Tag Archives: tim

campground cookery! ~ the best pancakes and eggs ever ~ 22sep10

LET THEM EAT PANCAKES!

the endless road trip isn’t all applesauce and roses. there are moments — days even — when all i want is a sink in which i might leave my dirty dishes and a clean bathroom in which i might take a hot shower. why, just a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, mazy threw up in the tent, not once, but three, count-em three times. and while i can complain about how annoying it might be to do dishes or do without a bath or sleep in a tent that smells like dog barf, there’s not much i can do but deal with it.

one of the things that makes the vagaries of life on the road more bearable is a good, home-cooked meal. cleaning up dog vomit in the middle of the night is terrible; cleaning up dog vomit in the middle of the night after you’ve had a delicious meal is still terrible, but it’s not as terrible as doing it on an empty stomach. or on a stomach filled with schwazzy food.

this is why, whenever we can, tim and i make the time to make good food for ourselves. there’s an awful lot that we do without (sinks and showers are at the top of a very long list), but one of the things that we absolutely do NOT do without is tasty food. i’ve learned how to make a lot of my favorite dishes using nothing but a whisperlite camp stove and, occasionally, an open fire. it takes a little adaptability and ingenuity, but in the end, the effort is worth it. when you don’t have a lot of comfort, comfort food goes a long, long way.

here’s the first in what may become a series of cooking videos. in it, i make one of our recurring campground breakfasts: spelt/yogurt (in this case, spelt/kefir) pancakes and scrambled eggs with extra sharp cheddar cheese chunks. if that sounds good, well rest assured that it is. this is, without a doubt, the best pancake recipe that i’ve come across and it’s easy to make in the most inhospitable of circumstances. i hope you give it it a try. they might not taste as good as they do after a cold, rainy night spent huddled in a tent on the flank of the white mountains, but i’m willing to bet you’ll still love them. bom apetite!

FevereiroBanda Jazzco
“3 Jeitos” (mp3)
from “Fevereiro”
(Tratore)

Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

just deserts ~ joshua tree to las vegas

on the border of the mojave and colorado deserts
we woke to a bright, wind-chilled morning near the military town of twenty-nine palms, ca. the campground’s name, indian cove, hinted at a safe haven, a shelter from the harsh elements, but on that night at least, it felt like we were camping in a wind tunnel. i’m pretty sure that if not for our combined weight anchoring the flapping, whistling tent, it would have blown clean away. the next morning we found tent stakes that had been securing the rain fly 10 feet away from where they had been driven into the hard packed earth. random items from who knows where — a sweatshirt, a towel, a sock, several empty cans of heineken — littered the campground.

under the comforting, warming glare of the desert sun, we made a leisurely breakfast and then headed into the town of joshua tree to restock on supplies and run some errands. as usual, things took longer than we had anticipated and by the time we made it into the park, it was already late afternoon. given the quickly fading light, we decided to hike out to barker dam and back.


030820101914-001.jpg
030820101917-001.jpg
alake.jpg
030820101926-001.jpg
030820101937.jpg
030820101952-001.jpg
030820101953.jpg
030820101964.jpg

the heart of the mojave desert
the next day, we left joshua tree, heading north towards las vegas. once again, we passed through the mojave national preserve , the magical place where i entered my 39th year of life . we had already visited the kelso depot twice on our crisscrossing travels through socal, but given tim’s love of all things train, a third visit was inevitable. it’s a charming, beautifully restored building and sitting at the restored lunch counter while freight trains thundered past on sun silvered rails, it was easy to imagine what kelso was like when it was a vibrant railroad boomtown.

030920101990-001.jpg
amazy.jpg
030920101997-001.jpg
030920102006-001.jpg
030920102010.jpg
030920102013.jpg
030920102015.jpg
030920102023-001.jpg

Download: 118608

an oasis in the mojave
north of tecopah, motorists pass several handpainted signs imploring them to stop and visit the china ranch date farm . it is such a harsh and desolate landscape, all horizon and disintegrating sierra, that it is easy to focus on some distant destination and ignore all potential distractions, especially one as seemingly incongruous as an asian themed date farm. but thanks to our lackadaisical traveling style and the recommendation of the woman we met in a campground in tecopah, we decided to follow the signs chop-suey lettering down side roads, ravines, and into a sheltered canyon that glowed green with life.

the date farm turned out to be a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit. apart from the farm itself, the property also housed a bakery (which served date-based delicacies like chocolate chip date cookies and date bread), a cactus nursery, an antique store, a campground, and several hiking trails. they also served up a wicked date shake, an indulgence that we reluctantly passed on when we were visiting palm springs — really, people, $6 for a shake? — but that we happily and greedily slurped down in the sunny warmth of the mojave.


d1.jpg
d2.jpg
d3.jpg
d4.jpg
d5.jpg
d7.jpg
d8.jpg
d9.jpg
d11.jpg
d12.jpg d13.jpg
d10.jpg

next time: fear and loathing of las vegas.

Posted by Wordmobi

eastward ho!

acove.jpg
in march of 2010, we commemorated two important milestones: on march one, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of this nomadic life. yup, one year chock-a-block full of camping, skiing, visiting old friends and family, driving, chasing ufos, trainspotting, swimming, practicing yoga, playing, rollerskating, laughing, eating delicious food, gaping in wonder, meeting new friends, dreaming, dancing, sailing, bickering, processing, and occassionally stressing out about the future. one year of traveling by truck, train, trolley, sailboat, subway, ferry, steam engine, canoe, taxicab, bicycle, quad skate, monorail, airplane and, oh yeah, on foot.

022120101592.jpg

it is a remarkable thing, how easily a human being can adapt to new and challenging circumstances, and this past year has been a clear demonstration of this fact. we may not own a bed or a refrigerator; we may not have regular access to hot showers or flush toilets; our choices may have led us into surprising and sometimes frightening scenarios, but we have continued on, learning, healing, and expanding. i now know how to make apple turnovers over an open fire and how to rig a tarp that will survive 5 days of unceasing rain. i now know how to navigate portland’s bike lanes and washington dc’s metro. i can now feel, more strongly than ever, the web that connects me to each and every one of my friends, binding us together in a single swirling chaos of dance.

t0.jpg

more than anything else, however, this past year has taught me to not simply live with uncertainty, but to actively embrace it. we have no way of predicting the future; we have no way to force our way into an imagined life. all thoughts and beliefs that tell us otherwise will ultimately disappoint. if you had asked me five years ago what my life would look like today — or at twenty-one, what my life would look like at twenty-six — my answer would have been laughably naive. to believe that my vision of where the next five years will lead me has any validity seems to me to be the definition of foolhardiness. and while this might be frightening or disorienting, there is not much i can do but to keep on following the path unfolding before me. there have been many days when tim and i had no idea where we were going to sleep or how we were going to get there, and whether we stressed out about it or not, whether we fought or disagreed or simply relaxed into it and had faith, somehow it always seemed to work out. as i have written before, we may have less, but we have been deprived of nothing. in fact, my life after one year on the road feels richer, more textured, and more vivid than ever. what a beautiful planet this is! what poignant creatures we are! i can’t wait to see what happens next!

ahand.jpg

on march 9, we reached another,more prosaic milestone. the odometer on tim’s truck, the loyal and dependable rainbow frontier, finally hit the 100,000 mile mark. thank you old girl; long may you rave.

the one year anniversary of the wonder caravan found us in los angeles, ca, just about as far from northampton, ma as you can possibly be while still in the continental u.s. on the way to socal, we passed through new hampshire, vermont, maine, new york, massachusetts, pennsylvania, ohio, michigan, indiana, illinois, missouri, kansas, colorado, new mexico, utah, idaho, montana, wyoming, oregon, washington, nocal, nevada, nebraska, iowa, virginia, west virginia, maryland, kentucky, wisconsin, minnesota, and north dakota.

apair.jpg

apart from the railfan extravaganza that brought us from martinez, ca to washington dc, the past year was spent heading west, towards the pacific and the setting sun. it makes a kind of sense, then, that the beginning of our second year on the road marks a literal turning point. we’ve stitched our way down the western coast, from washington’s san juan islands to santa monica, ca. we’ve walked along the edge of the continent and seen land give way to endless hecatombs of ocean. now it’s time to turn our faces to the rising springtime sun and head east.

asign.jpg

the beginning of our eastward journey began with a return to hemet, ca, where my auntie made us a delicious dinner of arroz caldo.

Download: 117386


and for desert, purple yam! we stayed at her place for a few days, decompressing from los angeles and waiting out some cold, rainy weather, and then made our triumphant return to joshua tree national park.

atree.jpg

it is always a joy to sleep out in our tent, especially after an extended visit to the big city. there is something re-grounding — comforting, even — in being completely surrounded by the natural world, even when the nights are cold and the spring winds are blowing hard enough to bend tent poles and send aluminum stakes flying. every task, from cooking breakfast to building a fire, to filling our water jugs, feels strangely empowering; if we can survive and thrive with just these basic tools, we’re capable of handling just about anything!

asite.jpg

next time: stories from the road to las vegas.

Posted by Wordmobi

so socal ~ palm desert to los angeles, ca

when tim watches trains, he sees engine models, car configurations and railroad history. when i watch trains, i see graffiti.

joshua tree’s only arch formation can be found a short hike from the white tank campground . we found it just as the strange and beautiful rock formations were catching fire in the setting sun and we wandered through hidden canyons and labyrinthine passes, entranced.
g2.jpg
g3.jpg
g4.jpg
g5.jpg
g6.jpg
g7.jpg
g8.jpg
g9.jpg
g10.jpg
g11.jpg

the cholla forest that has found a foothold smack dab in the middle of the park, is a mysterious and magical landscape. the longer you walk among these beguiling creatures, the more you begin to see strange, surprised, muppet-like faces staring back at you.
g25.jpg
g22.jpg
g12.jpg

the high-modern desert oasis that was palm springs has succumbed to the borg-like blight of urban sprawl. downtown is a sad patchwork of empty storefronts and local businesses struggling under the weight of big box stores in neighboring “towns.” for my 39th birthday, tim and i spent a couple of days in a hotel in palm desert, a town composed almost entirely of chain stores. we lounged by the pool, ate continental breakfast with the snowbird set, and warmed our chilly bones in the desert sun.
g14.jpg
g15.jpg
g23.jpg

my auntie nanay and cousin karen live in hemet, ca, just a short drive from palm springs. we camped nearby and visited with them for a couple of days, slowly gathering our strength before the descent into the heart of southern california: the cadillac desert of los angeles.
g16.jpg
g17.jpg
g18.jpg
g19.jpg
g20.jpg
g21.jpg

the journey goes on.
g24.jpg

Posted by Wordmobi

birthday surprise ~ mojave desert, ca

m3.25.jpg

a sunny, leisurely morning; a whimsical, brightly lit counterpoint to the blustery, gothic night. we made a hearty breakfast of american fries and veggie scramble and then dawdled our way through the rest of the morning, ostensibly breaking camp, but really just soaking in as much sunlight as possible.

we finished off our morning with a visit to the hot spring. i stayed in my corner of the pool, assiduously avoiding any conversational forays undertaken by my fellow bathers, while tim suffered through conversations about vasectomies, home ownership, and grandchildren. after a while, the conversation turned to politics, and when someone made the assertion that sarah palin is as smart as president obama, i made a quick exit. no reason to ruin a perfectly good soak by getting into a debate with a moron. someone else picked up the gauntlet, however, and i was lucky enough to record it.

Download:

from tecopa, we headed south toward the mojave national park. on our way, we passed through baker, ca and had a delicious meal at the famous travelers’ rest, the mad greek.

m3.5.jpg

m2.jpg

the place was filled with tourists from every corner of the world. a table of filipinos sat behind us laughing and encouraging each other to eat. stylish japanese couples scattered themselves amongst families speaking french and german and something i identified as dutch although really, what do i know? all of us crossing paths and gorging ourselves on ungodly amounts of greek food…in baker, ca, home to the largest thermometer in the world and gateway to the mojave national park.

this is the kind of shit that makes me feel downright patriotic!

three important things about the mojave desert:

1. the kelso depot ~ pretty much smack dab in the middle of the park sits a beautifully restored union pacific depot. built in early 1900s, it was originally used as a remote service and crew change station, now, it is home to the national park visitors center and to the beanery, a humble cafe occupying the old railroad lunch counter. the town of kelso used to be a kind of railroad boomtown, with stores, bars, and a post office, but now it has been all but abandoned to desert.

m3.jpg
m4.jpg
m5.jpg
m6.jpg

2. the kelso dunes ~ just a few miles from the depot sits the gigantic sandpile known as the kelso dunes. on a windy, sunny, late-winter day — the kind of day that feels both chilly and sweltering simultaneously — tim, mazy, and i spent a few hours climbing to the top of one of the dunes to see what we could see.

there were moments that the wind was so strong that the dunes themselves seemed blurry; as if they were on the verge of shimmering out of existence.

m9.jpg
m11.jpg
m12.jpg

poor mazy got sandblasted!

3. my 39th birthday! ~ after four days basking in the warmth and heavy sunlight of death valley, it was easy to convince ourselves that winter’s grip had finally been broken, at least in the rarefied climes of southern california. the mojave did much to shake that impression. our first night camping in the mid-hills campground was so windy that, several times, i was startled into wakefulness by the sound of our tent being shaken like a maraca. the next day, however windy, was still beautiful and sunny, and despite the ominous clouds that gathered at sunset, i still held on to the hope of rising temperatures and the coming spring. we were in a desert in southern california for chrissakes!

m17.jpg
m13.jpg m14.jpg

what a rare and beautiful way to greet my 39th year!

Posted by Wordmobi

midnight at the oasis ~ tecopa hot springs, ca

d22.jpg

death valley had lulled us into a false sense of security. the weather had been beautiful there, all sun-baked days and cool, delicious nights. it was the first time we’d camped since mid-november and it was wonderful. we splayed out in the tent, unencumbered by layers of wool blankets and sleeping bags, happy to be out in the open air. even though months had passed since our last campground stay, the routines of our nomadic life returned easily. we were flush with supplies, and despite the fact that we had forgotten our percolator in fresno, our time spent camping in death valley was as easy as pie.

t2.jpg

so as we drove south, heading towards the mojave desert and joshua tree, we were blissfully unaware that the temperate climate that prevailed in death valley did not extend much beyond the park’s boundaries. as we left death valley, we climbed several hundred feet in altitude. the temperatures dropped and the intermittent breeze became a constant, biting wind.

t3.jpg

by the time we reached our destination , just a few miles outside of the park, the air had turned cold and the wind had settled into a consistent 25mph nuisance. the shorts and cotton t-shirts that felt so comfortable in death valley began to feel dangerously insufficient. battling the wind and the hard-packed, salt-stained ground, we set up our tent beneath a small stand of trees in a nearly empty section of the campground, prepped some stuff for making dinner, and then beelined it for the hot springs.

we spent about an hour submerged in piping hot water, me trying to finish a horrible book , tim doing his best to make small talk with some of the other bathers. it is at times like this that i am most thankful for tim’s good nature and easy sociability. thanks to tim, i was able to enjoy the hot springs in relative silence and solitude. tim, on the other hand, was subjected to a seemingly endless series of lectures on real estate, things to avoid in las vegas, and long-distance road trips. poor thing.

when we got back to our campsite, i made a big pot of navratan korma , one of the more complicated dishes in our camp repertoire. the lingering warmth of the hot springs and the spice of the curry fortified us against the cold, battering wind. afterwards, we cleaned up, put the kitchen back in the truck, and bundled up for bed. and let me tell you, it was no death valley. the wind howled and blustered, buffeting the tent and rattling the palm’s fronds. tim fell asleep almost instantly (that’s him snoring in the following recording), but i stayed awake for a while, listening to the ruckus.

Download: 114066

we woke the next morning to clear blue skies and sunshine, believing the worst to be over. little did we know what awaited us in mojave.

t1.jpg

Posted by Wordmobi

fresyes! ~ fresno, ca

to be frank, fresno is hardly the biggest or the most sparkling jewel in california’s tourist tiara. the lonely planet’s california guide begins its description of this little city with the words, “swelling like a blister,” and goes on to say little more positive than that. the san joaquin valley, in which fresno is situated, is a broad, flat, arid land that seems to be undergoing an awkward and unappealing transition between industrial farming — think miles and miles of nut orchards and endless, graceless heaps of orange trees — and exurban sprawl — gigantic, misproportioned houses that seem more extruded than constructed. just north of fresno sits the central valley burgh of modesto, rumored to be the epicenter of the housing crisis. a recent piece in the nyt’s opinionator estimates that one in eight houses in this community are currently in foreclosure.

i didn’t know any of this as we descended through the limestone strewn canyons and narrow valleys of gold rush country. all i knew was that one of tim’s best friends from high school — a woman who had played marcia to tim’s greg as part of a high school musical revue — lived there and had invited us to stay a while. so as mountain gave way to plain, and as the darkening landscape began to twinkle and sparkle with the sodium glow of streetlights, i had nothing but good thoughts and curiosity about fresno.

which, it turns out, is all you need.

f6.jpg

we stayed with bethanie, lars, and an old white cat named miami for a little more than a week; one of the longest spans we’ve spent as houseguests (not including housesitting gigs). needless to say, outlining our day-to-day activities for such an extended visit might prove daunting on my end — typing is slow on a numeric keypad — and tedious on yours — do you really care to know what i ate for lunch every day for a whole week? and so in order to keep things manageable, i’ve decided to focus on just three of the many and varied forms of entertainment and enjoyment that fresno offered us.

1. skiing at sequoia national park.

f8.jpg

notown, as fresno is sometimes called, sits just an hour away from one of the most spectacular and majestic places i’ve ever been to, sequoia national park. one warm, sunny morn, tim and i sorted through our winter gear and ski stuff and then headed out through the exhausted, smog washed land of the san joaquin valley. our destination lay beyond the orange groves, nut orchards, and grapevines that seemed to spread across almost every undeveloped acre: the distant snow-covered sierra nevadas lurking just beyond the heat hazed horizon.

the snow was thick and high, just beginning to give way to the flickering warmth of the coming spring. several inches of freshly fallen snow obscured the path left by previous skiers, so we wound our way through the forest, keeping an eye out for trail blazes and trying not to get too lost. the moment we encountered our first sequoia grove, we were dumbfounded. the only appropriate response seemed to be laughter. what immense, enigmatic beings! what ancient, crackling life!

f9.jpg

f7.jpg

2. a night at the roller rink

classic.jpg

although lots of folks talk about how much they miss going roller skating or how much they want to go, only a few actually follow through. skating at oaks park with matt was tremendous, but seeing bethanie and tim dressed in matching fuschia blouses and attempting synchronized dance moves verged on the epic. alas, because of my selfishness, do footage exists of their final routine. suffice it to say that by the end of the night, small children were dancing along with them.

if you look closely, you may see two pink blurs. if you’d like, feel free to imagine them reenacting their version of the brady kids’ good time music.

it looked something like this, only way groovier.

3. discovering the joys of south fresno

bethanie and her husband, lars, live in what is known as the tower district. nestled in south fresno and surrounded by craftsman bungalows, spanish revival apartment buildings, and mid-century office complexes, the tower district is the best that fresno has to offer. sure, north fresno has an outdoor shopping mall with both borders and barnes and noble, a 22-screen megaplex, a macaroni grill, and more overly-made-up-teenage girls than you can shake a pair of uggs at, but its anytown corporate blandness can be a bit wearing. the tower district, although humbler and grittier, has enough personality for a dozen river park malls. scattered throughout its few scant blocks are dinner theaters presenting revivals of oklahoma!, restaurants devoted to basque, hmong, mexican, thai, french and american cuisine, a microbrewery, a new age store complete with comprehensive herbal apothecary, an antique mall, several tattoo parlors, a head shop, and of course, the tower, a restored 40s-era movie theater that gives this neighborhood its name. while we were there, there was a mardi gras parade in the tower district. as we stood amongst the crowd of onlookers, i asked lars if there were any other parades going on in fresno. no, he said, this is the only place in fresno where anything happens.

f3.jpg

there’s even a one-day-a-week chicken and waffle spot. be warned: it takes forever to get your food, but we were there on mardi gras and the combination of zydeco music and good cheer was just barely enough to get us through. barely.

f5.jpg

but more persuasive than the humble mardi gras parade or the brass unicorn , or even the tower itself, was bethanie’s gentle, joyful, generous vibe. that a girl from keene, nh from should find her way to fresno, ca via taiwan and germany is singular; that she still has the ability to sing, laugh, fall down, and play like a little kid is flat out wonderful. south fresno is awesome; getting to know bethanie, lars and miami was even better.

here, she and tim relive a melodic moment from nostalgia.

Download: 112854

and here she relates a story from her time in taiwan. extra points if you can provide a translation!

Download: 112852

even mazy found a playmate!

f12.jpg

f11.jpg

so what if fresno isn’t san francisco or big sur or yosemite? thanks to our three lovely hosts, we left this forgotten, sun-bleached town feeling renewed, refreshed, and full of love. thank you so much, guys! come traveling with us when you get the chance!

Posted by Wordmobi

amtrak escapade ~ day the end

12logo.jpg

the last day of our rail adventure was a quick one. we were scheduled to arrive in martinez, ca at 730a. considering the time necessary to wake up, extract ourselves from our little bunks, pack what was left in the roomette, and enjoy our last amtrak breakfast, we had little time to sit and savor our last few hours aboard the coast starlight.

tim, of course was determined to make the most of it. while i remained strapped into the cocoon-like upper berth, cavalierly discarding these precious hours in rem sleep, tim wandered in and around the darkened train cars, as eager as a boy on christmas morning.

by the time i woke up, tim had already been awake for hours. he informed me that we had been delayed because of track construction and improvements and we now had time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. truth be told, i don’t remember a single thing about our last meal on amtrak. i have a vague memory of a cheese omelet and a toasted croissant, but that could just as easily be a memory of another breakfast aboard the cardinal or the zephyr or the capitol limited.

we returned to car 1131 and began packing up our remaining belongings: yahtzee and portable speaker system in suitcase, books and computer in backpack, echinacea, valerian and digestive bitters in toiletry kit. although a part of me was eager to get off the train, to run around in the free, unprocessed air without fear of bumping my head or knocking down a fellow traveler, another part of me wanted to stay on the train forever.

long distance train travel — especially by sleeping car — is an alternate reality; completely separate from the world that exists on the other side of those tinted, curved windows. people are friendlier, more open, more enthusiastic, more civil. it requires you to share space, to clean up after yourself, to make allowances for other people, to give up privacy. you encounter, and whether you like it or not, are forced into close interaction with people with different backgrounds, religions, cultures, and political perspectives. and even though it feels uncomfortable, this cramped, communal living, it also feels vaguely familiar.

12misty.jpg

12industry.jpg

the martinez we returned to was undistingishable from the martinez we left behind 12 days ago: a beautiful coastal landscape, mountains and ocean obscured by patchy fog. following the path of an awkward, wobbling infinity symbol stretching from one side of america to the other, we had found our way back to our starting point.

12 travelers.jpg

thank you to all of the friends and family who made time for us. thank you to all of the strangers who broke bread and shared stories with us. thank you to the amtrak folks who took care of us, who fed us and housed us, and who safely brought us there and back again.

Download: 110185

we missed you mazy!

11mazykiss.jpg

11timkiss.jpg

Posted by Wordmobi

amtrak escapade ~ day 11

11collage.jpg

a day of transition; our last full day of travel. as we slept, the empire builder pulled into spokane, wa. there, through a series of mechanical interactions that briefly disturbed my sleep, the train was split in two. the forward portion — including the dining car and the fully functioning kitchen– continued on through the northern cascades, on the way to its final destination, seattle, wa. the rear segment, with our chatty friend michael’s fully stocked cafe car, headed south towards the columbia river and portland, or.

i woke to the sight of volcanic soil barely obscured by sparse, grassy vegetation. a patchy haze bled almost all color from the landscape, reducing it to strata of gray, gunmetal, and ochre. dark ponds and inlets appeared along the train tracks and as we sped by, birds skittered morse code across the water, disturbed by the cacophony of our passage.

11morningriver.jpg

wanting to make the most of our remaining hours on the empire builder, we pulled ourselves together and bumbled our way through the swaying cars. with the dining car en route to seattle, our breakfast options were limited. in the cafe car, we signed a form and our friend michael handed over our morning repast. goodbye eggs cooked to order; hello cold ham and cheese croissant.

Download:

the columbia river is beautiful. even though it has been dammed along it’s entire length, even though it is lined with industry that sends spreading columns of poisonous smoke into the atmosphere, even though we have shaped it to our own desire; despite all of this, it is still so beautiful. one wonders what it must have been like before we began dissecting it, separating it into slices of electricity and leisure and transportation.

as we neared portland, the clouds began to give way to a perfect, sunny day. what a welcome back!

11break in clouds.jpg

11columbia.jpg

11islands.jpg

the train slowed as we entered the city, giving us a good view of portland’s industrial backbone. as we neared downtown, the cityscape became legible, familiar: this is the road we took the night we went to fame!, the once-a-week gay night at the bridgeport pizzeria and pub; that is the bridge that everyone told me to avoid; there is the mighty willamette!

we pulled into portland’s union station — a most handsome building — and along with all of our fellow passengers, disembarked. the empire builder had reached the end of the line. tomorrow, it would begin its return trip across the frozen plains and back to chicago.

we had several hours before the coast starlight arrived, so we checked into the metropolitan lounge to drop off our luggage. there, we were greeted by a woman in her late 40s who unwrapped a framed collage and asked, without preamble, what do you think about that?

this was what i have come to think of as a quintessential amtrak moment: surprising, awkward, harmless and oh-so-awesome.

11art.jpg

Download:

6.5 days on a train does something to your equilibrium. i spent our entire time in portland feeling slightly out of sorts, unsure whether the sidewalk was moving; unable to stop swaying when standing still. nonetheless, it was wonderful to be back in portland on a beautiful sun-soaked day and it was wonderful to have solid, predictable ground beneath our feet. we meandered through powell’s, departing with 2 new books and 2 snazzy oregon souvenirs. we grabbed some lunch. and then we ducked into ground kontrol, a bar/classic video game arcade on the border of chinatown and downtown portland.

tim discovered this place during our holiday housesitting gig and it became a regular stop on our portland wanders. while i wasted quarters on bubble bobble, xevius, and pinball, tim would kick ass on donkey kong, burger time and miss pacman. i didn’t even know there was a pie factory in donkey kong until tim showed it to me.

11groundkontrol.jpg

Download:

from there we made our way back to union station and our rendezvous with my personal favorite, amtrak’s one-and-only coast starlight.

one of the things that makes the coast starlight such a special line is the addition of the pacific parlor car, a double-decker car with a lounge and abbreviated dining area upstairs and a small movie theater downstairs. part starship enterprise, part grandma’s ranch house, it is the closest that amtrak comes to delivering the romantic, glamorous vision of passenger rail during its heyday.

11pacificparlour.jpg

11parlorpanorama.jpg

we stayed in the pacific parlour car for most of the afternoon and evening, me reading one of my new books (the way of shadows by brent weeks), tim making friends with older southern women who pronounced his name as if it rhymes with liam. eventually, the dining car called for those of us with 715p reservations, and tim and i had our last big dinner on amtrak.

afterwards, we, along with a quartet of dues paying AARP members, watched julie and julia in the pacific parlor car’s theater. i don’t think any of us felt adequately prepared to watch stanley tucci and meryl streep engaging in giggling, happy-go-lucky foreplay.

that night was marked by two events. the first was my discovery that one of the bathrooms on our car was malfunctioning. the flow of water had not deactivated completely and, therefore, a small stream of (clean, thankfully) water was flowing from beneath the bathroom door, down the stairs towards the main exit. our attendant had already retired for the night, so i spent a few harried minutes racing through the dark, quiet train, searching for help.

the second was far less tawdry. as before, tim and i extinguished the lights in our cabin and sat in the darkness, watching the snowy landscape unspool before us. suddenly, mount shasta materialized in the velvet sky, a great white wing spread across the horizon.

as much as i’ve enjoyed this train trip, it is clear that it meant far more to tim. he knows so much about the history of railroads, about the rise and fall of these naive antecedents to ford, united and wells fargo. when i look at the landscape before us, i see mute, unknowable objects: a crossing, a haphazard stack of ties. tim looks at the same thing and sees an entire story: this is a spur line that used to connect a series of small towns to the main rail artery. it’s been abandoned for years and now they are tea
ring it up to make room for a strip mall.

tim stared out towards the dark horizon, hoping to catch another glimpse of mount shasta. joy and wonder filled his eyes and a small smile played across his moonlit face. i’m the luckiest guy on the planet.

Download:

11unionsta.jpg

Posted by Wordmobi

amtrak escapade ~ day 7

despite the long day and the late night, tim and i still managed to get ourselves out of bed at a decent hour; no mean feat, especially when you consider how comfy eve’s bed is. the fact that the sun was shining, bright and unhindered in a clear blue sky, was helpful in the extreme.

the langorous sensation of bathing in warm, honeyed light — especially when the past several months have been nothing but somber dreariness — was delightful. add the gentle rock and sway as the houseboat caught the breeze and the changing current, and the darting shadows of seagulls as they wheeled above the green waters of the potomac, and you get a small taste of the wonders of life on the last resort. and this was still the middle of winter. summertime on eve’s boat must be absolutely dreamy.

boathouse.jpg

marina.jpg

teamwork yielded a delicious breakfast of cheesy, parsleyed eggs and toast made from evie’s homemade bread. (she is quite intent on bringing the bread machine back.) afterwards, tim and i started arranging our things, packing them in preparation of the morrow’s departure, while eve disappeared and reemerged from various, well-hidden cubbies. the end result of our labor was a neat stack of luggage and two, count ‘em TWO folding bikes. where eve has managed to store two bikes on her houseboat , whether foldable or not, remains an enigma.

bikes.jpg

we bundled up against the cold and the wind and began our dc bike hang adventure. a mere one-minute ride from eve’s front door is one of dc’s hidden gems: the floating fish market. tucked between the freeway and the potomac, and sheltered by a series of bridges, the market has just about every kind of seafood you can imagine. octopi? got it. endangered chilean sea bass? got it. perch? shark? blue crab? giant shrimp? swordfish? squid? mussels? got ‘em. part pike street market, part carnival, part maxwell street, this place is a wonder, even to someone who, like me, is not a big fan of seafood.

fish market.jpg

Download: 109127

while tim and i perused the fish market, eve went in search of a spring and a nail. it’s a long story that i don’t particularly want to get into, especially since i’m entering this via a numeric keypad, but if you know eve, will you please help her find a nail? she doesn’t know what happened to hers, and dc, although up to the chin in screws, seems to be lacking in nails.

from the fish market, eve took us on a tour of the presidential memorials: jefferson, fdr, and of course lincoln. here are some general impressions:

jeff.jpg
jefferson: the memorial with the best view. from his lofty perch, thom stares out (enviously?) over the tidal basin towards the washington monument. his outsized form, ebony against white marble, seems to lose articulation, becoming more monolithic than figurative. is he thinking of sally hemmings? what would he think of the results of the american experiment? would he be a mac or a pc?

fala.jpg
fdr: the most human memorial. in its scale, its longing to commune with and challenge its viewers, and its iconically american narrative, this memorial is the least pretentious and, imho, the most affecting of the memorials. rather than extolling the american ideals of liberty and democracy as if they have been accomplished and instated forever, frank’s memorial reminds us of the work that remains in order to live up to those ideals. also, it is much easier and more fun to play on.

Download: 109129

filtimlincoln.jpg
lincoln: the most visited memorial. most locals say that the best time to visit abe is in the middle of the night, during a blizzard or the superbowl or some other catastrophic event. anything to ensure a tourist-neutral experience. alas, we arrived on a beautiful saturday afternoon and the place was crawling with tourists. there may have been something of the majestic or the contemplative at the lincoln memorial, but if so, it was difficult to discern amongst all the shrieks, giggles, camera flashes, and uggs. it was still an unforgettable experience, but perhaps because of the trees, not the forest.

from there we rode along the potomac to georgetown. tim had the smaller of folding bikes — an antique italian model — so he had to pedal twice as fast to keep up with evie and me. still, it was a beautiful ride, and we had smiles on our faces the whole time.

back at the boat, eve and i joined forces to make dinner. to be honest, eve led the charge; she made edamame, a pear and goat cheese salad, and dumplings. all i did was make a spinach cream sauce to complement said dumplings. it was delicious and nutritious and really hit the spot after the cold ride home.

we debated what to do for the rest of the evening and finally settled on abrazos rotos. a beautiful, frustrating film that is eminently worth seeing, especially for followers of almodovar.

this was our last full day in dc and it was the perfect way to close out our visit. the generosity, kindness and hilarity that our friends showed us left us feeling humbled and much loved. eve, darren, marcelo, darla, gene, eulalia, megan, and leo; you are marvelous! may the love you have given us be returned to you exponentially!

fdr.jpg