Saturday, March 26, 2016

South! by Ernest Shackleton

Reading the science fiction book Seveneves by Neal Stephenson led me to the Ernest Shackleton Antarctic narrative called Endurance by Alfred Lansing. After reading this third person account researched and written in 1959 I went online and found Shackleton's account that was published in 1919 due to delays caused by the last years of World War I.

The North and South Poles had already been reached, so Sir Ernest Shackleton proposed the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition crossing the Antarctic continent 1800 miles from the ice-encrusted shore of the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea.

Endurance covered the voyage to Antarctica, crossing the ice after the ship was crushed, the survival saga on Elephant Island, Shackleton's epic sail to South Georgia Island, and the rescue. South! went beyond that to include more of Shackleton's thoughts and views, and what happened to the Ross Sea contingent which was placing depots of food and supplies for trans-continental trekking party.

I'm glad I read Endurance first because it gave me a broader overview because it was based on multiple diaries and accounts from participants. Shackleton's South! was more focused because it was based primarily on Shackleton's own records and reflections.

South! is available at in Kindle and print formats.

Here's some more information about the Shackleton voyage:

The Project Gutenberg online South! e-book (with more pictures)
The Endurance Obituaries by John F. Mann
Antarctica: Elephant Island by Hoosier Tim's Travel Videos (YouTube)
The Shackleton Crossing of South Georgia by Jake Norton (YouTube)
Map of Shackleton's Expedition by The Salaria Book Company

Have you read or seen movies about extreme survival? What are some of your recommendations? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Boulevard Park in Bellingham, WA

It can be easily missed if you are driving too fast, so slow down and take tiny Bayview Street down the bluff from State Street in Bellingham, and discover the hidden gem Boulevard Park. It's a long strip of grass covered foreshore with walking and biking trails along Bellingham Bay.

At the south end of the park, the shoreline trail continues over water on a boardwalk. This connects to Historic Fairhaven with its quaint shops and restaurants.

The walkway is a great spot for walking, biking, sitting to watch the ever changing waters of the bay, fantastic sunsets, and even crabbing I've heard.

There are even plans to connect the north end of the park to downtown Bellingham's new waterfront redevelopment with a similar over-water walkway in the future.

On this trip to Boulevard Park I met a fellow blogger JoAnn from Scene Through My Eyes at Woods Coffee. This popular coffee spot is within the park and has great views of Bellingham Bay. On cold days, come inside and snuggle up near the fire. On fine days, the outdoor patio is the best. -- Margy

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Arizona State University Women's Softball

Sparky, the Sun Devils mascot.
We left the world of baseball for its cousin softball. If you've followed my blog you probably know that we are University of Southern California. Surprisingly, USC doesn't have a women's fastpitch softball team. That leaves us as free agents to cheer for other teams in the Pac-12 college conference.

When we're in the Phoenix area, that's the Arizona State University Sun Devils. We planned our trip for a tournament between ASU and their archrivals, the Wildcats from the University of Arizona down in Tucson. This is a suncation that just keeps on giving!

Fastpitch has some unique aspects. First, the pitch is typically thrown using an over-the-head windmill motion. Using this style, female pitchers can throw balls at about 65 mph, pretty impressive. The bright yellow ball is larger with a 12" circumference vs. a baseball with a 9.25" circumference, and despite the name, they are not soft. There are nine players on the field as in baseball, but games only last seven innings (unless there is overtime). And another major difference is there is no "leading off" the bases.

Good seats along the first baseline behind the UA dugout.

Usually, tickets are easy to get and reasonable in price, but seats for a series between these rivals go quick. Wayne bought our great seats way ahead from a season ticket reseller.

The scores from the three games were: 0-2, 4-5, and 3-2. That made the University of Arizona the overall winner of the series. With our free agent status, we clapped for the underdog, cat or devil. A good play is a good play. Next year the tournament will be at U of A, so we can spread the cheer out evenly.

A warm day turns into a cool evening at the game.

There aren't many professional opportunities for women softball players after they graduate from college. There is the National Pro Fastpitch league with six teams, primarily located in Texas, the east and mid-west.

We learned that our good friend Margaret in Powell River played softball when she was young. He position was third base, and protecting her body from a line drive with her non-glove hand really did a lot of damage. I think of her as I watch the young college players giving the game their all. -- Margy

Friday, March 18, 2016

Luke Air Force Base, Arizona

Fellow aviation enthusiasts.
What does a retired Air Force officer do when he has a spare day during a Baseball Spring Training vacation? Go watch airplanes, of course.

