Monday, 29 November 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon, October 2009 Day 2

Originally posted to Multiply October 19 2009

Day 2, Tonasket to Mount Rainier

We woke before daylight in a chilly RV, had breakfast by candle and flash light, and got away around 6.30.
The picture below is the view from our free spot: morning mist on the Okanogan River.
We have the RV dance down to a fine art. The Thing is too small for more than one person to be upright at the same time. In the morning I get up first, get dressed and recreate the furniture, tadah! Then I retreat to my corner with Sudoku and/or book and maps while Chris finds a decent radio station and makes coffee. Next it is my turn to produce some hot breakfast and clean up. In the evening I get out of the way first while Chris does things with propane to get heater and fridge working.
Apart from the tight quarters this is not a regular house in other ways. The toilet works, praise the Travel Gods. But the water tank is filled with antifreeze, and we cannot use the grey water line. We carry containers with clean water, and set one aside for collecting sink water. Chris had the brilliant idea of filtering the dish water, so the dirty water can be used to flush the toilet and can be dumped when needed without creating a mess. (the sink water, not the toilet)
I sort of enjoy this part. It is just the right degree of roughing it. The water-manageing skills from our tipi and log cabin years come flooding back. It becomes a sport to get clean with tiny amounts of water.

Anyway, on with the journey! Below: Verizon satellite dishes on the other side of the river a bit further South.
By the way, climate zones here run as much East-West as North-South. Eco systems have no interest in the 49th parallel. The spelling may change a bit. The B.C. Okanagan becomes Okanogan, Kootenay becomes Kootenai.
The valleys just West of the Cascade mountains are in the rain shadow and enjoy a dry sunny climate. Fruit flourishes where irrigation is possible. I love the sharp contrast between the green orchards and the bare sun-baked hills.
One would think a good picture of trees loaded with red apples would be a cinch. We passed lots of them. It was a smiley sunny apple of a day. But somehow we never passed them at the right angle or the right moment to stop. So here are some blurry apples.
Near Brewster the Okanagan joins the Columbia.
Next: Approaching Wenatchee.
For a brief moment we are on the road to Leavenworth.
Then we turn South direction Ellensburg. This stretch was pleasant forest, but not particularly photogenic from a moving car.
The Ellensburg region: a wide green plain surrounded by bare ridges. Do we have to do Freeway? Let's take the scenic route along the Yakima river! This stretch was surprisingly beautiful, the river a green ribbon in a rocky canyon. Twice we saw groups of mountain sheep across the river.
Alas, the views were to the side. That means it was hard to do good pictures from a moving car, and one can't stop everywhere. This totally does not do it justice.
Next, time to find a place to check out the household battery. We found one right by the road in Selah. Chris' diagnosis was correct, we needed a new battery. The guys installed the works while I took the opportunity to bask in the warm sun.

We made our way through the urban sprawl of Yakima on the way to road 12. Mount Adams, the local resident volcano, was visible but only vaguely. On another trip years ago, we approached Yakima from the high road at dusk on a summer day, with a full Moon rising and Mount Adams a dramatic backdrop. Alas, this was before the days of digital cameras and I have no pictures except the ones in my head. This time the few pictures I got were so useless that they were deleted later to make room for ocean.
Anyway, we were on the way to Mount Rainier national park. Route 410 branches off from route 12 and gets close to the mountain. Quite frankly, this stretch, seen above, was boring. The road climbed and climbed but there were too many trees in the way to get a good view of anything. We were wondering when we'd get glimpses of the Big One, and where we'd spend the night because it was getting late.
Finally a viewpoint. Deep and dark and gloomy and not my favorite landscape at all. I have never liked the Cascades. One needs more skill than I have to catch the sweep of the landscape here.

A few kilometers later we came across an official view point. Look up, way up! in the other direction, and there were mountain goats on the slope! Around the corner, suddenly there was The Big One. Mount Rainier in all its glory.
Mount Rainier dwarfs any mountains around it. We gawked and gasped and took piles of pictures.
Now it was definitely time to start looking for a spot for the night. We drove down 123, hoping for a side road or opening before it joined the busier 12. Hallelujah, a side road! It turned out to go to a part of the park: Longmire and Paradise. The entrance booth was closed for the night but there was a generous level parking spot just past the booth. Bingo. Home for the night. Alas, we came and left in half-dark, any pictures of this spot were low quality and were sacrificed later.

