Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: Railway to Nowhere

Abandoned rail bed of the former E&N line on Vancouver Island, BC...

This photo was first published three years ago. Since then nothing has changed except that the railway line has fallen into further disrepair.

The problem is that it's hard to make an economic case for starting up the line again. As there isn't a big enough population on Vancouver Island -- yet --  nor any industry that would use it, any re-vitalized railway service would need to be heavily subsidized.

First published on Oct 14, 2014:

You know what you don't see in this photo?

A cougar!

I have lived on the West Coast for two-thirds of my life. One of the items on my bucket list is to take a photo of a cougar in the wild. So far it hasn't happened, but I'll keep hiking in the early morning bush in the hopes that my luck will change one day.

The other thing you don't see in this photo is a train. This is the rail bed of the former E&N (Esquimalt and Nanaimo) passenger train that stopped running between Victoria and communities north about four years ago due to a myriad of issues. Mostly what killed it was lack of maintenance on the track combined with a lack of ridership. It's a shame because my wife and I had taken the train and it was a great way to see parts of the island not visible from the Island highway.

A local group has been working hard to secure financing to re-start the service, although it will travel in the opposite directions than it did previously. In this way they hope to sell it as a daily commuter service and increase ridership.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Co-ordinated


La Connor, Washington is so immersed in art, that drivers even park their cars in such a way as to complement the storefronts...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

La Connor

The waterfront of La Connor, Washington...
La Connor, Washington with the ever present Mt. Baker in the distance...
Not far from Anacortes, is the art-centric community of La Connor on the Swinomish Channel. Don't let the French-sounding name confuse you... there's a unique story behind that that you can read here.

It's a charming, picturesque town with numerous art galleries that appeal to all tastes -- high end to kitsch. Indeed, the town incorporates art into its public spaces.

One end of town is marked by the Rainbow Bridge -- how's that for a colourful name?

La Connor's distinctive bridge over the channel...
La Connor's scenic bridge...

Monday, December 18, 2017

Anacortes

An Anacortes oil refinery is overlooked by Mt. Baker in the distance.
The strange beauty of an industrial setting...
Returning to Victoria from our Oregon and Washington adventure, we decided to return via the Anacortes to Sidney ferry, instead of the usual Coho ferry from Port Angeles.

We spent a couple of nights camping outside Anacortes. Across the bay from our camp site, we could see an oil refinery, framed by Mt. Baker in the distance. In the warm orange glow of a setting sun, it had a beauty all its own.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls near North Bend, Washington...
The falls of Twin Peaks...
The opening credits of 1990 series Twin Peaks were iconic. Angelo Badalamenti's dreamy opening song played over bucolic scenes of a misty Pacific Northwest town, establishing a comfortable intimacy between viewers and this strange community.

One of the scenes was of an impressively tall waterfall which I later discovered to be Snoqualmie Falls, not far from North Bend. At 270 feet tall, it is nearly 100 feet tall than Niagara Falls.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keeping things glass-y

Crazy shapes and vivid colours on display...
Glass in the strangest shapes that you can imagine...
At the base of the Space Needle, you'll find Seattle's Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum that features the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly. You can read more about him here.

The pieces on display are visually striking... all fluid shapes and vivid colours. I cannot even begin to imagine how these works were conceived, or the processes required to bring them to life. It's well worth visiting if you get the chance.

Huge glass flowers overhead in the museum...
An example of the impressive glass work...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Winter surf

Not all surfers are young dudes...
Some surfers come with grey hair...
Surfing is usually associated with buff bodies and board shorts, sandy beaches below sunny blue skies.

On Vancouver Island, the best surfing comes with the grey skies and storms of winter. The cold water temperatures require that you wear a wet suit year round.

The first winter storm of the season a month ago attracted surfers by the dozens to Jordan River.

Wet suit surfing...
Cold weather surfing...

