Category Archives: Road Trip

10-28-08 & 10-30-08

I’m going to publish the pictures from 2 old timey folder today because they are both pretty small.

The pictures in the folder 10-28-08 are from a trip I took to Ottumwa with Sara. Jen inherited a house when her Uncle John passed away in Ottumwa. It was nice house as far as houses in Ottumwa go, but it needed lots of attention before it could go on the market.

Sara and I went there, I think to help, but on this trip to Ottumwa I’m not sure we did much helping.

The pictures from folder 10-30-08 were from the beginnings of my house hunt. It took me 3 months of looking at over 60 houses to find the house that is the current home of the Photography 139 Studio. The way I found my current house is both extremely nerdy and a bit of a God Moment, but that is a story for another journal entry on another day.

These house were the 2nd set of houses I looked at. I looked at 2 other houses on a different night, but those aren’t part of what I would consider my official “House Hunt” because I was mostly just tagging along with Teresa’s friend Rob on his house hunt.

Here are some pictures to look at:


Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

Ottumwa House

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

The Great House Hunt

Fun Fact:

The tie that is in my hand in the mullet wig picture I wore in my Computer Mine Holiday Card photo because I felt it was very punk rock.

By adding these pictures to the Photography 139 Gallery, I was able to restore the following historic “An Artist’s Notebook” entries to their original glory:

Ottumwa

House Search

The Ottumwa entry has a story about the time Derrick betrayed me… over a potato.

Next Saturday’s walk down memory lane will involve disc golf and long hair Shannon. But not at the same time.

Alamo Bowl Road Trip: Alamo Bowl

We gave her a hug. Loaded back up in the rental and left Waco profoundly changed in a way that is hard to figure. My best guess is that it would be the way you would change if you saw the Vietnam War Memorial with a veteran of the Vietnam War or if you talked to a holocaust survivor or met somebody that was in the towers on 9/11. Something that was merely academic, was suddenly real.

We were a couple hours from San Antonio and several hours from the kickoff, but the game seemed decidedly less important than it did just an hour or so earlier.

We only made one stop between Waco and San Antonio. Some gas station that won’t be remembered for the cleanliness of their bathroom. Bathroom not pictured.

We reached our hotel near the San Antonio airport about 4 hours before kickoff. We dropped off our stuff and took an Uber to downtown San Antonio to meet Andree and his brother. The Uber driver really hated Lonestar Beer. He made a point of that in our conversation.

We met Andree and his brother at their hotel and walked to Fudrucker’s for supper. This violates the #1 rule of Christopher D. Bennett road tripping, but I was hungry and wasn’t in the mood to make a big deal out of it.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

The River Walk, which we walked by.

On our way to Fudrucker’s we ran into a guy with a beard that was almost as impressive as mine. We exchanged pleasantries and then we hugged it out for a bit. I think Andree and his brother were a bit mesmerized by this exchange. Apparently they have never hugged a complete stranger. Which is sad and means that they clearly need to grow beards.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip
My burger and onion rings hit the spot!

After the meal we walked to the Alamodome for the Alamo Bowl. We walked a good portion of the way with a Washington State graduate that was from San Antonio originally, but now lived in Japan. He was fortunate to be able to attend the bowl game of his alma mater because he had come home to visit his mom for the holidays. Washington State happened to be playing in San Antonio. Really worked out for him. He was a pretty cool guy.

We got to the game and I had an usher take our picture:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

The usher walked back like 20 rows to take our picture to make it horribly backlit. I did what I could to salvage the photo in post.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Unfortunately, the Cyclones couldn’t pull off the victory. The refereeing was dreadful. The kind of refereeing you get one Big Ten refs referee a Big 12 game. They just don’t see the caliber of athlete and they aren’t prepared for the speed of the game.

This resulted in one of Iowa State players being ejected from the game for targeting, but replays showed the Cyclone more like softly landed on top of the Cougar quarterback.

Another terrible call was a play where Matt Eaton caught a pass and took 4 steps before being tackled. The ball came loose as he hit the ground. It should have been a 20 or so yard completion for the Cyclones. Somehow the refs called it an incompletion.

Regardless of how terrible the refs were, Iowa State has to look in the mirror and face the fact that they gave that game away. 3 turnovers. 7 false start penalties. That isn’t a recipe for beating anybody, let alone a top ten team.

It was with that bitterness we filtered out of the Alamadome, knowing the better team didn’t win that night, but excited to see what these young Cyclones do in 2019. Even though we were facing the reality that Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery were probably leaving for the NFL with a year of eligibility left.

Jesse and I bid Andree and his brother a fond adieu and took a Lyft back to our hotel. I think our Lyft driver was somewhere on the autism spectrum. At the very least he was extremely socially awkward. Not the type of guy that hugs a stranger on the streets of San Antonio.

After having the same conversation with the Lyft driver at least 5 times on the way back to the hotel, I was relieved as we hit the hotel room. I crashed almost immediately.

Jesse had booked us kind of a fancy pants hotel with all his Marriott points. They had a spread for breakfast that made me almost (ALMOST) forgive them for not having a make your own waffle maker that makes waffles in the shape of Texas.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip
They had 2 guys making cook-to-order omelettes.

