Sunday, December 27, 2015

Prayer for the World

Prayer for the World


Something's bothering me. Something's on my mind.  It's a trend. To me, it is subversive and purposeful and I wish it would stop. I will vote to make it stop. If you won't try to make it stop, I won't vote for you. Period.

Here it is. I wish people would stop saying that simple, common moral  virtues like tolerance for others, respect for people and cultures different from your own, fairness in competition, responsibility toward your environment, or kindness and awareness in your choice of words can be dismissed as "political correctness."

I don't know diddly squat about politics. But I do know right from wrong. I know bullying when I see or hear it and I was raised to stand up against it. Morally, in any religion, bullying and hate and deception and pollution and intolerance are wrong. If I say you are wrong for bullying someone who disagrees with you - if I say you are wrong for hating me or somebody else different from you - if I say you are wrong for placing corporate profit above public health - if I say you are wrong because you are stepping on the backs of the poor or the weak or the dark or the confused or the unloved - I am not being "politically correct" - I am following the moral principles by which I was raised. I will vote for those principles and nothing else.

That's what's on my mind on such a winter's day.

Peace, Love, and California Dreamin'

Friday, September 18, 2015

Life on The Farm

Life on The Farm


On the south side of Highway 156, hidden in a cozy redwood grove, lies one of San Juan Bautista’s best kept secrets. The Mission Farm RV Park, or, as I simply call it, The Farm, is most of the time about as laidback and peaceful as laidback and peaceful gets. It’s a clean, quaint, mostly adult trailer park with a natural, homey feel in keeping with the historical atmosphere of our town. Most days, you would be hard-pressed to find one nervous person on the premises.

Not that the residents on The Farm don’t give a damn, mind you. But if there is one thing that the lot of us has in common it’s that we’re a little picky regarding what we get excited about.  If you come running in here all jumpy about some kind of trumped up personal emergency, the reaction you will get will likely be a polite stare, a sympathetic head shake, and a friendly, but mildly disinterested “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.” Nobody here is going to up and join the militia just because you lost your I-phone or Missy messed her britches. Sorry, but you are just going to have to figure that stuff out for yourself.

On the other hand, if you sincerely need assistance or advice on a sober, practical level, like backing your 36-foot rig into a 37-foot space, or building yourself a redneck deck out of salvaged farm pallets, you can get that in a jiffy. You ought to see my redneck deck. You’d be envious.

The majority of the 120 campsites here are occupied by year-around residents, some of whom are sleepy old retirees like me, while many noble souls are still heroically punching the clock. Most of the more “experienced” campers have cheery little companion dogs that provide a measure of entertainment in the mornings, as they tug on their leashes and drag their shuffling masters from tree to long-suffering tree.

The redwood trees are what really make the place special. The owners of the park planted the forest in 1971 in what had been a vast walnut orchard. Forty-four years later, the redwoods tower over the property, providing a merciful afternoon wind break and pleasant shade from the midday sun. Even more than that, though, they lend dignity and strength to the surroundings. They keep a stately watch over things and their very presence makes you humble.

The Farm is like a miniature nature park. Somewhere up in those swaying redwood branches nest gently cooing mourning doves, always in twos, sounding virtuously sad, carrying on courageously despite their woes. One doesn’t have to be old to live on The Farm, but it probably helps to have an old soul - like a resilient coastal redwood or a mature pair of mourning doves, married for life, content to scratch around in the gravel together early in the day. Near sundown, if you watch carefully, you can see red-tailed hawks darting through the trees. What are they hunting? The furry, nimble grey squirrels? An occasional field mouse? A wayward, twitching bunny? As the Sun sets, silent, stealthy, wary white-tailed deer migrate slowly around the perimeter of the park, finding water and foliage along San Juan Creek. In procession under the highway, where are they heading? To the Mission to pray?

One of the things you notice right away about the park is how clean the grounds are. The maintenance crew, under the direction of manager Susan Cox, keeps the place groomed and neat for the permanent residents and for vacationing families and weekenders.
“We don’t advertise much,” Susan says, “and we don’t have a web site. Most of our holiday business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations. We see people who come back every year, holding their family reunions in the clubhouse and enjoying activities in town. They feel safe here and there is none of the hub-bub and congestion you find in the city. We are a family-oriented park and people come to have a quiet good time.”

Living here is a unique experience, combining a sense of independent repose with a feeling that you are part of an active community. Potluck dinners and barbecues on major holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are a real treat. Campers share delicious homemade dishes and easy-going, friendly fun in the spacious, old, ranch-style clubhouse. Surrounded by fruit trees, colorful flowers, and rusty antiques, this is the park’s social center and emergency quarters. When visiting bicycle tourists, camped out in the nearby tenting area, find their lightweight gear under siege in bad weather, Susan generously opens her clubhouse doors to shelter them from the storm.

The major El NiƱo episode of 1998 caused quite a stir on The Farm.  A combination of rain-soaked ground, unrelenting precipitation, blockage of the San Juan Creek underpass beneath Highway 156, and a failed stock tank levee in nearby San Juan Canyon resulted in serious flood damage in the park. Evacuation was necessary as the high water mark rose to nearly two feet on many of the permanent structures. Evidence of the standing water can still be seen today as “bath-tub rings” around the bathhouse, the clubhouse, and the other buildings. Could we be in store for more of the same this year?  Our Emergency Preparedness Plan outlines preparation procedures and evacuation routes if something like that happens again. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we can stay high and dry this time. My glamorous redneck deck would be no match for another two-foot flood.

Peace and Love from The Farm

Wednesday, July 29, 2015




I learned a new word this week. Anthropophagy: n., the eating of human flesh; cannibalism. Eww.

A most interesting read is The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
by Daniel James Brown. Really, he treats the whole hunger/desperation thing very respectfully. The topic is not sensationalized and it doesn't come close to being the centerpiece of the book. Which is a good thing.

My San Juan Bautista Book Club chose this book for our July group discussion mostly for its local historical significance. Several of the survivors of the Donner Party (an unfortunate name - it sounds too much like the Dinner Party, you know? - I prefer the Donner Group) came to settle in the surrounding area, including Sarah Graves, whom the author used as the main character of the story. I was greatly impressed by the amount of scholarly research involved in this work and like I said, he worked around the grisly details with dignity and aplomb.

Sarah Graves was one of several women to make it out alive. The men folk did not fare as well in general. Do mothers have more to live for? Are women physiologically more adaptable to cold and physical/mental hardship than men? Brown talks about survival issues and the biology of hunger in a very studious way. I found all of that pretty fascinating.

Basically, the deal is that a group of people from Illinois set out to the west coast on an 1,800 mile journey in the time when Missouri's western border was the edge of the newish United States. They got hoodwinked into taking a supposed shortcut to California called the Hastings Cutoff and found themselves stuck in the vicinity of present day Truckee CA in the Sierra Nevada precisely when a ton of snow arrived. Merry freaking Christmas.

A lot of them died. A few struggled through Donner Pass to get help. A small number was subsequently rescued by three relief groups of brave souls from Fort Sutter. Mistakes were made during the journey from Donner Pass to safety, mistakes which nearly killed the emaciated, crazed refugees. Using handmade snowshoes which soon were thrashed by the elements, one group plunged down into the steep canyons of the North Fork of the American River, adding miles of difficulty to their trip to Johnson's Ranch. Indigenous Miwok and Maidu people were instrumental to their eventual success.

The strongest group, the devoutly Catholic and tightknit Breen family, miraculously survived the whole ordeal intact. The Breens eventually recovered and settled here in San Juan Bautista, and their descendants are still thriving today. Nice folks. Smart as the dickens. Hardy stock.

Some members of our book club simply couldn't finish reading this book. The struggle and the violence (and the anthropophagy) were just too much to imagine. Too squirmy. Too squeamy. I didn't feel that way. I liked the psychological tension, although I didn't share with the survivors the desperate need to stay alive. I came away with a definite feeling that no matter what the circumstances, eating human flesh would not be an option for me. Death? I'm okay with that, if need be.

Most likely, I think I would have either died going over the pass with the first bunch or made it out to get help. Or, and I still think this would have been the smartest thing to do, I would have plunged back through the snow east to Truckee Meadow or Reno and waited out the winter down there.  Hunkering down for weeks on end with little or no food and getting buried by tens of feet of snow? I don't think so. Easy for me to say, but still...

I was glad to get all the way through the messy parts to the epilogue, which is where Daniel James Brown really earns his stripes. The wrapup of the story is excellent as he smooths out the uncomfortable psycho-wrinkles and explains his fascination for the character of Sarah Graves. If you decide to read this book, please don't quit it without reading the epilogue. It will make you feel human. The stars may be indifferent, but you don't need to be.

Peace, Love, and Vegetables,

For further reading:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Journey to Beachland

Journey to Beachland


We need some rain, folks. The Golden State is fast losing its shine. Even too-cute-to-sweat Santa Barbie Land is starting to fade around the edges - the nicely landscaped shoulders of Hwy 101 look like they are gasping for breath. Big signs say "Using Reclaimed Water" every quarter mile from Goleta to downtown, but I don't think they are using enough. Everything looks thirsty. The dolphin fountain by Stearns Wharf has been disconnected, decommissioned, droughtified - no water, the dolphins are newly polished, ringed by plants. In a bizarre twist, I saw two fat girls jogging on the bike path near East Beach. What the hell is going on? Fat girls in SB????

You don't even want to know what the rest of So Cal looks like. Not quite Texas, but getting there. From the rolled down windows of the non-airconditioned and spectacularly ugly Spugly the Gas-Efficient Sweatbox Transporter, vast portions of the interior of the state could pass for a crumpled version of Oklahoma. And I don't mean that in a good way, in case you think dirty, dusty, and hot are cool. Dirty, dusty, and hot are not words that the founding fatherdudes included in the Last Whole California Hippie Constitution.

The new wave of resident hipsters in SB seem oblivious to their plight for the most part. They walk boldly into busy crosswalks tapping merrily away on their phones as though their 4G microwave signals could and should repel GPS-guided motor cars. Wouldn't it be deliciously morbidly funny if a texting Kia driver mowed down a jocular texting pedestrian and it turned out they had been texting each other? It will happen somewhere if it has not happened already.

I visited the Mission Santa Barbara for the first time since about 1988. It now costs $8 for a tour of the church and $4.32 to light a candle in the crowded lobby. The moneychangers are in charge of the temple, Jesus. It's time to come back and kick some tourism tail.

For free you can walk around the grounds and check out some beautiful vegetation and colorfully tiled Stations of the Cross. Here's a cool looking passion flower.

The Stations of the Cross, for those of you not in the know, are a devotional aid depicting scenes from Jesus's agonizing walk to his dying ground carrying a wooden cross upon which he was summarily crucified. If I remember correctly, there are fourteen stations in total. Station number four shows Jesus and his mother Mary. She kinda looks like she might be imploring him to drop that crossbeam and run away to California. "Come on, Jesus, forget this stuff, I got a VAN!"

A week or so ago, the Mission sponsored the annual chalk on the sidewalk art show. Several drawings were still in pretty good shape. The drought is good for something anyway.

I had great visits with my friends in town before heading home via San Luis Obispo and the Pacific Coast Highway. Eddie All State reminded me to remember that old saying: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." Don't cling. Let it go. Makes such good sense, no?

The traffic on the  Big Sur Coast was intermittently crazy, but as usual, the scenery was just the right medicine to make me forget all about everything else. Works every time. My vacation  from being on vacation is temporarily over. Now it's back to being on vacation again. Ahhhh, life is good.

Peace, Love, and the Mighty Spacific,

Monday, July 13, 2015

All Along Her Watchtower

All Along Her Watchtower


Harper Lee's first book comes out tomorrow. First book. As in before TKAM. She wrote it. Not you. Harper. Lee. Remember that.

I keep reading all these pathetic sniveling comments on the internet by otherwise seemingly intelligent adults. Things like they are afraid to read this book. They don't want to know how Scout turned out or who Atticus became or what happened to Jem. They don't want to know. Isn't that amazing?

To Kill a Mockingbird was such a powerful story with such deeply developed characters and such a holy moral code. It etched into people's minds the ideals of justice and innocence and loyalty and parenthood and righteousness. And reflection. That narrative. That language. Boo.

I was one of those people. If I am to be honest with myself, I have to admit that I spent half my life looking for a woman who could measure up to Scout. Or the Scout who was etched in my mind anyway. Pathos!

That was not very fair to the women I actually met, loved, married, and left. Downright delusional, really. I was well into my fifties before I cut out that nonsense. That borrowed righteousness. That pretend ownership of a character I did not could not create and could not should not control.

Scout, alas, belongs to Harper Lee, not me. Not you either, dummy. A tremendous sense of liberation awaits you if you have yet to realize it.

I can't wait to read Go Set a Watchman. I am going to feast on every word. Rejoice in every conversation. Soak up in wide-eyed fascination who became what and how. In the future that came before. Time. Is. Not. Linear. People and places and stories...not yours. Hers. From her watchtower. She's the watchwoman.

Harper. Lee. Set my mind ablaze again. I promise not to cling to anything as my childhood turns to ashes and my future takes its place. The future that always was. The past that will never be. Right here. Right now. There. And then. It's your world, Ms. Lee. I'm just passing through.

Peace, Love, and Fiction,

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Upright, Unscathed, and Home

Upright, Unscathed, and Home


What a nice feeling to ride all morning and not fall over once.

I can't describe the elation I felt when I got back to San Juan Bautista today. I mean I was ABNORMALLY happy. Whatever vortex of gloom awaited me on the Big Sur coast did not try to follow me inland, thank goodness, and I rolled up and over the Aromas highlands without incident. Some very nicely tended fields along San Juan Road between Tarpey and Hwy 101 relaxed my somewhat guarded psyche. This scene made me feel like order had been restored to the Universe. Maybe I don't need to install a handlebar airbag after all.

Once I topped out past all the horse farms and Eucalyptus groves on the long haul up Cole Road, it was a simple downhill run down bumpy old Anzar back to the City of History. I felt like a few hundred years worth of ghosts were giving me a standing O as I wheeled into town. Congratulations, man, you tumped over a couple of times, but you didn't kick the bucket yet.

Kick the bucket, bucket list...what's the deal with the bucket anyway? What does that even mean?

I missed out on two cool events this morning in town. One was a gathering of indigenous people at the Mission San Juan Bautista  protesting the nearly certain upcoming canonization of Padre Junipero Serra. Old Junipero was pretty much a masochistic fiend in the eyes of the local originals. Torture and death squads and all that. The decision by Pope Francis to make Serra a saint is a real puzzler. It does not appear to fit in with any of the rest of Frank's overwhelmingly progressive agenda. A political bone thrown to gain support on other issues? What about the unmarked graves full of real bones from real ancestors of real Americans? So disrespectful. Cruel, actually.

The other spectacle in town was much less serious - a carnival - as in a kiddie carnival with rides and junk food and stuff. I rode by all the hullabaloo on the way back to the Mission Farm Campground. It looked fun, but I was hot and hungry and too goldang old for that scene anyway. I'm glad they came, though. I don't know for sure, but I think it was the first time the carnival has ever been here. Good for the kids. Good for the parents.

So tomorrow is a day of rest. Then Monday I will somehow move myself to Santa Barbara for long overdue visits with Eddie All State and the Earl of Montecito. I need to ask Dr. Googlie about telekinesis. So far, Morgan Freeman and Kurt Vonnegut have been no help whatsover.

Peace, Love, and Wormholes?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Poultry Noise

Poultry Noise


That giant clucking sound you thought you heard this afternoon was me. After another fishtailing, dirt-eating encounter with a patch of dune sand and a close shave with the rear end of a Waste Management truck, I stopped on the outskirts of Carmel-By-the-Sea to reconsider my vacation plans. What the bleep is going on here?

Shortly after my little talk with myself, I officially chickened out. Bck-bck- buck-CAW!

I have ridden the magnificent, narrow, winding stretch of Highway 1 from Carmel to Ragged Point three times as part of other, longer rides. The risk of getting crumpled by a rented RV or a speeding convertible was, each time, more than balanced by the reward of witnessing one of the world's greatest coastlines up close and personal. Riding a bicycle south on that road is literally and figuratively a breath-taking experience.

This trip, though, I haven't been able to shake the nagging feeling that something is not quite right. For the first time, I am fearful of barrelling around those switchbacks. It might simply be that I am getting too old for these hi-jinx. I mean, that's going to happen sooner or later, right? I've put a lot of miles on these bones.

Physically, I feel okay - not in great condition, certainly - but strong enough. The bigger concern is mental. I'm just not feeling the lure of that road this time. In fact, quite to the contrary, I am being repelled by it. Weird.

So I'm just going to trust my gut, turn around, and ride back home. I'll put some gas in Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Transporter and buzz down 101 to Santa Barbie Land in a more conventional manner. Not very green, I know. But I'm tired of falling off the Dream Machine. That gets old fast. Plus if I keep it up, I'm surely going to break something.

I stopped for lunch today at the Giant Artichoke Restaurant in Castroville...try The New Vegetarian sandwich sometime...artichoke hearts and avocado and Monterey jack...mighty good.

Lastly, for all of you facebook meme addicts, this one's for you.

Peace, Love, and Intuition,

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why Go Anywhere Else?

Why Go Anywhere Else?


Some days Monterey Bay is just so ridiculously beautiful you wonder why would you ever want to leave. Today was one of those days.

I woke up sore and stiff from yesterday's nosedive into the dunes so I didn't make much progress toward SoCal. The Monterey Bay Recreation Trail is about as good as it gets for cruisin' in the sunshine. So I didn't mind the lack of "progress" at all.

I lolligagged. I piddled. I basked. I stared and I hummed. I barely turned my pedals, in coast the coast mode. I people watched at the pullouts. I people watched at the Wharf. I ran into Valerie and her grandson from San Juan. I ate my fill of Vietnamese food at Chopstix.

Why go anywhere else when right here is perfect?

What a lazy day!

Peace, Love, and Sea Otters,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Artichokes and Road Rash

Artichokes and Road Rash


Day One of this hastily conceived ride from San Juan Bautista to Santa Barbara began with a 4-mile climb to the top of the Salinas-San Juan Grade. That was the only challenging part, bicyclically speaking. (I think I just made up a word.)

The rest of the morning was either downhill or flat, cruising through the Salad Bowl of America under a grey marine layer. Nice and cool. I saw lots of folks toiling in the fields. Many of them waved at me. Seemed pretty cool  overall. Donald Trump needs to get his fat rump on a bike.

I got to Castroville about 11:30. For those of you unfortunate enough not to be in California, I should say that Castroville is the Artichoke Center of the World. They grow strawberries and cauliflower and all kinds of other stuff, but chokes are the drawing card.

In town, you can see this place:

As well as this thing:

On the way out of town you might want to avoid this thing (too Trumpy, don't you think?):

I ate lunch at Pezzini's Farm Stand. It's right on the bike route and besides tons of fresh produce, it has a mobile food truck imaginatively named "The Choke Coach." I know what you're thinking. Who would want to eat at a place called "The Choke Coach?"

Why, bicycle tourists, of course! I had a yummy tri-tip sandwich and a Mango Madness Snapple. When I am riding, just the thought of a Mango Madness Snapple makes me drool.
There was also a sort of 4-H style random agri-educational factoid board outside Pezzini's which kept me occupied for a minute or three.

After lunch I crashed. I don't mean that I took a nap or rested on the beach. I mean I fell off the Dream Machine into a heap of sand and gravel. I hate it when that happens. Fortunately, I have crashed enough times to have become pretty good at the landing part. The key is to remain calm and try to experience fully each second of the fall. You don't want to all of a sudden go splat. That really hurts. What you're looking for in a crash experience is a slow motion sequence. You want to fall frame by frame, like one of those movies where two young lovers are running toward each other through a field of flowers, to meet in a warm embrace. You want to fall gently into the loving arms of the Earth Mother. THEN you want to scream son of a b@$!# because road rash stings to high heaven.

Nothing broke...A-okay.

Peace, Love, and Triple Antibiotic Ointment,


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Four Things

Four Things


Thing One: Flight Behavior

Barbara Kingsolver told a doozy of a story in Flight Behavior (2012). I finished it this morning and it's still buzzing in my head; it won't leave me alone. Kingsolver is a very funny novelist and a heady biologist. Her humor and vision carry you through the enormous sad tale of a poor, intelligent, uneducated Tennessee farm wife and mother, trapped by poverty and duty and doubt, who finds herself in the middle of her century's global environmental undoing. Monarch butterflies. Human stupidity. Science. Determination. Hope. Struggle. Suffering. Mass unconsciousness. Children.

This book may not make you happy, but it will make you laugh out loud inside the minutes of life, as you cringe in realization about the direction we are going. The moral of the story kind of sneaks up on you like a time-release dose of understanding. Oh shit. The end. Five stars. Brilliant.

Kingsolver nails a big part of the problem on page 351. Let me quote from her paragraph about the general public's and the media's ignorance regarding climate scientists and what they do to seek the truth.
"Science as a process is never complete. It is not a foot race with a finish line...People will always be waiting at a particular finish line: journalists with their cameras, impatient crowds eager to call the race, astounded to see the scientists approach, pass the mark, and keep running. It's a common misunderstanding...They conclude there was no race. As long as we won't commit to knowing everything, the presumption is that we know nothing."

Thing Two: San Andreas

I live smack dab on top of the San Andreas Fault. In a travel trailer. On purpose. So in your mind, you may be automatically disqualifying me from anything resembling common sense or logic or credibility. If that is so, it's a darn good thing I don't care what YOU think. Otherwise, I'd be wasting my time here.

A small group of retired science teacher friends and I gathered at the Premiere Theaters in lovely Hollister CA last week completely prepared to howl and shriek obscenities at the screen in the event that the movie San Andreas was as bad as we feared it would be.

IMHO, the San Andreas movie exceeded expectations. In other words, it did not suck as bad as I thought it would suck. There were the usual Hollywood exaggerations (an ocean floor generated tsunami as high as the Golden Gate Bridge - that's 265+ feet - an unlikely and seemingly bottomless chasm/rift in a section of the fault known as the "creeping section" - the notion that the quake could be felt on the east coast by anything other than a seismometer), but these quirks added to the excitement in a fun sort of Transformer/Terminator/Goober Gumby sci-fi way.

The acting was atrocious, but you hardly noticed that with all the skyscrapers exploding and shedding glass shards and concrete everywhere. There were some immortally classic lines, like "EVERYBODY DOWN!" and "R-U-U-U-U-U-N!" Aided by spectacular latissimus dorsi, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson held his breath underwater for more than ten minutes while dismantling an office suite with his bare hands to get to his drowning college babe daughter - very impressive tattoos, too.

The most disappointing thing about San Andreas, though, was the casting of Paul Giamatti as the genius Cal Tech geophyzzy-wizard. Everyone knows that real life genius geophyzzy-wizards are way more handsome and witty than that guy.

Go see it if you want. It's kind of fun. Oh, and I live about 75 miles northwest of HERE.

Thing Three: President Obama Rocks

This past week was a POTUS smackdown. Kickin' butt. Takin' names. Singin' Amazing Grace. Affordable Health Care. Marriage Equality. You either believe in freedom or you don't, folks, and it's not just for the suburbs. 

Somewhere around 10-20% of Americans are gay. Some smaller percentage of those folks might want to marry. It's not a big freakin' deal if people get married. Celebrate if you want, that's cool, rainbow up, but let's move on to stuff that affects everyone, okay? See Thing One, for example.

The hatefulness in Charleston and everywhere else needs fixing. Income inequality is devastating families across the country. Native American children are committing suicide in alarming numbers. Scaliwags are running for President who publicly humiliate and degrade whole groups of people like it was nothing. There is more work to be done. Thank goodness for Barack.

Thing Four: Independence Day

Shut off your TV and talk radio. Swear off alcohol. Quit smoking - anything, everything. Spend time outdoors. Breathe deep and exhale - over and over. See each person for who he/she is. Think for yourself. Improve yourself.

That's independence.

Peace, Love, and Glowsticks,

Saturday, June 13, 2015




Here at Palomino's Mission Farm Pea Paradise and Pumpkin Palace, peas are popping out all over and pumpkins are edging out the summer campers for available RV space. This community garden thing is great. And we're just getting started.


On the menu tonight? Stir fry, what else? I might not be able to wait for dinner, maybe a lunchtime feast instead. The peas taste amazing right off the plant. I never knew pea picking could be so rewarding. I may turn to migrant labor (pardon my language) in my twilight years if my back can take it. Follow the pea harvest into the sunset. Como se dice 'pea' en Espanol?

On the adventure front, my Alaskan ferry voyage and Yukon Dream Machine trek is officially in mothballs until next year, assuming that a) there is a next year and b) I am not too physically degraded by then to accomplish it. You never know. This senior citizen thing is sneaky. Really, though, how important is any of this stuff anyway?

If I can manage it, however, I want to do it well and I want to have fun, which means no short cuts or sacrifices because I didn't allot sufficient funds for the trip or I didn't do my homework properly. Both of which, I think, are true this year. I might be overestimating how much it will cost, but who wants to run out of money 200 miles from the last ATM and 300 miles from the next food shack? One probably can't grow peas up there in a timely manner.

Plus weird things are happening this year, e.g. the Arctic summer temperatures are skyrocketing to the upper 90s, the dadgum tundra is on fire, and there are vampire lampreys raining from the skies near Fairbanks (seriously! it's on the intrunet! look it up!).

A replacement adventure idea is blasting its way between my ears at this very moment. I already ordered the maps. When I finish with the prep work, I'll clue you in.

Peace, Love, and Whirled Peas,


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mission Walker

Mission Walker


One cool thing you could do with your spare time is to walk 800 miles from Mission to Mission on El Camino Real right here in Californy-I-ay. If you hurry, you will not be alone because right now, this very minute, that's what Hollywood's own Ilia Carson is doing.

I hosted Ilia (accent on the second syllable, like Maria) through warmshowers dot org Thursday night after she blew in from Santa Cruz to see the Mission San Juan Bautista. She began her pilgrimage a couple of weeks ago up in Sonora at the Mission San Francisco de Solano. When she arrived in San Juan, she had already completed the northern section of some 200+ miles, averaging between 15-20 miles per day. Wonder Walker!

I have always thought it would be fun to bicycle from Mission to Mission and many times I have wondered why there weren't inexpensive hostels (or warmshowers hosts) at or near each one. That seems like something that would catch on with touring cyclists. It appears that a growing number of hikers is taking the challenge every year. Maybe in time my dream of Mission pilgrim hostels will take form.

Meanwhile, Ilia the Wonder Walker is getting it done. After a tour of the Mission SJB, I steered her over to Jardines de San Juan, my local go-to dinner eatery for out of town visitors. I ordered my favorite Baja Tacos; Ilia chose one of their gigundo carne burritos. When the food came, she inhaled that burrito faster than I could say "Has your hiker hunger kicked in yet?" FOOM, it was gone. I had to laugh. There is nothing better than rigorous long distance exercise followed by no-holds-barred consumption of tasty, jaw-gnoshing food. It is a savage pleasure known only to a crazy, privileged few.
Ilia hopes to use this walk as a preparation for a 2016 trek of El Camino del Santiago in Spain. She is already a bright, talented organizer. Completing all or even part of El Camino Real in California will give her yet more confidence and teach the lessons only learned by road experience: flexibility, patience, and the happy holiness of mindless repetitive motion.

After a shower, about a hundred shared stories, a deep cozy slumber on my Mission Farm Campground redneck deck, and a jumbo morning bowl of heart healthy oats and almonds, Ilia the Wonder Walker was on her way up and over the San Juan Bautista de Anza Grade to Salinas (the Salad Bowl of America) and beyond. At last word, she was resting comfortably near the Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, well into the central section of her journey to San Diego. Que mujer!
"No problem. I got this." - Ilia Carson, Wonder Walker 2015
Peace, Love, and Mission Walking,



Saturday, May 9, 2015


The Question:

To all the Mothers out there,

I salute you for taking on a forever job and handling it with grace and skill and vigilance…and pure dumb luck, too. Nobody is successful in any endeavor without a little of that.

If you could impart one piece of advice about motherhood to a teenage girl, what would it be?

Peace, Love, and Curiosity,


Waterlogue by John H. Ostdick

The Answers:

“You want just ONE piece of advice about motherhood......... That is a tall request but I would have to say unconditional love. I could write a list a mile long of other sage advice, however. Hind sight and maturity have done a great job of pointing out the mistakes I made. That list would, also, be a mile long. Fortunately for me, my children are very forgiving.”
       -       P.S. I Love You
               Plano TX

“Here's my advice:

Most important qualities to encourage and share:
  • Kindness and compassion
  • Honesty
  • Sense of humor
  • Love of reading and writing
Make sure you complete at least a BA and look for opportunities to get your education funded. You will need it to survive and flourish.”

-          The EMPress
Austin TX

“Catch 'em being good/making good choices and let them know you noticed.”
-          Cud’n Mindy
Aromas CA

“Motherhood is the most precious and challenging thing that can happen to a woman. I would tell a teenager to wait and enjoy yourself while you are young because motherhood takes all the strength and wisdom you can manage, and if you wait you appreciate it more. Motherhood is an honor and you should approach it with all the maturity you can muster. But it is worth every minute.”
-          Dinesey
Cleburne TX

“I recall the pediatrician suggesting a little sherry. I have to say friendships with other mothers have helped pull me through, because knowing you're not alone goes a long way, especially when your Mother of the Year crown slips.”
-          Roadie
Dallas TX

“My advice about motherhood would be this. Play with your kids, don't be too serious, laugh a lot, have tickle and chase times, read to your children, and get down on the floor and play board games.
There's nothing greater than a mother's love for her children!

I was happy before I had children, but I was even more so when each of my four children were born. James Taylor's song, How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, was my motherhood theme song when my first baby, Eric, was born. I would place the James Taylor vinyl on the turntable, crank up the volume, and I'd hold Eric close as I danced around the room. I did that until he did a very special baby dance along with me. The lyrics to the song are probably for a girlfriend of James Taylor's, but I found them very fitting for my baby that made me feel so fulfilled.”

-          Marylou
Azel TX 

How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You – James Taylor
I needed the shelter of someone's arms and there you were
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs and there you were
With sweet love and devotion, deeply touching my emotion
I want to stop and thank you BABY
I close my eyes at night, wondering where I would be without you in my life
But you brighten up for me all of my days, love so sweet in so many ways
You were better to me than I was to myself
For me there's you and there ain't nobody else
I want to stop and thank you BABY
How sweet it is to be loved by you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild


This time last year I was on my bicycle in Florida celebrating Sinkhole de Mayo. If you don't know what I mean, I suggest you buy my book and find out!

This year, however, I am in San Juan Bautista, pretty much as close to Mexico as you can get in Los Estados Unidos. We "partied" over the weekend via the 31st annual Indian Market and World Peace Festival, which featured non-stop Native American dancing and music and arts/crafts booths. There was no alcohol or drugs - they are not allowed on the "Red Road" of sobriety - we "partied" family style.

This was the last festival organized by San Juan resident artist and writer Laynee Bluebird (Elayne Silva-Reyna) who happens to live down the asphalt road from me. Her daughter and others will continue the tradition in years to come.

Layne Bluebird is the author of Wolf Dreamer of the Longest Night Moon, a beautiful story/meditation that I highly recommend experiencing. As Laynee (80 years old but she can pass for 50) would tell you, the story is meant to be read in one sitting in a quiet space where you can reflect on its affect on your spirit. The sequel to this story will come out soon. Expand your natural awareness. Read for yourself.

What does this have to do with Beasts of the Southern Wild? Nothing! And Everything! I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild on DVD Sunday night after mildly freaking out at the Indian Market. I had what I call an "episode" while enjoying a dance performance in the middle of the sports field behind the town elementary school on a perfectly sunny and breezy afternoon. 
I don't have "episodes" all the time - they only happen to me once in a while, usually when I'm on my own in the woodsy woods woodsy or romping in the high country. They kind of sneak up on me and take over - not in any scary way - completely beautiful - and I get a floating sensation along with super-heightened sensory awareness. Light, color, sound, movement, and especially wind are super intensified. I am isolated for a moment or two, sometimes a few minutes before I come back to normal.
I love it when an "episode" happens. This one occurred during one of the dances at the festival. A steady drum beat - a big circle of people dressed in native garb - men and women, boys and girls - a green grassy field under a bright blue sky. One dancer was especially demonstrative. I think his "spirit" was a deer spirit (note: that's my interpretation - I don't pretend to understand Native American culture or spirituality, but I respect it nonetheless) and he was really into his movements, using ornaments that resembled deer horns in quick, rhythmic motion, bent over like a quadruped, turning this way and that with the sound of the drum, staying in time with the other dancers.
In the background, lining the field, is a long row of tall, healthy eucalyptus trees. When my "episode" happened, I became aware that the tallest tree branches were swaying back and forth in time with the drums. My focus was on the trees, no, IN the trees, from a long distance away, on the opposite side of the dancers. That is, the dancers were in the field between me and the eucalyptus grove. The whole scene kind of ebbed and flowed with the wind for a few minutes. I felt like I was slightly elevated, just a little bit off the ground.
I couldn't stop smiling.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the best movies I have never heard of. It's set in the deep South, off-bayou of New Orleans I think, and it features some of the wildest, most intriguing characters you will never ever meet. Hushpuppy, the little girl that stars in the movie, around which the movie revolves, is a four-foot tower of strength and a fierce observer/participant of/in her reality. If you don't love her, you should be ashamed of yourself.
This story is raw. It's ferocious. It's wonderful.
It didn't make me have an "episode" like the Indian Market and World Peace Festival, but it made my gut burn with a love of being alive. "Beast it." It's Nature's Way.
Peace, Love, and Hushpuppy,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Most Perplexing Problem

A Most Perplexing Problem


Susan Abulhawa

Mornings in Jenin: A Novel

I think you should read this book. It rocked my world, shook me up, made me wonder, made me feel, made me worry. It shocked me to think I could have been so naive, so uninquisitive, so accepting. And it made me think of so many other things I may have failed to notice in my merry, shallow life. It made me grow. It made me ache.

This is a novel, not a historical account. It is mostly one-sided, as it should be. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be so powerful.

Drop what you're doing. Read this book.

Peace, Love, and Stop It,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day: It’s Not Just for Hippies Any More

Earth Day: It's Not Just for Hippies Any More
Students, parents, teachers, and local community leaders joined forces on April 18 to remove illegally dumped trash from the San Benito River channel near the old Hospital Road crossing. What was the occasion? Earth Day, of course, a good excuse for a thorough Spring cleaning.
To be exact, Earth Day is April 22, celebrated around the world since 1970 as a way of calling attention to the growing impact of human activity upon the planet which feeds, clothes, and houses them. The first Earth Day was an outgrowth of the modern U. S. environmental movement which, most folks from that era will tell you, had its origins in two unrelated incidents that occurred in 1969.
The first incident was the Santa Barbara oil spill in late January of that year. An offshore oil rig blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel created an expanded oil slick that blackened the beaches of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, piled up a thick oily mess against the Santa Barbara Harbor seawalls, and killed an estimated 3,500 sea birds and mammals. Final estimates put the spill at about 100,000 barrels. The people of Santa Barbara and across the nation were appalled, if not furious, and began to clamor for action.
In June of that year, across the country on the shores of Lake Erie, another catastrophe occurred that also tipped the scales of public opinion against lax regulation of industry. The Cuyahoga River, which empties into Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio, had become so polluted that it caught on fire! Sadly, this was not the first time that happened. But, thanks to coverage by major news media, it caught the attention of the nation and their politicians. In 1970, President Richard Nixon was pressured into signing the Clean Water Act and creating the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Slowly over the years, public awareness of Earth Day began to change. Earth Day cleanup celebrations at parks and beaches and waterways evolved. From ragtag gatherings of random shaggy hippies in 1970 to organized events by the mainstream concerned citizenry of the present, more and more people have grown to see their connection to and responsibilities toward their land, air, and water and to the creatures (including people!) that inhabit Earth. After forty-five years, we are not all the way to a place of understanding, but we are getting closer.
Here in San Benito County, a growing coalition of citizens is seeing the value of working together to educate ourselves and to protect the region’s natural resources. Our riverbed is the heart of the county. It connects the residents and bio-communities of the south county farms and ranches, stretching past Paicines, Tres Pinos, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista, all the way to the Pajaro River and the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. As the low spot between the Diablo Range and the Gavilan Range, in dry season and in wet, the riverbed collects groundwater like a heart collects blood. The river channel carries water (and whatever else we put into it} slowly downstream to our neighbors and ultimately to the sea. Our cultural, environmental, and industrial connections to each point along the way, like beads on a string, are exciting and interesting and full of potential. San Benito County ranches, farms, wineries, Amah Mutsun traditions, Hispanic and European American influences, our rich geologic history, our National Park, and our favorable climate for recreation combine to make the San Benito River an attractive centerpiece.

The prospect of building a recreation trail along the river has united many different parts of our citizenry and offers a chance for everyone to contribute and benefit. This long-dreamed-for trail, called the San Benito River Parkway, will eventually extend from Tres Pinos to San Juan Bautista. Construction on the first segment of the trail, from Hospital Road to Union Road, will get underway upon completion of the new bridge across the river channel at the old Hospital Road crossing. This area has a history of sand and gravel mining by Graniterock, the local aggregate industry giant. The extraction stage, which ended in the late 1990s, will be followed by a major reclamation project as soon as the new Hospital Road Bridge has been built.

In anticipation of the River Parkway, dedicated volunteers, mostly high school students, have been ridding the river channel of mounds of trash that accumulated over many decades of community neglect. Since 2006 alone, more than 23 tons of tires, household trash, car parts, and random junk have been carted off to the John Smith Landfill on the backs of teenagers with the help of San Benito County workers and San Benito High School teachers. In the past few years, their ranks have grown.
On Saturday, April 18, sixty-seven students, parents, teachers, and local leaders pitched in to remove another half-ton of trash from the riverbed near Hospital Road. This group included swarms of students and parent volunteers from Hollister’s Accelerated Achievement Academy led by teacher Susan Bessette. The always reliable Outdoor Club from San Benito High School also participated, led by teachers Chip and Emily Gauvreau, Dr. Jessica Gautney, and retired teacher Jim Ostdick.
Alexandra (Alex) Simons, Environmental Specialist from Graniterock, escorted the group around the property and coordinated the moving of piles of garbage to designated County collection points. 
Simons described the importance of the project for the younger generation:  “The students really were able to make the connection on how the trash in the San Benito River affects the rest of the watershed and Monterey Bay. This connection is essential to maintaining a trash free environment in the future. Seeing the students so involved in making a difference in their local environment shows that they will be stewards for the environment in years to come.”

Meanwhile, Graniterock’s Jim West and Bill Damm cooked up a hot dog feast for the hungry and thirsty participants to enjoy after the cleanup. Valerie Egland, from San Benito County Parks Commission and the R.E.A.C.H. (Recreation, Exercise, and Community Health) San Benito Foundation, provided healthy Earthbound Farms snacks to go with the hot dogs and Damm Good Water and educated participants on the Parkway construction efforts. 

Bessette, perhaps the area’s most ardent proponent of using community service experiences in her curriculum, summed it up like this:  “I would like to thank Graniterock for continually allowing our school access to their river property in Hollister. This has allowed the Accelerated Achievement Academy to reach beyond the classroom to teach our environmental preservation and awareness project. We have been able to participate annually with the California Coastal Commission's Coastal Cleanup Day right here in town. The students have taken field trips to the water treatment facilities to learn the importance of water conservation and have planted a xeriscape garden. Guest speakers have given presentations on watershed management and water wise strategies. Graniterock has provided the opportunity for our students to participate in volunteering efforts that directly impact the environment positively and apply what they have learned.”
Cooperation between groups like this (business, government, industry, educators, and non-profits) is inspiring and efficient. Progress toward a dream can be made when ordinary people meet together and place the common good and their connection to their community/environment in a position of importance. On Earth Day 2015, being a furry Whole Earth hippie is not necessary to effect a positive change in your environment. Anyone can do it. Does being called an “environmentalist” violate your road dog code of ethics? That’s okay; you can call yourself a “pragmatic conservationist” instead. Just roll your sleeves up and get busy.

Please join us in keeping our highways and waterways clean and do what you can to support the development of the San Benito River Parkway. It will take some time and a lot of hard work. But San Benito County can be a showcase for the rest of California for clean, intelligent, healthy, conservation-minded growth while providing our families and visitors with diverse, vigorous opportunities to communicate, learn, exercise, and play.
Peace, Love, and Re-Creation,