Kansas

Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands

Every year I take an annual trip to Estes Park Colorado with my friends Tim and Bryan. Usually, it’s in May, but we have added a September trip to the mix as well. The point of this road trip is to do some hiking, take photo’s, relax and enjoy, weather permitting. I say that because sometimes Mother Nature decides overcast is all she is going to give us and it doesn’t make for very dramatic images. This year was one of those years. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t try, and actually Tim and Bryan got some pretty decent images in Rocky Mountain National Park. Uninspired by the overcast and not feeling the photo love, I busted out the Moment Macro lens for the iPhone and tried a completely different approach to things with mixed results. The good news is, Kansas showed us the love.

Driving to Estes involves taking I-70 for 9 to 10 hours across the great expanse of Kansas, and while most people think of Kansas as a “fly-over” state, it’s probably because they have never taken the time to venture off the freeway or see the Tallgrass Prairie lush from spring rains. For the last few years, we have broken up the drive by stopping in Oakley and the following morning making an excursion to a couple of landmarks about 30 minutes Southwest of the city and the freeway. Last year it was Monument Rocks. This year we hit the “Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands” which is now a state park and will open to the public in June. I’m glad we did because Mother Nature smiled on us with a brilliant clear spring morning that gave us perfect golden light.

The photos below don’t do the size of this chalk formation justice. The columns rise at least 30 to 40 feet in some areas and Little Jerusalem spreads out over a couple of square miles. We only explored a small section, and I need to go back for some night photography and to get a better feel for how large this place really is. If you have time to make the detour and stop I highly recommend it.

A couple of things to point out. Currently (May 2017) this place is gated and there are No Trespassing signs up. Before June enter at your own risk. If you spend the night in Oakley or arrive at the wrong time of the day, be prepared for an olfactory overload. There are a feed lot and a hog farm right off the main drag and the stink can be pretty overpowering if there is no breeze. It was so bad when we arrived I almost lost my lunch when I got out of the car. The good news is, both Monument rocks and Little Jerusalem are far enough away, you won’t smell it there. You will also want to go in some sort of SUV. The roads to both are dirt and gravel and can be a bit rough. My GTI would have had a hard time negotiating some of them.

All photos were shot in RAW on my Olympus OMD EM-1 with the 12-40mm and processed with Lightroom, Photoshop, and NIK Color FX Pro.

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Monument Rocks.

20 miles South of Colby Kansas is Monument Rocks. A rock formation that is part of an ancient sea bed. If you are ever driving on I-70 in Kansas, I say make the detour. It’s worth the 30 minute excursion. Now it’s time to roll on to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Sunrise Over Kansas

This weekend marked the start of a new film project. This image was taken as the sun rose over Kansas this morning, following a full day of shooting.

The project will take about 12 months to complete, and updates will be posted along the way. Look for a Vimeo teaser in the next week or so, followed by style boards, storyboards, behind the scenes info and other details.

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Driving Ms. Beverly.

Sorry for no posts the last two days. There is no data network on the road in the desert southwest.

Last Friday morning I got up at a quarter to 4 so I could catch a plane to Tucson Arizona. The purpose of the trip, was to move my 82 year old mother back to Kansas City, after my quite delusional older brother Mark decided to kick her out of the house. That is a post unto itself, that I am not going to go into at this time. I’m still just a wee bit angry about the whole situation and his ill treatment of our mom. What I am posting about today is the experience of driving about 1300 miles in a day and half across the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

The trip for the most part was rather uneventful. The roads were good. We encountered no bad weather. Traffic was typical I guess, but with gas hovering around 3.50 a gallon and diesel around 3.90 I couldn’t figure out how so many people could afford to haul these giant fifth wheel trailers from Arizona to places like MIchigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada. Seriously, I would say that 1 out of every 10 vehicles on the road was a huge diesel truck pulling a monster sized trailer at 10 under the speed limit. All of them heading north, going home for the summer, after spending the winter at a trailer park in the desert southwest. It really was mind blowing. These people are for the most part modern nomads, living 6 to 8 months out of the year in a camper because they hat the cold of winter. It was absolutely crazy.

The other thing I thought was nuts were the number of people cruising at what must have been 100 miles per hour. I had my cars cruise control set at 77, and I was being passed like I was standing still. The only time I didn’t see it was outside Albuquerque, and that was because the highway patrol had probably 20 cops busting people for 10 miles on each side of the city.

The point here is, obviously people don’t give a damn about the cost of gas, and the environment. If they did, they’d slow down, and or buy a second home in the desert southwest. I would think the cost of the fifth wheel trailer, plus the cost of the gas, is equal to, or greater than the cost of a second home. If you had a second home, you could dues it as base camp for weekend get-away or day trips to points of interest. And if you drove at a reasonable speed, like the speed limit you would save enough on gas to pay for part of your trip.

One last thing. All the cellular networks need to update their maps to be just a bit more accurate. While they all boost coverage across large swaths of the country, they need to be perfectly clear… you might make a phone call, but you are not going to use all the features of your new smart phone. I had no data network at all on most of the trip. Most of the time I was on a degraded Edge network. And for a few hundred miles, my cell signal dropped in and out as the geography changed. This meant my GPS app on the iPhone was spotty, Photo’s and blog posts could not be uploaded, and email couldn’t be checked with any level of efficiency. Thankfully there were truck stops with free WiFi, and in New Mexico, two of the rest stops had it, but for the most part it was an Edge network dead zone.

I’m glad I’m back.

The Instigram 365 Project. 03/12/2011.

I should have posted this yesterday but I was at the Big 12 Basketball Championships watching KU spank Texas. Sorry Texas fans, I’m a Jayhawk through and through.

