Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Glass Fishing Net Floats

We have continued to have rain showers. Yesterday the sun came out a few times, but the dark cloudy sky inevitably always produced more rain. We drove into Depo Bay for lunch yesterday. Coming into that area we noticed that waves were splashing up as far as the road and even giving cars a good spray of ocean water as they drove past. The ocean has been churning away because of the strong winds. Even way off into the distance we could see very high waves. It has been quite awesome viewing such a powerful force of nature, something which is unique for me.Closer up at the shoreline the ocean appears very dark and dirty. The force of the waves has been stirring the ocean floor and bringing up dirt and debris. Maybe the picture of the ocean below can give you an idea of what I am talking about. Notice the dark lines on the waves.
Debris which we have seen on the beach has included everything from piles of driftwood, glass bottles, pieces of net, kelp, and just plastic junk of all sorts. We do need to stop our use of plastic in America!
 The strong ocean waves have also brought in some interesting valuable treasures. While walking the shore Monday John and Linda  noticed something bobbing in the water. As that object drifted closer to the shore, Linda was able to pull it out of the water. It was a green glass fishing net float with the net still around it,about 16.5  inches in diameter.  While floating in the ocean it had collected many sea shells and sea critters. Also, on this same walk, John and Linda found a second glass float. This one is bluish in color and 4-5 inches in diameter. There are no identifying markings on them.
 After touring Depo Bay yesterday we stopped at the gift shop at Cape Foulweather (there really is such a place, it was named by James Cook in 1778). The shop has glass fishing net floats, both those recently made by local artists and those which have been found on the shores of the Oregon coast. We described the fishing net floats to the clerk there and she said she thought Linda had found genuine fishing net floats, possibly made in the 1930s-1940s  from Japan. Local artists  put identifying marks on their blown-glass floats. The smaller float has no identifying marks- and to remove the net from the larger one to check for any markings would destroy its authenticity. Possible value of the bigger one is $160-$200.00. The clerk said that on an average only one antique float is found per year in this area. Guess I will continue my walks on the beach, but finding any more of those floats seems highly unlikely! I am just happy that Linda is so pleased with her finds.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oregon Weather

The ground outside looks like it has just snowed. In actuality it is hail, and it is the third time this morning it has done so.  It also hailed yesterday when we were walking on the beach. So far every walk on the beach here has been a challenge; besides the hail we have encountered strong winds and sudden downpours.People from this area claim that this is not usual weather for Oregon this time of the year. Sunday evening we had a rather disconcerting night with wind gusts up to 60mph. At least that is what the manager of our campground said the speed of the wind was- for us it felt more like 80mph! Our kitchen slide was flapping so badly because of the wind that we decided to pull it in. In doing so our motor home listed heavily downward to the right so that while lying in bed our feet were higher than our heads. My real fear was that,with our home lying on a slant, the force of wind  could easily blow us over. John kept telling me that wouldn't be possible because of the weight of our vehicle, he also encouraged me to envision myself being rocked gently in a cradle. No amount of positive thinking worked for me. With each heavy gust of wind I kept thinking that either we would be blown over or our little Honda Fit (parked behind our home) would be picked up and slammed into us! I was surprised the next morning to look outside and discover that the world around us still looked the same- nothing had been blown over or even tossed around. There may not be many postings on this site for awhile as rain is predicted for most of this week. Thankfully my brother John and his wife Linda have a cozy vacation cottage here where we have been spending our time. We have been enjoying good food and conversation with them. We also have a Scrabble game and cards to help us pass the time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sea Lion Cave

Saturday afternoon we drove about twenty miles south  to view the sea lions. It was a sunny day and we had an enjoyable drive along the scenic rocky shoreline of Oregon. The sea lions congregate in one of the world's largest sea caves located along the coast here.  There is an admission charge which gives access to an elevator that goes down about 200 feet into the cave. The cave has been open to the public for 75 years. According to a staff member there have been times when there are no seal lions in the cave. Today we saw plenty of them, as you can see in the photo above. It didn't  smell too good down there and the barking of the sea lions made the cave quite noisy, but they were still quite awesome to see. After seeing them we drove over to the Heceta Lighthouse, reputed to be one of the most photographed of all the lighthouses in the states.
I am not posting a closer picture of the lighthouse because I want to show the rocky bluff upon which it is perched. This lighthouse helped guide sea captains for more than a century. In 1963 the lighthouse was automated with its light upgraded from a kerosene 5 wick lamp to a 1000 Watt bulb. On Sunday we attended services in Newport with my brother John and his wife Linda. Just as the services were about to start we saw another couple we knew- cousin Grace and her husband Peter.  We are planning on visiting them this coming week at their home in Silverton Oregon. They have been vacationing in this area the past few days. As John and I sometimes find out,  it is a small world when we connect up within Lutheran communities.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Waldport Oregon

Before explaining where we have moved on to now, I want to pass on some more humorous signs which we saw while traveling around. There was a "No Name" hamburger stand and a restaurant called "Bless my Soul Cafe" (which offers good feelings with good food). When we were back east there was" Wild Thyme Cafe". And does anyone know Mr.Awhile?  He owns "Terry Awhile Inn". Other shops with names I like: " Mellow Mushroom" and " Laughing Seed". Don't remember what they sold.  On our way here we drove by Mt. Humbug State Park. Back on a serious note- it was a windy, cold day traveling up the coast yesterday from California and Oregon. And, yes, we were on a narrow and curving road again.  Highway 101 is becoming a favorite road for us. We saw scenic ocean vistas with miles of rugged shoreline. Also fir covered forests, and  rushing mountain streams . There were signs for "Elk Xing" (saw them the day before,not today).  There were a few small towns which we drove through, but the larger places which seemed to have a lot of activity around them were the casinos. The inclement weather made the scenery even more impressive with the misty wisps of clouds advancing and receding over the ocean. Coming into the Waldport area sand dunes greeted us on both sides of the road. Again, a wonderful day on the road. I am not so sure John felt that way as he did all the driving!  Below is the scene which we can view now from out our back window. We will be staying here for a week visiting with my brother John and his wife Linda.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tolowa Dunes State Park

Yesterday I failed to mention that we have now moved to Crescent City, about ten miles outside of the Oregon border. I saw an interesting sign today: "Captivating Crescent City..permanently eye candy". It was advertising a beauty salon- somebody was being creative! We started our day today hearing the tsunami alarm- just a practice drill for the area. The drill was the first for Crescent City, apparently what happened in Chili got someone thinking that it would be necessary to have an alarm here. This city did have a tsunami in 1964. It was a cool windy, and overcast day today but we decided to drive to Tolowa Lake State Park for a hike on the dunes. That was an interesting walk- part of it was through a marshy area and some of it was  in a forested area covered with moss, ferns.  Just the right area to see orchids!  The flowers we saw were quite small (I have enlarged the one pictured here). We almost missed seeing it, thinking it was a violet. What a exquisite flower.
I found the orchids and John saw a banana slug crawling across our forest path. I don't believe that I have seen one before. It does look like a small banana, what a fascinating creature.
 And does anyone know what is killing the trees of northern California? It looks like a type of moss and seems to be doing as much damage as the kudzu vine in our southeastern states.
After walking the dunes along the coast we headed out to an estuary at Lake Tolowa. We did not see as many birds as we had hoped to see, maybe that was due to the time of day. There were a couple of hawks hovering in the sky, different ducks in the water and one lone egret.  Our hike here required climbing over piles of driftwood.  It was interesting to see a lake sitting that close to an ocean with only a narrow strip of beach separating the two.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Searching for Whales and Agate

Our day started yesterday at the Rumlano cheese outlet and factory. Here we were able to watch how cheese is made. An interesting fact which we learned is that the whey, the moisture squeezed from the curds, is bottled and given to the cows for reprocessing. The milk used to make the cheese comes from organic farms, which makes me quite happy. Their cheese is also quite tasty! From this place we drove to a park along the coast,within the city, which had a memorial to the crew and passengers of the ship Brother Jonathan, which crashed in this area in 1864. There were only 19 survivors. As we looked at the list of crew and passengers we noticed that five ladies had no names, they were simply designated as "ladies of the night".  Surely they did have names!  As a result of this crash the first lighthouse was built off the shore here in 1865. And a second one was built later, this one is still in operation.The picture of that lighthouse is below.
In the park were volunteer whale watchers. They work under the auspices of the Oregon State Parks. They have studied with a marine biologist to locate and identify whales. Daily they e-mail their findings to a national registry. The volunteers we talked to here said they spotted six this morning. We ate our lunch sitting there and in that period of time a pod of five gray whales were seen. John and I could not spot them, they were quite far away on the horizon. From there we drove further along the coast and stopped to walk along two beaches. At the first one we saw people crawling/lying on the beach and sifting through the sand. Agates have been found in this area, and that was what the people were searching for. I joined them and found a few of the transparent colored stones. There are many beautifully colored small stones on this beach, but not many that are actually agates. I found a few good-sized  agates, one was about the size of a robin's egg. At another beach we also looked at tide pools. At first we thought there were very few signs of sea critters in those pools, but when I touched a rock with my stick it felt mushy and contracted. It was a sea anemone camouflaged by the presence of many shells. The green center is his mouth, in which he has some food. Quite interesting, right? The natural world sure has its oddities!
We also enjoyed watching the many shore birds on the beach some of which we identified as gulls, sandpipers and sanderlings.  In the ocean there were sea ducks which we think are called surf scoters. I can't get over how John and I find it so easy to wile away the hours walking on the beach!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cape Mendocino

The town of Fortuna was on our way to the cape yesterday, so that is where we stopped to attend services. As is generally our experience, the church members and pastor of Christ Lutheran were very gracious to us. We were even invited to dine with them at their new member luncheon . We are thankful that in our travels we have been fortunate to continue being a part of the body of Christ. From there we took a Sunday afternoon drive to Cape Mendocino, the furthest western point on the Continental United States. There is only one road into this area, a narrow winding road up and down forested hills and meadow land.  Needless to say, the scenic vistas were awesome. The picture below gives you an idea of what I am talking about.
This is truly rural back country- only a few ranch houses and herds of cattle dot the landscape. You can"t  live out here and think you can take a fast trip into town for supplies.There is one town on the cape, the town of Honeydew. And in that town there is a building which has the services of a post office, also sells groceries and gas(one pump of expensive gas).  We tried to figure out how anything even got trucked into this area, what with one narrow road in and that road having many large pot holes! There is another road out which we took later. After traversing upward on this peninsula we suddenly came around a curve and was given our first sight of the ocean. Off in the distance we could see high waves crashing on the rocky  seashore.
We even saw one lonely cow taking a stroll on the beach. That scene seemed so strange.. Some of this country has open range, after awhile we got use to seeing cattle grazing and lolling about by the roadside.
 The coast here is quite rocky. We saw many large boulders jutting out of the ocean as the one pictured below, it is called Steamboat Rock. An historic marker notes that a lighthouse was present here from 1865 to the 1950s. Nine ships were shipwrecked here. There were a few people on the black sandy beach, the first people we had seen all afternoon other than a few ranchers on the road in their pick-up trucks.
The weather was very changeable yesterday. There was rain during the night so a light mist and haziness would hang over the land when the sun went behind the clouds. We still certainly had a very enjoyable day!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Avenue of the Giants

To drive this road we had to return south from where we came yesterday. This highway, State Route 254, parallels Highway 101. Part of it runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In this park is the largest contiguous old growth redwood forest. Once we started driving down this beautiful tree-lined highway I told John that we had to stop  for pictures.I just felt we could go any further without capturing this scene.
 Along this thirty-two mile avenue of redwoods we did get out and hike in the forest. There is something very humbling and yet inspiring to stand next to a 346 foot tree. In my posting yesterday I mentioned the trees which grow out of the stump of the parent tree. Today we saw burl sprouts. That is how those trees start out of the older tree. Below is a picture of those saplings. Apparently most of them die off, only a few of the hardier ones grow into a tree. Sometimes a group of those young trees will grow in a circle around an open area. We saw examples of that phenomena which is called a fairy ring.
Redwoods are among the oldest living things- the oldest recorded redwood lived to be over 2,200 years. They have very few enemies. We saw redwoods which had survived fires, floods and winds over 100 miles per hour. Below is one with a goosepen in it, that is, a burned out hollow cavity. The early settlers found those hollows  served well  as cages for their chickens and hens.
You may have heard  of the Dyerville  Giant. That is a redwood which at its death was taller,larger, and older than any other tree around it. Very few of these ancient relics still remain. John is standing next to it in the picture below. Also notice the bark of this tree, it is very thick. That is characteristic of all redwoods.
We had an awesome day among the redwoods and I am thankful  that there have been people willing to pay for the preservation of these trees so they can remain protected within state and national parks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scotia California

We are in redwood country now. It was a beautiful drive here through forested hills and canyons.We crossed a couple of high bridges over the Eel River. From that height we could look down over the tops of the trees and into the river canyons below. Quite a spectacular sight!  Highway 101 in this area can be quite narrow and winding. John commented that it was similar to driving on the coastal highway except that this time he was trying to avoid the big redwood trunks on the sides of the road, not rocky boulders. There were many tempting stops along the way such as the drive through tree, and tree/log houses to tour. Many small shops sold tree carvings and large wooden statues. How is this for a log sandwich?
Sometimes I think that it is good that we are driving a big rig because then we are less tempted to stop at the tourist traps! After we had parked at our next scheduled rv park, we drove our little tow car into the town of Scotia. This was one of the few remaining company-owned towns in the late twentieth century. The logging company, Pacific Logging, went bankrupt several years ago. It was interesting driving around this small town. Small houses (all looking alike) line up neatly on each street. We saw steam coming up from under the streets. We wondered about what would cause that phenomena, maybe some underground fire from the logging mill? We asked a town resident who was working in her lawn. That steam was the source of free heat she received in her home, provided by the power plant nearby. And that heat source was going to be cut off soon because the power plant was going to be shut down.  My thoughts were then  in sympathy for the townspeople- first unemployment, and now they had to buy furnaces for their homes. I  wondered if the Pacific Logging Company could have done anything to avoid bankruptcy, but I all know of that situation was that they got into trouble when California would not let them continue to cut old growth trees.The manager of the park we are currently residing said that the trees here were once part of that logging operation and now there are third growth trees around us. It is impressive how these tall trees grow out of the old stumps!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wine Country of Northern California

We left the Sacramento area yesterday and drove northwest. It was slow going for us because of a headwind and hills.  We were driving into the coastal highlands once again. On the first leg of our journey we saw many fruit orchards, some in bloom but most seemed to have past that stage. I also started seeing more again of the Photinia bush ( a plant of the rose family). It is quite gorgeous right now with its red tips coming off the green branches. There were many seen  in Sacramento, I took a picture of one by the back steps of the governor's mansion. Further north the bush appears to be completely red in appearance, a very striking color. In the summer it produces white flowers.
 We are already beyond Napa Wine country (did not stop there as we had toured that area a few years ago). Driving north and around Clear Lake there are many vineyards, I believe that we were in the Mendocino Wine country. Clear Lake is beautiful, has almost the feel of an Alpine lake what with the coastal mountains surrounding it. Driving past the lake we started entering into more heavily forested hills. In the town of Willits we were greeted with a huge banner which said: " Gateway to the Redwoods". We parked our rig north of that town. It is quite pleasant to be out of the city and more among trees and wildlife. There is a pond next to our home. We went to sleep with the sounds of ducks quacking and frogs croaking. Earlier in the evening wild turkeys could be heard gobbling further up in the hills . The owner of this park said that they get visits from many woodland critters, including bears.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

This fort was established by Swiss immigrant John Sutter in 1839. With the help of Native Americans he became quite a successful business man providing needed supplies to the pioneers moving west. Ironically, the discovery of gold brought brought him financial ruin. Prospectors virtually took over his lands and by 1849 he had retired to a farm nearby. The town of Sacramento was laid out on his property in 1848. Below is a picture of one of the rooms of the fort. It was one of the many rooms which we toured in the fort that gave me a feel for what life was like in the  mid 1800s!
 From Sutter's Fort we drove further into Sacramento to tour the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park. No, there is no current governor's mansion. This mansion was resided in by thirteen California governors from 1903-67. President Reagan and his wife lived in it only a few months before deciding that it was a fire trap and also that the ghetto atmosphere of the neighborhood was not the place to raise their son Ronnie. The neighborhood has since changed for the better.
We enjoyed our tour in this house especially because our guide was a font of information about the governors who resided here. The home certainly looks like time stopped there in the late 1950s. Rumor has it that if Jerry Brown is elected governor, he may again live there (it was once his home when his dad Pat Brown was governor). The grounds around the mansion are rather small, some of the area was taken up in the 1950s by the building of a swimming pool.The camellia trees below provide a colorful entrance into the pool area. A gardener I met there informed me that the trees are 75 years old.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Sacramento

There is one memorial we found in the Capitol Park  which I would like to share with our readers before moving on to the rest of our day in Sacramento. It is an old native American Indian grinding stone, a tribute to the people who first lived in California. I will post that here along with a plaque standing next to it.
After touring the capitol and its grounds we hurried on to the historic sites of Sacramento, only to soon discover that many are closed on Mondays.  I then got the idea for us to walk to the Sacramento River and from there  to the older part of the city. That was a bit of a hike, my feet were sore by the time we headed back to our car a couple of hours later!  On our way to the river we stopped at the Wells Fargo History Museum. There was a fully restored Wells Fargo stagecoach on display there, but I was more impressed by the Wooton Desk.  With the advent of the Industrial Age there was a need to have a such a desk for the increasing amount of paperwork. Men as John D. Rockefeller, President Grant and Joseph Pulitzer were reputed to have a Wooton Desk. The wings of the desk can be folded in at night and locked.
Old Sacramento has kept its mid-19th century appearance. It has been redeveloped with wooden sidewalks, cobblestone streets, museums, shops and restaurants. It was the commercial district during the gold rush. The blue Victorian- style building  below is that of the Grand Saloon. The white sign posted there says " come in, be merry and meet Mary" We passed on that charming invitation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

California's State Capitol

The above picture is the state seal of California. It is the Goddess Minerva sitting there with a bear, the state animal of California.She  is represented as a type of political birth for the state. Just as Minerva sprang full grown from the brain of Jupiter, so California came to statehood without the probation of a territory. We had a guided tour of the capitol and enjoyed that very much. The building, since 1854, has gone through a fire and a couple of floods. After the earthquake of 1906 it underwent some renovation and, more recently, reinforced for  earthquake safety. Modern technology has been used to recreate its past beauty so that its older sections do have an ambiance of the 19th century. Governor Schwarzenegger's office is located in the east wing which is a newer section of the capitol. Below is a picture of the entrance to his office.

According to an editorial in The Sacramental Bee of March 15, the governor takes no salary. The complaint about him in the editorial is that he recently has not been physically present in his office. Another editorial, in the same edition, notes that California legislators' pay had been $116,208, fell to $95,291, and another 10 per cent cut is now being considered. These cannot be happy times in the capitol!
The Capitol Park surrounding the capitol building is absolutely beautiful. It has 40 acres of plants and trees from around the world. There is 100 flower beds, and a cactus garden. A camillia grove honors the early settlers of California.
While in the garden we noticed one lone hummingbird, the Anna's Hummingbird. He was high up in a tree but even without a binoculars he was easily identifiable. As the sunlight shone on him the little patch of red on his neck lit up like a neon sign. That was quite awesome to see. There was a lot in the capitol park which we had to pass up (many of the war memorials we missed) because we needed to move on and see other sights of Sacramento.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nevada City

We have just returned from spending the past twenty-four hours with John's cousin and her husband, Christine and Bill Newsom. They live just outside of Nevada City in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. After arriving there yesterday we headed out with them to South Yuba River State Park. This park has some historic sites related to the Gold Rush era. Of note is the Bridgeport Covered Bridge. Built in 1862 the venerable 229-foot structure is thought to be the longest arch/truss single span in existence.
After a picnic lunch by the river we walked the Buttermilk Bend Trail which is famous at this time of the year for its many different wildflowers. A lot of them were the same varieties which we saw in Mitchell Canyon. However this area, being further north, does not have as many in bloom yet.
The Buttermilk Bend Trail follows a narrow path that winds steadily upward along the river. From it we could get some very scenic vistas of the river rapidly flowing over massive granite rocks. Just at the end of the trail was a perfect place to snap a picture of John with Bill and Christine.
Today,Sunday, we spent some time in Nevada City. Several buildings down from where we attended church with Christine was the Nevada Theater built in 1865. Mark Twain and Jack London performed here.
We enjoyed walking around this quaint historic town, it still has buildings from the middle to late 1800s. There were a lot of town people out today because of a parade. Nevada city wants to convince Google to let the area  test drive its new ultra high-speed broadband that is reportedly 100 times faster than most internet services. Hence the rally which  was filmed and the film will be sent to Google. Good luck on that for Nevada City!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Metropolitan Mobile Home Parks

During the past year while traveling we have not always parked our rig in rv parks. Some people may think that we are always camping out in beautiful forested locations. In actuality there have been quite a few times when, because of visiting family or wanting to see historical sites in cities, we have chosen to park in mobile home parks in metropolitan areas. That has been especially true for Desert Hot Springs, Los Angeles, El Paso, San Francisco and now Sacramento. Some of those parks have no age restrictions and we have seen rather large families squeezed into a double wide trailer. In our last park there was a young girl living with her dad in the fifth wheel next to us. Her dad said he was borrowing the trailer from his Grandfather for six months so he could attend a school nearby. I am sure hard economic times have created many of these situations. The park where we  were located in Los Angeles was the ideal situation with stores and a park within walking distance. Yesterday I walked around the area where we are now located, about 15 miles from downtown Sacramento. It is mostly a commercial area and the only shop I found interesting was an antique store. There is a store for motorcycle accessories, appropriately called Suicycle. Also a shop claiming it has home alarms, Hue and Cry. A tree cutting service advertises that it has cut enough wood since 1970 to warm all of Sacramento. In a strip mall I noticed a small store which advertises that it is a casino, opened around the clock for its patrons. It looked quite small, a rather innocent-looking place. I think I will steer clear of it.  One could draw the conclusion that we have been hanging out in some very shady metropolitan areas and, in reality, we  have not found that to be the case at all. Many of the parks have strict rules about who can reside in them, and even fuss if lawns are not mowed or leaves picked up. Of course many of those rules do not apply to people like us, the transients. It is fortunate for us that these parks always keep a few spots for us, the people on the move! Today we had plans to do some touring in Sacramento but the rain has been rather steady all day. We headed to the closest theater, only about ten minutes away. We saw Alice in Wonderland in 3-D. I found it to be an absolutely, delightful and charming movie.  I liked it better than Avatar.  It is also wonderful in that it speaks to the issue of  female empowerment. Children's fairy stories have progressed a long ways since the time I heard them!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mount Diablo State Park

Tuesday we drove to the summit of this mountain. As you can see from this picture it was a bit overcast.    This view was taken looking towards the west. On a clearer day we could have seen the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking towards the east we saw a very faint outline of the Sierra Nevada. Mount Diablo isn't all that high- only 3,849 feet. It is a sacred mountain to California Indians. It was considered the creation point for the Miwok people and genesis for other groups. In 1851 the mountaintop was selected as the starting point for a survey of public domain.Today the summit is still used to determine base and meridian lines for official land surveys. The mountain is surrounded by low rolling hills and broad flat valleys. Wednesday we returned to another area of the park to do some hiking.
We attempted at first just to hike across some of the meadowland but the path proved to be quite wet from the rain the night before. This area is Mitchell canyon.
We then chose another path which ran along a rushing mountain stream. We did see a fair amount of  spring wildflowers as buttercups, larkspur, wild  hyacinth and violets. There was also a blooming shrub, the golden aster which is quite pretty. The California poppy is also blooming now and can be seen in many places.
We noticed along our path some very large pine cones. They come from the coulter pine which produces the heaviest cones of  all the different pine trees.
The above picture is pretty typical of the Riparian woodland path which we hiked on. The different pine trees and the live oak with its bright green leaves add a splash of color to the landscape, but a lot of the other trees as maple, blue oak, California laurel and buckeye still are bare of their leaves. Wildlife is supposed to be abundant in this park, but all we saw were many ground squirrels. In talking to some other hikers we found out that there is another interesting part of this park to discover. That is Rock City, were there is located some large sandstone formations and small caves. Guess that will have to wait for our next return here, which will be quite a while as we are headed to the Nevada City area today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

San Francisco

 We took Bart (the metro train) into San Francisco yesterday. As we stepped onto the sidewalks of the city from the station I looked up at the high-rise buildings surrounding us. I could not help but reflect on similar city scenes which we have encountered in the past year. Hard to believe we have been in the cities of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles in that period of time. They certainly all have their own distinctive metropolitan characteristics. Not sure yet if I can easily identify which city I am in, however, by just looking at the ambiance of each city's streets, buildings, and people. John and I have been to San Francisco before and one thing we have never done is ride a cable car. We immediately took one up Powell street to the cable car museum and barn. Of course John had to know how they work! In the cable care barn it is possible to view the machinery that operates all the cable cars for the city.
Cable cars have no motors or power of their own. Each car is towed along tracks by a moving cable. San Francisco has the only operating cable car system in the world. It was fun riding them around the city.Maybe at first a little bit unnerving until we got use to the jerky feeling and clattering noises as we climbed up the steep hills of the city only them to plunge down the same hills rapidly and brake in time for a red light. In those open wooden cars there certainly is not much protection should anything go wrong!
 We traveled down to Ghiardelli Square for some hot cocoa.  By this time the skies were getting cloudy and a brisk cool wind was blowing. From there we walked over to Fisherman's Wharf  and enjoyed the various sights, sounds and smells which emanated from the stores and restaurants of the area.
 We took a cable car back up to where we started our trip and met our son Mike at his hotel. He was in town for a game convention. We walked with him to a tapas restaurant, the Thirsty Bear. I am getting a bit braver in trying different foods. I ordered Dungeness crab bisque soup with tangerines and trout with fingerling potatoes cooked in truffle oil. All quite good! We topped off our dinner at Beard Papa, a famous San Francisco place noted for its cream puffs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oakland, California

What a beautiful drive it was going through the Santa Clara valley and in toward Oakland. It must be those lush green rolling hills which make it so scenic. We have driven through this area several times now and each time I am so awestruck by the beauty of the area. Our major aim in going to Oakland was to visit John's cousin Pastor Lois Mueller. The above pillars are what we first noticed as we walked toward the entrance of Pastor Mueller's church. It is Plymouth United Church of Christ. The church is very large and can seat up to 400 people. Like many congregations in an inner city setting it went through a period of decline and now only a small number of people attend there. Fortunately that is not the end of the story for this church. It has embraced the diversity of the neighborhood around it and now is in a process of regrowth and renewal. We felt blessed to have worshiped there.  After the worship service the women of the church provided a luncheon, which according to Lois is done every Sunday. Yesterday's luncheon was a special time for the congregation as it was the celebration of the wedding of Associate Pastor Marjorie Wilkes to her husband Bob. Their wedding was on Saturday. After the luncheon we went to the home of Lois and spent the afternoon walking her neighborhood. Below is a scene on Piedmont street where the 115 year-old historic Fenton Creamery is located. If you saw the movie Up you may have seen this building already. Many of you know John's sweet tooth. We had to try the ice cream and it is delicious.
It may sound bizarre but part of our walk was through the beautiful Chapel of the Chimes cemetery grounds. We also walked into the funeral chapel and mausoleum because of our interest in the work of Julia Morgan. She was the architect that designed this building as well as Hearst Castle.
We had to work off our ice cream so Lois chose a steep hill for us to walk up to return to her home. And I saw this as an opportunity to snap a picture of the two cousins.