A Cat Called Ava

Over the years, we have taken in numerous cats who found themselves without staff to serve them. We were indiscriminate, welcoming any who were congenial with our other residents. We did insist that they sign away their rights to procreation, but we assumed all expenses related to sterilization. I think we were feeding nine of them at one time.

Eight years ago, one of Mike’s customers hired him to make some repairs to her mom’s house who had recently died. The house was to be sold and the resident cat was going to be “disposed of”. Kitty, as she was called, was young, healthy, and best of all, spayed. So we agreed to adopt her. Her dowry was this gorgeous print.

I suppose every cat is unique, but Ava (we couldn’t call her Kitty because it was too close to Gray Kitty who was still living when she moved in – you may remember Gray Kitty and Other Gray Kitty from previous posts) stood out with her suffer-no-fools attitude. From the moment she stepped out of the cat carrier, she assumed the mantle of supreme ruler. The other cats treated her with deference and the dogs gave her wide berth. After just a few days, she informed us that she was NOT an indoor cat and that she would come back inside when she felt so inclined.

She had suffered numerous health problems in the past, beginning in 2017, when we thought she was a goner; but the heroic vets always managed to pull her from heaven’s gate. They never could figure out what was ailing her but gave her IV fluids and antibiotics and sent her home to die. Over the years, she cashed in four of her nine lives but this time, she must have run out. It appeared that she had a tumor in her jaw that was horrifically painful. There was no point in prolonging her suffering. Our family vet, who has seen me through more losses than either he or I care to remember, kindly released her on the operating table.

We missed her last night, as she was a terrible bed hog, and (of course) Mike is bereft. If you like to believe in life-after-death stuff, you might like to think she has connected with her former staff, and that now her open-mouthed purring is soothing her to sleep.

Ava Braun, the $2,500 free cat.

Bishop – From Rags to Riches

We were famished when we came off the trail so it wasn’t a hard sell to talk me into going to Schat’s Roadhouse for lunch/dinner. Sally talks me into eating dead animal flesh a couple of times a year and this, she insisted, was the place to toss my scruples aside and have a burger. The youngster who took our order misunderstood our request for coleslaw INSTEAD of fries, so we got both. As you know, I can resist everything but temptation, so I ate them too. A certain amount of misery ensued as our overburdened digestive tract struggled to cope with the heavy food.

But, walking back to the room, we passed a gorgeous, nay opulent, hotel that had several outdoor seating areas strategically arranged along a clear stream, freshly descended from the Sierras. Since there were several unoccupied chairs, I suggested that we sit a spell and soak up the ambience and digest. We assumed that rooms here would be well beyond our means, but just out of curiosity, Sally looked it up on her phone. The web site claimed we could get a room for only a few dollars more than we had paid for the room with the bowl shaped mattress and the green pool. Disbelieving, we went to the office to confirm. The lovely desk clerk said, yes, there was a vacancy and yes, the room was just $159 as advertised. AND, yes, there was a secure storage room for our bikes. Without further discussion, we decided to spend another night in Bishop and reserved a room for the following night.

Having slept very little in the over-heated room in Lone Pine and then spending five hours on the trail, I had no trouble sleeping with Sally sharing my bed in the vintage motel room. Compared with Mike, she’s a huge improvement in the bed partner department. She barely moves, she doesn’t snore, and maybe more importantly, she doesn’t complain about my snoring. And she farts a lot less.

We stopped to admire this mural on our walk to breakfast.

In the morning, we were in no hurry to hit the trail since it was still quite cool…so cool in fact that I was compelled to buy another jacket and a down vest at the used gear store. I’ve lost count of how many jackets and vests I own, at last count I think it was between 20 – 30. But when the rare day comes that a jacket is required here in Southern California, I always have the exact right one for any casual occasion.

We made our way to Eastside Sports to take Mr. Easy on the Eyes (EotE) up on his offer of sharing bike trail secrets. I stole the following picture of him from his web site.(https://eastsidesports.com/blogs/stories/liv-in-the-dream) He directed us to a trail we never would have found on our own that proved to be a lot of fun…until it wasn’t. It also proved that he was NOT a bike rider.

