May is National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month.

I like to use my bike to get around.  I do not have a demanding schedule, and in the event of bad weather or the occasional flat tire, I can call my husband to come and get me in the F-150.  Or I can walk – Chico isn’t so big you can’t just walk.

I call my bike “Myrtle the Turtle” because she is green and slow but she always gets me where I want to go. She is a 1956 Raleigh Superbe, I picked her up at a Deseret Industries thrift store back in the 1980’s. She has been my commute bike ever since. 

I took Myrtle to work today.  The morning was bright and cheerful, I figured I’d be home before the rain set in. I didn’t count on the wind, which started to pick up about 11 am. 

Sheesh!  Did you ever notice, when you ride a bike on a windy day, the wind seems to be coming right into your face no matter what direction you’re traveling. When I got home I looked like Little Richard.  Wooooo-oooo-ooo Bay-beeee!

Cycling isn’t always the practical way, but I work it in whenever possible.  It’s free compared to the costs associated with a car, and it’s a good work out. The best thing is, there are routes available to bikes that are not available to cars.  I’ll say, Chico has a lot of nice bicycle amenities, bridges, trails, etc.

Frankly, you are the only one who can guarantee your own safety – be careful out there.

If you are new to cycling or new to Chico, Chico Velo is a good resource for route information. They have lots of socials where you can meet other riders and learn the ropes of getting around town.

Of course their big event is the Wildflower, coming up at the end of April.  My husband rode in the century as a high school kid, and we participated with our kids in the “Child Flower,” a shorter ride over to Durham Park, which I would recommend. You don’t need a fancy bike to do that route, just good brakes and tires, water and a snack. Child Flower registration is only $20 per rider and I believe you still get the official bandanna with the route map printed on it.….html

Get out there and enjoy your wheels! 

Mt Lassen – I haven’t been able to get up there yet this year, but here’s some pix from old trips

Someone has been searching posts about Mount Lassen so I searched a couple of my faves. 

Here’s one from June 2012 – we went snowboarding at Diamond Peak – it was  the last good snow before the drought.

Here’s a road trip from June 2015 – the snow was not good enough to board, but we had a fantastic day.

We can see the mountain from a spot on Hwy 32, and it’s covered with snow right now. 


Get out there and try something new – 395 vacation in a bag!

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat's bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

You can pick up a variety of baked goods at Erick Schat’s bakery, or you can pick up a bag of bread mix and make your own.

It’s good to meet new people and try new  things. When my husband and  I moved our son into college housing, we met his girlfriends’ parents.  They live in Southern California.  You meet the nicest people through your kids.

What we have in common besides our kids is, we both enjoy a quick “395” vacation. Hwy 395 cuts across the “back” of California, hitting some of the most incredible natural wonders in the state.  No matter how many trips we make, we always find something new.  We look at the map and old tour books, and sometimes we just wander. We find stuff that has been lost down old roads, forgotten. We follow signs that sound interesting, like “Punch Bowl” (an abandoned open pit pumice mine) and “Obsidian Dome” (one in a chain of “modern” volcanic eruptions).  Once we pulled over to have lunch and found ourselves in an old dump – six Ford Model T’s stood in a row, their chassis rusting into the ground. 

Tracy and Jim like the fishing. Hwy 395 boasts some great fishing holes, right along the road. They also like to try something new every time they drive up, so they pulled over in Bishop  and checked out Schat’s Bakery. The menu is hard to resist. Besides sandwiches, they have a very nice selection of cookies and other baked goods. They sell mixes too.  Having heard I liked to make my own bread, Tracy picked me up a bag of Schat’s special sheepherder’s mix.  

I get into a rut sometimes. I been making my bread a specific way, having a routine that starts the day before with grinding wheat berries and feeding the starter. I try to bake a fresh loaf  about every three days – when my son was home, it  was every other day.  With the heat of Summer, I have been getting up about 5am to get the bread done by 9am – it has to sit for about an  hour and a half. Oftentimes I wake up with my hands in the dough, wondering if I did everything right. It always turns out okay, but some loaves turn out so much better than others I can’t help but wonder.

