Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Too Close

Today's news out of Boston hit my heart. A 24 year old young woman's body was found dead, stabbed, in Hyde Park's Stony Brook Reservation. She was kidnapped from her South Boston apartment, and forced to make ATM withdrawals. Later today, there were surveillance camera shots of her at ATMs. I cannot imagine the threats made to her, to force her to do this. I cannot imagine her realization that they were not going to let her go.

Most of all, I cannot imagine the pain of her parents. I have a 24 year old daughter who lives in Boston. I worry when I don't hear from her. I try to remember when I was her age, younger actually, living in Boston. I hardly ever called home. I lived in an apartment building next to the Green Line tracks where one of the Boston Strangler's victims was found. Stuff happens. Most of the time, it doesn't. You don't dwell on the bad stuff. You keep your city smarts in mind. And you live your life.

When bad stuff does happen, it is incomprehensible. And painful. I hurt tonight for the family and friends of Amy Lord. I send a big hug to my daughter over our emotional airways. Stay safe, sweetie.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All Politics Is Local

From Wikipedia: 
Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the science of influencing other people on a civic or individual level.
We have a primary ballot dropping this weekend. On it are two things: a vote for County Clerk and a vote for a levy to fund a new Emergency Services District. The County Clerk vote is to fill a one year unexpired term, between two Republicans. All I really need to find out about that one is which is the Tea Party candidate and which is the normal garden variety Republican. Clear choice. Maybe.

The EMS District would combine the ambulance services of our two county hospital districts, saving money on administration and funding the service so that the two hospitals don't continue bleeding red ink. It will replace a current levy on our side of the county with a lower one, so it should be a no brainer for Hospital District 2. For folks in Hospital District 1, it will be a new levy. But their hospital cannot continue to absorb the costs of their ambulance. They have already reduced services to stay afloat. But it is also in a very red part of the county, where taxes are a bad word. Even if your life depends on getting you to the hospital or stabilizing you after an injury, heart attack or stroke. This levy means $30 a YEAR on property valued at $100,000. For us, it means about $80 a year. Money well spent, I'd say. It's 40% less than we are paying for our library levy, and the library can't try to save my life in an emergency!

The levy is new, so it faces hurdles. Such as, 60 percent of the voters in Nov 2012 election must turn in their ballots. Some 10,000 plus people voted in that presidential election out of the 12,000 plus voters registered. Which means we need  6,000 plus people to vote. Of those, we need 40% to vote YES!, some 2,500 people.

There is a group of people from both sides of the county who have formed YES! EMS! There's a Facebook page.There are signs. There are buttons. There are flyers. I sat with a table at our town's July 4th festivities, with a friend from Goldendale for part of the time, educating people on the issue and urging them to vote and to tell their friends, families and neighbors to vote. Some people had no idea what it was. Some knew and just wanted a sign, or to check when the ballots were coming. I even got two people to register to vote. The effort has been totally nonpartisan. Everyone is working together. But we're running out of time to educate and engage people face to face.

I was thinking it would be a great idea to bring information and buttons to the weekly farmer's market here in town. They had a fire district education booth. And a hospital sponsored kid's area. I had materials left from the 4th. So since we have a couple of weeks in a last push, I planned to spend my Tuesday afternoons hanging out at the market. Good thing Lloyd suggested that contact the organizer to be sure it was okay. Shouldn't be a problem. It's a local community nonpartisan issue. Am I right?

Well, no. Dang, I'd better quit thinking!!! Turns out they don't want ANY political activity at the market. While I understand people's aversion to 'politics', politics is how we elect our leaders, make our rules, and make decisions about public policy. Politics isn't required to be the ugly thing that goes on in the Other Washington. In its purest form, to me, it's about taking care of our community and its people. To completely eliminate 'politics' from our daily lives is to invite Idiocracy.

People running for office generally hit the summer fairs and festivals to be where the people are, to meet people, shake hands, talk about what concerns them. Putting a personal connection into our one step removed lives. Would that be verboten? I doubt if our representative or one of our congresswomen or our governor showed up, they'd be turned away for being politicians.

I get that sometimes the outside funded efforts (like the anti coal effort that is busy here in the Gorge) can sometimes turn people off. I personally don't see educating people on issues is a bad, as long as people get comprehensive information, not just the emotional pitches. We SHOULD be thinking about these things. But this EMS effort is grass roots LOCAL politics. Your friends and neighbors who want to spread the word about something important to the community. And advising people to vote no matter what their view. How is this a bad thing????

