Massive road trip, days 7-11

Day 7 started with a vist to Lewis and Clark College, which was interesting if not overwhelming for Tom. It’s a gorgeous campus and the study abroad stuff there is very cool, but it didn’t particular ring Tom’s bells.

We then spent most of the day hanging around Portland together, including a visit to the mighty and wonderful Powell’s City of Books (one of the last, great independent book stores) and checking in at GECCO to get my registration stuff. Tom totally loved Powell’s (“I could get lost in here!”), and has in fact spent large amounts of my money and his time there this week while I was at the conference. We also went out and saw Toy Story 3 that night, which turned out to be every bit as good as everyone’s said it is – lots of fun and very well written.

Day 8 was our last college visit in this part of the world, as we headed up to Olympia, Washington (2 hours north of Portland) to visit Evergreen State College. This was a real eye opener for both of us. I knew Evergreen was cool (and another of the small number of public liberal arts colleges in the U.S.), but didn’t know a lot of the details, and I think we both found the unusual curriculum and environment really interesting and thought provoking.

I had arranged beforehand to meet some of the computing faculty at Evergreen so we could learn a little more about their program as part of a program review we’re doing at Morris, so after the information session and tour we met up with Sherri Shulman and then headed over to meet her husband and fellow CS faculty, Neal Nelson. When Neal walked in, there was this very weird moment where we both those we knew each other but weren’t sure why. Duh, duh, and double duh – Neal was my undergraduate thesis advisor at Reed! I’d lost track of him when he left Reed in 1988, and I somehow thought he’d gone into industry so I wasn’t even looking to find him anywhere in our travels. Given all that and the the fact that his name doesn’t particularly stand out (and that I’m really crap with names), I totally didn’t consider the possibility that I knew this Neal guy we were going to see. After recovering from that somewhat awkward start, Sherri, Neal, and I had a really excellent conversation that ran a couple of hours easy. Lots of catching up on old times, as well as discussing undergraduate computing curriculum with limited resources in a public school – many thanks to both of them for all their time!

After returning to Portland, we went to Papa Haydn’s, possibly the best source of wonderfully scrumptious and rich desserts that I know of in the U.S. I had a wonderful Autumn Meringue and it was just like being a college student again (without the metabolism of a 20 year old). We used to walk out to Papa Haydn’s from Reed (maybe a 30 minute walk) several times a year and indulge, and was so cool to go back and find that it really hadn’t changed much in all those years.

That night was the opening reception at GECCO, so Tom and I hung around for a few hours eating little snacky things and chatting with various folks. Tom had never met most of my EC friends and colleagues, and he was very cool at meeting a bunch of strangers that are, even worse, all science nerds to a very high degree. Luckily it’s a really cool group of people, and I think he actually enjoyed himself.

By Day 9 I’d actually skipped out on the bulk of the first two days at GECCO, so at this point I essentially abandoned my son to the wilds of downtown Portland and started pretending to be a scientist for a bit. He spent most of his time hanging at Powell’s and reading books, while I listened to people talk about their cool evolutionary computation research.

That night I did actually skip out on the last session, though, and went back to Reed to join a bunch of faculty that have a regular Friday beer and food gathering at Woodstock Wine and Deli up the hill from campus. Jim had invited me to join them, and it was a great chance to meet some people I knew that I’d missed before (like Ray Mayer) and a bunch of other faculty that are new to the college since I was a student there in the dim past.

I wasn’t the only one meeting up with old friends, as Tom met up with Perry Webster from Morris (currently attending the University of Portland) and hung with her and a family friend pretty much the whole evening, which was a neat chance for him to spend a little time with people more his age :-).

Day 10 was much the same, although I stayed at the conference pretty late because the poster session and associated reception was that evening.

Day 11 (today) was the end of the conference, including eating lunch in the hotel sports bar with a bunch of very enthusiastic Europeans watching the World Cup final! Eli Mayfield (UMM ’09, now a grad student at Carnegie Mellon studying natural language processing) gave a talk today, and did a really excellent job. Tom and I went out to Jake’s Famous Crawfish with Eli and Bill Tozier. Jake’s was a great seafood house back in the day, and they didn’t disappoint, providing us with excellent food to go with the fine conversation. That was a great way to end our time in Portland!

Now we’re off to bed, and tomorrow we drive south to Tule Lake and Lava Beds National Monument. With a little luck we may hook up with Wayne Manselle in Eugen on the way!

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Massive road trip, days 3-6 (oops)

Thomas and I and our trusty Honda Fit on our departure
The intrepid travelers depart!

Wow – lack of internet and the busy-ness of college visits and GECCO in Portland have once again put me behind on this. Enough so that my wonderful mother commented on it.



It’s day 11, and I’ll try to get us up to day 6 today :-).

So, a quick recap, but generally no pictures because I’m even more behind on those.

View across Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park
View across Two Medicine Lake

On Day 3 we drove from Great Falls to Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. This lodge is one of those great railway lodges in the park built about 100 years ago using enormous timbers brought by rail from the west coast forests. We’d booked ourselves on the Red Bus Secret Valley Tour, which drives you to Two Medicine Lake, takes you across the lake and back on a boat, and then swings by Running Eagle Falls on the way back. The weather was pretty cloudy and occasionally rainy, so the views weren’t those stunning clear shots you get on postcards, but still quite impressive in its own way (see the photo above). Running Eagle Falls was back out of the mountains a bit, and it was clear and sunny there, which gave us some nice views there. The photo below is from the river there, and illustrates the three main colors of rock that form the mountains of Glacier: Red, green, and yellowish-brown.

Stones in the river at Running Eagle Falls, Glacier National Park
Stones in the river at Running Eagle Falls

We had a really nice dinner that night in the lodge, looking out on the mountains, and then played cards and hung out in the grand lobby the rest of the evening. There are, indeed, worse things.

A panorama of the mountains of Glacier National Park as we approached from the east
Approaching Glacier

The highlight of Day 4 was the drive through (over really) the park on the Going-to-the-sun road. I drove us to the park entrance, (the panorama above is as we approached the park from the east) but Tom drove the entire Going-to-the-sun road. If you’ve never been to Glacier, the Going-to-the-sun road is a little 2 lane job winding through very high mountains — definitely not like driving in Morris — and Tom did an excellent job. It was again overcast so the views were less than steller, but it’s still an amazing and awe inspiring place. Logan’s Pass (the high point at over 6K feet as you cross the continental divide) was cold, probably in the 30’s (F) with wind chills well below freezing. The road had only opened two weeks before we crossed, and we stood there on July 4th freezing and surrounded by big snow banks. There are two main trails that leave from the ranger’s station at Logan; one was closed due to “unsafe snow” and the other still had several feet of snow on it. The latter is apparently wheelchair accessible when clear, but people were using cross country skis on it when we were there.

The driving ended with our arrival at Lake McDonald Lodge, where we stayed in a nice if simple little cabin accommodation. After lunch Tom decided to hang in the lodge, and I went out and hiked and took pictures for about two hours, mostly along a muddy horse trail up parallel to the lake from the lodge from the Sperry trailhead towards John’s Lake. We then had dinner, and spent another fine evening playing cards in the lodge. The Lake McDonald Lodge is a smaller affair, and we played on a table on the second floor with a view of the grand fireplace and an audience for the various guests that shared their musical talents on the piano and banjo. I could totally manage to spend many an evening there.

Day 5 was the big push from Glacier to Portland. That was a long drive so we swapped quite a bit, but I think Tom drove over half of the day. Tons of beautiful mountain views at the beginning, and we ended with several hours in the amazing Columbia Gorge. We also had some nasty traffic in Coeur d’Alene, which turned out to be because of a light aircraft that crashed in the median between the two sides of our interstate the night before! They had cranes out and were still cleaning things up, and that plus rubbernecking was wreaking havoc with traffic.

We were pretty pooped after all that driving, so we got checked into the PSU dorms (the student housing for GECCO, and a hell of a deal compared to downtown hotels), ate dinner at Hot Lips pizza :-), wandered a little, and crashed.

Day 6 was devoted to Reed College, both as a visit to a prospective school for Tom and as a major nostalgia trip for his father. We had an excellent day there, starting the information session and tour (and me mumbling about how things were 25+ years ago). After lunch we went to the library, where I gave them a couple of signed copies of the Field Guide and Tom and I got to look at yearbooks and student newspapers from my time there. The weirdest bit of that was Tom’s discovery of a front page piece I wrote about the campus nuclear reactor receiving some minor regulatory thwaps; I have absolutely no memory of writing the piece, but it’s pretty clearly my name and my writing style, so I must have :-). We then had long visits with Irena Swanson and Jim Fix in the Math/CS department, and Walter Englert in Classics. Walter was my first year Humanities prof, and a huge influence even though I only had him for one course. Irena and I overlapped as students and took at least one class together, and Jim is the sole computing faculty at Reed and it was cool to meet him and learn what and how he’s managing the computational side of the curriculum at Reed. I think Tom was pretty bored listening to me talk show with the Math/CS folks, but he really enjoyed meeting Walter and talking about Reed, colleges in general, and courses like Humanities. We went up the hill with Irena, her husband Steven (who also overlapped with me at Reed), and son Simon (who didn’t, since he’s 17) and had beers and conversation, and then Tom and I came back, wandered around a bit and collapsed!

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