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Customer Service

Typically when I post a blog I have a series of photographs to talk about, but today I am going to give the folks who do customer service for a living a pat on the back.

We hear so many times how terrible a customer service rep was or negative comments about companies. Sometimes, we, the customer, are as much to blame for the poor interaction on the other end of the phone. I know I’ve had those emotionally charged conversations with reps because the “thing-a-ma-jig” I bought broke after I used it once. There are companies out there who stand by the products they sell. I have three of those type of companies that I want to applaud for providing excellent customer service.

Being a photographer, I take great pride in the equipment I own; however, I, like many photographers pick up things off of eBay and buy from other folks who are up grading their equipment. When I buy from another photographer, I feel comfortable that they’ve cared for the equipment just as I would, especially if you are buying top of the line gear.

The first company I would like to applaud is Manfrotto (or Vitec Group Imaging Division). I love my Manfrotto tripod legs and the various heads I own (324RC2 and 468MGRC0, plus a couple of others). I purchased all of these items used and the 468MGRC0 did not have a user’s manual with it. I have had that head for a couple of years and had not used it because I primarily used that particular tripod for video and I had another tripod for my photography. As my equipment “matured” and became heavier, I figured it was time to start using the 468. For the most part it was very easy to use and to figure out, but I kept having difficulty with the tension and keeping it locked in place. I contacted Vitec/Manfrotto and asked them for assistance for the 468. I love using the on-line request forms so my customer service request was forwarded that way. Within a few hours I received a reply confirming they received my request and within 2 business days I had an electronic version of the user’s manual. I reviewed it and found out very quickly what I was doing wrong. To me this was a problem that was resolved quickly and efficiently. Again, if you are going to invest in equipment, go with quality.

The next company is Crumpler. Crumpler is one of those modern or “hip” companies. I was not familiar with them until I started searching for a computer bag and I became intrigued. Their style is very casual and they make a lot of messenger bag style cases. I then discovered their line of camera bags. They are very modern looking and don’t scream, “Hey, I’m a camera bag”! The names they give their bags are very humorus. I went with a Six Million Dollar Home that I purchased on eBay. It has plenty of pockets and room for what all I want to carry with me. I was tightening the clasp on it the other day and it broke. I was worried about calling for a replacement, since I had purchased it used, but when I called and told the lady what I needed she said, “No, problem, send us a picture of the clasp and we will mail one out to you, no charge”. That is a great way to stand by a product. No questions asked and fast turn around. I took a picture of it with my cell phone and emailed it and my contact information and they replied back right away saying they would send me the tracking information once it is in the mail.

The third company is Apple. I have had a couple of contacts with them during the last couple of months. The first contact was in January when my daughter’s iPhone 4S died…literally, died. I called and explained to them what troubleshooting steps I had already taken and then we attempted a full system reset that lasted for an hour. The lady on the phone, set-up a call back time and they were very prompt with calling back. The gentleman on the phone was courteous and very apologetic about the phone. He explained all of my options on replacement so I elected to mail the phone back to them for inspection and then go from there. I was supposed to remove the SIM card before mailing it back. However, the next morning I realized I had not removed the SIM card. I tried calling the automated line, but all I could get was the tracking information on the phone. I remembered, live chat. I got on my computer, which is a Mac by the way, and signed into the live chat. I reached a person (don’t know if they are young or old) named Jeremy. I explained to him my problem and he said he would see if they could intercept it as it came in and retrieve the SIM card. He asked me to hold a moment. He then came back on and apologized for taking so long and asked me to wait a while longer. I replied, “That’s ok I’ll just hum hold music while I wait”. In just a few moments he replied, “Great, as long as it is late ’90’s synthesized jazz.” I told him, “I love a customer service person with class and a sense of humor.” He fired back, “I’ll let you know if I find one!” I did get my SIM card back, too!

