Tough Mudder?!

31 08 2015

Nah, this is Bog Snorkelling.

An annual race. Snorkelling. Through a bog. Yup – for real.

No proper swim strokes though… only doggy paddle allowed.

It was in Wales. ‘Nuff said.





Wild Weekend

31 08 2015

Bit of a to-do here in the Lower Mainland this weekend.

After literally months of uninterrupted sunshine the weather finally broke on Friday night. By mid-morning the welcome rain was joined by a much less welcome wind storm. The parched trees suffered mightily and the urban landscape is still strewn – almost 3 days later – with bits of tree. White Rock/South Surrey got away pretty lightly and we didn’t even lose power except for 2 or 3 “glitches”. Enough to reset the olde worlde desktop PC and aquarium air pump but not enough to lose the time on the cooker’s LED clock.

Number 3 offspring had to help me do some running repairs on our panel fence as the gusty winds blew two panels completely off the fence. Spiketta the devil dog was too scared to go out into the garden otherwise I’m sure she’d have made a break for it. I knew those random pieces of drilled steel from the old overhead garage door opener I replaced a few years ago would come in handy…

Saturday was largely a day for hunkering down and writing, but I did venture out towards lunch to take aforementioned devil dog for a promenade. As we got to the wooded ravine she likes to sniff, we were met by a city workman who told us it was unsafe until someone had been through to check for loose limbs. Having already had to circumvent a pretty large tree limb in the normally serene butterfly garden, we decided that it was prudent to listen, and we detoured around Centennial Park instead.

Sunday was a lot more bright so offspring numbers two and three accompanied me to Van Dusen gardens for a breath of fresh air. We began by having High Tea at Truffles, the café there. It was atrocious! Number two and I had taken tea there before and had a most excellent experience. This time though? Yuck.  They offer afternoon/high tea for two or four. We were three, so we ordered “afternoon tea for two ($40!) with an extra cup please, and a Turkey Club sandwich (~$9!!)”. The order was relayed back to me as “afternoon tea for two and a Turkey Club sandwich”. There was a moment of confusion when I was asked what kind of sandwich we wanted, but this was my mistake as I  hadn’t realised there was a sandwich as part of the High Tea. So, all good, I went to pay. Only as I walked away did I realise the price was wrong. It was $42… not enough! I returned and said, there seems to be a mistake, the bill is $42 and the High Tea is $40 (meaning… the sandwich should have made it nearer $50). At this point I was told (presumably because of my not exactly local accent) that this was “because of the tax”. Here in BC the tax is added on at payment time and not included in the sticker price like in the UK, and I suppose the young lady thought I hadn’t realised that the $40 would become $42. I explained that there was a whole Turkey sandwich missing from the reckoning, but by now there was a large queue and they were on to the second person after me. We slunk off to get a table and I sent last born to rejoin the queue and re-order his Turkey sandwich.

After a while his sandwich arrived all hot and steamy and by all accounts was most tasty. This despite being ordered SEVERAL orders after our High Tea. Then the pot of tea arrived. Without the third cup. The server was pleasant enough despite exuding studied boredom from every pore of his being. He reluctantly sloped off to reappear with a third cup which was no less wet or poorly presented than its two earlier siblings. I don’t take sugar, but the sugar bowl was huge yet held only a small number of sugar cubes. Worse… it was dirty with some old coffee drips on the inside and the sugar was covered in fluff (or worse!). Just as my son finished his sarnie, the main event arrived, was swapped for the number we’d been given and that was it. No cutlery. No serviettes. No smile. Just lots of attitude!

I can’t complain about the food itself. The Croque-monsieur we’d ordered was hot and tasty. The lemon/white chocolate truffles were delightful. The petit fours were exquisite. The scone was a bit odd. Despite being attended by strawberry jam and thick cream (and for the locals – honey), it seemed to have orange in it rather than the more customary raisins or currants. Still that and the croissant went down very nicely thank-you and I can report that at least the kitchen staff were on their game, if not the front of house.

Both offspring were affronted enough to fill out pretty vociferous comment cards (with their real names!) and we went off to tour the gardens. We’ve visited many times and yet I was surprised to find that we ended up in various stretches of the garden I had never before visited. It really was a very pleasant little visit, and I was quite sad when we had to call it a day and leave.

As ever – click on an image for a larger version.





