Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Goldilocks and the Three (hundred) Houses

This house:
  • is too small
  • has no back yard
  • only has a tiny bathroom
  • needs appliances
  • is too dark
  • only has a one-car garage
  • is too close to the freeway and is noisy

This house:
  • is too big
  • has too much yard to maintain
  • has too many bedrooms, that are all too small!
  • is too tall with too many steps
  • is too far from the kids

This house is just right!

After selling our home in Colorado we turned the wheels of the motorhome toward San Francisco. Our son and daughter-in-law, granddaughter and grandson-to-be live in Oakland, and have indicated they would enjoy having us nearby, at least part of the year.

The hunt for a home began. Well, actually, we had been looking at homes for sale in the area long before we arrived using online sources. However, once we arrived it gave us the opportunity to see neighborhoods and explore areas near our son. The motorhome and our Florida RV lot gave us a lot of latitude. We didn’t have to find something right away. We had the luxury of time. We could even wait until next spring to find our next home. Basically we said if it doesn’t “float our boat” we don’t want it. 

As we visited homes for sale and talked about what we liked or disliked about each one we began to create a list of criteria (in no particular order) that we were looking for in a home. We desired:
  • a small village feel with walkability
  • enough back “yard” for the dogs to potty when (insert one) 
    • it was raining. 
    • I was too lazy to take them for a walk.
    • I didn’t feel well.
    • I was out for the evening. 
    • I was too busy doing something else.
  • We wanted a carefree front yard so we did not have to hire a landscape maintenance company in our absence.
  • a garage with space for Mr. Dreamy to stash his tools and create a bit of a workshop, oh… and to park at least one car.
  • an extra bedroom or extra space that could be a sewing/craft room for me
  • a location within reasonable distance to our son and his family
  • space to park the RV
And then…. just like Tony seeing Maria across the dance floor in West Side Story, we saw it. It dazzled our eyes. Love at first sight. And even now with a contract on the house, I can’t say exactly why we fell in love with this house. 

It could be the quiet neighborhood with virtually no traffic..
It could be that outside of rush hour we are only 15-20 minutes from the kids.
It could be the bright, spacious rooms. 
It could be the view from the “Romeo & Juliet” balcony.
It could be the historic town around the point, two miles from us.
It could be the walking trails in the hills above us.

Who knows?
Could be..… 

But, the house ticks a lot of our boxes. It has an amazing “away from the city” feel about it, and we are looking forward to moving in.

Screen shots of the staged home:
(apologies for the arrows and extra "stuff")

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Delta Breeze

We first learned of “The Delta Breeze” when we were looking at California property in June. We were exploring 55+ communities near San Francisco. The communities were all inland from the Bay and we were told the climate was much warmer, well, to be honest, they were much hotter. But… the Trilogy community in Rio Vista assured us that despite the high temperatures, “The Delta Breeze” tempers the heat and makes life in the town much more comfortable. While visiting the community and standing on an empty lot, dreaming of the home we could build there, we Dreamers noticed the trees on the verge of the golf course. The trees that were all leaning 30° to the left. The trees that were shaped by the “breeze”.  
This tree at the campground is similar to those we saw on the golf course.
To understand the “breeze” one needs to know a bit about the topography of this area in California. To the west we have the huge bay in San Francisco, with the cold, Pacific Ocean feeding into it. Then we have a large delta area surrounding the Sacramento River and other tributaries on the east side of the bay, all surrounded by hills. As the sun beats down on the inland hills it warms the land, and the air. The hot air rises. As the hot air rises, it leaves a vacuum and pulls surrounding air into the area. The air along the river delta funnels into the void, creating a breeze. The breeze made up of cooler air from the bay funnels through the hills along the delta…. thus the name. 

