Julie Lary, Lake Crescent, Lake Crescent Lodge, Marymere Falls, Olympic Coast Discovery Center, Port Angeles, rajalary, Richard Lary, scribbles writing, Sequim, Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Spruce Railroad Trail
A few weeks ago, Rich and I attended the 35th Annual Oyster Run, a rally of roughly 20,000 motorcycles, and 30,000 or so riders and spectators in Anacortes, WA (Fidalgo Island). Some came from hundreds of miles away, others a short ride from neighboring towns: North from Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett, south from Bellingham, and parts of Canada.
A few weeks ago, Rich and I attended the 35th Annual Oyster Run, a rally of roughly 20,000 motorcycles, and 30,000 or so riders and spectators in Anacortes, WA (Fidalgo Island). Some came from hundreds of miles away, others a short ride from neighboring towns: North from Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett, south from Bellingham, and parts of Canada.
Knowing there would be large crowds, and streets filled with bikes, we arrived early, parked on a side street, and then scurried to Calico Cupboard for breakfast. While waiting, we engaged in a conversation with a couple from British Columbia who expressed concerns over a Donald Trump presidency. We concurred, explaining the race will probably be tight, but in the end, we’re hopeful Hillary Clinton wins. Nevertheless, should Trump succeed, we deliberated whether Canada will close its border to migrating Americans.
After waiting half an hour, we were seated in full view of Calico Cupboard’s glass cases of scrumptious breads, pies, and pastries. Exercising control, I ordered somewhat healthy breakfast food, a scrumptious Greek scramble (feta cheese, tomatoes, spinach, Kalamata olives, and red onions), and Rich opted for the Santa Fe omelet (green chilies, jalapeno jack cheese, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream). Our meals also came with two slices of their amazing hearty grain bread, and petite cups of homemade jam. I had raspberry and Rich received strawberry.
The food at Calico Cupboard is equivalent to what you’d find at an upscale health resort. Even a simple cup of fruit, which was included with my scramble, is memorable with a stylish slice of pineapple, wedge of kiwi, slice of ruby grapefruit, and section of banana, cut on an angle. Everything is made from scratch with the best ingredients.
Our tummies happy, we ventured outside to wander among the motorcycles. Most of the downtown streets were closed for the Oyster Run. By mid-morning, they were completely filled with cycles, two rows down the middle, and a row on each side of the street, with bikes parked within inches of each other, every brand, color, and type imaginable from vintage motorcycles (some built from scratch) to roadsters, muscle, crotch rockets, and spiffed-out touring bikes and trikes (in my opinion, three-wheeled monstrosities).
We were most interested in Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic motorcycls, which we felt would meet our needs for comfort, and yet have a “bad boy” motorcycle feel with room for two, leather saddle bags, and lots of chrome. However, after chatted with several people, including two men who’d each owned several Harley’s, Rich is now leaning towards a Harley Road King, a slightly taller bike (since Rich is 6’ 3”) with locking saddle bags.
Whatever bike Rich choose, it won’t be until 2017 after we’ve moved to Whidbey Island. In the meanwhile, we had a great time, chatting with motorcyclists, taking pictures, and wandering through the streets of bikes, which extended past the designated downtown area.
One man, who we spoke with for 20 or so minutes, was on a red Vespa, my dream bike! He said it’s a “babe magnet” like babies and puppies. He’s often ridden with other motorcyclist who in his words don’t create the best impression. However, when he zips by on his Vespa, people wave, and women come running.
Another man was suited up in leather, a heavy helmet, and bright orange vest. He lives on the southern part of Whidbey Island, and used to work at Boeing. He lectured Rich and me about safety, and the need to have ABS brakes and cruise control on a motorcycle. He also felt we should get a trike and not a motorcycle. Not gonna’ happen!
One of the most memorably motorcycles at the run, we heard before we saw it. After eating breakfast, we were waiting to cross the street when we heard the sound of approaching motorcycles, along with mowing. A man was riding a motorcycle, which sounded like a cow and was tricked-out with a large leather horse saddle, longhorns, cowhide backrest, wooden replica of a rifle, long cow tail, and black testicles, dangling below the license plate.
After parking the bike, the owner put out a basket of hay, and a cow paddy by the back tire. Check out my photos to see it.
