Sunday, April 30, 2017

Epic Road Trip - Day 3

Due to various circumstances day number three is now almost 5 days ago...

Day 3 of the sister's epic road trip had us getting up at friends D & K. I was early so figured out the fancy capsule coffee machine (I would advertise, but have forgotten the name) and had a lovely cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning. The sun attracted my eye to a precious piece of this particular family's life - a painted rock. It so reminded me of the couple that I have and proudly display, one from each son.  I have a "thing" for rocks anyway with random, unlabeled piles throughout my home, so this touched me.
A's rock
Shortly thereafter we were headed back down the road for a more-than-adequate breakfast in Katerina's Cafe in Auburn, CA. It would get six-stars in my book what with friendly staff, very cool old-world atmosphere and excellent breakfast offerings.
Breakfast at Katerina's in Auburn

Then we were off to meet up at a cousin's house with our traveling partner, FL, for a 3 day adventure in Northern California, main goal the redwood trees. Both parties arrived within 5 minutes of the other and by mutual agreement decided to skip lunch and simply get on the road. A very wise decision as events would prove.

We proceeded up Highway 29 to cross over onto 101 headed North through the famous Napa Valley. We did a short stop in Healdsburg to have a coffee and snack at the "Shed".

 The first sign of a potential problem was when I saw a road sign saying "slide on Highway 101", but we didn’t really pay much attention to it. Had texted a classmate from my high school boarding academy that we were on the road as he lived in the area where we intended hiking. (I had renewed his acquaintance via Facebook and when I realized that he would be close to where we were intending hiking contacted him). Went passed Willits (FL had done the economic planning for the by-pass so enjoyed riding over that) and there was another sign that the road was out on 101. I mentioned that and we did finally pull over at about 20 miles past Willits and tried checking info. Turns out that there had been a bad slide on 101 south of Garberville and the road was totally shut. So we had to turn around and re-trace our steps past Willits to Highway 20 and go up I-5 to 299 to Arcate and down to Eureka. 

It truly was an end of sorts as we had to start back-tracking and go well out of our way.

Map of the day's driving
(Our original route Williams - Willits - Eureka up 101
What we had to do: leave from above Willits on 101, back down to Highway 20, across to Williams, up to Redding, then left across 299 to Arcate and down to Eureka)
Bingo and the hard-researched trip was down the drain.  Timing of course was also shot. As we had skipped lunch we all agreed that we needed to stop for dinner in Redding to cheer ourselves up and keep ourselves primed for the detour over Highway 299, especially when we found out that there had been slides there as well and that there were a couple of places where there was bi-directional traffic at roughly 1 hour intervals! My sister researched eating places and came up with Moonstone Bistro. FL meanwhile had her also text someone that he was mentoring for her suggestions in Redding. We checked her recommendations and all three decided that we preferred Moonstone Bistro. It was conveniently located not far from Highway 299 and we had a wonderful meal. K. had the vegetarian burger that for once wasn’t dry. FL and I had the normal burger and they too were to die for with lovely marinated pickles, a choice of cheeses etc.  I ordered the salad, K the fries and we split. Tanya – a hostess or manager – gave us the latest info on Highway 299 when we inquired of the waiter what news was on the slide. She was VERY helpful, so after a delightful meal, we buckled down and started over Highway 299 stopping for sunset pics of the mountains. 

One of many docks along Clear Lake on Highway 20

Sunset from Highway 299
An interesting, long and grueling night it turned into. Several things helped us retain our sanity including being lucky enough as we arrived at the first major slide area to only have to wait about 5 minutes for our line to go through giving me just enough time for a few photos. 
line of cars as we waited to go through
At the site of the slide

Not a small machine!
blurry photo of the machine halfway up the mountain above us

blurry but then we were hurrying past the slide itself
moving on past the slide

It seemed like a never-ending night with FL driving through thick and thin. But we were all three good at the never-ending remarks and jokes about our situation. Throughout cellular service loss and cuts K negotiated the cancellation of our Garberville BW hotel for the next night as there was no way that we were going to be able to get there; the request for two nights at our BW in Eureka and the cancellation of the dinner reservation for that night. We finally arrived at 23.05 at our hotel in Eureka! Literally checked in, went to our rooms, I dumped my luggage, grabbed a flash light so as to not wake up K upon my return and took FL for a more than deserved beer. Finding that was also a challenge as, although Applebee's had been open when we came in, it wasn’t when we tried. Adel’s equally not so we went down to the pub streets that he knew. Even there it took cruising up and down several parallel streets for us to find a pub that was still open -Steve & Dave's in Eureka. Beer greatly appreciated! When I returned to the hotel I also needed to check on e-mails and answer my classmates (we had called just before we found out that we couldn’t get through) so it was 1 in the morning before I hit the bed – and was out like a light!

