A semi-open forum to slam (or support) whatever i dream up on my blogs. Have fun! :)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sugar Mountain

Now you say you're leavin' home
'Cause you want to be alone.
Ain't it funny how you feel
When you're findin' out it's real?

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon
You're leaving there too soon.

- N. Young

I wrote, in the previous blog-entry, that I didn't go directly home from Wisconsin Dells. I made a little side-trip stop on the way back. About 20 miles west of Wisconsin Dells, on I-90/94, is the exit for the town of Camp Douglas. Right off the exit is Volk Field, a big airstation of Wisconsin's Air National Guard. If you continue along the road, less than 1/4 mile later is a rest stop that has a standing sandstone formation. I had stopped there once before, about a year ago. This time, I had my camera.

If you're westbound on the interstate, you can't miss this outcropping. My photos don't show the whole thing in all it's splendor, but anybody can see it from their car. As I implied above, it's easy to get to, and the rest area where it is has a trail that goes all the way around it.

Only a few miles west of here, along U.S. 12, is Wisconsin's Mill Bluff State Park. I also went there on last year's trip. According to the information I received there, these sandstone formations were once islands in what was once known as Glacial Lake Wisconsin. This lake covered a very large area of Wisconsin during the last ice age. Some time in the future, I'll get back to Mill Bluff and blog that park for all of you.

Below are some of the photos that I took. Some are captioned, but most of the images don't need words. Have a look, and I hope that you enjoy them! Let me know what you think, 'cuz I get a little lonely sometimes. :) :) :)

This is the view at the bottom of the formation - the character of the stone looks different in many respects.

This is a good view of some of the vertical faults in the formation.

A not-so-good view of the nonhorizontal layering of the sandstone near the base. Regarding my previous blog photos of the sandstone formations in the driftless area, I seem to be seeing a kind of pattern here.

A 3-photo composite image of the edge of the formation. (Well, an attempt at it, anyway.)

I have read that this formation is supposed to show Cambrian-era worm burrows; is that what these are? Or are these patterns from weathering? These were only on one part of the "back" of the formation.

This is a good view of a much larger formation just a little ways away, actually in the Volk Field ANG area (it's totally fenced in). The photo was taken from the parking lot of the rest area.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dazed and Confused

Been dazed and confused for so long, it's not true.
Wanted a woman, never bargained for you.
Take it easy baby, let them say what they will.
Will your tongue wag so much when I send you the bill?

- R. Plant/J. Page/J. Bonham/J. Paul Jones

Earlier today, I was checking out some of the blogs that I like to read. One of them, hosted by a professor from the university I attended, (circa mid-late '80s) is named "Pharyngula". His name is Dr. P. Z. Myers, and the university is the University of Minnesota Morris. The blog itself is mostly about biological science issues but also has a few other subjects tossed in. I like it, and lately I've been in the habit of visiting the blog daily.

Well, to make this introduction a little shorter, :) one story that caught my eye today was about a new "creationist" museum opening in Wisconsin Dells. I've read about other such "museums" and, to me, it's all a bunch of bullshit. Yes, bullshit. Bullshit and a half. :) I mean, come on, the earth is less than 10,000 years old according to these nutballs. I've studied too much science to agree with that kind of conclusion. Now, don't get me wrong, anybody can believe whatever they want to; but, myself, I'll go with the stuff that's supported by things like physical evidence and other conclusive lines of inquiry. In essence, reality.

So, anyway, I read about this place and I thought that it would be fun to go and see if I could find it, just for kicks. I had also planned on revisiting the Dells area, as I related in a previous post. Plus, I needed a good excuse to get out of the house and out of town for a little while. So I did.

My basic plan was to visit some of the state parks in the area around Wisconsin Dells, plus to drive around in the area and take photos for my blog - to show people. If I ran past the "museum" I was going to stop and take a picture of that, too. With that in mind, I fired up the foxmobile, hit the interstate, and nosed her eastbound. The local radio station was playing a lot of Led Zeppelin, the sky was cloudless, and I anticipated a fun afternoon.

