Monday, July 27, 2009

Doors and Diamonds

Sunday, July 19

After a week of working through a heat wave, and days of peace and quiet with the children at camp (oops, did I say that out loud?), it was time to pick them up. Oh yes, and drop off the next batch of kids, too. It was Tina's turn for a peaceful and quiet week. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)

We went the back way up through the Pipi camp- ground, (pronounced pie-pie,) and wound our way along steep forest service roads. Leoni Meadows is a lovely surprise amid thick forests. Its large meadow spreads over hundreds of acres, with cabins, covered wagons, teepees, and more. The kids had a fun week of fun and adventure, with horseback riding, archery, swimming, go-karts, and more.

There was a gap of several hours between when we picked up the adorable fuzzy little dirt balls formerly known as my children, and when we were supposed to drop off John and Laura, my niece and nephew. Tina and I had already decided to picnic and then look for the old town of Caldor.

Located several miles from the camp, Caldor used to be a thriving community. (Before it was a thriving community, it was a not-so-thriving community named Dogtown.) Home of the California Door Company (Cal-Door...see?), the logging camp had the mill, housing for the workers, a kitchen and dining room, and even a hospital. In
1923 a fire wiped the place out, and the mill relocated. As far as I've been able to find, the only other time the town seemed to be occupied was by the California Conservation Corps camp that set up there in the 30's. Train buffs also deeply care that Caldor was the easternmost stop for the Diamond and Caldor Railroad. The rest of us just see it as The End of the Line.

We wanted to find some sign of the burned-out ghost town, but lunch had to come first! The careful observer will notice that, in this picnic photo, Tiggy isn't eating with the others, but is up walking around in the forest. It turned out she was learning some other uses for leaves besides just photosynthesis.
The kids played in the creek, well, mostly. A few just sat around looking beautiful.

Then a few creative souls turned our picnic seats into a teeter-totter. Mostly a totter.

Toss in one last game with a wheel-less wheelbarrow and a willing "horse", and we were finally ready to hunt up Caldor. It had to be there somewhere. I mean, even in a hundred years, you don't usually lose every trace of a town, even one that burned. Besides, Damon had found an old railroad spike, so I knew we were close.

Some people set out on foot, and others of us, wanting to cover more territory, started off in the 4wd vehicle. It didn't turn out to matter, since we met up a few minutes later anyway.

Like any intrepid archaeologist, we were thrilled to run across a raised platform of some kind that seemed to be man-made. We followed it on foot to where it ended by a stream. Crossing over, we found a large area, flat compared to the steep hills over most of the area, beginning to be covered by newer growth than the rest of the forest. Eureka!

Excitement rising, we plunged on. I was the first to see it - that skeletal frame rising, wraith-like, from the forest floor. In the same moment, I caught sight of lengths of rusted pipe lying along the ground. The shack was more interesting, but the pipe was closer. "Hey, guys, look over here," I called, pointing up at the shack. I had almost reached the pipe when a marrow-freezing shriek tore through the woods. It was Tina. "LOOK LOOK LOOK EVERYBODY LOOK AT WHAT I FOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

You can see how her perspective of this would be different, since she didn't hear me try to call her attention to it. Fortunately for me, this is my blog, my story, and I can tell it how I want to - the complete version.

The shack that ~ I ~ discovered was more recent than the town of Caldor, but the thrill of finding it spurred us on. By the time we made the circuit, we had found, among other things. a very old broken cup, vintage (or older) broken glass and dishes, a modern fork, bullet shells, shoe soles with nail holes in them, several types of ceramic sewer pipe, 2 old metal washtubs, and a vintage fly swatter skeleton.

Unripe gooseberries dotted the landscape, as is common in that area. If you're ever stranded in the forest, they make great eating...if you can get to them.

We didn't find any signs of burnt buildings, so either they've been covered over time, or more likely, there was more to the site than we found. Simple! We'll have to go back, with shovels this time.

Next adventure to follow shortly,
Noni Beth

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gold Country Sleeps in Big Sky

A week late, and $7 short, here is the story of my trip back to CA. Of course nothing went as planned. Someone had the bright idea for me to get my back tires changed on the way out, rather than the day before I left. I will not mention any names, since I make a habit not to publicly blame my husband for anything. No matter which time zone you count, we left the tire shop in North Dakota very late.

2:30 pm Central Time
1:30 pm Mountain Time
12:30 pm Pacific Time

And it wasn't just me. My sister-in-law was riding along, with my 2 small nieces and 1 small nephew. The kids did really well, so once we started, we made good time, considering.

Montana is a really big state, if you've never noticed, and almost half the trip to CA is spent just crossing it. We made some interesting discoveries. One was that it now costs to get into Pompey's Pillar, and we didn't want to pay for a 5-minute pit stop. The other was that there is a little tiny town, also called Pompey's Pillar, and if you start driving toward it, there aren't very many places for a vehicle with a trailer to turn around. Interesting.

We stopped for the night in a little town named Big Sky, and all of us slept for a few hours in the car. I'm sure it could have been worse. Somehow. I don't know how, but it could. They were doing road construction, so bright lights shone in our windows while heavy equipment scraped, beeping every time they backed up. I ended up on my back, wrapped around the steering wheel, head on the center console, and legs twisted up against the door. At least when I drove the van out, the seat went back.

I still think I had it better than Dusty. Her seat didn't really go back either, and the baby slept fitfully on her lap. Every hour or so, she would wake up and cry, or just sit up and watch the construction workers. The other two kids sprawled out on the seat, end to end, and slept so well they didn't even notice the toes in each other's faces.

For many miles the road wound through a canyon, right alongside a deep, dark river. Dusty said it was the first time she'd ever really seen that part of the trip. My brother-in-law drives fast enough to make her uncomfortable, especially so close to the river, so she closes her eyes and goes to sleep.

In no time at all, we entered Idaho, the land of potatoes. In Idaho Falls, we stopped at the Army Surplus Warehouse, which is a lot like a museum where almost everything is for sale.

Covering more than 40,000 square feet, this place is awesome! Rows and rows, shelves and shelves, stacked with all sorts of military-related items from WWI all the way to the present. It's a real piece of history. My personal favorites were the pink camouflage outfits, and all the ghillie suits. Ah, the fun I could have with the kids with one of those! They'd never know where I was going to turn up.

The vintage posters are a fascinating collection. It's hard to picture living in the days when large parts of the population knew secret information that the enemy didn't already know, and had to keep their mouths shut to avoid getting our soldiers killed. Nowadays, Top Secret means ~ TOP SECRET ~ and everything else we just look up on Google Earth.

Leaflet bombs have been in use since the 1800's. In 1870, the French leaflet-bombed themselves, scattering pamphlets to the general population to encourage them in their resistance to the Prussians. (Germans.) America dropped billions of leaflets over Europe and Korea, and even in the Gulf War leaflet bombs led to the surrender of 80,000 Iraqi troops.

Some of the WWII posters that were made reflected the outrage of Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Note the "Fruit of Doom". Of course we've made friends with Japan since that happened 60-some years ago, but there was a lot of bad feeling and fear at the time. And the way we make war changed forever.

It would have been a very long day, but we should have been able to make it the rest of the way to CA, or very close to it. Instead, in the desert wasteland between Jackpot, NV and Wells, the car sputtered and almost died. I pulled it over, gunned it, and tried again. It barely started, then lost power. That time I stayed pulled over.

It was at least 4 very boring hours of trouble getting the insurance company to figure out which tow truck we were getting, and also having them figure out where we were. "I need a cross street so I can put it into the computer," the insurance lady said. "There is no cross street," I replied. "There's always a cross street," the insurance lady declared, "you're always close to somewhere." Long pause while she looked at her map. "Hmmmmm. I guess you really aren't close to anything."

The kids spent most of the time playing in the sand and dirt, getting absolutely filthy. The first we knew that the baby had taken off her pull-up was when my niece said, "Mama, did you know Sister is nekkid?"

Because of the trailer, and having 4-wheel drive, they had to send one of the BIG tow trucks for us. He pulled us right up onto the bed, and then, to our amazement, let us ride ON THE TRUCK, while he was driving!!! It was just like flying, the way we glided across the landscape.

The shop was closed by the time we got into Wells, so we dropped everything right there at the Shell station and found a place to stay the night.

