A foray into California to see long-time friends

I'm still on the road back from Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon. It's quite the trip.

Since I needed to be in southern Oregon, I looked at the map and traced out the possibilities of getting into northern California to see spinner/weaver/dyer/multifiberist Stephenie Gaustad and master wheelmaker (among other things) Alden Amos. I haven't seen them in way too many years. I tried to get a visit in last year, but the mileage and timing didn't work at all. This time . . . well, what's a few hundred miles and another day?

These posts will continue to be long on photos and short on words. I've been doing a lot of looking. The constant variations in the landscape fascinate me.


In transit

Welcome to California. STOP: "Are you transporting any fresh fruit?"


Lovely rest stop:


(I should have taken a comparison one in Nevada two days later, but I didn't stick around long enough there.)

Mount Shasta:


I've also been looking at a lot of this:


The driving has been amazingly pleasant, except for within a certain radius of Sacramento. Drivers became precipitous and rude. Wound way too tight. I was there about 3 in the afternoon but they acted like they had been dealing with both rush hour and construction zones indefinitely. I revamped my route on the spot and took a longer road that got me out of there faster.

It also took me past this:


I didn't know until I saw Alden that this is Rancho Seco, a nuclear plant that has been decommissioned. I found the sight of the cooling towers above the vineyards disturbing. Apparently, the area is now a park. (I also saw a pair of cooling towers while driving in southwest Washington, but I can't figure out what site they were. Washington's nuclear sites have been elsewhere in the state, and although I could have seen something that large in Oregon the Trojan site's single cooling tower was demolished in 2006.)

About then, I was wondering where the heck Stephenie and Alden lived, and why they lived there, and whether adding this piece to my trip was such a good idea. . . .



Fortunately, the Dragonfly Farms (Stephenie and Alden) part of the state of California is delightful.


I got a tour of the studios and workshops, where both Stephenie and Alden craft the tools to do fine textile work (and do a lot of fine textile work, and bookbinding as well). I got to watch Alden shape the accelerating wheel for a banjo charkha (lathe work, done freehand).

Supper was exquisite—a multi-bean soup with fresh garlic, a mix of zucchini and hominy, and pineapple-lime juice—and since the topic had come up we watched the 1935 Max Reinhardt version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (with James Cagney as Bottom, Mickey Rooney as Puck, and Olivia de Havilland as Hermia).

Then we stayed up later than any of us usually do, talking and spinning (I got to spin on Stephenie's bull-pup, and on two lovely little tahkli spindles, both of local fabrication). I was so tired I was drafting with the hand I don't usually use to draft and figured that I was just exhausted and haven't spun cotton in a while. . . . I figured out later, in the middle of sleeping, that I'd been drafting with my less agile hand. . . . Considering that, I'd done pretty well!

In the morning, we looked at textiles that required
magnification to be fully appreciated. I hope to have more posts on
that later, although I need to figure out how to get pictures of really
tiny stuff.

Anything I say about Stephenie and Alden is inadequate, except that I'm so glad I got to see them. Even after too many years, we picked up just where we'd been, or better. . . .



15 thoughts on “A foray into California to see long-time friends”

  1. The photos are so contrasting, you did a great job to show the variety on your trip. I am glad you got to reconnect with old friends. This is the gold in a human life… relationships with those we love.

    I drove California in 1991, from San Fran to the Mojave Desert and back up. Drove down near the water, drove up on the other side of the mountains. I hit Sacramento at something like 2am, maybe that was best.

    Just spent Fri/Sat overnight in Chicago. Drove intentionally without the radio on, just to sort of meditate alone. It was good, there are times I can’t do that.

    Enjoy the drive, continue to be safe. Love the posts!

  2. Love the travelogue! The cooling tower you spotted in Washington was most likely part of the ill-fated and hideously expensive WPPS (Washington Public Power Supply System–pronounced “whoops” for obvious reasons), which was built but never actually went into operation. (Thank you Dixie Lee Ray, former governor of Washington and a fanatic supporter of nuclear power despite the evidence that it is and was dangerous). Sounds like you had a lovely and restorative trip, even if it did involve a lot of driving!

  3. Ah, the fruit police! I remember on our very first trip crossing from Oregon to California and seeing that shed that looked for all the world like a European border control point and thinking “What??”

  4. It’s funny (as in “coincidental/strange” vs. “haha”) you stopped in at Stephanie and Alden’s — I just recently decided to reread his Big Book of Handspinning from cover to cover when I was thinking about spinning a new fine linen all-in-one-piece driveband for my lace flyer.

    And after rereading, I agreed with him that I wasn’t interested in pulling my wheel apart to do it.


  5. Thanks for letting me know I got some variety in there, Lynn! I have more photos, but they weren’t as good.

    I think it has been about a decade since I saw Stephenie and Alden. That’s way, way, way too long.

    Yesterday I listened to CDs most of the day. Today, not at all. Usually I need them in the late afternoon, for alertness.

  6. Susan, I was hoping you could fill me in on those Washington towers. I remember Dixy Lee Ray, who was elected governor just after I moved away from Washington. I was glad to be out of there.

    The trip was grand.

  7. We used to encounter this on entry to both California and Arizona. I think Arizona may have relaxed: I haven’t had to stop the past few times I’ve been there. I understand why (threats to major economic resources). It’s still odd.

    When I said “no,” I forgot that I had an apple with me. I ate it as soon as I remembered.

  8. On Stephenie’s bull-pup, they are testing out a crocheted driveband connecting the two wheels (not spindle and wheel). It’s kinda nifty. Jury is out on whether it’s better than other things.

    I edited Alden’s Big Book after I left Interweave. It was one of those capstone projects of a part of one’s career. We had a good time working on it (any book is a heck of a lot of hard work, but some of them are rewarding to do as well, and that was one, therefore it was a good time). We reminisced just a bit about it.

  9. Thank you for the vicarous journey; not everyone understands our preference for driving instead of flying.
    Some years ago I started a colection of pictures of Interstate Highway rest areas. That expanded to include sights from the routes taken. EG the mailbox in western Nebraska-metal work.

  10. Hi, May! Yes, people wonder about the driving. For this trip, I had the perfect excuse: many geographically scattered commitments, several in rural areas. Trying to “fly” and “rent-a-car” this one would have made me nuts. And I do love the landscapes, and seeing new things. It felt like a gift. I was ready to keep going instead of pull off at the exit here in town.

    I’m so glad to hear you started your Interstate Highway rest area photo collection! I have thought a few times that would be a fun project. I wish I’d gotten one in particular in Nevada: NO shade, restrooms that were like permanent portapotties, lots of dust. Almost the total opposite of the California one I showed.

    I learned by traveling with dogs the value of getting out and walking around every hour or, at most, two. I grew up in a family that didn’t stop that often–! I can drive longer and farther if I move around outside the car frequently.

  11. And in this morning’s Denver Post, McCain and Udall are calling for nuclear power as a solution to global climate change…. Talk about consorting with the Evil Empire. Have they heard about how much cheaper it is to pay people to conserve energy?

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