Sunday, December 2, 2007

Our History is Within Us All

Darwin and The Origin of Species; An exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum.
Click here for link

In Chicago when recently visiting the Field Museum for an exhibit on maps, I had the opportunity visit a concurrent exhibit simply titled "Darwin." While it did use historical documents and artifacts to explain the sources of his seminal work, The Origin of Species, it just as importantly provided a glimpse into the personal life of this most remarkable individual. Trained as a theologian as well as a biologist, Darwin delayed publishing Origin for 20 years over well-founded concerns that he would draw a reaction "like confessing a murder."

Darwin told us what evolution was. One hundred years later, Watson and Crick told us how it happens. I hold these as the two greatest discoveries in biology.

My Own Biologic History?

Recent reading of a number of popular books about genetics and DNA (The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, and The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes), and discussions with Barbara about her new genealogy discoveries, sparked an interest in what might be our own ancient genealogic history. I was watching a National Geographic program and at the end there was a blurb about their "Genographic Project" that piqued my interest.

Ultimately, we have joined the Genographic project with buccal swabs from both of us, and we have also purchased kits from the Family Tree DNA company for Barbara, myself, and Barbara's father. (as it turns out, the University of AZ does the DNA analysis, y-DNA and mtDNA, both for National Geographic as well as for

We are trying not only to discover something about our distant roots, but also to establish the start of a DNA-based information file that I am certain will be a critical part of any geneaologic searching in the future.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Maps as History

Map of Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

Barbara always includes a day at the Newberry Library for geneaology research when I attend the big radiology meeting in Chicago every fall. This year it happens that the Newberry had partnered with the Chicago Field Museum for an exceptional joint exposition from early Nov until Jan 27, so for the first time I joined her on a visit, first to the Newberry and then on to the Field Museum.

"In creating Maps: Finding Our Place in the World " the Field Museum has partnered with The Newberry Library, a world-renowned independent research library. The Newberry's extensive holdings include rare books, manuscripts, and 500,000 historic maps, making it a foremost authority on the history of cartography." (From the museum website.) For a 3-D oversight of the Field Museum exhibit click here.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we could not miss. We were allowed to inspect closely some of the most significant maps in the world, as well as some that were just interesting and beautiful.

The collection ranged from 3+ thousand year-old clay maps, to Garmin GPS devices and Google Earth displays. There was the first "map" of the internet (ARPANET - 1982), maps of currents and islands with sticks from the south Pacific, cosmological maps from religious traditions, and of course, many historically significant traditional maps.

The items ranged in size from a few inches to perhaps 20 feet. All were displayed in subdued light, but most still could be viewed from only inches away. (in the Newberry, they actually provided magnifying glasses.)

There were original maps by Leonardo da Vinci (of a town), George Washington (French military outpost on the frontier), Ab Lincoln (survey of a township), Thomas Jefferson (proposed map of new states (with names) between the colonies and the Mississippi), Ben Franklin, JRR Tolkien, Wm Clark (of Lewis and Clark), M Servetus (link), and Charles Lindbergh (the map/chart used in his transatlantic flight).
The "Great Map"

One map was particularly impressive. A year or two ago I read "The Map That Changed The World," a popular historical book by Simon Winchester. It is an account of William Smith’s life and his "great map." In short, Smith was the first real geologist, and his geological map of England set a totally new paradigm for understanding everything from topical geology to plate tectonics.
His map was right there, taller than me, and close enough to touch!

Few geologists or historians of science have ever seen a copy. Because of its rarity and its size, it is difficult to display and even more difficult to study. One is displayed on the wall of the private meeting rooms of the Geological Society of London (behind a shade) but I do not know anywhere that it is open to public view. Because watercolors fade rapidly under ordinary light, libraries and museums can only expose it only under exceptional circumstances and for short durations.
There were a few other related artifacts such as the chronometer Capt Cook used on his round-the-world voyage that were used to compliment the maps, but it was essentially just the maps, maps, and more wonderful maps.
There are actually entire websites and blogs dedicated to Cartography. You might want to visit The Map Room as an example.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sharing more than thoughts . . .

