From Tesla Through Thanksgiving

November 16-30, 2019

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

This is the start of yet another what-did-we-do-every-day-in-the-pandemic-of-2020(-and-2021). I initially thought writing would go on for several months, but now believe the disease will be with us for a much longer time. California's Governor Newsome just rolled back opening and we seem headed toward a stay-at-home order like we had, and which worked, in March. In November, I just can't imagine enough people listening.

Marianne and I are listening, for the same vulnerability reasons that made us listen eight months ago. We do not want to become statistics and we have the luxury of not working. On the 17th, we will pick up a new car, one that we will not be able to drive much. This goes with the large patio table and umbrella that we bought a few months ago for those big backyard gatherings we have not done. And then there are the almost one million United frequent flyer's miles we have for trips that are months (or years?) delayed.

Oh well, we will live in the present, not because we want to, but because we must.

Monday, November 16, Our Covid Day 248

Marianne started the day with a chat to Dale in Germany. They continue to exchange information, mostly the same every time: grandkids, corona virus, personal health, the status of mutual friends, and a bit of politics, normally American. It's much more ... interesting.

VernCatMarianne headed off to Kaiser Medical Center and I walked down Cambridge Avenue to give neighbor Vern a chance to read and explain the news in the New York Times. He's older and wiser than I. Nevertheless, we came up with no grand answers and instead talked about the cat named "Cat", that wanders outside the Selland home, eavesdropping. The animal worries about nothing, not even combing his hair. The cat may be the wisest, if not oldest.

dinnerbirdMarianne returned from the one-year check-up with Dr. Hill, her cancer surgeon, and reported over a nice patio lunch, watching birds raid the trees.

The medical picture remains complicated, with a suggestion of re-constructive surgery and the possibility of yet another new medication. Though not the surgeon's responsibility, they also discussed the difficulty Marianne has getting cardiologist feedback, including now with unusual effects of new heart medication on blood pressure. (I will point out that, a year ago, life was even more complicated, even pre-pandemic.)

Evening was more escape activity: Football TV for me, watching teams I don't care about, and then puzzle arranging. Marianne stuck with royal history, as told by Netflix. We also did some study for the big day tomorrow: Tesla Delivery Day.

That was Day 248

(This day in our history: 2019, Life was complicated.)

Tuesday, November 17, Isolation Day 249, Tesla Day 1

sunriseurban scene

A nice sunrise and the prospect of a new car and rain. For Fresno, those are all good omens.

Before we talk about car delivery, here's our thoughts about the COVID19 situation. We are basically heading back to stay-at-home, or at least no overnight trips. We had hoped to take our new car on a shakedown trip to Cambria and Monterey, but rethought the complication of staying safe while traveling. Next year things will be better.

Our other complication of the day is Marianne's mixed up heart. It seems like the new medication may be causing new and different irregularities. A BP of 147/45 just isn't right, especially considering she then returns to her normal of about 115/67. Anybody out there have any suggestions?

TeslaNow, on to the main event. Tuesday was Delivery Day for our Tesla Model Y. I was nervous. Marianne was nervous. (Elon Musk was not, although he HAD caught the Coronavirus.) Buying a Tesla ten years ago would have been "bleeding edge", but even now it is no sure thing. Electric Vehicles come with a different mode of driving. Teslas are expensive, yet almost stark in their design style. We will use the term "elegant", but nay-sayers might say "plain Jane". Oh well, we had already wired them the money.Sang and John

Our task for the 1pm appointment was to finish the limited amount of paperwork, inspect the vehicle, and drive away. Simple enough. The forms and paperwork were straightforward and came with a pleasant surprise: the State of California was granting a $1,500 "clean fuel" rebate, starting with all electric cars delivered on or after November 17. Today! Since we had already paid the full price, that meant Tesla would wire a bit back our way! (There are also one or two more rebates, but those applications happen after we take delivery.) Sweet.

