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Diary Feb 2013: California Road Trip – Driving!

Bloged in General Home Life,Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Thursday April 11, 2013

**It’s obvious I’ll never get back to entering “diary” posts as I used to, but realizing how much I value reviewing some events of past years (birding, gardening, travel)….I’d best get in a tiny review of this spring, 2013:

FEBRUARY: TRIP to No California – Redwoods, Wineries, and good ole’ Ripon.
WHY did we DRIVE down? Lessee,

1) R’s new truck had only enjoyed life in the commute lane so far, and seemed to need a foot on the pedal a little further down to experience “life”….. (did that fool anybody?). And we’d “save money” by not boarding Mac. Baloney. Take your dog and you pay extra at motels, etc…etc…

That being said, the first 3 days of this trip were just plain fabulous in a time by ourselves n dog leisurely driving down the California Coast. As SOON as we were out of Oregon, the weather seemed brighter…MORE sun, and MAC had his first Ocean swim in years, here just south of Crescent City, CA:
mac at coast2013 **I WAS entirely impressed….that he transferred all his retrievals skills in seconds to a wild SURF….what a POWERFUL swimmer….he NEVER lost sight of those sticks no matter what the surf did to them….. GOOD boy!

*I should mention we had a grand time eating in Crescent City …it was Crabbing Time….and seems the Chart Room Restaurant was the locals hangout. TWICE we ate their… Crab Benedicts in the morning were fabulous.

Then we began the south drive….only wanting to get to Eureka. Once again, this day, we ate at a life favorite little dive right down at the fishermen’s dock edge in Trinidad, CA. Yes, the SEASCAPE is THE place to go for seafood …has been for a mighty LONG time…you’ll like WAIT a while if you right at lunchtime….(I saw some reviewers say, blah blah…not what it used to be, etc…’s a DIVE. I don’t know what they were told to expect when coming here). Anyways, we kept moving.

We took off 101 to see Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park since we’d never been there….Talk about peace, quiet, and a sense of wonder. Down to the feel, the smells, stillness, all are powerful feelings these spaces create inside you. The “Big” Tree here, some 1500 years old, among a few other famous ones, numbers among some of the largest in the world. We had to sit and wonder about a tree that could even BE 1500 years old…..and to first time absorb that redwoods used to cover huge parts of this continent and Europe…..yes things have changed, but they get MY reverence for sure:
nocal2013 rdwood

The “nurse” logs are almost unbelievable. This one was almost as tall as I am, and the tree that has grown out of it 100′ tall…..
nurse log 2013

Where’s Mark? How can you walk through these forests with a big ego. You cannot:
markwalk 2013 rdwood

So, we arrived Arcata, shopped, loved that town……moved on to stay at Eureka….having a great time sightseeing, shopping….and continuing our drive through the Avenue of the Giants (Redwoods) next day. It was SO fun, even though the entire trip to Guerneville for that night was only 215 miles, it took most of the day….YEP, unplugged, just enjoying California’s finest forests.

And yes, MAC found water anywhere he went.
*At one point, we stopped hoping to capture another one of those “moments”….we heard water, saw two big trees just parallel to each other…one burned by lightning long ago…looking closer, the entire inner shell of the other burned out by that same strike HOW many years ago? Wow…… Doggy Mac, however, had other ideas….he KNEW that mini-river was close….we let him go and in this smaller space, he seemed to think he was in his little mud wallow back home and began howling, vocalizing for his life! We finally began walking back to the car, he’d watch, then jump BACK in for a few paddles…..look back, wait, swim, look, swim….then he finally began coming back. He saw were getting close to the truck…..he seemed to make a calculated decision: Lessee, the creek, I can make it if I run…they’ll never notice.” He took off…had his final few minutes….and slept the rest of the day in the back seat, happy and tired.
Here he was, checking ev few minutes to make sure we hadn’t left him:

Note: After every swim, he, of course, could no longer ride in the cab and had to endure a cool wind on his coat until he dried a bit, but he sure was handsome in his coat matching the redwoods colors:
wet mac n trck coast

Sunday night: Guerneville for Friday Night and the finale’ of Downton Abbey that would be enjoyed in our little single cabin at Fern Grove Cottages, owned/managed by a proper British Lady…she and I had a delightful 10 minutes debating just “who” was going to have their sad life ended up that night on the Abbey….. We had some fun meeting a local or 5 at what seems now, “historic” Rainbow Cattle Company…..and home in time for the show! How COULD they do that! Now, in Maria Nash’s words, “Mary will probably end up marrying Tom and enjoying life finally….until Tom gets run over by a tractor.”

And finally the next day, we are to begin our 4-5 day stay at the World Mark Resort with cousin Stan and Mary for a series of wine tastings, renewing friendship with Elena & Emilio, and general relaxation time in “Wine Country”…a new experience. It started, however, with MAC being boarded at what seems to be an upscale Olivet Boarding Kennel in Santa Rosa….very close to the resort. We didn’t pay for the “extra option” of the deluxe room where we could watch him on camera if WE were “lonely”……what? Geez.

Stan and Mary arrived shortly after we did:

The next 3 days were a whirl of wine tastings, grand meals (one at the Culinary Institute of America…formerly the old castle called Christian Bros Wineries)……. and we were joined by our good friends….Emilio and Elena.

