Friday, April 26, 2013

Days 26-27 - Nope, Not Done Yet!

After a lovely, regenerative week in Seattle, I set off for Glacier National Park in Montana. To make that happen, drove until I reached Couer d'Alene, ID.

It's a stop my brother recommended for its small size, simple beauty, and for Jimmy's Down the Street, home of delicious cinnamon buns the size of a horse's head.

I needed the calories, because from there is was a good five hours' drive to Glacier National Park, a pristine forest area that's also home to the only actual glacier in the continental Unites States, which according to scientific estimates will melt by 2030.

The place was closed for the season. A normal person would have been perturbed by this. A huge investment in time and gas money, not to mention the mental anticipation of getting to hike around a mountain made entirely out of frozen water, only to be snatched away at the last minute because some administrator decided it's too cold to experience ice? Yeah. I wanted to punch something. Like reality. I wanted to go Earth-2 Superman on this park's butt and shatter time and space into something where I could get into the gift shop and pick up a cheap souvenior pin.

But I didn't. Instead I got out of the car and struck up a conversation with the other car full of people waiting outside the closed and locked gate. Two of them were local fixtures of the community: one ran a hospice and the other was the "chairman"? of the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association. They were nice enough to take my picture.

Then they took it right.

They were keeping company of a third man, a young ranger investigating the death of a goose. This ranger was walking along the river investigating a specimen whose neck had broken. He came back up to the gate to pet his dog and make sure it was secure in the car, then resolved to walk down the river to see if there was any clue as to what killed the goose. And he took us all along!

I don't know if it counts as a clue, but we did find another dead goose. This one didn't have a broken neck, though, it had a hole straight through it. Obviously, I'm not posting pictures because, as far as I know, the investigation is still ongoing and to release evidence would cripple the process.

While in the area, we also found an abandoned bear den. There were no bears in it, but there was a collection of bones ranging from very small to large rodent. Bears: the comic nerds of the animal kingdom.

The area we were in had burned down in 2001.

Life is returning.

And there were other views like these...

By the time I'd made it through all the dirt roads and barely navigable paths to get this far, my car had war paint and a twinkle in its eye.

So I didn't get to go on my controlled hike or get my commemorative survey pin. What I got instead was conversations with some colorful local characters, a guided tour of some natural wilderness, and civilian involvement in a multiple murder mystery. And I didn't even have to pay admission!

Next stop, Devil's Tower!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Days 23-25 - Tastes and Treats

March 23rd me and a couple of the cousins took the dogs for a walk. It was just bout the perfect day for it, with clear skies and an almost empty beach.

That night, we had a party for some relatives that were moving down south. Dinner was deep fried turkey wrapped in bacon. As good as it sounds, it tasted even better.

Several of us sat by an iron stove outdoors made to look like a fish. The fire got hot enough that the belly started glowing red. Between the flame, the time of night, and the lack of flash, I'm very happy with the way the photo came out.

On the 25th, I took a day trip to Vancouver, Canada. It was my first time visiting the country, and the border patrol on both sides took a curious interest in my Indiana license plate. It's like not many people from the Midwest drive all the way there to eat a bowl of poutine.

Yeah, okay, that wasn't my ONLY reason to go there. But it was tasty. I went to the Wallflower purely because it happened to be close and yelp gave it a good review or two. Here's my own attempt at restaurant review:

I’m starting with a pale ale. The drive combined with the lost walk gave me quite a thirst, and the crash my computer only just recovered from punctuated the need. Pale ales can be over hoppy, but this one’s smooth and clean. It’s got a bit of punch to it that’s hitting me in the temples and knees (for some reason) in a soothing way. Paintings cover the walls by a local artist named Mishelle Cuttler, who’s pretty good. The “Girl with Glasses” in particular catches my eye.

The poutine came out pretty fast, but considering it’s supposed to be an appetizer, I shouldn’t be surprised. For those who don’t know, poutine is basically French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds, the Canadian version of Welsh Rarebit, almost. The curds here were plain stuff, looking fairly solid at first, but gooed well with the heat – actual cheese! The gravy was chicken and pretty flavorful, meaty and salty. The fries were alright, not the best I’ve ever had, but the best would get lost under all the gravy, so they didn’t have to be.

Now that I’ve had a bowl of poutine (it came in a real life bowl), I can say that they’re nothing special. They tasted great, don’t get me wrong, but they were tasty in a way that’s easily done anywhere. I’ve no idea why they seem to be a specialty of Canada’s, or why the internet developed such a jones-ing for them. I do have a full belly, though, and maybe a new point of cholesterol, but a good experience all around.

After lunch, I went for a walk around the bay area known as Yaletown. I know that because I read signage.

The wind bit, which is to be expected in Canada mid-March, but otherwise the weather was flawless. My panorama skills got put to good use.

Most of the art installations looked like small space vessels. Is it an expression of the idealism for future times, or alien escape pods hidden in plain sight? I knew I should've paid attention in art interpretation.

I don't know if there's a structural purpose to building a highrise wobbly like this, but it looks interesting.

Nice little pedestrian park. I was going to ask a local what ancient rite took place when you lit the surrounding lanterns that lead into the central platform, but that seemed rude.

Vancouver also has a stargate. Try as I might, I couldn't turn it on, to say nothing of linking it to the one in Arizona. Can't win them all, I guess.

Next update will take me away from Washington and to Glacier Nation Park! Well, almost...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Days 17-20 (REALLY?!) - Port Townsend

From my sister's place in Eugene, OR, I went up to visit my brother and his fiance in Washington state. Specifically, an itty bitty town called Norland. They live in an apartment above a garage. This is their backyard.

A short drive away is a public fort, complete with decommissioned gun emplacements. I didn't mind that they chose not to fire it to commemorate my arrival.

That night we had cupcakes. My sister made them for us, and they were yummy.

We spent St. Patrick's Day on the road, starting with breakfast at the Blue Moose Cafe for corned beef hash.

We toured around the commercial district of Port Townsend for a bit. I got to visit The Writers' Workshoppe, where I picked up a sweet t-shirt. There was also Bergstrom's Auto, the place for antique car parts and memorabilia. Beth, go get Gary right now and show this to him. 

Everyone else, as you were.

It was easy to escape civilization and see some natural wonders. For instance, Olympic National Rainforest.

It's terrible to pick and choose which pictures to throw onto the web, because honestly so many were good, but none truly capture the total, almost choking amount of life that inhabited the area. I'll try anyway.

 Here's a silly shot of the happy couple, not to scale. OR IS IT?!?!?!?!?

From there, we visited Ruby Beach, home or at least vacation spot of a pair of bald eagles. While there, I decided to conquer the driftwood from Hell.

The next day, we had lunch at my brother's school, the NorthWest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. I left then and took a ferry to Seattle, where my aunt and her family live.

I covered a good chunk of the Seattle visit already. My next update will fill in gaps and include shots from the USA to our Mexico: Canada!

EDIT: Wow. Forgot that I covered a bunch of this already. Not everything, but most. Meh, plenty of new shots, I'll leave this up anyway.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Days 14-16 - Los Osos and Eugene!

The weird thing about living someplace other than hotel rooms is that the only personal responsible for cleaning up the place is me. It can get in the way, but the alternatives are worse. Anyway, here are pictures!

By the time I arrived in Los Osos, CA to meet my uncle John for the first time, the sun was setting and a thick wave of fog was flooding in. It was difficult to take pictures. Not impossible.

There was a bird on the beach that looked like the stereotypical noir snitch, only without the alley or streetlamp.

I tried getting a picture of the fog as it was cresting over new territory. This is as close as I could get it.

Uncle John is a man of many trades. He taught English across Asia for years, does massage therapy part-time, and also dabbles in botanical design. Did I say "dabble"? Because I meant "his entire property is pretty much a collection of plants".

Mountain! I believe this is Mt. Shasta. I have already made every joke possible, and don't feel the need to repeat them here.

My next destination was Eugene, OR, setting of IZombie, close to the real-life inspiration for Springfield, Simpsonverse, and oh yeah, my sister's place!

Her landlord has a flock of chickens, which she helps maintain. There's one that's hers. She hasn't paid for eggs in I don't know how long. 

Eugene's either a very big town or a very small city, either way it has more natural landmarks than manmade ones. For instance, it has a 150+ year old cherry tree.

Its river is more of a river than Indy's White River.

Eugene's idea of graffiti is interesting. 

Climbing up Skinner Butte, we saw the Creeping Columns, demanding to be sat upon.

The top of Skinner Butte gave us a great aerial shot of Eugene as a whole. Observe!

Next update: Washington!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

All Good Things...

Saturday night, when I arrived in Omaha, Darcy called me downtown with her housemates and what seemed like every other 19-30 year-old resident of the area to drink, listen to live music, and just socialize. It was a great night.

The next day, everyone was wiped out. We functioned. I walked a dog and wrote a bunch. Then we watched the season premiere of Game of Thrones. It was my kind of Sunday.

I set out Monday morning from Omaha, feeling good and ready to meet road and rubber. I arrived in Des Moines just in time to meet my friend Ryan for lunch at Zombie Burger, which is the classiest and tastiest theme restaurant I've ever seen.

A tiny bit pricier than I'm used to, but the money was well spent. Afterward, we took a driving tour that sent us back and forth around the city a number of times. We stopped at Court Avenue Restaurant for some root beer. I explained that I was interested in trying local beers from the beginning of this trip, and while root beer's not exactly the same thing, I was driving so this worked out. It was the tastiest root beer I've ever had. Des Moines's not especially big, and most things there are generic that I saw, but when they want to make something special, they do it.

Seven hours later, I was back home again. In Indiana.

I've felt pretty exhausted since I've rediscovered my own bed, and yet I feel like I've gotten a lot done. I jumped right back into my duties at the Comic Carnival, and it's about as much fun as I remember. We came up with the most epic Skype phone tree ever. I also jumped back into my D&D gaming group, and we caught up on a lot of dice rolls, innuendo, and horribly inappropriate jokes. Made up a lot of lost ground.

I also found the data-ready phone cable, so I'll be able to get the rest of the photos online very soon! Maybe not today, but soon! Tonight, Mom comes back from her own interstate trip, so the house will be full again. I'd say all Walshes would be at their homes at this point, but I just learned my sister is in Honolulu right now. So she's a jerk.

Prepare yourselves for the pic wave!