"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, April 30, 2012

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

In the countryside near the small agricultural valley Oregon town of McMinnville, is a surprising museum, of the quality you'd expect in a major US city, like Washington D.C.  The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is housed in a campus of four large modern buildings: one aviation museum, one space museum, one IMAX theater and one water park topped off with the 747 from which four water slides descend! We took advantage of the two museums, and passed on the theater and the water park, but the slides were tempting.

The center feature of the aviation museum is the original Spruce Goose, the wooden mega amphibious plane created by the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes.  Didn't know it was in Oregon? Neither did we until Rick discovered it, so we took a rainy day to visit.

The Spruce Goose is so big you can't get more than a quarter of it in your camera lens at a time. So here are the four quarters:

Another thing that was HUGE was the amount of historical and technical information about each plane, with which I have to admit I was not fascinated.  This is not the fault of the museum, which really does a bang up job presenting the material. So to stave off the boredom I decided to focus on one aspect of the planes, the one I thought had the most character.....

Their noses.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why I dance... Pourquoi je danse...

I've never posted someone else's work (in this case a video from YouTube) on my blog, and I'm not sure it's going to work. This is a significant departure from my usual kind of posting, but I hope that readers will enjoy it. It's a beautiful and short piece that explains in real peoples' words why they dance (please see the credits at the end for the creators' names). Dance has been central to my life, and still is. All the things that the dancers on this video say are true for me, and I believe have been true for the people I've worked with as a dance therapist and educator.

Rick and I met dancing, and we still try to dance as often as we can. Please give me feedback about how this embedded video worked for you. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oregon Botany 101

Oregon has trees, grasses and flowers, like most places. But what Oregon also has en masse that makes it unique (in my experience) is lichens, mosses and ferns.  Throw is some skunk cabbage and carnivorous flowers and you've got the botanical picture.

Let me show you one at a time. First lichens. There are many many kinds of lichens and the internet has some great sites devoted to them. I've seen a few different kinds so far. Probably more than I know I'm seeing.

These look like moose antlers.

These are the thin fibers that make up the lichen that I think is called Old Man's Beard. Although it looks a lot like Spanish moss, it's not.

 As soon as we crossed into Oregon the lichens took over the landscape, covering most of the deciduous trees and some of the evergreens. The leaves had not yet come out, so we got a full look at the extent of their coverage. Frankly, I thought it was just ugly. It made the trees look dead. Botanists insist that lichens and mosses do not harm the trees, except when they get too heavy with absorbed water and break off branches.

Next, mosses. They cover the trees in some places, as well as rocks.

Now, ferns. There are also many kinds of ferns, and I don't know any of the names, except for a few domesticated ones that were in my garden. Here are some of the wild ones.

Of course you find these three stars of the botanical show in all kinds of combinations.

Mosses and ferns.

Lichens and mosses.

Mosses and lichens.

Finally, a couple of others to round out the picture. There are skunk cabbage here that bloom. I've never seen blooming skunk cabbage back east.

And the grand finale, cobra lilies, a kind of pitcher plant that eats bugs.

The bugs crawl down their "throats" and can't get out. They have little transparent windows that the bugs throw themselves against to try to get out, but somehow that makes it worse. Anyway, they fall to the bottom in a puddle of digestive juices, and the plant then makes use of the vitamins and minerals from the digested bugs.

Shall I give a quiz in the next blog?

2nd Best BBQ Ever

About 8 months ago we found the number one, best BBQ ever, in Billings Montana. Blues BBQ is a little joint that is actually part of a gas station. The ribs are heavily smoked and pink like ham inside, fall off the bone tender, dry rubbed with sauce on the side if you want it. Great sides. We actually bought a whole slab and slaw to go after we had dinner, so that we could take it on the road with us.

Yesterday we found the 2nd best in Junction City, Oregon. Boss Hawgs BBQ is a small but stylish little place on Rt. 99, or Ivy St., north of town. It's almost invisible except for their sign. They used to just be a truck, but recently opened this little place. Inside it's a perfect blend of diner/bar and kind of a flamey, smokey decor. Old album covers one the wall.  The ribs are not pink like ham, but are heavily smoked, tender, dry rubbed, with great homemade sauce on the side. Great slaw and corn muffins. Nice Southern boy behind the smoker.

Just sayin'...

Monday, April 23, 2012

More of Oregon

We've been in Oregon now for about two weeks. We're gradually working our way north, and zig-sagging across the western part of the state between the mountains and the ocean, with forests and farm country in between. This week we also got solar panels installed on the RV and will have our one year RV check this week.  Yes, we are coming up on our one year anniversary soon. Hard to believe.

Our first week we stayed in the Valley of the Rogue State Park. From there we went back to the California coast to see the redwoods, and we also headed up to the mountains to see Crater Lake.  The snow was about 10 feet deep, so all we could do was drive up to the visitor's center and look at the lake. The access roads that go around the lake are closed about 9 months a year, depending on weather conditions.

 We were very fortunate to have a clear day, as often the lake is hidden by clouds.

This week we are staying in "Premier" Resorts RV Park in Coburg, near Eugene.  It's a nice place, with plenty of grassy space between level concrete pad sites. They have a hot tub too. It's been pretty rainy and I thought a hot tub would feel good, but we haven't tried it yet.

It turned out that the solar installation was going to take two days, and we were not able to stay overnight in our RV while it was at AM Solar. So we headed over to the coast, to Florence for an overnight.  We took Rt. 36, a winding back road, through logging country - a major crop here in Oregon. And it has to be seen as a crop. Once the forest is logged, it is truly not a forest any more, but a farm. So now much of the land in Oregon seems to have become tree farms. Thank goodness for State and National Parks that preserve the natural state of the forests.  We passed more conventional farms as well.

In Mapleton, 36 joins 126 and the Suislaw River. We had lunch at a funky little throw-back cafe run by a local commune.  

We passed these rocks, a pretty unusual sight where no other graffiti exists. 

Amazingly, we got a pretty clear day to visit the beach where the Suislaw meets the Pacific.

Got to do a little bird watching at Oregon Dunes Recreational Area,

and some surf(er) watching at the mouth of the Suislaw River. Yep, they are surfing in the river.

On the beaches around Florence there seems to be an enormous amount of drift timber. I'm talking about huge logs. This may be quite normal for the northwest pacific coast, but it's new to me. All along the beach these wiki-ups have been built. I didn't see anyone doing the building, so that made me curious. No one living in them either. They remind me of the balanced rock piles you find all over the country, but never see the builders. 

The ravens were the only residents I saw.

Details of the architecture in one of the more substantial structures.

We spent the night not in a wiki-up, but in a lovely little local motel, The Ocean Breeze. It must have just recently been remodeled, as everything was neat and shiny and new, even though the motel was obviously older. They even gave us a sheet for Kona to sleep on. That was a first.

The next day it was raining hard, but we wanted to see more of the coast, so we headed north on 101. We  stopped at the Seal Cave, the consummate tourist destination. We were soaked just walking from the gift shop to the elevator that takes you 200 ft. down to the cave.  When the elevator doors open, you are assaulted with the intensity of the sounds, smells and sights of the cave. There are hundreds of stellar seals on the rocks and in the water, many of them roaring. (Is that the right word for what seals do?)  What were seeing were mostly mothers and yearling pups. Mating/birthing season had not started yet, so the new pups weren't being born yet, and the adult males were not back from the northern shores.  It was an amazing experience. 

This was the best picture I could get of the inside of the Seal Cave.  But you can see better pictures on their website.

We ventured further to Yachats, and had a warm and cozy lunch at The Drift Inn, a truly unique little restaurant and bar. I love these surprises along the road. After lunch we just headed back to AM Solar in Springfield, OR to pick up our RV with the new solar system. Before we could leave their shop we had to spend one more night in their parking lot so that they could do a light test in the morning. All seemed to be working, so we headed "home." With this solar set up we can now boondock if we want to, without relying exclusively on our propane generator.

On a different note, we've also found some great contra dances here in Oregon. Last night we danced in Corvallis. I think we'll dance in Portland too.  Tomorrow we move to Lincoln City for a week on the coast.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Crescent City: California One Last Time

This week we moved to Oregon and we're staying in the Valley of the Rogue State Park. It's a nice park, but nothing special. It's right on the Rogue River, which is a very popular fishing and rafting river, but there's not a lot of that going on right now - too early in the season.  I picked this park because it's inexpensive and centrally located for day trips to Crater Lake (tomorrow) and the northern California coast (yesterday).  I'd been looking forward to seeing the Redwoods, and though we did visit a grove south of San Francisco, the groves up here are supposed to be better in some ways. They sure get a lot more rain.

The day started out partly cloudy, but by the time we hit the road it was raining in earnest, and continued to do so for most of the day.  I'm learning how to take pictures in the rain and overcast skies.  Not having bright sun is OK, but hazy and serious rain are both challenges.

The first leg of the trip was on Rt. 199 from Grant's Pass, OR to Crescent City, CA.  You know how you see those signs about Falling Rocks? We saw our first real live fallen rocks along the road.

The road travels along the blue-green Smith River (named after Jedidiah Smith who shows up a lot in Califormia) and in some places skirts along its very steep gorge. We stopped in one turnout and got this picture of the river 

and some wildflowers that I haven't been able to identify.

199 passes right through Jedidiah Smith State Park, which is within or adjacent to Redwood National Park. It's a surprisingly quiet road and the environment seems less trampled than some areas. 

Route 199 ends in Crescent City, on the Pacific coast. We stopped and had our picnic lunch at Point St. George, overlooking Castle Rock.

Further south, we took a walk along Pebble Beach. It was really blustery, but the rain had eased up a bit. Kona got her swim, not in the ocean waves, but in the tide pools.

Parts of the beach really are composed of tiny pebbles rather than the big rocks that create the tide pools.

In Crescent City we viewed the Battery Point Lighthouse from a distance. I don't know if you can get closer, but we were heading south to Prairie Creek State Park, so we didn't explore further.  We caught site of a few shore birds: a busy little flock of sanderlings, and a few scattered black oystercatchers.

I wanted to get to Prairie Creek because I had read about one part of it called Fern Canyon, which is right off the beach, with high walls lined with ferns of many kinds. I had also read that there was a herd Roosevelt Elk in the park. We finally got to the visitors center and found out that Fern Canyon was inaccessible because of flooding on the road to the beach, and there was no sign of the elk. I guess they were in under the trees trying to shelter a bit from the wind and rain. Oh well.

Elk Meadow sans elk.

I did talk Rick into a short walk along one trail in the pouring rain. What a sport. 

Most of pictures I took were pretty much ruined by the raindrops on my lens. Oh well again.  For this one I got a little shelter from the redwoods, thank you very much.

It was a long day. Stopped on the way home in Grants Pass for a local specialty: McDonald's.

Marin County

Whoops! I found this old post in my drafts file and thought I'd just finish it up and post it. It's from a drive to Marin County, when we were staying north of San Francisco in Vacaville.  It was kind of a grey day - raining off and on. We drove a loop that included Rt. 1 going north up the Marin peninsula and finished across through very pastoral scenery over to Petaluma, Sonoma and Napa.

This first photo is of Muir Beach.

This next one is of Stinson Beach.

And this one is of Tomales Bay.

 And finally this countryside where they graze dairy cows and make lots of cheese.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cow Country

I had no idea there were so many cows in California. We've moved on from Vacaville (vaca = cow, in Spanish?) and the Napa Valley, up Route 5 to Red Bluff.  We're staying at Durango RV Resort, a very nice park with wide, long, flat concrete sites; plenty of grassy space between sites; landscaping that includes fountains and some trees; a dog wash! (that's a first); a pool and a hot tub. We've been enjoying the hot tub.  : )  It's right on the Sacramento River so Kona gets a little swim almost every day.

Red Bluff is another small agricultural city in the central valley, but cattle seems to be the mainstay rather than grapes and wine. Almost as many cowboys as South Dakota. This draws fewer tourists, though some pass through on their way to Mt. Lassen. It's pretty flat right here, in the Sacramento River Valley, but only a few miles in any direction leads to foothills and then snow covered mountains. We can even see Mt. Shasta sometimes, which from here looks huge.

Mt. Lassen in the furthest south active volcano in the Cascades. It's not blowing sparks or smoke or lava now, but it was pretty active throughout the 19th and early 20th century. In 1915 it blew like Mt. St. Helens. Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park does still have an active hydrothermal area with mud pots and steaming water.

We visited Mt. Lassen one day last week. going in as far as we could given the winter conditions. The main road through the park is closed all winter, but the visitor's center is open (barely).

Snow banks along the roads and parking lots were easily 6 feet.

The visitor's center.

Mt. Lassen and the peak of the visitor's center roof.

Countryside between Mt. Lassen and Lake Almanor.

We met the rangers and agreed to come back on Easter Sunday for a snow shoe hike. That's today. Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day, with plenty of deep snow still on the trails. I hope to take plenty of pictures.

A few days ago the three of us took a 4 mile hike in the Sacramento River Bend Trail. It's BLM land so Kona could come with us, even without a leash, as opposed to National Park land where dogs are usually not allowed. It was an idyllic day for a hike: sunny, but cool.  Although it's been a dry winter, there's been lots of rain around here in the past month, so the wild flowers are coming along.

 Great lava rocks cropping out everywhere and a grand view of the river bend.

Gnarly black oaks and lots of green grass for the cattle soften the scenery. Yes, the land is used for grazing too, so when you walk through here, you're in their territory.

I also took a little sunset adventure on my own up into the foothills to take some photos one evening and hit the jackpot with these cloud formations. Anyone know what kind they are?

Just caught a few deer my way home to top off the evening.