Today and tomorrow I am officially incommunicado. Not for any world shatteringly good reason, just that I’m having a bad case of “Can’t be arsed“ at present, and have decided that the wonderful whizzy interconnectedness of the jolly old Interweb can do without me.
Hot sunny days with nothing much happening at present. Mrs S is popping out for her weekly physio on her busted wing, which seems to be healing nicely. All our paperwork is up to date, the usual silly season stuff permeates the press, and various crises grumble on. I have little to contribute, so while the opportunity exists I’m going to do what my dog used to; lie down and enjoy the warmth now that the short spell of weekend rain has passed. Just listening to birdsong and chilling.
While it’s this warm there’s a knack to managing the airflow through our little apartment to keep it at a pleasant temperature. Other places we’ve lived have become stuffy and uncomfortable on days like these, but the natural breeze from leaving the north facing window in my office and the front window open makes for a very comfortable working environment.
As for news, I haven’t read a UK online newspaper properly for weeks, and to tell you the truth I think I’m happier for it. The British press do love to dramatise, don’t they? Hell, I’ve gotten to the point that if they state that the sky is blue, I’ll take a look out the window to check.
There are still figs on the tree outside my office window, which are nice when ripe and sweet, but there are so few of them left that we’re leaving them to the Ravens. My own experiment with processing the crop is now in its second phase, having scooped out the inner cores and added a little brown sugar and put them aside to steep for a few days before Vodka is added. So far it’s looking good. A report on taste and intoxicating effects may be forthcoming.
Well, we’re back. Enjoying a nice cool breezy day or three after the all-encompassing heat of the last seven. Mrs S and I are indulging our new found tastes for things like ‘Moscow Mule‘ cocktails. The ingredients for which are Vodka, lime juice and Ginger beer (Not ale, not enough Ginger). Very quaffable. Mrs S does like Cosmopolitans, but we didn’t have any of the right liqueur (Cointreau) in house, so I had to adapt and improvise with Stolichnaya. On its own, Ginger beer with a shot of Roses lime cordial over ice is very nice, but add Vodka and a generous squeeze of real lime and well, you’ll have to try it for yourself.
The various global crises keep grumbling on. The Greeks constantly wanting more money to pay their old age pensions, then shifting the bills onto someone else continues. The Chinese economic woes. Iran getting nuclear technology so they can build atomic bombs (That’s not going to end well). A surprise medical bill for four thousand Euro’s that should have been paid by our insurance company which has led to several frantic phone calls. Pension paperwork coming at us from all directions. Oh what jolly bloody fun. I’m not even of pensionable age yet, and they’re going to change the rules yet again. Good job I won’t be relying on a pension then. Hey ho. We’re taking it all in our stride.
Well, we’ve had a thoroughly nice time in the USA, apart from a few navigation hiccups on Saturday because our SatNav had a minor nervous breakdown caused by all the roadworks off the I-5 into south Tacoma. We had a wander around the American Car Museum and saw these. Which cost the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of modern dollars in their day, such were the costs of hand coach building, even during the height of the American depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Oh yes, and from the triumph of hope over experience department, these examples of Electric vehicles; Their modern descendants only possible because of massive subsidies. While electric cars are superficially economical, they will always remain a fringe technology until the fuel / refuel issues can be fully addressed, or failing that, a small molten salt nuclear reactor, hydrogen or other non battery technology becomes practical for personal transport. You can probably hear the sound of my breath not being held from half a world away. Until a long time hence we’re probably stuck with the reliable(ish) Internal Combustion Engine. Which on the plus side, has given us beauties like this Seven litre Chevrolet Camaro. It couldn’t match something like a Porsche on European roads of course, but on North American highways, it has the legs and legroom to just eat up those endless miles.
For those who protest about how much energy those naughty Gringos use, they forget the large distances between towns. You can walk down to the store to get the groceries, but that walk will take a long, long time. They also forget that continental North America is a bloody big place, and therefore tends to suffer from more extremes. Everything is bigger over here. Weather, distances, trees, and also the average fast food restaurant customer. We are talking three hundred pounds and upwards.