Here ends Day 2.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon, October 2009 Day 1


I wrote these day-to-day travel blogs as a detailed memory for ourselves. They may be rather boring for an innocent bystander.

Day 1
After some typical Mercury retrograde communication mixup (each of us was waiting for the other to be ready) we finally set a date for departure: Monday October 5th. It ended up being the 6th since the Thing needed some last-minute work. That suited me fine.
I love road trips once we are on the way, but always have a hard time tearing myself away from home and garden. Believe it or not, thanks to the handy "Perpetual Thing List" I was actually packed and ready to roll! But the last day was brilliant and warm and I welcomed the chance to stay outside to finish some garden chores. I even got the garlic planted, the one task that must be done in fall whether we feel like it or not.
Finally, around 9 AM Tuesday, we were OFF. The weather was perfect for travel. Bright with some cloud, but not so gorgeous that I would resent being inside a car instead of feeling the sun on my face.

The first picture shows Frog Peak in the Slocan Valley, taken earlier in September. The mountain is sacred to the Sinixt. There is a story that explains why, but it is not mine to tell.
We crossed the border South of Rossland, just North of Northport, Washington. The next picture shows Roosevelt Lake, another dammed stretch of our very own Columbia River, a bit further South. This mighty river is managed to within an inch of its life, which explains why the water level seemed higher than at home.
One thing that we notice every time we cross the border: how quiet it is on the other side, how smooth the roads are, and how clear the signage is. This state does tourism well.

When one travels from Canada into Northern Washington, at least East of the Cascades, one goes from an extreme South, the most densely populated part of the country, to an extreme Northern backwater. The contrast between bustling Rossland with spanking new condos in the Red Mountain ski area and barely-there rural Northport is quite striking.
We took highway 20 West from Kettle Falls over Republic to Tonasket, where we'd turn South again. Because the mountains remain sort of gentle and rounded in shape, more like hills really, one doesn't realize how tall they get. Sherman Pass, seen above, is actually 5.575 feet.
  The views are disappointing because there are too many trees in the way. Some better pictures and more information can be found here:
The burnt trees in front are the remains of the White Mountain fire of 1988.
The last picture was taken from a driving car.

Notice the faint reflection of Chris' hands on the steering wheel, :).
The rest of the way was pleasant hill country, alternating range lands with forest. The further West one goes, the drier the land becomes.
We had stopped in Republic for new camera batteries and some groceries, poked around at the Sherman Pass viewpoints, and by the time we got into Tonasket on Highway 97 South it was time to look for a place to park for the night. When we are traveling from here to there we are not too picky, and don't mind just pulling over by the side of the road. Easier said than done in some places. Highway 20 had been quiet but the few pullouts were needed for traffic. We crossed the river in search of a secondary road and lucked out. Just when we had decided to follow the directions to an RV park, we noticed a perfect spot, right on the Okanagan river. Home for the night!

We ran into a snag the first night out: the battery that supplies the lights for the household suddenly died. One can't blame a vehicle that dates from 1982 for having some aches and pains now and then, but meanwhile we had no lights and no heat.

A guardian angel must have been on duty. Right when we were leaving, on a "just in case" impulse, I had tossed in some cute candle thingies from IKEA that hold tea lights, really safe and secure. Cooking and cleaning was accomplished by candle light, entertained by Public Radio on the battery. Thus ends Day 1.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A nice moment in the sky train

Originally posted on Multiply September 1 2009

You know you are getting on when people on a crowded train offer you their seat. It feels weird. I find myself scanning the crowd for someone who really needs it. But I accept with a grateful smile because it is such a nice sign of civility, one I thought we had lost.

In a former time and place it was a matter of course that young and able people stood up for older and more feeble folk. When we took the kids to our old stomping grounds in 1988 we had instructed them in Dutch public transit manners as we knew them. Well.

On a crowded bus on the way to the train station our daughter dutifully stood up to offer her seat to an elderly lady. People stared. It took a moment for the offer to sink in. Then someone said: "You don't see that very much anymore!" I certainly didn't see any sign of this habit on the last trip there in May, more's the pity.

So I was all the more surprised when a tall young man stood up for me in the sky train in Vancouver. After some hesitation I decided to tell him about the Dutch bus incident. He beamed, and said his mother had raised him like that. Mine too! He was from China, had been in the country 12 years. We high-fived to mothers who teach good habits. It was a really nice multi-culti moment.

