Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

There's A Good Moon On The Rise

                  Autumn has been creeping in 
With a puckish, mischievous little grin
     Taking bits of light from each day
     And stashing all of them away
             Until Spring
The stealing of leaves from the trees begins
      When shades of green are replaced with 
A golden marchand de vin
             Animals start filling burrows, storing the foods they like best 
                 Birds abandon northern nests
            And take wing 

                   All over
Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire
    Cars caravan along                       Scenic byways                                   
To enjoy the palatte
          Of the oak, maple, cherry and alder
The brushstrokes
Are bold 
On nature's canvas

The boys of summer gear up
         To play for the crown
            The men of the gridiron
Don pads and helmets
School doors open and students 
   Begin to settle down
         Joggers exchange shorts
For warm-ups and sweats

           Some parent may be fitting
A little witch with a broom
            A happy child starting to 
Make a Halloween costume
      Vampires, werewolves, the Mighty Thor 
    Will soon be knocking on your front door
         Looking for treats 
        With threats of smelly feet
   From robots of foil and cardboard and glue
      Along with a few scary monsters
       And a two-year old ghost                
                  That says


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ten Tips To Success In Any Endeavour

                                      For today, be happy this isn't you

I read an article today on the attributes of successful people. The author, in all seriousness, stated that successful people are achievers.

No kidding? Reading that made me want to hit the author of the article with a shovel. 

Nobody reading an article on what characteristics successful people share needs to be told that they are achievers.

We can all figure that one out for ourselves.

Thinking about it for awhile, and doing a little browsing past the second page on Google for more articles, I narrowed down the habits/characteristics/qualities of the successful to these few:

First, it seems to be essential that you have a phenomenal amount of self-confidence. I don't mean boatloads of confidence, I mean a whole Armada's worth. How do you get that level of belief in oneself? I suppose it wouldn't hurt to be surrounded by people who believe in you - parents who encourage your efforts, teachers that praise you for trying, friends that help you overcome difficulties, etc. I have also read it helps to fake it until you make it, so try that, too. 

Second, it looks to be advantageous if you develop an extraordinary capacity for hard work. Looks like having parents who assign you chores and make you do your homework before you get to go out and play factors in with this, as does learning early on that hard work earns rewards. Hard work, apparently, is one of the keys to being able to accomplish and achieve goals.

Being single minded when it comes to a task or project, that is, focusing your attention to the task on hand and maintaining that focus until you have finished what you set out to do, is a biggie. Not allowing yourself to be distracted by the petty and irrelevant is something that a lot of successful people feel is important.

Fourth, and this one can be tricky, especially if you're a human with, what are they called? Oh yeah, emotions...Don't ever let anything get you down - stay remarkably positive, no matter what happens. In fact, stay so positive that you radiate positive energy like a reactor. Be the positive sun that everyone around you wants to bask in.

Think more than you talk. That rare ability is mentioned by a lot of the success-seminar presenters. Of course, if you're like me and were not born a great thinker, you might have to find a way to trick yourself into thinking. I found one website that claimed if you asked yourself how a famed intellect would answer a question, that short pause alone will cause people to think you're intelligent and then maybe they'll be more willing to help you succeed. 

Develop whatever natural talent or ability you have to it's fullest potential. That seems to be something that ties in neatly with a few of the other qualities on this list - being focused and working hard at whatever it is you do probably leads to a great deal of confidence in your ability to do it, and therefore, success!

Seventh is another one of those traits that can fall victim to emotion. Apparently, boundless energy and enthusiasm for life is necessary for success. It's possible that you were raised by parents who greeted each day with a smile and came home from their jobs with as much energy as when they left the house that morning, and it's possible that you were genetically blessed with a high revving metabolism that never stops, and therefore have boundless energy and enthusiasm for life, but if not...well, there's always that fake it until you make it dealio.

