West 2007

West 2007

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Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 8
Day 9
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18

Day 1 – Saturday 30June2007 – Sacramento/Coloma, CA
What a long, long, long night! We arrived safely but certainly not easily. We got to the Atlanta airport last night right around 20:00, a decent interval for our 22:05 flight. I got a bit worried when it took forty-five minutes to get through the check-in but was relieved that our secret security point was completely empty so no holdup there. We got to the gate and the plane was showing on-time so we sat at the Chili’s right at our gate to get some dinner. While we were sitting eating, Randal got a call from his cousin (the one who lives in Taiwan). Turned out, he had just landed a few gates up from us. He stopped and chatted for a few minutes on his way to baggage claime. Small world sometimes, you know. At 22:03, the monitor was curiously still showing our flight as on-time when the guy came over the loud speaker to say that “the plane is here, we’re just not sure where it is or why it’s not at the gate yet”. Great. So it was about a little after 23:00 when we finally left Atlanta – one hour lost. Our plane was supposed to have a non-deplaning stopover in Vegas and then continue on to Sacramento. During flight, the pilot came on to say we were about an hour from Vegas where the plane would get put to bed for the night. Um… so we’re walking to Sacramento? We land, deplane, and walk way the heck to another terminal for the gate that our new flight is supposed to be leaving from. As we approach, we see many people lying down in the corridor. Not a good sign. We find out that the new flight is running two and a half hours behind for an estimated departure of 02:30. Not good since we were supposed to be arrived at Sacramento at 01:30 and ready to check into our airport hotel. We chose to join the throngs of people trying to get some sleep on the floors. We finally arrived in Sacramento just after 04:00 and waited around an hour for our luggage which never showed so we had to file a lost luggage claim before dragging our tired butts to the hotel all the way at the other terminal. We checked in just after 05:00, with the continental breakfast already underway. We managed to get a few hours of sleep before waking to make calls to try to get our luggage. The luggage arrived on a 10:30 plane and we were able to retrieve it around 11:00. Our ride, who was already waiting out front for us, was gracious enough to let us take a couple of quickie showers (the luggage lost had all of our toiletries). We then started heading towards Coloma where we were meeting up with the rest of our friend’s family at the campground. The rest of the day was pretty much spent relaxing and meeting people.

Day 2 – Sunday 1July2007 – Coloma, CA
After going to bed early to make up for Friday night’s sleep deprivation, we woke up bright and early this morning. And I do mean bright – what’s up with the sun coming up at 04:30 when it didn’t set until after 21:00? What is this, Alaska? We were up long before everyone else so we took a walk around the campground and went down to the river to see if the water was on yet. When we got back to camp, we had breakfast and got changed for our watery fun. I’m not sure what time the van left but it was a very interesting ride to the put-in place. There was music blaring (most of which we were unfamiliar with) and people singing and laughing and having great fun. When we got to the river, it took quite a while to blow up the rafts and prepare them for the water. Having never been rafting except on a commercial gig, I was a bit apprehensive, especially since I had presumptions about the rivers out west being much bigger and scarier. We got pretty much the same exact safety talk that we get with our commercial outfitters on the Ocoee, which was actually reassuring. It’s good to know that the private rafters cover the same safety points. The rafting was fun. The American River is very different than the Ocoee, much less intimidating with only 2 and 3 class rapids, but much fun was had. The water was apparently very high and fast. When we got to the take out point, a discussion commenced on whether to go for a second run but since the water was supposed to be turned off at 13:00, it was decided that one run was it for the day. Of course, we did notice that the water didn’t actually go down until closer to 18:00 so we could have easily gotten another run or two in, had we known. But then we would have missed a great deal of excitement. As we were sitting around talking at the campsite, we started to hear sirens and commented on how someone was hurt. A few minutes later, after hearing many more sirens, we noticed the large plume of smoke coming up from the adjacent mountain. We walked up the hill of the campground to see the blaze spreading down our side of the mountain, which was probably a quarter-mile from where we stood. We discussed evacuation plans, should it come to that, while taking pictures of videos of the conflagration. We watched as the observation plane circled the blaze, three helicopters dumped water, and three planes dropped chemical retardant. What a show! After it started to get contained and the campground owner updated us that there would probably not be evacuations for us, we walked down to the river to watch the helicopters dip water. Amazing stuff. Amazing videos. It made for quite the exciting day. We heard news that they had it fully contained but there are still several spots glowing up there tonight.

Day 3 – Monday 2July2007 – Coloma, CA
We loaded up and went to the river this morning to find it empty. We waited a couple of hours for them to turn on the water but they never did. We did at least have some entertainment while we waited. There was another group that showed up with a brand new raft and we watched them run around not knowing what they were doing. We also had several from our own group taking part in a rock-skipping competition. When they got tired of that, they moved on to skeet shooting where one would throw up a big rock while everyone else tried to hit it with little rocks. My boy got the bragging rights in being the first to actually hit it. After a while, it went to skeet shooting with buckshot (instead of trying to hit it with one small rock, they started throwing handfuls of pebbles) to make it easier. Finally, a couple of guys regressed to their animalistic roots and started acting ape-like with the rocks. An amusing time was had by all. We left and headed to some orchard for fresh fruit pies and ice cream. That ended up being our lunch. Mmmboysenberrypieandicecream. When we made it back to the campground, we headed to the pool to cool off and take a nap. Mostly, it was a lazy day.

Day 4 – Tuesday 3July2007 – Coloma, CA / Gardnerville, NV
This morning, everyone got up early hoping that the river would be raftable. We loaded the van and got there as early as we could. The water level was about average so it was a slightly different trip than Sunday when it was way up. We had a good time, didn’t get dead, and decided to take a quick lunch and try a second run. Unfortunately, by the time we made it back to the river for the second run, the water was way down. We launched anyhow and got an education on bony-water rafting. Rocks, rocks everywhere and barely a drop of water to spare! It was a lot of work and very hairy. We got stuck every couple of minutes and had to bounce and paddle and shift weight to get loose. At one point in the river, a section called rock garden took on a whole new meaning. After getting stuck in it and realizing that there was no possible way of getting unstuck, our guide told us all to get out. We all got out on the super-slippery rocks, picked up the raft, and walked it until there was sufficient water again. This was very, very scary. For those who have never been rafting, one of the most stressed points of the safety talk is that if you fall out, NEVER EVER PUT YOUR FEET DOWN AND TRY TO STAND/WALK! It’s very easy for a foot to get caught in the rocks and the water to pull you down. While I slipped all over the rocks and felt the water pulling at me, I just knew I was going to end up with a broken leg. Fortunately, no one was hurt and we made it back into navigable water that we could go back to getting stuck and unstuck in. The trip ended up taking three hours. The morning one took just under one and a half hours. Turns out it takes twice as long to go down a dry river. It was hard work, hot, and tiring but we still had a good time. It was really interesting to see all of the rocks that create the rapids and to try to figure out how to get through them. We packed up camp while the kids run happened and we headed out with Sylvia while Brian went to retrieve the kids and take them home. On the way back to their house, we stopped at horsetail falls on pyramid creek for a very nice waterfall hike. The temperature was wonderful since it was 19:30 when we started. It was a very enjoyable hike that we finished with dusk coming on. It was late when we got to the house and, even though we stopped for dinner and an hour and a half hike, we still made it back before Brian and the kids.

Day 5 – Wednesday Fourth of July -- Gardnerville, NV
The original plan was that we were going to go sailing on Lake Tahoe today with a friend of theirs and watch fireworks from the lake. Their friend canceled on them, which turned out to be fine because we were tired from all of the rafting and camping fun. We mostly lounged around and finally gathered up to go out to dinner and then to the high school in Carson City to watch fireworks. The fireworks were decent but I was surprised that there was no musical accompaniment for them. The display was silent (other than the big BOOMs, of course). It was the first Fourth of July fireworks that I have ever been to that had no patriotic tunes in accompaniment.

Day 6 – Thursday 5July2007 – Gardnerville, NV
Back to work today, which meant getting started at 05:00 in order to be inline with Eastern Time. Ugh. Granted, it’s not as hard as getting to work at 02:00 like we did in Hawaii, but it did hurt nonetheless. Once our workday was finished, it was decided that we would all head to the beach at Lake Tahoe (it just seems wrong to call it a beach when it’s at a lake). First, let me tell you that it is absolutely ungodly hot here. We’re talking 105° and no matter what they say about dry heat – it’s just friggin hot! The only good thing I can say about "dry heat" is that my hair stays pretty all day long in it. Yep, I can leave it down and not look like a giant poof-ball around here. Anyhow, the temperature at the lake was very nice. There was a breeze blowing and it was slightly overcast. I didn’t actually go in the water, opting to nap in the sun instead, but I heard reports that it was rather frigid. I’m sure it couldn’t have been any colder than the river we rafted/swam in over the weekend. The beach was pretty dirty. The sand was covered in soot, ash, and coals from the fire a couple of weeks ago. We all came out of there with at least black feet. The kids who had been buried in the sand by Randal and Brian were pretty well coated in black. It did make for a nice respite from all of the insufferable heat and the lake was very pretty. I even got the slightest bit of a tan.

Day 7 – Friday 6July2007 – Gardnerville, NV / Visalia, CA
Getting up for work was slightly easier today. Not by much, but adjustment is adjustment right? Sometime while we were working Sylvia took the kids to a friend’s house for the weekend and loaded up the car. After work, we four started on a little road trip for some national park adventures. It was a long, slow, winding ride but we finally made it to Visalia, CA (as opposed to Vidalia, GA – I’m easily amused, you know). We had a nice swim at the hotel and I’m ready for an early day tomorrow.

Day 8 – Saturday 7July2007 – Sequoia / Mariposa, CA
The plan was to get a good, early start. Those who know me know that doesn’t really happen too well. Lucky for me, our friends aren’t too quick on the morning motivation either. We got a later-than-planned start but we arrived at Sequoia National Park mid-morning. Turns out, there are some pretty darned big trees in the world. I was astounded by the size of these things. Especially when I was jaw-dropped in front of one and the sign next to it said that it was just an average one. We climbed Moro Rock to look out over the surrounding landscape. It was pretty. I’m sure that it was absolutely gorgeous before the days of smog. I’ll have to say that the very well defined purple haze took something away from it. It’s bad when they even have an informative placard all about the smog. We then made our way to the General Sherman, which is the largest tree in the world, by volume. There was a branch that had fallen off of it last year that was bigger than most Georgia trees I’ve seen. When it fell, the impact sunk it about two feet into the surrounding dirt and shattered the sidewalk it landed on. Huge, I tell you. The last big stop we made in the park was at the General Grant tree which is the third largest in the world, by volume, and the largest in the world around the base. The diameter of the base is forty feet. Massive. While in that section of the forest, we went by the Robert E Lee tree which was roped off because Rangers were climbing it and conducting extensive surveys on it. The really interesting thing about that was that they informed us that they found an eight foot tall pine tree growing on one of the upper branches. I wish we could have seen that. After leaving Sequoia, we headed to Yosemite National Park. Since it was late in the afternoon, we planned to drive through the south side to the Mariposa exit, where our hotel would be, and see what we could see along the way. We stopped at some scenic pull-offs to take photos of El Capitan and we did the short hike (walk really) to Bridal Veil Falls. There was a rainbow across the waterfall which was very pretty, but it was easy to see that we are here the wrong time of year for water falls. It was more than a trickle, but not by much. I saw postcards of it that were magnificent though.

Day 9 – Sunday 8July2007 – Yosemite / Gardnerville, NV
We did slightly better on our early start today. When we got back into Yosemite, it was decided that our goal for the day was to do the Upper Yosemite Falls hike. We took the short hike (walk really) to the Lower Yosemite Falls to start with. Again, not a lot of water, but very pretty. The lower, upper, and middle cascades combine to form the tallest waterfall in the US, so they say. It was around 11:00 when we started the upper hike (and I do mean hike). If we had started at some ungodly, not-so-hot hour it may have been better. We set out on the 7.2 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of 2,700 feet; the sign estimated it as a 6-8 hour hike. The trail started out as an extremely steep series of switchbacks. It felt like this lasted about ten miles but it was probably only three-quarters of a mile. We finally got out of the switchbacks but it remained torturously steep. After a lifetime, we made it to Columbia Rock which has a beautiful view of Half Dome. We stopped several minutes for photos and battery/card swapping and started up again. I’m not a good rester on hikes. Once I’ve stopped to rest, I have a very difficult time regaining my momentum. As a general rule, even if it’s killing me, I’m better off powering through to my destination. All that being said, I was DONE after Columbia Rock. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the trail didn’t level off, it started going down!!! DOWN. On a trail that gains 2,700 feet of elevation down can only mean that there is a heck of a lot more steep UP in front of you. Probably 1.8 miles into the trail, we found the rest of the up. Luckily it was also about the same time that the waterfall came into view. Photos were taken and we stopped for granola bars at the base of the extremely steep series of switchbacks that would be the remainder of the trail. Brian was determined to go to the top. I was way too hot and tired to care. Sylvia was in my camp. Randal was neutral so he volunteered to accompany Brian (never leave a hiker alone). Girls and boys split. As I’ve already stated, if it had not been so bloody hot, I probably would have pushed myself to the top. I usually like to push myself on hikes. I did feel pangs of guilt for turning tail, but not enough to slow down my descent. Realistically, it was probably the right choice anyhow. Up might tire me out and wind me, but down always hurts me. As us girls powered back down the mountain, my knees made known their displeasure with all of the down. I’m quite certain that if I had added another 1.8 miles of ridiculously steep down, I would have been crying long before the bottom. Also, about halfway back down, my head began throwing in its $0.02. I always take Motrin with me wherever I go but today I forgot to transfer it to my camelpack. By the time we got all the way back down, rested a bit, and started back to the car for a snack, I was in full migraine mode. Luckily, Sylvia had a book to keep her company because I took some Motrin and laid down in the back for a good hour to dissipate the pain. When the boys finally made it back down (7.5 hours but they also took a swim break at the top of the falls), I was feeling mostly better and we grabbed some food before starting the drive back to the house. The drive out of the Tioga Pass exit of the park was stunning. I was actually regretting that we had to drive through the night because it was so pretty up until it got too dark to see.

