Pictures from the Great Northwest

LG and I took a vacation. We spent roughly three days each in Victoria, British Columbia, and Friday Harbor, WA (on San Juan Island); and we spent four days in Portland, OR, for LG's sister Evelyn's wedding. This is a collection of pictures from the entire trip.

By the way, I made large versions of a few of these that I thought might work well as desktop pictures.

The trip of many conveyances

It all started in Rick's car. He drove us to the airport. Why bother to take a picture (in the rain)? Sort of a long story, but about the time we got our reservations for seaplane flights between Seattle and the islands, we realized we'd be using many different modes of transportation on this trip. So we decided we better remember them all. We ended up missing a bus here and there (failed to take their pictures, I mean), but mostly we got pictures of every way we travelled.

The plane from Champaign to Chicago, complete with sleeping gas?

Plane from Chicago to Portland; taxi from the airport to Evelyn and Rick's house (different Rick from above); train from Portland to Seattle; bus from train station to somewhere else in Seattle (barely caught as it was pulling away); and seaplane (Kenmore Air) from Seattle's Lake Union to Victoria, BC.

Our first seaplane ride

Views inside and out of the seaplane, including a shot of the altimeter in the cockpit as we passed 3700 feet.

Around Victoria

The parliament building, by night (well, dusk) and by day. The Empress Hotel. Street musicians (or rather, harbor sidewalk musicians). Street crossing sign with mystery face. Martian crossing sign. A seagull. Quadra 600. Victoria bus.

We sat and listened to the two guitar guys for perhaps half an hour. They were quite entertaining. Not enough people gave them money, in my opinion. (We did.)

Behind them you can partially see a big sailboat (about 50 feet, I'd guess). We chatted with the occupants of the boat (for they did seem to be living on it) for a while one day, trying to talk them into taking us out for a chartered sail. But they could not make enough money off just the two of us to make it worth their while (increased harboring fees if they do any commercial business), so we didn't go. While talking with one of the women on the boat, we ended up in a conversation about nature and preserving the environment and so on. She particularly railed against whale watching boats. Since we had just the day before gone on a whale watching expedition, we were a little bit uncomfortable. But I think she'd at least have considered our whale watching guide to have been among the least of the evils, all things considered.

The "Quadra 600" sign: I own a Mac Quadra 700 computer. Every day in Victoria, we crossed Quadra St., a major street through downtown. The street signs prominently showed the block numbers. One day I insisted we walk down the 6 or 7 blocks to where "Quadra 700" would be so I could take a picture. Turns out that section of Quadra St. is two blocks long with no cross street, so there was no "Quadra 700" sign. D'oh!

We rode buses around Victoria and the surrounding area (specifically to Butchart Gardens and Sidney) several times. Since I quickly got bored with taking pictures of every single bus, I went for a single representative Victoria bus shot. Pssst, don't tell anyone, but we didn't actually ride this particular bus.

Whale watching

This was WAY cool. We and numerous other boats followed along with this pod of whales for quite a while. There are a number of self-enforced rules that the whale watching tour boats all follow. In a couple of these pictures you can see another boat getting much closer to the whales than the boats are supposed to.

There are three resident pods of orcas that spend the summers in the area of Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands. They are called J, K, and L Pods. All of the individual whales have names, and can be identified by the saddle-mark, the white or grey mark behind their dorsal fin. This mark is most evident in the last couple of photos above.

These whales were "travelling", which is the aptly named behavior wherein the whales all head together in pretty much a straight line for some long distance.

We heard conflicting information from different sources as to what whale watching practices interfere (or not) with the whales' natural behavior. Our guide (Anne) told us that some people think breaching (pictures 4 and 5 here) indicates that the whales feel their space is being invaded a little too closely. She told us about a lot of the rules that the whale watchers follow, and pointed out some other boats violating some of them. But then later we heard at the whale museum (in Friday Harbor) that one of the things Anne did is also now frowned upon by some. For example, after the whales would pass, Anne would drive the boat about half a mile out sideways, then speed down to about half a mile ahead of them, guessing at their approximate path, then turn off the boat and wait for them to come by again. And of course, we got the extreme anti-whale-watching viewpoint from the woman on the sailboat in Victoria.

Other stuff from the whale watching adventure: The weather suits we wore. Anne showed us various other things about sea life in the area, such as this giant kelp. The Marine Adventure Centre & Cafe from where we set out. Our boat, the Ocean Spirit. The latter of the two boat photos is a professional one, taken from a pier as we whizzed out of the harbor. That's me and LG in front with our Tilleys.

The last photo is actually from Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island, but it pertains to these whales. It's data that researchers recorded this summer, tracking the movements of the whales as observed from Lime Kiln State Park. There was a duplication of this data on a whiteboard in the whale museum in Friday Harbor, but this is the Real Thing as seen through the window of the research lab.

