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April 15            Twin Peaks

This time we drove to do a walk. I knew Twin Peaks was closed to cars but figured we could park in the surrounding neighborhood and walk. It was a beautiful day after quite a few cloudy ones. We put on our masks and headed upwards.

Twin Peaks, at 925 feet, are not the highest hills in San Francisco. That honor belongs to Mount Davidson, at 928 feet. Each mountain has its own name. The north one is “Eureka”; the south one is “Noe”.  There are narrow paths that go up but the road going up to the top is wide and circles from east to west and back again. We had no trouble staying 6 feet away from the people going up and down the road. There were some but not a lot of them.

The morning sun isn’t the best light for photographing downtown San Francisco but it had been quite a while, so I tried. The grasses were so green!

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With a little walking around at the top, a 360-degree view is available unless the fog is in. The two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge are faintly visible when looking north. I was pleased to see a lot of Iris coloring the top of the hills.

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I don’t think any native San Franciscan was pleased when Sutro Tower was built in the 70’s. But television reception demanded it. The city is so hilly that many people couldn’t get TV reception. At 977-feet, Sutro transmitted line-of-sight signals to almost everyone in the city. But it is so ugly!

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Or is it? Sometimes it is wonderful when it rises above the fog.

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Our return to the car was all downhill, a nice benefit of the walk.

April 18    Cayuga Street and Mission Terrace

Our next walk was through the Mission Terrace neighborhood, where our friends Mary and Rick, live. It’s still something of a blue collar neighborhood (though the houses mostly are over $1 million dollars these days, like the rest of the city).

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Elvis is stuck in the house

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Maison Bleu

Lots of them have front gardens, so it’s fun to check them out.

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I don’t know if other cities do this much, but there are tiny library boxes outside many homes. People just leave or take what they want. I guess they aren’t getting much action in Coronavirus times but they are very cute.

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A little library

We finally reached our destination, Cayuga Playground. This wonderful park has fantastic sculpture all through it. A former park gardener, Demetrio Braceros, was put in charge of landscaping the park.  But he went so much further, spending years carving sculptures in the park, usually from wood and trees in the park. The subject matter is anything: mermaids, the Giants, Jesus…. He passed away quite a few years ago.  The city now maintains them to some degree but they were meant to have children climb, sit and play on them, so they show their wear and tear. Some of these images are from 2013, some of which aren’t in the park any longer. Destroyed? Defaced? Who knows?

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We eventually left the park and trooped up the Cayuga stairs, past the mural.

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The walk back home revealed some Covid-19 indicators.

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Cat, wishing he could be walked like a dog

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There was a neighborhood treasure as well. How kind to leave this outside for us to see.

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April 22   San Bruno Mountains neighborhood

I had always wanted to check out the strung-out neighborhoods towards the top of San Bruno Mountains, a high area that runs east-west. We wound our way uphill and parked near a closed school. The houses aren’t ultra-ritzy here but what views they have.

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The entrance to one house.

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And the house next door.

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A home with a beautiful hanging garden and a spectacular view.

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We couldn’t go into the San Bruno Moutains Park. It was closed because of the pandemic. But even in this remote area, a few homes displayed messages for first responders.

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April 25  Mt. Davidson

It took us two tries to find a trailhead up Mt. Davidson. It’s only 1.5 miles from our house but the streets get very twisty around the hills. Some are long and some are short.

The fog was still in during some of our hike.

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A really big asparagus?

Mount Davidson is the highest peak in San Francisco, beating out Twin Peaks by 3 or 4 feet. It’s best known for the 103-foot cross on it. Various wooden crosses were built on the hill, but burned down. The city bought the top of the mount in 1929 and built a concrete and steel cross in 1934. No problems till more recent times when lawsuits were filed about the religious nature of a city landmark. The solution? San Francisco sold the cross to an Armenian organization who maintains the cross.

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By the time we found the trailhead, neither of us wanted to go on it. But we headed directly back to the trail 3 days later.

April 3-8    Adjusting

Being home in San Francisco required a few adjustments. No gym. No films out. No museums. No restaurants. Once I had unloaded our copious groceries from the RV fridge into our empty refrigerator at home, they didn’t look quite so copious. On Friday, we ordered a pizza and were happy that our favorite pizza purveyor, Haystack Restaurant, had reopened from it’s long remodel and was now delivering.

On Monday, Dave took the RV down to Mom’s house, where he can wash it on a level street. I drove the Rav down later. I stopped at my favorite alcohol store, Total Wines in Daly City. Not open – their hours have changed.

We had told Dave’s Mom that we wouldn’t come in to eat lunch with her because of Coronavirus. She wanted us to come in anyway. I said we could talk to her from across the garage. Later, using a cane instead of her walker, she shakily came outside and down her driveway to talk to us. She wanted help turning around and heading back inside but I told her I couldn’t touch her. So I hovered behind her as she laboriously made her way back inside.  We got the RV back to its spot in Foster City and rewarded ourselves with Carls Jr. hamburgers, a rare treat for us.

Once home, I planned a menu, made a list that contained all the paper and cleaning products we couldn’t find on the road. Our local Safeway had senior days on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 a.m. so I got up way too early on Tuesday, gulped down some coffee and was in a long line by 6:45.

It took 45 minutes to reach the store. It seemed like they were allowing about 30-40 people in the store. After that, one person could enter only after one person left. Luckily, I wore a warm jacket and had mittens because it was chilly out there. I finally was rolling down the aisles, heading first to the cleaning and paper products. That aisle was already cleaned out of what I wanted except for some large packages of toilet paper. One thing off my Covid list; I have enough for at least 6 weeks. As I began the rest of the shopping, I decided I better buy more meat than I had initially planned; I could easily freeze it. I also bought 8 bottles of wine since going back to Total Wines was inconvenient. Total bill: $307! Yikes! We are lucky that we don’t have to worry about putting food on the table. Plus, that should last for quite a while.

I left the store at 8:45. It had taken 2 hours to shop. I was very tired.

Later that night, I caught the triple image of the moon rising over the apartment building across the street along with a reflection from our TV.

We quickly fell into something of a routine. Except it was mostly a routine at home without all the other outings we usually pursued. No doctor appointments. No looking up a roofer for an estimate. I did get to check on the chickens that live next to Glen Park Elementary School. Someone in the neighborhood is still letting them out of their coop each day.

April 9   A bad day for Mom

Like most older people (ourselves included), Dave’s 93-year-old mother, Ann, values her independence. She lives alone in Millbrae. She has very bad vertigo and so walks outside with a walker. Since the shelter-in-place order, her six kids have been telling her not to go outside except for walks around her neighborhood. The kids (60 to 70 year old kids) have been doing her shopping and bringing it to her.

But on Friday, she decided to get up early and, despite a chance of rain, walk 1/3 of a mile to downtown Millbrae and get in the early senior line to shop at Safeway. Wearing no mask. She fell badly on the main drag and broke her nose, got two black eyes and a large knot on her forehead. By some stroke of luck, she didn’t lose consciousness and didn’t break anything else. People saw her fall and rushed out to help her. An ambulance was called and she was transported to the hospital in San Francisco that has a trauma center.

Dave got called by the hospital about 2:30 p.m. Although she reached SF General early in the morning, she didn’t have anyone’s phone number and doesn’t carry a phone. (She had Life Alert with her and I don’t know why they didn’t use that to find her contacts.) Somehow, they found Dave’s number.

We went to pick her up. I went inside and got stopped at a station where they asked me the Covid questions and took my temperature. That got 20 feet further where I told a lady behind a glass panel that we were there to pick up Ann. They rolled her out to the car with her walker and she was all ours.

After ascertaining that she was basically okay, we started to lecture her. The worst aspect of the accident was that she put herself and everyone who helped her in danger of catching the Coronavirus. If she caught it, we could catch it from her. Additionally, she was using hospital resources that could be used for other purposes. She just didn’t see that as dangerous.

So, the kids discussed the issue via very long texts and Ann now has a companion visiting for 4 hours per day, six days per week. She was trying to preserve her independence by not telling us she was going out. But by going out unattended, she’s ended up losing some of it.

April 10  Walking west

We were ready to go for our own walk on Friday. We’re missing the gym and gym friends big time. It wasn’t sunny but it also wasn’t hot. That’s better when you have to wear a mask. We dug up some old ones, bought because of the bad smoke from fires in previous years. I tried making a mask cut from an old t-shirt but I couldn’t really breathe with it on.

I’m not sure if the teddy-bears-in-the-window fad is local or national, but we saw quite a few of those.

We are usually on the road in April and miss the wonderful garden displays in front yards. Some were amazing. This is Pincushion Protea.

Many water-wise gardens are full of bromeliads.

April 12-13   A walk in the hills

Easter was quiet. I made a fat omelet, filled with mushrooms and cheese. We read the “big” (not so big anymore) Sunday Chronicle. We called mom. Our friends, Mary and Rick, dropped some Easter goodies at our door. Chocolate eggs – good to eat. Pink Peeps – good for decoration.

To get a good cardio workout, we headed north, into the Glen Park hills. They act as the foothills to Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson. One of our favorite streets, Laidley, is a quiet street with several interesting houses. Or at least, homes that used to be interesting. As homes get more expensive, their paint jobs seem to get more boring. This huge Victorian once was painted purple and pink with a single owner. Now it is 3 condos and is not even yellow – it’s all white. What a waste.

Another interesting house in the area.

This house in 2007. Now it is painted a boring white.

We continued along Laidley until we reached the Harry Stairs, a wooden staircase that ascends steeply, past several homes nestled into the middle of a cliff. The views of the city are amazing from here.

Walking into a more traditional neighborhood, we caught a view of some Easter Sunday leftover decorations.

One more house did capture our attention in the Glen Park hills. This beauty looks like an Escher design.

April 14            Lots of foliage – our back yard

I’m trying to spend time in the back garden the days I don’t hike.  There’s always a lot to do back there. It’s a large collection of low-water grasses that we planted along with a some of the plants that were there when we moved in.

This is a real estate image of our back yard when we bought the house in 2005.

We brought Shinto Bunny from our old house and added a fountain to help drown out the noise from nearby Interstate 280. Dave spent a lot of time maintaining the garden. This is 2009.

The fountain has been a big hit with all size birds, from hummingbirds to robins to ravens.

This is what the yard looked like when we returned after two months on the road in 2016.

I decided to redesign the yard with plants that use less water than grass. It took a lot of digging.

Dave built the paths and the small patio in the back of the yard. What a difference!

This is what our yard pretty much looks like today after the grasses and creeping thyme filled out. I love looking out at it. We saw two ravens bathing in the fountain today.

 

March 28-29       The Road Home

Saturday was the beginning of the trek home. We decided to go north to I-40 by taking AZ-89 through Sedona. Not surprisingly, the usually crowded road was not busy at all. They have separated and narrowed the road so much in the busiest part of Sedona that I felt like the LD was squeezing through.

After town, the road rises a 1,000 feet or more, winding up Oak Creek Canyon.

We finally reached the top and then it was easy cruising to I-40 and 125 miles west to Kingman, AZ.  We stayed in a nice enough RV park with a very nice manager. She told us that she had several older long-timers and that she was doing the shopping for some of them who shouldn’t or couldn’t be in the stores.

The weird highlight of the night was seeing a commercial on TV for Trumpy-Bear, a $40 teddy bear with blond hair and a long red tie. It comes with a flag blanket. Bikers and truckers apparently love Trumpy. Some amusing aspects of this product:

  1. Trumpy Bear is made in China.
  2. The small print includes the message “Sorry, we cannot accept returns of intentionally damaged bears.”
  3. The bear is a grizzly so I guess that makes him the official state animal of California.

Sunday we drove another 200 miles to Barstow, filling up with cheap Arizona gas ($2.06 per gallon!) one more time. We crossed the Colorado River into California and sped along, listening to a dystopian audio book. I-40 had very few cars but quite a few semis.

We stayed in a serviceable RV park outside of Barstow. A quiet night. The news, filled every night with depressing Coronavirus facts and Trump’s “hunch” that this will be over by Easter, is hard to watch.

March 30-31 Bakersfield

The next day’s drive was over the Tehachapi Range into Bakersfield.

Our LD looks tiny next to a big semi

We stayed at the same RV park we were at on March 10. The difference? Now the door into the  reception area was locked and checking in was conducted via an intercom and a mailbox. Everything was sterilized. We were warned we could use the park bathrooms and laundry but they were only sterilized once per day.

We stayed there for 2 nights to get a day off from driving. So, what did we do on Tuesday? We got up fairly early and took a long drive up into the Tehachapi Range.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. When we crossed the mountains on Monday, CA-58 revealed a lot of green hills with only a few patches of wildflowers.  We were hoping there would be more flowers hidden in the hills.

The loop started on the Caliente Bodfish Road. (Bodfish? It’s a town we didn’t get to.) The weather was weird. There was sort of a foggy smog over the hills but there was blue sky with clouds towards the south. The light was nice on the green hills.

Lupine

Lupine

As we got deeper into the hills, the light grayed out and got less interesting.

All the color is sucked out

Everything is spinning

After a while, we reached Twin Oaks, with some large swaths of Goldfields with lots of bare-branched oaks to add dark notes. This appears to be ranch country with lots of cows and horses.

We stopped at a strange Cowboy Memorial but it was closed to the public. There were small skulls on several of the fenceposts.

We ran into a couple of people on horseback, with two dogs, herding about 20 cattle down the road. We followed behind them for 15 minutes or so, marveling at the dogs, keeping the herd going in the direction they wanted.

The 40-mile circuit rose up gradually. The light and the temperature kept changing, which held our interest. We found Lupine and Baby-Blue-Eyes on the hills and a few flowers we didn’t recognize.

