An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Category: Montana (page 1 of 3)

Digital Art–Castletown Ghost Town

Here’s my latest digital art composition, from photos taken with a film camera in the Castle Mountains in Montana back in 1993 or ’94. The building photos were taken in old Castletown, a site which may no longer be standing. I went back there in ’97, but the area had been fenced off with signs saying to keep out because it was private property, so it’s possible the site has been razed. I’d like to get back there some day to have a look. I really enjoyed hiking in the Castles back in the day, and there’s a great little fishing stream not too far away.

The photos are mine except for the starry sky and the wolves, which both came from Pixabay. The moon is an old photo of mine that I enlarged for this piece. The buildings and mountains were shot in the daytime, so I converted them to night images in Photoshop. Lots of layers, many of them adjustment layers, a few texture layers and quite a few masks used also. Had fun making this, which, for me, is the whole point of doing digital art. Enjoy.

Castletown ghost town

USA Trip — In Montana, Part Two

The Gates of the Mountains

Our final full day in Great Falls was spent mostly on a visit to the Missouri River in the Gates of the Mountains Wildnerness Area. The Gates are an optical illusion that was noticed by the Lewis and Clark expedition up the river in 1805. Lewis gave the magnificent cliffs their name because it seemed to him that as their boats made their way upstream, the cliffs appeared to open like gates, allowing the expedition to continue when previously it looked like the river was blocked by the mountains.

We bought tickets on the Gates of the Mountains guided-boat tour ($16) that spent two hours going down the river and back up to their marina. I highly recommend taking the tour, which was, of course, accompanied by a very knowledgeable guide. We followed Interstate 15 south-west of Great Falls to about 20 miles north of Helena, the capital city, and turned off at Exit 209.

It’s a marvelous, scenic area, although the construction of Holter Dam in 1918 altered the flow of the river, causing it to rise by 14 feet above the level that Lewis and Clark experienced. One of the features of the surrounding wilderness area is the location of the tragic Mann Gulch fire of 1949 in which 13 firefighters (mostly young smoke jumpers) lost their lives. Norman Maclean wrote a prize-winning book, Young Men and Fire, about the event. I’ve read it, and it’s a must-read for almost anyone interested in the event. The tour boat passes right by the site and treads water for a few minutes, so you can get a good view of the gulch.

Though not as picturesque as Glacier Park, the area is quite beautiful, and it’s a wonderful way to spend a summer morning or afternoon. There’s a decent gift shop at the marina which sometimes has Maclean’s book in stock, though on this day it was sold out.

About mid-afternoon we made our way back to Great Falls, and later we ate at my favorite pizza restaurant, Howard’s Pizza, in business since 1959. I had a high school friend who worked at the downtown location in the 1960s, and he would sometimes invite me into the back, where the pizza dough and spices were located. What a wonderful odor! Every time I smell pizza cooking, I’m immediately reminded of that time and place.

We were joined at Howard’s by my brother Bob, who, unfortunately, couldn’t go to the Gates with us because of work duties, his daughter Marissa and her fairly new husband, Justin and their daughter, Kayla. We ordered about five different kinds of pizza, but I made sure to order my favorite, Howard’s Special, consisting of sausage, onion and green pepper, thin-crust, please. Just awesome. When I lived in Montana and came back to visit Great Falls, my mother knew exactly what I first wanted to eat–a Howard’s Special. Seriously, I could (and sometimes did) eat one all by myself. Awesome! Try a Howard’s pizza if you’re ever in Great Falls.

That’s it for Great Falls. The next morning, Randy, Whitney and I flew back to Portland. Randy and Whitney drove back to Seaside, but I had an afternoon flight to Fabulous Las Vegas. That will be the subject of my next post.

Missouri River Canyon sign

Missouri River Canyon information sign along the interstate. A wonderful thing about Montana is the large number of information signs along the highways. You could spend an entire summer just traveling around, looking for and at all the historical info found on these markers.

Missouri River Canyon crags

Stepping to the side of the sign mentioned previously, you get a wonderful vista of the craggy countryside that the river runs through, a prelude to the Gates of the Mountains.

Gates of the Mtns

Here is the beginning of the boat trip along the Missouri River through the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area. There’s some great scenery ahead.

Gates of the Mtns

More interesting scenery. There are a lot of small caves and a few arches in the cliffs along the route.

Gates of the Mtns

There are nearly perpendicular cliffs all along the river in this area.

Gates of the Mtns

More cliffs.

Gates of the Mtns Wildlife

There is plenty of wildlife along the way. You can see eagles, osprey and other birds, and you can spot larger animals, like these mountain goats. This is a nature lover’s paradise. Because it’s a wilderness area, there are no motorized vehicles allowed, but there are camping spots along the river where you can stay if you get a permit.

