Category Archives: Travel

Annual Doran Camp 2017

Annual Doran Camp 2017
Doran Beach Campout

Bruce, Bran, Norma, Helen

I look forward all year to the annual SCPN campout at Doran Beach. This time, Saturday night was calm and clear and they saw some of the Perseid Meteor shower. I, myself, slept through the whole thing, getting a great night’s sleep and kayaking by myself on Sunday morning in the mist. I had the bay to myself. Jeannie made a fabulous potato Thai curry Saturday night, and I served a red shrimp curry that Peggy and Mary Rose made the night before and shared with me, along with their famous peach chutney.

Jeannie is a great cook

Bran, Norma, Billy

There is a core group that camps every year, and we have daytime visitors including AnnaLisa, LeeAnnin and Benn. They even had a club meeting!

Bran hand-ground coffee beans, something he learned at an Arizona get-together. The food was great. They brought some grilled chicken thighs that were yummy. On Friday night we grilled the NYTimes taste-test willing hot dogs from Whole Foods, and taste-tested two kinds of buns: pretzel and brioche. Pretzel won.

On Saturday, Billy fire-roasted an enormous squash. He could have fed an army with it. He was not too happy with the mini-army of Japanese-American boy scouts that started early-morning calisthenics on Sunday morning with sharp counting in Japanese, and barked orders as they did laps around the parking lot before 7 a.m.

In the past, the illumination on the low-hanging branches near where I like to place my tent would cause too much light infiltration. This year I hung a couple of beach towels over the front which worked well (I should bring clamps next time in case of wind). No rain fly for me — it blocks the windows and ventilation. I used both a solor-powered string ($20 at Home Depot) and a remote-controlled battery-operated $8 string from Amazon. Both worked well, and next time I will wrap them with more space between each ring in order to illuminate the entire limb.

Solar lights, battery lights, wind baffles


Billy and Bruce rigged up two enormous wind baffles on the street-side of site D which really made the site much more usable. They had climbed the tree to attach the tarps using bungee cords and they withstood the wind well. Billy cleverly used an acorn to attach the ripcord when the grommets tore out of a cheap tarp.

Notes for next time: duct tape or bungee cords to secure the lighting power packs. Put Volvo key on long keychain necklace — it kept falling out of pants pockets. Turkey pucks for Billy, Bruce makes his “bone cereal” in the morning. It is only 30 minutes via Sebastopol, 45 via Occidental.

 

 

Save

Free Ride on Smart Train

Free Ride on Smart Train


Martha joined me for the June 29, 2017 Preview Ride on the SMART train from the Rohnert Park station to the Marin Civic Center station and back. The whole thing took two hours — from 10 a.m. to noon. Finding the parking lot was a little dicey — it is not well marked and Google maps did not have pinpoint accuracy. The entrance was in a curve of a small Rohnert Park street, and it was not really wide enough for two way traffic. I was lucky to find a parking spot in the small lot — I wonder how they are going to use it for commuters. It does not seem to be designed for easy access by bus, and is too far away from SSU to walk.

Martha snagged us seats at the table right behind the pilot cabin, so we chatted with the 50-ish driver who let us peer into the “wheelhouse.” It looked like a console for a river ship, something that is mainly designed to go forward in a single plane. There were plenty of security personnel, but they were friendly. A man in his 30’s came onboard with his bicycle and 10-year-old son, also with a bicycle. Even though the man was tall and strong, he had a hard time getting the bike on the gleaming, brushed stainless steel bike hooks that hung from the ceiling right behind where I was sitting.

He hung it handlebars-up and that was clearly wrong — I wouldn’t be able to get past the bike to get out the door. A security guard pointed to the directions, which were on the wall behind where the bike was hung so they were hard to see. The cyclist re-hung the bike handlebars-down, but the front wheel was flopping around.

The instructions were images-only, no words, and did not address where the handlebars should go. The security guard interpreted the images for the cyclist, saying that the bottom cleat first had to be slid up vertically, then folded forward to create a cradle for the bicycle tire. There was a lanyard to secure the wheel to the cradle, but the lanyard was clipped under the assembly. There was no room for the man to squeeze down to the floor between his bicycle and the back of my seat, so his 10-year-old son had to crawl in, release the lanyard, raise and flip forward the cradle, then thread the lanyard through the spokes to secure the tire.

When the boy crawled out backwards, it was clear that there was not enough room for his bike to be hung on the second ceiling hook. They put his bike in a separate bike compartment. Each bike compartment had two hooks but only room for one bike. A uniformed, pretty woman in her 30’s came by handing out literature and I asked if she worked for SMART. Yes, she was in marketing. I explained to her the inadequacy of the signage for securing bicycles. She said they had worked with the bicycle alliance to come up with this design.