Emilio and Elena are in this Wine Country loving their new life, and it was time to see them…….Wine Tasting was an experience Mark had never even considered …since he had never really been a wine drinker….. would it work? Could he be turned into a lush?

Well at least ONE of these days WAS one to remember the rest of my life. Castello Di Amorosa is where Emilio sells wine…and we HE the grand host, giving us a private tour of the entire castle, great tasting experience, and all. We joined Elena that evening for a fabulous Italian Dinner at a place owned by one of their friends. I was sorry we didn’t have the camera along.

Next day, Healdsburg where we enjoyed the best pizza we’ve ever eaten at DIAVOLA PIZZERIA . . . .Italian, wood oven, just fabulous…..and great staff to make sure you enjoyed your time. I’m SURE part of the success is that the pizzeria part has evolved from their time running as a butcher shop….good stuff!

The 3-4 days is almost a blur of exotic old wineries, beautiful beautiful country, and the COMPANY of fabulous people. Stan and Mary were patient with us newbies, and their wisdom here was truly appreciated. It was also great to see Elena & Emilio, and…..enjoy our LAST night in town at Franco’s Restaurant Italiano . . . .Their friend Franco made sure our table had as fabulous a time as someone could ….a memorable night, with fabulous fresh pasta & seafood.

Finally, Feb 25, we moved on the heart of Almond Country, out in the valley, near Modesto. Ripon, Almond Capitol of the World has its annual Almond Blossom Festival last w/e in February, where Rodger’s Aunt Paula has hosted a family get-together for what seems a lifetime. The numbers are getting smaller, a generation’s changing, and it seemed right to be here this year.

We always enjoy this time with her….she does a mountain of work getting ready, and we get to help with last minute details, like: Potato Salad prep, etc. The next day’s a whirlwind with the parades, the carnival, shopping, eating, laughing, remembering….and here the family is (One MUST click on the pic to get everyone in):
morgans 2013

Our last night, we got to join up with cousins Karen T, Bruce & Kevin in Oakdale, “Cowboy Capitol of the World” . . . .for the Oscar Show….again, fabulous food, an grand times with old friends……….

FINALLY! We HAD to move on, and moved our gear along to Alameda where we once again joined up with David & Serafina who’ve married since our last visit. This was a more relaxing couple of days, and we needed it….. Talk about grand hosts, though, SERAFINA had worked with and has become a friend with the Master Pipe Organist at Stanford University where the Stanford Memorial Church (a cathedral in my opinion)….has 5 organs installed…. Yes, 3 small, 2 large. Robert Huw Morgan said to get us down there and we’d get a private tour of said organs and that turned out to be an unforgettable experience….almost up in the rafters of the cathedral….we learned lots, watched Robert PLAY, and then he let Mark even dabble a few lines, and that was unforgettable:
organ fisk mrk plays

The Cathedral view from that organ spot:
organ stanfrd mem chirch interior

Those few days will not be forgotten.

Our last night was a big departure, and worthy of big note….. Mark’s oldest sibling, the only girl, and oldest grandchild on both sides of our family, died at 33 from Cancer leaving 3 small girls…… None of us were close to the husband, and the kids grew up in touch with my parents but not me or the brothers. A couple years ago, niece Karen visited us in Portland when she was here on a science conference. So, it was perfect that our last night we got to see her and meet her FABULOUS dog JAVA, a Mastiff, who, at 4 yrs, thinks he’s a puppy:
karen j 2013
We had a grand time, talking non-stop……till bedtime and an early start next morning after Karen prepped our five star breakfast for us. GREAT seeing Karen.

We DID have one more night’s stop in Ashland, but fatigue was catching up with us….it was spent laying on a motel bed watching TV. Sad, eh?

A Grand Trip.

Arizona Day 5: Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

Bloged in General Home Life,Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Tuesday May 22, 2012

We’re moving into Phase 2 of enjoying Arizona. A few more tour highlights and then maybe more quiet enjoyment with the friends here. But not today. Homer insisted we see the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum . . . . . . .and by afternoon, we were SURE glad we did. It’s an Arizona highlight. EVERYBODY’s been to Balboa Park in San Diego, and almost any other zoo anywhere is nothing like this animal sanctuary. This place was designed/built around desert wildlife, so it’s unique from anything you’ve seen. We WERE glad we were there before summer heat set in…..almost all the animals were out and active……in wild settings. VERY COOL.
***AGAIN, to see FULL SIZE SHOTS, CLICK….……on the pictures*****

Right off the bat….we first saw this guy staring right at us close-up thru heavy glass….soon he was down in the enclosure:

This is not a brown bear. I learned that Black Bears can/will be brown in color when they’re desert bears:

First thinking coyote, I learned this is a Mexican Gray Wolf…..WOLVES in the desert!

The bobcats were fun, and SO camouflaged:

We spent more time at this little town than anywhere. It was MORNING, they were very active, playful, family groups together……made me sorry they’re almost gone in the wild:

The Gila Woodpecker reminded me of our Northern Flickers (same family):

Finally. The Cutest fox you could hope to see:

And finally, those skeery wild pigs, the desert Javalinas…..not very attractive, but we had to seriously “LOOK” for these guys coloured just as the desert floor:

I SAW the very FIRST RED CARDINAL I have EVER SEEN here, then learned of THIS new cardinal-like beauty, the Pyrrhuloxia:

Just as our migrating Black Headed Grosbeaks have been arriving at home, I was surprised to learn some stay here year round, the lazy guy, but they are one of my favorites in the north summers, they’re males calling one of the longest prettiest smoothest fluid calls you’ll hear:

a CLICK on this shows the full picture of evolution…it needs to be full size:

One of the MOST exciting things in the whole place for me was the Hummingbird Aviary…at home we feed about 50 gals of sugar/water per summer to our migrant rufous and local annas…..but have NEVER seen a nest. HERE, they were right in front of you with Momma resting:


A beautiful male feeding right in front of the camera:

And one more:

Another male resting:

A CLICK HERE needed….to see the full scale of the Cactus “Forest” . . . . .they’re everywhere….not unlike the old-growth rain forest trees….just very “different” in beauty:

It was 1:00 . . . . getting HOT by OUR standards, but Homer HAD recommended we see a certain old Spanish Mission….

So, this AFTERNOON, we got our Catholic on and toured the MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC . . . . Yep, surrounded by Catholic tourists, catholic guides, but the history was fascinating and the place quite gorgeous there in the desert….. A WHOLE way of life occurred here from birth to deaths…..

**Yes, the whole history of Spanish Colonization and FORCED Catholicism on the indigenous people flashed through my mind once again……. and now the guide re-telling of the “miracles” that occurred here….. certainly reminded me WHY I’m a non-believer! It never occurs to them that these same “unexplained” miracles happen to atheists too….it’s NOT just a Catholic God picking and choosing people he likes. BUT, the love given in donations to keep this part of history alive is nice.

**Remember….The colonizers forced many natives to haul GOLD for this sanctuary……. and it shows in the chapel:

I loved the artwork on the ceiling……… fit in with the desert location:

We don’t know the story of this little piece, but both loved it:

We missed the cemetery on the way out, but dropped in to the funeral chapel where about 1000 candles were lit for loved ones IN the desert heat of 95… must have been about 250 degrees inside here:

WHEW! We returned to see Homer who’d planned a nite on the town with his friend, and someone newly our friend, Patrick.
Patrick taught me NEW things about gardening here… you CAN grow tomatoes, they must be in containers OFF the hot ground….he had some fascinating gardening going on, lush plants…..all in those big WINE BARRELS cut in half…he gave me a collection of poppy seeds to plant at home. He’s a wonderful man…..

Yep, it was a night of fun and billiards at a local “bear” bar……we had a grand time seeing Patrick and Homer here…..our time in Tucson was drawing to a close.



Bloged in General Home Life,Nature,TRAVEL by mark Wednesday May 16, 2012

April ended with a bang! A trip to a state I have NEVER visited because of something I don’t tolerate well at all: HEAT. And NOW, the religious right has a stranglehold on its government, so I was leery of visiting our friends there…. Knowing I was pasty white, I thought I’d give it a shot hoping the Border Patrol guards wouldn’t arrest me as an illegal.

Yup, we two departed April 27 for a 10 day stay in AZ…..and experience yet another modern life miracle: After becoming on-line friends with bloggers, getting to meet them personally…..and SEE IF the friendship magic really IS in the mix. We already knew HOMER in Tucson. Homer’s been to Portland twice and each time we had a grand time with him….. He’s recently become partnered, so we were anxious to meet Evan. Michael and David are in Phoenix…..we have mutual friends of theirs we DO know who’ve all been to Portland a FEW times and in each case has another grand time becoming friends, so we really looked forward to actually getting to know these two. Not only did they host us like royalty, they arranged our lodging for Flagstaff the next 3 days…. since they knew the owners, they arranged a “2 for 1” deal for us at one fine gay-owned victorian lodging B&B……..more on that later.

We arrived ready to meet Michael & David. We were told to report to: “THE MISSION ” . . .a wonderful welcoming “Old Mexico” feel restaurant where your Guacamole is made tableside…is chunky as it should be. We hadn’t sat long when Michael walked in, and within a couple minutes, felt like this was NOT a NEW meeting, but a reunion of old friends. David followed shortly, and we spent a delicious fascinating evening with wonderfully warm friends. The next day, we departed for the ” DESERT BOTANICAL GARDENS “….and what a way to begin a stay in the Sonoran Desert….LEARNING about an ecology neither of us were very familiar with but would be in for 10 days. A GREAT TIME:

Simply desert beauty as soon as you walk in (click to get a better feel of this grand plant collection):

The harmony between the birds that live off these huge saguaro’s is amazing…they both EAT from the flower, and nest lower on the plant:

We’ve forgotten the names of these beautiful trees…. they not only brighten the surroundings when they bloom, but when the blossoms drop, the ground becomes very brightly buried in gold:

It was SO wonderful to see the desert when SO many of the cacti were in full bloom…..

I don’t think a pic captures the rugged beauty of this winged creature …..elegant statuary:

JUST to get the size of these giants in perspective, to you see the little midget in the lower middle of this picture?

