August 2014

Mission Accomplished

No, not in the Bushian sense that it will take me nine years to leave Portland after my declaration that the mission has been accomplished but rather that the moment i photographed the film canister i’d dropped off the edge of the viewpoint in memory of Robert Landsburg, i understood that i’d done everything i’d really wanted to do on this trip.

So this morning i set out toward home, and when i got to the turnoff leading to the Trinity Alps, where i’d planned to spend the night and do some sightseeing, i looked at the time and realized i could just drive straight on through and get back to my own bed tonight.

Which i did.  And i don’t plan leaving it for a day or two.

Meanwhile, i’ve created a new item on the main menu,  Portland’s Bridges, where i’m trying to do a proper photo essay.

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Mt. St. Helens

Well, when i got up to the closest viewpoint and was taking my pics, the damn thing failed to blow its top, sending the rest of the tourists screaming toward their cars while i stood my ground calmly clicking.  Hell, there wasn’t even a minor tremor, so you can imagine my disappointment.

But other than that it was a fine day trip, and sure enough when i stopped at the headquarters information center and inquired about how i might get to the point where Robert Landsburg died, the young woman behind the counter did a quick check on her computer and handed me a map on which she’d marked the closest place i could get to where Landsburg was standing.  Not real close, actually, since getting to his place of death requires a ten mile hike on what she described as very rough trails.

Note: In September i got an email from a reader asking for the location of the spot where Landsburg died.  So i got out the map the park lady had marked.   Draw a line south from Castle Lake to Merrill Lake, crossing the South Fork of the Toutle River.  Starting at that juncture, draw a line northwest.  Landsburg died about one-half mile out on that line,   The closest access to it from a road appears to be from the Kalama Horse Camp near the end of highway 81 from Cougar, but i have not checked out hiking trails in that area.

Not being able to handle “very rough trails”, i stayed on the highway and settled for a viewpoint of the mountain that was from roughly the same angle, where i could take some pics that show the mountain from pretty much his perspective even though the mountain has changed dramatically, it having been perfectly conical when he started photographing it.  Here’s what it looks like now without the old top.

Mt. St. Helens


And zooming in.  The good news is that magma is now pushing up in the caldera, and at the current rate of rise, the mountain will again be conical in million years or so.  Well, unless Something Happens before then.


Mt. St. Helens


And yes, i remembered to toss out my little old film container with a memorial note inside.


Memorial note commemorating Robert Landsburg

To conclude today’s brief post on Mt. St. Helens, here’s a morbidly obese ground squirrel who’s figured out that if he sits around looking cute, folks will ignore all those signs saying it’s bad for his health to feed him.


Morbidly obese ground squirrel

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A Secret Bridge

Just wobbled back to the hotel after a generous draft Oregon IPA and the best yellow Thai curry i can recall ever eating.  If you’re in Portland and want Thai food, eat at Baan Thai, just off the corner of College at 1924 SW Broadway.  Delicious food and large portions, but when they ask you how spicy you want your order, whatever you do, don’t say “Hot”.  Yesterday they asked me how how i wanted my larb chicken, and i said, “Oh, medium.”  OMG, it was absolutely fiery, but it was so delicious that i couldn’t stop eating in spite of the pain.  If i’d asked for Hot, i’d have been flopping around on the floor screaming for an ambulance.

Tonight there’ll be just one highlight from today’s photographic adventures during which i bagged the last remaining bridges here.  Well, sort of.  The two Interstate bridges over the Columbia were 1) so totally utilitarian that only their mothers could see much beauty in them and 2) were so situated that even though i drove east along the south bank of the Columbia and saw both bridges, i could find no vantage from which either might be well photographed, which made me almost happy they were so drab.

The good news, though, is that by taking the Segway in the back of the Prius i was able to park close enough to Segway around and get good photos of the St. John’s Bridge from the west bank of the Willamette, from underneath the west end of it, and during the ride over to the east end and back.

For example

St. John's Bridge


Or this


St. John's Bridge



So yes, the St. John’s Bridge justly deserves the multiple recommendations it has got from several locals i talked to, but it wasn’t the high point of today’s excursion.  Oh no.

When i was down on the west bank photographing it i happened to look back south down the river and spotted a bridge that i’d not read about in any of my research on Portland’s bridges.  Nor was it indicated on any of my maps.  Nor does it even have a popular name, at least not one known by either of the guys i talked to while i was photographing it, one of ’em an old fart who mentioned remembering it being built when he was a youngster.  No, they both said the only name the locals used was “the railroad bridge” because it’s exclusively for the railroad and has no other purpose.

But it gets even better, when i first looked at it, i exclaimed “It’s open!”  And it was.




And then it started closing

Railroad bridge over the Willamette


And here’s the whole thing taken from atop the St. John’s Bridge a few minutes later after it had fully closed.

Railroad bridge over the Willamette


And finally, i don’t want to spoil the surprise and give too much away, but tomorrow i’m doing a day trip up to Mt. St. Helens, hoping to get as close as possible to the spot where Robert Landsburg died, take a few photos, and leave a little memorial in an old film canister on the ground there.

If i get really really lucky, the volcano will choose that moment to go off again, and i’m mentioning this to get my readers to demand an autopsy when my body is found.  I no longer use a camera with film in it, so i won’t be able to emulate Landsburg in the minute or so remaining in my life by rewinding the film into the canister, leaving the canister in the camera, sticking the camera in my backpack, and lying down on top of the backpack.

Instead, what i’ll have to do is remove the memory chip from my camera and stuff it in my mouth while i wait for the blast to hit me.  Actually, if my body is found with my pants down, this will not mean that in my last moments of life i invented a new perversion, thinking i could seek some satisfaction while being buried alive in blazing volcanic ejecta, but rather that i realized there would be somewhere even safer than my mouth, and stuffed the chip there.  So ask ’em to look.

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Five Bridge Day

You’ve heard about three dog nights, well this was a five bridge day, and there’s no way i’ll be able to document it all tonight.

Actually, it’s becoming clear that i’m gathering so much material that the best approach would be to forget trying to handle this trip with blog entries but rather create a new main menu item titled “Portland’s Bridges“, which i’ve done.

Meanwhile a  synopsis of yesterday and today’s bridge adventures.  Yesterday i rode back and forth over the Hawthorne Bridge in the early afternoon, photographing it, the Tilikum Bridge (which is not yet open but is absolutely beautiful), the Marquam Bridge (a colossal two-deck Interstate bridge that i have no desire to ride over even if there’s a bike lane) and, in the late afternoon, the Ross Island Bridge, about which i wrote yesterday.

This morning i rode north on the west bank of the Willamette to the Morrison Bridge, over it and along the east bank to the Burnside Bridge, over it and along the west bank to the Steel Bridge, over it and along the east bank to the Broadway Bridge and over it back to the hotel for a rest.  In the afternoon i rode south down to the Sellwood Bridge, across and back, and stopped for an early dinner at the very tasty Thai restaurant named Baan Thai where i also had dinner last night.

Tomorrow’s my last day in Portland, and i’m planning on throwing the Segway into the Prius and driving up near the Columbia River, where i can then do a Segway trip across the Willamette and back on the St. John’s Bridge, which is so beloved of the locals that four of ’em have recommended it.  Then get back to the car and drive around a bit trying to find vantage points from which i might photograph the two Interstate bridges over the Columbia.  That’s for the morning.  In the afternoon i’ll take the Segway from the hotel and ride down to the Fremont Bridge and hope that there’ll be a two-way bike lane so i can ride up to the crest and turn around and coast back down since i suspect that i won’t be able to get a complete recharge on the battery between morning and afternoon trips.

What could go wrong? i ask.  Well, other than running out of battery power on the Fremont Bridge and then being so scared to death of heights that i couldn’t just jump off in embarrassment but would have to face Those Questions.

Too tired to write more tonight or to add photos of those bridges i Segwayed over this morning, but here’s a pic i took of the Fremont Bridge from atop the Broadway Bridge.

Fremont Bridge

OK, and one observation.   You can go ten blocks in Portland with a piece of trash in your hand waiting patiently to spot a can in which to deposit it, and yet the streets are spotless.  Unlike San Francisco’s, where there’s a trash can at every corner and sometimes in the middle of the block.  Look, San Franciscans are famously helpful to tourists, just as the Portlanders have been to me.  Hell, the Portlanders may have been even more helpful than San Franciscans.  What i refuse to believe is that they’re cleanerQ.E.D., San Francisco’s abundance of street trash is caused by an excess of trash cans.





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The Rudest Bridge

When i set out on this adventure it occurred to me that in the process of photographing Portland’s bridges i might well find one worthy of the title “The Rude Bridge That Arched the Flood“, but at the time i was thinking that the criterion i was looking for was that of ugliness.

Well, no.

But first, a little background.  The drive up I-5 to Portland was beautiful even though the grass on the freeway medians didn’t get green until i was almost in Portland owing to the drought we’re having out here.  Hard to imagine Oregon with brown grass.

But then i was in Portland and my little Garmin paid for itself splendidly by escorting me flawlessly to the University Place Hotel at 11:30 this morning.  It occurs to me that there will soon be a generation utterly incapable of reading a map since these navigational devices are so easy to use.

Check-in time is 3:00, but the guy at the desk was totally gracious about giving me a parking permit for their lot so i could Segway off photographing bridges for three hours.

Which i did, but there’s way too much material for tonight’s post, so this first foray (and the first two bridges) will remain undocumented for today.  I returned to the hotel to check in at 3:00 and had a bit of rest before i set out to photograph the Ross Island Bridge, which turned out to be a rather twitchy experience.

It’s a handsome bridge, as can be seen in this photo i took from the aerial tramway this morning (more on the tramway later), but what you don’t really see in this photo is that the the part over the water is only a fraction of the bridge since the approaches are so long.

Ross Island Bridge


The approaches extending far inland, making it rather tedious to find their beginnings, so you can imagine my disappointment when i finally rounded the curve on the sidewalk approaching the westbound entrance only to screech to a stop as it abruptly ended, leaving me the choice of joining the rush-hour traffic in the right-hand vehicle lane or turning back.

Which i did, and then was told by one of the legion of helpful locals that there was a sidewalk on only the north side of the bridge, so i went winding around some more and was feeling like i was on the right track until i saw this.

Ross Island Bridge pedestrian entrance


You talkin’ to me?   Naw, surely not.  So i pressed on.  And here’s what it was like for the mile or so across the bridge into the teeth of the eastbound traffic racing home at fifty MPH after a hard day at the office.  And that damn sidewalk felt like it was two feet wide and could not possibly have been more than four.  And the curb, which was all that was protecting me from the seething commuters, didn’t look like it was more than a couple of inches high although i damn sure wasn’t gonna stick my head into the traffic to look at it closely.

Death by Ross Island Bridge


One of the more white knuckle experiences i’ve had in a while, so i heaved a great sigh of relief when i reached the end and could pull off into a shady little park.

And realized that oh, i have to do it all over again to get back, and then discovered that while i was resting, a gusty little cross wind had picked up.  Just to help me fully appreciate the thrill of the ride.

But at least on the return trip i was comforted by knowing i wouldn’t die with the image of a car hurtling at me burned into my retinas.

Until about a tenth of the way back it struck me that they’d probably hit their brakes and i’d hear this hideous screech behind me before the lights went out.

So it was almost a disappointment that i made it back across what i sure do hope has already won the prize for the Rudest Bridge.

But stay tuned, as there are lots of bridges left.  And oh, even at this juncture i have a winner for the ugliest bridge.  It’s the Marquam Bridge, a massive two-level behemoth that squats across the Willamette carrying one of Portland’s two Interstate highways.  Here’s a chunk of it used as a frame for the gorgeous, and not yet open Tilikum Bridge.

Marquam Bridge framing Tilikum Bridge



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The Great Photo Expedition, Day I

So far the Great Photo Expedition is running smoothly.  Pulled away from the curb this morning at 8:00 and made it to Roseburn OR at about 5:00 without mishaps.

I stopped for lunch at the In-and-Out Burger(the best burger chain in the country) in Redding, where i noticed for the first time that quite a few morbidly obese people seem to be extraordinarily well groomed what with immaculately trimmed beards on the men and designer hairdos on the women.  I mean, what’s the point of that if you weigh 450 pounds?

North of Redding the enormity of California’s drought began to sink in.  Alas, the best vistas of Shasta Lake were from the freeway with no place to pull over for a shot, but i took an exit and drove a couple of miles to get this one of an arm of the lake.  Pitiful.

Lake Shasta 2014


And here’s Mt. Shasta.  It’s supposed to be snow capped.

Mt. Shasta 2014


When i got to Roseburg, i took the central exit to the old downtown district and checked in to a Rodeway Inn for $63.  Wow, what a deal, but when i started Segwaying around, i saw why the price was so low.  The town is crumbling into desolation.  Really sad.  Most of the buildings seem to be vacant.

Downtown Roseburg

Asked a couple of locals where i might get a small but very tasty dinner, but these folks have not partaken in the national spread of foodiness, and furthermore, the upscale place that none of ’em had actually eaten in was closed on Sundays.  Luckily, as i was Segwaying around i spotted a sushi restaurant and realized that, assuming that the fish is fresh and clean (not necessarily assumptions one should leap to) not a whole lot can be done to ruin sushi, and i gorged.

Washed it down with 24 oz. of Sapporo and wobbled back to the motel quite pleasantly stuffed and drunk.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Portland, where i’ll do a few bridges before i check in to my hotel there.

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Ahhh, the tromp, tromp, tromp of the marching boots of progress!

And no, i’m not talking about Facebook’s new Master Plan to take over more of your life if you’re so foolish as to use their luscious new apps like Messenger that let you Stay Connected effortlessly with your hundreds of Friends®.  Naw, i’m not real worried about that because 1) all the information i gave Facebook in my Profile, except for my name and city,  is false and 2) all Facebook wants to do is sell me to the highest bidder.

As opposed to the NSA which, when it discovers that i’ve ordered pizza from the same restaurant used by a terrorist suspect, will find that suspicious enough to turn me over to the CIA to be whisked away in the middle of the night and thrown into a secret prison without charges while they use enhanced interrogation techniques until i confess to committing whatever crime they want me to confess to.

No need to soften me up, guys.  Just tell me what i’m supposed to confess to, and i’ll do it right now.

But hey, i’m not real worried about that because one of the fabulous advantages of being old and sick is that i would die fairly rapidly under even moderately harsh conditions, especially if they weren’t smart enough to coordinate with my health care providers and include all the meds that are keeping me alive in the liquid food they squirt in tubes through my nose or elsewhere.  Sure is nice to have so little to lose anymore.

So no, the progress i’m talking about today is Histropedia.  I mean, didn’t your heart just leap when you read about this thing?  Now, just when we need it most, we can all easily create our own historical timelines in a glossy and eye-catching format.  But why, you ask, is that worrying?

Well, the operant words above are “easily create”.  Certainly historians have always been able to leave out inconvenient facts, but this application makes it child’s play to assemble mendacious timelines so beautiful that hardly anyone will notice the critical omissions.

The neo-Nazis can do timelines that leave out all that pesky Holocaust stuff.

The Roman Catholic Church can do a revised church history that paints the church more brightly.  What massacre of the Cathars?  What inquisition?  What blocking the distribution of condoms to third world poor as the AIDS epidemic raged?  What clerical child abuse and coverup?  Naw, not within the scope of this project.

McCain can do a timeline of US military victories that leaves out Vietnam, ends our invasion of Iraq with George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo op three months after we hit the ground there, and focuses on our ongoing glorious victories in Iran, Venezuela, and France.  Well, maybe not France, they having no oil.

Get my drift?

And meanwhile, i embark tomorrow morning on a Great Expedition Northward that will continue until i run out of steam and come slinking home.  The Master Plan is to halt the adventure every afternoon with enough energy left to post a copiously illustrated travelog.  Stay tuned.

The Great Expedition will be focused on bridges, but since i have no photos of those yet, here’s a shot of one of Mona Caron’s newest San Francisco murals.  It’s on 14th Street on the south side of that new building that stretches from the Whole Foods at the corner of Dolores and Market all the way down Dolores to 14th Street.

Mona Caron mural on 14th Street

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Curses, Foiled Again

I’ve written before about my fabulous internist, Dr. Jennifer Ross, and her knack for popping my bubbles.  Well, she’s still at it.

Yesterday she was conducting my annual physical, and i leaped off the scale at 146 pounds, prancing around and demonstrating that i could again wriggle into all those old Dockers in my closet.

Her response?

Stop losing weight.

When i protested that i wanted to get down under 140 so as to lose the rest of my belly, she explained that in the first place a man my age is supposed to have a little belly owing to normal fat redistribution, and in the second place, my BMI should not be any lower, considering that i need to keep some fat to draw on for energy when i get sick.

I was crushed.

But then stopped by Belly Burger on the way home for a pork belly sandwich and, wanting some dessert, grabbed a Pomme d’Amour at Knead Patisserie.  And then on the following day had a banana and a pint of chocolate ice cream so as to get myself back up to a healthy 148.

And hey, she’s not fat, but here’s an interesting Balmy Alley mural.


Balmy Alley mural


P.S. – The morning paper was full of the news of Robin Williams’ death, and i’ll always remember his wonderful line: “I can walk down the streets in San Francisco….and here i’m normal.”

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One more food post, and then i’ll take a break from them.

Pork is in the news.

First, it’s Big Chef Tom’s Belly Burger on Howard between 11th and 12th.  I went there for the first time a couple of weeks ago when i was on the way to an appointment and had neglected to bring my cell phone, so of course they were short handed and totally hammered when i arrived.  As the appointment time crept nearer and nearer, the wait became increasingly agonizing, but just as i was about to give up Tom picked up on my distress and expedited my burger.

Sure am glad he did, as it was fabulous.  What did i have?  Well, the signature item here is a patty of ground pork belly grilled to perfection and mounted in a bun with a wide variety of options.  Scroll down in the above link to see the choices.  For my first visit, i had The Classic, with fried chili pepper aioli, tomatillo relish, and Cotija cheese.  Not particularly large, but so rich that it was totally satisfying.

My second visit was last Thursday, when i in no rush, so i caught them in a slow period and got my burger (the Classic, again) very quickly.  Had to eat it slowly to kill time and was glad i did because that way i got to more fully appreciate its many excellencies.

I went in again today and had the Philly with sauteed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.  Also delicious.  I’ll keep trying other varieties.

Well, so long as the meat is the ground pork belly rather than the veggie or the chicken.  I mean, who would eat a vegetable or a chicken when you could have a pig?

Oh, and i should mention that it’s a clean, well lighted place and the guys who run it are nice…and by now i’ve met all three of ’em.


Second, Hornbrook Heritage Hogs, a new vendor at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market i discovered in the spring.  A nice couple named Bill and Gloria run the booth selling their products, and so i tried their New Mexico Chipotle Sausage.  OMG, it was delicious.  Next, i tried their Classic Sage Sausage, also delicious.  Both of these sausages have a lower fat-to-meat ratio than is usual in pork sausages, and that may be why they’re so good.  In addition to a variety of sausages, they also sell various cuts of pork, which of course i’m going to have to try after i’ve gobbled through more of the sausages.


If you eat pork, give both these places a try.


I went looking through my pics for one of a pig.  Hell, couldn’t find any animal in a recent shot, but then i figured i could settle for this critter i spotted on 24th Street.  Not much meat on him, but hey.


24th Street wasp


But then, after the folks at Hornbrook saw this post, they sent me a pic.


Hornbrook hog with Toulouse goose friend

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Greengage Jam

Well, yes, my dedicated readers will perhaps recall a previous post titled “Confiture de Reines Claudes” in which i wrote about tracking down a French recipe for this delicacy and preparing it.

Truly dedicated readers will remember that “Reine Claude” is the original French name for the plum now called the Greengage in English-speaking lands.

So a Greengage Jam is just a Confiture de Reines Claudes in English.  Oh, and using my own standard jam recipe, which mainly differs from the French version in the addition of a shredded apple and the use of rather less sugar.  (The French recipe called for 1 kg. of sugar for 1.6 kg. of plums while i used 1 qt. of sugar for 2.5 qts. of chopped plums.)

I didn’t cook the jam as long as i did the confiture, trying to preserve the green color, but what happened was that the jam didn’t set nearly as well and was still only faintly green.

Sure does taste good, though.

And here’s a shot of the fresh plums.

Greengage plums



OK, and enough about plums.

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