Back in the U.S.S.A.

After the fireworks we took a day off in our last B&B. This one was clean, tastefully decorated, located in a very scenic spot, but lacked breakfast. The hostess told us that there had been complaints, and the kitchen was upstairs, and so on, but the fact remains, it ain’t a B&B, it’s a B.

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Why are you staying indoors, when …..

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the view from the verandah, with chairs, is so nice? That’s Vancouver across the way.

The next day we headed south again to catch the ferry back to Anacortes. It was a beautiful day, marred only by the long wait to pass US immigration on the dock. At least they didn’t ask for our Social Security numbers and voting records. That’s months away.

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The Elwha arrives.

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Farewell to Canada.

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Lots of water and sky.

When we got to Anacortes it was time to put the foot down and get to Vancouver WA, just north of Portland, for the night. Then it was on to Ashland OR for one night and tickets to The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Trendspotting. Avid readers will recall our trip to the Globe Theater in London and Twelfth Night (link). It looks as if a trend is emerging – turning Shakespeare comedies into singspiel. This production of Merry Wives contained musical numbers drawn from the pop world plus cross dressing, and large portions of ham. The crowning ‘achievement’ was casting a small woman as Falstaff. The key here is “small”, not “woman.” It just doesn’t cut it when Falstaff is not, as the line goes, “two yards about” (72 inch waistline). She was bulked up, and had good (i.e. bad) hair and beard, and she played him as Bobcat Goldthwaite might have done, but just didn’t have the height or width needed to dominate. Oh well. Worth trying.

Much of the pop music meant nothing to us, although the younger audience members caught the references. All of us got the big first half close, with Mistresses Ford and Page singing Blondie’s “One Way or Another” as they planned revenge on Falstaff:

One way or another I’m gonna find ya
I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha … etc.

That was definitely a hit. So, watch for this kind of treatment in the next Shakespeare comedy you attend.

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Slender being a perfect fool with Ann Page. Costumes were excellent.

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Professional singers. The regular cast members were good too.

On Wednesday morning we headed south to visit Quincy and Sarah in Brisbane (SF Peninsula). Our last photo taken in anger was of Mount Shasta.

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There’s a little bit of smoke/fumes on the north side, visible in binoculars. Beware, northerners.

We had a very nice visit to Quincy and Sarah’s new house, a bay cruise in their sailboat (the Mostly Harmless), and an ‘interesting’ dinner on our last night. Sarah and I ordered lamb kebabs: she got lamb and I got free-range mutton. Tasty but tough: un-swallowable.

On Friday, July 7th, we drove down the 101 and arrived home at last. Aside from a bit of mold in the bathrooms and the odd cobweb, everything was just as we left it. The automated drip irrigation system did not explode while we were gone. Our neighbors the Bakers gave us all the mail and we settled in to read, do laundry, and check out the starter battery on the Prius (late word – it’s dead; new parts ordered). We look forward to several days of inactivity.

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Another scenic drive, this time from Revelstoke to Whistler.

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Glorioski, a picnic pullout! This was built by BC Hydro near one of their dams. We shared it with a busload of German tourists.

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The snow-capped peaks never stop. This a view across Duffey Lake. The driftwood seems to be part of a real logjam from long-ago felled trees.

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We blew the budget on the Fairmont-Chateau Whistler. Our view from the 10th floor was nice in that you can’t see the ‘village’ (read ‘shopping mall’). Although it’s the end of June, there was still snow at the top of the lifts and we saw skiers back from the snow, walking down Main Street in ski boots.

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While others played real golf, Alice and I played mini-golf behind the hotel.

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Janet and John were here for a wedding of a school friend’s son, and we went with them to the Squamish/Lilyat Cultural Center. The most interesting displays were the canoes. Some were traditionally made from whole cedar logs but trees large enough for a rough-weather canoe (the biggest) are almost gone. This one was cedar, but constructed from planks.

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Each seat had a face. I’m not sure how comfortable this is.