This cactus sends out growth arms….until it settles on other plants, and slowly chokes them out….wish I’d remembered the name:


What an extraordinary plant….again, huge….see that same midget in the background? An exotic beautiful plant going to seed:

ALL round us, this late spring in the desert was full of blooms everywhere… time of year to see desert life:

Even a better one (this one SHOULD be seen original size: please click):


Remember the bird above eating from the cactus flower? Here’s the nest….fascinating:


ALL through this tour, the density of plant life taught me that life isn’t rich and full in a rain forest, it’s rich and full here too:

LUNCH… Scottsdale, AZ
We left the gardens early enough for lunch………..and at the airport we’d seen signs for: * GRIMALDI’s PIZZERIA *
What? Our favorite Pizza experience in both of our lives was found at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn….right under the bridge. THEN, it was a one-shop only place….they’ve now expanded. Yes, we ate there, and enjoyed the SAME fabulous NY thin crust pizza! WE KNEW we’d be back at least once more before we went home.

From there, we had to get back to M & D’s to meet Homer….our good friend from Tucson, a real archeologist, who was taking us north to Flagstaff where he and his partner Evan were to show us the BEST of that gorgeous area. We got to Flagstaff, checked in the *STARLIGHT PINES BED & BREAKFAST* ….and our Flagstaff Weekend will be chapter two of our vacation diary.

What a way to begin a desert adventure! Thanks, Michael & David.

CA Trip – Day 3 – 9

Bloged in Family,Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Friday May 27, 2011

Wow! THIS is late….. but that happens when SPRING hits, eh? Life’s pace changes to high gear immediately! But. I DID want to capture a highlight or two of the remainder of our CA trip before ……. you know. . . . . . .

Previous post mentioned we’d moved on to the 80’s Gay Resort town of Guerneville... . . .. … just north of SF. It’s a beautiful place along the Russian River and very near a Redwood State Park…… but….. THIS time, the place was quite changed, and most gay life is gone. This was a town the AIDS crisis pretty much ended as a “gay” destination…. We did find a place to stay, a nice little cottage at the Woods. Hosts were nice, but really nothing to do. We were one of probably 3-4 guest rooms occupied that night.

We set out just to explore, and stopped in at the Sports Bar that was rumored to be “gay friendly”. We were seated close to the soused straight owners who kept trying to talk with us. Well, it was a karaoke joint and a LOUD one at that. We quickly moved onto the one gay bar left in town, the Rainbow Cattle Company where we had a great time chatting with Lee, the “artist” bartender who’s true goal was to become a videographer. I’m not sure with his laid back ways, he’d end up at Warner Studios, but…..he was a great guy to chat with. We were home early and up fairly early, rested and ready to join the family.

NOT before we stopped in Petaluma (30 years ago famous as the Poultry Capitol…… to eat at HALLIE’s DINER !!! Yes! A simply little coffee shop with fabulous food. Her twist on Eggs Benedict: EGGS PETALUMA is NOT to be missed………. This is one place, just like the little joint in Trinidad, we will never have to reminded about. IF we’re in the area, we will go OUT of our way to eat here. That set us up to complete or southbound journey to Ripon and join Aunt Paula!

From there, we crossed the San Rafael Bridge, saw glimpses of the old home place bookmarks: the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate, downtown SF, Oakland, Berkley…(Spenglers! Ah!)….. We filled the little truck with $4.21 and the scrolling marquee on the pump said, among other things, “God Bless You”….. C’mon, Gas Company! that’s disgusting you play nice while reaching for every penny we have.

That gave us a day and a half to prepare for Chet’s memorial. So, besides visiting with Paula, wonderful, we did the required shopping for what we’d need Saturday. MUST mention the other “favorite” breakfast place, in Salida, CA that we always “must have” a Chicken Fried Steak at, and THIS day, we learned more about how it’s done. ONE employee spends 2 full days a week preparing the beef: cutting it up (yes, they get the whole beef)….tenderizing it with the chopper, seasoning it……and letting it sit)….. I don’t care WHAT your diet is, once in your life you SHOULD get to eat one of these orders. Rodger and I SPLIT ONE order (extra eggs, yes, but the Steak is….half order on each plate):

Saturday came quickly, we were on our way to Bethel Island. With Paula and Mick, we joined Dennis and Pam at the little park across from the Fire Station (yes, there IS reason to mention this place…….) and completed the setups they’d already started. Even the very cute fireman who happened to be jogging around the park perimeter helped us with a tent or two, a NICE guy.

Folks began to arrive in a while, and by 1:00, lots of Chet’s friends had found time here 5 months after he’d passed away to join up and visit with Rodger, have some food, and relax. Things went VERY well, some of these people I’d never met, this was a nice affair. By 3:30, things pretty much came to a close, we, including cousins, family, moved on over to one of the Sacramento River Delta Channels, and a little ceremony let to the spreading of chet’s ashes. Whew! Closure. It was nice, and we didn’t have an opportunity for pictures.

Oh yes…….the Fireman story! The shorter cute fireman from the morning told us to make sure to let him know if we “needed” anything. (The total firemen stationed here at the moment, due to cutbacks: 3). About the middle of the gathering, Chet’s girlfriend, JOYCE…..stumbled on something, and fell….she wasn’t “sure” if she was stable enough to get up, we held her steady, and someone ran to get the FIREMEN! They sure came in a hurry. -3-, I tell you, “THREE” very handsome cute firemen showed up, and I have NEVER been so impressed with how gentle, soothing, and kind they were to Joyce and the rest of us. I wonder what I’ve missed in life not ever having a fireman next to me helping me feel better ………..hah.

