For reasons that are entirely unclear to me, I take many more vacations now, than before unscheduled retirement. I returned Monday night from four days in northern California.
I had a great time: I spent a couple of days with my best friends in the tiny village of Rescue, CA west of Placerville, saw another friend on the San Francisco Peninsula and had breakfast with my grown daughter.
One of the things I try to do when I travel now is not obsess about transportation details. If I miss a plane, I know there’s always going to be another one flying to the same destination, and I really prefer to hit several destinations on one trip, touching down in one city for a couple of days and then moving along to another place.
Most of all, I try to relax and take note of the small details most of use overlook as we scoot along from Tedium to Apathy. And there is no better form of transportation for peering into the heart and soul of over flown America
My favorite train ride in all of California Berkley Sacramento California
And, the more you take the train along this route, the more details you notice.
Running alongside the river, I counted 12 dark-backed king salmon jumping in the early morning light. Given that California Sacramento River
The highlight of my train trip is arriving in Sacramento California Sacramento Sacramento River
But I had another reason for travelling to the Gold Country last week: I wanted to see some very good friends and help pick, process and crush some big red grapes they grow for their winemaking hobby as well as poke around the Gold Country.
The most important reason though was to mow an overgrown field next to their house. I view the field as an inflammatory hazard to my buddy’s family, house and neighborhood. And being a Southern Californian that’s had to evacuate a house twice as flames roared through the groves and fields around my lot, my instinctive reaction to fire hazards in October (prime “fire season” time throughout California
I‘ve been badly burned (about 50 percent of my heat body) once in my life, and I have a very healthy respect for fire. I fundamentally understand the fuel, air and heat “fire triangle” and know that by reducing any one of those elements, you can virtually eliminate the risk of a wild fire.
My buddy has a new two-cylinder Deere riding mower with a 54-inch deck that makes short shift of time it takes to cut the weeds in a big field. Less than 70 minutes after I started cutting lanes, I had knocked down most of the fuel in the field and decided I would let my buddy use his heavy duty string trimmer for the close-in cosmetic touch ups among the boulders at three corners of his field and under a small stand of live oaks at the lots edge. Besides, I didn’t want to intentionally grind rocks with his new mower (although, truthfully I discovered two rocks as I cut the field).
By the end of the day Sunday, I was dusty, dirty and happy, although every time I take a mower up in the field my buddy has a fit. I think that’s because he’s started two fires and somehow thinks a blade striking a rock axiomatically creates the sparks needed to ignite a field. So far the fire starting score in his field is: My buddy 2 for 2; Jim 0 for 7.
The God’s Truth about starting a fire when you accidentally strike a rock with the blades of your riding mower is that it doesn’t happen very often. Most often the real ignition source is the lawn tractors’ muffler, which is mounted on front underside of the mower, where it can come into contact with dry brush. It’s not uncommon for muffler hotter than 800 degrees after the engine has been in use for as little as 30 minutes.
To reduce this hazard: Set your blade height to five inches and try to mow in the mornings, when there’s still residual moisture in the air and on dried vegetation. The weeds may be straw yellow, but there’s generally enough moisture to retard explosive ignition.
Furthermore, you can do what I do: using a bungy cord, strap a couple of gallons of water in a plastic jug to the floor of the riding mower between the seat and underneath the steering wheel. With water on board, you can stay happily hydrated, and put out a fire that’s initially confined to its ignition point. The second strategy is to stay well hydrated so that you can literally (as the saying goes) ”Piss on the embers before they turn into a fire.”
What the hell, it’s a strategy that’s worked well for me once in my life.
At some point in the future, I may rent a tractor and excavate the boulders in my buddy’s field. I really do think a rock wall made of native stone is a thing of beauty. It may also help to reduce his fear of starting a fire in the field, again.
Four days is about all I want to be away from my home here in Escondido Sacramento San Francisco
Three hours later i was southbound down the Pacific coast and soon it was time to store my electronic devices, return my seat back and tray table to their original upright and locked position. Looking down at Camp Pendleton San Diego County
But the two best things were seeing my Chihuahua
I’m home now, the nighttime marine layer, has sent the flames at Pendletone down until the sun comes up.
