All the news and lots of it! Wednesday, 4/29/15

Rain is the news this past week, and boy howdy, that's good news for NorCal, in light of the ongoing drought. Nevada City had a terrific thunderstorm Thursday nite, and off/on rain Friday, tapering to a pesky drizzle on Saturday.  Of course, April is the time of year when weekend outdoor activities abound, such as a Home and Garden show at the Fairgrounds and a popular car show in downtown Grass Valley.  We skipped both on Saturday, but looked around the H & G show on Sunday morning, happy to be Out and About on a pretty day.

Sunday afternoon we paid a visit to Fluffy on the farm!  This little guy has grown since I carried him as a newborn two weeks ago!  Looks well fed, huh?

Fluffy and Mom.

This goofy guy flopped on his back (rub my tummy) ... so happy to see us!  He looks like he's smokin' a stogie!  He carries a stick in his mouth all the time ... too funny!

And this old guy is pure love. 

Even the barn cat got in on the pet me, love-on-me act!

I planted seeds a couple of weeks ago and have been watching them sprout.  Tomatoes, Swiss chard, cucumbers. Some unknown seeds germinated in the garden, I suppose from compost, but the sprouts look like a squash or melon.  Oh boy, a mystery veggie!  You can see them in the pic below -- a few popping up behind those plastic paks.  And lots more have pushed up since this pic.

Amazing how fast they grow; I took this pic on Sunday and I can see a big difference between then and now (Wednesday).

A handsome dude for sure!  Black-headed Grosbeak ... a regular at our feeders.

My Fringed Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra formosa) took a beating in that spring snowstorm three wks ago, but have bounced back, to my delight.  This picture is for you, Nannie!

Yesterday Jimmy was going to change the oil in Tergel, but we had business to take care of in Lincoln (40 miles down the hill), so we strapped our bikes on Smartie's back to combine business with pleasure.  That part of NorCal is very flat and 3000' lower in elevation than at our house! (Lincoln:  167' elevation)  We found a nice bike trail and several parks, which made for an easy and pleasing pedaling day.

We parked across the street from sprawling Sierra Pacific Lumber.  Literally, tons of logs, stacked how high?

We spotted quite a number of Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) in open fields dotted with wildflowers.  Amazing how three birds can sit on such a flimsy twig, swaying in the wind.

We cycled out to Lincoln's small air field and watched the tiny lightweight green plane as he readied for take-off. It's so lightweight that we could see thru the canvas to the struts inside.  We waited to see it go airborne, but ... nope.  Maybe ten minutes later as we turned around to head back into town, we saw the pilot pushing his cute green plane into the garage (could be called a hangar)!  We wondered aloud if we'd be brave enough to fly in it.

Here's Jimmy waiting for me beneath a flowering plum tree that was loaded with tiny unripe (bitter) fruit.  We were riding around the industrial airpark with its huge warehouses and parking lots; no traffic to contend with. This one happened to be empty and we zipped in and around the trees, etc.  We were not prepared, however, for the first full day of summer's heat (and forgot sunscreen).  Lincoln and the entire Sacramento region hit the 90 degree mark, and I overheated.  What can you do, then?  Find a cool restaurant after the bike ride, sit and rest in their fine air conditioning, and order lunch!

Awful Annie's in Lincoln.  Delicious lunch.  We closed the place down at 3 pm.

I was thinking this may be my last blog post for a time (but then, maybe not).  Jimmy is slated for his left knee replacement surgery this coming Monday, May 4th, at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento. (Postponed from March 18th due to his Mom's death.)   I'll stay at my son and d-i-l's house while he's in the hospital, and their place is only two miles from Sutter -- really convenient.  Jimmy will be out of commission for a time and he's trying to do any necessary house and RV maintenance before then, plus get in some fun times.  Lucky man to have me as his nurse, (but he better watch out, I'm changing my name to Nurse Ratched  !)

Next October, we're signed up for a Road Scholar "Mountain Kingdom" trip to Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. Considering Nepal's horrible earthquake on Saturday, we don't know what's going to happen.  Our trip is five-plus months from now, so there's no sense worrying about it.  Meanwhile, our hearts go out to all those affected by the devastation.

One more thing!  On Easter Sunday, April 5th, at the family get-together, we took turns peeking via binocs from our dining room window at a robin building a nest, low in a Dogwood tree.  A few days later the nest was blanketed in snow and we feared the Robin had flown the coop, so to speak.  I'm here to report she's been sitting and brooding, while me and Jimmy continue to peek.  I expect a triple hatching any day now. I'm ready!

