Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Diaries. Should I do them even when not much is happening? Our 7,000 mile trip around the western states led to posting of almost a thousand pictures in 15 web-pages, some quite lengthy. It's a nice record for our years when we will want to relive travels. Before that, the daily record of how we handled the COVID pandemic was useful therapy, if nothing else.
However, how much "regular life" makes sense to write about? Maybe more than we think and, besides, if it's not fun to write or read, we can just stop writing or not read. So here is a little record of our trip up to Truckee.
On Friday, we woke early, packed up, and were on the road by 8-ish. The car was not as full as on our two-month trip, but it still amazes me how much we drag along for a simple summer week in the woods. As usual, it's not the clothes, but the shoes and toys (cameras & art supplies) that fill the trunk. At least our process for filling the trunk is pretty quick now.
The drive itself was a boring five hours. That's not all bad, since summer Fridays on Highway 99 and Interstate 80 can be worse than boring going up the Central Valley and into the Sierras. I suspect that COVID may have re-arranged work weeks enough to make the Friday rush more diffuse, a small silver lining to a big cloud. Anyway, the view from Donner Lake at the pass was as pleasant as it always is when the (real) clouds cooperate.
Our "B&B" was as welcoming as usual. The (relative-to-neighbors) small house has everything we'd ever need, especially when grandkids show up on Monday. Another electric vehicle now occupies the garage and maybe we will have races between the golf cart and the Tesla.
Marianne shopped at Raley's grocery store while I charged up Carla at a nearby Supercharger. Truckee now has two stations with twenty or so "pumps" total, but local Facebook groups note that even this many is sometimes not enough to service all the Teslas driving over the mountains from the SF Bay Area. This time, I was one of just two EVs charging, but we'll see if crowding is real or just another Facebook panic.
After shopping came dinner at home, generally my preferred location and with my favorite chef doing the hard work. I have to remember to leave a big tip.
My after dinner walk was short, but I squeezed in a couple of flower pictures just to make sure this story has some decoration. The yards in this area are all "natural" with native pine trees and shrubs and flowers. Combined with the uniform brown and black coloring of the houses, it makes for the calm elegance locals expect.
We started our mountain stay nice and slowly. I set up an office on the end of the dinning table and Marianne set about unpacking and making breakfast. The great room of our guest house has large windows all around, looking out at pine trees and brown and black homes designed to blend in, despite their size. It's all California vacation-town mellow.
After a little shopping to get the rest of our supplies, we drove down the mountains into Nevada where we would visit friends in Carson City. There are two routes from Truckee to Carson, one is country roads along Lake Tahoe and the other a longer freeway path via Reno. Without traffic, the GPS-estimated travel time is about the same, but the lake route on this Saturday was traffic-extended at least a half-hour, normal for weekends. We traded distance for time and drove through Reno.
At friends Claudia and Ward's home, we immediately got down to catching up for almost two years of no in-person visits. Marianne and Claudia actually team up frequently on Facetime and Zoom for art lessons and joint coaching, but interactions are different when they start with hugs. The artists disappeared into Claudia's studio, leaving Ward and me with plenty of time to chat.
It's interesting, we share few common interests, but I enjoy these conversations. He tells me about his outdoor activities, including off-road camping, mountain bike riding, maintaining Sierra trails, and even rock climbing. I describe our own more urban life with hotels, restaurants, museums, galleries, and tourist tours. I learn things and I hope he might as well.
After a tasty patio lunch, we went out front to compare vehicles. Ward and Claudia's pandemic-purchase was a rugged travel van, a vacation home they go out in almost every week to off-road sites in the Nevada desert or the Sierra mountains. For our part, we did a stationary walk-through of the Model Y, our own pandemic-splurge. I think in both cases, the owners are satisfied with their own decisions. Next time, we need to go on test drives, the Tesla on a freeway and the Winnebago on an off-road trail!
Because traffic had died down a little, we drove back via Lake Tahoe. Even in the late afternoon, parking along the roadside was jammed, despite the considerable distance needed to hike from the road down to beaches. The beach villages were also full, showing that COVID worry was past history.