An exceptional desire to succeed probably goes without saying when listing the characteristics of successful people, but it's listed anyway. The majority of the many, many web pages devoted to success (3,700,000 if you're curious) list desire as being not just necessary, but indispensable, on the same level as air and food. There are many suggestions as to how to increase your desire - set a personal achievement goal, fixate on acquiring a specific amount of wealth, cut out pictures of luxury items you want and tape them to your fridge, write down affirmations and tape them to your bathroom mirror, etc. Whatever it takes. Me, I've never had a problem with exceptional desire, so I got this one knocked.

Ninth, again according to a preponderance of web sites, fantastic drive and singular determination are very relevant to success. You have to find a way to push yourself constantly. I suppose it will help if you have some of the previously listed boundless energy and enthusiasm.

And finally, persevere. In the face of every obstacle, hindrance, portent-of-doom, etc., persevere. Never, ever give up. That's the top quality, right there. Perseverance. It seems that homeless shelters, tent citys, and street corners all over the world are full of talented, intelligent, capable people who just didn't persevere.

At least that's what I've been able to garner.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Intensity Of Feeling Is Inversly Proportional To The Level Of Regret

Everybody makes mistakes
So far, I've notched 13,127
I just seem to have what it takes
To snatch a little hell from heaven

There must be a pathology
Some student of the mind must have written a paper
Maybe it's in the biology
A genetic penchant for less than stellar behavior

Fortunately life has given me a little break
Allowed me a means to find respite
For every single error I seem to make
There are at least 2 things I get right

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Parkinson Had A Keen Understanding Of The Executive Mind

Everyone was sure to give their opinion on the matter whether they Knew anything about it or not
The first order of business was the 401K
And how the investment menu was changing
The CFO said it was for the good
So it was approved without debate

The new inventory management software was brought up  
              Someone asked if it was user friendly
              I.T. said it was 
              A motion was made to approve
              The show of hands was unanimous

Then came the matter...of the proper dress for casual Friday
             And the fight was on
Buzalski said Khakis and Polos were the best
             Nalder wanted shorts approved
Heinikel pounded the table when T-shirts were mentioned
            Hoven liked the idea of Hawaiian shirts
Coesfeld moved to forbid sports coats altogether  
            Scott thought flip flops went to far
Umlauf was the only one who disagreed
            Kilian insisted women should still wear stockings
Hardt only spoke up when baseball hats were brought up

The meeting spilled into a second hour
Tempers flared and voices were raised
Three times a book was slammed down to bring order
A secretary was asked to have lunch catered
By the third hour nothing had been decided
At the close of business the matter was tabled for later


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Bozos Are On The Razzle

                         Kona wants to know what is it with those replacement referees?

All I wanted was the highlights of the Padres/Dodgers game. What I got was an analysis of the last few seconds of the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers that put the dissection of the Zapruder film to shame.

Okay, a call was blown that cost a team a victory. It's not the first time it's ever happened, and write this down, it won't be the last. 

So the blown call was made by a replacement ref, one of the guys hired to fill in for the regular refs who are on strike. That makes the bad call that much more egregious I suppose. 

If I was a football fan I suppose I would care, but I'm not really a football fan. I like baseball, and my loyalties lie with the San Diego Padres, who absolutely stink this year but have managed to put together a second half that is just short of miraculous.

Not miraculous as in they chanced upon a cure for cancer miraculous, more so in the sports analogy use of the word, which means they have been winning when they really shouldn't have been - the team does not have a single .300 hitter, and their best pitcher is just over .500, and as he's pitching tonight, could actually end up being smack dab at .500.

I just checked. Richards is 14 - 12, so even if he loses tonight, he'll still be over .500. Yay.

I expected to be able to see a few highlights of last night's game on the noon Sportscenter, but for twenty minutes all I got was talking heads quarreling about how big a travesty the MNF game was. 

It's freaking Wednesday afternoon! That happened Monday night! It's over! Let it go!

I got to see one play from the Padres 2-1 win Tuesday night - Kemp being picked off between 3rd and home on a clever play by Chase Headley. 