Fenway Faithful West Coast

Last Thursday we were out of the house at 7 am, heading north to Seattle's Safeco Field to watch the scrappy Mariners play the Red Sox. I'd been there a month earlier with my long time buddy Karen (I refuse to call her an Old Friend) after we finished our week long Inside Passage cruise. We just had to stay an extra night to see the Mariners and Yankees. Those Mariners hung in that time, made it a game to the end, but lost by a run. It was easy to root for the Mariners that day. We even got seats in the Kings Court, yellow Tshirts and K cards to be part of the 'fans who go wild when Hernandez strikes someone out'. Now here I was, on my way to a showdown between my life long team of my heart, and the adopted state rivals.

We decided to avoid the parking insanity near Safeco, particularly since there were two Gold Cup soccer games immediately following the baseball game. With the parking lot full at the Tukwila light rail station (near SeaTac airport), we roamed the neighborhoods nearby until we found a spot. Got our tickets just in time to run up the escalator and catch the 11:03 train. After walking the few blocks to the park, and strolling all the way around the perimeter, we arrived at Home Plate about 15 minutes before our scheduled meet up with Sal, our teacher buddy from Lagos days, who had our tickets.

And what great seats they were (thank you very much, JS)! It was a beautiful day for a ballgame, sunny, blue skies with a few puff balls, great skyline behind the outfield walls. A little chilly, as we were on the shady side. Dilemma: wear the hoodie or use it as a lap blanket for my goosebumped, shorts clad legs? Legs won. I wore a more discreet shirt than my bright red official Red Sox shirt, which also is short sleeved. I did see a ton of red shirts in the crowd, almost as many Bosox shirts as Mariners shirts! Today called for the 100 years Fenway shirt, navy blue with LONG sleeves. And the big red B on the back...

We joked about seeing 3 games: the hitters innings, the middle relief pitchers' duel, and extra innings. The outcome? Red Sox on top by 1 in the 10th. A long game by Safeco standards, it was after 5 pm when the crowd began to leave. We loaded up with coffee in Tukwila before heading south on I-5 for the long long long drive home. Rolled in at 10 pm.

Note to self: Trips to Seattle require at least ONE overnight. And always meet up with Sal for a game when the Red Sox are in town!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bye Bye Miss American Pie

There are so many things I would LIKE to write about today. But they are all exhausting, and have sapped my energy for a couple of days now. Some were good, some so disappointing I can't believe people vote for leaders who are intent on returning to the 18th century (or worse).

 In search of joy, short of ordering a certain pair of pink tennis shoes, I immersed myself in nature yesterday afternoon, and dealt with the bounty today. Sometimes getting outside and climbing trees is all you can do to save your sanity.

You might not have heard, but the NW Cherry Crop is in danger of exploding, so to speak. We all look forward to this time of year. There's nothing like fresh cherries in July. But when Mother Nature decides to send monsoon rains, well, it puts a damper on the harvest.

Split Cherry
I was wasting time getting myself all riled up about lying cheating Texas Legislators, activist Supreme Court Judges, and the idiot governor of a certain state I twice lived in. Not to mention a WA State second session that was resembling its namesake on the other coast a little too much. My friend Rosemary called and woke me from my overload stupor. THE CHERRIES ARE BURSTING! You see, she has a small orchard of bing and pie cherries that are ripe and ready. If I wanted, I could bring my cooler and fill it up with cherries before they became red stains and bird food. So I jumped into my trusty Subaru and headed to Old Hwy 8 in Lyle. Cherries quickly replaced the evil in my mind.

Bing Cherries
After a couple of hours, I had plenty of each to take home and decide what to do with...but it was Marimba Night so that meant a quick sanitizing soak and drying on towels til I got home.

Pie Cherries
 Good, grief, I needed to find a cherry pitter. A quick stop at dreaded Walmart, with an entire aisle of kitchen gadgets, yielded nothing. Nada. Zilch. Jeez, this is Hood River Walmart, in the middle of cherry country, and you only carry your cherry pitters ONLINE to be delivered sometime NEXT WEEK if I go on line right now and order one???? You're missing the boat, Walmart. I personally know about half a dozen people looking for cherry pitters right now. I'll figure something out.

