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A Sunday afternoon drive

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Emma and I went for a drive this afternoon just to see what we could see on some of the back roads that are not on the Tamarac NWR.  The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and I just didn’t want to sit around the rig all day.  When I first signed up for this assignment, I was told it was in the north woods of Minnesota.  Well, yes, there are plenty of woods on the refuge, but much of the surrounding area is rolling prairie that has over the years been turned into farmland.


With no rain the last few days, the farmers are making hay while the sun shines.  It’s also now clearly visible which fields are growing corn and which fields are growing soy beans.  Because of the long and cold winter, it’s only been recently that the different crops have grown enough to be discernible when driving by the fields.  Most corn will be ‘knee high by the fourth of July’, but compared to other years things are a little behind.  Fellow volunteer Steve, from North Carolina, says that saying down south is ‘eye high by the fourth of July’.  Interesting.IMG_3650I stopped at a little cemetery along the way to grab a pic of this most unusual graveside monument.  I’ve never seen a stop and go light before as a memorial.  Then there is the butterfly too.  All sorts of things popped into my mind, but I’ll try to find out ‘the rest of the story’.


In our wanderings, we came across the Hamden Slough NWR.  The headquarters was ten miles down a dusty gravel road, and I decided to just go a short way down that road.  After all, today was Sunday and I knew no one would be working to answer my questions.  I’ll return on a weekday sometime.


I’ve heard the word ‘slough’ pronounced three different ways: slew, sluf, and slou (like in ouch).  I had to look it up in my dictionary when I got home.  The definition for the slou pronunciation seems to fit best in this situation: a place of deep mud; a hole full of mire.  I’m sure there are regional differences in pronunciation, but this is the one I’m going to use here.IMG_3653This brief bobolink sighting is the only thing I saw on my short journey into this refuge.  Who would believe there would be so many vehicles blasting down these gravels roads and obliterating the views with tons of dust?  Ugh!  I think I’ll wait until after the July 4th long weekend before I return for a calmer look at this refuge.

I’ve also got some updates on a couple of recent things.  Remember the mosquito traps that Merikay sent me?  Well, I had one outside my rig for several days before a storm blew through and knocked it asunder.  In that time, I continued to get bitten in the evening, and not one lousy mosquito was found inside the trap.  I’ll try setting up a couple of them again, but this time I think I’ll put some rocks in the bottom of them to help hold them in place.

Then there’s the matter of the new clock and watch.  The blasted minute hand on the new clock gets stuck on 45 seconds, and the expandable band on the watch is too big.  Uff-da.  I hate when my watch slides up and down my arm.  Of course, when I was in Wal-mart, I couldn’t find an ‘associate’ to open the watch holder to try it on first.  This is one of the reasons I’m not a big fan of Wal-mart.  I’ll be going back there next week to return both items. Baring teeth smile

I have to set my alarm for 5:30 in the morning tonight so I can stagger down to headquarters for the beginning of the loon and tern count this week.  I’ll give you the details tomorrow if I’m still awake…


                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Time stood still

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Last night after I published my blog post, I put something back into one of the cabinets that is over the windshield.  As I shut the door, there was a loud crash on the dashboard.  For years I’ve had one of those round cheap big clocks stuck to the middle of one of the cabinets with industrial strength Velcro.  Well, it bit the dust last night.  When I got up this morning, both of my cheap Walmart watches had quit working… dead batteries I’m guessing.  Hmm.  Interesting that most of my time keeping devices crapped out within hours of each other.

I left the rig at some time this morning to head to town for my weekly grocery trip with a watch and clock added to the list.  First stop was the Saturday morning farmer’s market to pick up another delicious loaf of bread from the Fargo Breadsmith booth.  There was quite a line this morning, and they were out of my first choice by the time it was my turn, but I got a nice crusty loaf of rustic Italian bread.  Nothing much beats a nice slice of fresh crusty bread slathered in butter in my book.

When I was at the market two weeks ago, I got a nice bouquet of lilacs.  The lilacs are done now, but today a booth was selling peonies.

