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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spring’s green grasses and cool breezes are always too ephemeral in Southern California. Already the grasses are going to seed, and the once cheerful wildflowers are struggling to hold their place against the more aggressive weeds. As soon as the thermometer tops 80 degrees in the valley, Sally and I start looking to the mountains for relief.
Mountain Home Creek Road starts at 3,900′ and climbs to 6,000′ which makes it about 20 degrees cooler at the top than the valley. The trail that snakes up the canyon from valley to mountains is newly entertaining with its fresh rock slides and fallen trees. This year’s plentiful snow and rainfall restored creeks and created waterfalls where none have been seen in a decade or more.
A stream crossing that we normally can pedal through is so deep and fast flowing that we were forced to carry our bikes across.
A jet’s water vapor trail (or evidence of the government’s conspiracy to seed our skies with chemicals to keep us submissive) bisects the sky over the canyon.
We interrupted our ride for some breakfast at The Oaks. Our favorite server, Vincent, happily served us on the porch where it was abnormally quiet because the National Forest is currently closed to recreation. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps because the Search and Rescue teams have grown weary of rescuing stupid people who traipse off into the snow, unprepared for the vagaries of winter travel in the mountains.
With full bellies and limited energy, we pedaled up the trail only to find our way impeded by slushy snow. Being the intrepid (read foolish) cyclists (now hikers) that we are, we pushed on, riding where it was clear and wading through slippery slush where it wasn’t.
All went well until we encountered a fallen tree.
Undaunted, we clambered over and hoisted our 42 lb. bikes, one at the front wheel and the other at the rear, over the barricade.
All of this was just to arrive at this panoramic view…and for the fun of getting there.
Last Saturday, I was suffering from a toothache and some other perhaps related discomforts, so Sally and I agreed to do an “easy” ride, followed by lunch.
Said easy ride consisted of a gentle two or three mile warm up, and then a seriously steep ascent of the trail we call Joint Point South. The ascent was complicated by waist-high weeds that all but obscured the trail and wrapped themselves around the drive train at every opportunity. At the top of the climb, I noticed that I could feel the throb of my heartbeat in the tooth and the harder I pedaled, the faster and harder my heart beat. So, we again resolved to take the easiest route to the top of the Crafton Hills fire trail. That lasted for about a quarter of a mile until another super fun trail that went straight up the ridge beckoned.
Riding relatively flat tracks on an e-bike is cool because one can go so fast (up to 20 mph). But, climbing a trail that’s so steep it takes everything you have in your skill set just to keep both wheels on the ground while you’re pedaling as hard as your lungs can process air into oxygen, leaning over the bars to keep the front wheel from coming up and weighting the rear wheel to keep from spinning out, now that’s real fun!
Our favorite lunch stop du jour is a little, strip mall restaurant called Bella Italia. It used to have a couple of tables outside so we envisioned eating with one hand and holding on to our bikes with the other. E-bike theft is so rampant that simply keeping one in sight isn’t adequate insurance against theft. We found that since the terror of Covid has mellowed, they had moved the tables inside and when we asked if we could either bring the bikes inside or move a table outside we were denied. The waiter (the son of the owner) volunteered to “watch” our bikes and acted like I was unreasonable to decline his offer. Later, when he delivered our food outside, he said he had looked up our bikes online and now understood my intractability.
I was prepared to forfeit the luscious eggplant Parmesan and go to El Pollo Loco across the street, but Sally had her heart set on Italian. So, we wrapped the bags of our carry-out food around our hand grips and pedaled a few blocks to a quiet street where we could sit on a large boulder to enjoy our lunch. We split the eggplant Parmesan sandwich and cream of broccoli soup. Then I divided the generous serving of tiramisu and handed the container to Sally. It slipped from her hand and mine and went splat on the rock between us. We reasoned that what with all the rain we had had in the last few weeks, any residual dog pee that may have been on the rock, had long since been washed away, and scraped it back into the container. I think Sally even licked the rock when I wasn’t looking. Seriously, the tiramisu from Bella Italia is THAT good.
Spring is finally here in full force. While the mountains are still draped in white, the valley is warm and lush. Theoretically, the snakes aren’t out yet, so riding the overgrown trails remains reasonably safe…for the moment.
