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Friends from Far Away

May 5-7, 2017
Written May 8+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Every once in awhile, we manage to bribe or otherwise entice people to go off the beaten pass and stop by Fresno.  Therefore, we were delighted earlier this year when Andrew, a work colleague from Germany, said he and his wife Ingrid would like to come our way.  "Would it be OK?"  Of course it would!! 

This is the story of their visit.

d170505_01_wineTrack.jpgOur pick-up trip, over and back.
d170505_02_courtyard.jpgAndrew and Ingrid were driving up the from the southern California coast, so we decided to meet them along the way at one of our favorite wineries, Cardella Wines.   Marianne and I arrived early and had a chance to stroll through the tasting room gardens and patio, enjoying the setting and taking yet more pictures.
But our main goal for the winery visit was, of course, wine.  Cardella has a pretty broad range of offerings and Marianne and I "needed" to purchase our summer whites.  Andrew and Ingrid joined us in selecting Chardonnay, Muscato, and Alvareno wines.  We also took a look at this year's crop, still a bit green I suppose.
After this hard work, we enjoyed a picnic lunch, including a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, poured by Joseph, the young wine maker.  He said we were his first weekday customers in almost three weeks!  I am not sure how wineries really work, but giving the responsibility to produce an entire vintage to such a young maker seems brave.  Nonetheless, we can attest to the qualities of all the wines we tasted, so Joseph's Fresno State University education in eneology must have been pretty good.
After a pleasant couple of hours, we headed back east across the San Joaquin farm lands.  However, not far from Cardella, we watched this huge truck roll on its side after his load shifted on a tight turn.  We did stop to provide  help, but the young driver was unharmed and, other than expressing sympathy, there was nothing we could do.

d170505_32_nutstore.jpgd170505_34_nutpack.jpgAbout halfway back, we stopped at Schaad's almond packing plant and store.  We were tempted, but made limited purchases.  Behind the store the workers were doing the sorting necessary for almond processing.  It was hard to imagine doing such work eight hours per day, all season. 

Back home, we moved quickly into barbecue mode.  Marianne went over to her mother's to pick up Magdalena (aka: Mamo) and we all settled in to wine, snacks, and conversation.  That was followed by steak and baked potatoes, wine, and more conversation.  The highlight for Mamo was that she could practice her German all evening. (Unfortunately, we had so much fun that we forgot to keep taking pictures.)

A full day.

d170506_01_nptrack.jpgTrip east to General Grant Grove

d170506_02_roadup.jpgWe followed our full Friday with a Saturday drive east into Kings Canyon National Park.  The last time we were here, it was January and I wondered how changed it would be from that snowy visit. On the drive up we stopped a couple of times to see the wonderful view, but the day's clouds obscured things.  It was a sign of what was to come.

Our primary goal was General Grant Grove, the easiest grove of big trees for us to reach from home.  Here's the record:
We start with the obligatory pose next to the Grove's explanatory sign.

No far away, we start staring up into the fog, trying to see the tree tops.  Just beyond theses fort giants is the hollow fallen giant, used since the first days of the park for shelter or, now, for tourist pictures.  On the right, Andrew takes a pictures of the Centennial Stump, a tree so big when cut in 1875 that the folks back east thought the 24-foot diameter trees was a hoax.

General Grant is the third largest tree (by volume) in the world.

The first park ranger lived in this Gamlin Cabin for seven years after it had served as a sheepherder's summer cabin for years before that.  (Snowy view is from January.)

After the cabin, we started a small hike, but turned around pretty soon.  And we were not tempted by the cute little mushrooms. (Anyone know if these are deadly?)

d170506_40_restaurant.jpgd170506_44_lodge.jpgMy first idea for lunch, was to try the Grant Grove Restaurant, except it seems it's "early Spring" opening had slipped a bit.  No problem since we headed over to a small "food court" in the John Muir Lodge.  Here is how this same entrance looked in January.
After lunch, we decided that further touring was not practical, since the forecast called for snow, hail, and lightning.  We were ready for the calmer valley weather and another sip of wine on the patio.  (Un-photographed again!)

On Sunday morning, after quick coffees all around, we headed in three different directions.  I went to the airport for a flight to Denver.  Andrew and Ingrid drove to San Francisco for a couple more days as West Coast tourists, and Marianne prepared for a Monday trip over to Gabby's in Monte Sereno.

d170507_04_manda.jpgd170507_06_aansi.jpgWith a final pair of patio pictures, the visit was over. Marianne promised we would return the favor as soon as we could.  Yet another commitment to go back for a Bavarian visit.
John and Marianne


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