Thursday, August 14, 2014

We Take Stay-cation on the Road (wind farms and yurts)

So, having cut short our cross country trip (an extra week away wd have been just too expensive), we got to spend that time doing things closer to home, like riding the camel last weekend at the Bonnie Lake renaissance fair. And for the last two days before it was back to work and back on our normal routine, we took a trip to central Washington (around Vantage) to meet up with our friends Anne and Sig (hi Anne. hi Sig) and visit the Wild Horse Wind Farm. Unfortunately the air quality was so bad they curtailed the tour, which apparently usually ends with going inside one of the towers and looking up at the turbine. I had thought they were afraid particulates in the air from all the wildfires currently raging might damage the equipment, but Janice says no, the air outside was a health hazard. Still, we got to walk around the visitor's center, heard a presentation about the wind farm, and poked about a bit outside. It's an interesting experience to be surrounded by the giant wind towers, slightly weird and sinister in appearance (shades of boom-bodies and sorns) and curious how they respond individually to the wind -- so that at any given time some were quiescent, others just barely turning over, and still others rotating at full speed. Kind of like watching a room full of cats. The visit was made slightly surreal by the arrival, just before the talk began of about two dozen Japanese schoolgirls, a tour group travelling in buses marked 'CWU' (Central Washington University).

From the wind farm we crossed the Columbia and headed towards a winery (an odd place for a Prohibitionist) when we checked into a yurt, with Anne & Sig in the next yurt over. After a gourmet meal in the winery's restaurant we wander around the grounds, including up and down the rows of grapevines. As evening closed in we put out the lawn chairs and sat and waited for the Perseids, although somewhat apprehensive about the effect of the so-called Supermoon on our viewing. It turns out we need not have bothered: the haze from the distant fires was so thick that we couldn't even see the moon, much less the starry sky. There was one bright star overhead (Arcturus?) and the others saw a single meteor flash by (I missed it) before that area was blotted out as well. Still, it was a pleasant night to sit out and look up.

The next morning we had breakfast at the winery restaurant, and concluded that the B-team handled breakfast while the chef exerted himself in the evenings. Then we drove back across the Columbia to Frenchman's Coulee, a spectacular landscape (apparently a dry ancient lake bed) of eroded rocks: basalt columns and dry scree, where (pointed in the right direction by some friendly rock-climbers) we hiked about for an hour or so. It reminded me a bit of the hoo-doos in Yellowstone, but looked even more like something out of Rider Haggard, the sort of landscapes that might have inspired Kor. The one thing we saw that was very much of the modern era was a flight of three DC10s flying in formation -- our guess is that they were on their way to drop water or flame retardant on one of the area's not-entirely-under-control wildfires. We saw this three times, but whether they were the same planes or different planes of the same type doing the same run we cdn't tell.

Biding farewell to the dry stoney landscape, we head to our final stop:  the picnic area next to the ginko petrified forest/ petroglyph site (which we'd gotten to see on an early trip earlier this year: well worth visiting). Anne and Janice both outdid themselves, and we had quite the picnic feast -- again, made slightly odd by the arrival, just about the time we were ready to start eating, of those same three CWU vans with what were probably the same Japanese schoolgirls -- I'm pretty sure I recognized the interpreter from the day before. They seem to have come for the petroglyphs, not the petrified wood, and left after not too long -- only to have one van come back a half hour or so later; I suspect that one student got inadvertently left behind. One highlight of our stop was seeing a herd of little deer-like animals -- antelope perhaps? -- pass through, grazing on the green green (sprinkler-watered) grass that v. much stood out from the surrounding typical western/central Washington dry, bleak landscape.

From there it was goodbye to Anne and Sig for the drive back to west of the mountains, where it was thoroughly typical that we ran into a rainstorm not long after re-entering King Country. The cats were fine and very happy to see us (thanks, Kathy), so All Ends Well.

And Wednesday morning it was back to our normal schedule: Janice to the office, me to a morning of volunteering with cats followed by an afternoon of starting to draft a paper proposal for next year's Kalamazoo, which got sidelined by the arrival of revised proofs for the new edition of my book (about which more later). So, back to work! It was a great vacation while it lasted, and did us both good. It's amazing how many interesting things there are to do in Washington, for the standing stone circle on Whitbey isle to that basalt landscape near Vantage. We're already starting to think about the next time . . .

--John R.
current reading: THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (Vol. 4 No. 1); SKIP-BEAT (manga) vol. 32; VIRTUAL UNREALITY by Charles Seife (about how to tell whether something you see online is true or not).

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