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Some of you may remember when I had Robyn and Dennis remove the Euro-recliner from my rig in March so I could put these drawers in instead.  Well, it’s the perfect place for a bouquet of flowers on top.  I can also use two of my little treasures.  The white runner on top of the drawers is hand embroidered in a southwest motif.  I picked up that little gem for $2 at a church bazaar in Deming, NM, a couple of years ago.  And the vase is really a jar for holding a celery stalk with water in your fridge.  It has been passed down from my grandmother, but I suppose she kept the celery in the ice box.  Winking smile  Someday I’d like a nice wooden set of drawers there that match my cabinetry.  I love having fresh flowers to smell and admire, and I’m so pleased that I now have a place to display them.

After I finished my chores in Detroit Lakes, I checked the mailbox out at the end of the road on the refuge.  There was a Netflix inside and two packages for me.

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The first package contained the Thunder Shirt that I had ordered for Emma to help her ‘weather’ noisy storms.  She is a real basket case with any thunder, lightening, or hail.  I’ve been very skeptical about this idea, but thought I’d give it a try.  The directions said to practice putting it on before there was any hint of anxiety in her.  It was also suggested to offer her a treat laying on the shirt before putting it on her.  You can see on the left what she thought of the treat idea.  She pushed it onto the ground.  I must say, she was certainly calm while wearing the shirt, and typically tried to avoid looking at me once she saw the camera.  Maybe this wild child should wear this shirt 24/7!  We’ll have to see what happens when the next storm comes along.


The second package was a surprise gift from my brother Carl and his wife, Denise.  It was a new hat for me.

                                                               BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!


I noticed a zipper on the top of the hat, and thought perhaps you were supposed to put a bag of ice in it to keep your head cool during the summer heat.  Ha!  Not so!


Tucked inside is mosquito netting that can be pulled down to protect your face from nasty flying insects!  What a hoot!!  Sun and bug protection all in one neat little package.  I asked fellow volunteer Steve to take these pictures for me, and he about croaked when I pulled the netting out of the top of my head.


Okay Donna Cave-blogger, eat your heart out!  Let’s see you top this fashion accessory.  Smile with tongue out  Just picture it… this hat, my white socks pulled up having my long pants tucked into them, and steel-toed boots.  I’ll be ready for the fashion runway, and who knows… maybe it will help me sneak up on the birds.  Thanks, Carl and Denise, you made my day!


                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Testing out my new purchase and a decision for the fall

Friday, 28 June 2013

The first reason I went to Fargo yesterday was to find a Best Buy store.  I finally reached the point where I wanted a much smaller camera for special circumstances.  I’m very happy with the two Canon Rebel SLR cameras that I have, but they are rather big and bulky to carry around.  I thought I’d be going on a wildlife adventure today at the refuge where it might not be the best idea to take my SLRs along.  Turns out that assignment got cancelled due to the windy weather, but is rescheduled for several days next week.


I wanted a camera that was compact enough to slide into the pocket of my life vest should I find myself out canoeing the sometimes unpredictable waters on the refuge.  This is what I chose.  It’s a Canon PowerShot SX280 HS, and when the power is shut down the lens and flash retract.  It’s small and compact, and a challenge for me to learn how to use.

I’ve always had a viewfinder to look through in all the cameras that I’ve owned in the last fifty years.  It’s hard for me to get used to looking at a screen with my arms extended rather than lifting the camera to my eye.


After charging up the battery overnight, I decided to give it a test run this afternoon when the overcast skies gave way to partly cloudy conditions.  I was rather pleased with this shot of tiny mushrooms in my front yard.  That’s a clover blossom on the left to give you an idea of how small these were.

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The pic on the left is with the new camera, and the one on the right is with my Rebel with the 300mm telephoto lens.  These cliff swallow nests are located under the eave of one of maintenance buildings.  The reason the photo on the right has birds in it is that I could stand further away with my Rebel and hold it stiller for the shot. 

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Once again, new camera on the left and Rebel on the right.  I like the shot on the right better, but I’ve got a bit of a learning curve with the PowerShot to learn how to use it best.


                                Landscape scenes seemed okay, but I missed my polarizing lens filter.


