The Great Northwest Journey

August 20, 2016

Summary

Our big trip this year was Seattle, then Victoria with Sara and Mike, then Seattle, then Birch Bay, Vancouver, White Rock B.C., and Leavenworth with Kevin and Trish, and then back to Seattle before flying home.

The weather was perfect, the people were above average, and the experiences were most excellent.

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The flight with the kids

We babysat Paxson and Austin (3 1/2 and 19 months) for a few days while their parents flew on to Seattle for a short respite without the kids. Then we flew to Seattle with the boys. They were little angels in DFW and during the flight. The downside to flying with the boys is the amount of gear we had to bring with us including car seats and strollers.

Seattle

We spent a few days with Mike’s parents, Don and Karen, both before and after our trip to Victoria and then before our flight back to Dallas.

Staying with our gracious hosts in their beautiful home on Lake Sammamish. While there we did dine at a couple of good restaurants:

We had started exercising at Orange Theory this Summer and were pleasantly surprised to find a location in Redmond just a 12 minute scenic drive from our host’ss residence.

Victoria

We spent two days in Victoria with Sara and Mike traveling via the Victoria Clipper Ferry service from Seattle.

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Victoria Harbour

We had reserved a couple of rooms at Abigail’s, a small independent botique hotel 4 short blocks from the Harbour. Gwen found Abigail’s for our first trip to Victoria and the experience was so great we’ve never considered staying anywhere else in Voctoria. This trip was no expception.

Our first night there we had managed to procure 4 tickets to Taste, a wine and food event at one of the local hotels. Around 35 Vancouver Island Vineyards were present as well as 15 local restaurants. This is a one night a year event. We were fortunate enough to attend last year and loved it. This year was just as good except for no ice cream. If you go don’t drive because there is a lot of wine. We walked!

Our highlight was probably the hour long carriage ride with a British Columbia History Major as our driver. Also spotted some humpback whales while riding along the Coast next to Beacon Hill Park. The night was surprisingingly chilly.

We did not rent a car. Therefore we walked everywhere which is not a big problem if you plan to hang out at the Inner Harbour area. We most likely walked 10 miles each day around the Harbour, Government Street, and Beacon Hill Park.

Besides Taste other memorable dining experiences were at:

  • Il Terrazzo – a little Italian restaurant in a downtown alley. Our favorite restaurant in Victoria
  • The Local – best fish and chips I’ve had anywhere with a magnificent view of the Harbour
  • Breakfast at Abigail’s
  • The Commons – Serves only local cusine, much of it from their own farm or from local fishermen

As a parting note on the last morning I snuck out of the hotel early in the morning and enjoyed a Flat White at a local coffee shop. Best Flat White I’ve had outside of New Zealand. For some reason U.S. coffee shop’s, including Starbucks, just don’t serve Flat Whites that taste anywhere near as good.

Birch Bay

We picked Kevin and Trish up at the Seattle Airport and then drove to Birch Bay, Washngton where we had reserved our Condo for three days. Birch Bay is a small seacoast community on the Washington/Canadian border.

Our Condo was old but very comfortable with an excellent vew of the sea from the balcony. Although our base was in Washington we spent one day in Vancouver and the 2nd in White Rock, B.C.

Although Vancouver is but 40 miles distance the journey by auto took 1.5 hours. We spent most of the day strolling around Stanley Park and ended by day by dining at Joe Fortes. A very enjoyable day indeed. I highly recommend both.

The next day we drove just across the boarder to White Rock, B.C. White Rock is a picturesque little community on the coast. The main attractions are the pier, the promenade, and the restaurants. We had lunch at Uli’s. The exterior and the interior decor is not impressive. However the food is delicious. I had the fish and chips again. Where else in the World is Halibut considered a “common” fish?

The main attraction at both Birch Bay and White Rock is the sea. At both locations the tides go out to reveal over 100 yard wide mud flats. The locals and I suppose the tourist tramp out onto the mud flats, setup blankets, umbrellas, beach chairs, and stay for the day.

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Birch Bay at Low Tide

Restaurants in the area we liked:

  • Vonna’s Purple Fin Restaurant in Birch Bay: We dined here our first night in Birch Bay and liked it so much we went back for breakfast every day
  • Joe Fortes in Vancouver
  • Uli’s in White Rock

Leavenworth

The drive from Birch Bay to Leavenworth through the Cascades was both beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. Leavenworth is a charming little German community in the Cascades. Kevin and Trish were married there and for them this was a trip back in time.

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Leavenworth Wa.

Experiences

If you just have a day stroll around the village, vist the shops, watch the people, and listen to the musicians on the square.

In the Summer they host musicals outdoors under the stars. We attended a performance of The Sound of Music at night in the middle of a forest on a mountainside in 49 degree weather in July. We were all amazed by the quality of the performance.

Hike the Leavenworth River Trail.

Drive a few miles down the highway to Cashmere and visit the 9/11 memorial.

Visit some of the many local vineyards. We planned and developed a list of vineyards to visit. However the first vineyard (Wedge Mountain Vineyard) was so interesting we ran out of time and did not get to any of the other vineyards on our list. If you go there be sure to sign up for the vineyard tour via a mid-60s Fordson tractor with the owner (Charlie McKee).

And last but not least, don’t lock yourself our of your hotel room on the outskirts of town at 11PM in you pajamas and realize they have no night clerk.

Restaurants

  • Sulla Vita – Ecletic menu. We liked it so much we dined there twice
  • Los Camperos – A Mexican restaurant in the heart of a German community in Washington state a few miles from the Canadian Border. How strange is that? The food was quite good after my companions realized Los Camperos did not serve TexMex. It’s more like New Mexico cusine but a little different.
  • Gustav’s – If your in a German community eating sausages and potatoes is a must. Gustav’s is the place to do it.
  • The Alley Cafe – This is where Kevin and Trish dined on their wedding night. However they always thought they dined at Los Camperos because they had a photo looking out a window at The Alley Cafe hung a sign for Low Camperos. Turns out Los Camperos is directly abobe The Alley Cafe.
  • J. J. Hill in the Icicle Lodge – more German food. This time I ordered the schnitzel. very tasty.

Click here for more photos

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Victoria Harbour


The day the Dinosaurs Died

August 11, 2016

Just finished a fascinating chapter in The Sixth Extinction titled The Luck of the Ammonites, or un-luck as fate would have it. We’ve all heard that the dinosaurs were exterminated by a massive asteroid hitting the Earth and causing Nuclear Winter. However that’s pretty much all I knew. This chapter narrates the rest of the story. Very Interesting!

Back in 1969, Walter Alvarez was fascinated by a thin layer of sediment (dubbed the K-T Layer because it separates the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods) just outside of Gubbio Italy. He was intrigued because of the huge differences in fossils between the layers immediately above and below this area. Later, back in California, he sparked an interest of this anomaly in his father, Luis – a professor at Berkley.

In one of their experiments, they tested the clay samples for iridium, a rare,on Earth, element but abundant on asteroids. The iridium levels were off the charts. They did not know what to make of this anomaly. However, they were able to obtain and test clay samples of the same layers from other parts of the World all with the same results. All had the same extremely high iridium levels.

They tried out numerous theories before settling on the Impact Hypothesis in 1980:

65 million years ago an asteroid 6 miles in diameter crashed into the Earth with an impact of more than a 100 million hydrogen bombs. Debris including iridium from the asteroid spread around the globe causing Nuclear Winter (A Carl Sagan addition) thus resulting in the extinction of 75% of the life on Earth.

The Alvarez’s were labeled charlatans after publishing their theory by the entire scientific community. The prevailing theory was Darwin’s Natural Selection wherein species evolved or became extinct gradually over millions of years.

Thus began the search to find the “smoking gun” – the asteroid crater. The general criteria were 65 million years old and maybe a couple of hundred miles in diameter. No know crater fit the criteria. Finally, on the banks of Texas’ Brazos River scientist came across patterns consistent with a “nearby impact” thereby narrowing the search to the Gulf of Mexico area. Finally, the missing piece, a 100 mile wide crater was located just off the Yucatan Peninsula with the help of drilling samples taken years earlier by PEMEX.

Not only the dinosaurs but over 75% of life on Earth at that time was eliminated. Not only on the surface, but in the air, and in the sea also. Not only animals but plants were not spared execution either. The striking difference in the fossils above and below the K-T layer provide the Great Extinction’s evidence.

If your interested, I recommend The Sixth Extension book. There are also some good resources on the web including:

Almost forgot, Ammonites were a sea creature that became extinct during the K-T Event. Their fossils were numerous in the Gubbio layer.

Notes:

  1. For movie fans the Cretaceous Period follows the Jurassic Period.
  2. How do you get K-T from Cretaceous–Paleogene? Cretaceous is usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide (chalk) derived from the Latin “creta” (chalk). The Paleogene Period was created bu splitting the Tertiary Period into two periods: Paleogene and Neogene.

RIO Olympics

August 10, 2016

I’m amazed by the variety of “Sports” at the Rio Olympics. I haven’t watched many hours yet but I’ve seen everything from basketball, to fencing, to diving, to gymnastics, to rugby, to swimming, to kayaking, to diving, to skulling (is that a word).

I’m also surprised every Olympics how many nonsports are Olympic events. I contend events scored by judges and not by some objective criteria are not sports. They are exhibitions. I admit I’m old and was influenced during the Cold War years when judges were biased based on their Country’s political peruasion.

Explain to me how synchronized swimming can be an Olympic event but not baseball?

Oh well, there is nothing I can do to change the Olympics. Might as well just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.