Araneus cavaticus

As best as I can tell, we have a number of barn spiders (Araneus cavaticus) around the property here in St. Paul.  We initially noticed them in the chicken yard.  We had a snow rake’s handle hanging over the side entrance of the covered run, and one of the buggers made a web at least five feet high with support webbing running more than eight feet.  The next barn spider showed up to the right of the main gate into the chicken yard; the web was smaller, but you could also easily find the spider, during the day, tucked behind the yellow “Chicken Crossing” sign.  Since then, another one showed up at the front of the house, in front of the attached garage.   Melissa wanted to name this one Charlotte, since the barn spider is the type of spider that Charlotte, of Charlotte’s Web was modeled after.

Lure of the Road (Part 2)

Continuation of a previous post, Lure of the Road (Part 1)

Andy and Jen got married.  But, I ended up late to the ceremony at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.  I did manage to get there in time for their vows, but that does not explain why I was I late.  I also did not get a single photo from the wedding or the dinner afterwards.  When going to festivities and the like, I tend to travel light – the Nikon or Pentax are not brought out, and instead I default to my iPhone.  My iPhone stopped accepting a charge, and subsequently ran out of battery late in the afternoon.

But, I should really back up a bit first.  On my way home from the rehearsal dinner, I had called a friend, Josh – he’s from my days in Duluth, his father-in-law was my first manager at the University Minnesota Duluth – Josh and his family are now living outside Seattle in Edmonds.  I was to have breakfast with him – 7:00am, Saturday morning in Edmonds.   With the wedding in the evening, I had the day to kill.  Being somewhat averse to planning when I am road tripping, I figured I would see what came my way throughout the day.  Federal Way, where I was staying at a hotel, is about an hour from Edmonds (without traffic).  My body, still on Central Time, was perfectly happy getting up at its usual 6:00am Central Time…just that, it is 4:00am on the West Coast.

I rolled into my friend’s driveway, in Edmonds, 15 minutes early.  There was little activity and light traffic through Seattle.  There was a for sale sign in the front yard of the house.  He answered the door in his underwear – he was bacheloring it – the rest of his family was back in Duluth visiting family.  After he ducked into his bedroom to toss a shirt and pair of shorts on, he gave me a quick tour of the house.  Sitting down for coffee in the kitchen, the topics of conversation ranged from the real estate in the Pacific Northwest to our days when we briefly worked together in the same department.  Talking about this and that, his phone rang – it was his realtor, was the house available for showings today?  He said, yes, a bit more discussion and he hung up.  He turned me and asked, care to join me today – sailing on Lake Washington?  With his need to be out of the house for the day so it could be shopped to prospective buyers and my need to kill a day’s worth of time before the wedding — sailing seemed like it would do nicely.

But, first, breakfast.  Downtown Edmonds, a stretch of 5th street is closed on Saturday mornings for the farmers’ market.  We found a place to park, and walked to the Rusty Pelican Cafe.  Good coffee, good food.  We wandered through the farmers’ market and back to the car.

Sail Sand Point, the sailing club/school and boat yard did not open until 11:00am.  It was not nearly 11:00am.  Josh figured, to kill time, getting the oil changed in his Subaru might be helpful.  The car was overdue by at least a thousand miles.  He put oil change into Google Maps.   We headed to the first place.  I stayed in the car while Josh stepped out to ask.  He returned quickly and dropped a string of expletives – it was unclear whether the shop could get the car in today, but if we left it, they might be able to look at it in the next three hours.  Three Hours?!? There was sailing to get done!  Off to the next shop.  Grease Monkey, in Seattle (near the University of Washington) – in and out in fifteen minutes.  Sail Sand Point (SSP) was just minutes to the east, but we were still nearly an hour early – we headed there anyway.

The SSP office was open, and there was a sailing refresher course about to commence – three Hobie Waves had been brought out.  The young fellow leading the course said that we could join in with him and the rest, but we would have to wait for the manager to arrive if we wanted to check out a boat for ourselves.

We decided we could wander the boat yard until the manager arrived.

There were a number of Zodiac boats, many, many Hobie Waves.  We wandered over to the Hobie 16s.  Josh quipped toward me, let’s find one that doesn’t have the trampoline torn all to shit.  We checked over a number of them.  A few had frayed trampolines, one had loose drain caps on the pontoons.  We settled on one – boat number 11.  The trampoline was in alright shape, the travelers seemed to be in working order, the mast was good, too.  The manager still had not showed up – so, we wandered the boat yard a bit more.

