It took nearly 14 weeks to settle a dispute in our favor with the tour company that took us to Bohemia in mid-May.

It was for reimbursement for two tickets we had to purchase to continue our flight from Frankfurt to Prague on Mother’s Day.

We contended they scheduled only fifty minutes between landing at the international gate to walk what seemed like a mile or more to the commuter gate; deplaning had taken at least ten of those minutes as our seats were the third row from the back of the Airbus.

Then we had to dodge a crowd of others trying to catch their flights, while an agent on a bicycle literally herded us to the commuter gates.

Upon arriving at the the gate printed on our boarding pass, we learned it was changed to four gates back, so we hurried  there as fast  as our elderly legs could take us, but by then they had closed the gate and we were denied boarding. We later learned from a friend on the same tour who said they took our bags off as we hadn’t boarded, and that, too, later was a problem when we did connect to Prague. I think they could’ve waited a few minutes for  us, but then a schedule is a schedule to the orderly Germans, but that is another story.

WE were stuck and to continue had to go to the Service Desk about how to get new tickets. The unsympathetic agent rudely told us “you should’ve looked at the departure board for your flight, ” a nearly impossible situation when one is in a hurry and there are many airlines going out at different times/gates. She informed us our tickets were with a group tour that didn’t entitle us to continue without purchasing new tickets. It’d cost us 75 euros apiece, but didn’t tell us we were on Standby till we lined up to board on the later flight.

We werent’ worried about the cost of the new purchase, however, as we had travel insurance that had clearly outlined, “Missed Flights reimbursement up to $750 each.”

When we finally arrived at the Prague Airport, our baggage was missing, and were told they’d send them to us later  when another flight could deliver them.

In the meanwhile, we asked a friendly  German businessman who was also at “Lost Baggage” if he’d help  us call the Prague hotel for a shuttle, but despite three attempts, the number given us would not connect. WE later learned at the hotel the number was WRONG.

Not being able to get the free shuttle that was part of the tour price, we engaged a taxi and paid  $35 plus $2 tip to the driver who calculated what we owed in dollars as we had not had a chance to exchange our dollars.

We filed a claim with the travel insurance company and quickly denied; they had a detailed list of what they would not pay, such as our case because we had not been delayed for twelve or more hours! We also learned their claim to easy reimbursement advertised in the travel brochure was almost impossible to collect.

So we then turned to the tour company with a letter documenting purchase of the new tickets and the taxi company used to shuttle us. A few weeks later an agent of the tour company called to tell me they’d reimburse us via crediting the purchase to our credit card. He assured me they were acting in good faith because the insurance company, which was part of the tour company wouldn’t.

After receiving two statements from the credit card company without the credit for the tickets of 150  Euros or $210 plus change in dollars, I wrote a follow up letter ranting that their promise was “empty” and their insurance worthless. I also sent a copy to the company president.

A new agent whom I shall call “Jack” called me about ten days later  the case was now in his hands and he’d do a follow-up. He said the first agent who’d promised me refunds had “forgotten” but I was to be assured in “ten business days” we’d be credited.

Finally, my bulldog efforts  paid off;  on the August statement  the credit was noted . The company never apologized but instead the businesss  manager wrote us  a letter they were granting a reimbursement “because of a quality issue.”

A popular consumer advocate emphasizes, “You gotta FIGHT BACK! or will be brushed aside, probably hoping the consumer will forget and not pursue the matter further.

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B.E. F.A.S.T.

Nearly two weeks ago I suffered a mild stroke that affected my left arm and hand.

My symptoms included tingling and numbness there and inability to see part of a word, such as the beginning COO  of COOKIES while  proof reading a draft of the cookbook my committee and I had compiled for our organization’s fundraiser.

Luckily, my husband and I remembered B.E.F.A.S.T., the acronym describing the signs of  a stroke. I had had a TIA or warning stroke four years before and had learned from attending support group meetings that going to the ER as fast as possible could get the help to reverse paralysis.