Summer Holiday – day 15

29 08 2015

Day 15 was spent being tourists in Portland. First thing’s first – figure out the Transit! It turned out we were just a couple of blocks from the station and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy to get into town. Cheap too. You get all sorts on public transport. The lady with the pet rat running up and down her arm was a first though…

Second things second… coffee! I’m a big tea drinker but this is Portland! We tried to find a non-chain establishment to better support the hipster economy.

Brazilian coffee sack

Brazilian coffee sack

I forget where we ended up, but I was amused to find the above coffee sack on the wall. Minas Gerais was the area of Brazil I had visited several years ago. Small world, isn’t it? Portland has cute names for its districts, Pearl, Rose, etc. I guess we were in the Rose District when I saw this cover for some utility ducting.

Utility cover

Utility cover

Number two offspring wasn’t with us for this trip, but we’d promised to return with some offerings from Voodoo Doughnuts. After first spending a couple of joyous hours in Powell’s bookshop we dutifully joined the queue for these doughnuts. No idea why they were so popular but the queue ran round the block. Over the road was a telling sign…

Keep it weird

Keep it weird

Having queued the length of the building, we then got the joy of queuing all the way back! Good job we were English… this counts as entertainment! I got dripped on once or twice and I eventually figured out it was an Air Conditioning unit in a first floor window up above the queue.

Little England. Love a good queue...

Little England. Love a good queue…

The jokes I was making about AC units and Legionaire’s Disease suddenly didn’t seem so funny when I realised that the doughnuts we were about to buy spent some period behind this open doorway protected from airborne disease and children’s bogey-laden fingers by nothing more substantial than a wire grille! Pink, I admit, but even so…

Now THAT's healthy...

Now THAT’s healthy…

I’m told by more discerning doughnut-lovers that they were especially scrummy, but personally I don’t think they were worth the effort…

Voodoo doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts





Summer Holiday – day 14

29 08 2015

Day 14 was spent on the road.

After carefully packing up the wet tent (it was to stay in the car for a couple of days before we’d have chance to dry it properly) we headed north. We passed through a lovely little place with the unfortunate name of Drain.

As we headed up the I5, we stopped off at Cottage Grove to grab a coffee and stretch our legs. I was amused by the sign outside a KFC which seemed to offer some unusual cuisine due to ambiguous English…

Odd menu

Odd menu

After a long but uneventful drive we arrived at our hotel in Portland. After the usual arguments over who gets the shower first we headed out for tea at Chipotle. Along the road we passed an oil change shop just as it was closing up. I really liked the colour from the interior lights.

Oil Can Henry's

Oil Can Henry’s





Summer Holiday – night 13

29 08 2015

It was our last night in Umpqua River lighthouse park, so we made a point of visiting the lighthouse while it was doing its thing. Whilst there we were treated to a far-off thunder storm over the Pacific. This wasn’t sharp forked lightning but rather subdued sheet lightning. Unfortunately the storm gradually came to land and by morning we had a thoroughly wet tent. We’d had glorious weather all holiday and now we had to put the tent away wet! 😦

Red and white beams visible from the lighthouse

Red and white beams visible from the lighthouse

Red in the trees

Red in the trees

Hard to believe how far the beam can reach out to sea

Hard to believe how far the beam can reach out to sea

Lightening on the Pacific horizon

Lightening on the Pacific horizon





Summer Holiday – day 13

29 08 2015

Day 13, third born was invited to join his girlfriend’s family for an hour of motorised fun in the dunes. We’d arranged to pick him up in the early afternoon in Florence.

Mrs E and I decided to go early to Florence and amble around to see what it offered. The river was very similar in feel to Steveston along BC’s Fraser River. I assume it had had a similar salmon-oriented industry a few decades ago.

The derelict industrial scenery was quite pleasing I thought, with river pilings telling tales of times now gone.

Piling it on

Piling it on

There were still a number of boats – both leisure and working boats – moored at the river’s side. Florence seemed to have avoided the general malaise we’d felt coming up the Oregon coast.

Fishing still pays the bills for some

Fishing still pays the bills for some

The road bridge over the Siuslaw was completed in March 1936. It is a “bascule” bridge, meaning it is a drawbridge with counter-weights (in its solid-looking supports). It was designed by Conde McCullough and was funded by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works… i.e. part of the infrastructure projects that were intended to pull the US from the recession of the 30’s. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2005, and has since seen some TLC and much-needed restoration.

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

We found a most excellent lunch at the Bridgwater FishHouse and Zebra Bar housed in the Kyle Building, named for one of the early settlers in the area. After lunch we headed of to the small local museum and found an amusing signpost reminding us of the North American tendency to recycle place-names from other locales.