It was a true adventure, but then I seem to specialize in those!

A video posted by Facebook user Wendy Kornberg shows the dramatic slide. She can be heard encouraging the Caltrans workers to run as slide increases in size, finally exclaiming “Oh my God! Holy cow!” as it comes to and end.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Epic Road Trip – Day 2

Breakfast – deluxe and delicious – even liked the plates so much that I switched to get the one I wanted (tulip motif). This is only a part of what was on offering: bless you P and J!

Then it was a short walk along the paved trail surrounding the gated community with views from everywhere (ok didn’t intend that pun either, but the truth is the truth – 360° of countryside) before starting off on our second day’s journey: we did go to the park at the bottom of the hill also as I had seen a pair of geese and their babies the day before as we were arriving and desperately wanted a picture.

View from El Dorado Hills

Pond near an office building

Geese and their babies 
Our morning's drive

An experience: a drive-through only coffee shop

Then it was a leisurely short drive to our next destination – Auburn, California where we were spending the night with very dear friends from my deceased little sister’s life.  Auburn has the merit, in addition to D&K, of having an Old Town – one, which we were able to explore before heading to dinner with their daughter S and her daughter C. S taught at the same school where our little sister spent so many years and the whole family were – and still are – a tower of strength to ours.

Auburn's Courthouse

Shingle house

Brick house

Clapboard house

The old Firehouse

A Rock crusher - from Cornwall, England

Detail of the restaurant down the enclosed "mall"

Ceiling details down the same "mall"

Another ceiling detail on the same "mall"

An un-renovated piece of property.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Epic Road Trip – Day 1

When I decided to return to California this spring, I started listing all the relatives and friends that I “had” to see. The list grew and grew. Then my sister retired and all of a sudden it became the Sister’s Epic Road Trip.
Two loops – one North and one South – trying to cram in as many relatives and friends as possible.

Monday the 25th we set off. 
Traveling in style, chauffeured by my sister

Monday to Sunday and only a piece of luggage per person!

What to say, how many photos with which to bore my faithful readers. Shortly: day one saw us visiting first a bed-ridden cousin, then spending the night with another cousin.
Following are sights seen along the way – some for which one needed to rub one’s eyes!

Yes - a "tiny house" just being pulled down the road.

Great traveling weather - and this is sunny California
Best coffee yet, but since it was an Italian place just what I would expect!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The chicken came first…

In this story at least.

At home I have an egg delivery service – six fresh eggs every month duly delivered to my “milk” box.  This year I have had trouble using even those as I had bought more when I was planning on entertaining after Christmas, then came down with the flu.
Good friends got to have deviled eggs twice in the same week.

However, here at my sister’s one of my brother-in-law’s passions is chickens, so there are fresh eggs daily. Sunday morning instead of going up the street for coffee and a bagel I stayed home and had a fresh scrambled egg. Watched by the rooster who sits in the corner (at one point there was a live one, but the noise was too much for the neighbors as well as my family).

note that my computer is playing table set.

Monday, April 24, 2017


The 1964 song, People Who Need People, composed by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, made Barbra Streisand a star.
“But first be a person
Who needs people.
People who need people
Are the luckiest people
In the world! “

As much as I sometimes need a day or two just for myself – the mountains were and are often  my bolthole – I do enjoy people. 

My long-time friends, my new friends, all the acquaintances that make up daily life, those met briefly through others, in short I do like and need people.
Never was this so precious as during the past two days: Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing one of my nephew and his wife’s new flat then going out with a group that he had arranged. I realized as we all sat down to dinner in San Francisco that of the 9 around the table only 2 had not spent a significant amount of time at my home in Switzerland. It was such fun catching up on their lives and I am hoping that the two who have yet to visit me will not hesitate to do so in the future.

Saturday I was able to see a friend whom I met through my sister: she is special as she grew up in Switzerland but came to the USA when she was a young adult – I did the opposite and we have met on both sides of the Atlantic ever since.  Saturday night I was truly blessed in that I was finally able to attend the yearly “donut night” at other friends home.
Fresh donuts: D is a wonderful cook and excels in all she does, but Donut night is truly special. Her daughter and family came from Northern California, her son and his wife from San Diego. Other friends are more local: there were dogs, small children and babies and nary a cell phone, paper or book in sight, only humans interacting and enjoying the moment.

I would have to agree with Streisand: People who need people truly are the luckiest people
In the world! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stress-free travel or…

When it all goes right.

The title is usually an oxymoron as for most of us, myself included, plane travel especially that involving changes and long routes is usually a series of mini problems if not downright disasters, so imagine my shock when this time it all went fine. I am tempted to add – for once in my life – but I am sure that it is simply that the disastrous trips make for better stories and linger longer in our memories.

