Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Heading out of Los Gatos it seemed like we were "on the road" for sure. Marianne was at the wheel, a change back to older travel patterns where we alternate driving days. We headed east, around the bottom of San Francisco Bay and turned north into the East Bay hills and end-of-commuter-traffic. Our "Fastrack" transponder allowed us to use the express lanes, but traffic wasn't too bad in any event.
The day's goal was Chico, but first we needed a lunch stop in Winters, California, for a friend visit. Neither of us had been inside the small town in decades, although we have both zoomed by on Interstate 5 from time to time. Downtown was tiny, but held a pair of well-recommended restaurants and even an art gallery or two. Waiting for our lunch appointment, we stopped at Anona Art Gallery, attracted by the collection of Anona's abstract paintings on display. The two artists exchanged notes and business cards, networking.
Our real goal for Winters was a lunch with Gaylene, Marianne's friend from the olden days when they lived together while learning to be teachers at San Jose State. That was over a half-century ago. While completing their almost 40-year teaching careers, they had been on different paths. Gaylene had married Harold, settled in Winters, and stayed there. She is now retired, a widow, but still happy with the small Northern California town. Meanwhile, Marianne had wandered a bit.
The two reconnected over lunch and talked as if it had been months since the last meeting, instead of decades. The conversation covered the universals: health, teaching, kids, marriages. Both are healthy cancer survivors, happy to be retired from careers they each enjoyed. Lunch time passed quickly and we all resolved to not wait so long for another visit.
From Winters, we drove north to Chico, through miles and miles of fruit and nut orchards, vineyards, and rice fields. We reached The Diamond Hotel, checked in, and started exploring the downtown, starting with afternoon treats at The Upper Crust Bakery. Everything left a good impression.
Friday started early with a three-mile trip to the Tesla Superchargers. There were off-brand chargers just across from the hotel, but thy did not seem to be as functional as we needed. Part of learning for this trip.
Starbucks followed, with predictable coffee and diary-writing. That took up another hour or so, before I went back and picked up Marianne for at visit to Mom's. (A nearby breakfast joint.)
After that, we went separate ways. She shopped a bit, while I went out to the Chico Air Museum.
Over the years, we have visited quite a number of old-aiplane displays and Chico's was not the largest, but the volunteer staff was as enthusiastic as any we've run across. Right inside the door, guide Dave told the story of the green and red Spad that local 80-year-old Jack Kilpatrick had helped reconstruct, test fly, and then crash on delivery to the Chico airport. He and other club members then repaired the damage, but the plane stayed grounded.
The rest of the displays also had stories, but I'm afraid I do not have the time to go through everything. Here are just some of the aeronautical displays and, if you want more information, call me or, better yet, visit Chico airport.
After techie things, it was time for a little art. We drove out to the Museum of Northern California Art. MONCA is a small art museum, housed in a (partially) restored 1927 Veterans Memorial Building. There were just three display galleries, one with vintage ties, another with anime illustrations and another with posters from San Francisco of the 60s and 70s. I liked the posters.
With such a small and pleasant art visit, we were up for another. Yelp listed "1078 Gallery", as one of the "best in Chico". Probably not.
Back in downtown, we hit one more obscure museum: The Yo-Yo Museum. Housed in the back of a large game and toy store, the Yo-Yo Museum tells the story of the traditional Philippine spinning toy that became a craze in the late-1920s and stayed popular for decades. (I still remember the annual Spring visit by the Duncan Yo-Yo salesman to our school. I think the school got a small commission, and we would all stay busy trying to learn all the standard tricks. Fun!)
For our fourth educational stop of the day, we chose the Chico History Museum, where we learned more than we ever needed to about the town and it's 1860s founder, Senator Bidwell. We were given this information by guide Jim, who rattled on about all the early happenings in Chico and only stopped talking when we walked away.
We finished our exhausting tour of Chico with a nice dinner at 5th Street Steakhouse, a recommendation, and family Zoom for games, a tradition.
Saturday was a day of driving, mostly, but with a few stops on our way north. Our first stop was at Whiskeytown Lake, part of the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. The views were spectacular or the lake and the surrounding hills. We were on our way to Weaverville, a town at the far end of the National Recreation Area.
In 2018, the Carr Fire burned 97 percent of the park and in our triple-digit temperatures, the hills along the way were dry and harsh.
Despite the remote location, Weaverville had a Tesla Supercharger and a recharge there made this excursion possible - or at least worry-free. I do not know how other electric car brands could make it.
Our goal was the Joss House in Weaverville, a California State Park that preserves and explains the oldest, continuously-used Chinese temple in the state. I had heard of the place in an old Hewell Hauser TV program on Public Television and it had seemed like a decent destination, if we were ever in the area. It was.
Our guide, Jack Frost, explained how the Joss House originated in the gold rush times to serve the local Chinese community that numbered as many as 1,000 at its peak. Today, descendants of that miner community still use the temple for annual rites, although most have to drive up from their San Francisco Bay Area homes.
