Reno and the Parks of California, Oregon, and Nevada
What's it all about? Well, this year the World Science Fiction Convention is in Reno, Nevada August 17-21. Evelyn and I intend to fly out August 1 and drive around to National Park System Units--parks, monuments, etc., places like Lassen Volcanic NP, Crater Lake NP, etc. We will check in early to the hotel, the Atlantis Casino, on August 13 and tour from there until the convention starts. Then we will attend the convention. It ends the 21st. And on the 22nd we fly home to New Jersey.
Right now I am sitting on the plane in Newark. The attendants are working hard to shoehorn in all the pieces of luggage that go into the overhead bins. Like a lot of other things degrading the travel experience these days, handling luggage is becoming more and more of a problem. Delta charges $25 per checked bag so everybody wants to carry on as much as they can. Evelyn and I always carried on all of our luggage unless it was the most extreme circumstances. Now everybody does. But the airline has no way to extend the storage space. As it is this is a plane that they usually put seats five to a row and then they upped it to six.
I had set my alarm to wake at 4 AM and still had a checklist of things to do to batten down the house. Actually I awoke at 3:50 just naturally. So I did not need to awake by an alarm. I made final additions to my luggage. I am carrying a rolling soft-sided suitcase, a rolling backpack that is mostly for my CPAP, and a heavily loaded photo vest. The vest has my camera, my binoculars, a cap, a pile of magazines, two granola bars, a paperback, and my palmtop (though I usually keep that in my shirt pocket).
The limo showed up almost on the stroke of 5 AM. Loading all this luggage into the limo I almost left without my vest. Considering everything that was in the vest that would have been a real disaster. The ever-alert Evelyn caught it.
There was not much of a line for the security check, luckily. However they did pick me for the special security check. This includes going into The Chamber where you stand there with your hands over your head why they shoot sinister rays at your body. After that comes The Pat-Down. So the can look at images of me naked while actually patting down those parts. What can I say? I am a pretty good-looking guy, but I mean a relationship like this will never work. They never do.
The plane was a little slow taking off due to air traffic. Delta charges for a meal, but their beverage service came around twice. I had a tomato juice (spicy) and a pack of peanuts. The second time I had orange juice and a pack of peanuts. So I got vegetable, fruit, and protein. It is now 11:45 (8:45 local) and we are landing in Salt Lake City to change planes. I am switching to local time. Our next flight should get us in about noon.
Our gate at Salt Lake City was a real mess. They had an open area with people waiting for about eight planes. They had separate areas of seats but over the speaker systems you heard a real cacophony of announcements. It is not crowded like Times Square on New Year's Eve, but it was nearly as densely packed. We had a hard time finding two seats together.
There seem to be five or six different class-size groups of Japanese kids wandering around. I think the dollar must be doing poorly against the yen.
If I thought the waiting area was crowded the plane itself was much more so. It was a B737 packed with five seats across. Not very comfortable, but it is only about a one-hour flight.
There is a little video monitor behind each seat so that the flier has his choice of advertisements. About the only choice that is not full of ads is the one showing the plane's progress.
Well, we landed and rented a car. The airport, our motel, and a Mexican restaurant that sounded good were all within a very small area. Once we checked into the motel we checked the GPS for good restaurants near the motel. There was a Mexican restaurant called Albitos. In the room we set up the PC and looked for restaurant reviews in Google. Albitos sounded good so we went. We shared a chili verde burrito and a soft taco al pastor. Both are tangy and quite good. Albitos is a little pricey for an order-at-the-counter sort of place. I think it was about $9. Still very good. We had a low-key afternoon. There are three used bookstores supposedly in town. One is defunct, one unaccountably closed, and one, Zephyr Books, was open, comprehensive, but quite pricey compared to what we are used to.
From there it was back to the room. Evelyn needed rest. Eventually we went to a local restaurant called Asian Noodles. We had Vegetables and Tofu and Mar Po Tofu. Sadly these were only minimally flavorful. Overall we found the food mediocre.
I will review the motels we stay in:
Comfort Inn & Suites Airport
--Very well run motel quite close to airport but quiet. All touches were positive
--Wifi may be faster than my own at home
--Cable Internet connection also
--Basically everything worked
--extended TV cable
--High def TV
--Breakfast includes waffles, omelet, sausage, fruit, cereal, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs: much above average for motels
--Elevator quite slow
--Generally very good upkeep
--Free wall street journal
Breakfast was good, and then it was about a three-hour drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We stopped at a dollar store to get some munchies for the car. That made the trio a little longer.
Lassen has been a site for volcanic activity about 10,000 years ago. Then in May 30 of 1914 it had a small eruption. About a year later, May 15, it had an even bigger eruption. That one blew a cloud of dust 30,000 feet into the air. Avalanches destroyed the area beneath the volcano, now called the Devastated Area and mudflows. It is now recovering its plant and animal life.
There are four kinds of volcano. This may be the only location where within a small location you find the remains of all four kinds of volcano: Shield, Cinder Cone, Plug Dome, and Composite.
Shield volcanoes just build up layers of lava around the crater so the layers of lava. Cinder Cone volcanoes eject small hot bits. Plug Dome do not eject at all. The pressures inside just sort of inflate the mountain. The last kind is Composite, which is really a combination of the first three kinds. A shield volcano can build up the mountain thousands of feet, but the lava is not dense and wind, rain, and falling rocks can sculpt it down to a smaller size. Less pressure can also cause the mountain to contract. Glaciers also grind down volcanic mountains. That is more or less how these mountains in the park got to their present condition.
This is where the cascades meet the Sierra Nevada. The park includes Lassen Peak (10,457 feet), Prospect Peak (8338 feet), Mount Harness (8048 feet), and Cinder Cone (6907 feet).
We went to try the lunch counter and found it much overpriced and the food did not look very good. We snacked on the food we had gotten at the dollar store earlier in the day.
We drove the main road and did sightseeing. We had intended to hike the Bumpass Trail, but it turned out to be covered in snow. It was between 70 and 90 degrees during the day and we were passing and even getting our hands in snow.
About 3PM we headed back to Susanville where we had a motel reservation.
