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Author Topic: Something different for the 2016 Holiday Season . . .  (Read 6083 times)
Oldcarsarecool
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« on: December 26, 2016, 02:27:14 PM »

Colorado Rocky Mountain High .  .  .  
November 19 – 26, 2016  
  
  
  
  
  
I met my friend Heather in 2012 during her first year as a PhD student at UGA.  Heather was a Georgia transplant like myself.  The only difference is that I'm a "Yankee" from central Pennsylvania, whereas she is from "out west," specifically eastern Oregon.  Either way, we're both foreigners in this part of the country and had to adjust to the unfamiliarity.  
  
Heather's journey to Georgia has followed a somewhat traditional path.  After high school, she headed off to college.  With degrees in hand, the time had come to Adult  -  get a job, move out of the family home, pay bills, and develop some sense of who you are so you can find your place in this world.  Like the rest of us, she encountered varying levels of success in doing what you're supposed to do.    
  
Life loves to disrupt the schedule regardless of your thoughts on the matter because that's what life does.  After being in the workforce for several years, Heather found herself back in school, this time across the country at UGA for the 2011-12 academic year, which is when we initially met.  What started out as chatting online progressed into face-to-face meetings and eventually developed into a strong friendship.  Whether we were sharing a common interest, helping each other accomplish a project, or merely just lending an ear for support, we were both continuously reminded of the value of having good friend along for the ride through life.  
  
Heather's hard work paid off in December 2015 when she was "hooded."  
  
  
December 18, 2015  
 
  
  
In a moment of déjà vu, Dr. Heather found herself reliving the Adult process once again.  Only this time, her job search took her back across the country to Greeley, Colorado about 50 miles north of Denver.    
  
Being originally from Oregon, the transition to Georgia was quite challenging.  Wide-open spaces flanked by giant mountains were replaced with densely populated rolling hills.  The 3,100 square mile county in Oregon where she is originally from is physically larger than the state of Delaware, but has a population of only around 15,000 people.  Moving to Georgia meant she had to get used to around 130,000 people crammed into an area 25 times smaller.  The additional 6 million people about 70 miles to the west in the Atlanta metro area finished the job of making her feel completely insignificant.  And the benefit of a non-existent winter was offset by the very hot and humid summer.  
  
Transitioning to Colorado was much easier.  Greeley is located at the eastern face of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  So the overall scenery of giant mountain peaks off in the distance is very familiar, as is the actual four seasons weather pattern.  The population density, while very high in Greeley, drops to familiar levels away from the city limits.  In other words, Colorado felt more like home.  
  
Immediately, she started sending me pictures of the area.  The Rocky Mountains are only 45 minutes away and dominate the landscape.  
 
 
 
  
 
The stunning mountain views are visible from just about anywhere in her area.  But seeing them from within Rocky Mountain National Park is simply amazing.  
  
  
Rainbow Curve Overlook
 
  
  
Wide open spaces are plentiful once you get outside of the major city limits.  
  
  
 
  
  
Extremely rural areas in the eastern part of the state take the definition of "wide open spaces" to a whole other level.  
  
  
Near Karval, Colorado (with Pikes Peak off in the distance)
 
  
  
Heather kept saying, "You need to come out and visit."  She would tell me this every time we would chat on the phone, and mention it whenever she would forward more amazing pictures.  And those pictures presented a very convincing argument.  
 
I thought about it.  I would need a full week to pull off a trip like this.  Getting time off work can be somewhat challenging for me.  Second shift consists of myself on the technician side and Jamie on the Rental Office side.  Two people must be in the building during business hours out of safety concerns.  This means I can't arbitrarily schedule time off.  Someone has to be able to cover my shift.  All of my coworkers are married with young families.  Getting someone to cover a Friday night generally isn't a problem.  But an entire week is a whole other matter.
 
This dilemma is a little easier to deal with during the Holiday Season.  My shop's hours are altered during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas to match the limited activity on campus during those times.  Second shift hours are usually adjusted from the normal 3 PM – 11 PM to something like 10 AM – 6 PM.  Getting someone to stay until 6 PM isn't a problem.
 
So I've got two potential time slots from which to choose:  Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Regular readers may have picked up on my aversion to all things "snow."  The weather is more likely to cooperate over Thanksgiving.  Heather also had plans to go home to Oregon over the Christmas Holiday.  So this decision was easy.
 
I submitted my Leave Form for the week of Thanksgiving, which was approved, and marked my dates on the shop calendar.  Hotels.com was happy to find me inexpensive accommodations in Greeley.  Now all I had to do was physically get there.  
 
Normal people would start checking flight availability.  But this is me we're dealing with.  I admit that flying is fun.  The drag racer in me loves getting planted in the seat during take-off.  The picture taker in me loves the views from 30,000 feet.  And the size of the Atlanta airport makes it easy to get just about anywhere.  Non-stop flights are available to many destinations, including Denver.    
 
It's the process of flying that I'm not particularly fond of.  Getting to the airport can be a nightmare depending on traffic, which is always bad in Atlanta.  The airport is crowded, something made even more intense because of the holiday.   I would have to do the same thing again once I get to Denver, then repeat the whole process for the return trip home.  None of this is "bad" by any means, just not enjoyable.  It's just not me.   I think everyone can see where this is going.
 
 

 
 
Driving across the country is one of those activities that appears often on various "Things you must do once in your life" lists, and for good reason.  There are a lot of beautiful sites to be seen across the nation especially for the car nut who cherishes his time behind the wheel.  The majority of my cross-country driving experience is of the north-south variety.  I drove between Altoona, Pennsylvania and Boca Raton, Florida annually in the 1990s.  My east-west excursions are limited to traveling home to Altoona when I lived in Columbia, Missouri.  I've never been any further west than Kansas City by car.
 
The problem is that my Beautiful Disaster hasn't always been the most agreeable traveling companion.  Maybe that depends on where I'm going.  The fuel pump failed at the gas station 1½ miles from my house right after I purchased the car.  But the trip to a friend's wedding reception in Tampa, Florida later that summer went off without a hitch.  The car overheated the last time I tried to go the Atlanta airport.  But I've made several incident-free trips to Harrah's in Cherokee, North Carolina for a good buffet feast, (with one of those trips featuring a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway).      
 
