Search This Blog

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bend - The Next Generation!

Having arrived on Wednesday and gotten settled, we looked forward to a long Labor Day weekend with the fam.

Thursday morning, Leslie took us out for a wonderful hike along the Deschutes River, which retains its natural beauty even as it tumbles through the center of town:

 This was moving day for some furniture, and Les had to be back at the house to meet the movers. Mike, Kim and Laila were arriving from Portland with the furniture, so the family would be starting to grow as the day moved on. By dinner time, we had a pretty big crew - Mike, Leslie, Chelsea, Megan, Kim and the kids, not to mention Kathy and David:

The kids were in fine form, showing all of us how to REALLY enjoy food!

Here are the proud grandparents and their little charges, enjoying some post-dinner relaxation:

Then what's a good dinner without some exercise in the back yard? The kids took their turns batting balls and shooting hoops:

Friday we were all up bright and early and went for coffee at Looney Bean, a coffee shop in Bend that offers a yard and comfy chairs to its customers. Some of the ladies took the opportunity to demonstrate "Ring Around the Rosy".

Back at the ranch, we hung out for a relaxing afternoon and evening. Jeff dropped over after having recovered from his flight home. We entertained ourselves with a little group musical performance of "You Are My Sunshine".

Pizza and beverages were on the menu for dinner after some more exercise in the back yard.

Having exhausted ourselves, we settled in to wait for Sam to arrive from a long week's work and kept ourselves entertained watching some episodes of "Network." With Sam joining the crowd, we had a full complement for the weekend's activities.

More Labor Day adventures to come!  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meeting Em and Brody in Bend

Hi Blog!  We finally made it to Bend, Oregon.  We've been on the road from Philadelphia for over a year and half now.  We had our sights set on getting to Bend in time for the Labor Day Weekend.  It feels great to have finally arrived.  Our niece, Chelsea (from New Zealand), has been working in New York City as a nanny this past year.  It just so happens her charges are on vacation this week with their mom in the Hamptons.  So, Chelsea was also able to fly out to join our little family reunion.

Leslie and Chelsea came and picked us up at the RV park.  We got a mini-tour of the south side of Bend and stopped at a really cool Farmers Market.  We enjoyed an early dinner, since we were still on Idaho time, which is an hour later than Bend.  We got to visit our first Bend micro brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing Company.  After dinner, we all stopped over our niece Megan's house to visit with her two kids - Emerson and Brody.

Here is Chelsea getting a tour of the new playhouse by Emerson.

Em and Brody were a little uncertain about these two new strangers in their lives - Great Aunt Kathy and Great Uncle Dave.  While she would talk to Kathy, she did a pretty good job of letting Dave know she was ignoring him.

That is, until Kathy didn't just break the ice - she EXPLODED it - by running over to the kids' little play slide, and SLIDING DOWN HEAD-FIRST ON HER TUMMY!  Well.  After the two kids stopped laughing, Kathy asked Em about her playhouse.  Em noted that it was actually called a cupcake restaurant.  Dave chimed in an said HE wanted a peanut butter banana ice cream cupcake, and Em dished it right up and handed it to him.  Soon, everyone was getting a serving of their favorite ice cream cupcakes and Em had a thriving new business started.

Dave also took a turn manning the playhouse/ice cream palor/bakery/snack shop.  Here is Em ordering one of her favorite treats - ice cream cone with sprinkles on top. She explained to us that there are no jimmies in Bend, only sprinkles.

Dave is taking his job very seriously - making sure everyone got what they wanted.

Here Grammy Leslie is waiting patiently with Brody for their turn to order.

We had a great time catching up with Leslie, Chelsea, Megan, Emerson and Brody.  We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the rest of the clan.  Stay turned for more fun filled adventures.

Eddie & George Wake Up in Bend with Leslie and Chelsea!

Wait! It's not morning yet. Our boys' midday siesta after our arrival in Bend was interrupted by the ladies.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

White Freightliner Blues

We only have a couple days left in Pocatello, but we were lucky to have been in town for the Bannock County Bluegrass Festival this weekend.

