Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Friday, 29 July 2011

Grand Forks, North Dakota

On the Red River

   With about 50.000 people, Grand Forks is the 3rd largest city in North Dakota, after Fargo and Bismarck.

The population appears remarkably homogenous, with 92% of the population from the following five European ancestry groups:

    About 4% of the balance is native American, with a smattering of other ethnic groups.

    Grand Forks boasts a fine Art Museum at the Campus of the University of North Dakota and 32 public tennis courts, which seems to be an extremely  high ratio of courts per capita, especially since the temperature drops below minus 40 degrees five months each year (that's about the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade).

    I was up 5-1 against Mrs. Phred this morning, but she came back and won the next six games.

    We're staying at a lovely State Park on the Red River. It's a short walk over a bridge to downtown Grand Forks. The park was historic housing until the great flood of 1997. After the flood, the State decided that the best use of the land was for a park and campground.

    It's a city that Norman Rockwell could have painted. The great flood and fire of 1997 gave them a shot at urban renewal that few places experience. At high noon, instead of air-raid sirens, carillion church bells (Lutheran?) play "My Country 'tis of Thee".

    We had dinner at the Blue Moose last night. Mrs. Phred had tapas and red wine. I had a salad and Long Island Iced Tea. I want to see Cowboys and Aliens at the 15 unit multiplex a few steps from the campground. I like this little city as much as anyplace we've ever been in the world.


    There is a lot of the grand old 1920s pre-depression housing available close to downtown and the University.

     We'll be here awhile.  I'll be subtly working on Mrs. Phred to buy a summer place. Grand Forks is just South of Winnipeg and 100 miles North of Fargo (one of my favorite movies).

    The '97 flood and fire followed a winter that had eight named blizzards that dumped 100 inches of snow. The fire that started at the height of the flood burned many city blocks of the downtown area. It took up to three months for the residents to be able to return and for clean drinking water to be restored. Many new levees and berms have been built to prevent a recurrence.

    Tuesday, 26 July 2011

    300 Miles to Minot

    We spent three days in Great Falls. It has about 45,000 people. It was the largest city in Montana until being overtaken a few years ago by Missoula. Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls controls a large number of Minuteman III ICBM missiles that are spread over an area the size of West Virginia. The 341st Missile Wing is on the Job 24/7.

    We saw the Montana Air National Guard flying F-15s out of the Great Falls airport. They were flying in tight formation in groups of four...very pretty...and unusual...The F-15 is approaching 40 years of age.

    We pulled into Glasgow, Montana about 300 miles east of Great Falls and the big slide room failed. One side would go in and out and the other side was frozen. You can't go anywhere with a slide sticking out three feet.

    I crawled under and found a broken bolt causing the problem. We found an ACE Hardware and bought a bolt for $.37 that fixed the problem. On the way in the morning...It's 300 miles to Minot, North Dakata. There is a lot of wheat around here.

    Friday, 22 July 2011

    High Tea at the Prince of Wales

    Waterton National Park, Canada

    The Prince of Wales Hotel, was the last of the grand lodges built by the Great Northern Railroad and the only one in Canada. The lodge was finished in 1926.

    The "men's room" is down a flight of stairs in a small basement area. Apparently this was a common feature of grand old hotels. The Henry B. Plant Hotel in Tampa was finished in 1904 and had the same arrangement. It turned into the University of Tampa in 1932. I taught there long enough to receive tenure in the late 1970s.

    The lake is at an altitude of about 4,500 feet. As we look down the lake and eat scones, the view changes from heavy rain to blue sky about once every five minutes. Highly unstable air masses move though the mountains  frequently causing winds of 100 MPH. The hotel was blown off it's foundation during construction and had to be winched back on and fastened more securely.

    High Tea is served from 2 until 5 PM. Today they have a harpist.

    The view from our table looks South over Waterton Lake. The lake was carved out by glaciers and has the typical long and narrow glacial shape, oriented from north to south..The lake is ten miles long. We walked the whole length again a few days ago.

    The "tea" includes little sandwiches, bruscetta, scones, strawberry jam, a sweet cream, brownies, cookies, a peach jam thing and little lemon pies. 

    This is a view of the lobby where the tea is served. We got little square plates about an inch on a side. Mrs. Phred thought that perhaps those were a place to park our teabags. Worked for me.

    We see a brown bear on the drive back to the US. Mrs. Phred washed our passports in the washing machine so we were curious to see if they still worked. We got back in with no comment about them.

    Thursday, 21 July 2011

    Glacier National Park

    Rocky Mountains, Northern Montana

    We went to Two Medicine lake today to take a ride in an 86 year old wooden tour boat and hike back to twin falls. Glacier is our favorite National Park. This is our 5th visit. The lakes and glacier scoured mountains are very impressive.

    Glacier became a National Park in 1910. The Great Northern Railroad built a number of very impressive grand lodges and chalets that became park elements. Back in the day, the park was a playground for the wealthy. Tourists arrived by train and moved between lodges on horseback.

    The Going-To-The-Sun Road finally got cleared of snow on July 12. It's 55 miles of spectacular road and hiking opportunities between the East and West sides of the park. It can only handle vehicles 20 feet or less in length. St. Mary's Lake at the beginning of the road on the west side has a little island called "Wild Goose Island" in honor or two wild geese who mated for life and came back to spend the summer for many years.

    We see a couple of wild sheep high on the road in the middle of a road repair project.

    The views on the road are spectacular.

    We go back to "Many Glacier" and the old lodge and have lunch.

    Unfortunately, I forget to take the camera and so I am impelled to steal pix off the internet.

    Tuesday, 19 July 2011

    Nothing to Offer but Blood, Sweat and Bears

     Goat Haunt, Montana

    We buy tickets on the "International" in Waterton, Alberta. She's 84 years old, all wood and carries 200 passengers South to Goat Haunt, Montana four times a day.

    Waterton Lake is ten miles long. Our tickets are "one-way". We plan to hike back. This is our third time on the 10.5 mile hike. It's sort of a way to prove to ourselves that we're still viable. Mrs. Phred and I are the only ones making the hike today..

    When we get off the boat and two Homeland Security agents in black uniforms examine our passports. It's 90 miles of wilderness to the nearest US road, but it pays to screen out the threats. As Bush pointed out, "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

    The trail is severely overgrown. Sometimes the vegetation is waist high. It's very hot. I'm sweating within a mile and swatting dozens of blood-filled mosquitoes. The trail has deer ticks and Lyme disease, but we stupidly wore shorts instead of long pants.

    Entering the park, a big mama bear and two cubs run across the road in front of us. They're cute, but we get no pix.

    On the trail we spot a motionless black bear about 100 feet down the trail. The bear is downwind of us. He eventually catches our scent (we don't see any cubs) and moves off the trail. I shout out a bunch of threats and tell the bear that I'm more dangerous than a Great White Shark and that he should just keep moving on because I'm bad to the bone....

    About five miles north of Goat Haunt we run into the International border. By treaty agreement, the entire border must be clearly marked, so every ten years or so a team comes though and cuts down all the trees on the 2,000 or so miles where we connect on 49th parallel. Mrs. Phred has her left foot in Canada...The last two hours, we are pelted with hail, drenched with rain and menaced with lightning. The last five miles are very up and down...

    The hike took five hours. We hurt all over, we're soaked, riddled with mosquito bites and probably covered with deer ticks...It was really great...I have a longer hike in mind for tomorrow. It's a 12 mile round trip up to a lovely lake filled with icebergs...

    Sunday, 17 July 2011

    Kalispell, Montana

    Where were we? Oh! Yeah!...The North Cascades National Park. We've made several drives east and stops since then. First we camped two nights in Quisp, Washington. I liked it a lot. Hank's Grocery store had an amazing variety of stuffed elephant heads, wildebeests and gazelles on display. Apparently Hank was a member of that disappearing breed, the Great White Hunter. (Not to be confused with the Great White Hope or the Great White Shark). Quisp also had a really nice hardware store that was selling .45 caliber automatic pistols for as low as $179 with no screening process or waiting period as far as I could ascertain.

    After Quisp we drove  east another 200 miles and stopped in Sandpoint, Idaho. We liked the Sandpoint fairground camp sites a lot. We found the tennis courts and played two sets early on the second day. I prefer not to discuss the scores. We took a drive along a lake that got really deep 15,000 years ago. Glaciers and an ice dam were covering all the mountains up to a height of 4,500 feet. When all that suddenly melted and broke it scoured most of Eastern Washington down to bedrock.

    I've been really lazy about taking pictures. I stole all these pix off the Internet. I need to ship my M-1 assault rifle back to a friend in Florida so we can go into Canada if we choose to do so.

    We're just outside the Glacier National Park. It connects to the Canadian park, Waterton and forms what they call an international peace park. There is a really tough ten mile hike along Waterton lake between Waterton in Canada and a ranger station in the U.S. called Goat Haunt, Montana. The last time we hiked it we had an interesting encounter with a large and aggressive black bear,

    Saturday, 9 July 2011

    Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky

    Mount Baker, Washington

    Mount Baker is another Washington State more or less active volcano. It sits at an elevation of about 10,770 feet and is one of the snowiest places in the world. As much as 95 feet of snowfall a year has been recorded at the ski area on the western slope at about 5,000 feet.

    We've never seen Mount Baker so we decided to make sandwiches and devote the day to exploring the mountain.

    Like most state entities, Washington State is having budget problems. I don't think they've decided whether to spend the money to clear the road to Artist's Point at about 5,300 feet.

    The machine above is a really serious piece of snow clearing equipment. The blades on the front show evidence of wear and serial welding repair.

    This is a D8 Caterpillar, modified to serve as a ridiculously overpowered diesel snowplow . Personally, I really like JB Weld epoxy. One JB Weld user claims to have repaired a cracked block on a D8 with JB Weld and subsequently saved his company $40,000. Another used it to repair broken dentures. I use it for anything that needs to be glued together like molten iron. One of my favorite SF stories is about a demented D8 on a Pacific Island that becomes sentient and attempts to murder it's human operators.

    Funny...It's 50 degrees up here but it feels warm in a t-shirt.

    We take a little hike along a river with class five rapids. It would be fun to schedule a float here.

    The walk along the river is a rain forest environment. The moist air blows in from the Pacific and is uplifted 10,000 feet. The result is a lot of rain at the lower levels and snow up high.

    Biomass is everywhere here. Moss, ferns and green stuff covers everything.