Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Saturday, 7 November 2009

1 November 2009 : Postcard From Brookings





Click postcards to enlarge and read

A New State : A New Start



"Don't you think she is getting a little plump?", my wife asked me the other day. "Who?", I replied. "Amy, she's getting rather large around her rump". Amy, our soft-coated wheaten terrier, gave us one of her looks. It was out of the "I have just been grievously offended and it will take more than a plate of chopped-up chicken breast to get me to be your friend again" category. She has an extensive wardrobe of "looks" our dog. "I suppose it's time we started walking again", I said.

If truth be told I knew it was time to dust off the pedometer and start exercising again. Some two and a half years ago, Amy and I had decided to combat the layers of fatty tissue that were attacking the pair of us by taking regular walks. To make things interesting we decided (OK, I decided, but she didn't seem to mind) that we would use a pedometer to calculate how far we walked each day and plot our course along a virtual walk from Los Angeles to California. We would use the rapidly expanding information available on the internet to learn as much as possible of the places we "virtually" traveled through. It would be good exercise, good fun and a decent attempt to discover the limits of virtual travel.

For two years all went well. We walked from Los Angeles all the way up the California coast. We visited places in our imaginations that we never knew existed. It was fun. It was the next best thing to being there. And then we crossed the state line into Oregon and we got lazy. Our pedometer gathered dust and Amy's bottom gathered fat. What we needed was a new start, a nudge in the right direction to get us going. That nudge was provided by two people. It was provided by my wife and her comments about Amy's increasing girth. And it was provided by Tina Lonergan who had come across the Blog which was the record of our trip so far and liked it. 

So here we go again. I have changed the format slightly for the trip through Oregon and the posts will be virtual postcards which we virtually send every few days from our virtual walk. I hope you enjoy it. We might not think it as we trudge along the wet streets of West Yorkshire, but I am sure that both Amy and I will benefit from the exercise. The map above shows our intended route through the southern part of the State of Oregon. Whether we stick to this route or veer off in search of spectacular scenery, tasty beer or succulent chicken will depend on circumstances. Whatever happens, we will try and let you know by sending you a postcard or two.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Week 49 : Smith River To Brookings

Week 49 Crossing The State Line


"Now imagine a California casino surrounded by that magnificent landscape. A casino resort featuring Live Blackjack, Video Poker, Slots and Casino Bingo". Yes, here we were stood at the door of the Lucky 7 Casino a few hundred yards north of the mouth of the Smith River and reading from the Casino brochure. Why one would want to come to where the "giant redwoods kiss the mighty Pacific Ocean" to play on a fruit machine was beyond me, but what the hell, we were in California. Just.

I say "just" because we were now just a few miles short of the long-awaited border between California and Oregon. Amy and I had been walking for fifty virtual weeks and we had progressed up the California coast from our starting point outside Los Angeles Union Station. We had climbed mountains (well, OK a couple of small hills), crossed mighty rivers (via modern concrete bridges, but what the hell) and transversed numerous County lines, but those few steps just south of the Winchuck River were the big one. As we took the momentous step into Oregon, I declared to Amy, "Just two small steps for a man and his dog, but one giant leap for the blog". I thought the words had a momentous ring about them : it was the kind of statement that would live for ever. The implications were considerable : we had left behind California Dreamin', the Golden State, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And we had said hello to ....? I wasn't quite sure, so I quickly Wiki'd Oregon. "It's called the Beaver State", I told Amy. As we walked north up the Oregon Coast Highway our minds were occupied : Amy was working out how to track and catch a beaver and her owner was pondering the meaning of words.