High Country Inn of Susanville
--Generally well-run motel where you might not expect one, but a couple of bad touches
--Room has microwave and fridge
--Room is very large
--Lots of switches in bathroom for night-light, vent, heat, etc.
--Flat panel hi-def TV cannot be angled but with easy connections for video equipment
--Upkeep seems very good
--Hard-boiled eggs and yogurt only protein at breakfast; apples are only fresh fruit
--Second day room key cards both deprogrammed. Desk claimed two cards in two different pockets had become demagnetized
--Use plastic bathroom glasses (no problem) but don't replace them when used (problem)
--Accidentally deprogrammed our room keys and then claimed that two card-keys in two different pockets each were "demagnetized." That is unlikely.
We used TripAdvisor to pick a restaurant. Hart's sounded the most like what we wanted. It is sort of a diner. I had the Senior Sirloin platter. I asked for the steak rare and it came actually cool on the bottom. But it was a nice meal of items for about $9, which is not bad.
In the room we worked on logs and Evelyn went to bed about 8 PM, I stayed up until about 9 AM.
I went to bed at 9PM and woke up at about 3AM not able to get back to sleep. I mostly listened to my iPod.
The iPod has become an important part of the trip. Yesterday while driving we listened to a two-hour BBC adaptation of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS and the first half of an adaptation of BEN HUR.
For breakfast I had waffles and discovered that yogurt is as good as pancake syrup and a lot healthier. I will do that from now on.
We stopped at the grocery across the street from our motel. We got some food for the room, but mostly we were looking for something to take for a picnic lunch. You can spend nearly $4 for a standard sized sandwich or about $8 for a big sandwich big enough to split three or four ways. That one cost a little under $8. I suggested the big sandwich. It is cold roast beef and cheese. We took that. It has not proved true that two can live as cheaply as one, but two cooperative together can live a lot cheaper than two apart.
We went back to the room to get eating utensils and then headed back toward the park. Driving down the road you see trees on both sides of the road you see trees on both sides. You see a thin wedge of green pointing up on each side of the road and a wedge of blue sky pointing down between them. You see lakes lined by trees with mountains right behind. It is very beautiful.
Just when we are visiting the park is a festival of hot and cold. There are boiling mud pools and fumaroles. And there are fields of thick snow.
The visit today is mostly driving the main road in two directions. There is a lot of sightseeing. We stop near the visitor center and eat our lunch. We take the Lily Pond (nature) Walk and walk at the Sulphur Works where there are steam vents and boiling mud pools. At 3 in the afternoon we headed back.
We made a stop at The Book Nook, the local used bookstore. It was a fair sized used bookstore, heavily into genres. Good sections on Westerns, Romance, Science Fiction, and Mysteries. Not a lot of science. I did see a book I wanted on String Theory (theoretical physics). It had no price. I took it up. The woman at the desk did not know the price and did not seem to want to find out. So I just didn't get it.
Up till this point I thought the High Country Inn was pretty good. We got back to the motel and our room cards would not open the door. Now I had a pretty good idea what had happened. Some time around mid-day they change the codes for every room where the guest has checked out. Our room number had accidentally gotten on that list. The clerk, however, said your cards must have gotten demagnetized. Now how likely is that? Two people carrying the cards separately and both cards got demagnetized? Does he think there are big magnets somewhere in the area? And nothing else in our wallets got demagnetized? By trying to hide a minor clerical error he made it seem a lot worse.
We watched a Netflix film LEBANON, PA. I thought it was a fairly good drama with a little comedy about life in a small town. We can mail it back tomorrow.
For dinner we picked a place called R-House. I think it was rated as one of the best restaurants in TripAdvisor. Evelyn and I shared a whole slab of ribs. It came with an OK salad, really good fresh bread, a generous slab of ribs in a ketchup-like sweet sauce, and broasted potatoes. Tax, a fairly generous tip (for particularly good service) and all came to $26 that way. If this restaurant were near home we would return frequently.
Back at the room we watched the first episode of a BBC TV mini-series, WISH ME LUCK." It is a drama about women intelligence operatives in WWII. It looks like it will be quite good.
On our way to breakfast we left at the desk our Netflix disk for the film we finished the night before.
Breakfast was waffle sweetened with yogurt. Of course I was the one who made it. It was good enough to make me sorry we were going.
After packing the car I checked out of the motel. There on the desk was out Netflix envelope, with nobody at the desk. Anyone passing by could have gotten a free DVD. But then how many people know what a Netflix envelope looks like? Right. They also charged the room to the card we used to reserve the room. They were supposed to put it on the card when we registered.
We fueled up for the trip. When the tank was full the pump said, "Please replace nozzle." Well, the nozzle seemed to still be working just fine. Anyway I figured it did not need replacing and the people who ran the gas station would be responsible for their own equipment. I left it for the next guy to replace the nozzle. Bad enough we had to pay so much for the gas.
The drive to Crater Lake runs about four hours. The topography goes from pine forest to flat and rural with mountains at a distance. We go through some sleepy towns whose whole economy seems to be on the gasoline engine. There are gas stations, auto repair, an RV park, and a John Deere outlet. It is as if the whole economy is dedicated to the means to travel out. Only where you see horses or grazing cattle is there anything not obviously based on the gas engine.
A somewhat bigger town in Oregon is Klamath Falls. We stop for a slightly early lunch at the Big Bear Diner. It is just down the street from the Basin Book Trader, so to pass a little time we check out the bookstore. It is a nice little bookstore and Evelyn gets a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories. It is FSF's look at the life of an aspiring screenwriter.
Lunch was at the Black Bear Diner. I had the Chicken Pot Pie. They had it on the menu but were not prepared to serve on so it took about half an hour. It was reasonably good, but nothing special. From there we continued on to Crater Lake National Park, getting there around 3 PM. Crater Lake is a beautiful blue lake nearly circular.
It is a beautiful blue because there are no streams in carrying in dust or dissolved minerals. Its source is almost exclusively precipitation. Most of the minerals in the lake are removed by seepage. The floor is made of minerals but they are not soluble in water. That leaves the water fairly pure. The lake averages 1148 feet deep going down a maximum of 1943 feet.
What we are seeing is the remains of Mount Mazama. Pressure underneath built the mountain for nearly half a million years. The mountain may have grown to 12,000 feet. About 7500 BCE the pressure increased and it spewed out gas and rock. The sides cracked and liquid magma inside poured out. The liquid had been sealed in and when it was no longer there it left a hollow. The hollow could not support the mass over the hollow and it fell in much like a sinkhole. Where there had been a peak over two miles high there was now a hole or caldera over 1000 feet deep. When it cooled it collected water from rain and snow and the result was a blue lake. The surface is 13,200 acres. Toward the west end the water shallows and an island stands above the lake. This is Wizard Island, named so because I looked to some like a wizard's hat. All around the lake are bays and coves. But few are used because the walls of the crater surround the lake.
Mostly today we just visited the two visitors centers and made plans to drive around the lake the next day. We talked to some rangers. On ranger was trying to give a show explaining how the lake was created. She was using a sand mound built on top of a balloon. She then popped the balloon hoping to show how a caldera was created. As many times as she tried popping the balloon had no effect. The sand had too much cohesion. She had to keep pushing down on the sand to make a crater.
We drove back to the motel after that.
Jo's Motel, Campground and Organic Grocery of Fort Klamath
--Roughing it (sort of)
--Manager came around second evening to show how to use evaporating air conditioner, how to get heat, etc. First night it got below 60 degrees. Motel does not have written instructions, which would have gone a long way
--Kitchenette ("we trust you to wash your dishes" policy)
--Beds very firm
--No TV, no radio, no Wi-Fi, no nearby restaurants, no nearby gas stations
--Room has electricity, A/C, fridge, microwave, hot and cold running water, and shower stall
--Library of DVDs and DVD player for free loan
--Prices in store (and at nearby general store) are high, possibly due to remoteness
--Two bedrooms must go through one to get to kitchenette
--Electric or gas stove made to look like wood-burner
--Coffee service (given a cup with ground coffee and one with cream)
--Cannot turn off outside lights so bugs are attracted
--Window fan has a thermostat
--Floor of shower stall too smooth and slippery
-- There is a portable electric heater
--Carport for car
--Staffed cleaned the room while we were out. Made bed.
We got to the motel and unpacked. By this point we have a fair amount of food. My dinner was little bits of lots of things we have brought. Main course was (don't gag) baby carrots dipped in peanut butter. With no TV or radio we mostly worked on logs. I wrote two short science editorials for the MT VOID.
We knocked off at about 10:15.
It had been hot during the day yesterday and we slept in the larger bedroom. I had not wanted to do that because it had just a fan. The other bedroom had an air conditioner in the window. However it was cooler by the time we went to bed. It had not occurred to me that we are here in the mountains. It does cool off at night. I don't know the overnight temperature, but when I woke at about 5 AM, it was 60 degrees and the blankets were just not warm enough to help much. I got dressed as soon as possible and put on a jacket.
Breakfast was some nice warm Kimchee noodle soup and two cups of hot cocoa. Today we go around the lake. It was a few nibbles of this and that.
Our plan for the day is to drive around the lake clockwise. There is a 33-mile road that surrounds Crater Lake. Along the way there are 30 places to pull off the road and admire the beautiful scenery. The scenery is the still blue lake. The lake is extremely blue as I explained before. Seeing it in the morning the water is settled to a flat mirror surface so you see the crater sides reflected perfectly in the water. It is not long before there is a tourist boat on the lake and the ripples spread out robbing the lake of its mirror sheen. There is not much boating on the lake because there is no way into the crater but over the high crater wall. As you proceed around the lake you get views of the lake with Wizard Island at the west end of the crater. The lake is the big attraction but with so many turnouts, going from one to the next did not change the view very much. Occasionally there were some interesting variations of the view. At one we saw a sort of mineral spiral in the water. There are minerals at the lake bottom, but I am not sure I know why they would show at the circle whipped into a spiral.
We stopped the drive twice to walk some trails. The Pinnacles Trail takes you fairly near some fumaroles, tall spires up to 100 feet that were formed in the same eruption that formed the crater. Unfortunately one also sees vast hordes of mosquitoes. We were each bitten multiple times.
Shortly after we walked this trail we stopped to eat the bits and things we brought for lunch. Mostly the main course was peanut butter and crackers. We ate a handful or two of Wheat Chex, some raisins, and figs. Not very exciting, but it was satisfying enough. We ate that at the head of the Plaikni Falls Trail. This is a new trail, a one-hour round trip to a waterfall. It was a pleasant walk. This is a nice clear day for a walk. The one problem was another legion of mosquitoes.
After that we continued our circuit and returned to our first stop at Discovery Point so we could compare how it looked in the afternoon to what it looked like at the first of the day. The lake had lost the mirrored look, certainly. From there it was back to the motel.
The manager came around to explain how to operate the evaporative cooler. Also explained how to get heat. We thanked him but pointed out that we were leaving the next morning.
We got a couple good hours in working on our logs. We took a look at the "grocery" of the motel. It is really just a small room something like 20 feet square. Prices were quite high. But for a treat we each got an ice cream bar. They were small and cost $2.45 each. Dinner was last night. Evelyn had dry Wheat Chex and raisins. I had baby carrots dipped in peanut butter. This is our second last day so isolated.
After another hour of reading we got together to see a chapter of BBC mini-series WISH ME LUCK. Very enjoyable. After we watched a DVD we brought FARGO.
I woke about 5 AM somewhat warmer, but not a lot. I got a flashlight and figured how to turn on the electric heater. Waiting for Evelyn I packed and washed the dishes. For breakfast we each had spicy noodle soup. Noodle soup is one of the few foods that seem to be are actually under-priced. This is a filling breakfast and I thin they were 79 cents each. After checking out but before leaving town (if we can call Fort Klamath a town) we shared three homemade doughnuts from the general store. Supposedly if you get them fresh they are quite good. These were not fresh and were just OK. We ate them and headed out.
The first site we passed was a small monument to the original Fort Klamath. It was named in honor for the local tribe of Klamath Indians. It was built by the US Government to protect settlers from the local tribe of Klamath Indians.
The road south skirted the Upper Klamath Lake. There were some nice views along the road.
