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

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

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

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

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

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

Wildflowers in the heyday of Spring

Wildflowers (or onions?) in the heyday of Spring

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

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

Wild roses blooming

Wild roses blooming

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

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

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

Stay at The Antlers!

Stay at The Antlers! It’s absolutely modern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friend J hands the sword off to D

My friend J hands the sword off to D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tent in the grass

Tent in the grass

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

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

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

Sun sets over the Snake

Sun sets over the Snake

DSC_0050

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

~ Kev Marcus.

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

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

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

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

Stage before Black Violin's show

Stage before Black Violin’s show

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

snacks

snacks

Bitter Bitch

Bitter Bitch

dessert

dessert

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

my server

my server

chandelier

chandelier

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

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

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

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

These cars are for the guests

These cars are for the guests

Love this tub!

Love this tub!

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Lobby area on the first floor

Lobby area on the first floor

Lounge area second floor

Lounge area second floor

Conference room

Conference room

West side of the building

West side of the building

Car below the bridge

Car below the bridge

Boat out front

Boat out front

History on the walls

History on the walls

Early days of the cannery

Early days of the cannery

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

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

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

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

The Navajo getting an early start.

The Soujourn getting an early start.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

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

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

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Close up of the tug

Close up of the tug Navajo.

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

Captain George Flavel House

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

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

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

The eye-catching Astoria Column.

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

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

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

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

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

A view of the city of Astoria from the column.

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

Youngs Bay

Youngs Bay and Warrenton, Oregon across the bridge.

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

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

Me, squinting in the sun.

Me, squinting in the sun.

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado: Kumoricon 2015

A trio of unnatural blondes

A trio of unnatural blondes

Isn't she perfect?

Isn’t she perfect? Like a porcelain statue.

Imagine the time it took to make this one.

Imagine the time it took to make this one.

The rain did not dampen spirits.

The rain did not dampen spirits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the best Garnet cosplay there ever was.

This is the best Garnet cosplay there ever was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This cosplayer's hat is a nest.

This cosplayer’s hat is a nest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Gravity Falls

From Gravity Falls

Playing in the waterfall

Playing in the waterfall

Check out her hooves!!

Check out her hooves!!

Cinderella and the Prince

Cinderella and the Prince

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobsleds heading up Ice Mountain

Bobsleds heading up Ice Mountain

My view from inside a bobsled

My view from inside a bobsled

The Haunted House is seriously scary!

The Haunted House is seriously scary!

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

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

rats and cobwebs in the Haunted House

rats and cobwebs in the Haunted House

Found inside a coffin in the Haunted House

Found inside a coffin in the Haunted House

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

The curious musical water show.

The curious musical water show.

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

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

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

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

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

Most walls have something posted to make you laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

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

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

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

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

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

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

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

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

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

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

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

These are photos from 2013:

DSC_1262

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Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

DSC_1278 DSC_1261

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

It’s that time of year again when Tara heads into Vancouver with thousands of other anime fans in their cosplays. They attend panels, shop for wares, mingle, play games, and delight onlookers.

Kumoricon has stretched to 4 days this year, up from the usual 3. One more day to exhaust all the young people before school starts. It’s one of the few activities we know of that opens up at 8:00 am. Like the others, it stays open till the wee hours of morning. How those kids keep going for so long is a mystery to me, but then… I’m no longer as young as I used to be.

posing for photos

posing for photos

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

lethal nail

lethal nail

Tara has two cosplays (costume+play) this year, but most years, and most people, come as a new character each day. I recognize some of the people this year from previous years. When a cosplay is particularly good, it’s saved and used again. I was able to call out to characters by name this year, asking for photos, which means I’m slowly learning this crowd. I don’t buy a pass to get in, but lurk around the outside (with many other photographers, I must note), and snap snap snap.

There is a game that seems to never stop running at one place in Esther Short park, beside the Hilton. Cosplayers stand in a circle, with a few in the center. Those in the center each toss an empty water bottle¬†into the air and wait for it to land. Whomever the¬†bottle points to gets a hug, and the cosplayers trade places so the hugged one gets to toss a bottle next. While this is going on, people take turns shouting, “Guess what?” the crowd answers “What?” And it’s repeated. “Guess what?” “What?” and the person who began it hollers something silly and fun, intended to delight them, such as “Kumoricon loves you!”

I had been standing on the fringes snapping photos. While looking through the viewfinder, I hadn’t noticed that the circle had expanded to include me. I was getting great shots of a cosplayer headed directly for me, and before I knew it, I got hugged by her! “How does it work?” I asked, since at that time I didn’t know. Once she explained, I slung my camera over my shoulder to head for a bottle in the center. After I had dispensed the obligatory hug, I took care to stand well back after that, ha ha.

There is one more day left of Kumoricon, but I’m impatient to show these photos to you.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Countries of Hetalia

Countries of Hetalia

Is that natural haircolour?

Is that natural haircolour?

troll

troll

pink & ruffles

pink & ruffles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A whole gang of Pokemon

A whole gang of Pokemon

Tara and I stand with Mickey and Walt, in front of the iconic Disney castle.

Tara and I stand with Mickey and Walt, in front of the iconic Disney castle.

I am doing a little housecleaning today, and skimmed through my Disney photos to see what I have not showed you yet. There are a few more images I wanted to share. I was following a theme before, grouping all my photos under one topic. For this one, I just want to make sure I hit what’s left. Things that caught my eye during my very first trip to Disneyland, that I haven’t showed you already.

If you missed the earlier photos, check out the side panel to the left of your screen, and go down to where it says “I already said,” and click the arrow next to “select month.” Choose April 2014 from the drop down menu and scroll down. There are lots of photos. But of course I still have more!

I love shots from airplanes. This one shows the California coastline as we headed south to begin our journey.

I love shots from airplanes. This one shows the California coastline as we headed south to begin our journey.

If you hold still at any moment, and look around, you will see bubbles floating through the scene. It's magical.

If you hold still at any moment in the park, and look around, you will see bubbles floating through the scene. It’s magical.

A peaceful and traditional ride through the park could be had with a horse and buggy.

A peaceful and traditional ride through the park could be had with a horse and buggy.

Another traditional trip around the park is on the train, with an underground section revealing scenes of the Grand Canyon and taking riders back through time with animated dinosaurs.

Another traditional trip around the park is on the train, with an underground section revealing scenes of the Grand Canyon and taking riders back through time with animated dinosaurs.

A rare moment of sunshine during our trip lit up the Matterhorn while we were standing in line for Space Mountain.

A rare moment of sunshine during our trip lit up the Matterhorn while we were standing in line for Space Mountain.

Unexpected street shows would pop up when you least expected it. Performers in period costumes with actual singing and dancing talent would entertain anyone standing nearby.

Unexpected street shows would pop up anywhere. Performers in period costumes with actual singing and dancing talent would entertain anyone standing nearby.

I liked the way this photo turned out, of a lantern against the sky.

I liked the way this photo turned out, of a lantern against the sky.

Look at this big beautiful paddle wheel riverboat. Hard to believe this scene is in an amusement park.

Look at this big beautiful paddle wheel riverboat. Hard to believe this scene is in an amusement park.

Daring adventurers get ready for a giant drop on Splash Mountain.

Daring adventurers get ready for a giant drop on Splash Mountain.

This one was pretty scary, when the elevator went crazy and just ...DROPPED.

This one was pretty scary, when the elevator went crazy and just …DROPPED.

The inside of the Tower of Terror is really convincing and remarkable. I have a dozen photos of the dusty abandoned hotel with layers of cobwebs and dust.

Inside of the Tower of Terror is convincing and remarkable. I have a dozen photos of the dusty abandoned hotel lobby with layers of cobwebs and dust.

Big Thunder Mountain railroad has been reopened and is really exciting, including an accidental TNT explosion as part of the ride!

Big Thunder Mountain railroad has been reopened and is really exciting, including an accidental TNT explosion as part of the ride!

The place is a whole new level of wonderful at night.

The place is a whole new level of wonderful at night.

Standing in line was frequently entertaining because the lines ran through spectacular otherworldly scenes.

Standing in line was frequently entertaining because the lines ran through spectacular otherworldly scenes.

We were entertained by this droid who chattered and made fun of us.

We were entertained by this droid who chattered and made fun of us while he worked.

At the front of every line is a sign telling you how long to expect to stand in line. I wondered how they kept track of that till one of us was handed this tag which we were to present to an attendant once we completed the line.

At the front of every line is a sign telling you how long to expect to stand in line. I wondered how they kept track of that till one of us was handed this tag.

Lines. We stood in so many lines. The lines wrapped around and up and down stairs, in and out of buildings.

Lines. We stood in so many lines. The lines wrapped around and up and down stairs, in and out of buildings.

Here's the line inside the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, wrapping through what looks like an authentic basement boiler room.

Here’s the line inside the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, wrapping through what looks like an authentic basement boiler room.

Another shot I like, as the rollercoaster flashes overhead above Toy Story Midway Mania!

Another shot I like, as the rollercoaster flashes overhead above Toy Story Midway Mania!

I just loved the Tiki Room. It was completely throwback and such silly fun.

I just loved the Tiki Room. It was completely throwback and such silly fun.

Strollers. If you've ever been there, you know what I'm talking about.

Strollers. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about.

Downtown Disney was a completely fun and unexpected outdoor mall. Entertaining and Disney-themed.

Downtown Disney was a fun outdoor mall. Entertaining and Disney-themed.

Skippers of the Jungle Cruise

Skippers of the Jungle Cruise

Taylor, our most favouritest skipper of them all. We loved her so much we asked for an autograph!

Taylor, our most favouritest skipper of them all. We loved her so much we asked for an autograph!

Oh my, my. I realized when the kids began shooting at this booth that I had failed my kid and had not passed on a critical Idaho skill! I had to teach her how to hold a rifle, and she's 16 years old. I'm so embarrassed. This is after some coaching, but still... I need to get this kid to a range.

Oh my, my. I realized when the kids began shooting at this booth that I had failed to pass¬†on a critical Idaho skill! She’s 16 years old and I had to teach her how to hold a rifle. I’m so embarrassed. This photo is after some coaching.

 

Um...ok. Is it safe to go inside?

Um…ok. Is it safe to go inside?

View of the park from our Hilton room. You can see the backdrop to Cars Land, and the Tower of Terror.

View of the park from our Hilton room. You can see the backdrop to Cars Land, and the Tower of Terror. There’s the Matterhorn, too, if you look carefully.

Alright, that’s about enough. I could go on but I want to discard this image folder from my desktop and finish the tidying. I hope it’s been fun to visit Disney one last time with me.

Update: Maybe not the very last time. My Tara is begging already for another Disney trip as her high school graduation gift next year. (She’s graduating in a year, can you believe it?!) So by the time the memories have faded, we may head south again and make some more.

 

 

Painting on glaze at a shop in Montavilla

This is me, painting on glaze at a shop in Montavilla

Sunday morning was a bad morning for me. Emotional, sad, blech. The kind of thing that takes the wind out of you. But I am blessed with a caring, perceptive, and loving daughter.

“Let’s go do pottery,” she said, seeing how sad I was.

There’s a great little shop within walking distance of the house, called Pottery Fun, that’s silly and simple and easy, and yes, fun. We walked into the brightly lit and colorful shop and were greeted instantly by a super friendly woman who put us at ease and told us how it worked. Tara had been there before a couple of times, but it was my first time.

Our table was filled with tools to use

Our table was filled with tools to use

Piece of cake. You pick a fired piece off a shelf. Each piece has the price on it. For that price, you can use any of their paints, stamps, and glazes, and you can take as long as you like to build your masterpiece. The firing is also included. There was a wall of glazes and we played with the coloured tiles for awhile, holding them together and choosing which combinations would look best. We chose two spots at a table near the windows, and were bathed with November sun the whole time we sat there. That was the first thing to lift my mood.

Tara's honeycomb mug with bees

Tara’s honeycomb mug with bees

I wanted something simple, and was thinking flower pot. Tara saw the bowl I chose and suggested fruit bowl instead. It may look better in my kitchen than full of dirt; we will just see. Tara has been treating herself to cold weather luxuries in the form of teas, cocoas, and butter beer (She taught herself to make it after discovering it’s a favourite drink at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)(no, there’s no beer in it). To further luxuriate, she wanted a new mug.

She had a theme in mind for the mug too, and began trying to sketch out a honeycomb design, but faltered. The helpful ladies behind the counter looked up a honeycomb image and printed it out for her to use. Great service! She then painted on some bees and decorated some flowers for the staff to attach to the side.

The shape of my awesome bowl made me think a simple design would be best, so I didn’t crowd out the fabulous ridges with too much busy-ness. I chose a dark purple and a wine red, and blended them half and half, then used one of their handy applicators to swirl on some dark yellow spirals (the colour was “Pooh Bear”) all over it.

Tara used the same applicators to draw her design as well. It’s so nice not to have to buy all the tools, and just grab a brush, or sponge, or towel, or pencil that is available at the table.

It’s a perfect cheer-me-up shop. The atmosphere was peaceful and happy. There were two birthday parties in the back room while we were there. The second party included several Russian families so we heard their fascinating language filtering through the sounds of children laughing. At a table near us, dads and their kids were glazing menorahs. I was warmed by the sunshine on my shoulders and feeling good being creative.

My most favourite companion in the whole world sat right across from me.

Miss T shows me her honeycomb mug

Miss T shows me her honeycomb mug. (And yes, her T-shirt says “No.” and her hoodie says “Dork” so together they spell DONORK)

We will go pick them up tomorrow and see how the pieces turned out. I’m so eager to see them!

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