Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Hubby on the Road: Coming Home

January 15, 2012

The Hubby made it home safely on Saturday! His road trip from Connecticut to Minneapolis was a little more snowy than the ride out.

I stopped at this rest stop in Ohio twice. The shot on your left is on the way out, the shot on the right is on the way back home.

Nightly sight at rest stops and diesel gas stations.

 

Hubby on the Road: At Work

January 12, 2012

The Hubby wrapped up his job in Connecticut yesterday, and he should be starting back home today unless the site calls for a last-minute look at anything. While he was on-site he wasn’t able to take photos of the really cool, confidential-type stuff that he was working with, but he did manage to take a few shots outside of the camera-restricted areas. Here are the Hubby’s photos from work:

Caution: I may drop something on you.

Outside eyewash and safety shower in case I spill bad stuff on myself.

Connecticut license plate – it’s the little things are different.

Hubby On The Road

January 10, 2012

The Hubby is an environmental testing technologist. His company tests air, water and soil for contaminants and composition. He is in the air division, which means he spends a lot of time outdoors climbing those huge stacks that you see rising up from large plants and factories, or working on hot tar roofs, or sitting in company vehicles waiting for data collection. He uses a number of cool instruments to do analyses like GC/mass spec (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) and FTIR (Fourier transform spectroscopy), which are ways of separating samples into their various components and identifying those components.

Every once in a while out-of-the area companies will contract the Hubby’s company to do air testing for them. In these cases one or more of the technologists in the Hubby’s group will have to fly or drive out to location. The Hubby has recently been sent out to Connecticut, and he’s driving because there is a trailer full of equipment that needs to go along. Connecticut – how fun! I wish I could have tagged along for the drive, but it’s pretty busy at work, so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I asked the Hubby to take photos along his drive and send them back to me so I could share the road trip.

These are from the Hubby’s road trip to Connecticut. I hope to have new photos every day or two.

Sunday:

Driving Through Chicago – Sears Tower spotting!

The Hubby with his rig at dusk in Indiana

Monday:

A farm in Pennsylvania. The Hubby also hit New York and Connecticut today.

Mississippi River Adventures

November 2, 2011

Last Friday Aaron and I road-tripped down to Wabasha, MN to see two friends embark on a sailing adventure that started in a tiny Wabasha marina and will end in Belize, Central America (You can follow the adventures in photos and written stories at their website, Sailing to Belize). We left at 4:30am and rolled into Wabasha at about a quarter to seven. We got a tour of the boat and were treated to a really beautiful sunrise. The goodbyes wrapped up and the guys set sail. Those of us who had traveled down to see them off headed into town to warm up and get some breakfast.

After that Aaron and I split off to explore some of the landmarks along the Mississippi River. We started at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It’s a very pretty building with several exhibits that educate about eagle habitats, behavior and representation in current and historical cultures. The highlight of the museum is a viewing area with five of the center’s permanent eagle residents. The viewing area is open air; the eagles are tethered to an small area around their perches and visitors stand behind a low barricade only feet away from the birds. The eagles – four bald eagles and one golden have all been injured and are unable to be returned to the wild.

This eagle had been hit by a car and never regained his ability to fly. The National Eagle Center gives him a home and helps people learn about eagles.

Next we crossed the river into Wisconsin and drove south to Alma where we visited Buena Vista Park. It shelters many different kinds of songbirds and is kind of breathtakingly gorgeous.

Just a little pretty. Panorama stitched together by cleVR. Click to enlarge.

And since we were there we made a quick stop at Lock and Dam #4 in Alma. We were hoping to see some bald eagles hunting the fish that get injured by the dam, but all we got were a bunch of ring-billed seagulls. Pbth! But I did get cool shot of the dam.

Chatty three-eyed aliens!

The next stop on our list was Rieck’s Lake Park, which is north of Alma and not quite to Nelson, Wisconsin. It is a large lake and flat, open marsh. We saw tons of Canada Geese,  Mallards, and Teals, but weren’t lucky enough to see any Tundra Swans. The view, however, was incredible.

Ducks and Geese hanging out in the lake.

Some small mammal hut – muskrat? Reick’s Lake houses beavers, mink and muskrats.

View from the Reick Bridge site.

After that we went in search of Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife area. Tiffany Bottoms is largely undeveloped and has a great and varied population of birds. We found a parking lot a few miles past Nelson on Highway 25 and started hiking. We never made it to any of the rivers that run through the area (other than the Chippewa, which our path ran parallel to), and we didn’t see a lot of birds, but we found some other forest inhabitants and a set of overgrown train tracks.

