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The Sierras, East and West
July 12-19Dear Diary and Friends and Family,
Written July 15+
Fresno summer has arrived. It's hot. Well above 100F every day. Even Magdalena's pool is getting a bit too warm. (Last year, when there was a substantial leak that caused continuous refilling, it was cool all summer.) Evenings are still above 80 or 90F, not nice for sitting on front porches or back patios. Fortunately, we had a trip to the Sierras planned.
On Friday the 13th we watered the the garden, took a picture of the only rose still surviving in the heat, filled the Jeep with stuff for a week, set off bug bombs in the garage and art hut, and hit the road.
Our first target was Carson City/Reno, directly north of Fresno as the eagle flies, but the Jeep needs to take a longer path, much longer. We started on Highway 99, the most dangerous highway in America and perhaps our least favorite escape route. In Turlock, we veered north and, after passing through a surprising amount of "city" traffic, eventually found a pleasant drive through farms, orchards and rolling foothills. (No pictures, because we were on a mission to get out of the flatlands, pretty or not.)
The higher we went, the more twists and turns we had to navigate and we found we had swapped city traffic for Friday weekend-in-the-mountains traffic. After hours of driving, I did pull off at "Peddlers Hill" to snap at least one vista. Trust me, there were plenty more nice views, but I was just not in the mood for slowing our trip.
Six-and-a-half hours after leaving our house, we arrived at David Walley's Resort, just south of Carson City, Nevada. Tired, but glad to be settling in at a wonderful rest stop that has been a traveler's refuge since wagon trains stopped here in the 1860s. The surrounding Carson Valley provided the travelers provisions for their climb through the Sierras after Walley's hot springs had washed off the dirt of the American plains.
Our friends Claudia and Ward use Walley's as their guest rooms and, as repeat guest, we do appreciate it!
Our Saturday was devoted to local art shows, part of the month-long Artown events in Reno. Here is what we saw, although I have a feeling we saw just a fraction of everything that was on offer.
Our first stop was Art in the Garden. Like the other places we would visit, this market-show was in the garden of a house in one of Reno's old neighborhoods. It seems it is the place where a group of gardeners practice their skills and, once a year, sponsor a market of a dozen or so artists and craftspeople. Nice setting, but no purchases.
Stop #2 was the "Yart Sale" (Yart = "yard - art" get it?) Here, the yard and other art was pretty good. I was distracted by Julia Tachihara working bits of glass she calls "my froggie beads." Marianne especially liked Betty Hulse, a basket maker of remarkable skill. Nice.
Our third garden visit was the home of the Carrs on Gordon Avenue, otherwise known as the
Gordon Avenue Artists (Lori and Lynne) and Three Stix Photos (Dick). Here, we did pick up a fancy plate as an addition to our art tree. As for Dick's photos, it is bad form to show photos of someone else's pictures, but do look on his website. His work is really remarkable.
At about this time, we began noticing some interesting clouds, building up over the northern edge of the basin Reno sits in. We debated whether these posed any sort of threat to the afternoon and evening activities and the conclusion was "No, summer rain hardly ever reaches the ground!" So much for local knowledge.
The penultimate stop was in a large, wonderful backyard where artists and authors were selling their work with part or all of the proceeds going to support ALS care and research. We bought a book we may not have needed, but the cause was good.
Finally, we made it to the show of the Women Artists of the Great Basin, the major goal of our whole trip! Marianne's high school and (current) art buddy Claudia is one of those women artists. The work at this start was a level higher than the art and crafts at our earlier stops - and that's an objective assessment.
Marianne moved to serious art shopping, wearable art. Weaver-artist Jill had several tempting jackets, but in the end Marianne resisted. Resistance disappeared when it came to Claudia's natural-dye scarves. Real art.
After a successful day of art shows (and purchases), Marianne, Claudia, Ward and I needed to decide on dinner. Not so easy. First, we checked out the offerings at Dragon Lights, the outdoor light show were were going to see. Before actually entering the show, it seemed we were limited to a single food truck and offering later seemed not much better. We opted to find somewhere in the neighborhood.
After our best application of group decision-making and internet-assisted restaurant finding, we decide on sushi about 15 minutes away at a place called "4 Korean Bar-B-Que". However, despite Google indication otherwise, this was a sushi-free spot. Not wanting to change a decision once made, we settled in for Korean food instead - and I was pleasantly surprised. Good stuff.
Now it was time for Dragon Lights but, remember those puffy white clouds we saw earlier? Now they were big, black, lightning-spitting blankets hanging over the park where the Chinese light show was about to start. We made it to a parking space for the show, but decided not to leave the car. Too wet. Too windy. And way too much lightning. (In fact, the show was canceled, although we made our decision independently.)
The good news was that we were given a great sunset!
Sunday started with a slow diary-and-Zentangle breakfast at Walley's. It's the way we prefer to start. We did have a schedule, but the first appointment was 11:30 at the Nevada Museum of Art, plenty of slow time.
The downtown museum is humble-sized version of a big-time art museum, with a focus on local artists, but with enough world-class offering to serve its role as an excellent art education venue.
The collection starts with the Wilbur D. May Sculpture Garden, with a horse, iron flower, totem, stone man, and breathing instructions. All impressive.
Our inside tour started with yet another outdoor garden, this time on the fourth floor. It was a nice location for our two models.
One floor down, the exhibits feature Hans Meyer-Kassel, a German born (1872) artist who moved his art to the Reno area in the 1920s as he sought the freedom of the new world. His German color palette and style was successfully applied to Nevada landscapes.
The largest current exhibit space at Nevada Museum of Art is called "Manet to Maya Lin" and was as pleasant an art venue as I can remember. The several single pieces by famous artists* were most approachable on the open walls. (* Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, Warhol, Joan Mitchell) These alone would be remarkable for a museum this small.
In addition, the Manet to Maya Lin room held mostly-local artists. I liked them all. The 36 photographs of Masahisa Fukose showed formal-yet-haunting scenes of family members over generations and decades.
Michael Heizer's normal pieces are large "land art", many at his ranch in eastern Nevada, but he also created this interesting indoor piece called "JFK 6.5", a reference to the bullet that assassinated John F. Kennedy.
This pile of red "roses" is a piece called "Untitled" by Petah Coyne. In person, it was fascinating. In my photographs, it is less so. You will just have to visit Reno to get the correct impression.
My other favorite piece was a wood carving by Giuseppe Penone. He managed to carve away parts of a huge beam to reveal the core and branch pattern hidden inside. Amazing imagination.
Going from one floor to another, the view is dominated and distorted by a reflector by Trevor Paglen. It was a magnet for all our cameras.
I do not even remember the story of these trees, only that we all liked them. Our house artists were caught in deep discussion. Another wonderful display space.
My part of the nuclear industry was NOT the part that has been integral to Nevada history: bomb testing. (Yucca Flats, near Las Vegas, hosted 739 separate tests!) The photo exhibit of the state's nuclear weapon testing was still fascinating, probably because we have all seen some of these scenes in movies and documentaries. Sobering art.
From the museum it was off to chores, which for us vacationers consisted only of getting diesel fuel into the Jeep. Out of habit, we looked for a Costco station and only Costco-Sparks had the right stuff, so we took a ride. We started by passing through downtown Reno, under the famous "biggest little city" sign and passed the giant clown of Circus Circus. We had stayed a few year ago at this vintage casino, but it has not made it onto our list of recommended establishments.
The 15-minute drive from Reno to Sparks passed through miles of pretty hills and nondescript housing projects. Costco was in a new, equally nondescript shopping area. It all looked like it was built in the last year. After our errand, we were glad to head back to Walley's, an hour south along Highway 395 and Interstate 580.
Later in the evening, Claudia and Ward came down to Walley's. While they and Marianne were enjoying the HOT (101-104F) tubs, I walked around the grounds and took a few pictures of the wetlands along the eastern edge of the resort. Nice setting, although forest fire smoke was layering the valley.
With this, we said our thank you's to Claudia and Ward and wished them good travels as they were headed to Alaska later in the week.
Monday started early, 5:00 wake-up to see what the 5:38 sunrise would show. I bundled my equipment and found a spot on the side of the road that gave views east to sunrise, south across a cattle-filled meadow, and west to the mountains. The dawn red remained faint, muddied by the smoke from Sierra forest fires.
My favorite shot was of the mountains around Monument Peak. I set up the tripod to allow the long exposures the faint light required. Not spectacular perhaps, but a peaceful half-hour watching the world get brighter.