A little over an hour later, I hit the first exit for Wisconsin Dells, aiming for Rocky Arbor State Park on U.S. 12/16. In just a few minutes I was there - only to find a gate across the entrance and a sign that said, "closed". I figured it was because they were doing maintenance or somesuch just after the summer season. Oh well, there was another park to visit and other stuff to see, so I drove on down the highway and into town. Less than 5 minutes later, I crossed the Wisconsin Dells city line whereupon I pulled off the highway at a gas station to get a local area map. I asked the attendant in there why Rocky Arbor was closed, and he said that the state parks in the area close after Labor Day. Suddenly I felt dazed and confused. :) :)

I recovered quickly and altered my plan. I checked the local map for anything I might be interested in seeing, figuring I would spend my time driving around and stopping whenever I felt there was something worth stopping for. From the map, it looked like a loop from where I was at, through downtown Wisconsin Dells, then across the river, go a few miles upriver, recross, and return would do the trick. That was pretty much what I did, with an eye out for any road that would get me close to the river. Along the way, I took photos of where I stopped.

That plan worked pretty well, except for one small thing. I found out that the vast majority of the northern (or "upper") part of the Wisconsin River is either inaccessible to cars or is privately owned - and closed. Off-season means something here. The only exceptions were both on the west side of the river. The first was the public access at a campground, and the second was a pullover on Stand Rock Road. Oh well, you learn something new every day. :)

After I made the loop (about 2 hours later) I hopped back on the interstate and headed back westbound. I didn't return home directly - instead I revisited a few spots that I had been to about a year ago. Ahhhh, but that's for the next blog-entry. :) Below are captioned photos of the Wisconsin Dells area for you all to enjoy. I did have fun, despite having been a bit disappointed. Please let me know what you think!

This is a view of the beginning of the "lower dells" area. Just downriver from the right-hand bend that you see was where the DUKW that I previously blogged went. Just out of view on the left is where the dam/power plant is. The fishing must be pretty good here. :)

Some early fall color for the area.

This is a view the river (well, a loop of it around an island, anyway) from the aforementioned pullout on Stand Rock Road. The previous photo is looking the other way, across the road.

While this isn't a sandstone formation that the area is famous for, this photo does show what the local bedrock looks like. The shot was taken at the parking lot of the gas station I stopped at.

Apparently, I'm not the only one dazed and confused. This sign wouldn't last 5 minutes in Minnesota. And they wonder why we call them cheeseheads. . . . :)

I couldn't figure out if this was a hotel with rides or an amusement park with a hotel attached. I thought it looked cool, though.

Not everything was closed, however. This amusement park, called "Pirate's Cove", was still going strong. Arrrrr, matey! Avast ye swabs! 'Tis the native stone I am 'ere to see, not this bilge!
Downtown Wisconsin Dells. This is the "shopping area". It also has a few attractions, I noticed. This photo was taken by me in the car while stopped at a stoplight. The car is facing east, the photo is towards the west. I still had time to partially roll up the window before the light changed. :)

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Going Mobile

I don't care about pollution
I'm an air-conditioned gypsy
That's my solution
Watch the police and the taxman miss me
I'm mobile!!!

- P. Townshend

The early successes of Nazi Germany in world war 2 were primarily due to their doctrine of "blitzkrieg" warfare. This concept is based, for the most part, on one thing - mobility. Mobility, as it implies, is the ability to move your forces to where they're most needed. To accomplish this, one needs forces that are capable of being moved quickly; and, as was shown in the war, the machinery capable of carrying them.

To provide their armed forces mobility, the Germans used a plethora of motorized equipment. One very common type of vehicle used was the SdKfz 251 halftrack. It was a versatile vehicle that could transverse most of the terrain that a fully-tracked vehicle could. This was nice (for the Germans) as it allowed the capability of infantry forces to stay with, and support, the tanks of the armored forces. Being mostly armored itself, it also provided those forces with some means of protection from small arms and small-caliber artillery fire.

The SdKfz 251 series was produced throughout the war with fairly few changes. The final version was classified as the "D" upgrade. The basic differences between the earlier "C" version and the "D" version were that the latter version was more streamlined-appearing externally and had changes in the rear hatch doors. Everything inside stayed the same.

The 251's also were produced in a number of variants. One of those variants was used as an engineer vehicle and carried portable bridges, as well as equipment for various engineering functions - minelaying, mine removal, portable flamethrowers, etc. This version was known as the SdKfz 251/7. Some of these vehicles also carried extra radio equipment used to coordinate forces in the field. These were known as "command" vehicles.

