Monday, December 26, 2016

Allan Family Year-End Update 2016


Once again we hope this is finding everyone in good spirits and ready to tackle 2017.  The past year has been one of change for all four of us. Change is normally good, taken in small doses but 2016’s events have not qualified as a “small” change for the Allan’s. 2016 presented us with some big challenges, tiring moments, and a few moments of satisfaction, and the pace does not let up.

Most notably, the biggest change for us was a change of venue. Immediately after Emily’s graduation from High School we packed up the Lakewood house and moved into our property in Pine Grove, located in Amador County in Northern California. We settled Emily into a cozy apartment in Anaheim and set off in our U-Haul over the Grapevine for the last time.

Utilizing a bit of persistence and Rita’s boundless energy we are settled into our buildings here in the Sierra foothills, and look forward to beginning the main house build in the spring. Still plenty to do with trees falling over and trying to stay warm!

Rita is now many hours closer to her Caltrans headquarters in Sacramento, but still continues to telecommute from Pine Grove. Designing training courses for the construction division take up her work hours.  The property is her main focus during her free time. For Christmas she received a gas-powered chipper/shredder which she has made good use of. A friend gave her a “brand new” never used 20-year-old chainsaw which came in handy Christmas Eve when a 36-inch oak tipped over into our neighbor’s fence.  Needless to say someone isn’t going to run out of firewood for a while.

Rita brushes some preservative on a handrail at steps headed toward the barn.

In the latter part of the year we adopted a 3-year old Akita from a rescue in Walnut Creek.  Chris named her Kona due to her coffee colored coat. She was somewhat abused as a puppy so it takes her a while to warm up to people, but she is enjoying having over an acre to run around on. She also enjoys visiting the neighbor dogs and running up and down the fence with them.  Kona is a welcome addition to our family.

Anne is now in her third year of the Animation program at San Jose State. She works incredibly hard and is turning out some really awesome designs and artwork. She left the dorms this year and moved into an apartment with three roommates within walking distance of the campus.  Anne is earning a little extra cash teaching art to elementary grade children in her free time, which she really likes. Online gaming takes precedence over sleep occasionally but she is making lots of new friends.  Her parents do get to see her every couple of weeks when she drives to Pine Grove for laundry privileges.

Emily has begun her meteoric rise to stardom by starting her college studies at the drama department at Cal State Fullerton.  Her independent lifestyle in sunny Southern California seems to agree with her and she loves her classes and the people she is getting to know. This past year she graduated with honors from Whitney High in Cerritos, along with starring in the lead role in the yearly school drama production. Emily still keeps close tabs on her old Whitney High School “family” and helps out with drama and her other passion, cross country running.Emily also earned here Girl Scout "Gold Award" this year and got to take part in the big presentation gala in Pasadena this summer. Leaving her part-time job at Katella Deli proved to be a good move as she was able to land a job at Disneyland, as a hostess on the Storyland Canal Boats.  This work helps her to hone her drama skills and is a good foothold into the entertainment world. Her parents don’t get to see her much but they are looking forward to Emily spending a week in Pine Grove during winter break.

The girls hang out with Kona during our tiki-themed Christmas party.

Chris has been working to keep up with Rita which is all but impossible, but he is trying. One project after another is the order of the day, including getting the A/C & heat pump installed in the barn, putting up a new pole and pulling in a new 200 amp service, getting the tiki bar useable as our temporary kitchen, and working on the CAD designs for the new house, to name a few. On Wednesdays he helps out in Jackson with the Amador Sawmill group, restoring machines for the high school shop program and other restorations. Occasionally he also helps out with the steam sawmill at the county fairgrounds in Plymouth. A main focus once the house is built will be to install his O-scale model railroad, which he is making parts and pieces for now.

Hooray! Another challenge.
Adjustment to a new situation is neither easy nor painless, but we are lucky to have new neighbors and friends that are helping us along, giving us advice on who to use for certain things, or even how to survive the frigid winter. This place will be good for us once we are truly settled, until then we will not be bored!

All the best to all of our friends and family, it is our wish that you have a happy, prosperous and safe 2017!

Chris Rita Anne Emily (and now) Kona the dog

Friday, February 19, 2016

Paradise Under the Power Lines.

My earliest memory as a child growing up in Covina was when Dad and I picked up Mom and my brother Scott at the hospital after his birth. We were in the good old ’61 Chevy Impala, no seat belts back then. I probably remember this trip because we had to stop at a grade crossing somewhere to let a train pass.

I have spent all but thirteen of my years here in Southern California.  My desire to move out is not due to any one thing, just a conglomeration of lots of little things. I suppose my childhood was idyllic, by most standards at least. With three brothers and my oldest sister Patty (my younger sister Mary was born in the Bay Area) packed into a 900 square foot house in the San Gabriel Valley, I still managed to find plenty of time to myself, riding my bike across the street, hoping for the Pacific Electric San Bernardino Local to come ambling by, wishing the “Wig-Wag” signal at Vincent Avenue would activate (that crossing is now a Metrolink line, with trains whisking by at 79MPH) That was the high point of my day.

Things quieted down at night when I would sit out on the front lawn and wait for the Helms Bakery truck to come by with fresh goodies, and maybe a birthday cake my Mom ordered the week before. Other times I would sit and watch the glow of the wildfires high in the San Gabriel mountain range. Funny thing; the smog was so bad in those days, even though we practically lived at the foot of the mountains, I didn’t know they were there until I was 10 years old. In fact, some days were so bad you couldn’t see the traffic light a block from our house.  At least the air pollution has gotten better, the noise pollution, not so much.

Dad moved us en masse north to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1976, to continue his career with Caltrans on the new Antioch Bridge project. I spent 13 semi-blissful years going to high school, then college, eventually moving myself up to Tuolumne County, where I met my wonderful wife Rita. We were married in 1988 on Presidents Day weekend in bucolic Sonora, CA. Rita’s job with the construction company then took us to Rhode Island, where she was an engineer on the new Jamestown Bridge construction. I thought New England would be akin to a Walt Whitman poem. Unfortunately, the state was pretty much paved from one end to the other. I waited until May for spring to come, being used to the trees getting their leaves by March. I pleaded with my Dad to get Rita a job with Caltrans so I could come back to my beloved California. After twenty minutes on the phone with Sacramento, she had that job, in charge of construction on the east end of the new I-105 freeway in, you guessed it, Los Angeles County!

By happenstance we settled in the far eastern reaches of the County, in Lakewood, in a condo where you could literally walk out your front door, take twenty steps, and be in Orange County. Rita’s office was in Cerritos, a former dairy city that is in LA County but seems to acts like it is in Orange County. Lakewood turned out to be a good choice in the beginning. By 1990 we had purchased one of the cookie-cutter houses using my overtime pay, and moved in. Houses in this part of Lakewood are separated by a scant 15 feet. Privacy is not part of the bargain.  

In Rhode Island I couldn’t land any kind of a real job. After we moved to LA, thanks to some good friends, I was employed in the entertainment industry, where I stayed for the next 15 years. I was planning on living in So Cal for 3-4 years, and, assuming Rita could get a promotion or a transfer, move back up to around the Sacramento area. Fate intervened. Twenty-six years later, here we are, still in Lakewood.

Don’t get me wrong, Lakewood isn’t a bad place, it’s just not where I would choose to live the rest of my life. Conveniences abound, but as we know, conveniences come with a price. Living three minutes from an In-N-Out Burger has certainly had consequences.

In our little house, nestled next to the San Gabriel River (paved) under the buzzing high tension wires, things started out great. Our new neighbors threw a pizza “block party” for us when we moved in, we all quickly got to know each other, and everyone on the cul-de-sac had had started a young family. When new people moved in they came over and introduced themselves. The city hosted Rita’s Girl Scout troop for a decade, and there was a real sense of community here. Now most of the kids have grown up and moved out. There are neighbors that have lived in close proximity to us for upwards of ten years that I have never spoken a word to. New neighbors tend to be inconsiderate; they have loud parties well into the wee hours. New people don’t seem to have a sense of place or a sense of community, but they sure have a sense of entitlement. This place is for the young, and we aren’t that any more.

With two precious, precocious and driven daughters to raise, the best course was to stay put until they were both out of high school. Why move when your kids can attend the best public high school in the state? This required us to endure the changes our formerly quiet little community has gone through.  Used to be you could just hear taps at sunset, on the bugle, soft and mournful when the flag was being lowered down the street at the Long Beach Naval Hospital. That property is now a shopping mega-center, with a 26 theater multi-plex and thousands of cars going in and out daily. Sheriff helicopters are constantly circling the freeway across from us in Hawaiian Gardens, and every other car turning the corner next to our house is blasting its stereo at or near the pain threshold all hours’ day or night. Unsavory looking persons in dark hooded sweatshirts can be seen meandering up and down the cul-de-sac like the boogie man from stories. The freeway roars 24 hours a day. The 605 (yes I will always say “THE” before freeway numbers) used to get quiet at night, now it isn’t even quiet on Christmas morning. Sirens blare at regular intervals like we live in Midtown Manhattan.

All this came to be too much for me, and I told Rita I wanted to move back to the Gold Country in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and she graciously went along with it. Lucky for me. Granted, the grass is always greener on the other side, and every place has its problems, but hope springs eternal that the life we make for ourselves in Amador County will be somehow simpler, and a tad quieter. It damn sure will after I install the double-pane windows in the new house.  So long Lakewood, and thanks, you were good to us.

For the most part I am looking forward to closing the Big Iron Gate at our driveway and retiring. The world going by outside can just get on with it, without any interference from me. Thanks to Rita I now have my very own Pacific Electric Wig-Wag signal I can activate whenever I want. Now if I could just get time-traveling Helms Bakery trucks to stop out front every Thursday evening at dusk. - Chris

Magnetic Flagman Co. Wig Wag signal.