As I was toiling away on my “snow shed” project, I glanced down to see Franz and his buddy Kirk pull into the driveway. The timing couldn’t have better as I was ready to take a break from my “office”. Franz was at his culinary best coming up with a delectable dish of sauteed salmon and zuchini as we dined alfresco on the second floor deck while watching the pedestrian traffic below (a lot of walking the dog). We had a spirited conversation revolving around Kirk’s real estate business, Franz’s venture capital interests, our grand time at “Hot August Nights”, and, not least of all, my new job. I invited the two into my office and flaunted my snow shed design concept and received rave reviews with the likes of, “What a great idea!” I had to say, “This is so cool, having the chance to design something on the road, as I like to say, ‘Have T-square, will travel'”. The three of us then recalled my makeshift offices (including the van) when I was designing the Helbig house in Santa Cruz back in 1988, ’89, and ’91. It had been a good reunion, so I felt kind of down when they had to leave for Truckee. After another serendipitous day, I reclined in the van bed, looking up at the stars, and asked myself, “Can it possibly get any better than this?”
The next morning, Franz dropped by for a quick farewell. I said, “You can’t leave here without cooking up one of your titillating breakfasts. There’s plenty of eggs and some cheese, too.” Ah ha, sure enough, he bought the bait and whipped up a scrumptious cheese omelet that we savored out on the deck table. Before leaving, Franz said, “This is a fine thing (designing the snow shed) you’re doing for the Botkins.” I replied, “It’s a simple trade-off. That’s all there is to it. I’m just thankful to have this opportunity. It’s like a dream come true, designing on the road.” We gave each other a big hug, and off he went back to Santa Cruz.
Now that I had work to do, I could see myself spending a good part of the week at Donner Lake. Too bad, huh? With all the pleasurable amenities around the area, it wasn’t difficult to engage in a Hedonistic lifestyle. I reserved the evenings to design work while enjoying numerous afternoon bicycle rides to the marina (with a folding chair strapped on the back) to relax under a cobalt blue sky, reading periodicals garnered from the Botkin’s coffee table and watching fishermen (and women) reel in the beautiful trout. However, there was more often than not one slight annoyance in the otherwise perfect afternoons – the raucous roar of the insipid jet skis plowing the lake. I had absolute condemnation for those inconsiderate thrill-seekers. I did my best to tune them out. There was one added pleasure in my Avalon, like icing on the cake, I was barely able to spot and hear the distant churning of the Union Pacific freights negotiating Donner Pass on the opposite side high above the lake.
By the time Thursday rolled around, I had completed a set of drawings to my satisfaction, including a plan, sections, and elevations along with all the recommended member sizes. It had been a real pleasure working in such commodious surroundings. I was finally able to decipher the TV code on how to view movie tapes such as Titanic and The Horse Whisperer. I made one last trip into Truckee to restock the Botkin’s kitchen with comestibles that I had helped myself to. The Safeway had to be the most helpful and friendly food store that I had ever encountered. When I asked a young lady who was stocking shelves where a hard-to-find item was, she didn’t just tell me, but instead took me by the arm and escorted me to the right location. I thanked her, saying, “You people are most helpful. I have a feeling this wasn’t just a one-time thing. I experienced a similar act of courtesy on a previous shopping spree earlier this week.” She simply said, “It’s our pleasure.”
On my way through the parking lot, I stopped to pet a couple of splendid Golden Retrievers sitting in the back of a pickup. It was quite obvious that the area was definitely “big dog” country (the dog-walkers on W. Tamarack verified that). It was a certainty one would not come across any puny poodles anywhere near this outdoorsy community. I stopped at Kinko’s to get a set of reproductions of the originals of my “snow shed” to leave with the Botkins. I purposely bought two frozen entrees (one for dinner, the other for breakfast) so as not to have to dig into my restocked foodstuffs. I watched a rerun of Titanic and then retired to Ol’ Blue.
It was time to change venues, to swap one paradise for another, which meant to head south to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. After a microwaved breakfast, I secured the house and hid the key under a redwood stump beneath the deck. Instead of taking the usual due south route on CA 89, then skirting around the lake on the north shore, I took a newly discovered CA 267 which ran diagonally over to the Nevada side. It turned out to be about ten miles shorter and I was also able to avoid the usually traffic-chocked highway through Tahoe City and other small towns. I soon merged with U.S. 50 and made a beeline to my favorite parking spot behind Harrah’s next to a grove of towering evergreens and a sward of Bermuda.
There was still a lot of daylight left, so I unhooked the bike and pedaled around Stateline taking in the sights. I was especially intrigued by the myriad of motels of all shapes and sizes with one in particular catching my eye – Tom’s Cottages, an assemble of free-standing cabins that harked back to the pre-TV days when people sat on the front porch conversing with their neighbors. Luckily, I found an elderly Tom and asked him, “How long have these beautiful cottages been here?” He replied, “I bought this property and put up these cottages back in 1946, thinking this area was ripe for more casinos and tourism. I can remember the block that Harvey’s sits on was once a meat market.” I thanked him for sharing his memories with me and hiked back to homebase.