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I am an ardent blogger and a web enthusiast. My blogs include varied topics from the picturesque details of my travelogue to theology and worldly facts. My passions are reading English and Tamil classics, Management Topics, Playing Tennis and taking long walks. I live with my wife in Bangalore. Visit regularly my children in Michigan and Colorado to spend time with them and three grandsons. Please brief your opinions there in when you read my blog :-

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sep 4 - 8 US Diary Documented with Pictures


September 4, 2012 saw us busy right before the sun rise, as Ajay, Ritu, Neel baby and we both had to  board the South West Airlines in the forenoon at Denver. Aparna dropped us in the Airport situated at a distance of 40 miles from her new home located at Southern Suburban near Willow Creek Park. We reached San Jose Airport  in less than three hours where a car on hire was waiting in the parking lot, as Ajay had booked it before departure from Detroit to Denver. We kept the car for our use from 4th to 8th September. Ajay drove the car through-out. 

We stayed with Viswanathan ( Vichu), my brother-in-law at San Jose.They have moved in to a new house recently . The neighborhood is really beautiful with well kept gardens & colorful flowers of roses , hibiscus etc;, as big as huge loud speakers. We went for a short walk and could see the mountain range behind their house. ( San Jose, California is home to a total of 41 mountain summits and peaks) They have a dog named Mingo which is very docile. We all petted him to show that we loved him.  Neel did not show any fear rather the  little one  was singing ," I like Mingo very much". 

September 5, 2012.

We left San Jose by 9.30a.m. and reached San Francisco (SFO) Bay area before noon. Luckily we carried jackets from San Jose as the temperature was as low as 60 degree F. We stopped at Cliff House where we had a sight of the sprawling Pacific Ocean in the front.
We looked at the ruins of  the famous Sutro Baths. It was once upon a time the world's largest  indoor swimming pool and filled a small beach inlet. During high tide, water would pour in directly from the ocean. A visitor had the choice of six salt water baths and one fresh water bath. It had a museum displaying artifacts-collection by the owner. It was a hidden structure below the Cliff House and was once serviced by rail lines. The Sutro Baths were burned to the ground in 1966 and has become a tourists' attraction today.

                                                  ( Ruins of Sutro Baths  with a small beach inlet )                                           

We visited the Cliff House next. It had five incarnations. The modern Cliff House was completed in 2004, features two restaurants , the casual dining and the Bistro Restaurant and the more formal Sutro's.  Additionally the terrace room serves a Sunday brunch buffet. There is a gift shop in the building. The historic Camera Obscura is on a dock overlooking the ocean. ( Camera Obscura was the fore runner for the discovery of photography and Camera). A museum of penny arcade games(coin operated device was moved from Sutro Baths to the basement of Cliff House, during renovation.

                                                   ( Cliff House overlooking the Pacific Ocean )
Once more than 30 ships were pounded to pieces on the shore of Golden Gate below the Cliff House. The area immediately around Cliff House is part of the setting of Jack London's novel 'The Scarlet Plague' (1912). After the renovation, Cliff House is now a part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area.

We saw the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in the cloud. The Bridge is declared as one of the modern wonders by the American Civil Society. The Golden Gate Bridge spans the entrance to San Francisco Bay, is 4200' long and second largest suspension bridge in US. The final graceful design was championed by New York Manhattan Bridge Designer Leon Moisseiff , the project was completed in 1937 at a cost  of US$ 1.30 million.


California's popular name 'Golden State' refers to the discovery of nuggets of Gold by a workman in a saw mill which triggered the California Gold Rush in 1839. Today the term can be taken to mean the ' Land of Golden Opportunity '. It includes the famous district of Hollywood. Amazing natural beauty surrounds the State. A popular quote " The coldest winter I spent was a summer in San Francisco" would give an idea about the smog climate there. Three fourths of San Francisco was damaged by earthquake and fire in 1906. "Not in history a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone" - Jack London. However the city was rebuilt and today it is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The California Gold Rush increased the population from 1000 to 25000 in one year itself.

We parked the car in Union Station Parking Area and went by walk for shopping in Macy's Mall.  After a good round at Macy's Mall, we realized it was time for lunch. We chose ' Chipotle Restaurant ', where Tourists go for a world famous Mexican Cuisine. We relished a burrito with  fresh cooked vegetable toppings which Chipotle calls as a Mexican Grill in their menu.

We then had fairly a long ride in Powell-Mason cable car. We held our hold tightly when the Cable Car was traversing at 80 degree angle as the roads in SFO are Topsy-turvy. The Cable Car became functional to relieve the horses from the difficult job of dragging street cars up the city's steep hills. 

