Monday, July 7, 2008


Fourth of July in Wyoming. Breakfast, read the newspaper, hang out and chat with the in-laws. By lunch I was ready to do something active. With a USGS publication and map in hand, my rock collecting tools in the back of the Honda, Eric and I drove out west of town along Zero Road to Emigrant Gap where we turned down a dirt road and followed a ridge line situated in wide open grasslands. Parked the car and we then went on foot, searching for signs of a chert pebble conglomerate lens that is the fossil producing zone. Walking through the grass below the ridge we eventually found loose chert pebbles, traced back to a thin 10 foot long lens that contained fragments of large coiled ammonite shells. We dug around for a while, finding pieces but nothing whole. I had collected nice specimens from a similar location years ago so I was not pushing to find anything special today, the fun simply being outdoors, the sweeping views and the excitement of the "hunt". If I were serious about collecting from this local, I would have to dig up the hillside to expose a larger section of the fossil bed in order to expose bigger slabs that increase the chance of a complete specimen.
After enduring the 90+ degree heat, we returned to the car for shade and water. We hung out for a while, enjoying the distant views. A large cloud billowed upward, providing relief from the sun and its heat. While enjoying the scenery I had a revelation, bringing understanding to why I get so "into" my Van Halen concerts. I'm a geologist, trained to take disconnected observations and somewhat abstract principals to draw conclusions and form a picture of distant historical events. Not unlike my virtual concerts: listening to music and visualizing the band in a way that feels real to me, like I'm right there at the foot of the stage. The ability to take CDs and turn them into something "real" is what keeps me coming back for more every weekend.

Grass fanned by the wind
Blows cross the barren landscape
Clouds billow skyward

Locked in black pebbled stone
Coiled shells speak of their lost times
Grass where there were seas

Scours the grassy slopes
Pick finds the ancient seashells
Lost buried treasure

They see only stone
His eyes reveal their secrets
Visions of lost worlds

Began the ride back, stopping once more to examine a different section of the ridge for signs of another fossil lens. Nothing found. Back to the car, the highway and the house.

A barbecue dinner at a friends house was followed by a trip to the open fields around the Casper Events Center, waiting for the 10 PM fireworks display. I drove past the cops and around a road barricade to find the same location we went to last year, very close to the shows launch site. Eric and I walked a little farther such that we were within a few hundred feet of the technicians launching the fireworks, such that the display was happening right above us. Fantastic! After the show Grandpa knew a better way out, avoiding much of the traffic and getting us home faster. We shot off a few of the fireworks at the house (illegal in Natrona County), freaking out the dog and sending her into the darkness until the following morning. By 11:30 I was free to do my own thing.
Drove to a dark turnoff along the Hat Six Road and dropped in a CD. This time it was December 4, 1992 in Dallas Texas. Van Halen was playing at a free concert, probably during daylight hours based on comments made. Another A+ recording! The sound of the audience was minimal, suggesting it was either a soundboard recording or it was taped from behind the stage. What was neat was that you could sometimes hear the band members trying to decide which song to play next, Sammy confirming they have no set song list established for the show. Although I forgot my cigar at the house, it was unneeded to groove on the show, the tequila being the primary fuel to launch me into that "zone" that ensures time travel.

Back home to where people were still looking for the firework freaked dog. She eventually was found at the neighbors house the next morning. Everyone was in bed by 1:30 AM.

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