Tweaking Tuesday: A Guest Appearance

It’s very rare for me to post a photo that’s not an original, but there are times when it seems appropriate. My blogging buddy Liz down in the South Island posted a photo (of her Nigel’s) on her site (here) back on December 3rd featuring what she called a “toast cloud.” She said that she’d not seen a cloud like this before, and neither had I. I was intrigued asked them if I could play with it a bit, and she and Nigel were happy to let me. She liked my result and kindly suggested that I offer it in a post of my own. So here ya go.

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Webnesday (65)

Two days ago I found that an old piece of childrens’ furniture that we keep in the back yard for the grandkids had suffered a fractured leg joint. After I’d taken it into my shed for repair, this large (body length 1.5 cm/0.6 inch) male bronze jumping spider boldly strutted into view from one of its crevices and asked for a portrait. We have several marigolds blooming in our vegetable garden, and this one seemed well-suited for the session. He was quite willing to spend enough time on it for me to get this shot before he jumped onto my hand, climbed my arm, and disappeared around to my back. Luckily, Squiddy was close at hand and able to help me put him right back where he’d come from in the garden.

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Nebulous Noteables: Lenticular and Lovely

I have just recently returned from a week’s excursion to the Taupo district for a week of companionship and fun with some fellow members of the North Shore Fly Fishers. I am a devoted advocate of the philosophy that the fishing is always good, regardless of the catching, as it’s all about making the time to be in a place that’s wild and clean and home to wonderful and wild creatures. We had a full spectrum of weather, from near-gale winds and rain to idyllic clear and calm spells. Lake Otamangakau (Oh-tah-mahng-AH-kow), which was our daily companion, is within sight of the three peaks in the National Park, and when the wind wafts over them, lenticular clouds downwind are a fairly common result. And, if you look closely, that whitish patch on the side of Mount Tongariro, in the lower-right third of the image, is steam escaping (constantly) from a live volcanic vent.

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Thanksgiving, With 2020 Vision

It has surely been quite a remarkable  year and, in spite of a plethora of unexpected challenges along the way, well beyond our control, we still have so much to be thankful for. For the first time in nearly 40 years we were unable to spend our accustomed northern-hemisphere summer in the northern hemisphere; instead we stayed here in the southern one through the full New Zealand winter for the first time. Still, we are maintaining our traditions, and CD and I hosted a full-family feast. We combine Thanksgiving and Christmas into what we call Thanksmas. I get along very well with the local butcher, and he is able to procure a 4.5 kg (12.1 lb.) free-range turkey for us with about a week’s notice, and the one we had this year was the best ever. I spatchcocked (butterflied) it and grilled it on my Weber, and it was magnificent. Apart from the traditional time at our lake cabin in northern Minnesota, two other things that I’m missing on this occasion are the “wild” band of local turkeys that used to prowl our neighborhood when we lived in Nebraska and the magical and mystical migration of Canada geese. They would soar overhead in their chevron formations and their haunting calls would drift down, as dear to us as those of the loons on the lake outside our cabin. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are concentrating on—and giving full thanks for—all of the many blessings that are yours.

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Family Flashbacks (16): The CRT: The Home Stretch

Well, we’ve come a long way on my flashback report from our California road trip (CRT) six years ago. This date found us on our next-to-last day as we drove on the Interstate-80 highway from Elko, Nevada to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was quite cold in Elko, a couple of degrees below freezing, with a dusting of new snow. We made no photo stops along the way, but I did make some hand-held shots from the moving car while CD was driving, and I also had a GoPro camera suction-cupped to the inside of the windshield and we turned the video on at the more interesting sections of country that we encountered along the way; I subsequently went through them all and harvested these single images from the sequences. We arrived in Cheyenne at 8:30 pm, having driven for 12½ hours and logging 667 miles (1,073 km), setting a new record for our trip. On the last day we smelled the barn and put the pedal to the metal and in seven hours drove the final 495 miles (797 km) across the rest of Wyoming and the whole width of Nebraska back to our Omaha home. Over the course of the past 18 days we had logged a grand total of 4,980 miles (8.015 km). And here ends my retro report. Thanks for coming along with us for this virtual ride!

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Iris Interlude

We are nearly at the end of my recalling our California road trip from six years ago, but not much very exciting or worth reporting happened on this day, when we drove the 506 miles (814 km) from San Francisco to Elko, Nevada. I’ll have a few images from the next leg of the journey tomorrow, but for now I’d like to take a break and bring you one of the new iris that are just starting to bloom in our garden, with the start of summer only a week away.

