2016 Vacation – Part 2 – Sep 5-7

TRAVELING TO COLORADO

On Monday morning, September 5, 2016, we said goodbye to Dodge City and headed westward. It was only about a 3 hour drive, so we took our time checking out of the hotel.

WIND TURBINES

Wind TurbineBacking up a bit, one of the first things we noticed as we were approaching Dodge City the previous day, both in Oklahoma and in Kansas, was the increasing number of wind turbines.

These are the modern-day, high-tech version of windmills.

These are giant honkin’ structures, 300 to 400 feet high, with huge aerodynamic rotor blades and a geared turbine in the head, on top of a huge pole.

I was fascinated by these structures, so I looked them up online. It turns out each one of these things costs in the neighborhood of $2 million to $4 million to build, and will put out 3 to 5 megawatts of power. They have been being built massively over the last ten years or so, and according to the information I found online, the USA currently gets about 5% of its overall power from these bubbas.

There were wind turbine farms with hundreds and hundreds of these structures, which should have told us something about the wind in these areas.

When we arrived at Dodge City, we made the mistake of – without thinking, of course – opening both of the front doors of the car at the same time.

WHOOSH! The wind swept through the front seat of the car in an amazing blast. Fortunately, we only had a few loose things in the front of the car, and the only thing the wind got was a couple of napkins. That was a surprise, and after that, we tried to make sure we only opened one door at a time.

CENTER-PIVOT IRRIGATION

There’s a lot of, um, agriculture in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. One of the things we noticed most was the proliferation of Center-Pivot Irrigation systems.

We had seen these in a few places before, and when I was flaying for the USAF, I could see the circular fields irrigated by these systems from six miles up. But now these systems seemed to be in just about every agricultural field we saw.  I had a good time imagining the kind of engineering that had to go into designing these systems, so they are reliable and work as they should, with the inner trucks going so much slower than the outer trucks, and so the plants close to the center of the circle don’t get too much irrigation and those on the outer rim don’t get too little. Some interesting design challenges there.

ARRIVING IN LAMAR

Most people who have spent some time online have at least one, probably several, “friends-they’ve-never-met.” Meaning, of course, people you’ve met online and become friends with, but have never met in person.

My friend Trevor in Lamar, Colorado was one such for me. Trevor is involved in his town’s community band, and he runs a band music lending library, which is how we met. He is also involved in several local charities and in an automotive service business, and has given me quite a bit of website business.

We have been friends for more than a dozen years, but never got to meet in person until this trip.

Trevor had set us up with a room in a B&B owned by a friend of his, and it was a wonderfully nice unit.

We arrived in Lamar about 3PM, and I called the B&B host. It turns out she wasn’t expecting us to arrive quite so early, and was out of town, headed back in.

So we drove around Lamar for a bit, exploring the town and getting the feel of the place.

TAX DEDUCTIONS

The U.S. Tax Code provides deductions for miles driven in support of a business, and since I was actively involved with Trevor as a customer for several websites,  I definitely wanted to do some website business, so as to make the mileage of this trip a legal tax deduction.

There is also a deduction for miles driven in support of a charitable organization, but that’s a much smaller deduction. I’ll get to that later on.

So while we were driving around, we found a church for which Trevor had hired me to build a website, and I took a lot of professional-caliber pictures of the church to use on the website.

frontpanorama-1200x371
Grace Lutheran Church in Lamar, CO

We also found the visitor’s center, and – as it turned out – all the local restaurants.

THE LAMAR VISITOR’S CENTER

In front of the Lamar Visitor’s Center, they had an old steam locomotive and tender,

Lamar Locomotive
The Lamar Locomotive

and they had a single blade from one of those massive wind turbines mentioned above.

tubineblade01
Wind Turbine Blade

To give you an idea of the size of this blade, the top of the circle on the near end is about eight feet off the ground.  When I stood next to it, my eye level was about halfway up the circle.

turbineblade02Each one of the bolts you see in this picture is about one inch in diameter. So this is not a small thing you’re looking at.

It was very impressive.