Dragon is a company that produces 1/35 scale plastic kits of WW2 ground forces. All kinds of kits. I have more than a few of them. :) Not long ago, Dragon released it's SdKfz 251 halftrack kits in several different variations. I obtained their "D" version engineer vehicle as a "3 in 1" kit. This meant that I had the option of building any one of 3 versions. The option that I chose to build was the command vehicle (I like radios :) :) :)).

This build wasn't like the 426 hemi I blogged earlier. This kit is for builders with at least some experience - preferably an intermediate builder. I don't consider myself an "expert" by any means, but I have built quite a few kits. I consider myself one step above intermediate. Every kit, to me, is a learning experience. That's what makes what I do fun. This one turned out OK, but I know it could have been better.

The box itself contained all the plastic one needed to build the kit, with a small fret of photo-etched brass for higher detail in some areas. There were also instrument panel decals and a really neat pre-cut aluminized paper disc for the rear-view mirror. The instructions are pretty complete and pretty clear, but after reading them I knew I was in for some "real fun" when it came to painting the kit. What I decided to do was (roughly) assemble the kit in halves, (top and bottom) paint the interior, assemble the halves together, and then paint the exterior. This led to a few small problems (gaps between the top and bottom halves) that I persevered through (amazing what one can do with good clamps and scotch tape). :) The tracks were built separately and added last.

Below are captioned photos of most of the kit's progress after the initial build (I didn't have my camera during the build process). I had decided earlier to try a tri-color camouflage scheme; and, except for the "hard-line" edges, I think that turned out real good. I also made the kit nice and dirty to give it that "used war equipment" kind of look. Anyways, take a look, and feel free to let me know what you think!

This photo gives some perspective on the actual size of 1/35 scale items. That's the front MG-42 with the very nice photo-etch AA gun sight, after painting. The fingers are mine. I don't have big fingers. :) :) :)

This photo shows the bottom-half interior after paint and thin oil base wash with added pastel "dusting", followed by a clear flat overcoat to lock everything in place.

This is the completed front firewall/instrument panel. The high level of detail here was the primary reason I built the kit in halves.

The interior after adding a few detail items, such as the seats, back panels, and the machine pistols (I think they're MP-42's, but don't quote me on that).

The top and bottom halves together with the base coat of sand yellow (sandgelb) applied.

The finished tri-color scheme. This was done by applying a silly putty mask and spraying the secondary colors, one at a time. Like I wrote, I think the edges are too hard.

This is the view after I added the vehicle markings, which are not decals. These are dry transfers, which I prefer because decals end up too "glossy" and leave a visible film in the clear areas. Note the division symbol on the front panel (Hitler Jugend division).

The rest of these photos are all-around views of the completed kit. Like I wrote, I think it turned out OK but could have been better.

Please note the rear-view mirror here. This is the best I've done in that regard - like I wrote, a very cool item provided by the manufacturer. Now, all I need is a scale radio operator for the inside. I figure this could be used to model a scene of behind-the-lines action by the Germans in the Normandy area after the allies invaded. Anyway, I did have fun building this kit. I hope you all like it too; again, let me know what you think!

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Surfin' Bird

Well everybody knows that the bird is the word. . . .

- Frazier/White/Harris/Wilson

Black River Falls, Wisconsin is about an hour's easy drive on I-94 from a very cool place known as Wisconsin Dells. "The Dells" is known as a huge tourist attraction for a couple of reasons. First and foremost are the outstanding geologic formations along the Wisconsin River. The area has also developed into the midwest's premier water park mecca - a Disneyland with a water-based theme. One fine day this summer, my mother, niece, nephew, and two of their friends, went there. We had decided that the day would be split into two parts; first we'd go see the lower dells on a "duck", and then we'd visit a water park.

People who know me know that I'm a world war 2 nut. I like to say that I "study" the war. I also like to build scale WW2 ground-based equipment as a hobby. Seeing the real thing, whether a rebuild or a reproduction, provides me with a major thrill. Wisconsin Dells is famous for its rebuilt WW2-era DUKWs, or "ducks". Needless to be said, a trip there (for me) was something I'd planned on a long while back - hence the first part of our day there.

During world war 2, the GMC corporation modified it's CCKW 353 6x6 truck (the infamous "deuce-and-a-half") into an amphibious version. This became the DUKW. The DUKWs were needed by U.S. military forces because of the requirement of putting troops and equipment ashore (and inland) from troop and supply ships in both the European and Pacific theatres. From what I've read and seen, the "ducks" performed this function admirably. By the end of the war, 21,000 DUKWs had been produced; and the U.S. military forces also acquired more of them post-war before cancelling the contracted builds.