Then yet another look at the last few seconds of the MNF game...poor replacement ref, they're putting him through the Bill Buckner wringer. Ouch.

  "The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle."   Colonel John Paul Stapp

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Replacing The Clutch In A 1997 Ford F-150

                                             Pneumatic tools are going to come in handy

Let's say for a moment that you drive a Ford F-150 with a manual transmission. Let's also say that said Ford 
F-150's clutch is just about to give up the ghost, as in it no longer functions as designed and in fact is going to leave you stranded if you keep driving the truck as it is.

Let's also say you look up on the good ol' Internet how difficult it would be to replace the clutch yourself. Wow! You find web sites littered with helpful advice and claims that, on a scale from 1 to 10, replacing the clutch on a Fold F-150 is a 5.5, tops.

Ehow states that it should take a moderately experienced person 2 hours to remove the old clutch and install the new one.

Those websites, and especially Ehow, are dirty filthy stinking liars.

Replacing a clutch on a Ford F-150 is about an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, and will take at least 10 hours and 6 trips to the auto parts store. Trust me on this.

Just removing all the crap you have to remove to get to the damn clutch takes 3 hours. Start with the Shifter. The Chilton book tells you to pull up the accordion-like rubber gasket that covers where the shifter is connected to the coupling and pull out the bolt that is securing the shifter arm to the coupling.
            That bolt, lower left corner...does not come out with the use of the fingers

You read that right. It states, in black and white, that you should pull out the bolt.

First things first: The truck should be up on ramps so you can crawl underneath it comfortably, and, after the tires are blocked securely, the transmission should be in neutral.

If your clutch is shot, that bit is probably a given.

Now back to the matter of pulling the bolt out. If you can bend quarters in half with your fingers, I suppose this is possible. However, for the rest of us, the best way to do this is to remove the nut that is on the bolt and place it on the opposite side of the bolt (the bolt is one of those headless affairs with threads on both ends). tighten the nut on the bolt and it pulls it out of the opposite side (the bolt is flattened in the middle and slots into the coupling when the nut is tightened from the side it was on when you first removed it).

Now that you have the shifter off, open the hood and disconnect the battery. Then you have to crawl under the truck and remove the driveshaft, the entire exhaust system, the starter, and of course the transmission.
That right there is going to take 3 hours. Bite me Ehow.

                   Place the driveshaft in the bed of the truck - you'll need it again later

I read all of that in the Chilton manual, but being as I had to get to work in an hour, I knew there was no way I could do all that. I only had one course of action available to me if I wanted my truck up and running by Monday (this was Sunday morning, btw).

Mechanic neighbor Josh.

I stated this in the blog I wrote about replacing the starter in a Ford F-150 - If you do not have a mechanic neighbor Josh, you are screwed.

I walked over to Josh's and negotiated a fee for his services to help replace the clutch.

Then I went upstairs and got ready for work.

While I was at work, Josh, Tom, Tim and Ron, but 93.7% Josh, worked on getting the clutch replaced. 

When I got home from work Josh was still under the truck, and Tom, Ron, Kelly and Tim were watching football in the garage. I asked Josh how things were going and he replied that he pretty much wanted to hit me in the head with a wrench.

Josh is a Chevy man...and working on this Ford F-150 only cemented his allegiance

The clutch was in, but Josh explained that it wasn't really the clutch that had been the problem.

Josh showed me the old pressure plate and explained it wasn't the clutch that was giving out, it was the hydraulic slave cylinder. Being as I'd purchased the whole clutch kit and the clutch had already been removed, the new clutch went in.

He described just how much of a pain in the ass it had been, including the 6 trips to the parts store and a very long rant about a pilot bearing that was trashed and had to be replaced, and how freaking difficult that was.

Josh finished up putting the starter back on, and after I changed from work clothes into grubbies we put the driveshaft on, then put the shifter back on the coupling. Then we had to refill the transmission - just about 5 quarts of transmission fluid, using the longest funnel I had (fortunately I have a large selection of funnels, all shapes and sizes - long story).

Tim, being by far the lightest of us, jumped in the cab of the truck to pump the clutch as we fiddled with the clutch fluid to achieve the optimal level.

After having reached a consensus on the clutch feeling right, Josh reconnected the battery and I started the truck up. I had to jam it into reverse in order to back it down the ramps, but it did slip back into 1st relatively easily when the ramps were cleared away.

The clutch is a self-adjusting clutch (that's why it has a hydraulic slave cylinder), and will maintain the proper spacing between the clutch release bearing and the clutch pressure plate automatically. However, before all the automatic stuff kicks in, it will have to be adjusted manually a bit via bleeding of the clutch.

And doesn't that just sound like fun?

The truck is up and running again, and I only need to refit the accordion-like rubber gasket over where the shifter and coupling meet, and clean up the garage, and all will be well in the valley.

Until something else goes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Recurring Nightmare Of The Babs Streisand Torture Technique

Somehow, I've been chained to a wall
In a small dark room
It's pitch black, I can't see at all
But I can hear a noise coming from the gloom

It's too low to immediately identify
But slowly the volume increases
Until it's loud enough to recognize
Omigod no! Not those verses!

"People...People who need people..."
My ears begin to bleed
My brain turns to mush and I become feeble
"Stop it, stop it, stop it" I plead

The laughter of a mad man rings out
"You made a fool of me once and now you'll pay!"
The music is turned up and I want to shout
Oh how did I end up a victim of such foul play

Waterboarding, bamboo under the fingernails, anything
But not this, this will drive me out of my head!
I pull against the chains, struggling and straining
Then suddenly I awake covered in sweat in my bed

Gotta stop eating cheesecake right before bedtime. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Semmelweis Reflex

It can't be done
Because, well because
                                     No one has ever done it before

What makes you think this thing will even run?
Somebody probably once said to Karl Benz
When he was building that engine with a single bore

            Just as somebody with a sword
                                                    Dismissed the gun

                      As one of those wacky trends

            A caveman probably didn't think too much
                                                     Of the first door

There are those who say there is nothing new
Under the sun
History however shows that new ideas
Are without end

You just can't expect to find what you're not looking for

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Charity Earley Wouldn't Back Down

Charity Earley
 Joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
When she was just 23
It was 1942 and the world was at war

She had entered a man's world
Of hate and oppression and resentment
Toward her
By the very men she sought to help
In the very country she sought to defend

She had majored in Math and Physics at the University
So they made her an officer
She became a commanding officer
And then, as a Major, a battalion commander

Everyday she was presented with challenges
And everyday she handled them with grace
Most days the Army respected her rank
Some days the Army men would not
Still she soldiered on

In service to her country she went to England
In 1945 she was in Paris on VE day
And celebrated VJ day in Rouen
With the troops in her command.

She had served her country against an enemy
That may have appeared no different than those
She had at home
The ones who had threatened her and her family
And still thought of her as second class

When the war ended they wanted her in the Pentagon
To serve in the headquarters of the Women's Army Corps
But Charity had enough of the Military grind
She left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel

The highest ranking African-American female WWII officer in the WACs

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bobby Joe Never Thought Of Himself As A Southerner

He liked to think of himself as an Ottoman Pasha
With a two-horsetail standard that he carried at his side
Dreamed about exploring the Greater Khorasan on a camel

His wife
Was uptight
And wouldn't agree
To Zoroastrianism
Or call him Rumi
After the Sufi

He would spend hours outdoors among the flowers
In the Trailer park
Trying to develop insight and mystic powers
A state of consciousness 
Or a state of grace
To save him from all the doubters
Everyone gave him a wide berth
Even Roscoe

If It's Thursday, Then This Must Be Kanorado

                                              The 153 residents of Kanorado welcome you

With nothing pressing on the agenda, today seemed like a perfectly fine day to venture east along the very first interstate ever built in the U.S., I-70. The highway pretty much traces old route 40, with two wide lanes of two-lane blacktop in each direction separated by an even wider grass center divider. 

Packed up a few supplies (CD's and Rock Star, whoo!), made a quick stop to fuel up, and got on the road!

Leaving Denver far behind for the day

Denver is by far the largest city in a radius of over 500 miles, especially when one heads east. Most of the towns and cities along I-70 have populations of 5,000 or fewer at best, with the majority being half that.

The land east of Denver is flat, but far from dull. I-70 parallels the railroad, and there is always something interesting to see being hauled by the train, and truckers hauling everything from huge bridge spans to gigantic mechanical constructions of unknown purpose fly on past as you make your way east.

Blades for wind turbines being transported by rail

Once you get past the small agricultural community of Strasburg, about 30 miles east of Denver, it's a good 50 miles of rolling Plains until you get to another small agricultural community, Limon.

By the time Limon came in view, Westerberg's 2002 release Stereo was about to replay at track 1 (Baby Learns To Crawl, with the awesome imagery of the lyric "watching Daddy's skin") so in went the Maccabees latest, Given To The Wild

The town of Limon is the most populous town in all of Lincoln county, with 1,880 residents (I do not know if that figure includes the inmates at the Limon Correctional Facility though). 

Limon is proud of it's railroad history

Limon is the end of the line for the small Kyle Railroad, and where it meets up with the Union Pacific Railroad. Railroads have been a big part of Limon since the 1870's, and the town has devoted a large area of park land to celebrate that heritage.

The Limon Heritage Museum & Railroad Park is recommended

The rail cars and engines on display range from fully restored and refurbished classics to somewhat dilapidated workhorses awaiting their turn at some tender loving care. 

Plow Train at the Limon Railroad Park

The Heritage Museum also showcases some of the traditional implements and machinery found on the farms and ranches in the area. The museum itself was closed for the season (on Labor Day - missed it by that much!), but the grounds are always open and there are a lot of nifty bits of history strewn about.

Cool Windmill at the Limon Heritage Museum

If you love windmills (Com'on, who doesn't love windmills?) there are quite a few decommissioned old ones that have been recovered from farms and ranches and are now displayed in a virtual forest of windmills at the Heritage Museum 

U.P.R.R. scale used to weigh calves on the last cattle drive - in 1950! Limon, Co

There is also a great collection of items that highlight how the railroads served the ranchers and farmers by conveying their goods to markets throughout the country. 

Almost 1,900 people call the Hub City home

Limon is nicknamed the Hub City as it is where Interstate 70, three U.S. Highways (24, 40, & 287) and two Colorado state highways (71 & 86) intersect. You can pretty much get to anywhere in the U.S. from Limon.

Hmmm...maybe they should adapt "All Roads Lead To Limon" as a motto and build a large Roman-esque arch over the main street. Give the place a theme.

Downtown Burlington looks a bit busy for a Thursday afternoon

The next major stop along I-70 eastbound is Burlington, Colorado. If you thought the drive to Limon was resplendent with miles and miles of beautiful prairie, you are in for 75 more miles of heaven. If not, well, you'll just have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps.

As the Maccabees disc was starting to repeat itself, a C&W compilation CD was popped in, and the opening strains of Whippin' That Old T.B. by Jimmy Rodgers filled the cab of the truck. 

There is a living snow fence running sporadically along the north side of I-70. Trees are planted in rows three deep, and fill in gaps between the low washes and hills where snow would accumulate in drifts and block the highway.

1905 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. No. 6 Carousel in Burlington

Burlington, Colorado is a great little place. It boasts a little more than twice the population of Limon, and also has some of the more interesting attractions in all of the Colorado Central Plains. The Kit Carson County Carousel is in Burlington, though there was no access to it today as it was closed for the season (yep, Labor Day). 

The Kit Carson County Carousel was built in 1905 for Elitch Gardens in Denver. When Elitch Gardens got a new one in 1928, they sold this one to Kit Carson County for $1,200 (that included the band organ and transportation by rail).

