Circumnavigating Tahoe

by Bob Sparrow

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe. Just the name brings so many great memories rushing back to me. As those who read here know, we have a long history wth ‘The Lake’ and usually try to get up there in October, when most of the tourists have gone home, to visit our parent’s final resting place. Brother Jack & Sharon and their families went up in July, but we were in Europe at the time so we figured we’d make it up next year, until Jack & JJ Budd, long-time travel companions, had a timeshare week they had to ‘use or lose’ at the Marriott Timber Lodge at the base of Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe, and invited us to join them.  We happily accepted.

Sunnyside deck on a summer’s night

The weather was crystal clear; in fact we never saw a single cloud the entire time we were there. The air however was very crisp during the day and more than crisp at night as temperatures dipped into the 20s and high teens. We decided to take a drive around ‘The Lake’, starting the drive up the west shore. The first thing I noticed was the lake level; years of draught had lowered the lake so much that no water was going over the spillway that creates the Truckee River. Now, due to record snowfall in the Sierras last winter, the lake was as high as I’d ever seen it. As we drove past Emerald Bay I recalled the hikes we did from there up to Eagle Lake and the great views it provides. We weaved our way past Meeks Bay, where I could still smell the Coppertone sun lotion our mom use to put on us – in fact I can’t smell Coppertone today without mentally going to that great sandy beach at Meeks Bay. Just prior to getting into Tahoe City at the north end of the lake, we took a quick detour up Chinquapin Lane and drove by the cabin that Uncle Dick bought in 1951 (Suzanne, sorry to report that the picture of our ‘Aunt Marilyn’ is no longer on the cabin wall). As we drove by, so many memories were rushing through my mind. How lucky we were to have such a ‘Summer Place’ in which to play while we were growing up.

Lakeside lunch at Garwoods

We continued up the road less than a mile before we came upon Sunnyside Lodge – now a very haute destination, but back in the 50s it was a rustic lodge/bar with seven rooms and only two bathrooms, one at each end of the hall, a combination liquor store/bait shop and a small marina where Jack and I would fish using drop lines from the pier (and never caught anything!). Today, Sunnyside sports the largest deck on the lake and is the spot to be on a beautiful summer’s day or evening. Continuing our journey, we drove through Tahoe City, where Jack owned The Off Shore Bar & Grill right on the lake, and continued up to Rocky Ridge, which offers the most spectacular view of Lake Tahoe I’ve ever seen and is the final resting place for mom and dad. We checked in with them, soaked up the amazing views and continued on our way. We stopped for lunch at Garwoods, which is one of the only places at the north end of the lake that offers lakeside lunch dining during this ‘shoulder season’. We sat outside on the deck in amazing weather and had the best fish & chips on the lake, or anywhere except Scotland as far as I was concerned.

Visiting Mom & Dad at Rocky Ridge

As we continue our trip, we leave California and enter Nevada and stop by CalNeva, a once very popular hotel and casino on the lake where Frank Sinatra was once one of the owners and the ‘Rat Pack’ made regular appearances. Mom, Dad and Uncle Dick would dress to the nines on a Saturday night and go ‘over the line’ (the California-Nevada border) for an evening of dining, dancing and gambling at CalNeva and come home way after we kids were fast asleep. Today there is a fence around CalNeva as it is in rehab, or rather reconstruction. I’m hoping it will, in time, return to its glory days.

We continued down the east shore, which is mostly Nevada State Park with very few signs of civilization, although it has several spectacular beaches. Between Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook is the Cave Rock Tunnel, created in 1931 and the only tunnel on the trip around the lake.

We pulled into Stateline, south shore Lake Tahoe completing our trip that covered not only the 72 miles around the lake, but the 65-some odd years of wonderful memories.  It was a good day!

Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear Lake?

 by Bob Sparrow

arrowhead queen

The Arrowhead Queen

There are two major mountain lakes in southern California, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, they are both in the San Bernardino National Forest about 25 miles apart. They’ve been sibling rivals since 1922, when a dam was built to form Lake Arrowhead. They are both man-made lakes, with the dam that formed Big Bear Lake constructed back in 1884.

Having grown up around Lake Tahoe, I have a deep appreciation for scenic mountain lakes, so have visited both of these local resorts on numerous occasions, Arrowhead more than Big Bear, primarily because it’s a little closer and esthetically more appealing to me. In fact I had not been to Big Bear in several years, until a few weeks ago, when I  visited my daughter, Dana’s mother-in-law’s place to check out the ‘new’ Big Bear. I say ‘new’ because over the last several years, Big Bear has made a concerted effort to up-grade its redheaded stepchild image, with considerable success I might add.

BigBearVillageWinter

The Village at Big Bear Lake in Winter

As I explored Big Bear, I imagined a discussion between these two alpine lakes going something like this . . .

Lake Arrowhead (LA): “It’s nice to see that you’re finally cleaning up your act.”

Big Bear (BB): “Yeah, well let’s see what you look like when you get to be 132 years old!”

LA: “Why do they even call you Big Bear anyway, there are no big bears around?”

BB: “There used to be lots of Grizzlies here until man hunted them into extinction; and by the way, they used to call you Little Bear Lake’

LA: “But I still have 14 miles of beautiful shoreline.”

BB: “I have 22, which is why you were called Little Bear!”

LA: “You used to have 22 not-as-beautiful-shoreline-as-mine, but it’s shrunk considerably with the drought.”

BB: “Same shoreline, just much more beach now for a population of just over 5,000 to enjoy.”

LA: “That’s nothing; I have a population of over 12,000.”

BB: “So you’re saying that it’s more crowded there than it is here?”

Celebrity-Homes1

Celebrity homes on Lake Arrowhead

LA: “If crowded means we’ve had more star’s homes here like Tom Selleck, Shirley Temple Black, Priscilla Presley, Brian Wilson, Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson, then yes, I guess we’re more crowded.”

BB: “Yeah, well we have the homes of Britney Spears, Mike Judge, who did the voices for Beavis and Butthead, Michael Richards, Krammer on Seinfeld, the metal band, Korn, and Richard Karn, who was the sidekick to Tim Allen in Home Improvement.

LA: “See, you have to explain who your ‘stars’ are; Michael Jackson needs no explanation.”

BB:Michael Jackson needs a lot of explanation, but that’s besides the point. So let’s stay in the show business genre, what movies have been shot there?”

LA: The Courtship of Miles Standish, The American President and Space Jam to name a few.”

Gone

“Frankly Scarlet . . .

BB: “Yeah, a few that are not very well known. Here’s some of mine you might remember: Heidi, Shane, Old Yeller and you may recall this one, Gone With the Wind. Case closed, let’s move on the skiing.”

LA: “We have great water skiing.”

BB: “You are a ‘private‘ lake and many activities are restricted to residents only. I have two marinas where the public can rent pontoon boats, go fishing, rent fishing equipment, take wakeboard or waterski rides, rent kayaks and canoes and ride a pirate ship.”

LA: “Well, the public can take a ride on my Arrowhead Queen and see all the spectacular celebrity homes around the lake.”

BB: “So what happens in the winter? How’s snow skiing at your elevation of 5,174?”

LA: “Well, we have Snow Valley fairly close by”

BB: “But it’s actually closer to me and I’m at 6,750 feet elevation; we also have Bear Mountain and Snow Summit at 8,200 feet elevation; so we are clearly the winter destination. Let’s move on, how’s your summer hiking trails?”

LA: “They’re awesome; I have Goat Trail, Little Bear Creek, Heaps Peak, Crab Creek, Little Green Valley and many more.”

pct

View of Big Bear Lake from Pacific Crest Trail

BB: “Not bad I guess, but I have Heart Rock, Vivian Creek, Castle Rock, Deep Creek Hot Springs, Big Falls, Cougar Crest and, oh yeah the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Mexico to Canada, runs right by me.”