After the war ended, it was realized that it was too expensive to re-deploy the overseas-employed ducks back to the U.S.A. Many of them were sold to the countries they were in, many others "given" to those countries. The DUKWs still left in the states were sold as surplus and/or scrapped. Shortly after the end of WW2, an enterprising entrepreneur from Wisconsin Dells bought some surplus machines and started giving tours on them. Thusly were the "Wisconsin Ducks" hatched. :)

Okay, now that the background information is done, on to the fun part. :)

When we got to the duck-ride area, we were pretty early. We had to wait for about 45 minutes before the first ride went out. We knew which machine we would be riding, so I took the opportunity to talk to the guys getting it ready to go out. One of them was our driver. I must have conveyed a keen interest, because he let me sit at the very front during the trip; and he also "popped the hood" (hey, I just asked for shits and grins) to let me see the original engine. He also answered the myriad of questions I hit him up with during the trip. The first three photos below are of the duck we rode, the third being the in-line 6 cylinder petrol engine in its compartment.

The round-trip tour itself lasts about an hour. It goes through part of town, then into Lake Delton. After that, it travels overland again to the Wisconsin River to see the lower part of the dells. Then, it goes overland back into town to where it started. All-in-all, it's very scenic. People in town wave at you. Ducks (the feathered type that goes "quack") swim by. The engine roars, the gears grind, and the damn thing shakes like a mofo at better than 35 mph - on land. In the water, the ride is smooth as silk at about 5-6 mph.

Some things about the DUKW that I didn't know until the trip: It is a chore to drive this thing. Like I wrote above, I sat up front, right next to the driver - he worked pretty hard. Each axle can be engaged or disengaged as desired for the various amphibious terrain (there are three driven axles - it's still a 6x6). The 3-bladed screw is 45 inches high. Fully-loaded, the DUKW can come out of or go into water at a 45 degree angle, even towing a trailer! On land top speed is just a little under 40 mph.

This is a photo taken just after entering the Wisconsin River. Only the 2 orange lights (required by Wisconsin traffic laws) are not part of the original DUKW build.

These next two photos were taken from the duck while we were in the Wisconsin River. This area is known as the "lower dells". The sandstone formation is Cambrian-era, known as the Potsdam formation. Note, in both photos, how the lower part of the formation is not flat-bedded, but angled, compared to the upper parts.

After our duck ride, we all got into the car and drove a few blocks away to a place called "Noah's Ark". The kids were very excited to go there, and I could see why. The place is chock-full of rides, water-slides, and other fun stuff. We spent the better part of 5 hours there, and everybody had fun (and I had the sunburn to prove it). Noah's Ark is a good family venue. For a family of 5, it'll cost a c-note; but, imo, it's well worth it. You can stay all day, or come and go as you please (they give you a wrist band at the gate). In the 5 hours we were there, not even the kids went on all the rides that they have there. I went on about half of them, because some are a little too tall for my acrophobia to handle. The place was full of people the entire time.

The place is huge, also. There are places to buy food there, and a bar or two. In short, it's got EVERYTHING. Two wave pools. More water-slides than you can shake a wet stick at. The roller coaster gets EVERYBODY wet. Floating bumper cars! You name it, if it can have water in it, on it, or through it, it's there. Quite the fun day, even for this 40-plus year-old who came to ride a duck. :)

These next three photos show what I mean. I put the camera back in the car after about 10 minutes (that's why there are so few photos of Noah's Ark) because I wanted to have some fun in the water, too. The first is one of the 2 wave pools. The next shows one of the many water-slide rides (many of which have more than one chute). The last photo shows the up-ramp for the 4-person rafts used on that particular water-slide (I got halfway up the stairs for that one before deciding it was too high for me). :) :)

My goodness what a fun day we all had!! I know that the kids sure enjoyed Noah's Ark (they couldn't wait to get there and didn't want to leave) and so did my mom and I. What a thrill it was for me to be riding in that fine summer Wisconsin breeze to the tune of that roaring DUKW engine!! The smile on my face couldn't have been bigger. The rides at Noah's Ark, for me, where merely gravy on an already fantastic day. Would I go back? In a heartbeat, and another trip is already planned. Stay tuned! I'll keep you all posted.

Labels: , , ,