It didn’t do a bad job on this showy Lady’s slipper, but like I said, I still need to figure things out on this camera.  I must have hit some button wrong because no matter how bright it is outside, the flash always goes off.  I finally just covered it with my finger.  I’m going to have to figure that out soon.  Of course, the instruction booklet only covers basic setup to get the camera working.  That means I’ll have to look at the CD that came with it to further figure things out.  I’d rather have a paper book in my hands.

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Hands down here, I think I did better with the Rebel, and this was using the macro setting on the PowerShot.  I had expected the background to go more out of focus.  Overall, I’ll not be giving up my Rebels very soon, but the added heft of them probably helps me keep the camera more steady for shots.  I’ll keep practicing.  I do know that the PowerShot will have its place, and I’d much rather lose that camera in a possible tip over in a canoe or kayak than lose one of my big cameras.

I got an e-mail today from the volunteer coordinator at Bayou Cocodrie NWR in Louisiana.  This refuge is about 13 miles west of Natchez, MS.  Looks like that’s going to be my next volunteer assignment for this fall.  They have never had RV volunteers before, so I’ll be happy to break them in.  Winking smile

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I’ll leave you tonight with these pics of a mama loon with her three chicks on Pine Lake.  They were way off on the lake, but I’ve always wanted to see how the young get transported around on the back of a parent.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Endurance Athlete To Swim Length Of Britain

Have any plans for the weekend? Maybe sleep in? Catch a little of the Tour de France on the telly? If you're feeling particularly energetic you might even take a little evening stroll around the block? If that is your plan I'm about to make you feel very bad about your life choices.

On Sunday, endurance athlete Sean Conway will begin an epic swim that will run the entire length of Britain. He'll start at the aptly named Land's End in the south and will proceed to swim north, passing Devon before crossing over to Wales along the West Coast. After that, it is onto the Isle of Man before proceeding to Scotland, where he'll continue north until he reaches the distant village of John O'Groats. If successful, he'll cover approximately 1000 miles (1609 km) along the way.

Of course, swimming a thousand miles in a swimming pool would be tough, but Sean will be doing it in an ocean. He'll have to battle turbulent waters, rough waves, cold temperatures and Britain's notoriously bad weather.  That can take a hefty toll on the body to say the least, particularly when it happens day-in and day-out. He estimates that it will take a minimum of nine weeks to cover the distance, swimming eight hours per day, every day of the week. He also believes he'll burn roughly 800 calories per hour, which will make it extremely tough to maintain weight and keep energy levels high. Fortunately he has been training for this incredible challenge for some time.

Sean has decided to take on this swim in an effort to raise funds for War Child, a non-profit dedicated to helping protect children from the effects of conflicts, and help them recover from war, in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. He hopes to raise as much money as possible through his efforts on the water.

If successful, Sean will be the first person to swim the entire length of Britain. There aren't many people who have managed to swim this kind of distance before, so in order to get some advice, he visited his friend Dave Cornthwaite prior to setting out. You may recall that Dave swam more than 1000 m iles down the Missouri River last year, so of course he had some thoughts on Sean's endeavor. You can see the two adventurers comparing notes in the very funny video below.

Good luck Sean!

Video: Running Across The Gobi

Earlier this week I noted that ultrarunners Ray Zahab and Kevin Lin had begun their attempt to run across the Gobi Desert. They are hoping to average around 70km (43.4 miles) per day, for 35 days, in order to cross the 2300km (1430 mile) expanse of the Gobi at its widest point.That is quite an undertaking to say the least and if you've ever wondered what it is like to attempt such a long run, take a look at the video below to get an idea of what conditions are like out on the trail. This was shot on Day 2, so the terrain still looks relatively green and lush, but as they go along, it is likely to change dramatically.

This first week of running hasn't been without its challenges. Kevin has already suffered an injury to his one of his legs and has had to take some time off. Hopefully he'll be feeling better soon and he can rejoin Ray on the run. With five days down, they still have a month to go!

Expedition Gobi - Day 2 70Km from GOi2P on Vimeo.

The 2013 Tour de France Begins Tomorrow!!

It is like Christmas Eve at the Adventure Blog World Headquarters (read my apartment) today as tomorrow marks the start of the best three week period of the year. Thats when the 2013 Tour de France gets under way in grand fashion on the isle of Corsica. From there things will only get better as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the race with all kinds of pomp and circumstance. But this year's Tour promises to be quite a grueling affair with more big climbs than last year and some classic stages that will test the endurance of the riders almost from day one.

Speaking of day one, the race kicks off with the Grand Start in Porto-Vecchio with the riders setting out on a 213km (132 mile) ride to Bastia. The course will be undulate some with some solid hills to test their legs on the first day but nothing that will be too serious. There will be some sprint points up for grabs of course and the faster riders will be certainly be looking to claim a big win on the first day.

Rumor has it that Mark Cavendish, who is riding for Omega-Pharam-Quicksetp this year, is hoping to grab the stage win that would give him the 24th of his career and put him in Yellow for the first time. He isn't a GC contender of course, but the Manx Missile has all the skills necessary to pull of this feat and wear the leader's jersey for a few days. That would be a change of pace from recent years when Fabian Cancellara as traditionally taken the first stage and worn Yellow for the first few days. But Spartacus has elected to sit out this year's Tour to concentrate on the World Championships. He will be missed.

The real GC contenders won't show themselves for the first week or so, but they will have to be careful to not let themselves fall too far off the pace either. Last year's champ Bradley Wiggins is out due to health issues, but even before his knee started giving him problems, Wiggins wasnt' exactly riding like a  defending champ. This has cleared up a potential problem for Team Sky, as they can now put all of their efforts behind young Chris Froome, giving him a real shot at winning the race. Some believe Froome could have won last year, although he wisely elected to ride in support of his teammate Wiggins.

Froome will face a challenger unlike any that Wiggins had to deal with last year however. Former Tour winner Alberto Contador, now with Team Saxo Bank, is returning to form and looking strong heading into the race. Contador has won seven Grand Tours in his career (five officially!) and is one of the best riders of the past decade. It is hard to believe he is only 30 and when in top form he is relentless in the mountains. Wiggins didn't have to face anything like an in shape and determined Contador last year.

Other potential contenders include 2011 winner Cadel Evans who suffered all kinds of bad luck last year. Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde could be in the mix as well and Andy Schleck is back in the race after sitting out last year with an injury. Young Tejay van Garderen looked like he was a rider on the brink last season too and if Evans falters early, he could step in to fill the lead position for Team BMC.

We could also have an excellent showdown between Cavendish and Cannondale Pro Cycling's Peter Sagan. They seem to be the top contenders for the Green Jersey, which Sagan took home last year. Both are fiery personalities and neither likes to lose. Considering how fast they both are, it should be fun to watch them duel it out on the road.

The organizers of the Tour de France have gone to great pains to make this year's race a very special event. The course has been carefully crafted to make the 100th anniversary a ride to remember. This is somewhat seen as an attempt to heal some of the issues that have hit cycling over the past year or so as well as a way to turn the page on one century and start a new one. It should be an excellent Tour to follow and I think fans of the race are in for quite an event this year. I believe that complaints that last year's race was a bit lackluster have not been ignored and we'll see more drama this time out. And I'm not talking about the kind of drama that comes along with someone throwing tacks out on the road. The real kind of drama as these supreme athletes push each other to the edge to find out who is the best rider.

I cant' wait for things to get started. Stay tuned for more.

Pakistan 2013: Teams Back On The Move, Romanians Continue On Nanga Parbat

Following the tragic events that took place in Base Camp on Nanga Parbat earlier this week there has been a lot of uncertainty amongst the climbers in Pakistan. The government and military there were quick to take action to try to maintain security while also investigating exactly what happened when gunmen stormed BC and killed nearly a dozen people, most of whom were foreign climbers. In the wake of those events, the Karakoram Highway was closed down for awhile and flights into Skardu were cancelled, keeping many of the climbers stuck in Islamabad while they waited for an opportunity to travel to their ultimate destinations. Thankfully the traffic has started moving at last and numerous climbers who were stuck in the capital are now on the move at last.

Amongst those climbers is Adrian Hayes who has his sights set on K2 this summer. Adrian updated his blog this morning with news that he has left Islamabad and arrived by air to Skardu where he reports a warm welcome by the locals. Next, he and the rest of his team, will head to Askole where they'll start the week long trek to Base Camp, but at this point they're just happy to be on the move.

