Monthly Archives: February 2016

There’s No Place Like Home

2016-02-28 15.29.28-1It was difficult to get out the old computer and peck away last night after we returned home, so this is the memories of yesterday.

28 February 2016 – We had a lovely Sunday morning breakfast at the hotel breakfast bar and packed out of Eugene, OR, heading for home. It was a bit of a false start, because just as I was checking out and Randy was putting our bags in the car he came rushing back to the counter asking for a key card back. He had left one of his hearing aids in the room. Well, thankfully, it was still there . . . and after he found it, then we left.

2016-02-28 16.20.10-2We had a pleasant drive through clouds, light rain and some sun, through the central Oregon valley. Quite beautiful country, I must say. At one point between the rain and the sun there was a gorgeous full rainbow that filled the sky. I had to try and capture it – on my phone, no less. It’s barely visible here, but in the sky it was beautiful.

A stop in Portland allowed us to have a Sunday afternoon dinner at one of our favorite spots, Gustav’s, a German Restaurant. Since we had arrived in town so late the night before, this was to be our Anniversary dinner. And, it was lovely. When you’re German, there’s just nothing like German food. Sausages and pretzels and schnitzel and kraut and, of course, spaetzle.2016-02-28 14.17.47

Many years ago we watched a film – the name long ago forgotten – but one scene remains a part of our family lore. It was a foreign film and an old Norwegian bachelor farmer had sent word back to the “Old Country” that he wanted a woman who would come to America and become his wife. A young German woman responded and made the trip. When she arrived she cooked a meal for him. And, he was so delighted he couldn’t believe his good fortune. “Is this German food?” he asked her. “No,” she replies, “Just food.”

And, that’s how we are with German food . . . it’s just food. Of the very best kind!

A few more hours in the car and our little Ballard Borkalow was waiting for us, complete with sunny daffodils blooming in the yard to greet us. There’s no place like home.

My great grandmother used to say, “Take a trip and you are twice glad. Glad to go. And glad to be home!”  And, so it was for us.

An Anniversary Journey

Today we turn toward home.  We left Sacramento quickly and quietly, knowing we wanted to cover the 475 miles between Sacramento, California and Eugene, Oregon.

2016-02-27 09.47.11We passed the lovely orchards we had passed just a week ago when they were in full bloom — but today, they were losing their petals and sprouting leaves.

2016-02-27 11.31.34We rose the elevation into the Siskyou Mountains and saw a beautifully illuminated Mt. Shasta in the far distance. 2016-02-27 13.41.13And when we rose to the summit, close up, we found her snow covered slopes in the cold of clouds.

We grabbed a quick lunch at our favorite Brown Bear Inn at Yreka, and descended into the sunshine of Oregon and a beautiful sunset, while still on the road. 2016-02-27 17.25.26

Driving on in darkness we listened to “Hamilton” again and a CD of instrumental music we bought from a street musician on Pier 39 in San Francisco who played the Long Stick – a form of 12 strings on a long board. It was something between a 12 string guitar and a hammered dulcimer. Quite beautiful. Along the way we also talked and laughed and planned and reminisced about the last 40 years.2016-02-27 17.54.46

It was 40 years ago today we stood before the altar and promised our love to each other. And, after 40 years, the words of Jack London in “Little Lady of the Big House” puts some perspective to the event.

“The years pass. You and I pass. But yet our love abides – more firmly, more deeply, more surely, for we have built our love for each other, not for the sand, but upon the rock.”

What a wonderful week of memories we have to add to our collection. This has been a fantastic anniversary trip. Tomorrow we will be home again. Solid, together, still in love, at home on our rock.


A little bit of a lay in this morning and a call from one of our boys to see how our vacation is going got us off to a slow start. But, not to worry. This was one of our planned-for-easy-days. We only wanted to get to Sacramento and see the sights in the old town area. After all, no one can keep going at high speed for days on end. Least of all us!

2016-02-26 11.26.37-1We took an alternate route off the freeway and had a lazy, beautiful drive along the Sacramento River. It was hazy this morning and a little overcast – the first day we have not had full sun since arriving in San Francisco.

The valley and the river and the low crops and occasional cattle or horses reminded me of that old TV show “The Big Valley.” They were supposed to be somewhere near Stockton – and this area is certainly the big valley. It’s beautiful country.

2016-02-26 13.12.08We arrived in Sacramento and went directly to the state park where Sutter’s Fort is located. The fort is actually a reconstruction, but built according to the original plans in the original spot, because of its importance to California’s history. While Sutter was never in the Army, he built his fort as the Army did, for defense and safety. 2016-02-26 13.15.09We read that the fort actually became the first frontier shopping mall. It was fun to walk through the rooms and identify the old tools or implements that were in common use on the frontier. It was also a factory of sorts, producing blankets, candles, baskets, guns and other supplies that anyone in the early West would need.

There was a group of school children in high spirits who were darting between us old folks and squealing with delight. And, we enjoyed being in this historic place right along with them, only without the squeals.

2016-02-26 14.11.35After every long morning of exploring the wild west, there must be some lunch. On the same street, just toward the river from the fort, we found The Buckhorn. And as we sat and made our selections, it was as if we were waiting around the campfire for our steaks to be done. The aroma of smoked meat was to die for. And, the meat was DELICIOUS. I doubt if the cowboys ever ate this good, but it was fun to think they might have. We certainly had no complaints.

No trip to Sacramento is complete without at least a walk through the Old Town. It is mostly shops and restaurants now, but it actually is comprised of the very first buildings that became the budding city of Sacramento. It sits right along the river and a railway station is the center piece. The pony express also went right through here and there is a monument to the men who raced the mails across the country in the mid 1800’s.

Sacramento, while certainly an important city, has a laid back, country kind of feel. A comfortable feel. It was the perfect place to spend our lazy day. When we were done exploring, we found our hotel and are packing in early for the long drive tomorrow over the mountains.

Rosie the Riveter and John Muir

Preparing to leave San Francisco was hard, but since we had actually left our hearts in Seattle, we knew we had to move on. A repeat breakfast at the nearby Denny’s set us up for the day.

We packed our suitcases and our memories and headed out of San Francisco across the Bay Bridge bound for Richmond. In Richmond we found the National Park dedicated to preserving the story and contributions of all the Rosies who riveted during the war years while the men were away fighting.

2016-02-25 10.52.15Located out at the end of the pier where ships were built, a small building was marked as Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center. We were greeted and asked if we wanted to go to the ranger lecture at 11:00. Usually wanting to explore on our own, we tend to dismiss the arranged lectures. But we were assured this was one we did not want to miss. She explained that the ranger giving the talk was a 95 year old woman who had worked at the shipyard when she was 20 years old during the Second World War.

We agreed to attend and when Betty Reid Soskin stepped up to the podium and began talking, the room was transfixed. She related her story punctuated by facts and historical realities, saying often, “That’s just the way we were.” She talked for an hour without one note in front of her; without one stumble; or one “ah . . .” and hardly a pause for breath. And the room was rapt.

2016-02-25 12.18.24One of the stories she told was that her great grandmother had been born a slave in 1846 and lived to see African-American women work along side white women and some men in the war effort before she died in 1946. She went on to explain that even in her own life-time Betty has lived to see old Jim Crow laws abolished and an African-American in the White House. In fact, she’s met that man in the White House and attended his inauguration. She told how when she did attend the inauguration, she carried a picture of her great grandmother in her pocket as she stood in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, the man who had been instrumental in granting freedom to her great-grandmother, and listened to an African-American give his inaugural address. “And, if that doesn’t move you,” she said, “Check your pulse.”

2016-02-25 12.01.25Well, there was no need for me to do that because I was so moved the tears streamed down my cheeks. She was powerful! And, a great example of the need and the value of oral history. We talked with her after her presentation and I asked if I could take her picture. “Of course,” she said. Another woman offered to take the photo so both of us could proudly stand with her. It was an inspiring and grace-filled morning.

Over a sandwich and salad at the cafe on the dock next door in one of the old industrial buildings, we couldn’t stop talking about Betty. One phrase I wrote down was her awareness and conclusion that there are “multiple duplicating truths.” That’s a concept to meditate on. No one person has all the truth . . . or holds the only truth. There are multiple duplicating truths. The wisdom of Betty Reid Soskins.

Following lunch we went to the memorial erected to all the women who joined the work force making boats and planes; jeeps, tanks, and trucks, while the men were on the front lines. My grandmother was one of those women! She worked at Douglas Aircraft in the Dope Shop. That was where they prepared and “doped” the muslin fabric that was part of the wings and ailerons of the planes. I spent the next hour wishing I had talked with my grandmother more about her experiences as a women in industry during the war.

2016-02-25 15.03.41A few miles down the road we switched centuries and visited the home of John Muir in Martinez, CA. We walked through his peach orchard and through the rooms of his house. Most impressive to me was his “office” or “scribble den,” as he called it. That was where he wrote. And it was filled with books and papers all over every surface, as well as the floor. I smiled that someone with such a great mind and a great pen organized his office like I often did! I felt right at home. I think I might have a “scribble den” of my own.

One of the most wonderful aspects of visiting all these historical sites is to be able to stand where famous people have stood. To touch the same banister that John Muir . . . or Abraham Lincoln . . . or Clara Barton touched when they walked up the stairs of their homes. It’s the greatest time travel experience I know of, and I highly recommend it.

The quote from John Muir that struck me today, among the many, many beautiful words he has written, is: “I merely went out for a walk and found that going out was really going in.” How better could one describe the mystical experience of enjoying the beauty of nature?

A lovely Italian dinner in a tiny family restaurant a stone’s throw from the Muir home and we were ready for an evening’s rest at our hotel.

Catching up with yesterday

February 24, 2016 – The local Denny’s served us up hot and speedy and we were fortified for the morning. First stop: the National Park’s San Francisco Maritime Museum. It displayed the history of this city and its maritime heritage in graphic and beautiful detail.  So now, a trip out to the old tall ships in the harbor. 2016-02-24 11.30.23The Balclutha had just returned to its berth following months of refurbishing, and was not open to the public for our examination because she still had 2 to 3 months of interior work yet to be done. But, she was beautiful, I’ll say that. She was built in 1886 and for more information about her specifications, go here. We admired her and her hull and masts and yard arms and were saddened that we could not board her for exploration.

2016-02-24 11.45.05But, all we had to do was walk on farther down the wharf and we were able to board the C.A. Thayer. She was built in 1895 and was a fine example of a tall sailing ship of the era. We crawled almost everywhere we could crawl and imagined ourselves on a long sea voyage. I can only imagine the adventures she must have seen in her day.

When we disembarked from the Thayer, we walked on down the shoreline to a National Park’s Annex and another museum that was origionaly built as a bath house during the WPA. Today it serves as a gallery where there was a most  intriguing photo exhibit of photographs of sailing ship’s crews, captains, sailors and their pets and/or families.2016-02-24 12.53.29 The photos were printed almost life size and the expressions and eyes of the individuals almost made me want to meet and talk to each one. These photos told stories all thier own – not only of the history of the day, but of the lives of the people who lived it. Proud people. Hardworking people. Sea-loving men and women. Highly skilled sailors. I spent a long time examining each photograph, each face and expression. It was a completely entrapping exhibit.

2016-02-24 12.12.02-1Time for lunch! The closest place looked the best, so we parked ourselves at The Pub BBQ at Ghirardilli square. And, it was delicious. We stopped into the chocolate store afterwards and accepted our complimentary chocolate for desert and we were set for the afternoon.

We took our time walking back along the bay to Pier 39, where we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. I was also taking photographs along the way, you must understand, so it probably took us longer than the average tourist. We stopped to watch and photograph the sea lions tussle with each other for a spot in the sun. And we stopped for some much needed beverages. (The weather was extraordinary – 67 degrees, warm and sunny and much drier than Seattle!!!)

2016-02-24 14.18.34By 5 p.m. we were back at the hotel to rest our weary feet and revive ourselves for a few minutes before returning to my cousin’s house for our final diner in San Francisco. It was delicious, as always, and we enjoyed more stories of growing up in Iowa and other adventures since. We could not have asked for a lovelier time in San Francisco! And, I doubt if we could have managed to see one more thing.  2016-02-24 19.12.08


Oops . . . a quick edit, here.  We actually went on the Balclutha. It was the Thayer that had just returned from refurbishing. Both pictures are the Balclutha. Sorry for the confusion!


Maritime History

IMG_20160224_115919354The internet is not working well at the hotel tonight, so a full report will be submitted tomorrow. But the quick overview is we spent the whole day immersed in the maritime history of San Francisco.

Walking in San Francisco

Breakfast was a bit of an adventure this morning. The waiter at the breakfast bar took umbrage with me for ASKING what was on the menu when I was just supposed to “Sit down.” Maybe he thought I could read his mind! I just didn’t want to sit down before I knew what options I was sitting down to!

2016-02-23 10.14.12But we did break our fast and went off to walk across San Francisco. We needed to go from our hotel on the Wharf straight down Jones Street for two and a half miles. We can walk that! Of course we can! But somehow we were clueless that while Jones Street went STRAIGHT to our destination – it was not simply down. It was UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN. For two blocks along an UP stretch I counted 415 STEPS that were necessary to actually get to the top.

2016-02-23 10.42.17-1Along the way, I stopped into Grace Cathedral to take in a moment of grace and some photographs. Then we were at our destination where we attended our obligatory time share “update” at our appointed time.

Afterward we found a simple lunch at Sutter’s Grill and walked up and down to Chinatown. We wandered our way through the streets of Chinatown and enjoyed the sights and sounds, if not always the smells.

By 6:00 we were back at the Wharf to meet up with my cousin and his partner for a Mexican dinner at Las Margarita’s.

2016-02-23 10.20.13-1They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so read on . . .2016-02-23 17.06.012016-02-23 17.07.152016-02-23 17.50.432016-02-23 17.41.092016-02-23 17.42.36

Adventures on Alcatraz

2016-02-22 10.25.46One more morning at Destination Bakery before we packed up to leave our wonderful accommodations at my cousin’s house in the Mission District of San Francisco. Upon entering the bakery, we could not believe who jumped up to greet us. It was our new found friend, the woman we met yesterday morning at the bakery. So, another great morning conversation that went from “I can’t stay long because I’m going to swimming lessons,” to “We can’t either because we have tickets to Alcatraz,” and it went from there. The range of topics again astounding us! From our Toyota Prius and learning to drive, to exploring the country by car or train, to Horatio Hornblower and family systems, to psych nursing. It was so delightful! How many people do you know where you can have so many interests in common? As we bid “good bye” to each other, we promised to stay in touch.

2016-02-22 10.58.28From there we drove to the north of town and the Fisherman’s Wharf area where we have a hotel for the next 3 nights.  After finding our hotel, we parked the car in their parking garage and walked to Pier 33 to catch our scheduled boat to Alcatraz Island.

The day was even lovelier than the last 3 days we have experienced here. Today it reached  66 degrees – with full sun!  We didn’t even need a sweater. The last time I was on a boat in San Francisco harbor it was the middle of July, and I wished I had my parka with me. All to say, the weather was unseasonably warm and lovely.

We stood in line to board the Alcatraz Clipper for our 15 minute crossing to “The Rock.” We were met by National Park Rangers who gave us an overview of the park. Then we set out on our own to explore.

2016-02-22 13.51.30It’s is a sobering place in a beautiful spot. Most of the buildings are now crumbling and in disrepair, but there is still evidence of the dwellings and Post that the Army had first erected in this place.  2016-02-22 13.27.31I guess I’m much less interested in criminal minds and maximum security cell blocks than most people. I would rather be outside to soak up the natural beauty of the weather and the local flora and fauna.

2016-02-22 13.56.39They told us that an average of almost 10,000 people visit Alcatraz a day, and I have to say I can’t understand the attraction. But, I’m not sorry I went. The boat ride alone was worth the journey.

2016-02-22 15.33.55Once back on shore we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and found some early dinner at the famous San Francisco Sourdough factory. It was probably more bread than I’ve eaten in the last month, but my oh my, was it good.

2016-02-22 16.36.40-2


Since our dinner allowed our legs to rest for a while, we walked on a little more, just exploring, until we reached our hotel for an early evening off our feet.

San Francisco is a beautiful place!

A Graced Encounter

2016-02-21 11.30.54Sunday morning at the Destination Bakery is a busy place. Many people had made the bakery their destination – including us. Not only that, but one of the bakery’s little cafe tables had broken earlier that morning which meant there were 4-5 less places to sit with a cinnamon bun and a coffee – or water. So, we happily sat on a bench and began to enjoy our delights. My cousin, owner and operator of Destination Bakery came out to say “Good Morning” to us and other patrons and asked the lone woman at the next table if we could join her. “Why, of course,” she said. And so began a friendship that I hope will survive the distance of our miles. We had a lovely conversation and learned many things we had in common. She is an Army Brat (as am I); she loves history and loves to write (as do I), and the conversation was off and running.

We stayed far longer at the bakery than we intended the schedule to allow – and no one cared. We enjoyed the company of our new friend until another man asked if he might join our table. “Of course,” we said, we were willing to share. He listened to our continuing conversation and at one point shared in a thick Eastern European accent that the bread pudding was excellent. He promptly finished his portion and got up to get another. When he finished his second serving, he got up, asked if he could buss our plates and wished us a good day. My new friend and I continued talking! We exchanged desires for our creativity; stories of our youth; stories of our parents and their time in history; and our names and emails. We might be sitting there yet if the 62 degree sunshine and the lovely San Francisco attractions had not called us outside.

2016-02-21 13.12.19Since it was even warmer and clearer than yesterday we elected to return to Land’s End Park where we had hastily spent less than an hour on a cloudy morning when we first arrived in town. It was a challenge finding a parking place as almost all of San Francisco was at the park today. But, once we found one, we took the coastal hike from the Sutro Baths almost to the Eagle’s Point. Along the way we glimpsed the amazing beauty of the area and sights of the Golden Gate bridge – from the opposite direction we had viewed it yesterday.

The hike was rather long and upon returning to our starting point we knew we must look for a little cafe for some lunch. The first place we saw was very crowded with a long line of patrons waiting. So, we walked on in the direction of the car. The next place we saw was a little cafe connected with an older 1950’s style hotel or motel called the Seal Rock Inn. We were ushered to a seat immediately and found the food excellent. In addition, we could also enjoy the view!

Driving back across town we saw thousands of San Franciscans out walking and biking enjoying this amazing day in this amazing place.

2016-02-18 20.03.46One last adventure for the end of our day – the local variety store on Castro Avenue, named “Cliff’s.” It was a delight to behold and I felt like a child again in a true variety store that had everything from bunny ears for Easter to toilet repair supplies; toys; games; fabric; cards; jewelry making supplies; and gag gifts. What an amusement to top off the day.

I happily and proudly carried my new 18 inch metal drafting ruler back to the car and we returned to our “rooms” for the night, tired and ready to rest.

A Day of Beauty / A Day of Grace

There are almost no words to describe the beauty and grace of today. It’s San Francisco. It’s sunny and 59 degrees. And we have nothing to do but enjoy.

Returning to my cousin’s bakery we started the day again with delicious treats we almost never would have at home. Quiche; a chicken empenada; cinnamon roll and a hot cross bun. Some of us also had coffee . . . but I’m not a coffee drinker.

2016-02-20 11.32.15Leaving the bakery we headed for the Presidio for a full day of exploration and fun. And, that’s just what we did. We explored and we had fun. I also spent much of the time walking to find the perfect spot for photographs.  Beginning at the bridge entrance we admired the beauty and genius of such an engineering feat. Then we drove down to Fort Point where we were amazed by the solid brick fort built before the Civil War, yet it was in remarkably good condition. I wanted to get to the top where I saw others walking, because of course, I could photograph from there! Three stories of stairs and the view was fantastic!

2016-02-20 16.26.02We also saw the informative films about the construction and history of the fort and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Filled with information, we realized we needed to be filled with food. So, we went to the main part of the Presidio and enjoyed a light lunch at one of the local restaurants.  Being on an old Army Post always brings back a flood of childhood memories for me and I feel right at home. I never really had a home town, but an Army Post fits the bill perfectly. They are almost always the same – or very similar – and they are entirely familiar as well as comforting for me. And, I loved the Presidio.

We got our day’s exercise by walking the lovely “boardwalk” along San Francisco Bay, stopping for pictures along the way. We found a small museum dedicated to California gold rush history and found it fascinating.

2016-02-20 17.40.16By late afternoon my cousin, Joe, texted to say dinner would be ready by about 6:30, so we made one last round past the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun was low on the horizon and drove back to the Mission District and dinner.

Through talk and laughter, reminiscences and good food, we shared a wonderful evening in the company of extended family. Who could ask for anything more?

2016-02-20 18.38.47Well, spatzle, maybe. My cousin made chicken and spatzle for dinner! Along with asparagus and roasted butternut squash. And, it was absolutely delicious. I guess that’s what you get when your heritage is German.  Good family and good food. The perfect end to a perfect day.