The State name may have changed but the scenery hadn't. There were still trees. Tree after tree after gas station after tree. If you have the mind - and if you have nothing better to do - you can follow this part of our journey on Google Maps as the Street View van has travelled the route. But don't expect too much excitement, there's an awful lot of concrete and wood. Tiring of the concrete, Amy and I left Highway 101 and followed Ocean View Drive which hugs the coast (the Street View van didn't make it up here so you will just have to imagine what it is like). With all the changes, being next to the ocean was somehow comforting. It was still the Pacific. It was still blue. And as Amy discovered as she explored the rock pools near Red Point, it was still wet. 

By the end of the week we had reached Brookings, our first Oregon city. Like so many of the places we had passed through in recent months, it is a timber town, indeed it was founded by the Brookings Lumber and Box Company just over 100 years ago and named in honour of the company President, John E Brookings. There is still a lot of wood around and if you walk down the curiously misnamed Centre Street you can still see the occasional Plywood Mill still in business. So it was with the familiar aroma of sawdust and tree-bark, that Amy and I ended our first week in our new State. Little seemed to have changed. But at least now, when my neighbour, seeing Amy and I on our daily walk, calls out, "Where have you got to?" I can reply with just a little pride : "Oregon".

Week 48 : Crescent City To Smith River


Week 48 : Crescent City To Smith River


Crescent City is a pretty place, although with just a few more than 4,000 citizens it isn't much of a city and you need to squint a bit before you can recognise the crescent shape of its bay. But both Amy and I agreed it was pretty as we gazed across the water towards Battery Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is over 150 years old and was one of original eight West Coast lighthouses built to protect shipping en-route to the boom cities of the California gold rush. I tried to lecture Amy on the design of the lighthouse and its Fifth Order Drumm Lens (with 20,000 candle power!) but as usual on these occasions she yawned, scratched her ear and fell asleep. I moved on to tsunamis in the hope that it might hold her attention but the look she gave me implied that she had never heard of her. But Crescent City is surprisingly prone to tsunamis, research shows the city has been struck by more than 15 in the last fifty years. For most of them you would have to be a researcher to know they had taken place, but the 1964 tsunami was of a different order altogether : it destroyed the city (if, unlike Amy, you are interested in the story of the Crescent City tsunami you can read the story here). Noting that someone had once said that Crescent City acts like a magnet for giant waves, Amy and I decided to head inland. 

Although we left the Pacific Ocean behind us we didn't quite escape the water : it rained. It is not surprising that it rained : it rains a lot in Crescent City; with an annual precipitation of over 70 inches it is one of the wettest places in California. So it's small. it's wet and it attracts tsunamis, I summed up as we walked north up Lake Earl Drive. But it's pretty, Amy and I both agreed. Over the coming days that judgement was reinforced as we skirted the splendid Lake Earl lagoon with its profusion of wildlife. Amy noticed signs relating to the sport of duck hunting which is popular in these parts and was anxious to join in, but I put a stop to that. By the middle of the week we had discovered another potential drawback of Crescent City. This one was known as Pelican Bay State Prison. 

When I first checked the population of Crescent City I found two quite different figures : the first was 4,000 the second was 7,300. I subsequently discovered that the difference between the two figures was the prison population of Pelican Bay. And these aren't your ordinary mobile-phone pinching, chicken-bone stealing criminals, they are pretty nasty individuals. With this in mind Amy and I accelerated our progress north, and only felt safe once we had crossed the Smith River. Why we then felt safe I can't imagine : one strongly suspects that if an individual can murder a string of his fellow citizens without a second thought, he would be able to walk over the Smith River Road bridge as well.

Smith River spreads its bets in terms of its attraction to passing virtual tourists. It is a river (and very nice too) and then its an "unincorporated community" (which seems to be an American term for a village ... and very nice too) and eventually a seaside community (at the point where the Smith River meets the Pacific). And very nice too. As we headed west towards our rendezvous with the ocean we knew we were there when we saw a 490 ton steel-hulled yacht lying calmly at anchor .... in the middle of a field. The ship is now a central feature of what is known as the Ship Ashore resort. It is quirky, slightly eccentric and very American. It was the perfect place to end our walk for another week.