The trail was hidden behind the electric plant and was accessed via a narrow bridge that we pushed our bikes across. The stream was running fast and deep and we assumed cold but were not tempted to test the waters.

After a short ride on a dirt road, we stumbled upon a singletrack that resembled a cow path. It grew increasingly interesting with rock gardens that, had we been familiar, we would have ridden through. But, the unfamiliarity robbed us of the confidence necessary to thread between, and in some cases over, the rocks and we ended up walking in several places. Eventually, the singletrack dumped us back onto the sandy road.

L.A. Water & Power controls the water in the Owens Valley. While there are numerous signs that prohibit camping, there was nothing to deter daytime recreation.

We doggedly continued uphill until we reached a place where the sand was simply too deep to climb. We turned downhill and rode as fast as we could, trying to stay on top of the sand until we came to a slightly better trail. After only a few miles, we gave up hope of finding any trails that were suitable for our 2 1/2″ wide tires and old lady legs and began to make our way home. Closer to the stream we found a nicely hard-packed dirt road that took us back to our starting point. Now it was time to go back to town to enjoy our new digs.

The room was pretty comfortable too but we spent most of our time outside.

In the morning, we made one last trip to Schat’s Bakery to stock up on olliebolen for the trip home. For you non-Dutch folks, I think the English translation would be something like oil balls. They’re lumps of dough, stuffed with apples and raisins, deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon sugar.

A visit to Schat’s Bakery wouldn’t be complete without a ride on Dough Boy.
The biggest lupine I’ve ever seen.
If you ever watched the movie Chinatown, you’re probably aware of the nefarious movers and shakers who moved the water from the farmers of Owens Valley to the orchards of San Fernando Valley, soon to become the suburbs of L.A.

The drive home was punctuated by this photo stop. Having learned from previous travels down this highway, we did not stop at the Manzanar Interment Camp.

Spring in Bishop

I used to think that I was a good traveling companion, easily pleased, flexible, and good natured. But this last trip with Sally opened my eyes to my own hubris. It’s not me who is the happy traveler, it’s the companions I choose who happily acquiesce to my whims.

Sally had suggested that we do a quick two-day, mountain bike adventure to Bishop to explore the areas that she hadn’t been able to reach because she didn’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I hated leaving the girls home but the idea of traveling light and staying in hotels had its appeal. I reserved a room in the old, oops, I mean historic part of the Dow Villa Motel in Lone Pine. This hotel has a colorful history having been the swankiest hotel in town during the hey days of the Western movies. The walls are plastered with old photos of movie stars who stayed in the hotel while filming in the nearby Alabama Hills.

Is this reminiscent of The Shining?

Our room was on the second floor. It was furnished with two twin beds, one of which impinged on the door opening to the hall. Since it had no bathroom, we had to traipse down the hall about a half a mile to use the toilet during the night. Luckily, I rarely sleep much on the first night away from home, so the door scraping along the end of my bed didn’t wake me up when Sally left the room in the middle of the night. The hotel was heated by an ancient steam system which didn’t allow for any adjustment. The instructions said that if the room was too warm, to open the window. Needless to say, two post menopausal women opened the window!

We appreciated this little lavatory en suite which allowed us to brush our teeth in the comfort of our own room.

After breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a destination in its own right, we drove about 50 minutes to Bishop. It was a chilly 54 degrees where we parked the car and changed into our bike clothes, but it was sunny and we figured we would warm up as we climbed. I threw a windbreaker into my pack, figuring the return downhill trip would be cool. I also assumed that Sally was carrying multiple jackets, vests, gloves and bras.

The heavy rains had turned the dirt road into an interesting trail that alternated between stream bed and sand but our E-bikes made even the loose sand rideable. As we climbed the road deteriorated, growing increasingly rocky but we persevered lured by the spectacular view of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains ahead of us.

This sign post provided no clue as to where we were.

We had climbed about 2,000′ when we met a man coming from the opposite direction. He told us that if we continued, we would encounter a two mile stretch of trail that was covered with snow. Clouds were gathering and we were already getting cold, so we put on all the clothes we were carrying and turned back. (Sally, uncharacteristically, wasn’t packing extra clothes.) The man, whom we named Easy on the Eyes (EotE), was running a 40 mile loop that included several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. He invited us to stop by his gear store the next day where he would show us where to find some fun mountain bike trails. Needless to say, we prioritized the visit to his outdoor gear shop.

The White Mountains shimmer across the Owens Valley.

By now the temperature had dropped into the low forties and we were damp with sweat. The rough trail demanded our attention and a certain amount of speed to roll over the rocky stream bed. Sally fell behind and I stopped to wait for her, growing colder by the minute. When she caught up she confessed that one of the rock gardens and stopped her dead and she’d fallen over, bruising her backside. Our lips were too stiff with cold to talk and our hands were like frozen claws on the handlebars. Thankfully the road smoothed out enough that we weren’t in danger of losing our grip, though truthfully, we couldn’t be certain as we had lost all feeling in our fingers.

Back at the car, we stood in the lee of the car between the open doors to change into dry clothes. Heated seats have never felt so good!

Sally had reserved a room in another vintage motel that offered no storage room for the bikes, so we wheeled them into the tiny room for safe keeping. This room had two double beds but only one of them was fit for use, the other had a bowl-shaped mattress. I suspect someone had died in the room and the body hadn’t been discovered for some time as it was so heavily perfumed that we never did develop olfactory fatigue. This room cost twice as much as our previous night’s “historic” room.

Dig those socks?

So, this has been sitting in my drafts folder waiting for me to have enough to drink to finish it. Re-reading it, I can see that the fine line between not enough wine and having too much to wrap this trip up in one post has been crossed. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion: Luxury hotel, shopping with EotE, and another lackluster bike ride.

Life in the Food Chain

Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash

Every once in a while, I just don’t feel like making dinner. Maybe I’ve been out on the bike all day, or ruined my back in the garden, or perhaps I’m just plain lazy. But when I start to think about where to go to find a good meal, and what a chore it is to put a bra on, find a matching shirt to go with the semi-clean pants I’ve been wearing for a week, not to mention having to wait in line for a mediocre meal or spend a fortune on a really good one, well, suddenly I’m motivated to cook.

I am by no standard a gourmet cook, but I can make the simplest fare into a labor intensive marathon. Starting with my organic garden, the backbreaking labor of turning compost piles, preparing the soil, planting, pruning, weeding, endless watering, creating shades, harvesting, washing, picking off bugs (no pesticides to aid in the battle) and this is all before the food gets to the kitchen.

A simple task of making bread begins with a trip to the Adventist market where I can buy heirloom, organic whole grains to grind into the most aromatic flour you can imagine. Did you know that flour has an aroma? A bread machine may seem like an ironic shortcut, but it makes having fresh, homemade bread in the house a regular thing.

In an effort to avoid processed foods and foods that have unpronounceable ingredients, I make most things from scratch. I couldn’t find mayonnaise in the store that didn’t have soybean oil or some other vegetable oil in it, so now I make olive oil mayo from scratch. It has a shelf life of two weeks, so it can’t be made in large batches. It takes a long time to blend the olive oil into the egg yolks so I pop in the ear buds, put on ear muffs, and listen to an audible book. I’m almost finished with War and Peace.

I was tired of over-salted, canned enchilada sauce overpowering the flavors of my cheese and eggplant enchilada casserole, so I found a recipe for “authentic” enchilada sauce online. What a score! It’s simple and vegan too. Made from three kinds of dried chiles, which are cheap at the local multicultural market, I can whip up a batch and freeze it in sandwich bags for future use.

And then there’s the dog food. Every two weeks, I load two big crock pots with an assortment of fresh vegetables, rice, steel-cut oats, potatoes, chicken, whatever cut of pork is on special, and stink up the granny flat. Six and a half hours later, I de-bone the chicken legs and thighs, shred the pork, add raw liver (ick!) and fill nine quart-sized yogurt containers with dog food fit for a German Shepherd dog and a Border Collie, AKA my girls. Including the clean-up, the whole operation probably takes about three hours.

People assume I like to cook since I spend so much time preparing food; but the truth is, I like to drink wine and listen to audible books and cooking gives me an excuse to do those things while looking productive.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash