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OSAA Golf: Engle storms through Quail Valley Friday, May 29, 2009

Daniel Engle of Phoenix High School tracks his tee shot on the par-three fourth hole May 19 in the second round of the 4A state championship tournament at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks. The senior cruised to the individual title, scoring 67 (-5) in both rounds to win by 12 strokes. The Pirates team finished fourth.

Last week I shot the second rounds of the 4A and 3A/2A/1A boys golf tournaments at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks, about 20 miles west of Portland. The weather wasn't as nice as it had been for the first round (when I wasn't there), but apart from a brief downpour around 11 a.m., the rain basically held off for the day. But sun and clouds were continuously performing do-si-dos all day, making it a challenge to keep the exposure right.

In the morning (4A) I had three golfers to cover: Ryan Melnychuk and Garrett Shwietert from North Valley, and Daniel Engle of Phoenix. Now I don't golf very often, and if I'm going to shell out dozens of dollars for greens fees and club rentals, I'm darn well going to get as many strokes per dollar as I can. These guys clearly have the opposite philosophy.

Schwietert, a senior, played well, shooting 75-78-153 (+9) in the two-day affair to finish tied for ninth. Melnychuk tied for third with a score of 76-72-148 (+4), particularly impressive for a freshman.

Daniel Engle drives from the third tee May 19 at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks, Ore.

But Engle blew the field away. The senior shot 67 in round one to take a three stroke lead into day two. The next day—under tougher conditions—he shot 67 again to set a new tournament record (-10) and win by 12 strokes. He played like a machine. And to top it off, he finished disappointed with a bogey on the 18th hole. As he told the Medford Mail Tribune, "The first five minutes after that I was kinda bummed," added Engle, "but then I realized I'd won by 12 strokes so it was OK."

[right] North Valley freshman Ryan Melnychuk was impressive, scoring 76-72-148 (+4) in the two-day event to finish tied for third place. His even round on day two was the second-best score of the day.

[far left] Garrett Schwietert putts on the ninth green. Schwietert scored 153 (+9) in the two-day tournament to finish tied for ninth. [left] Myron Clements of Henley High School ran into trouble on the 9th hole as his drive embedded itself two inches into the boundary line on the water hazard. The senior held on for a bogey on the hole, and finished tied for ninth overall with a two-day score of 76-77-153 (+9).

Downtown Denver Monday, May 25, 2009

Denver's municipal flag flies over the city skyline as seen from City Hall.

Sunday morning's shoot went smoothly, and I had time to get back to the hotel to change before checking out (which was fortunate, because I'd left most of my stuff there).

Then I had nearly hours to kill before hopping on a plane back home. So I found a parking spot downtown, and wandered around until I found somewhere good to eat.

I checked out the 16th St. Mall and some of the streets around there, and then headed over to the state capitol building, which is right across a park from the City and County Building (aka City Hall).

[right] Skyline Park runs along Arapahoe St. through downtown Denver and includes the Daniels & Fisher Clock Tower. [below] Looking north on Broadway from Colfax Ave. in downtown Denver.

[right] Colorado's state capitol building is typical in design.

Finally, I drove across the South Platte River for a view of the entire downtown skyline.

[below] The downtown Denver skyline, seen from the awkwardly-named Invesco Field at Mile High
in this panoramic composite image. (Click the picture for a larger view.)

Boulder and Nederland Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boulder's Pearl Street Mall offers a mix of upscale and funky shops to visitors on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May.

As it turns out, I had time after work Saturday morning to return to my hotel and check out before noon. But I didn't know that when I called the desk at 6:45 a.m. to request a late checkout time. Let me back up a bit to tell this story:

I'd arrived in Fort Collins about 10:30 Friday night—before dinner—and still had to charge all of my batteries, resort three dozen name cards that got shuffled earlier in the evening, and check my emails. It turns out that getting to bed at 12:30 for a 5 a.m. wake-up call is a bad idea, especially when you're in a different time zone than you were the day before. I felt surprisingly good when I lay half awake in bed the next morning waiting for my alarm to go off. So I decided to check the time.

AAAACK! 6:29! I was due somewhere I'd never been, about a 10-minute drive away, at 7. So much for breakfast, and showering. I hurriedly brushed my teeth and put on my clothes, packed my gear and called the hotel to let them know I'd be checking out late.

[right] A bee visits Persian Onions (Allium aflatuense) growing in in the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colo.

"I'm sorry, I can't give you a late checkout today."

"Well what time is checkout supposed to be?"


"Well, listen, I'm running a little late for work right now, and that's going to be pretty tight. Can we do 12:30 or 1?"

"No, I'm sorry, we have a lot of guests coming in tonight so I'm not allowed to give anyone a late checkout today."

Damn. I've never heard a hotel denying that kind of request before. But I didn't have time to try to negotiate. Now, in addition to all my photo gear, I had to throw all my personal belongings into their cases and haul those out to the car as well. I called my partners on the way to let them know I was on the way, just a few minutes late.

Sure enough, I got there by 7:10, with lots of time to get ready for the ceremony. Which happened to be shorter than average. We were done by 11.

Having already checked out of the hotel, I had the rest of the day to do as I pleased. I drove south through Fort Collins and found lunch at a Mexican joint.

(This might be a good point to mention that, living in Oregon, we get spoiled in two respects: we don't have to pump our own gas, and there's no sales tax. The latter point hit me every time I spent money in Colorado, where the price I had to pay was always more than I expected.)

My plan for the afternoon was to drive down to Boulder, then drive into the mountains around there to see what there was to see. Unfortunately, having checked out of the hotel before work, I didn't have anywhere to change out of my suit. I feel comfortable in saying that I was the best dressed guy in the Rockies that day, but dress shoes are not ideal footwear for hiking.

[right] The town of Nederland, Colo., sits at the west end of Barker Reservoir, about 15 miles west of Boulder.

After checking out the Pearl Street Tourist Trap Mall and watching some of the buskers plying their trade there, I found my way onto Highway 119 which winds up into the mountains to Nederland.

Nederland is a former mining town (silver and tungsten mills), now with a population of about 1300. The economy is clearly focused on mountain tourists from Boulder and Denver, with their little artsy main street, and a small collection of hotels and mountain bike shops. I looked around for a couple of minutes and stopped for an ice tea in a small, empty cafe on a side street. Then I headed out of town on what appeared to be the continuation of the route I came in on. It wasn't well signed, but it clearly looked like a highway, and according to the Avis Car Rental map I had, there was only one highway anywhere near Nederland (actually, Nederland isn't even on the map). I mean, how many highways could the hamlet have?

[left] Somewhere along Highway 72 north of Nederland.

It turns out, two. After driving the winding route through some scenic high country for much longer than I'd expected towards towns that weren't on my map, I finally found a sign that said it was Highway 72, which runs basically north from the town. Nuts. So I turned around and headed back to Nederland, found the right road and continued south.

That route (much shorter) ran through the casino town of Black Hawk (reminded me of South Lake Tahoe), down into Golden, and then (along I-70) back into Denver.

I checked into my hotel with an excessively helpful clerk, found a nearby restaurant for dinner, and went back to the hotel for an early bedtime.

Cheesman Park Monday, May 18, 2009

The pavilion in Denver's Cheesman Park was built with money donated by the widow of Denver pioneer Walter Cheesman about 100 years ago.

I was in Colorado on business last weekend, with jobs Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday morning. That left a fair bit of time in between to explore Denver and the Front Range (as the area is known). I love exploring new places, so there was lots to see.

If you've never been to the Mile High City (like me, before Friday), the geography is pretty strange: the city
itself is very flat. But immediately west of the city, WHAM! Mountains, with a capital M.

From the pavilion in Cheesman Park (in central Denver), apparently you can see mountains 150 miles away. I've lived near mountains since I came to the United States seven years ago, first in Nevada and now here in Oregon. But the Colorado mountains are a lot different than those where I've lived. In northern Nevada, the mountains are described as "basin and range," with wide flat valleys between long ranges of mountains. Here in Oregon, the Cascade range is a series of large, widely-spaced volcanic peaks amongst a series of lower hills. In Colorado, though, the mountains are a seemingly continuous field of rugged snowcapped crags packed in as densely as possible. But for photos from up in the mountains you'll have to wait until the next post.

Memorial Coliseum spared (for now) Friday, May 08, 2009

Mayor Sam Adams announced Wednesday that Memorial Coliseum site is off the table as an option for the Portland Beavers new baseball stadium.

Shortly after the Rose City was awarded a MLS expansion franchise in March, the City revealed plans to raze the Trail Blazers' old home to make space for a new baseball stadium. Since the Beavers' current home, PGE Park, must be refitted as a soccer-only facility in time for the new team to start play in 2011, the plan was put on the fast track. (See my earlier post on the subject.)

However, numerous groups objected to the Mayor's vision on a variety of grounds—veterans objected to the demolition of the war memorial; environmentalists thought it wasteful to raze a functional structure, and architects were opposed to the destruction of a unique 49-year-old modernist design. (Many other Portlanders feel the whole deal to bring Major League Soccer to Portland is a poor use of taxpayer money, but that voice doesn't seem to be carrying much weight.)

It seems that the Mayor has reconsidered, and has moved the focus of the new stadium plans back to Lents Park in SE Portland, the site of the original proposal. Meanwhile, the City and the Trail Blazers are developing a plan to redevelop the Rose Quarter in a more measured process, with time for public input.

But that doesn't mean that the architectural gem will truly survive: as quoted in the Oregonian, Adams said "our goal is to keep it, at least the skin." The Blazers want to turn the area into a year-round entertainment district with restaurants and nightclubs. Others have talked of using the coliseum as a public market or indoor recreation area.

It seems to me that the beauty of the coliseum's design isn't the glass box itself: the stroke of genius was to put the arena bowl totally encased—but separate from—a glass curtain that lets in the light while keeping out the elements. Stripped to its bare essentials, the design is strikinglysimple: a bowl within a glass cube.

Technically the design is equally impressive. The
concrete bowl is straightforward enough, but the entire roof and glass curtain is suspended from four pillars completely detached from the bowl.

However, most Portlanders haven't seen the beauty of this building for two reasons. First and foremost, the black curtains that separate the bowl from the exterior of the building haven't been opened in years. I suspect that most people around here aren't even aware that they can open. No wonder some people think it's an eyesore—its most unique feature is never shown.

The second reason is that, since the Trail Blazers moved into the Rose Garden in 1995, there aren't many events in the coliseum. Apparently the agreement between the City (which owns the facility) and Oregon Arena Corporation (the Blazers' subsidiary that manages it) provides a disincentive for OAC to generate profit from events at the coliseum. Consequently, just enough events are held there to break even. And the place is allowed to slide slowly into disrepair.

It sounds like the cadre of architects who strenuously objected to the Mayor's plan to demolish the coliseum got about half the message through: he's decided not to demolish the building but if the glass cube is gutted, was it really saved?

If renovations for the coliseum were to save the skin but eviscerate its contents, it would undoubtedly be different. A loss, for sure. But if it were done creatively, it might be a net gain. I'm not an architect, but it seems to me that the point of good design is to marry function and style to meet the needs of the customer within the available space, time and budget. It rises to the level of excellence when it meets those goals and also produces something of aesthetic value.

The original coliseum design (by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) was excellent. But does the city need two large arenas right next to each other? Some have argued that this gives Portland a competitive advantage in booking some events because very few cities have comparable facilities in such proximity. I wonder, though, whether that's because it is rarely (if ever) necessary. Memorial Coliseum is not large enough for any major league sports (basketball, hockey). Sure, there are some less popular events that benefit from the smaller confines of the coliseum, and occasionally they are both booked on the same night. But most of the time one or the other (or both) is empty.

My hope is that some creative architect can come up with a design that takes the glass cube and SOM's ideas (natural light, transparency, simplicity), and adapts them to some use that Portlanders actually need and will use. Done right, it could be even better than before.

Transportation Safety Awareness Month Thursday, May 07, 2009

Cones representing the 81 work zone fatalities over the past 10 years in Oregon are displayed in Pioneer Courthouse Square May 4 to mark the start of Transportation Safety Awareness month in Oregon. Director Matthew Garrett and several Oregon Department of Transportation workers were in the square to distribute educational information to passers-by. [below] ODOT Director Matthew Garrett speaks with a local television news crew May 4 in Pioneer Courthouse Square.