Memorial Day Weekend

I wrote my last report sitting at a Starbucks in Fresno. I was sipping coffee, watching people and waited for the car repair bill. What I didn’t cover was the reason why I got 20 minutes late to the service garage. At the time we were staying at the Millerton Lake near Fresno and I had an appointment at the service garage at 7.30 in the morning. Since it’s a 30 minutes drive, I left 10 to 7.00 AM, just in case… Good thing I did!

If I left only 2 minutes earlier, I would have definietly make it on time to the mechanic, but I would miss quite a spectacle. Obviously from time to time, every one of us meets a cow or two in the middle of the road. But what about 300 cows led by and  followed by 5 cowboys and their smart collie…? The cattle were being driven from one pasture to the next, few miles dwon the road. A truly wild west experience…

From Fresno, we headed back to the cold Sierra, this time to visit Yosemite. As Agnieszka already reported, we didn’t stay there long, mainly because of the crowds of people, in their large SUV’s and enormous RV’s, with their expensive cameras, filling up the valley all week long. We managed to find one camping spot, 25 miles north from the most scenic rocks and waterfalls, far from other people. Yes, we were lucky to spot a bear and a mountain lion, both within 6 minutes, half mile from one another,  but we failed to find another camping spot for the upcoming weekend. Gosh, I hate weekends!

We spent the next two days in Turlock Lake, a small park near Modesto. As all California state parks, this one was a no frills, expensive ($30/night) and in dire need of upgrades. Unlike others, this one was also infested by blood thirsty mosquitos, beer thirsty rednecks and fiestive Mexicans. We managed to survive the dreaded weeekend and Sunday afternoon moved to another park near Valley Springs. This one is being administer by the US Army Corps of Engineers and despite surface similarities is indeed much different. At only $16 per night it’s not only significantly less expensive, but also has clean, modern facilities and overall seems to be much better managed. Although Valley Springs is just a small town and offers no tourist attractions, we welcomed the change and decided to stay for the whole week. That gave us an opportunity to catch up on the homeschooling program, visit local libraries and just hang out on the lake. On Friday, when the “weekenders” started to arrive, we packed our van, left the quitet refuge and headed for the city…

Sacramento, California’s capital is not as big as some of the better known cities on the west coast. It retains it’s small town atmosphere, while providing all the services and attaractions of a much larger metropoly. We stayed there for almost a week. On the weekend, we visited our old friends, who moved here from Hornell 6 years ago. They live in downtown, which gave us a chance to see the heart of the city first hand. We went to a concert, to a zoo and to museum of rail transportation, enjoyed a pacific rim fair and walked the streets of a western-like historic district. Of course we also spent countless hours talking about the “good old times” while drying out a few bottles of wine. On Sunday, we moved to the outskirts and stayed with a wonderful couple we met few weeks earlier at Zion and in the Death Valley. Patti and Del not only hosted us for four days, sharing their travel and family stories, but also took us cayaking and showed us Folsom and Orangevale on the bikes. Nadia and Alex loved the pool, we couldn’t get enough of Del’s barbecued ribs. But on Thursday it was time move on…

Last weekend was Memorial Day, which means… we’re screwed. Instead of San Francisco, we landed in Sonoma valley on a campground far from the bay area. But it turned out to be great. We have spent four days hiking, visiting local library and… wine tasting. After all this is the Sonoma Valley!