Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Run To The South...

After finishing up my business in Vancouver, it was time to drive back down to Seattle. While the drive north took about three hours, I wanted to allot myself a little more time on the drive back, as I wanted to stop along the way to take pictures.

I know. You're surprised.

I left Vancouver about 10:00am, and pointed the Ford Escape south. The drive was uneventful until I got to the border. The crossing at Peace Arch Park was pretty packed. Advisory signs said the back-up was around 70 minutes, but I think it went a little more quickly than that. Not much more, but a little:

The border entry at Peace Arch Park...

Welcome home...
After getting through the border, I got a text from my buddy Sam, who lives in Yakima, Washington. I wouldn't get to see him, unfortunately, but he wanted to give me a travel tip. He advised me to take Chukanut Drive at exit 250. The photo ops, he assured me, were spectacular.

I took his advice and, almost before I knew it, I was steering off of I-5 and onto surface streets. I made the left turn at 12th Street (like the guy at the AM/PM told me to, and I was on my way. I wasn't sure what I'd find, but I was told that the road followed along the coast overlooking Puget Sound. What I saw was, as Sam said it would be, pretty damned spectacular.

The lighting wasn't the best, as it was pretty overcast for the majority of my drive. I wasn't about to let that stop me, though, and I stopped several times to get some shots that, I'd hoped, would be better than the last:

A small cove along Chukanut Drive...

Overlooking Puget Sound. I think this part is known as Samish Bay...
The road turned in from the coast, and started to wind its way inland a little bit. In the middle of nowhere was the Oyster Creek Inn. Washingtonians, I guess, like their oysters as, apparently, they have inns and creeks named for them. I didn't go inside (the proprietor gave me a particular look when she saw me taking photos which suggested I might not be welcomed), but did want to get a shot of this restaurant which was ten miles from anywhere:

The Oyster Creek Inn...
After driving through the rugged terrain of the coast, the road seemed to flatten out and the road got straighter. I pulled over in a clearing and saw some train tracks. Hey, everyone likes pictures of train tracks, so I figured "What the Hell?"

Well, as I walked towards the tracks, I found it to be, surprisingly, uninspiring. There wasn't anything wrong with them, mind you, they were just... railroad tracks. What I saw, though, along the side of the tracks surprised me. Blackberries. Thousands of them, growing wild, right out there in the open. No fences, no "BACK OFF MY BLACKBERRIES" signs; nothing. As far as I could see, there were blackberries. For some reason, all I could think of was "blackberry wine". I don't know why I thought about that, as I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even like it. But, there it was.

And, hey, everyone likes pictures of blackberries, right?

Wild blackberries...
Of course, I love shooting (and this is well chronicled here) old barns. The more dilapidated a barn is, the more I like it. Well, the Pacific Northwest's got 'em. I saw a lot of them off in the distance, but many of them looked like they might be on roads that probably weren't programmed into my GPS (aka "Lola"). Still, I managed to shoot a couple of them:

I love the over-growth on this one. It may well have been what was holding the entire structure upright...

The barn on the right is about as dilapidated as a barn can get without falling over...
The drive proved to be relaxing, despite how long it tool. I didn't get to my hotel, by Seattle International, until about 3:30pm, but I felt like I'd been driving for, maybe, only two hours. I have to attribute that to my ride, a 2011 Ford Escape. I'd rented an Escape a couple years ago, and swore I would never do it again. However, this was the least expensive vehicle Budget had, so I jumped on it. I'm glad I did; it's a pretty nice ride:




After getting settled into my suite (don't be hatin'), I called my buddy Scott to see if he wanted to meet for some dinner. Scott called another friend, Steve, and they met me at the hotel. We drove down to a little town called Des Moines to have dinner at Anthony's Home Port. I ate too much. I'm pretty sure it was the bowl of what was just about the best clam chowder I've ever had that did me in. Before dining, though, we walked around the restaurant towards the water to check out some of the boats in the marina:

Some of the MANY boats in the marina...

Sailboats galore...
Steve and Scott dropped me off at my hotel, and we said our goodbyes. Steve was gracious enough to buy dinner; guess I'll have to pony up next time!

I've got some office work to catch up on tomorrow and, I have to tell you, if you have office work to catch up on, a swanky hotel suite beats the Hell out of just about any office I can imagine. After getting that done, I've got some thing on my agenda that I hope to get done, consisting of, primarily, touristy stuff. I'm hoping the weather holds out (it's been, for the most part, amazing since I've been up here), as I want to hit the Seattle Space Needle, Admiral Hill (for a spectacular view of the city) and Pike Place Market.

I may even take some time to drive over to Renton and pay my respects to Jimi...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Tasty Tradition...

When I've come to Vancouver in the past, I'd normally stay in a hotel out in Richmond which, while not far from downtown Vancouver, is a very different part of town. There's nothing there like a closed-off Granville Street, and the nightlife; be that pubs or restaurants, is far more limited. I would usually drive into Vancouver, do what I had to do, and then I'd drive back out to Richmond. Yes, excitement to the extreme.

On this trip, however, I'm staying much closer to downtown. The location is right on a main drag, and restaurants are plentiful. Actually, the photo ops are pretty plentiful, as well. And, if there's one thing I'm always up for, it's a good photo op.

So, after getting my actual work done yesterday, I decided to go down to the waterfront and see what I could find. Well, I found plenty. The Vancouver waterfront is pretty vibrant, and walkers, joggers and bicyclists are plentiful. Aside from that, though, the view of downtown was pretty stunning. Between where I was standing and downtown were ever shape and size of watercraft imaginable:

The "Aquabus" ferries riders all over the harbor...
Anchored boats dot the harbor near downtown...
Downtown Vancouver...

I only have my 24-70mm lens with me, so I was somewhat limited in what I could shoot. I decided to wrap it up down at the waterfront and make my way back to the car. Along the way, though, I was surprised to see Canadian television at work. I don't know if it was a local show or a national show, but "Family Cook-Off" was being filled in Boot Leg Square:

"Family Cook-Off" filming near downtown Vancouver. The woman walking, in the black pants, was the host...

When I come to Vancouver, my favorite place to go is a little fishing village called Steveston. Steveston lies about a half hour from downtown Vancouver, and is absolutely worth the drive. In the past when I've been here, it's usually been rainy or cold or, on a special day, both. Yesterday, however, was glorious. The weather was, quite frankly, the best I've ever encountered in Vancouver, so I made a point of getting out to Steveston, which was founded in 1889, to take some pictures.


The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built in 1894. At one time, it was the largest building of its
kind and was the leading producer of canned salmon in British Columbia... 
A fishing boat returns to port in Steveston, BC...
Now, like I said, Steveston is a fishing village. These people live and breathe by the bounty of the sea. And, when that bounty is plentiful, the fisherman return to the docks and open shop, right there on the docks. They'll tie up their boat, put up tarps to offer shade (and to keep their catch out of the sun), and sell their catch, right on the docks:

Baskets of shrimp for sale in Steveston...

A fisherman selling his catch to a couple on the dock. Total take for the sale? $145.00...
Now, when I come to Steveston, I always make it a point to visit the Buck & Ear, a bar and grill on 3rd Avenue: 
The Buck & Ear Bar and Grille...
I don't know how I first ended up finding the Buck & Ear. I think I was probably hungry and it was simply the closest place to eat. Whatever the reason I found it, I'm glad I did. It's a very cool, very old pub and restaurant, and they serve up some ridiculous fish & chips. So, as it's tradition that I visit every time I'm in town, so is it tradition that I get the fish & chips.

The restaurant area in the Buck & Ear...

The bar area in the Buck & Ear Bar and Grill...
The thing about the food here is that they make sure that you're not going to leave hungry. Two pieces of halibut, fries, cole slaw; maybe some dessert. Yeah, there's food o'plenty here, regardless of what you order. Top it off with a Granville Island Pale Ale, and all seems right with the world.

I decided to call it a day, as it was starting to get a little bit on the late side, and I had an early call this morning. I left Steveston, both my appetite and my photography jones completely sated. I made my way back to my hotel, brewed a cup of coffee, and sat out on the balcony taking in the amazing, and uncommon, weather here in Vancouver...

Downtown Vancouver, right after sunset...


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Viva, Vancouver...

I haven't been to Vancouver for a while, so I figured now was as good a time as any to get back up here. Normally I would fly straight into Vancouver, but I decided to fly into Seattle on Friday, instead, and drive to Vancouver on Saturday.

I've only made the drive once, and it was a rather eventful experience. I was travelling with guitarist Marc Seal, and we were on our way to a show in Kelowna, British Columbia. Our flight out of Seattle got cancelled, so we made an eight hour drive from Seattle to Kelowna in the rain, at night, on unfamiliar roads and with a rather sketchy GPS unit. We made it, but it wasn't exactly a sightseeing trip.

This trip, however, was far different. The weather has been gorgeous, and it's supposed to stay that way until I leave Seattle on Thursday (I'll drive back down there next week).

Downtown Seattle, Washington. That's Qwest Field, home of the Seahawks, on the left...

I'm goin' left...
Now, it's no secret that I love to drive, and that's one of the reasons I decided to do this trip the way I am. Aside from that, though, you would be amazed at how less expensive the airfare was to Seattle as opposed to Vancouver, and how less expensive the rental car is (I have a Ford Escape). For me, though, the biggest benefit is that I don't have to deal with Canadian Customs in an airport. Only rarely is it a brief endeavor. Driving across the border, though, it's nice and quick. It's also a lot more picturesque than Canadian Customs at Vancouver International.


Peace Arch Park at the Canadian border...
Welcome to Canada...
I hate to say it, but the 2010 Winter Olympic Games came and went since I've last been here. It's evident, though, that having the world show up on your doorstep had a positive impact. The city seems nicer. It seems cleaner. And it's sure as Hell a lot more fun than I remember it being the last time I was here.

According to one bartender I spoke with, the city closes down Granville Street every Friday and Saturday night during the summer for "Viva, Vancouver". As I had an appointment on Granville in the afternoon, and dinner planned in the evening, I figured I'd take the 5D and get some shots between the two.


Granville Street in Vancouver; shut down to traffic...

Apparently, there was some sort of skateboarding demonstration earlier in the evening, but I missed that. What I got to see, though, was something I'd not seen before. Howzabout some roadside karaoke?

A girl sings Shirley Bassey's "Hey Big Spender", and she was good...

This is just PART of the crowd that was enjoying the karaoke...
Now, whenever you close down the street in a major metropolitan area, people are going to come out, and this was no exception. And, when people are going to be coming out, you get that segment of society which earns its' living on the street. They may be beggars or buskers, but they're out there:

Part of a trio of buskers...

Another member of the trio...

And this girl completes the trio. They said they were trying to raise money to buy tickets to see Santana. Godspeed...

Some people, however, lack the creativity gene, and just ask for money...
Now, whenever this many people end up in the same place, there's bound to be a degree of "freak show" happening. There was a real cast of characters out there today and, honestly, I don't know that any of them can be adequately explained:

He wasn't only feeding them, he was carrying on a conversation with them...

Yeah. I got nothin'...

This guy berated his umbrella before hanging it off his pocket...

I bet his mother is, oh, so proud...
There were plenty of food vendors, as well. Most of it was what you would expect in this area; a lot of seafood offerings, but the old standbys, as well; burgers, hot dogs, etc. And, if you looked long enough, you could even find something which you probably thought only existed in a ZZ Top song:

I wish I could say this is Photoshopped but, sadly, no. Bon appetit...

The tube steak girl putting way too much catsup on something which, undoubtedly, needs it...

And, of course, whenever you get a large mass of people busking, singing, begging, tube steaking, and what have you, you'll also have that element which comes out to try to earn some real money. Whether they're successful or not is unknown:

I think she's calling her broker...
Only able to stand so much of a good thing, I decided to head out to parts less crowded, so I drove down to Stanley Park. Right on the water, crowds gather along the banks of English Bay to watch the sunset. I got there a few minutes after sunset, but I could tell, just by what I saw that followed sunset, that it must've been quite a site.

English Bay, right after sunset...
Despite being an urban park, it's actually pretty serene, and there's even some wildlife. Okay, we're not talkin' bears and elk here, but a family of raccoons did find their way down a rather large tree before retiring into the brush:

This little guy was moving slow and steady...

Scopin' out the tourists...

Four of the five raccoons...
As I don't have a tripod with me, it was getting a little bit difficult to take pictures that I would be happy with. When I got back to my hotel, though, I stepped out onto my 16th floor balcony and braced the 5D against the railing to get some night shots of downtown Vancouver:

Vancouver at night...
I look at that picture of Vancouver, and I have CNN's coverage of Hurricane Irene tuned in on the flat screen. I just hope everyone back there is able to hunker down and be safe. It's kind of amazing to think that I honestly can't recall the last time I was here when the weather wasn't crappy. It seems like it's always cold or rainy (or, on a good day, both).

The weather is supposed to be perfect while I'm here, and when I travel back to Seattle, so I'll be sure to have the batteries charged...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wow.

Okay, so I've been mildly remiss in catching up. I'll deal.

My Montreal trip was uneventful (which can sometimes be a good thing), so I was thankful for that. I got in some meetings with both clients and artists, and all went well. On Thursday, I spent a good portion of the afternoon with Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. I've gotten to know him a bit over the last two years, and took him up on his offer to visit the Marino homestead while I was in Montreal this time around.

Frank is, quite frankly, one of the most interesting people I know. When I arrived, he was in his basement studio working on some audio tracks from a DVD project that was spurred on my Jon Landau, who's Bruce Springsteen's manager (and a big Mahogany Rush fan). Something had happened with the drum tracks, so Frank was involved in a forensic-level reconstruction of those tracks. It truly was DNA level stuff. He told me he's been working on it for nine months, 16 hours a day, seven days a week. He'd done just over 480,000 individual cuts, and he estimated that he was about 60% done with the project. He hopes to have it done by December so he can go out on tour in January. When the audio work is done, he'll have 12 hours of Mahogany Rush video, or about six DVD's worth. If you're a Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush fan, you'll want it.

Trust me on this.

On Friday, I finished up what business I had to and then pointed the Camaro south. I was heading back to my Dad's, about five hours south. It was unusually foggy, and all I could think of was the fog would give the police a good deal of cover:

Quebec fog...

I kept my speed sane and, after a little over a half hour, I made it to the border:

Border crossing from Quebec into New York State...

Before crossing into the United States, I decided to stop into the "duty free" shop at the border:


Duty free shop at the border...

If you've never been in one of these, you might be amazed at how low the prices on things can be when taxes aren't involved. Everything from liquor to cigarettes to jewelry is sold, and the prices are very good. I didn't buy much (I never do), although I did find a watch I rather liked. I didn't buy it (I'm totally unfamiliar with the brand), but did pick up a few little things and some coffee.

I'm always looking around when I drive. Hey, what can I say? I'm a sucker for cool roadside images. While there wasn't a great deal to shoot during this drive, I did find a cool old barn just south of the border and, if you've followed this blog for any period of time, you know I'm a fan of dilapidated barns:

An old barn along the New York State Thruway...

Now, up until now, I hadn't really had "fun" in the Camaro. The last thing I need is a speeding ticket but, you know, sometimes you just can't help yourself. And, sometimes, I just can't help myself. I had to see what she would do:

Gotta' love a heads up display...

I actually didn't drive that fast for too long. If any New York State Troopers read this, I swear, I only went this fast for purposes of the photo.

I swear.

I finally arrived at Dad's and got settled. At that point, there was only one thing on the agenda: CUBANO. Dad's friend Bert is a Cuban immigrant who owns Cafe 32, a little restaurant/bar in Plattekill, New York. Bert is an amazing chef, and he can cook anything better than most. One of the things he makes, which sunk its hooks into me long ago, is a Cubano sandwich. It doesn't bode well for the diet, mind you, but it's good. Thinly sliced pork, ham and Swiss cheese. Man, oh, man:

Bert in the kitchen, whipping up my Cubano sandwich...

It was good catching up with Dad, too. I don't get to see him as much as I'd like. He's been to California once, many years ago. I think he has an aversion to any airplane flight that's over three hours long. So, when I'm going to Montreal, I fly into New York to visit Dad, and then drive north to Canada.

Dad and I on the front porch of Cafe 32...

Dad...

After an evening at Cafe 32, we went back to Dad's for some of his Bloody Mary's. I love a good Bloody Mary, and Dad's got it pretty well down pat.

The next day, I wanted to head out and take some pictures. The area where Dad lives is definitely at no loss for cool things to shoot. It's a very old area, with lots of old graveyards (which you'll miss if you're not looking for them) and buildings to shoot: 

The Cherry Top ice cream shop...

A ca. 1800's house in Newburgh, New York...
 
Part of an old graveyard in Newburgh, New York...

An old gravestone, dating from 1863...

An old church, which is now a museum, in Newburgh, New York...

Now, I have to be honest here. I thought the car I was driving on this trip was pretty damn cool. I mean, c'mon, a fire engine red convertible Camaro? Hell, yeah; talk about sporty. But, as cool as it was, it was bested. While you might think you'd be more likely to find something like this in Mississippi but, no, this was New York.

And it was just bitchin':

A rather sporty lifted Pontiac Trans Am...

Sadly, my visit was short and, before I knew it, it was Sunday morning; time to fly home. It was a good trip, though, and it's always good to see the old man.

Now, if I can just get him to be seen in San Diego, I'll really be on to something...

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...