Trains and Planes and Automobiles, less the trains and planes

Yesterday we joined a several friends for a visit to the California Automobile Museum, located on Front Street in Sacramento. This museum is a gem “hidden” a half mile south of Old Sac. I put quote around hidden because without our GPS map I doubt we could have found it. With all the one-way streets in Sacramento this is one time where three wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.

BD9DC351-9AF0-43C6-B9B3-73B4A0CC2293The museum showcases the old and new in well arranged displays. My personal favorite cars were the red 1985 Ferrari 308 GTS (Magnum’s car), 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster, and 1947 MG-TC (my neighbors car while growing up in Middlebury.) We took part in a scavenger hunt to identify cars with specific details, e.g. “non-skid tires,” “bird on the front,” “made by Walt.” We found them all, with a little help from the docent, who also told us once a month, weather permitting, they take people on rides up through Old Sac in one of their convertibles. What fun!

The California Automobile Museum is well worth the short drive.

The museum isn’t heated. If you go in the winter, take a coat. If you go in the summer go minimalist, it will be hot. Here is another hint, to find it without a GPS go to Old Sac and head south on Front Street. They have free onsite parking, with is a nice touch.

After the museum we stopped at the Delta King for a very nice lunch, it wasn’t their problem I ate too much. We were lucky and found a parking spot on Front Street across from the paddlewheeler hotel/bar/restaurant. There is a public parking garage a block further down the street for the unlucky ones in our group.

Old Sac was pretty busy, the results of a nice, not rainy, Sunday afternoon. Even with the crowds it is always fun to go walk the old west boardwalk and peek into the tourist trap stores. There are some good restaurants and bars along the boardwalk that always promise a good time.

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Aloha – December 2018

Well, we find ourselves back in Hawai’i for the second time this  year, same resort and almost the same room. That’s fine with us, we have no where near exhausted the opportunities on the Big Island. With each trip we find more interesting, educational and just plain fun sights, trips and people.

We arrived Sunday morning, just after breakfast, so we went to lunch instead. We wanted to try Kona Brewing, a microbrew pub in Kona.  If I remember correctly, and I probably don’t, we couldn’t get in last trip. Dawdling slightly we had an early lunch and an excellent porter not too long before noon, but hey, its vacation.

Monday morning found us at the pool. We had lunch in our cabana and aside from winds gusting to 50 mph, it was an excellent day. Actually, the wind added to the entertainment as the lounge chairs kept blowing across the pool area keeping the attendants hopping.

Monday night we returned to Kona for dinner on a balcony overlooking the Pacific to enjoy a beautiful sunset. Foster’s Kitchen was mentioned in a NYT article we saw and definitely lived up to the hype.  Everyone, starting with the reservationist, and continuing  to the hostess and waitress was perfectly Hawaiian, welcoming and friendly.

Tuesday we were back at the pool and a short walk to and along the beach. The winds lessened overnight and the pool was perfect. We opted to not take a cabana as we were going on a tour that afternoon. The pool attendants greeted us as if we were old friends. Let me rephrase that, long time friends.

At 2:20 we met Jeff, our tour guide/driver/waiter/masseur, and headed out to Mauna Kea. Fran booked a small group tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail for their Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour. Jeff stopped in Waikoloa to pick up our pre-ordered dinners at Island Lava Java and headed up, and I mean up. Our Waikoloa resort is only 0 feet above sea level. Jeff told us we would stop at an abandoned sheep shearing station where the tour company had an arrangement with the government to erect a dining tent for their exclusive use.

Jeff efficiently served dinner in the tent. The stop also gave us a chance to acclimate to the altitude. Dinner was served at about 6800 feet above sea level, or half way up Mauna Kea.

After our early dinner we headed out and up. Right after the Visitor Center the paved road ends and only 4 wheel drive vehicles are allowed to the summit. Luckily, our super Mercedes is so equipped. Actually it is 6 wheel drive as the rear wheels are double. The washboard dirt road provided Jeff’s promised massage. The dirt road is about 4.5 miles long, then turns back to pavement. Jeff explained this is due to either dust control, so the mirrors of the telescopes don’t get dirty, OR the dirt road reduces crowd control. Both explanations seemed very plausible, although Ginny, the woman seated next to me, Fran and I thought crowd control was most likely.

Very Large Baseline Array Radio Telescope

We were running ahead of schedule so Jeff took a 5 minute side trip to one of the VLBA telescopes. This is remote controlled telescope, from Socorra, NM., is etworked together to form the largest (Very Large Baseline Array) radio telescope.

