This morning I drove eight miles up the road to Pleasant Hill Shaker Village. Most of the Shakers, a 19th-century religious sect who most people know of because a) they were celibate, b) they danced as part of their worship services, well, and c) for the style of furniture named after them, lived in communal villages in New England, but a few of them ventured as far south as Kentucky, where Pleasant Hill was their longest-lived community.
It’s a pretty place. Peaceful. Very bucolic. And the museum in the main house (they lived in what were basically dormitories) was fascinating, with a few surprises.
I also got to listen to and watch a demonstration of Shaker songs and dancing. The lady who sang had a gorgeous voice. I did try to record with my new camera, but I can’t figure out how to make a proper clip out of it or how to post it here. If I do figure it out, I’ll post it on Facebook.
I ate a picnic lunch there, then drove on what William Least Heat Moon would have deemed the bluest of blue highways (except that on AAA maps, which are my standby, they’re black, not blue), winding sharply down through the hills to the Kentucky River and back up to the city of Frankfort, which is the capital of Kentucky.
I was on my way to another museum. I like state history museums, as you know from my visit to the one belonging to Kansas a couple of weeks ago, and I figured this one was far enough east to have a different take on things than that one did. Which was true. And here’s some photographic proof of that.
After that, I put another thirty or so miles of Interstate on Merlin’s odometer (which is now at over 6000 miles — over 5000 since I left home — of which less than 300 have been on Interstate), because that can be the easiest way to find an inexpensive motel. I’m on the outskirts of Lexington tonight, on this first night of the Fourth of July weekend, with traffic to get here to match.
Tomorrow I’m headed for the Cumberland Gap, where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee meet. It’s one of those places that’s always been on my mental list, because of the history that took place there, from the early days of settlement up through the Civil War.
Then it’s on to North Carolina, and Mary (CatMtn) and my best friend’s granddaughter. And we’ll see what happens after that!
So. This is the first photo I took with my new camera (a Nikon Coolpix L340). Say cheese, Theodore!
My old camera is 10 years old, so it was time and past time. I have a lot to learn about this camera, even if it is just a point and shoot. Also, there’s a little red light flashing at the lower left of the preview screen, and the manual doesn’t say what it is or how to get it to shut off. But I’ll get there.
So, yesterday was the Fourth, which means I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the computer. Plus my monitor died Friday night. Fortunately, Best Buy was open on the holiday.
The penultimate day of my trip was the summer solstice. I also crossed back into the Pacific Time Zone, so it was quite a long day. I woke up at the crack of dawn again, into a gray-gloomy rainy day (which sounds so lovely right now — the temperature outside right now is over 90F, and has been for the last five days).
I’d had a reservation at a hostel in Kelowna, 215 miles down the road from Golden, but I’d decided to cancel it the previous night, because, well, now that I was on my way home, I wanted to see how far I could get. I always get sort of antsy the last day or two on the road on a trip like this — ready to get home.
I headed west again on the Trans-Canada Highway, through two more smaller national parks, Glacier National Park (yes, Canada has a national park called Glacier, too), and Mt. Revelstoke National Park, but there really wasn’t much reason to stop. The section through Glacier, over Rogers Pass, was the last section of the Trans-Canada Highway to be completed, in 1962. That road is younger than I am! There’s a historical site at what I’d call a rest area here in the States at the top of the pass, and I stopped to take a few pictures.
From there on it was down, down, down. I stopped in the town of Revelstoke, at a combo Tim Hortons and gas station, for liquid refreshment for both me and Kestrel, then turned south off of the Trans-Canada at the small town of Sicamous, onto Highway 97, which stays the same number in both Canada and the U.S.
I drove past a pretty lake, and saw some blue wildflowers that had to be inspected and photographed, then south to the big city of Kelowna, where I arrived just in time for lunch (and was really glad I’d cancelled my hostel reservation). By that point, I’d left the lush forests of the western side of the Rockies behind, not to mention the rain and the cool temperatures. It was almost 30C, according to a bank thermometer in Kelowna, which translates to the lower 80sF, and not a cloud in the sky. It only got hotter the further I went, too.