LA: “Fine! Let’s talk about golf; do you have anything to compare to Arrowhead Golf and Country Club?”

BB: “No, not really, I’ll leave the country club set to you. I’ll admit you’re prettier than I am, but your ‘Village’ is looking fairly tired and my ‘Village’ is buzzing with new shops, restaurants and bars; summer or winter this is the place to be.”

LA: “But you said I’m still prettier right?”

Okay kids, enough! The fact is that neither one is a Lake Tahoe, but for my money, if you’re an adventurer, Big Bear Lake is probably your best destination in the summer and for sure in the winter, but if you just want to get to the mountains to enjoy some clean air and the scenery of a beautiful mountain lake, rent a home on Lake Arrowhead or stay lake-side at the luxurious Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa and take a cruise on the Arrowhead Queen.

 

A Birthday Tribute to Our Brother, the ‘Other’ Jack Sparrow

by Bob Sparrow

bar

Jack, blowing out not quite 75 candles

A party was held in our home last week to celebrate the 75th birthday of our brother, Jack Sparrow. He is not only my brother, but my best friend and has been since right after he broke my arm. I was 12, he was 14 and like most brothers we’d have an occasional difference of opinion; fights never lasted too long as he was much bigger and stronger than me, but I was of the opinion that it ‘wasn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it was the size of the fight in the dog’. Yeah, well that philosophy didn’t work out so well on this occasion when I thought I was going to land a big ‘haymaker’ right on his chin, when he put up his arm and blocked it. My forearm hurt for several days after and when I finally went to the doctor and had it x-rayed, my arm was found to be broken. That was our last fight.

Jack BB

6’4″ center at Novato High School

Later that same year, he entered high school and was a three-sport letterman for the next four years. Not just a letterman, he was good . . . real good. I idolized him, he was the best athlete I had ever seen and the great thing about it was he didn’t treat me like a ‘bothersome little brother’, he always had time to work with me to teach me to throw a baseball and football and shoot a basketball.

In his senior year he was 6’4” and 180 pounds – great size in 1959. Aside from getting good grades and being student body president, he stood out in every sport he played.  In basketball, at the center position, his turnaround jump shot from 15’ and in was an automatic. He was the top scorer and rebounder on the team and amongst the leaders in both categories in the league; he was a unanimous All-League selection. He received scholarship offers to play basketball at a number of West Coast schools.

He was the ace pitcher on the baseball team and an All-League selection, who lead his team to a league championship in his senior year. He had a great fastball and a wicked curve; he threw several one and two-hit ball games and was being talked to by major league scouts to continue his career in baseball.

Jack 3 QBs

College of Pacific quarterback

But his love was football. At quarterback he had a rifle arm, could run extremely well and was a great on-the-field leader of the team. In his four years of high school football, he lost only 4 games. Back in 1959 there was a North-South Shrine game, where top high school seniors from Northern California played against the top seniors from Southern California in the Los Angeles Coliseum in the summer following their senior year. Jack was selected to play in that game along with two other quarterbacks from the North, Daryle Lamonica, who was headed to Notre Dame and ultimately a great career with the Oakland Raiders, and Bill Munson, who was headed to Utah State and later drafted in the first round by the Rams and played 16 seasons in the NFL for various teams. Needless to say, it was a very tough competition for the starting quarterback spot. Guess who worked his ass off and was named the starting quarterback for the North? Yep, Capt. Jack; and they won the game!

