Category Archives: Tours

Petroglyph National Monument

The overnight lows here in Albuquerque have been in the mid-50s. When we woke up yesterday, it was 59 degrees in the coach. I sleep comfortably under blankets and a down comforter when it’s cool like this – better than on a warm night. The temperature warmed up to the upper 60s by late morning.

We rode the Spyder to the Petroglyph National Monument. There are four separate areas – Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon and Volcanoes Day Use Area. The first two have an abundance of ancient petroglyphs. We went north on Unser Boulevard a few miles to Boca Negra Canyon.

The west side of the Rio Grande Valley near Albuquerque is a fairly featureless flat mesa. In several areas, there are cinder cones which are debris fields of volcanic clinkers and ash rising in steep conical hills. Boca Negra Canyon is formed by a series of these cinder cones.

Ancient Puebloans living near the Rio Grande were drawn to these cinder cones and some of the areas were considered sacred ground. They drew figures on the basalt rocks. The meaning of these figures isn’t really known. Some of the figures at Boca Negra were added by sheep herders in the 1800s, but the majority of them are more than 500 years old.

Click on the photos to enlarge and read.

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We parked the Spyder in the first lot and hiked up the steep Mesa Point Trail. We found the first petroglyph a mere 50 feet from the parking lot.

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First petroglyph near trail head

First petroglyph near trail head

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When we were about two-thirds of the way to the top, we saw a pair of Greater Roadrunners on the rocks above us. The Greater Roadrunner is the New Mexico State Bird.  The male was playing hide and seek with us. He would appear on top of a rock and sit there until we got close, then he would hop off and disappear only to reappear moments later on top of another rock.

Playful Greater Roadrunner

Playful Greater Roadrunner

In the next photo of a petroglyph, you can see the Spyder in the parking lot well below us. This was about three quarters of the way to the top.

See the Spyder below?

See the Spyder below?

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We hiked all the way to the top, then followed the trail back down to the parking lot. We rode the Spyder about a quarter of a mile to the next lot and found the Macaw Trail.

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Maybe this image gave the trail it's name

Maybe this image gave the trail its name

The Macaw Trail is short and mostly flat unlike the Mesa Point Trail. Jimson weed was flowering along this trail. Jimson weed was used as a medicine to relieve pain or asthma symptoms. It’s also a powerful hallucinogenic and amounts only slightly higher than the medicinal dosage can be fatal.

Flowering Jimson weed

Flowering Jimson weed

Our last stop was at the Visitor Center down Unser Boulevard at the entrance to the RInconada Canyon. There are hiking trails and more petroglyphs here, but we just wandered in the Visitor Center which is more of a gift shop than anything else.

I posted about a traditional New Mexico oven called a horno before. They had a functional horno at the Visitor Center. These wood-fired ovens are used to bake bread or make chicos.

This horno is about three feet tall

This horno is about three feet tall

Later, Donna went to run a few errands and met up with her friend, Hazel Thornton. Last night was Monday Night Football time. I didn’t win the football pool yet, but I’m getting close. I was fourth out of about 40 entries for the last two weeks.

This morning we’re heading out to the community center to play pickleball.

 

 

Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial

It’s so quiet and peaceful here at Eagle Nest Lake, we decided to extend our stay two more nights. Donna hiked down to the Six Mile Creek day use area on Wednesday. Later we rode the Spyder to Angel Fire. We had pizza for lunch at the Angel Fired Pizza place and I needed to stop at a hardware store. Google maps showed Lowe’s right next to the pizza restaurant.

Lowe’s turned out to be a local grocery store – Lowe’s grocery. I found a lumberyard that’s also a True Value hardware and bought Gorilla glue for a project I needed to attend to. The support for the hanger pole in our closet broke. There’s a lot of weight on the pole from our clothes and some of the bumps on I-25 were pretty harsh.

Broken hanger pole support

Broken hanger pole support

I applied the glue and then screwed it back in place. I added cross screws for additional strength. I hope it holds up. Otherwise I’ll need to redesign the attachment. Our friend Dave Hobden had to rework his – he posted about it at UrbaneEscapeVehicle.

On Thursday morning, we woke to clear blue skies and the promise of a sunny, warmer day. I tried the panorama function on my Samsung Galaxy smart phone in an attempt to capture the beautiful view of the lake.

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Here are a couple of signs by the visitor center giving a little information on the area. Click on the photos to enlarge if you wish to read them.

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Donna said she thought she heard coyotes yapping in the distance before sunrise. I didn’t hear a thing. The nights are very dark and absolutely silent. I wouldn’t be surprised to find coyotes in the area. There’s an abundance of food sources for them – rabbits and prairie dogs are constantly on the move in the campground.

Ozark the cat amuses herself all day sitting in window sills or on the door step watching the prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

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The park is home to a large prairie dog colony.

