Monday, November 20, 2017

St. Petersburg, FL (11/13/2017)

Most of Florida's landscape does not lend itself to my kind of photography, so while here I try to take advantage of birding opportunities.  Sawgrass Lake is a park near my location with a nice variety of birds and some other wildlife.  Although it is right next to the interstate, it seems remote and serene.  Over the years, I've had some great experiences here, but haven't visited this park for five years or more.  Park management has allowed vegetation along the waterways to grow without trimming, which probably benefits the wildlife but handicaps the photographer who needs to get closer.  Guess I shouldn't complain about it, just buy a longer lens.
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Anhinga

Downy Woodpecker

Blue Jay

Tri-color Heron

Great Crested Flycatcher

Little Blue Heron


Florida ponds and lakes are often full of Common Moor Hens, as well as the similar looking American Coots, normally swimming along calmly and quietly, a very peaceful bird.  Occasionally, something will cause them to squawk at another resident, then run across the water to a safer place.  On this day, two Moor Hens crossed paths and decided to "duke it out", a first for me.  The fight raged for several minutes, first one then the other having the advantage.  Finally, one saw a chance to get away and scurried toward the bank.  It's opponent seemed happy enough with that outcome and did not pursue.  These are only a few of the fight scenes I got.






In addition to birds, there were also a few reptiles.  Several different types of turtles and a few young alligators were present, along with many garfish.



I also enjoyed the colorful wildflowers and the butterflies they attracted.  Too bad the butterflies rarely light and then only for an instant.  Makes it difficult to get their portrait for the old family album.





Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Amarillo, TX (10/18/2017), Fort Smith, AR (10/24/2017), Oxford &Starkville, MS (10/26/2017)

For the past several weeks, I've been visiting family and friends along my route and neglecting the travelogue.  That's partly because I've done very little touring, therefore very little photography.  However, there are a few photos I want to share, and it won't take long to get caught up.

While still in Amarillo, I enjoyed a most interesting tour of the RV Museum established by one of the town's RV dealers, a man who has been in the business for many years and obviously has an affection for RVs that goes well beyond sales and service.  There's no charge to tour the museum, and no one makes a sales pitch while you are there.

The oldest RV is a 1921 Lamsteed Kampkar, a highly modified Ford Model T.
Skipping ahead, there's the 1935 Airstream...the first model.
In 1946, the first "tear drop" trailer was introduced in kit form, so you could assemble it yourself at lower cost.
The little trailer in the museum is coupled with a 1948 Ford with an after-market air conditioner.  I can't say how well it worked, but it only cost $12.95, according to the poster.
"Happy Max" is the  motor home used in making the Robin Williams movie "RV".  It's a 1948 Flxible bus, heavily modified for the movie.
This little travel trailer is from 1953, the first year Fleetwood made them.  You gotta love the way it's equipped.
By 1955, Airstream had improved their design and quality significantly.  The stove and refrigerator were the same as found in modern homes back then.  They still build one of the best trailers for camping.
 And how could we ever forget the "Love Bus"?  I still see vintage VW buses on the road, but not quite the same as this one.
The museum also has a great collection of old motorcycles, including this 1918 Harley.

I have passed through Fort Smith, AR many times without stopping.  I decided it was time to change that, so spent three nights checking out the town in which the movie "True Grit" was set.  I had often wondered why the author, Charles Portis, had chosen that town for a Western story.  I learned that he lived around there, so wrote about things familiar to him.  Also, since the story takes place in 1873, Fort Smith was on the edge of Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was then known.  (Many displaced Indian tribes from other parts of the country had been forcibly moved there to make more room for European settlers.)

The fort for which the town is named was first established in 1817 on land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.  Abandoned by the military in 1824, it was re-established in the 1830s to support the relocation of Indians from their native lands to the Oklahoma Territory just across the river.  It became the seat of law enforcement for a large part of the country, and Judge Isaac Parker earned the title of "Hanging Judge".   Some 79 men were executed at the fort.

Today, only two buildings remain, plus a replica of the gallows that was so frequently put to use.



