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Looking across the landscape of Wildlife Safari from the bears area.

Wildlife Safari is in Winston, Oregon and is the only drive-through animal park in the state. It covers over 400 acres, is home to over 500 animals, and hosts over 200,000 visitors a year. Margaret and I bought tickets for a close-up cheetah “enrichment encounter” at 11am before we drove through the park.

Cheetah celebrity of the day.

She sat patiently while people stood behind her and had their photos taken by park staff.

Margaret and me with the beautiful cat.

At the cheetah encounter, everyone stood in a semi-circle and gazed at a cheetah while she had her photo taken with other tourists. The park employees explained that they have one of the top cheetah breeding research centers on Earth. Here in Oregon is the number one cheetah breeding facility outside of Africa & number two in the world. I recalled coming here as a kid on school field trips and for birthday parties. Back then, when you drove through, for fun the cheetahs would run in packs beside the cars, close enough that I would be tempted to reach out and pet them. Today, the big cats are kept behind fences.

After the encounter, we hopped into the Jeep and went through the gate where we were handed a map, then drove into the park. The rules here are to go slowly, stay in your car, and don’t touch the animals. Brochures say, “Where you are captive and they roam free.”

We were absolutely delighted by everything, and surprised how frequently other vehicles passed us because we were going too slowly. We stopped and gawked at every creature we saw, talking to them and laughing.

Some of the enclosures are so huge that fences couldn’t even be seen, and that helped us to imagine these animals really are free. I used the photo of the bear at the top first, to help you understand what it really looks like here. As you gaze across the vast landscape, there are fences and roads and buildings and other cars. I tried to cut those out of most photos.

This was my actual view. Everything from inside the car. There’s me in the rear view.

Clever photography helps one erase the reality of being inside a car the whole time.

Giraffes are barely interested in us.

Long legs can pose a challenge for getting food off the ground.

Common Cape Eland grazing on a hill.

Common Cape Eland closer to the road.

Small group of zebras. My memory tells me that when I was a child, this was a larger herd. Maybe the others are behind the hill.

We also spotted Southern White Rhino, Whitecheek Gibbon primates, Yaks, Watuski cattle, and Gemsbok, but these were too far away for decent photos. Blog photos come from my Nikon, and both of our phones. We grabbed whatever was easiest to use when we spotted an animal. Consequently, you’ll see the poor resolution in some of the phone photos.

Margaret noticed some hippos on a nearby road and insisted we use a staff access road to get to them before they went back underwater. The photos were incredible!

About as close to a hippopotamus as I want to get.

I backed up and returned to our place on the other road before blocking another tourist’s passage, nervous the whole time about authorities telling me I wasn’t allowed to do that. My friend teased me that the Fun Police were going to get me.

East African Crown Crane showing us his balancing skills. That looks like a turkey behind him.

Predators like the African Lions were behind fences.

I think Margaret may have enjoyed the Brown Bears the most.

This shot shows their impressive claws.

This photo makes me laugh. Not sure if he was eating something, or what. Look at that hump on his back!

While we were there, two Brown Bears stayed close to the road, so she was able to get many great photos.

There was a small herd of American Bison that moved back and forth across the road in search of good eating.

This one keeps an eye on Margaret’s camera while it eats.

Roosevelt Elk are always gorgeous, but plentiful where we live, so not very exotic.

The stripes on the White Bearded Gnu look like paint dripping in the rain.

This African Elephant spotted trainers nearby and stood up on its back feet and did a pose, hoping for a treat. It got the treat. We were so astonished to see the voluntary trick we forgot about our cameras.

Margaret was excited to see their giant ears.

Around one curve was a little hut where a staff member answered questions and sold little cups full of animal food. She said for the next mile, we were allowed to feed animals from the car. The animals knew this, and surrounded us.

I couldn’t identify this buck, who took the food right out of my palm. So much for not touching the animals.

A Sitka deer waits for food.

This one didn’t appear to be interested in the food pellets.

This Rhea and all her cousins were very eager to make our aquaintance.

The Emus were the biggest crack up, with their curly mop of feathers on top, and those giant red eyes. I could swear that half of them were posing for photos. Conditioned by my own chickens, I was convinced they wanted to peck me, and stayed way back.

The Black Buck is a very pretty animal.

When the cup of treats was exhausted, we were at the exit, and we parked once more and explored the grounds at the entrance. This is more zoo-like, with smaller cages, a restaurant, gift shop, feed-the-giraffe tours, and the like.

Flamingos are free to go where they will.

A couple of cheetahs are in this area, for people who can’t make it to the drive-through park.

We spotted a lemur

Black Swan

An anteater! I had no idea they were so crazy-looking.

Margaret fed some Koi and Mallards

Fat happy fish

There was a walk-in aviary filled mostly with Budgies.

We saw many, many more animals than what I’ve been able to show here. It’s a great place to take the family, or as I’ve just demonstrated, a great place for girlfriends to find hours of fun. A point I’d also like to make is that it’s very inexpensive, compared to similar tourist attractions, and it was explained to me that this is because they are not for profit. All proceeds are merely invested back into the park. It was $19.95 to drive through, and $15 for the special cheetah encounter. Everything in the gift shop was reasonably priced and high quality.

