Fall Colors

I recently caught the fall colors in Traverse City, MI. The prevalence of beech, maple, and other deciduous trees, plus a few early frosts to set their leaves, yields a finer autumn season for leaf peeping than on the west coast.

This is on the Old Mission Peninsula, in Old Mission State Park. The lighthouse there claims to be located along the 45th parallel, but any competent map puts the parallel at over 1km north of the tip of the peninsula.

Crazy Abandoned Coal Power Plant

What could possibly be better than an abandoned coal-fired power plant? I've visited the Hearn, the standard urban exploration experience for those in Toronto. The ex-GM/Holden power plant in Melbourne is equal fun, on a smaller scale.

But this one is a crazy power plant. It's the coal-fired heart of the insane asylum in Traverse City. These insulated pipes carry steam out of the boilers and down to the turbines below.

Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane

The Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane is a sprawling complex in Traverse City, built in 1885 as part of the Kirkbride Plan to improve living conditions for the mentally ill. It's no longer owned by the state, and has been mostly vacant since 1989.

A small portion of it has been tidied up, fitted with modern windows, and leased to a variety of businesses. The coffee was decent.

Hamburger Mary's

One of my favorite activities is making full use of an airport stopover when on a through-fare. You might think that would limit me to hubs like Chicago, Salt Lake City, and New York. But I've found myself on stopovers in more interesting locales like Oklahoma City, Palm Springs, and even where I live, in Seattle.

This weekend, the Max took me into Portland, and with timely neighborhood knowledge from Beth, I happened upon Hamburger Mary's. It's been absent from Portland for many years, and only just reopened. It was exceedingly friendly, and tasty!

Shannon, IL

Shannon is a town of 900 or so in the northwestern corner of Illinois.

My north-oriented view is very similar to Google's, and you can see the alignment of the railway that used to pass through. It was the Milwaukee Road's Southwestern Division, running from Sturtevant WI to Savanna IL.

Alaskan Way Viaduct

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a rickety structure that runs most of the length of the Seattle waterfront. It's quite vulnerable to earthquake activity - the 2001 Nisqually earthquake visibly damaged it, and the WSDOT is afraid of anything of magnitude 5.5 or greater.

I toured it as it was closed for its twice yearly inspection this past weekend. Plans are afoot to replace the viaduct with a bored tunnel, unless the obstructionist mayor manages to undo years of research and recommendations.

Forging with Fire

This is a oxygen-propane torch hard at work heating a crucible. The billet of a gold alloy was then added and melted.

Once everything was at the right temperature, the centrifuge was spun by hand, forcing the molten gold into the mold.

Cascade Range

Here is the very visible edge of the marine cloud layer, leaking over the highest peaks of the Cascades. The clouds cover everything to perhaps 4000ft or so, and then peter out as the land opens up into the interior.

It is as if there is a curtain between the misty drizzle of the coast, and the dry scrublands of central Washington. When the weather is miserable in Puget Sound, it's often lovely east of the passes.

Osprey, Yakima Canyon

We caught this osprey cruising up and down the Yakima Canyon, tracking fish in the river. This was at the footbridge across to Umtanum Creek.

The osprey was about as lucky as the fishermen wading in the river - nobody seemed to be catching anything that day.

Terra Cotta Facade

I promise this will be the last post about the Smith Tower. Here, its beautiful white terra cotta facade rises up from Second Avenue. It has been cleaned once since construction.

You can get a peek of it before the cladding was attached, but you have to go back to 1913.

Smith Tower

The Smith Tower is a glorious 1914 skyscraper, the tallest outside New York City at the time. It has an excellent observation deck, allowing perspectives like this. The Otis elevator to the top (in gleaming brass) has manual controls run by an operator.

Even better, there's a private penthouse in what was the caretaker's residence in the pyramid that caps the building. The young daughter of those living up there strayed down to the observation deck when we visited, and she's very chatty. "I'm not allowed to tell you where I live," as her eyes rose to the ceiling.

Groceries on the Edge of the World

I'm gaining proficiency with the zoom lens.