Similarly, Mike Horn and his climbing mates have checked in from Skardu as well and are happy to be on the move at last. They're also heading to K2 as well and if all goes according to plan, they'll be paragliding off the summit. There is a lot of work to be done before then however, all of which starts with simply just getting into camp.

You can also add Jon Kedrowski to your list of climbers that have arrived in Skardu too. He is enjoying some downtime in his hotel today, with an excellent view I might add, while he waits to continue on to Askole as well. He notes that Skardu is a quiet, peaceful town where the locals seldom even bother to lock their doors. Geographically speaking it isn't all that far from Nanga Parbat, but it is isolated by a wall of massive peaks that also makes NP a world away.

There was good news for the Romanian team that remained on Nanga Parbat following the massacre there. The attack occurred on the Diamir Face where most of the teams were climbing and in the aftermath of the killings, Pakistani officials cleared BC and for the most part the teams are now heading home. But there was a lone Romanian squad on the Rupal Face that was awaiting word of their fate. They were afraid that they would also be asked to abandon their expedition and head home, but they learned yesterday that that will not be the case. They will be allowed to stay and continue their climb.

In related news, Pakistani officials say they have identified the attackers and are searching for them now. They say they remain at large but are confined to the Diamer district, where they are being pursued at this time. Identification was made after 30-40 suspects were taken into custody and interrogated over the past few days. I'm sure those "interrogations" were probably not a lot of fun for those involved, but hopefully those responsible for this heinous act will be brought to justice soon.

This is good news all around. It seems that the situation is starting to return to normal in Pakistan and the government has taken measures to ensure security is maintained. Earlier in the week we learned that there were soldiers in Concordia, a key crossroads on the trek to K2 and Broad Peak, so it seems that the threat of these militants is being taken very seriously. Hopefully now everyone can concentrate on climbing and not worry about another attack.

Be safe everyone!

Expedition Denali Update: Bad Weather Keeps Team From The Summit

There have been few updates from the Expedition Denali team this past week, although we did know that they were hoping to summit sometime in the past few days. On Monday they were at Advanced Base Camp, located at 14,200 ft (4328 meters) and were headed up to High Camp at 17,200 ft (5242 meters). After that, the team went radio silent while we waited for word on their progress.

Late yesterday we received an update at last and after 19 days on the mountain, the group is coming home without a summit. On Wednesday they made a bid for the top amidst good weather but as they approached 19,600 ft (5852 meters) storm clouds rapidly moved in and closed off any hope of topping out. Their latest dispatch indicates that there were 60+ climbers going for the summit at the same time and all of them turned back as thunder and lightning rolled into the summit.

With this summit bid over the team is now descending and preparing to head home. They fell 720 feet (219 meters) short of the summit, which has to be crushing, but after three weeks on the mountain it is time to come home. As I've mentioned before with this team, summiting Denali was a big goal, but they have aspirations well beyond that. They hope to inspire young people – especially minorities – to get active and become more connected with the outdoors. That work will continue long after they've left the mountain.

Congratulations to the team on a valiant effort. This story only underscores how challenging a Denali climb can be. The weather is incredibly unpredictable there and even though they were setting out under the best conditions possible, the window was slammed shut by sudden and unexpected storms. I'm sure there is a sense of disappointment amongst the climbers, but they did a fine job and their work with minority kids is only just beginning.

Everyone get down safe and come home soon.

I’ve been spelling Uff-da wrong!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Heavens to Murgatroyd!  How embarrassing.  I’ve been spelling this Minnesota exclamation Uf-dah, but I found out while playing tourist today that it’s really Uff-da, with or without the dash.  After only twenty years of using it, I stand corrected.

I was off this morning to Fargo/Moorhead for some shopping.  I’m not into shopping much, as my clothes can attest to, but I needed a city with big box stores, and Fargo, ND, is the closest one.  I’ll tell you tomorrow what it was I couldn’t live without.


Fargo is an hour and a half drive away, so I thought I’d stop in at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center while I was there to find out what’s important to see in the area.  For such a huge building, that was a former grain elevator, the visitors center portion is really quite small, but they hand out free bags of tasty hot popcorn.  Score!  Smile  This is a good place to stop if you’re in the area for several reasons.


