Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EuroTour 2010, Day 1, L.A. to Paris

Here we are again.  After a 59 day tour across Europe last year, complete with its own Barbie's 50th Birthday EuroTour Apparel, we are headed to Europe once again.  (and she is wearing her EuroTour hoodie today.)  This year we are going for a conservative 48 days.  As you can see, we are nothing but models of restraint.

Nothing beats an afternoon flight that you do not have to rush for.  My friend David offered to drive us to the airport, which made matters even simpler.  I know that many of you will be heartbroken to not have a picture of a Los Angeles taxi ride, but the cookie crumbled this way.

An uneventful ride to the airport brought us to the Air France business class line.  A figurative zoo, filled with human animals being moderately rude and distrustful of each other's place in line.  Amusingly, two NBA players walked up behind us, the Collins twins.  And for those of you who do not follow serviceable yet not-at-all-household-name NBA centers, the Collins twins are 6' 11" twins from Stanford.  They draw a lot of attention, because it is not often that you see identical twins who stand approximately as tall as trees.

Even more amusing is that I once went to the restroom at the Universal Amphitheater (now called the Gibson Theater) before the world premiere of the terrible movie The Chronicles of Riddick.  Not only did I go to the restroom, which I know is remarkable in its own right, but I stood at a urinal with Jason Collins to my left and Jarron Collins to my right.  If you want to feel short, stand at a urinal with a near 7 foot tall human being on either side of you.  Standing in th Air France line with the Collins twins, I let Barbie talk to them while I smiled, thinking, "The last thing these guys is want is for me to say, 'Dude, we totally peed together in 2004.'"  No pictures, either, as I did not want to be the guy who takes a picture of the guys who happen to be very, very tall.

What will excite many more people is that to my left, subtly behind sunglasses, hid Carmen Electra.  She was nice and spoke normally to people around her, just in case you are thinking that this sex symbol might be of the kind with a stick in an uncomfortable place.

The first pic.  As I have said before, the oldest parts of Los Angeles International Airport are its most modern.

We zipped up to the Air France lounge, with another not so famous yet notable person on the elevator.  Who?  Melanie Laurent, who played Shoshana Dreyfus in Inglorious Basterds.  I was This Close to saying, "I absolutely feel that you gave one of the better performances ever given on film, and that you deserved an Oscar for it."  As a Los Angeles, native, I smiled and said nothing.  This is where you think to yourself, "I should see that movie.  (Again.)"

In my quest to keep The Waste fresh, I have added the iPhone app Photoshop Mobile.  Let us play with it now, sitting in the Air France Lounge.

Airport Lounge Candid.

Airport Lounge Candid; desaturated, tinted, cropped, and bordered.  we shall see how often I take pics and play with them on this trip.  Not a bad option for public, "down time."

Time to get on the plane.  Now, as you have seen before I sometimes draw lines on maps to demonstrate where we are flying.  When we got on the plane and I saw the video below playing on the screen in front of me, I though I would take advantage of my new iPhone's video capability.  I have no idea if this embedded video will work well, and the time consuming nature of adding videos will likely result in... not many videos on The Waste.  That said, enjoy this one.

Time for us to go to sleep above Canada and wake up in France.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Ranch At Rock Creek, Montana, June 2010, Day 4

It turns out I took an embarrassing number of pictures on the final day of this trip.  Chalk it up to my knowing full well that I would not be seeing a sky this blue for a long, long time and to my playing with panoramas just a little too much.

Having packed the night before, we were ready and willing to hit our first breakfast since arriving.

We each had the Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Strawberry, and Kiwi.  Can you do any less?

And we shared this Lemon and Blueberry Pancake.  You read that right, lemon and blueberry.  People throw superlatives around in regards to food, but I kid you not: Best Pancake Ever.

What do you do when you have less than an hour on the ranch?  You sit on the balcony and look at the blue sky.

As a person who sincerely enjoys urban life, I have to say that the air, the actual air I was breathing while sitting on that balcony in the sunlight, felt good.  I am not fan of being cold, but with warm sun on your skin and cool, fresh, incredibly pollution free air gliding into your lungs, it is impossible to not feel wonderful.

I never really got you a picture of The Granite Lodge from this side.  Gap filled.

Around the property they have these signs up.  I imagine they call them, "Ranch-Style Stop Signs" or something unpretentiously anti-urban like that.  I referred to it as the, "Keanu Reeves Stop Sign."  (It is necessary to have seen The Matrix to get that one.)