Robin's-egg-blue, of course!
(Jimmy sez we should call the babies Curly, Larry and Moe!)


A happy finish to Donner Lake/Truckee. Tues/Wed 4/21-22

I left you guys yesterday afternoon with a very black sky and growling thunder growing ever closer.  What can people do with their day then, but take a nap?  Amazingly, we slept, but Truckee-Donner Lake had the mother and father of thunderstorms.  Lightning all around and crashing thunder.  Haven't heard about any lightning-strike fires, so hopefully none started.  By 5pm, the skies had cleared and our tummies began talking about being empty. We wanted to try a new restaurant in Truckee that had good reviews.  With several options, we picked Pianeta (below).  Pianeta means planet in Italian, so I suppose we were also celebrating Earth Day!

Not only did we have a wonderful dinner, our entire Pianeta evening was a superb dining experience!  From Bruschetta Two Ways to an unusual (and delicious) Caesar salad, to the Chicken Cannelloni main course, and a Lemon Panna Cotta dessert, all split by Jimmy and me ... and none of it rushed or tardy, everything done just right ... what a delight!  When our server asked, "How are you tonight?"  Smiling, happy to share, we replied, "Excellent.  It's our 14th anniversary."  I guess the word spread, because every restaurant staff who stopped by our table, wished us a happy anniversary.  The dessert we ordered was brought to our table (with a celebratory candle), by the manager, who gave us the biggest smile and said, "No charge for the dessert."  Class act. We left the restaurant feeling quite pleased ... and very full!  Our buona fortuna!

Based on weather predictions, we weren't sure what Wednesday morning would be like, tho more great thunderstorms were forecast for afternoon.  When we opened the curtains, all we could see was a chilly, gray blanket of fog.  An hour later, the fog dissipated and the sun shone brightly.  Giant cumulus clouds were already beginning to form.  Hmmm....

Looking across Donner Lake toward our tiny airbnb apartment, and those building clouds.  It's a quick drive from our apt to Donner Memorial Park and a completely flat 2.3 out-and-back crushed granite interpretative trail along the East Shore.  We figured we could enjoy the walk before being chased indoors by bad weather.

View from the dam at Donner Lake outlet.

What a gorgeous scene!  Looking toward Donner Peak.

I am actually standing on a large rock a few feet out into the lake ... that's how clear the water is.  It LOOKS clean and clear enough to drink, not that anybody would, but it's nice to see such transparent water.

Mr. Common Merganser hopped on one of those rocks, too.

Every time we turned around, we gazed skyward, keeping a weather eye on those billowing clouds.

Aha!  A new bird for me!  This is a White-headed Woodpecker and as far as I know, I'd not previously seen one.  It hopped from a Ponderosa Pine trunk to the pine cone on the ground, perhaps savoring the seeds?  He lives in the mountains of Western North American pine forests.

After finishing up the out-and-back trail, we drove to Donner Memorial Park VC and walked their short, half-mile nature trail.  This is part of Donner Creek, one of the tributaries of the Truckee River.  We encountered a couple of geese (in the water), par for the course in America.  BTW, the new VC finally opens June 6th, and we might join the opening festivities.  My watch said 12:45 -- lunchtime! Thunder rumbled not too far away.  I offered to buy Jimmy a burger, so we hopped in the car, and drove to historic downtown Truckee.

Oh yeah, in Truckee ... that's why we hear thunder!

In the past we've always lunched at the same place (Jax at the Tracks) in Truckee.  Consistently good, but it was time to try new eateries.  Squeeze In was another restaurant with good reviews.  They close at 2 pm, which gave us an hour to enjoy lunch.  Let it rain, we took umbrellas with us.

How can you go wrong in a place where the head guy wears sox like these?  Jimmy ordered a burger and fries, which he declared delish, and I had a taco salad (with grilled chicken) that was perfect-o!  We know why it's called Squeeze In ... the "dining room" is only ten-and-a-half feet wide!  Cute, friendly and full of Truckee charm, along with good food.  It's a winner.

We closed the joint down at 2 pm.  It didn't rain in Truckee!

We leave tomorrow morning, back home, after a terrific anniversary get-away!

Good evening!


