Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Days 150-152: Roadtrip from Sandpoint to Rapid City

One of the great pleasures of America turns out to be driving across the country on those big, wide, empty roads with hardly any traffic and rolling, equally empty land all around you.  It isn't exactly an innocent pleasure, what with the gas consumption, but it is something special.  We had really interesting weather, with alternating thunderstorms and clear skies.  Perhaps it is starting to be autumnal here, though it's hard for me to tell.  In Idaho, birds were gathering on electric wires and out here in Montana and Wyoming, flocks of geese fly in V formation overhead.  I love the feeling of not really knowing where I am or where I will stop, and knowing for sure that nobody else does either.  Antonia and I have indulged in various things like buying junk food in gas stations and driving off to those rare rest stops in the middle of nowhere to consume it.  Somewhere in the middle of all that, I finally got to read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, which I borrowed from our friend's daughter.  It's kind of the literary equivalent of indulging in candy, and maybe not a great idea when I had to drive the next day, but I must admit that I quite enjoyed myself.

Sorry, no photographs of this roadtrip, because I can't take photos and drive, and Antonia was immersed in her DS.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Days 148- 150: Back to Sandpoint

Getting to Sandpoint from Port Angeles all in one day was challenging, what with having to take a ferry to Seattle then pass through the city's traffic jams.  I was so happy to arrive, and even happier to see a welcome glass of wine.  I may have overdone it a bit as a result.  When I did emerge the next day, our friends spent more time showing how Sandpoint earned an award as the most liveable small town in the US.  Last time we saw the lake, this time we got to see the ski resort.  They really have everything here!  We took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain with the kids and hiked down again.   There is an incredible view over the lake there, but it was a bit hazy today.  The next day, I was meant to be heading out across country, so Carol and the kids came with us some of the way.  We went swimming under a highway, ate more great pizza, and went to look at a hydro-electric dam.  I really enjoy this kind of industrial stuff, so I was happy, until it was time to say goodbye to our new friends.  Hopefully, we will meet again soon.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Day 147: Goodbye to Olympic

We spent our last day in Olympic at Hurricane Ridge again.  I thought Jane should see it since everyone raves about it.  Also, I thought Antonia should finish her Junior Ranger book, which she has put so much effort into.  Actually, one of the most interesting things about our trip was watching Antonia interview a ranger about her job.  Not only because the conversation was interesting, but because Antonia was actually quite pushy in the face of being told she didn't need to do that.  Hmmm....mmm, it can be quite interesting watching her in action some times.  Apart from that, I am just rushing around getting ready to leave.  There is something about this place that stopped me ever feeling quite settled, and actually that makes it harder, in that all my stuff feels disorganised.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Day 146: Makah Cultural and Research Center

Antonia on the beach at Neah Bay, with the inflatable slideship in the background.
We drove up to the Makah Indian reservation at the far north-western tip of the United States, mostly to visit the museum and cultural research centre there.  This institution was built to house artefacts from the Ozette site, an ancient longhouse village just down the coast that got covered by a mudslide centuries ago.  Although I didn't have time to research the Olympic peninsula very much before I got here, it turns out that I knew about this site.  It's cropped up in a couple of archaeology courses I've read, as a kind of poster child when we're talking about relationships between academic researchers and the communities they're working amongst.  In this case, the relationship was positive because the Makah remained in control of the process and the artefacts, with the position of the archaeologists being closer to that of professional contractors.  Obviously, this worked out well for everyone because the Makah wanted the services the archaeologists could offer, which isn't always the case.  It's interesting to see the contribution the research centre and the Ozette site is making to Makah culture today as well as to building relationships with visitors.  Keeping those artefacts in that place has made a huge positive difference for all concerned.  Obviously, I'm supposed to have thought critically about the tendency to centralise important artefacts in the big cities, but visiting the Makah museum and reservation really brought it home to me.  The other thing I got from the trip was the importance of cultural ownership among the Makah, which is rather different from ours and which obviously predated the excavation of the Ozette site.  It's quite hard to grasp all the implications of a cultural difference like that quickly, but it has to have a bearing on the relationship between Makah and non-Makah researchers.  But it also means that not everything we learn from this particular relationship is necessarily transferable.  Hmmm....  I wonder what Antonia learned today?  She is studying Native American history at the moment.

