Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Tour

Yeah, that's right. Corn Tour. I take for granted what the Midwest looks like. In fact I get to be pretty darn sick of what the Midwest looks like. But there are folks out there that consider what I see every day to be a picturesque novelty. So in the interest of getting some more riding in before the end of Summer, I concocted a silly ride report of my day trip through Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. "Is there corn?" One might ask. Oh yeah, baby. We've got corn and plenty of pictures of corn. Enjoy! Today started as most days do for me. At home. But I didn't have to go far to see some corn. Just a quick ride to the West. From there I made a quick stop at Jubilee College State Park. I learned something while there. The purpose of all those purple things hanging along the roads in the trees. Apparently they are keeping track of certain insects this way. Then I was off, heading further to the West in search of more corn. This corn is fairly tall considering late start it got this year. (It rained a lot in the Midwest this Spring.) This farmer is shipping out the what is left of last year's crop to make room for this year's CORN! Why are there two wagons and a semi-truck there? Those wagons have augers to move grain out of themselves and into a truck quickly. The farmer is filling the wagons while the semi is gone to unload, then when the semi gets back the wagons are full and the truck can get loaded faster. Apparently the truck got back early that trip. Farmington is a town West of Peoria.
And this is a test plot. A whole bunch of side-by-side comparisons of various corn hybrids and soybean varieties. This corn isn't much taller. As I got closer to the Mississippi River valley, the flood damage to fields and buildings became more extreme. The following shots were taken on the Illinois side of the Mississippi near Burlington, Iowa. The first picture is of a corn field that is still flooded and probably has been since early Spring. Then I hopped the river into Iowa and visited Burlington for a while. The Iowans are ready to repel any Illinois invasion across the Mississippi. No one shot at me on my way across... Then I turned South towards Fort Madison, Iowa. Where they have constructed a fort! Those Iowans seem pretty serious about defending their Eastern border. I crossed back into Illinois and made my way North-East towards Galesburg, Illinois. It isn't uncommon to see an old building out in the country that has been painted by local high schoolers. Often these are near the boundary between one school district and another. Apparently this year a class decided on an Olympics theme. Having turned more or less East I was getting closer to home.   These collections of buildings are often part of a grain broker's business. We call them grain elevators and this is a place where farmers will deliver their grain during the harvest. A facility like this one is able to unload a lot of grain per hour, move it, dry it, and store it so that it can be sold to an end user at a later date. And then I was home.  Hope you enjoyed the corn!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cloverfield

This whole film is shot and made to feel like a single video tape that was found after the event and played back for you without editing.

The idea is that a group of friends are having a "going away" party for one character. A friend, Hud, gets handed a video camera to record the party and personal messages from the party guests for the dude who is leaving. Then the shit hits the fan. The guy with the camera just keeps rolling. And that is the film.

At no point do you see anything shot from any other perspective than that one video camera. And that camera work is designed to feel like a home video level of operator skill. It is shaky. There is running with the camera. Zooming in and out. Extreme close ups. And a number of other things that average people do with camcorders that we don't typically see in professional movies.

This is a visual roller coaster and the ride is almost as chaotic and terrifying for the audience as it was for the characters.  Which brings me to characters and acting. The acting is not typical in that nothing felt scripted or rehearsed. People say stupid, obvious, repetitive nonsense as we might expect real people to do in horrible circumstances. They aren't action heroes. They are very scared and normal folks trying to stay alive. Although you do feel for the characters, I think that has more to do with being drawn into their experience than it does with any of the characters being all that interesting or compelling. Like the camera work I think this was intentional.

I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, so I'm not going to comment much further. I will say that within the limitations of the camera work, the effects are awesome. At no point did I think, "Oh, that looks so fake." Nope, everything looks like video shot by some citizen who was actually there. Which was the point of the movie (I think) and if so then the filmmakers did a great job.

