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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Road Trip, Day Seven

See the end of this post for info about this photo.

Today was day seven of the road trip with my daughter Becky. We started out in Alturas, Calif., where we had spent the night.

Alturas is surrounded by the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, so there are deer and other animals all over the place, plus many cranes and other large birds that are classified as threatened if not endangered. As we were heading out of town on the old Highway 395, there was a large, mature crane standing at the side of the road. I was afraid that it might dart out in front of my car, but it took flight just seconds before we reached his spot. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo. It all happened so fast!

We passed hillsides covered in big black rocks. I'm not sure what they are.

We arrived in Reno!

We spent most of our time there trying to find a visitor center. Becky's GPS, my GPS and 4-1-1 all led us on the craziest wild goose chase ever,

We decided to move on to Virginia City -- a very smart decision because we had a great time there!

Sidewalks are wooden planks just as they were in the 1800s.

We made friends with a rootin' tootin' outlaw...

...and played checkers in the saloon of the Silver Queen Hotel.

The Silver Queen is 15-foot-tall painting of a woman in a gown that's made with more than 3,200 vintage silver dollars minted in Carson City. The belt is fashioned from nearly 30 $20 gold pieces and the jewelry is made with dimes. The installation is a tribute to the Virginia City miners of yesteryear.

Speaking of miners, we learned something really fascinating today. The Comstock Lode and everything else with the name Comstock associated with it is a reference to Henry Comstock, who had absolutely nothing to do with it!

After the two brothers who discovered the lode died before they could record their claim, Comstock, a con man through and through, claimed it for himself. To this day, it's all named after him.

Another interesting bit of history: Samuel Clemens's first job as a reporter was with the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, where he began signing his articles as Mark Twain.

Lillie Langtry, Buffalo Bill and many other notables performed at Piper's Opera House back in the day.

Note the view behind the Episcopal Church. Virginia City is high in the hills.

This is the road leading out of Virginia City.

We had to go down the mountain to get to tonight's destination: : Carson City, the state capital. We're staying at the Carson Station Hotel and Casino.

We played the slot machines for awhile tonight. We did alright.

I came away with twice what I put in. Not bad!

Tomorrow we'll explore Carson City a little and then head on to our next destination. We've added one day to our road trip, so instead of the anticipated eight days, it will be nine.

Tune in to the blog tomorrow night to learn about our next adventures!

The photo at the top of this blog post is a closeup showing detail of the silver dollars in the Silver Queen gown.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Road Trip, Day Six

See the end of this post for info about this photo.

This was day six of my road trip with my daughter Becky. We started off in Bend, Oregon, where we had spent the night.

Bend is a sophisticated mountain city with a pretty downtown.

Yesterday's blog post showed the Three Sisters shrouded in clouds. Today was clear as we left Bend, and the Three Sisters came out in all their glory.

Next stop: the High Desert Museum, about 10 miles south of Bend.

We started with the raptor show, featuring birds of prey including a red tail hawk, barn owl, great horned owl and gyrfalcon. It was a bit of a hike to this area but was well worth it!

Here's a gyrfalcon (pronounced jeer-falcon) flying over onlookers toward a perch.

We also visited the Miller Family Ranch and Sawmill on the museum grounds. Here a woman in costume (and in character) educates a young girl about the operation of a spinning wheel.

Exhibits inside the main buildings are much more sophisticated than what we anticipated.

The museum is in the Deschutes National Forest. Only YOU can prevent forest fires!

We were there for a couple of hours, then continued south to Klamath Falls, a city whose name we decided is false advertising. We went to the Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau and were informed that there are no falls.

None at all.

There are small rapids in the Link River, which are accessed by going out the back door of the visitors center and walking a mile and a half round trip to see, er, not much.

We passed.

However, the visitor center, which includes Chamber of Commerce offices, has about a dozen pelican statues painted by a local Native American woman. I found them quite interesting.

Soon after, we crossed the border into California and continued south until we reached tonight's destination: Alturas in the northeast corner of the state in Modoc County.

