Bass Pro – the Disneyland of outdoor sporting stores

Anyone not familiar with America is likely to also be not familiar with Bass Pro Shops – an store that sells outdoor sporting goods.

Well, the term store is not the right word – mind blowing wonderland is more appropriate.

And the term sporting goods is the right word either – massive collection of boats and four-wheel-drive-vehicles and tents and guns and more guns and even more guns is more appropriate.

Here is what some of it looks like from the outside (the huge collection of over 20 boats are behind me and not visible in this photograph):

Inside the store, this snap does not even show 20% of what there is:

There is not only an archery section, but also an indoor archery range where you can freely try out any of the gear:

Sadly, this Bass Shop lacks the usual indoor gun range, as well as the private room that have historical antique guns costing tens of thousands of dollars – and usually, my favorites, big bore elephant guns used if you want to shoot real elephants!

But this one still has plenty of guns on display – and many, many more locked in a safe (tip for experts: if you are looking for a particular make and model of gun, always better to ask. Could be they will have it, but not on display at the moment!):

What’s really terrific is that the people working in the gun area are usually older, retired gentlemen, and even if you are not a serious buyer, they are happy to let you handle any guns of your choice – and they’ll spend hours with you, just chatting about firearms:

This Bass Pro shop also lacked an indoor hunting area where – and I am not kidding – you can hunt wild stuffed animals using a laser equipped rifle. Sorry, no laser hunting here, but I’d say well over 200 stuffed animals all over the store:

Now, I’ve never see a Bass Pro shop where you can actually fish – but there are plenty of fish and in fact an entire indoor waterfall:

So, if you are planning a trip to the United States, I highly recommend you see if there are any Bass Pro shops near to where you are going to go!

World’s most stupidest train

Sometimes, I see things that are dumb.

Occasionally, I see things that are really, really dumb.

But every once in a very rare while, I see something that is so incredibly, mind-bogglingly stupid that I really makes me question how something so ludicrous could even be thought of by mankind, much less implemented!

And here is one of those things, a little train that runs back and forth in Terminal A of the Detroit International Airport.

Here is what it looks like from the outside:

And, not being able to resist trying out something so incredibly stupid, here is what it looks like from the inside:

Now here comes what the famous magicians Penn and Teller call The Reveal, when I tell you why this is so stupid.

Many large airports have little automated trains – actually, one of the first was probably the train at the Dallas Fort-Worth airport, which I remember from back when I was a little kid.  Airports are huge but with well defined stopping places, so a train is an ideal way to get around.

But in this case, the train only plies Terminal A, from Gate 1 to Gate 70.  That is not a big distance to walk – with the rolling  floors, I think I required no more than about 7 minutes to walk / coast the distance.  But worse that than, this train has only three stops: at Gate 1, at Gate 35, and Gate 70. Plus the train is elevated.

So that means for anyone wanting to shave off a little time from their gate-to-gate journey . . . no way they can do this!  They have to schlep their luggage up to the platform, wait 5 minutes for the train, then take it to somewhere where, unless you are lucky, walking will be required anyway.

I could think of no usecase in which this train would save anyone any real time – and in fact, most of the people riding it seemed to be like me: curious folks with a four-hour layover and plenty of time to kill doing stupid things. And I could think of no usecase in which this train would benefit the mobility limited.

My best guess: this was a project intended to channel public money to the right private parties, such as the company the makes the train.

Amazing things visitors to Las Vegas never see!

Zillions of tourists come here every year – but they spend their time on The Strip and they never see some of the wonders that Las Vegas has to offer.

More or less in the center of this sprawling city is a small public park called The Springs Preserve with various hiking trails, and the park tries to re-create the native Las Vegas desert landscape that was here before humans settled the area – or better put, as humans first started to settle this area.

One of the amazing things you’ll see are a few ancient water pumps like this one shown here. This is not a reproduction!  In fact, these pumps are over 100 years old, and WATER was the original reason that Las Vegas got its start.

Fort Knox

Fort Knox is a real Army base in the city of the same name, in the state of Kentucky. I am not sure what it’s like today, but “back in the day” – as this snap shows – you weren’t allowed into the main building that stores the gold, but at least you could get pretty close and take some pictures.

Bank

Some of my photos are quite boring to Europeans, because they show very common European scenes – but having never seen them, Americans are fascinated.

In this case, the situation is reversed.  No American would hardly raise an eyebrow at this:

It’s a bank!  Although cash machines and cash cards have been around in America for a long time, many Americans still write checks by hand, and pick up money from a so-called “bank teller” – a real person who works at a bank!  The money and checks are transferred back and forth to the cars via pneumatic tubes.

