Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Big Trees Narrow-Guage Train Ride.

We've lived in the San Jose area for 43 years and have never been to Roaring Camp in Felton to ride the redwood forest steam train. We'll, it was about time. So to celebrate 46 years of marriage we decided to do it. "How romantic!" you say.

A little history
Mountain man Isaac Graham settled in Felton in the 1830s. Soon after, Mexican authorities named Graham’s wild settlement “Roaring Camp.” In 1842, Graham established the first saw mill west of the Mississippi. Fortunately, the redwood trees in that are were spared the woodman’s axe, and 25 years later became the first virgin stand of coastal redwoods to be protected from logging. Some of this area is now part of Henry Cowell State Park.

The first railroad in the here started operation in 1875. The Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad is a narrow guage run that starts from the Roaring Camp depot and runs up steep grades through a redwood forest for 2.5 miles to the top of Bear Mountain. The steam engines date from the 1890s, and are the oldest and most authentically preserved narrow gauge steam engines still providing regular passenger service in the United States. The locomotives are not the familiar ones you see but are gear driven at the wheels for power and traction up steep grades. Watch for them in the video. Of course, the weight of the 60 ton #7 engine (Sonora) helps with traction, too.

Originally, two large trestles formed a "corkscrew" loop at Spring Canyon, but these were destroyed by a 1976 fire. Within six months, a switchback was constructed to bypass the severed loop. The switchback has an estimated 9.5% grade, making it the steepest passenger grade still in use.

So join with us on this spectacularly beautiful ride to the top of Bear Mountain. For some unknown reason the stop at the top of the mountain is called "Bear Valley."

Friday, May 21, 2010

The "Sewer Tewer"

What do people do for fun when they retire? Here is a good example. Last Saturday we (Julie and me and Ray A and Karen W) went to a free SEWER TEWER (my name for it) at the 175 acre water quality plant. The official name is the "San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant." It claims to be one of the largest advanced wastewater treatment facilities in California. It treats and cleans the wastewater of over 1,500,000 people that live and work in the 300-square mile area encompassing San Jose, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno.

Wastewater from sinks, toilets, and drains inside homes, businesses and schools in most of Santa Clara Valley travels through an underground pipe system, known as the sanitary sewer system, before it arrives for treatment at the plant. That journey from house-to-plant can take up to 10 hours. About 18 hours later, 99% of the impurities have been removed through a highly sophisticated treatment process that simulates the way nature purifies water, but at a greatly accelerated rate. This is a separate system from the storm sewers that flow directly to the bay.

To me, the plant appears to operate just the way any otdinary septic tank operates but on a much larger (industrial strength) scale. After the FOG (fats, oils and greases) is skimmed off for recycling, yeast and bacteria are introduced into the process by using highly concentrated WAS (waste activated sludge). From there the anaerobic bacteria (which don't need any oxygen) take over and process the waste water. After extensive pumping, settling, and filtering, the recycled water is pumped into an extensive non-potable water pipe network for irrigation use. All excess effluent is pumped into the south end of San Francisco Bay through Coyote Creek. It's cleaner that the water already in the bay so there is no danger of degrading that resource.

I was amazed a the number of people on the tour; maybe 60 people on this one. There was an earlier tour that morning. Attendees ranged from young high school and college students to interested ordinary citizens to retired people.

We met in a conference room for the first 20 minutes or so to get an overview of what this facility does. We walked by the computer room (lots of monitors) which shows the status of various pumps and valves in numerous tanks, basins and ponds. From there we boarded buses (there were two), nicely air conditioned for our comfort and with minimum odor intrusion.

OK... enough of this talk. Here is a video compilation of some pictures I took. I was more taken by shapes and colors rather than documenting the process. So, for the next two minutes, turn up the volume and watch this intriguing display while listening to the strains of "Piggie Woogie" performed by the Zeet Band. (Pigs gotta boogie, too, ya' know!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

A week ago we had such a beautiful spring day after a rainy spell. We, along with Karen W. and Ray A., made a short excursion to the San Jose Rose Gardens after stopping at Subway for sanwiches for a picnic in the park.

Thousands visit this park each year to view the beautiful varieties of roses in a profusion of colors and types. The park also includes a few fountains, a beautiful Rose arbor entrance and a reflecting pool, making it a great spot for mid-day picnic. There is something very peaceful about sitting in this 5 1/2 acre park and enjoying the color and beauties of nature.

I read somewhere that the garden was once a prune orchard, but was bought by San Jose over 70 years ago. It features more than 3,500 rose shrubs representing 189 rose varieties. I had a hard time narrowing down my 150 pictures to these 24. Ya just gotta come and see this some nice spring day.

