case,
except when actually being used for hunting or sport shooting.
We have our share of nut cases as well, 
and need to be protected from them having ready access to lethal firearms.......
Now all gun owners must be licensed, 
and undergo background checks every couple of years at renewal.
It all works pretty well, and I feel safe and secure there.

But I don't feel so secure in the USA......
It's just too easy for crazies to get hold of guns,
and carry them around in their cars or even in their pockets......
I don't feel assured that all those 'good guys' packing guns make it any safer.......

I have a couple of stories about good guys with guns,
both these stories I know of personally, not just rumour....

I was working out of New Orleans with the offshore oil exploration crews.
We were mostly overseas, but a workmate, lets call him JCN,
went on leave to his house in Texas.
He was single so the house was vacant.
It seems that he arrived late at night, and parked in the driveway,
then got out carrying his 357 magnum in one hand and his boom box stereo in the other.
Turns out that he had forgotten that he had a new security alarm system installed,
so the flood lights went on and the siren wailed......
Another Texan 'good old boy' was driving by, and assumed JCN was a theif,
so stopped and opened fire with his 357!
JCN hit the deck, and as he said it, "...Tried to dig a hole with his fingernails..."
Luckily the good old boy wasn't a good shot, but blasted holes in JCN's Mustang 
and a couple of powerful rounds through the garage door and into his Cadillac inside...
A couple of skip marks in the concrete showed how close they came to JCN......
Of course these were both 'good guys' with guns......

The other was at a breakfast cafe in Florida.
A guy came hobbling in on two crutches, just barely able to shuffle.
It seems this was the result of a domestic triangle  that turned into a gunfight.
Both the other man and the woman died, and his guy is crippled for life with spinal damage.
And an innocent child is now in the care of grandparents.
What a needless tragedy.....
And of course these were 'good guys' with guns....
Guns should never be at readily at hand 
when the powerful emotions of a domestic dispute are raging.....

 I'm aware these are contentious words, 
but gotta say it,
based on a lifetime of experience in a whole lot of real life situations.....

Monday, 21 September 2015

R/C Models

Jeff on the left has built and keeps about 80 such models,
all in flying condition.

Lots more than photos do justice, since there's rooms full of them......

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Facebook 'Cloud'

When I read about this Facebook Data Center facility near Des Moines, Iowa, 
I just had to see what a 'Cloud' looks like....

And this is what a 'Cloud' looks like....
Just one of two such enormous buildings, and another under construction.
Security wouldn't let me any closer, so the angle doesn't show the size...
Couldn't get a photo from the air cause of very strong wind...
The mind boggles at the enormous number of messages that pass through,
(and stay on file), in here.....
All that electronic equipment generates a lot of heat, 
so massive air conditioning is required,
Most don't realize the enormous amount of power consumed by these centers.
All 'Cloud' data centers use 2% of the total electric power in the world.
If the data centers were a country, it would rank 6th for power use,
after USA, China, Russia, India, and Japan,
and more than all of Germany.....
Part of the power to run this data center comes from two large wind farms,
built especially to power this 'Cloud'.

 I hear that each of those turbines pays the farmer about 4-8 thousand dollars per year.

So a nice bonus on top of the already good crops of corn and soy beans.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Headwaters of the mighty Mississippi

Sites along the Mississippi featured in the following posts.

You can zoom in on details on this map.

This the outlet from Lake Itaska in Minnesota,
considered to be the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi.

Small beginnings for a mighty river....

Once again, very strong winds and showers, so no flying.....
And lots of forest, so not good ultralight terrain....

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

Flying from Maple lake, Minnesota.

 Minnesota is known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes 
and officially there are 11,842 lakes more than ten acres in size ..

Just some of those lakes...

Lots of recreational sites on those lakes.

Took off from Maple Lake airfield this morning,
intending to fly to the Mississippi River, ten miles north of here.
But when I got up to altitude, noticed there was a very strong southerly tailwind.
So turned around and found that I was only making 20mph over the ground,for 55mph airspeed....
Took a long time to get back to the airfield at that speed, 
then a 'lively' cross-wind landing at the airfield.....

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lake Wobegon Country

Driving from Maple Lake, Minnesota.  (which could very well be a sister town to Lake Wobegon)

I've been a diligent fan of Garrison Keillor 
and his Prairie Home Companion radio programs for 30 yrs,
spent many enjoyable Saturday evenings listening to the broadcasts in Australia, 
and now on the internet.
St Paul Minnesotta is the home of the show,
and I just happened to be nearby for the street party after the show last night.
Great fun, tune in on the internet and listen!
Enjoy the mellow, gentle, and brilliant humour.
The stories are based on the people living in the little town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.
Can't find such a town on the map, but several small towns could match.....
"...Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children above average...."

Garrison Keillor enthralling the crowd.....

I really like all of Minnesota life and culture.
The lowest unemployment rate in all the USA, only about 4%,
so they do something right.
Very industrious and hard working people, educated and smart as well, 
good at solving situations and getting it done, instead of just squabbling....
It's so much like the people where I was raised in Alberta Canada.
In his stories, Garrison claims that long, hard winters are good for people,
and he might just be right!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Finally flew the river

Flying from Maple Lake, Minnesota.

I had a frustrating time with weather all along the river......
One day took off and was making 90mph over the ground,
in a 55mph aircraft,
turned around and only made 20mph back to the strip, so a 35mph wind.
Back at the strip it was only 15-20 on the ground,
but crosswind, so it was a lively whoopdeedoo landing....

But finally got a chance to fly the river near St Cloud.
It's a substantial river already.
But this is above the Coon Rapids Dam at Minneapolis,
which is the limit of navigation for barges.

 Lots of residential lots along here.
Hard to find public access to the river.....

And of course, golf courses....