Travel

LookingGlass progress 20090612

To get proper sun and moon lighting, I spent a day adding Caelum. This is an Ogre plugin for sun and moon and precipitation and everything atmospheric. I didn’t quite get it working and as I was looking for solutions I found that the person who created Hydrax (water and oceans) is now building a sky system. I think I might wait to see how that comes out. This means that, for the moment, Caelum build information is in the source tree but the ifdef in LookingGlassOgre is commented out to disable any use of that library.

Parking lot tide







Parking lot tide


Originally uploaded by MisterBlue



I work for a large company and I witness this parking lot fill up and empty every day. And this is just one corner. I am amazed that we can move that many vehicles so far and so often. Every day.


Early season







Early season


Originally uploaded by MisterBlue



T-Mobile

It is Halloween as Costco,It is Halloween as Costco,


Portland Zoo

IMG_4387

Since everyone else is going green, I decided I’d take mass transit for a day trip downtown and to the zoo. It is a short drive to the local transit station (there are no weekend buses in my immediate neighborhood) so I bussed from here to downtown. The Portland streetcar took me cross town where I had a pleasant morning coffee with some friends — sitting in their old house with the windows open and the large trees overhanging the house and street. There are some great neighborhoods in the city.

IMG_4426

The train to the deepest subway station in North America and up to the zoo. I haven’t been in a few years and the place is expanding. There is a lot of construction. The monkey house is being remodeled for the great apes and the artic tundra exhibit has been torn out to be replaced with a large cat area. The zoo is not dying.

IMG_4472

The elephant barn was closed to visitors. I finally noticed the TV trucks parked outside and, when I went into the display area, I found a crowd of people watching closed circuit TVs. Just a few hours earlier, the mother elephant’s water had broken and there was great excitement over the imminent birth of an elephant. It could happen at any time. I waited around for about 30 minutes but eventually left. The baby was born about two hours later.

Mass transit worked wonderfully for me and the weather was lovely. A relaxing day.

Day trip to the Coast

Another beautiful day in Oregon and certainly not a day to stay inside. I got in the car and drove to the beach. Didn’t want to just visit the cities and the casinos and outlet malls but decided to see the relatively untraveled coast between Tillamook and Lincoln City. Pictures are available.

IMG_4219

Driving out highway 26 I saw that Banks was holding their annual Elephant Garlic Festival. I made a quick stop, enjoyed some music and purchased an elephant ear from a vendor. The vendors seemed to be mostly local people. While I was waiting for my ear to fry, another vendor came over and they swapped garlic recipes.

IMG_4236

At the coast, I stopped at the Tillamook Creamery and purchased some squeaky curds. Those are the un-aged cheese curds and they do squeak when you bite into them. You don’t find them in the stores because they don’t keep well. A delicacy of a trip to the beach.

IMG_4278

The beach time visited the town of Netarts, Cape Lookout and down to Neskowin. All nice towns and wonderful scenery.

IMG_4293

On the way back inland, I ran across the Driftcreek covered bridge. It has quite a story. The bridge, in its original location, was condemned by the county and was scheduled to be torn down because of rot and a good bridge was needed. A local family took all of the bridge pieces and, with the help of many local volunteers and a local lumber mill, they rebuilt the bridge on their land. An act of love.

IMG_4309

I also stopped at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum. Evergreen Helicopter is based there in McMinnville and the family has built a gigantic museum sitting among the fields of grape vines. Besides many interesting planes, the museum now sports Howard Hughes Spruce Goose. I don’t have a good picture of that plane — it’s just too big. If you are a fan of airplanes, though, this is the place to go.

Travel updates

Finally home and a real computer. It’s nice to be home in my own
bed and with my own files.
I haven’t moved my digital presence totally onto the network
so my own files and desktop and organization are not portable.
It feels comfortable to be home.

I’ve sorted through the pictures and the main groups are up.
This is a long, catch-up entry with descriptions and pointers.

