Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Alaska Ferry Tale

Somehow our road trip has shifted into the realm of lock problems.  Thus, while we’re in that sphere, we’re going to briefly digress from our fall travels.  While we still have more of our autumn travels to relate -- this seems to be a good time to add this event from a previous road trip.  It happened during a ferry ride from Petersburg to Haines, Alaska in May, 2010.  I wrote a poem about the event after we returned home.  We’ll include a few photos from our past ferry voyages at the end.

An Alaska Ferry Tale

On a ferry voyage, sleep has it’s worth
So we made reservations, a two bunk berth.
To twenty eight B, we followed the sign
Karen led the way in, said “the top spot is mine.”

I followed along and shut the door tight.
She pecked me a kiss and bid me good night.
Me, I was restless, I’d graze the cafeteria
When traveling or not, food’s in my criteria.

If she’d give me the key there’d be no need to knock
“Uh oh, “ she said, “it’s outside in the lock.”
I turned the door handle, but it just turned back
That door latch was jammed like a wedge in a crack.

With the key in it’s slot and us in the room
We were trapped in our berth, like a babe in a womb.
This door had a knob, that with the key in it’s slot
To go from within to without was a thing you could not.

I pulled out my knife, I’d settle the score
I’d pry that thing open, I’d done it before
I scraped and I twisted, as I started to sweat,
But that lock would not yield, had our fate we now met?

Fear crept up my spine as it occurred to me
We might never be found in twenty eight B.
Karen hopped out of bed, wearing nary a stitch
She’d get us some help, this was only a glitch.

She banged on the walls, stuffed a note through the door
Bellowed a yoo hoo, with a soprano-like roar.
All the while wearing not a shred of her clothes.
Should I laugh or cry at her ridiculous pose.

But rescue ne’r came, we’d not be discovered
By some wayfaring trav'ler who’d find her uncovered.
Was this the end, would we both die at sea
Spend the rest of our days in twenty eight B

Would some refurbishing crew in a shipyard some year
Open that door and two skeletons appear
One with a knife worn down to a hair
The other it would seem exceedingly bare

Back at that lock I worked like a fiend,
I was ruining my knife, as that door latch I reamed.
Scraping and clawing, I gouged and I swore
And as I spent my last wit...I opened the door.

Out on the deck a grizzled watchman I found
Wandering the ship, just making his rounds.
I queried the old man, “in his years at sea,
Had anyone been lost in twenty eight B?”

He scratched his head, then laughed to the core
“Twas a new one on him, it never happened before.”
Of course I muttered, as I headed for bed
“Only my wife,” is the last thing I said.

                    Karen captures the passing scene with her camera while I capture Karen.

Passengers in the forward lounge scan for perhaps whales or a passing boat or even a new bird species.

Up on the solarium deck a couple of young women discover a point of interest in upper Lynn Canal.

               Even a crew member gets a break in time to relish the last rays of the sun.

                                        The setting sun reflected in the ferry's wake.

A passing northbound ferry on a hazy (smoke from interior forest fires) in upper Lynn Canal.

              Smooth sailing on an Alaska Ferry.  Can travel at sea be any more pleasant?

                     OK, sometimes there's a bit of chop to add a little interest to a voyage.

                          Ah, but there always seems to be smooth sailing ahead. 

Now that we have you primed, you can find out more about this unique mode of Alaska-style transportation at Viking Travel.  Maybe we'll see you in the cafeteria (after we get the door unlocked).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Locked Out, In and Out Again

Staying in an isolated cabin at Moon Mountain cabin rentals near Packwood, Washington, I opted to leave the door unlocked as we headed into town -- never taking into consideration how Karen's wayfaring sleeve could trip the locking mechanism. Thus, when I headed back inside through the record-breaking rain for my camera (why was I even thinking of taking my camera with me anyway?) we were locked out.

Oh please be here we prayed as we headed to another cabin we thought the owner lived in.  No answer, but the door was unlocked.  When we checked in she had said we could use her phone anytime.  We figured that moment qualified so after a long search we found it , but no phone directory.  Actually that didn't matter since we had no idea where to call anyway.

Wringing our hands in despair we contemplated how to spend the day where flood and landslide warnings dominated the news.  Even so, how could we survive without our cameras?  As our spirits bottomed out, we spotted her dog herding two children across a meadow.  Children!  Dog!  Just follow them.   Sure enough, rescue was at hand.  I still can't help but wonder why, in that terrible storm they just "happened" to be out at the precise moment we needed their guidance.

                                      The forest around Moon Mountain cabins.

Less than 24 hours later, with her raincoat zipped to her neck, Karen exited the local grocery store.  Ducking out of the rain, she slammed the car door on the one part of her ensemble that remained at large. -- the trailing tail of her raincoat.  Karen was pinned to her seat.  ”Help,” she cried.  OK, Honey, just pop the door open and... oh oh, it wouldn't open.  No amount of pulling on the handle and shoving would budge it.  I tried from the outside while Karen pushed from the inside.   Same conclusion.  Karen was locked in her raincoat inside the car.  I figured we could just cancel her flight to Iowa in two days and I could bring her bread and water -- until, figuring sacrificing my fingers was a mere pittance when compared to my sweetheart's freedom, I managed to wedge my fingers in the crack of the door and, with her desperately pushing from within, free her.