So I got home, pitter-less, and it was too late to do anything with them. Besides John Oliver was coming on and I did not want to miss what he was going to do with those evil things that were in my mind earlier. Note: He did not disappoint. So they waited until this morning.

I looked up cherry pitters and found- on Huff-Po no less- alternative solutions to cherry pitter gadgets, including smacking them with a chef knife so they split and you can take out the pit, using a hairpin, bending a paper clip to make a scoop, bending fork tines to make a scoop, and the winner (at least for me, I just couldn't deform a fork for life)...Cake Decorator Tips!!!
Pie cherry being impaled upon small star decorator tip, with bloody, I mean juicy, bing sized large tip in background
 My cherries were two sizes so I used two different star tips. Perfecto!!! In two hours I'd pitted enough for 2 pies and filled 5 trays of the dehydrator. I finished pitting the pie cherries, and froze the last pie's worth for future deliciousness.

Dehydrator humming away (Thanks Ann)
That's the good news. The bad news is, I still have a load of bings in the fridge. They'll have to wait until Saturday. I'm about cherried out of time...I need to go to water aerobics tonight to work off that piece of almond crumb topped cherry pie I'm gonna eat later on! Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boston Proud

Have I mentioned, I am so loving the 2013 Red Sox and Manager John Farrell.

From The Boston Globe today:
Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman threw out a first pitch before tonight’s game at Fenway Park, along with Carlos Arredondo, who is credited with saving Bauman’s life after the attacks. Then they went past the Red Sox dugout, where players waited to shake their hands.

Very much prefer to keep this image in my head, rather than the one where these two men first encountered each other. 

Sun Break in Margaritaville

It's been raining pretty much nonstop since we got back from Austin. Not that I am complaining...all my little vegetables and sprouting radishes and spinach are happy and weren't dried out when I got home. But it has been more like 'almost' Junuary. I'm still in my fleece sweater as I type...

This afternoon, the sun peaked out. Mt. Hood appeared. Hurray, it's still there!!!

And Lloyd came home from town with a couple of pints of fresh strawberries that his buddy Steve had picked up in Portland today. You know the kind...they don't look like much but boy do they taste good! I haven't tasted strawberries this sweet since Ponchatoula...

So, what to do with those less attractive but totally delicious gems? Jimmy Buffett would be proud.

Thanks, Steve. Cheers!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Eyes of Texas Were Upon Us

We are now the proud parents of a Texas Ex, a Master of Education, Higher Ed Administration.

We didn't quite get enough Austin in March, so we flew back down for Keara's graduation. To her great relief, we did not camp in the driveway this time, rather, we arranged a stay via Airbnb with a wonderful couple about 4 miles across town. We had comfy beds, and were able to come and go with use of the Kia.

In our 5 days there we managed to
  • dine very well, with great eats at El Chile, Magnolia Cafe, Buenos Aires Cafe (sangria below), The White Horse (ahhh, brews), Kirby Lane, Eastside Cafe, Red's Roof, Amy's Ice Cream, Uchiko, and Flat Top Burger Shop.
  • walk from our bnb to the trail around Lady Bird Lake, to Barton Springs and back
  •  See some lovely blooming cacti (that I didn't see in Death Valley!), and other wildflowers

  • enjoy meeting the people in Keara's department, her partner in crime, Bianca, and the lovely Dean Lilly, in whose Dean of Students office they both worked the last 2 years
  • survive both the early morning Masters Convocation in the concert hall, and the main graduation event at the Tower that night. Not having my morning coffee for the former was almost a disaster. But seeing Keara dance happily across the stage was worth it. 
  • get plenty of exercise walking back and forth to Campus from Keara's house, and along S. Congress Street, including this fabulous candy store...when was the last time you saw Turkish Taffy????
  • get in a nice hike at Hamilton Pool before going to the airport. This time we got to take the trail to the Pedernales River (it was closed last time Keara took me there).
Letting the credit card cool off for a bit...but not too long...the next adventure is coming up the end of the week, when I head to Seattle to meet Karen for our adventure to ALASKA! Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I forgot one BIG thing:
  • seeing the new Star Trek movie at the IMAX in stunning 3D. Don't miss it!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Day 20: Burns, OR to White Salmon, WA via John Day Fossil Beds
312 miles

Our last day on the road. Of course, we did not go straight home. We had two more stops to make. The first was at the Visitor Center at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We'd been there before, but it's such a great Visitor Center, we couldn't help ourselves. Then we detoured to the Clarno Unit , which we missed on our last trip here. When you see these palisades, you know you're in the right place!