On our "day off" after a few hours soaking up the rays at the pool, we got in our rental car and drove over to Luke Air Force Base near Glendale. Using our trusty iPad GPS and Google map we searched for a good viewing spot to watch takeoffs and landings.

We found a place with other airplane enthusiasts near the approach end of Runway 3. From there we could see landings better than takeoffs, but that was fine with us.

A fighter jet on final approach for Runway 3 at Luke Air Force Base.

Along the side of the road, we could hear the jets approaching from a long ways away.

F-16s and F-35s flew in formation, breaking overhead before landing.

 Luke is a fighter training base. To me, they already looked proficient.

An F-35 overhead on final approach.

Then an unexpected surprise. What appeared to be Air Force Two landed in front of us. I wonder who was on board. Air Force Two is designated for the Vice President, but sometimes the First Lady, Secretary of State, and other high ranking elected officials. It's military designation is a Boeing C-32. It's commercial designation is a Boeing 757.

Air Force Two landing at Luke on 3/15/16
You hear a lot of rhetoric these days during campaign speeches that the United States is no longer a great nation. I challenge you to visit a place like Luke Air Force Base to see, hear, and feel our strength and courage. It sure helped me in these trying times. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cactus League Baseball Spring Training

It's March, time for Cactus League Baseball Spring Training in Arizona. This is our third year, and we've looked forward to it very much.

In addition to great baseball at reasonable prices, there's sunshine. Our British Columbian skins have turned pretty pale, so a dose of natural Vitamin D is very welcome.

Two airlines can get us here from Bellingham, Washington. Allegiant has a non-stop flight to Mesa, Arizona. Alaska Airlines has a flight to Phoenix, but it requires a transfer in Seattle. This time we used Alaska with our mileage plan discount.

The Mariners and Padres share the Peoria Stadium.
The Cactus League includes fifteen major league baseball teams.

They include the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. 

A night game under the light.
Each team has their own or a shared stadium for the season in the greater Phoenix region. Games are at 1:05 pm daily through early April. In addition, there are a few night games.

Prices vary by stadium, but general admission to the grass outfield berm is usually $10 and seats behind home plate go for around $35. That's a huge difference from regular league play tickets.

We are Mariners fans, so we went to several games at their home field in Peoria and one away game vs the Oakland Atheletics. Speaking of the Athletics, have you seen Moneyball? It tells the story of the general manager building his team and how the game is played.

We got a room at the La Quinta Inns and Suites across the street. It's within walking distance to stores, restaurants and, of course, the stadium. Rooms with free breakfast, Internet, and parking are $199 even in this prime season, and less with senior or AAA discounts. A fridge and microwave allowed us to easily use our mobile meal kit for three dinners.

For the fourth, we returned to the Texas Roadhouse across the street. Lots of good food at the happy hour price of $8.99! But a whole meal is hard to eat after sharing an enormous Cactus Blossom fried onion. Yum!

Baseball Spring Training is only the start of our Arizona trip. Next comes women's softball at Arizona State University in Tempe. Stay tuned. -- Margy

Friday, March 11, 2016

Daffodils in Skagit Valley

This week we got to mix two things we love -- flying and flowers.

997 wings over the fertile Skagit Valley in Washington.

Skies were overcast and gray, but farm fields were green and the daffodils bright yellow.

Skagit Valley in northwestern Washington State is well known for their tulip farms. But before those multi-coloured tulips arrive, bright yellow daffodils reign. The flowers are grown for their bulbs rather than their blooms, but while the bulbs mature beneath the rich soil of the Skagit River delta, locals and visitors get to enjoy the flowers in all their glory.

Have you ever been to a flower growing region? Isn't it great fun to see whole fields lined with blooms? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Low Tide, Clouds, and Sunset on Bellingham Bay

Low tide, low clouds, and sunset have been coming all together. I hurried down to the small park on Marine Drive to get some sunset shots.

This park is near the intersection of Marine Drive and Alderwood Avenue. It 's a popular spot to read, relax, catch the nearby trail for shoreline walks ...

... and of course, watch sunsets. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Laser Sailboats in Squalicum Harbor

I was walking the docks in Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham and saw a whole rack full of Laser sailboats. A Laser is a small sailing dinghy usually handled by one person. They are popular for day sailing and racing. In their storage rack, the colourful hulls make a pretty sight against the blue sky and puffy clouds.

These Laser sailboats belong to the Bellingham Yacht Club. I wonder when they get to leave the rack and go for a sail? -- Margy