Florence - one of many

Florence – one of many

The small museum was in the old school-house, just off the main drag. It was stuffed with the usual ephemera of local museums. Family photos that mean little to outsiders, old pianos once loved in log cabin parlours. It had interesting sections on the early industries of logging and fishing, but these are repeated in most similar museums along the Pacific North-west and had little of new interest. Upstairs there was a collection of local school items including what seemed like arbitrary rules for turn of the century teachers. (Male teachers would be thought errant if they used a public barber!) There was a rather random collection of glass artefacts including telephone insulators and several coloured glass bottles. I thought the ambiguous colours in these were most intriguing.

Translucent blue

Translucent blue

Not green bottles

Not green bottles

We ambled back to the Bay Street area to recover our son and had a pleasant hanging-out with his girlfriend’s family on a café patio overlooking the river. Here I was surprised to see a sack from l’Herault area of southern France, an area we loved very much. It just seemed out of place in the PNW, but on reflection, no more than us!

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon





Summer Holiday – day 12

29 08 2015

Day 12 we headed south to Coos Bay for Fish’n’Chips at SharkBite’s Café. The fish was very good. The chips not. So bad in fact that I’d caution you against going. I had a Cobb salad and it was definitely meh. Shame really – the café looked like exactly the sort of place that should do awesome “simple food”.

On the way back to the site, we stopped off at Eel Creek for a traipse on the dunes. This State Park charges a day use fee of $5. Unfortunately we weren’t exactly “cash rich” and I opted to put the $3.32 we did have along with an apology into the envelope. Thankfully the car was still there when we got back, so I guess we got away with it.

The dunes are extensive at Eel Creek, but we only ventured a little way towards the actual coast… it was very pleasant but hard going. You can walk on virgin hard-packed sand for several metres then without any warning you can sink up to your ankles. The following map links to the excellent map provided by the USDA.

USDA – Eel Creek and John Dellenback Dunes Trail

A land without scale

A land without scale

I just love them Tiger Feet

I just love them Tiger Feet

King of the Dunes

King of the Dunes

I finally get the meaning of "vista"

I finally get the meaning of “vista”

Crest of the dune

Crest of the dune

Arbutus?

Arbutus?





Summer Holiday – day 11

29 08 2015

Day 11, we decided to chill a little and stay around the camp site. We opted to walk up to the lighthouse and take the tour. Umpqua lighthouse is one of several down the Oregon coast. There’s a neat brochure by the Oregon State Parks that tells us the following about it:

Umpqua is the second lighthouse to occupy this site. An earlier structure built in 1857 was the first lighthouse sited on the Oregon coast; it succumbed to erosion in 1861. The Umpqua River lighthouse is nearly identical to the one at Heceta Head, and both lights were illuminated in 1894, but the Umpqua lens emits distinctive red-and-white automated flashes. 

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the mention that the first lighthouse only lasted four years before succumbing to erosion. Er… this is in the middle of dune country for goodness sake!

Umpqua River lighthouse

Umpqua River lighthouse

Anyway, we paid the few dollars for the guided tour and a student from the museum opened up the lighthouse and tried to answer our questions. The staircase was interesting in that it was free-standing and not attached to the brick walls at all.

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

We could get right up into the light assembly and clearly see the Fresnel lenses that are such a feature of lighthouses. The cunning Frenchman revolutionised lighthouses by figuring out how to produce a relatively light (no pun intended) lens to massively concentrate the light into a beam that could travel many miles out to sea.

The Umpqua River lighthouse has a “signature” that includes red as well as white flashes.

2 white, 1 red... Umpqua's "signature" for passing shipping to identify their position.

2 white, 1 red… Umpqua’s “signature” for passing shipping to identify their position.

One other feature of Umpqua River lighthouse was that it had an auto-changer so that should the bulb fail, a second back-up lamp could automatically be brought into service. In this photo it can clearly be seen to the right of the currently illuminated bulb. (Now that WAS a deliberate pun).

The business end - 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The business end – 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The descent down the iron staircase lent itself to some arty shots. However, I only managed this one…

The way back down the stairs

The way back down the stairs

After the lighthouse, we walked down to the beach and snagged a geocache on the way. Turning my back on the canoodling couple in an oh-so-English way I took a few shots of the old pilings left in the sand. I’m not sure of their original use – perhaps there used to be a fish processing plant her in days gone by.

Pilings left from some old structure

Pilings left from some old structure

As we ambled up the spit to the South of the river exit, there were some interesting geological forms in the large rocks that had been used as erosion barriers.

Holy rock Batman!

Holy rock Batman!

This was clearly a favourite walk for locals and tourists and there were a few hints that bonfires had taken place in the past. I was struck by the patterns at the detail level in the carbonised wood.

A charred log on the beach

A charred log on the beach

There was a Coastguard tower though we were told at the museum that there was little need for it these days and only punishment shifts were ever posted there. It certainly looked highly automated at the casual glance.

Coastguard watchtower

Coastguard watchtower

At the end of the breakwater, a triangular area had been enclosed. Though still tidal, it was entirely sheltered and was now an oyster farm.

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

As we started to head back to the road we had a sea-level view up at the lighthouse nestled against the treeline. It looked solid and comfortable. Surely it looks even more so in a raging storm. The apparent quiet was short-lived though. Down here in the dunes was a huge campsite that was the exclusive domain of “boys with toys” and we had to watch out for 8 year old lads on motorbikes and ATVs on their way to erode the dunes with their pot-bellied dads in dune buggies.

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach





Humans are a terrible species

29 08 2015

Back in 1969 a man set foot on the moon. 1969. I was 5 years old. It was almost 50 years ago!

In 1990 – a full 25 years ago – South Africa, racially fractured almost since its founding by European powers began its own path to reconciliation and healing.

In 1950 India – the world’s largest democracy, let’s not forget- made inter-caste discrimination illegal. 65 years ago. Progress.

Today I was made aware of two international stories that made me shake my head and realise that these successes of humanity are but a veneer on what we really are deep at heart – tribal, ignorant animals scared of anything and more importantly anyONE that is “other”. We’ve become sophisticated over the millennia, but that just makes us so much more subtle (or not, in the first tale I’ll recount) in the way we express our prejudice.

The first story I’ll tell nearly made me choke on my morning tea. In Baghpat – just north of New Delhi in northern India, a man from the Dalit (untouchables) class fell in love with a woman from the higher Jat community. We’re led to believe it was fully reciprocated. She was subsequently married off to a more suitable upper class husband, but a month later in a scene I imagine similar to The Graduate, her “unsuitable” but romantic lover ran off with her anyway.

This is 2015 remember. In a democratic country that 65 years ago made it illegal to discriminate based on caste. You might imagine some indignation. Her parents can’t be too happy for sure. But the actual reaction?… his family were tortured OFFICIALLY by the police and his two sisters sentenced to rape for his “crime”. Yes, you read that right… they weren’t subjected to rape by vindictive relations (the Jat community did in fact ransack their home), no this was a judicial sentence. One sister is 15 FFS! Sentenced by an unelected council to be raped and then paraded naked through the streets!

Thankfully the girls managed to get India’s Supreme Court involved and Amnesty International is now on the ball. But it’s not a slam dunk they’ll escape being subjected to this throw-back to earlier times, punished barbarically for their brother’s “cross-caste” love affair, deemed a crime they must pay for.

Read more about it at Mashable.

Source: Indian sisters sentenced to rape because of their brother’s affair

The second story that came to my attention today is much closer to home. Not geographically – it’s actually in Switzerland. It is however an attitude I come across commonly in and around Vancouver. The BBC reports that the Swiss Blick news agency has reported that the Rigi resort has put on special trains to cater for the vast number of Chinese visitors. The reason? They’re apparently noisy and disturb “other visitors” (i.e. more like “us”). Blick reports “They crowd the corridors while taking pictures from the train, there has been rudeness in packed carriages, and some even report seeing tourists spit on the floor“. There’s also reports of “Rigi seems to be firmly in Chinese hands!” and “Toilets are now cleaned more often, and signs have been put up showing how to use them correctly“. It’s all couched in terms of helping the Chinese visitors, but I can’t help but feel there’s more than a little resentment of “other”. I myself often see elderly members of our local Chinese community spitting in the street and I’ve heard tell that following an elderly Chinese lady into a public toilet can be “an experience”. At root though this is no more than a culture clash, and if we are wanting to welcome the income from foreign visitors we need also to understand that they will bring different perspectives and expectations. Segregation comes in many guises and “adding extra trains for the Chinese to avoid conflict with other visitors” is very different to simply adding more capacity.

A mountain resort in Switzerland is launching special train services for Chinese tourists.

 

Source: Switzerland: Special trains for Chinese tourists – BBC News

 





Stay Weird!

28 08 2015

Heard this on CBC’s WireTap a while ago – how to age gracefully. Didn’t realise there was a video to go with it.

The 93 year old has the best advice… ignore the advice!