My trip home to Altoona last month was a wonderful confidence booster and seemed to confirm some of the patterns I've noticed about the car.  I've had to get up close and personal with it on several occasions.  But once stuff is fixed, it seems to stay fixed.  The other pattern I've noticed is that this car seems happiest on the open road.  The trip to Altoona added 1,545 miles to the odometer over four days' time, during which it never missed a beat.  
 
You can probably tell from those statements that I've already made my decision by trying very hard, not so much to ignore those concerns, but to not dwell on them.  The desire to experience this drive overrides any "what-ifs."  But I need to keep in mind that this trip would be far more significant than anything I've done in the past and plan accordingly.  
 
Athens, Georgia and Greeley, Colorado are separated by 1,500 miles, which translates to two full days of driving in each direction with Columbia, Missouri being the half-way point.  Leaving early on Saturday morning November 19 should put me in Columbia late in the afternoon.  But an overnight closer to Kansas City would make Sunday's drive to Greeley shorter.  Plus, I'll pick up an hour each day due to crossing time zones.  
 
I definitely don't want to be on the road on Sunday November 27, which tends to be one of the worst traffic days of the year.  So after four days in Greeley, I'll start the journey home on Friday November 25.  Using the logic from above, an overnight in St. Louis will lessen the drive back to Athens on Saturday.  This will be especially valuable because of crossing time zones in the opposite direction.
 
I performed the XK8's 75k mile maintenance after I returned from Pennsylvania, which worked out perfectly.  So the car shouldn't need any additional preparation, other than checking all the fluids and setting the tire pressures before departure.  I've carried a small tool box in the trunk of my car for decades just in case.  And it's always a good idea to put some extra fluids in the trunk, (especially given my car's past cooling system issues !).  
 
So I’m ready to go.  All I need now is for Mother Nature to cooperate .  .  .
« Last Edit: January 04, 2017, 01:20:09 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 12:03:02 AM »

Athens, Georgia to Oak Grove, Missouri .  .  .  
November 19, 2016  
Part 1 of 4
  
  
  
  
  
I put my suitcase in the car before sunrise on this Saturday morning and couldn't help but wonder whether or not I had made the right decision.  But it didn't matter at this point.  Tow truck or not, I was committed.  I pulled out of the garage at 7 AM just like I did for the Pennsylvania trip - with the roof down.  Temperatures were forecast to be in the 60s during the day, but were in the 40s when I left the house.  No big deal.  I was wearing a few layers in preparation for the cold temperatures.  And the XK8 has a great heater that can be supplemented with heated seats if needed.  Overall, the forecast looked great except for a chance of rain near Chattanooga.  
 
Today's journey will take me from Athens, Georgia to Oak Grove, Missouri roughly 850 miles away, which translates to around 13 hours behind the wheel.  All but 60 miles will be via interstate highways, and a trip I am thoroughly looking forward to.  Everything will be fine once I get to Atlanta, which happens to be the only part of the trip I'm not looking forward to at all !  
 
Athens, Georgia – home to the largest university in the state – has no direct interstate access.  This means the trip to Atlanta will take place on Georgia route 316, a horribly under-designed/over-used stretch of 4-lane pavement that is blessed with a 65 mph speed limit, but also littered with signal lights.  Thankfully, it's a short trip.  Also in my favor is the fact that I'll be traveling on Saturday morning.  
 
Once I get to Atlanta, I'll head north on I-75 to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  From there, I'll head west on I-24 through Nashville, through the southwest corner of Kentucky, and into Illinois.  A short stint on I-57 north will take me to Mt. Vernon, Illinois and I-64.  Heading west on I-64 will take me to the familiar territory of St. Louis and I-70 west.  I lived in Columbia, Missouri for 6 years before moving to Athens, and know that area reasonably well.
 
Traffic cooperated from Athens to the I-285 Perimeter highway around Atlanta to I-75.  The sun came out for a while, which made the fall colors look great.
 
 

 
 
But I could see the clouds building off in the distance as I passed Lake Allatoona and Calhoun, Georgia.  
 
 

 
 
The sun disappeared altogether by the time I reached Dalton, Georgia.
 
 

 
 

 
 
Love the trees in front of Dalton State College !
 
 
Dalton State College

 
 

 
 
Darker clouds started to appear in the distance once I crossed into Tennessee and picked up Interstate 24, my home for the next 316 miles.  Lookout Mountain became visible outside of Chattanooga.  
 
 

 
 
Lookout Mountain is a 2,400 foot mountain ridge that traverses the Georgia – Tennessee state line near Chattanooga.  
 
 

 
 
I would certainly enjoy the view living on top of the mountain.  
 
 
Lookout Mountain

 
 
But I imagine some deep pockets would be needed to buy a home up there.  
 
 

 
 
The Tennessee River runs past the base of the mountain.  The land mass seen on the right of the photo below is the 956 acre Moccasin Bend Archeological District where artifacts from 12,000 years of human habitation have been discovered .  .  .
 
 
Moccasin Bend Archeological District
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 10:56:34 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 12:18:27 AM »

continued .  .  .
part 2 of 4





Interstate 24 snakes its way through this part of the Appalachian Mountains known as the Cumberland Plateau.  The mild climate of the south meant the beautiful fall colors were still quite prominent.
 
 

 
 

 
 
Interstate 24 also crosses the state line back into Georgia, and then back into Tennessee a few miles later before passing Nickajack Lake.  
 
 
Nickajack Lake

 
 
The break in the clouds seen in the photo above was encouraging, but turned out to be a tease.  Not only did the clouds not break, the temperature started to drop rapidly as I ascended to the top of the Cumberland Plateau eventually reaching the mid 30s.  The sprinkles of rain that arrived while I was refueling in Monteagle, Tennessee forced me to put the roof up for a bit.  Dreary skies stayed with me until I started to descend the Cumberland Plateau and Highland Rim, and disappeared completely once I entered the Nashville Basin region around the city, which is where the roof came down again.
 