We’re looking forward to attending next year, this time as riders, and not spectators.
Every year, Rich surprises me with a get-away for my birthday. This year, he upped the game, keeping a tight lip until the last possible millisecond.
The weekend started on Friday evening with Rich telling me to pack a light bag for the weekend. We then visited Qdoba, where I had a burrito bowl with flavorful brown rice, tequila chicken, roasted vegetables, and corn salsa. Yum!
Coldstone was our next stop for my favorite: Coffee ice cream, crushed Health bars, almonds, and caramel syrup. It doesn’t get any better!
After arriving in our house in Mount Vernon, our weekend get-away, I took a quick look around the yard, delighting in my emerging peonies, blooming spring bulbs, and other plants, starting to awaken in the warmer weather. I then scurried into the house, plopped on the futon, and l waited for Rich to select that evening “important” TV viewing. We’ve been watching the British series, Happy Valley. Following tradition, Rich and I both snoozed through the program. The older we get, the more Friday nights are for napping with the blaring TV as a lullaby.
Meanwhile, Lolitta (Lynx-point Siamese) and Lila (Angora), who are seasoned car travelers, race down the hallways, excited to be the only cats in the household. Our other four cats, left behind in Kirkland, probably break out the catnip and tuna juice as soon as Lolitta and Lila are loaded in the car. Cats can be catty, and ours are extra bitchy.
Saturday morning, we went to McDonalds’ for our ubiquitous Egg McMuffins and iced coffees. Rich then aimlessly drove around downtown Mount Vernon, while I kidded him that my surprise trip was to camp in our motorhome, parked in the driveway of our Mount Vernon house. Not a word escape from his lips.
He then turned into the Amtrak station, and I screamed, “We’re taking a train. We’re taking a train!!! Are we going north to Canada or south?”
Not a word came from his inscrutable lips.
After a short wait outside the station — because the guard hadn’t shown up that morning to open the stations — we went inside where we struck up a conversation with a man from Canada. The day before he had driven down to attend a Bernie Sanders event. However, his car conked out, and he was trying to get back to Canada since the repairs couldn’t be made on his car until Monday morning.
It should be noted. The Washington caucus coincided with my birthday week. I’d registered to attend, and had looked forward to casting a vote. I made it very clear to Rich that my celebration better be fabulous to miss out on an opportunity to vote for Bernie!
Riding a train evokes simpler times when people weren’t tethered to electronic devices, and entertainment was watching the passing scenery, reading a book, playing a game of checkers with the person opposite, or busying your hands with knitting or crocheting. Travel took days and not hours. It was a cherished opportunity to get dressed up, sit back, and relax.
Even though most people today start the journey with a smart phone or tablet tucked in their pocket, purse or bag, within a few minutes, stretched out in a wide seat, with plenty of leg room, and no one fussing over the size of their carry-on luggage and where to stash it overhead, they loosen up, talk to the people around them, peek out the window, walk around, or get something to eat from the dining car.
The porters in their perky Pullman caps greet each passenger, collecting tickets, assigning seats, and moving people to make their journey more pleasant. On our way back to Mount Vernon, the porter assigned us two sets of seats. Going to Seattle, we were on the east side of the train, and then switched to the west to watch the sunset as slender-legged herons swooped over the Puget Sound, sea birds bobbed in the water, and an occasional seal popped its head up, perhaps observing the people on the shore, parents with their kids, pet owners with happy dogs frolicking in the water.
Unlike plane travel, people on trains become more amiable as the hours pass. Going to Centralia, we were seated behind a young couple with a young son, and bouncy 2-year girl who kept peered around the seat, stretching out her hand so we could shake or playfully grabbing the sweater off my lap. The family was heading to Kelso, Washington for Easter.
Across from us were two young boys, traveling with their grandmother. Unlike the parents in front of us who pointed out interesting landmarks to their kids, the boys missed the sites, along with the rumbling and swaying of the train. Both were wearing headphones and watching a cartoon on a laptop. When they weren’t tuned-out, they were eating copious amount of store-bought food, dropping the wrappers on the floor.
With numerous stops at cities and towns along the way, it took nearly four hours to reach Centralia, 84 miles south of Seattle.
