Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That Crazy Delta Loop

I read an article in the Bee one Sunday in October by Rick Kushman about the relaxation that comes over you during a drive through the Delta Loop – an area off westward Hwy 12, several miles from Hwy 99 as it passes through Lodi.

My daughter, Vanessa, was visiting and it was pouring rain. We weren’t up for the mall, so we took the drive down 99, in search of relaxation. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, joining other crazies on the freeway during a rainstorm, but we were rewarded with a dry spell while we were actually exploring the Loop and a sort of magical, cleansed quality.

The San Joaquin River is amazing through this area; wide and rambling at many points then more narrow and humble at others. Kushman wrote about the places to eat, but we didn’t visit any of those. Instead, we crawled along at 15 and 20 mph, searching for buried treasure in the marinas along the way. We found it.


This has to be the funkiest stretch of houseboats and battered old yachts on the West Coast; but they all added flavor to the stew of wonders and possibilities. It’s in me to yearn for oddities and that’s how I felt about the Loop. I spied the crumbling houseboats and wooden trawlers with tarps and buckets, obviously in the midst of repair and thought, “How cool!” What I didn’t see was a fisherman with a line in the river off the back of his boat, much to my surprise.

The area made me think of the Mississippi River – or my perception of it – with its lazy days and ways; Mark Twain revisited.

We did find several RV resorts and since I live in an RV, I was enthralled by those possibilities as well. How would I commute to Sacramento? I had to give up the dream – for now.

I became enthralled with a mountain that rose from the fog encrusted landscape across the river from us. I don’t know what mountain it was, but we nicknamed it “Mystery Mountain.” Or I should say, I named it thus, and my daughter grinned at me and went along.

It’s true, what Kushman said, that a “quirky relaxation” overcomes you. I really didn’t want to leave, but Vanessa had a plane to catch, so we headed home. I plan to go back soon, by myself, and walk along the marinas searching for the perfect old houseboat to settle into.

A woman can dream, can’t she?

60 Years Later at Sequoia

My folks just celebrated their 60th anniversary and threw themselves a party! After researching the Sacramento area for just the right place, they settled on Sequoia, a restored Victorian house in Placerville, converted into a restaurant. But it’s so much more than a restaurant! (photo at left by Elite Designs)

It’s a favorite for weddings, with an elegant menu and a plethora of nooks and crannies that can serve as bride’s rooms or gathering spots for old friends.

Here’s a photo of the room my parents booked. Included was a hallway area where the appetizers and desserts were laid out in splendor. They were also given one of those nooks – a tiny room with couches and chairs for sitting and chatting. It was a truly lovely setting.

They were treated very well by Tawnia, the catering manager and ended up really happy with the party. A good time was had by all.

I recommend checking out the website – if nothing else for the ghost stories. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot an unearthly presence (darn it), but our waitress had a story or two to tell.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oklahoma! at the Music Circus

Saturday night, I was treated to a performance of  “Oklahoma!” and boy what a treat it was! I’d never seen a live performance, only the old movie version and I’d forgotten everything except the song “Surrey with The Fringe On Top.”

With the exception of a rather long and boring dream dance sequence just before intermission, this was an interpretation that made me realize the musical had aged rather well. Sure, it’s from a time when Westerns were king in the film world and audiences were used to being taken back to an age of antiquated ideas, but basically it’s boys gets girl story with funny lines and great songs.

I’m mean who doesn’t love “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!”, that ode to the beginning of a glorious day? Or, my personal favorite, “People Will Say We’re in Love”, the words of which are still relevant today, when we struggle to keep our feelings hidden from the prying eyes of an overly curious world.

Ado Annie, played by Heather Ann Rolff, and her hilarious would-be lover, Ali Hakim (Amir Talai), literally stole the show. I found myself anxiously waiting for their reappearances, knowing I’d be chuckling soon thereafter.

Jeremiah James’ Curly was riveting and demanded the attention of the audience as the ardent suitor, with a stubborn streak to match that of his target, Laurey, brought to life by Brandi Burkhardt.

This was also the first time I’d been to the Music Circus and I can recommend it highly. There’s not a bad seat in the house, due to the theatre in the round concept and staging was simple but effective.

Next weekend, the Circus is presenting “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which sounds like a good bet as well. Try the Music Circus, it’s worth the $50 ticket.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Heavenly Wedding

On June 26th, my niece married her long-time love at the top of the Heavenly Valley Ski Run in Lake Tahoe. It was truly marvelous.

My daughter and I were treated to a complimentary stay at Harrah’s for two days, so our preparations  for the big day started there. Then we made our way to the tram station where 160 people had gathered to be lifted to the wedding. There was a tad bit of trepidation in some of those around us, but we both loved the ride.

At the top, we rode a shuttle to the reception hall, which overlooked the valley below and the snow-covered mountains across the way. On the veranda, a beautiful setting for the exchange of vows had been created with orange and pink festively strewn around in the form of fans on the seats and flowers garlanded across the gazebo. The promises were made amid the silence and majesty of the Sierra Nevadas.

Dinner was wonderful in the lodge and a great time was had by all the generations, as evidenced by the jubiliant dancing that went on for several hours on the deck outside.

The tram ride down the mountain in the dark was a bit of an adventure, followed the next day by a barbeque at Pope Beach that was a total blast. The weather was wonderful on both days.

I highly recommend Heavenly for a majestic wedding and wonderful reception; just in case you’re in the market. But make sure you invite plenty of fun folks and a bride and groom as much in love as my niece and her new husband!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Riding Through The Gold Country - Again

I am in the midst of completing a novel set in an imaginary town in the heart of the Gold Country. This fictional town is a combination of the many I’ve visited or driven over the past two years. As I’m closing in on the finish of this book, I felt a trip into the hills would be good for the book and great for me, since I love the area so much.

