Category Archives: food

August 24: Quebec City!

It was only a bit over two hours’ drive from my campsite to Quebec City this morning, mostly on the autoroute (what they call freeways here). I managed to navigate my way to the old town and to the hostel without too much trouble, and was exceedingly relieved to discover that the hostel has a deal with an underground parking garage only a couple of blocks away so that I had a place to stow Merlin for the duration (I had already decided that I wanted three nights here, because there’s so much to see and do). Driving in Quebec City is interesting, in the Chinese sense, and I wanted as little to do with it as possible.

Anyway, I parked Merlin, gathered up my camera, and went exploring.

I like Quebec City. I love the narrow, winding, hilly streets (once I was on foot, anyway), and I like the shops and the scenery and even the crowds of tourists aren’t that big a deal. I mostly explored the upper part of the old town (the walled part of Quebec is divided into two sections by a huge cliff) this afternoon, just prowling around and getting oriented. Oh, and having lunch in a café called L’Omelette (no, I didn’t have an omelette, not today, at least) next to a very pleasant couple from Saskatchewan who were gave me some advice about what I should see in their province (apparently there is more to see there than endless prairies [g], just like in Kansas).

It was a nice sunny day, but rather humid, and, like I said, the streets were hilly. I paced myself accordingly, and came back fairly early to rest up for tomorrow.

Anyway, here’s an assortment of what I saw today.

A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
At a rest area along the way.  Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless 'em.
At a rest area along the way. Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless ’em.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here's part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin's garage to the hostel.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here’s part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin’s garage to the hostel.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I'm told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something.  It's perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I’m told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something. It’s perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac.  Lots of really talented buskers here.  I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though.  Terrace to me generally means stone.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac. Lots of really talented buskers here. I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though. Terrace to me generally means stone.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn't all that high on my list of priorities, either).
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn’t all that high on my list of priorities, either).
Samuel de Champlain, and I'm not sure exactly what that's supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
Samuel de Champlain, and I’m not sure exactly what that’s supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street.  I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel.  He's a river driver.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street. I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel. He’s a river driver.

July 14: Up and over and up and over and on a ferry, too

I didn’t end up taking too many photos today. I did pop up into Delaware for a few miles, then came back west across the Eastern Shore to the highway. I didn’t stay on it for long, though, turning west at a sign for the Oxford-Bellevue ferry. It was not free (it cost $12 for Merlin and me), but it was scenic, and nice out on the water. I’ve never had my car be the only one on the ferry before (the capacity was nine vehicles).

The view from the Oxford/Bellevue ferry.
The view from the Oxford/Bellevue ferry.
Merlin all by himself on the ferry.
Merlin all by himself on the ferry.
Arriving at Bellevue.
Arriving at Bellevue.

After I reached the other side of the Choptank River (which was more an inlet into the bay than a river), I drove west to the tiny tourist town of St. Michaels, and then on to the point at the end of Tilghman Island, or almost to the end. The very end of the point is a private inn, and unless you’re staying there you can’t go all the way. I kind of wish I’d known that before I drove out there, but c’est la vie.

A pretty little church on Tilghman Island.
A pretty little church on Tilghman Island.

It was still a pretty drive. When I got back to St. Michaels, I ate a flounder sandwich at a local café, and then banana ice cream across the street at a little place called Justine’s. I haven’t had banana ice cream in I can’t remember how long, and it was delicious.

Then it was back to the highway. I turned off before I got there onto a back road the map insisted did intersect the highway a few miles further on, and it did, but a bit further than I expected, which was a nice thing.

I stopped at a produce stand and bought cantaloupe and big beefsteak tomatoes to take to Teri’s house, and then went up – and up, and up – and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (as opposed to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). It’s almost as tall and long as the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, but it felt longer. I think it might have been the traffic, which got pretty intense, and did not let up through Annapolis and up into Baltimore. But Katrina’s directions were very good, and I had no problem finding Teri’s house, so that was a relief.

Up and over the Bay Bridge.
Up and over the Bay Bridge.

Nobody was home when I got there, but Teri had told me where to find a key, so I let myself in, and she arrived soon afterwards. Katrina was a bit later because she’d had to have her car worked on before she left Pennsylvania to come down, but by the time it was dark we were all together, so that was good.