The carousel has been lovingly restored and is housed on the Kit Carson County Fairgrounds in Burlington.

The barn at The Old Town, Burlington 

Perhaps the best roadside attraction in all of Colorado is the Old Town in Burlington. The Old Town is a unique indoor and outdoor museum that features over six acres of amazingly well-restored old buildings - shops, schoolhouses, chapels, homes, saloons, railroad buildings, and one heckuva huge barn, complete with period furnishings and artifacts.

This old barn was moved from it's original location to the Old Town. It is 40 feet wide, 80 feet long, and 44 feet high - quite the accomplishment, moving it in one piece and all.

Pioneer sod house replica in the Old Town, Burlington

There is a complete replica of a pioneer's sod house on the grounds. Sod houses were built all over the Great Plains States, but being as how they were made of dirt, not too many survive to this day. There may be 15 or 16 of these structures on display worldwide (including one in Wheat Ridge, a suburb near Denver, but that one has a plaster coating protecting the exterior)

Old store fronts and homes in the Old Town, Burlington

The Old Town has not been set up as an exact replica of a specific old town, more so as a sampling of the type of buildings that were common to the small towns of the Plains states. 

The place has something of an Events/Convention Center aspect to it - for a fee, it is available for weddings, class and family reunions, seminars, etc.

There was no indication they would be putting on an old west haunted house (haunted saloon? barn?) or had a pumpkin patch/hayride dealio for Halloween, but how cool would that be? 

Shops along a replica of an old west wooden sidewalk, Burlington

While most of the attractions in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln Counties are only open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, that is not the case with the Old Town. It is open year round, 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and Noon to 5 on Sunday. Admission for adults is $6.00, less for seniors and those 17 and younger.

No wonder the place is empty - the service is horrible

The Old Town actually has a few working businesses amid the restored buildings. There is a real saloon where you can watch Cancan girls dance, and a real old-fashioned soda fountain where you can get hand-dipped ice cream treats. No one was working the soda fountain today, so I had to go without.

Native American tipi recreation in the Old Town museum

Entrance into the Old Town is through a building known as the Emporium. This very large building houses a very well curated museum, replete with some very well put together displays and dioramas. Was the fact that everything is done very well mentioned?

Early Plains settler's wagon in the Old Town museum

The attention to detail in the building of the exhibits is quite extraordinary. These are obviously labors of love, and it's a shame that they are almost hidden away in such a small town.

The cattle rancher's gear and tools of the trade at the Old Town museum

The displays cover just about the entire history of the settlement of Colorado's Central Plains, with considerable attention payed to the hardy people who first tilled the soil and braved the harsh winters in order to establish what has since become an important contributor to the breadbasket of America. 

38 star United States flag (1865 -1867) at the Old Town museum

The museum has a great collection of period clothing and household items, as well as kitchen gadgetry, early cameras and radios, and even a military history room that spotlights the service and sacrifices made by area residents from the Indian skirmishes through the present day

The State Armory building in Burlington

There is a State Armory in Burlington that looks to date back to at least the early years of the 20th century. it is a castle-like brick structure, and it has a small park in front of it. There does not appear to be any activity associated with it though, as the building was locked up tight.

Kanorado, Kansas has all the modern conveniences

Kanorado, Kansas is a short 14 mile drive due east from Burlington. If you blink as you cross the state line into Kansas, you will not notice anything different in the way of scenery - the Great Plains are the Great Plains, regardless of geopolitical boundaries.

Kanorado is a little quiet this afternoon

Kanorado may well be the smallest place I've ever been that has at least one paved road (just the one). Supposedly, 153 people live in Kanorado, but I only saw 5, and I think one of those people was someone who had changed his shirt and hat by the time I had made the U-turn to get back on I-70.

Goodland, Kansas is a very progressive place with both Cowboys and Cowgirls

From Kanorado it's 22 miles to Goodland, which was about as far as I was going to drive into Kansas. Not that Kansas isn't a great place to drive, but half the day was gone and I wanted to see what Goodland had to offer and then get back home to beautiful Lakewood.