Friday, December 8, 2017

Things that make you go "Hmmmm"

Mugs commemorate the Emerald City... and they are red!?
"What the...? Fire Carl in marketing!
I saw these in the gift shop at the base of the Space Needle.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The view up here...

Seattle skyline...
Seattle's Lego-block style wall of waterfront buildings...
Seattle's wall of waterfront skyscrapers seen from the top of Seattle's Great Wheel...

Meanwhile, off in the distance, Mt. Baker looms large...

Peaks and curves...
Seattle's King Dome and Mt. Baker compete for attention...



Monday, December 4, 2017

Up

The gondolas of Seattle's Great Wheel...
Seattle's Great Wheel in action...
Seattle's waterfront ferris wheel didn't exist when we last visited the city so it was on our to-do list this time around.

It's officially known as Seattle's Great Wheel. Riders are carried up 175 feet into the air in large air-conditioned gondolas.


Seattle waterfront...
The Great Wheel overlooks the waterfront...

Friday, December 1, 2017

The bluest skies you've ever seen / The hills of greenest green...

Seattle's iconic Space Needle...
The Space Needle reflected in MoPop's metallic exterior...
... are in Seattle. So sang teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman in the late 1960s in the theme for TV series Here Come the Brides!

In reality, the skies over Seattle are more often grey and overcast, and you often can't see the greenest hills for the rain for a good part of the year.

Nonetheless, Seattle is one of our favourite cities to visit. It's small enough that most of the major tourist attractions are easily accessible via public transit.

We took in the famed Seattle Space Needle. Unfortunately, another popular attraction The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPoP) was closed for a private event.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Damn fine coffee

Twede's -- Agent Cooper wasn't lying about the pie.
Yes, the pie and coffee are fine...
One of Twin Peaks' main locations was the local RR ('Double R') Diner. It was here that Special FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) would stop by at regular intervals to enjoy a 'damn fine coffee' and a slice of cherry pie.

In the first two seasons, the diner was played by North Bend's Mar T Cafe which later morphed into Twede's Cafe -- used for the third season -- after a fire burned down part of the original restaurant.

The various incarnations of the diner have been a big draw for numerous Twin Peaks fans who visit the retro-styled diner to sample the coffee and pie.

Naturally, we did the same and I here to report that the coffee was fine, but the cherry pie a la mode was FREAKIN' AWESOME! Seriously, I don't even particularly like cherry pie but this pastry was a 10/10 on the pie scale.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks... still as strange as ever...
Twin Peaks... keeping things weird for twenty-five years...
Who killed Laura Palmer?

That was the pop culture question twenty-five years ago when Twin Peaks premiered on network TV. A mix of drama, humour, the supernatural and the just plain weird, David Lynch' creation was one of those polarizing series that you either loved or hated.

For my wife and I it was must-see viewing during its two-year run. Once we moved back to BC, it became an ambition of mine to visit the filming locations in Washington State.

The series remained a cult classic which led to a highly anticipated third season being recently produced after a quarter-century off the air. It inspired us to finally to visit the real life town of Twin Peaks, a.k.a. North Bend, Washington, during our summer road trip.

Friday, November 24, 2017

What in the Sam Hill?!

Stonehenge on the Columbia...

If you're older, you've probably heard the expression that is the title of today's post. It's an expression of surprise or confusion.

It's probably the expression that you would use when you discovered this full-size replica of Stonehenge in eastern Washington State. And it was built by... Sam Hill.

Sam Hill was an American businessman and railroad executive who lived in Washington State at the turn of the 20th century. One of his legacies was this monument near Maryhill (named after his wife) meant to commemorate the American soldiers who had died during World War I.

A circle of slabs...
Plaques on the slabs pay tribute to war dead...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: Bridge of the Gods

Smoke and fire along the Columbia River...
Smoke obscures the hills along the Columbia River.
It was two years ago, that I featured Bridge of the Gods in this blog. At that time, we passed back and forth over the bridge a few times.

Not this trip.

