Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blue Skies, Sunshine...A Day for Taking a Walk...

After all the gloom at Gorge level since, oh, November, we had a week of GLORIOUS sunshine and spring temperatures. When it looks like this out your kitchen window, you know you have to go DO something fun.

With no new snow, we ditched the skis for hiking boots and headed to our favorite spots close to home. We don't have to go far.
First stop, Catherine Creek, where the Grass Widows (Olsynium douglasii) are already out in abundance. Grass Widows are kind of the Northwest's version of bluebonnets.

They're the first ones out in late winter here in the Gorge. The term 'grass widow' was explained to me as 'a woman whose husband is away'. I found more colorful, albeit sexist, definitions on local photographer Chris Carvalho's website Lensjoy.
According to the British language expert Michael Quinion, one comes from historic use of the term "grass widow" to mean "an abandoned mistress or unmarried woman who had cohabited with several men." Perhaps these flowers symbolized the region's first settlers enjoying a moment of romantic impropriety in the gorge's lush fields. Another use refers to British colonists in India, whose wives often lived in hill stations in cool and green parts of the country, while their husbands worked in drier lowlands.
I prefer to think it was more like homesteading women being left while the husbands were off doing 'other things'. By the way, Chris also has an exhibit at the Discovery Center in The Dalles, if you are ever in the neighborhood. The Gorge Discovery Center is a 'must see' and is a great place to take kids, too. But that's another story.

It was a spectacular day, with great views.

When we were done hiking both the riverside loop we took the trail up to what I call the OK Corral.
After a snack (including doggie biscuit for Brindle) we decided to stop at the Syncline on the way home. We pulled off at the Rowland Lake end of old hwy 8 instead of our usual starting point at Courtney Road. There were only two other cars. All the mountain bikers park at Courtney Road.

This Old Highway 8 section is closed to cars. Lloyd and Brindle could each have their own lane.

To get to this quiet place from the east end, we had to cross a waterfall. I am not good about heights and narrow pathways, but this one was doable.

Here is the damp, misty path.

And what it looks like when you dare to look down to Hwy 14 below.

I was glad to be safely on the other side.

The trail up from the old road gains you elevation quickly (ie, kind of steep but not too bad).

Our favorite waterfall and snack stop is not too far along.

This was the end of our first sunny day hike. Stay tuned for days two and three.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Favorite Olympic Ad

As a mom who spent many years at swim meets, I can identify.
This is the sweetest ad ever.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Truck Day

I would be remiss if I did not post about special dates important to the Red Sox Nation.

Yesterday was not your ordinary TGIF. It was TRUCK DAY. I love it. Truck Day is when they load up the equipment truck and head the gear south to Fort Meyers for the start of Spring Training. It signals spring even better than the first crocus poking out (only to get buried, usually, by a late snow storm). Forget about groundhogs. If the truck leaves Boston, it's official. Amazing what die hard fans do. No kidding, there were about 100 people there to watch the dang truck leave.

What's on the truck? Stuff. Read all about it here and here.

This year there's even a sponsor (Jet Blue) and the truck is decked out with Red Sox advertising, decorated like a rolling Green Monstah. Watch the video on the Red Sox site to the end to see it. I hope it made it through New York okay...

Good Morning Baltimore

My sister Annie moved from Worcester to Baltimore last fall. Now I have to say "My sistah lives in Baltimore" which doesn't sound nearly as cool as "My sistah lives in Woostah". Worcester usually gets the worst weather in Massachusetts. When it snows, it usually dumps in Worcester, moves east, and starts raining/sleeting/icing at Rt. 128 as the storms move into the greater Boston area. When thunderstorms come across the state, they are most violent around Worcester, sometimes spawning tornadoes. Worcester people are hardy, and don't let a little storm get in their way.

So when she moved to Baltimore, Annie wasn't too worried about the weather. Baltimore is south. It should be warmer there. It must be less snowy, stormy and nasty. Right? If you live in New England, anything south of New York seems like it should be, well, THE SOUTH. The first storm of the season hit, Annie realized they might have made a mistake leaving all the snow shovels back in Worcester. Ah, but Annie is a very creative and resourceful person, so she crafted her own tool out of...a cereal box? I am impressed. I'll bet the cereal and the box had lots of fiber...