Being as it was the Kansas section of I-70, the Kansas compilation CD replaced the C&W CD. The Rainmakers Let My People Go, Go blared from the speakers. Get out and have a good time indeed.

24' by 32' reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers by Canadian artist Camron Cross 

From I-70 a huge easel (huge = 80 freaking feet tall) with a large (large = 24 foot by 32 foot) reproduction of Van Gogh's 3 Sunflowers In A Vase on it is visible. That alone will make even the mildly curious pull over. Being grossly overwhelmed by curiosity, it was like the Deathstar's tractor beam to me.

The city of Denver has an eerie fascination with ordinary- items-made-huge as art, so it's surprising this isn't in Denver.

Winnipeg-based artist Camron Cross got the idea to create 80-foot tall (that's 25 meters tall if you're in Canada...or pretty much the rest of the world) easels and bedeck them with copyright-free reproductions of Van Gogh's Sunflowers series back in 1995.

He erected this one in 2002. His plans call for one on every continent. So far, there is one in Emerald, Australia (which was put up in '99), and the first one that was built in 1996 in Altoona, Manitoba, Canada. 

I wish him the best of luck with the Antarctica installation.

Downtown Goodland will be hosting the Flatlander Festival next weekend

Small towns in the Central Plains are often dismissed as being pretty much the same. The ol' cliche that if you've seen one, you've seen them all is stated so often it becomes readily easy to believe.

It is not true. Each and every small town has it's own  character, and being as how most of the towns of the Central Plains are small enough to tour completely in about an hour, it's easy to find each small town's unique aspects. 

Diorama of early Plains settlers in the High Plains museum, Goodland, Kansas

Aside from the large Van Gogh giving the Nelsen-Atkins Museum's Shuttlecocks a run for their money, Goodland also has the High Plains museum, dedicated to preserving the history of the Plains, from the Native Americans of the area (despite the fact that no evidence exists of Native Americans ever inhabiting the area - it's a fairly barren area that was known as the Great American Desert before the settlers were able to cultivate it) to the modern day.

It is a small museum, and most exhibits could be viewed in less than half an hour. Admission is free though donations of $3.00 for adults are suggested. The place is open until 5:00 pm everyday except Tuesdays, year round (closed on all the holidays).

The Plains museum has the first patented helicopter built in the U.S., in Goodland, Kansas. 

The museum boasts a replica of the very first rotary-winged aircraft built in the U.S. that was awarded a patent. The craft was built by two Goodland residents who worked as machinists for the Rock Island Railroad, Charles Wilson and William Purvis.

There had been a few other rudimentary helicopters built and flown before these two put their contraption together, but Wilson and Purvis were the ones awarded the first patent.

Theirs was a double-bladed device, which, when finally demonstrated on Thanksgiving Day of 1909, didn't fly.

They did manage to attract a few investors with the demonstration however, and plugged away at building a feasible machine that would fly. Their efforts were for naught however, as the craft failed again and was never rebuilt after the second crash. The company was dissolved soon after. 

Early Pioneers statue in Goodland, Kansas

Goodland is the county seat for Sherman County (There's a good story of how that came about but that's for you to look up). In front of the County Courthouse is a statue by Greg Todd entitled They Came To Stay that commemorates the tenacity of the early Pioneers. It is a classic sculpture that readily conveys the strength of spirit these hardy people possessed.

United Telephone building, downtown Goodland, Kansas

There are a number of buildings in Goodland built in the Art Deco style that was in fashion during the 1920's and '30's. The United Telephone building was built in 1931 and incorporates Native American design motifs on the exterior and interior of the building.

The Sherman County courthouse also sports clean Art Deco lines, as do a few other buildings along Main Street. The Carnegie Library, which was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style that was popular in the 1910's when it was built, is now the Carnegie Arts Center, as the town voted to build a larger, modern Library in the early '70's.