IMG_3073
IMG_3088

First is the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
(pictures)
which were, well, smoky.
The haze is a natural phenomena and the park is full of hills, trees,
camping, water falls and streams.
A
previous blog post
was from Mingo Falls
and later in the day we hiked in to see Laurel Falls
(pictures).
We hiked the mile to find a small falls filled with people.
Some had obviously packed everything for a day of picnicking
and splashing with the kids. A nice hike in the woods, though.

IMG_3161

Just outside the park is Tuckaleechee Caverns
(pictures).
This is an old fashioned, family owned cavern roadside attraction.
An easy walk through the well paved cavern with interesting rock
formations.

IMG_3214

For a little historical South, we stopped at
The Hermitage
(pictures).
This is the farm Andrew Jackson retired to after
service as the president of the United States.
It’s back in the time before secret service and security
details. It’s just a farm although, these days, they make a big
deal about the slaves who lived there and made the farm work.

IMG_3265

Keeping with the presidential theme, the next stop was the
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
(pictures).
Wikipedia has a
concise description
of the history of this monument.
In our cynical age, it is hard to comprehend the adoration a
log cabin received. Eventually, it was enshrined in a granet monument.

IMG_3310
IMG_3325

The next stop was to downtown St. Louis with a visit to the Arch.
If you were following the news at that time, you would know that the
central U.S. was surviving record floods and tornadoes.
We weren’t sure the arch park would be open but it was completely
operational although some of the
pictures
do show the Mississippi overflowing it’s banks onto the sidewalks.
The trip up the Arch was bizarre.
You get into these claustrophobia attack inducing little pods which
then click and clunk as they take you to the top.
Once at the top, you are in a small arched room with
TINY windows to peer out over the city.
It is clear that Disney was not consulted when they built it.

A lot of driving brought us to
Jewel Cave National Monument
(Wikipedia explains
that a “national monument” is declared by the
president without requiring the approval of Congress.)
This gigantic system of caves now has an elevator for us softies
to casually tour the underground.
There are still people squeezing through the caves but we get to
walk through the cool 56 degrees on concrete and aluminum walkways
and enjoy the formations.
It was hard taking pictures because the lights they used
had widely different temperatures.
That, and my little digital camera doesn’t have a flash that
goes more than a few feet.
Some pictures
did turn out.

IMG_3586

Out of the ground and over to Yellowstone National Park
(pictures).
It was an amazingly beautiful day — cool temperatures, bright sun,
blue sky filled with white clouds.
The park was showing itself off.
Bison grazed (and clogged the roads) and the rush of melting snow filled
the streams.
Beautiful.

IMG_3696

Well, how do you top Yellowstone?
With a nuclear reactor, of course.
Pictures.
In the 1950′s, a small reactor
(“Experimental Breeder Reactor 1″ or “EBR-1″)
in the middle of Idaho
proved that nuclear reactors could create their own fuel
(“breeding” plutonium) and generate electricity efficiently
(output more than goes in).
The DOE keeps the building open in the summer with tours by informed but otherwise very bored
employees.

Up the road is an area of lava formations in the
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
Pictures.

Finally home

After 9476 miles, we are finally home. Whooo hooo!!! The bad news is the of bills and weeds to contend with. I will be uploading the rest of the pictures and videos and adding some more commentary the next few days.

Past the storms

It looks like We have made it through the bad weather in the middle of the country. The stop at the arch in St Louis meant some extra driving around since the road along the river was closed. Flooding because of the high Mississippi River. there have been many flooded fields along the highway with rain still coming down.

We spent the night in Kansas City. The night was windy and the tornadoes occurred to the west of the city while we sleep peacefully in our beds. Thursday morning was cool (65: the coolest weather we’ve had since touching California) and the front had moved to the east leaving us to travel north behind all the bad weather.

The plan is to move quickly with long driving days so we can get home next week. We are getting tired of traveling around living out of suit cases. The boys also remembered things they would really like to do on the 16th (Monday) so we are looking at driving 11 hour days to make it home by then. It will be nice to sleep in our real beds after this trip.

I have a lot of picture processing to do when I get home. There are many panoramas to build from pictures and I have videos of some things that I thought would be better as video than still snaps.

