Sunday, November 12, 2017

Visiting Fort Rock

I'm catching up blogging on a few adventures from this summer, now that the rainy season has come. In April we decided to take our new Dodge Challenger for a little road trip, and headed east to something I have had on my to-do list for a long time, but never quite got around to - Fort Rock, Oregon.

We drove out over Mt Hood, and onto the dry side of the state. It is amazing how different the East side of Oregon is from the damp, green West side.

We had not visited Fort Rock because it is not really near anything else we've wanted to visit. The land around it is very flat, and then this big rock half-circle raises up on the horizon. 

Story clouds made for some dramatic lighting.

Fort Rock museum had some historic buildings that had been saved from around the area and relocated to the museum.

Although the museum's General Store faced Fort Rock, I thought it made a more dramatic piece to put them together.

Driving out to the Rock, we started to get a real feeling for how HUGE it was.

We parked in the little parking lot at the base and hiked up into it. (Dave included for scale)

There were lots of neat rock formations up inside the Fort.

And some man-made formations.

I've been told this whole area was a vast inland sea eons ago, which is why the rocks have this water-worn look to them.

From the back wall of the Fort, we could look across the formation and out onto the plains.

Everything is so big and vast, and the living things here seem to have quite a struggle on their hands. We found lots of rabbit carcasses among the sagebrush.

It feels like you could just walk forever and not run into anything.

In these days when it seems like everybody is out for themselves, it does my heart good to read about farmer/conservationists who loved the land enough to set it aside and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. Thank you, Long family.

After Fort Rock we headed for Hole in the Ground, another nearby geographic oddity. I grabbed a bag of chips we had bought at the beginning of our journey and discovered they had blown up like a balloon, almost to bursting! That's beacuse we had bought them at sea level, and brought them up into the high desert, and the difference in air pressure caused them to expand. Crazy science!

We drove through this singed pine forest.

Then we arrived at Hole In The Ground, A HUGE depression. I believe it was volcanic. In Oregon and Washington, when someone asks if a geographic feature is volcanic, the answer is almost always Yes.

Our beautiful new Challenger made the trip effortlessly. What a nice, comfortable, modern car! I hope we enjoy many more road trips in it.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Another Duchovny concert, this time in Canada!

A few months ago I heard David Duchovny would be doing a concert in Vancouver BC, and on a whim I bought the tickets and said 'whatever happens, I am going to this, and we'll just see who is going with me as we get closer.' Dave was expecting to be in a play that would actually be going on that weekend, and Michele thought she might be in it too, and so Sherry said she would go if I needed a partner for this escapade. I'd go by myself if I had to. Glad I didn't have to though, turned out the venue was sketch as hell. We'll get back to that. 

It turned out Dave didn't get cast in the play he thought he would, and Michele was an understudy, so we went ahead and planned our trip. Right before the trip she got moved from understudy to actually being IN the play, but she had already told them she needed that weekend off, so they had HER understudy cover those days. Our little adventure was still on!

 Michele thought it would be fun to rent a room instead of staying in a big hotel, so after much discussion we all agreed on a little 2 bed, 1 bath flat downstairs in a 1920s house in Kitsilano. It was walking distance to stuff. Parking wasn't terrible (we found a spot on the black every time). It was a cute little place. Upstairs we could hear the landlords family walking, talking, playing piano, their little dog's nails tapping on the wood floor and yipping. It was fine though. I liked it. It felt a lot more personal than just being in a hotel. 

We had a lot of fabulous food while we were there, starting with a place right down the street called the Oakwood that did a menu with small plates to share. The food was amazing! The poutine with glazed brisket - drool! We waddled out of there and then took a nice long walk to Safeway for some snacks.

Can't go to Vancouver without visiting the Aquarium. Lots of cool displays.

After the Aquarium we headed to English Bay Beach, and I found a restaurant with a view on Google, so that's where we were headed. The XF Season 11 trailer had just come out the week before, and it showed a scene of Mulder next to some crazy laughing statues.

Found 'em!

Saturday night was the concert. We drove by ahead of time to check it out and it looked super sketchy. Lots of homeless people around. The parking looked iffy - since we have the Flex with the giant kayak rack on top, it couldn't go in a parking garage. Dave found street parking a few blocks away. He dropped us off since there was already a line forming, and Michele and I got a place in line while he parked the beast.

We had to stand in line for a bit, but the other folks in line were friendly and chatty, and everyone was pretty chill. Folks kept walking by with dogs, and since I missed our dogs, we kept pointing them out. At one point Dave pointed out someone had a little corgi-esque dog with a fluffy tail, but I was short and couldn't see it from where I was. Eventually they opened the doors and we all went in.

The venue didn't have seats, just big open areas for standing, dancing, and a few tables around the edges which were pretty much taken. I wanted to stand up by the stage, so I staked out a spot and made like a rock - nothing would move me from my spot - close to the stage, and the exit door - just in case. I'm not fond of crowds, but I had Michele next to me and Dave behind me, and the rest of the floor just filled in until they were packed like sardines. I have never been in a concert like that! Michele proved to be a master at chatting up people, and ended up talking to some folks next to her about the wildfires in Santa Rosa (where she is from), because they were from the Bay Area too - small world!

Finally the show started about a half hour late. DD seemed tired, not nearly as energetic as the last concert. Seemed like he hit a lot of sour notes too, maybe his voice wasn't up to it, or he just wasn't feeling it. After a while he started to loosen up and it got better. I liked the songs he sang off the new album. And he played guitar this time, which was cool.

There was a group of girls behind us who were absolutely plastered by the time it started and were super obnoxious, falling over, dropping their bottles, squeeling randomly, waving a lighter around (for god's sake, use a phone like everyone else before you set someone on fire!), shouting stuff out. Finally a stage hand came over and asked them to chill. At the end of the show our friend Michelle went over to thank him for doing that, and he said no problem, and said 'oh, here, you might like this' and handed her the setlist off the keyboard station. So she gave me that, and when we got home I hung it on the wall next to Mulder :)

It was a fun concert, and I wish I could have brought my camera because the pics would have been so much better, we were way closer than the cell phone pictures make it look.

The next morning we were talking about the concert, and I pulled up Twitter to show Michele a picture of Duchovny's dog, Brick, and Dave says 'Hey, that's the corgi-esque dog I saw while we were in line!' What?! You got to see Brick and I didn't?!

The next day we went up to the Bloedel Conservatory, which is full of exotic birds and plants. Very cool.

All the beautiful birds! I can't wait to make art out of some of these.

But Dave got tired of chasing birds and looking at plants. Poor Dave.

Then I think we took a long, meandering trip over to the north shore of Vancouver and drove until we got hungry, driving through little touristy towns that were hopping on Sunday afternoon. We had lunch at a random spot in a strip mall next to a grocery store, and the food was amazing! I don't know how we got so lucky every stop.

We continued back, doing a loop around what used to be the XF studio, not sure if they are still filming there, and then back over the bridge and around Stanley park, stopping to take pictures of the city at sunset.

You'll just have to trust me that this pic looks amazing blown up. The blog just can't handle it.

The next day we swung through Steveston on our way home, and like everything it has grown a lot from the sleepy little beach town we found on our honeymoon. We also stopped in Bellingham to see this cool old sailing ship Michele had gone on a tour/crewed on. Then we pretty much hotfooted it home, because Dave had a rehearsal to get to. It was a fun weekend, I'm so glad Michele was able to join us, and ultimately even if the concert wasn't the greatest concert ever (super hard to beat the last one), it gave us an excuse to wander around Vancouver all weekend, and that was pretty awesome.


Monday, September 04, 2017

Eclipse 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 passed right through the heart of Oregon. As an amateur astronomer, I really wanted to see it. I had seen partial eclipses through the telescope, and lunar eclipses, but total solar eclipses are very rare. I heard last year that the Oregon Airstream club was planning something in Eastern Oregon, but at the time there was no way I could afford to sign up for that party, as I was still unemployed and Dave and I was struggling to keep it all rolling - I was starting up my Real Estate Photography business, and he was doing baggage delivery for airlines all night long. There was not any extra money for the big rally, and I heard it had filled up.

Fast forward to this May: I was gainfully employed again, and Dave had taken over the photography biz, and we were doing ok again, everything was getting caught up. I had to skip Trout Lake because I had done a terrible job of winterizing the trailer and the main water pipe broke, and camping without water is no bueno. But we drove out to Trout Lake for an evening to have dinner with our friends and catch up with everyone. While talking about our plans for this year, Jim Jordan mentioned that there were openings at the Eclipse rally, and I should look into it. We went home and discussed it. Dave might have a play during that time, and it was an expensive rally, so I decided to go by myself. I have never taken the trailer anywhere by myself, but I'm pretty confident I can do it. I drive nearly every trip, so I'm not really worried about it, so I signed up and paid my dues. Now I'm going to see an eclipse!

As we got closer to the eclipse Dave did not get a part in the play he thought he might be in, and as we heard more and more warnings about how many people would be travelling to Oregon to see the eclipse, we started to get worried. Authorities were warning people that grocery stores could run out of food, gas stations might run out of gas, cellphones might not work, and they expected traffic back-ups that would last for hours in 100 degree heat. Dave decided he should come along too. So we asked Scott and Sherry to watch the pups, and prepared for a crazy eclipse weekend.

I took that Friday off from work, and we drove out at about 11pm Thursday to avoid the traffic. People were already talking about crazy traffic in Madras, and that's where we were headed. Our campsite was in Pelton Park on Lake Simtustus, and we wouldn't be able to check in until noon on Friday, so we rolled into the Warm Springs Casino at 1am and parked it for the night. Dave went to play the slots for a bit while I went to sleep. The next morning he went to play a bit more while I hung out in a chair in the shade of the trailer, reading Travels with Charlie while answering questions from curious travelers about our Airstream. It was hot and a little smoky from a nearby brushfire.

Since we were heading for a lake we packed the Yak for the first time on an Airstream trip. I think they fit together just fine.

I was a little worried about heading for Eastern Oregon in August, with no AC, and no electricity to plug into to run it anyway. Turns out Pelton Park is actually a really nice park with lots of trees and shade. I loved our spot with a view of the lake. I wish we'd had one of those front-bedroom Airstreams with the table in the back - the pretty view was out our bathroom window!

Just a small assortment of the Airstreamers filling the overflow lot. I heard there was something like 130 Airstreams, some of which were at the neighboring park where we had the big tent setup (coming up).

The park also had a marina with boats to rent, tackle, a little grocery, and a diner. Very nice! We will have to come to this park again!

At the big tent at the Suntustus campground down the street, we had a mandatory meeting to discuss all the goings-on that were planned for the weekend, and security (they were worried about party-crashers trying to sneak in). Meanwhile the sky tried to distract us with one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever witnessed.

When we got there we immediately found friends, and discovered the Trout Lake contingent were all parked together at the other end of the park. I brought my fiddle and got some tips from Jim on stuff to work on so I could play along with everyone next time, and enjoyed sitting in and listening as everyone played under the streetlight behind Janet and Gary's trailer, since campfires were not allowed.

The next morning we took the kayak out fishing bright and early, and missed breakfast. It was totally worth it because..

I caught a fish!

I didn't know what it was, so I released it. Turned out it was a Northern Pikeminnow and they are invasive, and you're supposed to keep them if you catch them. Oh well. We also saw some deer up on the hills, and a black cow that was just hanging out by itself.

On the way back to the dock a sheriff's boat stopped us and said he could see we had PFDs, but did we have a noisemaking device. I said yes, we had a whistle. He said ok and said, but do you have an Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species permit? Well, no. He told us we needed to get one before we go out again, somewhere up the road at a fly shop. We didn't want to go out because of the warnings about traffic and craziness in town, so we packed up the kayak for the remainder of the trip.

That didn't put an end to all the fishing fun though, because they had a Fishing Derby planned for the next day. So I signed up and went out with David and Laura, who were both very experienced fishermen and kayakers, and also have a small farm so we had plenty to talk about! They were super nice and helpful and we trolled up and down the lake all morning.

