A Viewmaster Vacation

As a kid I remember my grandmother had the coolest Viewmaster with slides and slides of beautiful scenery and landscape. I would click and click through each slide with my eyes pressed firmly against the back – wondering where these magical places existed and how soon I could get there to see them in person. Maybe this is where my wanderlust soul took route.

As we drove closer and closer to Lake Tahoe, we kept remarking how unreal our surroundings looked. Unreal as in not real. They were like a scene from a movie or…a slide on a Viewmaster reel. And in so many ways, we kept running across a 50’s-style infomercial for traveling across America.

In my last post I mentioned we stayed in Carnelian Bay (the northwestern part of Lake Tahoe). On our first day we traveled over to Nevada, down the east side of the lake as far as Hwy 50. We stopped a million times and took pictures and walked around the various points on the east side (the Nevada side) of the lake. I don’t know if it was the lack of people or the lack of commercial/touristy areas, but this was my favorite area of Lake Tahoe. On the next day we traveled along the western side of the lake – down to the state line on the other side. (On the map below I marked our territory from star to star.) Again, each day included a million stops for pictures and walking (I refuse to say ‘hiking’. I’m not worthy.) We took our time and enjoyed each leg of the journey, feeling completely unrushed.

We started our day with some coffee and breakfast at The Dam Cafe.

There was only a little bit of snow left on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to see from the winter. This past winter was especially rough. Our daily news (in Sacramento) talked about it on the nightly news and the Tahoe locals we encountered this week were eager to talk about how rough it was. Fortunately, it filled the basins with enough water to take our area out of the drought stage and (…how they figure this is beyond my limited brain capacity…) – they say there is now enough water in reserve to support northern California for three years if it never rained again.

Lake Tahoe is biking, biking, biking everywhere. And when people aren’t biking, they’re golfing. Many routes. Many courses.

Driving was sometimes a little tense. The edges of the road dropped over to plummeting basins and valleys below.

There were also plenty of extreme curves in the road. Scott was a trooper. (Especially for someone who is NOT a fan of heights!)

Curves. Drop-offs. And plenty of steering-wheel gripping. 🙂

We get our share of snow in the Midwest. But to see the poles along the sides of the road that are flags for snow plowers to use as guides to where the end of the street is…well that’s a WHOLE lot of snowfall!

We saw a lot of ground squirrels, but no bears. Which I was a little disappointed about. (Although I would completely freeze and be eaten alive. So there’s that.)

We climbed these rocks to see the view from the top. It was fun (and I TOTALLY felt like Jeremy Collins) until the lizards appeared near my hands on the rocks. Then I was ready for the security of my passenger seat and the car’s air-conditioning. -ha!

6’3″ Scott looked like an ant next to the Lake Tahoe landscape.

We didn’t see a lot of it, but occasionally there were acres of burned trees among the incalculable amount of tall, straight, pine trees around the lake’s edge.

I couldn’t get over the amount of packed-in pine trees. And all so perfectly straight and tall!

(There were other beautiful things too…)

And everywhere – hills to be climbed. Pelaton spin class bicycles had nothing on Lake Tahoe!

We thought we’d found a geode….

 

#geodefail

We stopped at a cute roadside garden center along our way. I bought some nasturtium while Scott was off videoing the trees for sale vs the natural trees all around.

 

We also visited Olympic Village in Squaw Valley – home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The town at the foot of the ski runs looked like a European village. I can just imagine it in the winter snow!

A decision we might not make again was our verrrrrrrrrrrry backroads trip to see a waterfall in Fallen Leaf Park. The gravel road was too narrow for two cars so everyone had to take turns pulling off to the side of the road when an approaching car came toward you on the other side. Most of the road was unpaved.

But there were some cool houses tucked inside the forests. Houses that looked like they were begging writers to come seclude themselves there and write an award-winning novel.

It doesn’t look like much in the pictures but if you can find the people walking along the granite edges, you can get a better perspective of the size.

It took us about an hour to get to the waterfall. I’m glad we saw it, but the trip there and back was……rough.

Before leaving Lake Tahoe and heading home, we stopped at Camp Richardson.

It looked like an area frozen in time. Everyone on bicycles. Kids running in and out of the general store, slamming the screened door behind them as they bought candy bars then raced on to their next adventure.

Nearby, campers were set up in the grove of the trees. Camper doors open for the coming and going of family members as they spread out to find awaiting adventures.

It was an amazing few days away. We returned home feeling like we had just traveled three states away – not just an hour and a half. We are already anxious to return soon. Come visit us and we will take you to our favorite Lake Tahoe spots.