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Jesse had something of a dreadful pain in the gulliver, so I took over the driving duties. The trip back to the Cyclone State was mostly business, but we did stop in Austin.


Austin
Austin artwork.

Austin

Austin

We also stopped to see the Stadium where the Texas Longhorns play football. I’m pretty sure it is the biggest stadium I’ve ever seen. It holds almost twice the number of people as Jack Trice Stadium. It feels twice the size of any other stadium I’ve seen. Such as where Kansas plays, where Kansas State plays, where Iowa plays, where Missouri plays, where the Vikings play, and where the Chiefs play. The only stadium I’ve been to that is comparable in size is where the Nebraska Bugeaters play.


Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Austin

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip
Horns Down!

The guy we met outside of Texas’s stadium was interesting. He immediately wanted to engage us in a political discussion when he found out we weren’t from Texas.

He had two main planks to his political beliefs.

#1. Texas not having state income tax was the greatest thing ever.

I was happy for him to be so happy about it, but I tried to explain to him that having no income tax just means that he pays higher taxes in other areas. Furthermore, not having state income tax moves the tax burden from the wealthy and makes poor people pay more taxes.

He insisted this wasn’t the case, but it is in fact true.

The effective tax rate on the bottom 20% in states without income taxes is 10.7%. The effective tax rate on the bottom 20% in states with income taxes is 9.9%. 9.9% is less than 10.7% if you were trying to do the math.

The effective tax rate on the top 20% in states without income taxes is 4.7%. The effective tax rate on the top 20% in states with income taxes is 7.6%. 4.7% is less than 7.6% in case you were doing the math.

The sad truth is that whether or not you have an income tax or don’t have an income tax, the wealthy in this county don’t pay their fair share of the tax burden and the poor pay too much of a tax burden.

To his other point that he wasn’t get taxed more in other ways to make up for the lack of income tax, the numbers don’t back him up there either.

Just putting Iowa against Texas, Iowans pay a little more than 1% more in state taxes than Texans. But 1% is not the great number that he purported.

Iowans pay:

Total Tax Burden – 9.32%
Property Tax Burden – 3.45%
Income Tax Burden – 2.5%
Sales & Excise Tax Burden – 3.35%

Texans pay:

Total Tax Burden – 8.15%
Property Tax Burden – 3.70%
Income Tax Burden – 0.0%
Excise and Sales Tax Burden – 4.45%

Excise and sales tax burden is inordinately paid by the poor and middle class.

States that don’t have an income tax get that money from some place else. That some place else is usually the poor.

While the jury’s still out on the benefits of living in a state with no income tax, experts agree that there is one clear result for those states that do levy an income tax.

It helps the poor.

An income tax is a classic tool for redistributing wealth. It’s usually “progressive” in nature, meaning that it taxes higher earners at a greater rate than lower earners. Other taxes typically don’t have that Robin Hood-like characteristic.

Sales taxes, for example, are considered “regressive.” They don’t change depending on the income level of the consumer. They treat everyone the same. So do levies on food, gasoline and other key consumable items.

These taxes place an unfair burden on the poor, according to research from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The reason is the lowest earners in the state devote the lion’s share of their take-home pay to buying things that are subject to sales taxes. The wealthy, who can save a chunk of their income in their 401(k)s and other investments, have a much smaller exposure to the sales tax.

If you think I’m delving into class warfare, I will only say this:

There can’t be class warfare in this country until the poor start fighting back.

Here is my favorite example of how class warfare currently works in our country:

A billionaire, a worker, and an immigrant are sitting at a table with 1000 cookies. The billionaire takes 999 cookies and says to the worker, “watch out, that immigrant is going to take your cookie.”

#2. Ann Richards is the worst thing that ever happened to Texas.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Ann Richards. I’m not. I’m not going to defend her. However, after listening to this guy espouse about his libertarian belief for 15 minutes. Then listening to him call Ann Richards a bitch at least 5 times and tell us about how he celebrated her death, the only policy that he pointed out that was so terrible was that she repealed a law that made it legal to build a building that is taller than the state capitol building in Austin. That would be a libertarian policy. I’m not sure he actually knows what he is.

But I digress.

After doing our “horns down” gesture, we loaded back into the car and headed north. Hoping to get deep into the heart of Oklahoma before bedding down for the night.

+++++++

This is your reminder that this week’s WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE theme is TRANSPORTATION:



TRANSPORTATION

A TRANSPORTATION photo is a photo of anything that is TRANSPORTATION related. From trains to planes to automobiles. To bridges to tunnels to tracks.

Happy photo harvesting!

Selfie Project – January

Loyal leaders may recall that I started up the Selfie Project again in 2019. At the end of every month I will check-in with it to share some of my favorites from the month.

If you don’t want to wait until the end of the month, you can follow me on the Instagram to see what I have done and where I have been.

To follow me on the Instagram, scan my Nametag below:


Instagram Nametag

Spoiler: For January I’m not sure I did anything all that exciting. Although I did leave Iowa once to visit the Miller Triplets in Kansas.

