Archive for the 'travels' Category

Multnomah Falls

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Cancel whatever vacation plans you have for this year and change them for a visit to Portland, Oregon!

During my Great Hiatus, my family had a number of significant events. Among them were four graduations (graduate school, police academy, medical school, and medical school) and one wedding. Medical school and medical school were married in a lovely Persian wedding ceremony in an art gallery, and then, after a two-week diversion to Greece for their honeymoon, moved to Portland to begin their residencies. (She in internal medicine, he in pediatrics.) I’d always heard that medical residency meant long hours and exhausted bodies and minds, but apparently it’s just a little bit of a bother and a lot of fun and free time.

Nearly as soon as they moved to Oregon, our son began urging us to come visit them. Her parents had already come for a visit, he pointed out, and he began scouring the internet for reasonably priced plane tickets for us. He had a week of vacation in November, and he all but insisted we come. Plus, he noted, we could save on lodging expenses by staying in their apartment. With them. In their tiny apartment. In their bed. In their newlywed bed. (They would sleep on the couch and on the floor!) How could we turn down such an offer?

And we didn’t.

Portland, and at least this part of Oregon, is a wonderful, progressive place. I liked it almost as much as I like New Mexico, which is saying a lot. (Had the sun made an appearance during our week in Oregon, I might have ranked the state even higher. In fact, this was my third trip to Oregon — our daughter and her husband lived there for a number of years before moving to Brooklyn, and we visited them twice, though we stayed in bed and breakfasts then. Nonetheless, the sun must have been taking its own vacations on those visits because we never saw it!)

The city of Portland is full of all kinds of attractions to keep visitors occupied (including a four-story bookstore that takes up an entire city block — I had to get an extra piece of luggage to carry home all of the books I bought), and by venturing out a little from the city, the natural wonders of the area manifest themselves for appreciation and awe. The Columbia River Valley may be one of the most impressive sights I’ve seen, even comparing favorably to the Rift Valley, but I can only say “may be” since a dense fog had fallen on the day we ventured there. Still, while we couldn’t gaze across the impressive gorge, more close-in spectacles were visible. The southern side of the gorge is dotted with many waterfalls, and every one of them calls out for being photographed. Too bad Pablo’s camera was accidentally left on some oddball setting and made most of his images get a blue cast to them. He managed to discover the problem and correct it in time for the photo above, and good thing, too, since it was the most impressive of the impressive photo opportunities of the whole trip.

Yes, that ribbon of white in the upper left is a waterfall. It’s the upper fall of the two that comprise Multnomah Falls. (Hence the plural designation.) This sight alone was worth the cost of the airfare. The water runs all year, so one could conceivably vist Oregon in a season when the sun is shining and be even more impressed. (I hear there’s a mountain in the area, something called Mount Hood, that is a sight to behold, but I’ll have to take that on faith. All I saw when I looked to the horizon where I was assured it rose was clouds and fog.)

We didn’t hike to the top of the falls, though there is a trail all the way up, but we did visit the lodge at the base (that little building you see in the foreground) and had breakfast and bought some postcards. The breakfast was okay, but the setting was perfection, which made the meal more savory. And the unfinished trail beckons. I’m not sure when we’ll be back to Oregon, so take my advice and go there yourself. Then let me know what you find.



Wandering to the east

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

This, as you have likely guessed, is not a picture from Roundrock. Rather, it is from the Botanical Garden in St. Louis, where Libby and I spent the weekend.

Whenever we go to St. Louis, we always try to spend a few hours in this garden. No matter the season, there is always something to see and enjoy there. I suppose everyone should visit the Arch at least once in their life, and the zoo there is excellent as well. And if you have children, the City Museum is a must see. But the Botanical Garden is what we keep coming back for.

The birthday weekend for my niece was nice. All of the cousins (except for three of my four) were there, and that’s always an interesting dynamic. Included was my newest nephew, who is all of two and a half months old now. Yes, I got to hold him. Of course there was too much food, too many activities, plenty of conversation, and then the protracted good-byes at the end.

I hope to get out to Roundrock this weekend. Maybe we can cook those ‘smores over a campfire as Libby has wanted. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Missouri calendar:

  • Average day of first frost in northern Missouri.

Today in Missouri history:

  • William Bradford Waddell was born on this date in 1807. As a frontier outfitter and freighter he lost a lot of money attempting to supply the military forts across the west. The Pony Express was one of his projects as well. He died a poverty-stricken, broken man though his dreams and prospects suggested otherwise.

Land of Lincoln

Saturday, June 14th, 2008


I mentioned that last weekend Libby and I journeyed to Springfield, Illinois for my nephew’s graduation. We saw lots of families, and I gave out lots of gold dollars to my nephews. The weather mostly cooperated, and everyone seemed to have a good time. My nephew was duly graduated in a mercifully short ceremony, and now he’s ready for a summer off before going to college upstate.

Libby and I took the long way to Springfield, driving across northern Missouri where the farms are as neat as pins. We visited a few small towns, passed through Hannibal, and stopped for lunch in Quincy, Illinois. There is a blufftop castle in Quincy that I’ve wanted to visit for years, and when we got there, the place wa open, but we’d run out of time. We did manage to have a nice lunch in a restaurant directly on the Mississippi River. That’s the view from our lunch table above. We got to see a few pleasure boats pass by, but the main channel was farther out and we didn’t see any barges. I think that calls for another visit to this restaurant.

When we travel, we try to stay at bed and breakfast inns. (Actually, there is a distinction between a bed and breakfast — generally no more than three bedrooms — and an inn — four our more bedrooms. I prefer the bed and breakfast ambience.) Below is the bed and breakfast where we stayed. If you look closely you can see that the porch is about to fall off the house. There’s even a spot where the railing is gone and a rope keeps you back. The house was solid enuf, and it had all of its original fixtures, including beautiful fire places and hardwood floors. The price was reasonable, too. I happened to see the bill for my parent’s suite down at the chain motel literally by the freeway, and our room at the B and B was cheaper.
rp house.JPG

I have this theory about state capitals. They tend to be small towns, yet they are well funded because they are important places. So they have nice roads and facilities, etc. Springfield certainly qualifies. The downtown area is lovely, and the new Lincoln Museum is astonishing. It’s been called the museum of the future because of the way it presents its history. I have to say that they don’t delve deep into the subject matter — President Lincoln — but they do so in an exciting and innovative way — was that an actor or a hologram on the stage? — and it had everyone fully engaged in learning history.

Perhaps with luck there will be another presidential museum in Springfield, Illinois in the future.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watch for birds carrying food to their young.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Democratic National Convention began on this date in 1916 in St. Louis, ultimately leading to the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. The phrase “He kept us out of war” was a campaign slogan, but Wilson and his advisors knew the opposite was inevitable.

Blowing in the wind

Thursday, March 20th, 2008


We dashed across Kansas twice last weekend: once we dashed west, once we dashed east. In between we visited, ate, and slept. We even saw a 43-acre lake that has all drained away. (This was meaningful to me since my 2.5 acre lake does the same thing. I suppose the folk in the community who financed the lake aren’t as philosophical as I am about a leaky lake.) We also learned about this unfortunate woman in a nearby county.

The most amazing part of our trip, however, was passing a huge collection of windmills in central Kansas. I was unprepared for these. They were huge and there were dozens and dozens of them. Most were spinning lazily far above the brown prairie. They looked like giants, and I know that some people have tilted against them trying to prevent their arrival and now lamenting that they have.


I wish I could have gotten better photos of them, but there was no contrast with the overcast sky, and we were hurtling past them at the legal limit.

They looked alien out there on the plains of Kansas, and not alien as in out-of-place alien but alien as in not-of-this-world alien.

I remember when these were proposed there was a lot of objection to them, but I don’t know what the arguments were. We had driven this route back in September, and the dozens of windmills weren’t rising above the plains then. They’ve gone up over the winter, and for all I know, more will rise in the area.

I don’t know the economics or technology involved. I don’t know if these are experimental or busy producing energy for the grid. (I do know that the enlightened governor of Kansas did veto the building of a coal-fired power plant last year.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Purim
  • First day of spring/vernal equinox: day and night are equal in length.

Today in Missouri history:

  • On this date in 1808 the first issue of the Missouri Gazette, the first newspaper in Missouri, appears in St. Louis.
  • George Caleb Bingham, Missouri portraitist and regionalist painter who gained a national reputation, was born on this date in 1811.

A Quick Quiz

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Today’s quiz will be multiple choice. What is the structure seen in the photo above?

  1. #3 Son’s apartment in Colby, Kansas.
  2. #2 Son’s apartment in Kansas City, Kansas.
  3. #1 Son’s house in Khayega, Kenya.
  4. Our kickin’ weekend place at Roundrock.
  5. A picnic shelter.
  6. A cool conquistador castle in Kansas.

You may offer your answers in the comments below. I’ll post the true answer(s) on Sunday. (Hint: More than one answer may be correct or close to correct. Or none of them may be correct.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Acorns begin to fall.
  • Squirrels bury acorns and nuts for winter food.
  • Hickory nuts ripen and begin to fall.