From the Internet

We have been hop-scotching from campground to campground in the bay area. I originally made reservations at three of the campgrounds just north of San Francisco figuring we would use the campgrounds as a “jumping off” points for exploring communities in the area. Recently we stayed at a beautiful park on Sherman Island, just north of Antioch and a good bit south of Sacramento. The reviews for the park were all positive… with the exception of comments about the wind:
  • If you like the wind this is the place for you
  • It can get very windy here
  • For starters, yes, it is very windy here
There are wind farms across the river, and watching the blades slowly turn is relaxing. 

The park is remote, and yes, the road to the park is very narrow and bumpy, but it is also rarely traveled. We love the park, which has roomy sites and roads covered in pavers. It is quiet… well, except for the wind and the flapping of the toppers over our slide-outs! 

Mr. Dreamy has an anemometer for his phone. This is the screen shot from one reading he took. Gusts up to 30 mph! Generally the wind was anywhere from 10-20 mph. We measured one gust at 41 mph! Wow! After walking dogs in the winds it makes me appreciate just how strong the winds were for Hurricane Irma.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Aftermath

We watched in horror as Hurricane Irma slammed into Marco Island on the gulf coast of Florida. This was expected but being a dreamer, I always hold out hope for a last minute change. In the week before the storm as I watched projections, I had finally begun to relax as I saw that Irma was going to skirt along the western edge of Florida, the projections inching ever so slowly westward. But as we watched, Irma took a turn to the east, bearing down on the RV resort that we call home. NO! This wasn’t the last minute change I wanted. She wasn’t supposed to go that way!  What was left of the eye of the storm, now Category 2,  passed right over the resort. 

The RV Resort is just west of Labelle, FL.
This is a screen shot of the storm on Sunday at 8:29 EDT
There were 11 (or was it 13?) residents of the resort who stayed and rode out the storm in the club house, which was built as a hurricane shelter. 

We received a few updates on FaceBook:

Sunday 6:28 PM “The eye will pass over Ft. Myers in the next 1-2 hrs. Wind about 70 mph here at 6:15PM. Big tree blew down in front of the clubhouse but because wind was from east fell away from clubhouse. Power went out 2 1/2 hours ago. The emergency gen started but did not transfer power to the clubhouse. Lots of debris. Lakes over flowing.”

Sunday 9:09 PM “We’re OK here but we got clobbered. Will let u know when we can see tomorrow.”

Monday 3:31 PM “… sometime after 6:30 the worse of the storm went by. We had gusts in excess of 100 mph, you could not see through the rain going sideways out the back windows of the clubhouse. These gusts I believed did the most damage. They tore at already weakened trees, bushes, awnings and anything round. We watched as leaves disappeared from tops of trees and branches continued to fall. When we went out this morning, it explains why there was so much more damage then they saw around 3:30. The Royals, bigger trees uprooted, some awnings completed torn from coach houses not just the canvas. It will be a massive clean up job.”

We have had a few more reports and some pictures. One property owner was able to share pictures on Facebook. 

Another property owner managed to upload some videos showing damage in Fort Myers and at our resort. How comforting for us to see so much that wasn't damaged, but how sad to see the trees.

We are all anxious to see our individual lots to reassure ourselves that everything is OK. All of this will come, in time, as power is restored. 

But, the good news is that we are safe and our friends are safe. Life is good!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Unsettled Anticipation

Hurricane Irma represents a horrific fascination for me. Harvey was the same. I am drawn to watching the progress of the storms. I experience visceral reactions as I watch the plight of people caught up in the dramas brought about by the storms. I believe this intrigue is partially because I lived in coastal SC for 34 years where we experienced more than one close call with storms. It may also be what I call the “rubber-necking” phenomenon where humans seem to be drawn to stare at tragedies, even though we don’t really want to look. And of course, the path of Irma could impact Mr. Dreamy’s family on Amelia Island, many of our friends in SC and Georgia, and…. our property near Labelle, FL and friends who live there and those along the gulf.

No matter which way the storm turns, someone I know loses.

