Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
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Maui, Hawaii.  Photo by Doug Hoover.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 09/2010

It’s no secret that District 7 staff is innovative and creative in their transportation work for the State of California. But, how do they recreate?

[Click on photos to read captions.]

With 16 consecutive months of furloughs behind us, Inside Seven asked some employees how they vacationed this summer. Thinking that ‘staycations’ (a stay-at-home vacation) may have been popular this year, we talked to six people who thought otherwise. Here is a peek at their summer adventures.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Oh, Canada
By Ron Kosinski, Deputy District Director, Environmental Planning

During almost the entire month of July, my wife and I took a road trip to one of our favorite places, the Canadian Rockies. We traveled up the California coast to Astoria, Oregon. We turned east, following Lewis and Clark's historic route up the Columbia River where we experienced American history, waterfalls, huge dams, and river recreation. We spent time in the Palouse, which I had never visited before. It is a marvelous old farmland area in eastern Washington filled with artistic barns, rolling fields of grain (mixed with stunning wildflowers) and sudden cliffs with spectacular views. The hidden oasis of Palouse Falls is well worth the extra drive. We rolled through the timeless and well-kept towns of Lewiston, Moscow and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and others to cross into Canada.

Our northernmost destination was Mt. Robson. It is spectacular with a hiking trail that you will never forget. The Icefields Parkway goes from Jasper to Banff with hanging glaciers, endless lakes, breathtaking rivers, and elegant Lake Louise. Canada has first-rate wildlife crossings. There were plenty of elk (including one with a 16-point rack), deer, big horn sheep that you could almost touch, wild goats and bears -- one with two cubs! We even saw a badger, which is usually nocturnal. We returned to the old USA via Glacier National Park where the road is cut into the mountainside so waterfalls flow onto the car roof! We stayed with an old Army buddy of mine on his 1,500-acre hay ranch near Dillon, Montana --- and no, I didn't herd cattle ---this time.


Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands
by Mike Dean, Senior Transportation Surveyor, Design Division/Surveys

I discovered that Europe is really old. In fact, during our 18-day driving trip through parts of the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands, my wife Margaret, daughter Julia, and I frequently found perfectly good Roman ruins just lying around. I like 1,700-year-old stuff because my 46th birthday was harder than usual this year. This road trip encouraged camaraderie between young and old; Julia managed the GPS while I drove the wrong way up the Einbahn Strasse, a one-way street.

My middle-aged knee hardly bothered me on the cobblestone streets of Middle Age cities lined with great people and great food. My Texas-fried heart glowed when I realized that German schnitzel is basically chicken-fried steak. Fancy French restaurants call pizza “tarte flambe.”

Finally, my Caltrans friends might like to know that in Europe, Holland has the most artistic soundwalls. The Netherlands builds freeways to ultimate width with a 20-year foresight and gives bicyclists full reign in downtown Amsterdam, but they always ring their little bell politely first before running you over. Germany has the smoothest asphalt, and seniors can drive 200 k.p.h. (124 mph), but the USA has the best traffic signing and signals!

 

Maui and Aruba
By Doug Hoover, Senior Right of Way Agent

Doug rightly knows his way out of town. He uses and enjoys all of his available vacation time earned annually and during the past 22 years of employment. With six weeks of annual timeshare ownership, he vacations for two weeks at three of his favorite locations where he has a timeshare condominium: Maui, Hawaii, and the Mexican Riviera resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. This year, however, he added Aruba, the island off the coast of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea.

“Aruba is a different sort of tropical island than Hawaii. The air is dry and arid and there is a lot of cactus,” he said. “The coastline and its beaches are really beautiful.”

In Hawaii, from an ocean view condo on Maui - only 50 feet from the beach - he has views of Lanai on the left and Molokai on the right.

“I only think about transportation when I’m watching the whales migrate through the Pacific Ocean channels,” said Doug. “Or wondering if I should take another road trip on the 52-mile long Hana Highway, known as “The Road to Hana,” to splendor in its botanical gardens, waterfalls, lush valleys and plantations.”

Aloha and Mahalo!


Yosemite National Park
By Arturo Salazar, Office of Design B; Myrna Dominguez, Office of Design B; Marco Ruano, Chief, Freeway Operations; and Christina Ruano, Legal.

This was a week-long, multi-family summer vacation trip to Yosemite National Park from late June through the 4th of July weekend.

It was an awesome week of exploring and enjoying nature. The Merced River and the many falls were at their highest runoff levels in 20 years, so we had many spectacular nature scenes to admire. The meadows were lush green, the wildflowers were in full bloom, and the river was sparkling clear.

The group stayed in Yosemite Valley's Housekeeping Camping and hiked to Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. We also did some cycling, horseback riding and river rafting, and every night we had a group campfire where our families played games, enjoyed s'mores and shared stories.

We all experienced the beautiful Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfalls in North America and fifth highest in the world. We marveled at the clear, blue and pristine Tuolumne River and Lembert Dome at Tuolumne Meadows amid snow-capped mountains in the Yosemite high country. We donned rain ponchos along the wet Mist Trail. Arturo and Margaret had a successful hike to Wapama Falls at Hetch Hetchy and enjoyed the cool mist at after a 2.5-mile hike. Myrna, Amber and Marco embarked on a fateful rafting trip down the Merced River and the kids went horseback riding in Yosemite Valley.

Wish you were there!

Family Reunion in Casper, Wyoming
By Jayne Crowder, Associate Governmental Program Analyst, Public Affairs

My best friend, whom I call Mr. Noel, and I began a two-day road trip to Casper on the Antelope Valley Highway (State Route 14) to Bishop and then through Nevada. On the way, we stopped at a silver mine in Tonopah, visited local museums and met some warmhearted citizens. In Ely, we toured a train depot with a fully functional steam engine and an early diesel engine that gives one-hour rides.

Thirty-two family members arrived in Wyoming from California and New Mexico. Casper was full of rain, sunshine and rainbows. My cousin Phyllis cooked at least six dishes from over 100-year-old family recipes. The food brought back marvelous memories of my grandmother who used to make some of those dishes when I was 5 years old.

We looked at old family photos and one of them pictured four children with a horse. The writing on the back of the photo only identified the horse as Daisy. We laughed for hours about that and we never figured out who the kids were.

At least three times during the afternoon in Casper’s Mike Sedar Park, antelope leapt over the fence, grazed and hopped back over. We all had fun with eating contests, playing bocce ball, ladder ball, six-handed rummy, and dunking the kids in a tank. I love the game of ladder ball – it’s an outdoor ball-toss game also known as “redneck golf.” I’m quite good at it, too, and my partner, Mr. Martinez, and I were the champions.

It was a wonderful trip; I had a great time.

Cambodia and Vietnam
By Aline Antaramian, Interim Deputy District Director, Design

When Aline says she loves to travel, she means it. She takes in all that each culture has to offer – it’s people, customs, culture, art and religion. The list of countries where she has visited include: India, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. In July, she and her 14-year old daughter, Ani, toured five days in Cambodia and 10 days in Vietnam.

Her stories take you there. She was moved by so many places in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Phenh: The Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda with the Emerald Buddha, and the Cambodian Museum of Genocide. They experienced one of the “7 Wonders of the World” at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where there are many 10th century Hindu and Buddist Temples. Aline’s favorite is the Angkor Thom, where there are 141 smiling faces of Buddah all over this temple.

In a floating village on the Tonle Sap, one of Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lakes, every home (hut), school and market floats independently. The lake connects to the Mekong River, where its source is the Himalayan Mountains.
“We saw a mother with her infant, who had a snake wrapped around him,” she said. “This is their way to attract tourists and to solicit tips and donations.”

The same was true at Spider Village, where locals display tarantulas all over their bodies. They extract the spider’s fangs, fry them and eat them.

“When we arrived at Spider Village and saw this display, my daughter ran back toward the bus in fright and I ran towards the people and the tarantulas in its excitement!, said Aline.

The journey into Vietnam began in Saigon, where they saw remnants of the Vietnam War including the Cu Chi Tunnels, a three-level, 250 mile intricate tunnel system from Cambodia to Vietnam, built in the 1940’s during the French occupation.

In the capital city of Hanoi, Aline and Ani toured the Hanoi Hilton, formerly a prison and now a museum where photos of many imprisoned American soldiers are displayed.

“We enjoyed the beautiful beach towns in central Vietnam at Hoi An and Da Nang and the best, exotic fruits that I’ve ever seen,” said Aline. “Fruit unlike I’ve ever known. Simply out of this world!”

 

Our thanks to these people for sharing their personal summer vacation adventures and photos. Time away from work keeps people refreshed, informed, in touch with other people, places and things locally and around the world. This helps to keep District 7 innovative, creative and full of fresh, new ideas in transportation.


 

Canada:  Ron Kosinski at Mount Edith Cavell and Glacier, Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.  Three avalanches occurred while Ron was there! Prague:  A reflection of Mike Dean, with his wife Margaret and daughter Julia, on the balcony of their beautiful apartment building in Prague. The photo is reflecting off a modern glass building from across the street.

Yosemite National Park:  Hiking up the steep Mist Trail on the way to Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park.

Maui:  Doug Hoover in the lush gardens on Hana Highway.