I was a sophomore during Jack’s senior year and was in awe of the college football coaches and recruiters from all across the country who sat in our living room trying to convince Jack to go to their school. He ultimately chose College of Pacific in Stockton, the school his high school coach had attended and at the time, had a high-powered football program, headed by star running back Dick Bass, who went on to have an outstanding pro career with the Los Angeles Rams.

off shore

Off Shore Bar & Grill – Lake Tahoe

Tragically, Jack broke his neck playing in a game in his junior year in college, yet remarkably came back to play in his senior year. But the neck injury came back to haunt him after his senior year, when he took the physical at the San Francisco 49ers training camp and was told that the risk of re-injuring the neck was too great for him to pursue a career in football.

Jack went on to have an outstanding career in the restaurant management business, capped by owning his own restaurant, the Off Shore Bar & Grill, on the shores of north Lake Tahoe. After he and wife, Sharon, moved to Santa Maria, he was convinced by none other than Fess Parker himself, who became a good friend, to come to work at the Fess Parker Winery, where to this day he still enjoys working part-time in the tasting room.

3

Bob, Suzanne and Jack

Some 25-30 friends and family attended the party to help Jack celebrate his three-quarters of a century on the planet.  He enjoyed some good wine and a few gag gifts, but most of all he enjoyed the friends and family who had gathered on this beautiful southern California evening to wish him well.

You readers know what a awesome sister I have; I just feel so fortunate to have such great siblings – hat’s off to Mom and Dad, who at least got 2 out of 3 right!

 

The Best & Worst of 2015

by Bob Sparrow

Where's waldoTwenty-fifteen was a RED BANNER year in terms of playing ‘Where’s Waldo’ and showing up in a lot of fun and interesting places. I’ve enjoyed having you readers come along vicariously, which has prompted many of you to ask, “Where are ‘we’ going next year?” As of this writing it seems I’ll be lucky to get to the end of my driveway to pick up the paper, so forgive me if I do a little reminiscing of the mostly Good, but sometimes the Bad and the Ugly of my 2015 travels.

1st Quarter

Good: Visit with Suzanne and Alan in Scottsdale where I had my Best Cigar of the Year, A Cuban, from Bob Gett, while overlooking Scottsdale sitting in his and Liz’s beautiful backyard after a delicious dinner.

Bad Idea: Using my National Geographic Expeditions to travel the world ‘through beer’; good at the time, bad the next day.

The Best Place to Live: Completing the ‘Southern California Trifecta’ – breakfast at a golf course in Palm Desert, lunch at a ski lodge in the San Bernardino Mountains and dinner at Duke’s in Huntington Beach.

2nd Quarter

Ladder

Ladder Canyon

HAVASUPAI

Havasupai

Great: My time with the ‘odd couple’, Patrick Michael and Marc Webb, on our hike through the unique terrain of ‘Ladder Canyon’ adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.

Best time with my in-laws (No that’s not an oxymoron): Rochester, Minnesota celebrating Warren & Phyllis Barnes 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Biggest surprise: Hiking in the draught-stricken Grand Canyon in the Havasupai Indian Reservation with Rick & Chris Fisher and finding gushing waterfalls generated from flowing underground springs.

Bad and Sad: the overweight and unfriendly Indians at Havasupai.

Bad prediction: Saying LA would never have an NFL team; it looks like they could have up to three by next season. Good: Rams; Bad: Chargers; Ugly: Raiders

Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal

Bad news: The earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal that destroyed thousands of homes, including Dom’s, our Himalayan guide; fortunately the family survived with no injuries.

3rd Quarter

Best time with the family: No question about it, our family gathering at Rocky Ridge at Lake Tahoe – great place, greater people!

Baltic Cruise . . .

Best photo: the photo I took of the ‘No Photos’ sign as I was trying to sneak into Russia at Passport Control in St. Petersburg

no photos

NO PHOTOS!!!

Best reunion: After 28 years, seeting Mira, our au pair for Dana, in Helsinki

Best & Worse: St. Petersburg – spectacular sights, depressing people

Great traveling companions: Jack & JJ Budd, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and John & Mary Billham and of course Linda

Ugly: The living conditions in Sachenhausen, the concentration camp outside of Berlin

4th Quarter

The Inca Trail

WW

Winaywayna, Peru

Good: Winaywayna – the mini Machu Picchu, without the crowds

Bad: Mosquito bites I’m still scratching

Ugly: Disneyland-like crowds at Machu Picchu.

