Delft plate with windmills

Delft plate with windmills

"In the Month of July" showing a windmill on a polder waterway by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel, Rijksmuseum collection

“In the Month of July” showing a windmill on a polder waterway by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel, Rijksmuseum collection

Think of Holland and you think of windmills and the distinctive blue and white of Delft pottery.  We saw both by using Amsterdam as a base for daytrips to the town of Delft and to Zaanse Schans.

There are over 1150 working windmills in the Netherlands.  Zaanse Schans, a short bus ride (bus 391) from Amsterdam, is a “living history” destination with the opportunity for a close-up look at several old windmills.

The windmills of Zaanse Schans

The windmills of Zaanse Schans




By covering the blades with canvas, the windmill catches more wind.

By covering the blades with canvas, the windmill catches more wind.



We took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Delft.  The train, filled with commuters going to the Hague, was a smooth, quiet ride.  We saw a few fields of yellow daffodils from the train windows.

The central train station in Amsterdam

The central train station in Amsterdam

Commuters reading the newspaper on the train

Commuters reading the newspaper on the train

Fields of yellow daffodils

Fields of yellow daffodils

Audrey and I both loved Delft.  On the day we visited, there was a general market in the main square, an outdoor flower market, and a flea market.  Our main activities there were strolling, looking, and nibbling.

"The Little Street" by Johannes Vermeer showing a street in Delft, from the Rijksmuseum collection

“The Little Street” by Johannes Vermeer showing a street in Delft, from the Rijksmuseum collection


Shop selling Delftware

Shop selling Delftware

Painter at one shop demonstrating the art of Delft painting

Craftsman at one shop demonstrating the art of Delft painting

Detailed painting

Detailed painting

Delftware with tulips

Delftware with tulips

At the Delft flower market

At the Delft flower market

Delft flower market

Delft flower market

So many cheese shops, Delft and everywhere in Holland

So many cheese shops, Delft and everywhere in Holland

Rhubarb for sale at a green grocer in Delft

Rhubarb for sale at a green grocer in Delft

Old windows, Delft

Old windows, Delft

Stone surface in the market square, Delft

Stone surface in the market square, Delft

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer with kaleidoscope effect.  Vermeer was born in Delft.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer with kaleidoscope effect. Vermeer was born in Delft.

Another view from the train window on the ride back to Amsterdam

Another view from the train window on the ride back to Amsterdam























Shadows: replica of Stonehenge along the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA

“It is indeed immensely picturesque.  I can fancy sitting all a summer’s day watching its shadows shorten and lengthen again, and drawing a delicious contrast between the world’s duration and the feeble span of individual experience.  There is something in Stonehenge almost reassuring; and if you are disposed to feel that life is rather a superficial matter, and that we soon get to the bottom of things, the immemorial gray pillars may serve to remind you of the enormous background of time.”
— Henry James, 1875

I have not had the privilege of seeing Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain of England, but I hope to get there some day.  In the meantime, I finally visited a life-sized replica of Stonehenge situated along the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA.  This Stonehenge was built after World War I as a memorial to those soldiers from Klickitat County who lost their lives in that Great War.

I was surprised at how small this replica is — in my mind, Stonehenge has always been a grand monument, somewhat larger-than-life.  Washington’s Stonehenge misses some of the mystery of the original ancient and irregular stones.  This replica is a bit too uniformly constructed.  But its location in the arid range along the gorge of the Columbia River is impressive, and I’m glad I finally made the time to see it.

Replica of Stonehenge along the Columbia River

Just a replica, but still impressive

Stonehenge with blue sky

From inside the circle of pillars

Stonehenge with windmill

Posterized effect

View of Mount Hood from Stonehenge







“I guess I have a bad case of the American nostalgia for the clean, simple country life as opposed to the complicated world of the city.”
— Norman Rockwell, from Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People by Maureen Hennessey and Anne Knutson

“It is in the heart of the city that one writes the most inspired pages about the country.”
— Jules Renard, from The Journal of Jules Renard, edited and translated by Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget

Eastern Washington with view of Mount Hood

I admit feeling nostalgia for the country life, but I am now a city person, unwilling to give up ready access to libraries, neighborhood eateries and coffee shops, museums, culture.  I do appreciate the space and slower pace of the country, though.  This expansiveness and solitude seems especially apparent in eastern Washington, where the countryside is wide, open range rather small homestead farms.

Fences and sagebrush along Hwy 97 between Yakima and Goldendale, WA

Horses in the arid landscape

View from a rest stop along Hwy 97 in eastern Washington

I was reminded of the dearth of things to do in rural areas when I happened upon an odd sight at this rest stop along Highway 97 near Goldendale.  I wondered why this couple had plopped a couple of lawn chairs out in the sagebrush overlooking a dry, arid landscape — were they working on their tans?  Contemplating an attack on windmills like Don Quixote?

