Photographing Brian David Collins and Rae McAlister

On Saturday, July 6, my band Amy and the Peace Pipes had the opportunity to play with Rae McAlister and Brian David Collins at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins. I took the opportunity to capture some photos during their sets, on Avo’s beautiful backyard patio. It made for some great natural lighting, mixed in with some of the colored lighting they were using for the show.

Rae McAlister

Brian David Collins

It’s always a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to taking pictures bands I’m playing with. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to refine my photography and hopefully capture some images that the artist can use. On the other hand, I’m also focused on getting ready to perform and ultimately need to take some time (especially in the band right before ours) to get everything in order to take the stage. I do wish I had more time to get some different angles and use my wide lens.

More Balderramas in Yellowstone

This is part 2 of my Balderramas in Yellowstone post.

After two busy days of driving around the west end of Yellowstone, we opted for going low-key for day three and do things a little closer to the west entrance.

Our first stop was a cute shoreline along the Madison River, where we enjoyed some time in the stream and a picnic over by the river.

Next up was a quick stop over at the Fountain Paint Pot. In terms of number of features, this was probably the best stop we had. In addition to the “Mud Pots” that would boil over, there was also a cave that spewed out smoke and sounded like a dragon was living in it. There were also the multi-colored pools, similar to what we saw in the Grand Prismatic, as well as a geyser.

We headed back into the West Entrance town and enjoyed some brews at the Slippery Otter.

We had originally planned to go back home on Sunday, making a long day of driving, but the drive between Rock Springs, WY and to Island Park took a lot longer than we expected, due to road construction and going through towns. We opted to break the drive into two days and just go back to Rock Springs on Sunday. This created the opportunity to drive through Yellowstone on the way back and stopping to see the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

We also continued to drive through the South Entrance (which was much smaller than the West Entrance) and drive along the Grand Tetons. We were told by multiple people that it would be well-worth the drive – and they were right! We just made a quick stop at a pull-off and grabbed some beautiful pictures.

Our trip concluded back in Rock Springs with some rest and swimming! With as much fun as we had, we’re glad to be back home.

Balderramas in Yellowstone

After stopping at home for a few days after South Dakota, we packed everything back up to go explore Yellowstone with our Balderrama family.

This time our home base is in Island Park, Idaho, which we made after two shorter travel days, staying in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The drive took us through Jackson during lunch and took a bit longer than expected since you’re driving through so many small towns. The 12 of us are staying at a beautiful cabin that goes three stories tall. We’re well stocked with good food and drink and have yet to eat out since we’ve arrived.

Island Park is about 30 minutes from the Yellowstone West Entrance, that takes you into Montana for all of 10 minutes before you’re back in Wyoming. The drive is really pleasant and we’ve been lucky enough to have encountered short lines when getting into the park.

I’ve never been to Yellowstone and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After spending two days here, I would equate our experience to “Wilderness Disneyland” – it’s an incredible place filled with a lot of pretty sights, but there are a lot of lines everywhere you go. While we haven’t encountered too many traffic jams (and those are typically caused by a wildlife sighting), every big attraction has people everywhere, and we’re finding ourselves navigating big crowds.

The other surprise was just how accessible everything is by car. Every big attraction has a parking lot with a short path that leads you right up to it. I was expecting more long treks and hikes to view some of these things. With two young kids, I am grateful just how accessible all of these features are, but at the same time it does make every attraction feel like a Disneyland ride, again with people everywhere.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and as someone who has been to Rocky Mountain National Park many times, I still am in awe at the marvels that are at Yellowstone. Grasping the size of the park has been a surprise, as I wasn’t prepared for as much driving as we’re doing. It’s a beautiful drive, but you are likely to spend the majority of your time in the car. Next to driving, we’ve spent the most significant amount of time at the bathroom lines. With four young kids, we’re always finding ourselves in the dozen-people-deep line of people waiting for the outhouses.

Over our two days at the park, we’ve experienced some great highlights.

Grand Prismatic Spring

This has been my favorite feature, by far. This (non-swim-able) hot spring is basically a boiling lake that runs off into the river. When the wind picks up, you can see (and feel) the hot steam blow off the water. At one point when we walked through it, my glasses were completely fogged up and there was no visibility.

There’s a big elevated walkway that you take as a one-way loop. It wasn’t until I was half-way through the loop when I realized the auto-focus was off on my lens, and I debated taking another quick solo loop with the focus working. I was so glad I did.

Old Faithful

This famous landmark was at the top of our list when we set out for Yellowstone, but we heeded the advice of the ranger that told us to go later in the day. It was still incredibly crowded, but we lucked into great timing and arrived just minutes before it was set to go off. It’s amazing just how much water shoots out, and how little contrast there is between the water and the clouds.

The Falls of Yellowstone

We spent our second day venturing to the Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone, showing off the start of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone as well. The falls were impressive and made for some incredible photos. We were looking forward to taking Uncle Tom’s Trail which would take you down 300 steps, but that was closed due to some hazardous conditions.

Artist Point made for some awesome views, but at that point our girls had enough and were pretty tired, shortening our visit.

Other notes

There is lots of wildlife that can be seen. We have driven by many Bison herds, but haven’t taken many great shots of them just yet. We also did find an elk hanging out on an island in the middle of a river as well. Our goal over the next day is to get some more shots of wildlife.

With four young kids, we’ve tried to keep our agendas relatively open with lower expectations. This has maintained a lot of space for fun with the family.

We’ve got one more full day in Yellowstone before we head back. We’re again trying to temper expectations and make things a little less structured, in hopes that we’ll have another fun and memorable day.

South Dakota

Hello from South Dakota! We ventured up north for a few days to spend time with family, see some sights and relax up north a bit. We’re up here near Custer, about 4.5 hours from our home in Windsor. I was really surprised just how short the drive felt, especially with a 5 and 3-year-old in the car. The girls were champs, Clara was particularly excited about a camera that is new to her (our last point & shoot camera we had before our smartphones overtook it) and proceeded to take pictures out the window for most of the trip, as well as a dozen pictures of her tray table.

We’re staying at a beautiful house that is next a pond and a pasture, nestled between two hills.

The weather has been cool, a bit rainy, but also beautiful as well. This has been a nice escape of the summer weather that reached Colorado last week.

After spending Saturday getting settled-in, we ventured out to Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Site. I’ll admit that I didn’t really do much research beforehand and had assumed that they uncovered the remains of a single mammoth, but found out that the Mammoth Site actually houses the remains of at least 61 mammoths, as they fell into a hot springs trap long ago.

The girls got to take part in a Junior Paleontoligists dig, where they got to dig up replicas. They really enjoyed playing in the dirt and making their discoveries.

We picked up lunch at the Daily Bread Bakery and Cafe and had an awesome buffalo chicken sandwich, then spent the afternoon swimming at Evan’s Plunge. We actually didn’t realize that the hot springs aren’t all that hot (at least those have been to Glenwood or Steamboat). The water is definitely warm and clear, and we had a lot of fun swimming.

On the way there and back, we drove through a Buffalo pasture, where we got to witness the beautiful animals up close. Bethany took this photo from the passenger window.


On Monday we ventured north to Mt. Rushmore. The day turned out to be rainy, but the rain let up just long enough to get some beautiful shots of the mountain sculpture.

We managed to get a little closer through the scenic path, snagging a better shot.

Between the time we viewed it on the scenic trail and when we got back to the observation point, the clouds and rained rolled in, preventing it from being viewed.

The rain squashed our plans for the rest of the day but gave us the opportunity to stop back in Custer and eat at The Burger and Bun Co. It was highly recommended from friends and definitely lived up to the hype!

The rest of our day was spent relaxing back at the house and resting up. We’re gearing up for full day on Tuesday before we head back to Colorado on Wednesday. More to come!

5 Podcast Episodes That Blew My Mind

Happy start to your summer! If you’re like us, you’re likely venturing out on the road these next few months, you may be looking for ways to pass the time in the car. If you’re a podcast listener (and if you’re not, you really need to be!), I wanted to some standalone episodes that absolutely blew my mind and made me reconsider that subject, spawning some great conversations afterward.

99% Invisible – #346 – Palaces for the People

Those who know me (or read some of my previous posts) know that I feel strongly about libraries, so much so that I sometimes wonder whether I’m on an island of obscurity. Imagine my joy when one of my favorite podcasts did an entire episode on the importance of libraries, in the broader context of communities now needing to invest in social infrastructure, the same way we invest in municipal infrastructure. “Palaces for the People” does a great job articulating the evolving needs and services of our libraries, giving people access to resources they otherwise may not have.

Episode Link

Bonus 99% Invisible Episode: #318 Fire and Rain. Now that we’re unfortunately entering into fire season, this episode does a great job explaining the lessons many haven’t learned when designing and rebuilding their communities.

Switched on Pop – #112 – Country at the Crossroads

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Switched On Pop is a relatively new discovery for me, and you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the way they deep-dive into the facets of the music and the song-writing process. This episode dives into the controversy surrounding Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and its removal from the Billboard Country Chart. They breakdown the basic aspects of modern country music and whether the song fits into those traits. It’s a really fascinating listen, especially if you’re a modern country music fan. If anything, it’ll give you a deeper appreciation for this more recent hit.

Episode Link

Twenty Thousand Herts – #62 – The Booj

Warning: Listening to this episode will forever ruin movie trailers for you. The “Booj” refers to the sub-woofer bass pitch change that you hear during modern movie trailers. This podcast covers the evolution of the movie trailer, especially into this decade, and the way they all use the same formula (especially in the sound design) to entice you to see the movie.They walk through the construction of a mock movie trailer using that formula. After listening to this podcast, I challenge you not to actively listen for the “booj” in the next trailer you see.

Episode Link

Disect – S2E6 – Power by Kanye West

2019-06-02 21_15_05-S2E6 – Power by Kanye West by Dissect • A podcast on Anchor

Whether or not you dig rap music, listening to this podcast will further your appreciation of rap. You don’t have to like Kanye to appreciate the intricacies of his music, and the decisions he made in the composition of the song. “Power” was already one of my favorite Kanye songs, as it’s perfect for running. This hour-long podcast examines everything from the sampling and the production elements to the backstory of all of the references made, line by line within the song. It should be noted that the song itself uses explicit language, and the podcast includes explicit references as well (so don’t listen to this one while you have kids in the car).

Episode Link

Revisionist History – S1E5 – Food Fight

This episode is a few years old, but has only become more relevant in the wake of the recent College Admissions scandal. “Food Fight” references the contrast between dining halls in Bowdoin College in Maine and Vassar College in upstate New York, illustrating how colleges are building extravagant amenities to entice students to attend, but decreasing the affordability of college to many. This really launched me into a lot of contemplation about college affordability and the place of higher education in our society.

Bonus: Check out the sequel, My Little Hundred Million.

Episode Link


These are but five standalone episodes, but I would be happy to provide more suggestions of a few ongoing series or seasons – just drop me a line! I’m also on the lookout for any other mind-blowing podcasts, please drop a comment if you have one!