The Mumbai monsoons started in June and were in full force by July. We took
that as a bit of a chance for a vacation: one week in Oregon (visiting my
family), one week in California (with Heidi's family), and a third week in
Germany (visiting no one -- but a convenient stopover).
Usually I'm loaded down with cameras on vacation, but this time I took
nearly all of these photos with one body and one lens (a 35 mm prime).
We started our journey with a relaxing 33-hour trip from Mumbai to Corvallis (OR), via layovers in Frankfurt, San Francisco, and Portland. Here, Heidi sleeps peacefully between two children.
We rode a couple of airport busses as well.
Astro is always a pleasure to travel with. Actually, just before this she was racing us on the moving walkway... but she picked the one going the wrong direction. She ran for it FAST, and managed to at least keep up despite the massive mechanical headwind.
Who wants to do some more flying??
29 hours later, all of us had made it, plus the vast majority of our bags. 8 out of 10 is a solid B, says Lufthansa.
Our first task: find Piper! She flew out three weeks ahead of us -- for hiking in the Sierras, and to see Sarah, Sally and JMT on the way. And here she is, along with a new shoulder bag she and my mom have just made up.
Next stop: berries! That is something we almost never get in Mumbai... but in Oregon, the blackberries are wild everywhere, and the blueberries, raspberries, and gooseberries aren't hard to find either, especially in the back yard.
Grandma in the garden with Finn.
Finn gets an old-style band-aid made of a Lambs' Ear leaf wrapped in fabric.
Examining some pepper plants in cages!
Corvallis is clean, green, and progress -- the anti-Mumbai. It's really nice to be here.
Next stop: bagels! That's another thing that is in short supply in Mumbai.
Finn checks out the monkey bars at my alma mater, Jefferson Elementary.
And Astro finds a willing pusher in JMT.
A bit of drawing with grandma...
And Heather and Alex!
Astro does some writing with her, uh, invisible ink pen.
Finn has found some bamboo (there is a forest of it in the yard), and REALLY REALLY NEEDS TO BUILD A BOAT OUT OF BAMBOO RIGHT NOW!! I am not quite sure how to go about that, but we go out to the garage and start sawing things up.
And JMT works on a sail for that boat.
And it floats!
Astro makes applesauce from those backyard apples.
Piper: "Mind Blown."
We head out to the Throop Loop trail outside of Corvallis! Finn missed meeting AHT by a few years, but they get to share a nice rock.
Two dimensions are definitely not enough for Alex.
Heidi and Astro share the walking on the Throop Loop.
Heather is always inspiring.
Past the coast range in the background...
Ed Epley drives his low-speed electric vehicle. We kept seeing him all over Corvallis, usually from behind. "It came with a 60V system from the guy who built it. I upgraded it to 72V. But the 'LS' license plate means the speed is limited to 25 mph."
In Central Park.
Astro gets busy at American Dream Pizza.
Piper has a bit of hiking action to talk about.
My best effort is a moose getting hit by a steam locomotive.
Ordering some soy-rizo at the Farmers' Market. And yes, around the corner was the 'Bernie for President' booth, in full action despite him pulling out a few days earlier. (This was the week before the DNC convention.)
No more pictures!
OK, we're at the Da Vinci Days kinetic sculpture race, at the Benton County Fairgrounds. It's a two-day race that has been run in Corvallis for the last 20+ years. 10 miles on the road, then the sand hill. The next day starts off with the mud bog, then a 2-mile water ride down the Willamette, and 5 miles back to the county fairgrounds. The operator of this vehicle -- the most minimalist of the group -- said he had full confidence in its abilities based on its twelve previous races. You can see the large foam floats (above his head) -- he folds away the bike wheels, and tilts the whole thing into the water, for the river portion.
The mug bog pretty much did in Team Possum here. Their high-speed flying start got them 20' into the mud, but that wasn't enough to prevent a pair of broken chains within a minute.
Team 'Fungus Among Us' pushes their way back out after also suffering broken chains.
And the train (Finn's favorite, of course) doesn't do much better, despite having that intimidating fire.
Team Goddess... .also has mechanical difficulties in the mud before getting pulled out.
And Black Tie Affair makes it through! Their advantage: huge wheels with covered spokes, and a drivetrain that was high enough up that it stayed clear of the mud.
As does the amazing dragon machine.
And my personal favorite wins for mechanical simplicity.
That mud bog is really long, and really deep! It would be hard enough to walk it, much less make a machine to plow through it.
A few more casualities along the way.
More winching out...
Team Rainbow Kitty Butterfly Unicorn actually makes it!!
And now the mud bog has been completed, and the teams are about to hit the water...