With a population of less than 17,000, Centralia was founded by George Washington, an African-American free man who was the adopted son of Missourian J. G. Cochran who in 1850 filed a donation land claim on what is now Centralia. Two years later, he sold the town site to Washington who filed a plat for the town of Centerville, offering lots for $10 each.
The town as officially incorporated as Centralia on February 3, 1886. The largest employer in the area was TransAlta Corporation, which operated the Centralia Coal Mine. In November 2006, they eliminated 600 coal mining jobs. Fortunately, the cuts didn’t impact the town longer-term, and today, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Washington, bolstered by the opening of a Millard Refrigeration Service facility (temperature-controlled storage, warehousing, and distribution) and Lowe’s Distribution Center, along with the rejuvenation of the downtown area.
Smack dab in the middle of downtown Centralia is the Union Depot, which has undergone extensive restoration and has vintage wooden benches, oak trim, bright white subway tiles, ornate plasterwork, and framed vintage photos. You need a token to use the restrooms, and in my excitement of having arrived, I used my token to enter the men’s room. I quickly realized my mistake, but decided to continue with the matter at hand…
Then I heard a token being deposited into the door. I was relieved when Rich walked in, and not someone else! He guarded the door until I could safely exit, pretending nothing unusual had happened.
Cattycorner to the train station is McMenamin’s Olympic Club. Once considered a “gentleman’s resort” where loggers, miners, gamblers, and miscreants could get a shave, haircut, shoe shine, good meal, Cuban cigar, liquor, game of pool or seat at a poker table. Adding to the allure was opulent mahogany bar and paneling, ceramic-tiled floor, tiffany-style lights, and Belgian crystal glassware. At the adjacent Oxford Hotel, men could partake in the company of working women.
The Club survived prohibition with bootlegger shipping liquor from Canada, and smuggling it in through a tunnel running from the train station to the basement of the club. When the club was renovated by the McMenamin’s, they found a pickle barrel with a hidden compartment.
Today, the Olympic Club consists of a hotel, restaurant, two bars, brewery, movie theater, billiards room, and event venue. For many years, I longed to spend a weekend at the club, and my birthday was the perfect excuse.
Upon arriving, we found a cozy booth in the restaurant for a late lunch. Rich had a McMenamin’s Hammerhead beer with an el diablo sandwich, consisting of grilled chicken, avocado, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato, on a squish bun with chunky fries. I opted for fresh-pressed apple cider and a scrumptious West African bowl with veggies (squash, onions, peppers), brown rice, and tasty spicy peanut-tomato sauce.
We couldn’t check in until 3 p.m. so we wandered the downtown area, darting into the many antique shops, selling everything from fine furniture to 1970’s schlock. I purchased an ornate doily with pink roses for $4 from an Ace Hardware store, which devoted part of its space to selling collectibles!
We also visited the historic library, built in 1912 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, 2,509 libraries were built in the United States with money from Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
As the afternoon progressed, we returned to the Olympic Club to check into our room. The hotel consists of 27-guestrooms, each with a small sink, bed, night stand, a chair or two, and hooks for hanging clothing. We were in the Lester Weber room, which was conveniently across from one of the communal bathrooms. It was cozy with an extra surprise on the bed, a bottle of sparkling wine, two keepsake champagne flutes, massage oil, and small box of chocolates.
Also on the bed was plush white robes for trips to the bathroom. Although, it didn’t really matter because it was Easter weekend, and few people were at the hotel.
After dropping off our bags, we trotted back outside for more sightseeing, including watching numerous freight and Amtrak trains zip by, visiting a blown glass studio, and surveying where we wanted to eat dinner.
If you stay at the Olympic Club, admission to the theater is free. We opted to see a 9:40 p.m. showing of Star Wars: Episode VII. To whittle away the time, we returned to the hotel, and popped the cork of the sparkling wine, drinking most of the bottle before we waddled down the street to the O’Blarneys Pub for dinner.
I enjoyed a warm Ruben sandwich, while Rich has pot roast with carrots, garlic mashed potatoes, and dense soda bread. We skipped dessert, and dodged under awnings to avoid the light rain, before dashing across the street to the theater. After settling into two comfortable chairs, Rich ordered cups of coffee to keep us awake during the movie.