It turned out that we showed up on the Makah reservation on the first of the Makah Days, which is a major festival celebrating Makah culture.  The festival was really just getting off to a start, but we hung out at the street market at Neah Bay for a bit, then on the beach.  Antonia found a small friend to play with, I watched the young people's canoe races, then she went for a go on the inflatable slide shaped like a cruise liner.  I was feeling quite in my element, because they closed the main street along the beach to traffic and I was able to walk happily down the middle of the road with people all around me instead of traffic, just like in Europe.  One interesting thing I noticed at the stand where I bought coffee is that they had posters up with photographs of a baby and a description of his parentage.  The idea was to get people to vote for him to become a tribal member, but I didn't get the chance to ask if this is the usual procedure for all babies.  It turned out to be quite a long day trip for us as we didn't get home till after 8.00pm, but we were all happy we made it.
After the unexpected earthquake, Mike gets to 'enjoy' the all too seasonal east coast hurricane season.  He is holed up in his hotel in Philadelphia watching old episodes of The Wire and eating lemon chilli coated pistachios.  I am not too worried about him. Philly somehow seems positioned so as to escape the brunt of these things.

Meanwhile, I am packing up, ready to head off on a four day drive across the country, from Port Angeles on the north-western peninsula, to Rapid City, somewhere in the middle.  At least I can expect tolerable weather.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 145: It it Halloween or what?

This is Antonia and Jane, and I think they're a bit confused about what day it is.  Are they sneaking out to Trick or Treat the neighbours?  Are they looking for Jedi warriors to convert to the Dark Force?  I don't know and I'm not going to find out, because I'm going to bed.  If the police station calls up to ask me to bail them out, I'll be available from about 8:30 tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day 143: Dungeness Spit hike

Today I walked ten miles to the end of Dungeness Spit, leaving Antonia and Jane to build shanties out of driftwood at the beach end of the spit.  It was the hottest day we've had here so far, so it was a bit like walking through a desert, but like a desert it was beautiful.  I hung out at the end of the spit for a while, taking photographs and scanning the sound for seals and seabirds.

Day 142: Finally one of us get a taste of American culture!

Disgusting seaweed supper!
We hang out in the American west expecting bears and earthquakes and we get nothing but trips to the beach.  Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Mike found himself evacuated from his office by the little shake-up that just made the news, then got chased back to his hotel by a polar bear that had escaped from a zoo.  OK, ok, so I made that last bit up... but I'm still totally jealous.  Fortunately, nobody got hurt in the east coast quake, though cell phone coverage was flakey for a while as the entire west coast rang up the entire east coast to laugh at them (after making sure they were OK).

See Mike's adventure below.

I'm in Philadelphia for 2 weeks on business with my consulting client. Their office is on the 19th floor in center city Philadelphia. I was sitting at my desk, I had a moment and decided to call my mom, while in the middle of leaving her a phone message, the whole building started to shake. At first, I thought it was someone moving heavy furniture (like a safe or something hugely heavy) around but I knew all the floors here were carpeted. I quickly terminated my message, stood up and people were looking around standing up. Nobody around me had ever felt an earthquake before, this was my third now.

The first quake I felt was in Tokyo about a week before the 1989 Loma Prieta. It was about 3am. I heard the bed creaking, I thought it was someone in the next room, then felt the wall and realized it was my bed banging up against the wall like I was in a car or airplane. The entire room was swaying what felt like about a foot or two. The curtains were swaying back and forth, the window was creaking I thought it might break. Things started moving back and forth across the room as if it was a boat. Then after about 20 to 30 seconds, it calmed down. I opened the door to the room, not a creature was stirring. Nobody was hurt.

The second quake I felt I was in Grenoble France. It was about 1am, I was at my computer working which was in the bedroom. Penny was sleeping on the bed near me. All of a sudden, it felt like we were in a train when the cars couple together. The entire building seemed to shift laterally an inch or so. Penny woke up briefly, looked at me across the room and yelled at me "Stop what you're doing!!" as if somehow I could move the entire apartment building by my computer hackery!