Here we all are watching the start of the water race.
Butterfly Kitten Rainbow Unicorn suffers a broken axle on the final descent into the river. But they decide to go for it anyhow... Piper helps them out with the water entry.
We head over to Avery Park, where Piper does some tree-climbing.
And Finn checks out the train.
Heidi and Astro are stocking up on toothbrushes at Fred Meyer -- no more cavities, people!
Yes, I love Corvallis...
And... we head to the coast for some tide-pooling at Seal Rock. The tide is coming in, but they still found some good pools to explore.
I'm not sure what happened here, but it looks like Astro has requested some kelp be tied around her leg.
One thing we definitely miss in Mumbai: clean, empty beaches. Piper does some jumping...
... as does Finn...
... and Astro. Looks like the kelpie has stayed on!
And some kite action! (This one is from the night before -- thus the change in weather.)
Many of us pose for a photo, while one of us watches a beautiful fishing boat go into the Newport harbor. Photo by Heidi.
Almost time to leave Oregon! On the way out, we pass through Portland and meet up with Rowdy Webb and Becca Bloomfield Davis (both from my 3rd grade -- c.f. Jefferson Elementary), and friends of Heidi's from her time in Portland.
Rowdy grabbed my camera with Cody high up in one of the tree at the Nature Play area at Westmoreland Park.
Alex Davis and Astro make a mess.
The park is unsafe and unsanitary. You can fall and hurt yourself, and get dirty, very easily. It is awesome. Portlanders apparently campaigned heavily for this park, and it was finished about two years ago.
California -- LA
We've now made it to LA, along with 90% of our bags this time. Hey, that's continual improvement!
This is how we wait for rental cars.
Hmm, this is strange. Why is everyone outside wet, while Uncle Ben is dry and inside. Very odd. I wonder if Finn is crying.
Santa Monica beach! We are with Gina and Emily; I've just come from giving a talk at Ben's office, where 70 corporate lawyers got the latest on Pluto.
In Malibu, burying Finn in the sand.
And why are we underneath those beach-front houses? Public access goes up to the mean high-water level, as several lawyers explained to us on the trip.
What a beautiful mermaid Finn is!
Piper and Emily escape in their kayak.
And Astro gets the starfish treatment.
At the Getty museum (the older one in Malibu, which has recently been rennovated, and I'd never been to before).
The Getty has one of the world's largest collections of priceless Greek and Roman pots.
Piper and Emily at the Getty.
Oh wow! Gina has gone all out and set up a cake for our *three* kid summer birthdays: Astro (4), Piper (14), and Finn (7). And yes, Heidi's birthday is in there too...
Looks like Pancake and Waffle do indeed follow directions.
Ben & Gina have quite a collection of golf balls, courtesy of the golf course across the street.
Look what else Ben has an excellent collection of: scary insects and snakes.
He provides a very obliging target for too much abuse.
Heidi gets a few surprises as well.
Astro will be delighted to hide her snake anywhere.
Hmm, what could she be up to...
Finn and I are using Uncle Ben's big lens to watch celebrities. Good thing we're camouflaged!
Using that 600mm lens, I see a wild animal running across the street!
Strangely, the animal seems to take some sort of protection in hiding with Uncle Ben, despite earlier incidents with the water squirter.
Another wild animal!
Finally, I had to give the lens back.
We sit in the Costco parking lot. If you don't see Astro here, it's because she is very busy hiding the car keys. No, I won't tell you where, and neither will she. 30 minutes later, well after Gina and Heidi showed up, we found them, buried behind the neck rest of her car seat, wedged between layers of foam.
And a brontosaurus! On the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. Heidi had been there before but she was the only one. I thought the backlot tour was pretty neat.
Check out those Harry Potter wands!
California -- Santa Barbara
And we've left LA and headed up to Santa Barbara for a few days. Heidi and the kids walk along the beach.
Astro explores the Sea Center on the pier in Santa Barbara, where Heidi used to volunteer.
We inspect a bucket of mud, lifted up up from the Santa Barbara sea floor!
Astro and Piper spent the morning examining rocks, shells, tubeworms, and hermit crabs bucketed up from the ocean muck
"I think I see something mommy!"
Lila and Heidi
Astro is not upset here (despite what it looks) -- she is just playing hide and seek.
On the beach park thingy.
"I do not want any more photos!"
With Kristin, Kim, Heidi, and Melinda, on the pier.
Gemany -- Hattenbach
Oh -- let's get on another airplane!
To fly back to India from the west coast, we have to change planes in Frankfurt. Since we were there, we figured we'd take a week and explore that corner of Germany.
First destination was to the small town of Hattenbach, 60 km outside of Frankfurt, to see if there were any Hattenbachs there. Then we zig-zagged around the Black Forest area looking for cuckoo clocks and alpine slides.
And how did Lufthansa do this time? Unfortunately, the improvement didn't continue: we were missing three of our ten bags, until they were delivered 48 hours later.
"Hi, my name is Astro! Lufthansa lost our bags again, but they did give me this awesome XXXL T-shirt so I would have something to wear!"
And check it out -- Hattenbach!
We are heartily welcomed by the sign.
Hattenbach is pretty quiet, especially on a Sunday morning. But we do find one promising sign to a commercial venue that might be open.
And we find it -- the guesthouse in town.
So we stop in for a nice fruhstuck.
The guy here is entertained (maybe) by my high school German. He tells us that there are 856 people in town, or maybe that it is 856 years old. Or maybe he tells us where the bathroom is. I have no idea.
If I understood right, he tells us that we can go outside and looks at his pigs. So we did that.
There is some consensus that the town was formed in 1234, which is certainly a memorable year. There are no Hattenbachs still in town, except for today.
Then we wandered around Hattenbach!
Check out that Hattenbacher Sport Club!
It's mostly a small agricultural town. Lots of barns (very old) and tractors. Also gooses.
And old houses. It seems like buildings from the 1500's are pretty common all over this area of Germany.
Germany -- Rothenburg
OK! Now we headed down to Rothenburg. This is an 'old' town in Bavaria. It was really beautiful and 'old,' although the old town area was certainly dominated by tourism.
Does the scene look familiar? Check out that Lonely Planet cover!
Check out those spatzle, and those animal heads!
Outside the Medieval Torture Museum in Rothenburg.
Climbing up the stairs to the bell tower on the main square.
And looking out over the town! That's an Electrolux kitchen factory in the distance, but besides that, it all looks very... German. The only thing missing in this photo is some solar panels -- they are all over the place in Germany, right up there with wind turbines.
Astro: "I know it is your birthday Piper, but look at what the man gave me after he took me to see the kitchen!!"
Piper does get a cake too...
Happy Birthday Piper!
"HI, my name is Astro! Are all of you playing Pokemon Go?"
Look who else is playing...
This is cool! These bars are historic relics which are apparently the original measuring units in Rothenburg. One is a 'foot' long, one is an 'arm' long, and one is a 'really tall person' high. Each town would have their own measurement system, defined by their own set of units. And then the French revolution came, and the 'meter' was invented, and the Earth was measured, and it was all over for anyone who wanted to make their own meter-stick.
Germany -- Freiburg
One last destination: we spend a few nights in Freiburg, a university town in the heart of the Black Forest region. There's a little market in the square outside our hotel. All these wooden toys were made by a curly-haired German man named Raphael.
The town has little streams going through the old center. They are alleged to be originally for fire prevention, but mostly now used for kids wading and pulling boats.
Astro races her shoe.
We took a day trip to Triberg, which is at the heart of cuckoo clock manufacturing. This amazing mechanical device, inside the local Black Forest Museum, has no cuckoo (nor is it a clock), but it does play the piano, organ, and triangle for seven minutes.
We are inside the world's largest cuckoo clock! I really loved this -- it's a 60x replica of a small wall clock, that was built out of wood over the course of five years. Everything works, and you can stand inside while it goes off. The bird is up top (the thing with the long tail), and the two things on the left with metal rods are the bellows for the chirper.
Walking around South Bombay, unsolicited selfies (mostly with Astro) can happen hundreds of times a day. But after three weeks in the US and Europe, I think this was the first time anyone wanted one. With a name like Hattenbach, I guess we are not as much a novelty in Germany as India.
He ran a tasty Turkish kebab joint.
A bit of a drizzle ouside our hotel on in the Altstadt in Freiburg. There was a symphony concert that night in the main square... they played anyhow, albeit under cover.
Finn: Daddy, I have a really important question for you. I know that in Germany you press the little button if you go pee-pee, and the big one if you go poo. But what I don't really know is, what do you do if you go both pee *and* poo?
And in the morning, marble bazaar.
Finn and I took a field trip on the trains that run through town. They were great: smooth, fast, and beautiful.
Just outside of Freiburg, we rode alpine slides, saw reindeer, fed trout, and walked across a 200-meter suspension bridge at Steinwasen Park. It's an amusement park, but it's pretty Black Forest-y too -- kind of like Oregon's Enchanted Forest, on a slightly bigger scale.
One more flight and we're back to Mumbai, where Astro races off to be the first to find Asif!