In February, we visited Bullhead City, AZ to tend to the death of Rich’s step-father, Ted Robertson. At the time, we stayed at the Tropicana in Laughlin, NV. The evening of our last night, a transformer at a local power plant caught fire, creating a city-wide power outage (although, the casinos had back-up generators, keeping the slot machines running and the blackjack tables lit).
After waiting an hour for the power to return, Rich and I headed to the Arizona side of the Colorado River where we ate dinner at a very crowded Carl’s Jr. When we returned, the Tropicana staff were handing out hand-cranked flashlights. We climbed 21 stories to our room by flashlight, attempted to take a shower with a drizzle of water (the water pumps were electric), and then went to bed.
A month later, we received a letter from the Tropicana, offering us three free nights. We took them up on the offer. Two weeks ago, Monday, at 4:30 in the morning, we found ourselves driving from Mount Vernon to the SeaTac airport for a flight to Las Vegas.
A few days before, having read the temperatures were supposed to be in the 100’s, I invested in several pairs of skorts and camisoles from Value Village. Indeed, after stepping outside to take the bus to the Las Vegas car rental facility, I felt like I was standing in front of a kiln or open oven. The heat was oppressive!
We’d arrived at the start of a heat wave with Las Vegas reaching 109 the day we arrived, and Bullhead City, AZ exceeding 120 degrees! Nevertheless, I was upbeat, especially after hearing we were getting a VW Bug to rent. Although, when given the keys, the car had a striking resemblance to a Nissan Versa. At least, it was red!
Our first stop was the Hoover Dam. Rich was hoping to take a tour, but moments before we made it to the ticket counter, they ceased tours due to an issue with the elevators. I suspect the heat was a factor. Nevertheless, we were able to buy tickets to see the tourist center, which had many interest displays, and was thankfully in air conditioned buildings. Plus, the main building had a great view of the dam, and the “Winged Figures of the Republic,” which are my favorite part of the dam.
I won’t go into details about the dam, which is considered an engineering masterpiece, especially considering the tools (in comparison to what we have today) were rudimentary, relying primarily on ingenuity and manpower.
After roasting, I mean walking, outside for half an hour, we shuffled to the car, fighting fatigue as we drove to the Tropicana in Laughlin, NV (across the Colorado River from Bullhead City, AZ). Ten minutes after checking in, we were in the hotel swimming pool, cooling off. Even though the sun was setting, it was over 120 degrees.
After a quick shower, and eating at the casino buffet, we quickly drifted off to sleep around 9:30 pm.
The following day, we grabbed iced coffees and Egg McMuffins before visiting the realtor selling Ted’s house and the lawyer handling his estate. We also went to Ted’s house to determine what repairs needed to be made. Several weeks ago, there was an offer on the house, which unfortunately fell through. The only positive outcome was we learned what needed to be fixed after it “flunked” the inspection, and the buyer’s finances imploded.
Finally, we visited the three mobile homes Ted owned. One home is being taken by the bank due to being extremely “underwater” with extensive repairs needing to be made before it can sold. Another mobile homes went to Rich after Ted’s death. Rich had paid off this home many years ago, and is now collecting $300 a month in rent. The third mobile home is being sold to the current tenant, who has multiple dogs, cats, and birds. When we knocked on the door, we noticed three tiny kittens under the mobile home, who were very leery of humans. She’s purchasing the house for $5,000, which gives you an idea of its age and condition.
With our chores done for the day, we donned our bathing suits, and headed to Katherine’s Landing, on Lake Mohave, where we rented a jet ski for four hours. Slathered with 30 SPF sunblock, we zoomed to Davis Dam, then circled back to visit the many coves Rich and his family had frequented, starting when he was ten years old. He recalled a cove where a houseboat had tied up. Ted, perturbed at their impedance to anchor near his canopy and water toys, got in his boat, and circled in front of the houseboat, making waves until they left.
For every cove, Rich had a story. He also recalled long weekends of lounging on the shore, jet-skiing, waterskiing, and swimming.
With relatively few people on the river to disturb the wildlife, we saw mallard ducks, American coots, common mergansers, Western grebe, and a fabulous blue heron that swooped in front of us as we motored into a cove. One cove was rather odiferous with several bushes submerged in the water. Dotting the bush was a collection of delicate dragonflies with black, gray, and blue wings. Tired from our jet ski adventure, we headed to Carl’s Jr. for a quick meal before heading back to the Tropicana to shower, turn on the TV, and conk-out.
The following day, we returned to Ted’s house to make some quick repairs, including covering up the rust on his gate with white spray paint. Even though, he’s passed away, his home owners’ association is actively looking for issued with his house. A few weeks after he passed away, they sent a letter saying he had too many “lawn ornaments” in front of his house. For the last seven years or so, he’s had an old horse-drawn wagon, mining pans, and other collectibles he’d gathered in the desert in front of the house. None were added after he passed away!
After finishing up what we needed to do, we wandered through the car collection at the Riverside Casino. Don Laughlin, who essentially founded Laughlin by turning a small motel into a blossoming casino and soon destination, was a car collector.
Afterwards, we rented a jet ski on the Colorado River, across from the Laughlin casinos. With the water colder, we did more riding than swimming, and instead of seeing wildlife, we checked out the homes lining the Arizona side of the river. The Nevada side of the river is owned by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. There are few buildings along the river, except the Avi Casino. A distance from the river are numerous homes, apartments, and a handful of small businesses. Driving around the area, in search of somewhere to eat, it became clear that Laughlin residents need to travel to the Arizona side of the Colorado River for groceries and most of their shopping needs. Laughlin commerce primarily consists of eight casinos and associated restaurants and shops along a 4 or 5 mile stretch of the river.
The fourth day of our visit, we got up early and headed back to Las Vegas to catch a flight to Seattle. The flight home was a little over two hours, slightly more than the time it took to drive from Seatac Airport through Seattle and Everett up to Mount Vernon. Northwest Washington traffic is horrible!
Death in the Family
[I started writing this in late February]
Last Tuesday, February 21, at 7:45 in the morning, Ted Robertson’s heart stopped. He was my father-in-law, but his death elicited little sadness, only anguish for the amount of work my husband Rich will have to do to settle his estate.
In a sense, his death felt like a wilted bouquet of flowers. What was once appealing and promising was now just frail stems with strewn petals, needing to be cleaned up.
Since September, Ted had been ailing, starting with pneumonia that sent him to a hospital in Las Vegas. The course of antibiotics resulted in his getting c. difficile, a bacterium that causes horrific diarrhea. He spent the next few months isolated in a rehabilitation center in Bullhead City, Arizona (90 miles from Las Vegas). While he was there, two of his toes, which had become necrotic were also being treated.
He was sent home in early January, moving in with Sue, a woman he’d befriended several years earlier, and with whom he gave a “supposed” engagement ring. In December, we’d learned they’re joined checking accounts, except the only funds going in seemed to be from Ted, with Sue making weekly purchases and cash withdrawals, even though Ted was in the hospital or rehabilitation center.
In the three weeks Ted spent at Sue’s house, all of his toes became necrotic, and the local paramedics were called four times. The last time, his blood sugar was over 1,000, and his body had become septic. He was immediately airlifted to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, where he was stabilized, and numerous tests were conducted, revealing he needed a stent, and his lung were filled with fluid.
On President’s Day, Monday, February 20, we received a call from Ted’s son, Chris, who lived in Philadelphia. Ted’s physician wanted the family to make a decision whether to place Ted back in intensive care or hospice. Knowing Ted didn’t want any life-prolonging treatments, Rich and Chris opted for hospice care.
We immediately went home, and made arrangements to fly out the next morning from Bellingham International Airport. The rest of the day, I scrambled to document what needed to be done at work for the rest of the week, then sent emails to my colleagues with instructions. Rich did the same, in-between looking for the legal documents that showed him to be the executor of the estate.
