Sunday, May 27, 2012


Whew!  These weeks between work are truly nuts.  In a good way, but they're still nuts.  The nutsiness has been compounded by Jeff starting work on time, just before Memorial Day weekend, and my paperwork delay, so I'm still unemployed for another week.

Mostly, for the last little bit, we've visited family.  It may not sound grand, but it is.  Why do we not take pictures of this?  We celebrated my last birthday before I'm 1/3rd of a century old (Jeff is -still- older), and Mother's Day with both mothers.  We had planned to have a party with both mothers together, but then nature interceded, and my mom got sick - so we celebrated separately.  Still fun!

Then, there was the solar eclipse.  I have never seen a solar eclipse before, and this may have been "just" an annular solar eclipse (Ring of Fire instead of a total blackout), but we decided it would be awesome enough to drive almost 1000 miles each way to see.  So we did.

The closest the eclipse would get to us was southwestern Oregon, but we didn't trust the weather there, so we decided to head for northeastern California.  That required driving through friendly territory - my friend Fawn had just moved to Portland:


where she re-introduced us to good (pretty?) coffee:

Then our friend Richard is just finishing up in Eugene:

where we got a very nice tour of town from him.  We also stopped by the West Eugene Wetlands and got a fantastic tour of the educational facilities there:

used to show why a plain-looking but unbelievably gorgeous wetland is worth saving:

The best bit of serendipity was finding camas, a plant that Jeff had yet to find the edible version of for his talk on Native American uses of plants:

Quite a pretty flower for being all useful and stuff.

After being social, it was time to move on to being National Park geeks.  Lava Beds National Monument, with its views and its campground, filled that slot.  Our North Cascades experience taught us to go to a high point for a view, so we went towards the hill on the left:

and we went up.  There was a pretty view and a pretty firetower - makes me almost want to be a fire scout.  Except now, they mostly don't exist.  Boo.  We got up to the top right before sunset, which made for some awesome pictures:

 There's our car! (bottom right):

So we got back after sunset, to a sausage and foil veggie dinner (veggies from the Saturday Market in Eugene!), where we ate babies:

baby carrots, that is.

The next day, we took our time looking around, then headed southeast for the current prediction's clear skies and good eclipse viewing.  We ended up pulling into the Honey Lake Rest Area near Susanville, CA.

We immediately saw other telescopes and cameras with fancy filters, and figured we were in the right spot.

Jeff had recently bought a solar viewing filter for our little regular telescope, plus a second solar-dedicated scope, and a mount that could be hand-controlled and hold both of them.  This was our first try setting them both up, so it was a trial by fire:

But whether they were set up well or not, they had great crowd draw:

although many people had different viewing methods:

Like just pointing binoculars backwards and using a screen (that's the whole shebang, folks!):

Then there was nature's viewer: leaves!  The easiest way to see a solar eclipse without blowing your eyes out is to make a pinhole in something (paper, whatever), and projecting an image through that pinhole onto a screen a few feet away.  Leaves naturally do this, just by overlapping.  At some point, about midway through the eclipse, someone went "WOW!  Look at the wall!"  The wall became our favorite general viewing apparatus:

As we got closer to the mid-point of the eclipse, we noticed that it had gotten dark enough to turn the parking lot lights on:

And then, center of the sun, ring of fire, unbelievable oh-my-lord-I-can't-believe-this-is-happening annular eclipse:

And then it was done.  As seen through the dedicated solar scope, PacMan:

PacMan with solar flares:


Ring of Fire and solar flares!  Ohmilord!

C is for cookie?

After all the excitement, the shadow wall started to seem artistic and stuff:

Did I mention there were fellow geeks around?  There were eclipse chasers, telescope freaks, and just plain astronomy fans.  We had a ton of fun meeting and greeting other folks who thought this kind of thing was worth driving many hours for.  And a couple even had t-shirts, which I tried to track down for purchase later, but couldn't:

That says "Susanville California, Annular Solar Eclipse, May 20,2012."  Aaaawwwweeeeesome...

Our time since has included entirely too much time in a car.  We drove from Lava Beds, CA to home (Nooksack, WA) on Monday, loaded up the truck and drove to Chelan, WA on Tuesday, got Jeff on the boat and I drove home Wednesday, and since he has been working and I have been packing and shopping.  Oh, yeah, and visiting my nephew.  CUUUUUTE!

Soon, I will be off to Stehekin as well, and the posts will be fewer and farther between.  We will have some more Nicaragua videos to upload and hopefully pictures of interesting things for another blog post, but that won't be for a while.  Does anyone else find it strange that we had better internet connection in Nicaragua than in Stehekin?  May I point out that Stehekinites prefer it that way, and that I'm glad that some corner of the US still thinks like that?

So adios, for now.  We'll type at you soon, and we all wish you well in whatever you may be doing right now.  Wish us well, if you would, in hiking off all the excess rice-and-beans-and-oil weight.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Transitioning again

This will be another quick post, since I would rather hang out in the Washington sunshine than on the computer - but all of our fans are clamoring for an update!  And I'm waiting for Jeff to finish paperwork.

We've had a busy couple of weeks since we left El Jocote for the last time.  After a whole lot of goodbyes, we took a week to travel, theoretically to have a little vacation to ourselves before heading back to "real life."  We went up to Leon to visit Carolina at her house where we had stayed while talking Spanish classes.  

After that, we took off for Ometepe Island, one of the most magical places we've ever been.  The first time we went, we visited with Fawn in February.  It was gorgeous, but I was in a walking boot and had a crutch, so I didn't get to check out too much.  This time was much better.  We decided to have a look around at some of the interesting farms they have near Balgue, including Finca Bona Fide, a permaculture farm and educational facility:
 We found a few things to tell our Nicaraguan colleagues about, including a cheaper way to make big water tanks:
 ... and the idea of a seed exchange:

We stayed right next door at Finca Magdalena, a community cooperative organic, shade grown coffee farm.  They sell all their exportable coffee to Bainbridge Island in Washington, their sister island, where it is sold as Cafe Oro.  My lordy, but the coffee there was tasty, and the views were incredible (yes, that volcano is smoking):

But, of course, we had to get back to Managua, since the airport was there and all.  We managed one more stop by the Huembes market, where you can find piñatas and other party supplies,
 fish and iguanas,
 meat - at least, I think that's what it is,
 shoes shoes shoes,
 and DVDs, as Jeff spent lots of time discovering.
Packing was a challenge.

But we got packed, and we made our flights - all were delayed, which made for a lot of hurry-up-and-waiting, but we made it.  We got to the Managua airport a little after 5 am (mountain time), and sat sweating in the so-called air conditioning, then flew to Miami, then to Chicago O'Hare, then finally arrived in Seattle at almost 10 pm (pacific time).  But in Seattle, there were my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and my new nephew.  That was so much fun!

We hung around Seattle for a couple nights so I could visit with the new nephew catch up with his parents.
Much eating of wonderful food ensued - my brother, being awesome and all, decided that he needed to show off his new smoker skills with a roast and a big chunk of king salmon.  They both cooked up lovely things like stroganoff, eggs/bacon/pancake breakfast, etc.  Nothing like getting away from the rice and beans!

We have since visited my 95-year-old super-woman grandma, who continues to amaze, spent a little time (never enough!) with my niece, seen our cat and cuddled as much as his pride would allow, celebrated my birthday with both moms, step-dad, aunt, Subira, and another fantastic salmon/shrimp/cheeeeeese! meal, and done one heck of a lot of errands.  More errands and visiting to follow, as well as a road trip to see a solar eclipse, and jobs starting up.  Jeff will be starting on May 24th, it appears, but my start date has gotten held up.  I'd be more ticked if the hold up didn't mean more time with people I'm enjoying seeing...