Saturday, January 21, 2017

Week 3: From rainy Eureka to Mojave

I'd like to say we left winter behind as we drove south from Eureka. But we didn't. Intense rain storms with lots of wind led to some adventuresome driving along the Oregon and California coast. We stopped in Sebastapol to visit dear cousins and enjoy an Italian feast at the Union Hotel in Occidental -- Imagine ravioli that melt in your mouth!

Just a few hops ahead of more rain, we drove south to Fresno, stopped in Tulare for groceries, and continued further south to Mojave, where we stop for a day of rest and Sunday football in this tiny town.

Flowers at Ovallartas Grocery Store
We felt as if our vacation truly began when we went grocery shopping at Ovallarta Groceries in Tulare. 

We walked in the door and were assailed by a melange of smells, all of home and Mexico. We started with pan dulces, exquisite, delicate pasteries (including my favorite, bread pudding), and moved right along to admire the fresh fish, cheeses, and a variety of salsas. I bought just a little crema (cream cheese) for the road.

Pan Ducles at Ovallartas Grocery Store
As we left Tulare, we saw the most amazing blue skies banded with strings of clouds. 

Skies near Tulare, California
The temperature hit a trip high of 56 F, and we cut through the snow-topped Tehachapi Mountains, a winding adventurous four-lane road where cars competed with trucks at 70 mph and more, to finally drop down into Mojave where we saw our first Joshua trees. 

Tehachapi Mountains (wikipedia)
These are moments to cherish. 
Happy travels to all.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week 2: Hello Ocean, Hello Redwoods

Sometimes I forget when winter drags on another month that the snow will melt and that in other places there may be no snow at all. 

We're still traveling south, finally past Portland with its unexpected foot of snow dumped overnight, making our way down the Willamette Valley and to the coast, dodging the snow of the Siskiyou Pass. 

North of Orick, Oregon
We stopped in Coos Bay and Brookings, Oregon, for clam chowder and grilled salmon sandwiches, eaten dockside, no coats. Found a lovely quilt shop (Forget Me Knots) in Bandon, and today drove to Eureka, passing the border into California, along winding coastal roads, lots of repair work to fix slipouts, and into the redwoods.

As we walked along the well-marked trails in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, we passed ferns shoulder-high, crunched along trails heavy with pine needles, shadowed by redwoods, with the chip, chip, chip of winter wrens surrounding us. 

After a long winter, it felt remarkable to simply walk in these woods. 

The quiet was punctuated now and then by others hiking along these trails. We admired the tall redwoods, stretching to look up and up.

As we crossed small, sturdy bridges, below us, the clear water burbled over rocks, the banks thick with ferns, and all around us, the play of light.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stuck in Portland

Driving toward Portland
along the Columbia Gorge
Day 3-4: Made it from Kennewick to Hood River just barely. Three people pushed our travel-weary Toyota up a mini-hill so we could check-in at Comfort Suites, where we had "the last of two" rooms. Actually, the hotel was nearly empty, but we awoke to news of another storm coming up the Columbia Gorge.

After a harrowing slide down that mini-hill and a short (thank goodness) drive to Les Schwab, we were equipped with chains and ready to tackle I-84. The nice man at Les Schwab told us not to drive over 25 mph, though. That seemed fast enough to keep us going on the single lane west, well populated by trucks with flashing red lights.

We pulled off at Multnomah Falls to remove the chains (no idea how to proceed). A massive truck barreled by, sloshing both Allen and I from head to foot. A few kindly folks stopped by to give us a hand. Twenty minutes later, chains were off, and we were happily back on the road, dry pavement, and about 60 miles from Portland.

Day 5: That was yesterday. This morning we awoke to 10" of fresh snow, with another 4-6" predicted for Portland later tonight. Portland doesn't do well with snow. Chains are required for any driving (ours are conveniently in our trunk, ready to go, but we have no clue how to put them on).

That's our car, parked right in the driveway of Dan and Myrna's house.

Our snow-clad Toyota
Not sure when we can drive south -- or fly to Philadelphia. Right now, we're warm, comfy, quiet, waiting for the snow to stop, and feeling very grateful for the kindness of passing strangers -- and friends.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

On the road again . . . 2017

We woke up at a cozy Super8 in Kennewick, Washington, this Sunday morning with a nasty winter storm ahead and behind. I-84 along the Columbia Gorge has been closed off and on both east and west., and the earliest the sun shines again is Thursday.

Driving conditions yesterday down from Spokane were challenging as it began to snow at Ritzville. Thank goodness, Allen used his Philadelphia-honed driving skills to bring us here. We saw two roadside accidents, three flipped cars, and several spinouts -- one right in front of us.

So, a winter storm warning along the Columbia Gorge will keep us here until Monday, and the adventure of our travel south to warmer climes will keep us right here, admiring the pileup of snow out our hotel window. Some 3-6" of snow expected today by Hood River.