Because now…we’re old pros!

sea level: 7000+ ft

We had the crazy idea to travel the breadth of California this week.

We live in the middle of the state. On Sunday we drove 1 hour and 31 minutes to San Francisco (sea level: 0 ft) on the far west side of the state, then on Tuesday we drove 1 hour and 53 minutes to Lake Tahoe (sea level: 7,000 ft) on the far east side of the state. It was a fabulous choice of ‘themes’ for this week of vacation. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous scenery going in both directions.

There is absolutely no way to do any of it justice. And yet, I have multiple blog posts with an excess of pictures trying to at least give some idea. Feel free to blow through them quickly (or blow them off entirely.) I get it…looking at family vacation slides has never been high on anyone’s list. 😉

A co-worker of Scott’s told him we must eat breakfast at Smokey’s Kitchen in Truckee, California. So we got up early and made our way to the cute town of Truckee. This is a town we will definitely revisit – to shop at the shops and also to attend their big Thursday night farmers market/flea market event they host down the center street of town.

I love jadeite!

Obviously I took this picture through a shop window, but we really liked this wood etching showing the differing depths of Lake Tahoe. Very clever idea.

In every town – we find a coffeeshop and a bookstore. *all the heart eyes*

And since we are at Donner’s Pass – how about having a little fun with it at their expense, huh?!

(Actually, many things are named after the Donner Party in this region. But as far as I can understand the situation, this was a party of pioneers that took ‘a new route they’d heard about’, got lost, waited 4 months for help to arrive and noshed on the members that didn’t make it. None of that sounds worth of name-memorializing to me. *shoulder shrug*)

We stayed in Carnelian Bay on the northwest corner of Lake Tahoe. Homes were gently tucked into forests and forests of pine trees. Our Airbnb was a log cabin-type home that had a separate section/entrance for guests. We slept with the windows open and woke up to the sun peeking through the pines that filled our room with Christmas tree aroma. It was delicious! (This was our morning view out our window…)

You will never, ever convince me that the bottom of Lake Tahoe is not painted blue and turquoise – like a backyard swimming pool. The color…….. I’m not even going to try to adequately describe it. It is simply magnificent. Every marketing material photo I’ve seen of Lake Tahoe makes me assume there was some photoshopping done to it. That’s cool. It’s the way things are done. But everywhere we looked, all we saw was ‘photoshopped’ reality. It’s a place you must see to believe.

so. many. pine. trees!

The water is unbelievably clear. In some of these pictures you can see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. The camera didn’t capture just how far out you could see to the bottom. The turquoise shores turned into a dark blue center, the deeper it got.

Scott took some video…

We spent significant time along the northeastern shoreline. Personally, I think it was my favorite spot to see the lake. Most people talk about Emerald Bay (below) at the south end of the lake – and while it was beautiful, there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. crowding around, taking pictures, etc, it was less enjoyable. We were practically on our own up north.

If you squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can see the Vikingsholm Castle on the island, built in 1928 after Lora Knight purchased the island for $250,000. Two hundred workers were hired to hand hew the timber, carve intricate designs, and for the interior walls they hand planned the wood. Much of the materials used (such as the timber and granite rock) came from the Tahoe Basin. There are sections of the Vikingsholm Castle that contain no nails, pegs, or spikes. The castle was heated with six fireplaces – all in a Scandinavian style.

Let me get this straight –  your own island in the middle of a beautiful lake and acres and acres of pines, in a castle with giant fireplaces and decorated in Scandinavian style??! Am I awake? Is this heaven? Please don’t wake me.

Later that evening we were lucky to catch the sun setting as we walked around Tahoe City after dinner. It was an amazing memory.

We quickly ran out of ways to say, ‘That’s SO amazing!’ As always, I am happy we were experiencing this beauty together.

(more about our trip in the final post: A Viewmaster Vacation)

sea level: 0 ft

When we’ve had enough of the ‘bedroom community life’ of Sacramento, our first instinct is to drive over to Berkeley/San Francisco; it always feeds our urban-loving souls.

According to Google Maps, it takes us 1 hour and 31 minutes to get there. Piece of cake. Not to mention the fact that the west coastline is so much cooler than the middle of the state.

It feels good to get lost in the busy crowds of college students getting ready for the new semester as well as rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of revolutionaries past. Those sixties demonstrators that, surely, would be gobsmacked at the state of our political climate today.

Okay, so it’s a horrible picture – but I found a new Berkeley sweatshirt that I hope to wear to some Golden Bear football games this fall. Plus – it’s proof that I wore my Birks in Berkeley. (I think it’s a city ordinance or something.) 🙂

I’ve never been to a college town that doesn’t have a few fabulous thrift stores. Of course it’s always hit-or-miss but this time, I found a treasure.

