Thursday, November 30, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 10

Back in Portland

So it's the week of October 9 and I'm back in Portland at Jack Heiter's house waiting for a meeting with the folks at Laika. The weather is perfect and I'm out exploring the area. This is a pumpkin patch in Gresham, a town a couple of miles east of downtown Portland. I like the fact that if you drive about ten minutes out of downtown Portland, you're either in a pumpkin patch, a pasture, a farm or the woods. Click on the picture to make it screen sized.

This is Willamette River Park near Lake Oswego.

This is Willamette Falls. I remember the town of Willamette Falls on maps. I don't know why they'd want to change the name of the town to Oregon City, but they did. Not sure what the factory is all about, but it's old, has a lot of character and makes a good picture.

A close up of the factory.

A little south of West Linn is the small town of Canby, which has its very own six-car ferry boat that crosses the Willamette River. It's pretty much a short cut for local residents and it costs $1. The crossing takes about 5 minutes, maybe.

Willamette Park near the town of Lake Oswego.

A few days later I found myself back in Gresham where I found this wonderful farmer's market where they had huge wooden tubs and boxes filled with all sorts of apples and squash.

Another pumpkin patch at another location in Gresham.

Somewhere in the hills to the west of downtown Portland where they're building big, scenery-obliterating houses near this ominous sign which states: DEAD END STREET TO BE CONTINUED WITH FUTURE DEVELOPMENT. I love the sentiment.

I nice foggy hillside at the same location, minus the Dead End sign. I hope the hillside wins.

Next: From my balcony and around the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 9

Route 90 to Seattle

Don't forget to click on the image to make it full-screen. Click the "Go Back" arrow to return to normal.

This lake is about five miles off the I-90 at the end of a dirt road. I'm just sitting there enjoying the view and the peace and quiet when my cell phone rings. By the way, I got this cell phone about two days before I left on this trip just in case I wound up in a ditch, had to call ahead to alert someone I was arriving, or in case my brother wanted to use Skype to call me from Israel. The reception was lousy because I was tucked way down inside a valley surrounded by mountains half-way around the planet. So I asked him to call me back in about 15 minutes when I got back to the top of the road and in the clear.

So I'm sitting there admiring the foliage, waiting for him to call me back, when mother nature calls instead. When I'm at home, my brother knows exactly when to call and, sure enough, he knew this time, too.

Just look at the colors in this shot. Aren't they terrific? The purplish clouds, the red foliage, the greens, the shadow tones, the steel-blue mountains, the white bark... Wow!

Nice, stormy valley in about the same location.

Another shot, same area.

About ten miles out of Seattle on the I-90 west.

Somewhere along some road in Washington, maybe south of Seattle on my way to Portland again.

Next: My first taste of Portland, exploring the Portland suburbs.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 8

From Grand Coulee Dam south toward Yakima and west to Cle Elum.

As I learn more and more about the idiosyncrasies of both this Blog and this Blogger I've discovered three important things this week:

1) If you double click on any of the images posted on this Blog, they'll instantly expand to fill the screen. Great for seeing beauty shots! Click on the return (or Go Back) arrow to go back to the original size.

2) If reference links are too long and run beyond the left-right boundary lines of the template I'm using, the My Profile info will move to the very bottom of the page where Part 1 of this series began. Not that there's anything in it, but I'd have preferred seeing at the top of the page.

3) If I put two pictures side by side to make them look like a pan shot, and if those pictures go beyond the left-right boundary line of the template I'm using, that will also shove the My Profile info to the bottom of the page.

That being said, let's move on. Driving south from Grand Coulee Dam -

This is along Route 155 just south of Electric City and the beginnings of Banks Lake. I was surprised by the landscape here, and by the landscape I saw the next two days. Somewhere between the Grand Canyon and Mars, with trees and dramatic rock formations popping up between miles and miles of naked nothingness

This is, obviously, Banks Lake looking north towards Grand Coulee Dam somewhere over the horizon, still on Route 155 heading south. I just didn't expect this kind of terrain in Washington.

This is the time of day I'd start looking for a motel, but this was an uncomfortably empty and isolated road somewhere between Coulee City (where the 155 south meets the 2 west) and Waterville. Probably where the 172 meets the 2 because I'm parked on a side road for this shot, and that's the only side road on the map. That's about a 46 mile stretch of road with NOTHING on it except maybe an abandoned old farm structure from the wagon train days. No civilization of any kind, not even cows or coyotes. Not even birds. Creepy. Those lights in the distance are from an approaching car. The approaching car. I think I passed one more on my way to Waterville where I (thankfully) found a gas station.