"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."

Bangers and Mash with a pint in an English Pub

There is a variety of ways to share food: giving to a food bank, taking a dish to a pot luck, asking friends over for a meal, and vice versa. The most intimate sharing however is when you say "this is really good," and pass to me a bite straight from your plate . . . on your own fork. . . and wait for me to take it to my mouth and render my own opinion. This is sharing yourself, as well as your bacteria, etc.

Now it should be no surprise that Barbara and I share bites of food all the time. I have a (pathological?) aversion to ordering the same thing as her (she?) when we go out to eat, since if I order the same thing we only get to sample that one dish, but if I order something different, the variety in our dining experience is doubled!

The other evening we were out with friends. (Yes we have a few.) Among the 4 of us we had 2 wines, 3 starters, 4 entrees and one desert, and each of us tasted most of these. The one desert was delivered, as we requested, with 4 forks. It wasn't quite a group of pacific islanders sitting around eating with our hands from a common bowl, but it wasn't far removed either. As we shared the food, we also shared experiences, thoughts, feelings, and plans. It all seemed natural, right, and pleasurable, and left us with warm feelings at the end of the evening.

Most friends seem eager to share an especially nice dish, some share with a little encouragement, and some just are not into sharing their food that way. One can usually tell if friends are the "sharing" types or not, and not sharing one's dinner makes them no less a friend.

Sharing . . . something we should have learned as children . . . can be a tremendous enrichment to this life, and that includes lunchtime.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Books into Movies

A number of years ago, I had more or less given up on going to movies of a good book I had already read. Even Remains of the Day, as good as Hopkins was, left me disappointed when the full power of the book just wasn't quite there for me. Then, several years ago, I decided to see The Shipping News, mainly because I'm such a Judi Dench fan, even though I could not conceive of how this Pulitzer-winning novel could possibly be transferred to the screen. I was most pleasantly surprised, and these days I have to keep open the possibility that a screenwriter and a director might have successfully transformed a good book into a just-as-good movie.

This week I have seen the ads for an upcoming movie "No Country for Old Men," and again I am mystified as to how it would be possible to bring Cormac McCarthy's book of the same name to the screen. Cormac is a good writer about a bad world. From Blood Meridian to The Road, the dark, depraved, bad (evil?) side of humankind dominates and overwhelms his writings, though the protagonist are, for the most part, good men. No Country is no different, and scene after scene of depraved violence fills the pages. Here, the worlds of evil and good are perhaps more crystal clear than in his other works, and maybe that is why we now will have the movie. Sheriff Bell is a quiet Christian (Presbyterian judging by his predestinationist philosophy), looking for the good while living with the bad, and contemplating regularly over his good fortune to meet and marry Emma, his wife of several decades. McCarthy emphaticlly separates these positive thoughts into completely separate, short chapters, printed entirely in italics. As the title of the book suggest, there is an alienation of this older man from much of current socitey, maybe that's what drew me into the book to begin with.

I find Cormac McCarthy books cannot be read in sequence, but need some space (years?) between them. There are brief moments of salvation in the perdition through which his stories wind, but you pay dearly to catch those glimpses. No Country for Old Men is not considered one of Cormac's top works, and is just a few pages beyond a short story (thus ideal for a movie script). Knowing the penchance of the movie-makers for overdoing graphical violence, I don't know if I will see this movie even out of curiosity.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Worth 100' of your time . . .

Randy Pausch giving his "Final Talk"

Recently a friend, Ranjan Jayanathan from Dynamic Imaging, sent me a link to "The Final Lecture" given by Randy Pausch. You may have already seen clips of this on 60 Minutes or elsewhere. There are not many things I read or watch on the internet that affect my life, particularly at my age. This is one of them.

Randy Pausch is 48, is dying from pancreatic cancer (he gets this "elephant in the room" out of the way quickly by showing pictures of his recent CT scan and then moving on), and in this last lecture he reviews the important lesions he has learned in his life in academics and industry. This is not some sappy, inspirational video, but an exceptional human sharing what he thinks is really important, perhaps the importance of actually "living" ones life; not just existing on this planet for as many years as possible.

It is around 100 minutes, and I don't regret I made the time to watch it. It was much more important than most of the TV I watch. if you decide to spend the time, don't skip the introductions nor the post-talk awards.

Here the link to the Video:
And also:

Wikipedia link here
Randy's own website here

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Postscript to the travel postings: My Trophy Hat

"Idaho Outdoors" Cap"
I'm not one for ball caps as a rule - I tend to wear a hat with a substantial brim, if anything. However there are exceptions.
The usual place I will wear a ball cap is when I am reading in bed, because the overhead reading lights here in Cedar Rapids or in the motorhome cause a glare in my glasses, and the cap works perfectly to shield that glare (this really drives Barbara crazy).
This "Idaho Outdoors" cap arrived today in the mail as a flashback to our recent trip. If you remember, we mentioned visiting the "City of Rocks" National Monument while in Idaho. The day we left, the Idaho Statesman newspaper carried their weekly "Where is this?" contest, and this week it was a picture of one of the rock formations in City of Rocks National Monument. Having just been to this out-of-the-way place, I recognized this particular formation, "Register Rock". I sent my entry in via email and . . . first prize - the cap! Now I can irritate Barbara in style with my new, fully anti-glare bed cap.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This is STILL an important book.

Today is the 50th year of the publication of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I have seen several articles about her and this book. It is critical for young readers to realize that in 1920 she moved from socialist Russia to capitalist America; this at a time of global evolution (not revolution) with uncertainty as to what form of society would become dominant. This novel was the best means Rand had for expressing her understanding of this conflict, and her personal philosophy.
We have seen the decline of socialism and growth of capitalism from the USSR to China to the western world. I, myself, see evils in the extremes of both, but I certainly know where I would like to live.
Capitalism, ultimately, has to be concerned with the welfare of the general population rather than simply brutal, short-term enrichment. For it to succeed, all must succeed, and the chance for that is better than the chances with socialism. The best of the reviews of Rand's book that I have come across is from the TIA, published HERE.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Final Night of the Trip Together
(Click picture to enlarge)

Tuesday, our final road night together, the four of us celebrated the our trip with a glass of champagne. We had spent 36 days together, and it was a bit sad to come to the end of the trip.

We have followed the immigrants along much of the Oregon and California trails, traveled along portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, and seen much of modern urban and rural Oregon. Of course, we were really glad to get to spend some time with Matt/John and Rachael in Portland. We also serendipitously connected with RV friends in Astoria and Reno and met a few new ones. (When I turned our motorhome in here in Cedar Rapids for several small fixes, I was able to tell the young lady at the service counter that I had talked with her father at the RV park in Baker City.) The weather was exceptionally good to us overall.

Barbara and I have done a lot of traveling in our 36 years together, but it is still nice to know that we can spend essentially 24 hrs a day, 39 days in a row, in less than 400 sq ft and still get along fine.

Of course that is one relationship. Traveling with another couple, there are 4 relationships that have to function reasonably well, and they did so. We have done several RV trips with Bill and Dana, but this was the longest, and it was good to see we still do it well. It requires some compromises and a certain amount of tolerance, but the payoff is well worth it.

For those of you who have followed the journey on this blog, this is the last post. I will keep it active until the constraints of Google's limit on my blog account is breached, then it will have to go. It has been fun for me; I hope it has been entertaining for you. Thank you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Near the end of the rainbow

Stopping for the night in Elco, Nevada

After a brief stop in Reno, we are heading east on I-80 towards home. We stopped in Elco, Nevada for the night, and the four of us had a nice dinner with grilled flank steak, fresh squash, Potatoes, and a bottle of Syrah from the HillCrest Vinyard in the Umpqua Valley (click for link). The dinners prepared by Barbara and Dana in the rigs have been wonderful; better than most of the restaurants meals we have had.

The drive across northern Nevada has been much more picturesque than I remember; even mostly in overcast or light rain. The remnants of the country's first titanium mine can be seen in the gost town of Comstock just off the road. Between 1916 and 1947, at its peak it produced most of the world's titanium.

We traveled to the coast more or less along the Oregon trail and some of the Lewis and Clark route, and we are returning along some of the Northern California trails. Earlier in the day, we had in about 40 minutes by motorhome crossed the "Forty Mile Desert", a dry stretch of alkali desert first crossed by the Walker-Chiles party in 1843 (click here for a link to diary entries of emigrants). Despite the hazards, this was the dominant trail used for the immigration to Northern California until the 1860s. This was a tough task to face after having just made it across 6,143' Emigrant Gap. In addition to the loss of thousands of mules, horses and cattle, there were at least 953 graves recorded along this short stretch of the California trail.

This is a really big country; I will die without seeing all of it (though there is no harm in trying.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Small, but a community

Likely, California
The only place within at least 50 miles for Fritz to fill up with diesel.

The run from Bend to Reno on 31/395 is long stretches of lonely (but generally attractive) highway with a few tiny towns scattered at great distances apart. Here in the unlikely place of Likely, you could fill up with diesel (at a price), so long as you had your gas filler cap on the correct side. The four of us talked of the difficulty we would have living in one of these tiny, remote villages.
I do remember that I grew up in the small towns of Spur, Texas. The big City of Lubbock was 75miles (or almost 2 hours) away. There, everyone knew me, and I knew just about all of them. A preacher's kid, I had a prominent exposure as such, and I did try hard to not sully my father's reputation as the minister of a small, though generally liberal for the times, congregation.
I could walk to school, the grocery store and the post office. If old Mrs Alexander didn't answer her phones after an appropriate number of rings, then someone, or usually several ones, would immediately walk or drive over to check on her. If you were ill or injured, you would be quickly placed on the prayer chain as well as the casserole chain. There was no wait for a seat at the soda fountain in the drug store or in the restaurants (both of them).
I could go just about anywhere, anytime safely. This included both the town and the surrounding countryside. The schools were marginal in comparison to my children's schools, but I could "make" just about any sports team or instrumental group for which I cared to try out. The library was within walking distance of everyone except those who lived in the country. There were certainly gaps in my education, but in the end it really did not make any difference. I had the opportunity to know the local lawyer, dentist, businessmen, teachers and doctors on a close basis, planting the early seeds of what I would later become.
Almost every night I could step outside and see that view of our solar system we call the Milky Way. Meteors were common, and at the right time of year you could see dozens of them late at night. There always seemed time, if not always money, for whatever I wanted to do.
I am not volunteering to move to a tiny, remote town, and I know there is a lot of nostalgia here on my part, but on reflection I don't feel too sorry for these citizens; it's a trade off. With modern transportation and the Internet, the isolation is not what it once would have been. In such a place, you are part of a single society. What happens to one affects all. There is a community of individuals, and you have to maintain a certain degree of respect and charity for everyone, something perhaps more difficult in the urban milieu.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The best planning . . .

Well, as you can see, the trip has not been exclusively balmy weather. Yesterday we headed south out of Bend on 97, then veered southeast on 31, and picked up 395 which goes through Reno, where we will catch I-80 and head home. We stayed in the unlikely town of Likely, California that night. Before nightfall we had a brief snowstorm, a sure sign it was time to move south.
The also means that this travel blog is approaching its end. I anticipate perhaps one or two more post (was that a sigh of relief I heard?) See you on the web.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's the journey, not the destination

Mount Thielsen, Forest, and B&D's Airstream

We have been fortunate to have lots of sun and warm weather since leaving on this journey. We have also had some beautiful drives when relocating our rigs. The drive from Ashland to Bend was one such day. In this picture that Barbara took through the windshield of our motorhome, towering above the forest, is Mount Thielsen. At 9,184 feet, it stands out in this range of mountains. This is a volcano, and the peak is actually the old magma core, harder than the surrounding lava flow which has eroded away. It is know as the "lightening rod" of the Cascades. It has received so many strikes, and strikes of such intensity that the rock at the top has melted.
After 4 days in Bend, we will start the journey home, heading south for Reno and then I-80 westward to home. This has been a great sabbatical; I am almost missing work!

A High Point in the High Desert

It seemed that much of what we did in Bend was just "hang out," though there is actually a lot to see and do that we had to save for the next trip.

Our RV park was one of the nicest we have had, and it was such a peaceful environment it was hard to get up and get going.

The High Desert Museum was highlighted in all the guidebooks, and even at ~$30/person is was quite an experience. It combines outdoor and indoor space including a great wildlife exhibit, a historical hall, a "living" settler home, and a partially reconstructed early lumber camp and sawmill.

There were many excellent sculptures set in naturalized settings through the grounds. As well as this cast fish jumping in the stream, there were numerous species of living trout in the waters of the museum.

A highlight for us however was a blown glass exhibit(click here for link). This artist was commissioned by a friend (obviously one with money) to create a series of glass vase sculptures reflecting the living things one would see during a walk in the woods. The exhibit was truly astounding.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Always have a book . . .

There was chance to meet an accomplished man when I was young, probably around the age of 12 or 13. This gentleman credited much of his success to his habit of taking every opportunity to read. It had started when he was in the military and found himself to often be waiting for things to happen. He always had reading material, a paperback, a magazine or paper, with him. When waiting in a line, traveling, or otherwise unoccupied, he would pull out his book or whatever and read.
It has been my habit since hearing him talk to try to never find myself in a down moment without something to read. Indeed, I look forward to travel as a time for uninterrupted reading. The long delays in airports these days in some ways I look forward to for reading time.
On this trip, I have not had a great deal of down time for reading. (I'm always working on this darn travel blog it seems!) I will share with you those for which I have so far had time - in no particular order:

Cosmos, Chaos, & the World to Come; The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith by Norman Cohn

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Blood Meridian; or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy

Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein edited by Carl Seelig

A primer of Freudian Psychology by Calvin Hall

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper FForde

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (currently reading)

Mama Mia, Now That's Italian

John, Dino, and Barbara
In front of Dino's Ristorante italiano

I am regressing just a bit here. After so many seafood meals on the coast, we were ready for a change when we turned inland for Roseburg (see the Umpqua valley post.) We did some research and decided to try Dino's Ristorante Italiano in downtown Roseburg. It seems people love it or dismiss it, with a clear majority on the positive side.

We found the food excellent, though maybe I've had better (at home of course!). The critical factor here is Dino himself. Dino and Debbie live in Italy on and off over the years. They study the foods, work in kitchens there and bring back new ideas and spices for cooking.

Dino himself took care of our table, and the banter was continuous:

Bill: Are you Dino?
Dino: That's what I answer to.
Bill "Is this your place"

Dino: "Of course. If it wasn't, I would have been fired 10 min ago."
Bill: "Probably 30 min ago!"
Dino: "Maybe, but you got to put up with me if you're going to eat tonight, so we're both stuck."

In the end, the food was exceptional, the service was entertaining, and it was certainly a memorable evening.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We are such stuff . . .

Ashland Oregon is a nice, small college town with a significant added factor; The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (click for info). This repertory institution occupies a 3 theater complex positioned right in the heart of the colorful Central district, located behind these buildings on the main street of Ashland.
We knew we would be in the Ashland region, and had secured tickets for a performance of Shakespeare's farewell masterpiece The Tempest; generally accepted as his final self-written play, and also considered one of his best. The Elizabethan Stage pictured here is an open roof theater, and we fortunately had clear blue skys.

The Play started just as twilight darkned. This marginal picture perhaps gives one a feeling of our position in the middle of the balcony; really quite good seats.
I certainly cannot claim to be knowledgeable about Shakespeare (though he does seem to have said pretty much anything that was important about anything of worth talking about.)
In the Tempest, the Bard certainly seems to be saying goodby:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. ( "
The Tempest" (4.1.138-48))

The definition of Blue

"Wow!" That's the most common comment heard as someone first approaches the view of Crater Lake from the rim. I said it my self again.