McMenamin’s theaters are outfitted with sofas, easy chairs, and small tables so you can enjoy food and libations while watching a flick. Rich’s and my second date was at the McMenamin’s Bagdad Theater and Pub in Portland, OR, after initially meeting at the McMenamin’s Sherwood Pub… following several weeks of corresponding on Matchmaker.com. Our wedding rehearsal dinner was at John Barleycorns, a MeMenamin’s restaurant in Tigard, OR. You can see why McMenamin’s pubs, theaters, and venues hold a special place in our hearts!
We thoroughly enjoyed the Star Wars flicks, and closed our eyes 30 minutes later, with the smells from the restaurant wafting into our room, gently patter of rain, and occasional whistle of a train. Even though ear plugs are provided in the rooms, neither Rich nor I are bothered by the sound of trains. In fact, I told Rich that several trains passed throughout the night, and he didn’t recall hearing any of them!
The next morning was overcast with no rain in sight. We walked two miles to the McDonald’s off Interstate 5. It was an enjoyable jaunt through neighborhoods of older, nicely kept homes, and light industrial. On the way back, after our routine Egg McMuffins and latte’s, we walked through an urban area, which seemed to be shorter.
With it being Easter Sunday, most places were closed; however, after retrieving our bags from the hotel, and checking-out, we meandered to the Station Coffee Bar, one of the coolest coffee houses I’ve ever been in! We’d seen it the day before, and walked in, thinking it was a furniture store.
Located in a large storefront with two sizable display windows, an expansive area on the lower level, and two second-story spaces, Station Coffee was furnished with gorgeous, black leather sofas, black tables with black-leather upholstered chairs, shorter, stylish coffee tables, and shelves filled with books.
In the display window where we sat – me with a chai, and Rich with a frozen caramel coffee – was a cushy, black sofa with decorative pillows, coffee table, and off to the side was a smallish round table and four high-back stools. Some of the walls were painted deep red, adding to the ambiance.
It was so much fun to sit in one of the display windows and watch the world pass by on the sidewalk outside!
Our tummies made happy with our drinks, we headed back to the Olympic Club Theater to watch an 11:40 showing of Kung Fu Panda III. It was better than expected, but probably more thoroughly enjoyed by the handful of kids in the theater with their parents.
Following the movie, with plenty of time on our hands, and few places open, we wandered through a residential area, watched a coupled of trains pass, and then headed to the grocery store to purchase food for a late lunch, and dinner on the train.
I think our expected appetite was larger than reality because we walked out with two large burritos (we thought they were healthy wraps), cheese sticks, day-old pastries, container of macaroni salad, six hard-boiled eggs, box of Triscuits, oranges, and mango/orange flavored fizzy water.
We definitely had enough food to last us until we arrived at close to 9 p.m. back in Mount Vernon. On the way home, we once again enjoyed the ambiance of the train, ever-changing scenery, and chance to just kick-back and relax.
It was a fabulous, fabulous birthday weekend to remember for a very long time. Thanks Rich and the McMenamin’s Olympic Club!
The Saturday before Christmas, Rich and I watched Hector and the Search for Happiness, a movie starring Simon Pegg who plays a psychiatrist stuck in his daily routine for which he experiences little happiness. He sets out on odyssey to unearth what makes people happy.
By the end of the film, he’s experienced fear, elation, wonderment, and many unexpected adventures, which lead him to the path of happiness and contentment. The film is worth watching in that my saccharine description glosses over his journey across several continents, people he meets, and lessons he learns.
For our recent trip to Bullhead City, Arizona, I decided to take notice of the genial people we encounter, and harvest their zeal, optimism, and outward happiness.
Early Sunday morning, we boarded a shuttle at the Bellingham International Airport. The driver was jovial, sharing that he had five daughters (two were twins), nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He laughed, recalling the many pranks he’d played on them, including insisting a large, gaudy-painted sphere was an alien egg. He commented that one of his daughters still displays the “egg” on her mantel, and eagerly tells visitors how her father tricked her as a kid.
His favorite prank, which he’s been reenacting for his grandchildren, is using wire ties to secure bananas to his cherry tree. He then invites his grandchildren to harvest the bananas, confirming his tall tale that cherry trees can indeed grow bananas!
We wished him a merry Christmas, and the joy of dreaming of new antics to entertain his daughters’ children.