It does not take much to make a customer to feel human, even if it is a live chat or a comment system to request service. Recently, Apple has upgraded many of their software products including their operating system, Aperture (the photography editing software), Pages, Numbers, and Final Cut Pro X. I do a fair amount of video editing and have several videos I’ve put together over the last few years. I had just finished working on video and the new upgrades showed up on my system. I was at a stopping point so I decided to go ahead and upgrade everything. You never know what is going to happen when you upgrade. I had a client in and was going to show her what I had put together for her daughter’s audition video. I had already burned a copy, but for some reason I could not get it to play. I opened up Final Cut Pro and ALL of my projects were gone! I could find them on my hard drive, but I could not access them. All I could do was mutter, “Now, what?”

I contacted Apple, this time through their message board for Final Cut Pro and asked for their help to restore my files. I received an email within a couple of hours with links to their upgrade information FAQ’s. Since I had actually read through a few of them, I kind of knew what I was looking for. I found the topic that pertained to me and went in and followed the instructions and I was back up and running. I replied back to the email, his name was Noah, and I said, “Thanks! That worked! I am so glad I have a Mac”. Noah replied, “Right on- glad that helped.”

I think in this automated world that we’ve created we still desire to be treated as humans. Customer service does not have to be stressful to either party. I know occasionally, I try to have a sense of humor about things, just to break the tension of the moment. We all have the customer service horror stories, but we also need to embrace those positive moments when we feel we’ve made a connection on the human level.

Start Talking Initiative

Ohio Governor John Kasich and First Lady Karen W. Kasich have launched a program to help keep Ohio children safe from the tragedies that result from drugs. Start Talking is a part of a new drug abuse prevention initiative launched January 8 with a focus on ways we can all work to reduce the likelihood of youth drug use before it even starts.  Research shows that youth are up to 50% less likely to use drugs when parents and adults talk with them about substance use and abuse.

The Start Talking initiative hosted a kick off event at Wheelersburg High School in Wheelersburg, Ohio on January 30, 2013.  The Wheelersburg area has had it’s share of “pill mills”.  The larger issue in the area now is heroin addiction.  The goal of Start Talking is to educate and empower our children to talk to adults and to speak up about what they are seeing around them. The program is also designed provide tools to increase the communication between the parents and children. Wheelersburg Local Schools Superintendent Mark Knapp introduced the program and talked about how the school can be pivotal in educating our children on drug abuse and empowering the students to talk to the teachers and coaches if they are aware of a problem.

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Mark Knapp, Superintendent of Wheelersburg Local Schools

Wheelersburg Baseball Coach, Michael Estep, reinforced the need to open a dialogue with our children.  He says he uses his Saturday morning sessions before double headers to bring speakers in to talk with the baseball team about a variety of issues.  He feels coaches and teachers are in a good position to provide support and encourage kids to stay off drugs.  In a time when peer pressure is strong, sometimes, just knowing there is an adult, whether it is a teacher, coach, or parent the student can turn to makes all of the difference. 

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Coach Michael Estep presents at the Start Talking kick-off initiative.

Among the speakers today were parents who had lost children to drugs.  It is important to realize the majority of drugs are obtained through family and friends.  Think about what you have laying around the house.  When was your last surgery?  Do you still have those pain pills laying around?  Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and other parents could unknowingly contributing to drug abuse to our children.  Take the time to go through your medicine cabinet and clean out medications that could lead to addiction.  

The first speaker, Danielle Smoot, gave an emotional testimonial about how her son died after his first exposure to drugs.  He was seen in the hospital and then when he came home, they put him to bed.  When she went in to check on him he had died in his sleep.  She emphasized that any child could be exposed to drugs at any time.  

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Danielle Smoot emphasizes that “one time” can lead to a tragic end.

The next speaker was JoAnna Krohn.  Her son had a troubled time with drug addiction.  One night he was having a party and obtained a loaded gun and accidentally shot himself in the head.  After the death of her son, Ms. Krohn founded SOLACE (Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Everyday), an organization to provide to evidence based support and education to children and adolescents on substance and alcohol abuse. SOLACE also organizes support groups to help individuals who have lost a family member to drug abuse or individuals who have someone in their family suffering from drug abuse and addiction.

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Jo Anna Krohn speaks about the tragic loss of her son, Wesley, while he was under the influence of alcohol and opiates.

