Sunday, May 16, 2010

Toast and Ticks and toasts

Adventure at Mare Island

Yesterday Glenn sat at the kitchen table, deep in research, deep in the bowels of the Internet looking for a destination. I had a sneaking suspicion that he had one already in mind, especially when I looked over his shoulder to see information about Mare Island. When he announced later, "I thought we might go explore Mare Island", sleuth that I am, I wasn't surprised.

Mare Island used to be a Naval Station and shipyard and the first Ammunition Depot in the Pacific founded in 1857. I know that on his races to Vallejo Mare Island is one of those markers saying, you are almost there. Before the Island was decommissioned by the Navy in 1994, Glenn and other racers were regularly warned by bull horn to keep their distance. The tacking in sailing means, in a river, you wouldn't be staying close to the shore for long anyway. So after they would tack the guy would begin warning the next boat to keep away.

The City of Vallejo has plans to make a regional park out of the Island. Currently the Navy still owns 200 acres of the Island where they continue to "clean up" what they left behind. In 2002 the City of Vallejo received its first 100 acresfrom the Navy in 2002. The original Island was almost 300 acres but it was expanded by filling in the bay to make it more than 5000 acres. Now it is a combination of dilapidated buildings, warehouses, abandoned dry docks, Tourou University, a golf course, a new housing development and the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.

HERE are some pictures of our day .....

Before heading to the Island Glenn and I stopped in Novato to have a great breakfast at Toast. The place is huge compared to the original Toast in Mill Valley.

Driving onto the island we wandered over to the recycling plant at Alco. All around the plant there were buildings slowly crumbling becoming part of the Mare Island landfill.... Someone forgot to take this sofa with them when they left...
Further along there was this stately old building that had been uprooted and was sitting on jacks, just waiting for a new location. The neighborhood that was recently built on Mare Island by Lennar, attempts to put character in the design their homes. Their facades have details consistent with some of these older buildings, but you get the feeling, they just aren't the same.

Toward the southern end of the Island is the Mare Island Golf Club. It certainly looked like it was well used. Lots of people there taking a swing....

We left the club with a souvenir.

Tourou University is a Jewish University. I really don't know much about it. But that's what Google said ... so there.

I loved the grand design of this building. It looked like it must have been an administrative building in the heyday of the Island.

The front columns looked to be 50 feet least....

Two canons stand guard at the front of the building.

Here there were roses, someone is caring for.

We were blessed to have run across a woman with a twinkle in her eye, and passion in her blood for preserving the history of Mare Island, and making it accessible for people to enjoy.
Myrna Hayes explained to us the preserve she was diligently working on protecting was an effort now run by volunteers, funded by private donors for the most part. Today she was clearing scotch broom. The dog you see below was her beloved dog, who is not longer around. Today there was a earnest tail wagging water loving pooch who was exploring the area while Myrna worked.
Myrna allowed us to drive into the preserve and suggested we park at Point of interest we drove in.

There is a cemetery on Mare Island with graves dating back to the earliest of times 1858... The majority of markers we read were of sailors who died in the early 1900s. There are 3 Medal of Honorees buried here. Their graves marked with a small flag.

It's a peaceful lovely spot.

Many of the markers are falling into disrepair but you can read as you wander stones marked with simple names and US NAVY... some with simply Sailor US NAVY.
Some of the stones are propped up, held in place by a piece of wood. Restoration and preservation of this cemetery you would think mught be somehting our government would do, but its volunteers. On Memorial Day there will be one rose placed on each of the graves.

There are definitely people of note here. Not only the Medal of Honor receiptents, but the daughter of Francis Scott Key, sailors from Russia who volunteered to help fight the fires in SF after the earthquake. You just know, each of those gravestones represents a story.

Tremendous bravery should not be forgotten.

They are asking for volunteers who have expertise with roses as one of the long list of needs you will find on teh Preserve's website. The fences lining the cemetery are dotted with beautiful roses.

What we learn from the past helps to give us perspective now and wisdom in the future.

Once we parked the car, we took off on foot to explore this very interesting place. Here is a view up the Carquineas Straits.

Here's a sailboat heading up to Vallejo, and it isn't even the big weekend!

The Vallejo Ferry

Near the top there is a sculpture built in 1996 after the closure of the base. The sculpture replicates a hull of a boat and on it hands "dog tags" representing the ships that had been built here, or worked on here. The tags dance in the wind making a soft metallic background sound.

Throughout the preserve there are lovely little benches where you can sit and reflect.

Or take a self portrait.

Or a photo of your sweetie.

The ship

Glenn looking over to Vallejo and the old Naval shipyard at Mare.

Mt Tam in the distance. You can see seven countries from the top of Mare Island.

Two adventurers...

And off he goes.

Looking out to the north west.

Over to the East

The grass with foxtails and stickers find a way of getting a ride with you...

We wandered down to a pump station where an old reservoir sits stagnant.

What could possibily lie in the depths here?

A ha! We should have read the signs as we came into the preserve.
Rattlesnakes and TICKS!
I had a feeling in my stomach as we walked through the grass there could be a snake somewhere. I calmed my fears by noting that Glenn was walking through the grass ahead of me!

Old homes ... abandoned.

Along the waterfront, some of the warehouses are being used, including one that was full of PODS (those moving containers you see everwhere).

Here at dry dock the first aircraft carrier was built. I don't know if it was this particular dry dock there are several.

Glenn says there is a group of people who started an organization called "Save the sails". They are referring to the "sails" on submarines like this one.

This boat is a LCS (Landing Craft Support) also known as the "mighty midget". This is for its size the most heavily armed ship built per tonnage. There were several BIG guns and some ex-Navy people were busy restoring this one. Originally built in Portland, the ship served in the Pacific in 1945, then eventually given to the Thai Navy, who returned it to this groupl a couple of years ago.

Take aim at that car.


I have my sights on the blue sky.....

A volunteer showing Glenn something on the conning tower.


This original battle flag was discovered in the luggage of an old sailor who had put it away instead of destroying it by burning which is the protocal. The flag took a journey to the Smithsonian, before being returned to the ship. In the stars are written the battles that this ship participated in.

Since Mare Island is conveniently on the way to the wine country, Glenn and I finished our adventure by stopping at Gloria Ferrer for some sparkling wine. Ahhhh....

On the way home I noticed a tick on my fanny pack... this I flicked out the door of the car. I didn't suppose there would be others. But when we took a long soak in our tub, one floated to the top of the water, then another...and finally (I think) I pulled one out of my arm...
Now I will have to wait a few days to see if the sucker had Lyme's disease or not.
NOTE to all those going to Mare Island. Put on big repellant, and wear light colored clothes and CHECK for ticks..... They are there, and they do bite.

So now you see how toast can lead to ticks, can lead to toasts again....

Do you see the danger I face in training for the 3 day?!

Have you made your donation? If not to me at

Then here....