Two weeks ago, Day 9

My last day on the road, alas.  I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column.  I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there.  So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.

It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic.  I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better.  I always forget about my fear of manmade heights.  I don’t mind natural heights.  I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation.  But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way.  Absolutely no way.

Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about.  I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to.  But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again.  Odd.  At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across.  No windows. 164 steps to the top.  I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.

So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.

And here’s the photographic evidence.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.

To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment.  The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough.  It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or…  But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.

He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise.  He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast.  She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head.  Gold mine.  Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.

The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.

But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.

It was only a three and a half hour drive.  But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs.  I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right?  Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car.  I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip.  While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer.  Sigh.

Categories: cats, exploring, food, Ghost Light, highways, history, museums, outdoors, parks, research, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year with flowers and cats

I usually end up at the Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington, at some point every January.  For all that our forests are primarily evergreen, and for all that our grass stays green even through our relatively infrequent cold snaps, I get hungry for color this time of year.

When I lived in the Midwest, I used to know the location of every greenhouse or conservatory in a hundred-mile radius, and spend most January and February weekends visiting them.  There is nothing more depressing, in my book, than brown grass, leafless trees, and cold, cold weather for weeks on end.  Which is a primary reason why I no longer live in the Midwest (there are many others, but I won’t get into them here).

But still.  It is January, even here in western Washington, and our highs have been in the 30s and lows close to 20 for the last week, so I decided to go to the conservatory.

Seymour Conservatory celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago.  It’s a classic Victorian-style glass greenhouse, and after they take down the Christmas poinsettias, etc., every year, they pull out the cyclamen and primroses (why does no one ever mention how good primroses smell?).  Add in the orchids and Christmas cactus and hibiscus, and all the greenery, and it is the perfect antidote to winter.

I might make it to spring now.  Esp. since my hellebores are budding in spite of the weather, and my crocus are sprouting!

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That last photo is a complete non sequitur — the cat’s still in the bag [g].

Categories: cats, exploring, gardening, parks, plants, weather | 2 Comments

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 45

Fullerton, California

Monday, July 30, 1973

HOME!!!”  Which is all that my diary says for that day.  And plenty.

Just out of curiosity, I put our itinerary into Google maps’ directions screen, and discovered that in 45 days, we went roughly 7600 miles, not counting side trips or out-and-backs.  That equals roughly 180 miles a day.  Which really doesn’t sound like much, until you think about it being the equivalent of 180 miles every single day for 45 days.

When I was forty years old, I made what I still refer to as my Long Trip (uppercase intentional).  I drove over 14,000 miles by myself in a little under three months.  I went from here near Seattle across the top of the U.S. to Vermont, down the east coast to Florida, then across the South and Southwest to California, where I rolled my car in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  I then managed to make my way to my sister’s home in the Bay Area and flew home from there.  A year ago I blogged that journey day by day.  Like our Alaska trip, this was another journey from which I still date events in my life.  It was one of the best things I ever did.  The really funny thing is, I drove an average of almost exactly 180 miles a day on that trip, too.  And I thought I was being leisurely about it.

I am hoping to make another Long Trip in a year or two, if I can afford the gas and figure out what to do with my two cats for the duration (for my last long trip, the pair I had at the time went to stay with a friend, but I don’t want to impose on her twice).  This time I want to drive across the middle of the U.S. and come back across Canada.  If I do, I hope to blog it in realtime, or as close as I can manage given where and when I can find wifi.

Anyway, for all of you who stuck with me through forty-five days of driving to Alaska and back, I hope you’ll stick around to see where I’m going in the future.

And I hope you will want to check out my novels:

Repeating History is the first of my Yellowstone stories, and is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.  It is about a young man, Chuck McManis, who, by virtue of being in absolutely the wrong place at the wrong time, is flung back in time from 1959 to 1877 in Yellowstone National Park, straight into the middle of an Indian war — the flight of the Nez Perce to Canada, pursued by the U.S. Army — and into his own family’s past.

