Posted by: bkivey | 26 October 2020

2020 Vacation: Wrapping Up

About 1400 miles and $600, so not so bad. Zero issues. Outside drive throughs, meals were procured through grocery delis. $10 at Safeway can feed you for a day and a half. Not that I was trying to be cheap; I just didn’t want to deal with the mask thing at a bar or restaurant. You know, the places you go to socialize?

And the mask thing wasn’t really a thing in central Washington. I was expecting compliance to be lax in the hinterlands, and it was almost non-existent. A large retail store in Omak had hundreds of people inside; a full quarter weren’t wearing masks, and no one seemed to care. You could routinely walk into convenience stores, even the corporate ones, and the clerks wouldn’t be masked. I’d ask “Do you care?” and usually get a wave of the hand. Several stores had signs “We are not the mask police. Washington requires a mask, we don’t.” Pretty much for four days, I didn’t wear a mask. It was like, living in America.

I’ve been in this part of the country before, but not for nearly a week. The landscape is wearing. It is not human-friendly, and you have to work hard to make a living.

If central Washington was the determining factor, the Democrats would be swept. Very few Democrat candidate signs. Except in Grand Coulee, but that’s a government company town. Washington’s Governor isn’t popular here. At all.

Saw a lot of what I wanted to see, and some things as a bonus. Disappointed about North Cascades Park, but I’ll have another crack at that. A lot of driving through what is, really, not very interesting landscape, but it’s the landscape of home, so worth seeing.

Traffic Management

Or the ignorance of. I have been going to the same barber for nearly 15 years, and she is located in a building near downtown Beaverton. The City has decided that weekends will be for ‘Farmer’s Markets’, and the streets shall be blocked, and restaurants allowed to block parking in front of their establishment. In the very same blocks, a new apartment building has gone up, and while they may offer (1) parking space for tenants, there are no provisions for guests, or extra cars in the household. Guess where those folks park? The upshot is that there is no parking to be had within 4 – 5 blocks of where you may want to go. There is no parking in the neighborhood. It is very frustrating.

There is a parking lot near the library, and about 5 blocks from where I want to go, but often full from the market activity.

The people in this county have had their living standard noticeably reduced this year, and not from COVID-19. Folks, you really need to look around, and see what is going on.

Posted by: bkivey | 25 October 2020

2020 Vacation: 26 September

I spent the morning of the day looking at the BNSF railroad yard just north of downtown Pasco. The railroad stuff is at the link, but there was a bit of non-railroad excitement. While looking for a place to park on the east side of the yard, I noticed a USAF C-17 on what looked like an approach pattern. The Tri-Cities airport is right next to the railyard, and I wasn’t aware of an Air Force base in the Tri-Cities. The nearest airbase is near Spokane, but they don’t host the C-17.

So I’m keeping an eye on the aircraft while parking, and as I find a place, I realized that Holy Crow! It’s going to fly right over me! There wasn’t time to unship the camera, so I grabbed the phone and started snapping away without being able to see the viewfinder.

My first experience with the C-17 was as a contractor working on a C-17 hanger at McChord Field, now Joint Base Lewis – McChord, at the time one of only two C-17 bases in the country. The aircraft is impressively large, and I’ve liked the no-nonsense look of the airframe. It looks like a piece of equipment that gets the job done, and it has.

This aircraft made a touch-and-go at the airport, then headed East.

After poking around the railyard, I headed home, first south on US 395 to I-82, then the exit for WA 14, and West.

Near the junction of I-82 and WA 14 is the McNary Dam and Locks:

The locks are in the foreground on the north bank of the river. This is a common arrangement along the Columbia.

Heading west on WA 14, with some Oregon wind turbines on the opposite bank:

I made the crossing at The Dalles, where there is also a dam, and the bridge. The dam is just behind and slightly to the right.

I grabbed some gas and grub, and parked in a hotel parking lot overlooking the river and bridge. There was an official bug trap:

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad runs along the north bank, and you could hear the train a couple of mile before it appeared. There must be a grade, because the locomotives were working hard:

A towboat makes its way through the locks:

Looking for an airplane, but settled for a bird:

And so back to Portland, and eventually home, on the familiar I-84W. As I’ve said before, the drive through the Gorge never gets old.


Posted by: bkivey | 24 October 2020

2020 Vacation: 25 September

I had thought to take WA 20 west through North Cascades National Park (No fees! Looking at you, Mt. Rainier Park!), and then work south to Everett and US 20 back through the Cascades. It would be a Day of Driving, but I was looking forward to the Park, and seeing a couple of railroad passes.

The weather had other ideas. The variable, but generally sunny, conditions of the previous day had given way to low, grey clouds hovering over the mountains, the exact place I wanted to go. Knowing it was futile to look at vertical scenery through horizontal clouds, I looked for something else to do. Frustrating? Sure. But I live close enough to make another effort without too much trouble.

The ‘something else’ was to have a look at a railroad yard in Pasco. You can see why traveling companions may be hard to find:

“What are we doing today?”