In the afternoon we rode the Spyder to Angel FIre. On the way we stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. This was the first major Vietnam Memorial in the United States. It was started by Victor and Jeanne Westphall after their son, Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall was killed in an ambush along with 15 other soldiers in Vietnam on May 22, 1968.

In the ’60s, Victor and Jeanne purchased the 800-acre Val Verde Ranch and intended to open a resort. After David was killed, they built a chapel dedicated to his memory instead. This grew into a five-acre memorial site. Over the years, they sold off the ranch land to fund the memorial, which Victor mostly built himself. The chapel was completed in 1971.

Amphitheater behind the chapel

Amphitheater behind the chapel

The memorial is now operated as a state park and is open year-round with no admission charge. It’s the only Vietnam Memorial State Park in the country. In 2014, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez announced the addition of 10 acres of adjoining land south of the chapel had been donated and is designated to become a rural veteran’s cemetery built to federal standards.

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

One of the most widely recognized aircraft of the Vietnam War era was the Bell Iroquois UH-1 helicopter – popularly known as the Huey. In 1999, the New Mexico National Guard brought a Huey to the memorial. This Huey served with the 121st AHC and is maintained by current and retired Guardsmen.

Bell UH-1 "Huey"

Bell UH-1 “Huey”

From the high ground of the memorial, I could see the runway at the Angel Fire airport. I was struck by the length of the runway – you don’t see runways this long at most small general aviation airports. Then it occurred to me – Angel Fire is 8,400 feet above sea level. On a hot summer day, the density altitude could easily exceed 10,000 feet. It takes a lot of airspeed to generate enough lift to take-off in this thin atmosphere. That means a long take-off run before the plane can rotate and also means touching down at high speed when landing. Thus the long runway.

That's a long runway

That’s a long runway

We continued on to town and found the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company.

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Angel Fire is a town of only about 1,200 full-time residents. But it’s a popular winter ski resort and has over 500 acres of ski slopes. Its mild summer climate brings mountain bikers and hikers, golfers and hunters come to the area in the fall. Hopefully this brings enough customers for the 20-barrel brewery with a 50-seat tasting room. The brewery opened in April of this year. The owners had the vision and built the place, then they advertised for a brewmaster! That’s right, they built it then they hired a brewmaster to create the beers.

We found their beers to be very good. I had a few small samplers then settled on the Glory Hole IPA. Donna had a plum sour then had a pint of stout.

Brews on tap

Beers on tap

Donna had tempura battered veggies and I ordered hand cut fries with house made tartar sauce to go with the beer. It was worth the ride to town.

Today looks like another beautiful day with clear blue skies. Donna headed out at 7:30am and walked along the lake trail to the Eagle Nest village. She bought pastries at the bakery there and just returned with them, so I guess it’s time for breakfast.

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

We’ll spend one more night here, then move on to Taos, New Mexico tomorrow.

 

The Virginian

Although we enjoyed the relative solitude of dispersed camping on public land, we decided to pull out from Rim Lake Wednesday morning. The weather forecast called for rain and that could leave us in a position of having to drive a large, heavy rig down muddy dirt roads.

We thought it would be best to move on to Laramie. Instead of droning along I-80 for 100 miles, we opted to take US30 through Medicine Bow. This route added about 25 miles to the trip but it was more interesting and easy driving. Traffic was so light on US30, we only saw a handful of cars during the first 60 miles before we stopped in Medicine Bow.

I know I’m dating myself, but I asked Donna if she remembered the old western serial from the ’60s called The Virginian. The setting for the show was Medicine Bow in the late 1800s. We pulled into a large parking lot by a small general store and Donna made lunch for us. Medicine Bow has a population of about 300 people. It has the Virginian Hotel and RV park, a store, two bars, an ice cream shop and a museum.

Medicine Bow Museum

Medicine Bow Museum

We walked across the street to the museum after lunch. There’s an old log cabin in front – the actual museum is in a house toward the rear of the property. Donna spied what appeared to be an early RV – it was actually sheepherders quarters.

Sheep herders mobile quarters

Sheepherders mobile quarters

Sheep ranching came to Wyoming in the mid-1800s. Beef prices were at an all-time high then, so investing in a sheep ranch was risky. However, sheep produced wool, mutton and lamb meat. The high demand for wool during the civil war made sheep ranching profitable. For the next 100 years, Basque immigrants were brought in to tend to the sheep. This was a lonely and hard job. The sheepherders would move with the flock, keeping them on fresh grazing land. They lived in tiny portable housing with no running water or electricity. In the early years, there was friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers – mostly over grazing rights on public land.

In the 1980s, ranchers were having a hard time finding Basque immigrants willing to do the job. They turned to South America where sheepherders from Chile or Peru were willing to emigrate and take the job. A New York Times article from 2009 stated that sheepherders still lived in very primitive conditions and worked 24/7 for a monthly pay of $750. They didn’t have much in the way of expenses though – food was provided and they had shelter, although most were still without running water or electricity. The current situation is mostly unchanged save for the decline in numbers of sheep on the range.

The museum itself is a self-guided step back in time. The house has every room filled with artifacts and trinkets from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Donna found high-quality dress leather shoes from a century ago and remarked on how small the women must have been. The shoes and boots were tiny as was a dress on a mannequin that must have had an 18-inch waist.

We continued on US30/287 and saw dark clouds and rainfall to the southwest. I think we made the right choice to move on. We hit a few stray rain drops, but not much – the road remained dry.

We drove through Laramie south of I-80 past the fairgrounds to the Cavalryman Steakhouse. They have a large parking lot in back and Donna heard that they would allow overnight parking. We pulled in and parked around 2:30pm. The steakhouse doesn’t open until 4pm. We saw people going in and out of the building though, so we walked over toward it. A guy came out and got in his car. He drove up to us and told us they would open for dinner at 4pm. We asked about overnight parking in our rig and he said we were fine right where we parked. He was one of the managers.

Awhile later, Donna received an e-mail from Kathy Crabtree – we met Kathy and her husband Ray in San Diego last year and hooked up with them again this year in Portland. They were on their way from Portland to Ohio in their car and were eastbound on I-80 about an hour out of Laramie. Donna replied and told them where we were. The stopped by the steakhouse about an hour later and we chatted for about twenty minutes before they had to continue their road trip. They had reservations at a motel in North Platte, Nebraska another 270 miles east on I-80. Cars on this part of I-80 travel at 80mph – so they had another three and half hours of driving time.

We went to the Cavalryman Steakhouse for dinner around 5pm. They were well staffed and the service was great. Donna had a prime rib dinner while I had an open-face steak sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. The food was excellent.

Today we’ll move another 50 miles east to Cheyenne as we inch our way to Colorado. We may spend a couple of days in Cheyenne so we can get some shopping done, then we plan to go to Greeley, Colorado from there.

Tour de Hives

Donna had an interesting day yesterday. This is her story – and she’s sticking to it. 

I pledged to ride 250 miles on my bike this month in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise money for children’s cancer research. So I was excited to learn that Pedalpalooza was in full swing here in Portland. This is an annual event with three weeks of bike fun and nearly 300 rides on the calendar. Portland is a very bikeable city with well-marked bike lanes, routes and trails, making bicycles a popular mode of personal transport.

On Friday, I checked the Pedalpalooza calendar and lo and behold discovered that there were five Naked Rides on the schedule for Saturday. These rides were all part of The World Naked Bike Ride, a worldwide event that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists on our streets and highways and dependence on pollution-based transport. Dress code is “bare as you dare.”

Anyway, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I opted instead for the Tour de Hives ride on Sunday, a guided tour of area backyard apiaries and fundraiser for Portland Urban Beekeepers. (Bee suits not required, but nakedness not encouraged.) The ride started about 8-9 miles south of our temporary home at the Columbia River RV Park. It turned out to be an excellent ride with a wide bike lane all the way down Vancouver Avenue through shady residential neighborhoods to the Eastside Esplanade.

Esplanade bridge

Eastbank Esplanade bridge

I was one of many runners, walkers and cyclists enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on the Willamette River. I was surprised to see a houseboat on the river. I think I’d like to live on a houseboat someday – just not this one.

River life

River life

Had I wished, I could have crossed over the Hawthorne Bridge to downtown Portland. Instead I headed east to Bee Thinking for the start of the Tour de Hives ride. Bee Thinking sells bee hives, beekeeping gear and “all things bees.” You may have seen their line of products featured on Shark Tank last year.

About 10 riders showed up for the tour and we got started about 1:30. Our first stop was a tree just around the corner in the beautiful Ladd Circle neighborhood. There are a number of old maple and elm trees here, many with cavities large enough to accommodate a colony of feral honey bees. One of the property owners came out to see what we were looking at – he had no idea that the tree just 50 yards from his front door was the home of neighbors he’d never met!

We rode a short distance to the first of several homes with backyard bee hives. It was interesting to discover that urban beekeepers tend to keep hens and roosters as well.

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Urban farmyard

All of the lovely backyards we visited were planted with flowers that attract honey bees including California poppies, borage and milkweed.

One beekeeper's garden

One beekeeper’s garden

Beekeepers encourage planting flowers

Beekeepers encourage planting bee flowers

The bees were busy doing their thing.

Top bar hive

Top bar hive

One beekeeper explained how worker bees, which make up 98% of the colony, take on various roles over the course of their lifetimes. These roles include cleaning house, feeding the brood, caring for the queen, comb building, ventilation (they use their wings to circulate air),  honey conversion and packing, guarding the colony and collecting nectar.