This is from the same spot but a little to the right. I don't want to mess around with trying to create something that looks like a pan, so I'll just leave this the way it is. Those mountains on the distant horizon are the Cascades, about 80 miles away, far as I can determine.

Back on the main road again, headed for beautiful downtown Waterville on the ridiculously distant horizon, I hope. Getting sleepy, hungry and watching the gas needle. Not entirely my kinda road but at least I didn't have some Hummer on my tail.

Getting closer to Waterville, now only about ten miles away. Those mountains are now only about 60 miles away. Sorry to say, when I got to Waterville, I didn't take a shot of the town. But it consisted of a gas station with snack foods and a toilet. I didn't see a house anywhere, so I suspect the people who worked in the gas station also lived at the gas station. Certainly no motels. The nearest motel was in Wenatchee, another 15 miles down the road.

When I got there, every room in the entire town was booked because of an annual big deal air show in enthuse. Turns out, the first person to fly non-stop across the Pacific from Japan to the US landed in enthuse, and this was the 75th anniversary. The newspapers had the whole story, and it's a hell of a story. Here's an excerpt from the article I'm linking you to:

"They took off from Japan on October 4, 1931, and over the Pacific dropped the landing gear into the ocean. However, two of the gears struts stuck on, making a safe belly-landing impossible. Pangborn proceeded to crawl out on the wing to loosen the struts. The airplane was flying at 14,000 feet above the Pacific at 100 miles an hour in freezing weather. Out on the wing, Pangborn loosened the struts, dropped them into the ocean, and crawled back into the aircraft."

The whole article is riveting. Read more about it here:

The reason they landed in enthuse is because weather prevented them from landing at any of the preferred landing fields west of enthuse. They finally chose enthuse because one of the guys' mother lived there.

So between the big air show and the 75th anniversary of this event, I couldn't find a room for any amount of money. Needless to say, I had to move on south to the 28 to the 281 to the 90 west to Ellensburg to the 82 south to Yakima.

It was a real long #%$@*& day.

This must be the next day because the sun's out. Probably along route 821 north, parallel to the 82 as I head toward I-90 west to Seattle. I'm always amazed to find a perfectly good barn out the middle of nowhere surrounded by pristine farmland and magnificent trees with piles of crap consisting of trucks, cars, school buses, old tractors, threshers, washing machines, tires... you name it, piled there as if this guy was doing something good for the environment, or waiting for some war so he can cash in on the scrap metal drive.

Somewhere along route 821. That's about all I can tell you.

A really nice looking bakery in Cle Elum off the I-90 west. It was closed, so I went to a nearby junk/collector's store and found a couple of old games. Anybody remember Skunk?

Next: On to Seattle again, then back to Portland

Friday, November 24, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 7

Grand Coulee Dam

The Great Depression began with a catastrophic collapse of stock-market prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929. By 1932 US manufacturing output had fallen to 54 percent of its 1929 level and unemployment had risen to between 12 and 15 million workers, or 25-30 percent of the work force. Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a number of major changes in the structure of the American economy, using increased government regulation and massive public-works projects to promote a recovery. As a result, construction on The Grand Coulee Dam began in 1933. My grandfather rode the rails from St. John, New Brunswick, Canada to the US border in Washington, sneaked across the border and stayed briefly in Seattle before heading for Grand Coulee where he found a job as a cook. Several letters and photographs I have in my files show him standing in front of a cook's tent and on a boat with about a dozen other guys looking like they'd just came back from a day of fishing. I don't know too many people who had relatives that worked on the Grand Coulee Dam, so it was interesting to feel as if I was a part of something so big, even though it was a very indirect connection via my grandfather. I was anxious to visit the dam and step back into history. Here are a couple of good links:

The town of Grand Coulee. I don't think I'd be too comfortable living there.

Another shot of the dam prior to taking the tour. See that tubular, vertical shape running down the face of the sunlit section of the dam in the background? That's the "elevator" that takes tourists down inside. It's sort of like one of those rides at Disneyland that holds 30 people, only this is real slow.

The view from inside the "elevator" as we move down inside the dam.

From the bottom of the elevator ride looking up at where we came from.

Off hand I don't know how many turbines there are in the dam, but here's four of them, covered by some blue lid for some reason.

It's difficult to get any sense of scale and this shot of one of the turbines doesn't help. Our tour guide was one of the technical engineers responsible for monitoring the spinning turbine's "wobble" with tolerances in the thousandths of an inch category. This guy was an encyclopedia of information, history and statistics on the dam. If I had tape recorded what he told us, the transcription would probably be about fifty pages of mind-boggling information. And I don't mean just useless trivia. One thing that intrigued me was his reference to Nikola Tesla and the fact that some of Tesla's inventions, theories and discoveries in the field of electricity were proven by the success of the Grand Coulee Dam. He suggested that construction of the dam was an experiment to see if Tesla's theories worked. I guess Tesla was right. For more on Nikola Tesla, try this fascinating link:

I was also fascinated that engineers and construction experts not only had to build a dam, but they had to invent things, design things, and manufacture things to make it all work. By that, I mean all the little parts for all the machinery and equipment that go into the construction of a dam, including switches, electrical wiring, windows, doors, levers, nuts and bolts, internal rooms and connecting hallways, more cement than I can imagine, pipes, valves, guages, meters, and then the turbines themselves with tolerances that are impossible to fathom, especially on something so massive. And getting it all there and housing and feeding and moving all the workers, it's all stuff I never thought about, but when you see it, and it all works, it's impressive.

The tour guide told us that everyone who worked on the dam had to be an experienced construction worker and a citizen of the United States. But due to the Depression lots of those workers, desperate for jobs and with no construction experience, falsified their applications and listed their names as "Smith."

Somewhere out there, 73 years ago, my grandfather fished and cooked and played a small part in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. Thanks, Gramps.

Next: South toward Coulee City, Wenatchee and Yakima.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 6

Route 20 out of Burlington East to Twisp is a "Designated Scenic Byway" and that's the understatement of the decade. For me, this is the most spectacular road I've ever been on in the United States. It's about a 135 mile drive and it took me an entire long day of driving to do it, and I was zipping along at 35 mph most of the time. I just kept stopping about every half-mile to take another picture. I highly recommend October for traveling. The roads are all yours and if you want to stop somewhere along the way to grab a spectacular shot, you can probably just stop on the road without much worry about another car coming along behind you for awhile.

I didn't get too far out of Burlington when I felt compelled to stop and grab this shot of the scenery ahead, not knowing what was yet to come.

This was a herd of at least fifty elk grazing in a meadow about 300 yards from the road. Quite a few people pulled over to watch and some of them were just itching to figure out a way to get closer so they could shoot them. I don't know if it was elk hunting season or not but I think this land was part of a preserve.

Is there any doubt that we have entered the town of Concrete?

I'm not a fisherman, but if I were, I'd want to be this fisherman. Even if there's no hook or bait or lure, what a great excuse to stand out in the middle of nowhere and enjoy the scenery.

My kinda road.

After all, it is a rain forest.

Way too pretty to pass by without taking a shot.

Another shot along the road. Every time I went around a bend, there was another shot. The mountains in the background in this shot looked very cold and, as it turned out, I wound up going there. And it was cold.

From a cold viewing area, looking down at Diablo Dam and Ross Lake, about 15 miles south of the Canadian border.

Typical open highway along Route 20 in the Northern Cascades.

Further along the same highway, suddenly there was a lake, too.

Further and higher, this mountain looked like a volcanic cauliflower ready to pop.

You'll have to imagine these two pictures combined to form a panorama. Very high up, very cold and very windy. In the ten minutes I was here only one car went by. The locals don't live up here and the tourists all went home three weeks ago.

Cold peaks, waning sun, creepy moment.

Many of the pictures I took happened to be taken in late afternoon or in some situation where dramatic lighting was evident as I passed by. This was one of those situations. I passed this little meadow and lake, and it took some effort to turn around and find a place to park off the road, find a place to stand without falling into the mud and get the shot before the sunlight went away completely.

Same meadow, same pond, slighlty different angle for a fantastic image if I could combine them into a pan shot. Let's try it...

Not perfect, but the best that be can done with the limitations of the template.

And sure enough, if the sun hadn't been setting and the light fading, this might not have been such a stunning scene. I caught this out of the corner of my eye, stopped the car, backed up, grabbed the shot and drove on.

The same spot, panned slightly to the left. Another one of those potential panoramic shots that can't be combined in this template. But here's a approximation, sorta...

Next: Grand Coulee and Coulee Dam