From far and wide, Oh Canada.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

True Matriot Love

Originally posted on Multiply Sep 24, '09 12:40 PM

 My talented friend Barbara McPherson ( a short piece of her writing is on this blog somewhere) sent me this poem. YES. My sacred mother Earth is the love of my life.

My country is this dirt

that gathers under my fingernails

when I am in the garden.

The quiet bacteria and fungi,

all the little insects and bugs

are my compatriots. They are

idealistic, always working together

for the common good.

I kneel on the earth

and pledge my allegiance

to all the dirt of the world,

to all of that soil which grows

flowers and food

for the just and unjust alike.

The soil does not care

what we think about or who we love.

It knows our true substance,

of what we are really made.

I stand my ground on this ground,

this ground which will


recruit us all

to its side.

"Patriotism" by Ellie Schoenfeld, from The Dark Honey. © Clover Valley Press, 2009. Published with permission. (buy now)

Filling a cat-shaped hole

Originally posted on Multiply September 21 2009

We have almost always had cats. Even when we don't plan to get any they find us. We had fluctuating populations, but the situation stabilized during the last 20 years. On Easter weekend of 1990 we got 2 kittens from separate households. A Siamese girl, and a black and white Sylvester type boy.
Our daughter named the girl Savek, after a minor Star Trek character in the second movie who is both Vulcan and Romulan. Savek was later the protagonist of a spin-off novel. Guess what: it turns out that in the Vulcan language the word Savek means.....little cat!

Not the greatest picture but the only one I could find of Savek.

The boy was named Obo after a cute helpful alien in another spin-off Star Trek book. They were 8 and 6 weeks respectively when we brought them home, and bonded to each other instantly.
Apart from being denied the joys of procreation Savek and Obo lived an ideal and long life. The best of the wild, with ten acres to run around in, and the comforts of a loving home.
Alas, even the best life ends. Savek died at 16, Obo managed to outwit the coyotes and died an old cat just last spring.

Son Alex took the photo above.

We don't miss the litter box, the cost of cat food, or the hassle of having to arrange care when we are away. But it does feel empty.

Enter the perfect solution: the cat from next door has taken up partial residence. His official name is Preston John, which sounds more like a Social Credit politician from Alberta than a cat. Alex named him Pinko Loco, Pinko for short. It is irrelevant since he ignores any name, as behooves a cat. He used to visit occasionally but Obo chased him off. We don't feed him or keep a litterbox. But he shows up first thing in the morning, and hangs out most of the day. Like most felines he gravitates to Chris' lap. My husband has serious cat appeal.
The perfect solution to our cat-shaped hole!

Post script: shortly after this the rightful owner came over to take Pinko home, so he could catch and devour an obnoxious pack rat. He was given house arrest. Alas, he died the next winter. We got ourselves a feline resident again later.

The annual Hills Garlic Festival

Originally posted on Multiply, September 14 2009

 A selection of my best garlic. The bed in newly dug soil resulted in perfect bulbs without a sign of fungus, hurray!

Yesterday was the second Sunday of September and around here that means one thing: time for the 17th annual Hills Garlic Fest. It outgrew its original location: the lawn around the community hall in Hills, an incredibly beautiful rural residential area between Nakusp and New Denver.

It started out as a community potluck to celebrate the harvest, featuring GARLIC! The very first one was just a bunch of neighbors coming together, but later ones opened up to the larger community. I was at the second one and have not missed many. There was always music and delicious things to eat, crazy contests for the fiercest garlic breath and the best garlic poem, and eventually some vendors. The vendors did great, word spread, and the party grew and grew.....

The person who really put it on the map was my friend Magda Bajer. She organized the fest for several years in the late nineties and never received a penny for all her hard work.
The big breakthrough came when Magda boldly invited popular CBC radio personality Arthur Black to come, and he did! This got the Hills Garlic Fest national attention. 
In 2003 the combination of sheer size and a bad fire season necessitated the move to the municipal park in New Denver. This view of the Lucerne glacier dominates the park.
This booth was on the beach side. Glorious Slocan Lake behind.

