Thursday, October 31, 2013

Karen Lost at Sea

On muskeg walks, Karen is invariably the one who will end up with her twelve inch boot submerged in thirteen inches of water.  Her last Canon camera got a bubble bath in the froth of California surf when she turned her back on the sea for a shoreward photo op. It's predecessor, a Nikon, ended up in camera heaven when she attempted to multitask -- climb a steep incline while carrying the camera around her neck.  It's another example of why physics should be a required subject with a chapter devoted to pendulums.

And so it was that Karen's beach exploration at Cape Meares, Oregon, reminded me of how much I cherish her.  The reason -- Karen beat me to the beach by maybe twelve minutes and thirty two seconds.  Upon arriving to join her, I failed to spot my lovely wife either up or down the beach. I headed down. There, huge waves pounding the shoreline repeatedly forced me to dash for safety to avoid their clutches.  My mind went to the California incident.  Finding no sign of my beloved, I headed up the beach encouraged by figures in the distance.  It's strange how hopes and eye glasses bathed in wind-blown rain can turn driftwood logs into wives.

In retrospect, how could I confuse this driftwood log for Karen who looks more like this:

                               Karen's self portrait at Cape Meares, Oregon

I envisioned my sweet Karen bent over focusing her camera on a pretty shell when a huge rogue wave swept her out to sea and into the jaws of a great white shark that, knowing her history, had been tracking her along the shoreline.  I hurried on up the beach.  More driftwood.

Back to our vacation rental for reinforcements.  Soon our search party of three plus Gigi, now assigned search and rescue dog duties, spotted another "driftwood log" near a different beach access point. YES! Thank you God.

Karen, as sunny as the day we wished for, her pockets filled with shells and rocks, assured us she had been well away from the waves. We should have known that.  Sure!  Later that day she got another foot soaker.

                           Karen chancing another foot soaker at Cape Meares.

Karen had lost all track of time as she wandered along the beach photographing subjects such as this immature gull...

                                               And these Brown Pelicans.

Amanda and Gigi, part of our search party, at a beach in Oceanside, on the south side of Cape Meares.

The full search party at Oceanside.  Note, Gigi, hot on the trail of Karen (the figure off in the distance) is checking to see if a driftwood log is Karen.

       One of the many, many, many rocks that captured Karen's heart at Cape Meares.

Thankfully, bull kelp was not so easily lugged back to the car for me to transport back to Petersburg.

Towards the end of every day we headed to the beach to catch the departing rays of the sun -- no matter how many clouds tried to interfere.

                                       The Oregon coast never disappointed us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miz Garmin's Final Nag

Karen and I have had a love -- hate relationship with our Garmin navigation system.  Over the past several years “she” tried to direct us through a fence into a herd of New Mexico cows and to a supposed Motel 6 in a grassy Montana field.  Once, at the start of a day-long marathon drive, she sent me on the ramp of an Iowa freeway where the next exit was ten miles back towards where I had started.  More than once she attempted to create a traffic pile up with me the center of the "situation." I can only imagine how a judge would rule if I tried to use "I was just following Miz Garmin's directions" as an excuse for creating roadside chaos.  Karen never could understand the Australian accent that I had selected for her.  I had conceived that idea so Miz Garmin could make traveling more of an exotic experience.

And so we had ambivalent feelings when Miz Garmin met her maker as we stopped for a night in 100 Mile House, British Columbia.  As I reached to remove the nagging "lass" from her windshield perch, to protect her from would be Garmin nappers, Karen turned to grab an apple from our back seat.  Our arms locked like a couple of senior citizens swinging around the square dance floor and Miz Garmin took a flying lesson.  Her landing failed to qualify her for a pilot's license.

During the ensuing days the romantic side of our relationship resurfaced.  Our printed maps failed to show us how to negotiate roundabouts without a few practice exits in unplannd directions -- or even necessarily how to cross the border from the bottom of British Columbia into the top of Washington without a side excursion through the drive-thru lane at a Tim Horton's donut shop.  Roadside signs were obviously designed for locals who already knew the way.

In retrospect, we hadn't updated our Garmin GPS since the Lewis and Clark expedition but I was sure roads hadn't changed much since then.  Thus, against the recommendations of friends, I had stuffed the fifty or so bucks the update would have cost back in my wallet when we set off for Miz Garmin's destiny at 100 Mile House.  So, a couple of days later, when we purchased Miz Garmin II, which has unlimited updating abilities, I figure we got a $50 discount off the purchase price.  Not a bad deal, I'd say.  For once I'm glad I was so cheap.

