Flat is relative

Santa Fe shadows

We creased Santa Fé…

Climbing SF to Taos

…and drove north—and up—toward Taos.

Taos back street

Here’s a residential back alley in Taos.

Taos plaza luminarias

And, the luminarias are already out in the plaza, ready for the evening’s celebrations and rituals.

Taos pueblo

We also drove north to Taos Pueblo, and turned around in the parking lot, so we only have a few shots. Here’s an animal pen by the road. The residents are fiercely protective of their privacy, as is their right, and no cell phones or cameras are allowed in.

EofTaos mtns

We headed east on US64, through the mountains. We knew we’d have a good window after the sun had melted the snow and before it began to refreeze, and we nailed it. Just gorgeous. If my phone is correct, the highest pass was a tad over 9K feet—that’s high!

EofTaos formation

Here’s a scenic formation in the Cimmaron Canyon…turns out cimarrón is Spanish for bighorn. Amazing what you can learn from Goo_Translate!

Great plains begin

The highway eventually spat us out on the upper plains, and we relearned what flat means. We corralled our horsepower to motor farther eastward. When dusk arrived the sky to the north had ROYGBIV colors, but upward from the horizon, the color order was BIVROY (not sure what happened to G), which I don’t remember seeing before. I’m sure prismatic specialists are snorting with “of course,” but I do not know why that order. Pretty, though!

We have been driving for days through terrain that stretches away from the eye at interstate speeds, and appears very horizontal. I’m certain that those on foot find the verticals very present and substantial.

Travel topics

Truck parking

Semis are constant companions to personal vehicles traveling interstate highways. They require large parking areas, and those that don’t require backing are preferred, although drivers I have noticed are adept at backing their big rigs.

Route66 etc

We’ve also been accompanied lately by an overage of Route 66 mentions. This tableau takes the cake, I think. Also, the cafes and restaurants in this town all bragged on their “buffalo” burgers. [Bet they were made with bison meat….]

Rear view mtns

As we pulled away from under the rain clouds I enjoyed watching these mountains recede in the rear-view. Snow-capped! Probably the snow was augmented last night, although at the elevation we traveled, the precip was rain. Whew!

Train golden light

We had very high-quality low-angle sun. This train looked far better than it normally does, I’m sure.

Bridge stack

Whatta stack of bridges! [Reminds me of redwoods…plus air.]

Terrain change

PacO haystacks mist

We began the day with a beach-visit, and rewarded with mists in the inlets and expanses of shadows and sunlight, and just pure ocean loveliness. And haystacks.


Then, we tried closed-in views beneath massive redwoods and their forest friends, which include low-down rotting sibling redwoods and green ferns.

Redwood pileup

This pile-up will stick with me. Three giants that, over time, fell atop one another. I think the top one came down since we were here last, and the bottom two must be darned strong to make a REDwood splinter like that. You have no visual scale…these each would take something like five-or-more people to reach around (if you could get to them).

River mist

As we rolled among the mountains, if we crossed or went along a river, we saw more mist, as we had at the coast. Very decorative.

To pass logging trucks and hay trucks and refrigerator trucks, JCB sometimes used Ludicrous* mode. Very vroom!

CA lake country

We turned inland, and discovered Californ-y has a lake country. Reservoirs, really, but even sailboats.

CA oak scrub grass

We’re really heading inland at this point, with the redwood forests and higher rainfall of the coast behind us, replaced by these mossy oaks, some very gnarly.

Rolling mostly grass

Ah, the continuing lowered rainfall…the mountains are now hills, and trees are fewer and particular about where their feet are…drainages preferred….

Flat central valley sunset

And, whoop! Around the last curve and over a hill, and we faced flat. Central Valley flat. Massive flatness. Of course, there’s a downhill trend, but most of the other variation has been removed by zealous agriculturalists, making our home grocery stores’ bounty of fragile veggies possible through our winter months.

We also discovered that the flat ground hosts terrible traffic backups. Lost the better part of an hour in three of them. One hoped-for escape route that we tried ended in a surprise “road closed”; Plan Z required!

* “Ludicrous” term thanks to Mel Brooks. Homages on the screen are as recent as “Good Behavior,” where it was applied to a Tesla. Hrumph; Prius Primes, too!

Sound and shoes

Mtns moon sound

Today, the moon graced our gorgeous Olympics-across-the-Sound view. Considerable shipping traffic, too, including a large multi-deck vessel that looked military.

Youth shoe modeling

When there’s a youth event, and the youths get out of school the day before for a few hours to practice, and they are instructed to wear the shoes they will wear for the event…this is what happens. Note that this youth has met the shoe requirement…without excess…saving the long pants and good socks for tomorrow….


Eagle duo view

We were busy with various chores today, but did spot these two eagles (left) cruising over the edge of the sound. I thought there might have been a second pair a bit later, but they were farther away, and I wasn’t sure. Still: whatta show!

Chiangs reflection

We ended up dining at Chiang’s Gourmet, which I often call “chang’s”, and GooMaps still knows what I mean. The magic of modern technology…. Also, note the reflection showing the double-curved rear window….

Monumental and outdoors

Frosty roof

But first, a weather report. Darned cold this morning—frosty cold. Sunny for a bit in the morning, but overcast came raring in.