 

 
 
Ah, that's better !
 
 
Nashville, Tennessee

 
 
I had a great view of the Nashville skyline off to my left as I passed through the city.  So I perched the camera on top of my shoulder and held the button down hoping a couple of the 20 or so pics from that burst would be usable.  Nissan Stadium soon came into view.
 
 

 
 
Nissan Stadium is the home to the Tennessee Titans NFL Franchise.  It's also home to the Tennessee State Tigers NCAA Football team.  
 
 
Nissan Stadium

 
 
The terrain began to level out beyond the Nashville Basin.  Mountain ridges were replaced with the rolling hills of the Pennroyal Plateau of Western Kentucky.  
 
 

 
 
The photos above and below show the very flat scenery around Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  
 
 

 
 
Interstate 24 passes by the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, a 170,000 acre parcel of protected forest and wetland in Western Kentucky and Tennessee.  The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers converge here.  Eastbound motorists on I-24 cross the Cumberland River via the Ralph Smith Bridge first.
 
 
Ralph Smith Bridge over the Cumberland River

 
 
The Luther Draffen Bridge then takes motorists over the Tennessee River a few miles up the road.
 
 

 
 
Luther Draffen was a prominent local merchant who was instrumental in the Kentucky Dam Project of 1938.  
 
 
Luther Draffen Bridge

 
 
Construction of the hydroelectric dam was completed in 1944 and created Kentucky Lake, one of the namesakes of the Land Between the Lakes, (the other being Lake Barkley).  
 
 

 
 
The Ohio River and the Illinois border arrived about 5 minutes later.  
 
 

 
 
If this bridge has a name other than the Interstate 24 Bridge, I wasn't able to find it.  
 
 

 
 
Off to the right is the Irvin S. Cobb Bridge which connects Paducah, Kentucky and Brookport, Illinois.
 
 
Irvin S. Cobb Bridge

 
 
The relatively flat terrain theme continued after crossing the border .  .  .

 
« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 12:48:21 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 12:24:37 AM »

continued .  .  .
part 3 of 4





My time on Interstate 24 ended about 30 minutes later when I reached the intersection with interstate 57.  I had traversed the entire 316 mile length of I-24 from the intersection with I-75 in Chattanooga to where I was now in Illinois.  Forty-five minutes later, I picked up Interstate 64 west in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.  The Mississippi River and Missouri border were only 1 hour away at this point.  Relatively flat open spaces gradually gave way to more dense population.  The famous Gateway Arch came into view outside of East St. Louis, Illinois.
 
 

 
 
East St. Louis, Illinois is a fascinating place.  Once Illinois' fourth largest city, a century of mass exodus and abandonment have left the city in ruins.  
 
 

 
 
The large building on the left side of the photo below is the Broadview Hotel, a 260-room former luxury hotel that dates from 1927.  The Great Depression wasn't very kind to the hotel, or East St. Louis in general.  It subsequently changed hands and was repurposed several times.  After decades of decline, the property was totally abandoned by 2004 when it's last tenant, Southern Illinois University, moved out.  
 
 
The Broadview Hotel

 
 
The tall building seen to the left of the sign in the center of the photo below is the Spivey Building.  This 12-story skyscraper also dates from 1927 and is the only skyscraper ever built in East St. Louis.  Businessman A. T. Spivey, who owned the East St. Louis Journal newspaper, purchased the property next door and built the building that bears his name.  Like the situation with the Broadview Hotel, the Great Depression had other things to say about Spivey's ambitious plans.  The building has been abandoned for decades, and all past attempts at renovation have failed.
 
 
The Spivey Building

 
 
I decided to follow Interstate 64 through the southern part of St. Louis.  The entire length of I-64 through the city was completely rebuilt in 2008 and 2009.  So this was the first time I had driven on the finished product.  The Gateway Arch was getting larger and larger as I approached the Poplar Street Bridge and the Mississippi River.
 
 

 
 
I perched the camera on my shoulder again and held the button down hoping to get a few usable pictures.  
 
 
 
 
 
Luck was with me today !  
 
 
The Gateway Arch

 
 
Busch Stadium appears immediately after crossing the river into Missouri.  This stadium is home to the St. Louis Cardinals MLB franchise.
 
 
Busch Stadium

 
 
This is actually the new Busch Stadium that opened in 2006 replacing a structure from 1966 that sat immediately next door and was torn down after the new stadium was completed.  I've driven by this stadium many times, and I'm still surprised by how close it sits to the interstate.  
 
 

 
 
Some of the city's larger skyscrapers come into view past the stadium.  The tall buildings seen below are L-R:  St. Louis Civil Courts building (13 stories tall, dates from 1930), Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse (29 stories tall, the largest courthouse in the country), AT&T Center (44 stories tall, Missouri's largest building by area), Bank of America Plaza (31 stories tall), One Metropolitan Square (next to the headrest, 42 stories tall, the tallest building in the city).
 
 
Downtown St. Louis, MO

 
 
The Scottrade Center is home to the St. Louis Blues NHL franchise.
 
 
Scottrade Center

 
 
Historic Union Station dates from 1894 and was once the world's largest and busiest train station.   The last train pulled out of the station in 1978, after which the complex was converted into a hotel, shopping center, and entertainment venue.  Great place !  I've been there several times.
 
 
Union Station

 
 
The tower seen in the background is the 280 foot tall clock tower from the station's original Head House .  .  .
 
 
« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 12:58:56 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 12:35:08 AM »

continued .  .  .
part 4 of 4





I passed a few more familiar I-64 landmarks on my way through the city.  The 1,371 acre Forest Park sits on the northern side of the highway.  The St. Louis Science Center on the southern side is connected to Forest Park via a pedestrian bridge that I've driven under and walked across, (several radar guns are mounted above the interstate for Science Center visitors to play with).  Next came the I-170 connector two miles past Forest Park, then Lindbergh Boulevard (home of one of my favorite dealerships, Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars), then the I-270 western bypass interchange.  The city of Chesterfield, Missouri, home of the Lamborghini Bentley Maserati Rolls Royce dealership, arrived next.  Traffic thinned out a bit after crossing the Missouri River via the Daniel Boone Bridge.  And finally, I always liked the idea of waterfront living in Lake St. Louis, even though I could probably never afford to do so.
 