Gates of the Mtns

These are the cliffs that Lewis and Clark saw as the gates. At first view, they thought the river was blocked from going further into the mountains, but as they pushed upstream the cliffs appeared to separate, like gates, to let the river through. It’s an interesting illusion, but, unfortunately, I didn’t get a good shot of it or make a video. All I had with me was my crappy pocket camera. I need a new portable camera, like a good phone cam. Pixel 3 or 4, anyone?

Mann Gulch

Here’s the view up Mann Gulch. The smoke jumpers died along the steep hillside leading up to the ridge. There a memorial marker here, and if you’ve read the book and realized what happened, you’ll probably end up with a heavy heart and shed a tear or two for the young men who lost their lives.

At Howard's

Here we all are, patiently (sort of) waiting for the pizzas at Howard’s Pizza Restaurant. From the lower left, going clockwise around the table are Doug (brother), Whitney (niece), Randy, yours truly, Justin, Kayla, Marissa, and Bob (brother). A waitress took the photo, but it’s a bit blurry. I think she used one of my brothers’ phones.

Outside Howard's

Here we are outside the restaurant in a photo that’s a bit less blurry than the other one. I think my brother Bob took this one–he’s not in the photo. Duh. From the left, Justin, daughter Kayla, Marissa (niece), Randy making the Oregon Ducks sign, his daughter Whitney in front of him, yours truly and brother Doug. Yeah, Doug and I are carrying left-over pizza. Great late night snack.

Colds . . . and Colder

I mentioned in a previous post that I was feeling a bit under the weather, but whatever the minor ailment was, it has passed. I didn’t do anything special, so I feel lucky that I didn’t get an early season cold. However, I was looking around for non-medicinal cold remedies, just in case. (I hate taking medicine, like pills, cough syrups and the like.)

One treatment that I’ve tried before with mixed results is using Korean citron “marmalade” and using it in hot water with a generous tablespoon of honey. It may not always work, but it sure tastes delicious and is quite soothing on cold winter days.

A not-so-appetizing treatment I found on consists of this:

Pour a little warm water into a dish and add a level teaspoon of your sodium bicarbonate. Stir it well and then immerse your nose and surrounding parts of your face into it. Slowly breathe the water up your nose until it reaches the point where it begins to overflow into your mouth. Then expel it and rinse your mouth out.

Be careful not to add more than a teaspoonful to the water, and that the dish is of a size that enables you to fit your face into. If the mixture is too strong it will sting your nose for a while. A little trial and error will tell you how warm the water should be, which is warm enough but not hot.

Do this three times a day, and it should see off even the heaviest of colds well ahead of time.

No doubt. It’ll probably cure hiccups, snoring, and leprosy, too.

From a website entitled comes this one:

Place your hat on the table and drink well from a large bottle of whisky until you see two hats.
Get into bed and stay there.

He also lists some Texas Cold Remedies that involve cow dung and weasel skins. Take a gander if you dare.

And how about cough drops. From comes this: Most interesting about the evolution of cough drops was the fact that by the 19th century drugs were added to the candies. Among the first such drugs were opiates such as morphine and heroin . It might not have fixed what ailed them, but users of the candy were probably so buzzed high they didn’t care. The cough drop manufacturers eventually turned to slightly less narcotized ingredients such as codeine, the staple of most cough medicine today.

Have you got an unusual cold remedy? Leave a comment to let everyone know what kind of winter cure you use.

On another “cold” note, the temperatures in Montana are getting cold early, it seems. Great Falls has a forecast of -5 F. (about -20 C.) for Monday. Have fun, global warming deniers. (Even though Dr. Jeff Masters on his Weather Underground blog points out that the year to date is the warmest on record.) 😎 More later.

Blog Updates and 2010 Baseball

I’m still going through all of the older posts from the original MontanaRon blog software (Greymatter, check it out here), updating links and photos to make them compatible with Word Press. I was updating a link to last year’s Yankee outfielder Melky Cabrera from when he visited the Domincan Republic Yankee baseball academy back in 2006. To be sure that I have the links entered correctly, I visit the relevant websites. Jeez, I clicked on that particular link and, sure enough, there’s Melky, but he’s wearing an Atlanta Braves cap. Yikes, I’d just about forgotten that he’s no longer a member of the Yanks. Johnny Damon and others are gone, too, but the team has added a few guys that should ensure that the World Series Trophy remains at Yankee Stadium at the end of the 2010 season.

Spring training begins soon, and loyal reader OGM, Red Sox fan extraordinaire, should be able to inform us how many days until then. Also, I’m curious if the Infamous Red Sox Equipment Truck was able to depart Boston for sunnier climes or did the recent heavy snowfall interfere with this auspicious (for Red Sox fans) occasion? Inquiring minds want to know.

