Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eureka, CA - Singin' the RV Blues

‘Get used to disappointment.’

                                                                                        Princess Bride - the movie

Some of you might be wondering why two people who like to hike and travel and see so many things haven’t had much to write about recently. And, if that’s what you’re wondering, you’re pretty observant. You’re right, we haven’t been doing much exploring or adventuring these days. And, here’s the reason: it’s we've been singing the RV blues. But, these are not small blues, these are some major blues. We’ve been hit with two major problems lately: flooring and slides.

If you remember correctly, we had some new wood flooring installed in Mesa back in December. Several weeks ago, we noticed that there are some bubbles under some of the seams and some of the boards are coming unglued. Here’s a picture showing how buckled it is. We’ve put a straight edged board over one of the bubbles and note how it hits the floor on one side but is about 1” above the floor on the other.
And, here’s another bubble, right near the driver’s seat.
‘Houston, we’ve got a problem.’

We’ve got about 4 areas where this is happening: one under the refrigerator, one near the driver’s seat, one in the middle of the floor and one in the hallway. Here’s a picture showing two of them - places we really shouldn’t walk because the floor is buckled and, if we walk there too often and apply too much weight, the boards might break.
The second problem is that the inside of our bedroom slide is sagging at the top. To find the leak, Gary took off all of the trim pieces around the slide and - voila!!!

Sure enough, when we extend our slide out, we can see a crack of light where the outside sun can shine in - where the gasket doesn’t touch the top of the slide. That means that, when it rains, we can get pretty wet. So, we’ve brought our bedroom slide in so that the gaskets can touch and we won’t get wet.

Having that view is pretty handy in the morning when you want to see what the day looks like from bed but not so handy when you see that it’s rained and you’ve got a leak.

Gary has been dealing with these two problems a lot since they are pretty serious. He’s taken all of the trim off the slide so that he could uncover what the problem with the slide was. And, he’s found the problem. But, as long as we keep our bedroom slide in, the rain should not be a problem. We can live with that. At least until we find the solution which we think might be in Forest City where Winnebago is manufactured.

But, the flooring is the most urgent problem. Gary has been spending time this week trying to make some room for expansion: he’s taken out all the staples holding the floor in, he’s moved the drivers seat and taken out the bolts, he’s taken out the floor vents, and he’s worked all around the edges to find space for the flooring to expand. However, with all he’s done, the floor can’t expand since it is glued down. We knew that but there are spots where the glue has lifted and we hope it might lift in more spots. Obviously, when we had the flooring installed it was in Arizona where it is dry and we have now moved further north into a wetter climate. Our flooring is wood and has expanded and, with no expansion joints and being glued down, it is now bubbling up.

So, we’ve been spending time on the Flooring Adventure and the Slide Adventure. We’d rather be having the Redwoods Adventure and the Hiking Adventure. Sometimes I think we’re the only ones with problems and that everyone else in their RV is having a great time. But, I know better. I know some people who bought a new RV and had a shimmy problem, a slide that came out 1” on one side when they traveled, a leak over their dining table, the gel coat on the front peel and have had several other ‘minor’ problems. And, this was a new RV. I know some others who had a cabinet come loose and sag, others who had windows leak and others had the front door come off. And the story goes on. Who among us RV’ers has not had some major problems, caused by others?

Is there anyone out there who has not had problems caused by other’s inattention, incompetence, inability, not following instructions, etc.? Raise your hand. Come on, raise them higher so I can see them. Hey, I don’t think I see any hands in the air.

Tra la la - we're singing the RV Blues. Bah humbug.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sacramento, CA - Gaman

"No loyal citizen of the United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of his ancestry. The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry."
                                                                                President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: On February 1, 1943, when activating the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- a unit composed mostly of                                                                                 American citizens of Japanese descent living in Hawaii

Sometimes you visit a museum with great reviews and are disappointed. And then there are the times when you don’t expect much and you are pleasantly surprised. That was our experience today. The museum is called the California Museum which sounds good but the door calls it the CA Museum for Women, Art and History which limits its scope a bit. What’s confusing is that there is a museum called the Sacramento History Museum next to the Railroad Museum. Inside the CA Museum they will tell you that they are a non-profit but the other one is state run. Hmmm. Well, we’re here, let’s try it. And, we really liked it. We were there about 5 hours and finally left because we got museumed out. On the other hand, we also covered what we wanted to cover - thoroughly.

The first exhibit we got lost in was the exhibit called ‘Gaman’. Doesn’t mean much to me and why do I want to see this? Well - ‘gaman’ is a Japanese term of Zen Buddhist origin which means ‘enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.’ ‘Perserverence’, ‘patience’, and’ tolerance’ can also be part of the definition. Demonstrating strength in the face of adversity. And that certainly fits since the exhibit was about the how the Japanese bore the internment during WWII in America.

