Rwanda Trip Part I – The Journey

The lists were checked and the bags were packed, repacked, and weighed after consulting airline policy. The countdown on my work computers Excel spreadsheet read 0 working days. It was go time. Rwanda was calling.

Our traveling partners for this trip, Mark and Bambi, pulled up in their SUV on a very cold Monday afternoon. Dad and I loaded up our bags and the bags of gifts and requested items for Danny, my brother volunteering in the Peace Corps. Along with our clothing we had a combined 4 extra bags for him totaling almost 200 lbs. We stopped at the bank thermometer to take a picture and say goodbye to the bitter cold (-1F/-18C)

The temperature on our departure day of 18 Jan 2016.

The temperature on our departure day of 18 Jan 2016.

We were flying out of Chicago O’Hare and we pointed the car south. Our first stop and last supper stateside was at the Brat Stop. I have been there a few times before but not in a long time. The building looked cobbled together and seemed to be expanded without a cohesive plan. I had a Polish sausage and one last Spotted Cow (“Only in Wisconsin”). The we navigated the cold road to the park and ride shuttle near the airport. As we got closer I could see in the night sky the wing lights of all of the air traffic waiting for the okay to land. At the park and ride I cast off my jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf – I wouldn’t be needing those where I was headed.

It was a long journey to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Luckily Dad and I had the middle 3 person row to ourselves and I didn’t have anybody sitting in front of me to recline into my knees. I also didn’t have anybody sitting behind me so I could recline guilt free. Still, I didn’t manage to get much sleep on the about 9.5 hour flight. I did enjoy the Turkish Delight served after takeoff. I watched a few movies on the in flight entertainment system.

We had a short layover in Istanbul. We managed to find the gate for the flight to Kigali despite it being on the other side of the airport and in the basement, far away from the duty free shops and food court. I read somewhere that Istanbul is building a new airport which they could use because this one seemed really full. One thing that stands out was the way they moved people in wheelchairs around the airport. In Chicago people manually pushed them. In Istanbul the helpers stood on the back of a powered cart and zoomed around. I saw a few texting while navigating crowded hallways. It was surprising I did not see any collisions.

The flight from Istanbul to Kigali was long and warm. I was in the middle of a row. I ceded both armrests to the others and just concentrated on the destination. I did sneak in a small nap on my tray table and watched a few more movies.  As we descended to Kigali I could feel it getting warmer and warmer. I was watching the live elevation tracker on my in flight screen. In my sleep deprived state I thought it was elevation above ground level instead of sea level so I was extremely surprised when we touched down at some 4,800 feet instead of zero. I blame the sleep deprivation. The flight continued on after Rwanda to Entebbe, Uganda so most of the people still had another hour after I disembarked.

Stepping off the plane marked the end of the flights and the beginning of exploring Rwanda. It was warm and muggy especially compared to what I came from back home. We only had one more obstacle to get overcome before we were free to roam – visas. We were the last ones through the visa line and we had some trouble getting in as we didn’t know the hotel we were staying at offhand. Using my phones internet I was able to get the information from my brother waiting for us outside. After paying our $30 USD we picked up our bags and found Danny outside with a “Karibu Team Horicon” sign. Karibu is Swahili for welcome. Danny impressed us with his Kinyarwandan (the language of Rwanda) skills in haggling for cabs to take us down the road to the Hilltop Hotel. It was about two in the morning when we checked in. Despite the excitement of seeing my brother for the first time in over a year and being in a new place I fell asleep fairly quickly (after securing my mosquito net).

The land of 1000 hills was waiting.

 

 

A Working Vacation in Lewistown, MT

Looking across Lewistown, MT

(This post will probably have way too much information and photos for a town that, odds are, you have never been to and never will be in. It’s my blog and I can do what I want!)

I had the chance to work in Lewistown, MT for a week and took it. I was able to make some money and see a new place at the same time. Lewistown (not Lewiston like I kept wanting to call it) has about 6,000 residents and is the county seat of Fergus county (named after James Fergus whose picture is further down in the post). There are mountains around the town although I had a hard time seeing them due to the weather most of the week. Lewistown is right in the center of Montana. I had a good time seeing some buildings and eating at some restaurants. The hot tub at the hotel was pretty nice too!