Here are my favorites:


December 31, 2018
December 31, 2018

January 4, 2019
January 4

January 8, 2019
January 8

January 10, 2019
January 10

January 12, 2019
January 12

January 14, 2019
January 14

January 16, 2019
January 16

January 17, 2019
January 17

January 18, 2019
January 18

January 20, 2019
January 20

January 21, 2019
January 21

January 22, 2019
January 22

January 23, 2019
January 23

January 25, 2019
January 25

January 26, 2019
January 26

January 27, 2019
January 27

January 29, 2019
January 29

January 30, 2019
January 30

January 31, 2019
January 31

Hopefully I will be interesting in February. There is a baby I need to visit up in Minnesota. A baby I need to visit down in Des Moines. If the weather gets nicer, I could spend some time pursuing THE TOWN SIGNS PROJECT or I could spend the entire month hanging around the house with Naima.

The struggle is real!

+++++++

Here is a big update on my pursuit of a drone:

  1. Car paid off. – I got the pink slip daddy!
  2. Training Budget Reimbursement – Bought about 10 books and signed up for an online portrait photography class that I will discuss someday.
  3. Purchase Popcorn Maker – The Union Street theater has procured its very own popcorn maker from Flat Earth Joe. The one that was borrowed from Andy’s friend of a friend has been returned.
  4. Computer Upgrade – I have completed upgrades on my home computer. I’ve put in a solid state drive to run the OS and the applications, I upped the RAM to 16 GB and I replaced the video card with a video card with twice the ram and that is capable of running 3 monitors.
  5. Figure out the effect of the Iowa GOP Tax Scam – The Iowa GOP Tax Scam will indeed result in me paying more taxes. There is about a $7 effect on my paycheck, meaning I am getting a tax cut of roughly $200. (Assuming the withholding from my paycheck is being done right.) However, since the Iowa GOP Tax Scam made it so a 6% sales tax is levied on all online purchases, I will be taxed well more than the $200 benefit. For example, I’ll pay over $100 in taxes on purchasing the drone that I wouldn’t have had to pay before the Iowa GOP Tax Scam became law. 
  6. Rear Brakes – I had the rear brakes replaced on my car last night. It costs me about 40% of what I was expecting Win!
  7. Computer Mine Bonus – I did indeed get a Computer Mine Bonus. I can’t complain about it one bit. 
  8. Bank Fraud Resolution – I am going to consider the bank fraud situation resolved. I haven’t received a letter saying that it is a done deal, but the bank did place the $350 that I requested in my bank account as a provisional credit. The investigation is still to be closed by January 31. I have a naive faith that the investigation will end in my favor. Otherwise, Credit Union Time?
  9. Federal GOP Tax Scam – The Tax Scam didn’t effect my tax refund at all. It was almost like it wasn’t meant to be a tax cut for lower class and middle class people. It is almost like it was a cash grab for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations under the ludicrous precept that some of the benefits would trickle down to us poor folks. I can say this with 100% certainty. I respect a person that believes the earth is flat way more than I respect somebody that believes in the Laffer Curve. 
  10. Change Jar -I have added some change to the change jar, including the change I won in a football pool at the Computer Mine. However, I am still probably 2 inches short of being almost full. I should effort to go through the cushions of my couches. If I can get within one inch, of the top of the jar, I will call this quest complete and proceed to order my drone.

That looks identical to last week’s drone update. This is because it is identical to last week’s drone update.

Here is what is different. I’ve decided not to wait until the coin jar is full to pull the trigger on the drone. I pulled the trigger last Friday and it should arrive to be safely caressed in my arms tomorrow.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to actually use it due to the weather, but I will monitor the weather closely. It is possible that the first day of decent weather I’ll take off of work and go play in the skies above us. No higher than 400 feet and not within 5 miles of an airport.

I know what you’re thinking, you snagged your reward before achieving your goals. That shows a lack of discipline. This is very disheartening, considering you have been yammering on and on to anybody that would listen that you are going to be more financially responsible this year.

This is true. My main goal of 2019 is to be lest wasteful with money in certain ways. However, the benefit of that is that I get to be more wasteful in other veins.

My way of being more financially responsible is to have set some goals.

Goal #1: Decrease my actual debt load my a certain amount of money. I’m not heavily in debt. I have a house payment and some credit card debt. However, while I don’t have a car payment, I want to hammer on my debt and get it below #X by the end of the year. I’ll report on my progress here, because congratulations, you just became my accountability buddies.

Goal #2: Figure out why my website is costing me so much more money than I ever intended. I have partially concluded this goal. I actually (I know people should do these things) sat down and reviewed what my webhost was charging me. I discovered that I was paying $10 a month for something called Website Builder, that I don’t use. I built my website with my own two hands and Vest’s two hands and WordPress. They are also charging me like 8 bucks a month for PHP 5.2+. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I need that, but at the very least, I’m saving $120 bucks a year on this website.

Goal #3: To stop wasting so much money going out to lunch at work. It is not an exaggeration to say that in 2018 and the years before I went out to lunch, on average 4.5 out of 5 work days a week. If I conservatively estimate the average lunch to be $10, I probably spent $200 a month on lunch. That is $2400 a year. My goal is to only eat out for lunch 20% of the year. I estimate that just by bringing lunch from home, I can save $1800 a year. The good news is that I’m on track this year. In January there were 22 work days. I went out to lunch one time. I’m currently at a 4.5% eating out for lunch percentage. My worry is that I will get burned out on eating in. So I’m going to try to mix it up as much as possible. If you have any cheap, healthy lunches that are easy to prepare either at work or on the Sunday before the work week starts, throw them my way. This week I’m eating overnight oats. This space is a place where I might also share some of the recipes I come across. I have to thank American Ninja Steve for introducing me to overnight oats. I’m not making his recipe yet because it involves lots of exotic ingredients I need to be able to track down like flax milk and hemp heads. But when I make that for a week, I’ll share that recipe here.

