Posts Tagged ‘Buy Birdland Home’

GOLF, “THE MOMENT OF TRUTH” Thursday, May 29th, 2014

I remember standing in front of this masterpiece in awe. Once with my little daughter, Gina, of nine. Once with the love of my life, Patricia. It was in Florence in the Accademia delle Belle Arte. Standing bigger than life in the center of the rotunda. The white Carrara marble transcending stone and morphing into sinews, flesh, veins and muscle. Standing erect, calm and resolute, muscles firm but relaxed and eyes with that gaze of focus. Concentration, focus, resolve. I pointed out to Gina the protruding veins on the sinewy arm hanging to the side. A comment which she still remembers to this day some thirty years later. the-david-michelangelo[1]It’s the David by Michelangelo with slingshot draped casually over the shoulder. Ready for the challenge to come with nary a trepidation. Prepared in every way to face his moment of truth. This is what I saw then and this is what I remember now.

The toreador…standing on his tiptoes, back erect and leaning forward, eyes focused on that quarter sized target, right hand extended up high, holding a thin sword, moving stealthily toward his target on the neck of the raging bull;the bull… wounded, possibly panicked, bloody, confused and probably just reacting totoreador[2] self preservation instincts. The bullfighter positions himself for an instant over the bull’s horns to garner the best vantage point to the target. One instant of doubt, trepidation or hesitation and he risks death or  serious injury to himself and butchery to the bull. El momento della verdad! Done correctly…instant death to the bull and resounding glory for the bullfighter. A drama best described in ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Hemingway.

So, a golfer takes the first tee. All are quiet but there is some tension about. The target seems distant and there are obstacles to the right, to the left and in front. A slight breeze stirs the surface waters of the pond just beyond. He tees up the ball and feels his heart begin to pump…just a bit. Time seems to stop. He’s just hit a dozen drives on the range with smoothness and confidence. He gazes down the target and that sureness begins to drain. One last waggle with a relaxing exhale and the swing is set in motion. Any doubt,

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hesitation or caution here and all goes awry. Why all the drama…it’s just a game…right??? Yes, but…and the but is…he is dealing with his inner core. All obstacles out there are static. If he falters and does not allow himself to perform as he knows he can, it’s a personal failure. He will not die or be harmed but he knows deep within that he did not measure up. So…is it a game or a stage for that moment of truth? I believe the latter!

At this point I  have to have a good laugh at myself. This, of course, is hyperbole gone wild. And the laugh…well…it began at the dinner table. And…it wasn’t really my laugh. It was on Patricia’s face and if the truth be told…the laugh was directed at me and my ‘piccolo mondo’ which I create. Sometimes Patricia comments, ‘where do you live?’ Well, Well!! Perhaps so? But if you are a golf aficionado you will understand standing over the ball on the first tee and putting all the importance of the world into that first shot while all your peers are looking. It does reveal something of your inner self. Moment of truth in terms of life and death?…of course not! But…there are other inner tensions which produce the same threshold of importance. In any event….trying to explain it to Patricia was a thorough exercise in futility and the more one tries the more one appears ridiculous. So, I sipped on my Chianti and complimented her on her exquisite shrimp salad and quietly exited the topic.

This is the mental threshold that most golfers bring to the game. There is a veneer of confidence but this confidence can easily and quickly be pierced by several errant shots. As I’ve often said…it’s a long distance from the driving range to the first tee, the world of ‘one shot’, no mulligans or do overs. It’s golf’s ‘moment of truth’ syndrome. Every shot is a moment of truth!

So, this is where the mental journey begins. And…now we embark on successive layers which tend exacerbate the process. The first layer is the static versus the dynamic. Tee up the ball and assume the address position. This is fine and dandy. You can even do a waggle, as recommended. But…eventually youhave to embark on that dynamic journey called the swing. It’s smooth and fluid and efficient. Any

deviation from those three little words produces loss of club head speed. The optimum journey travels one swing plane and one only. Make an adjustment along the way to another swing plane and  you reduce club head speed. The best example of the professional that makes this transition absolutely obvious is Jason Dufner. At address he does not linger at the station he embarks the train in a flurry of motion. What’s that you say…at address he waggles the club continuously and on one undetermined waggle he goes into the swing. That’s his way of overcoming the awkward moment of transition from the static address position to the dynamic and irreversible world of the swing. A more deliberate method is that used by Gary Player. One, two three. A move to his right side and backswing, the shift to the ball and a step through towards the target. On the other hand there is ‘Joe Hackhead’. He addresses the ball and waits with dread and doubt for that moment to begin the swing. There is tension and rigidity. Eventually a lurch or a painfully slow motion to the top. When you watch Gary or Jason or a myriad of other professionals the motion looks easy and balanced. Watch ‘Joe’ and…well…don’t watch. The result is predictable.

Picture you body as a coil. Your right foot, if you’re right handed, is the anchor. As the swing begins, the coil tightens only to reach its maximum tension at the top of the backswing. Typically at the top the left shoulder will be under the chin and the back will be facing the target. Wait…did I say that the shoulders are pointing to the target? And there’s the rub. It’s all wrong the little voice inside says. You gotta get back to the target and pronto. So, the anxiety in various degrees begins to build and continues till the ball is struck. And there’s the irony as the torso coils to be in proper position with the necessary power to strike the ball, the anxiety grows because you are pointing further and further away from the target. Where is the top…how far is the top…how long will it take??Doubt creeps into the mind as the swing attempts to find that magical position at the top.

This is an important and subtle point that it warrants repeating from another point of view…

The properly executed golf swing relies on the torque created from the different attitudes of the hips and

BACK TO TARGET

shoulders. The resulting tension felt in the torso area produces the power.The shoulders must point towards the target. And…this is the rub. As the golfers begins the dynamic golf swing his shoulders begin the journey…a journey which also begins the build-up of anxiety. Something in his little brain begins to signal…hey, hey this is all wrong. The target is that way. You’re facing the wrong way. The closer the golfer gets to the top of the swing with his back square towards the target the louder that little primitive voice becomes. At that point the anxiety is the greatest and then there is a rush to get back to the target line.

 There are many other refinements to the game for those with the talent to capitalize. However those areas I’ve outlined are the major obstacles which the average golfer must overcome to sport a repeatable swing and enjoyable game. Most golfers never get t0 that first stage. I being one. I can play six stellar holes on any golf course. Then the remaining holes tend to bring me back to reality. But….I’m still trying…

No article on golf should end without guaranteed solutions. I leave you with two:

1) Always dress in a splendid fashion. Look like a professional golfer. Then go to your favorite course and put for a while. Then go to the 19th hole and have a couple of bloody marys and talk golf with the fellows. Then…go home!!

2)  Take up bicycle riding as I’ve done. I find that you tend to loose less balls!!

FORE!!!

 

Need to Buy, Sell or Lease Silicon

Valley Real Estate?

Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004      

 

 

 

SHOULD I STAGE MY HOUSE?? Sunday, April 6th, 2014
'Best Fee Structure in Real Estate!"

‘Best Fee Structure in Real Estate!”

I am a Realtor®, Broker and Owner of a boutique real estate firm in the heart of Silicon Valley. I maintain a virtual office from my home and compete with the ‘so called ‘ big boys. I have been a Realtor® since 2000 and a Broker of my firm, Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley, since 2004. I spent the first four years with the so called ‘big boys’ to see if any had unique insights into the real estate business. If the truth be told….the answer is a resounding NO!!! Those of us who have prospered for more than a decade in this dynamic market of Silicon Valley are all ‘BIG BOYS’.

Each home is unique. Each home has a soul. It is the respite of the work, play, rest and heal continuum. It is not an island onto itself but a conduit to the schools, parks, shopping areas, road infrastructure, and work and play venues. As such each home relates to its environment in a different way and thus is unique. I find that after I spend a time on the property…a week, perhaps, I garner a flavor of this soul. And this is where my marketing begins.                

 In regards to staging the preference of the real estate industry is to stage. There are many staging companies that run the gamut of quality. Some produce good results, most do an average job and some actually do damage. The worst example was a highly regarded staging firm in the San Francisco Peninsula that regarded themselves as real pros and experts in the field. Their opinions and taste was ‘gold’ and not to be questioned.  Their rendition confused potential buyers. Too much stuff and no coherent flow. After a week of uncomfortable deliberation we had them pull out their stuff, paid the initial fee and began anew with another company.

My view of staging is ‘less is more’. Staging is a tool to aid the potential buyer envision how the home might be used. Staging is not an end onto itself. Staging must be done from the viewpoint of the potential buyer and no one else. Homes with large, open living areas which lend themselves to a variety of living options are best candidates for staging. Simple suggestions as to where informal dining might be located…or an entertainment  area or perhaps a reading nook or a conversation/stereo cocktail sitting space. A simple dining room table, four chairs and a silk floral arrangement…period! Just a hint, a suggestion…something to connect with the potential buyer to give them an idea, to stimulate their imagination. To energize that little light in the buyer’s mind with an idea, a concept from which the buyer can embark on colors, furnishings, textures and a myriad of other details. That’s the purpose of any staging. To engage the potential buyer; to light that little light!

Through no skill of my own I happen to own several homes right across the street from where the new Cupertino Apple Spaceship Campus will be located. Being built as I write this piece. We had been living in one of the homes and wished to rent it. It was well appointed with hardwood floors, area rugs, good furnishings and a wonderful array of art work on the walls. As I removed clutter and furnishings and personal items I began to be able to compare and contrast the feelings that the space emoted with the removal of each layer of personal items.

Rugs and Floors–Most homes in the bay area built in the fifties and sixties have hardwood floors. However the choice back then was wall to wall carpeting. So, many of these homes have surprisingly beautiful floors underneath. Floors that need perhaps a light sanding and a layer or two of urethane. Such was the case in my home and I urathaned where needed and cleansed with Windex the rest. The result was a wonderful clean reflection as one entered each room. By the way, wall to wall carpeting is no longer in vogue. I have had tenants and buyers over recent years that insist on the removal of older but usable wall to wall carpeting. Perhaps viewed as carriers of other people’s dirt even though shampooed.

Garage— Removed fifteen years’ worth of accumulated stuff. You know, the stuff that’s too good to throw or give away but whose use has outlived its time. Moved what we needed and gave most to Salvation Army. Once the space was empty I painted the major wall and power washed all other surfaces. Next day I just kept looking at it. Wow! What a difference.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN–Clean is one of those words that is generic, non-specific. What one person sees as clean, another considers dirty. Absolute cleanliness is not seen but felt. Let me repeat that….cleanliness is not seen but felt. Dirt, smudges, spots are seen. When a space is marvelously clean it creates a feeling of comfort, tidiness, of neatness…you want to be there.

So, hardwood floors must shine. Windows..not a smudge or glare of dirt in the sunshine. Porcelain sinks and bowls…spotless. You get the idea…do a white glove test!

CURB APPEAL–Start from the street as you exit your car parked in front. What’s your first impression. What do you notice. Are the bushes neatly trimmed? Is the lawn cut and green and in good condition? Are there weeds growing? Walkways clean? Clutter? Believe me….whatever is there will be noticed by a potential buyer or tenant. Whatever first impression is created…this is the attitude of the buyer/tenant as he opens the front door. If the initial impression is negative the buyer/tenant will be looking for additional signs confirming his negative impression. A negative first impression put your property on the defensive.

But…let’s get back to the staging theme! I removed all personal items from the house. Then one day the movers came for the big stuff. The next few days I did all those things I described above. The place was immaculately clean, the curb appeal exceptional, the garden neat and tidy. The house was empty except for the art work on the walls and window coverings. To my amazement the house did not feel empty. It still had the character and personality that was present when we lived there with all our familiar belongings. The rooms, though empty, radiated cleanliness and warmth. Window covering and artwork created the stage for clients to imagine how their furniture and personal items might be best positioned. In the ten days that I had the house on the market I had as many clients visit. Their reaction was overwhelmingly positive with numerous applications to rent. I found what I thought to be an excellent family as tenants.

Removal of Art Work–After execution of lease I removed our art work. When next day I returned to the house I again was amazed. The house felt empty. Barren. Devoid of character. No warmth. It was the art work!! Wow! What a difference. It was dramatic. So, here began an idea. If I am right and art work creates such an emotional difference…why not employ it as a staging tool. Artwork only!

Less Is More!! The more stuff the eye has to absorb the greater the tendency for confusion. The more the eye has to absorb the less the imagination is engaged. The more the eye has to absorb the greater the tendency to become a spectator rather than a engaged participant. 

CONCLUSION: The vast majority of ordinary homes need not be staged. A tasteful selection of artwork on walls creates the optimum desired effect. Those homes with large square footages and flexible living spaces are best candidates for staging. That is staging according to the principle of ‘less is more’.

****Luciano is presently working out arrangements with art galleries to have art available for homes. Art will be the staging technique and will also be available for sale.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DALMATIAN REALTY

SILICON VALLEY

LUCIANO J. ERCOLINI

BROKER, OWNER, REALTOR

BSC,MBA UNIVERSITY OF SANTA CLARA

DALMATIANREALTY@YAHOO.COM

408-482-3438

 

 

Peasant Farm-Tuscany 40’s, 50’s & 60’s Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Family Pictures 142This was pretty much the summer uniform for a kid growing up in a Tuscan peasant farm in the 1950’s…barefoot, shorts and undershirt. I was fascinated with kites. No one had money for such things in post WWII Italy so we made our own. The kites of choice were in the shape of a six pointed star with tail streaming from the lower points. My brother, Moreno, made the first one for me. I watched him carefully…bamboos cut precisely and straight, paste made from flour and water, two sheets of colored paper bought from Bresciano’s in Molin Nuovo and careful measuring and fastening so that it would fly right and a couple of spools of string. That was one of the favorite activities in the afternoons when there would be an appropriate wind. Soon I was making kites for my cousins and friends.

 

Whenever someone would mention her name he would go off in an ‘ad hominem’ typical Tuscan tirade.Lu 034 That was my maternal grandmother whom I never met. I believe that is she in the stylish clothes with my grandfather, Beppe Magrini, and my cousin Aladino in carriage in 1947. Life was basic and tough in post war Italy in the farm areas of Tuscany. Families were large as the labor was needed to work the fields. All work was done by beast of burden and human labor. The wife would be sent to be a wet nurse after each child was born. My mother, for example, went to Torino after my brother was born in 1937. My grandmother whose name I know not was sent to Marseilles after each of the six children. Then she would have to return to the rudimentary farm, with the chickens and the animals and the smells and the no running water, indoor bathroom, no electricity and lots and lots of manual labor. And then she would be pregnant, have the child and soon leave for Marseilles to tend to rich folks’ children while my mother, being the oldest, would act as the surrogate mother on the farm. I surmise that after each trip to Marseilles the return trip to the backwardness of the farm became more and more unbearable. And…probably, being an attractive woman she probably met some gentleman who was her ticket to a better life. The clothes she’s wearing are stylish and not the type that I grew accustomed seeing farm women wear in that area. Although I never saw or met her I’m pretty sure that is my infamous grandmother.

As a little kid of six or seven I remember my grandfather Beppe…whenever someone would mention her….”Dio cane, puttana madonna, bestia, puttana and on”, and on. Of course, he had it tough. Left alone with six children and a farm to work. But…to his credit he did it. Raised the four girls and two boys, saw to it that all got married with nice weddings and we, the grandchildren would gather about his farm in the summers and have a grand time roaming. He was a nice man and I went to his funeral which happened to occurr during one of my visits in 1980.

Lu 058

The wheat harvest was a family affair. Uncles, aunts, cousins…all would gather and pitch in. Sometime in July there would be the cutting. They would begin at five in the morning for quick coffee and then to the fields. A line of folks with hats and sickles in hand stooped over moving down the field in unison. Wheat stalks would be left on the ground for some time to dry and then bundled. The faggots would be hauled over the shoulder from the fields and spiraled onto the large mound in front of the farm house.The thrasher would be called and that was an exciting day for the kids. Lots of noise, tractor and large machinery, moving leather straps and all the adults moving as a team with excitement and joy. All was ready for the big day.Stacking the wheat and getting ready for the machines in summer of 1947.

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Grandfather, aunts and uncles and my brother, Moreno. My father, Giovanni Pasquinelli, stands atop the stack with cocked hat and proud stature! At center with lite beret hat is Bruno Ercolini, my uncle and adopted father, who brought me to America….the very luckiest stroke in my life!!!

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Feeding the thrasher…my cousin, Osvaldo, looking on. 1956

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My brother, Moreno, and uncle, Beppe, stacking the hay for the animals. 1956

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My father, Giovanni and workers sacking the wheat. When my grandmother was alive, till the early fifties, the wheat would be taken to Molin Nuovo a half mile away to the mill. It was an old style mill powered by a canal from the Pescia River and with large stone wheels grinding and churning, flour dust everywhere and the sound of rushing water from below the floor. It was rustic and basic and with motion and lots of sounds. Then My grandmother would use the flour on a weekly basis and make our bread. She would make the loaves the night before and let them rise overnight in a wooden cupboard and then rise at dawn on her baking day and light a fire for embers to be placed in a brick oven to heat at the proper temperature. Then a long handled shovel with the loaves in and out. She was dressed all in black and would work till about noon. The golden oval loaves were marvellous. Rich, thick crust, golden and with lots of texture. However, it was done on a weekly basis…so, the ones at the end were a bit tough.After she died my father worked out an arrangement with the bakery in Borgo a Buggiano. He bartered the blour for bread for the year. The breadman would deliver fresh, store bought loaves every couple of days. They were good…but not like the ones grandmother Agnese made.

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Doing the laundry by the well. My stepmother, Eda, in 1956, This was it….the washer and dryer. No running water. Electricity came in 1953.

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And…this was the bathroom….no, that’s not correct…the outhouse, right next to the pig stys and indoor stalls. It was basic and had toilet paper to match….usually old newspapers or magazines or such discarded paper. I never saw toilet paper till I went to visit my aunt, Rina in Pescia. On one of my visits after high school my good friend, Michael, came with me and we stayed on the farm for some months. Before he used the outhouse I distinctly remember giving him a good briefing as to what to expect. I’m sure he’s never forgotten it.

Lu 032

My mother, Ida Magrini Pasquinelli. She died in 1953 of nephritis. I remember the trauma to this day when they all came to talk to me. She’s in front of our well and laundry vat. Note the laundry basket behind and to the back. Picture was in 1951 and the well probably had been in use for over 100 years.

Lu 025

In the Valdinievole the water tables were readily available…so we were fortunate to have a well with good water and right in front of our house. Workers clean and scour the walls in 1947. Water by bucket would be poured into a copper vessel(brocca) and placed atop a marble sink in the kitchen. The brocca would hold about 2 gallons of water. Bedroom would have bed pans and portable basins. As a little kid I remember those cold winter days getting ready for church in Molin Nuovo…a G.I. wash at the portable basin on cold unheated brick floors. The process was super quick! At night getting into bed was a challenge too! Cold, cold, cold! So, there was a dome like contraption made from curved reticulated slats which would hold suspended a terracotta pot of embers. It would be placed under the covers for a short while to heat the bedding. Lighting was by candle or an oil lamp with wick and glass tube and of course the fireplace which would be the center of the house on cold nights. It was pretty basic stuff and my brother and I later would comment that we were the last generation to have seen a working peasant farm…a system which probably had not changed since the Romans and the Etruscans.

Lu 033

Getting ready for lunch. No matter how humble the surroundings the table at lunch was always set with clean tablecloth, plates for each course, water, wine and espresso. On Sundays a chicken or rabbit would be cooked and dessert served too. At the well my brother, Moreno and Bruno, fill one of the flasks with water after getting a flask of wine from the cantina. The cantina would have a half dozen large barrels along the walls filled with white and red wine. Usually ten or fifteen flasks would be filled at one time and each flask would be sealed by pouring a small amount of olive oil at the very top. Before serving a wad of flax would be dipped in the neck of the flask to soak up the olive oil and render the wine ready for pouring. To the water there would be a powder added to make it effervescent. It was called ‘acqua di Vichy’. however, non of us knew or cared that it was named after Vichy water of France. Lunch would always be at one pm and would be a joyous affair. Sometimes in summer my father would buy a watermelon and drop it into the well to cool down and then retrieve it by bucket. Other times polenta would be served. My brother, Moreno, absolutely hated it. But it would be stirred in a black pail hanging over the fireplace and when ready it would be poured onto a napkin at the center of the table, left to set for a few minutes and then cut with a thread. It would be served with baccala or some red sauce dish. That was the main meal of the day followed by a nap til about four, chores and then dinner at about soundown. Dinner would be left overs from lunch and much lighter.

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Zucchini plants in the foreground, string bean and tomato vines in the back, grass for the rabbits and animals on right and grape vines all around the field. Every inch of the farm was used. In the late afternoons my father would water these plants via a well and electric pump and would pick the tomatoes, beans and zucchini. He would order them in wooden flats with leaves for presentation. Then at five the next morning he would load all on wracks in front and rear of his bike and ride some five miles to Montecatini where there would be a market for fresh vegetables and fruits. Montecatini was a tourist center for the well to do who were wont to come from all about Europe to take the waters. They were mineral waters, saline waters for their purgative health value. You know…cleanse the system. The prices would be determined by pure market forces and prices would change daily. It was pure competition. This was an important cash inflow for the farm and would last all summer.

Lu 084

My father, Giovanni, with a sulphur bellows. Several times before the grape harvest grapes would be dusted with sulphur. It was a whole process of course. It began in the winter when the vines would be cut to bare essentials. Grape vines bordered all fields and were strung on wire with bamboos for support. The bamboos were grown on the farm as was a vine with pliable whip like branches which were used to tie the vines to bamboos or wire. In the spring all the grapes were sprayed several times with a copper solution and all the men would be outfitted with pumps harnessed by shoulder straps with a pump lever jutting out by the right arm. In early summer the grape leaves would be thinned out to reveal the grapes to the sun. In late September the harvest…all members of family to include cousins, aunts and uncles would gather for two or three days to cut the grapes and dump them into vats. A manual wine press would be called and we could see the red juice ooze out into vats as the guys worked the lever around. The juice was poured into wooden bins and allowed to ferment. Then…transferred into barrels and allowed to age for one year…the red, that is….the white was drunk next summer. I remember as though it was yesterday….in the early fifties…me, my brother and father around the lunch table. It was the tasting of the new white wine. My father poured a glass for us to taste. There was a silence. My brother who was always rather outspoken said ‘it’s awful’. I remember the taste to this day, the taste was odd. My father tasted it and re tasted and said ‘mi piace'(I like it!). But with a look on his face. Don’t remember whether the wine was ever drunk, but the scene vividly remains. The meals on the Tuscan table always included wine. The children would be given a light water wine solution. And…I remember not liking the wine much…always preferred a lemonade or orange drink or Coca Cola. As of lately I’ve rediscovered the wonderful childhood delight…the long forgotten zesty flavor of Orangina. It’s a link to my childhood on the farm in Molin Nuovo!

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Need to Buy, Sell or Lease Silicon

Valley Real Estate?

Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004      

 

 

 

Truckee Revisited!! Friday, October 12th, 2012

After a long day of bike riding there is great satisfaction to sit back, let the body go limp and reflect…yes, reflect on all the beautiful vistas and wonderful feelings that are now part of the kaleidoscope of your mind. So, I ordered a glass of Malbec from Argentina and slowly sipped and savored the rich, dark liquid as my head swayed to Frankie’s tune:

“What has a man, what has he got

If not himself , then he has not

To say the words, he truly feels

Ans…not the words of one who kneels…..”

Ahhh, I thought, Frankie, what a tremendous saloon singer. I loved and still love his tunes. But…he was such an asshole in many ways.

Moodys-Bistro, Bar & Beats in the Truckee Hote

The waiter came again to check on me. I looked up from my thoughts and ordered the same dinner as I had enjoyed on my last visit some months ago. A pizza Margherita and a Caesar Salad. That’s it…plain and simple, I said as I handed back the menu and he rushed off to a couple who had just sat at the small table next to me. I flashed a moment on my dinner order. Yes….simplicity. What  an expression of beauty. Simplicity is beauty. Simple dishes done with directness and care. No superfluous hubbub and a mixture of stuff all over the plate, no complex sauces or rich and exotic flavors to confuse the palate. No sir. Not for me. Just one plate for each item done to perfection. The pizza crust, thin and caramelized; splotches of tomatoes and mozzarella dotted with fresh basil leaves. It was art on a plate. Simplicity and beauty. The Caesar Salad of equal beauty with a presentation of the house’s own originality.

I looked at both dishes as they were presented. Just to absorb the beauty of the simplicity. And…swirled some Malbec just to savor the moment.

“The record shows, I took the blows

And….did it my way.”

Well, Frankie, I did it my way too. As measured by the standards of society I’m not so successful as you are…but I sure love those words. That’s why I’ve committed them to memory. And… there is no feeling in this entire world like a man who can take it or or leave it according to the whims of the little drummer within. And… one more thing, Frankie….the asshole business…well, I guess everyone is an asshole in their own way. ‘Amico, ti saluto’, as I tip the glass for a libation into cyberspace.

This had been the summer of my sixty-fifth year. A wonderful summer by all measure. It had been highlighted with two trips to the Sierras. Each trip had the same profile-golf with the guys for the first few days and then bicycle riding into areas never before traveled. Each of those sojourns had ended in Truckee with rides to Donner Summit and points beyond. As I began to eat the crisp romaine lettuce and croutons I felt fortunate to be able to have uncovered layers to these areas which I had known all my life but the true character and beauty was reserved till last. It was the bicycle riding and the investigation into history that revealed all the wonders of this area and makes it alive. Wow, what a place. Just think! It’s all here just for the taking. How can one guy be so lucky as to be able to pluck these gems from history and combine them with his bicycle passion, the natural beauty of the Sierras and the vistas…and…it’s all free. It was Thoreau who said something about developing interests which cost nothing. It goes back to independence and self- reliance. The capacity to dine alone and savor the moment….to ride miles on a bike and be fully engaged with your thoughts…to appreciate all those who traveled the same road and most of all to appreciate the moment. You know…the moment is all that we have. Something about being a spectator versus a participant. A spectator watches others being a hero in their lives; a participant is a hero in his own life.

Each visit began with an early check in at the newly remodeled Truckee Hotel. This hotel is steeped with history…if only the timbers could. talk. It was a stagecoach stop during the pre-rail days. A ride to the resorts at Tahoe City would take two and a half hours along the present route of highway 89. Then the transcontinental railroad came displacing stagecoaches and wagon roads. It was a hotel for tourists and travelers across the Sierras. It was the first hotel to have steam heat. And it’s advertising is emblazoned on rock surface somewhere along old US-40 by Donner Summit. I’ve yet to hunt it down.

By the Truckee River on Rustic River Street!

The nice folks at the hotel let me check in early in the morning. With no time wasted I would have my car parked at the free spaces by the rails and be on my way on my new Kestrel carbon fiber bicycle.  The weather was spectacular. I rode along the south edge of town on River Street by the rushing white waters of the Truckee River. Off of main street Truckee still shows its rustic under-belly. And…I just love it. It’s real. The businesses make do with the old architecture and adapt it to the business of the day.

US80 & Donner Pass, a majestic vista!

The road empties onto Highway 89 and I follow it north to Donner Pass Road towards Donner lake. There is an overpass on Highway 80. There I must stop to take photos and just to survey the scene. The spot commands broad views of the entire valley. Well….can’t call it a valley…it’s at 7200 feet in altitude. Perhaps a high plain. There are the snow capped Sierras all around and the vastness with mountain air clarity and soft morning light. An unusual feeling erupts… a feeling that confirms the existence of the spectacular and the aesthetic. It’s extraordinary. To be such an insignificant speck and to survey and appreciate such a scene. There are a couple of others which emote such feeling-Emigrant Pass before Cisco Grove on Highway 80 and the Carson Valley from a rise on Double R Ranch Road just south of Reno. There are the railroads, the Jeffery Pines, Donner Pass to the West, the continuous traffic on 80’s road surface below and sleepy Truckee behind. To not appreciate and admire is not to be alive.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED: Donner Lake & Old US-40

Beyond the pines along the old route of US-40 lies  a gem which is  overlooked by most who travel this region. It’s Donner Lake, a gem of an alpine lake nestled in the recesses at the foot of Donner Pass. While the masses rush off to Tahoe or Reno this alpine siren lies quietly and remotely hidden giving only an occasional glimpse from vantage points of US-80. The road travels the waters’ edge as I enter a world of serenity and placid surface waters. There are boaters, teens diving from piers, paddle boarders and groups fishing from shore. There is no rush here; I enter an oasis of calm. And…as I raise my gaze I note Donner Pass and Rainbow Bridge at the summit looming over all this serenity.

Donner Pass Road

Donner Pass up above!

Mountain flowers adjacent to Donner Lake

AND NOW….THE CLIMB TO THE TOP!

 Any damn fool can go down hill! But the climb demands all those elements of achievement. You know…those old fashioned qualities like…discipline, fortitude, perseverance…etc. And…at the summit of each climb there is the exhilaration and feeling of achievement not to mention the grand vista…and a grand vista well deserved. So, that’s what I tell my friends when they ask, ‘why do you do it’? And… of course, they smile and kind of shake their heads as though recognizing a like-able whackadoo! But…my fellow bicycle riders know the thrill of looking over your shoulder and seeing a mountain range blue against the setting sun and a content grin erupts on our faces. Yep! we came that way, on our own power and now we are in command of that scenery. It’s an expression of independence and self reliance. rn

Donner Pass Road, US-40, Lincoln Highway, Freedom Highway and Indian roads before.

If there is pain in this climb it is obfuscated by the sheer beauty of the area and the many layers of history of those whose footsteps marked this road. There are Washoe Indians, the fur trappers and adventurers, the Canistoga Wagon settlers, the railroad guys, the builders of transcontinental roads, the early motorists, and early year round residents who came to settle and stay and call it home.

I peddle gently and look all about. My sight is transfixed to the summit and the art deco bridge spanning the granite ledges. It is reminiscent  of the the Bixby Bridge on Highway-1 just south of Monterey. Well. this is the Donner Summit Memorial Bridge but also known as the Rainbow Bridge. Built in 1927 as part of the US 40 transcontinental route from the east to west coast.

The bridge had challenges of engineering and cost over-runs. Initially budgeted at $27,000 which turned to a $36,000 sum when all was said and done and the contractor made a walloping profit of $1,600. But the bridge turned out to be a piece of art as it negotiated changes in elevation and direction. And…all done in a dramatically aesthetic way.

And…a fine view of Rainbow Bridge from a Donner Summit vantage point…overlooking its successor, US 80. Ah, yes! US 80, more efficient, speedier, easier to negotiate…but less exciting, less interesting and definitely less beautiful. If in the area take an extra half hour and treat yourself to a ride into yesteryear. Old US 40 from Soda Springs to Truckee. Experience the Sierras as they were in the old days. It will enrichen your experience!!!

A moment to pause and just take in the beauty!!!

The Donner Summit

Everyone knows about the infamous Donner Party…but did you know about the Indians. The Paiutes, The Shoshone and the Washoe Indians used this ancient pass for centuries to trade their wares with the populations of the Sacaramento Valley. Just think…way before California and the settlers and America this pass was used by the Indians. At various points at the summit petroglyphs can be seen. Ancient markings of our ancestral travelers chiseled on stone. They probably had the same reaction to this spot as we do today. ‘Wow! How beautiful.’

Tribute to the Indians of the Nevada desert.

 By the shores of the Truckee River west of Reno I happened upon this fine tribute to the local Indian tribes. This is truly the joy of travel….from the seat of a bicycle to discover these gems of interest and to tie them into the general history of the region. So, these Indians would have traveled the same route I rode…along the shores of the Truckee River following the present route of US 80 into Truckee by Donner Lake and up to the pass. How very cool is that???

Signs by the Donner Summit Historical Society marking points of interest.

And the joy and satisfaction of conquering another summit!

The satisfaciton of another summit in my bicycle haversack!

Looking south from the summit the railroad line is visible against the granite backdrop. This perhaps is the finest tribute to the men who suffered, sacrificed and endured incredible hardships to build this great piece of ‘Americana’…conventional wisdom of the time said that it could not be done. But…Theodore Dehone Judah along with Dr. Strong from Dutch Flat lead the way. And…the Chinese…worked incredible hours, in extreme weather conditions and unimaginable danger. They inched their way through the impenetrable granite of the Sierras with picks, hammers and chisels and black powder and  nitroglycerin. It was known as ‘Bam, Bam, Quarter Turn! A team of three with one holding the chisel and the other two wielding an eighteen pound sledge hammer. Tunnel # 6 is a tribute to the Chinese. Progress was two inches a day…till, they began to work from both sides and dug a shaft form the center and worked out. When eventually they met…the tunnels were only a few inches out. A total length through solid granite  of 1659 feet. The tunnel is no longer used and can be viewd by interested visitors. When next I’m there…I’ll be sure to savor every inch.

Tunnels #7 & 8 in view.Tunnel #6 jusf to right of foto.

Tunnel #6 jusf to right of foto.

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Back at Moody’s Bistro the music was from a local group filtering in from the bar dining area. They seem to have many such groups playing in locations throughout town. One day I had sat on the second floor balcony looking out onto main street and listened to a duo below by the outdoor seating playing ‘King of the Road’. And…the couple seated next to me…well, now we were in a lively conversation ab0ut, of all things, our mutual high school. The gentleman and I had both attended Marin Catholic in Marin County a few years apart. We shared old memories of our old campus and teachers we had known. These are the pleasant coincidences of travel. And…if I can digress for a moment about such coincidences…Gstaad in the Swiss Alps! My daughter Gina and I were on one of our road trips in the summer of the 80’s from Frankfurt to Tuscany for a visit with our family. We treated ourselves to a fancy hotel in the mountains. While Gina was taking a nap I went for a massage in their spa. The masseuse, during our conversation, tells me that a few weeks before had attended a fiftieth wedding anniversary at the Leaning Tower Restaurant in South San Francisco….the restaurant I owned at the time. I always marvel at the coincidences of life when you ‘put yourself about’.

From Donner Summit my adventure continues in two directions: out along US-40 by Lake Van Norden, Cisco Grove and The Rainbow Lodge and back to the Truckee Hotel; and earlier in June…the other route to the South Shore of Donner Lake along Highway 89 along the Truckee River to Tahoe City along North Shore Lake Tahoe, Brockway and back over the summit to the Truckee Hotel.

Old US-40 Summit to Cisco Grove

Donner Summit

A most historic spot! Donner Summit. Earmarked by the Donner Summit Historical Society.

Donner Summit Historical Society

The museum consists of 34 historical placards from the Nyack exit off of US-80 to the summit. Within the building above are many interesting photos and artifacts of the area. These items of interest are sponsored by local businesses trying to make this piece of California history economically viable and alive.

Snow Ball Express

The ‘snowball express’ 1937!! Ski enthusiasts could begin their adventure at the Ferry Building in San Francisco in the early evening. Ride overnight on  a comfortable train with dining cars and sleeping berths available and awaken in the morning at Norden Station just a few minutes away from Sugarbowl for a day of skiing. Dinner was $.75. The excursion was so popular that the dormitory at Norden Station was inadequate…the railroad company had to park extra cars in Truckee to accomodate the folks.

Lake Van Norden

View of Lake Van Norden on the high meadow by Soda Springs.

Train snaking its way through!

A long freight train lumbers through the Jeffery Pine forest with an occasional blow of the air horn. What a view!!

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Soda Springs Station & Hotel

Soda Springs Station and Hotel was built in 1927 for the newly constructed highway US-40. In 1980 it was converted into a condo complex.

Soda Springs General Store & Post Office

Soda Springs General Store & Post Office

The Cycling Tuscan lost in California history! Sitting on the front porch of the Soda Springs Store and Post Office on old US 40. Elevation 6700 ft. and nary a whisper of computers, Silicon Valley or the internet. They advertise chimney sweeping, the coldest beer, snow chains and snowboards. Their Internet is the myriad of postings on the wall by the front door. The proprietress sported old fashioned hospitality and lamented her upcoming trip into the Sacramento Valley because of the heat. I sipped on my coffee and watched folks coming in their trucks and suvs for a quick something or other and disappear just as quickly. The air was clear, cool with a scent of pine. It felt good to take it deep into your lungs. I could hear the rumble of a long train behind. I called Patricia and shared the moment. It was good to be alive!

Tinker's Station

Tinker’s Station Hostel

Joseph Tinker was described as a ‘hard driving, hard drinking’ freight wagon driver from the 1860’s. He delivered supplies to nearby mining areas. With a partner he started a hotel and originally Soda Springs was known as Tinker’s Station. This hostel is a european type accommodation servicing skiers, tourists and sports’ enthusiasts who enjoy this spectacular area.

From here old US-40 follows the newly built US-80 and the rocky shores of the North Fork of the Yuba River.  It’s a joyous ride, downhill, threading through forests, in summer sunshine with sounds of rushing, crashing waters against granite boulders jutting from the river bed. The slope is gentle and I maintain 25 to 30mph. Mountain flowers form splashes of color against grasses on the forest floor. Shafts of sunlight burrow through forest shade to find the brightest whites and most radiant greens. My gaze is captured by these gems of nature. Then I go under the freeway to be enshrouded in cool shade with the sound of grinding traffic disrupting the dreamy interlude. Ah! I think…now we travel in a few hours what would have taken weeks or months. But…with the convenience and speed of modern day something is lost. To notice the less noticed. To smell unusual plants or flowers with unknown names. To lay the bike down and sit on a boulder mid stream with furious spray caressing your face. To see an occasional trout jump and the sunlight catching its magical colors. But most of all to slow down and let all the cares of the world gently disappear and let yourself ‘just be’. I believe that the human animal is like a fine instrument. To function at its peak it must be allowed to resonate. Not forced. Not pressured. Not made to do anything. To express its own will and be allowed to interact with its environment in a natureal way. To go where it will go. To do what it will do. The resulting feelings, thoughts and epiphanies are unique. They are quality. The rest…well, the rest is ‘cannon fodder’.

The Rainbow Lodge

The Rainbow Lodge

The Rainbow Tavern and Lodge! It serviced travelers on the old Emigrant Trail. Then a Stagecoach stop. Finally a lodge with amenities for travelers along the two lane US-40.

Vintage stretch of Old US-40

As it would have looked in the old days. I can just imagine Burma Shave signs by the roadside. Do you remember Burma Shave???

Remannts of the gas station & buildings that serviced travelers along US-40

Remnants of the gas station & buildings that serviced travelers along US-40

A place to repose. Across the way walls of service station and store remain.

And...the refreshing Yuba River providimg an idyllic rest spot!

And…the refreshing Yuba River providimg an idyllic rest spot!

Folks would come and fish and have their catch cooked by chefs at the lodge. And…aficionados of skiing could spend their days on the nearby slopes or trek cross country. Way back when…the journey was as important as the destination.

The ride back from Cisco Grove was a rewarding effort of bicycle riding. With head down over the bars I concentrated on the steady rhythm to climb the 1500 feet in altitude back to the summit. There was no traffic. Then a swoosh down Donner Pass with majestic views and the best treat of all on the outskirts of Truckee….an extra large, cold, chocolate milk shake.

Along 89 to North Shore Lake Tahoe

The South Shore of Donner Lake is a view of a lake resort area as it might have looked yesteryear. Vacation homes in remote settings are set wide apart with nary a peson to be seen. And…all have a bigger than life view of the lake and mountains.

Donner Lake on the quiet side.

Donner Lake on the quiet side.

 It was work till the Squaw Valley entrance. Then the trek turned into sheer delight  and awe. The roar of the ever present and threatening traffic of Highway 89 yielded to the serenity of a hidden bicycle path hewn through the lush alpine forest beside rushing white waters. Yes…this is a bike path that all who come to this area should enjoy.

A peaceful bike path through the forest

A peaceful bike path through the forest

And a few more miles of this sylvan paradise and my journey happened upon a most opportune lunch spot….

Action of the white waters

Action of the white waters

The River Ranch at the entrance of Alpine Meadows. I remember this place…Patricia and I spent our honeymoon here many years ago. It was delightful then. It looked delightful now.

Lunch at the River Ranch by Alpine Meadows

Lunch at the River Ranch by Alpine Meadows

So, here I rest. And…look upon the waters and rafters as they make their final turn at the end of their adventure. I listen to old selections of rock ‘n roll from the sixties as I await my hamburger and fries. Sometimes life is just perfect. Which reminds me of the quote that my daughter, Gina, introduced to me….’Le vie, ne pas besoigne d’eter partait, pour etre marvellouz! (I’ll check the spelling)

And...around the corner...absolute calm

And…around the corner…absolute calm

And quietly and gently I enter route 29 along the north shore of Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City. There are familiar places that I recognize…Bacchi’s being one. An old style family type of restaurant that needs to be appreciated because of its ambiance and longevity. It’s nestled in the pines near the lake and offers bounteous food for vacationing families. We had many good times here over the years.

One of my favorite old time Tahoe restaurants. Bacchi's nestled in the trees at Tahoes City

One of my favorite old time Tahoe restaurants. Bacchi’s nestled in the trees at Tahoes City

Over the rise at Carnelian Bay there is the fist majestic view of the big waters. And…how beautiful it is. Mark Twain in his travel would always compare other beautiful lakes to Tahoe…and, Tahoe would always come out on top.

Thrill of 'First View' of Lake Tahoe

And…all from the seat of my bicycle. I marvel at this beauty and such vistas never fail to impress.

Wow!!

Wow!!

As I descend Carnelian Bay into the flatter shorelines of Brockway and King’s Beach a yearning awakens within. It’s my fuel tank. It’s a bit low and I begin to picture a frosty and rich chocolate milk shake. I try a few places that ought to have such but walk away with my bike disappointed. And yearning for the thick shake even more!

Wow! Wow!!! From the seat of a bicycle!!!

Wow! Wow!!! From the seat of a bicycle!!!

So, I begin the climb to Brockway Summit. It’s another bit of a grind and the afternoon traffic leaving the north Tahoe area is bothersome.

And...back on the climb...Brockway Summit

And…back on the climb…Brockway Summit

However with the summit behind me and the satisfaction of another summit in my cycling accomplishments I enjoy the descent into the Truckee Meadows by the Northstar Golf Course. I’ve always loved these high meadows. Although this afternoon it’s a bit windy. I look forward to that ‘shake in Truckee.

High meadow between Truckee and Northstar Resort

High meadow between Truckee and Northstar Resort

EVENING IN TRUCKEE, AFTER THE RIDE!

A PLACE TO WRITE

A PLACE TO WRITE

After a good shower and all equipment stowed I relax in this wonderful guest room of the Truckee Hotel. I just love the richness of the woods and the reddish hues form the wallpaper and paint. It is so suggestive of the old western hospitality and ambiance. Here I write notes and themes fresh from the day’s adventure. It’s a wonderful way to relax and capture quality on paper.

COMFORTABLE ROOM TO SLEEP

COMFORTABLE ROOM TO SLEEP

A comfortable, affordable room with a view!

A PLACE TO EAT

And…a stroll before dinner. A few doors down I was able to find that chocolate shake.

A STROLL AFTER DINNER

 And…greetings to all from downtown Truckee.

GREETING FROM TRUCKEE!!!

GREETING FROM TRUCKEE!!!

Trips taken June and September 2012. 

The Cycling Tuscan

Luciano J. Ercolini

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SILICON VALLEY ACROSS GOLDEN GATE TO WINE COUNTRY!! Monday, September 3rd, 2012

SKYLINERoute-day one

Page Mill Rd to Alpine to San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, Devil’s Slide, Montara, Pacifica and San Francisco

 

Route-day two

Mission District, Lake Merced, Sunset,Golden Gate Park, Cliff  House, Sea Cliff, Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, MillValley, Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax, White’s Hill, Olema, Pt. Reyes, Marconi, Marshall, Tomales Bay, Valley Ford, Round and Round, THE WASHOE HOUSE, Rohnert Park

Route-day three

Sonoma State, Penngrove, Petaluma, Nicasio Lake, Lucas Valley Road, Big Rock, San Rafael, Greenbrae, Corte Madera, Sausalito, GG Bridge, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf and Train Station.

Total Mileage—258.5 miles

Flat tires—4

Horrible places—Devil’s Slide, Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay, Road markings west ofSanta Rosa, traffic attitude in SonomaCounty.

Beautiful places—Vistas from Alpine Road, selected areas of Highway 1, Pacifica, Golden GateBridge, Persidio,Sausalito, Bike path North of Sausalito into Corte Madera, Fairfax, Pt. Reyes, Tomales Bay and that absolutely necessary beer at the Washoe House on Roblar Road, Bike path from GG Bridge through Presidio onto Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf and finally a heavenly and triumphal ride down the Embarcadero to the train station.

 

Mistakes—forgot sun block, did not drink enough electrolytes, did not put new tires on bike, did not have bike rack on bike.

The Narrative:

It was Sunday, the day of final preparation for the bike trip. It was a mild summer day and felt light hearted as I tidied last details and errands dressed in T shirt, shorts and flip flops. Light rock from FM KOIT played gently in the background as I looked forward to the many adventures ahead of me in the next few days. A patch kit and spare inner tube purchased at Walt’s Bike Shop on Carroll St. completed my preparation. I returned home tranquilly and finished the packing. Water, Power Bars, a light backpack, my new Giant Bike, a few bucks and credit cards was all I needed. All was tidily packed and ready.

Six came early the next morning revealing an overcast but warm day. I sipped coffee and watched Lance ride on OLN Network and wondered if I really wanted to do this. Am I nuts or what, I thought. The comfort of the couch and a sleepy body acted as the inertia to the beginning of the trip.

By six thirty I pushed my achy and sleepy body through the garage door with water bottle in hand and set the bike on the pavement. Time to go! Time to go!  At the first stop light on Fremont  I remembered that the water bottle was carelessly left atop Patricia’s car as I had lifted the bike off the ceiling hooks. I rode sleepily and lazily through the morning traffic of Sunnyvale and Los Altos. At Loyola Corners I stopped at the convenience store behind the gas station and bought a two liter bottle of Evian. An older, cheery, tall counter clerk queried me as to what Evian meant backwards. I strained with sleepy eyes and a slothful mind at the label of the bottle almost annoyed at the question. The mental mechanism slowly and painfully began to move.

“Yep, yep, naïve! And how very appropriate for this French stuff”, I said.

The clerk sported a broad self pleased smile as he handed me the change and in a friendly style said, “have a good ride and good day”

“Adios, my friend”, I replied.

Up familiar Foothill Expressway I began to gather momentum. My spirits were awakening to the adventure ahead. My body and energy also began to awaken. The familiar road assumed a cloak of adventure as it was the gateway to my long planned trip up the coast to Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Old Page Mill Road is a throwback. A short stretch of quaint, tree shaded winding and hidden road runs adjacent to the new expressway, a beehive of activity during most times of the day and night. Once beyond the 280 underpass the traffic disappears and the road winds through its two thousand foot ascent to Skyline Boulevard. I’d climbed this road a number of times before and though never easy I’d forgotten how challenging some of the more rigorous climbs truly were. I stopped several times to drink water and chew on a Power Bar. “Tough, tough, tough,” I thought. About three quarter of the way to the summit I stopped and looked back to Silicon Valley sleepily still hidden in the low fog with the sun peering above and shedding soft light on the upper slopes. When the summit finally came my spirits soared as I began to traverse a road never before traveled.

 

THE SUMMIT** PAGE MILL ROAD** HIGHWAY 35, SKYLINE BOULEVARD** ALPINE ROAD

It’s always a moment of triumph at the summit of any climb!!!

Across Highway 35, the summit, from Page Mill Road is Alpine Road, the beginning of the descent to the coast and the town of San Gregorio. The name still rings with spicy thoughts from my younger days of nude beaches somewhere in this wild coast land. The road became a narrow ribbon following the contours of the ridge lines, diving into oak groves, following narrow creeks and rising onto crests revealing the many golden coastal hills in all directions. Ranches and an occasional home interrupted the natural curves of the rolling hills.

It’s only its remoteness and lack of good roads which saves this beautiful unspoiled country from the ravages of housing developments, high density housing and all the modern trappings of civilization. Perhaps this is why I love bike touring so, the capacity to enter this desolate country on my own power without disturbing one iota of the environment.

Alpine Road continues its descent towards the coast for six miles till it junctures with Pescadero Road and Highway 84. The ride is pleasant as it is mostly downhill and darts in wooded areas along creeks and the coolness of the shade is welcome. Just before the Highway 84 junction by La Honda I enter a thick forest of majestic redwood trees. The air is cool, the light, what little there is, pierces the darkness of the giants and I walk by the running stream with steep banks covered with lush fern and giant clover. There is stillness and darkness and piercing beams of bright morning sunshine and I feel the soft ground under my feet. The feeling is serene.  It’s a special place. It’s majestic. It possesses the eerie silence and coolness of the most glorious of European cathedrals.

It’s Heritage Woods and definitely a place worth a second visit-perhaps, a day ride with a picnic lunch eaten under the redwoods and then resume the trip to the coast. It amazes me how some can be bored! With a little effort and a bit of a sense of adventure discovery and excitement are just waiting—just waiting to join the human spirit and contribute to a delightful and uplifting time. Patricia and Domino will love this spot on the way to the coast. Oh! What a pleasant thought that is!

I marvel at clover, lush and green, the size of my hand. Could there be a four leafer? Nope! Can’t find one. No matter-I’m already lucky to have experienced such a spiritual place…..and the wonderful surprise of it all.

I pick up Highway 84 just west of La Honda. It’s a two lane road, wide and with comfortable shoulders. The traffic is sparse and the countryside begins to assume the flavor of the nearby coast. There are some homes and ranches. One such ranch advertises an upcoming rodeo with food and all the rodeo stuff. Just imagine–out here in the middle of nowhere. But perhaps it’s a renowned local event.  I ride easily and enjoy the mild road and expansive vistas. The sun has disappeared and it’s gray and overcast. At Stage Road, a much better route rejoining Highway 1 just before Half Moon Bay, I stop at a delightful building with Spanish facade. The large lettering in front says San Gregorio General Store. A couple of old guys sat on the low window ledges sipping on their morning coffees. A hand written sign by the front door asked bicyclists to remove their shoes. As I entered the businesslike lady behind the counter looked at me and I immediately replied that my shoes had no cleats. She smiled and waved me in.

It was a large open store with an eclectic collection of merchandise. A long counter against the wall served food, drinks, sandwiches, beer, wine and booze. Half dozen neat wooden tables formed a tidy dining area in front of the broad front windows. There were books of interesting and odd varieties. There were lots and lots of bizarre cards—old cowboys, movie stars, antique signs, odd sayings. Every corner was crammed with amusing items. I ordered some coffee and strolled through the narrow isles and noted many items that amused me. As I left I commented that I would be back with four wheels and meant it too. It would be a good addition to that day trip after the picnic in Heritage Woods.

 

From San Gregorio to Half Moon Bay, Highway 1 was somewhat dreadful. It was mountainous and laden with traffic. Packs of ten and twenty motorcycle guys in their leathers and round helmets all in black screamed by at what seemed regular intervals. I could feel the roar of their engines in my chest. There were plenty of motor homes and trucks too. The traffic produced a wrenching and grinding, gritty noise which soon gave me a headache and made me question my judgment in regards to choosing this route. Then my front tire went flat.

 

At least it’s the front tire, I thought. It was cool, noisy and uncomfortable by the side of the road. However, I soon resumed the trip after applying a patch and removing a sticker from the tire. Up ahead one of the motorcycle guys had parked his big bike in the bicycle lane and was chatting away under a nearby tree on his cell phone. After passing him by some fifty yards, boom, another flat in the front tire again. What a pisser, I thought. There I went again with the patches and glue and all that unpleasant rigmarole. Out of the corner of the eye I could see the motorcycler walking towards me as I kept working on the tire.

 

“How you doing”, he said. “My tank gauge must be malfunctioning. I can’t believe it. Fortunately, my girl friend went on ahead to get some gas.”

 

“That’s fortunate”, I said. “Half Moon Bay is just up ahead and she should have no trouble finding gas. I’m not having much luck with these darn tires. It’s the second flat in less than a mile. What a bummer”

 

“Well, good luck”, he said as he began to return to his bike.

 

I continued with my repairs. I noted that he had mounted his bike down the road and heard the roar of the engine. Never thought a thing about it and went on with my repairs.

 

He came to me again. With a sheepish look on his face he said” well, I figured out how to work the spare tank valve.”

 

I began to laugh and momentarily forgot how pissed off I was at the stinking flat. He was laughing, too.

 

“However”, he said, “I’m not going to tell my girl friend about this.”

 

We both laughed again and he returned to his bike. I hopped on mine and resumed my trip north.

 

North of Half Moon Bay the shoulder widened and the traffic seemed to be less bothersome although still heavy.  The coastal communities of Moss Beach, Montara and Rockaway go by as I see occasional sunshine and fine view of the Pacific coastline. At Montara I see a gaily decorated shop, Caffe Lucca. I have to stop. It’s an artsy craftsy type with floors of cement dabbed with different splotches of colored paint. There are two rooms with windows to the highway and a patio to the rear. I sip my coffee at one of the table and note the décor on the walls. The owners must be from Lucca, I thought, as I focus on an interesting rather wide panoramic view of the amphitheater of Lucca. It was a wonderful view of the spot and had never quite seen it done that way. Although….my pictures taken under the arches from either end tended to be more dramatic and artistically better, this one was good and enjoyed looking at it. I thought of asking the counter girl about Lucca and the owners’ ancestry but thought better of it as she was busy and after hearing a few of her comments she sounded like a disinterested and uninformed teenager. She probably did not know anything about Lucca.

The craggy, rocky, rugged mountains which drop to the surf and the thin road lodged on a thin shelf describes the area known as Devil’s Slide. I began the five hundred foot climb with care and deliberation. There is no shoulder but there is plenty of traffic; the matter is further exacerbated by construction all along the climb with cement dividers further encroaching on the road. Cars were passing by what seemed just a few inches and around curves too. “Wow”, I thought,” this is not bright”.  I continued to climb and sped up around corners to minimize my exposure. “Definitely, definitely, this is my one and only time on this infernal stretch, if I make it alive,” I thought. And…just to show that “crazy” is relative, at that moment in a leisurely and placid mood comes a rider on a recumbent towing a small trailer down the slope occupying a quarter of the road with plenty of traffic behind. He was smiling and waved to me seemingly oblivious to the dangers about him. It made me laugh!!! The guys on recumbents are a strange lot.

Beginning the climb to Devil’s Slide.

Never, Ever, Again!!!!

At Sharp Park Highway 1 turned into a freeway with no bikes so I meandered through city streets and found a route hugging the coastline to the Pacific. Remember the song? “Little houses, Tiki Tocki, and …they’re all the same!!! That’s the one! Pacifica on the hills preceeding San Francisco. Well, let me tell you—the neighborhoods are every bit as steep as they look from Highway 280…and it was hot too. But I found my way without too much trouble as I had the foresight to bring a good selection of maps neatly packed in the bottom pocket of my useful Claris, freebie, backpack.

 

Never having traveled this road before I originally had unrealistic expectations as to how far I would progress on this, day one. By now it was fourish and San Francisco seemed like a good place to hole up for the night. As I turned towards Lake Merced my mind turned to dinner. Ah! Yes, dinner, what a wonderful idea. The thought of food, perhaps a veal scaloppini, or chicken parmigiana, a wine, French bread….yes, yes, yes. I had the perfect place in mind, the Granada Café in the Mission.

 

From Lake Merced cut across the San Francisco State campus and took Holloway Street towards the Mission. It was pleasant. And surprisingly so. The residential streets of San Francisco, as I was to find out, were without traffic and pleasant to travel. Without much effort I found myself in front of the Granada Café where I asked the bartender permission to bring my bike in.

I sat, had a beer or two and talked to some of the old guys at the bar. I didn’t recognize anyone from the old days. All dead, old or gone, I suppose. Jose, the chef of twenty five years or more, had just left his day shift but was still running the kitchen. My friend Michael was dead as of a year ago. Charlie Stuhr, the lawyer, comes in once in a while but is very ill, I was told. The place looked precisely as I had remembered it from the eighties. John, the owner, who is now eighty nine, still runs the place and lives downstairs in his basement apartment.

 

Smirian, the head waitress, whom I remember, came over and took my order. I ate a salad with blue cheese dressing, antipasto plate with French bread, rigatoni Bolognese, a delightful chicken parmigiana and a couple of glasses of house red wine. A gourmet meal at the most renowned of places could not have produced more satisfaction.

 

Just down the street I found a motel, The Avalon. Not great but cheap and convenient. It cost $70 for the night and I had a ground floor room. That night when I called Patricia and described the room, she told me to watch out for bed bugs. I thought of that more than once as I dozed off to sleep that night.

 

 

END, DAY ONE!!

The next morning, bright and early, at sixish I found my way across Mission Street to a non Starbuck’s coffee shop run by a serious minded Chinese guy. The storefront was scrubbed delightfully clean and furnished with only the necessities-a counter with display cases, a few tables, a cash register and a plastic lit menu on the wall.  A coffee and a plain donut was my breakfast. I sat at the corner table and watched the workers come in for their morning coffee and roll before their day’s work. Traffic was sparse and many of the stores were not yet open. It was a typical overcast San Francisco morning.

I traced my way back to Lake Mercedand followed Sunset Boulevard to the outer Sunset. The old neighborhood beckoned. 44th to 46th Avenues between Judah and Lawton were my first visions of San Francisco and the US of A when I first came from Italy in the late fifties. I rode slowly around the neighborhoods and must say that the area looked rather shabby but not much really had changed in fifty years.

Down 44th Avenue, across Lincoln Boulevard into Golden Gate Park I cruised and stopped in front of the windmill,Queen Whilomena Park. It was just beautiful with dainty colorful flowers. A few more feet and I was on the Great Highway with a fine view of the Pacific and the Cliff House. Up the hill and onto Clement Street for a mile or so till I turned into Sea Cliff, the area I had always admired when young for their fine homes and neighborhoods. When visiting my Aunt Bruna I would always travel that route and dream that some day when I found my fortune in life I would live in such a place. Those dreams are now somewhat tarnished and dusty and no longer hold the magnetism of youth.

The Presidio is a wonderful old relic of the history of San Francisco and much overlooked. The buildings are picturesque reminiscent of the early Spanish days of California. I rode through Fort Winfield Scott and stopped to admire a fine vista of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the fortifications built to defend the bay in the 1890s. I’ve lived in this area most of my life and moments like this make me realize the beauty and drama of our environs.

Merchant Road off Lincoln Boulevard on the way to GG Bridge

presents 1890 vintage fortifications defending the bay.

Merchant Road ends at the Toll Plaza to the bridge. Wow! Even to the most uncritical eye the scene commands attention. The Toll Plaza buildings, the coffee shop on the east side, and the majestic bridge all present to the eye a continuous display of style—Art Deco, spanning the entrance to our marvelous bay. One is moved to admit—this is not just a bridge—this is a work of art. Rustic, bold and strong in the brazen rust orange color. The builders knew that this was an icon of greatness. A testament to the human spirit—to build, to progress, to harness the challenges of nature.

I stood in front of the coffee shop looking at the statue of Strauss with his creation behind and just marveled. And….remembered!  Yes, remembered the stories that my mother, Mary Alice, would always tell me with pride. On the first day of opening of this great bridge in 1937 it was only for pedestrians. She was one of those historic people who were the first to walk the span to Marin County. I heard that story many times but never appreciated it till now. Perhaps it takes reaching a mature age to see and savor such things.

STRAUSS AND HIS BRIDGE!

GRACE STRENGTH BOLDNESS

The strands across the span hold up the roadway and thus a bridge exists. Truly simple! And yet, the two craggy faces of the shoals, separated by more than a mile of maritime currents, are spanned by this thin, stylish and resilient ribbon of iron. The currents thrust waters in and out of the bay with savage force. Winds blow the road surface and the cables with rhythmic gusts. The salt waters and sea spray attack the rust colored paint and iron beneath, but it stands. It absorbs the forces, it endures the elements, it sways with the wind, it parts the currents; it has done so since its inception in 1937. It lives in harmony with its environment and has become an iconic symbol of the community.

 

However, to truly appreciate its size and magnificence one must place himself in the most rudimentary form. To walk or run across it—-yes! To ride a bicycle—that’s my way. The winds howl across the strands. The bridge sways subtly but noticeably. Splotches of the orange paint are missing revealing the work of the sea. The vibrations and noise from the ever present traffic force the suspension to vibrate as an instrument. I look to the south and see the San Francisco skyline, Alkatraz and the southern shore of Marin all in the early morning haze. I take pictures as I wish to remember this moment. It will be an instant placed with other iconic moments which are naturally filed under “pinnacles of the aesthetic” to be accessed at random times as life goes by. This moment will rank with “the first sight of the Grand Canal as you climb the steps from the train station”, “the first view of Lake Tahoe from the summit on Highway 267 South from Truckee, “Europabrucke going south onto the Brenner Pass”, “the steely winter waters of Lake Tahoe from the slopes of Diamond Peak’, …..and… many more. But this moment will be there neatly tucked in the synapse world waiting for the call.

View from Vista Point!

Picture taken by a tourist.

Then there is Alexander Drive descending from the world of the urbane to the bohemian. The bay and silhouetted views of the San Francisco skyline display a rich color palate in the soft morning light. However, the voices of the past speak of steamy rapture, bawdy houses, iconoclastic artists, rough and tumble fishermen and beatniks with their coffee houses. Could we ever forget Sally Stanford? The madam! The lady of the house! The mayor of Sausalito! The owner and hands on manager of the Valhalla House, commanding the northern entry to Sausalito and a breathtaking view of the “City”. Good old Sally did things her way and the old fashioned way. It was in the early seventies when I would travel from the south bay to see my aged parents in Fairfax in Marin County. On the way back I would stop at the Valhalla House for a drink, or dinner but really I just loved the local color. The food was mediocre and expensive. At the end of the bar there was a barber chair all decked out in red leather, with the foot rest and all the trimmings done in chrome. Oddly enough it did not stand out nor did it seem bizarre as there were plenty of other quirky things to look at—-wrought iron head boards on the walls, red lights, old pictures of SF, red flocked wall paper. So why not a barber chair! All part of her Barbary Coast Days. Heh!

 

On one such visit the barber chair was occupied. It was Sally. It had to be as it had been made clear to me on prior visits that no one…but no one other than Sally..ever, ever dared to sit in that chair. As I sat at the bar sipping on my wine and looking out the window to the SF skyline a gruff and admonishing voice was heard over the normal chatter of the bar. “Too much booze”, “Not that way” etc. She would be directing the show as the bartenders calmly went on with their task. The drinks were mixed with small bottles of mixes and not with the automated guns as was the norm in every other bar.   Her hair, all gray was up in a tight bun and she reclined in that barber chair dishing out her energy. What a scene. It was worth the price.

 

Now of course Sausalito filled with tourists and the homes and environs have been gentrified. You know- the upwardly mobile with the light colors, the skylights and the corian counters. All light and bright with nary a hint of character. The BMW’s in the garage, day care, ergonomics, herbal teas, Starbucks Frapuccinos for five bucks and no smoking on the sidewalks of Sausalito. I think I wanna barf!

I strolled down Bridgeway Street and noted that my favorite men’s store, Gene Hiller, where I had bought many a fine clothes for my maitre’d days in the restaurant business was gone. I rode easily in light traffic out of the city and stopped at Caffe Trieste. I sipped on regular coffee in a large cup and sat on a sidewalk table looking at the homes on the rising mountain across the street. In a rare empty lot which I gathered was soon to be under construction was a series of very tall stakes with ribbons drawing horizontals to the house just behind. The views! The views! I could just hear the objections and heckling at the city planning sessions. “We were here first”, Our views  to SF”, and on and on with all that tripe. I looked at my new Giant bike leaning on the traffic post just in front of my table and thought—“How beautiful! How simple!

 

A double tap on the horn came from a gleaming Prussian blue BMW convertible waiting to make a left turn as the driver smiled and waved to the couple sitting at the table next to me. A few minutes later they were united. He spread plans on the table and their conversations turned to elevation plans and colors and feel this…feel that. They were probably the owners of the lot across the street. All of a sudden the bike and the road ahead looked unusually attractive.

Beyond the underpass to Mill Valley I happily stumble onto a bike path which traversed the low bay lands of Richardson Bay towards Corte Madera and Geenbrae and Kentfield. By this peaceful route I entered the world of my adolescence. There were joggers and occasional other cyclists but I progressed through the expansive plain effortlessly with the bay behind and the mountains of Marin ahead. As I scanned the scenery the reclining indian maiden captured my focus.  It was Mt.Tamalpais, of course. I remembered my mother telling me about the reclining maiden and I never could see it. But today there it was plain and clear. Of course, what my mother never pointed out was that the profile of the maiden could only be seen when viewing the mountain traveling north and not from Fairfax where we lived. But now, some fifty years later, I got it! I could just see her shaking her head with a wry smile…..Luciano! Luciano!!!

 

I follow the highly trafficked E. Blithesdale out of Mill Valley and climb along Camino Alto for several miles into Corte Madera. I continue through familiar city streets through the town of Larkspur and the trendy Lark Creek Inn, onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through Ross, San Anselmo and into Fairfax. I take time to follow a nostalgia trail through the center of town. The only store I recognize is Celoni’s Liquor Store and the Variety Store. Lady Baltimore Bakery, my mother’s favorite and a must stop for a cake every Sunday after church at St. Rita’s up the street, was no longer there. The baseball field where we played little league, St. Rita’s Church, and our old house on Vista Way with a grand view I examined slowly while memories from my youth surfaced.

 

Power Bars, Power Bars and more Power Bars! And lots of water, too! That’s what I would consume throughout the day.  It worked very well but by the third day of riding I determined that the electrolyte balance was way off. The water quenched my thirst but my energy level dropped and felt fatigued.  The water needed to be supplemented with Gatorade or some such drink to replace needed nutrients.

Beyond Fairfax the Marin countryside is sparsely populated and the terrain is mountainous and thick with vegetation. White’s Hill is the fist challenge and the heat of the day it required a good effort to reach the summit. I stopped at Laganitas for a yogurt and a rest as a couple of guys and a girl offered me a seat at their table. It felt good to rest and sit in the shade. We chatted and soon they were spinning their tale of woes. It seems that a member of their party was injured and now on the way to the hospital and their car was on the fritz, and they had to get back to San Rafael to catch a bus and they had no money….and…and… I finished my one of two yogurts I had bought and said, “I’m sorry to hear all your woes. Here is a yogurt and $5 if that helps. Now I gotta be on my way to Sonoma County. Good luck, guys”

 

I’m sure that I was a soft touch but who cares, I thought.  It was shady and pleasant riding through Samuel Taylor state park; the road was narrow and winding; there was no traffic and soon I emerged into the rolling, coastal hills with dry golden grass and refreshing breezes.

 

Pt. Reyes is an interesting town with its blend of ranch and Victorian architecture.Main street is lined with businesses and there is a fair amount of activity. I pass a saloon which catches my eye. I ride on as I never have a beer during the day. Another block and I began to slow. That place is awful interesting, I thought. Perhaps an exception ought to be made. My bike made a lazy u-turn and gathered speed towards that saloon. I climbed the brick steps and brought my bike inside. The little white dog which was slumped at the entrance rolled an eyeball towards me from its comatose pose. It was a western saloon, rough and tumble and picturesque.

“A draft beer”, I said, and began a conversation with the bartender.

“Is that dog the boss”, I asked as I pointed to the reclining pooch.

“That’s Fred”, she said, “the boss and guard dog”

 

We both chuckled. I finished my beer and listened to the idle chatter between the two older locals seated at the end of the long wooden bar.

Highway 1 proceeds north along Tomales Bay, a most unusual natural formation. The wind had picked up and was always in my face, or so it seemed. The town of Marconi, Marshall and Tomales went by. In the middle of a field just off the road were a hand full of folks flying huge kites, brightly colored and briskly undulating with the currents.

 

This entire area of northern Marin is desolate, beautiful and unspoiled. It’s a blend of coastal wet lands, rolling golden hills and isolated villages hanging on to economic life long after the forces for their beginning has disappeared.

FLYING KITES ALONG TOMALES BAY!!

RUGGED COUNTRY AROUND TOMALES BAY!!

TOMALES BAY OYSTERS!!

I was beginning to feel a bit fatigued. It was the effect of the day’s heat, dehydration and the constant head wind. Now I can see that my electrolytes were out of balance. Just drinking water did help. But as I crossed the county line into Sonoma, my spirits surged as I was close to a shower, dinner and rest.

 

However, unbeknown to me at the time, my adventure and fatigue were not over. At the juncture of Highway 1 and Petaluma Valley Road I headed for familiar names without referring to a map. I recognized Valley Ford and that’s where I went. By the time I realized my mistake I was mired in fatigue, mountain roads, dehydration,Bohemian Highway, Sonoma County traffic and aggressive hayseed trucks. My temper was getting short too—partly at myself for making a mistake so late in the day and partly the reawakening at the Sonoma County country/hayseed mentality. In most of the bay area bicycling is viewed as a healthy and accepted sport but in Sonoma County it is considered sport for those speeding ranch trucks probably rushing to their favorite beer dive. It was all coming back and negative feelings were surfacing from the past.

 

After what seemed forever Burnside Road passed by Bloomfield and I was back on Petaluma Road. The Power Bar I had eaten a few miles back was sticking to my throat as I also had run out of water. But soon I was on Roblar Road and with additional effort the red façade and roofline of the Washoe House was discernible over the tree line. “A Godsend,” I thought. I lodged my bike in the entry way so that I could see it from inside and entered. It was déjà vu all over again as Yogi would say. A few red faces were lined around the dilapidated bar. The dirt, the faded dollar bills and cards pinned to the ceiling, the streaky mirrors and the dirt infested floors and a good coating of dust all over—yes! Yes! All the elements were present. Like a museum—all was preserved.

 

I was so glad to be here, though. I sat on the rickety bar stool with a slumping thud. “A draft”, I grunted and shoved a fiver to the slovenly dressed bartender. He gave me the change with nary a word and resumed his loud conversation with his red faced cronies. I phased them all out and turned my attention to the times I had visited this place on the way to golf trips and also those early days which had not been as of yet tarnished with those awful years in Rohnert Park. Back then it was viewed with interest, history and local curiosity. Ulysses S.Grant was reputed to have stayed here. And…if you look closely they probably have the same shot glass—unwashed and all. I sipped the beer slowly and chuckled at the round and about loop that I had taken, the road signs I had missed and the extra miles I had tacked onto my one hundred and ten mile plus day. The garbage dump was close by and this place had a popular following with those country boys who combine the dump and a shot. Just perfect!!!

 

Calm, refreshed and relaxed I finished the last few miles, turned onto Rohnert Park Espressway and viewed my former nemeses—The Olive Garden, Red Lobster and the “lords of the manor”, “the counts of hickdom”, my former landlords, the Coddings. “Don’t go there, Louie”, I thought! It’s all past history and it’s buried.

 

I checked into Motel 6 and a great deal it was– nice clean room, a hot shower and a bill of $49. Perfect! The inconveniences of an electronic key that did not work, a dreadful visit to one of our old haunts, the Boulevard Café, now a drug ridden dive, a failed attempt to get a cold drink at Burger King’s drive through on foot and perhaps one of the worst breakfasts I was to have the next morning, were all overcome by that delightful steak dinner served by a spry and intelligent staff at the Outback Steakhouse. I was back in Rohnert Park but I was not suicidal……I would leave bright and early the next morning.

END, DAY TWO!

 

 

At the Black Bear Restaurant across the parking lot from my room I waited at the counter as the harried waitress became settled with the demands of her two early morning tables. The lone cowboy I noted smoking a cigarette while leaning on his tattered car in front came in and sat at one of the counter seats for coffee. I selected the hearty combo breakfast and waited to order. The small restaurant chain was founded in the Shasta area and known for its friendliness and hearty food or so the back of the menu said. The cook behind the line was getting ready for the day’s business but certainly was not ready for us this early in the morning. I got coffee and ordered and soon the platter was placed in front of me. The waffle was doughy, the bacon was soggy and limp and the eggs were tasteless. I made myself eat as I would have a long day of riding but remembered the very best waffles in the world served at the Hyatt Incline Village. No comparison, I thought as I ate what I could, paid the bill and left.

 

I rode through the shopping centers to see what businesses I could recognize. Most were the same but looked seedy. I rode briskly and somewhat detached and delighted that I was not longer mired in this place. I skirted around Sonoma State University and towards Petaluma to AAA for some maps. I had noted that there seemed to be no direct bike route out of Sonoma County. Nope! Nope! Nope! And…I had examined all my cache of maps but could only get to Novato and then only US 101. I thought to call the police department but by the time I arrived at the triple A office and surveyed the new supply of maps I decided to head inland and meet the juncture at Nicasio Reservoir and come out in Terra Linda. It was a circuitous route, desolate and mountainous but filled with many scenes of the rich golden oak tree laden hills so typical of California. I completed the mental picture of northern Marin and the gentrified expansion from the thin strip of growth along the 101 corridor. It was hot, it was mountainous, and it was difficult. The cumulative effect of dehydration had robbed me of all power and that breakfast was a detriment now sitting in my stomach.

 

The ride was hot and boring. At the top of a promontory I noted a monstrous rock as I descended towards Terra Linda. Good heavens! There is a convenience store with umbrellas in front. I drank two twenty ounce bottles of Gatorade without pause. And…sat for a while. It was elevenish and I had a ways to go before I arrived at my destination, the train station in San Francisco. I chuckled to myself as I noted then name of the store, Big Rock. That’s about it; that was the only distinguishable landmark in fifty miles.

 

The Gatorade did the trick. I was back on track. Terra Linda,San Rafael, over the hill by San Quentin onto Greenbrae and Kentfield to find the gentle bicycle trail by Richardson Bay towards Sausalito. I was refreshed and vibrant again as I looked forward to a rest stop and a beer at some wonderful and lively spot in Sausalito with a wonderful view. But….sometimes plans don’t materialize. At the beginning of Bridgeway Street in Sausalito my back tire blew and with a loud pop, too. The second flat that day.

A fine view of the Missionin San Rafael—picture taken from Third St.

Luciano was awarded “alter boy of the year” from St. Rita’s Parish in Fairfax. Ceremony held here in 1959.

…You never know where life leads you….but this is one place that I rode by and did not stop!!!

San Quentin

I dismantled the bike and began the usual procedure. Upon examination I noted that the tire was frayed and worn. It needed to be replaced and fortunately I remembered a bike shop just up the street. I repaired the tire and limped on in to Mike’s Bike shop.

” New tires, new inner tubes”, I said to the attendant at the shop, “and how long will it take. I’m on the road and wish to get going as soon as possible”.

 

The nice young man said that they could do it right away. “Good”, I said, “I’ll be drinking a beer and I’ll be back.

 

I bought a cold can of beer at the convenience store a few feet away and walked just behind the center where there was a cozy park with fine view of the houseboats and Sausalito hidden life and the reclining maiden of Mt. Tamalpais.

A fine view to sip a cold beer by as the bike is being once again made road worthy!

Sometimes luck is with you!! A beautiful picture. The bike ready to go!!!

Into SausalitoI went. And….with vigor, too! Just ahead of me I recognized a cyclist as the gentleman who had stopped at my flat tire and had advised me to change tires every two thousand miles. We began a conversation as we rode through Sausalito and parted as the road narrowed up the slope of Alexander Drive. I climbed with power and ease. I crossed the bridge and followed the bike trail which skirted the bay towards the Marina. It was sunny, the ride was pleasant, the view was breathtaking and there was no traffic. I felt privileged to be riding through this international city without the impediment of traffic. Through the Presidio and onto North Beach, by the cable cars and in front of the Buena Vista was my route. No cars and crowds were to be seen. Miraculous! I thought.

A rare scene! Riding through San Francisco without cars or crowds.

Once by the Embarcadero, I rode easily on the wide sidewalk skirting the occasional pedestrian or jogger or roller blader. I was close so I rode without a care. I cast my sights on the bay with the bigger than life Bay Bridge looming over the Embarcadero piers. It was almost five and the train station was near. Yes, yes!! The trip was done.

A triumphal beer while waiting for the train!!! (picture taken by biz guy from Philippines)

Just American-Truckee!! Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Last evening was Truckee Thursday. The first in the series of arts and crafts and farmer’s markets for the summer season. Being the first, there was probably more excitement than the remainder would bring. The locals and what tourists happened in the area strolled through the maze of booths on sequestered main street. It was a jolly affair. Even the police rode their bicycles through having as much fun as the rest.

But, this morning it was all over.The locals to their homes and Friday activities and the tourists probably to Tahoe, Reno or points beyond. I gazed down main street. What a lovely sight from my sheltered second floor balcony.

 I had gotten up a number of times in the middle of the night with the blasts of the train’s air horns. It was exciting to stand and look at the passing train just fifty feet beyond. The night air had been cool and pleasant.There were the flashing lights, swinging signs and traffic barriers coming down. I could feel the rumble resonate thought the hotel timbers. There was the grinding of the wheels on steel and another blast of the horn. One train had ninety six cars. Then a rush of air and a surreal suspension of all sounds.  And there I was with jeans half unbuttoned and tee shirt and bare feet mesmerized by the chugging cars lumbering down the tracks. It all fit in the ambiance of the hotel. The trains every hours or so, the rough and tumble buildings along main street, the rugged mountains on all sides and the rushing Truckee river. Yes, it was easy to be transported to the early days of rail and stagecoach and river crossings and snows and wagon roads.

I wanted coffee but I kept leaning on the railing and looking out on main street. It was all over. The excitement of last evening. Just like the last chapters of Hemingway in the Sun Also Rises. Back to the sleepy town. The sign post said Donner Pass Road and Bridge St. Hmmm. That’s where I was yesterday. Up Donner Summit. I lifted my gaze above the tracks to the snow caps beyond. Yep…I had done it. Ridden my bicycle up the summit to Soda Springs. And back down around Donner Lake to Highway 89 and Tahoe City and completed the loop to Brockway and back to the Truckee Hotel. It had been an adventure to remember. I stopped at the River Ranch for lunch and dangled my legs over the wall as I watched rafters and kayakers ending their ride from Tahoe City while waiting for my lunch. Yes…it was much like the fishing trip with all the zest and sportsmanship of Hemingway’s book at Burguete. Just the beautiful parts though. Not the debauchery and ugliness.

I walked down the steps with my Justin cowboy boots resounding throughout. It was a western stairway, a bit rough but perfect for the Truckee Hotel. I imagined Hop-Sing perhaps rushing to the kitchen for the morning meal or even my old tv pal, Paladin from Have Gun Will Travel out on one of his capers from San Francisco. Dressed in jeans, t-shirt and cowboy boots I fit the scene too! I greeted the friendly receptionist and she handed me the corrected invoice with another apology.

I walked across Bridge Street to the broad sidewalks adorned with flowers on the street side. There was a couple up ahead looking over the Squeeze-Inn breakfast menu. I peeked in the windows of the American Bar right on the corner. What a great name for a  pioneer western town. I could see signs for the Sierra Tavern, Wagon Wheel a real estate office, some clothes stores and the rail terminal across the street. There was no Starbucks…Hmmmm. Interesting and refreshing all at the same time. There were no recognizable chain names to be seen. Coffee And….an old time coffee shop. I remember it from the eighties. Chuck and I stopped here for breakfast on our way to play Tahoe Donner Golf Course up the street. Nothing had changed…a vitrine of pastries by the cash register to the left and the small seating area in front of the kitchen. “I’ll have a coffee black and a plain croissant” I said to the smiling, middle aged waitress behind the register. She turned and poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup and handed it to me. No croissants just those in there” as she pointed to the rough hewn vitrine filled with bear claws, cinnamon rings and other sugary things. “Hmmm, the coffee will do. Thank you.” With a smile on my face and coffee in one hand I leaned into the door and mumbled wryly, “None of that frog stuff in here. Just Amerkin. Good old fashion bear claws. And smiled some more and laughed…it all fit.

And here is the original version written from the ambiance of the Truckee Hotel. A reception room with all the look and feel of the pioneer days and the old west!

Waking Up in Truckee

Last night was ‘Truckee Thursday’. It brought tourists and mountain locals to main street. The town was lively, filled with music and dining and drinking establishments busy. But…this morning was a Hemingway description of a town after the fiesta. The sidewalks were deserted albeit a few locals and shop owners. Delivery trucks with beer and restaurant stuffs were parked in front. The tin rattle of their roller doors could be heard opening and closing. There was the occasional bellow of the trains too. But, most notable was the air. Cool, clean, soothing to take deep in your lungs. It felt wholesome.

I walked down the broad sidewalks and I, well….I fit the environment with my jeans and Justin cowboy boots. Stopped to get some coffee and croissant but could only muster the coffee. There was a small vitrine with bear claws and sugary pastries but…No Croissants! Back on the sidewalk I laughed. None of that Frog stuff here. No sir!! Just plain ‘mercan grub’. It made me laugh. It fit. I loved it!

The Cycling Tuscan

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SOMETIMES LOVE MEANS TAKING SEPARATE CARS! Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Sometimes Love Means Taking Separate Cars!

 

December 19, 2004

 

 Danaus plexippus - plexippusmmsm8636.jpg

            We race to Monterey to see the heralded Monarch Butterflies on their annual epic journey to South America. I did say “race” didn’t I?? Well! That is the precise expression for the day’s motoring. Patricia, for whatever reason, insists on driving. I don’t mind the “not driving” thing; actually, it’s kind of nice to be chauffeured in one sense.  But… it’s all the restrictions which surface along the way. I’m not allowed to touch the radio. And….I know that…so, I touch the radio. She inserts a CD in the player and I ask if it’s Frank Sinatra. She looks at me with “that look” from a more evolved throne and says, “Nooooaahhh”.

 

It’s a twangy country voice singing some caterwauler and as I point to the player with a quizzical expression she informs me, “It’s the BAND”.

 

“Never heard of it”, I reply.” And what kind of name is that anyway”, I dig in.

 

“I’m taking 17”, she says as she readjusts herself behind the wheel as though readying for a competitive run through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

 

I babble on about my readings—Winston Churchill, the Cairo Conference of 1921, the seemingly same problems the near east faced then as now; Islam problems; Spencer Tracy and his classical performances in “Inherit the Wind” and “Judgment at Nurnberg”.

What makes “classics”, classics. The marvelous dialogue and how it appears to be chiseled in granite when it rolls from the lips of the sartorially crumpled Tracy.

 

The conversation is interrupted as we quantum leap onto the fast lane to pass some slower eighteen wheelers. I intently watch as we thread our way between the concrete center divider and the churning wheels of the truck to my right. We reclaim the right lane and I relax again.

 

Patricia comments on the soon to be blooming acacia trees along the way. That sends me on another tangent about color. Acacia and Mimosa are a special color which the word “yellow” seems to inadequately describe, I blabber on.

 

“The mustard flowers” she says, “are very special in that way too!”

 

“When we were in Sonoma County on my bicycle rides through the northern wine country as Highway 128 approaches Healdsburg and Alexander Valley there were beautiful vistas. Dramatic carpets of that mustard glistening in the sun under the neat rows of vines. It was spectacular. That was the best part of Sonoma County and I think that most of the locals missed it.”

 

“Don’t mention those beautiful scenes and Sonoma County in the same breath” she quickly remarks. “I prefer to reminisce of the perfect geometric patterns formed by the alternating fields of flowering mustard and lavender as we drove  in Provence in  the Rhone Valley on our way to Paris some years ago.”

 

I touch the air conditioner and I’m instantly admonished.

 

“Slow down!”, I say, “You’re going almost 80. You’ll get a ticket”. I always say that but she never does get a ticket. I don’t know how she does it,

 

So, we talk about our driving records, a regular thing when we drive together, an event that doesn’t happen that often. No matter which way that conversation goes it always ends up with statements that we both have no tickets or points on our DMV record. She thinks that is a miracle and so do I.

 

By Capitola we marvel at how little the area has changed. We used to have friends here, Les and Liz. We wonder whatever happened to them. They kind of left one day and heard from them no more.

 

There is a new housing development by Pajaro just off to the left of the freeway. I ask if we might stop to look at the new models. She says “Maybe” and speeds right on.

 

At Moss Landing I ask if we might stop so that I can take pictures.

 

“What for” she says, “There are only condos and some dilapidated buildings and sand” And…we speed on.

 

“Are we taking the short cut up ahead?” I ask.  I always perfunctorily ask that question when we arrive at this point all the while knowing the answer.

 

She replies, “Naaaahhhh”.

 

“What about Castroville?”

 

“Naaaaah”

 

“The Giant Artichoke?”

 

“Nope”

 

“What about a bathroom”.

 

“Naaaaaaaaahhh”

 

We speed on right by Castroville.

 

“I’ll bet you were the type”, I continue in a lighthearted way, “that when your children were young they were screaming in the back seat to stop for a bath…..”

 

“I drove a Corvette.”, she laughingly interrupts. “There was no back seat.” Now we both laugh. And then laugh some more. “Boy!” I comment reflectively, “we sure have had great times coming to this area.”

 

“Yeah, we sure have, Poochie” she whispers back.

 

“What about the Dominuccer”, I say as I turn back to see the dog’s head peering out the side window of the Jeep’s back deck.  

 

“Give me a drinker of water” Patricia answers back for the dog. “And a hot greasy deep fried artichoke with lots of salt, too.”

 

I pitch in on the dog’s behalf, “All you guys want to do is this “seeing stuff” thing. How boring! What about eating and all that good stuff. We’ll probably get home late for dinner again.”

 

She looks at the rear view mirror and says, “Aahhh! Pooooor pooochie whooochie!!!”

 

“You missed Lighthouse Drive” I tell her.

 

“I didn’t wannoo go that way” she says.

 

“It’s the best way” I reply, “Besides, we always go that way.”

 

“There were too many people getting off that exit.”

 

“They were all getting off there to go to the bathroom at the gas station,” I say.

 

“Don’t be stupid” she replies with an exasperated expression.

 

We exited on Highway 68 to Pacific Grove. We noted the familiar highlights—signs to Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove Gate to Seventeen Mile Drive, The Fish Wife Restaurant, Asilomar and our favorite, the Sunset Motel. Beyond the Pacific Grove Lighthouse we parked just off the road adjacent to one of the tees of Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The beach, rocks, coves, crashing surf and the majestc blue Pacific was just across the tourist laden road. Joggers, bicyclers, bikers, motorists and locals walking their dogs marched to the rhythms and drama of the continent’s western extremity. We walked along the dirt paths carefully roped off to protect the beach flora—unruly grasses, wildflowers, rugged beach vines clinging to the windblown and rugged sandy and rocky mounds. Gusts of cool wind and the crashing surf isolated us from all other sounds.

 

Patricia is enamored with this Monterey,Carmel and Pacific Grove area. More so than that, she loves the sea, sand and natural environment of ocean meeting land. Perhaps it’s a primal calling. There is one and only one house right on the beach and she says, “I could live there”. We walk on as Domino holds us up at every bush. She is frantic with the new smells and anchors herself every few feet. So we slow down and allow the Dominuccer to examine all the primal scents till done.

 

We walk down steps to private rock girded beaches with tidal pools in crags and crevices. Upon closer inspection the pools are teeming with life as small crustaceans and sea snails with tiny black legs scamper in every direction. Patricia gazes out by the breakers where tiny black heads and feet bob up and down with the rhythms of the waves. “I love those cute little sea otters,” she says. “They are so cute. I want to take one home. They float on their backs. Look, out there! There are dozens of them. See all those little heads?” She gazes out shielding her eyes from the glare and is transfixed with her dog beside her. I take their pictures and think how nice it is to loll about in such carefree beauty.

 

I take Domino to one of the coves near the water. We walk on the rocks and explore recessed and hidden areas. Domino is not much of an adventurer, though. She walks on the rocks gingerly and looks back for Patricia as though wanting to be saved from this male adventure thing. She is more of a shopping, I. Magnin type of dog. Dirt, sand and rocks are just too rough for her. So, I look down on her and say, “Ok, Dominuccer! Let’s go back.” She leads the way with haste although at every water pool she stops to take a lick and disapproves at its saltiness.

 

We stop back at the car to give Domino some water from her bowl we have in the back of the car. Prior trips have taught us that she does not drink out of unfamiliar containers. She makes loud lapping noises as a group of golfers beyond the wire fence a few feet away take the tee. The dog continues her loud drinking as I pull Pat to shield ourselves behind the car as the golfers tee off.

 

Patricia says, “Yeah, just in case. I’m a magnet!”

 

We both chuckle as we think of that moment at Incline Golf Course when she was almost hit in the face by an errant shot.

 

We lock the car and resume our search for the Monarchs which have been noticeably absent thus far. According to the information gleaned from the web they were to be active from ten to two in the afternoon. We walked by the lighthouse, golf course, examined all the trees and nothing. No Monarchs. No butterflies.

 

“We missed the Monarchs, Poochie”, Patricia said as we approached our car. “Look!”,she says as she points to the car with surprise.

 

I look up and see the passenger door ajar. “I can’t believe we did that” I say. “But fortunately we left nothing of value. No harm done.”

 

We drove back by Cannery Row, the Acquarium and down Lighthouse Drive. I took pleasure in pointing out all the familiar places along the way that we have visited over the years. Patricia sped on.

 

The return trip was a blur. I buckled my seat belt, slowly and with purposeful deliberation. It purposely went by unnoticed. With head bobbing, hands occasionally pressed against dashboard, shoulders bouncing off side posts and feet wedged to floorboards we made record time home. Domino was delighted since she was to eat upon arrival. And… she knew it.

 

Finally….Finally…Finally!!! As the pressure builds in the hidden caverns of a volcano mild and occasional plumes of smoke are the only harbingers of eruption to follow. Just a short mile from safe harbor, from home, the words came out. It was a surreal moment, effortless and without pause. I spoke as though watching someone else saying the words, “You probably hate driving with me as much as I hate to drive with you?” The words came out with a machine gun staccato.

 

“I would never drive with you”, she replied in kind.

 

“Good! Next time we’ll take separate cars.”

 

“Next time? You must be dreaming!” she said.

 

The Cycling Tuscan

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