Monthly Archives: July 2017

Our Wetland Adventure


One of Ruth’s friends sent us a charming, touching YouTube video called Kyle the Goose-Lake Oswego, OR.  It was followed by “Man and goose forge unusual friendship” (On the Road: CBS Evening News).   Oswego Lake resulted from the breakup of the ice dam that kept Glacial Lake Missoula from inundating the West Coast, until it didn’t.  This ice age flood left its watery mark on Ruth’s father’s property that became the Johnnie and Bill Koller Wetland Park, Ruth’s exciting legacy.  Check out Kyle.

Lake Oswego is an affluent community in the Portland area, and Lake Oswego, or Oswego Lake, flows through its center. Once a channel of the Tualatin River, this large body of water now seeps slowly into the Willamette River.  When the Ice Age flood reached this area, an underwater vortex called a kolk enlarged a river channel and formed current-day Lake Oswego.  “Kolk” isn’t the only new word I learned doing research into this lake that is far larger than the one on the old Koller property.  It has an almost 14 mile shoreline. This shoreline today is private land lined with fine residences.  It’s also Kyle’s home and loved by water skiers.  I also now know the meaning of “hypereutrophic”. which best describes this lake’s water. “Hypereutrophic” means very rich in nutrients and minerals.

Native Americans called this lake Waluga (Wild Swan).  Early settlers less romantically called it Sucker Lake.  Before both groups lived there, it was in the Tonquin Scablands Geologic Area that included the place where Portland is now.   Back then it was under water.  Ruth & I haven’t seen Oswego Lake yet other than in the YouTube video.  Our next adventure will include it, a lawyer who worked with Paul Hennon, our liaison and Tualatin Community Services Director, and perhaps some locals who knew Ruth’s father after we lost contact with him.

According to Paul, it will be years before this wetland park can be developed into a tourist lure.  Koller Lake is currently choked with water lilies. We’re hoping that some significant geologic puzzle pieces will connect and that some prehistoric animal bones will be found before a citified park becomes a reality.





Listed American Cities


Travel and Leisure Magazine likes lists.  I tend to mistrust them even though I went to Penzance on The New York Times recommendation this year and Mexico City last year.   Below are reflections on 2 T&L lists.

Last year Travel & Leisure published a list of “America’s Favorite Cities”.   It was based on an annual survey of readers, and the text was written by Katrina Brown Hunt.   There were 30 cities selected for honors.  Among the top 10, 2 each were in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The other four were Buffalo, New York, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Providence, Rhode Island. Buffalo was #1. Buffalo!  I can’t remember the last time I said to Ruth, “Let’s go to Buffalo.”   Maybe I should.  We’ve been to all of Katrina’s cities, but some not recently.  We have traveled to San Antonio, Nashville, Albuquerque, and Fort Worth on recommendations in the last couple of years. All 4 are list-worthy.

The 2nd list was just published on July 11, 2017.  On it Jacqueline Gifford documented “The top 15 Cities in the United States”. She mentioned that 8 0f the 15 were in The South. She listed 2 criteria for winners–they play host to festivals and attract inventive chefs. There are only 2 cities in the top ten on both lists–Nashville and San Antonio.  We like both and have been to all 10 of Jacqueline’s winners recently except for Asheville, North Carolina.  Buffalo is not on her list, but the cities that are, like Savannah and Austin, are definitely crowd pleasers.

My personal list would be different from the 2 above.  Big cities that we tend to regularly repeat include Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Vancouver, BC, etc.  We’re actually heading to Vancouver tomorrow.  For roots reasons we like Madison, Wisconsin, Springfield, Illinois, and other Midwest destinations.

I do pay attention to current travel buzz.  This has taken Ruth and me to Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and Charleston recently.   It’s the reason why we’ll more than likely travel to Galena, Illinois, soon for a reunion with her cousins.





Lawrence House

Jake Jackson is a British national treasure.  He’s a curator at the Lawrence House Museum in Launceston.  In her Slow Travel Cornwall book, Kirsty Fergusson called Lawrence House “delightful”.  It is.  So is Jake Jackson.   As I toured the National Trust house he knows so well, I kept running into him. After a time, I waited for him to show up in each room because he always showed me something very interesting that I would otherwise have overlooked.

We had our best conversation in The Mayor’s Parlour, to my knowledge the only furnished room in this free, very eclectic museum.   Jake told me that this beautifully realized living room is still used for civic and cultural purposes. Then he pointed to some 18th century miniatures and told me about an unfortunate family who once lived in Lawrence House.  He told me that the Town Council made a fine agreement that turned Lawrence House into a museum.  He made it sound like a lucky accident and that his museum is secure until 2075.  You have plenty of time to see it.

I wasn’t especially enjoying The War Room until Jake showed up and told me about an ordinary looking uniform on display.  Next to it was the letter below, which explains that it was worn by a German general with a staff of 40 whom Captain Harries delivered to local authorities near the end of World War II. The note was pinned to the general’s uniform, and the person who donated it said that it was found in a pocket. The note came with the uniform’s donation.

Lawrence House, only one of the historic properties on Castle Street, is a Georgian mansion that was built in 1753 by a man named Humphrey who served his city 4 times as mayor starting in 1756.   Launceston was my favorite Cornwall town.

This multi-room museum presents the entire history of Launceston from the Bronze Age until the present with a never-put-anything-away spirit.  Here, it works.   I saw a vacuum cleaner collection, a herbarium full of plants, more than 1,000 local ones collected by an obsessive-compulsive mayor named William, a 19th century Polyphon, a forerunner of the player piano, which still works perfectly, a silver penny minted during the reign of William the Conquerer, etc.  

If you’re getting the impression that Lawrence House is unlike any other museum in the world, you’d be right.  Five Compasses!


LA LA Land’s Metro

Ruth and I sat in Los Angeles traffic for 3 days.  We learned to double our time to every destination.  If, say, we figured it would take 1½ hours to get somewhere, we’d leave 3 hours early.  This did work. On our last morning, however, we decided to Go Metro.  Our hotel was within walking distance of a station on the Green Line, so we got instructions from the front desk and headed to it.

Not able to figure out the ticket machine, we asked a friendly teenager for help.  He told us to first get a tap card.  They cost $1 each. Then he told us to put in $1.75, the base fare. We didn’t have exact coins but our mentor assured us that the machine returned change.  We inserted a 10 dollar bill and now have several dollar coins.  We went to the platform and figured out which side to stand on.  It took about 20 minutes for the train to arrive.  Our destination was Downtown LA.

Instructed to transfer to the Blue Line at Willowbrook, we found the right platform by following the people who got off. The next stop south on the Blue Line was Compton.   About 9 stations further south of it was Long Beach. It took us almost 2 hours to get to the 7th Street Metro Center.   We had been led to believe that this trip would take about an hour.  We had to return our rental car and be at LAX in less than 4 hours.  If it took us 2 hours to get back to our hotel, which seemed likely, we might have a problem, given the distance, airport traffic. etc.

We decided to forget about seeing The Bradbury Building.   Instead, we had a cup of coffee, reloaded our tap cards as instructed, and boarded what we thought was a Blue Line train.  Unfortunately, we were on the wrong Blue Line and headed for Santa Monica. Fortunately, we realized this quickly, got off at Pico, and returned to Metro Center.  Locals assured us that this happened all the time because the system is difficult to master, signs aren’t helpful, etc.

It took us 2 hours to get back to our hotel.   By that time I was tired of hearing the often repeated warnings not to take out any electronic devices and not to sexually harass other passengers.

We now consider this experience to have been both culturally fascinating and an adventure, but we’re not likely to repeat it.  LA Metro operates 2,200 busses and maintains 6 rail lines.  Unfortunately, if our experience was typical, it takes as long to get to a destination on the Metro as it would in a car where our GPS consistently took us through neighborhoods instead of directing us to freeways.  Is there a solution to gridlock in LA LA Land?



Perfect Villages

I was talking to an expert on Scotland last week.  He asked me my favorite town.  I immediately flashed on small cottages lining a perfect bay with cabbage palms everywhere and a mystic castle in the hills across the water.   I even recalled that the movie The Wicker Man was filmed there, but I could not remember its name until I got home.   Plockton.  Lonely Planet calls Plockton, a planned fishing and crofting village more than 200 years old, “idyllic”.  It is.

I got to thinking of the other ideal small communities around the world that I have been lucky enough to visit.   The list quickly grew to 10. Tilba was #2.   Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba are very charming preserved heritage villages in New South Wales, Australia. Europeans came here around 1850 and found rich volcanic soil perfect for dairy farming.   Then gold was discovered nearby bringing prosperity until the 20th century.  The Tilbas went to sleep and awakened to be declared places of aesthetic and historic significance in 1974. Preservation guaranteed, tourism boomed.   These tiny hamlets are especially known for cheeses and ice creams, good weather, nearby Mt Dromedary, etc.

Marsaxlokk.   Pronounced marsa shlock, this really ancient fishing village with very colorful boats called luzzus (loots zoos) were happily bringing in lots of octopi the day we were there. Ruth didn’t know whether to be fascinated or shocked.  This town with an unusual name is on the island of Malta.   Seafood restaurants and low-rise houses ring its harbor.  When Napoleon invaded Malta in 1798, he landed here with his army.

The medieval village of Eze sits atop a mountain overlooking a very expensive destination, Monaco.  It contains winding streets, a tropical garden, and sensational views of the Mediterranean.  Below the village is a tourable perfume factory called Fragonard.   Walt Disney reportedly loved Eze.  I can see why.  It’s pure fantasy.

Szentendre.   This quaint village north of Budapest, Hungary, is on the Danube.  Many artists live there.  It has a Balkan flavor because Serbians fleeing invading Turks settled in Szentendre.   It’s easy to day-trip from Budapest via public transportation so it’s best to avoid it on weekend days.  I took my cousin there and he spent most of his time wondering if he should buy property.  Ruth loves its shops.