August 2015

Diaspora

Technological Leap Needed – a wind turbine that kills only pigeons.

 

I hadn’t told anyone about my plans for this, fearing they’d make a compelling case against it, but now it can be revealed that i’ve given notice at my current place and will be moving in September to an apartment in Petaluma.

Well yes.  See, my current apartment is the most luxurious place i’ve ever lived and is so well soundproofed that i can’t hear my neighbors, and when the double pane windows are closed, i can’t hear any exterior noise.  It is also perfectly situated, within an easy Segway ride of all my usual haunts.

Alas, a couple of downsides. It’s so expensive that it will gobble up all my savings if i live very long.  Also, while the management and staff are sterling, my fellow occupants include a significant percentage of entitled sociopaths like the young woman i caught dropping a bag of fresh, hot dogshit into the junk mail recycling bin in the foyer.  And others, who stuff oversize things into the trash and recycling chutes, thus blocking them for all eight floors and creating a nightmare for the maintenance guy.  Etc., etc. I do not fit in well here.

Petaluma made a good impression on me during my numerous visits over the years to its downtown.  Then last spring my Petaluma friend Armando was injured, and i realized that the best way to restore his health would be to deliver a selection of my jams and jellies.

So i drove up, and in the course of an afternoon discovered the real Petaluma, the neighborhood immediately west of downtown and mostly dating from the first half of the twentieth century.  It’s not grand Victorians, but quiet and charming in a downscale way, an area in which i’d feel very comfortable living.

And then i dug around and found that Petaluma has everything i need – three farmers’ markets, good restaurants, a branch of my gym, a good bookstore, and a Unitarian Church should i turn spiritual.  Oh, and easy parking everywhere, in case i want to drive.

Better yet, it’s only 45 minutes from San Francisco, so i can easily drive back here to meet with friends for lunches and dinners, go to my favorite markets, see all my doctors, go to Spanish class, and eat at Sushi Zone.

When i went up looking for apartments i discovered that people up there drive slowly and more courteously.  It’s a friendly little town more relaxed than the big city and more in keeping with my advancing age.

Alas, i discovered that hardly anything is currently for rent in the area just west of downtown and none of it suitable, but i found a very nice apartment in the Payran McKinley neighborhood east of downtown and practically on the bank of the Petaluma River, so it’s an easy Segway ride from downtown.

So now all i gotta do is pack everything up, which will be easier this time because i won’t be needing to get rid of stuff.

Meanwhile, a cement plant on the Willamette.

Portland cement

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The Journal of the Portland Expedition

“I would devour, where others merely nibbled.”

 

The “2015 Portland Bridge Pedal” photoessay is now available as the first Bridges menu item in a much superior form thanks to a flogging from my dear friend and sometime First Reader, CKM, during the course of which i agreed to do a great deal of very necessary cropping. After he untied me from the rigging, CKM then kindly made some negotiable suggestions for improvements in the text and scope.  All of which made the version you see much better.

I’m at the Bucket List point of my life, and completing the expedition to Oregon has provided me great satisfaction even though, being me, i can look back with regret over the bridges i failed to photograph and gnash my teeth over the shortcomings and omissions in the above photoessay.  Still, the bottom line is that i did it.

The end of this great adventure is dovetailing with the beginning of a new, greater one, about which i’ll soon be posting here in the blog.  So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, a couple of Portland shots that didn’t make it into the Bridge Pedal photoessay.  First, a river shot of OMSI, Portland’s answer to Amsterdam’s Nemo and San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

OMSI

 

And the front door, on the street side.

OMSI

 

I find it an engineering marvel that the builders were able to construct the extremities of the structure at such angles, but i do have seismic concerns.

 

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Preview

In case anyone was wondering, i made it home.  Did it in about twenty minutes less than eleven hours…with three short pit stops.  Ummm, make that four because between Winters and Vacaville i pulled off into one of those little numbered farm roads and watered the weeds where there was nobody in sight.  The other three stops were for coffee, gas plus Big Mac (not as good as they were fifty years ago), and instead of a burger at Bartel’s Giant Burger at the Corning exit, a chocolate milk shake.  First one i’ve had in at least a couple of years, and they’re just as delicious as ever.

To celebrate my arrival home, my favorite parking space was sitting there waiting for me.

The next afternoon i went to the Castro Farmers’ Market and to my joy Marie at Rodin Farms had her legendary Greengage plums, so i made a jam of them the following morning.

Now i’m working on a full account of my bridge hunting expedition, which will appear in a week or so under the title “2015 Portland Bridge Pedal” in the Bridges menu.  Never fear, i’ll trumpet its completion.

For the promised preview, here’s a little house on a tiny side street off the Neito Parkway.

house off the Neito Parkway

And here’s Baan Thai, where i ate delicious food every night in Portland but one, their being closed on Sundays.

Baan Thai

 

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Riverboat Ride

If i’d understood sixty years ago that atheists are not forgiven for their sins, i’d have been nicer, sooner. Or just rekindled my faith.

Well, i’d almost given up hope, but it finally happened.  I encountered a rude Portlander.

I was out on this morning’s photo foray and was gliding smoothly and cautiously to a halt at a stop sign, still a dozen feet back of it, when a young bicyclist approaching from my right screamed at me to stop.  With an obscenity.  I laughed loudly at her because that enrages them.

The foray continued well.  I rode north along the riverside to the Steel Bridge, crossing it today on the upper level with the cars rather than on the lower level with the railroad traffic.  Got good shots, including this one that shows a train crossing on the lower level while on the upper level you can see a light rail vehicle, Portland’s handsomer version of San Francisco’s Muni.  If you look closely, you can also see trucks on the upper level.  For the cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists you’ll just have to use your imagination, but i promise they’re there because i was.

Steel Bridge

 

And here’s the Fremont Bridge in the background with the Broadway Bridge in front.

Broadway Bridge

 

This afternoon i swung by Baan Thai for an early dinner on Larb Chicken and then headed to the river for my riverboat cruise.  On the way, i got busted by a transit authority guy for riding the Segway on the part of the street marked for light rail transit.  Told him i was a tourist and wouldn’t do it anymore.  Well, see, in San Francisco, you can legally ride in some parts of the track areas, with the forbidden parts marked by clear signage, but since it’s illegal everywhere in Portland, there’s no need for signage.

The river cruise was enjoyable, delightfully narrated, and full of photo ops.  I snapped 200 of ’em, so i should get three or four good ones.  Oh, and the cruise ran from the dock between the Hawthorne and Morrison bridges all the way up to the Columbia River and back, much of it at 40 knots.  Never been near that fast in a boat before, and it was thrilling to do so.

OK, one photo.  This one of the Broadway Bridge off the stern of the boat.  I’m now thinking that that’s the loveliest Portland bridge other than Tillikum Crossing, and besides, the engineering on the double leaf bascules is fascinating.

Broadway Bridge

 

Well, since you already had one of the Broadway Bridge, here’s the St. Johns Bridge.

St. Johns Bridge

 

And OK, that’s it for Portland bridges.  I return home in the morning.  Good trip.

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Seven Bridges

What a successful day!

Seven Bridges Pedal

To start, i did the Seven Bridge ride.  Across the Hawthorne Bridge, south to the Tilikum Crossing, over and back on that, then further south to the Ross Island Bridge and across that and north to the Marquam Bridge, across that and north to the Burnside Bridge, across that and north to the Broadway Bridge, across that and north to the Fremont Bridge, and across that.

At which point i somehow missed the fork in the trail that directed the Seven Bridgers back to the waterfront (step 53 “veer left onto NW 15th”) and then realized that i was heading in the wrong direction, toward the St. Johns Bridge five miles to the north.  Acute range anxiety set in as i realized that while i could make it to the St Johns Bridge, it was somewhere between doubtful and highly unlikely whether i could get all the way back to the hotel before i ran out of juice.  So i stopped and queried one of the ride monitors.  She was very nice, like everyone i’ve encountered in Portland, but her ignorance of the routes was profound.

Worse yet, since i’d just been going with the flow of the riders since the beginning, i had no idea exactly where i was.  Break time to study a map, which revealed that all i needed to do was just head east toward the river.  And sure enough, after only a mile or so i came across the pack of riders headed toward the finish line.

Bridge Pedal finish line

 

 

Conveniently at the Finish point was the Portland Saturday Market which, despite the name, is open both Saturday and Sunday.  It describes itself as “the largest continually operating handcrafted arts and crafts market in the nation” with “exotic foods” from “over twenty international food booths”.  So it’s really just a flea market and a bunch of fast food stalls but no fresh produce.  But next to that was the Bite of Oregon, an assembly of gourmet food stalls where i went ahead and had an order of fairly good barbecued pork ribs and a superb scoop of chocolate ice cream from a local ice cream company.  If i come back to Portland, i’ll hunt down the kind of market i really enjoy…a farmers’ market.

And then back home for a two hour nap during which i recharged both my batteries and the Segway’s.

And then off for another foray, this time across the Tilikum Crossing, which will not be officially open until some time next month but was this afternoon briefly open both ways for pedestrians and bicyclists and was totally jammed with funlovers.   This means i’ve been across this bridge three times today, getting lots of pics all three times.  OK, here’s a sample

Tilikum Crossing during the brief afternoon opening to the public on 9 Aug 15

Once across the Tilikum Crossing, i headed south along the east shore bicycle path under the Ross Island Bridge and four miles down to the Sellwood Bridge.  Went on along the bike path a bit farther and managed to find a vantage from which i could finally get a good pic of this bridge.  ta da.

Then back west across the Sellwood Bridge’s unnervingly narrow bike lane and then north along the bike paths, where i found a food opportunity.  I didn’t have Sacagawea with me, but even i am capable of spotting a blackberry patch along the trail, so i skidded to a halt and got all stained and scratched foraging for my fill.

Sellwood Bridge blackberries

In town, i stopped at the foot of the aerial tram and got good pics and had a series of splendid conversations with locals.  At the recommendation of my favorite waiter at Baan Thai, i went to the Rogue Brewery pub with the idea of eating supper, but they didn’t seem to be serving food, so i just had one of the excellent local beers and then stopped at a gyros stand, where i ate about a third of the worst gyros i’ve ever had before returning home to write this.

Oh, and thank goodness i bought those new batteries for the Segway, as i calculate i’ve ridden over thirty miles today with a two hour recharge in the middle.

A gloriously successful day during which i got lots of pics that i’ll be able to use in the photo essay and had several excellent encounters with natives.  We agreed that, like San Francisco, folks here just love tourists even though we treat locals with far less kindness.

I’ve had too many delightful encounters to detail, but perhaps the finest was with a couple of young mothers and their little girls who were out to enjoy the park near the west foot of the Tilikum crossing.  All of ’em tried the Segway, but the champ was the smallest girl, who i’d feared would not weigh enough to ride the Segway.  Silly me.  The little thing was utterly fearless and by throwing her full weight into it, intuitively rode the Segway with frightening (to me and her mother) aggression, maxing out the speed and cranking the turns to the fullest.  Thank goodness i had her on the beginner key.

The most entertaining yesterday was a man who was a volunteer ride monitor and turned out to be very knowledgeable about the bridges.  I’m such a bridge enthusiast that by now i actually know more about the local bridges than some of the locals, and this guy and i got a good laugh out of my enthusiasm for drawbridges and my being crushed that the river is now so low owing to the drought that the drawbridges need to be opened only for the largest boats.  He observed that the locals view this as the only plus about the drought, as they complain bitterly about being delayed for ten minutes when a bridge has to open when they want to cross it.

Oh, and i’ve confirmed last year’s hypothesis that trash cans cause trash.  We have trash cans at virtually every corner in San Francisco and yet we are awash in litter.  In Portland, on the other hand, you have to hunt hard for a trash can, and yet the streets are pristine.  Go figure.

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Falling Into Place

Oh, everything is falling into place.

I started the day by going a Walgreens and picking up an emergency vacation supply of my Gabapentin, which i’d somehow neglected to throw into the bag with all my other meds.  The only downside, other than their not being able to clear it through my insurance and thus charging me $25 was that my Segway lock, which had been getting crankier and crankier, finally failed totally.  It could have been worse since it failed as i was trying to attach the Segway to an immovable object rather than the opposite.  But still, there i was without a lock.

But i continued on and finally got some pretty good pics of the Fremont Bridge.   For example:

Fremont Bridge

And another, upon reflection:

Fremont Bridge reflection

Better yet, as i was heading back down to the river to get some morning shots of other bridges i got stopped by a long slow freight train and fell into conversation with a bicyclist nearly as old as i who was headed to the Bridge Pedal point on the east side of the river to pick up his packet and tee shirt.  So i joined him across the Steel Bridge, and being in the company of a local, discovered that there’s a bicycle lane across the bridge on the lowest level, a lane i hadn’t even known existed.

Steel Bridge - lower level bike lane

And then we rode along the bicycle path on the east side of the river all the way to the east landing of the Tilikum Crossing, where the packets and tee shirts were being distributed.  And where i realized that no, i didn’t have my receipt.  So back over the Hawthorne Bridge to the hotel, where i gobbled three Gabapentin and an ibuprofen to stave off the pain from my degenerated cervical disks and slept for two hours.

I resumed the adventure by stopping at a bike shop and buying an Arbus bike lock, same $45 price as the comparable Kryptonite but made in Germany rather than China.  And then back over the river via the Steel Bridge and the east side bike path to the Bridge Pedal pickup area this time getting a few shots of the bridges along the way.  Got in the long line for Will Call and was almost immediately accosted by an expediter who checked my receipt and gave me the entry packet and official entry placard.  Not only that, she pointed out that the tee shirts were available Over There without a line, and i got a white large.

Flushed with success, i decided that since i hadn’t got good shots of the Sellwood and Ross Island bridges last year,  i could bag them from the east side this year.  Alas there were signs saying that the Sellwood Bridge was now closed, and since i’d got a fair shot of the Ross Island Bridge i decided i’d just use it for my return.

And wouldn’t you know, as i was cutting back inland trying to find the approach i blundered onto the Portland Segway shop, went in, and found they had one remaining Segway lock like my old one.  So i bought it since it’s so much more secure than the U-shaped bike lock since all it takes to defeat that is a 5 mm. hex wrench to detach the handlebar assembly.

Then came back over to this side of the river via the Ross Island Bridge, snagging a few more pics along the way.  Here’s one of the Tilikum Crossing from the Ross Island Bridge.

Tilikum Crossing from the Ross Island Bridge

Dinner again at Baan Thai, tonight the Pad Thai and a different draft micro beer.

And since i’m on vacation, i grabbed a gin and tonic at the hotel bar to sip while i wrote this.  Wheee.

Final note:  Even though as a retired technical writer i have a Lifetime Exemption from reading user manuals, i’m gonna look into the one for my new Coolpix because i remember that my old one, many years ago, had a feature whereby you could back the Automatic exposure mode off slightly so that your pics were a tiny bit underexposed, which gives a saturation i like better.

 

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Looking Up

Well, things are looking up.

In the first place, i was wrong, thank goodness, about failing to pack the charging cord for my Segway, as it had just got entangled in other stuff.

And then i got up this morning and went out on a most enjoyable Segway ride west along the Willamette bike trails in Eugene and got some decent bridge pics.  For example, this one of the Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge.

Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge

 

 

And then i stopped at Costco on the way out of town and bought a Nikon L840 for only $219, and this being Oregon, there was no tax.  This sucker has got 38x zoom, a welcome addition to my camera arsenal.

So then i was ready to work my way north along the Willamette, and my first stop was in Harrisburg/Junction City, where i drove around for quite some time before i gave up trying to find the two old railroad drawbridges in Junction City.  Even when you can find ’em, railroad bridges are hard to photograph owing to the difficulty of getting to a good vantage.  See, i’d found the things with mapquest but had failed to write down explicit directions and can’t access mapquest from my car…or the Segway.  So all i got from my side trip to Harrisburg/Junction City was a marginally acceptable pic of an only moderately interesting bridge.  Sigh

By the time i’d frittered all that time away, i realized that i was going to have to skip most of the mid-Oregon bridges in order to get to Portland in mid afternoon.  Thought i’d just catch the two in Wilsonville because i pretty much knew which exit to take to get them.  Pretty much.  Missed by one exit.  Grrrrr, took the next exit and then wasted more time trying to cut back south to find a vantage.  So then gave up and went east to Oregon City, where i had moderate success with a couple of bridges before driving on to Portland to check in to the University Place Hotel.

OK, here’s a shot of the Oregon  City/West Linn  bridge.

DSCN0007

Oh, and i have a Garmin and find it very useful, but haven’t figured out how to use it to find railroad bridges.  What i have discovered is that it can get a bit confused if one is going around in circles trying to find vantages from which to take bridge photos.  It sent me over that Oregon City bridge twice while it was trying to reorient itself.  See, i’d just set it to lead me to the hotel and made one too many side trips trying to get bridge shots.  What i clearly need is my friend David to teach me how to use the Garmin.  Or better yet, his teenage son who’d of course be able to intuitively exploit all its features.

Had an early supper at Baan Thai, a really excellent yellow curry.  And so to bed.

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Springfield or Bust

The CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) will keep you secure. This message is brought to you by the Ministry of Truth.

 The first day of the Oregon Adventure went pretty much OK thanks to all my homework.

Got to Corning before Bartel’s Giant Burger opened for lunch, but no problem, as i’d anticipated this and drove a mere mile out of my way to get to the Redding location.  That place is so good that i try hard to need to eat as i’m passing Corning or Redding, and i’m pleased to report that the quality has not slipped in the slightest.  No fries, no chocolate milkshake, but double meat.

Our California wildfires provided an interesting feature for this year’s drive even though the closest was many miles away.  The smoke from them provided a persistent haze that lasted from the Bay Area to Ashland.

Stopped for gas extra cautiously in lower Oregon and made it to Springfield before five, so there was time to discover that the first couple of bicycle bridges over the Willamette were butt ugly and that i couldn’t get a good vantage for the first bridge over the Willamette, the railroad bridge.

P1030408

Nor were the Main Street and A Street bridges of much interest. The good news is that i got a reasonable shot of the Interstate bridge.

Whilamut Passage Bridge (I-5 in Springfield)

 

The rest of the news echoes other great expeditions in which problems arose early.  Remember how John Wesley Powell lost one of his three boats with much equipment and provisions on his second day?  And how the Essex was nearly sunk one day out of Nantucket in a squall that ripped away an irreplaceable whaleboat?

Well, when i made my first gas stop 75 miles out of SF i discovered that i did not have my new camera but pressed on anyhow since i knew i could take adequate photos with my little pocket camera.  And then when i got to Springfield i discovered that i’d not packed the battery charger for the little camera since it was just going to be a backup.

Also in Springfield i discovered that even though i’d dug out my spare charging cable for the Segway, it had somehow not made its way into my suitcase, so i’m gonna have to get a replacement in Portland.  Sigh.

That said, i made it this far.

 

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Homework

A fabulous image of San Francisco with the moon in the foreground.

 

I’ve been doing my homework in preparation for the Great Oregon Bridge Adventure.

On my first excursion to Portland, last August, i arrived virtually tabula rasa, knowing only that i’d spotted some very interesting looking bridges as i’d raced through at top speed on the Interstate on the way home from an abortive attempt to reach Vancouver a couple of years before.  Well, i’d also talked with a former Portlander who’d told me that the city was full of excellent bridges.  That was it.

In fact, my previous Portland trip followed the pattern of all my road trips.  Just get in the car and start driving.  Stop when you see something interesting or need to look for someplace to spend the night.  The advantage there being that you get to see things that are not on the usual tourist agenda.  It came clear to me after i returned from Portland and was assembling the photo essay on Portland’s Bridges that there was a downside, that if i’d only done some preparatory reading and planning, i could have accomplished a lot more and still have had just as much fun.

This time, i’ve never made so many reservations in my life: the University Place Hotel, the Seven Bridge ride in the Bridge Pedal, and a Portland Spirit river cruise focusing on the bridges.  So i’ll be photographing the bridges from land, as i ride over them, and from the water.  Next year, i’ll arrange to be dangled from a drone.

Not only that, but i’ve also done a bit of research and have found a couple places in Portland i want to see if i have extra energy, things that have nothing to do with bridges.

And of course i’ll be gorging every night at Baan Thai, the little Thai restaurant on Broadway that’s second only to Basil in San Francisco.

So far, i have only one complaint:  the least those damn Greenpeacers could have done would have been to wait until i got there for their protest so i could photograph them hanging off the St. Johns Bridge.

Meanwhile, the bluebird of happiness has alit at Market and Van Ness.  Umm, that’s “Bird Song 3” by Joshua Coffy

The bluebird of happiness at Market and Van Ness

Stay tuned for posts about my adventures.  I start tomorrow morning.

 

 

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A Rescued Keepsake

It’s 27 years ago this month that Allen died, and of course i still have keepsakes to keep his memory green even though over the years i’ve given most of them to friends and others have simply worn out from daily use.

Which means that those remaining are more treasured, so i was upset when, at the end of my move from my former home on Noe Street last November i was in such a state of total exhaustion that i was unable to detach from the wall the spice rack Allen had made for me in 1980.

Not that it was a piece of fine cabinetry, since it consisted of walnut stained pine 1×4’s fastened together with finishing nails.  But still, it looked good and was eminently practical, so i hated to leave it.

But then the other day i got an email from my former landlord Bob saying he’d managed to get the thing off the wall and would like to deliver it to me.

After a friendship that goes back to 1974, he knows me well, so he mentioned in the email that he expected my reaction would be that i wanted to pick it up at his place to save him the trouble of delivering it, but that his hidden agenda in wanting to bring it to me was to see my current apartment.

So of course i said Yes, and a few days later he came by with it in his arms. The delivery turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

I made coffee for us and gave him the Grand Tour of my two rooms, and we sat and talked for three hours, catching up on what had been going on in our lives, the repairs and refurbishment he and his partner, Al, had been making on my old flat, and my dissatisfaction with my new apartment and plans to move to Petaluma.

He also revealed that getting the spice rack off the wall had damaged it, it being rather flimsy, and that Al had painstakingly restored it and had replaced all those finishing nails with screws, greatly strengthening it while preserving the original appearance.

I was overwhelmed with their kindness.

Here’s a floral tribute.

Water lily at Saratoga Springs

And of course the spice rack, back in service although not attached to the wall.

Allen's spice rack

 

 

 

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