Bay to Breakers is a San Franciscan tradition that has been in abeyance due to the virus.
Thousands of people, most dressed in outlandish costume, many naked, run or amble across the city from the Bay to the breakers on Ocean Beach The route passes right in front of the house.
I miss the very first runners, but these people are taking it pretty seriously.
I think there are fewer people this year. Not surprising really as normality claws its way back from the lost virus years.
Jacques, Claude’s husband and Claude, Jacques’ wife, have a party on their deck. It is 10:00 am but we drink Mimosas and eat freshly baked croissants. All the folks live in the area. It is nice to have a local community of funny people.
I set off East like a wagon train in reverse. Up the Sierra Nevada, over the Donner Pass, down to Reno and then off across the Great Basin of Nevada. The wagon trains followed the Humboldt River as do I but backwards. The distances are immense, the country is dry and unwelcoming. What people! What did they do about sunburn, foot rot, jock rash, cracked lips, the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?
The first night, I camp by the Humboldt River in a place much used by pioneers.
I trundle along Interstate 80, which follows the California Trail. Nevada is vast, hours at 65mph in a climate controlled truck only inches me East. Those wagon trainers basically walked. They don’t make them like them any more etc.
I stumbled in out of the bright sun at 2:30. There is no one there except the bar lady/person. Her name is Diana and she is the best. She serves me an ice cold Coors and we discuss the availability of food. “Sorry, I only got jerky, potato chips and candy.”
At this stage a real cowboy whose name I have forgotten, but was either Ty, Buster, High Noon or Lonesome Jethro, wanders in. He is wearing boots with spurs.
Where can I get food? “Well, your best bet is to turn around and there is a a store about 30 miles down the road.”
Jethro is a great guy and we chew on the problem of getting to Ruby Valley as the passes are probably still closed by snow. I have the best time! It is history! Can I get my rig across the passes. Diana, Jethro and I have a very cowboy conversation.
I am about to leave, after one of the most enjoyable 40 minutes that I can remember, when Diana pushes food into my paws. I think it is her own evening meal.
So here’s to you you Diana, the best of women. At each social gathering I will raise a glass to you.
The Ruby Valley is one of the more remote parts of the country but back in the 1860s it was in the thick of things. It was on a wagon train route, the ill-fated Donner party came through here. The Pony Express rode along it. They even built a fort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Ruby
However, I have not come for the history but for the thousands of wildfowl, principally Canvasback, that rest in the wetlands on their migration South. They are here in May and June. I get there on 11 May. There are very few ducks. Perhaps they missed the bus. Not to worry lots of other stuff to see.
I set off South from Ruby Valley on one of the great roads. 90 miles of dirt road through emptiness.
The Godhead, the mighty Trinity, looked down from heaven a couple of days ago and noticed that Neil Calder had been having more than his fair share of good luck. This offended their innate respect for fair play and they decided to do something about it.
I start the truck and am greeted by a very loud roar and bark! I check and notice that someone has sawn off the catalytic converter during the night.
James and I head off to the Smog Shop.
This means a drive through the centre of San Francisco making a lot of noise. I am embarrassed, James is not.
The people at The Smog Shop are typically helpful and efficient. However the repair is wildly expensive.
“We get about 12 of these a day. Catalytic converter theft is one of the city’s bourgeoning industries.”
The guy at the shop is very frank. “These guys target trucks because the high ground clearance allows them to saw off the converter without jacking up the vehicle. They will be back for the new one. You can’t even shoot the mothers if you catch them at it.”
I get a protective cage than will hopefully persuade the baddies to try another truck.
Anyway the Godhead is placated, er hopefully.
They, not the mighty Trinity, but a gang of fun Hispanic guys, have been renovating the house for well over a year. This is wonderful as we only pay 50% rent. They don’t seem to be making much progress. Keep it up muchachos.
Keeping legal and up to date in two countries is a challenge. This time the validity of my California driving license is about to run out. Because I am over 70, I have to take a written test before they will renew the license. This means I must be physically present at the DMV. So I fly to the far side of the world.
Visiting the DMV is usually grim, so many people and usually some poor folks who panic at the formality and the dread of getting something wrong. The atmospheres is tense. I am terrified. First log in on computer, go to next window to queue for vision test. I have not brought my specs. I start to weep but a nice lady encourages me to take the test anyway and with the help of St Christopher, I pass! I queue to have my photo taken. I queue to take the test. This is multiple choice on a computer. ” How far must you park from an entrance? 8ft, 5ft, 7ft?” I fail. A nice lady comforts me and encourages me to take the test again – you can have three attempts. I pass!
I queue to get my final papers, “Sir, you didn’t take the motorcycle test. Don’t you wanna drive a hog?”
I go to the back of the queue. I take the test but fail. I take it again and pass! Yay, I have succeeded, five more years of US mobility.
Next is to get a US phone.
Very easy; take out Japanese SIM card, insert US SIM card and Bob’s your uncle.
New tires for James’ bike.
So good to be back in San Francisco, there is so much street life going on.
