On my actual birthday we drove from  San Francisco  up into Gold Country, to my sisters house up above Angels Camp.  It’s like driving into a piece of history not-quite frozen in time.

We left the city after the morning rush hour, at least going East. Going West there were still lines of cars, across lanes of highways, waiting to get into San Francisco for miles. It is a commute I would not wish on anyone. I wanted to drive across the new Bay Bridge, built after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and opened in 2013, long after we moved to Germany.

Soon we left San Francisco, then Oakland behind. A couple of suburbs later and the famous golden hills of California stretched out on all sides, as far as the eyes could see. When I was growing up in California, my mom could never get enough of the golden hills. I thought then they were ugly and brown. I longed for green. Now, after 5+ years, I’m hard-pressed to find something more beautiful than all that gold.

My mom was thrilled to finally be right, validated after all these years, and she happily pulled over and let me take photo’s of my new found love of golden hills. Even my sister, still in California after all these years, appreciated the photo’s. Most of the time, we just drive through where we live. Not stopping and appreciating the beauty all around us. On my birthday, we stopped and smelled the roses.

After the rolling golden hills, the foothills of the Sierra’s made an appearance. Oak trees looming large, shrubs crowding out the grass. We stopped in Manteca for a visit to Costco. Oh, how I’ve missed Costco! I longed to load up on the huge $4.99 bath towels, and squirrel away the bulk-packaged meats (steaks!). Neither fit in my suitcase.

Leaving Manteca, we stopped at  the fruit stand on Jack Tone road (ha! It has a website: Nature’s Country Corner) and loaded up on fresh peaches, pluots, melons and even a strawberry-rhubarb pie. After one last stop in Angels Camp, we drove the rest of the way into the Sierra’s, into the pine-scented air, and to my sisters.

Her three beautiful dogs greeted us with howls, tail wagging, and kisses. Happy to see “mom” again after two days away, happy to see me and our mom. After a quick hello, shower, and change of clothes we ran out to the local restaurant, the Dogwood (they do not have a website). Arnold is a tiny town, off the beaten path, I was looking for a great birthday dinner with family and friends.  I got all that, and an absolutely amazing meal as well!

I had a perfect rib-eye steak, all to myself, a blue cheese salad and a to-die-for fig & mascarpone desert. My sister tells it different, but half the town sang me happy birthday as I sat out on their deck, under the stars. It was a beautiful end to a perfect birthday.

Leaving the city, we stopped in Treasure Island to take one last look back

Wendi (one of my best friends, dating back to junior high!) & me