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Then we went off to a Mongolian BBQ dinner and posed for pictures. Whistler village resembles Vail in a lot of ways, but is less kitschy. Still, unless you’re a shopper, you’re better off playing mini-golf. Or hiking.

Canada Day tomorrow!

A 1,000-K Run

After meticulous planning we decided that we should try to get to Thunder Bay in one day from Manatoulin Island. That’s over 1,000 km. If we did it, we would not have to go over 400 miles on any other day and still make it to Vancouver by the 1st.

We had a bad start. We chose to have breakfast at a Tim Horton. To sum up, if Michelin ever visits a Tim Horton they will immediately award one star to McDonald’s. The service was slow, the sausage biscuit was soggy and tasteless, the hash browns were flabby, the doughnuts were made sometime yesterday; even the coffee tasted bad. We have no idea what item on the menu is “Always Fresh.” We didn’t have it.

After breakfast things got better. The weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful. We agreed, however, that the best way to enjoy the lake and the woods would be to stop and sit down for a few hours. Perhaps a cottage would be a good idea? After a few hundred kilometers we found a pullout (not many are signed). In this one spot we found lots to see.

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Wildflowers abounded. We passed hundreds of km. of them beside the road. These yellow and white flowers were the most common, but occasionally you could see fields of lupine.

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These were everywhere on our little beach.

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Lots of puffy white clouds.

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I think these are swallowtails.

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A driftwood dolphin? No real dolphins in Lake Superior.

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More clouds rolling in.

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All this from just one stop!

We had a cracker and cheese lunch and ploughed on. The rains did come, sometimes quite hard, but with only modest traffic they didn’t cause any trouble. By the time we were ready for dinner they had stopped. We chose the Red Dog Motel in Terrace Bay just by chance – Alice had been demanding Lake Superior Whitefish (not Lake Ontario, Lake Superior…) and the menu of this otherwise ordinary-looking restaurant had fresh Walleye. It turned out to be very good – a winner!

200 km later we were in Thunder Bay at 9:15. Now we can relax. Only 400 miles to Winnipeg.

Blue Ridge to Green Brier

When we left DC this morning it was raining and looked to be doing so all day. We decided to head for the Greenbrier without doing the Skyline Drive or the Blue Ridge Parkway because, hey, no scenery in the rain.

On the way we detoured to Montpelier, James Madison’s home. The home itself is interesting – since Dolly Madison sold it in 1844 it has had several owners, the DuPonts among others. They added to the house, but the current restoration has removed all but the Madison constructions. The furnishing were sold way back and the restoration body is trying to find as many as they can. Today about 20% of the interior bits are original. No photos, of course, but this did not matter because I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera and you’ll get no exterior shots either! The tour guide was super-excellent. If you go, get the tour from Lorna.

Since it had stopped raining, we ‘detoured’ into Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.

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When you come to an overlook….. Obviously a fire burned the near trees.

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Neat to see clouds at eye level (about 2900 feet).

As we drove along we had a 10-second look at a very small ( like a large cat) black bear cub walking on the stone railing. We slowed down instinctively and he/she turned and came towards us. I heard a grunt from the woods and the cub jumped back into the forest. Best for all concerned, I think.

We enjoyed our drive, ate some crackers and cheese at an overlook, and after 50 miles or so, headed for White Sulphur Springs, WV, and the famous Greenbrier resort.

Our first hint that we might be out of our league was the news that valet parking was $25 and self-parking was free but took place in the next state over (slight exaggeration – it was a very long walk). Alice’s fuse started to burn when she read that not only would any meal have a mandatory 20% service charge, and tax, but also a ~6% charge for building restoration. Why not another 3% for bath towels? Final straw was window shopping the candy store (they have their own shopping mall downstairs for those who have anything left over) where they sold chocolates for $55 a pound. That’s about $1.80 per piece.

So we decided to have dinner out at Cook’s Country Kitchen, the 6th-rated restaurant in the town. Bad decision. We both had fish-and-chips-style cod, which was not bad. Sure it came in a 20 pound bag frozen solid, but it fried up well. It was the other stuff that failed. Just to see what it would be, I ordered ‘fried apples’ as a side. It was Smart & Final Iris canned apple pie filler, microwaved. I also asked for a biscuit – it came microwaved and felt like a ball of hot damp cotton. The fried green tomatoes were 80% batter. And tough batter – like a poker chip.