True Gold  is the second in this series, and picks the story up in the next generation.  It is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  It is the story of Karin Myre, a Norwegian immigrant teenager living in Seattle, who decides to escape a future of too much drudgery and no choices by running off to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.  Stowing away on one of the many overcrowded ships bound north, she finds herself trapped in the cargo hold with a crowd of second thoughts.  But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a determined young prospector from Wyoming and his photographer partner is only the beginning of her search for a future of her own making.

The third novel, tentatively titled Finding Home, picks up the story of the widowed father Chuck left behind in Repeating History, his search for his lost son, and what that search reveals to him about his own murky past.  It will be available for purchase in the spring of 2013.

Categories: Alaska trip, books, cats, exploring, Finding Home, highways, Long Trip, national parks, philosophy, Repeating History, self-publishing, travel, True Gold, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Every cat is different

Ivan in back, and Teddy in front. They are growing like little weeds.


 So.  Call me mistress of the obvious, but I honestly did not realize how much difference there would be between a bottle-raised kitten and one who had a mother.  And I did not realize how much difference there would be between a single kitten and a pair. 

Due to circumstances beyond my control, and, really, anyone’s control, the two kittens I picked out from a local fosterer had to come home one at a time.  Oh, I suppose I could have waited until both were ready to leave the fosterer, but I’d been waiting for three weeks already (they were only four weeks old when I first met them, and still drinking kitty formula from a bottle).  So I brought Theodore, aka Teddy, home first, while Ivan, who had a slight skin infection, needed the health all-clear before he could be sprung a week and a half later.

Both the boys were bottle fed.  They and their two siblings arrived at Charlotte’s as the result of a phone call from a man who said he had orphan kittens in his barn, that the mother had disappeared and not come back.  He thought they were six weeks old.  They turned out to be less than half that age.  So Charlotte bottle-fed them and did all the other things one does to help kittens of that age survive and thrive.

The only reason I met them at such an early age was because she couldn’t leave them home alone all day during her usual adoption day at PetSmart. 

So.  The difference between a single kitten and a pair is obvious.  Until Ivan came home Teddy got lonely really easily, and followed me around like a puppy.   I hadn’t spent that much time giving an animal attention in a very long time (note, this is decidedly not a complaint — he and his brother are both amazingly easy to spoil).  It wasn’t so much a surprise but just that I’d forgotten what it was like.  But he was so much happier when Ivan came home.  He went from sitting on me every single chance he got to, “Oh, hi, Mom, gotta go play now!” in the span of about fifteen minutes.  Ivan, of course, has been that way from the moment he stepped out of the carrier.

And the difference between bottle fed and mama fed is that they’ve both bonded to me faster than Super to Glue.  I’ve always thought of cats as being sort of aloof.  I’m not sure Teddy and Ivan could spell aloof with a feline dictionary. 

I still think it was a good idea to bring Teddy home first, but I have to admit this was an entirely different experience than I was expecting.  In the best possible way.

Categories: animals, cats, philosophy | Tags: , | 4 Comments

And another new person in my house!

This is Ivan.  He moved in on Wednesday:


He’s got moss green eyes, and brown paw pads of all things, and a charcoal gray nose.  Oh, and three white spots down his front as well as almost imperceptible tabby markings on his legs and sides.

Teddy’s not nearly so lonely any more, as you can see:

Not sure who’s winning.

Categories: animals, cats | Tags: , | Leave a comment

there’s a new person living in my house!

A fur person, that is.

This is Theodore.  Aka Theo.  Aka Teddy.  He moved in yesterday, with very little luggage.  His brother Ivan will be joining us in a week or two.

A small gray tabby named Theodore.

Categories: animals, cats | Tags: | 4 Comments

Three weeks ago, Days 17 and 18

 And home again, home again, AKA bombing home on the Interstate.

