Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I had overslept after working the night shift. A few times throughout the day, I heard my phone ringing. I ignored it.

When I woke up, I had a couple of phone messages.

"Erik, turn on the news. Any channel will do."
"Erik, look at the news. Terrorists crashed a plane into the World Trade Center."

In my mind, I pictured a small Cessna-type plane crashed in the WTC plaza. I got onto the internet and looked at CNN. A plane had crashed into the Pentagon, it said. Hmm, that message must have been a mistake.

I kept reading. Very quickly, I turned on the TV.

Many of my friends watched it live, but I experienced the full horror of 9/11 after the fact, having slept through the whole thing. My reaction was immediate: I accessed some guns and kept them handy, and verified the status of my loved ones.

In 2001, 9/11 proved to me (and hopefully others) that there was no scenario too impossible to plan for. Following 9/11 we witnessed the Madrid bombings, 7/7 London bombings, Fort Hood shootings, as well as a host of other terrorist attacks. Many of the "thwarted” attacks failed only because of the terrorist's extraordinary lack of criminal sophistication.

I certainly don't think that our response to 9/11 has been the correct one; the TSA is laughably incompetent, overbearing, and ineffective. Our wars overseas have been twisted to meet a political agenda that has nothing to do with fighting terrorism (I should stress that this in no way reflects on the men and women who served, and continue to serve with honor in our Armed Forces). But real, effective solutions to the problem of terrorism - both overseas and wthin our borders - seem to be elusive.

For our government, 9/11 has turned into an excuse to enact stupid laws and continue failed policies. For the majority of our citizens, 9/11 was just a movie they watched. It's ten years later now, and some are questioning if it is still relevant.

For roughly 5000 people, 9/11 will always be relevant - it will be the day they died in a war most of them did not know had been declared. We should honor their memory and not let their deaths be meaningless.

9/11 should have been a wakeup call for our government and our citizens. 9/11 has shown us that no terrorist scenario is implausible. For our citizens, 9/11 should serve as a reminder that, in the face of disaster, you and only you are going to be responsible for your safety.

I personally do not believe that we will never have another terrorist attack. I can only hope that I am wrong. If I am right, should I find myself in the midst of it, I am committed to rise to the challenge.

We all should be.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Man, have I been busy!

I know I haven't done so well keeping up with the blog, but bear with me.  I have some free time this week to get caught up, and will be looking forward to talking about John Farnam's "Urban Rifle" and "More Advanced" handgun classes, as well as the DPMS Outbreak Omega event, plus an update on my Tantal project.

I wanted to take a moment though, to comment on what happened in Colorado on Thursday morning.

This particular incident has affected me more that similar incidents because I can see myself in that situation.  I turned down an invite to the local premier of that same movie here in the Twin Cities on Thursday - not for security concerns but because it interfered with my work schedule.  I often attend such events for movies I am interested in - for example several weeks ago I went to see the Prometheus opening at a midnight show. 

Any large public event is a possible target for a mass murderer or terrorist attack (the FBI has been sending out warnings about potential movie theater attacks for over a year).  When I attend one, I take a minute to plan for such an incident.  I review with my wife (and/or anyone else I am with) a plan to rally outside if something happens.  When I go in, I locate all possible exits so I have options if an escape route is blocked.  If possible, I do my best to get an aisle seat so I can get out quick.

Day or night, I always carry my Streamlight Microstream light.  When practical, I also carry a "real" flashlight (usually my BHI Gladius or my new ASP Triad).  My primary carry guns also have lights mounted on them (I admit it adds some bulk but I've gotten used to it).

Carrying is just one piece of the puzzle.  The gun is just a single tool, and a last resort tool at that.  Planning ahead and preparing for the worst is just as important as carrying your gun.

We have to accept that the world is a dangerous place.  As a recent article in the Washington Times points out, Batman is not going to save us.  We have to take responsibility to save ourselves and the people we care about.

(Regarding the specific subject of engaging an active shooter, I put my thoughts to words in a blog post a while ago.  You can read that here.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Road to Sturgis - Part 3

It's Monday and we're checked into our hotel room in Deadwood, South Dakota. Tomorrow morning I'll be driving up to Sturgis for John Farnam's Urban Rifle Class, but today we had our last day of sightseeing.

We spent the night before in Hulett, Wyoming, in a cozy little A-frame at the Hulett Motel after spending the day at Devil's Tower. 

Seeing Devil's Tower in person is an experience I find difficult to describe. My rational thoughts tell me that it's a unique formation of igneous rock formed by millions of years of erosion, but seeing it simply stunned me into silence. I'll the photos speak for themselves:

As you hike around the tower, you experience seeing it from different angles, the sun casts different shadows, the wind blowing through the forest, the wildlife – it creates a truly extraordinary experience.

After leaving the tower, we spent the night in Hulett, more a ranching town than tourist town. It does have two local museums that are worth checking out. The Hulett Museum and Art Gallery has a nice collection of Devil's Tower memorabilia, dinosaur bones, and of course – some guns!

The other place, called “Rogue's Gallery” was billed more as an antique shop, but had an incredible display of artifacts from the Indian Wars and settlement of the Great Plains. Among these artifacts were a large collection of Indian guns, some of which may have seen action at Little Big Horn.

FBI evidence seized after the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation.

This revolver was used in a notorious local murder.
Guns captured by Indians and used in the Indian Wars.
In the morning, we headed out for Deadwood, with a short stop in Aladdin, Wyoming. The Aladdin General Store has been in business for over 100 years.

Just outside of Aladdin, we stopped to see an old tipple from the Aladdin coal mine. The tipple is an inclined series of chutes for sorting coal.

After checking out the tipple we stopped for breakfast in Belle Fourche, South Dakota where there is a monument to the geographical center of the United States.

We also checked out the Tri-State Museum, which featured the mount of a local infamous wolf, “Three Toes” who killed thousands of dollars worth of livestock and terrorized the locals for over thirteen years.

And of course, no museum would be complete without memorials to its local veterans, including a pilot from the Doolittle Raid. 

I have to admit, seeing the same type of uniform you wore in the service in a museum makes you feel kind of old:

Our drive to Deadwood took us through the beautiful Spearfish Canyon. While it may have taken a little longer, it was worth it for the breathtaking scenery:

Bridal Veil Falls

Once in Deadwood, we did some local sightseeing, including the Bullock Hotel, the site of the No. 10 Saloon (where Wild Bill Hickok was killed). 

Deadwood's historic Main Street.

We also headed up to the town of Lead (pronounced LEED) to see the Homestake Gold Mine. The mine's now closed, but it's home to a particle physics laboratory, where experiments are being conducted to study theoretical particles over 4000 feet underground (you can't do this sort of thing on the surface because of cosmic radiation interference). 

The original mining pit is over 1000 feet deep - deep enough to swallow Devil's Tower!  The actual mine itself goes over 8000 feet deep. 
Tomorrow, I start the class, which is the whole reason for this trip. But getting here has been half the fun!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Road to Sturgis: Part 2

Our second day on the road consisted of driving from Mitchell to Keystone, South Dakota. Our roadside goals for this trip were to see the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, but we got lucky with a couple other finds.

As you head down I90, the opportunity will come to exit onto the Badlands Scenic Byway. If you have the time, it's definitely worth the detour. It's difficult to do the Badlands justice with photos, but here are some attempts:


We took quite a few more pictures, and you can see them on the Flickr account.

Once we finished the Badlands, we headed on towards Keystone, where Mount Rushmore is located. On the way, we saw this unusual site by the roadside:

That's a “Goat Bridge” designed to lure tourists into the Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo. The goats seemed to enjoy hanging out on the bridge.

We finally arrived at Mount Rushmore and discovered the sun was in almost exactly the wrong place for photos, but we gave it our best shot.

Outside the Mount Rushmore gift shop, we found this interesting historical tidbit. Thomas Jefferson was not only an author of the Declaration of Independence, but he also was recorded as creating one of the first known ice cream recipes!

Keystone is a neat little town nestled in the Black Hills. Here's the view from our hotel parking lot:

Just up the road was an interesting abandoned mine – it appeared that work was still going on in an adjacent plant.

On our way out of town the next morning, we stopped in Rapid City to pick up some supplies and took a quick detour to the town's Dinosaur Park. These dinosaurs were built in the 1930s by the WPA on the highest point in the city.

In the parking lot, we found a historical marker commemorating the “Hangman's Hill” just up the road, where two outlaws were hung in the 1800s. On the way back, we discovered that this ghastly place was actually in someone's front yard:

Plus side: great view of the city.

