Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

Cook Dates: July 7 & 13, 2019

I’m going through my standard grilling and barbecue recipes to see how they work on my new Mak 2 Star pellet cooker. I’ve worked my way up to Santa Maria Tri-Tip; one of my favorite cuts of beef.

We invited our friends, the McD’s, over so I wanted to do something special. I’ve been talking about it ad nauseam for two years so I decided to make a cheesecake in my pressure cooker. That’s right! The cheesecake needs to be cooked the day before and chilled overnight so let’s start there.

Many of the recipes I read were basically cream cheese, sugar and eggs. I wanted something with a bit more complex flavor – maybe a bit of tang. So, I followed a DadCooksDinner recipe. This recipe adds 1/4 cup sour cream for that extra flavor. I didn’t use the strawberry topping he used – but more on that later. After reading a few of Mike Vrobel’s later blog posts I added two teaspoons of corn starch to keep the eggs from curdling.

All across the web it was driven home that for best results the cream cheese and eggs need to be at room temperature. So, I put them out on the counter for them to rest for an hour.

I was going to use a mixer for the filling and I didn’t want to dirty up the food processor as well, so – following his technique – I crushed 6 graham crackers in a 1 gallon plastic bag. I varied from Mike’s recipe by using 6 graham crackers and 3 tablespoons of melted butter instead of short break cookies.

Crushing graham crackers for the cheesecake crust.

Over a year ago I bought a 7-inch springform pan and a silicone sling; it finally got used. Forgetting to spray some vegetable oil in the pan to prevent sticking, I pressed the crust into the pan and pushed it up a bit higher on the sides.

Cheesecake crust

Time to get everything together: cream cheese, lemon zest, corn starch, eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream.

Cheesecake filling ingredients.

I got busy mixing the ingredients in the right order so I didn’t grab pictures. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Before adding the eggs I tasted it and it was just like cream cheese frosting – no surprise.

I carefully poured the filling into the pan on top of the crust. I should have worked a bit more to get the top smooth.

Cheesecake batter ready for pressure cooking.

After putting 2 cups of water in the bottom of the InstantPot, I lowered the cheese cake in its sling, sealed it and cooked it for 20 minutes with a 20 minute pressure release. I slid a small paring knife – dull side forward – around the pan to loosen it.

Cooked – but not finished – cheesecake.

After it cooled a bit more I put it in the refrigerator and contemplated the topping. Fresh blueberries are filling the produce aisles of our local stores this time of year, but I wanted to make a conversation piece. Dulce de Leche it is. Again, following Mike Vrobel’s lead, I used a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Dulce de Leche ingredient – REMOVE THE LID IF YOU MAKE THIS

This can of Borden’s milk brings back memories. We didn’t have Borden brand where we lived – or maybe my mom just didn’t buy it. But my Grandma had it, so it reminded me of fun times at my grandparents house when I was a kid.

If you make this recipe, REMOVE THE LID BEFORE COOKING! I pulled off the pull tab lid, stripped the paper off the can, covered tightly with aluminum foil and cooked it for 40 minutes in the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water. Wait for the natural pressure release and there you have it: Dulce de Leche – a beautiful milk caramel topping.

Dulce de Leche from Sweetened Condensed Milk

The next morning I removed the springform side of the pan and held my breath. I couldn’t figure out a way to make a taste test without prematurely cutting out a slice, so I just trusted the process.

Pressure Cooker Cheese Cake.

The crust isn’t as thick as it looks here; it is pushed up on the sides pretty far.

We didn’t really eat dessert first, but let’s proceed thematically. Dianne McD is a master baker so I asked for her help drizzling the Dulce de Leche over of each piece. Dessert is served.

I held my breath and took my first bite – it was delicious! The sour cream added just the right amount of tang and the lemon zest brightened it up without being over powering. If you make this, used the DadCooksDinner recipe and follow his directions closely – make sure the cream cheese is room temperature when you start and don’t over beat the eggs.

We also had Tri-Tip. I’ve written about this so much I’ll keep it short(-ish). I did have a problem adjusting to my new grill. With gas grills I crank all the burners to high, scrape the grates, then reduce the heat wait a few minutes and cook the meat. The Mak grill is well insulated by that thick stainless steel so it didn’t want to come back down to a reasonable cooking temperature – 230° to 250°. So I opened the lid for a while. Well, the thermocouple is in the back corner so by the time it got down to the target temperature, the front part of the grill – where I’d be cooking – apparently got too cool. So, it took an hour longer to cook than usual. I learned from my mistake and tried again the following weekend with better temperature control. I’ll be using pictures of both cooks.