Salish welcome

This 2010 sculpture by Marvin Oliver is offering a Salish welcome, and is intended to honor the (long-gone) native peoples of this area and is intended to remind us “that we are stewards of this evolving, living landscape”—can’t say how that stewardship is going….

Troll under bridge

This monumental beast is the famous Fremont Troll, and dates to 1990. It’s a bit bigger than the Oliver sculpture, but of course is only head and shoulders, whereas the Oliver fellow is head to toe.

Fisheye finger

I was playing with the fish-eye again—and made The Guru’s finger monumental. He is not a sculpture.

Olympics balcony view

I’m also counting the snow-dusted Olympics we can see across Puget Sound even as dusk sets in as monumental—MaNachur’s work. They are older than any of the pieces above. That MaNachur often operates with a l-o-n-g time-scale.

Water views

Chittenden Locks view downstream

After coffee, our first stop (not including traffic lights and parking) was Chittenden Locks, often called Ballard Locks. Note the bascule bridge in the background (it’s down). We saw two passenger trains cross it, and at one time seven people in head-to-toe fluorescent clothing were on walkways in the general area of the bridge’s pivot. We were too far away to figure out what they were doing.

Chittenden Locks small lock

We watched this NOAA vessel traverse the small lock. We thought the yellow globes were weather buoys, and the brown discs were anchor-weights for them.

STEELheads eh

Lacking sufficient knowledge to visually ID many (any?) fish species, I told The Guru I was pretty sure these are steelheads. Wouldn’t you agree? Huh…huh?

Orangey rose

Despite snow and ice last week, this weather-blemished rose is attempting to triumph against cold odds.

Cormorant seaplane

Late in the day, we went to Log Boom park, at the north end of Lake Washington. Cormorant on post to left and taxiing sea plane to the right (we saw it land headed straight for us, but way on the other side of the bay).

Sunset cormorants

I figure these cormorants are trying to catch the day’s final rays. I do not know if they stay “posted” all night. It seems like their count is pretty close to one per post. By the shore, we saw several species of ducks and more cormorants, but they do prefer to be perched above the water. (Dry feet preference?)

A wander ending at a seat of government

Street art

We rolled away from our hipster hotel on wet roads in light rain, headed for the ocean and points north.

Cloud on West HIlls

As we climbed the West Hills, we found the clouds, and more moisture, still with temps well above freezing.

Coast range snow

All the info we had suggested that the higher elevations of the coast range would still be above freezing. Fortunately, the predictions held, although we could see plenty of snow on the trees and along the road.

Rainbow coast

We stopped for a nosh in sunshine, and the mixed weather yielded a rainbow!

Columbia bridge

As we continued north, we crossed the mighty Columbia. Two sections have arched bridges, and the colors are slightly different shades of green. I have no idea why…

Tidal flat mud

The next section of road crossed and skirted many rivers and creeks headed for the ocean. The tide was out and we saw many waterfowl and a few herons. And mud.

Olympia Wash capitol

I cannot explain why, but I wanted to see Washington’s capitol. Rain had returned, but we risked melting to roll down the window and take a couple of shots. Almost no traffic on this Saturday evening. We saw a few bits of snow along the curbs, indicating that the weather has been colder. We are happy it has tempered; we are happier to tolerate rain than ice.

Learning curve, more

Snow car

The ice was over wet-snow, and once loosened, came off easily. Thankfully.

Bridge etc cropped

So, we headed out to familiarize ourselves further with this technological wonder. We speculated that ice on an exterior sensor was triggering the parking-assist, which kept beeping at us. Then, we discovered user error as some button over on the driver door somehow got poked; after disengaging, great!, no more beeping. The learning curve….

Deer OR

Under the bridge (right in Portland) above we discovered four deer browsing. Otherwise the area was sparsely used, so good place for wildlife….

Portland street scene

The traffic and perhaps some de-icing meant the downtown streets were quite passable.

Charging port reveal

We tried electric charging in two different parking garages. The first time was a breeze. The second time we goofed somehow. The charging station accepted the plug-in, but somehow we didn’t trigger the flow of electricity. More study needed….

Caribou kitchen

The Guru found us a lovely French restaurant for a celebratory late lunch (yum). We took the caribou rack over the door to the kitchen as a good omen. [Long story.]

Mountains and malpaís

Red canyon

Before we headed to breakfast, we checked on road closings, and our route was to be open at 8am. The timing worked for us. Sure enough, WYDOT’s website indicated “our” highway was open at 8:05. Off we headed! This is Red Canyon. Guess why?!


At high elevations where there had been more snowfall, we saw several of these beasts. Fortunately, the sun was working in our favor, too.

Crows carrion

After days of seeing raptors cruising the skies, today we saw crows, eagles—bald and I’m not sure what, and magpies busy breaking down roadside carrion, but only a few hawks—still cruising above.

Kemmerer snow pile

We lunched in Kemmerer, at the only place that was open—yummy, BTW. I found the snow “removal” pattern interesting. I figure the plan was to remove the berm from the middle of the road. I have seen a central berm left in the middle of the street for all winter, but only when the road was about four lanes wide (in the summer).

Malpais roadside

Much later, we drove through malpaís, old lava flows that generally had little water and were tough to traverse. Mal país, or bad country, is a great name for this terrain.

Wind generators

As the sun set, we watched these blades turning at a stately pace, and were glad the wind we had yesterday—gusts, we were told, up to 50/60mph—did not haunt us today.