Fire Lookout Towers

This is the Necedah Bluffs Lookout Tower.  The 64′ high tower was erected in 1928.  During the 1920’s and ’30’s there was a strong initiative to protect Wisconsin’s forests and logging interests from fire.  There is record of 180 tower sites, primarily in the northern half of the state.

There were approximately 70 observation towers still standing in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin DNR has decommissioned all tower activities as of last year.

Camping Solitude

Camped in the Chequamegon National Forest west of Westboro, Wisconsin.  The moon was three-quarters full and, when not blocked by the forest canopy, cast a lit edge along the flowage.

 

I hiked on the Ice Age Trail east from Forest Road 108 and followed a semi-primitive lobe trail to the south.  The trail rimmed a bog that opened as a small lake.

 

The head of this small plant is suffering from Uncombable Hair Syndrome, otherwise known as Albert Einstein hair.

For the Love of the Trip Itself

Total eclipse photo taken with cropped sensor camera, 300mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter.  

I got behind the wheel at 3:30 in the afternoon Thursday, August 17th, looking forward to the drive to an undetermined location in Nebraska along the center point of solar eclipse totality occurring on Monday, August 21st.  Not much was planned, except to get through Iowa as fast as I could – on my way out and coming back.  I packed cameras, a drone, beer, some Steinbeck and Stegner to listen to and camping gear.


Friday, August 18th – Niobrara River Valley

Northeastern Nebraska’s border is defined by the course of the Missouri River. Highway 12 in this region takes you through part of this  Missouri River watershed.  The town of Niobrara is located where the Niobrara River flows into the Missouri.  Wetlands surrounding the town contain buildings, vehicles and other items left to retire – some after flooding.

Verdel, Nebraska

Verdel, Nebraska was incorporated very early in the 1900’s as the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad extended it’s line west into northern Nebraska.  Verdel’s population skyrocketed to 140 in the 1910 census – obviously calling for a jail, like any large Nebraska town of that era.   Today, 30 residents remain in this town on Nebraska Hwy 12.

 

Verdel’s downtown area hasn’t been the same since the Dew Drop Inn was demolished after being flooded in 2011.  Homes and other buildings in town have been “let be”.

Monowi, Nebraska – population 1

No kidding, this town is made up of one inhabitant, Elsie, who is mayor, librarian, and bartender at the Monowi Tavern.

 

Near Dunning, Nebraska – The Sandhills

 

Driving from the northeast to the central region of Nebraska, you’ll see more of these old buildings along the highway.  I’m grateful that there’s nobody in any great hurry to take these structures down.

The Sandhills – Ranching on Grass-Topped Sand Dunes 

 

 

The Outer Limits Tavern – Sidney, Nebraska

I drove through Sidney, Nebraska the night of the 18th with almost 1,000 miles into the trip.  The Outer Limits Tavern is just north and west of Sidney.  I opened up a couple of Hamm’s in the parking lot – it was past bar-time at the Outer Limits.

 


Saturday, August 19th – Sterling, Colorado

Sterling is about 40 miles south of the Nebraska border and offered an available hotel for two nights.  Sterling had a Western Sugar production and distribution facility that has been abandoned.  Strangely, the agitators were still spinning in the storage silos.

 

The area around the old sugar facility is used as a resting place for this old Ford military bus.

 

 

And a variety of classic left-for-dead items.

 


Sunday, August 20th – Alliance, Nebraska

I had originally planned to view the eclipse in the Sandhill region outside a small town call Tryon.  The weather forecast was dicey, so late in the week I decided to drive west and view the eclipse at Alliance – directly on the center of the line of totality.

 

Alliance is the home of Burlington Northern – Santa Fe’s largest distribution center.  It’s the pass-through for a constant string of coal shipments coming from coal fields near Gillette, Wyoming.

 

 

 

I had found a truck shop owner’s field that had been opened up for visitor camping.   The next day was Monday – totality was to begin at 11:54 am.


Monday, August 21st – on the road in South Dakota

 

I had driven for only 1 or 2 miles of Interstate up to this point of the trip.  I wasn’t going to give into the temptation of 80 mph speed limits on South Dakota freeways.  I’m glad I found my way by two lane state highways.

 

 

The sun had been a super-star on Monday.  It gave me a final thrill as it set on the South Dakota Badlands.