It takes about a day and a half for me to get home from Yellowstone.  A very long day and a half, but still.  I left my cabin at Old Faithful early in the morning, feeling wistful as I always do, and comforting myself with the thought that I will be back.  At the rate things are going, I’m not sure when my next visit will be, but return visits will remain inevitable until I become too decrepit to travel.  A long time in the future, I hope.

I did not make any more stops in the park, as I hoped to get as far as Spokane that day, which is less than ten miles shy of 500 miles.  I did make two stops in West Yellowstone, one for just enough gas to get me to the Interstate, where it’s about thirty cents a gallon cheaper than in West, and the other at the hostel to pick up the wristwatch I had inadvertently left there two days before.  Fortunately, the cleaning staff had found it and set it aside for me.  And, I discovered later, sent me an email to let me know they had it.

After that, well, Kestrel and I could probably drive this route in our sleep.  North out of West to Hwy. 287, which runs along Hebgen Lake to Earthquake Lake, the site of the landslide caused by the earthquake I’ve been nattering on about for the last two weeks.  Up and over the natural dam, and downstream along the Madison River, past the Gallatin Mountains and through the little town of Ennis, which makes a great deal of its living from the fly fishermen who flock to the Madison every year. 

And on north.  It takes about three hours to get from Old Faithful to I-90, headed westbound.  From Old Faithful to Livingston is only about two hours, give or take an animal jam in the park, but that puts you an hour and half east from where 287 eventually debouches, so it’s not a time-saver that way.

Once past Ennis, the land opens up and the mountains draw back, but after I landed back on I-90 it wasn’t all that far to my last crossing of the Continental Divide on this trip, at Homestake Pass, then Butte, where my great long lasso of a trip reached its knot and I was back on highway I’d already traveled this trip.  I stopped in Butte for lunch and gas, then let Kestrel really start eating up the miles. 

It was about the middle of the afternoon, somewhere along about Missoula, I think, that I started thinking, why don’t I just keep going?  Theoretically, if I drove straight through (something I have never done in all my Yellowstone trips), I could make it home before midnight. 

I debated the idea for miles.  All the way through the last 100 miles of Montana and the 60 or so miles across Idaho as far as Coeur d’Alene, where, in spite of the fact that I still had over a quarter of a tank of gas, I stopped to get more because I knew the price would jump forty cents a gallon as soon as I crossed the state line into Washington.  However, the moment I climbed out of the car, I knew I wasn’t going to do it.  One of the odd things about spending the entire day making miles is that I tend to not realize how tired I am until I actually stop.  So I resigned myself to that one last night on the road.

I crashed and burned in a little mom and pop motel out by Spokane International Airport, and got up and out at the crack of dawn the next morning.  I was pretty much sick of breakfast bars by that point, so I decided I would see what the little town of Ritzville, which is the next wide spot in the road after Spokane, had in the way of a diner.  My mouth was set for pancakes.  I did find some, or, rather one enormous one after the waitress told me two would be overload, bless her, but only after giving myself the grand tour of the entire town.  It was worth it, though. 

Back on the highway, I stopped at a rest area to clean up, then took a glance to the west and did a doubletake.  Was that Mt. Rainier?  Surely not, I was still too far east.  I fetched my binoculars and stared again.  Lo and behold.  Home.

You see, I have this theory.  My theory is that there are place-oriented people and there are people-oriented people (kind of like the way there are introverts and extroverts). I am a very strongly place-oriented person, which is a good thing because a) I’m really bad at marriage, having tried twice and failed both times, and b) my blood relations are scattered all to hell and gone in places I wouldn’t live in on a bet.  I was born in New Orleans and grew up in LA, Denver, and San Franscisco (my father was an engineer, which is the next thing to being military for getting transferred regularly), so it’s not like I have a hometown, either.

But home is the Pacific Northwest, and in particular, my corner of western Washington, where I’ve lived for the last almost twenty years. I moved to Oregon in my mid-twenties and loved it, but then I made the mistake of falling in love with a Midwesterner who hoodwinked me into moving to Ohio.  He claimed that we’d only be there long enough for him to finish grad school before we moved back to Oregon. Then he got within two hours’ drive of his seven brothers and sisters and I never did pry him loose.

I finally managed to finish grad school myself, leave him, and find a job in Tacoma, Washington. I remember driving over Snoqualmie Pass in tears because, dammit, I was home. Never mind that I’d never lived here before. It was just like the John Denver song, only a different part of the country. 

Anyway, I still had about two hundred miles to go, but I was home.  Much as I love traveling, and as you can see I really truly do, I love coming home almost as much.  Especially since this is where I get to come home to.

I hope you enjoyed my travelogue, and that you will stick around for more adventures. For one thing, I am in the process of adopting a pair of kittens, which ought to be good entertainment value.  And there are always new places to discover, even in the old familiar stomping grounds.  And beyond.


There. On the horizon just to the left of the yellow sign, that’s not a cloud, that’s Mt. Rainier.

If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures

Categories: cats, exploring, food, national parks, outdoors, travel, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

tortitude, lesson one

Don’t ever try to put a thermometer up Elli’s hind end unless she’s completely immobilized in a towel. We had our first vet visit today, and I have four scratches on my left arm and three scratches on my right hand to prove it. Elena just whined and took it like a lady. Elli — well, let’s just say she could have given Linnet lessons in how to initiate World War III. She went completely ballistic, then got away, ducked into the carrier, crawled into the back corner, and had to be poured out in order to finish the exam. Of course, I have to say that if someone stuck a thermometer up my rear end I’d be pretty annoyed, too…

On the bright side, everybody’s healthy except for a possible small case of worms (dewormer has been given) and being slightly skinny. Suggestions were given on how to tempt their little appetites (the problem isn’t enough food, it’s getting them to eat it). It is to be hoped that the dewormer will also have a positive effect in that direction.

I have learned more in the last hour about my new cats’ personalities than I have in the entire last three days.

One more thing. Elena sat in my lap for almost an hour straight last night while I was watching TV. Just climbed right up on her own initiative, cuddled in, and purred. She chirps when she purrs. It melted me into a puddle.

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I’m being a proud cat mama

Besides, they actually stayed still long enough for me to get some more photos today.

Balls with bells are absolutely mesmerizing — Elena on the left, Elli on the right

So are sparkle balls, until they get stuck under the darned chair

Elena prefers to sit in the middle of her food — so does Elli, even if I don’t have photographic proof
The post-prandial bath, however, requires at least a little space, according to Elli

There haven’t been any mutual bathing activities so far.

The kitchen chairs are the nap spaces of choice so far.  This is Elli, looking, as my mother would say, like a toad in a hailstorm.

Elena’s still slightly more awake, but it won’t last long.

I really had forgotten how much fun kittens are. 

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new occasional cats

Warning. Terminal cuteness ahead.

As most of my readers know, I used to have two elderly male cats, both of whom passed away earlier this year.

I don’t know if sufficient time has passed, but I do know that I am not a happy camper when I’m catless. And so, now that I’m back from a two-week trip that had been planned for a couple of years, I have gone to the the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County today, and came home with two new housemates!

This is Elli
This is Elena

They’re named after two characters in the Miles Vorkosigan science fiction series by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Actually, they’re named after two of the former girlfriends of the titular character [g].

I had thought I wanted male kittens, because I’d had such good luck with the last pair (the late, lamented Morgan and Linnet), but these two sort of looked at me and said, aren’t you taking us home?  Which may be why I couldn’t come up with any male name possibilities over the last couple of weeks. 

Anyway, they’re settling in, if you can call playing popcorn kitten for the last two solid hours settling in.

Here’s my best attempt so far at a photo of the two of them together.  At least it shows you how much darker Elli is than Elena…

Elli is on the left on the cushioned chair, Elena is on the right in the non-cushioned chair

It is so wonderful not to be catless anymore!

Categories: cats | 4 Comments

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