                               Looking Towards Mt. Rainier through the car windshield.

                   A close-up view of our view of where Mt. Rainier is reportedly located.

“Needing” an encore, I arrived home several weeks later at 11:30 PM sans Karen (she was in Iowa for a few more days).  Fatigue reigned.  I just wanted to get in the house and go to bed -- after one last chore -- turn on the hot water.  OK, I must admit I'm a woosie, but I'll take a hot water bath over it's cold water alternative every time.   The water heater resides in our basement -- the part of our house you still have to go outside to get inside.  For probably the first time in it’s history we had locked that door when we set off on the trip.  Too tired to even get a flashlight to see the latch (how much light does one need to put a key in a lock anyway?) I knew I could feel my way through it.  Wrong.  In a nutshell I ended up with two half keys.  One half in the lock and the “handle” of the key in my hand. 

I knew you can open doors with credit cards, but looking at the seal on the door frame (now I had the flashlight) I figured, not this door.  I called the police.  Is there a locksmith in town?  “You have to be kidding.”  I slept intermittently that night imagining ways I could get in -- like sawing the handle off. 

The next morning, before setting off to buy a hack saw, I thought I should at least give the ultimate problem solving resource a try -- YouTube.  Sure enough.  Some kid had a post using the credit card trick on a door just like ours.  His video showed the right way to do it.  I gave it a shot and in one quarter the time it would take to use a key I was in.  Another prayer answered.

We got a glimpse of surrounding mountains during lulls in the storm, the remnants of typhoon Pabuk which "turned into a monster" over the Gulf of Alaska (why do we always get blamed for these kinds of things).

                              The Cascade Range east of Packwood during the storm.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Treasure Hunter

If you asked me to consolidate Karen’s favorite activities under one label, I’d have to say treasure hunting.  Like a basset hound catching the scent of a snowshoe hare, she’ll strike out on a treasure hunt at every opportunity.  Had she been born in the 17th or so century, she probably would have tailed pirates to dig up the chests of gold and jewels they buried on desert islands.

Fortunately times have changed so Karen has been forced to find other outlets for her passion -- activities like the quest for the ultimate bargain at thrift stores, pretty rocks on beaches or the photo ops that most of us never notice.

These activities have become a major part of our road trips.  After blowing it numerous times, I’ve finally learned that whenever we pass a sign that says “Thrift,” “Used,”  “Salvation Army” "Goodwill" or “Value Village” the wisest course of action is to surrender -- just turn off the road and savor the glow in her eyes -- like we find so endearing in young Children on Christmas morning.  Forget covering miles, forget the passage of time, just enjoy her look of triumph when she emerges with an expensive Norwegian sweater or delicately printed blouse worn perhaps once. 

I’ve tried the tactic of saying “how about if I come back in an hour,” certain that she’ll see how ridiculous that sounds since we only have a few hours left in the day to get to a destination that is exactly that far away.  “Wonderful,” she’ll say and off she prance into a store about the size of a large closet to spend the allotted time trying on every sweater they have on the racks.  When she returns she may have just one or maybe none and will be fast friends with the clerk and have exchanged email addresses with half the clientele in the store. 

Then again, she may have real treasure.  Here in Petersburg, she once spent 50 cents on an externally beat up folder of prints of fish and wildlife from the state of New York.  Since I had graduated from high school in NY, she thought I might be interested.  “Wow,” I said.  “I wonder who the artist was?”  Denton!  A few hours later, after looking up the value of all 50 of the prints, still in mint condition, we realized that Karen had scored $5,000 worth of artwork for that 50 cents.  Not a bad return on her investment!

Since we never seem to see these “treasure” shops where I want to set up my easel, painting locations need to be selected where there is a beach or at least a river where she can wander about in search of another kind of treasure, the ultimate rock.  Those quests are perfect since she forgets all about time when she’s out in the natural world. 

This year I figured I could get some painting in if we opted for five nights at Manitou Lodge near Rialto Beach on the northwest coast of Washington.  It’s an isolated fragment of Olympic National Park where rock treasures abound.  Unfortunately for my artistic objectives, I got so caught up in photographing the rocks, the pounding surf and the sunsets that I neglected to do much painting.  

            The forest around Manitou Lodge often lured us away from Rialto Beach

As for Karen she packed enough rocks home that the US Geological Survey is going to have to remap the coasts of Washington and Alaska to account for all the rocks transferred north in our sagging car.  It was her personal contribution to continental drift.  Ah, but that Christmas-morning glow in her eyes as she stacked the rocks in the car made it all worth it.

A couple is caught in the foamy surf that continuously pounds the shoreline of Rialto Beach, waves that over countless millennia shape the cobbles on the beach.

