Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicago: Week 1!

After leaving Moscow, we drove as fast as we could to Billings, MT, Fargo, ND, and Aurora, IL. We stayed in Aurora with Ian's parents for about 2.5 weeks before heading on to Washington and the end of our odyssey!

Casual family portrait at Starved Rock State Park.

Guita is decidedly part sight hound. She loves looking over walls to see what's on the other side. In this case, she and Ian are looking at the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park. Beautiful!

Guita takes Halloween very seriously. She loves it when children come to the door and ask for candy. Trick-or-treat never lasted long enough in Mexico, but in The Wheatlands of Aurora, I think she found doggy trick-or-treat zen. She did not enjoy wearing her bandana, but we'll work on that.

We visited the Art Institute of Chicago and had a great day walking through the museum. We saw all the best European art the Institute has to offer and we walked through the Modern Wing that is filled with... wait for it... modern art. Some of it is amazing and some of it less so (to my uncritical eye), but it was a wonderful, cosmopolitan day with a train ride at either end!

Ian's all-time favorite work of art: white enamel paint on a white wall. This particular artist got to Ian in a rather inelegant way! Ask him about it sometime; see if the adjectives still fail him!

Installation art: hard candies in a corner. Adults are welcome to take a piece!

Outside the Art Institute, the modernity continued: we went to play around what can only be called the jellybean in Millennium Park. (I suppose the artist might call it something else, but to any eyes besides those of love, i.e., the mother's/ father's, it is clearly a gigantic, reflective, and highly irregular jellybean. Google Millennium Park if you want a sense of what it looks like from a distance!

Looking straight up the belly of the bean!

Self-portrait with spouse in the bean!

Self-portrait with partial spouse in the bean!

Guita takes a breather from the insane romping with her Malinois cousins, Hawk and Reed. She was desperate for some canine company, and Hawk and Reed provided it in spades!

Biteface between siblings!

Hawk and Reed in a semi-peaceful moment.

Guita and Hawk playing above ground.

Two Malinois in hot pursuit!!

Chicago: Week 2!

We visited Indiana Dunes State Park in NW Indiana one weekend. It was a beautiful day - all sun, no wind - and the remaining leaves were intense. Guita loved it and even got off the leash for a bit of the walk!

The forest behind the dunes felt a little bit like a tromp l'oeil painting to me, possibly because of the thin brush at the base of the trees and the small trunks. It was very pretty!

King of the mountain! Or at least of the dune....

Partial family portrait! Guita is giving Jaye a kiss!

The fall plants were spectacular, and backdrop of the sand instead of dirt made everything much more visible.

Jaye of the autumn!

Ian and Gary consulting the blackberry or the map, and Guita worrying about the stragglers. Remember, Guita: she who snaps the photos is permitted to be a little behind everybody else!

Ian, Guita, and Gary

Jaye and Gary

Fall flowers taking advantage of the warm day.

Looking up into a pine tree.

Show dog!! She cleans up the Mexican Whipperdoodledollie class!

Guita returns from her run along the beach. A small bird took off in front of her and flew about four feet off the ground for 500 yards (give or take). She chased it until it flew up (instead of away) and then came back pleased as could be with herself and the world.

And the poignant, ever-present reminder of why we need to protect the world from ourselves. This is a steel plant in or near Gary, IN. There are several along the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

We visited the Shedd Aquarium and saw the fabulous exhibit on jellyfish. All you friends in Chicago, it's very fun!

Lion's mane jelly. Wow.

Such a fabulous skyline!

Big city, big man! This would show Ian's pensive and elegant side if he weren't blowing out his cheeks!

Friday, October 28, 2011


From Estacada, we moved on to Moscow, Idaho, in our tour of obscure western towns. We spent about five days with Ian's brother Chris and his wonderful family.

Our first activity in Moscow was to attend our nephew Basil's pre-school Fall Ball, and song and dance extravaganza! Baz was a star!

Veda and I waited anxiously for the entertainment to begin!

Basil sings The Itsy Bitsy Spider song with feeling!

Basil and his classmates are peering through their binoculars during the Dracula hunting song.

Basil singing the monkey-alligator song. We're at the crucial moment where the alligator snatches the monkey right out of that tree!

Photographic proof that Zaur boys can still be silly!

A partial family portrait! Veda is going to be taller than me soon, and I'm researching the law about niece height relative to aunt height!

We met Veda for lunch and went to a cool pizza place. Ian ordered garlic bread, and boy did they deliver! They felt bad about the wait we'd had and gave us an entire pizza pan instead of just our order. It made good leftovers!

Our first attempt at a (partial) family portrait didn't go so well. After lengthy discussions, we agreed to try again...

And we managed a much more amicable version of the same pose. We like each other, really.

Basil and Paige! Basil had just added a rock to the top of that cairn and agreed (barely!) to have his photo taken.

Basil on a rock!

Steptoe Butte as seen from Kamiak Butte. Steptoe Butte is a spur of Columbia Basalt that survived all the geologic upheaval in the region. It is around 15 million years old and is surrounded by the Palouse (from the French "le pelouse" or lawn) and its many layers of more recent rock and soil deposits. According to the information at the top, on very clear days you can see the Cascades of western/ central Oregon and Washington.

The top of Steptoe Butte is a handy place to plant a bunch of cell phone towers. There's no beauty that can't be lessened by function....

Guita Goes to the Beach!

Our last overnight trip in Oregon was to Cannon Beach. Guita loved the beach, but she thought the ocean - especially the waves! - was a little scary. Her lessons: tide pools are unspeakably scary, and seagulls aren't really birds unless they're already flying (such a waste!).

Ian, Guita, and I went overnight to the Oregon coast, a wonderfully beautiful place. We stayed in Cannon Beach and climbed Saddle Mountain, the highest accessible peak in the northern Coast Range, on our way out. Saddle Mountain is about 3200 feet, and the hike is 2.5 miles one-way. The hike gains 1600+ feet in 2.5 miles, so it's a steep climb. We were all wrecked at the end of it, but we had a wonderful time!

Hear hear!

The light on Saddle Mountain was spectacular. All the still-green leaves were glowing, set off by the silver or rich brown trees and the higher canopy plants. Some leaves were changing (see below), further highlighting the intensity of the green.

Silver trees and fall colors. It was stunning!

Looking out into the Coast Range. We had a beautiful day for the hike even though it was a bit hazy.

Huckleberries! Wild red huckleberries! We have a giant stump of the same kind of huckleberries in my parents' yard, and they're wonderful. A small section of the trail was nearly a huckleberry forest. I took a lot of pictures....

Cool rock plants.

And some brave little fall flowers still blooming. This hike showcases the variety of Oregon's flora and climates!

Out of the trees and still climbing....

A good chunk of the trail doubles as a stream bed. It's tricky walking, but the extra traction provided by chain link fence helps a bit!

Nearly to the top. This hump is the last stretch. It's about 0.25 miles, but it feels like a marathon. The view from the top makes it all worthwhile!

Looking north/ northwest from the top we saw the mouth of the Columbia River and the town of Astoria, famous for being the site of The Goonies. We went to Astoria for dinner the second night on our way back to Estacada.

Looking west from the top of Saddle Mountain, we saw Mt St Helens (left) and Mt Hood (right) with its top covered by clouds. The clouds were moving fast and the illuminated mountain kept changing. It was very pretty.

Again looking west, we saw Mt Adams, one of Washington's Cascade peaks. It looked close enough to touch.

We all made it to the top! It was super windy and quite cool, but it was worth every minute of knee-breaking pain. Guita was never so happy to see dog treats and a water bowl! Just behind us are Mt Hood (OR) and Mt St Helens (WA).

The ridgeline.

The season was perfect, and the mix of evergreens with color-changed leaves was beautiful!

She who snaps the bestest walks the lastest, and I saw something along these lines at nearly every switchback, up and down. Guita does not like waiting once she's on a hike, and her tolerance for lollygagging is low. But, she's a dog, so she's always happy to see me!

More pretty trees!

More huckleberries! On the way down - even though it was downhill - I was moving more slowly than Ian and Guita. I kept about one switchback away from them until we got to the huckleberry forest, and then I lost them completely. Ian failed totally to gaze up at the sky through the huckleberries and appreciate the different greens, grays, and browns in the forest. On the other hand, we now have more photos of huckleberries than anybody needs, and they both had to wait while I dallied. It's all about perspective!

Such pretty trees!

After her hike, Guita crashed in front of the gas fire. She almost didn't want to come to bed. We were all feeling more or less that way.

Guita had never been to the beach, so after a bit of a rest, we went for a short walk along the water. She was nervous at first, but pretty soon she relaxed and started to enjoy it!

Off the leash and starting to feel silly on the beach. Guita loved the beach and ran great circles, kicking up her heels and stretching out to really run. Oddly, she didn't get excited about the seagulls: apparently little brown birds are more her speed than big scary gulls are.

Dog getting ready to run!

Running dog!

Some things are just plain scary. We never quite got over tide pools and rocks on the beach.

Some running was inspired by the beach, the fresh air, and the birds. Other running was inspired by the more immediate engagement of Ian pretending he was going to get her!

Looking south from Ecola State Park.

Looking south towards Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park. The big rock is Haystack Rock. According to popular literature in Cannon Beach, Haystack is the world's third largest monolith. Beacon Rock in Washington state also claims to be one of the biggest. A quick google search says otherwise. Perhaps we're missing the qualifier: third largest partially submerged monolith, or third largest pointy-topped monolith. Any guesses?

Looking north at Ecola State Park.

The arch rock off Ecola State Park.

In Seaside, Guita had her picture taken with Ian and Lewis and Clark. Seaside is where they turned around, and theoretically the statue marks the spot.

Our last stop along the coast was Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia and the last city before Washington state. We climbed the 168 steps of the Astoria Column to get the view (spectacular!) and then went to happy hour at a cool place on the water. It was a fun trip!

Looking south into the Coast Range from the top of the Column. One of those peaks is Saddle Mountain. You can see the clear cut damage (logging) all around.

Astoria as seen from the top of the Astoria Column. Astoria considers itself the first "American town" founded on the Pacific coast (1811). It was very rich in the fur trading days and is the site of The Goonies movie from the early 1980s. Hooray Oregon!

And we blocked up another perfectly good view with our great heads. But this is the proof that we were there, together, and having a good time!

The Willy Wonka-esque top of the stairs in the Astoria Column. It was very pretty in the sun!