Thursday, October 14, 2010

ES - Day 6: Bodie, Mono Lake

"Goodby God, I'm Going to Bodie"

Well, we got up relatively early, ate our Cheerios and walked up the street to the Mono Lake Committee's headquarters, store.   So far so good.  Did a bit of shopping (map, gifts, stuff) which entitled me to free membership in the committee and a travel mug.  We sat and watched their slide show to get a sense of the Lake and the history and headed back down to our motel.

Things went a bit wrong.  This was the day to switch lenses.  The feared left one turned out fine but the right one was off.  Turns out it was inside out - happens a lot with the soft ones and I thought that was the case.  Then we discovered my cool black and gold hat was missing.  After semi-frantically searching luggage and car, we concluded that it stayed in Bishop - probably during the fast room move (see Day 3, part 2). Phone calls will happen soon.  Then I misplaced my lens cap - that happens a lot, it was in the car.  Then we discovered my sunglasses were missing.  I hiked up to where I'd taken pictures and as I was coming down, Nick found it under the stairs at the motel.  Must have popped out of my pack.  sigh.

Eventually, we started driving to Bodie.  Bodie is an old mining community of the late 1800s which was abandoned and is now kept in a state of  "arrested decay" for historical reasons.  It grew because they found gold there.  It was apparently full of terrible people - they should probably make a TV show about it - deaths, usually violent every day.   Deadwood comes to mind.  The quote above was from the diary of a girl whose family was moving there.

Now it's just a quite place in the middle of sage brush between the mountains. There's 9 miles of paved road followed by 3 of unpaved.  Dusty, not quite as bad as the road to the Patriarch's Grove in Bristle Cone. On the way up, we passed a couple of herds of sheep complete with shepherds and sheep dogs.  We passed them on the way back down and one herd also had a donkey.  Beats me!

We wandered around taking pictures of this building and that.  I find that my photography, like my blogging, goes back and forth between creativity (artsy shots, cute commentary) and attempts at journalism.  After a couple of hours, I told Nick that I was at the point of "if you've seen five of these buildings, you've seen them all."  There were really dilapidated houses and not so bad houses; there were businesses - in the heyday 65 saloons; there were public buildings - post office moved from someone's house to a hotel; there were outhouses.  Near the top of the hill were the mining structures but we weren't allowed into all that.  As a former engineer, I found that more interesting and nowhere near enough info in the brochure.

Off we headed, back down towards Mono Lake.

Birds of a Feather

Mono Lake has a  northern approach and a southern one.  The really nice visitor center is at the northern one.  We got there about 20 before it closed so had time to look around.  Asked the ranger about sunset.  She showed us something that said 5:22 which was a surprise to us - I had thought 6ish.  She suggested going to the Southern Tufas for sunset.  

Here's the story - once again LA and their water is the villian.  In the forties, water was deflected from the tributaries to Mono (by the way pronounce Moe-Noe, not Mohn-noe).  The lake was nearly drained over the next several decades.  Then, about the time we came to California, people started campaigning to save and restore it.  As the water level dropped, these cool calcium formations, called tufas emerged.  Also a land bridge, which allowed coyotes to get to the island nests of the California gulls.  We could argue that gulls are problematic, but not here and now.  There's some neat info about shrimp and alkaline water and alkaline flies.  Now that I'm a member, I can point you at the Mono Lake Committee website for more details.

We got down to the lake by 5:15 and started hiking around and taking pictures.  As the sun slowly set in the west, we photographers all started convening in similar places.  I found one guy who'd been there a lot and kind of followed him around.  As the sun was fully set, around 6:15, there were a bunch of us at a tip, looking out at the color on the eastern hills.  Mostly there was chitchatting, but I was underexposing 2 full stops and got some nice color behind big tufas in the lake.  And then, my battery died.  Argh.  I charged it before we left and a couple of days ago.  I may need to get a new one.  sigh.