As we went through the security line at the airport, we commented to the TSA agent it’s a pleasure flying out of Bellingham with short lines and easy parking. The agent added the security personnel are also nicer. While they’re certainly nicer, Rich had to go through additional security screening because he left his wallet in his pants pocket when he went through the body scanner.
Our flight to Las Vegas was pleasant. Halfway through, we struck up a conversation with one of the flight attendants, a 26-year old woman who said her job is super fun, and that I should consider becoming a flight attendant. I was sold after she told me the oldest person in her class was 68, training is just 5 weeks in length, the benefits are great, and after a year, you can choose how much you want to fly. The drawback is that I’d need to commute to Seattle, which is one of Alaska Airline’s bases.
Julie the flight attendant? Maybe.
After landing in Las Vegas, we drove to Laughlin and Bullhead City, which are on opposite sides of the Colorado River, straddling the Nevada and Arizona borders. After seeing Rich’s step-father, enjoying Mexican food, and settling into our room at the Tropicana in Laughlin, we walked to a quickie mart for soda and nibbles. Two women were behind the counter. One was an older woman. The other, a younger, heavy-set woman with a man’s haircut.
No doubt, working at a quickie mart isn’t the most enjoyable job, especially if you work the graveyard shift. However, both were affable, and eager to help me overcome my indecisiveness about the best “snack” to purchase. After deliberating, and enjoying the lighthearted banter, I settled on Tic Tac mints.
The exchange was so amusing, the next evening we returned, hoping to find the same clerks. This time, there were two men who were equally pleasant, but lacked the joie de vivre of the women.
One of the reasons for our visiting Bullhead City was to check on several rentals overseen by Rich’s step-father, who’d been hospitalized since September. There’d been several issues with one of the renters – a woman and her two young daughter – so we prepared for a confrontation. Instead, we arrived to find them in the midst of moving out.
The woman overseeing the move was a relative, dressed in a tank top with crude tattoos on her arms and chest, cigarette dangling from her yellowed fingers, and hair in a scraggly ponytail, emphasizing the blemishes and wrinkles on her face. Her looks, however, were deceptive.
She was courteous, conscientious, and cooperative, working with Rich to identify issues with the rental (a double-wide mobile homes that’d seen better days), and discuss what needed to be done to lockup the property to prevent vandalism.
In the property next door – also a rental owned by my father-in-law – lived a woman and her mother. They had six small dogs, four cats, and several cages of birds in their single-wide mobile home. While they obviously had way too many pets, it was hard to overlook their soft heartedness. They no doubt had to stretch their meager welfare and social security payments to provide for their furred and feathered companions.
Difference between Happiness and Meaning
Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, who wrote the bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which details his experience in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, champions the difference between those who lived and those who died while imprisoned hinged on whether they had “meaning.”
Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. Whereas simply pursuing happiness doesn’t result in consistency of happiness.
Many of the people we met during our trip had challenging lives, but they had meaning. We learned the woman who was helping moved the family from my father-in-law’s rental was an aunt who’d previously been instrumental in raising the mother. For the past eight months, she’d cared for the woman’s children who worked 45 minutes away. She explained how she’d walked the girls to the school bus stop every morning, and ensuring they had what they needed at night. The meaning of her life was to care for others.
Perhaps the meaning for the next-door neighbor with the multitude of pets is to take in unwanted and abused animals. The shuttle bus driver at the Bellingham Airport found meaning in delighting his grandchildren with playful antics.
A study in the upcoming issue of Journal of Positive Psychology associates leading a happy life with being a “taker,” while leading a meaningful life correlates with being a “giver.” Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of the study explains, “Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others.”
Because a “giver” may have to sacrifice happiness in order to achieve meaning, they tend to experience more stress and anxiety than happy people. On the other hand, happiness without meaning can result in a person being shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish, continuously seeing ways to satisfy their needs and desires, while avoiding unnecessary entanglements.
The Declaration of Independence states the unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Happiness isn’t guaranteed, just the freedom to pursue it. But like Hector in the Simon Pegg movie, a more satisfying goal might be to find ones meaning, and thereby, lead a more caring life.