Today was more subdued than the quake in Japan but longer than the quake in France. It went on for maybe 12-20 seconds and felt like the entire building was going over a bumpy road a little. It almost felt like someone was jumping up and down or like I said earlier like someone was moving around heavy furniture. People came in from the other side and said that they could see the church steeples swaying. I chatted my Dad over Skype and he said he had just felt the strongest earthquake he'd ever felt in Maryland. Fortunately, nothing broke in his store which is filled with expensive antiques.

The building closed at 2:30pm because they were worried about aftershocks. There's been some but so weak they couldn't be felt anywhere near here. I went to the bosses house and we sat around watching the news sipping wine and talking about work for the rest of the day.

Everyone is talking about it in the streets. Nobody here has ever felt an earthquake here. People here on the east coast didn't even recognize it as an earthquake because most of them had no notion of what an earthquake really was. Well, if there's one thing this has done without anyone getting hurt is some education!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 141: Launderette

Sequim (pronounced 'squeem') grain tower
 At the moment, we're staying in our second house without a washing machine, and the first with a dishwasher.  I actually like going to the launderette.  I don't know why people have washing machines, even.  At the launderette, you can hang out, go for cups of coffee, or just look around town at some of the weirder stuff. 

Sequim weather station! Today the stone is wet, but I haven't seen rain for so long, I don't believe in it any more

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Day 139: Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest
 We suddenly realised it was Saturday, and Mike's last day in the Olympic National Park area before heading back to Philadelphia for some serious work.  So we threw some clothes on, even though we really needed to do the laundry, threw a picnic together even though we really needed to do the shopping and went of to look at the Hoh Rainforest.  This is one of the few temperate rainforests in the world, though actually, I wonder if some of the others aren't in New Zealand, because it had a familiar feel to it.  It was all trees thick with dangling mosses and ferns on the ground.  It was also sunny and dry, but I suppose we will have to say that was lucky, if not typical. 


On the way back, we went to the Crab House for dinner so that Mike could eat a huge Dungeness Crab.  It took him at least an hour and a half, but I didn't mind because I was enjoying watching American Football on the TV screen right over our booth.  Mike hates American Football and doesn't know what the rules are, so it is fun to ask him.  I think that it consists of the opposing teams lining up in the middle of the field.  When the guy in the middle drops the ball, each team member makes a dash for his opposite number and starts trying to beat him up. It's alright, they don't get hurt because they're wearing more armour than a medieval knight in a tournament.  Since all you can see is their arms, more than half of them have taken to tattooing their arms all over as a means of self-expression.  The good thing about the helmets is that they have headphones built in, and on the sidelines are a bunch of guys strutting up and down with microphones over their mouths, yelling encouragements.  The cheerleaders are just for show.

Crabs and football!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Day 137: Forest Trail

We were going to take a hike along a lake but that part of Olympic National Park turned out to be shut because they are removing a couple of dams that created the lake in the first place.  The idea is to reopen the habitat for wild salmon.  It seems to be taking a very long time, because they started in the mid 1990s and the lake is still there.  Since we couldn't get near the lake, we climbed a hill through dense forest to an overlook.  That turned out to be a bit of problem for us as well, because someone forgot to take enough water.

Day 136: Hurricane ridge

Everybody's been telling us to go to Hurricane Ridge. It turns out to be well worth it.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Day 135: Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit is a large barrier of sand dune curving out into the sound.  It's covered in driftwood, pebbles, seabirds and quite a large amount of drifting fog when we were there.  It's a wildlife refuge but also a place where people can hang out and play. As usual many of them don't get further than the first half mile, which I suppose is good for the wildlife.

