In the Rear View

Grizzly Attack!

Friday, May 23 2008 at 12:41 AM by Rick

Jay was torn to pieces early this morning. There was nothing I could do. I will be coming home shortly and this site will fall to ruin.

Psych! We didn't get attacked, but we did see a grizzly in the Grand Tetons, which was awesome.

A small host of photographers and tourists were clustered at the side of the road, so we pulled over to see what all the fuss was about. We crossed a small creek to get a better look at the beast. She was occassionally tossing around dirt with her considerable claws, but mostly just hanging out. It wasn't long before the park ranger broke up the party, but was very cool to see while it lasted.

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Worth the restless sleep

Friday, May 23 2008 at 12:39 AM by Rick

We went to bed just after midnight. At around 3:00 we were awakened by the haunting sound of coyotes howling in the distance, probably from a fresh kill. We got up at 5:45, packed up camp and headed to Old Faithful.

Fingers of steam escaped from cracks in the ground, rising through the crisp air. And as the geyser blew, the morning sun imparted a halo-like glow to the mist.

Only a handful of others were up in the freezing cold at this ungodly hour, and I can only assume that this normally bustling tourist attraction is far more majestic in the morning silence than the crowded afternoon.

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Circle of Life

Friday, May 23 2008 at 12:38 AM by Rick

Yellowstone is chock full o' wildlife.

Buffalo are plentiful in the park and appear to be conditioned to people since they approach cars without hesitation. But there are many signs that warn about the dangers of getting gored by these wild beasts which can run up to 30 mph. Nuts.

While driving, we saw a group of mountain goats tearing up a rocky cliff-face at the roadside. They were bounding up and  down this 60+ degree unstable slope as effortlessly as we walk up stairs.

Some more wildlife of note: a herd of elk, some deer, assorted small birds/fish, and a wolf tromping around a field, which Jay got a nice pic of.

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Geology Rocks!

Friday, May 23 2008 at 12:35 AM by Rick

Yellowstone is by far, one of the coolest places we've been. Not quite as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon, but there's much more to see.

Since Yellowstone is located in an area of high geothermal activity there are lots of hot springs, geysers, and steaming pools. The artists' paint pots are opaque pools brilliantly colored by the different minerals found in each one. Prismatic Springs is a very large and steamy spring with surrounding seeps of cyan and opal. There are vast mats of cyanobacteria spilling color across the area in between. And the unfamiliar landscape is dotted with geysers that bubble, steam, and sputter constantly.

They also have these hysterical signs warning you not to step on the areas of geologic activity. The illustration depicts a child getting burned with a steam blast while his mother looks on in horror and his dad is completely oblivious. Check the pics.

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Space Needle=Underwhelming

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 9:34 PM by Rick

Think that says it all.

Not as big as you expect.
More expensive to access than you expect.
And as pointless as a huge brass pig, without the quirkiness.

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Coffee, anyone?

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 9:30 PM by Rick

Seattle was a fun time.

Though the seafood wasn't as off-the-charts amazing as we hoped, the coffee was. I guess when you're from a great coastal area it's hard to be blown away by seafood anywhere.

Pike Place Market was pretty cool. It's a fish market where they holler and tease tourists as they throw fish around. It's also home to the original Starbucks, where we saw a sweet bluegrass band with the best spoons player I've ever seen, hands down. There's also a large brass pig there, which is famous and from what I can tell, irrelevant to pretty much everything.

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Portland: Vocal on the issues

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 9:23 PM by Rick

We spent part of the day in Portland, where we learned people are passionate about their various causes.

Upon taking a left turn to Wieden+Kennedy, we hesitated, giving cause for a fellow motorist to shout, "Make the f*(%king turn jackass." This friendly advice was quickly followed up by a pedestrian who, after Jay made only a partial turn, preemptively screamed "What happened to pedestrians first?!"

So, things were going well. We then got solicited by a left-wing environmentalist stalking the sidewalk asking passersby, "Do you like polar bears or trees better?" After that, we dealt with a total jerkoff at Fedex/Kinkos who treated the previous customer and us, with an equally large dose of condescension.

People make or break your stay in foreign cities, and until some nice inebriated hippies directed us to a great burger joint, we were pretty much fed up with Portland. However, lunch salvaged the day, and under different circumstances, we might return to Portland someday. Maybe.

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Redwoods are large and in charge

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 9:15 PM by Rick

You've seen the pictures of us driving through the Chandelier tree, which provides some evidence as to how big these suckers are.

Thing is, that's not even one of the biggest trees. The biggest ones tower over 360' tall, and just the root ball of a downed redwood was two stories high. Because of the climate (warm with ample humiditiy) everything's bigger in those forests.  The clover are almost the size of your palm.

We camped out by the river in Myers Flat, a small town along the Avenue of the Giants, which is the main roadway through the redwoods. Other than huge trees and the tourist traps built around them, there isn't much to see in the redwood forest, so we moved on to Portland.

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Controlled Burn? Not so much.

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 4:04 PM by Jay

We just witnessed some sanctioned hillside burning while driving through wine country.

During the dry season, the California forest department deliberately sets fire to parts of the hillside so that wildfires do not spread uncontrollably. People are hanging out by the side of the road watching the blaze.

Note: As we continue driving, law enforcement vehicles are whirring by us sirens blaring and lights flashing, so maybe this burn is not as "controlled" as it first appeared.

Note 2: Okay. Apparently, we just witnessed a natural fire, because it seems like every state vehicle in the area is rushing to the scene. The spectators we saw must have been idiot tourists like us, and/or locals keeping an eye on things until law enforcement arrived.

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Dr. Chris Loxton is the man

Wednesday, May 21 2008 at 3:58 PM by Rick

Chris Loxton is an Australian ex-physicist who "left the bright lights of physics to make wine." He a very interesting fellow, and is the owner of Loxton Cellars.

He took time out of his busy day to show us around and share his philosophies on wine and life. Loxton is a small company, only himself and two others, and he prefers to keep it that way. Attention to detail is paramount to great wine, and that will suffer if the company grows too large. Also, if the company was much bigger, he wouldn't have the time to hand-prune and hand-sort the vines and grapes, as he likes to do.

He taught us about grape growing, where it all begins. He showed us how the grapes are gently picked and crushed. He stressed the importance of working with what you've got and playing to natural strengths, rather than straining against them. He shared these lessons, personal tricks, and much more as we strolled through his vineyard like old friends.

We went inside the tasting room laughing and full of knowledge. We left full of wine.

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