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August 07, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 8--Oregon

   I had one destination today: the skating rink at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon.  The skating rink has (they claim) the largest wooden floor of any rink at 100x200 feet, and a large Wurlitzer organ.  Still, I wanted to skate this rink.  So I arrived just as they opened.  The floor was as well kept as any wood floor I've skated.  And it was massive.  Because I am a more advanced skated I was asked to stay in the center of the rink if I were going backward.  But this restricted center area was larger than many of the skating rinks I've been.  It was a pleasure to skate on this floor.  I typically like pipe organs, but Wurlitzers take a fantastic interment and turn it a truly awful sound.  It was only an hour or two before I could no longer deal with the organ.  But I had wanted to skate this rink for a long time and now I had.  Unlike the Church of 8 Wheels, here I was among the few who could skate.
   Now it was time to head east.  The drive along the Columbia River was one of my favorite on the trip.  I stopped just inside Idaho for the evening.

August 06, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 7--Lassen Volcanic National Park

   The trip moves northward and today I wanted to do Lassen Volcanic National Park, my third national park for the trip.  I had hoped to do two parks today, but I found I enjoyed hiking at Lassen too much and just would have the time to do the second park.  At Lassen I went on a hike for a couple of miles to a Bumpass Hell--a hot spring with mudpots, and fumaroles.  I brought with me an isolated water bottle that broke apart from the bouncing around on the hike.  I was not expecting the hike to be as long as it was and emptied my water bottle before I was finished.  However, I had passed a snow drift (presumably) leftover from last winter.  So when I went by it again I brushed off the top layer of snow that had leaves in it to expose perfectly white mountain snow and refilled my water supply.
   After Lassen I worked my way north into Oregon where I would stop for the night.
 

August 05, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 6--San Francisco

   One thing I will say I like about San Francisco is that in August they are still in the 50s.  And I can live with that.  I woke at my packed rest area to begin my day.  I had three goals for the day: the aquarium, the cable car museum, and a skating rink.
   The aquarium was first.  I was to find out I made a mistake because the aquarium I really wanted to see was in Monterey.  The San Francisco aquarium was setup to show local sea life.  While interesting, it was fairly small and did not burn nearly the amount of time I was hoping to pass.  Interestingly, of all the sea life my favorite were the anchovies.  They were schooling and were just fascinating to watch.  I don't know how long I sent observing them, but the time was significant.  The other thing about this aquarium I really liked was the behind the scenes tour they offered.  I got to see the support equipment and a little of what it takes to have a 700,000 gallon aquarium.  I asked a lot of questions and marveled at their setup.  I do love seeing how things work.
   My next trip took me a few blocks away to a place I had wanted to visit for sometime: the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.  Not only is it a museum to show the history of this unique form of transportation, it is also the real functional hub of the worlds only remaining functioning cable car system.  And it's completely free.  Two large electric engines turn four winding wheels that run the four cable car lines.  They were right there in front of you actually doing their work with the supporting machine shop behind it.  Naturally tourists could not go into the pit area with the machinery, but there really wasn't anything you couldn't see--this was the real deal.  Around the working area were plaques and museum pieces, and I received quite the education on how cable cars function.  Pretty fascinating.  After I took in every bit of information I could find, I road a cable car back to the pear.  I just a little time left to grab dinner and then go skating.
   Friday night in a big city offers several options for rollerskating.  But I was quite interested in the Church of 8 Wheels.  It is a skating rink inside an old church, and that just sounded too interesting to pass up.  I managed to find parking without too much difficulty.  I'm glad I am good at parallel parking because the spot I found was tiny.  Luckily, Eve is pretty small herself, and I was able to squeeze into the parking space with only inches of clearance.
   The rink was interesting.  There were laser projections on the ceiling and an array of lighting.  A small wood floor for skating had pews for putting on skates.  Right away I could see this place had was good skaters.  They played some good funk and kept the paces up.  Any skater who knows what to do on quads wouldn't be able to resist dancing.  Although I've been skating for 21 years and am often the best skater at many of the rinks I visit, at this place I was only alright.  The regulars were impressive.  It was one of the best groups of skaters I've ever seen.  I skated the entire session to the point I was rather fatigued--a rare thing for a rink to do to me.
   Now after 10:00 pm it was time to depart San Francisco and find a place to sleep.  Travel in the city is a slow process and I came to understand that nothing happens quickly here.  I worked my way north to an other rest area.  This one too was also packed, but I was able to find parking and turn in for the night.
   In the future I would like to do San Francisco again.  But I would like to either travel with someone who knows the city or have a good plan of places to see first.  While an interesting place, it is not an easy place to navigate.