Oasis on the Plains

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007


Palm trees in western Kansas? Pablo in western Kansas?

As some of you may know, my youngest son has taken a job as a high school social studies teacher in Colby, Kansas. (He’s also getting married on Saturday.) He and his fiance found an apartment out there and got early possession of it. Thus the weekend before the wedding, we rented a big truck and took many of their things out there.

Colby is about seven hours west of my Kansas City suburban home, and as these things go, we weren’t out of the house that morning as early as I had hoped. Then we made a stop at their old college town where the fiance had a storage locker of her things to be loaded in the truck for the journey west. Then there was chow on the road and stops for fuel (6-10 miles per gallon in that beast of a truck, and it was fully loaded). It was a long drive, with the prospect of unloading a big truck waiting at the end of it.

But many hands, as they say. We reached the apartment by mid afternoon and immediately began unloading. Fortunately (for the movers among us anyway), they didn’t want to set up housekeeping that day but merely wanted their things moved into the first-floor apartment. They will sort it out beginning when they arrive on Sunday, their post-nuptial life having really started then. So unloading was not unpacking, and we simply went back and forth from the back of the truck to the front of the apartment.

It’s a nice apartment for the price. They have a large living and dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and three bedrooms. They even have a washer/dryer hookup should they choose to stay long enuf to want to invest in those machines. But, boy oh boy, are they on the edge of civilization. Just across the street the western prairie asserts itself, and one of those flat, endless vistas western Kansas is so “famous” for begins.

And the palm trees? Well, Colby is along Interstate 70, betwixt Denver and Kansas City (though far closer to Denver). For travelers, it is a sort of oasis, a watering and resting place on the long journey. The town has just over 5,000 inhabitants, but it boasts 500 hotel rooms! Just about every major chain eatery is represented in Colby (yes, that’s a Starbucks sign in the photo), there is a community college in town, and the high school (where #3 son will teach) is massive and new. Colby can even claim host to the Prairie Museum of Art and History, which wasn’t open on Sunday morning when we were free to visit it, but we’ll be back.

Western Kansas cannot support palm trees (in fact, most trees out thataway were found only in the draws where water might collect and the trees could be a bit sheltered from the relentless wind). But the collection of trees you see above rises beside one of the big truck stops south of the highway. What you can’t see in the picture are the steel wires helping to hold the trees upright. They’re made of metal, of course, so they don’t qualify for mention in the Festival of the Trees.

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels bear summer litters.
  • Mars shines high in the eastern sky.

Last Day in Oregon

Thursday, June 21st, 2007


We spent much of our last full day in Oregon at the King Estate winery, south of Eugene in some rolling hills. We’re not drinkers by any definition though we sometimes will enjoy a bit of wine. (And beer — see below.) Our goal, however, was merely to have a nice lunch in a nice setting, and we achieved that.

This winery is supposed to be the jewel of Oregon’s wine industry, and not having any experience of the other wineries in the state, we took that on faith. (Actually, our innkeeper couldn’t recommend it enuf, and she keeps an excellent inn.)

So thence we proceeded, and we had a wonderful time. The food was good, though the portions were “dainty” and the $12 cheese plate included only three pieces of cheese. Aside from that, though, all seemed right with lunch.

We also gave a try at a “flight” of wine, which was a small sampling of six wines. The hope of the restaurant, of course, was to entice us to buy a bottle of whichever wine we especially liked. That didn’t work out for them — they kept filling my iced tea (unsweetened, of course) so who needed wine? But we did buy a bottle to give as a gift to some friends who are wine aficionados.


We could have taken a tour of the winery, which was highly recommended, but we had plans we had to return to Eugene for (our son-in-law needed the car), so we didn’t linger. But we did take the long way back and wound through the hills (that you can see in the photo atop).

On Wednesday (which has already passed as you read this), we have a day of traveling including a four-hour layover in Salt Lake City. Getting through security is such a time-consuming process that we aren’t going to try to get out of the airport to see the sights. (I faced the same dilemma when I had a five-hour layover in London, but that began at 5:00 a.m., so it was even less likely that I could have seen any sights.) We’ll get home close to midnight. And then work again the next day.

Solstice story – Some years ago a friend of mine had invited a bunch of his buddies to his house to help him build an extension on his garage. I was invited as well, but my skills were more in the beer drinking area. Anyway, it happened to be Solstice, and I made a comment that it was the longest day of the year. His other friends thought about that a moment and then commented that of course he would invite his buddies to provide free labor on the longest day of the year. True story.

Missouri calendar:

  • First day of Summer/Solstice: longest day of the year.