It was a nice change from wrapping like a pretzel around the steering wheel. And the mechanic, knowing already we would be there, came in a couple hours early and got started right in on changing the fuel filter, one of the most likely culprits. It worked fine afterwards, and everything else tested out ok, so we were good to go.

Calling a thankful farewell to all the kind and helpful shop employees, we started off. The car ran great, the kids listened to The Three Trees, and we steamed right along. All the way till the long desert stretch between Highway 80 and Fallon.

It's very important to point out here that this was NOT the fault of the shop. They fixed the only obvious problem, and did a good job of it. Their work allowed us to rule out all the common reasons why our car would just sputter and die, always in the middle of nowhere. This time, even though the motor died, I got it to restart and drove along at about 45 mph till we reached Fallon.

Dusty and I both noticed that the gas tank was just over a quarter of a tank, right where it had been when we had trouble before. We asked the menfolk if that was significant, and yep, it was. They said to try filling up with gas, and see if that fixed it. It did, and we made it all the way. See, in the gas tank, there's this little gizmo that sucks the gas out of the tank so the fuel pump can send it to the engine. If that stinger, as it's called, gets broken off, the car can run out of gas a long way from being empty. Eureka!

So I finally made it in time to have a yummy supper from Mom, and all kinds of stuff from the kids. Kisses, hugs, cards, was so good to see everybody. Out front, a slab of cement read:


Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Monday, July 6, 2009

It Ain't Easy Being Green

The Birthday Girl
July 1

Ah, the house is painted at last. Except for the white trim, which I absolutely refuse to think about right now. Especially since I'm green enough already, and one color at a time is plenty. I made it just in time, too, since I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip to Gold Country.

Naturally the paint job didn't go as planned. You already know about the color trouble, and how my dreams of a light, creamy yellow went down in Summer Ivy flames. You may not have heard

that my mechanical force field made two, count 'em, T-W-O sprayers go punkity-punkity. Fearing that if I waited any longer I wouldn't finish, or get the house insurance reinstated, I began painting by hand. Here, you will see a photo of the house, before any painting or scraping had been done. It's far enough away that you can't see most of that pink paint flaking off in large chunks.

Sunrise was a bit early for me to start. This far north, it comes at 4 something for quite a while. Today it moved all the way to 5:01. Ick! So I got a fashionably late start, but then would work until dark. Since summer sunsets in this wide-open land aren't till after 9:00, those were some very long workdays. I'm grateful for the 4-5 hours of total darkness, since apparently some Alaskans & Canadians never get fully dark during the summertime.

Friday I didn't paint. We had some huge thunderstorms on the way, and the last thing I wanted to see was my paint-stakingly applied green washing away in the downpour. Oh, such lightning as there was! I got the most pitiful lightning photo you can imagine. Itty bitty digital cameras aren't the ideal format to capture the elusive electrical bolts, since from the time you push the button until it snaps the picture, several elephants have had time to run through the frame without making it into the photo. How I got even that blurry snapshot, I'm still not entirely sure.

Sunday was my big break. With the assistance of my brother-in-law, whom I now owe approximately 756 loaves of banana bread, the house was finished. He brought over an industrial-strength painter and a tractor.

Jack and I took turns standing in the scooper part of the tractor, being lifted up to scrape and paint the highest parts of the house. Mom called while it was my turn. "What do you mean, 'She's up in the tractor'???"

I was already green enough before my little mishap. While happily chatting with Tina, and multitasking with the sprayer, I stepped downwind and sprayed, just as a wild gust of wind went by. Splat! The phone, my face, hands, arms, and every hair on my head were covered with green back-spray. The whites of my eyes were all that still showed through the haze.

It went so fast. Pshhht, pshhhht, pshhhhht, just a few minutes per side. Amazing. Then Jack cleaned out the sprayer, while forgetting one last strip in the back. By the time I finished that with scraper and brush, my hands had about stopped working. They didn't even want to hold a fork at suppertime. I'm trying to rest up today so I can wrap my fingers around a steering wheel tomorrow. Luckily, I can still type.

Just a few more hours...California or bust!

Until the next adventure,

Noni Beth < - - - even her mother makes fun of her new complexion ~ Summer Ivy