Along Donner Pass Summit -- Mon aft 4/20 & Truckee Tues morn 4/21

After getting set up at our tiny apartment on Donner Pass Road (booked via airbnb), Jimmy and I went for a little explore on this part of the road we'd not been on before.  Clouds had built up by this time (late afternoon), tho no rain fell. Leaving the lake, we drove up about 1,000' into the Sierras.  Even with overcast skies, the views are dramatic; we love coming into these granite beauties.

Did you know that Donner Summit is one of the most significant and historic mountain passes and transportation routes in the US?  True! 

Central Pacific RR snow sheds.  Fascinating story about them here.

We are always (ALWAYS) amazed to see rock climbers doing their thing.  Along with the guy at the top (red arrow), two fellas, one in red and one in blue, are below him.  Not for all the tea in China, as they say .... 

Looking down to Donner Lake.  We're staying on the left side, with incredible lake and mountain views. 

Near the summit on Historic US Route 40 is Donner Memorial Bridge, aka Rainbow Bridge, at 6,870 ft elevation. Completed in 1926.  "Decades of heavy use in a harsh climate caused the Rainbow Bridge to deteriorate ... they considered tearing it down, but the Donner Summit community pushed to save the bridge."  The bridge was restored in 1993.  "... the replacement concrete was color matched so the rehabilitated bridge would look identical to the old.  The only change was that the openings in the railings were made smaller so that people's heads could not get stuck."  Gotta love this last line!

Jimmy and I hiked right in this area a couple of years ago, saw the China Wall up close, and crossed the bridge. (I can't remember exactly when.)  These mountains have oodles of trails, inc the Pacific Crest Trail.

 Heading back down to Donner Lake.  Time for dinner.

* * * * * *

Tuesday:  Look at how sunny and pretty our day began this fine anniversary morning!  I walked outside, crossed the road, and this was my view.  Wowzers!

And this....

A couple of Truckee murals.

Methodist Church stained glass window.  How particularly apt for Truckee.

We walked around Truckee this nice, warm morning.  The weather felt more like summer than spring, but by lunchtime, thunderheads had built up, so, as raindrops spattered the windshield, we retreated to our bnb. Then the rain stopped.  Thunder continued, and so be it ... we are quite comfy inside.  It is a very dark sky out there, but we're stepping out for dinner tonite, regardless!


Along the Truckee River -- Monday, 4/20/15

Time for another short get-away ... it's our 14th anniversary!  A few weeks ago, when considering this mini-vacation, we thought to visit San Francisco again, but the inn we like (Cow Hollow Inn) was booked this week. OK, if you can't go west, go east.  We booked a room on Donner Lake thru airbnb, and this morning we drove the Prius up into the beautiful (and basically barren of snow) Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Funny how weather forecasts can be so screwy, especially long-term.  A couple of weeks ago when we looked online at forecasts for this week, a happy little sun shone for every day.  The closer our week got, that cute little sun disappeared under big rain clouds.  As it stands this evening, for our week in the mountains:  the sun may shine and clouds may form, rain might fall, and even a thunderstorm could lash the area.  Whatever!   

We brought our bikes, just in case el sol did shine!  And this afternoon, in perfect weather, we rode the bike path along the Truckee River, but to say we were shocked is an understatement.

At just about any spot in the river, you could walk across, or hop from rock to rock, without getting even the bottom of your shoes wet.

An industrious beaver made a dam across the Truckee, leaving a trickle on one side and a nice little pond on the other side.  The pond (below) lasted as far as you can see in the photo, before petering out.

A couple of Common Mergansers (above), a handful of geese, and Mr & Mrs Mallard made up river wildlife.

Yes, I walked across this river that we rafted down last summer!

This is where the rafts put-in.  Not this year ... lots of people will be out of jobs this season.

No water is leaving Lake Tahoe flowing into the Truckee River.  None!  The lake level is down.  And this is only April, when snow melt should be filling lakes and streams and rivers.  We saw sketchy patches of snow above 7,000' today, but otherwise?  Nothing.  We're standing on a bridge that should have lots of water beneath it. Seeing sights like this brings the drought home to us more than hearing that we should curtail our water usage by 20%.  Downright scary.

Seems like much of the Truckee is a pool of stagnant water these days.

Don't know if you can see Jimmy on his bike (white shirt, center-right), as he rides toward Lake Tahoe on rocky ground that used to be covered in, well  ... Lake Tahoe.  Someone placed a picnic table way out there and he's riding to it.  When I joined him, we parked our bikes and continued walking to the lake edge.  You can barely see the water in this photo.

We won't mind if rain falls this week.  We won't mind it a bit.