Jewish Cultural Street Festival

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, I drove two miles north to the Palo Alto California Avenue farmers market intending to assemble a lunch for myself from the various prepared foods stalls there. Instead, I found a festival had taken over the street! It was the To Life! Jewish Cultural Street Festival. I explored.

Most of the booths at the festival were for community groups. I was shocked by how many there were: community centers, congregations, retirement centers, schools (for all different ages: day care, pre-school, kindergarten, Jewish elementary schools full-time and after regular school, high school), activists (pro-Israel), banking ("interest-free lending since 1897"), general education/study groups, and more. I even spotted a group trying to get Jewish entrepreneurs together.

There were also booths selling things, mostly jewelry, but also art, pottery, glassware, mosaics, menorahs, and tallit. The two neatest things/services I saw:

  • someone who can custom-print an image onto silk, which is then presented under glass.
  • a board game, Given, designed to teach Jewish culture and encourage charity.
There were two stages of music, one of chorals (at least while I was there) and one of traditional Jewish folk music and dancing. There was also a small stage supposedly allocated for cooking demonstrations, but I never saw anything happening there.

I found six food stands, three of ordinary festival food and three Jewish ones: pastrami sliders from The Kitchen Table (a local upscale kosher restaurant), hummus and pita from Amba (a vegetarian kosher restaurant based on Oakland), and kosher burgers (didn't record the name of the stand). Of course, I ate Jewish food, which I photographed.

Sorry I don't have more pictures of the festival; not expecting it, I'd left my camera at home. I took the picture of my lunch with my cell phone, but I didn't want to go around snapping pictures of the festival with it.

By the way, the festival also had the requisite kids' zone.

It was hot and very sunny so I didn't stay long after browsing everything and seeing parts of some performances. I left after a bit more than an hour.

Incidentally, I overheard someone invent a new term: "I like those flowery shirts but they're a little too designy for me."

Interesting Articles: Q3 2010

* Smart spending buys happiness (American Public Media's Marketplace). A short segment interviewing a psychology professor who reviewed the literature on the connection between money and happiness. Listen, then read the criticisms in the story's comments; some are rather astute about the implicit assumptions in the professor's work and psychology literature in general. I also found it worthwhile to read her academic paper: If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right (PDF) (Journal of Consumer Psychology). Though long, it's actually only a survey paper reviewing the psychological studies and giving a list of principles (with the scientific evidence to support them) about how to make your money go farther in making you happy.
* What’s Really Human? The trouble with student guinea pigs (Newsweek). How studying U.S. undergraduates leads to misleading conclusions about universal cognitive processes. (Expands on the criticisms in the comments in the happiness radio segment.)

Cartography & History:
* Making Maps, the Google Way (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). An interesting tale about how cartography and in particular the techniques of map-making have changed over time. Although the segment could've been better made, I found it thought provoking enough that I checked out a book on the history of cartography.

* The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements (Stanford Report). A striking result that indicates our understanding of physics may be incorrect. It's not a result in a part of physics that we know we don't fully understand; it's something that we thought we understood and new evidence suggests we may not.

Schulz Museum and more in Santa Rosa

On Sunday, we wedding guests gathered for a casual Sunday brunch at the (still beautiful) Lancaster Estate house.

After brunch, a small group of us (Di Yin, I, G, A, and someone else) who were heading back to the bay area decided to have some fun together on the way back. I advocated (persuasively as it turned out) to stop by the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, the first town we pass through on the way home. I took some pictures at the museum.

I enjoyed most of the exhibits in the Schulz Museum. One large exhibit downstairs showed how Peanuts educated readers about science and nature, spotlighting series of strips that explain gardening, glowing, seeding, bird migration, trees, eclipses, weather, and more. It never occurred to me that this was a conscious part of Schulz's work, but apparently it was. I wonder how much I learned from Peanuts. Schulz also made drawings (with Peanuts characters but not part of the strip) for the E.P.A.

I also particularly liked a display asking which character, which personalities, are you most like. I decided I was most like Schroeder or Linus, though I could identify with Shermy for his famous haircut line.

Another exhibit showed how Peanuts and Schulz's drawing style evolved over the years. It's not just how the characters' appearance changed; even the look of the speech balloons, the perspective of the frame (what angle it seems the viewer is looking at the scene from), and the setting changed dramatically between his early and later work. For instance, in early cartoons, the kids sit on a curb and talk; in later strips, they stand by a wall. (Schulz realized that kids sitting on a curb was dangerous and that he shouldn't show them sitting on a curb in case the characters are taken as role models.) Also, in early strips there were adult legs and off-stage voices. These went by the wayside. In addition, some characters and relatives got dropped, such as Snoopy's family. In short, comparing the visual style and setting and characters over the years reveals a remarkable change that's somehow almost invisible on a month-to-month basis.