                                (  Fear & Joy when we rode in the Cable Car in steep climbs  )                                                                     

Fisherman's Wharf ( See Picture below ) was the next attraction in the neighborhood for us. It is a water front area from the famous Ghirardelli square up to Pier 39. The F Market street car runs through this area. F line is operated as a heritage street car service.


From Fisherman's Wharf we walked up to Ghiradelli Chocolate shop and bought a few varieties of dark chocolates & had yummy ice creams. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was incorporated in 1852 and is the second oldest Chocolate Company after Baker's Chocolate. It is named after its Italian Chocolatier and founder.


From Ghiradelli Square we took a cab to go back to Union Station where we  had parked our car. On our way back we passed through the Crookedest Street. One of the best things about San Francisco is its passion for the unique. So it’s not surprising how much the City loves Lombard Street, one of the most crooked, extraordinary roads in the United States. The short stretch of red-bricked road between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, which has eight sharp switchbacks,( like the hair-pin bends) has made Lombard famous. The road has a 27-degree slope. Only a trained driver can drive through such a narrow and winding street. For most part of the drive through the crookedest street we were all holding on to our seats tightly. After taking the car which we had hired from San Jose from the parking,  Ajay still had to do more acrobatics in driving through the ascending & descending streets of SFO.

At about 5pm we reached Pier 39.  We went round Pier 39 which is mainly a shopping circle - a popular attraction built on a pier in San Francisco. There are shops, a video arcade, restaurants and aquarium of the Bay and views of California Sea- Lions hauled out on the docks on Pier39's marina. Pier 39 is located near fisherman's wharf. China Town and Embarcadero (Spanish Wharf) which is the eastern water front and road way of San Francisco are located close to Pier39. We bought some gift articles (  'T" shirts exhibiting in its cener  the city's name of 'San Francisco CA' ) from the shops around.

                  ( Pier 39 in view)

From the Pier, we saw the Angel Island, Alcatraz and also  the Golden Gate Bridge.  Alcatraz Island, popularly referred as 'THE ROCK' is a land mark in SFO has facility for a light house and military fortification. It is a home to the site of oldest light house in the West Coast and for an abandoned prison. There is a half a day tour which takes one inside the prison area. Though there were many escape attempts from the erstwhile prison none succeeded in escaping as it was guarded well fortified by the rough bay.   
                                                         (view of Alcatraz Island)

It was very late in the evening by the time we got back to the city proper. We had one more visit to make, that is to visit our nephew Shankar, his wife Raji & daughter Pia. We had hot hot idlies, buttermilk and jack fruit ice cream etc;. for dinner. Neel & Pia  had a good time playing together. We immediately left after dinner for San Jose and reached  home ten minutes past 11p.m.

We felt  we needed at least 2 days to go round SFO, especially to walk down the  side steps of the crookedest street  and also to go under the Golden Gate Bridge in a ferry. Due to lack of time & cold weather we could not attempt either. SFO the city which spans only 7 by 7 sq. miles is one of the must see places in the US. 

6th of September, the next day we had a tough agenda. We had break fast early  and left San Jose for the King's Canyon National Park & Sequoia National Park.  The former is located east of Fresno, CA., established in 1940 and covers 461900 acres. It incorporated General Grant National Park to protect the General grant Grove of Giant Sequoias. The park's giant Sequoia Forest is accessible via paved high way. Kings Rivers which run through the forest have extensive glaciers. Kings Canyon located here gives the entire park its name. It has depth of 8200'- is one of the deepest canyon in US.

After traveling for about 4 hours, we reached the famous sight seeing spot - viz- "THE GENERAL GRANT TREE" - it is famous because it is the second largest tree in the world;  was named as 'Nations Christmas Tree' by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926; President Eisenhower declared in 1956 the tree as 'National Shrine', a memorial to those who died in the war. It is only living object (1650 years old) to be so declared.

The tree got the name as 'General Grant Tree' after the 18th US President Ulysses Grant in 1867. Its height : 267'; dia: 29'; circumference: 108' & bole volume (bole refers to the stem or trunk of the tree) about 46600 cu.ft.There were thousands of tall trees living for hundreds of years. Cool climate, plenty of rain water and  the nature of the seeds  to grow quickly nourished by the plant's natural protection mechanism are the causes for its density and growth in great heights.

It was past 2p.m when we went around the General Grant Tree. Luckily we had lunch @ Los Banos in a Chinese Restaurant and a Sub Way next to it by way of salad and cooked rice with lot of  vegetables before taking the diversion to the National park. In side the forest we were warned not to carry any eatables as the bears could attack us for the food. So we discarded all open packets & containers as soon as we entered the reception area.

From Grant Tree Parking location, we drove for 1 more hour (40miles) to the location of  Sherman Tree. Ajay was on the wheels and drove carefully as the road way had lots of hair pin bends , narrow at places besides maintenance work was under way.

Sequoia National Park in the Southern Sierra Nevada in US was established in 1890. The Park spans 404063 acres.Its elevation is at the highest point at 14500' above sea level. Park's attraction includes :-
hiking, camping, fishing, back packing, Sherman Tree Trail and GENERAL SHERMAN TREE. (see below)
Sherman Tree Trail  walk is about 1 mile round trip from the vehicle parking to the base of the  General Sherman Tree that meanders through a grove of giant Sequoias.

A tunnel was cut through a giant sequoia tree in North Park, the tree 275' tall, 21' in diam., fell across a Park road in 1937 due to natural causes. The tunnel was cut through the trunk, making the road passable. (see picture below)

 In 1879, the tree was named after General Sherman who was the General of American Civil War. It is a giant sequoia tree in National Park, in Tulare County CA. IT IS THE LARGEST KNOWN LIVING SINGLE STEM TREE ON EARTH.   IT IS AMONG THE TALLEST, WIDEST AND LONGEST-LIVED OF ALL TREES ON THE PLANET.  height:- 275'; circumference:-103; dia:-37'; bole volume;- about 52500 cu.ft. Sequoia is a genus of Red Wood Tree that grow large in size and live long years. it was named after SEQUOYAH, a CHEROKEE Scholar. (Cherokee is a name for Native American people historically settled in Georgia ).

We saw warning signs, as already written above, in the Sequoia national park about bears losing fear of human beings when they find access to food or open bottles. They break open the car windows if the food happens to be visible. The Tourists are cautioned to take precaution to keep the containers of food and water tightly closed and not visible by any choice.

We said 'bye' to Sherman Tree and Sequoia National Park and started driving towards Fresno. The watch showed the time as past 5.30p.m. We motored down the heights to ground level and the high way had been constructed going round and round, thus lowering the height in well relaxed gradients. It was 8.30p.m when we reached my brother Rams' residence at Fresno.  Dr.Ram is a physician practicing in Fresno well over 38 years. He and his wife Shyamala were waiting for us from 7.30p.m on wards - little anxious as we were driving through the National Forest, scaling down the heights in the night. We were very much relaxed when we located Ram's home. A fabulous dinner was awaiting our arrival and  as we were famished we really enjoyed the variety of dishes, dessert of large scoops of ice cream, no need to mention about the hospitality. We stayed  with Rams that night.

The return journey started from Fresno on 7th September. Ajay enjoyed swimming in the pool at Rams' Residence for an hour or so. We all had breakfast and  left Rams' home by 10.30a.m. for San Jose. On the way, we shopped for fresh fruits like cherry, straw berry, plum and dry fruits. We reached "Komala Vilas" Restaurant at Sunnyvale by 2.15p.m. and enjoyed a thorough South Indian Meals. Pretty dolls were on show at Komala Vilas and as Navarathri is round the corner, we bought good-looking dolls, of course for a price which looked high when you convert the dollar into rupees.

We reached San Jose by 4pm after shopping at the big Indian store, bigger than what we have seen in Detroit or Denver. The dinner was prepared by Soumya & Ritu -roties, shahi paneer & mixed vegetable sabji & curd rice with pickles. We all dined with Vichu who had returned from Houston only that evening. Varshaya sang a few Carnatic songs . And we also watched her singing western music in You tube. Vishak was also there as he had come from San Diego to do some project work at San Jose. More the merrier. We chatted till late in the night when we retired to bed calling it 'a Long & Good day'.

The next day, ie on Sep 8, 2012  we took the flight at 1p.m from San Jose to Denver. The car on hire was returned at San Jose airport. Ajays took a connecting FLT. to Detroit. They reached their home at Canton by mid night.

We are now in Denver with Aparna, Sekhar, and grandsons Vignesh and Karthik. Their new home is very large with four bed rooms. The uniqueness of the house is its Sunroom by the side of the kitchen. The Sunroom is also well furnished and leads to the patio. In fact we arrived Denver from Canton well before the date they had scheduled the house warming ceremony. Ajay and family also arrived from Canton a day before the function. The house warming was well performed with the help of a priest who hails from Thirupati. A sumptuous lunch was hosted to the invitees who all showed much interest in going round the house in appreciation.

Our tour of San Jose, San Francisco and Fresno may appear short by number of days but certainly big as we were able to see beautiful places, visited dear ones belonging to the same family, stayed with them to share the kindred feelings, appreciated their life styles in tune with the time. We were over joyed to look at sequoia trees standing alive over thousands of years which only confirms my belief that a 'FAMILY TREE', no doubt, is one of Nature's Masterpiece !



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