Tuesday morning, while going through security at the airport, Rich received a call from the hospital, indicating Ted was in “bad shape.” Twenty minutes later, he receive another call, saying Ted had passed. We both got on our phones to call and text families before getting on the plane.
Our first stop in Las Vegas was the mortuary, where Sue and her daughter were waiting. We were informed most of the paperwork had been completed by Sue, using Ted’s last name, and pretending to be his wife. Some of the information was wrong, such as his date of birth. Sue ardently argued it was 1936. The mortician used 1935, which was on Ted’s driver’s license. It was an awkward situation, which was tactfully solved by the mortician who insisted he couldn’t complete the paperwork until Ted’s nature son, Chris, arrived from Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon.
Our next stop was Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, a 730-bed facility in southwest Las Vegas that looks and feels old. The front doors opened to the crowded main entrance with a guard sitting behind the front desk. He directed us to the security office, located in emergency department to get Ted’s personal effects, which seemed like a bizarre place to keep deceased people’s belongings. We started down a long sterile, non-descript corridor, past an occasional prosaic framed picture, numerous closed doors, and polished linoleum floors with layers of wax, disguising their age.
A few people passed us, darted behind a door or turn down another indistinguishable hallway. We followed the signs, making several turns until we arrived at double-doors indicating we’d arrived at the emergency department. My first thought was apocalyptic.
Nearly every chair was filled. Along the walls were people in wheelchairs or sitting on the floor. Children. Adults. Elderly. Street people with their possessions by their side. People who looked somewhat healthy, and others no doubt regulars to the emergency department, especially the obvious homeless and indigent.
Rich knocked on the door of the security office, and was told they’d get Ted’s possessions shortly. After waiting twenty minutes, I decided to go outside where several ambulance were dropping off or picking up people. A woman approaching me, explaining her husband had been brought to the hospital earlier that morning after having difficulties breathing. She was hoping he’d be admitted. She commented Sunrise regularly turns away ambulance when their emergency room fills up.
Indeed Ted had spent several days in the Sunrise emergency department until they found him a “bed” in the hospital. On Yelp, the hospital barely gets 2.5 stars with most people complaining about the long waits in the emergency room, and subpar care.
After finally getting the handful of items Ted had in his room – including a shaver, phone charger, and stuffed teddy bear – we headed to Bullhead City, AZ.
After checking into the Tropicana Casino, across the Colorado River in Laughlin, NV, we headed to Ted’s house. While we knew it was a disaster from previous visits, we weren’t prepared for the extent of the disarray and filth. And unlike other visits, it was now up to us to clean up the mess, and figure out what to do with his properties, which included a large 4-bedroom house, and three dilapidated mobile homes.
To be continued…
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!
When I was six or seven, my aunt and uncle gave me a sterling silver charm bracelet. Over the years, I added charms whenever I visited interesting places. My mother often bought me several charms at once, and had several custom made.
By the time I was an adult, the bracelet was so full of charms it was completely unwearable. A jeweler recommended I place the charms on a silver chain. She sold me the split rings, and gave me a tool, which made it easier to open the rings and attach the charms.
I wore the necklace a handful of times, then stashed it in a ceramic pot in a display cabinet. I recently discovered the necklace, and was surprised at how random charms added in my teens took on meaning later in life.
Some of the charms include:
- The original charm was a delicate horse, which continues to be one of my favorites.
- The charm of a longhorn is a very detailed with majestic horns. I placed is towards the back of the necklace because it lacked meaning. However, when I moved to Texas and saw longhorns, I was instantly captivated with these incredible animals, and subsequently quit eating beef. I also have a charm of an oil derelict, which may have been a prediction to Rich and me moving to Texas.
- I’ve always like rhinoceros so it’s no surprise I have a rhino charm.
- I’m not sure how I ended up with a charm of a six-point elk
- One of the first charms I received was a sailing vessel with multiple masts. It was created by a jeweler in Tarzana, California, and originally cast in gold. My mother asked to have it remade in silver.
- I have no idea how anchor and rope, starfish, swordfish, and boat wheel charms ended up on my bracelet. I don’t recall purchasing or receiving them. Unexpectedly, Rich introduced me to sailing, and I ended up getting bare-boat certified. One day, we look forward to owning a sailboat.
Places I Visited
- Tinkerbell from Disneyland
- Stagecoach from Knott’s Berry Farm
- Thunderbird with inset turquoise from Mammoth Lakes, California
- Dutch shoe from Solvang, California
- Flamingo from San Diego Zoo
- Buddha from San Francisco Chinatown
- Bear and cub from Yosemite, California
- Pineapple given to me by my grandparents who went Hawaii. My stepchildren grew up in Kauai, and Rich lived there for several years.
- Kokopelli from New Mexico
- Four charms that represent my parents’, brother’s and my astrological signs.
- Mortarboard with a pearl, given to me when I graduated from high school.
- Mortarboard inscribed with PSU (Portland State University) and the date I graduated.
- Round charm that represents when I graduated from either elementary or junior high school
- Dragon, which maybe represents future interest in Game of Thrones (kidding)
- Two fairy charms. There’s a third, which I never placed on the necklace, and carry in a cloth bag in my purse. She’s a parking fairy who ensures I can find a parking space even when the possibilities are remote.
- Bird cage with a bird inside. Maybe it meant I’d marry a man with several birds.
- Frog with a crown. Rich turned out to be a prince, but in mortal skin.
- Helicopter. I’ve been in a helicopter twice, both as birthday gifts from Rich.
- Skis. My mother’s lover after my father died (and the person she lived with prior to meeting my father) had a ski school and summer camp in Mammoth Lake, California
- Large filigree bell, three little bells, heart with a key charms
- Cinderella’s coach, woman who lived in a shoe, cuckoo clock, and merry-go-round charms
- Fisherman, and fishing gear charms to represent my brother who fished
- Two airplanes, one a jetliner, and another a prop plane
- Ballerina, bicycle, flip phone, and eagle kachina, which I definitely picked out!
- I can’t sing or play an instrument, but I guess to represent my cousins who are musicians, and my mother’s interest in playing the piano I have a piano, clef note, ornate series of notes, gramophone, and a man on a park bench playing a guitar (my mother thought it represented her lover holding a skis).
Last December, Julie received a $100 gift card for several prominent Seattle restaurants. It took until September, our 12 year wedding anniversary, to use the card. While the food was trendy and elegantly presented, it wasn’t memorable. In a sense, 2014 was similar with high expectations, and some disappointments.
We started the year with Rich diving into being a realtor for Coldwell Banker Bain. He spent months creating an engaging website – http://www.RichLaryRealtor.com – eye-catching mailers, and other promotions. For three months, he sent the mailers, and waited, and waited for a client to make contact. After some investigation, he learned the mailers were never sent because the post office’s automated mail sorting system couldn’t distinguish Rich’s contact information from the recipients’ addresses, both on the back of the card. The post office simply discarded 800 post cards without notice! Government efficiency at its best!
In addition, the few clients he engaged weren’t able to find suitable houses, struggled to sell their houses or changed their minds. While he held many open houses, nearly everyone who walked through the doors already had realtors. The handful of transactions he oversaw resulted in commission that came nowhere close to covering his costs.
By mid-year, Rich realized he needed to do something different. Fortunately, everything lined up perfectly, and after several interviews, in June, he secured a year-long contract role at Microsoft, testing Windows 8 applications. He works independently, testing applications on the breadth of devices from Windows phones to Windows PCs, and tablets. In addition, he works in a small lab with a bank of windows, overlooking a forested area.
Julie started the year as a contractor for Microsoft Information Security and Risk Management, creating amusing internal awareness programs. She’d started working for the group last October. While she received kudos for her work, and was making in-roads with fostering awareness of security scams, her contract wasn’t renewed, leaving her searching for jobs in mid-June.
Like Rich, her resume landed in the right hands at the right time. Two weeks after her Microsoft contract ended, she started working at Fluke in Everett. Her year-long contract was to develop and market the service programs for Fluke’s industrial tools, something she did at Tektronix and Dell. The week before Thanksgiving, however, she was told there’s no funding for 2015 so she’s back to looking for a job.
