Bonneville Dam


After Medford and Crater Lake we continued north to Portland. Actually we blew through—or whatever the equivalent of that is which reflects getting stuck in traffic between 2:30 and 4:30—and went to Vancouver for another couple of nights. Based on the traffic experience we decided against heading back into Portland.

Instead we took a daytrip out to Bonneville Dam. It was wonderful to see the Columbia River Gorge—especially in light of the recent fires—and the dam itself is pretty interesting. First, tons of Ospreys hovering around is pretty spectacular to watch. Also, the displays about all the flood control, hydroelectric, and shipping channel improvements on the river are pretty interesting. I’m used to dams being for drinking water supply and storage purposes but these are different. I had to go and pull up some Carleton Watkins photos later so I could see what the river looked like back when it was all rapids.

And there’s a fish ladder with viewing windows which, in addition to allowing the rangers to count the fish going upstream, was also a lot of fun for the boys to watch while they filled out another junior ranger activity guide.


Crater Lake


After lunch in Redding we arrived in Medford. We spent a few nights there and took the opportunity to visit Crater Lake. Our timing was pretty good in that we managed to sneak in after one batch of fires had been contained but before the next batch erupted.

The lake, despite all the haze from the still smoldering fires, is still breathtaking. The water is an unbelievable blue color and the sheer cliffs of the caldera provide a certain giddy thrill to looking out, over, and down upon the lake. Driving around, with the absence of any guard rails along the road, is also an experience.

This was the boy’s first national park and their first opportunity to become junior rangers. They enjoyed the activities and learning about other elements in the park besides just the obvious spectacle of the lake.


Sundial Bridge

We ended our summer by taking a massive road trip to Boise to see the eclipse. The boys are old enough to handle the car trip and we figured we should take the opportunity to stop at some cool places along the way.

The first leg of the trip was going from the Bay Area to Medford. We stopped in Redding for lunch because I figured the Sundial Bridge would be of interest. I haven’t seen it since 2009. It’s not aged particularly well. Still pretty neat but it’s getting kind of grungy in places where—and underneath where—the birds have decided to nest  or where the the water drains.


Hearst Castle


Since Highway 1 was closed at Big Sur we couldn’t make the drive up the Central Coast. Instead we used Morro Bay as a base/hub for driving up 1 and then coming back.

Our main stop was Hearst Castle—another place I hadn’t been to since I was in 4th grade. We just did the standard tour since it was kind of our first time and we felt that seeing the main rooms and getting the official introduction made the most sense. The quality of the tour seems to depend a lot on the guide, thankfully Carson, our guide, was great. Just the right level of detail into how things were collected and manufactured while maintaining the humor and interest that’s naturally part of the celebrity nature of the place.

Against my expectations I really liked it. Heart Castle hits a lot of art stuff I’m typically allergic to. Rich collectors with a collection which is branded by the collectors’ names. Collections displayed as per the collector’s wishes yet masquerading as a museum. Mixing and matching things from all to create a generic sense of culture. But it works here.

This is partly because Hearst’s collecting is very much specific to his taste and doesn’t look like anything else I’ve seen. Especially his fascination with ceilings and choir lofts and the way that he reuses and repurposes them. That the lofts become wainscotting or panelling and the ceilings are reengineered so they both fit rooms and have the structural strength to support chandeliers turns everything into something new.

Hearst uses his collection so rather than being museum pieces for display only, they have an additional life with how they functioned in the castle. Wonderful furniture pieces are repurposed as storage for cigarettes or condiments and while the new function is different, the object has a different life to it. Even the “fakery” works. It’s not exactly making replicas or faking the original objects but rather creating brand new things out of the replicas.

Nothing’s trying to be “authentic.” It’s all just raw material to be remixed into something new and inspired by the originals. This is fun to see and it’s enjoyable to see it as a result of raiding Europe for a change.

A lot of times—specifically with orientalism and primitivism—we see artwork or ideas get raided from non-white countries and turned into Western, “high” art which conjures up an all-look-same myth about the non-Western source cultures. In situations where the audience doesn’t know better that appropriation is indeed something I’m allergic to. Here though, where we know the cultures that are being sampled, the appropriation and remixing is actually fun to see and, rather than being annoyed at the lack of context, I can enjoy seeing the shoe be on the other foot.


But we also drove a bit further and checked out some of the coast. And took a walk to see the Elephant Seals.


Morro Bay


We really liked Morro Bay. Since there’s no proper beach, the town, while full of motels for tourists, didn’t feel touristy. Very very different than Santa Barbara. Instead it was small and sleepy with a working fishing industry and a ton of other animals in the bay taking advantage of the seafood as well. We got to eat at small fish restaurants where the proprietor knows the fishermen bringing in the good. It reminded us of how cool Santa Cruz and Monterey used to be with their small funky shops and weird rabbit warren malls before all the chains moved in.


Santa Barbara


We were spending our weekend in Morro Bay but on the way there from Northridge we stopped off in Santa Barbara. I’d not made it this far south during my 4th Grade California Mission trip (we only gone as far south as San Luis Obispo) so in addition to walking on the Pier we checked out the Mission.

We were both a little apprehensive since we remembered the ways that the (now-discontinued) Mission curriculum pretty much glossed over anything concerning the Indians. So we were pleasantly surprised at how much of the tour and museum focused on the Chumash who both built and lived in the Mission. It’s fantastic to see the artisans named and associated with the specific things they built in the Mission. And it’s important that the museum also points out when and how those items incorporate Chumash designs.

It’s also great to see descriptions of how materials and instructors came from Mexico as part of the Mission construction. It’s always important to be reminded about how global trade and craft has always been.



I didn’t just visit The Getty while I was in LA. I also had a chance to wander through LACMA. While I’ve been to special exhibitions I’ve never spent the time to just see what’s in the main collection. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to give it a proper runthrough so I only have what’s in my notes.

The German abstraction stuff is great. Especially the prints which oddly remind me of a lot of the 1970s book illustrations I grew up seeing.

I enjoy the Kandinsky, Klee, and Feininger room. But it really weirds me out the way the galleries are grouped by collector. Seeing that plaque about whose collection in in each gallery immediately makes me think that the museum hasn’t curated anything beyond maybe the wall text. Still as with at SFMOMA, it is nice to have dedicated galleries for each artist. So at least the collectors featured have enough pieces for that to work.

It’s always a joy to see Bay Area Figurative on display outside of the Bay Area. I wish SFMOMA would feature it more in its new building.

I really want to see an exhibition of John Chamberlain’s sculptures get mounted across the street at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The Oldenburg Pool Balls appear to be a big instagram magnet based on the number of photos I saw people taking of them. I found myself incredibly bothered by how they’re not the correct colors/stripes for actual pool.

I got really confused on the top floor of the Ahmanson building. They had Roman objects installed with 18/19th century French and English objects. Took me wandering through multiple galleries before I realized it was intended to show inspiration. That the modern galleries don’t do anything like this with any of the primitivism pieces really bothers me now.

I do however enjoy the Salon hangs. There’s only so much white cube I can handle.