Jerry and Terry Holder are annual favourites because they are so much fun on stage, they’re lovely people, and we love their music.

I went to my third backyard music and barbecue yesterday at Roy and Lucy McAlister’s home. Remember how enchanted I was the first time? It’s like that every time. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and consequently knows a lot of musicians. He and Lucy host a gathering every summer at their home, where they invite neighbors, celebrities, local stars, old friends and brand new friends to take the stage and perform for all of us lucky people who are invited. The music is always exceptional. The people who show up – every single soul – are always exceptional.

Damp but optimistic audience.

We’ve had an unusually hot and dry summer here along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Day after day of temperatures in the 90s have finally dried out the earth to dust and much of the greenery has yellowed. So in between two solid weeks of clear blue skies and 90-degree temps, there was one day – a single day – of rain in the forecast. Any other day we would be cheering for the much-needed rain, but instead we remarked about the bad timing. And then… we appreciated the rain a little bit anyway, because we live here and have made peace with rain.

It intermittently poured, then broke up and splashed sun on us – teasing us and getting our hopes up – then started pouring again, for hours. We fretted about the electronic equipment under plastic sheets, hoping nothing would get ruined, hoping there would be a way to have an outside concert eventually. And yes, around 6pm the clouds began to break apart in earnest. By 7pm it had cleared up for good and people moved permanently out of the house. We sat on wet lawn chairs and got ready to be delighted.

A series of fabulous musicians took the stage!

This photo is from 2017, since I didn’t take any good perspective photos this year. Behind the stage you can see the glowing windows of Roy’s shop.

Steve Hawkins was gracious enough to start off the night with some beautiful songs. One song was interrupted by low-flying aircraft, and he calmly took it in stride and incorporated the demonstration into the show. Now there’s a performer for you.

Rick Ruskin is another familiar friend and performer. His ease with his guitar made the audience forget it was a show and just get caught up in the music.

Roy McAlister, left, introduces Andre Ranieri and Diana Brown. It was their first time on stage and Andre impressed us with his lead guitar while Diana wowed us with her vocals.

Andre has been a beloved friend for years.  We met through a mutual friend and musician, Marcus Eaton. In fact, it’s because of Andre that I received my first invite to McAlapalooza in 2015. Andre plays with Diana, and so she made the journey from the TriCities to be here tonight. I loved her of course.

Peter Jacobsen used his guitar to accompany his outstanding voice.

Christine Gill and John Resch knocked our socks off with their great songs! John played a guitar he built himself.

Christine and John get a second photo because this one was too good to leave out. They are such a loving, open, humble, and generous couple. I begged them to come and play again next time.

Pianist and singer, Grace, a McAlister family friend. This young woman’s talent will take her places. (and look how much fun she’s having)

Our hostess Lucy took the stage to introduce Save the Bees, a new act and immediate favourite once they began belting out brilliant harmonies.

This is where the guitar magic happens.

Andre plays his new guitar.

As I watched Save the Bees, Andre gestured to me from the other side of the lawn to follow him and John Resch up the hill to Roy’s shop. When I arrived he announced, “This is my new guitar.” We admired the nearly-finished instrument (missing accessories like a pick guard and strap button) that Roy has been making for him. It’s a sister to Marcus Eaton’s guitar, that stirred up so much excitement in 2015. Andre humbly handed it to John, who tuned it and played a few pieces, and then Andre finally got to hold his new baby.

Diana showed up a little later and played it too, Jerry and Terry Holder stopped in to watch the delight settling over Andre. Terry showed us her mostly-built ukulele that Roy is making. Then Andre played while Diana sang, and I was a quiet, wide-eyed witness to musicians simply reveling in the joy of making music.

Jerry backs up Terry who wrote a new song while teaching herself to play the ukulele.

I had been stuffing myself with food all evening. That’s one of the fun things about McAlapalooza: guests trickle in from 3 to 8, and everybody brings something: salads, blueberry tarts, roast potatoes, noodles, fresh vegetables, cake, and artichoke dip. The grill was fired up and then chicken and sausage appeared. Every time I walked into the house, a new dish had found a place on the table and I had to sample it. It was late, and dark, and I was tired and full of delicious food and wine. I missed the final act, James Anaya, and climbed into the Jeep and set the GPS for home.

Entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards

Lavender and vines along the entranceway to the hilltop facility.

My dragon spawn turned 21 recently. It’s so hard to wrap my head around the concept of this full-fledged adult being the same teeny wrinkly purple thing I brought home 21 years ago. I have realized that 21 years is not that many years. It’s nearly half my life, but dang, it went like a blink!

A small Tara with wooden sword at a Renaissance Faire

Tara and me at one of our first Faerieworlds festivals.