Other than that, it’s just another damn perfect Fall day in Escondido me.
It’s only late in life, after getting past a stroke that kicked my ass, I’ve learned how important vacations are to my overall “well being.”
In the last 10 years of my career I took one vacation, but the nature of my job forced me to work four of the ten days I took off. I regret that I didn’t take more time off,. As my work habits literally eroded my health.
Now I take real vacations, and later this morning I’m taking off for three days in the high desert. My gear is already packed and loaded in the back of my car: my geologists’ hammer (which has a pick on one end and a flat anvil on the other, my camera, a custom rebuilt Ruger 10/22 with a bull barrel, customized trigger assembly, new stock and a Nikon scope, and a 500-rounds of CCI Blazer .22 long rifle ammunition, water, ice chest with chow and a selection of tie dyed t-shirts, and of course my cell phone, quarter section maps and X300 notebook.
Although I write mostly about venues like the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, I also love the desert and still try to get out to it as much as I can.
One of my favorite desert activities is the quaint American past time of “plinking” with a .22. I take a lot of pride in my ability to hit what I’m shooting at and the California desert provides ample safe shooting space for me to pop 200 to 500 rounds safely while concentrating on my shooting skills.
I also love the desert for it’s geology. There are a lot of old quartz deposits between Hesperia and Las Vegas and I’m going to try and hit at least two of them today. And in the high desert, where’s there’s quartz, there’s also ample evidence of failed gold mining attempts.
The thing I like the most about old Gold diggings are the remains of civilization you find on such sites. It’s always nice to bring home an old sun-tinted whiskey or soda bottle to add to my small collection in the backyard.
There’s something else I really love about the southern California
high desert;. The sound of heavily laden freight trains blasting down from Las Vegas like blustery Zephyrs. Late at night I love hearing the south bound four-locomotive power packs. If you listen carefully you hear the distinct sound of the incoming air going across wire grates in front of the diesel’s superchargers. And just as soon as you hear the locomotives pass, the sound changes and the desert quickly goes so quiet you swear you can hear the fabric of the ionosphere tearing as meteors slash overhead in an ink black sky.
high desert;. The sound of heavily laden freight trains blasting down from Las Vegas like blustery Zephyrs.
Late at night I love hearing the south bound four-locomotive power packs. If you listen carefully you hear the distinct sound of the incoming air going across wire grates in front of the diesel’s superchargers. And just as soon as you hear the locomotives pass, the sound changes and the desert quickly goes so quiet you swear you can hear the fabric of the ionosphere tearing as meteors slash overhead in an ink black sky.
I’ve always found the high desert very exciting. The time I spend there today instantly reminds me of when I was much younger, listening to explanations of desert geography and man’s attempts to tame it while noting the distant braying of a wild burro miles away, trying to get a response from an equally distant wild burro. Of such small sounds, packs are formed.
So for the next three days I’m off tgo rejuvenate my batteries, smash a few rocks, shoot my .22 at targets carefully paced 100 steps away, and generally watch shooting stars. And, I may even get up to Las Vegasto replenish my supplies of maritime emergency signaling devices. Jim Forbes on08/26/2008
Sorry for a lack of posts. For the last five days I’ve been stuck in the excruciatingly boring details of getting my Mother’s house ready to list with a realtor, sorting through 57 years of familial detritus stored hap hazardly in Mom’s garage, and making multiple trips to Azusa from my own private remodel hell here in Escondido.
But wait, there’s more. I noticed that my dog was losing weight starting last week when he refused a piece of breakfast bacon. On Sunday afternoon I got Perro ready for a family gathering celebrating Ma Forbes’ 90th birthday. As I put on the dude’s Sunday-go-to dinner vest – a stylish bright green halter that covers his sides and back--I noticed that I had to reef it in two extra notches to make it fit. And then during dinner, I saw Perro decline two tasty pieces of corned beef that seemed to magically make their way to the side of a chair upon which my older borther, St. Chuck, was sitting.
Perro not scarfing table scraps? No way, Jose! “Something’s way wrong her,” I thought.
And then Perro starting puking Monday just before I left to came back to Escondido. I call our vet from my car and the vet says “come in first thing Tuesday morning.”