“Driving 200 miles across arid badlands to look at a railroad yard.”


There were other activities of interest, all closer, but this was a ‘hump’ yard, where cars are rolled down an incline to do the switching, rather than done by locomotives. I’d never seen one, and as they are expensive to operate, not that many in operation.

For the day’s journey, I turned off the GPS, and navigated by road sign (VFR). I knew I had to travel generally south and east, and took US 97 south all the way back to Wenatchee, then WA 28 south along the Columbia River.

Heading south between Omak and Okanogan on the east bank of the Columbia. Ground is still smoking.


The part of Washington I was traveling through was apparently once a great sagebrush ‘forest’. Not sure what you call a sagebrush geography, but the official signs go with ‘sagebrush-steppe’, which seems accurate. There were a lot of tumbleweeds, and on the day, a lot of wind to move them around. You could see stacks of them on fences: fences that in many cases seemed purpose-built for catching tumbleweeds, and at which they were successful.

Humans tend to imbue human characteristics to natural events, but I don’t think that’s by accident. Consider, if you will:

I was behind and to the left of a dually pickup truck towing a goose-neck car trailer. A large tumbleweed (1m+ dia) blew in front of the truck, and the truck demolished it. Just splinters everywhere. I was laughing about this when about ten seconds later, a good-sized tumbleweed branch hit my windshield. Not dangerous; but startling. Instant karma? You decide.

“Listen To The Wind Blow . . .”

Very windy on the day. This is open country, and not a lot to stop the wind coming off the Cascade Mountains to the west. It pretty much blows until it hits the Rockies to the east. Truck drivers were earning their money. You try driving down the highway at 65 mph with a four-story building towed lengthwise behind you. Empty trailers have no weight to keep them on the road, and they will sway and bounce. I passed one truck while we were both headed into the wind, and the bow wave was a physical barrier.

I had taken WA 281 south from WA 28 at Quincy, and joined I-90W at George, WA, Famous for the amphitheater The Gorge at George, the venue features a stage backed by the Columbia River gorge. I’ve been to a few concerts here, and it is a spectacular place to watch a concert. The amenities range from ‘primitive’ to ‘basic’, and while there are portable toilets, there usually aren’t nearly enough. It’s a pretty good hike from the parking lot (a number of people bring bicycles, although on a crowded path, it doesn’t work as well as you may expect), and you have to pack in and out everything you might want. I have waited up to three hours to get out of the parking lot. Honestly, it’s worth renting or borrowing an RV. You and your friends can chill while everyone else leaves. I don’t think overnight camping is allowed, though.

The Gorge at George is closed when not in use, so you can’t randomly tour it. I can say the most spectacular concert opening I’ve witnessed took place here. It involved Roger Waters and Gulfstream V.

Exiting on WA 243, then a left on WA 26 took me past the Hanford Reach National Monument. This is where the US manufactured nuclear weapons material for the first atom bomb detonated at White Sands, NM 16 July 1945, and for the ‘Fat Man’ weapon used on Nagasaki 9 August 1945.

Nothing, really, to see here, except landscape. The famous (infamous?) Reactor B, where the material was manufactured, appears to be gone. There is a roadside pullout with sign, but the visible structures do not align with the historical placement.

I somehow managed to approach the town of Othello twice, which is about as many ways as there are to do so. Othello is unremarkable, except that my oldest sister has her name up on a building:

I sent her the picture.

I managed to stumble on the Drumheller Channels National Landmark about 8 miles north and west of Othello on W. McManamon Rd. I believe the road is given a name as a courtesy, because there are no other addresses out here.

If you could stand here, you would see massive floods scouring the land. The sign states that the last floods were 13,000 years ago. This is very young terrain in geological terms; but older than recorded human history.

Pasco is in the Tri-Cities area, consisting of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland. This area is farm, ranch, and railroad.

The US 395 bridge between Pasco and Kennewick:

A car in Pasco not normally seen:

The hotel was unremarkable, other than it backed up to a street that functioned like an alley, and more activity than was maybe justified by the businesses. The room also featured the most uncomfortable office chair I have seen in a hotel room:


Posted by: bkivey | 13 October 2020

2020 Vacation: 24 September

The plan for the day was to drive north on US-97 from Chelan to the Omak/Okanogan area. Although the rail line of interest ran (and still runs) to Oroville, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border, my hobby interest did not extend that far. The railroad content is here.

It has been a bad fire season in the West, and there have been some large fires close enough to where I live to where we had about a week of thick smoke, and air worse than any city in China. The last time we had smoke this bad was three years ago when an idiot kid set the Columbia Gorge on fire, and we had ashfall. This summer the smoke was thicker and lasted longer. Maybe the only time masks may have been useful.  It finally rained enough to wash the smoke out of the air.

I had not checked the fire map for central Washington, but if you look, there are two big red blobs in the middle of the state. There are few forests here, but dry grass burns just fine. The fires were mostly extinguished in the area when I was there, but not completely, and some fires had not been out long. The first evidence was not far north of Chelan where the east bank of the Columbia had burned over.

