Thursday, January 17, 2019

“THE LONG HAUL” – A BOOK RECOMMENDATION

There but for the Grace of God… 

I pedaled LTL (less than load) freight during college and for my first few years in teaching.  A buddy hooked me up with a Northern California outfit and during a couple of ten-week stints in the summers, I made almost as much as I did in nine months of teaching.

Never driving line, I envied the independence and freedom of the guys who took to the open highway and, while putting the pedal to the metal, probably enjoyed the vast reaches of our great land.  So much so that during my first several months as a self-doubting classroom teacher, I thought a lot about trading my credential for a class 1 operator’s license and hitting the road with ‘em.  The romance of the open road stuck in me pretty good, so I considered the option again with my first self-doubting months as a school principal.  And again, as a district-level administrator.

Finn Murphy writes of his decades-long career hauling home furnishings across the nation.  Turns out that the furniture folks who drive for United and Allied and Bekins and North American find themselves in different league than those who drive for Werner or Schneider or Swift or Prime or Crete.  The freight guys essentially pick up a loaded 53-footer from a dock and go to the next dock, back ‘er in and clock out or wait for the next call from dispatch.  The furniture folks have to meet with the shipper (customer) analyze that which is to be moved, arrange casual (local labor) assistance, pack cartons, load the trailer like some sort of three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, get from point A to point B on time and without damage, unload, unpack and place everything.  It’s a days-long process with days-long-only relationships. The driver is an independent business person who deals directly with the customer – a customer who all too frequently looks down upon the individual with whom they place in trust the most valued of their possessions.  Odd, when you think about it.  

The furniture hauler can be shackled by weigh-station officials, many of whom are intent on exercising an outsized amount of authority; and disappointed by dispatchers who promise a lucrative load that doesn’t materialize after having dead-headed (driven empty) hundreds of miles to pick it up.  A week of driving for Allied is a lot more taxing than a week driving dock to dock.  But it pays a lot better.  Sometimes four to ten times as much.  Thus, the furniture guys are shunned by the freight guys wherever a good shunning can take place.

Murphy, a well-read, well-educated individual, turned his back on the conformity demanded by parents who sent him away to college. It seems he couldn’t shake the “romance” that came with his college-years summer job.  His story of unsuccessfully backing his trailer down a twisting drive, feathering the brakes down a seven-mile stretch of curving, icy roadway rather than chaining up, and of not being entirely sure the second story deck could support the weight of the grand piano and his two helpers makes for an entertaining read.  I was captivated by the wisdom of his insights about the people he’s met and his thoughts about what America both was and has become. 

I’m glad Finn Murphy drove truck and wrote about it.

And, looking back, I’m glad I didn’t.

See your local independent book seller.

o0o

“The Long Haul.” Subtitled: “A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road.”  Finn Murphy. WW Norton. 2017. $17.

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018: THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN ROAD’S YEAR IN REVIEW

Another year of travel and adventure…

Click on any picture and they'll all expand.


Sunshine, an old barn and dry pavement.  An upside of climate change might include that January 1stis a good day for a little ride.



Pigeon Point Light Station in silhouette.



Discovering the place where old Willys Jeeps are born again.



Sand dollar and its track across the beach.  Who knew?



Old Schoolhouse #1.



Study of a Lake County marsh.



Evidence of Bruce Wayne’s rather unceremonious demise.



Manzanar, again.  Lest we forget.



Return to Simpson Camp.  Will revisit with Mom in May 2019.



A full-to-the-brim Pinecrest.



All-too-frequent hillside scene #1.



The Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds.



View from Wallowa Peak.



All-too-frequent hillside scene #2.



Old Schoolhouse #2.  [Hells Bend School. “Gimme an H!  H! Gimme an E! E! ... ”]



The family adds a new member.



Budapest cathedral.



Danube panorama.



Czech village.



People you meet on the road.



Into the Klamaths.