I mean, their doorway caught my attention first. I have saved years and years of broken dishes to someday learn to mosaic. Someday!

I walked the aisles of this vintage shop, waiting for something to call my name (kidding, not kidding) until I ran across this soft, leather backpack. I checked it over really well but had a hard time finding a pricetag. Finally, I reached into a suede-lined pocket and pulled out a tag: $28. What?! It promised to carefully protect my camera for many years to come. A match made in….well, Berkeley!

Love and peace and bicycle racks.

Before leaving the Berkeley area, I met up with a person I’d met online who was interested in one of my favorite chandeliers. I used it in my shop down in the West Bottoms and was selling it on FB Marketplace. When she said she was interested in buying it and lived in San Francisco, I told her we come to the area often and would let her know when we were coming next.

When we knew we were coming, we decided to meet up at Whole Foods in Oakland. She works for Google and guess where she’s from….

….Lee’s Summit, Missouri! -ha! It was nice to stand and chat about our favorite KC places – and the fabulous California weather.

While we were in Oakland we had to stop by our Arch Nemesis and show them who’s boss!!

(yessss……we brought this flag from home for this specific reason. -ha!)

Thank you for letting us crash your cool town, Berkeley (even though we’re boring suburbanites.) We’ll be back soon.

We decided to try a new-to-us beach in Marin County: Rodeo Beach.

It was a perfect day outside. There were some surfers and the beach was sprinkled with sun-loving families. We weren’t intending on lazing on the beach, but wanted to check out the beach and take some pictures. Scott said ‘take me to the ocean’ so to the ocean we went!

(He takes as many pictures as I do.) (Almost.)

I’m not sure I will ever get used to succulents growing all over the place like wildflowers do in the Midwest. It’s so bizarre for me to see. These succulents were everywhere.

I like rocks. I love to see their crags and formations from years and years of existence.

I love to see a girl in a pink tutu that doesn’t take it too seriously. Dirty and sandy and in perfect use. 😉

Rodeo Beach is also a dog-friendly beach. Is there any joy more pure than a dog playing in waves??!

Title: A Pug in the Pacific

Livin’ their best life. An old Jeep carrying surf boards and an old van equipped with camping pop-outs and cooking gear. Twenty-something and digging life.

Swimmers. Surfers. Sailboats. Fishing boats. Yachts….it really was a perfect day to be near the Pacific.

I can’t believe we get to live so close to the ocean’s shore. This is always a fun daytrip.  We’ve finally stopped doing only the kitschy touristy thing and branched out into the less-known areas of the shore. We continue to be tourists in our own state!

Semi-Stay-Vacation

Scott took a week of vacation this month and instead of packing it with the many activities we’ve done on vacations so far this year, we decided to have a more ‘quiet’ vacation week this time.

We decided to travel the breadth of Northern California. We live in the middle of this area, so we are spending a day on the west coast side, coming home, regrouping, then spending a couple of days exploring around Lake Tahoe on the east side – completely new territory for us! We’re very excited to make our Trial Run trip to Tahoe. It will be our first pancake. Our trial-and-error adventure so that next time, we’ll be even more prepared to know what to do and what not to do. We’re staying at an Airbnb in Carnelian Bay at the northwestern edge of the lake. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

But for today, some Pacific Ocean wandering along the Bay then over to Berkeley to reconnect with our hippie vibe. We love hanging out in Berkeley! I have a quick hook-up with an online friend in Oakland and then we’ll head back home – undoubtedly filled with more information about the Bay Area then what we’ve learned so far. In our other trips into San Francisco we’ve concentrated on all the touristy things to see. This time we hope to hit some more out-of-the-way places to experience the area in a whole different way.

It will be a fun adventure together. No pressures. No timelines. Just plenty of pictures and plenty of reconnection. We’ve needed the time together and are looking forward to being away from all the normal routines for rebooting and revamping our ways of communication and connection.

I hope you’ll enjoy discovering things along with us! Many more pictures to come, I’m sure…

Learning the rhythm of relaxation…

It was an unseasonably cool day today. I know I have a long way to go with the California heat (and truly, I’ve enjoyed the warmth of it) but it’s also nice to have an incredibly cool day with the windows open wide.

We are excitedly anticipating a big group of family coming to see us at the end of the month. But of course that means projects and to do lists. Admittedly, I love to have looming projects ahead. I love the challenge of overcoming and conquering the unknown.

But I am learning more and more the value of stopping. Sitting for a few minutes. No, not just sitting but sitting and unwinding the Monkey Brain of mental activity even when physical activity has momentarily stopped.

“Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and happy life.” – Zach Galifianakis

We DVR’d and watched the CNN show, Chasing Life, last night. Dr. Sanjay Gupta travelled to Norway – in the midst of their three month period of 24/7 darkness – to find out where they find their happiness (consistently ranked the Happiest Nation in the World.)

It was fascinating to hear their stories. Stories thick with personal challenge and empathy for others. Kindergarten classes held in the forest with little play supervision. Can you imagine a U.S. classroom teacher allowing their students to climb high trees?! It made me cringe to watch. And yet the students developed such a strong sense of independence and self-confidence. Not to mention how they helped each other through the process of play.

Dr. Gupta interviewed a ski-survivor. After a horrific ordeal in frozen water…heart stopping for several minutes…she was now alive and participating in all sorts of sports. When asked if she was back 100% her reply floored me:

“I’m not 100% but I am 100% of what I need.”

Do I have 100% of what I need? It is a worthwhile question to hold close for awhile.

As so many others in the world, I have felt such a heavy loss with the sudden death of author, Rachel Held Evans. And just like others, she represents such a moment of hope for me. I was at a crossroads when I found her blog. Having been brought up in a strongly conservative christian church, I was feeling at odds with what I understood God to be and how He was represented within the Church as a whole.

Rachel merged the contradictions for me. She led me through the difficult process of letting go of human church expectations and pointed me more fully to the face of my Heavenly Father. To compassion and forgiveness. To acceptance of all humans as possessing equal value in the eyes of God. I was challenged to look at the periphery of life and notice those that were being left out of the public conversation.

I have been simultaneously grieving her 37-year-old-wife-mother-of-two-young-babies presence in the world while also feeling challenged. When such a strong human advocate leaves a void, how is it best filled?

And with any tragedy, it shook my priorities. I spend more mental space than I care to admit on what my next Instagram picture will be. It suddenly seemed so meaningless. I mean, let me be clear: being on Instagram is not meaningless. Finding inspiration is never unnecessary. Nor sharing inspiration. But the amount of mental space it takes up in my mind is silly.

Everyone knows blogging is dead. Yes. I realize that’s a commonly accepted thought. In my heart of hearts I think it might experience an uprise as people tire of quick and easy and return to a deeper delve into thought and ideas.

I am not good at vulnerability. While I don’t believe in divulging everything to everyone, I would like to go back to a time that I was more open and honest with my blog readers. A braver time. I think there are areas in my life that might be similar to others. Things we tend to brush under the carpet and smile relentlessly.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we tried to work through some of that together? There is a place for frivolity and fiction in life. It’s good to sit back and relax. It’s necessary. But I’ve spent too much time in the realm of easy lately. Self-examination has fallen by the wayside; too wide of a pendulum swing.

Iron sharpens iron we are told. I need your input and advice. I value it. I need to re-learn to do life in partnership with others.

Drawing from Dr. Gupta’s discoveries: Challenges give us confidence and self-worth. It stimulates creativity. Spending time in nature, exercising, developing deeper empathy for others – all foundations of happiness.

I’m up for the challenge. How about you?? We need to take care of each other.

 

Lessons from the Pretty Polka Dot Pink

The Polka Dot Plant. (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

As a general rule, I always suggest people do a quick google search about a plant before they buy it. That way you will know whether or not you can supply what the plant needs: proper lighting, space, etc. But of course occaaaaaaasionally, you just see a plant in the store and want to grab it and bring it home.

Such is the case with this hypoestes. I mean – you had me at pink, right?

After buying it, bringing it home, planting it…I then sat down to add it to my journal of plants that I own. I keep a journal of one-page notes on what each plant prefers for lighting, watering schedule, quirks and even historical data where interesting. I later add notes as a ‘best practices’ for what the plant didn’t like and how (or if) I remedied it.

So it wasn’t until everything was all said and done with this pretty pink plant that I read that one of the downfalls of the hypoestes is their short-lived life. (ugh! head thump!) After a polka dot plant flowers, it will go dormant and then die.

WHYYYYYYYYY?! Why did I bring home a plant with a short shelf life (one or two years max) just to fall in love with it and then have to let it go?!

Just my luck, I moaned, reading the snippet aloud to my husband – complete with a heavy sigh and dramatically rolled eyes!

However…if there’s one thing I have said repeatedly: Plants teach me things. I immediately felt myself detaching from this plant (‘Oh you’re not getting ME to love you! I know you’ll break my heart quicker than others!’) until my meditation practice gave me the old shoulder tap.

