Just a Whole Lotta Lake Tahoe

Fall in Northern California is something special. I am unapologetic about photographing every leaf around Lake Tahoe…

When will I tire of standing on a hill and looking down to the bottom of the lake??

We were a little disappointed the day was so overcast. The white clouds gave a cast to the lake that took away its brilliant blue hue.

You can see every pebble on the bottom.

As Hannah and I ooo’d and ahh’d, I realized Scott was no longer with us. I started looking around and found this curious site…

He found a treasure. 🙂

There are a few years between these two pictures, but the look-what-I-found enthusiasm is just the same!

After spending some time around the northern part of the lake (my favorite spot), we drove along the edge – along MANY winding, hairpin curves – to the southern part of the lake. Emerald Bay is a big touristy spot so there are always lots of people around. We lucked out that there weren’t as many as when we were here in August.

(Did I mention it was a really windy day?!)

We stopped to walk on a beach front off the lake. It’s hard to beat beach sand, clear water and mountains in the distance.

Autumn in northern California is a thing of beauty and contrast.

There was a kid’s playground we had a little fun with too…

Hannah and I walked a beautiful trail from the beach over to a dock area for some more pictures of the lake. It’s hard to stop finding new vistas and new jaw-dropping views.

I mostly try to wait and take pictures of the scenery without cars in the way. But sometimes it’s good to see the vast size difference between ‘regular life’ and nature.

The nearby wildfires were also evident. As the sun set, the hazy smoke in the sky became more and more apparent.

Another day of magnificent granite rock and pine trees unbelievably tall and so long you can hardly bend back far enough to see it all. The aspens were making a spectacular show of things too!

The drive was picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of brilliant color, cool temperatures and memory-making views.

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: 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!

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!

Sideways to Napa – part one

It was definitely one of our weirdest decisions. The electrician came in the morning to look at an outlet that wasn’t working properly. We worked on some house projects then did a bit of clean up in the yard. Then – about 1pm we decided it was actually a really nice day for a drive. Where should we go?? How about Napa.

In the car. Google Maps engaged. To Do list left at home. And off we went…

It was a bit of an odd time to go to wine country. The vines haven’t really started growing yet. But because of that, it was interesting to see the old, gnarled trunks – and wonder how many years they have been producing fresh new vines and grapes for our eventual enjoyment.

We were headed to Calistoga, California. I read in my handy-dandy California guide book (that has post-it tabs sticking out all over it) that Calistoga is a quaint little town to visit. So that’s what we plugged into our GPS.

On our way to Calistoga, however, we saw a sign for a Visitor’s Center and wondered if it would give us any additional information. So Scott scooted over some highway lanes and exited…

…into HEAVEN!

We literally had no idea what exit we had pulled off on.

Yountville, California. First of all, for any fellow Chef Geeks out there, this is MECCA for fine dining. If you’re a fan of Chef’s Table on Netflix, you might recognize The French Laundry. Chef Thomas Keller is a renowned chef who has been named Best Chef in America and has two restaurants with 3-star Michelin ratings. (The only American chef with that distinction.) Plus his bakery has a 1-star rating.

I think we drove for quite a few blocks with my hand over my mouth, gasping. When we finally stopped and got out, I almost felt disrespectful taking a picture of this famous restaurant. Many renowned chefs have spent time here, learning under Chef Keller’s instruction then gone on to open their own fine dining restaurants. (Sidenote: after we got back home I googled to see if there were any prices online…knowing there most likely wouldn’t be. But I found multiple sites that simply stated that a meal for two would run no less than $300 a person.)

Full disclosure: one of the reasons I remember the restaurant from Chef’s Table is that I loved the font of the restaurant title. I guess I’m an even bigger Font Geek than a Chef Geek. -ha!

The sun was SOOOOOO high and bright so taking pictures was a challenge.

But speaking of cool fonts…how about this F O R T Y  F I V E  T E N?! And the amazing white wisteria!

It was fascinating to see sleek, modern wineries as well as old and elegant wineries, all mixed in together. Each were competing for wine tastings and ambiance. One after another after another.

This luxury hotel was jaw-dropping. Wide open art galleries, pristine waitstaff, elegance coming and going. Vintage House – and those black window trimmings…oh my heart.

The wisteria. The phlox. The cherry blossoms. The dogwoods. Everywhere in California – it’s simply been amazing to see spring on the west coast. It is impossible to describe the brilliance and magnitude.

Scott and I were fascinated with these two men…

The man and the baker carrying out bags of bagettes to his car. What’s the story?! I was so curious. Their difference in stature certainly stood out on the cozy sidewalks of this fascinating town.

