Photo of the month

Care for a cherry? Ben knows what folks mean when they talk about Brentwood's U-picks having some of the best fruit in California. He went to the source this month, braving the ladder to pluck some juicy Rainiers at Papini Farms. Photo by Glenn.

June 2003

Make mine medium rare — if you can. Glenn endures smoke inhalation for a Memorial Day barbecue, our first in months. Photo by Roni.

The key to catching a whopper is to have Mom thread the line for you. Roni uses a deft touch to get the bobbin on the end of Ben's rod and reel. Photo by Glenn.

Dad, are we ever gonna catch anything? Son, the short answer on this day is "no." Photo by Roni.

A night at the races: Roni and Ben enjoy nachos and hotdogs in the grandstand at the Antioch Spedway (top). (Middle) A track official watches closely as the dirt modifieds crank it up for a restart. (Below) Uh, guys, we're supposed to go the other way — a pair of sprint cars get tangled. Photos by Glenn.

Ben prepares to chomp into a peach during a visit with Farmer John Papini. Photo by Glenn.

Ben goes to great lengths — and heights — to find his fresh fruit. Here he works the ladder for the best cherries at Papini Farms. Photo by Glenn.

Mmmmm, peaches... Photo by Glenn.

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Out there having fun in the warm California sun

June 15, 2003

Summer's almost here and it's beginning to feel like it. Those cool spring days we enjoyed through much of April and May have gradually been replaced by heat that starts early in the morning and builds to a mid-afternoon peak in the mid-90s. It's great for those who love the outdoors and are near water, but for the rest of us there is the air conditioner — at least until the governor turns the power off, which is always a possibility in the not-so-Golden State.

With our wacky schedules, the Gehlkes don't get to take advantage of the great weather as much as we should or would like to, although since Memorial Day we have done a few small outings to spots around town. Today, for example, we drove down to Brentwood to visit our friends John and Pauline Papini at the U-pick stand they operate during the growing season. We try to make it one of our annual traditions to pay a visit and take home a flat or two of whatever fruits are in season. This time it was Rainier (white) cherries and peaches. Roni spent some time visiting with John and Pauline while Glenn and Ben ventured off into the orchard to fill a plastic bucket with cherries. Well, we didn't exactly fill the bucket. Ben bravely climbed the three-legged steel ladders to reach the choicer fruits that hid near the middles of the trees, but he soon tired of the work involved and we settled for a tiny pile in the bottom of our five-gallon bucket. Roni caught up with her men in the peach aisle, where we sought out the softest fruits we could, not worrying about spoilage because we knew they would never last in our house more than a day or two tops.

Brentwood has changed a lot in the years we have been going down there to visit. If you are from the area you know what we mean. It's looking more like every other sprawly bedroom community and less like a quaint country farm town every day, with new subdivisions and wider streets springing up like dandelions in an unmowed lawn. It's still a nice place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there.

That is not to say that Oakley doesn't exhibit many of the same characteristics, we're just a few decades behind our neighbors in the cityhood game, so we lack the Home Depots and Border's and Starbuck's that the others have. At least we finally got our own motel — a Comfort Suites, which opened with little fanfare around the start of the month. It's still under construction, but if you excuse the dust and cough up your cash they'll let you spend the night.

Things have been topsy turvy at the newspaper with people taking vacations and being out on medical leave, so Glenn's schedule has been unpredictable. Because of the vagaries of the schedule makers, Glenn wound up with a rare Saturday off June 7 which we spent like many normal families spend their Saturdays, getting out to see the world. It just happened to be free fishing day in California, so we picked up a rod and tackle from the grocery store and set off for the end of the fishing pier at Oakley-Antioch Regional Shoreline to see what we might be able to hook.

The only thing we caught was a lot of wind, which was about all anyone was catching there. Roni demonstrated her casting technique for Ben, and he gave it a go for several minutes until it became clear that snagging live fish is not as easy as it is made to look in the "Animal Crossing" video game. Glenn held the line for a little while also, hoping that something would nibble at the night crawler affixed to the hook. Something did nibble, but it didn't stick around for the full course; we pulled up half a worm with no fish in sight.

That evening we decided to try something radically different and took in our first night at the races at Antioch Speedway. No big names (at least none we recognized), but plenty of high-speed action on a quarter-mile dirt track. We chowed down on a lot of greasy fried foods and huddled together in the stands to keep warm as the sun set and the Delta breeze kicked up. It may be late spring, but the night temps still dip into the upper 50s. There were a lot of short heat races, so by the time we got to the longer mains we were all getting a bit tired. Ben was up past his bedtime, so we cut out before 10 p.m. He was happy to take home a souvenir checkered flag.

We ended an 18-month drought without a backyard barbecue on Memorial Day when Glenn finally hauled out the grill and charcoal briquettes and cooked up hamburgers and chicken. He was a little rusty, but showed he still has what it takes (lots of kindling, mainly) to prepare a great open-air feast. Roni's potato salad and corn on the cob complemented the main course nicely.

The end of school is nigh for Ben, who is days away from a brief summer vacation before he starts fourth grade. He recently took a field trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, and completed a lesson on national monuments for which he had to build a model of one of them. He chose the Washington Monument, so we rendered it to scale in foam core board, complete with 50 U.S. flags surrounding its base. It would have made an awesome cake topper.

After several months of neglecting our writing for a variety of reasons, both Roni and Glenn have been noveling with greater effort in recent weeks. Glenn is engrossed in the time-consuming task of revision, while Roni is preparing the draft for another story she wants to work on. Occasionally we even sleep.

Hope your summer days are filled with plenty of adventure. We'll be back next month.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Monday, July 28, 2003 at 21:13 hrs.

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