AndyO Blog

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sun Mountain - Day 2 (Friday)

This was day 2 at Sun Mountain lodge in Winthrop, WA, 7/24/09. Read Day 1 here.

The boys and I got up early (early for us is before 9:00) and went to breakfast at the Sun Mountain Lodge. Cam and I ordered the Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise was a little too sour for us -- too much lemon?) and Drew got the pancakes.

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After breakfast, we went to the game room, where we played ping pong, pool, and foosball. Cameron really got into learning how to play pool, but Drew kept interfering. So we left.

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Smoke Jumper base

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After playing in the game room, we drove to Winthrop -- about 10 miles from the Sun Mountain Lodge -- and then on to the North Cascades Smoke Jumper base. This is the actual base where smoke jumping was invented. In short, Smoke jumpers parachute out of airplanes and then create a fireline against a current blaze. As you can imagine, it's dangerous, difficult work.

Smoke Jumper base

On this particular day, there was a lot of activity around the base. Thunderstorms from the night before had started fires all over the Cascade Mountains, and smoke jumpers from Oregon and elsewhere were coming to help out. Helicopters were landing to pick up water to drop on fires, and other airplanes were landing.

Smoke Jumper plane 

One of the great things about going to the smoke jumper base is you get a tour from a smoke jumper. The smoke jumper paraloft, where they store their equipment and parachutes, always reminds me of the shellhouse at the University of Washington. Smoke jumpers and oarsmen also have similar personalities and physiques.

Smoke Jumper paraloft

Chasing wildlife

When we got back to Sun Mountain Lodge, we found a bunch of Blue Grouse on the grounds. The boys kept trying to get close to them, which made it difficult for me to get good pictures. Here's what the females look like:

Blue grouse

Later, when we came back from lunch we found a lone deer standing on the grounds. A bunch of people got pictures with the deer (as if she was a celebrity), but I told the kids to stay away from her.

Then, the deer did something totally unexpected: She lay down. This made me realize how comfortable they are at Sun Mountain -- even if tourist do like to take pictures of them.

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BBQ and swimming

Due to more thunderstorms and rain, the barbeque that's usually held at the lake was moved to the lodge. This was the same place we'd eaten the night before.

We ate with the chair of the board, his wife, and their two grandchildren -- as we were going to watch the kids after the BBQ so Bud and Bonnie could hold a wine tasting in their room.

The kids went to the pool and swam until close to 10:00 p.m.! I went in with them, but the pool was surprisingly cold due to the cool weather we'd been having. I spent most of the time in the hot tub.

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 Chapel (L) and Cameron (R)

After that, the kids watched a movie and when the grandchildren left our room, Cam and Drew fell asleep in minutes.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:26 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 23, 2009

North Cascades Highway to Winthrop (Thursday)

This was day 1 at Sun Mountain lodge in Winthrop, WA, 7/23/09. Read Day 1 here.

On Thursday, we drove to Winthrop Washington for a conference for Brenda at Sun Mountain Lodge. Our route took us 200 miles on the winding North Cascades highway through lush forests -- and the occasional town or gas station -- ascending into some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the United States.

When we stopped at a bathroom for Brenda and Drew, I saw a group of teenage hikers getting their gear together. I asked where they were going, and one of them told me "five days in the Cascades."

At the bathroom in the North Cascades 

Unfortunately, Drew fell down as he ran back to the car, and Brenda and I had to bandage him up.

Drew has a bandage

As we drove on, Drew was inconsolable, complaining about the bandage we'd put on his leg. He told us we were going to have to carry him everywhere -- and at one point demanded that we turn around and go back to Seattle. He finally stopped crying when Cameron let him draw on his Nintendo DSi.

Then came my favorite part of this journey: a 180-degree turn that signals the descent into the Methow Valley. The grade is so steep, we continued driving along at 75 mph without any gas for 10 miles. It's probably the closest I'll get to flying an airplane.

We finally made it to Winthrop by 5:00 p.m. It's always interesting to see Winthrop's wooden sidewalks and Old West architecture. We then drove along a winding, 10-mile mountain road to our final destination: Sun Mountain Lodge. The brochure says it's the only Triple-A rated Four Diamond hotel in Washington (for 15 years straight).