Imminent Danger

OK, not right at this very moment when I took the snap.

But there could be, and that is precisely why this tiny neighborhood nestled deep within a cornfield of Central Illinois is equipped with a powerful siren:

I remember many, many times laying in bed at night, window open, and hearing the screaming sirens in villages far away, as incoming tornadoes attacked the towns. In one case, in 1996, 39 tornadoes struck within hours, there was huge loss of life, and an entire village was completely flattened.

The amazing parking lot geese of Chicago Heights

Europeans often don’t believe me when I tell them about the American phenomena known as parking lot geese, so I was pleased and privileged to be able to make this snap on a recent visit to Chicago:

Although these are wild birds, they have absolutely no fear of humans.  In fact, while visiting Champaign, Illinois on the same trip, I came across another parking lot gaggle, and I was surprised to see one of the geese wearing a tag:

In fact, here you can read about an interesting encounter I had with parking lot geese many years ago.

The amazing Italian beef sandwiches of Chicago Heights

This looks like my Italian Beef sandwich, but it was not my Italian Beef sandwich:

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was pleased and privileged to order an Italian Beef sandwich at my favorite restaurant for this specialty, the Perros Brothers in Chicago Heights. I haven’t been here in nearly 20 years, and I was pleased it was still standing:

I always thought this was a great place for Italian Beef sandwiches, but by surfing to their website I only just now learned they are a top rated diner in Chicago!

Sadly, not a lot of people know about Italian Beef sandwiches, even people who travel to Chicago. It’s a sandwich of extremely thin slices of beef that are cooked in a spicy broth. Generally, it helps to eat it with a fork: usually either the broth is poured over the sandwich, or else (and this seems to be the most common approach, to order “an Italian beef sandwich with a dip“) the entire sandwich is dipped into the broth, totally soaking the bread.

The amazing crawling crawfish of Chicago Heights

On a recent trip to Chicago, while cruising down a side street parallel to the world-famous Cicero boulevard in Chicago Heights, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a giant crawfish walking down the street:

On both sides of the street there were nothing but cornfields, but the previous night there was a torrential thunderstorm. I can only assume that the rain washed this big fellow out of whatever pond he was living in.

Dangerous cajuns in the Atchafalaya

One of my passions are the swamps of the southern United States.  Here’s a nice shot of some mangrove trees taken from my canoe in the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisiana:

Interesting story: a good friend of mine, Seargent Major Bill Thrasher of the United States Marine Corps was quite concerned I was planning to vacation in this area.  This was the early 1990’s, and he told me he would go on training missions deep in the these swamps. “Ken,” he said, “there’s some awful people living back there. You’re likely to just disappear. Whole families live deep in the swamps and most of their kids don’t even have names.

Well, I didn’t disappear – but I did see quite a few wooden shacks where people were living, as well as a few people on boats with guns and fishing poles. They didn’t seem too inclined to stop and talk with me.

Where I was shot

Yes, I had the honor or privilege of having someone try to shoot me with a gun.

On one of these occasions, I was driving around the back woods region of Kentucky, when my path was blocked by a couple of stray cows, so I spent the time to take their picture:

I heard someone with a gun firing, one shot, then another.  I assumed someone just hunting birds or squirrels. Then,  just as I started to drive off, WHAM – a gun shot and a loud noise from the side of my pickup truck!

At that point, I drove away VERY fast.  After around 1-2 miles I stopped to look for a bullet hole – but didn’t find anything.  However, next time I stopped for gas I spotted it: a nice round bullet hole, probably made by a 22-caliber, about 1 inch from my gas tank cover.

Moral of the story: there are still many places in rural, backwoods America where the folks don’t take too kindly to strangers.

When the wind blows

I didn’t see any rocking cradles, but anyway I took this snap just a few meters from a spot called Bodega Head, on a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean, near Bodega Bay, California:

What you can’t see here, but what I find amazing, is that this tree is leaning almost 90 degrees to shoreline.  If I simply turn around, this is what it looks like behind my back:

So even though you’d expect the wind would travel perpendicularly to the shoreline, in fact the local geography and hills somehow influence the wind to run south, parallel to the coast.

(By the way, I am no expert on trees, but I suspect this is a Cypress tree.  Cypress trees are amazing – and I hope to write a number of photo blogs (PHOGS) about them soon!)

Because it is so amazing, here is a close-up of the tree: