Roadtrip 2015 – Avenue of the Giants

After a day of driving through one of the probably most beautiful forests of the western U.S., I …did it again. Except I didn’t turn back but went on towards Sacramento, taking the Avenue of the Giants, that stretch of road that runs right next to the Redwood Highway, Route 101. It’s a pretty stretch of road, full of actually huge trees, some you can pay 5 bucks to drive through. Which I did, naturally. Apart from that this day was rather similar to the last, except maybe a little shorter and I took less pictures.

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After that it was time to go to West Sacramento where I met the lovely and awesome Cairn Rodrigues whose cats hid for me, whose bird didn’t want to dance for me but enjoyed my whistling and whose husband called me “Sir”1.
She also housed me, fed me fried chicken and corncobs, and she took me to National Parks where we took lots of pictures and found gold. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.

yolo

Footnotes
  1. I quickly put an end to that []

Roadtrip 2015 – Smokejumpers and Redwoods

Today started with the most adorable surprise. I decided to have breakfast at my motel, because…well, it was included and I was hungry AND curious. And I wasn’t disappointed. Nothing special, not at all, but they did have waffle makers and batter. I made my waffle, stabbed at it with my plastic fork when one of the more native people indicated to me that using a waffle stick would probably be easier. Yay, waffle stick!1

Disappointment followed! No butter! Eh, whatever. I grabbed some syrup and made my way to my table. Munching happily on my waffle I probably made a rather funny face when a little kid, 6-8 years old walked up to me and said something not quite comprehensible to me. I can understand a lot of English accents across three or four continents, but kids often elude me. He repeated twice and pointed into the general direction of buffet. Well, table laden with foodstuffs. At that moment a women, I assume it was his mom said “He says there’s butter again.”
I thanked him and went to grab some, overhearing assumed mom saying to her kid: “That was nice of you.”

Yup. That kid, barely out of kindergarden, decided to be nice to this random stranger without being prompted to.. Lady who had breakfast at the Super 8 Motel in Grants Pass on May 16th of 2015, you are raising your kid right. While there’s people like you left in this world, not all is lost. I salute you with the oddly specific waffle stick of respect and admiration!WP_20150516_08_30_43_Pro

 

Thusly invigorated I made my way South towards Cave Junction, home of Great Cats world which I didn’t visit. I did pull off at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum because it looked like something to do with planes and I’m kind of a nerd for those.
If you ever are in that general area I can only recommend you do the same. After I got out of my car and looked at the sign to see what this place was about, an elderly but very alive looking man came out of a building and asked me if I was interested in a small tour of the museum. Of course I was.2
He asked me if I knew what smokejumpers were and I admitted that I literally had just seen the sign and randomly pulled off to check it out.

Let me paint you a picture. It’s the mid 50s. Someone spots a column of smoke rising above the forest in the distance. They radio it in, the column is triangulated. At the same time a siren sounds, phones ring. Men in their 20s rush to the base, suit up, grab food for 3 days, a few tools, no water and board a plane. They parachute out of the plane in the middle of nowhere, no roads, no GPS, no cell phones. They look for the fire and maybe a cargo drop. Before the fire spreads they cut fire lanes around it and save thousands of acres. Those are smoke jumpers. The man who gave me the tour and told me stories? Donald Thomas, veteran, used to be a smoke jumper in 1957, loved every second of it until he got married and his wife would rather not have him jump out of airplanes. He told me about their gear, procedures, planes, special incidents and his second training jump ever. When he got dropped over a herd of cows, tried to evade and practically landed on top of one. He could hardly move, there was a bull, his buddy tried to literally just “shoo” it away before he made a beeline. Then his instructor (I forgot that one’S name) literally kicked him in the ribs, screaming “You’re not in pain, get up and run!”
He also took a picture of me in front of the plane that got donated at some point. The same model as one of the later smokejumper planes, not an actual one, though.