Martha and I did not get to chat much because the train sounded its horn three times at each rural grade crossing. It was silent only in Novato and Petaluma but quite noisy everywhere in between. The ride could be a little bouncy when we moved onto a short parallel track. There were toilets in our car and a snack bar in the corresponding section of the back-to-back attached car. It was easy to walk between the two cars, but of course we could not walk to the third car which was attached nose-to-nose.

The SMART train is single-track for much of the trip, with sidings so trains can pass, and one double-platform station (Petaluma). We got on the train, rode to the end, stepped out so they could sweep it, then stepped back into the same seats on the same train and rode back to where we started. It is hard to see the commuter possibilities for this right now, but when they build the spur from San Rafael to the Larkspur Ferry Landing, it will be much more useful.

Fingers crossed.

Art, Dance, Movies, Los Angeles

Art, Dance, Movies, Los Angeles
Art, Dance, Movies, Los Angeles

zgardenrestaurantMy friend of 30 years, Beth, was having surgery and I wanted to be nearby in case I could help her. My new friend from the Danube trip, Sue, was kind enough to pick me up at the airport on Thursday 6th of October and take me to the hospital where the surgery was performed. My friend’s procedure had gone so well that they released her rather than keep her overnight as planned, but she only let me visit her for one hour over the four days I was in Los Angeles.

The first night, Sue and I we had a great meal at the Z Garden Restaurant at 2350 Pico near 23rd St. It is run by a Tunisian family that filled a corner of the restaurant with laughter, kisses and kids and we each had a different, delicious lamb dish, then off to folk dancing at Felicia Mahood center. Had a great time.

Museum Bowl

In The LACMA Pottery Gallery Where Sue’s Cup Was Featured In A Recent Show


img_20161007_111810
The next day, Friday, we walked with the Walkie Talkies, then met Kiki for breakfast at Urth near the beach. She told us about her work as a nurse and with special-needs children who prepared gift bags for breast cancer patients. Before I left, Kiki stopped by Sue’s house and gave me three to give to my friends coping with cancer. Then we went to LACMA but missed the Chinese lecture Sue wanted to see. Instead, we went to the Guillermo Del Toro monster show that Sue had been avoiding. She loved it, then we went to see more treasures there. That afternoon we saw “Queen of Katwe.”

suelacma

Saturday morning had breakfast at Bundy Ave. cafe not far from my old neighborhood, then we danced barefoot, madly, at the Africo-Cuba Drumming Dance with 5 drummers and 12 dancers. Enormous fun, then off to Bergamot Station for some mint lemonade and wonderful art. Went shopping at Trader Joe’s and made a fun dinner for ourselves and saw “Miss Peregrine’s School For Unusual Children.”

img_20161008_142043

Sue has a beautiful house that reflects her soul as an artist. I have never been to Santorini, but the bright white punctuated with cobalt blue made me feel I was visiting a Greek island.

sue's living room

Santa Monica is very beautiful and her house, close to Clover Park and Clover Field airport, is in a beautiful section. Her 7 a.m. morning group, the Walkie Talkies were so much fun.

Pamela, Lucky, Sue, Anet, Dorothy

Pamela, Lucky, Sue, Anet, Dorothy

Sunday breakfast Daisy cafe and I visited my convalescing friend. I had a great walk along the Venice boardwalk and through Santa Monica. We visited the Open Studios of the Santa Monica College students in the re-purposed buildings at Santa Monica airport, then we dashed off to see the Palestinian movie Sand Storm which I found very moving. Sue and I had dinner at Indian restaurant. Monday, I rented a car to drive to Chinatown to meet my friend from high school, Jane Argento. Sue dropped me off at Enterprise and when I got to the counter they said, “Oh, you didn’t make the reservation here but in Santa Monica.” I heard myself say the words I hate to hear come out of my mouth. “Where am I?” “Marina Del Rey.” I got the car and was on time for my brunch with Jane at the HomeGirl cafe. Jane told me about the priest that started Homeboy Enterprises and a recent fundraiser she attended with him in San Marino, adjacent to Pasadena where she lives.

I returned the car to the airport for an 8 p.m. flight. I was so happy that my good friend Janice picked me up at the airport. Had a great trip.

img_20161008_145544

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Yesterday, Wendy Gross led us (group shot below) on a four-hour, seven mile hike on Sugarloaf Mountain that was very steep. Halfway through the hike we were on a beautiful, seldom-used trail that was steeply up-and-down alongside a flowing creek. There were several stream crossings which were easy, even though Laura Tighe just walked through the water and skipped trying to balance on the rocks. She said, “it cools my feet.” She also commented that the entire group standing on a wooden bridge (below) was an interesting test of the strength of the bridge.