Day 134: George Washington Inn

We are near Port Angeles with Canada right across the sound from us and the Pacific Ocean not that far away, and for the first time in ages it's cool and cloudy and a bit reminiscent of Scotland.  It feels very nice to have that for a change.  I think part of the reason it reminds me of Scotland is that we're in the grounds of a big manor house that's now a hotel.  We have a flat in the coachhouse.  All around us, there are views of the lavender they've decided to grow here (that's not very Scottish obviously, but I could pretend it's heather), and on one side there are mountains, and the other side the sea.  There are blackberries in the hedgerows and tadpoles in the ditches.  About the only thing we did all day was go to the farmer's market and buy food. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Days 132 & 133: London

One of the things about traveling that is coming home to bite is being far away when things go wrong.  I think you perhaps end up more upset than you would have been otherwise.  Which is why, although we had a nice drive from Medford to Port Angeles and met a couple of really nice and interesting friends-of-Mike's on the way, I just can't really bring myself to talk about that at the moment.

I was already upset about the thing in Norway, but I'm even more upset about what's going on in London because that really is home.  I realise I haven't been living there for a while, but I know that if I was in France, I would feel an absolute need to get on a train right now and go and see for myself just what the state of things is.  As things are, all I get is people babbling in the media, and a lot of them are doing it from the other side of Green Belt, or, God-help-us, the other side of the Atlantic.  The thing that really is upsetting me is the tendency amongst some of these people to drag race into their narratives, which is neither smart, nor fair, nor good for my city.

I take it that Mr Duggan was Black British and that seems to have blinded a lot of people to the fact that our rioters are a fair cross-section of London's 'finest', that is to say, absolutely everybody, including some of the darling offspring of those people outside the Green Belt.  Check out the pictures if you don't believe me.  Meanwhile, the victims here seem to also be a typical cross-section of London's communities, ie just about anybody of rather maturer years and economic stability.  I'm feeling like a lot of people don't 'get' London, and are busy creating misrepresentations in the media and in their conversations that can do more harm to us in the end than any rioting or police mishandling of that 'accident' of theirs.

The streets and neighbourhoods of London are extremely multi-racial and multi-cultural which is how I like them. I'm afraid some people seem to have naively decided that multi-racial somehow means 'not including white people'.  Just to set you straight: I've always felt like my own Borough, Newham, was ethnically typical.  Not that I'm counting people on the street, but it felt to me like a third white, a third black and a third others, mostly asian.  I thought I would check before I said anything so according to Wikipedia we are 39% white, 38% asian, 20% black and 3% others, as of 2006.  All of us mixed together, and hardly ever a cross word   ;  )  Well, OK, maybe a few from time to time.  But less of that 'us' and 'them' race stuff please, and if you absolutely must, 'we' are white, not invisible.  It's not that I'm queuing up to be branded a potential rioter, but neither are 99.9% of my neighbours.

PS.  I'm not the only one who says so.

Day 131: Putting Green

This morning, David took us to the putting green which is like a kind of miniature golf course for adults.  There are 18 holes which sort of resemble the green part of a full golf course.  You would use them to practice the putting aspect of golfing, so one of the things about them is that they are quite a bit more challenging than the greens you find on a course for real - so David tells me.  They have bends and bumps and sideways tips, and all that sort of thing, all covered over with completely level grass of course.  We also had a score card which is rather similar to the one you use on a full golf course I suppose.  To start with I found that having a score was distracting me from being really focused on what I was trying to do, but eventually I got into it.  This made absolutely no difference to my scores as far as I can tell - they ranged from pitiful to adequate either way.  Since on our last visit David took us to the driving range, I've now had a taster of both sides of golf.  I enjoyed it a lot, so I'll probably do some more if I get a chance.  I don't know if I could ever get really, really into it, because the rounds take so long.

Day 130: Band concert

We went to an Ashland City Band concert in Ashland in the evening and sat out in the park with a picnic.  They started with a brass quintet before the full concert band so I actually thought we were going to escape the whole pledge of allegiance/national anthem/invocation thing.  Hey, I was thinking this is a more liberal modern kind of area.  But it was not to be, suddenly with no warning everybody started getting to their feet.  How do they know?  The guy didn't announce the national anthem until after they were all standing up.  I don't know how many times I have heard the US national anthem over the last few months and it's got to be one of the least memorable pieces of music  I've ever encountered.  I wouldn't recognize it if I met it in the street, except for everyone standing frozen with their hands over their hearts.  Maybe that's why they have to play it so much.

