Monday, June 21, 2010

Back on the Ranch - Surprises on the road

Sweeeet! Honey from Alamo Ranch

This weekend was the fourth edition of the Tri Deltas at Alamo Ranch in Santa Maria. Those of you who have read this blog for the past year, will remember that this is a weekend where my sorority sisters come from far and wide to just hang out, and enjoy each other.
The weekend has had different venues over the years, but it seems we have found one that is ideal. Alamo Ranch (Pam Sheline's uncle and aunt's property) is thousands of acres of pristine, California land, nestled in the Central Coast Mountains. Once you arrive here, there is no cell service, but there is everything else you could possibly want. It is so perfect a place to get away, I don't know if we will ever choose a different location. But whether or not we do, one thing is for sure these weekends will go on as long as we do.

Each of us have very busy lives and like many people we can sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle, neglecting to get together with good friends. But somehow over these years, we find our way to our get togethers like ships headed for a harbor. Following a beacon light through the fog until we are safely at rest. Then once we land... its party time.

Each year we set a theme. We wait for the announcement that comes as one of the fabulous invitations Pam Sheline has made. This year's theme was "South of the Border." Once the theme is set, the next task is assigning meal teams. Since we arrive on Thursday, there are three dinners, two bunches, three days of snack and one morning of leftovers. (We wouldn't want anyone to go hungry!) Rest assured no one ever does... nor is there a shortage of libations. No.... we pretty much throw away the calorie counter and caution to the wind.

I arrived on Thursday along with Patti, Pam S, Jill, Gretchen and Bonnie.We were joined on Friday by MB, Suzanne and Pam Riley making the total this year 9. We were missing some of our regulars, two off to Europe, another spending the weekend with her husband who has been away coaching baseball. I brought my camera but both of the batteries I had brought were dead as doornails. So my photos begin with Friday....

This year the trimming for our South of the Border weekend included all kinds of great decorations. There were flags and chili pepper lights, banners and pinatas, maracas and prancing bulls.

The food ran the gambit of Mexican cuisine. Lots of chips and salsas, some amazing enchiladas and casseroles of rice, and cheese and "mystery" ingredients.

The poolside snacks, the Artichoke Frittata, the churros, beans dips and salads and and and.....

The weather was pretty perfect. The first year we were at the Ranch we saw temperatures over 110! This year it was warm in the sun and warm in the pool. It was great to come back after my walk to the road (to and from - 8 miles) and jump into the pool. With all that eating and drinking, the one compensating factor is the walking/hiking we do.

Then Pam arrived with the ingredients for our Saturday dinner pre-dinner cocktail. Even I was intimidated !!

The evenings after dinner we sit around and talk.
We talk about everything, but often the conversation is about our kids.
Lately we discuss who said what on FACEBOOK! Who's on it... What pictures we have seen that we wish we hadn't.... and that can lead to stories about college days.
My husband and his friends have started to number their old stories. I thought about that as I was recounting the story about when Glenn and I got together years ago. Now.... what number would that story be??? I am hoping that listening to each other's old stories never ever really gets old. I know I love hearing everyone's memories.....

Pam Riley is incredibly generous. She has given us all some pretty special gifts over the years. This year was no exception. She had beach towels made for us and embroidered with our names and Delta Delta Delta. Mine's Blue... other's were purple... Pam's was a sweet pink.

During the days, we explored the ranch. There is an article sitting on the bar in the house about the fossil of a dolphin being found in the canyon where the Ranch is located. I wondered about fossils as I walked to the road along sandstone cliffs. The stone is layered and reminded me of a hike I took as a 5th grader int he Santa Cruz Mountains where we found fossils in similar stone. I didn't other to try and look between rocks... I was walking. For the first part of Friday's walk Patti and Jill joined me. It felt a little like last year's 3 day! They turned back eager to sit poolside and catch up with everyone. I walked on to the road and joined them a hour later.

On Saturday's walk MB, Suzanne and I walked the other direction. It was new territory for us. The terrain had a good deal more trees, dry creeks, honeybees and roads that disappeared leaving us going cross country up a hill not traveled but by cattle.

But the weather was so perfect the extra exploring was welcome.

And of course along the way we chatted and learned more about what occupies our lives these days.

Even when your friends live in the same county, it seems we never have enough time.

It seems we are as busy as these bees....

But when we are together we discover marvelous things, both new and old.

We did discover some new things. Plants that I don't see on Northern California walks.

Friends running ....

Unique flora...

Even at your feet

Dry creek beds

Some more familiar plants

The abandoned road we first climbed followed what looked like cattle trails until we reached the top. I thought it called for a victory pose...

MB and Suzanne


Then we headed down.....
Looking carefully where we walked.

Pam's uncle Joe had described to us a road we should take, the road we were on was obviously not that road.... So we retraced our steps until we found what he was talking about.

It all started with the bees.... We went Right... we should have gone left.

And on this road... more to see.

See the bee???

Firey blooms...

Yellow flowers...

Oh... and a snake! This one was harmless except it did get the heart racing. MB was first to see it... Stretched across the road sunning itself.

Since it seemed harmless I took a closer look...
(I believe this is a gopher snake... I think we are safe)
And told MB to walk on by....

My Saturday walking friends.

Beautiful scenery - along this road.
Back at the ranch on Saturday it was my team's turn to cook. Since the theme was South of the Border, I decided to shake it up a bit and went "South of the Mason Dixon Line". A little factoid about Mason Dixon.... They were surveyors, thus, the line is a survey line that delineated North from South.

I wanted to cook a Southern dinner like my Mother used to make. After we got the meal assignment, I wrote to the team to ask them what they though. Pam and Suzanne thought the idea was great, so I put together a menu. Bonnie got to her emails a little later, but was enthusiastic also. It sounded to me like Bonnie must have some southerner in her family too, since we debated Collard versus Mustard Greens and the method for creamed gravy! After finsihing the dinner Shrimp Remoulade, Coleslaw (Pam and Suzanne), Collard Greens and Turnips (Bonnie), Corn Fritters and Chicken, followed by Ambosia Trifle (team effort) I decided if I do another Saturday dinner, BBQ is the way to go. Pam, Suzanne and I spend a lot of the evening cleaning up...

The next morning would be the day to leave.
It's hard to think about leaving such a peaceful place. Jill and Patti were going to go a quick walk before heading home so Suzanne and I joined them.

The butterfly followed me for awhile...

He may have been warning me about the rattler that sat coiled in the grass.
I had walked ahead of the group and as I walked I heard the rattle about 6 feet away from me. I turned and looked to see the snake posed to strike. I kept walking until I was a safe distance away and warned the other gals to swing wide about the area. That was a first for me.
My grandfather who was a bit of a kidder, told me when I was young that he and his brothers used to ride along the fence line in Texas and when they would come across a rattler they would pick it up by its tail and snap it like a whip and its head would come clean off.... I used to believe him...

Rattlesnakes are no joke though. Jill knew a fellow who died from one. Suzanne's brother was also bitten by one but survied after getting anti-venom. We talked about what to do in case fo a snake bite, all willing to cut open the wound and suck out the venom for each other until someone suggested that was an urban myth and we might die if we did that... so it was finally decided... that we stay away from rattlesnakes...

Now I am back home. The car has been unpacked. The clothes washed, my pictures loaded on the blog... and another year in the books for DDD Phi Rho.

I am left with gratitude and about 5 more pounds to lose... but a smile on my face. It won't have to be a whole year until I see some of these folks. Gretchen said she and her husband will be coming to Wine Wars! I'll see Jill again if not for a walk... for reunion planning. MB wants to do some training walks with me, and of course Patti and I will be walking and training all the way up and through the 3 day. How blessed am I?

I have friends who have known me through all kinds of times. From the days of shower raids and pledging, to the trials of cancer and treatment, from the moments of giddy joy on the sleeping porch, to the hours of floating on the Carmel River. We have seen it all together. What else will be in store for the girls fo DDD...

I guess we will just have to walk around that bend in the road.