We weren’t dressed properly for the $300/per meal (…and by ‘dressed correctly’ I mean a checkbook with $600 of disposable loot) but we did have the flakiest, butteriest, delicious’est Michelin-star croissant I’ve ever had at Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville wasn’t necessarily a ‘walk and shop’ type of town. It was filled with luxury everything: hotels, spas, wineries, restaurants. There was a Marketplace area we walked through with a few shops, chocolatiers, cigars and of course – wines.

If you look closely, you can see the bubble above Scott’s head as he counts zeros…

I liked this t-shirt…!

(Is this heaven?!) This side of heaven or the other side – I will be a Vespa owner.

This was a large courtyard that I’m sure is used for events and tastings.

Even the town’s fan-leaf palms didn’t dare have brown-tipped leaves (as are common in all other fan-leaf palms!)

The design of this hotel and spa took my breath away as we drove by on our way into town. As we walked by, we went over to read it’s history…….I shouldn’t have been surprised…

My old alma-mater: USGBC. To receive a LEED Platinum is very difficult. But to do it as a hotel is almost unheard of. It is very difficult for a business like a hotel to prove environmentally sound procedures. Think of the laundry and toiletries alone. So for Bardessono to have achieved the top LEED level is incredible. One of only two hotels in America to have been awarded a Platinum level. Impressive!

And right across the street was this old French Country Inn. Everything about it looked like a cottage tucked away in a the French countryside. Like I said, the old with the new. It was a heady combination and provided lots of visual stimulation overload.

Scott liked this sign in their window stating that in case of an earthquake, this building was not safe to be in.

But at least it’s not a Midwest tornado that we would have to go through this door to the basement. Yikes!

Yountville’s Town Hall…

There were tourists walking all over town – in their linens and flowy skirts. It was like being on a movie set. But along with the tourists were plenty of residents. People out walking their dogs and working in their yards.

Another constant throughout the city (due to the time that we were there…around 4:30pm) were wait staff. Men and women in starched black and white attire. They were getting out of their cars and heading into work. Most of the restaurants were only open for dinner so they were arriving to work to start a busy night. I would like to believe their tips are substantial.

After our jaw-dropping walk through Yountville, we went back to our car to keep driving to our original destination: Calastoga.

(on to the Part Two post…)

San-Fran-Giving

Since Scott has to work on Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated a few days earlier by taking a day trip to San Francisco. It’s what I like to call a Scouting Trip – checking out all the sites we want to visit when friends and family come to town. It’s about a two-hour drive so an easy jog over to the bay. It was a perfect day (except a little bit of smokey haze from the fires.)

It’s hard to not think about earthquakes when crossing the many bridges in and out of San Francisco. Still, they are breathtakingly beautiful.

Seeing this couple sitting at the Bay’s edge made me think of the song, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’. I so badly wanted to know their love story…their life experiences. They were perfectly content to sit at the water’s edge and enjoy the weather, the people and the excited energy all around them.

We drove to the piers and walked around. While others saw seagulls and ships and tug boats and islands, I saw…

“Whoa!, look at these cool boards!!”

And Scott said…

“Those are awesome chains!”

We are a dorky couple.

Is this not a classic picture?! The water was literally feet in front of them. Ships and beauty was everywhere. And not one of them was seeing it.

Meanwhile we were all being side-eyed big time!

Fisherman’s Wharf was so wonderfully touristy. I loved it all!!

My last supper would definitely include crab. I am a big fan! And clam chowder? Gimme it alllll.

The Alcatraz Tour is definitely on our list of things to do in the near future. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but hear my son say he doesn’t buy the idea that no one could swim the distance to escape. He’s convinced it’s a definite possibility! 🙂

Total respect, cyclists. I might be able to swim to my escape from Alcatraz but there’s no way I could bike up these steep hills either!

I love, love, love, love brightly painted front doors. And even though we didn’t seek out the Painted Ladies homes (made even more famous in the Full House tv show) we did see beautifully painted homes along the waterfront. I wonder if their monthly mortgage payment is over $1000?? (hahahahahahahahahhahahaaaa)

And then we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so amazing to stand at the base of such an iconic landmark of America.

The haze was a lens we saw everything through. But it was still mesmerizing. (I only took 6 zillion photos.)

At times, my camera had trouble focusing on anything because all it saw was haze. While some haziness is typical for San Francisco, the wildfire smoke wasn’t helping.

As the sun set, it was time for us to cross this beauty and head back home.

One of the biggest lessons we learned on our San Francisco Scouting Trip was to squeeze the day between rush hour traffic. Poor Scott – he drove bumper to bumper for hours. I’m sure some of it was Thanksgiving traffic as well but it made me wonder how many people must live and work between San Francisco and Sacramento. It took us almost double the time to get home than our quick trip out. That’s okay; it just meant more time in the car together. Music to listen to and reflections to be made.

This car made it worthwhile too. We saw it around Berkeley so I was hoping it was an English Lit professor making his way home after a trying day of lectures and student conferences.

Come visit us soon! We have a few ideas of where we can go explore together.