There was certainly the potential for an interesting story when I inadvertently booked my flights via a well-known web-site instead of directly with the airline (still a mystery to me as to how I managed that without realizing).  This meant that I needed to obtain seats and a meal by logging in to the airline’s site, but it was fine – obviously interfaces are getting much better!

I picked a seat on the aisle next to the last row and do to experience – and not any religious and/or cultural affiliation chose the Asian vegetarian special meal.

So the day of departure duly came closer and thoughts as to how to get to the airport for a 6:55 flight loomed. When I heard that one of my dear friends whom I have also taken early to the airport would be needing a similar arrangement later this year I proposed a swap: her taking me for my taking her. Agreed that 4:30 a.m. would be best. The night before I gave it some more thought and decided that 5 a.m. would do as I had already printed my boarding cards so only needed to drop off my suitcase.

After a seamless ride and entertaining conversation (I would say scintillating, but given the hour perhaps not), I walked into the check-in area only to find that a huge group had just entered the baggage drop line ahead of me. Then I noticed that one agent was free on the
end so I went in the "wrong" way and got my suitcase on before the group got anywhere near. Security - a very slight snafu when a young woman ahead of me had to basically unload her suitcase, but hey a minute more - no big deal. I was through by the time that we should have arrived! First potential problems avoided. Had time to write several e-mails before I boarded the flight for the first leg of my journey.
Arrived in Frankfurt to flurries of “snow”. Predicted but also a potential source of trouble. On the other hand I was not stressed and had two hours to shop – didn’t buy anything, but at least this time I also managed to stay in transit and not have to go through passport control or security.

Boarded the transatlantic portion easily only to find that my seat was actually the last row, but on this charmed trip that turned out to be a blessing as well: there was enough room to incline the seat about 15 cm. – enough to be comfortable and even better as it was the bulkhead that I was leaning back on I could do so whenever I wished!  Also the passenger in the window seat, although pleasant, kept to herself and slept most of the way, and we had the seat in between us empty – rather unheard of these days.

My meals were delivered early as “special diet” and much more attractive than the usual choices: do they ever change the menus?

We arrived at destination only 5 minutes late, my luggage was amongst the first out and as I had even slept a couple of hours it was truly the easiest flight in my recent history.

Nothing like that of one of my favorite bloggers:

May my whole trip remain on this plain of beatitude.

My aircraft for the transatlantic

Monday, April 10, 2017

One of the reasons that I live where I do or…

Where else but in Switzerland is the bureaucracy sometimes really on the ball.

This is probably a record that can’t be beaten: last night, and yes it was a Sunday night on top of it, I decided to tackle some of those administrative tasks that have been let go a bit too long, including organizing an appointment to renew my Swiss passport.

A side remark: can you believe it – I became Swiss 10 years ago and need to renew my passport? The years have flown and most were very good to me.

So I filled in the forms with all the pertinent data including my parent’s names and received a reply (computer generated of course) saying that I would hear from them when my files had been checked to program an appointment. The confirmation e-mail is logged in on April 9th at 18:17.

If I hadn’t seen it myself, I never would have believed it, but I got an e-mail this morning
April 10 at 10:31 with the link needed to go online and reserve a date.

I will do this as soon as I get back from my trip to California (ah the blessings of having someone living in the house for cats and security) May 11th.

And to think that I had been worried that my passport would run out on May 24th without my being able to plan its’ renewal.

When they say that Switzerland works like their clocks and watches, you can believe it!

Screen shot from the Swiss Confederation's site for passports

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ah the love…

I have just had the visit of a lovely family – distant relatives: her great-grandmother was my grandmother’s sister, but family IS family. Wife (she’s the relative and women come first right?), husband and their two boys, eight and five.

Over the course of three days we managed to laugh, eat and in general enjoy each other: through the fall and gastro-entiritis of my youngest, through the who-knows-what-it-was illness of their youngest, through the multiple changes of schedules, through a slice of “normal” life.

The two boys are being well brought up, yet are still boys. Nary a harsh word, nary a scolding yet they were put to rights when they stepped over the border. Love!

Love also let us enjoy the time together in spite of the stress of all the supposed “upsets”; love kept us going when it was rough and love will forever be in my thoughts when I recall those few days.

We will have other visits, either here or at their house and they may well go much easier without messes and accidents, but I’m betting that this one is going to be the one we remember.

The icing on the cake: the message that the eight-year old left on my mini white board – if saying goodbye without prodding is not a message of love I don’t know what is! I have been unable to erase it all week.

P.S. the “yes!” was the result of my handing him the almost-empty Nutella jar.