Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Have You Ever Been to Terrace, BC?

Have you ever been to Terrace, BC? I have, several times, but I never shot video of it before. Enjoy the ride!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One Year of Riding the Bus

Just about 1 year ago, Nancy and I moved to Portland and I started taking the bus to work. This seems like a good time to reflect on a year of the 9 Broadway and the 8 NE 15--the two buses that haul me to and from downtown Portland. All Aboard!

September--I rode sporadically through the summer and September while we were making the move to Portland. The stop is 5 blocks from the Little House in the Big City, just down Highland to Concordia University. In the early morning--I catch the 9 at 6:51--no other commuters frequent this stop. The occasional exerciser or dog walker passes, and cars are starting to roll into Concordia. But mostly it's a quiet time.

October--I become a real commuter, taking the bus every day that I'm not traveling. I haven't been paying attention to the schedule so I often arrive at the stop 15 minutes early, or just a minute late. Not a problem to start, but by late in the month, it's dark in the morning, the rains are starting. I've got to start planning my departure.

November--My least favorite month in Oregon. Darkness is upon the land. Rains and wind mock me as I try to stay dry, huddled under my umbrella. The reward is my choice of seats since I board early in the route. In the afternoon, still paying no attention to the schedule, and maintaining my brand loyalty--I watch 8 NE 15th to Jubitz, a frequent service bus, roll by, bus after bus, while I wait in the rain for my 9 Broadway to NE 27th and Saratoga--I crowd on and stand through the Fareless Square until the crowd thins out. Thanksgiving is approaching and the holiday season brings a change in the humor of the riders--a change for the happier.

December--It's raining and blowing. It's dark. I see the 9 Broadway to Portland coming down NE 27th. It zooms by me--WHAT?! It leaves me there, standing in the dark, wind, rain, and cold, unseen by the driver. Abandoned. Harumph. I retaliate in the afternoon by stepping on to the 8 NE 15th to Jubitz--what is Jubitz, anyway?--leave me once and you lose my loyalty. New faces, new stops, new...smell? This bus, or someone on it, smells of urine. I'm on the Pee Bus! Oh 9 Broadway, will you take me back? I promise to be more visible on the corner.

Christmas is coming, and while I don't see any fattened geese, I do see lots and lots of people hauling their holiday shopping prizes. I also learn that buses that leave Portland after 5 PM are much more crowded, and traffic is worse. I begin to plan my schedule.

January--It's getting lighter--almost inperceptible, but wait, I can see more as 9 Broadway to Portland crosses the Broadway bridge. It helps to see small changes in daylength--we've left the winter solstice behind and are sailing towards the vernal equinox--when you go by the same place at the same time every day. Every morning I look out the windows to watch ships from faraway places taking on loads of grain at docks below the bridge. In the afternoon, the Empire Builder is just easing out of the station, headed for White Salmon, Pasco, Whitefish, Cut Bank, Havre, Minot, Detroit Lakes, and on into Chicago.

February--We bought a house and I say farewell to my old bus stop and move 2 stops closer to work. About 45 seconds less commute, but oh what a difference! I've got a shelter. And an Oregonian box. And other riders at my stop. But the other riders don't say much--it's pretty quiet. I start saying good morning to everyone. One by one, they start to acknowledge...One afternoon, a new operator got confused. He didn't know the 9 Broadway to NE 27th and Saratoga via Union Station route. People were calling out instructions. He made a wrong turn, then made a K-turn on Broadway by the Post Office (where the 9 Broadway to Portland changes to the 9 Powell to Gresham TC). By the time we got across the bridge, he was being told, by radio, to pull over. Another 9 Broadway to NE 27th and Saratoga passed us and pulled over. We all had to leave the first bus and get on the second one. Our operator was grounded, then and there.

March--The anthropology of bus travel is fascinating. In the morning, people have their preferred seats--mine is the first forward facing seat on the left side of the bus. One of my stop-mates prefers the first seat behind the back door on the right. Lacrosse Stick Girl takes the first forward facing on the right. I call her that because she carries a lacrosse stick. There are a group of girls who ride 9 Broadway to Portland. They attend a private school in the city. There's Tillamook Girl, Brazee Girl, Thompson Girls, and Broadway Girl. The Street Girls (but not in that way). It takes me a while to begin to understand the relationships. Lacrosse and Thompson #1 are friends, but not as close as Thompson #1 and #2. If #2 isn't there, #1 will sit with Lacrosse, but only if Brazee isn't aboard because Lacrosse saves a seat for Brazee. Broadway Girl sits in a front seat facing the center of the bus, where "Honored Citizens" (old people and the disabled) have priority. Last Street Girl (but not in that way) on, she looks to see if there is some unpaired Street Girl (but not in that way) she might sit with. Usually not, but one day when Brazee and Thompson #1 aren't there, Lacrosse gives her a subtle nod, her face lights up, and instead of being crammed between people in the "Honored Citizen" seats, she slides into the now-vacant space next to Lacrosse.