Barbara has been here three times; I have been here twice, and Bill and Dana were here for the first time. Its impact does not lessen with revisits. This is a view that's simply fun to share with other people.
We saw it was going to be a sunny, warm day, so we loaded up on picnic fare and headed up (w
e staying near Ashland at 1,300ft elevation, and the rim is 7,100 ft.)

Stories and pictures of the deep lake and its famous blue water do not prepare one for their first breathtaking look from the brink of this 6 mile wide caldera which was created by the eruption and collapse of Mt. Mazama almost 7,700 years ago. (Cl
ick here for a very nice geological description of this event)
The blue background to the tree branches in the third picture is not the sky - it's the water!
I'm just thankful that there are not a bunch of motels, condos and homes ringing the rim as one sees at places like Lake Tahoe. There are efforts underway to also designate Crater Lake National Park as a "Wilderness Preserve," limiting additional development of campgrounds, hotels, restaurants and other facilities that would otherwise add a bit of comercial air as exist at some of our other national parks. Seems like a good idea to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jump in the Time Machine and go back . . .

Dyson and Susan Demara giving tastings at their HillCrest vineyard and Winery

For those of us old enough to remember the Napa and Sonoma valleys of decades ago, we can recall small vinyards and wineries where you could occasionally meet the owners, or better the winemakers, and the tastings and the conversations were both free and worthwhile. We discovered a bit of that today while driving through the Umpqua valleys near Roseburg, Oregon and wine tasting.

Here the landscape is highly reminiscent of Napa and Sonoma, but there is a marked lack of commercialism. It is refreshing as well as nostalgic. It seems that the climate is similar to Napa and Sonoma, with 2-3 inches more rain, and a harvest that takes place several weeks later.

Perhaps the quintessential Umpqua Vally winery is HillCrest, a small operation that somehow Dyson and Susan Demara manage themselves with occasional help from friends and family (and the local Brownie girl scout troop). They "allow" local children to assist in the "stomping" or foot crushing of some of the grapes in the fall. It seems that these small people are big enough to separate the skins and seeds, but not heavy enough to crush the seeds that have fallen to the bottom of the vat and let undesirable elements enter the juice. The children have fun, and some great wine can be produced.

We had a wonderful tasting here. Dyson and Susan are obviously a happy couple (along with the kids and dogs), and bring this attitude to their wines. They have Napa Valley as well as more world wide experiences, and left Napa a few years ago to create their own crafted wines. Dyson talks enthusiastically about the environment, the wine making process, and other elements that produce their wines (sold locally; no distributor). The process is "old world family technique", with none of the substances that may be "organic", but are not really naturally occurring, that are tossed into 99% of retail wines. I found their tasting offerings were good to superb, with a fine Syrah and an incredible late harvest Riesling.

This is what the Napa and Sonoma valleys were decades ago; open wineries (not just tasting buildings), accessibility to the owners and winemakers, and a distinct lack of a Disneyland commercial feeling to the area. If you are traveling I-5 through Oregon, be sure to stop in the Umpqua Valley for a winery detour. If you have time for only one stop, I strongly urge you to make it HillCrest. Say "Hi" to Dyson and Susan for us if you make it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maybe tomorrow a hamburger. . .

Oyster stew and fishing boat.

Barbara has been driving our quest for seafood for the most part. It's only natural, she spent most of her youth on the Pacific Ocean: Alaska, Hawaii, and San Diego. In Iowa, she has been just a bit more than a little frustrated when trying to get really fresh Pacific seafood.

To that end of trying to get really fresh seafood, yesterday we bought an 18 pound tuna (filleted down to about 8 pounds by the owner thank goodness) straight off this fishing boat ($24 for the fish and $4 for cleaning and filleting.

Last night we grilled about half of the tuna and enjoyed it with a great salad, lemon couscous, and a good white wine . . . my oh my, was it good! Today we will make fish tacos from the leftovers, and tuna salad with the rest. Most of the original fish we froze for later.

This morning we turned inland, our first move towards our return to the east. It's a bit sad, but there's still a lot we have planned between here and home.

