Friday the 13th/ flight 666 to HEL

Today in Copenhagen: at about 13 o’clock on Friday the 13th, Finnair flight 666 took off to fly to HEL (Helsinki). The (regularly scheduled) flight arrived on time, safe and sound.  Alas, this was the last flight to Helsinki with this number. Finnair is said to have rearranged their flight numbers, so soon there will be no more flight 666s to HEL.

Flight 666 from Copenhagen (CPH) to Helsinki (HEL).

Friday/ Lake Lenore & Dry Falls

(These pictures are from Wednesday).  We made a stop at Lake Lenore on Wednesday. Lake Lenore is a long, narrow lake (8 mi long, 15ft deep) formed by the Missoula Floods in the lower Coulee just north of the town of Soap Lake. There is a trail that leads up to caves in the basalt rock.

Driving further up north on Highway 17 brings one to Dry Falls, named for the massive waterfalls that existed there during the Pleistocene Epoch, when ice sheets and glaciers covered huge parts of Earth’s surface.  This area was at the southern end of the Cordilleran ice sheet, and the melting of the glaciers carved out the coulees in the basalt rock that we see today.

Clockwise from the top: looking southwest & northwest toward the ‘coulee monocline’ bluffs over Lake Lenore, with Highway 17 below; dry vegetation and a black beetle; Lake Lenore lies alongside Highway 17; view from inside one of the caves formed by the plucking out of pieces of the basal rock by the rushing Missoula Flood waters; footpath to the caves; beautiful lichen. Lichens are composite organisms that emerge from algae or cyanobacteria living among the filaments of two fungi in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.
The main picture is from inside the visitor center at Dry Falls. The picture that I took (bottom right) is the view looking south, away from the cliffs of the Dry Falls. The Pleistocene Epoch began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. The most recent Ice Age occurred then (there have been at least FIVE in Earth’s history). At the time of the Pleistocene, the continents had moved to their current positions. Large parts of the northern continents were covered by glaciers, but they did not just sit there. There was a lot of movement over time, and there were about 20 cycles when the glaciers would advance and retreat as they thawed and refroze.


Thursday/ the North Cascades

We stayed over in the town of Omak on Wednesday night, and made our way back to Seattle on Thursday over the North Cascades* with Highway 20.  It’s about a 5 hr drive without stops, to go from Omak to Twisp, Winthrop, Newhalem, Darrington and then with I-5 (or I-405) to Seattle.  It was a crisp morning when we started back from Omak (47 °F/ 8°C), but back in Seattle it was a record warm day for Sept 28 at (85°F/ 29 °C).

*The Cascade Range or ‘Cascades’ is a major mountain range of western North America, extending from southern British Columbia in Canada through Washington State and Oregon and into Northern California.

Clockwise from top left: view over the Skagit River Valley, with the Diablo Dam’s dam wall directly ahead; vintage ‘Wild West’ storefront in Winthrop; town hall of Okanogan; viewpoint in Washington Pass on Highway 20, with the Early Winter Spires (7,807 ft / 2 380 m); at Newhalem by the Gorge Dam and Power station; the diagram shows the Ross Dam and the Diablo Dam as well.
Here’s a cool topographical map that I generated with a Google search for ‘Early Winter Spires’ that shows how Highway 20 follows the lowest contour lines through the North Cascades. The web site is   There is a hairpin bend in the road by the Spires, and the map also shows several alpine lakes. These are lakes or reservoirs at high altitudes, usually starting around 5,000 feet (1,500 m). These is still snow and ice visible further up, from small glaciers. Highway 20 gets so much snow in winter that it is completely closed for traffic, sometimes only opening again as late as June.
View from a foot bridge overlooking the Skagit River at Newhalem; this is just downstream of the Gorge Dam. Flooding in the Skagit Valley has become a rare event due to the three dams that had been built upstream in the Skagit River (the Gorge, the Diablo, the Ross).

Tuesday/ driving out east

Paul, Bryan and I have embarked on a little road trip to eastern Washington, and we stayed overnight in the little town of Ephrata.

We took Interstate Highway 90 out east, stopped in Ellensburg, and stayed overnight in Ephrata. The truss bridge is the crossing of I-90 over the Columbia River. Mommy Yum Yum was our dinner restaurant, and the tunnel covers for I-90 in the Cascade mountains will be covered up to the top with soil, to provide wildlife a way to cross back and forth over I-90 without becoming roadkill.
In and around the town of Cle Ellum. Clockwise: caboose at the old Cle Ellum railway station (out of use since the 1980s); the old Cle Ellum station depot building; a reference to the caboose in downtown Cle Ellum; post office in Cle Ellum.
Clockwise from the top: Basalt bluff overlooking Wanapum dam (in the Columbia river). petroglyphs from Indians; these images were originally located at lower elevations and would have been covered by the dam’s waters, but were relocated; petrified wood log in Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park; dinosaur model close by.

Saturday/ Doraemon travels the world

Saturday/ more Kitsap

From Port Gamble, we took the ferry from Bainbridge Island to get to the Emerald City (Seattle).

Here are pictures from Friday and Saturday on Hood Canal.  Hood Canal is a body of water with a bend in its southern end, that separates Kitsap peninsula from the Olympic peninsula. The Olympic peninsula is a large arm of land that lies between Seattle and the Pacific Ocean.

Clockwise: Carrot cake for my birthday, from Butcher & Baker Provisions (restaurant in Port Gamble); neat hexagon array in a yellow jacket wasp nest – unoccupied!; hummingbird, approaching feeder; submarine (far right) escorted to Naval Base Kitsap, during low tide on the Hood Canal; driving onto the ferry at Bainbridge Island terminal; Agate Pass bridge onto Bainbridge Island (see map); pebbles on beach by Hansville; belted kingfisher on same beach (I need a stronger zoom lens!).

Friday/ Point No Point

We stopped by Point No Point in Hansville on Friday morning, before catching the Bainbridge ferry back to Seattle.  Point No Point was named as such by Charles Wilkes during the United States Exploring Expedition of Puget Sound in 1841.  (It does not appear to stick out from the surrounding land mass from a distance).

Clockwise: 1. There was a very low tide in Hood Canal on Friday morning, exposing the eel grass* (I think?) in the shallow sub-tidal waters.  *Eel grass is not a seaweed; it is a blooming underwater grass which spreads by rhizomes or roots.  2. The Point No Point lighthouse contains a low-maintenance, post-mounted, rotating beacon.  3. Point ‘No Point’ is on the northern tip of Kitsap Peninsula.  4. The Hood Canal bridge close by, is a long floating bridge. The original bridge sank in 1979 during a wind storm, but was replaced by a new one by 1982.
We spotted these American Indian rowers coming around Point No Point on Friday morning. In summertime, youths use traditional canoes and oars to row across parts of Puget Sound from one Indian reservation to another. The dinghy (bottom picture) provides support and assistance in case they need help. The tribe in the bottom picture is the Nisqually Tribe; I could not find the name of the tribe in the top picture, in spite of the lettering on the canoe.
I think this is a Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)  – also called a ‘brown squirrel’ – by Paul’s house in Hansville.  I like their brown color and golden bellies. The ones we have in the city are Western gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus): bigger, and more aggressive.

Thursday/ Port Townsend

We took a leisurely drive up to Port Townsend on Thursday, with stops at Nordland and Fort Flagler Historical State Park.