Goal #4: Save money by buying used lenses. I’m still torn on whether or not I’m going to buy a new camera this year. It has been almost 3 years since I bought a new camera and I’m getting the itch. However, I am vexed on what camera to buy. I’ve thought about crossing over into the Sony mirrorless realm, but that means a whole new camera mount. The other option is to buy the camera that is above my camera in my current platform. That camera sells for about $3200. That price tag is going to take me a lot of meals of overnight oats to justify in my head. Especially with my debt lowering goals. While I don’t know about buying a new camera, I have compiled a list of lenses I want to buy this year. I’ve decided to hit the used lens market this year as I can save sometimes as much as 30% by going used. Some of the lens I want are pretty cheap, but some are not. The exciting news for you is that every time I get some used glass, you’ll get to read an exciting equipment review! Yay you!

Goal #5: Up % of the paycheck that goes into savings and 401K.

But none of this explains why I felt it was okay to pull the trigger on the drone with the change jar still 2 inches from the top.

There are two reasons for that:

#1. Through my works and luck at the computer mine, I had $325 in Amazon gift cards burning a hole in my virtual wallet. In my wildest dream, there isn’t $325 in the coin jar.

#2. I recently ordered a new photo toy called arsenal for $185. It is a camera attachment that allows you to control your camera with your smartphone. Now I can already control my camera with a smartphone, but there is limited control. It basically throws the camera into automatic and you get what you get. Arsenal allows you to control pretty much all the main settings on the camera. Plus it is supposed to do its own focus stacking and HDR. Plus it has some pretty sweet time-lapse settings. However, I got an email that they can’t make it Arsenal work with my camera and don’t think they ever will be able to. They refunded me that money. Although to be honest, that $185 isn’t going toward the drone. When the refund hits my account it is going towards some glass. Not sure which one I’ll pull the trigger on first. But don’t worry I’ll let you know.

So where is that change jar money going to go. Well, one camera purchase I am dedicated to this year is the Sony RX0. Therefore, when the change jar is full I will take it to the bank and then order up the Sony RX0.

This concludes your Tuesday camera equipment purchase updates.

10-13-08

There is quite the collection of images in the folder called 10-13-08. I can’t possibly include all of them in this here entry, so I’ll just have to pick out a few that I like the most.

The pictures range from Gyro Day at the Computer Mine to the Ames Party Bus in action to a road trip to Kalona with Mom, Teresa, and Jay.

Have a looksie:


Gyro Day - 2008

Gyro Day - 2008

FNSC

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Ames Party Bus

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

Kalona Road Trip - 2008

While I’m not 100% sure, I believe that is the last of my Ames Party Bus pictures. Which means I should explain why you haven’t seen Becky driving around the Ames Party Bus in 10 years.

I might not be getting the details 100% correct, but the spirit of what I’m writing is dead on.

Shortly after Becky finished restored the Ames Party Bus and began putting out an APB on fun, Big Party Bus felt threatened. In fact they were scared. Petrified.

Big Party Bus checked their address book to look up which state representatives they had in their back pockets. Then they went to these bought politicians and pulled their chains.

The bought politicians reacted by passing a law that made party buses carry an exorbitant amount of insurance. Like an incredible amount of insurance. Insurance that was price-prohibitive.

This effectively shutdown the small-time party bus. Becky was out of business, shortly after the party had begun. Rich people win again.

By adding these pictures to the Photography 139 Gallery, I was able to restore the following historic “An Artist’s Notebook” entries to their original glory:

Spoiled

Euphonious

Kalona (Part 1)

Kalona (Part 2)

Next week’s walk down memory lane will involve an Iowa State football match with the Bugeaters of Nebraska.

Alamo Bowl Road Trip: Branch Davidians

We loaded up the car and I punched the address of the Branch Davidians Compound into the GPS. I had absolutely no clue what we would find what we would find when we got to the place where 76 people died in the Waco Siege.

You see, we had stayed the night in possibly one of the worst places in the United States. If it wasn’t for Chip and Joanna Gains, Waco, Texas would have zero positive press.

When you say Waco, Texas people only think of a handful of things in no particular order:

1. Branch Davidians and their fiery end.
2. The Baylor football program and the scores of sexual assaults and rapes that they committed that were then duly covered up by the school, athletic department, and most disturbingly… the police department.
3. The 1916 lynching, torturing, burning, and mutilating of Jesse Washington. A lynching that was attended by in excess of 10,000 people.*
4. Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy being murdered by fellow Baylor basketball player Carlton Dotson.
5. FIXER UPPER

I wish I would’ve thought to go see the memorial to Jesse Washington, but it was forgotten. Sorry Jesse.

But being someone with an interest in history and more than a bit of a fascination with cults, there was no way we were going through Waco, Texas and not visiting the Branch Davidians and the site of the Waco Siege.