The first stop was Pateros, which has little of interest outside agriculture and railroads. I wanted to look at the railroad bridge over the Methow River. WA 153 climbs west up the river valley, and there are resorts along the way. Most of the way north between Pateros and Okanogan, fire had burned all the way across the road to the river. A grass fire may lack the intensity of a forest fire, but leaves blackened landscape just the same. Occasionally you would see burned-out farm equipment, resting on the rims in a field; a field which wasn’t going to produce this year. Not very many burned structures, though. I think I’d choose the house over the tractor, too.

Outside of Brewster, there is some hilltop agriculture:

When in Toppenish last year, I noticed that agriculture is adapting to places that were previously uncultivable. You don’t advance civilization by marching in the streets: you do it by figuring things out, and then doing them.

A few miles north of Brewster along US-97 and across the river is this:

A good-sized radio telescope was an odd thing to see out here, as there are no universities within hours. It turns out this is one of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) antennas and, I assume, support equipment to the right. I had heard of the VLBA, but had not seen an antenna. The link will tell you about it, and I thought it was cool. A local newspaper has an article on visiting the telescope, and the operators used to offer tours if you showed up, but I suspect that is no longer the case. I would wager, though, that almost nobody shows up who was looking for the thing.

Another 30 miles north gets you to Okanogan, which along with Omak about 8 miles up the road, grows a lot of apples. And cattle. There is much open range in this part of the state. I’ve had experience with cattle taking advantage of open range in other places, and I will let them be. They weigh half as much as the car, and an angry bull can do a whole lot of damage in a very short time.

We learn that George Washington Slept Here (sort of):

I like the mention of the ‘horde of yellow jackets”, or, as the contemporary convention may have had it: “We were Followed and Much Disturbed by a Horde of Yellow Jakets”.

For some reason I was at the Okanogan airport; but thought the sign interesting. I surely hope the project is complete.

Okanogan and Omak are relatively close, but Omak is the commercial center, with Okanogan functioning as a sort of bedroom community (Pop: ~2500) to Omak (Pop: ~4800). The semi-rural North Carolina town (Pop: ~5000) where I attended high school had a similar relationship with surrounding communities.

Omak, WA:

What do you mean, where?

I looked at some railroad things in town, then followed Omak Riverside East Side Road north along the railroad for a bit. That’s the actual name of the road, and I don’t know what the residents call it. “River Road”?

Cliffs along the Okanogan River north of Omak. The river is in the gap between the hills.

The visit to Omak fulfilled the motivating mission requirements, so cast about for things to do. The Grand Coulee dam was only about 70 miles away, so, sure. I’d last visited in 1996 when moving from St. Petersburg, FL, to Seattle. But, I was sort of in the neighborhood, and had nothing else to do. The plan was to take US-97S toward Brewster, then take WA 17 south to WA 174E, then on to the dam.

Heading south on US 97 between Omak and Okanogan. You can see everything to the east is burned, and the ground still smoking.

WA 17S between Brewster and Bridgeport. Those aren’t clouds ahead, but, as the Sanford Townsend Band had it; smoke from a distant fire.

There were just miles and miles of smoking ground. Along with a pandemic, rioting in the cities, a fractured economy, and half the country figuratively at the throats of the other. I should have been driving a Ford Falcon XB GT with a dingo in the left seat.

Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, or what was visible through the smoke. There was fire here. 

A fire-ravaged tree and the Visitor Center on the right. The Center was closed. 

The Chief Joseph Bridge just downstream of the dam.

The official West side viewpoint for the Grand Coulee Dam is Crown Point, and there is good road to it. It’s free. There is also an unofficial viewpoint, marked by a hand-written sign. There is a sort-of trail off the road, and an open gate. I am not adverse to taking road cars off-road, and the trail looked navigable. My main concern was setting fire to the grass from the exhaust. After a few dozen yards, nothing was burning, so I continued. 

The nearest farm to the trail, so probably their land. 


Looking back down the trail. It’s more defined in person. 

The view from as far as I cared to go. The trail continues around the ridge to the left, but I needed a more capable vehicle to attempt that. 

Overview of the Crown Point facilities, looking North. The dam is to the right. 

The sign needs updating, as Three Gorges Dam has been the largest concrete structure since opening in 2003. 

I was last here in 1996, and the dam hasn’t gotten smaller. You can’t see the whole thing in one view, so I pieced together a panorama. Grand Coulee on the left; Electric City on the right. The structure is 550 feet high, and just under a mile long. 

Grand Coulee is also home to what looks like a giant pile of sand:

The view West and downstream:

I went around and had a look at the back side. There are parking lots here. 

Looking upstream and the anti-torpedo debris booms:

Alongside the road there is this sign. You can see in the background where the road starts down what turns out to be a steep grade to the bridge. In the Northeast, you could just put ‘Watch For ’33”. 

Avoiding rolling rocks, and Rolling Rock, there is a pull-out where you can get a closer look at the dam:

I took WA 155N back to Okanogan, and it was a nice break from the basalt badlands.

If a bit smoky.

I stayed at the Quality Inn in Okanogan, which I believe was under $65 for the night. Under more normal circumstances, I would have stayed in Omak, as there is more to do after-hours. Like, anything. But, because I didn’t plan on going out, I opted for the least-expensive room. And it was close to WA 20, which I planned to drive west the next day. 

You can see the burned land across the road from the hotel. Also, nice to know there are ‘Good Farms’ in the area. 





Posted by: bkivey | 7 October 2020

2020 Vacation: 23 September


My Birthday! WooHoo! 57 bangs on the bongo.

I’d spent the night in Wenatchee, WA, and chosen because there was a lot of hobby-related stuff. The previous evening I’d driven around Wenatchee a bit to get a feel for the area. The business district runs for about a mile-and-a-half: WA 285 splits into Mission St. and N. Chelan Ave. Light industry to the south; residential to the north and west. Downtown appears to be well-populated, but I wonder for the next couple years.

This is wild and wooly country. After four days in the area, I get the slight impression this may be what living in an alien environment may be like. The environment says “Nothing for you, Human!”. And it is right. The ground is volcanic rock; not known for aquifer properties. The climate is arid, and water only found near rivers; and not many of those.  

Started the day south of Wenatchee looking at railroad stuff, then found Lions Locomotive Park, which turns up on the Net as Mission Street Park, even though Mission Street is a block over.



The bridge carries WA 285 over the Columbia River. The locomotive was sited in 1956, and for a hunk of iron that’s sat unprotected in Wenatchee’s climate, it is in great condition. Credit to the service clubs that work to keep it so. You will notice the headlight is lit. 

After the park I crossed the river to get photos of a railyard, then headed back to the north end of Wenatchee. I wanted to look at some hobby-related things, and the best access was the Apple Capital Recreational Loop, which circumnavigates the river around Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. East Wenatchee is where the chain stores are located, with Wenatchee apparently reserved for local business. I’ve seen this arrangement before. 

There are some parking spaces on Hawley Street, and even with (in spite of?) GPS, you may have to hunt a bit. The spaces are next to a packaging factory, but are not employee spaces. 

I do not know what the symbols on the bottom of the sign are for. Speed limits for pedestrians/horses/bicycles? It’s about half-a-mile to the Wenatchee River bridge. 

Looking east (toward the river) from the bridge:

The Confluence Wetlands looking roughly south down the Wenatchee River to the Columbia River:

‘Arid’ doesn’t mean ‘never rains’. It rained this week. That is the thing with changing seasons: the seasons are changing. Here we are going from hot and dry to cold and wet. There is significant variation in the climate here, and they can expect about two feet of snow this Winter. Although, the way this year is going, who the hell knows?

I drove west on US 2 as far as Leavenworth. I had planned to drive US 2W across the Cascades in couple days, then return on WA 20 through North Cascades National Park, but I wanted to see how the railroad ran through the area to Leavenworth. 

The first stop was in Cashmere, and there is a well-done 9/11 memorial located in Riverside Park. There are signs to the park.

Cashmere, Washington. Population: ~3100. 

The next stop was the Peshashtin Pinnacles. Which I’d never heard of until I saw the sign. The road was closed, so could not get to the actual park area. It looks like the Pinnacles are a geological anticline with different hardnesses of rock that have eroded at different rates. With access, I likely would have attempted the climb. 

The ‘PUD’ is the local Public Utilities District, a utility co-op created by the voters and owned by the customers. They are the primary utility providers in rural Washington and Oregon.

Humans aren’t the only visitors:

And on down the road to Leavenworth. The town has branded itself as a Bavarian-themed resort, and they do a lot of business October – January. Or they did. Not sure how that’s going now, but judging by the traffic, not badly. 

Looking west. The scenery probably looks better when you can see it. 

The downtown streets are sub-named in German (not literal translations). 

There were some railroad things to see here, and after seeing them, I headed back east on US 2, then north on Alt US 97 running along the west bank of the Columbia. US 2 runs along the east bank of the river as far as Orondo, then turns east, leaving US 97 to head north. Alt 97 joins US 97 a few miles north of Chelan (SHUH-LAN). I took the WA 971 cutoff from Alt 97, and it drops you down onto the lake at Lake Chelan State Park. 

Running from the Columbia RIver to the heart of the Cascades, Lake Chelan is the impound pool for Lake Chelan Dam, a PUD hydro project. A natural narrowing close to the river had already created a lake, and the dam raised the lake level by some 20 feet. 

Looking southeast down the river from Riverwalk Park in downtown Chelan. The dam is just beyond the bridge, and the hills are on the east bank of the Columbia.

Looking northwest upriver toward the lake. 

The water is remarkably clear:

The pilot house from the original lake packet boat has been preserved at the park:

The original Lady of the Lake served from 1945 to 1976, and was salvaged in 2001. Lady of the Lake II is the current ferry. 

This is the very heart of Washington apple country, and this time of year, harvest is in full-swing. A lot of fruit gets shipped out of this valley all over the world. It was the transport of that fruit that was my main interest in the area, but Chelan is also very much a resort area; natural enough when you have a 50+ mile-long lake in your backyard.

But between 1938 and 1957, one of the largest copper mines in the country operated in the mountains near the north end of the lake. The ore was concentrated at the mine, then shipped in 5-ton capacity open barrels. These were trucked (1 barrel for a flatbed truck, 2 barrels for a semi-truck) down a steep grade 10 miles to Lucerne (3500′ to 1100′), where the barrels were loaded onto a barge, then shipped 45 miles down the lake to Chelan. Loaded again onto trucks, the barrels were transported 4 miles down another steep grade (1100′ to 750′) to the railhead on the Columbia at Chelan Falls, where they were finally dumped into converted boxcars for the trip to the smelter in Tacoma. I understand that labor was relatively inexpensive at the time, but that is a resource-intensive logistical chain. My interest was in the railroad side of the operation, so off to Chelan Falls.

Chelan Falls is an unincorporated community that still has its’ own Post Office. Five miles down a pretty good grade on WA 150, then right on Chelan Falls Rd, gets you there. 

Powerhouse Park at the mouth of the Chelan River. Hydropower accounts for about 12% of the nation’s electrical generating capacity, and goodly amount of that comes out of the Columbia Valley. Depending on the snowpack, up to 80% of the Northwest’s electricity can come from hydro. Chelan proper is to the left and over the hills. 

The park from the road:

I spent some time looking at railroad things, then started thinking about where to spend the night. It was getting toward later afternoon, and Chelan looked nice enough. No record exists of the hotel room, because 3 (!) photos failed to capture the image. The hotel was good for the price, although I had to change rooms because the TV remote didn’t work. Hey, I don’t have TV at home: TV on vacation is important.

Posted by: bkivey | 3 October 2020

Watching Movies and TV on Vacation

On vacation I usually like to hang out at the local bars, watch sports, meet people. These days; not as attractive. So I spent nights in the room watching TV, and movies.


Last 10 minutes of ‘Rambo’, so always watchable. Last 20 minutes of what I think was the ‘DOOM’ movie; The Rock and some other dude going at it.

I watched four movies start-to-finish, or at least had the video on, if the sound turned down.

After Earth: Abominable. Will Smith has an engaging screen presence, and this movie displays none of that. Whether the direction or Mr. Smith’s choice, his performance would embarrass a block of wood.

Wild, Wild, West: Another Will Smith project, and it’s like watching two different actors. Engaging and fun, this is everything ‘After Earth’ is not.

Dr. Strange: I liked this movie. I didn’t know Dr. Strange from Adam until I saw ‘Avengers: Infinity War”. I liked this guy. The ‘origin story’ is engaging and fun, while the Cloak threatens to steal every scene it’s in. I kept the sound up for this one.

The Amazing Spider Man: I saw the first modern ‘Spider Man’ movie in 2002 and liked it. This movie was a wall of CGI, and could not get into it. It was like watching a two-hour video game. And some consistency? The spidey-webs can hold a ship together, but Spider Man can kick a web-held object loose?


Watched a lot of car channels. One show featured a guy in Brisbane building cars. Key quote:

“If you can be creative in your work, you’ll be happy. Simple as that.”

True that.

From his wife:

“When we look at a project; what does the end look like?”

Do tell.

Washington PSA:

“Masks help whether or not you have COVID-19”

No, they don’t. That is a straight lie. And if you consider the implications of the statement, rather scary.

Be rational. Resist hysteria.

Posted by: bkivey | 28 September 2020

2020 Vacation: 22 September

Taking a cue from the 19th century: “In which I go Gallivanting about Washington State”.

My actual vacation time started Monday 21 September, but I had some things to tie up, and a little beat from the week, so left Tuesday. Because I have no desire whatsoever to deal with air travel these days, I would have to drive. Which is no great burden, but time does limit range. I took the Mercury, because I didn’t anticipate driving excitement as much as just; driving. The Mercury is the better road trip car.

This year I decided to follow a hobby interest, and concentrate on central Washington, specifically the route from Wenatchee to Omak. The road route is US 97, but I wanted to look at the railroad. 

For this blog, I’ll limit the hobby elements, and focus on items of more general interest. If you want to read about the train things, you can link here for Great Northern stuff, and here for Northern Pacific material.

The general idea was to take 4 – 5 days and explore the upper reaches of the Columbia River in central Washington, then follow the rail route up the Okanogan River as far as Omak. A side trip to the Grand Coulee Dam, a pass through North Cascades National Park, having a look at a couple of railroad passes over the Cascades, and perhaps a half-day in Tacoma, would round out the trip.