We stopped to take pictures of Mount Shasta, which partially snow-covered reigns majestically over the road south. We saw the top covered with clouds, which another visitor assured us is a very rare event. Shasta is 14,162 feet high and was mainly formed by a big eruption 300,000BC and by other eruptions, more than ten, in last 4500 years.
As we travelled we listened to the BBC radio adaptation of I, CLAUDIUS.
We stopped early for lunch since we had had an early breakfast. We were passing through Red Bluff and we picked a Chinese restaurant from the GPS. We decided it did not look so we drove down the main street of Red Bluff and found a Mexican place called Mariachi's. We had a platter with chili relleno, chicken scope, chicken enchilada with rice and beans. And ordered a chicken tamale on the side. With tip it came to $14.75. Not a bad price. The food was good, but I am used to less corn and more meat in a tamale. So we had a good meal even if the GPS pointed us to restaurant we were not happy with. But it was a great choice for lunch.
Comfort Inn San Jose Airport
--Another good Comfort Inn
--Interesting bathroom: motion sensor lights, quick flush toilets, and towel origami
--High-speed data cable in room
--Wi-Fi but only in lobby and breakfast area
--Second and third days the networking authorization had problems: authorization page just dropped you on the same page to keep re-authorizing
--Free breakfast 6-10AM: waffles
--Cable but not extended (no TCM)
--Room is a little small and tight
--Thermostat a little hard to understand but then effective
--No Laundromat in motel, neighborhood, one nearby but neighborhood safety seems iffy
--View from my window is a bar
We got to San Jose about 4:30 and once we had the room we started catching up on the two days we had lost on the Internet. That took longer than expected. Part of it was that we had to reformulate our plans. All the museums in San Francisco and the peninsula seem to be closed on Mondays. That sort of kills our plans. As of this writing we are reformulating plans.
We had planned to go out to dinner, but we decided we were not hungry enough for a big meal and could probably not find a small meal so we snacked and watched the film NEVER LET ME GO. It is hard to know what to think about the film. It is a good strong drama set in a totally unbelievable world. It is about three people who have been raised as sources for surgical transplant parts. Sad, yes, but it assumes society is stupid and callous enough to let it happen. I could write a great story about how tragic it is to live in a world where any child under ten is fair game as sources for surgical organs, and parents have no right to protest. As good as the writing might be, who could ever believe the story?
For breakfast I had something that I only get when I travel. I had biscuits and gravy. You get the in the South and the West, but no restaurant has them in New Jersey that I have seen. I learned to order it experimenting when I was sent to North Carolina on strike duty. I was raised since age ten in Massachusetts and grew extremely tired or northeastern cuisine. Of the four corners of the US the Northeast has the least interesting cuisine.
Our main attraction for today is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. The Rosicrucians are a mystical order much like the Freemasons. (I am sure someone will correct me if I have that wrong.) They are fascinated with ancient mysticism. Regardless of what you think of the organization they have a really impressive collection of ancient Egyptian art. It is the best collection in the western US. There may be better collections in the Boston Fine Arts Museum or New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. But this is really a good collection worth a four-hour or so visit. And by the way they do not really push the Rosicrucian beliefs. The information is there if you want it, but if you are not interested it is easy to avoid.
My usual approach in covering museums is to tell what the major sections of the museum are and what I saw. Now admit it. That is pretty boring, isn't it? Well I won't do that here.
As you approach the museum you go through a "Peace Park" decorated in a style I would call Neo-Ancient Egyptian. There are decoration of an obelisk and Egyptian sphinxes.
The entrance of the museum is itself is decorated with two rows of guarding animal statues in the style of the temple of Amon at Karnak. Lotus columns flank the entrance. The museum has four galleries. The first is on the subject of funerary objects: mummies, animal mummies, and cases. There is what was supposedly a baboon mummy. When x-rayed it was shown to be made of wood and other construction materials with just a bit of baboon parts. They probably figured as long as it had a trace of real baboon it counted. It is sort of like the chicken in Chicken Noodle Soup mix. One can walk through their version of a stone burial tomb.
In the rest of the museum you see exhibits of jewelry, statue casts, busts of gods, can optic jars, inscribed tablets, cat carvings, beakers, royal seals, pottery, a statue of Cleopatra, statues of gods and pharaohs, and a particularly interesting section on Akhenaton the monotheist.
Afterwards we looked for lunch and chose Gojo, an Ethiopian restaurant. We shared three dishes served on the usual platter of spongy injera bread.
After lunch we drove to Mountain View to see my parents old house. Then we continued on to Palo Alto.
We visited the area in Palo Alto where we lived while I was in grad school. In those days it was a neighborhood past its prime and going downhill. These days it is the site of a Four Seasons luxury hotel and a high-rise office park decorated with fountains. I am sure the rent has gone up since our days. Evelyn was amazed at how unrecognizable it has become. At the same time a used bookstore not too far away was in the process of going belly up. Evelyn was not pleased. I told her that this is the kind of change you have to expect as a result of kicking up entropy a few notches.
We went to a used bookstore, Know Knew Books we used to go to years ago. There was no longer a sign on the store. It is going out of business. Borders Book Stores is dying at the same time. This is kind of a melancholy trip.
After that we went back to the room. On the PC I downloaded a podcast to my iPod. We put on the TV the film ARABIAN NIGHTS an above average made-for-TV fantasy made for Hallmark. I am afraid I did not pay full attention because I was checking the web pages I missed being without Wifi in Forth Klamath.
For breakfast I could not decide between waffles or biscuits and gravy so I had waffles and gravy.
We had plans to go to the Legion of Honor art museum today. However it seems like every museum on the peninsula is closed on Mondays. That includes the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. What was left for us was the San Francisco Zoo. I am not fond of the idea of zoos, but I have to admit that I do enjoy going to them. So we decided to go to the zoo.
It was a beautiful day to start with but as we drove in to the city we drove into a thick fog. This used to happen to us frequently when we lived in the area. We would have a sunny day, drive into San Francisco where it was cloudy and often foggy or rainy. At the end of the day we would dive out of the clouds and drive home. Today late in the day the sky cleared so the whole way home it was clear. You must have to be very mellow living around here like those people at San Juan Cappuccino.
