Saturday, October 13, 2007

California, Here We Come!

Monday, 10/8. We had a great visit with our next door neighbors, Larry and Judy Kaufman. We found that we had a lot in common. They're also from MA but from Waltham. They have 2 children, 1 in NYC and 1 in CA. One works in the media as a movie producer. They like active vacations but aren't quite yet retired. And the big surprise was that Becky knows Judy's boss at Mt. Ida College. He used to work in Development at UMass!

Tuesday, 10/9. We wanted to make the most of our last day in Florida before returning in December so after breakfast we took an exercise walk and then I swam in the pool for a bit. It felt great!! (What a great feeling to be doing this on a weekday in October!) Then we got to work on cleaning the house and getting it ready for our renters. By 2 PM we were on the road for the 2 hour trip to Becky's mother's home in Largo, north of St. Petersburg. We had a nice visit and dinner before heading up to Sandy's mother's home in New Port Richey, about 1 hour north. She wasn't there but we needed a place to spend the night and leave our car until we came back down after Thanksgiving. After locating the circuit breaker for the electricity we were all set.

Wednesday, 10/10. We had a great breakfast at Steve's Place, the restaurant that June and friends go to regularly. About 10:30 AM June's sister-in-law picked us up and took us to the airport for our flight to Sacramento by way of Las Vegas. Helen Venedam has a little business driving people to and from the airport.

California. It was very cool to fly over the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead after having rafted down it only 3 months before. What an incredible work of nature, with those plateaus eroded away down to the river!

(When we made our plans to visit Scott and Libby, our long-time friend, Jim Rubins and his wife, Dianne, kindly offered us a room in their house. Thanks, Jim & Dianne!)

After picking up the rental car Sandy felt like he was starting off where he ended up on Aug. 28 when Scott left him at the Sacramento Airport. We arrived at Scott's and Libby's in Davis about 7 PM. They only live 30 minutes from the airport. We've seen them a lot in the past few months but it still was great to see them in their new home. They have a nice, big 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with new cabinets, countertops and floor tile in the kitchen and bathrooms.

We visited until 8 when Jim showed up to escort us to his house. He lives up a winding road on a lake north of Napa and was concerned we might made a wrong turn. As it turned out our GPS system had no problem getting us there. We got to Jim's about 9 PM (our bodies felt like it was midnight) and wanted to adjust to California time but couldn't make it past 10.

Thursday, 10/11. Julie's 27th birthday!! We headed off with Jim Rubins as our guide winding through the roads of Napa Valley's vineyards. One thing we noticed coming down the mountain where Jim and Dianne live is some shiny things amongst the grapes. These turned out to be strips, shiny on one side and red on the other that are tied up to keep the starlings and crows away. Apparently they work. Here's a picture of Cabernet grapes which will be harvested at the end of October. On the right is a picture of Napa's "Old Man in the Mountain" complete with a pipe (on Rt. 121).

Jim, after living here for 27 years, knows the area well so was a terrific guide. He took us to an old adobe, part of a ranch built by a Mexican. There were displays on how they farmed and milled wheat (not the kind we grow today) and sheep. Jim showed us the nut of a beech-nut tree that is gummy (which the Beech-Nut gum company used to make gum) and that the Indians boiled to make yellow cloth.

There were also pineapple cactus whose fruit you could eat. Here's a picture of what the hills look like in the Napa Valley in October. Jim told us that by Christmas, after the rainy season is in full swing, those same brown hills are green.

Here's a picture of a stereotypical California house in Jim's neighborhood built on stilts. Below this is the view of Lake Berryessa, a reservoir, from one of Jim's many decks. Nice, huh?

Our destination was Pt. Reyes National Park north of San Francisco. First we went to the Visitor Center and had a picnic lunch, and walked along a trail explaining about the San Andreas Fault. It showed how the 1906 earthquake caused part of a fence to move 22 feet away! Next stop was the lighthouse on a peninsula 19 miles out. Jim drove on a really windy road but with beautiful scenery. Some highlights of Pt. Reyes: 1) the red, fuzzy algae (trentepohlia) growing even on the building and window;
2) western paintbrush flower;

3) cypress leaning away from the windy coast; 4) "old man's beard" lichen growing on the rock and in trees;

5) ice plant; 6) below the lighthouse were cormorants and pelicans sharing a rock.

Nighttime entertainment was watching Julie in her first big scene on "Mad Men" on AMC. Yeah, Julie!!

Friday, 10/12. Rain, Fog and Sun. We woke to clouds and it had rained but Sandy and I took an exercise walk around Jim's neighborhood before the rains really started in force.

We headed north of San Francisco. The weather forecast was for only morning rain so we figured by after lunch we'd be in fine shape to do some walking around. Wrong!! By the time we had reached Muir Woods with their majestic redwoods, the weather forecast was for "decreasing rain in the afternoon." It was a bit of a wet walk through Muir Woods but the trees are huge and impressive. The large ferns on the forest floor were beautiful. My feet got pretty soaked. I was glad I wore wool socks since it was only 53 degrees! Here's a picture in the rain. See the water droplets on the lens!
Next stop was a nearby beach where we watched surfers in 12-15 foot waves. We all took a little nap and headed for the Marin Headlands Visitor Center. It's part of the Golden Gate National Parks, 12,000 acres of open space just north of San Francisco.

We did see some wildlife: 4 river otters while we crossing the bridge. It was still a driving rain so the Visitor Center was a nice place to visit since we weren't really going to be able to be outside seeing much. The displays talked about the Miwok Indians, the Portuguese settlers from the Azores who originally came over during the mid-19th century gold rush and ended up being dairy farmers, bird identification and World War II info for the area.

By the time we were close to the Bay Bridge the rain had stopped, the sun came out briefly and we could actually see the whole bridge and across to San Francisco. Such an impressive bridge! (If you've never been here, having the fog by the bridge is not an unusual sight.) Below that is a postcard picture of the park side where we were.

Saturday, 10/13.
Sunshine! We took a walk with Jim and Dianne and their dog, Ollie, along Lake Berryessa. It was just like a fall morning in Amherst with cool temps and brilliant sunshine. The fall may not be as impressive as New England but this area of California does have some trees which turn a beautiful red. Here are two: a beech and a Japanese maple.

We drove to Davis (about 1 hour away) to take Scott and Libby out for lunch. They live very close to campus so can walk or bike everywhere. It had gotten up to about 70 degrees and lots of people were out on the sidewalks. We had a great conversation and a delicious lunch of crepes at a restaurant called Crepeville. After a brief visit to their apartment we headed back to Napa for a hike along the Blue Ridge Trail in the Cold Canyon Reserve at the southern end of Lake Berryessa. It was a 1500' gain in elevation so pretty steep going up. After an hour we had our first glimpse of the lake. Ten minutes later it was even more spectacular.

Sunday, 10/14. We woke to another beautiful day in Napa, CA. We packed up and headed for Davis to meet Libby's parents, Dave and Brenda Sproat, when they arrived from Minnesota. (They're from Duluth.)

Davis is the biking capital of the world. Biking safely in the city is of utmost importance. There is a sign on the traffic lights indicating a $370 fine for running a red light. There are many bike paths in town and on campus. From their apartment on Olive Drive they can walk to campus, stores, and restaurants. But riding their bikes is quicker. Olive Drive is lined with olive trees (surprising, right?) and cork trees-see picture (very thick bark). That was the first time we'd ever seen cork trees. There are lots of sycamore trees as well. It's a very leafy city.

It was such a beautiful day and we had a great time walking through the arboretum, campus, and Scott's office that he shares with 3 other grad students. We had a lovely cafe stop for dessert and then more walking and talking. The afternoon flew by.

The rest of our CA trip will be in the next post.

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