I do and put Perro on the scale where I discover he’s lost about two pounds. That may not sound like much, but in an 11-pound dog the weight loss is as noticeable as it is alarming.
So I spent all day Tuesday worrying about the dude while he was getting a stem to stern survey by his vet.
I picked Perro up seven hours later and the vet sends home three scrips, none of which he wants to take. The vet also says, try to give him some baby food. If you’re a parent, you;ve experienced the joys of a child that’s determined not to try another spoonful of processed meat food product from a baby food jar. Perro plants his butt on the floor, plays dodge-the spoon with baby food veal product on it and locks his jaws. What do I get for my efforts, disgusting stains on my shirt and pants and a strident “Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” from the once mighty Perro.
That was yesterday. Today I got him to eat about a half-bottle of turkey before he realized he was openly cooperating and locked his little jaws shut.
The good news is that I think he’s back on the road to being his normal little jaunty self.
My life, it’s not much, but it keeps me busy.
Meanwhile, I’ mabout four weeks from getting my bedroom back, which will put an end to my life in my den here on my little mountain top in rural northern San Diego County.—Jim Forbes 03/19/2008
Retirement should be a period when you freely explore whims, dreams and interests that you didn't have time for during your working life. I try to keep busy. For example, I fish, I read two books a week and I garden. But I also use my time to explore.
And nothing defines my need to explore more than the search for Gold. I"m not a gold bug -- someone whose life is consumed by the need to accumulate or dream of amassing 22 carat finds. But rather I view gold prospecting as a natural outgrowth of my love of and passion for California's quite palpable history.
My interest in gold was fueled as a youngster by two key figures in my life; a maternal grandfather, William K. Sele, and a paternal Uncle, Mont A.Forbes. Both men were literally towering figures whose keen eyes looked at gold not from the perspective of its potential wealth, but rather it's impact on society and locale. My grandfather was a wildlands surveyor who learned geophysics, geology, geometry and trig from his children's text books. But more important he was an extremely curious man, a trait I share and which he encouraged. He also knew as much about where you might find gold in and near mountains as any geologist I've ever met.
My Uncle Mont was a science teacher who taught me what conditions had to be met in order for gold to make its way to the surface--where it's called "placer gold." Uncle Mont was a hard taskmaster and very logical. Without realizing it, I learned that gold finding is a process of reasoning and most of all observation. In other words, it's an activity that's physically and mentally challenging.
So, when I'm out fishing up on some Sierra stream or creek, or up on my beloved San Gabriel River's East Fork, I spend a lot of time looking down at a stream bed, or using my field glasses to look at geologic formations on the sides of mountains looking for auferious "tells" signalling potential gold finds.
The one thing about Gold is that you need to know where to look for it. First, it's heavy enough that even in small quantities, it will settle at the very bottom of gravel or sand pockets, most often against bed rock. Gold can and will make it's way into crevices in rocky stream courses that trap solid particles during seasonal flood cycles. digging out and washing material from those crevices-- called "sniping." is an effective strategy for finding placer gold flakes or small nuggets.
My favorite gold "sniping" tool is a long handled ice cream soda spoon that I have modified by sharpening its outer edges to make it easier to excavate caked mud tpacked into crevices that had been submerged during a river's flood stage. I scoop out the detritus ands dump it into a one gallon Ziploc bag. When sniping you need to pay attention to the excavated material. If gold is present, you'll begin to see color as you empty the crevice. If you're real lucky, the amount of color you find will increase as you near the bottom of the crevice. If the crevice has caught nuggets, you'll find them at the very bottom. I wash the material when I"m satisfied I've emptied the hole.
I've emptied more river crevices on the East Fork of the upper San Gabriel than I care to admit and done the same on the south Fork of the American and on Bear Creek in Northern California. I don't make money looking for gold, but I've come to appreciate some of the dreams and realities that continue to shape California. Oh I've also caught a mess or two of mighty fine looking rainbow and brook trout while I'm scouring a stream course for gold. And that's just as satisfying to me as finding a few tiny nuggets.