The weather was balmy after a very stormy Friday.  Temperatures were warm but not hot, and though the clouds threatened, we got no rain.  We posted ourselves by a coffee vendor cart and settled in for 4 hours of great, genuine bluegrass music.

Five groups performed.  Here are their names and links to their websites, along with additional links to YouTube videos of representative performances by each of them.

Teton Shadow Boys - White Freightliner Blues

This group requires special mention because they perform the "White Freightliner Blues."  You can imagine we identify with this song because we own a white Freightliner!  Here are the lyrics:

I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to them big trucks whine
I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to them big trucks whine
White freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind?

New Mexico ain't bad, Lord
Women there they treat me kind
New Mexico ain't bad, Lord
Women there they treat me kind
White freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind?

Well, it's bad news from Houston
Half my friends are dying
It's bad news from Houston
Half my friends are dying
White freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind?

Hey Lord, I'm gonna ramble
Till I get back to where I came
Hey Lord, I'm bound to ramble
Till I get back to where I came
White freight liner
Gonna hall away my brains

I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to them big trucks whine
I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to them big trucks whine
White freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind?
White freight liner
Won't you steal away my mind?

New South Fork - Life's Dance

Wild Coyotes - She's a Rolling Stone

Red Desert Ramblers - five songs for download

Cold Creek - sample performance

The photo below is of the Red Desert Ramblers.


David decided he would survey the crowd and look for prizewinners in the most unique and/or colorful dress.  There were three categories:  Best Single Clothing Item; Best Ensemble; and Best Coordinated Clothing.

Unfortunately, we didn't get photos of the Best Ensemble.  There were only two candidates and they melted into the crowd before David could get photos.


Second prize goes to the kid with the Rastafarian headwear (sitting in the chair with back to the camera):

FIRST prize goes to the dapper gentleman with the orange, mauve, pink and blue paisley tropical shirt:


There was only one entrant, so they automatically won first prize:

Having drunk our fill of bluegrass music, we headed home to roast chicken, cole slaw and the most wonderful black bean, fresh corn and sun-dried tomato salad we have ever tasted!  Oh yes, and a little Kathy-made sangria!

Friday, August 23, 2013

SPUD - Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diets

Hi Blog.  Today is Friday, August 23, 2013.  We only have a couple days left in Pocatello and wanted to get out and visit a couple museums in the area.  Most folks know that Idaho is famous for its potatoes.  Well, Pocatello is located in the heart of the potato belt.  In order to get a better understanding of this area, we felt a visit to the Idaho Potato Museum was in order.

What self respecting potato museum wouldn't have a giant potato on their front lawn!

There's a lot about the potato that we don't know.  Marilyn was willing to give Dave a hand in understanding the fascinating history of the potato.

For example, did you know that potatoes originated in southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia, where they were domesticated 7,000–10,000 years ago? Following centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes.  Of these subspecies, a variety that at one point grew in the Chiloé Archipelago left its germplasm on over 99% of the cultivated potatoes worldwide.  How cool is that?

It was the Spanish that introduced the potato to Europe in 1537.  The potato had a hard time being accepted.  In England, it was considered so poisonous or unhealthy that it was condemned by the Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diets (or S.P.U.D.).  As a result, potatoes earned the nickname of "spuds" in England.  However, some scholars believe that the name spud actually came from the digging tool used to plant potatoes.  However, historians still argue over which origin is correct.  So, pick which ever version you like.  Here is a chart showing the spread of potatoes all over the world.

Back in Peru, they were busy making Chuño - a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by Quechua and Aymara communities. It is a five-day process, obtained by exposing a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day. The word comes from Quechua ch'uñu, meaning frozen potato.

The museum was full of all kinds of potato artifacts, including the potato autographed by former Vice President Dan Quayle.  You remember Dan, he's the guy that liked to spell potato with an "e" at the end.

Potatoes have become one of the most widely consumed crops. French fries and often hash browns are commonly found in typical American fast-food burger joints and cafeterias. One popular favorite involves a baked potato with cheddar cheese (or sour cream and chives) on top, and in New England "smashed potatoes" (a chunkier variation on mashed potatoes, retaining the peel) have great popularity. Potato flakes are popular as an instant variety of mashed potatoes, which reconstitute into mashed potatoes by adding water, with butter or oil and salt to taste. A regional dish of Central New York, salt potatoes are bite-size new potatoes boiled in water saturated with salt then served with melted butter. At more formal dinners, a common practice includes taking small red potatoes, slicing them, and roasting them in an iron skillet. The practice of eating latkes (fried potato pancakes) is common during the festival of Hanukkah. Potatoes are so popular, there is even a song about them.  Hear Jimmy Murphy singing that popular classic, "Tears in the Eyes of a Potato".

Let's not forget that wonderful invention, the Pringles potato crisp.  Here is the world's largest Pringle!

There were lots of fun hands-on displays.

After immersing ourselves in all things potato, it was time for lunch.  We headed over to Martha's Cafe for some good homestyle cooking.  We couldn't help it.  We both ordered baked potatoes with the works!

Our next stop, was the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum on the Fort Hall Reservation. The Tribes are composed of several Shoshone and Bannock bands that were forced to the Fort Hall Reservation, which eventually became the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. There are approximately 5,681 enrolled tribal members with a majority living on or near the Fort Hall Reservation.  Through its self-governing rights afforded under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Tribe manages its own schools, post office, grocery store, waste disposal, agriculture and commercial businesses, rural transits, casinos, and more.

We learned a lot from our visit to the museum.  The Shoshone-Bannock people have overcome a lot of hardships, most of which were caused by the government's mismanagement of the reservation. However, that didn't stop many of the residents from serving in the military. We especially enjoyed learning some of the oral traditions, especially the one of the four seasons.

"Long ago according to legend, before everything was planned, the animals gathered together to decide how much winter and summer there should be.  Coyote urged that summer be ten moons long so there would be lots of time to hunt and less time to fight the snow and cold.

"But the Bear argued for more winter when the animals could rest.  The Deer and Elk sided with Coyote knowing that winter is a hard season to find food while the squirrels argued that when there is too much summer, things get very dry.

"They argued on with Coyote demanding ten moons of summer.  Finally he shouted so much he had to rush outside to cool off.  While he was gone, Robin took charge and suggested that there be equal winter and summer seasons and a time in between when it would not be too cold or too dry.

"Soon all the other animals agreed and now there are four seasons  - one to hunt, one to sleep, one to build nests and one to gather the harvests of the land.  All had to adapt and enjoy each season as it continued its circle of life."

Isn't it nice to know where we got the four seasons?

We finished out stop at the reservation with a little shopping.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Are Our Footprints Glowing?

As we drove west from Blackfoot, Idaho on our way from Pocatello to Craters of the Moon, we saw signs for the "EBR-1" museum and references to nuclear energy.  Indeed, we passed a town called Atomic City.  Then there were also signs for the Idaho National Laboratory.  We grew curious and ultimately saw a sign for the nuclear energy museum at EBR-1.  We decided to stop in on our return from Craters of the Moon.  One of the rangers at Craters of the Moon recommended we stop, as well, so we decided to leave enough time to stop.

We weren't disappointed!  EBR-1, short for "Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1," was built by Argonne National Laboratory, predecessor to the Idaho National Laboratory ("INL").  INL is a science-based, applied engineering national laboratory dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's missions in nuclear and energy research, science and national defense.  In the late 1940's, it designed and, by 1951 had built, the first experimental breeder nuclear reactor, which was designed to demonstrate the feasibility of providing electricity from nuclear energy while also "breeding" additional plutonium and fissable uranium to refuel nuclear power plants, as well as supply the military's needs for plutonium for nuclear weapons. EBR-1, this first demonstration reactor, succeeded in demonstrating the practicality of producing electricity on December 20, 1951, and, over the next decade, of breeding plutonium, and was ultimately decommissioned in 1963.  You can learn more about it at this Wikipedia article on EBR-1.