 

All in all it was a pretty good time. Some of my favorite spots were the Rising Trout Cafe Continue reading

Mid-Continent Railway Museum

[I visited in 2014 and these pictures are from that time. The same day I visited Mid-Continent Railway Museum I also visited Natural Bridge State Park and Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron.]

Wisconsin Historical sign at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Wisconsin Historical sign at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Our trip to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum actually started with breakfast at the Railroad Inn Cafe in North Freedom, WI. I only mention this because I wanted to warn you that if you go and order the pancakes they are larger then the plate so don’t order as many as you would if they were a more normal size. The railroad theme and decorations were also a great primer for the museum.

A crossing tower. Someone would be in there watching traffic and trains to know when to drop the gate across the road to keep traffic from crossing the tracks.

A crossing tower. Someone would be in there watching traffic and trains to know when to drop the gate across the road to keep traffic from crossing the tracks.

It was a gorgeous day and there was a surprising amount to see. If you are at all interested in train cars I highly recommend making the trip to North Freedom. You can even ride on a train (7 miles round trip) down a restored rail line.

Lots of history at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Lots of history at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum

A highlight for me was the restored Pullman “fish car”. This car was used by the DNR to restock fish in lakes and streams. It has fish tanks in it. Although we couldn’t actually go inside of it we were able to look through windows. The idea of a train car full of fish makes me smile.

Changing direction at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Changing direction at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

The museum has a very informative website. There is also a Wikipedia page about the museum.

North Freedom Depot at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

North Freedom Depot at Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Natural Bridge State Park

[I visited in 2014 and these pictures are from that time.]

The arch at Natural Bridge State Park

The arch at Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge State park is a small park between Sauk City and Baraboo. It is home to Wisconsin’s largest natural arch. I stopped there to take the short hike to see the arch and find a geocache.  Archeologists have found proof of humans being here thousands of years ago. If you are in the area it is worth a stop and short hike.

Vandalism at the Natural Bridge State Park arch.

Vandalism at the Natural Bridge State Park arch.

You can find out more at the DNR and Wikipedia.

My First Montana Rodeo

Sadie and I were able to attend the opening night of the Northern Rodeo Association (NRA) Finals at the Butte Civic Center on October 6th. It was my first rodeo! (It was also two for one admission night which is always a plus.) There were cowboy hats, cowboy boots, a rodeo clown and even a proposal in the crowd (she said yes). The lighting wasn’t working for my camera. My pictures are quite dark so I am only going to add a few of them. Click for a link to a YouTube video of a bull ride (not taken by me but we were only a few rows up from this vantage point).

Cowgirl making a turn while participating in barrel racing.

Cowgirl making a turn while participating in barrel racing.

There were men’s and women’s divisions. A few events even had a junior division. Events included bareback riding, steer wrestling, breakaway roping, tie down roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, roping and the main event: bull riding! I liked the steer wrestling. A steer would be let loose and a little later the cowboy would chase on his horse, jump off while grabbing the cow and wrestle it down. I looked it up and the animals are around 500 lbs.

A contestant returns to his horse after completing a tie down roping rodeo challenge.

A contestant returns to his horse after completing a tie down roping rodeo challenge.

Bull riding was my other favorite event. Nobody was seriously hurt on the night I was there but there were a few close calls. I think this will be a sport I will watch and not ever try. Some of the contestants were college students from around Montana.

The prize for the best bull rider

The prize for the best bull rider

I also wanted to share some of the bronco and bull names because they are a lot of fun. Some of my favorite bronco names are Joe Dirt, Triple Respect (there was also a Double Respect), Fun Hater, Lights Out, Slim Shady, Deal or No Deal and Beaver Milk. My favorite bull names were Fender Bender, Olaf and Nut Cracker.

 

A cowboy hanging on to the bull at the Northern Rodeo Association finals.

A cowboy hanging on to the bull at the Northern Rodeo Association finals.

I would definitely go to another rodeo. I would like to see one outside in the summer. That sounds like a nice evening out.