Apartments available

Apartments available

Though bees were flying around the hives, we were able to walk freely through the backyards without getting stung. Honey bees don’t sting unless they have to because once they do, they die. That said, bees defending their hives might sting. In the presence of bees, you should not wave your hands or attempt to brush them off – this is a sure way to trigger a stinging reflex. Instead, you should step calmly away from the hive or the swarm. Most of the time, the bees will fly away without incident. Oh, and I learned that you should never blow on a honey bee as CO2 can trigger aggressive behavior. Good to know.

Almost forgot to mention: one beekeeper we met is also an author. She wrote a novel with beekeeping references called Juliet’s Nurse.

Written by a beekeeper

Written by a beekeeper

Our final stop was Zenger Farm, an urban farm practicing organic and sustainable agriculture. Zenger is the home of the bee hives for Portland Urban Beekeepers.

Some interesting facts that impact us all:

Honey bees and other pollinating insects provide humankind with more than just honey; 35% of all the foods we eat rely on pollination, which is how plants reproduce and survive. In the past few years, there has been a worldwide increase in the deaths of entire colonies of bees, which is reason for concern. Pesticide use, mites, and disease are all contributing factors. 

After three and a half hours of the bee tour, I was done in. It was hot and I still had a 14-mile ride home. I texted Mike to give him my ETA. I had to fight a strong headwind on the way back. Mike had pizza waiting for me. I needed that. Total distance: 31.3 miles. I’m not sure if I’ll hit my goal of 250 miles for the month, but I’m giving it my best shot!

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

 

Street Food in Portland

I tackled a minor repair on Tuesday. Most states require trailers with a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or more to have trailer brakes that automatically engage if the trailer accidentally separates from the tow vehicle. Our trailer is equipped with a breakaway switch that activates the brakes if a pin is pulled from the switching device. A length of cable connects the pin to the tow vehicle. If the trailer comes loose, the cable pulls the pin and the brakes are applied.

Breakaway pin and cable ends

Breakaway pin and cable ends

The cable has a loop for the pin and a loop on the other end that I connect to the receiver hitch with a carabiner. I’m not sure how it happened, but the cable must have dragged on the ground at some point and wore through, separating it into two pieces.

Steel cable separated

Steel cable separated in the middle

When I went to Walmart the other day, I saw a fisherman’s supply store. I stopped in and bought some nylon covered stainless steel leader cable and some double barrel crimp connectors.

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

This made it easy to create a new breakaway cable for the trailer.

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

That was easy – job done!

In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder down NE 33rd Drive and found the store Ray told us about. It’s called New Season’s. It’s similar to Sprouts – a store chain we like in the southwest. It’s an upscale store, so you have to shop carefully as the prices can be good or they can be high. Donna had defrosted the refrigerator in the morning and now it was time to restock it.

On Wednesday morning, we rode the Spyder to Beaverton to visit with our friends, DeWayne and Marlo. They live in a co-op housing development which is basically condominiums with shared community areas. Residents sign on to teams to develop and maintain community property. They have shared garden space, community meeting rooms, a woodworking shop and more. DeWayne runs the wood shop and also leads the building repair and maintenance team.

Part of the community vegetable garden

Part of the community vegetable garden

Compost bins Dwayne built

Compost bins DeWayne built

After giving us a tour, DeWayne had a project to work on and I left Donna and Marlo to their girl talk. I rode the Spyder over to the Hillsboro airport where I wanted to check out an aviation museum. When I got there, I was disappointed to see a closed sign in the window. I looked at the hours on the door – it said 9am to 4pm Monday through Thursday. A woman inside saw me looking and came to the door. She pointed at a guy out front spraying weeds.

The guy came over and introduced himself and told me they were in the process of moving the museum to Tillamook. All but one of the flyable airplanes had already been moved. He offered to give me a tour of the remaining aircraft and parts, but warned that things were in a bit of disarray.

I took him up on the offer and we spent about an hour looking at old planes and parts. They have mostly military jet aircraft from the 1950s to the 1980s. The owner has a number of contacts in foreign governments and wheels and deals for airplanes. A number of their aircraft came from Taiwan. They also had Soviet airplanes from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Axial flow jet engine

Axial flow jet engine

J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

General Electric J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Mig-21

Mig-21

I rode back and picked up Donna a little past noon. It was a short visit for the girls, but they were happy to catch up in person.

Marlo and Donna

Marlo and Donna

Instead of riding the freeways home, I took us down Burnside Street into downtown Portland. We stopped on Alder Street where all the street food vendors are located. There are dozens of food trucks and small stalls lined up over two blocks. We arrived a little after 1pm and missed most of the lunch crowd. After walking down the street and looking over the offerings, we both went for Thai food. It was a tasty lunch on the street.