Here are some facts about it (you know me, I like the historical facts).

        After Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were considered a security risk in the event of a Japanese invasion of America. Because of their large presence on the West Coast and despite any concrete evidence, anti-Japanese paranoia grew until President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones," from which "any or all persons may be excluded." I’ve got a picture from the exhibit which shows the exclusion zones and the camps that were established.
These lines were arbitrary and in one case, the zone line went right through the middle of Phoenix and those on the north side were not sent to internment camps while those on the south side were.

Close to 120,000 were sent to internment camps. First they had very little time to sell all their property which meant that they often had to sell for the lowest price. They also had to pack what they thought they might need in an internment camp for an indefinite time and it had to fit in two suitcases. (What would you pack for an indefinite time and in two suitcases?) The camps themselves were built quickly by civilian contractors to army military barracks specs and not for families. These barracks which were supposed to house several families, didn’t have walls between them and the families had to use blankets to separate them. They were cold in the winter and stifling hot in the summer. There was no furniture, the spaces were small. Were they ugly? I don’t know anyone who would describe a military barracks as ‘House Beautiful.’ These barracks met international laws but left much to be desired.

According to a 1943 War Relocation Authority report, internees were housed in "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind."
But, how did the Japanese endure this? with gaman. They did their best to furnish their sections of the barracks with furniture they made from scrap lumber.

They built schools, they established team sports.
They had competitions. Here’s the marble champ. Marbles were small and easy to carry to the camps.
They learned new hobbies. These women are learning flower arranging.
they had clubs, and they tried to live a ‘normal’ life. And they sent their sons off to fight for America. Gaman.

While we were there, two women came in, found this picture on the wall and one woman pointed to it and said that it was her father with his mother. As the lines under the picture say: he got leave from boot camp to come back and help his mother move into the internement camp. How ironic is that? His mother is being imprisoned in America and he’s off to fight for America.
This was where Gary and I spent most of our time in the museum. However, there was a second floor filled with other exhibits: one on the Native Americans who had lived in this area prior to the settlers. There was a section devoted to Ray and Charles Eames and their creations. There was a large section devoted to women and their contributions to America. The museum went on and on and we kept finding ourselves in a new exhibit.

However, finally, we had to call it quits. I can only do a museum for so long. We still had our daily walk to do and headed down towards the waterfront. Lots of tourists, lots of things to see
and a nice walk along the water. Sacramento used to have warehouses along their waterfront until some farsighted individuals realized that the waterfront was one of their best city resources. Now it has museums, shoppes, restaurants, murals on the walkway under the interstate
to get to Old Sacramento from the city, signature bridges, hotels and - lots of tourists.

But, finally it was time to head back to our car and home.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sacramento, CA - Sactown

It’s time we got out of the RV and began to explore this town. We’ve been holed up in the RV with tires, maintenance, other projects and we need to get out of this tiny tin box and see what there is to see in Sactown - as we’ve heard it called. We have had a chance to visit the Railroad Museum which we thought was super and today we decided to tour the Capital and the Leland and Jane Stanford home, about 4 blocks from the Capital. A nice compact tour.

When we had visited the Railroad Museum last week, we found ourselves in a parking garage and, at the end of our visit, 8+ hours later, we had a $13.00 bill. Our other choice was to feed the parking meters: $.25 for 12 minutes or $1.25 per hour - but you have to keep returning to the meter to feed it. No one I’ve spoken to says that parking in Sacramento is cheap although one person told us to park more in the residential section. So, today, we took her advice and drove through the residential section and found: 2-hour parking, 1-hour parking, no parking, or parking meters that wanted $.25 for 12 minutes. Then we rounded a corner and found: $5.00 for all day parking. Whoo-eee. Our kind of parking. And, the good part is that it was at least 1 mile away from the Capital so we could get our daily walk in. And, the bad thing is that it is 1 mile away from the Capital so we had to walk a long way to get there. Well, we’re going to walk anyway, so why not walk through the residential section to get a feel for the homes in this area?

Our first stop was the Capital where we signed up for a tour which began at the rotunda where we could look up through the dome.
This capital is modeled on the US Capital in Washington, DC. But the Senate and House are decorated in red and green like the House of Commons and Lords in England. Here’s the House in its green
and the senate in its red.
Here’s a picture from the 1800’s and note the piles of papers and books on the desks. Boy, does a computer make a desk less cluttered - oops, maybe I’d better look around my desk before I say that. What happened to the old ‘paperless’ society?
When they redid the building in the 1980’s they had to remove, clean and replace each one of the 300,000 mosaics in the tile floor. They took complete detailed pictures of each section of tile and numbered them all so they could get them back into the right place.
When the original tile floor pictured below was put designed and put into place, the creators did not sign it but left their ‘mark.’ Note which 2 tiles are different than the others in the pattern. There are other sections in the floor where they also reversed the tiles as their ‘signature.’ Can you find their ‘signature’ here in this picture?
Each governor gets a stipend to get his picture done to hang in the halls of the Capital. Most are pretty prosaic, men in suits beside a desk with a flag. Jerry Brown chose a different design.
One of the greatest migrations in America occurred during the Dust Bowl when hundreds of thousands of people migrated to California for jobs in the fields. In the Capital, there was a pictorial display of how 3 artists pictured this migration, highlighting Woody Guthrie, Dorothea Lange and John Steinbeck. Here is the iconic picture of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression taken by Dorothea Lange.
In 1935 the Farm Security Administration hired photographers to document the lives of struggling farmers. Lange was one of these and was hired to accompany economist Paul Taylor throughout California. One day, after a month in the field, she was returning home when she passed the camp of pea pickers. She drove on but turned back after 1/2 hour, returning to the camp ‘as if a homing pigeon.’ Here she found Frances Owens Thompson, a 32-yr old widow with 7 kids. Her first husband had died in 1931 and in 1936, the time of the picture, she and her companion, Joe, had traveled to Nicomo to pick peas. The car had broken down and she was waiting in the tent for Joe to get back from town where he had gone to get the car fixed. Lange began snapping pictures and this is her 6th and final one. It became the iconic image of the Depression.

Thompson remained anonymous until the 1970’s when she told a newspaper publisher. In 1983 she had a stroke and her son appealed to the newspapers for funds to help with medical expenses and $35,000 came in. Her tombstone reads: ‘ Migrant Mother: a legend of the strength of American motherhood.’

The Capital also has taken preserved some of the offices as they were in previous times. Here is the office of the Secretary of State from 1906. Note the old typewriter on the desk - that is almost like the one I typed my HS senior papers on. My mother liked antiques and thought I might like to type on one. ‘Mo-o-other.’
After the Capital, we walked about 3 blocks over to the Leland and Jane Stanford Mansion. Stanford was one of the 4 men who financed and built the Central Pacific Railroad and was the governor of California from 1862 - 1863. He lived here during his term and 2 subsequent governors also used this residence as their Governor’s Mansion.
We couldn’t take pictures of the inside of the mansion which has been refurbished in the period when the Stanford’s lived here except for a few rooms which represent a period when the house was used as an orphanage.

Jane Lathrop Stanford gave birth to their only child, Leland, Jr., here on May 14, 1868. The couple’s new wealth enabled them to expand the mansion several times, always adding rooms until they had expanded the original 4000 sq. f home to 19,000 sq. ft. They had several other homes in which they also lived. When Leland, Jr. was traveling with him mother in Europe, he contracted typhoid fever and died shortly after this. The Stanfords decided that, if they could not give their son an education, they would give it to others and founded Stanford University.

In 1900 Jane Stanford gave the mansion to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, with an endowment of $75,000 in railroad bonds, for the “nurture, care and maintenance of homeless children.” The Sisters of Mercy, and later the Sisters of Social Service, adapted the aging building to their needs. As decades passed, the old neighborhood gave way to state office buildings, and the cost of upkeep grew. In 1978 the state of California purchased the property for use as a state park and in 1987, the Stanford Home for Children moved to new facilities in north Sacramento.

We always take tours if they are available where we visit. They are usually fun, educational and can help us focus on some of the important facts and bits of information rather than wandering around. However, sometimes what you learn might not be true. We’ve had two examples recently. In one case we were told at the Railroad Museum that when the Stanfords lost their son they went to the Harvard President to ask if they could place a memorial to him in their commons area. They President told them ‘no’ because that would lead to others asking the same thing and pretty soon, the commons would be filled with memorials. He also told them that endowing a college would cost $1,000,000. Well, if that’s all, they thought, why not endow a college in his memory and that is why they started Stanford University. At the Stanford Mansion, we were told that was an urban legend, cute but not true.

Here we were told that the Stanfords were so bereaved that their 15-yr old son had died that they decided to give to other children the opportunities that their son never had. They donated their land, their fortune and, after Leland had died shortly after the University opened, Jane sold her jewels to help fund the University. Interestingly, Stanford was founded as co-educational when most universities were male, was non-denominational when most were associated with a particular religion and was focused on practical education when most other universities were cultural.

For another example, in the California Capital we were looking at the portraits of the recent governors of California and were told that Arnold Schwartzenegger’s portrait was not hung yet because he still had not given it to the Capital yet. Nope, not true - it hasn’t been hung since it has not been 5 years since he left office. By law it must be 5 years.

Who do we believe? Knowledgeable, trained docents and tour guides sometimes give different stories.

Meanwhile, it is time to return to our car and head home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sacramento, CA - Stuck in Sacramento With the RV Blues Again

With a nod to Bob Dylan, that's a pretty sorry parody.

Well, we new tires on our RV but, to my dismay, they are not white walls. Gary has volunteered to chalk them up but I don't think that’s the same. I guess they’ll just have to do. On the way back, we took the long way around so that we could get out on the Interstate to test them. The ride in our last RV was just awful and, whenever, we hit a bump, I had to hold on for dear life or I’d bounce out of my seat. In the Journey, the ride was smooth and after the first needless automatic grabbing on the bar, I learned that I did not need to grab and hold on. Smooth ride, easy handling with our old tires and we wanted to test these new ones out to see if the ride and handling were the same. Yes. they were.

We have decided to stay in Sacramento for another week. With all the movement between the campground and Freightliner and back and up to East Bay Tire and back, we really didn’t feel as if we were ready for more movement. We really wanted to sit for a while. We also took a look at the weather report for the Eureka, CA area and it was 10 days of rain. No sun, not partly sunny, not even a partly cloudy day, it was all cloudy and rain. oof-da. Now, we realize that it will quite probably rain for the 10 days after these 10 but it couldn’t get worse. Maybe if we wait a week, we’ll get at least one sunny day. Finally, we wanted to give Sacramento a chance. We hear that there are some nice museums and places to see and we thought another week might give us some time to explore. Of course, I then had to make changes to our schedule and change some reservations.

We haven’t escaped the rain by being here though, we had rain all day today in Sacramento. It’s great since rain is really needed here. This one rainy day won’t fill the reservoirs but it’s better than nothing and it’s a start.

Let me digress for a bit here. We tell people from California that we are from Iowa and the first word out of their mouths is ‘tornados.’ They know how destructive they are and couldn’t imagine living in a tornado prone area. We have tried to explain that earthquakes which destroy large swaths of land are much more destructive than tornadoes which carve out a narrower path of destruction. But, to no avail. People out here are familiar with and have learned to live with earthquakes but tornadoes are something strange that they have not experienced. I suppose it’s all summed up in the phrase: ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

I don’t want to minimize the danger in tornadoes - they are terrible and wreck havoc. One time, my father, who owned a lumber yard, was out playing golf on the golf course several miles from the lumber yard. The foursome heard the tornado warnings, looked up and saw lumber flying all over. ‘Looks like it hit the yard,’ my father said.

But, here we two Iowans are in Sacramento, earthquake territory, listening to tornado warnings. How ironic. And, they’re listing counties and roads where the tornado warnings are. How close is that to us? I don’t know. I rush for my atlas and Gary rushes for Google maps. Now, Gary and I know what a tornado siren sounds like and we know what to do when we hear those sirens, we hide in our safe area. They do have warnings out here but they come on cell phones. When they were interviewed on TV, people admitted that their cell phones were making calls to them. But there were two responses: either they ignored them because they didn’t know what they were or - and here is the dangerous thing - they rushed out to see where the tornado was.

Every now and then you see something in a campground that just chills you. The usual is when someone is working gloveless with the sewer hose and then goes inside to get a drink of water. But here is what we saw today - a tow. ‘Put your RV in neutral and just follow me’, the guy in the pick-up said. But we heard the background story later. This was the guy’s 4th tow and it was his brother-in-law. Seems that the 3rd tow had broken some plate under the RV by which it could be towed regularly and safely. And a tow costs only (whoopee) $800. I guess that’s why we have towing insurance.
The other day we saw a man standing directly in back of his RV over his tow bar directing his wife in the towed to come towards him. Why wasn't he standing off to the side? Why was he standing directly between a moving car and the RV? Oh, my.

One thing that I like about walking in California and Arizona and probably other states as well is that the law says when pedestrians are crossing the street in a designated crosswalk, they have the right of way. Cars must stop. Californians walk to the curb and stride out into the street as if they owned it, knowing that vehicles will stop. Gary and I are from Iowa and stopping for pedestrians is not the law, in fact sometimes I think that pedestrians carry points that drivers can rack up. So, Gary and I stop at the curb and look both ways. BUT - when cars see us at the curb, they just naturally stop too, waiting for us to cross. We’re trying to learn that when we get to the curb, to look quickly both ways and stride out, just like the Californians. However, it would be just our luck to get a tourist from Iowa who didn’t know the law.

We saw this sign today while walking and wondered what a ‘viral’ event was?
Our campground is right on the American Biking Trail through Sacramento, and we have certainly taken advantage of it. We’ve gone north, we’e gone south and we’ve made some loops. With views like these, it’s all nice.
WalkAlongRiverTrailsthroughCAStateUniversity-4-2014-03-26-19-19.jpg WalkAlongRiverTrailsthroughCAStateUniversity-5-2014-03-26-19-19.jpg
We walked through the college and saw this intensely bright design on one of the buildings.
Meanwhile I was looking through the LL Bean website for a new sweater and found one I rather liked. I looked at the reviews and one younger customer said that ‘her grandmother really liked this sweater.’ Agh-h-h. Who wants to buy something that grandmother’s like?

Every now and then Gary checks his junk e-mail folder to see if there is anything of value, anything that got shunted to this folder that we really need to look at. Today he found an e-mail from a ‘sexy, sensual, witty female’ who has been seeing him around the store but who is too shy to say anything. Now, the only ‘store’ that Gary has been to recently is East Bay Tire and the Freightliner Service Center. We’re trying to imagine which pile of Michelin tires or which carton of oil this ‘sexy’ woman was hiding behind. If she’s hiding, she did a great job since Gary did not see her (at least not that he told me about).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sacramento, CA - Railroad Museum afternoon

Did you know that it was because of the railroads that we have 4 time zones? Well, I sure didn’t. When America was an agrarian society without electricity, when the sun rose, it was time to get up, when it was overhead, it was noon and time to eat lunch, when it set, it was time to go to bed or read by the lantern. Time was based upon longitude and each state had its own time sections and I think I heard our docent say that Wisconsin had between 4 and 6. This was further complicated because each railroad company had its own time. Sometimes, railroad stations had to have a separate clock for each railroad company it served. And, imagine trying to coordinate several different printed schedules. However, with the growth of trains and passengers, something had to be done. Finally, November 18, 1883 was the ‘day of two noons’, each railroad timepiece was set to the same ‘noon’ and railroad time became standard. So, railroads had a standard 4 time zones. But the US as a whole didn't follow until 1918 when the US Congress passed the Standard Time Act on March 19.

This engine and coal car were so big that I couldn’t imagine that they would fit into the tunnels they had dug for the trains on the Donner Pass.
This first section was one of my favorite sections of the museum. I also liked the section where we toured a Pullman sleeping car and a dining car. We walked into the dimly lit Pullman (named after George Pullman who designed and manufactured it) and immediately felt the gentle rocking and rolling of a real train on the tracks. We could hear the tooting of the train as we passed railroad crossings, lights flickered in the windows as we passed towns and we were lulled to sleep by the soft clattering of the train over the rails. Oops, we weren’t asleep, we were just walking through the car. But they had made it so realistic.
That’s the interior of the Pullman. The lower seats could be made into a bed and the section above them could also. A curtain covered these beds. There was a porter in each car to serve the needs of the passengers. Pullman hired only African Americans for these jobs since he thought that they could do it best - with all their experience as slaves in the old south before the war. Most of these porters were called ‘George’ by the passengers after George Pullman just like slaves were often called the name of their master. Porters, though paid more than other African American males, were not paid a living wage and depended upon tips.

Walter Biggs, son of a Pullman porter, spoke of memories of being a Pullman porter as told to him by his father:

"One of the most remarkable stories I liked hearing about was how when Jackie Gleason would ride ... all the porters wanted to be on that run. The reason why? Not only because he gave every porter $100.00, but it was just the fun, the excitement, the respect that he gave the porters. Instead of their names being George, he called everybody by their first name. He always had like a piano in the car and they sang and danced and had a great time. He was just a fun person to be around."

As we passed through the dining car, I remembered that I had eaten on a dining car once when a friend of mine and I traveled from Rhode Island to Iowa. What a thrill and we felt like royalty.
By the way, we did not pay for a Pullman, we sat in our seats overnight trying to sleep. Others were doing the same thing, the guy who snored, the kids who weren’t happy, and the small hamster which kept running in his squeaky wheel. However, in the 1970’s we were riding in luxury compared to the ride in the 1870’s. Straight backed seats, poor heat, cinders and ash from the engine, and loud. Here’s how one journalist described it (and he rode the train for 7 days straight):
‘ You will be worn out with fatigue, You will be cramped and stiff with the confinement. You will be blacker than the Ethiop with tan and cinders and be rasped like a nutmeg grater with the alkalai dust. You can never sleep a wink with the jarring and noise of the train and never be able to dress and undress and bathe yourself like Christians.’

At 2:00, I asked Gary if he would like to go out for a bite of lunch. What a dumb question. We found a deli which served sandwiches and - is that the Iowa State / North Carolina game on TV? It sure was - what a treat. I got to watch the Iowa State Cyclones while we ate. GO STATE!!
During halftime we walked next door just to check out the ice cream and mini donuts. Just to ‘check’ them out, my eye. At $1.75 we asked for a scoop in a cup. Huge scoops and, when Gary got his, the clerk asked ‘Would you like more?’ Another dumb question.

We sat on a bench on the sidewalk watching the world pass by. When I was done, I went to check out the game, ISU was still ahead and we walked back to the Museum. 20 minutes later, I checked the score on Gar’s smart phone - oh, shucks, ISU lost by 9 points. Too bad. They were a good team and had won the Big Twelve Tournament. Oh, well.

Finally, at 5:00, the museum closed, we walked out and noticed that we had gotten a call from my brother, Jack, in Iowa. We sat down at a picnic bench under a tree out side the museum and called him. ‘You probably already know that ISU won, right?’ Well, no, I thought ISU had lost. ‘Nope’, he said, they won 85 - 83. Sure enough, the score I had seen was not the final score. Oh, boy, anther day, another game.

Sacramento, CA - Railroad Museum - morning

Today we actually got out into Sacramento for some touring. We’ve spent 3 days out of the 5 we’ve been here in RV maintenance. It was all maintenance that we chose to do but it still took time. The 4th day we did errands. The 5th day we spent in doing taxes. I did ours while Gary did his father’s estate taxes. That leaves only my brother’s trust taxes. We’re getting close. Close, but no cee-gar.

But, it’s time to have some fun and we’ve heard about the Railroad Museum in Sacramento so often that we put it first on our list of things to see and do here. But our day began with the usual Sunday breakfast and then Tom and Cathy called. What a nice surprise. We caught up with all their doings and told them of ours. Tom is going on a 10-day bike ride which begins around Glacier NP right about the time we will be there. What fun it would be to meet up with him in Montana and hike through the park. We’ll miss Cathy tho.

We got to the Museum about 11:00, watched the movie and then went out for a tour led by a docent. The movie did not add anything to our museum experience but the docent was very good. He not only covered the history but also had quite a lot of facts and figures and stories to make our visit more memorable. We were extremely impressed with the first room in the museum where the building of the railroad through the Sierra Nevada Mountains was explained.

What a marvelous feat of surveying, engineering and just grueling work. The surveyors found themselves on precarious perches trying to get their bearings and a straight sight line through the Sierras which are rugged, craggy, completely treed and made out of granite. Then, once the surveyor got to his perch, someone had to struggle to get his equipment up to him. I know what it is like hiking over rocks and boulders but I’m always following where others have gone. These guys were some of the first. Here you can see a survey crew getting equipment up to the top to take their bearings and measurements.
Once the survey was made, now it was time to punch this railroad through. All the equipment had to come around South America from the East Coast to the West Coast and then overland to Sacramento. But, now who’s going to do this work? 4000 men were needed in the beginning with more needed later. Hmmm. Well, we’ve got the Irish and the Chinese, both of whom landed in America when famine, poverty and overpopulation hit their own countries. Because of prejudice, the Irish were hired first but the wages were low, the work was hard and the railroad company found it difficult to hold onto 800 workers at a time. Finally, when the Irish went on strike, the Chinese were recruited but, fearing competition, the Irish came back to work, but not until after 50 Chinese were hired as a test - which they aced. They were known for their skill, reliability and perseverance and soon Central Pacific was scouring CA for more Chinese to work on the railroad. At one point the Chinese comprised 80% of the workforce.

‘Wherever we put them, we found them good, and they worked themselves into our favor to such an extent that if we found we were in a hurry for a job of work, it was better to put Chinese on at once. —Charles Crocker

When a job needed to be done fast, the Chinese were put on it immediately. When a group of Irish stone masons struck for higher wages, the foreman hired the Chinese reasoning that they had built the Great Wall of China. This used to be a slope but with hand tools and dynamite the workers have leveled it for the train.
Interestingly, their diet, which consisted of vegetables, dried fruit, rice and seafood with chicken and pork reserved for weekends kept them healthy and prevented the dysentery which ravaged the other work crews. Instead of water, they drank tea which had been boiled. When the job was done, some went to work for the railroad but, when they returned to their cities, they faced the same discrimination that they had faced when they left to work on the railroad.

The Museum did a good job of not covering up the ugly parts of building the railroad. Not only did they recount instances of discrimination against the Chinese but they also were forthright in discussing the financing of the railroad, the kickbacks, the bribes, the price gouging etc. It wasn’t all pretty.

I was fascinated by the tunnels that were drilled through the Sierra Nevadas in the Donner Pass section. Holes were hand drilled and sticks of dynamite were carefully placed. But it was extremely time-consuming and hard labor. Then there were the ‘snow sheds’ designed to protect the tracks from snow pile-ups during the winter. There is a lot of snow in the Sierras. The winter of 1866 - 67 was the worst on record with the snowpack averaging 18’. There were 44 snowstorms with the smallest bringing 1/4” of snow but the largest lasted 2 weeks and dropped at least 6’ of snow. The total snowfall that winter was 40’. The snow was too much for the snow plows placed on the fronts of engines and soon workers with shovels were trying to keep up. Yet, the snow was so heavy and blinding that entire crews were lost in the blizzards and their bodies not found until spring. ‘Snow sheds’ were the answer and they needed to cover 37 miles of track during a 40 mile stretch of rails. It took 3 years to cover this much but it did the job and trains lost only 4 days due to snow during the following winter.
Here’s a neat map showing how much of the railroad over the Sierras was covered in snowsheds which is the red on this map. (Black is where the railroad is uncovered and the brown is the tunnels dug through Donner Pass in the mountains.) Most of the sheds have been removed now and replaced with bigger engines and better plows. The snow still comes but the tools for coping with it have changed.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sacramento, CA - Sacramento

We have been in Sacramento for the last week, though, from the blog, you’d probably guess that nothing has happened. And, you’d be mostly right - most of what we’ve been doing has been pretty dull, nothing to write home about. Instead of doing all those fun things that we like to do, Gary and I have been doing those dull, attend to the details little things that need to be done. No fun, usually expensive and time consuming.

Firstly, we bought this RV as a used RV and don’t have the maintenance history on it. We do have a list of the work done at the last Freightliner service stop, 6 months before we bought the unit. But nothing before that. Thus we took the RV in for some fairly hefty maintenance and checking: lubing, filters, oil, brakes and other liquids checked and changed. At the price we paid, I was thinking that they might have left a few gold nuggets under my pillow. Our appointment was for 7:00 when they opened which meant that we had to be on the road heading up there by 6:30. We had the RV unhooked from the utilities in the evening so all we had to do was pull in the slides, retract the leveling jacks and head over. We left the RV at the Freightliner service center (you might guess, from our experiences in the fall, that we like to visit these facilities) and headed over to the closest library with our computers.

On the way we passed by this neat bridge. This bridge is the Tower Bridge, a lift bridge, and designed so that it looks like it has arms welcoming you into the city of Sacramento. It formally opened to traffic in 1935 and in 1936 was chosen the ‘Most Beautiful Bridge’ by the American Institute of Steel Construction. One Sacramentoan told us that it was supposed to be yellow but turned out to be gold - I got the distinct impression that this person liked neither yellow nor gold for a bridge. But, it caught the sun so brightly that it was a real statement.
Well, there was that little stop at the Orphan cafe for breakfast. Named ‘Orphan’ because it is a small business not integrated into another larger business. It is a small business located in a suburban area of Sacramento. We got there about 8:30 and found it mostly empty except for three or four guys reading, of all things, books. Actual paper books. After getting over that shock, we got our coffee to calm us down and ordered. Very good breakfast and we would return if we had time in Sacramento. More people filled the restaurant before we left. The restaurant gets good reviews and I’m sure it’s filled quite often.

The library was - a library. But it was in a park and had a small pond filled with geese and ducks, park benches filled with grandparents and kids and a gassy area where new mothers were doing yoga before getting the strollers and running around the pond.

We were called about 3:30, packed up and headed back over to Freightliner. Our RV was done and, on the way back to the campground, we stopped to check out the tire company across the street recommended by the Service Manager. Sure, he can help us (was there any other answer?) and we ordered our 6 new tires, made an appointment and headed back to the campgrounds. We might not visit any of the tourist attractions in Sacramento but we will drop a pretty penny here. Just the kind of tourist towns and cities like.

We renewed our FMCA membership (to get the great deal on the Michelins we ordered) when we got back. In the evening we had the best part of the day, a walk up to to Leatherby’s, a marvelous ice cream/sandwich shop within walking distance from where we are staying. My favorite is chocolate mocha almond but they had a mighty tempting blueberry muffin.


                        Blueberry Muffin
                                                                                                 Mocha Chocolate Almond

                                 Blueberry Muffin        
                                                                                                 Mocha Chocolate Almond

And, Blueberry Muffin won out - I’ve had Mocha Chocolate Almond before - what do we have an RV for is we don’t try out new things? Well, we might have gotten it for more than ice cream tastes but it will do for this venture. We ordered one scoop in a cup but she kept scraping more into her scoop and we got about 4” of ice cream in that cup. Yum..

We walked home, sated, and didn’t even have to pretend we were beached whales.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hughson, CA - Family

Our next ‘campground’ was in my Aunt Betty’s driveway. One of the best things about traveling in California, I get to visit with my aunts Marilyn and Betty. They’ve always lived out here while my parents lived in Iowa. I’ve spent more time with them in the last 5 years than I spent in my first 60. And, what fun it’s been.

On the way to her home we passed through some of the agricultural land in central CA. Here’s some field work - back breaking since they have to bend over most of the time. You can see how green the irrigation makes the land. The hills get no irrigation and they are slowly turning back to brown after the last rains we’ve had.
We drove by this reservoir and were stunned at how low it is. You can see how low it is. It is usually up to the green grass on the left slope.
Here’s a section of the reservoir that should be almost up to the camera.
Many of the reservoirs are like this today. Much smaller sections of blue and much larger sections of brown.
We’ve spent the last 3 days camped out in my Aunt Betty’s drive way - a great campground with electricty, a level site, free wi-fi and delicious food. Plus - Betty and her family are special. And, I wish I had taken some pictures somewhere along the way but was enjoying the company so much that the camera just hung on the back rung of the chair in the dining room. Saturday evening, Betty had asked everyone over for dinner. We had a marvelous time chatting with her family: son David and his wife Connie,
daughter Susan whose husband, Troy, who is a beekeeper and is moving his bees tonight, and she could only stay for a short while, daughter Audrey whose daughter is expecting Audrey’s first grandchild, step-son Jeff who was there with his significant other, Robert who regaled us with his tales of his travels, Judy and Nancy, Betty’s sisters who had gathered round with Betty when their mother was sick and Betty. Betty had planned a dinner of home-made tacos, refried beans, salad, all the fixings and peach cobbler and ice cream.

Hmmm - tacos. Not my favorite meal but I was going to eat them. Of course, I’ve mostly seen the tacos in the stores which are as stiff and as brittle as a piece of glass. I’ve always thought that they would snap in your hands when you tried to eat them and now, you’d have a mess on your plate. But Betty cooked her tacos on a griddle and they were as soft and as pliant as a a tortilla. These tacos were delicious.

The peach cobbler baked in the oven while we were eating our dinner and its aroma wafted around us as we finished our meal. Finally the cobbler was done and we all had cobbler with cold ice cream. And some of us had seconds - I won’t mention who.

Do I have a picture of the peach cobbler? Do I have a picture of the dinner? Do I have a picture of Betty cooking? Do I have a picture of anyone who was there? Nope. I was having too much fun talking with them all. But I do have a picture of Betty and I who, with Gary, were taste testing yogurts. We had strawberry, blueberry and peach Chobani and Dannon Light and Fit, both lo-cal and Greek. The Dannon Light and Fit won hands down.
Betty likes to adventure and visit things so on Sunday we headed over to the McHenry Mansion in Modesto. The mansion is a beautiful older home built in 1883 for Robert McHenry, a rancher, businessman and banker in Modesto. It was built for $10,000. Wouldn’t that be a great price to pay for such a large, beautiful home now? But, guess what? There is no real Robert McHenry, it is really just a made-up name. How could that be? And this all came to light just recently when an investigative reporter began to dig into his history. Imagine the surprise in Modesto when they found out that one of their most distinguished citizens after whom the local library was named (it is now a museum), was really a deserter and a fraud.
His real name was Robert Brewster and he was a direct descendant of William Brewster, a Mayflower passenger who became a prominent leader and preacher in Plymouth Colony. However, he deserted from the army during the Mexican-American War when he was transferred to the front lines. He changed his name to Robert McHenry and wandered to California where he was in the ‘mining business’ - actually he was a miner just like thousands of others but he happened to find more gold than they did. From this beginning, he built a ranch, was a banker and became very well-known in the area. Our questions are: if he was a deserter and wanted by the law, why did he establish such a high profile and how come no one ever found him? and, by the way, he was in touch with his family. His brother even visited him in California. There seem to be no answers to these questions.

But back to the house. Built in 1883, it was a beautiful house and has been restored to it original look. 
At one point it had been made into apartments but with a grant from the Gallos of wine fame, it has been restored. Most of the furnishings are not original but there are a few which are. The walls were all wallpapered as were most Victorian walls but here the ceilings were papered also. I hadn’t seen that before. Obviously, the more oppulent your hone looked, the richer you were.

They even papered the underneath of the steps to the second story.
Here is one of the original pieces of furniture in the house, the son’s desk. Seems he carved his initials underneath.
Gary and I can’t get over how green it is getting. We’ve been in the desert Southwest most of the winter and then into California where the drought is turning everything brown. However, there are a few sprinkles of green, expecially in the spring. You can see the greenery coming out in this watered lawn. Every tree has a green haze over it as the buds burst forth.