If you aren’t familiar with Tri-Tip you are probably a vegetarian, or haven’t lived in the western U.S. or both. I guess butchers in other parts of the country cut it up differently. My recipe can be found here: Tri-Tip with Santa Maria rub. That recipe is for a gas grill – but it can be easily adapted to charcoal or pellet.

Pay attention to the grain of the meat; you’ll see it runs in opposite directions on the two sides. When carving, cut in half from the hypotenuse (long edge) to the right angle. Then slice each half into thin slices against the grain. If you don’t you’ll have some tough meat and wonder why I like this dish so much.

I applied a liberal dusting of Santa Maria rub: granulated garlic, onion powder salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper.

I used the reverse sear sear method. Set up the grill for 2 zone cooking. Start the roast on the indirect of a grill. Flip at the 15 and 30 minute marks and spray with a mixture of garlic olive oil and red wine vinegar. Then flip and baste every 5 to 10 minutes until the internal temperature is about 125°. Finally, move the meat to the hot side of the grill to get the outside nice and crusty, taking it off the heat when the internal temperature is about 5° to 10° shy of your desired level of doneness. Follow USDA guidelines for doneness temperatures.

Searing the Tri-Tip with corn on the front side. (Picture from 2nd cook)

I got a little anxious toward the end and cranked the temp a bit too much at the end. It was good, but a bit more medium than medium-rare.

Dinner is served: Tri-Tip with corn on the cob and a side of beans.

Look closely and you can see the red smoke ring around the outside. For authentic Santa Maria Tri-Tip, cook with oak pellets or wood chunks.

I had much better results the following weekend with a better controlled grill temperature. I cooked at 235° for about an hour. I think next time I’ll cook with the grill at 250°. I put it in the warmer when the internal temp got to 125°, then cranked the grill temp up to finish.

Tri-Tip and corn on the cob – take 2.

For the second take I removed the corn from the foil and grilled directly for a few minutes. It looks prettier – to me – but uncharred was a bit tastier according to the judges.

Dinner is served (Second cook)

Medium rare Tri-Tip with corn on the cob and Olive Ciabatta Bread

And for good measure a close up shot.

Medium rare Tri-Tip with corn on the cob and Olive Ciabatta Bread

The Order of Time
Author: Carlo Rovelli
Type: Non-Fiction(Physics)
Finished: July 5, 2019
Copyright: 2018

Image from Amazon

Carlo Rovelli opens his book by warning us there is no such thing as time.

“We convetionally think of time as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open ….. And yet all of this has turned out to be false” [p 2

Most of us have read about aging for the fictional space traveller who comes back to earth after travelling close to the speed of light. The traveller will have aged “naturally” (to him) but everyone he knew will be much older or dead. Rovelli points out that we don’t need to be space travellers to see that effect: a clock on top of a mountain runs faster than a clock at sea level; even a clock on a table runs faster that a clock on the ground. From this we can see that “[t]imes are legion: a different one for every point in space. There is not one single time, there is a vast multitude of them.” [p 16]

And by the time we finish chapter two we learn that “the difference between the past and the future refers only to our own blurred vision of the world.” [p 33] By blurred Rovelli means we don’t (can’t) see the totality of the universe; we abstractions of things. We may see a stone; but that is really made up of the non-pebble like things that make up atoms. We only sense time because of our incomplete, blurred vision.

Time exists like quantum mechanics does for the physical world where we can’t predict where an electron will be at any point in the future.

“It is not possible to think of duration as continuous. We must think of it as discontinuous: not as something that flows uniformly but as something that in a certain sense jumps, kangaroo-like, from one value to another. In other words, a minimum  interval of time exists. Below this, the notion of time does not exist – even in its most basic meaning.” [p 84]

Physicists – at least those who study quantum gravity as does Rovelli – can describe our universe with no variable of time. When we enter a universe without time we discover that the world is made of “events, not things.” [p 95] “[E]ven the things [like a rock] that are most ‘thinglike’ are nothing more than long events.” [p 98] But I get hung up on the language here. An event – or at least the word ‘event’ – presupposes time. And event happens over time. Rovelli works through that for us, explaining that the words we use are just references to that “blurred” vision of the universe. In actuality,

“The theory [of quantum gravity] does not describe how things evolve in time. The theory describes how things change one in respect to the others, how things happen in the world in relation to each other.” [p 120]

Okay, but I can’t get my head to unblur the world: “change” holds the concept of before and after.