"The Clarno Unit is located 18 miles west of the town of Fossil. The Palisades are the most prominent landform. 44 million years ago a series of volcanic mudflows, swept up and perserved a diverse assortment of plants and animals that inhabited a near-tropical forest. Tiny four-toed horses, huge rhino-like brontotheres, crocodilians, and meat-eating creodonts that once roamed ancient jungles are now found in the rocks of the Clarno Unit, as well as an incredibly diverse range of plant life. Leaves, fruits, nuts, seeds, and petrified wood from 173 species of trees, vines, shrubs, and other plants have been found here thus far."
Here's my personal geologist pointing out some fossils for me to see.

 This little guy was just trying to blend in.

 The trail was quite nice, as we walked from the parking area over to the palisades.

 At the top of the trail was this great arch. Personal

Geologist for scale. Petrified logs stick out fo the rock walls.

 It looked like we were going to get stormed on, but mercifully, it held off until we were on our way.

 A few hours later, we pulled in to 1440 Brislawn Loop Rd. The daffodils greeted us.

As did our flowering plum tree. Ahhhhhh. Home at Last!

Grand Total: 5,274 miles, give or take a few!!

Liquid Sunshine

Day 19: Bridgeport, CA to Burns, OR

476 miles north on 395

Another long day of driving driving driving. And it started to rain. First rain of the entire trip. How lucky are we???? Many miles of open spaces, with little towns barely alive. We worried at one point if we'd have enough gas to make Lakeview. We did. Ended up at a motel in Burns with winds and weather swirling about. Thought for a minute I was back in Texas!

Sub-Total: 4,962 miles

Out of the Valley of Death

Day 18: Texas Springs Campground to Bridgeport, CA
254 miles

It's about time I finished up this travelogue. Too many things getting in the way since the last post!

We left off in Death Valley. I didn't want to leave you there, but it's in the 80s here in the Gorge, actually warmer here than there lately, so you're okay.

Driving out of the park takes several hours. We made a stop at the Sand Dunes, and spent a little time roaming while it was still cool, checking out all the animal tracks imprinted in the sand. Looks like there was a party here last night!

 The drive through Panamint Springs was lovely, and the narrow road through the pass had some construction stops so it wasn't a speedy transit. We got to the Father Crowley Memorial lookout and took a picture looking back from where we came.

We picked up good old Rt. 395 in the Owens Valley, and enjoyed views of salty lakes and Sierras along the west side of the highway.

We made a stop at the Manzanar National Historical Site. You know me and National Parks, Historic Sites, Monuments, Scenic Area...I have to stop and stamp my passport. Manzanar was one of camps where Japanese American citizens were held during WWII.

Not a particularly proud time for our country. The Visitor Center is fantastic, with a documentary film, interactive exhibits, photographs, personal stories, a model of the camp and some reconstructed barracks. If you are ever even close to this place, make it a stop on your itinerary.

We picked up some ice and gas in Bishop, but it was still early to stop. So on we went to the beautiful June Lake. We would loved to have camped here, but no campgrounds were open yet.

On we went to Lee Vining, near Mono Lake.

Side story: Way back in August 1985, when Lloyd and I (pregnant with Keara), Zack the cocker spaniel, and Groucho the cat drove from Houston to Danville, CA when Lloyd's job was transferred. We had a long day's drive from Grand Canyon area across Nevada. I remember getting to Lee Vining. It was late. There were no camping spots, and no hotel rooms. We went on to June Lake, where we found a welcome mat out at a pet friendly motel. A miracle I'll never forget.

This time, everything was pretty closed up. There was a private campground. Lloyd was so excited to find that for $5 he could have wi-fi. Then he told me, the showers aren't connected yet. No big. Then he told me neither were the toilets. HUH? Our little camper is NOT self-contained. The campground was very tidy, and I was not going to use the pet area or the Chevron Station down the street. So one we went to a motel that had a room, but before we plunked down our plastic, we were told there was NO DINING anywhere in town on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In between seasons, you see. So on we went to Bridgeport, sadly unable to find a place so we could explore Mono Lake.

