Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mendocino county

Well we've been back home for a week now and I am finally finding the time and energy to make an update. Our time in Mendocino county was wonderful! We left Napa on a Friday morning after straightening up at Lisa's house. I decided to take some back roads so we could see some more of the area. We stopped at the Oakville Grocery, a famous little place where you can get a 3 dollar cookie or a 250 dollar bottle of wine. While we were there a big shiny black limousine pulled out up front and some obviously very rich folks strolled into the store. We got some drinks and snacks--I got a cream filled pastry that was absolutely delicious. The rest of the drive took a long time because what I failed to anticipate was that the roads were over a couple of big, winding mountain passes. The kids were amazing though and very patient. We saw some beautiful views of Clear Lake from high above. Finally back on Hwy 101, we stopped in Ukiah at a bakery where they mill their own flour with a water wheel. We got to see the wheel and the grinding stone but unfortuately the wheel was broken so it wasn't running that day. An hour later we arrived in Laytonville where we were able to fill our car with 100% biodiesel right at the pump! And it wasn't the big agribusiness biodiesel either, it was made from waste vegetable oil by a local cooperative. When will we catch up with California on these things? Another hour's drive up a winding single lane dirt road on the edge of a hill and we finally arrived at Maria's cabin in the woods near Branscomb. What a beautiful place! She's surrounded by trees on all sides and the cabin is perched right above the Eel river. Scott and Maria took us down to the river right away after we arrived and the kids had a great time wading, fishing for algae, and looking at the little fish near the shore. We all agreed that Chris would love this place and resolved to bring him there someday soon. After a dinner by candle light we all went to bed early.

Saturday we spent lingering at the cabin, chasing lizards, and swimming in the river. I set up Scotty's Chaos toy for him but we had to power it with my car because Maria's solar system wasn't working and she only had DC outlets anyway. Late that evening Maria's daugher and three other twenty-somethings arrived to stay for the long weekend. They brought two dogs with them, one of which was an enormous Great Dane. The dogs were very well behaved but it was still hard to monitor Eliza around them. I was reminded once again why we had to give Hank away. It was fun to have the gang there, and Scotty had a good time getting to know them. Once again I thought about all the people who think that homeschooled kids don't get socialized. Here was my 6 year old boy very easily integrating himself into a group of young adults and having a great time.

Sunday the kids and I went with Maria to the Laytonville grower's market. It was small but fun and we ate the most delicious grape popsicles and listened to a singer/guitarist while Maria caught up with friends. Then we came back to the cabin for another swim in the river. Sunday night the younger folks cooked dinner for us and we had another fun time. Monday was another day spent at the cabin. We swam for a bit in the morning but left around lunch time because Eliza had a fever and sore throat. More poking around the place, catching lizards, reading books, playing. Monday night Scotty had a ball playing a game with a cereal box car with the other guests.

Tuesday we had planned to go to the beach but woke to an early phone call from a friend of Maria's inviting us to the 4th of July celebration in Willits. Turns out that there was to be a big steam-up at Roots of Motive Power where they were having several of their engines under steam and running. Because of Eliza's mild illness we figured we'd go there instead of the beach. Wow! Both Scotts had the time of their lives. We had a great day strolling among the steam engines, watching the parade, and touring the Mendocino County museum. On the way home we stopped for milk shakes. It was a very fun day.

Wednesday we left Maria's place to begin our journey back home. It was the kind of day I like because we were only driving about 100 miles to spend the night with our homeschooling friend Barbara and her husband Dave and daughter Nicole. Along the way we stopped in Willits to do laundry. Next door to the laundromat was a Chinese restaurant where we got the worst Chinese food I have ever eaten. I had to throw it away after two bites! After that we drove down to Hopland so we could go to the Real Goods Solar Living Institute, which was like coming home to the mother ship for us. The kids played with solar water pumps, rode on a solar powered carousel, and I finally found some straw hats for Chris with extra wide brims. It's a really fun place. Next we drove up to Philo to find Barbara's house in the middle of a sheep ranch. We really enjoyed our visit with Barbara's family--it was so nice to be with another homeschooling family because there was such a natural and comfortable rhythm in our interactions. The kids had a good time playing together and it was great to get to know Barbara better.

Thursday we left Barbara's at about noon with a hotel in Modesto as our destination. On our way past the Bay Area again I couldn't resist stopping at IKEA for a three hour detour. Amazingly, Eliza saw the day care area at the entrance and insisted on going inside to play even though she knew that Scotty and I wouldn't be going with her. She played for 40 minutes in there by herself before she started to miss me and had the caregiver call me. We had dinner in the cafeteria there and watched the sun set over the bay which would be our last look at the ocean. On the way to Modesto they both fell asleep and it was only after we got there that I discovered that Scotty now had the fever. This was my first chance to update my blog, but the internet connection in my room wasn't working so I wasn't able to.

Friday we made the harrowing drive from Modesto to Barstow, much of it on a busy trucking route through lots of cities. The stretch from Bakersfield to Barstow is just a drag--ugly and crowded with traffic. Scotty still had his fever but felt pretty well considering. Then on Saturday we drove from Barstow to Williams, AZ. We stayed at the same hotel as on the way out and the kids had fun catching grasshoppers, which were everywhere. We went out to eat that night to celebrate the last night of our trip together and we fondly recounted our adventures.

Sunday was our day to go home! The recent rains in AZ and NM had changed the landscape along I-40 since we had left. Everything seemed freshly scrubbed, the desert was greener, and the sky was a brilliant blue. Lots of big puffy clouds and the occasional thundercloud completed our view as we drove home. We arrived home just before sunset where we were greeted by a happy daddy and some much bigger livestock! The chickens, ducks, and tomatoes had all grown considerably while we were gone and everything had become a deep green from all the rain. Home again!

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