Jack London's Oakland...

Being as this is the 100th anniversary of author Jack London's death, we headed to the town that was his home for most of his developing years- Oakland.

There is so much to say about this man so this is just a brief overview of his life here. Journalist and author John Griffith Chaney, better known as Jack London, was born on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. Jack, as he came to call himself as a boy, was the son of Flora Wellman, an unwed mother, and William Chaney, an attorney, journalist and pioneering leader in the new field of American astrology. His father was never part of his life, and his mother ended up marrying John London, a Civil War veteran, who moved his new family around the Bay Area before settling in Oakland.
To get a true feel for Jack, we headed to the waterfront and Jack London Square with a visit to Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (1883). The name "First and Last Chance" refers to the time in which for many sailors, the pub was the first and last chance to drink alcohol heavily before or after a long voyage. It is also known as "Jack London's Rendezvous", as it was the inspiration for scenes from his novels Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf. As a schoolboy, London would study at the bar's tables that remain today.
Just outside Heinold’s sits Jack London’s Cabin, a recreated model of the cabin London lived in during his time in the Yukon. There is also a string of distinctive wolf tracks on the pavement outside the saloon and cabin. These tracks mark the path of the Jack London history walk, which highlights points of interest in the stories of Jack London, the city of Oakland, and its port. This whole town demands a greater explore.

Our final Jack London stop was at the Oakland Public library which has mounted an exhibit celebrating the life and career of author Jack London (1876-1916). Raised in Oakland, London went on to become an intrepid adventurer,  journalist, celebrated novelist, and political activist. During his lifetime he was one of the country's most popular authors. This year marks the centennial of his death at age 40. The exhibit features personal letters, biographies, photographs, first editions of his fiction, and other ephemera illustrating his literary legacy.
The wonderful and informative librarian, Dorothy, welcomed us into her private office where we were able to look at a huge collection of first editions and learn more about this 'native son'. It was incredible!

Our last stop was at the very cool Friends of the Library bookstore- The Bookmark. Nestled in a historic building in Old Town, this seemed the perfect end to our Oakland explore.

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Benicia Day 1: Pickle Ball & Sightseeing

After Napa, we headed to the town of Benicia to stay with Lee and Margaret for our first visit there. This Bay Area city's rich history – as a former state capitol, a busy seaport, the first Army ordnance supply depot on the Pacific Coast and an inspiration for some of Jack London's literary works – is a treasure trove for history buffs and families wanting to learn more about national and California history. Oh and play Pickle Ball!

Our first stop was at the old high school gym for the extremely fun game of Pickle Ball.

What fun! It's a combination of tennis and Ping Pong and we loved it. Great camaraderie and exercise all in one.

Our next stop was a picnic at the harbor. Benicia's proximity to the water sparked development of ship building and fishing industries that were an integral part of the city's early, colorful history. Its location along the Carquinez Strait attracted the shipyard of Matthew Turner, the well-known shipbuilder who moved from San Francisco to Benicia in 1882. He launched more sailing vessels than any other man in America – 228 of them in 33 years – and 154 of them were built in Benicia. This town is also full of art and this whimsical bench, by Robert Arneson, is just one of many open-air pieces we admired.
Another one of Benicia’s colorful mariners was renowned author Jack London. As a teenager, London worked out of the city as an oyster pirate, and later as an officer on the Fish Patrol, whose role was to catch people engaging in illegal activities on the water – such as pirating oysters! London, according to local historians, was known to tie up his boat, Razzle Dazzle, at the end of Benicia’s First Street. London would write about these and other Benicia adventures in his short story collection Tales of the Fish Patrol and the nonfiction work John Barleycorn. More about Mr. London tomorrow.
This is a town of incredible artisans. We stopped by Lindsay Art Glass because we heard there was blowing happening today- Wow!
Since 1998, artist David Lindsay has been here, where he uses this ancient art form to create work inspired by the sea and nature with movement and flow in their many shapes and designs.

One of California's "Wandering Capitals": Benicia served as the state capital for nearly 13 months from 1853 to 1854 (Monterey, San Jose and Vallejo also took turns until the seat of California government finally settled in Sacramento).
Everywhere we turned there was a historic home. In the yard of this one, we found this 160+ year old Wisteria. So very interesting... all of it.
Dinner in the heart of town was followed by a driving tour of the city and more history lessons. The Clock Tower Fortress, built in 1859, this sandstone military bastion was strategically built atop Army Point to control the key passageway of Carquinez Strait to the gold mines of the interior and was designed to protect the post from Indian attacks, although the "Old Fort" never fired a shot in anger, even during the alarms of Civil War days.

Oh what fun we are having discovering new places with great friends as guides!

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Wine Tasting in Napa...

My actual birthday was celebrated in Wine Country for an overnight.

We only had time for tasting at one vineyard and we picked the absolute best... Andretti Winery.
The finest things in life are often hidden away and that’s the case with the award-winning Andretti Winery. Nestled alongside a quiet country lane in the heart of the legendary Napa Valley, Andretti Winery exudes Old World Charm as it whisks wine lovers back in time to a slower pace of life. Modeled after a rambling Italian village, the winery conjures up the boyhood home of its namesake, Mario Andretti, the finest race car driver of all time.
I have to admit I told our host, Douglas, that it was my birthday. We were treated very well, with an extra taste or two gifted to us.
We did feel transported back to our time in Italy. What a treat the entire day was.
Che la tua vita sia come un buon vino,
saporita, forte e limpida,
e che come un buon vino,
migliori col passare di ogni anno.

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Easter & My Birthday...

We spent the weekend with B & C having a great family get together.

We spent the time playing games, going for walks, errands, eating delicious food and just hanging out. It was a perfect way to celebrate Easter and my birthday!

And we got to delight in all the wonderment of Spring. Yes, it was an ideal weekend!

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Pyramid Lake for Pelicans and More...

We have been meaning to visit this strangely beautiful place, since moving here. Seventy miles northeast of Lake Tahoe, the similarly sized but much less visited Pyramid Lake presents a very different appearance - 2,500 feet lower in elevation in the barren basin and range country on the dry eastern side of the Sierras. The lake is enclosed by treeless hills and sandy, sagebrush desert, and although Reno lies just 30 miles south, there is very little settlement nearby.

This area is part of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, a Paiute preserve of about 1,800 people, who care for this amazing place. We visited the museum, gathered information and then headed to the Lake.
Pyramid Lake is the site of some of the Earth's most spectacular tufa deposits. Tufa is a rock composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that forms at the mouth of a spring, from lake water, or from a mixture of spring and lake water. The explorer John C. Frémont (1845) wrote about the tufas during his 1843-44 expedition.

The Paiute name for the lake is Cui-Ui Panunadu, meaning fish in standing water. Their language is still very prevalent here.

Anaho Island supports one of the highest breeding colonies of American White Pelicans in the western United States. It is a national wildlife refuge that was established in 1913, as a sanctuary for colonial nesting birds, primarily these majestic pelicans.

In recent years, between 8000 and 10,000 pelicans have returned from their wintering grounds in southern California and Baja, Mexico. I think we were a tad early for the massive migration but the pelicans we did see were a great treat.
The more geologically interesting parts of the region are either off limits to the public or reachable only by rough tracks, including on the east side, The Pyramid, after which the lake was name. This is a conspicuous, pointed tufa mound right at the edge of the lake, forming a tiny island at times of high water. This is Lake is a place to which we will return. It is so unique and so close to us.

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Birthday Day with Bob & Jenny...

We spent the day doing a variety of fun activities with our friends for an early birthday celebration.

My present was a game from 1992 called "Why Not?" I will discuss this further, but I loved how they used the pieces to write a sweet note on my new baking sheets.

First stop was Logan Shoals to admire the new snow and spectacular views. Wow.

They took us to Virginia Lake, a 1938 WPA project and an oasis in the middle of downtown Reno, where bird watching was at a pinnacle. What a treat.

We then met up with some 'angels', who had rescued this injured hawk, so Bob and Jenny could bring it to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center. What a beautiful little bird.
Our final destination was the Lahontan Audubon Society's ever-popular bird ID panel meeting called "Stump the Experts". These birders took on the challenge of identifying birds from photos submitted by the audience. Several of them were Jenny's images! So very, very cool and a neat way to learn more about ornithology.

What a fabulous day #22 of my birthday month.

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