 I’ve often said I’d rather experience a hurricane over tornadoes as there is plenty of warning about the arrival of hurricanes (which often spawn tornadoes, too!). But…. living through days of projections means days of angst.

Hurricanes are driven by highs and lows…
And where Irma lands only time will tell!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Some Like it Hot

…. but not this hot!

We arrived at the Petaluma KOA for Labor Day weekend, along with a recorded-breaking heatwave and at least one half of San Francisco. Okay, thats a bit of an exaggeration! There were a few empty sites, but not many. There were more than a few sites with more than their share of people on them. There were kids and dogs everywhere. Parents were partying and kids were running wild on bikes, trikes, scooters and battery powered cars. Walking the dogs was an exercise in self-preservation as we dodged toddlers with popsicles, the bikes, cars and other dogs. Tucker was an emotional wreck. The commotion around him triggered his herding and protection instincts.

On Friday the temps climbed toward 100. That was just a hint of what was to come. On Saturday we were at 109, and Mr. Dreamy saw the car thermometer hit 114 on Sunday. Along with the exceptional heat came exceptional use of electricity in the Bay Area. The campground experienced brown-outs, and the aging transformers at the camp began overheating from the load put on them. Power (and water) came…. and went off. On Sunday the campground shut down power for 30–60 minutes in different areas of the campground, rotating from one area to the next so no one went without for extended periods of time. This area of California is known for its cool nights. Most homes don’t have air conditioning. There was a run on air conditioners and fans and local stores ran out by mid-day Friday.

On Monday the temperature dropped into the high 80’s, the campers packed up their bicycles, coolers, sleeping bags and kids, and began the trek back to their homes. By Monday evening we Dreamers were among the few campers left. We enjoyed sitting outside and listening to the quiet, broken only by the songs of the birds.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Family Ties

We visited the Pride Mountain Vineyard, which sits at an elevation of 2000 feet straddling Napa and Sonoma counties at the summit of a mountain... a small mountain, perhaps!

Since our last name is Pride, and the owners' last names are Pride... we must be related! Okay, we didn't really expect Susan, Steve and their mother Carolyn to coming running out to give us hugs and welcome us into their home, and they didn't! We were just more faces in the groups of people who make the trek up Summit Trail Road off of Spring Mountain Road for the opportunity to taste some fine wine. (It is a twisty, turny road. I haven't decided if it is easier going up, before wine.... or coming down, after some wine!)

Mr. Dreamy had stumbled upon "Pride" wine two years ago when we were in the area. Unfortunately, when he realized there was a winery using his name, we didn't have time to take a tour. Since then we have had to enjoy their products from afar. And now, we had the chance to visit.

The tasting was great fun. Many of the local wineries offer tastings, but generally they take place in a tasting room, albeit most are beautifully and tastefully decorated with interesting things to look at, and perhaps purchase. And Pride Mountain Vineyards was no different. Of course I was attracted to a mural with Haflingers pulling a wagon through the vineyards!

Like other tastings, this tasting also began in the tasting room. We had a dabble of Chardonnay while our guide gave us the history of the winery. We strolled into another room where we could see a map of the vineyard showing what grapes grow in each area of their property. This room also had a display of the types of soil found in the area. All of the soil is rocky, but the size of the rocks may be different. We learned that the vines appreciate the heat that reflects off of the rocks, so you won't see grass growing among the vines. The soil in most areas of the Pride vineyards has a bit more clay in it, which means the soil holds more moisture than some other soils. We proceeded outside walking past some vines. The grapes were beginning to turn a stunning deep purple, with only a few grapes in each cluster that were still green. This change of color that signals ripeness is called "véraison".

We walked to the entrance of the winery where the grapes begin their journey from field to barrel, to bottle and your glass! Pride Mountain Vineyards straddles the county line between Napa and Sonoma counties. The winery must keep the grapes grown in each county separate while being processed. Therefore, there are two crushing operations and two different sets of tanks. Once the wines are blended records are kept so the labels on the bottles can accurately reflect the percent of wine from each county.