So enough with all these words; let's see the pictures! Don't forget to click to make the picture bigger.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our annual "Why We Live in Northern Californnia" blog entry

Back by popular demand...
We love it here in February. This marks the 44th February that we have been here. In fact, just before we moved here from Provo, Utah, in February 1967, I spent EVERY DAY of the last week of January shoveling the snow out of our driveway (due to nightly snowplow activity). Everything was brown and drab. When we arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area everyhting was so green and lush. By contrast, we thought we had come to the Garden of Eden. Now we know there are more lush places that this but we love it here just the same.
These pictures come from around our yard. I won't try to describe what each picture is but look for oranges, lemons, grapefruit, daffodils, hardenbergia, bouganvilla, pansies, potato tree blossoms, peach blossoms, hiacynth, succulent stars, to name a few. We don't have any popcorn on our apricot tree yet but any day now...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some pets we've had

Emily called the other day and said she was drawing pictures of the pets her mom had when she was growing up. She was asking questions about their names, what they looked like and so on. Could we remember any details about our small number of pets? Not much. So we went to the family albums a dug up this set of pictures for everyone to see.


From 1974, Derek and Stef with Explodie. Derek named him. He said he looked like he had exploded.

Another 1974 picture of Explodie

Explodie was the son of Mama Cat. So here is their two-generation picture while eating.

At the end of 1979 I want away on an extended business trip to Georgia. When I got back, Stef had a new dog. She named him Trisket. This is him and Stef at "dog obedience" school. He was probably the least well behaved dog there.

A few months later, here is Trisket lounging around on our cement patio. How uncomfortable! But Trisket was not one to complain. In fact, he rather enjoyed it.

I used to ride my bicycle and take him on an exercise run around the neighborhood. I pedalled as hard as I could up and down the streets. Trisket would lope along in front of me and wonder why I couldn't go any faster. Here is Stefani gaving him a well deserved drink out of the garden hose.

This is a picture of Rameuptum in 1982 who aopears to have taken lessons from Trisket about lounging around. However, she chose a more comfortable spot.

Somewhere in 1982, a small yellow kitten showed up on our doorstep. We kept him for a while but one day he just never came around any more. We have no idea what happened to him. Pretty little kitty, though.

In 1983, we had another cat named Wamba. I don't remember much about the details about this one but it looks like Shannon checking out his eyes.

But she also made him feel right at home with a comfy bed.

This is Halloween in 1985. Is Rameumptum trying to blend in with the jack-o-lanterns?

The picture below will serve to explain how Rameumptum got her name. No matter where she was resting, she always had to be at the highest point. For instance, if she climed up on the coffee table, it just wasn't enough to be on the table. She had sit on top of even a single sheet of paper which was also on the coffee table. When we organized our garage one time, we had boxes sitting out in the driveway. She had to climb up to and sit on the top most box in the stack. The picture below shows her sitting on top of some boxes on the top of a bookcase.
So because of her penchant for high places, we named her Rameumptum in honor of the rather apostate Zoramites in the Book of Mormon who prayed each week from their very tall "holy stand" named the Rameumptum. We called her Rami for short. I took her to the vet one time and was asked to explain how we came to give her that name. It was a good missionary experience but the vet wasn't interested in learning more.

Ocassionally, Rami would get inside a box... but only if it was upside down and she couldn't climb on top of it. She did the best she could under the circumstances.

This is Shannon in 1986 man-handling Rami in the back yard. Rami never seemed to mind this at all. In fact, occasionally Shan would drape her around her neck as you would a fur piece.

Here's Stef feeding Rami some ice cream (1986)

In 1987, Rami helped Shannon unload the dishwasher making sure to get the silverware in the right slots in the drawer.

In 1987, we (Derek, I think) adopted a stray cat. For lack of a better name, he became known as just "Yellow Kitty" or "Yellow" for short. How creative, you say! It doesn't look like we were feeding him enough 'cuz he decided he wanted some of our breakfast cereal.

1989: Rami having a well deserved nap on the back of our couch.

Rami napping again on the foot rest of the couch.

No garden hoses for this cat to get a drink.

1990: Rami is waiting for that all important phone call.

1992: Rami doing some weird contortions while lying aound on Shannon's lap.

1992: Yellow goes for getting drinks out of the swimming pool

1992: Yellow resting on a bench

And he finally goes off to dreamland

After the winter weather (1994-1995), Rami's coat had grown so thick and matted and she smelled so bad that we took her to a pet grooming place to see what they thought. The suggested that she be shaved to the skin and let the hair grow out again. They shaved everything but her head. So here she is in her most humiliating moment... afraid to be seen in public and wondering what had happened to her. By this time she was 13 or 14 years old. It wasn't too long after her hair grew back again that she died.