The map had been somewhat misleading. I’d assumed that the double line that was Hwy. 97 through Kelowna meant that I’d be on a freeway, but no, just a four-lane boulevard with stoplights every hundred yards or so. It took me a while to fight my way through the traffic and reach the bridge across long, narrow Lake Okanagan. Then, after I was out of town, it turned into a freeway. Oh, well.
Lake Okanagan is lovely, and the road clings to the cliff as it threads its way down past vineyards and through small towns and the good-sized city of Penticton. After Penticton, orchards were the order of the day, and I could have stopped and bought cherries any number of times. Alas, I was down to my last couple of Canadian dollars and didn’t want to get more at this stage, plus, I wasn’t sure if U.S. customs would let me through with them. So I didn’t.
I reached the U.S. customs station, just north of the little town of Oroville, Washington, along the shores of Lake Osoyoos (oh-SOY-oos — I asked the customs agent), about the middle of the afternoon. A very nice Hispanic lady checked my passport, asked me to take my sunglasses off for a moment so she could get a better look at my face, and to pop my trunk. If I’d known she was going to want to look in there, I’d have put all my dirty clothes back in my suitcase, but the only comment she made was how she, too, liked the brand of chips I had in my food bag. Oh, well, worse things have happened.
And then I was back in the land of miles and Fahrenheit (a rather high degree of Fahrenheit at that, almost 90 degrees, alas). I drove past Tonasket, which was the knot of the lasso of this trip, on to Omak, another hour or so, and got there around four. Found the motel I stayed at on my research jaunts for Sojourn, and crashed and burned. I’d been on the road since about 6 am Pacific time, and I slept like I was really working at it.
And the next day I got up and drove the five hours home, over familiar roads, down 97 past Wenatchee to Blewett Pass, to I-90 and home. I think I made three stops, one for gas and real MickeyD’s iced tea in Brewster, one just north of Wenatchee for cherries, and one just before I got back on I-90 to gather one last picnic from my cooler and food bag for lunch that I ate as I drove over Snoqualmie Pass. I got home about 2 in the afternoon. The condo hadn’t burned down and the cats were fine (although extremely eager to go outside, and beyond annoyed with me).
And that was my trip to the Canadian Rockies. Decidedly one of the best trips I’ve made in recent memory.
And so I turned towards home. But I had one more day in the Rockies, driving back down the Icefields Parkway, then west through yet another national park, so while I might have been headed back technically, there was still more than plenty to see.
For some reason I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was on the road by 7:30 in the morning. I wake up a lot earlier than I normally do when I’m traveling, but this was sort of ridiculous. On the bright side, because I was out so early, I got to see some elk alongside the road just south of Jasper townsite.
I’m sort of jaded about elk — I’ve seen so many of them in Yellowstone, and even had one bull in rut bugle under my hotel room window all night there once — but they’re still beautiful animals. I was less enamored of the tourons who were walking right up to them to take photos, but Darwin knows what to do with them.
I arrived at Athabaska Glacier by late morning, and stopped at the Icefields Centre, which I hadn’t done on the way up, just to see what was there. An unfinished (they were still working on the exhibits) big fancy building, mostly, but I did buy my fourth and last magnet of the trip in the gift shop there. I also took some photos from that new vantage point (up the slope on the other side of the valley from the glacier), and when I got home, discovered that among the slides I brought home in January from my mother’s house, there was one I’d taken (my Instamatic took square slides, so that’s how I know it was mine, not my father’s) of the same glacier from a similar viewpoint back in 1970. So here’s what a graphic example of global warming on a human timeline looks like:
Then it was down, down, down into the Bow Valley, with one brief stop to keep from running over another small group of bighorn sheep, to Lake Louise village, where I bought tea and then headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway toward Kicking Horse Pass, my last crossing of the Continental Divide, and Yoho National Park.
Kicking Horse Pass (so named because an early explorer got kicked in the head by his horse there) was a fascinating place. I’m not that much of a railroad buff, although I’ve ridden Amtrak cross-country several times, but I’d never seen a railroad do what this one does before. The grade is so steep that it was all but impossible for trains to make it over the pass. That is, until an engineer got the bright idea to build tunnels in a figure eight configuration, giving more room for the trains to climb more gradually, with the tracks crossing over themselves as they climbed. If the train is long enough, you can see the engines and first cars passing directly over the later cars below them. I was lucky enough to be there when a long train passed through, and actually got to see this happen. It was hard to get good photos, but here’s one.
After I finished marveling at the turn-of-the-last century engineering feat, I drove a bit further west and turned onto the Yoho Valley Road, which winds (including a couple of “I hope Kestrel doesn’t rear-end himself” switchbacks) up the Yoho Valley to Takakkaw Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall in Canada, at 850 feet. There’s a trail right up close enough to feel the mist, of course. It really reminded me of Yosemite Valley, only without the crowds. It was also a great place to picnic.
And I saw another bear on the way up there. My seventh and last of the trip. I’ve never seen that many bears on one trip before.
And more wildflowers, of course.
The visitor centre at the village of Field, back on the Trans-Canada Highway, was my next stop, with its little exhibit about the Burgess Shale, one of the most famous fossil beds in North America. Unfortunately, the site itself is only accessible by guided tour and a long, steep hike, but at least I got to see some of the fossils.
My last side trip of the day was the road to Emerald Lake and the natural bridge along the way. I was more impressed with the natural bridge (and its lovely waterfall) than I was with Emerald Lake. It was still pretty, though.
And another flower along the Trans-Canada Highway which I’d never seen before. Gorgeous red lilies.
Then it was on to the town of Golden, and my hostel for the night, run by a very friendly Scottish woman who fosters cats for the local humane society. First cat fix I’d had since I left home, and very pleasant. She also recommended a restaurant, the Wolf’s Den, which was part historic log cabin and part sports bar, serving an excellent hamburger, salad, and the best onion ring I’ve had since Burgerville perched on top of the burger. The TV was playing the U.S. Open golf tournament, playing this year at Chambers Bay, just down the road from where I live (and part of the reason I timed my trip as I did), which I found rather amusing.
And that was my last day in the Canadian Rockies. For this trip, anyway. I’d love to go back someday. I had a day and a half drive to get home, and a few more things to see along the way, though.
My last day on the road, alas. I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column. I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there. So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.
It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic. I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better. I always forget about my fear of manmade heights. I don’t mind natural heights. I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation. But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way. Absolutely no way.
Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about. I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to. But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again. Odd. At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across. No windows. 164 steps to the top. I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.
So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.
And here’s the photographic evidence.
By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough. It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or… But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.
He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise. He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast. She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head. Gold mine. Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.
The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.
But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.
It was only a three and a half hour drive. But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs. I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right? Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car. I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.
When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip. While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer. Sigh.
I usually end up at the Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington, at some point every January. For all that our forests are primarily evergreen, and for all that our grass stays green even through our relatively infrequent cold snaps, I get hungry for color this time of year.
When I lived in the Midwest, I used to know the location of every greenhouse or conservatory in a hundred-mile radius, and spend most January and February weekends visiting them. There is nothing more depressing, in my book, than brown grass, leafless trees, and cold, cold weather for weeks on end. Which is a primary reason why I no longer live in the Midwest (there are many others, but I won’t get into them here).
But still. It is January, even here in western Washington, and our highs have been in the 30s and lows close to 20 for the last week, so I decided to go to the conservatory.
Seymour Conservatory celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago. It’s a classic Victorian-style glass greenhouse, and after they take down the Christmas poinsettias, etc., every year, they pull out the cyclamen and primroses (why does no one ever mention how good primroses smell?). Add in the orchids and Christmas cactus and hibiscus, and all the greenery, and it is the perfect antidote to winter.
I might make it to spring now. Esp. since my hellebores are budding in spite of the weather, and my crocus are sprouting!
That last photo is a complete non sequitur — the cat’s still in the bag [g].
“HOME!!!” Which is all that my diary says for that day. And plenty.
Just out of curiosity, I put our itinerary into Google maps’ directions screen, and discovered that in 45 days, we went roughly 7600 miles, not counting side trips or out-and-backs. That equals roughly 180 miles a day. Which really doesn’t sound like much, until you think about it being the equivalent of 180 miles every single day for 45 days.
When I was forty years old, I made what I still refer to as my Long Trip (uppercase intentional). I drove over 14,000 miles by myself in a little under three months. I went from here near Seattle across the top of the U.S. to Vermont, down the east coast to Florida, then across the South and Southwest to California, where I rolled my car in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I then managed to make my way to my sister’s home in the Bay Area and flew home from there. A year ago I blogged that journey day by day. Like our Alaska trip, this was another journey from which I still date events in my life. It was one of the best things I ever did. The really funny thing is, I drove an average of almost exactly 180 miles a day on that trip, too. And I thought I was being leisurely about it.
I am hoping to make another Long Trip in a year or two, if I can afford the gas and figure out what to do with my two cats for the duration (for my last long trip, the pair I had at the time went to stay with a friend, but I don’t want to impose on her twice). This time I want to drive across the middle of the U.S. and come back across Canada. If I do, I hope to blog it in realtime, or as close as I can manage given where and when I can find wifi.
Anyway, for all of you who stuck with me through forty-five days of driving to Alaska and back, I hope you’ll stick around to see where I’m going in the future.
And I hope you will want to check out my novels:
Repeating History is the first of my Yellowstone stories, and is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. It is about a young man, Chuck McManis, who, by virtue of being in absolutely the wrong place at the wrong time, is flung back in time from 1959 to 1877 in Yellowstone National Park, straight into the middle of an Indian war — the flight of the Nez Perce to Canada, pursued by the U.S. Army — and into his own family’s past.
True Gold is the second in this series, and picks the story up in the next generation. It is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. It is the story of Karin Myre, a Norwegian immigrant teenager living in Seattle, who decides to escape a future of too much drudgery and no choices by running off to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. Stowing away on one of the many overcrowded ships bound north, she finds herself trapped in the cargo hold with a crowd of second thoughts. But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a determined young prospector from Wyoming and his photographer partner is only the beginning of her search for a future of her own making.
The third novel, tentatively titled Finding Home, picks up the story of the widowed father Chuck left behind in Repeating History, his search for his lost son, and what that search reveals to him about his own murky past. It will be available for purchase in the spring of 2013.
So. Call me mistress of the obvious, but I honestly did not realize how much difference there would be between a bottle-raised kitten and one who had a mother. And I did not realize how much difference there would be between a single kitten and a pair.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, and, really, anyone’s control, the two kittens I picked out from a local fosterer had to come home one at a time. Oh, I suppose I could have waited until both were ready to leave the fosterer, but I’d been waiting for three weeks already (they were only four weeks old when I first met them, and still drinking kitty formula from a bottle). So I brought Theodore, aka Teddy, home first, while Ivan, who had a slight skin infection, needed the health all-clear before he could be sprung a week and a half later.
Both the boys were bottle fed. They and their two siblings arrived at Charlotte’s as the result of a phone call from a man who said he had orphan kittens in his barn, that the mother had disappeared and not come back. He thought they were six weeks old. They turned out to be less than half that age. So Charlotte bottle-fed them and did all the other things one does to help kittens of that age survive and thrive.
The only reason I met them at such an early age was because she couldn’t leave them home alone all day during her usual adoption day at PetSmart.
So. The difference between a single kitten and a pair is obvious. Until Ivan came home Teddy got lonely really easily, and followed me around like a puppy. I hadn’t spent that much time giving an animal attention in a very long time (note, this is decidedly not a complaint — he and his brother are both amazingly easy to spoil). It wasn’t so much a surprise but just that I’d forgotten what it was like. But he was so much happier when Ivan came home. He went from sitting on me every single chance he got to, “Oh, hi, Mom, gotta go play now!” in the span of about fifteen minutes. Ivan, of course, has been that way from the moment he stepped out of the carrier.
And the difference between bottle fed and mama fed is that they’ve both bonded to me faster than Super to Glue. I’ve always thought of cats as being sort of aloof. I’m not sure Teddy and Ivan could spell aloof with a feline dictionary.
I still think it was a good idea to bring Teddy home first, but I have to admit this was an entirely different experience than I was expecting. In the best possible way.