Thursday, July 02, 2015

It is now July the 2nd.  Felix and I have been in California for about 6 weeks now and have largely settled into a steady drumbeat of what life here will be like.

After the initial days of setting up housekeeping here at the river things seemed like they were going to lapse into some kind of West Coast version of normalcy.  The first thing that altered that was a very nasty cold.  I had been hugged and kissed by so many people since arriving here and apparently a virus was making the rounds at the time of our arrival and for a few weeks before.  Reports varied from 3-4 days all the way to 3 weeks for the common duration of the symptoms.  Needless to say by day 2 of a bad cough and congestion I was not eager to be part of the 3-week crowd.  My really serious symptoms passed after about 3 days of constantly taking cold pills although the mucus and snot tended to stick around for almost two weeks.

No sooner was I feeling better and thinking that I could start seeing people and hiking again with Felix than I got hit was serious sciatica.  This happens to me once or twice a year and usually passes reasonably quickly but right on top of a bad cold it was a little demoralizing.  I spent a lot of time in the spa next to John’s pool which did make me feel better.  After about 4 days this too passed and I was feeling pretty good.

Life around Carmichael developed into a pattern of relatively early morning walks, usually along either the bike path or horse trails that parallel the river on the South bank, or shorter 3 mile neighborhood walks.  I have discovered that I can walk to Ancil Hoffman Park, tool around a few of the areas there that are dog friendly and not covered with foxtails, and come back here on a round trip of just over 3 miles.  Given how hot it has been, there have been several days when that was all we could squeeze in before it was simply too torrid for Felix to tolerate.  We have met lots of other dogs and owners on these walks.  Felix has become something of a neighborhood celebrity.   Now we occasionally encounter someone who has heard about him from someone else.  They already know his name and age and some even get his breed right.

The trails along the American River have long been one of the best recreational assets Sacramento has to offer but in all the years I lived here I never had the chance to take advantage of them to the degree that I now can.  There is a small county park at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Fair Oaks, the next suburb to our East, where I can park the car in a shady spot, head across the river on a pedestrian bridge and then embark on beautiful trails either upriver (East) or down.  We have now covered the territory from Hagan Park to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on both the bike path and numerous pedestrian and horse trails.  Much of this area is well shaded so even on sunny mornings we are generally pretty well protected from being incinerated.

We are constantly on the lookout for rattlesnakes which are native around here and I gather are coming out of hiding more due to the drought and the search for water.  I haven’t seen one yet but have been warned repeatedly by everyone we meet.  What we do see almost constantly is deer and turkeys.  Felix seems to have decided that the deer, all of which seem rather small to me, must be big dogs and he chases after them in hopes of engaging in play.  Of course to the deer it looks like a wolf looking for his next carnivorous meal.  John is delighted that they run away from him because Felix’s presence seems to have almost completely discouraged them from visiting our property.  It seems like once a week we find one here still but Felix usually chases it around the yard a few times and then it escapes down the very steep cliff that separates us from the river.  I have to admit that I find it amusing to watch.  The deer are never really at any risk for getting caught since they are very fast when motivated and are able to jump quite high.  Even if they couldn’t manage to escape down the cliff I suspect they could make it over the 6 foot fence around the property.

The third week of June marked our first road trip.  We headed down to Aptos via I-5 and the Altamont Pass for a visit with Faye and Jay and all their dogs.  It was a very fun visit with truly extraordinary weather but their Jack Russell Remi was quite bent out of shape about Felix being there.  The other two dogs for the most part didn’t really care but Remi acted like she would eat him alive.  The weather was a shocker because at this time of year the pattern is usually one of cool weather and fog with overcast skies.  The entire time we were there the fog never came in.  Every morning the sun came up on another gorgeous day.  Consequently I ended up with a very sunburned beak from the first walk we did.

One day I put Felix in the car and we drove down to Pacific Grove.  This is a very small town at the extreme Western tip of the Monterey Peninsula.  It separates Pebble Beach from Monterey and is know for being the location of Asilomar, the spectacular conference center operated by the State of California and designed by Julia Morgan in the early 20th century.  As it turns out, one of my old neighbors and a very old friend from the early 70s retired there when he sold his architectural practice in 2003.  He has gone back to painting and has become quite productive and apparently quite successful.  It was great fun to see him and his work and it was nice to spend a half day on the Monterey Peninsula, a location I have always loved.