August 04, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 5--Yosemite and San Francisco

   The morning started with my second national park: Yosemite.   I have really enjoyed the national parks I've visited in the past, and Yosemite was one I had heard much about but had not yet visited.  I went into the lower valley and began to shoot (with my camera) anything that caught my fancy.  I started on a hike once the road began to run out and found my camera battery just about dead.  While I enjoyed myself, I know I hardly scratched the surface of things to see and I will have to return again sometime.
   My next leg of the trip would take me to San Francisco.  At this point I had been to southern and northern California, but never central.  It was time to remedy that.  My trip through the San Joaquin Valley was pretty.  Unexpectedly I started to pass through an area I knew about and had always wanted to see, but completely forgot was on the way: the Altamont Pass Wind Farm.  I love wind farms and wind technology, and Altamont is kind of the founding father of wind farms.  It emerged after the 1970 energy crisis and at one time was the largest wind farm in the world.  It is quiet large and full of wind turbines from various ages.  It's kind of like a wind turbine museum.  As soon as I saw it, I knew where I was and that I had to explore.  I did a big loop of the farm and probably irritated a lot of drivers as took in the view at the speed limit and pulled over for pictures.  But it was a really interesting place to see.  This is where wind energy learned how to be large scale.  And I saw the grandfathers of modern turbines like the ones just a few miles from Elmwood Park.
   San Francisco was not too far away and I made it into the city in time for city traffic.  I should have planned better what I wanted to do because I was mostly clueless about where I wanted to go.  And in a city that concerned and with that much traffic this is a bad thing.  I decided I would start at the Golden Gate Bridge because it is an easy destination to start with.  There I planned some additional things I would like to see.  Being interested in gay history and their struggle for equality, I decided I would visit the Castro district which continues to be a prominent symbol of the movement.  I was searching for a coffee shop and thoughts that is what I found.  Instead I entered a really nice restaurant that served a three course dinner, complete with paired wine.  The Castro was once of the nicest, best kept neighborhoods I've ever seen.  Cute gardens, clean streets, and quite lovely.
   After dinner the sun had gone down and after doing some dark photography it was time to find a place to sleep.  It is quite difficult to find parking in the city, and I knew sleeping may be an issue.  But there was a rest area just to the south of the city.  Everyone in California must travel like I do because I've never seen a rest area with so many people.  It was almost impossible to find a parking space.  I was technically not in a parking space, but with the number of cars I figured no one was going to have a problem with where I was parked. 