Subaru and Keck Observatories

The observatories lie at 13,796 feet above sea level. The mountain of Mauna Kea actually starts 19,700 feel below sea level making this mountain the highest in the world at 33,500 feet, nearly a mile higher that Everest. Do you know how cold it is at 13,796 above sea level? I can tell you, it’s cold. The wind chill is -55 deg F. Wind chill is a measure of how fast your body loses heat.

Piko or sacred shrine on Mauna Kea

Jeff provided parkas for everyone and gloves for anyone who wanted them. I would have taken them but then I couldn’t use my iPhone to take pictures. Having never used my iPhone in cold weather I had no idea the battery would drop from 87% to 3% in a few minutes. The battery didn’t actually die, its just the lithium ion batter doesn’t operate at extremely low temperature, and it was extreme. My spare battery, which I luckily kept in my pants pocket, charged the phone back up to 20% to allow a few more pictures but then it too stopped functioning. We went from 85 deg at our resort to -55 deg at the summit. Amazing.

Sunset Mauna Kea

After sunset, Jeff drove us down to a parking area, out of the wind, on the leeward side of the mountain, thank you Jeff! He set up a Celestron telescope for us to view stars, planets, comets and the moon. I am not sure how big the telescope was, but I would guess somewhere between 8″ and 10″ diameter. For the first time I saw the Andromeda galaxy, the body (although hazy) of a comet, and the Orion Nebula. For the second time I saw the rings of Saturn, although a little fuzzy. It was near the western horizon and we had to look through a lot of atmosphere. The most amazing sight to me was the Milky Way. Of course, every time you look toward the stars you are seeing the Milky Way, unless you happen to see Andromeda. I have seen the Milky Way on dark cold nights in Vermont and it was beautiful, but at 13,796 feet with 6% humidity, the sky was absolutely pristine and the view was outstanding. If you have ever seen photographs of the sky showing the gaseous background of the Milky Way, THAT is what we saw.

On the ride back down the mountain, I mentioned to Fran this was one of the two best tours I have been on in our travels. (America’s Cup racing yacht sailing, in Cozumel, was the other.)

Wednesday, guess what? Pool time until 11, then off to Merriman’s in Waimea for lunch. Peter Merriman created the first of his award winning restaurants 25 years ago and emphasizes local sourcing to support local farmers and fishermen.

We had fish tacos and a fish sandwich. Both delicious. A different style from Coconuts Fish Cafe, which remain our favorite, but until they come to the Big Island, Merriman’s will do very nicely.

After lunch we drove north, through a light rain on Hwy 250, the Kohala Mountain Road.

This is a beautiful, rural, drive that leads towards Hali on the north shore of Hawai’i. To call any road on the Big Island “rural” is almost redundant, but when there is a house every mile or two, this was truly rural. It was also very well maintained and an easy drive.

In Kapaau we turned right, past the statue of King Kamekameha and then turned left towards a county park on the shore.

With only a truck or two in the parking lot, we had the place to ourselves and it was beautiful. The wind was blowing and surf was high.

Less than an hour’s drive later we were back “home” in Waikoloa for dinner at the Lava Lava Beach Club, located right next to our resort. We wish we had ventured over here before. Loud and lively, great food and very nice people. Maybe the best guitarist/vocalist we heard so far. I cannot imagine why this beautiful island attracts the best and most talented people. There must be a reason. Hmmmmm.

At 5:30 the wait for a table was more than an hour so we elected to sit at a “first come” two sided bar opposite a couple from Denver. We compared our activities over our two perfect hamburgers and their fries. They wanted the Volcano Fries but were there just after happy hour, the only time those fries are available.

Check out at 10 this morning. The resort offered us a complementary hour, until 11 am, then off to the airport for a 5:20 flight. The airport is only 30 minutes away so we decided to rent one of the pool cabanas for the day. The rental fee included two Mai Tais. “Breakfast” Mai Tais, well, it is the last day of vacation. It turned out we weren’t limited to Mai Tais. Margaritaville here we come. Maybe a cheeseburger in paradise for lunch.

We occupied our cabana from around 8:00 and kept it through checkout and left for the airport at 2:00. The Kona airport is interesting. The concourses and waiting areas are all outside. This if fine if it isn’t blistering hot, unusually cold or a pounding rain, and it wasn’t .

Home and Rosie tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Boo at The Zoo

Do you have any idea how long it has been since Fran and I accompanied a child Trick or Treating, at least one old enough to know they are Trick or Treating?  Today was Boo at the Zoo (Sacramento Zoo, that is.) Grace was in her beautiful princess persona while Vivian was in her nap and Daddy-hold-me mode.

The zoo was filled with pirates, princesses, super humans, Star Wars characters, Harry Potters, unicorns, dinosaurs, pixies, ghosts and skeletons. What fun! What a safe family environment. Kudos for the zoo for conducting a wonderful event for children both small and large enough to resemble parents (and grand parents.) A number of sponsors were present to hand out candy to all the little costumed characters.

The lion was pacing in the front of his enclosure while the snow leopard was lounging on his rocks.

Speaking of rocks, Grace was too small to go up the climbing wall, but really wanted Daddy to climb all the way to the top. (Her hero made it in just about a minute.)

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California Archives Speaker Series

Apparently, respite is actually available from our adversarial, political, media-drenched atmosphere, if you look. Little gems of culture and civilization are available everywhere, if you look. Alternatively, if you have friends who look, and are willing to share, you too can participate in these local diamonds in the dust.

We accepted a friends’ invitation to join them for a lecture at the California Archives Speaker Series featuring Michael Troyan, author of: “Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment.” In addition to being an author, Mr. Troyan is an archivist, not to be image_562258579460525confused with an anarchist. Mentally form your image of an archivist, and fade it into that memory section of your brain reserved for erroneous pre-conceptions. Exchange that image for an enthusiastic, energetic person with access to deep wells of history and the ability to present that information with detail, humor and a personal sense of amazement. Michael’s love of history, the movie entertainment industry, and perhaps even more so, the people he met and interviewed during the course of writing this book becomes apparent as he speaks. If you ever have the opportunity to attend Michael’s presentation, take it. If no one invites you to attend, go look for it. It will be well worth your time and effort.

image_562258788060679The California State Archives Speaker Series presents programs three or four times a year. Among others, past presentations included, “Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World”, “Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California’s Central Valley Project”, “John Muir and the Big Trees” and “Arabian Dreams in the American Desert: The Cultivation of Middle Eastern Fantasies in California’s Coachella Valley”.

Visit and bookmark the Archives website and add future California State Archives Speakers Series events to your calendar, then look at it.

Spookomotive Train Ride

October 13, 2018

There are alway fun events in Oldtown Sacramento (OldSac.) Today it was the 2E749F5A-947E-4787-A157-314825E8CB6ASpookomotive Train Ride for Halloween. Kids were encouraged to dress up as pirates and princesses. Ours decided princessi (My plural of princess. I can’t help it, I am a scientist after all.) would be the most fun. (Pirates can be scary.) We boarded the Spookomotive at the rail yards at the Railroad Museum in OldSac. (By the way, if you haven’t been there, this is a fantastic museum, more than worth the price of admission.)

Frances had purchased tickets online so we could bypass the ticket office and go directly to wait in line to board, once properly dressed and coiffed, of course. You know, those old steam engines were really, really big. We, however, boarded a Diesel powered train,  as was pointed out by a 3 year old pirate in front of us in line.

We were able to find eight seats together and after a short delay were on our way. During our ride, we were accosted by one bad pirate and saved by one good one. Ultimately, the good pirate was able to convince the bad one to mend his ways and near the end of the trip he came through each car and apologized for his boorish (my word, not his) behavior. The damage was done for Princess Grace, however. If she had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, she would have used it for the return trip.

The Princessi Grace and Vivian held court in our end of the railroad car and enjoyed the sights as we travelled along the Sacramento River. There were plenty of boats and a few large yachts on the river for an unusually warm October outing. Grace was regal and enjoyed the attention with aplomb. Vivian was, well, ummm, sorry but unperturbed and plump.3F8F15A0-5189-4C2A-B628-57C0F29DB6CE

BUT everyone, pirates, princessi, moms, dads and greats all gots cookies!!

The Spookomotive train ride is a wonderful family adventure. After being assured there would be no pirates present, Grace said she would love to to on the Polar Express around Christmas time. Can’t wait!

Sacramento Speaker Series – Leon Panetta

Wednesday evening we attended the first Sacramento Speaker Series event of the new season. Leon Panetta is an American politician who has served several presidents as Secretary of Defense, CIA Director, Chief Of Staff, Director of the OMB and was a representive from the state of California.

