Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wyoming, From Two Miles High

2 Mile High Cathedral

Yesterday, Lisa and made a special trip, a very special trip—two miles above sea-level and we didn't make the trip in a plane, we did it in our car, by way of State Highway 130 through the Snowy Range (Medicine Bow Mountains) west of Laramie, Wyoming.

This stretch of highway that runs to upwards of 10547 feet above sea-level, is closed that majority of the year due to excessive snow and an inability to remove it from the highway.

Many Roads Lead to Heaven

However each year at the end of May and beginning of June, this very special road is opened for public use. This stretch of highway 130 runs about 30 miles from the small town of Centennial to Saratoga Hot Springs (not Saratoga, New York). Although Lisa and I did not swim in the hotsprings, we were told that during winter, when it snows, the hot springs create a "bubble-effect" which turns the falling snow into a mist-like precipitation; it is very surreal.

Population 100 in Centennial, WY

On this road there is no need for speed enforcement, as the speed limit signs are accurately posted, and should be greatly respected. One wrong turn and you could end up in some very serious trouble. Furthermore, Moose and Elk, which make their home up here, if struck, will often result in serious injury [to you]; and even though we had a radar detector mounted on our windshield, it remained silent the entire trip.

Vanilla Sky

Summer in late June up here is essentially early Spring, as the snow finally begins to melt, in a big way.

Vehicles work harder at this altitude and power drops off as the air is quite thin. For the brave and adventuresome willing to trek to this altitude, it is very advisable to bring plenty of water and warm clothing as there is no cell coverage in case of an unexpected emergency and temperatures are often onforgivingly bitter. Our timing was very fortuitous, as the temperatures hovered around the low 50s.

At any rate, mere words can not express the awesomeness of this part of Wyoming, so we'll let our pictures do the talking. Lisa and I think you'll believe, as we do, that this is simply one of the most sacred and serene places on earth:


Lord Painter

My Serenity

Lisa and Bob, Mrs. and Mr. Speed Trap Hunter

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hunted: Custer,SD to Cheyenne, WY

Bloggin' at the Triangle Ranch the morning of our departure to Cheyenne

After saying our goodbyes to our new friends at the Triangle Ranch, we made our way southwest towards our next bed & breakfast—located outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming and overlooking the Curt Gowdy State Park— the Windy Hills Bed & Breakfast.

Our journey today took us back through the Badlands, Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, and ultimately through Custer State Park, Black Hills, South Dakota. The route we chose consisted mostly of secondary two-lane state and county highways, as we wanted to experience the sheer beauty of South Dakota, away from the Interstates and the heavier traffic that exists on them.

To be on the safe side, we made sure we had a full tank of gas and drinking water for the remote part of the state that we were going to be driving through.

On the way to the park, we came across a herd of cattle

Lisa and I found the park to be one of the most beautiful wildlife locations that we have seen in a good while, which have wild Buffalo as residents, among a host of other wildlife native to the North West.

Lisa and I got treated to a pretty intense thunder-hail storm that pelted us with malt-ball size hail.

We were hoping to experience some Buffalo, but the only thing we had seen were signs warning visitors not to approach them, since they can be 'very dangerous,' a warning sign that one should take very seriously.

You Got Brass

Having managed to not get killed by these gentle giants (who once roamed the west in awesome numbers), we decided to continue on our way to Cheyenne as the sun was setting and we had many more miles to go, yet. Our Magellan GPS navigator informed us that our expected travel time from Custer to Cheyenne was a five hours and five minutes, which would have put us into Cheyenne at around 0135, the following morning.

With the help of our Escort Passport 9500i, we managed to reach the city limits at 2340, ahead of schedule by nearly two hours!

Once again, I was a little concerned that our travel would take through the evening and the darkness that could make very vulnerable to a sudden police radar or laser speed trap. I didn't want to make the same mistake that I had just done in New Jersey, so I made a concerted effort to stay absolutely alert and cognizant of my surroundings.

That was a good thing too, as I stumbled upon trooper running instant-on 35.5 Ka off on the shoulder. At the time I spotted the officer's reflectorized striping on his rear-bumber, I was traveling in excess of 120. I got the vehicle down quickly and soon after we were pelted with a strong instant-on blast of 35.5 Ka.

Later we made it onto Interstate 25 south towards Cheyenne and again were treated to another instant-on blast, this time of K-band radar, from an patrol vehicle traveling in the opposite northbound lane. In this instance, the Passport 9500i, alerted to his presence prior to me coming into his range when he could get a speed reading on me, and again we were traveling in the triple digits.

So there you have it, the Escort Passport 9500i certainly saved our hide more than once over the last several days of traveling in the Northwest. I am still not entirely pleased with its signal ramp in certain circumstances, however, it is an excellent radar detector and one that I recommend, having put some serious miles on it (and at times) at "eye-popping" speeds.

I wouldn't necessarily drive or encourage anyone to drive well in excess of posted limits, particularly around populated and/or heavily traveled roadways, however, in this part of the country, the roads are often very sparcely traveled and the views unobstructed for miles.

In my opinion, Montana, had it right when they used to allow travel at these high speeds: "Safe and Prudent." I wish other sparcely populated/traveled states would (re)consider the same. When the nearest population center is a hundred or more miles away, getting there and back at a mere 55mph, 65mph, or even 75mph can take a good bit of time and I believe, "speed" done prudently, in and of itself, is not inherently unsafe.

In the meantime, in this "politically correct" society, at least it's comforting to know that there are devices, like the Escort Passport 9500i, which can serve to protect you if and when you are fortunate to find the open-road.

Here are some videos from our day's journey:

There's nothing like bringing a herd.

South Dakota State Trooper Running Moving Instant-on Ka

Bob, The Speed Trap Hunter

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hunted: South Dakota, Peace in The Badlands


Yesterday afternoon, Lisa I and left our host and hostess at the Triangle Ranch, Bed & Breakfast to visit the Badlands National Park.

As we were leaving the Triangle Ranch and seeing our actual surroundings, Lisa and I both agreed that we went from seclusion (at Devil's Tower, WY) to isolation around Badlands, South Dakota...and what an experience it was—the wonderful fellowship we shared with both Lyndy and Kenny, is something Lisa and I won't soon forget.

The Triangle Ranch has been in Lyndy's family for five generations (more than 104 years), so there's are tremendous amount of history and strong sense of connectedness, despite of the remoteness; Triangle Ranch is a place to visit, to lose yourself, to find yourself.

We were able to use our annual National Park pass to gain access to the Badlands without additional expense. If you plan on visiting several National Parks with any given 12 month period, the annual pass (which currently runs $80USD) is the way to go.

Today, Lisa and I must begin our trek back to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a several day business trip, before making our way on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, and ultimately Montana.

We will shortly begin our today's journey by way of Rapid City, Black Hills, Hot Springs, and Custer, South Dakota. We'll continue to use our new Escort Passport 9500i Blue to protect us in our travels from the unforseen nasties that may lurk about.

Here are some real-world driver experience videos from this portion of our road trip:

35.5ghz Ka Approaching Opposite Lane as we Approach Mt. Rushmore, SD

Lisa and Bob, Mrs. and Mr. Speed Trap Hunter

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hunted: Hail South Dakota, Land of Infinite Variety

We tearfully parted as friends from Juliana and Frank of the Devil's Tower Lodge and made our way towards Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

While driving on I-90 East we certainly felt like we were experiencing the best that South Dakota has to offer, as the interstate was much more heavily traveled with tourists coming to and going from the famous cliffs carved by Gutzon Borglum (who, incidentally, started the stone carvings of Stone Mountain, outside of Atlanta, Georgia).

Given the heavier traffic, our average velocity had to be lower in this part of this great state. In fact my wife, had commented (having been acclimated to our Wyoming drive) how slow 85-90mph felt.

Greeted by SpunkyRachel for Lunch Break, at Sonic north of Mt. Rushmore

It was just as well, because we did manage to run into a number of traffic patrol who operate instant-on and steady Ka, while cruising on the highway.

This morning we selected as our driving tool, a retail version of the Escort Passport 9500i, blue.
As many of you already know, we reviewed some early pre-production and post-production Passport 9500i's some time ago, and I was interested in seeing how this fascinating GPS-enabled radar detector has evolved over its relatively short life, and we were'nt disappointed.

While we did observe that the 9500i still, in my opinion, needs some work on its audio and visual signal ramp, the Escort Passport 9500i blue, did demonstrate that is a very capable radar detector (particular in response to Ka police radar).

Two times this afternoon while on interstate I-90 our dependable Passport 9500i, did provide more than enough advanced warning to approaching cruisers operating Ka from the opposite side of the highway, looking for speeders cruising in the fast lane (which of course, we oftentimes were).

Although I did not use another radar detector as a direct comparison, I have become intimately familiar with the alerting nature of just about every radar detector that is currently being sold when pitted against all forms of radar (and lidar), in whatever mode: instant-on or steady in a stationary or moving position.

Our first encounter, the Passport 9500i provided us at least 20 seconds (at very 'high' speeds) of advanced warning prior to be able to visually identify an approaching cruising from the East, well out of his capture range, a very impressive showing, indeed.

The second and even more dramatic performance showing happened later in the evening, at about 2040. We had missed our exit to the Triangle Ranch, Bed & Breakfast, and I had to make a u-turn to head back towards the correct exit.

We were traveling about 120-125mph, when the Escort Passport 9500i, alerted with a strong blast of what-appeared to be instant-on Ka. Of course, I had immediately brought things down quickly and my initial belief that we were shot from the rear by a vehicle that we had just passed, given the strength level. Continuing West on the highway, I ultimately noticed a marked white state trooper cruising in the left lane of the opposite side of the road.

He passed behind us, and I decided, to just play it on the safe side and kick things up a notch (or two). We quickly made it back to our intended exit and we got off the interstate and stopped in a fueling station to fill-up with petrol.

Resuming travel toward our evening lodging, we paralleled the interstate, that we had just been on. The Passport 9500i alerted in a full blast of instant-on K-band as we observed yet another trooper vehicle heading up the interest we just got off.

I think we were very fortunate, and I have to only the Escort Passport 9500i to thank, as it most certainly paid for itself a couple of times today. What I believed happened was the officer has been observing our rate of closure relative to the one the vehicle that was on our side of the highway and turned on his radar early (perhaps a little too early) to wait for his radar equipment to ultimately capture our speed when within his range. Had I not had the 9500i operating in my vehicle, I would have most certainly been greeted with a very nice and healthy ticket (to say the least).

Here are some video highlights from the day:

Escort Passport 9500i Alerts in Plenty to an Approaching Steady 35.5ghz Ka Speed Sign

Instead, the Passport 9500i, allowed my continued safe passage without futher incident.

The Triangle Ranch, Bed & Breakfast is located a good number of miles north of the interstate through open-range cattle grazing. In all of my travel this trip, I was the most respectful of the requested approach speed, which was 20-30mph. Reason being, cattle are often found on the road.

Lisa took this picture, as it was one of the only times she has seen the Passport 9500i's
speed display with a reading like this (without another '1' in front of it).

In fact, we came to one spot and had a Crocodile Dundee moment, when a large cow came sashaying out into the middle of the road, intentionally block our passageway and forcing me to get of the vehicle to pay my respects, which I happily did. Having a cowboy hat on really does help in these circumstances, as bulls are accustomed to ranchers wearing cowboy hats and treat those who do with their own sense of respect and acknowledgment of authority.

He's the boss, here.
Having our big-guy mosey his way on to join the rest heard, we continued on our journey to join our lovely host and hostess: Kenny and Lyndy of the Triangle Ranch.

Lisa and I spent the rest of this evening engaged in very meaningful and thoughtful discussions with our new friends. I believe farmers and ranchers are some of the most in-tune, thoughtful, and balanced thinkers (and Kenny and Lyndy are, certainly, no exception) and our evening conversations were enlightening.

Since Lisa and I have been burning the candle on both ends, we decided to bunk-down "early," and turn-in before 0130 and to try to catch-up on some much needed sleep.

We had missed our scheduled horse ride in the Badlands (which as we later found out was scheduled to take place in North Dakota), yesterday, but we are expecting to do so, at least one time, while we are here.