So this mix just seemed too good to be true – just add water?

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

I could not believe this would work, it just seemed too easy.

But I trusted Schat, so I went for it. You will never get anywhere if you don’t try something new once in a while. The recipe was different in several ways, starting with, pour the warm water in the bowl and  then dump in the mix.  Usually I start with my wet starter “sponge”, adding flour and water in portions.  But I try to follow instructions the first time I do something. So, I took it slow, stirring in the flour – luckily the instructions said it would be a dry dough, it was really  hard to knead at first. “variable” is an important word – when I didn’t think I could get the dough together I started wetting my hands with warm water until it got sticky enough to stay together. It was a dry ball, but I could feel it was alive and rubbery, starting to fight back as I struggled to push it together. Within five minutes of kneading my arms were done and I laid it out for half an hour with a plastic bag over the top of the bowl.

It didn’t rise like my dough, but I could see it was pushing itself into a little dome. After half hour I formed it into a round loaf and set it aside again for an hour and a half. This time it pushed itself up into a little peak, raring to get into the oven. It was fun watching it take shape – it was definitely alive.

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

And here it is, a very authentic looking loaf of sheepherders bread!

The outside was very hard, and the loaf was very heavy. That kind of worried me, but it looked  and smelled fantastic.  All we could do was let it cool and see what we got.

And here's what I got - look at this beautiful bread!

And here’s what we got – look at this beautiful bread!

The crust was chewy and delicious, the inside soft and rubbery, full of tiny holes. Perfect! I usually use some whole wheat in my bread, so this was different – I couldn’t wait to try peanut butter and jelly! It toasted perfect, the crust very crispy. We ate it down to the last heal, and today I’ll make croutons out of that.

And then I’ll feed my starter and get ready to do another loaf of my own bread. It’s nice to have a  routine, but it’s nice to bust out of it once in a while. 






Really Phil? Early Spring?

Every year I look forward to Groundhog Day, whether I am hoping for Early Spring or Extended Winter, I like the idea of a rodent predicting the weather. 

Groundhog Day apparently stems from German tradition. In America the natives made their predictions based on the behaviors of other rodents, primarily the muskrat. It’s true –  the old people predicted the length and harshness of the coming winter based on the size of their neighboring muskrat “push-ups” – the mud, stick and grass lodges muskrats build along marshes and streams, in which they can spend a frozen winter, even using the mound as food in the late months.  

Creatures who live close to the Earth must know – for one thing, they can feel the temperature and texture of the dirt. For another,  as humans observe them, they observe the insects. Each in turn.

This year I am disappointed with Phil’s prediction – early Spring. I was hoping for at least six more weeks of snow. My husband reminds me, – Spring can bring snow too. I hope so. 

Yesterday we took a day off to hit the slopes at Shasta.  As a child I went with my family to Shasta in the Summertime. We camped, hunted, fished there, and rode the Huff and Puff a couple of times before it was put out of operation in 1971.  But I had never snowboarded Shasta before yesterday.  

Sugar Bowl in Tahoe has more features, oftentimes more snow, earlier and later in the year, and they used to have a very affordable mid-week pass with lots of promotional deals like points to use for free food and other goodies. That all ended with the last couple years of poor snow. Sugar Bowl is under new management, they’ve raised prices, cut the deals, and for a while, they weren’t opening their main lodge during the week, meaning, no bathrooms.   By the time they wised up and re-opened the lodge, we had got disgusted with the mismanagement, and stopped buying our yearly passes after 20 years. 

We find, we had got into a rut. Now we can spend the same amount of money we spent on the pass, and although we can’t make as many trips, we can get out there and try new places, do new things. Last year we had a few good trips all the way down to Mammoth Mountain, in Southern California, and we’ll probably keep that tab open. But, Shasta finally got some snow, so we decided to see what we’d been missing.

