During my seven years in San Jose, before retiring from employment, then immediately getting married, then quickly moving to Stockholm, I kept in shape by hiking most mornings before I went to work. My favorite hike was to Coyote Peak, two miles from the trail head with about 1,000 feet of elevation change. At my best time, I could do the four miles in around 35 minutes. That was around 20 years ago.
This is now.
At the trail head was a warm greeting placed by the Park Rangers:
The objective, seen from the trail, around 4/10 of the way there.
I walked slowly, rhythmically, as in a march. My breathing matched each step. I stopped no more than ten times, briefly, to recover sufficiently to maintain the rhythm. I’m not sure how long it took to reach the peak, but it had to be at least an hour.
I was not in a hurry, as I was in the past. I could let my attention wander more fully without being concerned that I might lose some momentum.
I saw that the poison oak which usually is camouflaged among other green plants, was turning red as it should, in order to warn the unwary:
I saw cattle grazing behind a protective fence:
The slanting morning sunlight revealed that the grasses are always covered by the webs of spiders:
The familiar hillside oaks seemed perfect to me:
As I approached a familiar bend in the path near the summit I saw a stand of elderberry bushes in bloom. The are called fläder in Swedish, favorite soft drink flavor.
And then, the summit:
I have sat many times on this bench. I perceive the round brown hills of the San Francisco Bay Area to be pleasantly female in aspect. A ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountain dominates the Western Sky.
I have written many poems from the vantage point. Here’s one:
One thousand feet I hike uphill
With purpose undeterred to sit.
The bench stands by Nature’s spoor.
I rest amidst lush greenery.
I think therefore I think I am.
These thistles, foxtails do not think
Yet they seem even realer
Than I the interloper here.
These paltry words will write themselves
In hope of capturing this once.
And then I’ll wander back to home
As they in silent knowledge stay.
These spiky, rustling weeds are mute
But tell of wordless mysteries,
Of hidden forces spinning green
Relentless creatures in the hills.
While we imagine that
We are the inheritors
Of the Earth.
After all the sitting while driving, and visiting and eating, it seemed prudent to move the body on a day when I had nothing scheduled. I chose St. Joseph’s Hill because it requires only a short drive to the trail head in Los Gatos, I am familiar with it having hiked there since 1995, and there are plenty of people around in case I suddenly get ‘old’ on the trail. The round trip is 3.9 miles. The elevation at the peak is around 1250 feet, but the trail head seems like it is at least at 300 feet of elevation–but let us say that it was a decent hike.
No number of pictures can capture such an experience, but here are glimpses. First the closely set stand of oaks (perhaps from one root system?) around a bend in the trail, so familiar to me:
There is also much scrub oak and poison oak throughout St. Joseph’s Hill.
I always look forward to seeing the bare, red and twisted bark of the Manzanita bushes (‘little apple’ in Spanish):
The fruit of the bush resembles a small apple, but don’t eat it!
A drawback to this trail is its proximity to a busy highway, State Route 17 that connects San Jose with the City of Santa Cruz, over the Santa Cruz Mountains. (The last big ‘quake in the SF Bay Area was centered in these mountains, not far from Santa Cruz). I turned off my hearing aids to deaden the sound of traffic, heard mostly at the lower elevations.
The are several places where large eucalyptus trees dominate, but these are not native and, although I loved them in my childhood and youth, I now see them as interlopers. And, they are dangerous in fires, being full of oil.
As befits a ‘day off’, on the way home, I bought a lunch of fresh spring rolls from Pho Spot, took a nap, then a shower/shave, and prepared this journal entry.
Now I can look forward to a dinner prepared by Ken for me and his two daughters, Sydney and Sonya.
The neologism in the heading was created by Herb Caen, the late and still revered chronicler of the social scene of San Francisco, including its underbelly. Tales from other parts of the Bay Area, especially Berkeley, a city that amused him, were offered as well.
Fred was a civilized man. He was an honorable man. He was a curious man who collected information, processed it carefully, used it, and shared it with others, but never officiously. He was a teacher. He observed the proper forms of society without subordinating the self-directed ways which were peculiarly his. He was his own man. He listened to others and chose to learn from them when he found them interesting. He did not judge others. He loved music. The rear window of his work truck showed a sign declaring: “I Hafta Hear Haydn.” To those who would share his interests he offered friendship. He was my friend. Goodbye Fred, “and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
As I stood for a short while contemplating Fred’s plaque among the many that were tightly placed in the well-tended lawn, I noted the infinity symbol at the top of it. I recalled in a letter he sent me, perhaps five years before he died, that he intended this symbol be displayed, rather than a religious or family symbol typically shown.
Then on to Earthquake Country, around 70 miles away in Hollister.
Hollister is well known among geologists because it portrays one of the best examples of aseismic creep anywhere in the world. The Calaveras Fault (a branch of the San Andreas Fault system) bisects the city north and south, roughly along Locust Ave. and Powell St. The streets running east/west across the fault have significant visible offsets. The fault runs directly under several houses. [Source].
Living in Hollister is my daughter Andrea’s best friend from Los Gatos High School, Nancy, with her husband John. I befriended Nancy in 1995 when I moved to San Jose, not far from Los Gatos. She and John recently move to Hollister where Nancy has exercised her green thumb:
Nancy is standing by one of the several planting boxes she tends, in addition to many rose and other flowering bushes.
Hollister is in a relatively small valley adjacent and to the east of the great and fertile Salinas Valley, of John Steinbeck fame.
The bounty of Hollister can be seen from the Mission’s grounds:
Hollister achieved some notoriety, then fame by having been the setting for the movie “The Wild One”, starring Marlon Branco and Lee Marvin, the fictional leaders (in their roles) of two motorcycle gangs. The basis, or inspiration, for this fiction can be seen here:
Throughout the 1930s, Hollister, California hosted an annual Fourth of July gypsy tour event. Gypsy tours were American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned racing events that took place all over America and were considered to be the best place for motorcyclists to converge… (T)he rally became a major event in its yearly life as well as an important part of the town’s economy… Source].
With some exceptions, the town has continued to host these rallies, annually.
After an overnight stay with Nancy and John, I went on to Modesto to visit my cousin Anna Pagonis-Pitts and her husband Bard Pitts (not ‘Pitt’). We hadn’t been together since Eva’s and my wedding in Los Gatos, 2002. Here is Anna at the wedding party with her mother Sophie Pagonis, my Uncle Harry’s widow, and Brad behind the camera.
Aunt Sophie has recently passed away at age 92.
Anna and Brad have a beautiful house with fine appointments, including this area of the ‘back yard’:
After a fine dinner at the Del Rio Country Club, we returned to their home for much soulful conversation about our individual lives and our family.
The next morning at breakfast, we were visited by Anna’s older sister, Helen, and her husband Larry Alexander. It had been 45 years since I had seen this couple, and we had some catching up to do.
Then on to a lunch date with my former wife, Mary Pavellas, in Berkeley. It had been around two years since we last met, so there was a good deal of family information to interchange. I don’t like to drive at dusk or at night, so I stayed until 5PM, promising another visit before I leave for my next leg of this journey.
I returned to my temporary lodging with Ken Slosarik, my son-in-law, feeling well-fulfilled by the events of these three days.
Tim, I learned through our rapid and extensive conversation, was a history major for his undergraduate degree. I avoided history until after I retired, then dived deeply into selected parts of world history.
Much of the discussion touched on world conflicts and we seemed to agree that we are in ‘world war three’ now, one that is not localized but distributed in many places around the world, and not confined solely to armed warfare. On another front, we do agree that Mother Nature will win humanity’s assault upon the earth. I referred Tim to a relevant book I am carrying with me, containing many marginal notes, exclamations and under-linings: Straw Dogs, by John Gray.
I always have a stimulating conversation with Tim McMurdo. I asserted to him we need to meet once per year to charge my batteries.
That was yesterday. Today I visited a friend I first encountered in July 1995, Bernal Hill, part of Santa Teresa County Park in San Jose (Santa Clara County).
I haven’t performed any exercise for too long, certainly since early May this year when I left Sweden for this long visit to the USA. Before that, long walks with Eva and some mild gardening chores were the extent of my physical exertions. The Gym I visited regularly, until Covid appeared, I haven’t visited since then.
So, it was with mild trepidation that I addressed the three short but steep inclines of the 1.6-mile path to the summit, going slowly with two walking sticks I borrowed from Ken.
The first incline is the steepest (and harder to descend than to ascend):
Looking up from the trail head—Looking back—Looking down. Really steep.
After the first grade, the path winds around a stand of trees and bushes, giving a brief respite from the hot sun. I saw evidence that California scrub-jays still live here.
The flowers were not profuse, but were everywhere: poppies, a purple flower I can’t identify, wild mustard, white morning glories, dandelion and false dandelion, and others.
The larger picture:
After negotiating the three steep parts, with the noise of the city finally out of range of hearing, my objective came into view, the Blue Oaks circling the summit:
I reckon my pace from the beginning was just about one stride per second, but around only 18” per step. As I continued the last, brief uphill, under the shade of the oaks, even this pace seemed a bit rapid, but I made it, and it was all downhill afterward.
In the distance is Coyote peak which I have visited uncountable times. It was my morning exercise several times per week before going to work. I will visit the peak at least once before I move on to the next leg of my journey.
These hills nourished me at a time when I needed such nourishment. I wrote about it:
I don’t know exactly how old Bill and Gary Sanders are, they whom I visited two days ago and reported in the previous Journal entry, but if one or both is/are not yet 80 they fit the category, having five great-grandchildren. I also then reported on my visit with Al and Lydia Montaño. Lydia is my age, and Al is a few years older.
Yesterday I visited Barbara and Chuck Kingsley in Palo Alto. Chuck is an ‘octo’, for sure, being 87, and Barbara is a small number of years younger, I believe. Anyway, there we were, chatting away about all the things octos chat about: family, the state of the world, health, and with Chuck, in particular, MUSIC!
Yes, Chuck was my ‘music buddy’, starting ‘way back in 1958. (Fred Pape was my first music buddy, starting in high school, 1952).
I have reported elsewhere that wherever my family lived my father had a portrait of L. van Beethoven affixed to a prominent wall. In Chuck’s (and, therefore, also Barbara’s) house the portrait is of Dmitri Shostakovich. After a few hours of tea and chat, Chuck and I left the house to get a takeout lunch, and thence to a park. We sat under two marvellous old trees in Mitchell Park, Palo Alto, eating classic bagels with cream cheese, etc., from Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels. (Barbara stayed home knowing we needed to talk about music, well beyond her level of our obsessive interest).
Composers remembered and discussed, along with their interpreters, were Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Beethoven, Alan Hovhaness (a greatly under-appreciated American composer), etc.
It was good.
By dinner time I was back in my temporary home in San Jose, having ordered a takeout Vietnamese dinner, sitting in the backyard while eating Phở Gà and fresh spring rolls, surrounded by the succulents and other plants nurtured by granddaughter Sonya:
(A small portion of Sonya’s garden)
In a few hours I will be eating lunch with a friend and former colleague from what was once the largest private hospital in Oakland, CA., in the mid-1980s. No doubt we will talk about hospitals, “healthcare” (which is really “sick care”, a much better and more accurate appellation), old mutual friends (at least one of which is following this journal—yes, you, Peter), and whatever else may flow through our minds while sitting outside ‘Par Three Restaurant’, Poplar Creek Golf Course, San Mateo, CA, a public course.
I am currently staying with son-in-law Ken and granddaughter Sonya in San Jose. I have nothing scheduled today, so I will review what I have written, fill in some blanks, and allow any summary observations to emerge, if they will.
The picture in the header in the ‘About’ journal entry was taken from the summit of Coyote Peak in San Jose. I intend to visit here during the week beginning May 7 when I have nothing currently scheduled (although I hope to visit daughter Analiese in San Francisco during this period).
Regarding the new shoes I bought in Scottsdale, as reported in the 12 May journal entry, I have worn only the sandals, not the oxford type shoes I also bought. The sandals are more comfortable than any I have worn, giving my toes the ability to grasp the inner surface, thereby exercising them and associated sinews. The heel is cushioned so well that I can step off a curb without worrying about discomfort to my left knee. The only negative I have experienced is that they tend to be too warm, but this is undoubtedly due, at least in part, to ambient temperatures.
Son Greg reported to me that he had also visited Speedy’s Truck Stop in Arizona during his travels.
I have failed to report in several of the journal entries that sometimes the landscape at the higher elevations is covered, over many miles, with ROCKS, millions of rocks—from where? And how?
I did try to communicate with the chief executive at Ojai Valley Community Hospital, although I could do it only indirectly, but I got no response. I can understand this, especially in this time of COVID. Hospital executives have tightly packed schedules most of the time.
While waiting for my friend in Ventura at the designated place for our lunch, I visited the ‘Bank of Books’ across the street (I was about 30 minutes early in case I got lost, which I didn’t). It is a marvelous, old-fashion used book store with two levels, well organized with identifying signs for subject areas. I came away with two books: Freedom in Exile, The autobiography of the Dalai Lama, and The Funeral Ceremony of a Lay Buddhist, published by Shasta Abbey, located near the town of Mount Shasta in Northern California. I have another book that they have translated and published: Shōbōgenzō by Eihei Dōgen.
Since arriving in San Jose, I have mostly settled in, arranging my things so I no longer live out of two suitcases and a backpack. Ken and Sonya are wonderfully accommodating and pleasant company. Ken and I have covered old ground in our conversation and now in new territory, catching up on each other’s lives. It is good.
In the bathroom hangs a photo of a picture painted by my former wife, now dead, Patricia, Sonya’s maternal grandmother.
I’ve had a foot and leg massage (30 minutes) to address my cramping calves, and another 30 minutes for my neck and upper back.
My first visit was with the other (maternal side) great-grandparents to Quinn, the Montaños, and their daughter Dolores, Quinn’s ‘Grand-tía‘. We also ‘share’ twin granddaughters. We had a lovely luncheon on Lydia’s patio, surrounded by plants, including many succulents. Al told me of three juncos that had hatched in a large succulent against the house wall. We had a grand time catching up all our families’ growth and doings.
Next day I visited friends Bill and Gary in Palo Alto, and recounted times at the U. in Berkeley during the middle-1960s, including the ‘Free Speech Movement‘, remembered mutual friends, told of the generations in our respective families (they have five g-grandchildren), and compared ailments and recoveries. I also invited then to contribute to my ‘Being Old’ blog.
So, here I am at 13:50 PM in San Jose, 31 May, completing another journal entry and looking forward to tomorrow’s visit with another couple of old friends in Palo Alto.
Eva and I have been in touch and confess we have been missing each other and are looking forward to our reunion sometime in Late June or Early July.
The Dinner meeting on 26 May with son Alex and his lady, Lauren, was a smashing success from my point of view, even if the restaurant was too noisy. Alex and I caught up on things in our lives and in those of others. He continues to be successful at his day job with Campus Learning Assistance Services at UC Santa Barbara. And his musical group Killer Kaya, in which he is the bass guitar player, is wrapping up its next album.
I learned that Lauren loves to read science fiction and is writing something in that realm. She consented to look at my long-pending SciFi novel to advise me where it could be a more exciting page-turner.
Earlier in the day, after I checked out of the motel in Oak View, I had lunch in Ventura with a friend I hadn’t see in over 30 years. I invited her to write something for my Being Old blog. I hope she does. She has had an interesting life.
The traffic back to Ojai by Highway 33 was essentially stalled; there was one lane for two-way traffic on a busy highway, thus making it impractical to give myself a brief tour of Ojai. I was not disappointed, for I was tired and needed a nap before I met with Alex and Lauren. Just being in the environs of Ojai gave me the memory refresher I was looking for.
I checked into a justifiably cheap motel just off highway 101 in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara.
I was on the road very early next morning, without the benefit of coffee or breakfast. It wasn’t until I reached Los Alamos, 50 miles further that I, once again, found the perfect place for breakfast: Bob’s Well-Bread Bakery.
After great coffee and a filling breakfast, I was on my way. The gas tank gauge showed near empty, so I veered of the highway as soon as I saw the signage for a station ahead: Nipomo. Perhaps the gas station is the main business in town?
From Santa Barbara to San Jose, I was familiar with every name attached to towns and cities and river crossings and turnoffs at junctions. This is one reason why I am showing small pieces of the trip, so the names are more apparent. I have been on this piece of highway 101 perhaps 100 times, or more.
I didn’t stop again, not even at Paso Robles where I could have, as in the past, eaten an early lunch. I zipped on through knowing I would have to wait until King City to eat. Not far beyond Pas Robles in a town I have never visited: San Miguel. I thought there might be a place to eat. No. But the entrance to the town was picture-worthy:
King City was a bust. I was looking for iced tea and apple pie, at a place I have stopped many times. It had changed owners and apple pie was not on the menu. I took the iced tea to go.
Next target, Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World. I got off the highway here, wanting to travel to the home of Ken, my son-in-law, by the back roads which are full of hills and agriculture.
The roads roughly parallel highway 101 to the west.
I made it!
I was tired, but I stayed up until 10PM with Ken and his two daughters, my granddaughters, Sydney and Sonya. We had a grand time eating Ken’s excellent cooking, talking and looking at family photos I had brought along on a thumb drive.
I’m going to settle in for around two weeks (thanks Ken!) and create the details of my further travels to visit many friends and family. First stop, the burial place of my old pal Fred Pape.
I released myself from the hotel/casino palace at 7AM, after a breakfast of fruit cup (which included some nice berries) and coffee, purchased from a small konditori adjacent to the hotel lobby. No other eating places were open. There was a half-loaf of formerly fresh, seeded bread and a banana in the car, left over from the day before.
The hotel is located near the entrance to US 15 South, so I was quickly on my way to Southern California, but not so far south as Los Angeles—I pray I never to have to be there again.
The plan was, first, to take US15 to Victorville, California—the area outlined in red at the bottom left:
Highway 15 goes mostly through desert until it reaches Victorville. Two oases, shown along the route as dots in the map, are the cities of Baker and Barstow (affectionately known as ‘Barstool’ to aficionados).
The prospect of being in Baker intrigued me because I have a California-born friend in Sweden with that last name. I wondered what I might find there to tease him with. In addition, there were many roadside advertisements for a restaurant in Baker named “The Mad Greek’s” beginning at least 50 miles ahead of it. (Note: three of my grandparents were born in Greece).
A few miles before I reached the border of the town, I saw a sign that read: “Welcome to Baker, Gateway to Area 51” which, if examined closely, is not strictly true, since Area 51 is in an area north of Las Vegas (click the link, above). Nonetheless, it seems that the town, or some people in it, have adopted Area 51 as their own, including the putative aliens (who were captured along with their flying saucer) that the U.S. Air Force is allegedly holding there for the CIA to allegedly examine them. Here is an effigy of one of the aliens which greet the traveler from the east:
Also, the Mad Greek is advertising his gyros in the background.
I stopped to examine the alien. It was advertising “Alien Fresh Jerky” at this establishment:
Another advertisement at the roadside, by the parking lot:
Upon parking the car, I heard strange, irregularly intermittent squawking sounds. Could these be the aliens? Or was the sound transmitted by a hidden speaker? Finally, the source, no doubt guarding the parking lot:
I have seen many ravens at high desert altitudes in Arizona and California, at ~3000 feet of elevation. Their wingspread is surprisingly wide when first seen in full.
The Mad Greek’s was a disappointment. It was ‘temporarily closed’. It was a small place with garish, Greek-themed decorations and colors—not at all inviting.
Heading into Barstow, new and intriguing signs regularly appeared “Peggy Sue’s 50’s café”. I was ready for another old-fashion café. “Peggy Sue” was a popular song by Buddy Holly in 1957:
If you knew Peggy Sue
Then you’d know why I feel blue
Without Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue
It was not a disappointment. I was greeted in the parking lot by the café’s wandering tortoise:
Here’s the history of the place on the back of the extensive menu:
In addition to being a popular café, evident from the many customer almost filling the large place, it is a museum of artefacts of cartoon characters and effigies and photos of movie stars and the roles they played. And, like the cafes I remember from my youth, the was a tall, refrigerated glass cabinet filled with lemon meringue and apple pies.
I had scrambled eggs with rye toast and tomato juice.
The next leg of my journey was from Barstow to Palmdale where I would turn south on highway 14 toward Santa Clarita at bottom left):
For no reason that I can remember, I turned left at Elizabeth Lake Road where Highway 138 turns eastward from its coterminous path with Highway 14, instead of continuing south on Highway 14, and it was a serendipitous error.
I realized something was not quite right when this ‘Elizabeth Lake Road’ started winding its way deeper into the hills. Finally, I came to an intersection where I had to make a decision. Did I want to go to north toward Lake Hughes, or did I want to go, apparently, southwest on San Francisquito Canyon Road toward Green Valley? I knew I was ‘lost’, but I didn’t feel lost. I was headed in the right direction and the countryside was inviting. Green Valley seemed like a place to travel through, so I did. It was a lovely ride, with light traffic so I could travel below the speed limit to enjoy the farms and fields and green hills.
San Francisquito Canyon road, from where I entered it, is a descending mountain road roughly paralleling the route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the huge, white pipes of which I could crawling over the mountain ridges visible from the road. I turned a corner, and there they were, all three together, descending at 45˚ down a slope I was about turn toward:
Los Angeles takes water from many other places, north and east and from underground, and these pipes deliver it. When in Arizona, I wrote a short article for my Pavellas Perspective blog on the subject: In the Great Sonoran Desert.
To shorten this story, for I am about to leave Santa Barbara early morning 27 May, San Francisquito Canyon Road connects with Copper Hill Drive which connect with Newhall Ranch Road which crosses US Highway 5 at Castaic Junction where I entered the intended road toward Ventura–State Highway 126. Here’s the maze at Castaic Junction:
From Ventura I would drive the familiar Route 33 to Oak View and the Oakridge Inn, a few miles south of Ojai.
The remainder of this day’s trip, a visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and later with my son and his lady in Santa Barbara, will begin the next journal entry.