Baby Blue Eyes

At the very top of the mountain, there was a small cross for someone who had died at that point.

Finally, the road went downhill precipitously, with lots of hairpin curves. Eventually, we got home, tired but pleased with the day’s take of images.

April 1-2    The Final Push

It was 200 miles from Bakersfield to Casa de Fruta, our last night on the road. The options are to go north on US-99 or I-5. I let Garmin determine our drive and it had us go straight west out of Bakersfield on CA-58 to Buttonwillow, where we pick up I-5. On previous trips, this meant a 20-mile drive on a highway, going past cotton fields. Not this time. The eternal road construction on CA-58 had finally built about 12 miles of bump-free freeway. Nice.

I-5 is straight and the immediate surroundings are either naked dirt or miles of nut trees. We entertained ourselves by listening to more of our audio book, The Drowned Cities. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel that really never talks about what the apocalypse was. It is not a cheery book to listen do during a pandemic but it’s the only audio book we have.

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Dead or alive?

We finally reached the turnoff to Gilroy, CA-152 and all of dryness disappeared as we passed San Luis Reservoir. Then it was 25 miles of deep, joyful, green mountains and canyons with twisted oaks and blasts of golden poppies all over. Wonderful. We passed enormous Henry W. Coe State Park, a place we have never visited; it’s too long a drive for a day hike. Not this time either; it was closed.

We had never stayed at Casa de Fruta before. The RV park is large, with lots of shade trees. Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, almost nothing was open in their large layout, including their produce area, with fruits, vegetables and nuts beautifully layed out. We cleaned the inside of the RV a little more, trying to save ourselves some of the work when we get home.

The next day, 90 miles brought us home around 1:30. US-101 was unusually uncrowded. Traffic didn’t back up at the usual locations. Since parking restrictions have been lifted due to everyone sheltering at home with their cars on the street, we have all the time we want to unload the rig.

We did some unloading and by 4 p.m. I was so tired I could hardly lift my head. I was afraid I was getting sick, but my temperature was normal. Dave suggested it might be caused by forgetting to have afternoon coffee. Talk about addiction!  Dave has been suffering most of the trip. His back is out of whack big-time and his shoulders are giving him trouble as well. A dinner of barbecued chicken thighs and artichokes revived me. John deRoy, our chiropractor, will hopefully revive Dave tomorrow.

We were both happy and unhappy to be home. We like spending time at home but the shelter-at-home command feels so constricting. I know it’s better for everyone so we’ll live with it.

Stay healthy!!

March 25   Off to Dead Horse Ranch State Park

We reluctantly departed from McDowell Mountain Regional Park. What a great place this has been for us. Thank you, Jim and Gayle, for recommending it.

It was 20 miles west to reach I-17 northbound. All the local highways were pretty uncrowded but I-17 had all those delivery trucks zooming along, headed for Flagstaff and other parts. About 30 miles from our destination, the hills starting turning that marvelous deep reddish-brown color.

We turned off I-17 to go west to Cottonwood, AZ and commenced circling about 8 roundabouts. Luckily, traffic was light because it’s no fun negotiating entrances and exits when we’re towing the RAV.

Stopping at the Cottonwood Safeway, I found the usual necessities not in stock. There was a sign saying that seniors could enter Safeway from 6-9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays to shop safely and get first crack at newly stocked shelves. Tomorrow was Thursday.

We had reservations at one of our favorite sites in the Quail Campground, one of several in Dead Horse. At another stay, a Roadrunner would dash across our campground in the late afternoon. Not this time. We settled in and didn’t do much for the remainder of the day.

March 26    The Lagoons

I have an ability to wake up at the desired time when it’s important to me. So I got up at 5:40 on Thursday morning, got dressed, heated up some coffee, and drove the 2.5 miles back to Safeway. It was still pretty dark when I arrived at 6:03 a.m. I shambled towards the entrance along with other seniors. It reminded me of a scene from some zombie horror picture. Entering the brightly lit marketplace, I found….wait for it….nothing that was different from yesterday. Apparently, they hadn’t received restock of anything I wanted.

After I got back to the rig around 7 a.m., we decided to walk around the 3 lagoons in the park. They are home to many birds and we have seen river otters there also. As we got out of the car, we saw a Cormorant or maybe some other type of bird, dive into the water and come up with a fish. As we meandered around the lagoons, there were a few herons, some grebes, grackles and red-shouldered blackbirds. One treetop contained a bald eagle.

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I opened a breakfast bar and two ducks immediately headed for me, hoping for a handout. No deal. We don’t feed birds human food.

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There was a chilly breeze blowing over the small lakes, but it was still quite pleasant. Trees were beginning to leaf out and the clouds added drama to the sky.

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We saw a lot of grackles. They seem to like stretching their necks straight up.

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As usual, I was entranced by the water reflections.

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A heron reflection

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A Dave reflection

We finally returned to the RV and I took a nap to make up rising so early. We hung out until 4 p.m. when we went for a short walk on a trail near our camp. I had forgotten that Dead Horse Ranch has some of the worst trail maps and signs anywhere. Dave uses the AllTrails app on his phone and it usually is clear and works quite well. However, there is almost no correspondence between AllTrails and the trail signs and the trail map they hand out. Most of the trails aren’t that long, but I’d hate to try to follow the map on a really hot day.

The Forest Trail was as unexciting a trail as I have ever been on but it was short.

March 27    Coconino Trail

We woke to a sunny day with lots of puffy white clouds. After coffee and breakfast, we drove up to do the Coconino Trail, a short 1 mile hike that offers nice views of the surrounding hills.

The old mining town of Jerome is nestled into the mountains across the valley. I don’t think I have ever caught a view of the place in full sunlight.

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Tuzigoot, an ancient Indian ruin, was brightly lit by sunlight.

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We tried to follow the trail, using AllTrails and my paper map. Those two sources didn’t agree with each other, or the trail signs we passed. At least AllTrails highlights your entire trek so you know if you’re heading back to your starting point.

There was a different selection of wildflowers along the trail, but they were sparse and small; no large Brittlebushes or expansive fields of Owls Clover.

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We soon got back to our Rav and just as we were unloading our gear, it began to snow ever so lightly. It wasn’t even that cold but it was definitely flakes that would melt as soon as they landed.

 

March 22   Wagner-Granite Mountain-Bluff Trail

Dave selected our next hike that left from our campground. We are hopscotching from campsite to campsite at McDowell Mountain, so we got up early, packed up the Lazy Daze and moved it to the Overflow camp and then set off. We began on the Wagner Trail, that was nice but not spectacular. Apparently, a fire in years past had altered the vegetation. But then we got onto the Granite Mountain Loop Trail (different from the trail we took a few days ago) and the selection of wildflowers improved.

Buckhorn Cholla

One amazing thing was the huge swaths of magenta Owl’s Clover covering the landscape. I photographed some smaller swatches but when we reached the Bluff Trail, a little higher than our surroundings, I saw how much of it was covering the desert.