Tesla Model Y's and the Model 3s before them have had a history of poor "fit and finish" coming out of the Fremont factory. Paint quality, body part fit ("gaps"), and loose parts have plagued early production versions of the two cars. You Tube has filled with buyers explaining in great detail all their problems, in several cases leading to refusal to accept delivery. I had spent way too much time watching those stories, but when it was our turn to inspect, we found almost nothing worth noting. We will write up two or three minor points, but we also took the car home.

Here are four pictures that made it onto our cameras. We were so nervous that we didn't give proper thought to photos, but there will be future opportunities.

wheel seat

The drive home was uneventful, almost. I was cautious and avoided any freeways, so did not test the car's acceleration. At one red light, I was fiddling around with the shift lever and took the car out of drive. It took me a whole light-cycle sitting there to notice what I had done, but the car behind me (Marianne) was patient. This taught me I had plenty to learn of just the basics.

The challenge at home was to see if the low-slung car would make it up our driveway without rubbing. It almost did, but not completely. There is now a scratch on the underside of the front bumper. At least the battery pack did not hit. I parked the car and wondered if we had made a good decision, or at least not a bad one. I'm not sure.

The day ended with Tuesday Zoom Cocktails, with Adrienne, Tony, Rita, and Pete. Much of the exchange was normal how-are-you-how-are-the-kids. Everybody's fine. Then the discussion moved to the virus, avoiding it, worrying about it, and handling it in the upcoming holidays. Everyone is "careful", but what that means varies. Marianne and I remain more toward the cautious end of the careful spectrum, but I think each family finds what they are comfortable with.

That was our isolation day 249

(This day in our history: 1998 House Show)

Wednesday, November 18, COVID Day 250, Tesla Day 2

The day started with a few drips from the sky. I suppose that qualifies as rain around here. Our morning activities were pretty subdued, maybe because of the gray skies. I worked in a bike session, but Marianne was not feeling well, so she passed. My only action of merit was applying for seven or eight thousands dollars of rebates from our Tesla purchase - and Teslas don't even qualify for federal rebates.

I could have been more productive than I was. We have plenty of learning to do on our new car and phone technology and I have a pair of long-range photo projects for my basement studio. (Photo books of Marianne's travel scrapbooks and detail pictures of various artwork around the house.) Instead I spent a few more hours putting the jigsaw puzzle together. Therapy.

dinnerdessertAfter noon, Marianne started to feel like her old self again and labored over a fine spare ribs meal. It almost doesn't seem fair that I get such benefit from her efforts! After dinner, we drove the new car on a few errands. Marianne drove back and was relieved that her first Tesla drive was as straight forward as it was. The fancy new features like "self driving" can wait. We celebrated her success with a wonderful and caloric dessert, in front of our easy-to-use fireplace.

In the evening, I worked more on the puzzle while Marianne watched royalty on Netflix. I crashed relatively early.

While I was sleeping, Marianne was struggling with her heart, considering waking me for a trip to the Emergency Room. She toughed it out, and the problem intermittently went away, but Thursday will be another day.

COVID Day 250

(This day in our history: Natural Bridge VA, 2007)

Thursday, November 19, Covid Day 251

It felt like this would be a medical day.

We started the day talking and sipping coffee. That part was normal, but we talked about the merits of the Kaiser Help Desk versus the Kaiser cardiologist versus the Kaiser Emergency Department and this was not normal. Meanwhile the symptoms of irregular heartbeat, chest pressure, and general lethargy seemed to die away, so we went about our day. (After a call to the doctor, who, like usual, was unavailable. Promises made to contact us. As usual, he did not.)

