Saturday, October 24, 2009

San Francisco Here We Come

The Golden Gate and San Francisco
Saturday morning market at the Ferry Building.
Sailing with Captain Jones.
A different look at the city.
The fog and the bridge
Fog creeping over the neighborhood behind Erin's house.
Streets and houses in the city. Top middle my old digs, top right Erin's place.
Signs, signs everywhere are signs
Marin County Civic Center
San Francisco from Marin Headlands.

We left the rig in Santa Rosa and spent the weekend in San Francisco with Erin Jones. We had a wonderful time visiting with him and seeing the city with a personal tour guide. On Friday we ate at a little neighborhood Thai restaurant and on Saturday we had Spanish food. We have never tried either kind and loved them both. It is hard to believe we were introduced to these cuisines by the same person who would only eat hamburgers, pizza and fries when we were in Europe together 24 years age. After dinner on Friday we took a night tour of the city driving down the famous crooked portion of Lombard Street and then up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill for the spectacular views. On Saturday morning we went to the Ferry Building for the huge farmers market. Inside are several permanent restaurants and food vendors selling just about anything. We opted for a bag of beans for soup and passed on the $200/ounce caviar. This building was renovated following the 1989 earthquake and is now a must see stop along the waterfront. The highlight of our visit (other than spending time with Erin) was going sailing with him on the bay. Neither of us had ever been on a sailboat and the location of this first voyage will be very hard to top. We left the marina near the AT&T Ballpark, sailed under the Oakland Bay Bridge, then out into the bay near Alcatraz Island. This different perspective of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge was fabulous. The weather could not have been better, enough wind to keep us moving but not enough to kick up any big waves. We have been on the water many times in different kinds of boats the last 27 months but this was the absolute best. After sailing we drove around the edge of the city and enjoyed the different views of the water. It was neat to look out at where we had just been sailing. On Sunday we took a long stroll around Erin's neighborhood just admiring the unique San Francisco architecture. We had planned to eat in a local restaurant but everything was so crowded on this beautiful day we decided to stop at a local market and buy some bread and cheese. We had quite a lunch back at Erin's beautiful home. While driving and walking the streets of this city you get a new picturesque view at every turn. You could take thousands of pictures here and never capture the ever changing landscape. We had a great visit and it is nice to see Erin is doing so well. Once again our lifestyle offers us the opportunities to spend time with friends and do things we would never get the chance to do if we were still in a stix and brix.

On our drive into the city we noticed a unique looking building and decided to stopped at the Marin County Civic Center that we discovered was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The center was not completed until after Wright's 1959 death. It is reminiscent of many of his other buildings we have visited in our travels with long low lines and precast concrete being the primary building material. The roof is blue to blend with sky and the walls are sand beige. Skylights flood the interior hallways with natural light from the top to bottom floors. This is one of the few public buildings designed by Wright and is well worth a visit.

We stopped to see the views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This is a MUST see for anyone who visits the area. We got the classic view of the bridge, fog and city you see in so many photos. We drove to the Point Bonita Lighthouse but were disappointed to find it was not open to the public the day we were there. When we crossed the bridge we entered the Presidio that was once an army base but is now part of the NRA (not the gun lobby). There are several trails in this area through the grounds and along the water. Many of the old military homes are now rented to the public. We drove along the Pacific Ocean beach and passed the house where I lived in 1968 before I was lured back to PA to get married to the love of my life 40 years ago. Ahhh, San Francisco!! Old and new memories, what a wonderful city that we never tire of visiting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

GTO's ,Wine and Peanuts

Crossword fans Linus and Nanc, the kite eating tree, Charlie Brown
Woodstock, Snoopy, Lucy
The ever hopeful Charlie Brown and Lucy.
Some of the star skaters who have been on Snoopy's Home Ice.
Inside the tasting room at Stryker Sonoma. The view from the winery and the Cabernet grapes waiting to be picked.
At the Simi Winery the original building was constructed by Chinese who had worked on the railroad. All the red and most whites are stored in oak barrels. They still use the old wooden vats along with new stainless ones.

One evening we decided to drive to Sebastopol to have dinner at GTO's, the seafood restaurant we found when we were here in the spring. When we walked through the door Tess (T) greeted us as if we were long lost friends and wanted to know all about our summer travels. Gene (G) was in his usual place behind the bar and said he was glad the Penguins won, remembering we watched a game of the Stanley Cup finals there. So if you want great food and to be treated like a local go to GTO's if you are in the area.

We had a great afternoon at The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. The complex includes displays of his and other comic strips through the ages, an ice rink, and of course the ever present large gift shop. Schulz, who was know as Sparky after a character in the comic strip Barney Google, began his career before WWII and after the war sold a few strips to newspapers and magazines. Peanuts, a name he did not like but the one chosen by the publishing company, debuted in seven newspapers in 1950 and was in over 2600 dailies around the world when Schulz retired in 1999. Ironically, the last original strip ran on February 13, 2000 one day after his death. The museum showed the evolution of Charlie Brown and the other characters over the years and the many themes, ranging from sports to music, that where the focal point of the series. A few of the many Charlie Brown TV specials are shown daily in the theater. A highlight is the mosaic ceramic mural made from ten years of strips that shows Charlie Brown and Lucy in the famous long running kick the football theme. The work of many other cartoonists is also on display. We enjoyed reading the various strips and listening to many people laughing out loud as they read the strips.

The nearby Redwood Empire Ice Arena, Snoopy's Home Ice, was opened in 1969 by Schulz who was an avid hockey player. Through the years the rink has hosted many hockey tournaments, including several of the world senior games. The arena has had skating exhibitions by many figure skating champions. When Olympic skaters appeared they would sign their names in wet concrete in the sidewalk. One of these skaters is Michael Seibert whose father was a principal at Wash High while I worked in the district. The museum is a must visit for any Peanuts fan and the entire complex is a worthwhile stop for those passing through Santa Rosa.

We continued our fall wine tasting adventure visiting three more Sonoma wineries. Merriam Vineyards is a smaller operation that specializes in reds. The tasting room is a New England style building reflecting the owners roots. Along with the wines we had a couple of unique cheeses and a great tasting olive jam. We were the only people there and received first class treatment. We bought one bottle but after further consideration Nanc decided we "needed" another. When we returned the second time owner Peter Merriam was there and signed the bottle for us.

Next we ventured into Alexander Valley, an area known for its Cabernet. We did a tasting at Stryker Sonoma, a newer vineyard that is housed in a very contemporary building with a glass enclosed tasting room overlooking the fields of vines. This is a little larger operation and there were several couples enjoying the tasting. The fantastic views and the fabulous wines made for a great afternoon of sipping and conversation.

For our final winery we chose Simi Winery, one of the oldest continually operating wineries in the US. They even produced wine during Prohibition for the church to use for communion. I bet there were a lot more people attending church and taking communion back then. At Simi they offer a tour in addition to the tasting. This is something we wanted to do since most places don't show you the inside operation. It was near the end of the harvest so only a few grapes are still being picked and the day we were there it rained so there was less activity then normal. We did get to see the crushers (no they don't foot stomp them any more), the huge fermentation vats and the stacks of oak barrels with aging wine. This was a very good overview of the wine making procedure from the time the grapes arrive until the wine is moved to the bottling plant down the road. The tasting was a sit down affair with the usual detailed explanation of each variety we tried. Simi is a much larger winery and offered a great many wine.

We visited a total of five wineries and each was very unique. There are so many here it is impossible to do more than a few, but the wines were all great. We don't think you can really go wrong because if you don't like a particular place you can move on down the road to the next one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Point Reyes

Nanc standing on the San Andreas Fault. The fence in the foreground was connected to the fence by Nanc before the 1906 earthquake.
The water on the left is the Pacific Ocean and on the right is Drakes Bay. The buildings are part of the old lifeboat station.
Some of the birds we saw at the point.
Deer on the cliff above the Pacific.
The weight and pulley system that turned the original light.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse. The large building had the steam system for the fog horn and the backup generator for the light.
Looking down the 308 steps to the lighthouse.

We did a day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, a unique bit of land that is on the western side of the San Andreas fault. During the 1906 earthquake this peninsula jumped 20 feet farther north from San Francisco in just a few seconds. While this quake is remembered for the major destruction of the city it also damaged this rural area. You can walk directly above the fault line and see a fence with a 20 foot gap as part of it is on one tectonic plate and part on another. If you look at Google Earth you can actually see evidence of the fault line by the shape of the land and bays. When we left Santa Rosa we had sunny skies, but as we neared the coast the fog and clouds thickened. They did remain high enough that we were able to see very well.

The history of Point Reyes goes back to long before 1906 when Sir Francis Drake landed there in 1579. He spent five weeks repairing his ship before sailing west across the Pacific on his around the world voyage. While there, he traded with the Miwok Indians and hunted deer. He named it Nova Albion (New England) as the shoreline reminded of the Dover coast. It was almost 200 years after Drake's visit before the Europeans discovered the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay just a few miles south. As we drove to the end of the road we saw hundreds of deer and a large herd of elk. There were many varieties of birds including hawks, herons and ravens as well as seals and sea lions. We were surprised to find many ranches with huge herds of dairy cattle and found they date back to as early as 1852.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse at the south end of the peninsula was used from 1870 to 1975. This light has a unique location on the side of the cliff 308 steps from the top so it would be below the fog that so often blankets the area. The original light, a first order Fresnel, is no longer used but is still in very good repair. The lighthouse also has the original weight and pulley system that turned the light. We have seen many lighthouses with Fresnel lenses but they have all been changed to electric motors. Even though it was not functioning it was quite interesting seeing this old system that was used in most lights. The old coal fired steam powered fog horn system used during foggy weather, which was often, is still in place. On the other side of the point on Drakes Bay is the historic lifeboat station that was built in 1927.

For most of the time we have been here we have had blue sky and warm temps. But as I am writing this, California is getting the first Pacific storm of the season. It has rained ALL day with winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour. For maybe the first time since being on the road we did not even venture outside. Fortunately, the forecast for the next ten days is for a return to the nicer weather.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No Sno ma County

We are spending a couple of weeks in Sonoma County enjoying the warm fall weather that seems to be eluding some of our Class of 07 mates. We have been rewarded with warm sunny days and cool nights. One reason we wanted to stay in the area was to visit with Erin Jones the son of our friend Tim who I worked with and who is a member of our old card club. In 1985 our friends Tom and Georgie Ridge along with Tim and Erin travelled to Europe for a bicycling adventure. It was quite an experience for all of us especially Erin who celebrated his thirteenth birthday on the ferry while crossing the North Sea. On our first weekend here Erin rode a different bike to Santa Rosa and we had a great afternoon catching up on what has been going on in his life and also with all our mutual friends. We are planning to go into San Francisco next week so Erin can show us around the city. Once again getting to spend time with a friend while on the road is an advantage of fulltiming.

We drove through the countryside vineyards and visited a couple of wineries to do tastings. At D'Argenzio Winery we enjoyed several great wines and the friendly conversation with winemaker Ray and his parents who were originally from Pennsylvania. This is a small operation that doesn't have a vineyard but buys all its grapes from the local growers. We were the only customers and not only got a personal tasting but also a tour from the owner. We purchased a bottle of his double gold medal winning pinot noir. Another day we went to Kendall-Jackson a large company that owns over 14,000 acres of land and produces thousands of cases a year. The tasting room is in a large house surrounded by vineyards and a garden. While this is a bigger operation the tasting was still very nice with our server Chad explaining the differences and unique qualities of each wine.

We have a goal to ride our bikes more this year and since we have not ridden since we were on the Olympic Peninsula we took a bicycle ride on the Joe Rodota Rail to Trail. We have found most places in the west to be very bike friendly with many trails and well marked lanes on the city streets.

Erin and his "bike" which is a little different then the one he rode in Europe 24 years ago.
A unique bottle wall outside D'Argenzio Fine Wines.
Winemaker Ray showing Nanc the grapes he is preparing for fermentation.
Nanc enjoying a tasty white wine.
Some of the large variety of grapes growing at Kendall-Jackson.
Riding on the Joe Rodota Trail in the afternoon sunshine.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Back in California

Our unplanned stop in Redding gave us the opportunity to see this unusual bridge. It is part of a pedestrian and bike trail along the Sacramento River. The bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stay bridge with the deck connected to a single 217 foot tower with cables.
Looking skyward at the tower.
The tower is pointing north so its shadow creates the worlds largest sundial. It is only exactly accurate on the summer solstice since the tower can't be moved to adjust for the rotation of the Earth. You are able to see this movement as the shadow travels a foot a minute across the plaza that is the dial of the time piece.
We could see glacier covered Mt. Shasta for more then 150 miles from Oregon to well south of Redding. Along with Mt. Lassen they are at the south end of the Cascade Range of volcanic mountains that we have been seeing in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
A marina on Shasta Lake and the low water with exposed bottom.

We are now at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa for a couple weeks. After having the turbocharger fixed we only drove fifty miles and spent two nights at Heritage RV Park in Corning where we caught up on laundry and other chores. The drive through Northern California was very interesting with the area near Oregon being in the mountainous and 14,162 foot Mt. Shasta dominating the sky. For part of the trip we were on the side of this mountain at 4000 feet with over 10,000 feet of glacier covered peaks soaring above us. The highest pass we crossed was less than a mile high with the road slowly winding its way down over 100 miles to the start of the Central Valley in Redding. North of Redding we crossed Shasta Lake that is famous for its large number of houseboats but the water was very low exposing the bottom along narrow stretches of water. From Redding south the high mountains slowly disappear and the road straightens across miles of flat land that is the food basket of America with many fields and orchards.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What is a Turbocharger??

The motorhome up on jacks being worked on.
We found a fuel leak under the generator when we left Diamond Lake so we made an appointment at Cummins West in Redding, California to have it checked. We also had them look at a couple of pipes on the engine where I had recently noticed a bit of oil. Well the generator was an easy fix with just a tightening of the line, BUT, the oil was something else. It turned out to be a bad seal in the turbocharger which was a MAJOR two day repair.
The oil in the air hose to the turbo.
This had not been happening very long because we were only down a quart of oil out of the seven gallons in the engine. The staff of Cummins West in Redding was outstanding not only with the work they did but with making sure we had everything we needed including a key to the gate so we could come and go at night.

Stew starting to take things apart to get to the turbo.
The good news was the final bill was $1300 less than the estimate because Stew did the work in less time than planned. The bad news was the amount of the bill was more than we paid for our first car. We had water and electric hookups at Cummins and were able to spend the nights in the rig saving us the cost of a motel room. These kinds of things go into the category of many famous sayings.
Into every life a little rain must fall.
Sh_t Happens
Life is what happens when you are making other plans.
Just to keep things in prospective when we pulled into a campground after having the job done we met the sister of the owner of the rig parked next to us. She told us her brother was from Southern California and had stopped here on his way to Oregon. Yesterday morning he was rushed to a hospital for brain surgery. That makes paying for a new turbo sound like not that big a deal. Also, I was looking to get Nanc something special for our 40th anniversary next month and now that I know what it is, I cannot think of anything more special than a new turbocharger. (Such a romantic!!!)