And the winner is……..

(No picture.  I should have downloaded a video of a drumroll….)

Kendra!

She correctly guessed the answer to the question I posed on September 2 and will be the recipient of a crisp new 20 dollar bill.

I’ll try to think of a new audience participation contest to play over the winter (suggestions welcome) and will likely put out the same challenge next year when I start my 2018 trip to California in May.

Trustworthy

You are looking at the only submarine registered in the state of Kansas.  Yes, you read that right.  Submarine.  Kansas.

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As I write this I am a few miles north of Salina, Kansas and that sub is sitting in a specially designed workshop behind the house I am staying in.  It was built by my Airbnb host, Scott Waters, over a 5-year period.  Scott is 31 years old and has been fascinated by underwater adventure and submarines since seeing the Disney classic “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” as a kid.

Salina is about 60 miles northeast of the center of Kansas and less than 100 miles southeast of the center of the lower 48 states, perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a submarine.  Scott likes to say “yeah, but it’s just as close to the Pacific Ocean as it is to the Atlantic.”

Trustworthy is 14 feet long, 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  She weighs 4,500 pounds and is  named after the first character trait in the Boy Scout code (among his other accomplishments, Scott is an Eagle Scout).  She can hold two people and achieve a depth of 350 feet, about two and a half times the depth a scuba diver can safely descend to.

But wait… there’s more.  As cool as this project was, wait until you see what Scott’s next endeavor is….

Take a look at the next post.

 

 

Pisces VI

This is Scott’s current project:

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You are looking at Pisces VI, a 70’s era research “submersible” that Scott purchased in December of 2015.  The reason I said “specially built workshop” in the previous post is that Pisces VI weighed 16,000 pounds and the floor needed extra reinforcement to handle the weight.  The workshop ceiling is 38 feet high and there are special cranes to lift and move the craft.

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Scott has assembled a staff and crew of over a dozen people from all walks of life – engineers, scientists, machinists and even an electrical engineer who used to work for NASA, to help him rebuild Pisces VI to become the deepest diving privately owned submersible in the world.  He found it in storage in upstate Wisconsin and spent months negotiating the price down from over a half million dollars (it cost many times that to build originally) to “only” $30,000.  He put it on a large trailer and hauled it to Kansas.

Scott’s family owns a chain of highly successful hardware stores in Kansas.  He is fifth generation, and at one point was CEO of the multi-million dollar company, but has given that up to pursue his passion of rebuilding Pisces VI to become the deepest diving privately owned submersible in the world.  He plans to use it for research projects (largely universities and private foundations) and TV and film projects all over the world.  There are two shipping crates outside the shop, one to transport Pisces VI itself and the other to serve as a mobile “office” to accommodate the crew and support staff, as well as computers and other special equipment, wherever they are needed.

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Scott and his crew have been engaged in this project for almost two years and are about halfway through the rebuild.  Pisces has been gutted and they are currently working on custom-building newer, lightweight components for the interior.  When completed it will have state of the art electronics and robotic arms and cameras.  It will hold a pilot and 3 passengers.  It can operate at a depth of 6,600 feet for up to 12 hours (with a reserve of 10 times that for safety).  A modern US military submarine can achieve a depth of only 1,600 feet.

For more information on this project, and to meet some of the people involved, go to his website at http://www.piscessub.com

There are several newspaper and TV stories about Scott and his endeavors which you can find online by Googling his name and “submarine”.

 

Pelican Point

Friday afternoon I arrived in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb on the southeast side of Denver.  After stops in Boulder and Westminster, which are to the northwest and north of Denver respectively, I drove through considerable pre-rush-hour traffic to get down here and decided that I don’t like city driving after so many months of driving scenic back roads.  I decided to stay close to Aurora over the weekend.

Lucky for me Cherry Creek State Park is only about a 5-minute drive away.  I discovered it Saturday morning and spent a good part of the weekend there.  It is huge, over 5 square miles, and contains an 88o acre reservoir.  Pelican Point is one of the many areas surrounding the lake which has a parking area and picnic tables for enjoying the scenery.  You can probably guess what I found there…

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I had heard about American White pelicans when I was up in southern Oregon in late July, although I didn’t see any (the picture I posted on the blog was from the internet).  These birds are HUGE, much bigger than the brown pelicans I am accustomed to seeing at the Outer Banks in North Carolina or up in Virginia Beach.  Brown pelicans dive from the air to catch fish, whereas American White pelicans fish from the surface, forming a circle, or “net” while floating on the water and flapping their wings to attract fish, then pluck them out of the water when they get within their circle.  The white pelicans I saw over the past two days often fly in large groups, high over the lake, as opposed to brown pelicans which generally fly solo, or in small groups, low and parallel to the shore of the ocean.  There were seagulls, ducks and geese on the lake as well, but the pelicans were the star of the show.

Saturday I also saw a bald eagle flying near and over the lake on the opposite shore from where I took these photos.  It had become VERY windy in the afternoon which made it quite nippy compared to the calm, sunny morning.  I had gone back to my Airbnb mid-day Saturday and neglected to bring the digital camera with me when I returned to the Park in the afternoon so I didn’t get any pictures of the eagle but it was impressive to watch.

Saturday I pretty much drove and walked around different parts of the Park.  I found a radio-control aircraft field in one part which had a handful of pilots flying planes (no helicopters) Saturday morning.  It had gotten way too windy to fly in the afternoon and they were all gone, so I was glad I spotted the eagle nearby.  Sunday morning was warmer and calm and there were lots of guys flying so I spent most of the morning there watching them.

I enjoyed spending much of my last two days in Colorado at the Park getting my fill of fresh, clean Colorado air.  Monday I start heading east and will be in central Kansas for my next stop.  I’ll also drop down to about 1,500 feet elevation for the first time since mid-July.

As you may have noticed my posts have been dwindling in number the last few days.  I went back through my recent pictures and decided I had pretty much posted the good ones already.  I am nearing the end of the “seeing new things” phase of my trip and now I’ll be largely just traveling from point-to-point until I get to my youngest brother’s house in northeast Ohio on Friday.  I’ll then be spending time with family and friends until I get back to North Carolina just in time for Halloween.

I already know the one thing I wanted to see in central Kansas is closed for the season so I’ll have to wait until next year to try again.  I will have an interesting photo op and story tomorrow, though, so I’ll make at least one more post tomorrow night.  After that it may be slim pickin’s until I get back home.  I plan to resume posting in early November with pictures and stories from past trips.  There won’t be as many pictures, and all will have been taken with my smartphone camera, but I hope to show y’all some interesting places and things from the past two and a half years.  We’ll also see how good my memory is!

So you get a short break from posts until early November.  For those of you fairly new to the blog, I’ve made over 500 posts since early July so there is quite a bit of older material to view.  The easiest way to see older posts is to use the calendar on the right side of the Home page when you first bring up the website.

And of course over the winter I’ll be planning next year’s extravaganza to California, the Northwest Coast, and Alaska!  That trip should start around May 1, 2018.

Recalculating…

When I discovered on Wednesday that I wouldn’t be able to go through Rocky Mountain National Park as planned I had to find another way to get to Breckenridge.  I decided to go down the “Million Dollar Highway” towards Central City, a scenic route which I had driven earlier in this trip.  This gave me the opportunity to revisit two places which I’ve made blogs posts about previously.

First, I drove past the site where AAA Motor Club had to perform my “extraction”.  For those of you new to the blog, you can find that post by going to August 20 using the calendar on the Home page, or search for “Delay of game”.  There you’ll find the amusing JohnBoy story of how I got my car stuck on a roadside pullout.

As I passed the site on Wednesday I discovered that the highway department had put down some old road material to help ease the severe dropoff which contributed to my getting stuck.  Not an ideal fix (hey, budgets are tight) but at least they made an effort and it should help others from finding themselves in the same predicament I did.

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And further down the road I passed St. Malo Catholic Church (blog post same date as mentioned above), which now had a mountain topped with snow as a backdrop.

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It’s About Time…

Ever since I was in high school I’ve wanted to see the Atomic Clock.  I can’t always remember my family member’s birthdates but I knew from memory that if I called 303-499-7111 I’d hear a ticking sound and every minute a voice would declare the precise “Coordinated Universal Time”.  Go ahead, try it…  Now that we’re in the Internet age you can also find the exact time at http://www.time.gov.  And just as a heads up, TV network evening newscasts (ABC, NBC, CBS) always start at precisely 630pm straight up.

This is the NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado.

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(Photo credit:  http://www.nist.gov)

Well, I’m taking their word for it that this is it.  When I showed up at the sprawling campus of the a huge US Department of Commerce facility where various labs are located I turned where my GPS told me to turn and ended up the parking lot of a nearby business.  I went inside to ask if I should move my car (their parking lot wasn’t very crowded) or leave it for about a half hour.  The receptionist said it was fine where it was.  I walked over to what appeared the main building.  It was locked, and it appeared that security was tight.  Two guys were apparently coming back from lunch and directed me to the nearby Visitor Center, maybe a quarter mile away.

The Visitor Center consisted of three large security guards seated behind computer screens.  One of them looked up the number for the Public Relations Officer for the department which would involve the Atomic Clock.  Apparently tours can be arranged in advance in some cases but they frown on walk-in’s.  My phone wouldn’t work (5 bars but no connection.  It might have been blocked so as not to affect the labs?).  I really wasn’t expecting to get very far so I just gave up.

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This is an aerial photograph of the entire facility.  The part I saw is in the extreme lower right of the picture.

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The current clock was designed by Steve Jefferts and Dawn Meekhof of the Time and Frequency Division of the NIST Physical Measurement Laboratory (try to fit all that on a business card!).  It won’t gain or lose a second for 60 million years, and they’re still improving it!  It is the main source for accurate time in the United States.  The Defense Department also relies on a similar clock at the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC which has a backup at Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Schriever is also the home of GPS (see the blog post dated August 24, 2017).

 

Butterfly Pavilion (1/2)

I’m a sucker for butterflies and hummingbirds.  When I discovered the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado (about 15 miles north of Denver) I had to stop and check it out.

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Given that Halloween is fast approaching they had special exhibits of bugs and spiders.  I’m not much of a bug person, and definitely don’t like spiders, but this fish in one of their aquariums was one I had never seen before.

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And now on to the main attraction.  Before going in to the large enclosure where the live butterflies and moths were I passed a display case with many deceased specimens.  Not knowing how many varieties of live ones I might actually see I thought I’d better get some pictures.  As you’ll see in the next post, though, there actually was a very good selection of live ones flying around.  I got pictures of as many as I could.  Some were just too quick and never stayed put very long.  Some were rather frisky and were perhaps pursuing love interests so I thought I’d respect their privacy.  It is a neat place and the kids (and adults) really seemed to enjoy it.

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