This fellow has walked 27min (1.4mi) from the Safeway where he got those groceries. One step to his right, and he'll fall off the edge!

Google's view is much higher off the street than mine.

Homegrown Carrot

It was a terrible growing year for tomatoes, but our carrots turned out wonderfully. Unlike picking beans, or cucumbers, or even strawberries, there's a sensual pleasure to pulling a carrot out of the ground.

You can't do it without getting your hands dirty, and it takes a bit of cleaning before it looks like it came from the shop. But there's no question that it is worthwhile!

M/V Kitsap

Here is the 7:05pm M/V Kitsap, leaving Seattle for Bremerton. Like the Kittitas, it is an Issaquah-class ferry commissioned for the WSF, originally with a 100-vehicle capacity. It's since been upgraded to carry 130 vehicles.

Washington State Ferry Terminal, Seattle

The Washington State Department of Transport operates Washington State Ferries, which runs this vehicle ferry terminal in downtown Seattle. Many passengers commute across Puget Sound to work downtown each weekday. Here's a view of the ticket booths for departing vehicles.

The state ferry system is highly subsidized, with fares covering only 70% of operating costs. Capital costs run an additional 104% of the fares collected (annually).

The perspective is from the the top of the Smith Tower, a subject of a subsequent post.

SR520 Curves

I didn't expect to be able to post a picture showing the curviness of the SR520 bridge. Seen from another angle, there's barely a kink to the otherwise straight structure.

This is the section elevated on hollow concrete tubes having very little shear strength. It's expected to fail when subject to earthquake forces, though the WSDOT doesn't say how strong the earthquake needs to be to compromise it.

Husky Football

People seem to care about football here. These are the north stands of the University of Washington's Husky Stadium.

The UW Huskies (purple) played the Nebraska Cornhuskers (red), to a 56-21 loss. It looks like a capacity crowd.

This is a floating view, from the Lake Washington Ship Canal.


The BMW G450X motorcycle is in the "sport enduro" class, but you'd likely call it a dirt bike. Here, it has just arrived up a flight of stairs at the showroom at the BMW factory in Munich.

It looks like it would be a lot of fun on rural fire roads.

Dan Flavin's Fluorescent Masterpieces

Sometimes, modern art is fantastic.

I'm afraid that this doesn't fall into that category. It's one of at least five pieces by Dan Flavin at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. They consist entirely of consumer fluorescent tubes mounted in varying formations.

You might like them, you might be indifferent, but if given a shopping list and a napkin sketch, you could recreate any of them with a few hundred dollars and an afternoon trip to any hardware store.

Instead of that pragmatic approach, this museum arranged for everything to be packed into an impressive collection of beautifully crafted custom wooden crates. They were then insured, shipped from New York to Germany, and unpacked for careful reassembly. And of course, because European electricity is both stronger and slower than American electricity, the gallery arranged for a set of AC-DC-AC converters in order to properly power them.

It saddens me to think of how much money was wasted on this.

I'm with the Band

Consuming 1L mugs of beer at noon is socially acceptable when you're a member of an Oktoberfest band. A majestic plume of goat hair on your Tirolerhüte certainly adds credibility to the ensemble.

BMW 2002ti

The BMW 2002 was an exciting predecessor sports sedan to what is now the boring and standard 3-class. It was introduced in 1968, and the colors certainly show it!

This one is housed in the BMW Museum in suburban Munich.

Oktoberfest wares, Munich

Wreaths of hops and jars of jam in Munich must mean it's Oktoberfest time! The goose gnomes could be any time of year, but the hops leave no question.

This vendor was set up at the Viktualienmarkt, just steps from the maypole.

Surprisingly, a branch of hops manages to adorn the lively coat of arms of Tasmania.

Dampier Peninsula

Time to leave Australia!

This is a sunset view looking northwest over the Dampier Peninsula. Google's overhead view quickly matches up to what you see here. It's not as remote as some places in Australia (a 3hr 4WD track from Broome, which gets jet service from some capital cities). But it's not exactly right next door, either!

There were active bushfires burning just east of here, but a blob of fire without context makes for a less interesting picture than this sunset.