I do not meticulously plan trips. I used to, but with the internet, you don’t really need to. I loaded the files I thought I’d need to the laptop, and next time I’ll make hard copies. I just find paper to be easier to work with in the field. I did fire up the laptop a couple of times to check maps, and it was convenient enough, but not quite as convenient as paper to mark on, and orient. I could have just as easily loaded the files to my phone, but I prefer to limit my dependence on the phone. It’s more about reducing failure points and critical paths than ‘fear of tech’. And, you can’t hack paper. Or lose connection.

I waited for traffic to die down, and left later in the morning. The plan was to make Wenatchee, WA for the night, and see some scenery doing so. There was a front over HIllsboro, but I expected conditions to improve as I moved East. Headed up I-5N over the river, and took the WA 14 exit once in Vancouver. This road runs along the north side of the Columbia River, and is the more interesting (slower) alternative to I-84E on the Oregon side. The scenery is the same, just a slightly different perspective. 

The first stop was Stevenson, WA, and unplanned. I’d seen an eastbound BNSF train on the mainline, and looked for a place to take pictures. Trains, were after all, the focus of the trip. Just west of Stevenson was a convenient pull-out at Rock Cove, with this unexpected bonus:

A ferry landing, and from the looks of things, abandoned for some time. Not just the structure, but the infilling of the waterway. The structure is still in good shape: there is certainly enough of a road to drive an SUV or truck onto the bridge, which itself is sturdy. the float decking is gone, but no reason you couldn’t drive onto it, after hazard inspection. 

The land is winning, as a former float now sits up on marsh, and will sit up on land eventually. 

And this is how it starts. Really a good overview of the sedimentation process. Honestly, this could be an instructional park. 

I had time to admire all this natural process because the train failed to appear. It was moving right along when I passed it, and expected it within a few minutes of my arrival. 20 minutes later, I gave up. There is only the one track, so it didn’t go somewhere else. Frustrating, but found something cool.

After getting home, I looked this up (SPOILER ALERT: I get home safely). The ferry was established in 1893 between here and Cascade Locks, OR, across the river. The local connecting Bridge of the Gods (just visible under the railroad bridge) was opened in 1926, and I would assume ferry service wouldn’t last too much longer, especially after the Great Depression. If this is a relic from 1930 or so, that’s impressive. Someone built something to last, and it has. 

Further up the road, I saw why the train might have stopped. The railroad is replacing two bridges. Pre-built in a yard in Vancouver, WA, the truss spans were loaded on barges and floated up the river. No pictures, but these are not small spans. The plan is to slide the old bridge off, and the new bridge on, with a 36-hour traffic delay. This technique was used on the Sellwood bridge in Portland, and it is cool.

On the way to Wishram:

The next stop was Wishram, WA. There is a good photo of the town here. Also not planned, but there’s a sign on the highway touting a ‘Historic Locomotive’. And here we go. 

Wishram was a company town of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle (SP&S) railroad. That railroad was folded into the Burlington Northern, which later acquired the Sante Fe, to form the current operator BNSF. The locomotive on display is Great Northern, which may seem odd (who cares!?, it’s a train!) but makes sense in a geeky way. 

Railroad content is here.

There’s an odd rock formation visible from the Amtrak station:

There was a lot going on here. 

Good a time as any to mention that nearly everything visible on this trip is basalt, or some other volcanic rock. I’ve mentioned previously that the American West is pretty much paved with lava. Volcanic deposits along the Columbia Gorge average about 15,000 feet, and the river has cut through about 3000′. Work to do. And where the volcanoes didn’t erupt, the inland seas left extensive sedimentary deposits. Stuff has been out here a long time, in human terms. Geologically, there is a lot of young territory here, and still changing. 

A panorama of the Wishram station. Points to Amtrak for trying to class the place up a little with the lights. This is US long-distance passenger service. 

The ‘Historic Locomotive’, and worth the diversion. These things are huge. 

Back on WA 14E, and then a left onto US 97N. US 97 is the primary north-south trunk in central Washington and Oregon It’s a good road, but you’ll spend most of your time in Washington going up and down hills. And not small ones. Passes are around 3000′, which is a mountain in my book. In Oregon a good portion of the road is on a plateau; so relatively flat. 

US 97N in Yakima Nation:

After cresting the Toppenish Ridge into the valley, I stayed on US 97 through Ellensburg and on up into the Wenatchee National Forest, because it was marked as a scenic route, and I wanted to see some scenery. 

The road on this section looked vaguely familiar, and as it crests the Cascades at Blewitt Pass, I saw why. While living in Seattle, some friends got interested in exploring old gold mines, and for about three years, that’s what we did. You could usually pan enough gold to pay for the trip, and the mines were interesting. There are stories from Blewitt Pass trips that aren’t all fun and games, but a good place to explore. 

Arriving in Wenatchee, I looked for a place to stay, and found the Holiday Lodge:

$65, I believe, and the bed cover is as thin as it looks. I had to use the supplied blanket on the overhead rack. The lobby was closed, and service was through a window. There was a sign informing that ‘local’ (and communities were listed) residents would not be served. I did not ask, and nobody told, why this might be so. 

