Thursday, March 29, 2012


THERE’S A BROTHERHOOD of riders (closed circuit to “Fishy” and “Demenshea:” make that “sisterhood” or “personhood”) who ride in the rain – stronger than the bond between those of us who simply ride. Here’s proof: On a sunny day, the wave you afford any oncoming rider may be met with a wave in return. But, then again, it may not. On a rainy day, we’re all too eager to greet one another. Suddenly, we’re all in this together, battling the same elements.

MOM’S BEEN IN AND OUT of the hospital as of late for various ailments natural to one who is looking at ninety. Three weeks ago, the late night punches she received in her chest, followed by the hot pain radiating down her left arm would signal anyone that something cardiac was going on. Mom, of late in an independent living home, looked at the illuminated digital clock next to her bed and seeing it was well past 11:00, decided to wait until morning to pull the cord for help. A mid-morning call the next day precipitated two or three 100-mile trips up and back for me without complaint. She needed her son.

Yesterday she complained she was “hallucinogenating,” her word, not mine. Concern was that it might be a result of the medications from the earlier ordeal. Or, it could be a result of her sad and on-going macular degeneration. Those eliminated, a test was ordered to see if there may be some sort of lower GI infection.

I SCOOTED NORTH on the BMW, clothed for fifty-five to sixty degree temps. My timing was such that if I went straight to “the home,” I’d find myself crashing lunch. I’ll do anything to avoid “crashing lunch” at “the home”, so I waylaid myself at my favorite Chico area greasy spoon – the Kalico Kitchen – with an omelet, coffee and a chat with Chris, the waitress who talks much younger than I suspect she is.

Departing the Kitchen, I noted that a screw and nut holding the crash bar to the frame on my GSA had fallen off. Lunch was still probably underway at “the home,” so I ventured over to Ozzie’s BMW to see about finding a replacement. “A part fell off my bike,” I announced to the young man at the counter. “Uh-oh,” he said. “Yeah,” I continued. “I felt like I was on a British bike.” Laughs (undeserved, by the way) all around. Ozzie, the Dean of BMW shop owners in the entire country, I again suspect, entered. He helped his help find the part and waved off any payment for either the part or the installation.

I arrived at “the home” just as lunch was winding down – a statement that assumes anything ever winds up enough to ever have to wind down at “the home.” My good and reliable in-town brother was already on scene. He was ready to cart Mom off to the lab for the tests, and since Mom never has owned a motorcycle helmet or leathers, after a few phone calls to clarify the situation, confirm next steps and resolve one of those inevitable snafus, I was rocketing south toward home.  Brother told me he "had" this one.

BY THIS TIME, a rather warm and gentle rain began to fall. Acting on a tip I learned from the kind folks at Santa Rosa BMW, I slipped my REI Gore-Tex layer underneath my BMW Santiago three-quarter length (My Goodness! That is a wonderful jacket!) and headed south on State Routes 99, 149 and 70. A fellow on some bad looking American Iron, waiting in the suicide lane for a chance to turn left raised a hand as I passed. Two riders on KLRs waved a bit further on. I’m assuming the rider on the GSX-R north of Marysville was young, but he offered a low five. All in all, on my hundred mile return journey in the rain, I may have passed a dozen or more folks foolish as myself to be riding in the rain. None denied me a greeting. None.

I try to plan one or two rainy trips in the winter months just to practice for those conditions when I’m out on a road trip. I hadn’t done so yet this year – the weather’s been too nice (Damn!). Tomorrow, a continuation of today’s storm is forecast.

I won’t be here at the computer. I might be "scootin'" up north, checking on Mom.


Ozzie’s BMW Center (Chico, CA) –

Santa Rosa BMW –

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone?
Joni Mitchell

OUT OUR WAY, a lovely little open green space, consisting of oak stands, a stream course, some meadow-like fields and a pond rests untouched by developers. There’s a wonderful Indian grinding rock to discover out there, looking as fresh as if it were used only yesterday.

The whole site is within walking distance of our little subdivision and several others. The freeway’s hum never abates, but deep in an oak stand or near the rushing creek, one can easily imagine that civilization hasn’t yet crept over the hill.

Red tails circle in the morning. Cottontails bound through the knee-high grasses. Jackrabbits race wherever they need to go. There are muddy traces of dainty deer hooves and three-pronged turkey feet.  We've heard the coyotes baleful cries and there is talk of bobcats in the area.  Blackberry thickets and poison oak flourishes.

The pond supports snowy egrets and pairs of mallards and some sort of fish, because, frequently, eight-year-olds and their attendant fathers are harvesting fish. Or, at least, attempts are made at this.

We walk the dogs in this little area allowing them to run off-leash fetching sticks and swimming in the pond. Often other walkers with and without canine companions, young folks on bicycles, and, as mentioned, the fisherkids and their dads greet us.

This pleasant spot is not public property. Clearly, it is privately owned; but the owner – either some developer who is waiting out the recession or some landowner waiting to cash in – has decided that prohibiting access is more trouble than it is worth.

Therefore, the expanse is crisscrossed with trails and paths both paralleling the creek and climbing the hillsides. In a sense, it is a public / private partnership based upon: I, as the owner, let you, the public, pass, because, well, just because...

YESTERDAY, the Church of the Open Road dealt with an issue arising in this area – one that shouldn’t be an issue at all. As a result, a thick-milled plastic garbage bag now holding about thirty pounds of crap now rests in my residential garbage can. The Church collected Happy Meal wrappers, soda cups, Starbucks cups, beer cans, cracker boxes, water bottles, an empty roller of aluminum foil, fishing tackle containers, nose and toilet tissue, broken glass and even the remnants of one of those 5.99 white plastic chairs you pick up at Wal-Mart or Target.

Still up there is a Sacramento Bee newspaper box along with three or four derelict and stripped automobile bodies. (I’m sure the latter have been there for much longer than any of the encroaching subdivisions.)

I walked away with berry-vine scratched arms, an out of shape and aching back and a pretty good deal of resentment toward those members of my tribe who figure …and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps… [Genesis 1:26] somehow means pissing on our Mother Earth.

THERE’S NOT MUCH the Church of the Open Road can do about this other than to, occasionally, walk through the area with a trash bag and to ask that you, my fellow “parishioners,” forward this post through your circle of friends (Facebook, motorcycle forum or whatever) with hope that, as it circulates, it will touch someone who otherwise might just leave their garbage on the ground in some other public / private space. Thus, ultimately ruining that relationship for all of us.

Like we used to say in grade school: “Pass it on.”

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I DON’T DO MY OWN WORK on either of the bikes. Neither the Guzzi nor the Beemer. Long ago, dad convinced me that I wouldn’t be good with my hands – unlike my brother who could fix a space shuttle – so I’ve never pursued the honest work of a mechanic. Rather, I leave that to others. That way, if I want the thing serviced or fixed, when it comes home from being serviced or fixed, it’s serviced or fixed. Sure, I’ll carp about the nearly 4 figure bill that accompanies a 24K service and tire, but about eight miles and a couple of sweeping curves later, all is right with the bike, the wallet and the world.
Fortunately, I’m only a couple hour walk from the BMW guy; and unlike many, only 41 miles from my Guzzi guy. But that’s a bit more than two hours on the hoof. Hell, back in the day, Father Junipero Serra would have positioned a rest stop at about the half way point. (Recall the Padre’s plan was to place a missions “about a day’s walk” from one another, building 21 or so at twenty-mile increments along the 400 mile El Camino Real in early California.)
I LIVE IN A COMMUNITY of the eastern suburbs of Sacramento. The drive between here and there has become a freeway run where subdivisions and strip malls run together; where town or city boundaries are marked by signs rather than passage into open space; where sound walls protect the neighbors from the highway noise and where you don’t really need to go to Sacramento for much, because so much can be had at the local Galleria.

The localest of Guzzi dealers recently moved to southern-most Elk Grove, another twenty or so miles south of the capitol. Similarly, There is little but housing tracts and shopping centers between downtown and there – certainly no ground left for the good Father to build an additional site for soul saving or over-nighting.

THE KIND FOLKS at Elk Grove Powersports picked up my Breva in the middle of what was going to be a ten-day stretch of rain – a good time to have service performed. The fare would be a buck a mile, with the first 25 free. “No hurry,” I said as the driver pulled away. “I’ll pick it up once the weather clears a bit.”

Cool, I’m thinking. I can put my money where my mouth is regarding the practical and ecologically sound practice of engaging public transportation. Heck, last summer, a week and a half in both New York City and Boston found us frequently on the subway or MTA and never more than a few minutes on foot from our destination. Granted, granted, granted – things on the east coast are a bit more condensed than here, and the infrastructure for mass transit’s been in the ground for quite some time.
While the Breva was in the shop, I did some research about our public transit: I can pick up a bus at the nearby community college. It will take me to a light rail station about eight miles away. Light rail will take me into town. Alternatively, I can take a commuter train from the station about a half-mile from here and ride it or a bus into town. From town, at a light rail exchange point, I can catch an express bus to Elk Grove, although the earliest one leaves at 3:20 in the afternoon. It will take 70 minutes to be “expressed” down to Elk Grove.

There, I’ll need to make connection one of several locals, hoping I end up on the bus that will take me within about 2.3 miles of the dealership, arriving sometime before the shop closes at 5:30, if all goes perfectly. Alternatively, I can take light rail south from the city about 4 miles, catch a bus to a Shell Station in the heart of a stucco encrusted subdivision and then call for a taxi to shuttle me the final ten miles.
It seems the Sacramento area transit system, like computer technology, is still in its infancy. Ignoring that about this time 100 years ago, folks could hop on an interurban car in Chico and make the 90 miles to Sacramento in less than a day for under a half a buck and continue on to Oakland if they so pleased, public transit in my immediate area has buckled under the pressure to build further and further out linking populations with lane upon lane of freeway.

Movements to improve our area transportation by including diamond lanes (which we do have) or extensions of light rail are met with howls of protest about how diamond lanes serve to reduce people’s choices (huh?) and how public transit must self-fund or it is another step toward socialism (like taxpayer funding of roads and highways is not.)

I’VE USED LIGHT RAIL into Sacramento for shopping or to visit a museum or to take in a conference, when I used to take in conferences. But I’d never been confronted with the unwieldy task of traversing the greater metropolitan area using the hodge-podge of public forms. It’s not impossible, but I did find an alternative.

Brother Tim owns a classic late-80s Acura. He heard of my plight and volunteered: the ’88 Legend could use a road trip since most of his driving involves a Prius. He delivered me to the motorcycle shop in timely luxury. Along the way, I pushed him to tour the showroom and, perhaps, rekindle his long-ago experience on two wheels. He’d own a Honda 400-four.

But Brother Tim is a wise young man. Today, his passions include tennis, downhill skiing, long walks on the beach and a good bottle of wine now and then. He dropped me off and was on his way.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, March 17, 2012


TRUSTEES OF A PLACER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT face decisions to reduce offerings in music, increase significantly the number of students in classrooms, nearly eliminate paraprofessional instructional assistants, discontinue the department that purchases and distributes textbooks and materials and reduce by twenty to twenty-five percent the number of educators supporting staff from the District Office. This comes after shuttering a school site three years ago.

All bad choices. But then, as of late, there are no good choices to be had.

The school district has a long history with tremendous frugality of budget. The operating tenet always was “Take care of the kids and take care of the people who take care of the kids.” Historically, more dollars were spent in classrooms – closest to the kids – than in nearly any district in the state of California. The ratio of administrators to staff was among the lowest.

Yet it was not the case that the teachers were close to the highest paid in the area. Quite the opposite. Money was channeled toward small classes, paraprofessional support, robust teacher training, up-to-date curriculum and supplies, tremendous libraries and computer labs and very well maintained facilities.

It has not been easy to do this. Because of regulations put into place when Proposition 13 passed back in 1978, the basic amount of revenue allowed to the district by state formula is far below that offered to neighboring school districts. This factor has to do with the tax rate of rural properties that have, in the past 30 years, become suburban.

Still, even with the fiscal disadvantage, the little 3500-student district consistently ranks among the top in student performance statewide. Data for 2011 show a district Academic Performance Index of 907 – recall that 800 is the statewide target benchmark – continuing a consistent decade-long upward trend in this measure. It is the place to be for kids, for families and, most staff would agree, for teachers.

In the district’s county, a higher percentage of voters register Republican than almost any other county in the state according to data from Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office. But unlike the caricature-esque way Republicans may currently be viewed on a national level, these people are bright, energetic, involved and supportive of their schools – as I suspect most traditional Republicans are – and they pay close attention to the actions of their local trustees and administrators to ensure the system walks the “take care of the kids” talk. Indeed, the parent community practices its due diligence.

THE CURRENT REALITY allows only dwindling resources to support those institutions that, back in the 1950s and 60s, made the state truly golden. California’s fiscal structure has become a checklist of what not to do if local government is to meet the demands of the citizenry. The initiative process offers us the privilege of amending the state constitution in ways that hamstring those we elect to make decisions. Then, of course, we get to satisfyingly carp that nothing gets done “down there (or up there) in Sacramento.” Revenues necessary to pay for the services a majority of the public demands can only be increased by a two-thirds plurality of lawmakers or by a two-thirds plurality of the voters should the question go to ballot. Thus, a minority can keep state or local district solvency at bay.

CHICKENS DO COME HOME to roost. And in the case of the little school district, the chickens are not of the community’s brood. Because school funding – since passage of Proposition 13 – largely comes from state coffers, when state revenues go bust, so do school districts.

Sam Clemens opined: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

To him and his adherents, I would reply: “Not so fast, Mr. Twain.”

When local finances are governed by the collective decisions of folks not local, local decision-making, in essence, goes away. When Trustees know that the budget will not support the comprehensive programs they understand tomorrow’s citizens will need, prudent trustees simply cannot offer the programs.

While there may be some historic truth to Mark Twain’s quip, the recent spate of lousy choices district trustees have to make is not a result of their idiocy.

Collectively, it is a result of our own. If we want our local elected officials to make better choices, we need to afford them better choices to make.


NOTE: This post ran as a guest opinion in the Sacramento Bee on March 17, 2012. It, along with reader comments may be accessed at

Sunday, March 11, 2012



I shall return.
General Douglas MacArthur
(although the General was not referencing this specific destination)

Third in a series, thankfully, of only three.

THERE IS A VORTEX we travel through – sometimes on a motorcycle, sometimes only in our dreams – a vortex that leads us to some curious and special other side. Maybe it’s time travel. Maybe it’s Eden. Maybe it’s just to a place where time doesn’t matter, the cell phone doesn’t connect and neither does talk radio. It may not be Iowa, but it just might be heaven.

A few hundred yards from where California State Route 16 tees into Route 20, a nicely compacted gravel road exits north and follows the course of Bear Creek through the eastern foothills of California’s Coast Range. These mountains are older than time. Their folded strata are formed by pressure some 4500 miles east as the mid-Atlantic trench pushes all of North America a few millimeters a year closer to China. You can look it up.

It isn’t just pressure and folding. The Coast Range sits on the North American edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire – a natural phenomena that June Carter Cash did not write about. Spotted throughout these grass and oak studded mountains are geo-thermal sites fueled by molten rock fairly close to our earth’s crust’s surface. The cracks formed in that on-going folding process allow the heat to escape – or at least play tricks on the surface water that seeps downward.

(c) Wilbur Hot Springs
BACK IN 1865, when the color had played out in the Sierra and the transcontinental railroad was still only a gleam in the eyes of four who profited from the gold rush, someone stumbled across a hot spring along the western edge of Colusa County. The pungent sulfur smell and warm temps of the naturally occurring creek clued that someone to something special here. The waters are natural. Their impact divine. And the one-percenters of 140 years back, folks from Sacramento, San Francisco and points undefined found their way to Wilbur Hot Springs.

An inveterate NPR listener, I’d heard of this place through a sponsorship promo placed by the current proprietor. I knew the Leesville, Lodoga, Stonyford intermountain area, but I hadn’t ventured up the road that leads to these living waters. Until last Sunday. With a family celebration due in mid-May, I was curious whether this venue might accommodate.

I TOOK THE LONG WAY HOME after my trip through the Capay Valley. Following Bear Creek, I zigged across State Route 20, finding myself on a Prius or Civic-able stretch of nicely grade gravel road. The late winter hills still wore cloaks of rust and gold; but tiny shoots of green pushed through. The occasional clump of lupine spoke to the unending rhythm of the seasons. And the purple redbud blossoms, somehow, didn’t cause me to think of Judas. I just rode.

Four miles on, substantial steel bridge crosses Bear Creek. The intersection is marked Wilbur Springs Road. Clever. I would not be lost this day!

A mile west stands a sign and a steel gate. I paused to ponder. An afore-mentioned Prius pulled up. An occupant stepped out, opened the gate, answered a question I posed and drove forward. I followed.

THE WILBUR SPRINGS resort consists of a turn-of-the-century hotel, a couple of newer buildings and a series of baths fed by a fluminarium sourced at the vent from which the naturally heated water emanates. All is tucked in to a voluptuous fold through which a creek flows from a valley just a few turns up the road.

A courteous sign asked that I remove my boots before entering the hotel. Ample “cubby” space is allowed on the veranda just out the door from the cozy and inviting lobby. A young lady worked a reservation computer just across the counter, but, in this neck of the woods, I have no idea what it could be plugged in to. Proprietress Meg graciously walked me through the various rooms of the century old hotel. She shared about the communal kitchen and the accoutrements found in each of the 20 rooms – each period appointed, harkening back to a simpler yesteryear.

She accompanied me across the road to the spa area, commenting knowledgeably about my BMW, parked where I knew I shouldn’t have parked it. She pointed westward toward the 1800-acre preserve that followed the upstream course of Sulfur Creek, which, later I would investigate on foot.

Across the way, several pools are spaced – each maintaining a different temperature of mineral-infused waters ranging from 107 degrees to 98 degrees. Attire is optional.

ENCHANTING THOUGH THIS SPOT IS, it would not be the right locale for the family get-together I was scouting. The bulk of the grandkids are under four and there are no jungle gyms or sand boxes for their amusement. Still, come some November, when the Sacramento Valley is cloaked in a bone-chilling fog and the sun will not appear for about a dozen weeks, Wilbur Springs is a place I will visit (with spouse) for some rejuvenation, relaxation and escape.

Meg had shared: “We have no internet up this way. No cell coverage either. Sometimes, we ask folks to simply leave their watches in their vehicles.” I drove away thinking about the vortex and how easy it would be to slip through to the other side.


TODAY’S ROUTE: North on SR 16 to 20; west on 20 about 675 yards, right on Bear Valley Road; four miles. Left on Wilbur Springs Road. One mile to gate. Unlocked. Resort is a few hundred yards beyond. Alternate return route: Left on Bear Creek Road to Leesville, east on Leesville-Lodoga Road to SR 20. East to Williams and I-5.

RESOURCES: Check out Wilbur Hot Springs informative website at The link shares area history and available accommodations. See you there! (Just probably not “nekked.”)

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Bear Creek Road (Western Colusa County)
Second in a series of, hopefully, only three…

I GUESS IF IT WERE ABOUT 120 YEARS BACK, I’da rode me a horse. Something about a stretch of road where you can’t discern the plume of dust from the last participant sets the mind to wanderin’.

North of the little canyon Bear Creek has cut through the mountains, an expanse of grazing territory occupies a valley floor that is measured in square miles, not acres. The compact gravel road upon which I am travelling is merely an engineered rise, perhaps four to ten feet above what must become a bit boggy in the rainy season. Fences parallel my route, but many of the cattle pay little heed to fences. More than once, tooling along at 30 miles per hour, I scare up a calf or a yearling that has discovered the greener grass in on the road-side of the barbed wire.

The nearest neighbors are two or three miles apart. A civil distance. Tiny two-rut paths lead to ranch-steads set well back from the road. Steel cattle guards keep the livestock in – or are supposed to.

On this valley floor, the road is straight until it makes a right-angle turn, then it is straight again. Miles grind by under the Metzeler Tourances. With the ESA suspension set for gravel, that 30-mile per hour rate is easy to maintain.  I did, however, pause to take a portrait of this hulk from yesteryear sitting just on the otherside of a barbed wire fence - recalling that, back on SR 16, another old truck had captured my attention.  We don't build 'em like this anymore. 

A CLUMP OF WILLOWS (maybe elms) is ahead to the north. Here there is a substantial building – relic though it may be – standing at a crossroad. Left would take me to Bartlett Springs and on over to Clear Lake. Right will take me to Leesville. The hostelry there long since converted back to a ranch house. The jog north will route me through Lodoga.

None of these three bergs is much more than a collection of fencing, a cattle chute, an Aero-Motor wind machine for sucking water from the aquifer, some barns and outbuildings and, generally, a nicely shaded old house with an inviting front porch. Ahhh… For a fine cigar or maybe a favorite pipe and a shot or two of whiskey at the end of a long day, feet propped up on a railing.

I OPT FOR LEESVILLE. The road here east was once paved. Its patchwork repair prompts me to drive on for the cattle trail paralleling the shoulder rather than to rattle and bang over a surface that reminds me of a large-scale replica of Manuel Noriega’s sad complexion. No taut-sprung hot-rod sport bikes here, thank you very much. 

The road takes to climbing a ridge for a few hundred yards. Then the bottom drops out. The view off to the east is of the grand daddy of all California Valleys – the Sacramento. I’m gazing at it from, perhaps, 1800 feet above its floor. From this point, I can trace the route of the river that formed it, clearly pick out the four peaks that form the Sutter Buttes and see all the way across to the Sierra. (But I didn’t get a picture.)

From here, the road engages in a miniature impression of the famed Stelvio, corkscrewing downward – although on seriously rucka-chucky pavement – into the drainage of Calvin’s Creek. Not a bad valley in its own right. It picks up a the stream course passes another “development” and wiggles east out of the Coast Ranges’ dry foothills.

Once to the valley floor, I race between almond (rhymes with “salmon”) orchards in fresh blossom and find my way to State Route 20, Williams, and I-5. Had I been on that horse, my ninety-minute adventure would have taken three days and I’da needed to carry some water and a bedroll.


TODAY’S ROUTE: State Route 16 from Woodland to 20; left. Almost immediate right onto Bear Valley Road. Compacted gravel. Continue north where Brum Road heads east to Bartlett Springs – the road becomes what they call pavement in these parts. East on Leesville Road about a mile; then wind south over Windy Point (view) bending eastward to connect with State Route 20. Reserve for another day Lodoga Road north to Stonyford and Elk Creek. Always good to have something new on your bucket list.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, March 5, 2012


California State Route 16

TWO THINGS: Great roads and near year-round riding weather. Finding a new place to ride isn’t easy after one’s been riding a while. Revisiting a great road, however, makes up for it. So many elements are at play while in the saddle: Time of year, time of day, direction of travel, weather. Each of these elements make tomorrow’s ride on yesterday’s road different from the passage before.

State Route 16 through Yolo and Colusa County’s Capay Valley is one of those roads one cannot get too much of. It had been quite a spell since my last trek up this way and the early March weather report called for highs in the mid 70s. Any questions?

As ever, clicking on any picture will expand electrons.
PICKING UP 16 off I-5 north of Woodland, this abandoned farmhouse has always captured my attention. It wasn’t until this trip that I pulled over to take its portrait. Rising out of the valley floor amid row crops, with boarded up windows, the luster of its elegance is long lost. It stands like a haunted monument to the stature of some century-ago landowner. Nearby, someone is living in a mobile.

Across 505 (Winters Cut-off between Interstates 80 and 5) the little town of Esparto provides some commerce at the mouth of the Capay Valley. The train station stands as vacant as that Victorian farmhouse a few miles back, but a new banner suggests restoration might be in its future.

SR 16 is more heavily used this past 15 years since, up in Brooks, the Cache Creek Casino has taken root and flourished. The hamlet of Capay lies along the way. Its Chamber of Commerce sign indicates that there are old time things to do in the area – things folks enjoyed before the gambling and nightclub scene sprouted.

The little valley is home to small farmers – some totally organic – who raise vegetables for local markets as well as almonds and stone fruits for wider distribution. Having traveled Umbria some five years ago, with the exception that oldest buildings here are about a thousand years younger than those in old Italy, the Capay region is quite reminiscent of that temperate Mediterranean area.

Tiny roads lead left and right off the main artery, but most dead end not too far up the eastern or western slope of the ridges that texture the horizon.

The old school stands empty – there is no banner promoting its restoration. Set at a little crossroad, I can only imagine that the community got together and constructed this edifice on a donated corner of farmland. I wondered if the product of this institution graduated prepared for that which they would confront throughout life. Then, peering at the verdant hills and rich farmland concluded that its students did right well here.

The Guinda Store is a must stop. Meat counter. Sundries. Snacks. Local wines. And a pleasant bench upon which to sit and watch the world slowly pass by.

I’d never stopped in Rumsey before although I’d always admired their community hall: neat as a pin, cared for, loved.

A plaque tells the story of the town that once was.

Unlike the Victorian farmhouse, the depot or the old school, this beautiful old building is still finding reason.

Across the way, a local has collected artifacts of the valley’s agricultural heritage and placed them just out of reach on his private corner. I suspect that by judiciously pouring a little low octane into this devil – maybe after changing the spark plugs – she’ll fire up ready to pick up where she left off seventy-five years ago.

Highway 16 rises out of the valley and courses along Cache Creek, then Bear Creek for the rest of its run. The redbud tells us spring is here.

Between the BLM and Colusa County, several primitive camp, picnic, pit toilets and access points dot the route. Good timing if one stopped for too-much-of-a Dr. Pepper back at the Guinda store. Across the way, it looks as if an old cowman’s house has seen far better days.

And the fence board here looks like a huge piece of petrified linguine.

Bear Creek settles into what, for this area, is considered a high mountain meadow. The deep blue water is a mere reflection of a deep blue late-winter sky.

THE COAST RANGES in California are oft overlooked – particularly their eastern flanks. They are overshadowed by the ocean and the redwoods to the west and the snow corniced Sierra far to the east. Highways and lesser roads in this region are delightful to explore and, outside of that stretch up to the Casino, very under-trafficked. It is difficult to imagine a better place for a relaxing traipse into yesteryear.


Local Capay Valley booty
TODAY’S ROUTE: I-80, north on I-5; west on SR 16 past Woodland. SR 16 through Esparto (right turn into town, left out of town at depot), Capay, Brooks, Rumsey; follow Bear Creek to “T” at SR 20. Watch for sand and slide detritus on the pavement as you carefully enjoy sweeping turns along Bear Creek! Return: Either east on 20 to Williams; south on 5; or West on 20 – 675 yards, right on Bear Valley (gravel) Road. Head north. Explore. But carry a good map.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press