I wasn't disappointed. This Saturday, as I headed down Highway 99, and veered off on Highway 26 pointing my little car eastward, my senses seemed to come alive. I was traveling with my tape recorder at the ready, and took note of everything that struck my fancy.

I had yearned to see a particular spot between two tiny towns, Jenny Lind and Milton, where there are several piles of tailings from mining right alongside the road. Back in the winter, they had looked particularly otherworldly, with the trees stark and gray against the odd groupings of nearly naked rock piles. Now, with the spring having revived the trees and laden them with green, it was still striking but not the moonscape I had remembered. Still, I stopped and captured their lonely stand in time.

I headed towards Valley Springs, where I stopped to stretched my legs and suck up some caffeine. Then it was back out on the road, headed in another direction – towards Murphys.

I truly love this little town, which is probably the most accomplished of the tourist towns in the area. It has managed to maintain much of its old-time feel and history, while in reality it has been transformed to accommodate the wants and needs of its many visitors. The town didn’t seem overrun with them when I finally rolled in, around 2:30 p.m.

My favorite spot is the wonderful little pool that has been created in the creek that runs through town. There are picnics tables and benches to just sit and watch the kids playing in the cold water. Surprisingly, the tiny water spot had just the right amount of children for such a hot day, all playing nicely with each other. It was a scene from another time.

After observing just long enough to wish I’d brought along shorts so I could walk into the stream myself, I headed towards the main thoroughfare, a cobble-stoned Main Street. There are several shops, galleries and boutiques to visit and in between the occasional historic building to take in. You can ride in a buggy, too, through the cobblestone streets painted every so often with giant four-leaf clovers.

The town is strewn with wine tasting rooms from the many wineries surrounding the area. They are quaintly arranged, some offering music, or a restaurant adjacent. Not being much of a drinker anymore, it’s a facet that doesn’t particularly interest me, but would easily fill an afternoon for the serious wine aficionado.

Murphys Grille offered a late lunch on its tiny porch. I had a marvelous mushroom and caramelized onion tart, and a ringside seat to the meanderings of other tourists, who were taking it all in, too.

After lunch I drove through Mokelumne Hill to Jackson and then Pine Grove, to visit my folks. I’ve got it now. All the little nuances that I wanted to touch on came flowing to me on my day trip and I’m back at the computer, weaving them into the fabric of my story. And I came back refreshed and ready to roll into the next week of everyday life.

May a voyage of renewal be in your immediate future!

Monday, April 12, 2010

In the Lap of Luxury

My daughter came to visit me from Phoenix two weeks ago and we spent four glorious days exploring Sacramento. I got to share so many of my favorite Sacramento things with her: the Davis Farmer’s Market and the arboretum at UCD, the homes surrounding Land Park, the Hoss Academy on Sunrise for dueling facials, the Capitol and JimBoy’s tacos.

We treated ourselves to a night at the Sheraton Grand downtown, in part because as a Sheraton employee in Phoenix she gets great discounts. But I was wholly unprepared for how nice everything was.

We had a great view, incredible cloudlike beds, a great meal at Morgan’s Central Valley Bistro (the atrium restaurant) and probably most importantly, fabulous room service – see the desserts we had delivered, crème brulee and tiramisu.

Since I gave up television a couple of years ago, we watched the first “Dancing with the Stars” of the season in our room and it was a blast.

Sometimes, the very best thing you can do for yourself is let yourself be treated royally. The Sheraton fit the bill.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Trip Down J Street

I was headed to a Chinese New Year event this Saturday. The address was 6000 J Street. I started at 1200 J Street. I had no idea I was headed for Sacramento State University.

It was pure luck I didn’t know. Otherwise, I may have taken the quickest route by freeway. Instead I had the very great pleasure of slowly driving the 48 blocks that wind through downtown, midtown and East Sacramento until I finally arrived at the University.

Somewhere along the way, I figured out that I was headed to the college. But by then I was committed to and enjoying the scenic drive, which I would now highly recommend. I was glad for the lack of traffic as I could turn my head to the right and left and take in the wonderful, stately homes and quirky little cafes and shops I passed. If I hadn’t had a destination, I would have stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants. I contemplated getting out and taking pictures of the lovely homes, but there was essentially no parking on J Street. So, I just enjoyed through my windows.

When I arrived at Sac State, I had no idea where the event was being held and I had never visited the campus before. Consequently, I wandered around until I found the Student Union – University Union. The stroll was terrific, because the grounds are covered with old evergreens and lots of places to sit and contemplate, which I thought I’d do on the way back to the parking structure in which I had left Bebe, my little red Yaris. Unfortunately, it was drizzling by then so I’ll just have to return sometime for that pleasure.

At the student union, the Chinese New Year festival was in full swing, but I stayed outside the hall that was dedicated to the event. One peek inside told me I’d be overwhelmed by the claustrophobia that I sometimes experience. I watched families enter and exit, some costumed, others not and ate a little Chinese food. I’m a people-watcher and this was a wonderful opportunity for that pastime.

When I’d had my fill, I headed back the way I’d come, but along the way I was treated to an encounter with an alpaca, named Twinkle, and her companions, two women who seemed to belong to her. Twinkle looked so incredibly sweet. with her smile-like expression, cuddly exterior and dainty feet (okay, they were hooves) that seemed to be prancing. This was definitely the highlight of my trip down J Street – and beyond.