Our next appointment was noon lunch with Chris and the family. Just by coincidence, they were vacationing over at South Lake Tahoe, about a half-hour from our "home" at Walley's. It is a small world!
After lunch (thanks Chris!) we moved over to the pool behind our place. The two (or three) boys goofed and wrestled in the water like brothers (and father) should. The ladies caught up on family current-events, as sisters-in-law should. And I took pictures.
Dinner was white wine, cheese, crackers, and tasty calamari and shrimp cocktail over at the resort bar. More Walley's food to recommend. The evening walk back along the wetlands behind the rooms finished our day on a peaceful note.
On Tuesday morning, I got up early to try my hand at sunrise pictures again. I spotted a hawk waiting patiently for the sun to rise enough for good hunting. A quiet silhouette. Geese also passed by as noisy black forms. Others waited in the grass.
On Tuesday, we drove over the Nevada side of the Sierras to visit Gabby, Ava, and Sam in Truckee. The Kingsbury Grade road leaves from near Walley's, but it ends up in South Shore, far from Truckee, so we took the larger highway, California 50, out of Carson City. Of course, I managed to miss the turn north, so went half way to South Shore anyway. GPS navigators only work if the driver pays attention.
One difficulty of the whole route was that it is a very scenic drive, first up and over mountains and later along the blue waters of Lake Tahoe. That's probably why I missed the first turn. Down along the lake, the view is spectacular and the highway department has created construction zones to help look out from stopped traffic.
Two hours after leaving our Nevada resort, we were at our Truckee one: Gabby's summer rental. Eventually, the family plans to have their own second home in a community called Martis Camp, just outside Truckee. They have a lot already and we all hope a building comes along when practical. Just to get the proper camp feel, Gabby, Marianne and I stopped by the Camp Lodge for a peaceful glass. Nice.
After recovering, it was off to pick up Sam after his Baseball Camp. He is enthusiastic about this summer activity and about baseball generally. He had plenty of stories for mommy and Gigi.
Meanwhile, Ava had been over on Lake Tahoe, learning to sail and also experimenting with blacksmithing. She too had fun stories, although lunch on the beach seemed to rank highest on her list of accomplishments. Oh well, as long as it was fun.
The four of us had hardly an hour's break before we all went back to the baseball field for a barbecue. Even though we would save our appetites for family pizza later, Gabby enjoyed socializing and Gigi and I had fun playing with the grandkids. Sam is a good basketball shooter, although I'm not sure his height will allow as much progress as baseball should. Ava is still a climber and seldom passes up an opportunity. (I wonder if mountain climbing is in her future?) Both are getting decent at bocce.
We passed on the excellent baseball-camp barbecue because we were meeting Chris and his family in Truckee. They had spent some time floating on the Truckee River and that made a family pizza gathering almost mandatory! Wow, two meals with the Hidas family in two days.
We gathered at Old Town Tap and managed to polish off appetizers and several pizzas. Good stuff, and I am sure all healthy. Our excuse for the party atmosphere was Leisa's birthday the day before.
No pizza dinner is complete without dessert, so we headed over to Bud's Fountain. Ava ordered her favorite: bubblegum. I have no idea why that flavor is eye-matching blue. Sam did chocolate and managed to keep his brown drippings mostly cleaned up. He's good that way. (This is his serious stare, something he reverts to when asked to pose.)
We finished the Hidas visit with a chat session on the sidewalk bench. It is great to have a chance for the four cousins and five adults to get together. I think the fact that this was a largely unplanned family gathering made it all the more special. We need to do this more often!
Wednesday presented a problem. Marianne had developed a mysterious knee soreness that had kept her awake much of the night. In the morning, we concluded a doctor visit was in order, but that gets complicated miles from home. After considerable discussion, we opted to shorten our mountain stay in favor of a return home so she could see her Kaiser doctor. As it turned out, her normal doctor was out on maternity lave, but the substitute diagnosed a muscle strain and prescribed ointment and ice. As I write this, on Friday, she is getting better. Thanks, doc.
Now we are back in Fresno, facing 100+F temperatures for as far as the forecast can see. I miss the mountain coolness already.
In about two weeks, we will go to different mountains: The Colorado Rockies. Stay tuned.
John and Marianne
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