Posts Tagged ‘Sunnyvale Real Estate’

WHY TULIPS MATTER!!!! (in progress) Sunday, May 17th, 2015

 

 

Probably the best known work on manias, bubbles and crashes is Charles MacKay’s work, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” written in 1841. The first F043-22[1]hundred pages deal with the tulip mania of Holland in the early seventeenth century. The tulip phenomenon captures everyone’s fancy as it elucidates the foolishness that can be espoused by crowd behavior in the pursuit of easy wealth. This is a collective human phenomenon which most rational people sitting calmly in their homes say….’this insanity could never happen to me’. Well, that may be true and you may be an unusual individual…say, a Donald Trump or a Warren Buffet or a Peter Lynch….but, unfortunately the masses tend to fall in line and repeat the same folly. Usually there is a period of time that passes and a new set of lemmings formed but the behavior of the crowds is the same. And…the bubbles that are inflated by their collective action have a commonality. Ron Insana, analyst and CNBC commentator has written books on the formation of bubbles. Their profiles are amazingly simple: a dislocated asset, cheap money or credit to inflate and widespread conviction that prices will never go down. To those that point out bubbles as they are forming the gurus retort, ‘this time it’s different’ or ‘it’s a new paradigm or ‘the old rules no longer apply’. To the objective observer those phrases should bring instant sobriety.  But….it usually does not. The other phenomenon of bubbles is that they can last for a significant time. Sober minded and careful people watch others making substantial monies. Their skepticism is challenged when they see their friends and associates herald their success. Eventually most fall in line before the final phase of exponential price explosion and catastrophic collapse.

I am a lifetime student of markets. All markets! I contend that all markets behave the same. Whether they be the stock market, pork bellies, gold, real estate, derivatives or collectibles….all markets  behave the same! Why? Cuz the driving force is the collective action of the masses. Sure, some markets are more sophisticated than others but in the aggregate their behavior spans the two peaks of emotions driven by the masses. Those peaks are greed and fear. Wonderfully sophisticated folks with fancy degrees and sane lifestyles are wont to do crazy things when meshed with easy money and crowd mania behavior. If you don’t believe me…just look at history.

During the recent ‘dot com bubble’ bizarre metrics were used to justify those nosebleed type of valuations in the stock market. I say ‘recent’ although it was fifteen years ago. And…now…those lemmings that were butchered on a wholesale basis faded into the background and a new set resurfaced just a few years later only to form the ‘derivative/real estate bubble of 2008. Again….those hordes were massacred for a number of years this time both in the stock market and the real estate market. Many vowing to never to invest in financial asset and even housing again. But…going back to the metrics of 2000 brings to light the absurdity of the ‘extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds’. Companies with earnings were trading at 80 to 100 times earnings while new issues or IPO’s came to market just with a business plan. No earnings or sales. And….on the first day of trading they were doubling in price and going higher. One of the metrics used was the number of clicks generated by their websites. I remember Cramer coming on Sqwack Box in the early mornings and heralding tis or that company whose site had scored millions of hits. One commentator even stated that it was advantageous for companies ‘not to have earnings’. Most principles would describe their company’s financials in terms of Pro Forma. When these ‘new gurus’ could not mark their holdings to market….they simply initiated a new concept. Mark to model. Why not? Now they were deep in fantasyland and the lemmings believed as stocks assumed the exponential climb. Then, of course, just as Wyl-e-Coyote having run a step too far over the cliff……straight down.

In the mid seventies I was working for Varian Associates as a marketing engineer in Palo Alto. Talk about a ‘fish out of water’.  And…I made friends with a production engineer. We became friends as we did business over the cubicles. Gold had recently been taken off the fixed rate of $36 an ounce and promptly shot up. Eventually hitting $800. The mania was raging. My engineer friend was sure that it would continue. He took a mortgage out on his house and invested in gold. He sadly commented later….it’s tough making those monthly payments and having nothing to show for it.

Remember Michael Milken in the 90’s? He was the junk bond king. He put together those wonderful deals financed with junk bonds paying 15 to 20%. One of the first things any student learns in any business school is that higher interest rates imply higher risk. Hmmm!!! So, you know the story. These bonds became popular and made regular payments…till they didn’t. A retired friend from Lockheed put a substantial amount in these junk bonds. And…having a drink one day after it was over…..he kept mumbling….’yeah! but, the 15% interest was awfully good’!

The aspect that I find interesting about the tulip episode is the mechanism that it created. During the build up stage as prices began to inflate and prices of the most prized and rare bulbs achieved astronomical heights they tended to bring the prices of lesser bulbs along. Eventually…as the demand continued to grow….as the pyramid of investor/speculator spread to an ever lower base….producers began to offer for sale baskets of lower quality bulbs. ETF’s, Mutual Funds…sound familiar. They would meet in back rooms of pubs, restaurants and such public places at established times to execute trades. The prices of these lower quality baskets continued to rise along with the rest.

What was is that cracked the market? And…this I find interesting as it has applications today in many and all markets. On one preset meeting a basket of low quality bulbs was offered at a price. There were no takers. It was offered again…still no takers.The news of this event spread like wildfire throughout. It was like a lightening rod of sanity that revealed to all the insanity of the prices. All markets collapsed. The very rare bulbs retained some of their values but the rest became worthless. I think that this is a universal which can be transmuted to all markets. Low quality is the last to rise and the first to fall.

Pro Forma

1) Froth of bubbles….how quickly they end. multiple offers ….where did all those buyers go

2) Apple Campus syndrome

3) Apple campus coming…..glazed eyes

4) low quality vs. high quality……peninsula counties vs. outlying counties

5) crowd or herding behavior  yelp…. greed….. fear…. ask someone you know….familiarity….broad experience in restaurant business with crowds….healthy disregard for common opinion or conventional wisdom….view doesn’t matter unless you’re the lead dog. bottom and broad base of the pyramid. CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

6) Silicon Valley 10 year tech. cycle Began Easter 2012.

7) Current forming bubbles…….silicon valley…….0 interest rates and QE people do foolish things to get yield…..RISK  CARLO, JOE KENNEDY & SHOE SHINE,  THE BAR MONTECATINI AT HEIGHT OF R/E BUBBLE

Does history repeat? Is the human animal doomed to continually repeat the mistakes of the past?

Deal with the notion of value. What broke the tulip mania. It was the failure to sell the basket of second rate bulbs……

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      

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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

Sometimes Love Means Taking Separate Cars!

 

December 19, 2004

 

 

            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

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