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After this unexpected but actually really awesome3 stop I made my way towards the coast, right through the Redwood National and State Park, following Redwood Highway. I made a few stops to hike a short trail, take a few pictures or just look at the scenery. Have you ever been in a place that is so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s almost physically painful not being able to stop at a particular spot? That place is just like that.

Also the corndog at that one rest stop was rather tasty. Here’s a gallery of the few times I actually managed to stop on the way to Eureka, California. Particularly bad and odd was the Trinidad Scenic Drive at the end of this day’s trip. A road…well, no a street or actually a path that felt barely wide enough for my small rental car, cliffs and the Pacific ocean to one side, winding along…suddenly turning a corner and you see those large birds, a dozen of them, hanging around in a tree. Remember how happy I was to see those two turkey vultures I saw on Rogue River? There was a dozen taking flight there and I just slammed the brakes excitedly. Then watched helplessly as they took flight before I even thought of grabbing the camera from the passenger seat. Anyway, here’s the pics, enjoy those!

 

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Later that day I arrived at the Motel in Eureka, and the less we say about that, the better. The steak at Adel’s steak house was okayish, the Sierra Nevada Ale was good, there was no free wifi and the rooms and location where subsubpar compared to the other motels I’d stayed in on the trip. But hey, one night, who cares? In retrospect, of the days I spent driving along the coast (and on Maui), this was the most beautiful and interesting day of the whole trip. I had fun, and a corndog!

Footnotes
  1. you guys have the weirdest specific tools []
  2. It would’ve been rude to just say no, also I WAS interested []
  3. please check out their website []

Roadtrip 2015 – Going to Crater Lake and beyond

After doing some research before my road trip I’d decided to make Crater Lake a destination, because, well…it’s absolutely gorgeous! Going there from Eugene, Oregon, via the west entrance, supposedly takes three hours, so I got up at around 2am, because hey, might as well try to catch the sunrise, right? And if the sky was clear, maybe some stargazing/taking pictures of a star-filled night sky? Armed with sandwiches and two large energy drinks I made my way Eastward and upward. Turns out google maps had lied. When you’re driving in the dark, in rainy-ish weather, and a totally unkown route, those 171 miles stretch to about six hours. And, the rain did come from clouds, so no pretty sky either. I did make a few stops for a couple of minutes each, at possibly pretty scenic stops out in the middle of nowhere. Clearwater falls was one of these stops, and even in the rainy twilight of 6am it’s pretty, so the detour was far from being a waste of time. EosRoadtrip 370

I also count myself very lucky that I did NOT hit that deer that tried to tackle me maybe 20 minutes later. It jumped at my rental car, I slammed the brakes and it passed maybe a foot or two in front of my car. I probably had a minor heart attack back then, but thankfully nothing else happened. I doubt I would’ve had cell signal up there, I was far away from every where and waiting for rescue and repair would have seriously messed with my schedule. Driving further along past weird signs I finally arrived at Crater Lake, marvelling at the snow that was still piled up on both sides of the road, and, up at the top, nearly everywhere. EosRoadtrip 383

Sadly I somehow messed up taking pictures when being at the actual crater rim. Even though I couldn’t so much as guess where the actual lake was for all the fog, the snowy slpes and trees where rather pretty. So here’s a view from the visitor center parking lot, up to the snowy crater rim.EosRoadtrip 394I did stay up there for 20 minutes or so, hoping it might clear up, but decided to turn back when it started snowing. No sense in getting stuck up there. I quickly grabbed a few postcards from the now open visitor center (seriously, who commutes here? wow!) And made my way further south stopping at Rogue River Gorge and a few other scenic stops along Rogue River Scenic Byway, where I spotted a pair of Turkey Vultures, and at one point I THINK a Bald Eagle carrying a large branch. Didn’t get a picture of that one, though.