Whose idea was it to go on this open-ended, 2.5 month-long trip south -- far from family and friends? We were planning to go to Florida in February, but somehow, jumping in the car and driving south at least as far as Tucson, sounded just right. 

Luckily, little Leda spent yesterday morning with us, exploring Gramie's jewelry box, which includes beads from New Orleans. Doesn't she look like a young lady from the 1970's?

Geezer Travel Tip #1: Bring along 1 or 2 night lights to plug in. This little luxury will keep you from stumbling around in the middle of the night. I found a digital one that automatically turns off when any other light turns on or the sun comes up, so I make a sticky note to remember to take it onto the next stop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hiking the Maligne Canyon

The  hike along famous Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park begins innocuously enough from a parking lot surrounded by tall pines. 

Very quickly as we intrepid hikers follow the path closer to the Maligne River, still cutting down hundreds of feet through limestone, we see stunning views. 

The one-way trail crosses 4 bridges, each affording glimpses of the white water at some points about 150 feet below.  

Wire fences protect us from the rushing water and chasms below, though some climb over the barriers to pose at the brink.  Several miles further down the road we find the source of the water, Medicine Lake. And our first mountain goats.

What did I take away from this several hour ramble along the cliffs above Maligne Canyon? 

A little history: The river was apparently named by a priest who had trouble crossing the river in 1846, dubbing it maligne (evil). 

An appreciation for the sheer wilderness of Jasper. 

And very sore feet.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Edmonton Birthday . . .

Just a few blocks from our hotel is the delightful Chinese restaurant, Beijing Beijing, here in Edmonton. To celebrate Allen's birthday, we strolled over to take advantage of their delicious dim sum, a treat we haven't had for many, many years.

Imagine a crowded restaurant filled with eager eaters as friendly waitpersons push carts loaded with Chinese delicacies through, we estimated, some 140 tables seating 2 to families of 8-10 each. Allen requested a fork; I continue to learn chopstick skills. 

Delicious dim sum ensued: pork buns, sticky rice in banana leaf, rice roll with shrimp, steamed shrimp dumplings, and the most adventurous -- steamed chicken feet in special sauce. With hot tea and sesame roll for dessert, and the birthday feast was complete.

Yesterday, we also visited Muttart Conservatory after a hair-raising drive through Edmonton's twisting freeways. One wrong turn and we found ourselves downtown! 

We then wandered through Muttart's very unique pyramids which are organized around four arid, temperate, tropical, and featured gardens. My favorite: the Bat Flower from Asia, delicate, fragile, beautiful.

What's next? Three days of camping in Jasper and no internet.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fort Edmonton Redux . . .

When we last visited Edmonton in 1996, the U.S.A. women's soccer team won the World Cup, the sun shone brightly, and we visited Fort Edmonton for the first time, not realizing we would return one day. We're back. The population has doubled from about 800,000 to 1.5 million. Modern freeways mimic what I remember of driving in L.A., and yesterday, we revisited Fort Edmonton.

Rowand's Folly, Fort Edmonton

Chief Trader, Company Store
We spent about four hours in the oldest part of the park, a recreation of Fort Edmonton in 1846, exactly the period of my current book. Staffed with very well-informed and helpful costumed volunteers, this living history section of the park was fascinating, positioned as it once was right along the North Saskatchewan River.

At that time, John Rowand was a demanding Chief Factor at Fort Edmonton, enforcing a strict sense of duty with a volatile temper. When told a man was too sick to work, he said something like: "If he is not dead after three days, he is not too sick to work."

In 1842, Rowand built a very unique house to conduct business, entertain, and to serve as his family's private quarters, the largest at any of the Hudson Bay Company forts. Dubbed Rowand's Folly, the three-storied house was about 2,100 square feet with the third floor reserved for family and guests.

Kane's study at Fort Edmonton
But my primary interest is with Paul Kane who stayed at Fort Edmonton for a month during the holidays on his journey west in 1847 and again on his return east in 1848.

Rowand gave Kane quite a luxurious though small two rooms near his own bedroom. Decorated as it once must have looked, the outer room features Kane's sketches pinned on the wall, while the tiny bedroom is fitted up with a twin bed and Hudson's Bay Company blanket.

Kane's sleeping quarters,
Fort Edmonton
Class consciousness can be seen in the bed coverings throughout the Fort.

The Chief Factor, officers of the Company, and wealthier workers used furs atop those Hudson Bay Company blankets, while the poorer workers simply rolled in blankets and slept on the floor, space available.

Volunteer in full Metis dress,
Fort Edmonton
A kind volunteer dressed as a M├ętis donned his full regalia, explaining that the Assumption sash, which he wore, was also used to calculate how many bales of furs each man carried to ensure fair pay was received. This reminded me of Incan quippus, knotted in somewhat the same style as a kind of record. Notice the lovely beaver-skin top hat worn -- and the coat over a vest, formal dress for the wilderness.

Later today, we're visiting the Royal Albert Museum -- if our feet hold up.