 
Lake St. Louis

 
 
The Interstate 70 interchange in Wentzville, Missouri arrived a few minutes later and would get me to Oak Grove, my final destination for the day.  Below is one of my favorite parts of that highway.
 
 

 
 
I always liked this long valley just outside of Danville, Missouri for no reason other than the wonderful view you have of it from either side of I-70.   
 
 

 
 
The city of Columbia, Missouri was only ½ hour away at this point.  I was glad I arrived with enough daylight left to do the things you do when you visit a place where you used to live.  I got off the interstate and took all of the roads I used to drive daily back to my old neighborhood.   
 
 

 
 
Not much has changed.
 
 

 
 
I turned the corner and drove past my old house.   
 
 

 
 
But now I see where some things have changed, like the landscaping in the front yard.  In those days, I wasn't interested in planting stuff in the yard like I am now.  Back then, I prefered good ol' grass which was easy to mow, unlike an actual garden which required maintenance.  But I love what the homeowners did with the front yard.   
 
 

 
 
It's hard to believe that almost 8 years have passed since I last saw this place.  Even harder to believe is the fact that I've been gone from here longer than I lived here.  Even so, I have fond memories of this house, and Columbia in general.  Unlike my friend Heather who did it early on, it took me until my late 30s to start the process of self-discovery and finding my place in this world.  I just wish I would have been mature enough at that time to understand it.  I owe a lot to my ex-wife for not only bringing me to Columbia, but also for helping me learn to Adult.
 
 

 
 
I hung around my old house just long enough to snap the above pictures.  Then it was time to drive to work.  Leaving my neighborhood, I saw something else that hasn't changed.  The photos above give you an idea of the typical size and spacing of the homes in that area.  However, one neighbor was a longtime resident who was lucky enough to latch onto a 3 acre property.  I smiled seeing the land still intact as I was leaving the neighborhood.
 
 

 
 
I followed the same route to work that I drove daily for almost 6 years.  The Machens Ford Service Department had already closed for the day when I arrived. 

 
Joe Machens Ford Lincoln

 
 
After refueling at one of the convenience stores where I used to stop regularly, it was time to get back on I-70 and head to Boonville, Missouri.
 
 

 
 
I had a date with a wonderful buffet dinner at the Isle of Capri Casino, another place I visited frequently during my time in Columbia.  And I got to enjoy a beautiful Midwest sunset on the way to Boonville.
 
 
I-70 west near Rocheport, Missouri

 
 
My overnight destination of Oak Grove, Missouri was a little more than an hour away by the time I finished my dinner.  I had traveled a total of 845 miles, during which time my Beautiful Disaster performed flawlessly.  I was especially pleased by the fact that the roof was down the entire time except for the ½ hour or so it took to descend from Monteagle, Tennessee in the Cumberland Plateau to the Nashville Basin.  Driving an extra 100 miles past the half-way point in Columbia means tomorrow's drive will only take around 10 hours.  So if all goes well, I should get to Greeley, Colorado long before dark .  .  . 
« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 01:11:37 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 08:16:30 PM »

Oak Grove, Missouri to Greeley, Colorado .  .  .  
November 20, 2016 
Part 1 of 5
 
 
 
 
 
Day two began the same way day one began, with me putting my suitcase in the car before sunrise.  Only this time, I felt much better about my decision to drive.  My Beautiful Disaster has performed flawlessly to this point.  This doesn't really mean anything, though.  The next rollback ride could be a few miles up the road.  But I felt good in spite of the frost all over the car.
 
 

 
 
This is late November, and the weather does that during this time of the year.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
 
 

 
 
The roof had to stay up for a while, at least until the sun came up.  Speaking of which .  .  .
 
 

 
 
Mother Nature seemed poised to treat me to a wonderful sunrise.  Unfortunately, traveling in the opposite direction means I would only be able to enjoy it in my rear view mirror.
 
 

 
 
So sunrise over Walmart would have to do for now.   
 
 

 
 
I mentioned earlier that I've never been any further west than Kansas City by car.  So this means today's journey will take me into uncharted territory, something I'm really looking forward to.  Getting there will be pretty easy – Follow I-70 west for about 600 miles to just outside the Denver metro area where a couple of Colorado county roads will then take me to Greeley.  I'm guessing this will translate to around 9 hours of driving.  Factoring in the additional hour I will gain by crossing a time zone, I should be in Greeley well before dark.  But I won't be if I keep staring at the sunrise.  I checked the oil and coolant levels (which were both full) and hit the road.
 
 
I-70 west, Kansas City, Missouri

 
 
Kansas City, Missouri was empty on this Sunday morning, which was great !  Like any large metro area, traffic can be unbelievable.  But not this morning.
 
 

 
 
The Harry S. Truman Sports Complex sits on the eastern side of the city.
 
 

 
 
Kauffman Stadium in the foreground is home to the Kansas City Royals MLB franchise.
 
 
Kauffman Stadium

 
 
Arrowhead Stadium in the background is home to the Kansas City Chiefs NFL franchise.  The lights were on in preparation for today's 1 PM game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Thankfully, I was passing by early enough that I didn't have to deal with game day traffic .  .  .
 
 
Arrowhead Stadium
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2016, 08:27:20 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 2 of 5
 
 
 
 
 
The city skyline came into view after passing the sports complex.
 
 

 
 
Interstate 435 serves as Kansas City's very oddly-shaped perimeter highway.  Normally, a perimeter highway is the better choice when traveling through a major metro area.  The additional time needed to travel around the city on the bypass is usually offset by not having to deal with traffic in downtown.  But this didn't matter at 7 AM on Sunday morning.   
 
 

 
 
The city skyline was not only getting larger, but also becoming beautifully illuminated courtesy of the sunrise.   
 
