The Brothers Sparrow Road Trip

by Bob Sparrow

The famous Alturas Railway station

This week, on Thursday, Brother Jack and I will embark on a road trip that was borne out of some nonsense that Jack uttered years ago.  He and I like to bet on football, both college and pro; when we’re in Vegas we make actual bets, but most of the time we just make imaginary bets – granted you don’t win much with those, but you don’t lose much either.  One Monday after a not-so-good imaginary weekend of football betting, I called Jack to discuss our poor results.  After my reporting all the bad news, he said, “Maybe we should just go to Alturas and open a turkey farm” He then asked me, “Do you know how to make Turkey Pot Pies?”  What?!!!  I didn’t know where that came from, I didn’t know where Alturas was and I sure as hell didn’t know how to make a Turkey Pot Pie.  Jack explained that Alturas was a small town in the northeast corner of California and that he had never been there, but it sounded like a nice little town.  And so, Alturas and the prospect of getting into the Turkey Pot Pie business remained the butt of many of our jokes in the ensuing years.

At the end of last year, we decided, since we’re both California natives, and neither of us had not only never been to Alturas, but we didn’t even know anybody who had ever been to that booming metropolis; so it screamed, “Road Trip!”  So, earlier this year, we planned a road trip that would include some of the places in the state that are near and dear to us while also checking off Alturas, a town that surely is on most people’s bucket list to visit.

So, here’s what we’ve learned, and I’m sure you’re dying to know, about Alturas:

Fisherman’s Wharf . . . or Sausalito?

Alturas is Spanish for “Heights”, as it is at an altitude of 4,370 feet above sea level With a population of about 2,700 people, albeit one of the largest cities in the region!  It is located at the confluence of the south and north forks of the Pit River.  I’m sure that helped you pinpoint it’s exact location!  We searched for the possibilities of Alturas having a fairly large turkey populations, but to no avail.  We’re not even sure the concept of a Turkey Pot Pie has ever been introduced to the fine people of Alturas!  We shall see!

The trip will start with me driving to meet Jack at his home in Santa Maria.  The next morning we’ll head north and decide while driving through San Francisco, if we want to stop.  It was such a wonerful city when we were growing up in Novato, and we have many fond memories of ‘The City’; but given what we’ve heard, we’re just not sure what we’ll find.  If we don’t stop at someplace like Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, then we’d probably head over to Sausalito and grab a bite.  We’ll then continue up to Novato, the town where we were both born and raised.  We’ll do some drive-bys of the houses we used to live in and Novato High School, as well as cruise down the main drag, Grant Avenue, which, I’m sure, we’ll bring back lots of memories.  We’ll then head over to a classmate and football teammate of Jack’s, Pete Ferrarese, where he has offered us lodging for the night.  It’s the only night were we have secured accommodations, as we’re not sure how long we’ll stay in any one place.  We may even end up sleeping in the car!

Lake Almanor

We’ll then head up through the ‘Wine Country’, perhaps stop for a taste, then drive up to Willows, the small town that our father was born in.  We’ll keep heading north to Mt. Shasta, and then head east to Alturas.  Once we’ve looked for any turkey farms and quizzed the local barkeep about all there is to know about Alturas, (perhaps two drinks worth) we’ll hopefully find some adequate lodging.  We will then head south to Lake Almanor.  A lake that neither of us have ever been to.  We may connect with some friends of mine from Yorba Linda County Club, who summer in Lake Almanor, if so, we’ll stop and say ‘Hi’ and learn all about the lake.  We’ll continue heading south to the town of Quincy, where we spent a few summer vacations as kids.  We’ll then head to some familiar haunts of Lake Tahoe, where Jack lived for 14 years and owned a restaurant, and where I owned a cabin and where our family went every summer from 1952 to sometime in the ‘70s and beyond.  We’ll spend time at both the north and the south end of the lake possibly doing a bit of gaming at one of the casinos at the south end.  After a day or two at the lake we’ll connect to Highway 49 and visit California’s ‘Gold Country’.  We’ll visit one of the most famous towns there, Angel’s Camp, where, in 1865, Mark Twain wrote, ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’.  From there we will head home.

That’s the plan, but there will be much left to how we’re feeling at the time, so nothing is carved in stone.  But I can guarantee you this . . . we will get to Alturas!

 

 

The California Landmark Surprise

by Bob Sparrow

Yosemite’s Fire Fall

Most of us who live in the ‘Golden State’ have visited many of our famous landmarks.  As a native Californian with a severe case of wanderlust, I assumed I’ve visited most, if not all, of them.  So, I turned to Google to see the list of what was classified as ‘famous landmarks’.

Golden Gate Bridge – Since I was born 28 miles north of this landmark, I probably went across this bridge before I was able to walk – CHECK.  Yosemite’s Half Dome – as a kid, our family vacationed here every summer; I was even able to see the amazing ‘Fire Falls’ over Glacier Point many times; and much later in life I was able to hike to the top of Half Dome for that spectacular view – CHECK.  Alcatraz – No, not as a resident!  I took the tour several years ago, barely escaped – CHECK.  Fisherman’s Wharf – of course, and had many great bowls of clam chowder – CHECK.  Lake Tahoe – grew up there – CHECK.  Napa Valley – been over-served there . . . many times – CHECK.  Let’s get to the southern part of the state.  Oh, first let’s cruise on down Big Sur in central California to see that spectacular coastline landmark – CHECK. And I’ve toured Hearst Castle on my way south – CHECK.

Griffith Observatory

OK, so let’s get to some landmarks on the list here in southern California: Griffith Conservatory/ Hollywood Sign – I did those on the same trip a few years back, but they don’t let you near the HOLLYWOOD sign anymore – too many people turning it into HOLLYWEIRD – CHECK.  Santa Monica Pier, Getty Museum, Death Valley, Randy’s Donuts, Disneyland, CHECK, CHECK, CH . . . wait a minute, Randy’s Donuts???!!!  Yes, it’s on the list of famous California landmarks!!  Not only have I not been there, but I’ve never heard of it. I asked Linda if she’s ever heard of it; yes, she had, as she had taught school in intercity LA and later, her work took her to many LA destinations, including Randy’s Donuts.  I came to the realization that my life’s ‘travel check list’ was not complete until I’d been to this ‘famous California Landmark’, Randy’s Donuts.  So, I checked the Internet for the history and locations of Randy’s Donuts.

Enjoying the 400 Calorie Crondy

Randy’s Donuts, which originated in Inglewood, CA, is celebrating it’s 50th year in business this year and out front most stores sport their big, famous donut sign, maybe biggest in the world.  This famous donut sign has appeared in over 18 movies and TV shows as well as Randy Newman’s music video, I Love L.A. The store closest to me that features the ‘famous donut sign’ on top of the building, is in Downey, about a 30-minute drive.  So, last Saturday morning I jumped in my car and headed up the 5 freeway to check off Randy’s Donuts on my list.

My research determined that the piece de resistance at Randy’s is the ‘Crondy’, a cross between a croissant and a donut, weighing in at around 400 calories!  Yep, had to try it – you’re welcome.  It was spectacular!!!

What I don’t do for you guys!!!

 

Tahoe – The Rest of the Story

by Bob Sparrow

(Post is a continuation from the post on November 29)

Linda at Emerald Bay

Circumnavigating the Lake

It was another horrible day in paradise – clear blue, cloudless sky on a cool crisp fall morning at the most beautiful alpine lake in the country, where we decided to take the day to drive around the lake and hit some old haunts that we’ve not visited in years.  The minute we walk out of our room we are engulfed in a butterscotch/pine smell that tells us we are not in Kansas anymore.

Going up the ‘west shore’, our first stop is Emerald Bay, where we pull over at an observation turn-out and soaked up the spectacular view.  As we cruised along the lake-side road, just before arriving in Tahoe City we turn up Chinquapin Lane and stop at a cabin that I used to own with my college roommate, Ken Poulsen.  We head up the road less than a mile and come to Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge, one of the great lakeside restaurants.  We were going to have lunch there, but it is only open for dinner during this time of year (‘this time of year’ is known as ‘the shoulder’ season – the time between the end of summer and the opening of ski season).  We head into Tahoe City and plan to eat at Jake’s on the Lake, but the  ‘shoulder season’ strikes again, only open for dinner.  We stop at the location of brother, Jack’s restaurant, The Off Shore Bar & Grill, which is now office space.

Sunnyside during the summer

Sunnyside last week

Just out of Tahoe City heading east is a condo project, sitting high above the road, called Rocky Ridge, which affords those in the front condos the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen.  It is where Suzanne’s and my parents’ ashes rest.  Although it has a guard gate that doesn’t allow anyone in without the gate combination, we were able to talk a maintenance man into letting us in.  We got to pay our respects to my folks.

Finally, lunch at GarWoods

We continued around the lake still looking for lunch and finally found Gar Woods Grill & Pier and sat on the deck overlooking the lake and had a great lunch before we headed into Nevada, where we were first greeted by Cal-Neva.  Well, we weren’t really greeted since it’s been closed for many years now, but still sits above Crystal Bay and was once a great hotel and casino owned in part by Frank Sinatra, unfortunately, the other part was owned by Chicago mobster, Sam Giancana.  Someday it will reopen and I hope to be one of its first guests.

We continued around the lake into Incline Village and stopped at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino to try our hand at some games of chance – some of us were luckier than others.  We completed the last leg of the trip as we were coming down the east side of the lake to South Shore as the sun was just setting behind the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  A spectacular sunset on a fabulous day!!

Genoa Lakes

Linda at Budd’s lot

When packing for this trip we weren’t sure of the weather, so we packed golf clubs and ski jackets and wondered if we’d have to play golf in our ski jackets.  We didn’t, it was shorts and golf shirt weather at Genoa Lakes Golf Club on ‘the other side of the mountain’.  Prior to teeing off, we visited our good friends, Jack & JJ Budd’s, lot on the golf course – awesome view!

After making our donations at Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Hard Rock, and various other casinos around the lake, and having seen all the old haunts, we decided that we had seen everything we wanted to see, done everything we wanted to do and lost all the money we had with us, so . . . we decided to head home on Wednesday, which we did.

It was a beautiful, short and sweet, five-day trip, and it’s always nice to get home into air that we can sink our teeth into!

 

 

 

The Griswolds Go to Big Bear Lake

by Bob Sparrow

Lake-front home interior

Friday – I should be writing this as I’m sitting on the deck of a house overlooking a beautiful lake.  Wait a minute, I am sitting on a deck of a house overlooking a beautiful lake, it’s just a different lake.  The original plan for the ‘Griswold’s Family Vacation’ was a VRBO overlooking Lake Tahoe, but that was cancelled due to Covid-19.  Fortunately, we have friends with a beautiful home locally here on Big Bear Lake and they agreed to us renting it.  So, we loaded up the ‘Wagon Queen Family Truckster’ and headed to the mountains last Friday.

By 6:00 p.m. everyone had arrived, Dana, Addison, Mac; Stephanie, Jason, Dylan, Emma; Jeff & Pam – Joe was working at the restaurant and would be coming up on Saturday morning.

The best word to describe our accommodations is SPECTACULAR! Vaulted, open-beam ceilings, a great room upstairs with a stone fireplace, a huge kitchen and a bar.  The downstairs game room has a pool table, a Foosball table and another bar – you can never have too many bars.  The decks, on both levels, overlook the lake, our private dock and our own sandy beach.  The photos don’t do it justice.