We drove through Iowa today to get up to South Dakota. One the of main differences between here and the Southern states is the lack of billboards. Most of the south has zillions of billboards along the road. Even better, since the road service planted trees on both sides of the road, the billboards are on large green poles (large to withstand hurricanes) 50 to 100 feet in the air. What a visual mess.

Abe birth place







Abe birth place


Originally uploaded by MisterBlue



There is a national park with a monument to the log cabin that Abe Lincoln was born in. Inside the building you see here is a log cabin. The laptop I was borrowing died so it will be a while before U get more pictures up.


Mingo Falls







Mingo Falls


Originally uploaded by MisterBlue



Today driving through the Smokey Mountain National Park. It looks a lot like home except for the humidity and that it is kudzu climbing the trees and not ivy.


Finally Westward

We are finally moving westward. A lot of time was spent getting to the east coast so the trip back will be a lot quicker.

IMG_2877

After New Orleans, we spent a few days in Walt Disney World. The place is special, amazing and expensive. I think I’m getting tired of the parks like Walt did. Not that he came to dislike them, but he was ready to move onto something new. I am starting to get that feeling about being there — time to find something new.
In that vein, the pictures I took are of some of the many flowers in bloom and the crowds — things people don’t usually take pictures of.

IMG_2944

From WDW, it was to the far coast and the Kennedy Space Center.
This has been duded up with rides, multi-media presentations and gift shops — oh, and high entry fees — to make it a Disney-like experience. There are some rockets also. The bus tour takes you between fenced off places to peer at the launch pads, old Saturn rockets and modules being assembled for the international space station. The simulated shuttle launch ride was disappointing. The best presentation was the one about landing on the moon. Some pictures.

IMG_3003

Up the Florida coast to Palm Coast. Tonight we’re in Byron, Georgia. On the way there, the Fountain of Youth beckoned.
On the northern shores of Florida is where Ponce de Leon came ashore looking for the Fountain of Youth. The natives told him that an island existed up north (he was the governor of what is now Puerto Rico at the time) with such a mystical fountain. On that spot today is a tourist attraction and a well said to be the remains of the once bubbling fountain. I sampled but, sadly, I don’t feel any younger. But we visited the planetarium (with the oldest, manually operated planetarium system in the nation) and wandered the grounds until exiting through the gift shop, of course. Pictures.

Along the Gulf Coast

IMG_2653

After a night in a funky little bed-and-breakfast in
the town of Taos, New Mexico
we visited the
Taos Pueblo.
Just outside the town of Taos are Indians
living more or less (less actually) as they have for hundreds of years
The century old pueblos are lived in an maintained with as few
modern additions as possible.
They, of course open their houses to sell jewelery
and trinkets to the tourists.

IMG_2685

From New Mexico, we drove across the south end of the rockies
traveled through Colorado before making it to Texas.
What better indication of Texas-ness than
Cadallic Ranch
outside Amarillo.
From Amarillo, we drove through the traffic jams of Dallas
and southward into the heat and humidity of Houston.

IMG_2722

We just happened to be at the
Johnson Space Center
when the
space shuttle Discovery launched.
On the plus side we watched the launch on the IMAX screen with
commentary from one of the astronaut team.
On the minus side, the mission control tour was
unavailable because they were busy.
This place wasn’t what I expected at all.
There was the science side of the space program (the tram tour)
but, when you walk into the building you are confronted with this
gigantic jungle gym type of thing.
We’re talking kids climbing and bouncing all over a brightly
colored structure that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with
space flight. The only connection I can see is it relates to
astronaut training. Back in the back are some displays of space
suits and a full sized mock up of the nose of the space shuttle.

IMG_2794

We spent the night in Sulfur, Louisiana (it smelled of sulfer
that night too — I blame the oil refinery close by)
and the next day drove across the state to the city of New Orleans.
We took a walk through the French Quarter of that city and
ate some Cajun food.
The boys were unimpressed with the shops and bars.
They thought that, since it was set up as a party town,
you need your buddies and a buzz to enjoy the place.
Can’t argue with that.
What did get their attention were the
beignets
from
Cafe du Monde
– warm donut-like pastries smothered in powered sugar was worth a thumbs up.

