Roadtrip: Tulsa – the Center of the Universe

Or at least, they claim it is.

Before our road trip, I took some time to look for interesting roadside attractions along the way. One of them was the “Center of the Universe” in Tulsa Oklahoma.

This is a spot on a pedestrian railroad overpass where you can stand and hear your voice echo – but nobody else can, even if they are standing next to you. And it’s true! The effect is most likely caused by the planters surrounding the circle.


Yes, it’s silly, but it was fun, and a nice stop for stretching our legs. The “Center of the Universe” is the circular shape in center of the plaza shown in the photo below. The tall (72′) sculpture with the cloud on top is the “Artificial Cloud” by Robert Haozous, a commentary on the destructive effects of technology and Westernization.

Tulsa, OK

The funniest thing was that we had a Twilight Zone moment at the Center of the Universe. I had been taking pictures with my phone, and I was going to post one to Facebook just as we were about to leave. I went to my photo gallery, but didn’t see any of the pictures! The most recent ones were from when we left Memphis the day before, which were the last photos I had taken with the phone before getting to Tulsa.

I couldn’t figure out what could possibly have happened to the photos! Did I fill up the phone memory or something? That was hard to believe, and I would have thought I’d have gotten an error or warning if that was the case.

To test it, I took a photo of Larry, and then went immediately to the photos. Not there! WTF?

I thought maybe if I deleted some of the photos, it might work. So I started scrolling through them, deleting a few here and there. Then suddenly – there were the Center of the Universe photos! All the way before the Memphis ones.

I couldn’t figure that out, but at least they were there. It wasn’t until that evening when we were checking into a hotel and I looked at the calendar on my phone for some reason. The date and time had somehow been changed to 2 days earlier – so all of the photos had the wrong timestamp, and that’s why they were in the wrong place. The time was right when we left Memphis, so somehow between there and the Center of the Universe, my phone’s time and date got messed up. (And of all places this could happened, it was at the Center of the Universe!) It wasn’t an error with the cell phone service, because Larry’s phone was correct.

I don’t know what happened, but we must have been….

(of course)

Living on Tulsa Time. Which was also funny, since that’s one of the songs Larry’s been practicing with his buddies. But of course, they sound nothing like Don Williams.



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At Least the Tea is Warm

Even if it looks like a rooster head.

I’ve been very bad about blog updates lately, but things have been crazy busy around here. My two main knitting projects are moving slowly, but I did sneak in a small one.

Kureyon Kozy

Most tea cozies just sit over the top of the teapot, but I wanted one that had fabric on the bottom as well.

My kitchen countertop is made of Silestone (man-made “granite” made from quartz), and has great thermal conductivity – heat readily transfers to and from it – so frozen things defrost more quickly, and hot things cool faster than when set on other materials. I don’t know if it would actually have much effect on the heat of the teapot, but I usually put the pot on a trivet or cutting board just in case.

Also, I often take the teapot to the living room or office, but then need to have something to set the pot on to protect the tables. Since this cozy basically has a built-in coaster, I can set it anywhere.

The pattern calls for a double layer on the bottom, with the option of making a little pocket for a sachet. I didn’t make the pocket, but I did like having the double thickness for extra thermal protection.

The tea cozy is secured with an interesting cord system. Instead of using a single cord as a drawstring, it uses two separate cords – one with a loop on the end, and the other with a knot or button. The button and loop go at the spout end, while the remaining ends are apparently intended to tie through some eyelets near the bottom of the handle. The general idea is that you can unbutton the front to access the lid and/or infuser, without having to untie or remove the cozy from the pot.

I couldn’t really figure out quite how the ties were supposed to work in the back. The instructions weren’t very descriptive, and the pattern doesn’t have any photos of the back. It says “thread ends through the lower eyelets under the handle and tie.” I don’t know if “under the handle” means between the handle and the teapot, or if the eyelets should be below the point where the handle comes out of the pot.