 
Kansas City skyline, westbound view

 
 
The normally east-west Interstate 70 made a northbound turn at the Power and Light District downtown which gave me a great view of the skyline.  I perched the camera on my shoulder once again and started shooting.  The prominent buildings seen in the photo below are (L-R):  Jackson County Corrections Center, Richard Bolling Federal Building (18 stories), Jackson County Courthouse, (22 stories, sits in front of 1201 Walnut and One Kansas City Place), Tower Pavilion (38 stories), and the Bryant Building (26 stories).   
 
 
 
 
 
The cluster of buildings near the Courthouse separate somewhat in the photo below.  From L-R:  Richard Bolling Federal Building, Jackson County Courthouse, 1201 Walnut (with the top of One Kansas City Place directly behind it), Town Pavilion, Bryant Building, Kansas City City Hall, and Oak Tower.   
 
 

 
 
The building with the two pointed towers seen in the photo below is the 35-story 909 Walnut.  Originally known as the Fidelity National Bank & Trust Building when it opened in 1931, the building was converted to a mix of apartments and commercial office space after it was sold in 2000.  Currently, it is the tallest apartment building in the Midwest outside of Chicago.
 
 

 
 
Interstate 70 turned westbound again once which put the Power and Light District off to my left.  The Missouri River is out of view in the foreground of the photo below.  The open space is actually part of the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.
 
 

 
 
A small piece of the Missouri River can be seen on the far right side of the photo below, (the Missouri and Kansas Rivers meet at that point).  The large building is part of the Barlett Grain Company.
 
 

 
 
Interstate 70 crossed the Kansas River made a southbound turn which put the city skyline off to my left.  This means I was treated to sunrise over Kansas City for a brief period of time.  I put the camera on my shoulder again and started shooting.
 
 
Kansas City skyline, eastbound view

 
 

 
 
Holding the button down with the camera set in "continuous burst" mode resulted in about 20 pictures.  After cropping, straightening, and some minor processing, I managed to capture a few decent shots.   
 
 

 
 
From this point onward, I will be heading into uncharted territory.  Everything I encounter beyond the city will be a new experience me .  .  .
 
 
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2016, 08:35:13 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 3 of 5
  
  
  
  
  
The road curved westbound again and the crowded feel of the metro area began to disappear.  Population density seemed to drop off significantly near the Kansas City Speedway about 10 miles west of the city, and disappeared altogether after that.  This section of I-70 is now considered part of the Kansas Turnpike, a toll road that stretches from Kansas City southwest all the way to the Oklahoma border.  Tolls are collected on a short stretch of I-70 from a few miles west of the speedway to the I-470 interchange outside of Topeka, Kansas.  The toll road continues south on I-470 from that point toward Oklahoma, while I-70 continues west toll-free.  Motorists like myself who exit the toll road in Topeka pay $3.  I paid my fare and continued west.
 
 
Topeka, Kansas

 
 
The Kansas State Capital of Topeka is comparable to Athens, Georgia in terms of population, but takes up less than half as much physical space.  The views of downtown from I-70 were partially obstructed by the median.  Nevertheless, the dome of the State Capital Building is visible on the right side of the photo below.  The tall building in the center of the photo is the Topeka Tower.
 
 

 
 
The drive through Topeka didn't take much time at all.  After a few minutes of city skyline, EVERYTHING disappeared !  Only wide open rolling hills remained.
 
 

 
 
With the exception of the occasional small town along the interstate, I-70 would look like this for the rest of my trip.
 
 

 
 
I've entered into a part of the country known as the Flint Hills.  Located in eastern Kansas and northern Oklahoma, the Flint Hills is an ecological region that is home to one of the last significant preserves of tallgrass prairie in the nation.  
 
 
Mile marker 343

 
 
Limestone and shale make up much of the Flint Hills, which made the region nearly impossible for early settlers to plow.  Since it couldn't be converted to farmland, it was used for ranching which left the tallgrass prairies intact.
 
 

 
 
Everything I read about the Flint Hills says that, except for areas next to streams, trees are rare here.  I can confirm this !  
 
 

 
 
Hardly a tree in sight !  
 
 

 
 
There were, however, lots of rolling hills.
 
 

 
 
The numerous cuts through the hills for the interstate show what the ground looks like beneath the surface of those hills.
 
 
Mile marker 305

 
 
Since they couldn't plow the land for farming, early settlers used it instead for cattle ranching.
 
 

 
 
The result is one of the last places in the country where an undisturbed tallgrass prairie exists .  .  .
 
 
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2016, 08:47:05 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 4 of 5
 
 
 
 
 
The rolling hills continued as I approached Salina, Kansas.  Even though it may look similar to the Flint Hills, this area is part of different ecological region known as the Smoky Hills.  I know nothing about the geological characteristics of either set of hills.  But the difference between the two regions appears to relate to the composition of the soil and how it came to be, (I.e. stuff that's way over my head !).   
 
 
Mile marker 256

 
 
I began to see wind turbines off in the distance just past Salina.
 
 
Mile marker 231

 
 
The Smoky Hills Wind Farm sits 20 miles west of the city.  Smoky Hills is the largest wind farm in Kansas covering 20,000 acres, and involving more than 100 property owners !  The 155 wind turbines contained therein can produce around 250 megawatts of energy, enough to supply electricity to around 75,000 homes.  I was passing through Phase II of the project which went online in December 2008.
 
 

 
 
Wind turbines are enormous.  The camera doesn't give the proper perspective regarding the size of the Vestas V80 turbines used here.  Each tower is around 200 feet tall, and the rotor diameter reaches 260 feet across.
 
 

 
 
I didn't know anything about this place at the time other than I was seeing a lot of turbines.  So when the turbines started to decrease in intensity after a short distance, I figured that was the end.
 
 

 
 
But no.  There were more around the corner.
 
 

 
 
A LOT more !
 
 

 
 

 
 
I was now passing through Phase I of the project which went online in February 2008.   
 
 

 
 
Unlike Phase II where the turbines are all located north of I-70, Phase I of the project features turbines on both sides of the road.
 
 

 
 

 
 
I eventually reached the end of Smoky Hills Wind Farm.  In doing so, I apparently disturbed an ornithology convention taking place in the field next to me.
 