I’ll tell you what we hadn’t been missing – Bay Area and LA people. Tahoe stinks of the Bay Area, that was something we’d just gotten used to – rude asshole city people, screaming at their kids, avoiding eye contact as they shoved ahead to grab a cafeteria chair right out of your hand, etc. 

At Mammoth we experienced the LA crowd – different, but still obnoxious. Where Bay Area people are always uptight, the LA crowd is more relaxed, but both are demanding and, wow, just plain GRABBY. They will shove ahead of you in line, they will butt their way onto your chair or your table in the lodge, they will have loud conversations across your face without so much as a “so where you from Hon?”

I had not thought for a long time how annoying those people were until yesterday.   Northern California people are nicer. You can talk to them and they don’t act like you just exposed yourself, that’s something right off the bat.  All day yesterday I was not cut off once, nobody “buzzed” me, not even a skier. 

At Shasta the runs were beautifully groomed – on a Monday, that’s worth noting. At Sugar Bowl they stopped grooming the runs on weekdays because they want to save them for the weekend crowds. At Mammoth they stopped grooming during the day after an inebriated woman ran into one of the groomers and the resulting lawsuit cost the resort a pretty penny. Grooming makes a lot of difference for a person like me who is not that skilled. 

The weather yesterday was almost perfect – sunny slopes and temperatures in the 30’s, no wind. There had been light rainthe previous night, so there was no powder, but the grooming was adequate to keep the deck nice. 

No, I didn’t take my camera, sorry about that. One thing that always strikes me about  Mt Shasta is how WHITE it is, just gleaming like toothpaste. The resort lies below the summit, so you are staring up at that face – it seems alive. 

And, from various points, you can see Mt. Lassen gleaming in the distance. Maybe that’s the next road trip, I’ll have to start wheedling my husband to take me up to Lassen again. 




Sierra snow pack in good shape – I think it will keep up in 2016

The Department of Water Resources has given the Sierra snow pack a good prognosis – that is, if this weather keeps up into Spring. 

I think it will.  “The Baby” is colicky this year, been throwing regular temper tantrums, a trend that is hard to stop if it rolls over January 1.

I sure hope so. My family taught me to snowboard, no small deal, and last year they replaced my crapped out snowboard – bought used, and then used and used again! It was an older model, short for speed, but an old crate when it came to powder.  As I’ve learned more every year, I find, it’s the powder, screw the groomed, that makes it all worth while. 

Ever been sank in a snow powder bank? Don’t panic, cause you’ll start to get hot in your snow clothes down there. It’s a good thing to have your cell phone in a high zipper pocket, so you can get to it. But sometimes it’s quicker and less humiliating to get yourself out.  Unstrap your paddle foot, start kicking the snow in front of you to get a good foot hold, and then slide that board up, straight up, not sideways. Yes you can do it!  Start crawling with two hands and one foot, and hold that board straight up with your other foot. Don’t slip cause you will likely get buried deeper the second time. As soon as you can get your face over that snow, start hollering, but keep crawling, cause chances are nobody is going to hear you.

Sure, you can unstrap both feet, but good luck ever getting your board out of there. 

After that happened to me twice, my family got me a new, longer board. The short “lunch tray” model we’d got at a garage sale is for ice boarding, pretty much, sinks like a rock in powder. Who woulda known? Last year I had to learn to use my new much longer board, and it was sketchy. It’s like driving an SUV after you had a VW bug.  Turning, sometimes I get the front end caught in the snow – I have taken quite a couple of tumbles.

The first time, I took a turn too fast, did this sideways helicopter crash, right at the bottom of the lift, where everybody stood watching in quiet amazement. When I flopped up and landed right on my butt, several people applauded. I looked at them, my head still spinning, snow driven into the vents on my helmet, and said, “I meant to do that.” And I got up and walked into the lodge and got myself a straight shot of Stolichnaya.

The second time was head over heels. Head over heels. Head over heels. I thought it would never stop. Again I landed perfectly on my butt, my husband sliding along in front of me, completely oblivious. All around me people blew by, as though they saw stuff like that everyday. I was shaken pretty good, but my neck didn’t really start to hurt until the next day.

What, you want to live forever? 

Screw me – I can’t wait to get back out there. Like the 60 year old Japanese woman I met at the top of the bunny hill one year. She had taken up snowboarding late in life, like me,  to follow the kids. The first trip she fell and broke her tailbone. Her husband, an engineer, had designed this comical but very practical looking “diaper” for her to wear, all padded in the ass, and there she was again. Go Babeeee! We had a very nice afternoon together, speaking pidgin English  and Japanese all day, gesturing, laughing.  I can’t remember her name, or any of the words she taught me, but I remember the way she threw her head back when she laughed, like she was taking a big mouthful of Life and chewing it up.

Taking the rainbow tour of the Eastern Sierra

My husband and I just went on a barnstorm tour of Highway 395, down to Mono County.  Any time you want to get out of town, got a couple of days and a few hundred bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I’d recommend a 395 vacation.  Go “off season” and the hotels are remarkably cheaper.

We went to see our son, take him some birthday presents, hang out with him for a couple of days over his birthday. He attends a neat little community college near Bishop. Every time we visit him there we meet more nice people. He works at his dorm and now he has a job doing the sound board at the local theater. They are currently running the play, “Of Mice and Men.” This is not my favorite work, not even my favorite work by Steinbeck, but the cast, a mixture of local amateurs and some Los Angeles professionals, was worth an evening.

It’s a difficult play with some language and situations, but they pulled it off really well. I’ve always hated the ending – I won’t spoil it for you – but that’s my son’s big moment – he has to do the lights and sound when George plays out his final act of devotion to his friend Lennie. My son has to do his part just right, or it will look dumb, and I’m real proud he understands how important his job is.

My son lives in a huge caldera. Having grown up with Lassen and Shasta, we had thought we lived in a volcanic area, but the Eastern Sierra is like the Land of Giants. Every time we go down there we try to take in something spectacular. We’d seen this sign along the road again and again – Obsidian Dome. Sounded so cool, my husband just shook his head – “oh, it’s probably a 20 mile drive to Boredom…” he kept insisting. “Those exciting names can be a real let-down.” 

But I kept wearing on him, and then the kids chimed in,  and this time he actually thought of it himself. We set out from town and within 15 minutes we were in one of the weirdest moonscapes I have ever witnessed. 

This is a ginormous pile of obsidian. Like a giant's toy pile.

This is a ginormous pile of obsidian. Like a giant’s quarry. I’m down at the bottom telling the kids, “get off there!” The rocks are like broken glass.  

I’m sorry I didn’t remember my little digi-cam, my husband took this picture with his phone. You just have to see this place to believe it. My son climbed that pile, looking at each rock, saying, “look at this! look at this!’  Some were solid, some chipped apart in his hands to reveal shiny black wet-looking volcanic glass, ranging in color from deep dark black to fiery red. Some was sharp enough to cut our skin, but we were careful.

This dome is part of a chain of explosions that only happened about 500 years ago. Wow, that’s not very long ago.  A “dike” of lava running crisscross underground encountered an underground river as they ran along together, and wherever the lava came into contact with the water, steam blew through the rock and created craters spread out for miles in line. At Obsidian Dome, the lava came pouring out of the ground, creating a huge dome.

Yeah, in my child mind, I expected a big shiny round dome, like the top of the state capitol building in Sack-o-tomatoes. Ha ha – the lava solidified immediately on contact with the cold air, and broke like glass, into shards. You can see the flow lines, all bent and twisted, different kinds of rock layered together like candy. 

Trails lead into the center of the rock pile. It’s exactly what I imagine the moon looks like. 

I was shocked how close this wonder is to the road – in fact, now that we knew what we were looking for, we could see it from the road, along with another, smaller dome to one side. We will most certainly revisit this place, I think we only saw part of it. There’s a creek called “Glass Creek,” that’s got to be good.

Whenever we leave I have a kind of anxiety attack, I hate being so far separated from my son. But it was raining, and that cheered me up – I wondered if it was raining in Chico. As we got out on the road for Bridgeport, we noticed a big rainbow.

I don't too often see the top of a rainbow.

I don’t too often see the top of a rainbow.

It beckoned us further, spreading out over the glacial valley like a bridge.

As the road wound into the Walker River Canyon near the Bodie turn-off, it seemed to disappear into the clouds.

As the road wound into the Walker River Canyon near the Bodie turn-off, the rainbow seemed to disappear into the clouds.

The road meanders into a tiny canyon at Bodie, rock walls all around.

This is a gloomy place, especially if you know the history of the tiny town that lies behind the canyon walls.

This is a gloomy place, especially if you know the history of the tiny town that lies sleeping behind the canyon walls.

The storms rolled over us as we rode the highway, around the corner, the rainbow came out of the darkness again.

Hello Friend.

Hello Friend.

I have driven through Bridgeport so many times, the little tourist town has grown on me. Sometimes it’s just a ghost town, businesses closed up, sometimes boarded up, For Sale signs posted. Other times – now it’s trout season – it’s really hopping. There are a couple of hot springs there, we just visited Buckeye Hot Springs the last  time we went through town. We eat at a Bridgeport restaurant now and then, but gas is usually kinda high there. 

This time we found out, Bridgeport is a special place.

It's not every day I get to see the Rainbow's End.

It’s not every day I get to see the Rainbow’s End.

This rainbow set itself down right in Bridgeport. Wow, that’s pretty special. Look hard, you can see it touch the ground.

As we rolled along home, six hours, sheesh, we wondered – is Southern California getting all the rain? 

Come on baby, we got to take this rain to Chico!

Come on baby, we got to take this rain to Chico!

Suddenly, the storm let up, and Tahoe appeared around the bend. 

Lake Tahoe - the Number One

Lake Tahoe – the Number One “place I like to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Or stop, just keep driving.

Lake Tahoe is an incredibly beautiful tourist shithole, sorry to cuss, but that’s what it is. We enjoy the scenery, we might stop at a convenient coffee shop in Incline Village, but then we get the hell out. The people there will crawl up your ass if you stay more than five minutes.  The whole Tahoe area is a good argument against a tourist economy.  There’s no community, no old-timers, just a bunch of transplants peeing in the lake while screaming “KEEP TAHOE BLUE, YOU BASTARDS!”

This is the point where I start getting impatient to get home. Home sweet Chico. I watch the road to see signs of recent rain. BAM! As we get over the state line the rain hits our windshield, like it really means it!

Well, thank goodness, the rain has made it to Northern California.

Well, thank goodness, the rain has made it to Northern California.

The sun shines bright above Oroville, but you can see there was a gullywasher earlier in the day.

The sun shines bright on a walnut orchard above Oroville, but you can see there was a gully washer earlier in the day.

Yeah, I might be nuts, but I love the North State. 

National Heirloom Expo, Santa Rosa CA, September 8 – 10

Vegetables Flowers Seed Collection Herbs Merchandise Festivals Store About

The National Heirloom Expo

IMG_1534With the heirloom expo quickly approaching September, 8th-10th in Santa Rosa, CA a passionate group of pure food heroes are joining forces to make this years event better than ever! Featuring the world’s largest heirloom vegetable display, GMO education, educational gardening workhops, world renowned speakers, authors, and filmakers. This event brings together over 30,000 like minded gardeners, farmers, and concerned citizens in one unifying event surrounding pure food. Come sample over 100 varities of heirloom watermelons, including our top 5 award winners, and gaze at our brilliant display of squash from around the world. These rare open-pollinated vegetables and fruit are locally harvested from our field trials in Esparto California. Time is running out so dont miss your opportunity to attend this incredible event and join hands with the pure food revolution! Get your tickets now or visit our website at


1350 Bennet Valley Rd 

Santa Rosa, CA  95404

Call for Volunteers

If you would like to volunteer and get free tickets to the expo please contact us


Help us promote this incredible event!Below is a link to some photos from last years Heirloom Expo. Please share one or all of them anywhere you can and tell all your friends and family about the upcoming event!