The Columbia River Gorge was in flames thanks to a witless teenager who lit up a firework and tossed it into the bone dry forest. As a result the bridge was closed along with access to many of the attractions in the area such as Multnomah Falls.

We crossed the river into Washington State near Portland and proceeded east along the north side of the river. Across the river on the Oregon side a wall of smoke obscured the landscape.

Bridge of the Gods or the gateway to hell?
The Bridge of the Gods... closed to humans...





Monday, November 20, 2017

The Legend of Munsen Creek

The dark and mysterious forest almost leans in near Munsen Creek Falls in Oregon...
Fog and forest in Oregon...
The title of this post is a nod to The Legend of Boggy Creek, a 70s-era cheesy pseudo-documentary about Bigfoot.

I'm not a believer in Sasquatch, but I would not have been surprised to encounter one on our hike to Munsen Creek Falls, not far from Pacific City in Oregon.

We were hiking a ravine. Tall trees on the hills to either side were mere silhouettes in the thick veil of fog that obscured everything. We could hear nothing -- not even birds -- in the indistinct forest. The idea that some sort of giant man-apes could be watching us from the gloom came up in our conversation.

The falls themselves couldn't be reached due to the fallen logs and slippery rocks that block access. We could only view them in the distance through the curtain of mist.

The falls are about 320 feet high and one of the tallest waterfalls on the Coast. On a sunny day, I'm sure they look beautiful and are often admired by local Bigfoots.

The falls through a curtain of mist...
The falls at Munsen Creek...


Friday, November 17, 2017

The Girl from Tatooine

Alien skies over Florence OR...
Standing under alien skies...
Although we had hoped to get as far south as the Oregon/ California border, the huge wildfires to the east of Brookings OR put an end to that idea.

The smoke drifted north and east. Combined with the sun, sky and sand, it produced this alien landscape that would not have looked out of place in a Star Wars movie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sand bashing

Heading out to the dunes in Oregon....
Tearing up sand dunes in Oregon...
While in Florence OR my wife and I rented a couple of ATVs to tear up the dunes. We've done ATVs before in the jungles of Mexico. The advantage of sand dunes is that you're dry at the end of your adventure, compared to the jungle experience where you are often wet and/or caked in mud.

Heading out into the sand dunes...
Teeny-tiny ATVs...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sand surfing

Hands up, ass out... that's how you stay balanced on a sandboard.
She'll be coming down the mountain when she comes...
Pushing down the Oregon coast to the cute town of Florence, we were on the edge of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Sand surfing is a popular local sport. It's exactly what it sounds like... surfing down the sides of dunes on the fine taupe-coloured sand.

We took lessons from a pro who provided us with some very useful tips and information for staying on the board while going downhill.

We weren't always successful. If you wipe out -- see below -- you can end up with sand sticking to your head like powdered cinnamon on a Tim Horton's donut. We jokingly referred to this as Timbitting. You have to be Canadian to get the reference.

Dusted!
The hazards of a spill on the sand...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Perspective

On its way to Port Angeles the MV Coho is dwarfed by the Norwegian Sun.
Same ocean... different agendas...
The ferry MV Coho travels twice daily between Victoria, BC and Port Angeles in Washington state. It can carry 110 vehicles and up to 1000 passengers.

The cruise ship Norwegian Sun behind the Coho can carry nearly twice as many passengers. Which doesn't seem like much when you compare the size difference between them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: Neuvo Vallarta

Opulence along a Mexican waterfront...
Waiting for company...
Once again, my wife and I are on the road, this time to Hualtulco in southern Mexico.

Last year at this time we were not far from Puerto Vallarta. Most days we hiked the ten minute walk to the beach from our resort. Along the way we passed a line of gated luxury villas, including this one with an eye-catching sculpture in the circular driveway. We never did see any sign of the occupants during our entire stay.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Walking with sharks

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea...
Deep blue...
Newport in Oregon describes its Oregon Coast Aquarium as world-class.

One of its most popular exhibits is the "Passages of the Deep"... a series of Plexiglas tunnels through which you can watch undersea animals all around you. What's interesting is that the tanks were originally part an enclosure built for the orca whale known as Keiko, the star of the movie Free Willy. Keiko's full story is, unfortunately, a sad one.

I was bothered that the shark tank didn't have any natural landscaping... just this big featureless tank filled with sharks, rays and smaller fish that could do nothing but swim around in endless circles. Maybe there was a good reason for this that I couldn't guess at, since all the other tanks were fitted with natural plants and rock formations.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Otter Rock

Another of Oregon's excellent surf beaches...
Another excellent surf beach along Oregon's coast...
Just down the road from The Devil's Punchbowl in Oregon, is Otter Rock, another excellent surf location.

Take a look at that fabulous beach and that beautiful water. Replace the trees with jungle foliage and you could be looking at some tropical stretch of sand.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Secret identity is secret

Raybans... for when the day is bright and the Knight is Dark...
So, you're a superhero and you decide you just wanna chill with the Halloween crowds at the Wicked Victoria event. But how to mingle without being recognized and mobbed by your adoring public?

Put on a pair of slick Raybans, of course!

Or, you could... just TAKE OFF THE SUPER-SUIT.

Just sayin'...

Monday, October 30, 2017

A-maze-ing

The stalks grow tall at Gayley's Farm.
The corn grows tall at Gayley's Farm...
Last weekend, the family took our young nephew to local Gayley's Farm for their annual Corn Maze of Horror and Crazy Train Ride.

The day was appropriately rainy and grey. As we wound our way through the maze, birds -- mostly crows -- were everywhere to take advantage of the free food growing "on the vine".

A pumpkin stands watch over the crowds below...
Dark skies...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Coast line

Oregon's dramatic coastline...
Encroaching cliffs threaten seaside homes...
Not far from The Devil's Punchbowl -- mentioned in my previous post -- was a lookout with this magnificent view of Oregon's coastline. The Devil's Punchbowl is the visible point of land that you see in the top part of the photo. For two days in a row we watched local pods of humpback whales feeding near the kelp beds close to shore.

If I lived in one of those homes that you can see, I'd be very nervous. They are very close to those seaside cliffs. I expect that some of them will have to be abandoned at some point in the future.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: The Ghosts of Halloween Past

Today's post is a highlight reel of some of my past blog entries -- along with artwork -- related to this most scary time of the year. Enjoy...

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Devil's Punchbowl

Seawater fills up The Devil's Punchbowl.
Water fills The Devil's Punchbowl.
Continuing on with our Satanic theme in Oregon, The Devil's Punchbowl is a seaside geological formation north of Newport. It is thought to have been formed by the collapse of the roof of a sea cave.

As the tide rises and falls, it fills the bowl with churning sea water through the former cave opening.

The interior of The Devil's Punchbowl...
The dramatic interior of the punchbowl...

Friday, October 20, 2017

Tent city memorial

The nrewly installed children's park outside the court house...
Where squatters once lived is now a peaceful park...
Out and about a few weeks ago, I stopped by the lawn of Victoria's court house to see the new playground that was installed several months ago.

It's a far cry from the squalid tent city of homeles people that had sprung up here a couple of years ago. The province spent millions of dollars on new housing and services for them. The site was repaired and a children's playground installed, probably as a means to prevent such a situation from developing again.

That said, for all the money and effort spent, tent cities continue to pop up throughout the Greater Victoria area. Nobody in authority wants to admit that a big part of our homeless problem is actually a symptom of the drug problem, and that a lot of these people are showing up from other jurisdictions to take advantage of the nicer weather and government handouts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fancy float homes

The posh palaces of Westbay Marine Village...
The posh palaces of Esquimalt's Westbay Marine Village...

I've featured the float homes of Fishermans Wharf often in this blog, but there is another float home community nearby in the town of Esquimalt.

The luxury homes at Westbay Marine Village are considerably upscale than the ones at Fishermans Wharf and they command correspondingly higher prices on the market. It's also a gated community... they are not so welcoming of visitors as Victoria's version.

Monday, October 16, 2017

We stand on guard for thee...

A Canadian warship on patrol...
Canadian warship on patrol...
On a windy day off Victoria's waterfront, a Canadian Patrol Frigate (CPF) goes through its paces...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Devil's Creek

The suspension bridge over Devil's Creek...
75-foot high waterfalls spill into Devil's Creek...
I'm not sure why, but a lot of natural landmarks along our Oregon route were designated "Devil's this" or Devil's that".

On this particular day, we hiked in to see the suspension bridge and the 7-story high waterfalls at Devil's Creek.

Sunlight through the trees near Devil's Creek...
Sunlight streams through
the forest near Devil's Creek...



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: The Lady-in-Red says adieu

If you've read this blog or my previous one (Alternate Tales from the West Coast Cafe), you'll be familiar with The Lady in Red who watched over Victoria's Fishermans Wharf from above.

Over the years, I took many photos of her in different outfits. I never wanted to ask her caretakers about her, preferring her origins and purpose to remain mysterious. In my mind, I imagined her as a guardian angel looking after visitors to the community.

Some weeks ago, I was upset to see that she had disappeared from her customary spot on high. I made it a mission to return to see if she had truly disappeared, or was just off somewhere getting "cosmetic surgery".

About ten days ago, I returned to Fishermans Wharf and was disappointed to see that she was well and truly gone. The houseboat that had previously been her home for years was freshly painted, suggesting new ownership. I guess the Lady in Red wasn't welcome anymore.

Somewhat disappointed, I decided to wander the jetties for other photos opportunities.

Surprise! The Lady wasn't gone... she had found a new home (with a new ensemble, doncha know) at the end of the jetty outside the door of another houseboat.

The Lady has a new address...
Lady on the move...
I'm glad that she'll still be around for awhile yet, but I've decided to "let her go" so to speak... she won't be making any more appearances in this blog.

Now that she has been discovered by tourists who are posing with her at her new location, I feel like our special connection has come and gone.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Bigfeet

North America's mysterious Sasquatch...
Sasquatch is an ancient expression for 'marketing opportunity'...
Tourist shops in Oregon and Washington states capitalize on the Sasquatch legend, pedaling coffee mugs, key chains, postcards, snow globes and similar stuff that feature the mythical forest dweller of the Pacific Northwest.

My wife made it her mission to take as many Bigfoot photos as she could on our trip. I can't help feeling that the one on the right above is just a little bit racist.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Doppelganger

The former tourist attraction on Victoria's inner harbour...
-- Victoria's Undersea Gardens
photo: Ryan Bushby / Wikipedia
Pacific Undersea Gardens was a fixture of Victoria's inner harbour for more than 40 years until it closed in 2013. It allowed visitors to descend below the water to observe some of the local sea life in their natural habitat.

During our Oregon trip, we were strolling Newport's waterfront tourist district when we experienced deja vu. There was Victoria's former tourist attraction attached to a jetty.

Newport's version of Undersea Gardens...
Newport's version of Undersea Gardens
Well, not so fast...

Despite the similarities, Newport's version has been around for twenty-five years or so. The connection between the two appears to be that they were both owned by Victoria's Oak Bay Marine Group.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Those Daring Young Men in their Flying Machines

A mix of man, machine and kite flies over the Lincoln beach.
Man, machine and kite come together to create colour and noise...
After Pacific City, we pushed further south to the cities of Lincoln and Newport.

Lincoln is also known as a kite-flying mecca. On the breezy day that we went to their main beach, I brought along my 5m kite. I was setting it up when the buzz of this machine passing overhead caught everyone's attention.

Our intrepid flyer wasn't very high, and I wondered at the legality and safety of a contraption like this flying over a public beach... but, it WAS fun to see.