Art you can drive.



Going for a physical.



A perfunctory picture at Portrait Point.



Our carbon footprint gets smaller.



Shots of the Year:

3rd Runner-up:  The cat who owns at least the barn – maybe the entire ranch.



2nd Runner-up: Shades of “The Great Escape.”  Seventy-five years ago, people died trying to cross the Czech-Austrian border.  We breezed through in a tour bus.



1st Runner-up:  Enrico, the Yamaha, heads toward the Marble Mountains seemingly without me!



Shot of the Year:


Sunrise in Central Oregon.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

REVERIE IN THE RAIN

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A cool and drenching one – 
Quelling the flames at the rim of the fire
And dousing the smoldering rubble
Of forests and grasslands
And homes and life…

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A deep and satisfying one –
Rinsing soot and ash from all that remains
And soaking a hint of rebirth
Into forests and grasslands
And homes and life…


Walking in a welcome rain – 
A needed and nourishing one –
Inhaling sweet, unsullied air
And a cleansing sense of hope
Into forests and grasslands
And homes and life…

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A pure and freshening one –
Washing away our tears
And replacing them with rainbows
Over forests and grasslands
And homes and life.



A walk in that welcome rain –
A soulful and pensive walk –
Restores and renews,
Respirits and reminds us… 
What we’ve loved is never quite fully lost 
     so long as remembrance brings warmth    
     to our hearts.

So, when together we walk 
     in that welcome, needed rain, 
We again find Paradise.   


  
© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press



Saturday, November 10, 2018

A “GRIM” FAIRY TALE

This grim little tale relates the story of a fire breathing dragon demanding tribute from villagers lest their settlement be destroyed. Rapt in fear a little man is pushed forward from the crowd.  

“What is it that you desire?” the quaking resident asked.

“That the pure waters running from the mountains be captured and rendered unto me, to quench and refresh me as once they did,” replied the dragon.

Purloined Image
The little man retreated into the buzzing crowd, who silenced themselves, heard the demand and pushed the representative back toward the monster.

“I... I… I’m afr… afraid that will be quite… quite impossible,” the little man reported.

In seconds, the dragon drew in his breath, almost doubling in size, and exhaled a blistering flame that roasted the hapless villagers and reduced their homes to ash with only a few standing chimneys remaining.

Then he lumbered away.


"Tubbs" Fire, Sonoma County
Over the ridge, the dragon spied another hamlet.  Folks, having seen the cloud of smoke rising over the neighboring hills had already gathered when the dragon arrived.

“What is it that you desire?” a quaking resident of this new locale asked.

“That the winds coursing over these tors and rises and into your valley be diverted to my nostrils so that I may again smell their sweetness,” replied the dragon.

The little man returned to the agitated crowd and was soon thrust out in front of the beast.

“I... I… I’m afr… afraid that will be quite… quite impossible,” the little man reported.

"Carr" Fire, Shasta County
Again, in seconds, the dragon drew in his breath, again inflating himself to twice his normal size, and again exhaled a fiery force that roasted the people and reduced their homes to ash with only a few standing chimneys remaining.

Again, he lumbered away.


Down in a broad valley, the dragon spotted a town of a little larger size.  By this time the city fathers were aware of the rampages wrought by the beast.  A representative stepped forward to receive the demand.

“Riches!” the frustrated and angry beast snorted.  “I want all the riches that you possess, and I want them all this instant!”

The little man screwed up his courage and asked, “Why?”

The dragon roared, “Because you can’t care for them.”

Once again, this hapless man sought counsel from his townspeople and once again he was returned to face the monster and once again the people and the town were incinerated and once again, the fire-breathing dragon lumbered off looking for another village or town to threaten taking with him, as yet, neither the water, nor the air, nor the riches he demanded.


"Camp" Fire, Butte County
Yes, the fairy tale is grim, but sadly, it is not a fairy tale.  The villages and towns are real.  They are Santa Rosa, California and Redding and now Paradise, California and Thousand Oaks.  

