Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Travel: WY: Grand Teton Music Festival. Jackalope. Ames Pyramid. Museum of Flight. Abraham Lincoln. Prison Museum. Big Horn Mtns. Museums Guide. Water.

For Travel Tuesday, Let's see a few things in Wyoming:


Grand Teton Music Festival ~ YOU'RE INVITED

Grand Teton

"Heading to Wyoming this summer? Come experience the Grand Teton Music Festival and celebrate its 50th anniversary! In partnership with the festival, NPCA invites you to a private reception to celebrate the world-premiere of "All Things Majestic"--a symphonic work by Pulitzer Prize and GRAMMY award-winning composer Jennifer Higdon--on Friday, August 19, 2011, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park excursions will showcase the natural wonders that inspired this new symphonic work."
For more information on the performance, reception, or excursions, please contact NPCA's Dave Patton by email or at 206.327.1435.



Jackalope Capital   Douglas, Wyoming

"The fanciful Jackalope has become ubiquitous throughout the West, but the first was born in Douglas, created in 1939 by Douglas Herrick, a local taxidermist. Folks here are proud of their famous creature, proclaiming Douglas "Home of the Jackalope."

Wyoming's legislature even declared the Jackalope as the state's "Official Mythical Creature." Our roadside roving reporter has heard that Jackalope hunting licenses can be obtained from the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, though hunting of Jackalopes is restricted to the hours of midnight to 2 a.m. on June 31. The biggest Jackalope of all is an eight-foot-tall concrete statue in the heart of downtown at Jackalope Square."



Ames Brothers Pyramid, Buford, Wyoming


Ames Pyramid.

"The odds are remote that you'll ever visit a solitary ruin left by unknown entities on an abandoned planet. But the Ames Brothers Pyramid? It's the next best thing, and it's only a couple of miles off of Interstate 80.


Rough-hewn and rune-cryptic, accessible only by a dirt track, the pyramid stands alone on a treeless, windswept plateau of Wyoming sagebrush. It was built when the only roads out here were railroads, and 80-year-old postcards show it to be just as empty then as it is now.



Close up of of Ames Pyramid relief.

Who were the Ames Brothers, and why did they get their own pyramid?

Oliver Ames was the president of the Union Pacific Railroad. His brother Oakes was a Massachusetts congressman and the Railroad's point man in Washington. The two made millions selling shovels to gold-seekers in California, then used the profits to take control of the Railroad, then wildly inflated its construction costs to bilk taxpayers out of an estimated $50 million. Oakes secured Washington's cooperation by bribing his fellow congressmen. When the fraud was uncovered in 1872, Oakes quickly died and Oliver followed a few years later.

The pyramid was the Union Pacific's way to polish the tarnished reputations of its ex-officials. Built in the early 1880s -- after the scandal had subsided -- it stood near a remote railroad town where passengers were encouraged to get off (and look at the pyramid) while the engines were changed. The Railroad hired big-deal architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design it, and a sign at its base proclaims it to be, "perhaps the finest memorial in America." Sculptor August St. Gaudens chiseled large portraits of Oliver and Oakes that were set into the pyramid near its apex (St. Gaudens was in line to design the Lincoln penny, too, but he died too young). Oliver faces west toward California, Oakes faces east toward his pals in DC.


Pyramid in the distance.

The pyramid is 60 feet square and 60 feet tall, a pink granite pile with an angle-bend halfway up the side. Richardson got the necessary rocks by hacking off pieces of a nearby outcropping. No one knows how much the thing weighs. There might have been plans to dig up the brothers and entomb them here (the pyramid is reportedly hollow) but that did not happen; the Ames remain buried back East. It cost $65,000 to build -- $1.4 million in today's dollars -- and it was so famous in its time that ex-President Rutherford B. Hayes came out to attend its dedication ceremony.


Posthumous immortality, however, eluded the Ames Brothers. The Union Pacific went bankrupt in the 1890s, and its tracks were moved south to a less expensive route. The pyramid no longer had a captive audience -- or any audience. The Lincoln Highway was later built along the old rail bed, but it was rerouted in 1920, leaving the pyramid abandoned for good. Now bird poop stains the faces of Oliver and Oakes, and in recent years both of their noses have partly fallen (or been shot) off.