Alturas is in the middle of nowhere. Here's a photo from the highway about a mile from the city:

But they have a Best Western and an Italian restaurant, so that's something. In fact Antonio's Cucina Italiana delivers, and our dinner just arrived (Becky's having spaghetti and meatballs and I'm eating lasagna).

Tomorrow? Who knows? That's why this road trip is called an adventure!

In the top photo, a red tail hawk flies right over Becky and me. I almost caught it all, but not quite.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Road Trip, Day Five

See the end of this post for info about this photo.

This was day five of the road trip with my first-born daughter Becky. Last night we stayed in Portland, so this morning we did a little exploring in that city.

We went downtown, where the tree-lined streets are beautiful.

There is public art throughout the downtown area, much of it depicting wildlife indigenous to the Columbia River, which runs through Portland.

The downtown area is home to about 40 historic Benson Bubblers, which run constantly to quench the thirst of any and all passersby.

We visited Pioneer Courthouse Square, where Becky posed in the shadow of historic and new buildings.

At the square's visitor center, Becky cranked a penny squisher while two curious children looked on.

We left Portland and drove along the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River was the last leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

At Cascade Locks there is a public art installation depicting Sacagawea, with her papoose on her back, and Meriwether Lewis's dog Seaman. That's the state of Washington across the river.

Hi-yo, Seaman! Away!

Next we stopped in at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, run by the Oregon Department of Fish and Game, where we had a great time strolling along trails, exploring the grounds and learning all about salmon, sturgeon and rainbow trout.

Dig the weather vane:

Salmon egg incubators:

Other visitors looking at gigantic sturgeon in a huge pond:

We headed west along the Columbia River Gorge and then south toward Mount Hood (partially visible in the center of this photo, with bright white snow).

We passed Three Sisters, also covered in snow.

The farther south we went, the more the landscape changed (Becky turned around and shot this one looking through the back seat window):

And tonight we're in Bend, Oregon, smack dab in the center of the state. Tomorrow? Check back to find out where we end up!

Becky shot the top photo on this post: Horsetail Falls along the Columbia River Gorge.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Road Trip, Day Four

See the end of this post for info about this photo.

This morning we started in Coos Bay, Oregon, a town known for fisheries and logging mills. It's about six miles inland from the Pacific coast.

The bay is not fed by the ocean, but by the Coos River.

There are timber mills all along the bay. Here's a huge sawmill plant just across from the Coos Bay Marina:

Becky and I explored the Coos Bay Boardwalk this morning. It was 52 degrees but we braved the cold anyway!

It's fitting this Memorial Day weekend that there is a statue, carved from a solid piece of wood, dedicated to veterans.

We decided to head over to the coast, so we drove through downtown Coos Bay...

...then took the Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge across Coos Bay...

...and went through beautiful forest land on our way to the Umpqua Lighthouse. (That's U.S. Coast Guard housing adjacent to the lighthouse.)

Even though I'm so much better physically and stamina-wise, I wasn't up to touring the lighthouse with its jillion-step spiral staircase, so we visited the museum in the former Coast Guard headquarters.

Room after room on both floors is filled with historic photographs and displays, rare artifacts and information.

The view from the lighthouse grounds is spectacular (those are sand dunes in the center).

We had a hankering for Oregon seafood for lunch, so we went north on the 101 to Winchester Bay and ate on a floating cafe. Becky read in a guidebook that they serve the best fish and chips anywhere, and the guidebook was absolutely right -- the huge pieces were light as feathers and mighty tasty.

We drove along Winchester Bay and saw this building standing all alone, so we ventured in to take a look-see.

The place is called Umpqua Aquaculture and there was a lot going on in there! The guys on the left are sawing oyster shells from cords (learn more about that at the link) and the woman on the right is shucking the oysters.

We needed to make tracks, so we went back to the northbound 101 for awhile, then took a windy connector road inland through beautiful forest land...

...and even through a mountain...

...until we hit the northbound 5.

After about an hour on the 5 we reached Salem, the state capital, and went to the capitol.


And now we're in Portland for the night and will do some exploration of this area in the morning before moving on to our next destination, which remains a secret. You'll have to check back on the blog tomorrow night!

The top photo is the Umpqua Lighthouse.