Table of Contents:
Why the Pacific Northwest? It was the one part of the country we had not really seen. (Mark had never been to Washington or Oregon, and I had been there only on business trips.) Why April? Because we had other plans for the summer, and this seemed like a reasonable time. It did turn out to be too early in the season for places like Crater Lake, but a lot of those did not really open until July due to snow.
April 17, 2007: We decided to use our United Airlines frequent flier miles, because the latest changes in the plan would have them expiring the end of this year anyway. On the whole, however, we prefer Continental. (For one thing, Continental still serves free food.)
The flight before ours at the gate in Newark was late leaving, and as we sat there, they announced, "We are going to try one more thing with the plane." Even if it they said that worked, would you want to fly on that plane? (It did not work, and they cancelled the flight.)
Why is it that people can turn their cell phones on as soon as we have landed, but I cannot turn my palmtop on until I am in the terminal? One, my palmtop certainly transmits a lot less RF than a cell phone. And two, I see people with cell phone computers (e.g. Blackberrys) turning them on. I think next time I will just claim my HP is a cell phone computer with the cell phone part inoperative.
We got a Chevy Cobalt. They moved the button to cycle the odometer display to the steering wheel (a good touch), but if you put anything in the car door pocket, it interferes with the window crank. (Yes, it was a cheap car, with manual windows and door locks.)
We decided we wanted to eat, so we asked Hair-ball for restaurants near where we were. The closest was Pho Saigon--obviously a winner. Mark had a very spicy seafood soup; I had spicy chicken teriyaki. Both were very good, and the total with tip was under $15.
(And who, you may ask, is Hair-ball? Well, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim has a hair-ball that he uses to answer questions--sort of like flipping a coin. At one point, he is trying to decide whether to follow Huck, so he tries it, and announces, "Hair-ball says, 'Go wit' Huck.'" So Mark named our GPS "Hair-ball". Our portable DVD player is Argento, partly because it is silver-colored, and partly in honor of director Dario Argento.)
Everything here is green, much greener than in New Jersey at this time. I guess the climate is mild enough that spring comes earlier here even though it is further north.
We knew this was too early in the year for a lot of places, but thought we could visit at least part of Mt. Ranier National Park. When we checked into the Mill Valley Motel in Eatonville, we found out that we had no such luck--it will not open at all until after we leave, and even then large parts of the Park will remain closed this year because of severe storms last November. (This is like the first time we visited Zion National Park, the year the landslide closed most of the part.) And the mountain itself is covered with clouds, so we cannot even see it from Eatonville. (We did see it from Seattle later in the trip, so that will have to do. When we were in Japan, we could not see Mpunt Fujiyama either, also because it was covered with clouds. That is how mountains are.)
All this means we will probably have an extra day somewhere along the line, but there is plenty to do.
April 18, 2007: It turns out that those Blackberrys are not perfect either--our first morning in Washington we heard on the news about a massive Blackberry network outage.
In spite of the predictions for rain, it did not rain on us during our visit to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. This is a combination wildlife "refuge" and zoo, with the herbivores (and some small animals such as beavers and raccoons) living in a free-range area, and the carnivores and predators living in individual enclosures for each species. The former one sees on a one-hour tram tour (we were the only people on the 10AM one today, but it is probably busier later in the day and certainly later in the season). The animals on the tram tour include bison, moose, elk, mountain goats, long-horned sheep, and deer. The bison included a calf born only twenty-two hours earlier! We also saw a variety of birds, including Canadian geese, ducks, trumpeter swans, and barn swallows.
After the tram tour we walked around the rest of the park. Most of the animals were pretty sedentary, napping or resting. They had both golden and bald eagles; all were flightless due to injuries they had received. (I think that this is pretty much true of all eagles seen in zoos and such.)
The great horned owl exhibit was being rebuilt, and standing in it was a guy doing construction work with his coworker, who was on the path. I said to Mark (though obviously for their ears as well), "Gee, the great horned owl doesn't look the way I expected it to." This led to a lot of jokes back and forth, with Mark asking if one could feed the "owl" and what the "owl" would eat. "Just toss in some Miller Lite and pizza," was the "owl's" suggestion.
It was a nice park, but it was depressing to discover that as interested as they seemed to be in education, they had no books in the gift store.
We ate lunch at Puerto Vallarta in Eatonville. It is part of a Northwest chain, but seemed to be reasonably authentic Mexican food, and the staff was Mexican. They put peanut butter in their mole sauce, which may not be entirely authentic, and this gives it a milder, less chocolate taste.
The weather remained good the whole time we were at the park, but as soon as we left it started raining, and as we drove to Castle Rock (near Mount St. Helens), we drove through rain, hail, sleet, and more hail. The temperature dropped to a daytime low of 37 degrees Fahrenheit (from a high of 57). There was still hail on the ground in Castle Rock.
We turned on the History Channel on a show called "The Most", and they were talked about the biggest recorded landslide: Mount St. Helens, on May 18, 1980. Talk about synchronicity!
April 19, 2007: Today was Mount St. Helens day for us. We started with breakfast at the Toutle Diner, then went to one of the Visitors Centers for the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Park (though it seemed not to be staffed by National Park Service people).
One of the films started with a quote: "The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke." [Psalm 104:31-32] I am not surprised that they use a Biblical quote around here--it seems to be heavily religious. There are all sorts of Bible-quote billboards, a lot of the radio stations seem to be religious, and I have seen at least two "Creation" museums. The quote is probably a way to seem to accept religion, right before talking about tectonic plate movement and eruptions tens of thousands of years ago.
The displays have all sort of volcano facts:
The plume from Ra Patera on Io on August 13, 1996, went 60 miles into Io's atmosphere (the Mount St. Helens plume on May 18, 1980, reached only 15 miles).
The center was very well kept-up, but the displays were full of typos (such as "bares no resemblance" instead of "bears no resemblance", "Marsian" instead of "Martian", and so on). There was also a reference to "the first non-native explorers". Who would those be? If they are trying to distinguish Europeans from "native Americans", the problem is that the "native Americans" were not natives when they were first exploring (nor were they Americans).
Mount St. Helens did give some advance warning, and one emergency measure taken was to lower the level in the reservoirs to make room for mudflow--which turned out to be a good idea.
The eruption began at 8:32AM with a 5.1 earthquake, which caused the entire north side of the mountain to fall away in the world's largest recorded landslide. This debris avalanche left a very thin layer of rock to hold in the magma and hot gases. This layer was too thin, in fact, and the result was an enormous lateral blast, followed by an ash plume. The blast sent hot magma and rocks down the mountain (pyroclastic flows), melting all the snow and glacial ice and creating massive mudflows (lahars).
Initial reports indicated that Spirit Lake was "gone," but these were incorrect, and although the lake was greatly changed, it had made an amazing recovery even in the first five years.
There were a couple of films, one about volcanoes in general, and one more specifically about Mount St. Helens, focusing on the experiences of Jim Skymanky (Scymanky?), Venus Dergan, and Roald Reitan, who were all caught by the volcano but survived.
(In preparation for this, we recently watched Dante's Peak, which has quite a few inaccuracies, or at least unlikelihoods, but is still reasonably accurate for the basic information. We did not think of it in time, or we would have watched Night Strangler as well.)
Today we had a temperature range of 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 61 degrees.
Washington is known as a state that loves coffee (home of Starbucks, and all that Starbucks has engendered). And it is true--one sees signs advertising espresso everywhere: on small general stores in towns with populations in the hundreds, on furniture stores (?!), on lube shops (?!!), on little espresso shacks along the road. Is any of this good espresso? Who knows?
We definitely came early in the season. Even places that were theoretically open were not completely open. Only two of the three official Mount St. Helens Visitors Centers were open, and one of those only Thursday through Monday. (Luckily we arrived on a Thursday.) Most of the unofficial Visitors Centers were not open at all yet.
We ate lunch at Burgerville, a local chain which somewhat higher-quality food than usual. One reason may be their policies. For example, they use eggs from a local farm that does not cage their hens, and that also provides affordable medical and dental benefits to all their employees. We know this, because they advertise it on cards on the tables. Also, the beef is all vegetarian-fed, and they use canola oil for the fried fish.
A new phenomenon in motels seems to be televisions without input jacks, just coax or digital connections. (The digital connections indicate that it is not just an old television.) I am not sure if the idea is to make them cheaper for motels, or if motels do not want people hooking up their own players. (But why would that be?) We have ended up watching several things on the small screen of the DVD player just because that was all there was.
We heard some train whistles in the evening, but none overnight. Maybe that law rescinding the need for train to blow their whistles at every crossing 24 hours a day finally passed Congress.
April 20, 2007: Having stayed at a Motel 6, there was no breakfast, so we had breakfast at Denny's. One thing about Oregon--they have no sales tax. Or rather, according to the cashier at Denny's, it is already included. (This sounds kind of odd for pre-priced items; it would mean that the retailer would be forced in effect to discount them.) The cashier claimed there was also a high property tax, and a personal property tax. I also see that the lottery and betting machines are ubiquitous. (There is also an income tax, but as someone noted, when the economy goes bad, the income tax collected goes way down.)
Our main event of the day was the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum. The County Museum covered missionaries, steamboats, and canneries, as well as the obligatory barbed wire display. (In my Dakota log I noted that every Western museum seemed to feel it necessary to have an exhibit of barbed wire. Or maybe just that it was a cheap exhibit to set up.) Barbed wire was Patent 157,124, awarded to Joseph F. Glidden.
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center started with the formation of the gorge by the breaking up of the ice dam(s) blocking the Ice Age Lake Missoula (500 cubic miles, 2000 feet deep, and formed by the ice sheet blocking the Clark Fork River. When the dam broke, the lake drained in 48 hours. This happened about a hundred times over a couple of millennia 17,000 years ago.
We saw a couple of films as well. "The Great Journey West" was about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was made by the National Geographic and started with a lot of ads for them. The film itself had little that was not covered in Ken Burns's documentary. It concentrated a bit more on Sacajawea (sa-GOG-a-wia), who at sixteen was probably the second-youngest member of the party. (Her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, born only a few months before their departure from Fort Mandan, was the youngest. Lewis was 28; Clark was 32.) Sacajawea was crucial in finding edible plants and such, and saved some of their most valuable supplies when a boat capsized. But the most important contribution was sheer luck: when the expedition met the Shoshone and wanted to buy horses from them, the Shoshone were somewhat hostile until Sacajawea recognized the chief as her brother Kameawe (ka-MAY-a-wee), whom she had not seen since she was stolen as a child. This was a good thing, coming as it did shortly after a major downturn in the expedition. When they had reached the source of the Missouri, Lewis went ahead, expecting that at the top of that ridge (Lemhi Pass) he would see an easy and short passage to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, he saw about 500 miles of the Rocky Mountains ahead of him. Even so, in only a month or so, they managed to find rivers that would carry them most of the way. Otherwise, they would have frozen or starved, since it was now October.
The most dangerous animal they met was the grizzly bear. Contrary to President Jefferson's expectations, they found no woolly mammoths. And here's a quick and completely gratuitous taxonomy refresher: Order Proboscidae, Family Elephantidae has four genera. There is Mammuthus (mammoths), Mammut (mastodons), Loxodonta (African elephant), and Elephas (Asian/Indian) elephant).
The film claimed they when the Corps voted on where to make camp on the shore, it was the first time a slave (York) or a woman (Sacajawea) had been allowed to vote in America (or maybe they said United States). In either case, it was not the United States at that time, and if Sacajawea voted, it was probably because women could vote in her tribe.
The exhibits showed how Lewis came up with a way to minimize the weight of their powder and shot by packing powder in lead containers, each containing the right amount of lead to be made into just enough balls for that amount of powder. (That is, pour out the powder into horns, then melt down the canister and make the musket balls for that amount of powder.)
A film about the Oregon Trail said that the biggest danger was cholera, with victims being buried on the trail so that the animals would cover the smell and predators would not dig up the bodies. (Death was called "meeting the elephant.") In first two decades, there were only a few hundred deaths from Indian attacks, though this increased as the Indians realized the impact of all these settlers.
Most people walked the whole way, because the wagons were too full with food and belongings for any to ride. (They were drawn by oxen and mules rather than horses. Whatever happened to oxen in the United States?)
The long lines of wagons that one sees in movies, etc., are unrealistic--they spread out in width whenever possible to avoid riding in the dust raised by those in front. Circling the wagons was to herd livestock and shelter from storms, rather than to protect from attack. The Platte River was the most important water source of the entire trip, and dried buffalo chips were used as fuel.
The Donner Party was one of the less successful to use the Oregon Trail.
We drove up to the Rowena Crest viewpoint on a road that could have used a few more safety railings, then back through the Columbia River Gorge to Portland. We had driven to The Dalles (rhymes with "pals"), Oregon, mostly along Washington Route 14, which provides a better view of the cliffs on the southern bank of the river. We drove back on Interstate I-84, on the southern bank. This let us see a couple of the waterfalls better (there is a scenic bypass that lets you see them even more). The Gorge is beautiful, but somehow not up to the majestic scenery of the Southwest. The area along the river (particularly on the northern side, I believe) is designated a "National Scenic Area", of which they are not very many in the United States. I suspect this is because whenever possible, especially scenic areas are designated National Parks or National Monuments. But because the area in question here is already settled with towns, industries, etc., the best they could do was "National Scenic Area".
We continued to Portland, where we checked into an EconoLodge for four nights. Dinner was at Greg's Backyard, known for its ribs--and very good ribs they were too. We also had "jo-jos", which are battered and fried potato wedges.
In the evening we hooked up our DVD player to a television with input jacks and watched Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and The Man from Elysian Fields.
April 21, 2007: We had breakfast at the Mei Sum Bakery (listed as "On Rise Bakehouse" in Hairball--go figure). I had a steamed pork bun, a rice bun, and coffee; Mark had a steamed pork bun, sticky rice, a milk powder bun, and mango juice. The total was only $6! I think this will be our usual breakfast place.
Parking in cities is a nuisance and expensive, though most cities are cheaper than New York or Boston. (In Portland, weekend lot parking can be found for $4.) The new "SmartMeters" are a nuisance for drivers--you can still "feed the meter," but you have to do it at the expiration time, not in advance.
The Oregon Historical Society is listed as a gem by the AAA, but to a great extent it duplicates other things we have seen. (Still, we spent over three hours there.)
One exhibit talked about some of the more colorful place names in Oregon. "Wake Up Riley Creek" was named when Riley's prospecting buddy ran into the tent at midnight, yelling, "Wake up, Riley--we're rich!" (They were not--it was iron pyrite.) And Namrof was named for an early resident named Forman.
A short film about explorers claimed that Marco Polo heard about the Straits of Annian as a short route to Asia, and somehow the film connected that to the Northwest Passage. But Marco Polo was in the late 13th century, and the New World was not even discovered by Europeans until 1492. (Wikipedia calls it the Strait of Anián and claims its first use was by Italians in the 1580s.
Another exhibit talked about how fertile Oregon soil was. At least in Wallamette County, this is because the area got Washington's soil during the Ice Age floods. (I am waiting to hear that Washington is suing Oregon for reparations.)
A film emphasizing this fertility was from the "American Society for the Fervent Encouragement of the Rapid Settlement of the State of Oregon" (or at least had clips from a film of theirs).
A display on immigration and "in-migration" talked about the Chinese who came to work as salmon and fruit packers. An earlier museum talked about a machine which replaced these workers which was nicknamed the "Iron Chink". The museum emphasized that this was a racist name. Recent "in-migration" has been by Vietnamese, Hmong, and Hispanic people. The Japanese have been here so long that they have not just Issei, Nisei, and Sansei, but now Yonsei as well.
Oregon was attacked by the Japanese four times in 1942, on May 5, June 21, September 9, and September 29.
"And our mythology tells us we own the West, absolutely and morally--we own it because of our history. Our people brought law to this different place, they suffered and they shed blood and they survived, and they earned this land for us.... The truth is, we never owned all the land and water. We don't even own very much of them, privately. And we don't own anything absolutely or forever." William Kitteridge, "Owning It All", 1987
This was described as an interactive museum, but the only interactive display was a diner-like counter with juke boxes, only instead of songs, you punched in for different film clips on subjects such as "Assisted Suicide", "Education", and "Indian Casinos". The one on education talked about how the taxes supporting schools have dropped and how schools are in bad shape. This is partly, no doubt, due to the economic slump in the hi-tech area. As noted before, when the economy goes bad, the income tax collected goes way down. And Oregon had worked to attract hi-tech industries, as noted by the "Klamath Falls Herald & News" (08/03/84):
"Give me your rich, your strong, Your corporate giants yearning to be free, The wealthy companies of your teeming shore. Send these, the high-tech homeless to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
And it was the hi-tech industries that were particularly hard hit in 2000.
There was a list of "Oregonian Firsts":
There was also a display which included a same-sex Multnomah County marriage license issued during the brief period when many municipalities across the country were testing the laws about same-sex marriage. (Oregon just passed a domestic partnership bill the day we arrived, and a non-discrimination bill. Neither of these was an "Oregonian First".)
There was also a 9/11 photo exhibit. One of the rooms had photographs of flags displayed in the aftermath. It merely serves to underscore how flags were more automatic and expected than heart-felt: flags being displayed by adult bookstores, flags used in fashion displays with mannequins, the Dakota Roadhouse advertising "the closest beer to Ground Zero" (43 Park Place), and Netcom Wireless & Gift Shop advertising "W.T.C. Souvenirs". In all this, flags seemed often to be either a knee-jerk reaction, or a commercial ploy. Shortly after 9/11, someone had asked us why we were not displaying a flag, as if somehow it was required of everyone.
This also had an oft-repeated quote from Hermann Goering: "Naturally the common people don't want war . . . but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine policy, and it is a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or parliament, or a communist dictatorship. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." The question is whether this is a real quote--I was skeptical that Goering would use the term "fascist dictatorship". snopes.com does confirm, however, that this was something Goering said to someone else in a conversation during the Nuremberg Trials.
There was also a room dedicated to the USS Oregon, a battleship that was never in Oregon or any Oregon port. It seems a little odd to devote so much attention to something that has no connection with the state. (It would be like Cleveland, Ohio, having a museum dedicated to Grover Cleveland.)
When we left, it was raining, not just a light sprinkle, but a good, steady rain. We drove over to Powell's, but their garage was full, and the other lots were a couple of blocks away. (There are also a couple of satellite stores that would require walking.) We decided to wait until tomorrow (Sunday) in the hopes that either the garage would not be as full, or the rain would not be as heavy.
By now it was about 3PM, so we decided to go back to the room, and then go to dinner about 5PM. We listened to music while working on our logs. I had made two discs of MP3 music files and one of MP3 old-time radio shows, figuring we could listen to them in the car, because the last couple of rental cars I had had players that also played MP3 discs. This one, however, would not, but our DVD player does, so we have a lot of music of our choice to listen to as background in the room, and about fifty old-time radio shows as well.
Dinner was at the Malay Satay Hut, part of a shopping center consisting entirely of Chinese, Vietnamese, and other Asian stores. (The other two restaurants in it were a pho shop and a Vietnamese sandwich shop. We have pho shops back east, but Vietnamese sandwiches have not gotten that far yet.) We shared a vegetable curry soup with yellow noodle and Malaysian style pork chops.
For the evening, we watched a couple of movies: On Dangerous Ground and Mothra vs. Godzilla (the Japanese original, subtitled, not the re-edited American version).
April 22, 2007: We had breakfast at Mei Sum again.
Most of today was spent at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This is a fairly new museum, with lots of hands-on stuff. There are four sections: Earth Science (including mathematics), Life Science, Turbine Hall, and a temporary Amazon River exhibition.
Earth Science began by talking about how to forecast the weather, but that part was merely a green screen where people could stand and point at a prepared weather map and read a prepared script. Forecasting the weather is not the same as standing in front of a green screen and reading a script!