As 100 year old, Frank Sinatra would have said, “It was a very good year.”

So while I’m working on some adventures for this year, I’m sure you’ll find lots of laughs from our politicians in this election year.

 

 

SPEED SNIFFING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Dash, doing what he does best

Dash, working hard

This is a special day in our house – Dash the Wonder Dog was born three years ago today.  It seems like just yesterday that we brought him home…and that we had a life.  Since he adopted us our every waking moment has been devoted to his care, feeding and entertainment.  As you can see from the picture (left) his job is to lie contentedly on the couch and be cute; our job is to fawn over him.  My husband, who was adamantly against getting a dog for the past 25 years, will now not leave Dash alone for more than four hours at a time.  Golf games have been sacrificed so he can stay home with the dog. He makes me feel like I am Joan Crawford if I schedule activities that take me away during the day AND at night.  Next he’ll be accusing me of using wire coat hangers.  Truth be told, it’s been a great three years and as I reflect on  what we’ve learned from dog ownership it boils down to a few good lessons.

The sniff test

The sniff test

First  – we humans could learn a lot from dogs about assessing new people.  We usually utter something like “the jury is still out” when asked about someone recently met.  We pause, we take our time in forming an opinion, we seek advice from others.  Dogs, on the other hand, get right to the heart of it. They sniff butts.  One good whiff can tell them if the new acquaintance is friendly, sociable and what they had for dinner last Tuesday.  They make instant judgements that I’m fairly certain are right on the money.  The scene at our local dog park is like watching speed dating – one good sniff and the dogs either form a friendship or move on.  I’m certainly not suggesting that we sniff butts, although it might be as illuminating a way to pick a President as our current debate system.  But I do think that dogs are on to something – we should trust our initial impressions.  Usually our gut is a pretty good predictor of who we might want to be friends with and who is to be avoided like Louisiana in July.

Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown and Dash

Second – we have been amazed by the people we have met just because we have a dog.  Every time we take Dash out, which is often, people stop to pet him and talk with us.  In fact my test for whether I would want someone as my friend is not the sniff test but whether they smile when they see Dash.  People who walk right by or who, worse yet, go out of their way to avoid him, would definitely not make my Christmas card list. But other dog owners in particular do stop and while the dogs are sniffing, we generally have some short conversation about how great our dogs are.  We commented last month after one such encounter up in Mammoth Lakes that we have met so many nice people because of Dash.  And even though some of the conversations are very short, the cumulative effect is that our lives are happier because of them.  One that particularly stands out is Elizabeth Brown, who we met in Tahoe two years ago.  She was visiting from England with her parents and grandmother.  She was bored to tears (as she told us) until she saw Dash.  She was so excited to hold him that she asked if she could have her picture taken.  We made sure she asked her parents for permission since we didn’t want to end up on the Sexual Predator list in our neighborhood, and once that was granted we snapped the picture (above).  I know that Dash made her trip more enjoyable and to this day we smile when we see the photo.  We can thank Dash for hundreds of small meetings that have truly enriched our lives.

A true friend

A true friend

Finally, I harken back to a phrase that I heard 30 years ago when I had a cute little mutt – “Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” It goes without saying – and every dog owner knows this – that there is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.  Really, most of the time I don’t deserve the excitement Dash expends when I walk into the room. We all could probably take note from canine behavior – always happy, intuitive to every emotion, kisses on command, and loyalty.  The other day I was in our local pet shop and they had a new supply of the Life is Good tee shirts – the ones with cute dogs and great slogans.  My favorite was “Be Your Dog”.  There’s not a chance I can be that good, but surely it’s a worthy goal.