With our jobs in flux, we opted for a couple of mini, two-day vacations. In March, we went to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, driving from one end to the other, and hiking. We took Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada, in May, spending two wonderful days walking, taking the elevated trains from one end of the city to the other, and enjoying the panoramic view from our hotel room at the historic Empire Landmark.
When it warmed up, we took several lengthy bike rides, and paddled around Lake Washington in our kayak. In late October, we had an unexpectedly magical day visiting Mount Baker, which made us realize, we really need to get out more, and tour the spectacular Pacific Northwest.
We also enjoyed gardening at our Mount Vernon house, producing bumper crops of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, berries, and apples.
In early spring, Rich’s daughter, Stacey (above), moved back to Bremerton, Washington to work for the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Her move gave us excuses to visit and several times ride ferries from Seattle, Edmonds, and Port Townsend.
We also made several trips to Portland, Oregon, to visit Rich’s son Chris (below) his wife Shawnie, and their two-year old, Coen. On November 18, the threesome became four with Caitlyn being born, weighing 7 pounds 13 ounces. Exciting!
While in Portland, we also met up with Julie’s cousin, Bobby (above), along with her best friend, Wendy.
As the year progressed, Doris (Julie’s mother) mobility started to decline. She was moved into a retirement home in Mount Vernon in early June, along with her cat Mei-Mei. After an initial adjustment period, she spent more time out of her room. By September, however, her strength declined along with her attitude and appetite. On the evening of October 12th, she was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Her health declined dramatically, and by the next afternoon, surrounded by family, she passed away.
On the pet front, we continue to have five cats, five birds, numerous ravenous squirrels (who entertain the cats), and several visiting raccoons (one mother with four adorable babies). We take way too many pictures of Lila, our all-white cat, wearing various hats or engaged in cute behavior, which we post on social media site.
We hope you had a memorable 2014, and are welcoming 2015 in good health and spirits.
Rich and Julie Lary
It’s been a mixed up year for Rich and I so I’ve decided to scramble around the account of our annual trip on Tug Time, a 29-foot Ranger Tug, and focus on the highly memorable parts.
With forecasts predicting rain, cold, and general dreariness for much of our trip, neither one of us was particularly gung-ho about going. We packed at the bitter end, tossing in clothing, food, linens, boating gear, and other “stuff,” which was on our check-off list. We’d started this list years ago so it also included things like sunblock, bathing suits, and shorts. None of which we anticipated needing this trip.
With spirits dampened by the weather, we didn’t rush to get to Bellingham. We arrived less than an hour before the orientation for captains and crew. Rich being the former; me the latter. We half-heartedly listen, ate hotdogs and potatoes salad, provided by San Juan Yachting, and then dragged our stuff down to the boat.
After unpacking, we realized we’d forgotten to take our fleece jackets and pants. I was in a bit of panic because it’s nice to pull on my fleece after showering, or first thing in the morning when the boat is chilly. With Mount Vernon 30-minute away, Rich agreed to drive back and get the extra clothing.
When we returned, around 9 o’clock at night, we were prevented from getting on Tug Time… by a very agitated and vocal seal, which was sprawled across the dock. Last year, when we were pulling into the slip, at the end of our trip, a seal was also on the dock. It slithered into the water at the last minute, before I needed to step onto the dock to tie off the boat.
The seal we encountered the night before our departure, however, had no interest in moving. He’d found a nice place to sleep, a few feet from where we needed to step onto Tug Time. Hearing my reasoning with the seal – I couldn’t decide whether he was going to bite if I eased between him and Tug Time – several people arrived from other boats.
One man scolded me for thinking I could get close to a seal. They evidentially have no reservations about biting, and their saliva is full of bacteria. Their sharp teeth can easily tear human flesh, resulting in a terrible wound and infection.
The man then shooed the seal into the water, allowing us to safely board Tug Time.