Palo Verde

Fiddleneck

The rolling hills revealed the variety of grasses that spring rains have encouraged.

Fairy Duster

GOAL!

All of a sudden, I noticed the variety of clouds and con-trails crisscrossing the sky. They are a subject of their own.

As we were crossing a wash on the last leg of our hike, I noticed a large dark object about 20 feet away. It was a desert tortoise. It did not come out of its shell to greet us, but neither did it run away. We didn’t get too close, but a telephoto lens brought it into focus.

March 24     Gateway Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Tuesday turned out cloudless. Too bad; it’s less propitious for photography. We selected the Gateway Trail because it was named one of the best wildflower locations. It starts from the other side of the huge McDowell Sonoran Preserve so it was a 23-mile drive over there. On the way, I asked Dave to stop at the local Basha’s just to do some early morning TP hunting and scored! One tiny 4-pack of Made in USA, soft TP.

The parking lot for the popular trail was quite full when we arrived. We got on the trail around 9 a.m. and it was already warm. The 4.2-mile hike rises 700 feet, which is not onerous, but the rocky path was a pain in the feet. All the trails we’ve been on recently have been even gravel. We brought our hiking poles and they were useful.

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The flower selection was fairly limited but the number of flowering plants was abundant.

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Hedgehog Cactus

Globe Chamomile

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There were many people on the trail. Some of them were people doing a morning run. Some were walking their dogs. Many were women in two’s and three’s, chatting away, not paying any attention to social distancing. It was interesting to eavesdrop for the few minutes I could hear their conversations. The best tidbits I garnered from passing hikers:

“I’m getting married this Saturday and I wanted to invite you to the wedding…” (I never heard if it was going to be a virtual wedding or called off.)

“I’m all about time organization…”

“By the time the sheltering-in-place is over, half of married people will be divorced and the other half will be expecting a baby.”

The trail continued to rise at a steady but gentle incline. We found a few great stands of poppies, when Dave realized we had gotten off our trail a little.

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Phacelia

We started wending our way downhill and found some large, flat rocks on which to eat lunch. The hiking poles are useful for poking the recesses of rocks to make sure there are no rattlesnakes hiding away.

The rest of the trail was a very rocky, downhill slog. My back was aching, which it hasn’t on our other hikes in the area. I think all the walking over loose rocks exacerbates stress on the back.

We made it back and put on the air conditioning in the car. Ahhh! The final stop before the camp and showers was Basha’s. No TP but I got a nice roasted chicken for dinner. One nice thing about the supermarkets is that they have a lot of fresh fruit and veggies and their bakeries and deli’s are still operating.

March 18-19

Wednesday started out cloudy and only got cloudier. I made a fat omelet, full of ham,  for breakfast and then we decided it would be chore day. First, that meant finding a laundromat. Strangely, the large town of Fountain Hills doesn’t have a laundromat. We did stop at the Fountain Hills famous fountain that geysers high into the air. I got in two images before it quit for a while.

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Friends Gayle and Jim told us about the laundry they used to go to, 23 miles away in Mesa. There were about 6 or 8 other people using it. We all kept our “social distance” away from each other, until I forgot, and gave the laundry card, that had about a dollar’s worth of value left on it, to a nice lady who was doing laundry for about 8 people who probably couldn’t or shouldn’t leave their home. That is so kind. Our neighbor at home, Peter, messaged us to say he would be happy to pick up anything we needed. To him, we are the old people next door who should be self-isolating at home. So a life-changing emergency like this one can bring out the niceness in folks.

Bearing our clean, clean clothes, we moved on to locating a battery jump starter, a battery that holds a charge and from which you can jump start your car without another car around. That makes sense for us because we are often drive to the middle of nowhere (or Nothing) when no other cars are nearby. Dave found one at Home Depot but later found it will only work with a power source. We need one that will hold a charge for at least a day, so it looks like another chore day coming up.

After that, we headed for Fry’s to see what we could scrounge up. It was really beginning to rain by then. Fry’s was very busy and no toilet paper or antiseptic wipes were available. Milk and bread were in low supply. I was surprised to see absolutely no potatoes or onions in the veggie department. We could buy all the turnips we wanted though. The clerks tell me that more shipments are coming in but some stuff disappears the minute it hits the shelves.

The cashier said the problem was that all 6 million people in Arizona were shopping at the same time because they weren’t working and the kids were at home. We put our pitiful selections in the car and went to Carl’s Jr. for a 3 p.m. takeout lunch.

Quite the day! The clouds stayed gray and we self-isolated ourselves after a busy day. Since the McDowell office is closed for everything besides checking into the campground, Dave looked online and nabbed us reservations for Friday and Saturday. So it’s back to the Overflow lot on Thursday for an evening.

We had one literal bright spot that evening. A mated pair of bright-red Cardinals (no, not the religious kind) thrashed around in a bush right by our window. They didn’t stay long but it was an exciting few moments.

The rain had ended by Thursday but there wasn’t much sun to be had. We went for a little walk but it was chilly and breezy. It was a quiet day.

March 20   The Granite Mountain Trail

We woke to a cloudless sky and got ready for a hike. Granite Mountain is a big hill that sits all by itself, northwest of McDowell Mountain Regional Park but in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. We drove past a neighborhood, Rio Verde, I guess, with beautiful homes, many gated, some appearing to be ranches and, of course, a very green golf course.

The parking area had some new-looking buildings with restrooms but no water. Needless to say, the hand sanitizer containers were dry. We got on the trail at 9 a.m. The first leg was nice but nothing too impressive. Granite Mountain, at 3,526 feet, rises only 500-700 feet above the trail. It is a very boulder-y hill and the landscape is strewn with its rocky refuse. The area looks somewhat like Joshua Tree National Park.

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114 Fairyduster3622GraniteMtnTrail

Fairy Duster

There were lots of people and bikers on the trail. There were some hiking groups who seemed spaced out and some groups were obviously families, but many duos appeared to be friends, hiking right next to each other. The Coronavirus seems so far away out here. Hiking on a sunny day gives a false sense of security.

115 Phacelia3624GraniteMtnTrail117 Saguaro3638GraniteMtnTrail

The trail closely circles the foot of Granite Mountain. It was interesting to see how the wildflower dispersal changed as we circled from the north to the west to the south to the east. We didn’t see any Chuparosa (or is it Scarlet Bugler?) on the north and west side, then there were numerous clumps of it all over. Of course, Brittlebush grew all over the hills, adding bright notes of yellow to the landscape.

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130 Saguaro3688GraniteMtnTrail

A dead Saguaro

131 Thistle3690GraniteMtnTrail

Bees busy in a thistle

We got back to the trailhead around 2 p.m. and drove back to camp. I then noticed a phone message from Jim and Gayle, friends who live in Fountain Hills. They were on a hike near our campground, so they stopped by to say hello. They are friends with the campground hosts and many of the snowbirds who stay at this campground because they used to spend months at McDowell when they were full timers. Keeping our social distance, we palavered for an hour or so until it clouded up and we were getting a little chilly. It was nice to see them.

It is frightening to watch the news. California Governor Newsom said he thinks 56% of Californians could catch the Coronavirus if really strict lockdown measures are not taken. Another frightening fact is that a lot of younger people with the virus are ending up in the hospital and some are dying. Being young and healthy doesn’t necessarily help you survive. I tried to see if I could order groceries and pick them up from the Fountain Hills Safeway. That certainly didn’t work. After choosing from an inadequate list of items, I finished my list to be picked up. About half of the 17 items weren’t available. When I tried to select a pickup date, none were available for a week. What a waste of time.

March 21      Shopping

On Saturday, we had another chore day. Dave had to return the battery charger and we were going to attempt another shopping expedition. The results from 2 supermarkets: no toilet paper, no sanitizer, no garlic, no pasta, but I did find milk, bread, onions and chicken. I found 1 sad little can of no salt tomato sauce. I took it, since our salt supply is hanging in there.

I did score a single can of antiseptic spray at a gas station mini-mart. But no TP.

 

Arizona (Post #2)

March 13-15   Burro Creek, Bagdad, Wickenberg

It was a pleasant drive. It rained, but not too hard. We were headed for Bagdad, Arizona or as close to it as we could camp. We ended up in Burro Creek BLM Campground. A nice location in a deep canyon and no phone service. It was raining pretty good by then, so we didn’t do much exploring. After we made up the bed, the vent and hatch that is directly over my half of the bed was dripping on the bedspread. This has occurred rarely but I have in the past been awakened by a wet coverlet. I found one of the few non-absorbent items in the rig – a plastic tablecloth. Pinning it to the cover, I had my protection.

Friday the 13th started with sun highlighting the dramatic cliffs looming over Burro Creek. We relaxed and read our books. Later, I went to take a look at muddy, large Burro Creek. Not too pretty and fenced off from the campground.

Our day’s destination was Bagdad, Arizona, a town built right next to a big copper mine. The entire area is mountainous with lots of Saguaro cacti, Ocotillo and plenty of other foliage. There are quite a few wildflowers out, especially by the side of the roads. We turned off towards Bagdad and started to rise on a winding road that had many little flash flood channels crossing it. Only one had any significant water in it.

We finally reached Bagdad and explored the small town, looking for an overview of the huge copper pit. No luck. We called the number that arranges for tours and only got an answering machine. No luck. We sat in the parking lot by a Basha’s grocery store and downloaded our mail and tended to other electronic items.

I went into the store and bought some artichokes. And like 30+ years ago, the cashier told me “I’ve never eaten an artichoke. How do you cook them and eat them?” After explaining the process to her, she laughed and said “I’ve heard them called the California fruit. Are you from California?” I laughed and said that I was.

We decided to head back to camp. I turned the key in the ignition and Friday the 13th reared its ugly head. Somehow, after driving more than 30 miles, the battery was dead. But a gas station was nearby and a nice lady drove over and gave us a jump.

On the way back to camp, we stopped for lunch at Nothing. Then it was back to camp. We lazed around the rest of the day.

It was a nicer day on Saturday, so we went for a walk out of the campground. We passed a group of men and teen boys setting up tents in the group campsite. As we passed, I heard one man telling a kid how to find the door in the collapsed tent: “It looks like a vagina.” What?!

The road crossed the swollen Burro Creek and went up into the hills.050 Campground3424BurroCreekAZ052 MG3403BurroCreekAZIt was quite pleasant, with more wildflowers than I would have expected. Owl’s Clover, Desert Marigolds, Fiddleneck, Chicory, Lupine and some Poppies. We ambled around with no real destination in mind.054 PaloVerde3418BurroCreekAZ056 Mary3427BurroCreekAZ057 Lichen3433BurroCreekAZ058 Lichen3436BurroCreekAZ059 Saguaro3438BurroCreekAZThe campground has been pretty full every night and people seem to be having a good time. One strange thing is that we haven’t seen a single wild animal other than birds in the area. No bunnies, no mice, no deer, no coyotes, no nothing. It seems odd in such a remote area right next to a creek.

We headed back to civilization on Sunday. Wickenberg is a fair-sized town about 40 miles east of Phoenix. We went a campground with cable so we could pick up the news. No dice – the cable just didn’t work. We were disgruntled but not surprised. I went to the local Safeway to shop and found a very busy store that was out of TP, water, paper towels and disinfectant wipes. They were low on milk, bread, soup and beans. They were out of plastic sacks. The bagger, an older man, told me I better go home and grow a garden so I would have something to eat. That was discouraging. Can the country fall apart so fast? For the first time, I’m worried about running out of toilet paper.

March 15-19       McDowell Mountain Regional Park    

After I shopped again at Basha’s and failed to get toilet paper, we decided to go north of Phoenix to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, where we were looking to get into an overflow, non-electric site. Our friends, Gayle and Jim Cummings love this park and when they ceased being full timers, moved very close to it. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing them – they are self-isolating for a while.

As it turned out, we used the overflow campground on Monday night and the reserve campground had a cancelled reservation for Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so we were in for 3 days. Our friend, Rick Lopez, called and told us that San Francisco was under lockdown; people were told not to leave their home unless absolutely necessary. If that’s what it’s like there, we might as well stay out here!

After settling into the overflow area, we spent a quiet afternoon reading, processing images and updating the blogs. The sunset was spectacular, with glowy pink-orange clouds. It is so wonderful to be once again in diverse cloud country.

Tuesday morning looked good for a hike. We got up around 7 and drove to the central staging area from which most of the hikes in the park depart. We were on the Scenic Trail by 8 a.m. or so.  It was perfect weather – sunny with a fair amount of puffy clouds to add shadows on the hills. And there were lots of hills. And they were all covered with Brittlebush, a large plant that starts at ground level with a half bubble of thick, pale green leaves. Long thin stems rise about two feet out of the foliage, ending with small, bright, yellow, daisy-like flowers, maybe 50 or more to a healthy plant. The bushes numbered in the thousands due to the wet spring that Arizona has had this year.

Owl’s Clover

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the path was easy and there were wildflowers all around. What a perfect morning! There were occasional Saguaros and Teddy-Bear and Pencil Cholla, adding different shapes to the landscape. Most of the wildflowers were short and small but there were a lot of them. We had a great time, putting aside Coronavirus concerns for a while.

Barrel Cactus

Saguaro

There were few people on the trail, a few older couples, walking the dogs, a few younger people on trail bikes. We traversed the hills, getting some nice views of the surrounding mountains.

Pencil Cactus

 

 

Looking up a Saguaro


After eating lunch, we descended into a wash and finally found some small poppies. I was pleasantly tired after the 4.6-mile hike. There were quite a few more vehicles in the staging area when we returned around 11:30.

Cholla and Lupine

Mallow

Other than birds and two lizards, I never saw any critters. One weird thing we had seen several times on the trail was scat that was deep gold in color with bits of bright orange in it. What in the heck produced that? We checked at the Nature Center and were told that javelinas (wild pigs) were gorging in a nearby orange grove.

We returned to camp, showered and lolled around, watching teenagers learn how to throw a Frisbee, a dangerous pursuit among the cacti in camp. I thought of Paul Zager, my senior conditioning class instructor at home, who has us throwing Frisbees at almost every session. All the classes in San Francisco have been cancelled but Paul has left us with a great list of stretches we can do anywhere. Maybe the local TV channels should start reruns of the old Jack LaLanne show, where he made his wife, Elaine, do all the onerous exercises. Or the Jane Fonda Show. That might get people to work out at home. For more current inspiration, maybe Shakira could teach belly-dancing.

Later in the afternoon, we brought out the chairs to lounge at our campsite. Since we had some hummus, I bought some Pita chips and we noshed healthily, washing it down with beer and wine.

095 MG1345McDowellSunset096 MG1347McDowellSunset097 MG1349McDowellSunsetWe experienced another nice sunset. Returning to the real, depressing world, we watched the news to hear new death tolls and which countries were blaming the other. Has anyone heard about the virus in Russia. They seem to be staying very quiet about what’s going on there.

 

March 9-10, 2020  Merced and Bakersfield

We departed San Francisco after a stressful day for Dave. He tested the thermostat in the Lazy Daze and it was dead. So he bought a new one that fell apart when he dropped it on the rug. So early on departure day, he went and bought another one. It seemed to work, so we took off for Merced.

We had a great visit with Jeff Denno. It was a beautiful afternoon and we laid out a nice appetizer spread on Jeff’s balcony and enjoyed the sun. Eventually, we went inside and had a leisurely dinner, ending with baked pears with cream and Jeff’s wonderful limoncello. Ahhhh!

We got back to the RV around 10 p.m.  It was chilly, so we turned on the new thermostat. The heat turned on and it got warm, then warmer, then hot. The heater did not go off. So Dave hauled out his collection of tools and fiddled with the thermostat until it worked. The following morning it was chilly, and the thermostat worked well.

Jeff produced a wonderful breakfast with ham, popovers and fresh grapefruit. His brother, Wayne, joined us and we had a lively breakfast, enhanced by the presence of Mac, the cockatiel.

We took off around 10 or 11 (we’re still changing clocks from the change to daylight savings time), headed for Bakersfield. It was cloudy and sprinkles occurred on and off, forcing us to listen to the horrible dragging noise of the RV windshield wiper.

We got to our usual Bakersfield destination, the Desert Palms Resort. Surprise! Two years later, it was now the Shady Haven RV Resort. It was remodeled. It was more expensive. The woman who checked us in had to “certify” our RV because it was more than 10 years old. (Our girl is 15 years old – it’s her quinceanara.) She told us that place had been overrun by meth addicts and they had to evict about 80 people. It didn’t look very different to us.

Dave had noticed that our RV headlights didn’t seem to be working. Something else to fix, but tomorrow. We were done for today. With the cable TV attached, we were duly advised that Kern county, where we were, was issuing a tornado warning. It was raining sporadically  in Bakersfield, but not to worry. The tornado warning was for the Mojave, where we were headed next. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

During a break in the rain, I went outside to make some images. My camera and tripod are light and easy to use.

March 11-12  Ivanpah

Wednesday morning we soon found out we had forgotten the USB connector that plugs into the MacBook Pro. So we can’t download our images. Damn Apple for not having at least one USB port on the laptop. So Dave went off to the Apple store today to find one.

The drive is always nice over the Tehachapi Mountains and we saw lots of wildflowers. When we starting seeing Joshua Trees on the other side, we knew we were in the desert once again. We drove more than 200 miles and eventually ended up at one of my favorite spots in the country – the other-worldly Ivanpah Thermal Solar Plant. Interstate 15 runs right by it, on the way to Las Vegas. We pulled into a bit of BLM land right on the other side of I-15.

Later in the afternoon, we drove for ten minutes to the hill that has a commanding view of the facility.  Our first hike of the trip took about 15 minutes, clambering past barrel and pencilneck cacti, some wildflowers and a purple balloon. The view from the top is unparalleled. The thousands of panels aren’t solar panels. They are simply mirrors that reflect the sun to one of the three towers. The towers heat up, projecting an intense glow and boil water that creates steam that creates energy.

The field is so large, this extreme panorama is only way to display it. It’s effect when you first see it in the desert is absolutely stunning.

It was eerily quiet in the area. The only sound is a strange, periodic creaking noise. We pulled out our cameras and started making images. The clouds were wonderful, adding interest to the scene. We both had that feeling of satisfaction from having recorded something wonderful.

When you turn around 180 degrees, you see two other solar facilities, deep blue in the late afternoon. Between them, like a Desert Disneyland, is Primm, Nevada.

In another direction, long shadows were cast in valley.

As the light dwindled, the glow of the panels wound down in some areas.

Much later, we packed up and returned to the Lazy Daze. Spaghetti and a decent red made up dinner.

The next morning, we were back on top of the mountain before 7 a.m. The light and clouds were even better than the night before and the moon was setting.

The clouds constantly changed the reflected colors of the panels and the mountains behind them. As the panels recede into the distance, they meld together and appear to be waves of bright white, deep blue and every tone in between. If I could build a little cabin on top of this hill, I could stare at this scene for years.

The reflected light turned to gray and white as the clouds moved overhead.

The clouds became very dark.

All of sudden, l looked up from the camera viewfinder and noticed the buttermilk clouds.

Reluctantly, we decided we were finished and started down the hill.

Dave, walking along the road, provides perspective as to how large the field is.

We got back to the rig around 9 a.m., showered, ate breakfast and headed east. The clouds were thickening and it began to shower lightly. Our time at Ivanpah had worked out perfectly.

 

 

New York (Post #6)

October 18      The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

We got a fairly early start after a healthy breakfast. We bought a week-long city Metrocard so that we can ride the subway and buses without worrying about adding money to it. Then we headed downtown to the World Trade Center. It’s an amazing area, with the Memorial and the Museum as well as the rebuilt World Trade Center. We were in New York on 9/11/2001 and haven’t visited the area since then.

9/11 Memoral

Freedom Tower

We waited in line for tickets to the 9/11 Museum, then waited in line to get inside. The first thing you do is descend deeply into a darkened area. We spent some time in the first level down in the building. I was tired before we even walked into the 9/11 Historical Exhibition that follows chronologically the events of that day.

Fittingly, it’s a crowded, confusing space to navigate, with many videos from that day and exhibits of entire fire trucks, bits and pieces of buildings, people’s belongings – just all kinds of things. There was an alcove that showed still shots of people leaping to their deaths from the towers to avoid burning to death. I just couldn’t watch that – it’s horrifying. We were crowded together and I felt somewhat claustrophobic. By the time we exited the museum, we were both exhausted, physically and emotionally.

And hungry. We needed lunch. I suggested a place nearby called Eataly, not knowing exactly what it was. What it was, was a madhouse. A conglomeration of Italian groceries, take out kiosks and sit-down restaurants. We managed to nab a couple of seats at a bar and had an absolutely wonderful pizza with braciole (dried beef). Feeling refurbished, we got some coffee and walked along the river. We ran across the rather strange Irish Hunger Memorial. It informs people about the Irish Potato Famine that began in 1845 and lasted for 7 years. There was a re-created stone cottage and stones from all the counties in Ireland.

Returning to the hotel, we relaxed and nibbled dinner at the hotel lounge. Next up was a performance by David Byrne (former front man for the Talking Heads). The Hudson Theatre is fairly small and our balcony seat gave us a good view of the stage.

When the curtain opened, the scene seemed to be a re-creation of the 9/11 Memorial where David Byrne sat in what looked to be the bottom of a dark well with water sparkling on all four sides. Byrne performed barefoot in a gray suit. Soon a couple of dancers joined him, also barefoot in gray suits. Eventually, as his musical assemblage of percussionists, guitarists, and a pianist moved onto the stage, there were 12 people playing their instruments, all barefoot, in gray suits.

They moved constantly about the stage in various permutations with their pink, black and brown faces, feet and hands standing out against the gray suits. It was fabulous and the audience responded enthusiastically. One hundred minutes later, we reluctantly applauded them off the stage. What an uplifting performance.

We wanted to have a drink in a quiet place after the show and found a dark bar with shining blue specks in the top of the bar. We sipped our Manhattans and basked in the joy that the performance had generated. Later, when I looked for the ladies room, I realized we were imbibing in the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, a famous hangout for Dorothy Parker and her chums. It was a fitting end to the evening.

The Blue Bar in the Algonquin Hotel

October 19   The Met and Central Park

Saturday was a sparkling, sunny day. We exited the Hilton onto 6th Avenue and were totally surprised to see a street fair in front of us. The city had closed at least 6 or 7 blocks of the Avenue of the Americas. It was so strange trotting along the middle of such a busy street. Traffic was allowed across each bisecting street, but still, unusual.

As we went up 53rd Street, trying to find our Metro subway station to go uptown, we passed a very long line of well-dressed people. We asked what they were waiting for and it turned out that the Museum of Modern Art was reopening to members after a long extreme remodel.  We finally found our station and headed uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We were going to meet Ted Gosciewski and Patti Buffolino, long-time friends from my U.S. Customs days. Ted was going to give us a personalized tour of the American section of the huge museum. But we got there around 10 a.m. to see some other areas. We headed straight for the galleries that contain works by the French Impressionists, then walked through the large areas containing Modern and Contemporary Art. Already tired, we found a café and sat down with a cup of coffee.

Our final morning stop was at a special exhibition, The Last Knight: The Art, Armor and Ambition of Maximilian I. Primarily, it was a large collection of armor for men and horses. Noting the weight of some of the pieces, such as 8 pounds for one armored glove, it’s hard to believe they could fight very long. But the artwork was just gorgeous. One full set of extravagant armor was made for Maximilian’s 12-year-old son. I wondered how long it fit him, as he got older. Could they make it larger? And how did they get horses to wear heavy armor?

At 1 p.m. we met Ted and Patti, and Ted gave us a tour of the American Wing. He paints and he is currently participating in a Met program where he creates sculptures based on objects in the Met under the guidance of expert artists.

We were ready for lunch. Since it was such a beautiful day, we walked through Central Park to the Boathouse and sat out on a sunny patio. Afterwards,Ted showed us the boathouse where owners keep their striking model boats, each one about 4 feet long.

Later in the afternoon, we made our farewells and headed back to the Hilton. Michael D’Ambrosio had arrived late in the afternoon, so we caught up with him at the lounge. Michael suggested taking a walk to Grand Central Terminal for frozen yogurt at the Shake Shack there. Dave was really tired and stayed in while Michael and I walked the dark streets of Manhattan.

Reflection of the Chrysler Building

The Helmsley Building

October 20    The Guggenheim and 2 great restaurants

With another complete change in the weather, it was gray and drizzling on Sunday morning. Michael was attending a Carnegie Hall concert. Visiting Brooklyn didn’t sound like fun so we decided to visit the Guggenheim, the spectacular building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We passed quite a Halloween decoration on way to the subway.

The Guggenheim was busy! We wanted to see a photographic exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work and started up the spiral walkway. The walls that keep you from falling into the lobby below are only about 3 feet high, so one little slip….

The place is a maze, with alcoves, large 2-story areas and teeny little rooms. A narrow passage will open up into a sizeable gallery. It’s really neat until you try to find a bathroom or café.

We did find one café but it had no seats available. So we exited the building into a light rain. We were looking for a cozy café and found one after walking a few blocks. Demarchelier looked like a Parisienne bistro, a small place with warm color and art on the walls and a small wood bar. We had very good omelets and relaxed in a vibrant but not chaotic atmosphere. We are both finding that the energy, motion and noise that is so predominant in Manhattan wearies us. Even Market Street in San Francisco has nowhere near the impact of most areas of Manhattan.

Refreshed, we went back out, into the light rain and headed home to relax before our dinner out with Michael. I really liked the menu of L’Express, a French Bistro in the Gramercy area of Manhattan. It was a small place and got quieter as the night wore on. Michael got to exercise his fluent French with the waiter and the food was great. Not very hungry, I had Onion Soup Gratinee and Escargots Bourguignonne (butter, garlic, parsley). It was all wonderful.

Afterwards, the three of us walked from 20th Street back to the Hilton near 54th Street. It was still a little rainy but the 2-mile walk was very pleasant.

October 21   The High Line

Monday was our last full day in New York. The weather turned again and it was warm and sunny. We hadn’t eaten in any diners on our trip, so Michael took us to breakfast at the Flame Diner. I immediately knew it was authentic when we walked in because they had a revolving cake display case by the door.

At the Flame Diner

Resisting the cake, we each had a big traditional breakfast while watching everyone rush to work outside. Sufficiently stuffed and caffeinated, we headed down to the south end of the High Line at Gansevoort Street. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line that is elevated above the street. It’s full of art, plantings and people. It now runs about 1.5 miles and it’s a big tourist draw.

We ambled along in the sunshine, appreciating the variety of architecture styles, standing side-by-side.

There was one building whose occupants didn’t care much for President Trump.

By the time we needed a bathroom, we were ready for coffee. Then more ambling until we reached the Hudson Yards, a very high-end shopping and dining destination. The two very high towers rest on a huge platform built over a large railroad yard for subway car storage. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in one of the cars under this platform.

Dave and I were fascinated by “Vessel” a structure built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. It rises 16 stories and has 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings at various altitudes. The copper just gleams. After looking at it for a while, we decided not to climb it.