Fall Forest Trail 

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Dragonfly

Leopard Frog

Overgrown Train Tracks

After Tiffany Bottoms we headed back to Minneapolis. We had been up since 3:30am and the day’s adventures did us in. We did stop for dinner in Stockholm, Wisconsin on the way back. What a cute touristy town! We walked around a little and shopped at the trinkets stores. And then we went home. What a day!

Back to Reality and Rumpology

September 6, 2011

Okay, it’s been about two weeks of awesomeness and now it’s time to get back to work. I had a great time at Dragon*Con. I arrived home at about 11:30pm last night, and spent today unpacking, watching TV, doing a few light chores and in general just getting back into the everyday routine mindset. I’m not loving the fact that there’s an everyday routine mindset, but it is good to be home.

I’ve got a few blog posts in draft that I’m pretty excited to finish and get up on the blog, but I figured today I would tell you about my favorite new word and woo, and a then share a few final Dragon*Con photos.

Okay, first the new (to me) woo: RUMPOLOGY

I first heard this word from Tim Farley during a skeptics panel at Dragon*Con. The woman next to me leaned over and whispered, “What’s rumpology? It sounds like it has something to do with butts.” Friends, there is no gentle way to put this: Rumpology is butt reading. You’ve heard of palm reading? Apply that same idea to the ass and you’ve grasped the subject. Jackie Stallone is a self-described astrologer, psychic and rumpologist. If you send her a photo of your bottom she will tell you about your past, your future and your “natural personality characteristics”, whatever that means. And all for the LOW, LOW PRICE of $600! The website claims are embarrassing – there are no references or anything that looks like supporting evidence for the supposed history of rumpology, or the claims that one butt cheek tells you about your past, the other about your future and the gluteal cleft (Read: hairy ass crack) tells you about your personality.

Seems legit. Let me get my checkbook.

Butt while I’m doing that, enjoy a few final Dragon*Con costumes (click on any photo for the making bigger):

This is probably my favorite “I was at Dragon*Con” souvenir photo. In my opinion, the weeping angels are one of the creepiest Doctor Who characters that I’ve seen, and this was the best angel costume at the con.

A very well done Blade. The weapons are dead on – the sword, the fictional gun, the silver spikes and EDTA darts. Bravo to the detail!

The Vision

Captain America

Mid-Vacation Status Report

August 31, 2011

Okay, Pacific Northwest leg of the trip is done! I spent a wonderful six and a half days with my sister and her husband traipsing around Seattle, Northwest Washington and Vancouver. Today she drove us back down to the airport, and we arrived with three hours until boarding. I like that; there’s enough time to have a whiskey and play online without any stress about being stuck in security or having to run across the airport to make my flight.

So here I sit at the lovely Seattle Taproom in the A concourse of SEATAC airport. A nice waiter named Chris kindly offered to supersize my whiskey for a mere $3. And people say that chivalry is dead!

The Hubby and I splurged on first-class on the way out, but we’ve both decided to not indulge on the way back. It’s nice, but not $220 nice. However, if they do one of those “we over-booked the planes so we’re now offering cover-our-ass $50 upgrades”, I don’t think we’ll be strong enough to resist. 

We should arrive in Minneapolis at 10:30pm. Our super nice friend B is picking us up, and then I’ll spend about an hour or so freaking out about my Dragon*Con packing! Hopefully I’ll be able to get about three hours of sleep before we pick up my two friends M and E and head to the airport for our 5:25am flight to Atlanta, Georgia.

Whee! Whirlwind travel! What with the excitement over attending my first Dragon*Con and the sleep deprivation, the next 24 hours should be interesting.

Pacific Northwest: Day 3

August 31, 2011

Blogging, Pacific Northwest Edition – Day 3!

On Saturday I started the morning with a little Twitter in bed. That sounds dirty because the word “bed” is in it, but I guarantee it’s less exciting than it sounds. The call of coffee became too strong to resist, and so I moved into the living room. The unbelievably relaxing, peaceful, never-want-to-leave-it living room. 

My sister and brother-in-law rent the bottom floor of a two-story house and it’s just incredible. There are two huge nearly floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room which look onto the expansive, woodsy backyard. They have a wood deck that’s probably the size of my entire living room. It’s gorgeous. The view alone is worth their paltry $850 monthly rent, and they also have a huge kitchen, a washer/dryer, two bedrooms and they get to have a dog and cat for no extra fee. Jerks.