Mr. Paul Schoonover gave testimony about his son’s history with drug abuse. His son came to him and told him he had a problem and wanted help.  Mr. Schoonover said that his son completed a drug rehabilitation program and they mistakenly believed he was “cured”.  His son died of a heroin overdose the day after he had completed a drug rehabilitation program.   

 

 

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Mr. Schoonover talks about the loss of his son from a heroin overdose.

Representative Terry Johnson who has served the region as the county coroner and as a physician talked about the “heritage” of drug addiction.  Many of the children who fall into the cycle of drug addiction are from families who have had long standing histories of drug abuse…parents, grandparents and so on.  It is a difficult task to break that cycle; they live how they are taught. He said as the coroner he has seen things we would not believe.  Conditions children are raised in down to elder abuse and neglect. Rep. Johnson credits closing the “pill mills” as a first big step to eliminating the availability of drugs.

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Rep. Terry Johnson shares his experiences as county coroner and seeing first hand the effects of drug abuse in our region.

Portsmouth, Ohio Police Chief, Robert Ware talked about the efforts law enforcement is taking in providing support and education to the schools and to the community.  He also talked about the efforts law enforcement has taken in making arrests and stopping the trafficking coming into the area. Chief Ware, concluded the program with this final quote: “How would you feel if you didn’t take 5 minutes to talk to your kids?” 

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Portsmouth, Ohio, Police Chief Robert Ware discusses what the police department has been doing to fight the fight against drugs.

Drug usage in this region has been prevalent since I was in school.  You knew who used and who didn’t.  When I first realized there was a problem was when I was walking home from school one afternoon (remember this is the late 1970’s) and I saw a car pull over and one of the students who was a year ahead of me ran over to the car and she was handed a bag of different colored “objects”.  I was so ignorant about drugs at the time that what I saw did not register with me. It wasn’t until later on did I realized I had witnessed a “drug deal”. 

Just because we live in a small town does not mean we are immune to the problems of drug abuse and addiction.  It is very important to talk to our children early on and frequently. I started talking to my daughter about drugs when she was in first grade and I haven’t stopped. I always emphasize to her that just because her friends say something is “ok” does not mean it is.  I’ve always told her no matter what do not get into a car if someone is under the influence of anything or for her to drive herself if she is.  It is always ok to call me for a ride home. Never put yourself or others at risk.  I will not get mad; I will not ask questions.  What she has heard me say over and over is “Never, ever, drink anything, someone else has made, or drink out of a container you did not open yourself, or drink anything you didn’t make yourself.”  

Like Police Chief Ware said, “How would you feel if you didn’t spend 5 minutes talking to your children?”

For more information on the Start Talking Initiative click on:  http://www.starttalking.ohio.gov/About.aspx

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Junior Theatre Festival 2014 Sets a Positive Example

Thank you for making this such a successful post. I am going to reblog and keep it going! Thanks!

Pam DeCamp Photography

Unless you are involved in community theatre or work with children’s theatre programs (or theatre period) you’ve probably never heard of Music Theatre International (MTI) or the Junior Theatre Festival.  MTI was founded in 1952 by composer Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) and orchestrator Don Walker (Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof) and is the industry leader in theatrical licensing. In other words, this is who you contact if you want to do a musical that is in their library.  You pay a licensing fee to put on the performance.

The Junior Theatre Festival (JTF) started in 2003 and was created by Nick Manos, who dedicates his time to the planning and expansion of the annual festival, and Timothy Allen McDonald, CEO and founder of iTheatrics. Mr. Manos and Mr. McDonald were inspired by the enthusiasm and excitement of the kids who participate in musical theatre and felt there should be…

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Junior Theatre Festival 2014 Sets a Positive Example

Unless you are involved in community theatre or work with children’s theatre programs (or theatre period) you’ve probably never heard of Music Theatre International (MTI) or the Junior Theatre Festival.  MTI was founded in 1952 by composer Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) and orchestrator Don Walker (Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof) and is the industry leader in theatrical licensing. In other words, this is who you contact if you want to do a musical that is in their library.  You pay a licensing fee to put on the performance.