A seemingly odd place for an afternoon’s repose

But when there’s not much to do, you make your own fun.  Here in the mini-gorge below the rest stop is an historic road called “The Maryhill Loops Road.”  With its 25 curves in less than 4 miles, it is the destination for speeding cars and racing skateboards!  On this day, car racers were running trials for a Hill Climb event.  There was plenty of free seating!

Racing cars on the Maryhill Loops Road

Maryhill Loops Road

A feeling of infinity on the horizon line, with windmills

You just never know what you’ll see when you take a drive in the country!

I’m back from Texas and will be sharing some of my trip photos and impressions over the next few days.  We travelled 1,566 miles in our rented car, so we saw quite a bit of Texas.  If I had to describe Texas in two words, they would be flat and windy!  We enjoyed the Texas weather, which was in the 70s and 80s.

Here are some photos from our Texas rambles:

Landscape near Chappell Hill area, east of Houston


Vintage Dr. Pepper sign on building in Chappell Hill. Dr. Pepper was invented by a pharmacist in Waco, Texas.

Weathered sign along a Texas back road. The Wild West is still alive!

The Edythe Bates Old Chapel at the International Festival Institute near Round Top, Texas. It is used as one performance space at this music academy.

Concert Hall at the International Festival Institute. Mighty fancy digs in the middle of Texas!

Inside the Stuermer Store in Ledbetter, Texas. The store has been in business since 1891. We stopped in for malts from its soda fountain (formerly a saloon bar).

Cash register at the Stuermer Store, which is part museum, part local store.

The proprietress of the Stuermer Store is the grand-daughter of the original owner. She rang up all sales.

A maze of bridges near Dallas, Texas.

More bridges in Ft. Worth. Heaven help you if you didn't know where you were going!

Exterior, Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas

Magnificent "Glory Window" in the Chapel of Thanksgiving

Reflections on a Dallas skyscraper look like distortions in a fun house mirror.

Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive sculpture in Dallas: 70 larger-than-life bronze cattle and 3 cowboys

Silhouette of windmill

The flat fields near Corpus Christi were so huge that it took three tractors in tandem for planting.

The ubiquitous Texas state flag. We saw them flying all over on our trip.

Summer Road Trips

June 9, 2010

Highway 2 across eastern Washington

“Here in the disappe5aring prairie
I finally understand
how some infinities can be larger,
others smaller; how certain endless
quantities move closer to no end
faster than others.
Aleph Null — countable though infinite:
grass, sun, treelessness.
Aleph One — uncountable and infinite:
dust, wind, fire.  The distance
between here and God.”
     — from “A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland: 1. Road Trip Poem” by Jessica Goodfellow

Car trips seem like a quintessential American experience.  We never vacationed when I was growing up — all nine kids wouldn’t have fit in one car, and we couldn’t take a break from the responsibilities of caring for farm animals and crops.  So long driving trips feel like a treat to me.

The long drive across the state from Seattle to Spokane seemed greener this time than on any previous trip.  We took in a full day of sightseeing along the way.  We stopped first to hike up to the horse sculpture near Vantage, and then we left I-90 for Dry Falls to see the basin of what was once the largest waterfalls in the world.  We ate a picnic lunch there and then drove north along Banks Lake to the Grand Coulee Dam.

This part of Washington, east of the Cascade Mountains, is generally arid.  It’s agricultural land (Grant County is the country’s largest potato-producing county according to one sign along the highway), but it depends on irrigation. You get a sense of wide-open range, big skies, sagebrush and prairies when you drive here. 

Clouds provided a dramatic backdrop to our drive.

Luckily, we missed the rain during our sightseeing stops.

Tidy farm in eastern Washington

Red barn in green field

We saw lots of lupine growing wild amidst the sage.

Old-fashioned windmill

The drive home along I-90

Tilting at Windmills

September 24, 2009

Wind farm near Ellensburg, Washington

Wind farm near Ellensburg, Washington

Harvesting wind energy

Harvesting wind energy

Puget Sound Energy, our public utility, owns this wind farm off the Old Vantage Highway near Ellensburg.  An article in Sunday’s Seattle Times says that the demand for Northwest wind energy will be especially high because of California’s new mandate to get one-third of its energy from green sources by the year 2020.  And California will be buying much of this energy from the Northwest.

I cannot help but think of Cervantes’ Don Quixote whenever I see windmills.  His exploits tilting at windmills are a metaphor for fighting unwinnable battles:

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.” “What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

 “Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

 “Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”