A "Cheezy" stop at Tillamook

Probably all of you are familiar with Tillamook cheese, but do you know why there is a sailing ship as their logo? Fertile farmlands at this part of the Oregon coast are surrounded by low mountain ranges that were an impedement to transportation in the 1800's. The farmers were producing excellent cheese, but had no way to get it to the retail centers of Astoria, Portland and beyond. From shipwrecks and local wood they built a boat, the Morning Star, to transport the cheese to Astoria and Portland, and they successfully created the now well known Cheese company, and the small sailing boat is appropriately on their logo. The accompanying picture is in the cutting and packing room at the cheese factory.

Where's the sun?

Well, we finally ran into the famous Northwest overcast and mist. Really no rain to speak of. We have either been lucky or just picked the right time of year to do the Oregon coast.

The dogs ran free on this beach and had a great time, but Pip needed his bath before coming in the rig.

The Hecetas Head Lighthouse north of Florence is in a beautiful location; you can reserve a room in the lighthouse keepers home . . . if you start calling 6 or more months in advance. Because of its setting, this view is the most photographed lighthouse view on the Oregon Coast. I have to remind myself that the reason it is there is because of the propensity for ships to be lost on the shoals nearby. It was built of course as a matter of life and death rather than beauty.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Can you do this?

A part of travel is always experiencing the culinary variations in the local stops and regions. Just above Tillamook is the tiny village of Bay City, which happens to be one of the fishing ports for Pacific Seafoods. In this case, it seems to be primarily oysters. We stopped on the Pacific Seafood dock and found this unmarked restaurant.
Fresh oysters were being unloaded from a dock in back, and there was this restaurant in the front, with oyster shuckers at work in the back.
Of course there were various oyster dishes as well as the usual mix of seafood.
This place had fielded a winning team of oyster shuckers, and in the video below you can see their skills. In the short time of this video, if you watch closely, you will see her open the shell, extract the meat, and repeat it again and start a third. I assume they are paid by the pound, because they were all working like this. Seeing their effort can't help but make you appreciate the oysters more.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sights and Friends

We stayed in the far NW corner of Oregon for several days. Ft Stevens State Park was a great change from the comercial parks. Lots of tall trees, and lots of space between rigs. The historic Fort was good for a quick visit, and the town of Astoria held a number of surprises. In the evenings we relaxed in these woods, only a mile from the beach.
Astoria is both a tourist town and a working town, more of the latter. A highlight for us was the Maritime Museum, which focuses on the Columbia River and adjacent coastline. The rescue boat pictured here was retired and donated to the museum after participating in the saving of "hundreds" of potential victims and surviving many roll overs and one "Pole vault" where it was flipped stern over bow. The museum was large and well organized. Visit it if you are in the area and have time to do it justice.

After exploring Astoria which also has a few wonderful, old Victorian homes perched on the hill, we visited a small interpretive center at the original Ft Clapsop site where Lewis and Clark wintered. There is a reproduction of their fortifications, created from original plans and drawings made by the expedition; actually quite interesting.

RVers are a little like the military in that we make friends here and there, and occasionally run into them on the road. It's really for the most part a social group. In Ft Stevens we crossed paths withJoan and Mike, friends originally from Estes park, subsequently RV full-timers, and ultimately residents of Saddlebrook, AZ a couple of minutes golf cart ride from Jay and Kate. They hosted us for dinner our first evening at Ft Stevens, and we returned the favor the next evening. Barbara here displays the desert she prepared. We caught up with past travels and future plans, followed by some down time around the campfire.

People are everything, and friends are critical to the good life, especially the good friends.

A bit more evocative perhaps

On the last post, I had a picture of the Peter Iredale in the Sunshine. Two days later I went down to see if the whales were still there, and to try to get a picture of one with his head poking out of the surf (saw it happen a couple of times, but never got a picture). This time the morning mist had moved in, leaving a more ethereal image of the wreck. Just thought I would share it with you. There have been many shipwrecks at the Colombia R. bars, and many lost lives. This picture is perhaps more appropriate than the other one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

We made it to the Pacific

Barbara and a 101 year old shipwreck on the beach at Ft Steven State Park beaches.