Last note. Watch through the credits. Once the music stops and the text has scrolled away, listen closely.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trip to the Ozarks


There is an online community of motorcyclists called Sport-Touring.Net that organizes a national gathering every year on a rotating schedule of locations. In mid-June of 2008 the event was going to be based in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Given that is fairly close to me and that I'd been hoping to ride in the Ozarks at some point, I decided to go.

This was my first ST.N meet outside of informal Region 4 gatherings. My original plan was to camp while down in Eureka Springs, but the weather forecast for Monday and Monday night changed my mind and I ended up at the Swiss Holiday place where most were staying.
Here is the weather radar map on Monday morning as I was preparing to leave home:

 
I decided to use Interstates 155 and 55 to get as far south as possible before heading west to Eureka Springs to avoid the storm front. It almost worked as I did get rained on in Branson, MO.
Getting ready to head out:
 



Stopped for breakfast south of Springfield, IL at a little diner / gas station.



Eventually ended up in St. Louis and got a picture at the Arch.

 

Somewhere near Festus, MO I had enough of the slab and started using state highways.

 

 In Bixby, MO I saw this quaint little general store / gas station.
   

There were lots of nice roads in that area, including MO 19.
 

Salem, MO was a nice town. I took a break there and enjoyed the Norman Rockwell essence of the town.
 

Then it was time to make haste west and south to Eureka Springs. The skies were getting dark and I put the camera away and put the rain gear on again. I had started the day with the rain gear on, but had packed it again back in Illinois. It was looking like I was going to NEED that stuff soon. And I did. The heavens opened as I approached Springfield, MO and let me have it though Branson, MO and points south. Eventually I got south of the rain again. I got this shot near the Arkansas and Missouri border.
 

And shortly after crossing the border into Arkansas, I was treated to this sunset.
 

I made time from there and got to the hotel. The day ended up being 612 miles. Day 2 for me was Tuesday and would be the night of the "official" dinner. I started the day off right by joining in on a group ride organized by a guy whose nickname was Sprocket. He really put together a fantastic route!
 

Most of the time I wasn't really sure what road we were on, except to say were were in and out of the Ozarks National Forest. That is very beautiful country.
 

We stopped for lunch at a nice place on Route 7. Here is Roger, who must be up to no good.
 

And me.
 

The view from the back porch of the restaurant.

 

More shady characters:
 

I split off from the group to head back to the hotel after lunch. Must rest now. Tired. Here is a very odd picture for the area. A straight road. They do exist.
 

After a rest, it was time for the National Meet dinner and shindig.
 

Dinner was most excellent. Thank you to all involved in putting that together!
 

Then Allen handled the drawings for FREE STUFF!
 

I won a gift certificate from Motorcycle Larry! Thanks, Larry. That was a very generous donation. And thanks to everyone else who made donations for the Meet.   Ah. The BMW GS of Grand Illumination! I think it gave Allen some sunburn.
 

Day 3 dawned and I joined another group ride.
 

We stopped for breakfast in Huntsville, Arkansas. I think.
 

And then rode around the Ozark National Forest area.
 

I also shot some video. This one is us heading more or less East in the Ozarks National Forest area.

http://youtu.be/EtBHVI9PLm8

Then we had lunch at the restaurant on Route 7. And the group split up. I ended up following Allen and Mike back towards Eureka Springs to visit Cycle Gadgets. I shot this video along the way in the Buffalo River area.

http://youtu.be/9tj_LJwJpb8

We made it there, safe and sound.
 

And then I did a little shopping in downtown Eureka Springs.
 

Then I enjoyed another evening of socializing. With a little go-cart racing thrown in for good measure. The following morning it was time to head home. Which I did via Interstates, except for a bit with Roger heading North out of Arkansas on some curvy roads. Otherwise it was a boring, hot day, racing home ahead of some rain.

 I made it back home around 4:30 PM. The trip total was 1583 miles with 25:32 hours in motion and a 62 MPH moving average. Thanks again to those who organized this and thanks to everyone there for welcoming this newbie!