We got back to Ripon in good time, and to bed fairly early to begin the NEXT day’s trip to Morro Bay for Cheryl’s little memorial. We, Paula, Mick, Karen, Lori & John made the 5 hour trip in 2 cars. **Mark once again astounded the massive expanse of California’s agriculture industry you watch driving south in I5!
The California aquaduct….looking more like a large river than a canal stealing No Cal’s water for LA and environs is truly impressive.

The drive over the coastal foothills into Morro Bay is simply spectacular in beautiful scenery. We arrived meeting up with Karen’s daughter Jen, just up from L.A., Norma & Sue Ann, old Cheryl friends, and we’re looking for Bruce & Kevin…but, thanks, to Jen, joined her at THE GALLEY……for lunch. (I had a fabulous Crab Louie)….

WHEW! We arrived in good shape along with Bruce & Kevin, Norma, so we all checked into our lodge: The INN AT MORRO BAY . We decided on this place simply searching the web, and after seeing the town, THIS couldn’t have been a better choice. On the south end of town, it was quiet, but most important: At the very south end of the motel, HUGE SEABIRD ROOKERIES were in the trees just overhead. (***Check the link, it’s picture page showing the redtails and egrets too) It was pretty FABULOUS to watch the cormorants nest-building and the three redtail hawks also setting up home patiently waiting near the bottom of the trees for any egg / chick to sadly fall. An egret Rookery bordered the Cormorants. There were California Vultures at the other end of the lodge WHO, the next morning, sat at the very tippy top of the tall trees with wings outstretched in the morning sun…..Beautiful!’
one view:

another view, but these pics ***(EMBIGGEN THIS TO GET A BETTER FEEL of how CLOSE the birds were to the camera)***
are SO limited….so MANY trees in the surrounding area were FULL of birds making the nests….. the “chortling” interesting sounds were fascinating.

WE all gathered togethered together, and escorting Cheryl’s ashes, drove to the Rock in the bay….and had the little ceremony. We didn’t get a group picture, but a few smiles were captured:

The weather / climate was fantastic….so MANY flowers were already in FULL seasonal bloom like Foxgloves that we won’t see until late June:

This was a perfect day. We ate, shopped, and by mid-day, enjoyed a perfect lunch. That was eaten at a wharf side joint where, not just the fresh catch of the day was mentioned, but which BOAT the fish were caught by. Nice. After lunch, we all needed to get back to our homes, and said our goodbyes. It was a perfect Cheryl goodbye.

Back at Ripon, we relaxed for a day, and finally rented the U-Haul trailer planned to bring back what things of Chet’s Rodger wanted to keep. So, finally, we loaded up said sad goodbye’s to Karen, Paula, and began our trip back home.

BY the time things were loaded, and we’d cleaned up everything, we were TIRED….but thought, we ought to GET ON the ROAD….and at LEAST get partway home. It was obvious there was going to be a LOT to do when we got there….. and, it would be raining.

We stayed that night in an old rail town near Mt. Shasta, Dunsmuir, CA ………….. (the link is pictures….nice) in an old motel, family run, but clean and perfect for us, AND….about halfway home. Our trip next day was quiet, and we were happy to be home in time to unload, relax, and prepare things we needed to get done. We were NOT happy to be back in the RAIN.

Pulling a trailer with the Toyota up over Shasta and the Siskiyous is a mountainous trip….we’re not always leading the traffic up the hill. BUT… if we could get a good luck omen, our U-Haul had TWO markers on it we thought good. The first: The license was from WISCONSIN (hey Thomas / Brenda!!)…so we felt no matter our driving pattern, we’d be forgiven:

Our next marker was even more providential. This trailer had a poster of a Chessie on it… if MAC would be riding shotgun for us:

Finally. Rodger’s found closure since the passing of his father and only sister.

And NOW? We begin the spring battles inherent in this climate. We arrived home to find these invaders beginning the war on the lawn:

This is only ONE of several spots that now look like this:

SO. Pellet Gun. Pitchfork? Gas pellets, Traps, whew! It’s man vs mole!

Finally! A short trip to So Cal & NV. Riverside Episode

Bloged in General Home Life,Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Tuesday March 8, 2011

Finally! Rodger has worn himself out since last summer when his Dad Chet began his last months with us by breaking his hip, not getting emergency care, finally surgery, a struggle to improve, decline at home, onset of pneumonia in late fall, resistance in going to hospital, etc etc, and his passing Christmas Eve. Rodger’s life has been turned upside down by this being the only child left, and Shirley, his Mom having passed away years ago. BUT, there WAS hope…………..that we could take just a bit of time to have a little get-away sometime, and that we got a couple weeks ago.

Perhaps a get-away isn’t the right word for everything, since that meant Mark insisted we finally go visit his oldest brother, now 74, who has been sounding a little slow and distant in phone calls, in Riverside CA. WE did manage to get a few days away to Las Vegas to see dear friends Jim & John, but THAT is another “post”…..

