Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cal Expo to See an Old Friend


Cal Expo is the California State Fair, which has been held in Sacramento since 1859.  Its current location, what we all call “Cal Expo”, being its home since 1968.  Now I have attended many California State Fairs in my first 30 years, and at one time I loved going to the fair.  I can honestly say that I have never seen the crowds that I experienced today…good for the State Fair, not so good for me since this was just a bit too big for my liking.


But I had a special reason to be at this State Fair.  I had been in contact with an old friend of mine named Daryle.  I first met Daryle in 1973 when I was transferred to the Mr. Steak Restaurant on Fair Oaks to be the Head Cook from the Franklin Blvd location where my brother was just promoted to be the manager.  I only ended up working there for a month…but the start of a friendship which lasted for many years began back then.  After a couple years of college, I returned to the restaurant business where they paid me to learn about managing restaurants instead of me paying a college to learn academic stuff.  By the end of 1978 I was promoted to be the manager of the Fair Oaks location, and Daryle was still there….a waiter now instead of a cook.  I talked him into being my Assistant Manager, which he did for a month or so.  But he found that he earned much more as a waiter and worked less hours, so I came up with the idea of him waiting tables, but closing out the restaurant as a supervisor so that I could go home… this worked out very well for many years.


Daryle also was in a band back then called Hammer Mill, and many of us from the restaurant would go and watch him play after work.  Here he is (above) in his new band, Blind Dog Run, which was playing at one of the stages at Cal Expo this evening (below is the full band).


Interesting thing is, that in the early 1980’s I hired this young girl name Leah as a hostess, and eventually she became a waitress.  A few years later, Daryle and Leah married.  Here she is below walking back to her seat after taking a picture of him playing.


But the real treat of the night was this…..Daryle and Leah have three kids, Amy, Brad and Chris, ranging in age from around 27 to 22 with Amy being the oldest.  Well, they have their own Country Band called Two Steps Down, which was just named the top Local Band for 2013.  


Here they are (above) with Chris (the youngest) to the left, Amy in the middle and Brad to the right.  I was highly impressed by their singing, and I commented jokingly to Daryle’s dad, who I just happened to be sitting next to, that they must have got their talent from their mom.  At one point Amy invited people to come up by the stage to dance if they wished.  A young boy not only took her up on the offer, but climbed up on the stage with her.  As the band played, she bent down and very sweetly invited the young boy to get down off the stage, but to stay up close to the stage.  What could have been a very embarrassing event turned into a very sweet and loving jester by Amy.


As I watched Daryle and Leah’s kids play, this sense came over me….what “if” Leah never got hired?   There are lots of “what ifs” in life….we just have to remember that despite all that we do and think, we are not the ones in charge.  Yes, we make choices….some of them are inspired choices, some are just good choices.  I am glad that some 30+ years ago I made the good choice of hiring Leah….her and Daryle found each other, got together, and have created a great family…I feel blessed to come back after some 27 years to see these kids play.


As I left a little after 8, I walked by the main stage where the “stars” play.  Amy mentioned to everyone earlier that LeAnn Rimes was playing (above).  As I walked by in the distance, and I did get a close up which is below, I stopped for a second to listen.  But I already knew that I had seen the top show for the night over on the “other” stage….


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dealing with Bureaucracy while On The Road

We are back in Loomis, in the Valley, and it is going to be HOT today, oh darn.  But what gets me even hotter is when you have to deal with an un-named cell phone carrier (V) who has received payment, but has not credited payment, and cannot begin to credit it until Monday, and may ask us to pay again immediately while they take 4-6 weeks to cut a check to pay us back.  (Hey, how did that “V” get in there….ok, so it is not AT&T, it is not Sprint, it is not T-Mobile….so I think you can figure out what the “V” stands for.)

When we moved into the condo, we decided to drop the land line, which was the master billing address for our “V” phone bills.  We made payment through our online banking method, where they cut the check and send it out, which included the final amount for the land line, all was well.  Then the next month we go into the online banking and send the amount…but it never shows up on our Verizon account.  So ten days ago I called and talked to a representative and we quickly spotted the problem, I changed the account number in our banking so that future bills will have the right account on it, and she said that if the credit for payment does not show up by the 20th, to give them a call back.  Ok, problem solved!
Today is, yes, the 20th.  Is the problem solved….well, uh, NO!  Now someone has to clean up this Skata, and that person is…well…me.

So I call the dreaded “V” company again….hardest thing is finding the correct answer to the many automated questions where I can indeed talk to a human being.  Eventually I am put on hold, just find out that I need to answer another question, our password, which is apparently different than our computer logon password, and after answering it wrong twice, put back on hold awaiting a customer representative to come on.  That finally happens about ten minutes later…who then asks another series of questions to be sure we are who we are.  So I am now back to where I was ten days ago….talking to a '”V” wireless agent who cannot find our payment even though the bank says the cashed the check.  “I am going to have to have you talk to the landline division, can you hold for that?”  Do I have a choice????  Another five minutes, and she comes back saying that she has Andrew on the line.  “Is he up to speed on our problem I ask?”  “Yes sir, he is….”  “Hello Andrew….”  Good, now perhaps I am getting somewhere….I hope it isn’t just around and around and around.

“Ok sir, now I am going to have to ask you a few questions to verify that you are who you are….”  (Where is that dog that’s cleaning up the poop at….might be a good time to insert another picture of that here, again.)   “Now sir, how much was your last payment?”   “Well Andrew, are you talking about the payment that no one can find, or the payment before that?”  “Your last payment sir.”  (Have you ever just felt like screaming the words, “Do you all know what the @^&$!@ you are doing here?”)  “Ok Andrew, let’s start with the payment that you can’t find, how about $###.##?”   “Yes sir, I have that right here, so now I am sure that I have the right account….what can I help you with?”   (You have to be kidding me….am I on Candid Camera or something?”

Why yes Andrew, you see that payment there needs to be sent over to your Wireless division so that they know that I have paid my bill, and they can give me the correct credit for payment which they are seeking ASAP, and of course, I want credit for the $5 late charge that I was not late with since you have been sitting on our money for 15 days now.   “Well sir, I see that we have scheduled to repay this back to you, it will be taking 4-6 weeks for that to happen.”  “Andrew, send it over to the wireless division please.”  “No sir, I cannot do that…but Financial Services might be able to do that, and they will be open on Monday.”  “Do you have a direct line I can call to get through to them?”  “No sir, you just call the same number you just called.”  “So am I going to have to tell them all this stuff again???”  “I have made note on your account.”  “Could you give me the land line account number so this can go a little faster?”  “No sir, we cannot give account numbers out over the phone…we can receive them, but we can’t give them out.”  Oh, I see….the feds are only listening in on their end of the conversation, and can’t hear our end of the conversation because I think the feds are tired of hearing the tone of PISSED OFF customers.  Thank you Andrew, I will call back on Monday, and I hope they can get this all straightened out….

Ok Marcia, I think we are getting no where here…..and then the phone rings.   It is an automated survey from “V” company.  First question after the explanation that I had just been helped by a customer service representative.  “Did the last person you talk to understand and resolve the problem you were having?”   I look a Marcia, she looks at me.  Well, he understood, but…. “Perhaps you did not hear that, did the last person you talk to understand and resolve the problem you were having?”   What do you think hun, he did understand, but….  “Perhaps you did not hear that, did the last person you talk to understand and resolve the problem you were having?”   ok, I push ONE.  “Ok, you answered one, if that is correct, push one, if not….”  I have had enough… is time to hang up on “V”…..until Monday when I have to try again…..


Now, in case you wonder why this is so difficult, it is very simply complicated. (yes, I said that correctly).  Remember back when there was just one phone company?  Ma Bell?

Then the federal antitrust lawsuit, and the break up.

And how Cell Phones went from not being used much because they looked like this….

….to being used a lot because they looked like this.

And when all the various phone companies wanted to merge their services into what we have today, well, the feds said ok, BUT, you have to have separate companies, one for landline, one for cell, and now, one for TV services.   And you have to be sure that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  That is what we are up against, just so that we don’t have another Ma Bell situation in the future.   Instead, we get stuck with this…..

It just makes you want to run away from it all……and that, folks, is how we deal with Bureaucracy while on the road.

Important Update:  Called Verizon Monday (7/22/2013) and after being on hold for another 15 minutes or so after working through the automated phone system, we are told that we have to make payment to the cellular division, and await a check from the land line division.  Nearly lost it when she said, "Well sir, you are the one who made payment to a closed account..."  and then a bit later says, "Well sir, you are not the first one to do this, it happens a lot....".  So I tell her, "Perhaps Verizon should change their policy so that they can better serve their customers...after all, Verizon is not the only phone company out there."  Just to hear, "Well, I am not the President of Verizon, I cannot make those changes...."  "Well, perhaps you can make the suggestion to your boss and see if it goes anywhere...."   good luck on that one....   To top it off....our online banking is going through an upgrade, and we cannot cut a check until tonight.  This upgrade should have been finished Sunday, I guess they must be having problems with it.  Of course, I could write a check and put it in the mail....but with our luck...well, I won't even go there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bucks Lake


Twenty miles west of Quincy, and nearly 2,000 feet higher elevation, lies Bucks Lake, 1,800 acre reservoir surrounded by forests, a few homes, and pristine air. 

1b  1c

And the occasional lake user….a few boats, a few sunbathers, but it was Tuesday, I am sure the weekends draw many more people.


We drove the east, south and west side of the lake.  There are a few campgrounds, but no hookups other than spigots to fill up your water tank, and dump station when you want to leave.  Oh, another thing you need to leave is $23 per night, $25 if it is a “lakeside” slot.  There are camp hosts at each park, and although they each has class A motorhomes, mostly what we saw where trailers and small 5th wheels and small class Cs. 


On the West side of the lake is the dam (above), on the other side of the dam the water is released through the hydroelectric turbine (bottom left) and runs down Bucks Creek….

3b   3c

…Into Lower Bucks Lake (below).  Lower Bucks lake is a pleasant surprise, but you can only get a glimps of it through the trees unless you go down dirt forest road, something we try not to do very often with the HHR, especially when it is really “down” as in “down hill”.


Oh yes, the other bonus to it all….while it was around 88 in Quincy, it was only 76 up around Bucks Lake, and this was at 4:00 pm.  There are many lakes up in the Sierras, many of which requires one to backpack in, but others are like Bucks Lake, an easy drive with camping locations near the lake.  The higher up in elevation you go, the cooler the temperatures are.  Although these campgrounds, run by PG&E, are just way to many $$$$ for just a place to put up your tent or park your trailer/camper, there are other parks which are National Forest parks which typically run from free to $12….but we only saw one National Forest Camp Ground near Bucks Lake.  A quick search into Dispersed Camping opportunities in the area shows some free campgrounds further west of Bucks Lake, and Plumas National Forest website on Dispersed Camping.

Tomorrow we head back down to the hot valley, and it is going to be back in the 100’s very quick.  Another week at the Loomis RV park, and then hopefully at my sister’s house until we take off for another adventure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mt. Lassen, Burney Falls – Yep, Another Long Drive

For the longtime followers of this blog, you might be asking, “Didn’t you do Mt. Lassen and Burney Falls last year?”  Well, yes and no.  Last year we visited Lassen National Park on May 21 and May 23, but we could not go all the way across highway 89 because they were still clearing snow from the road.  On May 22, we visited Burney Falls, but since we were going to be so close today in Lassen, we might was well drive the extra miles to Burney Falls since Marcia considers this one of her favorite places that we visited last year.


On the way, Marcia snapped the above picture from the south end of Lake Almanor.  Our trip would take us along the west side of the lake on the way, and the east side of the lake on the way back.  Last year we did the north side, and the south side is covered by the east and west routes which meet at the southern tip, so now we have driven around the entire lake.  Almanor has the capacity of over 1.3 million acre feet, with a maximum depth of 90 feet.  The 130 foot high dam, built in 1927/28, dams the North Fork of the Feather River.


As we drove north along the Lake, we could see Lassen in the distance.  We left shortly after 9 am, and it is now 10 am….it will take an hour before we reach the southern entrance and visitor center, which is just about as far as we were able to drive last year from this side of the park.


As we enter the visitor’s center, we pass this small gathering (above), and find that it is going to be a funeral for a Viet Nam Vet who had passed away due to Agent Orange.  The lady in the white dress to the far right told me that her dad and he were best friends, did a lot of camping and fishing, and that Agent Orange had given him mouth and throat cancer (did not ask if he smoked, figured it was best not to go there.)  Sure looked like a heck of a way to say goodbye to your friends…bless him for his service that he gave to our country.


Last year we made it as far as the Bumpass Hell turnout before we had to turn around due to the snow.  Although we passed Emerald Lake (above) last year, it was covered with snow.  Today you could sure see the green within the water, which is how it gets its name.  Below is a picture of Bumpass Hell, last year 20 feet of snow blocked our view.


You can see the pathway which leads to Bumpass Hell, which is 16 acres of thermo activity to the right and beyond this mountain.  You can see the path near the base of the mountain, but this hike, like most, is a bit too much for Marcia’s GoGo to handle (not say that I would be able to do all that huffing and puffing myself.)  At the Bumpass Hell parking lot one gets some great views of the area, many of which we showed last year, but below is another one without any snow all around (except for a little on the mountain to the far right).


From Bumpass Hell to Devastated Area, we had not been able to travel last year.  It is a very scenic route, and includes a wonderful view of Lake Helen shown in the two pictures below.  (remember, you can click on any picture to see a larger version of it)

2d  2e

As we get over to the pass, the view sout to Lake Almanor (below) is outstanding, sure wish it was a bit clearer of a day, but the lake is out there in the distance, and Quincy would be in the far mountains beyond the lake.  It is now around 11:30.


Highway 89 snakes around as it starts to work its way to the other side of Mt. Lassen toward Devastated Area.  We pass Summit Lake where there are two camping areas, a ranger station, and soon we come to this meadow with a wonderful view of Mt. Lassen.


Finally we come to Devastated Area, where we did a hike last year.  We have now completed the journey we started last year, and it was well worth the wait.  Here is one more picture of Mt. Lassen from Devastated Area….boy this camera doe such a better job than the one we had last year, that’s for sure.


We work our way to the north entrance to the park and continue north on highway 89.  Around 1:30 we get to Burney Falls, and there we have our lunch….yep, PB&J sandwiches, like most of our day trip lunches last year.  We get the GoGo out, grabbed the dogs and head over to the Falls.  The crowd is light, many of them head all the way down to the bottom, but we spent our time along the upper overlook.  It really is a wonderful falls, and I take many many pictures, trying all sorts of settings, trying to learn just what this new camera is capable of doing.  Now I wont bore you will all the many shots, so I will just share the best one, the one I like the most….


Oh that Skruffy, she sure loves to get into the shots…. But as you can see below, it is a wonderful waterfall, and we enjoyed out time there….mostly spend in the shade.


Driving back to Quincy, we went east of Lassen National Park, making the return trip much faster, but not nearly as scenic….Marcia got a bit of a nap.  Eventually we were headed south along the eastside of Lake Almanor, and I got this one last shot of Mt. Lassen.


We really enjoyed our day, despite the long drive.  The weather  in Lassen was in the high 60’s to mid-70’s.  Burney Falls it was in the upper 80’s.  I really love the Sierra Nevada Mountains…truly one of the majestic wonders of God.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quincy California


Quincy and East Quincy are unincorporated communities which together total around 4,300 people.  The county seat for Plumas County, which has a population of 20,000 people, is located here.


In the Google Map above, you can see the layout, a nice big valley lying between the mountains.  The mountains were full of gold, and mining towns dotted the mountains, the community of Quincy, established in 1858, survived, most others did not.  The area is not growing much, some population loss in Quincy, some gains in East Quincy…pretty much stagnant. Not sure how much of the lack of growth is due to the National Forest, or the lack of jobs.... Plumas County has a unemployment rate of 13.6%.

1b  1c

As you can see from the top picture, and the two pictures above, Quincy is surrounded by mountains…yet it only has around 30'” of snowfall each year and highway 70 is frequently open when I-80 is closed due to snow.

2a  2c

A drive down Main Street, above, and you can see various businesses which can be found in most small towns.  Shops, cafes, law offices, insurance, banks, did I mention shops….


…and the County Courthouse, which has Greek architecture design to it.  There seems to be no real Greek population within the area (like 22 people out of 4,300), yet the Plumas County Bank Building (below), built in 1903-04, sure looks Greek to Marcia and me.  Looks like a good building for a nice Greek Restaurant.  But we could not be that lucky.


As we drove around we found two places that we might want to visit later…


…the Plumas County Library above, and the Plumas County Museum below.


We also saw some nice old homes, and a lot of older homes which need some help.  Did not feel like taking pictures of the ones that need help…so we will end this with just a few nice older homes.


Note:  The first one “might” be a bed and breakfast, but we did not see a sign.  The last one has a date on it of 1862 and is called the Kellogg House, most likely owned by Henry Waters Kellogg.  This house has recently gone through a remodel is up for sale….got $299,000???