Alas, the cereal box wasn't up for heavy duty snow removal, so she took that as a warning, and before the big storm hit, Annie and Don made their way to Lowe's and got the very LAST snow shovel. The cereal box was officially retired to the recycle bin. Good thing. Because major snow was on the way, with more right behind it. Lots more. So much that there is no place to shovel it to. The neighbors were all out helping each other dig out. Nothing like a little weather crisis to bring out the best in humanity.

Annie and Don finally dug their way out. This was most important to Amigo. Amigo is a rescue greyhound. No one else can get out to do business, but for Amigo, it's a necessity. He's pretty tall and narrow, so a one-shovel-width path works for him. I'm guessing there's a privy area dug out at the end of that path.

These pictures are from the storm last Fri-Sat. There were no busses for about 5 days during and immediately after that one. They got another foot and a half this week. Their car is dug out but they can't drive anywhere yet. One step at a time. They were able to walk to the store and get some provisions today.

The plows had to stop plowing for a while this week because of white out conditions. The streets are still not ready for traffic. I don't think the garbage trucks will be coming through for a while, but that's OK. Everyone's garbage cans are buried.

Amigo, you're not in Worcester anymore!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Almost Border Crossing, Part 2: Seattle to Blaine

After my meeting adjourned sometime around 5:30 pm, my Skamania buddies delivered me to Dave and Nancy's house about 2.5 miles away, where I met up with Lloyd. He drove up on Saturday for a little break from the house. We've known Dave and Nancy since Rhode Island days, over 30 years, so it's always fun to catch up. They had some great pictures of their recent trip to Paris, and we'll look forward to the next batch from Japan, where they are heading in a few days.

Sunday we drove an hour and a half or so north to Blaine, which is right on the US-Canadian border. Our friends Tom and Leila recently retired from Chevron, and landed there right before Christmas after leaving their last posting, Bangkok. Talk about a big change of scenery! We had a several mile hike around their neck of the woods, in Semiahmoo, sat on Leila's sister's sailboat in the harbor (the one on the left with the green cover) and pretended it was summer happy hour time.

Monday we walked around Peace Arch Park. The Olympic torch came through the other day so it's been on the news lately. You can see the line of cars waiting to come into the US. Leila says they're all on their way to Costco in Bellingham. And Trader Joe's, I'll bet!

Here are some pictures of the 12th Annual Peace Arch Park International Sculpture Exhibition, which will be there through April 1. Follow the link for details on pieces (and prices!). I've only posted a few. There were many more. See them all on at the website.

I just loved this Humpback Whale Tail, made of mahogany reclaimed from a landfill. My fave.

I like this one, too. "My Foolish Heart" is a life-sized version of a 4” maquette made of horse-shoe nails.

This guy is the "Dancing Fool", who spins around on his base.

Here is "Eagle Eye", very totem-like.

"On the Upside Down" was very cool. It reminded me of Cirque du Soleil acrobats.

The Midnight Stomp series imagines birds having a private party in the moonlight, with one bird choosing the Electric Slide and the others choose a Midnight Serenade.

This piece is called "Overture", with the boy representing Canada and the girl, the USA, reaching out to each other to be strengthened by togetherness.

Okay, this one's pretty cool. "Monarch Butterfly" looks really pretty from far away. Wait til you see how the artist created it.

The artist is from Fort Worth, Texas. I'm thinking he was inspired by high school athletic booster clubs. Who hasn't seen styrofoam cups stuck into the local high school chain link fence spelling out the message of the week???? I have to say, these translucent plastic pieces are much prettier than styrofoam cups, though.

I hope we go back up that way in warmer weather. I'll bet the gardens are just beautiful in spring and summer. Next time we'll bring our passports!

Almost Border Crossing, Part 1: Bingen to Seattle

As people start wending their way to the Winter Olympics, I will think of them on their journeys.

I had a great adventure the other weekend. It started with an Amtrak train ride to Seattle, with one connection. Sounds easy enough. The train leaves Bingen Station a little after 8 am, with the connecting train coming through Portland after noon. Lloyd had a CPR class to go to early, so he would drop me off on his way. No sweat.