A couple of weeks ago, I ordered the movie “Fargo”from Netflix, since I thought it would be about this town.  It really wasn’t.  It was more about a bizarre murder/kidnapping thing in Brainerd, MN.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know that near the end, one of the bad guys kills his partner and puts his body through this wood chipper.  The scene in the movie zeroes in on the socked foot of the unfortunate partner.  Well, at the F-M Visitors Center, they lend you one of those winter hats to put on, and you can have your picture taken stuffing the poor guy down the actual chipper from the movie, don’tcha know.  I just couldn’t pass that up!   It turns out that the year they filmed the movie, there wasn’t enough snow in Fargo so they moved the set to Brainerd after the initial bar scene. 

_MG_8988Then when you step back outside, there’s a nice grassy picnic area surrounded by the Celebrity Walk of Fame.  It’s kind of a touch of Hollywood in Fargo-Moorhead.

73 Tamarac NWR, 20133Al Hirt was the first star to be inducted.  There are now 113 celebrities that have their feet and hands imprinted in 150 pounds of cement.  I didn’t recognize all of them, but got a kick out of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.  The Great Wallendas included footprints on a tightrope, and Meadowlark Lemon’s footprints were inside of a basketball hoop.  The one that tickled me the most was the barefoot prints of Myron Floren.  Do you suppose he practiced his accordion barefoot before appearing with Lawrence Welk?? 


After doing my shopping, I headed for the Hjemkomst Center.  (pronounced yem-komst… Norwegian for homecoming) Note the unusual white portion of the building.  It was constructed specifically to house the Hjemkomst Viking ship to preserve it after its journey to Bergen, Norway.


Inside the center was a beautiful mosaic tile collage that I’m afraid I didn’t do justice to with this photo. It depicted memorable moments in the history of the Fargo-Moorhead area with the important Red River coursing through it.

73 Tamarac NWR, 20134There are two major attractions in the center.  The first is the Hjemkomst.  Robert Asp built the Hjemkomst in a former potato warehouse in Hawley, MN, beginning in 1972.  In the summer of 1980, Robert Asp sailed his ship on Lake Superior.  He died of leukemia in December of that year.  In the summer of 1982, Robert Asp’s family and friends sailed the Hjemkomst 6,100 miles form Duluth, MN, to Berge, Norway where they arrived on July 19, 1982.  It’s impossible to get a total picture of this Viking ship in the museum as it’s more than 76’ long.  There is a very nice movie that details the story of its building and journey through the Great Lakes and across the Atlantic ocean.  What an accomplishment for a rather ordinary man.  It is a shame that he didn’t get to participate in his dreamed of journey.


The second thing of importance at the center is the Hopperstad Stave Church replica.  Guy Paulson began carving for the church in 1997, but the project took more than 5 years to complete.

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Stave churches were built at the end of the Viking Age in Scandinavia from about 950-1350.  Stave churches combined the native building traditions of the Norse culture and medieval Christian styles.  The church in Moorhead is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Church, built circa 1125-1150 in the town of Vik, Norway.  I had to ask what ‘stave’ meant, and was told it means that the structure is built with vertical wood posts.  Huge pine trees were used from the Itasca State Park area for its construction.  The carvings were very intricate and painstakingly done.  Such craftsmanship went into this replica. 

I really enjoyed visiting these few sights in the F-M area today, and would recommend them to fellow travelers.  I’ll leave you tonight with something that brought a chuckle to me in the Hjemkomst Center gift shop.


Some of you may remember when Jack came to visit me about a month or so ago, and we headed out on a couple of journeys to see the ‘World’s Largest’ oddities in the surrounding area.  We visited all three of these Roadside America locations.  Seems there’s a murder mystery series that takes place at these same locations.  Who would have guessed?  If I were a murder mystery fan, I might just read them. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Reminder: Win A BluRay Disc Of North Face

Just a quick reminder that there is still time to enter the contest I'm currently running to win one of two copies of the film North Face on BluRay disc. The 2010 film was just released in high-def on Tuesday but if you're lucky, you can score a cope courtesy of the Adventure Blog.