Krakow, WI – Poland in Northeast Wisconsin

In May 2014 I was traveling to De Pere (for my brothers college graduation) from Stevens Point. I took the long way and stopped in Krakow, WI. In 2011 I had studied abroad in Krakow, WI so I wanted to see how they compared. Here are some pictures of the Krakow without the castle. Much of the Polish past could be seen in the church and cemetery.

Welcome to Krakow, WI

Welcome to Krakow, WI

Old Schoolhouse in Krakow

Old Schoolhouse in Krakow

Church in Krakow, WI. The words say "Kosciol Sw. Kazimierza" Kosciol is church and Sw. is like St. as in Saint. So St. Casimir's Church

Church in Krakow, WI. The words say “Kosciol Sw. Kazimierza” Kosciol is church and Sw. is like St. as in Saint. So St. Casimir’s Church

Some headstones

Some headstones

Krakow Cemetery 2

Me at the Krakow sign

Me at the Krakow sign

 

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

[I visited in 2014 and these pictures are from that time.]

Forevertron

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron is a sculpture park between Sauk City and Baraboo. It is very cool and completely unexpected. They have a website here. The pictures do not do the place justice and there is so much to see. When I went there was even an active geocache which gave our exploring a focus.

Dr. Evermor Large Sculpture

Dr. Evermor Little Men

Dr. Evermor Sculptures

Hiking at Humbug Spires

In July I had the chance to hike at the Humbug Spires Recreation Area with my girlfriend. It was a beautiful day and the the 25 mile drive from Butte to the trail head was pleasant until we got to the washboard gravel roads. A Toyota Camry wasn’t designed for it but we survived, although the CD we were listening to did not. That’s Montana roads for you. There was also a fallen tree near the parking lot so we could only get so close, but I just thought of it as bonus hiking.

Butterfly at Humbug Spires

Butterfly at Humbug Spires

Trail at Humbug Spires near Butte

Trail at Humbug Spires near Butte

The trail was 3 miles one way to the foundations of a prospectors cabin. I am not sure how old this is as there was not a lot of signage. The area is popular with mountain climbers but we did not see any on the day we went. It was a Monday so that might have something to do with it. There were some small hills to overcome, but otherwise the trail was pretty easy. There are lots of rock formations. The area is part of the Boulder Batholith.

The Wedge formation at Humbug Spires

The Wedge formation at Humbug Spires

Cabin foundation at the end of the trail

Cabin foundation at the end of the trail

This was a nice hike and it was also close to Butte. I am certain I will be going there again. The above cabin foundation at the end of the trail was a great place to picnic and think about what living here back in the day would have been like. Get outside and find something new near you!

Evel Knievel Days 2016 – Butte, MT

Evel Knievel was born and raised in Butte, MT. Every year they hold an Evel Knievel Days festival featuring stuntmen, motocross, bmx shows, base jumpers and even a flying snowmobile (sorry I didn’t catch a picture of the last one).

Here is Geoff Aaron doing his trials bike show. He climbed over all of these obstacles for about 20 minutes without putting a foot down on the ground. Pretty impressive!

There were also base jumpers. We watched the lift go up and up and up over the Original Mine Yard. Not for the faint of heart!

The festivities included Evel Kross on a course made earlier in the week. Although it was only 5 laps most people, especially the amateurs, looked exhausted by the end of it. A few had trouble getting over the tires.

There was also a downhill mountain bike course and a pedal drift trike course. Continue reading

Go to Glacier National Park

My girlfriend and I spent 3 nights at Glacier National Park in early July. If you haven’t been you should really make plans to go. The park was gorgeous and we did some hiking on all days except the day we left. We ended up doing part of the Lake McDonald trail, the Logan Pass to Hidden Lake Overlook, Avalanche Creek trail, and the Highline from Logan Pass to the Loop via Granite Chalet and the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. Along the way we saw beautiful views, many animals (no bears though) and some nice plants.

Entry sign to the west side of Glacier

Entry sign to the west side of Glacier

Lake McDonald is a large, glacially formed lake on the west side of Glacier National Park. It has a few campgrounds around it’s perimeter. We took a short hike along the west side of the lake. A large forest fire swept through the park in 2003. You could tell on the hike where the forest fire ended.

Below are some pictures from Logan Pass to Hidden Lake Overlook. Continue reading