Nothing wrong with the room, and the TV had a decent number of channels, and a printed guide. I’ve mentioned that because I don’t have TV at home, watching TV is something I look forward to on vacation. Not disappointed at the Holiday Lodge. 

I saw this, and was surprised. I haven’t seen a Checkers restaurant since I lived in St. Petersburg, FL. I liked their burgers. Watched a restaurant built in St. Pete; and they just rolled the pre-fab up on a truck, and lifted it in place. I did not take a picture of the building, but a modicum of work on the internet should get an image. It is not a pre-fab Checkers, although the building bears a resemblance to the standard. 

What does not bear a resemblance to the standard is the drive-up menu, done by hand in marker. So now alarm bells are sounding, motivated by this article. The food was expensive, but I was hungry, and nostalgia played a role. The burgers and fries tasted original, but the last time I had Checker’s food was 20 years ago, so how would I know? Checking the Checker’s site, the nearest official restaurant is in Bakersfield, CA. I believe, your honor, we can conclude that this is a straight rip-off. 

Post 700

This is it.











Posted by: bkivey | 25 August 2020

Post: 28 January 2014

One reason I haven’t been writing regularly the past couple of years, is that I don’t like repeating myself. I’ve noticed that those in the punditry game recycle the same things, and anyone in the ad industry will tell you that repetition, often over years, is key to public awareness. All of which is true, and none of which I’m interested in doing.

So I am going to recycle a post from 28 January 2014 which I think has some relevance today. The complete post is at the link below:

I stopped reading newspapers on a regular basis years ago when I realized there is very little ‘news’: it’s the same old stuff, only the names and places change. I also noticed that not much journalism was happening. What we are getting isn’t reporting, it’s the selling of a narrative. And the primary narrative is that everyone (except white males) is a victim. Pick a story at random from the front section of your local paper. No matter the subject, chances are very good that the story will be written in such a way as to portray an individual or group as a victim, and another individual or group as a perpetrator. If the writer is lucky, they’ll be able to work in shots against some of the Left’s bogeymen like small government advocates, gun and/or SUV owners, religious believers, and anyone who has a dollar more than the subject of the story.

It’s a human tendency to look elsewhere but in the mirror for the source of one’s problems, even though that’s the person to blame for most people’s woes. There are any number of ways people can be truly victimized, but of the population in a modern Western-style democracy, the percentage of true victims is going to be rather small.

Self-pity is one of the more unattractive human traits, but a lot of people have figured out that if they provide scapegoats, they can amass a lot of power. All they have to do is tell people how bad off they are, and that it’s not their fault. The ‘victims’ get to feel sorry for themselves without guilt, and in some cases may be allowed to act outside of societal norms. The perpetrators of this most corrosive form of manipulation get power and if they’re successful enough, can re-shape society to accommodate their power base.

Playing to people’s fears and disappointments as a way to gain power is corrosive because it robs people of hope and dignity. It is emotional enslavement. I’m fairly convinced that the primary reason most minorities have been unable to make significant progress is because they are told every minute of every day by their ‘leadership’ how bad they have it. This manipulation goes all the way to the top. President Obama recently told New Yorker magazine that his poll numbers were bad because some people were uncomfortable with a black President. No matter that he was elected twice to the job, his skin color was the determining factor in his popularity. Not, you know, his job performance, or his petty personality, but his paint job. Now consider what a young black person is going to think. They’ve already been told their entire lives that they can’t get ahead because they’re black, now the President is telling them the same thing. Whenever that person meets with adversity, they’re probably going to throw up their hands, and say ‘Not my fault, man. I can’t catch a break because I’m black. The President said so.’

One need not look very far to test this hypothesis. How many Asians have you seen with food stamps? I would guess: not very many. Chinese were virtual slaves in the building of the railroads, and people of Japanese ancestry were put in concentration camps within living memory. Yet you don’t see Asian activists demanding government programs to help them out.

The same is true of Indians and Caribbean blacks. They don’t see themselves as victims; they see opportunity, and they take advantage of it. I once worked for a company that employed a number of African blacks, mostly from Nigeria. They were surprised and embarrassed at the attitude of American blacks.

Not so long ago, America was the land of opportunity. Success was encouraged, and those that did well by honest means respected. Now that so many have been made to see themselves as victims, any success is suspect, and the only purpose for the well-off is to give their money to those unwilling or unable to make a life for themselves. This attitude is a trap: it not only punishes the very human desire to improve one’s life, it keeps people from even trying. Why work hard for yourself when others will only want to tear you down? People who buy into this negative world view really are victims, but not for the reasons they believe.

Posted by: bkivey | 24 August 2020

Rolling Around

WordPress Blocks

My blogs are hosted on WordPress, and they have been rolling out a new editor. This is one of those things that I think is fixing something that isn’t broken, but WordPress controls the space, and they will have their way. Realizing I will have to learn the system if I want to host on WordPress, I’m going to make an effort.

Election Spruce-Up?

I have noticed that Portland has made an effort to clean up some of the graffiti, like some painting-out in tunnels and overpasses, and replacing some street signs. The cynical might argue that because the margin in the 2016 gubernatorial election was pretty much Portland, might the state have suggested the city clean up it’s act to draw attention away from Democratic government failure? Conspiracy theories are generally BS, but people, especially those wanting power, behave in predictable ways.


On the way to a job, saw a B-747 on final to PDX. Outside the freighters, I didn’t think any were still flying. The Queen of the Skies is still an impressive sight.

Disease for profit?

There is a plasma donation center not far from the house, and I noticed a sign along the road that said they were offering up to $200 for COVID-19 ‘survivor’ (their word) plasma per month. This raises some questions. Are the State’s masking requirements an unfair restraint of trade? Remember, the lawyer’s job isn’t to argue right or wrong; but their client’s case.

One might say that preventing a person from acquiring COVID-19, if they are in a demographic likely to survive (it’s the flu!), unfairly prevents that person an income opportunity. We all know where a court would come down, but still interesting.

A Summer Sunday

This time of year, jobs and days off have to be sequenced, and today was a day off. It was gorgeous.

I have noticed the Doug Fir of cone fame still has cones-o-plenty to drop, and a few will hit the ground when the Sun comes up, and sporadically throughout the day. But no carpet-bombing like last week. I watched a squirrel eat one of the cones, and it just demolished it. I’ve noticed that the squirrels don’t seem to go above a certain height. I’ve never seen them in the upper reaches of the fir trees.

Clear skies, mid 80’s, business done by early afternoon, and a fun car. OK. Moonroof open and windows down so we get the semi-convertible feel. Headed west and north to the Coast Range. There are some traffic circles seemingly built in the middle of nowhere, but of late, not unusual in these parts.

It’s a little strange to see landscaping in the middle of a cornfield.

Verboort Road takes you through the unincorporated community of Verboort; a legacy of the many Dutch who settled the area. The road turns into Purdin Rd, then Thatcher, and comes out onto State Road 8, the same-same road known as TV Highway from Beaverton to Forest Grove. Here it takes a country turn, and follows Gales Creek north and west up the valley. It’s a fun road.

The view south down the valley. There are a number of windbreaks perpendicular to the creek, so hard to get a sense of the land from a picture. The road is just out of frame to the left.

Pretty nearly the unincorporated community of Gales Creek entire. Around the bend are the city offices, and the much larger church, which also appears to house the school. The eponymous creek flows under the bridge.

Looking back south from the bridge.

It’s about a mile from the town to OR 6, but I was trapped behind a less enthusiastic driver. It’s a public road; they have as much right as I do. Maybe more, as they likely aren’t breaking as many traffic laws. And wearing a mask, probably.

Left on OR 6 and 3 miles later gets you to Timber Road, and a right turn to some fun. Timber Road runs from OR 6 to 2 miles south of Vernonia at OR 47, and for my money, is one of the best roads within 20 minutes of home. It roughly divides into two sections; OR 6 to US 26, and US 26 to OR 47. The whole road is fun to drive. And if you do it right, you will hardly need the brake, although your left leg will notice.

Which is what I was practicing this day: cornering. Even when behind slower drivers, you can still practice lines and shifting. Which is where I found myself the last bit of road to Vernonia. Sans souci. A fun car in the Oregon Coast Range on a clear summer day? Are you kidding me? Why are you protesting, again?

Posted by: bkivey | 13 August 2020

Rain of Cones

Thursday I was up early, and standing on the back porch about the time the Sun hit the tops of the trees. Then I heard things hitting the ground. I looked up, and could see this tree

Dropping cones by the dozen. Leaves were coming off the trees next to it. That’s a mature Douglas Fir, and looks to top out around 120′. Apparently today was the day for it to reproduce.

My experience with conifers is that they are trashy trees. They are always dropping things: leaves (needles), branches, cones, bark, something. Deciduous trees tend to do their shedding on schedule, and you can jump in the leaf pile. I had not known that trees can drop their cones on one day. I’d imagined it as more of a weeks or months-long process.

Because there were so many cones, a couple conveniently landed on the porch.

The weight is in grams

Not especially large or heavy, but if one hit you from 100′ up, you’d notice. Just for fun, a little math shows that from a height of 100′ the cone would strike the ground at nearly 60 mph, with a force of about 4.5 foot-pounds. This seems reasonable from observation. So unless you looked up at the wrong moment, and it hit you in the eye, it probably wouldn’t injure you.

Attack of the Cones

When I brought the cone into the house, I flashed on a horror movie in which an ancient tree wakes from a 500-year slumber and drops it’s cones at first light. The unwitting victims bring a cone into the house, and chaos ensues. Roger Corman would have been all over that.

Black Masks

I have noticed that the politician’s mask color of choice appears to be black, which, as the traditional color of mourning in the West, I think is highly appropriate. I was disappointed that President Trump does not have the Presidential Seal on his mask. Come on, man. You have access to the best graphics artists on the planet. Look at hockey goalies.

Older Posts »