A gang of Mexican guys are working to restore the other three apartments in our building. At lunch time, a supercharged lady turns up with a vanful of home cooked food. She drives around construction sites selling wonderful Mexican meals.
Munching through some delicious sushi I have a strange grating sensation in my mouth. Yep, I am chewing on a crown that has detached itself. Sushi! You lose crowns by chewing down on Elk bones, not sushi. I fly to California tomorrow- big drag! I rush to Kinjo sensei’s dental clinic. “Help!”
30 minutes later I walk away with carefully fitted and nailed on crown. What luck that he and his hilarious nurses had time and inclination to look after me immediately!
The sushi was a treat after listening to Izumi sensei’s Provost’s Lecture at OIST. The lecture is part of the ritual connected to becoming a full professor and getting tenure. Yay Izumi!
A diversion from the main narrative . Things are lower in Japan. I notice this more and more as my knees become increasingly arthritic and useless. You sit down expecting the bottom to meet the seat once your thighs are more or less parallel with the floor. Not so in Japan, there is anther 6 inches of knee pain before the huge bulk finally settles.
I go down to the marina to check that the boat is nicely covered and moored so she can resist the inevitable typhoons.
Whilst at the marina, I pop over to Kiyuna San’s boat. There’s a party going on! A vicious squall has blown in and we shelter on his boat. We are Kiyuna, Kano, Okomoto, a guy from the University of the Ryukyus whose name I have forgotten, a new friend from Tokashiki who is a beekeeper and of course Jacko. The wind howls, the rain pelts whilst we eat fresh bread rolls with lots of delicious honey, drink liters of tea and tell jokes.
This my Sister’s and Brother in Law’s house in Sussex. Thanks Ian for the great photo.
This is where I live in Ginowan City, just above the Isakaya.
Looking back through previous posts, I read about exotic boating adventures to remote islands and the like. My recent posts are about medical checks. Oh dear.
Anyway, I get a letter from the Ginowan Town Hall about medical stuff. I cannot make it out and so seek help from the wonderful Shoko san at my local clinic. She explains that due to my decrepitude I can have a free mega total check up with emphasis on cancer screening. She sets an appointment for me in two days time. Next day, a Sunday, a polite man hand delivers an envelope containing the wherewithal for a stool test and full instructions in English of how to get to the test center etc. How did they know my address?
Thank you Japanese health service. I ask a Japanese friend if there are private hospitals and clinics. She said that she thought so but it didn’t make any difference as the charge to the patient is the same whether private or public. I don’t really understand and she could not really understand my questions.
Trouble with boat. The cord that hold the jib to the top of the Luff Spar has snapped and so the sail has slid down and thus sets badly and cannot be wound in neatly.
I have now renewed all the anti-slip paint around the cockpit and on the cabin hatch.
It is not a classic vintage for irises. I am a bit early and only few irises are in bloom. More importantly, this is clearly a year of change as many of the old plants have been ripped out and there are large areas of newly planted irises that will not flower until next year.
I have been out on the boat a lot. Such a joy as everything is working. There are notwithstanding, as always, things that need finessing.
I notice that although the motor is working fine it seems to deliver less speed through the water. This is especially noticeable when going astern, like backing away from the pontoon. I decide that the cause is a dirty propeller. A guy in a bar once told me that a shiny propeller is very important and its efficiency is seriously compromised once dirty.
I decide to jump off the boat and scrape filth from the propeller and anything else I see that needs a bit of bullying. Masked, snorkeled and finned, I launch myself into the marina!
It is a lot of fun snooping around under the boat. It is March but already the sea is warm. I had trepidation before I took the plunge. I have not been feeling sporty of late. Would I be able to swim around underwater and above all, would I be able to negotiate the ladder fixed to the transom to get back into the boat?
Yes we can!
However new fins needed and must wear gloves as my hands are pretty badly lacerated. I understand better whyI gave up scuba diving. So much preparation! So much equipment/clothing!
I want instant gratification. I knew I should have worn gloves but I was too excited to put them on.
I go home feeling strangely fit. Skin glowing from the sea and the sun. Muscles aware that I had done some gentle exercise. I will go back to it tomorrow.
The marina is still swarming with millions of small fish.
I speak to the gentleman who is gently playing away outside the hotel entrance. We have never met before but have many, many friends in common both in The Bay Area and Japanese Irish music diaspora. How strange is that? I wish I had brought the flute.
The reason for the trip is dinner fun with Ichiro san, Tomomi san, Martine and Albrecht. We eat and drink like Kings or Emperors, if you prefer, in Ichiro san’s amazing gallery/studio. A wonderful evening full of humor.
As bees flee hame wi’ lades o’ treasure,
The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure;
Kings may be blest, but we were glorious,
O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!
The next day I drove slowly down the East coast of Okinawa, stopping frequently to look at things. Nice to take things slowly.
When I get back to Ginowan, I go to check on the boat. The marina is full of big shoals of small fish. I love my marina. The water is so clean.