Anyway, back home in the more environmentally friendly land of British Columbia, I’ve just been given about twenty pounds of fresh figs which I have to find a use for. Do I make some preserve? Chop a few then soak in Vodka? Make Fig rolls (yum). Put a few out to ripen in my office? Apparently there’s a trick with a dab of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which hastens ripening. See these posts on a gardening forum. Treating figs with motor oil, we have been assured, does not work. At least if you want something vaguely edible afterwards. I may do all these things. There may be a progress report.
Bye for now.
On our way again, this time on the northbound leg of our little roadtrip around the northwastern US of A. Highway 101 all the way up to the fleshpots north of Astoria for a meal out and overnight stay before moving on to Tacoma for a couple of evenings, thence back to BC via the Coho ferry.
In the previous post, I made mention that the coastline of Southern Oregon is ‘pay-per-view’. As far as accessing most of the beaches is concerned, this is true, as in order to stop, no matter how briefly, in one of the National Parks that line this side of the USA, you need to have purchased a pass. We hadn’t, and seeing as there was no ticket booth at the places we entered, we simply did a 180 and went off in search of ‘beach access’, which we eventually found. Unfortunately the north wind was blowing, whipping the dry sand up into miniature sandscapes up and down the kilometres of beach. This particular stretch of beach looked to be suffering the curse of septic tank runoff from a nearby resort and a sizeable stretch of holiday homes. Which rather took the shine off things. It was either that or hire a dune buggy or ATV, which Mrs S would not be allowed to ride because of her recent injury. So we moved on.
Further north on the 101, there are more places to park to enjoy the huge expanses of yellow sand, the coastal highway squiggling more closely to the shoreline along mile after mile of almost deserted beach. Being a European trained driver, I was happily throwing our little SUV through tight corners which would not disgrace an English country A-road and wondering why there was no-one in my rear view mirror, even though I hadn’t been speeding (Honestly officer – I was being ever so good). Between Florence and Cannon Beach, Oregon (Well worth a stopover. Incredible beach. Try the Warren Inn for lunch) it’s a joy. Especially on such a sunny day as today. Great driving, good food, and the Universe totally failing to go ‘Foom’. The more northerly beaches are also great for kite flying, sunbathing or surfing. Although the wind needs to shift into the West to produce the best Pacific Breakers.
One of the things I’ve also noticed in passing have been visiting political campaigners. No doubt organising support for next years Presidential Elections. No Republicans as yet, but the the ‘Obama Mama’s’ (I think that’s who they are) whose vehicles are graced with a metallic ‘O’ inside the rear window, and a ‘Clintonite’ sporting a Hilary Clinton bumper sticker have been in evidence. No doubt infiltrating local meetings with their forced letterbox smiles and promises. (Never trust someone who smiles ingratiatingly all the time – they’re up to something.) Their vehicles all being late model and fairly new looking. They’re also mostly black, the vehicles that is. Something I found a trifle sinister. Considering the mess the golf pro currently ensconced in the White House has made of things, the thought of another Democrat in the form of a Clinton in the hot seat must make the blood of many Americans (and anyone else on the planet – apart from the more rabid mullahs) run icy cold. I mean, come on; even Sarah Palin would be a better choice for the first woman president of the USA. That’s not an edifying prospect either.
Never mind; as regards meals out, Mrs S and I had a minor culinary epiphany last night. We dined at a very nice seafood place where the fish was not encased in batter or smothered in cheese sauce. Instead of dessert, I voiced the desire for a Martini to round off what was a very pleasant repast. Mrs S concurred and we ordered two fairly dry fancy Martinis off the menu instead of the usual ‘death by chocolate’ so full of caloric energy it could power a Saturn 5 booster into orbit. Which turned out to be a good move. We walked back to our hotel with a lightness of step and sense of mild euphoria, rather than simply feeling weighed down and a little over indulged. Thus we have decided, in future, instead of dessert we’ll have Martinis instead. We’ll also forget wine with out meal, as that would rather be gilding the lily. Which has the dual effect of lowering the bill whilst at the same time making us look like a pair of visiting sophisticates (Snarf). Who knows? Perhaps we’ll start a trend.
On the topic of what to eat here in the Northwestern USA. Coastal eateries do what they call ‘Steamer Clams’ which I think are nicer than Moules Mariniere, which I’m also quite partial to. Try them. If you’re not professionally allergic to seafood, they are a treat. The best places manage to clean these delicacies so thoroughly that there is no detectable sand in them, which can put a crimp in your seafood dining experience.
Last item today; if you do one thing in your life. If you cannot gallop horses through the surf on a deserted Irish beach or run naked along a seemingly endless West Highland strand, screaming your ecstasy for the sheer exhilaration of being alive, hire an SUV and take a drive up and down Long Beach, Washington, USA. As Mrs S and I did this evening before sundown. Just look up how long it is. Go on. Do not under any circumstances take my word or anyone else’s for this. Twenty eight smegging miles. Okay, the beach speed limit is twenty five miles per hour (A beach with a speed limit, my life already), and bits of it are off limits during the Summer months but frankly I don’t care. You can drive further along Padre Island, Texas (One hundred and thirty miles) but it’s going to take a full construction crew with earth movers to eradicate the grin currently planted upon my face.
What can I say, I’m easily pleased.
Back at the Pacific coast for a forty eight hour pause in the relentless round of road running. Although I will say this; Route 126 from Eugene, Oregon, out to the coast is a delight to drive. The bends are cambered, which in my book adds to the driving experience. I’ve mentally bookmarked it for a motorcycle ride sometime in the next twelve to eighteen months. It’s that good. Over fifty kilometres of lovely swooping right and left handers reminiscent of some great stretches of UK tarmac from my Halcyon riding days. Only there’s way more of it with nicer scenery and less traffic. Oh yes, and it’s currently being freshly resurfaced. Go for a run if you’re in the district in late August, early September.
The only downside of the Pacific coast, at least from what we’ve found in Oregon, is finding that a great deal of it is Pay-per-view. It is also very windy at the moment. Very sunny, but the breeze is stiff enough to thicken gravy. Then there are the jellyfish. Thousands of the little buggers, so barefoot isn’t a very intelligent choice in footwear at the waters edge. Miles and miles of sand though. All the way from California and northbound to Washington. Which the wind blows into metre deep drifts all over the beach. Some of the more mature dunes are as high as a block of condos and a bright yellowy white.
On an even nicer note, Mrs S treated me to a brand new Skagen Titanium wristwatch yesterday, which I wasn’t expecting. She said it was an apology for all the extra aggro I’ve been putting up with over the past few weeks since she broke her arm. Well, I have been more of a body servant, chauffeur, scribe and general factotum than usual. But it is nice to have the extra effort recognised. I like Titanium watches, the metal is light, matches your body temperature so much that you hardly know you’re wearing one. On the other hand it may have been because I was less than my usual decisive self and she wanted me to simply get a move on. She could have said “Bill.” In her meaning voice which would have done just as well.
Anyway. We have beer and Jameson’s in the hotel fridge. Some has even found its way down my willing throat, me havin such a terrible thirst, begorrah, said he, indulging his inner Irishman. I’ve also been introduced to the delights of Double Stuf heads and tails Oreos. Oh, the calories, the calories!
We’re both having a thoroughly splendid time. Hope you are too.
Right, we’ve made it down to Oregon of all places. Down from the bleak vastness of the High Chaparral to the lush lower reaches of the Columbia river valley. Past four major hydro-electric dams and tens of square kilometres of those next best thing to useless twirly things.
When it comes to describing the good old US of A, the word ‘vast’ is so inadequate. ‘Huge’ is a vapid description of something so big that merely being humungous can only go halfway to describing a hundredth of the open country we’ve passed through. Towering waterfalls, highways so straight that their vanishing point disappears half way to the horizon. I thought Canada was big, but we mostly snuggle close to the 49th parallel to keep warm in winter. The US is, how should I put it, more three dimensional, spreading down from the 49th Parallel to the Mexican border. It’s almost like dipping a toe in the total perspective vortex.
Gas, or petrol is about a third cheaper then back home and doled out in US gallons, which are smaller than Imperial measure, 3.785 litres as opposed to 4.546. Which has made the conversion in my headometer run a little slower than usual when checking out the prices. I’m sure there’s an ap for this function, but I haven’t downloaded it yet. Growing up when I did, we had Imperial to Metric conversion drilled into us until it became second nature. Even now I can freely convert from pounds and pence into the old pounds, shillings and pence. Funny the way some things stay with you, isn’t it?
Hotels are good, the food is okay, but our southern cousins do have a predilection for frying everything, so the cuisine is not up to Parisian standards. Although their steaks are bloody wonderful. If there’s one thing the yanks do really well it’s a steak. Not burgers, but thumb thick slabs of juicy pinkness. The aftereffects of consuming a 10oz include making my stomach hug my spine as it goes ‘thank you – thank you’. So I’m in pretty good humour.
Short drive starting today, down to the West coast to begin the northbound leg of our trip. Listening to some of the locals talk about distance the other day, I noticed that they talk of journey times, not in miles or kilometres, but in hours. But in a country this size, it makes perfect sense.
Well that was interesting. Yesterday we started off pootling through thickly forested landscapes reminiscent of Upper BC, only to end up scooting down the Columbia River valley. This is territory I can only describe as ‘the Big lonely’, endless dry grass, horizon spanning expanses of chaparral, sagebrush and tumbleweed. I fully expected to see Clint Eastwood and his mule riding out of the East to greet us. Some of the tumbleweed we actually saw tumbling. Which was a sight more active than the crop of Wind Turbines we passed through.
I mean who takes these colossal wastes of money seriously? They only generate a maximum of twenty percent of rated capacity and rely on an unpredictable source. When that source isn’t available, they need energy from the grid to keep turning so their bearings don’t seize up. As a means of serious energy generation, they’re a very bad joke. Unless of course you’re one of those with their nose in the subsidies trough. Same for electric cars. They’re hardly any better than those built a hundred years ago. A dead end, junky technology that only really exists because of taxpayer dollar.
Anyway, that’s besides the point. This morning we’re back over the Cascade range of mountains and heading towards the jolly old Pacific Ocean before turning Northbound to head up the Coastal Highway. Hotels and ferries are booked, our fuel tank is full, the horizon beckons. There’s a whole world out there to explore. Well, a couple of States anyway.
We’re off! Away from conferences and nitpicking fine detail, away from the smoke shrouded hills of upper BC. Away from the terrible Vegetarian food which even some stalwart Vegans on the team were calling tasteless. Maybe the conference won’t be held at that place next year. I think the only thing stopping a lynch mob being formed for the catering staff is that lynching is so un-Canadian. Although from some of the grimaces I observed, there were definitely a few people who could have been persuaded.
On the final day we scooted off after the last meeting, only to run into a four hour delay, not at the US border, which we were expecting, but on the Sea to Sky southbound, where two motorcyclists got hurt hitting a Jeep Cherokee that had allegedly run out of petrol and had stopped in the outside lane. Considering the vehicle couldn’t have long passed a Gas station, that seems like someone just hadn’t bothered to fuel up, or was hoping to make Vancouver on just fumes. Who knows? We just pulled aside to let the emergency services though, wandered around, chatted, read books, walked dogs, watched some kids playing catch and in some cases seethed quietly until everyone had to do a three point turn, backtrack to the previous junction, then go up and around a couple of sleepy little suburbs until we were decanted back on the main drag. After that, the five minutes wait at the Peace Arch was a breeze.
Impressions of the USA so far? Mostly positive. Upstate Washington reminded me of our 2007 trip across Southern Ontario. To celebrate, we tucked into a steak each. Real food! Just a wonderful slightly bloody steak and salad each chased down by a modest dusty Californian Red, but to us we felt we’d escaped from dietary jail. There was rain too. A blessed strinkling. Just enough to remove the dust from the air. Free at last. Free at last! I think. Maybe. Probably.
Still hanging around at Mrs S’s conference. Tucked into a corner, watching, listening, observing. Picking my place so I don’t get eaten alive by the mosquitoes in this neck of the woods. Putting up with the low-everything catering. Although salt and pepper is available now. No aircon in our room so Mrs S isn’t sleeping well, which means I don’t either. Lots of being nudged awake “Are you asleep, Bill?” to which the answer always is; “I was.” Such are the delights of married life.
I’m a member of the awkward squad, but you knew that didn’t you? You charming little darlings. Both of you. One of those who tries to take a second look at whatever scare story is blared at them by the lamestream. When that evidence is available to me. Most of the time I’m like the pictured gentleman, who may or may not be August Landmesser. Arms folded, not saying a lot, but pitching in when he thinks he’s got something to say. Not one of the herd.
On this topic I’ve been following the last couple of years revelations regarding the Savile case. Especially the issues highlighted over at Anna Raccoons. While he was alive, Jimmy Savile was an entertainment public figure and charity worker who had been questioned by police regarding certain accusations. There’s even a whole #ibelieveher lynch mob on twatter who automatically believe any allegations of abuse by celebrities without burden of proof.
Now having done a little bit of enforcement work, I’m a great fan of evidence. Did you know that even issuing a parking ticket (at least when I was doing it) requires seven distinct elements of proof before it can be validated? Not an uncorroborated statement repeated as though it were fact, but time and date, vehicle registration, make and model, colour, location, offence code restriction. Which have to be backed up with a photograph, before and after issue. Anything that doesn’t fit, if the issuing officer gets either the colour, registration number or location wrong that ticket can be successfully challenged and binned. So why is no such burden of proof being applied to the Savile case? Why weren’t these accusations corroborated when he was alive, or in the previous forty years since the alleged offence? Why are uncorroborated assertions being accepted as proof? Why are people so fucking gullible?
If inclined toward conspiracy theories, I’d say this was a put up job, a smokescreen to divert public opinion. News management. But I have no evidence, just suspicions. So when urged to convict or condemn by show of hands purely on the basis of one persons assertion, my arms, like the man in the picture, will remain firmly folded.
Well we’re off. On the road for the next two weeks after fussing over details like routes, ferry timetables and possible road closures. Keeping a weather eye on the wildfire warnings that might throw our carefully planned schedules all over the place.
Because it’s been a lovely warm Summer so far, but up here in the not so frozen north all the Huskies are lying down in whatever shade they can find, and igloos are reduced to puddles, which is playing merry hell with property prices in Nunavut. Not that anyone lives in anything as retro as a igloo, apart from wilderness survival freaks who like wearing razor wire corsets, just to so how tough they are.
So far it’s been an fairly active wildfire season. Quite normal for an El Nino year. Could do with the odd drop of rain, but that’s not likely just yet.
On the first part of our road trip I’m not enjoying the cuisine at Mrs S’s conference. I can honestly say this lo-fat, lo-salt, lo-every-fucking-thing excuse for food is making me ill tempered and edgier than usual. Last night was salad without any real protein. Breakfast was soggy, vapid hash browns, flavourless pork, and scrambled egg polluted with beans and some other crap. I tried to eat it, but two mouthfuls were enough. The rest was summarily binned.
Being an avowed omnivore, I’ll tuck into most things given three falls and a knockout, but this mornings attempt at ‘cuisine’ was an insult to my Parisian tuned tastebuds. There wasn’t even any toast. This wasn’t food, it was probably illegal under articles 11, 12 and 13 of the Geneva convention covering treatment of POW’s. If I fed this to a dog I’d expect the SPCA to come calling. Furthermore, I’m sorely tempted to say whoever ordered this crap needs putting in the rubber room. You will note I’m not blaming the catering staff – yet. But if lunch is more of the same, I shall be eating exclusively at the Tim Hortons down the road. Oh Gods, I’ve just seen the bloody menu. “Dairy free”. Fuck me rigid.
You know, I don’t mind other people being Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten free, dairy free, breath free, whatever. Hey, your life, your choice, but when it impinges upon me, I’m inclined to get more than a little testy.
Now where’re my car keys?