Sacramento 2023

Boots on the ground (well, sneakers) in Sacramento. I met the abundant Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), host to a wasp that induces huge apple-like galls; got reacquainted with Spotted Towhee (Pipilio maculatus); found new dragonflies, like Variegated Medowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum ); puzzled over yet another carrot family member, Bisnaga (Visnaga daucoides); and watched a small flock of songbirds that iNat and I are still sorting out.

SanchoHere’s faithful Sancho the Chevy Bolt, my rental car, taking a break in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, where I unsuccessfully sought a jinx bird who shall remain unnamed. eBird reported only a few individuals lingering in the week prior. All in all, August is rarely a good month for birding, wherever you are in the north, but this trip wasn’t just about birding.

The arboretum at the University of California, Davis was quite nice, and worth the quick trip. And the Crocker Art Museum, newly expanded since my last trip west, was a pleasant surprise. There’s some great ceramics there, and a decent collection of 20th and 21st century work. More Wayne Thiebaud than you usually get to see.

going outarriving 2arriving 1I rode the light rail out to Folsom and had a dish of ice cream in memory of Mom.

Summary statistics and other data for the trip:

  • Observations of Chris Ware in Oak Park: 0
  • El car numbers: 5030, 2621, 5374, 5471, 5483, 5195 (twice), 5573, 5291, 5435, 5198, 5286
  • Trainspotters spotted: 3
  • Zephyr Salutes (none returned) along Moon River: I lost count

A passage in Jonathan Franzen’s recent “The Problem of Nature Writing” struck a note with me:

The very presence of a piece of writing leads us to expect an argument from it, if only an implicit argument for its existence. And, if the reader isn’t also offered an explicit argument, he or she may assign one to the piece, to fill the void. I confess to having had the curmudgeonly thought, while reading an account of someone’s visit to an exotic place like Borneo, that the conclusion to be drawn from it is that the writer has superior sensitivity to nature or superior luck in getting to go to such a place. This was surely not the intended argument. But avoiding the implication of “Admire me” or “Envy me” requires more attention to one’s tone of written voice than one might guess.

Whether it’s Borneo (never been) or the Blue Ridge, it’s true that I am fortunate to have the resources to travel across the commonwealth (and sometimes the country) and to bring back a bit of documentation. And I try to remember that I’m fortunate.

I keep this blog (a) to exercise my writing muscles, (b) to occasionally demonstrate to someone else that I can string sentences together, albeit with capricious use of punctuation and conjunctions, and (c) to leave a record for myself that I can come back to. OK, every once in a while (d) I get to write about something cool that I accomplished.

I’m too old to be the object of someone’s admiration. I guess that I need to keep that in mind.

California Zephyr 2023

A few snaps aboard Amtrak train 5, the California Zephyr, from Chicago to Sacramento via Denver and Salt Lake City.

climbingClimbing the mountains along South Boulder Creek, Gilpin County, Colorado.

through the divideHaving crossed the Continental Divide via the Moffat Tunnel, we’re now following the Fraser River downhill to its confluence with the Colorado.

somewhere on the downslopeUhh, somewhere on the Colorado River, still in the state of Colorado. (I failed to save my GPS fix.)

basin and rangeAnd the next morning, having crossed Utah in the dark, here we are in Churchill County, Nevada, northeast of Reno.

Good food on both Amtrak trains (the Zephyr and the Capitol Limited). After three days you sort of get used to the bumpy ride. The Capitol Limited was 45 minutes late into Chicago (largely due to an automated systems failure at CSX); the Zephyr was two and a half hours late into Sacramento (late start due to two different cars that needed to be swapped out; amplified by an unplanned detour through the Union Pacific yards at Reno). Better than I expected!

Chicagoland architecture 2023

I assembled a three-legged trip for this year’s birthday excursion, stopping in Chicago to see my long-missed friend Janet in Chicago, and then on to Sacramento for a memorial service for Mom, hanging out with my cousin and her family, and exploring a few natural areas.

In Chicago, I stayed in the amenable Hotel Blake, one of the Loop hotels that has been repurposed from (usually historic) office buildings. My architecture focus was on older buildings—I love me some International Style and Brutalism, but Chicago’s earlier buildings are something extra special.

I took a lovely guided/audio tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park and a sampling of his houses on Forest Avenue.

finally processed throughAlso a quick run up to Evanston to make sure all of the buildings I remember are still there (true, with one exception), taking a walk with Alice in the development office. The Weber Arch post-dates me, so this was my opportunity to make a procession of one through it.

monadnock 1My target building in the Loop was the Monadnock Block. I fell in lurve with this structure when I saw photos of it for an art history course, but to the best of my recollection, this is the first time that I’ve seen it in the stone. It’s just inside the El’s Loop, as you can see from the structures in the foreground.

white hatStreet level businesses are hanging on, including a sandwich shop and a rather smart bistro.

exit stairsstone towerGotta snap the fire escapes. And, oh, those delicious Chicago bay windows.

here we arereliance towerNoted in my AIA guide was the Reliance Building, now a Staypineapple hotel.

don't fall outAccording to Janet, some people back in the day found the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows a bit vertiginous.

permanentSome street furniture: engraved street name signs for Michigan Avenue at Van Buren Street,

nouveau 1nouveau 2and a cheeky Art Nouveau station entrance marker for Metra.

and other jobsThe Hotel Blake is south of Ida B. Wells Drive, in the semi-revived neighborhood of Printers’ Row.

clock tower completeclock tower topThe end of Dearborn Street is anchored by the old Dearborn Station. No more trains, and not much else happening in this building, alas.

semi-intentional selfieWe looked through my Flickr feed during Japanese class (“what did you do on vacation?” prompts). My classmate Kathy remarked, “There are no pictures of people.” So here’s a picture of me, just for Kathy.

nice backgroundI enjoyed a little time in Millennium Park, but I gravitated to old school Grant Park (to honor those who marched) and Buckingham Fountain. Nice shiny-shiny towers in the background.