If you have known me long enough, this picture will look familiar to you.  It will also look familiar if you look closely at the Colossal Waste banner at top.  Apparently the only thing that has changed about me in 16 years is that I tend to be nude is public less often.

This is one of those shots from the moving car that you have to take, because, well, nature is beautiful.

When was the last time you saw a street sign in a river?  That is right.  Never.

The light shining off the river was so bright that the colors in this picture washed out.  Sepia rescues.

This panorama was simply breathtaking in person.  If you look to the upper left, below a cloud formation, you can see a snow capped mountain.  I said to Barbie, driving along this road, "If we decided that we hated people and moved somewhere to live as hermits away from society, I would do it here."

Specifically, here.  What better place to start a new life than a rugged log cabin in the Rockies?

Some views are too breathtaking to not pull out your camera.   And believe me, I am delighted to be married to someone who is more than happy to pull over and take pictures in the middle of nowhere.

After taking the previous shot, this cow turned and looked directly at me.  As soon as she did, I knew that she deserved to be a part of the Waste.

We soon arrived in Philipsburg, the "historic" town whose name you might have seen on the sign in the river.

You have now seen Philipsburg, Montana.  Two blocks of tourist-trappy shops.

The name of this street is Broadway.  I imagine New Yorkers would get a kick out of that.

In case you doubted.

An employee at The Ranch at Rock Creek suggested we visit Philipsburg.  This, I believe, was an error. We almost immediately headed to Missoula to be early for our flight.

This picture is only here for the loyal Colossal Waste reader.  Compare this sky to the gray, cloudy sky you saw on our drive toward the ranch.  Hard to believe it is the same stretch of road.

We are about to enter the section where I got overly creative with panorama effects.  I apologize in advance if they make anyone carsick.

Two tilted roads, one sky.


There were many, many more panorama experiments.  Trying to match skies and roads is fun, but I am fairly certain I should keep these experiments to myself in the future.

The Missoula, Montana courthouse.  Missoula is a very nice little city; home to the University of Montana and birthplace of a good friend.  Obviously visiting Missoula on a clear, warm day is about the best way to encounter it.

We stopped in at Five Guys burgers.  This is clearly the most diametrically opposed meal from those served to us on The Ranch that we could have eaten.

Any establishment that offers free peanuts while you wait is, in fact, awesome.

To paraphrase the theme song from Team America, "America!  (Heck) Yeah!"

The pedestrian bridge to Jacobs Island Park, over the Clark Fork River.

Likely still muddy due to the recent rains.

I am not sure if the "M" on the hill is for Missoula or the University of Montana.  On the opposite side there is an "L" that has me completely baffled, yet not so curious as to google it.

The Missoula International Airport.  Not a beehive of activity.  The "International" has got to be due to some flights to nearby Canada. 

Our ride to Seattle.

Barbie booked us through Seattle and planned a three hour layover.  Because we are carry-on only people, it was extra easy to hop of the plane and walk to the curb where Josh & Alexis were waiting to eat a meal with us.  Josh & Alexis move to Austin, Texas in a week.  This was literally our last chance to ever see them in Seattle, and it worked out.  How cool is that?

No pictures of Josh & Alexis, as I rarely put people on The Waste.  Though I wonder why.  Maybe it is time to start making this about people, too?

But I will share my dinner, BJ's Giant Baked Potato with Chicken, Broccoli Cheese & Alfredo.

And the Pizzookie.

Seattle Tacoma Airport, doing the public art thing.

One of those cool "window to the train tunnel" train cars.

An airport bathroom stall is the ideal forum for intelligent political debate.

Okay, so maybe I went on a bit much about Slingbox this trip.  I know that we are very late to the Slingbox party, and that most people either have it and love it or have never heard of it and do not care to know.  But let me add this.  Our flight from Seattle to Los Angeles offered free WiFi.  Barbie logged into the WiFi and launched Slingbox on her laptop.

We are on an airplane, 30,000+ feet in the air, with the cable box in our bedroom in front of our eyes on a laptop.  Do not deny me this.  This is huge.  

The oldest parts of LAX are the most futuristic.  

The not-so-famous but cool-if-you-bother-to-look light columns of LAX are dancing in purple and gold for the Lakers.  We are home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Ranch At Rock Creek, Montana, June 2010, Day 3

Let me warn you right now.  After two days of cloudy skies and intermittent rain, we woke up today and saw sunshine and blue skies.  The kind of blue skies you see when you are literally hundreds of miles from civilization.  I warn you because I am surely going to overdo it with the blue sky pictures.  Write your congressman if you do not like it.

Without further delay, then, I present to you, the blue skies of Montana.