The next morning, we had an uneventful voyage to Deception Pass. Originally, we planned on going from Bellingham to Deception Pass via the Swinomish Channel, which separates Fidalgo Island from the mainland. However, it was an ambition plan, and if we couldn’t make it through Deception Pass, we’d be stuck until the next slack (point of minimum current) tide. The current through Deception Pass can be 8 or 9 knots, which can rapidly sweep a boat against the rocks.
I’m glad Rich opted for the safer route because it gave us time to explore Deception Pass Park and learn about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Established in 1923, the park now welcomes over 2 million visitors per year. It’s the most visited park in Washington. In the 1930’s the CCC built roads, trails, and sturdy stone and timber buildings, which are still in use today, including covered barbeque areas, restrooms, group shelters, cabins, and a conference center.
Two of the buildings are now part of an interpretive center, which has displays and a short movie on the CCC. It’s extraordinary (especially in light of today’s short-sited Republicans), the vision President Roosevelt had to put citizens to work on public projects, which not only gave them a sense of purpose, but significantly contributed to strengthening the country’s infrastructure (bridges, roads, dams, etc.) and recreational facilities (trails, parks, cabins, etc.).
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Deception Pass Park, which previously, we’d only seen while zipping over the Deception Pass Bridge which connects Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. And several times, we’ve walked in the vicinity of the bridge, venturing less than a quarter mile on either side. The park, however, is quite large with lots to see and do.
Oh Canada… You Treat Us So Well
The next morning, it was very overcast with less than a quarter mile visibility as we headed to Victoria, Canada. Rich and I both kept our eyes on the water, listening carefully to the VHF, and trying to make out shapes in the dense, gray blur.
As we were crossing the shipping lanes, which are like giant freeways for ships and commercial traffic, we got a call on the radio. The caller wanted to know if we were pulling a barge. It took us a while to figure out that he thought Tug Time was a commercial tugboat!
When surrounded by pea-soup-consistency fog, you need to constantly watch the radar
to spot ships before they appear, and then adjust your course accordingly. If a large ship is traveling 15-20 knots in a shipping lane, by the time they spot us, tugging at 8 knots per hour, it could be too late for either boat to avoid a collision.
It took us five hours to get to Victoria, with us passing many ship, but only seeing through the fog a couple of commercial whale watching vessels. These boats travel very fast and can switch course quickly so they often zip behind or in front of Tug Time on their way to drop-off and pick-up sightseers.
Happily, the rain held off until we finished going through customs. We then docked in a light drizzle, secured the boat, and briskly walked to Chinatown for dim sum. We were the only ones in the restaurant, but they graciously heated up left-over dim sum. It was a lovely, very late lunch.
We then walked around and darted into shops until the rain necessitated returning to the boat. We read for the rest of the afternoon, and watched a silly blue heron saunter on the dock, periodically poking his beak in the water, and then springing into action, seizing a small fish, tilting back his head, and gulping it down within seconds.
After dinner, the rain ceased, and we decided to venture out for a walk. The moon was bright and the air crisp. We had a very pleasant walk along the water, in front of the government building, through the Empress Hotel, and then back along the water where we saw a river otter dashing across the docks. On our way back to Tug Time, we started a conversation with two men who were sailing a 42-foot Hunter, named Perfect Excuse, to San Francisco. They’d been sidelined for several days in Victoria because of the weather, and were anxious to take off the following morning with forecasts of clear skies.
The owner of the boat was from Edmonton, Canada, where he works in the coal tar industry. We spent at least an hour chatting about natural and renewable energy, differences between Canada and the United States, politics, and the benefits of living in Mexico.
After arriving in San Francisco, the man was going to pick up members of his family, who would compete with him in Baja Ha-Ha, a sailboat race from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The next morning greeted us with dazzling skies and a splendid drive to Sydney, at the top of Vancouver Island. Rich and I both love Sydney. It’s the perfect-sized town with everything a person could want, plus, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.
We spent the rest of day walking around, talking to a Canadian woman about her travels and life in Canada, drinking Americanos at Starbucks, checking out books on living in Mexico and Costa Rica, and enjoying the splendid weather.