Our previous goal for the day was a shakedown drive of the Model Y up Highway 41 to Coarsegold and the Sierra foothills. So, that's what we did. The Tesla proved to be very easy to drive and dangerously easy to drive fast. The quiet acceleration is remarkable. ZOOM becomes zoooom. It's fun.

wild figsandwichIn Coarsegold we stopped at the Wild Fig Kitchen, a favorite stop for breakfast or, like today, lunch. We each had a turkey sandwich, salad or fruit, and an imaginative and tasty corn chowder. The food really is exceptional. Of course we ate outside, as most of California must in these days, but the restaurant always has had more space outside than inside.

coffee labJerryWe discussed shifting drivers, but Marianne was still not feeling 100%, so I continued up to Highway 49, where we turned toward Mariposa and the Mariposa Coffee Company. This small batch coffee roaster is another favorite stop, both for the coffee and for the conversation with owner Jerry. He is a bit of a curmudgeon, but on a good day pleasant and informative about his decades-old passion of coffee roasting. He must be doing something right because he noted that he buys 20,000 pounds of coffee every 45 days. In turn, we buy 0.03% of his product.

After picking up our coffee and hot chocolate supplies, we headed down into Fresno. The shakedown drive served it's purpose, at least for me. I got more comfortable and we learned a bit about the question of "range". Nominally, our car can do up to 300 miles on a full charge, but that is in very specific conditions. Our house to the coffee roasting company is 60 miles. The car's range indicator said we used 100 miles worth of electricity to get there and 50 miles to get back. I think I zoomed more going up than coming back and there is a significant altitude difference between Fresno and Mariposa. Uphill takes more energy.

At home, Marianne tried an art session out in her art lair. I stepped outside for some pictures of fall trees on Cambridge Avenue. Then I went inside to watch football. and wait for the other shoe to drop. In couple hours, Marianne returned to the house, feeling poorly. It was time to start the process of going to the Emergency Department.

First, there is a call to the Kaiser Help line, and the telling of symptoms to the nurse who then consults with a doctor who, in turn, gives the expected response: go to the ER. We organize for the trip, but beyond the 15-minute drive, we really have no idea how long this excursion will be. Hours? Days?

camp modeMarianne goes in by herself, as patients must do nowadays, and I retreat to the car. I settle in and turn the Tesla heat pump controls to "camp mode", enabling a comfortable environment without gas fumes from a idling engine. I puttered with this diary, my therapy and distraction.

Marianne kept me informed with text messages as the staff ran a series of tests: blood pressure (still odd), EKG(OK), blood chemistry(OK), heart X-ray(OK). The ER doctor reviewed the results and her history chart, noting the several unanswered text messages to her cardiologist. Stroke and heart attack were ruled out and, after two hours, Marianne was discharged and told the plan was for the cardiologist to call back in the morning and possibly adjust medication.

That was pandemic Day 251

(This day in our history: 2000, Lviv, Ukraine)

Friday, November 20, recently-reinforced isolation day 252

puzzleFriday was a no-drama day, and we're glad for it. Marianne felt fine all day. Our car test driving consisted of a few errands and everything worked. Back home, I finished my village puzzle and Marianne made progress on this year's Christmas cards. Dinner was a Marianne-invented Thai fish soup. Excellent.

GamesWe wrapped up the no-drama day with Zoom Game Night. Brian, Jen, and Geoff joined us for the same wordy game we've been doing every Friday for weeks. The routine is comforting in these times and we can chit chat without too much strategic concentration. Chit chat revealed no drama in Colorado and Maryland too, more good news.

If all our days turn this simple, we may abandon these diaries, but somehow we'll stir things up, in a good way I hope.

That was COVID19 Day 252

(This day in our history: 2013, Last visit to Bamberg and Rothenburg)

Saturday, November 21, Pretty-much Isolated for 253 Days

We slept well for the first time this week. Marianne had decreased her heart medicine in half and we hope that's the solution. It would help if the cardiologist would weigh in, but he just doesn't communicate. (Maybe tomorrow.)be happy

leavesI headed out into the neighborhood early to capture some of the fall color, and a garage door. Neighbor Tom's "Be happy" message was hopeful and it's hard to see the scene and not hear a reggae song inside your head.

Elsewhere, many of the old homes of our neighborhood were dressed in their red and yellow and orange finery. This may be our best year yet for the trees final act of the year.

house 2 house 1 house 3
v and J Steve and

signOne street over from us, I ran into an estate sale and decided to see what treasures might be found. The house itself was probably the best treasure, dating back almost 100 years, but I was saddened by seeing the sale items. They represented the domestic treasures of a family now gone from the big home. Strangers, like me, wandering through, evaluating the worth of decades of one family's traditions. I could see our own treasures going the same way in not so many years.

strangers dishes kitchen

lambdessertBack in our own home, I puttered: reading a little, YouTube-watching a little, and tidying up my own treasure collection. I managed 55 minutes on the Peloton too, trying to hold off aging. Marianne did her house work and then moved on to a wonderful lamb dinner. We sat by the fire to eat plum obstkuchen for dessert. Food treasures are easy to dispose of.

After dinner, Marianne retreated to the art studio to make Christmas cards. I read, but I haven't formed a judgment on my new book, so it will remain unidentified.

That was Day 253

(This day in our history: 2007, Gabby's engagement party)

Sunday, November 22, COVID Day 254

windowRoutine. Days are routine. Is it the pandemic, or just aging? Each day flows the same; up before Marianne, go downstairs and make coffee, read the NYT, bring coffee upstairs, have a morning chat, back downstairs and eat breakfast, look out the office window, write a diary, work on a to-do list, visit Vern if there is time before early dinner, "undirected" from then until bedtime. Sleep. Repeat.

giuftOn this Sunday, the morning to-do included a (Peloton) bike ride and minor yard work. The Vern visit included giving him a birthday gift, one of Marianne 's paintings. The 15 minutes on the Selland porch were Marianne's first time there since the pandemic began. A 93rd birthday was worth the risk. Evening "undirected" for me was TV football and for Marianne a Zoom presentation from five artists.

This week we are driving to Gabby's house, despite state government dire warning against Thanksgiving travel. The governor doesn't understand that we are going to another empty house and will stick with take-out meals. I suppose, the major justification for this travel is simply to break up the routine that is settling around us. When we reach the other side of COVID19, I hope we can still be more adventurous, because I am beginning to fear the comfort of routine. We'll see.

That was Day 254

(This day in our history: Real Snow, 1998)

Monday, November 23, COVID Day 255

Almost nothing noteworthy happened today. Marianne had a pair of telemedicine appointments (= phone calls) in the morning and they went well. We started packing for our Thanksgiving trip. The rest was exactly as described in November 22nd's first paragraph: routine.

Covid Day 255 ended.

(This day in our history: nothing here, either)

November 24, Covid Isolation Day 256

mapOn Tuesday we started a road trip, a small one, but a road trip nonetheless. Of course, health experts everywhere are saying "do not travel for Thanksgiving", but we believe they don't understand our approach: travel without changing. In Fresno, it's just us and occasional trips to stores. At our destination, it will be the same, except a bit less grocery shopping and cooking and a few more take-out meals.

frunktrunkWe packed up our new car with far more gear than a four-day trip would warrant, but we have not been light travelers in years. The red Jeep could handle everything and it turns out that the smaller Tesla can pack things in as well. We filled the front trunk, commonly referred to as the "frunk", with puzzles and games. In back, there is a similar cavity that we filled with groceries and then covered with normal suitcases, camera case, art supplies, and misc. (We always take along misc.)Kaiser

We started with a pass by Kaiser Medical Center for a lab test for Marianne. For these visits I get to sit outside and look for something to photograph, this case some fall color, an American flag, and our new ride. In the end, the lab tests did not happen and was just a distraction, but we were on a not-fixed schedule.

Our next goal was a new, largest-in-the-world, Tesla Supercharger. It was called the "Firebaugh" station and I made the assumption that it would be near the village of that name, so that's where we headed. Firebaugh, the town, was due west from Kaiser, on a rough farm highway, past miles and miles of orchards and vineyards. Whenever we cross the San Joaquin Valley, I am impressed by thousands of acres of fruits and nuts, with some vegetables and cotton here and there. This truly is the country's fruit basket.

An hour after leaving Fresno, we reached Interstate 5 and the super Supercharger station was nowhere to be seen. Consulting both online sources and a gas station attendant, we learned the station was one freeway exit farther south, 17 miles away. Nah, not worth it. We'll get power somewhere else.charge

That somewhere else turned out to be Casa da Fruta, mid-way between Fresno and the Bay Area. We had about half a "tank" in our battery pack, so we really didn't need to recharge, but like all new electric vehicle (EV) drivers, we worry about running dry. It's called "range anxiety" and we are reassured that it goes away with experience.

chargingemptyThe twenty charging stations were empty when we arrived, reportedly not unusual for large stations. The company is building a network for the future, when there will be more Teslas on the road than today. (As of November, 2020, there were about 1,000 stations in North America.)

We left our car for the 30 minutes a charge would take and explored the Casa da Fruta rest area, a kitschy roadside stop with a decades-long history. Despite it being Thanksgiving week, the shops were not at all crowded and we could wander among the snacks, trinkets, and old farm equipment. Relaxed stops are a feature of EV travel, more relaxed than just the pump-and-go routine of gas vehicle stops.

train store truck

A couple hours later, after a stop to pick up pizza, we arrived at our "B and B". There was no greeting from kids and Charlie the dog, but we felt welcomed nonetheless. Because of these strange times, it is a way to visit grandkids, kind of like snuggling the pillow of a partner who left early. Better than nothing.zoom

Soon, it was time to party - Zoom party. We stuck to our normal weekly Tuesday Zoom cocktails with Adrienne, Rita, and husbands, although we were only a few miles apart this time. We covered the regular news: kids, grandkids, health, and a little politics. The novel part was reaching agreement on protocols for an in-person gathering the next day, outside and socially distanced. This makes us nervous, but it is worth it.

That was Day 256.

(This day in our history: See Thursday's list of past Thanksgivings.)

Wednesday, November 25, COVID Day 257

StarbuckscozyWe started the day with good routines. I went to Noah's for bagels and lox shmear and to Starbucks for coffee. Back at our home/B&B, Marianne settled into the comfy living room to review morning news and correspondence. In normal times, it would have been noisier and Gigi would be busy making palacsinta (crepes), but this was nice in its own way.

My to-do list said I should get on the Peloton bike for exercise, but my body decided a neighborhood walk would be just fine. I have walked this same route many times on previous visits, and taken pictures of mansions, flowers, and even a small stream, but on this November day it was all about Fall color. Too many pictures again, but it's hard to stop and harder still to send pictures to the cutting room floor.

back yard vinyard neighbor
big house rose puffy red
door birch red ish trimmed
asian back home

After my walk, it was time to join Marianne as we prepared to do something we have not done for nine months: host a party! Rita, Adrienne, and Tony were all coming over for a properly-distanced, outside gathering. As pandemic hosts, we served no food and everyone drank from bottles they brought themselves. We've never had a party so easy to prepare for.

pitThe friends had not seen each other in person for at least nine months and it was time to get more real than our Tuesday Zoom Cocktails. California weather is still good enough for back yard entertaining, especially with a nice fire pit to sit around. Conversations covered all the obvious: health, kids and grandkids, politics (a little), and plans for future travel. Tony said their next goal would be to resurrect plans for an Israel and Jordan tour that had been canceled for May 2020. Now: May, 2022. We all said we'd join them. Si Deus quiser.

Adrienne Rita Tony
puzzles Ad and Tony

We exchanged some jig saw puzzles and then the party was over too soon. Rita had to return to Santa Cruz to care for husband Pete and Adrienne and Tony had their obligations as well. Marianne and I had to get past drinking more alcohol than we had in a year, a medical complication for her and a reminder of childhood holiday goblins for me. Even successful parties can have complications.

That was COVID19 Day 257 for us.

(This day in our history: 2015, Back Home)

November 26, Thanksgiving and COVID Day 258

This promised to be the quietest Thanksgiving Day ever, but we did our best to fill the holiday. We started out with a long drive up through the hills north and west of our B&B. Some of this was just driving past and ogling the very nice homes that populate these Silicon Valley hills. As passenger, Marianne even had a chance to look straight up through our Tesla's glass roof.


Up along the top of the hills, we stopped at a couple of places to enjoy the local trails. To be honest, we didn't walk for miles or anything. The poison ivy along the path reminded me of one of the reasons that I am not a big hiker, but the view of the South Bay was a positive and even a little walking qualified us for Thanksgiving eating later on.

John signs Marianne
ivy view

TeslaFrom the top, we took Page Mill Road back down to the flatlands, starting on a narrow, twisty, two lane road and ending on wide boulevards, in the heart of Silicon Valley technology. We even ran across the Tesla "mother ship" (= headquarters) in Los Altos, not far from where I used to work, thirty years ago.

One original idea for this Thanksgiving week visit had been to sample take-out from some of the great Los Gatos restaurants. On Thanksgiving itself, however, this proved impractical as all our desired spots were closed. We settled for a trip to Lunardi's grocery store and a few staples and, back in Monte Sereno, we settled in.

picturepieI managed to hang a picture, keeping up the tradition of doing "fix it" chores when we visit. Somehow doing chores away from home is more fun than working on my to-do list at home. I also tried my hand at cooking dessert: Key Lime Pie, with fruit from our own back yard. This is an easy dish to prepare, but a little tricky on baking and cooling long enough and I was too impatient. Our lime tree only produces about enough for a single effort per year, so I don't get much practice. Besides, it is about 500 calories per piece.

pianodinnerMarianne had her home activities too. She played some on the piano, a gift from Mamo to Ava (and Sam?) that gets little or no use. They just need Gigi around more, after the current difficulties.

She also made a delicious, if non-traditional, Thanksgiving dinner of pasta and beans. We each thought about how getting up from the normal holiday meal would have us uncomfortably full, but this time we were just right. Until we polished off a couple pieces of pie.

That was our Thanksgiving, on isolation Day 258, thankful for all our family's health.

{ Thanksgivings in our history: 2004 (Paris), 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (with Mamo) }

Friday, November 27, Pandemic Day 259

Friday was our last vacation day since the house owners were coming back from Truckee. Like at most of our pack-up days when traveling, we did it slowly. We needed coffee and breakfast. We needed to double check that we did not leave things behind. At this B&B, we had to thrown linen into the washer and dryer.

vehiclesFor the first time, we had to plan how we would have enough power to make the whole trip. We probably didn't NEED to plug in along the way, but we are still in the "range anxiety" mode, and a half-hour pause somewhere would be worth it. We chose the Casa de Fruta Supercharger again, because it is half way to home and we know there is plenty to do there. The twenty charging stations only had two or three Teslas filling up. I wonder how long these stations will remain underutilized.

Road 16Back on the road, highway 152 across the San Joaquin Valley, traffic was not bad, definitely not a regular Thanksgiving crowd. Normally, our trip is simply east on Highway 152 and then south on Highway 99, but this time there was a warning about a car crash on 99, not unusual and always a mess. Google Maps suggested an alternative, south on Road 16 and east on Avenue 12. (The Valley is criss-crossed by north-south roads and east-west avenues, mostly at one-mile intervals.) The good news was that going onto the farm road grid was easy, but the bad news was that Road 16 was almost as rough as being off-road. This was not a nice ride on our Tesla's oversize racing wheels and rubber-band tires.

Selland XmasIn any event, we made it home without a problem and, after a couple grocery stops, settled in to our Fresno routine. I went to the Selland's to chat and collect the mail and packages they were holding for us and saw that their home was already filled with Christmas spirit. (Their kids and grandkids had just put everything up for them. Lucky!)

Beyond that, COVID Day 259 was a quiet time to rededicate ourselves to isolating and staying well.

(This day in our history: See yesterday's Thanksgiving links.)

This is as good a place as any to end this diary page. I'll start another tomorrow, but I am afraid it will only cover weeks of "normal".

Stay at home until the numbers are better. Hospitals and hospital workers would appreciate it, as would the vulnerable among us.

John and Marianne.