The mathematics section had the usual display of balls falling into a bell-shaped curve. It also had several tables of brain teasers (tangrams, etc.). Several were described graphically (putting discs onto a grid, but could be reduced to equations, such as solving the following using all the numbers 1 to 9, each only once:
a-b=c d/e=f g+h=j cxf=jor:
Place 26 pegs in exterior boxes of a 3x3 square such that the vertical and horizontal rows with three boxes in them each have ten pegs. Try it with 32 pegs, then with 24. (Not all may be possible.)
Consider the grid
X--X -XXX -XXX X--X
Move two Xs so that there are an even number of Xs in each horizontal and vertical row.
There was also a lot on water conservation.
The paleontology section noted that Ekgmowechashala is the most recent primate other than humans to live in Oregon (28 million years ago).
We spent a lot of time in the Paleontology Lab, talking to the volunteers. Three were working on cleaning fossils. The tools they use look a lot like dentists' drills and scrapers, and in fact are dentists' drills and scrapers. (I guess it makes sense, particularly as they were cleaning teeth and jawbones!) The museum does not get a lot of great fossils--it is not really a major scientific research establishment like the American Museum of Natural History or the Field Museum--and the people who work on them are all volunteers who have other day jobs. (They are trained for this, of course.) One side effect of this is that they are actually working on weekends, when the museum had the most visitors. This means you get to see what the work is like; a lot of museums have empty and darkened labs on the weekend days we have visited.
The next section was Life Science, whose major display was a sequence of embryos and fetuses (they are embryos before eight weeks, and fetuses after). The sign at the entrance said, "The embryos and fetuses in this exhibit are real. . . . Acquired from medical universities and hospitals, the survival of these embryos and fetuses was prevented by natural causes or accidents." They wanted to make sure people did not accuse these of encouraging or benefiting from abortions.
There was also a lot on alcohol and its negative effects, particularly on children, but nothing on caffeine. (Is that an aspect of the "coffee culture" one finds in this part of the country?
There was a section on aging that had a display of various items. First came a small cell phone and a CD; then a larger cell phone and a videotape; then a Princess phone, an insert for a 45 RPM record, and punched paper tape; then ration stamps and a butter churn; and finally a button hook and a crank telephone. (There were more items in each section; these are representative.) It claimed if you could recognize the items in a certain section, then you had a specific number of years of experience in your brain. Well, I could recognize everything, but I do not have almost a century of experience. I think they underestimate the effect of reading and movies.
The children's playroom had someone showing how to make bubbles--"minimal surfaces" as Mark described them. Mark then also made a pun about "W. E. B. duBoys". (C. V. Boys wrote a very famous book called Soap Bubbles; W. E. B DuBois [pronounced "doo-boys"] wrote The Souls of Black Folk.)
The Turbine Room was more about technology. One display was to program a Martian Rover to gather a certain kind of rock. Programming the robot is like programming was at Burroughs (now Unisys), where you used subroutines to save as much memory as possible. We all used a very popular subroutine called "ALPOS10" which would do "AL/POS 10": advance one line and position to column 10 (the standard starting point). The subroutine took three memory slots (counting the RETURN); if you used it three times you broke even, and saved a memory slot each time after that. (When you have only about 2400 slots to write an entire payroll program, with tax calculations and data storage, every bit counts.) The Rover also required maximal subroutine use to accomplish the task in the number of command slots provided.
There was also a work table about earthquake-proof buildings. This (and the water conservation section) are becoming ubiquitous in science museums these days.
Another area had you build paper airplanes and provided a wind tunnel to test their stability.
There were some flubs, however. One display claimed that Thomas Edison invented motion pictures. (It also claimed that Marie Curie "invented" radium and Einstein "invented" relativity!)
The special display on the "Vicious Fishes" of the Amazon was originally done in Miami, so Spanish was equally featured with English. This seemed to make sense for the exhibit itself as well, until you remembered that most of the Amazon was in Brazil, where they speak Portuguese. (Of course, Spanish was chosen because of Miami, not South America.)
One area now being studied more is the muck along the river, since it turns out that if you go down just a few inches, you are in water again. Along with shrimp, crabs, frogs, and square worms, they have discovered the muck fish, not just a new species of fish, or even a new genus, but a new family, and possibly even a new sub-order.
We finished at the museum about 3:30PM. (The AAA book says to allow at least two hours; we spent six.)
Now came what was my major destination in Portland: Powell's Books. Powell's Books is the largest bookstore in the United States, filling an entire city block, three stories tall--and that is just their main store. They claim over a million volumes in their main store. (The Strand claims 18 miles of books, which I calculate is also about a million volumes, but it is crammed into a smaller space, and they do not have the extra locations that Powell's has.)
Powell's has all the features of an independent bookstore: staff picks, notes about authors hanging on the shelves ("Looking 4 Andrey BIELY? <- Try it spelled BELY"), and so on. It also had something which may be unique to them--the inter-filing of new and used books. (I have known other stores that have tried this, and then given it up.) [Actually, I saw this later in one of the small stores in Astoria as well, so it may be more common than I thought.] There are even in-store computer screens where one can look up what room and aisle a book is in. Oh, yes, the place is divided into rooms: the blue room is literature, the purple is history and philosophy and so on.
Unlike many bookstores, Powell's concentrates solely on books. Oh, there are some non-book items: travel gadgets in the travel section, literary action figures (Poe and Shakespeare), magnetic poetry, and Powell's shirts, mugs, etc. But they do not have music, movies, or any of that sort of stuff. (They do have audio books, which are shelved separately in the Coffee Room, rather than inter-filed with the non-audio counterparts. Odd.)
Bookshelves go up to very high ceilings, but the top few shelves are labeled "Overstock--employees only" and everything that is shelved for customers was within my reach (I'm 5'3"). There did not seem to be any step-ladders, but every room has a staffed information desk whose person can assist you if you cannot reach something. And the staff are invaluable for answering questions such as, "Where are the anthologies shelved?" or "Where are books on bookstores?" While you might know which room you want, each is still a bit of a maze.
Everything is well-labeled, and findable with the computer--if you think to ask, rather than just looking where you *think* something should be. For example, Boehmer's City of Readers, about Portland's bookstores, is filed with "Pacific Northwest/Portland" in the Green Room, not with the rest of the bookstore books in "Books on Books" in the Blue Room.
It is an amazing store, unique among bookstores. With all this, it seems mean-spirited to point out its shortcomings. But there are shortcomings: selection, size, and price.
I had read somewhere that it had every book in print; this is probably not possible, but I had hoped to find an improved selection because of the used books. However, Powell's is primarily a *new* bookstore. I would estimate that used books are less than 25% of the stock. (Mark said that the sections he looked at were less than 10% used.) The coverage of several authors was somewhat spotty. There were no copies of any of the collaborations between Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. The only Russell Hoban novels they had were Kleinzeit, Pilgermann, and Riddley Walker. (He has had at least four recent ones that I would have thought still in print.) They did not have Howard Waldrop's recent collections Custer's Last Jump or Dream Factories and Radio Pictures.