Because we were both unemployed, and feeling very unemployable during this trip, we lapsed into thinking about packing up our lives and relocating to Mexico. We envisioned living in a cute house with a VW Bug parked up front, working at minimum wage jobs, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and hanging out at the beach.
When we returned from our trip, I was convinced a great place to move, with affordable, newer houses walking distance to the water, is Barra de Navidad north of Manzanillo on the western coastline of Mexico. However neither one of us are the type to run-away. And after reflecting on what we really wanted – a house by the water with room for our “stuff,” the cats, garden, and opportunities to occasionally sail – we realized all we had to do was continue working for a years, and then move into our Coupeville house on Whidbey Island.
Back to America
We didn’t linger for long the next morning, knowing we had to drive for many hours from Sydney to Roche Harbor, check into American customs, and then zip over to Sucia Island for the night. Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, is one of my favorite marinas. It’s a treat to walk around and admire the historic Hotel de Haro, wander through the gardens, enjoy the other historical buildings, and meander through the sculpture park.
In the sculpture park, we hurried over to an easel with a polished mirror on it. Rich then pointed the camera at the mirror to snap the reflection of both of us. Check out the pictures to see how we look zoomed in-and-out. Last year, we had fun using this technique to snap our self-portraits.
I also wrote a wish and placed it in one of the prayer urns in the park, and then gave it good spin. One of the nicest aspects of the sculpture park is the ability to interact with the artwork, touching, spinning, opening, closing, and even using gongs to punctuate the silence with a pleasant peal.
We didn’t spend as much time in the park as usual because earlier I’d received an email asking me to write-up a document for a client… since I was the only person who had the knowledge. The challenge was remembering the details with nothing to refer to on my personal netbook. Once completed, I rushed to the café onshore, and sent the email with the completed document, and we were back on the water, heading to Sucia Island.
There are several places to moor at Sucia so we had no troubles getting a mooring ball. We then took our dingy ashore to walk around. It’s an interesting island, which in Spanish means “dirty” because of the jagged shores lined with hidden reefs and rocks that could do serious damage to a bottom of a boat.
The broken shorelines is from geologic folding of the earth’s crust, exposing not only fossils, but sharp, uneven rocks. Walking along the shores is fun because you can see layers of sediment along with imprints from sea critters caught hundreds of years ago in the mud. Plus, the island is irregular with several fingers and outlying islands, some of which you can be reach on foot at low-tide.
Because the island has many nooks and crannies to explore and protected bays, it’s attractive destinations for kayakers. Anchored in the bay were two ships with Un-Cruise Adventures, which offers expeditions through the San Juan Islands for adventurous guests who have access to the ships’ kayaks, paddle boards and inflatable skiffs to explore the islands, and go ashore to hike, bird watch, and wander through the towns where the ships stop.
For our second to last day, we went to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to stretch our legs, leave our recyclable, empty trash, shower, and wander through a couple of stores. I was amused by one boat in the marina named “Bugsy Seagall.” People come up with clever names for their boats!
We spent the night anchored off Shaw Island, watching the ferries glide over the water, lit like giant ballrooms, and wandering if we’ll ever have the chance to once again charter Tug Time. We’ve enjoyed every moment on the boat!
Last weekend, I went to the Puyallup [Washington] Fair. I’d never been before, but believing the hype was convinced it was going to be fantastic. It wasn’t. Marketed as “one of the biggest fairs in the world, and the largest in the Pacific Northwest,” it fell short in several areas.
I’m old fashioned. Relishing cavernous buildings jam-packed with animals and agricultural products. I want to see tables overflowing with fruits and vegetables, pies, cakes, breads, canned goods, stalks of wheat, jars of seeds, and giant sunflowers with blue ribbons by the best. Show me rows of quilts, hand-sewn clothes, stuffed animals, macramé, knitting, tatting, weaving, crocheting, painting, and everything in-between. Let me walk in awe through buildings full of floral bouquets, cut flowers, potted plants, and landscape displays. I want to cheer for the winners and hope the losers do better the next years.
The Puyallup Fair dabbles on the edge of what I would consider a state fair. It has 4-H exhibits, but primarily what’s exhibited is cats (I’m not making this up) and artwork by local students. They have enormous pumpkins and elaborate displays by local granges, but only a few tables of vegetables. For the most part, they have booths for agriculture groups, gardening clubs, local and government agencies, commercial exhibits (i.e. magic pots, knives, cleaning products, pain relief remedies, rain gutters and roofing, freeze dried mixes, and of course, snake oil disguised as health remedies), carnival rides, petting zoo, entertainment, and ghastly food, including deep fried butter.
One section of the flower display was notable; it featured cut dahlias along with a jaw-dropping, identical bouquets of dahlias, grown by a Dan’s Dahlias in Oakville, Washington.
When I lived in Oregon, a part of my yard was dedicated to growing dahlias.
You have the option, when growing dahlias, to leave them in the soil and wait to see if they pop up in the spring. Or, like me, around Thanksgiving, you spend half a day digging them up the plants, cutting off the stems, and then laying the tubers (usually covered with mud) on newspapers in a cool, dry spot like the garage. Every week or so, I would shake off the dirt. Around the New Year, I would divide up the tubers, and choosing the healthiest ones, which were then packed in straw.
In the springtime, when the tubers began to sprout, I’d plant them in the ground. As they grew, I’d tie the stems to bamboo stakes so they won’t tip over.
Was it worth the effort? Absolutely. I loved picking huge bouquets of dahlias and being able to give away my excess tubers to other flower-lovers.
In a sense, dahlias are like employees. You can leave them alone, hoping they continue to producing at a high level. Or you can nurture them. Help them strengthen their skills, keep them engaged by providing challenging projects, and when necessary, encourage them to expand into other areas to augment their experiences.
During the Labor Day weekend, we loaded our Hobby Cat kayak onto the car and headed to Alki Beach, the westernmost point in West Seattle. It was early in the morning so we got a parking spot across from a launch ramp and easily carried the kayak into the water.
It took us about an hour to pedal across the Sound to downtown Seattle. Along the way, we passed the container shipping facilities and waved to several ferries, gliding to and from Bainbridge and Vashon Islands.
We went as far as Discovery Park, before we made the journey across the water, back to Alki.
Hopefully, we’ll have a couple more sunny weekends so we can see other parts of Seattle from our kayak!
While at the Oregon State Fair, we wandered into the Willamette Art Center. Located at the fair grounds, it offers year-round ceramic classes and events. In the center’s gallery, I found a small shell-shaped raku plate for the unbelievable price of $6. I was titillated because I love raku and have a dozen or so pieces.
Raku is a type of Japanese pottery that is fired at a low temperature then removed from the kiln and placed in water, on straw, sawdust, newspaper or other organic materials to create unusual and often unexpected patterns and colors.
While paying for the shell plate, one of the potters mentioned that I could glaze and create my own raku vase at the fair’s Artisan’s Village. I nearly stumbled over my own feet in my haste to get to the village. Within in minutes, I spotted an amazing vase with a chop (signature) on it. I knew it was special and more telling, it was screamed at me to be painted.
After paying for it, I set to work picking out glazes. The pottery to be fired is known as greenware. It’s a pleasant pinkish beige. The glazes, even though they have dramatic names like Reynolds Wrap and Brilliant Purple, are muddy colored. You essentially slop them on with a brush. With raku, however, any area that isn’t glazed turns black when fired because of the fumes from the smothering organic material.
In addition, the place in the kiln where the piece is place and when it’s removed from the kiln contributes to the resulting color. I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to create a raku vase!
After I glazing the pot, we spent the next few hours going through the livestock, horse, and poultry barns along with visiting the 4H building. When then returned to the Artisan Village to check on the progress of my vase. What I saw brought me to tears. The vase is indescribably beautiful…
More extraordinary… the vase was thrown (created) by Brian Ransom, a Portland born ceramic artists who makes ceramic instruments from clay. His work is breath-taking. I’m humbled to have one of his vases. I’m hope he likes how it turned out!