In my previous post, I mentioned our 3-day Lunar New Year holiday, but I just noticed that the U.S. also has a long weekend due to the observance of Presidents’ Day on Monday. Missoula and Great Falls, Montana residents look like they’ll have the same type of weather that we expect here in Yeosu, but Glendive, Montana, my home for 20 years, is supposed to experience low temperatures below zero Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy.

As far as updating the old blog posts, I’m better than halfway, so I guess progress is being made. Maybe I’ll really push to get it done during my 10 days off later this month. Mr. Excitement, that’s me. 🙁 More later.

17 Dead in Butte Airplane Crash

I just read this on the internet. Click here for a report from CNN. I can’t remember the last time there was an airplane crash with this many deaths in the state. Tragic.

Goings On

The Korean won is tanking again. It had strengthened to around 1300 to the dollar, but now it has dropped back to the 1500 level and doesn’t show any signs of stopping there. Very bad situation–again.

We’ve had rainy weather lately, but the wind and cold have been holding off. I was hoping to get a glimpse of Comet Lulin through my binoculars this morning, but, unfortunately, it’s raining right now. I was also hoping to walk to Odongdo Island today (it’s connected to the mainland by a causeway), but I may have to put that off.

My jogging has fallen off this week for one reason or another. For one, the gym where I run on the treadmill in cold weather was closed recently for a few days in order to accommodate freshman orientation. Yup, we have a new crop of kids coming in at the start of the Spring semester on March 2nd. Nicely enough, though, we’re off this week until next Monday. I might take the bus over to one of Korea’s largest cities, Gwangju, which is only a few hours away.

I’ve finally–FINALLY–posted photos of Glacier National Park in Montana that I took last July when we had a small family reunion. You can view some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere by clicking here for the Glacier album or you can just browse around the Photo Gallery until you find the Montana section. I didn’t post any photos of my family. I’m not sure how shy they are about having their pictures pasted on the internet, so I won’t put any up unless I get an OK from them. Besides, I sent them the family portion of the photos back in July.

As a teaser, here’s one of St. Mary Lake. Glacier Park is an area where it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.


Ahhhhhh, then there’s the upcoming baseball season, which is right around the corner. Despite all the controversy surrounding A-Rod, I think the Yanks are still looking mighty fine to make the playoffs and the World Series this year. I’m also looking forward to the newest version of one of my favorite computer games, Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP). It’s a text-based simulation (no animated graphics) of the National Pasttime where you can be the manager, general manager and/or owner of a team, and, in a limited way, the Commissioner of Baseball. It’s an amazingly in-depth game. Check it out if it interests you. The new version, 10 or X, is due out “sometime this spring.” I’ve spent many hours absorbed in this award-winning game. More later.

Cold Holiday

I mentioned in one of my prior posts that it was supposed to turn colder this weekend, and it has. Now, if you live in Montana where the temperature has dropped to below zero (Fahrenheit), you probably don’t have a lot of sympathy for our low 20s temperatures. However, that’s not the problem. The problem is the almost never-ceasing wind that’s howling outside my window. It occasionally gusts to 35mph, dropping the wind-chill down to near or below zero. At least it’s not snowing (fingers crossed). I think I’ll spend the next few days hibernating in my apartment.

I’m off until Wednesday, however, due to the Lunar New Year, which Korea celebrates along with China and a few other countries. The actual holiday is on Monday, but the days before and after are part of the holiday, so we have a four-day weekend. So long to the Year of the Rat and hello to the Year of the Ox.

I’ve been posting a lot of photos of my recent trip to Laos and Thailand, and this is going to be the last one. It’s a photo of one of the docks along the Mekong River in Nong Khai, Thailand. If you refer back to a shot I took during the flood last August, you can see just how high the river was. See that photo here or look in the Archives for August 14, 2008.


I’ve also added a new gallery to the Photo Gallery, Laos Dec 08, so you can click here to see some more photos of the trip, including some of yours truly, that I’ve put up there. Enjoy. More later.

Weather, Baseball and Down Home Guys

Although Tropical Storm Sinlaku might have an effect on our weather tomorrow, with a 70% chance of rain predicted, the conditions here have been beautiful lately, with blue skies and moderate temperatures. We had a bit of rain Monday evening, but overall it’s been very nice.

It looks like the season is over for the Yankees, with only a snowball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs. Hmmmm, then who am I rooting for? Not Boston, not ever, no way, no how–except for one condition. I would root for them, possibly, only if they made the World Series because I HATE the National League, but as far as the American League Championship goes, may the Red Sux be playing golf in late October. I suppose I might be prodded into rooting for Tampa Bay, but — and a BIG but — and in contradiction to what I stated above about the NL, I might root for the Cubs if they make it into the Series and if they play against the Red Sux, if they make it. That would actually be a fantastic Series, one for the ages. Not sure if it’ll happen, though. Both teams tend to disappoint. (An understatement, at best.)