Harvest has not begun, but it is close. The sorting and crushing equipment on the Sonoma side of the property was being washed on our visit.  
We entered the underground cellars at the winery and had a taste of Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot. I found this wine to be very "soft" and fruity. Mr. Dreamy did not care for it.

While sipping the Merlot we learned about the cellars, which were dug into the mountain. The cellars are a series of tunnels and the temperature stays around 65°. We learned that the barrels come from France and can cost up to $2000 each. The barrel might have a "36" or a "48" burned on the end, which means the oak that was used to make the barrel was aged 36 or 48 months.

Once the oak is aged and the barrel is constructed, the interior is burned or charred. The amount of char influences the flavor of the wine. The "MT" on the barrel indicates a "medium" toast. If the char is heavier the barrel would be marked "MT+". After doing a bit of research online after our visit, I learned that "Troncais" indicates the forest from which the oak was harvested. Oak from this region is sought after as the tight grain promotes "*more finesse on the palate". "TH" means that the heads have been toasted as well. Each barrel is used three times and then sold. The flavoring from the Oak diminishes with each batch of wine.

As we walked among the barrels we could see that barrels came from different distributors in France, and we were told that the impact of barrels from each distributor is consistent. Thus, the vintner chooses specific barrels for specific effects. Each barrel is carefully marked with the contents. Pride Mountain Vineyards also processes grapes from other local wineries.

We stopped at another area and were treated to some wine straight from the barrel. I found it a bit harsher. It still has more time to go.

We enjoyed a few more tastes while in the cellars and exited with a panoramic view of rows of grapes stretching almost as far as one could see.

Then we made our way back to the tasting room and the tempting bottles of wine and other goodies, all with the Pride name. Of course we had to bring some home.... after all, that is our name on the bottle!!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Scene Along the Side of the Road: Bridges, Tunnels & Gates

Mr. Dreamy does most of the driving. He has always liked to drive and he is a terrible critical restless passenger. I get to do a lot of the watching. I stare out the window to see what I can see.

One thing that intrigues me is seeing different forms of wildlife gates along the road. Large animals crossing highways cause serious accidents. Animals trying to jump fences may also get injured or suffer a prolonged death if they get caught in the fencing. All states are seeking ways to keep deer, elk, burros, bear, pronghorn, sheep and other large animals off the roads. Some areas use "funnel fencing", an offset, perpendicular fence that encourages animals running along the highway fence line into a one-way gate.

Image from the Internet
Image from the Internet
Other highways build dirt hills or "jump outs" that end in a drop off into the open area on the far side of the fence. Animals can go out, but can't get back in.

Image from the Internet
While heading west on I-80 in Nevada we saw three wildlife bridges under construction. The first was almost complete, but I stared in amazement and neglected to get my camera out. My brain was struggling with why a bridge of that size would be built in the wilds. Then.... I figured it out!

When these are completed, fencing to funnel animals toward the bridges and plantings to make the bridges seem natural will be added. The completed bridges will look something like this rendering of a wildlife bridge planned in Washington state.

There are some smaller species that need to cross highways to get to breeding or feeding grounds. Efforts have been made to find safe passage for these animals as well. Many of those efforts aren't as easy to see. I do recall seeing a sign for a tortoise tunnel that went under the road we were driving on, and I remember reading about the Toad Tunnel in California many years ago. (It turns out the tunnel was for frogs, not toads, but whoever named it, like me, enjoys alliteration! It also turns out that we drove right over the tunnel, in Davis, CA, and we weren't aware of it!) At one point Mr. Dreamy saw some cattle coming up beside the highway from a tunnel under the road as we made our way west on I-80. Not only did I not have my camera ready, I missed it altogether!

For some other interesting animal passages, visit this website.

Goldilocks and the Three (hundred) Houses

This house: is too small has no back yard only has a tiny bathroom needs appliances is too dark only has a one-car garage is too cl...