There are few hotels that match the spectacular views you get here.

The view from Sun Mountain

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posted by AndyO @ 10:41 PM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thoughts on the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11

It was 40 years ago today, when I was just 2 years old, that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. This was, arguably, the greatest technical achievement of the human race. And every year since that historic event, we seem to grow farther away from what was accomplished in 1969. Instead of new manned missions beyond the moon -- or even a base -- we get conspiracy theorists telling us we never even went to moon.

I can only hope that with Project Orion we start to move forward again with manned deep space exploration. While I'd like to see us go to the Moon again, it seems like a bit of a step backward. If we said we were going to the Moon again to set up a base there, then it starts to make more sense. But everyone knows the next real objective is Mars. There's a  scientific reason to go there.

They say after the Apollo missions, the people of Earth turned inward again (there wasn't an environmental movement until those pictures of Earth were taken by the astronauts). Perhaps what we really need is to turn outward again -- to explore. Perhaps this would change us as a species in ways we can't even imagine.

I hope so.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:55 PM   1 comments links to this post

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A summer day in Gilberton, WA

We drove to Gilberton on Saturday with the kids to attend my wife's summer work party. We drove around (via Tacoma) instead of taking the Bremerton Ferry and arrived around 11:00 a.m. Brenda had made arrangements with her boss Randy to take us out on his speedboat, as the kids had a great time the year before.

We got the boat ready and then headed out onto Puget Sound. The weather was perfect, the water glassy. Captain Randy showed off the 180 hp engine -- and we cruised the water at 50 mph. I looked back to see Brenda's hair blowing wildly.

Randy took us up to Agate Bridge, which brought back some memories for me. My Aunt and Uncle used to own a house above the beach, and I'd spent many days on the beach below Agate Bridge.

Cameron and Captain Randy

On the way back to the marina, Randy pointed out the Keyport Naval Undersea Warfare Center, where the Navy repairs and maintains torpedoes and underwater targets. I remember that when I was growing up, my father used to talk about doing work at Keyport -- but I'd never seen it before.

Brenda getting ready to dock

When we got back to Randy's cabin, Brenda headed down to the beach with the boys before the tide came in. The cabin, I soon found out, was really two houses -- a main house and the tree house -- both with incredible views. Randy explained that the women's bathroom was in the main house, and the men's in the tree house (at least for the party).

I took a look around inside the cabin and found a collection of military decorations, all belonging to Randy's father, George Henry Revelle, Jr. In all, there were 13 decorations, including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Legion of Merit. I asked Randy where his father had served.

"He worked for Patton in World War II," he said.

"General Patton?"

"Yes."

"Was he the son-of-a-bitch that everyone said he was?" I asked, jokingly referring to the Patton film starring George C. Scott that emphasized this fact.

While Randy didn't confirm my question, he said his father told him the only thing the movie Patton got wrong was the way the General swore. Evidently, when expletives escaped his mouth, Patton's voice went up in pitch -- in stark contrast to George C. Scott's gravely baritone.

After this, I headed down to the beach with the boys and Brenda. The tide was coming in, and the boys were in search of treasure.

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Later, back at the cabin, I played whiffleball and basketball with Cameron, and we were treated to the Tropical Rock-style singer Dave Calhoun. Dave played a lot of Jimmy Buffet songs, but he also played some that had been written by local songwriter friends of his that were really good (in particular, I liked the one about traffic).

Dave Calhoun performs

When Dave took a break, I talked "musician" shop with him a little. I was curious how he set up the backing tracks. He told me that the built the tracks on a keyboard and then converted them to an .mp3 file for his iPod. Pretty amazing that someone can bring an entire band in their pocket these days.

However, I feel it's important to point out that this technical revolution does come at a price: anything that's pre-recorded will ultimately sound sterile because it can't breathe. The feel of music is produced by the character of the musician -- including imperfections. While I thought Dave sounded great with the polished backing tracks, I would have preferred to hear him sing with only a guitar. 

After 5:00, we left the party and decided to take the Bremerton Ferry back to Seattle. The family stayed in the car, but I went above and enjoyed the 60-minute ride.

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posted by AndyO @ 7:44 PM   1 comments links to this post