The view from our room's balcony.

For lunch, "Chicken Apple Avocado Brown Rice Salad"  Those who know me know full well that Barbie and I discussed my asking for something from the children's menu.  Those little buggers get offered corn dogs or mac & cheese, while we adults are told, "One choice.  You will like."  I gave it a shot, since I like nearly everything included in it.  Alas, it was not to my liking but I picked out the apples and chicken and chalked it up to my effort to get back to fighting weight.  Though, man, that kids mac and cheese looked tasty.

I took a picture of the bear and squirrel on the bookshelf, but the pictures did not come out well.  However, I do like this picture of Barbie taking the same pictures.

Definitely right-click this one to open it in a new window.  This is the next step in playing with Panorama, suggested by Albert Nguyen.  There you have it, a panorama of The Ranch at Rock Creek with Barbie in every shot.

Seriously, look at this in full size and understand why people come to Montana.  By the way, there is something interesting to say about that.  We have been to Colorado many times, up in the Rockies.  Here, up in the Rockies, it is just like Colorado only not, shall we say, as crowded-built-up-overdone-touristy.  Which is wonderful, yet leads to a certain vibe from the people here. And that vibe is, "We want you to come here and spend money, but not too many of you.  We do not want to end up like Colorado.  That would suck for us."  Bad news, though.  Hollywood people used to buy property in Colorado.  Now they buy it in Montana.  The first shot has been fired.

My wife is enjoying the porch THERE.

A side view of The Granite Lodge, under blue sky.  Our room is at the far left.

Our room is right THERE.  Under that bluer than blue sky.

After Barbie's manicure at The Spa, it was time to go fishing.  Along the way we took a detour to get to a nearby peak for a view of the whole property.  The property, by the way, is 6,800 acres.  That is 10.625 square miles.  And they host around 50-60 guests when full, with a fairly small staff.  Comparatively, Los Angeles has a population density that averages 2,500 people per square mile.  So... this area would be home to 26,562 people in Los Angeles, instead of less than one hundred.  Mull that one over.

Yes, Montana is an Anglicization of montaña.  Do you see why?

This is very close to 360-degrees.  As always, I highly recommend a right-click to open it in its own window.  And maybe even zooming in.

Time to practice fly fishing.

By the pond one finds a tee pee.  Barbie is 1/32 Shawnee, and felt right at home.

Fishing is not at all like bow hunting or skeet shooting.  But you sure as heck notice the scenery more.

The point of view of the fly fisherman.  Note the tee pee across the pond.

We returned to the lodge, one of us got a massage, and soon enough it was time for dinner.

Barbie enjoys, "the best mojito ever," in Montana.  Our bartender informed us that a Cuban exile was a member at a country club where he worked, and this Cuban gentleman taught him how to properly make a mojito.  Therefore, Barbie, who has had mojitos from Maui to New York City, experienced the best mojito ever on a ranch in the Rockies of Montana.

Barbie's first course, "Local Arugula, Watermelon And Fennel Salad."

The chef takes pity on me once again, and allows me to avoid salad in favor of Shrimp and Crab Bisque.

Her entree, "Fresh Herb Crab Cake with Georges Bank Sea Scallops, Remoulade, Roasted Asparagus and a Beet Cucumber Coulis."

His entree, "Montana Ribeye Steak, Baked Russet Potato with a Boursin Cream and Roasted Asparagus and a Red Wine Demi Glace."

Needless to say, we were both happy and we shared with each other.  Delicious all around.

Dessert, "Apple Strudel With Honey Infused Vanilla Ice Cream."

It was enjoyed.

The moon above The Granite Lodge.

The Granite Lodge, circa 1862.
After that, we went into the Silver Dollar Saloon and played shuffle board, darts, ping pong, and pool.  We were going to bowl, but the lanes were filled with kids and we were not quite feeling it.  Wisely, Barbie thought it better to go back to the room and pack.  And if you ask why no pictures of these activities, I shall tell you that the lighting was off.  But really, I was enjoying myself and did not think to take pictures.  Which leaves me lacking a good final shot for tonight.  I will take one now.

Yours truly, finishing up the blog for the final night in Montana.  The overhead light made the colors horribly ugly, but we took care of that with a little black and white action.

Then, just for fun, I used a different iPhone app to color just the blue sky reflected in the lake on the netbook's screen.

Time for bed.  Tomorrow is a long travel day.  Fortunately, our three hour layover in Seattle give us a chance to visit with Josh and Alexis, who move from Seattle to Austin in a matter of weeks.