Saturday, August 02, 2014

Glorious America!

 The first big attraction of my trip to Michigan was a visit to the county fair, namely the Gladwin county fair in my home county.  I have pleasant memories of visiting this fair from when I was a child.  My grandparents lived just down the street from the fairgrounds, and I would walk there with them, ride some rides, and look at the farm animals in the barns.  I even got my first cat here, I think I was 5 years old.  He was a beautiful, giant gold tomcat and his name was Patty Paws.  Anyway, it was time to take my kids to this fun place.  It's the perfect fair for me, since it isn't so big and overwhelming, and amazingly also isn't so loud.  For comparison, I visited the Kät in Annaberg-Buchholz several years ago because I'd wanted to relive my youth and have some fair fun, but I did not find it fun at all.  It was incredibly loud, crowded and overwhelming.  I couldn't go on any rides because the whole thing gave me a headache.  All I could do was flee.
This picture was not taken in 2006, it was taken on July 25, 2014.  The Himalaya is a lot faster and scarier than it looks!
Here, however, we were pleasantly surprised.  At first glance, this fair seemed quite small.  But after walking around, deciding which rides we wanted to ride and looking at the cost, the $10 unlimited armbands for rides were definitely worth their weight in gold.  There was a pretty limited number of rides, but enough that we had loads of fun.  The really neat thing was that I remembered most of these rides from my childhood trips to the fairs in Midland and Gladwin counties between 20-25 years ago.  It seems that this was a discount carnival operator who had bought secondhand rides...some were shut down, others seemed in disrepair.  But that just added to the fun:  maybe parts of the rides could come flying off at any second!
 The rusty, squeaking Thunder roll seemed to have seen its last oiling in about 1987.
 The motorcycle ride, one I also recall from my childhood, oh, 29 years ago...
 I actually wouldn't mind having a dunk tank at my house.
 This is another one of my old favorites: the swings.  This one seemed a little more modern, the seats were much more stable than when I was a kid.  It also didn't go as high, but maybe the hydraulics were just broken. I especially loved this one at the GC fair because the operator was so slow and unmotivated, probably also hung over or under the influence or other substances (just my supposition).  He would just let one kid through the gate at a time, shuffle along behind the kid, direct them to a seat, get them hooked in with the bar, then shuffle back, kind of hunched over and always sour-faced and take the next kid in.  It took something like 10 minutes just to get the kids on the ride.  When I used to ride this, I remember just a frenzy running to the swings and the operator would check to make sure everybody was strapped in, then flip the switch and send us hurling through the air.
 Dinner at the fair consisted of ultra salty, delicious popcorn and a can of pop.  (Soda or Limo for the non-Michigan English speakers.)
 A carousel!
The big slide. Friedrich actually wanted to just loop back around and go right back up the stairs, he loved this!  But he had to go out the gate and back in.  Fortunately there are no big lines at this fair!  This was actually my personal favorite, the guy running the thing had a kind of frightening appearance, but he was really nice to the kids and funny.  He was also the kids' favorite operator (or our slightly inappropriate slang for this job is "carnie"--carnival operator.)
 But the real reason we came to fair on this wondrous day was to attend the mud bog.  Above you can see "Crazy Train".  More from Crazy Train later.  A mud bog is a kind of sport or at least entertainment where people prepare a track of mud in a field by digging it out and adding water, then driving various classes of 4-wheel drives through it.  I'd heard of mud bogs before, and my first exposure to one was when we saw our neighbors in Beaverton putting on a private one in 2008 and 2009 (  and  I used to scorn the people who would take part in such events, and might still if I met them in person.  Who knows.  When I was in school the participants in these kinds of things were usually really narrow-minded and nasty, in particular to me and my friends.  Nevertheless, when checking the schedule for the county fair this year, I was intrigued to see that there was an official mud bog on the roster and couldn't resist checking it out.

 I'm not used to this any more, but of course the national anthem was played before the big event.  Everyone had to stand and face the flag.

 You can see how they bring in the big construction machines and prepare the field, a major undertaking.
 Before the thing gets started, the drivers all had to meet and maybe go over the rules.  Finally, the even started a half hour to an hour after the scheduled starting time. 
 The first hour or so was pretty boring.  Street legal trucks would drive in and get stuck.  The competition involved measuring how far they got.
 But then they brought out the big trucks, like "Stroked Out" above.  The name has something to do with the engine, I think the announcer said it was a stroker engine.  My knowledge of engines is limited, so I couldn't tell you what that is. 
 He had an impressive start...
 ...but he too got stuck.
 The Misfit looked a little meaner, maybe he'll have more luck...
 I think he got stuck, too.  After an hour of these stuck trucks, I started getting bored and wondering if we should leave. 
 Then this guy pulled out.  Actually, there'd been one before him, too, but it had been so fast that I missed getting any pictures.  He made it through the pit in something like 3.6 seconds!  As the announcer said, "This is what you're payin' for, folks!"

The next one got stuck, but he certainly didn't give up too quickly.

 A stuck patriot.

Here's a nice montage, but I do not endorse any of the political views shown in this video!

Whatever your views on this kind of thing, the sheer noise and power on display were pretty impressive.  I couldn't do this very often, but once in a while, it's pretty fun.

Goodbye, Gladwin County Fair!  See you tomorrow for the demolition derby!

Iceland, Day 3: The Golden Circle

On our third and final day in Iceland, we drove around the famed Golden Circle.  We didn't always stick to the main roads, but often went off the beaten path and found some fantastic hiking areas and geothermic spots that definitely warrant further visits.  More or less, though, we followed the circle around, just not always on the main roads.

 In the summer, particularly with about 20 degrees Celsius and sun, this place was a dream.  In winter, however, I think some parts are impassable, unless of course you have a snowmobile...
 The blindspot signs are nice!
 Our first stop was on a nearly empty, incredibly beautiful mountainous hiking path.  The weather couldn't have been better, and the scenery was really breathtaking.

 One of our favorite tricks with volcanic rock:  pretending we are strong.
 Of course there was also geothermal activity here, too, and these little moon houses were a part of the pipelines at certain intervals.
 Moss, mountains and snow.  It doesn't get much better than that!

 The pools near the hotspots were always neat with different kinds of crud growing and fermenting inside them.

 I hope you can't tell how scared I am that the Earth will just open up, swallow and boil me perfection here.
 More spooky, bubbly, boiling geothermic areas.
 It really felt a little bit unreal with the mountains, orbs and steam all over!
 A nice steaming pit.  You can't really tell from this photo, but the steaming hole is significantly bigger than a person.  And you could hear the boiling, bubbling water inside.

 The pavement ended, and then...
 ...we came upon this giant, clear, still lake.  I could've just stayed there for the rest of my life.  It was so peaceful!
 My feet are in the water here, that is a shadow.  It kind of looks like I peed my pants, but I didn't.  You just don't see water that clear every day!

 Geysir is one of, if not THE biggest tourist attraction in Iceland.  It was full of Americans.  I actually heard the comment:  "That's, like, all hot water, right?"  And I wanted to go say, "And you should, like, stop wasting your parents' money with trips to expensive hipster locations like this and go home and learn something first, okay?"  Sorry for my bitchiness, I really should have stayed at the cool, clear, silent lake with no people!
 Here's my first shot of the big geysir erupting, we stuck around and saw it go off several times.
 That's probably a wise tip not to drop coins into the geysir, because I think it would hurt like a son of a b*+`? to get hit with a boiling hot bit of metal flung out of an erupting geysir.
 This was the tallest eruption we visited from afar, it was pretty impressive!

 Here I was lucky enough to capture the beginning of an eruption.
 Our final big stop was at Gullfoss, a giant tear in the Earth with incredible masses of water plunging over the edge.  On the left edge of the photo you can see some tiny people for perspective.
 Probably a good idea not to go on the other side of the tiny, delicate cable they have strung up here.

And now, after dinner and returning the car, it's time to head home.  I'd love to have stayed longer, but it's always nice to end a vacation wanting more...then you have ideas for the next trip and pleasant memories of this one!