Our tradition, you may recall, is to go to The Enchanted Forest in Salem. I’ve had loads of fun with Tara and their awesome friends, visiting the theme park year after year and living out our childhoods with abandon on one brilliant July day. Right next door to Enchanted Forest is a winery that we had only spotted from the Interstate. This year, since Tara is of legal drinking age, their birthday idea was to visit the winery.

I called Willamette Valley Vineyards and explained it was a birthday visit and asked what a person might do there for fun, other than tasting wines. They suggested a tour, and I made a reservation.

Willamette Valley Vineyards is a first-class destination, which made this a serendipitous choice. Until we arrived, we had no idea what an enormous, visitor-centric place it is. Sadly, I neglected to get some photos of the main tasting room, but it’s huge and oh so beautiful. There are three bars with about 8 people tending, who can all help you with tasting a flight of wines, or purchasing, or eating lunch, or touring, or even booking a night’s stay because yes, this place also has guest lodging. I imagine it would be a wonderful stay.

The main buildings are at the top of a hill, and thus visitors are afforded incredible views in every direction. Just in case you want something even better than the view available in the dining and tasting rooms, there is a tower one can climb, which puts you another 50 feet up.

Tara celebrating their birthday in the tower.

View from the tower.

 

Molly and me, at our main gathering place during the tour.

The tour is also a tasting. We tasted 5 different wines, some award-winning, during the tour. Our guide, Suzanne Zupancic, put us at ease and made us feel like she was our friend right away. Suzanne led us through the different stages of wine production at Willamette Valley, to include the history of the vineyard’s existence, and the bottling station and of course the barrel storage. She told the story of the founder, Jim Bernau, who grew up knowing wines because his father was an attorney for the first vineyard in Oregon after prohibition. She explained how the winery is solar powered, doesn’t irrigate, and instead of typical pest control, partners with a raptor rescue organization to use owls to control the rodent population!

She explained some general concepts to help us in choosing a wine, such as when a wine is sweeter, there is generally less alcohol. Knowing this, a quick glance at the label can help you choose what you’ll like. She talked about Oregon’s famous pinot noirs, a thin-skinned grape that has caught the wine world’s attention. She taught us about cooperage, the craft of building wine barrels, and how to understand the labels on the outside of the barrels. She also explained why so many barrels are stained red. It’s because the wine slowly evaporates and the only way to maintain its integrity is to top off the wine frequently, and not allow any oxygen inside the barrels. Topping off tends to end up with a little bit of wine spill, that drips down the side and stains the barrel. She explained that Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot benefit from aging, but others do not.

Barrels of white wines.

A door leading from the red wine barrels section.

Me with as much wine nearby as I could ever wish for.

It’s not a flattering photo, because everyone is squinting in the bright sun.

Suzanne also told us about Bill Fuller, a legendary winemaker in Oregon. He left California’s Napa valley in 1973 to take advantage of the ideal geography in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. His Tualatin Vineyard 1980 Pinot Noir and 1981 Chardonnay took home “Best of Show” in both red and white categories at the 1984 London International Wine Fair, a feat unduplicated by any winemaker in the competition’s history. Bill Fuller’s winery merged with Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Mr. Fuller began working with Willamette Valley Vineyards in 2013.

She also explained about the remarkable geologic processes that made the Willamette Valley so rich for agriculture and particularly for grapes. The history includes a historic sea, volcanic processes, and the Missoula Floods. Tara, a geology major at Oregon State University, was interested in this portion of the tour.

Brynnen, Tara, me, Molly

After the hour and a half long tour, and five wines, we were all ready for some food! We ate from their gourmet menu and sat out on one of the many outdoor patios to eat it. We were joined by bees. Interestingly, the staff handed us fabric softener sheets to place on the table to keep the wasps away. It was a little effective. At lunch, I gave Tara a gift I had made of childhood photos through the years. Tara read the book outloud to all of us.

Tara opens up the memory book I made as a birthday gift.

Tara reading their birthday book to us.

Finally, we were ready to go and purchased some of our favourite wines from the day. I said goodbye to the kids who were all headed back to Corvallis.

Evening fishermen head home on the Snake River in front of the house that used to be my Pa's.

Evening fishermen head home on the Snake River in front of the house that used to be my Pa’s.

For awhile it seemed like paradise, this 5 acre plot of land on the banks of the Snake River, just southwest of Boise, Idaho. And when my Pa was younger, the upkeep was somewhat invigorating. But health problems mounted, and the work was never done. Morally defeating was the fact that tasks completed had to be re-completed every so often. Well pumps re-installed, soil Ph balance restored, railings repaired, deck boards replaced, dead trees and bushes re-planted with live ones. One huge blow was when an impressive three-tired retaining wall built of railroad ties (my father did everything himself), was partially destroyed when the above-ground pool (guaranteed not to fail) burst and flooded the hillside, washing out the retaining wall on its way to the river. Insurance refused to pay saying that this was flood damage and my father didn’t have flood insurance. Search as he might, Pa couldn’t find the original purchase receipt of the lifetime guaranteed pool, so that wasn’t replaced either.

I’ve blogged about this place before. Pa called it something like the “Trulove River Rat Rest & Relaxation Ranch,” or TRRR&RR for short. Right across the river is the Shoshone Indian Map Rock, and my post on that remarkable set of petroglyphs is one of my most popular.

Pa had already been wistfully talking about selling and moving someplace with trees, that was smaller and easier for him to take care of. Then, as I mentioned a few posts back, he married a Romanian woman and began trying to bring her to the US. After nearly a year it just wasn’t happening, so he gave up and decided to move to Romania. The beautiful house on the Snake River sold in a few months, and Pa began preparations to leave the country. The new owners graciously allowed him to stay on the property after it was sold, and he lived in a camp trailer while he continued to sort through what was left of years and years of possession-collecting.

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

Wildflowers in the heyday of Spring

Wildflowers (or onions?) in the heyday of Spring

I liked the variety of textures of the different plants here.

I liked the variety of textures of the different plants here.

Wild roses blooming

Wild roses blooming

In April I made the first trip over to help him pack. This second trip was in late May to continue helping him, by taking loads of donated items into the city’s equivalent of Goodwill, and packing the Jeep full of things he was donating to me. Also, importantly, to collect some cats. The Crazy Old Cat Man asked only that I take two. Still, it’s a traumatic thing for our dear Racecar kitty at home, who hates all other cats except herself. D and I brought home Thomas (14 years old) and Yeowler (4 years old), named for…yes, you guessed it. We will see how the summer goes, and then decide if new arrangements need to be made. So far, all three of them fight constantly, and it’s not peaceful when they are too close to each other.

Anyhow, I wanted to show some images from our trip over there, which was like a vacation and tons more fun than an 8-hour drive to Boise would imply. We stretched it to about 11 hours, with multiple stops along the way, and that’s what made it so fun.

First we took a side road that promised a viewpoint. I had been there years ago and vaguely remembered it as worth the look. This time we showed up in a profusion of desert wildflowers and we climbed around the mountain like a couple kids. D found something he thought might be wild onion, and we couldn’t decide. So I took a bite. It was pretty oniony. He thought I was crazy. 😉

Next we stopped for lunch in the little eastern Oregon town of Baker City. The day was an early season reprieve from the winter greys, and tourists were out in force, to the chagrin of unprepared staff in the few restaurants downtown. We stopped for only a pint at the Grand Geiser hotel, but the harried barmaid was pressed beyond her capacity. We left after 15 minutes with no hopes of getting a beer anytime soon, in hopes of easing her burden, and walked down the street to a little Mexican cafe and drank imported Mexican beer instead. Our waitress was the younger sister of another waitress, and had been called in to help.

We walked the streets and delighted in small town shop windows. I photographed the old painted advertising on the walls of several buildings.

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

I'm a sucker for wall art, especially when it has this much character.

I’m a sucker for wall art, especially when it has this much character.

Stay at The Antlers!

Stay at The Antlers! It’s absolutely modern.

The valleys around Boise, Idaho are filled with crops. It’s an agricultural area that doesn’t just produce potatoes, though our state is famous for its potatoes. I remember when there was a big debate over changing our state license plates to say something other than “famous potatoes,” because it wasn’t the snappy image some residents wanted to present. Tradition prevailed, and Idaho remains famous for the root crop instead of diamond mines, suggested instead. You can find onions, sugar beets, corn, wheat, and much more out there. There is lots of sun and water in southern Idaho, which is what a breadbasket valley needs.

Once we arrived at Pa’s place, I called a friend of mine in the area. We grew up together in a tiny town farther north in Idaho, so he knows my dad and our memories go back 30 years. He came out to visit, so we all sat in the shade and watched the river and caught up on each others’ lives.

There wasn’t much left to pack and sort this time, since my Pa had dealt with nearly everything. Of the things left to sort through, I found an English sword I purchased for him a few years ago after hiring a company that researched the Trulove family name. They came up with what my brother had already discovered: our name is English, spelled Trewlove and a variety of other versions before settling down to the one we’ve got. We took turns playing with the sword.

D and I set up our tent on the front lawn of the house that now belonged to someone else. Pa was pleased with the Montana rancher who had purchased his place. I am pleased that passing the baton to a decent new owner will give my Pa some peace. It must be a little like handing your child off to a new caretaker, when you personally build a dry piece of desert into a home oasis and then sell it.

Fields of hops in the valley. The source of so much brewed goodness.

Fields of hops in the valley. The source of so much brewed goodness.

My friend J hands the sword off to D

My friend J hands the sword off to D

Taz is the only kitty who made it to Romania. I wonder what she thinks of Europe?

Taz is the only kitty who made it to Romania. I wonder what she thinks of Europe?

This quail perches on this particular pile of rocks nearly every night.

This quail perches on this particular pile of rocks nearly every night.

Another quail. So photogenic I can't help myself.

Another quail. So photogenic I can’t help myself.

