October 1, 2014

Week 19: Redwoods, Red Wine and Winding Roads

Along the rocky beaches of northern California.

(All photos by the author).

You get a whole different perspective on the state of California approaching it from the north. I liken it to our experience with Italy, versus our first impressions of Egypt or Thailand. Frequently, a traveler’s first experience with a country is exiting the airport at a major city like Cairo or Bangkok. This is an assault on the senses, and one must often struggle to get at the rural heart of the country beyond. In the case of Italy, we had the chance to enjoy the rural countryside of Lago di Garda before venturing into the heavily touristed cities. [Read more...]

Week 18: Spanning Oregon

Taking flight at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum.

All photos by the author.

Have you been to all 50?

We checked off another U.S. state on our “life list” this past week, as we traversed the state of Oregon from north to south. It was a whirlwind trip that was perhaps one of our fastest tours of any state thus far this summer… [Read more...]

Week 17: Crossing the Cascades

Trotting across Long Beach…

(All photos by author).

Coming to the U.S. Northwest was strangely like coming home.

The past week of our travels saw us slow down a bit, as we crossed from the central part of Washington to its Pacific coast. You could almost smell the flannel in the air as we journeyed to the Mecca that is all things Grunge. [Read more...]

Week 16: Into Washington State

A waxing gibbous moon rises over the fields at Cherrywood Vineyards.

Think Washington is exclusively rainy skies, overpriced coffee and grunge rock? Think again…

Well, this past week we’ve wrapped up our Idaho adventures after a brief journey eastward to Wallace and the Center of the Universe and crossed the Evergreen State.  And while Seattle gets all of the press, we can vouch for the fact that approaching the state from the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains can give you a whole new perspective. [Read more...]

Week 15: Shooting the Rapids and More in Northern Idaho

Running the Payette River…

(all photos by author).

“Get set to get wet” should’ve been our mantra over the past week, as we journeyed north of Boise into the Idaho panhandle. Of course, we always thought of the northern stem of the state as more of a chimney, but hey, if you think of a pot hanging from a rack on its side… [Read more...]

Mathematical Curiosities by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann

On sale now.

Today, we’ll delve into the exciting and exhilarating world of mathematics. Wait, wait, come back…

This week we’ll be looking at Mathematical Curiosities: A Treasure Trove of Unexpected Entertainments out from Prometheus Books by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann. [Read more...]

Week 14: Dunes, Craters and Dark Skies

A ‘heiligenschein selfie’ at craters of the Moon, Idaho.

(All photos by author)

Think you know Idaho? If you’re like us, up until about a week ago, you had visions of Idaho as the “other” potato growing state. But this past week has taught us otherwise, as the state hosts mountains, deserts, lava fields, and almost every other conceivable type of terrain… OK, we haven’t found the ‘jungles of Idaho’ yet! [Read more...]

Week 13: Crossing the Continental Divide

The Wyoming Infrared Observatory atop Mt. Jelm.

All photos by the author.

Ever wonder where east meets west, geographically speaking?

This past week saw us hitting the road once again and crossing the great state of Wyoming, nicking Montana for a couple nights, and then entering the state of Idaho for the first time.

An old model-T car at the Carbon County Museum.

But first, we spent a night in Rawlins, Wyomingin pursuit of a little historical eclipse research. Edison made his way to the dusty frontier town in 1878 to test his new fangled tasimeter on the corona of the Sun, and the eclipse was also famously known as the planet Vulcan’s Last Stand. The Carbon County Museum has an exhibit dedicated to Edison, and a curious mural remains on the side of the Keg Saloon on main street that commemorates America’s most famous inventor as well.

Edison’s mural in downtown Rawlins, Wyoming.

We also had a chance to visit the Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Mount Jelm outside of Laramie. One of the first large telescopes dedicated to infrared astronomy built in the late 1970’s, WIFO’s 2.3 metre classical Cassegrain telescope is now mostly devoted to visual observations. Research is still being carried out from the observatory, and the University of Wyoming welcomes daytime visitors by appointment. And they very occasionally hook up an eyepiece to the ‘scope for general night time viewing sessions!

Reaching the new highs along the path of Interstate route 80.

Next, our adventures saw us cross the Continental Divide Basin and the heart of Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Hey, we had to cross off an eruption of Old Faithful from our life list, and it was worth the one and a half hour wait. (That “it erupts exactly every hour, on the hour,” thing they told you in elementary school is a myth).

Entrance to the park was spectacular as the colorful semi-desert terrain of central Wyoming gave way to the Grand Tetons. Our America the Beautiful annual pass has already paid for itself many times over, and we found that the Park Gate Lodges Explorer cabins in West Yellowstone Montana just outside the west entrance of the park were a great spot to relax and explore from.

Ziplining with helmet cam.

We made a day of checking out the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and running the ropes at Yellowstone Aerial Adventures:

And be sure to check out the menu at the Branch Restaurant and Bar. Located on the site of the old train station, their cauliflower steak and beet salad make for a total veggie-fest!

Headed into Idaho, we were able to get another stunning view of the Grand Tetons from the other side. We were pleasantly surprised by the small town of Driggs, Idaho, complete with its new Geotourism Center, Thai (and Korean!) restaurants, and free downtown wifi. And hey, Driggs is also right along the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse

The grandeur of the Grand Tetons!

Our current base of operations is the Sleep Inn in Idaho Falls. We always thought that the name “Sleep Inn” was a curious double entendre, but hey, we’re swiftly becoming a fan of the chain, as they offer uber-fast wifi and a splendid soup and salad supper…

What’s not to love?

Week 12: A Cheyenne Respite

Buffalo roam(ing)… All photos by the author.

Not all days on the road are created the same. We discussed this phenomena early on in our current sabbatical, of how movement days versus exploration days versus maintenance days stack up. [Read more...]

Week 11: High Plains Drifting in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Yellowstone Supercomputer…

All photos by the author.

Quick, what’s the highest U.S. state capital? We’re talking, of course, in terms of altitude that is… If you’re like me, you would’ve answered “Denver” (there’s that double entendre again) at least until about a week ago. [Read more...]

Week 10: Into the Badlands

Searching for alien vistas…

(all photos by the author).

There’s a strange sort of routine that one settles into once you near the three month mark in your travels. Unlike a short trip taken over a long weekend, long term travel demands that order emerges from the chaos, if sanity is to prevail. [Read more...]

Review: The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

A sci-fi classic!

Alt-history Steampunk has never been hotter. We recently finished up the fifth book in a brilliant science fiction series courtesy of Pyr Books.  We’re talking about The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder, out earlier this month. This is the fifth and (final?) book in the outstanding Burton and Swinburne series. We’ve chronicled our addiction to this series in the past, starting with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack up through The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon and The Secret of El Yezdi[Read more...]

Week 9: Of Nukes and Travel Nuances

Cue spaceship… it’s Devil’s Tower!

Terror is laying awake in a tent the middle of the night in a South Dakota summer thunderstorm, listening to the tree limbs crack in the distance and waiting for the “half-dollar – do they still make half dollars? – sized hail” that the weather radio promises to arrive. [Read more...]

Week 8: Of Angles and Astrophysics

The CHIPS neutrino detector in the lab.

All photos by author.

Us men are forever looking for a clandestine domain to call our own. Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Arctic Fortress of Solitude, and supervillians seem to be forever finding secluded islands on which to build their secret lairs. And while one could argue about the psychology that underpins the drive to head to such a remote locale, said heroes and villains would have plenty of islands to choose from in our present base of operations at Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. [Read more...]

Week 7: Parks, Planetariums and More

Looking out over Lake Superior.

(All photos by author).

Well, it’s great to be up north in the summertime once again. Summer season, whether it’s in Wisconsin or our home of Northern Maine, is so drop-dead gorgeous that it can convince you to endure the depth of a long winter, one more time. Of course, it’s not that winter doesn’t have its own charms… and while the past week has seen us slow down our pace for the long Fourth of July weekend a bit, we did manage to take in some unique sites, along with a very distinctive planetarium. [Read more...]

Review: The Cosmic Cocktail by Katherine Freese

A stellar recipe!

It’s the hottest topic in modern astrophysics. What exactly is dark matter and dark energy? It is kind of amazing to think that astrophysicists do not yet completely understand just what most of the universe is made of. [Read more...]

Week 6: Into the Wilds of Wisconsin

Grand Yerkes!

Ahhh, cooler weather at last… and while the sixth week of our North American adventure has yet to see us encounter a run on clear skies, we have gotten  back out camping once again for the first time in six years. This week has seen us explore the great state of Wisconsin, from its southern Illinois hinterland across to its farmland heart. [Read more...]

Week 5: Amish, Aliens and Astronomy

Observatories, old and new at Yerkes…

All photos by author.

This past week, we ventured into the crossroads of two future eclipses.

Where will you be in 2017? Last week, we crossed paths with the upcoming total solar eclipse that will span the United States, now just over three years away. It’s not too early to start planning on where you’ll greet the Moon’s umbra now, as the residents of Hopkinsville Kentucky already know. [Read more...]