Sally and I loaded the bikes for a revisit of Potrero Canyon and to make another attempt to find Surprise Canyon. The image above gives you some idea of how many canyons there are and how elusive the slot canyon that shelters the sandstone carvings could be. We got lucky and found it on our second try.
The motorcycles had gouged a deep, wide rut down the narrow defile that was just wide enough to accommodate our pedals but left no margin for error. Soon enough, the trail widened to where we had a choice of line, but then the slimy clay soil held small puddles of mud that were slick as snot and made cornering an exciting endeavor. I’d left my knee guards at home, thinking this would be a tame ride. Fortunately the ground was saturated and forgiving as I toppled over in the slime a couple of times.
Begrimed, we left the confines of the slot canyons and descended a wide, grass-covered valley that offered opportunities on both sides for trails that ascended hills of varying degrees of steepness. We opted to climb a long ridge, made possible by our e-bikes. We might have climbed it on regular bikes a year ago, but we would have suffered acutely. The view from the top was well worth the effort and we lingered to watch some guys on motorcycles climb a seemingly impossible slope on the opposite side of the canyon.
We made our way back towards the car via the paved road, stopping frequently to enjoy the flora and fauna (mostly audible).
When we came to where the road crossed the creek, we found the road had been washed away. In its place was a broad stretch of nicely compacted sand. The wash seemed firm enough to ride and looked far more interesting than the road, so we boldly followed the tracks of a couple of motorcycles up river. At first the sand was dry and firm, and the banks were low. We knew there was a dirt road that would take us where we wanted to go that followed this wash, so we figured we could exit the wash if the going got tough.
Keeping an eye out for quicksand, we sailed merrily along, using our bike’s highest level of assist to stay on top of the mostly packed sand. Occasionally, we would bog down where the creek’s water ran close to the surface, but we could escape its clutches by pedaling furiously and shrieking like girls.
The farther upstream we got, the more frequent the spots of quicksand appeared and the steeper and higher the banks rose around us. We anxiously looked for a path of egress from the wash as the sand grew wetter and finally became a shallow stream. We came upon some scattered slabs of reinforced concrete, an indication that there had been a paved road crossing somewhere up stream, and sure enough, there was a cut in the cliff that was overgrown but not too steep to push our bikes up.
The hard-packed, dirt road skirted the creek, making for an easy ride back to civilization. We agreed that life didn’t get any better than this day.
Yesterday, while dutifully scrambling to transfer my groceries from the cart to the belt, dig my credit card out of my purse, search for an empty space on which to place my bags in the bagging area, poke multiple buttons on the pin pad to decline this membership and that donation, AND bag my own groceries, I was flummoxed by the impatient clerk who irritably told me to move my bag. I had mistakenly set my bag in the place where the bags-for-purchase would have received my purchases had I not provided my own reusable bags.
“Would you move your bag; you’re in…”, she snarled.
“I’m in your way?” I finished for her brightly, as she fumbled around her cranky brain for an acceptable finish to her impolite request.
“Don’t mince words, I’m not overly sensitive”, I followed as she sheepishly nodded. I moved my bags further down the counter and proceeded to place my groceries in my bags, reaching over the various and sundry items that stores have deemed the last ditch place to get one to part with yet another donation or make an impulse purchase. The clerk shifted impatiently as she waited for me to remove my card from the card reader so she could begin shoving the next customer’s comestibles into the items I hadn’t yet had time to bag.
I remember a time, and here I flagrantly make a display of my age, when one wheeled the cart to within reach of the checker, then stood back to fill out the check (that’s a slip of paper with one’s banking information on it, with spaces to fill in the amount of money one wishes to transfer to the vendor) in anticipation of paying for the groceries, while the pleasant staff removed purchases from the cart, rang them up by hand (no scanner), and conveyed them down the line to a clean-cut young person (known as a box boy) who carefully sorted one’s items into bags (provided at no additional cost), and placed them into one’s now-empty cart. The check-out clerk dutifully compared one’s driver’s license to the information on the check and then kindly asked if the customer would like help out with her order.
Do I sound old and crabby? Have I become cynical, fondly remembering the good old days? Probably but I prefer to believe that, “Those people we identify as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every single day by the world being not what they hoped it would be.”*
Waiting in line at Sprouts yesterday, I was entertained by the family in front of me, a woman with a girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and a younger boy, perhaps 5. The woman, an obviously thrifty shopper, was negotiating her discount coupons with the cashier while her daughter carefully moved her groceries from the cart to the belt. The arrangement of the groceries to most productively make use of the discounts, entailed separating her purchases into two orders, which took a bit more time than the little boy had patience for. His boredom was expressed, “Mom, mom, mom!” until eventually he was given a sucker to occupy his overactive mouth.
