Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Belated Travel Log - Day Nine

Eufaula, Alabama, is one of those charming little southern towns with great antebellum homes and charming shops and restaurants. We breakfasted at the Country Kitchen and Cakery, which had been, in days gone by, the stables for the adjoining hotel, which is currently being restored to its original Southern glory with a grant from someone. At any rate, they prepared my eggs the way I like them, one scrambled, one over easy. And the biscuits and sawmill gravy were fantastic. We had to ask for more, though later on we regretted that last biscuit. We were stuffed.

From Eufaula it was on to Atlanta, home of the Braves and Coca-Cola, and the end of our time together. My traveling companion, mixmaster DJ MC went on to a Microsoft event there, and I headed east, into an uncertain future.

Belated Travel Log - Day Eight

Did I mention that somewhere in Alabama, at a place called the Santa Fe, we saw the biggest ceiling fan we had ever seen? It was like something out of Texas. My part time driver, mixmaster DJ MC, now releived of his duties following the unspeakable confrontation with the Texas Highway Patrol, said of the Santa Fe, "Tonight we eat like kings." And we did. It was affordable and delicious. And the service was supurb. We drove from the Santa Fe (wherever it was) through some Alabama backroads. Beautiful state, truly. We arrived in Eufaula, Alabama for a night of rest and relaxation a couple of hours later.

Belated Travel Log - Where Not To Stay in Texas

I cannot recommend the Pest Westeri Hotel off of I-10 in Texas. It is a sleazy place run by cattle theives. Please avoid this place at all costs. They have cockroaches there the size of cattle dogs, and the armadillo crawling around the room are armed and very aggressive.

The Texas Highway Patrol in this same area are also armed and rather unsympathetic to out-of-state travelers. They are hung up about some crazy "nighttime only" speed limits. This concept is insane. These troopers have Texas-sized citation booklets and use terms like "negative" when you try and have a friendly conversation. You have been warned.
Photo at left: either an agressive armadillo or a Texas state trooper. Maybe both.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Belated Travel Log - New Orleans Note

It was nice to find Ignatius J. Reilly immoralized in bronze in the Big Easy. For those that know and love him, this may have meaning. Jolly Tyler, this means you. Everyone else may disregard this post.

Belated Travel Log - Day Seven and Eight

New Orleans proved to be a nice resting spot on the journey from Pacific to Atlantic, particularly after driving across the state of Texas. That state is a bear of a drive. I don't care what people say about driving across Montana. I've driven Montanta. Piece of cake. Texas, that's a man's drive. And my part time driver, mixmaster DJ MC, has the citation from the Texas Highway Patrol to prove it.

The Big Easy provided us with exceptional accommodations at the Astor Hotel, as well as great cajun food and drink. Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop. Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's. Beignets and chicory coffee and Cafe Du Monde. Mmmmm. Oh, did I mention Aunt Sally's pralines? I bought a box for my daughter. And one or two for me. Sublime.

We also took in a bit of history, considering that Andrew "Action" Jackson whipped some British tail there back in 1814.

Belated Travel Log - Day Six

San Antonio was another bright spot along the journey. I was surprised at how much I liked the city, or at least the parts of it that I saw. The Riverwalk was really amazing, and seeing the Alamo, now a shrine, was moving. I was always fond of the 1960 John Wayne (also the director!) film, with Richard Widmark, about the battle of the Alamo. There were only a handul of survivors, women and children. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna gave them blankets and pesos and sent them away, encouraging them to warn all to remember what happened there that perilous day. I learned that the battle cry "Remember the Alamo" was taken quite seriously by General Sam Houston, who proceeded to engage and subsequently defeat Santa Anna's formidable army in only 18 minutes.

Near the Alamo is the lovely Hotel Menger, inside of which is a very nice bar which was constructed to emulate the bar in the House of Lords in England. I put my finger in two bullet holes in the bar that were made by Teddy Roosevelt, who recruited many of his famous "Rough Riders" there.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Belated Travel Log - Day Five

Outside of El Paso my traveling companion, mixmaster DJ MC, and I detoured off I-10 and drove through a little border town a stone's throw from Mexico seeking sustenance. The place was very poor; ramshackle buildings and long-closed businesses lined the main street. We found the only open restaurant, Taco Tina's, and consumed some tasty tacos. There was no indoor dining, only a small table outside. The food was good, but the heat and the swarms of flies sullied our dining experience.

In the photo below, the young waiter fills our lemonade cups next to Taco Tina's one table.

Belated Travel Log - Day Four

California was nice and sunny for the most part, and one of the highlights of the trip. (The miserable traffic through L.A. being the exception, but is anyone surprised?) Early in day four, we enjoyed a nice breakfast in Solvang (first photo), an odd little Danish town, before spending some time in Santa Barbara, where we had trouble distinguishing the mission there for a mere church.
In the second photo I am driving through Santa Barbara enjoying the scenery and the mild climate. Things became a bit hotter once we rolled into Palm Springs (bottom photo). But in the desert east of Palm Desert the heat was oppressive. Even the wind was as if it was emanating from a roaster. It must have been 115 out there.

Belated Travel Log - Day Two

Only at the end of a cross country journey do I take the time to share a few tidbits to the three people who read my blog.

On day two I traveled with my companion, mixmaster DJ MC, south on the Oregon coast on Highway 101 then on to the California Bay Area along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Left: the Oregon coast
Below: sunset over the Pacific Ocean, an hour or so north of San Rafael in Marin County, California.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Christmas in July

The Disney Christmas train is in Seattle for a few days during its nationwide tour of the U.S., and we went down for a while this morning to see it. The primary purpose of this whistle stop tour is to promote the upcoming Robert Zemickis film A Christmas Carol, which stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge and all the ghosts, Gary Oldman as Bob Crachit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim, Robin Wright Penn, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes and Bob Hoskins.

Aside from the fascinating exhibits on the motion capture technology used to produce the film, there were period costumes, exhibits about the story and its characters, and a number of items on loan from the Dickens museum in London. I was most interested in these, which included first editions of Dickens' works, handwritten manuscripts and Dickens' own quill and inkwell.

More than just an animated film, director Zemickis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) used digital motion capture technology to record the actors' movements and facial expressions, enabling him to place the actors, in all three dimensions, into computer generated sets in order to render the scenes from the film. On the train were a number of the miniature "sets" animators used to create the world of Scrooge as it existed in the mid-nineteenth century, all of which I found fascinating. There was also a small theater set up outside the train station where we were able to screen about ten minutes of scenes from the film in 3D.

Seeing the Christmas Carol train turned out to be a nice little break from the heat and the drudgery of packing the house. It's a clever marketing tool (leave it to Disney), an educational tool for those interested in film production, and a nice exhibit of historical artifacts from one of our most revered authors.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Summertime in Seattle

There are few things in my life that I enjoy as much as those warm, clear summer days in Seattle when the sky is blue, the rainy season is forgotten and, as the locals say, "the mountain is out."

Today was such a day, and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my daughter. We took one of our outings to the Space Needle, a place my daughter has long enjoyed, a place the two of us steal off to on those rare times when just the two of us feel like getting out of the house and driving the short distance from our suburban home into the city.

It was the grownups who finished off this glorious day, enjoying a fine meal with Mike and Amy at the Cafe Septieme in Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood. It was at this same cafe that the four of us dined on my wife's very first day in Seattle eleven short years ago.

Good times.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Cherries are In!

I look forward to this time each year when our cherry crop comes in. It always happens the week of July 4th, and this year our cherry crop was a good one.

This means the wife whips up a delicious cherry cobbler or two, a dish she has become an expert at preparing.
My daughter was insistent that this year she be allowed up on the ladder while we gather cherries. She prefers it to her long-held job of standing at the base of the ladder with the bowl as I, risking life and limb by standing foolishly on the very top step of the ladder, attempt to reach the highest branches on the tree.
And did I mention the cobbler? Delicious!