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Family Flashbacks (15): And So…SFO

That Saturday the 22nd provided an all-day exploration of San Francisco. We had spent the night in the very quaint and funky San Remo Hotel and we walked one street over to Taylor Street for breakfast in Pam’s Café, then caught the tram right outside. We rode up Taylor Street and through the intersection with Lombard Street, famous for its particularly steep neighborhood and the many switchbacks in the street to allow reasonable control of the cars that people drive on it. Then we went on to the Xanadu Gallery, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, lunched in Chinatown, and visited the City Lights Bookstore before taking the tram back to our starting point. For dinner we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and dined at the Pier Market Café, an old favorite of mine. Yum!

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Family Flashbacks (14): A Bird, A Breach, & A Beach

Continuing my flashback California road trip report, on this date we gladly put the Artichoke Inn in our rear-view mirror, breakfasted again in the Moss Landing Café (no artichokes), and drove to a nearby departure point for Sanctuary Whale Watch Cruises, which we had researched well in advance. For the next two-and-a-half hours we cruised around Monterey Bay out to five miles or so from shore. It was a wonderfully calm morning with just a few gentle swells, but there was initially quite a bit of fog that greatly reduced our visibility across the water. Eventually it lifted, gradually and sporadically, and gave us better views. During our cruise we were able to see perhaps a dozen humpback whales, but it was a real challenge to try to be ready for their brief appearances, which could be anywhere. We glimpsed several breaches, but only one is worth sharing, and the whale was about a half-mile away. It was far easier to capture the beautiful disappearing tails of the few whales that surfaced closer to our quiet craft, and our encounters were topped when a pair of them did a perfect pas de deux for us. Full of excitement after our adventure at sea, we continued our journey up the coast to San Francisco. We made two more stops along the way, one in which Squiddy and I went for a leg-stretching walk into Pescadero River Park. We stayed until the light faded and then lingered a bit longer to see what the sunset over the Pacific would offer us; CD and Squiddy went down closer to the beach, while I skirted the dune foliage, looking for suitable foreground elements to include in my photos. Our second stop was for dinner in Half-Moon Bay, which turned out to be a rather posh community, and the only suitable restaurant that we found was a rather fancy Italian one. The food was just fine, but we were dressed pretty casually and, although they pretended to try to make us feel welcome, it was quite clear that they would prefer that we eat as fast as possible and leave again. Our (modest) meal tipped the scales at $150. Yikes!

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Family Flashbacks (13): Yes, Sur!

Squiddy had one more day of work at the lab, so we were up early again. This time we went to the Moss Landing Café for breakfast, a funky spot that we immediately liked, full of locals. I had a Denver omelette with squid and CD had cod fillets with eggs, then we dropped Squiddy off and headed down the coast to legendary Big Sur, which I’d never visited before. We followed the coastal road as far as Lucia. I was mostly at the wheel this time, as CD was still wary after her harrowing negotiation of the road from Fort Bragg to San Francisco. But this drive was nowhere near as precipitous and there were guard rails in place at each outside curve, so that one didn’t feel that stomach lurch that comes when there’s a sudden frightening drop that could prove disastrous with a moment’s lack of concentration. When we reached Point Lobos it started to rain, so we drove back to our motel in Castroville to pack for the drive back to San Francisco. And tomorrow: Whales!

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Family Flashbacks (12): Feathers, Fur, and Fins

Continuing the saga of our Califionia road trip exactly six years ago, Squiddy had to be on the job at 8, so we were up in time to have a nice breakfast with her. We went, of course, to the Big Artichoke restaurant in Castroville and sampled several kinds of their specialty omelettes which seemed, to our surprise, actually to have more artichokes than eggs. CD and I had the rest of the day free and decided to check out a sign we’d seen for a cruise in the nearby Elkhorn Slough. We spent the next hour and a half in serenity in a nearly-silent electric boat, gliding past sea lions, royal terns, brown pelicans, sandpipers, curlews and—several of my very favorite animals to watch whenever I get the chance—sea otters! We picked Squiddy up again a little after 1 pm and drove south to Monterey for our long-anticipated visit to the fabulous Monterey Bay Aquarium, thanks to whose Research Institute she had been able to spend a very productive—and, for me, a very enviable—week at sea. I made more than 500 photos on this day and bring you here just my very favorites.

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