Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its seventh year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

March 31, 2013

2013 WANDER-ABOUT: DAYS 8-10

NIKON D200-NIKKOR 10-135@135MM-f7.1-1/200th-ISO200

"Camped opposite Chimney Rock. . . . Here the scenery is remarkable, interesting and romantic. It produces an impression as if we were bordering on a large and antiquated city"*

*JOURNAL OF RICHARD BALLANTYNE, 1847-1848 

... for me this part of the trip provided some powerful memories ... pa used to take us on outings all over the state of nebraska ... i remember hiking right up to the base of the huge rock column, where pa pointed out many of the places where those who were still at the beginning of their journey along the oregon trail had carved their names and messages to those who would follow behind them ...

... our ride from the black hills down to the platte river was of the greatest looking-out-the-window excursions i've ever experienced ... the cross section of a most remarkable part of earth's geologic history, a transition from tiny ranches tucked into the folds of the mountains to the over-the-horizon corn fields of the plains, passing thru tiny isolated foothill communities which are just now trying to comprehend how very recent cellular connections are going to transform their culture, bufallo to beef, all this and much, much more ... it was a most remarkable day ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... adrien used her iphone throughout the trip to help us navigate, reserve motels, find places to eat, and, as you can see here, explore some of america's newer roadside "attractions" ...

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... "carhenge," our nation's homage to that famous structure on the plains of salisbury ... their stone monument will last longer, since even in a relatively dry climate these cars are sooner or later going to rust away, but a circle of plain ol' stones, no matter how dramatic, will never match the beauty of a chevy vega or a 1950's studebaker ...

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... at a most remarkable museum in a small nebraska city we explored the history of one of our nation's icons ...

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... did you know that kool-aid was probably inspired by jello ... okay, so that's not something would bring me to leave my feet, but adrien seems to possess a great sensitivity to the more subtile nuances of american culture ...

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... part of one of the most extensive firearm collections i've ever seen ... here, more than simply an exhibit, is a representation of a bit of what to adrien was unknown family history ... during world war II, after ma married pa, she moved from the west indies to rhode island ... as part of the war effort, she took a job in a factory that manufactured the most awesome browning automatic rifle ... for those of you not familiar with this weapon, despite its name it was actually a 30 caliber light machine gun capable of firing 500-600 rounds/minute at 2,700 feet/second ... translated: it was the type of weapon a squad could use to level a small house ... ma's job was to bench test the weapons to make sure they were functioning properly and sighted in correctly ... you know those little tags you find in the pockets of new pants, the ones that say "inspected by" ... well, ma's job was to put her initials on b.a.r.'s ... 

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... "adrien got dysentery and died" ...

... those of you who've played "oregon trail" will get the joke ... while we were driving adrien discovered a museum that was built as a overpass over the interstate in the middle of nebraska ... in it we found an excellent sight/sound experience of journeying across the plains from the wagon train days until the building of the modern interstate highway system ... the gunslinger who took our tickets was a special touch ...

... a couple of days rest in ohio, tomorrow we're off to niagara falls ...

March 30, 2013

2013 WANDER-ABOUT: DAYS 7 & 8

NIKON D200-SIGMA 100-300@300mm-F7.1-1/800th-ISO400
... we saw so much during the short time we were in montana and the black hills that the two days seem like one, so i've combined them into a single journal entry ... here, you can see that while crossing the high prairie it seems as much as we watched we were being watched ...

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... as exciting as it was to encounter these big furry beasts, by having the car washed while we were in rapid city we missed the opportunity of a lifetime to see buffalo "up close and personal" ... from what we heard, had we left the road salt on the side of the car the buffalo would have come right up to lick it off ... then again, looking at those horns and thinking of my car's paint job, perhaps that was an experience well avoided ... we also missed some rather dramatic close-up shots of several of these animals almost touching the front bumper of the car, seems adrien forgot to put the battery in her camera (and, yes, i'd left mine in disassembled in the bag that was in the back seat) ...

OLYMPUS EP-1 PROJECT
... 137 years have gone by ... long ago the last drops of blood washed down the hill, to be carried by the gentle currents of the little big horn river on a journey to become part of a far-away sea ... it matters not the color, red for the native and white for interloper, the tombstones are equally silent ... in the breeze is a whisper of chief joseph's voice, words that now apply to all those who here quietly repose:

... "from where the sun now stands, i will fight no more forever" ... 

