Friends and relatives have sent me year-end messages extending well-wishes and relating all their goings-on over the past year. Thank you all. Allow me to reciprocate with a collection of photos describing my past 12 months.
January 13th — Post-snowstorm Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is in the background of the first photo; the second photo is an evergreen coated with ice crystals.
- January 27th — Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre on a very warm January day. The skyscrapers of downtown Denver are visible in the background of the first photo. In the Rockies we get a balmy day two weeks after a blizzard, and never an “average” day.
- March 15th — a business opportunity brings me to Austin, Texas for 3 days. I toured the Texas Capitol on a Sunday.
- March 29th — On a quiet Sunday drive I came upon and old Orthodox Church standing isolated on a hilltop in Colorado’s Eastern Plains. Named St. Mary’s Holy Dormition and still in use today, it was built in 1905 near Calhan to serve Slovak immigrants who had left employment in the steel mills of Pennsylvania for the farming/ranching life of Colorado. The church has an interesting history (full story here), having been nearly destroyed by the ripples of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The second photo below looks west from the church, over the high plains toward the Front Range.
- April 5th — An early spring view of Pikes Peak and Cottonwood Creek in Colorado Springs.
- April 6th — A snack on my coffee table as I prepare to watch Opening Day of the 2015 baseball season (the real New Year’s Day).
- April 13th — A business opportunity (a conference) brings me to San Diego for 3 days. The first photo is the old Santa Fe railroad station downtown, the second shows sailboats in nearby Mission Bay.
- April 30th — Illinois claims two American icons: Abraham Lincoln and Route 66. The two themes meet in the touristy town of Pontiac. Lincoln practiced law here, participated in that county’s first jury trial, and in 1840 — as a precursor to destiny — Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held an impromptu debate in the streets of Pontiac. A life-size statue of Lincoln stands in front of the historic Livingston County Courthouse so that you can check your height against his. Various murals and fixtures ornament Pontiac’s place on old Route 66.
- June 22nd — The Northwest is a fine place to be when summer reaches its solstice. This year’s longest day was my year’s longest drive as shown in the next 4 photos. The day started just after sun-up in Hamilton, Montana — an old western town nestled snugly between two high mountain ranges.
67 miles west at Lolo Pass, I crossed the Continental Divide, the Idaho State Line, and the Pacific Time Zone and headed downstream along the Lochsa River, paralleling the route taken by Lewis and Clark to the Pacific in 1805. I rode through 76 miles of scenery just like this below Lolo Pass before I ever saw a town. It’s mid-morning in the photo.
Travelling further west, I left the mountains near what the Nez Perce call the Camas Plains. Here are some canola fields in those plains, near Grangeville, Idaho in mid-afternoon.
The Wallowa Mountains near Enterprise, Oregon, 150 miles west of the Camas Plains of Idaho. I reached them near sunset on the longest day of the year.
- July 11th — Back to Pittsburgh to see family and old friends. Included was a trip to the Heinz History Center downtown. This was one of the exhibits. Remember it from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?
- July 22nd — Clear Lake, Iowa. Iowa in the summertime lives up to all its clichés. I won’t add any more. Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in a field near town in February of 1959; the farmer who owns the field allows fans to maintain a memorial for the rock star amid his soybean crop. A signpost made of horn-rimmed glasses marks the entrance to the memorial. The third photo below is of Clear Lake at the exact moment of sunset. It’s my favorite.
- August 17th — The Badlands of North Dakota within Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Teddy owned a ranch here before becoming President; he deserves the credit for creating our National Park system.
- September 14th — South Bend, Indiana. I’d never been to Notre Dame before though I’d seen them play football on tv a thousand times. Here’s the Golden Dome, and then a statue of Knute Rockne found in a plaza in downtown South Bend.
- October 22 — Jonesboro, Illinois. This little southern Illinois town was the site of the third Lincoln-Douglas debate, held September 15th 1858. The debate was held in the county fairgrounds, a few blocks away from the main crossroads. Of the several Lincoln-Douglas memorials I’ve seen, most include life-size statues of the two men, and the height disparity between the two always gives me a chuckle. I’m sure many in the audience had the same reaction at the time.
- October 22 (later that same day) — I drove north along the Mississippi River to the small town of Chester, which is the hometown of E.C. Segar — creator of the comic strip character Popeye. Statues of Popeye and his gang can be found all over the small river town, which holds a “Popeye Picnic” each year on the weekend following Labor Day. More info here if you’d like to visit.
- October 23rd — Alton, Illinois. The final debate of the Lincoln-Douglas was held in Alton. Again, life-size statues.
- December 8th — Llano, Texas. Texans decorate for Christmas extravagantly, which should come as no surprise in a state that brags that “everything is bigger here.” Many towns assemble light shows and displays in their town parks, calling them “Christmas Parks”. See the way the Llano County Courthouse is decked out for the holiday season in this Hill Country town. The second photo is the Llano River and dam in daylight, followed by the courthouse in daylight, and then the town mascot (Llano is the deer capital of Texas), decorated for the season.
And on to 2016! Happy New Year!!