It is not a stretch to think that it was one of the most important historical events of the 1990s. It was an event that contributed to the dangerous rise of the alt-right and was directly responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing. The deadliest domestic terrorist attack in American history. Killing 171 people. Including 19 children.

It is not overstated it to say that we would be living in a different America if the Waco Siege never happened. If you don’t know or don’t remember the Waco Siege, here is a brief synopsis from the Wiki:

The Waco siege was the siege of a compound belonging to the Branch Davidians, carried out by American federal and Texas state law enforcement, as well as the U.S. military, between February 28 and April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians were led by David Koresh and were headquartered at Mount Carmel Center ranch in the community of Axtell, Texas, 13 miles (21 kilometers) east-northeast of Waco. Suspecting the group of stockpiling illegal weapons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) obtained a search warrant for the compound and arrest warrants for Koresh and a select few of the group’s members.

The incident began when the ATF attempted to raid the ranch. An intense gun battle erupted, resulting in the deaths of four government agents and six Branch Davidians. Upon the ATF’s failure to raid the compound, a siege lasting 51 days was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Eventually, the FBI launched an assault and initiated a tear gas attack in an attempt to force the Branch Davidians out of the ranch. During the attack, a fire engulfed Mount Carmel Center. In total, 76 people died, including David Koresh.

There is too much controversy and too much backstory to really do the Waco Siege justice. If you have questions about it, I suggest you leave them in the comments and I’ll answer with what knowledge I have and what opinions I possess.

What I will state definitively is that the Waco Siege was a terrible waste of life that could have been easily avoided. It is what happens when law enforcement tries to do things for public relations, rather than for… well law enforcement. They took their mistakes at Ruby Ridge and made them exponentially worse.

I’m sure these were some of my thoughts as we pulled up to the gate of Mount Carmel. One gate was open. There was a sign that said that you could get a look around the ranch for $10.

Shortly after we pulled into the ranch a truck came speeding up towards us. Considering where we were, was a little disconcerting. The driver rolled down their window and told us that we should hurry up to the chapel. They were giving a tour up there and we could make it if we hurried.

So we bypassed the building we thought we were supposed to pay at and headed up to the chapel.

Once we got there, there was a guy there telling the story of the Waco Siege. He wasn’t a member of the Branch Davidians in 1993, but now he researched the event with David Thibodeau** (one of the few to survive the fire).

He showed us pictures of the people that perished in the fire. He showed us “trophy photos” that the FBI took after the church (they are offended by the term “compound” because of its militaristic connotation) burned completely down. If you know any hunters, you know what a trophy photo is. You can imagine what you would feel like if people took trophy photos with the remains of your friends and loved ones.

He argued that David Koresh wasn’t even doing anything illegal. It isn’t illegal to stockpile and sell firearms. While it might (you can take out the might for me) be morally reprehensible to most of us to have sex with 14 year old girls, in Texas 14 year olds can be married with parental consent. Which David Koresh did have. Yeah. Gross. Texas, Do better.

Eventually the man (I can’t remember his name) left and we were introduced to Heather***. Heather really made this a special stop.

Heather was 9 years old during the Waco Siege. She was in Mount Carmel when the siege began. She was the last person to leave, days before the final assault that ended in the deaths of almost every Branch Davidian in the building. Including her father.

If you know the timeline of the Waco Siege, Heather’s dad was the mailman that was inadvertently tipped off to the ATF’s attack by a lost member of the media. This is why the ATF didn’t have the element of surprise. This is why the raid should have been called off.

Before he died, he gave her a teddy bear and told her that the bear would watch over her until he saw her again. Then he sent her out into the “Babylonian” world.

As she told us the story she paused and then said, “I didn’t know at the time that he meant, when we see each other in heaven.”

As she walked down the driveway, she expected to be shot in the head every step she took. Finally, she reached the end of the drive and was grabbed by the police. They took the teddy bear away from her and ripped it up.

This wasn’t done (completely) out of malice though. They were checking the bear for a bomb. There wasn’t one.

Tears rolled down her face as she told us this part of the story.

Then she said, “I never got the bear back.”

You could tell with the way she said it that it still hurts that the last thing her dad gave her. The thing that was supposed to “watch over her” was taken from her, destroyed, and never returned.

She wiped the tears off her face and apologized for crying.

We told her not to apologize and thanked her for sharing such a memory to people who were basically tourists in her pain.

Then she offered to give show us the rest of the grounds.


Branch Davidians
The current chapel was built in the same place as the chapel that was burnt down.

Branch Davidians
The fire.

Branch Davidians
Trophy photos.

Branch Davidians
Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Stage.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Telling the story.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Pointing out the “Trophy Photos”.

Branch Davidians
David Koresh

Branch Davidians
Heather is seated in the lower right hand corner.

Branch Davidians
David Koresh thought he was the second coming of Jesus, but this time he wasn’t sinless.

Branch Davidians
Bill Clinton was president during the Waco Siege.

Branch Davidians
Tanks crushed this bus.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
People were trapped in this storage room.

Branch Davidians
Heather’s ducks.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
They built this pool the year before the Siege. They got to use if for 1 year.

Branch Davidians
Heather was really cold. It wasn’t cold for Iowans with plenty of built in insulation.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Oklahoma City Memorial

Branch Davidians
ATF Officer Memorial

Branch Davidians
Current Chapel

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Branch Davidian Memorial

Branch Davidians
Branch Davidians are an offshoot of Seventh Day Adventists.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
Gate.