 

 
 
I don't know what they were doing that close to the road.  But there were enough of them to make me nervous.  I've seen Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," and was glad they flew the other way .  .  .
 

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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2016, 10:44:11 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 5 of 5
 
 
 
 
 
I noticed that the rolling hills that had been with me for the last few hundred miles had gradually begun to disappear.  This is because I had transitioned from the Smoky Hills region to the High Plains.  Part of the broader Great Plains, the High Plains is a reference to the region's elevation.  I never thought about it at the time.  But my elevation had been steadily increasing for a while.  Kansas City sits around 870 feet.  I had reached 950 feet in Topeka, and around 1,230 feet in Salina.  By the time I reached Oakley, Kansas where the photo below was taken, I had reached 3,060 feet !
 
 
Mile marker 71

 
 
I enjoyed this part of the drive, and not just because I spotted a salvage yard off to my right.
 
 

 
 
"Salvage yard" may not be the right term.  This looks like it could be a collection of vehicles and equipment that someone has amassed over the years.  Either way, I love seeing stuff like this !
 
 

 
 
Snow began to appear along the side of the road near mile marker 31 outside of Brewster, Kansas.  And I'm still climbing, (around 3,430 feet in the photo below).
 
 
Mile marker 31

 
 
Around 20 miles later, I crossed into Colorado for the first time in my life.  I couldn't tell by looking at the scenery, though, which has looked the same for the last few hours.
 
 

 
 
But I made it !   
 
 

 
 
Without a tow truck !   
 
 

 
 
More wind turbines came into view outside of Arriba, Colorado.   
 
 
Mile marker 390

 
 
I was passing by the Limon Wind Energy Center outside of Limon, Colorado.  Built in three phases, Limon I, II, & III cover more than 55,000 acres and produce enough electricity for 185,000 homes.
 
 

 
 
But the real treat arrived 20 miles later.
 
 
Mile marker 370

 
 
I smiled when all 14,114 feet of Pikes Peak came into view off in the distance !
 
 

 
 
This is why I'm here !   
 
 

 
 
I began to understand what Heather meant the many "wide open spaces" comments she has made about the region.  My view was definitely "wide open" and didn't vary much from what is seen in the photo below.
 
 

 
 
I enjoyed that view for the next 60 miles until I reached the small town of Bennett, Colorado which sits about 15 miles outside of the Denver metro area.  I had been on I-70 since 7 AM this morning.  But now I needed to head north toward Greeley.  I could have stayed on I-70 to the E-470 Denver Bypass, and then picked up US Route 85 north to Greeley.  But I was quite intrigued by all of the wide open space photos Heather has sent to me before, and decided to see them for myself by exploring the local secondary roads.  I got off of I-70 at State Route 36 in Bennett, Colorado.   
 
 
Colorado Route 36

 
 
Once in town, I headed north on State Route 79.  And by "north," I mean directly north on a perfectly straight road.  Not a curve to be found anywhere !
 
 
Colorado Route 79

 
 
Traveling north meant the Rocky Mountains were off to my left.  Normally, I would perch the camera on my shoulder and hold the button down.  But this road was almost completely empty, which allowed me to stop here and there.
 
 

 
 
Looking off to the west made me wonder if the sunsets in this part of the country are as amazing as it looks like they would be not only for the mountains, but also for the almost completely unobstructed views.
 
 

 
 
I stayed on State Route 79 until it ended 22 miles later, enjoying this view the whole time.
 
 

 
 
A couple of turns were needed to get me to County Road 49 heading north toward the eastern side of Greeley and my hotel downtown.  And even after missing a road sign for one of those turns and having to backtrack, (County Road 60½ ?  Who names a road "½" ?), I made to Greeley, Colorado.  My longest east-west cross country drive, which totaled 1,500 miles, proceeded without incident.  I'm happy to report that my Beautiful Disaster performed like a proper Jaguar, and reminded me once again why I fell in love with the car in the first place.  In addition to everything I've said about the car previously, I can add a few more things:

~  My back had absolutely no complaints after spending around 22 hours in the driver's seat over the course of two days.  I've always thought the seats were comfortable, and this drive added further reinforcement to those thoughts.

~  Fuel mileage hovered around 22 - 24 mpg over the course of the trip.  This doesn't bother me at all because fuel economy is simply not a concern for me.  But I thought the car would do better than that.  Since I saw no evidence of a mechanical problem, (i.e. warning lights, engine performance, etc.), I believe I was just given a good lesson in aerodynamics.  Cars are shaped so air flows smoothly over the hood and roof.  Removing the roof compromises the car's aerodynamics and creates turbulence which reduces fuel economy.  While hardly noticeable at low speeds, the effect is quite pronounced on the highway.  With the exception of two instances each about an hour long, (which translates to probably 130 - 140 miles), the roof was down for the entire trip which took place almost exclusively on the open road.  So yeah, I noticed.

~  All the repairs I've made to the car during my ownership have stood the test of time.  Almost two years and more than 15k miles have passed since the fuel system repairs were completed.  The new fuel gauge sending unit installed a year ago is still working perfectly after 10k miles.  And my coolant level has remained constant since I made repairs around 5k miles ago.  If I was wondering whether or not I could trust the car before this trip, I believe I now have my answer.

Thanks to all of that, I was now sitting in Greeley, Colorado.  After checking into my hotel, I headed to Heather's house to pick her up and find some dinner.  It's time for my Holiday Season adventures to get underway .  .  .
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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2016, 09:43:07 PM »

Day one in Greeley .  .  .  
November 21, 2016  
Part 1 of 3
  
  
  
  
  
I didn't realize that my hotel in downtown Greeley sits directly across the street from the railroad tracks.  
 
 

 
 
Nor did I realize how frequently trains pass through the downtown area.  I was awakened Monday morning to the sound of one passing by the hotel.  The train, itself, wasn't the problem.  The fact that the train whistle blows at each crossing, sometimes as early as 6 AM, does get your attention, especially when the crossing is right across the street.  I counted at least 4 trains passing by the hotel this morning and snapped a few pics of one of them.
 
 

 
 
This particular train was actually pretty long, taking a good 5 minutes to pass by.
 
 

 
 

 
 
Here I was in Greeley, Colorado enjoying my Thanksgiving week off and starting day one by watching the train pass by.  Dr. Heather, however, still had to Adult this morning and give her students an exam.  She gave them a choice earlier – either take it before Thanksgiving break, or immediately after you come back.  Even with the best of intentions, studying over a holiday break usually doesn't happen.  So they chose before, meaning Heather had to be at work this morning.  No big deal.  This meant I had some free time to explore the area on my own.  
 
Greeley, Fort Collins, and Loveland, Colorado are three separate municipalities of similar size and located next to one another.  The relationship is similar to those of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota or Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, Arizona.  Getting from one to the other is quick and easy.  Heather and I drove to Loveland about 25 minutes away for dinner last night.  But that 25 minutes was directly west toward the mountains.  I couldn't see much because it was getting dark.  But what I saw was amazing.  I decided to head back to Loveland this morning and find a place to take some pictures.  Finding my way around the area was actually pretty easy thanks to a few principles I quickly discovered.
 
Mountains = west:  The Rocky Mountains dominate the landscape and are visible from just about anywhere in the Greeley area.  If I was ever confused about where I was, I could look for the mountains to orient myself.  In other words, if I looked off to my left and saw this .  .  .  
 
 
County Road 17 near Loveland, Colorado

 
 
.  .  . I knew I was heading north.  Having a basic understanding of where the cities are on the map makes it relatively easy to figure out where you are.  This is especially true since .  .  .
 
Traffic grid:  .  .  . a majority of the roadways seem to be laid out in a grid format.  Most of the roads, especially those outside the city limits, are straight as an arrow and are pointed either north/south or east/west.  
 
 

 
 
Wide open spaces abound:  Greeley is like any other city with a population of 100k people – it can get crowded at times.  The good news is that wide open space is never that far away.
 
 

 
 
I took the photo above from County Road 17 about 10 minutes from downtown Greeley.  Getting away from the crowd is easily done which is precisely what I was doing at that moment – looking for an isolated spot with a great view of the mountains.  US Route 34 is one of the main thoroughfares connecting Greeley and Loveland.  The area in between the two cities is marginally crowded, filled with housing developments and shopping malls.  The good news is that wide open space is a short distance away via one of the many secondary roads that connect with Route 34.  I turned left onto County Road 17 heading south.  I saw nothing but a farmer's field off to the left (looking east).
 
 

 
 
The Rocky Mountains were off to my right.  
 
 

 
 
I wanted to get closer to the mountains, and started looking for a right turn to take me west and came across something familiar. Johnstown, Pennsylvania near my hometown is located in the mountains in Cambria County.  History buffs may recognize the city as the namesake of the Johnstown Flood from 1889.  Nowadays, the city is known more for its economic woes.  Johnstown, Colorado looks to be a bit smaller and a little less active.  I immediately sent a "Look where I am" photo to my brother .  .  .
 
 
« Last Edit: December 30, 2016, 09:52:19 PM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2016, 09:45:19 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 2 of 3
  
  
  
  
  
I turned onto County Road 54 and headed west toward the mountains.
 
 

 
 
You can see in the photo above that being on top of a small hill gave me an awesome view !  Then starting down the other side of the hill lessened the view somewhat.
 
 

 
 

 
 
In front of me were several more of these small hills.  I needed to find a turn ahead of me, (closer to the mountains), that would take me upward, (a higher elevation), onto a road less traveled (so I could stop and take pictures).  
 
 

 
 
County Road 54 became County Road 18 and crossed under Interstate 25 ahead of me in the photo above.  Just past the interstate, I turned left onto County Road 9 heading south, but more importantly, up.  I then turned right onto County Road 16 heading west toward the mountains and also heading up.
 
 

 
 
County Road 16 came to a tee intersection just beyond the sign seen in the photo below.  
 
 

 
 
At this point, I encountered something I'm not familiar with – the unpaved County Road.  Heather tells me that this is quite common in this area.
 
 

 
 
But I also found what I was looking for .  .  .
 
 
« Last Edit: December 30, 2016, 09:47:31 PM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2016, 09:47:52 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 3 of 3
 
 
 
 
 
I didn't have to worry about traffic on an unpaved County Road.  So I pulled over and started shooting.  I tried to label everything as best as I could.  But as much as I like to be sure I get everything right, all I can do here is look at a topographic map and give it my best guess.
 
 
Panorama looking northwest

 
 
In the photos above and below, I am looking toward the northwest.  The views are stunning.  Unfortunately, I'm not able to positively identify any of the peaks.  But in the photo below, the pointed peaks on the far left foreground may be Palisade Mountain (8,264 ft), and Alexander Mountain (7,105 ft).  The snow capped peaks in the background in the center are possibly Stormy Peaks East (12,020 ft), and Stormy Peaks West (12,148 ft).  The prominent pointed peaks just right of center are possibly Storm Mountain (9,918 ft), and Lookout Mountain (10,626 ft). 
 
 

 
 
I zoomed in on the left side of the photo above to get a perspective shot.  I think the snow capped peaks in the background on the left side of the photo below are the previously mentioned Stormy Peaks East (12,020 ft), and Stormy Peaks West (12,148 ft).  The pointed peak on the right is possibly Storm Mountain (9,918 ft).  The camera can't do justice to the scale of what I'm seeing.  Those tiny looking evergreen trees seen off in the distance on the side of the mountains are probably 25 - 50 feet tall !
 
 

 
 
I panned the camera further to my right in the photo below.   
 
 

 
 
I then panned the camera to the left so I was looking southwest toward what I think may be Mt. Copeland, 13,176 ft (L) and the Twin Sisters and Long's Peaks (R).
 
 

 
 
I zoomed in on what I think are Elk Tooth, 12,848 ft (L), and Mt. Copeland, 13,176 ft (R).
 
 

 
 
I was surprised how well the picture of Mt. Copeland below turned out, (full zoom and processed through Photoshop Elements).  You won't see me on the cover of National Geographic.  But I don't think it looks too bad.
 
