My Travel Map

My Travel Map

31 January 2016

Bodie, California

For any of you that like Country Westerns... this is a post (and destination) for you: Bodie Ghost Town.   And here is a challenge for you too: if I've truly done my photography job well, then this should be a true ghost town experience (if you find any people in these pictures, please let me know!).

Welcome to the town of Bodie, Mono County, California, USA.

The town as seen from a distance; it's just like you've traveled back in time.  The site is well preserved, and there is nothing of modern civilization in the visible vicinity... even the parking lot is far off, allowing for perfect picture opportunities of a town lost to time.

Bodie was first and foremost a mining town...  and the pockmark scars all over the surrounding hills are a telltale sign of this history.  Bodie was a product of the famed California Gold Rush of the late 1800s, but it endured into the mid 20th century.  And by the end of World War II, Bodie was essentially abandoned.

Speaking of abandonment, it seems like it may have been a bit of a lonely life out there...  and the climate wasn't very helpful in that aspect.  During the warmer months of the year, Bodie is basically a high altitude desert.  During the colder months, it is a cold and snowy wasteland.  Actually, it is cold year round: Bodie competes with Barrow, Alaska for most nights below freezing out of the year.  Yea, you heard that right, a town in California competes with Alaska for total number of cold nights.  Add to that frequent likelihood of hurricane force winds, and you have yourself a pretty ugly place for humans to settle down.  Oh the things we will do for gold.

Wandering around, you really do feel as if you're in an old western.  It's almost as if you should be riding a horse and wearing a six shooter Smith and Wesson on your hip.

Bodie was a mining boom town during the late 1870s.  By 1880, Bodie was at its peak, with a population of thousands and a thriving red light district and opium dens in its very own Chinatown.  Within only a few years however, the hills had been mostly tapped of their gold, and the long and slow decline of Bodie started.

The level of preservation is quite incredible... nothing feels like a ruin really; it's more like something that was abruptly abandoned en masse.  It would be nice if more historic sites had this feel about them, but I'm sure that has a lot to do with how long Bodie has been uninhabited: less than 80 years.

The old miners union hall has been turned into a museum where a lot of the smaller, everyday life artifacts are left.  This showcase focused on the lives of miners.

The town itself has all of the basic features of a typical town...

First of all: houses and living.  The houses seem to be sprinkled here and there around town, with some of the obviously more wealthy establishments located higher up the hill and across the valley from the mine, allowing fine views over the town center and being far enough from the mine to not be bothered by some of the loud noise that surely would have emanated from it in operation.  Some of the shabbier dwellings over by the mine seemed to be a lot less spacious and definitely not as well constructed (no picture perfect front porches on those for sure).

Inside one of the nicer homes.  Like I said, there was a lot more space in these places compared to the ones below closer to the mine.  This was probably the house of a local politician, banker, or manager, while the other houses were likely those of the miners, teachers, and small business owners. Typical white-collar vs. blue-collar... nothing ever really changes.  Anyway, the cast iron furnace here would have been key to living in Bodie; with such cold temperatures, I'm sure many would have huddled around those furnaces wrapped in blankets during the colder days and nights.

I just loved the old school house.  These maps were amazing, especially the Europe one that was up front... this map was from pre-WWII, and that was incredibly clear.  For example, Libya was labeled Tripolitania, Ukraine and Belarus were lumped in with Russia, from what I can tell, there is no Croatia or Slovenia labeled, and the borders of Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Poland, and Germany are all quite different than their modern incarnations.  I really love maps.  Anyway, looking into the old school house, it is easy to imagine the youth of Bodie sitting and learning their multiplication tables and world geography and verb conjugation from their overworked and probably harshly strict and disciplined teacher.

Bodie's gas station... which was apparently operated by Shell.  Note the bullet holes in the sign too, let alone the fact that it was obviously hand painted.   And check out those pumps too... amazing.  The beautiful old truck (apparently a Dodge Graham) pulled up to it is a nice touch too.

Bodie even had its own version of the modern coffee shop in the general store.

Back in the museum at the old miner's union hall, Bodie shows why it really is any history enthusiast's dream.

There are plenty of random artifacts scattered around outside too, like this old stove.

This area had a bunch of old working tools... I wonder how this compares to older archaeological sites.  I'm guessing that archaeologists often find artifacts grouped by type like this, whether they be tools like this outside of a workshop or weapons around an old barracks.

This old truck just fit in so well out there.  Supposedly, it's a 1937 Chevy coupe.

As with pretty much any American town, there was of course a church.  This is a Methodist church.

A view inside the church... check out the little organ.  I'm not really getting the phrase above the altar... praise is waiting for God in Zion???

Also standard in any American town, the bar.  Why it has a cow bone on the bar, I don't know.  I'm sure this place witnessed some interesting characters and events.

The bar was also home to the town's post office.  I guess that shows you how important the local watering hole was to the town residents.

Bodie even had a gym, which also served beer.

This town is really incredible.

And a portrait of the artist.. I think the only person in this post.

And just a couple shots from Alabama Hills, where we stopped for the night on the drive up.

23 January 2016

Portland, Oregon

It has been said that "The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland..." where "young people go to retire."  If you haven't got this reference yet... check this great clip from Portlandia out before reading this post.  Honestly though, I had heard many, many legitimately good things about Portland, all of which seemed to appeal to me quite a bit.  I'd been looking forward to getting there for a long time, and I finally got the chance in November 2014.  So here is the story of my brief but very enjoyable trip to that quirky city in the Pacific Northwest.

My first stop in Portland wasn't a food market... it was a book store.  Powell's Books has been in business since the early 70s, providing Portlanders with an incredible selection of books for their reference and reading pleasure.   The store is amazing and, for me at least, truly dangerous for the bank account.  They have a great variety of genres and options, including many rare editions and difficult to find hardcovers, all over multiple stories of floor to ceiling book stacks.  It is a glorious place for any true bibliophile!

Now, onto my second stop: beer.  Portland boasts a whopping 58 breweries within the city limits and 83 total within the metro area.  Add to that the fact that Oregon itself is a microbrewery Mecca, and you have Heaven for any beer lover.   Needless to say, I spent a good portion of my days there sampling what I could and visiting the various brewery tap rooms.

Portland certainly has an enlightened beer culture.  With so many breweries, competition is fierce, and many brewers have developed their own special niche in the market.  For example, Cascade, which specializes in sour ales.  I am a HUGE fan of sour beers... and the trip to Cascade's tap room was one of the highlights of my visit.  In particular, their kriek ale (sour cherry) was stellar.

Then there is this awesome whiskey bar too... they do things right in Portland.  You can't argue with a library of whiskeys from all over the world, and the sliding ladder system required to reach those on the top shelves, There is also the perfectly comfy lounge-style bar they have set up with leather chairs and couches and dim lamp light.  Great place to stop in for a tipple.

OK... ignoring the gentleman's lounge seen on the right half of this picture (this is in the heart of downtown, Portland truly has no shame), Portland also boasts some great food.  One of the things I appreciated most were all the food trucks and street food options all around downtown.  This area over by Chez Dodo (Mauritian food, no kidding) had a whole string of semi-permanent street carts set up.  It was glorious.

But the demand for great food doesn't stop out on the street... Portland's restaurants are also some of the tastiest in the country.  My favorite was this place, Frank's Noodle House, which offers up a variety of pan-Asian noodle dishes using only homemade noodles and authentic ingredients.  This was most definitely the tastiest place I ate in the city.  It was so good, I ended up going back twice!  Some other places that I really enjoyed were Lardo, for those that love that anything from the most delicious of animals: the pig, and Racion, offering up some great Spanish style tapas.  The nice thing about the restaurants was the clear demand for fresh, local, in season ingredients.   There are many farm-to-table places around the city too. 

Apparently the doughnuts and coffee around town are really good too... though I'm not a huge fan of either so I didn't sample.  A few of the people I was with though highly recommended this place, Voodoo Doughnut for both coffee and those sweet, fried rings of dough.

Two more things can most definitely be said about Portland: 1) it is super bike friendly; 2) it is super rainy.

Portland also has a highly visible community of homeless and drug users.  This adds quite the gritty and somewhat uncomfortable (concerning the drug users really) edge to the city...  This homeless camp, run by the Right to Dream Too nonprofit on private land, is one of the more hopeful sights concerning those poor souls who go night after night without permanent shelter.

Nothing much to say here... I just really liked these train pictures taken while wandering across one of the bridges over the river.

This shot seemed so ruggedly patriotic somehow...

And just a few blocks away from that exemplary picture of American strength: Portland also has a relatively good sized Chinatown... and you definitely don't see that flag flying over too many places in the US either.

Adding to the quirkiness of the place is this cool mix of architecture around town, from the newer condos down by the river to the old 20s era stone monumentals to the glass and steel modern skyscrapers.

This old bank building was just awesome, but I must admit that I was surprised there wasn't a homeless guy camped out in front of this place.

17 January 2016

Rhodes - Part II: Around the Island

Rhodes is a big island, which means there is plenty on offer beyond the ancient city of the same name.  I was on Rhodes for a meeting, and thus, didn't get a tremendous amount of time to explore.  However, I did get a couple days to check out a few places on the island, and this post will be devoted to those.

OK, the first thing you need to figure out is how exactly you are going to get around the island.  There is a bus service that covers the main roads and towns, but that isn't so fun.  I'd personally recommend renting a car, scooter, or (as I did... yep this is a picture of my ride) ATV.  With your own transportation, you will be rewarded, particularly if you venture into the middle of the island, with its beautiful forests and charming, pleasant, and perfectly peaceful little villages.

First stop, Faliraki for its perfect little cove, rock jumping, and snorkeling.  This gem has a beautiful shallow cove, perfect for snorkeling.  There is a fee to get in, since the place is partially developed.  That isn't all bad though, since there is a lounge area and a bar with food.  Though you can easily get away from that too if you want to be somewhere more natural.  It's a cool spot and the water is just beautiful there.

Outside of the city, Rhodes (which is a big island) is much more relaxed and a hell of a lot less touristy.

Around the northward side of the island, you'll often see plenty of people kiteboarding and wind surfing.  As in much of the Aegean during the summer months, there are steady and strong north winds that fuel the adrenaline of these water-sports enthusiasts.  These kiteboarders really can pick up a lot of speed from those big kites, and it is impressive to see just how much air they can get jumping those waves.

Rhodes used to be a big spot for the sponge trade.  Now, they seem to be mostly novelty souvenirs.

Next stop: the beautiful town of Lindos and its spectacular acropolis.

Lindos has nice natural harbors on either side of the main peninsula upon which the town sits.  Being on the southern side of the island, it also has very calm seas and clear water.

The town is a wonderful example of a labyrinthine and organic medieval layout and classic Greek island white washed buildings.

I mentioned these wreaths in the first post on Rhodes; these things were even more prevalent around Lindos.

Lindos seems like a perfect place to lose yourself in for a week or so if you feel like a relaxing break in a sleepy little town.

There is some beautiful architecture around town too.  Lindos has been held and fortified by each of Rhodes ruling powers since the ancient Greeks more than 2500 years ago.

The even better natural harbor on the other side of the peninsula.  This thing is crazy... there is a narrow gap in the seaward row of rocks that is just perfect to allow smaller boats to get through.  The water in there is crystal clear too.  It's a beautiful little harbor.

Now, onto Lindos' acropolis.  This fortified temple and complex dates back to ~300 BCE or so.  Like the more famous Athenian acropolis, this citadel was built upon a natural rocky formation, providing a highly defendable location with only limited and challenging access to the top.  This feature has not gone unnoticed by conquering and occupational forces throughout the centuries... the glass windows at the top are evidence of that.  This citadel has been used right up into the Ottoman period.

This Rhodian trireme relief, seen beside the staircase on the climb to the top,  dates to 180 BCE.  Not too bad, eh?

At the top, one finds the complex itself, which is an active archaeological site and in the process of being restored.

I'm always amazed by stone archways and arcades that are still standing after centuries and more.

Restoration of archaeological sites... are they good or bad?  Should we leave ruins as they are or restore them to give visitors a better picture of the original structure?  I think restorations can be a good thing if done true to the original in both style and manufacturing techniques.

Lindos' Doric temple, at the top of the acropolis certainly is an atmospheric place.

I was lucky to be up there around sunset... everything was just glowing in golden light.

And the views from the top were just stunning.

This picture really showcases how restorations can make something special again out of what must have been mostly a pile of weathering rocks in the pre-restoration ruin.

If I ever go back to Rhodes, I will be sure to spend at least a couple full days relaxing in Lindos.  It is a beautiful, peaceful, and quite idyllic little town.