The only downside -- her raspy voice suggests Miz Garmin II is a smoker.   That makes me want to refer her to “smokers anonymous” whenever she tells me she's once again recalculating.  Then again, maybe it’s just because she’s getting hoarse from so many repetitions of that phrase.

Karen's love of rodents was as strong in British Columbia as in the US.  However, I rejected the notion that if we followed this one's directions we'd do as well as we did with Miz Garmin.

Without Miz Garmin nagging us to turn right, left, recalculating, Karen was able to focus her camera on the patterns of this British Columbia mountainside in peace.

                  Karen couldn't resist lining up these pine cones for a family photo op. 

Without Miz Garmin I felt we were driving in a fog -- like the one surrounding these crows at Deception Pass, Washington.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Apples at the Border

Karen's rule of thumb when traveling into or out of Canada -- stock up on apples so we can have a crisis at the border.   The situation -- each country thinks the other inserts horrible pathogens in their Macs and Granny Smiths so transporting these pomes is tantamount to transporting illegal drugs.  So, of course, every time we head for the border Karen stocks up on enough elicit apples to keep all the horses at Churchhill Downs in Braeburn rapture for a month, with promises she'll happily eat them all before we reach the crossing.  And every trip we sit in a line of cars stuffing said apples down our gullets until we each need a bottle of Peptol Bismol when we reach the other side.

This trip proved no different -- except we were the second car in line.  Passports ready?  Check.  Drugs?  Let's see.  ibuprofen, Tylenol, Tums.....  Check.  Firearms?  Nope.  Apples?  Aacckk!  Karen frantically grabbed the last one and began stuffing it down her throat as I drove up to the border "guard" who seemed about as humorless as an arresting officer after a bank heist.

Passports?  She icily held out her gloved hand.    Aacckk!  In the dash to grab the apple, Karen's seemed to have made a clean getaway.  What the guardian of the safety of Canadian apples saw was a whirling dervish on Karen's side of the car as she tore through the vast array of objects with which she invariably surrounds herself when we travel -- just in case we are suddenly stranded on the Iditarod Trail.  In the process, Karen sat on the now loose half-eaten apple while one of her prize Salvation Army thrift store treasures -- a thermos that gave you second degree burns when filled with hot coffee or frost bite with ice tea and didn't have a functional barrier for either at the top -- a thermos filled with coffee that Karen had stashed in her purse -- turned upside down.  Now at the bottom of her purse Karen had "safely" placed a piece of paper on which she had carefully written down in ink the names, phone numbers and addresses of friends we might be near on our trip.

And so, after the Canadian border guard had confiscated Karen's somewhat mangled Granny Smith and reluctantly waved us away with a look of pity, we could reflect on what bit of knowledge we had gained.

For one:  Ink is soluble in coffee, so anything you want to be able to read at a future date should not be dunked like a slice of biscotti.

Another:  Don't put your coffee "thermos" in your purse.

One lesson still not learned.  When reentering the US, waiting behind a line of cars in which the guardian of the US apple industry was making sure no illicit contraband would soil American soil, we were once again gorging ourselves on Canadian apples.

The wake of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry, Matanuska as we head south to face Canadian customs.

Farewell to the US for a few days -- if Canadian customs doesn't take offense to apples on Karen's breath.

Karen is attracted to the patterns on distant rocks above the Thompson River in southern British Columbia when she should have been eating her Canadian apples.

However, she is soon distracted by the patterns on the stump of a long ago vanquished pine tree -- maybe she thought it might be an apple tree

       British Columbia's Bulkley River flows through a narrow constriction at Moricetown.

                          Reflections in Lake Lakelse near Terrace, British Columbia.

Back in the US, we leisurely headed to catch a ferry from Coupeville, Washington to Port Towsend naively assuming -- no big deal -- never knowing that most cars allowed on each ferry need advance reservations and half the population of the State of Washington wanted to travel from Coupeville to Port Towsend that afternoon.  Oops.  As we sat in a vast line of cars, as lines of vehicles with advance reservations roared past, the first ferry left without us.  Getting on the next ferry would make a difference in the next day -- a long dash or a mellow trip to Cape Meares, Oregon.  As the moment of departure approached, ferry personnel started letting standbys (that's what we were) board in small groups, then in even smaller groups, then pairs and finally singles -- crowding as many cars on the ferry as they could possibly squeeze on.  Finally, we moved to the head of the line.  Oh, please God.  "Just one more car.  Pleeeaaase"  Note, we're the red SUV in this photo of the back of the ferry.

