Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Touring the TAM

Exploring Tacoma, Washington

The doors opened promptly at 10 am and we were the first ones to enter.  I couldn't wait.  I needed my art fix.

Filled with western art, studio glass and thought provoking curated exhibits, the Tacoma Art Museum is a gem.  We spent three hours here, but the art has stayed with me for much longer. 

I adored all the studio glass.  So vibrant and creative, but it was the immigrant artists that caught my attention and I think this is exactly what the museum intended.  The curators want us to think beyond stereotypes.  See beyond the Chinese immigrants as railroad workers.  See beyond Indian chiefs in elaborate feathered head dresses.  What else did they do?  How did they live?  What were they thinking?  How did they help shape America?

This is a trend I've noticed in the art museums here in the Pacific Northwest and it is one that is relevant today as we build walls, close borders and kick people out.  We need to stop, think, and listen.  What are we doing?  And why?

  The above sculpture is one of my favorites.  The cactus is made out of border patrol uniforms.
Cacti lines the border between Mexico and the United States.  Step or run into one, and you will be stabbed with painful spines.  The comparison to the border patrol is obvious.  And yet . . . the olive green fabric is embroidered with colorful flowers.  It is soft to the touch.  Perhaps the artist did not intend this line of thinking, but there is a danger in stereotyping border guards, as well.  They are not all bullies.  They have families themselves.  Friends from Mexico and Central America.  I know because my nephew is one of them.

Art is beautiful.
Art is powerful.

Art museums bring people from all walks of life together.
Under one roof.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Mysterious Mima Mounds

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Granted, the Mima Mounds in central Washington may not be on anyone's "Must See" Bucket List, except, perhaps, geology nerds.  Since we were driving north to Tacoma last week, we took a slight detour off I-5 to see these mysterious little hills that continue to baffle scientists even today.  And that, folks, is why I had to see them.

No one knows for sure how they came about.
At the trailhead a small interpretative center explains the different theories.  Scientists are fairly certain these mounds were formed 16,500 years ago when the Ice Age glaciers began to recede.  But what they debate is the specifics.  Was it the advancing and retracting of ice?  Shock waves from earthquakes?  Erosion?  Sediment from floods?  Or gophers?

Personally, I like the gopher theory.  Really really big radioactive ones.
Can't say this is the most beautiful place I've seen around here.  It's nothing more than a pockmarked prairie.  Maybe in the spring, when the mounds are covered with wildflowers, but last week the grass was dry and brown and rather boring.  Still, we walked the two loops.  One is short and wheel-chair accessible; the other is longer and a bit muddy.  It was a beautiful day and it felt good to stretch our legs after being in the car for a couple hours.

And besides, who doesn't love a good mystery?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bicycle Art

Roadside Double Takes

When driving the back roads of Wasco County, Oregon, I often encounter bicycle enthusiasts, but this group was a different breed.

Found along Sevenmile Hill Road between The Dalles and Mosier, Oregon

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Baker City 97814

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

These small towns in Eastern Oregon are starting to grow on me.  Baker City, with its population of 10,000, is small . . . yes. . . but charming as all get out.  Its main street is lined with historic buildings, lovingly restored by local entrepreneurs.  At the Geiser Grand Hotel, we were given a Walking Tour Guide and had every intention of being good little tourists, but once we stepped inside the Peterson's Gallery and Chocolatier, forget it.

 The owner brewed us a pot of french-pressed jasmine tea, and then, of course, we had to sample a few of the handmade truffles.  Sublime!  We ended up talking to the young man for over an hour about hiking and traveling and art and good food and the pros and cons of living in a small town.  We could have easily stayed another hour if I hadn't noticed the time.  Our hotel tour was about to begin.  We paid our bill and dashed out the door.

After breakfast the next morning, we set out again.  Because it was early on a Sunday, all the shops were now closed and I was a bit upset.  There were some antique shops and boutiques I had really wanted to check out. My travel buddy reminded me that part of the fun of traveling is meeting people, and he is absolutely right.  We had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon.  I started to relax.  I got out my brochure and started reading about all the wonderful buildings that lined this street. 

Baker City was founded by miners.  A gold rush after the Civil War brought thousands of people to Northeast Oregon.  By 1900, this town was known as the "Queen City of the Mines."  It also became the cultural center of Eastern Oregon, although a rough and tough one with gamblers, cowboys, miners and sheepherders making up most of the population.  Victorian houses were built followed by a sturdy downtown of drug stores, banks, saloons, churches, a mercantile and even a mint.  But like so many of these towns in the high desert, once the mines dried up, the people left.  The population shifted west.  


But jump ahead to 2018 and a renaissance seems to be taking place.  There's still gold to be found in these parts.  Perhaps not in the ground, but in the old buildings left behind.  Young people are recognizing this and filling these sturdy stone and brick masterpieces with great food, art, wine and interesting inventories.  And drawing us in once again!

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Night at the Geiser Grand

The art of travel.  This phrase keeps popping up in my mind as I plan my many trips.  Of course, the ultimate destination is my goal, but what about the in-between?  How can I prolong the high? How can I enjoy the entire process?  The travel from Point A to Point B, the dining, the sleeping, the packing, the waiting--all those mundane chores that travel entails.  By making every moment count, that's how.

And so I have changed my tune.  I am no longer going to scrimp on lodging because this is the very thing that stretches out the magic.  I am going to seek out those charming B&B's, those unique boutique hotels and the historic ones.  Like the Geiser Grand in Baker City, Oregon.

Sunset magazine wrote that the Geiser Grand is "the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Seattle."  It has been given the Honor Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.  Its architectural style is Italianate Renaissance Revival, which was very popular during the Victorian era.  Staying here was like entering a time machine into the 1890's when the towns of Eastern Oregon were booming because of a gold rush and other mining opportunities.

My travel buddy and I checked-in early so we could make the 3:30 pm tour.  Our guide, dressed in an elaborate Gay Ninety's dress and bonnet, entertained us with facts and fiction as we toured the hotel from top to bottom. 

The hotel shut down for business in 1968 and remained closed for thirty years.  After an extensive restoration, it reopened in 1997 with its gorgeous balustrades and mahogany trim still intact.  The stained glass ceiling and Victorian chandeliers aren't original, but great pains were taken to create an 1890's environment.  We dined under the ceiling's glow in the Palm Court restaurant.  We had the prime rib dinner with red wine and  enjoyed every single minute.


We loved wandering the hallways and looking at the beautiful landscape paintings.  There's a library available to guests and a mini-museum in the cellar.  And then, after a good night's sleep in a luxurious king size bed,  we went downstairs to the bar and ordered coffee and ginger lemon scones for breakfast.

Prolonging the magic.

  Making every minute count,.

This is the art of travel.