In July I spent a couple of weeks in Columbus Ohio, doing some training with coworkers in a new team there. I figured it’s Ohio, right? It’ll be boring and flat, with nothing to do unless you want to drive everywhere. Turns out, though, not so much!
I discovered that the area where I was working was actually very walkable, with plenty of interesting things to find. For example, Hayden Run Falls is hidden just a few yards from a busy six-lane road on one side and a suburban neighborhood on the other.
On the weekend, I took a handy bus to downtown Columbus and visited the art museum and riverfront park.
And then one day, strangest of all, smack dab in the middle of the area of office parks and corporate buildings I was working in, I came across this “field” of ten foot tall concrete ears of corn. According to the helpful plaque, corn has been cultivated in Ohio for 1800 years, and the site itself was an actively farmed cornfield up to 1963. Now it’s part of Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park (named for the last farm’s owners).
In the interest of full disclosure, that day I also discovered the downside of walking when you believe the forecast that thunderstorms won’t arrive for another hour . . . To quote Dr. Seuss:
You never yet met a pet I bet
as wet as they let this wet pet get
So Ohio turned out not to be boring at all. Still, it was nice to get back home to Portland, where things are nice and calm, and not the least bit weird :-)
Back in the midwest for my nephew Jake’s graduation, I had a chance to help Jeff and Dad move some of the planting equipment from one farm to another. From my position at the back of the convoy, I could ponder the old dog-sledding saying, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes”, which in this case means gravel dust :-).
I also got stay overnight at the old farm, and hang out with Mike and Kitty.
Taking a walk around the farm, up on the hill behind where the old house used to be, I came across an odd valve handle. I’m sure it’s been there all along, but I don’t have any memory of it. Which is strange, since I don’t know how I would have overlooked it when I was making detailed maps of the farm as a kid! I decided to leave it alone, rather than inadvertently opening (or closing) something important.
I also visited Beth and Russ’ place, where Emily and Paul showed me their new kittens. Here’s one of the shy ones – knock knock, who’s there?
Whatchoo lookin at?
But of course, the main event was Jake’s graduation. Here he is with Jeff, keeping it real after the ceremony. Congratulations!
chattering house wrens
discuss the sunset
If I had a dollar for every time my boss called me and said “Drop everything and catch the next flight to Singapore!” I’d have, well, a dollar. And also, these pictures :-).
Downtown Singapore skyline at night
The historic Singapore Cricket Club, with a game in progress. (That big thing in the background is the Marina Bay Sands casino.)
Walking along the riverfront. That’s my hotel in the background left.
Old and new Singapore live side-by-side
Local street art (commissioned, not graffiti)
In the national art museum, this is a new work, not old. Can you find the proof? :-)
Dinnertime in Chinatown
Yes, you can find “American” food here, including imported Iowa corn-fed beef. Besides food, Singapore is very visitor friendly — almost all signs are in English, and almost everyone speaks it too.
But I mostly tried dining where the locals go. Lots of really great Asian food stalls and hawkers, very inexpensive.
Unfortunately this trip was 80% of the time in an office building with no windows, but Singapore is definitely a place I’d like to come to on a real vacation someday. I just got back from 2 weeks there, and it looks like I’ll be heading back for another two weeks soon. But no reason to complain, and hopefully we’ll have a happy customer soon so I can come home to stay :-).
Here are a few highlights from my visit back home for the 4th of July.
Dad: “This is a cow”. (I guess it has been a while since I’ve been on the farm ;-)
Tom and Emily show off their patriotic fashions.
Would you believe it? I actually cooked my “cream of anything” soup for dinner for my folks. Today’s anything is potato & kale, with some bonus carrots and onion. I think it turned out well, though Dad said “Who put green in my potato soup?” :-)
With family and friends, we made a “biker’s dozen” on the Stone Arch biking trail.
Along the bike trail, a bit of railroading history.
Did you ever get the feeling you were being watched?
The dogs are going to be 13 in May, and they’ve really started showing their age in the last year. So for our big vacation this year, Nancy and I decided to take them on a tour of the Oregon coast, to combine two of their favorite things, car rides and the beach, every day for a week :-).
We have a ramp for the car, which they much prefer to being lifted into and out of the back, and they get tired out much more quickly — no more jumping or running — but their tails still start wagging whenever they get to climb up for a car ride.
For the first few days, we stayed at a pet-friendly B&B near Cannon Beach, just a short walk from the beach. Maggie especially loves the ocean, which she made very clear by the way she led at the end of her leash all the way until she could wet her feet in the waves, and by her big big smile.
A few days later, we drove further down the coast to another pet-friendly B&B in Depoe Bay. It wasn’t quite as convenient to the beach, so we had to drive the pups to get to the water, but it was just another reason for a fun car ride as far as they were concerned.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: beach biking. It is an interesting fact about Oregon that the entire coastline from California to Washington has been legally considered a public highway ever since 1911, with the public having the right to “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches”. I guess this guy is just exercising his rights :-).
Hank and Maggie aren’t up any more for the kind of long or strenuous walks they used to love when they were younger, so after each day’s beach walk we’d find a nice shady spot to park so they could take a well-earned nap. While they snoozed, Nancy and I could check out more of the amazing scenery. Our southernmost point on this trip was Cape Perpetua, which had a trail that led down to the Devil’s Churn, a wave-carved cave whose ceiling has collapsed, leading at high tides (we’re told) to waves throwing spray hundreds of feet in the air. Luckily, we were there at low tide, so we could get a close up view safely.
The trip wasn’t all beaches. We also stopped for a few forest hikes too, which were very welcome on the warmer sunnier days. Munson Creek Falls was a short 1/2 mile walk and pretty level, which was about as far as the dogs wanted to go. I don’t think they were particularly impressed by the waterfall, but Nancy and I thought it was lovely.
April was the perfect time for the trip. It was far enough into the year that the days weren’t winter-short and the weather was great, but the beaches didn’t have the summer crowds that will be coming soon. That’s my kind of vacation!
For the “wow” finish to this recap of last year’s trip to New Zealand, here are some pictures of two of the most amazing locations we visited: Fox Glacier and Milford Sound.
We took a guided tour and hike on the glacier, dropped off by helicopter high up on the glacier’s upper area. Our tour guide was a Nepalese Sherpa who had also climbed on Mount Everest, so we were in good hands. Even so, there was a large case with emergency supplies (tents, food, medical supplies, etc) in case we ended up being stranded overnight.
We were also provided with crampons, strap-on steel claws for our boots. Without them, it is literally impossible to stand up on the glacier’s surface, which is (obviously) solid ice. Even with them, you need to take care while walking to take short strides and step down firmly to let the crampons get a good grip.
We were warned by our Sherpa very seriously that if we dropped anything (camera, phone, scarf, …) to just let it go. The most common cause of accidents is someone lunging after a dropped item, slipping, and then sliding along after it toward some deep crevasse. He told us that if we dropped something, we could just pick it up at the “lost and found” at the bottom of the glacier, in oh about 80 years :-).
Potential dangers aside, it was an amazing place. Our guide led us through ice caves where the light filtering through becomes a deep blue glow. The picture below is not enhanced — it really was that blue!
The other most-spectacular place we visited was Milford Sound. To get there we drove up through a glacier-carved valley, then through a tunnel, then down the glacier-carved valley on the other side, down the to Sound. You can see the tiny road ahead of us in this picture. At this point, before we reached the tunnel, I’m thinking “the road goes through that??” :-)
Apparently this is one of the raniest places in New Zealand, but we were fortunate to have clear sunny skies
Here’s Nancy taking in the gorgeous morning blues from our boat tour, when we saw the seals and dolphins.
Farewell, New Zealand! Our two weeks there were packed with adventures, but there’s so much more that we did not get a chance to see, especially on the North Island, where the Maori culture is especially strong. Maybe someday!
Presented for your consideration: pictures of people taking pictures.
Nancy taking pictures of sheep, as Mark and Elisha walk up after taking their own pictures of sheep:
Me trying to figure out what an F-stop is :-):
Mark, Elisha, and me:
Elisha and Mark:
Me realizing that taking the lens cap off might possibly improve my photos:
Nancy, Mark, and Elisha (plus another tourist in green) at Milford Sound:
Mark capturing the amazing reflections in a mountain lake: