Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010


4281 -4488 (14674 - 14881)

Homebound today; last day of Ted's Excellent Adventure. And it was on the infamous "Slog" -- I-5 between Portland and Seattle. But even on the Slog there were blog-worthy sights to share.

Four towering memorials can be seen from I-5 near Toledo, WA. They are the Gospodor Monuments, Dominic Gospodor's one-man show. Built in 2002, they are monuments commemorating Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, Native Americans, and Holocaust victims, with statues or symbols atop 100-foot-plus steel-pipe towers. Apparently Gospodor was considering additional monuments to polio vaccine inventor Jonas Salk, African Americans, Susan B. Anthony, William Seward (purchaser of Alaska), and the 17,000 people killed annually by drunk drivers. The site draws mixed reviews. Gotta agree. Does anyone driving past really know what they symbolize?

I just had to see one last "World's Biggest..." In Winlock, Washington, I posed with the World's Largest Egg, outside the Washington State Egg and Poultry Co-Op.

And then the final push. I had finished my supply of audiobooks (really enjoyed the children's books A Series of Unfortunate Events, read by Tim Curry; they are not any more for children than Harry Potter). So this last leg I popped in a few CDs. Totally unplanned, they each took on meaning as I approached Seattle.

First was a compilation of songs by The Oak Ridge Boys that I picked up at a Cracker Barrel. Sidenote: Cracker Barrel Restaurants are creepy in that they are all identical. I stopped with some frequency at them to rent or return audiobooks; everything was always arranged the same, and the rest room was always in the same spot and decorated the same. Not to mention they are TaT-o-ramas.

I am not a big country music guy, though I really like some Oak Ridge Boys songs that I associate with different events in my life (I especially like Elvira). There is one song with special meaning: Y'all Come Back Saloon. My family moved from Louisville to Tyler, Texas in the summer of 1977, and on the trip we seemed to hear this song over and over on the radio. It is engrained in our memories. Consequently, this CD took me on a journey of past memories.

Next up was a compilation of songs by Nate Waggoner. Nate is the son of my friend Doug Waggoner, and an aspiring folk singer. I visted with them in Las Vegas. I was listening to new songs I had not heard before. Consequently, they took me on a journey of future possibilities.

Finally, as I approached Seattle, I had on John Tesh's Live at Red Rocks. This was the CD I had on as I left Seattle way back in August. I find his New Age music magestic and uplifting. Consequently, this CD took me on a journey of inspiration and motivation.

So it sounds kind of Christmas Carol-ly, but it rang true. Ted's Excellent Adventure was a journey of past memories, a journey of future possibilities, and a journey of inspiration and motivation.

I am glad I could share it with you.

After almost 15,000 miles, Ted's Excellent Adventure came to a close with welcoming kisses from my wife and puppies.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Portland Again

3982 - 4281 (14377 - 14674)

The drive on I-5 through Oregon was not the most exciting leg of my journey. But I found a couple of oddities to spice it up.

First stop was to see the Grants Pass Caveman. Inspired by a cave system near Grants Pass, a group of local businessmen formed an Elks-like club named the Cavemen. After a secret subterranean ceremony in 1922, for decades afterwards this group would represent their city in countless public gatherings, dressed in furs and bearing clubs, performing such uncivilized acts as capturing female crowd members and politicians and putting them in their cages. In 1971 this 17-foot fiberglass statue of a caveman was erected to honor the group. Apparently even the high school mascot is a caveman. However, I am guessing the Caveman is a bit of a forgotten soul now, as I found him barely visible behind trees on a small square of grass among fast food outlets.

Stopped at the Seven Feathers Casino, again stimulating the local economy. Glen Campbell was to perform there a few days after his Eureka concert. "I've been walking these streets so long, singing the same old songs..."

Heading north, I stopped in Sutherlin, Oregon at Oregon Gifts, formerly Magic Mushroom Lamp Company. This shop is definitely unique, yet quite fitting for the area. Afterall, Oregon is "hippieland." You absolutely cannot miss seeing this place from I-5, with two huge mushrooms and a serpent of some sort on the roof. Inside, it reminded me of a head shop -- not that I would know a head shop -- incense, burners, lamps, tapestries, beads, glass pipes, crystals... Hippie TaT.

I reached my niece Kate's house outside Portland in the late afternoon. Last visit I only saw the outside of the house as she and her fiance had just closed and not yet moved in. Great to see her and Andrew settling in. They will be picking up their new family addition, Lola the Lab, on the weekend. I would have liked that puppy fix, but tomorrow I will get mine from MY puppies!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

3815 - 3982 (14210 - 14377)

Today was a return to civilization, as I left the wilds of the redwood forest and the coast of California, crossed into Oregon, and saw two plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

I really enjoyed my night in Crescent City, California. I stayed in a Hampton Inn right on the ocean. Despite being early March, I slept comfortably with my deck door ajar, with the crash of the waves and the smell of salt air to carry me to dreamland. Here is the view from my room.

A very short drive today, with plans to catch both the matinee and evening shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I travelled northeast through the Klamath National Forest, getting my last glimpse of the dense woods that I had come to enjoy so much.

Could not pass up this oddity: the Giant Fly at the O'Brien Country Store in O'Brien, Oregon. It sits on top of the roof of an outdoor bathroom; the keys to the men's and women's rooms are pieces of wood carved to look like fly swatters.

As I approached Grants Pass, Oregon, civilization encroached; shopping centers, industrial parks, chain restaurants. When I hit I-5, a great sense of melancholy set in. The truly adventurous part of the Excellent Adventure was coming to an end. I now would be on interstate the rest of the way home.

But first the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ashland, Oregon is home to the OSF. They perform plays from February to November, in outdoor and indoor venues. Obviously this time of year there were only indoor plays. The matinee was Hamlet, a play I had read and knew the plot, but had never seen performed. They took a contemporary theme, setting Denmark as a paramilitary state. The Ghost performed using sign language. The actor playing Hamlet was superb. A good show, especially at the "Tuesday Rate," extra low prices. I had unknowingly arrived on the right day!

The evening play was Tennesse William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, another play I had read but not seen before. I was impressed by the use of staging (with the audience around a semicircular stage). Good show. I could have used a comedy, however.

Tomorrow I head north on I-5, ultimately reaching my niece Kate's house in Portland. Thus my first night and last night on the road will be with Kate. It occurs to me that I saw a Shakespeare production on both my second stop (in Boise) and second-to-last stop in Ashland. What goes around comes around.

Heart of Gold

Being in the redwoods reminded me of Neil Young's song Heart of Gold (click to hear it). His lyrics seem to fit Ted's Excellent Adventure well:

I've been to Hollywood, I've been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold
I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line
That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold
And I'm gettin' old
That keep me searchin' for a heart of gold
And I'm gettin' old

  • I've been to Hollywood, and I have been to the redwoods.
  • I've crossed the nation.
  • I've been searching my heart.
  • I've been searching my mind.
    And I am a better, more whole person because of it.
    I am so glad I have taken this both physical and spiritual journey.
  • And, yes, I am certainly getting old.
Thanks for the reminder, Neil (on all counts).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Avenue of the Giants

3570 - 3815 (13965 - 14210)

Today was a grand journey through the truly awe-inspiring redwoods of Northern California.

I followed Route 1 out of Fort Bragg, following the coast before getting on Route 101 in pursuit of the massive conifers. I got a kick out of this sign as I left Fort Bragg; it seemed like I had been on narrow winding roads the last several days (and this was nothing compared to the winding 99 miles on Idaho's Route 12 following the Lewis and Clark Trail early in TEA).

The views along the coast continued to be wonderful. Route 1 then swung inland (the coast here is called the Lost Coast accordingly). The redwoods began to abound where Route 1 reconnected with Route 101.

I felt absolutely compelled to drive through a tree. Early Redwood promoters tunneled through the base of select giants, charging tourists for the privilege of making the twenty foot journey from one side of a tree to the other without having to go around it. Today environmentalists have made sure that there will be no new drive-thru trees, so the remaining three are tenaciously preserved for exploitation.

Leggett's Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree was typical. You pay your money, drive over a mile on a bumpy road just to get to it, pass through in a couple of seconds, take a photo, and visit the TaT shop. And that is just what I did!

Superlatives abound when trying to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. I took this photo from the CRV with another car parked ahead to give you an idea as to the scope of the redwoods. The tree density was amazing all along The Avenue Of The Giants , which runs alongside Route 101 (also called The Redwood Highway) . Travelling the Avenue of the Giants was an awe-inspiring 31 miles through the fog shrouded, mystical beauty of the wilderness. But not without some ticky-tacky tourist traps along the way.

In Piercy, the World Famous Tree House is a hollow rotted lower portion of a still-living giant redwood that also holds the title "the World's Tallest Single Room." An appliance bulb suspended from a wire has glowed at the top of the room for over forty years, to the ooohs and aaahs of visitors. But not this visitor. It was not open.

Phillipsville's Famous One Log House, in case you haven't already guessed, is a giant redwood log that's been hollowed out and furnished with a secondhand bedroom set. Since it's mounted on wheels, Famous One Log RV might be a more appropriate title. It was locked.

In Phillipsville was also the Chimney Tree, which was very similar to the World Famous Tree House, except it's missing the little appliance bulb. It too was closed (at least the obligitory TaT shop), but at least I could go in.

Next to the Chimney Tree is Hobbiton, USA, which I was really looking forward to seeing. It was supposed to be a hillside nature walk that winds past concrete recreations of scenes from Tolkien`s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But it was in total disrepair; maybe the scenes are dismantled in the off season. Anyway, not a hairy footed hobbit in sight.

I did enjoy this meandering horse who crossed the road in front of me, totally unconcerned. Evidently he was after the apples. Turned out to foreshadow a later scrape with nature I would have.

I took advantage of no one being around at the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat (meaning I did not pay) to get one more photo op. This tree is different in that it's opening is natural.

If this touristy stuff is sounding sad, it is because it was. Yet it was also a truly magnificent experience to slowly drive this road, seeing these 2,000-year old giants. I reveled in the amazing beauty of these natural wonders. It was truly an invigorating experience for the soul and mind.

Route 101 took me back to the coast and to Eureka, California. I was drawn to the Lost Coast Brewery, as I had heard about their Great White Beer and wanted to give it a try. It's a white beer, meaning it's a wheat beer made Belgian-style, adding flavorings, and nearly white in color. Too much citrus added in this one, I guess. Bummer. Cool label, though.

Across the street from the brewery was this theatre. Glen Campbell was performing there later in the week. Wow. "By The Time I Get To Eureka" does not have quite the same ring as By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Be Gentle On My Mind, Rhinestone Cowboy.

In McKinleyville I found the World's Tallest Totem Pole, 160 feet. It was behind a Safeway. What would a day be without another "World's Largest...?"

Turns out nearly half of the remaining old growth redwoods are in Redwood National Park, Some of these giants are 35 stories tall (that's five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty), and some have been around since the birth of Christ.

My drive through the park was interrupted by these magnificent Roosevelt elk crossing the highway. Turns out I was at the aptly named Elk Meadow. What a treat.

I reached Klamath and the Trees of Mystery at dusk. Not that I would have paid to enter anyway. But I was impressed by the immense Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox standing guard at the entrance. Apparently Paul's breast-pocket loudspeaker greets all who enter in cheery lumberjack fashion, like Freddy the Farmer at the Kentucky State Fair. But not to me. The theme of the day: closed. It was now too dark to get a decent photo, so I pulled this one off the web to give you an idea of their size. Note the person sitting on his shoe.

I reached Crescent City, California (home of tonight's Hampton Inn) well after dark. At the Elk Valley Casino, for once I actually had some luck. Win some, lose some... it's just that I have had more than my share of the latter!

Tomorrow: Out of the woods.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Harpin' Boontling

3239 - 3570 (13634 - 13965)

Today I decided not to follow the coast so as to avoid getting snarled in the Bay area (Cheri loves San Francisco, so we will visit together some other time).

There are many famous attractions in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row amongst them, but I went the natural route. I covered part of the famous 17-Mile Drive, passing the Pebble Beach golf courses to see Bird Rock, replete with seals, sea lions, pelicans and cormorants.

As I passed through Seaside, California, I spotted this Vietnamese restaurant and could not help but laugh. Apparently the owners know they somehow slipped one past English censors; their motto is..."It's Pho King delicious!"

I blue highwayed into farm country, where these Californians are obviously very proud of their cash crops. For instance, Castroville, California is the Artichoke Capital of the World. Here I am at the World's Largest Artichoke, at a restaurant/vegetable stand in Castroville. I stand by the sign that advertised Fried Artichoke Hearts. While many believe that frying anything makes it better, I can't imagine it doing much for the artichoke.

Up the road I arrived in the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy, California. Signs abounded for items like Pickled Garlic, Garlic Juice, and even Garlic Ice Cream. Only seemed natural to stop at Garlic World and see the World's Longest Garlic Braid. I saw an appropriate T-shirt there: "May the Stink Be With You."

I ended up up missing San Francisco altogether, going instead through Oakland. It felt a bit odd being on interstate again, and I was consequently happy to return to Route 101 north of the Bay. Looking back, I should have at least gone over the Golden Gate Bridge.

In Santa Rosa, I made a stop at the Charles Schultz Museum. The Peanuts were a favorite of the Jones family; I had dozens of Peanuts books as a youngster. Here there were a multitude of statues of Peanuts characters around; this one of Snoopy on park bench (easy for posing) is outside the Warm Puppy Cafe, across the street from the museum at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (supposedly Schultz ate here all the time on the way to his studio). No beer, so the Warm Puppy will not be in competition with the Happy Puppy.

The Museum was fabulous. I most enjoyed the Tile Mural covering an entire wall of their Great Hall and featuring an image of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. It is composed of 3,588 Peanuts comic strip images printed on individual 2- by 8-inch ceramic tiles. Charlie Brown and Lucy stand out because of the use of strips with black backgronds.

Looks like they had some left over tiles, because there were even some in the rest room!

I was in wine country; there were grapes growing everywhere. But as we all know well, I am a beer guy. I was headed on Route 128 for Boonville, California, home of both the Anderson Valley Brewing Company and an area that had their own distinct dialect.

Boonville, in the Anderson Valley, is in the middle of nowhere. Well, if it isn't, it's nearby. It is so removed that in the 1880s, some of the Anderson Valley children created a few slang words to use in their private conversations, both for their own amusement, and to confound anyone who might overhear them harpin’ (talking). They created new words as they went, trying to shark (stump) their companions. Over time the vocabulary grew, as did the number of people familiar with it. Eventually, every resident of the valley had at least some knowledge of Boontling (Boonville Language), as the lingo came to be called.

I stopped at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, hoping to hear some Boontling. Lisa, the gal pulling beer, only knew a few terms, and unfortunately their chief engineer and Boontling expert was not there on Sundays. But here he is in a Boontling MP3 Sample.

On the Anderson Valley Brewing Company labels they have this bear with antlers. I bit, asking "So what's the story with the bear with antlers?"

"Oh, it's not a bear with antlers," said Lisa. "It is a cross between a bear and a deer. Which makes it a..."

I thought a moment. Then it hit me. "A beer...," I said, groaning.

"Yes! The Legendary Boonville Beer!"

The picture of me with the stuffed Boonville Beer at the bar turned out poorly, so you get this one instead. She is far better eye candy than me, anyway!

Oh, the beer... I enjoyed their signature Boont Amber Ale (Boont = Boonville). Or in Boontling, it was bahl hornin' (good drinking).

Back on twisty, turny little Route 128, I really felt like I was in the boonies (maybe Boonville is where that term comes from, or vice versa). The trees created a tunnel effect that was a bit disconcerting as I worked my way back up to the coast. Or maybe I am just becoming a codgy kimmer (old man)...

I arrived on to the Pacific Coast Highway at dusk. It was great to rejoin the ocean. I noted that the terrain seemed more rocky here. Maybe it was just because I was much closer than in Big Sur.

I made my way through Mendicino to my final destination of Fort Bragg, California. It became a multi-beer tasting day, as Fort Bragg is home to the fine North Coast Brewing Company.

As I was finished driving for the day, a sampler was in order. The Red Seal Ale and Scrimshaw Pilsner were excellent, but it was the Old Rasputin Stout that was superb. And not just because of the name (my friend Walter Tunis back in high school was nicknamed Rasputin); it is actually award winning (91 Points, Rated "Exceptional"). My fourth in the tasting was the Brother Theolonius Belgian Style Ale. It is named for one of my favorite jazz musicians, Theolonius Monk, and some of the proceeds of its sale go to the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz. Coincidentally, Walter was instrumental in introducing me to jazz and to Monk. BTW, it's an unusual beer, very spicy.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to a foray into the Redwood Forest.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big Tsunami Sur

3016 - 3239 (13411 - 13634)

Today could have been really, well, interesting. Early Saturday morning a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, setting off a tsunami which threatened a quarter of the globe. All coastal areas on the Pacific were on high alert. And here I was, right on the coast.

I spent some time on the phone with Cheri, and on the internet, and we decided that since the potential waves would arrive late afternoon, I would travel as planned. By then I would at least be up high, on the cliffs in Big Sur, watching the waves crash in.

Coming out of Lompoc, Bonnie (my GPS voice) took me through some real backroads, with some lovely rural views. This was farm country, despite the hilly terrain.

I was amazed by this hill. The picture does not do it justice. It seemed to be a near vertical incline, and yet there were cows grazing on it. I had no trouble imagining one tumbling down the slope. It gave a whole new meaning to "cow tipping."

Turns out January and February is a great time to experience the monarch butterfly migration. Pismo Beach, California has its own Monarch Butterfly Grove full of eucalyptus trees, located right on Route 1. There were not a huge number there today -- I wondered if they sensed the tsunami? It was certainly worth the stop in my pursuit of wildlife.

I reached the coast, and saw that the danger of tsunamis is nothing new.

As I approached San Simeon, I could not muster any interest in the chief attraction there: Hearst Castle. Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst told his architect in 1927 that he wanted to built "a little something" here on the California coast. The result was a 165-room Moorish castle with 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways, furnished with Spanish and Italian antiques and art.

But Hearst Castle had no draw for me today, despite my great interest in castles. Maybe it was the idea that I wanted to be higher if indeed a tsunami arrived, or that I did not want to invest the time it would take to throughly enjoy the expansive grounds. But more likely I just wasn't up to traipsing through such oppulence after having so enjoyed the small towns and rural quaintness of blue highways lately. Note the blue sky; that should give away that I did not take this photo today!

Perhaps it was an omen of good tidings when I came upon a series of rainbows. I swear if you squint just right you can see a lepruchain at the end...

Just north of San Simeon was the the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery right on Route 1. The seals are hardly your everyday bathing beauties, but they have a charm all their own. No, they are not dead. In fact, they were belching up a storm; it was quite pungent even at a distance. Though it wasn't much of a distance, as you can see. They certainly were not reacting to any potential natural disaster. If I wanted wildlife, I got it!

I followed Route 1 through Big Sur, where I enjoyed crashing waves, rolling fog, sheer rocky cliffs, and pleasant bends and curves.

Here's a shot looking back on famous Bixby Bridge, built in 1932. I was now high enough to not be concerned about a tsunami carrying me off to sea.

Not that there were not other dangers. For instance, I saw a couple of these signs...

...and later rounded a bend to find they served a real purpose!

I slipped out of the Big Sur area at dusk, taking in a glorious sunset high above the waves. Nope, the tsunami never came. But I sure did enjoy a glorious day out in nature, albeit with spitting rain.

It was after dark when I got to Carmel. I did not see Clint Eastwood. He did not make my day.

I had another free night in an Embassy Suites, this time in Monterey. I smile ironically at the thought that I avoided the trappings of Hearst Castle, but was happy to stay in these impressive digs.