In my opinion, the movie is one of the finest climbing films to come out in some time. It tells the true story of German climbers Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, who attempted to make the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland. Along the way they find themselves in a competition with a pair of Austrian climber, only to find themselves joining forces as they struggle to survive just to get off the mountain alive. It is a great film with fantastic landscapes, excellent cinematography and solid acting. Chances are if you're reading this blog, you're going to really like it.

To enter the contest all you have to do is drop me an email at kungfujedi@gmail.com with a subject of "North Face." Then, in the body of the email, tell me what mountain the men in the film are climbing. That's it! Do that, and you'll be entered to win. On Friday afternoon I'll pick two winner and get these DVD's shipped out as soon as possible.

Good luck! Oh! And here's the movie's official trailer to give you a better idea of what it's about.

Video: Humans Are Awesome GoPro Tribute

It's been awhile since we had one of those "people are awesome" videos, but the one below makes up for the long wait. It shows all manner of men and women doing extraordinary things, often in some fairly extraordinary places. As the name implies, much of the video was captured on a GoPro camera, which gives the footage an even extra personal touch. Lots of fun, inspiring stuff here. Enjoy!

Himex Boss Russell Brice Weighs In On Climber-Sherpa Conflict On Everest

The Everest climbing season may be long over at this point, but one story continues to get plenty of attention weeks later. The conflict that took place between European climbers Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith and the Sherpa team fixing ropes high on the mountain both shocked and saddened the mountaineering world. A loss of tempers is one thing but threatening the lives of the three western climbers is a completely different situation altogether and while it has been two months since the high profile incident took place, the repercussions of the event are likely to be felt for months and years to come.

One of the more respected figures on Everest is Russell Brice who has been coming to the mountain for decades both as a climber and expedition leader. His company, Himalayan Experience, is one of the larger and more well organized groups on the mountain each year and Brice is most certainly a leader in the Everest community. It was him who helped broker a deal between the three climbers and the Sherpas that helped bring a semblance of peace to the mountain following the conflict this spring and two of his best Sherpas were part of the group that had the initial run-in with Ueli, Simone and Jonathan. Brice has mostly kept quiet about the situation, preferring to let it play out within the "Everest family" if you will. But now, he has shared his thoughts on the entire affair in an interview with the BMC.

In the interview, the no-nonsense Brice doesn't really do much to dispute the story that Simone and Ueli have shared with the media. He does take umbrage with the fact that they spoke to the media at all however as part of the "peace accord" that was made in Base Camp. One of the conditions that came out of those talks was that the European climbers wouldn't talk to openly with the press. Russell feels that that portion of the agreement was ignored by Ueli in particular. He goes on to say that the Swiss climber wanted to press charges against those who has assaulted him, which would have involved getting the police and government officials wrapped up in the conflict. That didn't happen, but Brice says that the ringleaders of this assault would most certainly be dealt with in other ways within the Sherpa community.

The article offers some excellent insights into Sherpa culture, the Everest climbing community, life in the Khumbu, the economics of guided expeditions and much more. It is a good read all around and I highly recommend you take a look. Lots of interesting stuff for those who can't get enough news about Everest.

Big thanks to my friends over at EpicTV for sharing this story yesterday. Its has some very important message that I think many will find interesting.

Team Cannondale Launches Cannondale Gazette Just In Time For Tour de France

With the 2013 Tour de France now just two days away the riders are busy getting themselves ready for the grueling three-weeks of riding ahead. In these final days they're continuing to fine-tune their bikes and bodies in what promises to be one of the more special Tours in recent memory. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the race and to celebrate Tour organizers have pulled out all the stops, both in terms of the course and the pomp and circumstance that will go along with the ride.

The Cannondale Pro Cycling Team is amongst those that are getting ready for Le Tour and on the eve of the race getting under way, they have launched the second issue of the Cannondale Gazette with an issue dedicated to the greatest pro cycling event in the world that was made in partnership with peloton magazine. The digital mag, which also has editions available for iOS, Android and Kindle devices, features introductions to the team's riders, a look at the bikes they'll be riding and a preview of some of the more important stages. There are also insights into traveling in France including a selection of the best wines to be found there.