We spotted a goofy looking yellow boat.  Rough on the edges, it looked homemade.  searunners.net was written on the pontoons.  The tiller was held together with pieces of inner tube.  Parts of a bicycle were fixed in the mid-section of the boat.  Josh recognized right way what the purpose of this boat was created for: Race to Alaska.   750 miles, no motors, no support, all the way to Alaska.  First prize: $10,000 (according to their site, second prize is a set of steak knives; sticking with the clear Glengarry Glen Ross reference, I assume third prize is you’re fired). R2AK (as it is known) goes from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. This particular boat we were looking at was Team Sea Runner’s boat for 2015. There are some great photos of the team and boat in an Outside Magazine article. We spotted the manager driving up; time to check out boat number 11. Josh dropped off his car keys at the front desk and signed out number 11. We put on lifejackets and headed down to the yard to get wheels under the boat and get it into the water. Out on the water, there was great wind. We looped out into the lake, toward the end of Sand Point. Josh would periodically call out that a gust was headed our way – a hidden shadow could be seen pressing against the water – speeding toward us. I generally sat forward – working the jib halyard and travelers. If the jib was making noise with the wind, I was not doing my job. Josh worked the mainsail. We would hit a calm off of Sand Point, drift around and jibe – heading back toward land. I lost track of how many loops we did. On several of the loops, Josh would cut across the wakes of boats pulling knee boarders. The wakes would push us – Josh kept yelling, surfin’ boat! surfin’ boat! On one of these cross-wake maneuvers, we cut close to a speedboat, the pontoons of our boat cut deep into the water, water rolled over the trampoline and the two of us on said trampoline. I suspect my iPhone got a bit wet in my pocket. We headed back to shore and took out a smaller Hobie Wave. By 3:00pm, we were back to Josh’s house. I needed to get going back to Federal Way – Google Maps was showing nasty traffic through Seattle. It was going to take at least 90 minutes to get back. That put be at the hotel at 4:30pm, and I still needed to get out my wet cloths, shower, dress, and get to the Bonsai Museum. Google Maps with its use of the GPS component in my phone is a battery hog. About 60 minutes into my 90 minute drive, I realized that my phone was not charging – there was very little battery left. In fact, my phone was actively rejecting the charging cable. Plugging the charger in would result in a message on the screen about the cable not being an acceptable cable. Four percent battery left. One percent. Shutting off. Thankfully, my car had in-car GPS. Unthankfully, a person is unable to change or set the destination of the GPS while the vehicle is in motion. I was running late, and the address for the hotel was on my now dead iPhone. I think I remembered the way back to the hotel. Between the traffic through Seattle and my sort-of-knowing-where-the-hotel-was-located, I got to the hotel with 15 minutes before 5:00pm. Shit. I kept thinking of Andy and I blasting up and across British Columbia with nothing more than a tourist-stop paper map that had been folded so many times, the creases had torn and the map was in pieces. I could make it to the hotel and then the wedding. Now, we are back to where I started this story. Andy and Jen exchanged vows. It was a lovely wedding. The dinner was great, too. Andy and Jen wanted breakfast for dinner, so, the main meal was that of waffles and assorted waffle-related-add-ons. Before I left the wedding party, Andy told me to stop by at the house the next morning. I had left the Monte Dolack card on the front seat of Andy’s truck as I left the wedding; Mirage was now hanging on their refrigerator. Coffee, chatting, then a quick jaunt over to the hotel where Andy’s parents and other relatives were staying, more coffee and a slice of zucchini bread. Those of us from Minnesota strangely self-segregated into our own little group. It was time I headed out onto the road again. I headed south to Portland, Oregon; stopping along the way at a cell phone store to have my phone looked at. The sales person unbent a paperclip and used it to fished a lot of pocket lint from the nooks and crannies of the phone. I neglected to tell the sales person about the potential for water having met my phone the day before. None of his business. The interstate seemed vaguely familiar. It was, after all, the the same road that Mike and I had driven when he and I went to Seattle in 1998. Driving south on Interstate 5, I thought of Mat Kearney’s song “Coming Home (Oregon)“. I was not chasing down a dream, I was just headed to Oregon with its evergreens and caffeine. Portland, Oregon. Arriving at my aunt and uncle’s house, each time I have visited them – this being my four or fifth time – it’s just a snapshot in time. The amount of time I spend there is so fleeting. When I first visited in 1998, there was grass in the backyard and there was a hot-tub. Similar, again, two years later. A little different the next time I visited while I was attending a convention in Portland in 2003 or 2004. Three years, I stopped in at their house while in Portland. The backyard was a bit different, less grass, the hot-tube was gone and was a vegetable garden. As I pulled up the driveway, I noted a grouping of bushes just beyond the grass of the front yard. Vehicles changed, as well. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, my uncle had a Nissan or Datsun small pickup; this visit, a Ford Ranger. The Camry that Mike and I drove to Portland from Minnesota was long gone. It was great to visit with my aunt and uncle. Not that we are particularly close, but with Clarice, my grandmother and Mike’s mother, now having passed, Mike no longer has a strong reason to come back to Minnesota. Visiting when I am there way is a chance to connect with what few close-relatives that I have. We went to dinner – just the three of us – at some place in Portland. I actually, for the brief amount of time it took to get to the restaurant, did not pay attention. I have no recollection of the restaurant’s name. I just recall having grilled salmon and a salad (without the bacon dressing) and for dessert, a slice of the richest blackberry cheesecake I could have ever imagined. After dinner, we went back to the house and played a game of Rummikub. Reggie won. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I spent the night at Mike & Reggie’s house. On the Road, Again. Can’t wait to get on the road, again. I was up early the next morning. I did not sleep well. I think it was part antsy and impatience about heading to the coast in the morning – I wanted to get going, and part night after and night of being slightly on edge while sleeping in a strange or different place than my own house and bed. The drive to the coast and Cannon Beach was the same as my previous four or five times there. The windy, hilly road through the Coast Range to Cannon Beach seemed familiar. Arriving in Cannon Beach, I parked in the same public parking lot I did in 2013. I walked down the same set of stairs at the end of west 2nd Street – onto the beach. I had the beach almost to myself. It was cold – I could see my breath. There was a marvelous, cold, salty wind coming from the ocean. The tide was still somewhat low, having been at the low mark around 6:00am – it was now 9:00am. I wandered the beach for a time, taking pictures of waves crashing and seagulls walking on and flying close to the beach. By 10:00am, a few shops had opened up. I grabbed a hot Americano at a coffee shop, and wander the town a bit. Cannon Beach, for me, would be a marvelous town to live in. I would simply need to get used to tourists. Though, at the moment, I was a tourist. A stop at a shirt shop for something-Cannon-Beach for Melissa, and a swing through the grocery store; it was time was to head east. I had made it as far west as I was going to make it on this trip. Coffee, photos, souvenir, food – check, check, check, and check. Twin Falls, Idaho seemed like a rough target to target for the day’s necessary travel. Nine and a half hours – 650 miles – plus stops for bathroom breaks and photography, I would also be passing back into Mountain Time, and therefore losing an hour. Maybe eleven and a half hours (with the timezone change). I swung through Seaside, Oregon, to fill-up with gasoline, and east on US Highway 26. Good bye ocean, good bye Cannon Beach. Portland passed in the rearview. I stopped at the wayside rest to get a few photos of Multnomah Falls. Through the Cascades along the Columbia Gorge and back into the rain shadow on the east side. Dry and hot. Much warmer than west of the Cascades. Wind turbines dotted the horizon across the river – either the Columbia or Snake. I had never been in southern Idaho, let along anywhere south of Coeur d’Alene. I have seen the panhandle – or passed through it; when we took the Empire Builder to Portland in 2004, those tracks actually head to the north of Coeur d’Alene – through Bonner’s Ferry and Sandpoint. The southwestern part of Idaho was new to me. I had mistakenly thought that southern Idaho would be vast vistas of potato fields. The smell of french fries on the air. It is mostly high desert. In the lower valleys, you will pass fields of potatoes and other crops, but in the high country, it is dry and barren – few if any trees. I kept driving. I pulled over at a vista-lookout. It was nice to stretch my legs and take some photos. There were two cars parked near me. A woman and a little girl stepped out of one of the cars, they looked around. The woman began speaking to the girl – in German. I think they were talking about me. When I heard the word Minnesota, it was a dead give away. They were talking about me. Excuse me, sir, where is Minnesota? The woman asked me as she looked at the license plate on the Subaru. I replied with, Miles or Kilometers? She said she actually lived in Portland, so, miles would be fine. Roughly 1,700 miles to the east of Portland – at least that is the distance I will need to drive to back to St. Paul, where I live. She thought on that for a few seconds, and replied with, We’re driving to Boston, so, St. Paul is over half way to Boston, then? The others from the other car were now getting back into vehicles. I bid the woman and the girl, Auf Wiedersehen, and I got back into my car. Twin Falls. Could I make Twin Falls before sun down? I called Melissa to find out if she could find any hotels in the Twin Falls area that were not too expensive. Supply and demand for a place with clean sheets, an interior door (e.g. not a motel) and under my “acceptable rate for a room” dictated to that question a solid no. Melissa found, in Twin Falls, nothing under$250 a night, most were more.  There seemed to be a few motels, but expanded her search into the surrounding towns.  Jerome, Idaho, had rooms available at a few hotels.  The rates were acceptable, too.  Melissa booked a room.  I continued to drive east.  Boise came and went.  I remembered that the woman who spoke German at the vista-view had mentioned to the little girl that they were stopping in Boise for the night.  That’s just six and a half hours from Portland.  They certainly were not going for distance or going for speed.  Six and a half hours of driving in one day?  I was targeting 9 to 11 hours each for the drive back to Minnesota, and I thought that was “going light” on time and miles traveled.

