Archive for February, 2004

Are you going to San Francisco

27 February 2004 at 9:41 am
by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA

We’re heading out, up the coast. We’ll check in again when we get to San Jose.


25 February 2004 at 4:01 pm
by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA

Yes, we’re still staying with Berck’s dad. A huge storm is supposed to roll in tonight, delaying us further. Berck wants to finish writing a letter against the cop in Lorena, who pulled us over to search us, and has been studying court cases and the Texas penal code to gather ammunition. Apparently, this is a rather common thing, and the ACLU is interested in hearing testimony about them. That and he’s reading the prequel to The DaVinci Code, mainly because it takes place in Rome and describes all the sites Berck visited while he was there. He’s spent the last two days in bed all day reading.

I walked down to the lake today. The town of Lake Arrowhead wraps around the lake, houses stacked up the sides of the mountains, and a labyrinth of roads connecting them all. It’s a private lake, meaning that only people who own water access are allowed to launch boats. It’s tricky to get down to the lake at all, but I found a couple of trails that wound between properties so that people who live further up the hillside can still get down to the water.

At least, that’s the way it used to be. The lake has dropped something like 20 feet, so there’s nothing but a steep, muddy slope if you want to reach the water’s edge. All the surrounding houses have docks that end in mid-air, far above the water. They’ve solved that by attaching temporary floating docks down at lake level. Some company probably made a killing installing those.

Right now the business is tree cutting. The huge pine trees are suffering from the same drought that emptied the lake. The trees are infested with a pine beetle that burrows into the tree. Usually, the tree can protect itself by secreting a protective barrier of sap. But if the tree can’t get enough water, it can’t produce enough sap. The beetles have been killing trees by thousands. Even trees by the water’s edge are dying. So the brown trees have to be cut down before they fall on someone or exacerbate a forest fire.

That’s exactly what happened this summer. The mountains around Lake Arrowhead are still black.

So the tree cutting business has been booming. I watched a cutter in someone’s yard cinched up to the trunk of a huge pine, his heel spikes dug into its sides. From the top, he cut the trunk into two and a half foot pieces with a chain saw, hung the chain saw from his belt, and then pushed the disassociated log from its home. It crashed to the yard below. Then the man worked his way down the trunk until he was another two and a half feet from the top of this shrinking stump and began cutting again.

I passed another house where a tree had been felled in bigger sections, but no one had bothered to remove them. They just lay there, semi stacked, the remnants of a split-rail fence beneath them.

No one knows how long the drought will last or how many trees will die. The folks who live up here are worried about the town’s water supply, as we found out at supper last night. We ate at the Royal Oak with Roy and Edith, an older couple with whom Carol Ann is required to have supper every Tuesday night. Roy is a retired car dealer…he used to sell Roll Royces. He’s also a Republican, which Carol Ann does her best not to hold against him. He’s retired now but very actively involved in local politics. Edith thought we were both precious and made us to promise to stop by for drinks if we passed back through.

Berck is demanding the computer now, so that’s all.

Snow Valley

19 February 2004 at 5:45 pm
by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA–Snow Valley, CA

We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunny day, snow covering everything. A perfect day for skiing! We slathered on the sunscreen and headed to Snow Valley. After the eternity it took to rent equipment, we were finally on the slopes.

Unfortunately, Carol Ann had to work all day teaching little kids how to ski, so Berck was stuck with me. It has been nine years since I skied last, and while I was pleased to see I hadn’t forgotten how, I couldn’t figure out how to tell Berck how to do what has become natural to me. He ended up in the snow a lot.

I stuck with Berck, basically following behind him and picking up his trail of equipment whenever he wiped out. He told me that he thought I should never instruct any subject and to go away and leave him alone.

So I had a great time rushing down the blue and black slope by myself.

My knees are not what they once were, though, so I only lasted so long. In the afternoon, a cloud enveloped the mountain, which made skiing very interesting. The fog was so thick that at times all I could see was white and the texture of the snow right before my skis passed over it.

After that I was finished. My knees ached, my calves were pinched in the rented boots, and I just couldn’t go anymore.

But man, it was fun.


18 February 2004 at 4:53 pm
by Jonah

Lake Arrowhead, CA

It started raining here in Lake Arrowhead today about noon. Then the rain turned to snow. It’s coming down in thick, wet flakes and has actually started sticking to the ground. I’m glad we got here yesterday!

Hoover Dam

17 February 2004 at 1:55 pm
by Jonah

Virgin River Canyon, UT–Death Valley, CA

We stopped by the Hoover Dam today. What a zoo! There were as many people there as at Disney World. And you have to go through a police checkpoint now to drive across it. The policeman was basically just waving everybody through, I suppose looking to see if you were white first. The last time I saw the dam I think there was only one other family there.

Before that, we drove though Las Vegas, stopping at an In-N-Out Burger for breakfast. In-N-Outs are only in the California area. They have six items on the menu: burgers, cheese burgers, double cheese burgers, fries, milkshakes, and drinks. There are no sizes. It’s a very simple menu and quite cheap. They use all fresh ingredients. Their fries are made from potatoes peeled that morning. Their buns have no preservatives. They’re a family owned business that has refused to franchise. The bottom of their cups say, “John 3:16.” We got two double cheese burgers “animal style,” which isn’t on the menu. We’re not really sure what that means, but Brandon Downey told us to order them that way. Berck thinks it means they sautee the onions in mustard. I think it means they put Thousand Island dressing on them.

Now we’re heading up the pass of death toward Death Valley. Berck is running the AC like an idiot. It’s funny; we left snow and below-freezing temperatures last night, and today we’re in the Nevada/California desert, and it’s HOT.

Well, we made it up the first hill okay. We filled up with gas before leaving NV to make sure we could make it through Death Valley. $2.08 for regular unleaded! The credit card wouldn’t let us use pay-at-the-pump. Apparently, it’s nearly impossible to use a credit card for anything in Nevada; the cards are summarily flagged as possibly stolen.

We made it as far as the Nevada/Utah border last night and broke down and settled for a room at a casino for $24. Sheets! A hot shower! Of course, even though the motel was huge, the floors creaked, and we could hear every movement of the family upstairs, especially their kids and dog. For some reason they had to get up at 4:30 and jump up and down.

We drove I-15 through the Virgin River Canyon last night, a road under construction and so tight that over-sized vehicles are prohibited. It took all of Berck’s skill as an X-Wing pilot to navagate the narrow canyon. The scenery was probably beautiful, but it was dark, so who knows. But there was too much snow to camp in the middle of Utah, so we had to keep going.