Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Americana II: the County Fair

I am not sure if this was an actual county fair or the city of Monroe (Swiss cheese capital of the US!!) fair. I think it was the latter or else it would be the Green County fair, of which Monroe is the county seat. Good deducing ... or is that inducing .... getting back into school mode (it's deduction). The girls loved it - plenty of cool farm stuff, scary rides (for reasons not necessarily related to the designed purpose of the rides) fair food, and interesting people. The farm stuff was my favorite. The girls liked the rides - for the most part. A few of the rides were of your typical spinny variety but took on a certain carnivalesque quality that made them scary. One such was actually painful. It spun around so fast that the g-forces smashed Emmerson against me, me against the side of the "capsule" and my right hip against a large bolt extending into the capsule compartment. The smile on my face morphed into a grimace by the end of the ride. After a few more of such rides, the girls opted for those of a tamer variety like the potato sak slide. 

Ada enjoying life!

I really like big farm machines, because they are cool. Actually, farming has become a growing interest of mine as one of my favorite topics of study is the global food situation, and the food industry in the US is quite intriguing.

 A super cool John Deere tractor.

Super cool John Deere other farm thing. 

Tractor - and yes, there was a tractor pull which the girls were quite curious about. 

One of those farm things that farmers do farm stuff with.

Could certainly do some damage with this super cool farm thing.

Calves, Ada still somewhat tentative about large animal but she is gradually growing in confidence.

Shorn sheep in their pink post sheering outfits. The purpose of the outfits, other than the obvious that they look fabulous??? ....

... in addition to the powerful fashion statement, the coverups provide the sheep's protection from flies, skeeters and other annoying skin irritants. 

Big ole dairy cow whose milk most likely went strait into the production of a fried cheese curd. I have written and spoken several times about these culinary creations and they are now on my growing "list of things I will never eat for random, not really important reasons" (such as french fries because Belgium beat the US in the WC and I was really ticked and in a moment of stupid male sports fan fervor swore them off for life and made the mistake of including this in the text conversation I was having with cousins Nate and Josh who will definitely hold me accountable to this). The third item on the list is Krispy Kreme doughnuts for obvious reasons.

Oregon Part III: Portland

Hannah is spending the summer at college doing a research project with her mentor and traveling with a kick ass rugby team (I think those words are appropriate and suitable when talking about an all star women's rugby team that your niece is playing on) so was not part of the Oregon trip. But Tyler, Evan (both high schoolers) and Walker (colleger) were on hand to provide entertainment. Both Tyler and Evan are water sport creatures and Tyler was in water polo season so we went to a few of his games in Portland and spent the rest of the day exploring the city. I like cities and Portland was a new one and the girls got piggy backs and such from the boys so all in all a great day - and throw in an Irish Pub for lunch and a pretty entertaining 3d place world cup match while dining. We started our walk up near the Portland Timbers stadium and ended down at the river.

Tyler's world. They ended up winning the state tournament in the open division. To not get into too much detail, in sports, the open division is for any adult age and lots of competitive young teams (like Tyler's, a club team which kind of feeds into the high school team) play in this division to get experience. The way it works is that you might be playing against guys much older and larger and stronger and more experienced, all from which you can learn from, BUT they tend to be a lot less in shape and that tends to level the competition. We saw the final and it was great to see the older behemoths try and manhandle the youngsters - I have certainly been in both situations with soccer and think I like the older option more. I am good at using my experience and strength (weight!).

The Portland Timbers (MLS pro soccer team) are quite popular in these parts as the city does not have many other pro teams and soccer has enjoyed a long tradition of popularity here in the northwest. The stadium is really unique. From street level it is barely visible because it descends from the street down to the field. So basically, you enter at the top of the stadium and walk down to your seat. Its a beautiful venue and from what I have heard and seen on TV, home to some hardcore and very supportive fans. This face was outside on the grounds of the stadium.

Ada at the river side park market - plenty o' tie dye and such in the city.

Portland has a popular food truck culture so we decided to venture down towards the river where many of the truck congregate. On the way we walked by Voodoo Donuts, as seen on many food shows, and the line was out the door and around the bloc. I also saw several people in the airport with boxes of the unique confections. Unfortunately, the food trucks we came across were rather generic and I think we might have missed the area, where more congregate, by a few streets. The girls and teenage boy eating machines were hungry and an Irish Pub that EC had eaten at before beckoned from the next blok. So we opted to have lunch there and watch the 3d place WC game. Good choice!

Walker had just piggy backed Emmerson, who is quite dense these days, and worked up a thirst. These cool fountains dot the sidewalk of the city.

At the riverwalk.

This is the Willamette River - it flows into its bigger more famous sister, the Columbia River, a bit north of the city.

Not Mt. Hood, I know that - as that mountain looms much closer as you fly in or out of Portland and it is south of the Columbia River - these peaks were to the north ... alright, I give up - to the Google Machine. Mt. Adams and perhaps Rainier in the background or St. Helens? All three are visible from planes flying into the city.

Oregon Part II: the Beach

We took a day trip out to the beach which included about an hour ride thru the wild and wooly forests of the coastal range. Lush, lush landscape refreshingly beautiful. The beach was fogged over, which I actually like. Unfortunately there were number of nice beach breaks being surfed so I simply stood on the beach and lusted for a while. Once I got over that, we full on experienced all you can do at a northwest coast without actually going in the water. The highlight, besides getting Willy to fetch the nasty sand covered tennis ball, was the massive 500 ft sand dune and fabulously shaped sandstone cliffs that broke up the stretches of sandy beaches.

Big tree. This is lumber country so most of the forest is not old growth but still some trees reach an impressive girth. 

Many of the trees were "wooly" which gave the forests a Tolkienesque feel, or at least how I imagine his forests. 

Glad to see the area being used by outdoor enthusiasts. Not sure how I feel about camping as most of my experiences have been rather rustic and more often than not, wet - and to camp properly it seems to take a lot of equipment, and I am not an equipment guy - thus the rustic wetness. But I liked what I saw in the campsite where we stopped.

More of a longboard break but there were some short borders. This was booties and hoodies weather for sure but there were quite a few guys and gals out.

Willy in his element. Impressive how much sand a dog can ingest without doing damage, almost as much as a teething baby at the beach.

Beach girls, Oregon coast style.

Firing up for the dune climbing venture.

It's hard to perceive verticality in a picture, but this was steep. Nana and Ada are closest to the foreground and Emmerson is a bit of the ways up on the left waving.

Emmerson scampered up the dune but it took the rest of us a bit more exertion to accomplish the task. She stood at the top cheering us on - here is Ada on her summit approach.

Dune top view.

On the summit looking down the other side of the dune towards the wind and wave carved sandstone cliffs.

Summit pose.


Goofing on the dune. Ada acquired in her swim suit almost as much sand as Willy consumed as she skooted down much of the dune.

Enjoying life.

Acquiring more sand.

Come on - get up there dense girl.

This might have been my curtain call of lifting Emmerson right up over my head. It was a struggle getting her up there. The rather precarious position didn't help with the psychological confidence I needed for the lift - that's what I'm blaming it on. 

Bit easier.

I think they were hugging more out of fear of the crashing waves and/or the cold than sisterly love in these next few shots.

Oregon Part I: the Bell Compound

I took the girls out to visit the big cousins out in Oregon. Ardis and EC were great hosts and the girls had a great time basically watching their big cousins due 15, 17, and 21 year old guy stuff - eating lots of curious things at anytime of the day or night, impressing with video game skills (especially that building Mind Craft one), water polo, and just being funny and big and cool. The home compound is in Newburg, Orland just outside of Portland. Really nice to see this part of the US after being in the tropics and Chicago. Beautiful hills and all around scenery.

I made myself useful and cooked up some fried rice for the crew. Notice Emmerson has already launched into her food. She eats like she is perpetually famished.

View from the back deck - loved it.

Girls in full hot tub mode while Ardis watches over them.

Message from my Grandpa Lewis inscribed on the inside roof of the doll house he made for Ardis when she was a little girl. My Aunt Marie made all the interior furnishings. The girls loved playing with this. They dragged all of Hannah's little play critters out of her closet and incorporated them into the house experience.

Eggo's and a vintage playhouse - quite a morning.

Thru a small door in the girl's upstairs bedroom they discovered the attic crawl space where the boys Lego collection was stationed. The girls braved the heat to investigate.

EC's aunt and uncle live nearby and have two pet goats and a llama. Ada is still unsure about critters - we have to remind ourselves that from her vantage point, they are huge and rather intimidating.

Emmerson is a full on animal fanatic. She was a bit tentative but her curiosity won out and she eventually fed very friendly goat.

... and then the llama.

This was great running country and my sleep schedule was just goofed up enough so I woke up every morning by 6 am and enjoyed a nice cool run in a new and exciting scenic venue. I hooked up with Nana and the girls on a morning walk with Willy. Ada was rather terrified of Willy for a few days but he is a great dog and super laid back so by the end of the trip Ada was a huge fan. 

This hill is where I ran a few times. Multiple farms, including one with a nice sized llama herd, covered the hillside.

Llamas from the herd.

A medieval cathedral style maze that has a name which I have forgotten. It is located in a nice trailed area near the house where they walk Willy. It was funny to see Willy follow along doing the maze.

Blackberries grew wild everywhere, literally. After my runs I would just graze berries for breakfast.