It would have been, if the Empire Builder hadn't been 3 plus hours late leaving Chicago. It isn't only O'Hare that has trouble with winter weather. Trains don't like big snowstorms either. Good thing I checked online. Now, if I was a seasoned train rider here, I'd have known to just drive the hour to Vancouver, where you can park for up to 3 days free, and meet the northbound Cascades there. But I'm not. And I didn't. Besides, I needed 4 days' parking. And I'll also clarify: it's Vancouver (NOT BC) Washington (NOT DC) near Portland, Oregon (NOT Maine).

My simple solution, put my LLBean backpack loaded with my weekend's worth of clothes on my back and hike 3.8 miles to the station. Heck, I had the time! So I got my exercise pre train ride, and was very pleased with the comfort of the backpack, which I had not yet used for its intended purpose. I got to the station and met Wilma, who'd been sitting there since the Senior Shuttle van dropped her off at 7:30 am. She was going to visit her daughter in Seattle. The train finally trudged in about 10:30 and dropped us off in Vancouver (WA) instead of Portland (OR) in plenty of time to catch the Amtrak Cascades to Seattle. If we'd gone to Portland, we'd have missed it.

The train ride was relaxing, but we were delayed along the way with track work and oncoming freight trains we had to wait for. They will be improving this corridor for high speed rail so delays will be the norm. Improvements are a good thing. And from the looks of the full cars, warranted. During this leisure travel time I learned that Wilma used to run a motel in Cascade Locks with her husband years ago. And that it was the very same motel that Lloyd lived in for 6 months back in 1976 when he worked for the Corps of Engineers on the second Bonneville Dam powerhouse. Small world.

We were an hour late getting to Seattle, but it wasn't a big deal for me. It was the end of the line, and I was hiking up to the Hilton from the train station, a mere mile. It was fun to be walking through downtown Seattle at rush hour, with darkness and a slight drizzle falling. Got my fix of city, and a really nice hotel night. My roommate from Yakima was in the resolutions committee meeting so I had the room, on the 25th floor and great view of downtown Seattle, all to myself for a bit, and took that nice hot shower I really needed after the hiking.

Friday nights at the Washington State Democrats Central Committee meetings are generally for networking. I met up with my friends from Skamania County, and we had a fantastic dinner a few blocks away at Wild Ginger. Fantastic meal, I'm already thinking about when I can get to Seattle again. We shared red curry squid, seafood Thai noodles with mussels, shrimp, squid and scallops, and Fragrant Duck with dumplings and plum sauce. We had a pot of jasmine tea with our meal, and the fragrance was amazing. We skipped the wine, thinking the hospitality suites would have offerings. Unfortunately, the only hospitality room was on the main floor of the hotel so it was hotel prices. We were one and done. It was noisy, and we decided to turn in early to be ready for the long day of meetings ahead.

Next up- Part 2: Seattle to Blaine

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who Dat!

Just in case anyone was wondering, I did watch every second of the Super Bowl on Sunday. In the comfort of my own home, with the Uncle Dick Memorial 54" projection TV that takes up half of my living room (dang, it looked so small in the Houston house). I love that TV for football games. It's like you're RIGHT THERE. Having drunk the daiquiris while living in NOLA for 5 years, the Saints were easy for me to cheer for. I even made King Cakes for good luck. And wore my very best Mardi Gras beads and earrings.

It's been over for three days and I'm still smiling. It was like the 2004 Red Sox all over again. Only better, in a way. New Orleans has been through a lot worse than Boston has. Don't hate me for saying that, Red Sox Nation. I still love you.

This morning I was reading in the Oregonian about the big parade they threw in the French Quarter. Near the end of the article in the sports page was this:
In the French Quarter, Thousands streamed toward the parade route, turning Bourbon Street into a river of black and gold.
Will Kaplan, 28, stood out in a billowing white toga with a gold-colored halo and the word "Breezus" on his back.

His Jesus inspired costume, he said, was made from sheets he had in a FEMA trailer he stayed in after Katrina on the University of New Orleans campus.

"I'm the spirit of the party", he said.
I can just imagine. I've seen lots of things on Bourbon Street. Some things I WISH I had pictures of...But this sounded so totally NOLA sacrilegiously funny, I thought SOMEONE must have a picture of this.

So I checked on a friend's FB site and voila! Breesus Christ himself. Only the Breesus was on his front, and the halo? Come on, those are obviously thorns. Thank you, Celia.

New Orleans. You crack me up. Still. Always.