The railroad eventually gave the pyramid to Wyoming's park system. Over the years there's been talk of installing a radio transmitter at the site, broadcasting a dramatic re-telling of the Ames Brothers tale to visiting motorists, with actors and sound effects (Similar to the audio calamity box at the Ashtabula Horror). But the funds have never been made available.

Bill Conner, the local parks superintendent, told us that aside from putting up signs cautioning people not to climb the pyramid, and replacing the signs that get riddled with bullet holes, there isn't much for Wyoming to do at the Ames Brothers Pyramid. "It's not really a problem for us," he said, "because most people don't know about it."

Ouch, Union Pacific. That's gotta hurt." From: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2259



Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting, Greybull, Wyoming


Retired firefighting plane.

"This vast dry plain in the mountains strains the meaning of the term "museum." It's really a slowly aging assemblage of retired aircraft appended to a working local airfield. The Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighting is promoted as "dedicated to educating people about the several types of aircraft and retardant systems that have evolved over the years."


In the museum office, a friendly receptionist hands you a brochure for the self-guided tour, points out the donations box, and suggests only that you don’t climb into the aircraft. Exiting the office you find yourself on the tarmac, the bustle of maintenance crews going on all around.



Retired firefighting aircraft.

There are no signs of a museum, with displays, as you wander past vast bays and hangars. No signs, no roped off areas. After years of tightened airport security, it just seems wrong.

According to the literature the museum includes "dozens of the last remaining examples of WW II bombers, numerous types of helicopters and the KC-97, the world’s largest air tanker," and "four of the last flying PB4Y-2 planes used against the Japanese in the South Pacific." On permanent loan from the USFS are C-119s and a C-45, and other loan items include a C-82, A-2 Invader, C-97 Stratocaster, L-18 Lodestar, and a 1928 Monocoupe 70."

More at: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/14707




Giant Head of Abraham Lincoln,  Laramie, Wyoming

"Drivers heading west on I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, can't miss this giant Abraham Lincoln head. It towers over traffic as if to say, "Whoa there."

Abe Lincoln head.

Lincoln's head was built by Wyoming's Parks Commission to honor Lincoln's 150th birthday. It was sculpted by Robert Russin, a University of Wyoming art professor and a Lincoln fan (When he died in 2007, his ashes were interred in the hollow monument). It originally stood at Sherman Summit, 8,878 feet above sea level, the highest point along the old coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway. When I-80 was completed in 1969, the head was moved here -- losing a couple of hundred feet (and any metaphorical rationale for existing, really) but gaining a vast new audience.

The bronze head weighs over two tons and is 13.5 feet tall. It's perched atop a 30-foot granite pedestal, ensuring that it can be seen from quite a distance, and looking uncomfortably similar to box-bound Captain Pike from Star Trek. The head is intentionally oversized on tiny shoulders, like a cartoon caricature, and seems to be sagging from its own weight.

For coast-to-coast travelers, the Lincoln head is an easy stop; and the adjacent Summit Rest Area and Visitor Center provides a comfortable vantage for contemplating our 16th President. Ever vigilant, he stares southward." 

From: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/8450



Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, Rawlins, Wyoming

" "This is where there was a lot of screaming," says Kaitlyn, our smiling teenage guide. She's standing with us in the Wyoming Frontier Prison, in a small, concrete-walled room. A cement pole stretches from the floor to the ceiling.

"If the men misbehaved," Kaitlyn continues, "the guards would drag them in here and chain them to this Punishment Pole. Then they'd whip them with rubber hoses and leather straps. And as they screamed, all the men in A Block would hear them, and they'd know what would happen to them if they misbehaved."

Cell block.

Kaitlyn smiles apologetically. "People always tell me I'm too perky when I talk about the Punishment Pole."

Perky is something you wouldn't expect to find in the Wyoming Frontier Prison, which despite its name is a fortress-like 20th century penitentiary. The guides here have pep; we remember a similarly spunky teen from our tour 15 years earlier. The prison itself, however, has only grown more terrifying since then: concrete is crumbling, paint is peeling off ceilings, toilets are covered in crud (but they were that way even when prisoners were here). The contrast between the bleak surroundings and the guileless, youthful guides -- who weren't even born when this prison closed in 1981 -- make this tour unique in the usually ominous universe of abandoned jailhouse attractions.

Kaitlyn the guide.
Tour guide Kaitlyn shows off Solitary.

"We try real hard not to depress people," says Tina Hill, the prison's director, when we ask about the guides. "We have a lot of people who say, 'Oh, this place is horrible; oh, I don't want to go in there, it's too sad.'" Tina sighs. "Some people don't like it here no matter what we do."

Obviously, some people shouldn't tour abandoned penitentiaries. And some should, because it's creepy and educational.

Wyoming Frontier Prison provides all of the right sensory cues. Towering cell blocks. Clanging metal doors. Odors that you'd rather not investigate. It's also the only prison we know of that allows visitors to sit in a real gas chamber (in the same steel seat as five executed prisoners)."  More at: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2817



Big Horn Mountains

"Things To Do and See in the Worland, Ten Sleep, and Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming - In addition to the obvious attraction of the Big Horn Mountains, like fishing for cutthroat, rainbow and brookie trout; or hunting for white tail or mule deer, elk, moose, antelope and bear; there is backpacking, downhill and cross country skiing, camping, snowshoeing, climbing, snowmobiling, boating, ATV riding and photography, the Worland/Ten Sleep Area offers a lot more."



Historical Museum Guide for Wyoming

A directory of Historical Museums in Wyoming, categorized by county.

Wyoming History - Sherdian, Wyoming 1909 Historic Photo


Sheridan, Wyoming 1909.

Wyoming Museums Index

"Taking a trip to Wyoming?  Take a step back in time and visit a local Wyoming history museum.  See the grandeur of an era in days past.  A visit to these history museums and historical societies will allow you to soak up some local history and culture while you are there.  Where available, we have added links to virtual tours, historic photos, histories, and museum exhibits, thereby, allowing you to journey from your chair at home."

Wyoming Museums Index Museum Index for Other States


Top Ten Drives:

"Step into a world of legend and lore in Wyoming. The myth of the cowboy was born here, and the landscapes are untouched by the wheels of time. In this wild and alluring state, the true spirit of the West endures in its people, sights, and terrain. Gaze spellbound at unspoiled mountain vistas capped with snow, astonishingly blue skies, and golden sunsets. Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – among the top Wyoming tourist attractions – and lose yourself in rejuvenating hot springs, crystal-clear rivers, and magnificent wildlife .

Channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl at an authentic dude ranch. After a hearty barbecue meal, roast some marshmallows around the campfire and participate in an old-fashioned sing-along. You’ll swear you’ve gone back in time 100 years! Stop by Cody, the charming town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, which bursts with Western-style fun such as nightly rodeos, staged shoot-outs, and colorful powwows. Or just take a long, scenic drive through our wide-open spaces, hardly seeing a soul. You’ll see why many consider Wyoming a “small town with really long streets”. Check out our list of major Wyoming attractions below or visit www.wyomingtourism.org for more information."






The weather is just the same, no rain, and we have beaten the 1980 record for the number of days over 100°. http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2011/08/houston-hits-100-degrees-for-the-15th-day-in-a-row-sets-record/  Thankfully, it hasn't been quite that hot here 40 miles north, on Lake Conroe.  Houston now has mandatory water rationing, and starting today, they are going to take some of our Lake Conroe water, and send it on down to Lake Houston: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7698637.html


Ray and Shay took a big dog that Shay is babysitting to the vet,  it had scratched it's eye.

I didn't call Jay to see if he wanted to work, and he didn't call me.


That gave me time to get some emails out of my inbox, and shred some more of that dratted junk mail that seems to pile up every day.


Dizzy-Dick said...

It is always a degree or two hotter here at my place than the official temperature at the airport in Houston. The lake must help temper your highs (and lows in the winter). It looked like you got some rain over your way the other day. It missed us.

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Hi Dick, No we didn't get any rain here. Haven't had any for weeks. It usually misses us too.

It might be cooler at my place as it is at 250 ft elevation. It's downhill all the way to the lake from here.
I chose this hill after I lost my previous house, over on the other side of Willis, to the Flood of 94. Caney Creek backed up and there was 4-1/2 ft. of water in my house. They didn't open Lake Conroe dam in time.

Cut-N-Shoot got hit hard by that flood, too. I hope it didn't affect you?

Happy Tails, and Trails, Penny.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Everything is down hill from me, too. Couln't go anywhere, but was high and dry.