That morning me and my sis went out to the roadside ditch in front of their house to pick blackberries. Blackberries grow everywhere up here. Apparently they’re a real pain in the ass for people who want to cultivate manicured lawns, but if you like the natural woodsy look you can just trim them like hedges to keep them under control and then enjoy fresh blackberries for the entire season.

Our morning blackberry harvest.

After a breakfast of gluten-free blackberry pancakes, the sister and brother-in-law unit took us to Larrabee State Park to walk along the beach and visit the tide pools.  When we arrived we parked in a lot and walked across a cleared area that looked a lot like a normal midwestern park – a kid’s playground, a picnic pavillion, the usual. But we knew we were in for a treat after crossing through about 20 feet of forest; we started hearing the sound of waves washing across sand and we passed this collection of signs:

Gee…only a five dungeness limit? What harsh lives these Washingtonites live! And that pink sign to the right is a warning to not approach seal cubs. Seal cubs! Well, spoiler, we didn’t see any seal cubs, and the only dungeness crab that we found had already been picked apart by the ocean-dwelling competition. But we did see a ton of starfish, sea anemonae, hermit crabs, snails, limpets and barnacles. We also found a heron and a bunch of pretty large seagulls.

Chuckanut Bay from Larrabee State Park

Purple Ochre Sea Stars anchored to rock during low tide.

Snails in a rock crevice in the tide pools. 

A great blue heron stands on a rock outcropping in the bay while gulls fly overhead.

Two seagulls fight over a clam.

We spent a couple of hours at Larrabee then drove a few miles down the road to Clayton Beach. This time we hiked about half a mile to get to the beach. We passed through a moss and fern-filled forest, over a train track and finally emerged onto a new beach. Our big finds here were hundreds of sand dollars, the carcass of a dogfish and the ruins of an old railroad.

The Sister and the Hubby in the woods en route to Clayton Beach

Clayton Beach

A small collection of the sand dollars that we found within a few steps of this spot.

Dogfish carcass

The Hubby in front of railroad ruins on Clayton Beach

We stopped for lunch at a little diner called Winn’s in Fairhaven. It turns out that hiking through the woods, tromping over sand, and breathing fresh salt air for about four hours will stimulate the appetite. We had burgers, fries and milkshakes and then headed home to recoup. It turns out that recoup in this case meant nap for two hours. We were crazy exhausted and we didn’t even realize it until we woke up at about 5pm.

That evening we drove up Mount Baker. This is all I have to say about Mount Baker.

Pacific Northwest: Day 2

August 28, 2011

My sis and brother-in-law are keeping us crazy busy! So even though this is our fourth day of vacation, I’m only caught up on blogging through the second day of the trip. Which is alright because it’s vacation, and that means there are no deadlines, right? Right.

Day 2 took us to the wild and foreign lands of…duhn duhn dunh…Canada! We had a minor scare as we approached the Peace Arch border crossing between Blaine, WA and Surrey, British Columbia. The scare came in the form of my sister shouting “SHIT! I LEFT MY WALLET AT HOME!” It would have been okay since Bellingham was only 20 minutes behind us, but we had already entered the border crossing lines going into Canada and to turn around meant getting into the HUGE line of Canadians waiting to cross into the US. All was well though, when she exclaimed “WAIT! CHECK THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT!” And there was our golden ticket, the wallet with her enhanced driver’s license and our pass into and out of Canada. Phew. On to the next adventure.

The mountains in this corner of the country are incredible. I’ve seen some of the Appalachian mountains. When we were in Boise we drove up into some cool mountains. Down in Tuscon we visted Mount Lemmon. And on last summer’s road trip from Arizona to Minneapolis Mom and I drove through part of the Rockies. But the mountains up here are freaking mind-blowing, snow-capped, intraversable bohemoths. They inspire an urge to run to REI, buy a Mountaineering for Dummies book, blow a life savings on survival equipment and start marching up the side of Mount Baker.

Mount Baker as seen from the I-5 Slater Road exit in northern Washington.

In Vancouver we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a park consisting of treetop canopy bridges, a bridge built into the face of one of the cliffs, several trails and the namesake 446′ suspension bridge over the Capilano River. It was great – like a jungle gym for big kids. The trees were enormous, and there were ferns everywhere. We all agreed that we’d pay extra if they’d have an Ewok Night at Capilano.

After the bridge walks we drove back toward downtown Vancouver. We lunched at an independent cafe attached to the Inn Cogneato (yes, really) which served amazing middle eastern food, and then drove over another suspension bridge – this one slightly more modern and sturdy than the Capilano – called the Lions Gate. We stopped at Stanley Park to take some pictures of the bridge and Burrard Inlet, the body of water that the Lions Gate crosses.

