How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

Back from field camp, I had a day and a half to unpack, do laundry (meaning, take it to the cleaners), and repack before taking the Lufthansa flight out of Dammam and on my way to Colorado. There’s no doubt that Lufthansa provides the most direct and quickest connections for me to get to Colorado – Dammam direct to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt direct to Denver. Business class (and the Frankfurt business lounge) made the door-to-door 30-hour journey bearable.

It was certainly a strange feeling renting a car at the Denver airport. Inasmuch as Colorado was my home base for 25 years, I had never done such a thing! Furthermore, since I no longer have a house in Boulder, I secured an Airbnb for at least part of my time while I was “home”. It was a convenient, if Spartan, condo in northeast Boulder from which I was able to get around the Denver metro area, visit my stuff in my storage unit, eat at some of my favorite places, see family and friends, and get out to do some fishing (really the reason I went to the storage unit not just to visit my things, but to pick up my fishing gear).

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At Coors Field with Jack. Rockies win!!

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South Boulder Creek near Rollinsville.

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A South Boulder Creek rainbow trout.

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Kara’s excited with her feisty brown trout from South Boulder Creek.

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The famous (to anglers, anyway) Frying Pan River near Basalt, Colorado.

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A torpedo brown trout from the Frying Pan.

After a good dose of Colorado mountain air and water, I hopped on a plane to Laguardia and headed to Connecticut to visit with my college friends. A group of us have a great tradition of getting together every five years to attempt to relive our past glory as miscreants at University of Vermont many years ago, retell stories that just never get old, and eat and drink and laugh until it hurts. I’m so glad the timing worked out for me to do this!

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Joel’s place in Connecticut.

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Look at us, all growed up…

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Flight path out of  Laguardia took us right over the city, with a great view of Central Park and lower Manhattan.

I was then back in Colorado for about a day and a half, before catching an early morning flight to Dallas, TX. Daughter Rebeca is now a Dallas resident, and working for Southwest Airlines at their corporate offices at Love Field as a technical writer. As part of her compensation package, she gets to fly standby free to anywhere Southwest services. Not only that, but her parents can also fly standby free (called non-revenue travel). So, we made plans for me to visit for a day (plus overnight) if I could get on standby, which I did.

It tickles me to no end that Rebeca is living in Dallas – I lived there for five years (1986-91), when I was on the faculty at University of Texas at Dallas. I hadn’t been back to Dallas in about 20 years. So much has changed! I even got to go visit UTD while Rebeca was a work and had lunch with a former colleague there, Bob Stern. I didn’t recognize campus at all, and the drive up to Richardson from downtown Dallas was completely different to me.

Some things are still the same, however, and Rebeca and I spent time looking at a couple of the places where I had lived, and going to my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, the Blue Goose Cantina on Lower Greenville. There I had my usual incredible plate of sour cream chicken enchiladas, along with a couple of frozen margaritas – just like the old days with the likes of Tod, Hadj, Tad, Dr. Rick, Big Dog, etc. My friend and former Mines student Sherif lives nearby Lower Greenville, so I called him up and he joined us at the Blue Goose, before going over to one of my other former haunts, the Winedale Tavern (although it’s not called that anymore, it’s still the same ol’ dive bar that it always was).  Rebeca earlier had also introduced me to a new hangout in the Lower Greenville area called the Truck Yard. This very cool place is a combination food truck park and watering hole that feels very Austin-esque, and not at all glitzy like Dallas is wont to be.

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The Truck Yard.

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Rebeca sharing my Dallas glory days with me at the Goose, with a plate of sour cream chicken enchiladas and a tasty frozen marg.

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Sorry it’s a little dark, but that’s me and Sherif at the dive bar formerly known as the Winedale Tavern.

After the great fun visit with Rebeca, I flew back to Colorado the next morning. I think I got the last standby seat on the flight, but I made it regardless. And, wouldn’t you know it, I was only back in Colorado for another day and a half before getting on yet another flight. This time to Portland, Oregon, to visit my mother and my brother and his wife.

Portland is typically gorgeous in the summertime, with sunny skies all day every day, and nice warm temperatures. The morning I left Dallas was about as cool (and rainy) as Dallas ever gets on the first of August, and Colorado was remarkably cool for the beginning of August also. Not so much with Portland! There were heat advisories and temperatures were forecast to be in the 104°F (40°C) range.  That’s highly uncommon for the Pacific northwest. Compounding the heat was that nearby wild/forest fires in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, had spread smoke over the western side of the Cascades, and Portland was blanketed by the thick smoke.

We had sort of a small family reunion at Neil’s place, as Jack flew out from Colorado and Rebeca hopped a flight from Dallas for the weekend. Much good food and good Oregon beer was consumed at Neil’s and in and around Portland, before heading out to the Oregon coast for two days with Kara to escape the heat and smoke.

Oregon has a beautiful rocky coast consisting mostly of oceanic basalts (it’s not too difficult to find beautiful MOR pillow basalts), along with volcaniclastics and turbidites. Overall, it’s an active continental margin, with the Juan de Fuca plate subducting below the North American plate, creating the Coast Ranges and the Cascade magmatic arc. One day, the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver area will experience a catastrophic earthquake and I truly hope the people there are prepared. To their credit, in many areas along the coast, there are abundant tsunami warning signs and evacuation areas. I don’t want to be a downer or anything, it’s just geological reality that goes along with an active oceanic-continental subduction margin. Regardless, it certainly is purty…

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Brother Neil at Breakside Brewery, one of many brewpubs in beer-crazy Portland.

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My mother with granddaughter Rebeca in an action shot of mom doing what she does best, this time at a fantastic ramen house in the west hills of Portland.

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With the kids in Neil’s lush back yard. I note that Jack’s wearing my summer 1995 Grateful Dead tour shirt that I got in Vegas, the final time I saw Jerry Garcia.

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Jack gingerly (get it) holding the Paul Reed Smith guitar signed by the members of Widespread Panic that Kelly won at auction. With the twist being that Kelly got Paul to donate the guitar to the band for auction, and then ended up buying it herself!

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Partial aftermath of a great dinner at Olympia Oyster Bar. I simply love those PNW oysters!

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A window display at Paxton Gate, a store featuring natural mounted specimens, taxidermy, fossils, minerals, and other wonders. It happened to be right next to Olympia Oyster Bar where we had dinner one night. Interesting place…

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Horsetails (sphenopsids) and seed ferns along the Oregon coast, mimicking a Devonian forest (except for the obvious angiosperms scattered throughout).

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Typical day along the coast, with this day thankfully 20°F cooler than Portland.

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That dark spot in the water is the tail of a grey whale that surfaced several times. I had never before seen a whale!! Like in my whole life! So, kind of a big deal.

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The Oregon coast is known for these “haystacks”, isolated erosional basalt remnants of the former coastline.

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The haystacks attract a wide array of sea birds. Didn’t get to see a puffin, however.

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Tidal pool with abundant anemones, mussels, and barnacles.

So… That’s what I did on my summer vacation. From Oregon, I flew back to Colorado for another day and a half stay, and then flew back to the Kingdom on the return flights through Frankfurt and into Dammam.

On a sad note, I had to say goodbye to a good friend. Darlene was a beautiful and sweet greyhound who had nearly reached 12 years old and had contracted an aggressive bone cancer. The one and only DogFish will be greatly missed.

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Did you say “ham”?!? RIP DogFish.

3 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

  1. Interesting blog! I lived at KFUM 94-99. I had a friend Ruud Wiejemaars who was a prof in your department. I worked at the Research Institute Marine Sciences Division.

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    1. Glad you like it, Jeremy. I’m sure things were quite different here back in the late 90’s (or maybe too much the same!!). Watch for a couple new installments in the next week or so (a trip to Baku, and a breakdown of my weather observations here).

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      1. Hi. The Kingdom has elements which change but lots which remains the same. The two things which kept me sane in the place (I didn’t like the town of Khobar much as I’m an outdoor guy) was learning Scuba diving and desert driving. I bought a Lada from an English teacher who had been deported for carrying “water” and spent it exploring the desert. The areas we explored were around Abqaiq/Ghawar and a fantastic set of jebels two hours down the Riyadh-Dammam called Hamra Judah. If they haven’t shut it down, track down the “Naturalists” in Khobar. They ran amazing trips into the desert. I also learnt Scuba in Aramco and joined BSAC 802 on one of the BAe compounds who met weekly. I took the early dhow to Jurayd Island and enjoyed diving the reefs there several times. I also dived the Red Sea.

        I probably explored the place more than most expats with my connections back then. With luck and contacts you can see tons of fascinating stuff in Saudi. As a geology guy you may know of these maps of the whole Kingdom:

        https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/i207B

        Geology/Topography – I used them a lot finding campsites in jebels. The Saudis used to call me the British Bedouin as every weekend in the cool season I was out there.

        Send me a private message and I can share more….

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