Monthly Archives: July 2007

Weird Chickens

I drove up to Le Mars, Iowa on Wednesday to visit the Plymouth County Fair. I’ve never, to my recollection, been to a County Fair. After being to a County Fair, I think I’d remember if I had.

It was the first day of the Fair and the middle of the day on Wednesday so there were not too many people there. Mostly just the people that had brought animals to be judged, or sold, or, I’m guessing, eaten. There was a barn for each of your standard farm animals: sheep, goats, horses, pigs, chickens and other birds all classified by the sign “Poultry”, and of course beef (cows). I did expect to see llamas and emus but maybe that’s more of an Oregon thing.

The chickens though… I have never seen such a variety of chickens in my life. There were some weird chickens, very colorful, stylish, and yes weird, chickens.

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Also, I’d hoped to find some 500 pound pig that I could hitch a ride on, but no, no such pig ride was available. Now I should visit a State Fair, maybe they’ll have a pig for me to ride.

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Filed under United States

RAGBRAI 2007

10 days since my last post. I’ve been keeping pretty busy, busy enough that it now feels like I have a very short time left here in Sioux City, and so much left to do.

Earlier this week I headed off to see what RAGBRAI was all about. RAGBRAI stands for: Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. This year it is a 477 mile ride across Northern Iowa comprised of some 10000+ riders from all over the world. They start by dipping their tires in a river on the Western side of Iowa, ride for 5 days, and then dip their tires in an Eastern river to finish.

Sunday I arrived in Rock Rapids around 8am and the majority of riders had already set off on that day’s 77 mile leg. I drove back home for a few hours sleep and then set back out to see what the nightlife of a RAGBRAI stop was like. So back on the road to Spencer, I arrived about 7pm and saw fields and fields of tents and more bikes than I’d ever seen in one place.

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The population of Spencer, IA had literally doubled that day. The evening’s festivities were held at the Fairgrounds – although I doubt there was a single parking lot or side street that wasn’t active – I ended up spending the night drinking and people-watching in the Fairground’s beer garden until it closed at 12:30am. I made my way back to the van in a nearby parking lot and passed out.

I awoke about 5:30am to find that everyone else was already up and on the move. I wiped the sleep from my eyes, hopped in the driver’s seat, and headed off for a vantage point to get some pictures. I followed the route of the bikers, which meant I was driving with the tide. Literally it was like a stream of bikers flowing past me. I was the huge obstruction on their street and once I was in the path there was little to be done about getting out of it. I was surrounded on all sides and turning off to a side street just wasn’t an option. I didn’t get out of the mass until the route turned right and I was able to continue straight. I considered following the event to the next city but decided to drive back home instead.

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I had a lot of fun that night and riding RAGBRAI is now something that is definitely on my list. I will really have to train up though, I’m nowhere near the physical shape I’d need to be to finish the ride, but hey, goals are good.

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Filed under United States

Bugs

There are an incredible amount of bugs in the Midwest, I’d say half of them are visiting my laptop right now. I’m on the back patio of a bar in Sioux City, alone, with a $5 pitcher of Bud, trying to control my urges to knock the bugs off my person and laptop. It does no good… they come back. At least if I leave them alone, maybe they won’t tell their friends, so they can have that eerie glow all to themselves.

I can hear the stray bugs from the nearby safety light bouncing off the Coors umbrella attached to my table. It’s like a sporadic bit of insect rain.

The sounds around me are pretty impressive too, there is the machine gun fire of some, the long creaking Morse code of others, and the deafening noise that the Cicadas make. If you’ve never seen a Cicada they are an incredibly ugly bug.

Once while I was working in Maryland I found an intact molting of a Cicada laying in the grass. I was working with a couple of guys that were from India and hadn’t spent that much time in the US. Thinking I was funny I grabbed the shell, took it into the server room, and placed in on the keyboard of one of their laptops. From somewhere I could see I called out “hey, could you get me the password for this router?” Unsuspectingly he walked over to his laptop, poised his hands for typing, gasped, and promptly fell backward. He didn’t say anything or call out; instead he grabbed a pen and started poking at it. That was when I couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing. Busted…

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Filed under Random, United States

Small town USA

Open letter to middle America:

Acting tough is not the same as being tough. I was out with some friends tonight for a few beers. We talked of interesting things and mild Sioux City drama. Luckily the people I was drinking with didn’t care much for the local pastime of gossip and intrigue. Last call comes and we make out way out to the van. What do we find? Some woman has been stabbed by another woman, and the crowds are circling to see the auxiliary fights that have broken out. Three to my count until the police show up and the dogs come out. My friend says to me “Welcome to 4th street”. 4th Street is the place where the popular bars are in Sioux City. There are other bars in town, but this is where the weekend warriors come out to play. By weekend warriors I mean college kids and people who don’t show up on a weekday because the odds of them finding a drunk member of the opposite sex willing to go home with them are so much lower. But this is Sioux City…

I’ll never understand the mentality that goes into a bar fight or sidewalk stabbing.

