The time has come for me to leave the US after my four weeks of fun and excitement. I realise that I have failed to keep you updated on my trip, but the time required to do that was cutting in to my sleep, which in turn was cutting in to my adventure time. I will be in a better position to provide the stories and highlights upon my return.
As I drove to the airport today after a final bit of Washington DC sightseeing, I felt sad when the air traffic control tower came in to view…as much as I want to go home and see Pebbles and the family again, I also kind of want to just turn around and settle in Indiana. My mood was improved, however, when I was greeted at the airport by the best US President in modern history (and the 2nd best of all time…Calvin Coolidge was the best), Ronald Reagan.
This is not the first time I have been greeted by this great man. I also saw him in Michigan when I visited Hillsdale College, where he stands near a truly great lady, Margaret Thatcher.
In Washington DC I did some of my sightseeing at night. It was cold but this had the benefit of making me almost the only tourist at the time, so it was easier to take photos and explore.
The Capitol Building is much larger than I thought and is very impressive.
And the White House was exciting for a moment…there were moving vans out the front! For a brief moment my hopes were raised that the current occupant, a man who ranks among the worst Presidents in history and does not deserve to have his name uttered in the same blog post as Reagan and Thatcher, might be moving out. Alas, no such luck…he was having some sort of party and the vans were for the equipment belonging to the entertainment.
And today before I went to the airport I took a few moments to use up more of my prepaid fuel, drive my “Rush is right” bumper sticker around DC, and catch a glimpse of two fantastic conservative organisations which are almost directly across the road from each other: Hillsdale College’s DC outpost “Allan P. Kirby Jr Center for constitutional studies and citizenship”.
And The Heritage Foundation, currently run by a most excellent former Senator, Jim DeMint.
It has been a wonderful trip in which I have driven 2,934 miles according to the rental car companies, but I am now looking forward to coming home and sharing more photos with you soon.
It was good fun being on with Casey today. For the most part it was a normal show covering a normal gamut of topics for a local talk show, but it was switched up a little in the final hour when Casey opened the lines for “Ask An Aussie”. Thanks to Casey’s producer Tim for taking the photo
Casey podcasts his show, so although my recording in the hotel room worked, I can just direct you to Casey’s podcast if you want to hear any of the show. I’ll also be nice and give you direct links to the specific downloads.
(Each hour runs about 38 minutes as commercial breaks and news breaks have been omitted).
Many thanks to Casey for having me on today, as well as producer Tim, station program director Jon Zimney, and a shout-out to Mark McGill who hosts MNC’s morning program Michiana’s Morning News…you got me with that phone call…I had no idea who you were or what you were going on about, and I was so confused that I didn’t (at the time, anyway, I have re-listened since) catch all of the Aussie slang you threw in…well done! And as Casey said, thanks for arranging the tour of ABC57, it was great to see how a local TV station does things in South Bend in comparison to how things are done in Australia.
As I write this, South Bend is well on track to reach the predicted overnight low of -10 Fahrenheit (about -22C), and the prediction is for wind chills to make the early part of the morning feel like -20F (about -28C). Thankfully it’s warm in the hotel.
Here’s a photo I took on my first day in South Bend from the window of my hotel room. There had been a bit of direct sunlight on the window so it felt warm from my side, but it definitely was not warm on the other side.
During the day on what has recently become yesterday I went to Hillsdale in Michigan and saw Hillsdale College, including some of the statues of great historical figures. Here’s a photo of the Margaret Thatcher statue.
And of course before South Bend I was in Fort Dodge, Iowa, which was also quite cold but not as cold as South Bend is right now.
This one might interest the music buffs. The Laramar Ballroom in Fort Dodge is where Buddy Holly performed just three days before his death in a plane crash. Legend has it that bad weather in the region made it difficult to drive to wherever he was next going, and caused him to take the fatal flight instead. Here I am at the front doors of the Laramar Ballroom. Photo credit: Bill Grady
As I’m sure you can imagine, I have a lot of photos to post from this trip. The forecast is for a decent bit of snow over the weekend so between that and the generally cold weather, I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll have time to upload some or most of the photos before I leave South Bend.
Today, Friday, Casey Hendrickson returns to his show on News/Talk 95.3 MNC (WTRC for those of you who like callsigns) between 3pm and 6pm Eastern (12pm and 3pm Pacific/7am Saturday and 10am Saturday Canberra). At this stage the plan is that I’ll join Casey during the final hour or half-hour, and MNC’s stream is available internationally so if you want to listen in, please do.
I’ll record this like I did when I was on Alan Stock’s show on KDWN in Las Vegas, but I get better reception of MNC than I did of KDWN so I shouldn’t have any problems sharing the audio with you later.
For now, as it is nearly 1:30am, I shall bid you a good night.
Kansas City has been great, even though it has only been a brief stop. Today I’ll be heading up north to Iowa, and in particular the town of Fort Dodge. I have deliberately left the trip until the middle of the day as the temperatures are a bit nippy and I’d rather when it’s only cold, not when it’s super cold…it’d be nice to have a couple hours to get used to it.
Before I leave Kansas City I’m going to take a trip down to what I’m informed is a nice little old shopping precinct rather close to my hotel. I’ll have a look around there for a bit prior to leaving town.
Before I leave the hotel, here are a few photos of the view from my hotel room.
I took this photo around dawn.
The next two I took a short time ago.
If I have time, I’ll try to get a few photos of some of the rather nice old houses in the area as well.
Now, the weather. It should be above freezing by the time I leave Kansas City, although only just, and so far the temperature is still a little below the hourly forecast figure (at 10:45 it was still -1).
Fort Dodge should be sitting at about the maximum temperature when I get there this afternoon, before rapidly plummeting to -20 tonight. Thankfully I will not still be there to experience -25 on Tuesday night.
It looks like I will get my wish in South Bend of seeing snow.
It’s time for me to pack up my hotel room and bid farewell to Las Vegas. I’m off to Kansas City which skirts the border of Kansas and Missouri. I couldn’t get a direct flight, so I’m flying via Phoenix, Arizona (flights US544 and US430 with US Airways). This will involve me going forward two hours from Pacific Time to Central Time, so by the time I get there, the day will be pretty much over.
It’s a colder day in Las Vegas today than it has been of late.
I’ll be in Kansas City until Sunday morning and it is definitely a bit colder there.
And then to a place which is much colder…Fort Dodge, Iowa. There’s a good chance I’ll see some snow, and I’m very glad I packed some cold-weather clothing.
I’m looking forward to it…and the cold weather should give me plenty of time in my hotel room in the evenings to catch up on uploading photos.
I have a lot of photos and a few stories to share about my time in Las Vegas (which comes to an end this morning) and not enough time to post them right now, but before I leave Las Vegas I would like to share this.
On Wednesday afternoon I went out to the Green Valley Range in Henderson with Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey, where Billy gave me instruction on firing his Ruger P95, a lightweight weapon which is probably a good starting point for someone as small as me.
Billy ran me through a safety briefing and introduction to the P95, and demonstrated the firing of it.
(I never noticed until this photo just how much bigger that shirt is compared to the top I had on over it)
Then it was my go, under Billy’s careful watch and mentoring, and a light holding of my right shoulder while I got used to the kick of the gun.
Here are a couple short videos of me shooting the P95. You can’t really see much of what I’m firing at, but you can see enough.
And the targets. In this first one, the clump of shots which hit right on top of each other dead-centre in the target were Billy’s. The rest were mine. All good, but that shot in the arm was definitely a stray.
And the 2nd target. All of these shots were mine.
I definitely have a bias to the right (would you expect anything else from me?) but this could be corrected with practice. Still, for a first go, I was happy with the results.
A very big thanks to Rocky, Billy and Jeffrey for the outing. It was a very enjoyable experience.
Yesterday’s show with Alan Stock went very well. Alas the audio I recorded off the air has more static than I would like and while I was able to clean it up a bit, the original audio and the cleaned audio are both not great in my view. There’s a good chance I will be able to get cleaner audio today or tomorrow so I’ll wait and see what happens and then make a decision about what to share with you.
In the meantime, today is going to be a bit of a busy day. I have a few things to do this morning, and then I’ll be heading out to Hoover Dam. The prediction is that we will have some cloud cover in Vegas from about midday, which will ironically make it easier to visit the area near a gigantic solar power plant outside Vegas on the other side of the state border…it’s about the size of a small Canberra suburb and can apparently power all of the houses in Canberra, but only when the sun is shining. Regardless, it’s something worth seeing but due to the way it is set up it’s hard to visit when the sun is shining as it reflects a large amount of light in all directions.
And after that…well I really should catch up on uploading photos and writing a bit about the days since I left Petaluma.
I have been just a wee bit busier than I expected since I arrived in Las Vegas and as such haven’t had much time to post some photos. I intend on taking a little time to correct that later today.
In the meantime, in a little under two hours from now on this holiday Monday, I will be on KDWN 720 AM with Alan Stock from 6am to 9am local time (1am to 4am Canberra time). People in and around Las Vegas can obviously hear this on their radios, while people across the US can listen online at kdwn.com or find KDWN on TuneIn or a similar service. Unfortunately KDWN’s stream is not available outside the US unless you know how to get around the geoblock…and they have the geoblock on for a reason so I’m not going to advise anyone to get around it (in fact I wonder if recommending to do that would fall foul of the DMCA law, possibly through some sort of “circumventing digital rights management” clause?).
A cute little bit of Las Vegas marketing. Why have a business card when you can have your own casino chip?
It looks like we’ll be discussing, in addition to the news of the day, some of the issues facing Australia and what both countries can learn from each other. There are a lot of very similar issues in both countries and a lot of the public policy battles which Australia has been through are ones which the US is currently going through, and vice-versa. I’m looking forward to it…it should be good fun.
AM radio reception is affected by nearby electrical interference, and so leaving a radio near my laptop to record the show turns out to be more difficult than I had hoped, but with a bit of trial and error I was able to find some locations in my hotel room which allow me to record KDWN without too much interference which is, in my view, preferable to recording their webstream as I would like to record it as it went to air, not with the ads replaced with a webstream promo loop. If things work as I think they will, I’ll post some or all of the show online later today. In many ways to is largely dependant on the unattended recording going to plan.
Now, to tide you over until I have some time to get some more photos online, here’s a few select photos.
On Saturday night I went to dinner and a show in downtown Las Vegas with Alan and his wife Rhoda and had a great time. I’ll go in to more details about that later. For now, here we are at the H20 Tank in the middle of the Golden Nugget.
The weather yesterday in Las Vegas was lovely, warm, and sunny. Here’s the view from my hotel room on the 25th floor of the Trump Hotel.
Looking North-East towards Downtown
And finally, it occurred to me last night that I hadn’t watched any of the local television newscasts in Las Vegas since arriving in town, although I did watch a few San Francisco newscasts while I was in Petaluma, so I checked the TV guide and found the next local newscast was Fox5 News at 10pm. The weather appeared every 10 minutes it seemed…so a change from my AccuWeather screenshots…here’s the forecast for the rest of my Vegas stay and beyond (I leave on Friday morning) from Fox5. Highs starting at 22.7 degrees Celsius and getting down to 18.3 on Thursday. Lows ranging from 8.3 to 10. (h/t KVVU Fox5 Las Vegas)
I also watched parts of the 11pm newscasts on the local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. The ABC bulletin (KTNV Channel 13 Action News) is by far the best of those three from what I saw, and I dare say that I thought they were all better than anything I watched in the San Francisco broadcast area.
Oh well, it’s about time for me to set sail for the studios of KDWN. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll listen in at some stage.
While I’m in the US I intend on focussing this weekly feature on not just American artists, but music which in some way is particularly American. Also, so as to not hurt my brain too much, I’ll be running it on Sunday in the US rather than Sunday in Australia.
This week I’m going with a song by Merle Haggard for a reason. When I was driving from Petaluma to Las Vegas the other day, I drove through Bakersfield and right past a road called “Merle Haggard Drive” which pretty much settled my decision as to which artist to run this week.
Then came the question of which song to choose. Well, that was easier than I thought it would be. Merle has a lot of great songs but in keeping with the theme of the road named after him, Bakersfield is in Kern County which contains the Kern River so the obvious choice is the song “Kern River”.
Oh I’ll never swim Kern River again.
It was there that I met her,
It was there that I lost my best friend.
Now I live in the mountains,
I drifted up here with the wind.
I may drown in still water,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.
I grew up in an oil town,
But my gusher never came in.
And the river was a boundary,
Where my darlin’ and I used to swim.
One night in the moonlight,
The swiftness swept her life away.
Now I live on Lake Shasta,
And Lake Shasta is where I will stay.
There’s the South San Joaquin,
Where the seeds of the dust bowl are found.
There’s a place called Mount Whitney,
From where the mighty Kern River comes down.
Well, it’s not deep nor wide,
But it’s a mean piece of water, my friend.
I may cross on the highway,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.
Oh I’ll never swim Kern River again.
It was there that I met her,
It was there that I lost my best friend.
Now I live in the mountains,
I drifted up here with the wind.
And I may drown in still water,
But I’ll never swim Kern River again.