Several weeks ago, Rich and I went to the NHRA Northwest Nations drag race at the Pacific Raceways in Kent, southeast of Seattle. It was the first time I’ve attended a National Hot Rod Association event; although, I’d heard Rich talked about it since we’d met.
When Rich was at Sequent, prior to it being acquired by IBM, he worked on dragsters and funny cars driven by Cristen Powell, Jim Epler, and Bob Vandergriff, Clay Milican.
His being a part of the race car team started off innocent enough when he introduced himself during a company picnic to Casey Powell, the CEO of Sequent and father of Cristen Powell. They started talking, and Rich was subsequently invited to fly on the Sequent corporate jet to Cristen’s next race.
He continued working on cars for the next few years, being an engineer at Sequent during the week, and flying to races on weekends to change tires, service motor heads, change oil, and do other miscellaneous mechanical tasks.
Until I went to the NHRA race, I found racing somewhat yawn-worthy. Occasionally, Rich would flip to a sports channel, and watch half an hour of a race. I’d immediately find something else to do.
However, when Rich said he really wanted to see the NHRA races, I said “okay,” even though the idea of sitting on bleachers, baking in the sun, while watching cars do burn-outs then rocket down the track seemed mind-numbing and unpleasant.
Happily, the day we went, the week’s heat had subsidized, and was replaced with overcast skies and cool breezes. We arrived within an hour of the track opening, and immediately zipped over to the pits, where the cars were being unloaded, and the crews were setting up.
I was intrigued by the trailers that transport the cars. They’re split into two horizontal levels, with tool chests, parts, tires, and “delivery” vehicles on the bottom, and the race cars, and less used parts and tools on the top. The back gate of the trailers can be folded down, and then raised up like an elevator to the top level. A race car can then be eased onto the gate, and lowered so they can be pushed into the pit area.
The delivery vehicles, ranging from motorcycles to golf carts and very small cars like Fiats and Mini Coopers, are used for moving the racecars onto the track, getting parts, removing and bringing drums of fuel and oil, and carting drivers and crew and from the track.
Once the race cars enter the pits, a team of technicians work on optimizing and testing their performance. Hydraulic stands are used for elevating and keeping the cars in place when they revved up. Because the nitro methane, the fuel used in the cars, is an irritant the pit crew wear gas masks when revving up the cars.
Next, we headed over to the Harley Davis tent, where Rich and I hoped onto several motorcycles to check ‘em out. After talking to the representative about our desire to do day trips — with me sitting behind Rich — he recommended we consider the Fat Boy Lo since it is stable, can accommodate two people, and has lots of horsepower, but doesn’t have all the extras of a touring bike – which we don’t need.
I was titillated with a small sportster, but know I’d never have the concentrate or coordination to ride a motorcycle by myself.
For Rich’s birthday, he wants to get his motorcycle license, and edge a bit closer to getting a Harley, and zooming around the Puget Sound!
Exhilarated from sitting on Harley’s, we breezed through the vendor area, then found great seats in the bleachers, half-way down the track. The lightly overcast sky kept the sun at bay, and my large hippy hat shaded my eyes.
The first set of cars were pro stock, which were fun to watch because each one is different, and it was entertaining to wonder whether the clunky, ‘70’s station wagon – tricked out with decals – could beat the zippy souped-up Toyota sedan. It was the amazing the breadth of stock cars from El Caminos and small trucks to muscle cars, sedans, traditional sports cars, and itty-bitty Fiats.
After I thought all the stock cars were done racing, a crazy fast Corvette with a custom silver body, owned by Martin Motorsports zoomed by. I screamed with delight, and turned to Rich, “Holy shit, that was f*cking awesome!”
Rich just smiled and said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Next up were the funny cars. Fast, but not particularly interesting. They look the same! Although, Rich was intrigued by them since he’d worked on a couple in the past.
While top fuel dragsters all basically look the same, they’re totally awesome. Totally! Cartoonish in design with two giant tires in the back, a moderate-sized, exposed engine, and a ridiculously long front that stretches 15 or so feet in length, balanced on two small, go-cart tires, they go over 300 miles in less than four seconds. To win, they need to accelerate to 100 miles per hour in less than 0.8 seconds.
Dragster drivers experience an average force of about 39 m/s2 (meter per second squared), nearly five times that of gravity, the same force a space shuttle leaves the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. They accelerate faster than a jumbo jet, fighter jet or Formula One race car.
