Home and Away (Sonora)

August 1-18, 2022

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

This is a two-part diary: first, a summary of life at home in August, 2022, and second, a small trip report.

cardscakeAugust at home starts, as it does each year, with my birthday. As usual, I do not opt for any big deal, just a few cards, calls, and cake for two, thanks to our home chef. Thanks. Honestly, some days I feel 76, and others ... more or less.

A week later, after Marianne's ArtHop show was finished, we had a celebratory 30th wedding anniversary dinner. It's all good.

We worked in a Zoom game night on the first Friday of August and we continue to not improve at the word-guessing game. It must be those 76 years. I don't know what the youngsters' excuses are.

Unfortunately, on that weekend, headaches and leg pain started for Marianne. This was a new development in her medical odyssey, an unwelcome surprise. We spent almost a week sending notes to doctors, with initially very little response. Meanwhile, the headaches reached "10" on the how-much-does-it-hurt scale, the first time I'd heard such a score.

Eventually, Doctor Box, her oncologist, spent an hour with us in a video conference and narrowed the problem down to damage to a couple specific nerves, most likely due to chemotherapy. A drug was prescribed that helps, but getting the dosage right remains a work in progress. And there will need to be MRIs done to rule out returning cancer as a cause. In this process we learn that pacemakers complicate MRI and require a preliminary chest X-Ray and sign off by the cardiologist and, apparently, the pacemaker company. Nothing is simple.

Originally, we had planned a several-day excursion south, to the Danish-flavored village of Solvang, but all this pain and complication got in the way and we canceled what had become a well-planned and anticipated trip. Darn. However, after MRI scheduling fell apart, we decided to squeeze in a two-day, spontaneous, not-well-planned-at-all, trip up into California's Gold Country. Here's how that went.

crashOn Day 1, (Tuesday the 16th), the morning started with an ominous crash sound just outside our front door. Three or four cars had met and ruined their days. No one seemed hurt, but this was a reminder to us to be careful out there!course

Our destination was Sonora, a two-hour drive on dull roads, but a three-hour one on the more interesting twists and turns through the Sierra foothills. We opted for foothills.

On the way, we stopped at the Mariposa coffee roaster for their special-recipe hot chocolate powder. A recommendation. Further along, at a village whose name I forget, I stopped to take a picture of the Ukrainian flag, a reminder that even out here in the boonies, people read the news.

Mariposa coffee roaster flag

We could have made it all the way without a charging stop, but Groveland is one of my favorite Tesla Supercharger locations, so we added enough electricity to avoid worry. And I took pictures, because that's what I do.

flowers jail one

RivianNext to the chargers is Echo Adventure Cooperative, a friendly Yosemite outfitter who "requires" purchases in order to use their rest room. We gladly comply by picking up a candy bar or four. The owner Bryant and I talked about electric cars and he said Echo Adventures is in the process of going solar, shifting his fleet of tour vehicles to Rivians, and covering all the buildings with solar panels. Across the highway, Rivian is converting and old gas station into a charging center, making Groveland the electric vehicle center of Yosemite and California's Gold Country.

A half-hour later, we arrived at The Inn on Knowles Hill. We could tell the place was special when I saw the 1934 Packard 12 Speedster parked in front of the garage. (The Inn owner also owns Buess Auto Restorations. More on that later.)

garage scenePackard 12dash

check inroomBuilt by Charles Segerstrom in the late 1920s, the Inn served for 70 years as an extended family home and the center for Sonora society. It became a bed and breakfast in in 2001. (Fascinating history here.) Checking in was like entering a museum, but one filled with charm. We were brought upstairs to the Herbert Hoover Room, reportedly the favorite of the retired president when he visited in 1936 and 1940. The seven other rooms are also named after famous visitors.porch

We spent the rest of the day and evening lounging in our space, including the large balcony visible above the Packard and the garage doors. I think this do-nothing time was exactly what we needed.

It is, indeed, all good.

viewporchMy Wednesday started like most travel days, with an early morning session writing these diaries. The morning air was warm, promising another triple digit day, but the temperature was just right for my porch writing. It has been awhile since we've been able to settle into travel mode and it felt right to be here.

Breakfast at the Knowles Hill B&B is definitely a highlight. Since Marianne and I were the only guests, were were ushered into a bright and cheerful breakfast room, set elaborately for just us. The copper ceiling added a warm glow and even the window sill squirrel thought the room was picture worthy.

set up breakfast
ceiling visitor

carsmapMost of the rest of the day was ... complicated. Our primary purpose for the drive to Sonora had been to visit with friends Ted and Nancy, but first we needed to track down replacement medication for pills Marianne had forgotten. I figured this was just a reminder that we need more travel practice, including packing. No biggie. Sonora has lots of drug stores and the particular medication was a common one. After Marianne called Kaiser and talked with all the local stores, the only solution was an almost three hours of driving down to Modesto and back. Nice enough drive, but not what we had planned.

On our return from Merced, we stopped by quickly at Buess Auto Restorations to see the project Fred was just finishing. We had seen the 1911 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in our last visit, but now the project is almost finished after years and 15,000 man-hours of work. This model was called a "skiff" because the wooden bodywork was built without doors and looked more like a fine motor boat than the race car it was. It was capable of speeds over 100 miles and hour. Not bad for a two-and-a-half ton behemoth and equal to Indianapolis 500 racers of the day. Next year, it will no doubt be a winner in the Pebble Beach Concourse.

flying lady front back
side elaborate

Eventually, we did manage to have our visit with Ted and Nancy. We had not seen them in almost three years. In the meantime, Marianne had her two cancer bouts and Ted had been hit by serious Covid, the long term effects of which have still prevent proper leg movement and mobility. Despite all the downside news we caught up on, we all enjoyed the visit as well. We exchanged stories, some of which may have been repeats from years before, but who's noticing? We laughed. One thing I didn't do was take pictures. I should have, but now we have an excuse for a return visit!

Thursday, our last vacation day, started with another fabulous Inn on Knowles Hill breakfast. This time we were joined at the big dining table by four other guests and we found ourselves dining with strangers for the first time since Covid 19. I don't think we even noticed that we had returned to the pre-pandemic practice of casually exchanging stories, face to face.

breakfastOur hostess Rhonda described her morning offering: a small quiche, French toast, turkey sausage , preceded by an amazing poached pear drizzled with raspberry sauce. (see website picture.) Rhonda

Rhonda also gave us some history of their restoration of Knowles Hill. From 2005 to today they have transformed an empty, worn, dowager to an early 20th Century family home, complete with Buess family furniture from the earlier era. Now, just as back in the day, the place periodically fills with important guests, or at least guests made to feel important by the surroundings and the host family. All good.

The two-hour-plus drive back to Fresno was uneventful. We crossed through miles and miles of dry rolling hills and cattle ranches, fitted between the rugged Gold Country hills and mountains and the crowded and fertile farm lands of the San Joaquin Valley.

Back in the city, we swung by Kaiser Medical Center for previously-scheduled X-rays and physical therapy, shifting to normal from vacation mode.

But, in words attributed to Dr. Seuss: "Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened". It's all good.

John and Marianne