Since this is my last post before Thanksgiving I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our subscribers and wish each and every one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We truly appreciate your continued support of our weekly attempts to entertain.

 

 

A Tahoe Tribute to Mom

by Bob Sparrow

two glasses

Cheers to Mom & Dad in their final resting place

     This past week was an occasion for another family gathering; our ‘mostly annual’ trip to Lake Tahoe in October. We go in October to miss the tourists, even though we are technically tourists, we really don’t think of ourselves as such, since we’ve been going up to ‘The Lake’ since 1951. That was the year that dear friend of the family and lifelong bachelor, Dick Schieck, or ‘Uncle Dick’ as he was known around our house, bought a cabin about two blocks from the lake in Pineland, 4 miles south of Tahoe City. In those days it was a pretty sleepy resort area, the Winter Olympics had not yet come to Squaw Valley and the Silicon Valley dot com-ers had not yet arrived in droves to drive up prices.

     From 1951 on, every summer vacation and nearly every long weekend was spent at Tahoe, except maybe a few in the winter when Donner Pass, then a two-lane road, was closed due to snow. A few years after I graduated from college, my college roommate and I bought the cabin right next to Uncle Dick’s and in 1979, brother Jack bought a restaurant in Tahoe City and lived there for the next 15 years. Needless to say, ‘The Lake’ holds a very special place in our family history, which is why our parent’s wishes were to have their ashes spread there when they passed.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern – built in 1901

      Our dad passed away 13 years ago and Jack found the perfect spot for his ashes, in the rocks in front of a place we rent, high on a ridge overlooking the entire lake – it’s the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen. Our mom passed away last year, but because of various travel conflicts, we did not get to Tahoe last October, so we took her ashes up with us this year and placed them with our dad’s. Dad would have turned 100 this year, so he is celebrating his centennial by being joined once again by his wife of what would have been 77 years.

Mom 1939

Mom’s high school graduation picture

      As you may have picked up from our blogs over the years, our father was one terrific human being, kind and gentle as could be, always having something good to say about everyone and possessing a great sense of humor. He could make people laugh in virtually any situation. He also knew his way around a good martini. Mom was always the ‘straight man’, more serious, lots of attention to detail, a great businesswoman and the disciplinarian in the family. So of course her personality paled compared to Dad’s – everyone’s did. Her role was always having to be the ‘bad cop’, who could never threaten us with, ‘Wait ‘til your father gets home!” We knew he wouldn’t harm a fly. But she knew how to have a good time as well – she loved music, gin rickeys, and could party and dance with the best of them, and our dad adored her. They had such great times at ‘The Lake’, hitting old haunts like the classic Tahoe Tavern, sitting on the deck at Sunnyside Resort, before it was chic, and going over to ‘The Line’ (California-Nevada border) to dine and gamble at CalNeva, in its heyday, when Frank Sinatra was an owner and the ‘Rat Pack’ made guest appearances. Mom always dressed to the nines on those occasions, especially if they were dining at the very-posh-at-the-time, North Shore Club. But most of the time was spent just sitting on the deck at Dick’s cabin with the BBQ going and a gin and grapefruit juice in hand, enjoying the tranquility of this extraordinary place.

M&D

Together forever

     I always felt that I got my dad’s sense of humor (thank God!), but my fondness for music, writing and the arts came from mom. They made a great team and they made three pretty good kids – if I do say so myself! The three of us can look back and be thankful that we grew up in a wonderful time and place and in a wonderful home, thanks to both Mom and Dad.

It took too long, but their ashes are finally together in a place with an incredible view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a place filled with great family memories. They indeed are now resting in peace together.