The 32-page e-magazine is slick and well done and serves as a great primer for getting you in the mood for the Tour. Excellent photography is featured throughout the Gazette and there are even some historical shots from early editions of the race that will give you a new found respect for the riders of by-gone eras.

Cannondale has a lot to be excited about heading into this year's Tour. Their brash young rider Peter Sagan emerged from last year's race as a true force to be reckoned with, claiming the Green Jersey and three stage victories in just his first foray into the Tour. As a former Junior World Champion in mountain biking he has also shown that he can climb. With this full skill set, he could one day be a contender for the Yellow Jersey as the overall winner of the race.

As you can probably tell, I'm getting excited for the start of this year's Tour. Only a couple of days to go now. I can't wait!

Video: Rios Libres Episode 4 - The Movement

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Today we have the fourth – and final – episode of the Rios Libres web series, which over the past few weeks has introduced us to the threats that the rivers in Chilean Patagonia currently face. Corrupt officials in that country sold the water rights to those rivers to multi-national companies based in Europe. Those companies now intend to build hydro-electric generating dams along those rivers, which will have a lasting, and possibly irreversible, impact on the environment.

In this episode we get a chance to see exactly what is at stake here. Patagonia is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking landscapes on the planet and its future is now in jeopardy. We are at the crossroads as to where this issue will go next, but we can all sign an online petition asking Chile's president to reconsider construction of the dams. If those projects move forward, we could lose one of the last truly great wildernesses in existence.

Episode 4- The Movement from Rios Libres on Vimeo.

Pakistan 2013: Nanga Parbat Empty, Progress Elsewhere

The tragic events that occurred on Nanga Parbat this week have left the climbers in Pakistan stunned and saddened. It has been a difficult couple of days, even on the peaks that are nowhere near the site of the murders and fear and uncertainty have taken hold to an extent. But these teams are there for a reason and work has continued across the Himalaya and Karakoram despite the unexpected challenges that have arisen.

It should come as no surprise that the teams have all but abandoned Nanga Parbat altogether. Many climbers avoided the massacre simply because they were in Camp 1 and 2 when the gunmen attacked Base Camp on the Diamir Face. Those men and women were escorted safely off the mountain as soon as the Pakistani military could get onsite. A lone Romanian team remains on the Rupal Face where they await word if they will be forced to leave as well. The climbers have expressed that they would prefer to stay and attempt to climb the mountain, but the Pakistani government may ask them to depart in order to maintain safety.

Elsewhere, things are much quieter. The German team climbing Broad Peak has now gone up to Camp 3 as part of their acclimatization process and only learned of the events on Nanga Parbat upon their return to BC. They indicate that Pakistani military has moved into the area and have secured the trail to Concordia, a cross roads for those trekking to BP or nearby K2. The Germans say that the weather has been perfect for the past two weeks, although there are indications that a storm could bring snowfall before the end of the week. After that, they'll start eyeing the summit and hope to have an opportunity to make their push starting as early as this weekend.

Over on the Gasherbrums the Polish team is now in Base Camp and beginning their acclimatization rounds. Artur Hajzer is part of this squad that hopes to bag both GI and GII in the same season. They're also scouting the area for a possible return in the winter. We all know how much the Poles enjoy their winter climbs in Pakistan.

Al Hancock and Adrian Hayes have their sights set on K2 this summer, but at the moment they can't even get out of Islamabad. Adrian reports that the Pakistani government has halted travel for foreigners into the mountains for the time being while they sort out the situation and look to secure the area. As a result, a number of teams (and trekkers) are currently stuck waiting for an opportunity to leave the capital and get on with their adventures. There is no indication as to when that might happen, so for now they sit and wait. He does note that things are absolutely safe in Islamabad and that his team has heard from a number of Pakistanis who have expressed outrage and sympathy over the Nanga Parbat murders.

These stories give you an indication of where things are at in Pakistan at the moment. Some of the teams are waiting their opportunity to move out of Islamabad while others are either already on their mountain or in transit now. Those that were on Nanga Parbat are mostly back in the capital now and are preparing to head home. I can only imagine how they must feel.

I'll post more news as it comes in.

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