Strokes occur every 45 seconds to someone in the U.S. and the consequences can be death, the third leading cause of it,  or a debilitating paralysis of one side of the body, aphasia and/or cognitive affect. Most readers probably know of someone who has suffered a stroke.

Briefly, the acronym refers to: B=balance of the body such as inability to stand;

E=affect on eyes–blurry vision or temporary blindness; F=facial droop, crooked smile or inability to stick tongue out straight; A=inability to raise arms over one’s head, ataxia of hands such as not able to touch one’s nose with the index finger or to other fingers; S=slurred speech or  inability to speak(aphasia); T=Time to  call 911 to get to the ER within 3 hours so the clot busting medication can work  to  reverse the paralysis.

At the Enloe, which is well-equipped to aid stroke victims, I was quickly taken to the ER even though we had driven ourselves instead of calling the paramedics because it was daytime and we live within a mile of it, but it’s advisable to call the pros so preliminary help can be given en route.

After changing into a  hospital gown, I was taken to get a CT scan. It showed a blood clot in my brain. Wires attached from  my chest to the heart monitor showed flutters, an indication of  atrial fibrillation. It was determined an a fib had pooled blood in the atrium of my heart, resulting in the blood clot.

A neurologist on call came to speak to me, and tested whether I had feeling in my arms or legs, asked me how soon after my symptoms I had reported to the ER, and determined I should get an infusion of tPA(tissue plasminogen activator) although there was a risk of hemorrhagic bleeding.

Within a short while, the ataxia in my hand began to disappear! I almost felt I should be allowed to go  home, but having tPA administered required 24 monitoring in the neuro-tauma unit so I was taken there but not before I had had a chest x-ray and another CT scan.

At the neuro-trauma unit, my vital signs were examined often, a blood pressure cuff attached to the monitor squeezed my arm frequently. Not much sleeping in neuro-trauma, but how wonderful  to be watched the medication was working well!

While in neuro-trauma I also had an EKG, an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, and an MRI, visited by a staff cardiologist who explained a fib and the medication I would need to stabilize it, followed by the Stroke Nurse who educates patients about how to keep oneself healthy to avoid future strokes.

The next day I was sent to a private room to continue recovering, visited  again by the neurologist, the  cardiologist , the hospitalist, and evaluated  by the physical and occupational therapists; both determined I would not need to go to rehab.

I was given prescriptions for warfarin and medication for a fib before being discharged.

Now instead of going on a trip we had planned a week later, I am trekking to the anticoagulation clinc, aka coumadin clinic, to learn the right dosage to keep my blood thin enough to  prevent another stroke.  How glad I am the stroke happened while at home instead of on the road.

I hope this blog will help someone in distress of a stroke to remember BEFAST and get help as quickly as possible and the medical  help to avert a possibly debilitating stroke!

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Instead of attending church on the last Sunday of June, we communed with Nature walking the trails near Sycamore Pool.

The morning was already warm on a day forecast for 99 degrees, but cool enough to enjoy strolling and delighting in  sights of cyclists,parents and kids and dogs frolicking in the creek, an AA group at the campfire circle and the Dispossessed (possibly homeless?)at small or individual campsites sharing food or respite from their problems.

Our pastor had suggested we “visit other churches this summer” and this outing was opportunity to enjoy one another’s companionship than  sitting in a  pew agreeing or disagreeing with the sermon.

While walking the trail, we could hear the roar of    traffic of Hwy.  99 juxtaposed against the distant musical sounds of a band rehearsing for an event at the bandstand. Only the occasional hammering of woodpeckers brought attention to the few birds we observed amid the trees.

How wonderful it was to begin a new week  spending  an hour or two in the park on a lovely summer  morning  in the forested environs of our city park! I encourage everyone to try it. It’s refreshment for the soul.

