Saturday, September 29, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0021 - South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota

As I pulled into the South Dakota State University (SDSU) campus, the first thing that I noticed was a large campanile that dominated the landscape. There was a door facing the parking lot, so I parked in the adjacent lot and tried the entrance door. No luck – The door was locked! In addition, I noticed a large sign that said all visitors must obtain a parking permit to park anywhere on campus. Since the campus police station was just across the street, I wandered over and inquired how to obtain a parking permit and I asked when the campanile was open to the public. Much to my surprise, the woman at the desk opened a drawer, pulled out a key, and told me that I could just unlock the campanile door and climb to the top at my leisure. She warned me, however, that the climb was harder and farther than it looked. After taking down my driver’s license information she gave me a parking permit and a guide to other public facilities on campus. But first, I had to climb the campanile!

Apparently, not a lot of people take this adventure because there were cobwebs around the door and when I got inside it really smelled musty. The climb to the top wasn’t too bad, so after taking some pictures (You can see a long way from the top of the campanile because South Dakota if fairly flat in the Brookings area.) I returned the key and decided to visit the South Dakota State Art Museum that is located just to the north.

Campanile at SDSU
 The art museum was very interesting and features over 6,000 original works, which includes 110 works by Harvey Dunn. (Harvey Dunn was born in Manchester, South Dakota and attended South Dakota Agricultural College (now SDSU) as a young man.) There was also a traveling art exhibit on display.

"The Prairie Is My Garden," by Harvey Dunn
Next stop was the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, which is home to over 100,000 objects. Of particular interest was an old Case steamer that had been completely restored. There were also a number of other tractors and farm implements, and lots, and lots, of historical items used around the farm. Of particular interest was the Briggs & Stratton engine display. Briggs did a lot of his original engine development work when he was an engineering student at SDSU and after graduation he teamed up with Stratton to start building small engines. I remember growing up in rural South Dakota and we had numerous Briggs & Stratton engines on the farm.

Case Steamer

Early Farmall

The last stop was the McCrory Gardens and South Dakota Arboretum. Even though it was September, there were still a large number of flowers in bloom. Maybe the next time I pass through Brookings it will be in the spring or early summer when the gardens are in full bloom!

 McCrory Sculpture Gardens



Saturday, September 22, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0020 - Oahe Dam, Pierre, South Dakota

I remember one day when I was a small child, Mother loaded the kids in the car and drove us out to a point overlooking the Missouri River about five miles north of Pierre, South Dakota. There were no roads in the area and we just followed some signs posted across the open prairie. When we arrived at the destination, we found a few cars and trucks parked behind a white sunshade that had been erected overlooking the river. It was a typical hot, windy, summer day and we were told that the chairs under the sunshade were for dignitaries -- and we did not qualify! As we sat in the grass complaining, Mother told us that someday we would be thankful that she made us come with her because this was a historic day that we would always remember. It was the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Oahe Dam, which when completed would be the largest earth-rolled dam in the world. During the ceremony we were told that when the dam was completed, the residents of Pierre would never have to worry about another flood. (The river historically flooded the City of Pierre every few years and people became accustomed to sandbagging around the stores and the power plant.)

Progress on the dam seemed to progress slowly. When watching construction of the earthen dam from a ridge overlooking the construction site, the large earth moving equipment looked like small ants moving around at a snail’s pace and it did not seem possible that the construction crews could ever move enough dirt to stop the mighty Missouri River.

Many years went by and then one summer day it happened – they were going to stop the Missouri. Water in the reservoir would then be allowed to rise to the level of the diversionary tunnels that had been constructed to divert water around the dam dike while it was being completed. Water would be held at the diversionary tunnel level for a number of years until the tunnels for the power generators were completed.

I remember the day well because several of us were on the river below the dam in an old fishing boat. When the water stopped, the water drained from the river, and we found ourselves sitting in the sand with no water. And, we had to drag the boat back to the boat dock. Since there was no water in the river, we drove up to the dam site and watched as construction progressed on filling in the old river channel. It seemed really strange to see the Missouri River channel downstream from the dam without water. It did, however, create some really great fishing holes. All of the fish congregated into the low parts of the river bed in pool of what little water remained and soon the fish became hungry enough to eat any type of bait you through in the water.

The level of the reservoir continued to rise until the many trees along the original river channel behind the dam became about half submerged in water. This created great fishing and a challenge to negotiate through the trees in a motor boat (especially at high speed when pulling a water skier). The higher water level in the reservoir also open many new areas above the dam for exploring that had previously been inaccessible. . 