Branch Davidians

Branch Davidians
The road outside of Mount Carmel.

Branch Davidians
The Branch

Alamo Bowl Road Trip
Selfie with Heather.

During the tour Heather didn’t say anything positive about David Koresh. She talked about how he separated her from her dad and took over her discipline.

As a child Heather was pigeon-toed. He used to make her walk back and forth the length of Mount Carmel. He would hit her with a stick when he felt she was walking pigeon-toed.

If David Koresh would have stayed alive and remained in power, she would have become one of his wives when she turned 14.

Mount Carmel burned down when I was in high school. We watched it in class. I have seen at least 5 documentaries on it. I have seen a movie on it. Willy and I watched the WACO television show last year. The tragedy of what happened there didn’t really hit home until I was standing on the same ground where it all happened. It is something I will never forget.

We thanked Heather again for sharing and giving us a tour. I felt like a doucher, but I asked for a picture with her. She obliged willingly. She asked us to friend her on The Facebook. This made me feel like less of a doucher.

I broke my 2 month absence from Facebook long enough to become her friend on The Facebook, but I haven’t been back since. If I ever get the stomach to return, I’ll hit her up and see if she remembers us and see how she is doing.

We gave her a hug. Loaded back up in the rental and left Waco profoundly changed in a way that is hard to figure. My best guess is that it would be the way you would change if you saw the Vietnam War Memorial with a veteran of the Vietnam War or if you talked to a holocaust survivor or met somebody that was in the towers on 9/11. Something that was merely academic, was suddenly real.

We were a couple hours from San Antonio and several hours from the kickoff, but the game seemed decidedly less important than it did just an hour or so earlier.

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This is your reminder that this week’s WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE theme is RUINS.


WEEK 177 - RUINS
RUINS

A RUINS photo is a picture of something that is in decay.

Happy photo harvesting!

*If we ever have Youth Group again, we will briefly discuss the lynching of Jesse Washington
**David Thibodeau is the survivor that wrote the book that part of the television show WACO is based on. He was played by Rory Caulkin in the show. I can’t recommend that show highly enough.
***Heather is featured in a documentary about the Branch Davidians that aired on A&E in 2018. I have procured a digital copy of it. If you ever want to watch it, I can arrange it. But you have to ask nicely.

Alamo Bowl Road Trip: Magnolia

I slept like a baby. Like an angel. Like a baby angel. I woke up in the morning ready to take on the world.

After I got out of the shower I decided to walk the Motel 6 grounds to check out the lay of the land. I carried the trusty Alpha 77ii with me as I was deleting images because I didn’t want to run out of images on the memory card because we were going 2 places I planned to photograph.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip
Motel 6

While I was deleting pictures a paranoid Motel 6 employee approached me and wanted to know what I was photographing. I explained nothing, I was just deleting images. He seemed to be satisfied with this answer. But he also seemed to shadow me for several minutes. Not very trusting these Waco types.

I don’t watch a ton of home improvement shows, but my two favorites are REHAB ADDICT and FIXER UPPER. While Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t making the show now, they have created a tourist trap where people can fork over their hard earned coin for overpriced mugs, shirts, and bags.

Jesse and I left the hotel and headed to this oasis in Waco known as Magnolia.

Here are a few images:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia

The fact that the Alabama Sweet Tea food trailer wasn’t open was a minor tragedy. True, I still had a couple bottles of Gold Peak Extra Sweet Tea in the cooler in the car, but I strongly wanted to evaluate this Alabama Sweet Tea to see how it stacked up against my own brew, Thick Soul Sweet Tea.

The lack of Alabama Sweet Tea wasn’t going to ruin the trip, but it certainly left a hole in the trip that didn’t seem could be filled.

My recommendation if you go to Magnolia is to skip the bakery. There is a trailer that sells the same food as the bakery, with a considerably shorter line.

Magnolia was cool and all, but it is still mostly just a store. As a minimalist, there is only so much unabashed commerce I can stand.

That being said, if you are in Waco I would recommend stopping.

As for the bakery, I had the Silo Cookie and the Chocolate Chip Cookie. They were both tasty, but the Chocolate Chip Cookie has it all over the Silo Cookie. They also sold cupcakes, but I didn’t purchase any, as I am not a big fan of cupcakes.

We loaded up the car and I punched the address of the Branch Davidians Compound into the GPS. I had absolutely no clue what we would find what we would find when we got to the place where 76 people died in the Waco Siege.

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This is your reminder that this week’s WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE theme is SURPRISE!


WEEK 176- SURPRISE
SURPRISE

A SURPRISE photo is a photo of anything that deals with a SURPRISE. From reactions to results to planning.

Happy photo harvesting!

Brown vs. Board of Education

On many a trip to Manhattan I have driven through Topeka and seen a sign for the Brown vs. Board of Education historical site. Many a time I have thought, I should stop and check that out. Every single time I have decided against it and kept driving to get to Bill Snyder Country sooner.

In early November I went down to Topeka with Bethany and Becca to see Nate and Laura’s triplets who were still in the NICU in Topeka.