The Junior Theatre Festival (JTF) started in 2003 and was created by Nick Manos, who dedicates his time to the planning and expansion of the annual festival, and Timothy Allen McDonald, CEO and founder of iTheatrics. Mr. Manos and Mr. McDonald were inspired by the enthusiasm and excitement of the kids who participate in musical theatre and felt there should be an arena where the kids could showcase their talents and learn from each other.

The Junior Theatre Festival in 2003 was attended by approximately 650 kids.  In 2014 the participation at this event was over 4,000!  For the statisticians in the group, that is a 515% increase in an 11 year period!  As it is stated in Mr. Manos bio, “the excitement of those kids was palpable and infectious” at this event!

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This was the first time I had the pleasure of attending the JTF.  I attended as a photographer for one of our local writers, Joseph Pratt, who wanted to cover the event. One of the adjudicators asked me what I thought of it.  I replied, “In one word, energy!”  There was so much energy the entire weekend.  Not just with the kids, but the workers as well.  All involved with the JTF deserve a big round of applause for all they do.  I felt welcome by all and it was truly a “family” feel.

The CEO of MTI, Freddie Gershon and his wife Myrna were in attendance at all of the events.  They, too, were very cordial and welcomed all of the guests as if they were welcoming them into their own home.  The weekend is non-stop from performances by each of the groups participating in the festival to the finale of Broadway stars performing on stage.

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The entire weekend is a very positive and uplifting experience.  Every review the adjudicators gave came across positive and encouraging.  Author, Tim Federle (Five, Six, Seven, Nate!), was one of the adjudicators.  He would go through a routine with the performers and show them how to make it better.  I do not believe I heard any negative comments from the adjudicators.  They were there to educate and show the kids how to improve.  It was very inspiring to see and hear the encouragement the kids received.

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During the adjudication process, kids were selected to receive a “golden ticket” which granted them the privilege to audition for the JTF video.  This is a BIG DEAL for the kids.  Out of the 4,000 who attended only 300 received the precious “golden ticket”.  I had the privilege to sit in and photograph the “closed” audition.  It was an awesome experience to see and hear 300 talented kids from 26 states sing in harmony and dance to an impromptu choreographed piece to put their skills to the test.

The group gathered into a room where they were each given a number; then they were split up.  Half went with the choreographers, Steven G. Kennedy, Kelby McIntyre-Martinez, and previous video participant Ben Sears (there was no one in the group who did not know who he was!) and the other half stayed and learned the musical number, “Good Morning” from “Singin’ in the Rain”.

Kennedy kept emphasizing to the kids, “You need to stay focused.  On Broadway you are given 15 mins to learn a routine. The key is focus.”

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The poise and professionalism that each of the staff members showed was phenomenal. I cannot recall the last time I was at a conference or convention where the energy and excitement carried through the entire event and even during the “social” time.  The lounge area was buzzing with energy during the after hours time.  The staff and adjudicators were approachable and took the time to engage in conversation and answer questions. Often times they would address me by name (I did not have on a name tag), which is impressive considering the number of people they encountered during the weekend.

The New Works Showcase is an opportunity for theatrical groups to put on a live performance of one of the Junior Theatre shows.  This year’s showcase was presented by Disney Musicals.  To demonstrate the diversity of these groups, you had elementary, middle schools, and community theatre groups showcasing hits like, Legally Blonde, The Musical, Jr., Shrek, The Musical, Jr., Magic Tree House Collection: The Knight at Dawn Kids, 101 Dalmatians Kids, and Mary Poppins.  Each of these groups did an outstanding job!

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The weekend finale was Disney Theatrical Productions, Broadway and Beyond: An Evening With the Stars of Broadway. The show included hit songs from the Disney musicals, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, AIDA, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.  The performance also introduced the audience to other songs from the productions of NewsiesPeter and the StarcatcherKing David, and Aladdin (which opens on Broadway in March).  The stars of the show were Heidi Blickenstaff (Ursula, of The Little Mermaid); Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins); Merle Dandridge (Aida); Josh Strickland (Tarzan); and Alton Fitzgerald White (Mufasa of The Lion King). Again, the energy in their performances was strong.  They carried the emotion through each verse from humor to sadness.  The expressions in their faces and their body language enhanced performance of each song.

The highlight of the show was when Strickland came into the audience singing “She’s In Love” from The Little Mermaid.  You could hear a collective sigh from the audience and all of the kids came rushing to the front of the stage to get close to him.  He sang to one of the girls in our group from Portsmouth, Ohio. Ironically, it was the same song she sang in the performance the Portsmouth group did for the adjudication process.  How cool is that?

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All in all the weekend is a great learning experience for these young actors and actresses.  For me the take away was maintaining a positive attitude and encourage, not discourage these young performers.  The JTF is a positive way for kids to express themselves and to receive inspiration from the pros.  What a great opportunity this is!

Here are a couple more pictures from the Broadway and Beyond performances:

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Alton Fitzgerald White and Merle Dandridge

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Ashley Brown

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Heidi Blickenstaff

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Dream Sequence : What Happens to a Dream (When You Wake Up)

Dream Sequence : What Happens to a Dream (When You Wake Up)

As you sleep your subconscious becomes active whether it is a trigger from a stress we are experiencing at the time or an experience that is being played out in a distorted way. There comes that moment, whether a noise, or an aversion to what we are experiencing in the dream causes us to wake-up. Where do those dreams go? Do they disintegrate like flakes of snow hitting the warm pavement? Do they blow into the wind? Or do they simply become a vortex and get pulled into the air like a vapor? The portal fades and closes. Many times if the the dream was pleasant we will ourselves to have it continue, but if it was unpleasant we try to tell ourselves to have a pleasant dream as we drift back off and the cycle starts again.

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Dream Sequence: Dream Maker’s Warehouse

Dream Sequence: Dream Maker's Warehouse

You pass through the portal and enter into a large room filled with people. Some you know some you do not know. There are objects, and animals. It is a very busy place. The Dream Maker carefully selects your dream or is being in this room your dream, or does it belong to someone else? You hear a typewriter keeping rhythm with the room swaying back and forth. The room starts to move and fold upon itself. A girl who sits in a chair, does not appear to be aware of the room slipping into itself behind her. A man grabs a young, beautiful woman from behind as if to strangle her, but is this just your imagination playing tricks on you? A cat playfully climbs a column and a horse rides in through a window. Look carefully, the portrait in the background seems to be alive and it is all being captured photographically through a window.

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Dream Sequence : The Portal to Dreams

Dream Sequence : The Portal to Dreams

Try to imagine going to sleep at night and being able to enter the world of dreams. You rise up out of bed, only it is your spirit not your physical being; your subconscious drifts and works its way through the dark hall way into the world of a dream. The guarded door opens and the Dream Maker welcomes you to the world. You see stallions galloping over your head. Butterflies greet you. Flowers become living, flowing creatures waving and paving your way into to this magical world. You see your reflections around you. The portal is only the beginning.

The Adventure: Days 7 – 10 (I Think!)

Time flies when you are on vacation time!  We’ve seen much and have put 2800+ miles under our butts!  I think this will go down as a “scouting” trip as there are places I passed that I really need to go back to…yes, need to!

I made it to Douglas Wyoming by gosh!  I will have to say going through Wyoming is akin to going through Kansas.  Mile after mile of field and rock.  We have yet to see a buffalo!  But we continue to say that the buffalo are disguised as cows, rocks and even the occasional tree…at one point I could have swore one was hiding out in an oil well costume!  We’ve had to try to be creative, can’t you tell!  It was a long drive across Wyoming.  We finally made it to Colorado Springs, I believe, on Saturday.

My uncle Max has been a long time Colorado resident.  He lived in Aurora for many years, in an apartment without modern conveniences like a phone.  He always used the pay phone down the hall to make calls.  When he retired he purchased his girlfriend’s brother’s property in Deer Trail, Colorado…he had to have utilities and when he went to connect his phone he was asked when he had a phone last…in the 1950’s when he lived in Illinois!  Fast forward to the present…my uncle Max is 95 years old and his girlfriend Lela is 98.  They live in  assisted living apartments down the hall from one and other.  I was able to spend time with uncle Max.  He is still sharp as a tack mentally and so is Lela.

