Thursday, February 15, 2018


…and not making it to the other side…

Pulling a bathrobe over my BVDs every morning, I step into some Birks and sneak out to pick up the newspaper at the foot of our driveway.  Something to read while enjoying my first cup of Joe.  Many mornings, an early sun lights the valley’s ridgeline opposite where we reside.  While the 101 corridor is the main route through our area, the faint traces of dirt roads and fire trails on that distant ridge capture my fancy.  Relatively new to the area, they become something I must explore.

Valentine’s Day 2018, such an exploration would be the weekly adventure I promised my wife when we moved in.  Edward, the lab-mix, would come along, too.  Checking a Topo Map App and my DeLorme California Atlas, I devise a plan.

The Mayacamas Mountains form a backbone ridge separating Sonoma/Mendocino and Lake Counties and Cloverdale from Clear Lake.

The map shows us that Pine Mountain Road is accessed, in our area, off Geysers Road.  At first, I missed the turn off.   Pine Mountain Road is a narrow, worn strip of nearly neglected pavement.  At the base of its climb, one caution sign warns “No Outlet.”  I check the map.  No, according to the Asti 7.5 minute quad, this connects with Adobe Creek Road up that-a-way.  A second sign warns us with a wiggly arrow and the words “Next 6 Miles.”  To me, that’s an invitation.

The pavement winds in and out of ravines past an eclectic collection of homes.  We drive past a fine looking adobe-colored house in a oak-studded spread that we can see from our driveway followed immediately by an ancient wood-framed get-away that once was painted green.  We recall that Charles Crocker owned a hunting lodge just a few miles south.  Our route climbs a ridge or two where the lot size comes acreage, and then whole sections.  Nine-plus miles up, the pavement ends, but mail boxes are posted at each junction and each junction is a road better than the one we’re on but gated and clearly marked “Private Property.”

Forty or so minutes dusty minutes out of town, Candi comments: “They get mail all the way up here?”  To which I respond, “They get a helluva lot for their 49-cent stamp.”

[I hesitate to take pictures of barns and houses and dirt tracks through meadows on private property this close to California’s Emerald Triangle, even though the product is somewhat more legal now.]

After an hour and fifteen bumpy minutes and about 19 miles, we come to the summit of the Mayacamas and stop for a few photos.

Clear Lake can be seen to the northeast rimmed by named and nameless peaks and ridges.

Near the summit, we are offered a grand view of Clear Lake’s dominant Mount Konocti, the volcanic and spiritual landmark for the Koi Nation, a subset of the Wappo, Pomo or Lake Miwok, each of whom watered at the lake.

Deer tracks and boar wallows, digger pines and acorned oaks cause me to think that the Lake County area of yore was more pleasing and abundant for its ancestral residents than its current populace.  [Note:  Lake County is the only California County never to have received railroad service.  A hundred years after that slight, Lake County is still one of the state’s poorest.]

The region is one of massive and dynamic forces.  The North American Plate pushing against the Pacific Plate caused the crust to buckle and ridge upon ridge to form.  Volcanic activity gave us Konocti to the east and Hull and Snow Mountains to the north, and countless cones of cinder and mud.  Just beneath the surface, a rising batholith heats subsurface water, forming the steam that is harnessed at the Geysers for geothermal electricity to power our other car: the non-Subaru Chevrolet Bolt.

Yet with all of the massive grandeur, subtle details exists to remind us of the region’s balance and delicacy.

Alas, at the top of the Mayacamas, Pine Mountain Road ends and a ramshackle gate blocks us from travel on Adobe Creek Road. 

We’ll not make it to the shores of California’s largest naturally occurring fresh water lake this day…

…and Edward – the quintessential Church of the Open Road canine – is left to wonder what might be around that next bend.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


History, like all living things, must be cared for in order to survive.
- the Church of the Open Road’s second principle

Whenever Dad would wax sentimental about some aspect of an otherwise long-forgotten yesterday, Mom would bellow: “Clayton! You have to stop living in the past!”

I think about Dad’s living-in-the-past malady as I wander down a path toward Wilder Ranch, a restored farmstead just north of Santa Cruz.

