Wednesday, July 21, 2021

LAST FRIDAY’S CLOSE CALL

Treatise on the potential hazards wrought by 

wearing riding gear to the lumber yard 

while driving a Subaru…

 

 

I was not on the Yamaha.  I was in the Subaru.  I’d just left the Home Depot in a town twenty miles distant and, given that I was in the area, decided to swing by the European motorcycle dealer who, among other things, marketed Moto Guzzi, to ask howcum he didn’t have any Guzzis on the floor.




The gent in sales was someone I’d run across before.  Not here, however.  Richard, his name is, owns a renowned motorcycle soft gear manufacturing company that happened to recently relocate to in my very (little) city.  A couple of months back, I was eye-balling a state-of-the-art BMW parked in front of his shop.  

 

“Wow!” I said, “That thing looks like it just came out of the showroom!  How many miles on it?”

         

His wife who’d come outside responded: “37.”

 

 

Fast forward to last Friday and Richard, who claims his wife actually runs the business – advertising, sales, manufacturing – Richard, when he bought the Beemer noticed that the staff at the Euro-shop was a bit thin.  

         

“Need help?” Richard had asked.

         

“Nope,” was the reply…

         

… until he returned to buy a smaller BMW for “the boss.”

         

Bottom line? For the past couple of weeks, he’s been part-time in sales at the bike shop.

         

“So,” I say, clad in sneakers and shorts and a t-shirt and with a 16’ Stanley Powerlock tape clipped to my belt, “are you all still carrying Guzzis?  I see other dealers in your group have ‘em but you don’t.”

         

“We carry ‘em when we can get ‘em,” Richard replied.  “We just can’t get ‘em what with the pandemic and all.”  Then he added, “We only have one right now.”

         

None were listed on the website, so I was a bit surprised.


Promotional Image from Las Vegas Euro-Sports
“It’s a V7 Classic.”

         

“2021?”  I’d been drooling over the 2021 online for quite some time.

         

“I think so.”

 

 

Moto Guzzi is the essence of motorcycling.  Lots of character.  Timeless design.  Italian mojo. Not a lot of power or grunt or speed, but as the motorcycling press says, “If you’re buying a Moto Guzzi, that’s not what you’re looking for.”


 

Promotional Image from Moto Guzzi

Guzzi is currently producing three or four models each with a few iterations of design, color, or bling.  Of all the Guzzi models, the V7 is the essence of Guzzi’s “essence of motorcycling.”  Simple.  Sound.  Beautiful.


Not me.  Yet.


I sat on this spanking new silver-gray V7 (it also comes in a drop-dead gorgeous blue) with its luxurious brown leather seat and chatted with Richard about the roads he’d ridden in his 74 years tooling around northern California and the west, and the same ones I’d ridden in my nearly 70 years.  I thought about doing ‘em all over again on this piece of rolling artistry.  The seat of the Italian beauty cradled my posterior, and I was flooded with memories of the time and the miles spent on my ’07 Guzzi Breva – a roadster I never shoulda let get away.  All the while I’m thinking, “This is why I don’t bring my riding gear to the Home Depot.” 

         

That said, had the “only one we have right now” been in that drop-dead gorgeous blue, I probably woulda had to figure something out.  And it’d probably be sitting in my garage right now.

         

Close call, indeed.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, June 21, 2021

MY LITTLE DOG TOO

… a true-to-life rescue story…

 

On a recent Sunday, we were the humans of a second dog for about 45 minutes.  Because he was a stray who, like our lab-mix Edward, sorta found us, I named our new dog “Too.”

         California’s State Route 175 heads east from US 101 at Hopland.  It alternately winds through foothills and races across fertile valleys of vineyard and ranchland.  Were it not for a 17-mile stretch of crumbling, twisty pavement over the Mayacamas, it might be considered a shortcut to somewhere.  Just shy of those mountains, the Sanal Valley is home to the industrial strength Ray’s Station Winery.  175 shoots a straight line across this valley’s floor and travelers pick up the pace from around 30 miles per hour to above 65.  

         That Sunday morning, we were powering up along the stretch when our eyes were distracted by a tiny tan and white dot cris-crossing the pavement near the winery.  We slowed, as did an on-comer.  Drawing near, we found the wandering dot was a tiny dog – perhaps a chihuahua-terrier mix of some sort – darting here and there, into and out of the traffic lanes, likely confused but surely in danger.

         “Oh, we need to stop!” Candi said.

         “No, we need to keep going,” I replied, knowing we had somewhere to be at some specific time.

         “It’ll get run over!”

         “Keep going!”

         “I can’t live with that.”

         Candi pulled into a wide spot and idled the Subaru under a spreading oak.

         Reluctantly – because I know how these things have ended up in the past (apologies to Edward) – I hopped out and while crossing the highway, palmsed down approaching vehicles to encourage them to slow.

         I positioned myself between the little dog and the pavement.  He warily scurried about on the dirt shoulder.  At times, I could approach and lightly scratch his head but was viciously snapped at if I attempted to scoop him up or slip my finger under his tiny red collar.  No tags dangled from that collar but the collar told me he belonged to someone.  With each of my futile attempts at capture, he would gyrate away.  A couple of sport bikes whistled by, then an F-150.  I knew couldn’t let the dog make it back to the road.


Not the real dog, but he looked a lot like this one...

         “Grab Edward’s leash!” I hollered across the highway.  Edward, by now, knew something was up.  He was peering out the side window of the Sube witnessing in horror, I’m sure, that his humans were about to violate the first commandment: that being thou shalt have no other dogs before me.  (Apologies to Moses.)

         Candi snapped the leash around the red collar – couldn’t seem to match the clip to the collar’s D-ring – but the little guy apparently didn’t cotton to such constriction.  He rolled over on his back and kicked and snapped at us from the dust.  We retrieved a towel from the car and tried to wrap him up, but he didn’t particularly want to be wrapped up.  Finally, we fashioned a bit of a noose by looping the leash through the leash’s loop on its people end and slipped the thing over the little guy’s head.  Tightening it no further than simply secure, the miniscule critter suddenly relaxed.  Five minutes of soft murmurs and gentle rubs on the head and then belly, and the little guy was ours.  

         With a cell tower in sight, I placed a call to Mendocino County Animal Control.  Closed on Sunday.  This seemed as outrageous as a dump being closed on Thanksgiving. (Apologies to Arlo Guthrie.) But my call was patched through to sheriff’s dispatch.  Explaining the circumstance, the dispatcher, once learning that the locale was a state highway, forwarded my call to the CHP.  Upon finding that we’d already secured the animal and it was no longer a potential hazard, the CHP rerouted my call to Animal Control.  Nowhere was where we were going and there was somewhere we were supposed to be.

         Apparently, the dog was now ours.  Placing hands on each side of his heaving ribcage, Candi carried him across the road at arm’s length and placed him in the footwell of the Sube’s passenger seat.  He’d calmed appreciably by this time.  Perhaps it was trust.  Perhaps he knew he was no longer in danger.  Maybe he thought he was going home.  Our home.

         Candi was pleased.  The puppy was pleased.  Grudgingly, I was pleased.  Edward, however, was not.  What other commandments do my humans choose to so willingly ignore?

 

 

Now what?  We couldn’t take him with us, and we couldn’t leave him there.  

         The little guy must have been a local.  The red collar told us so.  That, and he was too cute and too compliant to be a pup someone would abandon by the side of a state highway.  Well, most someones.  The little guy was a charmer.  In the footwell he was quiet and no longer feeling the need to nip or cower.  At one point I could swear a heard the slightest chihuahua-sized sigh of contentment as he settled against Candi’s feet.

         Across the road from the Ray’s Station Winery lay a farm or cattle ranch that likely dated back to the nineteenth century.  Not having given way to wine grapes, the fencing and distant barns said livestock.  They also suggested that whoever lived there might know where this little chi-terrier gentleman belonged.  As we wended along the gravel road between the snaking fences, I reached down into and rubbed the little guy’s head.  Craning his wanting neck toward my departing fingers, he seemed to say, “Please, sir.  I’d like some more.”  (Apologies to ‘Oliver’.)

         “What if there’s nobody here?  What if they don’t know the owner?”  Candi asked as we bumped along. “What if…”

         “I guess we’ll have a second dog.  I already know what to name him.”

         The parallel fence line widened as we approached a dusty complex of barns, outbuildings and corrals.  As we drove up, two men were heading out in an aging burgundy red Dodge pickup.  I suspected they didn’t get a lot of visitors out this way.  

         Lowering my window, I held up a hand.  “We found a little dog wandering about on the highway just now.”

         The driver looked at Edward.  “That one?”

         “No.”  Candi lifted the chihuahua and whatever-happened-to-be-on-the-block-that-day mix from the footwell.  “Do you know if he belongs to anyone around here? We’re on our way to somewhere and we really can’t or shouldn’t keep him.  Called the shelter but they were closed.”

         By this time, the rancher who’d been driving had stepped out of his Dodge.  Candi held up the rascal.  The rancher looked at the dog.  I suspect they made eye contact: man-to-dog, dog-to-man eye contact.

         The man considered, but only for a moment.  “I have two dogs already.  I don’t think having a third one would much matter.”

         He gently took up the dog, grasping him by his now-not-heaving sides.  

Not the real lap, either, but what does it matter?

         “Look,” I said.  “If you can’t find the owner or it somehow doesn’t work out, here’s my card.  E-mail me and I’ll come pick him up and take him to the shelter when they’re open.”

         Tucking the little guy under one arm, he took my card and nodded.  “This will be no problem…”

         “But if it is…”

         He nodded again as we turned and headed back toward the highway.

 

 

Once returned to route 175 Candi asked, “you said you had a name for him already.  What was it?”

         “Too,” I said, and I explained why.  Candi seemed to nod.  “Plus," I added, "when we go to the vet, the vet can refer to him as 'Your little dog, Too'.”  (Apologies to the Wicked Witch of the West and to Margaret Hamilton who owns that role on film and who uttered that iconic line.)

         After thirty-five years of marriage, my loving wife had long since grown more than a bit weary of my wit.  Presently, we began to consider the principal differences between dogs and humans:  

…Dogs are loyal.  

…Dogs are inherently trusting and true.  

…Dogs are protective and their love is unconditional.

         We agreed on these and quite a few others including: “A dog would never abandon their human by the side of the road.”

         Five miles up the hill, I was half-hoping the rancher would not contact me.

         Days later, the other half is still hoping he will.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ASHES TO ASHES

 

…another visit to Simpson Camp…

 

A lucky person finds his or her special Eden.  In my case, it is a place where the only sounds are of soughing pines and the occasional cry of a hawk, where the passing air is fragrant and fresh, where views stretch from my feet to forever, where memories are rich and fulfilling, where decades dissolve each time I visit.

 

Click on any photo to expand 'em all.


The old sheep camp near Mendocino Pass is that place for me.

 

In the 60s, our family met up with the sheep man’s clan for long weekends in the lost high country of the Coast Range.


 

An easily forgotten Jeep road wound away from the forest highway climbing to the top of a ridge that overlooked a sweeping glade and a distant stand of firs.




Mom and Ellie cooked on an abandoned Wedgewood.

 



When it came time to allow Mom her rest last year, this would be the place.  We left her shillelagh – a hickory walking stick she'd purchased when visiting Ireland – under a fallen log on the off chance her spirit might want to hike over to the Yolla Bollys and catch up with Dad who’d had a twenty-five year head start.

 

Scanning up the meadow to the top of the ridge, a copse of oaks stood “like a Greek Chorus,” Dad had said all those many years before.

 



The 'chorus' still stood in 2020.

 



From the vantage point of this little grove, on a clear day, you can see the fog hugging the Pacific coast forty miles to the west and the crest of the Sierra 90-plus miles east.  Eden indeed. Accompanied by my granddaughter and my nephew, I drove a stake into the ground in that stand of oaks. Eye contact with the two told me they knew why.

 

 

 Then, on August 16, 2020, all hell literally broke loose.  The word ‘literally’ is often misused – not in this case.

 

Source: CalFire


Folks at CalFire suggested that the August Complex fire started as a result of lightning strikes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if investigators ultimately found that the devil himself had slipped out of a fissure somewhere in eastern Glenn County and exhaled his damnable, fiery breath over 1,032,000 acres of mountain and range land.  Large areas of the Yolla Bolly and Yuki Wilderness would be burned.  And my little Eden lay smack in the middle of the largest wildfire California had ever experienced.

 

 

On a Monday in April 2021, we decided to revisit Simpson Camp, see what survived and maybe grab Mom’s stick.  Here’s what we found.  


Turnoff to Simpson Camp – May 2020:


 

Turnoff to Simpson Camp – April 2021:

 



View up the glade – May 2020:

 



View down the glade – April 2021:

 



Simpson Camp kitchen – circa 1966:

 



Simpson Camp kitchen – April 2021:

 



Ash from Mom’s hickory shillelagh:

 



The fire roared through the treetops and turned the grasses and skunk cabbage and understory to ash… 

 



…revealing artifacts (read: refuse) from earlier days…

 



…including a church-keyed Coors can…

 



… and a remnant of the old Wedgewood.

 



The trek up the hill would prove melancholy.  The beauty of my Eden was gone.




 

 

Or was it?  At the top of the hill, that copse of oaks was in the process of budding out.  And a little white fir had joined the chorus.

 



Taking a closer look…

 



Simpson Camp’s rebirth may be slow, and it may be painful but I’m thinking I’ll be close by to monitor things.

 

© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

 

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

COMFORT COOKING

 A brief Church of the Open Road remembrance…

 

Last night, I was preparing spaghetti carbonara and thinking of my late pal Bob.  Bob liked Coors Lite and Rush Limbaugh, but for those indiscretions I could forgive him.  Bob let me help him cook.

 

Working a split shift, Bob’s job was to open up the little school where he was the custodian.  He’d clean classrooms and toilets, mop up spills and the occasional vomit, mow the playing field, trim the trees, shovel the snow, freshen the paint, befriend the dispossessed kid and lock up again at night.  His hours were seven to eleven and two to six.  He rarely went home at lunch, because often times, he’d serve lunch and chat with students as they ate outside under a giant oak.  Sometimes, he’d even cook lunch – not for the kids, for the staff.

 

His Italian roots were not well buried.  On a regular basis, the little electric stove in the break room would bubble with his scratch marinara or buttery garlic sauce.  Occasionally, although I served as the little school’s principal, Bob would haul me in to sous chef for him, directing me in dicing onions or shucking clams. Just as teachers filed in at noon, his pasta achieved al dente and clams or meatballs were ready to be ladled on top.  Garlic bread was there for the sopping.  All that was missing was an appropriate Primitivo or Dolcetto.

 

Bob’s Italian lunches were comfort foods for us all.  As our country entered the Gulf War, Bob cooked.  If a student lost a mom or dad, Bob cooked.  When my tenure was coming to a rather rocky end, Bob cooked. The engaging aromas of a loving Italian kitchen helped pacify the angst brought about by any tumultuous news of the day.  

 


In the aftermath of last week’s insurrection and the assault on the capitol, I prepared this simple spaghetti carbonara, let its fragrance fill the house and reminisced about my late pal Bob.   I’d long ago learned that the difference between a janitor and a custodian is that while a janitor is charged with mopping and cleaning, a custodian, by definition, is one who “cares for.” 

 

As I cooked last night, I wondered if there was – anywhere – a Bob who might serve as the custodian of our democracy.



© 2021

Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020: THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN ROAD’S YEAR IN REVIEW

  

…as random and crazy as the year departing was, 

expect little or no order herewith…

 


We’ll start with Edward’s annual first-week-in-January “Polar Bear” swim in Lake Sonoma (with the best stick ever)…

 


 

Our area would again be visited by fire this year…

 

 


…and circumstances curtailed a bit of travel, but I did revisit some favored roads.

 

 


The coast has replaced the Sierra as our go-to place for beauty and reflection…

 

 


…any time of the year…

 

 


…with all manner of creatures…

 

 


…and hidden little Edens.

 

 


 

We bid farewell to Romeo…

 

 


…a classic BMW that deserved better than to be gathering dust in the garage… 

 

 


…and Mom found permanent rest in this favored place.  (Photo circa 1967)

 

 


 

A ‘chase car’ trip to Central Oregon afforded us this view of Shasta…

 

 


                                                   

…a week on the Metolius River…

 

 


…a visit to McKenzie Pass…

 

 


…and a loop down the Oregon Coast.

 


 

 

Random additional images include:  Sunset at Bandon, Oregon…

 

 


…a perfunctory derelict truck…

 

 


…a nice new-to-me section of pavement…

 

 


…and “OH! NO!”

 

 


 

Best book among the many read this year?  Dr. Lepore (Closed circuit to folks at the WSJ: A woman with a PhD is a doctor) offers a readable 400-plus year history of the United States reminding us that we do have ideals, but we don’t always stand up for ‘em the way we say we do. Witness the past few years.  (Allow about a month to finish it, but well worth the effort).

 


 

Shots of the year as judged by our panel of expert (yes: ‘expert’ is singular.)


5th Runner Up: representing too little time with Grandkids in the real world this year:

 

 


4th Runner Up: because we want them grandkids never to miss critters like this:

 


3rd Runner Up: Coastal School (or fire?) Bell.

 

 


2nd Runner Up: Dusk in Upper Lake, California.

 

 


Shot of the Year: Thomas Kincade-esque Cabin across the Metolius.

 

 


Here’s hoping for a more conducive 2021 – (more conducive for damned-near everything.)

 

© 2020

Church of the Open Road Press