An email sent to 2UE’s George and Paul shortly before I left Petaluma, and scheduled to appear here at the start of their show (9am Canberra time, 2pm California time).
Good morning George & Paul.
I realise that you’re not on-air for another four hours or so, but I’m about to embark on an approximately nine-hour drive from Petaluma (a tad north of San Francisco) to Las Vegas and thus might not have a moment to send this to you, although I will listen online, mobile reception pending.
I thought you might like this story which I heard on US radio this morning from the Portland, Oregon area about a truly bizarre 911 call.
Man calls 911 after wife’s zipper gets stuck
BEAVERTON — Each week, Washington County posts bad examples of 911 calls in its “You called 911 for that?” campaign.
The campaign is designed to draw attention to the dangers of non-emergency calls that tie up 911 lines. This week’s call really lives up to the hype.
OPERATOR: 911, Police Fire and Medical.
CALLER: Yeah we got a problem here. My wife is struggling in her jacket and can’t get it off. I want 911 here immediately.
OPERATOR: Is she not breathing?
CALLER: She’s alright, she just can’t get her [expletive] jacket off.
Just in case you were wondering, the fire department responded, rescued the woman and saved the jacket.
KGW Newschannel 8 also have the audio of the 911 call on their website at the above address if you want a bit of a laugh.
Anyhoo, have a great weekend…this country will get to the weekend eventually but for now I’ll enjoy a long Friday road trip.
Fox Footy released a promo this week for Sandy Roberts’ return to television AFL commentary later this year, and it amused me quite a bit. I really enjoy Sandy commentating and have enjoyed having him on the radio over the last few years…I’m happy that his commentary will once again reach a wider audience on television though.
The fact that heaven in this case has AFL goal posts, and Sandy even lets out an “Oh my hat!” is brilliant. The apparent implication from the promo that Kevin Bartlett has also joined Fox as a commentator is also great news (but I hope he can still call games for SEN).
Incidentally, when Sandy left Seven last year, I wrote him a letter to express my gratitude for all he has done for sport on television and radio over the years and to wish him all the best for his next career stage at Fox Footy (I also said that I hope this doesn’t prevent him from doing some radio commentary still, as I think he works really well with both Rex Hunt and Peter Donegan). In the letter, I sent Sandy the lyrics for a song…back in the 1990s, John Laws had a jingle produced which started with the lines “Life ain’t so tough when there’s Lawsie / He’s good news to me” and he still uses it to this day. Alas I don’t have the audio on me to demonstrate the concept, but I adapted the song for Sandy.
Golf isn’t golf without Sandy
He’s on-par to me!
He can take a bogey
And turn it in to a birdie
And at the Aussie Rules
He sits next to the fat lady
She can start to croon
And “oh my hat” comes out of Sandy
He’s the voice of the golf you can trust
He’ll keep you going when you’re in the rough
I’ve got Sandy commentating
He’s a putter
He’s a driver
He’ll keep you out of the bunker
Ooon the front nine
Aaand the back nine
I kind of hope that Sandy quietly let out an “oh my hat” when he read that.
The fact that the Quality Inn in Petaluma does not have any on-site lunch or dinner has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced me to take a few more short car trips than I had originally thought I would, which has helped me to become much more confident on the road over here. That’s useful when today looks like this:
Petaluma to Las Vegas, via Bakersfield. Google estimates this as 601 miles/967 kilometres/8 hours and 51 minutes.
The weather is looking a little cloudy at the starting end, but sunny and warmer for the rest of the drive, with my week in Vegas looking like it’s going to have some very nice weather.
(h/t AccuWeather for all forecast data. Temperatures listed in degrees Celsius)
Radio listening shouldn’t be a problem either. Rush Limbaugh’s show is on many different stations through the state from 9am-noon, so he should always be in range on multiple frequencies. Around San Francisco he is on AM 960 The Patriot (KNEW) as is Sean Hannity from noon-3pm, although by that stage I should be getting closer to Bakersfield and should begin to be able to hear these shows through KNZR 1560 AM and 97.7 FM where, after 3pm, the great Inga Barks has her own show which I should be able to hear a decent chunk of.
Of course streaming radio on my phone is also an option and may be employed at some stage. As it’s a Saturday in Australia, George & Paul are on 2UE Sydney (AM 954) from 2pm California time, so I may have to tune in to them for a little while as well.
I’d better hop to it. With all going well I should be in Vegas in the early evening.