 

 

LOOKING BACK FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

by Bob Sparrow

Happy new year 2013 Thank you to my sister, Suzanne for introducing me to the idea of the ‘upside down bucket list’, for it was that concept that has inspired me to look at New Year’s resolutions differently.  Like many, I typically resolve to be a better spouse, parent, friend . . . person and include the requisite increase in exercise and consumption of much healthier food resulting in a painfully slow, if ever, decrease in weight.  Like many, I also have a bucket list of places I want to visit and things I want to do and resolutions always include checking off a few of those items during the ensuing year.  While resolutions and bucket lists look great in late December, reality seems to find its way into the new year and render many, if not most, of our resolutions unattainable.

 So this year, rather than ‘dream’ about the places I’d like to go in 2013, I thought I’d do the ‘upside down thing’ and look back at 2012 and review what I’d done and where I’d actually been.  Then, rather than be disappointed at not doing or getting to the places I resolved to get to, I’d be able to just ‘grade’ myself based on what I’d done and where I’d gone and hopefully put a few checks on that big bucket list.

Twenty-twelve will not be marked in my memory by the many places I visited or the life I led, but rather by the life I lost – the passing inscan0041 February of my best friend, Don Klapperich.  For more than 50 years he was a best friend, a mentor, a singing partner, a moral compass, a confidant, the little voice in my head and so much more.  He was a most talented, intelligent, entertaining and complex man.  He knew me better than anyone and I knew him as much as anyone could.  I miss him dearly.  I regret not spending more time with him, not talking to him more on the phone, not emailing as often as I could have, not going to visit more often.  I suppose it’s natural to now have a better understanding of the tenuousness of life; to better appreciate each day we’re given and to not take those around us for granted.  I don’t know if it’s a resolution, but I will try harder to remember these things – they have become more important to me.

Those who have followed our blog know that I’ve had the privilege of going to some wonderful places this year.  In January I was in Hawaii, on the Big Island to watch the PGA Senior’s golf tournament at Hualalai and then on to Maui to play golf and just watch some sunsets at Wailea.  I had a much too up-close and personal look at ‘senior living’ at my mom’s facility in Sonoma and while I was in the area I hiked through historical Jack London State Park in the rolling hills of Glen Ellen.  I traveled across country on business to Sunriver, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Holyoke, Massachusetts and I HAD to return to the island of Kauai to attend a conference.  I lived on a boat in the harbor in Cabo San Lucas for three days while not photo (77)catching a single fish, but I did get to hang upside down at the Giggling Marlin.  I spent a week in our timeshare in Palm Desert for the 18th year in a row and hope I can play another 18.  I revisited the differences between northern and photo (74)southern California as I returned to the palm and pine trees on Highway 99 out of Fresno, and I spent several days not quite 26 miles across the sea on Catalina Island.  I thought I saw John Lennon at the Laguna Sawdust Festival, twice!  I stood at the lowest point on the North American continent in surprisingly stunning Death Valley, and I stood on top of Half Dome in not-so-surprisingly stunning Yosemite National Park.  And I had my annual martini with my Dad in his final resting place at Lake Tahoe.

That’s an upside down list that I may have a hard time topping in 2013.  I feel so very privileged to be afforded the opportunities to experience all that I have in 2012 and I know I was privileged to have such a great best friend for over 50 years.  It was a memorable year in so many ways. I recommend looking back at your year and the only resolution I would make is that in a year from now you’re going to look back at 2013 – make it memorable.

I know I speak for my dear friend and wonderfully talented sister, which she doesn’t often let me do because she can speak so well for herself, in thanking all of you who read our blog and especially those who send us back comments to let us know our words don’t all end up in cyber space.  May you all have an extraordinary 2013.

 

And now a word from our sponsor

Most of you know I’m now working for Zipz Gear, a unique shoe company, but may not know that I am now writing a ‘shoe blog’ called ‘From the Lipz of Zipz’.  You can find the blog by going to our website at www.zipzgear.com.  Feel free to check out the shoes while you’re there.

 

The Palm & The Pine – A California Story Part II

     So, what about the trees in the picture?  Glad you asked.  If you travel on Highway 99, which goes north-south through the heart of California, about 10 miles north of Fresno, if you look carefully, drive slowly, very slowly, you will see a palm tree and a pine tree together in the meridian.  Nothing else, no grassy park, no plaques, no mention of this being a landmark, no special entrance, in fact, no entrance at all, just rows and rows of oleanders along the meridian, then the trees, then more oleanders, all protected by the freeway guard rails.  Don’t look for a place to pull over to see the trees, there isn’t one. 

     The history of how the trees got there is fuzzy at best.  Most historians suspect they were put there by agricultural students from Fresno Normal School (now Fresno State University – they had to take the word ‘Normal’ out because . . .  it’s Fresno!), around 1915.   We know they were there before 1926 when Highway 99 was under construction.  It was then workers from the Department of Highways (later to become CalTrans) were ready to cut down the trees to make way for the highway, when a crew member (one of California’s first “tree-huggers”) suggested that the highway go on each side of the trees, which it did.

     I was challenged to take pictures of the trees as I drove by (in both directions . . . several times!) window rolled down, one hand on the wheel, one hand on my camera.  As I checked out the pictures that I’d taken I found that they were all a little blurry.  So to get a good look, or rather a good picture, like the one shown here, one would have to illegally pull off to the side of the highway and hope the CHPs are still back at the Dunkin’ Donut cleaning the contents of a jelly roll from their uniform.  Not to be denied a good picture, I got a bright idea.  On my next trip around I pulled off to the shoulder of the highway across from the trees, popped my hood and pretended to be looking under it (which is a fairly common occurrence on many of my road trips), but really I was taking pictures.  Three people slowed down to offer help, but I gave them a big ‘OK’ sign and they moved on; perhaps they didn’t want to get involved with someone who was seemingly taking a picture of his motor.

     The two trees have special meaning for me.  I was born and raised 28 miles north of ‘The City’ (San Francisco) in Novato, and then a teaching job brought me to what my northern friends call ‘the dark side’ and have now spent the past 40 years in ‘The O.C.’ (Orange County) in southern California; so I feel eminently qualified to ponder and pontificate on the state of the two halves of the state.    I have observed this: If you talk to Northern Californians they may refer disparagingly to a number of things in the south, nothing personal, just things like, “How do you stand . . . ‘all the smog?’, ‘all the traffic?’, ‘all the people?’, ‘all the fake boobs?’ And then add, ‘and stop stealing our water!’.  If you ask Southern Californians about the north and those remarks, they say, ‘Chill dude, whatever . . . wait a minute, what did you say about boobs?’  An objective observer might say the ‘North’ is a little up-tight and the ‘South’ a little too laid back.  As the self-proclaimed expert on these things, I have seen these traits exhibited as well as some other differences, but I actually see so many more similarities that it’s not conceivable to me that the state will ever be divided.  When I think of California I don’t think north and south, I think of things like our beautiful coast line, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, the wine country, the San Joaquin Valley, where nearly every crop known to man can be grown.  I think of the creativity in Silicon Valley as well as in Hollywood.  I think of the history of the Missions and of the Gold Rush.  I think of those great writers who lived in and wrote about California, John Steinbeck, Jack London, John Muir, Mark Twain and one of my favorites, Herb Caen, although he had no use for the southern part of the state.  I think of the fact that no matter where you live in California you’re just a few hours (and sometimes just a few minutes) from the mountains, the desert, and the ocean.

     So I think the palm and the pine tree are indeed special, not because they create a ‘border’, but because they’ve existed peacefully, side-by-side for so many years.

EPILOGUE

     The two trees were supposedly planted in the exact middle of the state, but actually they’re about 25 miles off, not sure which way.  Incidentally, the palm tree is a Canary Island Date Palm and the pine tree is not a pine at all, but a Deodar Cedar; neither is indigenous to California, but then most Californians aren’t.  Viva La Difference!