Illinois Terminal Railroad Station

The Illinois Terminal Railroad offered interurban passenger rail service until 1956, using electric locomotives.

Most of its track has been abandoned.  There are rumored to be many electric substation buildings around the state, and it would be interesting locating one to explore.

California Sea Lion

This California sea lion likes hanging around the glass to interact with visitors.  Others in the enclosure cruise by upside down, or do barrel rolls to entertain themselves.

She's a sister to the larger Steller sea lions that are more common in and around Seattle.


Although the City of Saint Louis has done much to deface Yamasaki's beautiful airport terminal, there are some improvements as well.  This simple but striking wall undergoes subtly shifting lighting, and provides a welcome distraction for those waiting for baggage to arrive.

Lake Twentytwo Circumnavigation

Another year, another trip up Lake Twentytwo.  This time, a stable snowpack allowed exploring the entire edge of the lake.  The snow was glorious.

The colors may look a bit blue, but that's really what it looked like, especially the steep face in the upper right.  This was right at the boundary of the cloud layer, and reflected sky was showing up through gaps in the clouds.

Tioga Pass

State Route 120 climbs up from Mono Lake (in the upper right) to Tioga Pass, then off to the left to Yosemite National Park.  The pass closed in November for the winter; this picture was taken mid-October.

I learned that the brakes on a new-ish rented ninth generation Chevy Impala were woefully inadequate here on a visit last year.

Safeco Field

The retractable roof of Safeco Field looms over the horizon at sunset as Interstate 90 terminates at the I5 in Seattle.  It is not uncommon to have spectacular sunsets after a completely overcast day, with the sun peeking under the cloud layer until it sets under the Olympic mountain range.

Follow this freeway (the nation's longest) 3100 miles back, and you're in Boston.

Kinder Morgan’s Vancouver Wharves

Elemental sulphur removed from Albertan oil awaits export from Kinder Morgan’s Vancouver Wharves in North Vancouver.  Perhaps 5 million tons are exported annually under the adjacent Lion's Gate Bridge; there's a similar terminal in Port Moody.

It's much easier removing it from oil than mining it directly from places like Kilauea or Ijen.

Intermountain Power Plant

The Intermountain Power Plant is a large 1900MW coal-fired power plant in Delta, Utah, curiously operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  It's a joint venture between a number of utilities in both California and Utah, and as LA is probably the largest consumer, they get to run it.

There's a modern 500kV DC power line connecting this power plant with the Calfornia market.

Although this is perhaps the 20th largest coal power plant in the US, there are 115 bigger than this in China today.

Deception Pass Dash

The Deception Pass Dash is held annually in December, a month not known for fine oceangoing weather in Puget Sound.  Indeed, this year it was windy, cold, and raining.

It's "the brainchild of evil sadistic paddlers Will Robens and Don Kiesling," and is a race at slack tide around Deception Island, before the current makes it impossible to progress through the pass.  There are seventeen classes of watercraft invited to compete.

Admiralty Head Light

The Admiralty Head Light is a stout 1903 lighthouse that overlooks Admiralty Inlet, the main shipping channel between Puget Sound and the open ocean.  It is tiny by the standards of other Pacific lighthouses, with a tower of only 30ft.

It's located in Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, and this is my first visit where the lighthouse was open for inspection.

Festive Lenin

Vlad Lenin is getting into the holiday spirit with a festive scarf, Santa hat, and an impressive headpiece of Christmas lights.

He was brought here to Freemont by a schoolteacher who mortgaged his house to save it from a Slovak scrapyard, and then had him shipped to Seattle.

Chemical Warfare Service

This is the real deal, from 1945 when the Chemical Warfare Service was busy producing both chemical and conventional weaponry for the US Army.  Fortunately, only regular incendiaries were used in combat, and the chemical weapons stayed at home.

Hopefully the vendor at this flea market is using surplus crates, and not selling real flame throwers.

Union Station

Kansas City hosts a train station completely out of proportion to current levels of passenger rail service -- Amtrak runs six trains daily through here.  It was originally served by twelve different rail companies, and in its peak year of 1945, over 600,000 passengers used this hall.

Liberty Memorial, Kansas City

There are hardly any World War I memorial structures in the United States, and many are modest civic monuments as compared to those in other countries.

An exception is Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.  It is prominently sited, beautifully constructed, and of an appropriately grand scale.  It's impressive even from the air.  The region must have been quite prosperous in the 1920s to support philanthropy of this magnitude.

The inscription across the front reads:
"These have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service. Their bodies return to dust but their work liveth evermore. Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Arthur Bryant's

Arthur Bryant's is the foremost recommendation for barbecue in Kansas City by a number of metrics: Yelp reviews, guidebooks, and Internet lore.

They'll smoke anything you bring them.  I had burnt ends and sliced pork, and they were both delicious.

Kowalski Sausage Company

Agnes and Zygmund Kowalski brought Polish sausage-making to Michigan in 1920.  The family continues to run a sausage factory in Hamtramck, and sell pierogi, kielbasa, and ham regionally.

The handsome neon sign adorning their factory on Holbrook St had a lovely glow as dusk was approaching, making me wonder what a Kowalski kielbasa tastes like.

Carbon Economy

Petroleum heads west in tank cars, while coal heads east in bathtub gondolas.  There is a vast quantity of carbon energy being moved around here.

There are perhaps 6000 megawatt-hours in the coal train, enough to keep the biggest power stations fired up for about an hour.

There is roughly 20 times that quantity of energy in the gasoline, and consequently it has a much greater commodity value.  You could travel perhaps 100,000 miles in family car with that fuel.  For comparison, I consume about a tanker car of kerosene in a typical 18 months of air travel.

Empty SR520

Eva the bald eagle must wonder where all the humans have gone.  It's 8am on a weekday, and there are all of three vehicles visible on the western highrise of the SR520 floating bridge.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and the regular parade of commuters are busy sleeping in, or cooking.

Cranberry Bog

The soggy edge of a commercial cranberry bog along the Pacific coast near Heather, WA.  The fields are built to be level, and are flooded at harvest time.  The light cranberries are quite buoyant, and are skimmed off the top of the flooded field.

Hoquiam WA Mill

Here lies the remains of a wood chipping mill, in Hoquiam WA.  The circular machine is a debarker: logs enter one end, and are rotated around in a way similar to a clothes dryer.  The drum is lined lined with a rough cutting surface, and the logs emerge denuded out the other end.  This one was mounted on many sets of vehicle tires, and driven by an electric motor.

Gray's Harbor Light Station

Gray's Harbor Light Station is a grand and solidly built lighthouse, sited in Westport WA and still beaming a modest light to aim in navigation.  The original rotating lens assembly (perhaps 4 tonnes of it, including the kerosene fuel reservoir) was mounted to float on a mercury bearing.  A clockwork mechanism driving it was powered by a weight that descended through the open tower.

The design is French (Henry LePaute), and was shipped over in pieces as the lighthouse was being built in the late 1890s.  There's a similar light mechanism in Cape Byron.

Copper Lake

Three inches of fresh snow were still falling here at the 4000ft level of Copper Lake.  Our lunch spot required traversing the outfall of the lake, which leads to a nice series of waterfalls.  I'd love to keep going some day -- the trail leads to two more lakes, but it would make for quite a long day to fit that in.

Trout Lake, 3.5 hours apart

A before (left) and after (right, flipped left-to-right) picture of Trout Lake on our weekend hike up the Foss Valley.  Three and a half hours, and a few degrees of warming, separates these pictures.

Our last visit was less successful, as late spring snow was still present and we couldn't progress to the upper lakes.


N171UA departs San Francisco for a >10 hour flight to Asia.  She's a 23 year old Boeing 747-400, and still the most attractive aircraft in the sky.

This particular aircraft had a fuel leak off the left wing three years ago.  It was noticed by a US Air Force staff sergeant flying as a passenger.  He reported it to a flight attendant "who seemed unconcerned."  He then identified himself as an air refueling boom operator, which sounds like as close as one can get to an expert in that field.  The pilot took a look and swiftly decided to divert, noting that they were trying to figure out why they were losing around 6000 lbs of fuel per hour.

Kona Coffee Cherries

Nearly ripe coffee cherries enjoy the midday sun at Greenwell Farms in Kona.  These won't be roasted for coffee, but instead will be sold for seeding new coffee plantations in Hawaii.

Kona coffee is expensive.  Labor costs in Hawaii are very high, driving a complete collapse of most commodity agricultural exports from the islands.  Sugar and pineapple exports are basically for tourists, not for the world market.  Unlike those commodities, Hawaiian coffee can command premium prices, and so supports a successful export business.

Kilauea's Caldera

Kilauea's open caldera hosts a lava lake whose level rises and falls per the whims of the mountain.  It emits plenty of SO2: on the day of our visit, its sulfur dioxide pollution (500 tonnes) was the same as a month's worth of the biggest emitter in the US (a coal-fired power station in Ohio).  It hung in the air, choked the lungs, and left a funky taste in the mouth.