So kids. Guys and Girls. It’s simple, really it is. Be aware of your surroundings and try not to overstep your bounds. Know when an apology is the right thing to do. Respect women or men as the case may be, and know that whatever happened is an opportunity for you to exit. Exit the drama, exit the people who can’t control themselves, exit the ego driven situation where the person offended is so sensitive that they have to hurt someone else.

Those aren’t good people, however noble their intentions sound, those are small people, with fragile egos. Those are dangerous people who will find themselves in jail eventually. And I can’t think of a better place for them. But then again, I’ve had my drinks tonight, I’m upset, and I think someone got blood on my van.

This is Sioux City, Iowa where the population is under 100K, and everyone has to be tough. Cause it matters… Whatever…

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Filed under Personal, Random, United States

Friday the 13th

Today was supposed to be my ceremonial departure date. Originally it was supposed to be Friday the 13th of April, but I needed to be around to be the Best Man for my oldest friend who was getting married on 7/7/7 in Sioux City so I pushed it back, luckily there was a Friday the 13th in July as well.

You see, many significant things have happened for me on Friday the 13th: Graduation from High School, first overseas trip, and a few other things that have become foggy with time. I also kind of like bucking the unluckiness of the number but maybe that trend is drawing to a close as I will have seen both Friday the 13th’s pass without significance this year.

I’ve had a little trouble getting my head back into the trip since Summer went back to Portland. I miss her, a lot. This stop on the trip will be the single longest period of time I’m in one place for the duration of this journey – probably the longest time I’ve been in one place for a number of years – and it’s in a place full of memories that I don’t remember. I’ve been away for 10 years and have had an entirely different life during that time. I may have grown up here, but I feel the seeds that were planted grew into who I am because of my life in Portland.

I’m turning that lack of focus around now. I’m fighting my mind from becoming idle and spinning off down dark roads. I’ve got my maps back out, I’m consuming gallons of coffee in my old Sioux City haunts, and I’m adapting to the new initial European destination. I need to turn this time into opportunity, study my Russian language materials, fight my way through more European history, catch up with old friends, hang out with family, interview my grandparents, sleep…

So where do I go?

Since my original plan of Spain/Morocco/Portugal/France/Germany has been dashed and I’ve lost a full 30 days of summer weather I’ve been trying to reorient my path through Europe. Do I try like crazy to make it down to Spain to participate in La Tomatina, then run back up to Paris to see my Fiancé? Do I skip Spain until the winter months and explore Northern Europe before the snows come? Spain and Italy would have the best weather in the winter months; also they have a Carnival season that I just found out about. I’d only known about it in connection with Brazil. It isn’t something we celebrate in the United States but has a long history throughout Europe.

Tidbit: One theory on the origin of Carnival comes from the Latin “carne” (meat) and “vale” (farewell) as it is usually the last time of feasting prior to the fasting season of Lent.
No matter what I do, I will miss the International Regatta of Bathtubs in Belgium. (No, I wasn’t planning on attending, but after I found it I thought it would be fun.)

From worldeventsguide.com:

“More of a lark than a serious competition, this event is open to seaworthy bath tubs of all classes, from all nations. The exact rules are vague, but vessels can be of any design – seemingly the more bizarre the better – and there must be at least one bath tub providing buoyancy. Motors are strictly forbidden, so is the deliberate sinking of a fellow competitor. Prizes are awarded by an impartial panel of judges for speed, technical endeavour, beauty, novelty, and representation of the town. Even for non-boating visitors, Dinant, with its onion dome tower wedged between the river and a cliff, is sufficiently picturesque to be worth a visit. The annual “La Regate des Baignoires” makes it doubly so”

Ideas are welcome, I just booked my Hostel for Antwerp, so I at least have a place to get my land legs back for a few days, and then it’s off to explore the continent.

Anyway, happy Friday the 13th! I hope it is lucky for you.

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Filed under Europe, Planning, Round The World

Wanna Go For A Ride?

Starting in Albuquerque I filmed every mile of the drive to Sioux City in hopes of compiling it into a time lapse display of the drive. Well, here is my first shot at it. I had to cut out the night driving to make it fit, but you couldn’t see that much in the dark anyway.

You might notice: The Royal Gorge, Pike’s Peak, Cows, Parking under a bridge to avoid hail, me taking pictures, etc…

Here you go, hold on to something.

[flv:http://peopleinpassing.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/Drive_Flash.flv 500 375]

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Filed under Random, Round The World, United States, Video