Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Sunsets are good.

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

So are old barns.

And rainfall.

Rain fills our long-empty reservoirs…

…and allows us to water things.

It gives us green mountains to explore...

and blossoms promising spring…

…and blossoms promising spring.

The coast is nearby…

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

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

Friends visit.

New routes west are explored; new views discovered…

…looking different from the air.

The Triumph’s days are numbered.

But not before a visit to the old west…

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

…and tidbits of unwritten history.


The Sierra.

More unwritten history.

The Pacific.

An end of a road.

An end of another road – so to speak…

…and starting down a new one.

Revisiting Oregon’s coast…

…and its unwritten history.

On the McCloud River right-of-way…

…and the McCloud River with traveling buddy Edward…

…and our mutual pal.

Sunny in the Sierra…

… fog-bound on the coast...

...and, always, the sunsets.

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

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

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

Third runner up: Classic view along the Oregon Coast.

Second runner up: Dusk on the harbor at Eureka.

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

Shot of the year:

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, December 23, 2017


Among Dad’s great truisms was one he often voiced while eating Mom’s home made rolls during fancy dinners.  Mom’s potato rolls were scratch baked little gems formed by stuffing three tablespoon-size wads of dough into each cup of a standard muffin tin.  Out of the oven they’d come fragrant and piping hot, the perfect complement to standing rib roast at Thanksgiving, split pea soup (also home made) on Christmas Eve, grilled T-bone steaks on New Year’s Eve or ham at Easter.

The handsome heap of aromatic delights would sit near the main course in a plastic wicker basket wrapped in a tea towel (which on any other occasion would be referred to simply as a dish cloth) and passed round the table followed by a stick of real butter placed on a saucer.

Dad would grab a roll with one hand and slice off an extra thick pat of butter with the other.  Deftly, dividing the bread into its natural thirds, he’d sweep the buttery end of his Royal Danish butter knife – the good silverware – across one piece, then pop it in his mouth.  As the now warmed butter began to slip off the silver’s blade, he’d pivot another third under the butter like Willie Mays basket catching a fly ball and, again, pop the savory little morsel into his mouth.  Left, then, would be the final third of a potato roll and a naked butter knife – affording just cause for him to cut off another chunk of butter and, seconds later, reach across the holiday board for a second potato roll.

“Boys,” he would intone to my brother and me as he did this, “When you grow up, I think you’ll find that no matter what you do, the butter and the roll never come out even.”

Mom had long before perfected an exasperated gasp, but I knew it was simply her way of covering up the pride that welled within her when something she created was so universally appreciated. 

It didn’t happen nearly often enough…

Here’s her recipe:


1 cake yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (I use the water where the potato was boiled)
2/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed potato (I simply mash the hot potato through my strainer)
1 cup scalded milk
2 eggs, well beaten
Flour to make stiff dough

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water.  Add shortening, sugar, salt and mashed potato to scalded milk.  When cool, add yeast.  Mix thoroughly and add eggs.  Stir in enough flour to make stiff dough.  Turn out on a slightly floured board and knead thoroughly.  Put into bowl large enough to allow for slight rising, cover with cloth and set in cold part of refrigerator.  About two hours before ready to serve, pinch off dough, shape and let rise until light.  Bake in hot oven (400 deg. to 450) 15 to 20 minutes.  Split, butter and serve hot.

Mom died this past October at the age of 95; 95 being “just about enough,” she believed.       

My daughter, Maria, had copied the recipe, packed up the ingredients – bringing them 165 arduous-with-kids-miles from Chico to Sonoma County – and baked a double batch for our Thanksgiving feast. 

Mom (well, Grandma) would be so proud.

And, as the rolls were passed, followed by the butter, Dad’s adage again held true.  I, a grandfather now, while reaching for a second one, felt compelled to share this tidbit of wisdom with the children there assembled: “…the butter and the roll never come out even.” 

Moments later, uttered was a familiar, exasperated gasp. 

Mom, it seems, was spending a final Thanksgiving with family.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Relaxed browsing in the village…

Mendocino, California is one of those quaint, picturesque villages one visits for a summer afternoon, first thinking, “This is lovely!  How wonderful it must be to live here!  I wonder if I could…” and leaves thinking, “So many people!  The shops are so crowded!  And no place to park! And the prices!”

The key to visiting Mendocino, we discovered yesterday, is to visit on a mid-week winter day.

The rolling ocean keeps the temperature temperate.  Its constancy provides ever-changing details to the rugged coastline while offering a lullaby-like symphony to accompany one’s strolls on the boardwalks and into and out of the shops.

Midweek, the hordes of out-of-towners are thinned to a smattering.  Clerks have time to visit rather than hawk.  Many ask where you’re from – “Cloverdale” – and what brings you to town – “Browsing” – and where else have you lived – “Rocklin.”  “Oh, Rocklin?  My niece and her husband live there.  Do you know the fill-in-the-blanks?”  Rocklin has 100,000 plus residents.  We’ve been gone from there about three years now, but we respond, “Why, yes.”

The loveliest collection of sea bluffs in creation stand walking-distance from the village’s little down town.  

Edward enjoys the adventure, stimulated by smells uncommon back home and scurrying critters the size of squirrels that might not be squirrels. 

But the feral cats are definitely cats and, I’d sure like to get one, he thinks as he tugs on his leash.

A few tenets underpin our quest when finding gifts for family and folks...

·      If it can’t be plugged in, that’s good.
·      If you have to read it, that’s good.
·      If it was made by a real person – not in China – that’s good.
·      If it is purchased from a small businessperson, that’s good.
·      If it’s local, that’s good; the localer the better.

Towns like Mendocino offer, with a high degree of probability, goods that meet these criteria.  (Although, some quaint little shops push Mendocino-marked knick-knacks that are produced in factories in places like Shenzhen.  Caveat emptor.)

At a leisurely pace, we wander in and out of galleries, the book store, the toy store and the tavern, chatting with the non-harried friendlies behind the counters, enjoying longing glances at artisan work we could never afford or, thankfully, find room for, and reveling in a misty fog that turns into a gentle, long-awaited rain, all the while serenaded by the lullaby of the sea. 

Too soon we depart thinking, “This is lovely!  How wonderful it must be to live here!  I wonder if I could…”

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Ed’s Little Adventure for the Week

Ed needed an adventure and so did I.  It seems making the rounds through the neighborhood looking for a new place to poop* was falling short of his canine expectations.

We hopped in the Subaru and headed for the hills.

East of Cloverdale lies the Geysers geo-thermal unit.  Our other car being a Bolt, this is where her “gasoline” comes from.  We thought we’d check it out.

Ed is not a fan of windy roads, but if “Dad” is driving, he’ll go.

The first interesting site was an old steel bridge.  There are many on the more remote roads in Sonoma County.  (There are two out on Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road a few miles from the coast.)

All seem of about the same vintage and all hail from the Phoenix Iron Works, Philadelphia, PA. 

One has to wonder how I-beams got around the horn back in the earliest days of the 20th century, let along fifteen or twenty rugged miles from the NWP depot in Healdsburg, Geyserville or maybe Cloverdale.

Just check out the ruggedness of the terrain from the span.

We looked up (meaning ‘Googled’) Phoenix Iron works upon our return and discovered this:

Next we passed the site of an old quicksilver mine: quicksilver (mercury) being the element essential to the separation of gold from ore and overburden.

The Coast Range in our region is dotted with tiny mines where this material was extracted for use during the later half of the 19th century in California. Here are remains of another about a mile away...

The element is so prevalent that, in the nearby Clear Lake basin, it has leached out of disturbed ground and contaminated the waters to the point where fish caught there are considered toxic.

Further up the road we ventured, passing places where the pavement had crumbled and where half of the two-lane had dissolved and slid down the hillside.

Fifteen miles and forty minutes in, we come to a fork.  Left takes us to the Geysers Geo-thermal array.  Signs and an imposing guardhouse warn us off.  130 years ago, a resort and spa had been built up this way, according to a recent story in the local paper.  Tough to get to, it struggled for quite some time until closed in the 1980s and subsequently was razed.

Here’s a little general history of the area:  (The 1848-1890 section affords me a little way-back-when dreaminess.)

Rather than converse too much with the uniformed individual sporting reflective lens dark glasses (while in the shade of the deep canyon), we flip a U turn and seek a wide spot for sight seeing.

A small marker is located about a mile from the locked entrance placed by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Nearby, a set of three explanatory placards set in concrete probably pointed to highlights of the canyon’s geomorphology and how that makes it the perfect place to harness power with minimal environmental concern.

But, alas, somebody determined that these informational signs would better be removed and may well be decorating that somebody’s rec room. Still, from that wide spot, we took in a view of the south-facing ridge noting the location of facilities both on the hillside and on the top.  And pipes!  Pipes snaking everywhere!

Ed was not particularly happy, as I know he enjoys me reading stuff to him, but I figure he and I will one day catch up with the fellow who’d swiped the signs, check out the text we’d missed today and perhaps shoot a couple of racks of pool in the fellow’s man cave.

Tours of the geo-thermal workings can be arranged through Cal-Pine.  For general information and a tour schedule check out: I’ve added this to my bucket list.

In October, when that firestorm roared through Napa and Sonoma County devastating neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, its little brother, dubbed “the Pocket Fire,” danced across the ridgelines of this area.

Taking that other route at the junction, we pause, just west of Mercuryville – population 2, according to the singed sign – we come to a viewpoint that dramatically illustrates how the fire hopscotched from here to there.

It has been said that the fire behaved in an erratic manner.  From this vantage point, I’d offer to disagree.  It seems the conflagration would race up the side of a ridge on the wings of an upslope wind, and when it got there, with no breeze to push it down over the other side (hot air rises) it died at the top.  Thus, some stands of digger pine and oak were spared.

Some properties, however, were not.  At the junction of Geysers Road and a private lane leading toward Geyser Peak, scorched fence lines and manzanita prove they were on the rails when that freight train of wind came a-blowin’.

As was this propane tank.

A few miles south and west, well outside the path of the fire, a view of the Russian River Valley unfolds.  The becoming-hip village of Geyserville rests just below the line scribed by US 101 on the opposite side of the valley.

And a quintessential Church of the Open Road shot reveals the route curving out of sight behind a knoll begging the question, “What could be around that next bend?”

Although he was unable to “get” any of the several turkeys or deer he spied from the tinted windows of the Subie, Ed bedded down as soon as we got home and within minutes, his feet were twitching and moving.  A series of little dog-squeaks indicated he may, indeed, have finally been hot on the trail of that game he saw on this adventure.

He’s such a good boy.


Today’s Route and Notes:  US 101 to Cloverdale.  Exit to South Cloverdale Blvd; north to 1st Street; east, crossing Russian River (nice paved river front walk here) to River Road; left on River Road; continue straight at junction with Geysers Road.  13 miles along Big Sulphur Creek passing junction marked Geysers to the left, Healdsburg (25) to the right.  Two miles to gate.  Return:  Bear left toward Healdsburg at junction.  Follow generally nice pavement (with a few interruptions for washouts) past old Mercuryville, Geyser Peak; wind down the west facing slopes into the Alexander Valley and CA 128 to Healdsburg or Geyserville and US 101.

Hot, dry and rather unpleasant late July through early October.  Beautiful late autumn through early summer.  All area land is private (respect it!) with little access to creeks, but ample pull out for photographs and great views of the distant Russian River Valley(s).

*Edward didn’t find a good place to poop.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press