Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Weekend in California

My usual 12 hour trip to visit the California kids and grandkids took 15 hours last Friday, thanks to my less than brilliant idea to leave home when I awoke in the morning. I awoke at 3:30 and left shortly after. I thought that would get me there mid-afternoon instead of my usual late evening. Instead, it got me to the San Francisco Bay area during rush hours and in pouring rain. Very informative signs along I-80 told drivers how far it was to which exit. At one point, after I'd been barely moving for an hour, my exit was 2 1/2 miles away. Half an hour later, my exit was 1 1/4 miles away. I'd traveled one mile in half an hour. Eventually, after making a wrong turn and having Steve talk me in over the phone, I arrived. It was very nice to have two small boys excited to see me.

Cedrus turned 3 last week and I was bringing his birthday gifts from Grandpa and Grandma (Johnny and me). Cedrus likes bugs so he got a bug collecting kit and bugs and bug book. Kestrel helped him open the presents. Their Auntie Fudge (Munazza's sister Faiza) came the next day with colorful pancakes she made for Cedrus (out of all natural food dyes, she assured us). Dad Steve helped Cedrus cut them in half so Kestrel could have some, too.

Kestrel, 4-almost-5, and Cedrus (above) like to draw. Below Kestrel is drawing a double-decker car carrier with lots of cars inside. This table is in Mom and Dad's office so the boys can work where their parents are working.

I had not been to their new home since they moved the car parking area from in front of the house, where it was when they bought the place, to in front of the garage. Now the boys can ride bicycles, etc., in the front... and Steve can practice his unicycle skills, which he has not yet mastered but I did manage to catch him in a photo before he fell off. Cedrus found it easier to navigate around the obstacles (that bare tree-looking thing in the middle was their outdoor Christmas tree which had ornaments on it for Christmas) and up the slope with Mom pushing. Note the large blooming shrub behind Steve and also behind Munazza and Cedrus. That's a Brugmansia that blooms nearly all the time with huge, trumpet-shaped fragrant flowers. What a climate!

Munazza built this flower bed outside the kitchen. All the plants look very happy there... in January!

The backyard has a covered area with room to ride a tricycle even in the rain, plus a play structure for when the weather is warmer and drier than it was when I was there. Steve, never one to do things conventionally (or safely), walks across the top of the monkey bars.

This was the first time I had seen their newly remodeled kitchen. It's beautiful! And efficient, too.

Within easy walking distance from their house is a park with hiking trails and lots of birds. Naturally, I headed there. Munazza and Steve and Kestrel came with me. Cedrus, a little under the weather, stayed home with Auntie Fudge. Kestrel and his umbrella took a rest under a gnarly tree. After a bit he and his mom headed home while Steve and I explored the rest of the park. Wonderful views along the trail of the bay and wetlands would have been more photogenic if it wasn't quite so gray and wet. But California has been in an extended drought so no one down there is complaining about the rain (until the day I arrived bringing rain with me, Steve had been watering the lawn daily). The park was pretty even in drippy weather. I liked the twisted shapes of these leafless trees along the path.

No matter the weather, the boys have plenty to do indoors in their colorful playroom. Here Cedrus drills while Kestrel fixes a bridge.

Monday morning, after two days of fun with the California portion of our tribe, I awoke at 4 a.m. and left for home. It works well this direction to get up early, because I avoid morning rush hour traffic in the bay area. It was pouring rain. In a few hours the city awoke and cars starting sliding around and running into each other. Fortunately, I was soon away from the congestion and on I-5 headed north. However, I was worried about snow in the Siskiyous with all the rain at lower elevations, so I called Johnny at 6:30. He confirmed, via tripcheck on the computer, that it was snowing and chains were required from Dunsmuir north. Ugh. I hoped things would clear up by the time I got there. Johnny was even more worried: he started checking on train schedules to get me home and leave the car in California if the pass was going to close for a week under a heavy snowfall. I think he didn't want to be left with chores that long!

Continuing northward, I passed by the wildlife refuges along I-5 and saw hundreds of snow geese in a field right beside the highway. To give the snowplows plenty of time to clear the pass, I exited and sat taking photos for a good long time. The sun lit up the Trinity mountains to the west and it was truly beautiful as the day gradually brightened.

Eventually I noticed White-fronted Geese grazing in front of the Snow Geese. That's I-5 behind, with not many cars on it yet early in the morning.

Geese flew in small flocks across my field of vision in front of the snowy mountains beyond.

After taking about a zillion photos, I called friends Hazel and John who were also on call to watch trip check for me. John reported that the roads looked clear and "carry chains" was the only advisory. The snow plows had been hard at work. I drove the rest of the trip in good weather, with only a few light snowfalls here and there in the Siskiyous. Mt. Shasta, buried in clouds and fog on my way up, was now radiant in sunshine.

I arrived home at 6:30 after many photo stops... and rest stops to try to wake up. It's a long drive, no matter when you start.

Kestrel's 5th birthday is next month. I'm sending Johnny down on the train.

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