Alas, we didn't take any photos of apples this year.  So much for quality control with this blog.  Ah, but during our trip I painted an apple tree in Idaho, complete with apples.  Hopefully it will appear in a future blog.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Thousand Miles Wandering About the Pacific Northwest

When Karen and I traveled in the past it was always to get somewhere -- usually without a lot of delays other than stops at Tim Horton's or Starbucks.  So, when we left the house for five weeks this fall it was with a destination, too -- a partially unplanned route back to the house except for necessary ferry rides and prearranged stops at Cape Meares, Oregon; Rialto Beach, Washington and Packwood, Washington near the southern entrance to Mt. Ranier National Park.

Beyond that Karen would fly to Iowa to join her cousin, Connie.  There, a side trip to Wisconsin to perhaps say good bye to Karen's beloved Four Mile Lake cabin, filled out their itinerary.

As for me I had two weeks to plein air paint my way back to Prince Rupert, British Columbia where a ferry would take me home -- no reservations, no agenda, just follow my nose.  I've never done that before.  The trip was filled with energizing moments as I discovered new vistas and previously undiscovered (by me) parts of the northwest where I now yearn to spend a lot more time, disappointments when paintings didn't "say" what I intended them to, loneliness, and wonderingly about why am I doing this.  I came away with a new perspective on my art -- that as much as I enjoy plein air painting, I prefer it in smaller doses -- that painting in my studio offers the most tangible rewards.

I also came away with new perspectives on our country.  The Pacific Northwest coast is still as magical as ever, but so too are many areas I wandered through -- eastern Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana and drives through central British Columbia during the peak of autumn colors.

My unspoken idea of painting in Glacier National Park and several National Wildlife Refuges was scuttled by the government shutdown, but compensated for by a new appreciation for National Forests which lacked enough gates and personnel to block access.  So while I was disappointed at how much has been logged, I was excited about intact riparian areas and stream sides on the valley floors.

The trip brought about humorous moments like the microwave in Heidi's Inn in Iwaco, Washington, that beeped every time I passed it -- until I tried to show Karen the next morning.  We discovered the real meaning of sea foam as 16-foot seas at Rialto Beach, Washington stirred a mixture of diatoms and air into a froth that covered stretches of beach from the edge of the water to several feet deep on top of driftwood logs.  We discovered the meaning of another variety of foam when Mandy put a healthy dose of regular dish soap into an electric dishwasher in Cape Meares, Oregon, thereby rivaling Rialto Beach.  Note:  We usually wash dishes by hand in both of our homes.

The trip provided a few moments of apprehension with reminders of why, at my age, night driving isn't such a great idea and, in another instance, how much I treasure Karen.

I'll be blogging about this trip in a series of installments, perhaps interrupted by current events, but then resuming until the trip has run it's course  But, don't expect a narrative about the spectacular scenery and brilliant autumn colors we encountered.  Hopefully a few photos will cover that aspect.

Stay tuned during the coming weeks and you'll see what happened in our lives through most of September into mid October.

Our first evening on the road, or in our case, on the Alaska ferry, Matanuska, is always one of the best of any trip as we anticipate all the adventures ahead.

Beaches along the Oregon coast, like this one at Oceanside, never cease to make us marvel at the power of nature.

Karen and Mandy got the chance for more mother/daughter bonding at Cape Meares, Oregon

We didn't miss a sunset at Cape Meares, Oregon -- or at Rialto Beach, Washington either -- and we were never disappointed.  Incidentally, Mike is not a hunchback.  He was bending over to relate to Gigi, the pooch Mandy and Mike rescued from the pound several years ago.

Ruby Beach, part of Washington's Olympic National Park, is always a favorite for us.  Karen wanted me to bring the driftwood log home, but I assured her the Park Service would frown on removing some of their scenic wonders.

Our last evening at Rialto Beach left us wistfully wishing that part of the trip wasn't over.

After weathering the tail end of a typhoon merging with a powerful storm out of the Gulf of Alaska while we attempted to visit Mount Rainier National Park, Karen flew to Iowa while I discovered another sea -- a sea of rolling hills in eastern Washington and northern Idaho -- like these hills above Lewiston, Idaho.

I explored many a road, like this one near Lolo Hot Springs in western Montana, searching for plein air painting subjects.  I think I saw two vehicles on the road that day.

Some roads led to discoveries like this sod house close to the Clark Fork (no it's not an eating utensil, it's a River) near Plains, Montana.

 I so much wanted to launch a canoe into this lake south of Prince George, British Columbia. 

Back into southeast Alaskan waters, I savored my last evening on the "road" as I contemplated my next road trip.