Sunday, May 31, 2009


From the road, we are sometimes unable to blog for lack of a signal. The 22nd annual Feats of Clay closed May 31st, but not before we got there. The small town of Lincoln hosts this annual event as a fund raiser that can be viewed in three parts: First is the Gladding.Mcbean historic pipe factory tour. Second is the clay art competition held there for 22 years, and third is the Lincoln Art Gallery show.

We were ferried to the factory by a one dollar bus. That isn't the price of the ride, it is the price the city paid for the bus. The volunteer bus driver informed us of that fact after all visitors were seated. The bus ran just fine.

Gladding & McBean, young entrepreneurs, found clay deposits at what was once the bottom of a vast river bed in Lincoln, and began making water pipes for irrigation in 1875. Now, their yard has sewer and drain pipes from small to massive proportions, with giant kilns in which to fire them. What is generally referred to as “Spanish” roofing tiles are stacked head high. Most interesting are the architectural, medallions, gargoyles, angels, and massive friezes to grace tall skyscrapers awaiting them from Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, London and even Italy. Gladding.McBean is world renowned. They train their own craftsmen to do the exacting work of shaping intricate pieces and replicating damaged pieces from old buildings. Most of their work is restoration. They painstakingly build molds for fancy or straight pieces that are reused many times over.

The kilns are an art form in themselves. Huge beehive shaped brick kilns, once fired with wood, are now gas fired. Huge blowers hasten drying the wet sculpted clay. The entrances to each kiln are bricked shut, once they are loaded. A four or five inch peephole is left open to view the cones that inform the observer when to turn off the fire and let the product cool.

Somehow, I had no idea sewer pipes were still made in this old age tested method.

While there, we discovered the factory produced a relief of an Eagle, the symbol of might, used at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center where Jim J did his basic training.

Gladdong.McBean history is illustrious and filled with famous names in architectural design. Humble earth, fired and glazed positioned on a building that will serve the community longer than several lifetimes is the legacy of these artisans.

For 28 wonderful pictures of the place, click the following link:

Friday, May 29, 2009


Lake Minden is a private lake, part of A Thousand Trails, and our first stop on our journey north to Oregon and Washington. Its hot here, 95* just outside of Nicolaus, a small town with a visible tavern, church and post office. East of town is a High School and a small, expensive store.
What I like about the parks is their location away from city centers. They serve as mini-preserves for wildlife and birds. Its been a joy to take our morning walk each morning and watch the sunrise over the lake and see, and hear, a large variety of birds, none of which I could photograph. Herons, ducks, jays, bluebirds, swallows, woodpeckers, crows, and many I don't recognize. Bullfrogs drum in the cattails and plop in the water as we walk by.
Cottontails inhabit nearby fields and walnut orchards. Active in the early morning they remind us of the fragility of nature in the concrete, traffic swamped world we normally inhabit.
Even though we are well connected with laptops, internet signals and cell towers nearby, the phone hasn't rung once. However, the park resembles a parking lot with rigs so big and comfortable, most of the inhabitants stay inside and replicate their lives at home. We, too, don't want to be untethered from our computers and phones, but divide our time to include what nature has to offer.
Tomorrow, daughter Virginia and her children will join us for a day of play. At this particular park, people can bring and house their horses in a barn on the property and ride the back roads. The lake is stocked with blue gills, sunfish, catfish, and, I'm told, bass. Somehow, the carp found their way here and are easily the biggest fish in the lake.
Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boats and swimming are attractive activities. Hopefully we'll catch a mess of fish before we leave.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


My cousin Terri Cardoza and I had lunch with a couple of self described "streetwalkers"-retired. "It's our claim to fame," said Elaine Koopman, left, of her partnership in crime with Millie Freitas. These two streetwalkers are 80 and 90 years old, respectively. The street walking happened during their twenties when the two best friends served in Soroptomists together and needed new blood for their group. They took to the street, knocking on doors, and managed to recruit 55 new members. Their reputation was established. Hmmm! Fame lives longer than 15 minutes in some circles.
Elaine flits around the house like a young girl. Millie beats Terri and I, and sundry others, at cards and dominoes with regularity. These two babes don't let any moss grow between their toes or ears.
Oh, that I can maintain such a sense of fun when I'm in my eighties and nineties.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oven på Den Vej Igen...OOPS! ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

We had a power failure and my computer suddenly decided to speak Danish. I don't understand computers. Does anybody understand computers?
Tomorrow morning, we will leave the Motherlode and resume our rambling life.
My shoulder is healed, my feet are itchy. and the refrigerator is cleaner than new.
First destination: Lake Minden.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Tales of happenings at the Murphys Hotel are legend. One that comes to mind was eulogized in a poem by my friend Glenn Wasson. I've included in part his poem, Too Much To Swallow:

One boisterous night in the Murphys Hotel
As patrons lined up at the bar
An event took place, too dubious to tell;
'Twas unseemly, gross and bizarre.

A miner walked in with an obvious grin
Ordering drinks for the roistering crowd.
The bar settled down to let him begin
Which he did with a manner quite proud.

From out of his pocket, a nugget he'd panned
Was placed where everyone saw
To be fondled and hefted in each heavy hand
An object of envy and awe.

As the drinkers inquired where the miner had dug it,
A patron slipped it into his beer,
Thinking,"I'll have me that nugget, I'll just chug-a-lug it"
And with a gulp made the piece disappear.

The barroom was stunned but the miner was cool;
From out of his belt came a knife.
He said, "Cough up the nugget, you guzzling fool
If you want to enjoy further life."

A three day transition from mouth to emission
Is a well-known medical fact,
Or so it was said by the local physician
Of a normal intestinal tract.

But three days passed by and he failed to expel
And this measurably heightened the tension.
A watch was put on the prisoner's cell,
Now the focus of growing attention.

I cannot unveil in graphic detail
The nugget's final appearance
Decorum in poetry must prevail
Lest we offend its cultured adherents.

But it came to pass on the seventh day
When the guard heard the prisoner shout,
"Unlock my cell; I'm on my way.
"That damnable nugget came out!

Glenn Wasson now owns the nugget

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Murphys is called The Queen of the Sierra. It was a sleepy little town with nothing much happening 30 years ago. Little to do but drink and play cards. Locals rode into town on horseback and tied up at the local saloons and imbibed until time to go home. One particular rowdy crew snuck a cow up the stairs of the Murphys Hotel as a prank. The cow went up easily, but was difficult to get back down the steps.
Now people liken Murphys to Carmel and the town and the whole area has become a nifty tourist destination.
Taking a look back, there was a tradition for the local cowboys to wind up the Murphys Homecoming Parade by filling in the last positions. When the paraders moved off the street to their starting point, a couple of cowboys would ride their horses into the Murphys Hotel and "pony" up to the bar for their drinks.
The Hotel has had a succession of owners, and one furious new owner decided to put a stop to the practice, and he did, by having the intruders arrested.
Those days are gone, now, and we are "Carmelized".

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The old gold miner flumes that criss cross the Sierras are still in use by the power companies in most Sierra counties. On the Murphys Grade Rd. in Calaveras, this particular stretch of road reveals a sturdy flume half full running water on the left side of the road and the next stretch on the opposite side of the road moving up hill.
For years, students and adults alike have pondered, how does that water run up hill? One high school science teacher told his students, that it doesn't run up hill because it originates up the mountain from White Pines and travels to Angels Camp. This section of flume is halfway between Murphys and Angels Camp. The road from a short view and long view is going down hill while the water and flume are moving decidedly up hill?
If some engineer out there has the answer, does water run up hill in a flume? Within yards, not miles, yards of this section of flume brushing the road, the flume is visible high above on a rocky outcrop.
I've always wanted an answer to this question.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Barbarian, Bill W.K. Mollett collected 8,000 pieces of barbed wire in his lifetime. Bill always had a story to tell and loved the West. He recognized that barbed wire signified the end of the "Old" West, its open range, itinerant wranglers. These remnants are a reminder of the cowpunchers who fenced their land. Much barbed wire was home made and each rancher's fence was identifiable like their brand. Old timers say, "bob wire" and there is a "bobbed" wire bible identifying different types of wire and the men who patented them.
Bill's daughter Chrys and I walked her garden and talked "bob wire" for an hour or two and in the photos you will see wire that looks like rick-rack, crochet, strands of yard, twisted hooks and barbs of every imaginable angle. And the names, can you identify the piece called Brinkerhof Belt Buckle Splicer? It was patented by J. Brinkerhoff, May 17, 1881? Below it is Glidden Hog Wire, Extra Long Barbs, patented by J.F. Glidden, Nov. 24, 1874. Yes, that is Glidden, the man who went on to open paint stores that still carry his name today. On one board, Chrys points to a space that mounts a stone.
In collecting, you had to have a piece 18 inches long for it to qualify for showing. Bill mounted the strands on boards and recorded the type and patent, if one existed, on the back of the board.
Chrys and I enjoyed reminiscing about her dad who wore a wide brimmed hat with a band of barbed wire for a hat band. He was known as the Barbarian of Calaveras County.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


