Sunday, August 31, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Ashland, the end of Summer, and the Virtual Vacation Wraps Up

Nancy and I made our annual pilgrimage to Ashland, Oregon this weekend to take in some plays with our friend David.

This year it was The Clay Cart (it includes mistaken identities--now there's a surprise), Coriolanus (it's a tragedy of pride), A Midsummer's Night Dream (the first Shakespeare play I ever saw and my 4th time--I don't need to see it again), and A View from the Bridge (another family undone by pride).

I'm no reviewer, so I'll leave that to others. Except to say that Coriolanus and A View from the Bridge were outstanding!

Here are some snaps of the trip.

And the trip home...

I've had fun this year with the Virtual Vacation, but we look forward to a real trip with Ronna and Richard next year. We're thinking Victoria and Vancouver, but that poutine festival in Drummondville sounds pretty damned good!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Travels in Québec V: Sounds of the North

I like airplanes. Airline travel has become a drag, resembling the Greyhound bus rather than the elegance that used to course through the air. Remember the old days when one dressed to fly--jacket and tie for men, dresses, hats, and gloves for women. Real china, and if you're old enough to remember, a small pack of 4 cigarettes on each dinner tray! For a short time, some airlines even experimented with piano bars for first class. Ah, gone are those days. I digress. One of my favorite sounds is that of a float plane flying overhead. They make a lot of noise, I suppose because those floats are not very aerodynamic and the planes tend to have big engines for their size, so they can get off the water--lots of friction there. Plus the Beavers (not pictured here, by the way) just make a lot of noise with those radial engines.

Mostly you hear these planes when you are up north as they head out into the bush to take someone or something to an isolated place where you can hear other sounds of the north like loons, wolves, and the dip-drip of a canoe paddle in a lake. What a way to go!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travels in Québec IV (The Real IV): Birch Bark and Yard Art

Two things to share this afternoon. Yesterday I wrote about jack pine cones. Today I ran into some birch bark. I've always loved birch bark, starting back in about 1957 I suppose when the family went to Nova Scotia on vacation. Camping our way northeast and back again, my dad taught us all sorts of woods things, although I came to find out later that he didn't really know anything about the woods. On that trip, we peeled some bark off a tree, wrote ourselves a note, slapped a 2¢ stamp on it, and the Post Office delivered it back to Berea. Of course, now I know that you don't peel bark from live trees. I also know that when you are canoeing in the northwoods and you need to start a fire, grab some bark from a dead birch (or carry some in your pack) and use it as tinder. It burns, even when wet, because it's full of oil. That's lore for Number 1.

Number 2? I passed by this house today and I have to admit, I have never seen a water feature in a yard that consisted of a large dragon spewing water from its mouth! With shades! I suspect it's new and hasn't cured enough to get a coat of paint yet. Next trip...

That's Canadiana for Number 2.

Travels in Québec IV: Looking for Something to Do

When I'm on the road for a while I start running out of things to do to entertain myself. I'm tired of TV after not very long, I've caught up on my reading, web surfing is a drag, and I'm out of the crosswords I brought along. I like crosswords because they are a challenge and I learn new words. But I'm in Québec and working crosswords with a foreign language vocabulary slightly larger than a dog's, well, it's beyond me. Then I thought, "how about one of them, what do you call them, Sudukos?" "Maybe I'll learn a new number! Damn, they're in French too...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Travels in Québec III: Jack Pine Cones

I was walking through a plantation of jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and picked up a couple cones. Jack pine, like lodgepole pine and black spruce, is adapted to stand-replacing fire as a method of regeneration. That means it waits for a big fire and then the cones, which are serotinous, open after exposure to heat and they drop the seeds to the mineral soil on the ground where they germinate and regenerate dense stands. Clever, eh?

Here are a couple pressed up against the bole of a young tree. Sometimes the tree grows right around them.

I thought a lot about jack pine cones when I was taking an Outward Bound course. That course taught me what I had locked up inside me that could help me get through adversity and get started again. I keep a few cones around to remind me of that. I give them to friends that are facing a challenge as well. I like to think it helps them too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Travels in Québec II: La Vierge Marie Me Surveille Aujourd'hui

Everywhere I went today the Virgin Mary seemed to be watching over me.

Yesterday I wrote about Europe in North America. Today I saw Industrial North America and the villages that surround it. The town of Shawinigan was a trip back in time for me. It reminded me of the near west side of Cleveland when Cleveland was a paragon of Industrial America. It was more than a little like Plymouth, Pennsylvania must have been at the height of coal mining prosperity, not what it's like now.

Tonite finds me safe and sound in the Saguenay where the weather has cleared and it's a beautiful evening. It's nice to be back in the boreal forest. The drive took me past lakes and bogs and spruce stands reminiscent of Algonquin and the Boundary Waters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Travels in Québec I: Europe in North America

I spent the morning in Beauharnois, up the Fleuve Saint Laurent from Montréal looking at this and that and taking some pictures like this one of St. Therese de la Infant Jesus and a beautiful dahlia.

There are plenty of enclaves in the US where you can feel like you are in Europe--there were lots of little pockets in Cleveland where I grew up and in Northeastern Pennsylvania where Nancy hails from. But the largest enclave by far is Québec. Even the development along the roads in cities looks like France and Italy.

This afternoon, I'm in Shawinigan on the Saint Maurice river about 30 km upstream from where it joins the Fleuve Saint Laurent at Trois Rivières. Trois Rivières should actually be Deux Rivières since two of the three rivers that come together are branches of the Saint Maurice formed by islands in the stream.

There's a cracking big thunderstorm going on and I snapped these shots just before the pour-down started.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Virtual Vacation: A Night in Montreal

I am in Quebec this week and got to have dinner tonight with our great pals Ronna and Richard. Unfortunately, Nancy wasn't able to come east with me so we had to make a little movie for her.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Virtual Vacation: A Day of the Blues--Bronze, Blues, and Brews 2008

They don't call it the Best Little Blues Fest in the West for nothing.

On its 13th anniversary, it was a day for those who like hot guitars and hotter blues singers. Ty Curtis, Suburban Slim, Julie Strange, Tom Boyle, Too Slim Langford, Henry Cooper, Big Monti Amundson, Eric Daw, and Jimmy Lloyd Rea wailed away while Julie, Becki Sue, and Janiva Magness lit up the crowd with the best vocal blues around.

Throw in great harp by Hank Shreve with Ty Curtis and Jim King with Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin' Daddies, outstanding bass lines and great drumming by all and it was a fabulous day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Virtual Vacation: Bronze, Brews, and Blues 2008--Luminous Oregon

I took these shots coming back from the Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise, Oregon. The brewery has a small restaurant with good food and the beer is great. The IPA is one of my standards and one of the best in the West, I think. They had a Triple on tonite that was also superb.

There are big thunderstorms in the area and one hit just as we were leaving. Looking back along the road into Joseph, the mountain-and-field scene was illuminated by the evening sun. It doesn't get much more beautiful...

Virtual Vacation: Bronze, Brews, and Blues 2008--Getting to Joseph

We began our annual pilgrimage to Joseph, Oregon for the Bronze, Brews, and Blues festival, the "Best Little Blues Fest in the West". It's a long drive, but it takes us through some of the most beautiful parts of the state--the Columbia Gorge, the Blue Mountains, the Grande Ronde Valley, and the Wallowa Mountains. It also takes us past New York Richies, the best pizza in Oregon, and the Terminal Gravity brewery, some of the best beer in Oregon, to hear some of the best music in Oregon. Here are some of the worst videos in Oregon to share our trip

The trip up Cabbage Hill and Deadman pass

The Island City/La Grande outpost of New York Richie's

It's the real thing

Lostine, Oregon

NY Richie's in Enterprise\

Welcome to Joseph!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Virtual Vacation: A Walk in the Neighborhood, Bike Polo, and Shakespeare

I started the day off by taking my bike wheels over to Community Cycling on Alberta to get new tires. The originals--about 20 years old--were looking not so hot and since I decided to press the old Specialized Hard Rock back into service, I needed some new ones.

Nancy and I then took off on a walk around the neighborhood, stopped by the New Seasons to pick up some dinner makings and then headed down Alberta to pick up the wheels. Along the way we saw a couple new restaurants getting ready to open, passed by a meme-o-matic shrine hailing those sayings or words that spread virally through society, and arrived at the bike shop. Actually, Nancy tells me a meme is defined as "an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation" and she thinks this shrine is a post-apocalyptic TV set... The Community Cycling Center is dedicated to providing low cost bikes for low income people. All the bikes are donated, refurbed, and sold at reasonable prices to people who need them. They also run a repair service. Newly tired wheels in hand (along with some warning bells we bought), we headed home, past the garden at the school that is sporting a huge crop of chard and a lot of developing pumpkins.

We stopped to watch and film a bike polo game in the court at Alberta Park.

After installing the wheels on Old Paint, we headed off on a ride and ended up at Woodlawn Park where a theater group was staging Troilus and Cressida at the small amphitheater. It's performed by the Northwest Classical Theatre Company. We stopped to watch most of Act III. You can watch too. Good crowd of about 75, enjoying the sun and the Bard.

After all that, we pedaled home and relaxed in the backyard with a Venetian spritz--a mixture of Aperol (orange bitters), prosecco, San Pellegrino, and an olive or two. In Venezia they come with a small bowl of potato chips. Salute e per cent'anni!