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May 31, 2010

Gail’s birthday present to Russell was a plane ride with Kathy (center)

Russell’s 51st birthday was May 21. Unbeknownst to him, for several weeks Gail had been planning a surprise for him up at our mountain home property. She had gotten a lead on a local pilot who often took building inspectors and real estate agents up in her small plane to take aerial photographs. Gail had arranged for the pilot to take Russell up and see our mountain property from the air.

The original plan had been to surprise Russell on his birthday. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were not able to go up to the mountain that weekend. After two reschedules with the pilot, Gail finally broke down and told Russell about the surprise. We made arrangements for the entire family to go to the mountain on Memorial Day weekend. This would allow us to celebrate Gail’s birthday on May 31 as well.

After driving up on Friday afternoon, May 28, we met Kathy at the Calaveras County airport early Saturday morning. Despite her small two-seater plane, she was willing to take each of us up in the air, one at a time. Everyone except our son Joss took her up on the offer. It was exciting to see not only our property from the air, but the entire surrounding area in Calaveras County.

Kathy was able to take each of us up in the air one at a time in her tiny two-seater plane

Kathy said that passengers tend to have two comments, and we all agreed with them:

  1. There is a lot more wild and undeveloped terrain than there appears from the ground, yet
  2. There are a lot more houses tucked away in the mountains than there appears from the ground.

Our mountain home viewed from the north (the access road is like a backward “L” in the lower center);
Our mountain home viewed from the south (the previous owner had scraped the southern slope to mine flagstone)

After we said our goodbyes and returned to our mountain home, there were still two more days to continue construction. Gail’s project is to finish the interior walls. She enlisted the help of both our sons. Joss, who is limited by his back, taped various walls. Cameron helped Gail lift large sheets of drywall up to the downstairs ceiling to be installed.

Joss attaches drywall tape to the kitchen wall;
Gail and Cameron lift a sheet of drywall to the downstairs kitchen ceiling

Meanwhile, Russell – with his frozen shoulder – worked on an additional bit of framing on the downstairs ceiling. In order to hide some plumbing, he needed to install a box frame. Because he can only lift one arm, Russell relied on Cameron to do all of the manual labor.

Cameron (left) frames while Russell supervises

Before and after: a framed box hides exposed plumbing on the downstairs ceiling

In the end, we enjoyed a long weekend of both work and play. Looking ahead, we have several graduations coming up in the extended family, which will occupy our upcoming weekends. But the summer is just beginning…

The southern view from our mountain home. Russell bought a new camera for his birthday flight. One of the unique features of the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1 is that it can take automatic panoramic pictures!


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