Jeff and Pam had ‘dinner duty’ the first night and they treated us with a Thai-chicken dish that they brought back from Thailand, where they honeymooned earlier this year.  It was delicious.  After dinner it was game time and when the kids went to bed, it was sitting-around-the-bar-time and telling stories time – Stephanie’s stories were particularly hilarious.

View of house from the dock

Joe’s magnificent dinner

Saturday – It’s amazing how long you can just sit on a deck on a cloudless day and watch boats go by –speed boats, pontoon boats, sail boats, Jet Skis, kayaks and paddle boards.  I’ll have another beer.  – the day just drifted by.  Then Joe arrived with preparations for dinner, which took several hours and, of course, was like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, only better.  I’ve seen other people take pictures of their dinner and thought that was really stupid, but then, maybe I just never had a reason to take a photo of a meal – until tonight (photo missing). Seasoned flank steak, cooked on the BBQ, then cut into thin slices, BBQ’d vegetables – onions, peppers, squash, asparagus, corn on the cob; garlic toast, and the best of all, a salad with shrimp, avocado, tomato, cucumbers and bacon in the best Louie dressing I’ve ever tasted.  Joe does nothing small and nothing not first class; the dinner could have fed 20 easily.  After dinner, more cards and dice games with the kids and then when they went to bed, a spirited evening of ‘favorite songs from the past’ with Jeff magically taking on the role of  a savant.  We weren’t sure what that meant either, but he was very funny!

Sunday – morning fishing on the dock with Joe setting up poles for Addison, Emma and Dylan as they try to catch dinner – looks like lasagna tonight.  Mid-day we head into Big Bear City and find it quite bustling, all with masked tourists.  We rent a pontoon boat and take a two-hour (5:00 – 7:00) cocktail cruise around the lake.  Another beautiful day with nary a cloud.  Repeat – dinner and games.

Yes, it’s Monday morning and I’m still here, watching the boats go by – they’re going to have to pry me off this deck with a crowbar!  I’ll let you know if anything exciting happens, like a cloud forms or I run out of beer.

 

 

A Special Visit With An Old Friend . . . Squaw Valley

by Bob Sparrow

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley and I are old friends; I’m just 6 years older. We first met in 1952 when I visited the 3-year old resort and returned a few years later to learn how to ski. I remember that day like it was yesterday.  Brother, Jack and I went to Squaw Valley for our first attempt at skiing. The lift ticket for an all day pass was $6, which we thought was quite exorbitant – today it’s $179!  We had no ski gloves, but we didn’t think we’d need them as we both tolerated cold weather fairly well. What we didn’t realize is that our lift up the mountain initially would be a rope tow and after the first time we grabbed the moving rope with our bare hands and our hands started to blister, we realized we needed gloves. We could only afford one pair, so we each wore one glove on the hand with which we grabbed the rope. We were pretty good athletes, so we learned fairly quickly how to stay upright most of the time as we skied down the bunny slope. When we were ready to go on a chairlift for something a little more difficult, we didn’t realize that getting off the chair once we got to the top was the biggest challenge we would face thus far. I believe Jack got off the chair cleanly, but they had to stop the chairs and pull me out of the way after my face-plant exit.

While the day started with rope burns and face-plants, by day’s end we were exhausted from all the runs that we were able to get in – some without falling.

The Resort at Squaw Creek

I returned to Squaw Valley to attend the 1960 Winter Olympics there and ‘hit the slopes’ many times after that. When Jack was living in Tahoe after he sold his restaurant up there, he worked at the Inn at Squaw Creek when it first opened in 1990, and our last ski expedition together was to Squaw Valley in the mid-90s when we stayed at the Inn at Squaw Creek.