Exhibits upstairs in the museum were more historical, presenting biographical information on Schulz, showing intermediate sketches of the process of making a strip, discussing Schulz's influences, and displaying pictures from his life. The museum even included two parts of Schulz's home: a wall of his living room and full model of his studio, including his bookshelves. A final area upstairs showed how Peanuts characters have been developed into products and marketed over the years.

The museum aside, Santa Rosa goes all out for its homegrown star. One brochure I picked up has a map of the numerous Peanuts statues all around town. Next time I'm in the area maybe I'll detour to see some.

After the museum, we continued onward, regrouping again at a winery. We sampled wines and partook of the wide variety of snacks G provided. Sorry I don't remember the name of the winery.

Lancaster Estate Winery Wedding, Healdsburg

Di Yin and I went to Healdsburg over the weekend from Friday, October 1, 2010, through Sunday, October 3, 2010, for a wedding. Healdsburg is north of San Francisco, in the wine country that is Sonoma County. (Particularly, it's considered part of the Russian River communities.)

Two long-time friends of ours (M and M) were getting married (password protected wedding website).

We drove up Friday afternoon for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We were considered part of the wedding party because Di Yin was officiating the ceremony! (She's a long-time friend of both of them and actually helped introduce them to each other.)

The rehearsal dinner was in Healdsburg, the closest town, at the California cuisine restaurant Barndiva. It was a tasty meal among the couple's relatives, eaten outdoors at a lovely, long, wooden table.

Saturday was the wedding itself, an extravagant affair. The wedding was in high style, like a "tripped-out Mercedes" (as described by the groom). Both the wedding and reception were held on the grounds of the Lancaster Estate winery. The wedding literally was on the ground--it was outdoors in the dirt overlooking the valley filled with grape vines.

Incidentally, I took a handful of pictures of the estate, of the reception, and at the wedding.

Di Yin excellently officiated the ceremony. The script she came up with in collaboration with the couple was great, funny, and sweet, and filled with history and context about how the two met and how the relationship evolved.

The reception was in the incredible house built on a ridge in the winery's grounds. The house has great views in both directions, and it's narrow so that windows placed on opposite sides of each room enable one to enjoy both views in one place.

The wedding dinner was served family-style among groups of four. (Rectangular tables were set for eight, so each end received one copy of every dish.) The meal was delicious--I think at the time I claimed it was the best meal I had outside of China that entire year. The menu included a pear salad, a beet salad, an amazingly succulent roasted duck breast, grilled halibut, and Thai-style eggplant that was perhaps one of the best eggplant dishes I've ever eaten.

Also, needless to say, the wines served over the course of the meal and the evening were excellent. After all, what kind of couple has a wedding at a winery? A couple that loves wine. None of the wines, if I recall, were from this winery. In fact, they bought cases of their favorite wines from all over Sonoma and Napa to serve at the wedding. And there certainly was ample wine--they knew that if there were any leftover, they'd take the bottles home and that ain't bad! ;)

After dinner, we headed down to the winery's wine cave for dancing and dessert! It was a cool location (in both senses). The cave and the lighting therein made for a fun atmosphere. The temporarily installed dance floor was small, but this wasn't a problem--we simply spilled into the adjacent halls in the cave. During breaks, I looked around the cave and discovered an exclusive tasting/storage room that had display shelving of one bottle from every year the winery existed (except for a year or two where they accidentally sold every single bottle).

The most shocking thing about the hors d'oeuvre, the meal and the desserts is not obvious: the groom has severe dietary restrictions (for starters: lactose-intolerant, allergic to garlic), but you'd never know it from the quality and variety of the food. And he could eat everything they served.

Sep 27: Portland and the Columbia River Gorge

I did a lot of sightseeing outside this day, a warm and humid Monday. After breakfast at the hotel, I dropped Di Yin off so she could do an interview (the whole excuse for the trip) and headed off to explore Portland's famous Rose Garden, officially named the International Rose Test Garden. Beginning there, I took many pictures. Some, I must say, are fantastic.

On the way to the rose garden, I saw sites that seemed vaguely familiar, giving me a feeling I biked around Washington Park before (the rose garden is in the middle of it), during my visit to Portland in 2002 with D.

I knew I arrived at the gardens when I parked and could smell the roses even before I could see them. The gardens consist of acres upon acres of roses, most in bloom. I wandered through them for a bit over an hour. I saw some people running loops through the gardens, definitely a nice idea.