Tuesday, August 22nd – Missouri River Valley – South Central South Dakota

This is the Bijou Hills area of South Central South Dakota.  Drive through the center of the state on Interstate 80 and you’ll see Mitchell S.D. and endless fields.  Or you could drive through the southern part of the state and you’ll see the Bijou Hills.

 

 

And sunflower fields that, from the air,  look like the inside of a petri dish.

 


Wednesday, August 23, US Hwy 18 in Iowa

Driving through Iowa is normally a struggle with no cell phone service, non-stop tasteless anti-abortion billboards, and Casey’s Gas Stations.  My plan was to get on Hwy 18 as soon as I could after spending a day at the Snake River Recreation Area in South Dakota.  I’ve never traversed Iowa on Hwy 18 and I thought the change would be good.   I drove through places in Iowa like Dicken’s Pit, Road’s End Prairie, and Monona.  Much better.  I found more abandonment – and became fascinated by rural Iowa electric water pumps.  Does the handle wave up and down while it’s working?

I stopped in Monona, Iowa in order to view the sunset above abundant cornfields.

I enjoyed the trip despite being interrogated by Burlington Northern security, State Patrolmen, local cops and local citizens who were wondering what I was doing, especially when I was using my 4 x 5 view camera or drone.  The locals I met in Nebraska and South Dakota were warm, generous, and curious people.   But, I noticed one thing common to Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa that puzzles me….rural towns seem to survive with just a Dollar General store and a Subway restaurant.  I’ve got to go back and ask how they do it?

 

Manhattan Architecture

A residential architect complained to me that Frank Gehry is all surface and no substance.  Well, I suppose if I had to live in this building I’d be much more critical.  I don’t, so I can enjoy the skin stretched over the form of the IAC Building perches along the Hudson on the west side of Manhattan.  I wasn’t looking for this building, but just drove to it and couldn’t make it past without stopping to shoot it.  From the other side of the Hudson it looks like a ship with three sails.  Up close it’s all about the contour and light, off and through the skin of the building.  ” ….all surface” is right…. but it’s beautiful.

Jean Nouvel designed this condominium across the street from Gehry’s office building.  The two seem to have been created without an awareness of the other’s presence.

The Guggenheim

You might guess from previous posts that I am inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.  While recently in New York City on a business trip I happened on the Guggenheim Museum in the Upper East End of Manhattan.  What a thrill.  The building is like none other you’ll see, especially as it shouts out to you from the sea of similar to one another buildings.  It’s no wonder Wright and his creation were so controversial when the museum opened up in 1959.

Twenty one influential artists signed a formal protest and refused to exhibit in the building.  They claimed that the intent of Wright was to overshadow the art is was displaying.  In 1992 the rectangular addition was added behind the  Guggenheim’s spiral strip beehive.

The controversy has ended and the Guggenheim is regarded by most today as an example of creative genius.

As striking as the building is on the outside, the inside of the museum is bold, beautiful, and elegant.

Lakefront Icons

Here are a couple of Milwaukee lakefront icons.  This photo is of the south face of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava Pavillion.  I have included two or three other photos in earlier posts featuring the extendable wings and support mast.

Discovery World is a lakefront museum that features physical science exhibits that are targeting a learning experience.  During the warmer months (what a joke) they dock a replica of a 19th century three masted Great Lakes schooner called the Denis Sullivan.

Corrugated Metal

This power plant at a medical complex in Milwaukee County is peppered with corrugate metal buildings.  At sunset the horizontal and vertical ribs in the metal siding create a jumble of patterns.  The brick chimney glistened as if polished.  Yes, the work of the sun on metal and brick is exaggerated by HDR….but I just couldn’t help it!

The ladder provided a pattern of shadow on the metal siding that looks nothing like itself.  The rivets on the siding seem owned by the shadow not the metal.

Frank Lloyd Wright – Greek Orthodox – Annunciation Church

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 during his most prolific period of design and project commissions.  Projects during his last several years included the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Marin County Civic Center.  One of his last designs was of the Greek Orthodox Annunciation Church built in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  Common to these three projects is the circular design element.

Designed in 1956, construction of the Greek Orthodox Church did not begin until after his death in 1959 and was completed in 1961.

While this shallow, domed design is not as attractive to me personally as most of his earlier work, there are some unique design attributes.