The allure of gold in all its forms or promises is what continues to fuel the hopes and dreams of many Californians. And looking back, the process of being an observer and reporting on the search for "golden dreams" was more emotionally satisfying to me than ever finding shiny minerals. But the gold is still out there and I still smile seeing entrepreneurs hunt it down in all it's forms. Jim Forbes, wistfully on 12/08/2007 from a rainy mountaintop in rural California.
I spent part of the weekend at MaForbes' house in Azusa, but set off for my home in Escondido at 9 a.m. expecting to pull into my little mountaintop home by 11 a.m. I normally make the approx 100-mile drive on autopilot.But with the song Samba Pa Ti serving as a harbinger the Santa Ana winds were blowing at about 60 miles an hour. Looking out to my left at Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel mountains, I made the big swooping southbound turn onto I-15 for the final 65 mile reach to Escondido in my ever so efficient Prius.
With about 60 miles an hour of wind pushing the Prius down the freeway I was confident the remaining two dots representing "fuel remaining" was more than enough to see me down to Escondido and up the private road that serves as my path to civilization. As i punched th on/off button in front of my garage I noticed that I was down to one dot but t hat I had run 448 miles on about nine gallons of gas. I really do believe the Santa Ana winds helped a lot with my mileage for the trip home.
Opening the back door of the Prius to free Perro the road dog, I noticed his nose working overtime and watched him quarter the sir to get an firm bearing that something he could smell, but which I obviously missed. He gave two soft sighs and one whine. At first I thought he may have detected a coyote in the yard. But then what he was concerned about became quite obvious to me.
What got my attention was a big ass Lockheed P3C Orion converted into a borate bomber flying overhead at bout 2,000 feet. I put Perro down and watched the bomber make a climbing turn to its base about 60 miles to my east. I could heard the pilot change the propeller pitch on the four big turboprop engines as it climbed out.
For attack bombers and their lead aircraft to fly low over my house means the fire is nearby, either on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest or on the fringes of th two neighboring towns, Ramona and Valley Center.
Wild land fires are something that as a Southern California boy, I'm completely use to. It's been four years since the last big fire down here the air tonight is heavy with the smell of burning manzanita, scrub oak and tangy chaparral. I suppose, the smoke is what's made my buddy Perro nervous tonight. Before I adopted the dude, he was feral for several years, hanging out with other free running chihuahuas in an old avocado grove. Perro lost his home as a result of the last big fire down here, but he gained a really first class new home in the process where his dorky owner gives him one big beef rib bone once every two weeks and lets him snuggle in the covers at night.
As the fire surges and is turbocharged by Santa Ana winds tonight I think of my first week here in Escondido when the mountains that frame this little hidden valley were full involved and numerous avocado and old citrus groves went up in smoke. I remember the styrofoam packing boxes that floated down from the sky and littered the floor of my small stone fruit orchard the morning after the packing house went up. And I remember finding the two hose packs, fireman's nozzle and hydrant wrench sitting on my lawn near the fire hydrant. The same day i woke up to the message of self sufficiency i also volunteered as a dog walker at a local park to help exercise the 100-plus dogs that had been rounded up and captured by the local animal control department.
I took a sandwich to the park for my lunch. the second dog I walked was this little waif with huge fluffy ears and a studly walk. He was underfed, untrusting, and quite independent. i fed him most of my sandwich and shared some bottled water. I decided right there in the park that I had to have this homeless dog.
It took him 30 days to become available, but the minute the pound called, I raced down to adopt the little dude and when the clerk asked me what i wanted to name him I happened to look up at the sign in the hallway directing people to the dog kennels. the sign said "Perros adoptable" and I instinctively said "Perro."
The clerk laughed "good name" and added "someone named the last chihuahua cross we adopted out "Dee-Oh-GEE."
"Perro", what else would a southern California boy come home to retire from Silicon Valley name an 11-pound Chihuahua? The fire is about five miles away tonight but Perro isn't worried. he has his own pillow on my bed where he's safe and comfortable, but very alert --Jim Forbes 10/21/2007
There's nothing like a short vacation to get you back on track. I've been up in Sacramento since the middle of last week doing nothing more important than wandering around residential neighborhoods, marveling at beautiful wood houses framed by old trees with fall leaves erupting in glorious hues of yellow, orange and red. I love Sacramento. it's a little city that wears a big heart on its sleeve.
