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This is the story of our trip to Cody, Wyoming, for the American Yankee Association's 2002 fly-in convention. Our conveyance was N9413L, a 1971 American Trainer ("Yankee") with a stock 108-HP engine. This plane has carried us to plenty of other interesting places, including the ice runway at Lake Winnipesaukee (pictured) and the 2000 AYA convention at Laconia. It's no speed star, but it is an honest little airplane that gets the job done.
We spent quite a bit of time planning this trip, intending to see several interesting places and do many things along the way from Connecticut to Cody. Following the formula of some previous trips, we made a list of more things than we could possibly do. The idea was that when the time came, we would fly to those places that had good weather. On this trip, we got lucky beyond imagination.
Although I had planned for IFR routes (and bought tons of charts that were never used), we made the entire trip under VFR. Legally. Didn't fly through a single cloud the whole time.
Our first overnight stop was Put-in-Bay, Ohio. This town is on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky. It was Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's headquarters in the War of 1812, where he fought and won the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. This battle eventually led to the Treaty of Ghent, the world's first negotiated peace by disarmament. As a result of this treaty, which is still in force, the U.S. and Canada share the world's longest unsecured border. This monument commemorates that peace. 352 feet high, it's the nation's third-highest national monument - after the Washington Monument and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
In May 2002 the Park Service inaugurated the interpretive center near the monument, featuring the statue of Perry that is on permanent loan from the city of Perryville, Ohio.
This was one of two places in the U.S. where we saw the U.S. and Canadian flags flying together at equal height - the Perry Monument is designated an International Monument. (The other place was an FBO in Bismarck.)
The inscription on the plaque says it best:
Within this enclosure reposed for a century the remains of three American and three British officers killed in the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10th, 1813. They were disinterred September 11th, 1913, and re-interred in the crypt of Perry Memorial with international ceremonies conducted by the Commissioners of the Perry's Victory Centennial.
These are views from the top of the monument, looking south. In the first picture, the interpretive center is at lower right and the airport is at upper left. The monument's observation deck gives a good view of all the nearby islands; including Pelee, which is the southernmost point in Canada. At the lower left in the first photo is the area they call "bathing beach." Get it straight: if you're from either coast, Put-in-Bay has no beaches. The best way to swim here is from a boat. That's exactly what most people seem to do.
Street scenes, Put-in-Bay. It's easy to see the ratio of golf carts to cars. These were taken before 10 AM, so there are not too many people out yet.
Stonehenge. Built of sandstone about 1855, the walls are one foot thick. The wine cellar is the coolest place in town.
Next, we went to Chicago, where we saw fireworks set to live symphonic music - along with about 1.5 million other people in Grant Park. No pictures, because I don't generally get very good pictures of crowds or fireworks. It was hot. As we tried to decide where to go next, the weather map made that choice easy. There was only one part of the country where the daily highs were below 90, so we went there...
Wisconsin Dells. The amusement park capital of the Midwest. More waterslides per capita than practically any other place in the world.
"Dells" is an anglicized version of a French word that describes the characteristic rock formations in the area. The same word is also found in Oregon's Dalles and Texas's Dallas. It's a stratified sandstone that is interesting geologically, and also very nice to look at.
We started our tour of the Dells with a ride on the
Ducks. Ducks are
The tour guide is fond of pointing out the special rock formations. They've made up stories about some of them, like the grand piano that fell on its side. Others, like the eagle, are simply there for the viewing.
Next morning we got onto a more conventional boat for a tour of the Upper Dells, a different part of the Wisconsin River. Here is the entrance, called the Jaws of the Dells.
This is what the Wisconsin Dells are about - rocks.
The boat stopped twice and we took short walks into the woods on prepared trails. The first stop included natural formations like the Witches' Bathtub and the Witches' Window. These formations are part of a story about witches that supposedly haunt this part of the woods.
Then we got back on the boat, as far as Stand Rock. Just before we got there, we saw a tepee high on a hill. Nobody would actually want to live there, but you can never escape the fact that you are in the Dells - it's only there for show.
Stand Rock is a table, with about a 6-foot gap between it and the nearby
ledge. See the guy in the first picture? He's a dog trainer. Photographer
The Lost Canyon is just a few miles south of Wisconsin Dells, in Lake Delton.