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Our church  women’s group needed to raise more money to support their charitable groups, but the membership is dwindling owing to aging and health problems.  The faithful “old timers” are mainly septuagenarians, octogenarians and a remarkable quartet of  nonagenarians; recruiting younger working women has been difficult.  We’ve held the traditional fundraisers, a spring rummage sale and a Christmas bazaar for our budgetary needs, but the labor to do them has increasingly fallen on a smaller group of women who can still physically do the necessary work.

So I suggested an “easy” fundraiser: compile a cookbook using favorite recipes contributed by church members, their families and their friends. What could be easier than that? And for want of another volunteer, I became de facto chairman. Five women volunteered to form a committee to help.

I had chaired a similar project eleven years ago and forgotten it was  not as easy as it sounded, but assumed we could merely revise and update the old cookbook with some new ones.  I contacted three publishers that do fundraiser cookbooks, and although the one that had done our previous one seemed as reliable as before,  they charged extra for the  plastic wire binding  the committee wanted so we chose  the company  that  included  it in their  base price, other considerations of cost per book and freebies compared.    We also decided “recipe notes” such as “my favorite;” “from my grandma” or “the best I’ve had” would not be included as those  extra cost that would not necessarily enhance the cookbook’s value. Moreover, the chosen company offered a coupon that reduced the cost a minimum twenty-five cents per book if the collection of recipes were sent in June. For 400 books that would be a $l00 savings.   Our goal was a  low cost,  bare-bones book that would still be attractive and useful and bring in the additional income desired.

Our project began in March with a two-month window of time to collect 300 recipes. I had a weekly bulletin notice announcing our group was soliciting recipes, had forms they could use to write them on, or they could use their own paper to submit them. I also wrote a column for the church’s newsletter about the project.

The publisher had guidelines for the recipes: each had to have ingredients listed and directions given in narrative form. We should not have recipes that listed  ingredients and,  for example,  state in the directions, “Mix the first six,  stir in the next three, etc.,  and bake.”  Also, ingredients and directions had to be in logical sequence and I edited or re-wrote many after making calls to the contributors about amounts, pan sizes and baking temperatures and times.  Later, as the deadline neared, I returned a few recipes and asked the contributors to rewrite them. One that stands out in my mind is a cooky recipe listing  the ingredients but directed, “Mix everything till a sticky dough is formed and bake.”  When the contributor demurred, I reminded her an experienced baker might know the directions to make the recipe come together but not the novice who purchased or was given the cookbook and end with a fiasco.

Early during the two-month collection period, most recipes were sent in by friends and relatives of the church or committee members, but few by  members of the women’s organization . Some wanted old recipes in previous cookbooks contributed by persons who had passed away be included more as a memorial than because of its outstanding value, but since decades have gone and new users would wish more contemporary recipes, the latter took precedence.

I worried as the deadline approached we would not have the 300 recipes we’d aimed for, but didn’t want a few contributors to be dominating with more than five from each person.  The publisher suggested to make a cookbook salable to a bigger group of purchasers we should limit contributions to two or three;  they would list contributors name in the index without additional cost, and with that incentive, a rush of recipes were turned in on the last day of the deadline!

Following the deadline, our cookbook committee met to count the number of recipes and put them into the eight categories that will comprise the cookbook: APPETIZERS & BEVERAGES; SOUPS & SALADS; VEGETABLES & SIDE DISHES; MAIN DISHES; BREADS & ROLLS; DESSERTS; COOKIES & CANDY; THIS & THAT. I had counted 315 but when each committee member did a count for one or two of the categories, they totaled 355. Should we eliminate 55 to achieve 300? They decided we should spend the additional twenty cents per book instead of going through all the recipes and weeding that number; we’d send in 350 recipes and eliminate five.

Well, when I went home to re-count, I came up with 335, and independently decided it was easier to eliminate 35  similar type recipes such as salads, dressings and main dishes,  and cakes with purchased whipped toppings and culled the number to 300 rather than look for fifteen more to achieve 350.  Being cost-conscioous,  if the goal was a money-making project, we’d save $80 by limiting the number of recipes to the original 300.