Marianne and I agreed, the Joss House was worth the 90 minute drive up and back from Interstate 5. After another quick charge in Redding, we turned north again for a stop at the Shasta Dam. In the visitor's center, we watched a film depicting the 1938-1945 building of the dam. Good geek stuff. We learned that, while there are five electric generators in the massive structure, water control is its major purpose, both flood control and irrigation storage.
In 2023, rain has been abundant, so the reservoir is full and farmers are happy. The tour of the inner workings of the dam was unavailable due to elevator maintenance and, by now, the outside temperature was near triple digits, so we passed on the walking tour over the top of the dam. We settled for just looking out over the reservoir, off to the snow on Mt Shasta in the far distance. It looks like there will continue to be new melt water for quite some time.
From the dam, we drove farther north, almost to the town called Mt. Shasta City, and then east to the village of McCloud. There we settled into the vintage McCloud Hotel and had a good meal at the Ax and Rose next door. The food was good and the hotel was ... interesting; maybe a shabby chic impression, but still a place to recommend.
On Sunday, we started with a breakfast in the Hotel McCloud. It was an elegant old-world feel and a limited but tasty buffet.
Then we packed our things and walked down the aging outside stairs. I think it was this outside weathering that caused me to think "shabby", but I'm sure it's simply the case that the privately-owned hotel does not have National Park Service levels of funding. It's good that they favored maintaining the rooms and the interior.
From McCloud, we headed over to northbound Interstate 5 and gave Carla her electron breakfast. The first part of the highway from there had nice views of Black Butte and Mt. Shasta, but pretty soon we were on dull roads through the high plane that separates California from Oregon.
Not far past the border, we turned off to central Ashland, "central" meaning the theater district of course. Initially, we parked and scouted the area, with the obligatory picture of the Elizabethan theatre, a recreation of Shakespeare's original venue.
That was not our destination, however, as we had reserved seats in the Angus Bowman Theater to see a rendition of the musical Rent. The over-three-hour play was filled with energy and the actors were, as a rule, amazing singers. I'm not sure we always followed the storyline, but each song carried a message I'm sure.
By the end of our culture event, we were starved and we walked over to Kobe, a Japanese restaurant midway between the theaters and our hotel. We split four different sushi and ceviche dishes, getting completely full. Well, almost completely. When the dessert menu was offered we splurged on trios of creme brulee and of ice cream. These flavorful treats were truly unique and probably the highlight of the meal.
After eating, we set about walking to work off some of the calories. This turned out to be not such a good idea as Marianne's left knee seemed to stiffen at about her 9,500th step of the day for no particular reason. By 10,000 steps, she could barely walk. Sheesh.
With the new limit on mobility, we do not know what Monday would bring. I was up early, as usual, and headed off to feed the Tesla some morning juice. In part because Ashland does not yet have a Supercharger, I opted for a part of the "West Coast Electric Highway", a network of chargers organized and partially funded by the State of Oregon to advance the cause of electric transportation. Before the trip, I had joined the EVCS program that operates the WCEH charge stations.
This should have been easy enough. Attach a Tesla adapter to the station's cable, cycle through the steps specified in the EVCS iPhone app, and fill 'er up. However, that process failed two or three times before I called the help desk and chatted with a bright young voice for a half hour. She tried all the things in the company's fix-it book, but nothing worked. I said thank you, unplugged, and headed off, recognizing again that the Tesla charging system is FAR better than any competition.
While I was waiting for the help desk's attempts at fixes, I checked our Lotto ticket for Saturday's $800 million prize. No winners. The day was not starting well.
Since Marianne was still limping badly, I volunteered to walk over to Mix Bakeshop for morning food and coffee. This time, we had success. The coffee and oat-milk cappuccino were perfect and the selection of baked goods met all our standards. Maybe the day would be OK after all.
Of course our tourism would be limited, because it was museums-closed Monday and, mostly, because half our team had a bad knee. We drove over to Lithia Park, just in the heart of the theater district. Marianne hobbled to a comfy park bench and broke out her sketch book. Today's exercise was a "blind contour drawing" where the artist draws a picture of something around her without lifting the pencil and without looking at the paper. This is how she made this picture of a tree with an arched bridge at the bottom. She promises she will get better.
While Marianne exercised her drawing pencil, I practiced hand-held, non-automatic, pictures of the nearby stream. It's a lot harder than it looks, but a fun challenge.
After nearby lunch, we returned to the park and looked at the ducks and bugs on a small pond. The dragon flies were fascinating and a real challenge to photograph. Some pretty blue ones would cooperate and stop on a nearby rock or twig, but the more colorful dragons flitted to and fro, making pictures almost impossible. Best in Show is the last one, imo.
The rest of the day was spent doing not much special. A snack from the local grocery co-op. YouTube, Netflix, reading a bit, and writing this diary.
Tomorrow we will go over to the coast and start a new family tale.
John and Marianne