So attending a wedding at, the new name is The Resort at Squaw Creek, last weekend was like seeing an old friend. The wedding was for Blake Sullivan and Molly Ainsworth; we’ve known Blake’s parents, Rick and Kara for over 30 years; when they lived in the ‘hood; Rick coached our kids in soccer and baseball and learned how to rollerblade himself so he could help our kids become better roller hockey players.

We flew into Reno with other friends from the ‘hood and rented a 4-wheel drive with Mark & Kathy Johnson, for the one hour drive to Squaw Valley.   We actually drove past Squaw Valley into Tahoe City for a lunch at Jake’s on the Lake where we had a window table with a fabulous view of the lake.

Me, not having enough sense to come in out of a snow storm

We checked in to the beautiful Resort at Squaw Creek and that evening took a shuttle into the old Olympic Village to PlumpJacks restaurant for a gourmet food station dinner and open bar hosted by the Sullivans.

Sunday, the day of the wedding started out with a rain storm and ended with a snow storm, but didn’t detract from the wedding, which was originally scheduled outside, but weather conditions dictated a move inside.  The reception dinner was held at the Six Peaks Grille, where the full length glass walls afforded us an awesome view of the falling snow.

As of this writing we are hoping to get out of Squaw Valley to Reno airport on Monday, but if the storm doesn’t allow, we’ll just have to spend another day in this winter wonderland.

New Year, New Adventures

by Bob Sparrow

Cinque a Terre, Italy

I feel very fortunate that I have the wherewithal, time and health that allows me a good deal of travel. I was just reviewing my travels for the past year and realized that aside from annual trips to our timeshare in Palms Desert and to our Cinco de Mayo golf tournament in Las Vegas, last year, I was able to go crazy in Nashville, visit the crazies in Washington D.C., with a side trip to Gettysburg, feel crazy on wine trips to Paso Robles and Napa/Sonoma, play golf (or a vague facsimile there of) in beautiful Banff, Canada, although it wasn’t so beautiful due to the smoke that filled the sky from multiple forest fire throughout British Columbia and Alberta. We also took a trip in time as we traveled back to the ‘50s on our trip to Minnesota for Linda’s 50th high school class reunion, with the Mabel-Hesper Steam Engine Days parade thrown in as a bonus. On our trip to Laughlin, Nevada, my brother, Jack and I saw the creation, and the subsequent filing for bankruptcy of, ‘The Sparrow Brothers School of Fine Football Forecasting’. The year’s traveling ended with a visit to Seattle to attend our good friends, the Johnson’s son’s wedding. I should also include our trip to the famous restaurant, Dan Tana’s as any trip to L.A. is always an adventure.

And you got to come along on all those adventures, but I can already hear you asking, “What have you done for me lately – where are we going this year?” Well, I think you’ll like the itinerary we have planned for you as I start the year off with a trip to a familiar haunt, Lake Tahoe. We’ll be attending another friend’s son’s wedding at the Inn at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley . . . in January . . . outside! Hope I can type with mittens on. While there, we’ll take some time to visit Mom & Dad’s final resting place overlooking ‘The Lake’.  In the spring I’ll be heading out to one of my favorite locations, Death Valley with some hiking buddies – hope we keep the death out of Death Valley. At the beginning of summer we have an Adriatic cruise planned that will afford us visits to Italy, Greece, Croatia and some other places missing some vowels that I can’t pronounce much less spell. In September we’re back in Italy, staying in Tuscany and taking day trips to the surrounding environs before heading to Cinque a Terre – those picturesque fishing villages hanging off Italy’s Mediterranean coast, which have been on my bucket list for some time – I hope I remember to come home.

I lay this itinerary out so that if anyone who’s been to any of the aforementioned destinations has some travel tips – I’m all ears.

I’m not sure where Suzanne’s travel will take her this year, but you can count on us to fill your every Monday morning with some travel highlights, some life observations, some tributes as well as some stuff you can just delete as spam.

Thank you for your readership and we hope your 2019 is adventurous . . . in a good way.

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.