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... "a cheyenne warrior fell here on june 25, 1876,
while defending his homeland and the cheyenne way of life"...

... as a child i was fascinated with the story of george armstrong custer and the battle of the little big horn, and i had always wanted to visit the "custer battlefield national monument" ... as an adult, i am pleased that instead i had the opportunity to walk across the "little bighorn battlefield national monument," happy that the renaming was a recognition of the truth that history was much different than the myth i had grown up believing .... if you are one who has studied this moment unique to two cultures, i highly recommend a visit ... the marked relief of the terrain, the lonely sound of the wind whistling through the dry grass, the sense of spirit and spirits that pervades the landscape, all must be felt firsthand in order to fully understand this place of broken promises and dreams ...

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... surviving a close call with a herd of antelope, enjoying the thrill of $3.23/gallon gasoline, reliving my youth as we legally flew low across the prairie at speeds that would be a criminal offense back home, all were part of our drive through montana and wyoming to rapid city ... adrien had managed our motel reservations, so we drove directly to mount rushmore to view it during the limited time they light it at night ... courtesy of the current budget cuts, the gate to the monument was untended so we got in for free ... the freezing mountain air did nothing to diminish the impressive sculpture, but, for me, the modern multi-story parking lot and fancy visitor facilities seem out of place when i recall the rustic buildings that have been replaced ... i accept that four-lane highways and the bus tour industry equal progress, but i don't have to appreciate it ...

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... smart planning, we got up early and drove up to the top of the black hills to be first in line to take a tour of the jewel cave ... i lost the tickets, a nice man turned them in to the ranger ... good things happen .... the tour was fabulous ... we had no idea that the cave, the second largest in the world, has over 165 miles of mapped passages, and yet, as the ranger told us, has probably only been 5% explored ...

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... when adrien told me that we would be climbing over 700 stairs, i was a bit hesitant, but our two hour underground stroll turned out to be less strenuous a hike than i'd worried ...

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... from the jewel cave we drove across the mountains to visit the great carving of crazy horse ...

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... to get a sense of scale, consider that the opening beneath what will eventually become his outstretched arm is large enough to contain a ten-story building ... i remember when the face was just a rough outline, my understanding is that it will probably be at least another generation before the sculpture will be completed ...

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... i think this was one of adrien's best jumps of the entire trip ...

... the story behind the crazy horse memorial is both fascinating, and, as i've discovered from a bit of research, equally intriguing ... whatever your feelings about chopping up a mountain to make a statue, it remains a place worth visiting ...

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... our drive out of the black hills was an experience in and of itself ... i would have taken more pictures to share what we saw, but i figured if i stopped every time i felt the urge to pick up my camera we'd have been on that road for at least a week ... all of you, try to figure a way to do it, take a drive from 6,000 feet up in rugged south dakota highlands down along the edge of nebraska's sand hills all the way to the platte river ... i promise, it'll be worth the effort ...

... we're at jon's, in ohio ... enjoying the local sites as a family ... more later, for sure, but for now i'm exhausted ...


















March 27, 2013

2013 WANDER-ABOUT: PRAIRIE DOGS

NIKON D200-SIGMA 100-300@300mm-F9-1/2000th-ISO640
... several great days, with a drastic route change which resulted in us having to wing it a bit in terms of seein' and doin' ... result is that we just made it to our iowa stop, late-late ... here's a tease from yesterday, when i get time there'll be more to come on all the other cool stuff we saw ...

NIKON D200-SIGMA 100-300@300mm-F9-1/15000th-ISO640
... me, of course, i've always enjoyed the antics of the varies species of prairie dogs, but it was clear that adrien could spend entire days watching these little critters ... she lit up every time we passed one of their extensive "towns," and her reactions always brought me to pulling the car over to the side of the road ...

NIKON D200-SIGMA 100-300@300mm-F7.1-1/25000th-ISO400
... this is a shot adrien took using my nikon and sigma zoom propped on the windowsill of the car ...

NIKON D200-SIGMA 100-300@300mm-F9-1/2000th-ISO400
... it appears that this little fellow has been quite successful in his efforts at rounding up a meal of grass and seed (with an occasional insect as a treat, i'm sure) ...

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... "Constantine Slobodchikoff and others assert that prairie dogs use a sophisticated system of vocal cummunication to describe specific predators ... [that] prairie dog calls contain specific information as to what the predator is, how big it is and how fast it is approaching ... [that there is] a form of grammar ... with individuality in response ... [implying] that prairie dogs have highly developed cognitive abilities"* ... ha, if wikipedia had been around in 1963 i could have told them all this ... my friend and i used to spend entire weekends observing and "plinking" prairie dogs ... for those of you unaware of this term, it means using a single-shot 22 caliber rifle to—as the farmers who paid us with bullets phrased it—"exterminate varmints" ... (many years later, in basic training, the drill instructors were to be astonished at the skills i demonstrated when i first handled an m-16 automatic rifle) ...

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... another picture adrien took from the car ...

... while nowadays i feel no guilt or regret that at my hands there was probably populated up in heaven an entire section of of chattering sciuridae marmotina cynomys, the nebraska brand of  "black tailed prairie dog," i also had absolutely no reticence in acceding to adrien's very stern demand that at each and every visit we made to a prairie dog town i must scream across the myriad of burrow openings, "i'm sorry ... i apologize for murdering your ancestors ... i didn't know better" ...



March 26, 2013

2013 WANDER-ABOUT: DAY 6


OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... we awoke in fargo to howling winds from the north blowing snow across the frozen landscape ... after a quick breakfast in the motel, we were off to our first stop, a vist to the fargo visitor center to see the actual wood chipper from the movie "fargo" ... what a great thrill ...

... a short reflection:  i hadn't been to north dakota since i was in the military forty years ago ... (my, how time seems to fly) ... while the population of the state hasn't increased much, the transformation brought about by modern technology is profound ... in 1975 north and south dakota seemed the end of civilization, isolated from mainstream american culture ... now, with big box stores dotting the landscape, the roads lined with every know chain eatery, and huge sections of what used to be farm field now covered by thousands of cookie-cutter split-levels, driving through the city was no different than any other similarly sized town on the east coast ... adrien had cell coverage everywhere we drove, and i could only think that a cowpoke out in the middle-of-nowhere prairie could probably watch soap operas while tending his herd of cows ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... this is the world's largest buffalo ... there was a nice museum, where we learned everything there was to know about the american bison, and also got to actually touch a multitude of quite dead furry and feathery critters ...

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... between visiting the museum, exploring the empty tourist town, and driving into town to find a place to eat, we made three trips out to the field where the famous "albino buffalo" was grazing ... this was our best view of the light colored shaggy beast ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... i thought to hop the fence to get a better picture, but adrien reminded me of this warning sign ...

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... leaving the flatlands behind us, halfway across the state we took a break at the turn-off for the "enchanted highway" ...

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... this is the first of many such works of art lining the state highway south to rawlings ... apparently the artist, seeing the how modern trade and commerce were bypassing his town, decided to do something to encourage people to turn off the interstate and enjoy a slow drive along the "enchanted highway" ... considering the subject matter, for adrien this was an out-of-character experience ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... at the overlook to the teddy roosevelt national park adrien warned, "we shouldn't go in, dad, we'll get arrested" ... my response, of course, was, "there isn't a 'no trespassing' sign ... if they wanted us to keep out they would have put one of those up" ...

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... walking in adrien exclaimed, "look, dad, buffalo tracks" ... she followed the tracks until she came across some ... well, let's just say the she found some evidence that while the little rest area was closed certain large furry creatures were finding it a nice place to graze ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 & E-PL3 PROJECT
... not quite sure the reasoning behind this, but apparently upon first visit to a famous our really cool place it's important to do "a jump" ... i tried, adrien won ...

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... see as we'd stopped to admire the "world's largest buffalo," we thought it only fair to take a little side trip to see the "world's largest cow" ... alas, it was closed for the season ... since the gate was open, and, again, there were no "keep out" signs, my thought was to give it a try, but adrien convinced me that despite her triple-a connections getting stuck in the mud on the side of a hill in western north dakota was probably not such a good idea ... 

 OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... the end of day found us constantly exclaiming, "oh, look" ... it wasn't long before they became a normal part of the scenery, which, i suppose, is one of the first parts of the process of becoming a westerner ...

... we ended our day in montana, having driven the full width of the state of north dakota ... in the lee of the mountains the wind was calmer and there was less snow on the ground ... hub-bub activity of the oil boom also began to show, and, a little trip bonus, gas prices have started to dip below $3.50/gallon .... three cheers for that, since we're doing a good job of burnin' up the stuff ...
















