Posted August 18, 2017
At the birth of modern aviation it would’ve been hard to comprehend how far flight and technology would take us – even for a pair of visionaries like the Wrights. Yet, today we traverse the globe in jumbo airliners while shuttle and rocket technology allows travel beyond the bounds of our own atmosphere. Closer to home, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones is skyrocketing. At the core of it all: energy – taking us higher, farther, longer, better. Sure, natural gas and oil are involved as fuels. But in terms of flight, their role is larger than that –as is true in many other aspects of modern life.
Posted August 17, 2017
The list of names of American Automobiles Past is as long as your arm – the inaugural era of U.S. auto manufacturing was a burst of entrepreneurship that included more than 1,800 carmakers, almost all of them defunct today. Brands like Hudson (1909-1954), Packard (1899-1956), Pierce Arrow (1901-1938) and others are the car ghosts of the past – though not completely gone and hardly forgotten.
These iconic brands and many more that helped define the golden age of car travel will be the stars this weekend in one of the country’s biggest classic car shows, the Woodward Dream Cruise, scheduled to roll down Woodward Avenue from suburban Pontiac, Mich., to downtown Detroit. Some 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars are expected. Energy will be there as well – in the fuel, lubrication and rubber need to keep the wheels turning.
Posted August 15, 2017
The last lines of Frank X. Gaspar’s poem, “Quahogs,” which appeared in New Yorker magazine last year, suggest a savory meal. Imagine a deep, stainless steel kettle, contents bubbling lazily on the stove in the kitchen – natural gas, preferably. In the next room friends seat themselves around a table as the sound of waves tumbling onto the beach pours through doors that open to the Atlantic Ocean.
Wait – What the heck’s a “quahog?”
In Rhode Island places like Quonochontaug, Weekapaug and Narragansett, it’s pronounced “co-hogs,” and they’re clams – the stars in a New England staple: clam chowder. Indeed, ask a Rhode Islander what their state is known for, and there’s a good chance they’ll say “quahogs” (or “coffee milk”). Clamming – the actual foraging for clams in the sand just as the waves retreat from the beach – and eating them is a pastime for both locals and summer visitors. Energy makes it better – both the clamming and the eating.
Rhode Island’s clam chowder simply is a must for travelers to the nation’s smallest state. If you’re asked whether Rhode Island chowder is the red or the white, say neither. It’s a mixture of quahogs, potatoes, onions, butter, clam juice, water and spices – cooked over a natural gas stove indoors or an outdoor cooker at a clambake. It’s the quintessential summer dish in homes and restaurants across the state. For many in the Newport area, it’s the annual Great Chowder Cook-Off in early June that kicks off the season for this delicious treat.
Posted August 10, 2017
Don’t know about you, but if I’m anywhere near Des Moines the next couple of weeks, I’m headed to the Iowa State Fair – mainly, to gawk at the famed Butter Cow. Just have to. Imagine 600 pounds of low-moisture, pure-cream Iowa butter, slathered on an internal frame and sculpted, with precision, into a life-size, yellowy cow.
Six hundred pounds is lot of pats of butter – enough for 19,200 slices of toast, which, according to the fair’s website, would take a person two lifetimes to consume. (There are probably a couple of guys down at the pie-eating contest who might try to prove that false.) The Iowa State Fair has an official butter sculptor, Sarah Pratt, who has been at it the past nine years. The Butter Cow might not be Michelangelo, but in Iowa, it’ll do just fine – a big part of the sights and sounds of America’s quintessential state fair, right?
Sounds like a “yes.”
We mention the Butter Cow and all of the other attractions and activities at the fair to make the point that this piece of Americana and others like it are big energy events. The fair’s foods, displays, contests, rides and more – all use energy to bring off an event that continues to thrive long after it got the star treatment in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 film musical, “State Fair.” The Iowa State Fair is the largest annual event in the state, drawing about 1 million visitors.
Posted August 8, 2017
If you’re a fan of competitive cycling – on display this week at the first-ever Colorado Classic cycling race – it’s hard to miss the point we’ve been making all summer, that natural gas and oil not only make lots of entertainment and activities possible, they make them better – and our lives along with them. Energy fuels, yes. At the same time, natural gas and oil and the chemicals and products derived from them are interwoven in modern life: making things lighter, yet stronger; durable, yet more comfortable. And more. Cycling illustrates – whether it’s a big-time event like the Colorado Classic or a summer family ride in the park.
In Colorado, there are plenty of outdoor activities that get the blood pumping. In winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding at any number of resorts in the Rockies. In the summer, with the sun warming the peaks and the valleys, many love to hit the road on bicycles. From the bicycle’s tires and frame to the bicyclist’s helmet, oil and natural gas make the ride smooth, comfortable and as safe as possible.
Posted August 3, 2017
It’s a trip of a lifetime – Yellowstone. It certainly was for our family years ago, when the kids were still kids. Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, buffalo roaming. We didn’t see any bears, but the elk walked around our cabin cluster like they owned the place (which, in a way, they do).
With about 96 percent of Yellowstone National Park located in Wyoming (Montana and Idaho have slivers of it), the nation’s first national park and the state share an identity. Yellowstone is home for bison and a number of other animals; the Wyoming state flag has a great big bison on it. The park, the West, the Rockies, open spaces – all beckon Americans from every corner of the country. Energy takes them there and helps create memories that last forever.
Posted August 1, 2017
Mount Washington is New England’s highest peak, rising to 6,289 feet in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, about three hours north of the state capital at Concord. The summit offers breathtaking views in all directions – on a clear day you can see the Atlantic Ocean from up there. Yet, getting there is at least as exhilarating as arriving. That’s where energy comes in.
If you’re eager, experienced and fit, you can hike all the way up in four hours or so. Some of the gear that hikers need is made with or from petroleum, which we touched on in the West Virginia chapter of this series. For a climb like Mount Washington, you need stuff that’s lightweight yet durable and water resistant. You also can drive up or be driven to the summit. Again, energy.
There’s also the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
Posted July 27, 2017
With energy, colors are brighter, they last longer and they’re easier to use. Energy also helps artists create, fueling critical key processes lots of artists use. This includes a number of them who’ll be part of the “Art in the Pearl” event, a Labor Day Weekend fine arts and crafts festival staged each year in the streets of Portland’s Pearl District.
Posted July 25, 2017
South Carolina has South of the Border, the world’s largest ball of twine sits under a shelter in Kansas, Tennessee has Rock City and Minnesota is home to the SPAM Museum. Yet, probably none is as famous the world over as Wall Drug – relentlessly, ubiquitously, hawking “free ice water” to draw visitors to the king of kitsch for 81 years. While the town of Wall is smaller than the tip of a pen on the Rand McNally, no one else has a photo-op magnet, for youngsters and oldsters alike, that’s better than Wall Drug’s big ‘ol “Jackalope.” Behind the ice water billboards, the Jackalope and all the rest of Wall Drug’s crazy-quilt allure, there’s energy.
Posted July 24, 2017