So far, Yeosu, and, in particular, the university, has been superb. My students, for the most part, are very nice kids — respectful, willing to learn and willing to interact with me outside of classes. (Remember, I posted before that I live on-campus.) The city itself, which I haven’t seen enough of yet, is also quite nice. In many other cities in the country, foreigners are, in a way, frowned upon. Yeosu citizens, however, have been nothing but friendly to me. It’s really a nice place, the city and the university working conditions. I can see staying here for at least a few years, and I recommend the area, especially since it is hosting the 2012 World Expo. One upshot of having the Expo here is that the Yeosu City Hall is pushing for their employees to take English lessons, so I’m teaching a couple of classes a week that are exclusively for City Hall workers (very welcome overtime hours).

One observation that is quite a bit late. I was VERY impressed with Montana Governor Schweitzer’s address to the Democratic Convention a bit back. The guy was very folksy, yet oratorical. A credit to the state. I hope ALL Montanan’s, whatever their political persuasions, are proud of his appearance in Denver. More later.

Family Reunion

My sometimes over-the-top brother thought it would be a good idea for the family to get together in Montana before I leave for Korea. He suggested that he would drive from Oregon to Great Falls around the time that I arrive there and, subsequently, he would rent a vehicle or two and pay for rooms at a hotel/motel near Glacier National Park, everything on him. Who am I to argue with that? 😀

He also emailed my brother in Texas to ask if he would be able to join in on the festivities. Yes, he can. The upshot, then, is that the family is having a reunion, the first time that all my brothers (minus one) and I and my mother and some assorted nieces will be together in a long time (since 1992, according to my Mom). I’m looking forward to the occasion.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge only one of my brothers, the one still living in Montana, is a Yankee fan, but, also unfortunately, he’s a Republican fanboy. The Oregon brother, though having more progressive leanings, is, equally unfortunately, a Detroit Tiger fan. The Texas brother seems to be neutral, though I suspect he’s a closet Texas Stranger and Dallas Maverick aficionado. Me? I root for, besides the Yanks, . . . ? 😉

Anyway, it should be a great, but short, reunion. I want to be in Missoula on July 20th, so we’re probably going to have to leave early on the 19th, perhaps tour the park that day, stay overnight about an hour away, then get an early start on the 20th for the 3- to 4-hour drive to Missoula. Of course, the timetable will have to be flexible enough to take into account the intense traffic to the park, despite high gas prices. It’s not hard to understand why people will still drive long distances, paying $4 a gallon for fuel, to visit Glacier. It’s one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S. and the world.

My time here is certainly winding down rapidly–after this week, only 4 remain. I’m beginning to feel the pangs of leaving the baseball camp and the country. It’s been a fantastic experience, but something new beckons, just over the horizon. Ameliorating my sadness about leaving is the knowledge that it won’t be long before I get to return to Thailand and Laos, and, later, South Korea. And farther down the line? Well, who really knows? More later.

Beach Talk

I found out that my Weekend Office is owned by Cris Ozuna, brother of Pablo, who plays with the White Sox. It’s interesting that in choosing my “office,” I unknowingly picked one with a strong baseball connection, though you could hardly swing a bat in the D.R. without hitting something connected to the game.

One of the new guys working at The Office asked me about myself and got quite a kick out of the fact that I work with the Yanks, so he introduced me to Cris. I already knew about his brother, who was in The Office the weekend before.

The thing about this area of the beach is that there are a lot of regulars who come here, older expats living in Boca Chica, and the overall ambience is usually friendly and laid back. Not to mention palms swaying in the gentle ocean breeze and good (but not too loud) music playing from the bar just down the beach.

I also get a few questions about how it came about that I work with the Yankees, so I tell people about the English Language Fellow program and its connection with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Dept. Unlike people in some countries, Dominicans, for the most part, like Americans. It seems that almost every Dominican I’ve met has at least one relative living in the U.S.

That’s a thing I’ve noticed about Laotians, too. They seem to genuinely like Americans, despite what we did to their country during the Vietnam War. (See my previous post on this subject.) It’s always nice to be liked, eh?

Back to the beach. There are quite a few ladies walking the sand who will give you a massage, pedicure, or manicure, or who will work on your hair. This guy seemed to want the works, with three ladies giving him a makeover.


Oh, yes, I’ve finally started adding photos of my time in Montana this past summer and fall. Click here to have a look at Big Sky Country. A lot of the photos were taken from a moving car with a point-and-shoot camera, so the quality isn’t that great, though it’s not that bad either. Enjoy. More later.

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