A Pleasant Surprise

Well we packed up and headed to where everyone kept telling us we should eat, theWhoa Nellie Deli.  Basically the Mobile Station on the opposite end of Lee Vining has a big convenience store.  In the store, is a deli style restaurant.   Having been raised on the east coast and jewish, I only have one thing to say - if there's no corned beef or pastrami, it's not a deli!   But they had a nice bison meatloaf which Nick had and a nice bison braised ribs which I got.  So much food again, that we have part of tomorrow's lunch.

The best part was when we walked in, there was my old photography teacher (the only one I've had, actually), Charlie.  We had known that he was somewhere in the area teaching a class with John Sexton.  Turns out John is the analogy guy and Charlie is the digital guy.  Charlie's going to be giving a digital printing class and guess who's going to find a way to take it!

Go to  Charles Cramer  to see his work.  If you've seen the photo of trees in my living room, that's a Cramer.

Goodnight, all!  Love
© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

ES - Day 5: Bishop to Lee Vining

The Devil Made Me Do It!

I am now a day behind in blogging.  This has come about for a couple of reasons - I tend to fall behind in things and I convinced Nick to upload some of his pictures to Facebook.   Two people sharing a computer on vacation can get a tad tricky.  Good thing we like each other.

Yesterday, which might have been Tuesday, we packed up and checked out of the Comfort Inn in Bishop.  We had an odd conversation with Dave, the manager who promised to get Nick some extra points for the double lockout incidents.  Eventually we took off up 395.

This was our take it easier day. We went to the Devil's Postpile National Monument.  Just before paying our fee, we stopped at Minaret Vista and had a fun lunch looking out over the valley at the cliffs.  Lunch was shipwreck - left overs from the past three dinners.  We've had fridges in each of our rooms and things held up well.  After taking a bunch of photos - I love my graduated neutral density filter.  I'm learning how to position it so the sky and mountains get less exposure while the foliage gets more.  A lot easier than burning and dodging in software.  I used to know how to do this in the lab but not yet digitally. 

We packed up from lunch and headed on down the road, paved, yay!!  From the parking lot, there's a relatively easy half mile walk down to the monument.  When you get there, you look up over all these rocks to see something that looks like a giant made a fence using huge  rock posts.  The formation evolved by a combination first of volcanic lava and second glaciers coming in eons later.  I'm bugging Nick to get this much.  If you're curious, there's a ton of info at the Devil's Postpile website.  In a rare occurrence, Nick said we didn't have to hike up to the top but I decided we should.  The initial steps were tough but once we got the top, you could see that each post really was hexagonally shaped.  Nick went and explored up the trail a bit more while I was photographing.  I had one moment of watching my footing and realizing if I went over the edge, Nick wouldn't know where to look for me.  But I was fine and we decided to finish the loop.  Easier walking and we saw smaller formations.  Nick named one the Reaper's Postpile.  We also walked through an area where the wildfires had hit a few years back and saw new trees growing.

From there, we pretty much just drove on to Lee Vining and checked into our current hotel which is at the edge of town.  Being at the edge of town is easy, it's a short town.  Population is only three digits - I haven't been able to read the sign.   

Coming up Bodie! 

© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ES - Day 4: Bishop, Bristle Cone Pines; Marcia

In Search of Ancient Gnarly

Turns out my good friend Marcia isn't a morning person either.  So we picked her up at 10ish for our big adventure today.

We started out by going to the Mountain Light Gallery.  It celebrates the work and lives of Galen and Barbara Rowell.  Galen was this amazing photographer who specialized in light and mountains and everything.  We spent a hour looking at photographs and books and calendars and more.  After some purchases and feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of the photographs and trying to learn lessons, we headed across the street to pick up lunches at the deli.

And then, off we went to start the long, uphill drive into the White Mountains.  That's where one finds the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest. While the giant sequoias at Yosemite are large and quite old, the bristle cone pines are smaller but really, really old.

Here's my lesson of the day - If you're going to go hiking with an orienteer and a person who built a hiking trail on your own property, be sure a) they love you and b) they want to take a lot of pictures too!  Otherwise, they might just have left me behind especially on the ups in high altitude.  Oh, and they don't get into imaginary answers to questions like "what's that shiny area down there" - two votes for something scientific, one for baseball diamond.  OK, so maybe they were right.

We did three hikes.  First was the half mile, Pinyan Nature Trail. Pinyan is a type of pine - we saw many different pines.  On this hike we learned that Marcia really could live off of the land if she had to!  She had us trying pine nuts fresh from a pine cone (not the bristle pines).  A few words about Marcia.  I met her the one year I was in the Women in Engineering program at UC Davis.  She had a bachelor's in math (as did I) but her masters is in zoology.  Often, when I'm hiking with Nick, I say "I wonder what this plant is.  I'll take a picture and try to remember to show it to Marcia.  She'll know."  Well, when she's there - she knows.   She's also a bit nuts!  In a different way from my nuts - she had a signal and GPS on her phone and some ap to tell us how long since we started hiking, how much time we'd been moving and how much not.

This little hike took us about an hour, yeah, I'm slow.  We drove more to an overview and tromped out to the point.  Nick was great and went back for my new filter.  As I was shooting with it (to get the foreground more exposed) a young couple came along and the guy was intrigued.  Eventually, I took a great picture of them with their little point & shoot camera.

Back in the car, going up and up.  Get to the Ranger center (a trailer but with books, patches and the passport stamp.  I use my little all-purpose notebook to get the stamps.)  We had lunch there.  Marcia lured in a golden mantled ground squirrel with one of the nasturtiums from her salad.   I had the telephoto out already.  See facebook pics.

Our hiking choices, did I mention we were at 10,000 ft, were the one mile Discovery Trail or the 4.5 mile Methuselah trail.  Survival won over seeing the oldest living things on the planet.  We did see their slightly younger cousins.  We saw the remains of a 3600 or something like that tree that died in the sixteen hundreds.
Because of the conditions, wind, weather, snow, high altitude, the trees lose branches and bark and grow very twisted.  The word for the day was gnarly.  Marcia and I went crazy taking pictures.  Actually, Nick got into it too. Not just to rest but because the trees are just amazing - the area where bark is gone is an almost bright yellow.   The little trail took us about two hours.  Almost forgot, something, maybe a red tail hawk, flew over us at one point but too fast to photograph.

Back down to the car and off for the Patriarchs grove.  This is where the largest bristle cone pine is.  It's 12 miles away and the road is dirt, sometimes tight (not as bad as the other day's North Lake, but close.)  Less traveled.  Oh, and snow in a couple of patches.  But it was open and off we were going.  and going and going.  I was beginning to think this was totally not worth it when I caught a glimpse of motion up ahead at the side of the road.  Then Nick saw it and stopped. Then the coyote crossed the road in front of us, marked some territory (as I'm scrambling to switch lenses.  She then crossed in front of us and trotted parallel to us and waited.  Wildlife photographer's dream come true.

Eventually, we got to the Patriarch - took the 1/4 mile nature hike - misplaced the trail in the snow a few times - the duo convinced me that the canine tracks were domestic, what with going exactly where we were.  And we started feeling a few drops of water.   Back in the car and back the 12 miles to the main road (really off to the side of a side road, but you know.)   Had a stopped truck driver point out a herd of deer on a hillside.  Oh, and it did rain on us coming down but twas ok.  Watched a bit of sunset and got back down to Bishop to find that, once again, our room keys didn't work.  This time, the card magic worked and we got in.  Met Marcia shortly thereafter for a lovely Japanese dinner, very tired.

Once again, Nick is our hero for driving in these conditions.

Going to bed now.  Really need to catch up with sleep.  Short amount about Devil's Postpile tomorrow, I hope, before we head for Bodie.


ps, this link should get you to photos:

© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Monday, October 11, 2010

ES - Day 3, Part 1 of 2: North Lake, Manzanar, Alabama Hills

In Search of Fall Color

Nick says, let's go find some fall color and after asking a few people where to look, we turned right at the traffic light and went up and up and up.   I wouldn't say our marriage was in jeopardy, but I was mighty skeptical after we cleared the town limits and the only plants anywhere in sight was sagebrush.

Eventually, we start seeing some trees and Nick starts feeling vindicated.  The road has, of course, gotten more narrow and more twisty.  There begin to be lots of cars by the road.  Hikers, you may think.  Well, not really - it's photographers season.  At one bend in the road, there's a zillion cars and a bridge over a bubbling stream.   The bridge  is packed with photographers. So we keep driving.  At one overview, I noticed a sign that said "North Lake."  We were heading for lake Sabrina.  We stopped further along and did take some pictures over the river of the aspen.  We went along the main road a while and decided to turn around and head back.  I suggested we check out the North Lake road.  Now, silly me, I was thinking, lake, amenities, something.  Guess I've driven around Tahoe too much.  Yes, I know, much bigger, more developed and thus less dense with photographers.  Here, you had to compose pictures carefully to not have one or more tripods in them.  My tripod was back in the room.

Off we headed up and up and up and around and around and oh yes, it's now a dirt, one lane road.  Nick has a thing about heights, he doesn't like them.  He gets the hero award for that drive - the outside of the road is up direction.   He was actually better off since I'm ok looking out over the edge.  But, eventually, after passing too many cars and largish pickup trucks, we came to a clearing with a latrine and parking.  We drove past it to catch the lay of the land and sure enough a small lake.  Went back and parked.  The lake was beautiful - the fall color, especially the aspens, the clear reflections, the background of mountains.  Photos were taken, by us, by people with tripods, by people with small children.

I forgot to mention - this was our "shorts" day.  Weather was 72 per the car when we headed up the hill.  According to the car it was 48 while we out taking pictures.  It probably was, but oddly, it felt good.  Eventually, we headed back down, agreeing that the twisty, turny, narrow, North Lake road was worth it.

We headed down 395 and had a nice lunch in Big Pine  Passed through Independence, formerly like 150 years ago, as Little Pine and on down to Manzanar.


Nick and I have both heard a lot about Manzanar.  It's hard to live in the Bay Area and not know about how dreadfully our military leaders decided they could treat US citizens.  As the exhibit implies, some people think the Constitution is great except when they want something.

The first thing that struck me was how stark the surroundings are.  Beautiful but stark.  The Eastern Sierras on one side, the White Mountains on the other, with sagebrush of Owens Valley in the middle.  The original auditorium building is now the visitors center. We were both somber driving in and walking in.  Teared up reading the exhibits and while watching the well-produced 22 min video.

A few words about Ronald Reagan.  I vaguely remember him hosting the 20 Mule Team Borax TV western show [name escapes me.]  I never voted for him, I actively disliked all that I saw or read about his wife. Two good things from my point of view.  He was allegedly the only Type B POTUS in our time.  And on the Manzanar video, he was my hero for the way he signed the bill officially apologizing and giving survivors some reparations.  Too late for most, but needed closure.

As I walked around, I continued to be tearing up (as was Nick).  I nearly broke down reading the roster of internees, posted as a giant scroll.  I looked for and saw last names that I personally knew (including one Murai).   The experience was similar to my reactions at the Birmingham Civil Rights Center and the Washington, DC Viet Nam memorial.  And there were exhibits about other acts of prejudice and hate.  And I thought about the debate over the proposed Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan.  I'm tired of hate and fear and how it brings out the dark side of our populace.  I found myself quoting Pete Seeger "when will we ever learn."

We drove the self-guided tour of the whole site. Stopped and walked the bases at the playing field.  I put a rock that i picked up outside at the cemetery memorial, among the other rocks and pennies and cranes.  Thought about all my cats at the pet cemetery.  Wrung out emotionally, we headed to the next stop on Nick's tour of Pines.

Alabama Hills

Apparently, our latest thing is to go where they made movies and TV shows.  First Vasquez Rocks, now Movie Row.  You get there by turning right off of 395 in Lone Pine, crossing the Aqueduct, going up the hill, past the replacement Lone Pine.  Turn right again, following a guide book we got from a park ranger station. The rock formations are amazing.  We saw where Roy Rogers made his first movie and (not sure exactly of the spot but we saw it) where John Wayne made his last video, a commercial.  Took lots of pictures; followed the slight detour to Murphy Ranch Road.  12 miles or so and eventually came back.

Two last comments.  In the last Alaska trip, we had to go to the zoo to find moose.  Well, we watched and watched back up 395 - for elk, it was the right time of day, but no luck.  Actually we've seen very little non-human life forms.  There's still time.

When Nick was a child, they lived down Cape Cod during the summer.  There was a highway running nearby to Provincetown, Highway 6.  Well, guess where the other end is.  Yes, here in Bishop.  And that's why the last photos I took yesterday are of him and a highway sign.  Posted on my facebook page.

It's now Columbus Day and we're off in search, with Marcia, of ancient bristle cone pines.  A single destination day.


© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Sunday, October 10, 2010

ES - Day 3, Part 2 of 2: Evening in Bishop

How things go Amuck!

You're wondering why part 2 is first.  Cause it's so stupid that I want to get it out of the way and if you come in late, you'll read part one first.

We had a lovely day - read all about it in part one.  We came back to Bishop to meet up with my dear friend Marcia so we can all go to Ancient  Bristle Cone Pine Forrest (who named it that?  I have to keep asking Nick what the name is) in the morning.  The plan was she'd call us about an hour out to work out dinner timing.

We get back to our room at  the Comfort Inn and the keys don't work.  Now we've had that problem before, only when we had two (or more) sequential reservations because that's the only way they can book a room free on points.  Nick goes back down [we're on the second floor almost the furthest room from the lobby, we're both too tired to haul stuff up and down any more.]  Roger does the desk clerk magic on the keys.  Nick returns.  They don't work.  Nick goes back to lobby, comes back with Roger and housekeeping and master keys.

Meanwhile, I hear the phone in the room ringing.  This is mysterious as only a few people have the number.  I'm also checking my cell for calls from Marcia - concerned about her long drive from Applegate.

Roger tries all keys - nothing works.  He shares that this room had a problem last week.  I observe that there really is a spot for a metal, old fashioned key.  Roger leaves.  I call Marcia.  Well turns out, she was the one calling.  She left her hotel and walked to ours.

Roger comes back with key ring and pass keys for a new room for us, cause by now we all know it's bad.  His master key (apparently expired) doesn't work in the new room but the keys for us do.  We plop down, he goes back to old room.  None of the metal keys work.  Marcia comes,  we sit in new room.  Our stuff is still in old room, including Nick's cell phone which he'd forgotten in the am.  Marcia has a new phone.  NOT in it is my phone number but she had Nick's on a message I'd sent.  So, you get it right?  I'm waiting for her to call but she only has the hotel and Nick's phone numbers - both inside the still locked room.  sigh

Roger returns with the now awakened manager Dave.  I go down the hall to parlay.  Dave has this whizzy electronic calculator looking like widget with a big metal passkey probe on it.  He kits the calculator number keys - lights flicker.  Roger tries some key - doesn't work. Discussion of phoning Jesus ensues - he lives two blocks away.  I mention we'd like to eat dinner.  Roger offers to move our stuff when the room is finally opened.  Nick & I decline (we'd unpacked, had stuff in drawers, shelves, closet, fridge).  Go back to new room.  Phone rings!  Dave has the room open.

Oh, he did, by breaking in through and cracking the window!  And apparently the metal key broke off in the mechanical lock.  Not a good evening for Dave.  No sign of Jesus.  Nick, Marcia and I move stuff in record time leading Dave to ask if we're in the hotel business.

An hour after we should have, the three of us went off for quite yummy pizza at The Upper Crust!

Will now let Nick use the mini for a while before I tackle part 1 and/or photos.


© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Eastern Sierra - Day 2: Yosemite to Bishop


My friends know that I'm just not a morning person.  We keep saying that we'll go to bed early and get up early and go off early and somehow it never works.

We got off earlier today than yesterday, that's saying something but at this moment, I'm so tired (and Nick is napping and it's 11pm, go figure) that I don't remember when.  Ah, but the camera knows, wait a sec...........
Took a picture of Nick loading the car at 10:38am.  Took a picture of officially entering Yosemite (while there was a long line of cars to get in at 11:16am.  I apparently took another 200 pictures before getting to Bishop (where we are right now!).   Oh hey, Nick's awake.  This will be short since he wants to check email too.

Why are we both so tired?  We took two hikes in high altitude.  The first was down to see the Giant Sequoias in Tuolomne Grove.  It's just a mile - downhill the whole way.  We also did the 1/2 mile nature loop at the grove.  And then, the long slog backup hill.  We took a short granola bar break and several photo breaks and smiled and chatted more pleasantly with the people coming down than those coming up had when we were coming down.  One woman (she up, we down) actually said "it wasn't worth it!")  I disagree, trees which are thousands of years old - you know?  Gives you a sense of your real place in the universe.  

We found a pace at which I could keep moving without losing my breath.  Slow and steady.  My best bit of detective work - there were no markers or landmarks for a sense of distance - was when a young woman came by eating a Popsicle.  I said to Nick - it's 75% eaten, she had to have pulled it out of a freezer in the parking lot - she was moving at a decent clip - how far did she come?  We decided we had 10-15 more minutes.  Then we passed the berries that I'd photographed early on and voila - the parking lot!

Our plan was to eat lunch at Tenaya Lake.  We had the leftovers from last night's dinner.  We hadn't been sure we had decent plastic knives so cut everything up before putting in the to-go boxes.  A good idea!  But, while we've mastered leaving before noon, we still haven't gotten to lunch before 3pm.  Maybe tomorrow.

Part of the challenge is the slow hiking, part is the need to stop and take photos.  One reason I take so many is I bracket my shots [what the camera thinks, one step more than camera thinks, one step less]  In general, the best shots are the ones one stop underexposed.  Back in film days, the rule was overexpose print film and underexpose slide to get greater detail and richer colors. Digital appears to be like slides.  

Of course we had to stop at the outlook at Olmsted Point to see (among other things) Halfdome.  then we found the picnic area by Tenaya Lake.  I nearly froze from the wind coming down off.   After lunch, We got to Tuolomne Meadows.  How to describe it - one long, vast wide meadow surrounded by gorgeous mountains, some with snow.  The amazing part is it is all at 8000 ft elevation!  We walked to Soda Springs - only one half mile but, did I mention 8000 ft and that we're both senior citizens in many places?

Eventually back at the car, we worked our way out of the park by about 5pm. Showed our receipt and said goodbye to the nice rangers at the gate.  Since that was at Tioga Pass,  Nick announced "now we're in the Eastern Sierras"  Then we made the drive down - the steep, curvy, drive down.  Stopped a couple of times, esp when we could get out and make snowballs.   Gorgeous,  just gorgeous all the way down.  We stopped for a couple of minutes to check out the famous Mobil Station in Lee Vining - home of the Whoa Nellie Deli.  We expect to eat there later on.  On the way down to Bishop, saw beautiful color on the mountains.  We hadn't considered that sunset would be earlier on this side of the mountains (you know, the
east, so mountains are blocking it, etc.).  

I have semifigured out how to do pictures here.  I have to upload to Picassa which has limited storage.  I don't want to deal with that, so you're going to have to look on Facebook.   I'm still sorting out how I review them here on the Netbook.  I don't like that the editing actually changes the original on my disk.  like messing with a negative.  so cropping, lighting improvements, etc isn't happening.  

