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CWAA: No Interference Calls Here

February 7, 2016

Super Bowl 50 has turned San Francisco into a bit of a zoo, with crowds almost everywhere downtown. Businesses that are normally closed during the weekend have opened, and lost tourists stare at maps on every street corner.image

As season ticket holders, my wife and I were in town for the SF Ballet on Saturday.  During intermission the lady seated to my right introduced herself, telling me she was indeed another visitor to our city.

The New Mexico native explained that she was enjoying her Christmas present from her husband: a weekend in San Francisco. She chose the weekend and it wasn’t until she arrived that she found out why she had such a problem finding a hotel room.

She was good natured about it, saying they arrived Thursday night and had already been to the Symphony once and we’re going again after the ballet, and also went to a concert at the Jazz Society and we’re headed to the Palace of Fine Art before dinner at Greens, a favorite vegetarian restaurant at Fort Mason.

A rather dizzying pace, but she asked if we had any other suggestions so I told her about several neighborhoods worth visiting via public transportation and suggested Golden Gate Park Arboretum was a ‘must see’ for a little relaxation.

When I asked her about the crowds she replied, “there are none.”

I guess the Super Bowl fans are more interested in the fake Super Bowl City hawking NFL merchandise, than any local culture offered by our City by the Bay. I wonder how many visitors will return home and tell their friends what a great time they had ‘seeing’ San Francisco.

But, we can all agree, at least one visitor enjoyed the real deal.

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The View from Here

May 30, 2015

Over the 15 years we’ve lived in our home here in the Berkeley Hills, we’ve been witness to a number of stunning views from our back deck.

I thought you might enjoy a look:

No dates, no times, just random scenes over the last few years.

Clouds make The City

Clouds make The City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fog creeps in

The fog creeps in

 

 

Our Golden Gate

Our Golden Gate

Summer sunset

Summer sunset

 

 

A sky ablaze

A sky ablaze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching over us all

Watching over us all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can We All Agree…? 1/17/15

January 17, 2015

Can we all agree that at least having the Supreme Court make a final decision on gay marriage is preferable to living with questions? Although I can’t see how they could overturn what has become the law in 24 states.

Can we all agree that all the talk about Oscar ‘snubs’ and ‘campaigns’ is getting a bit old? But we’ll all still tune in to see Neil Patrick Harris February 22.

Can we all agree that the “all Caucasian” list of nominees is an embarrassment for Hollywood?

Can we all agree that the Golden Globes would have been better if Amy and Tina got more TV time?

Can we all agree that if 2014 was the hottest year on record, we have a problem? In same vein, the mass extinction of ocean animals will not help.

Can we all agree that trips to Cuba will be the trendy vacation in 2015?

Can we all agree that the GOP’s effort to avoid looking like ‘crazies’ could be hurt by one candidate who blasted the president for letting his kids listen to Beyonce and a House member who compared him to Hitler?

Can we all agree that The President erred in not sending someone more senior, such as Joe Biden, to Paris last weekend?

Can we all agree that the Pope’s admonishment that religion should not be criticized may not reflect the general view here in the US.

Can we all agree that the ISIS threat will get worse before it gets better?

Can we all agree that Hillary is running, and has been for about 1 year…at least?

Can we all agree that Bill Moyers, who retired (again) this week, is among the best journalists in the country?

Can we all agree that with unemployment dropping and consumer confidence rising the GOP may have a tough time running on economic issues?

Can we all agree that The President’s veto stamp may wear out by mid year?

Can we all agree that the first College Football Playoff was a great success – no matter what team you supported?

Can we all agree that there are already too many (announced and potential) GOP presidential candidates? Seventeen by my count.

Can we all agree that, while the 2016 election should be a barn-burner, having a US Senate race on the ticket in California, really spices things up…especially with the state’s new election system?

Can we all agree that swimming 16 hours after your boat capsizes is pretty remarkable?

Can we all agree that the House action on immigration is ill-conceived and punishes many people, just to make a political point?

Can we all agree that Al Qaeda in Yemen claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks is not exactly a big surprise?

Can we all agree that when you are a GOP Presidential candidate, getting slammed by the Wall Street Journal editorial board – as Mitt Romney 3.0 did – is not a good sign.

Can we all agree that climbing Dawn Wall on El Capitan without equipment is a world class achievement? Can we make it an Olympic event?

Can we all agree that the hires at the ‘Niners and Raiders says volumes about how the teams are viewed outside of the Bay Area?

Can we all agree that selling 3 million copies of any newspaper or magazine in the age of the internet is a statement, period? Even if many people just wanted a souvenir.

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On the Road Again

September 3, 2014

Filed under: observations,travel,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — admin @ 7:41 pm

My wife and I just got back from a road trip to Sun Valley, ID. For more on that, see my previous post. Among other things, we took in the annual Wagon Days celebration in Ketchum- complete with the  jerk line mule team.

With ore wagons

The mule team with ore wagons

This was our first drive through this part of the world and I can’t help making a number of observations.

If ever there was a place where there is no ‘there, there’ this is it. The fact that Burning Man is held 75 miles north tells you how far off the beaten path Black Rock Desert is.

The five hours from Reno to Elko has a number of exits with town names, but you couldn’t see much more than a few trailers by the side of the road.

The exception was Imlay, home of the Thunder Mountain Monument – a unique home constructed of debris from the local junkyard, and concrete.

The major industry in Northern NV appears to be power production and mining. Where else do you see road signs promoting Barrick Gold.

It was still nice to see my tax dollars at work repairing overpasses at 5,000 feet with lanes closed and minor backups. I found some of the downhill sections of the high desert a bit intimidating and I couldn’t figure out why until I noticed there were no guard rails. Nothing to keep sleepy motorists from simply driving off the road and down 1,000 foot embankments. We did see one car which did just that.

Parts of Route 80 in California are similar. I assume it’s to leave room for snow plowing, but still, it is odd.

Speaking of Route 80. Let me suggest that you don’t drive West on Labor Day. You’ll be joined by about 15,000 folks leaving Burning Man, along with the usual Labor Day traffic. Since many of these weekend Burners have never driven a trailer or camper before (much less a motor home) their skill at navigating Donner Pass was negligible. The result was a backup from Truckee to Nevada City, even though there wasn’t a serious accident in sight.

Two other stops to avoid during that period are the truck stop in Fernly, NV which must be the only gas station on the way out of  Gerlach, and the new Whole Foods in Reno. Every other car we saw was covered in the signature desert dust of Black Rock and filled with hungry shoppers snapping up food for the trip home to the Bay Area.

If you ever decide to make the 11-hour drive to Sun Valley, let me add one word of caution on road signs. I have a particular pet peeve with signage that isn’t clear to someone who hasn’t driven the road before. A case in point is SR93 in Twin Falls – a lovely new bypass that takes travelers outside of the downtown area, though a number of mall zones, that US suburbs have made famous.

Problem is,  unless you spot a single small sign pointing out a left turn, to continue on SR93 you will wind up far from you eventual destination. I guess the folks in Twin Falls just like to have lost motorists driving around aimlessly.

My favorite road sign of the whole trip was just outside of Elko, proudly proclaiming an exit for Beverly Hills. I’m sure Rodeo Drive was just off the exit ramp.

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Sun Valley Serenade

September 2, 2014

My wife and I closed another hotel this weekend. 

Well, I guess the Sun Valley Lodge was going to shut down for 9-month renovation, whether we stayed or not, but we were among the last guests to see the Lodge in its current incarnation.

The spa and apartment units

The spa and apartment units

The 124-room, 78-year old symbol of high-end fun in the snow will be converted into a 96-room playground for the rich and famous.

Big changes planned inside

Big changes planned inside

The Lodge will renovate every room, except one, expanding them to accommodate fireplaces, and updated bathrooms which will include Jacuzzi tubs and modern amenities.

The truth is the renovation is long overdue. While the Lodge, which bills itself as America’s first destination ski resort, is the priciest in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, it fares poorly when compared to many budget priced hotel rooms. Where rooms are larger, and bathroom space for two people often included double sinks.

The Lodge was built in 1935 by the Union Pacific Railroad and has only had three owners. It’s only relatively recently that the current owner Carol Holding, who owned Sinclair Oil  with her late husband Earl, made the resort and the surrounding area into a year-round destination.

The Holdings also own a number of other five-star resort properties in the Western United States

Before Mr. Holding, began marketing the location to events such as the annual Allen and Co. technology and media conference, most of the private jets at the Blaine County airport, only came during ski season. Now it’s not unusual to see folks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mariel Hemmingway, or tech moguls wandering downtown Ketchum year round.

A Labor Day visitor

A Labor Day visitor

California’s former governor was there over the recent Labor Day weekend, with his current young honey, but that’s a story for another post.

For the last four months the Lodge has been the site of a major addition to accommodate a new spa and fitness center as well as several 4-bedroom apartment units designed for families or wedding parties.

You can find more details about the renovation at the Lodge website but you won’t be able to stay there until June of 2015 – just in time for the Allen and Company gathering.

A true sign of the year-round nature of the Lodge business, is the fact that they are closing for the what used to be high-season for The Valley ski industry.

Until next summer, you can stay at the Sun Valley Inn, the sister hotel barely 100 yards away, or at any of the many condominiums managed by the Lodge.

In general, locals are thrilled and seem genuinely happy that a new generation of the Holding family is taking an active interest in managing the mini-empire. Carol Holding, is in her 80’s, and has been largely a ceremonial leader since her husband died in 2013 but her son, Stephen, has apparently taken over and as the press release says, wants to guarantee another 75 years of ownership.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

Ernest and Mary Hemingway

By the way, that lone room that will not be renovated? You guessed it – room 206, which hosted Ernest Hemingway and his lover in 1939, as ‘Papa’ finished “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Current hotel employees say the room has never been fully renovated and includes the original claw-foot tub- and can still be rented – although the plumbing apparently clogs frequently.

But the isolated cabin, where Hemingway lived during his Sun Valley years, and where he died, is on private land and not open to the public.

If my wife and I probably win the lottery by next year-  we’ll be  able to afford the rates at the new Lodge, since  the area is truly a beautiful destination any time of the year and we look forward to returning for the annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival next May.

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