We checked in to Ft Steven's State Park last night. We are in the middle of a Sitka spruce forest; very quiet and picturesque. The Ft was first an earthen battery constructed by order of President Lincoln in 1865. After several periods of expansion and modernization it was decommissioned in 1947 after duty defending the Columbia River access during WW II.

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel bark built in Maryport, England, in 1890 and owned by British shipping firm Iredale & Porter. On September 26, 1906, the Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico, bound for Portland, where it was to pick up a cargo of wheat for the United Kingdom. Despite encountering heavy fog, they managed to safely reach the mouth of the Columbia River early in the morning of October 25. The captain of the ship, H. Lawrence, later recalled that, as they waited for a pilot, “a heavy southeast wind blew and a strong current prevailed. Before the vessel could be veered around, she was in the breakers and all efforts to keep her off were unavailing.” The Iredale ran aground at Clatsop Beach, hitting so hard that three of her masts snapped from the impact. Fortunately, none of the crew were seriously injured. Captain Lawrence ordered that the ship be abandoned, and rockets were launched to signal for help.

This morning I went down to get a picture of the wreck at Sunup; found a pod of whales feeding incredibly close to shore. The pix is of one of them blowing (the white smudge with the black hump next to it in the picture.) You can see the sand beach at the bottom of the picture to show how close to shore they were.
Wonderful start to the day - coffee, cool breeze, and whales.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

You don't see it, you experience it!

"You don't go to see it, you can only experience it" is what the guidebook says about Portland. Perhaps you have to do both.

We had two days in Portland; driving in one day, and experiencing the light rail the next. Barbara and I had been looking forward to having the chance to see Matt (aka "John") and Rachael, and the 6 of us "experienced" what we could in the limited time.

Whimsy in modern architecture, historic Norwegian churches, sampling food and drink in an Irish bar (with broadcast of Irish rugby matches live at 6am), shopping for chantrelles, cheese, and produce at the farmer's market, riding the (free downtown) trolley and light rail system, all make their impression on the visitor.

There are some specific things to see of course. The Japanese and Chinese Gardens are each unique and very
different, but both serene. Powell's bookstore is interesting, exciting and overwhelming all at once. We didn't have time to do the galleries, museums, and so many other things. Still just hitting a few highlights, sampling some of the fare, and getting caught up in the youthful vitality of this city was enough for this quick visit.

Retirement Living magazine list Portland as one of the 5 best cities in which to retire. Best thing? The "Pearl" district. Least favorite thing? 155 days of rain (though we saw none fortunately.)

I was a quick visit, but a good one. Now we head for the coast. Don't know what the availability of internet connections will be for the next several days. . . if present I will probably add a post or two. If not, then see you in a few days.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Green at last!

As previously noted, the western portion of Oregon, even along the Columbia River, is quite arid. This 20000 sq ft mansion was built by Sam Hill for his bride. She took one look at the location, and refused to move there. . . it's since been an art museum. As they say, if momma ain't happy, no one's happy.

Yet less than two hours away, here is what you have!

(Click on picture to enlarge it)

The Columbia Gorge is an amazing vista, made all the more spectacular by the contrast between the eastern and central portion of the gorge. The above picture is from the "Women's Forum Overlook". The small white building in on the bluff in the middle of the above picture is "Vista House", a 4-story monumental visitor's building on the old highway (I-84 can be seen running down by the river.)

Below are the 4 of us at Multnomah Falls, with the water dropping a quarter of a mile from the cliff edge.

Between Fall River, OR and Portland is the Bonneville Dam. This happens to be a great place to see the fish using the "ladders" for migrating up river past the dams. Bill got some wonderful pictures of salmon as they move through the ladder to spawn up river. It was one of those places where you could have stood watching to the point of hypnosis. Just really a neat experience.

Of course, if there is anything more fun than watching the fish migrate, it is having a fine fish dinner. At the Multnomah Falls Lodge, Bill and I had a great lunch of smoked salmon, melon, pineapple, grapes, cheese, and fresh-baked bread.

Last night we settled into Portland Fairview RV park, and Matt and Rachael came out for cocktail hour. Today we head for Portland proper for some sightseeing.