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At some time in the afternoon I arrived at Grants Pass, where I took a stroll from my Motel down to the River to see if there was anything I could tonight. But after kind of a long day I just ended up getting pretty good food and service at a Thai BBQ place. And asked to photograph the wedding of a local woman’s daugher by the end of the month.

Folks, if you see someone with a DSLR taking panoramic pictures of a bridge, the chances are pretty slim they’re actually a professional photographer looking for jobs. Here’s a few impressions of the town:

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Roadtrip 2015 – Breakfast, Baldies, Burgers

After those fun past few days in Seattle it was time to move out and get the road trip on the actual road. I threw my stuff into the rental car and drove South, stopping at a Denny’s for breakfast, because: Hey! I’d never eaten at Denny’s.

 

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Yeah, it probably wasn’t the healthiest of all choices, but it WAS tasty. A Red, white & blue slam, if you really want to know. Thus fortified I drove south towards Eugene, Oregon. I didn’t really have any plans for this day, so I was quite happy to see a sign on the Interstate, telling me there was a wildlife refuge nearby. I didn’t pause to think, I just pulled off at the next exit and drove to that dreamy little bluff called Ridgefield, Oregon to drive through and hike around the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge.

Driving around that place, stopping when there was interesting scenery, a short hiking trail or birds to look at, I actually saw a few interesting things, most notably a Bald Eagle. Yeah, I’ve seen them up close in zoos, at falconry displays, etc. But really, seeing one in the wild was way more spectacular even though it was a bit away. Enjoy those pics!

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After that I pretty much drove straight to Eugene, checked into my Motel, did a little research and went out to get dinner. There was a Five Guys a bit up the road, and. Yeah, I’d say underwhelming, considering all the praise they got at some point, when I found out they existed. But hey, another Roadtripfood bucket list achievement. I also got a few energy drinks and sandwiches for the next day, because the plan was to get up in the middle of the night and drive up to Crater Lake! Woo! I wonder how that’d go. We’ll find out on Monday!

Roadtrip 2015 – One hell of a whale fail

As many of you know, I ‘ve been a little obsessed with whales (and aquatic life in general) since I was a kid, and I might have been trying to go whale watching a couple of times. On my third day of vacation I had booked another attempt. A seaplane flight from Lake Union to San Juan Islands followed by a whale watching cruise. Sounds good, eh?
I’d booked it in advance, so I took a taxi to the terminal to check in, had breakfast and we took flight to the encouraging words of the attendant: “There’s a bit of fog but don’t worry. Worst case you’ll have to turn around and try again in an hour.”
Didn’t happen, as you might have guessed from the title of this post. We took off, had an actually nice flight around. I was watching the compass quite anxciously and after 30 minutes or so we’d returned to Lake Union. WP_20150513_09_12_34_Pro KopieA muffin and an hour later they told us that they still hadn’t got clearance to start, so I called the whale watching tour to tell them. No way I’d make the boat. They assured me they’d do a full refund, which was nice, but I still was in one hell of a mood.
I started a little call to arms on twitter, to see if I could do anything else to take my mind off my more than miserable temper. Since there was no taxi in sight, I decided to walk towards the hotel, cursing under my breath. Pretty much non-stop, the whole 4 miles.
Back at the hotel I remembered there was another whale watching opportunity up near Seattle, but guess what: The one tour my schedule would have allowed ended their season on May 1st. This was May 13th. But my twitter call to arms had worked. Sara, who I’d met the day before in person for the first time had managed to get off work early. She’d told her boss about my day going bust and basically got told “Go cheer him up!”

Sara, I have to say this again: You saved not only my day, but probably the rest of the week. I don’t think I’d been a fun travelling companion for myself if not for the awesome afternoon that followed. Ever been on vacation, on a roadtrip, all by yourself, in a foul mood? I haven’t, and I don’t like myself in a foul mood on other occasions.

We decided on the Tacoma Zoo, met up on the parking lot and tried to find animals, more or less successfully. Had a great time chatting about animals, travel, work and other stuff.