Tonight we are in Pensacola, Florida before diving into
the central area of that state and finally to
Walt Disney World.

There are some more pictures up:
Taos Pueblo,
Cadillac Ranch,
Houston Space Center
and
New Orleans
.

We’ve gone over 4000 miles so far and we’re about to start our
third week. We’ll need to get a move on if we’re going to make
it back in our alloted time.

New Mexico

We are in Taos, New Mexico tonight — an upscale artist’s town who’s central area is awash in galleries. Most of today was driving across Colorado from Durango. This meant some time in tree covered mountains as we crossed the continental divide. We got up to 10,000 feet before again dropping down into the desert.

I have some pictures from the last few days up — that part takes a while to upload. I also have many, many panoramas to put together when I get back home. I have included some of the individual pictures for the panoramas some of the time because some of the views are amazing. There are now pictures up for Natural Bridges National Monument, Newspaper Rock, Monument Valley, Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park.

I’m missing everyone. Hope you are enjoying the progress and the pictures. Tomorrow, its off to Texas.

Across Utah

My last entry wasn’t very talkative. I’ll add a little more today.

The days in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park was a cool and cloudy day for this part of the world. That’s one reason the pictures of Zion National Park don’t do it justice — the bright, gray sky didn’t help my little digital camera. But try to imagine shear, red rock walls rising on each side of you for hundreds of feet. An amazing place even with the occasional rain.

Bryce Canyon National Park is mostly overlooks and hiking trails. The pictures are from the overlooks and show the unbelievable formations. Bryce is high enough that we enjoyed small snow flakes rather than rain drops. The temperature didn’t get below freezing but the wind was mighty cold.

After Bryce Canyon, we stayed at a Rudy’s Lodge and learned something about the tourists we were sharing the parks with. There are LOTS of Europeans here visiting the wild west. Bus loads (literally) as well as many cars of people speaking German and French and Italian and many other languages are everywhere. Those euros must be going a long way these days.

IMG_1971
IMG_2010

Today we drove from the national parks in the south west corner of Utah to the national parks in the south east corner of Utah. The weather is still being cool for this time of year so the temperature is in the 70s and the sky is full of clouds. We visited Arches National Park and took lots of pictures.

First Parks in Utah

IMG_1769
IMG_1934

Driving around Utah enjoying the National Parks. We stopped at Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. There are pictures up of both (Zion and Bryce).

I didn’t mention them, but there are also pictures up of Lake Havasu City and Hoover Dam.

Into the desert

Time for an update — I don’t get to a computer and I seem to think
of Twittering a message when I am driving and that’s not a good
idea.

IMG_1586

From Anaheim, we drove east amid 18 wheelers and large pickups
pulling boats. It rained on us while leaving LA and a few times
on the road. We didn’t see any of the tornadoes that happened that
day and we missed to flooding, but there is a lot of rain falling
on the desert down here and that’s usually good for at least one flood.

Like I said, there were lots of boats on the road. It seems that
the Spring is time for the annual migration of boats from LA driveways
to the wet recreation areas along the Colorado River. We spent the
night at one of these — Lake Havasu City. This town is on Lake
Havasu (of course) and is just a little south of Needles. I know that
town because it’s always in the weather news as the hottest city
in the country. Despite the summer heat, there are a lot of people
living down here with subdivisions spreading across the desert and
up the hillsides.

IMG_1608

The main attraction in Lake Havasu City, besides the lake and water
activities, is the London Bridge. This is the London Bridge of
“falling down” fame that was carted from England to the deserts of
the US and now spans one end of a small bay. You can drive across it
and walk and boat under it. The development directly associated
with the bridge is a little sad, though. There are some flourishing
hotels and a few restaurants, but, around the visitor’s center
there are boarded up buildings and the ‘theater and pub’ is closed
and boarded. The ‘British and American Friendship Garden’ is dead
and long removed. Some of the buildings have ‘improvements coming’
signs on them but that’s the only sign of advancement.
The bridge itself looks good and seems to be in fine health.

