Road Trip 2017 – Tacoma/Seattle: A Heart of Glass

First off, I know I promised a post on Portland. But, the weather was brutal that day…high, high winds and a deluge of rain. The report was that this was a highly unusual storm for June and was due to last at least two days. So, we decided to pack it in and head up to Tacoma/Seattle area.

And were we ever glad we did!

We made this into an all out “Hunt for Chihuly!” and we managed to go to not one, not two, not three…but FOUR Chihuly exhibits in one day. We persevered!

We first went to the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) and saw the beautiful permanent collection of glass from Chihuly. Plus, we took in several other exhibits – mostly American Southwestern Art which included two Georgia O’Keefe paintings!

Next, we walked up the street to the Union Station. This is a converted train station that is now Tacoma’s court house. In the main lobby, they have multiple Chihuly pieces on view. And, it is free to just wander into (after the guard gets your name and ID).

Then, we went across the Bridge of Glass to the Museum of Glass. The tradition of Glass blowing is very strong here due in large part to Chihuly’s contribution and inspiration. Once inside the museum, you can observe a glass blowing demo, view several incredible galleries and shop in the really great gift shop. Wonderful place…and a really oddly beautiful piece of architecture. Next, we headed off to downtown Seattle to catch the Chihuly in the Garden exhibit. This was located right at the base of the Space Needle (which we also did!). Needless to say, this exhibit was breathtaking. I was in glass heaven.

And the city of Seattle was pretty cool, too!

So, that is our day. Next up is a post about crossing the border into Canada and our visit to the Vancouver area.

Thanks for coming on the trip with me!

Road Trip 2017 – Palouse: Paradise Found

It seemed like a long, long drive from Vernal, Utah to Colfax, Washington. A lot of the time was spent driving across the bottom of Idaho. (By the way, all these are brand new states for me!) To break up the trip a bit, we stopped in Twin Falls, ID and visited the Snake River Gorge and the Shoshone Falls State Park. It was an exciting little side trip. Then, we continued driving just past Boise into Oregon, were we spent the night. The next morning we took off for the Palouse region.

I am in love with the Palouse (pronounced “Pah-loose”) region of southeastern Washington state. It is a modest-sized agricultural area growing wheat and legumes.

That description is very true, but dry. It doesn’t begin to describe the unique allure of this area. I have been searching for a description that would begin to illustrate what you can see here. Imagine being out to sea. And imagine you are rolling in swells that threaten to swamp your boat. As far as the eye can see. Then imagine instead of water, it is grassland. Lush. Green. Grassland. New wheat that bends and dances with the ever-present wind. Lines and curves of crops wrapping in soft lines around rounded hills framed by an enormous sky of the most brilliant blue. The landscape is made up of graceful swells of green in the summer and gold in the fall. Add in the picturesque barns and farms and you get an idea that this area is a photographer’s paradise. But, it doesn’t give up it’s secrets easily. It makes you work for it. From early in the morning to late in the evening, you can see men and women loaded down with photography gear, rushing to the next site to capture the light that is critical for the perfect photo. And that is what this place offers…the dream of capturing the perfect image. The imagery captured here is very feminine and very sensual. The curves and lines are reminiscent of reclining females…dressed in green and brown velvet gowns. But, instead of trying to describe it, here are some (quite a few, actually) of the photos I took in my day of shooting. (Side note: if you ever saw the 1992 movie “Toys” with Robin Williams, you will remember the grassland scene. That was shot in the Palouse area.)

Next stop is Portland and the Pacific coast!

Enjoy and thanks for coming with me on this trip.

Road Trip 2017 – Scenic Route to Jurassic Park

On Thursday morning, we left Estes Park and drove along the Trail Ridge Road planning to travel 166 miles that day. (See the previous blog post to see the photos.) Six and a half hours later, we made it to our destination of Hayden, Colorado. That is an average of 25.5 miles per hour. And, folks, that is just how scenic the area is. For a change of pace, I booked us a room at the Hiway 40 Bar & Grill…they had 3 apartments they rented out. The town of Hayden had 1400 residents (I asked) and amazing burgers (I ate) and micro-brew beer (I drank).

The next morning, we left to continue our drive down the Colorado River Scenic Byway (ie. Highway 40). Incredible views of red rocks and roaring rivers. I loved this off-interstate experience. It took us through some of the most amazing martian-looking areas. I truly expected to see the Mars rover collecting samples off the side of the road. (Conspiracy theories haven’t hit on this theme yet. Give them time. “We never went to Mars. It was Utah!”)

We came to Jensen, Utah that afternoon and discovered the Dinosaur Welcome Center. The area is a hotbed of paleontological activity. Bones amongst the stones. We drove a few miles further into a cute little town named Vernal and decided there was enough to see in the area to warrant a two-night stay. We went to the Dinosaur Center just outside of Vernal and saw an amazing preserved dig with thousands of bones.

The next day, we drove north to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. This was a 80 mile round-trip drive through some pretty spectacular landscapes. They have a very helpful visitor’s center located right beside the damn. 

We also took a side trip crossing into Wyoming (three times, actually, due to pilot error and I still blame the GPS for those detours.) One of the side trips took us into the Butch Cassidy hideout area. And I completely understand why he was never found there… part of the trek was made on dirt roads! But completely unspoiled scenery…rocks, bluffs and canyons.

Butch Cassidy canyon

This whole leg of the trip was completely unplanned and a surprise to us both. Gorgeous, gorgeous Utah!

The next leg of the trip goes around Salt Lake City, through Idaho and into the northeast corner of Oregon and the southwest corner of Washington state known as the Palouse region. Heads up! You are really going to want to see the photos from here. One of the most beautiful areas of our beautiful county.

Thanks for coming on this trip with me.

Road Trip 2017 – We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

We leave Goodland, Kansas early on Wednesday morning and in a very short time, we have crossed over into Colorado.

Coming into Colorado from this direction, it is surprisingly flat with just undulating hills the closer you drive into Denver. But, if you look very closely just off in the far distance, you catch a glimpse of a snow-covered Pike’s Peak. And suddenly, the mountains loom over you.

We leave the interstate and take the winding road into Estes Park. The town, itself, is a high-end village made for skiers, hikers and the generally well-to-do. We managed to find a wonderful wooded cabin for rent for one night and blew 3 nights budget on it. But, the scenery was worth every penny.

I will stop telling the story and let the photos speak for themselves. I don’t say this often, but these are some of the best photos I have ever taken. Of course, you could drop your camera and still get a great photo here!

 

Road Trip 2017 – Amazing Race: Five States in One Day

The road trip began in earnest on Monday morning and with the little white truck packed and ready to go, we high-fived each other, and with big grins, we headed out to discover the real USA.

Day one, we basically drove on an interstate for 8.5 hours, seeing no one but a gas station attendant.

We made it to St. Louis and the Gateway to the West around 2 pm and we spent an hour and multiple attempts to get close to the base and the park around it so that we could go to the top. Finally, I had to call it. It wasn’t going to happen. I could see the arch. My GPS could see the arch. But there were no roads that went to the arch. So, the symbolic “Welcome to the West” wasn’t quite the symbol we were hoping for. I began to have just the slightest superstitious fear for the success of this adventure. So, we decide to forget the arch and move on. We bravely headed across Missouri to make it to Kansas City, KS by that evening.

The next day, Tuesday, we were excited to go the Thomas Hart Benton homestead and studio. He is one of my favorite painters and his studio was left just as it was when he died.

Also, there was the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. They have a huge collection of Edward Weston photographs – who, in my opinion is the greatest photographer…ever.

So, all revved up to start day two, I go online and see that neither of these places are open on Tuesdays. Sigh.

Day two, strike two.

So, what do you do? You head west, young man…head west. We hopped in the car and took off across Kansas, 424 miles. Now, here’s the thing. Of all the places we were going, I was looking forward to this leg of the trip the least. I mean… Kansas, right? I anticipated flat, flat, fields of nothing for hours on end. Put on a book-on-tape, cause you are going to need some distraction. Well, let me tell you. I was wrong. Kansas is beautiful. Kansas is charming. Kansas has hills and valleys and beautiful little farms and quaint little towns. The moment that we decided to leave the interstate and head out across those fields and into those towns, that was when the trip really started.

Welcome to Wamego, KS. Home of the Wizard of Oz museum. Home of the Friendship House café. And Wamego Historic Museum. This was a town in which you would want to raise your children. Less than 5,000 people and, as Garrison Keillor would say, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

We first stopped in the Oz Museum. Kitschy fun at it’s best! Having the world’s largest collection of Oz memorabilia, you would necessarily have to have somewhere to display it. This was the place. A maze of dioramas and glass cases and a gift shop at the end where I purchased my first souvenir…a pair of ruby bedroom slippers!

Off to lunch next at the Friendship House where I had a lunch that was so pretty, I took a picture of it. And, the chef wanted to use it for their website. And they paid me in homemade cookies. (A real bargain on my part!)

Then we took off across a lovely little town park to their history museum and village. Lovely ladies that ran it and took us on a tour where they proudly described all their little artifacts.

A good time was had by all. But, we have to get back on the road and we were heading to Goodland, KS (close to the Colorado border) to spend the night. Why Goodland, KS you ask? Well, because they have the world’s largest tribute painting of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. 40 feet tall, including the steel easel. You can’t pass that up.

So, on Wednesday morning, our tour of Kansas is done, we head into Colorado to some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world. And, that is where tomorrow’s post begins. See you then.

Thanks for coming on the ride with me.

Road Trip 2017 – Nashville: Not just for country music

Nashville is an amazing place to visit. There is so much to do. So much to see. Even if you aren’t a country western fan. But music is at its heart and soul. On any given night, there are concerts being performed all over the city. From large stadium concerts to small coffee house venues, music is everywhere. And whiskey. Whiskey is everywhere, too.

Loved the font treatment on this billboard

But in case you think that is all to do here, just you wait.

As an art lover, there are several major sources to get your art fix. I took myself downtown earlier in the week to visit Hatch Show Prints, a part of the Country Music Hall of Fame. This print shop is the longest operating shop in the country…since the mid 1800’s. They still print using the same wooden blocks and letterpresses that have been used for over a century. It was a fascinating look at a business that flowed with the demand of the time. They still print commemorative concert art for venues around the country. Great stuff for a graphic geek!

Hatch Show Prints

 

Saturday morning, we continued our search for art by starting at the Parthenon…an incongruous building set in a beautiful park in downtown Nashville. Yep. The Parthenon. Just like in Greece. Inside was a wonderful collection of paintings and photographs. Upstairs, inside the main structure, stood the largest indoor sculpture in the world. I just call her the “Gold Lady.”

Parthenon in the park
Golden Lady in Parthenon

After wandering around there, we headed toward downtown to the Frist Gallery. This is a spectacular art deco building that was formerly the post office. You have to see the metal work inside to appreciate it! We were also fortunate enough to stumble upon a wonderful collection of modern American art.

“Anxious American”

On our final night in Nashville, we went to a dazzling light display at the fairgrounds from China. These creatures, flowers, etc. came alive within the frame work of the structures. And, we had the added bonus of having arrived just after the evening thunderstorm so there were not only the lights, but the reflections in the puddles. Great photo op!

ChinaLightsNashville

These bottles filled with colored fluid were the color in the lions

We start our road trip west on Monday morning… Next stop – Kansas!

 

See the USA! Road trip plans

Summer of 2017 and a road trip all set to go. What could be better?

This whole story began in April…April 7th to be exact. 10:30 am, to be even more precise. I was informed that my job was the victim of a department reorganization and that my last day was…well, right that moment! And the truth is, I was so happy. I was free to spend my time traveling instead of working in a grey-walled cube. Money will definitely be an issue, but I am going to wing it and try working on the road and freelancing. “Have laptop, will travel.” Or “will take photos for food.” Whatever works! lol I may have to even depend on the kindness of strangers.

So, the idea for the road trip came from a friend needing a house sitter/pet sitter for ten days. They live in Nashville…about 6 hours from my home town of Greenville, SC. “Sure,” I said. “I’ve got the time.” Then, I thought… since I am already 300 miles from home, why not drive around for a while… say, 10,000 mile round-trip! (See how my mind works?) I called an old travel buddy of mine, Doris, and said “How would you like to go on an epic road trip?” She didn’t even ask where… just said “Yep!” and the trip was on.

So, on Monday morning, June 5th, we start out for our first stop… St. Louis, Missouri and the Archway to the West. A symbolic beginning to an exciting adventure.

Stay tuned and photos to come!