Civilized Travel

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007


This is our last day in Oregon. We have had a wonderful visit and a wonderful stay. Whenever possible, Libby and I stay in a bed and breakfast when we travel. To us, it is the only civilized way to travel. Over the years we’ve stayed in more than a dozen B&Bs, and every one has been exceptional in one way or another.

But on this trip . . .

We have really had the very best stay ever at a B&B this time. As I said, every one we’ve had the pleasure to stay in has had some feature that sets it apart — the rooms, the breakfasts, the conversations, the decor, the free wifi — but our visit this trip has had the whole package. This is our second visit to Eugene and our second stay in the C’est la Vie Inn, but it is also the first time we’ve stayed here. And long-time readers of this humble blog will know that such a seemingly contradictory statement will have a perfectly rational explanation.


Our innkeeper, Ann-Marie, had run the C’est la Vie Inn at another location in Eugene when we were last here. It was in a gorgeous and perfectly restored arts and crafts bungalow. At the time (a year and a half ago), she told us that she was going to be moving to a new location — the Victorian gingerbread house you see in the photo above. Now she is there. And now we are there. And that explains how we can have stayed with her twice but only once.

On this trip we are staying in the Gaugin Room, which is a bit above our upper limit for room costs, but the service and the ambience are so very worth it that we are willing to pay a bit more. (Plus, since we are now considered “old friends” and had made reservations for five nights, she gave us a reduced rate.) Apparently, since this was graduation weekend, there were literally no rooms left in town, but we had made our reservations last summer (as soon as the date for Rachel’s graduation was published), and we are enjoying our prudence.

Tonight (late) we will be sleeping in our own bed and making our own breakfasts again. We only travel like this once or twice a year, so we feel the indulgence is permitted.

Missouri calendar:

  • Cattail blooms are covered with pollen.

Spencer’s Butte

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007


Continued greetings from Oregon. For Father’s Day our posse took a hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte, which is probably the most prominent landmark in Eugene, at least according to this site. Eugene is not what you’d call an urban city, but it was still nice to get out in the woods and the fresh air.

The hike to the summit (just over 2,000 feet above sea level) was only a mile and a half according to the map, and we were all probably certain that the map had overestimated. Most of the hike was gradual climbing, but there were places that qualified as “bouldering” and poor, flatlander Pablo struggled on. (The hills of Roundrock really don’t prepare one for ascents like these.)

The summit was a bare, rocky prominence with a view in all directions that easily reached fifty miles. The sun was shining and the intermittent winds were refreshing. But it was the forest of the ascent that left the strongest impression on me. I don’t know the names of the trees of the Pacific Northwest, but they sure don’t grow them like this where I come from. Goodness they are big things. Forest giants compared to my experience. Many trees, scattered frequently along the trail, would take the joined hands of half a dozen people to reach around the trunk. And ferns grew rampantly in the duff on the forest floor. Compared to the ferns we have at Roundrock, these were giants as well.

I was sucking air most of the time, and descents, while generally faster, have always proven to be far more difficult for old Pablo. (Footing must be surer, each step is a stop, and progressive lenses in your glasses don’t tend to give you a focused view of the ground beneath your feet.)

But it was an excellent Father’s Day, followed by more eating and general slouching in soft chairs.

Missouri calendar:

  • American toad tadpoles metamorphose into toadlets, leave water.

We have graduation

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Greetings from the great state of Oregon. The purpose of our visit — the graduation of our daughter, Rachel, from her master’s program at the University of Oregon — GO DUCKS! — is now accomplished. The next few days can be devoted to visiting and seeing the sights (and spending lotsa money).

Eugene is a great town. One of the few remaining hippie havens (though I suspect most of the counterculture folk here can’t claim the mantle of “hippie” — don’t you have to have lived in the ’60s to qualify?). The city is laid back and human scale. Public transportation is common, cheap, and clean. There are festivals everywhere. Tolerance seems to be the norm. You get full service at the gas stations in part because the law requires it, thus putting more people to work. Our daughter’s commencement speaker packed her half hour talk with repeated calls for social justice. The ones who don’t drive hybrid cars do so simply because they use bikes instead. Health food abounds. What’s not to like?

Shortly after we leave Oregon, Rachel will as well. She’s going to spend a month in Italy helping to restore a 16th Century sawmill. She could use the experience as nine credit hours toward another master’s degree, but right now she’s thinking she is finished with graduate school.

(Also, note that green purse in the photo above. It is capacious and managed to hold all of our stuff, and for some reason I was given responsibility for carrying the purse around most of the day. Fortunately, I was wearing earth tones, so it didn’t really clash much.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Mulberries are ripening.