Thursday, October 20, 2011


Last week, my son-in-law Michael took me on a photo safari to Lost Lake which is located at the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon.  The purpose of the trip was to attempt to wean me from using the automatic setting on my camera and teach me the basics of taking a good picture manually.  After taking copious notes on the trip up I was confident that I could do this.  How hard could it be anyway?  I was determined to overcome my technophobia and master at least one aspect of  manual operation that day.  Michael set me up with a tripod, briefly going over what we discussed in the car, "Remember your ISO's, your shutter speed, your depth of field, your f stops...."  My brain began to shut down and my eyes glazed over.  He promptly left to take his own photos leaving me with not having a clue what to do.  I took a few test shots and was totally discouraged.  It was a very dark and overcast day (and might I add dang cold), and I could not get a decent picture.  If I took a picture of the lake, the mountain disappeared and vice versa.  Michael would yell up from his perfect vantage point on the lake every once in awhile to ask how I was coming along.  "I don't know what I'm doing..!!!"  I'd whine.  No response.  Aw to heck with it, I said to myself, and just began to fool around with what I could remember of my lesson the night before.  Michael had shown me some sort of scale on the manual setting, that if I lined it up--voila!  great picture.  I began to experiment with that and I actually got both the lake and the mountain to show up.  What I learned was that in those kind of lighting conditions (and with my limited camera) either one or the other was going to be dark.  I went with moody foreground and in focus mountain.  Later, Michael told me that what I had learned was how to use the light meter in my camera.  I was so proud.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Our old steam locomotive did it's best, but it had to stop several times on the trip back to cool it's ancient bearings, which meant we didn't arrive in Fort Bragg until almost 4 PM.  I'd planned on heading up the coast on Highway 1 after the train ride, stopping along the way to admire the trees in the Redwood National Forest before staying overnight in Grants Pass, Oregon.  As it was, we were going to be lucky if we made it as far as Eureka, CA before dark.  Not only that, I was getting increasingly anxious about my car.  It had started so far, however reluctantly, but I was slowly becoming resigned to the fact that it was just going to be a matter of time before the old thing was going to conk out. 

What should have been a leisurely tour of the giant trees turned out to be just the opposite.  Leaving the motor running we would jump out of the car, take a picture with a massive tree, drive down the road and take another picture all the while nervously keeping an eye on our idling car.  We finally gave up after an unsatisfying half trip through The Valley of the Giants, dilapidated old redwoods so ready to fall over that they had to be propped up with cables.  After a couple of pictures with these sad tourist attraction relics, we decided that we'd better get to civilization while it was still light. 

If you look carefully, Audrey is in this picture!

With unbelievable gratitude we pulled into a nice Comfort Inn in Eureka for the night.  Next morning, the car struggled more than usual to start and we knew we were on borrowed time now.  I just  prayed  we would make it to White Salmon that day.  It had hung in with us this far.

We had to make one last stop for gas in Eugene, Oregon.  Us chickens loaded up on soda and prepackaged sandwiches and steeled ourselves for one more start of the car.  Now throughout the whole trip, Audrey had been consoling me saying, "It's OK, Mom.  It'll start."  But, when she turned the key this time--- nothing.  No sound.  For the first time in the entire trip, I felt a calm faith in the old thing and I encouraged her to try again.  As if rallying one more time before giving up the ghost for good, it somehow found the strength to start.  We could not believe it.  We drove straight through to White Salmon and parked the car in front of Michael and Shelly's house.  It never started again.  A couple of weeks later it was towed into the garage where a new ignition was installed.  God bless that old clunk.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Can you imagine waiting 20 years to ride something called the Skunk Train?  Kay and I had run out of time on the last trip, and it had always been on my list of things to do.  So I was excited as Audrey and I boarded the 1920's era rail cars on that Wednesday morning.  We were going on a four hour round trip into a forest thick with redwoods, on ancient rails twisting around some 200 odd curves and crossing dozens of antiquated bridges.  As we were boarding, the century old Baldwin locomotive proudly huffed huge clouds of white steam as if to show us it was up to the task.

The northern coast of California is redwood country.  The size of these trees run from gigantic 2,000 year old granddaddies to 500 year old burly adolescents with girths up to a dozen feet across.  In 1885, a logging railroad was built to move these massive redwood logs to the Mendocino sawmills.  Now this slow old train is traveling the same rails past the same trees and it is delightful.  We learn from our docent that in 1925, self powered gas rail cars were put into service which frankly stunk up the place.  The locals had a saying, "You can smell 'em before you can see 'em," which finally explained the name of our train.

Just one of the 200 curves.

 Audrey in her version of the Unibomber look.

Here's another one.

And here's 197...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


At 4:30 AM we stuffed the car with more stuff plus a basket full of snacks and drinks, settled into our seats and crossed our fingers the car would start.  It did, to our relief, but only after doing it's dying jalopy routine again.  We headed north up the I 5 stopping only briefly for gas.  My heart would sink every time I had to turn the engine off because I was never sure it was ever going to start again.  We wouldn't kill the motor (bad choice of words, I know) for food or potty breaks; instead we'd take turns dashing in and out leaving the car running.  I made sure that if we did have to turn off the ignition, we were in a area that might have a decent repair shop.  Finally, after 12 hours of rarely leaving the car, we rolled into Fort Bragg.  As we pried ourselves out of car, food wrappers, drink cans and various other debris spilled out with us as if we'd been living in the car for a week.  Audrey and I looked like the "other chickens" in the Foster Farms commercials who aren't a bit fresh. 

Ah, but we made it and the place was beautiful.  I'd made reservations for us at The Harbor Lite Lodge located on a small bay and steps from the ocean.  I'd stayed there twenty years ago with my friend Kay on a similar trip up the coast and we had had the same view from our rooms. 

The next day we drove to Mendocino, which was about eight miles up the coast.  I remembered it as being a charming New England style village when I visited it twenty years ago and always wanted to come back.  I learned this time that the reason it had that New England feeling was that it had been founded by New Englanders.  Well, no wonder!  Audrey and I strolled around the streets, peeking in people's backyards, enjoying the picturesque setting.  We noticed that each home had a water tower in their yard and we learned it was because everyone had their own well.  It just added to the charm.