This is my favorite photo of uncle Max.  He is smiling; I've never photographed him smiling!

This is my favorite photo of uncle Max. He is smiling; I’ve never photographed him smiling!

While in Colorado Springs, my daughter and I went up to the Garden of the Gods and did a few senior photos. I did not feel well that day.  Between the heat and the altitude I think they got the better of me. I always like going to the Garden of the Gods.  I would like to visit it in late spring or fall when it is not so hot out.

Libby laying on top of a rock at Garden of the Gods

Libby laying on top of a rock at Garden of the Gods

Monday was a travel day.  I decided to go half way to Flagstaff Arizona, stopping in Cortez Colorado.  We stopped in Alamosa County in Colorado and payed a visit to the Sand Dunes National Park.  I am so glad I purchased a park pass…it has more than paid for itself!

Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa County Colorado

Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa County Colorado

This was the first mountainous area I traveled through pulling the camper.  Traveling Rt 160 while very picturesque, I was not prepared for the 8000 feet in altitude and the ascent and descent that lasted 8 – 10 miles each way!  What goes up must come down you know! I had to watch my temperature gauge as it crept up.  I found if I lifted my foot off the gas it helped a great deal.  It also made me nervous at times when the engine revved to over 5000 RPMs.  I would back off again and still it did fine.  I made it through the mountains…very carefully!  I took it easy on my brakes too!  My car has a “gear down” feature and all you do is push a button and it saves a great deal of braking!  My one friend says I have a “jake brake” on my car. Whatever it is, it works very well!

We traveled on into Flagstaff today, stopping, of course at the Four Corners Monument.

I'm standing in four states at one time! :)

I’m standing in four states at one time! 🙂

On our way to Flagstaff I saw a few interesting rock formations.

Along Rt 160 in Arizona

Along Rt 160 in Arizona

Another formation along Rt 160

Another formation along Rt 160

For supper tonight I decided to use Yelp* to help me pick a place for dinner tonight.  I chose the Crown Railroad Cafe.  After circling the block a couple of times I figured I’d give it a try.  The outside pretty plain except you see the nifty neon Restaurant sign on top of the building.  The restaurant is attached to a Howard Johnson that is being remodeled and there are dumpsters in the parking lot.  I figured what the heck!  Yelp* gave it 4 1/2 stars.  The place was very clean on the inside.  Reminded me of Mel’s Diner on Alice.  It had a model train circling the dinning room along the ceiling.  The waitress recommended the burgers and what a treat!  Loved it!  I can hardly wait to try other local flavors while traveling the area and on the way home via Route 66!

If I was Guy Fieri I'd visit this place.  A real Diner, Drive-in and Dive!  Great Burgers!

If I was Guy Fieri I’d visit this place. A real Diner, Drive-in and Dive! Great Burgers!

Tomorrow is the Grand Canyon.  I think I will travel there in the evening to catch the sunset.  Such pretty colors I saw tonight!

 

 

 

 

The Adventure: South Dakota; Days 4 – 6

It’s been a few days since I’ve written about my trip. I’ve taken a lot of pictures and spend most of my evenings editing and trying to hold my eyes open! By the time I finish going through my photos, I’m ready for bed. My dogs have done very well during the trip and today the saw Mt. Rushmore with us!

During the couple of days at my cousin Bruce’s house we went into Yankton South Dakota and explored a re-creation of the town’s buildings and a nice little museum. I started senior pictures for my daughter and we did a couple at the old railroad area…a memorial to my dad who was a railroader.

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Libby and I tried Taco John’s — not a bad little fast food place. We were served in Wendy’s cups so I assume there must be a relationship with them. We went to the riverfront to see the Missouri River. It was so windy. After we got back to the house, Bruce decided to take us for a ride on his Harley. I, personally, am not a motorcycle person. I decided to take the ride and I had a nice time. I just worry about the other people. There is such a disregard at times for motorcycle riders. I had seen a fatal crash as I left for my trip last Friday. I saw the guy laying on the ground…that is all I’ll say.

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During our ride we crossed over into Nebraska over the Missouri River. Bruce told me that all the sand came in with a massive flood that hit the area a few years ago.

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We then took an evening drive into the country where we were educated in how to spot wild asparagus from the car and how to avoid badgers. We did see a badger and we did gather wild asparagus. No drive in the country is complete without the random deer running across the road in front of you! I spotted it and screamed, then Ruth screamed…we missed it. I took a few photos of trees and old barns. I’ll have to work on them more before posting, but here are a couple I like.

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I really like how the tree and the road turned out. This is a typical South Dakota view. Land and more land!

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This was an abandoned farm. We walked around and took a few shots of the buildings. As we rounded the one corner, we heard something very large move around in the barn. I did not wish to hang around to see what it was!

We left Tuesday morning on our journey to the Badlands. We arrived there around 7:30 pm mountain time! All I can say is WOW! I was not prepared for what I saw. We stayed at the Badlands KOA. They have a dog park there and the dogs really enjoyed running around in it. We did make a stop at the Corn Palace on our way to the Badlands. We have seen mountain goats, prairie dogs, coyote, and antelope. We keep looking for Bison, but all we have seen are cows…or are they bison in disguise?

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This mountain goat was grazing along the side of the road. I was photographing a herd on the side of the mountain and I heard a couple next to me say, “Oh, my!” The told me to turn around and look…it was a couple of feet from them and they were not aware of it even standing there. Libby and I kept our distance but managed to capture several nice shots of it while it grazed.

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The prairie dogs were very noisy and skittish!

The mountains here in the Badlands are interesting. I enjoy just driving around and marveling at how they are unique and just so special. The millions of years of erosion to create the spectacular view. I wanted to create a special sunset view with the colors reflecting off of the rocks.

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We made the trip up to Wall and saw Wall Drug. We had a buffalo burger…it was a tad on the dry side. It was good, but I’d like to try one again that maybe was prepared differently.

Finally, today we went to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Very awe inspiring.

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The Crazy Horse monument has been under construction for over 50 years. It is a massive structure. I will never see it in my lifetime, but I am glad to see the current progress.

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Below is what it will look like.

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Tomorrow we are off to Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’m not sure that we will make it that far, but I am shooting for Cheyenne Wyoming and then see how I feel. I wish I’d pulled out of here today and parked in Rapid City. It would have put us about an hour and a half into our destination. My daughter is enjoying seeing the sites.

One more parting shot before I close…

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Picture yourself here!

The Adventure: Day 3

Today is the 3rd day of my trip out west. I have logged over 900 miles in that time period. I attempted to post my blog last night at the KOA in Newton Iowa, but the WiFi was spotty at best and I kept losing connection to the server. There was not much excitement to report anyway, other than I had heard from my cousin Bruce in South Dakota and he asked me to come visit him. His sister (my cousin) Ruth is also visiting so it will be a mini family reunion!

I left the KOA in Newton at about 10:30 in the morning thinking it would only take 4 – 5 hours to reach Bruce’s. I was hit about 1:30 with a case of the sleepys and had to pull off and rest a few! Then I started to think about all of the things I saw on the way…Bob Feller was born in Van Meter Iowa and there is a museum there. There are other notables we encountered, but Bob Feller stands out to me at the moment.

Remember the “See Ruby Falls” and “See Rock City” signs that dot the landscape down through the Smokies. Well, I kept seeing the “Dutch Windmill at exit 65” sign and had to do it!

ImageMy daughter standing in front of “her size” windmillImageThe “Dutch Windmill”

This was a cute diversion…Wish it had been out in a field somewhere instead of in the middle of Elk Horn, Iowa. It was a nice way to kill a little time and add a distraction to our day.

We also stopped at one of those scenic overlooks. It had a tower you could climb to look out over the vast country. I love the sky here…it is so “big”!

ImageThere are several turbine wind farms scattered across the country side. I do like seeing those; such a nice clean form of energy!

ImageOne final shot…This is from yesterday when we entered Iowa at Davenport. I had taken this on my phone but the one on my camera can give you a great perspective of how beautiful the sky and the land is out here.

ImageThats all for now; I’m going to hang out with family for a couple of days and see the sites around here. Stay tuned!