 

 
 
Below, I zoomed in on what I think are the Twin Sisters Peaks (consisting of Twin Sisters Mountain (11,384 ft), Twin Sisters Peaks East (11,428 ft), and Twin Sisters Peaks West (11,413 ft)), with Long's Peak (14,255 ft) in the background partially obscured by the clouds.
 
 

 
 
The time when Heather and I planned to meet after she was done at work was approaching.  So it was time for me to head back to Greeley.   
 
 

 
 
The interchange seen above and below is that of US Route 34 and Business US Route 34 on the western side of the city.  I decided to take the business route for no particular reason.
 
 

 
 
Even as I was getting closer to town, the wide open spaces were still plentiful.  I'm only about 8 miles away from the center of a town with a population of 100k people.  Yet I've got plenty of wide open space all around me.   





Traffic does pick up quite, especially around the University of Northern Colorado where I was heading next .  .  .
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2016, 06:59:55 PM »

Exploring the UNC campus .  .  .  
November 21, 2016  
Part 1 of 2
  
  
  
  
  
Greeley is very similar to Athens, (and Columbia, Missouri for that matter), in terms of city population and the fact that there is a large college campus in the downtown area.  The University of Georgia (UGA) in downtown Athens and the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) are both HUGE, with each having more than 32,000 students.  Enrollment at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is roughly 1/3 of that figure.  So while the overall college town theme is the same, UNC is scaled back in all respects, which is one reason why Heather likes it here so much.  Everything moves at a much less intense pace.  
 
I had no problems finding a parking space in one of the primary campus lots on my way back from my picture taking adventure.  Maybe the upcoming holiday had a lot to do with that.  But UNC's Thanksgiving break wouldn't start until Wednesday, meaning school was in session when I arrived.  Even so, I had no problems parking in the lot next to where I needed to be.
 
 

 
 
Heather and her coworker, Tom, treated me to a campus walking tour when I arrived.  The scaled back aspect of the campus became apparent almost immediately.  UNC's campus is less than half the size of what I am used to at UGA which made for a nice walk.
 
 
Ross Hall

 
 
Ross Hall is one of the primary academic buildings at the southern end of the campus.  It's a large building that looks like it's been added to a few times, and now resembles a lower case letter "h" as written by someone with lousy penmanship, (like myself).  A lot of the physical science disciplines call this building home.  
 
 
Ross Hall

 
 
The center of the "h" is occupied by a nice open space courtyard.
 
 

 
 
It looks like a nice place to hang out and enjoy the sun as the visitor below was doing.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to catch a quick photo of him as he was posing.
 
 

 
 
He expressed his displeasure with the paparazzi by running away.
 
 

 
 
McKee Hall sits north of Ross Hall, and is home to a lot of the teacher education disciplines.
 
 
McKee Hall

 
 
Like Ross Hall above, the design of the building also features a center courtyard.  Although at McKee Hall, the open-air courtyard sits under the building's tower.
 
 

 
 
I like the overall design, especially the ceiling.
 
 

 
 
The Michener Library is named after author James A. Michener.
 
 
James A. Michener Library

 
 
The Pulitzer-prize winning novelist (and Pennsylvania native) was both a graduate (Masters in Education), and faculty member at the University in the late 1930s and early 1940s .  .  .
 
 
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2016, 07:18:10 PM »

continued .  .  .  
Part 2 of 2
  
  
  
  
  
Walking toward the football stadium is where the scaled back nature of the campus was most obvious to me.
 
 

 
 
Nottingham Field is home to the UNC Bears football team and the school's track & field events.  Some kind of practice was taking place when we walked by.
 
 

 
 
The stadium's capacity is listed as just over 8,500 people.  I had to smile as someone who has experienced what life is like in Athens when 93,000 Georgia Bulldogs football fans converge on Sanford Stadium.  But that's the beauty of this place.  It's not a crowded mess, nor is it a traffic nightmare.  While I'm sure things can get hectic at times, the scale is much less than what I'm used to.
 
 
Nottingham Field

 
 
The Bank of Colorado indoor arena follows the same philosophy as the football field.  Capacity is right around 2,700 people, (compared to the 10k+ capacity of the Stegeman Coliseum at UGA).
 
 
Bank of Colorado Arena

 
 
The indoor arena is part of the Butler-Hancock Athletic Center which features athletic offices, training rooms, and SES classrooms.
 
 
Butler-Hancock Athletic Center

 
 
Next to the Athletic Center is the Campus Recreation Center which is basically a big gymnasium for faculty, staff, and students.  All the normally seen goodies – weight rooms, indoor track, climbing wall, swimming pool, fitness rooms, etc. – can be found within.  
 
 
Campus Recreation Center

 
 
We passed by Turner Hall, one of the many dorms, on our way back to Ross Hall.
 
 
Turner Hall

 
 
At this point, Tom asks me if I wanted to check out something happening in the Snake Lab.  Yes I would !
 
 

 
 
Dr. Stephen Mackessy studies venomous snakes and snake venom composition and happened to be in his lab when I was there.  I know absolutely nothing about snakes or snake research.  But it sounds like the science of snake venom would require being able to extract the venom from the snake before you could go any further.   Being able to do this in some manner other than getting bit by the snake would probably be step one in this process.  That very activity happened to be on the agenda today.  While I was excited to see something like this, I don't think the research subjects shared my enthusiasm.  One tried to get away.  
 
 

 
 
Dr. Steve has been doing this for many years and is quite familiar with how to not get bit.
 
 

 
 
The process involves placing tubes around the fangs to collect the venom.
 
 

 
 

 
 
All I know is that I'd end up in the hospital.  And from what Dr. Steve said about today's research subjects, (I believe some kind of rattlesnake, not sure really), that's exactly where I'd be.
 
 

 
 
Getting close to the snakes didn't bother me at all, (I actually found it extremely fascinating).  Getting to see something like that was great !  I don't ever recall seeing "extracting snake venom" on anyone's list of vacation activities.  But I was glad I was here today.
 
 

 
 
Heather used the rest of the afternoon to show me some of the local sights before the day ended.  At this point, her Thanksgiving break had officially arrived and set the stage for more intense sightseeing tomorrow .  .  .
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