travel

fitz roy and laguna de los tres

Friday Thoughts

mount fitz roy in patagonia
Mount FitzRoy (Photo by Gaspar Massidda on Pexels.com)

Climate and the Land

Yvon Chouinard, rock climber and founder of the brand Patagonia, announced he has given away his company, worth about $3 billion. He gave it to a non-profit called Holdfast Collective that will ensure all profits (about $100 million per year) are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land. Patagonia will continue to exist but Chouinard will no longer own it. Patagonia has given $50 million to Holdfast Collective and plans to give $100 million more this year.

Chouinard’s best friend was Doug Tompkins. They used to go rock climbing and adventuring together and in 1968, they drove from Southern California to Patagonia together to climb Mt FitzRoy on the Chile/Argentina border. They made a film about it called Mountain of Storms.

A later film (2010) recreates their journey and highlights some of the conservation work Tompkins was doing — 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless.

Tompkins died in 2015. He was the founder of the North Face and then of Esprit. He sold them both and in 1991, he established the Foundation for Deep Ecology. He had always loved spending time in Chile and he eventually moved there and bought a rundown farm. He spent his time climbing and kayaking and considering how he might preserve the area. Over time he bought up land in Patagonia that was still wild and undeveloped. When he died he left over a million acres of land to the Chilean government to create a national park. In 2017, the president of Chile accepted the one million acres and added another 10 million to create the largest protected area in South America.

After watching these documentaries, I became enthralled with Chile. It is definitely on my list and I hope to be able to spend some time there exploring its many diverse landscapes.

By the way, Mount FitzRoy was named after the Captain Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle, Charles Darwin’s ship.

The Queen’s Queue

Not only is Queen Elizabeth II lying in state for close to a week, but there is a “queue tracker” where you can keep tabs on the long line winding its way across London. Last time I checked the wait was 9 hours but this changes constantly. People seem happy to do it. I might even do it if I was in London. After all, it’s a one-time thing (click on image it see it live).

A few parting shots

Happy Friday.

Exploring Scotland

Edinburgh 1980

I am currently planning a trip to Eastern Scotland. It reminds me of the time I went backpacking in Scotland 40 years ago. I’m sure much has changed and my experience will be different. Here is a look back.

My cousin was studying in London that summer and I managed to talk her brother into going to Scotland with me. I flew in and spent a couple of days with her before her brother arrived. We didn’t really have a plan but just jumped on the next train to Edinburgh. Across from us was a family from Santa Barbara, California. The wife was British but hadn’t been back to the U.K. in 17 years. The man seemed bored to death and kept wanting to talk but didn’t have much to say. He was a carpenter. The guy sitting next to me was from the San Fernando Valley and very serious, no personality or sense of humor. Toward the end of the trip we got lucky and a Scotsman sat down across from me. When he found that we really didn’t know where we were going he started hauling out maps and planned an entire trip for us in the western islands. He told us about good places to go and it was great!  He was a really nice guy. Half the fun of travel is the people you meet.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From Edinburgh we took the train to Inverness. We couldn’t get into the youth hostel so we ended up in a bed and breakfast. The owner served us tea between 9:30 and 10 pm so we met the other person who was staying there, too. He was a teacher from Hong Kong. He spent his days taking organized tours. The following day we took the bus to Drumnadrochit and walked from there to Urquhart Castle right on the Loch Ness. There wasn’t much left of the castle because it was blown up to keep the Jacobites from staying there (long story). I did not see the Loch Ness monster. Big disappointment (haha).

Back in Inverness, we went to the Old Market Inn Pub and had a few beers. One drunk Scotsman sort of latched on to us. He mainly just wanted to talk – anybody would have done but we were willing to listen. He was interesting for a while giving us some Scottish history and his very strong opinions. After a while somebody got up with a guitar and started singing folk music, which we quite enjoyed.

From Inverness, we took the bus through the mountains past glass still lakes and beautiful forests to Fort William. The youth hostel was at the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K., Ben Nevis (4,400 ft.). A New Zealander latched onto us at the youth hostel, which was a good thing because he had dishes and silverware. We were totally unprepared. I think he was homesick. We ended up taking him into town and waving goodbye at the bus station like he was our son going off to war. Poor guy. We spent a couple of days relaxing and soaking up the beautiful countryside before heading out to the west coast.

Iona Abbey

We were lucky, it rained very little that summer. The only problem we had was on the Isle of Skye. The public transport was rather meager so we were trying to hitchhike but got nowhere and, of course, it started to rain and we got soaked. Back on the mainland, we worked our way down the west coast. We spent several days in Oban and took ferries to Mull and Iona. And finally found our way to Glasgow. I fell in love with Scotland and decided I wanted to go back and tour the upper peninsula on a motorcycle …actually on the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown Chester

On the way back to London, we stopped in the old Roman town of Chester on the Welsh border, and at Stonehenge and Salisbury. It was market day in Salisbury and there were people everywhere, crowding the streets, too many people. I was tired by then. Youth hostels are cheap but you don’t get much sleep. The woman above me had snored all night. Still, I was able to enjoy Salisbury Cathedral, finished in 1258 and an impressive Gothic building. We listened to the music at evensong. By that time, I was exhausted.

We took the boat from Great Yarmouth to the Hook of Holland and a train on to The Hague, the Netherlands. We got off at the wrong station and had to walk forever but finally managed to hook up with my parents and ended up staying in their new, empty apartment.

(excerpt from Expat Alien my global adventures)

This time the plan is to go to Dundee and Aberdeen. Any tips?

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Birthday Week

Looks like six??

I usually post something on Sundays but yesterday was my birthday so I took the day off. I had a nice lunch with my father and then just lounged around. I took my car in for an oil change this morning and walking home it felt like fall. Crisp and cool. Strange weather for August. I’m sure it will change again. Climate change is very strange.

So my toilet stopped working. Well, it runs constantly which is not good. But whoever designed my bathroom was pretty much nuts. They put this counter top right over the toilet so you can’t access the tank. Plus they put in this pressurized mechanism that is all encased in plastic so you really can’t access it. Not to mention the fact that it is a hideous green color. I’ve had to get somebody to take out the counter top and install a new sink and toilet. So I ordered a new sink and it was too small for the cabinet I have so I am going to have a new cabinet as well. It is kind of snowballing. I tried to find a contractor but I ended up with the building maintenance guy because the contractor I talked to who sounded so positive and gave me so much hope, totally disappeared on me. Why are contractors such elusive characters?

I am completely obsessed and overcome with my upcoming retirement. I am constantly planning what I am going to do “once I retire”. Somehow don’t think it is too healthy. Be here now …. and all that. But there you have it. I’m constantly planning and replanning and rearranging all the trips I want to take. And all the projects I have. “Oh, I can do that once I retire”. “I will have time to clean out that closet once I retire”. Totally nuts. So what do I do instead of cleaning out that closet? I let dust accumulate on everything and lie on my couch watching “Brokenwood Mysteries” on Acorn.

Of course I do have to go to work in the meantime…

Anyway, have a good week! Maybe something cool and interesting will happen. (My constant dream.)

Cloquet, Minnesota

Cloquet, Minnesota is about 20 miles west of Duluth. Part of it is within the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation and is one of three administrative centers for the Reservation. As you pull into town you will see the R.W. Lindholm Service Station. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Ray Lindholm’s house in 1952, and since he knew Lindholm was in the oil business, he offered to design a gas station as part of Broadacre City (Wright’s urban planning concept). Wright completed the design and the station opened in 1958. It later became a Phillips 66 station. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It is still a working gas station.

Another Cloquet attraction is Gordy’s High Hat. In 2015, the drive in diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

Gordy and Marilyn Lundquist opened their door in 1960, to serve “hand pattied hamburgers, hand-battered Alaskan fish, homemade onion rings, and fresh blended malts” and they are still going strong. We stopped in for burgers and fries and they were yummy!

Enger Tower, Duluth

Norwegian businessman Bert Enger (1864-1931) left his estate to the city of Duluth, MN and to some charitable organizations. One third of the money was used to build a memorial tower and 330 acre park on Skyline Drive. The tower was dedicated by Olav, Crown Prince of Norway in 1939.

Enger Tower is five stories up with nice wide steps and railings so not a difficult climb. It is 80 feet tall and has an amazing panoramic view from the top. Today the park has a Japanese garden with a Peace Bell you can ring. It was a gift of Duluth’s sister city, Ohara-Isumi.

The Tower

The View

The Japanese Garden

Interesting note on the bell. The original Peace Bell which was in the former Cho-ei Temple, is the oldest remaining bell in Ohara, Japan. Ohara donated the bell to a wartime scrap drive but for some reason it was never destroyed. After WWI, in 1946, sailors on the USS Duluth found the bell and took it to the US giving it to the city of Duluth where it was displayed in City Hall. In 1951, the Dean of Chiba University School of Horticulture was pursuing academic travel in the US. He learned of the bell’s existence, met with the Mayor if Duluth, and asked for its return. Mayor George Johnson along with Professor Peterson of the University of Minnesota and the US Air Force and Navy, returned the bell to Ohara on May 2, 1954.

This bell is a close replica of the original bell and presented to Duluth as the Japan-US Friendship Peace Bell, dedicated on June 5, 1994.

Two Harbors, Minnesota

Two Harbors is about a half hour drive north of Duluth. We took the old scenic drive along the lake.

Two Harbors was originally two separate communities — Agate Bay and Burlington. The towns merged to form Two Harbors and was incorporated as a village in 1888. By the early 1900s, the area was predominantly known for logging and more than 35 logging camps were in the area. It came to be known as the City of Two Harbors in 1907.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) was originally started in Two Harbors. They discovered a mineral called corundum which could be used to make sandpaper. It turned out not to be really corundum so they moved on to other things. In 1905, they moved to Duluth and in 1907, they ron Ore was discovered nearby. The Minnesota Iron Company bought 17,000 acres so they could build their railroad. Up until the railroad was built, the main transportation route was on Lake Superior. Agate Bay was chosen as the railroad terminus and shipping port because it was close to the iron ore site and had a clay bottom.

These days the railroad serves as a tourist attraction with one trip that runs on the weekends from Duluth to Two Harbors. It is a full day trip with a stop for lunch and a tour. There are other trips all operated by the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Two Harbors also had a thriving commercial fishing industry but over fishing, along with the invasion of the sea lamprey, destroyed the industry by 1955. Agate Bay gets its name from the translucent reddish-brown stones called Lake Superior agate, the Minnesota state gemstone. They were formed by basaltic lava 1.1 billion years ago.

The Edna G. Tugboat was built in 1896, and named after Jacob Greatsing’s daughter, Edna. He was president of the D & IR Railroad. Edna originally served the shipping industry but during WW1 she moved to the east coast to serve the US Government. After the war she returned to Lake Superior. The Edna G. was the last steam driven tug boat to operate on the Great Lakes. She was retired in 1981 and donated to the City of Two Harbors to serve as a museum.

Castle Danger Brewery…. for the beer lovers…

Local Two Harbors Castle Danger brewery has now gone state-wide.

“Crafting a North Shore experience…”

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is about a two and a half hour drive north of the Twin Cities. We had hoped it would be cooler up there but on the day we left, the temperature was the same as it was in St Paul — over 90 degrees F. 

Just outside Duluth there is a large rest stop with a spectacular overlook. There is also a sculpture by David von Schlegell done in 1976 called The Gate. Von Schlegell was from St. Louis, Missouri. His father was an American Impressionist painter, William von Schegell. The plaque says: 

The Stainless steel sculpture functions as a metaphor, tying the horizontal lines of the land and Lake Superior, which are both very visible from this location, together at the point of intersection with the City of Duluth. The Gate serves to recognize the importance of Duluth, as not only a gateway to Minnesota’s north shore, but also to the world through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway that extends 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) east to the Atlantic Ocean.

On the way into town we stopped at the Duluth Grill located a 118 S. 27th Ave. W. The restaurant is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and serves fresh, local, organic food. Their salads and sandwiches were delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day.

Our next stop was to check into our hotel right on the lake. We stayed at the Canal Park Lodge at 250 Canal Park Drive. It was very comfortable and the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included. 

The first day I walked along the shore all the way to the lighthouse and back. It was kind of a mistake since it was so hot but I did get to see the bridge go up and got a close up view of the light house.

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was completed in 1905, and was upgraded in 1929. In 1973 it went on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. In the busy seasons, it averages 26 lifts a day and operates 24 hours a day. It has a clearance of 180 feet when completely raised and is very similar to a bridge in Rouen, France. They are the only two of their kind in the world.

A couple of big ships had just gone out when we arrived but I was lucky enough to see the bridge go up to let the tug boat back in.

Another important bridge is the one that connects Duluth, Minnesota with Superior, Wisconsin. The John A. Blatnik Bridge is 7,975 feet (2,431 m) long and rises up nearly 120 feet (37 m) above the St. Louis River which is a tributary of Lake Superior. The bridge was completed in 1971 but has been widened and strengthened since then.