Street food vendors

Street food vendors

After we came home, I retrieved a couple of packages we received at the office. One was a chair that Donna ordered from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but it wasn’t what she expected so it’s going back. Another package was our mail from our service in South Dakota. This package included new license plates for our coach and Spyder. The design on our current South Dakota plates was first issued in 2006. After 10 years, some of the plates are deteriorated and hard to read or have lost their reflective properties, so South Dakota decided it was time to issue new ones.

I took a photo of our new plates and made a discovery. When light is directed at the plate (in this case via the camera flash), a squiggly line appears in the middle from top to bottom. I suppose this is an anti-counterfeit feature.

New license plate design for our coach

New license plate design for our coach

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Donna went for a bike ride as she continues to aim for her 250-mile Great Cycle Challenge goal while I installed the plates. After I put the plates on, I had a message telling me another package arrived at the office. It was the Elka suspension I ordered for the Spyder – custom made shock absorbers and springs. I paid for expedited shipping since they came from Canada. I didn’t want them to get delayed in customs and have them arrive here after we’ve moved on. Timing of package deliveries can be a challenge on the road.

Last night Donna made baked shrimp with fennel and feta for dinner.

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

I paired it with an Imperial IPA from Hop Valley Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. It was delicious – the shrimp I mean.

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

We ended an excellent day by starting season two of True Detectives. It appears that season two has no connection with season one – we’re starting a whole new story line with different actors.

After a few days of great weather, rain moved in last night. We have a heavily overcast sky this morning and expect rain off and on all day with a high temperature only reaching the low 60s. I’m chomping at the bit to install the new suspension on the Spyder, but it looks like that will have to wait.

 

 

Deschutes Brewery

We rode to Bend on the Spyder Tuesday. We left the Sunriver Thousand Trails park around 11:20am so I could take Donna to the hair salon for her noon appointment. When people ask us about health or dental care while we’re on the road, we joke that it’s no problem, but finding a hair stylist for Donna can be troublesome!

Blasting up US97 at 65-70mph in 50-degree weather makes it a cold ride. After I dropped Donna off, I went to a motorcycle shop and bought warmer gloves. From there I went to the Deschutes Brewery tasting room, where they have brewery tours. I knew the 1pm tour was fully booked, but I thought I might be able to get in if there was a no show. I also thought I could get lunch there.

It turned out the tasting room doesn’t serve food – just beer tasters, T-shirts and knick-knacks. I sampled four barrel-aged beers that aren’t found in stores and really liked three of the four. I also made it to the tour – three people didn’t show up. They allow 15 people in each tour.

Our tour guide was a native Oregonian from the Willamette Valley named Joy. She was very knowledgeable about beer in general and their operations at Deschutes Brewery. We started the tour with a brief discussion of the four ingredients needed for beer – water, malt, hops and yeast.

Every thing you need to make beer

Everything you need to make beer

This discussion took place in the employee break room. The break room looked like a small cafe with tall chairs around a bar-like table, refrigerator, stove and food supplies. One of the guys was on break and had made a delicious looking pastrami sandwich. I was wishing I had eaten lunch – it was after 1pm by then.

The break room had a large closet that was converted to a small taproom. Employees are allowed one pint of beer at the end of their shift.

Employee taps

Employee taps

This has to be good for morale! The company believes good beer in moderation is beneficial to health.

We took a look at hop storage. Deschutes only used whole hops, no hop pellets or extracts. They store about three days worth of hops in a temperature-controlled room in 200-pound bales.

Hop bales

Hop bales

They were doing maintenance, cleaning a lauter tun. The lauter tun is a large vat that’s used to strain the liquid (wort) from the grain mash.

Lauter tun maintenance

Lauter tun maintenance

We walked along a cat-walk above the brewery and looked down at the operation. Things were running at full speed below us.

Cellar process

Cellar process

Fermenters and bright tanks

Fermenters and bright tanks

Although Deschutes Brewing is not as large as the Sierra Nevada operation we toured in Chico, they still make a lot of beer. Their Black Butte porter is the number one selling porter in America, even though they only distribute in 27 states. I won’t go into all of the brewing process steps as I outlined that in the Sierra Nevada post.

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

It was after 2pm by the time I left after buying a couple of bottles of barrel-aged beer and of course I needed the T-shirt. I rode back to the hair salon to pick Donna up. When I got there I saw a message on my phone from Donna. The hair stylist only accepted cash or checks and Donna had neither. So, I got back on the Spyder and rode a few blocks away to the bank to get cash.

When I came back and picked Donna up, I was famished. We rode over to the 10 Barrel Brewing pub and ordered food along with a pint. From there the ride home was much better with warm gloves. We stopped at the Sunriver Village to fortify ourselves with another pint at Sunriver Brewing. Donna really likes the Sunriver Village. It’s a resort, so almost everyone there is on vacation and seems laid-back and happy.

Back at home, we prepared a whole chicken to roast on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. We had a late lunch, so we didn’t start the grill until about 6:30pm. Donna prepared garlic scapes which I grilled on the Weber Q and she also made roasted brussel sprouts in the convection oven. I used the same seasoning blend that I used on the baby back ribs last weekend and the chicken was great!

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Grilled garlic scaipes

Grilled garlic scapes

Paper plate dinner

Paper plate dinner

This morning I woke up at 6am. I was warm under our comforter, but I could tell it was colder than usual in the coach. I got up and saw the thermometer read 50 degrees in the coach. I turned on the heat pump but I got the propane furnace instead. Heat pumps aren’t effective when the outside temperature falls much below 40 degrees. Our system has an ambient temperature sensor – when it’s too cold outside, it automatically fires the propane furnace instead of the heat pumps. I looked at my phone and read the outside temperature was 28 degrees. Yikes!

This cold spell is forecast to last until Sunday. We might pack up and move to the Columbia River Gorge for a few nights before we check in at the Columbia River RV Resort in Portland on Saturday. I don’t want to stay in an area that’s as cold as it is here right now.

Sierra Nevada Brewery

We made another trip on the Spyder from Rolling Hills Casino RV Park to Chico. This time our destination  was Sierra Nevada Brewery. We had a reservation for the 2pm brewery tour. We arrived early and spent some time in the gift shop and looking at old photos and equipment upstairs in what they call “The Big Room.”

The tour began with a short video presentation and the guide told us some of the history of the company while we sipped a two-ounce taster of pale ale. The founder of the company, Ken Grossman, learned about home brewing when he was a kid growing up in southern California. The father of one of his friends was a home brewer.

After taking a bicycle tour in northern California, Ken decided to move to Chico. He opened a home brew supply store there. He sold it after a couple of years and decided to build his own brewery. This is interesting to think about, given the state of the beer industry at the time. Before Prohibition in 1920, small breweries were common – there were reported to be over 4,000 breweries in America. After Prohibition – from 1933 to 1978 – there were 42 breweries in America. There weren’t any small scale commercial breweries.

For Ken Grossman, the first challenge was finding equipment that would allow him to brew on a commercially viable scale, but not the large scale of existing breweries. He ended up finding used dairy equipment and made his own 10-barrel brew system. He started his new venture in the fall of 1980. Another challenge was finding the ingredients he needed in small quantities. He drove to Yakima, Washington and bought whole hop cones from growers, returning with 100 pounds.

His first beer was a stout – the recipe has stayed the same for decades. Then he experimented until he perfected a hop forward pale ale – the signature beer of Sierra Nevada Brewing. He would load cases of the beer in his car and peddle it to local bars and clubs. He would collect the empty bottles and re-use them.

At first, 90% of the people that tried his pale ale didn’t like it. Hop forward beer is an acquired taste and at that time, light lagers were popular. But the 10% that liked the pale ale really liked it and a loyal following was born. His beer started to become known in the San Francisco Bay area. He met a guy that worked for Safeway – he liked the beer and wanted to get it in the store.

Ken knew he would have to ramp up production if he would ever be able to sell in grocery stores. He found a used 100-barrel copper brewing system for sale in Germany for the price of scrap metal. The catch was – he had to go to Germany to disassemble it and ship back to California.

In 1987, he bought property on 20th Street in Chico to build a brewery to house the 100-barrel system. This is the brewery we visited. His 100-barrel system is still there, but today he has much larger equipment.

Sierra Nevada was at the sharp end of the micro-brew movement and today they are one of the largest craft brewers in the country. The tour took us through the production area and started in a hop storage room. The aroma was incredible – large quantities of whole hops – predominately cascade and magnum hops with their piney-citrusy scent.

Many of the tuns – the vats where the beer is processed in various stages of brewing – extend 20 feet into the ground below the floor.

Stainless lauter tun

Stainless lauter tun

The lauter tun is where the mash is separated from the wort – the liquid full of sugars and flavors from the grain mash. We tasted samples of the wort. Because the sugars haven’t been fermented and converted to alcohol, the wort is sweet and tastes like cereal.

Copper fermenter tun

Copper fermenter tun

The wort is pumped to the fermenter where yeast is introduced and hops are added. The yeast consumes the sugars converting them to alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). The yeast eventually becomes spent when the alcohol and CO2 levels are high enough to slow or stop fermentation.

The fermentation for most of their beers takes seven days. It takes another seven days to clarify the beer and flavor it with more hops. They have two bottling lines that are mirror images of each other – we were told that each line caps about 625 bottles per minute – more than a million bottles per day. They also have a smaller canning operation and a keg line.

Bottling line

Bottling line

The other bottling line

The other bottling line

The company is very green with more than 10,700 solar panels producing 1.5 megawatts of electricity. They recycle and haul the spent mash to farms for use as feed.

We finished the tour with a flight of seven tasters. We started with the lightest style and worked our way up to Torpedo IPA and finished with Hoptimum – an Imperial IPA.

As we exited the tasting bar, we had company waiting for us. Darrell and Lorna Bartlett met up with us. Lorna follows this blog and also Donna’s blog. They full-time in a Roadtrek 210 – a 21-foot class B RV. We went to the Sierra Nevada Taproom for another beer and food. We enjoyed talking with them and had pretzels with beer cheese and Donna also ordered lamb meatballs.

Darrell and Lorna own a house in Chico, but they’ve been on the road since December. They plan to sell the house and continue their travels. Being smaller and more maneuverable than us, they rarely book ahead and just go with the flow.

The ride back to Corning was hot – the temperature topped out at 102 degrees yesterday. Today the forecast calls for more of the same. I’ll roast a whole chicken on the Traeger for lunch – we were too spent from the heat to grill last night – so we’ll have that in the refrigerator for our travels. Then I’ll get the trailer packed. Tomorrow I’ll load the Spyder, dump and flush our tanks and we hope to hit the road fairly early to beat the heat.

Our plan is to go to Klamath Falls, Oregon. I’ll get fuel there – the diesel fuel price in Oregon is more than 40 cents less per gallon than California. Then we’ll find a place to boondock. We’ll have two nights out before we check in at Sun River near Bend, Oregon.

 

Wine, Cheese and Nuts

Friday was Donna’s birthday, which coincides with my youngest daughter Shauna’s birthday. We had a full day planned. Donna had a couple of phone calls with family and friends before she went out for a walk in the morning. After lunch, we rode the Spyder from our location at the Rolling Hills RV Park to Orland – a small town about 10 miles away. Our destination was Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company.

We had an appointment to meet owner Tim Pedrozo and take a tour. We arrived at 1:30pm and were invited to come inside while Tim was turning cheese wheels. I’ve never watched cheese making in progress before. Tim had large wheels of cheese wrapped in cheesecloth that were being pressed in a circular plastic form. This shapes the cheese wheel while moisture is driven out. We arrived at the time Tim needed to turn the cheese wheels over and re-wrap them.

We learned that the cheese he was working with had been raw (unpasteurized) milk that morning. The milk comes from a herd of 30 dairy cows that Tim keeps on the property. These cows are all grass fed in a pasture behind the cheese making building. After the cows are milked – twice daily – the milk is chilled to 45 degrees. This keeps the milk stable until it’s pumped into a large stainless steel vat.

The milk is warmed in stages. First the temperature is brought up to 96 degrees. Then it’s warmed to 102 degrees and a bacteria starter culture is added. The culture converts sugars in the milk to lactic acid. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk and curd forms. A special knife called a harp is used in the vat to cut the curd.

Vat where milk is coagulated

Vat where milk is coagulated

Harps for cutting the curd

Harps for cutting the curd

The moisture (whey) is separated from the curd and the curds are formed into wheels in the plastic forms.

Cheese wheels pressed in forms

Cheese wheels pressed in forms

Close up of cheese wheels in cheese cloth being pressed

Close-up of cheese wheels in cheese cloth being pressed

Tim turning the cheese wheel over

Tim turning over the cheese wheel

Tim’s equipment includes pneumatic presses that apply light pressure to the cheese wheel in the forms. The cheese wheels he was working with were large – about 11 pounds each. Next the cheese wheel is soaked in a brine.

Cheese wheel soaking in brine

Cheese wheel soaking in brine

Tim soaks them for about two hours per pound of cheese so the large wheels soak for up to 24 hours. The brine creates the tough outer skin of the cheese wheel. Next the wheels are marked and put onto aging racks in a temperature-controlled room. The cheese is aged for a minimum of 60 days. He had some cheese wheels that were more than six months old and still aging. As it ages, the character of the cheese changes. It becomes harder and dryer and the flavor profile is affected.

Large cheese wheels aging

Large cheese wheels aging

A rack of smaller cheese wheels

A rack of smaller 2-pound cheese wheels

Tim is a third-generation dairy farmer. His grandfather emigrated from the Azores – an island region of Portugal – where he was dairy farmer. Tim originally lived in Merced in the San Joaquin valley but found that running a fluid milk dairy with a small herd of cows wouldn’t sustain the farm. So he bought a farm in Orland and moved the cows in 1996 and started making cheese.

Northern Gold is Pedrozo’s main product and it has variations including peppercorn, sweet Italian red pepper, garlic and herb and tartufello (truffle). He also has a specialty cheese called Tipsy Cow – it’s washed in Mount Tehama’s petite syrah giving it a purple rind – and a couple of other specialty cheeses made in two-pound wheels.