Day 10 – Monday 9July2007 – Gardnerville, NV
After such a tiring day yesterday and not making it back to the house until after 23:00, 05:00 was just brutal this morning. And it was a Monday so the emails and cases just kept flooding in and smacking me upside the head. After work, we rested up and had a nice dinner with some friends of B&S. I’m still tired.

Day 11 – Tuesday 10July2007 – Gardnerville, NV
We are really not doing a great job of getting to bed early enough for this 05:00 thing. We stayed up far too late last night socializing and I have been dragging all day again because of it. Oh, and it was Monday II. After work, we headed to Topaz Lake with the sailboat. I’ve never been sailing before so I was looking forward to the experience. Not to mention that it seemed like it would be pretty relaxing and hopefully cool. The weather was actually a bit iffy. It looked quite stormy on our way to the lake and it started raining while the boat was being prepared. Luckily, the rain passed fairly quickly and left behind just a little wind. Sailing is pretty nifty. It’s amazing the speed that the wind can generate. We spent a few hours at the “beach” and had a little picnic there for dinner.

Day 12 – Wednesday 11July2007 – Gardnerville, NV
This afternoon we did the drive around Lake Tahoe with a few little vista stops. Emerald Bay is quite pretty and the lake is much bigger than I had thought. Once we made the 72 mile loop around the lake, we headed back to Gardnerville. We stopped in on a friend of B&S (the one we dined with Monday) and he cooked us some yummy Chinese vittles.

Day 13 – Thursday 12July2007 – Gardnerville, NV / Vallejo, CA
After the long workday, we got all of our stuff together and us two, Sylvia, and the kids made our way to Vallejo for the night. After work tomorrow, we’re going to Six Flags!

Day 14 – Friday 13July2007 – Vallejo, CA / Graton, CA
This afternoon we got to go to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. It’s a smaller park than Six Flags Over Georgia but that was fine by us since we had a shorter amount of time to spend there. It was actually a little reversed from ours in that ours has a ton of adult rides and a relatively small kiddie section. This one has a handful of adult rides and an enormous kiddie section. Plus, it has a mini Sea World (not nearly as extensive but an outdoor aquarium world nonetheless). Apparently this park started out as a Marine World kind of place before Six Flags bought it and built roller coasters. The big coaster was Medusa. Randal and I rode it thrice; twice on the front and once in the middle. The front, as always, is the only way to ride. We also rode Kong twice. It was a much jerkier and shorter ride, but much tighter and more thrilling. They were both fun, all in all. We then rode Cobra – The Largest Junior Coaster in Northern CA – twice with the kids. Having nothing much else on the adult side to do, we walked through the fishy stuff, saw a bunch of sharks, missed the walruses (must have been a union break, which is a shame because one of them is Jocko, star of 50 First Dates). Since the kids were getting tired and so were we, we decided to try to make it to the San Francisco bridge before sunset. Though we didn’t actually get to see the bridge, what we did see was absolutely beautiful. We caught it just as the coastal fog was rolling in. It covered the bridge but it was just so pretty. No regrets at all there. We finally headed to Sylvia’s mom’s house to crash for the night.