That we preserve such places offers a window into a past we should not forget.

Farmstead residences ranged from the elegant to the hovel.  Some still dot our rural landscapes.

Barns – among my favorite roadside attractions – could be rustic or things of architectural beauty as well.

Getting to and from may have involved a day’s buggy ride or a whistle stop from the tracks that passed through the property.

The advent of the automobile, even in its most primitive forms, provided independence but proved the death knell for rail travel.

Gone, also, is the everyman, jack-of-all-trades requirement.  When something broke, it got fixed – oftentimes by the owner – rather than tossed out and replaced.

When a gear in a drill press bound up, with some assessment, some deconstruction and some grease or oil and some reassembly, the user was back to drilling holes.  When the electronic ignition module on an F-150 or a microchip fails on an iMac or Dell, the user is kinda screwed.

Browsing through the working replica farm, I wonder if I have the stuff necessary to be a self-reliant problem-solver, the likes of which rural life in 1900 required: mechanic skills, physical strength, reason, patience.

Maybe all of that is a knack or a collection of knacks one acquires.  Or maybe it’s been bred out of us by the conveniences of today.

And if that’s the case, it’s good that we are offered the opportunity to look back with a degree of awe and wonder at what people used to do.

An hour’s respite from the saddle is well spent living in the past.  Thanks, “Clayton.”


Note:  Each of California’s State Historic Parks is worth a visit.  Wilder Ranch is a few minutes north of Santa Cruz on California’s scenic State Route 1.  Information about the Wilder Ranch Cultural Preserve may be found at:

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, January 29, 2018


Seasonal Affective Disorder be damned!

The new Klim Latitude Jacket arrived on the perfect January day.  Four or five days of thick, drippy tule fog, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was kicking in.  Enrico, my Yamaha Super Tenere, was probably feeling about the same as me.  We both knew that the cure for SAD was a trip to some high ground somewhere above the fog.

The parcel from RevZilla arrived exactly as scheduled; the contents were just as advertised.  I donned my new Klim Latitude and marched around the house, past the mirror several times, adjusting the jacket to fit my girth and the sleeves to my spindly arms.  (Fifty years ago, pulls-ups in gym were not my friend.)  Given my odd shape, I was curious as to whether the jacket could be snugged just so.  Walking around the house was fine, but the real test would lay inside that blanket of moisture.

Thumbing the starter on the Yamaha through my winter gloves, it was as if Enrico's exhaust note was grumbling, “It’s about time!”

A block away from the house, I felt a draft that I knew was gonna bug me.  But the tabs on the Velcro® closures at both the elbow and the wrist were easy to manipulate even with those clumsy gloves on. 

A mile from home, I entered the 101 freeway and headed south at the speed limit.  Moisture collected on the face shield of my Shoei and I fingered it away; but even after twenty minutes at speed through this pea soup, nothing seeped through the Latitude.

Sunshine, if there were to be any today, would be found near the crest of the Maacama Mountains.  Heading east out of Santa Rosa, a twisty Mark West Springs Road is a delight when dry.  In January its curves can be more challenging when wet, especially considering the erosion caused by the rains that followed the area’s recent devastating fires.  I hoped not to try out the jacket’s impact protection.

North of Calistoga, I coursed further north on CA 29 as it climbs out of the Napa Valley on a six mile stretch that recalls Stelvio Pass.  Somewhere in that section, I broke through the fog.  The temperature rose from mid-40s to nearly 60.  Not enough to remove a layer or open a vent, but while having coffee at an outdoor table in Middletown, I fiddled with all of the zippers and closures, pleased with so much of the design of this unit.  I’m gonna like this a lot!

The coffee warmed my insides and on the 55-mile return ride, the jacket kept my outsides dry and snug.  Returning to the garage, I know Enrico was happy with the outing and I was happy with the bike, the jacket, the roads and the past three hours. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder be damned!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Cup o’ joe on the veranda –
turn of the LAST century style

The Davenport Inn and Roadhouse is located in an early 1900s brick building on the east side of the Cabrillo Highway.  Across the road, a little used, if not abandoned, rail line traces north south from Santa Cruz to the cement plant on the other end of town.  Behind it, a long, low warehouse with an orderly shingle roof, aging corrugated siding and old six-panel wood framed windows obscures much of the view of the Pacific, but from the upstairs veranda a glimpse of breakers and cliffs is clear to the south.

My wife hosts a “girls’ weekend” at home, so I’m asked to make myself scarce.  I’ve decided to secure a rustic, cozy room in a little town I’d only driven through before for a couple of nights.  The pillow-topped queen bed is soft and inviting, but I find that there are no Kleenex for my convenience and no television so the book I brought along to finish reading, I might actually finish reading.  The outlet on the bathroom counter next to the coffeemaker doesn’t have power to charge my iPhone, but the one next to the bed has a power strip attached into which the bedside lamp is plugged.  There exists no switch on said lamp, so in order to turn it on or off, one has to flip the toggle on the end of the power strip which lays on the floor near the bed. 

This morning’s coffee provided comes come not prepackaged but in a handsome, old-style tin and is sourced from a local roaster – a small company dealing strictly in fair-trade beans – and is free, which, to me, is the ultimate in fair trade.  I load the tiny Mr. Coffee with grounds and water and transport it to the lower level of the bedside table where its cord could reach the power strip, the toggle of which I have to trip to the on position, thus activating the lamp.  This prevents one from the dangerous practice of trying to brew coffee in the dark.

I am absorbing the blended aromas of sea breeze and fresh brew, when the magic becomes clear: It is a special gift to hole up in a hundred-year-old building so nicely preserved.  The quirks of a duplex outlet on the fritz or a light requiring an odd procedure to engage is just part of the enchantment.  A century ago, these conveniences would have been unheard of.  I recline on the bed taking note of the brick walls, mortar for which was probably milled and mixed just up the road, and of the clear grained redwood forming the room’s ceiling.  Not bad, I think, beginning to doze until the Mr. Coffee burbles. 

Moments later I’m sitting on a willow bough rocker on the upstairs veranda and writing these notes as I enjoy – and I mean that seriously – enjoy a cup of dark roast.

A low 8:00 AM January sun glares off the southward stretching pavement of the Cabrillo Highway.  Saturday morning traffic is sparse and the crush of the waves on the sea cliffs some two hundred yards away is a pleasant constant.  The coast in the area is one-time sea bottom.  Striations of limestone and sandstone push upward as a result of the on-going and eons-old collision of the North American and Pacific Plates.  The ocean gnaws at the cliffs.  I’m hearing the same sound as did the Ohlone natives, a string of lighthouse keepers, the railroad workers who hammered tracks to ties northward and the folks who built this hotel a hundred years ago.  I suspect that time means nothing to the sea.

From my willow rocker, I note a backlit and silhouetted someone walking atop the bluff across the highway to the south.  I promise myself I’ll check out whatever trail that someone is on before I leave town.

Perhaps I’ll do that now.  I’ve finished my coffee.

I look up from tying my sneakers in preparation for my sojourn across the highway and tracks and over to the bluff to find a couple of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s SUVs have just pulled into the wide spot in front of the warehouse.  Out of these two police cars emerge three police officers who discuss something for a minute or two and then head through a break in the stunted cypress and onto the railroad tracks and off toward the bluffs.  Figuring this might be Davenport’s biggest crime of the last 50 years and not wanting, personally, to be in the newspaper story about it – my apologies, here, to Arlo Guthrie – I decide to postpone any trek to the sea cliffs and, instead, brew a second cup of coffee, hoping that lone hiker hadn’t somehow slipped and fallen into the surf below.

Were that thought a reality it would have proven an awful way to start my day.  Worse, undoubtedly for him or her.

But it’s just an excuse, I know.  Sitting here on the veranda pretending it is 1910 all over again is more than fine and I’m happy to let my Saturday unfold slowly.


The Davenport Roadhouse and Inn is a rare throwback to earlier times and a wonderful place to stay.  A little history can be found on their website:

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Everything thing in life
relates in one way or another
to a scene from what movie?

A great saloon and dinner house fills the bottom floor of the Davenport Roadhouse and Inn.  Check-in for a night’s stay occurs next to a very tempting display of in-house baked pastries.  Reservations for dinner would not be required this off-season Friday.  After my customary mid-afternoon nap – these having become customary when I quit having to answer the bell about ten years ago – I engaged in my customary stroll through the back streets of whatever town I’m visiting.  Coastal Davenport had about two of ‘em.  I strolled twice.

Darkness had fallen about an hour before and wandering by the second time, the light from the Roadhouse’s windows, the commotion seen through them and the tinkling of a tinny piano stirred thoughts of Rick’s Café Americain.  I wondered if, somewhere in a backroom or upstairs, the proprietor was going over his books while wearing a white dinner jacket.  I also wondered about gambling.

I settled at a table at the elbow of the L-shaped room.  At the end of the portion of the room stretching to my right flamed a fireplace amid a fine brick hearth.  Tables, some placed individually and some pushed together into a row, filled the room.  From the long configuration darted a swarm of little children like bees from a hive.  A few families, locals, I assumed, had gathered to celebrate some tyke’s sixth or seventh birthday with brick oven pizza and enough soda to keep the kids rockin’ deep into the night.

To my left – straight ahead, the way I’d positioned myself – stood a handsome, full-service bar and a handful of cocktail tables.  A grayed woman, more elderly than myself, enjoyed something, I couldn’t see what, alternately putting it to her lips and then moving her hands in punctuated rhythm with tunes a talented jazz-man was playing on a tiny cruise ship sized piano.  The piano hadn’t eighty-eight keys.  I knew this because I’d seen two of these before – one in Hal B. Wallace’s classic Casablanca and one in my mother-in-law’s parlor, which we would inherit.  The gentleman in command of the piano rolled out one standard after another as the children danced in front of him and in front of the pastry display and the old woman across the room mouthed lyrics.  I’d spent much of the drive down listening to the Sinatra satellite radio station on the Harmon/Kardon in the Subaru.  I could have mouthed them, too.

I was hoping for a steak and they had a New York on the menu, but the catch of the day – locally sourced seafood on a bed of pasta with sautéed local mushrooms bathed in something creamy – sounded good.  As did a chilled bottle of Husch Sauvignon Blanc.

Thus, two-and-a-half hours of my solo Friday evening would be spent enjoying fresh and fine coastal fare in a bar in a coastal village while a cluster of first- second- and third-graders danced and frolicked to tunes from the Great American Songbook.  Two-thirds of the way through the bottle of Sauv Blanc, I found myself mouthing those words along with that senior citizen from across the crowded room.  Some Enchanted Evening.

Returning to my room, I checked the news on my iPhone only to discover that the boys in Congress – unable to compromise or find common ground about some pretty basic and pretty American ideals – had shut down the government.

The bastards.

As time went by, however, my thoughts returned to the old woman singing and to those tots dancing to the lyrical tunes of Gershwin, Porter and Rogers and Hart – the music of the times when, as a people, we got along better. 

And as I retired for the evening, I was warmed by glimmers of hope.  Enchanted evening indeed.


Next up:  A Morning at the Davenport Roadhouse and Inn

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, January 22, 2018


…Make that “Winter’s Drive…”

Slicing along the Pacific Coast Highway in fifty-one degree rainy weather on a motorcycle is the stuff of pleasant yesterdays.  That being the forecast, I load up the Subaru.  Enrico, the Yamaha, will have to mark time in the garage.  Helmet blast will not be today’s symphony, but there’s a nice classical station out of the Bay Area (KDFC-FM) I pay twenty bucks a month for.  It’ll provide appropriate soundtrack for the luscious curves on this gray, winter drive.  And I won’t have to peel off heavy waterproof gloves in order to snap a photo or two along the way. 
Still, something inside me says, “You’re not the man you used to be.” 

While another voice says, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” 

I turn up the Subie’s sound system to drown out the argument that ensues.

The rocky Pacific shore in Sonoma County is cloistered in a chilling fog, one that reinforces the wisdom of my decision not to take the motorcycle this day.

But just as I’m entering the Tomales Bay region, the fog lifts and the clouds part making me second-guess that decision.

Expect a one-hour delay on CA 1 south of Stinson Beach, so sayeth the orange caution sign, so I divert eastward taking the Panoramic Highway where this over-the-shoulder shot of the Stinson and the Bolinas Lagoon promotes wonderful curves.

Crossing the Golden Gate on a bike is far cooler – in both senses of the word – than doing it in a small SUV.  No stops on the leg through the City, onto I-280 and then rejoining CA 1 to follow it south through Pacifica and Half Moon Bay.

Somewhere near the San Mateo / Santa Cruz County Line, the highway traces the coast.  A twinge makes me wish it’d go on this way forever and that I was straddling the Yamaha for that forever…

A side road, the old highway, I suspect, offers a slower pace for a mile or two and a spot to wade – or should I say stumble – through some ice plant in search of a photo.

The frontage road regains the highway at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. 

Pigeon Point’s tower is identical to the one at Point Arena, up in our neck of the woods, but while the Point Arena tower collapsed as a result of the 1906 earthquake (later to be rebuilt) the Pigeon Point tower withstood the shaker, only to suffer damage in December 2001 when a section of the iron belt course on the exterior of the lighthouse fell off.  Currently under repairs – funded by voluntary contributions, if I understand it – you can’t climb to the top.

Still, just as a Sierran fire lookout always affords a great view of the mountains, our collection of lighthouses always offers something special along the coast.  I often wonder, when stopping by one of these sentinels, if I’d have possessed the mettle to man one of ‘em in the face of an icy Pacific storm a hundred years back.  Probably not.  After all, I took the car instead of the bike this day.

Davenport, where I’ll roost for the next couple of evenings, is not far down the road, but before I make bedfall – you know, like landfall?  A sea-faring term? – I am captivated by a trio of surfers harnessing a stiff on-shore breeze to propel themselves out to catch some of the magnificent breakers this weekend was slated to offer.  These guys get physics.  Otherwise, how could they use the power of an on-shore wind to rocket them offshore?  Beats me.

I arrive in the tiny coastal berg early enough to trace a bit of bluff on foot. 

The sun is well on its descent into evening and a chill wind quickly prompts me to check into my room and shelter in place – so to speak – for a nap; thus confirming:  I wouldn’t have lasted long as a lighthouse keeper.

Reviewing the cache on my little pocket camera, I realize that even though stopping for photos is less complicated in the Subie than on the Yamaha, I didn’t do it enough.


Next up?  An Evening at the Davenport Roadhouse and Inn.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Sunsets are good.

If you're really into this, click on any picture to expand 'em all.

So are old barns.

And rainfall.

Rain fills our long-empty reservoirs…

…and allows us to water things.

It gives us green mountains to explore...

and blossoms promising spring…

…and blossoms promising spring.

The coast is nearby…

…where works of man are transformed into works of art.

The Great Central Valley, for a brief time, becomes a great inland sea.

Friends visit.

New routes west are explored; new views discovered…

…looking different from the air.

The Triumph’s days are numbered.

But not before a visit to the old west…

…with its mysterious roads that rise over and into the unknown…

…and tidbits of unwritten history.


The Sierra.

More unwritten history.

The Pacific.

An end of a road.

An end of another road – so to speak…

…and starting down a new one.

Revisiting Oregon’s coast…

…and its unwritten history.

On the McCloud River right-of-way…

…and the McCloud River with traveling buddy Edward…

…and our mutual pal.

Sunny in the Sierra…

… fog-bound on the coast...

...and, always, the sunsets.

The Church of the Open Road loves the diversity of the West – the mountains, the shorelines, the vistas, the history, the adventure and the people.   

We look forward to an expansive and adventuresome 2018 for all “parishioners.”  If you’re reading this, you’re one of ‘em.

Shots of the year?  Thought you’d never ask…

Third runner up: Classic view along the Oregon Coast.

Second runner up: Dusk on the harbor at Eureka.

First runner up: A final shot of Mom with her two boys.

Shot of the year:

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press