LAMAR TOUR, WIND FARMS, AND GOBBLER’S KNOB

The next morning, Trevor met us early at the B&B, where we had breakfast with another B&B guest, a retired airline pilot taking a cross-country motorcycle trip, and all had a fun session of morning discussion, solving the world’s problems.

Then Trevor took us on a personalized tour of Lamar. He was born and grew up there, so he knew all the history of a town. You know, it’s much more interesting hearing the history of a town from someone who helped shape it than it is to simply wander around on your own looking at things you aren’t familiar with.

Trevor spent several hours showing us quite a few interesting places, several of which we would go back and visit later on. Then he had to go to work for the rest of the day.

So we looked on a “Points of Interest” brochure we had picked up in the Visitor’s Center and saw that about 15 miles south of Lamar there was something called “Gobbler’s Knob.” Well, just the name of that sounded very interesting, so we headed that way.

When we had gone far enough that we thought we ought to be about there, we came upon a farm of wind turbines. There was one of them only about 40 yards from the road, and when we got right next to it, we could see how absolutely massive this structure was. There were probably more than a hundred wind turbines in this farm, and I was impressed all over again.

Just a little bit farther down the road, we did come upon the Point of Interest called Gobbler’s Knob.  It turned out to be the name of a rest area on the 2-lane highway, with several strangely-shaped rock formations nearby.

gobblersknobI couldn’t help it. When I saw them, my immediate thought was that they looked like piles of petrified dinosaur dung. Maybe not, because they are about 12 feet tall, but still… It was an interesting side trip and worth getting to see.

I did find out, through later research that there are several places in the US called Gobbler’s knob. One in Pennsylvania, one in Utah, and I think one in the state of Washington.

Later that afternoon, we also visited an interesting museum on the north side of town.

EVENING IN LAMAR

We got back from our afternoon touring just in time to meet Trevor for dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant, then we dropped Jan off at the B&B and I went with Trevor to his community band rehearsal.

In our pre-trip emails, Trevor had asked me if I wanted to sit in on the rehearsal, so I brought my French horn mouthpiece. Turns out they coudln’t locate a spare French horn, but they did find a trumpet, so I was able to sit in with them playing trumpet. I very much enjoyed getting to meet the people in the band, and playing some music with them.

After the rehearsal, I was able to meet with their board of directors, and give them a presentation on the techniques we have used in our band here in Mississippi to grow our band and to grow our audience. From their feedback and questions, i believe I was able to share some things that might help them with their group.

This was one of the highlights of the trip – being able to share some of my own experiences in a way that might help other community bands be better, happier, and serve their communities more effectively. It also qualified as consulting with a non-profit organization, which helps for documentation of the mileage as a tax deduction!

Following the board meeting, Trevor showed me around the Arts Center building, where we had the rehearsal and meeting, and which is right in the middle of downtown. Trevor has somehow managed to get the owner of that building to donate the entire building to one of Trevor’s non-profit organizations, and now they hold quite a number of arts events and classes there. They are just getting started on the renovations of the building, but it has a ton of potential. I found myself wishing we could get something like that here in Mississippi.

BUSINESS VISIT AND DEPARTURE

The next morning, we checked out of the B&B and went to visit Trevor at his business. I wanted to thank Trevor for his marvelous hospitality, to see his place of business, and to get some high quality photos of the business for his website.

avdiesel-pano-01The picture above is actually four different photos, stitched together to make a single, panoramic view of his main place of business.

A couple other things we did during our visit there, things that I don’t exactly remember when during the visit they occurred, included a visit to Trevor’s Music Lending Library

intheavwpell
A view of maybe 25% of Trevor’s Music Lending Library

and a visit to the AMACHI World War II Japanese-American Internment Camp. This was a sobering reminder of a dark time in our nation’s history, when people were rounded up and kept in what was essentially a prison for years, based solely on their heritage. You can look it up online if you want more information.

All in all, it was a wonderful visit in Lamar, and we enjoyed it very much.

We left on Wednesday morning, heading for Colorado Springs.

Discussion of Citizenship and Daily Life

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