But what about causes and effect? Cause happens  in [what we think of as] the past and the effect is the present/future. Rovelli tells us there is no “magical force of ‘causality’ going from the past to the future.” [p 168]  Events occur as we go from a universe that is transforming from low entropy to higher entropy. This “notion of low entropy of the poast renders the notion of cause an effective one.” [p 169]

Time is really just a human invention created because our “brains are made up essentially of memory and foresight.” [p 189]

This book completely boggled my mind when I first read it; I found it  helpful to go back through the passages I highlighted after a week or so passed. It was an interesting read that opened my eyes (a little bit) to the world of science today. Although I may now have a slightly better understanding of the issues, I am struck by the fact that the concepts of past and future are tied up in the explanations. Even though there may be no such thing as time, I’m still going to wear a watch.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Author: Carlo Rovelli
Type Non-Fiction (Physics)
Finished: June 13, 2019
Copyright 2016

Rating: ★★★

Image from Amazon

Although brief in terms of pages, this book is not a breeze. Each lesson moves through the evolution of theories on the make up of the universe. Carlo Rovelli starts with Einstein’s work that proved “that atoms really exist” and laid “the first foundation for quantum mechanics” [p 3]

It only takes a few pages before I have difficulty wrapping my head around things – even though I’ve heard about them before.

“Heisenberg imagined that electrons do not always exist. They only exist when someone or something watches them, or better, when they are interacting with something else. They materialize in a place, with a calculable probability, when colliding with something else. “The ‘quantum leaps’ from one orbit to another are the only means they have of being ‘real: and electron is a set of jumps from one interaction to another. When nothing disturbs it, it is not in any precise place. It is not in a ‘place’ at all.” [p 17]

Couldn’t it just as easily be true that we just don’t know how to track their movement? But, hey, I’m just an English major, not a physicist.

Rovelli works in the field of loop quantum gravity, which “is an endeavor to combine general relativity and quantum mechanics.” [p 47] If I remember correctly, in “The Big Bang Theory” television show, Sheldon and Leslie Winkle have an argument about whether loop quantum gravity or string theory is the best way to model the universe. [Poor Leonard is caught in the middle of the argument.] I find it notable that Rovelli doesn’t give string theory the time of day. 

All in all an interesting book that serves as an introduction into modern physics theories.

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World
Author: Simon Winchester
Type: Non-Fiction
Finished: June 11, 2019
Copyright: 2018

Rating: ★★★★

Image from Amazon

In the pre-industrial world precision was unneeded. It was easy enough to live one’s life without knowing exactly what time it was or exactly how far apart two places were. All manufacturing was essentially done as “one offs” by craftsmen. This fascinating book tracks the increasing drive for precision that allowed the advancement of the industrial age. It starts with John Wilkinson’s development of a casting and boring process that improved the manufacture of canons. Without Wilkinson’s methodology James Watt’s steam engine may never have been successful. Precise boring of metal pieces were needed for the steam engine to work.

“For as James Watt later put it, ‘Mr. Wilkinson has bored us several cylinders almost without error, that of 50 inch diameter … does not err the thickness of an old shilling at any part.’ An old English shilling had a thickness of a tenth of an inch. This was the tolerance to which John Wiulkinson had ground out his first cylinder.”[p 51]

One tenth of an inch does not sound precise to us today, in the world of jet turbines and microchips it literally changed the world.

The next step was Henry Maudslay’s improvement of the lathe. Using the metal screws “made using his slide rest and his technique … could machine things to a standard of tolerance of one in one ten-thousandth of an inch.” [p 64] 

“What Maudslay had done with his fully equipped lathe was to create an engine that, in the words of one historia, would become ‘the mother tool of the industrial age.'” [p 64]

With the ability to machine parts to this level of precision interchangeable pieces could be made. One of the early uses was in the development of pulley blocks used on sailing ships. A large ship had over a thousand of these blocks and the British navy was an enormous market as the navy increased in size to offset the threat of the French Revolution and later Napoleon.

Winchester continues the study through the development of the automobile – comparing and contrasting the Rolls Royce and the Model T Ford, jet engines, the Hubble telescope (and its repair) to computer chips. As for today’s microchips:

“The new machines no longer employ visible-light lasers, but what is known as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation, and at a specific wavelength of 13.5 billionths of a meter.” [p 296]

The technology Winchester describes is fascinating on its own, but it is his writing that makes this just a pleasurable read. I love how he brings the characters to life and describes them in detail. I highly recommend it.

Trip Dates: June 23-24, 2019

Carla and her sisters were on an adventure up to Lake Chelan, Washington so I was left to my own devices for a few days. I’d been eyeing the new McMenniman’s lodge squeezed between I5 and the Columbia River about 28 miles north of – well north of the Columbia River that separates Portland and Vancouver (Washington). It’s odd; I always think of the Columbia going straight west from Portland but actually it curves north for almost 40 miles before heading west from Longview. Taking a quick look at a map you see Washington north of Oregon. But for almost an hour after crossing the Columbia on the Interstate Bridge and heading north, you can look out your window to the left and still see Oregon just across the river.