The exit for Jerome was approaching, and the sun was going down.  A couple wrong turns, and then a U-turn, and I found the hotel off of an unlit, recently paved road.  The hotel was new.  By this point, I did not care.  I needed to stop moving, wind down, and get some sleep.  With the sun now down, the air temperature dropped.  It had been near 90 but it was now down into the 70s.  It was nice.  I headed to my room in the hotel.

Part 3, Lure of the Road

Toilet Paper In a Tree

Not much to say about this; as odd as this is, I really enjoy the composition of this photo.  The texture of the photo adds to it, as well.  This was shot on 35mm Fujifilm ISO100 Velvia using a Pentax ME, 75mm lens – F 3.8.  Sometime in April 2016.

Winter Forest & Almost-Solstice Bonfire

My parents generally do not travel out from their house after dark.  On the Iron Range, where they live, in late December, it gets dark rather early.  This means it is rare for them to leave their house after 4:30pm.

A few weeks ago, Melissa and I traveled up to Hibbing; my sister was in from North Carolina.  I can’t remember the exact reason, but after dinner and after sundown, we all ventured thirty-minutes north to the familial land.  Overcast, but not too cold, it was grand to be in the taiga at night.  We stomped around a bit, and then headed back to town.

After that bit of post-sunset pioneering, and several days later, my mother got the idea that she wanted a bonfire, at night, on or very near the winter solstice.  She dropped the idea of me coming there for a solstice fire via email…many times.

I ended up taking the twenty-first off from work; hound-Henry and I drove up on the twentieth.  The fire was not exactly on solstice – we had it after dark, on the twentieth – but it was close-enough for my mother.  The morning of the twenty-first, we returned to the woods to survey the remains of the fire and to pickup a memory card from a trail camera.

Duluth Harbor and the Cason J. Callaway (Photos)

On our way back from the Northwoods, we stopped in Duluth at the harbor.  We almost did not swing thru Duluth; driving south as we approached a split in the road (south to highway 33 and Cloquet), we waffled on whether to bypass Duluth and get home a little earlier.  I decided I wanted to at least get a glimpse of the lake.  We remembered that there is free parking in the winter in the harbor area – it was set, we would take a stroll in Canal Park.  Unbeknownst to us, the Cason J. Callaway was heading out of port to pickup a load of taconite in Two Harbors.

Northwoods (Photos)

For part of our last day up North, this weekend, we stomped around in the forest.  Down to the river, over to Superior National Forest lands, and places in between, we stomped.  The weather was strange.  Back in Hibbing, it was gloomy with heavy fog; north of the Laurentian divide, it was sunny-blue-skies with wispy ribbons of clouds here and there.

North

We did a bit of venturing this today.   Cut a Christmas tree for the house, saw an eagle and signs of beaver working the river bank.