Monday, February 27, 2006

Good to Meet Good People

Photo: On the cable car in Squaw Valley, California

Our budget was tight on this trip. After the ruckus caused by F2 this morning, I knew there would not be any sharing of accommodation in the near future, even if this would help us save costs. Hopefully, we were over the worst of the colder weather and could start camping.

I decided we should carry a bit more cash to cover these unexpected accommodation expenses and we stopped at Susanville’s ATM (hole-in-the-wall cash dispensing machine). The Land Rovers, as always, provided a welcome distraction for interested passers-by. TH kept them amused while I loaded up on cash and discreetly tucked it away.

Marty and Richard were asking TH lots of questions about New Zealand and its peoples. Richard was a Native American Indian, who was filming the indigenous people in the area and recording their oral histories. Marty nursed patients with Alzheimer Disease. One of her patients had a dream to visit New Zealand and I gave her a packet of used NZ postage stamps so she could show him something from NZ.

My father was a stamp collector and he had prepared a number of window envelopes containing a selection of our country’s pretty stamps to take with us on our expedition. Through the window in the envelope we could show people the stamps and talk about the NZ scenes, people, animals and birds pictured on them. As well as being light, cheap and taking up very little space, these souvenirs never failed to interest people. My father also had written his name and address on the back of each envelope and he loved receiving appreciative notes from all over the world, as a result of our distribution.

Sadly, we said goodbye to our new friends. I would have liked to stay and talk to them for longer. But, we’d had a late start to the day and F1’s friend Marcus was expecting us that evening.

The road stretched upwards towards the Sierra Nevada mountains and the grass in the paddocks next to the road began to look hardy and tussocked. Some of these tussocks had broken off to form tumbleweeds. They lay still and calm today but white bunches of them, like dead mobs of sheep, had hurled themselves against the fence lines. The wind must blast down from those mountains, at times.

We stopped a Hallelujah Junction to refuel the Land Rovers and ourselves. The petrol station had provided some picnic tables in a sunny spot and we munched on our sandwiches. The Lassen County Sheriff, who had also stopped for his lunch, joined us at our table. He was curious about the Land Rovers, but in a friendly way. He explained that this road junction had been the site of a large gold claim in years gone by and so named by the ecstatic gold miner who had made the discovery.

Now it was a busy, highway junction dispensing "black gold" as hundreds of cars a day pulled in and out to refuel.

After lunch, the road climbed more steeply. Soon patches of snow dotted the surrounding land, spreading thickly to turn everything into a winter wonderland. I spied two cross-country skiers scooting along, accompanied by their two dogs, which were prancing about and happily wagging their tails. I thought again of Mark and Anne and their lifestyle choice of Klamath Falls. On a day like this, and even though I had never been on skies before, I could just imagine myself swooping along the snow with the greatest of ease. Yeah, right! I’d be over on my head in no time at all!

We drove into gorgeous little Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe, around mid afternoon. It was like a Swiss village, nestled in the mountains, with pretty Heidi-like, wooden homes dotted about. Marcus was not yet home from the ski slopes. In his phone call with F1, he advised us to take a scenic ride on the cable car, if we arrived early.

Wow, what a ride! We climbed over 8200 feet, which is the same height as the summit of Mt Egmont/Taranaki. From there, the skiers and snow boarders tumbled out of the cable car and then whizzed for ages down the slopes. I watched their zigzagging figures zip away until they were tiny dots against the white snow.

As the cable car descended, I remarked to TH how much the clumps of mountain rocks looked like the ones on the "Thunder Mountain Railway" in Disneyland. We found out later that Walt Disney had indeed used these formations as his models.

Marcus was home by the time we returned. He and his wife Annette cooked up a huge steak BBQ dinner. Annette was heavily pregnant with their first child and I was keen to help her out. Things were still quite stiff between F1, F2 and us, so it was good to just pitch in and enjoy being in a home again. Marcus’ mother (Haydee) and sister (Katherine) soon arrived and it was a happy gaggle of helpers that pulled the meal together.

Before we retired for the night, Haydee took TH and I out to see the mountain lit up for night skiing. We stood in the middle of the road, with the snow crunching under our feet. The mountain looked fabulous and above it, was the constellation of Orion, which is the opposite way up in the Northern Hemisphere. Wonderful.

Haydee clucked over us like a mother hen, as she settled us into the guestroom at Katherine’s wooden chalet house. What a treat to be in a lovely home, and with such welcoming people.

We snuggled under the thick quilts and fell into a dreamless sleep.

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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