August 03, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 4--Death Valley

Alone I Sit in the Vallery of Death

Alone I Sit in the Vallery of Death

   With the wedding over my obligation to stay in Las Vegas had expired and it was time to move on.  I know I don't like heat and now I was in the desert in the summer.  So and came up with a rather sadomasochistic idea: go to the record setting hottest place on Earth.  Death Valley.  84 miles of basin and range, scorched rock, dried salt beds, fire, brimstone, and little red critters with pitchforks.  I wanted to know what hot really was.  Death Valley holds the world's record at 134°F (56.7 °C).  Although this record setting number is contested, the valley has hit 129°F (53.9°C) more than once.  Death Valley also holds the record for highest low temperature.  One evening it only got down to 107°F (41.7°C).  Knowing this, I wanted to subject myself.
   I watched the temperature climb and climb.  When I saw 115°F (46.1°C) I decided to pull over and get out of the car.  I recorded my reaction with was filled with a string of profane additives to describe the experience.  In Furnace Creek (never a town so properly named) I stopped at the visitor center.  Along with purchasing my national park pass I read up on the locations to see in the valley.  This was my first national park of the trip, and I decided I needed the full experience.  I would travel to Badwater Basin, the lowest place in North America.  There I found a bizarre landscape of mud and salt.  There were groups of people walking out on the flats.  The temperature at this point was 120°F (48.9°C).  I decided I was required to do this walk.  A kind of Kora or penance pilgrimage.  It was actually a really amazing experience. 
   There is no way to put into words how hot this walk felt.  The sun constantly beat down on the baron earth where even the rock looked fatigued by the constant heat.  The wind was like a blast furnace.  It did not cool you off so much as delivered more heat to you.  You could not hold your hand on the group as the temperature was too high.  I ventured out past the point most people stopped to have a moment of time to myself and take in the full experience.  Sitting was not comfortable as the ground was hard and hot.  Salt crystals had formed in seams along the ground and you can eat it--earth so hot it is a baked good.  I took a shot of myself I call "Alone I Sit in the Valley of Death." 
   I was not expecting to have enjoyed Death Valley as much as I did.  It has a savage beauty.  Viciously inhospitable, but with an environment conducive to solemn introspection.  I am glad I went.
   The drive out of Death Valley was one of deliverance.  I watched as the temperature drop below 110, then below 100, and finally as I began to climb the into the Sierra Nevada down into the 60s.  I stopped at a gas station to replenish my ice and saw gas prices at $4.48/gallon.  I had to pay $6 for a bag of ice, but it were no other options.
   My goal for the evening was somewhere near Yosemite National Park.  I found a large lodge to park for the evening and again enjoyed the cool mountain air.  Death Valley was interesting, but I much prefer staying in the mountains.

August 02, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 3--Kristy's wedding

   Kristy and Chris are married, and in an unorthodox manner far more tolerable than a typical wedding.  We all dressed up.  Many people were video game characters.  As for myself, I dawned my medieval outfit and went as Lord Wolfen from Gemfire.  I found I do not function in the heat.  I had too much and found myself highly irritable and making poor driving decisions.  Afterward I stuck myself under some blower fans in the reception hall to cool off and refused to go outdoors until the wedding was over.  That did the trick and I was soon myself again.  But lesson learned: 105° is well beyond my functional operating temperature.
 

August 01, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 2--Las Vegas

   Starting the morning with a lovely drive through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  But in time the altitude dropped and the land became arid as I approached Utah.  I watched as the temperature steadily climbed, eventually reaching 105° F (40.5° C).  I didn't enjoy leaving the protective air-conditioned confines of Eve.  Eventually I entered Las Vegas.  Apparently it was unusually humid--around 60%.  This made the 100+ temperatures even more unbearable.  Humid desert in the summer is not my idea of a good time.  So after reaching Kristy's place I stayed mostly indoors and in the pool.
 

July 31, 2016

West Road Trip, Day 1--To the Mountains

   Eve was packed yesterday.  I spent the afternoon giving her a good cleaning: vacuuming, organizing, and throwing out garbage.  I will be living in my car for the next two weeks, and she needs to be properly prepared to be my home.  Originally I had planned to leave yesterday morning, but I just didn't have enough time after work on Friday to get all the preparations done.  So I postponed for one day.  The first day of driving will be a long one--more than 15 hours behind the wheel.  The first leg of the trip is to reach Las Vegas, Nevada in time to make the wedding of my little sister Kristy.  But this is August.  Summer is not the time to be in the desert or traveling to it, especially since I sleep in my trunk on road trips.  Thus, the first leg of my trip requires me to reach the Rocky Mountains where the elevation will keep the temperatures low enough for me not to melt.  And that requires a full day of driving when starting just before dawn.
   The drive was rather uneventful.  Sunrise in southwestern Wisconsin, into Iowa, straight west through Nebraska and into Colorado.  As I neared Colorado it became overcast and there were bouts of rain.  It was dark as I approached Denver, but once there I just had a short drive to climb into Front Range of the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver.  There I found a little rest area for my first nights sleep.  As hoped, the mountains were much cooler than the 90 degrees I had during most of the trip.  A long day of driving covering 1,017 miles.