In addition, a dragster consumes 1½ gallons of nitromethane per second, the same rate as a full loaded 747 plane, although with 4 times the energy volume. However, because they travel a very short distance, they use between 10 and 12 gallons of fuel per race – at a cost of $30 per gallon — including the burnout and return to the starting line. Their fuel pump can deliver 65 gallons of fuel per minute, which is equivalent to eight bathroom showers running at the same time.
According to Rich, the fuel is injected into the engine with 16 or more injectors, one for each cylinder, plus 8 for the blower.
The end result is a screaming fast car, which we found nearly impossible to photograph (or videotape) using our smart phones. The next time we go, we’ll bring our digital camera, which has a faster lenses, and can take multiple photos within seconds. Nevertheless, we did capture some great photos by anticipating where the cars would be, and then being prepared to quickly tap the shutter release.
Around 2 o’clock, having brought no food, and a small water bottle of water, we decided to buy a very expensive hotdog, which we shared, along with a coconut ice cream bar. Not only is the food at sports events very unhealthy, but ridiculously expensive.
Our bellies a little fuller, we found seats on the other side of the track. However, it was farther away and more difficult to take photos. As the afternoon progressed, the overcast sky turned to light showers, and hence the races were temporarily stopped until the weather conditions could be properly assessed. They started up half an hour later, but we decided to leave, avoiding the mad rush of traffic when the races concluded for the day.
In spite of my apprehensions, I truly loved going to NHRA… and can’t wait until next year!
Nearly every week, when we go to our Mount Vernon house, Rich points out Mount Baker, noting the amount of snow, ability to see the summit through the clouds, craggily slopes, or desire to see if from inside our house if we punched a hole in the dining room wall.
A week ago Monday, on the afternoon of my mother’s death, he commented, “We should go there.”
So on Sunday, to the mountain we went.
A 140,000 year old active glaciated andesitic stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, Mount Baker is a ruggedly mountain, covered primarily with scree and snow, with evergreens and lakes at the base. It’s one of the snowiest places in the world, and in 1999, set the world record for most recorded snowfall in a single season.
Because, I’m fonder of beaches, our trip up to the mountain was met with hesitancy and dread by me. In my opinion, “You’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all!”
Nevertheless, I welcomed the break in our routine, especially after an emotional week. As we approached the mountain, it had a different vibe than other mountain ranges. There were large open spaces between the mountains with huge valleys and summits. You don’t feel as if you’re in a forest, and emerging periodically to see the sunlight. Instead, there’s spaciousness about the area. It feels more European than Pacific Northwest rainforest.
Our first stop was by the Galena Chain Lakes, which is set in a meadow with walking paths around the lakes. It would be a delightful place to cross-country ski in the winter. Plus, it afforded panoramic views in all directions of snow-capped mountains and peaks.
Across from the lakes was a retreat center with a turquoise snowcat parked in the back. I snapped a photo of Rich through the cat, and was fascinated by the clouds reflected in the windows of building.
Our next stop was Heather Meadows. We didn’t know what to expect, but saw many cars in the parking lot so surely there was something picturesque to see. Five minutes on the trail, and I was mesmerized. The easy-to-walk trail, through an alpine meadow, ambles around the Bagley Lakes, which are more like ever-changing rivers. In some places, the water is calm, lapping on the shores. In others, it rushes over boulders, under a bridge, and through a small dam, which you can walk over.
As you walk, you pass by small waterfalls as snow continues to melt, and drain down into the lakes. What was green foliage and wild flowers in summer was awash in golds, oranges, and browns. We passed by people with bags of huckleberries, and kids with blue lips and teeth, their hands also stained from the picking and eating the huckleberries along the trails. After identifying which bushes were huckleberries, our fingers were soon equally blue, grabbing at the tasty berries, lingers on the tips of delicate branches, free of leaves, which had already turned and fallen.
It couldn’t have been more idyllic.
Hesitant to leave, but hungry, we returned to the car, and drove up to Artist Point, where we enjoyed our lunch while overlooking the valley below, and the glacier-covered Mount Baker.
With the snows coming, hiking trails and meadows obscured, and cars of skiers arriving soon, we’ll have to wait until the summer to return to Mount Baker.