SO. Today’s diary story is about just two highlight stops in the Los Angeles area they accompanied us to, their favorite places.

The *** The HUNTINGTON. Library, Collections, and Botanical Gardens *** is impossible to write artfully enough to do it justice (with my writing skills anyway)….. It IS a place you “must” get to WHEN it opens, because you will be there until THEY shoo you out at closing.

Okay….. what is the place? Like many American Showplaces, this is the estate of the Huntingtons…..a marriage of massive wealth, he from the family famous for building railroads in the west, and she by inheritance…Arabella had originally married Henry’s Uncle, and when he passed away, she then married Henry… hmmmmm. Together they were serious collectors, and that’s what they finally became this public place.

There are only a tiny FEW Pictures of what we saw that day. After entrance, Mark & Rodger we’re often distracted easily at every turn….. BUT, first a stop at the HUNTINGTON LIBRARY, a vast collection of material, so MANY original documents, first editions of writings hundreds of years old, some in calligraphy, some early prints, including a First Edition Gutenberg Bible. This lovely gem was a perfect example….. all calligraphy bordered by artwork:

Some books were missing, each with a card saying “by reader request” meaning a researcher had the book checked out for a project….wow. Room after room, here one about nature and drawing of animals hundreds of years old…..times have changed, eh?

An original copy of James Audubon’s Bird Book left me wishing I could turn some of the pages, but the glass wouldn’t let me close enough:

Rodger shows you, this is NOT a small book:


Room after room….. this one showing animal drawings, some hundreds of years old:

We finally left the building, and here Mark took the walk up to the burial Mausoleum of the pair……

Soon we were back on track and inside the Tropical Plant Collections……. a beautiful place, many orchids, many carnivorous plants, beautiful settings….

Then from there, we took a short tour through the fairly new and growing Chinese Gardens….. This and the Japanese Gardens are a place that will be fabulous in a few years. There were some photo ops however…….

We loved this window:

And this entryway nearby:

These few little pics can’t give you a feel of the hundreds of things we’d already seen. We sat at a cafe’, imbibed, and began again…..eventually touring the Desert Plant Gardens….that was magnificent, and NO picture can display the grandeur in the size they’re shown here.

Finally, we took a short walk through the “palace”…. a big art gallery, really. And here’s just a tiny bit of odd-ball things WE liked, but we’re off the beaten path…

These were women, but muscled thoroughly……rather exotic:

These babies would NOT be approved of by the current religious right’s stern view of moral behavior, but they seemed to be having a good time:

This huge vase/bowl was a story on its own….about the butchering of animals for food…..(it did get a little more serious on the other side):

I did love this piece, seems that we all should be doing a little more dancing, eh?

This final huge sculpture needs now words, it’s beautiful:

I almost forgot to mention, I was thrilled to find a classic painting devoted to my own people. I believe this my family were the models for this, so we were glad to know WE are part of the Huntington Collection:

SO……it was time to go…..the place was closing. We drove from San Marino to Rosemead to dine at a fabulous Los Angeles old family Italian restaurant, Di Pillas…..still run by the daughter of the founder. **IF you do glance at that menu, you’ll be astounded….. it’s massive. My brother first ate here in 1963………..

We rested well that night.

Almond Blossom Trp 2010: Day 6- 9

Bloged in Family,General Home Life,TRAVEL by mark Thursday March 11, 2010

Finally, we’re on BART as far it goes….out to Antioch . . . Nice countryside. (As it may exist so close to SF). . . CHET & sweetheart Joyce picked us up, and we’re on the way to that renegade Bethel Island !! We enjoyed lunch together on the way, and later that evening enjoyed some time out at Chet’s favorite hangout, where, like “Cheers”….everyone called out he & Joyce’s name. We enjoyed some really fine food, and stayed up talking.

Aunt Paula & Karen picked us up the next day, and we were soon on our way to RIPON, a fairly small valley community just north of Modesto and south of Manteca just off Highway 99. That doesn’t stop it from claiming to be the “Almond Blossom Capital of the World!” and as such has hosted the Almond Blossom Festival every spring for years …..the last weekend of February.

OF ALL the Hi Spots they could have chosen to show ME, the anti-war, anti-hunter, anti-gun guy, I was astounded to be escorted into a one of a huge chain of real outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing, clothing, rifles, gun safes, EVERYTHING MADE in the world that can be coated in CAMOUFLAGE, stores called Bass Pro Shop in Manteca. They are ALL over the south, and beginning to grow out here. On two levels, it was huge. I remain speechless. When I consider how little wild game is even LEFT alive on the planet, how little natural habitat is left, and that a LARGE chunk of hunters/fishermen do it on “reserved” private ranches, I realized I was very out of touch. I’m not passing judgement here, just observing……….. It WAS an experience to see this.

On we went! We had a full evening, beginning with a cocktail and appetizers at the Ripon Road House….

Friday came and went like a blink. Paula was more busy than _____ (Fill in the blank)…….all getting ready for Saturday. We were fueled by one of the most gigantic breakfasts I’ve ever seen at the tiny town of Salida’s “Country Kitchen”: ONE Chicken Fried Steak breakfast is served on 3 plates…the steak itself is prepared on site, and is about 8″x12″ in size…it could feed 4. Oh well, it is an experience everyone should have ONCE in their life. Might Good!