It's not just Sacramento's tree lined residential streets that keeps me in love with the city. It's also the noise and excitement of state capital government and associated quirkiness. One of my lasting images of Sacramento is that of a well fed cat, perched on its haunches at the entrance to the State Senate. The cat has a well deserved reputation as a mouser and is a fixture around the statehouse. While Sacramento has the trappings of a cosmopolitan city, it's never lost its down home, work on the crops, then get them to market feel. The Capital cat is just one of several images that helps to keep everything real here.
Every time I visit Sacramento I feel like I've come home from a long trip. It's a great town in which to be a reporter, writer or artist.Wandering around "J" street I couldn't help but glance in the windows of art galleries and editorial offices nestled into brick buildings built to withstand the repeated ravages of floods and fires that shaped this city's architecture in the 19th century.
Lost in my vacation dreams, walking beside the rail road tracks that go past business buildings, art galleries and coffee houses, it's not hard to imagine being a young reporter here, living downtown and working at any of the several upscale publications that have established themselves in Sacto. If you exercise your mind as you walk a six block square pattern, it's very difficult not to imagine five or six story ideas you could pitch at an editorial budget meeting. Jack London or Ernest Hemingway would have found a lot of rich material here.
I also look at Sacramento with a fisherman's eye. The health of its two rivers-- the Sacramento and the American, is getting better every year and the state is doing a lot to encourage new generations of anglers to get a line wet in waters that are renown for producing consistent limits of fish that repeatedly snap leaders after stealing bait or hitting a flashy lure.
And speaking of fishing, the organizers of the Salmon Festival and the employees of the California Department of Fish and Game Nimbus hatchery deserve special mention for the annual Salmon Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of attendees every year to watch the first trickle of giant Chinook (King) Salmon jumping up the fish ladder on their one and only spawning runs. As a fisherman I really enjoy watching little kids crowding each other for vantage spots where they can see big hens and roosters resting before the begin their journey up the ladder. There was only a small trickle of fish this year but the full tide of the annual Fall run is pushing its way up the Sacramento now from San Francisco Bay and the frigid Pacific.
The high point of my short vacation was spending time with my godson and his parents in Rescue, CA. I took the boy out shooting for the first time, blasting away at innocent pumpkins, resting on a dirt ledge in wet forest compost. He went through about 200 rounds of ammo in my trusty single shot plinker before we cleaned up the area, packed the tarpaulin and headed back down US 50 to their house where my daughter, the Lovely Miss Amanda was waiting.
I haven't seen Amanda in a long time. She's 23 now and all grown up. I miss her a lot. It was a hoot to sit down and catch up on her life. She's working and going to school and I try hard to respect her privacy. It's a blast to see my daughter as a young adult. But the news the rocked my world was that she may be fast approaching a point where she's ready to begin writing about something that could be a good book. Amanda and I have talked about this before and I've tried not to be pushy.
Her sub-plot reminds me a little of John Krakauer's tale of death on Mount Everest. The back story is how obvious signs of a child's mistreatment can be lost in the hustle and flow of Silicon Valley. And how those signs could have been predictors of the brutal murder of two sisters, and their mother by a deranged father. Should my daughter, who was in her late teens when the signs first manifested themselves, have broken her promise of confidentiality? How did the system let my daughter's friend down at nearly every point where it should have intervened? How could a father slaughter two daughters in Silicon Valley, where houses start at one half million dollars, and where attendance at upscale private schools is seen as mandatory dream for teens moving up the social ladder?
If Amanda researches her book, she's in for a long ride. I think she's got a good idea for a book and I'm looking forward to reading what she writes.
Well, Amanda is off for a well deserved vacation in Italy and I've had my days off. I got the best coming home present any one could ever ask for last night at San Diego International Airport-- a little 11-pound Chihuahua frantically wagging his tail when he spied me walking out to the car. Crazy dog kisses. I'm home, back on my little mountaintop here in rural northern San Diego County. Jim Forbes10/15/2007.
