Friday, September 29, 2006

Good Morning

I felt the layers of sleep peeling off me this morning and I tried to grab them to pull them back like warm blankets. But they shredded away and I woke up. It was only about 5:30 am which is a bit earlier than normal but when I wake up, I wake up all the way. Unlike a lot of people I don’t stay in a halfway sleepy state for awhile. It was a trait that didn’t endear me to my family growing up. Me all bouncy and chatty in the morning is the last thing those non-morning types want to see while they’re trying to peel their eyeballs open and down some coffee to get their brain functioning. I don’t even drink coffee, just tea (lots of tea!) but it’s really weak. I actually drank hot water a few times by accident and didn’t even notice the difference. Except that I risk a migraine if I don’t get at least some caffeine.

I never used to be such an early morning riser though. I need lots of sleep — 9 to 10 hours usually — so to get up early I need to go to bed really early. Since T-Man’s been working a 6am–2pm shift, we’ve been going to bed at 9pm. Makes for lousy social evenings, I’ll tell ya! We’ve even gotten out of the habit of going to folk music concerts like we used to because we just can’t keep our eyes open. And we have to record any TV we want to watch and catch it later while we’re eating dinner or on a rainy weekend when we don’t have other commitments. We’re always weeks behind! However we managed to mostly keep to our “early to bed, early to rise” schedule throughout our holiday, which was really helpful. We were driving in the morning when it was cooler and getting to our campsite early enough to relax in the afternoon or go for a walk if it wasn’t too hot. We were also going to bed fairly soon after dark so if we didn’t have an electric hook-up, we weren’t draining the battery with the lights. Did that once; never want to do it again. Remote campsite…snow…no jumper cables…only one neighbour camper. We were lucky he was more prepared than we were! This time we bought a new auto battery before we left as the previous one was getting iffy.

Thought I’d share a few more holiday pictures and just to make it a wee bit fibre-related, here’s the wild cochineal I found on some opuntia (prickly pear) cactus in Capitol Reef:

I left it alone because a) it was in a National Park and b) the little wild variety doesn’t have much colour and c) because the darn things were seriously prickly! And for some more lovely rocks, here is Bryce Canyon’s Wall Street trail, looking down.

Yep, those leetle teensy dark dots are brave and fit people switchbacking down the trail! And we followed them, down to this:

The Wall Street Crash which effectively blocks any further passage. I really wonder how they’re ever going to clear the trail but I hope they do eventually. It leads to another nice loop trail system at the bottom of the canyon. Meanwhile we all had to hike right back up again. Pretty strenuous at about 8,000 feet elevation. Especially for us sea-level types. I found that I had to stop for breath very often on the way back up. And that was the day after we did almost 2 miles of downhill (not quite so steep though) and back up again. Whew! No wonder I didn’t gain any weight on this holiday.

Well, gotta go have a shower before I’m off to a dentist appointment. I’m having some serious work done on a tooth that’s more filled than not. Fun. I should eat something before I can’t chew properly for a few hours.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Travel Journaling

Or Journal Traveling? Something like that. I’ve never actually kept up any journal I’ve ever started before. This was a true first in many ways. Maybe it was because I made my journal myself — though I’ve never been able to write in any book that I’ve made previously. Maybe it was because I had already “messed up” a lot of the pages before I left so that I wouldn’t feel intimidated by blank paper. Or maybe it was just the habit formed by writing this here blog. I dunno but it worked! Here’s some of the pages in it:

I filled up 2 or more (up to 5 or 6) pages every single day I was away. Even then there’s still more than half the journal left. (For the next vacation?) I had brought a “journal kit” with me that included pencil crayons, gel pens, glue, stamp pads, some hand-cut stamps and a sheet of stamp rubber plus a craft knife and v-cutter. I designed and cut several new stamps as I went, inspired by things around me, mostly leaves. I do have a thing for leaf shapes! I glued things into the pages: leaves, rocks, a pressed flower, a shell, apple seeds, even a couple of little ziplock baggies of sand. My version of “ephemera” since I didn’t have any bus tickets, museum passes, candy wrappers or other more regular ephemera items. Guess I’m more of a natural kind of woman! Though I did include a dog tag I found in the campsite in the photo from the last post. I also stitched ball bands in with the yarn they came from. I poked pine needles through slits cut into the paper. I had a blast!

A lot of the inspiration for my journal came from two books by Gwen Diehn: The Decorated Page and The Decorated Journal. Even though I don’t draw like the examples in her books, her writing somehow spoke to me and convinced me that just doing it was the important thing. Not to worry about cockling the pages or making a wrong line or messy writing — just put what I want in the pages in my own way. It doesn’t have to be perfect or great art or immortal words or anything like that. It’s mine and who cares what anyone else thinks! As long as it expresses what I want it to, then it’s just fine. And somehow it is. I’m still adding to it and going back and doing more to what’s there already. Now I’m wishing that I’d saved space for printouts of the photos I took. And that I’d brought a small set of watercolours with me. Next time. Next book?

Speaking of rubber stamps, I love cutting my own. I love the funkiness and the imperfections. It makes commercial stamps seem rather, well, trite and overly detailed and too nice. Somebody else’s, not mine. If I cut my own, I don’t have to give anybody else credit. I’m not breaking any copyrights. I’m speaking my own language, making my own marks. They even look good when the impression is sloppy and as a bonus they work well on fabric because they’re relatively simple. I made a stamp from this petroglyph that I photographed in Capitol Reef. They have lots of wonderful petroglyphs there carved by the native people thousands of years ago. And some carved by the Mormon settlers a hundred years ago. And a few made by modern folks that just can’t help themselves, though if caught they get a really big fine!

My favourite part of the whole trip was Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. And my favourite part of Capitol Reef was Cohab Canyon:

Yes, there’s a trail right there. Amazing, eh? We had to climb up a really steep switchback trail from the campsite to get up there and then we walked between the walls of the canyon for a mile or so and then down another bunch of switchbacks to the highway and the beginning of yet another cool trail. Well, hot actually! And then just down the highway were the petroglyphs with a nice convenient boardwalk to view them from. And an apple from one of the Fruita orchards to munch on back at camp. What more does one need for artistic stimulation, I ask you?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm So Far Behind I Can See My Tail End

Well, that was quite the tour description yesterday, huh? Today it’s starting to sink in that, yes, I’m back and no, I’ll never catch up. There are still piles of stuff to be read, recordings to be watched, podcasts to listen to, projects to finish, purchases to be sorted, a garden to get ready for the coming rains, and a house that nobody but the cats has lived in for 3 weeks (but is somehow dirty anyway) to be cleaned. The one thing I’ve actually finished is the laundry. For the moment of course. As we all know, laundry is never ever completely done because you’re dirtying more clothes as you wash. Plus I have to teach a new class of wannabe spinners tonight. How will I bring my brain back to earth long enough to get through the two hours of mayhem that is always Lesson One? If I somehow manage that feat, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Right now, we have Finished Objects to present:

Darling Daughter’s Birthday Socks

Begun: August 8, 2006
Completed: September 6, 2006 (in a Farewell Bend, Oregon, campsite!)
Yarn: Sisu white, dyed by the recipient in my dye studio, 80% superwash wool/20% polyamide, 160 m=50 g.
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo, 2mm dpns

Pattern: My standard plain socks with a 72 st cuff, 7 1/2” total before heel flap, 7 3/4” foot before toe decreases, to 24 st grafted toe.

There was some trouble with the dye bleeding when I washed them to block. Perhaps the yarn didn’t get set quite enough when it was dyed. They don’t seem to have changed colour much at all, but will need careful washing the first few times to prevent the still-running excess dye from colouring anything it shouldn’t. I got too tired of filling the bucket at the tap in the campsite to get it totally clear!

T’s Trekking Socks

(Shown here on the recipient’s feet. I never got time to even block them or anything!)

Begun: September 6, 2006
Completed: September 16, 2006 (at Salt Point State Park, California)
Yarn: Trekking XXL, col 114, 75% superwash/25% nylon, purchased in
The Yarn Garden, Portland, OR
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo, 2mm dpns

Pattern: My standard plain socks with a 68 st cuff, 8 1/2” total before heel flap, 8 1/4” foot before toe decreases, to 24 st grafted toe.

Yes, our daughter (now 34 — yikes!) has wider feet than her dad. But his are longer. That’s the nice thing about knitting socks — you can make them fit the recipient perfectly, just the way they like ‘em. Currently on my trusty bamboos are yet another pair of socks for T-Man, in plain dark grey marl Sisu just like the ones I made for DD’s fiancé for his birthday. T liked them so much that he gets a pair too. Then he’ll have 5 pairs of my hand knit socks and of course he still wants more. Of course. The next pair is almost down to the toe decreases already.

I'm looking at this picture of our little old van and getting all misty-eyed with nostalgia. Ahhh!!! Can you imagine living in a space this small with your beloved for 3 weeks? I'll tell you that even after 35 years of marriage (or maybe because of 35 years of marriage) it was actually a lot of fun. I mean — check out the view! That's Washington State over there across the Columbia from us in Oregon at Memaloose State Park on Day Two. And that's my behind there reaching in for something. However you can't tell that it's about a zillion degrees hot and super windy, can you? Just use your imagination...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Wanderer Has Returned!

Well, actually it was a couple of days ago, but I’ve been trying to catch up with a few things since then. HOO-WEEE!!! What a ride! We drove almost 6,000 kilometres in 6 states (2 of them twice) and saw lots of wonderful and amazing things. That was the longest time I’ve ever been away from home and I amazed myself by not thinking of it at all. I didn’t even miss my computer. (Poor thing.) I did have my Palm T/X and a car-type charger for it, but I didn’t use it all that much. I found out that although I could get WiFi in some of the campsites and rest stops, I would have to register and pay for the connection. Forget it. I had my trusty Travel Journal with me and that kept my blogging urges at bay. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even do as much knitting, beading or reading as I had planned because the journaling took so much of my time and effort and I found I really enjoyed filling in what I had done and saw and photographed each day. Actually I’m still working on it. I didn’t even get halfway through the pages so I can continue as long as I want.

We mostly followed the route we had planned, though a few places we stayed longer or shorter or skipped a possible campground. We also skipped San Francisco, opting instead to skim through Berkeley and head over the toll bridge to Marin County. We’ll go back another time, probably by air and stay in a hotel. Our van would be difficult to park in downtown SF. So where did we go?

Down the I-5 through Washington, first to Beads and Beyond in Bellevue which was unfortunately closed for the Labor Day holiday and then to Shipwreck in Lacey which wasn’t. We managed to put a real dent in the Visa there! We camped that night near Mt. St. Helen and the next day continued to Portland, where we went to Powell’s City of Books. I was a bit disappointed this time with the craft section. It seemed to be rather sparse in comparison to previous visits. It’s not like there aren’t great books being published all the time and there is actually a burgeoning interest in crafts in young people. Maybe they don’t buy books but get their information over the Internet? Maybe Amazon is stealing all the book sales? I do like to look at some of the books before I buy them, since my bookshelves are awfully full and I have to start being a little bit discriminatory. Of course, I still managed to spend money there! We also found a cute little yarn shop/coffee shop called Yarn Garden where I got a few more items including my first Trekking XXL yarn for a pair of T-Man socks, which I knitted later in the holiday.

After Portland we headed east along the scenic Columbia Gorge. The weather was really hot but our campsite above the river had a lovely breeze. Well, wind actually. We had to just about nail everything down or it blew away! Next we camped by the Snake River near the Oregon border with Idaho, where we managed to leave our mat behind, the one that sits outside the door where we wipe our feet before climbing in. No big tragedy really and we never replaced it. Heading diagonally through Idaho, we traveled along scenic byways in among the fields of sugar beets and corn and eventually through the sage brush and rubber rabbit brush of southern Idaho and into Utah. When we camped beside the Salt Lake where a dike keeps the salt water out making a fresh water fishing lake, we were searching all over for the goat’s head plant that had punctured our tires 9 years before. We didn’t know what it looked like, only the two-pronged prickles! Finally we found it and then located it in our wild flower book. Not surprisingly it’s in the Caltrop family! Ouch.

From there we headed south and east to what we both agree was the highlight of our trip, Capitol Reef. Yes, it’s even more amazing than that picture I posted last time! I had to keep picking my chin up off my chest as it constantly dropped every time we went around a bend. Red-red rocks in the most amazing formations as far as the eye can see. And then in the middle was a little valley where our campsite was located, in among orchards of fruit and nut trees that had been planted by the original Mormon settlers. They called it Fruita and it was — we picked the most delicious apples every day we were there to eat out of hand. If we had wanted more, we could pay and pick bushels of them using the park’s ladders and picking poles. An extra perk you don’t find in every campground! We went hiking on several of the trails, up steep switchbacks (huffing and puffing at the altitude of 5-6,000 ft.) and really enjoyed our stay.

Still in Utah, next we went to Bryce Canyon which, although busy with tourists from all over the world, was as gorgeous as ever. We just about killed ourselves hiking down into the Fairyland Trail (almost 2 miles downhill!) and then trying to get back up again. In the heat of the day and at an elevation of about 7,000 ft. Yikes! We made it back eventually and collapsed in the shade for the rest of the day. The next morning before we left we hiked down the Wall Street trail along with a zillion younger tourists, but you couldn’t go further because of a rock fall called appropriately “The Wall Street Crash”. It happened in May and luckily nobody was killed. They haven’t yet figured a way to clear it yet though.

Next we carried on to Zion where we went through the most spectacular part coming in from the east on the red road through the red rocks and the long 2 1/2 mile tunnel with the switchbacks down the mountain after it. It was ridiculously hot and you can no longer go up the canyon except on the shuttle bus which was very very busy (talk about Coney Island!) so we opted to relax in camp and left the next morning. Really early before the sun was up we started the long drive from Utah across Nevada, stopping only for gas and a lunch/pee break, and into California. After what felt like the longest day ever, we drove up and up the windy switchbacks to Tioga Pass at almost 10,000 feet. The campground at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite was pretty disappointing. It was very primitive and you had to take all your food out of your vehicle and put it in a “bear box” to keep the bears from tearing through to get at it. Talk about inconvenient! And probably completely unnecessary. It was also really cold, especially after the 90 degree F. heat of Zion we’d had the day before, and froze in the night. We decided not to stay another day and headed west again the next morning.

This was another full day of driving across California, down out of the mountains to the coast. We had to get back on the freeways as we got closer to San Francisco and they got wider and wider and more and more busy until there were 6 lanes heading in the same direction! T-Man got really tired because of the stress yet he characteristically didn’t stop for lunch thinking it wasn’t that much farther. It was. A lot further. We finally got into Berkeley and got gas and groceries and I made him something to eat before we went to Lacis. That was a most interesting shop/museum and I’ve wanted to visit it for many years. It’s quite large and filled with old and new lace and ribbons and trims and antique shoes and books and tools – everything you need to make lace in every technique imaginable. Yes, I bought a few things! Then we left to head over to Marin County north of SF to find Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This very long road winds through many different communities (and passed San Quentin Prison) before heading out into the country on the way to the coast and ending at Highway 1, also known as the Shoreline Highway.

We followed the Shoreline up and down and around and back all the way up the California coast. We ended up staying two days at a really nice state park called MacKerricher where we saw sea lions on the rocks and one on the beach that let us get quite close. The beach was hard to walk on because of the texture, like tiny little rounded rocks instead of sand, and lots of sea weed. If the tide had been out further we could have done more tide pool beachcombing. There was a nice paved walkway called the “haul road” that went for miles along to Ft. Bragg (except where it had been washed out by winter storms in one spot). It once was used for lumber shipments in the 1800’s. This park also had a lovely little marshy lake with a trail/boardwalk around it. We startled something as we came to the boardwalk part (nobody else was around) that splashed into the puddles and saw a “cat” on the boardwalk that looked suspiciously like a young bobcat, but the park people hadn’t seen or heard anything when we enquired. We thought it might have been “mom” who took off when we startled them.

Once we got back into Oregon we were in familiar territory since we’d just been there last September. We only had two nights there, though we managed a couple of long beach walks. The weather was a bit more iffy than it had been so far and drizzled in the late afternoons but cleared up by nightfall. Some haze and fog as well but it wasn’t really cold. We zipped through south-western Washington on our way back and stopped at Frantz Glass north of Shelton near the airport for T-Man to get his shopping fix. He surprised me this time by getting lots more glass than previously, some stringer (skinny rods) and some rare colours to play with. He surprised himself by the fact that it didn’t cost as much as he thought when it was all weighed up! The next day we stopped in Port Townsend before catching the ferry to Whidbey Island and I got to play in the triple-shop that includes Wynwoods beads and Diva yarns, plus a mixed area with trims and embellishments and magazines. The town was full of motorcycles and we were to see probably at least a thousand of them the next day as well, there for the 25th annual Oyster Run (whatever that is!). Some really cool vintage Harleys with vintage bikers to match!

There was no campsite available for us on Whidbey Island at either Fort Casey or Fort Ebey so we went to the municipal campground called Rhododendron that was almost empty (though it filled up more later). We left early Sunday morning to get through the border before it got busy and it was just as well we did. When we got there, the US Customs had a bunch of serious types (sniffer dog and all) going over every vehicle before they let them through to the Canadian side. However when we got to the Canadian Customs, there were only 2 cars in front and we zipped through without a hassle. Turns out later that a bunch of customs people walked off the job due to “dangerous” work conditions which caused huge lineups and hours of waiting. We totally lucked out! The US officials were looking for some killer guy or other and our side didn’t want to deal with it. They’re holding out for carrying guns, which the government has put off until 2008. Most people could care less. They just wanted to get home, I’m sure. Meanwhile we were all unpacked and oblivious. To celebrate our return, we went out for dinner at a Greek restaurant before collapsing in our own beds for the first time in 3 weeks.

Some pictures will be coming in subsequent posts and I will probably post them all to my Yahoo Photos page when I get them all turned around the right way etc. I mostly took scenery and “texture” shots of rocks and plants and sand and such. I regrettably missed a few things I would have liked to have had a picture of, but that was usually because we were driving where we couldn’t stop. The windscreen was too dirty to take photos through it! More details to come when I absorb what I’ve seen and experienced and figure out a way to describe it all.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

All Packed And Ready To Roll

Or we will be shortly. There’s still a few last minute things to do. It’s amazing how much more packing one must do for camping as opposed to flying or even driving somewhere and staying in a hotel. And there seems to be even more things to do when you are away for longer than a week or two. It’s different crossing the border than if we were staying in Canada because there are things we can’t take across like meat and fruit and some veggies — and wine. We end up doing a grocery shopping at the first available supermarket we come across. In WA state we can even get the wine there, but not cider. There is no English-style cider (what Americans call “hard” cider) down there that I can find. You’d think with all the fruit that’s grown there, there would be a big marketing program for cider but I guess they all prefer beer. Not me. Particularly that swill that passes for beer made by the big companies. Ick. I’d rather drink water from the tank in my van. However, the wine is pretty good. We make a game out of drinking the wine of the state that we’re in. Doesn’t work in Utah unfortunately because they have no wine (who lets Mormons run everything?) so we have to stock up on Idaho wine. Ste. Chapelle is pretty good and we even went to the winery last time we were there. I’d give you the website link but you have to be over 21 to get in! I am not joking. Just to get into the website you have to submit your birth date. Too weird. You can’t lie? Nobody under 21 is allowed to read the labels? You can drink cyber-wine? Huh? Don’t believe me? OK go here and check it out.

It’s hard for me to leave everything for three weeks. I’m a good traveler: I truly enjoy camping, like scenery and wildlife, don’t get carsick, can sit for long periods, can read maps, don’t mind being in a confined space, and can make elaborate dinners on 2 propane burners. But at the same time I’m a definite homebody. I have no desire to travel around the world in 80 or any number of days. I don’t like visiting churches and castles and art museums and tourist traps. I don’t need to experience foreign cultures — there’s enough of them right here. Guess I don’t have a real adventuresome soul. What I do like, for a little while at least, is having a different perspective. Looking at the world from a different angle. It just makes me appreciate what I have all the more! I also love the simplicity of life in a VW van. We’re small and the world is big. The only stresses are which road to take next, whether we need more gas or ice or groceries, and shall we camp here for one night or two. Oh yeah, I also like having T-Man all to myself without having to share him with work or chores or computers. We spend almost the whole time (except in the bathroom or shower) together when we’re on holiday. He can’t even go fishing on this trip because he doesn’t have a license! That might drive some couples nuts, but we love it.

Guess I’d better get to work or we won’t be ready to leave tomorrow morning, huh? Red rocks, here we come! That there's Capitol Reef which will be the farthest south-east we hope to get. Purdy, ain't it? I'm a huge fan of pink/red/orange rocks.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thoughts On Computers

If you’re expecting the usual textile-related subjects today, please stop reading now. I’m in the mood for tech-talk! However, if you continue on, you might um…enjoy the discussion?

Since T-Man just bought a new HP Media PC, I’ve been thinking about computers and how much they have impacted my life over the years. We’ve been a computing household since 1982. Yes, that’s almost 25 years! Starting with a Commodore 64 we upgraded to a PC with a baby version of Windows. We would have gotten a Mac…er, Apple (no Macs yet!) but they cost about $10,000 then and PCs were less than half the price plus there was more software and peripherals available for them. The situation has changed now so that PCs and Macs aren’t much different in price or in use but there’s still a huge difference in availability. I know Mac-heads are serious about touting the advantages of their system (please don’t shun me!), but I’ve never seen a compelling reason to switch. I’m happy with my PC. I’m now on my third HP Pavilion — only because one got stolen — and T’s new one makes the fourth.

However, he used to be a Mac-head. He always used them at work and brought home a cute little vintage Mac SE and also has a G3 laptop that was limping along on life-support and has joined its relative in the basement “museum”. Nowadays at work he has both systems side-by-side but uses the PC 90% more often. I guess that’s what inspired the switch to PC at home. He occasionally works from home when he’s on-call or not feeling well and now he doesn’t need to usurp my computer to do it! We can also record TV shows and watch them from the comfort of our own bed. How decadent, hey? We want to eventually get a new wide-screen monitor for a better picture and then I can have the new flat-screen 19” to replace my old 17” hand-me-down from DD. Do you want to see who guards my computer?

This is my little gargoyle buddy. I just realized he doesn’t have a name or at least he hasn’t mentioned it to me. (Guess he’s keeping it a secret.) He’s there to make sure nobody ever steals my computer again. Not sure exactly what he would do if they tried, but then the element of surprise is definitely in his favour, right? I think he’s cute, in a scary sort of way. He has made me jump more than once while working after dark as I caught sight of him from the corner of my eye! Wonder if he’ll be able to balance on the flat-screen? I might have to make him a special perch.

I’m really lucky that my husband is very tech-savvy. He can fix things that go wrong. He can take apart systems and put them back together with everything plugged in correctly. (I’d have to label everything with masking tape!) He can open the case and mess with the guts. (Not me!) He’s taught me a lot over the years, but I still go to him if I can’t solve a problem by myself. (First try a reboot!) Regular tech-support comes a distant third. When he first got his new computer it had a problem, but after checking it himself he found it was just a loose wire that was affecting the fan. Poof! All fixed. No repacking it up and dragging it back to the store. I can’t imagine what it would be like without my own personal live-in geek. And believe it or not, I help him with computers sometimes too. I’m probably more of a real-world user than he is.

So how has the computer affected my life and my work? Besides taking up a huge chunk of my time, I love being able to see what like-minded people are making and join in discussions about things that interest me. It’s changed my focus and my work and I’ve learned so much. Unlike many others, I’ve never been a big game player except for the occasional Taipei/Mahjong (I like matching tiles) so that’s not at all important to me. But even before the Internet, I used the computer for designing, documenting, and writing and now I can share my knowledge and ideas with others far easier than ever. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s going to be interesting to see how much I miss it all when I’m away from my desktop for 3 weeks. I’ll have my little Palm T/X with me so it won’t quite be cold-turkey. And I’ll have my knitting, beading, reading, and my Travel Journal to play with. Should keep me busy enough.