Tahoe folks get blue: Grass and angels
October 10, 2006
With truly liberating Grasshopper Soup-style spontaneity, I ignited the fuel in the internal combustion engine of my light and swift 84 Subaru wagon and, with the rpms whining at 4,000-plus, I soared in third gear over the summit of the sprawling Sierra Nevada, bound once again for points west.I caught up with Gail Penny of Tahoe City and her daughter, Emily Ashbaugh, in Dixon Saturday night. We were part of a major exodus of North Tahoe people swarming out of the mountains for one of the biggest weekends of the year in San Francisco.On Sunday morning, which was crystal clear, we eased on in over the Golden Gate Bridge, tourist-like. Not only was it Fleet Week, but also, in Golden Gate Park, the final day of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival was kicking into high gear. That was our destination. Emily, who is 13, was not exactly chomping at the bit to hear bluegrass music. But I was in hog heaven, ready for the hoedown.It was as hot as the devils fiddle in Golden Gate Park Sunday. Five different stages were spread out over Speedway Meadows. There were probably more than 100,000 people there, baking in the West Coast sunshine and taking in the intoxicating sounds of the best bluegrass musicians in the country. Hot Tuna and Emmy Lou Harris were there. I dropped in on Ramblin Jack Elliotts witty world of story and song and heard most of Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek. She and her band are right up there with the best, and getting better and better every year. What a solid voice that woman has.Celebrating Fleet Week, four of the Blue Angel jets flew in low over the park in perfect formation, totally silencing Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder most likely the best, and loudest, bluegrass musicians in the world today. They can play as fast as those jets can fly.Meanwhile, a little further down the coast, Julia Levy, Nicole Ramm, Kayla Leininger, Molly McDermott and Carly McCready of the North Tahoe High girls cross country team were in Pacific Grove staying at my brother Davids house. Some Tahoe City families had hosted my niece Julias team earlier in the year, and so it was payback time. After a big spaghetti feed, a homecoming football game, and bagels in the morning, it was off to the races. Im still waiting to hear who won.My brother Dave and sister-in-law Jan then joined us for the music festival. Their friend Grahams Subaru Outback was stolen right off the streets of San Francisco outside their motel.We left the bluegrass festival after Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder. As we were walking back to the car, one of the Blue Angel jets exploded in a straight-up maneuver, stopping us dead in our tracks with a terrible sound. It looped up and around, came down fast, pivoted 180 degrees, then disappeared behind the buildings, still pointing straight down. I stood there looking at an empty sky, waiting for the crash and smoke. Apparently, the plane was out over the bay and had plenty of room to pull out of the dive. All I could do was stand there high in the hills of San Francisco, trying to plumb the unbelievable dimensions of that little corner of the earth, puny in my limited human perspective.Heading north back over the Golden Gate, I counted 500 sailboats in San Francisco Bay, maybe saw a thousand. The tide was going out. We set a course back to Dixon for the night.Monday morning the bright orange sun oozed up out of the mountains, then popped up and sat above them. At 75 mph, I was one of the slow cars. The valley floor disappeared behind me and I had a nice running start for the long climb back over the Sierra. I was in a hurry to get home and put my Bluegrass Rules bumper sticker on my little jet.Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 25 years.