Anyway, I was able to get a Sunday night reservation at the new McMenniman’s Kalama Harbor Lodge. Just a hundred yards east of the lodge is the BNSF line that travels from Seattle down to Los Angeles. Sit on the back patio and you are looking over the Columbia. Photographing trains and ships: what a great way to spend a couple of days.

Soon after checking in to my room I grabbed my Sony A7R3 with the 24-105 lens and headed out to get some pictures. My first site was of a freight ship at anchor in the middle of the river. We’ll see more of it later.

Freight Ship at Dock in the Columbia River. Kalama, WA

Looking up and down the river I didn’t see any traffic coming so I headed over to the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the BNSF mainline. I saw the bridge on Google Maps when I scouted my trip. I knew it would help be get a vantage point above the chain link fence that parallels the tracks. Well, I conveniently forgot my dislike/fear of heights. The bridge steps were metal but a grid-like pattern that afforded me the view of the ground – so far down. I camped out on the first landing that was 15 to 20 feet above the ground. No sooner had I got settled than a Amtrak Cascades passed by heading south toward Portland. I hadn’t seen this smaller type of locomotive before so that was fun.

Amtrak Cascades Heading south in Kalama, WA. Newish locomotive syle

These trains are dedicated consists with a locomotive at either end so there is no need to turn them around when they reach their destination. After sitting for another half an hour with no other traffic I decided to head back to the Lodge and have a beer. Sure enough as soon as I was down the bridge and across the street, a freight rumbled by heading north. Oh well, I planned on going back later. I’m thinking of investing in a scanner radio to enable be to get a better idea of rail traffic on my expeditions.

McMennimans are known in the Portland area for their brew pubs – they have pretty good ales, and the burgers are passable but service is not always great. After getting conflicting instructions from various employees I sat down on the patio to watch the river. Eventually I got my beer: Hammerhead. It was breezy and a bit chilly but the sun was catching the vegetation just right.

View of the Columbia River from the Kalama McMennimans Patio

I sipped my beer for about 45 minutes then I wanted my bill so I could get back out to take more pictures. I made eye contact with server and made the universal motion to ask for my check. I waited another 10 minutes and motioned again. Still nothing. Another 10 minutes and I tucked the cost of the beer under the glass and left. I guess I didn’t need to pay; no one challenged me on the way.

Back to the bridge. The light was getting good for capturing some photos of trains. I kept a closer eye on the signal lights to the north and south to get an idea of what traffic might be headed my way. The signals were close to a mile away so I’d take a picture, then review it and zoom in to check the lights. As I expected from the signals – red in one direction and green the other – I readied my camera. I was soon rewarded by a northbound BNSF freight.

Northbound Coal Train rolling through Kalama, WA

Not long after it cleared the block a following grain train with the locomotives elephant style came into view.

Northbound Grain Train rolling through Kalama, WA

While on the bridge I called for a dinner reservation at the lodge and found I couldn’t be seated until 7:30. On the positive side that gave me time to wander around the grounds. When I showed up at the restaurant at the appointed time I was unamused to find it less than half full. Then I had another long wait to order – I was living large and ordered the flank steak medium rare. It was so TOUGH I could not chew it. I grill flank steak quite often and know how to cut it across the grain to get a tender bite. But I just couldn’t eat it. I almost never complain about my food at a restaurant and can count on one hand without using my thumb, pinky, or middle finger the number of times I’ve sent food back. The server was helpful if not cheerful and took it back for maybe a bit more heat. Another 15 minute wait and it came back; less tough but I had to cut it into very small portions to be able to eat it. My jaws had a workout. A little after 9:00 I was done and went outside to see the river.

The Columbia River from Cascade Locks through Portland and down to the Pacific is pretty flat. As a result the ocean tides affect the river flow for miles. The ship I had photographed earlier had swung around almost 180° – probably due to the tide coming in – at least that’s my theory. While not the greatest light, the picture shows the dramatic change in its orientation.

Freight Ship has rotated on its anchor as the tide and current change

It was getting a bit dark for photography without a tripod so I headed to my room. My room was on the south end of the hotel and I had a little patio from which I could see trains to the left and the river to the right. After that and some TV I went to bed.

I woke up early – a little after 5:00 – when my brain and body started arguing.
Brain: “Hey, it’s good light! Grab your camera and get going.”
Body: “But I could sleep another hour!”
My brain won the argument and I was rewarded with some beautiful light.

First off, the morning sun was lighting the anchored ship – which had rotated back facing up river. Nice colors and lots of rust. I don’t have enough experience photographing ships to know if this was a lot of rust or normal.

Freight Ship has reoriented to the tide and current. Notice the anchor chain on the port bow.

As I walked back over to the pedestrian bridge I looked back at the Lodge – it looks quite nice. The Port of Kalama historical center is in the foreground.