Also in Lake Delton, you can find the Wonder Spot, a clever illusion that makes it feel like the law of gravity has been suspended, or at least misdirected. It's a cabin built on a slant on a steep hill, so that it feels like you're standing crooked when you're standing upright. Water appears to flow uphill, and the guide makes a chair seem to balance on its back legs in a level position.
Broadway, Wisconsin Dells.
After a couple of very pleasant days at the Dells, it was time to move on. We were still blessed with zero or light headwinds, so it began to look like it would be reasonable to fly all the way to Rapid City (S.D.) the next day. I laid out a route that would take us through Iowa toward Sioux City and the Floyd monument (this year begins the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition), and onward to Rapid City via Yankton, but this was not to be.
A line of convective activity formed overnight to the west of the Dells and stretched southwestward, making my plan untenable. However, we were able to fly around the storms to the north. After we took a roundabout route to land at Winona, Minn., it was clear sailing (?) from there on. While taxiing in at Winona, we saw a golden eagle on the infield. The line guy told us that was normal there.
We flew from Winona to Rapid City by way of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Pierre. Talk about hostile terrain, especially west of Pierre. And these aren't even the "official" badlands! At home we worry a lot about being forced down over water, but I sure would not like having to land on some of the stuff we flew over in South Dakota. Sorry, no photos. Just imagine your typical moonscape.
But we got to Rapid City just fine, and checked into a very nice hotel - thanks to the services of Jetstream Aviation and their corporate connections. Jetstream appears to be the #2 FBO at KRAP (they need to work on that airport ID), and they really do try harder.
In Rapid City, the expansion joints in the streets are spaced just right to make each passing car sound like a trotting horse.
You can't go to Rapid City and not visit Mt. Rushmore, which we did the next morning. The bust is of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor. There's a small museum associated with the monument, where they show how Borglum worked from a scale model to decide where to place his dynamite. Most of the work was done with dynamite and jackhammers. One of the studies in the museum indicates that Borglum was considering a sculpture of whole bodies, not just busts.
A few miles west of Mt. Rushmore is the
Crazy Horse National Monument. There
is a lot to see here. In the restaurant, you can study a small bronze model to
see what the mountain will eventually look like when the project is completed.
It's very hard to grasp the enormity of this thing; the second photo was taken
from about a mile and a half away. There is a larger model sculpture
elsewhere in the museum, which also gives the visitor an opportunity to study
the future of the monument.
This project has not received any federal funds at all since it began in 1948. One of the ways they help finance it is to sell souvenir rocks that are left over from the blasting. But they do want you to be careful with those rocks.
Because N9413L is lousy at high density altitudes when heavily loaded, we flew around the Bighorn Mountains rather than over them. About half an hour before landing at Cody, we flew over the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area. It's 2200 feet down from the rim of the canyon to its bottom.
Made it! 1731 nautical miles and 21 flight hours later, N9413L is finally
tied down at Cody. I thought I was in the running for longest distance in a
2-place Grumman, but Mark Conner came from Palmetto, Florida - about 50 NM
farther, by great circle distance. Carol Klein beat us both by a comfortable
margin, flying her
Greg Amy took a somewhat different route from Connecticut to the convention, and has also posted photos on the web.
There isn't much grass at the airport. It seems there isn't much grass in Wyoming. But nothing explained why they planted plastic grass. It was laid out in several colors, in grids. At least it's easy to keep it mowed.
On the first convention night, a caller tried to teach us how to dance. It started out slowly, but after a while folks got into the spirit of the thing.
I don't have very many photos of the convention itself. That job was masterfully done by Steve Williams in his daily coverage of the convention.
On the first day of the convention, we took a bus tour of Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt called the road from Cody to the Park's East Gate "the most scenic 50 miles in America," and it richly deserves that praise. Some of the scenery outside the park is more breathtaking that what lies inside. Most of the area is national forest land. One one hilltop that's private, Francis Lee Smith started building a cabin for his family, and didn't know when to stop. He just kept adding rooms and balconies until he fell to his death in 1992. Since then, the Smith Mansion, or "Pagoda," has been abandoned.
If the park is a show, then Old Faithful is surely its star. Our guides made certain that we were treated to an eruption. Some of us preferred the view from the lodge balcony to the crowds on the observation deck, even though we were a little farther away.
The trail around the Fountain Paint Pot is interesting because it wanders directly past each of the four distinct hydrothermal features to be found in Yellowstone Park: geyser, mud pot, fumarole, and hot spring.
A fumarole, or steam vent, has so little water that all the water boils before it reaches the surface. If it had more water, it would be a geyser or a hot spring. They make a lot of noise and they don't smell very good. The Yellowstone River gets its name from the sulfur in its rocks.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is so big that your admission fee is good for two consecutive days. Cody truly has a world-class museum here. Actually, there are five museums on the property.
The Buffalo Bill Museum examines Buffalo Bill's personal and private lives.
The Whitney Gallery of Western Art is a collection of works treating the American West. Frederic Remington's studio has also been reproduced here.
The Cody Firearms Museum houses the world's most complete collection of American firearms, and some European arms as old as the 16th century. If the 1500 guns in the main part of the museum weren't enough to keep a visitor interested, there's a sign directing him to 1200 more on the lower level.
The Plains Indian Museum contains Indian art and artifacts, and explores the culture, history, and traditions of the Plains Indians.
The Draper Museum of Natural History is the Historical Center's newest wing. Its focus is on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Buffalo Bill's 1866 Springfield, which he used on the hunt that earned him his nickname. Somewhere along the line, the stock was lost.
As early as 1878, Cody was quoted as saying, " Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government." When he was asked for his solution to the Indian "problem," he replied, "never make a single promise to the Indians that is not fulfilled."
Indians of his day considered Cody a good friend, and his relationship with them was characterized by mutual respect. America, Cody stressed, was the Indian's heritage. He had only fought for what was his and should expect to be treated with fairness and justice. Most of the Indians who toured with the Wild West were veterans of the wars, and many had known Cody on the plains.
According to Black Elk, Luther Standing Bear, and others, the Indians were treated as equals in the arena and behind the scenes. As many as 80 Indians at a time, mostly Sioux, were allowed by the government to travel with the Wild West.
Demonstrating the leatherworker's art, and one of the final products. The saddle and its stand were made around 1934 by Edward H. Bohlin for a movie company. The saddle set features a breast collar, tapaderos, bridle, and serape.
Modern furniture in the spirit of Buffalo Bill.
The sideboard was made in 1994 by Rod Skenadore. Materials are walnut,
juniper, cedar, driftwood, fir, pine, lodgepole (pine), and leather. The
covering is water buffalo.
The daybed is a little newer (1998). It's covered in hide and tooled
leather. The legs and rails are steerhorn. It opens to a full-size bed.
Here is a microscopic sample of what we saw in the Whitney Gallery:
Thom Ross, 1952-
Burial at Sea (1999)
"Old Charlie, Cody's beloved veteran horse, died on the Wild West Company's voyage from Europe back to New York in the spring of 1888. Wrapped in canvas and covered with the stars and stripes of the American flag, Old Charlie was given an honorable burial at sea on May 17."
Gutzon Borglum, 1867-1941
Mares of Diomedes (1904)
Although the title refers to one of the Labors of Hercules, Borglum admitted that it was a convenience: "I have utilized a subject from the West - the stealing of horses." Just a few days ago, we had enjoyed one of Borglum's other works at Mt. Rushmore.
Sally James Farnham, 1869-1943
The Sun Fisher (1920)
Sally James Farnham had no formal artistic training. She began modelling in clay while recuperating from an illness. Although she was a New Yorker, she travelled in western Canada and in Wyoming.
Frederic Remington, 1861-1909
Coming Through the Rye (1902-1907)
Remington studied the movement of horses from Muybridge's stop-action photography. This sculpture was a challenge because the artist wanted as many horses' hooves off the ground as possible, but still had to support the sculpture.
In a museum with almost 3000 guns, it's hard to pick a good sample, so here's only one. It's a melon patch gun, designed to be used in groups of four. One gun is positioned at each corner of the melon patch, and they are connected by trip wires. When a thief moves one of the wires, the gun pivots in his direction and fires.
At the back of the gun museum there is a recreation of a hunting lodge, decorated with the stuffed heads of more animals than you could imagine. The front of the lodge is guarded by these two northern bears.
The Plains Indian museum is full of artifacts and displays. Some of the larger ones, like this tepee, were constructed for the museum. The interpretive audio is synchronized with the lighting so that different parts of the interior are emphasized as the tape explains them.
There is a large multi-media presentation in the museum, in a space about 40
feet high. You get the feeling that you experience all seasons, and time
from sunrise, through sunset, through the night to the following morning.
The grounds are also part of the museum. There are gardens among the several wings of the historical center, with their own sculpture. Some of the sculpture is natural.
One night, we all went to the rodeo.
Back at the museum, there was an area just off the gun wing where they taught kids (well, mostly kids) how to do some of the rodeo events.
Every day at 6 PM, the staff of the Irma Hotel closes the street and stages a shootout. (Buffalo Bill Cody built the hotel, and named it for his youngest daughter.) A crowd starts gathering about half an hour before the production begins.
Before they're done, they do remember to finish dying.
You can't pack enough clothes for a two-week trip, so we spent a little time
in the laundromat. Cody's had signs that you just wouldn't see in
Connecticut. For instance, I never worried about emptying the bullets from
my pockets before washing clothes.
The people of Wyoming have their own memorial to the dead and missing from the Vietnam years, a short walk from the Cody airport.
As advertised, Meeteetse isn't very big. The town, about 30 miles south of Cody, has at least three claims to fame, though.
We took a drive down there on the last convention day, when there wasn't much going on at the airport except for the air race. Actually, most of that wasn't at the airport, either.
1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were once arrested here, outside the Cowboy Bar. The bar is now called the Outlaw Parlor Cafe, but it's the same place, and the bar inside still has bullet holes. If you look closely, you'll see that the town has maintained the wood sidewalks that were necessary when the streets weren't paved. The burgers are good. We were served by a very pleasant lady who told us what it's like to move to a town of 351 souls, get divorced, and have to see your ex-husband every day.
3. The black-footed ferret was thought to be extinct until one was discovered at the Pitchfork Ranch, about 15 miles from Meeteetse. The animals were captured, bred, and released successfully into the wild near that site. They are sometimes, but not often, sighted near that place and others along the Greybull River (runs through both Pitchfork and Meeteetse). We started out to drive to Pitchfork, but thought better of it when we realized that there was very little chance that we'd actually see one of these animals. So we reluctantly settled for this statuette, and a stuffed ferret in Meeteetse's Charles Belden Western Photography Museum. The museum did not say whether their ferret was stuffed before or after it was decided the animal was no longer extinct.
Meeteetse's visitor information center is in the Charles Belden Museum.
Although this museum is mainly concerned with Belden's photography, it is
also a good representation of life in the area, a hundred years ago.
Belden's darkroom and office have been reconstructed here. There are also
reconstructions of other rooms as they were at the turn of the twentieth
century, and many artifacts from the period from about
The armoire in the office features Belden's insignia, the antelope head. It also has the brand of the Pitchfork Ranch, but that's not visible in the photo. This piece, and some of the other furniture in Belden's house on the Pitchfork ranch, were made by Molesworth, a famous western furniture maker. The office and bedroom set were once on display at the Gene Autry Museum.
As we got ready to leave Cody, the heat wave was still on. So we decided to head back via Wisconsin, which was still relatively cool. This time we aimed for Door County. The county takes its name from the dangerous straits connecting Green Bay to Lake Michigan between the peninsula and Washington Island. The voyageurs called this place Death's Door, after a similar name that had already been used by the native Indians for centuries. As one might expect, there are plenty of shipwrecks in the area. Door County has more lighthouses than any other single county in the U.S.
Being a narrow peninsula, Door County has plenty of beach. These guys were sailing some contraption that looks like part parachute, part surfboard. The photos were taken at Bailey's Harbor, home of two other attractions: the Cana Island Light and the Ridges Sanctuary.
The Cana Island Light is the most-often photographed lighthouse in Wisconsin, and probably also one of the most-photographed in the country. To reach it, you walk along a causeway that is often flooded - most of the time, there's no way to get there with dry feet, knees, or maybe even thighs. The day we were there, the lake level was down a couple of feet (it's been a dry year so far), so we didn't have to wade. Then there's a pleasant path through a little woods, and finally the lighthouse.
The Ridges are best explained with the help of a photo lifted from the organization's website. Lake Michigan's waves have deposited row after row of sand, so that the area has taken on the appearance of a series of waves carved in sand. Forest grows on the crests, and the swales are swamplike or submerged completely. This topography supports a wide variety of plants and wildlife.
The Ridges are also home to the old Bailey's Harbor range lights. There's a modern self-contained range now, so these lights are out of service. But the structures are maintained for historical interest. Range lights are useful in navigation: when they appear to be lined up, you're in the right spot. If there's a straight-line channel dredged along the line of the ranges, so much the better. This is the case at Bailey's Harbor, where the modern range guides returning vessels through deep water.
The upper range light (right photos) is now a private residence, so you can't get too close without trespassing.
Scenes inside the Ridges.
Death's Door, the straits between the peninsula and Washington Island. Washington Island is in the background of the second picture.
There's a catwalk at Ellison Bluff that takes you go down to get a good view. The end of the walk is built out over the water, where you get the feeling of suspension in space. The view to the left is of Peninsula State Park and Chambers Island.
This Fish Creek cabin, built in 1849, is identified as the birthplace of
Edgar Thorp. Thorp was part-owner and crew of the
A visit to Door County would not be complete without a fish boil.
As a friend respectfully (more or less) asked, "What the hell is a fish
It's a Door County specialty, left over from lumberjack days. The cook in a lumber camp had to feed a lot of men quickly and easily, so this is what they came up with:
For each person you'll be feeding, you will need:
3 small, peeled onions
3 small new potatoes
1 pound of whitefish, cut into chunks
1 cup of salt per 3 gallons of water
Freshly melted butter
The popular way to build the fire for the cauldron in Door County is to stand the halved firelogs on end, leaning them against the bottom of the cauldron. This allows the heat to become more focused on the bottom of the pot.
Add the salt to the water in the cauldron and begin building the fire. Once the water begins to boil, throw in the potatoes and let boil for 10 minutes. Then, add the onions. Build up the fire more and let the onions boil for 7 minutes. Build up the fire some more. Once the water is strongly boiling, add the fish and allow to boil for 9 minutes. Build up the fire once more and allow the water to boil over. This is usually done by throwing at least a quart of kerosene onto the fire. Drain and serve the fish, potatoes and onions with plenty of melted butter.
It's not a real fish boil unless you have cherry pie (another Door County specialty) for dessert.
As the cook moves things along, he periodically adds "a pinch" of salt. His pinch weighs about two pounds. He explains that this isn't to affect the taste of the food so much as to raise the specific gravity of the water in the pot. This way, the oils will float to the top where he skims them off. At the right moment he throws a can full of kerosene onto the fire, which makes the pot boil over. This carries off all the oils and fat. After the boil-off, they pull the fish, potatoes, and onions out, and dinner is served.
There were no onions in the recipe pictured here. We went to the White Gull in Fish Creek, where the cook believes that onions overpower the taste of the fish. The meal was excellent, so who are we to argue? Besides, curiosity about the difference will give us a reason to go back to Door County.
After dinner, it's a short stroll down the path to Sunset Beach, where we watched the evening performance over Chambers Island.
We spent our last day on the road in Toronto. This is the city's most important building, well-known to tourists and natives alike. It's where Ontario's laws are made. I couldn't find the building where they make the sausage.
Some would say that this building also identifies Toronto. It's the world's tallest free-standing structure. This is the view from the Island Airport, where we landed. The airport is a two-minute ferry ride from the mainland. There's no other way to get back and forth, and you wouldn't want to change a thing about that.
Something else that's not common at home is groups of Falun Dafa practitioners. Here they are on the front lawn of the Ontario Parliament. We also saw groups of them exercising on the front lawn of the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa last year.
The city's bigger than you'd think from just looking at a map. It's well worth it to get a day pass, which is good for any mode of public transport, including the trolleys.
University of Toronto.
From the bottom of the sea. The cannon is the subject of the picture, but the woman with the fish balloon kept parading about for several minutes. Maybe she was waiting for someone who was told to recognize her by the balloon. The plaque explains the cannon but not the fish balloon.
Scenes from a hazy afternoon's walk along the harbor. We saw all kinds of transportation: kayaks, several kinds of sailing and powered boats, a blimp, airplanes, and a helicopter that hovered over the CN Tower for five minutes (we timed it).
Right in the middle of all this development, a small parcel has been allowed to revert to its original wild state. The birdhouse is designed to look like buildings that stood on the site at the beginning of the 20th century. This explanation is adapted from signs on the site:
The Spadina Quay Wetland is part of the
The wetland concept was sparked by reports from anglers of large adult pike being caught near the marina at the foot of Spadina Quay. Sampling reports confirm that mature northern pike return each spring to spawn in this area.
Although small in size, the Spadina Quay Wetland demonstrates the potential
to transform a parking lot into a diverse and stable ecosystem. A series of
features provide a new home for spawning fish, amphibians and marsh birds as
well as a wonderful recreational area for local residents and visitors. The