Bob, the Speed Trap Hunter

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hunted: Wyoming, Land of No Boundries, Spirit of Adventure

Devil's Tower, Wyoming: 20 Jun 08, Taken with a Nikon D3, Nikkor 105/F2.8VR Macro

Lisa and I arrived in Denver, Colorado 40 minutes early as the jet stream dodged southward and the 100+ headwinds that are otherwise typical, were no where to be found.

The Infiniti M35x was our vehicle of choice, as Lisa and I are going to be putting on a lot of miles throughout Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana these next two weeks.

Heading, north of Denver on I-25 we were greeted by 75mph speed zones; I wish we had these kinds of speed limits in the rural highways of the North East as they really are wonderful.

We proceeded through Cheyenne and came by, Casper, one of the few towns which experiences road closures due to wind.

Our planned destination this day was Devil's Tower, Wyoming and the Devil's Tower Lodge, which is located on the grounds of the park.

Mapquest estimated that our 409 mile journey this day would take us 6 hours and 24 minutes, or so. We managed to make the trek in just under 4 and half hours.

Wyoming is GOD's country, with some of the best and sparcely traveled routes, no doubt. Our speedometer didn't go below triple digits for nearly 3-and-a-half hours straight. This is driving nirvana. Having just spent some time driving with Steve in Ohio and facing continuous heavy-handed traffic "enforcement," Wyoming is definitely a slice of Heaven on Earth.

In Wyoming, like other sparcely populated western states, the density of traffic patrol to square miles is extremely favorable and the straight unobstructed vistas that are presented, should be experienced by every performance-minded driver, at least, once in his or her lifetime.

Yes, yesterday was a good day, a great day, in fact.

While I thought I was going to be speed trap hunting with a Whistler XTR series radar detector, I instead found that I was making a pilgrimage to the Sacred volcanic extrusion, known as Devil's Tower. Yesterday's drive was, indeed, a spiritually transgressive experience for both Lisa and myself.

Wyoming had been in an extended drought for seven years, but they have been experiencing a high level of rain this season. As we arrived at Devil's Tower, there was a thunderstorm.

Devil's Tower: Taken with Nikon D3, Nikkor 200-400/F4VR

This morning we awoke at 0420, to catch a glimpse of the national monument at first light (as you can see, we don't sleep much).

Communing with our Creator

1st Light Strikes East Face: Take with Nikon D3, Nikkor 105/F2.8VR

When we arrived, yesterday, at the Devil's Tower Lodge we were treated to two wonderful human beings, Juliana and Frank, who operate this secluded Bed & Breakfast. Juliana is a substitute teacher and Frank who is a tremendously talented individual, was once a civil engineer (in another life), carpenter, a gifted pianist (to name just a few of his many eclectic talents), who currently spends much of his days free-soloing (climbing without ropes) the different faces of the 4000' tall extrusion as well as providing expert climbing instruction on doing the same.

Kristin, our hostess, is an avid painter, and a bed & breakfast inn-keeper, in-training, with Frank and Juliana.

A blessed spirit, Frank founded Project 365, whose mission is to help Lakota Sioux Native Americans (Porcupine Clinic) in receiving quality healthcare and related materials and supplies, among other life enhancing counseling services.

Juliana has founded two charitable organizations, Elementary Docents, Inc to help fulfill the fine-arts component of curriculum of the California public school systems and well as Devil's Tower Sacred to Many People, Inc. to be a vehicle for collecting and responsibly distributing much need funds to the Porcupine Health Clinic, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the middle of the Badlands, South Dakota—a place where Lisa and I will be traveling later this very day.

Frank and Juliana would appreciate any donations to help with their worthy causes, causes which are greater than each of us, and make direct positive impact on a large number of people of the Native American population, forever enduring, in this part of our great nation:

Devil's Tower Sacred To Many People

Sunrise at Devil's Tower: Taken with Nikon D3, Nikkor 12-24/2.8

If you ever are fortunate to make you way out to this part of the country, be sure to lodge at their special B&B and tell them you first heard about them with Cowboy Bob.

Bob, the Speed Trap Hunter