Monthly Archives: June 2008

I embark on my sweet housesitting gig

Well things are looking up regarding the air around here.  Now only people with respiratory problems or of young or old age are encouraged to avoid going outside, so I celebrated with a jog before dinner and noticed that the hills are becoming more visible.  I am pleased. 

After visiting the library’s used bookstore yesterday where I found such excellent books as Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, I tasted wine at Retzlaff winery which is virtually next door.  It is an organic estate winery of 14 acres.  I learned that “estate winery” means that all the grapes used to make their wine are grown on the premises and their wine is bottled there, also.  Lacking a bottling line of their own, their wine is bottled by a truck-mounted bottling operation.  Entertainment while tasting included conversation with one of the pourers, an excitable Frenchman named Michel who kept kissing his fingertips, looking heavenward, and talking about steaks, shallots, and mushrooms. 

The tasting room at Retzlaff winery

Today’s biggest accomplishment was my jog, followed closely by my 3-hour, very beneficial nap with Angus this morning.   Now there’s a show on tv about Andrew Jackson, got to go!

More fun with Mr. Tom 


Bringing you up to speed

Driving through the mountains from the north coast, the temperatures became much warmer and by the time we arrived in Redding it was hot, hot, hot!  Fortunately (but not for Lucy or the air in California), we had thunderstorms that night and for most of the next day.  In Redding we stayed with a new friend, Barbara, who is Jackie’s (of Phil and Jackie in Livermore) mom.  She lives on a few acres with her sheep and has horse neighbors (lucky!).  She put us all of us up in her house for a couple days and fed me delicious home-cooked dinners–even when the power went out and she had to improvise. 

I swear I tried hard to get to the library in Redding so I could catch up on e-mail, but even once I knew where the new one was, the streets contrived to send me in the wrong direction and I eventually gave up.  I did manage to find parking for the Sacramento River Trail though, which we walked for an hour or more saturday morning under the constant threat of rain, which was refreshing. 

The Sacramento River

We stayed the standard two nights in Redding with Barbara and then headed south to stay in the Lime Saddle campground at Oroville SRA.  I almost wish we had stayed there three nights because the campground was beautiful, well-equipped, and almost empty.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures the first day and after our first night there we woke up to a thick haze which I assumed at the time was fog and would burn off.  It turns out that it is smoke and debris from wildfires, some of which were started by lightning.  According to today’s paper it may stick around for the rest of this week or longer.  I hope it clears up soon not only to improve the air quality, but I want to see clearly the golden hills around Livermore again!

Angus cooling off at Nelson’s Bar at Lime Saddle.  We almost didn’t make it down to the water because the ground was so hot!

Our only real destination near Lime Saddle was Chico, which is a college town and I like it.  Item #1 on our to-see list was Shubert’s, where they make ice cream and assorted candies.  A passerby seemed to think I was hitting the ice cream a little early, but it was after 11am. 

Just around the corner there is a great natural foods store where I even found raw milk.  For those of you who are asking what that means, raw milk hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized, etc. like most milk you find at the grocery store has been.  State laws vary regarding milk and in some states it is illegal to sell it.   For example, I am pretty sure you can’t get it in Virginia or Maryland.  Proponents of raw milk maintain that it is better for you because it contains beneficial enzymes that are destroyed by pasteurization and because it doesn’t contain any harmful additives.  Well I sure bought some of that and some spinach, too. 

After finding ice to keep my precious milk cool we walked around Shubert’s neighborhood, which is a great combination of shops/restaurants and pretty and unique houses.  I checked a Chico newspaper and there seems to be a lot going on there, from dance and fitness classes to political meetings to outdoor volunteer opportunities.  I liked it a lot.

 I was glad we had the stroller in Chico since Angus was feeling the heat

We reluctantly left Lime Saddle campground and headed toward Sacramento, thinking to explore the old town and the river trail for a day or two; however, the campground where we had reservations was in a sketchy neighborhood and when we tried to find the river trail the awful traffic annoyed me.  We stayed there one night only.  En route southward the next day we stopped at a vegetarian restaurant so popular there is a line outside at 10:30 in the morning when it opens.  It’s called Sunflower Drive-in and is in Fair Oaks.  Everyone in front of me ordered a nutburger and I did, too.  It’s what they seem to be most famous for.  You order at a window  and I think they have a few tables inside, but most of their seating is outdoors.  I took mine to go and the three of us went to a park around the corner.  WOW.  It was fantastic and I have already scoured the internet to see if I can score a recipe.  No luck.  I had a pretty gourmet hamburger in Myer’s Flat a couple weeks ago, but this nutburger blew it away.  Toppings are crucial, I have to say.  Included with the standard nutburger are romaine lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and some thousand island-like sauce. 

While waiting for my food at Sunflower, I noticed roosters crowing.  And that’s no casual effort, I swear they put their heart & soul into cockadoodledooing.  Then at the park a few minutes later I noticed a rooster and a couple chickens, then what looked like a sick chicken but I think it was actually an immature rooster.  He approached the park from one direction and then from out of nowhere a new rooster came barreling into the park headed for the youth.  He chased him in circles for probably a full minute before things settled down briefly.  Then another rooster came in from another direction but he would sidle up near the young rooster and then when he was a few feet away run straight for him.  What a life.  I hope that kid grows up soon. 

And to conclude, we are happily back in Livermore after spending early yesterday afternoon at the Jayco dealership in Manteca getting the fridge repaired.  I believe we can keep butter now. 

Arcata, CA

[This is rather old and I’ll post up-to-date on thursday.]

Ah, Arcata! I like it here except that I’m not sure it is necessary to own any pants other than long ones–unless for sports. They have two incredible grocery stores here, one of which, Wildberries, seems to be the main grocery in town but is owned locally, not by a large chain, and they offer a ton of local products. I’d had simple dreams of a campfire-cooked hot dog when I walked inside but suddenly I held a fantastic tofu sandwich, kumquats, purple cauliflower, and an organic local wine in my hands. In addition to great food shopping, Arcata offers a brewery where I ate felafel and sampled beer one night, a handful of coffee shops, a bookstore on every street, friendly post office personnel, and a community redwood forest. In this region it has been tough to find places where I can walk the dogs off-road and we gratefully set off onto one of plenty of trails offered by the community forest. The living redwoods here were probably smaller, on average, than the ones we have seen elsewhere, but the stumps are just as impressive as any we have seen. Flat-topped stumps, I assume from logging, are a fact of redwood forests here, at least the readily accessible ones that we have seen.  Hopefully somewhere there are stumpless groves of massive, ancient redwood trees that I haven’t taken the time to seek out.  But I do and I don’t like the stumps.  It’s sad to think a grove might have been more impressive had all its trees lived, but in a way they give the forest a history that I wouldn’t otherwise recognize.  It’s like walking through an old house.  You can imagine other people in it.

We stayed at Patrick’s Point SP near Arcata, which gave us access to Arcata, Redwood NP, and Eureka, supposedly. We probably spent a half hour total at Redwood NP since the road seemed hazardous for walking and the dogs aren’t allowed on any trails. Besides, I figured we had seen some redwoods already. Dogs were actually allowed on the beach just south of Redwood NP, so we took a walk there before returning to camp.

I finally got her to sit still!

Another day I considered driving the 24 miles to Eureka to scope out the Victorian homes there, but haven’t I seen Victorian homes before?  Why not make a campfire and read a book instead?  The cold weather on the north coast is great for Angus but makes me uncomfortable and a little impatient to be elsewhere, despite the beauty here.  I am huddling by the fire reading a book in the summertime! It’s entirely inappropriate.



Just so nobody worries…

…we are online only briefly as we are camped on the grass in Chico outside the car and a coffee shop where I bought iced tea earlier so I could use the bathroom.  Our campground here is great!  It’s in Oroville State Recreation Area and it is mostly empty and the facilities are clean.  We head down to Sacramento tomorrow and if we can’t post any pictures there we definitely can once we get to Livermore on Thursday.  Take care, we’ll be in touch soon!

Humboldt Redwoods SP

Look!  The sun is trying to come out.

California is a wonderland. They grow exotic fruits here, the ocean is crayon blue, wineries abound, and they have these magical gargantuan trees. The first night at Humboldt I went to the campfire talk on forest fires, where I got to share the honor of lighting the campfire with someone from Georgia, for having come so far. I also got to sing the Little Bunny Foo Foo song for the first time in an age. Seeing the park was great, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of camping under the redwoods since it is so dark. Late in the afternoon although the sun may still shine brightly, the pop-up is so dim I have to turn lights on to cook. Also, it might be extra frightening when large branches fall. I was sitting in our campsite reading, shifting my seat every few minutes to stay in the one patch of sunlight we had, and a huge branch fell across the street from us. For a second I actually thought “should I crawl under the car?” Yeah, under. What’s wrong with me? I think I am starting to identify too closely with my traveling companions, because that’s what Lucy does.



Mendocino postscript

After my last post we ran outside to take advantage of the sunshine. First we went to the ice cream place in Mendocino, where I had a highly satisfactory sugar cone of peanut butter cup ice cream. It was so good I was sure I would dream about it that night, but I had some other wacky dream–I don’t remember which. Lastnight I dreamed I was fascinated by the fashion at some little boutique carrying bizarre clothes. Truly, I just want more long-sleeved shirts.

We visited the Point Cabrillo lighthouse first in the fog, when I had my camera, and second when we were enjoying the sun as I mentioned above.

Point Cabrillo lighthouse

The half-mile walk down to the buildings is through a wildlife preserve but looks like it might once have been cow or horse pasture since a dilapidated fence surrounds the place. They are restoring the lightkeeper’s and assistants’ quarters, as well as the lighthouse. One of them actually is a bed & breakfast and another is a sort of museum.

2nd lightkeeper’s assistant and lightkeeper’s houses

I am learning to fear the fog. The north coast is beautiful but rather chilly and I look forward to heading back inland.

Mendocino [Mendo-see-no]

I’m glad I went to the visitors’ center this morning, because otherwise I might have mispronounced it for years.  It’s a very un-Italian pronunciation.

Well, thursday evening I was comfortably settled in the camper but Angus wanted a walk, and because it’s so rare lately that he needs one I thought he deserved it.  It’s tough to walk the dogs around here where we are camping because of traffic and stones and other dogs, so we drove into Mendocino for the occasion.  I admit being a little annoyed at the time, but once we got there I was glad.  It’s very picturesque, full of lovely cottages and spectacular flower gardens and [the choir sings]…

…this natural food store.  Also, I saw a Hobart in a bakery, which excited a rare kitchen appliance envy in me.  I actually got to use one like this last summer when I visited my little sister at her camp in the Adirondacks.

The last couple days have been fairly lazy.  Friday morning we walked around Fort Bragg, where I found a great used bookstore.  It isn’t fancy; the sign outside says “Books,” but there were armfuls I wanted to buy.  (Note, I balk at telling you how many I did buy.)  After that of course I had to read in the sun for a while, and I’m glad I took advantage of the sun while it was visible, because after I went to the farmers’ market in Mendocino around noon the fog rolled in and we haven’t seen the sun since.  I bought kale, broccoli, snow peas, and gorgeous strawberries at the farmers’ market, then spent the afternoon trying to finish The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald–except for the hour I spent on running, a handful of other exercises, and a shower. 

Three days is more than I would have spent here but I tend to schedule weekends as a block (stay until Sunday) so we wound up with some extra time on our hands.  Of course I could drive somewhere for the day, but I tire of driving. 

By the way, yours truly has a regularly functional indoor faucet. 

Hey I think the sun is coming out, got to go!