Cycling the Skagit Tulip Festival

Sunday was a perfect day. It was in the mid-60s, with a light breeze and bluebird skies, conditions that are almost unheard of in mid-April in the Pacific Northwest. And the perfect weather coincided with the height of blooms in the Skagit Valley tulip fields. For a few weeks in April or May, Skagit farmlands are abloom with hundreds of acres of tulips in every color. Skagit Valley Tulip FestivalConditions were so perfect, in fact, that the entire state of Washington and most of British Columbia decided that Sunday was the day to tour the tulip fields. Country roads that see little traffic for 11 months of the year were suddenly congested with cars lined up bumper-to-bumper, creeping along stop and go, for stretches up to 6 miles long. Maybe not the perfect way to spend the day, after all.

In lieu of the autocar, we opted for our trusty two-wheelers. We parked our vehicle just off the freeway, right before traffic came to a standstill, and cycled a nice 20+ mile loop through the fields. We zipped past nearly a thousand cars idling, waiting to turn at country road intersections. Traffic was so slow that we didn’t feel any danger about collisions; the greatest risk was riding into a car door that might suddenly be opened by a bored passenger who realized he could walk faster than he was moving in a car.

The thrill of passing so many people in cars was enough to make it fun for me, but even better was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about parking. Parked cars lined the shoulders of these backcountry roads for miles, requiring tulip enthusiasts to walk up to a mile from their car back to the fields in bloom. Our bikes gave us the freedom and compactness to park ourselves wherever we chose.

Cycling the tulips

We paid the $5 admission to tour the 3.5 acre Roozengaarde gardens, where dozens of varieties are planted every year to showcase the myriad of colors and forms. While we locked our bikes to some shrubs amidst a sea of people, one woman said, “Bikes! What a great idea. I used to own a bike…” Without missing a beat, Joshua whispered, “They still make them, you know.”

Roozengaarde

One of the many displays at Roozengaarde.

Touring by bike also gave us the opportunity to move at our own pace. We were riding on the shoulder of the road, moving slowly when we chose, which gave us time to notice beautiful surprises. These red tulips in a sea of yellow would have been missed by any cars passing by.

Surprise!

 

We lingered long enough to catch the evening light, which filtered through the petals, making them radiant.

Red tulips

 

Yellow tulips

For the thousandth time, I felt grateful that I live in northwest Washington and that I’m physically healthy.Mt. Shuksan

Cycling the Tulip FieldsWhether you’re a seasoned cyclist, or only occasional, I highly recommend cycling through the Skagit tulip fields. And the time is NOW. The fields probably have 1-2 weeks of bloom left. You can do routes as short as 13 miles, up to 30 or more, and the roads are entirely flat, so the cycling is easy. Plan for a weekday evening to enjoy the best light and avoid the worst traffic.

Photos by Charis Weathers, Gwen Weerts, and Josh Eastlund.

 

 

 

Work Around the World

The travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack is work, which is a great theme because most of us spend the majority of our lives doing it. I’ve been privileged to glimpse the private (and sometimes public) work lives of many people in my travels. Sometimes their work is oriented toward the tourist trade (like craft vendors and tour guides); other work is colorful and loud, and meant entirely for the locals (like the street vendor below). I’ve watched people in Nairobi go to desk jobs similar to the one I hold now, and others in rural Kenya work to grind their own flour for an evening meal. The photographs below capture a few people working across cultures, from urban to rural and everywhere in between.

This meat seller fries some cecina (pounded seasoned pork) for a tlayuda.

This meat seller in Cuajimoloyas, Oaxaca, prepares her grill, while pounded meat hangs like a curtain to dry.

This street performer works the crowd in the Zocolo.

This street performer works the crowd in the Zocolo, Oaxaca City.

Making chocolate at Mayordomo in Oaxaca City.

Making chocolate at Mayordomo in Oaxaca City.

The photos that follow were taken in Kenya in 2004. They are scanned from 35 mm prints, and I so greatly wish I could go back and take these photos digitally!

My friend Judy processes her maize harvest and separates the chaff.

My friend Judy processes her maize harvest and separates the chaff.

A girl grinds sorghum on a large stone mortar.

A girl grinds sorghum on a large stone mortar.

This woman embodies the African woman, carrying the load of the world on her head and back.

This woman embodies the African woman, carrying the load of the world on her head and back.

Judy prepares supper in her earthen kitchen.

Judy prepares supper in her earthen kitchen using sticks of wood for fuel.

Students study diligently on a Saturday afternoon.

Students study diligently at St. Michael’s Secondary School (Nyandema, Kenya) on a Sunday afternoon.

This last photo was taken at the Richmond Night Market in Vancouver, Canada. This guy was grilling haddock, and he looked like he really enjoyed his job.

Here are a few other interpretations of the theme:

  1. Pingback: Endless Skys
  2. Pingback: TRAVEL THEME: Work – fathersunny
  3. Pingback: http://max510.com/2014/02/25/weekly-travel-theme-work/
  4. Pingback: (Loosely ^_^) Travel Theme: Work | Locating Frankenstein’s Brain
  5. Pingback: Confessions of a Business Traveler | Peaks and Passports
  6. Pingback: Travel Theme: Work | That Montreal Girl
  7. Pingback: 2-22-14 Travel Theme: Work | The Quotidian Hudson

     

the Two Golden Faces of Las Vegas

The theme is yellow over at Where’s My Backpack, which gives me an excuse to finally post some photos of our recent trip to Las Vegas.

Bellingham winters are dreary, and we were determined to spend a few days of Josh’s winter break under the yellow sun. So we headed to Las Vegas, which averages 292 sunny days per year. Instead of heading to The Strip, we booked an airbnb rental in the western suburbs just 15 minutes away from the Red Rock Conservation Area, where we planned to spend a few days scrambling on the sandstone.

1. All That Glitters

We joked that we might be the only people to travel to Las Vegas and never set foot in a casino. But since we knew we were headed to Las Vegas, I asked Joshua for tickets to Cirque du Soleil for my Christmas gift, which meant venturing onto The Strip. Parking is free at all the major casinos in Las Vegas, but you have to walk through the casino to get outside to the Boulevard. So, we ended up setting foot in a casino after all. We arrived on The Strip just early enough to cruise Las Vegas Boulevard for a few hours before the show and snap some photos of the glittery and the grotesque.

Paris

Paris, Las Vegas

This golden stone obelisk is in the Bellagio.

The sexiest cabaret fountain dance I’ve ever seen.

 

2. Yellow Sandstone

We spent the rest of our three days in Nevada hiking in the Red Rock Conservation Area and Valley of Fire State Park. The dominant rock color was of course red, but in one region of the Valley of Fire (aptly named Rainbow Vista), yellow sandstone was layered with the pink. I’m searching for the words to describe the stunning effect, but this is a photo challenge after all. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Yellow Arch

Yellow Arch

dome

Yellow dome

Rainbow Vista

Yellow painted hills

 Here are some other interpretations of the theme “yellow”:

2-11-14 Weekly Travel Theme: Yellow (Iteration Department) | The Quotidian Hudson

Furry and Prehistoric | Another Paradise

Travel Theme: Yellow | Chronicles of Illusion

I Ain’t Yellow….Well Maybe a Little. | Lillie-Put

 Travel Theme: Yellow | Here & Abroad

Travel theme: Yellow | A Number of Things

Travel Theme: YELLOW | THE REWILD WEST

Travel theme: Yellow | Two Black Dogs