Back in Sacramento after that trip I quickly got back into my groove of hiking with Felix around Carmichael and Rancho Cordova and getting together with old friends.  For the most part I have figured out how to cook in the kitchen in the guest house.  While I don’t have all the myriad of kitchen devices I am used to having at home I have a lot here courtesy of John’s desire to have the guest house well outfitted.  Once a week or so I have someone over here for dinner.  One night John came for dinner and I invited the couple from across the street over for dessert and wine after.  Just before they were due to arrive Felix’s best canine friend, an 18-month old Bernese Mountain Dog named Ginger, showed up with her owner and one of the household’s two kids.  We ended up having something of a neighborhood party.  John had never met any of the neighbors and fortunately I made enough dessert that everyone could eat and drink while watching the dogs cavorting around the yard.  With the sun sinking and the beautiful colored light that washes the foothills at dusk, it was a really lovely evening.

I am catching up with friends slowly and also seem to have stumbled into doing so pro-bono work on a couple of projects here.  One may retire but when you spent your working life as a residential architect your old friends and clients never fully let you off the hook.  John’s project here is pretty ambitious so it has been interesting to be involved as much as I have been, albeit rather late in the planning process.  Hopefully construction will begin this month.

At this point I have one trip planned to Sonoma this month and will probably go to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe as well.  I think August will be the best shot for a trip to Southern California if I can coordinate with the people I would like to see.  Then in September I will attend Winesong, followed by one last week back here before heading back East via Indiana where I will see my parents and help celebrate their 90th and 95th birthdays.  As these events come to fruition I will post details.

More later. . .

The above photo is what I looked at for the 4 days I sat in the spa at John's dealing with my sciatica.  You could do worse.  Below is the old Fair Oaks Bridge which is now strictly for pedestrians and bikes.  This is a few miles upriver from where we are living.  The shot below is looking East from the same spot from which the bridge shot was taken.

 One hot evening we drove up to Larry and Mary Kaye Young's house for dinner.  Felix liked hanging out around their pool and playing with Chester's (their golden retriever) toys.

 I am a little surprised by fuel prices here.  California has always been more expensive for fuel than the rest of the country because of local taxes but for some reason, here diesel is the cheapest, whereas at home it is the most expensive.  What is that about?  The shot below is a formation of dried clay along the American River Parkway about a half mile downriver (and on the other side) from where we are living.

 If you look carefully (click this shot to see it full size) there is a turkey up on the roof of the main house.  It was early morning and there were three of these galoots wandering round when Felix and i went out to get the paper.  Two of them flew away when he got closer than their comfort zone but this one was lazy and just flapped her wings a couple times and hung out on the roof.

The shot below was actually taken on the old orange Fair Oaks Bridge which I posted earlier in this group.

 Felix like everything about Faye and Jay's house in Aptos.  A pantry with shelves he could inspect was very appealing and nice cold stone floors definitely hit the spot.

 This shot was Felix attempting to look completely innocent after I caught him rooting around behind Jay's storage shed in old construction materials.  I suspect he ate a few items before I caught him.
 This shot was from our first Santa Cruz walk.  I got fried.  My nose peeled for close to two weeks.

 If you enlarge the photo above you can see John's house peeking out through the greenery up on the bluff.  The shot below is an unfortunately blurry one of Felix playing with Ginger, his new girlfriend.

 One day we did a rather longish hike to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and saw some pretty interesting scenery along the way.  I am not sure what this concrete monolith is left over from but it is in the woods next to a very narrow horse trail.  I kind of liked the graffiti.

 As you approach the hatchery you can see the man-made river drop that encourages the salmon to use the ladder that takes them up into the hatchery where they lay their eggs.  It is not very busy at this time of year since they won't start running until considerably later in our visit.  Still, it is an interesting place to visit.  They post informational signs along the trail that flanks the river that explain a lot about what is going on here.

 Below you can see where the fish ladder begins.  The metal walkway actually passes over it, so the fish swim into the concrete channel and then jump up the series of rises until they are up in the large pens where they lay their eggs and ultimately die.  The eggs then are cared for, hatchlings fed until they are ready for release, and then they are directed back into the American River from which they head downstream to San Francisco Bay and ultimately out into the Pacific through the Golden Gate.