The city, now grown to nearly 100,000 residents, has long been home to one of our National Cemeteries.  A special area was set aside for Confederate soldiers buried here.

I also learned that a former slave who escaped and lived in Indian Territory for some years later became the most successful deputy marshal for Judge Parker's territory.  Over a thirty year career, Bass Reeves apprehended thousands of fugitives who thought escaping to Indian territory guaranteed their freedom.  By some accounts, he killed more than twenty men in the line of duty.  The character of Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" was based partly on his exploits, but also on other real life figures.
Heading for Mississippi to visit relatives, I took the opportunity to tour the old southern town of Oxford, home of authors William Faulkner and John Grisham, not to mention the University of Mississippi.  I may have envisioned a sleepy college town, but it is a bustling, high traffic university city.  I managed to get photos of the football stadium and drove through some of the charming ante-bellum neighborhoods, which appear much as I expected.  The town square includes the county courthouse, built in 1872 to replace the original (burned in the Civil War) and a variety of shops.  One department store dates to 1839, just two years after Oxford was incorporated.



Staying overnight in Starkville, MS, I squeezed in a tour of the Mississippi State University campus, including their football stadium.

I've been in Florida for a while now, and plan to stay a few more weeks before heading west.





Monday, October 23, 2017

Oklahoma City, OK (10/21 and 10/22/2017)

Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city of Oklahoma with a population of nearly 1.5 million if the suburbs are included.  It is known for extreme weather, including high winds, tornadoes, hailstorms, flash floods, hot summers, earthquakes...it must be an adventure to live here.  Just driving here, I was exhausted from several hours of fighting high, swirling winds and dodging semis being pushed around on the highway.  Then, severe weather alerts, including tornado warnings, large hail (luckily not as big as some areas), then alerts for possible flash flooding due to the heavy rain.  My only damage was to a couple plastic roof vent covers and I woke up to a beautiful, clear day.

Oil is the life blood of this region, derricks and pump jacks are visible all over town, including the grounds of the capitol building.  I understand the building itself was re-located once when oil was discovered beneath it.

On this visit, I found the capitol facade covered in scaffolding due to renovation activity.  (It's amazing how often I find the same thing in other state capitols.)  In this case, it seems irrelevant since there is an oil derrick and storage tanks practically in the front yard.
They also have symbolic sculptures on the grounds. Of course there's a cowboy and also an Indian maiden created by a Chiricahua Apache.  Down the street is a piece of art called the "Beacon of Hope", symbolic of the city's resiliency following various disasters.  The beacon becomes a green torch after dark.


The downtown area is very impressive as a result of multiple projects to restore and re-energize.  A large garden includes the "Crystal Bridge" that houses tropical plants.  Nearby buildings seem to have emulated that structure.

Downtown re-development has added several parks, waterways and memorials.  Once the location where displaced Indians were moved to, Oklahoma now has descendants from some forty tribes, so it follows that there is a memorial to them.  Also, there is a huge memorial to the 1889 "Land Run", when land was given to the first settlers to claim it.
But the thing that Oklahoma City will always be known for, more than anything else, is the bombing that took place on April 19, 1995.  When a truck bomb exploded in front of the federal building, not only was there millions of dollars in damage to it and nearby buildings, but 168 innocent people were killed...including 19 children.  I've visited the memorial here several times, and I'm always moved by its symbolism, but this was my first visit at night.

The Gates of Time: One for 9:01 am, the last minute of peace before the explosion; the other for 9:03 am, the first minute of healing.

The Reflecting Pool: Meant to encourage everyone to reflect on what happened here.
The Field of Empty Chairs: Each representing,  and bearing the name of, a victim.  The small chairs are for the children killed.


The Survivor Tree: At first, the badly damaged elm was thought to be beyond hope, would have to come down.  However, it has survived and thrived since the incident.

Nearby churches have also established memorials.  Across the street, St. Joseph's Church erected a sculpture called "And Jesus Wept", looking away from the horrific scene.  Although it doesn't show in this photo, the stone wall in front of the statue has 168 stones missing.