Nordland on Marrow Island has a great general store, with canned products from Cape Cleare, Alaska. Fort Flagler was a United States Army fort at the northern end of Marrowstone Island, established in 1897 and closed in 1953.  Check out the sign on the fence that says ‘Falling can be deadly’.  There’s a 50 ft sheer drop on the other side of it.  (Change to ‘Falling will kill you?).  Ft Flagler was home to the Seattle Youth Symphony’s Pacific Northwest Music Camp from 1958 to 1989. Today it is open for visitors and has a campground. The Port Townsend ferry is arriving from Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Haller fountain was dedicated in 1906, and Galatea the Greek sea nymph, was added in 1922.
This sharp-eyed bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was sitting on a drainage pipe sticking out from a cliff at Fort Flagler. The bald eagles is the national bird of the United States, appearing on most official seals of the U.S. government. They live to about 20 years old.
Here’s the Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend. The Romanesque style courthouse was designed by Seattle architect W. A. Ritchie. The Roman numerals on the base of the clock tower reads ‘MDCCCXC’, indicating that the building was constructed in 1890.
Here’s the Hastings building on 833 Water Street, constructed in 1889. It was funded by Lucinda Bingham Hastings (1826-1894), the widow of Loren Brown Hastings (1814-1881), a local dry goods merchant, turned to real estate investment after her husband’s death.
This bell tower dates back to 1890 and was in service for 50 years. It is a 75-ft tall wooden structure with a 1,500 lb bell (just visible in the top). It is the last such remaining structure of its kind in the United States (it was repaired in 2003). The original brass bell was made to ring in designated patterns that indicated the location of a fire in the city. The patterns were generated by electrical signals sent to the tower from signal boxes throughout the city.

Thursday/ a soggy drive back

Today’s drive up from Astoria to Hansville, and then driving down to Bainbridge Island for the ferry back to Seattle.
Theses elk (also called Wapiti, one of the largest in the deer family) are part of a herd in the coastal town of Gearhart. They occasionally go into the surf, and even venture onto the streets in the town.
An old art deco theater in Gearhart, now made into shops and game arcades. The gold pick-up truck supports the Seattle Seahawks (NFL football), even though the plates are from Oregon!
Here is the beach at Cannon Beach, at sunset on Wednesday. A beach-goer has a little fire going in the foreground, and Cannon Beach is famous for the giant rocks in the shallow waters.
We spotted these futuristic Tesla superchargers in a parking lot in Seaside. This station has 20 chargers, each operating at 480 volt and about 100 A of current, to provide a charge good for up to 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.
Thursday morning and we are looking for a good breakfast place. We got a little wet, and ended up going back to the Pig ‘n Pancake. The smaller places all seemed full of people, and understaffed.
A final look at the Astoria-Megler bridge on the way back. We waited a little bit to cross since one lane is closed due to the maintenance work on the bridge (where the white wrap is, on the bridge pylon).

We made our way back today, with steady rain almost all the way from Astoria to Hansville, and Seattle.

By late night a good inch of rain had been measured in the city of Seattle – quite a lot for one day in June (on average, 1.6 inches falls for all of June).

Here are pictures from Wednesday night in Oregon and from Thursday.


Wednesday/ Cape Disappointment

Yes, it’s a real name: Cape Disappointment, north of the Columbia river and on the southwestern edge of Washington State.  The cape was named on April 12, 1788 by British fur trader John Meares who was sailing south from Canada in search of trade. After a storm, he turned his ship around just north of the Cape and therefore just missed the discovery of the Columbia River.

We made our way there today with short hikes to two lighthouses in the area: the North Head Lighthouse, and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

Here is a simplified map with some pictures I took today. Clockwise from top left: Looking south from the south end of Long Beach, from a spot called Beards Hollow; A crab’s claw at Beards Hollow; Lush greenery on the way to Beards Hollow; A short tunnel on Route 101 towards Fort Columbia State Park; A pre-WWII coastal artillary gun, one of two on display in Fort Columbia State Park; The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Built in 1856, it still beams out a red and white light visible for 10 nautical miles; A little cove visible from the trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse; The view of the Pacific Ocean, this on the way to the North Head Lighthouse. The thin black line is a man-made breakwater.

