Tuesday, December 28, 2021



In the beginning it was all black and white.

~ Maureen O’Hara



Click on any picture to expand 'em all.  (Some might be deemed worth the effort.)

Mid-winter ride on the beloved Enrico, the Yamaha, little knowing his days would be numbered.


Nothing like an old barn and a good cloudscape…


…even a cloudscape close to home, to capture some emotion.


Springtime and mustard cover crop in the vineyards of the Napa Valley.


This bell seemed a little Hitchcockian…


…as did this tilting silo.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps it's because this is near Bodega...



I read that prior to the advent of color TV, 

most people dreamed in black and white.

~ Damian Loeb


Revisited some long-ago haunts…


… and some places we’d like to haunt again.


Perfunctory derelict tractor image.


Perfunctory wildflower image.


Perfunctory love note from Dad to Mom circa 1948.


Edward visits the trestle…


…on one of our many coastal sojourns where we see…




…beach bums…


…light houses…


…and smoke-choked sunsets.


Enrico’s replacement is an Italian varietal I’ve named Mariolanza, the Moto Guzzi.



A melancholy trip to Simpson Camp…


…scorched by the year-ago’s Mendocino Complex…


…leaving little but memories.


I wanted to be Amish when I was a kid. 

You just wear black and white - what could be better? 

One less thing to worry about. 

~ Anderson Cooper


Autumn leaves…


…a tune from Tony Bennett…


…a watchful guardian…


…a perfunctory old truck picture…


…and snow dusts the nearby Mayacamas for Christmas.



Shots of the year (as judged by me):  Third runner up ~ steel bridge over Butte Creek.


Second runner up: Damn! That’s a beautiful bike!


First runner up: Reflections in a walking path puddle.


Shot of the Year:  Live steam!


If everything isn’t black and white, I say, “Why the hell not?”

~ John Wayne


© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press


Monday, December 20, 2021




Consider this early encounter at Rick’s Café Americain


Ilsa            I wasn’t sure you were the same. Let’s see, the last time we met…

Rick          It was “La Belle Aurore.”

Ilsa           How nice. You remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into town.

Rick          Not an easy day to forget.

Ilsa           No.


Rick          I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Ilsa           Yes. I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I’ll wear it. again.




A long-held view of the Church of the Open Road is simply this: Many things in life can be related to one scene or another from the film Casablanca.  


In keeping with this belief, the “church” not offering a misty-eyed holiday tale or recapitulation of the family year in review.  Rather, this year, we submit simply the hope that in our country, one day soon, the seeds of representative democracy will again be nourished to grow and bear their luscious fruit; that our great experiment in self-governance will revive itself and again flourish; and that Ilsa Lund will feel compelled, once again, to wear that blue dress. 


Only together can we ensure that this will indeed happen as time goes by


© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, October 25, 2021


The rule is this:  Never name a stray because once you give a stray a name, it’s no longer a stray.  It is yours.


It had been three days of rain, and, on this Sunday, a phenomenon known as an atmospheric river had aimed itself directly over Cloverdale.  Still, amid 72-hours in the house, we had to get Edward, the lab-mix – himself, years ago, a nameless stray puppy – out for a walk through our drenched neighborhood.  We’d make a short loop down the street, across a bridge and then up a paved path tracing the bank of a swollen creek.  Travelling that path, I’m not sure who noticed it first, Candi, or Edward.  But huddled next to a post on the split-rail fence lay a small cat – not a kitten – but not very big.  Cats, worldly ones, at least, flee whenever Edward crosses the horizon not knowing he’s on leash.  This cute little guy, white with tan and gray splotches, just lay under the fence, eyes following Edward’s moves.

         Something wasn’t right.

         Candi held Edward close while I approached.  At about six feet distant, the cat had had enough.  He leapt to his feet, and, after only two strides, fell on his side.  As I gingerly moved forward, he didn’t attempt to run.  He couldn’t.  Rather he hissed, bared his pin-like teeth and uttered guttural feline profanities at me.  I chose not to touch.

         A decision had to be made and Candi made it.  “Take Edward home, get a towel and a box and come back in the car.  I’ll stay here with the umbrella.”