Driving around we notice little differences between the states.
As I Twittered before, unlike in Oregon (where alcohol stronger than
wine is only sold in state licensed liquor stores) California
Costco’s sell hard liquor — think Costco sized bottles of vodka.
Maximum road speeds vary by state (75 in AZ, 70 in CA) and one
noticed coming from CA to AZ is gas prices — CA is consistently
over $4 per gallon while, just across the boarder in AZ, the prices
are in the $3.60 to $3.80 range. It’s not the state gas taxes –
I looked.
Utah, which has gas taxes 1.5 times the CA gas tax still has
$3.80 gas.

IMG_1695

After Lake Havasu City, we drove north and stopped at Hoover Dam.
Impressive feat engineering. We took the tour and visited the
tunnels and generator room. The visitor’s center is very grand
and they keep reminding you that is wasn’t paid for by tax
dollars — the dam supports itself by selling power and charging
visitors fees.

It was threatening rain at the dam and we watched lightening
flicker in the skies overhead. Our drive from there north to
Zion National Park was a wet one. It rained and rained and rained
here in the desert so the hillsides are green with new growth.

Ready to leave the coast

We are finishing up with some last time in Disneyland and will head inland tomorrow. I’ll be glad to get out of this crowded park. The weather hasn’t been too bad and, by normal DLand standards, the crowds are actually light. It’s still a lot of people and a lot of lines. Tomorrow Arizona and some more outdoors.

IMG_1439

There are some pictures for our drive through Big Sir and the visit to Hearst Castle and some more snaps of Disneyland.
I reversed the order of the trip pictures so the newer ones show up on the first page.

Dland







Dland


Originally uploaded by MisterBlue



Guess where we are.


Into LA

As I mentioned in the Twitter to the left, we drove into LA last night. It was really LA as we experienced freeway traffic jams on a Sunday evening. Amazing. It’s in the 80′s and a little humid with not a cloud in the sky. At this very moment, I’m sitting beside the pool at our hotel while the laundry goes around — a necessity of travel.

IMG_1215

After SF, we stopped in Monterey to visit the Aquarium and eat lunch in their touristy Fisherman’s Wharf. The aquarium had a lot of amazing displays of fish and plants but the activities were all geared to young children. So we came, we oggled, we exited.

The next day was a visit to Hearst Castle. When I have 200 million dollars to spend on a house, I hope mine is this magnificent.

IMG_1333

IMG_1270

The rest of the day was spent driving down the California coast — beautiful, beautiful, beautiful: the sea lions basking on the beaches, the white waves crashing against the rocks and the blue, blue ocean.

Friday night in the Bay Area

IMG_0896

We just finished stomping around San Francisco. We left Reno Thursday morning thinking we’d drive down to Yosemite. It wasn’t long before we ran across and informational sign saying Highway 120 was still closed for the winter. Sigh. Rather than drive all the way around and spend many hours getting there, we decided to drive directly to the San Francisco bay area.

Driving from Tahoe to SF means driving on I-80. Besides the temp being 102, this entails driving at 75 MPH on an 8 lane highway with cars shoulder-to-shoulder and bumper-to-bumper. It’s insane! This went on all the way across the central valley. There must be millions of people in central California and they must all be in their cars.

IMG_1016

We counteracted the highway experience by ending Thursday in Muir Woods National Monument. This is a small patch of redwoods that was saved in 1904 and it is one of the last samples of the gigantic trees that covered northern California when it was first settled. Beautiful, gigantic trees.

IMG_1141

Friday we hiked around the Marin park which is across the bay from San Francisco. This afforded us wonderful views of the bay and SF. We also explored many of the bunkers and old military constructions that are scattered about. We finished off the day by diving into SF and having dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf before driving Lombard Street.

Pictures are now available at http://pics.misterblue.com/v/20080500-Trip/.

I really don’t know what is going on with gas prices — in two days here in California I’ve seen prices between $4.06 and $3.61. It can’t just be the price of oil.

Next »