|Winters, CA (file photo)|
Saturday, March 23, 2013
off CA State Route 37
The principal difference between the average driver on I-80 and Michael Andretti is that Mr. Andretti knows how to drive fast. Drafting, sudden lane changes, going 20+ miles per hour over, debris, frequent abrupt slowdowns not "under yellow" and hordes of amateur Michael Andrettis and Kyle Pettys are par for the course on the section of freeway between Sacramento and San Francisco. Thus, I avoid I-80 whenever possible.
It is the case, however, that in order to get from home to one set of grandkids, that stretch of the interstate is pretty much “it.” One of the pleasures, though, is the cut off State Route 37 takes between Vallejo and Novato across the top of San Pablo Bay and the Napa Sonoma Marshes.
The road offers pleasant views across a wide and muddy flat to a distant ridge of the Coast Range. Up close, great blue herons and snowy egrets stand reflecting in the still, briny, topaz-blue waters. Normally racing to see how much the little ones have grown, we don’t stop. This day, I took the bike and braved the freeway with the sole purpose checking out this area.
My selected day and time of day, could, most certainly, have been better. A thin, gray overcast foretold of a storm approaching maybe a day and a half off. The tide was low, thus the reflective blue sky-blue water that seems so enticing so many times from the car window was muted. And those graceful shorebirds decided this day to play hard to get.
I paused at a nicely maintained vista point on I-80 west past Cordelia Junction and checked out the view toward the marshes.
State Route 37 splits from I-80 just a half mile further on, then arches over the Napa River before settling onto a raised straight stretch across the wetlands.
At select points, wildlife viewing access is indicated. Speeds along the highway range above the posted 55, and the turn-offs to these viewing kiosks can be rather exciting. Watch for gravel!
The state, in concert with a conservancy has built viewing platforms and access for kayaks and canoes. Ample parking is provided. Nicely graded trails head through the wetlands on levees constructed, perhaps, by long-ago rice farmers. All one needs to view waterfowl is a spotting glass or some good binoculars and – some waterfowl.
Out this way, Skaggs Island Road heads north, but after only about a mile, one comes to a locked gate – military reservation? – and a bunch of busted glass.
A sucker, myself for sheds and small buildings, I spot a corrugated assemblage decaying by a levee. I stop for a close-up and wonder about its original purpose. Perhaps a pump station.
A bit further on, a tiny shack sits abandoned next to a powerless power pole. I considered the effort involved in slogging through the bog to construct anything at all and understand why, along with the seasonal clouds of flying insects, there are no large structures out this way.
I made five or six stops along this seven or eight mile stretch. Absent the birds, always entertaining were the wildflowers and the changing views of the distant hills. And those little buildings.
At the Sonoma County Raceway, also known as Sears Point, State Route 121 heads north and east toward Napa. This much preferred alternative brought me round to 128, Lake Berryessa, Winters and home. I’ll do this ride again checking the weather for a more crystalline day and the tide charts for a better possibility of some birding.
Today’s Route: I-80 west to SR 37. 37 west to SR 121. 121 north through Napa toward Lake Berryessa and SR 128. 128 east to I-505 or on to Davis via Russell Road and I-80.
Church of the Open Road Press
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Here’s a little photo-treatise on how to prepare a pretty darned succulent hunk of tri-tip beef roast to impress friends and first dates.
The night before you’re going to barbecue, place the roast in a re-closeable bag. Pour in your favorite marinate. Half way through the process – this might be 2:00 AM, but if you’re like me you’re probably getting up about then anyway – flip the bag over so both sides get good contact and absorption. [I used to experiment with my own marinate concoctions. One day I stumbled across a store bought sesame teriyaki that made the time I spent steeping and rendering and spicing and boiling and reducing not quite worth the effort.]
An hour or so before you intend to cook, soak a hunk of hardwood in water. Never use a soft wood like pine, fir or cedar! For beef, think almond or oak. [While these two woods work well with beef, try fruitwoods like peach, cherry or apple (along with almond, oak or hickory) with pork. Each wood imparts a different flavor, which is particularly noticeable when smoking pork. But we’re doing beef.]
Fifteen minutes before cooking, light up a small pile of charcoal briquets in the fire chamber of the pit barbecue (or on one side of the kettle.)
Understand that the process of smoking meat is long and slow. It is not inappropriate to line up a few friends to assist you in the process. You may be wishing to visit with them throughout the afternoon.
Allow time for the smoker to heat up. Temperature in the smoke chamber should register between 200 and 220 degrees. The lower the better.
To begin cooking, spread out the coals in the fire box. Install a grill and heat it up. Place the roast on the grill for about three minutes, then flip it over for another two or three minutes. This sears the meat. Some purists will tell us that this isn’t necessary.
Transfer the roast onto a rack in the smoke chamber – or to the other side of the kettle with the top vent directly over the meat.
Carefully – use a tool! – remove the grill from the fire box and place the soaked hunk of hardwood on the charcoal.
Then wait. An aromatic plume will soon curl forth from the smoker’s chimney attracting the attention of the back fence neighbor. The slow-cooking process can take between two-and-a-half and four hours depending upon the size of the roast. Monitor the heat closely adding more air as the fuel burns down. If using a kettle, employ the bottom vents as a damper to restrict or increase the amount of oxygen available to the fire. It is critical to not let the temperature slip too much or the meat simply won’t cook. It is also critical that you appear busy during this protracted cooking time otherwise it will look as if you’re just out in the back yard with a cigar, a few beers and the radio turned up too loud.
Minimize opening and closing the smoke chamber as this impact the chamber’s temperature. As you near the end of the process, insert a meat thermometer to determine when the roast is ready to remove from the grill. I cook it to “rare” – about 140 degrees – pulling it off five or ten minutes before the dinner bell rings allowing the roast to rest and continue to cook.
Slice the roast with a sharp knife across the grain. Notice how the exterior of the meat is nearly blackened. Just inside of that, the meat is a brighter shade of pink indicating (perhaps) the degree to which the smoke penetrated during the cooking. The middle of the roast is light pink and juicy.
Arrange on the plate as shown leaving a portion of the meat whole to retain moisture and temperature.
The product will be tangy and will require a wine with a certain character to complement it. [I generally select a Bogle Old Vine Zin (Clarksburg, CA, Lodi and Amador area fruit) because its not-too-fruit-forward – not-too-tannic balance seems to stand up to the roast’s subtle intensities. But I like a Marietta Zin (Geyserville, Sonoma County) better.]
Serve with brown rice, a nice hunk of rustic French or some roasted corn on the cob, some sautéed vegetables and a crisp green salad.
Finally, act pretty worn out when you bring the thing in. After all, you’ve been out there for most of the afternoon battling a blazing sun and billows of smoke. If you play your cards right, someone else will gladly do the dishes.
All things considered, this is a pretty pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
© 2013Church of the Open Road Press
Friday, March 15, 2013
The gentleman in the red ball cap was 81. He told me so in the course of conversation. “Served five years in the military between World War II and Korea.”
I was in the waiting room at a Les Schwab cooling my heels while new brakes were installed on my wife’s Civic. I’d completed a 90-minute circumnavigation of a lovely city park in an effort to stop gnashing my teeth over the fact that I should have cared for this component – a stuck caliper – better.
“Job’ll take about an hour and a half,” said the cheerful service writer.
I figured my walk would allow me to avoid what was now happening.
“Became an engineer,” the gentleman said. “Learned to ask questions. Look for ifs and thens, causes and effects.” He went on to suggest that most people these days don’t do that. I thought about the itchy whine that had been coming from the rear portion of my wife’s Honda for the past three weeks or so and felt my nose being rubbed in it.
“Nope. That’s why we’re in the state we’re in.”
“What state is that?” I asked.
“Oh, you know. Politics. Pollution. The Middle East.”
I couldn’t disagree.
“I served in the Middle East, you know.”
“Lebanon. Folks were real friendly back then.” He shook his head. “I got out of the service, completed my degree in engineering down in San Diego and found myself hired by Lockheed to design a plant out ta Riverside and then design the rocket that carried the first shuttle into space.”
|Photo Credit: NASA|
This pricked my curiosity.
“They got me cheap and let me hire whoever I want. So I got…” and he mentioned a name as if I knew of the guy. He went on to explain how they fueled the prototype of the big rocket a bucket at a time.
I took off the BMW motorcycle cap I was wearing and scratched my head. I considered asking something about Morton Thiokol O-rings, but didn’t.
He paused and looked at the hat.
“What’s that there?” he asked, pointing. “You got a BMW?”
Inwardly I shrugged and wondered if I should have put on the Guzzi cap this morning. “Yeah.”
“Well we got a lot in common.”
“Yeah. I bought me an R-50 back in ’61. Brand new. Cost me $1295.00.”
|Photo Credit: Jeff Dean Collection|
He stopped just long enough to grin.
“Only thing I did was take it home and cut the tips off the exhaust at an angle.” He gestured with his hands. “The thing was just too damned quiet.”
I wanted to tell him a bit about my GS, and talk about places he may have been that we might have in common but wasn’t afforded the opportunity.
“I rode that thing for ten years. Went coast to coast twice and up into Canada. Rode the thing to work most days. Even parked it inside my office when it was raining out. What could they say? I was the boss. Then I got married.”
“I keep wantin’ to get back on one, but the wife says I’m too old.”
I kept quiet.
“You know,” he continued. “I’m an engineer, so I know stuff.”
Yes he does.
|Photo Credit: BMW PressClub|
“And that R-50 is the best piece of transportation ever to see the sunny side of a sheet of paper. Car, truck or anything else. Pretty good looking. Comfortable. You could ride the thing all day. Driveshaft? Durable! Man! You couldn’t bust one if you tried. Easy to work on…”
“For an engineer…”
“Best piece of transportation ever?” I asked. “Even better than a space shuttle?”
“Yep. Far better’n a space shuttle.”
He was reminding me that he’d designed rocket engines when a chipper voice on the loudspeaker announced that my Civic was done. The old engineer’s face fell just a bit as I got up to leave.
I patted him on his shoulder as I passed by thanking him for the chat.
“You ride careful,” he said.
And I regretted that my car’s brake job was finished up quite so soon.
Church of the Open Road Press
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Well. Well. Well. You stumbled into the Church of the Open Road Press, a blog about motorcycles and motorcycle journeys. The content is my own and, unless noted, the photographs are my own.
I am a sixty-plus-year-old Northern California motorcyclist who has been riding off and on since about age 17. I have served three-and-a-half decades as a public school educator in both teaching and administrative roles. Having majored in Geography in college, patterns on the land have always been a fascination.
Although I’ve hiked, strolled, bicycled, and paddled, I’ve found that motorcycling is one of the most engaging ways to see those patterns.
Over the course of my riding I have owned two Honda Trail 90s, a CL 360, a KLR, four BMWs: an R65, R1100R, R1150RT, and currently have an R1200GSA along with a Moto Guzzi B1100 Breva. I’ve never owned a bike I didn’t like and didn’t, sooner or later, regret getting rid of. And I’m always curious about what “scoot” might be next.
Content of the blog revolves around places I’ve discovered, the routes to them, sights along the way, history that came before and some personal memories that are rekindled while in the saddle. Often a post will include a Resource section with links to related places, attractions or literature. Also, sometimes the reader will find a note called Today’s Route. This will give a general idea about where the ride took place but it is not intended to replace a good map.
Occasionally, I’ll review a product with which I have been favorably impressed, but I’ll not blog about a product that’s a bust. If I have an issue with something I’ve purchased, I contact the retailer or the manufacturer.
Also, this blog is not about wrenching. Repairing most things mechanical is not among my proclivities. Therefore, I don’t fix my bikes. If something breaks, I take it to someone who can fix it so when I get back on the road, the thing actually works and I can focus on enjoying the ride.
The Church of the Open Road lives on the Blogger format created by Google. The current state of the cyber wars is such that Blogger format blogs are not compatible with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but seem to work with Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and with Firefox – which is a free download.
The most recent post is always first. Clicking on a picture in the right hand column will link the reader to a specific post related to that picture. Tags at the bottom of any post will link the reader to posts of similar content topically or geographically. Further down that right hand column is a listing of all the tags. The bigger the tag-listing font, the more posts on that topic.
Click on “Church of the Open Road Press” in the banner at the top of the page to always return to the most recent post.
Some folks, with little better to do with their time, become ‘members’ of the Church of the Open Road blog-site. I think this means that they get notification when something is posted, but I’ve heard that isn’t 100% true. I, myself, am a member, and I don’t get an e-mail notification after I’ve posted something. There’s a “Google” button way down the right hand column you can click if you’d like to join.
The Church of the Open Road appreciates comments from readers and, at times will copy a comment from a forum to which the blog has been linked. That comment is then pitched into the comment section of the piece to which it is related. This provides a little conversation, adds to the overall content and enhances the post commented upon. It shares with the reader additional perspective and, sometimes, corrections.
The “Church” does not accept SPAM except when it is offered with hash browns and eggs over medium. Folks sending links in their comments may find them automatically routed to the SPAM folder. The coupled factors of "Anonymous" and an imbedded link seem to trigger the auto-SPAM response. I check that folder regularly and will sometimes rescue a legitimate link or comment from oblivion there, but there seems to be an increasing number of not-so-nice links making their way to the site as of late.
Know that the “Church” does not monetize any of its elements. Readers should find no advertisements and should not respond to any if they somehow appear.
The phrase “Church of the Open Road” was co-opted from a long-ago contributor to either Rider Magazine or the BMW MOA’s early publication. Since that guy’s no longer writing, I took the liberty of swiping the term. It’s catchy and it speaks to what many of us many feel when we’re out there sweeping around a curve, cresting a hill or inhaling the fragrances of a meadow, a high country forest or a far-off campfire.
The Church of the Open Road is about riding, appreciating, sharing, and enjoying the gifts and mysteries of the roads that unify us. It should be viewed as my way of giving back to the many who have offered me tips, counsel, direction and advice while on the road.
Be safe and remember: they can’t see you. Ride accordingly.
© 2009, 2013Church of the Open Road Press
Sunday, March 10, 2013
It was a graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind. It was on a hill, about a mile and a half from the village. It had a crazy board fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward the rest of the time, but stood upright nowhere. Grass and weeds grew rank over the whole cemetery. All the old graves were sunken in, there was not a tombstone on the place; round-topped, worm-eaten boards staggered over the graves, leaning for support and finding none. "Sacred to the memory of" So-and-So had been painted on them once, but it could no longer have been read, on the most of them, now, even if there had been light.
- Mark Twain in Chapter 9 of Tom Sawyer
Samuel L. Clemens did a fine job of teaching generations of kids of a certain age that a cemetery was a sinister and scary place to frequent: haunted with spirits and specters. Graveyards were safe for the passer by only if carrying a dead cat to swing by its tail at midnight beneath a full moon accompanied by the appropriately spooky incantation.
|Helltown circa 1973|
Perhaps, I’ve come to realize, this is why we call them “plots:” There are stories here. Histories. Tragedies. All I needed to do was walk through the gate, observe, question and reflect a bit.
Some observations and questions:
Some observations and questions:
Were the lives of those with big markers more significant than those with smaller ones? Area bigwig Samuel Neal resides here, as does the namesake of the town called Durham. Sam has the bigger stone.
This prospector came all the way from Sweden. My hunch is he was about 40 when he arrived in search of gold. 1869 seems like along time ago only a couple of decades removed from the Gold Rush…
…but this 1693 Boston plot puts things into perspective. We’re all just whippersnappers out here in California.
Speaking of perspective, I looked at the 88-year lifespan of Pvt. Butterfield (originally from Illinois) resting in Placer County now for about that same length of time. I wondered what he may have wondered about the cavalcade of history that had marched through his life.
|Gold Hill, near Newcastle, CA|
Three years ago, I took a ride up toward Cherokee (Butte County) to console myself about the 22% drop in the value of my 401K. Then I saw this marker…
Throughout our cities and towns, we seem to sort and separate the departed: Protestants here, Catholics there and I wonder why we don’t assume God will just sort things out on the other side…
|Near Elk, CA|
Cemeteries equalize those who died too early with those who somehow enjoyed a wonderfully long existence even without our miracle of modern medicine.
Occasionally, a marker will evoke a spirit different from sadness or loss…
|Centerville (Butte Co, CA)|
No matter what thought leaves with me after I’ve explored an historic burial ground, I always flicker back to that trek in Butte Creek Canyon so many years ago. I’m thankful friends coaxed me up there and for the resultant “graveyard shift.”
Directions (in order of photos):
Greenwood Cemetery (El Dorado County): SR 49 from Auburn or Placerville to Cool, East on SR 193.
Helltown Cemetery (Butte County): Skyway south and east out of Chico, right on Centerville Road, bear left at Covered Bridge, through Centerville, left on Helltown Road. Private Property – Restricted Access – don’t mess with ‘em.
Durham Cemetery (Butte County): Midway south from Chico, left on Durham Dayton Highway.
Manzanita Cemetery (Placer County): Old SR 65 north from Lincoln, right on Chamberlain Road, left on Manzanita Road.
Boston Cemetery: N/A
Gold Hill Cemetery (Placer County): SR 193 east from Lincoln, left on Gold Hill Road.
Cherokee Cemetery (Butte County): SR 70 north and east from Oroville, right on Cherokee Road.
Guffy’s Cove Community Cemetery (Mendocino County): SR 1 to Elk, one mile north of town.
Centerville Cemetery (Butte County): Follow direction toward Helltown, but stop in Centerville. Check out the schoolhouse museum there.
Willow Ranch Cemetery (Modoc County): US 395 north from Alturas, right on Fandango Pass Road.
Not pictured but of interest:
Mechoopda Cemetery (Butte County) on West Sacramento Avenue in Chico (Native American?) Locked gate.
Iowa Hill Cemeteries (Placer County): West on I-80 from Auburn, at Colfax circle back on frontage road on southeast side of freeway, left onto Iowa Hill Road. Challenging road: steep, twisty, scenic and steep. Real steep.
Boot Hill (Mono County): US 395 to SR 270 junction south of Bridgeport, east on 270 to Bodie. This is a great place to rest as the sun sets. Beyond dusk, the voices of the past begin to tell stories on their neighbors. Honest.
© 2013Church of the Open Road Press
Thursday, March 7, 2013
on California’s State Route 45
|Click on any picture, if you must, to expand|
State Route 45 provides a welcome alternative to I-5 when traveling the valley north of Woodland. Coursing through farm lands, orchards and tiny bergs, the two-lane carries us back in time a bit.
Along the way it tempts us with occasional views from the west side of the Sacramento River. Although many lanes lead to the leveed banks of the Sacramento, few provide an alternate to Route 45. Most of these little avenues offer access to farmers and fisher-people simply dead-ending at the river.
The run south from Hamilton City is straight and smooth. Once past the Tehema-Colusa Canal levee, undeveloped land allows for nice views of the Coast Range off to the west and riparian stands of oak and black walnut nearer the river.
Within a few miles, almond orchards present row upon row of, on this day, delicately blossomed trees. Their fragrance is high on my list of favorites: a virtual tie with my local cigar guy’s humidor.
The highway passes through bergs that, before interstates, served as mercantile hubs farmers and ranchers.
An equipment repair shop may or may not stay open along with taverns, small, whitewashed churches and tiny country stores. I stop for bottled water and an apple, not because I need the water or the apple, but because, I figure, they need the business.
Route 45 intersects 162. I cross the river here to visit Butte City and see what’s going on. Not much…
…except for this pleasant reflection of peach blossoms.
Area kids go to school in Princeton with those making it through the twelfth grade legitimately called “Princeton Grads.”
In the 50s, the Princeton High School Band made regular treks to South Bend, Indiana to perform at Notre Dame football games. No longer. No money. Heck, there may not even be a band any more. Where’s Harold Hill when you need him?
Out this way, the almond orchards have yielded more to English walnuts. These black-stumped, silver-barked trees are spaciously organized into cool groves that might invite a nap on a hot summer day. Cautiously wondering how the landowner might react, I don’t do this.
Colusa provides a respite from the saddle. Once among the largest wheat transshipment points in the country, the town nestles the west bank of the Sacramento about half way through a sojourn along state route 45. Devoid of big box stores, the main street seems to be weathering some less-than-the-best economic times.
A stroll through the neighborhood backing the business district, one finds a nice collection of Victorian and craftsman style homes on spacious lots along tree-lined streets.
125 years ago, the state powers-that-be strongly considered Colusa for the location of the northern Normal School, an institution for training teachers. Fifty miles distant and home to US Senator John Bidwell, Chico won the bid for this school. One can only imagine the flip-flop of town fortunes had the decision gone the other direction.
Beyond Colusa, the valley has become more of a sink, a low land in which water may collect for weeks at a time in winter. Rice is now king as are wintering fowl.
Heading south from a junction with SR 20, highway 45 slips through glens of standing oaks, then veers onto the tilled valley bottomland.
Soon, it curves back riverward at Grimes. Another country store and little church make this a community. From here, the highway appears to follow straight lines, making ninety-degree turns at, perhaps, historic property lines.
A nice alternative is Wilson Bend Road.
This little gem wanders through a few more fields and orchards and offers few more miles of levee top views of the river.
The pavement isn’t great, but I’m not in a hurry or I’d be over on I-5.
The final stretch is a pleasant jaunt through the Great Valley, although I always get to Knight’s Landing wishing there were a few more miles of state route 45 to enjoy.
Today’s Route: I-5 to Orland or State Route 99 to Chico; SR 32 to Hamilton City (Glenn County). From Hamilton City, south on SR 45 through Ord Bend (what’s left of it), Glenn (ditto) to Four Corners. Here, consider a side trip over to Butte City just to check things out across the river. Continue south of SR 45 through Princeton (find the old ferry pulled up on the bank in the shadow of a warehouse; but watch out for the little yip-yip dog who guards it!) to Colusa. SR 45 joins SR 20 through town splitting about five miles south of town. Bear right, through Grimes, Grand Island and on to Knight’s Landing. Alternate south of Grand Island: left on Wilson Bend for a few miles of levee riding. From Knight’s Landing SR 113 leads to Woodland or Yuba City; county road E-10 hooks up with I-5 at Zamora.
Church of the Open Road Press