What Is It?

This is what I saw just before the storm rolled in on my way back from southern Nevada.

On my way down to southern Nevada, I saw something bright against the horizon just north from Tonopah, Nevada. I had no idea what it was that I saw. I only knew that it was very bright, almost blindingly bright even in the distance.

I watched as I passed the location, drove through Tonopah, and continued toward my destination. My schedule did not permit me to stop and explore. It would have to wait for another time.

That time arrived a few days later, on my way home from the site work. I was hot and tired after working much of the morning in the southern Nevada heat, but I knew it might be weeks or months before I passed this way again. So I elected to take a few minutes and explore.

A summer thundershower was rolling in from the southeast as I approached. I could see that the structure was huge. I figured out what it was long before I got close enough to see it clearly. It is the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, privately owned. Of course, by the time I got in position to make a good capture, the dust was blowing and the sun was absent. So the impact was just not there.

Now I know I’ll have to return. Perhaps a sunny winter day would be a good time to visit Tonopah, make some captures of this wonder, and visit the mining museum there in Tonopah.

At least I solved the mystery.


A random selfie when the sun was on me one morning…
After a couple months of absence from my space, I decided to post something. I was away from home last month and am still traveling. But I’ll be home soon. It will be a good thing.

Travel took me to the east coast for a project meeting. The meeting went well enough, I think. There was a lot of intrigue, or so it seems, in the project panel. There were definitely undercurrents I did not understand. I think I still do not understand them.

But, the meeting was completed. I spent some time with Daughter and her family. I worked on two proposals and one statement of qualifications. I have paying work to do.

Now I’ll go see Wife’s family for a couple of days. Then I’ll head home through Denver to see Older Son and DiL. That will be good, too.

Then I’ll be home for a bit. I’m ready for that.

The Road to Denver

That is one happy dog! After just an hour in the rig, she's ready to get out and explore.
That is one happy dog! After just an hour in the rig, she’s ready to get out and explore.

I finished the last bit of packing and then loaded the rig Monday morning. It’s an old routine done many times before, but I was a little anxious to get it all done and get moving. For this trip I had a deadline in front of me, so there was no leisurely “leave when I’m ready” approach; I was in “get it done” mode. That done, we stopped at the doggie park to visit the Girl’s friends and let them know we were headed out. Social groups wonder if a member suddenly disappears.

The morning of All Hallows Eve was bright and sunny, a wonderful fall Nevada morning. There wasn’t much traffic, although the state troopers were working traffic along US 50 on the east side of Carson. We drove east, the Girl interested at first, but soon curling into her travel tuck in the seatpan of the passenger’s seat. I love to reach over and stroke her side, play with a paw or ears, or just touch her. She’s the best traveling dog I’ve ever been around.

When the weather is nice, we often drive with the windows down. She likes the air and so do I. When the weather is not so nice, we both enjoy having some music playing and the heated seats of the 4Runner. Creature comforts are really nice.

I stopped in Fallon to get a coffee and some travel cookies. Wife got me started on McD’s oatmeal cookies. I don’t get them often, but they are a treat with coffee and are something the Girl can share. I really don’t care that much for chocolate chip cookies anymore, unless I make them.

We blasted across Nevada in the beautiful sunshine. After several days of rain and gray skies, the sun was a welcome old friend. We stopped a few times along the way to get out of the rig, stretch legs, and empty bladders. I really enjoy those stops. Unfortunately I didn’t take time to load geocaches into the GPSr for this trip. Those always make for good stops, although one can waste a lot of time on them.

As we dropped into the playa lake west from Hinkley/Delta, Utah, I stopped to watch the sun set and give the Girl a chance to do doggie business. I need to retrieve the images from my compact camera. I think I’ll do that this week. The sunset was pretty cool, but the alpenglow on the mountains was better.

The stop reminded me of the time Wife, Young Son, and I stopped one cold winter day to help a stranded traveler along this stretch of road. The old cowboy appeared to have Parkinson’s and had fallen asleep and run off the road. One of the tires on his rig was flat and he was struggling to get the tools from the rig to change it. Young Son and I helped him while Wife worked overwatch. That was a long time ago, probably almost ten years. Time passes rapidly, it does.

I pulled up in Delta, Utah to spend the night. The Deltan was clean enough and the price was good enough. I’d stay there again. It’s a basic room (meaning few amenities), but it’s clean and quiet and that’s all we really need.

Tuesday morning I woke really early and decided to head out before dawn. I made some coffee to help wake up while I gathered up our few things. The Girl looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But when I opened the door and carried things out, she was ready to go.

Again, she curled up in the seatpan, enjoying the warm seat (bun warmers on!). We stopped at the Denny’s in Salina, Utah. They had moved since the last time we were there. The server who worked our table laughed when she told me, “See that girl over there? She’s new. She just said to me ‘There’s a dog over there!’ I told her ‘That’s a service dog.'” and she smiled.

The Girl looked up from under the table, checked in with me that all is OK, and then resumed her repose, waiting for the bacon she knew would be coming as a treat later. I always save back a little of my breakfast meat, whatever it is, and treat her for being so well-behaved. I use every opportunity I can think of to provide positive reinforcement for her. She has to work for it, but the rewards are good. The bonding is even better.

We watched the sun rise from the east in the badlands of Utah. That area west from Green River is one of my favorite areas. I had a blast there last summer exploring that San Rafael rise and think I want to go back and spend some more time there. The next time I go, however, I want to have a mobile house so I can stay in my own space. I think I’m tired of hotels.

The weather was pretty cool for this time of year. When we topped out of the long climb east from Salina, it was 28F. But, with the sun in the sky and little wind, it didn’t feel all that cold. The stops to get out of the rig were pleasant and I enjoyed playing with the Girl.

Passing through Grand Junction, Colorado, I thought “I could live here.” There is plenty of what I love most about the west — vistas, mountains, dry air, and blue skies. I think there would be plenty of places to explore.

So, we’ll see what happens. Perhaps we will move to Grand Junction for a while. I’ll trust God to provide that direction.

Traffic from the tunnel downhill into the Denver Basin was crazy, as always. The term “bomb the hill” came to mind several times. There are effectively two lanes in each direction; the third lane is for slow-moving heavies. There were lots of slow-moving heavies!

I was reminded, again, of why I don’t like living near large cities. I don’t care for the traffic and I don’t care for the rushed pace. I prefer my life to be lived a bit slower than that, with purpose and reflection. There’s nothing wrong with the hustle-bustle of city life; it’s just not for me. I’d much rather spend my days wandering in the sagelands than in the noise and confusion of city life. I’ve done that because I needed to (that’s where the work was), but I’d rather not do it anymore.

So, here I am in Denver. I wonder what the day will bring?

Newport, Oregon

I think this is Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. What a beautiful morning.
I think this is Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. What a beautiful morning.

On my way home from Washington, I drove down US 101 through Forks, Washington and on down to the Oregon coast. I spent one evening in Newport, Oregon. We arrived relatively late (I misjudged my ETA) and didn’t have much time before dusk.

But the next morning the Girl and I got out and walked down to the beach. It was cool and foggy that morning. There were a few hardy souls out on the beach, some surf fishing, others playing with their dogs or jogging, and a few just walking along the wet part of the sand, enjoying the sound of the Pacific Ocean.

I brought the Girl’s Chucker and we spent some time playing fetch in the sand. It was fun to throw the ball hard and watch her dig to chase it, then hockey-stop to grab the ball.

After a few runs, she got the knack of picking up the ball without getting too much sand in her mouth. Apparently, she doesn’t like the grittiness of the sand.

There was a bit of sniffing about the rocks as well. I know there were new smells for her there. After a bit, I chased her out of my frame and made a few captures.

Of all the oceans I’ve visited over the years, it’s still the Pacific Ocean that I like the best.

Davis Creek Community Church

A lovely little church and stop for tired travellers.
A lovely little church and stop for tired travellers.

On the way south from Bend, Oregon yesterday, the Girl and I needed a rest stop. Not long after crossing the California state line, I saw this little church aside the highway and noticed a picnic bench in the shade of the large trees. I spiked the brakes, startling the Girl, and pulled in.

Excitedly, she approved.

I got out, let her out, and retrieved my sandwich from the cooler, grabbed my waning back of chips, and snagged the water bottle. The Girl asked for water and drank plenty. Then, while she sniffed about, I ate my sandwich and prayed appreciation for the gift of this little community to this traveling old man.

After a bite, we walked the area, peeked inside the church (it was NOT locked), and I made a few more captures. I’ll have to assemble them and make another post… or edit this one later.

This church reminded me of the one near my family’s home in St. James, Missouri. There, Wife and I attended services for a number of years. The pastor was a favorite old friend, who also was a professor of mathematics at the university I attended.

Sahalie Falls, Oregon

Sunday morning, I rose, made some coffee, and puttered with my morning stuff for a bit. It’s my wake-up routine. A text message arrived from an ex-student, whom I was supposed to meet in Eugene for breakfast.

Oops… it’s about 90 minutes from Newport, Oregon to Eugene. So, I thought that maybe brunch or just coffee would be better. But the word was, come on anyway. He also recommended the drive through Florence and along SH 126 to Eugene.

So, I took the Girl down to the beach, played with her hard for a few minutes, made a few captures, and off we went. We met my friend and his family for lunch and enjoyed some wonderful fellowship for a few hours at Hendricks Park in Eugene. He has such bright children (no surprise). They were a hoot.

On the drive from Eugene, Oregon to Bend, I stopped at Salhalie Falls (on recommendation). I was blessed to be the only person on the trail near the falls. So, I was able to capture some nice video of the falls. I love that sound.

Then it was back into the rig to find lodging in Bend, Oregon.

Here is a second clip, this one of the main fall and in slow motion.

Dismal Nitch, Washington

Fall approaches...
Fall approaches…

About two weeks ago I visited this very spot, the rest area at Dismal Nitch, Washington. I stopped here on my way (the roundabout way) to Spokane, wanting some cooler weather (from Portland) and to see the Pacific Ocean. I stayed a few minutes, relishing the absence of the heavy traffic on the south side of the Columbia River, spent some time playing with the Girl, and we moved on.

This time I’m on my way south, heading back to Carson City. I visited people I needed to see. I spent some time reflecting. Now I want to get back to Carson, work on some project work in front of me, and make some decisions about what will be next.

I wanted a break from the drive yesterday, so I paused here at Dismal Nitch once again. The weather was cool and drizzly, much different from the bright sunny day of two-weeks ago. But, what I really noticed is the change in the trees. They are beginning to show fall color.

Perhaps I should have waited for this trip. It would be wonderful to see the trees in full color at their peak. Maybe next year…

Columbia River Gorge

On our way east, the Girl and I paused at an overlook for the view. This is the Columbia River Gorge and it is a place I will return to, God willing.
On our way east, the Girl and I paused at an overlook for the view. This is the Columbia River Gorge and it is a place I will return to, God willing.

Sunday morning we got in a decent walk, then loaded out our gear. Or, rather, I loaded out our gear. There wasn’t much, so it wasn’t a big job.

Breakfast wasn’t much — some rubbery scrambled eggs and a hard, cold, dry biscuit with a little canned sausage gravy. I saved back one of the sausages for the Girl. The free breakfasts are often worth what I pay for them. I’m occasionally surprised (as I was at the Oxford Suites in Portland), but not often.

We headed out, taking Interstate 5 to Vancouver (back to nearly where we started from), then Washington 14 east along the Columbia River. The highway parallels the Interstate on the south side, but I hate driving Interstate Highways, except when I absolutely have to get there quickly. The U.S. and state highways are far more interesting.

Washington 14 did not disappoint. I saw a lot of beautiful views of the Columbia River Gorge. For this shot, I pulled off at the Cape Horn Overlook, dodging passing vehicles to get out of the rig. (The Girl stayed in the rig.) I managed a few captures of the view, paused a moment to take it in, and then we moved on.

Along the way, I stopped near The Dalles to watch the windsurfers play. Some use a sail; others use kits. It was fascinating to watch them play, a discordant dance on the roiling surface of the river. My friend Jimmy was right about this place. It is a place I should return to with a much longer lens, much earlier (or later) in the day, and with a tripod for stability. I think some interesting photographs could be made here. There is plenty of subject matter to work with.

It wasn’t long after that we drove out of the Columbia River Gorge. The landscape changed to a flatter, dryer world. The mountains gave way to plains, although the underlying volcanic history showed through the surface here and there.

Then came the grind. It was time to simply finish the drive and get to my destination, Spokane. So, that’s what we did. The outside temperature was between 95–100F, so it was time to use the rig’s air conditioner. The Girl will overheat if it’s too hot.

Eventually, we arrived in Spokane. I found us a place to stay. We found some food. We had a great play before the heat got to the Girl. We called it a day.

Columbia River

Saturday afternoon, the Girl and I drove west toward the Oregon Coast, looking for cooler air. I was tired for the heat and humidity of Portland afternoons. We never quite got to the coast (silly me) but on crossing the bridge to the Washington side, we were greeted with this beautiful view from a point where the Lewis and Park company sheltered in a storm.
Saturday afternoon, the Girl and I drove west toward the Oregon Coast, looking for cooler air. I was tired for the heat and humidity of Portland afternoons. We never quite got to the coast (silly me) but on crossing the bridge to the Washington side, we were greeted with this beautiful view from a point where the Lewis and Park company sheltered in a storm.

The Girl and I tired of the hot Portland afternoons. Saturday morning, as I assembled my gear, after a week of conference, I wondered whether to wander west or east. The call of the Pacific was in my head. (It still is.) I knew the air would be much cooler there, with the mass of cold ocean there. After refueling the rig and buying ice for the Yeti, the pull got me and we headed west on U.S. 30.

The drive wasn’t fast. We passed through many small towns. The river was always to our right. There are only a few bridges across the Columbia River in this stretch. It was warm, but the heat of the day had not yet come on, so we drove with the windows down. I just love the outside air.

We stopped in a small town for a place called Burgerville. I wanted to empty my bladder and get a bite before my blood sugar fell.

The young man at the counter was quite outgoing and pleasant. He walked me through the menu, so I bought a small cheeseburger, a small order of French fries, and a small strawberry shake. The food was all decent, although Sonic still has one of my favorite shakes (only a few places are better). Rested and fed, we headed back out on the road west.

As we drove farther west, the area became more rural. Then we hit Astoria and there was traffic. I suppose I was not the only one looking for cooler air. We made a pass at Fort Stevens, but it was late enough in the day that I didn’t want to pay the day use fee just to drive through. So, we headed back into town.

I knew it would be hopeless to find a room there, so we crossed the bridge to Washington State and turned back east. The north side provided enough shelter from the sea breeze (or sea wind) that the temperature was a few degrees warmer. At 75F, it was nearly perfect. We stopped at the rest stop on Washington 401 for a respite.

What I found is that the Lewis and Clark Company called the place Dismal Nitch. The sheltered (or what they could make for shelter) at this point near the end of their journey during a raging storm. I can only imagine the difficulty of that expedition. It made me wonder what it must have been like. It made me wonder whether I could have done something like that.

Relieved, we clambered back into the rig and headed east on the Washington side. Here we found fewer people and less traffic.

Finding a room was difficult, but I finally found one (an expensive room) in Kelso, Washington. It was clean and what I needed.

We walked across the mall entry to a place called Izzy’s for a bite. Izzy’s is a buffet-style restaurant, very reasonably priced, and they have a grill that will make a small sirloin steak. The staff made over the Girl, but were respectful of her duties. She relaxed under my table while I ate my salad and steak, knowing that I’d be bringing a treat for her supper along with us.

Tired, but satisfied and content, we returned to the room. I made her supper and then we played the game we nearly always do. The Girl is so into her food, especially when I add a bite of steak or chicken. We both laugh and laugh at the process. It’s also a good training opportunity. She has to wait for my command to “go” or she is held back. The tension in her is crazy and she is so funny. What a doll she is.

Marina Morning

There are so many boats along our Portland morning walks.
There are so many boats along our Portland morning walks.

We’ll walk our last time in Portland this morning. Then we’ll return to our hotel, feed, clean up, and load out. Then we’ll head east toward The Dalles and the Columbia River Gorge. I’m looking forward to poking around, seeing the sights, and perhaps finding a geocache or two. The Girl will be happy if she can be off-lead some of the time.