I was ready for the hike to end around noon, our usual stopping time, but it took until 1 p.m. to finish and we reached an altitude where the deciduous trees thinned out and we were seeing healthy conifers with cones so big Jason was marveling at their size and robustness. We thought Jason and Frances would join us afterwards at Midtown Cafe, but the 2 p.m. closing time was fast approaching, so they opted out. To give you an idea of how taxing the hike was, Jill ate the entire Duck Confit she ordered, and Ezra ate everything, too. He enjoyed the strenuous hike, but next time I will make sure that Wendy has actually hiked the trail previously before I follow her.

There were lots of pretty spring flowers in the cool, foggy weather, and we had a vigorous discussion about penstamen. Wendy finally opened up a flower and counted the stamens — five.

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason Foreground: Frances, Ulla

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned
Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason
Foreground: Frances, Ulla

My Tick and Rash

My Tick and Rash

CDC  Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

CDC Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

Yikes! I just discovered a tick bite, about 24 hours after the hike. This is what was left after my friend broke off the body, which I will submit to the County for testing for only $31. My doctor dug out the tick’s head on Monday morning and prescribed doxycycline for me, reminding me that the rate of infection of Sonoma ticks is low. She searched the web from the computer in her office to show me the distinctive “target” rash for lyme disease, so I am including the image from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I am told that Ezra got a tick, too.

Paddled The Gualala River

Paddled The Gualala River

In 2000, I was looking at houses in Sea Ranch and discovered a steep road to a put-in on the Gualala River.  This hard-to-find road leads to the fabled “hot spot” and I learned that the river is runnable when the water is high in January and February.  At a planning meeting for North Bay Kayakers, we decided to plan a trip and I reserved Campsite 10 at Gualala Regional Park, the first time I have ever been able to get this prime site, and was delighted to discover it had a little beach.  Paul Hutchinson and Louie Mattarelli had already arrived and taken an adjoining campsite.  I shared my site with Lori, Liam and Howard.  We all drove up in the rain on Friday went to dinner at the Gualala Hotel.

IMG_2446

Vince Kreger, a great leader, and his cousin Andy grew up in the area and knew the water.  The Gualala River separates Sonoma county from Mendocino county.  We put in at twin bridges in Annapolis.  There were 10 boats including our tandem.

GualalalRiver

 

The rain had been steady all winter and we had three days of good rain immediately prior to the Saturday paddle, so there was very little “paddle and drag.”  Howard and I are in the tandem at the bottom of the photo below.

HGS-AKD-GualalaRiver

Even though our canoe was missing the whitewater flotation, we did fine and stayed dry.  The boaters in the little kiwi boats did best, slipping lightly over the shallow sections and avoiding the boat-flipping elbows in the river.  Kathy Turner and Amy (photo below) had good, small boats.

KathyAmyAnet

I want to buy a little kiwi and use that next time I paddle the Gualala which I am told is the cleanest river in California.  It was beautiful, like the upper Russian River, but much cleaner water and riverbanks.  A fine day.

Paris Rental Turned Out Great!

Paris Rental Turned Out Great!

274RueSaintHonore
I was very nervous about renting this Paris apartment through HomeAway.com. There were no reviews, and the landlord required my deposit via bank transfer to a French bank, nearly half up front, and for the remainder to be paid IN CASH, in Euros, on the first day of rental. Plus, I had to provide a check for 500€ for the security deposit when I got the keys. I leave tomorrow morning and I am thrilled to report that the apartment was just as promised, and I have now received back my check for the security deposit! I am a very happy traveler. It was much less expensive and more fun than a hotel or AirBnB. I saved a fortune by preparing all my own meals with the gourmet foodstuffs available all around.

I didn’t have to drag my luggage up any stairs because the apartment was in a ground floor courtyard behind a heavy, locked door to the street and I felt super safe. The room was quiet, with no one above — skylights on the roof of the little unit which is essentially an enclosed porch of an 18th century building. While there are three floor-to ceiling French doors with arched transoms looking out to the cobblestone courtyard, as in the picture, all are protected by locked steel doors which can be opened in the daytime to let in light.

There is high-speed ethernet access and I could stream Netflix. There is switched wi-fi which I could to turn off at night. The cellular signal is strong for both voice and data.

The rusted, slanted, noisy microwave is designed to make sure you don’t microwave French food. There is no oven, no disposal, no freezer, no ice cubes. The glass cooktop works like a charm if you read the manual that is buried in the cloth napkins. Hint: “Lo” means Locked.

The two electric heaters keep the tile-floored room snug. There is plenty of hot water and the water pressure is good.

The studio is well-designed and well-maintained. I couldn’t be happier.