His presentation was informative, occasionally humorous, topical and passionate. However, I doubt pro-Trump attendees would have thought so. Mr. Panetta was a Republican until 1971 when he switched affiliation to the Democrat party.

He left us with several memorable take-aways:

  • The US Government requires real leadership, rather than a chaos derived administration. Our current administration spends too much energy and talent putting out fires created by random thought tweets and not enough time developing a strategy for dealing with world and American issues and problems.
  • The greatness of the United States was built on the labor and talent of immigrants. Barring their entry will choke progress, innovation and continued growth.
  • The loss of true bi-partisan civility and cooperation between the parties. Our elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs.

He succinctly summed up the United States after a meeting with President Bill Clinton when he was left alone in the Oval Office. He stood there, looked around and thought to himself, “Here I am, the son of immigrant farmers, alone in the most powerful room in the world. Only in America.”

But the best line was in response to a question about our current presidents style and behavior: “You are the President of the United States for Christ sakes!”

Reunion – Day 4

Up early as usual, checked the news, as usual, coffee as usual, thank you David for being such a good friend and host this weekend.

We went to see Ginny, excuse me V-i-r-g-i-n-i-a, and her sister Judy (J-u-d-y) who were IMG_6213camping at Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore. Check out “Road Trip!” for more Lake Dunmore experiences. Even owning our own camp, located about a mile south of Branbury on the same side of the lake, we used to go to there when we knew friends, like Ginny, were going to be there. Ginny gave me this photo proving I was there. It has IMG_6211scrawny me, Ginny in the middle and Lianne (z”l) on the right.02D61962-85C5-435A-AF78-F04E949D5CB9

Branbury, as we call it, was a farm at the turn of the century (1900, that is) then became a guest house before becoming a boy’s camp and ultimately a Vermont State Park in 1945. Interestingly our “camp” (i.e. John’s cottage) was built around the same time. David and I were wondering if this development of Lake Dunmore was an effect of soldiers returning from WWII and wanting a refuge from the hectic life in the village (Middlebury.)

I camped at Branbury some time ago. To be honest a long time ago, like 60 or so years ago. Relatives of our next-door neighbors in Middlebury used to camp throughout Vermont and one year chose Branbury. We joined them out of friendship that time, and for other camping trips over the years. My brother and I are still in touch with them, which is a very good thing.

Ginny and her friend Cheryl worked together as teachers for several years. They have been camping two weekends a year (May/June and September/October) for several more years. The lean-to campsite comfortably fits three or four, so the four or five people was a bit of a squeeze, but they are all friends, close friends. David and I brought a dozen IMG_6214donuts from Hannafords, and unfortunately, they were in the campsite, so we had to share. We had a great morning sharing and remembrancing and of course, laughing. The weather was perfect and was just beginning to warm when it was time for David and me to leave for the airport.

I planned to survey waiting passengers to find another subject for a new short story, unfortunately, the only interesting person in the gate area was a young-ish woman, with a cell phone being charged on the counter, and I just used that character on the flight from Sacramento to Burlington.  There is a field hockey team from UC Davis flying back to Sacramento. I flew out with them, but they are on a different flight home. They lost both games they came cross country to play. Too bad. (Go Panthers!)

Maybe I will have more luck in Dulles.

An hour later

Well, no luck in Dulles. The only person of any interest at Gate 8 in Dulles could have been the woman from The Cell Phone but not dressed as well. Maybe they receive the contract from the conglomerate and was returning home.

IMG_6216My flight was on time which surprised me with Florence still hanging around. As I had to walk the length of concourse B at Dulles I had no time for dinner so decided some Salt and Pepper Chips onboard would be adequate. Coupled with a split of Malbec/Cabernet, I would survive. When a flight attendant passed by collecting trash she said the chips were highway robbery. $3.99 for a small bag. She asked if I would like another and of course I said yes. She came back (much to my surprise) with another bag of chips and one of their cheese and cracker snack boxes, asking which I would like. Remember the unattendant from the first flight? She should take lessons.

When I suggested both, she said “don’t treat her like your momma, expecting IMG_6218everything.” She suggested the cheese and crackers to pair with my wine, which she noted was almost gone. I agreed and thanked her profusely. Moments later she returned with another glass of wine letting me know we were almost even. I replied, “Thank you Momma.” I did ask the guy next to me if the flight attendant might consider driving me home now, but no. There were hours left to fly, with Fran and Rosie waiting for my return. At least Fran. Rosie was probably asleep.