Charging Around the West – Again!

Two years ago we set off on a clockwise tour of the Western US. Our main goal was to be back at Colorado College for the 100th birthday celebration of the phenomenal Ric Bradley. Ric enjoyed more than another year of active life. He and his daughter, Helen, visited us on San Juan Island last October. He then went on part of a coast-to-coast tour, following his extraordinary piano-playing granddaughter, Mahani Teave. About 2 weeks after Ric’s visit, he caught an infection and was hospitalized in Cleveland where he sadly died. He departed this life fully engaged and doing what he loved while Mahani was bringing down the house with her concert at the Kennedy Center. We all miss this exceptional individual.

After attending Ric ‘s birthday bash a few years ago, we completed our clockwise travel circuit and got over our electric car ‘charging anxiety’, returning via New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Oregon before returning to San Juan Island in Washington.

Now we are starting off again, this time going counter-clockwise down the ‘best coast’ en route back to Colorado College for the weekend retirement party of our dear friend, Shane Burns. We left San Juan Island on a typical spring day. It was cold and dreary and drizzling. But, we do have signs of life here. The daffodils have been up and now the tulips of Skagit Valley on the mainland are in full bloom. Soon after getting off the ferry, they welcomed us to ‘America’ with a glorious display.

Our first stop on this long journey is in Portland to attend a concert. Laura and her current ‘band’ are performing the one show scheduled for 2024. This concert is a release-show for their new album titled, “Laura Veirs and Her Band (Live in Brooklyn)”. This is the first album that Laura has done that is from a live performance – actually two nights of performing in Brooklyn a year ago.

This is a spectacular group of musicians whose talents shine in their innovations and adaptations of Laura’s music. At one point Laura called out to the audience of several hundred of her fans, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Texas to attend this show. She asked for requests and many, song titles of her previous records came back. The one Laura chose is one she had not played for some time and the band had never performed. Laura fiddled around a bit getting the chords and fingering going. Then, one by one, these experts picked up the song, elaborating and riffing is a beautiful and supportive way.

Our plan is to drive down what our guidebook calls “The Best Coast”. Along the way we have long walks in groves of very tall and majestic trees. Here are some redwood groves in the Crescent City area of far northern California.

And, knowing us, you know that we will search out or fall into beaches and marine things. Here are just a few such scenes.

The main goal of this “Charging around the West” drive is to reconnect with family and friends and former students and colleagues. Our first such stop is to visit Tami Beitzel Barriquand in Acarta California. Tami was a CC student par excellence. She came to college to environmentally save the world. And, with her exceptional math and physics skills and her warm sense of wonder, Tami was and is special. She is currently a professor of physics and oceanography at Cal Poly Humboldt (Arcata, CA) and we had the chance to visit one of her classes and see her in action. Here are a couple of photos including her husband, whom she met while studying in Paris, and their two little boys. The very fancy Victorian house is a private club where Tami’s husband works in the restaurant and as their sommelier.

Leaving Arcata, we take in many lovely beach scenes and collect electrons for the car. We then we drive over the coastal mountains to Sacramento where we visit with Val’s cousin, Steve, and his wife, Joellen. Steve and Joellen regale us with Veirs’ family photos and the frightening proof that we were once slave holders in Maryland!

With two days in one place, we reconnect with Janie and Don Smith who were at Colorado College the first years that we were there, but who then lived in the east for many years before retiring in Sacramento. They moved to be living near their son and his family. This photo was taken in their beautiful and flowery orange-scented backyard. Our extra ‘free’ time gave us a chance to spend an afternoon at the Crocker Art Museum which is now showing an extensive collection of art by African Americans. (Notice the guy in the maga hat by bead artist Joyce C. Scott of Baltimore.)

Our next stop is back toward the coast just a few miles north of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Lindsay Robinson Bolter and her husband Chris are both working full time, raising two super kids, and building a beautiful house on a very steep hill with a lovely sweeping forested view from the high decks.

You will meet Lindsay’s mom and dad in a few weeks when this trip gets to Boulder, CO.

Driving across the Bay Bridge and down the coast, we reconnected with Barbara Whitten who retired from the CC Physics Department a couple of years ago. Now she lives in San Francisco near her son and his family. We had lunch and tried to have a walk along the water but were interrupted by Leslie’s phone telling her someone likely was trying to use her credit card so Leslie spent most of the time on the phone. That card died.

And, charging on, we drove over the coastal range to Santa Clara, CA, in Silicon Valley to spend a weekend with grandson Liam, Scott and Annie’s junior level engineering student son at Santa Clara University. We met 6 of Liam’s 7 roommates and took 5 of them out to dinner. This wasn’t as expensive as you might guess as we went to an “all-you-can-eat” Mongolian Hotpot spot which sufficed to fill up these amazing young men without breaking the bank. Liam gave us a super tour of the campus and its many labs for engineering and biology, etc. Liam is enjoying his more practical engineering and hands-on courses this year and spends the rest of his time as a captain of the university’s ultimate frisbee team and super skier and surfer.

Taking a break from Liam’s life, we visited with Chris, Val’s sister Barbara’s son who lives just below the Berkeley University campus. Chris was glad to see us and we had a fine lunch and caught up on recent years. We had a conversation in the car with Google Maps as she kept telling us to take the right lane and when we did so, we went where we didn’t want to go. Val finally came to understand that she meant “Don’t take the wrong lane, take the right lane”.

Leaving the Bay Area, we crossed the coastal mountains again and enjoyed a quick lunch visit with second cousin Alison and cute son, Gus, who lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, a ship captain, and her two little boys. In addition to being a busy mom working to improve the schools for her kids and others, she is a humpback whale researcher and an expert in humpback vocalizations. This work is close to the orca research that Scott and Val work on.

Then on south, away from the coastal landslides that have sent sections of highway 101 into the ocean, and back to the coast at San Luis Obispo. There we spent the night with Rich Saenz and his husband, Steve, and their lovely little third grader, Lela. Steve is an incredible horticulturalist. He has dropped seeds around their home for 30 years. The result is a beautiful and veritable jungle. His dropping is a testament to the adage “from a tiny acorn, a great oak grows”. Rich is a retired physics professor, first at CC as a visitor and then for many years at Cal Poly/San Luis Obispo. Rich’s research has centered on developing elements of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. And, years ago, Rich was invited to teach at UC Santa Barbara but he had other plans. He then fixed Val up with a super summer in Santa Barbara teaching astronomy and introducing our family to living by the sea. This played no small part in Scott’s development. Nearing retirement, Rich and Steve decided to have a baby. They are such doting dads!

Now, we are leaving California, heading for the deserts near Tucson to meet Carol and Dave Kampert, dear friends from Boulder.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I love following your trips and explorations and hearing of family and friends near and far–thank you for the record and the wonderful pictures.

  2. Wow!! What a fun and varied trip! I love all the stories and gorgeous photos and updates. So great that you guys take these adventures and check in on so many loved ones. My favorite photos are Val arching back to see the top of the redwood tree, the entryway to Liam’s house, Leslie cuddling under the blanket with Lindsay’s kids, and all the amazing sea/fish/flower photos. Thanks so much for the excellent update! xoxoxo

  3. What an amazing trip—you are so good at keeping up with your old cohort and students from CC. All great people! Liam’s doorway says it all. Glad you managed to see Alison, too!

  4. This is the perfect journal! Thanks for keeping us updated–we are excited to see you in Colorado Springs this week. 🙂

  5. What a wonderful network of interesting friends you’ve managed visit on your trip. And as always the photography is stunning.

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