The Delta in the summer turns jungle-like with its berry brambles and reeds. Ben poses for a photo under the shade of a tree at the river's edge. Photo by Glenn.
It's a blistering August afternoon as we head into Antioch's Rivertown district to check out the action on the San Joaquin River. Ben is eager to get his hands on all that ballast beneath the railroad tracks and send it into the Delta. Photo by Glenn.
Water + rocks + idle 9-year-old = rock plunking time. Photo by Glenn.
Roni waits for her men to return from their Delta rock-plunking adventure. All this time she has been chatting up the folks at the nearby Antioch Senior Center for a story she is writing for the Ledger Dispatch. Photo by Glenn.
Glenn strikes the pose as he models his "Total Recall 2003" T-shirt promoting Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor. California politics aside, we liked the novelty of these shirts when we found them on the Internet. What better souvenir of this most bizarre chapter in the state's gubernatorial history. The slogan, by the way, reads: "Vote for me if you want to live." Photo by Roni.
Ben poses for a Polaroid of himself and the Powerpuff Girls at the Concord Fall Fest, Aug. 31. Photo by Glenn.
Ben is hard at work as he tries to lap the field in a bumper car race at the Fall Fest. (OK, so he was trying to just complete a lap without getting creamed by the competition, but that's part of the fun.) Photo by Glenn.
You get what you pay for, especially when you spend five bucks on a mystery box of books that not even the bookstore thinks it can sell through conventional means. Roni investigates the contents of our purchase. Photos by Glenn.
This is a "for posterity" shot of the gas prices as they were Labor Day weekend at the Shell station on the west end of Oakley's Main Street. Weren't the prices supposed to come down after we took out Saddam? Photo by Glenn.
Yeah, this dude is a little scary looking. We met him at the entrance to Cline Cellars winery. Would you solicit recommendations for a good pinot noir from this character? Photo by Glenn.
Ben investigates the adobe at Cline Cellars. It was assembled from actual adobe bricks salvaged from the Sonoma Mission. Photo by Glenn.
Roses rim the vineyard at Cline Cellars. Photo by Glenn.
Now we're at Delicato Winery, where Ben checks out the view from the top of the observation tower. Photo by Glenn.
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Another festival grown from the vine
September 17, 2003
As we write this it is three days before the Oakley Almond Festival, and those of you who have been faithfully reading this drivel over the years know pretty much what that means for our household: It means last-minute changes to the program guide as it flies out the door to the printer; piles of applications for food and craft booths and permits; boxes of souvenirs stacked in the living room; and the incessant ringing of the telephone as questions are asked and answered.
There are folks who ask us why we continue to involve ourselves in the festival each year, who say it must be too stressful handling all the details of organizing such a big community event, as Roni has done in one way or another for the past fourteen years. Yes, the details of the festival can be stressful at times, but it is how we stay connected to the community. It is how we give something back through volunteering, and the reward of seeing happy people enjoying themselves on festival weekend because of the effort that we have put in to make the event fun for all. The three of us will all be taking part in this weekend's festivities in one way or another.
While the details of the festival do add stress, they also can provide opportunities for family entertainment. Take the past couple of weekends, for example, when we embarked on a quest to pick up a variety of local wines for use in the festival's wine pavilion. Our first stop Sept. 7 took us to the Sonoma region for a visit to Cline Cellars, where they sell product by the case. It was the first time we have visited Cline, which once was located a few miles east of us in nearby Knightsen. They have an impressive estate that once was the site of the original Sonoma Mission. It features a huge vineyard and a couple of large ponds. Ben especially liked the half dozen bird cages that line one of the paths through the garden. After that, it was on to V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena to pick up a case of wine created from Oakley-grown grapes. We picked up some salads from their deli and had lunch in the car on the way home.
On Sept. 14, we continued our winery tour with a stop at Delicato Winery in French Camp. The koi in the little outdoor pond were looking about twice as big as when we saw them last year, and the views of Highway 99 from the observation tower were still just as impressive (or not). It was just nice getting out for a Sunday afternoon drive, which we don't do as often as we would like.
So now we have about a dozen cases of wine sitting on the tile inside our entryway. They will be gone after this weekend. Otherwise, we could hang a shingle and start our own winery. Gehlke Estate Vineyards, or somesuch. Naw, our "estate" is too small, and the grand total of all the grapes we have growing in our back yard this year wouldn't produce a glass of chardonnay.
Which brings us back to the topic of yard improvements (remember that?). Last month we paid too much to have a plumber come out and fix our broken faucet and set things up so we could reconnect our back yard sprinkler system. Since our last writing, Glenn has managed to rearrange the valve system with new valves and PVC pipes and slipped it into place. It looked pretty good once he got it all glued together. Problem is that it leaks like a sieve where the pipes screw into the threads on the valves. This is despite the fact that he used ample amounts of thread paste. So now we wait as he rethinks his approach to preventing the leaks.
Not all of our recent projects have ended in disappointment, however. Last month we wrote about how we had switched over to Comcast high-speed Internet and were in the process of upgrading our computers and finding a new host for this Web site. For the past month we have been hosted by a company called ICDSoft, which has very attractive rates and some interactive account management features that other Web providers don't offer. We recommend you check them out if you are looking for a place to host your site.
Glenn also completed the upgrade of the old Performa 6118 located in the writing sanctuary where these monthly missives are composed by installing a larger, faster hard drive. It was a project that should have been done easily in a couple of hours that wound up taking two weeks while we searched for adapter cards and spent hours in frustration trying to format the used PC drive for Mac compatibility.
We gave Ben his own e-mail account, which he has been mostly using to keep in touch with Dad at the office. His computer is fully connected to the high-speed Internet now, so he has been enjoying the ability to go online and check out his favorite cartoon and video game sites a good reference when you are stuck on an unfamiliar level of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.
Roni's infatuation with country music has been showing signs of waning the past few days as she has determined the video selection on VH1 to be repetitious and has started tuning in the easy listening stations on Music Choice once more. This doesn't mean she is giving up on the genre, which still is a refreshing change of pace from most of the other pop music playing these days.
Our other major outing this month was a trip to the Concord Fall Fest over Labor Day weekend where we took advantage of the sparse crowd to enjoy some good music and food while Ben checked out the carnival games and the park play equipment. Todos Santos Plaza, where the festival took place, is right across from a place called Half Price Books, which we have all come to like. Roni has been going there whenever we are in town to check out the used fiction shelves. This time they were having a deal where for $5 you could buy a "mystery box" filled with all sorts of odd titles. We bought one to take home and spent a good half hour cracking up at the "treasure," most of which was old college texts on religion and philosophy, a few outdated biographies and travel books, and a pornographic coffee table portfolio thrown in for good measure. Yes, there were a few paperback fiction offerings as well, certainly enough to cover the purchase price, but nothing we couldn't have done without. Let's just say that the local library got a nice donation recently!
Glenn, Roni and Ben