It was a really nice concert and its always pleasant to be outside listening to music.  The band were pretty good, especially considering that they are not professionals.  I think really there is only one thing I would have to say if I'm being honest.  It's that the people aroud here are a bit like people in everyone's fantasy of an English country village.  They aspire to have things 'nice'.  They make a lot of art and music but they do it 'nicely'.  So it lacks all the edge and gravity and fire that 'touches man to the depth of his soul or raises him to the level of the gods', etc.  Also, they could have put a bit more welly into it.  I don't think it's a matter of talent or practice or professionalism, especially, I think it's down to what's in people heads.  But anyway, it was very nice and I had a nice time : )

Monday, 8 August 2011

Day 128: Guns

This is me, being a danger to nature and society - well at least that part of nature and society within a large semi-circle of where I was standing.  I was meant to be trying to be a danger to a laundry soap bottle, but most of the bullets got buried in the ground somewhere.

The thing about being a European and guns is that you can't quite believe that they're really for real and that someone you know has really got one, let alone several. Hmmm...  Ok, now I'm off to do a couple of days of writing somewhere all by myself.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Days 126 & 127: Camping by the Hood River

We spent two half days getting back to Talent in Oregon.  I don't actually have much to report from this trip because for one reason and another I haven't had enough sleep lately and am going around in a kind of daze.  Mike decided he was going to do half of a 12-hour journey on the first day by hook or by crook, but since we didn't really pull out of Sandpoint until 3pm we found ourselves looking for a campsite halfway along the Hood River at 9:30pm in the dark.  The Hood River is the border between Washington state and Oregon.  It's a very attractive area with great views of snow-capped Mt Hood and lots of dams (which I like, despite the ecological problems they create)  A guy at a gas station sent us across the river into Washington to a state park where the campground turned out to be full and the offices closed down.  I had seen more caravans on the other side of the entrance road so we went to see if it was a private campground.  It was mostly empty and there seemed to be only two people staying there, but they told us it was tribal fishing lands.  I was surprised to learn that there are lots of tiny tribal areas that are too small to appear on maps as well as the big reservations like the one we drove through in Montana.  Anyway, the lady who was there gave us a detailed list of all the possible campgrounds in the area.  Eventually, after a lot of detours, we fetched up in a kind of rest area where camping is tolerated and free.  There were just a lot of caravans in a car park, a toilet block and a load of windsurf boards scattered around the grass between the parking and the river.  Most people are here to windsurf.  We were here to get about 6 hours of sleep.  Mike made us get up early ; ), so that we would be at his Mum's by lunchtime.  That was another 6-hour drive that I got through in a daze.  I've been asleep most of the time since.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Days 124 & 125: Close to nature in Idaho

On Friday evening, we decided to walk up to the top of our friend's land to look at the 'ham shack'.  This isn't a place for smoking ham!  It's where Chris kept his ham radio stuff and I suppose he was in a good part of the property for sending and receiving messages.  Anyway, I never made it.  There are always a lot of mosquitoes on their land in the evening, but typically these don't bother much.  Actually, they prefer Mike's blood to mine, so as long as I'm near him, I'm likely to be left alone.  I've been rather smug about this, and now I got my comeuppance.  I was walking up the hill with the mosquitoes and myself more or less ignoring each other, even though they were on my clothes.  Suddenly I felt a painful jab on my thigh.  Followed by another and another.  I decided these mosquitoes were just too vicious for me and decided to get out of there.  I headed back to the house at high speed, with the guys calling after me that there were fewer mosquitoes higher up.  Ha!  I went in and inspected three good sized holes in places I'm not sharing.  I was just sitting around feeling dazed when a wasp flew out of the bottom of my trousers!  Not long after the guys came back and Chris had got stung as well.  Mike had fortunately escaped, as he is allergic to wasp stings.  We must have trampled on a nest of wasps or something. 

So, apparently this is called 'being close to nature'.  But actually some strange things are happening in that regard.  Either the Idaho panhandle is much more European in terms of population density and land use, or I'm getting more used to the way America looks and feels, or the lake provides a massive escape valve or all of those things, but Sandpoint is not feeling as weird to me as most of America so far.  There's no doubt that to me, it's all about the lake.  It's hard to turn a lake into private property and neither nature nor society can well stop people circulating on it so it's this big wide expanse of accessible public space.  And to some extent, the banks have followed.  That's what you need in order to be able to get close to nature in the first place.  It's very liveable.  One of Carol's friends took us out on her motorboat across the lake to her house.  We hung out all afternoon, went kayaking from the 'neighborhood' beach and the kids swam.  This house is in practice only accessible by motorboat, though you can also take a 4-hour drive on dirt roads to get there.  This house would be the most amazing place to hide up and write or do art because when you want to be alone you have a fabulous view over the lake and nobody can bother you.  When you want to throw a party, you have a beach, a big fire pit and boats and a whole lot of space.  It's also a really beautiful house, partly built by the owner out of cord wood, which is the kind of wood we use for firewood.  The logs are set lengthways in concrete so you just see the round end and occasionally there are blue vodka bottles, end to end in the concrete letting in blue light.  I can imagine this house would be partly fun to build (drinking the vodka) and partly not so fun (hauling every single thing in on those dirt roads).  At any rate, it's quite an achevement.

I think Europeans would be amazed just how many unpaved roads there are in America, especially considering the climate.  Our friend's driveway is half way down a mile of dirt track along with a whole lot of other houses.  They also built there own house (with help from time to time).  They went from a tiny cabin to a bigger cabin to a small house (keeping the cabin for guests).  Then they've expanded the house twice and have about 3 or 4 other sheds or garages that have various uses.  It's a more traditional construction than the lake house we visited but it all looks nice and homogenous. Both these houses are quite typical of the land development situation here, and that is also why you see so many bits of land with people living in trailers or mobile homes.  Something that's not rare in this part of the country is a trailer with a barn roof built over the top of it.  Presumably that's a good thing with the snow you get here.  So these people own their land and either don't have the money to put up a house, or the skills, or haven't got round to it yet, or find that the trailer/mobile home meets their needs anyway.  I don't quite know which.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Days 122 & 123: Sandpoint, Idaho

Sandpoint Beach
 Apparently, Sandpoint won some kind of award for the most liveable small town in the US.  I bet the reason is its beach on the lakefront (see photos).  I've spent a fair amount of time taking the kids to lakeside beaches.  We tried to take them on a walk but that was a bit of a failure.  I guess Mike and Antonia are having a lot of fun because Antonia is spending all her time being as naughty as possible with our friend's son and Mike is spending all his time in our friend's office in town getting his work done in peace and quiet.

A bunch of little Tom Sawyers and Huckleberry Finns

Monday, 1 August 2011

Days 120 to 121: Glacier National Park

The weather to the east of Hidden Lake overlook
We didn't have time to do any long hikes in Glacier National Park so instead we had time to do lots of short hikes with plenty of time to lie around observing the scenery.  We went to St Mary and Virginia falls and spent more time lying around looking at rainbows, spray, and dragonflies swooping overhead like swallows than we did walking.  We met a couple who were making their way slowly over to Alaska and they recommended a hike to Hidden Lake from Logan Pass.  So Mike made us get up at about 6:30 in the morning to drive to Logan Pass and walk a mile and a half over snow to see this Hidden Lake.  It turned out to be a really good thing we went so early, because we had the place almost to ourselves.  There were just a couple of mountain goats occupying the path in such a way that Antonia found it hard to be a good Junior Ranger and stay away from them.  From Hidden Lake overlook, there is a really beautiful view over both sides of the mountain range, which isn't really the case at Logan Pass itself.  This morning was particularly interesting because lots of little fluffy clouds were scudding over from the west and seemed to be piling up in a big traffic jam on the east side where things were looking pretty grim.

The weather to the west of Hidden Lake overlook

When we started the slow drive down to the western side of glacier, we lost sight of all this threatening weather, and high-tailed it across Montana and some of Idaho to our friends' house near Sandpoint.  We didn't even manage to keep track of when we passed the state line or the time change to Pacific time.