And the demands of the fire-breathing dragon, to which we will now give the name “Climate,” are simple: Alter priorities a bit and better care for the planet upon which we live lest more of our cities and towns burn.

And those demands are not “quite impossible.”

They are essential.

© 2018 
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, November 9, 2018

“IS PARADISE BURNING?”

comment from a social media participant 
monitoring the “Camp” fire from his or her home

To the extent that I grew up, I grew up in Chico.  The span was 1957 through about 1980.  Highlights of those years always involved a trip to Paradise – above the fog, below the snow – and to the ridge beyond.  There was a Chinese dinner place called the Pagoda where a red-headed lady waited on us for visit after visit, year after year.  I grew up thinking “Chinese ladies” all had red hair.  There was the Wildwood Inn where, as young members of the Chico Community Band – I played tuba – after a concert in the Paradise Park, we stopped in for victuals that were so bad that the band director took us to Cal’s Drive-in in Chico for 29-cent burgers to make it up to us.  And the Colonial Inn where first wife and I and another couple would end up for sundaes after a moonlight drive.  

Most recently, on overnights when visiting family in Chico, the Ponderosa Gardens – a throwback to earlier non-chain motel day – would be our lodging of choice.  Located across the main drag? The Italian Garden Restaurant, a joint I remember as a seafood place called Pinocchio’s with a narrow, spiral stairway to the storage area I had to climb in order to drop off freight when working my college-days’ summer job.

Pedaling a Schwinn three-speed up the Honey Run past the Covered Bridge I’d imagine myself a Yahi Indian stalking a black tail and not ever having to go to school. Picnicking at the cemetery in Centerville, I’d picture myself mucking nuggets out of Butte Creek.  Strolling the Magalia flumes, I’d envision myself a ditch tender making sure logs cut up in the mountains raced unabated down to the mill in the valley.  Piloting a motorcycle up the Skyway, over Humbug Pass and into the Almanor Basin – an adventure to be repeated over and over whether straddling my 1970 Honda Trail 90 or horsing my 2009 BMW GSA along that gravelly bi-way – imagining nothing, rather simply enjoying the sublime beauty of an endless and pristine northern Sierra.

On Thursday, November 8, the “Camp” fire – spawned around 6:30 AM – roared out of the Feather River Canyon, up the ridge and wiped out many of the places I recall from my youth (although we’re not officially sure, yet) and in its wake, took the possibility that some little kid living in Chico today might be able to replicate those memories or embrace those fantasies.  

Damn!

More than any wild fire in recent memory – and there have been more than a few – this one saddens me.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, October 29, 2018

OUR PERSONAL PATH TO SOLAR POWER

…energy for free and the ‘history’ behind it…

We have decided to install solar panels on our house.  Here is a little background: 

Genesis 1:3 tells us “And God said, Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  [ESV page 1]

But there may be more to the story.  Some time between November 1946 and February 1947, a Bedouin shepherd named Mohammed edh-Dhib discovered a scrap of papyrus in a cave on a riverbank.  The fragment turned out to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  


This priceless discovery opened the world’s eyes to secrets that had been lost to eons of dust and time.  It was translated first into Bedouin, then several other Fertile Crescent languages, and finally into English about a decade later.  After painstakingly looking at so much history and culture described in this antiquity, researchers were stunned by a singular passage.

The Scrolls revealed what the Lord actually said in Genesis:

Let there be a main sequence star that generates its energy by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium and that can thereby provide light for the eyes of my people and warmth for their comfort.”


Perhaps the long-accepted Biblical translation was simply an abbreviation of the Lord’s pronouncement given that 20 centuries before Guttenberg, they were chiseling scriptures into clay and “Let there be light” pretty much covered what needed to be said at the time.

But the discovery of the entire text shocked – SHOCKED! – some Biblical scholars of the mid-fifties.  Many were loath to admit that the Bible might have an inaccuracy. Others argued that making this change to the text of the most widely read book in the history of mankind would disrupt the pagination for the next several thousand pages.  Thus, the finding was suppressed.


But a trio of precocious and curious Junior High boys named Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson and Daryl Chapin, somehow got wind of this new ancient wisdom.  They coupled this information with their recollection from the previous summer when they were left in a shadeless parking lot in the backseat of one of their mom’s cars – ironically, a ’56 Oldsmobile Starfire – while the mom shopped at a Sears store for some new capris and rubber zorries – what we now call flip-flops. (You can look all this up.)

For their Eighth-Grade science fair project, the three created the first solar voltaic cell which was able to capture energy from the sun to turn a small windmill.  Amazing though this was, their project came in second to a model of a volcano that simulated eruption when lemon juice was poured onto a pile of baking soda.


But the solar industry was thus born and now – regardless of all of the balderdash written above – some fifty-five years later, we want to be a part of this non-polluting, renewable energy revolution.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Sunday, October 7, 2018

TOURING THE DEPTHS AND MYSTERIES OF THE KLAMATH

fabulous Klamath Country adventure


October finds Seattle-based riding buddy connecting with California-based me for an annual ride.  Favorite haunts include Eureka’s Eureka Inn 
and McCloud’s McCloud Hotel.  This year, we’d partake of both – and the roads in between.


A first night in Eureka https://www.eurekainn.com found us enjoying the city’s public art… 


…pleasant wharf… 


and multiple dining options.

California’s State Route 299 is the northernmost major thoroughfare between the coast and the Sacramento Valley.  Well-maintained, this delicious route winds from sea-level marshes and meadows just north of Eureka, tunneling through redwood groves and over the southernmost ridges of the Trinity Mountains, past mining towns oft-overlooked when studying California’s Gold Rush, into oak woodlands finally arriving at Redding. Fairly heavily traveled, it is still a good introduction to the rugged and remote Klamath area of northwestern California.


Better still, however, is California’s State Route 96 that splits north from 299 at Willow Creek first following the Trinity River, then the Klamath which it traces some 140 miles east to Yreka and beyond. Winding through bergs offering no gas (fill up in Willow Creek) and little eats (fill up in Willow Creek), the ride becomes an exploration of the rugged environs that somehow supported five of the least-known tribes in all of the state – until demon gold was discovered in the sands and silt of the riverbed.

Vast numbers of the native population died within the first five years of contact with Europeans.  It took a bit longer, but many of the gold-era settlements have fallen into the little-known category as well.  We stopped for a calzone in Happy Camp, after about two hours, at the first eatery we would find along the route.

Highway 96 heads east following the Klamath past post offices of place names whose claims to fame have long since gone bust. But the road is built for touring and we find we’ve left the lush coastal landscape behind to be replaced by grasses and stunted chaparral dotting rocky canyon walls.


A detour over to Siskiyou County’s Living Memorial Sculpture Garden


https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/klamath/recarea/?recid=81810 - a moving tribute to all of the county’s military veterans – is required if in this neck of the woods.  


Only eleven miles north of Weed on US 97 and under the watchful gaze of Mount Shasta, queen of the north country, this stark and beautiful park invites pause and reflection.


An overnight at the historic McCloud Hotel https://mccloudhotel.com is restful and comfortable.  Breakfast is filling. And a morning stroll around town before mounting the bikes is always in order.


Riding pal departs north as responsibilities called him home – responsibilities a retired guy, such as myself, can only vaguely recall. Thus, I embark on a solo adventure which starts at the Stewarts Springs exit from I-5 north of Weed.  

Shifting from county-maintained to Forest Road 17, the pavement narrows.


Rising from the hayfields of the Shasta Valley an over-the-shoulder glance offers a view of the queen cloaked in an early autumn mist, her crystalline peak sparkling just above the cloud.


At FR17’s summit, I cross the Pacific Crest Trail for the first of three times this day.


The view to the west recalls the uncertainty with which I tried to explain the Trinity Alps and the Marble Mountains to my fourth graders 35 years ago.  The Coast Range was easy: ridge upon ridge folded and bent by the eons-long collision of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates.  The Sierra, too: a massive granitic fault block tilted from a fissure on the Nevada side of the range.  The Central Valley’s fertile loam and the Mojave Desert’s dryness equally easy.

Expand this image by clicking on it.

But, the mountains of Northwestern California – a combination of faults and volcanism and ice and erosion – were harder to define to little kids.  “You just have to see ‘em,” I’d said.

The road I was on would snake ten or more miles down to trace a remote stretch of the Trinity River.  Rock strewn and narrow, I hadn’t seen nuttin’ yet.

My forest route ended at State Route 3. Turning right (north) twelve well-paved but twisty-downshift-to-first miles would lead me to Callahan.  There, there is a small store and bar and there, the skies opened up. 

Rather than dismount – although I should have – I relied upon my KLIM riding gear to keep me cocooned in Gore-Tex and dry.  https://www.klim.com/Latitude-Jacket-5146-002 This would be the first test of the rather pricy outfit’s weather-proof-ness.  It did not fail.  Money well spent because as it would turn out, most of the rest of the day would be ridden in showers.


The Callahan-Cecilville Road is yet another of those routes that gets lost in the folds and rises of the Trinities.  Nicely banked and paved at the beginning, it’s all just a ruse. Soon I find myself coursing under the fall colors of black oaks, following this stream and that, climbing over ridges and rises I cannot name while hoping in the ability of my Bridgestone tires to navigate chuck-holed and drenched pavement.

Around a bend I splice a pretty good pile of horse poop and then find the offending equine standing on the shoulder of the road. With several pals.  I’d arrived at Cecilville where pastureland, front lawns and thoroughfares are not cordoned from one another by fences and where the only business I was interested in open four days out of the week and this wouldn’t be one of those days.  I purchased a bubble water and a Slim Jim from the self-service frig in front of the shuttered bar.  Why no pictures?

From Cecilville to Forks of Salmon, the road clings to the side of the canyon wall.  Why no pictures here?  Because there is no wide spot to stop on this one-lane-width of busted pavement where I wouldn’t be at grave risk of obliteration by someone rounding a blind curve. That, or pushed off the 125-foot cliff where today’s rains would rise the river and carry my carcass away downstream to the nearest log jam.  Though slow, the ride is stunning and – all the while – reminding me why they call this big Yamaha an “Adventure Tourer.”


At Forks, I run into the improbable: A teacher and a bunch of 10-to-12-year-old students from Bend, Oregon riding bicycles and discovering first-hand those elements of the Trinities that I could not find the words to describe to my students so long ago.  


I suspect they’ll do just fine on their standardized test coming up this spring.


Forks of Salmon – where horses, too, roam the streets and front lawns – is a pretty long way from anywhere and that long way continues to involve a narrow, rock-strewn, paved single-lane somehow hung on the canyon wall.


I grip tightly, drive slowly, contemplate any missed curve with dread and finally, after about 2 hours of thirty mile-per-hour bliss and distress, wind up at State Route 96 where I retrace my steps back to Hoopa, 299…

…101 and the comforts of the Eureka Inn.


That evening, over a dram of Whistle Pig, I think about the hearty souls that populate Cecilville and Forks and the deep canyons of the Salmon River, how rugged and independent these folk must be and how similar they are to the sourdoughs and gold seekers of 150 years back.  Or, for that matter, the Hupa, the Chilula, the Karok, or the Wintu – all inhabitants of the Klamath region for so many centuries before.

Dropping off into feathered slumber, I have to admit to myself that while I like a good adventure ride, I’m really not all that tough.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press