I'm in full blown baby sitting mode this month. Today I kept tabs on Master Morgan Smith, the six-year old shadow of my favorite nephew, Deputy Loobers who lives in Oregon.
For some reason, I had totally forgotten what fun a high energy boy can be. We went grocery shopping with my 89-year old Mother, so I got to use him as a scout, going on ahead of us for chips, vanilla ice cream, cat food and the like. The shopping experience normally takes about 45 minutes. Today, than ks to our personal shopping tornado, we were in and out of Stater brothers in 25 minutes.
Not bad. I even managed to intercept the two stealth attempts at getting candy into the shopping cart.
It cost me a subsequent trip to ToysRUS where even I agreed that a remote control copter with coaxial blades was a good thing.
Unfortunately, after five hours of attempted flight my Chihuahua was so tired he slept the whole way home from Azusa to Escondido and is now snoring with his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth on my pillow in the bedroom.
Next week I'm going up to Rescue, CA, for the weekend to baby sit my 10 year old godson, AJ Young and his three miniature sheep. I'm sending my fishing gear ahead via UPS and plan on buying some food dye when I get to Raley's in El Dorado Hills. Everyone needs a trio of pastel dyed sheep roaming around a vineyard.
Babysitting, staying connected to the freckled red head that still lives deep inside of me. Besides, I think there is a limit of fall run rainbow trout with my name on them finning around Lake Fuller, 40 miles from Rescue. Jim Forbes, with a small tired dog on 10/01/2007.
My pioneer family’s red Ford F250 Conestoga pulled up my hill and into my driveway this weekend. It wasn’t the whole family, just my two favorite expedition scouts, my nephe Deputy Brandon and his six year old doppelganger, Morgan.
When they get out of their pickup it’s as if you can hear a deep voice rumbling across my place on the mountain top “Lt the fun begin!”
And so it has. Beginning with the sudden stop they made coming up my driveway to ask “is that a huge coyote curled up sleeping in the field?”
“yup, that’s the big female coyote who’d been stalking my little dog , ‘Sr. Perro most of this week.’”
They were amazed to see a coyote within two miles of a city. I wasn’t. Unless I catch her hiding in my fenced backyard to ambush and eat my beloved, but very wary, 11-pound Chihuahua, I’m not going to hunt her down and take her out. Nephew Brandon doesn’t understand my reasoning so I tried to ‘splain it to him:
Coyotes do what coyotes do. I live in their territory so I have to accept some ground rules (my cats are indoor cats, not furry fleeing protein. My dog has his own door in and out of his fenced backyard. He knows what to do if he wants me to go out in the back yard with him at night.
Surly coyotes showing Lip raised, pointy fangs accompanied by aggressive growling, laid back ears and a ready-to-pounce posture is not acceptable within ten yards of me.
Getting caught stalking my little doggy in his back yard is grounds for a sudden, .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire brain-evacuating headache).
After explaining my rules about carnivorous wild things to Brandon and his doppelganger I pointed to a mound on my orchard floor where a small blonde and taupe furry head had just popped out of the ground. They were still glancing at the mommy coyote so they missed seeing one of the two adult weasels that have wiped out every gopher that moved to a mountaintop this summer. That ended the parade of wild things so we settled in to a day of visiting interrupted by high speed ATV runs on my up and down the half-mile inclined driveway connectings my house to suburban Escondido.
The high point of the visit was going out to dinner. My nephew mentioned that he liked a restaurant we visited last year and it’s signature bucket of spiny lobsters, shrimp, crab and chicken. Off to Oceanside Harbor we went.
Rockin Baja Lobster is one of my fav places to eat. The food is not approved by my or anyone else’s cardiologist, but it’s tasty and fresh. Besides, crab is the perfect meal for a tiring, inquisitive 6-year old boy having a very late dinner. When you’re six, you can dismember a crab using primitive tools, have crab all over your face, make crab burritos with fresh tortillas and no one says a thing to you other than “”having fun?”
Grunting like a miniature caveman is acceptable.
Things to do with a six year old to stay amused and on top of your game:
Some Uncles never grow up. Guilty as charged. Jim Forbes, in rural northern San Diego County on a rainy 09/28/2007 morning.