March 25, 2013

2013 WANDER-ABOUT: DAY 5


OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... this was our chicago weather ... brisk wind, but not cold enough to require mittens or boots ... considering that in fargo, north dakota, right now it's only 20°f with a wind chill factor below zero and what looks like a foot of snow on the ground, i'd say that we had great weather while we visited the windy city ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... we walked over five miles exploring chicago, so yesterday's drive to fargo was a welcome break to our tired legs ...

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... our first stop after chicago was a very, very famous place, where we enjoyed a great breakfast at a local diner ... a nice treat'll be the prize for the first person to identify this location ... hint:  if you can't think of it, wait until tomorrow and try again ...

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... a bit off the route, but well worth the time it took to make a visit ...

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... there were hundreds and hundreds of mustards from all over the world ... i knew there was both yellow and brown mustard, but did you know there's also a variety of black mustard ... difficult to process, the seeds are rarely used ... adrien doesn't eat mustard, but i sampled dozens of different styles ... one tablespoon is 5% of a day's protein requirement, so i suppose you could say i ate healthy ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... then it was on to the "mall of america" ... not being much a fan of malls, i expected to be if not actually disappointed at least unimpressed ... needless, to say, i was wrong ... what a fantastic place ... clean, bright, fun ... the only problem, of course, is that i can't even imagine how a "normal" family can afford to visit this place ... this picture shows the center of the mall, what i figure to be only 10% or so of the structure ... 

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... perhaps indicative of the mall's clientele, i'm not sure, here's a store where a little girl (i try not to be sexist, but the name of the place is "the american girl") can bring her doll in for a hair styling, facial, or, if necessary, an appointment with a professional doll doctor ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... pure coincidence, but the gps took us to this section of the parking garage ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... ten o'clock at night, about an hour outside of fargo, we stopped to visit another important geographic spot ... along the highway a giant surveyor's tripod marks the great divide ... any water on the other side of the structure will eventually end up in the atlantic ocean via the st. lawrence river or streams flowing to the far north, any water falling in the foreground will wind its way down the mississippi to the gulf of mexico ... give adrien a gold star for courage, the wind chill when we took this was well below zero, and she had to carefully negotiate a narrow snowmobile track in order to keep from sinking up to her waist in snow (i won't show the picture, but i didn't do so good) ...

... wish us luck, today we are going to drive across the state of north dakota in sub-freezing windy conditions ... those of you who have driven here know that in this state "drifting snow" has an entirely different meaning than it does elsewhere ...






2013 WANDER-ABOUT: DAYS 2-4 - PART 2

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... after the navy pier we walked back to the park to see the giant chrome jelly bean in the daylight ... our route was via the underground road tunnel that runs along the edge of the lake ... needless to say, we found that, yes, indeed, chicago has its share of people living in cardboard boxes ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... opinions as to its nature as art i'll leave for another discussion, but the giant chrome jelly bean is clearly great fun and a most effective crowd attractor ... odd, but in this sense it actually reminds me of the lincoln memorial in washington d.c. ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... like the great arch in st. louis, the giant chrome jelly bean is one of those places where the slightest movement can bring about profoundly unexpected changes in perspective, thus defining it as a photographer's delight ... 

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... walking beneath the giant chrome jelly bean is to enter a cathedral of the surreal ... 

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... adrien, it seems, clearly inherited at least a bit of pa's genetic code, for she has the ability to find those little historical tidbits which're overlooked by most ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... of course, always of the mind the we should be paying attention to the historical nature of the places we visit, adrien and i searched out the very beginnings of the city of chicago (ojibwa "place of the bad smell") ... nothing left from those times, seems that some time ago there was a bit of a fire in the city that burned up everything from the olden days ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... we explored a store/museum that specializes in the prints of john james audubon ... we saw many full-sized prints, some of them valued in excess of $400,000 ... like many people, most of my life i've been familiar with a coffee table edition of his book, "birds of america," but to see the life-sized hand colored engravings was a most impressive treat ... we were allowed to "browse" the shop for free, and, since we couldn't afford to purchase anything, the nice lady at the desk was kind enough to give us some bookmarks ...

OLYMPUS E-P1 PROJECT
... not quite the end of our time in chicago, here adrien contemplates a scene from the t.v. series "e.r." ...