In early June, the recipes were boxed, along with the contract for 400 books, personal pages describing our women’s organization, the acknowledgement page and a sketch of our church to which our organization belongs, and sent by priority mail. But there was a hang-up: the publisher insisted an artist’s release be sent for the sketch, which, in my ignorance about publications, had assumed that it was already on our church’s offering envelopes and other stationery so was by default permitted. Luckily, the artist is still a current member and graciously signed a release letter that was faxed  the same day.

Now we await the galleys to proof and the publication of the cookbook in time for sale in September when the women’s group re-groups after a summer hiatus.If the “proof is in the pudding” let’s hope the effort was worthwhile!


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Before we went to Bohemia last month, we had the preconceived notion their foods would be merely edible. Internet articles told us their breakfasts were cold cuts, their lunches heavy and their dinners mainly soup and sandwiches.

That was far from the truth!

We stayed in five different hotels during our two-week tour of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and each hotel’s  buffet was lavish.  Every morning we could look forward to: at least five kinds of juices, a coffee machine that brewed a choice of cocoa, espresso, cappuccino, regular coffee or servers who brought the choice requested; several kinds of breads including gluten-free; a variety of rolls;  scrambled and fried and boiled eggs;  bacon and sausages; fresh fruits  and vegetables; cooked hot vegetables; muesli  and dry cereals; nuts; yogurts; butter and jams;  cakes and strudels.  Their butter  is so rich and delicious I forgot about my cholesterol numbers and liberally spread it on breads and rolls.  It was tempting to pig out, and on the first day we tried to sample as many different kinds of food available, though by the third day we concentrated on foods we liked best.

Lunches  and dinners often began with a hearty soup or salad of mixed spring greens, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, with light vinaigrette instead of the creamier ranch and caesar dressing Americans favor.  We had turkey rolls, eel, goose, duck,  pork and chicken, and only once had a beef pot roast that was served with a big blade of bone.  Gravies were thick with vegetables such as eggplant, mushroom and carrots.

In Hungary we were served their famous  goulash and even given the recipe by a chef at a small cafe. I likened goulash to our beef stew except it’s flavored and colored red by sweet paprika, while I cook stew with tomatoes or brown gravy.

On days when we had to purchase our own lunches or dinners, we found the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants, McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Subways in all the capital cities, including local hams, kielbasa and other sausages.  Two men in our travel group claimed, “We had the  BEST Chinese meal we’ve ever had here in Prague!  Really?

And  to my surprise, sushi has found its way to Bohemia. A sidewalk billboard advertised California Rolls and nigiri and other rolls similar to that in the U.S. Curiously, my friend and I approached a sushi cafe, expecting to see an Asian sushi chef, but like many sushi venues in the U.S., it looked as if local persons had learned to roll the delicacy.  We. however, tmerely looked in without sitting down to order.

Wine tastings allowed us to sample their white and red wines; we enjoyed one in a cave cellar in Savornice,Czech Republic, and another in a cave-restaurant outside of Bratislava, Slovakia. We also had a visit to a vineyard in Slovakia.

We also had a tour of the huge Budweiser Brewery in the Czech Republic that is as modern as any brewery we’ve toured in the United States. It produces millions of bottles of beer annually and were informed the average consumption of beer per capita is about a bottle a day. No samples were given us, however.

While I am sure the local citizenry do ot eat as we tourists did, it is rather amazing that just two decades of their freedom from Soviet rule, Bohemia is thriving, their people appear to be prosperous,  foods plentiful, and we enjoyed their wonderful cooking.


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When I’m at home I hardly notice changes during a short period of time, but now being just back from two weeks away, there have been observable changes in common things around our  town and neighborhood.

When we left the new community garden in Oak Way Park had small seedlings planted by the participants. Coming home the corn is almost four feet high, the string beans propped up by trellises or sticks, the tomatoes flowering or with nubs of green fruit, zucchini vines spreading out and eggplants and other veggies grown large. Soon there will be harvesting and fresh produce for the growers to eat, trade or share.

Then in the rice fields that were bare ponds two weeks ago, we saw greening, evidence of new shoots that will produce a harvest in late summer.

At home our raised beds where I had planted squash seedlings and potato seeds, I was amazed the potato already has sprouted flowers and I can look forward to digging our own potatoes when the leaves die back and they’re ready to  harvest. Other seedlings that have matured include the tomatoes with yellow flowers on some vines and green nubs of fruits on others. We had not put baskets under the new seedlings and now the plants are so tall and large it’s been hard to prop them up. A surprise is the large leaves of  the winter melon that I wasn’t sure the seeds would germinate. A friend had sent the seeds to  me from her garden in her coastal town, and somehow they’d begun to grow next to the potato plant so it’ll be fun to dig under for potatoes and hopeful the melon  that should grow as large as their cousin watermelons will be just above the ground to be picked.

There are probably many other changes that occurred during our two-weeks away, but even the small ones are a wonderment.


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Here in the U.S. we can always rely on free rest  room facilities no matter if traveling by car and stopping at fast food restaurants or at official rest stops off the interstate. Or at the mall or big box stores or markets public restrooms are available whether we shop or not. We just take it for granted our basic biological need to relieve ourselves is free.

Not so in Europe where we recently traveled to with a tour group.  The W/C or water closets or also called “toilette” have wash room attendants where one must pay to get past the turnstile into the restrooms.  Free ones are available only at eateries where you are expected to order food and not just go into the rest room as we can in the U.S., such as at McDonald’s or their counterparts.

We paid different fees ranging from the outrageous $l(20ck)in Prague at a museum next to the boat ride at the Vlatava River and as low as 10 ck at the Jewish quarters. Other times they were the equivalent of $.75 in Bratislava and in Budapest.  The W/C in all instances were clean, at least, but usually so narrow a small person as I, upon entering the stall, had to walk to the back near the water tank and turn around before it was possible to close the door.  The toilet paper ranged from akin to rough paper towels to smooth as waxed paper.

Once one of our fellow travelers had the light go out in her stall and had to feel the walls to find the door lock to get out.  At  the museum in Prague, a  troop of pre-schoolers came by and the teacher allowed them to go under the turnstile; what lesson did that convey to them?

And in a  busy, touristy section of Prague where magnificent architectural marvels are seen, I saw a woman allowing her pre-schooler to urinate on the cobblestone street next to the sidewalk. Not far from the magnificent opera house in Budapest the odor of ammonia  permeated the air, and one can guess the reason for it.

While it is true restrooms are not readily available everywhere in the U.S., at least it’s  taken for granted they are free if provided. Be glad you live in the U.S. where W/Cs and the air are free!


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When we travel in the U.S., we stay in mid-budget motels that are clean and comfortable and in safe locations. Doors are opened with a plastic card with a magnetic strip we think is secure.

But on our trip to Bohemia this month, we were amazed the newest door locks are completely different from what we’re used to. We haven’t patronized 5-star hotels to know if they are as advanced as the ones we encountered on our tour.  Our tour company had reserved rooms for us in luxurious 5-star hotels, most likely owing to the slower spring season that got them good rates, so it was our chance to learn how advanced their door locking systems were like.

At our first hotel in Prague, we were given a magnetized but otherwise blank card. At our room, there was a strip about 4 inches on the wall near the door that we had to rub in a circular fashion till the green light came up and we heard a CLICK, at which we merely pushed the door open without turning a door knob.

The next hotel  gave us a plastic card with a meal dot on it, and it was much easier to make contact with the metal dot on the wall strip adjacent to the door. Again, we just pushed the door open as soon as the clicking noise sounded.

At the last hotel, the challenge was more demanding.  We were given a heavy plastic rectangle twice the size of a credit card. The strip was above the door handle, and there were two knobs below it.  When the card made contact with the strip, there was a CLICK and a green light, and we had to turn one of the two knobs below to the left or the right to push the door open.  Our friend who had the room next to ours never managed to open hers without help from my husband or the guide.  Her knob turned right while ours turned to the left, and luckily my husband is technically more adept than I and quickly learned how to open ours and our friend’s.  Had it been left to me, I’d have stood outside our door until someone who had mastered how to quickly turn the knob quickly after the green light flashed and there was a click could open the door for me.

So while traveling is fun, there are challenges even to open doors equipped with modern security devices!



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A contrast to driving the frenetic pace of the Los Angeles freeways earlier this month, last week we went to the Mendocino coast and drove the slow and practically traffic-free byways to get there after leaving I-5 at Williams.

We took Hwy 20 passing the north side of clear Lake alongside hills verdant after recent rains, to Ukiah, to watch our grandson’s team play against Solano College on a sunny but windy afternoon. After the game and dinner with him, we stayed the night in a dinky motel without carpeting. The one  where we had planned to stay was fully booked on a Thursday, “because there’s  a lumberman’s convention in town,” the desk clerk said.

“Just our luck,” I groused to my  husband, envisioning having to go out-of-t0wn to find a room, previous experiences having us do so owing to events we’d not known about: marathons, car races and bicycle races that attracted participants from afar.

But we lucked out; there were a lot of motels and we readily found a room; it wasn’t AAA rate d, but was clean enough, fit our budget and had a good continental breakfast.

Th next morning we took Hwy 253 toward Boonville, known for natives speaking “Boontling,” a local dialect said to baffle visitor. However, it was too early in the morning to stop to find out. Instead we enjoyed the scenic byway of multiple vineyards of the AndersonValley.We drove through Navarro, famous for its wines, though none of the tasting rooms were open.But down the road we saw the quaint Navarro Store , a general store that seemed to carry everything, including a one-pump gas station where a gallon of regular (and no other choice) was a dollar higher than in Ukiah.  We didn’t need gas, but glad to stop for coffee. It was a wonderful surprise they had freshly baked rolls that included  large muffins, bear claws and almond croissants we craved, and reasonably priced, too. WE ate our treats  and drank the good coffee sitting at a picnic table under giant redwoods, admiring the chain saw art of a pioneer, a bear and a totem pole in the parking lot.

At Mendocino town we gawked admiring at its eclectic buildings reminiscent of New England towns, thus the setting for the TV series, “Murder She Wrote,” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”  WE went into an organic products store, formerly a steep-roofed church, and browsed among the goods.  Noticing the prices,we remarked to each other,”You have to be well-off to go ‘organic’. and then  mused whether it  was the fate of old  churches with declining memberships  to turn into something other than a house of worship. Something to ponder about.

Arriving at the coast driving on grades as high as 9%, the Pacific Ocean was a magnificent sight on a clear, fairly warm day.The waves crashed agains the rocky coast and “haystacks” where you can visit the Cabrillo Lighthouse and museum.

We hope to see gray and humpback whales migrating north, but did not see any, but a welcoming sight was a long line of geese flying over the beach, possibly flying home to the Arctic region after wintering in California.

From Mendocino we drove to the outskirts of Ft.Bragg toward Willits. It had been a long while since we’d been there and forgotten the nearly forty miles of twisting road with several long grades of 6% or more through redwood forests. Not many vehicles followed us, but on-coming traffic on a Friday included RVs and loaded logging trucks.

Finally, we reached Willits, stopped at a McDonald’s for ice cream cones, and then wended our  way past road construction to Hwy 20 again. We took a detour to Lakeport on the south side of Clear Lake, much heavier trafficked than the other side, and encountered several traffic lights and some delays in the late Friday afternoon traffic.

We breathed a sigh of relief when we got back toWilliams and onto I-5 toward home.

Driving the scenic byways is fun and delightful than driving the freeways, but is tiring just the same.

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There was a small reunion of friends  of seventy years standing in Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles, requring a trek on freeways to get there last week.  After leaving Chico and getting to Sacramento to catch I-5 via Hwys. 99 and 70, it was fairly smooth sailing on a weekday morning until we got to Stockton. There the traffic backed up some owing to construction work that seems to have been there several times in the past couple years we’d have to go through the city.

Following the slowdown through there, we again had an easy drive through long stretches of orchards, the California Aqueduct that takes northern water to the Southland and the complaining signs along the way that read, “Congress created the Dustbowl;: “Food Grows Where Water Flows,” and another about Gov. Brown ignoring the north’s water needs. Then near Coalinga we passed the giant  cattle feeding  lots where the stench of their urea permeate the air for miles. Once on a hot summer day we stopped at a cafe for lunch and lost our appetites as the odors hung around in the hot weather.

We saw pieces of rubber that had come apart from retreads, men in orange hard hats whom we learned were doing their  time for minor offenses picking up  trash in lieu of spending it in jail, and beautifully tended nut and fruit trees in different stages of flowering, while stacks of beehives were set at the ends of rows.  At some farms, men were busily preparing the fields for planting.

It was only late afternoon when we go to the  foot of the Grapevine, but knowing the rush hour had already begun in Los Angeles, we spent the night at a motel. Early the next  morning, we went up the

Grapevine, the  Tejon Pass  that separates northern California from southern. Trucks with heavy loads labored to go up the torturous grade, slowing down turtle -like on a separate lane while the the powerful cars like hares whizzed past them.   Reaching the top at Lebec there are some businesses that have developed over the past twenty years since we’d left Southern California, but otherwise until Gorman, the town that perhaps exists mainly as a stop for truckers, especially during winter snows when they can’t go over the pass, it was a stretch of nothingness until we hit suburbia at Santa Clarita, approximately fifty  miles from downtown Los Angeles.

Then the “fun” of driving into the metropolis began: there were four and sometimes five or six lanes on either side of the freeway, each heavily occupied, but still moving fairly fast until we came to the interchange where I-5 meets the  Foothill, the Ventura and then the Hollywood,  and the Glendale freeways, and 14 to Lancaster/Palmdale.

We decoded to stay on I-5 to get to the 605, the north/south freeway at the edge of Orange County, but to get there only about fifteen miles past Griffith Park and Dodger Stadium,  we had to get past the Harbor and Lon Beach freeways. The freeway sign board read: 25 minutes to 605. Meanwhile, we were crawling at about 20-25 miles,  in tandem with the same cars we’d seen alongside when we got into the metropolitan area. We went so slowly in bumper-to-bumper traffic that I could observe the walls alongside one community that were covered with “urban art” or graffiti colorfully painted with abstract designs, among other scenes one doesn’t notice when driving faster. It was about forty-five minutes to go from the edge of downtown Los Angeles to the 605. .

Finally, we got to the 605 freeway and got off the ramp to Cerritos to see a friend who wasn’t at home, then drove  the saner surface streets to Long Beach to have lunch. Then it was off to our old friend’s for the reunion  the next day, driving on the 405 to get there, and again passing the Long Beach and the Harbor Freeways.

At the reunion,  we got together with two other couples we hadn’t seen in many years. I daresay we’d not seen one couple in nearly fifty years! We had lived for years within twenty-ifive miles of one another, but the formidable freeways and the masses of cars were excuses to deter us from getting together.

But our hostess decided that we are all aging and it was time for a mini-reunion “one last time,” and so it was that my husband braved driving the freeways that surely is a challenge even to the most experienced driver. I merely navigated using maps and we safely made it there and back.

Returning  home a few days later, we drove on the 405 freeway that leads to I-5  in lighter mid-morning traffic, took the HOV or Diamond Lanes and made it home in a day . Freeway driving to a metropolitan area is not an everyday matter.

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