A chance encounter with Tiffany at Hot Cuts in Angels Camp provided a glimpse into beautiful body art.
Tiffany told me her mom got a tattoo when she was in high school' and she was aghast, embarrassed and angry. "How could you do this to me? Embarrassing me in front of my friends?", Tiffany remembered admonishing her mother.
At age 23, older, wiser, she invited her mom to go to Santa Cruz to be with her while she got her first tattoo.
"I'm so glad tattoo's are mainstream and don't have "that" reputation," she declared.
Tiffany is shown with a beautiful angel on her arm. On her foot she had a pisces tattoo in honor of her first child, Sharlee. Second daughter, Bella, was honored with a beautiful signature on her wrist.
Tattoo's have been a respected part of human culture since prehistoric times. During the 1940's, the tattoo was the territory of sailors and soldiers. Prevalent in the biker and jail culture for years gave tattoos a bad boy rep in the 1950's and 60's. It became a form of protest in the 70's and 80's. Now, mainstream.
I chuckle at the ring finger tattoo of a friend. It is a personal, political statement against marriage. It states succinctly, never again.
Now, that is determination.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Its a privilege to meet a family as talented as the Colemans. Dr. Robert Coleman's legacy of designing and making jewelry lives on in his daughter, Peg Harrold. Gold smith, silver smith, lost wax cast jewelry, enameling, electroforming and handwrought jewelry comes as naturally to her as cut and paste does to most people. Peg went on to try other concepts in leather, beads, wax, bronze and fabric. She does sculptures, belts, pendants, rings, wall hangings...anything that suits your fancy and her desire. Most interesting of all, everything is three dimensional and often composed of recyclable materials. You might detect a pod, or a stone, a lemon rind or the natural forms of a pomegranate or ginko leaf. Some of the art pictured is her father's and a couple pieces were from a student/friend of their's.Peg, her father and her husband Bill made paper mache birds that sold like popcorn. (None pictured.) Dr. Coleman used to joke, "I'm a metalsmith and jeweler, and I sell a paper mache birds by the dozens." Click on the photos to enjoy the exquisite detail of these unusual pieces. Creative and contemporary, I've also included a couple of Bobadoc's paintings. One photo of Peg's jewelry refused to upload right side up. My apologies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Elizabeth Coleman, 89, wearing simple beads stands in front of one of her husband's paintings. Her choice of rings, and those her daughter, Peg Harrold, wears today, were wrought by his talented hands. Their choices each day are exquisite.
Peg is also a talented jewelry maker. More tomorrow.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Three weeks out of Afghanistan, this crew of four army officers practiced water dumps at Sierra Base Camp One in the Mother Lode. Many of those who assist our fire protection units of the U.S Department of Forestry and Cal Fire get assistance from inmate crews when needed, where Christine Munoz, left, in the first photo, works. She sent me these stunning pictures and information about this drill.

"They are practicing water drops, and making sure the equipment is in full working order. They are preparing to be on call for the Calif. Dept. of Forestry and Cal Fire to fight fires.
The commanding officer stated it is not common, but not unusual for the Army to fly firefighters in and do aerial drops in the rugged terrain of mountainous countrysides.
They practiced for three days at the Sierra Conservation Center Baseline Fire Camp. They would pick up water in New Mellones Reservoir and do practice drops over the fields surrounding the reservoir.
After finding all the equipment in working order and feeling confident in their duties in being volunteer firefighter air support, they returned to Stockton, where they are currently stationed."

The drill brought a lot of excitement to the camp watching our boys work. Christine also told me that when the helicopter took off from the heliport those big rotors blew the door shut, set off the alarms, gave her a new hairdo, and put sand in her lip gloss. Hey, hey!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I once gave British friends the downtown tour explaining that the Historic Murhys Hotel was 145 years old! The kids, quite unimpressed, kind of sniffed and told me they had buildings in their town 840 years old. Kind of put my history in perspective. No matter, the locals are proud of their historic icon. The old 1800's bar is still in place. The original lobby intact. The presidential rooms are on display and for rent. President Grant, Mark Twain, and other notables stayed in the old hotel.
The current owner, Dorian Faught, who bought it when he had more money than sense, still gets behind the bar once in awhile. He hires cuties in short skirts and a good band now and then and the place still rocks.
People I run into often have a favorite story of a good time in the Murphys Hotel. (Some are unprintable.) I like it too. I'm glad the bathrooms are now flushable. I love the balcony over Main St. And I even like the new neon sign Dorian put up over protests from historic purists.
This may sound trite, but what I like most about the Murphys Hotel is the hooks under the bar to hang your purse. A woman's purse is an important item and it doesn't get dirty and kicked about on the floor, nor wet and boozy on the bar. My kind of bar!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


One of my high school boyfriends rode a BSA and I got introduced to the biker culture. Of course, my dad didn't approve and it was a short lived relationship. Transition forward to the massive biker movement, Hells Angels, murder, drugs, crime... It was ugly and biker's reputations were ugly with it in the 1950's and 60's. The Angels took over Angels Camp during one Frog Jump and terrorized the town.
In the 1980's, during the jumps, Main St. Murphys would sometimes have millions of dollars worth of Harleys and other bikes sitting on the street. Bike after bike angle parked with no room for a car in site. The leathers around town created a tourist attraction for the locals. Being a local, I still enjoy the biker dudes and dolls who roll in. They are older and more mature. Not many hard edges anymore. Ordinary guys and gals, working during the week and having fun on the weekends.
My friend, Michal Houston, and I enjoyed the people watching and mingled with the dudes and babes and thoroughly enjoyed the gathering that only happens once a year with the jumps. Fair ends tomorrow. Come on up for the food, the beer and the roar of choppers blasting down the highway en group.