The count for this year isn't in yet, but last year close to 7000 people attended.
Alas, I forgot my camera this year. These pictures are from 2008. The day was just as gorgeous and not much has changed.
Real Jamaican ginger beer is a total treat.
Above: Old hippies never die. The HAIR just changes colour.
Below: who says face painting is just for the kids?
There are line-ups everywhere! If memory serves this one was for the booth with Russian food. If memory is wrong, the Russian booth did have a line-up so if this one goes to the porta-potties I stand corrected.
We were lucky. Rosie, my friend with PD, was part of our group so we could zoom ahead to handicapped parking. Getting rid of the car is getting to be a major nightmare.
It is still a fun happening, but those of us who were there at the beginning are nostalgic for the original intimate celebration. So it goes.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Of sandy towels and memories

Originally posted on Multiply July 30 2009

The grandson is here for the whole summer, which is a perfect excuse for spending afternoons at one of the Arrow Lakes beaches.
The picture above was taken in early June before tourist season. It shows a place about 15 km South of here that we still call Legion Beach, because it started as a project by the local Legion in 1976. Legion Beach is now a major provincial park with a huge campground. To think that we used to go skinny dipping there...

This is where we go for serious days out with company, like the day with nephew Tim and his family, when we gathered there with a fleet of three vessels.

The rental canoe holds Tim, Marjel and the little sisters. This is the kids I nannied for in the fall. It was so much fun to have them camping on the lawn here. They loved everything, though at one point Shanna asked: "This is just your little summer home, right, auntie Ien?" She expected a Bearspaw -style mansion as a normal main residence. Sorry kiddo, this is it!

Anyway, back to the Hout fleet. Chris had heroically loaded our heavy Coleman canoe on the Subaru, and we enjoyed a paddle across the lake. We were barely back when it got seriously windy. All of a sudden the lake was covered in whitecaps.

Alex had a great time testing out Wessel, his gorgeous sleek kayak.
For more daily outings there is 'Town Beach', a mere block from the heart of the village. This is where grandson K. and I spend the hot afternoons after a sweaty morning in the garden. This picture was taken in June before tourist season.

K. is not much of an outdoor kid, but he sure loves the water. He now swims well enough to hang out on and near the Dock. This is great! It means no more pressure on me to come in when the water is cold. I can just relax without worrying that he is drowning somewhere. 
You know you are getting old when the zero gravity recliner on the shady lawn is just as appealing as a hot sunny beach. K. will be at his other grandparents tomorrow, and I shall opt for enjoying a book in the shade. But today and the previous 2 days we have done the beach thing.

Beach and summer vacation are almost synonymous in my mind.

The only part I don't like is coming home loaded with sandy towels, wet suits, the remainder of the picnic hamper and other assorted paraphernalia, and having to sort that all out while making dinner.

In retrospect I totally marvel at the competence with which my mother managed to do this without appearing flustered or cranky, in cramped surroundings, with 4 kids. Alas, the organization talent skips a generation. Or rather, it skipped me. My siblings are well endowed.
During my childhood the month of August was the reprieve from the third floor flat in Amsterdam. We spent the month in the seaside town of Noordwijk, where one of my aunts lived. I 'borrowed' these photos from Google and am truly sorry to have lost the credit.
Locals used to rent out a part of their home, or retreat to a tiny laneway building in the backyard and rent out the whole thing. We did the partial house thing the first 3 years. It was wonderful for us kids. A backyard to play in, and kids from the resident household to play with. I was blissfully unaware of the stress it must have caused my mother to have to share a small kitchen. Tasty meals appeared magically, as always.

Later my parents opted for the privacy of renting a laneway "summer house" instead. The summer houses were tiny. A kitchen along one wall, separated by a counter from the living space with a dining table, small couch and one semi-comfy chair. A ladder and trapdoor led to the sleeping loft. We stayed there with 4 kids, and all of us have the fondest memories of those vacations, rainy days and all.
I wish I had more pictures, but here are 2.
Above the whole family, probably 1956 or 1957. I remember those silly elasticized bathing suits. As Margaret Atwood once said, "I resurrect myself through my clothes." Or rather the memory of them. In those tight times getting a new piece of clothing was a major event. So I remember that the bathing suit was a weird dark yellow and the shorts in the later picture were blue. I was 15 in the second one.
In 1988 we took the kids to visit the Netherlands and spent one nice day on the beach. We played in the surf. I told them about my childhood vacations. Sighed my paradise-born daughter: "It must have been wonderful". It was.