Butchart Gardens

On our second day in Victoria we went to Butchart Gardens. Mostly we saw tourists, but there were also a couple of flowers and fountains here and there. Sometimes the tourists were more fun. For example, there was the woman who complained to her companion that they should have colored lights lighting up one of the fountains so it would be prettier. [We learned later that they actually do light up that fountain with colored lights at night!]

Okay, so there was actually quite a bit of interesting non-human scenery to be had. This is a small sampling. The seaplane shown here arrived and picked up a group of people directly from Butchart Gardens, via a little pathway out the back end of the estate that led down to the dock.

Although there were no splendid panoramic shots to be had in Butchart Gardens due to the throngs (and my limited photographic ability), I had plenty of opportunity to play around with the close-focus capabilities of my borrowed zoom lens. Thanks, Stretch!

I can never seem to resist taking pictures of fountains, frivolous or fancy. There were a couple at Butchart Gardens.


My favorite logo turned up a couple of times -- in the guestbook at Butchart Gardens, and later on Scotiabank, a Canadian bank whose logo I had encountered before.

Backpackers' Hostel, Victoria

We stayed here for what can most diplomatically be called three interesting days. The word "bohemian" understates the experience. Our private room consisted of about a 12'x12' room with two double-size mattress/box spring sets (both sitting on the floor, no frames), a half-height bookcase, and a small wardrobe closet.

On the first night we were entertained until late in the evening by people downstairs having some sort of drum party. Constant steady drum-beating resonating throughout the big Victorian house for at least two hours (with occasional breaks for as long as perhaps five seconds). Luckily for me I can sleep through anything; luckily for LG she was really tired. But for as long as we were awake, we listened in amazement, the faint smell of clove cigarettes wafting about us.

The next day we returned after a day of touristing to find our room door standing wide open. All of our belongings were present (as I would have expected at what really was a friendly sort of place), but since we had locked it when we left, it was a little bit unsettling. Turns out they had taken the spare pillows out of our room, leaving us the two least comfortable of the four we had had. That night the drum partiers were back, although they took breaks for a few minutes at a time, and quit a little bit earlier (i.e., before we went to sleep).

The next day on our return, our room was locked, but one of our beds was missing! By Murphy's Law, they again took the one we had been using. Thankfully, there were no drums this third night. The next morning we checked out and headed for our next stop, San Juan Island.

On to Friday Harbor

Scenes from the ferry trip from Sidney (north of Victoria) to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA. That's Mount Baker in the background of the last one, about 90 or 100 miles (I'm told) inland, on the mainland in Washington.

Sailing with Captain Howard

After arriving in Friday Harbor and checking in at the San Juan Inn (just half a block from the ferry dock), we went looking around a bit for tourist info, and decided to set up a sailing charter for sometime. We called Captain Howard, whose name and phone number we had actually found on the web before we left, and ended up going out later that afternoon.

That's Captain Howard you can see peeking around the cabin in photo three. He was a lot of fun to talk to. His boat (the Capricious Desires) is his life, although he doesn't quite make enough charter money to live off of, so he does handyman work in Arizona in the wintertime. He has plans to sail to Hawaii and around the world.

The subject of the last photo was supposed to be the nearly-invisible little bird in the middle, but the colors and patterns on the water, due to the just-at-sunset lighting, turned out to be much more interesting.

Mopeds around the island

The next day we rented mopeds from Susie's Mopeds (which I located on the web after our trip) and scooted around the island. Our first stop was South Beach, the only major biggish beach in the San Juan Islands. We ate lunch there on some rocks overlooking the beach and a little harbor to the west. Photos two and three here are of the same view, with 28mm wide angle and 200mm zoom lenses.

The all-white lighthouse is at Cattle Point, the southeastern tip of the island. The red-roofed one is at Lime Kiln Point, a state park on the west side and a popular spot for land-based whale watching. The inside of this lighthouse apparently serves as some sort of research lab. This is where I got the photo of the whale tracking data from a few sections above.

I waited over 10 minutes for the red-hatted woman to get out of my picture, with she could have done with little effort as to step down from the picnic table she was standing on top of, but I finally gave up and captured her for my scrapbook for all eternity.

This was the first time I have ever driven a two-wheeled powered vehicle. (I've ridden on the backs of motorcycles a fair amount.) I could see why people find it so enjoyable, even though we could only reach speeds of about 32mph, and that only when going downhill.

Sea kayaking

On our last full day on San Juan Island we went sea kayaking with Ed from Orca Adventures Eco-Camps, another outfitter we had discovered on the web. We took off from XXX Harbor on the southeast side of the island, and paddled out to Turn Island, a island and state park about a quarter-mile in its longest direction. There we ate our sack lunch and rested a bit while the tide finished changing before paddling back to our starting point.

We didn't see any whales or dolphins on this trip (sometimes they do), but we saw plenty of seals, herons, terns, jellyfish, a giant sea star, a couple of bald eagles, and a loon. Pictured above are loon, eagle, seagull, heron, and jellyfish, respectively. The jellyfish above is about 2 inches across and non-stinging. We saw hundreds of these; I forget their actual name. We also saw one big one (about 10 or 12 inches in diameter) called a lion's mane.

Oh, and that's Ed, and LG with Ed.

Around Friday Harbor

Overview of the harbor; California poppies, of which we saw many growing wild; the San Juan Inn; the parlor at the San Juan Inn where we had breakfast and chatted every day; our room was the Evergreen Room.

When we checked in (to the Evergreen Room), we had just gotten off the ferry Evergreen State. We thought we might have a little theme going, but that was the end of it.

More transportation -- back to Portland

The seaplane we took from Friday Harbor back to Seattle; another representative Seattle bus; our train from Seattle to Portland; Rick's and Evelyn's cars; Rick and Evelyn's house; 2/3 of Rick and Evelyn's cats.

Technically speaking, Rick and Evelyn's house is not a form of transportation. Neither are their cats. We slept there the night we started our vacation, and the night we returned from Friday Harbor. Fewer drum parties to contend with, and they have three wonderful cats; but on the other hand the breakfast was not as comprehensive as it was at the San Juan Inn. The cats above are Lucy and Schroeder. I forgot to take a picture of Ophelia, the ruler of the household.

The Columbia River Gorge

On Thursday we took a drive up the scenic highway along the Columbia River Gorge with Richard and Roberta, LG's parents. We went to a fish hatchery and stopped at a few scenic overlooks and waterfalls. The waterfall pictured here is Multnomah, the biggest and most touristy of the several along the highway.

The second photo here is from the fish hatchery. The signs around weren't completely clear, but I think this was a little holding channel for the salmon. There were several closed but leaky gates from a holding pond just on the other side of the wall, at a higher water level. I believe the water rushing out of the gates fooled the fish into trying to swim "upstream".

The fourth photo shows (barely) where there's a little platform way up on top of Multnomah Falls. You can hike up there, and we did once with Evelyn, but we didn't do it this time. Even if we'd wanted to, we couldn't have, because at the moment the trail was closed due to storm damage.

Last but not least, our rental car for the time we were in Portland.


One fun unexpected thing I did was take a tour of the Freightliner truck manufacturing plant in Portland, along with Lonnie, Richard, Jack, and Eric. Lonnie arranged the tour for us, having toured the plant before. Unfortunately they wouldn't allow any photos except in the lobby, where we congregated for a while beforehand and examined this rig all over, inside and out.

Freightliner uses almost no automation (computers or robots) in their manufacturing, and every truck that comes down the line is different. It's all done the old-fashioned way, by people on the assembly line who have to pay close attention to what they're putting on which truck. There are thousands of possible configurations, from the simplest basic truck to the fanciest "cowboy rig". Possibilities for customization include such things as different engine and transmission types, wheelbase and cab size, and all the minutiae of detail work and accessories.

They do have a relatively new computer system (specially designed by Microsoft for them, I think) which tracks all of the parts, so that workers at each station can be sure they are putting the right components together, and to ensure that the components get where they're needed, when they're needed. I can't imagine what a nightmare this would have been before that.

The plant produces around 30 trucks in every 8-hour shift, and operates 24x7. The wait for a custom-built truck today is about 4 months.

Wedding rehearsal evening

Rick's friend Gordon, "greatest man", with Evelyn (and LG)'s grandmother Doris; Doris with LG's parents Richard and Roberta; Evelyn with flower girl Alex, daughter of Evelyn's friend Evelyn and Evelyn and Rick's godchild; Alex decided at one point that Rick and Evelyn should be holding hands; Rita, Doris, Marlene, and LG: three Grant sisters with their grandma.

Wedding day

Rick seen through a porthole in a door; the circle set up for the wedding; the guitar guy they had playing music; Alex; the Albertina Kerr Nursery, the site of the wedding (that's Kerr as in the canning jars); a rose outside the building; last moments beforehand, the wedding party gathers.

Wedding -- the ceremony

Rick and Evelyn processing; the wedding circle all full of people; Rick and Evelyn enjoying the wedding; Doris and Gordon again; the coup de grâce.


Half a clan (clockwise from upper left, not counting the guitar guy): Mark, Nils (held by Mark), Joyce, Clarice, Joan, Sydney, Daniel, Reinhard, and Jean; Richard, Roberta, Doris, me, LG; Reinhard jams with guitar guy (there's a harmonica in there somewhere); Rick and Evelyn; Evelyn and her dad; Rick and Evelyn's mom; hoisted on chairs.

And finally, more transportation

The shuttle bus from the rental car place to the terminal at the Portland airport; the plane we took from Portland to Chicago; our shoes, which carried us many miles during the trip; my plane from Chicago to Champaign (LG stayed overnight for a voucher due to overbooking); and Robert, who picked me up at the airport, and his car.

Tom Magliery