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Wednesday, December 30, 2015
… in pictures
January: an annual trip to the Seattle area includes an annual trip to Moto Guzzi heaven: Moto International. The church has coveted the California 1400 Touring for twelve months now…
… and although I’ve been very good, apparently Santa didn’t get the memo on this.
Returning to California, Folsom Lake approaches historic lows as the drought continues.
And we find the first of many photogenic old trucks.
February: There’s still enough water in Folsom Lake to allow Edward (the lab mix) a shot at his favorite pastime.
March: The “Church” is ready to try out more road worthy (less gravel worthy) tires on the BMW.
Old truck II
April: We search for our roots knowing that “the old timer” (Dad) worked on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad as a kid out of high school.
We found the T and T station at Rhyolite but also found out that Dad, in his youth never worked this far north on the line.
On the same trip, we visited the lowest point in the United States somewhat disappointed that we didn’t run across the debate of a major US political party at this place.
The subtle colors of Death Valley inspire awe.
The drive home on the Beemer, however, still inspires shivers. 28 degrees and dropping over Emigrant Pass. Damned happy, I was, to be sporting those new tires, I'll tell you what!
June: We revisit old stomping grounds in Tuolumne County including Pinecrest Lake…
…and Sonora Pass.
July: Yet another old truck
And a visit to the incomparable Big Sur Coast with its rocky shoals…
…and perched security posts.
Still, our Pacific Coast north of San Francisco Bay offers much to appreciate.
In another adventure, we revisit Glenn County’s Simpson Camp after a 50 year absence; the first roughing-it sojourn in the worthy Subaru Forester.
August included a planned loop including a trip through Bend, OR, cut short by the mechanical failure of my riding buddy’s Stelvio,
…prompting my smoky trip to the coast through the fire-ravaged hills along CA 299.
Fixing what ails those of us who age took me out of the saddle for a longer-than-expected period.
September’s trial run on the Guzzi proved I wasn’t yet ready for the long haul.
October: So we explored in the pickup and on foot. The upside is that companion Edward could join on adventures.
Old Truck IV
And we discover a nearly drained Lake Pillsbury. It seems the drought affected everyone, not just those of us who used to live near Folsom Lake.
November: Trips to Chico found us crossing the Sacramento Valley enjoying its subtle beauties…
…and some of her denizens.
An old Victorian reminds us that something did happen in Artois, a town that I-5 later passed right by.
Rather than cook on Thanksgiving we sought out a hike at Point Reyes…
…and enjoyed a close up of a member of its repopulating elk herd.
December found us in Texas - our home state’s greatest competitor for both jobs and cool. A dogtrot cabin served as a nice place for a little break.
Not an Old Truck I
The top of a red granite knob proved that Texas, too, has some pristine places worth our pause.
Shot of the Year Second Runner Up: “I’ll have the Bourbon. On the porch, please.”
First Runner Up: “Wha’chu lookin’ at?”
Shot of the Year: “The Works of Man and Nature.”
The Church of the Open Road wishes all a pleasurable and adventuresome 2016. We hope to see you on the road. Ride safe.
Church of the Open Road Press
Friday, December 25, 2015
Impressions of Central Texas – part 3
In an effort to be cool – which, indeed, takes quite an effort in my case – I walked into the Austin, Texas Moto Guzzi dealer wearing my bright red Moto Guzzi tractor-style baseball cap. I figured I’d fit right in.
This was our first, and presumably only, visit to the Texas capitol city. We had ninety minutes to kill before our scheduled tourist bus tour of the town and environs. “There’s a motorcycle shop just up the freeway that sells Guzzis,” I said to Candace, my wife, having done the on-line research that generally precedes my visit to a new area. Usually that research comes a cropper given the Italian motorcycle maker’s thin network of sales outlets. “They’ve got the 2014 California Touring for like forty-five hundred dollars off retail. Brand new!” I exclaimed. Her shrug was unapparent, given the good sport she always is, so together we entered AF1 Racing Motorsports. There, I would nose around and sit on some inventory, while she would…
After allowing a few minutes of browsing and quite possibly spying my red hat, the sales technician asked, “What Guzzi do you ride?” I use the word technician because the guy was really good. “I have a Breva 1100 and a BMW.” “Oh, I like the Breva,” he said, adding a few more words about this discontinued model to ensure I knew he knew what he was talking about. He turned to my wife: “And do you like to ride with him?” “Not so much, anymore,” she said. “Oh, so what hobbies do you have that cost a lot of money?”
I’ve been a fan of the Guzzi marque since I sat on that ’07 Breva about four years ago. The Sacramento area BMW salesman insisted that I take a well kept used one for a spin. Oh my! The rumble from the exhaust. The rightward lean when cracking the throttle. The fluid nature of the Italian design elements. The fit. The company’s storied history. The bikes’ Saab-like quirkiness. The mojo. Two hours later, the black B-1100 sat ticking and cooling in my garage, much to the chagrin of the missus.
Three California Touring models sat lined up in the middle of AF1’s huge showroom. I straddled a black one, imagining the wind whistling just over my head, deflected by the large Plexiglas “cop-type” windshield. I pictured myself as Clint Eastwood chasing bad guys on rooftops in that second Dirty Harry movie. I’d coveted the California 1400 since I first encountered one at the dealer in Seattle. And at this price?
I craned my neck to see if the sales guy might be circling in to ask if I had any questions about a bike he didn’t know I’d pretty thoroughly researched. He was back at the apparel counter chatting it up with Candi. “Quilting? Cool. He (indicating me) has two motorcycles. How many sewing machines do you have?” She responded. He said, “There are a lot of quilts in my family, you know, handed down through generations. Do you have any like that?” She answered describing a depression era sample that may have come from a great aunt. ‘That must be quite a piece of history.”
I moved to the white model, sat on it, leaned it off its side stand and twisted the throttle. I remembered the brief conversation I’d had a while back with Miguel Galluzzi, the designer of the new California model. He’s my height and, perhaps, just a little bit heavier. “I wanted to design a bike for guys our size,” he had said, moving his hand from his shoulder to my own. I settled into the seat and pictured myself gliding around serpentine curves on California’s north coast or spinning across great stretches of Nevada and Utah and Wyoming. That, and the whole Clint Eastwood thing. I looked over my shoulder again.
“Fredericksburg? Oh that’s a great little town. And there are a couple of really nice quilt shops there.” He offered directions.
Nothing looks or feels like a Guzzi, in my mind, and the new California model advances the Guzzi lineup into a sport-touring/cruiser realm that turns heads and elicits questions wherever it is parked. Or, at least, that’s been the case with the Breva. Dismounting, I flipped a lever on one of the panniers affixed to the Cali. Opening the top, I peered in, impressed by the volume but curious if it exceeded what I might have on my GSA.
“Do you sew, you know, clothing?” Pause. “A friend of mine designs clothes – has a shop in Fredericksburg. Just out of town. You should stop by.”
Standing in front of the big cruiser, I admired the odd headlight and wondered about the coverage of the standard running lights. I ran my index finger the length of the bike’s shiny front fender.
“Well, yes, shoes are really the foundation upon which fashion must work…”
I got back on the black one, and paused to look at my watch. Our city tour was scheduled to depart in thirty-five minutes and it was a twenty-minute haul back into town.
I approached the apparel counter. “If you have time,” the technician said to me, “I can let you ride one of those.”
“Oh,” I replied, we’re from out of the area.
“That’s what your wife said. California. North of Santa Rosa? There’s a great barbecue house up in Cloverdale on the road out to the coast…”
We chitchatted our way to the door where the sales tech said, “You know, we ship units anywhere in the United States.”
Then the following statement came from my wife, which explains why I opt for the term technician in reference to the chap on the sales floor. She said: “You should put a thousand down and have ‘em ship one to you.” I was gobsmacked. That sales guy had to be good.
Three days later, we entered a quilt store in Fredericksburg, Texas. In room upon room, brightly colored bolts of fabric were squeezed against one another. Candi admitted that she didn’t need another project – several were still awaiting completion back in the sewing room – but she’d shop for one anyway.
As she wandered through the displays, I approached the counter where two women stood talking about inventory. “Excuse me,” I said. “The other day, my wife and I were in Austin at an Italian motorcycle shop. While I was browsing Moto Guzzi motorcycles, the sales guy spent about thirty minutes talking with her about quilts and sewing and stuff.”
“Oh, why, that's very nice,” they chorused, adding a polite little giggle. Clearly they'd dealt with the husbands of customers before.
“So I was wondering if either of you would like to chat a bit about Italian motorcycles.”
Fortunately, when we travel, I pack a book or two to read. I finished nearly three chapters while waiting on the bench outside.
AF1 Racing has a huge selection of Aprilia, MG, Vespas, Zeros and other brands. Their website: http://af1racingaustin.com/
An interesting interview with designer Miguel Galluzzi: https://rideapart.com/articles/minutes-miguel-galluzzi
One Quilt Place in Fredericksburg, TX. This place rivals the shop in Sisters, Oregon for inventory and cool stuff, in my opinion: http://www.onequiltplace.com/
Church of the Open Road Press
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Towncraft t-shirts for little boys were three for ninety-nine cents at J C Penney. Ranchcraft blue jeans were under six bucks. These two items comprised the apparel du jour for all the neighborhood seven- to- ten-year olds engaged in the Saturday afternoon Horseapple Wars of about 1958 or 59.
Next door to where I grew up, the neighbor had about an acre-and-a-half. Their property had been carved out of a seven-acre almond [pronounced am-min] orchard and we owned the larger chunk. In point of fact, their house had been the parcel’s farmhouse and what became our place, used to be the barn. In back of their house, a weathered and worn pecky-cedar fence corralled a dozen or so aging almond trees and a retired circus pony named Tiny. Historically, the neighbor kids’ dad actually used to own a little one-ring circus and their property was strewn with an amazing and magical collection of circus performance goods and props: sections of the wooden ring, a three and a half foot tall wooden ball, various bolts and folds of once-gaily decorated tent canvas, cages previously inhabited by monkeys – all stored in a derelict 40-foot trailer with faded paint reading “Robinson Bros. Shows.” And then there was Tiny.
Tiny was a curious attraction. He never was allowed to venture outside the confines of the cedar plank fence. Tall, for a pony, he was palomino in color and skittish as all hell. No one could ride him. Inside the fenced area, I watched – more than once – as one of the neighbor’s twin boys charged up to Tiny, grabbed his mane and flipped himself onto the pony’s back to be summarily dumped on the other side of the beast with nary a nicker. The kid always popped to his feet appearing unscathed, but I knew it hurt every time I witnessed it and I knew I was never going to try to ride Tiny.
“What good is a horse you can’t ride?” I asked out loud. Then something hit me just behind and below my left ear. And the wars were on.
Horse manure can be used for many things. In Rancho Days, the early Californios would mix clay, manure and water and place the concoction into rectangular molds to dry, forming adobe bricks. The partially digested hay or straw in the horse droppings helped bind the mud bricks together adding strength to the brick and stability to the missions and ranch houses of our state’s earliest European settlements. In more recent times, manure has been bagged and sold at garden shops and home improvement outlets as an inexpensive mulching material: two drawbacks being the smell and the occasional sprouting of a healthy crop of alfalfa or wheat straw among the family’s pumpkins, watermelons, row crops or dichondra.
But back in the fifties, and in our little neighborhood, a favored use of Tiny’s prodigious product was as a projectile. A missle. An orb perfect for chucking at the nearest kid’s noggin. A little smaller than an official size and weight little league hard ball, a horseapple possessed a density light enough that no one struck was ever really hurt.
I slapped the portion of my neck where I’d been hit. A bit of sweetly pungent goo and a few alfalfa fibers stuck to my fingertips. My assailant had slipped across my range of vision. At my feet rested an amalgamation of horseapples piled curiously like a picture of cannon balls I’d seen in my old Davy Crockett book. Remembering the Alamo, I grabbed a fat one from the top of the pile and flung wildly. It splattered on the black trunk of an almond tree. I reached for a reload as one whizzed over my head. Rising, I was hit square between the shoulders of my white Towncraft Tee. I spun, threw and missed again. Another one hit me on the shoulder accompanied by a shrill laugh. Reaching for another, I rose to be clocked once, twice, three more times: volleys were incoming from every direction, as were the gales of laughter.
I’m certain that I grazed one or two of the neighborhood boys, as did whoever was on my side in this clash. But the battle was soon lost to wriggling children, each falling to the orchard floor, succumbing to the involuntary responses uncontrollable guffaws portend.
About the time the mirth died down, another round landed near somebody. A second skirmish ensued. Then a third. Then a fourth.
Finally in the dying afternoon light, someone’s mother called, using that classic musical minor third indicating dinner was ready, and it was time to head home.
Horseapple residue does not readily wash out of white cotton Towncraft Tees nor Ranchcraft blue jeans. Or so Mom predicted. And she was right. She more than admonished us that Tiny’s droppings were best left on the ground, adding, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to have you ruin a perfectly good 33-cent shirt every Saturday afternoon.”
But we didn’t listen. Our neighborhood consisted of nine or ten youth, more than one of whom was willing to engage in battle as long as Tiny was willing to produce munitions, regardless of what his or any other kid’s mother had to say about things. Each initial, singular volley led to a donnybrook of flying dung and laughter even though the consequences ramped up with every new occurrence.
The finality of the wars came about like this: quoting my frustrated mother: “One day all you’ll have is those… those… befouled, stinking T shirts to wear to school, and then what will the others think?”
“That we had some fun playing war with Tiny’s…” I chose not to say the word.
There was an audible gasp. Mom picked up the phone and dialed. The conversation was short. She hung up and dialed again. Then again. Like a latter-day Paul Revere, Mom had seen that all the mothers in the neighborhood were of common mind. Collectively, we boys were sternly warned – no, threatened: something regarding the end of life as we then knew it – outfitted with new Towncraft Tees, and sent on our way. The great Horseapple Wars of 1958 or 59 had come to an end. We would need to find something else, something less filthy to do.
Four or five doors down lived one of the Great War participants. His name was Craig. His house was newer and cleaner and a bit better kept than ours or that of the family who owned the original farmhouse next door. Craig’s house had a pristine clover lawn bordered in trim blueberry bushes – blueberry bushes whose fruit came to ripeness – and over-ripeness about mid-October.
An over-ripe blueberry is much smaller than a regulation horseapple. It is much squishier and much more difficult to grip. It doesn’t sail as far when flicked or thrown, therefore, Craig’s smaller, suburban front yard was an adequate venue for what was to come.
And so these are the lessons: Seven- to- ten-year-old boys don’t generalize things particularly well. And blueberry stains are much more difficult to get out of cotton T-shirts than those of Tiny’s horse poop.
Our poor mothers…
© 2015Church of the Open Road Press
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Viewing Texas from the outside, one may think the state is a gun slinging, take-no-prisoners, renegade outpost of far-right thoughtlessness. Our December experience was far different.
Folks were more than friendly and accommodating; drivers, unlike on I-80 through the Sacramento Valley, drove fast but were extremely forgiving and courteous; fuel was inexpensive; food was varied and enjoyable; and no civilian we saw was carrying openly. Although that may be due to change come January 1st.
Here are a few photos and impressions of Austin, Fredericksburg and the Hill Country.
The Texas statehouse is a focal point of downtown Austin.
Built of red granite, its interior holds fascinating details in its hardware and woodwork.
Fifteen feet taller than our nation’s capitol in DC – we have trees taller in California.
Entering, we pass heavily armed members of the Texas Rangers whose automatic weaponry is not well concealed behind their uniform jackets. Don’t mess with ‘em.
Meanwhile, the Austin Philharmonic sets up for a noontime Christmas concert and I couldn’t escape the thought that the uniformed men were somehow packin’ for the Prince of Peace.
A larger-than-life Texan was the oft-misunderstood Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Growing up in the hill country, LBJ was grounded in western sensibilities such as hard work and fairness…
…but the domestic accomplishments of his presidency were overshadowed by the tragedy that the Vietnam War would become.
Many stage stops and way stations in Texas have dried up and disappeared. Not Luckenbach. Perhaps we can thank Waylon and Willie.
The post off still stands and music is played daily out back. Grab a beer and sit in the shade of the oaks and pecans…
Hye, Texas, isn’t entirely gone either. A burgeoning wine industry spreads across the hill country, but in Hye, the Garrison Brothers have established a tasting room for something far more basic.
Sadly, they don’t ship to California.
[That’s okay, I said to the clerk who was serving a couple of huge, mean-lookin’ (but actually very kindly) biker dudes, I don’t live in California, anyway…]
It takes a long time for things to rust in Central Texas, or so it seems.
And they don’t seem to throw things out until their usefulness is completely exhausted.
Old cars, farm trucks and tractors from the fifties and sixties are frequently seen on the ranch roads…
…and classic cars that some folks out our way might wish to restore, are simply driven around until they can’t be driven around any more.
The batholith under the hill country, exposed where not covered in limestone, produces a lovely pink granite. North of Fredericksburg is a dome called the Enchanted Rock.
The climb to the top is an easy one.
Vernal pools dot the dome and around each may grow a stand of seasonal grasses or a more permanent cactus.
The view, while not as spectacular as California’s Sierra, is none-the-less sublime rolling off for a full 360 degrees.
The low winter sun in the late afternoon suggests that “Enchantment” might be exactly the right word for this place.
The Hill Country of Central Texas offers a physical timeline of Texas’s past…
…and its present…
…inviting more visits to the area in the future.
LBJ National Historic Park: http://www.nps.gov/lyjo/index.htm
Luckenbach, Texas official website: http://www.luckenbachtexas.com/
…and its theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvZeYDBY4fw (Sorry about the ad…)
Garrison Brothers Distillery, Hye, TX: http://garrisonbros.com/
Enchanted Rock: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/enchanted-rock
Lodging in the area? Check out his VRBO offered by niece Catherine and her husband James. The evening stars shine brightly above their deck and the area’s cardinals and roadrunners will greet you in the morning. (https://www.vrbo.com/627152)
© 2015Church of the Open Road Press