Monday, April 20, 2009

Mt. Rushmore

Waking up early, in part due to the train tracks that ran perilously close to our hotel, Mike and I saddled up and struck out for Mt. Rushmore. Through no fault or planning on our parts, we arrived on the morning of the Inauguration. To celebrate the next president, this shrine to past presidents was free to enter all morning!

I'll admit, my first thought as we walked up to the rocky edifice was, "I thought it would be bigger!" Though as I got closer to the sculpture, I saw that it was plenty big enough. Washington's head stretches 60 feet from chin to forehead, and his nose is a shocking 20 feet long.

We really lucked out with our timing, the deep blue sky seemed more early May than late January, and the lack of high season crowds was a serious bonus. We could wander around and photograph the monument to our hearts content, with no competition or wailing youngsters.

While the actual mountain is certainly the centerpiece of the park, there was also a (closed for the season) museum that was dedicated to the creation of the monument, and the work of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. There was also a really interesting little area dedicated to each of the presidents enshrined in the granite face, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. I think Mike especially appreciated that display, as his knowledge of US history is a bit limited. (Rightly so, my knowledge of New Zealand's history is probably far more limited.)

Of course, I couldn't leave without trying my hands at a couple of HDR images with my new remote. While the tripod/ remote worked out perfectly, the bright blue sky and direct sunlight didn't really provide the contrast needed for an effective HDR. After all, who needs more dynamic range when there isn't much range in the values in the first place? I had a little more success with a shot taken of the columns and benchs near the bookstore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Long Drive

With Mike in town, the main plan was to do the Great American Road Trip. Our original idea was for me to take a week off and drive through the Southwest to LA, but when renting a car for a one way drive proved prohibitively expensive, we recalculated and decided to drive to Mt. Rushmore instead.

As befits a pair of hard partying 20-somethings, we got a late start heading north on Interstate 25. I'll admit that I had been a little bit worried about being the main driver on an epic cross country road trip. People who know me can testify to my distaste for all things automobile related. However, as we reached the northern reaches of the state and the highway opened up I discovered the glory of cruise control.

As we passed into Wyoming the first thing we saw was the huge signs for fireworks stores. Mike and I had often whiled away the time in Japan by lighting off fireworks, so we just had to stop and peruse the selection. (On a related note, if anybody knows a good place to detonate enough fireworks to take over a small South American Country, let me know)

As it got dark we opted to stay in Newcastle Wyoming, the Gateway to the Black Hills. All in all we weren't too impressed with poor Newcastle, like a lot of small towns there is a lack of young people, and a resultant lack of things for traveling young people to do. We relaxed in a local bar with a quick beer and bite to eat before we hit the sack in preperation for the next day's drive.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Kiwi at the Stock Show

Back in January my good friend Michael stopped by Colorado on the last leg of an around the world trip. He had started by flying from his native New Zealand to Tokyo, from there to London and Munich, then to New York, Chicago and finally Denver. Yes it does seem strange to see Denver listed among those great cities of the world. Of course a big part of the reason he stopped here was to see me!

Since he was in town at the same time as the National Western Stock Show, we figured it would be fun to go to the Rodeo. I enjoy seeing the cowboys strut their stuff, and it is a great activity that is a good look into the culture and history of the area.

The best part was (as always) the mutton busting, with very young children holding on to rampaging sheep. I always really enjoy the barrel racing, I suppose because it takes skill, is unlikely to result in serious injury, and can make for some good photographs.

Mike was agog that people actually wear cowboy hats, he said that in New Zealand, you can only buy them at costume shops!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Snow Days

As I write this overdue entry, the wind outside howls for my blood. You would be forgiven in wondering just why I've angered the wind.

Flashback to a few weeks ago, and I was telling everybody that "Colorado didn't have a winter this year." It was true, especially when compared to the last few years, we had a very mild winter in Denver. In January we posted record high's, sometimes temperatures reached as high as the upper 60's or more. This phenomenon stretched beyond Colorado, even when I was in South Dakota on our road trip (more on that later) I had to run the Air Conditioning in my car. Yes, you read that right, run the a/c while in South Dakota in January. You can see how I could assume that the worst wasn't very bad to begin with, and it was over.

Which brings us back to the wind, and why you never assume anything about the weather in these parts. Last week we had quite the storm, the first real winter storm all year, and the worst one to hit the Metro Area in a while. Denver pretty much shut down around 2, and everybody went home. I got leave a little bit early at around 4:30, by which time the streets were empty and everything was closed. Since then we've had several days of snow, and today was predicted to be another heavy Blizzard. Luckily that prediction hasn't come true yet, and snow fall was light last night, but the wind has been blowing hard since last night. I can here it howling against my windows, and I'm glad I'm in my warm apartment with a nice cup of coffee. I've always found that its a bad idea to insult the weather in Colorado, and once again that has been proven right. Next time maybe I'll remember that if anything stays constant around here, it's that the weather can and will do anything at anytime.