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The awesome didn’t stop here. After our slightly wet zoo adventure we went to the Anthony’s nearby, had bread with shrimp/artichoke dip, oyster burgers abd Rhubarb Slump for dessert.
ALL THE TASTY FOOD! With a side of more awesome conversation about various topics which I’d love to repeat some time. My Scuttlebutt Pale Ale1 was pretty nice, too. Sara’s Whiskey Sour was more wiskey than sour, though.

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After that it was time to part ways, but not before taking goody selfies and enjoying a hug.

Again, thank you Sara! And Sara’s boss! Thanks for making this the best day of all the days that so cruelly denied me whales! It was awesome even by non-whale-standards!

 

 

No murdercorns where harmed in the creation of this blog post.

Footnotes
  1. I adore that name []

Roadtrip 2015 – tweeple against humanity

After a successful day one of my vacation it was time to crank it up another notch. Time to meet more people, as scheduled. I started out by walking all the way from my hotel to the Space Needle. About 4 miles. Yeah, I’d planned to take the bus, but I had an early breakfast1 and too much time on my hands. So why not?
EosRoadtrip 080
I did well, too. I arrived just in time to meet up with the great and awesome KariAnn who wouldn’t have time in the evening but agreed to take me to the EMP Museum where we saw C3PO, took pictures together and played with musical instruments.

Look:

After that we went down to the market, ate at a crab cake, listened to tourists bang their crustaceans with wooden hammers and giggled. We also took the monorail!2

Unfortunately Kari had to return home after that, so I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at fish in the aquarium, buying stamps and sitting around at Starbucks, getting asked for money about three or four times just that day, just to kill some time.
The evening was devoted to twitter people again. I turned up on Jackie‘s doorstep after negotiating that fun combination of hallways and elevators leading to it. A bit later Jill, Carey, Megan and Sara arrived by various means of transport. We did a pretty good job of decimating the wine and cheese Jackie provided, only to move on to Carey’s wine.
Lots of wine. Tasty, tasty cheese and wine. We also talked a lot, about people we all stalked on twitter, ourselves, travel, writing, reading, books, words (I guess that’s what you get when you put people together who mostly write and/or read whenever they can), The evening went by far to quickly, though. Since we hadn’t planned on how long the evening would go, Sara went rather early to catch her ferry back home and Jill left soon after that as well. The rest of us took it upon us to endure the hardship of playing Cards against Humanity. We had to explain “smegma” to one of us and I’m not saying it was Carey. Thankfully the wine helped along and we managed to reduce Megan to tears and gasping, as well channel Sara in at least two rounds.

You guess which was which.

 

I am not ashamed of playing this one. Or winning that round.

Great minds…

Another highlight of the evening:

We all wish we’d be living it. We all do.

But even this part of the evening had to end some time, so we left Jackie in a pile of empty wine bottles and cheese rinds. Carey was nice enough to get me back to my hotel AND show me THE BRIDGE TROLL on the way, even though we almost didn’t find it. Nobody died on the way, but not for lack of trying.

 

Footnotes
  1. crabcakes benedict. YUM! []
  2. It’s more of a Shelbyville idea. []

Roadtrip 2015 – Planes, Cars, Space Needles

I’ve warned you, and here it is. I’ll start going into the details fo my vacation a couple of times a week.EosRoadtrip 035

I’d decided to start this vacation as comfortable as possible, so I spent the night before leaving at a hotel at Frankfurt Airport and ate one of the most German things imaginable for dinner. Then I went to bed, slept some, got up early for my hotel breakfast. Thus prepared for the hardships of travel I checked into my flight, boarded it some time later and took off at around 10:30AM GMT+11 to spend 9 hours on a plane. About three movies2 and one sitcom episode later I touched down in Seattle, went through customs and such, picked up my rental car and drove into and through Seattle to my Hotel in the University District.

