Hills and things

After taking 6 hours to complete a 4 hour journey we finally arrived at our destination late afternoon on Saturday. It had been a warm sunny day which made the many hold ups including a 4 mile stop start crawl on A34 bearable. 7 miles before we reached our destination I suddenly noticed that the engine light had come on, this brought on a mild panic, that and the constantly changing fuel gauge as we travelled up and down steep hill roads, would we make it before we ran out of fuel or the engine conked out?

Half a mile to go the SAT NAV told us to turn right then left, I almost missed the left turn it was so narrow. Well by that I mean that I saw it just as we passed it. Being a dual carriageway I had to continue until I could do a U turn, retrace our steps back to the narrow lane. Trundling along the lane I was thinking that I knew my in-laws lived down a lane but I hadn’t expected it to be such a narrow lane. The grass growing in the middle of the lane indicated that it wasn’t much used. It was with much relief that we reached the end of the lane which then merged with the lane we should have been on. A & B were there waiting for us as we turned around.

Next morning we woke to heavy rain, hurricane Bertha had hit the UK overnight, I believe that the weather was worse back at home than it was here in the Peak District. However the rain couldn’t take anything away from the view from our bedroom window.IMG_1783 I can see why A & B fell in love with living here.

Late morning we went for a drive (their car not ours) for a tour of a rain soaked Buxton, I was impressed with the architecture there, I will have to go back another time to investigate properly. This was followed by a drive around Bakewell, which was also very pretty even if it was crammed packed with pubs. Even in the rain there was an abundance of walkers. Before heading back for lunch we visited Chatsworth Park. We stopped to see a small Classic Car gathering near to the impressive stable block. The rain had just about stopped which was appreciated as we strolled towards the stable block. A & I made a dash for the public toilets only to be met by a queue so we made our way to the restaurant to use their facilities. These I found most disconcerting. It is not every day that I find myself surrounded by 3 images of myself reflected in the yellowish tinted glass of the cubicle (whilst sitting on the proverbial throne).

IMG_1809 The stable block at Chatsworth House.

After lunch owl and I set off on our own to find some fuel. I was worried that we wouldn’t make it the six miles to the nearest petrol station, the further I drove the closer we were getting and the prospect of a rainy walk was decreasing, I was beginning to relax. Having filled up I was much happier, we went in search of a local landmark, Monsal Head viaduct.

IMG_1813  IMG_1812 As you can see the view of the viaduct was not quite what we had expected so whilst Owl took himself off for a pint in the nearby bar I decided to follow the footpath to get a closer look at the viaduct. The path to the right looked very steep so I took the path to the left through the trees in the hope that it would come out nearer to the 1870’s construction over the river Wye. The tree covered steep hillside walk meant that all I could see were trees and more trees. Eventually I managed to work out from the glimpse of hill side across the valley that I had long ago passed the viaduct without seeing it so I made my weary way back up the hill for a well earned diet coke.

Next day we woke to see the sun shining on the fields, this was not to last all day but we didn’t get too wet on our visit to the Derwent reservoirs, where Barnes Wallis practiced his bouncing bombs.IMG_1823 IMG_1826 Howden Reservoir leads down into Derwent reservoir before finally ending up with Ladybower Reservoir.IMG_1836 Here we can see the different levels in each reservoir.

The afternoon saw a trip in the opposite direction for a trip down memory lane for Owl and his sister. We drove across the Derbyshire dales to Macclesfield where they had lived briefly in their early teens. We then went on to Knutsford where they sent their teen years. It is a small pretty town that has kept much of its history intact. We ended our visit with a drink in one of Owl’s old haunts.  IMG_1858

On our return to the house the sun was shining so I took the opportunity to take a wander up the garden to take some pictures.IMG_1871 IMG_1875  IMG_1872 Such a lovely place to live.IMG_1879

Then yesterday we made the journey back home, all was going well until the last few miles when the roads were gridlocked due to a burnt out lorry. Which I understand has still been causing problems today.

Going on the road

This morning I shall be setting off with Owl to visit his sister and her husband. We are both looking forward to seeing them. It will be my first visit to The Peak District, although I have previously visited a friend who I met through blogging a few years ago, who lives on the edge of the Peak District.

To get there I shall be spending quite a while on the A34. I shall be interested to see how the landscape has changed since the demolition of three of the cooling towers at Didcot.

Although there are several routes I could take to get to and from my sister in law’s place it is likely that I shall use theA34 on the return home in a few days time. Then guess what I shall be doing in a week’s time. Yes I shall be back on the A34 taking Pug back to Oxford where he will be moving into a shared house with friends from Uni. If we have room in the car Skater will be going with us so that he can stay with his brother for a few days before heading off to Reading Festival the following weekend.

Also going on the road this weekend albeit a different road, Prodigal and his merry band New Desert Blues will be performing at Boardmasters Festival where they will be playing on the same stage as George Ezra.

Not on the road but travelling by train Statto and Miss Effervecence will be visiting us on Thursday 🙂

 

It’s all in the duck

Tuesday 11 June 2013

This was to be the day that we went into the city, I was feeling a little apprehensive about this trip. It was about mid morning when we set off yet again on Route 101 this time going south.  We were not sure how it would work going through the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge. As the tolls are taken automatically. Missy M had told us on an earlier visit to the city that she believes rental cars are taken care of. We had it planned we wanted to ride a tram or maybe a cable car. It was a must that we should drive down Lombard Street, or at least it was a must for Owl. I would be happy just to see it.

I set the sat nav to find Lombard street, we were driving along the lower part of the street as we had done on both the previous occasions we had been in the city. I found it on the map but due to the one way system we were directed to turn right then left which was when we began our near vertical climb. I was holding on tight each time we came to a junction. The adrenalin was building up as we neared the crest of the hill. Turning left again we passed the section of Lombard Street that Owl was searching for. Luckily (in my view) there was nowhere to stop so we made our way back down towards sea level and Fishermans wharf. First we needed to find the car park, I managed to find the place we had parked on the first Saturday but it was full! The Parking attendant pointed us in the direction of another car park.

We walked from the car as fast as my little legs would carry me towards Fishermans Wharf where it was our intention to, have lunch, ride a cable car and or tram and if we could take a ride on one of the Duck tours. The first thing we found was the Duck tours, we booked our seats handed over the money $70 between us. It was then that I realised we only had about $10 left. Ok we would find a bank and draw out some more money but first we only had 20 minutes before our trip began. We set off looking for somewhere to buy a bottle of water to share. That 20 minutes flew past in record time and we found ourselves climbing onboard our transport.

IMG_0519  Owl was most disappointed to learn from the driver that this was not a genuine WWII type DUKW. These amphibious vehicles have been purpose built by the company. We enjoyed our ride anyway. There were steep streets like this to climb.IMG_0822 Various land marks were pointed out to us, usually on our right, I was sat on the left! Owl took photos that interested him on the right  like these from China Town reputably the largest China Town outside China.

IMG_0530  IMG_0531  whilst I was enjoying the architecture on the left.IMG_0826 I should have taken a note book to write down all the landmarks that were pointed out to us. IMG_0829  IMG_0830 IMG_0839 IMG_0842 IMG_0844  IMG_0562  going from land to water was much easier than I had expected.IMG_0544   IMG_0546   It was a little un-nerving being on board this land based vehicle puttering around in the bay  passing such huge vessels as theseIMG_0548 San Francisco as seen from the water  near to the Bay Bridge. IMG_0550    IMG_0555  the back of these US Navy transport shipsIMG_0556 In case you hadn’t guessed this is the Bay Bridge as seen from the bay. IMG_0847  IMG_0848  The Giant’s stadium as seen from the bayIMG_0851  IMG_0564  Now the Giants Stadium seen from the road.IMG_0567   IMG_0568  Here is a selection of San Francisco Trams. Did you know that the trams have been collected from cities across the world.IMG_0576     IMG_0864  IMG_0865  IMG_0866 Finally we returned to our starting point. Before doing anything else we needed to find a bank so we could get some dollars. It seemed to me that since we had arrived in USA everywhere we went there were banks on every corner even drive through banks (something we don’t have back at home). So it shouldn’t take us long to find a bank. Or so we thought……..

WE walked along several blocks with no luck so changed direction again nothing so we changed direction again. Going into a camera shop we asked directions to the nearest bank. We were direct towards a shopping arcade 4 blocks to the left. Finally weaving our way between other tourists we made our way to the shopping centre. The bank clerk was very pleasant and helpful but no matter what he tried my bank card was not going to allow us to withdraw any money. However we were able to take a cash advance using Owl’s card. When we came out of the bank we headed back to Fisherman’s wharf for a spot of late lunch. IMG_0580

Owl made a new friend.IMG_0578  He also loved looking at Alcatraz from here.IMG_0583 After much deliberation we decided to eat at Boudin Bakery again before having a walk along the street looking at boats moored up in a small marina, there were many boards up advertising fishing trips. We were going to find a cable car to take us up to Lombard Street but decided to just collect the car and drive up there. When we got back to the car park I realised that it was above the shopping centre where the bank was.

 

I was hoping that we would just drive past Lombard street and glance down as we passed it but no, to my horror Owl turned to go down it. IMG_0588 I would have had my hands firmly over my eyes at this point if he hadn’t asked me to take photos. Not the easiest thing to do when you are hurtling downhill at speed constantly turning corners but I did my best. IMG_0590  IMG_0591  IMG_0592 It was a thrilling experience and at the end of the day I am glad that we did it but it was scary.

short tale

In the UK it has been a public holiday weekend. Each weekend my colleagues in the office ask me if I have any plans for the weekend. I have taken to saying that just to survive it would be a good plan.

This weekend especially with it being a 3 day weekend I decided that I would write a short story. I have decided that I need to get back to writing fiction. I am often asked by friends when am I going to write my first book. I am not convinced that I am able to write a whole book but maybe a group of short stories are within my ability.

I spent most of Saturday mulling over a variety of subjects to write about….inspiration, or rather the lack of it, is my biggest problem. My second biggest problem is that I find writing speech difficult. I much prefer setting the scene, thinking up twists etc. But writing speech holds me back from writing more often.

Eventually after several hours I came up with an idea. I got the first sentence written and then the next. How to continue? I have no choice this has to be written mostly in speech otherwise the story won’t work. 570+ words later I saved my new story into a new folder “short stories” in my documents. I would continue later once I had decided where the story was going to next.

It was Sunday morning when I was ready to continue, this was when I discovered that my computer had decided not to recognise me. My profile wouldn’t load. My son managed to copy most of my files over to another (non administrator) profile on my laptop. But the folder containing my short stories file was locked, I cannot gain access, my password is not working. Unable to retrieve my story I had to re-write it.

Today I finished writing my new story.

Here is a short excerpt.

‘Green tea or builders?’

‘Oh right, got any coffee I do love me coffee I does. How about yer show me around so I can see whats what while that kettle boils.’

‘Um er I’ll have a look we might have some coffee but none of us drink it so I can’t promise. Ah yes he we go, I better check the date though as I have no idea how long it’s been there. Oh that’s ok ha ha it’s in date by 2 months. I hope you don’t take sugar cos we don’t use it well the kids do but me and Katie don’t.’

‘No ta I brung me sweetner wiv me, carry it everywhere just in case folks don’t have any.’

Billy set off up the stairs with Helen following still chattering but Billy wasn’t really listening.

‘As you can see this is the bathroom, you might want to start with this and the kitchen, I’m going back to work, let me know if you need anything.’ 

 

Apologies

Two months ago I started writing my account of our trip to California. I have enjoyed doing this, not only have I enjoyed sharing our trip with you but it has been lovely reliving our memories of the trip. It is also something we can go back to in the future to remind us of the wonderful time we had.

I have found that whilst I started off well it has not been easy to get to the end. Not because I don’t remember, I do and I am in the middle of a post about San Francisco. However life since we returned from our trip has taken a turn that we couldn’t foresee. This change in my home life has made it difficult for me to dedicate time to writing my blog or reading and commenting on your blogs.

Please forgive me and hopefully normal service will be resumed in the not too distant future.

Beached

Monday 10th June 2013

Monday morning saw the return of the sun, much to our relief, we did’t come here for cloud we could get that back at home. We had a leisurely morning before having a drink at McNear’s. We decided to return to our room for a picnic of cheese, meat and crackers.  We had been to the local Safeway store enough times that the staff were beginning to remember us. After lunch we decided to drive to the beach that Missy M had taken us to a week earlier.

Driving along with the roof down we once again congratulated ourselves on upgrading to a mustang convertible.  It was mid-afternoon when we parked up, the sun was warm, we were happy. To our dismay we discovered that the tide was in making the beach inaccessible from the road way. I was quite happy taking endless photos and even a video of the water lapping at the rocks.

IMG_0874  IMG_0873

I was watching the water and some surfers over to my right whilst Owl spoke to surfer who had just arrived. He told Owl that we could reach the main beach by going back up the road and through the village and following the road round. I thought this house looked very quaint with its rocking chair on the front porch.IMG_0885 rounding the corner we found the centre of the village. Owl went in search of a restroom while I sat in the community garden waitingIMG_0886 and waiting. IMG_0887 Then I saw Owl walking across the street a little way off so I moved along to wait for him near to the establishment he had entered. IMG_0892 Still I waited, I watched the locals from a distance feeling that it would be best if I didn’t go too near.(Owl later told me that it was not the kind of place women should enter)”You wouldn’t have liked it. It was a real hicksville bar full of men with long beards and brown dungarees cussin” I crossed the street again to the local gallery. These tiles on the doorstep intrigued me. IMG_0890IMG_0889 back across the street so that Owl would see me when he finally emerged I took this view down the street we had yet to investigate.IMG_0893 After what felt like an age Owl emerged and walked across the street to where he had earlier left me. I scuttled back there to grab his arm and lead him back in the direction we were supposed to be going. Rounding the bend we were met with this vista, the entrance to Bolinas Lagoon.IMG_0894 IMG_0895 we both found this house fascinating. I am sure it would make a good setting for one of those find the object games. IMG_0898 Across the street we found this unexpected gem.IMG_0897 I loved this place, what lucky people to live here with views across the lagoon entranceIMG_0899  towards the hills behind Stinson beach. IMG_0900IMG_0901 A moment later we were back at the ocean. You can see quite clearly where the lagoon meets the open sea.IMG_0902 It was lovely to feel the warm sand under my bare feet and the water was very refreshing too.IMG_0615 Missy M had told us that she loves the graffiti that is found at Bolinas Beach and I can see why. Every piece of concrete lining the base of the cliff behind the beach is cover in wonderful and varied colours and intricate designs.IMG_0912  IMG_0913 this was my favouriteIMG_0914 we also saw a couple of signs that we have never seen anywhere before and probably won’t again.IMG_0612 andIMG_0915 By the time we reached the place where we had started the tide had gone out far enough for us to safely reach the slipway without getting wet feet.IMG_0920 We had spent a lovely afternoon in the sun looking out at the pacific ocean from what we had been told was the 2nd best beach in the area. Now it was time to drive back to base and walk over to the diner for our evening meal and the pleasant company of the staff who we were now getting to know quite well.

Moving on to Patagonia

Monday 3rd June 2013

We had only booked 3 nights at our hotel  before we flew out to California. We wanted to have the freedom to move around during our stay if we so wanted. My step children’s step father had helpfully drawn up a list of hotels for us to look at in a nearby town.  So as Monday morning dawned we managed to get ourselves not only out of bed but packed and checked out of the hotel by 9.30am

We decided to have breakfast at McDonalds, so I set the Sat Nav to find the nearest  Macky D’s which turned out to be on the far side of town. I had my first taste of Blueberry and pomegranate smoothie which was delicious.

It was still fairly early so we decided to just follow the road to see where it went. We were due to meet up with Missy M later in the day. We drove for miles along the same road following hills and valleys. After some time I plugged in the Sat Nav for directions to the town of Novato where we would meet up with Missy M. Owl couldn’t believe it when he saw a sign for Laurel Canyon (not the one in Los Angeles). In a previous era of his life he had owned the album Blues from Laurel Canyon by John Mayall. I had better not tell him that this was not The Laurel Canyon, but hey it is still in California.

Reaching a modest shopping centre we called Missy M who knew exactly where we were and joined us a few minutes later. It was then decided that she would show us the local beach. I assumed that this beach would be on the edge of San Pablo Bay, but it did seem to be taking us much longer to get there than we had expected.  45 minutes later we arrived at Bolinas, we parked just a short distance from the beach itself. Missy M told us that it was a popular beach for surfing. Whilst there we watched a couple of fishermen with their rods set up near the slipway.IMG_0674

Not long after we arrived we watched as one of the men reeled in his catch. A sting ray, while one man held onto his rod the other unhooked the fish. He tried to put it back into the sea but the waves brought it back. The three of us watched in horror as the poor creature lay flapping helplessly at the edge of the water. The ebbing tide not managing to take it back to sea. We knew that before long it would die. Sadly there was nothing we could do.IMG_0675

Driving back from the beach we discussed the list of hotels that Missy M’s step father had kindly printed out for us. We were moving on to a nearby town which Owl just could not get his mind around the name of, he kept referring to the town of Petaluma as Patagonia. It begins with a P but there the similarity ends.

Having dropped Missy M off back at her car we took the back road to Petaluma. We were planning to book into Step dad (SD)’s recommendation Hotel Petaluma. Using Sat Nav we found the road where this hotel was situated. The entrance was a little on the shy side, hiding among nail bars etc. Opening the door we stepped into what appeared to be a an office with the dated appearance of a throw back to the 1920’s. I have just looked up the history and indeed the hotel does date back to the late 1920s.

There was a jovial silver surfer (older gentleman) sat behind a huge desk who when asked about booking a room said he had to phone someone. He then proceeded to speak to a woman on a mobile (cell phone) which he then passed to Owl. The woman told Owl she would be there in 20 minutes to show us a room. Having been on the road for hours I was by this time desperate and asked if there was a restroom I could use. I was directed to a door at the end of the office. It was like going into a cupboard under the stairs. It took me a while to find the light switch as it as covered in the same ancient wallpaper as the walls.

We made our excuses and left. Owl has since described Hotel Petaluma as having the appearance of ‘The Addams Family House’. Next we thought we would try our luck at the local Best Western. Half an hour later we were unpacking our luggage at the Best Western. The very helpful receptionist told us that they had an agreement with the local diner for 20% discount for BW guests.

We were made very welcome by the staff at Pepper’s restaurant. For dinner that evening Owl wanted a bowl of soup but was astounded when he was offered either a sandwich or salad to go with it. Finally he agreed to have a salad, expecting a small side salad. Nope he got enough salad to feed a family. My chili n’ cheese potato was the biggest potato I have ever had, it too was served with enough salad for a family.

Needless to say we didn’t go to bed hungry that night.