Isn’t the whole goal of a meditative practice to live in the now?! Aren’t we to let go of the past and realize we cannot control the future but we can focus, instead, on the here and now?? It seems like such a kitschy comparison but for some reason, it really settled into my thoughts. I’ve spent a few days living with this concept.

You see, I’m someone who finds a writing pen she likes and then buys a whole packet of them on Amazon for fear I’ll run out of the original one I bought and they’ll either be out of stock or – gasp! – no longer making them. I find a pair of jeans that fit perfectly and immediately go back to the store to buy two more. I like to know I have back-up. If you study the enneagram, I am a 5. Fives are constantly balancing their resources. Whether it’s the resource of time or sleep or favored Post-it notes. So a plant with brevity initially made me very uncomfortable.

Until I was reminded in the most circuitous of ways that I simply cannot guarantee any level of ‘resource reserve’ in life.

I breathe in for 6 counts. Hold my breath for 4 counts. Breathe out loudly for 6 counts. I feel the rise and fall of my stomach as breath fills my lungs, then rushes its way out of my mouth. Repeat.

Disappointments are inevitable. Excitement and expectations run furiously through our lives. Our hope is not just in the future. Hope can be found throughout our daily lives. The everyday-ness of living. We take advantage of things we love in the hopes that they will always be available to us. The thought of losing them is paralyzing. But we must bring our minds back to the joys right in front of us. They are plentiful and they are worthy of our appreciation.

I must empty my lungs in order to draw my next breath.

The depletion of one thing allows the new situation to emerge.

Life is a cyclical process. Be it a polka dot pink, an ancient Parisian cathedral, or a mom trying to get the PB&J made fast enough before her crew heads out the door.

Rest in resources unseen. There is Someone refilling our reserves daily, if only we’d stop to notice.

Sideways to Napa – part two

(continued from Part One)

If we saw nothing else but the  countryside along the way, the daytrip would have been worth it (two hours our house.) The grass is a brilliant, neon green right now.

The below picture is a blurry snapshot from the car window as we sped past. But with all the luscious grapes being grown, I’d pick the cactus any day over the eventual wine! 🙂

Working the steep hills with huge, brimmed hats on vs palatial homes sitting up above. It was an interesting contrast.

This bookstore was a dream. Copperfield’s Books. I left with a long list of books to add to my To Buy list. I’m so glad to be connected to Copperfield’s now.

Calistoga was more shop-friendly. Antique shops and knick-knacks. Nearby there is a geyser park and there are natural hot springs mineral spas all around this area of California. To recap: massages, spas, antiques, books and wine. It’s a total package!

I don’t know why but I fell head over heels in love with this adorable travel lodge. It was so cute and neat as a pin. Mid-century greatness. Calistoga Motor Lodge

Matching bicycles for the guests to get around town… So adorable.

Sometimes we feel very lucky when we accidentally fall into a good daytrip. And other times, it seems like God is directing our path… -ha!

Such a beautiful place for a wine tasting, no??

We happened upon Bale Grist Mill – a historic mill built in 1846 by Edward Turner Bale.

This fully restored water-powered grist mill still grinds grain.  Visitors can watch the original set of French Buhr millstones in action when the miller grinds grain into Bale Mill flours and meals. In the late 1800s, Napa Valley farmers brought their grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs to be cleaned and sifted by various types of equipment – a technical wonder for the Pioneers. The slow turning of the old grind stones gives the fresh meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread.

I was equally fascinated by the plants growing on the stone wall out front. If I’m not mistaken, I believe those are pilea growing out front (unless their nasturtium – but that’s not the bloom for a nasturtium.)

Notice the telephone pole below. Then the size of the pine tree next to it. Scott noticed it first – we definitely drove away from palm trees and into the huge, straight pines of the Pacific Northwest.

We took a different way home than the way we came (doubling our adventure.) The way home was perfectly encapsulated in the sign below. VERY curvy. Not dangerously, but it kept us on our toes as we wound down and up and down again, around the lake on the other side of the mountain, Lake Berryessa.

Each time we go through a rocky pass, I wish my daughter-in-law, Ryann, was in the car. She’s a geologist and could explain their formations.

What a day. What a day. What a day. We have gone south, west and north now. Our next destination is to go east to Lake Tahoe (we’re waiting for the snow to die down some first.) We have a lot of family coming at the end of May and that’s on the agenda – as is discovering new things at the spots we’ve already visited briefly.

There are ups and downs about being in a new area of the country. But the endless adventures and explorations are certainly a plus. We live in the middle of many different kinds of landscape and culture. Just like all the movies and lore that has gone before it, Napa Valley was a dream-like place filled with wealth and breath-taking scenery. It’s hard to believe some of these places truly exist.

Come visit us soon and we’ll go exploring again together!