Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yosemite--Really Big Rocks

I've grown up seeing pictures of Yosemite Valley, but had never managed to visit in person.  Today, after a long drive from Sacramento--including a helping of not seeing the turnoff Google Maps suggested and ending up taking an unscheduled side trip through Sonora, and a ridiculously wiggly road hanging on the edge of plunging hillsides devoid of foliage that might stop the car if you went off the road that turned Tom's hair a little bit whiter--we arrived in the valley of Ansel Adams fame.

El Capitan greeted us on the way in, sheer granite face gleaming in the early November sunshine.  Half Dome stands at the foot of the valley, catching the setting sun in shades of gold, atop its slate gray base untouched by the light.  The valley itself is not especially long, at least in the kind of terms I think of for national parks, and a small percentage of Yosemite National Park itself, but the concentrated spectacle on show here is boggling.

I am writing tonight in the Awhanee Lodge beside a dying fire in a hearth that is taller than I am.  The lodge is historic and grand, with roofs standing two stories high in the the lobby-level salons.  Earlier I stepped out into the cold to look at the stars.  I've never seen so many.  The view is narrow, given the location deep in the valley, but so deep!  The stripe of the Milky Way so clear I understand better how it was given its name.  Bright stars fading into dimmer, smaller, and more distant.  It made me feel a bit like I could fall off the world and into the sky, and keep on falling forever.

I'm looking forward to spending more time in the out-of-doors tomorrow.  We've seen six deer and a number of bird species which were new to me, and I wonder if we'll meet any other kinds of animals.  I could pass on the bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes, but outside of those, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tomorrow is another long drive, to San Francisco this time, and we'll be taking the road that follows the riverbed out of the park.  Tom might not survive another trip along CA-120.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Riverboat and Ziggurat

The sun is setting over the left shoulder of a ziggurat-shaped office building on the west shore of the Sacramento River.  I am sitting on the deck of the Delta King, a steamboat which has been converted into a hotel.  It is moored in Old Town Sacramento, where the architecture speaks of gold rush history and the shops range from chintzy memorabilia to chintzy arts and crafts, with a smattering of candy shops, art galleries, and Old Time Photography studios for flavor.  The sidewalks are boardwalks and the road cobblestone.

It's been quite windy, so my lips were getting chapped.  I didn't pack any chap stick, so while we were shopping in one of the touristy shops, I asked if they had any in stock.  They did!  Quite a selection--Cocoa Puffs flavor, Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavor, Count Chocula flavor . . . given that I didn't really want chocolate or cinnamon lips, I went with Frankenberry.

Some sort of waterfowl is honking in the vicinity of The Hawaiian Chieftain, a tall ship moored just downstream.  The Delta King sits between two bridges, a bright yellow drawbridge to the south and an old rusty railroad bridge to the north, with a steady stream of cars traveling over the top deck.

Today we drove south from Chico to Sacramento down Highway 99.  Saw rice paddies, lots of walnut trees, some carrion birds, and I learned that the impressive trees I've been seeing all throughout the trip are likely live oaks.

I also finally found replacement batteries for my Relief Band, an anti-motion sickness device that works by zapping a nerve in your wrist with electricity.  I've used them before and they're very effective.  With mine now fully operational, I've managed to cut out the Bonine, and am feeling a bit less foggy.  Hooray!

Dinner tonight, and then we start the drive to Yosemite in the morning.  I'm looking forward to seeing the place I've seen so many impressive photographs of in person, and curious to see how my foot will hold up.  I know I won't be able to do the kind of hiking that I'd like to, but hoping that I'll be able to do at least a little bit.  I doubt there will be internet there, so likely no post for a day, but I'll try to catch up after.

Glad for an evening of low-key rest!

Vineyards, and Mountains, and Wal(Nuts) . . . Oh, My!

Yesterday provided a potpourri of new experiences, some awesome, some, well . . . new.

Sitting on my deck in Oakland after writing the last blog post, I watched a significantly drunk, and/or otherwise impaired, woman screaming profanities at a kickboxer working on on a floating dock.  These were complimentary profanities (you're a #$*&-ing badass!).  He invited her over--I'm not sure if he was enjoying the attention or trying to pull a woman who was clearly a bit out of control into a place where he could monitor her--and she raced down the dock and tackle-hugged him.  After more screaming and off-balance swaying, she backed up and raced for the edge of the dock.  He had time to say, "No, don't--" and she had leapt off the edge, fully clothed, into the water.  The good news is that she could swim.  He pulled her back up on the dock and brought her back to the land and monitored her (while she continued to shout about how awesome the Raiders were and how awful the 49er's, and Jerry Rice is evil) until the police came.

I don't have much experience of seeing out-of-control behavior.  Very educational, and everybody ended up okay in the end, (though she was under arrest, I think,) so I don't feel too guilty that I am looking at this as research that I can utilize in my characters.

At a farmer's market in Oakland, I got a henna tattoo, much larger than any I've had before.  I'm enjoying it a lot.  We then headed north toward wine country.

Lunch was at a winery/deli, where we purchased tasty food and ate it at a picnic table on the grounds.  November in California is warm enough that I didn't have to wear a sweater or jacket, though the wind was picking up.

Next stop, Chico.  The road through the mountains was very twisty-turny and I once again had cause to wish I had my driver's license, as I would have been much happier behind the wheel, but Tom did a lovely job and I got to observe the scenery, seeing new kinds of trees and foliage.

In Chico, which I learned grows a lot of walnuts, I got to meet Tina Gower, a writer friend who I have known online for a few years now.  (Look for her Gold Award-Winning story Twelve Seconds in the Writers of the Future Anthology: Volume 29!)  We had a lovely visit, including meeting two of the sweetest children on the planet, and her friendly, and funny, husband Tyler.  It is so nice to meet people in person!  Tasty dinner was eaten, fancy root beer imbibed, and hours of conversation enjoyed.

Now it's time to get back on the road!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Dangers of Flying (on Bonine)

November in Seattle is known for its windstorms.  After a mild October, yesterday morning, the day I was flying out to California, the wind gods decided it was time to remind us they were there.  I always fly with one Bonine pill, due to some motion sickness issues, and a tiny bit of anti-anxiety medication.  I usually function just fine.  But as we were preparing to depart, they were warning us that not just might there be turbulence, there will be turbulence, and it was likely to last for the first 45 minutes of the flight.  Take-off is what bothers me most on a good day, so I took one more Bonine.  To be clear, the box does say 'take one or two' so this wasn't an abnormal dose.

The flight was, as advertised, evil.  The line for the Hertz rent-a-car was, if possible, just as evil.  After waiting in a three-snakes deep line to see one of the five people working the counter (an hour wait for those playing at home,) I went digging to find my driver's license to be listed as a driver on the car.  I don't get motion sick if I'm driving, so that's usually out default for long distances.  That's when I discovered the truth.  My wallet was not in my belongings.

Husband had been receiving persistent calls from a number he didn't recognize that didn't leave messages and, while he finished up the car rental, I started cancelling the cards in the wallet.  Then, my husband realized that just maybe those calls were related to my missing wallet.  Turns out that yes, they were.  Alaska Airlines had found it at the gate and matched my ticket to his phone number and called, but is their policy not to leave messages.  Hallelujah!

A few more phone calls and an awesome set of parents later, my wallet has been retrieved and my ID will be forwarded to me here in California.  JOY!  I can get back through TSA security and get back to Seattle at the end of this trip!

We made our way to The Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square in Oakland.  I am writing this post from the deck in the dawning sunshine, looking out over a stretch of water filled with moored boats and early morning kayakers, toward Alameda Island.

Last night for dinner we went to The Home of Chicken and Waffles, identified as Soul Food, of which I'd never had any.  The food was delicious, the service friendly, "We're just like family serving out guests here," and with a flair for fun and enjoyment.  The waitress took an inordinate amount of pleasure in adding the whipped cream, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and caramel sauce to Tom's dessert waffle.  A high point in a long day.

I then went back to the hotel and promptly slept for the better part of thirteen hours (at least).  Tom went and saw two movies.

With the Bonine (which is apparently a killer drug when used at the higher end of its dosing recommendations) out of my system, I'm feeling alive and energetic and ready for the next stage of the journey.

Chico, here we come!