Enjoying the sun in Edinburgh

This morning I braved the tourists and sales shoppers to buy some post-Christmas birthday presents in the city centre. The roads were fairly quiet but the pavements were full of people. I had to step into the road to avoid the horde who were taking pictures of Greyfriars Bobby. My purchases completed, I headed back to the flat via the West End. I always have a look at the mural on St John’s Church which is usually very challenging. As I could not take a photograph due to the building work going on around it, here is the Christmas photograph for 2016 taken from their Facebook page:
st-johns-christmas-mural-2016
Back at the Meadows it was sunny enough for some people to sit out.
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At the flat the sun on the bare cherry tree branches made a very abstract pattern and might turn into an abstract painting one day.
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A wood pigeon was waddling around feeding underneath. Almost every house I have lived in has had wood pigeons in the garden or next door. I think the only exception was a student flat in Aberdeen where there were no trees nearby. One year I was doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place at the end of January each year, in Edinburgh. I did not expect to see as many different birds as I do in my garden in Cheshire but it was rather cold and frosty and I counted 18 wood pigeons on one shrub eating the red berries.
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Now that the trees are bare, I could see the sun disappearing behind the west end of the Pentland Hills through the trees next door. Some energetic people were watching it from the top of Blackford Hill which must have given them a great view but I walked 4.7 miles this morning so I was content to look out of my window.
sunset-29-dec-2016-1
If you are after the precise timings of sunrise/sunset/moonrise etc there is a very useful piece of software for use on a computer or as a mobile app which can give the timings on any given date, anywhere on earth:
http://photoephemeris.com/
I am continuing to read David Bain’s book and have just read the chapters on Wyoming. I recall driving through the places he describes, seeing the Medicine Bow and Wasatch Mountains and learning about the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians by US Cavalry in 1864. I also remember passing through Medicine Bow and seeing the Virginian Hotel, the most impressive building in the town. It is often said to be the place that Owen Wister wrote the novel ‘The Virginian’.It became one of the cowboy shows on TV during my childhood. However, Bain knows that the hotel was built in 1911, 11 years after the novel had been published. There were also significant dinosaur fossil finds in the area, many of which are now displayed in museums in New York and Washington. Bain and his family stayed in the Virginian Hotel and found themselves in a room over the bar and could hear the music and noise all night plus the early departure of railroad construction crews who were also staying there. We had a similar experience when we walked the West Highland Way in 2009. We stayed at the Drovers Inn at Inverarnan, a historic hostelry. Our room was above the bar and unfortunately, Friday night was music night. Added to that it was someone’s 40th birthday. Over at breakfast next morning which is served in the newer building over the road, I said maybe we would have been quieter in a room in that building. Another couple told us that it had been quiet until 1am when the birthday party contingent had noisily returned to their rooms shouting that they had never been so drunk in their lives. I shall be more careful when selecting rooms in the future.

Into Illinois and eastern Iowa

Mileage wall Illinois 2 July 2016-1

By the time we reached this mileage wall in Franklin Grove Illinois, we had clocked up almost 1000 miles. Today did not get off to a great start as the folks in the room next to ours decided to party until after midnight last night. Down at breakfast, the cook had failed to show up for work and so there was no hot food. As we left the hotel I saw a rather unhappy fellow in chef’s attire having a cigarette outside the kitchen. Eventually we were on our way, rejoining R30 near Valparaiso and getting back on main street America. James found some country music and classic rock on the radio so he was happy and we were back alongside the railway for much of the day. Joliet and Plainfield Illinois are familiar places from Route 66 which we drove in 2013. There is a brief section where the two roads coincide.
R66 LH sign Plainefield IL 2 July 2016-1
We crossed the bridge over the Des Plaines River in the opposite direction to the last time and this is the photograph I took then.
Bridge over Des Plaines River at Joliet
After Plainfield the road switches to R31 in Aurora and then R28 in Geneva. As road travel increased in the early 1920s, a shortage of hotels developed so camping sites were set up along the highway and Aurora has one of the shelters that were built and which have been restored. We were soon back in the cornfields with a few Trump posters and the odd Bernie one. Some extremely long freight trains passed us in several places or were parked up. Many of the small towns we passed through have murals and other historical sites.
Illinois Mural 2 July 2016-1
The Lincoln Highway Association’s HQ is in Franklin Grove and has a gift shop. The woman inside thought we were southerners at first. As I signed the visitors’ book I noticed that there had been none for a couple of days and she was very keen to fill us in on all the history she could. We eventually escaped and had our lunch in a park at Dixon which was holding various sporting events and a petunia show. Saturday seems to be the day when everyone mows the grass alongside the road. In other places, wildflowers are left to grow alongside fields and roads. In the UK some of the nature organisations are trying to persuade landowners and councils to delay mowing grass verges until wildflowers have set seed so that they are not wiped out.
Through the cornfields Iowa 2 July 2016-1
We crossed the Mississippi River at Clinton and entered Iowa back on Route 30 alongside factories spewing pungent fumes into the atmosphere. The last time I was in Iowa was around 20 years ago attending the biennial international conference of a small scientific society I belonged to. Our president at the time was based at the University of Iowa and the conference was held there. At immigration at Chicago O’Hare, I was asked why I was visiting the USA and when I told the officer the reason he replied ‘I ain’t never heard of a conference in Iowa City’. Soon we were back in flat farmland until nearer to Cedar Rapids where small hills appeared. After crossing the Cedar River, we found our roadside hotel for the night.