One has to be sure one is looking in the right place, of course (as with the Boehmer book mentioned above). There were whole sections I did not get to because I did not realize they existed. For example, there is a "Classics" section apart from "Literature". Had "Literature" been called "Fiction", I would have looked for "Classics" as well. (On the other hand, I think "Classics" might be just Greek and Roman classics, as I seem to recall seeing Dickens on the "Literature" shelves.) Their "Metaphysics" is in a separate room (Red Room: "Scene of Discovery") from their "Philosophy" (Purple Room: "Where Past Meets Present").
Ironically, another problem is that Powell's is too large. When I go into Shakespeare & Co. in New York, its selection is small, but well-chosen to include a lot of interesting books one does not see elsewhere. These books are probably all at Powell's, but there are *so* many books that it is hard to find them.
Powell's "Science" section is a bit small, but they have an entirely separate Powell's Technical Books store a couple of blocks away, so the bulk of science and math may be there.
Have I been spoiled by the Internet? Undoubtedly. But it is also a resistance to new book prices--when 75% or more of the books seem overpriced to me, it makes the store less appealing. (I hardly ever go to Borders or Barnes & Noble either.) For me, the Strand is more attractive. The selection is spottier, perhaps, since (almost) everything is used (they do have a couple of tables of discounted new books). But when I find a book in the Strand, I am reasonably sure that the price will be reasonable. (As Mark expressed it, if dimes were dollars, he would have found a lot of books in Powell's he wanted.)
It is not just American prices. In fact, these may be relatively cheaper than elsewhere--slim mass-market-sized volumes of Borges's works in Spanish were $12.99 each. (Of course, the fact that they actually had four different Borges titles in Spanish is a tribute to Powell's!) And part of my feeling on prices may be because I have become more selective since retiring. It's not that we are suddenly poor, but there is a psychological change that happens when you swap a salary for a pension. When I was working, I would buy some new hardbacks, and the price was not a major issue. (Even then, space was a bigger concern.) Now I rarely buy new hardbacks, and even paperbacks at $7.99 seem expensive. For that matter, the only section I saw which seemed to have a large selection of used mass-market paperbacks was the science fiction (and horror). Most of the rest tended toward hardbacks or trade paperbacks. And the paperbacks in the science fiction section were older, out-of-print ones, priced accordingly. Powell's is not a place to go for half-price science fiction paperbacks.
And of course, added to all this was the fact that we were traveling with just carry-on luggage, so buying books meant we had to pack them. There is no incentive to pay full price for books we can get at home for the same price or less.
We did buy three books, all used. I bought a copy of Evan Morris's The Book Lover's Guide to the Internet, now ten years old and woefully out of date--but I *am* mentioned in it (for the rec.arts.books, 2007 FAQ and also my "encyclopedic" bookstore lists). We picked up a copy of Bernard DeVoto's The Course of Empire for $5.95 that had been $17 at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. And Mark bought a fantasy origami book. One additional benefit of Powell's is that, being in Oregon, there is no sales tax!
No bookstore lover should miss visiting Powell's. In competition with any new book store, it is a clear winner. But people expecting a vast supply of cheap (or cheap-ish) used books are likely to be disappointed.
A word about parking is probably in order. Powell's has its own garage, which is almost always full (but worth checking out--it's on the west side of the building, which is one-way heading *towards* Burnside). It was full on Saturday, but we had no problem getting in late Sunday afternoon. Well, what I mean is that there were lots of free spaces. But the in/out ramp is very steep and has the tightest turn I can remember--we had a small car, and it took me a three-point turn going in and a *five*- point one going out to make the turn. (Not only is the turn tight, but one must be very careful of the support pillars right next to it!) The first hour is free with any purchase; the second and third are $1.25 each. Metered parking on the streets nearby is limited to 90 minutes, which probably would not allow you enough time (assuming you could find a space), and lots are not cheap. Your best times may be weekends, when parking can be found for $3 all day. Or use public transportation. Powell's is open 9AM-11PM 365 days a year, so you could also try late evenings.
We watched the commentary for On Dangerous Ground, and then watched the recent version of The Merchant of Venice.
April 23, 2007: We drove to Oregon City to see the End of the Trail Museum, but contrary to the AAA book, it is now closed on Mondays. Luckily we did not drive a long distance.
We decided instead to go to the Oregon Zoo, which was amazingly crowded for a weekday during the school year. Most of the families had pre-school children, but there were some school-age as well. I asked one mother if this was a school holiday, and she said, no, but she home-schooled her children.
The admission rates for the zoo were also different from what the AAA book said: $9.75 rather than $9, and an extra $1 for parking.
Since I expect everyone reading this has been to a zoo, I will not describe every animal we saw.
The first part was the "Black Bear Ridge/Cascade Canyon Trail", which emphasized wildlife native to the Cascades area of the Pacific Northwest.
The next section is for taxonomy geeks only.
We went through a farm and saw the petting zoo animals: sheep, goats, etc. This got me to be thinking about whether kosher mammals form a compact taxonomy.
Now Leviticus 11:3-7 says, " Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you."
Farm animals are both order Perissodactyla, family Equidae (horses, etc.) and order Artiodactyla. The latter include family Suidae (pigs), family Camelidae (camels and llamas), and sub-order Ruminantia. Ruminantia include family Giraffidae (giraffe and okapi), family Moschidae (musk deer), family Cervidae (true deer), family Antilocapridae (Pronghorn), and family Bovidae (antelope, sheep, goats, buffalo, bison, cattle). All of the Bovidae are kosher, I believe, but so are the Giraffidae. I do not know about the other families. (Oddly, the camel is not Ruminantia, but does chew its cud.)
Okay, everyone else can rejoin us here.
I am not entirely clear on the differences among "endangered", "vanishing", and "vulnerable", but I think that is in decreasing order of severity.
There is something very 21st century about lines of twenty-somethings or teens with cell phones taking pictures of the polar bear.
When we got to the white-cheeked gibbon, Mark said, "Look, look, the Roman Empire is falling!" And one looked up.
The elephants have a really distinctive smell that just instantly reminds me of zoos.
Hippopotami look like glyptodonts when standing, and like Mothra the caterpillar when lying down (mostly from the skin folds and head shape from behind). They are called "river horses", but are more closely related to pigs (a different family, but the same sub-order).
Zebras are the same family as horses, but Sheena notwithstanding, cannot be domesticated to the point of being ridden. If you see one being ridden in a movie, it is probably a horse disguised as a zebra. Check the mane--zebras have one more like a Mohawk hairdo--and a zebra's tail is partly flesh, and only partly hair, while a horse's is all hair.