April--In February, Andy started a shift as the operator on the 9 Broadway to Portland. He's a friendly guy and welcomes everyone as he opens the door. "There you are!" "Come on aboard" "Welcome--great day, eh?" He and I chat in the morning. He seems to be some sort of senior operator as he often is training a new driver--"Don't get to close to them" "Watch the tree branches at this stop" "You're on the pedal too much" I never learned his last name--too bad as I should nominate him for Operator of the Year. Nancy and I leave for Venezia where I now find myself captivated by the vaporetti and watch the people and the operators there. I guess I'm an amateur mass transit anthropologist!

May--After 3 weeks in Venezia, I return to the 9 Broadway. Andy wants the run down on the trip as he is about to leave for two weeks of vacation. The ebb and flow of the Street Girls (but not in that way) continues and everyone is happy to see the spring. One of my stop-mates, Bearded Garden Man, and I begin to talk gardening. Never in too much detail, and never more than a few sentences each morning. He seems a man of few words.

June--Andy never comes back after vacation. I assume he was just rotated off to some other assignment--there are a lot of bus routes--but maybe he gave up 9 Broadway to Portland and stayed in Mexico, still basking on the beach, having had it with starting a route at 4:30 every morning...School ends and the Street Girls (but not in that way) are gone. Gas prices are through the roof and ridership has about doubled since March. Some mornings someone else is in my seat! Harumph.

July--The weather turns nice, finally, and more and more bikes show up to be carried on 9 Broadway to NE 27th and Saratoga and 8 NE 15th to Jubitz. What is Jubitz? The buses are air conditioned so it's usually a pleasant ride. There's a lot of construction for the MAX, so the 8 NE 15th to Jubitz is rerouted over the Broadway Bridge and round and about to Lloyd Center. I avoid it unless I'm really anxious to get home as it takes longer and in the heat, it really smells of pee!

August--One day on the way home, the operator yells "Close the window--the air conditioning is on." "Close it or I'll turn the air conditioning off". She turns it off. punishing us all for the actions of one. It was the pee bus. It was really hot. And pee-ey. I got off at Alberta and walked in the heat.

Back to September--School starts and the Street Girls (but not in that way) are back. There seems to be a sliding time scale of when they return with Broadway Girl first and Lacrosse Stick last. In the interim, both Thompson #1 and Broadway choose, some days, to sit next to me. I tell Nancy that they feel safe next to their grandfather. Bearded Garden Man and I talk about tomatoes and whether they will ripen. The Pink Woman, a strange relatively young woman who wears outlandish get-ups and boards each morning at 3rd and Alder carrying a cup of some sort of coffee drink (I'm guessing mocha latte) and will demand a seat in the "Honored Citizen" area even though she seems normally-abled, is a constant. There's a guy, I'm guessing my age or a bit older, dressed in a kilt, a tam with a pheasant feather, and orange safety vest who salutes our bus every morning on Everett as he leans against the corner building, drinks his coffee, and passes the time with passers-by. Andy is still basking in Mexico (at least in my mind).

Jubitz is a truckstop.

I wonder what people call me in their minds...

There you have it, one year of riding the bus. I like it. It's a good way to commute. I read and listen to podcasts and watch people. It's saved me at least $2,500 in parking and gas. It's saved Portland something like 1000 pounds of CO2 equivalent. And I've learned how to watch people.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

California V: An Inside Look at Yosemite National Park

Wednesday provided an opportunity to see, in some detail, facets of management at Yosemite National Park. I spent the day on a field trip looking at, and talking about, the fire program at the Park. They have a very active fire use program--re-establishing fire to its pre-European role in the ecosystem--as well as a fuels management program that uses prescribed fire, and a fire management program that deals with wildland fire that may or may not threaten Park infrastructure. They also have a great fire education program that engages staff, visitors, local residents, and school kids.

We took a look at the Giant Sequoia groves at the Park, and particularly at the use of fire to maintain and protect the groves. Talk about the need for fire education--there are a lot of people who ask a lot of questions about setting fire in those groves. Fortunately, the Park Fire Staff is skookum--that means they know what they are doing in Forest Service speak.

Of course we also were immersed in the beauty of Yosemite. And I wasn't the only one gazing off at Half Dome and El Capitan--I caught this little lizard enjoying the sun and the view of the valley!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

California IV: Goodbye Los Angeles, Hello Yosemite

We bade farewell to Los Angeles this morning and headed out over jam-packed freeways to make our way to Yosemite. After three exits, we crawled off the 101 and took surface streets, Chiara, our trusty GPS, correcting us constantly. Finally, sensing her frustration, I turned her off and we went by dead reckoning until we hit the 405. From there it was smooth sailing up the 405-5-99 to Visalia, a little southeast of Fresno where we stopped for lunch and a couple work conference calls.

I decided that Fresno was the place to get gas before we headed to the park, so we hopped off the 41 and found ourselves in a Ring of Hell that Dante didn’t describe—strip malls and no-large-sign-zones, making gas stations and grocery stores almost impossible to find. Half an hour later, we managed to fill the tank, and Chiara, back in our good graces, piloted us out of Hell and back to the 41.

Down the road, we passed through Coarsegold, stocked up on some wine at Oakhurst, and headed to Yosemite National Park where I will spend the next 3 days in a conference room while Nancy explores some of the most beautiful area in the country. At least the conference room has windows…that look out at tourists headed off to have fun.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Los Angeles, California III: Another Day in La La Land

We spent the day doing what Angelenos do--driving around. Wow, it is some kind of sprawl. As Nancy's son says, "Everything is 20 minutes away." The entrance ramp metering lights for the freeways are even active on Sundays and the traffic is not much different than weekdays in Portland, except the speed is 10-15 MPH greater and horns are freely used.

We ended up in Venice (we did spy one of the remaining canals left from when they tried to make Venice Venezia), Venice Beach (where The Dude lived) and Santa Monica. We tracked down Chez Jay where, rumor has it, Daniel Ellsberg handed over the Pentagon Papers to a NY Times reporter and where Henry Kissinger used to take his girl friends. It wasn't open for lunch when we got there, so we had to take a pass and head for Trastevere, which is a pretty authentic Italian restaurant.

After lunch, we strolled along the park above the beach where I snapped a picture of these gnarly trunks. On the way back to the car we came across a sign coming down from a storefront--letters in a pile on the street.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Los Angeles, California II: A Day at the Ballpark and More

Day 2 in Los Angeles found us at Dodger Stadium to take in a game between The Blue and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two are apparently battling for first place in their division although I don't follow them 'cause they are National League where every 9th batter has no chance of hitting the ball 'cause they are pitchers. It was a great day at the park but it wasn't packed with action. Lots of strikeouts. A couple walked in runs. Manny Ramirez struck out with the bases loaded, but atoned by hitting a 3 run dinger the next inning and a 2 run ground rule double in the following frame. That one looked like it was going to be caught, but the right field Diamondback coiled up in the wrong spot, lost the ball in the sun, and Manny actually had to run when he saw it drop in. Then he slowed down when he saw it bounce over the fence. Never seen a ball player with baggy rapper kinda pants...

But, all's well that ends well and the Blue trotted away with a 7-2 victory.

Then we cruised Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards where we saw this large thing Ronna, a stretch Cadillac Escalade! Pure Hollywood! Add to that a cell tower disguised to look lile a palm tree and you've got Los Ang-gel-eeze!

Topped of the day with BBQ at Dr. Hogly Wogly's in Van Nuys--good BBQ with giant portions in a funky joint.

By that time it was...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Los Angeles, California I: A Really Big Donut

Nancy and I are visiting Los Angeles--Los Ang-gel-eeze, as the Stranger calls it in The Big Lebowski--to see Colin, Nancy's son, and check out the sights and sounds of Tinseltown. The third time is the charm, I guess. First try was a train trip for Oscar Weekend, but the Coast Starlight was cancelled in Sacramento since it was about 8 hours behind schedule. We rented a car and drove home. The second try was in conjunction with a meeting I was to attend in San Diego, but my trip was canceled and LA along with it. The third time, well, here we are.

As the plane was coming in to LAX, I looked out the window and spied a donut shop with a really big donut on it. Lo and behold, our GPS unit took us right to Randy's on the way to the freeway and our hotel! Eat your heart out Ronna!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Revisiting Venezia II: Nancy and the Movie

I was recording the sound of the bells at the Santa Maria dei Carmini--the one just down the canal from our apartment. I set my Nikon Coolpix on the window sill and let her roll. A number of people were caught in the images as the bells rang out and they walked or gondola-ed by. One was Nancy, captured in this footage as she realizes the camera is rolling, ducks to get our of the way, attracts the attention of passers-by as she duck-walks under the window, and then goes back, pulled in by flowers floating down the canal, jetsam from the Campo San Barnaba produce boat...

Revisiting Venezia: Recently Uncovered Footage

With all the news of Sarah Palin--no comment on the thoroughness of Senator McVain--I decided to go back and look at footage I shot in Venezia with my little Nikon CoolPix.

Here's an Afternoon on the #1 Vaporetto