One of the things I had planned to do prior to my visit to the US was get a photo gallery up and running again. My old photo gallery was running on old and discontinued software which was starting to not work properly with modern server software, and so some time ago I archived the whole thing, turning it in to a basic website which doesn’t require ancient and insecure versions of PHP. Unfortunately that meant I can not add to that gallery and had to start a new one. There are times on this blog (this holiday being one of them) where I will want to share a lot of photos with you, but posting a gazillion photos in a blog post on a regular basis is time consuming and ultimately an inefficient way to publish photos…and I don’t think you should be forced to scroll through every photo I ever take. The benefit of the photo gallery is that I can upload all of the photos I would like to share, and present you with the highlights here so that if you are interested, you can see the rest on the photo gallery. It also saves me a bit of time as I don’t have to go through and manually make resized versions of photos etc. If you’ve ever visited the /wp-content folder of this blog, you’ll know just how much manual work I do to get photos online.
So, I am pleased to present my new photo gallery at http://samuelgordonstewart.com/photogallery/. It’s a work in progress at the moment with a few empty galleries as placeholders which I will soon fill, as I really just needed to get it up and running for this blog post.
With that out of the way, on with the Petaluma sightseeing.
I took a couple hours this afternoon to go for a wander around the older downtown section of Petaluma and found quite a few nice grand old buildings, with two churches being particular standouts.
St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church:
And the Open Door Church on Fifth St which you might recognise from the movie Flubber:
TWiT.tv’s former headquarters (the TWiT Cottage) at 8 Keller St is only a couple blocks away from TWiT’s new headquarters. It has reverted to its old name of “Cavanagh Cottage” after John W. Cavanagh who built it in 1912.
The building is almost completely surrounded by car parking, which would have been useful when TWiT grew to the point that it needed a larger space down the street.
This lovely old wooden bridge (The John Balshaw River Walk Bridge) crosses the Petaluma River at a bend in the river in the downtown district
And has some nice views of Downtown
The traffic lights of Petaluma are also all wizz-bang-and-fancy. Some of them talk to you; many of them count down how long you have left to cross the road; most acknowledge when you press the button which helps to discourage one of the things I really dislike, and that is people who stand at the traffic lights and press the button a thousand times thinking it will make the lights change sooner; and they even have pedestrian crossings with button-activated flashing lights along the sides of the pedestrian crossing so as to make it easier for drivers to work out if somebody intends to cross the road.
I had six seconds left to cross the road there…thankfully I was already done.
And finally, I had to take a photo of this. I think there is no doubt who is in change of the household from which this truck hails.
Clicking on any of the photos in the post will take you to that photo’s page in the photo gallery, from which you are able to view a larger version of the photo if you wish. Alternatively, to browse through all of the photos, you can get to the “Some of the sights of Petaluma” gallery by clicking here.
This afternoon while I was wandering around downtown Petaluma and enjoying the sight of some really lovely old buildings, I stumbled across a great little antique shop which has a lot of general antiques, but specialises in military antiques, called The Petaluma Collective, located at 300 Petaluma Blvd North.
There were some really awesome things in there including an old field technician’s telephone network test phone, and old microphone, a Beatles 8-track tape (which I almost bought but then didn’t because I’m worried I’d accidentally wipe it in-transit) among other great 8-track tapes and vinyl records, and some World War II currency. There were also a bunch of things which I would have liked to buy but know I would never be able to get through Customs such as some really nice knives and a replica of an old Ruger pistol with moving parts (there is no way I would ever get that through Customs).
The store also had fridge magnets…none from Petaluma, but that’s to be expected in an antiques and collectables store. I ended up buying three of them. Atlanta 1996 Olympics; Grand Ole Opry; NYPD car
I loved the Grand Ole Opry magnet as soon as I saw it; The Atlanta Olympics was the first one that I really noticed as a kid; and I have a bit of a collection of NYPD merchandise…although I was a tad hesitant to buy the NYPD magnet while they shopkeeper and a customer were discussing recent speeding fines for doing less than 5 MPH over the limit until they started discussing how one of them had been let off for doing a burnout in an empty carpark because the officer liked the car, and he stood around and pretended to write out a ticket while chatting with the guy in the car so as to prevent another nearby cop from coming over and writing a ticket…and besides that, the NYPD magnet is pseudo-3D with a painted back of the light unit and shaped bonnet.
I’m going to have to decide what to do about that magnet…I might want to keep it for myself. I’ll probably still post it anyway as I’m sure my friend in Canberra will appreciate it, even if he only gets to keep it for a little while.