This image has nothing to do with basketball. This is my dog Cosmo, resting his head on my lap after I finished power raking, fertilizing, and over-seeding the yard yesterday. We adopted Cosmo almost 6 years ago from a foster dog home in Columbia Missouri. When we saw him come trotting out of the house we knew he was coming home with us. We didn’t even have to think about it.

By the way, Cosmo is also a Jayhawk so I guess this image has a little bit to do with Basketball.

Heritage Helmets. Cafe Racer Helmets from the UK.

In the state of Kansas you aren’t required by law to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. (I think that the state of Kansas should make it mandatory that all motorcycle owners sign the organ donor line on the back of their licenses.)  I know we are talking about a state that in the last decade has chosen to not believe in evolution, is home to that idiot Fred Phelps, and has now discontinued funding for the arts. Thank god I am almost in Missouri.

OK enough of that, the reason I mentioned the helmet thing is because if you are on a motorcycle or a scooter you should put a helmet on your head. If you are fashion conscious and need something that will make you look all retro cool, you might want to try Heritage Helmets from the UK. The Lambretta helmet is Retro styled, with cool graphics, and affordable. The helmets are emblazoned with the Lambretta logo, and as former Lambretta owner, I have to say Heritage has done a great job with the styling on these.

The helmets are a Cafe Racer style shell featuring a classic open-faced design, from the early seventies. They are painted, lacquered and finished in Italy with work being done by Giancarlo Daneo (Project’s owner and designer), to create Heritage’s initial range.

The helmets meet European Road Safety Standards ECE 22/05 and are made to the highest standard. They are manufactured by Project srl, who have been designing, developing and creating  motorcycle helmets for over forty years.

Heritage Helmets feature a shell made from a composite ABS with the inside lined with polystyrene, with a calibrate density for extra protection, safety and comfort. The linings are interchangeable, washable and are covered with a microfiber eco leather finish, which is breathable and absorbent. The buckle/safety chinstrap has a micrometric regulator for easy fitting, and a quick release fastener. Each helmet comes individually boxed and bagged, with an optional detachable peak and a booklet giving advice on safety, maintenance and storage.

I Want Clear Streets Please

Last night the Kansas City metro area got what was supposed to be its first major snow storm of the season. At my house I think I might have gotten 3 inches total, so it wasn’t that big a deal. What I want to talk about today, is the lack of city services for clearing the snow, and the way people freak out when they have to drive on it. Or maybe I should say how people are just ill prepared and not thinking about how to drive on snow-covered streets, which as far as I concerned shouldn’t be covered at all.

I live at the intersection of 3 counties, 2 states, and 3 cities. My house is in Wyandotte county, less than half a mile from the state line, and less than half a mile from Johnson County Kansas. This morning when I first went out I thought OK the side streets are covered, no big deal they always are but by the time I get to the main roads things will be all cleared off. Well they weren’t. The two and a half mile to work on city streets was a giant frozen slush fest. It looked as though no prep work had been done, and none of the streets had been cleared. By 7:30, enough traffic had rolled over the streets, that the snow pack had turned into the equivalent of an icy slush, with areas by each traffic light frozen into black ice. both Wyandotte and Jackson county roads really looked like they were untouched by our city workers.

Johnson county Kansas on the other hand was perfectly clear. I got a call before I left for work form another driver who said that as soon as she crossed County Line road into Johnson County, the streets were completely clear. They had been scraped free of snow and ice. They were safe and easy to navigate, thanks to an efficient set of city, county, and state employees that worked through the night to make sure that the morning commute would be safe.

So I want to know what gives. I live in the county with the highest property taxes in the state. The county where the unified government is not operating in a deficit. Are you telling me that Kansas City Kansas, can’t clear the major streets in their city? 7th street, or Rainbow as it is named South of I-35 was pure soup. This is the main road that runs from downtown KCK to Shawnee Mission Parkway. South West Boulevard, another main thoroughfare was in the same state. As I drove in I kept thinking by the time I get across 39th street to Main, or Southwest Trafficway, those streets will have been scraped, but hell no. They were awful, and this isn’t even a major storm we had. Southwest Trafficway was so bad by Pen Valley college people were stuck spinning tires in both the center and right lanes causing a back up that for lack of a better term snowballed into   more cars getting stuck. Linwood, and Gilham were no better. The streets just sucked in the Kansas City area. I know I should be used to it by now. KC streets always suck when it comes to getting them cleared and safe to drive, but it just seems to me that it gets worse every year. This leads to the second half of this post.

OK just because you bought a 4 wheel drive truck or SUV doesn’t mean you A: know how to drive in the snow, and B: are any good at it. I saw so many idiots driving like the snow was no big deal. Spinning 4 tires instead of 2, weaving in and out of slow-moving traffic, with no regard for the safety of others on the road. Kansas City drivers in general are some of the worst I have ever experienced in the United States, but if you add a pinch of snow and some I kick ass cause I have 4 wheel drive to the mix it is a recipe for disaster. My favorite drive this morning was the guy in his all wheel drive Audi tailgating everyone on Southwest Trafficway weaving through traffic like he was the center of the universe and we his roadblocks to whatever was so important. Just before the 31th street intersection, he swung from the center lane to the left lane behind some guy in a huge Expedition. Giant SUV stopped short for the timid driver in front of him, and wham Audi kissed the Expeditions back bumper with its grill and hood. I’m sorry the guy deserved it. My second favorite experience was the guy in the delivery truck for “India Palace” backing down the street into oncoming traffic because he didn’t have snow tires and couldn’t make it up the slight hill from 39th street. He was forcing other drivers to get out of his way, as he backed down the road. He had a 4 wheel drive truck, but like said earlier, if you don’t know how to use it then you are no better than the rest of the people on the road.

So what is the point of all of this? I’m not sure. I’m probably just letting off some steam, after what should have been an easier drive to work this morning.