Day 15 – Saturday 14July2007 – Graton, CA / Fortuna, CA
We finally got to sleep in a little bit today so, of course, I was awake at 05:11. Figures. Luckily, I did at least have the luxury of being able to lay there and doze on and off a while. Once everyone else in the house was up, we gathered up and headed to the airport to get our rental car. I was amused to find that we were at the Snoopy Airport! I really am easily amused, you see. After transferring all of our stuff (you’d really think we moved out here) to the rental car, we followed Sylvia to the Korbel Winery for lunch followed by the champagne tour and tasting. The property was beautiful, the tour was educational, the champagne was bubbly. It was a great Saturday activity. I believe I’ve only really had champagne once before (wedding toast, of course) so it was interesting to learn about it and then taste some different varieties. I found it fascinating that, while I only like sweet wines, I liked the dryer champagnes the best. Is that common? Korbel is where we took our leave of Sylvia and the kids. We had contemplated going to the beach with them but we had a destination in mind for the day and wanted to have plenty of time to get there. It was a good call. We drove up the coast and it took us all day to get to not-quite-where-we-wanted-to. We finally stopped in Fortuna, just a little below Eureka which was our original destination. Turned out that there was something big going on in Eureka so all of the hotels were booked, even in Fortuna. We managed to find a room but, the Ritz it ain’t. However, the truly exciting part of today happened at approximately 19:30 (that’s 10:30 pm back home!). We got a call (luckily, they called in the mile or so that we had coverage while driving) from some people that had looked at the house this afternoon. They called (at 10:30 at night!) to make an offer on my cute little house!!! I am so very excited about this. Today is exactly three weeks since we put the sign in the yard. Their offer was low, of course, but we’re really not that far off. Tomorrow we’ll make the counter offer. I feel practically homeless!

Day 16 – Sunday 15July2007 – Fortuna, CA / Crescent City, CA
Today was a leisurely drive along the coast and through Redwood National Forest. The coastal redwoods are much taller than the sequoias (tallest redwood=379’; tallest sequoia=286’) but only about half as girthy. It was a very pretty drive. We considered doing some hiking into the Tall Trees grove but we were both feeling a little unwell so we figured a nice drive good enough. The coast was much prettier today than yesterday. Crescent City is by far the nicest beach we’ve seen. It’s a pretty little town. On a side note, we did some negotiating today with the potential home-buyer and we’ll see what happens. The important thing is that they love my house.

Day 17 – Monday 16July2007 – Crescent City, CA / Roseburg, OR
We decided today was the day to part from the coast a bit. We left after work to head inland to Crater Lake. It was a four hour sidetrack but I would say it was worthwhile. We got there and made the rim loop around it. Some vantage points were definitely more picturesque than others, but that probably has something to do with the angle of the blinding sun so late in the afternoon. After driving all the way around and getting plenty of pics, we started to make our way back to the coast. We put in another three hours of driving until we stopped at a town big enough to have a hotel. Although really, it was the first town that had anything at all along that road.

Day 18 – Tuesday 17July2007 – Roseburg, OR / Portland, OR
We made it back to the coast after work this afternoon and drove as far as we could before the 101 stopped hugging the coast. It was a beautifully coast day. We got out and climbed on some of the big Oregon dunes and we even saw (and smelled!) some sea lions lying around lazily on rocks. When we realized that our drive would no longer be coastal, we called my friend Hayman and invited ourselves to his place for the night (originally, we weren’t supposed to arrive here until this weekend). It was pretty late when we got here so we only got to take a quick tour of his new condo and talk a few minutes. It’s good to see him again. He moved here from Orlando a few months ago but I probably haven’t seen him since sometime last year. It’s nice to have friends like him and Brian and Sylvia around the country who will welcome us into their home (even if we just call an hour ahead).

Day 19 – Wednesday 18July2007 – Portland, OR
Last night, Hayman made a point of telling us how it never rains here. “When they say it’s raining, it’s really just a mist, or a heavy fog.” This morning, it was pouring. Our plan was to visit Mt Hood after work this afternoon but it’s just rained (rain, not mist) on and off all day. We looked up the conditions on their webcam and decided there just wasn’t much of a point. It’ll be good to have a day of rest anyhow.
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