         Upon my return Candi stood with the umbrella, but nowhere near the cat.  He’d probably exchanged words with her.  Unfolding the towel, I danced it in front of him, eliciting more kitty-cussing, then moved the terrycloth behind the split-rail where I felt I could safely sneak up on and enfold the feline without losing skin or blood.  Success.  Hissing and spitting and uttering his disdain, wrapped in the towel with pupils as big as ripe, black olives, he reposed in the box at Candi’s feet, teeth angrily clinching the towel, as we brought him home.


Now we had a cat, and we didn’t need a cat.  We posted his picture on local social media and searched for a vet or an animal rescue.  Animal rescue turned out to be animal control.  Given the rainfall, officers from this outfit were flush with rescues and orphans and injuries.  “It may be a couple of hours,” we were told.  We placed him in his box in the tiled shower stall and loosened the damp towel that encased him, figuring that if he warms up and calms down, he may want to wiggle out of the towel.  

         Social media response was almost instantaneous.  Respondent after respondent said, “Aren’t you wonderful…” or “I hope you find his Mom and Dad.”  One neighbor from a few blocks over knocked on the door having lost her kitty earlier in the morning.  This guy wasn’t hers.

         Cat cloistered in the bathroom, Candi and I kept watch. He never released his toothy grip on the towel and though his pupils diminished his eyes seemed pinned open.  Was he dead?  I blew gently across his face and his eyelids closed and reopened.  My fingers found the back of his head and rubbed his damp coat.  Tiptoeing them down to his shoulder I found the little guy had nothing between his skin and his skeleton.  His eyes looked at mine and he wasn’t cursing me anymore, so this, I thought, was progress.  I loosened the towel a bit more and fetched a tiny saucer of half-n-half, touching a droplet of it to his nose.

         Twenty minutes later, I came back to check.  He’d pushed himself a few inches further out of the box, but his mouth still clamped the terrycloth.  Rubbing down his spindly back a bit further, it was clear he didn’t like it, so I put another drop of milk on his nose and left.

         The little cat had been injured.  Perhaps he’d been hit by a car or fell out of a tree during a wind gust.  No signs of open wounds, but unable to ambulate, he was soaked and angry as… well… a wet cat.    Plus, it was clear he was both starving and not in the mood to eat – at least not what we were offering.

         Every fifteen to twenty minutes, one of us would peek into the bathroom to check on his welfare and offer the warm touch of another mammal.  On one visit, as I cracked open the door, I blurted out, “Hey there, Mr. Buttons.”  I don’t know what prompted me or where it came from.  But I was aware of the consequence.  That visit ended with the ringing of the doorbell.



The animal control officer was a big kind man dressed in a green uniform and girdled with a heavy service belt. He said he smelled “like about eleven different dogs,” as Edward sniffed his pantlegs.  We led the officer through the house to the bathroom.  Entering, I said, “Hey there, Mr. Buttons.  Help is here.”  I caught Candi’s quizzical, sideways glance.  Didn’t I know the rule?

         The big man bent down and lifted the little cat swaddled in the damp towel.  Mr. Buttons lay entirely limp.  “I think he may have passed,” the officer said, but then the cat responded somehow to something.  Now, with even more care, he cradled the kitty, checked for an ID chip – there would be none – and placed him in a carrier. 

         “What do you think?” we asked.

         “My job is just to take ‘em to the vet and they’ll decide.”  I watched from the window as he loaded Mr. Buttons into a compartment and sat in his truck, getting directions to his next rescue.  



No words were expressed.  None were needed.  Injury, shock, hunger and wet were more than the totality of his nine lives could handle.  For closure, I reported this on neighborhood social media, eliciting from someone: “You did your best.  You know there are plenty of cats at the shelter.”

         My curt reply: “We don’t need a cat.”

         I thought about this through the rainy mid-afternoon and into the evening ultimately realizing that while my comment may have been true, perhaps, in this case, Mr. Buttons simply needed us.  

         If only for his final hours.


© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, September 27, 2021



Downsizing and Upgrading – all at the same time


As a kid, I was enamored with sports cars: Triumphs, Alfas, MGs.  Particularly MGs: First the TD, then the A, then the B.  I could never afford any of ‘em, but a Midget bearing a price tag of 1200 bucks once was sitting on a used car lot, and I snaked my lanky 6’4” body into it.  It nearly took the Jaws of Life to pry me out.  The same could be said of motorcycles. With a 34” inseam, there have been many two-wheelers that were physically too small for me.  Not that I didn’t own a few: my Honda Trail 90s, a CL360, and my first BMW, an R65.  Mostly, I’ve found myself on tall or long scoots: comfortable because of their spaciousness, but in some cases, a bit ponderous to maneuver.  Each was sold or traded to make room for the new best thing.  The latest victim of such a transition would be my Yamaha Super Tenere, a machine that could do absolutely everything I wanted and one that will surely be added to the lengthening list of “ones I let get away.”


Since owning my first Moto Guzzi – and ’07 Breva – I’ve simply been smitten by the marque.  The mojo.  The character of the V-twin.  The Italian flair.  The company history that tells us every Guzzi ever built over the past 100 years has come out of the same factory on the shores of Lake Como.  So along comes the 2021 model year V7 Special with a bit more juice and a Centenario applique, and I’m hooked.  Fearful that the small architecture would remind me of squeezing into that ’67 Midget, a generous test ride abated those concerns.  Now I’ve had the Special for a month.  And the thing has proven delightful.


 As I aged – note I didn’t say ‘matured’ – I’ve found myself less oriented toward multi-day adventures and more eager for an hour or two exploring local roads.  I’ve also found that wielding a 700-pound motorcycle out of the garage or around a parking lot had become less inviting than hopping in the Subaru for an errand to the store.  Damn! I don’t like getting old!


But the V7 weighs in at 492 and the principal question has evolved from “Do I want to ride this today?” to “Can I please ride this today?”  And I find myself wanting to get on the thing every day.  Thus far, the only drawback has been that a 20-minute ride to clear my head ends up lasting an hour-and-a-half.  I'd get lost somewhere...


 A couple of minor deficits:  Sonoma County, California may be one of the wealthier counties in the state.  (Don’t ask me how we ended up here.)  Our area boasts rolling vineyards, towering redwoods, ocean bluffs and winding roads that connect all of ‘em.  It is a paradise for those who enjoy motoring on two wheels.  A minor annoyance might be that the condition of our roads is sometimes wanting.  Better pavement exists in nearby Marin, Mendocino, and Napa.  (But we make better wine.)  That said, while the Yamaha and the BMWs I’ve owned have done an admirable job of soaking up the worst of the bumps, the V7 Special prompts me to be a bit more cognizant of those road warts.  It’s a small adjustment.


Similarly, and I knew this when I paid the admission ticket, the cockpit of the V7 is a bit tight for a guy of my size.  Neighbors say I dwarf the thing.  But the seat is spacious and comfy.  A recent loop out to the coast could have been truncated at many points along the route, but I easily kept going, covering 170 lovely miles, never feeling uncomfortable in the luxurious brown leather saddle.  I did find myself dismounting rather frequently, but these breaks were brought about by the coastal scenery, not any form of monkey-butt.  And when the final leg took 75 minutes, they were 75 minutes of bliss. I de-saddled thinking that by strapping a duffel bag on the back, an over-nighter might still be in the cards.


 Among the strengths:  This thing is light (to me) and handles like a feather gently dancing on the wind.  A twist of the throttle powers over hills and the whole package – frame, saddle, suspension – seems eager to dive onto the next set of curves.  The tires nicely grip the tarmac no matter the tarmac condition and I’ve yet to overtax the brakes.  (I make it a practice to never overtax the brakes.)  All of my previous mounts have had a degree of wind protection.  This bike is naked.  It took perhaps fifteen minutes on the rural road between the showroom and home for me to appreciate the non-wind-protectedness of things.  Brought to mind pleasant memories of the Honda CL 360 upon which I commuted through the foothills from Paradise CA to Durham to my first teaching gig.  Simple and refreshing.


Also, a factor an old guy such as myself appreciates is the simplicity of the few electronic gizmos.  Upon delivery, my Guzzi’s Owner’s Manual somehow got left at the shop.  Scrolling through the mode functions, I was easily able to set the clock and reset the trip meter.  With manual in hand, it proved simple to access and adjust the traction control which may be superfluous on a mild-mannered ride such as this one.


In blue, the thing is a visual stunner.  (It’s visually stunning in gray, also.) On each of the three longer rides, I’ve been hailed by someone in the parking lot and regaled with either admiration or a story.  Aurally, it also sings.  The tenor exhaust note is unobtrusive in the neighborhood, but more than once, someone walking by has asked me to fire it up so they can hear it.  



Looking at 70, I’m not sure what my last motorcycle will be.  Up until a couple of months ago, I thought it would be the Yamaha.  For now, a future on the V7 Special seems just about perfect.  And if it turns out to be the last bike I own, I’m thinking I can say I rode to that far horizon on something strikingly pretty, something loaded with character and history and mojo.  Sort of like that MG-TD, A or B (or Alfa Spyder) that never made it into my fold.


© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press



Friday, September 3, 2021

Well, It’s Happened Again

I return to the fold


About every four or five years I get the itch.  I’m astride a perfectly good motorcycle – in this case, a flawless Yamaha Super Tenere (which I’d named Enrico) – when someone pushes out the next gotta-have – in this case, Moto Guzzi’s revised 2021 V-7.  Classic lines.  Throw-back style.  A bit more power than last year.  Italian mojo.  (Enrico has a whole lot going for him, but mojo isn’t very high on the list.)  Driving by our semi-local Guzzi dealer – making sure not to have gear with me so I can’t test ride, because I know what always happens when I test ride something – a beautiful gray V-7 Special sits gleaming in the western sun.  “If only it was blue,” I think.


Six weeks later, I swing by again, hoping beyond hope that there won’t be a blue one there, but alas…


…now one sits in my garage.  (Regarding Enrico, the shop in Windsor made me an offer I could not refuse.)



I’d purchased a lightly used 2007 B1100 Breva several years back, rode it for well over 10,000 miles and from the day I traded it in, regretted not having a Guzzi in the garage.



My taste in motorcycles has ebbed and flowed over the past 50 years.  A BMW RT was a great mile-muncher and my KLR introduced me to a family of black bears crossing a fire road.  The GSA was a wonderful all-purpose machine that carried me 600+ miles a day on several occasions.  And Enrico ran like a clock.  But the Breva had a degree of character none of the others seemed to offer.  And as I found myself less comfortable throwing my leg over the high seat of the Yamaha and more at home in the passenger seat of the Subaru for touring with my wife, something a bit smaller seemed in order. 


The test ride of the V-7 transported me back to my first real bike – an ’82 BMW R65 – simple, light, agile, and straight forward without a lot of things that you could adjust but that I never adjusted. 



Today, three days into ownership, I decided to shake things out on a familiar route.


The first photo-op came in the Dry Creek Valley where harvest was just beginning.


Next, I paused at a picturesque red barn that has been the backdrop for first photos of former bikes.



In my twisted world, a new motorbike isn’t truly christened until it has carried me on sweeping curves through the redwoods along the Russian River to the Cape Fear Café in Duncan’s Mills.  And that’s where it’s happened again happened again.


I’m setting the Special (now named Mariolanza for the way the exhaust note sings) on the side stand when a large man taking big striding steps crosses the parking lot.  Uh-oh, I’m thinking, What’d I do to this guy?  Then he calls me ‘brother.’  He tells me of his newly purchased V-85 TT Touring and the good trade-in he received on his Griso, all of which was interesting, because it always is.  I say always because I remember parking that Breva and, nine times out of ten, being approached by some someone who either once owned a Guzzi, now owns a Guzzi, or would like to own a Guzzi.  They always have a story to tell.  The conversation always starts with “Beautiful bike, man!”



And my V7 Special is.  Fluid.  Lovely.  Italian.  And lovely.  ‘Mariolanza’ reminds me so many grand yesteryears and begs me to ride so many tomorrows.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the community.


Notes:  Purchased the V-7 at Sonoma Euro-Cycle in Windsor, Ca and felt I was treated professionally, fairly and with good doses of humor and motorcycle tales: https://rideeurocycle.com


Stop by the Cape Fear Café for breakfast or lunch.  I believe their home fries may be the sole reason God created the potato: http://www.capefearcafe.net


© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press