Both children were uncommonly beautiful and better behaved than average, so I was content to let them entertain me while mom held up the line. The little boy exclaimed how good the sucker was to his still preoccupied mom. But then, he accidentally dropped the treat on the floor. Glancing up to see that Mom hadn’t seen the slip, he quickly retrieved it and popped it back into his mouth.
The woman waiting behind me and I burst into laughter simultaneously. I turned to her and she said what I was thinking, “Good for the immune system”.
I stumbled upon this in my drafts folder, and being freshly injured by the news that Michel Fauquet had died, I decided to go ahead and post it. I had been reading Michel’s posts since about 2003, and he actually felt like a real friend. The following has nothing to do with Michel except that long-term friendships all share something in common, even if they are with virtual friends on a distant continent.
My family moved from Michigan to California when I was ten years old. I had enjoyed a large circle of friends in Michigan, being naturally gregarious, and by virtue of the fact that my house had a large basement that was the ideal play area during the long winters. That, despite my mom being the terror of all the neighborhood kids after she swatted the butt of my friend Kimmie, as she scuttled out the door, after we had painted the storm windows (literally painted the windows), when we had been expressly told NOT to touch that work in progress in the basement.
Approaching puberty could be the most difficult time to make new friends, especially when one “talked funny”. My Midwestern hard vowels sounded odd to the Southern California drawling kids and my vocabulary, inculcated by my brilliant sister and mother, made me an oddity. And then there were the geeky knee socks I wore to conceal the oozing rash on my leg. So, to make matters even more difficult, my folks moved me from one school to another, just when I was beginning to impress the Mentone Elementary kids with my hidden charm.
In my new neighborhood, I again claimed my rightful place as queen of the gang games because we had the only house with a thick, forgiving lawn. Ever the astute linguist, I quickly adopted the slang and cadence of a native Californian, and toned down the vocabulary from”cease and desist”, as my sister frequently growled at me, to a more age-appropriate, “Shut up!”
Puberty brought a whole new dimension to my popularity. Being the first in my class to sprout female appendages, oops, I mean boobies, I suddenly had the attention of boys who had never before noticed my athletic prowess. Now, they were intent on testing my wrestling skills. Being as naive as any thirteen-year-old, I was nonplussed when one of my would-be suitors “took it out”. Bear in mind, this was long before anyone knew there was such a thing as inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment. But with as much aplomb as I could muster, I rose from the aforementioned grass where we were seated, and informed him that I had heard my mother calling. I did not entertain that boy again though a few years later I had to marvel at his forthright behavior.
When in junior high, now called middle school, I met a girl who had two horses. I could tell we would become best of friends as soon as I learned that detail about her. And we did. The horses eventually died, they were old when they were given to her, but our friendship grew. Her parents moved her to a place nobody in their right mind would visit in the summer, much less LIVE there. Suffice it to say, we carried oven mitts in our purse to use on door handles that were in the sun. I would ride the bus down to visit her, and her folks occasionally came back to town to visit family, so we kept in touch throughout high school. We both married young men who loved to drink and party, so the friendship continued with the four of us.
When I had grown weary of the party life and left my husband, my friends decided that my husband would get custody of them in the divorce. He didn’t really want custody and allowed the relationship to languish, so I got them back by default. Since Mary and I both loved to travel, we went on several trips together but as time went on, I couldn’t keep up with her. She was an accomplished drinker who could start the day with bloody Marys and shift seamlessly to wine, then vodka tonics, and still hail a taxi to a Broadway play. So, by the time she died of liver disease, we had drifted apart enough that her untimely death didn’t wreck me as much as it should have.
But this morning, I was gobsmacked by the realization that there was nobody left on earth who “got” me in the same way that she did. What we shared was unique because she was unique. We could commiserate and laugh about the vagaries of aging. I always imagined that we would live together in our dotage, our men having died ahead of us. So, now when a fart struggles for freedom from the flabby cheeks of my septuagenarian gluteus maximus, oops, I mean “butt”, I have nobody to appreciate the low-brow humor.