Coming home from the Canadian Rockies, Days 10 and 11

The last of the Rocky Mountains, along the Trans-Canada Highway.
The last of the Rocky Mountains, along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Two weeks ago, June 21 and 22, 2015.

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.

Approaching Rogers Pass, in Glacier National Park.
Approaching Rogers Pass, in Glacier National Park.
Trans-Canada Highway monument, Rogers Pass.
Trans-Canada Highway monument, Rogers Pass.
Looking east from the Rogers Pass Monument.
Looking east from the Rogers Pass Monument.

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.

Chicory flowers, near Sicamous, BC.
Chicory flowers, near Sicamous, BC.

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.

A glimpse of Lake Okanagan, south of Kelowna, BC.
A glimpse of Lake Okanagan, south of Kelowna, BC.

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.

Lake Osoyoos, BC.
Lake Osoyoos, BC.

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.

Two weeks ago, Day 8

Sometimes traveling at the last minute just doesn’t work out. But then sometimes it does.

So. I was supposed to switch from hostel bunk to single room two weeks ago this morning. I had been informed when I originally made the reservation that the rate of $95 would include an ensuite bathroom. I was informed this morning that it was one of the rooms in the old building that shared the same bathroom as the hostel.

You have to understand. I’ve stayed in one of those rooms before (about seven or eight years ago, when they cost what a hostel bunk costs now). It wasn’t worth what I paid for it then, for two reasons. One, the room had a horrible bedbug infestation (the bunks have always been clean), and two, that’s where I had a really frightening experience with what I’m pretty darned sure was — well, I’m not going into that here. Let’s just say that the only reason I was willing to pay $95 for a room was because I thought they were going to put me in the new part of the building. The new owner and I went round and round about it, and I ended up having him refund my credit card.

But now I didn’t have a place to stay tonight, nor did I want to waste the day looking for one. So I drove back into the park figuring I’d make the best of whatever time I had left, and I’d head on out this afternoon to find somewhere to stay farther from the park before heading home tomorrow a little earlier than planned.

Which all turned out to be a good thing. At least timing-wise this morning. I headed back out into the park, towards the geyser basins again, and decided my first stop on this cloudy-but-not-raining-yet morning would be at the Fountain Paint Pots.

The Fountain Paint Pots.  This early in the year, they're kind of runny.
The Fountain Paint Pots. This early in the year, they’re kind of runny.

The Fountain Paint Pots (and the long-gone Fountain Hotel, which was nearby) are named after Fountain Geyser, which is just off the boardwalk there. It was a geyser I’d always wanted to see, but it’s not officially-predicted, and I didn’t know then about the unofficial predictions, so I’d never seen it.

So what do you think happened? Yup. Just as I walked up, it boiled over and started erupting. And if I hadn’t ended up wasting the time arguing with the owner of the Madison Hotel this morning, I’d probably have missed it — again.

Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.
Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.

As for those unofficial predictions, just as Fountain was beginning to wind down from its glorious half-hour long eruption, a very nice lady named Maureen, who turned out to be on the Geyser Gazers Facebook group, strolled over and we struck up a conversation. And she told me about the unofficial predictions available if you have a smartphone. I really do need to get a smartphone…

The rest of the morning was still wonderful, if a bit anticlimactic. I mean, there’s nothing better than a new major geyser to add to one’s life list. But I stopped at all the usual suspects that I hadn’t wanted to get soaked over before — Midway, with the clouds of steam hanging over Excelsior and Grand Prismatic.

Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.
Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.

Biscuit Basin, with its glorious Sapphire Pool.

Biscuit Basin's Sapphire Pool.
Biscuit Basin’s Sapphire Pool, which erupted in 1959 after the earthquake.

And Black Sand Basin, with Cliff Geyser, which is James’s geyser. The one where he finally found out where he really came from, in a brief timeslip one sunny October afternoon in 1959/1983 in Finding Home.

James's Cliff Geyser.
James’s Cliff Geyser and hot spring runoff into Iron Creek.

By then I was way overdue for a late lunch, so I waved farewell to my favorite place on the planet once more, already making plans for a hopefully longer visit next year, and stopped in West for KFC, where the manager was having her Chinese employee write something to do with the Fourth of July on the window in Chinese characters, for some reason.

Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?
Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?

I then headed northwest on U.S. 287 towards Earthquake Lake, which is, obviously, the site of the earthquake I mentioned yesterday that was part of Chuck’s time travel device in Repeating History. On August 17, 1959, a 7.3-7.8 (estimates vary) earthquake struck here and an entire mountainside fell, blocking the Madison River and burying a campground, killing twenty-eight people. The quake also did a lot of damage in Yellowstone, just a few miles east of the epicenter, and, incidentally, sent my hero Chuck eighty-two years back in time.

Today it looks very peaceful, although the slide is still strongly evident fifty-five years later, and there’s an interesting, recently redone visitor center, too.

The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.
The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.

By the time I got that far, it was midafternoon, and while I had a good idea of where I wanted to spend the night, I needed to get moving again. I drove down the Madison River valley and turned west on Montana 287 (as opposed to U.S. 287) at the town of Ennis.

The Madison River Valley south of Ennis.  You'll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .
The Madison River Valley south of Ennis. You’ll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .

I wanted to see Virginia City again. Virginia City, and the neighboring ghost town of Nevada City, are two of Montana’s earliest settlements, and I hadn’t been there since my Long Trip fifteen years ago. It’s a fun, touristy place with an interesting history as a mining camp (of course) where vigilantes dealt with the infamous Plummer Gang. Lots of false-front buildings and even a stagecoach offering rides, and plenty of historical markers. I spent a rather pleasurable hour or so there, before I climbed back in the car one last time for the day.

Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?

On my Long Trip (as documented in Cross-Country), I was desperate for a place to stay one night in this part of the world when I finally ran across the tiny town of Sheridan, Montana, and found a nice little place called the Moriah Motel. I was banking on it still being there, and it was. I think the same elderly lady was running it, too. It was reasonably priced and modern and that was all I needed.

So some things do work out okay. But if a friend and I do go back to Yellowstone as part of our WorldCon jaunt next year, we’re going to make our reservations in January.

Two weeks ago, Day 7

Rain, rain go away, come again some other day.

 Preferably after I get home, but oh, well.

Yes, I woke up to more rain two weeks ago today. I drove back into the park, anyway, of course (it’s about thirty miles from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful), and parked Kestrel (my car) near the lodge. Still feeling optimistic about the weather at this point, I packed up my daypack with all the necessities for a day out in the geyser basin, including, but not limited to, my Kindle, my journal, and my cross-stitch (some geysers must be waited for, sometimes for up to three or four hours).

Fortunately, my daypack is waterproof and I have a good raincoat. My first stop was in the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions. Old Faithful itself goes off often enough that one can often catch it in passing while headed somewhere else, but Riverside only goes off every six hours or so, Castle every nine to eleven hours, and the Grand, that pinnacle of predictible geysers, erupts about every seven to eight hours, so if I wanted to see them, I needed to know when to go sit and wait for them.

Eruption predictions are never on the minute. Grand, for instance, has a three-hour window, which means that it’s most likely to go off up to an hour and a half on either side of the prediction time. Riverside and Castle were predicted to have morning eruptions, and the Grand wasn’t due to go off till late afternoon.

Anyway. About the time I left the visitor center, the sky opened up. Not quite raining in sheets, but in the five minutes it took me to walk from the visitor center to the Old Faithful Inn, I was fairly drenched where my raincoat didn’t cover me, and the visor of my hood was dripping.

Still, as I peered through the murk over towards Old Faithful, I did see Lion Geyser erupting in the distance. But I really didn’t want to get any wetter, so I used the zoom on my camera to get this shot.

The sign says Old Faithful.  The actual geyser in the distance is Lion.
The sign says Old Faithful. The actual geyser in the distance is Lion.

And instead of sitting out in the rain waiting for things to erupt, I went into the Inn and found myself a cozy spot and caught my journal up after several days of ignoring it. Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but there are much worse places to be stranded.

The 85-foot-tall, 500-ton (according to Wikipedia, at least), four-sided fireplace in the Old Faithful Inn, with its hand-forged clock.
The 85-foot-tall, 500-ton (according to Wikipedia, at least), four-sided fireplace in the Old Faithful Inn, with its hand-forged clock.

An hour or so later the rain let up and I finally went out into the geyser basin. I walked out as far as Castle Geyser, which had apparently gone off during the rainstorm but was still bellowing (and I mean bellowing — the sound is pretty impressive) steam.

Castle Geyser, bellowing steam in the distance.
Castle Geyser, bellowing steam in the distance.

I turned right and headed across the bridge towards Sawmill, which was churning away as usual. I know the “real” geyser gazers don’t think much of Sawmill because it robs energy and water from other, rarer geysers like Tardy and Penta, but I like Sawmill, for its chugging sound (hence the name) and simply because it looks like it’s thoroughly enjoying itself.

Sawmill Geyser on the left, and what can only be Tardy Geyser on the right, unless I'm mistaken, which is possible.
Sawmill Geyser on the left, and what can only be Tardy Geyser on the right, unless I’m mistaken, which is altogether possible.

Most geysers do. I can’t help anthropomorphizing them that way. I just can’t. I’ve never met a more cheerful geologic phenomenon than a geyser, and that’s just the way it is.

A view of Geyser Hill from the old road.
A view of Geyser Hill from the old road.

I strolled around Geyser Hill, past Giantess (one of the biggest geysers in the world — and also one that I’ll probably never get to see because it erupts so seldom) and Beehive, which is not an officially-predicted geyser, but can be caught occasionally because it’s got what’s called an indicator, which is a small geyser off to its side that often starts erupting just before Beehive itself does. I’d missed it this morning, but here’s what it looks like from 2008, in much better weather, when I didn’t miss it.

Beehive Geyser, 2008, from the viewpoint across the river.  Note the tiny people on the boardwalk next to it.
Beehive Geyser, 2008, from the viewpoint across the river. Note the tiny people on the boardwalk next to it.

Then it started raining again, and it was past lunchtime, so I went to what’s affectionately known as the Lower Ham (Hamilton, although it’s no longer owned by the family) store, and ate lunch at the counter there. That lunch counter/soda fountain has been there a long time, by local standards. The store itself was first built in 1897, and Charley, who was still Chuck at that point, ate his last meal in 1959 there before he inadvertently time-traveled back to 1877 in Repeating History. It’s also where James first went looking for his son just after Chuck disappeared and met Jo in Finding Home. An important place, the Lower Ham store.

This isn’t my photo, but I wanted you to see what it looks like.

Homesick cover 300

Then again, so is the whole Upper Geyser Basin, so far as I’m concerned. My short story “Homesick” takes place here, too, and one geyser in particular is very significant in both Repeating History and “Homesick.”

My only eruption of Old Faithful on this trip, taken from the shelter of the Lodge porch.
My only eruption of Old Faithful on this trip, taken from the shelter of the Lodge porch.
A blue bird (not sure of exact species) which was hanging around Old Faithful just before the eruption.  The rain started again a few minutes before the geyser went off.
A blue bird (not sure of exact species — ETA, my birder friend Katrina says it’s a mountain bluebird) which was hanging around Old Faithful just before the eruption. The rain started again a few minutes before the geyser went off.

It took the rain a while to let back up again, alas, although I did catch what turned out to be my only view of Old Faithful from where I’d walked back to the Lodge (as opposed to the Inn), and by the time it did, it was getting close to four in the afternoon, Grand’s predicted time. Of course, given the window, it could have already gone off, but I didn’t have anything to lose except the time and a little shoe leather, so I headed back out one more time. Except for the rain, this was a pretty normal geyser basin day for me. Out and back and out and back, watch this geyser and that, have a thoroughly good time.

Anyway, when I got back out to the Grand, there were still a fair number of people sitting and waiting. My spirits rose. And, lo and behold, less than ten minutes after I sat down, guess what happened?! Grand’s pool, which had already been overflowing, started generating little waves, Turban (a kinda sorta indicator) went off, and away Grand went! I think that’s the shortest amount of time I’ve ever waited for the Grand.

This is my alltime favorite photo of the Grand, taken in 1999 during the eruption that inspired Repeating History.
This is my alltime favorite photo of the Grand, taken in 1999 during the eruption that inspired Repeating History.

And it was. Grand, that is. Just one burst, but it was a good long one, and that was enough to make my day. Make my trip, actually.

Especially since I always think of the Grand as Charley’s geyser. It was a crucial half (the other half being an earthquake I’ll tell you about tomorrow) of the phenomenon that sent Chuck back in time to become Charley in Repeating History, and it also caused Charley’s son Will and — okay, this may get confusing — Will’s five-year-old grandson Chuck (yes, that Chuck) to witness something in “Homesick” that changed their lives forever.

The rain didn’t start back up yet again until I was back in my car and headed back to West Yellowstone an hour or so later, either, and that was a good thing, too.

Two weeks ago, Day 5

No sleep, and more mountains!

Well, that was the only night I camped on this trip. For some reason I could not get comfortable in my sleeping bag, and I finally gave up about four in the morning. So I pulled out my Kindle and read till it got light at about 5:30, packed up, and headed out.

Not very far at first — the Sunrise campground sits at the very top of the long, steep drop to Bear Lake, and a very nice viewpoint/visitor center, which was unlocked even at that gawdawful hour of the day (much to my pleasure, as the campground only had pit toilets and no running water), is practically next door to it. So I got cleaned up and then sat and watched the sun rise over Bear Lake. It was fairly spectacular.

Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.
Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.

I decided I deserved breakfast out after that, and after descending 2000 feet (7900 to 5900) to Bear Lake and the small town of Garden City, I started looking for somewhere that might feed me one.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, was open in Garden City at six a.m., though, so I went on, heading north along the shore of Bear Lake. Eventually I crossed the state line back into Idaho, and found the small town of Montpelier, which was just waking up for the day. The lady at the gas station where I filled the tank for the fourth time on the trip told me the truck stop just north of town was about the only place to go to get breakfast (I did mention that Montpelier is a small town, right?). So I went to find the truck stop.

It turned out to be a nice place, as such things go, and the waitress very helpfully warned me that I only wanted one pancake, not a short stack. Wow, was she right. That pancake was about twelve inches around and at least half an inch thick. It was good, though, especially with Bear Lake raspberry syrup (the berries are a local specialty). I ate a bit more than half of it before I gave up.

I headed north and east on U.S. 89, the same highway that I took all the way to Yellowstone. Up and over a pass and into Wyoming, where I noticed that I was not as alert at the wheel as I could be, so I stopped in a forest service campground, let my seat back all the way, grabbed my pillow and afghan, and crashed for a couple of hours.

Much refreshed, I arrived in the town of Afton an hour or so later, where I got stuck in a bathroom line with a bunch of French-speaking bus tourists, and saw what is purportedly the world’s largest antler arch across the main drag in town. I did not get a photo of it, but if you click here you can get a look at it.

My goal for the day was the ski resort of Jackson Hole (no, not Jackson’s Whole — that would be the wrong Nexus, thank goodness), where I was going to spend tonight, and Grand Teton National Park, where I would spend the rest of the day.

I’d spent about half an hour on my cell phone last night in the campground — I don’t know why I’m still astonished that I can talk on the phone in places that remote, but I am — making sure I had a place to sleep tonight at the hostel in Teton Village (at the base of the ski resort) and for the next two nights (they didn’t have space after that — last minute trip planning can be a bear) at the hostel in West Yellowstone.

I hadn’t spent any time to speak of in the Tetons since I was a kid. In 1999 on my Long Trip (see my book Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back) I’d spent an evening on a dinner cruise on Jackson Lake with some friends, and in 2008 my friend Mary and I passed through, stopping for a few photos, on our way from Yellowstone to Denver for WorldCon, but that was pretty much the extent of it. In all the rest of my jaunts to Yellowstone, I hadn’t bothered to come south even that far. So I wanted to spend a little time here, at least.

The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet -- almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.
The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet — almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.

The Tetons are spectacular, I’ll give them that, but they strike me as a bit — aloof. It’s hard to get out in them without doing a lot more hiking than I’m capable of. I stopped along the roadside to take pictures and to look at wildflowers (which were everywhere), and then at the visitor center at Moose, which was fun. Then I drove out to Jenny Lake and decided on a whim to take a boat ride across the lake to a trailhead that led to a waterfall.

The Moose at Moose -- no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
The Moose at Moose — no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
Scarlet gilia, which I've always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Scarlet gilia, which I’ve always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Another view of the Tetons.
Another view of the Tetons.

The boat ride was fun. It was also a great way to cool off from the 80+ degree temperatures. And the hike to the waterfall, albeit with a boatload of my new close friends, was good, too. So that was worth it.

Jenny Lake.
Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.

After the ride back, though, it was getting late, and I took what was supposed to be a short cut but turned out to be a goat trail back to Teton Village.

And I ended my day by scaring the bejeebies out of myself. There was this gondola, you see. It was free in the evenings. I thought it would be like the gondola at Crystal Mountain here in Washington state, which is a pleasant little ride. This was not a pleasant little ride. It turned out to be about three times as long and three times as steep, and by the time I got to the top, I was a gibbering idiot (I don’t do manmade heights, at least not ones like these). If you want to see what the view from the top looks like, click here. I left my camera in the car.

I almost couldn’t make myself ride it back down again, but a group with a baby(!) got in the gondola with me, and that happy little baby was a great distraction. Thank goodness. I’m not sure I’d have made it down sane without him!

And that was more than enough for one day.

Two weeks ago, Day 9

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.

The Astoria Column, backlit.
The Astoria Column, backlit.
Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.
Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.
A view of the column and its spiraling mural.
A view of the column and its spiraling mural.
To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.
To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.
A close-up of the very top of the column.
A close-up of the very top of the column.

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.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.
The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.
Down, down, down we go, to Washington.
Down, down, down we go, to Washington.
The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.
The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

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.

Two weeks ago, Day 7

Some good things, and one disappointment.

I got a kind of late start this morning two weeks ago, and I woke up to overcast skies and a fair amount of wind.  In my experience, the Oregon coast is a very windy place, and I’d just been lucky the day before.

I stopped in Waldport at a visitor center commemorating the bridge over the Alsea River, which was interesting, especially since the bridge they were commemorating (built in the 1930s) had been replaced by a more modern one just a few years ago.

Then I stopped at an ocean view pullout and wrote for a while since I hadn’t the night before, before driving on to Newport, where I arrived about lunchtime, by design.  I’d been looking forward to going to Mo’s, which is sort of an institution on the Oregon coast, famous for, among other things, its clam chowder.  I’d eaten there before and enjoyed it, but not this time.  As I wrote in my journal, it was “an absolutely wretched lunch.  A crab melt, which was watery and flavorless, and, oh, the bread was burned, and a small cup of chowder, which tasted pretty much like Campbells out of a can.  I don’t know what’s happened to Mo’s, but I won’t ever be going there again.”

I then went to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (Yaquina is pronounced ya quinn’ a). I’d been there before, but I thought it might be interesting again, and it was.  The rooms are all decorated in period, and the lighthouse itself is in a state park.  I wish Heceta Head’s lighthouse and keepers’ quarters were the same building, because I suspect it would facilitate the plot, but I’ll manage.  Also, Yaquina Bay Light, which was only actually lit for three years (see the website for that story) is supposed to have a ghost, too.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.
The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.
The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens.  Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.
A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger and brighter, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.
A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.
The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.

After that I drove the short distance up the coast to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.  I thought I was going to get blown away, but other than that it was a terrific stop.  They have a very nice visitor center with lots of interesting historical exhibits and a short movie about the lighthouse, and then there’s the lighthouse itself, which is the tallest one in Oregon (not in the northwest, that would be the Gray’s Harbor Light, which is in Westport, one of my favorite day trips from home).  Once I was done in the visitor center, I drove on up to the headland, parked my car, and hung onto my hat (literally — my hair is thin on top of my head, and I always wear a hat outdoors to keep my scalp from getting sunburned).  The views were spectacular again, but the tidepools were terrific.  They were seven stories worth of stairs to reach from the lighthouse parking lot, but the basalt beach cobbles and the sea stars and crabs and sea anemones and other interesting critters were well worth the climb back up.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.
Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.
Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head.  Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.
Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head. Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.
A sea star.
A sea star.
The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools.  The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.
The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools. The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.
A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Then I headed north to Lincoln City, where I visited the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.  They’ve done a very good job there, telling the story of that part of the Oregon coast.  Lincoln City is basically five small beach tourist towns that banded together to provide basic services to their citizens.   Lincoln City today is basically miles and miles of motels and strip malls and beach houses, but the history of the place — I was especially enchanted with the exhibit that told about the gathering of redheaded people that happened there every year, apparently for decades — was much more than that.

And I found a good motel in Lincoln City, too.

Two weeks ago today, Day 2

I love research.  Yes, I’m a history geek as well as a writer, and that’s just the way it is.  First thing in the morning I caught a bus to downtown Portland and walked the couple of blocks from the bus stop to the Oregon Historical Society Museum.  Fortunately, the weather had cleared up nicely, and was even warming a bit.

 Their library didn’t open until the afternoon, but the museum opened in the morning, and since I’d never been there before I wanted to see the exhibits. The early history exhibits were well done, but the part I liked the best was the recent history room, highlighting Oregon’s somewhat schizoid politics.  I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for several years during the mid-80s, and had been rather struck by them then — Eugene at the time was a cross between a college town, a logging and other resource-heavy economy, and the hippie equivalent of the elephants’ graveyard.  The juxtaposition was, fascinating, I think, is the term I want to use.  I’d forgotten a lot of that bemusement, and the museum brought it back to me.

 After the exhibits and before the library, I walked up the park blocks, a lovely thing to find in the middle of a city, to Pioneer Courthouse Square, in search of some of Portland’s quasi-legendary food carts.  It was a good place to look for them.  My choices included burritos, cheese steaks and several others.  I chose a cheese steak, which was as good as the ones I’d had in Philadelphia, their hometown, if a sandwich can be said to have a hometown, years ago.

 But the fun part was the quiz the proprietor gave me, based on a page-a-day calendar about famous mustaches, of all things.  The first question described Cesar Romero as the Joker in the old Batman series, and the second Raul Julia in the movie version of The Addams Family.  I got them both right, which won me a very surprised proprietor and a free soda. 

 After enjoying my cheese steak, and my soda, and watching floral decorations being installed on the square for the upcoming Rose Festival, I ambled back to the museum by way of the Multnomah County Library‘s main branch, where I wandered into the children’s room, named after Beverly Cleary, who is a Portland icon, and upstairs to the history section, where I wrote down the titles of some books that looked useful for research that I will interlibrary loan later.  I was very surprised that they didn’t have a local history room.  The Multnomah County Library is, I suspect, the biggest Carnegie library I’ve ever been in (it certainly fits the style, architecturally), but no local history room? 

And then there was the library at the Ohio Historical Society Museum.  Maybe that’s why the public library doesn’t have a local history room?  What I do know is that the librarian pulled a number of goodies out of her closed stacks, including a forest service document, book, really, of all things, discussing the early history and architecture of Heceta Head Lighthouse and its keepers’ quarters, which is going to be the setting of my new book.  So that made my day.

 After several hours in that library, I decided to check out Portland’s streetcar and see where it went, since I had the all-day pass, which includes the streetcar and light rail as well as the bus.  The streetcar went to northwest Portland and the trendy shopping district on NW 23rd.  I hadn’t been there in years, and it was only a couple of blocks from the end of the line to the New Renaissance Bookshop, another favorite bookstore.  So I strolled there and browsed for a bit, but it was getting late and I was tired, so I wound my way back to the hostel via streetcar and bus, and collapsed in a heap on my second evening on the road.

Happy Thanksgiving

In spite of  the L-tryptophan-induced drowsiness from too much turkey (and too much pie, and way too much of my friend L’s magnificent mashed potatoes), here I am to make a list of what I am thankful for.  This also gives me a great excuse if I forget anything.

So, out of order, although there probably is a particular order I should be putting them in:

I’m thankful that any economic/financial issues I may have are decidedly first-world ones.  I have a lovely roof over my head, more than adequate nutrition and clothing, and a great many of my wants as well as my needs are mine to use and enjoy.

I’m thankful for the traveling I’ve been able to do.

I’m thankful for the fledgling business that is my day job.  I’m thankful that I find it interesting and challenging, and to be able to find people willing to pay me to do it.  There are times I wish it could be doing better, but if there are reasons it isn’t, well, it’s probably because I don’t devote myself to it singlemindedly 24/7/365.  And I don’t want to.  So it’s my choice, and I’m satisfied with it.

I’m thankful for my friends.  I have some seriously wonderful friends, and you know who you are.

I’m thankful my 88-year-old mother is still going strong and maintaining her independence.

I’m thankful for the new cats in my life.  I never thought I would appreciate two healthy normal untraumatized kittens so much as I have since the fiasco last year.  The boys eat what I put in front of them, they drink enough water, they use the litterbox religiously, they’re beautiful, playful, and affectionate, and I really couldn’t ask for more.

And I am thankful for being able to write, and for those who have read and enjoyed my books.  I hope to keep writing for as long as I can, and I hope people keep enjoying what I write for as long as I can write it and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving!