March 31, 2017

  • The Langoliers Have Found Xanga

    It appears that my Xanga site is being devoured by the Langoliers. Many of my pictures have evaporated. Links in old posts go nowhere.

    My subscription expires on April 27th and I don't think I'll renew. If it were the same as it was ten years ago, it would be a bargain at twice the price. But now...

    If any of you have developed Word Press blogs, as I have, please send me a link so I can follow you there.

    Ciao for now.

January 8, 2017

  • How to Impress a Good Looking Guy on a Mountain Bike

    I just noticed that I hadn't posted a single word since announcing the arrival of my new bike. There's a reason for that. I've been too busy riding it.

    Southern CA has finally received a couple of winter rain storms reminiscent of those we were accustomed to years ago. The trails are damp, the winter grasses are green, and there's snow on the mountains.

    Photo credit: Jonathan Orwig, a Redlands local.

    Snow Capped Mountains

    Which means, the temperature (low 70s), the traction, and the air quality, all conspire to make mountain biking more fun than should be legal.

    The trails in the Santa Ana Wash (this is the area slightly higher than the main channel of the Santa Ana River which doesn't see any water flow, probably because it's protected by some low earthen/rock levies and because we haven't had a 100 year rain event since 1968) get difficult to ride in the summer because they are sandy and rocky. But after a few winter storms, the paths are firm and provide a mountain bike playground. As far as I know, this "wasteland" is pretty much unregulated as far as recreation is concerned and nobody objects to random trail building in it.

    So, today Sally and I were careening in the downhill direction, on a trail with more twists and turns than the last presidential election when I came around a blind turn to find another biker toiling in the uphill direction. I slid to an abrupt stop a few feet from his front tire and promptly tipped over into a conveniently located bush. As I lay there, with my gorgeous new bike on top of me, laughing in pure embarrassment, he watched with bemused interest. Dismounting, he righted my bike which allowed me to scramble out of the bush and attempt to regain my dignity. It was about then I noticed how ruggedly handsome this man was.

    Most Interesting Man

    Well, maybe not THIS handsome, and certainly not as INTERESTING...but plenty good looking enough to make me feel like a complete idiot. And, of course, it turned out we had friends in common and he knew who I was, whether by reputation (klutz) or previous encounters on the trail and he said that an old acquaintance had told him to remember her to me if we met on the trail. He was pretty impressed with our spectacular new bikes but I think I enhanced my reputation immeasurably by prostrating myself at his feet.

November 7, 2016

  • Life Behind Bars and Freedom

    Suffering the vagaries of ageing, I thought I might need to start thinking about giving up mountain biking. I'd had a couple of injuries that had undermined my confidence which led to a couple of stupid accidents and then my neck developed a chronic condition that made me generally feel about 100 years old. But, when Sally bought a new bike with better suspension and bigger tires, I got the brilliant idea that all I needed was a new bike.

    Mike at first poo-pooed the idea, saying all I needed to do was replace the fork on my 12 year-old Intense Spider, to achieve the same comfort level Sally had on her new Spider. Somehow, it didn't seem wise to sink hundreds of dollars into an old bike, even though it had been carefully maintained. So, what began as an internet search for a fork that would fit the old bike, evolved into a halfhearted search for a new bike. This beauty presented itself, an end-of-year close out deal, and the decision was made.


    I could bore you to tears with a description of its technical wondrousness but suffice it to say, that big six-inch Pike fork was just what the doctor ordered for my sore neck.

    Last weekend, Sally and I rode the Motorcycle Trails. We had pretty much stopped riding this heart-stopping trail since I'd wrecked on it and sprained my ankle; but emboldened by our new and improved rides, we couldn't resist. The last descent on that roller-coaster of a trail is a long, steep, overgrown track that invites a rider to let gravity and momentum  have their way; damn the rocks, full speed ahead! There's a gate at the bottom that requires one to slide into a sideways stop like a ten-year old on a Stingray. It's not really mandatory but it does seem like the proper exclamation point at the end of that run. Breathless with exertion and excitement, Sally announced that it was THE MOST FUN she'd had all week. "Better than sex?' I asked her. (we're both old, married women just in case you missed the humor in that question) She promptly decided that we would name that section of trail BTS.

    After such an exciting ride, it was time for some more soothing activity and there's nothing that soothes my soul like a walk in the wash with my dogs. The end of Daylight Savings Time afforded an extra hour of preparation this morning, and I had the day off, so I took may camera along. And now, I'll take you along:


    This time of year, the brush looks dead, and some of it is; but the spring rains will turn everything green again come January.


    Some clever trail maker has stacked cairns to lead the uninitiated to the remains of the old railroad easement.


    Molly scans the wash for chaseables.


    The remains of one of the old railroad bridges.




    A tired rock.


    An oasis in the desert.


September 12, 2016

  • We Laugh That We May Not Weep

    Caring for my 91-year-old mom has been, and still is, an enlightening experience. While there have been times when her aging brain, combined with her generally "you're not the boss of me" attitude, have made for some aggravating moments. But those are mostly forgotten and certainly forgiven, when I reflect on what valuable lessons I'm learning about that stage of human life we prefer not to imagine.

    Mom's been living in a granny flat behind my garage for nearly twenty-five years now. When I first started coaxing her to move in with me, I was single and so was she. She was still active and I saw many advantages to having a live-in gardener, pet sitter, etc. I couldn't really imagine her growing old and becoming feeble of mind and body even though in theory, it was probable. Thankfully, Mom had the good sense to drag her feet, knowing that at forty, I wasn't finished with serial monogamy. When I brought Mike home from a mountain bike trip just a few months later, and moved him into what would have been her bedroom, her caution was validated. As luck would have it, he liked the idea of having her live with us and promptly built her a granny flat.

    For many years we enjoyed our little family of three. Mike and Mom love to argue; and so, they spent hours discussing a topic to death only to swap sides a few days later and beat it to death again. Mom kept our yard looking like a park and we had live in security. I had the pleasure of my best friend's company any time I wanted. But gradually, age took its toll.

    Today Mom mostly sits in her Lazy Boy recliner watching TV or doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles. He memory is almost gone but she still functions well enough to be home alone for several hours at a time. When she suffered a noticeable slip in her cognitive abilities a couple of weeks ago, I was alarmed. She recovered somewhat so I chalked it up to a little dehydration and started pushing her to drink more water.  It started me thinking about end-of-life things and how little I know about them. Like, if you find Mum dead in the bed, who ya gonna call?

    I just finished reading Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach so, of course, I am thinking about all the options. When she wrote the book in 2003, there was a new technology, developed by a woman in Sweden, that entailed freeze drying a corpse and breaking it into compostable fragments. A human body would return to nutrient rich earth in a short time without any adverse impact environmentally. So far, it doesn't look like the practice has caught on, at least not in my area, as I didn't find any freeze drying facilities when I Googled it. However, her book did point out the numerous ways a cadaver can be utilized in the scientific community for the benefit of future generations. None of these uses are for contemplation by the squeamish so I won't describe them here, but do read the book if you are even slightly interested. Mary Roach can make you laugh out loud even when describing a field where cadavers are scattered about to measure rates of decomposition of various parts under different conditions.

    This afternoon, I decided to knuckle under and do the research to learn what happens, or rather what I have to do to make it happen, when someone dies. First I went back to talk to Mom to make sure that she didn't care if they used her body for a crash dummy when she was through with it. She hadn't considered that option before but figured if it turned out to be cheaper than cremation, she was all for it. She may not remember much but she hasn't changed her penurious way of thinking. She told me to do whatever was the easiest and cheapest for me. Ever the considerate one, she added that, even though she no longer had diarrhea, she was wearing the adult diapers to bed at night (my sister had provided them when mom had diarrhea last week).  I asked if she had experienced any leakage in that area and she said no, but in case she died in bed, she thought it might save the mattress. How can you not love what's left of a mom like that?



June 19, 2016

  • Update on the Dump

    A while back I posted about a walk that included exploring the old dump at the end of my street. Just a short distance from the extinct Universal Rundle toilet factory, I found what I surmised to be defectives that had been discarded. Later, when I took Mike out to share the joy, he suggested that they were more likely the castings. Since some of you (well one of you, anyway) had expressed interest, I took the opportunity to take some pictures. Here they are:


    This is a pile of decomposing toilet castings. The following is an old cot from the Bracero labor camp.


    Mike and Molly confer about the origins of some of the more obscure items they found in dump/flood control levy.


    This is what the wash looks like where it hasn't been rearranged by men.


    A close up of a casting.


    The lone stranger on the levy.


    This is what's left of the old road.

    IMG_8592 IMG_8593

    Happy trails!

June 4, 2016

  • Dog Days of Summer


    After a cool May, June hit us with the stored energy of a solar flare. I loaded the dogs into the car and headed for the cooler altitude of the mountains. Although it was in the seventies, the sun was hot and the bugs were relentless. The dogs were less than enthusiastic


    and Sadie made it clear that she was ready to head home.

    We got home just in time to try to save the garden.


    When Mike got home, we commenced to install an air conditioner in the dog house.


    When we remodel the house, we will install a whole house system, but for now, this should keep them comfy.


    Molly and Sadie approve.

    IMG_8775 IMG_8776

  • It Might be Easier to Have Kids

    When we finally resigned ourselves to the fact that we were hopelessly besotted with the two vagabonds,



    and IMG_8548

    Sadie, we proceeded to get them vaccinated. Our county requires a rabies vaccination and proof of sterility. Intact dogs cost $96 a year while "fixed" dogs cost $15. A senior discount brings it down to $9/year for qualifying elders.

    The vet could not locate a scar on Sadie and so, would not issue a certificate of sterility. For a mere $170 they offered a hormone test that might provide the required evidence. Otherwise, they would cut into a perfectly healthy dog to see if she had female parts intact. Neither option sounded ideal so we decided to wait to license her until we could determine definitively that she was all there. I figure she will come into season within a month or two at which time we can have her spayed. If not, well, I may have to bribe a vet to give me a cert. (I've since found a more experienced vet who had no difficulty determining that Sadie too has been spayed.)

    I went online and grappled with the county's web site and after some machinations, managed to submit the application for Molly with the appropriate certifications attached. There was no indication that they wanted proof of age on the web page but later I got a request and emailed a copy of my mom's ID.

    A few days later, animal c0ntrol officers were canvasing the neighborhood for unlicensed dogs, and we confessed that we were waiting to license Sadie but had already applied online for Molly. We provided copies of the required certs and were issued a temporary license for Sadie. It turned out to be propitious timing as we were at the 15 day limit from the date of adoption (based on the date of their vaccinations) AND we were entitled to a $50 voucher towards spaying Sadie within the next two months.

    So, today, I got a letter in the mail asking for Molly's certifications AGAIN. ~sigh~ Really, I don't think the county even requires a license to adopt a kid, and I'm pretty sure they don't require proof of sterilization, rabies shots maybe.  So, half way through my evening's glass of red wine, I composed a response that was meant to be funny but in the re-reading just sounded ...well, exasperated. I have a feeling my dealings with the county building department lately have frayed my normal equanimity. That's a story too long and boring to tell but suffice it to say, this county takes petty bureaucracy very seriously.


    Molly & Sadie

    Are they adorable or am I just biased?



February 21, 2016

  • More Doggie News

    Sally, my regular riding companion, was feeling drained from a long and difficult hike she had done yesterday; so we went for a short, easy bike ride.

    When I got home, I still had plenty of energy to work in the garden. I trimmed back the bougainvillea vines that had frozen a couple of months ago, and weeded, fertilized and watered the fruit trees that are in bloom. We planted an apple tree last summer and the poor little thing is so confused by the warm weather that it never dropped its leaves. I had never heard of evergreen fruit trees but both the apple and one of the nectarine trees never lost their leaves.

    Then it was time to take the girls out for their daily walk.

    Today I taught them to run along with the bike on a leash and off leash. They took to it like ducks to water. They were better on the leash because they kept stopping in front of me when they were loose.

    We went down the abandoned, overgrown portion of Opal that’s almost invisible because of all the bushes growing up through the pavement. At the end of the pavement, I stashed the bike in the bushes and we walked in the wash bottom down below the bank that used to be the old dump back in the “olden days”. I discovered that Universal Rundle, the old toilet factory (long closed and probably moved to China) must have dumped their defectives there. The bank was maybe twenty feet high and several hundred feet long made up of layer upon layer of broken toilets. I also spied a couple of rusty cots that may have come from the old Cone Camp barracks. Back when the road was still intact, it was a mere half a mile or so away. Today one would have to drive about 15 miles to cross the wash on one of the bridges. It's kind of fun to piece together the local history.

    We won’t be able to walk down in the wash with careless abandon much longer as the days and nights are getting warm enough for the snakes to be active. I had both dogs vaccinated for snake bite but the vaccine only lessens the effect of a bite so snakes are still to be avoided. That coupled with the fact that I haven’t been vaccinated.

    My sister took this picture of us yesterday.

    Me & my girls

January 11, 2016

  • Walkin' the Dogs

    It was a beautiful crisp day for a walk; all the prerequisites were in place, decorative clouds, freshly washed bushes, firmly packed sand, and undiluted coyote scents. Mike’s legs were sore from doing a bike ride in the morning and a dog walk in the afternoon yesterday, so I set off on my own with Molly and Sadie walking obediently, one on each side.

    We headed for the wash, as usual, and at first it felt a little creepy being out there alone as I’m used to having human company. But as we got farther from civilization I grew more confident. I assuage my fears with the thought that perverts are too lazy to walk very far from their vehicles.


    We had tested letting both dogs off the leash together yesterday and they came when called, so I turned them both loose as soon as we got past the gate at the reform school.


    We headed west when we got to the levy, heading towards Barb’s house. The sand was moist and provided good footing so we followed the water course. Molly found only one small pocket of quick sand but only sank to her fetlock before skirting around it.

    From the wash bottom it’s hard to tell where you are in relation to the city so I decided to make my way back towards the bank to get my bearings. There’s an old flood control barrier that consists of heavy wire fencing stabilizing the south perimeter of the airport property. I was able to find a place where it was low enough for me to step over. The dogs were perplexed until I encouraged them to jump over to follow me up the bank. Then they nimbly leaped over and followed me up the steep embankment. It turned out that we were still quite a ways from our target, the end of Judson St., and it was difficult going because there was a lot of brush; so we turned back to the wash to continue traveling down river. They led the way back and didn’t hesitate to leap over the fence the second time. Molly is excellent at route finding when she ascertains where I want to go, which she does with surprising alacrity. Sadie, who sails over obstacles more easily, isn’t as concerned with picking an easy path for me and she’s more nosey. Molly seems to have a less active nose and relies on sight to keep track of where I am.

    By the time I spotted the tall trees in the distance that marked the intersection of Judson and Pioneer, my legs were growing weary. We again cut cross country, through stream beds, rocks, and landscaping, until we came to the bank. I scrambled up, resorting to all fours when it got really steep near the top. Molly and Sadie tried to find an easier route but when I called, Molly came back and followed me up. Sadie met us at the top.

    It occurred to me that there could be a fence at Pioneer as Judson is closed there, but I was too tired to consider turning back. As we approached Pioneer, my fears were confirmed. I could see a HUGE fence spanning the road. And there were insurmountable fences on either side of the road on which we were walking so there was no skirting around it.