After a weekend of budget luxury in DC, we felt about as smart as a sack of hammers. But cheer up, tomorrow it’s on to Nancy’s for the Big Birthday. Gotta get better!

Lands End

Friday, October 4, 2014

With the weather holding we set out to do a circle around the furthest southwest part of England. We began with St. Ives on the north side of the Penwith peninsula. St. Ives these days is famous for its “clear light” and hosts an artists’ colony. What the guides don’t tell you is how difficult it is to drive in.

A.S.A.P.
by
Charles Frost Ffolke-Taille

As we were entering St. Ives
We met a truck,’twas eight feet wide.
The streets are narrow, dark and dank;
It might as well have been a tank.
Trucks, streets, thrills, lives,
How quickly fled we from St Ives?

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St. Ives from the nearest parking lot.

In retrospect we might have lingered, but this was just the first stop of the day.

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The Discovery of Tin in Britain

As readers of Bill Nye’s History of Britain know, tin was mined in Cornwall, albeit before the above documentary photo (since 2100 BC).

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There were abandoned smelting smokestacks all over the countryside – this one was by the road. Tin was mined where you found it and you didn’t need a gigantic operation to extract it.

Lands End – furthest westerly point in England – fabled in story and song – and site of  modern improvements to the natural landscape.

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It was difficult to resist a “4D Film Experience” but we did. We didn’t even ask what 4D meant but pushed on to the cliffs.

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It took a while to deduce which outcropping was Lands End, but we’re sure this is it. The Cornish coast is a nightmare for ships with granite shoals like the one above all over the place. Around a coastline of about 250 miles there have been ~6,000 ships wrecked. The residents were notorious for lighting false beacons, luring ships onto the rocks for plunder.

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Beautiful scenery though. This approaches PCH 1 south of Big Sur, but it lacks the cliff top roads.

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At a bus stop, otherwise not well marked, is a stone circle named the Merry Maidens. The local myth is that they were 19 maidens punished for dancing on a Sunday.

Always attuned to mythic vibrations, I was puzzled not to feel any at this site. Later I found out that there were probably 18 original stones, and in the 19th century new stones were added and some old ones moved in an attempt at reconstruction. Is there any castle/abbey/fort/stone circle in the UK that is in its original (and I’ll allow incomplete) version?

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The publicity page for Mousehole says, “Dylan Thomas (1930) described Mousehole as ‘ the loveliest village in England’, a title that remains true to the present day.” 80 years have passed and today Mousehole is right down-the-middle ordinary. We began to think longingly of St. Ives.

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The climate must be mild. Here is a yucca and some pampas grass growing on the beach.

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Our last stop of the day was for Mount St. Michael, 400 yards of the coast at Marazion. At low tide you can walk to it on a granite causeway; at other times there is a water taxi. It has obvious similarities to Mont. St. Michel in France, and was in fact given to to that abbey by Edward the Confessor.

Ownership has changed regularly what with politics and religion involved. The most recent owners, the St. Aubyns, bought it in 1659. In 1954 they donated it to the National Trust with a 999-year lease to inhabit the castle.

The clouds were rolling in so we decided to take a back-lit photo and admire the beach for a while before heading home. In spite of the minor disappointments of the day, we had some great scenery and perfect weather. A walk on the beach seemed like a good way to end.

Great Expectations

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IMG_3510-1We left the King’s Arms intent on a day of car-cruise sightseeing on a road promised to make PCH south of Monterey look like wet socks.

On the way in to Skye the weather had been overcast with glare from the setting sun – not the best photo op for Eilean Donan, the most photographed castle in Scotland. There was a building on the site as early as the 600s, but the current building is a restoration finished in 1932 from ruins left during the Jacobite uprising in 1719.