Friday night meant fabulous pizza from Pizza Plus while Rodger, I, and cousin Mickey watched Olympics all tired out…… while Paula still toiled away preparing for Saturday’s gathering.

Saturday! NO time to waste, the parade began at 11:00, so it was a very hectic day. The parade route is about 200′ from Paula’s door, easy access. And it IS just what you think a small town parade would be except it gathers enough steam from the area to run about 2 hours. That means LOTS of horses, bands, churches, beauty queens, old cars, yes, but it’s really done very well.

Yep, queens of every kind…..and fashion:

Some of the horse groups were magnificent, some trained…this one a serious performance master:

After the parade, the family gathered for Paula’s fabulous feast, and in time, the annual photo:

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, there are fewer and fewer family members to join up……….. maybe that’s why it seems, every year, to a bit more “special”.

TOO soon, we were on an airplane enroute home……………

Almond Blossom Trp: Day 2-3

Bloged in TRAVEL by mark Thursday March 4, 2010

After a fabulous Saturday, it was impossible to equal that Sunday. After all, Sunday became a rain day. Like Portland rain days: slow, light, gray, misty spitty rain ALL day long.

We STILL ganged up with K&B for one more afternoon of pure fun. We spend a couple hours at MOMA, then, because of the rain, chose to have Chinese Food delivered to the apartment.

THAT became an adventure in itself as we were waiting for delivery just after dark. A Power generator one block away blew out, darkening the Bay Bridge as well as US for a couple hours. So, via cell phone, the delivery guy had to be told how to find us, etc. We sat in the dark for a couple hours. Have you ever eaten IN the dark and been SURE of which dish you were eating? It WAS fun, but was nice to see lights by 9:00 pm.

We headed our for the hotel about 9:30…. On arrival at the fashionable address, the REAL question was: Since we’ll only BE IN THIS hotel once, isn’t a visit to the TOP OF THE MARK going to be required?

It WAS sunday night, so the place should be quiet…. so, of course we were on the elevator fast! Not so surprisingly, as was every experience at this place, people don’t talk to you, (no we weren’t’ IN suits…is that why?), and even the server was able to ignore us AT the counter until I stared so hard at him, he couldn’t turn away…we ordered, he gave us the drinks AND the bill at the same time turning around without a question, or comment, and also left shift….OH, that’s why the cold shoulder? OH erase this whine.

We’re glad that didn’t annoy us enough to leave. The New bartender came on, and the manager came over to us. We began a wonderful discussion about SF in the 70’s…this guy grew up in Haight Ashbury…..some wild stories there. So, Sunday night ended up a lot of fun. **Oh yes, and, including tip for 2 cocktails apiece? $90….. well drinks.

On Monday morning —- we determined we MUST eat once again at SEARS FINE FOODS just steps from UNION SQUARE

Although a real tourist destination, Sears has great breakfasts…. **You can always have the 18 Swedish Pancake Dish!

Of course, Union Square is the heart of upscale shopping, but it really is the center of the city in many ways. Yes, thousands of tourists, saks, nordy’s, are all ’round you. BUT, WE saw something far more impressive to me:

At one corner/steps spot, where some shrubbery was growing, we looked on the ledge by the bushes to see Mom & Pop Chickadee coaching a JUST fledging baby…very near this spot

….NESTING at UNION Square! Are you kidding? What a heartwarming thing to see.

As we depart Union Square we see a favorite fountain…I’m not even sure which Hotel it’s in front of, but one can spend an hour here seeing much of what makes SF famous scrawled into this sculpture classic:

Like steep Lombard Hill with a car just turning down from the top:

Or a view recalling the Grateful Dead maybe:

Then we began the climb back up to Nob Hill. We passed a simple concrete alley, but could NOT help but think of friend Carol D who, changed her condominium residents minds about gardening in pots…NONE were allowed, and NOW, hundreds of them line their streets…they look fabulous in summer. Looks like someone’s beginning that tradition here, Carol:

So, finally back up on Nob Hill, to visit the park there, Grace Cathedral, and check out of the hotel. We needed to be in Alameda just after noon. . . . .to begin phase 2 of our trip.

The sites, views from, and history on the top of Nob Hill are fascinating. Grace Cathedral is beautifully situated here:

I got to hear something that’s ALWAYS my favorite…the organist practicing some wonderful modern French Music on the pipes…a very nice add-on to our visit inside the building:

This time, we cabbed it down that hill…my knee had had enough. We took Bart under the bay, off at the West Oakland station where we’re greeted by Serafina to begin a fabulous visit there.

The Garrison Gathering

Bloged in Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Monday November 9, 2009

We’ve enjoyed a busy social fall, yes. We’ve seen the finest Theater you can see in Portland: We’ve enjoyed Ragtime, (woohoo – fabulous) at the new Gerding Theater, we saw the multiple prize-winning “August Osage County” at the Keller, Becky’s New Car and “All My Sons” at A.R.T., fablous stuff. We enjoyed a couple of weekends in Parkdale, OR with John & Toni, hiking some stream laden trails back of our local volcano, Mt Hood. Fabulous!

Nothing has been enjoyed or relished any more than the little event across the street last Saturday night. Sam and Debora spent their summer adding a double garage/shop onto their home, and it’s been done beautifully….looks like the house was built like that originally. They had all their old friends over to celebrate the garage-warming.

Their friends are a physically fit, youthful group, and they seem to gather annually to do something I think OUR friends/neighbors should regularly do. The friends all bring a bit of food, of course, but MORE interestingly, they brought a short picture show of the highlights of this year.

We watched and heard as tales were told of hiking the Sierra trails above treelines, hiking ice trails at Mt. Denali, Baird & Karen’s River trip along the Danube, Dave’s tales of the desert surrounding the Sangro De Cristo Mtn Range in SW Colorado, the old classic car gathering/swap in Portland, and MORE! Yes, we finally showed a few pics of Italy/Spain although our Mac had a problem hooking to the TV (some pics were sideways)…..
**in Terragona, Spain**

Or perhaps to show scale, the shot of Rodger near one of the doors to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona……

The whole evening was MUCH MORE FASCINATING than I ever would have thought, AND…….I got to see pictures of many places I have never been, and in some cases, have NEVER considered I was physically tough to “think” of being near.

THANK YOU Sam & Debora! That was inspiring enough to hope we can do that same thing among our own “old” friends. That was terrific FUN! This was NOTHING like remembering old days at my own relatives homes where they pulled out 80 slide trays and you spent hours sitting listen to some aunt/uncle argue about what “that” picture was………..NO, not this time. Each participant has a scant 10-15 minutes tops to present. Fabulous.

Next time you visit, please bring a CD of your life highlights that previous year…………okay?

Day 14: Milan – short visit. Return home.

Bloged in garden,Scuff Boys,TRAVEL by mark Tuesday July 28, 2009

Day 14: This was a morning of mixed feelings. We pack the car, say goodbyes to Pippo & Nero, and ride a little quietly to the Pinerolo Train Station. We say rather sad goodbye to our fabulous hosts Emilio and Elena until we will see them back at home in July.

We’re soon on our way to Milan……… quietly. We arrive, await the hotel van, which never arrives, hail a taxi from the long line waiting fares, and when he is told to go to the airport hotel, he is VERY angry. THAT was an unpleasant ride, but I sort of understand his problem: SHORT fare, return to a mile long taxi line for another long wait. Oh well. We check in, take the hotel van BACK to the airport, catch the train into central Milan, and we’re on foot for a few hours with only the objective of seeing the Duomo, and maybe La Scala.

We arrive La Scala to find the last tour has just left the lobby. We go to the Duomo:

Even though we’ve been seeing cathedrals for two weeks, THIS one is pretty spectacular. It’s one of the largest in Europe, not as old as many we’ve seen, so it presents art from a period of almost complete Catholic rule…. Much of the artistry, windows, sculptures, portray some brutal human acts…. I’m only assuming in their period, this was portraying battles of good (church) vs. EVIL (humanism)……… scaring the “hell” out of the locals.

We wander around some of the blocks there at the Duomo, all fashion centers, found a beautiful cheap (for the area) shirt for $103 US Dollars……….hah.

We were quite surprised in the middle of all this central district to see the most bizarre sculpture on a building of the entire trip. For a couple hundred years anyway, THIS was a kind of private meeting hall for the religious ones in control….so they didn’t want the hoi polloi to even THINK of coming through the doors.

Just above the entry doors of this old scary building were these:

Well and good………but at the roof-line this frightening evil lurked:
Oh well, we were too rushed to truly digest this inneresting place……and in a hurry………….and tired………

We get back on the train, and rather collapse early at the hotel.

Day 15: EARLY wake up call, quick run to airport, flight to Frankfurt, flight to PDX, and before you know it, Serafina and David are driving us home (a mere 13 hours later and it’s still mid-day in Portland).

We’re home………………. Gus is laid out on the bed for some relxation and meditation about his adventures in Europe.

The four of us go as might be expected to Portland’s best Tapas Restaurant, Toro Bravo …………………. and our royal guests prepare to leave the next morning for home, I’m sure quite happily. They DID stay at peak hummingbird time, and I’m not sure ANYBODY would be happy to be tagged with cooking gallons of food every week. Sorry about that, but you should be proud, Serafina, the hummingbird population tripled under your care…..all those babies seem to be thriving.

It was now late June, and there are many things we needed to begin doing………

As I finish this last diary entry of that trip, THIS IS a picture of ME watering between tomatillos and 7 foot high corn as of Sunday, July 19:

Can you even see me? WITH this record breaking heat and dry July, THIS garden is growing like one would in the dry plains………and consequently, planted a bit thick……we could NEVER have anticipated the kind of weather we’re having now.

TODAY is the 3rd day of 99-105 weather, 70 low at night in a house with NO A/C……and it’s NOT fun……………..but IS an adventure let’s say. We haven’t even bought a new fan for 15 years………and are using one old noisy rattler. Perhaps THIS is the week, eh?

THE positive side? We’ve begun eating a few tomatoes, squash, ALL herbs, carrots. The sad? The lettuce has bolted or burned. It’s bitter. Dang.

I hope EVERYONE’s having a fabulous summer.

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