Most of the day was looking at animals. You do not learn much new, but you do see animal behavior. Or you should. San Francisco is not a well-designed zoo. I suspect it is an older museum. You most the time cannot get an unimpeded view of the animals. There always seems to be a chain link fence or a dirty piece of Plexiglas, or some netting. It is not very good for photography.
I won't list the animals we saw. We did see a peacock displaying a magnificent fan of feathers to a peahen. The display went on for 15 minutes. Not once did the peahen show the slightest bit of interest in the peacock. After a while you could see the peacock was crestfallen.
They had an exhibition of tarantulas. Their poster looked like a poster for a 1950s horror films making them seem really scary. The exhibit says that while their bite can be painful there are no documented examples of anyone dying from a tarantula bite. While some breeds are aggressive, the new world tarantulas are more docile. It is nice that they dispel the rumors about tarantulas churned up by their posters.
They seemed unsure whether tarantulas are actually spiders. One place they say they are their own category of spiders and other places they contrast them to "true spiders." They certainly vary a great deal in their coloring. Some look like Indian tourist pottery.
The other interesting sight was a young hippo having fun getting hose sprayed and being fed lettuce.
Afterword we drove back to Mountain View and went to Book Buyers, a healthy seeming bookstore even in the recession. I got myself a math book and a couple DVDs.
Dinner was at a highly recommended Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Tlaquepaque. I had Bistec a la Mexicana and it was very satisfying.
In the room we watch the last two Netflix TV episodes we had brought, two episodes of Fringe.
I was up early, but Evelyn slept late and we had to pack, so we did not get down to breakfast until 8 AM. The buffet had little left. The attendant brought out more food eventually but no gravy for biscuits and gravy. There was no yogurt. I took half a waffle and gave half to Evelyn.
We got on the road about 9 and will be traveling until 5:30 or 6. It will be a long day after a late start. The GPS routed us on Route 101, fast but not interesting. Instead Evelyn suggested we take the Coastal road which would make it more scenic.
We picked out some seafood restaurant in Fort Bragg. We were both looking forward to seafood. Well we got to Fort Bragg about 1:45 and none of the places we had read about seemed to be still in existence. After a bit of a search we gave up on stopping at a documented restaurant and stopped instead at a restaurant we saw on the road that claimed to be fish and chips. In fact the name of the place was Fish n Chips. Actually is turned out to be an Asian place with Asian-style frying. I ordered oysters. We shared a bowl of white clam chowder.
The food was good but there was not much there. With tax and tip it came to $29. That is pretty hefty for the amount of food we got.
The next part of the drive goes over some mountains and while it is doing that it is solid twistedness. It feels like an amusement park thrill ride.
As we go through heavy redwood forest you see a lot of ways people tried to cadge tourist money by abusing trees. One place has roads that go through tunnels through wide trees. To drive through trees costs $5/car. Then there is the chimney tree. There is the one-log house. There is the Grandfather Tree, whatever that was. We just drove by. I cannot imagine they are making much of a living. We are past the Golden Age of Tree Novelty Fascination. Maybe it is about 50 years past it.
Then we went through the avenue of the giant in the Humboldt Redwood State Park. This is another deep and dark forest of tall redwoods.
Our motel is another example of redwood novelty. Our motel is made of wood from a single tree. I guess it was something of a stunt.
Curly Redwood Lodge of Crescent City, CA
--The Motel that Time Forgot
--Except for WiFi and limited cable this place feels very 1950s
-- Unique redwood look
--Building made from one single giant redwood tree
--Showing its age a little
--Nice redwood dŽcor
--Room is clean
--Staff very militant about no smoking and no pets, but friendly otherwise
--Easy to use thermostat, but in precise: either too hot or too cold in room
--Bathroom positioned so light floods the room if the door is not closed
--Channel listing includes complete cable including TCM, but only limited set of channel are received
--Small TV, not HD
--Toilet does not completely flush, needed to be flushed multiple times
--Wi-Fi quick and easy to use
--It takes a long time to get hot water in shower, hard to tell if set for hot or cold
--Shower stall only, no bath
--Glass water glasses
--Coffee in morning in lobby, little 6oz styro-cups
It was late, but we were still hungry so went to a Jack in a Box. I had a small milk shake and two tacos. Their shakes are good; their tacos are not. Back at the room I did a little Internet stuff, like sending a podcast about patent law to a friend who is a patent lawyer. I read a little and went to bed.
For breakfast we went to Denny's and I got peach French toast and eggs. I had the idea that for lunch we could get sandwiches at the grocery. Then we did not have to come back into town. We stopped into a Safeway to get lunch, which we would eat, picnicking and other good for the room. I am big on figs these days. I started eating figs for fiber but discovered I really liked them. For a long time I did not eat figs because I was a little grossed out by how they get fertilized. Look it up some time. Anyway I have learned to like figs so I now try to eat them often.
We stopped at the visitor center for the park to get information though we talked more about tsunamis. The earthquake that caused the tsunami in Japan also caused on our west coast. Crescent City had the only death. A man who went to film the tsunami was killed by it.
From there we went to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It is part of the Redwood Coast. This is a set of national and state parks, each showing off parts of the redwood forest. They are now administered as if they were a single park. The resulting aggregate is a park of 131,983 acres.
I am not sure I could tell a lot of difference in the parks though they tell you that each park is unique. The park is just a forest thick with redwood trees. For me redwoods are not as interesting as rock formations, but one has to admit the size of these trees is amazing. We just stopped the car to measure the largest redwood around. This was a coast redwood. It was 20 feet in diameter (in this forest they get up to 22 feet). Ours was about 100 feet high (they get up to 375). Pictures do not convey the size. You had to be there to see the scale. We went for a 30-minute trail walk, but it was longer--more like an hour--because we ran into a ranger and talked.
We had sandwiches in the car but we figured it made more sense to have them for dinner so we went to Perlitas, a recommended Mexican restaurant. We split a gordita and a chicken mole burrito. (Mole is a kind of spicy sauce flavored with chocolate. It has nothing to do with animals.) We have had a lot of Mexican this trip and it hasn't seemed like too much at all. I think Mexican is the new Italian.
Near town there is a river and a bridge. A Grey Whale seems to have picked this river as a place to die. She swims in circles occasionally spouting. She had a younger whale earlier, but the young returned to sea. Now the mother just swims in forlorn circles waiting for her energy to wear out. We stopped on the road just past the bridge and joined the crowd and watched the whale a little. I used up a lot of shots but I don't think any show much of the whale I got on film (or chip or whatever).
Today we have seen a whale, some elk, and what I think was a banana slug. In the afternoon we saw the Prairie Creek Area, which is another redwood forest. Afterwards we drove back to town, shopped at a dollar store, and returned to the room. At 6:30 we saw RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES at a local theater. This is a draft of my review:
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Breakfast in the room was the sandwich I did not eat yesterday. I picked out the meat and cheese and skipped the very large amount of not very good bread that came with the sandwich.
(PS eating meat that had not been refrigerated for 24 hours may have caused problems later in the day.)
The drive to Klamath Falls takes us through the mountains with tall trees and intestine-convoluted road. We listened to Shaw's "The Doctor's Dilemma." Along the way there is a cheese shop "Rogue Creamery" chocolate shop Lillibelles.
It was getting to be lunchtime when got to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge. They had some picnic tables out front. I found myself with curiously little appetite. I ate anyway. Then we went into the visitor center. They had a film and a small display showing some of the local animals. We drove around a little while and stopped at an overlook. We saw some birds, but I think wildlife watches take more patience than I have.
We drove around for a while, but I did not see a lot of wildlife. We were running low on gas so we headed for Klamath Falls and gasoline. Then we continued on to the motel.
Maverick Motel of Klamath Falls, OR
--OK overall but some problems, the worst is the noisy bar next door
--room on second floor with no elevator
--coin operated Laundromat
--typical 2-double-bed room
--free welcome basket with popcorn, granola bars, crackers, two 500ml bottled water
--iron and board
--no coffee maker
--extended cable including TCM
--standard TV with external leads
--tiny bathroom but sink outside
--bathroom a little run down, so is the neighborhood
--railroad noises in night
--Wi-Fi has religious theme in passwords
--called desk at 7:30 AM to report a problem and got no answer
--toilet makes loud gurgling when nobody is around it
--coffee and hot chocolate, juice, pastries and oatmeal for breakfast
--irritating rock music coming from bar next door
--shower takes a long time to warm up
--washcloths cannot be reached from shower
--no clock in room
Once in the room Evelyn took the clothes to do the laundry. While she was doing that I set up the PC and DVD player. I also looked to see the top rated restaurants in town. #1 in the TripAdvisor list was a Vietnamese restaurant Pho Hoa & Hong. One of the reviews said it had five pages of menu, but you should ignore the menu and just tell the owner what you want. I was not sure what would be good so asked the owner what he would recommend to his father. I told him my taste was just the same as his father's. We settled on a roast pork over noodle dish.
Back at the room we watched MONA LISA and I fought off what had been bothering me much of the day, some sort of digestive distress. I don't know for sure, but I think it came from the ham I had at breakfast.
I went to bed about 10:15 but woke up about 2:30 and could not sleep again for long. However my appetite and digestive well-being seems to have returned.
Breakfast was cocoa and a doughnut from the front desk.
We intended to go to Lava Beds National Monument, but the GPS seemed to disagree with the signs on the road and both seemed wrong. We did walk an interesting trail near there.
Captain Jack's Stronghold is a natural fort that was used as a defense against the Army in November 1872. Kintpuash, who was called Captain Jack used the fort to hold off the army. Walking around it one can see it was a very good natural fort with lots of outcroppings of lava and natural nooks to aim guns from. The defense worked very well and Captain Jack could no be dislodged from his fort. Captain Jack retaliated by killing 14 settlers. In December, 1872 the Army appropriates and occupies the area. There is a walk around to see the inner defenses and one can easily see how hard it would be to stop people hiding behind the dozens of walls.
From there we went to the Tula Lake Unit of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Gawd what a mouthful. This was an internment camp for the Japanese-Americans. There is supposed to be a tour on Fridays and Saturdays. However there was a sheet of paper saying there would be no tour today. That is a disappointment, but it worked out for the best.
We went to the visitor center and discovered why there were no tours today. There was a woman from NYU visiting doing a PhD thesis on how Japanese internments are presented to the public. She and her boyfriend were going to get a special tour. We asked if we could go also. They said they were leaving in just a moment and we could join them. So the four of us got a special tour. That may have worked out well for them also. Evelyn and I already knew a fair amount about Japanese internment during WWII and we each probably had more questions than the woman with the thesis. The woman giving the tour was quite surprised at how much back and forth there was.
We decided for lunch to go back to Pho Hoa & Hong. We each got pho (soup). We had two beautiful bowls of soup. Afterword we dropped into the dollar store to get some microwave containers to reheat the leftovers from last night's dinner. We worked on logs with the films ACE IN THE HOLE and OFFICE SPACE.
It was 4:48 and decided it was a reasonable time to get up. I was doubly wrong I should sleep later and I had only dreamt it was 4:48. It was more like 3:45.
We had breakfast in the room with things taken from the spread in the office. I am probably having too much sugar at breakfast. I have to watch that.
About 8:15 we hit the road for Reno. This is our last long drive, a little under five hours. Lunch at Albitos, the same restaurant we ate at when we had first arrived. We each got a chili plate and split the proceeds. Evelyn got Chili Verde and I had Chili Colorado. It is still good.
We had what was about a 1PM arrival. We went straight to a Friends of the Library book sale Evelyn had read about. I go two books and the complete TV series Earth2. The latter was a gamble. I knew very little about the series but I remembered someone on one of the podcasts I listen to said that it or a series I confused it with was supposed to be good. I would not get another chance and $8 sounded like a good price. For once I remembered right. Checking later, the TV series won an Emmy and has a very good reputation. DVDVerdict said it was "fantastic," but it would probably have messed up had it not been cancelled after 22 episodes.
After that we went to our hotel, the Atlantis Casino. We checked in. To get to the registration you have to walk through the casino. The building is designed to drag the visitor past as many gambling activities as possible in the hopes the electrifying excitement of seeing people excited by the hopes they hit it big. Of course a lot more will lose than win. The ones who do win will do so mostly by dumb luck.
The Atlantis Casino, Reno, NV
--luxury tower, convention contract
--posh but not necessarily good
--our rate $149+tax per night
--large hi-def TV
--there may be a fee for Internet connection
--fast Ethernet cable connection to internet, but you may have to provide your own cable
--We are using a DVD player. The connection to the TV is flaky. All the connections are tight, but the signal keeps dropping out
--TV/chest-of-drawers unit provides two electrical outlets but only one has power
--motion sensor in bathroom does not turn lights on, but turns them off after 10 min
--lots of large lamps
--standard shower head
--noisy air conditioner
--leaving building involves long walk through casino
--bed has six pillows and a large bolster
After we checked in we went to a Borders Bookstore going out of business sale. We did not get anything, but it was worth a try. After that we made stops at Wal-Mart (for fruit) and at Michaels for origami paper for the convention. And we went to a local mall just to see it. Evelyn bought a DVD.
After that we went to the room for the day. We watched the last half of the new KING KONG on TNT and CHICAGO.
I sent my mother this mail:
I am writing this from Reno. Our moving around and going to a new town every two days is over. The rest of the trip will be in Reno. We have been to three national parks and some other national sites and done a little bit of hiking. Mostly done some sightseeing. Eating has been very good. There are websites like TripAdvisor that help us plan. What Rotten Tomatoes is for film reviews is roughly what TripAdvisor is for travel. People enter their own reviews. Then they are sorted in order of overall rating. We just pick out the top rated restaurants (and we did with motels before the trip). So we have little in the way of complaints about the rooms or the food. The Internet gives us access to a sort of group mind, so we can take advantage of many people's experience.
The free parking lot for the Atlantis is situated so you have to walk through the casino. And 24-7 you find a lot of people gambling. I just do not see the attraction of sitting there and putting your money into a machine with a mathematical expectation of losing. Sure there will be some small number of people who win big, but they almost certainly lose over the long run. When they do win the money they got was taken from other people like them who lost. If the games were really entertaining I suppose that would make a difference, but I don't see the appeal.
Breakfast was at a local favorite, Peg's Glorified Eggs n Ham. I ordered Huevos Rancheros. Peg's is a big noisy place with a wide open kitchen. Where I sat you could see the who kitchen in a state of constant motion. One woman is buttering toast from a bin of butter with a large spatula. Every is served by wait people passing by the back of my chair. I would give the meal a B+. I had Huevos Rancheros and Evelyn had bacon and eggs.
After breakfast we went to the Animal Ark: A Sanctuary for Life. This is a place that rescues wild animals who can no longer live in the wild. They may be animals rescued from natural disasters or no longer made by filmmakers. Some are veterans of defunct zoos. It is run sort of as a zoo preserving animals who would otherwise die. They have bears, wolves, tigers, lynxes, bobcats, a badger, etc.
It is a lot like a benevolent zoo, though one of the volunteers was uncomfortable with that description. That took a couple of hours. On the way back we looked for two different ice cream shops and found both to be closed. We went to a McDonalds and shared a coffee frappe and a pineapple-mango smoothie. Each was better than I expected.
We are in Reno at a bad time. They have some sort of an event called Hot August Nights which seems to be a combination carnival and classic car rally. The town is swollen and the streets are clogged. We might have gone on a river walk, but the streets are choked with cars. It turned out to be not be that interesting once we finally got there. It was little more just a nature walk without really interesting nature.
From there it was back to the room to work on logs, prepare for the convention, read email, etc. We put on the TV EARTH 2 which turned out to be reasonably engaging.
About 7:30 we went out for dinner expecting to go to Famous Dave's for BBQ, but the wait was too long. We went instead we went to Red Robin for dinner. I had a hamburger.
This is our last full day with a car so we are going to Virginia City and Carson City. We decided to eat in the room. I had hot chocolate and a heaping spoonful of peanut butter (not in the hot chocolate). Actually that was separately. I wonder how peanut butter would be in hot chocolate?
Going to Virginia City you drive up a narrow, twisty one-lane road with no passing. There were frequent cliffs on one side. Then we ended up behind truck painting a lines on the road. It took a bit longer than planned climbing up into the hills.
In the 1870s Virginia City was a mining town near the Comstock Silver Mine was. Business was good and 30,000 people lived in the town. There were more than 100 saloons. That meant a lot of money went through Virginia City. $243,000,000 worth of ore.
Now the town is a bunch of old buildings turned into tourist shops. Several sell large varieties of candy, some sell minerals and rocks, some have ad hoc museums. Several have the inevitable slot machines. The town has been just making out. The economic downturn has made things a lot worse. We saw several shops that have gone out of business. It still draws a fair number of tourists. The town is like a western version of the Atlantic city board walk. We spent the morning walking Street C, the main drag.
we were going to eat at a Mexican Restaurant in Virginia City. That was the plan. However we stopped into a bookstore on the main street (C Street) of Virginia City. Evelyn asked if there were a lot of Basque people in the area since she had heard there were Basque restaurants. Yes, they had come with the sheep industry. He described what a meal in a Basque restaurant was like. Evelyn wanted to go to one. So we decided to go the love local Mexican restaurant and share a plate. It turned out to be closed Mondays. We decided to continue on to Carson city and eat at a Thai restaurant. However on the way we passed a Mexican restaurant and decided it would be a better choice. So we ended up at Aguila. We got a single platter with chicken, carne asada, and shrimp and two plates. It was very good and about $7 a piece.
From there we moved on to Carson City. They have for tourists a Talking Houses Tour. You should have before hand downloaded 16 mp3 Files to play on an iPod. You drive to 16 points in the city and hear a two or three minute talk on Carson City history about things that happened near those points. We may have been the first people to ever having taken the tour this way since they screwed it up so much. You see each recording is supposedly by some important person in city history. On the iPod they do not tall you what location is associated with that file. They tell you only the name of the famous person. You actually have to listen to the recording and figure out where you are supposed to be. All the sites mentioned are on a map you are given. They follow the same set of sites. Each recording covers one or two sites. You have to listen to the recording and find the site mentioned, find it on the map and go there. It is a mess, but we figured it out.
From there it was back to the casino and our room.
We are now here for the convention which I assume Evelyn will cover in her convention report. I will limit my writing to restaurants.
For breakfast we went back to Peg's Glorified Eggs n Ham. I had a Chile Relleno platter which included two eggs, beans, cabbage, picot de gallo, tortillas. It would have included hash browns, but they let us substitute fresh fruit. We wanted a large breakfast because we would have a late lunch. The rest of the day our activities were dominated what we did.
In the afternoon we were all registered and had gone though the program and about 4:30 were hungry again. We had turned in our car so had to walk to El Tumi, a Peruvian restaurant about a 10 or 15 minute walk away. We had Aji de Gallina and Lomo Saltado. The first was a thick yellow sauce with small pieces of meat and slices of boiled. The latter was almost like a stir fry of small slices of beef, onions, and French fries. Both dishes were OK, but neither was anything special.
At the room we watched THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and an episode of EARTH 2.
Breakfast was at La Michoacana, a Mexican restaurant. I had a beef burrito and a strange milk shake. It was whipped so much that it was no longer cold. It was so aerated that it did not hold a cold temperature.
The day was spent at the convention.
We had dinner with a friend, Pete Rubinstein. I had a calzone and part of Evelyn's Greek salad. A calzone is a real bargain, I think. It is surprisingly large for a $4.50 or so dish. The crust is good bread.
Only one restaurant meal. We went with a friend to the Hong Kong Diner. Three of us shared crispy fried catfish, half roast duck, and lemon chicken. Rather standard. The crispy fried catfish was fried and probably was catfish. Crispy it wasn't. The lemon chicken was fried but not very crispy.
We had one restaurant meal at a place on the walk from the Atlantis to the Peppermill. The place is called Roscoe's. They sell meat sandwiches at a fixed price. You choose the bread, you choose the meat, and you choose the sauce. Evelyn had pulled pork in a medium (in terms of spiciness) sauce. I had a brisket sandwich in spicy sauce. I think it killed my diet because it had a LOT of fat. For an additional fee they gave you two side dishes and soda. Evelyn and I split an order of side dishes getting baked beans and French fries. This was worthwhile. They insisted on giving us two glasses for soda. The fries were like potato wedges with skin. The beans had something like ground meat or TVP in with the beans and they were also good. Oh, they came around and gave every table chocolate chip cookies. Very nice. The chips were very soft so they also were quite good.
We had to go the same route as the previous day going to the Pepper Mill. We decided to eat again at Roscoe's. The brisket was fatty but otherwise it was good. I ordered the barbecued beef rib. You get one large beef rib. This was the most disgusting restaurant meal I have had in a long while. There was very little meat on the rib. It was almost all fat. The grease coming off of it actually puddle and congealed on the plate. Frankly I think the restaurant does most things well but the meat is terrible. Evelyn thought the pulled pork was not bad the previous night but she shared this dish and agreed it was terrible.
This was the final day of our convention. We had dinner with an old friend from our college days. We chose for this a well-rated restaurant near the convention center. The restaurant was Claim Jumper. It was known for its large portions. Trying to make up for the previous night, Evelyn and I shared a combo platter with ribs and shrimp. It really was not big enough to split. There were side dishes that helped. There was fired vegetables, potato cakes, and cheese toast. The potato cakes were mashed potato patties deep fried. Not healthy, but at least it tasted fairly good. Our friend ordered the beef and pork rib combo. The beef rib looked a whole lot better than the one the previous night at Roscoe's, but our friend said it was not very good and did not have much meat.
Back at the room we went to bed about 9 PM because we had to get up at 3:30 AM to get a 4:30 shuttle.
Up at 3:30 AM. We had packed the night before. I had misgivings before the trip that we had loaded the luggage to capacity and then would get books on the trip and our luggage would not hold the additional volume. Packing was quite a problem, but we managed. Then when we got to the security check in the airport I had not reckoned on all we would have to take out. It was a real mess getting everything back in. My luggage was packed tighter than a sausage. Security checks are brutal these days.
We are flying Delta, and I don't get a feeling the plane is well maintained and operated. At both ends of the flight there was a strong petroleum smell in the plane. The plane got in early, but the flight crew had not prepared for it well. We were toward the back of the plane and by the time we were served we has maybe five minutes to drink what they handed us. Luckily we could tell from the announcements that we would be landing soon so I stuffed my can of tomato juice and my biscotti in my photo vest.
We had about an hour's wait at the airport before our next flight. I had my juice and biscotti.
Our next and last flight of the trip is from Salt Lake City to Newark. This time there was no petroleum smell but we were held up for about 10 minutes because the plastic covering for on passenger's light and call buttons had fallen off and had to be re-glued. They made a big show about fixing it right away. I think they wanted to show that they were very carefully maintaining the plane. Finally we started to taxi and the plane made a rhythmic growl as if it was being hand-cranked.
I had a long conversations with the woman next to me. We talked about international travel and dachshunds and food and dieting. It helped to pass the time on the plane.
We had arranged for a limo from Kelly's Cab to pick us up. We called and they said a car was on its way and would be there in fifteen to twenty minutes. They were good about being there on time when we left home but it is always a hassle getting them to pick us up. It was more like 75 minutes and two calls to get the pick up. This pattern is at least typical and I think may be invariable. I don't think they dispatch a car until you call. I think they count on is the customer will think the time just seems a lot longer because waiting time frequently seems subjectively like a long time. You have no accurate idea of how long you have been waiting. So don't talk in time intervals. If they say you will be picked up in 15 or 20 minutes repeat it as a question, but do the clock arithmetic. "So you are saying it will be here by 5:07?" If nothing else this may get you a more realistic estimate. If you have to call back in forty minutes you can say, "You said it would be here by 5:07 and its now 5:28.
Well, that was our trip. We got home Monday evening. It was nice to get back for any number of reasons. We could use our main computer rather than our under-powered laptop. We had that for five days. Then Hurricane Irene his New Jersey. Saturday the storm blew in and that night at about 11:45 we lost power. This is Tuesday and in an hour or so we will be driving to the library because they have Wi-Fi.
The adventure continues, or rather another one does.