Nearby Atomic City originally housed a healthy population of workers who were employed at EBR-1 and INL.  Now, its population has declined to less than 30 people and boasts only a small store and the "Atomic City Bar."  We passed up what might have been a glowing opportunity to sip a cold brew in Atomic City Bar.  But if you'd like to see what this little hamlet looks like now, click this link.

The entire EBR-1 reactor building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1964 and has been transformed into a museum.  Here's a photo of Kathy at the controls in the original control room. Don't start a meltdown, Kathy!

Not to worry, folks.  The control room had a "SCRAM" button, and if it was necessary to push it, the SCRAM button would shut down the nuclear fission process immediately.  The acronym "SCRAM" was coined in 1942 at Chicago Pile-1, the world's first experimental nuclear reactor.  It's an acronym for "Safety Control Rod Axe Man."  A young male physicist, Norman Hilberry, recounted:

"When I showed up on the balcony on [the date Pile-1 went operational], I was ushered to the balcony rail, handed a well sharpened fireman's ax and told, "if the safety rods fail to operate, cut that manila rope." The safety rods, needless to say, worked, the rope was not cut... I don't believe I have ever felt quite as foolish as I did then. ...I did not get the SCRAM [Safety Control Rod Axe Man] story until many years after the fact. Then one day one of my fellows who had been on Zinn's construction crew called me Mr. Scram. I asked him, "How come?" And then the story."

Needless to say, we didn't need the SCRAM button either.

Party of the museum showed the storage vault for "spent" nuclear rods.  The blackboard in the left background is where the engineers scribbled the status of each rod in its hole in the storage vault.

Another interesting feature of the exhibit was each of the generations of remote handling devices the reactor used to protect its operators as they manipulated the fissile materials.  The vault below has glass over 39 inches thick to shield the operator but permit seeing the materials as they were manipulated:

When EBR-1 was decommissioned, Argonne National Laboratory built EBR-2, a next-generation reactor intended to demonstrate a technology for designing a nuclear power plant that cannot have a meltdown.  Unfortunately, EBR-2 proved the feasibility of the technology just as the American public began rejecting nuclear power as a result of the events at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.  The INL and nuclear physicists still are attempting to convince the public that a practical technology now exists to build nuclear power plants that are not dangerous.  Of course, the events at Fukushima, Japan have further set back that effort and it seems unlikely that the U.S. will turn again to nuclear power unless and until other practical sources of power have been further exhausted.

This was a very unique tour and gave us an entirely new perspective on the technology and issues surrounding nuclear energy.

Hot Lava and Cold Caves

Hi Blog.  We woke up bright and early on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, and got ready to hit the trail.  On our agenda were several different day hikes that would give us samples of all the different types of lava, as well as a chance to explore some caves formed by lava tubes.

As we hiked out the Tree Molds Trail, we walked right next to a pahoehoe flow now frozen in place. As the flow slows and cools, it folds up onto itself, just like an area rug on a hardwood floor.

The trail took us past several large cinder cones.  The loose gravel cinders went on for miles and miles. Because cinders are so light and airy, it feels a lot like walking on sand only with a loud crunch, crunch, crunch sound with each step.

There were several tree molds at the end of the trail, but they were not nearly as impressive as the lava trees we discovered on the Wilderness Trail.  The slow moving lava would hit a tree and then pile up and around it.  The tree would eventually burn away, but by that time, the lava had cooled around it leaving a mold of the trunk and lower branches.

You can even see impressions that the bark left in the lava.  Some of the lava trees were several feet high. The red squirrels in the area love to store their pine cones inside these molds.  Makes them easier to find in the winter.

We then took a self-guided loop hike around Broken Top, an old cinder cone that, you guessed it, lost its top. The side wall of the crater just broke away and floated down on a stream of hot lava.  As we followed our guide book, we learned all about the Great Rift (a 53 mile crack in the Earth's crust), the Blue Dragon (a lava flow that contains a thin layer of glass that refracts light and whose titanium composition makes the lava look blue), lava bombs (giant round blobs of lava that are shot out of the cone), spindles (same as lava bombs but due to how they deform in the air, they have bizarre spiral and other twisted shapes) and Kathy's personal favorite - lava toes.  Lava toes form at the edges of a flow where the last of the hot lava oozes out.  Here's Kathy comparing her toes to the lava toes:

The Great Rift is a giant nursery for volcanos.  All along the rift, cone after cone develops.  Some are cinder cones, spewing liquid lava up in the air that cools on its way down.  The cinders are so light that the wind can blow them making one side of the cone much higher than the other.  Spatter cones spew out much thicker lava in much larger chunks.

After lunch, we joined a ranger-led tour of the Caves Area.  As the lava flowed, the surface cooled faster than the hot lava stream underneath, creating vast networks of lava tubes once all the lava flowed out.  Sometimes the tubes collapsed while the roof of the tube was still warm creating craters on the surface of the lava field.  Other tubes cooled and parts of the ceiling crumbled in leaving openings into the tubes.  These were the openings we climbed into to explore the network of tubes.  Here is Kathy heading toward the light!

Here is a photo Kathy took of Dave standing at the bottom of Indian Tunnel, one of the largest caves open to the public.  There are over 350 known caves in the park.  However, the number could go much higher, since a ground penetrating radar survey shows thousand of tubes.  After the ranger left us, we were free to explore some of the other caves.

We stopped at Boy Scout Cave, so named because you had to be as small as a boy scout to squeeze through the opening.  We got part of the way in, but decided not to go further since it was a really tight fit and our headlamps were just not bright enough to penetrate the absolute darkness.  However, we did linger inside the cave opening for a little while since it was about 50 degrees and a very welcome respite from the hot desert sun.

The last cave we explored was Beauty Cave.  The opening here was much larger than Boy Scout, allowing more light in and giving us a chance to walk around without hitting our heads on the ceiling.  Again, this cave was so cold we could see our breath!  This cave had some water dripping from the ceiling and Kathy received her first "cave kiss." We knew it was time to leave the cave once we started shivering from the cold.

After the caves, we headed back to camp for a little happy hour and camp TV.  We did manage to stay awake long enough to enjoy the ranger program that evening. Tomorrow, we have a couple small nature trails to check out before our drive back to Pocatello.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Camping in Craters

Hi Blog! We played 9 holes of golf on Monday, August 19th.  When we came home, we learned the weather forecast had changed.  They are now calling for thunderstorms later in the week.  We had hoped to head up to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and spend a couple days hiking around.  Well, no time like the present.  We quickly gathered up all our camping gear, had a quick lunch, and hit the road.

The drive from Pocatello to Arco is about two hours.  The campground at the park is first come, first serve.  We did a quick drive through looking for some shade.  We were lucky enough to find this site with a few Limber pine trees.  While it wasn't much, it did keep us out of the direct sun.  Here is Kathy soaking up the shade.

After setting up camp and registering our site, we walked over to the Visitor's Center to acquainted with the park. Craters of the Moon encompasses three major lava fields surrounded by sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles. All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet. There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features.  Little did we know we set up our tent in the shadow of a cinder cone.

That evening we joined a ranger walk.  We learned the names for the two different types of lava.  Pahoehoe is very fluid, smooth and rope like, while 'a'a is thicker, slower and crumbles as it cools.  We learned from walking the North Crater Flow Trail that the tree in the photo below was over 1300 years old.  Scientists were able to date the last lava flows by carbon dating the charcoal that remained when the trees were destroyed.

It is hard to imagine the scale of this place.  Here is Dave standing next to a remnant of a volcano cone that was carried away on a river of lava.

Another of our stops was the Devils Orchard Nature Tail.  This trail was designed to give visitors an up-close look at how plants and animals are slowly colonizing the lava fields.

Cracks in the lava can trap blowing soil and rain, lichen spread first and decompose, then plants take root and then come the bugs, birds, small mammals and so on.