Finally we entered downtown Vancouver proper. We stopped to walk down Davie Street, the commercial area of Vancouver’s gay neighborhood. It was a neighborhood. There were a lot of rainbow flags. It was quite the happening place – tons of stores, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

A view down Davie Street

The ride home was uneventful, but the line to get across the border was reaaallllly long. We had to cut the car engine, and the Hubby actually got out of the car and walked around in the grass while we waited. Sis took pictures.

The Peace Arch as seen from the Canadian side of the board.

But we eventually made it home and cooked a lovely meal on the grill – salmon, scallops, asparagus and fresh sweet corn. Yum! The night ended with us being wiped out and brain dead in front of the TV. Good day.

Pacific Northwest: Day 1

August 26, 2011

The last couple of days have been odd because I’ve only had about three hours of sleep on Tuesday and Wednesday night. See, I had to finish my Dragon*Con costume and then pack up for two separate vacations. Best problems EVER.

So I went to bed around 12:30am this morning and work up to the first of four separate alarm clocks that we had set for 3:30am, 3:33am, 3:35am and 3:40am. They were situated all over the room too, just in case we accidentally pressed snooze on the nearby clocks. Because we really, really didn’t want to miss our flight. We managed to roll out of bed, throw on our pre-set out clothes for the day, grab our suitcases and stumble out the door on schedule. I actually had some twitter company during these awful early hours because several of my friends were heading out to PAX, a gaming convention which coincidentally is also in Seattle this weekend. Yeah, we saw a Yoda backpack on our flight.

We bought the first-class upgrade from Sun Country. It was an awesome guilty indulgence. We had quiche for breakfast with a side of bacon and fresh mixed berries. Coach got pre-packaged breakfast sammiches. Mwah ha ha! The Hubby slept through the entire thing, but I like being awake during flights, especially if I have a window seat (and first class). I managed to get some kick-ass photos of clouds, mountains and cities from the air. Because we headed to the west coast we had a two-hour time change during our flight. It’s pretty neat to leave from one city, fly for four hours and arrive in a new city two hours later.

After we arrived at SeaTac (SEAttle-TAComa airport), we found the Link light rail into downtown Seattle. Tickets only cost $2.25/person, as opposed to an online estimate of ~$20 for a cab ride into the city. My sister, Erin, had meanwhile been driving two hours down from Bellingham, WA to meet us. We found each other in a park outside of the Pike Place Market, home of Seattle’s famous Public Market and the Pike Place Fish Company. Then all three of us walked over to the Space Needle; it was the one tourist thing (other than Pike Place) that The Hubby and I wanted to do during our limited time in the city. 

After that we took a beautiful drive up to Bellingham, including a suprise discovery of a sandy beach called Golden Gardens. On the way home we drove the scenic Chuckanut Drive, which goes up a mountain and overlooks the Salish Sea. It was a spectacular view. We made it home and met up with my sister’s husband, Ralph, and went for a quick dinner at a nearby Chinese buffet. We chatted a little and managed to make plans for Friday, but Aaron and I were fading fast. We came home, made a half-hearted attempt at watching a movie, and then Erin and Ralph set up the inflatable bed while I typed this blog post and pulled the day’s photos off of the SD card.

I am beat. But here’s a few photos – you gotta see these:

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Wisconsin Weekend and Photo Contest

August 18, 2011

A friend of mine invited me and the Hubby to spend this past weekend in Wisconsin with her and her family. They have a GORGEOUS  house on a quiet lake in the Northeast corner of the state. We went tubing, jet skiing, boat cruising around the lake and flying through the woods on an ATV. We played board games, had tasty adult drinks and ate incredible meals prepared by her mom (her mom bought all sorts of gluten-free goodies just for me, including brownies, spice cake and ciabatta rolls!). We packed a lot in over 30 hours. Oh, and we saw a frickin’ black bear as we were driving home!

Tubing on Crane Lake
Me tubing!

Photo Contest

I could use your help. I’m submitting three photos to a gallery at work (just a showing, not a contest) at one of our upcoming site-wide celebrations. I’ve picked out my top thirty favorite photos and placed them in a flickr set. If you have the time and the inclination, I’d love to have your help in narrowing it down to the three winners. Here’s how you can pipe up:

Oh, and did I mention that there is a contest associated with this? I love contests. If you vote you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a set of prints of your three favorite photos, even if they aren’t the three that I use for the gallery showing. I’ll chat printing options (size, finish, etc.) with the winner. 

Thanks for any votes, thoughts or advice!