Recently, we traveled in comfort on a boat from the boat dock in Pierre up to the dam. The trip brought back many memories from the pre-dam era when the mighty Missouri carried so much dirt and silt that the water was chocolate colored. Then, there were the days when the water in the river stopped and started filling the reservoir, and finally, the eventual completion of the dam. Of course, the promise that the City of Pierre would never experience another flood was broken in 2011 when the water level in the reservoir rose so quickly from excessive snow melt in Montana that all of the gates had to be opened to save the dam. This created the highest water flow in the river below the dam since construction of the dam had been completed and many homes along the river suffered substantial water damage. But, during my visit in 2012, things seemed to have returned to normal and the boat ride up the river was uneventful and presented the opportunity to take some great pictures.

The Mighty Missouri River

2011 Water Flow Through Diversion Tunnel

 2011 Water Flow Through Diversion Tunnels
2012 View of Diversion Tunnels from River
2012 View of Power Tunnels from River
Traveling on the River in Comfort
Boat Dock Below Dam

Missouri River Train Bridge

Missouri River Train Bridge

Missouri River Train Bridge

South Dakota Sunset

Sunday, September 16, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0019 – Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota

If you have ever traveled across the western part of South Dakota, you cannot miss all of the Wall Drug Store advertising signs along the major roadways. Actually, Wall Drug Store is probably the most advertised drug store in the world.

It all started in July 1936.

About five years earlier the Husteads had purchased a drug store in the small, rural town of Wall, located in western South Dakota. Business had been slow and the Hulsteads had struggled to make a living since purchasing the drug store. Then, on an especially hot July day, Dorothy Hustead came up with the idea to advertise “Free Ice Water.” The first day after the signs went up, business sky rocked. Travelers passing by the town now started stopping at the drug store for “free ice water,” and while they were getting free ice water they also purchased other items. Since that July day in 1936, the drug store has continued to expand --- and they still give out about 5,000 glasses of free ice water every day!

The advertising campaign was expanded during World War II, when it became popular for soldiers to place Wall Drug Store signs around the world indicating how many miles it was from that location to Wall Drug Store. After the War, many veterans traveled to Wall to see what they had been advertising.; and, the Drug Store still gives out free Wall Drug Store signs that you can take home and place in different locations.

Over the years Wall Drug Store has expanded into many other areas and it is a must stop if you are traveling in western South Dakota. In addition to the drug store, there are now dining areas, clothing shops, art galleries, exhibits, numerous souvenir shops, and interactive displays for children. And, for adults, coffee is still only 5¢ per cup! Freebies for people in the military!

Displays include singing cowboys, singing raccoons, dinosaurs, bucking horses, giant jackalope, and many, many, more.
Map of Wall Drug Store

Wall Drug Store
The Old Prospector

Wild Bill Hickok Playing Cards

The Singing Raccoons
T-Rex Looking For His Next Dinner 
(File Picture)
Small Child on Bucking Horse
(File Picture)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0018 - McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada

Okay, here is today’s quiz! What is probably the only museum in the world that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free to the public? Hint! It is located in Las Vegas.

And the answer is – The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum located on the second level esplanade in Terminal 2 at McCarran International Airport. Since I have been spending so much time in airports lately, I decided that just being at the airport is a RonnieAdventure!

While recently waiting in Terminal 2 for a flight, I starting roaming the hall to get some exercise and discovered the Cannon Aviation Museum. Much to my surprise, the exhibits were quite interesting (the museum curator is Mark Hall-Patton that you see on Pawn Stars). I discovered that the first airplane landed on a dirt strip in Las Vegas on May 7, 1920; and stayed for three days, giving people rides for $10 each. By 1926 air traffic had increased to a level that a formal airport was constructed several miles north of the current location. 

One of my favorite exhibits at the museum was a bright red 1956 Ford Thunderbird convertible that was used as an airport emergency vehicle for a number of years. Apparently, because it was so light and fast, the Thunderbird was the first response vehicle to arrive at the scene of several emergencies. The other really interesting artifact was the Cessna 172 that was used to set the world endurance flying record. The plane with two pilots left the ground on December 4, 1958 and stayed aloft until February 7, 1959, or 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 5 seconds. It traveled enough distance to go around the world six times. The endurance record still stands today. Fortunately, there were no speed limits in Nevada at that time, so the support truck was a 1957 Chevy pickup that would drive down the highway at a high rate of speed to refuel the plane and deliver supplies twice a day.
Museum Exhibits

Museum Exhibits
Museum Exhibits
1057 Thunderbird Emergency Vehicle
Cessna 172 used to set World Endurance Record
Refueling during endurance flight

McCarran International Airport is still expanding to accommodate the 40 million passengers that fly in-and-out of Las Vegas each year and recently opened Terminal 3, which is anticipated to be the last expansion at this location. We attended the Terminal 3 open house and marveled at the architecture and art work on display. I also realized that there are definitely more interesting people that hang out in this Terminal. Unfortunately, all of the airlines that I fly on leave from Terminal 2! Maybe I should think about changing airlines!

Butterfly Exhibit at Terminal 3
Part of the Terminal 3 crowd