There are several wild fires burning in Idaho at this time.  The smoke and haze made for a very colorful sunset.

Tomorrow we hope to get off the nature trail and out into the wilderness.

Here There Be Dragons

Craters of the Moon has more dimensions to it than we can describe.  This morning, August 21, we started our day with a hike up to the spatter cones, and then to cinder cones known as the Big Craters. As we hiked up along the rims, we could imagine the fire and brimstone that must have spewed from them to cover 618 square miles with lava, cinders and volcanic fragments.

We can imagine the hot plasma rising forth from the cones, and it makes us think of scenes from Lord of the Rings, for example, where dragons flew above the infernos as moths circle a flame:

Imagine our surprise as we hiked up to the rim of the first cinder cone, only to see what appeared to be the skeleton of a dragon, prone facing up the inside slope of the cinders, as if having flown too close to the fire and then tried unsuccessfully to escape it, plummeting to the lava-strewn slope still looking as if it will eventually escape upward and away:

Of course, this is the imaginary frame we put the scenery in, but everything around us encouraged it. Here's another photo of the inside of the cone of one of the Big Craters:

This photo offers some scale.  Kathy is on the rim, looking across the caldera to the far side:

In case a hiker gets too casual about these walks, it is important to remember that the last big eruptions in Craters of the Moon occurred about 2,000 years ago, and geologists have determined that another could occur anytime - almost certainly within the next 1,000 years - because eruptions have occurred regularly about every 2,000 years and the system that cause the eruptions in Craters of the Moon is still active many miles underground.

David took an opportunity to scramble down the cindery slope of one of the big craters, and took this photo of Kathy, who herself had come some way down.  Can you spot little Kathy?  The caldera is immense:

Looking out away from the rims of the Big Craters, we could see yet other, smaller craters in the near distance, looking off toward the Pioneer Mountains to the north and west.  The sky was hazy due to smoke drifting southeast from the Beaver Creek Fire that is burning in Sun Valley near Hailey and Ketchum in Idaho, perhaps 40 miles away.

The volcanism occurred along a 53-mile long series of parallel cracks in the Earth's surface called collectively the Great Rift, running northwest to southeast from the Pioneer Mountains toward the Snake River, crossing the Snake River Plain in southeastern Idaho.  This volcanic system is part of the same one that created Yellowstone (which lies not far to the northeast), and indeed this area saw several gigantic eruptions predating the Yellowstone explosion, due to the same great hot spot that causes Yellowstone to be volcanic.

In some of the most recent activity, the Great Rift was the location of spatter cones, seen in the midground in the following photo.  Spatter cones form when liquid rock is ejected by hot gases and, as the rock is ejected, it is torn into irregular globs and falls around the vent, eventually building into a cone.  Since the rock is more like taffy than either solid rock or liquid, it retains some shape as it flies and falls, and because it is soft, it forms irregular shapes when it lands.  Thus, instead of getting the grey dust of ash cones, or the very small pebbles or grit of ash cones, spatter cones have lots of sharp rock "glued" together.  In the following photo, spatter (in the foreground) and cinder cones (in the background) march away to the southeast, and are the markers for the location of the Great Rift.

As the spatter from the cones cooled, it formed an infinite number of shapes, including some lava structures with their own "mini" lava tubes.  Here's Kathy reaching into a mini lava tube to see what critters might be inhabiting it:

As molten rock was ejected from the spatter cones, lava also poured out of the earth and streamed down across the landscape, forming its own hard, insulating surface shell, where it contacted the air.  This resulted in huge networks of underground streams of lava.  In some cases, the lava flowing out of the cones broke off huge chunks of cone and then transported those cone fragments down-gradient by lifting them - with the result that they "floated" "downstream" and ultimately came to rest many miles below where they had broken away from their cones.  Here is one of those fragments:

It doesn't take much imagination to see this rock as a huge dragon, with its volcanic scales, lying broken and exhausted on the cinders - its head pointing to the right, mummified in rock for all ages.  We began to believe that we could see dragons everywhere we looked in these Craters of the Moon.