The Vessel in front of the top of the Empire State Building

The other amazing structure in the area is The Shed. It is a 170,000-square-foot visual and performing arts center. It includes an expandable 16,000-square-foot shell that uses industrial crane technology to allow the space to expand and contract as needed. The 8 wheels that allow this to happened are each 6 feet in diameter.

The Shed

My neck ached from looking up when we exited the High Line. It was well past lunchtime and we decided to go back to Gansevoort Street to seek out a place to hang out. This area of the Meatpacking District is a fairly quiet plaza, with many brick buildings and old-fashioned Belgian blocks paving a small plaza.

We found Serafina and basked in partial sun on the small patio.  We had salads, all good, and relaxed in the relative peace and quiet. After that, it was back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes to Michael; he was staying for another day or two. Dave and I were departing early the next morning and had to pack everything back into our bags.

October 22   The long ride home

The Airlift shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 6:30 a.m. for our 11 a.m. flight out of JFK. Four and a half hours seemed a little early but we weren’t sure how long it took to get to Kennedy. Thank heavens we had packed the night before because the shuttle arrived 15 minutes early. The phone rang and we were told we had to come downstairs “immediately!”  We scraped everything together and found the driver tapping his foot, waiting for us.

We crowded into the back of the van and off we went. We were dropped at the terminal around 7:30 so we had 3.5 hours to kill. Checking in was easy and we soon were munching a so-so breakfast. Then we just hung out at the gate.

The flight was okay. It was a 6-hour flight and even though we could get up quite a bit, that’s just too much sitting. But we made it home and friends Mary and Rick picked us up. That was nice because it was hot, in the eighties!  They had to wait quite a while for us because of several delays. Right before the plane arrived at an undisclosed location, we were told we would walk down a ramp and buses would take us to a terminal. They never said which terminal. We assumed it was the terminal listed on our ticket. It was not.

After waiting a long time for our checked bags, we got them and went outside. We were waiting at Gate 2. We texted Mary and Rick to pick us up there. They said there was no Gate 2 at Terminal 1. That’s when we found out we were at the International Terminal.

It all resolved itself, they found us and we finally reached our stuffy, hot home. The trip was over. We had a great time but were glad to be home.

 


October 14   Anywhere but the Kancamagus

We headed northeast on Monday, Columbus Day. All the roads were going to be crowded, but particularly the Kancamagus Highway, the gold standard of fall foliage. We had to stop to photograph the “Pumpkin People”. It’s an area thing: set up little scenarios with pumpkin figures.

We wound up at Crawford Notch SP. We went for a relatively short walk along the Saco River Trail.

 

 

Ripley Falls was our next walk. It was very pretty up there with lots of people enjoying the scenery.

We drove back to our motel and collected all our dirty clothes – it was laundry day. We read our books outside the laundry on a sunny fall afternoon. We celebrated the clean jeans with dinner at Deacon Street and called it a night.

October 15    The Kancamagus and problems

Having no more excuses, this was our day to travel the 30 miles of the Kancamagus Highway. But first, we stopped at the laundry to retrieve our laundry bags that I left there.

We got information on a few hikes we could do and began the drive down Highway 112. It runs along the Swift River and it has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. Everyone visiting the area drives it. We figured it would be a lot less busy on a regular work day and it was, but that is not to say it wasn’t very busy. The capacious parking lots were almost full most of the time.

At one of the stops, Dave realized his credit card was missing and that he must have left it in the restaurant last night. He couldn’t call because there was no phone reception so that would wait until later.

At Lower Falls, I was rock hopping, photographing leaves in the dark pools of water. I was changing from my regular lens to my long lens when I dropped the lens cap into the water. I don’t know how I did it, but then I dropped my lens into the water. I stood there for a moment, horrified, and then scrambled down the rocks to retrieve them. The lens was full of water and is probably ruined. Depressing. The remainder of my photography will be done with a long lens or with Dave’s borrowed lens.

We reached Sabbaday Falls and hiked the quarter-mile up to the falls. A lot of the red maple leaves are now on the ground but all the yellows and golds were lovely. The falls runs through a narrow flume and is fun to play with photographically.

It was around 3 p.m. and I was ready for hot coffee and a cookie. We traveled into the pretty town of Lincoln, got a couple of cookies and sat by Pemigewasett River, enjoying the sunny afternoon. Dave called the restaurant and they did have his credit card so that was a relief. My chiropractor called and we discussed a bill which felt strange doing while on the other side of the country.

We started to head east on the Kancamagus. Dave remembered that we had camped at the Hancock Campground in 2008 and we drove in there to take a look at the river that runs next to it. The sun had just gone down behind the mountain but it was still beautiful.

We finally stopped at Lincoln Woods to walk along the Pemigewasett but there wasn’t much light left.

The drive home was lovely as the light got lower and the colors of the foliage softened. I was hankering for Italian food and we found a great little place in Conway with a slide show of Italy running on the walls.

We finally got back to the motel, gathered everything from the car, and got it all repacked into our suitcases. Tomorrow, we head back to Boston and Thursday we head for New York.

October 16-17   Traveling

We hit the road pretty early and sailed south on NH-16, stopping only to photograph Lake Chocorua. We eventually got back onto I-95, stopping for lunch at a Chili’s Restaurant. One remarkable thing is how friendly all the people are in New England, always taking time to talk. It’s a nice change from everywhere else, including our home town.

We arrived at the Wakefield Lakeside Inn to find some cops in the lobby talking to a group of people. It didn’t seem tense or an emergency. The hotel is in the back of a business park . It is unprepossessing, to say the least. Actually it looked like a convalescent hospital. The lobby didn’t help much. The room was fine but our view of the lake was impeded by some type of smudge on the outside. It was pretty gray and cloudy by then.  Weather forecasters were predicting a “bomb cyclone” to hit the Noretheast, with extra heavy wind and rain. We were hitting the sweet spot, arriving in Wakefield before it hit and heading south as it was heading north.

View from Lakeside Inn

After dumping the baggage in the room, we returned the car to Boston Airport. That process went smoothly. Then we made our first call to Lyft to get a ride back to the hotel. It worked perfectly.

After a quiet night of watching the Trump Administration imploding, we slept well and arose early. Another Lyft ride to the Amtrak South Station in Boston took a while because of heavy traffic. The winds and rain had knocked out thousands of homes and businesses and many schools were closed. But we got to the station with plenty of time for coffee and croissants.

The 4 hour train ride was pretty comfy. We watched the wind blowing trees and lakes from the comfort of our seats. The weather was unpleasant when we disembarked at Penn Station in Manhattan. We got in line for one of the new (to us), clean little yellow taxi-vans and marveled at how much worse NYC traffic is compared to San Francisco.

We were welcomed to the Hilton (courtesy of our friend, Michael) and settled into a luxurious, roomy suite. After resting a while, we visited the lounge and dined on crudities, pita bread, guacamole, chicken wings with a few glasses of chardonnay. Bliss! And we didn’t need to leave the hotel.