Rusted old cars awaiting restoration in Goodland, Kansas

Most classic car aficionados have long known that the small towns of the Great Plains are prime hunting grounds for old cars ready for restoration. The legend of the rare, one-owner, barn-stored rusting classic is so prevalent that it has entered the lexicon, and the term barn-find is bandied about by restorers and collectors at conventions and shows everywhere.

Goodland has it's share of classic vehicles awaiting a dedicated restorer. Not only sitting in the fields of the farms that surround the town, but right along Main Street. take your pick and have at it!

Goodland sports a modern watertower...sleek

Goodland is one of the small towns along I-70 that has been able to remain in step with the modern world - The library that replaced the Carnegie Library boasts a bank of computers for public use, and to think the area is backwards in any sense would be foolish. The world has definitely not passed this great little town by.

The Ennis-Handy house, a beautifully restored Victorian in Goodland, Kansas

Which is not to say that Goodland is one of those places that scrapes away it's past without care, If anything, Goodland has managed to blend the old and the new masterfully. The fully restored Victorian home above is now owned by the Sherman County Historical Society and is a neat little visit to a time before television and cell phones.

Barn house in Goodland, Kansas

One of the more interesting elements that constitute small towns are the private homes, as there are very few large-scale suburbs sporting cookie-cutter homes. Most people build their own homes to suit their tastes, and it makes for neighborhoods of distinct character.

Complete with white picket fence

Most of the people of Goodland seem to have very traditional ideas of what a house should look like. This house, with it's classic symmetry and flower boxes, could have been featured in the first issue of Home & Garden.

Deep snow will not stop this soccer mom from her appointed rounds

Of course, every town in the world has a few eccentrics who display their eccentricities for all the world to see. There were quite a few monster trucks in Goodland...and this monster station wagon.

'50's modern in the heart of the Plains, Goodland, Kansas

For such a small town, Goodland has a wide range of architectural styles in evidence. This town could bill itself as a living museum of 20th century American residential architecture.

English Tudor inspiration for a home in Goodland, Kansas 

The residential architecture even shows a little bit of the influence of the ancestral homelands of many of the early settlers of Goodland and the surrounding area. 

Not only is this underground home energy efficient, I bet it's great at dodging tornadoes

Driving through the neatly gridded-out neighborhoods a few of the more esoteric homes were spotted. This is one of two underground homes, both of which seem to have been built using the same plans.

Contemporary ranch home with excellent yard art

Goodland residents like to decorate their yards, and I have to say, they do a damn good job of it. I don't believe I passed one home that didn't have something personalizing the yard. Most of it was cool - I don't think covenents or HOA's are a concern in Goodland.

Denver has very little public art that is as fun and fanciful as this guy's yard art in Goodland, Kansas

Whovever created these peices is a big talent. Incorporating bits of old weathervanes, anemometers, tractor parts and other salvaged bits, these kinetic sculptures would look good anywhere.

I'm not certain, but having large concrete grain silos may be required by Kansas state law

At it's core, Goodland is a agricultural community. from I-70 the large concrete grain silos fill the skyline. It's what hides behind them that needs to be seen. If you happen to be driving along I-70 through the Great Plains and maybe get to thinking that there is nothing but one boring small town after another boring small town to be rushed by, you are cheating youself.

Slow down, pull off the highway, treat yourself to a small-town burgerstand burger, and tour the place. It will be worth it.

Heading back to Denver after a long day's journey

All in all, this was a fun day. The weather was perfect for a drive, and I saw and learned plenty about an area of the country probably 90% of the people residing in the U.S. will never see, much to their detriment.

Urge Overkill celebrated Blackie's Birthday as the sun started to drop behind the horizon. The passenger door speaker crackled with static from a bum cone as the Welcome to Colorful Colorado sign marked my departure from the Sunflower State.

I cracked open a Rock Star and sang along loudly with Nash Kato. The view of Kansas in the rearview mirror was just small islands of twinkling lights marking the little Prairie settlements.

I'll be back.