Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Im memoriam ...

The skies were crying today. I'm sure a low pressure system somewhere was the cause, but if you want to believe, Judy died three months ago tomorrow. With that in mind, I suggested going out to Armstrong Redwoods Natural State Preserve. If you have followed our travels over the past few years, you will know how much Judy loved being beneath the canopy of these giants. Little did she know five or six years ago that her chemo cocktails would be packed with juice from the cousins of the redwoods, the yew trees. She always felt happy here, and so I wanted to go back out to the old growth.

Armstrong is only 20 miles from Santa Rosa, just outside of the touristy township of Guerneville, on the Russian River. It is here that the annual Vineman 70.3 triathlon starts with an early-morning swim, and it was here that Judy and I fell in love with bike touring many, many years ago—oh, so many years before we ever dreamed of officiating these big events, or one of us being killed by cancer.

We'd always visited in the summer time, when it is warm and sunny and those humongous trees (over 300 feet tall!) would gently sway in the summer breeze. The creeks were dry creeks, with no hope of ever flowing again. But now it is winter, and the fog rolls in from the coast. The friendly Hobbiteen grove becomes a different animal—not menacing, but colder, more reserved, more graceful. Kai, his buddy John, and I traipsed through the dripping forest, sensing closeness and at least for me, a certain closure. Judy would hug some of these trees, feeling their rhythm; I tried to lay my hand on them but was not greeted in return. I didn't expect it. Actually, I think I would have freaked out had I felt anything but the satisfaction and the sorrow of being back. Still, nothing wrong with being open and listening....

The photos, taken with that silly little pocket camera of mine, don't do any justice to the majesty of the place. If you ever find yourself within 200 miles of this holy (and I mean it) site, go there. It is magical. This is better than the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. The colors defy description.

Kai introduced us to another stand of old-growth forest, close to Occidental. The ambiance was different: Armstrong is sheltered in a small valley, secluded, intimate, hidden. The other stand is on a ridge that, with visibility, would almost overlook the Pacific. Oh, the fog, and the rain, and the exposure of this place were so different. Haunted is a better word than magical. Kai has placed three geo-cashes in this area, all of them connected by a middle-Earthian theme. As he says, placing the cache is more satisfying than finding one—especially when you place one inside of a 1,000+ year-old redwood.

And just a few meters away, cold, naked vines were gathering energy for next year's vintage.

A day wouldn't be a good day if one were to bypass the local establishments that cater to the itinerant traveler, providing libation and shelter from the rain. We found such at the Union Saloon, the entry annex of the Union Hotel, which dates back to the 1870s. Not a microbrewery, mind you, but fine beers were on tap, So while it rained cats, dogs, and hamsters, we sat snugly inside and nursed a pint or two. The local (???) fella in the duster and the matching fedora stumped us all, but we finally decided that he wasn't FBI (or worse—don't ask rehabilitated and recovered ex-con John), after all. Gotta love the California hinterlands.

So where did all this leave me in my post-traumatic head-scratchings? Easy: yearning to close things down at "The River," as Kai so innocently calls Russian River Brewing Company. My wonderful Liz loves the way I am enthralled by (good) beers and wines, but had she ever experienced (really, Liz, are you experienced, as Jimi Hendrix would have asked?) the bliss of a double IPA of the stature of Pliny the Elder, well, she'd understand. Some people call it the best beer in the world, some just the best IPA—whatever you want to call it, it is simply out of this world. Triple Js' pathetic wannabe beer in Lubbock has become essentially undrinkable; it is a travesty to call that crap beer. Come to RRBC, and you will rekindle your belief in brew-craft. And if you're lucky, you will run into Helmut, the Austrian local who freely quotes Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and the rest of the philosophical pantheon in a place that serves up beers with the names such as Damnation, Salvation, and Rejection. Oh California!
Tomorrow we'll head for the Big City. How can we top this?


1 comment:

  1. We wish you a Merry and Peaceful Holiday season. Sending lots of love from Telluride!

    Cath and John