After seeing the rose gardens, I walked down some streets with houses in (at least according to the map) the middle of Washington Park. The houses were as nice as those we saw walking around King's Hill on the edge of the park the previous day. I also walked to the edge of the Portland's famous Japanese Garden, but couldn't go in because it wasn't yet open.

I picked up Di Yin and we drove around the park, just to see more. Washington Park is a huge, forested park, surprising for being near the center of a city. I was also surprised to find it rather wild, which I think is rather appealing. Incidentally, we found additional attractive, large houses on the park's hills.

We also drove through the Nob Hill district, a fancy district in the same vicinity. Known as the alphabet district, all the streets are (for a change) in alphabetic order. The street names used to be single letters but were extended at some point into whole words, names selected from figures in Portland's history.

I convinced Di Yin that she couldn't leave the Portland area without seeing the Columbia River Gorge. As we drove east toward it, we stopped for lunch at Bunk Sandwiches, another good find.

We drove down the historic Columbia River highway, overlooking the gorge. The landscape--ample greenery, frequent water, and widespread moss, with plains, rolling hills, and mountains all in close proximity--reminded me a bit of Norway. Quite an endorsement.

As I drove, I reflected that I can't believe I biked on this road in 2002. It has narrow lanes, one in each direction, and is so windy that there's little visibility/few places for passing. Plus, there are altitude changes. It couldn't have been an easy ride.

We stopped at a few vista points and also several waterfalls, including Bridal Veil Falls, where we did a hike to the falls and on a river overlook trail, and Multnomah Falls, one the tallest falls in the U.S.

In late afternoon, having seen the most famous section of the gorge, we headed to Portland airport, returned our rental car, and ate dinner. After our flight landed in San Jose, we accidentally took the bus in the wrong direction--we were confused--but figured things out, got on the correct bus, found the Caltrain station, and eventually made it home.

Sep 26: Assorted Portland

The previous night we stayed in the Red Lion Hotel on the River, a bit north of Portland. This morning we decided to exploit our proximity to the river with a morning stroll. I brought my camera to take pictures. We walked along the waterfront near our hotel (on Hayden Island, viewing the Columbia River).

After our walk, we drove downtown to explore Portland's food cart scene for lunch. We saw a few different pods (the term for a gathering of food trucks). We knew most trucks would be closed on Sunday, but we figured enough would be open to give us a sense of the scene. Indeed, I enjoyed seeing the variety of foods and variety of ad hoc stands they were being sold out of, even if most were shut.

We did a few errands (REI, Ross, etc.), then checked into our hotel for this night, the Park Lane Inn, the same hotel we stayed in the previous Sunday. It was inexpensive and perfectly nice; we decided to return. One reason we headed to this part of town early was to walk around the area. (Di Yin went running the previous week and was impressed with the sights and wanted to show them to me.)

We walked around the historic King's Hill district and its large, fancy houses. I recorded our walking route. We happened upon an open house and stopped in. It was surprisingly large; I would be happy with part of one floor. Built in 1906, it still had its neat, original-style wavy windows. (The old way of making glass panes by hand left them with waves.)

We also walked through Washington Park, which abuts King's Hill. Washington Park was very leafy and green, with lots of ivy. Sorry, by this point I was sick of taking pictures and didn't end up taking any in the park itself.

Incidentally, it was threatening to rain all day, but never rained.

For a refresher after our walk, we followed a friend's tip and headed to Cacao, a shop that specializes in chocolate and chocolate drinks. It selectively sources its own chocolate and truffles from various manufacturers and distributors. It's a fun store to browse to see what it chooses to sell and how it displays certain items together. Some of its items are odd, such as bacon-flavored chocolate and chocolate-smelling body lotion.

Next we went to Powell's bookstore, supposedly the largest independent bookstore in the world. The store is so big (bigger than other bookstores), they rightly give you a map. It feels so large that they should use the Dewey decimal system.

Nevertheless, I found Powell's disappointing. Incidentally, this was the same reaction as on my first visit to Powell's eight years earlier. Basically, it holds the selection of a good library. I was hoping to buy some obscure books not in my local library systems, but they didn't have any of these. At least I used Powell's to flip through uncommon books, books that are in my local library system but not at my local library, to learn if I wanted to drive to the other library / request that the books be delivered to my library.

For dinner we headed across Portland to the Screen Door, a Southern restaurant. Our fried chicken was some of the best I've ever had, and I'd give the restaurant a solid 3 and happily return.

Sep 25: Ashland to Portland, inc. Eugene

We allocated this day, a Saturday, to the five hour drive from Ashland to Portland. We grabbed breakfast in our hotel, then began the drive north. I took out my camera to take pictures.

The drive up interstate five is beautiful, passing through forested hills and states parks. On the way north, I forced us to detour a couple of times to view some of the covered bridges Oregon is famous for. We stopped in four towns, viewing perhaps half a dozen historic covered bridges. Most covered bridges look like a barn over a creek. We decided we didn't appreciate covered bridges. In fact, the bridge I liked the most that we saw during our drive was a narrow, sleek, swinging pedestrian bridge (with a "no swinging" sign :> ), not a historic bridge.

We stopped to visit the Saturday Market at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The University of Oregon has a Berkeley vibe, but is less dense, more car friendly, and lacking homeless people.

I found the market more interesting than Portland's Sunday Market (which I visited the previous week). It's also older than the one in Portland. We saw lots of stuff for sale, including arts, crafts, wood-turning (including one stall devoted to polished wood cribbage boards), t-shirts (including one stall specializing in shirts with birds), and tie-dye (we even saw some underwear for sale). There also was an attached extensive farmers market. (It even had locally grown lemongrass!) Finally, there was a large food court, and also multiple stages for musicians scattered around.

It was shockingly hot. Although there are other things to see in Eugene, we had no energy to explore more.

From Eugene we drove to Portland, stopping at the outlet mall in Woodburn on the way. The outlet mall has lots of shops, including Under Armour (which I didn't think did direct-to-consumer sales).

In Portland, Di Yin persuaded me (without great difficulty other than my desire for variety) to return to Apizza Scholls, the pizza joint we enjoyed so much in Portland the previous week.

Sep 24: Ashland

On Friday, we idled away the day in and around Ashland, hanging out until our evening play.

The whole morning we relaxed in our cabin until the last possible minute. I was sad to leave the cabin. We ate breakfast in the cabin; I had a peach tart I bought at the farmers market the previous day. It was good like peach pie. I decided to heat it up.

After checking out, we took a brief detour to nearby Hyatt Lake, but found it was nothing special. On the way, we saw cabins by the lake, but none were as nice as ours.

We drove to town, picked up lunch at the Ashland food co-op's deli section, then headed to Lithia Park for a picnic. Lithia Park, which I've explored (and photographed) before, is a large, narrow, remarkably pretty park.

After lunch, we took a walk through a residential neighborhood, walking past pleasant houses. We then strolled around downtown proper. I reiterate my previous statement that Ashland is a traditional cute tourist town. We stopped by the post office to mail postcards. We found a shop, CD or not CD, nominally a music store, with an extensive collection of fun, funny, and funky t-shirts:

  • W.W.K.D.? (what would Kirk do?)
  • there are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't
  • 5 out of 4 people have a problem with fractions. (there were lots of other math shirts as well.)
  • a shirt about Monty Python weight-ratios between birds and coconuts
  • a shirt of the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • a shirt of the holy hand grenade
  • a picture of a mushroom from Super Mario Brothers that is labeled "get a life"
  • a shirt that simply says "I don't care about apathy"
The shop's t-shirt catalog is online if you want to see more (or order one of those that I spotted).

We also stopped by an independent bookstore, Bloomsbury Books. I liked the books they picked to promote. We also dropped in Shakespeare Books & Antiques, a cute store with many vintage editions, some the size of almost-square index cards. Next we came across More Fun, a store of "comics for grown-ups." It was fun to browse. :)

Elsewhere, we found a special traveling exhibit on The Art of Dr. Seuss in the Thomas Lee Gallery. I liked seeing his creations up-close in large pieces, more substantial than the smaller renderings his books. Incidentally, some paintings on display were only released after his death.

During this stroll, we noticed lots of street musicians appearing in the late afternoon.

After a brief walk and sit in Lithia Park, it was time for dinner. We went to Omar's Restaurant, a dependable steak and seafood joint that I went to twice before (1, 2), once on each previous visit to Ashland. It wasn't quite as good on this visit; I'd give it a 2 or 2+ on my rating scale. Details of this visit are in the pictures, the only pictures I took this day.

After dinner, we went to our evening show: King Henry IV, Part One. I liked it, especially the elaborately choreographed fight scenes. It's both a history about high-level political (noble) infighting and a comedy. (Falstaff is fun as always.) It loosely follows the real history, though some facts are wrong such as the relative ages of the people involved. The play focuses on Prince Hal as he decides to stop carousing with lowlifes and take his rightful place as a member of respected royalty. As such, through this and other characters, the play explores what people think of or say about themselves versus how they appear to others. Similarly, the play also asks what honor is.

Sep 23: Crater Lake to Ashland, She Loves Me, and an Extraordinary Cabin

On Thursday, we struck camp early to drive to Ashland for the matinee we were scheduled to see. I'd expected the play to be the only interesting feature of day. On the contrary--we saw many great sites on the way to Ashland and by our cabin/hotel in the evening.

I took a variety of pictures this day.

On the way out of Crater Lake, we paralleled the Rogue River much of the way and stopped at various spots along it to sight-see. At some point we left the forests and entered the so-called Rogue River Valley, where highway 5 runs and most of the towns in this part of Oregon are clustered (including Ashland).

The weather was beautiful in the valley. When we'd stopped at our first viewpoint on the way out of Crater Lake, the thermostat has just reached 40 degrees. By the time we left the forest and mountains and entered the valley several hours later, we were in a different climate and at a warmer time of the day. It was 70s in the sun.

We stopped at the Rogue Valley Growers (i.e., farmers) & Crafters Market, which was held this day in Medford, the town next to Ashland. It's a good-sized, wide-ranging market.

Much of it is devoted to food and food ingredients. I liked the selection of prepared foods: lots of bakeries (including one that sold huge scones and another that sold "baklava bites" = little pockets of baklava and a third that sold apple, cherry, etc. pies baked like empanadas/turnovers), a donut stand (that made fresh donuts on-location), a Greek-ish stand (spanakopita, squash pies, apple strudel), a Turkish stand (with a gyro skewer), a good-looking Japanese food truck, and a local ice cream stand (butter pecan, toasted sesame with honey). Of course, as usual there were stands selling vegetables, fruits (the strawberries were cheaper than in the bay area!), mushrooms, honey, pasta, etc. There was a stand selling locally raised meat: beef, chicken, veal, and even buffalo!

Some stands sold plants, including cactuses and carnivorous plants.

The market also had many arts and crafts vendors, selling items ranging from carved wood and jewelry to perfumes and soaps.

We bought a lot of stuff at market for later meals.

After we left the market, we stopped by a park briefly, happened upon some deer on the road and in the park, then made our way to Ashland.

The reason we made Ashland a destination on this trip was because it's the site of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which I've been to twice before and enjoyed (1, 2a, 2b, 2c). Ashland and the festival are the same as always; I won't bother to describe my overall impressions of them in this post because my impressions haven't changed.

In Ashland, we headed to Lela's Cafe for lunch. I'd been there before and remarked that the sandwiches are so good that it alone might be an excuse to travel to Ashland. Well, the sandwiches were as delicious this time! Details are in the pictures.

After lunch, we trotted over to our matinee play: She Loves Me. Here's my reaction, indented so as to be easily skipable.

It's the timeless trope of two people who fell in love writing letters to each other yet had never met. They end up unknowingly working in the same perfume shop and don't get off on the right foot. Meanwhile they're still writing each other passionate letters, not realizing the other is the person they fight with at work. The first half of the play sets the scene; the second half shows what happens when their romantic worlds start colliding.

It's a cute, fun musical of a play, funny at times. I wouldn't call it a full musical because there are fewer dance routines and it has a smaller cast than a normal musical. The story is based on the play Parfumerie (written in Hungarian) by Miklos Laszlo. It was made into a musical by the same guys (Bock and Harnick) who later did bigger musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof. The tale was also adapted into many plays and movies, most notably You've Got Mail.

There are some funky (though nevertheless fun) musical interludes (Twelve Days to Christmas, the madcap dance in the Cafe, etc.) that don't really advance the story. These bothered me a little. (They didn't need to be there.)

Everyone in the story felt real, human, like ordinary working people looking for love. I compliment the play-writers for keeping everything grounded. Fundamentally, as one critic put it, the play is an "unsentimental love story."

I was surprised to notice that there were no deep themes here, no commentary on life or the human condition. This is unusual for plays I see. (Even Shakespeare's comedies have one-off lines or soliloquies that make a broader statement.)

Knowing that we were staying in a cabin this evening, after the play we stopped by the Ashland Food Co-op to pick up supplies to cook for dinner. The food co-op is a pretty good grocery store--quite extensive--with a fun deli section (bison tamales, anyone? sesame noodles? baklava?) and a wall of bulk food bins including things such as buckwheat grouts (roasted or unroasted) and rye berries. The freezer section even had such novel treats as honey pomegranate Greek ice cream. Finally, I was impressed to see a little bin one could put wine corks in to be recycled.

Amply supplied, we drove east on curvy route 66, heading to our place for the night. The road rose above the valley, yielding some pretty views. Although narrow and curvy and sometimes without guard-rails next to drop-offs, the drive didn't bother us because we were already used to Rim Drive in Crater Lake.

We checked in at Green Springs Inn's front desk, which is located in the inn's restaurant. They gave us a key and a map that provided directions on how to get to the cabin. We drove down the one-lane dirt road to our cabin, named Pilot Rock, passing deer on the way.

There, we discovered that our cabin was awesome! Thus begins my encomium. The pictures and especially the videos I recorded present it pretty well. First, it's really well designed / laid out. I've been reading a book on architecture, so I'm even more sensitive to this than usual.

The cabin's a rustic chic. It was built from the wood on the property; indeed, we passed the wood shop where they put things together on the way to the cabin. (They're building more than the four they currently have.) Nevertheless, despite the rustic feel, it has fancy, modern conveniences such as a sound system (for radio, set to NPR) and wireless internet. There's no TV, but we didn't feel its absence. The cabin is well outfitted with amenities. There's a hot tub. There's both a wood-burning furnace (for cozy heat) and a regular heating system. We found a shelf of games: yathzee, scrabble, cribbage, uno. Finally, though we didn't get to use it, there's a barbecue grill and a supply of firewood out back. Also, the cabin is built to the latest green-building specs.

Confirming the cabin's secluded appeal, there's no sound when on the deck. No cars. No other people. One hears only the forest. The only man-made structure in sight was another cabin, but it was a substantial distance away.

Fundamentally, this cabin is an incredibly peaceful, comfortable, special place to be. I think this is the best place I ever stayed in (in its class -- it shouldn't be measured on the same scale as the Peninsula and other four-star hotels). By the time we left the cabin, Di Yin was talking about going back for three days or three weeks. I kept saying, "Three weeks? No! Three months!" It's a great retreat.

The next morning, I spent some time reading the cabin's guest book. It was fun to read; the other guests were as panegyric as we were. Di Yin left a fun note (and an illustration) in the book on our behalf.

Incidentally, we ate dinner this evening in the cabin; Di Yin cooked us a lovely meal.

Sep 22: Crater Lake

Unlike our first day, it was sunny on our second day at Crater Lake. Thus, the lake looked different. However, the day was similarly cold. Nevertheless, we spent most of the day outdoors. This day we mainly explored the east side of the lake. We started by visiting Pinnacle Trail and its volcanic spires, then stopped at countless overlooks/viewpoints on the lake's rim, some named, some unnamed (though these still had pull-offs). After lunch, we headed to Watchman Peak for a short hike.

My many pictures document the day's travels fairly well.

Incidentally, one day we looked through the ranger information station / National Park Service gift shop and spotted a National Park version of monopoly. Interestingly, rather than show preference to particular parks, the game provides tiles for all national parks and makes you decide which tiles to use and which parks should be on the valuable squares (a la Boardwalk).

Sep 21: Crater Lake

These pictures document the day's activities. I don't have much to add; I didn't take notes--it was too cold. After breakfast at camp, we began the day by visiting Sinnott Memorial Overlook and the visitor's center on the south side of the lake, then drove clockwise around the lake (stopping at various overlooks), ending at the Cleetwood Cove trail on the lake's northern side. The Cleetwood Cove trail is the only route down to the lake. We hiked it, ate lunch by the lake, then drove back the way we came. (Returning by continuing clockwise would've taken much longer; we saved that side of the lake for another day.) Once back at the southern side of the lake, we visited the lodge--the classic central stone hotel that many national parks have--then hiked up the adjacent mountain, Garfield Peak.

We returned to our campsite well before dusk in order to cook dinner.

Crater Lake Overview

We spent two days and change at Crater Lake National Park, and I never tired of it. We saw Crater Lake and its vibrant blues in many colors/lighting conditions and from many angles. Every time I rounded a curve or climbed a hill and got a new glimpse of the lake, I was impressed. It never lost its excitement, perhaps because it often looked different depending on where I stood.

It's the lake and the majestic and scary drive on the rim around the lake that I'll remember most.

The lake's cleanliness and depth give it its color. The lake has no inlets or outlets; it's fed purely by rain and snow. It keeps a relatively constant level because it loses water through seepage into the ground and through evaporation. Due to its clean supply of water, the lake is pristine and incredibly clear. One can see deeply into it.

Crater Lake is the remains of a huge eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago. Blowing twelve cubic miles of material into the sky, it was the largest eruption that occurred in north America in the last half a million years. (The eruption was 100 times larger than Mount St. Helens'.) With all that material gone, the remaining top of the mountain collapsed, causing the crater. The park encompasses Crater Lake and much of the surrounding area, some parts of which show other remnants of the eruption. It's a large park: 249 square miles.

The creation method means the lake is high (6000 feet above sea level). It also means the lake's rim rises high (usually 1000 feet) above the water. Furthermore, the lake extends similarly deeply beneath the water (usually 1000 feet, to nearly 2000 feet at its deepest). It's the deepest lake in the United States. (Yes, it's deeper than Tahoe.)

Crater Lake manages to keep its water volume due to the large amount of snow in this region. The area around Crater Lake is cold and snowy for much of the year, so much so that most of the park closes. After all, it gets on average 44 feet of snow each year, making it one of the snowiest areas in the Pacific northwest. The snow piles to a base 16 feet deep during the winter; many trails open only in June and July after the snow melts.

Despite the cold winter temperatures, the lake rarely freezes -- too much heat gets stored in it during the summer.

During our visit in late September, the climate was already showing its frigid side. We were camping. It was freaken cold at night. On the coldest night, with a low of 28 F, we found frost on the tent in the morning. Nevertheless, we made camping work. I wore lots of clothes when not in my sleeping bag, and my mummy bag managed to handle the climate. Daytime highs were in the 30s or maybe 40s, which was cold but not impossible weather to sight-see and hike in. Animals were still around: we saw tiny chipmunks everywhere. In addition, on the positive side, there was no rain at any point during our trip.

We mostly ate camping food: mushrooms wrapped with onions (ah, grilled onions are great), squash (sometimes chopped and cooked with peas), corn on the cob, cauliflower, leftover mushroom hash, rolls with ham and squash (the squash makes the sandwich), rolls with canned tuna and squash, plums, and bananas.

Interesting digression: there are fish in Crater Lake. Due to its method of creation, obviously they're not natural. Indeed, people introduced them to the lake around 1900. (Early in the creation of the national park system, the parks were supposed to be used for recreation, and that included fishing. Hence, they added fish to the lake so people could fish them. Ah, how different things are today!) Nowadays, as the fish aren't native to the lake, you can fish all you want with no restrictions on size, species, or anything, no permits required.

Incidentally, there is also crayfish in the lake, introduced as food for the (introduced) rainbow trout. The park rangers are currently worried the survival of other small lake-bed-dwelling creatures; the crayfish seems to be out-competing (or preying on) them.

Note to myself: I wanted to take a boat tour on Crater Lake and also thereby explore Wizard Island, but the tours had already closed for the season.

Sep 20: Portland to Crater Lake

This day was mainly devoted to driving from Portland to Crater Lake, our home for the next few days. I took pictures. It was another comfortable weather day.

The day began with a drive across downtown Portland, a drive which took all of 15 minutes, passing through Historic Irvington on the way. I thought the lawns in this part of town were nicely manicured, landscaped, and precisely and prettily arranged, but Di Yin said they were nothing compared to the area near Washington Park she went running in that morning. She promised to show me the area she was talking about on our return to Portland.

On a tip, we ate brunch at Helser's on Alberta, then began our trek southward. On the way, we stopped by safeway and radio shack to pick up supplies for camping, and, later, stopped by a camping store for a ground tarp when we realized it'd recently rained in the vicinity of Crater Lake.

Our long drive to Crater Lake brought us past fields (cows, sheep), farms, lakes, small towns, and through the Cascade Mountain range and various National Forests. Our path brought us occasionally along train tracks and on perfectly straight roads. We also passed a controlled burn of small brush piles. We almost outran the rain on the way to Crater Lake, but didn't quite; it caught up to us at points. Happily, the rain stopped geographically before Crater Lake, and we never saw rain in Crater Lake during our stay.

At the north end of Crater Lake National Park, there was a shockingly treeless (given the rest of our drive) pumice desert. It was pretty when we drove through during golden hour, but we decided we didn't have time to stop for pictures if we wanted to make it to our campsite by around sunset. Sadly, we never drove through the desert again.

The drive along the Crater Lake's Rim was majestic, both looking toward the lake and away from it toward the valleys in the other direction. It was also scary due to steep drop-offs and lack of barriers.

At the campground (Mazama Village, the park's main campground), we claimed a site and bought firewood. (Unlike some National Parks, it wasn't free.) We had trouble starting a fire and ended up getting help from friendly neighbors. (They let us light a log in their pit.) We ate a dinner of bagels (while waiting for our fire to start) and leftover pizza (which we warmed above the flame, but it wasn't good--it was soggy). Because we brought a lantern this time, we found it easier to cook at night than usual. Though better than nothing, I decided it wasn't bright enough and plan to get something better next time.

Bundled up, we survived the cold night. The inflatable 2.5 inch thick camping pads helped. They weren't great, but they weren't bad and certainly better than our usual sleeping pads.

Sep 19: Portland

The trip began with me packing early on the morning. Then, Di Yin and I took the Caltrain to the bus to San Jose airport. I'd never made it to SJC via public transit before, but it turned out to be smooth sailing all the way.

We flew out of San Jose Airport's brand new terminal B, which was pretty nice and had the wonderful amenity that most seats in the waiting area have power outlets.

We flew Horizon. Perhaps a reflection of Portland's brewing traditions, Horizon served as one of the drink options a complimentary microbrew. It was okay.

We landed, picked up our luggage and our rental car, drove downtown, and started exploring. At this point I began taking pictures.

One place we visited was the Saturday Market. (Yes, I know it was Sunday, but it's also open on Sundays.) In addition to the standard market stuff of clothes, hats (lots of stalls selling these, all rather nice), handbags, accessories (wallets, belts, ...), jewelry, candles, glassware, pottery, woodcarving (even pretty woodwind instruments), metalwork, paintings (some surprisingly good and priced accordingly), photography, etc., there were some novelties too, such as custom-made clay face masks and a stand that would put your face on a garden gnome. See the pictures for the rest. We also found some stages with live music. Finally, as for food, there was the usual market food (philly cheesesteaks, pizza) plus Tibetan, Hawaiian, BBQ, Salvadorian (pupusas), Ethiopian, and Polish (pirogis).

After the market, we wandered around downtown Portland. Di Yin led. We had no grand plan of places to see, but our wandering did (I realize in retrospect) cover most of that section of town. It was perfect weather, a nice temperature to wear long sleeves, a slight breeze, and gentle sunlight.

Right when we decided to stop exploring, it started drizzling. (good timing!) We stopped by REI to prep for our camping trip, and then headed to dinner on the other side of the river. On the way, we drove down Hawthorne, a hip street filled with boutiques and restaurants, including a Mexican school bus food joint (hipper than a taco truck in my opinion) and more. We made plans to walk around the area sometime (though these plans never came to fruition).

We ate at Apizza Scholls, a place I learned about via Anthony Bourdain. We had a great pie. For details, see the lengthy comments by the pictures.

Finally, we checked into our night's hotel, Park Lane Suites & Inn. Complete with hardwood floors, it was perfectly nice.

Portland Overview

From Sunday, September 19, 2010, through Monday, September 27, Di Yin and I traveled around Oregon, mostly visiting Portland, Crater Lake, and Ashland.

Between the twenty-fours I spent in Portland at the beginning of this trip and the two days I spent at the end of the trip, I think I got an accurate impression of the city. I also visited Portland once before, with D in 2002. During that visit, we biked around the city and along the Columbia River. I've aggregated my general observations of Portland into this post; they come mainly from this visit, as my earlier one was so long ago that I don't have many concrete memories of it.

Portland doesn't look much like a city. It doesn't have many tall office buildings and has very few skyscrapers. Also, there's no congestion. The streets, even downtown, are surprisingly uncrowded, both in terms of people and cars. Incidentally, the lack of cars might be explained by Portland discriminating against drivers. For instance, parking is enforced even on Sundays (til 7pm).

Many parts of Portland don't feel like a city either. It feels small: you can get anywhere in Portland in about 10-15 minutes. It's amazing. Also, there are lots of two-lane roads--it feels like Austin in this regard--and consequently doesn't feel dense enough, like there's not enough traffic flowing for it to be a real city.

But, it's like a city in one feature: there are lots of people asking for money, probably more than in all other cities I've visited. Many are not traditional panhandlers but rather people walking around asking for a few bucks to get a hostel. There are, however, also traditional homeless people.

Whether a city or not, Portland is attractive in design and style. Here's a long, dense list of reasons. Read and absorb it slowly; this paragraph is by far the most important in this post. Portland has large, leafy, appealing parks, such as Washington Park, and attractive, upscale neighborhoods, such as King's Hill, Nob Hill, and Irvington. It has many nice green spaces dotted around the city (like London). I've had good experiences with the food, ranging from perfect pizzas to top-notch Southern fried chicken. Plus, it has a vibrant food cart scene downtown. It's pedestrian and bicycle friendly. For instance, one day (Sunday the 26th), we saw that some roads were closed for the Sunday Parkways, a periodic event where they close streets in a big loop and let people mosey along doing whatever (walking, rollerblading, biking, etc.). In general, it feels like a chill town. There's lots of street art. Finally, as an added bonus, the beautiful Columbia River Gorge is just up the interstate a bit.