When the World Goes Crazy

Bombarded by news feeds that shrill, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”, even a stoic like me, grows morose occasionally. There are so many behaviors that baffle me, so many inexplicable points of view that make me wonder why mankind assumes it is superior to the rest of the animal kingdom. From my vantage point, man is simply less tolerant and more lethal.

To reset my equanimity I generally put some distance between me and the world by hiking or biking off the beaten path. Just a mile from my front door lies the Santa Ana River, a mile-wide, rock-strewn, paradise where I can wander for hours and the girls can sniff, chase, and roll in whatever disgusting thing they can find. There’s not much that the $#!t-eating grin of a happy dog can’t cure.

Buckwheat in its summer colors

In the cool of the morning, we set off with a full hydration pack, a trekking stick with the rubber tip removed, and a small canister of pepper gel. Why the defensive weapons, you ask? Well, the local news source had published a story of a man and his gentle Labrador Retriever being attacked by a couple of pit bulls, only a mile away from our sanctuary. The owner of the dogs stuck around long enough for the Sheriff to show up, but he gave a false address so animal control wasn’t able to take any action. The article included a photo of the man’s vehicle, which included a license plate, so I would imagine he will eventually be tracked down. Sadly, his dogs will suffer for his ignorance.

At any rate, with the violence of the world on my mind, we set off. Taking comfort in the fact that the dogs have had their rattlesnake vaccines, I allowed them to explore off trail, knowing they are not clever enough to catch anything. The farther we got from civilization, the more my mind relaxed. There was ample evidence that others wander “my” trails, sneaker prints, paw prints, motorcycle tire tracks, but little trash. Two girls, wearing matching team running jerseys, greeted me pleasantly as they loped by, and a lone motorcyclist sped down a distant trail, but otherwise, we were alone with our thoughts.

Remnants of the Cone Camp gate

And soon enough those thoughts turned to breakfast; and so our footsteps turned towards home, mind and body restored.

The World’s Shortest Vacation

That was the way my sister, Babs, described our trip to Big Bear Lake. Though it was never intended to be an epic adventure, merely a short break from the oppressive August heat, we did think it would be well worth the hour drive. And, quite honestly, it really was.

A generous friend has a vacation house in the mountain community of Big Bear Lake, about an hour’s drive from my home. When I texted to ask if it would be available today and tomorrow, he said I was welcome to use it as nobody else would be there. Actually, he was pleased that I would go up and check on the place as he had found it with open windows and unlocked doors, full of flies, and the gate not secured when he had gone up last weekend. Evidently, the last people who had used it had neglected to lock up, though they insisted that they had. Since he couldn’t be sure, he had changed the lock on the door and said I should look for the new key on a red flower pot, on the front porch. I keep a set of keys for the place, so I was glad he had told me where to look for the new door key.

I called my sister and suggested she meet us up there, packed an overnight bag and a cooler full of food for the dogs and me, and headed for the hills. I was gratified to see the temperature dropping and a few sprinkles of rain as I ascended the mountain.

A pit stop for the girls to sniff about
Stopped at a construction roadblock en route

No sooner had we arrived at the cabin when it began to rain. I searched the porch for the red flower pot that held the key. No red flower pot, no key.

Babs texted that she was now about 15 minutes behind me at the roadblock.

Scantily dressed, the chill 66 degrees raised goose flesh, a novel experience. It also increased the urge to …well you know… The house is in a regular neighborhood but thankfully, none of the neighbors were visible; so, I made use of what little privacy the tool shed afforded.

Babs soon arrived and when I told her of our problem, she too made use of the lee side of the tool shed. Or now maybe it would be called the pee side of the tool shed. At any rate we were not sorry to see the rain become a serious downpour to eliminate the evidence of our indiscretion.

A response to my text soon arrived from the owner of the house. He clarified that the key was on a milk can, next to the door, on the porch…at his home in Redlands. Minor detail.

We sat on the porch mulling over our options and enjoying the deluge. Popcorn-sized hail stones bounced around the yard and the dogs looked uneasy as thunder shook the porch.

Squatters on the porch

Reluctant to admit defeat, I scoured the tool shed for something to use to break into the sliding glass door that was secured with a simple stick in the track. I could get the door open about 2 -3 inches, just wide enough to get my hand inside.

Burglary tools in hand, I put my new rain jacket to the test.

Of course, nothing worked. So, there was naught to be done but go out for breakfast (my sister’s brilliant solution) at Thelma’s because they have outdoor seating (my deluded idea). We drove into town thinking that the rain would surely slacken and the sun would smile upon us. But no, if anything it intensified and Thelma’s patio was a swamp.

By now, I was soaked and chilled to the bone. I’m bragging here, certainly NOT complaining. Remember it’s 100 degrees with 28% humidity at home. But nonetheless, we decided to take a rain check and head for home.

In no hurry, I drove slowly and when I left the rain behind, I rolled the windows down and breathed in the aroma of heaven. There is nothing like a freshly-washed, Southern California forest. I detoured to a hiking trail that I like, but signs informed me that the San Gorgonio Wilderness was closed due to the Apple fire.

By now, I was feeling lethargic from the lack of exercise, so I wasn’t too disappointed. I figured a nice piece of fresh, fruit-of-the-forest pie, a la mode, at The Oaks restaurant, would be just fine. But, of course, they had only pecan pie, easily resisted.

Now this might have all added up to a disappointing vacation if viewed as a series of thwarted plans, but it was absolutely not! There was the anticipation, the beautiful drive, the thunder storm, and time with my sister, all condensed into one day.

The Man Cave – A Wife’s Salvation

Ladies, have you noticed lately that your man seems to be more annoying than previously, and by previously, I mean pre-Covid?

We live in a modestly sized house on a proportionally large lot which normally works out pretty well for me because I’m not crazy about being indoors. However, the house has grown noticeably smaller with both Mike and me (and three cats and two dogs) home almost ALL of the time. Then factor in the Southern California August weather, 108 degrees with 16% humidity, and you have two normally active adults hunkered down, sharing said shrinking space.

But here is the marriage saver: The Man Cave.

The Man Cave

Mike has been building guitars in his spare time for many years, and now that he’s retired, he works at it almost full time. He claims the work is either boring or stressful but I gather there is something therapeutic about it since he’s currently working on numbers 10 and 11. He imagines that he will someday sell them, but since neither of us have any marketing skills, they continue to pile up, each one more beautiful than the last.

These classical, nylon string guitars are more sensitive to humidity than more robust instruments and so are kept in a humidified room. Bear in mind, today’s 16% humidity is uncomfortably high in these parts.

The man cave also serves as our bike shop.

Mike’s Bike Shop

Visitors are welcome so Molly, Sadie, and I visit just long enough to remember how annoying our constant companion can be and then trot back to our own space where I turn the produce of my garden into my own works of art.

Listless in Mentone

The long, lazy days of summer stretch even longer and lazier with Covid reduced work hours. Awake before dawn, I lay wondering at the fact that my neighbor’s three little dogs had not awakened me all night, a rarity. Just moments later their sharp, hysterical yips pierced the stillness. And moments later, my own normally self-possessed dog barked a single warning. I went to the front door to see what had the canine neighborhood watch on high alert and saw one of my cats sitting on the front porch. A split second later, she bolted for the back yard and at that same instant I spotted a ghostly coyote in pursuit up the driveway.

My first thought was to turn my dogs loose on the hungry intruder but good sense prevailed and I stepped outside and yelled. He evaporated into the predawn ether.

Now fully awake, I resigned myself to beginning my day. The usual chores: make coffee; feed the dogs; tidy the house; then when daylight permits, harvest the garden and set sprinklers. Summer weather has finally settled in with temperatures well into the triple digits, so any outdoor activities are best done before mid morning. Any dog walking is best before the sun crests the mountains to the east.

By 8:00 we had our bikes loaded on the truck and hydration packs filled, ready to head up the mountains for a morning ride. Even with mountain temperatures being about twenty degrees cooler than the valley, we were motivated to hit the trail early. Mike wore the Go Pro camera to film the ride; he gets a kick out of following me on the singletrack. I think he secretly hopes I’ll go over the edge so he gets good footage.

We were home by lunch time and spent the heat of the day watching the video of our ride, napping, reading, and binge-watching Nurse Jackie.