Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This large museum building is tucked away in a corner of Paine Field in Everett, Washington.  I visited in August 2017 on the way home from a long weekend in Portland to visit Antiques Roadshow!  The museum is the lifelong dream of Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft – he has long had a passion for historic aircraft, and set about acquiring some of the rarest examples of military aircraft in the world.  Many of the planes are in restored and flyable condition – and they are spectacular!

The museum has excellent information on each plane, both the make and model of the particular plane on display, as well as the particulars of the plane that is sitting before you, and how it was acquired.  I am a nerd for that kind of detail, so I enjoyed reading all the signs and taking good long looks at the planes.


Allen branched out into collecting other types of military vehicles as well, and eventually had to change the name of the museum to reflect the fact that it wasn’t all planes.  The museum has all sorts of Jeeps, tanks, transport vehicles, rocket launchers and other types of combat armored vehicles.  It is really interesting to see.


There is a great exhibit on World War I and II; and the history of events that led up to the world being embroiled in battle twice in less than 30 years.  There was a lot of information in that room, as well as replicas of the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs.

Fat Man and Little Boy (replicas)


There is even the trophy for the X-Prize that Paul Allen and his team won in 2004 – for being the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks – it came with a $10 million prize too, but that wasn’t on display.

Some of my favorite planes though, are the ones with the nose art.  They are so beautiful – and really represent the character and personality of the pilot who flew the plane.  I have seen some really nice nose art at various museum, and loved the artwork here.


The museum is well worth the $16 cost of admission, and even Shelley’s teenage son Jack, who was pretty blah about going, had to admit in the end that he really enjoyed it.  It was a great end to a nice long weekend.



Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: High Desert Museum

Day 10, Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Today was another long day of driving, so we planned to be heading out at 7.  We actually ended up getting on the road at 7:30, so we didn’t do too bad – after all, we did sort of dawdle at the hotel breakfast for awhile…

And then we drove…  For awhile… Through desert and sagebrush and lots and lots of Eastern Oregon boring…  The monotony was broken up only by a couple of restroom breaks, and a short stop for road construction in the middle of nowhere – so nowhere, I don’t even know where nowhere was…  These are big states out West people…

There isn’t much that’s exciting to say about this 5 hours of mind numbing car sitting, except there was a little incident.  The girls were bickering, so my brother did the classic, “Do you want me to pull this van over?” screeching stop on the side of the highway, releasing a huge plume of gravel dust into the air!  Then we rearranged – my sister in law in the far back with one niece, my other niece in the middle seat, and me up front.  Grounded in a 7 passenger mini van!  I had to try really hard to keep a straight face; sometimes it pays to be the aunt!

Finally, just before 1 pm, we made it to the High Desert Museum.  We had peanut butter wraps for lunch in the parking lot, and then headed inside.  This place is amazing!  My brother and his family knew that of course, since they had been there several times.  The High Desert Museum is part history museum, complete with interactive history exhibits, and part zoo/conservation center.

The High Desert Museum

I checked out the exhibits on World War II, the Native Americans during the period of assimilation in the United States, and a exhibit of really gorgeous Oregon photography! The exhibits are very well done and interactive.  They also have an outdoor area with historic buildings that you can go inside, including a homestead home, a root cellar, a barn and an old sawmill!  They have a couple of train cars as well that are being restored and aren’t on display.


We also saw several of the animal shows, including Desert Dwellers, featuring the Desert Tortoise, the American Badger and the Porcupine, a show featuring a Great Horned Owl (he can’t fly due to an injured wing), and a show featuring their River Otters.  They also have animals on exhibit throughout the museum, so you can see them outside of the shows as well.  They have several types of snakes and lizards, a Gila Monster, a Bobcat, and several birds of prey.


Note: Photo credit for the Bobcat goes to my Sister in Law.


Note: Photo credit for the Barn Owl, Bald Eagles and Golden Eagle goes to my Sister in Law.

After we left the Museum, we went into downtown Sisters, Oregon and had dinner at the Sisters Saloon (they have an all ages section).  I had the Bison Burger and a cider – delicious!  We all enjoyed the kids menu, because it had word searches.  I love word searches, so I enjoyed helping the kids find their words.  Sometimes it is the simple things.

Sisters Saloon

After dinner, we checked into what is known simply as the “Llama Hotel” in my family.  That’s right – the Best Western in Sisters, Oregon has a herd of llamas onsite to captivate and delight guests – my nieces and nephew love it and always ask to stay there, so we did.  Like many Best Westerns, it has a Western theme, and this one also has a nice outdoor pool and covered hot tub.  Of course, we made good use of it!

A doe and her fawn at the Llama Hotel

Perhaps strangely, I did not take any photos of the llamas at the Llama Hotel (don’t judge me!), but I did capture this mama deer nursing her still spotted fawn.

Our evening was capped off by sitting on the deck of my brother’s room, sipping on adult beverages while the kids watched TV inside.  It was fabulous.

Distance for the Day: Nampa, ID – High Desert Museum, Bend, OR – Sisters, OR (5 hours, 43 minutes; 333 miles – you gain an hour coming west with the time change)
High Desert Museum Entrance Fee: $15 per adult, $9 per child (3-12)
Best Western Ponderosa Lodge: Sisters, OR: $210 for my room (includes tax) – free breakfast!  NOTE: Bend and Sisters are incredibly expensive in the summer season!


Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: World Center for Birds of Prey

Day 2, Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We woke up in Farewell Bend State Park on a cooler, but still hot, and still breezy morning.  I took a shower – the water took a long time to warm up so most of it was cold… Then we had omelettes and chocolate muffins for breakfast.  We live such a rough camping life! Tear down and packing the car took a bit of time, as it was our first attempt at re-Tetrising on the road.  I had my stuff packed and ready to go long before the kids, so I helped their parents try to wrangle them and we got on the road at 9:30.

Our next stop was at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  I had been there once before, in 2013 and loved it! The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center. They are a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  Peregrines have been used in falconry for over 3,000 years, and the group wanted to save them for the sport.  Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, diving at speeds more than 200 mph while hunting.

Peregrine Falcon

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.  They are doing so well now that the Center no longer breeds them for release into the wild; they are focusing their efforts on other, still endangered, species.

While we were there, we saw a demonstration on a Lanner Falcon, which is native to the Mediterranean area.  He was beautiful, and we all loved seeing him up close.  We learned about the malar stripes, which reduce glare on the bird’s eyes as they hunt.  It’s where football players got the idea.

Lanner Falcon

We watched the movie on the work of the center, and I also loved seeing the success story of the Peregrine Falcon (removed from the endangered species list in 1999), as well as the California Condor, which in great part is due to the efforts of the World Center for Birds of Prey has gone from only 22 individuals remaining in the world to 446 in captivity and in the wild as of the end of 2016.  We also checked out the birds on display inside.

When we went back outside after touring the indoor exhibits, we split up and I was lucky enough to find two bird handlers with a male and female American Kestrel.  They look so different from each other – it was very cool to see them up close!  They are very small falcons, and the females are larger than the males, which is common among birds of prey.  Also very interesting is that Kestrels can hover, in order to ambush and swoop down on their prey!

American Kestrel Male


American Kestrel Female

The center also has several birds on exhibit outdoors, including a Bald Eagle, a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine and my favorites, the Bataleur Eagles.  These eagles were 45 and 47 years old when I visited in 2013, so now they are 50 and 52 years old!  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968.  The birds here are not able to be released in the wild, either due to the fact that they were imprinted on humans when they were young or due to an injury they suffered previously.  The Center uses them as education birds, teaching students and community members about the species and their conservation efforts.


I was sure they wouldn’t be interested, but after we told them about it, the kids really wanted to do the tour of the archive.  The archive, of course has books and information on the history of falconry, but it also has exhibits and artifacts related to falconry.  There are falconry hoods and perches, radio and early GPS tracking systems, and artwork related to falconry.  There is also a 20 x 12 foot traditional goat-hair hunting tent from Syria.  The archive was made possible in large part from a donation from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding President of the United Arab Emirates and a falconer himself.  I guess it goes to show that it pays to know people…  I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed seeing it, especially the hunting tent, and they listened attentively to the guide during the tour.


After the archive, we had a snack and got on the road again.  Our plan had been to head over to Craters of the Moon National Monument, not thinking we were going to be at the World Center for Birds of Prey for so long.  What an issue to have!  So sadly, by the time we got to Craters, there weren’t any campsites available – they are first-come first-served.  After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would do Craters on the way home.  So that evening we really just breezed through…

At this point, it was getting late and starting to get dark and we still didn’t have a campsite…  A call to a KOA RV Park in Arco, Idaho and we had a site!  We got checked in and my brother took the kids over to the pool while Susanna and I got tents up and dinners started.  Cooking dinner over a camp stove in the dark with a headlamp is always interesting!  We had noodle pasta with hamburger and salad.  Not gourmet, but it hit the spot!  We had picked up a bottle of wine on our travels that day, and Susanna and I enjoyed some wine while cooking and during dinner too.

After dinner, and after booting the kids to bed, Michael, Susanna and I stayed up talking and enjoying our bevvies – wine for the girls and a bit of whisky for my brother, before turning in for the night.  Another great day…


Distance for the Day: 4 hours, 58 minutes; 282 miles
World Center for Birds of Prey: $10.00 adults, $8 seniors, $5  youth ages 4 to 16. 
Craters of the Moon KOA, Arco, Idaho: $30 for a tent site (if I remember correctly)


Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Baker City

Day 1, Monday, July 24, 2017

I headed down to Portland the day before we departed on our road trip, and spent Sunday evening sorting out last minute packing details and spending time with my nieces and nephew.

Monday morning, we were up and at ’em.  The first order of business, after showers and breakfast, was to “Tetris” the minivan.  Six people in a minivan, with all our stuff and camping gear is a tight squeeze!  It took some doing, and a healthy bit of discarding to get everything in the van!  We got on the road a little later than anticipated, but at 9 am, we pulled out of the driveway and soon we were traveling on Interstate 84 along The Columbia River Gorge.  Lunch was ham sandwiches, cucumbers, tomatoes and Doritos at the Boardman Rest Area, and it was windy, so we had to make sure to hold our stuff down!

After piling back into the car, we made good time, and our next stop was in Baker City, Oregon, at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.  The site is part of the National Parks System, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, so my annual pass served as our admission fee.

The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Sign


Heading into the Center

The center has an outdoor exhibit with several covered wagons, some original to the Oregon Trail time period, and some replicas.  The kids were able to climb into the wagons and see what it would be like to ride in a covered wagon.  They had fun, and seeing the different wagons was pretty neat.

Covered Wagons – the one in front is an original


The inside of a covered wagon – could you fit your whole life in there?

Inside the Center, we had time to look through the exhibits, which covered the experience of the pioneers traveling the trail, the items they brought with them, and the reasons why families made the decision to travel West to the Oregon Territory.  The Center also had an exhibit on gold mining, as many pioneers came west to try their luck at gold mining in the region.  Outside, visitors can view the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine Stamp Mill.

The Stamp Mill at the Interpretive Center

I decided to do the Junior Ranger Program which included finding the answers to questions throughout the center’s exhibits.  Some of them were hard – I think I forgot all that stuff I studied in school!  I did manage to complete my book before it was time to go, and I got my first Junior Ranger Badge!  Yes, I really am a nerd, in case you didn’t already know that.  My nieces and nephew didn’t want to finish theirs, but I think they were totally jealous when they saw my badge…

Pioneers on the Oregon Trail

As we were talking to the Ranger, we learned that the freeway was closed further down the road due to a chemical spill.  Would we be able to get to the campground before nightfall?  Luckily, we got word right as we were wrapping up that the road had reopened.  Yay!  We piled back into the van after taking a short trail back to stretch our legs once home and get one last view of the covered wagons.

The landscape from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

A little less than an hour more of driving, and finally we got to our destination for the night – Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, which is right along the Oregon/Idaho border, along the Snake River.  We got our tents set up – it was still windy but it was hot!!  We had a huge field almost entirely to ourselves – and the restroom was just right across the field.  We had dinner and went for a walk to explore the riverbank.

The Snake River

The Park is another Oregon Trail site, because after following the Snake River for 330 miles, Oregon Trail pioneers rested above the bend in the river here.  It was here that they said farewell to the Snake River and continued their journey. Nearby is the location where the Snake River Shoshone Indians battled with pioneer travelers in 1860.

There were several people fishing from the boat launch dock, a few feet away from a several dead fish rotting along the banks of the river.  I am pretty sure that even if I had a fishing pole, I wouldn’t want to fish so close to dead fish – YUCK! I’ll spare you the photos of that – here’s a cute bunny instead…

A bunny at our campsite

The sunset was spectacular that evening, and it was too windy to have a fire, so as is the case with camping, we turned in when the darkness hit.  I lay on top of my sleeping bag in the heat of the evening, pondering life before falling asleep to the sound of the breeze…

The view from my tent – Farewell Bend State Recreation Area


The sunset at Farewell Bend


Distance for the Day: 5 hours, 37 minutes; 355 miles
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: $8.00 adults, $4.50 seniors, free for youth ages 15 and under.  A free carload with a National Parks Pass.
Farewell Bend State Recreation Area: $18 for a tent site


Glass Ceiling

I take a lot of photos – way more than ever end up on this blog…  And sometimes one is just so pretty it deserves to be seen, even if I can’t fit it into a post.  This is the ceiling at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, at the Seattle Center.  We didn’t go into the exhibit the day we were at the Terracotta Army exhibit, as it costs $24 per person.  Maybe someday I will.  Meanwhile, you can stand beneath this spectacular creation for free.  This ceiling is so beautiful!


Ceiling at the Chihuly Garden and Glass

Terracotta Army at the Pacific Science Center

August 19, 2017

Last August, my mom and I went to see the Terracotta Army exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.  It was a great day for it!

The Seattle Space Needle


The Army was discovered in 1974 in Lintong District, Xi’an, China.  The first pieces of pottery were discovered in a farmer’s field, and then archaeologists kept finding more as they began digging. The Army was created beginning in 246 BCE when Emperor Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne.  Work at points involved approximately 700,000 workers, working until approximately 209-210 BCE; the figures were all part of a huge necropolis surrounding the tomb of the Emperor.

The site has not been fully excavated, but estimates are that the site has 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.  There were also other types of figures, including musicians, acrobats, strongmen and officials.

The Army is extremely realistic, and the figures are life-sized. The exhibit included a cross section of the figures, including archers, laborers, infantrymen and generals.  They are all different, and although there were about 10 face molds, each of the individual faces are different.  The figures are recognizable by their uniforms, hairstyles and head wear.  The exhibit allowed you to get up close and personal, and really examine the figures.


I loved the chariots and the horses!  The horses were really well done, and of course I would love one.  How can I get one for my living room?

Cavalry Soldier and Horse


A Chariot Replica

Originally the Terracotta Army figures were painted, although at this point most of the paint has long fallen away.  This exhibit included a virtual representation of the painting process.  As you watch the figure, he brightens with layers of paint to become a bright, vibrant, colorful figure.  Then, just as quickly, the virtual model shows the paint falling away and disintegrating as it did over thousands of years tucked away in their below ground crypt.


The exhibit also showed the process of making the figures.  They explain how the figures are molded, how the clay is made, and then how the various pieces are put together.  The figures aren’t one complete piece, due to the size, and have to be made very carefully or they will break.

The exhibits included lots of other smaller clay figures as well, and other decorative objects for grave sites.  The clay animals and figures were very detailed and beautiful.


I really enjoyed this exhibit; it was fascinating!  The figures were gorgeous and the exhibit did a great job of explaining the history of the Terracotta Army and its purpose and re-discovery.

Mom and I also had lunch at Seattle Center that day, and enjoyed the Butterfly House at the Science Center.  Most of the regular exhibits at the Science Center are geared towards kids, but the Butterfly House will interest people of all ages.  If you are there for a special exhibit, be sure to check it out!


The only bad part of the day was that I forgot to bring my big camera, so all my photos are with my cell phone, which isn’t very good.  I find myself really wanting to travel to China to see the entire Army!

Me after my day at the Terracotta Army Exhibit


Walla Walla 2017: Relaxation

Day 2 – Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday morning Lelani and I were both up early (I mean remember I had basically slept the entire day before!), so we took a walk around the neighborhood and just enjoyed the quiet morning.

Historic Sharpstein Manor, Walla Walla


Historic Home, now apartments

We got back, had the hotel breakfast, relaxed some on the hotel patios, and then the whole gang wandered over to Bacon and Eggs for cocktails.  When on vacation you might as well go heavy on the relaxing!  We all enjoyed cocktails – I had a Grapefruit Mimosa – YUM!  Then we did a bit of shopping (Walla Walla has some really cool little shops), and found a shop called Trove that Paula loved, because their logo is a Fleur de Lis.  She loves Fleur de Lis, and Trove had some really cute stuff!  We also went to the farmer’s market, and checked out all the fresh produce and craft items. I got a pair of earrings and a pendant made from recycled glass bottles. They are gorgeous! Sadly, I broke one of the earrings (turns out glass earrings don’t fare too well when dropped on concrete), but I have been using the second earring as another pendant for now. Next time I am there I will be sure to get another pair of earrings – or several!

My Grapefruit Mimosa at Bacon and Eggs

We also went to the Museum of Unnatural History. It is a tiny little place, created and run by a guy named Gerry Matthews with a very strange and creative imagination. He spent his career working in the film and commercial industry.  Most notably, he was the voice of Sugar Bear, the mascot for Sugar Crisp cereal – now known as Golden Crisp.  I am sure everybody my age remembers the voice!  He then retired to Walla Walla and created this museum, a play on the many Museums of Natural History… Let me just say, Wow. There was just so much bizarre going on in such a small space…  The exhibits are – well, there are just no words.  He was there when we visited and he was happy to answer questions or dialogue about his creations…  Lelani and Joel LOVED it! Paula HATED it! Brandon and I were fairly neutral. Let’s just say I won’t be decorating my home in any of his motifs.  It just goes to show that we all have different tastes, and different creative minds.  If you want to visit, it is free (he accepts donations), worth a visit, and clearly a labor of love, but it is only open Saturdays from 10-2 or by appointment.  If you do go, I guarantee you won’t leave without an opinion! Keep in mind, I limited my photos here to the PG-13 stuff, but there is A LOT more to see.

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Saturday afternoon we went to the Morrison Lane tasting room. Morrison Lane is a family run winery, owned and operated by my friend Shawn and his family.  Shawn has been the winemaker for several years now, and the wines are delicious; I especially enjoyed the Rosé, the Syrah, and the Carmenere.  The bottles have artwork depicting the Lewis Chessmen, a group of 12th century chess pieces that were discovered at the Lewis Bay in Scotland in 1831. I love the tie in to history with the labels! Both Shawn and his parents are kind and personable, and love speaking with guests about their wine; we sat around for a while chatting and revisiting some of the wines.

Saturday evening we went over to Shawn’s house for his 50th birthday.  A backyard BBQ with amazing food; chicken skewers with peanut sauce, Thai noodle salad, pasta salad and lots of local beer and wine. We sat around talking and enjoying the hot Eastern Washington evening.  There was laughter – a lot of laughter – of the “what happens in Walla Walla stays in Walla Walla” variety!