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

quicheAccording to Healthline, the French have the lowest heart disease rate in the world. This quote is from my friend RDS who just returned from two weeks driving around the provinces of France:

Much of the time it was just us and the cows. And the food really reflected that. Lots of meat, cheese, and cream. The only way to get a veggie in a restaurant was to order a meat or fish dish and get a veggie side dish. But as always, everything was beautifully prepared and presented, even in the smallest rural towns.

On the week-long boat ride from Paris to Normandy and back, we got very few salads or vegetables — meals were pretty much as RDS described them. Now that I am at the end of my ten days solo in Paris, I can say that it was a challenge to include salads in my diet, and forget cooked vegetables! But really confuses me is that 99% of the French are thin, many smoke, and based on what is in the stores, sugar must account for 40% of their daily calories.

Yet Americans get heart disease and the French don’t. What is different? For one thing, the French walk everywhere. I am planning to drag my suitcase for 20 minutes tomorrow morning along Rue de Opèra to the Roissybus stop because it is easier than dragging it DOWN into the subway and UP 3 stops later. I could take a cab, but it would still take 20 minutes from start to finish and I am afraid I would get pushback from the cabbie about such a short trip.

Shall I tell my no-oil Vegan friend, a heart attack survivor, that her strategy might be the opposite of what leads to a healthy heart.

No. My new resolution is to stop trying to improve others. Okay, I think I will just go eat some quiche now and wait for the nice French lady to pick up the key for my Paris rental.

I am so happy. It has been a great 10 days.

Teardrop Trailer – Gualala Glamping

Teardrop Trailer – Gualala Glamping

Last summer I didn’t get to go camping at all, and I got very little camping the summer before in 2012 because Howard complained that he didn’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. I still want to camp and I love sleeping on the ground, so for his birthday, I rented a Teardrop Trailer from Vacations-In-A-Can and made a reservation at Gualala for mid-September, the soonest I could get.
teardropCamsite600w
This is what the little rental trailer looked like in the campsite, and if you click on the image you will see how it is presented on the rental website. The L’il Bear model we chose expresses this motif mostly in the bedding, but the trailers are rented without linens, so I had to provide the appropriate masculine environment for Glamor Camping, or Glamping.

We brought cozy flannel covers for the interior

We brought cozy flannel covers for the interior

I used high-thread-count cotton bottom sheet and down comforter in gray glen plaid flannel duvet with coordinating red flannel pillow cases. The awning-style windows opened on both sides and there was a vent on top so the cabin could be as airy or cozy as desired. A very tall person would not be comfortable here, but Howard said the 79-inch long sleeping area was just right — especially for reading when the temperature drops, as it tends to around dinner time. It’s funny — it’s usually warmer at dawn than at sunset on the coast because of how the warm inland valleys draw the cool water ashore at the end of the day.

A galley kitchen is built-in to the back of the trailer but it was not very useful because the campground has all the amenities like a picnic table, flush toilets and a shower, but if I ever made a teardrop trailer for myself, I would make the back a desk where I could write or paint, and simply close the teardrop to keep my work in place and dry until I could pick it up the next day.

4 pin connectorThe rental was not exactly plug-and-play. Howard’s Toyota pickup has a trailer hitch (a requirement for rental) but the rental also requires a 4-pin flat connector so that the tail lights, brake lights and turn lights work on the trailer. powerSupplyHoward stopped by the rental place a couple of days before we were scheduled to pick up “L’il Bear” and discovered that the 4-pin connector he already had was obsolete and that he had to replace it with an updated model to for safety compliance. Although the rental guy told him it was a simple replacement, it took Howard a couple of hours of lying on his back under his truck to trace all the wires and connect them up under the bed of the truck so that everything worked properly. It also required hooking a power unit to the battery as well (photo at right). Howard said the trailer tracked well on the road and, at 700 lbs., was very easy for his 4-cylinder truck to pull up the twists and turns of Highway 1.

totemFinial150wThe Park Ranger told us to check out the Ceremonial Hitching Posts which had just been dedicated a few months earlier on the Summer Solstice, 2014 as part of the Sakha Cultural Festival. They were carved by the visiting master carvers from Yakutsk in Siberia, the Sakha people first came to the North Coast of Sonoma with the Russia American Company to work at the settlement at Fort Ross from 1812-1842. The “serge” (pronounced sayr-gay) honors these Yakuts. There was an interesting exhibit horse-centric Yakut culture in the nearby Visitor Center.

The installation included three totems with the serge. The ranger told us that the local artists had offered the visiting Russian carvers a superb redwood for the totems but that they rejected it in favor of Douglas fir. That might reflect their far-North culture that does not have redwoods.

The weekend before we went camping, we visited a Petaluma gathering of Teardrop enthusiasts that meet every year right after Labor Day. They invited us to come by next year during their “open house” hours because they love to show off their wheeled domiciles.