The "bat cave" was completely glassed-in, so there was no distinctive bat smell.
The "Insect Zoo" had a tarantula on the sign. As Mark said, "What's wrong with this picture?"
We arrived about noon, and did not leave until 6PM. The gates close at 6PM, although the grounds are open until 7PM.
Dinner was at Big Red's, right near the zoo, found by Hairball, which has an option to find restaurants (or gas stations, or lodging, or a bunch of other stuff) near your location. We skipped the barbecue, since we have had that twice in the last four days, and had the chili instead.
Tonight's viewing was the commentary on Godzilla vs. the Thing.
April 24, 2007: Our last breakfast at Mei Sum.
We filled the tank. Oregon is the only state other than New Jersey where one does not pump one's own gas.
It was raining. Big surprise. We drove to Astoria, site of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. It is at 1792 Marine Drive. Now, the first European arrived at Astoria in 1792, so you would think that this is some special contrivance, but in fact the museum entrance is between 17th and 18th Streets, and the number is in keeping with all the other street numbers.
We got there just as a group of eighteen from St. Luke's Lutheran Church arrived, so the docent said if we wanted to join them on their one-hour tour of the museum, we were welcome to do so. This added a fair amount of information, as docent tours often do, because they usually talk about a few items in depth rather than just a bit on everything.
A twelve-minute film explained the dangers of the Columbia River Bar (where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean). The two colliding masses of water, combined with rocks and sandbars, have made this area "the Graveyard of the Pacific." One statistic the docent gave was that the equivalent of 35,000 bathtubs of water flows through it every second. The Mississippi is a longer river, but the Columbia carries far more water per unit of time.
There are five kinds of salmon: chum, pink, sockeye, silver/coho, and king/chinook salmon. These were canned locally for a long time, but now there is only one cannery remaining. (The numbers of salmon have decreased drastically ever since the many dams were built along the river. Even with attempts io install fish ladders and such, too much else has changed. For example, the dams slow the river, meaning the water temperature and oxygen content both change, and this affects the salmon. Each cannery canned for many different companies, and just put different labels on the cans. For example, "Royal Salmon" was destined for sale in England, and "Dagim Salmon" for sale in Jewish communities along the east coast. ("Dagim" means "fish" in Hebrew; "dag" would be the singular. It is probably linguistically related to "Dagon".)
By the way, the town is pronounced "chin-ook", the tribe and the fish "shin-ook".
"Gill nets" trap large salmon because after they have pushed their heads through, if they try to back out, their gills get caught (much as your ears might if you pushed your head between two fence posts).
The docent referred to "hard hat diving", meaning diving in one of those suits with the giant spherical metal and glass helmet.
There is now a giant bridge across the Columbia from Astoria, Oregon, to the Washington side (which I am currently looking at from our motel room). They used to have a ferry across the river before the bridge was built in 1996. There was a toll on it until 1994, except for two days: the opening day in 1966, and May 18, 1980. The latter was, of course, the day Mount St. Helens erupted, and they had closed Interstate I-5, detouring traffic west forty-five miles to this bridge. They wanted to continue collecting the toll after 1994 (even though the bridge had been paid for ahead of schedule), and made the argument that they needed the money for upkeep. One legislator said if that were true, then they should also charge tolls on all the other bridges as well. Since they could obviously not pass a bill like that, the toll on this bridge was eliminated.
There was a model ship called the "Robert Dollar" but the docent said it should really be the "Half Dollar", because only the right half of the ship was built, and then placed against a mirror that created the left half. Even if you could not detect the glass, there is one way you could tell this was done. How is that? The propeller is wrong. Propellers are not symmetric--the blades have to all be angled in the same direction to propel the ship through the water.
The docent showed us a ship model that had its sides painted with alternating black and white sections that looked like gun ports. The docent said that it was not just because it was a model that it was painted this way: ships would paint sides to look like gun ports to seem scary.
There was a special display on duck decoys. (Apparently this has been here for two years, but it soon to be replaced by a display of old maps on loan from the Smithsonian.) The docent said that duck decoys are now made of plastic, but used to be works of art. (However, the plastic is apparently good enough to fool the ducks.)
There was also a decommissioned lightship to tour.
Motels in Astoria seem to be more expensive than other places we have stopped, although we did get a room at the Crest Motel at the low end of the price range listed in the AAA book. (This does not mean it was a skimpy room. It was L-shaped, with two double beds in one leg, a sofa and desk in the other, and a table, chairs, dresser, and television in the connecting section. There was also a refrigerator and microwave, and a wonderful pulsing hot shower. Oh, and a view of the Columbia River down to its outlet to the Pacific. All this for $65 plus tax.
We ate a late lunch at Andrew and Steve's Cafe, which has been around since 1916. I had fish (halibut) and chips; Mark had a seafood casserole. Halibut is more like the fish in British fish and chips than the varieties we get back east. The battering is also more British, being in fact battered rather than breaded.
After lunch we walked around town a bit. The town is only about 10,000 people but has two bookstores (plus a spiritual bookstore). The owner of one bookstore said that it is because people in Astoria (as well as the neighboring towns) are educated and read a lot, and also want to support local businesses. The fact that tourism is the major business, and that there have been days when three cruise ships were in port, and 5,000 extra people in town, may also have helped them stay in business.
We then drove out to Fort Stevens State Park to see the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906, and whose remains can be seen still. Normally there is a charge for this park, but being this early in the season, no one seemed to be collecting it. At any rate, we saw no sign anywhere of what the fee was or where to pay it.
This evening we watched the commentary on Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. My major complaint about the movie is that it is not about Sinbad, or even the Arabian Nights in general. Sinbad seems Arab, and Marina wears somewhat-Arabian-inspired clothing (though cut to Western tastes), but Syracuse is Greek, as is Eris, Tartarus, etc., and Fiji was unknown to all of them. One reason Disney uses works/names in the public domain is that they do not have to pay royalties, but another is that they can muck up the story and characters as much as they want.
April 25, 2007: Our big crisis today was that the chip in the camera apparently died. Luckily, I had brought the extra we had (our friends had given us a 256MB chip, but we bought a 2GB chip to hold more pictures). Not to keep you in suspense, the chip seemed to have recovered later, so we did not lose all our pictures, but we are going to replace it when we get home. (We probably will need at least two for our trip this summer anyway.)
We visited Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, or rather one part of it. The Park is apparently spread over several non-contiguous sites, such as Fort Clatsop, Cape Disappointment, and so on. We visited Fort Clatsop, which is where the Corps of Discovery wintered over the 1805-1806 winter. Historians are not absolutely sure that this is the precise location, but if not, it is very close. And of course the fort itself is a replica/reconstruction. (The original was used for a few more winters by the local residents, but eventually was torn down for materials or just fell apart, being entirely wood.) Right now is probably the most accurate time to visit. The original replica had been built in 1955, so that even though it was maintained, by 2005 it looked fairly old. But when Lewis and Clark were there, Fort Clatsop looked new--because it was new! In 2005, the old replica burned down, however, so a new one was built last year, which therefore looks more accurate. The ranger said that on the old one, they had labels on the various room at first, but then someone said, "Wait a minute--Lewis and Clark didn't have labels when they were there," so they removed the labels from the replica, and put a floor plan outside the entrance instead.
Cape Disappointment, by the way, was so named because earlier, Captain Meares was looking for a big river emptying into the Pacific and sailed up the coast to find it. He sailed right past the Columbia, then stopped at the cape just on its north side, named it Cape Disappointment and gave up. How could he miss the Columbia? Well, from out to sea, the waves crashing on the bar made it look like more coastline, and concealed a view past them to the actual river!
The exhibits told another way that Sacajawea helped: the tribes they met thought that a woman and a baby traveling with a group of men signaled that they probably had peaceful intentions.
One of their films started by saying, "History is seldom made, it just happens." This is definitely the "Tide of History" theory, rather than the "Great Man" theory.
After this we crossed that amazing bridge on Route 101 between Astoria, Oregon, and Washington State. The Astoria-Meglar bridge (opened August 27, 1966) is 4.1 miles long, with the main span at 1232 feet the longest continuous truss bridge in the world. The height is what is really scary, 196 feet at high tide. The reason it is scary is that you can see the height as you approach, because you approach from the side, not end-on.
Then we had a very long drive to Port Angeles. The scenery was nice, luckily, because it took about five hours. (We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called El Maya along the way. There are a lot of reasonably authentic Mexican restaurants in this area, which is a bit surprising.)
April 26, 2007: Our plan for today was Olympic National Park. There is a section near Port Angeles (Hurricane Ridge), but it turned out to be closed Mondays through Thursdays in April. So we drove to the main section, the Hoh Rain Forest, about seventy miles west. This took us through some beautiful scenery, past Crystal Lake and then later through some rain forest--and rain. It is a good thing we had this nice drive, because at the end of it we discovered that the main section was also closed! Luckily, there was a ten-mile road through moss-covered and moss-draped trees before the gate to the Park itself, and we could drive that and get some idea of what the rest might look like.
We drove back and discovered that even though it was raining steadily on the west side of the Olympic Range, on the east it was just cloudy.
I had thought it was going to be a very long drive (about five hours) back to Seattle, and the way AAA routed us it would have been. But when we asked Hairball last night, it said under two hours! How was this possible? It seems that Hairball knew about the ferries across Puget Sound. There are three or four, and they run every hour or so. We managed to time it just right, arriving at one eight minutes before sailing time. At $11.25 for the car and us, and with gas at $3.30 a gallon, it was cheaper than driving!
We checked into the Aurora Seafair Inn and ate lunch at Fushen Chinese Seafood Restaurant across the street. We had a lot more time than we expected, so we went to the Pike Place Market. First we had to find parking. Parking is very expensive in Seattle. We did find a lot behind the Market where two hours was only $5, but most lots charge $4 a half-hour.
The Market has a bunch of small shops selling T-shirts, candles, and that sort of thing. (One had a Jane Austen action figure, from the same series as the figures at Powell's.) It also has three bookstores, spread out over multiple buildings. There is an original Market building, but the concept has expanded over to the adjoining blocks. (After we returned, I heard that they are going to renovate the Market, with "three more sets of restrooms, four new elevators, new electrical and mechanical systems, some paint, window repairs and new roofs.")
In addition to tourist stuff, there are also stores selling the original products the Market was designed for: fish, flowers, produce, and so on. (It is interesting that all the oysters have big signs warning about consuming raw seafood--I assume they are required by law.)
We wandered around for a couple of hours, and then returned to the car and spent a hellish time driving through Seattle traffic up Seattle hills to get gasoline and then return to the motel. If I lived in Seattle or the surrounding area, I cannot imagine I would drive rather than use buses.
We watched the commentary to The Set-Up. It is very annoying to have a commentary by two famous people (Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese) which turns out to have a lot of quiet space without much talking. Isn't this deceptive advertising?
We spent the evening with fellow science fiction fans Stu Shiffman and Andi Schechter, and had dinner at Olive You. (It's a pun--get it?) We also saw the Space Travel Supply Company.
April 27, 2007: This day was almost entirely our visit to the Science Fiction Museum, which for many people will be way longer than they want. It is therefore in a separate file, http://www.leepers.us/evelyn/sfmuseum.htm.
April 28, 2007: Today we went to the Seattle Zoo with friends Lax and Aparna. There was a fair amount of overlap in animals with the zoo in Portland. This zoo was more crowded, since it was a weekend, a beautiful day, and the last weekend with the (cheaper) winter admission rates.
Here, as in Portland, the brown bear exhibit included the Native American saying, "When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it, the deer hears it, and the bear smells it." They also quoted John Muir as saying, "To him almost everything is food except granite."
"Endangered" means an animal (or plant) is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; "threatened" means it is likely to become endangered. "Vulnerable" was not defined.
This zoo did not have much elephant smell near the elephants. It may mean that it is cleaner, but it just does not seem natural.
There are lots of sculptures of animals throughout the zoo, which gives kids lots to climb on.
A sign described the python's feeding habits, then notes that in the zoo the meals are "killed humanely" before the python gets them.
Apparently this zoo was one of earliest to get a web site--it is at zoo.org.
Dinner was with Lax and Aparna's friend Ben and Kelly at the Kabab Palace, with good food and good conversation. We then finished the Telegu version of Superman we had been watching. (The suit has an "H" for "Hanuman", who gave Superman his powers.) And then we watched The Promise, a beautiful Chinese epic/mythic film.
April 29, 2007: Aparna made a South Indian breakfast today with rice and lentils--delicious!
The big event today was Lawrence of Arabia, shown on the large screen at the Cinerama Theater. (Lawrence of Arabia was not a Cinerama film; there were really only seven films made in Cinerama.) We managed to find parking for only $4--parking is a real problem, as I have noted before, but weekends and evenings become a bit more reasonable.
Dinner was another homemade meal of dhal, green beans with coconut, and roti.
April 30, 2007: We had another South Indian breakfast of pongal and kharabarath, but these were packaged food. (Lax and Aparna use the same brands we buy: MTR, Priya, and Ashoka, so they must be good. I mean, we like them, but we are not as knowledgeable about Indian food as Indians would be.)
We then watched a Hindi film, Inkaar, a movie about a kidnapping gone wrong. It appears to have been "inspired" by Akira Kurosawa's High and Low. In fact, a lot of Indian films seem to be "inspired" by other films. (The first one we ever saw, Khal-Naaikaa, was a remake of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.) Inkaar is unusual for an Indian film in that it has only three songs.
After lunch and a visit to the library, we switched to an American film, Advise and Consent, which is a political film, but not a political thriller.
Dinner was at a very nice seafood restaurant, McCormick & Schmick's. The food was good, but the portions were . . . petite. (My Atlantic salmon--which actually came from the Pacific!--was described as "roasted on a cedar plank", but the plank was really only about four inches by six inches, and the fish portion was smaller than that.) Mark's seafood stew included mussels, clams, shrimp, and crab, in a sauce, but all still in the shell! This is really messy to eat. For dessert we had mousse with berries in a solid (high-quality) chocolate cup, definitely more reasonable for two people than for one.
After dinner we watched another Indian film, Black, which was made more for export than for Indian audiences. (There was only one song, a lot was in English, and it was only two hours long.) The first part was a remake of The Miracle Worker; the second part was a continuation story that may have diverged more from Helen Keller's own life. The first half suffered by comparison (and the young actress [Ayesha Kapoor] was not as good as Patty Duke), but the second half was very good, with a very good actress [Rani Mukherjee] in the main role. The actor playing Teacher (a man in this version) [Amitabh Bachchan] looked almost exactly like Al Pacino.
Watching old movies, Mark has noticed that however much they talk about how it is restored to just as it was first seen, a movie will quite often have a more modern studio logo, or worse yet, the logo of the corporation that has acquired the studio.
May 1, 2007: Our last day of vacation (not counting the flight back). We had talked about seeing the Museum of Flight on Monday with Lax, but realized it made more sense to see it today, then stay overnight nearby, since it is right next to the airport, but thirty-five miles each way from Lax's.
We got to the Museum at 11:30AM. (It opened at 10AM, but driving in rush hour traffic did not seem worthwhile.) The admission (as usual) had an AAA discount ($2 off each). Between the discounts and the tour books, we get our money's worth from AAA. A lot of motels offer AARP discounts as well, but most attractions have AAA discounts or senior discounts for 60, 62, or 65 and over. (AARP kicks in at 50. The one major chain which offers AARP but not AAA discounts is Motel 6.)
We took a one-hour overview docent tour which covered the Gallery of Flight (pretty much the history from the earliest experiments by Lilienthal and others, through the Space Age. The earliest experiments had to deal primarily with wings, engine, and control. Lilienthal, for example, determined the area of the wings needed to support a certain weight (even though he got the value for air density wrong). His real importance, though, was that he published all his work. The earliest planes had wings, but not airfoils.
Astronaut Pete Conrad had dyslexia.
Octave Chanute developed the box structure for wings, probably based on his bridge-building. He became famous mostly because he corresponded with everyone (sort of like H. P. Lovecraft in fantasy).
We saw a Boeing 80-A bi-plane: this had the engines between wings which destroyed a lot of the lift on both wings, and the design was abandoned. (I should mention that this Museum is heavily inspired by Boeing's importance in the Seattle area, and gets contributions from Boeing, but is not affiliated with Boeing in any way.)
The docent talked about how the first stewardesses had to be registered nurses, but their real purpose was probably to convince people it was safe (and comfortable) to fly.
We saw a Taylor Aerocar III. I am not sure, but this might have been the model featured in The Bob Cummings Show. (I checked later--it was, and in addition, the one used on the show had been painted the same colors as the vitamins that sponsored the show!)
The docent felt that the four greatest engineering projects of the 20th century were the Panama Canal, the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Project, and the Blackbird.
The Museum was fairly sloppy in its labeling, though. There was a plastic back-lit display labeled "Space Maneuering Unit", a closed-caption on a film clip calling him "Galileo Galilee", and a reference to "Hero's of Flight".
We watched a fifty-minute film called "Fei Hui--The Story of the Flying Tigers". "Tigers" actually refers to tiger sharks, which were their airplane nose decorations. When the pilots first went to Burma, they traveled in disguise as missionaries, poets, etc., but eventually their true aim became clear. The film referred to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek as China's "Joan of Arc", which seems odd, especially since one of the co-producers was Chinese Public Television. (Then again, that may be Taiwanese Chinese Public Television.)
Two other galleries covered World War I and World War II. These were more like war museum galleries than flight galleries. The combat sections were entirely flight-based, but there was also a lot about the home front, rationing, Rosie the Riveter, and so on.
The World War I gallery started with Count Caproni, after whom Edgar Rice Burroughs's Caprona was named. Throughout World War I, there were dogfights, but flight was primarily for reconnaissance, not combat. Only a few people saw a future for air combat.
A section on Hollywood and World War I featured Wings (1927), Hell's Angels (1930), Dawn Patrol (1930) (there was also a 1938 version), and The Blue Max (1966). Only Hell's Angels strove for real accuracy.
The World War II gallery had more about air combat: bombing, the importance of carriers, and so on. There were the obligatory displays on women in military aviation: WASPs (who apparently did not get veteran status until decades later), but also Soviet and German women pilots. This reminded us this was a museum of flight, not really a military, because military museums really emphasize their home country's people. (The same global attitude could be found in the World War I gallery, with most of it in fact dedicated to British, French, and German aviators.) There was also a section on the Tuskegee Airmen.
We finished up just about 5PM, when the Museum was closing. We could have even used a bit more time, but we do not feel we skimped too much.
We found a room at an Econo-Lodge. The Days Inn we tried had prices well above those in the (current) AAA book, and the Ramada had such tight garage space that we had no desire to try to pull into a space there. (It was worse than Powell's!) Right across from the Ramada was the Econo-Lodge, which was really quite nice (refrigerator, microwave, and input jacks on the television).
Dinner was at Salaama, a Somalian restaurant right next door. We split a large plate of goat suqaar, served with pita bread and salad, as well as a very tasty sauce. With beverages, it came to $12 including tax and tip.
The evening movie was The Man Who Wasn't There.
May 2, 2007: Up early, but since we were only a couple of miles from the rental car return, it did not have to be too early.
Our flights were full, and mildly uncomfortable. The second had so much luggage Mark almost had no place to put his suitcase in the overhead. I removed a jacket and a coat put in by one man, which left room to slide a suitcase in. I intended to put them back on top of the suitcases, but the man (well over six feet tall, and not happy with his seat to start with) decided to get off and take a different plane. In doing so, he removed from the overhead bins his jacket, his coat, a suitcase, a briefcase, and a tote bag. No wonder there was not enough space!
As usual, I will provide a recap of our trip costs:
(Airfare was cheap because we used frequent flier miles, and had to pay only a service fee. Hotels were less than usual because we stayed with friends four nights.)