Because we needed some wine for our own vacation relaxation, we stopped at a Raley's near the Truckee Tahoe Airport. It's a very nice store, but Marianne left me with the shopping cart while she went to explore the upstairs bar, McKinney Loft (named after a famous local skier). The friendly bartender had suggested we relax in the Loft and Marianne agreed. We ordered an appetizer platter and a pair of wines and settled in on the outside deck, hoping to see the fancy private jets that frequent the airport. Our stay was a bust as far as airplane spotting, but we did manage some nice conversations with other bar patrons. We need to always remember to be friendly to strangers, especially ones on holiday. Everyone's happiness is contagious.
We had another early start and I settled in to diary writing. I had been delaying, because I really don't know if people care about ordinary life, but in the end I decided that we might, so a record could be fun some day.
This day, however, was almost event-free. We barely finished breakfast by noon and then did a little shopping at one of Truckee's Ace Hardware stores. The small town actually has two, I think because they serve like old-fashioned dry goods stores, with everything from toys to tools to plants to work, casual, and sports clothes. Both stores have a nice small town vibe.
In the afternoon we had time for reading, something we've done remarkably little of during the COVID times. My current read is "Travel as a Political Act" by travel mogul Rick Steves. Although I am only about a third through, I'm sure this will be one of my favorite books in recent times. Seattle native Steves is as progressive as any other public broadcasting star, but his consistent message is to engage people we consider "other" in dialog, not to convince or be convinced, but just to understand the other's thinking.
Our one bit of exercise was a walk in our neighborhood. Back in my Fresno neighborhood walks, I took pictures of garden flowers because that's what we have. Here, in Martis Camp, we have houses, many, many huge houses, so that's where I pointed the camera.
I was particularly taken by three or four houses nearby that are under construction, one of at least 13,000 square feet. Lumber prices in California have gone up several-fold since we remember the lots for these vacation homes being cleared in 2019, so I can only imagine the millions they must now be projected to cost. "The 1%" really have done OK, despite COVID.
We had earlier driven in other parts of Martis Camp and seen several homes that were also well above 10,000 square feet, but I don't remember seeing any people in them. For the most part, this is a development for winter ski and summer lake vacationers. (The house on the right is my favorite, despite being perhaps the smallest of all the houses around, other than guest houses.)
Dinner was another home meal, my favorite. Then more reading and early-to-bed. A good mountain day.
Our landlady and her kids arrive today. Yeah!
Morning chores included a little writing and some cleaning. A clean house was a requirement so we'd get a good review from Gabby and we'd be welcomed back. Actually, she's pretty flexible and we're normally pretty clean.
Carla also needed cleaning, mostly from bugs that had splattered and dried over the last two months. Right after our long road trip I'd tried washing with car soap, but plenty of bug body smears remained. I asked the detailer who had put film on the car what to do and he recommended a product called "Cleaner", available from an auto chemical specialist nearby. That specialist then recommended a wipe-on polymer "wax", noting that it is a far easier application process than old-fashioned waxes.
The morning was cool enough that the work was pleasant and, as promised, the polymer was easier than wax. Now we need to see how long our car stays shiny.
The rest of the morning was devoted to reading and puttering. (A day or two later, when I try to describe it, I never know what "puttering" we actually did.)
Gabby, Ava, and Sam arrived mid-afternoon. The kids were happy enough to see us, but I think they were even more excited about the new golf cart in the garage. Still, there was time to greet and hug and share the latest news. Sam spent time getting Gigi reacquainted with his collection of stuffed animals, a collection that travels with him everywhere.
Pretty soon it was time to take Ava and Sam over to the Red Barn Family Pavilion for the over-night that had been organized by the resort. Thirty or forty kids were being treated to s'mores, hot dogs and hamburgers, a movie, and a night outside in the amphitheater. Ava and Sam each immediately found friends from back home, so we hardly had time to wish them well before they were off.
Grown ups had a night out too, on the clubhouse patio for fancy drinks, dinner, and talking. Lots of talking that continued until the sun went down.
Tuesday started with an early wake-up so we could go watch the kids go up in a hot-air balloon, starting at 6am. However, when we reached the soccer-field launch site, there was no balloon in sight. Minutes later we received word there had been a mistake made, and the balloon would make it only on Wednesday. Oops.
We gathered our sleepy kids and headed to the clubhouse snack bar for breakfast. The food was good, and the patio setting overlooking the golf course was perfect. Mostly, we caught up again with chit chat, something that always seems to fill the available time. Sam and Ava explained how little sleep they had gotten at the overnight and barely kept their eyes open. It seemed like a successful event, even without a balloon ride.
The rest of the day preceeded slowly since none of us felt very rested. Gabby and I made a trip to the Ace Hardware store, but fortunately she could not find any material for projects for me to do. While we were gone, Sam worked up the energy for some putt-putt golf, after showing Gigi his more serious clubs. Somewhere along the way, the kids also had a swim at the pool since part of summers at Martis' Camp seem to mean no time unprogrammed.
At 5pm, Marianne and I remembered to make our weekly Zoom Cocktail date with Adrienne and the kids made a cameo appearance. Grandparents always like to show off grandkids to other grandparents!
From Zoom it was dinner. Gabby and Gigi prepared home-made pizza, trying to recreate the peach topping we had enjoyed in Pendleton Oregon on the BWRT. The taste was good, but crust-making needs some practice.
As an after dinner treat, Gigi played the Hungarian hand-tickle that the kids have suffered since before they could even talk. Ava only LOOKS too old for such games. That led to general laughter and even more goofy performances. Times like this are priceless.
Wednesday would be another busy day, starting with another try at ballooning. Unfortunately, I was the only one from the family willing to get up early enough for the 6:30 am lift-off. That was OK (enough) since I had fun shooting 500+ photos of families having fun. I even got a ride of my own. Thanks to Erin, the organizer, and Tim, our trusty pilot.
All the sleepy heads at home woke about 8, much more rested than the day before. Still, morning activities were limited. Gigi made palacsinta (crepes) for breakfast, normally a big treat, but the kids didn't even finish a complete batter batch. Ava then helped prepare a dozen "brownie cookies", a super-sweet concoction that went over better with young folks than us adults. Different tastes.
The big event for Ava and Sam was a session with friends Sloan and Roark at the Martis' ropes course. This apparently is a standard distraction and all four kids are completely at ease dangling about the forest floor. All this action was another opportunity for me to take action pictures, including from a tree-mounted observation stand that tested my own ease with heights. (I wasn't.). Lots of pictures, because that's what parents and grandparents like:
After ropes, it was well-deserved rest, but not too long, because we had dinner reservations at 5:45. We went to the resort next to Martis' Camp, at a restaurant called "Sawyers". Food was OK, service was slow due to a competition from a large group needing service at the same time, and the two perfect grandkids were a bit off their game. Hungry and tired I suppose. We enjoyed the company in any event.
Thursday was return-home day. Darn.
Marianne and I were up early to pack and get ready for good-byes. Sam and Ava followed shortly, since they both had 8:00 am classes. Remote learning may have become a permanent feature of learning, thanks to training during the pandemic. Both kids have twice-a-week sessions, even during their summer in the mountains. Hopefully, this will help with the loss of school thoughts during the long summer break.
To make sure we didn't forget how big our grandkids are getting, we had a back-to-back measurements. Twelve-year-old Ava and Gigi are pretty close now, but ten-year-old Sam has a ways to go. They are growing too fast as it is, especially since our visits are infrequent. By the time both are teenagers, who knows?
The highways from Truckee to Fresno were as usual. Not too bad in the mountains, but crowded down in the valley from Sacramento, to a charging stop at Elk Grove, and hours later in Fresno. The five-hour drive is just a little too long to make this a routine trip, but maybe Tesla's "full self-driving" will happen soon. (Frankly, I can't imagine FSD taking over on Highway 99, one of the most dangerous in America.)
Now we need to get ready for our Fourth of July neighborhood brunch.
Take care and stay tuned, if you wish.
John and Marianne