Cape Disappointment

Monday I drove from where I had spent the weekend in Portland, Oregon north to Astoria, then took the 4-mile long Astoria-Megler bridge over the mighty Columbia River to Washington State.  I then headed west to the little town of Ilwaco.  This was the port there:




Believe me, Ilwaco isn’t a very big town but because it is right next to the mouth of the Columbia River it’s port is a very busy place.

Next I headed into Cape Disappointment State Park to see the lighthouses (see next post).  There is also US Coast Guard base here.


While Coast Guard helicopters and other aircraft are based at the Astoria Coast Guard facility on the Oregon side of the river, this base specializes in water rescue.  It is the home of the elite National Motor Lifeboat School which trains personnel from other bases around the country in rough weather and surf rescue operations.  It has 9 search and rescue boats which can function in the difficult and life-threatening conditions which often exist in this area.

And let me try to explain how Cape Disappointment got it’s name.  In 1775 a Spanish cargo ship was in this area and it’s captain noticed the unusual currents which were affecting his boat.  Much of his crew was ill and he didn’t have time to research it further but made note of it.  In 1788 another ship came to the area to look into this mysterious occurrence but was unable to replicate it and became disenchanted with this huge waste of time.  That captain, of an English vessel, deduced that the “currents” were merely from a sound and not a river, and named the sound “Deception Bay” and the high point on the land “Cape Disappointment” and left in a huff.  It wasn’t until 1792 that an American captain, Robert Gray, successfully crossed the Columbia River Bar and discovered the mighty Columbia River which he named after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva.

Cape Disappointment lighthouses

And yes, lighthouses plural is correct.  Because of it’s proximity to the treacherous Columbia River Bar this location has two lighthouses within two miles of each other.

The Cape Disappointment lighthouse was built in 1856.  It is 53 feet tall and sits high atop a hill on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River.


Because of it’s location I could only get pictures from far away (the photo above was taken from the Visitor Center, about a half mile away) or from very close to it.  The building you see next to it is for US Coast Guard personnel to keep a visual watch on the sometimes treacherous Columbia River Bar just offshore.




The problem with this lighthouse was that ships approaching from the north, places like Seattle and Alaska, couldn’t see it.  A decision was made to construct a second lighthouse, called the North Head lighthouse, just two miles north of this one.  It was first illuminated in 1898.  It is 65 feet tall and sits at 190 feet above sea level.  The lighthouses emit different pulses of light so ships can tell them apart.



The North Head lighthouse structure is now under the purview of the Washington State Park Service (both lighthouses are located within Cape Disappointment State Park).  The actual lighthouse operations (both are still in use) are conducted by the Coast Guard, which has a base adjacent to the Park.

World Kite Museum

Monday I visited this museum, located in Long Beach, Washington.  Long Beach is a very small beach town located in extreme southwestern Washington which has the honor of hosting the Washington State International Kite Festival each year (the 2018 edition is being held for 7 days starting next Monday, August 20).

Before we go up to the second floor to look at the kites, there were several interesting things to see on the ground floor of the museum.

A local stamp collector put together a group of stamps from around the world which had images of kites on them – and there were lots of them.  Stamps from other countries are often very elaborate and very colorful.  I thought this was a very clever idea.  Here are some of my favorites:







Next is a series of posters celebrating festivals from previous years.   First, here is the poster for the upcoming festival, the 38th annual:


(Poster artist: Mimi Noyes)


(Poster artist: Marie Finlay)


(Poster artist: Sara Zaga)


(Poster artist: Patricia Fagerland)

And finally, there was a large video screen running a series of high definition videos of kite flying in action:





Kite Museum – Kites!

Here are some of the unusually shaped kites I saw at the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington on Monday.  Evidently kite technology has come a long way since I was a kid…

These are two angles of the same kite which was hanging above the stairs leading up to the second floor of the museum:



And these are two angles of the same kite which was resting up against a wall upstairs.  It is huge (floor to ceiling).



And here are some other kites which were hanging from the ceiling:





And there was a place where kids could build their own, conventional kite:


And no, I didn’t.

Kite Museum – Japanese

Another interesting display at the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington which I visited on Monday was the section devoted to Japanese, and other oriental kite-makers.  These were very elaborate and colorful in design, and often quite large.

This one was probably 8 or 9 feet tall:


And this one was even bigger, filling a whole window on the second floor of the museum:


This wasn’t as big, but still elaborate:


This was one of the largest kites on display – probably 8 feet tall and with a huge wingspan:


And it was three-dimensional, with the body and talons protruding below it:


There were some very small kits on display as well.  I included the index finger of my left hand touching the glass display case to illustrate how tiny this kite is:


And here is another tiny kite.  Please ignore my big feet which I didn’t realize were reflecting in the glass of the display case, and weren’t included to illustrate anything!


Then there was the “Monkey King” kite, which has a fictional story behind it:


And finally a Dragon kite, with this large, elaborate set of three heads – connected by bamboo:


Parts of these heads were plastic (teeth and eyes, specifically) but the remainder was bamboo sticks over which colorful silk was spread and other adornments attached.  Dragon heads are supposedly designed to include parts of 9 different animals.

But wait – there’s more…..

This Dragon kite is actually called a “centipede” kite in that a very long tail of long bamboo sticks with thin, lightweight material designed to catch the wind and extend the tail behind the heads.  The picture doesn’t do it justice but this centipede tail would VERY long when fully extended.



Kite Museum – Military applications

Another interesting part of my visit to the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington on Monday was an area which explained how kites were used by the military, especially during World War II.

Ordinary shaped kites had the image of enemy aircraft painted on them and were then flown to help ground based troops practice firing their weapons at the “planes,” which would then appear at the small size of the real planes they’d be firing at.


Aircraft flying over water were all equipped with a raft, a hand-cranked emergency radio and a box kite which would be assembled and flown to raise the radio antenna to call for help.  These saved the lives of countless men who were then rescued.


This unusually shaped kite was flown, then “snagged” by an airplane to deliver mail, maps or orders to ships at sea or troops in the field.


And this large kite would be flown high in the air and 2,000 foot lengths of piano wire would hang below it, literally tearing enemy aircraft which flew through it apart.


Let’s Go Big Rig Racin’, Boys….

As I was driving to my next Airbnb stop in Grayland, Washington on Monday I saw a truck parked next to the highway with this race vehicle on it:



This immediately brought me back in time to 1984 when I attended a “big rig” race at Pocono International Raceway, near where I lived in eastern Pennsylvania.  Known today as simply Pocono Raceway, the track now hosts two NASCAR stock car races each year as well as an open-wheel IndyCar race.  Well, back in the 80’s someone got the bright idea to race trucks.  BIG trucks.  These were not the full-size pickup truck facsimiles which compete in the NASCAR Camping World truck series today.  These were every-day trucks (the tractor part of tractor-trailer, a common term for 18-wheelers you see on the highway).

While exciting to watch, the race at Pocono brought several safety issues to light and the days of these trucks racing on large, fast tracks like Pocono were short-lived.  In one accident at Pocono a truck went through the boilerplate wall in Turn 1.  Not over it, like race cars occasionally do, THROUGH it.  This actually made officials realize that the low, concrete walls in the pit road area and in front of safety vehicles around the track would be no match for these tall, very heavy trucks traveling at high speed.

I haven’t kept up with “big rig” racing but evidently it still goes on at small tracks, where speeds aren’t as great.  I would still be concerned about public and track worker safety and don’t think I’ll be attending one any time soon…