A bird flies off clutching a fish in its claws. You can't see the fish in this photo...trust me it's there. ;)

A bird flies off clutching a fish in its claws. You can’t see the fish in this photo…trust me it’s there. 😉

Tent in the grass

Tent in the grass

Finally we were all out of steam and went our separate ways. D and I walked through the fields looking for the coyotes we heard that sounded very close. All we found were cows grazing quietly, unconcerned about the coy dogs. Have you ever heard that term? Coy dogs? We used to say that when I was a kid. Then we walked down to the river and I took some parting sunset shots.

Cows graze in the evening, as the hills turn purple.

Cows graze in the evening, as the hills turn purple.

Sun sets over the Snake

Sun sets over the Snake

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“For us the violin is the vehicle for a bigger message, which is not to be afraid to be different,”

~ Kev Marcus.

Six years ago, Tara was dancing ballet at the Laurelhurst Dance Studio, which is a part of Portland Parks and Recreation. It was a great environment, with talented dance instructors. For one seasonal performance, Tara’s instructor chose a song for the kids to dance to by a group called Black Violin. The song was Dirty Orchestra.

If you’ve ever participated in practicing something, or were a parent watching someone practice something, you can guess how many times I heard that song. I ended up purchasing the song on iTunes, and I even made CD copies for all the kids and handed them out at one of the early practices, so they could take their dance home if they liked.

After a couple years, I still couldn’t get enough, though I had purchased the album. It’s fun to discover musicians whose appeal turns out to be long term.

Tuesday I received an email from Portland’5, the local arts email that gives me a heads up when anything is happening in PDX, from opera to ballet to music to Broadway. It announced Black Violin, the very next night! In person! I bought tickets without even thinking about it.

Stage before Black Violin's show

Stage before Black Violin’s show

The show was even better than I was hoping for. Black Violin are packed full of energy to back up their irresistible music. Both classically trained violinists, these two men, Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus, lean more toward hip hop and R&B. So, they pull it all in together: the appealing sounds of the strings with the funky, soulful beats. The sounds were rounded out with a DJ on stage (and I’ll admit it’s probably the first time I’ve ever attended a concert with a DJ in the band), and a drummer who held his own. In my opinion, the mix is fabulous!

If you would like to read the program insert for more information about this group, and in particular their new album Stereotypes, I scanned it here: Black Violin 1 Black Violin 2

Most of the performance was their own work, but the guys also covered a lot of familiar songs that were fun for the audience members who didn’t know Black Violin songs very well. My favourite was a mash-up of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Barry White’s Let’s Get It On. I was singing at the top of my lungs for all of it.

The only down side (and this is a pretty high down side) is that they weren’t willing to let us sit through the show. Though I had recently had a small operation on my toe, I expected to be seated most of the evening, and assumed my toe would be alright. Nope. “Get up! This is a party!” yelled Kev. I had no choice, but was forced to shake my tailfeathers for hours.  My toe was angry the next day, but it was worth it. The show was a blast.

Unlike every other show I’ve attended at one of the Portland’5 events, the artists told us right from the start that we SHOULD be using flash photography, and video, and posting it online as much as possible, and to tag it with #blackviolin. I love it when people grab onto trends and use them, rather than fight them. I managed to get a couple of poor quality videos, so you get a sense of the show.

 

My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

First of all I’ll tell you about my night. I was not very hungry after eating gouda cubes and smoked salmon on crackers with complimentary Chardonnay, so I picked a place called Wet Dog Cafe & Brewery (there are a lot of breweries in Oregon), hoping for a tasty dessert. I arranged for a chauffer to take me there in one of the hotel’s three restored antique cars. I think he told me it’s a 1958 Chevrolet. My driver was a great guy who had been driving for the hotel for many years and probably would have been fun to ride around all night with, but in minutes he let me off. Once inside the Wet Dog, I was tempted by the marionberry cheesecake and since I was at a brewery, I had a pint of Bitter Bitch, because, who could resist with a name like that?

snacks

snacks

Bitter Bitch

Bitter Bitch

dessert

dessert

While I sat there I was watching the Bengals-Steelers game and saw Martavis Bryant pull off an astonishing forward somersault through the end zone to maintain control of the football. Did you see that? Wow. I was so impressed I had to tell the ladies sitting next to me. Before I knew it, we found out we were

my server

my server

chandelier

chandelier

practically neighbors, and had made plans to move on to the place across the street, the very cool and chandelier-filled Inferno Lounge. My chauffer came back at the end of the night to get me safely home in that beautiful car.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

I ran out of space yesterday to tell you about the post-worthy Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. It’s more than you’d want to spend if you’re just traveling through, but highly highly worth it for a splurge. The photos will have to convey the beauty and quality and uniqueness of this place. It could get an entire blog post itself, but instead you’ll just have to suffer with a dozen photos.

These cars are for the guests

These cars are for the guests

Love this tub!

Love this tub!

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Lobby area on the first floor

Lobby area on the first floor

Lounge area second floor

Lounge area second floor

Conference room

Conference room

West side of the building

West side of the building

Car below the bridge

Car below the bridge

Boat out front

Boat out front

History on the walls

History on the walls

Early days of the cannery

Early days of the cannery

The Lewis & Clark Bridge that I drive every day is almost the last bridge across the huge river. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is the last one, and it’s a doozy. At 4.1 miles long, it is the longest continuous truss bridge (the load-bearing structure is made of connected pieces forming triangles) in the United States. The whole hotel is on a pier out in the river, and my room was almost beneath the bridge.

Saturday evening was rather cloudy, but Sunday morning dawned spectacularly, and that made for some brilliant scenes for me to capture.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Navajo getting an early start.

The Soujourn getting an early start.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted big ships glowing in the sun.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted distant ships glowing in the sun.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Close up of the tug

Close up of the tug Navajo.

I had a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt and juice. The attendant even fetched me a larger plate when she saw I was having a waffle. I carried it all upstairs so I could continue to watch the view from my window seat. Finally I couldn’t lollygag in the gorgeous room anymore, so I packed up and headed out. With a day this beautiful, I had no choice but to head back to the Astoria Column that Mads and I visited in March on the first day of our road trip. I stopped first to take a photo of the Flavel House, which wasn’t open yet. Astoria is jam-packed with Victorian style homes and this one is one of the best. Built in 1884, it is now a museum, and something I’ll have to add to my next visit here.

Captain George Flavel House

Captain George Flavel House. It’s surrounded by trees, so hard to get a better shot.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

The eye-catching Astoria Column.

The eye-catching Astoria Column stands on top of the hill.

It was still chilly, and on top of the hill the wind could get pretty brisk, but the sun was irresistible and plenty of others had the same idea as me. Soon kids were running to the gift store to purchase little balsa wood airplanes to launch from the top of the Astoria Column. I parked at a lower spot on the hill, and hiked up the grass to get a little exercise on my way up (parking at the top is $5 for the year if you don’t want to hike). Once I arrived at the column, I got even more exercise because there are 164 steps to the top.

The column is 125 feet tall with a spiral staircase inside that leads to an observation deck at the top. It was built with financing by the Great Northern Railroad and Vincent Astor, and was dedicated in 1926. It’s steel and concrete, and the outside is an unbroken spiral history of this area, told in pictures. I was interested in how the murals were made, so I looked it up. “The artwork was created using a technique called sgraffito (“skrah-fee-toh”), an Italian Renaissance art form,” says the column website.

I stayed at the top a good long while, though it was windy as heck and somewhat cramped. Adults and children alike launched their tiny planes, and we cheered them on as they often soared to unexpected distances and for great lengths of time before gliding silently to a stop. Anytime a plane landed nearby, someone at the bottom would scoop it up to try their own launch. The original owners didn’t care, because no one was about to make that climb a second time.

After that I decided to head back home. I stopped at Coffee Girl on Pier 39 on my way out of town. Named after the original coffee girl who sold coffee to the cannery workers at the Bumble Bee Seafood pier, the coffee was handed to me across the original coffee counter. Pretty cool.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column. Columbia River on the right, Youngs Bay Bridge across Youngs Bay to the left, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Youngs Bay

Youngs Bay and Warrenton, Oregon across the bridge.

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Me, squinting in the sun.

Me, squinting in the sun.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

One of the many gorgeous cosplayers on a warm and rainy Vancouver day in September.

One of the many gorgeous cosplayers on a warm and rainy Vancouver day in September.

Today I noticed the Kumoricon folder in my September photos on my computer and realized you haven’t seen these great photos yet.  My deepest apologies.

Without further ado: Kumoricon 2015

A trio of unnatural blondes

A trio of unnatural blondes

Isn't she perfect?

Isn’t she perfect? Like a porcelain statue.

Imagine the time it took to make this one.

Imagine the time it took to make this one.

The rain did not dampen spirits.

The rain did not dampen spirits.

These girls exemplify Kumoricon for me and I just love this photo. Pink hair, attitude, and most of all: FUN!

These girls exemplify Kumoricon for me and I just love this photo. Pink hair, attitude, and most of all: FUN!

Lucky shot. I spotted this person right as they spotted a friend, and the two jumped into the air with happiness and ran to each other for a hug.

Lucky shot. I spotted this person right as they spotted a friend, and the two jumped into the air with happiness and ran to each other for a hug.

Long time readers will be familiar with our annual foray into bringing anime alive through cosplay (costume play). As in years past, the characters selected do not stay within the anime realm alone, but cover any kind of popular thing that can be found online or in print. Well…one guy came as an enormous raindrop, so really, come as you are.

Kumoricon is the name of the three-day anime convention that is held each year in Vancouver, Washington over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Once again the gathering has grown too large for the venue, and the 2016 convention is destined for the Convention Center in Portland. Tara has been going every year as a participant, and I go to see how many fabulous characters I can photograph.

I am terrible at recognizing which characters are being represented, but Tara is a pro. I showed Tara one of my photos, and they said: “Oh that’s Pacha’s wife. You know, from Emperor’s New Groove.” I have watched that movie two dozen times and did not realize that’s who I was looking at. And when I looked, I saw she had done a remarkable job with the costume, and was perfect for it, since the woman I photographed was heavily pregnant, as is Pacha’s wife in the movie.

When I do recognize the character, it increases my pleasure a million times. Like this one below. Hands down, my absolute FAVOURITE from the day I was there. It’s Garnet, from Steven Universe. As if you can’t tell with a split second glimpse. As if!

This is the best Garnet cosplay there ever was.

This is the best Garnet cosplay there ever was.

...I add the cartoon one to help you see my point.

…I add the cartoon one to help you see my point.

For lunch, Tara and I went to an Italian restaurant. I suppose it was obvious we would find these folks there too.

For lunch, Tara and I went to an Italian restaurant. I suppose it was obvious we would find these folks there too.

One thing I love about this convention is that it often catches innocent townspeople by surprise. They are usually delighted (sometimes scared), and pull out their phones to take pictures so that they can prove to the people at home that they really did see it. Kumoricon is across the street from Esther Short Park and the park becomes a logical place for the cosplayers to hang out and play games and eat lunch. Mario and Luigi (Mario videogames) might toss a volleyball with Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony) and Godzilla, and Spiderman might share a pizza with Naruto, and some Homestuck trolls. Local people will ride through on bikes, or stop at the Farmer’s Market – also held in the park – and their eyes widen with amazement.

These young people spend months putting their cosplays together, and will typically have a different one for each day, and often an extra for the “ball,” held after hours for 18+. When I wander through with my camera, they are eager to pose for a photo. They will stop in the midst of anything when I approach, and I think it’s because they see the photography as validation for everything they have done to prepare. Tara says there are a lot of complaints for when people take pictures without asking, so I always ask. But that’s my MO in any case. I try to get the pictures up on my flickr page as soon as possible, because these kids will hit their hotel rooms in the evening, and scan the Internet looking for pictures of themselves. During anime and comic conventions, my flickr views go up by thousands.

We live an hour away from the city now (Vancouver and Portland straddle the Columbia River), so Tara spent four days with friends of mine who live in Vancouver to make it easier to get back and forth. I was only able to make the trek once, so my photos are from a single wet day.

An artist from the artist's tent, which is open to the public.

An artist from the artist’s tent, which is open to the public.

This cosplayer's hat is a nest.

This cosplayer’s hat is a nest.

She seemed a little shy when I approached, with a voice so quiet I couldn't hear it, but honestly: who could doubt the bravery it took to wear this cosplay?

She was shy, with a voice so quiet I couldn’t hear it, but who could doubt the bravery it took to wear this cosplay?

Every year there is someone from Spy vs. Spy. Do you remember those old comics?

Every year there is someone from Spy vs. Spy. Do you remember those old comics?

Aren't they wonderful? I interrupted them while they were jumping off rocks and trying to get photos that made them look like they were flying!

Aren’t they wonderful? I interrupted them while they were jumping off rocks and trying to get photos that made them look like they were flying!

From Gravity Falls

From Gravity Falls

Playing in the waterfall

Playing in the waterfall

Check out her hooves!!

Check out her hooves!!

Cinderella and the Prince

Cinderella and the Prince

Humpty Dumpty sits atop a high wall and waves to motorists passing by on Interstate 5.

Humpty Dumpty sits atop a high wall and waves to motorists passing by on Interstate 5.

Remember back in July when Tara and friends went the The Enchanted Forest for a birthday celebration? On that post I introduced the place, but did not show you any of the rides. This post is to showcase the rides at this fun, small, relatively unknown (and let’s not forget: creepy) theme park in central Oregon.

Get a load of Tara and friends on the log ride:

A slide exits the toe of an old boot. Or rather, shoe, as in

A slide exits the toe of an old boot. Or rather, shoe, as in “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”

Not necessarily a ride, but a hands-on attraction. Here Tara descends into the rabbit hole with Alice. The tunnel emerges in a different part of the park.

Not a “ride,” but hands-on entertainment. Here Tara descends into the rabbit hole with Alice. The tunnel emerges in a different part of the park.

Bumper car racetrack is as much fun for adults as for the kids.

Bumper car racetrack is as much fun for adults as for the kids.

The train ride is far less entertaining to adults than kids, I suspect. But it is rather photogenic.

The tiny train ride is far less entertaining to adults than kids, I suspect. But it is rather photogenic.

The rides are not as mind-blowing as typical corporate theme park rides, but they are legitimately fun. There are several specifically designed for tots, and several that can entertain adults for multiple rides, like a lazer tag game for points inside a magical dragon lair called The Challenge of Mondor. I couldn’t get any photos because it’s very dark inside and your chair constantly spins.

Bobsleds heading up Ice Mountain

Bobsleds heading up Ice Mountain

My view from inside a bobsled

My view from inside a bobsled

The Haunted House is seriously scary!

The Haunted House is seriously scary!

This is the way to the exit, but do you really want to go?

This is the way to the emergency exit, but are you prepared to take it?

rats and cobwebs in the Haunted House

rats and cobwebs in the Haunted House

Found inside a coffin in the Haunted House

Found inside a coffin in the Haunted House

The Haunted House is surprisingly spooky, even if you go through more than once. Motions sensors trigger spooks of all sorts that appear from walls and drop from the ceiling. There are funny gags inside as well, continuing founder Roger Tofte’s unquenchable humor. Skeletons heckle you, ghosts sail through, rats gnaw on moldy cheese and you can hear the screams of other startled people ahead and behind you.

The curious musical water show.

The curious musical water show.

Rather than a water show, the original plan was to create a restaurant with a stage for Tofte’s daughter Susan to hold musical performances, but as the hillside was being excavated, it looked like the perfect place for waterfalls. Two years later, the dazzling water-light show opened with music composed by, and lights and water choreographed by, daughter Susan. It was so successful, that no live performances were ever held on the stage.

A new stage was built in a different location, and the plays include song and dance, and are packed with gags.

A new stage was built in a different location, and the plays include song and dance, and are packed with gags.

Test your wild-west rifle skills in this shooting game.

Test your wild-west rifle skills in this shooting game.

Most walls have something posted to make you laugh.

Again, not a ride, but certainly an attraction, that most walls in the park have something posted to make you laugh.

Our trail climbed steeply, and the payoff was incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge.

Our trail climbed steeply, and the payoff was incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge.

DSC_0035I joined a Meetup Portland group recently.  I actually just heard about Meetup on the radio, and it turns out there are groups all over the country – tons of them! For stamp collectors and entrepreneurs and knitters and singles over 60 and gamers and history buffs. If you’re looking for a group to join, check this out and see if you find anything you like: http://www.meetup.com. Ok, cheesy advertisement over. (They didn’t even pay me!)

Anyhow, the group that looked the best to me was PNW Women’s Outdoor Group, Hiking in the Pacific Northwest. I made a great choice! The leader is a person brimming with positive energy, the women were all enthusiastic about being on the trail. The group offers at least three events a week – so there is no possible way I could do all of it, but I love the idea that there is always something going on, and I can sign up for what works in my crazy busy schedule.

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

We hiked through trees at the beginning, but soon climbed up and out onto the exposed mountainside.

We hiked through trees at the beginning, but soon climbed up and out onto the exposed mountainside.

I went on my first hike on an incredible and unseasonably spectacular sunny day in the Gorge. We all gathered at a meeting place just 5 minutes from my house (it couldn’t get any more convenient) and piled into vehicles together. That was nice because I was able to get to know a few of the women before we hiked.

One great thing about this group is that I will be introduced to new trails in the Columbia River Gorge that I haven’t had a chance to hike yet. In this case, I had hiked the Coyote Wall trail near Lyle, Washington, so I knew the landscape. When the announcement came out that we would be hiking the Cherry Orchard Trail that also begins near Lyle, I knew ahead of time that I would like it.

One person in our group was very knowledgeable about the wildflowers and was able to name everything we spotted.

One person in our group was very knowledgeable about the wildflowers and was able to name everything we spotted.

I was surprised at how many wildflowers were bursting to life so early in the season.

I was surprised at how many wildflowers were bursting to life so early in the season.

Our winter sun doesn’t rise very high in the sky yet, and it was a chilly chilly morning. What a boon, then, to be hiking on the Washington side. The cliffs with all the waterfalls you’ve seen in my posts are on the Oregon side, and that side stays shady much of the day all year round. On this morning we hiked the other side of the river, and soaked up the sunshine till we were toasty warm and smiling.

It was a nice short trail – only two miles – and the views hit us right away and made the little discomforts all worth it. Getting up at 6am on a weekend, bundling up in freezing morning temps, going alone into a group of strangers for a day…an inexpensive price for being out in this beautiful world with beautiful women.

Even in the leafless brown winter, this landscape is compelling.

Even in the leafless brown winter, this landscape is compelling.

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

That's me, holding my Tilly hat to make sure it didn't blow into the next state!

That’s me, holding my Tilly hat to make sure it didn’t blow into the next state!

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

Looking east from where we picnicked at the top of the trail.

Looking east from where we picnicked at the top of the trail.

And looking west, back toward Portland, from our lunch stop.

And looking west, back toward Portland, from our lunch stop.

Something about this landscape is stunning to me. On the surface, it is desolate and dry and colourless. Still, I find it spectacular.

Something about this landscape is stunning to me. On the surface, it is desolate and dry and colourless. Still, I find it spectacular.

This is me, photographing one of the ancient Cherry trees for which the trail takes its name. Thanks to the group leader S for the photo!

This is me, photographing one of the ancient Cherry trees from which the trail takes its name. Thanks to the group leader S for the photo!

The finish line is the row of red floats beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

The finish line is the row of red floats almost beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team - all breast cancer survivors!

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team – all breast cancer survivors!

The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.

These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details. Unfortunately, rather far away for my zoom capability, but you can still sort of see it. (click any image for a larger version)

After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.

Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.

These are photos from 2013:

DSC_1262

DSC_1264

Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

DSC_1278 DSC_1261

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