    Thankfully, there was a gap beneath the gate just wide enough for me to wriggle under. I scooted on my belly, propelling myself with my toes and emerged outside the fence with nothing worse than a muddy shirt. (Oh, yeah, I got the new tights that Tamera gave me for Christmas muddy too.) I turned to the dogs and urged them follow my example. Molly assessed the situation and immediately crawled under. Sadie, who is a little taller, looked a bit concerned but quickly followed suit. There was quite a bit of traffic on Pioneer and a couple of people stared as if they had never seen a 63 year-old woman crawl on her belly like a reptile AND have her two dogs emulate her as if it were an everyday occurrence. I stood and giggled with proud delight at my brilliant girls as they sat waiting quietly for me to take pictures of the gate.



    The rest of the walk home was uneventful but beautiful. I was so pooped I had to take a nap. The dogs seemed none the worse for wear.


January 1, 2016

  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

    A scant four weeks have passed since a tumble off the bike resulted in an injured rib and already I'm feeling ready to hit the trail.

    Much news from Mayberry RFD this week: On Christmas Eve morning, we noticed two dogs hanging out in the field across the street. Each time a car would pass by, they would rise expectantly, and then resume their vigil when it went on without stopping. I returned home late in the afternoon and saw they were still cruising up and down the road aimlessly. By dusk, we decided that they needed to be taken in as one of them was black and would surely be hit by a car during the night.

    Historically, we have rescued cats, and hence, have six of them at present. Needless to say, sheltering two dogs was not going to be a simple matter. Thankfully, we had recently purchased the house next door with the idea that we would renovate it and find a tenant who needed a little assistance. At present it stands empty. It has a fenced yard, separate from our own.

    And so, after coaxing the two dogs into the yard, I made a trip to the grocery store to buy dog food. The clerk was touched by my  devotion to my dog when she saw that I had braved the cold and the Christmas Eve crowds JUST to buy food for him/her.  When I told her it wasn't for MY dog, the look on her face told me that she thought I was certifiably insane to be out provisioning for strays. Her opinion was confirmed when she noted that I was buying "the good stuff" rather than the store-brand, made with Chinese melamine, cheap stuff.

    Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and they kept us up most of the night barking at every thing that went bump in the night. The next morning, shortly after their gourmet breakfast, they were ready to hit the road and nimbly jumped the fence, headed for new adventures.

    I was ready to let them find their way in the world but Mike followed them down the street and called them back. Lest you think him a glutton for punishment, they were headed for a busy intersection where they might have run into trouble. So, since the house is awaiting a complete makeover anyway, it became the dog kennel. This means that we have to go over there every few hours to let them out to do their business and we have to take them for a walk a couple of times a day for some exercise. You can see where this is going, can't you.

    Now, I lie awake at night worrying about what we're going to do with the dogs. Nobody has responded to my numerous ads and I see a future where my entire life is consumed by the needs of these sweet, well-mannered beasts. Mike, generously says he can fence the yard so they can't get out. Seems like a lot of work and expense for dogs we don't really want. So, we compromise. He went to Home Depot and purchased $500 worth of fencing materials and we've spent the last two days creating a dog run next to the house. But now he worries that a cat or other critter (we have a resident family of raccoons and an o'possum) might get into their cage; so, it needs a top on it. He reckons it will cost about $600 to cover it with shade cloth (it's a big run).

    And here's the bigger issue: We have had two people offer to take the Border Collie but Mike has grown fond of her. I am partial to Sadie, the shepherd. Molly, the Border Collie, is a lovable dog, friendly and well-mannered. Sadie, on the other hand, is cautious and will be difficult to place. Yes, by now you have noticed, we have broken our cardinal rule of  never naming strays. What do you suppose the odds are that I will be writing about the antics of these mutts a year from now?

    Here's Molly, looking adoringly at Mike.

    B&W Dog

    And this is Sadie.