Tuesday/ drive down to Astoria

The drive time down to Astoria is slightly less than 4 hrs. We made stops in Shelton and on the Washington State side of the Astoria-Megler bridge, which added to the travel time.
This mural is off the main street in Shelton, a town on one of the south-western extremes of Puget Sound. It is a nod to the times when timber was transported by steam locomotives. The town still have lumber yards, but these days the transportation is done mostly by trucks.
A rain-coated boatsman outside an antique store in Shelton. Shelton gets a LOT of rain, some 62 inches per year.
This is on the Astoria–Megler Bridge: a steel cantilever-through-truss bridge that spans the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington. Construction was completed in 1966. The road surface and sidewalks are being renovated right now, and there was a short stop on the bridge. (Don’t worry, I’m in the passenger seat!).
Here’s a view from the Astoria Riverwalk, on the old wooden piers just east of the bridge. So the Pacific Ocean lies in the distance, on the other side of a bluff in the distance.
The Wet Dog Cafe Brewery is where we had a beer and something to eat. It is near Pier 11 on the Astoria Riverwalk. There is a trolley (really a train) that runs along the waterfront between 12 noon and 6 pm.
The beautiful John Jacob Astor Hotel building in downtown Astoria. Originally built in 1923, it was renovated in 1986 with 66 apartments of subsidized housing. Businesses moved into the lower floors.
The Museum of Whimsey is an art museum housed in a historic 1925 bank building that had been renovated.
Hey! Nice to see some gay pride celebration lamppost signs. I see we just missed the parade though : it was this past weekend.

We made it to Astoria with a stop or two along the way (Shelton, Dismal Nitch.  There was some rain on the way here, but later in the day it cleared up.

The Astoria column was built in 1926 on Coxcomb Hill in Astoria, financed by Great Northern Railway. The 125-foot (38 m)-tall column has a 164-step spiral staircase case to the small observation deck at the top.

We arrived early enough to check into the motel, and to walk around the waterfront and downtown Astoria.

I love the bobbing buoy on the little Buoy Beer Co. truck. Pronunciation note: In South Africa we say ‘boi’ but I learned that in the USA we say ‘boo-ē’.
A map of the ship channel (dredged waterway) in the mouth of the Columbia river. There are pairs of buoys in the water and on land at different elevations, that should line up when looked at from the ship, to confirm that the vessel is in the shipping canal.
This is artwork at a little plaza that is dedicated to immigrants in downtown Astoria.
These murals are on old warehouses on the Astoria waterfront, a nod to times long gone now, from the last century.
Some of the trash cans downtown are decorated with the seafood cannery labels from long ago.


Monday/ dinner in Kingston

Kingston is on the west side of the Kitsap Peninsula. The short way to get there is by using the Kingston-Edmonds ferry. It can also be reached by driving the long way round, south around Puget Sound.

I went out to the Kitsap peninsula on Monday, to get ready for a little road trip down to Astoria in Oregon with my friends Bryan and Paul.  (We had a nice dinner at the Kingston Alehouse).

The plan is to drive down to Astoria, Oregon on the Pacific coast and stay there for two nights, and explore the interesting sights in the area.

We’re pulling away from Edmonds for the Edmonds-Kingston ferry crossing.
The marina at Kingston on Monday night. The dinghies in the foreground may have been cleaned and need to go back onto their respective yachts or boats, The Kingston ferry terminal is immediately to the left of the marina, and on the right is Appletree Cove.


Friday/ Koryo Tours’s offerings

This ‘homage’ to a hamburger (served up cold, from a refrigerator on the airplane) is served on Air Koryo flights.

So : no nuclear test blasts on Friday in North Korea (good), during the Day of the Sun military parade.  The Rachel Maddow Show (daily news and opinion TV show) reported that the three-times-a-week flights from Beijing on Air China into Pyongyang has been suspended, though.

That still leaves the option of going there with Air Koryo, on a Soviet-era airplane (no jeans, no talking to locals, no traveling solo).  As the Koryo Tours website notes : Travelling with us to Pyongyang, and beyond, is something you’ll remember forever.

Great colors in the graphics on the main page of the Koryo Tours website.
One of the pictures on the Koryo Tours website. Traveling solo is not allowed in North Korea – you will always have two tour guides with you.


Monday/ let us ‘re-accommodate’ you ..

United Airlines got extensive and extremely bad press today, for the brutal way they treated a passenger on a Chicago to Louisville flight on Sunday.  The passenger was a doctor that had already boarded, and refused to give up his seat voluntarily (for a United Airlines employee); the doctor said he had patients to see the next morning.

The Chicago Airport Police came on board, and soon violently dragged him off the airplane. The passenger suffered injuries to his face in the process.  The other passengers were just shocked. Some had recorded it and posted the incident on Facebook and Twitter.  Adding insult to injury, the United Airlines CEO issued a cold-blooded ‘apology’ on Monday : “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers”.   Right.  As a Twitter user noted : United made a business decision that that doctor’s humanity was worth less than $800. Make them pay for that.   Said another tweet : ‘After what your goons did to a passenger on #flight3411, I will never fly with United again. There is NO excuse’.   

(Tue 4/11/2017):  from Thatcher A. Stone writing on  Flying for vacation travel or work on a modern US carrier’s plane can be enjoyable and pleasant. Just do what you are told by the crew. And, to fulfill their part of the bargain, airlines need to follow the rules and treat passengers who get bumped fairly.
If United had taken a senior gate agent and brought him onto the airplane and said to the doctor, “here is our written policy about denied boarding. I know you are in a seat, but you are mistaken that we can’t remove you. But guess what? You will get refunded whatever you paid if we can get you to your destination within an hour and if it takes longer you could get up to 400 percent.”
He would likely have gotten up and gotten off the plane in a second.

Thursday/ souvenirs from Switzerland

I love to unpack my bags and dig out all the souvenirs, wedged in between my clothes.  On this trip, I just bought a few small things, resisted buying a Swiss watch or another Swiss army knife (I al-ready have one, anyway).   I eyed a beautiful mechanical music box called ‘1865’ made by Reuge, but at some US$3,000 it was out of the question.  

The St Bernard with the keg is hand-carved from sustainable Swiss limewood.  It was made in the village of Brienz that has a long wood-carving tradition.

The coffee mug is from Swiss porcelain manufacturer Langenthal, named after the town of Langenthal where its factory was established in 1906.

I also scanned in one of my train tickets, just to see what the turquoise and white patterned background would look like, enlarged : looks interesting, right?  I think the pattern would look great for bathroom tiles!


Wednesday night/ home

I’m home!  From Frankfurt we made a short stop at Keflavik airport after 3 hrs, then it was another 7½ hrs to get to Seattle.

This is the town of Selfoss on the banks of the Ölfusá river in the south of Iceland, as seen from my window seat during our approach in from Frankfurt. The Icelandic Ring Road No 1 runs through the town as well.
The view as we are boarding the Boeing 767-300 for the flight from Keflavik airport to Seattle.

Wednesday/ Zürich Hbf > Frankfurt Airport

I made it to Frankfurt airport by train and will soon board my Icelandair flight to Seattle, with a stop in Reykjavik.  I took the train from Zürich to Frankfurt airport.  My travel plan for Zürich Hbf > Frankfurt Airport called for a change of trains at Mannheim.  The second train departure, to take me from Mannheim to Frankfurt airport, was canceled due to maintenance issues, though.  ‘I know what your question is already’, said the conductor as I called him over to ask what my options were.   It turned out there was another train just 4 minutes behind us, which is the one that I got onto, to get me to Frankfurt airport.

Here’s our sleek Deutsche Bahn ICE (Intercity Express) train at Zürich main station.  The train driver is having a word with the conductor (I think that’s the conductor).  He will blow a sharp whistle to say ‘All Aboard!’ two minutes before the departure time.  It is 6 am in the morning, so there are not many people around, but the train filled up at the stops along the way to Mannheim. (I took a second train from Mannheim to Frankfurt airport).
This is the arrival hall for trains that stop at the Frankfurt Flughafen (airport) station.

Tuesday/ Bern

Well, I made it to Bern after all, on my last day.  My visit really was too short to check into any of the museums – including Einstein’s old house. (Reviewers on-line rate it so-so, though).  Also, my stop at the Swiss Mint was disappointing : there is no store on site; they only have an on-line store.  But hey – now I know what the city looks like up close, and what to come back for at another time!

Here’s the route to Bern. The city does not have a lake on its doorstep, but the Aare river flows in a wide loop around the old city of Bern.
We arrived on Platform 5 at 12.30 pm. The train is headed for Geneva. It’s darker here (than on other stations) because of the low ceilings.
The main station facade is steel and glass : very nice. The connecting street car and bus lines are at designated ‘Platforms’ A through at least X, and these are on the street corners outside the station building. It took me a little time to realize that !


Just a cute sparrow on one of the old city’s fountains. (There are house sparrows and Old World sparrows and others. This fellow must be an Old World sparrow! since Bern is part of the Old World).
Here’s a view of the Aare river from the biggest bridge across it, the one for Kirchenfeldstrasse. The city wall on the left is very old, and part of Bern that had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city was founded in 1191, and still has a lot of medieval architecture.
This is the view on top of the bridge on Kirchenfeldstrasse. The building straight ahead with the red roof is a casino. The street cars (trams) all look like the one in the picture .. but some routes are covered by buses, not street cars.


Here is the Swiss Parliament Building, called the Bundeshaus.  Its construction was completed in 1902.
This is the beautiful main entrance of the Bernisches Historisches Museum. I did not go inside. Next time.
This is a high school, the Gymnasium Kirchenfeld, built in 1926 in neo-classic style. (Man. My high school did not look like this. I hope the kids are on a break, and that they will pay attention when they go back inside!).


Monday/ Lucerne

I wanted to just post these two pictures of the beautiful Church of St. Leodegar in Lucerne.  It was just after 6 o’clock when I took the pictures.

[From Wikipedia]. The church is the most important church, and a landmark in the city of Lucerne. It was built in parts from 1633 to 1639 on the foundation of the Roman basilica which had burnt in 1633. This church was one of the few built north of the Alps during the Thirty Years War and one of the largest and art history rich churches of the German late renaissance period.


Monday/ Rigi Kulm

My time in Switzerland is running out, and this morning I thought : you cannot leave here and not see a little of the Swiss Alps!  

What to do?  Luckily, I ran into a great tip on-line, as for how to go about it when in Zurich, to get to the mountains (and that’s what I did) –
1. Take the train from Zürich to Arth-Goldau.
2. Take the Mt Rigi cogwheel train* up the mountain to the top.
3. Take in the scenery (and of course: take pictures).
4. Take the cogwheel train down to Vitznau.
5. Take a boat to Lucerne.
6. Walk around in Altstadt Lucerne.
7. Take the train back to Zürich.

*From the website : ‘No other mountain railway in the Alps has a longer history than this one. The Vitznau – Rigi Kulm cogwheel railway opened in 1871, making it Europe’s first mountain railway. The journey was, and still is, an experience in itself’.

Here’s a great map that explains the route. This morning, the train from Züurich went to Zug (top left), and then on to Goldau (top right). Then I walked to the Rigi cogwheel rail network, and went Kräbel-Rigi Klösterli-Rigi Staffel- Rigi Kulm. On the way down, we went to Vitznau, to take the boat to Lucerne. (It made several shoreline stops along the way there). The Swiss Railway sells all of this in one combined ticket, completed with the little boat to indicate which part is on water! (Price : S.Fr. 131, about US$130).
Here’s the scene in Goldau, the little town at the foot of the mountain where one takes the Rigi cogwheel train.
This the Rigi Kulm at the top of the mountain. It’s quite an engineering feat, to carve out a track that steep, and build an electrified mountainside railway system to drive a set of train cars up some 1,000 m to the top (3,000 ft).  It’s a little difficult to see in this picture, but there is a single geared track line in between the two regular, smooth tracks, that cogwheel gears on the train cars fit into.
The last part is a 5 minute walk to the very top where the antenna tower is. This cute sign indicates that there is a steep way for the young ones (young’uns), and an easier way for the older folks! (The people in the picture are taking the steep route. It’s easy! It’s paved, and almost all the snow has melted. The ski season ended March 12).
Here’s Swisscom’s radio and TV antenna at the top of the mountain. It’s 96 m (314 ft) high, and the bottom part of the antenna pole is 3.6 m (11.8 ft) in diameter. The tower was built in two years and started operating in 1998.
Here’s Zugsee (Lake Zug). The town on the left of the picture is Zug.
A more dramatic view, looking out east from Zug. I will update this text to point out what those peaks at the top right are! Each one has a name. (I have to match my picture with a profile on one of the display boards!).
Our passenger ferry boat’s name was Gotthard (the name of the town at the start of the Gotthard Base Tunnel). We have just stepped off the boat after its arrival at the quayside in Lucerne.