Judging by the number of personal examples of rock art that we saw, Karen is not alone in her fascination with the rocks on Rialto Beach.

                        Piles like this abound on driftwood logs all along the beach

       Even the waves themselves contribute to decorating driftwood with polished rocks.

                   Another treasure for Karen, this photo op with a Savannah Sparrow.

Further down the coast, Ruby Beach, another isolated fragment of Olympic National Park provides more opportunities for photography and rock hunting...

As well as playing with hyperactive dogs.  (Yes, the dog is in mid air)  Here the rocks were more scattered, but no less fascinating.

                             Karen's discovery of natural foam art on Ruby Beach

The front row of trees along Rialto Beach never ceased to excite us, particularly at sunset.

                      Back home, Karen sorts her latest contribution to continental drift.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Acres and Acres of Foam

Foam invaded our personal space at the Heron’s Nest Vacation Rental in Cape Meares, Oregon.  Four adults (our daughter Mandy and her Mike, Karen and I) have about as much experience with an electric dishwasher as Lewis and Clark had with renting a vacation rental on the Oregon coast.  Thus, as usual, we just washed dishes by hand during our entire week -- that is until we read the instructions for leaving the house.  "Put the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on as you leave." Maybe we should practice.

OK, no problem.  Let’s see -- two bottles and the small one we know is dish soap.  The big one must be dishwasher soap, so we’ll just pour some of this fluid in the cup for washing.  Oh heck, let’s put some in the rinse cup, too.  Fill ‘em up.  We want these dishes clean.

Somewhere in dishwasher manuals a warning must be inscribed -- always read the label on soap bottles.  We didn’t have one of those and probably wouldn’t have read the fine print anyway.  It's obvious dirty dishes need soap. 

The first sign of impending disaster came when Mandy noticed a wall of foam creeping across the kitchen floor -- like something from a scene cut from a Steven Spielberg sci fi movie because it was too scary.  As we started running around in all directions -- get a mop -- get some towels -- do something -- help -- it was apparent the foam was gushing in copious quantities from the bottom of the dishwasher.

An urgent call to the manager of the rental led to the conclusion that we had used dish soap which is not the substance of choice for dishwashers -- that there is a distinct difference between dishwasher soap and dish soap.  As usual it’s exhilarating to expand your knowledge base.

Thus, we had a memorable evening bailing the dishwasher of acres of foam, refilling it with rinse water and bailing again.  How much foam can one of these machines hold?  Certainly enough to fill a pool at a hot springs resort to overflowing, I’d say.

    Everyone was in a state of panic as we scooped acres of foam from the dishwasher.

The dishes, you may ask.  Oh, we abandoned the machine to wash them by hand.  The next day when we left, they were all put away in the cabinets.

But nothing at Cape Meares could remotely compare in volume with our second encounter with foam at Rialto Beach on the northwest coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  There it came in the form of a biology merges with chemistry merges with physics lesson.  We’ve always noticed foam and bubbles in ocean surf.  In fact, adding it to seascape paintings is like lighting the candles on a birthday cake.  It shows you really know your "stuff."  However, at Rialto Beach, it seemed like we had returned to a sci fi movie set.

                                           Foam rolling in at Rialto Beach

                            Foam dampens the waves as they roll into the shore.

After extensive research about the situation (I asked a National Park Ranger followed by looking up sea foam on Wikipedia) we learned that warm ocean temperatures this fall had produced a bloom of diatoms -- one celled plankton of which there may be as many as 100,000 species.  Alas, we neglected to bring a microscope on this trip so we could key them out.  So much for our quest for scientific knowledge.

Anyway, when the reported 16-foot seas started breaking down the algal blooms, the dissolved organic matter acted like foaming agents (surfactants -- sticky molecules that separate water from air). -- like dish soap in a dishwasher.  The agitation of the these surfactants by the churning waves along the shoreline traps air in bubbles that stick together until you get foam -- acre upon acre of foam.  During one of our evenings at Rialto Beach the sea foam was so thick that, as it washed up on the shore, winds blew it landward until it piled up on the top of driftwood logs sometimes several feet deep.  

Yes, it's all sea foam.  Somehow this doesn't look like the classic seascape painting subject.
As a consequence, although Karen tried her best to find the perfect rock to bring home from that Beach, we can only surmise that it was hidden somewhere under piles and piles of sea foam.  However, she did manage to find enough substitutes that our car groaned from all the added weight of rocks piles stacked under and behind the seats.

                       Karen, the rock hunter forced up into the driftwood logs by foam.

             Sea foam blown clear up into the trees before it really started to get thick.

Sea foam is comprised of bubbles (it seems to me they should be called sea bubbles) that pile up together following the laws of physics.  These laws mandate they have the minimum surface area which just happens to be a sphere. 

Never mind the spheres.  Karen was more interested in a different attribute of the sea foam.  The piles washed up on the beaches took on all kinds of forms -- like cloud watching converted to bubble watching.

                 ...Bubble watching sometimes augmented by Karen's whimsical side.