Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chihuly Garden and Glass House

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth


This is the first time I have been prompted to add an art installation to My Most Beautiful Places on Earth list, but the vibrant colors, originality and scope of these organic glass sculptures caused this traveler to weep (and I'm not embarrassed to admit it).

I could have stayed here forever.

I have seen Dale Chihuly's work before in Las Vegas and Santa Barbara and have always admired the creative genius of this man.  He took the art of glassblowing into new, unexplored territory.  Although he studied interior design in college, he fell in love with glass after enrolling in a program at the University of Wisconsin.  He had found his passion.  And never looked back.

As I walked the garden path, admiring his work, it occurred to me that the placement of the glass sculptures played an important part in the overall effect .  I was no longer in Seattle, but on some alien planet.  Tucked between bushes and rocks and underneath trees, the glass sculptures themselves metamorphosized into plants. I was not looking at glass but living, growing organisms.

Of course, the massive suspended sculpture inside the glass house is a singular work of beauty.  For one thing the palette of warm colors complements the cool blue of the sky.  A cascade of glass flowers runs the length of this greenhouse--a greenhouse which until now, existed only in my dreams.

 The Chihuly Garden and Glass House is a long term exhibition, located at the Seattle Center.  There are several galleries attached to the house, which I will write about later.   Being able to see such incredible art is a privilege that is not lost on me.  I left this amazing place with reluctance and yet, a feeling of such happiness and gratitude that I have not come down from my High. 

And that is why, my friends, the Chihuly Garden and Glass House made my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Riding the Amtrak Cascades

Portland to Seattle

I left a snowbound and icy Portland, heading north to (believe it or not) a warmer, sunnier clime.  I wasn't the only tourist marveling at the downright balmy temperatures up here.  It seems the world has become a capricious and unsettled planet of late--one that continues to upset and baffle me.  That it was a full twenty degrees warmer once we hit central Washington caused me to merely shrug and utter to no one in particular.  "Uh.  Imagine that."

I boarded the train at noon and it didn't take long before frozen ponds were replaced by forests of green Douglas firs.  I grabbed a sandwich and a drink from the bistro car and settled in to enjoy the ride.  Once Mt. Rainier was framed by the window in all its glory, the entire car gasped in one collective breath.

I could feel the tension leave almost immediately.  This trip wasn't about just escaping the snow; it was about escaping the unfathomable event that is happening in Washington D.C. today.  As soon as the quiet landscape of Puget Sound appeared, I started to relax even more.  

And then the dramatic range of the Olympic Mountains appeared and I made myself a solemn vow.  I wasn't going to let today's inauguration ruin my life.  I vowed to return to this area next summer.  Tour the Olympic National Park.  Take a ferry over to the San Juan Islands.  See the Orcas cavorting in the Sound.  Then hop on another train and head east.  See North Dakota.  The Great Lakes.

Keep going.  And going.  And going.  

I'm riding the next four years out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


It started to snow last Thursday and six days later, it is still snowing.  I feel like I am living inside a snow globe and can't get out.  The roads are open but remain empty and silent.  A stillness pervades like nothing I have ever experienced.  The world has come to a stop.  Frozen in time.  Encased in crystal.
The locals tell us they have not experienced this much snow in the Columbia River Gorge for years.  We are all in a state of wonder.   Because there are so many travel advisories, we decide to stay home.  We don't even drive the five miles into Hood River for supplies. We have enough canned soup to last a few more days.  Why go anywhere?  Right now the magic is inside this snow globe in this little corner of the world.

 There is no place else I'd rather be.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Homage to the DC-3

The above bronze statues of Donald W. Douglas and his dog Wunderbar stand below a giant DC-3 across from the Santa Monica Airport on the grounds of the Museum of Flying.  His fleet of  fixed wing, propeller-driven airplanes revolutionized travel for us common man.  I had to pay my respects!
Before the DC-3, travel by air was slow, scary and extremely expensive.  There were the Fokker Tri-motors and the Curtiss biplanes, but when this baby took to the air in 1935, at greater speeds, greater heights and greater comfort, the other guys were . . . well . . .grounded.   By the 1950's, if you were traveling by air, you were traveling on a DC-3.

The plane became a worldwide sensation.  It could cruise at 200 mph and climb above the turbulence.  Interior soundproofing and fresh-air ventilation made it comfortable for those lucky 32 passengers aboard.  Because of its strength and reliability, the DC-3 is still being flown today despite the fact that production stopped in 1975.
The aircraft on display in Santa Monica was built in 1942 and delivered to the U.S. Army for use as a paratrooper and glider tug.  President Eisenhower remarked that the DC-3 was one of the four reasons the Allies won World War II.  (The other three were the jeep, the bazooka and the atom bomb.)

After the war, its sleek silhouette starred in many a motion picture like Quantum of Solace and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

  Revolutionary.  War Hero.  Movie Star.  The DC-3 was a marvel of design and progress.  Over the decades, it transported thousands upon thousands of us wingless beings from coast to coast and beyond.  United, American, TWA, Delta and Eastern all had DC-3's in their fleet.

Oh, yeah.  I had to pay my respects.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Point Mugu Rock

Gateway to Malibu

Geological landmarks give a traveler relief and gratification.  When I spot Mt. Shasta,  I know the Oregon border isn't far. And when I spot this big monster of a rock on Highway 1, I know that Malibu is literally just around the corner.

  Sure, my trusty GPS always tells me where I am at any given moment, but until I see something out there in the real world, I'm never entirely certain.
  Driving the scenic Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu has always been my route of choice when going to Los Angeles.  The highway, of course, is famous the world over for its beauty, especially the Big Sur section, but this little stretch north of L.A. is unbelievably serene.   The beach adjacent to Mugu Rock is often devoid of mankind, which is truly incredible in a metropolitan area of 18 million people.

I stop here often to catch my breath.

Few people know, however, that Point Mugu Rock, is man made.  Sorta.  Back in the 1930's when the PCH was being built, the section around this promontory challenged the engineers.  This is where the furthest end of the Santa Monica Mountains hit the ocean.  A huge vertical ridge blocked the road.  What to do?  Stop here?  Tunnel through?  Go up and around?

"Let's blast through the sucker," someone decided.  And so they did. With 107 tons of explosives.  They divided a mountain in half.  Mugu Rock is its western end.  The Pacific Coast Highway was now complete.

And another geological landmark was born.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Snowshoeing at Cooper Spur

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

This little mountain resort in Mt. Hood National Forest has something for everyone this time of year:  Downhill skiing, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.  Because the slopes aren't particularly steep or the runs long, it is a great place for beginners.  Nordic trails are well groomed and the surrounding forest is a wonderland of snow sculptures and isolated beauty that a nature lover like me can't get enough of.

During the holidays, my sons hit the slopes and my travel buddy and I trekked through the forest with snowshoes strapped to our boots.  As I write this, we are planning another trip for this Friday--only this time I will go solo.  As one fellow snowshoe enthusiast told me, "You can't get lost up here.  It's a small world," which makes me feel more confident going it alone.  While my husband and son downhill ski, I will be chasing rabbit prints through the snow.

Oh . . . and then warming up at the tavern with a Pinot Noir and a plate of bacon bourbon bombs.

 January in the Oregon Cascades has its amenities!