McMennimans Kalama Harbor Lodge

I like the lighting here; it is my second favorite picture of the trip.

I didn’t have to wait long for a train to come by; it was slowing down and the locomotives came to a stop about half a mile to the north. This was another interesting siting. This line is owned by the BNSF, and the Union Pacific has trackage rights. As a result, with the exception of Amtrak, BNSF and UP locomotives head virtually every train. While there may be other road locomotives in the consist, the are behind the lead. Not today; this oil train was Canadian National from front to back.

In this first picture you can see the engineer keeping an eye on me. Click to blow it up for a better view.

Engineer keeping an eye on me as he slows his oil train to a stop in Kalama, WA

The locomotives were so different from what is normally seen here I had to grab a second picture for the blog. The engineer must have figured I wasn’t a threat so he gave me short “hello” blast of the horn. The bridge really shakes when the trains rumble underneath.

Oil train with all Canadian National power in Kalama, WA

This train came by a bit before 6:00. You can see it is not occupying either of the middle two main tracks. It was still stopped over five hours later when I headed home.

I headed back to the river to try my luck. Hmm, a bird on that piling. My buddy Jay later told me it was an Osprey. I wonder what it was up to. I took a few pictures and zoomed in; I was glad I was using my Sony RX10M4. Although it has a small sensor, it has a big zoom capacity. I watched it for quite a while and it was not going to leave its spot. I zoomed in on the picture to get a better view. Wowsers! He was having breakfast. Be warned this picture shows the food chain. This was my favorite picture of the trip. Click to blow it up if you dare.

Osprey with his breakfast

I then headed south of the hotel a bit to take some pictures of scenes I saw the previous night when it was too dark to shoot. At some point there was a storm that carried this large tree trunk down river. The river flows from left to right here. To me it looks like it had enough force to carry it over the pilings but not enough for the roots to clear.

Tree trunk couldn’t quite clear the pilings as the mighty Columbia pushes northwest to the Pacific

The totem poles are a feature of the hotel. There are currently three standing and a fourth that may need some work on the bottom to keep it steady – you can see it horizontal here.

Back side view of McMennimans Kalama Harbor Lodge and totem poles

I headed in for breakfast – where the service was actually good – and read the news until the USA v Spain womens’ World Cup game started. I was hoping it would finish before the mandatory check out time of 11:00 game. With extra time, the game – with a USA victory – just 3 minutes before I had to leave.

To get home, I drove up I5 to Longview then crossed the Columbia on the Lewis and Clark bridge and headed down US 30 on the Oregon side for my drive home. It was a nice trip – while the service and dinner were disappointing they didn’t spoil the trip by any means. I hope to get back up there and build up the nerve to walk across the bridge to capture pictures from the other side – there are some nice ones on Flickr.

Speaking of Flickr – a photography website – I have an account there where I share many of my pictures. I usually upload my pictures there before writing my blog post. While you don’t have the narrative that is available on the blog, there are albums which allows me to group photographs. For example I have a trains album (of course) as well as albums for various trips, wildlife, birds US National Parks, and such. This set of pictures is in an album which can be seen here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmExuioT

You can can view my complete photostream along with albums and what-not using this link: https://www.flickr.com/gp/21477960@N00/660M3W

You don’t need an account to view the pictures but you probably would need one if you want to subscribe/follow me there. There are some really great photographers on Flickr and you are sure to find something you love.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
Author: Alfred Lansing
Type: Non-Fiction
Finished: April 14, 2019
Copyright: 1959

Rating: ★★★★

Image from Amazon

Ernest Shackleton was a product of his time – the late 19th and early 20th centuries – one of those men strong-willed men who did audacious things. He formed the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to be the first to travel across the southernmost continent. He lobbied for funding, outfitted a ship, and recruited a crew for the great adventure.

Thus, while Shackleton was undeniably out of place, even inept, in a great many everyday situations, he had a talent – a genius, even 0 that he shared with only a  handful of men throughout history – genuine leadership. He was, as one of his men put it, ‘the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bart noe.'”[p 12]

They cast off from their last land in South America on December 5, 1914. As they sailed south for their jumping off point for the journey by dog sleds they became stuck in the ice. They spent that Southern Hemisphere winter at the mercy of the ice.

On May 2 [1915], their position showed a total northwest drift since the end of February of 130 miles. The Endurance was one microcosmic spec, 144 feet long and 25 feet wide, embedded in nearly one million square miles of ice that was slowly being rotated by the irresistible clockwise sweep of the winds and current of the Weddell Sea”[p 45]

And then in October as the season turned to spring and summer, their condition worsened.

When, at 6:45 P.M. on October 24, the pressure did arrive, it wasted no time. There had been pressure in the past, but nothing like this., It moved through the pack like a sluggish shock wave, making the entire surface of the ice into a chaos of churning, tumbling destruction. [Crew member] Macklin watched it briefly, then turned away in disbelief. ‘The whole sensation,’he recorded, ‘was of something colossal, of something in nature too big to grasp.”[p72]

Eventually, the crew had to abandon The Endurance which was crushed and sunk by the ice. Their efforts to move overland were rendered impossible by the uneven floes and ridges in the ice.

“Many of them, it seemed, finally grasped for the first time just how desperate things really were. More correctly, they became aware of their own inadequacy, of how utterly powerless they were.”[p 117]

As summer went on they mostly stayed in place. Eventually as southern hemisphere fall rolled around the floe they were on neared open water where they sheltered from an enormous storm the best they could. When the storm cleared, “Shackleton searched their faces for an answer to the question that troubled him most: How much more could they take?” [p 166

So, they set off one thousand miles across the Drake Passage, the stretch of water that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is the stormiest, roughest stretches of water on the planet and the crew set off to cross it in small open boats.

“… [T]hey burst from the line of [ice] pack into the open sea. The change was breathtaking. The northwest swell, which had been cushioned by the pack, now advanced up the boats in undisguised immensity

They made a  pitiable sight – three little boats, packed with the odd remnants of what had once been a proud expedition, bearing twenty-eight suffering men in one final, almost ludicrous bid for survival. But this time there was to be no turning back, and they all knew it.” [pp 167-168]

After more trials and tribulations where the teams had to be separated, Shakleton led his men to rescue. Shacleton led a small group in one boat to South Georgia where he was finally able to get help to rescue his crew – but not without further troubles.

Shackleton was an excellent leader who led the entire crew to safety. As every trouble was overcome another arrived. If this were turned into an adventure movie script, it would be dismissed as unbelievable. And yet it happened; and Shackleton’s leadership, along with the will of the men, led to the crews survival. This is a fantastic telling of an epic journey. I highly recommend it. As  a bonus there is a collection of photos of the journey that make a great supplement to the story.

Dates:May 31 – June 2, 2019

Shortly after breakfast on Friday morning we headed west then north on US Highway 101 to Port Angeles where we would park and walk aboard the Black Ball Ferry to Victoria.

Lake Quinault to Victoria, BC (Image from Google Maps)

Everyone who has traveled this way will say “Did you see Lake Crescent?!”. It is breathtakingly beautiful. A friend of ours, Grant, visited there with his family a couple of years ago and paddled around the lake in canoes. Unfortunately, there was no place to stop for a picture. We lucked out on our timing and didn’t get stopped for the road construction – though we did have slow driving for about half an hour. We arrived in Port Angeles in plenty of time to park in a long term lot, gather our stuff and walk over to the Black Ball Ferry terminal. We got some great seats around a table and a view of the Salish Sea for our 90 minute trip.

After freshening up in our rooms at the Chateau Victoria we met Kate and Don in the bar at the top of the hotel. As we had cocktails and munched on delicious Happy Hour treats we were treated to a beautiful view of Victoria Harbour.

We then walked down to the harbour to take one of the tiny taxi boats over to Fishermen’s Wharf. This isn’t like the huge tourist attraction by the same name in San Francisco. This is a small pier of floating homes, some small shops, and food carts. We didn’t need dinner, but who can say no to ice cream? We licked our cones as we walked the docks.

The next morning – Saturday – we had breakfast at the hotel then headed out for some serious site seeing. Our first trip was China Town

China Town Gate. Victoria, BC

Crates and pallets of vegetables and other delectables were being delivered with the accompanying hustle and bustle. We ducked down Dragon Alley where I saw this beautiful door.

Dragon Alley, Victoria, BC

Victoria is a great tourist town and we visited many shops.

Quirky Chandelier, Victoria BC

Along with window shopping we took in the sites. It seemed that every block featured street art of some sort.

Street Art. Victoria, BC
Shrubbery Orcas; Victoria BC

There are many tourist attractions around the harbour; one of the most popular was the sea plane tours.

Tour Sea Plane over Victoria Harbour. Victoria, BC

We had reservations at the elegant Empress Hotel for High Tea. While Carla has enjoyed High Tea with friends and our daughters-in-laws over the years, I had never had partaken and I was a bit dubious. My dubiousity (is that even a word?) was soon swatted away. It’s mostly a Prix Fixe arrangements with extra charges for fancy teas and alcohol. The menu was a fold-open wooden “book” with names and descriptions of teas on the right side and little glass covered boxes of samples on the left. We each ordered something different so we could share.

Then the food towers came out – one to be shared with two people. I was next to Kate so we shared while Carla and Don dove into the other. I didn’t realize there would be two samples of each item – I had envisioned having to wrestle Kate for the good stuff. She may be tiny, but she is scrappy! Thank goodness it didn’t come to that! It was all so delicious; lots of savory and sweet choices. We ranked our favorites and while there was some commonality, it turned out we each had separate favorites. Are you going to High Tea soon? Invite me! I’m ready. Although holding your pinky out while holding a small hot cup of tea is tougher than it seems.

After lunch we wandered around a bit. A cruise ship had come into town and the tourists were out taking advantage of the sites. I was astounded by the various transportation options for tourists. There were rickshaws pulled my muscular young men and bicyclists pulling TWO trailers of people up and down the hills. I don’t think I could enjoy that mode of transportation. As we crossed Government Street near the Parliament building I captured one of the ubiquitous horse-drawn carriages.

Horse Drawn Carriage on Government Sreet. Victoria, BC

Carla and Kate continued shopping while Don and I returned to our rooms to rest for a bit. Later, the four of us had a wonderful dinner at the Bard and Banker Pub. The four of us commented about how friendly and personable the service people are in Victoria. I was especially taken by our server’s phrase “I’ll be looking after you tonight.” It is much warmer than the standard, “I’ll be your server.”

Victoria on a Saturday night is a busy spot: tourists and locals are everywhere. After dinner we headed back down to the harbour to take in the Parliament building which is lit up at night. We stayed there for almost an hour as the sun went down. I left my trusty Sony back at the hotel but my iPhone captured the feel.

British Columbia Parliament Building. Victoria BC

We had walked sooo many steps; we turned in for the night knowing we’d have to get up a bit early to catch the ferry back to Port Angeles. After another great breakfast at the Chateau Victoria we gathered our things and walked back down to the Ferry terminal. Along the way we took in the last views of the city and harbour. In this picture of a beautiful draw bridge you can see one of the little taxi boats we used Friday night to visit Fishermen’s Wharf.

Johnson Street Bridge. Victoria, BC

We arrived at the Ferry terminal in plenty of time and scored some front row seats looking out over the bow. We slowly headed into a fog bank and as we made our way through commercial ships swam into view then faded away as we passed them. Because of the fog, our captain blew the low and loud horn every three minutes. We emerged from the fog as Port Angeles came into view. We got to our cars and said goodbye. Kate and Don headed to Seattle to visit Don’s brother and we headed home. We had such a wonderful time with them; I’m looking forward to our next adventure.

Carla and I stopped in Sequim (pronounced “squim”) for lunch. It looks to be a nice little town. If I’m not mistaken, this area doesn’t get as much rain as you’d expect because they are in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains. The moisture headed inland from the ocean rises up the west slopes of the mountain range mostly exhausting the rain.

We returned home in the early evening and are resting up for our next adventure.

Date: May 30, 2019

We woke up to another beautiful, sunny day; we had homemade granola with yogurt and fruit for breakfast and were soon ready for our adventure. Carla and Linda found a tour of the rain forest and old homesteads around Lake Quinault. The small bus picked us up – along with about 10 other people – in front of the lodge. The bus was crowded. Each row sat three people but our back row had all five of our party crammed together. We switched places occasionally and took turns leaning forward to allow others to get shoulder room.

Rain Forest Tour Route

Our first stop was the largest Sitka Spruce Tree at the southern shore Lake Quinault. These type of distinctions are interesting. Up until a 2008 winter storm knocked it down, the world’s tallest Sitka Spruce was just off US Highway 26 near the Oregon Coast. When I first read the sign about the Lake Quinault tree I wondered if the state of Washington – or whomever gives out these awards – put this up after the Oregon tree went down. But then I realized there are two distinct measurements. This tree isn’t as tall as the Oregon tree was, but with a circumference of just under 59 feet it is the widest – or largest. At any rate, this tree is big. It took 13 campers plus a camp counselor and a belt to stretch around it.

World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. Quinault, Washington

As the bus moved down the road, our guide told stories about Sasquatch, or Big Foot, the cousin of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman in the Himalayas. I was disappointed we didn’t see Sasquatch, but we did see the lesser known “Mossquatch”. Please pardon the reflection in the glass; we had to stay in the bus to get pictures because we were too scared to go out! 🙂

Mossquatch – South Shore RD Quinault, Washington

As we discovered the day before, rain forest means waterfalls. In this case Merriman Falls next to the South Shore Trail.

Merriman Falls along South Shore Trail; Lake Quinault, Washington

After a few stops to see some of the sites we crossed the river and headed back southwest on the North Shore Trail where we stopped at the Kestner Homestead – one of the original homesteads from the 19th century. There was plenty to see; starting with this big old tree.

Near Kestner Homestead. N Shore Road Lake Quinault, Washington

As we walked down the trail I was taken by the beauty of this old ranch. This location provided my favorite pictures of the trip.

Kestner Homestead, Lake Quinault

Out back sits an old rusting truck.

Kestner Homestead, Lake Quinault

And the old fenced pasture is a beautiful spot on a beautiful day.

Kestner Homestead, Lake Quinault

We climbed back aboard our little bus and soon reached our next to last stop at the ranger station. The station is closed due to budget cutbacks – don’t get me started – but the short hike was nice. I saw another berry and captured another closeup.

Near North Shore Road Lake Quinault, Washington

Before long we returned to the Lodge. We had a lunch of chips and sandwiches at the Mercantile store across the street from the lodge. Carla, Linda, and Kate went for a short hike; I rested and sat out on the Adirondack chairs on that beautiful lawn looking down at the lake. For dinner we headed a couple of miles down the road to a restaurant that featured salmon and trout. Delicious.

The next morning we had a 2+ hour drive up to Port Angeles to catch the noon ferry to British Columbia. After another quick breakfast in our room four of us hit the road north. Unfortunately for us Linda had to return home so be bid her a fond adieu; she is a great traveling companion.

More on that in the next post!

Trip date: May 29, 2019

Last Fall we visited Carla’s high school friends Kate, Don, Marie, and Brian. Both couples have places on the road to Yosemite and we got to stay with Kate and Don meaning we had a short trip to the National Park every day. This year we invited them up to the Northwest so we could show them around. Luckily, Kate and Don took us up on the offer. Carla planned a trip up to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. We spent a couple of nights in the Olympic Rain Forest and then went up to Victoria, British Columbia.

Overview of our late Spring trip with Kate and Don.

I admit to being anxious about the weather; the Olympic Rain Forest receives about 12 feet of rain per year on average. But we were very lucky: the weather report was for blue skies. We left early-ish on Wednesday, May 29 and got to the Lake Quinault Lodge in time for a hike.

The Lodge itself is spectacular with two big wings overlooking a large lawn and Lake Quinault.

Lake Quinault Lodge

We spent the afternoon hiking on the shoreline trail.

Boat dock at Lake Quinault Lodge

Our home town of Portland is a very green place. But this rain forest puts it to shame. Along the way I captured some pictures of vegetation along the trail.

Flowers on Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail

Shooting pictures of flowers without a tripod is tricky at best. I thought I had focused on the berry here, but obviously zeroed in on the leaf behind the berry.

Flowers on Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail
Flowers on Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail

Twelve feet of water a year means lots of water and we passed quite a few waterfalls.

Waterfall along Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail
Waterfall along Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail
Waterfall along Lake Quinault Shoreline Trail

Every so often along the trail there is a break in the vegetation allowing a view of the lake.

Lake Quinault From Shoreline Trail

After cleaning up a bit and cocktail hour in our rooms we went to dinner at the Lodge. We sat at a table that FDR (president in the late 1930’s and first half of the 1940’s) sat it on a trip out here. The lodge was built during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration.

Being so far north means the sun is up early and down late. Since the weather was marvelous we sat on deck chairs on the lawn and gazed at the lake and the mountains.

Lake Quinault from the Lodge lawn

By 10:00 it was getting chilly and dark, so we headed back to our rooms. On the way I grabbed a quick picture of the lodge at night.

Lake Quinault Lodge

Date: May 28, 2019

Our friends Kate and Don came up from California for a visit. The next day we headed out for a multi-date adventure – but more on that in future posts.

The weather was just perfect so we grilled some brats and ate on the deck. Earlier in the day as I was reading the paper I thought I saw something scoot by on the deck; and later, I saw some muddy foot prints on the deck – they didn’t look like cat tracks.

As we sat around the table chatting and swapping lies I saw some movement high up in one of the trees on the south end of the deck. I looked closer – “Hey, there’s a raccoon!” After staring at it for a bit I dashed in the house to grab my Sony RX10M4 with the big zoom lens.

Foraging Raccoon

S/He saw me and was a bit suspicious of my intent.

S/he spotted the spotter

So cute but so vicious. Check out those teeth.

Nasty teeth

Not the best picture, but it looks like he was eating the cherries on the tree.

Grabbing a cherry from the buffet

He kept his eyes on us for quite a while.

Watchfull raccoon.

Before long he had other concerns than us. A crow had spotted him and sounded the alarm. At least a dozen other crows joined in all cawing to beat the band. Some circled the tree, some sat on branches on the neighboring tree and some on branches just above him. It was amazing to see the crows work together like this.

The raccoon’s early dinner was over, he reluctantly crawled down a ways.

I’m keeping an eye out for signs of a nearby nest. Back in our last house we had a family under out deck and we had to have them humanely trapped and moved.