Tomorrow: Devil's Tower, Hulett Museum guns, and Indian guns!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Adventures on the Road to Sturgis

For those of you who have been following the blog, you know that this week I'm off to Sturgis, South Dakota to attend the Defense Training International (DTI) Urban Rifle Course, taught by John Farnam. My course starts on Wednesday morning, but I figured I'd share some of my adventures on the drive. So far, it's been a great trip, accompanied by my lovely wife, Laurie.

I'm breaking in two recent purchases on this trip: a Tantal AK74, which I'll be running at the rifle course, and a great condition Chevy Tahoe I just picked up. So far, the Tahoe has been a pleasure to drive, and we'll see how the Tantal holds up in a couple of days.

We left on Saturday morning with a plan to see some sights on the way out. Our first stop was actually an unexpected surprise – our route took us through Darwin, Minnesota – home of the World's Largest Ball of Twine!

Our next stop was De Smet, where Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the “Little House on the Prairie” books) and her family had settled.  We got to tour two homes owned by the family, as well as a school Laura and Carrie attended.

We ended our day in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the one and only “Corn Palace.” If you haven't been there, you're not missing much. It's essentially a large gift shop.

Dinner was prime rib at Chef Louie's – I'd highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Mitchell.

The next morning we headed out towards the Badlands, but along the way we kept seeing signs for Pioneer Auto in the town of Murdo. Our original plan was to stop at Wall Drug after the Badlands, but the possibility of a classic car museum was too good to pass up.

Pioneer Auto advertised over 200 cars, and I think we saw them all. Initially we found a well-lit showroom style display, crammed with classic cars and odds-and-ends, in the style of House on the Rock (one of my favorite other roadside attractions, in Spring Green, Wisconsin). Among these was a General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard TV series:

And racer in the style of Richard Petty (I couldn't determine if Petty actually drove it or not, but he had autographed it):

In the next room were a bunch of...well, all sorts of stuff. A giant wooden chicken:

Cases of depression glass, old dolls, old typewriters, some Star Wars figures, and other oddities. Following this was a very large rock collection (which was neat, if you like rocks).

In the next room were some guns, which I know regular readers of this blog will appreciate:

Here's a BAR cutout, oversize for training. I've always wanted one of these, just because they are so neat.  I've seen them pop up for sale from time to time.

Some of the pistols were pretty rare, including this Roth-Styer and a pair of French Pinfire revolvers:

As well as an M1 Carbine training cutout:

I was so into the M1 that I almost missed it was hanging behind a Cord automobile! Those are pretty rare. There were two of these on the grounds, but this one was the nicest.

As we moved on, the quality of the buildings (basically old barns and stables) deteriorated, but the cars did not. Here's a 1930s Chevy – most of the cars you see in this era are Fords:

This was stored with a lot of other seriously old – and potentially valuable – cars in the shed:

The next shed held some interesting cars , including a 1934 Packard owned by cowboy star Tom Mix:

As a non-sequitur, in the same shed we found a bunch of old PCs – nothing historic, but they had clearly been there for a while.

Next was the “muscle car” display. Some very cool stuff in here, including a Plymouth Superbird, one of my all time favorite cars:

The next shed had a bunch of old motorcycles, out in the open. In a glass case, however, was a Harley owned by none other than Elvis Presley!

Then things started getting kind of weird. A wedding chapel was populated with mannequins and didn't look like it had been used for some time:

A horse drawn hearse with a Boot Hill diorama next to it:

A shed full of old steam tractors, some touring cars, and a 70s AMC Pacer:

Another shed held some nice classic cars, as well as a 1970s...Ford Pinto?

I didn't get any pics, but the solar-powered Odyssey Concept Car was in this same row. As the Pinto.

Another shed held a large collection of what I'd call junk, in a display that was more archeology than museum. I theorized that the owner of the museum may have bought out entire estate sales and put everything he got on display.

I really enjoyed Pioneer Auto, but couldn't help having some mixed emotions. I'd ballpark the total value of the collection at three million or more – but most of these cars are just sitting, collecting dust, upholstery and tires rotting, and probably haven't been maintained in years. If I were to wish the fate of these cars, I guess I'd say I wish they were at least getting washed and better protected from the elements. But they don't belong to me, so I have to just appreciate that someone's keeping them around.

Could be worse, right?  They could be in junkyards.

TOMORROW – Badlands and Mount Rushmore.