I've tried following a tip I found in the Blog help area, so comments might work - who knows.  I managed to post one, so maybe it's not my blog specifically.  sigh

Tomorrow Independence and Manzanar - I plan to pack tissues.


© 2010 Esther A. Heller

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eastern Sierra - Day 1: Menlo Park to Buck Meadows

Nick & I got up, packed, said goodbye to Borealis and Denali and were out the door by 11am. Zipped across the Bay, no problemo, had a leisure lunch in Livermore and made it up to Murphys in time to taste at  three different wineries.

Oh wait!  That was the plan. Reality is much more challenging.  There were emails to send off, a conference call to attend - a new chair, it was only fair that I be on for a while and most importantly, a run to my optometrist for replacement left lens.  It's partially a photo expedition, I really need to be able to see.

A short tangential rant -  I've been wearing extended wear soft contact lenses for 40, yes kids 40, years.  I'd get a pair and they'd be good for an entire YEAR!  A year ago, my eye doc talks me into disposables, better for the aging eyes.  First batch, no problem.  Second batch - first left lens uncomfortable whenever I look up,
like driving.   Try another from the batch - comfy enough but tolerance on prescription off.   Month passes, try the third one; same as the first.  Not optimistic about the remaining three.  Hence today's last minute trip to Dr Chin.  Well he didn't have any spares and says "how about the daily ones?"  DAILY - like a new lens every day.  He claims I can wear them for a week.   I went home and packed three right- and nine left-eye contact lenses so I can see when I go to Bodie.  Conspicuous consumerism is winning.

Eventually, we left around 1ish, as in after, not before noon.  Made it across the Bay ok.  Before going to bed (don't ask! but it did involve remembering that I had a column due at 10pm) I had discovered that my new 4Mb camera disk wasn't working.   Apparently my camera chokes on SDHC cards - got an obscure message [flashing CHR or something].  So, the plan was to pick one up at the Target in Union City.  Target doesn't carry SanDisk! At this point, we're pushing 3 hours late, I'm hungry/cranky and worried about e-film.  Like I wanted Kodak and they were offering me unknown.

Next, we get stuck in traffic - on 238 as expected (but not bad) and then a lot on 580.  Eventually, I spotted a Staples off the highway in Tracy.  Turns out there's a Golden Corral in the same parking lot!  Turns out we were so late for lunch we got the early bird dinner special.  Things are starting to look up - at least our blood sugar was.  Talked to a nice guy in Staples about SD vs SDHC (for High Capacity).   It's bad enough that James, Liz's fiance who is our go-to computer guy, tells me my 2000 computer is old. [c'mon where does that put me?  oh never mind!]  Now I have a nice but random stranger telling me that my 2006 camera is old.  Let us consider that both really work well - it's the creeping elegance and consumerism that are doing us in!

The nice man convinced me that he uses PNY and it's just as good as SanDisk and I have 14 days to return it (yes in Menlo Park if need be) if I'm unhappy.   So far so good.

Well fed and having camera issue resolved, we worked our way up the road.  Made it to the only winery that is open till 5:30 at 5pm.  Twisted Oak has a twisted sense of humor - the road up is twisted and there are signs, ala Wall Drug, at each turn, including rubber chicken crossing.  They have a fricken out in front - ah, did I forgot to mention this is Calavaras county as in Mark Twain short stories?  If I could figure out how to post pictures in this blog, I would up load it here - from the PNY disk.

Twisted Oak also has some fine wines.  Amanda served us and after others left chatted with us for about 45 min.  We then worked our way back towards Groveland (I remember it as Grover the muppet) and Buck Meadow where I now sit.  Nice dinner at the Buck Meadow's restaurant with leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  More, I hope, after we visit Yosemite, the northern part.


ps, at some point on the drive, Nick shared with me a lot of highway numbers - more when the appropriate photo is taken.

© 2010 Esther A. Heller