Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bridging the Future with the Past

It took 90 years to deteriorate but only 22 months to restore. That's the long and short story behind the rehabilitation of the Oregon City Arch Bridge, the iconic 745-foot-long span that connects Oregon City with West Linn and serves as the historic final link of the "New" Pacific Highway which stretched from Canada to Mexico back when the structure opened in 1922. A few years ago, inspections by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) revealed some damage to the bridge's steel skeleton, so in the summer of 2010 it was closed for repairs setting the stage for yet another grand opening once all the work was completed.

The original Arch Bridge, designed by master engineer Conde McCullough, was made of steel and coated with gunite - a substance composed of sand, cement, and water that was sprayed onto the bridge's steel surfaces - but after decades in the elements, the covering eroded. So the overhaul included removing this coating with high-pressure jets of water and recovering the steel frame with concrete, as well as resurfacing the roadway and repairing damaged support beams, replacing unsafe bridge railings, and replicating the bridge's original lighting.

A three-day celebration commemorated the grand re-opening of the Arch Bridge complete with period actors, vintage automobiles, and spectacular fireworks. But most importantly, just like the ceremony 90 years ago when an Oregon City man wed a West Linn woman mid-span to physically and symbolically unite these 2 mill towns, a gathering of about 50 couples assembled on the deck to renew their vows. Now that's what I call Bridging the Future with the Past.

Special Note: This post marks the Sixth anniversary of Newsphotography: Exposed and I want to express my gratitude to everyone who follows, reads, and supports my blog. Currently I'm immersed in a long-term photo project that demands more of my time. I'll be back, hopefully soon. Keep checking in the months ahead when I plan to debut this exciting photo effort right here!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Halfway, Part 2

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50, and MAKE it to 60. You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing.  - George Carlin

                              Photo by and courtesy of Michael Manke
I can't speak for an entire generation but when it comes to baby boomers I have to believe they'd agree, some things are better left a mystery. Case in point: determining the exact distance of the hike from the parking area to my "new" campsite on the (Donner und) Blitzen River. For the past 15+ seasons it's been about 2-1/2 miles - my best estimate - and that's always been good enough for me. But this particular weekend my calculations were obsolete because I was joined by my two 20-something nephews, Michael (L) and Adam Manke, and their ever-present personal electronic devices - complete with GPS systems I might add - so the trek had to be measured. This had me wondering about our generations and their differences . . . and how this all relates to fly fishing.

According to the research, my generation - the baby boomers or those born between 1946 and 1964 - values success, focuses on relationships and results, and views technology as an acquired skill. On the other hand, my nephew's generation - the millenials or those born between 1981 and 2000 - values individuality, focuses on being global and networked, and views technology as an integral part of their lives. Understanding it can be dangerous to generalize specific attributes and values across an entire population - especially when we're talking about 80 million people - I felt obligated to investigate generational differences more thoroughly to see just how accurately they apply to each of us.

Browsing a laundry list of core values, two entries for each generation immediately caught my eye -- for baby boomers: "anything is possible" and "question everything"; and for millenials: "extremely techno savvy" and "Now". Moreover, boomers are supposed to be ambitious, competitive, ethical, and optimistic, while millenials are at ease in teams but fiercely independent, focus on change using technology, plus they're open to new ideas and they're innovative -- they like to think outside the creel . . . I mean box. For the sake of this story we're going to concentrate on the core values.

I rely on the notion that "anything is possible" so that's why I bet Michael a dollar I'd catch us a trout for dinner in 6 casts or less at one of my favorite holes. Sure enough, after the third try much to Michael's amazement, he saw a chunky redband rainbow flopping at my feet . . . and we weren't through wagering yet. Next I bet him double or nothing that he would catch a trout from this same spot in 6 casts or less too and what do you know, after his fourth shot, he had one for the frying pan as well. Anything IS Possible!

And speaking of dinner, I learned firsthand the millenial meaning of "Now" after returning to camp late the next evening with 2 hungry young men to feed. I planned to prepare ramen - a quick and simple dish - for all we needed per serving was 2 cups of boiling water and 3 minutes time. Apparently that wasn't fast enough. "Why can't you make two at a time?" I was asked. Well, for starters, our pot only holds 3 cups of water and next, there's only enough space in there for one block of noodles. "You can use less water and break up the blocks," I was told. Boy that ramen was good.

Fly fishing has been around since the Roman Empire - the 2nd century to be exact - and I'm sure younger generations of anglers were driving older generations of anglers nuts even way back then. But at least their nephews didn't own GPS systems or the gumption to use them. So I was off by a mile, does that really make a difference? I wonder how accurate those contraptions are anyway. Question everything, I do.

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.  -Unknown

Friday, August 31, 2012

Halfway, Part 1

When you have completed 95 percent of your journey, you are only halfway there. - Japanese Proverb

It's amazing how a simple song on the radio can magically transport you back to a particular point in your life. All I needed to hear was Heart and Soul by Huey Lewis and the News and it's 1983 and I'm 22 again and in the best physical shape of my life. I say this because I'm on the road to the (Donner und) Blitzen River for my first solo backpacking trip some 30 years later and considering the size and weight of the pack I'm about to strap on my back, I'm wondering why I didn't try something like this way back then!

For the past three seasons, right around Labor Day, my good friend Gary Zimmerman and I have been camping, fly fishing, and hiking the Blitzen while building a base camp we can return to each year. Our site is about a five mile hike from where we park and my goal was to make it there toting everything I need for a four day trip all alone . . . something much easier imagined than done!

It's no mystery, effective backpacking means minimalism -- you carry only the absolute necessities. But when that list includes a bed, clothing, food, a kitchen, and shelter, not to mention fly fishing and photographic equipment too, the pounds pile up pretty quickly. My load of "bare essentials" had to tip the scales at close to 100, but once I was able to secure the nylon beast to my back, I was off.

The hike proceeded smoothly for the first half mile until I reached a minor roadblock - a small feeder creek I needed to cross. Normally I would just step over the 3 foot divide but not today, I was carrying lots of company, so I stepped into the shallow crevice oblivious to the mayhem about to follow. You see, my foot became stuck in the mud - naturally - and the only way of extracting it seemed to require a flying face-plant on my part on the opposite bank! Embarrassed but undeterred, I removed my glasses and rolled over on my back, grappling with the mammoth hump all the while performing my best impersonation of a foolish turtle. Once the contraption was righted and I was standing erect, I realized something was missing . . . my glasses . . . and that's because they were hidden underneath the backpack when I was pinned to the ground!

Flattened like a tortilla, I lifted my grass-stained spectacles from the trail with a laugh but without a worry -- I can always bend them back into shape and simply continue on my way. After snapping the left temple off the frame, I wasn't laughing anymore and realized I better wait until I unpack my pliers and set-up camp before going any further. Hiking with one hand free and the other firmly affixed to my right temple (so I could see!) plus carrying a couple of bags of cement disguised as a backpack, I trudged on for two more miles - successfully crossing the river three more times I might add - until I spotted an oasis straight ahead. I saw tall Juniper trees that provided shade from the sun and shelter from the wind , as well as, close and easy access to the river and an abundant supply of cold, fast running water. Ripping the giant backpack from my shoulders and hearing it slam on the hard ground, I rejoiced, "I made it! I made it! . . . to Halfway Camp." Repairing my glasses was the next order of business and the first aid kit sure came in handy as all I needed was a band-aid to regain hands-free sight. The drama for today was done, exhausted I passed out under a sea of stars wondering what tomorrow might bring.

That question was answered early and emphatically -- trout, big trout, and lots of them! And I had a revelation: from answering nature's call to balancing, climbing, and searching for food and shelter, all the inhabitants of the high desert - including the guests - share the same struggles everyday and I found some comfort in knowing that.

If football is a game of inches then backpacking has to be measured in microns. It's a strange activity where initial pain is directly proportional to future comfort. But most of all, remember this: the journey is truly the reward and there's no shame in making it halfway as long as you enjoy the experience all the way. Now for the next challenge here: backpacking with my two nephews next month . . . let the saga continue.

Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.    - Japanese Proverb

Monday, July 30, 2012

American Icon

It's an image, a representation, or an important and enduring symbol . . . an icon. It's instant identification -- just one glance and everyone knows exactly what you're talking about. So when it comes to our great country and what we stand for, I can't think of anything more iconic than the Statue of Liberty.

Of all the cities, countries, states, and towns I've visited, one important spot continues to elude me -- New York City. Yes, I've never set foot in the Big Apple but that hasn't stopped me from photographing the Statue of Liberty because I've discovered one in my own backyard . . . in Milwaukie, Oregon.

The Oregon version of Lady Liberty is 31 feet tall, rising to over 50 feet including the pedestal base, while the original sculpture measures 151 feet tall, 305 feet with its base. Legend has it this 1/5 scale replica was purchased by a strip mall owner of Middle Eastern descent who wanted to express his gratitude and love for the United States by displaying the icon in front of his store. Its construction and installation offered some challenges - apparently one of the spires broke off and the statue caught on fire while it was being reattached - but the finished product appears pristine.

On its base, the statue has a plaque that reads: Liberty, Freedom for all Nations; Freedom for all People; Let Freedom Ring! And that's what it says to me too.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Soda and Pretzels and Bikes?

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer,
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,
You'll wish that summer could always be here . . .
- Nat King Cole

With all due respect to Mr. Cole, how can he sing about summer without mentioning bicycles? Ever since I was a kid, when I think of sunshine, vacation, and warmth, I think of bikes and the freedom to explore the great outdoors. And there's no better place to do just that than Oregon's magnificent Columbia River Gorge.

The sixth annual Gorge Ride, sponsored by the Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH), attracted nearly 400 riders ready to experience the 19.25 mile route that begins at the Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles and ends at the Hatfield Trailhead just east of Hood River. The ride is a combination of historic highway that's open to motor vehicles, with very low traffic, and the HCRH State Trail that's open only to bicyclists and hikers.

The terrain isn't as tough as it appears on elevation profiles as the HCRH was built with no grades exceeding 5%. The ride features excellent views from Rowena Crest and Memaloose Overlook and the opportunity to coast through the Mosier Twin Tunnels. From beginners to seasoned enthusiasts, the Gorge Ride offers something for every skill level.

So what are you waiting for? Get outside and get on a bike . . . and don't forget the soda and pretzels.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Written in Stone

I love the expression rock solid because it implies permanence. Few natural materials are as durable as stone -- if it's built from that, you can trust it's here to last. And in an erratic world, stability is crucial unless of course there's been a mistake . . . and it's Written in Stone. 

Inside the Westside Light Rail Tunnel at the Washington Park Station etched in granite on a 260-foot core sample of Portland, Oregon's West Hills, you will discover a 16-million year recitation of history which includes the first 107 digits of the transcendental constant pi. We (should) all remember pi as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, and its digits never repeat or follow any pattern. Other than its role in geometry, pi seems to have no special significance (as far as I know!) still it has held the human imagination hostage for almost 4000 years starting with the Babylonians and Egyptians. Unlike all the other versions of pi publicly displayed on the planet, the engraving in Portland is unique for one special reason: it's incorrect after the 11th digit.

According to my research, the error was spotted first by a MAX light rail engineer who had memorized pi to 12 digits as a child. Portland's Tri-Met insists the artist Bill Will got his information from a reference book, The History of Pi, and the numbers that appear on the wall are the same as those in the book. Well, kind of. So why the error? Was it art, dyslexia, intentional? Surprisingly artist Bill Will wasn't taking liberties with this universal constant but rather he was just unfamiliar with the format of mathematical tables and how they are read, he followed the columns of digits up and down instead of across.

Of course, most people won't even notice the discrepancy or probably even care, but this erroneous engraving provides at least one valuable lesson: double check your facts before they're Written in Stone!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Arc of a Driver

Effortless. That's the way musician Steve Winwood describes the Arc of a Diver in his popular song. After a recent photo assignment, I've discovered an effortless way to save energy, money, and our planet . . . let's call it the Arc of a Driver.
Since October of 2007, Eugene, Oregon-based Arcimoto has been developing and refining all-electric vehicles that support sustainable transportation. Their tandem two-seat cars are designed for the everyday driver with the capacity to carry two people and lots of groceries, the ability to maneuver and park easily, and an estimated range of 40 miles (which varies depending on the battery pack purchased). All of their cars feature an all-electric ultra-efficient drive system, race caliber suspension, sturdy space frame, and a lightweight body shell.
Arcimoto's third and fifth product prototypes, the Pulse and the SRK, employ the "reverse trike" (two wheels in front) formation which means less drag on the road while providing a more stable platform for improved handling at higher speeds. Moreover, their tandem seating arrangement makes for a slimmer footprint enhancing stability and offering a unique driving experience by placing the operator in the center of the vehicle. It's like combining the best features of a car and a motorcycle! 

Arcimoto's base model vehicles are equipped with a 40-mile range battery but extended (80-mile) and premium (160-mile) battery packs are available. The cars are freeway capable with a maximum speed of 65 to 70 miles per hour, but the optimal operating speed is between 25 to 40 mph. The SRK plugs into any standard 110-volt household outlet or the 220-volt outlets found at public charging stations around the country. If the batteries are completely depleted, the SRK will take about 6 hours to charge from a 110-volt outlet and about 2 hours on a 220-volt source.
For a complete charge of the standard 40-mile battery pack, it will cost about $0.85 in Oregon or Washington and about $1.50 in California. What's more, that battery pack will deliver a theoretical fuel economy of 190 MPGe at neighborhood driving speeds! With numbers like that, it won't be long before Arcimoto is the Arc of a Driver.

For more information about Arcimoto and their vehicles, please visit:  http://www.arcimoto.com/