A bit later I took a cab to Union Park and explored a little, since I had a bit of time left before the first highlight of my vacation. I saw Union Park, seaplanes and Space Needles, which was nice. I ate a hot dog, went down to Centennial Park. So basically just “first time in town random exploring before scheduled things take place”.

At around 6 PM local time3 I finally met up with Jennifer Brozek who is totally awesome and not just because she gave me three books and signed them. Her husband is awesome, too.
As the table we’d booked wasn’t ready yet, we walked around on the observation deck of the needle until they texted us, after which we …well, sat down, ordered food and drinks and chatted about everything and nothing. Mainly travel, writing, food, drinks, travel, more travel, some more writing.4
The fun part is how we know each other. You may not know, but Jennifer is actually a time travelling international jewel thief who wrote and published The Sith Lord of the Rings in 1886. Awesome, huh?  Oh, wait. I just realized I had dinner with someone who has their own wikipedia entry.5

Okay, back to business. Jennifer herself blogged about that day and it’s not the only thing of her you should read, but it’s a start.

WP_20150511_19_08_54_ProWe had a lovely dinner6 and chat, it was a great way to start my vacation. But it also was a long day and I went back to my hotel to sleep the sleep of the sleepy. EosRoadtrip 017

 

See you on Monday when I tell you about Etsy-steampunk strap-on’s.

Footnotes
  1. German time, which is usually US West Coast + 9 hours []
  2. Taken 3, Kingsman, Into the Woods []
  3. I’d been up for about 19 hours, give or take []
  4. I might have a surprise related to that for you some time later []
  5. achievement unlocked []
  6. try the wild king salmon, it’s really good! []

Travel Blogstravaganza – Intro

I’m back!
Wait, I was gone? blogroute
YES!
Most of you will probably know I’ve been away  for most of May, taking a vacation, exploring the US west coast, meeting people, eating things, taking pictures…

And of course I’ll show and tell some. This is the introduction. Think of it as an appetizer and incentive for me to dish out the main course as soon as possible.

On this trip I took about 2500 pictures, most of which pretty redundant. Also there’s some missing, for I don’t know what reason. Sad, but nothing really spectacular for what I can see.

Okay, roadtrip, what did I do?

I travelled 1300 miles1 along the US west coast, traversing 3 States. You can see what that looks like in the map on the right. I only included the parts I drove myself, but more about that in the following posts.

After that roadtrip I drove another 300 miles on Maui (in a Jeep! That was kinda fun).

In those fun three weeks I mailed about two dozen postcards. Actually I’m pretty sure it was exactly 25, but who’s counting? I met 8 of my twitter friends and one friend back from when I was playing Eve online. I ate (nearly literal) tons of things, too. Mostly stuff I usually don’t get at home, or stuff we simply don’t have in Germany. Or not like that. I only bought two t-shirts and a zippered hoodie but I brought three signed books back home. All in all I had a hell of a time and I’d definitely recommend doing that sort of thing.  See you soon when I get into the details of my trip. Maybe Friday?

Footnotes
  1. ~2000km []

German with Olli

I’m back from my vacation but I’m still horribly jetlagged or something like that. So instead of showing off pictures or telling you stories, I give you something else I brought home from my vacation.

It somehow came up when I had dinner with Amira Makansi, which was totally awesome1. We were talking about everything that came to mind and she mentioned a facebook friend who used to do a daily German word but sadly stopped at some point. So I kinda suggested doing something like that on twitter, and yeah. Here I am, starting it.

You might remember my more or less weekly lessons that I stopped at some point because I ran out of ideas. These ones will be bitesized, mostly contained in one tweet, and not daily. I’ll try to go for a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule for now.

If you don’t want to follow me for that, or are afraid to miss my tweets, I’ll hashtag them with #GermanWithOlli

Neat tag, huh? Not my idea:

Footnotes
  1. both dinner and Amira []