My teapot is shaped differently than the ones shown in the pattern, and the handle starts almost at the very bottom of the pot, plus the handle is quite wide. When I was knitting the cozy, I hadn’t really thought much about how the ties worked, and moved the eyelets up a couple of rows so that they wouldn’t be right at the base of the handle, and because I was thinking that the ties would pull the cozy edges together under the handle for more coverage. In retrospect, I think you are supposed to tie the cords below the handle.

At any rate, it works – though I suspect I’ll most often be lazy and just tie the cords in the back at the top of the pot rather than messing around with the eyelets and handle.

As for the yarn, it’s Plymouth Gina, which is apparently Plymouth Yarn’s answer to Noro Kureyon. I bought one skein of it to check it out. I’m don’t think it will win over any true Noro fans, but it was pretty decent. It was more consistent in thickness than Kureyon, and didn’t have all the little flecks of vegetative matter. After blocking, I think it is also just slightly softer than Kureyon. The fabric also feels slightly thinner, despite the yarn having nearly identical yardage for the weight.

I actually like the rustic look and feel of Kureyon, and I think the way the color changes are done in Noro are more complex and interesting. But for people who dislike the veg matter, or the thick/thin quality of the Noro yarns – or who are just looking for a more economical alternative (currently around $6 per skein instead of $9), it seems like a decent option.

More details and photos on my Ravelry project.

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Try and Try Again

Sometimes I am not as clever as I think I am.

Nordic Urban yoke

I got most of the way through the yoke of the Nordic Urban sweater, and decided it was not going to work out. My knitting was much looser than on my swatch, probably because I was overly-paranoid about the floats being too tight, and really made the stitches loose. Normally I wouldn’t worry quite as much, but this pattern has some really long floats, especially for such a heavy yarn. I modified the pattern slightly to eliminate some of them, but there were still some long ones. With the high contrast of black and white, twisting or trapping the yarns will probably show, so I only did that on a couple of rows.

At any rate, the yoke is fine width-wise, but my row gauge is off so much that I’d have to eliminate more rows of it than I’m willing to do. I had already cut out a few rows, and had plans if I needed to cut out a few more, but there ended up being too many to really work out well.

So I’m going back to the drawing board and will restart the sweater according to the pattern, and knit the body and sleeves first. I’ll worry about the yoke later. I really need something a little more mindless to work on right now.


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Roadtrip: Chattanooga

Our travel destination on our trip was Chattanooga Tennessee. We were staying in the downtown area, which we found very walkable. It was a bit unusual, though – the downtown area was pretty much hotels, restaurants, government buildings, art galleries, and tourist attractions like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art. There was no real shopping area unless you went across the river to North Chattanooga, and it’s a pretty small shopping district.

A free electric streetcar runs through the main part of the city and across the bridge to the shopping area, and we made use of that several times. All of the food we had in the city was outstanding. The restaurants make good use of fresh local food, emphasizing farm-to-table as much as possible.

I could have spent all my time eating the fantastic food, but there were many other things to do. Like visit the Chattanooga Choo-Choo:

Chattanooga ChooChoo

We walked over the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges:

Walnut Street Bridge

And giggled at one of the donation plaques on the bridge:

Ned Ryerson plaque on Walnut Street Bridge

“Ned? Ned Ryerson?

We took the Incline Railway (one of the world’s steepest passenger railways) to the top of Lookout Mountain:

Incline Railway, Lookout Mountain

From Point Park at the top of Lookout Mountain, you can see Chattanooga and imagine what it was like during the Civil War battles.

Point Park, Lookout Mountain

Or you can visit Rock City, and see incredible vistas. (For an idea of scale, those are approximately waist-high railings at the top of that rock cliff.)

Lover's Leap, Rock City

Rock City was beautiful, but also weird and kitschy. At the end of the self-guided trail system is a man-made cave system called the Fairy Caverns, filled with gnomes and fairytale scenes, all lit up with black light. It’s truly bizarre. The entrance to the cavern is lined with coral (because, of course, coral grows in caves), with little scenes of gnomes here and there.

Fairy Cave at Rock City
One of them nearly gave me a heart attack. I noticed something moving in it out of the corner of my eye. That little bird on the gnome’s hand? It was real, and was hopping around. It flew off just after I took the photo.

Fairy Cave at Rock City

All in all, Chattanooga was a wonderful place to visit, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again some day.

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Roadtrip: Saint Louis

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Saint Louis, but after reviewing a few things we could see in a short time, the Cathedral Basilica caught our eye. And what a treat for the eye it was! It contains one of the largest mosaic collections in the world, with more than 40 million glass tesserae pieces, in over 7,000 colors.

Cathedral Basilica 1

Cathedral Basilica 5

These are not paintings – they’re all mosaics!

Cathedral Basilica 2

Here’s a slightly closer look at that ceiling:

Cathedral Basilica 3

It was spectacular – every bit as fantastic as the cathedrals we’ve seen in Europe. We were so glad we went. The only thing that Larry would have enjoyed more would have been if they’d been playing organ music. Truth! He loves it.

Cathedral Basilica 6

Most of the mosaic backgrounds are gold tiles in multiple shades. The glittering effect in real life is gorgeous.

Cathedral Basilica 4

If you’re ever passing through Saint Louis, don’t miss it.

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FO: Liesl

I had serious doubts as to whether I’d get a wearable item out of this project, but I think it worked out in the end. I was using a much different yarn than called for (a worsted-weight boucl√© in cotton and linen, instead of sport-weight Euroflax linen). But the yarn was free (thanks Deb), so it was worth a shot.


I ended up knitting the top piece twice, and there are still some changes I’d make if I knit it again. But overall, I think it came out pretty well, and is wearable.

The major changes I made were to lengthen the distance from hem to armhole, shorten the armholes, and widen the shoulder straps.

Pattern: Liesl, by Julie Weisenberger
Yarn: Reynolds Madrid (discontinued)

Details on my Ravelry project.

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Roadtrip: Nebraska

Continuing our trip into Nebraska, we stopped at the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington.

We only stopped here initially because I’d read about the Fall of Saigon, Recreated, and just wanted to take a quick look at the statue as a roadside attraction – we didn’t plan to visit the museum. As it turns out, the statue isn’t right at the museum, and it’s difficult to see unless you are driving westbound on I-80. But since we were already there, we decided to stay and look at the exhibits.

The museum has around 100 vehicles on display. There are tanks, helicopters, trucks, and various utility vehicles, plus displays of weapons and other military equipment. As a bonus, there’s also a birdwatching station located inside the museum, where you can sit and use binoculars to watch the birds at the nearby pond.

You are allowed to get in some of the vehicles, such as a Huey Helicopter that had been shot down numerous times (5, I think) in Vietnam, and a tank. It was a really tight squeeze into the tank, and I can’t imagine having to sit inside it for any length of time, especially outdoors in the heat. Just sitting in it inside the building, it was uncomfortably hot and stuffy.

Cheryl in the tank

One of the vehicles I found most interesting was the German Schwimm-Wagen. According to the sign, 14,238 of these amphibious vehicles were produced between 1942 and 1944. There were only a few that survived the war, as the average life expectancy of the vehicle was only 4 weeks. It has a Volkswagen engine , and could go about 6 mph in the water.


There are a lot of vehicles located outside of the museum, as well as inside:
Larry and the tank

But watch where you step!

Watch out!

Even though we hadn’t planned on this stop, we really liked it. There is no charge for admission, but we gladly contributed to the donations box.

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Roadtrip: Wyoming

Although many parts of Wyoming are spectacular, the section which contains I-80 has never held much appeal for me. Unfortunately, some people never see any other parts of the state.

Yet even the most desolated areas can have their beauty – especially in the fabulous views of the sky.

Windmills along I-80 in Wyoming

And of course, there’s always the rest stop and cheap ice cream cone at Little America, originated by a sheepherder who fulfilled a 40-year desire for a place of shelter in that spot, and which launched Earl Holding’s financial empire (Sinclair Oil).

Ice cream cone at Little America Wyoming

I did get a great tip from Lori at Cowgirl Yarn in Laramie – she suggested that we avoid the construction between Laramie and Cheyenne on I-80 by taking Happy Jack Road (highway 210), which goes past Curt Gowdy State Park. It was a beautiful ride on a well-maintained road, and we only saw a couple of cars in either direction on the entire drive. Even if it hadn’t saved us time because of the construction issues, it would have been worth the detour. (And it’s not much of a detour – it probably isn’t more than a few minutes longer than taking I-80 even when there’s no construction.) We’ll plan on taking this route every time we have to travel that area in the future.


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Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

My main travel project for the road trip was my Big Heart shawl, from the EZ 100th Anniversary Pi Shawl pattern. I’m up to 576 stitches per round now – the last section before the border.

Big Heart Shawl

It’s a lotta stitches. One round takes me 20-30 minutes, depending on whether it’s a plain knit row or a lace row. Since that’s normally all I allow myself to knit at one time (followed by a break of at least the same amount of time), it’s going to be moving along pretty slowly now.

It’s an easy lace pattern, but I still find myself making mistakes if I get distracted – so it’s not the best project for knitting in public. The Rocky Mountain Knitters’ Retreat is coming up in a few weeks, so I’ll need something besides this to work on. I figured it would be a good time to start this project. The pattern calls for knitting it in the round from the bottom up, but I’ll have to think about that and decide whether I want to do it that way or top down. Bottom up would certainly make for easier knitting at the retreat, since I’d only be working on the plain sections and not the colorwork, but top-down would give me better control over the length of the body and sleeves. Either way, though, I’m not going to do the turtleneck – I think I’ll be happier with a crew neck.

At any rate, I need to get swatching so I’ll be ready to get started at the retreat.


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Curve Cowboy Reunion 2014

We recently returned from a trip to Chattanooga, TN for the 15th annual “Curve Cowboy Reunion” (CCR), which started as a gathering of people with BMW K1200LT motorcycles, but which has grown to include anyone with an interest in the motorcycle community. The three major goals of the CCR are to present a positive view of motorcycling; to promote rider education and safety; and to make a positive impact by contributing to a children’s charity in the host community.

Because of the distance from here to Tennessee, and because we had a lot of things to take with us (Larry is a vendor), we took the car. But that gave us a good opportunity to make a nice road trip out of it, so we took a northern route getting there, and a more southern route coming back, so we had the chance to do a lot of sight-seeing.

Since its inception, including this year’s contributions, the CCR has donated nearly $300,000 to local charities – focusing on smaller organizations where the funding can really make a difference. This year the selected charity was Skyuka Hall, a private school for children with various learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, ADD, Asperger syndrome, brain injury, to name a few. Our donation will be used to fund scholarships for students. Their low 1:4 student-to-teacher ratio allows the teachers to individualize the learning experience to each child’s needs. The children and teachers held a bike (and car) wash as part of the fundraising events – the kids were so excited! Our car’s front bumper made it into the video twice, so I guess it’s a star.

Each year the rally is hosted in a different location around the country. I was excited to hear that next year’s event will be in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Not only will it be a much shorter trip, but I have wanted to go there for a long time.

On our way to the rally, we stopped at Cowgirl Yarn in Laramie Wyoming, where I bought some Wyoming wool yarn. It was a lovely yarn shop, and we had a nice chat with Lori, the owner. When she heard where we were going, she offered us a project bag for our silent auction! What a nice thing to do. It was a great bag – a cotton produce bag with “Cowgirl Yarn” embroidered on the front, and “Ball Sack” embroidered on the back. Also included was a needle inventory card and a Cowgirl Yarn “We’ll wind your balls” decal.

Cowgirl Yarn "Ball Sack" in the auction

"Ball Sack" from Cowgirl Yarn

I really wanted that bag. I bid hard for it, but in the end let it go to one of the other participants (for $70!). Now I just need to get back up to Laramie some time to buy one for myself. I highly recommend the shop. Lori was great – she said that if people are be passing through Laramie outside of her normal store hours, that they should contact her – she may be able to open up the shop for them.


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