The setting is what makes the picture. The castle is cute but not overwhelming. With the heavy overcast it took a lot of post-processing to come up with a decent shot.

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The scenic route looked like this:

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The road was marked as “normal” – not a motorway and not a country road, but much of the time it was a single lane for two-way traffic with pullouts to accommodate cars coming at each other. You had to Pay Attention!

In Torridon was a National Trust Country site with some red deer and highland cattle. The cattle stayed a goodly distance away; I hope we get better looks.

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When we arrived at Loch Ewe we had a chance to visit Inverewe Garden and Estate but were discouraged by the number of tour buses, our schedule, and that we had seen a good garden at Dunvegan. Also, the Really Scenic part of the day was promised to be next.

We found an unadvertised Victoria Waterfall in the middle of a clearcut. Lots of logging going on in the highlands. We walked up the path to above the fall.

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When we got to the advertised Falls of Mesach it turned out to be part of a National Trust site with an admittance charge of 2 pounds each, coins only. We didn’t have the coins.

At this point we decided to head straight for our B&B. The scenery is pretty, no doubt. We enjoyed the ride. Maybe in the sun it would be more striking. For sure it did not erase memories of Coast 1 and Big Sur. 

Tomorrow: Loch Ness. Nessie is said to appear only when the weather is nasty. We can’t lose!

Loch Lomond: Colquhoun Country

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today we headed for Loch Lomond and the town of Luss, ancestral home of the Colquhouns (pronounced Cah-hoon), Jon’s roots. The actual baronial hall is now the Loch Lomond Golf Club and is not open to the public, so we weren’t sure what we would be able to find.

Just before Luss we spotted a large gate with a red deer on top – part of the Colquhoun heraldry – and hung a U-turn down the road to get back to it. It proved to be the back gate to, um , we don’t know, but we suspect the ancestral property, now the golf club.

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Alice takes one of many photos of Jon and his family crest.

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And here is that crest – pretty spiffy. The family motto is “Si je puis” (If I can) and the Gaelic underneath, “Cnoc elachan” is obscure. We were told it means My/Our Home, but a Gaelic dictionary tells us that “cnoc” is a small hill, and “elachan” isn’t a word. Research is needed.

We took one of the many cruises available from Luss, just a 90 minute one, across the loch and back.

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Village of Luss. Note the church on the left (more later).

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Looking north, Ben Lomond on the right.

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Loni, Jon, Chuck

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Hey, we like dogs. Plus the upper one is a malamute.

 

Back on shore we went to the church to search for significant gravestones. The church was restored in 1852 by Sir James Colquhoun, 12th Baronet of Colquhoun and Luss. There weren’t many Colquhouns there (perhaps more at the golf club?).

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This one is remarkable for (1) the name Ludovic, not previously known as a family name to Jon, and (2) for the bright orange lichen.

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The residents here have a lovely view of Loch Lomond.

By great good fortune we were at the church just after Sunday services and it was still open. Inside was a brilliant stained glass window:

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The photo does not do it justice. The colors were amazing. Obviously this is much later than Sir James’ restoration, being in memory of Sir Iain who died in 1948.

We talked with some church members who told us (listen up, Calhoun family) that at 11:45 a.m. local they webcast the Sunday service at www.lusschurch.com.

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All in all, our timing was fortuitous, the weather was perfect (first sunny Sunday in weeks, we were told) and other than playing a round of golf, the experience was complete. For Jon’s take on this and other travel news, visit his blog at Houn’s Journal.

We drove to Inverary and found it a mecca for motorcyclists because of the twisty roads that lead there. This is true: the squeaks from the passengers as we negotiated the narrow roads and fought for space with oncoming buses and trucks were heartfelt.

 

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Irony Alert #1: Inappropriate ship names.

 

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Irony Alert #2: a statue honoring the dead of the Great War, the War to End All Wars, and two more plaques added later to honor the fallen in the war that started 21 years later.

 

After a lovely scenic drive back home, with obligatory squeaks, we had a very nice dinner at River House. The food was good and we had a Free Drink coupon from Laura, our B&B host. Sláinte!