The landscape along the lake is amazing! Very cool rock formations.

I've never seen rock formations quite like this. When you have a question about rocks in the NW, the answer is almost always 'Volcanoes'.

Got a picture with a little Pikeminnow I caught. I caught two of them, and one little Rainbow Trout, which I gave to David to cook up with the ones him and his wife caught.

That was a blast! Then there was a charity hotdog lunch to support local firefighters. While standing in line someone's beagle got away from them and was running around refusing to get caught. After I got my hotdog the pooch made a pass and I offered her a piece, but she only sniffed and kept running, so I handed it to her dad (he had camped with us at Trout Lake last year). But then she made another pass and I offered her another piece and she stopped to sniff it, then have a nibble. So I got down on the grass with her and set the hotdog down in front of me and she slowly snuck up on it, and didn't even notice when I gently took her collar. Her dad was grateful and the crowd clapped :)

While I was fishing Dave went to the Casino, then we both crashed the rest of the afternoon. What a great place to crash!

This might have been the night we had dinner and got a tour of the constellations from our friendly astronomer-in-residence Brian from Fresno. Or it might have been the night we got to see Antsy McClain do his stuff. He's awesome, what a treat!

Monday morning came, and it was time for the big event. The eclipse was going to happen at 10:21am, so we all gathered at the big tent for viewing, and then afterwards we would have brunch and have an astronaut come talk. It was a little smoky from nearby brush fires, but it looked like it was still going to be ok.

We found our friends and pulled up chairs to sit with them.

We tried out a box with a pinhole projection going on to see the eclipse as it progressed towards full, and checked out the telescopes, including Brian's fabulous funnel-projection setup on his 8" dob.

Big crowd for the main event!

Dave and I lookin' fab in our eclipse glasses!

And the big moment...


I didn't take any pictures of the eclipse! This was actually on purpose. If I had tried, I would have been fiddling with my camera. There are lots of people who did, who enjoy that, who were happy to spend their time that way, but I just wanted to spend the whole two minutes watching the eclipse, and I did. I watched the last of the sun disappear behind the moon, whipped off the eclipse glasses to see an inky black hole in the deep blue sky with white rays stretching out from it. A parachute opened near the sun as some daredevil jumped and enjoyed his eclipse from the air. Venus was visible. It was kind of like twilight, but not quite, and it was sunset all around. It was amazing. Absolutely jaw-dropping amazing. And then, less than 2 minutes later, it was over. The instant it was over, and the sun came out form behind the moon, it was immediately too bright to look at with the naked eye. So the difference between a 99.9% eclipse, and 100% eclipse is everything! It is a completely different experience.

Afterwards we had lunch, and the astronaut talked to us and answered questions, and then we helped clean up, folding chairs and stacking tables. There was no cell service there, so to get reception you had to drive up to the top of the hill, and you could also see the highway from there. After brunch we had gone up there and saw the highway was crawling with people heading back to town, so we went back to camp to relax. Back at the campground we crashed for a bit, then while Dave was napping I went to see what Janet was up to. I didn't find her, but I found Carolyn and Loren. I just started visiting with them, when Janet popped up and said Gail had rented a boat and there were two more spots! Carolyn didn't want to go, so I went for it. We had a pontoon boat! Gail drove us down to the other campground and then down the lake a ways. Gary was stretched out on the front deck, Jim had his mandolin out plunking away, everyone was chatting and telling stories, it was fantastic!

We hooked up the trailer and had everything ready to roll before sunset, and then relaxed, planning to pull out in the middle of the night again. That night all our friends pulled together everything we had left for a potluck. After that Dave went for a nap, and I hung out listening to music. About 10pm one of our neighbors came back and said he'd been up to cellphone-point and the highway looked normal again. I went and told Dave it was time to go. We rolled home with no issues, and no traffic, and got in about 1am.

I'm so glad we took the time and spent the money to spend the weekend camping with our Airstream friends and making new friends and really enjoyed ourselves. It was the best rally we've ever been to, and then there was an eclipse too! Also, a big thumbs up for Pelton Park, and the awesome folks who run the marina there. We will definitely come back.