Category Archives: Travel

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


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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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.

Doran Beach Campout 2014

Doran Beach Campout 2014

Billy, Bruce, Accountant, Benn, Leanan

Billy, Bruce, Accountant, Benn, Leananin


Another great summer campout with SCPN, organized the the sensational Susan Small and Helen Hawk, who reserved Miwok Campground sites D and E for the best camping at Bodega Bay. Benn, in the turquoise tie-dye above, grilled marinated pork ribs and served up robust German potato salad and red cabbage. He even invited the motorcycling Germans at the next campsite to join us on Saturday night — they turned out to be a very engaging pair.
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Helen Hawk wowed us with a fabulous apple cake on Friday night, and Artemesia serenaded us both nights, accompanying herself on the tin whistle and the melodica. A fun celebration of Mother Earth.
Susan and friends with Artemesia and melodica

Susan and friends with Artemesia and melodica

BillyTwoNames300wEarth-based religion connects members of this group and some resist new technology. Others embrace it and earn their livings through it. Billy Twonames is a technician in communications and he brought a Biolite, a tiny stove that folds up small enough for a backpacker, that burns wood and could charge his cell phone! You see him here on Saturday morning heating water in his kettle for morning tea. There were three kettles in this group! And three different people brought canned baked beans to the Friday night pot luck. So different from camping with other groups where I have the only kettle and I have never seen canned baked beans! Sunday morning three of us cooked bacon for the group.

bioliteChargingPhone300wThese folks love meat, too! I don’t really feel like cooking after a drive (55 miles round trip) and setting up camp, so I thought salmon steaks would be quick to cook and easy to share, but it was a miss. Several people arrived after 6 p.m. and the grill wasn’t fired up until then, so it was dark when we ate. Fish with bones, in the dark, is not good.

Next time I will assemble brochette (with white meat for Helen Hawk) for a fast cook dish. And I will bring washed and ready to serve crudités with dipping sauce for hors-d’œuvre. There was nothing to snack on as people were arriving except the celery and pheasant pâté I brought. I would have enjoyed a salad on Saturday night, so next time I will have that prepped in advance. Benn made red cabbage, German potato salad and he grilled Thermal’s chickens, but dinner was so late again on Saturday I couldn’t wait. I sneaked over to Susan’s table and heated up some frozen Malibu chili as she cooked a separate meal of delicious-smelling lamb and vegetables. Helen had brought some large russet baking potatoes (which she doesn’t eat) which went unused. I traded a cauliflower for them and brought them home. Next time I will prepare small organic potatoes for the grill: wash, dry, and wrap in foil before I leave so they can be dropped on the coals without fuss. The big potatoes take too long to cook and are too large for a potluck.

Benn invited the neighboring Germans to taste his potato salad which was rich with bacon bits. He asked the man if it tasted like potato salad back in Germany. The man didn’t know, and the woman asked, “Why do you ask him? He has never made potato salad!” So Benn asked, and she replied, “In Germany, potato salad has more eggs and more pickles.”

Sunday morning I had the beach to myself for yoga and meditation, maybe because of the 6.0 earthquake in nearby Napa at 3:20 a.m. It woke me up, but I thought it was a strong wind shaking my tent and I went right back to sleep. This was the beach at about 11 a.m. I think our RV neighbors might have rushed home on Sunday morning to make sure all was well. I am looking forward to camping with these folks next year — it is so much fun to camp with people who love the earth.

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Loon Lake Canoe-In Camp

Loon Lake Canoe-In Camp

Another fabulous Sierra Club camp out led by Isabelle Saint-Guily and Carl Inglin. Howard took Friday off work and we left at 7:30 a.m. for Loon Lake at 6,400 feet in elevation near Lake Tahoe. We met the other 15 campers at the boat ramp and at 1 p.m. paddled to the first-come-first-served campsite that Carl and Isabelle had secured by coming in a day earlier. As you can see from the map, the boat ramp is at the bottom of the lake and the primitive boat-in camping is at the top. It took us about 90 minutes to paddle there because we were lucky and the wind was at our backs. We had a great trip, including S’mores on Saturday night. Click on a photo to see the gallery.


Campers included Lisa and Mitch who were with us at the Blue Lakes camp-out and my carpool-mate Lori from the Blue Lakes trip and her ride-along for this trip, Steve, who borrowed her silver kayak. We were joined by organic farmer Jennifer and her son Cody, Nurses Nancy and Ron, Carol from Berryessa and Liam who is planning an exciting trip to Italy. An interesting and active group!

Sierra Kayak Camp at Blue Lakes

Sierra Kayak Camp at Blue Lakes

The last time I was camping in the Sierra was 20 years ago, but when I saw this kayak camp-out on MeetUp, I took a chance and carpooled with a woman I had never met. Lori Parmalee was a great driver with a solid truck who knew the territory and was a congenial companion for the four-hour trip to Blue Lakes near Carson Pass, not far from Kirkwood Ski Resort.

At 8,000 feet in mid-July, we were delighted when the predicted thundershowers cracked open, just as the hikers returned from 4.6 miles along the ridgeline with a 1000 ft. elevation gain/loss. The rain washed out Saturday kayaking but gave us a rainbow at sunset, reflected in the calm lake, as we walked along the beach. Sunday kayaking was beautiful and I saw a marmot!

Carl Inglin and Isabelle Saint-Guily are a joy to camp with. Relaxed but prepared, they covered the picnic table with a tarp when the showers began and we all enjoyed dinner together on Saturday night as the sprinkles continued. Campfire conversation with Lisa and Mitch, Bill and Wendy, Lori, and Jonah was interesting and lively. The campground and location were beautiful. Great trip! Click on the images to see the gallery.