Bridgeport had places to stay. People come there to fish and to see the ghost town Bodie. We chose the Bridgeport Inn, which had a 50s era motel (where we could park the car with camper by the door) next to an 1870's gold rush era inn. And a resident ghost. And one place to eat across the street, as their cook was off that night. And that place to eat had many TVs showing baseball games. Including Red Sox/Yankees. And the Red Sox won. All was finally right with the world.

Total miles: 4,486

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hot Hot Hot

Day 17: Death Valley Exploring
around 130 miles

After a stop at the newly remodeled Visitor's Center, we drove south along Badwater Rd to hike at Golden Canyon before it got too hot! More Geology Heaven for Lloyd. 

It was a 2 mile round trip into the canyon along an interpretive trail that lead to spectacular views of Red Cathedral and Manly Beacon. By the time we were done, I'd finished the first of my recommended 4 bottles of water. One sure gets thirsty in the desert!

A few miles down the road we turned off onto a gravel road for Devil's Golf Course, where rugged jumbled blocks of salt surround the parking lot.

Badwater Basin is one of the world's hottest places, 282 feet below sea level. A sign marks sea level on the rock wall opposite the basin.

There's  a shallow salty pool near the parking lot. An early surveyor of the area saw that his mule wouldn't drink from the pool and noted "badwater" on his map. The name stuck. We could see little insect larvae in the brine.

As we headed back towards Furnace Creek, we pulled off on Artist's Drive, a 9 mile one way road through some of the most beautiful low, narrow canyons cut into alluvial fan deposits. The brightly colored hillsides at Artist's Palette were incredible. Red, pink, yellow, orange, and bown colors are from two minerals common in rust: hematite, which is a red iron oxide, and limonite, a yellow iron oxide. The green and violet colors are from altered minerals in the volcanic ash. Mother nature is amazing!

By  now we're thinking we need gas...and at well over $5 a gallon at Furnace Creek, we decided to leave Death Valley and head northeast to Beatty, NV, a little town we came through at the beginning of our trip. We got the gas, and some more ICE, and had a bite to eat at KC's Outpost Saloon and Eatery, a local establishment unabashedly proclaiming they had "The Best Food In Town". They roast turkeys for their sandwiches and make their own bread. Lloyd had a loaded BBQ sandwich, and I had the special, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Best Foods mayo (she was specific)...basically Thanksgiving in a sandwich. It hit the spot. It was the waitress's first day. She was sweet.

All fueled up, inside and out, we headed back into the park via Rhyolite, a ghost town just outside of Beatty. Within a year after prospectors Shorty Harris and Ed Cross found gold in 1904, the town sprung up. It had a short life, with the 1906 SF Earthquake wiped out the financial district, mining funding took a hit. Then a financial panic in the east in 1907 pinched mining even more. By 1908, there were 8,000 people living there, and the mines began to fail. A few years later the exodus started and the mines did fail. The Post Office closed in 1919, and by 1920, there were only 14 people living there.

There still stands a fine Train Depot built in 1909,

the Kelly Bottle House (1906), which Tom Kelly built to raffle off,

and the Goldwell Open Air Museum with its outdoor sculptures.

Back in the park, we pulled over to take some photos of the sand dunes, and the valley towards Furnace Creek.

then stopped at Salt Creek Interpretive Trail to walk the half mile boardwalk for some pupfish viewing. The salty stream is full of the rare fish, which are very active in the spring (before the summer heat dries it up).

The Harmony Borax Works, famous for using 20 mule teams to move the borax from Death Valley to communities nearby, was an easy 1/4 mile walking trail.

I was waiting for some visitors to leave so I could get a photo without people in it, but they just wouldn't leave; a woman with long blonde hair who looked like a model, wearing a dress that was shorter than anything I ever wore in the days of miniskirts, a man who was dressed for a business casual affair, a little girl who looked bored by it all. From my perch I could hear what sounded like Russian. The woman kept posing, the man kept taking her picture. The man would point for the girl to get in the picture. She wasn't cooperating. The man and girl tried to leave but the woman kept finding new spots to pose, and wanted more pictures. Then they finally drove off in their convertible. To the fancy hotel, I'm guessing. They sure weren't camping at Texas Springs Campground! It was very amusing.