Thursday, July 20, 2017

The 49th State Is My 49th State

Welcome to Sitka, Alaska, the one-time Capital of Russian North America
I finally made it to Sitka, Alaska.  Twenty-four hours late.  With Alaska now checked off, I have been to 49 of the 50 states, if you count the drive through the oceanside sliver of New Hampshire on I-95 (and I do).

With the nasty thunderstorms that rolled through Las Vegas yesterday, the first leg of my flight from Las Vegas to Sitka (there are no nonstops) was postponed long enough that I was guaranteed to miss my connection to Sitka.  So the five-day long weekend getaway vacation was truncated to a four-day.  Three-day, actually, since the last day is just flying back home from Alaska starting painfully early in the morning.  But three is better than zero, one or two.  And I'm in Alaska.

And Alaska is different from the Lower 48.  Case in point.  This sign at the car rental counter is the first time I've seen a car rental company charge a cleaning fee for fish smell.  Or animals in the trunk.

And it's a special year to be in Alaska.  It's the 150th anniversary of when we kicked them Russkies out of our hemisphere.  Also known as:  the 150th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Czarist Russia.  Seward's Folly.

I rolled into town about 9 o'clock local time.  Time for a short stroll around the town.

Note I am calling it a "town."  The front desk clerk at my hotel corrected me when I called Sitka a "city."  She insisted:  "town."

I was about two blocks into my walk (which meant I had covered a significant portion of the downtown) when I spied one of the great landmarks of Sitka.

St. Michael's Cathedral, the first Russian Orthodox Church in North America.  With a really loud party-trolley-thing in front of it.

I think it was supposed to be motorized, rather than bicycle-style pedal-power, but there were people pushing it up the hill.  And whooping it up.  So I think sobriety is optional.  Most likely discouraged.

But back to church.

This is not the original St. Michael's, unfortunately, as that burnt to the ground in 1966.  But the green domes make this still the signature building in all of Sitka.

Looking at it from the front:

And here's a shot with more perspective:

So I start walking away from the church toward the harbor area and there it is again:

That damn loud party-trolley thing.  Although it now appears to be moving on its own volition.  It's like it's stalking me.  Stalked in Sitka.  By a loud party-trolley thing.  Add that to the list of things I never thought would happen to me.  But have.

I think this is called Totem Square.  It's got a Totem.  And it's square.  And it's right next to the Totem Square Hotel.  So I'm going to use deductive reasoning here.

This is the same photo as above, "landscape" rather than "portrait."

The building in the background is the Sitka Pioneer Home.  It's actually an assisted living center.  Serz.

This is a view of the harbor.

If you enlarge this photo and squint really hard, you will see Mount Edgecumbe, a (hopefully) dormant volcano.  It gets compared to Mount Fuji in Japan in appearance.

Another view of the harbor.  Sans Mount Edgecumbe.

And here's the lovely O'Connell Bridge:

At this point, the light is growing dim.  I would say that the shadows were growing longer, but there was no sunlight to cause a shadow to be cast.  So it was time to scurry back to the luxury hotel accommodations I was lucky to be able to book:

The Super 8 of Sitka.

Tomorrow I will have only the morning to more fully explore Sitka.  Then I catch the ferry to Juneau to see more of the 49th State which is my 49th state.  Only one state remains to complete the set of 50:  the 50th State.  Hawaii.  But that's for another year.  This is 2017!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Redondo Redoubt

Catching a few rays at Redondo Beach
The whole point of the overnight road trip was to take the students to the California beach.  Redondo Beach was selected for one reason:

The Redondo Beach Hotel.

It had a room available for just a Saturday night.  And while it was not "on" the beach per se, it was beach "adjacent," as we would call it in the real estate writing profession.  It was an excellent hotel,  Clean and quiet,  Huge breakfast buffet.  Nice pool and jacuzzi.  Awesome location.  Not-ridiculous room rate.

This is the main road alongside the waterfront in Redondo Beach:

We took a post-breakfast stroll around the waterfront.

The first site was this statue of two brothers who were very very ultra ultra important in the development of California beach culture.

Bill and Bob Meistrell.  The inventors of the first practical wetsuits.  Without them there would have been no California surf culture.  Because the Pacific Ocean is dang cold.

Like all respectable oceanside towns, Redondo Beach has a marina and it has a beach.  First, marina:

This picture wants me to tune the SiriusXM all the way to Channel 311 for some Yacht Rock:

Sailing.  Takes me away.

Here's a pier of shops:

Contemplative students:

This one speaks for itself:

This was supposed to be a romantic cruise ship, but it looks a little too Munsters/Addams Family for that:

More cool boats:

Unfortunately, one of the hazards of a day at the beach is the potential for shark attacks:

Yes.  I encouraged this sort of behavior,  Did I say "encouraged"?  Actually, it was more like "demanded."

More of the marina:

Now for some whale watching.  Yes, I could make the comment a few photos above because I too am a "person of girth."


But I'm wearing shades so you can't see who I am.

This next one is quite artsy.  I am photographing the Danish student photographing me.  Wheels within wheels.

Here's one for the geography nerds (clue: the signage on the right):

Lots and lots of piers here in Redondo,

The European students:

Did you know that "Redondo" is Spanish for "round"?

Finally, we have a picture of the beach.

Let's look at the beach using the enhanced photo editing effects available on my laptop.

That is using the "Napa" filter.  Ironically, it's the best for bringing out the natural color of sand, the irony being that Napa is not oceanfront.

Fishing pier:

The piers here are seemingly without peer.

Drone in flight over the pier:

We ended up spending the whole day at Redondo.  We were going to go to Venice to see the human circus there, but nobody felt like wasting an hour (or more) in L.A. traffic.  So we Redondo-ed all day, until it was time for a late lunch,

Followed by a long drive home.

Hooray for Hollywood

The middle of March was "Family Reunion Fortnight" in Paradise, Nevada.  The Danish student was visiting America, four years after he lived in my home.  And the German-Siberian student will still be living here for another few months.  So what is one to do when one's house is full?

Road trip!

Road trip to where?  Hollywood.  Actually, to a California beach with a stop in Hollywood en route.  Based on which beach had a hotel room available on a Saturday night for a not-totally-outrageous price, and which would be not-ridiculously-far from L.A., the elected beach was Redondo Beach.  This is a little overview of the California Road Trip 2017 posted to keep my vacation blogging chops intact until Portugal 2017.

We left Paradise early Saturday morning, as soon as Norm The Dog could be boarded for the weekend.  The drive to L.A. was easy, until L.A. traffic made it not-so-easy.  And it was surprisingly hard to find Hollywood based on memory and my book of Rand McNally roadmaps.  Yes, Rand McNally roadmaps.  In 2017.  How retro!  It was like we were going to visit the Hollywood of the Studio System and the Three Broadcast Networks.

We finally found Hollywood.  We parked the car and got out to soak in all the Hollywood.  The Danish student wanted to tour the Dolby Theater.  I wanted to find a few particular "stars" in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  This was the first one I saw.

I love Terry Bradshaw.  But does he really rate a "star" on the Walk of Fame?  Maybe a hypocycloid on the Pittsburgh Walk of Football Fame.  But "Hollywood"?  It's kind of debasing the currency, no?

And right next to Bradshaw was the star for Earth Wind & Fire.  An excellent R&B/disco band.  Consummate entertainers.  But "Hollywood" stars?  I would've thought their cameo in Sgt. Pepper The Movie would have forever disqualified them from Hollywood star status.  Got to get them into my life.

And here we come to legit Hollywood star.

No no no.  Not the German-Siberian student.  His idol.  The one.  The only.  The irreplaceable.  Bruce Lee.  Yes, that is the level of star power that should be on the Walk of Fame.

Yes.  And Mary, too.  Major star power there.  Looks like she made it after all.

Selfie with the Hollywood sign in the background.  Deep background.

PS.  I need to get my new glasses adjusted.  They keep sliding down my nose giving me the full "Chuck Schumer" effect where the tops of my lenses are completely below my eyes.  Stylish and intellectual-looking, I know.  But not useful for things like, say, vision enhancement.

We next went looking for the Dolby Theater.  It was buried within this giant shopping and restaurant megalopolis.  So L.A.

The Dolby is open for tours,  But not when we were there.  It was closed to the public because of a show being booked in it.  So we had no choice but to use the Dolby doors as a backdrop for a photo of the distraught students.

Also part of this giant shopping and restaurant megalopolis containing the Dolby was the famous Chinese Theater.  Once known as Grauman's Chinese Theater.  Then Mann's Chinese Theater.  Now it's called Somebody-Else's Chinese Theater (but surprisingly not some corporate-sponsorship-deal sort of name).

Lots of Faux Oriental decorative touches.

Here's a nice selfie of me that makes me look like I weigh less than Dom DeLuise after he ate a meal consisting of James Coco and the kid that played Rerun on that's "What's Happenin'" sitcom from the late 70s.

The Chinese Theater is best known for the handprints and footprints in the concrete right outside.  Here I am at the Bette Davis display.

I'm looking for the prints of those famous "Bette Davis Eyes."  Actually, I'm funning around with her handprints.  I can't fit my giant paws inside her handprints.  Bette Davis had tiny hands.  Just like Trump's!

Trump's star is supposed to be in this neighborhood, but I can't find it.  But we did find one of the Danish student's favorite non-Jennifer Aniston stars:  Michael Jackson.  So what was the plan?  Tonight.  We're gonna leave that 9-to-5 up on the shelf.

No. Actually, the plan was next to go into a gift shop.  While the displays were certainly gaudy, nothing was sufficiently tacky as to be worth buying.  So we piled back into the car and headed off into L.A. traffic.  Beach bound.