As fate would have it, we stumbled across the Brown vs. Board of Education site. We stopped and we took some pictures.

Here some are:


Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

Brown vs. the Board of Education

If you don’t know what Brown vs. Board of Education is, I’ll assume you are a product of the Boone School Systems.

Here is a little tidbit from the History Channel’s website:

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement, and helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

It was interesting to stand in a place that was so pivotal in the civil rights struggle. We didn’t have time to actually go into the school, but I’ll have to return sometime. When I have more time and the government isn’t shutdown.

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Here is an update on my 10 Step Process to buying a drone.

  1. Car paid off. – I got the pink slip daddy!
  2. Training Budget Reimbursement – Bought about 10 books and signed up for an online portrait photography class that I will discuss someday.
  3. Purchase Popcorn Maker – The Union Street theater has procured its very own popcorn maker from Flat Earth Joe. The one that was borrowed from Andy’s friend of a friend has been returned.
  4. Computer Upgrade – I have completed upgrades on my home computer. I’ve put in a solid state drive to run the OS and the applications, I upped the RAM to 16 GB and I replaced the video card with a video card with twice the ram and that is capable of running 3 monitors.
  5. Figure out the effect of the Iowa GOP Tax Scam – The Iowa GOP Tax Scam will indeed result in me paying more taxes. There is about a $7 effect on my paycheck, meaning I am getting a tax cut of roughly $200. (Assuming the withholding from my paycheck is being done right.) However, since the Iowa GOP Tax Scam made it so a 6% sales tax is levied on all online purchases, I will be taxed well more than the $200 benefit. For example, I’ll pay over $100 in taxes on purchasing the drone that I wouldn’t have had to pay before the Iowa GOP Tax Scam became law. 
  6. Rear Brakes – I had the rear brakes replaced on my car last night. It costs me about 40% of what I was expecting Win!
  7. Computer Mine Bonus – I did indeed get a Computer Mine Bonus. I can’t complain about it one bit. 
  8. Bank Fraud Resolution – My bank fraud situation is partially resolved. The bank sent me a letter saying that I would get $150 or so bucks because I was a victim of fraud. I called them and said “Thanks! But that number is about $370 light.” Then we had an exchange where the person that I talked to couldn’t even find my account. Finally they said to send them another affidavit for the other $370 bucks. I’m hoping this time it doesn’t take 2 more months to resolve. I won’t hold my breath.
  9. Federal GOP Tax Scam – The Tax Scam didn’t effect my tax refund at all. It was almost like it wasn’t meant to be a tax cut for lower class and middle class people. It is almost like it was a cash grab for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations under the ludicrous precept that some of the benefits would trickle down to us poor folks. I can say this with 100% certainty. I respect a person that believes the earth is flat way more than I respect somebody that believes in the Laffer Curve. 
  10. Change Jar -I have added some change to the change jar, including the change I won in a football pool at the Computer Mine. However, I am still probably 2 inches short of being almost full. I should effort to go through the cushions of my couches. If I can get within one inch, of the top of the jar, I will call this quest complete and proceed to order a drone.

I am now 8 of 10 steps complete. I am close to ordering that drone. Just need some good news from my bank and to find some more spare change just laying around.

Alamo Bowl Road Trip: USS Batfish

After paying our respects to “The Tall Chief”, we hit the open road. We headed south in Oklahoma and weren’t really sure what we would find.

Several miles down the road we saw a sign for Muskogee. While I am personally devoid of musical talent, I do love music. I wanted to visit the town from the Merle Haggard classic.

Unfortunately, the signs indicated that we needed to make about a 60 mile detour to visit Muskogee. Nothing against Merle Haggard, but we aren’t talking about Johnny Cash here.

However, the signs seemed to be wrong. Not seemed to be wrong. The sign was wrong. We headed straight when it told us to turn. Yet, we drove right into Muskogee, Oklahoma. Where we were able to observe many an Okie. From Muskogee. Many of them seemed to be livin’ right. We didn’t see any that had let their hair grow long and shaggy. Unfortunately I can’t say I saw any Okies holding hands and pitchin’ woo. That being said, it definitely seemed like the kind of place where even squares can have a ball.

Since we had hit the mythical Haggard town, I was hoping to find a statue of Merle Haggard or at least a plaque that bragged up the only reason anybody has ever heard of Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA. But my mad googling didn’t come up with any information on a Merle Haggard statue or even a plaque indicating where kids still respect the college dean or even a store that sells white lightning.

The biggest tourist attraction in Muskogee… Oklahoma… USA.. according to the googles was a park that had a submarine in it.

A park with a submarine in it?

Muskogee is a good 10 hour drive from the nearest ocean, gulf, or sea. So a submarine… in the middle of a park? This is something we had to see.

We put in the GPS coordinates into the phone and before you knew it, we had paid $7 and were staring at a submarine.

This is what we saw:


U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

U.S.S. Batfish

The submarine is the USS Batfish. It was launched in 1943 and decommissioned in 1969. It is known primarily for sinking three Japanese submarines in a 76 hour period in 1945.

It was definitely one of the surprise bonuses of the road trip. It also confirmed my belief that I would never make it in a submarine. In addition to never wanting to me submerged underwater at a depth of any more than a few feet, submarines are definitely not made for the talls.

Average height for people serving on the USS Batfish was 5 foot 8 inches. I believe anything below 5 foot 10 inches is considered a midget. Some of them preferred to be called dwarves. None of them enjoy being tossed.

We bid a fond adieu to the USS Batfish and got back on the open road. Let the tones of Merle Haggard take us from Muskogee.

“We still wave Old Glory down at the court house…”

As we meandered down to Texas we enjoyed a beautiful Oklahoma sunset on an unknown lake:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

When we hit Atoka, Oklahoma we stopped for gas, snacks, and a restroom break at a Pilot Travel Center. It was here that I made the most wonderful discovery! You could call it an Alamo Bowl miracle!


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

As an aficionado of sweet tea of some note, Gold Peak Extra Sweet Tea is kind of like my holy grail. While southerners cling to their racist past and try to denigrate us yankees incorrectly for not knowing sweet tea, there is one thing they do have. Gold Peak Extra Sweet Tea. I have never been able to find it up north. This makes me melancholy. It is a fact that I have even tried to order it online, with nothing but failure greeting my every step.

I was beginning to think Gold Peak Extra Sweet Tea was something that I had imagined. But it isn’t.

I picked up a few bottles and we hit the open road, more than a little bit happier than before we had met the magical place known as Pilot Travel Center in Atoka, Oklahoma.

Our next stop was for supper. We got a little ways past Dallas and pulled in to the first Whataburger we could find.

Who has two thumbs and LOVES Whataburger?

This guy!

I realize now, that would work better with a picture.

Enjoy these pictures instead:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Whataburger is the #1 franchise we don’t have in Iowa that I wish we had in Iowa. There isn’t even a close second. And not just because as a general rule I can’t stand corporate eateries.

We made the rest of the journey and found a cheap hotel in Waco and bedded down for the night.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

It was a Motel 6. They don’t have breakfast, but it is still relatively nice compared to some of the other places that Jesse and I have stayed.

I slept like a baby. Like an angel. Like a baby angel. I woke up in the morning ready to take on the world.

To be continued…

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This is your reminder that this week’s WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE theme is MACRO!



MACRO

But what is a MACRO photo? There is a technical definition that involves the ration of the real life object being a 1:1 ratio for reproduction blah, blah, blah.

All you need to know is that it is close-up photography. Get close to your subject. Very close. Very, very, very close.

Happy photo harvesting!

Alamo Bowl Road Trip: The Tall Chief

Jesse and I left for the Alamo Bowl at about 7 AM on Thursday, December 27.

Our first stop was at a Casey’s in Peculiar, Missouri. It was noteworthy mostly because gas there was $1.75 a gallon. A good 20 cents cheaper than in the Cyclone State:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Our second stop was at Red Hot & Blue a blues themed barbecue in Joplin, Missouri. Every time I get just a little bit south into the Civil War participant ribbon part of the country I try to drink almost exclusively sweet tea.

There is a thing about southerners where they don’t think us yankees know anything about sweet tea. A point that was hammered home by a Waffle House waitress in Mississippi during the Liberty Bowl Road Trip.


Liberty Bowl Road Trip

It is a myth that all yankees don’t know about sweet tea. I am somewhat of an expert on sweet tea. I design and make Thick Soul Sweet Tea for Baby Got Rack Barbecue, an award winning competitive barbecue team of some note.

When we posted up in Red Hot & Blue I ordered up a sweet tea. This became a story in 3 acts.

Sweet Tea: Act 1

The first glass of sweet tea hit the spot. It had almost the perfect amount of sweetness. Almost.

Sweet Tea: Act 2

The refill was decidedly less sweet. Maybe about 45% as sweet as the first glass of goodness.

Sweet Tea: Act 3

They gave us a glass of sweet tea for the road. This final insult to sweet tea was an insult to sweet tea. It was little more than brown water. Did you have an aunt growing up that put so little sugar in Kool-Aid that it was little more than colored water? That wasn’t just me? It was an abomination.


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Our next stop was at the Conoco One Stop Food Mart in Big Cabin, Oklahoma. The thing that stands out about the Conoco One Stop Food Mart is that in the front of its parking lot is a 46 foot tall statue called The Tall Chief.

It might be the best art in Oklahoma, if this gas station clock of Taylor Swift is any indication:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

I pulled out the real camera and took some photos of “The Tall Chief”:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip
Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip
Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

After paying our respects to “The Tall Chief” we hit the open road heading towards San Antonio, but uncertain what we would see between there and there.

To be continued…

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Reminder that this week’s WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE theme is ART:


WEEK 174 - ART
ART

An ART photo is any photo of a piece of ART or of somebody engaging in making a piece of ART. A truly confident person could argue that any photo they take is a piece of ART.

Happy photo harvesting!

Alamo Bowl Road Trip – Phonetos

Last week Jesse and I hopped in a rental car and headed to San Antonio to watch the Iowa State Cyclones play against the Washington State Cougars and the worst refereeing crew from the Big Ten in the Alamo Bowl.

While the game didn’t turn out the way that we had hoped, it was still an amazing trip full of precious moments. Even though, we willfully drove by the Precious Moments Museum and did not stop.

Here are some pictures from the trip I took with my trusty Pixel 2:


Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

Alamo Bowl Road Trip

I will have more commentary on these photos in upcoming posts.