Kilauea's Sulphur Vents

There are four features active in Volcano National Park:

1) a lake of lava in the active caldera
2) surface lava oozing slowly across a plain
3) groundwater that is heated to steam and vented
4) sulphur vents

This last one is pictured.  It shows volcanic gasses (plus a bit of steam from groundwater) precipitating native sulphur at the vent opening.  Unlike regular steam vents, the sulphur is evidence of a channel from here all the way down to the magma.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea offers a stunning view from 13,796ft, and is accessible via 4WD on a steep gravel road.  On our visit, the cloud layer was around 7000ft or so.

The consistent clear weather, great air quality (with low humidity), and limited light pollution lead to an excellent site for the numerous telescopes sited here.  The air is uncomfortably thin.

Feral Horse, Waipi'o Valley

There have been feral horses on the big island of Hawaii since around 1900.  They continue to populate the Waipi'o Valley, a wild and inaccessible spot offering little else economically other than taro farming. They used to be "small and hardy", but a single quarterhorse stallion joined the population, causing the herd to become larger and healthier.

As the horses aren't protected, farmers can legally shoot them if they disturb their crops.

Getty Villa

The Getty Villa in Los Angeles is the second half of the Getty Museum.  The first half is a distinctive complex of modern buildings overlooking the I405.

Both are worth a visit -- they demonstrate the beautiful architecture and art that can be put together when money is no object.  Of the two, I prefer this villa, and was pleased to spot it from the air.

Get timed tickets for entry in advance; you need only to pay for parking.

Fred's Rivertown Alehouse

Fred's Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish offers a diverse list of perhaps 120 scotches, displayed attractively above their beer taps.  My apologies for the imperfect focus; at f1.8, one would need a tilt-shift lens to get the entire plane of this wall decently sharp.

Ambiance was lively and the service friendly, though not speedy.  A number of taps were recognized from the Brew Fest earlier in the day!

Snohomish Brew Fest

We attended the 2nd iteration of the Snohomish Brew Fest.  It was hosted at the surprising locale of the Snohomish Senior Center, though the only evidence of that was a vague registration process run by someone's great grandmother.

It would be challenging to remember which beers are pictured here, so I'll instead recount the favorites of the evening: Elysian's Mens Room Original Red, Emerald City's Betty Black Lager, and Old Schoolhouse's Newschool ESB.

Seattle's Great Wheel

Seattle's Great Wheel is a Chance Rides R60, a modern 171ft Ferris Wheel on the waterfront.  It spins at 1.5 revolutions per minute, and consumes 500kW of 3-phase 480V electric power.  The ride was totally smooth, such that the motion was quite eerie.

The wheel is presently dressed subtly in the colors of Microsoft Windows.  Look at the hub, and you'll see an approximation of the Windows flag logo in LED lighting.

Tuscohatchie and Crystal Lakes

Looking directly north at about 5500ft on the eastern edge of Granite Mountain, Crystal Lake (in the foreground) and Tuscohatchie Lake (larger and further away) are both visible.  The terrain view of this area hints at its beauty.

It's unclear where the name Tuscohatchie comes from, as Google searching for the term without terms like Lake or Trail comes up empty.

Dramatic Light, Granite Mountain

Another season, another trip up Granite Mountain.  The first snowfall began this past week, and at the summit there is perhaps 8 inches already.  I spent a glorious afternoon in all kinds of clouds, sunshine, and combinations of both.

This trip benefited from traction devices attached to my regular hiking boots.  Future trips this season will require snowshoes!

Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project is a "found art" project in a Detroit slum.  It has faced an uneasy relationship with the city, and there have been two waves of mass demolitions.  Despite this, a number of artists continue to put great care and pride into maintaining and improving it.

Average home values in this census tract are listed as $22,000, but that doesn't match the current real estate listings where you can buy homes in the area for mere hundreds of dollars.

Pewabic Pottery Kiln

Pewabic Pottery is an Arts and Crafts design studio, founded in Detroit in 1903.  An artist and dental supply salesmen, without formal training, invented and perfected unique metallic glazing techniques here.  The finished product is beautiful.

Pewabic Pottery was commissioned for architectural tilework throughout Michigan.  It's now become a neighborhood where the annual household income is $12,000.  We were buzzed in by a security guard.

Scott Fountain, Belle Isle

The Scott Fountain is an expanse of marble, pottery, and bronzework on the western end of Belle Isle in Detroit.  It honors James Scott, "a loafer and a gambler," who left his $500,000 estate to the city under the condition that this fountain be built -- with a life size statue of himself overlooking it.

Controversially, the city went ahead with it.  The design included some Pewabic pottery work.

Willistead Manor, Walkerville

Being a liquor baron allows one to construct an extravagant home.  This was the home of Edward Walker, heir to Hiram, completed in 1906.

This is an uncommonly extravagant house for Windsor.  On the Detroit side, there are plenty of mansions from this era, some offered at bargain prices.  Stark differences in crime rates, demographics, and poverty explain the prices of housing only a few miles away across the river.


Sunrise over Kentucky, from a Boeing 737-500 that's been retrofitted with winglets.

The air is not nearly as clean as in other locales, and the horizon is a rosy red and orange.  Similar views over the West are a thin line of yellow topped by an expanse of blue.

Kittitas Depot, 1909

The Kittitas Depot is an attractive building overlooking the rail yards that once ran through Kittitas WA.  It has a heritage designation that notes an asbestos shingled roof among many other attractive features.

The town was incorporated in 1884 in anticipation of the Northern Pacific being built through the area.  That railroad chose a different route, but Kittitas was then able to exploit the coming of the Milwaukee Road a few years later. The railway supported a meat packing company, potato warehouses, and grain storage facilities until its abandonment in 1980.

Foss River Bridge

BNSF still uses this rail bridge, built in 1909 for Great Northern.  It crosses the Foss River, and is the last point of interest along this rail line until one reaches the Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass.  I've seen a print of a spectacular photograph catching an eastbound train crossing here at dusk after heavy snowfall.

It's made of Carnegie steel (yes, that Carnegie), likely from Homestead, PA.

Fall Colors - Huckleberries

Mount Sawyer was a riot of color this weekend, with the huckleberries at about 5200ft glowing bright red.

The amazing colors are due to transmitted light coming though the leaves, with the lens pointing almost straight into the sun.  Looking the other way, the field was much more subdued purples and browns.

Confusing Shrub-steppe Microclimate

This dry shrub-steppe region sees only 8 or 9 inches of rain annually.  On the upper banks of the rail grade you can see sagebrush and rocky soil sustaining little else.

I was riding along and wondering about the presence of willow saplings -- trees that only grow in moist conditions.  Then I saw bulrushes, and my confusion was complete when my wheels were squelching into a boggy bed of watercress.

This moist and shady microclimate was created a century ago when cutting the grade for the railway uncovered a groundwater source.  It's now a serious obstacle to through hikers and cyclists on the trail.

John Wayne Pioneer Trail

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail runs through 300mi of Washington State on what was the Milwaukee Road.  Here was a sandy section (challenging on a mountain bike) through central Washington's shrub-steppe landscape.  There's just enough rainfall to sustain sagebrush, but not enough for ponderosa pines or other trees.

Boyleston Tunnel, 1908

The Chicago, Milwaukee and Puget Sound Railway (usually just called the Milwaukee Road) passes through Yakima Training Center, a large expanse of Army-owned land next to the Columbia River in Washington.  It's now a public trail open year round to non-motorized traffic.

This is the western entrance to the Boyleston Tunnel, a well-constructed passage built in 1908 that avoids the highest part of the ridge between Ellensburg and Beverly.  Despite being a place with no buildings or residents and only one through road, Boyleston, WA is a marked point of interest on most GPS data sets and many online maps.


Giraffes are both elegant and fascinating.

Although necking might sound like a salacious after-hours activity, it's the way a male giraffe asserts dominance.  Yes, they use their necks as weapons.

Dreaming of Gazelle

I wonder what this jaguar dreams of.

Chasing gazelle?  Making baby jaguars with his (or her) cellmate at the zoo?  Finding a way through the glass, for a tasty meal of one of those unfit humans?

Cross Country Meet

A gaggle of Grade 5 girls from a number of different schools competes at a cross country meet in Lower Woodland Park.  They were running a one mile course, and looked seriously tired pulling into the finish.

NE 45th St, Sunset

Northeast 45th street follows the contours of Seattle, with the University District (and the campus' tallest building, the UW Tower) on the horizon.  Looking closely, a queue of cars eastbound down the hill is waiting to get onto Montlake.

The cause of the slowness was an inefficient diversion to allow for the weekend construction of a pedestrian bridge between the new light rail station and the university campus.