Tim cut samples of his cheeses which we enjoyed while we talked. We left there after purchasing six wedges of different cheeses. Tim told us about another place across town that we should visit. It’s called Walnut Avenue Ranch. It’s a small store selling a wide variety of locally grown nuts.

Almonds on a tree in front of Pedroza Dairy and Cheese Co.

Almonds on a tree in front of Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co.

We found the Walnut Avenue Ranch and sampled a few offerings. We ended up buying almond brittle with dark chocolate, dark chocolate covered almonds, cinnamon almonds and coconut macaroon almonds.

Next up was a 30-mile ride to New Clairvaux Vineyard in Vina, California. This is a working monastery with Trappist monks. The property was the location of a small one-acre vineyard started by Peter Lassen in 1846. In 1852, a businessman and winemaker named Henry Gerke bought the property and expanded the vineyard to 100 acres. He established the small town of Vina and his wine business prospered. In 1881, California governor Leland Stanford purchased the land and expanded the operation to 55,000 acres. It became the largest wine making operation in the world with an annual production of more than two million gallons and 4,000 acres of vineyard. The land was sold off in 1919, just before Prohibition. In 1955, the heart of “The Great Vina Ranch,” some six-hundred acres, was purchased by Trappist-Cistercian monks and became the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

The abbey grows walnuts, almonds and of course grapes. Aimee Sunseri, a fifth-generation winemaker is the winemaker for New Clairvaux. We arrived there at about 3:30pm and tasted five wines.

New Clairvaux wine tasting room

New Clairvaux wine tasting room

We saw a bouquet of flowers with a Happy Birthday card. We joked about them putting it out for Donna! It was actually for one of the employees.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

The Barbera was outstanding and we left with two bottles – more birthday plunder for Donna.

We were back home from our 70-mile loop on the Spyder before 5pm. We had time to shower and dress for dinner. We had a reservation at Timbers Steakhouse in the Rolling Hills Casino at 6pm. The Timbers Steakhouse is probably the nicest dinner restaurant in the area. It’s small – eight booths and eight free-standing tables.

I ordered a 14-ounce cut of prime rib while Donna had artichoke-crusted Alaskan halibut. We split a bottle of cabernet with our dinner.

We ended the day enjoying the evening outside – sipping more wine, talking and watching the sunset.

Donna at the end of a long day

Donna at the end of a long day

We had plans again for Saturday, but I’ll put that in another post as this is getting too long.

 

Olive City

We headed out around 11:15am yesterday. Our first stop was at the Lucero olive oil mill and store about two miles from our current home at Rolling Hills Casino RV Park. I had called ahead and was told they would give us a tour when we arrived. Our tour guide was a young man named Eddie. He was very knowledgeable about the Lucero company, olives and olive oil in general.

The Lucero company was founded by H.R. Crane and has been growing olives in the Corning area since 1947. In 2009, two of H.R. Crane’s grandsons purchased an olive mill with the intention of producing high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Today, the two grandsons and two great-grandsons run the company along with 25 employees.

They have more than 500 acres of olive orchards. Some of the orchards are old-time table olive orchards while most of their holdings are high-density or medium-density plantings. They grow 16 varieties of olives. The term density in olive orchards refers to how close the trees are planted. Some modern varieties are more like bushes and high-density plantings are close enough to touch each other. These can be harvested by machine using an implement originally designed to harvest grapes. The older, low-density orchards must be harvested by hand.

Extra virgin olive oil is made from a single pressing of the olives and must meet a standard for acidity and taste. I’ve read that nearly 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold in America doesn’t meet the standards – in fact some of it is cut with cheaper vegetable oils and isn’t even 100% olive oil! You can read about it here.

I took photos of a series of posters showing the olive oil milling process.

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This poster shows the olive flowers and a young olive on top. High-density olive plants are being machine harvested in the bottom pictures.

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The olives are rinsed and stems, leaves or any other debris is removed. Then they travel via conveyor to a crusher. The crusher turns the olives into a paste. Lucero makes some olive oils with citrus added. They add Meyer lemons or Mandarin oranges and crush them with the olives to make agrumato olive oil. They also have infused olive oils. We found the lemon agrumato was more flavorful when taste-tested alongside lemon infused olive oil. It should be great for cooking any lemon-flavored recipes and as a salad dressing.

5_26olv3

The paste goes into a malaxer which stirs the paste for up 90 minutes. The malaxer is double-walled and the temperature is controlled with a water jacket between the inner and outer stainless steel walls.

After the malaxer, the paste is strained with a horizontal centrifuge. The one used at Lucero spins the paste at 3,500 rpm and strains the oil from the paste.

5_26olv4

A second stage is used at Lucero where the oil is run through a vertical centrifuge that spins at 6,000 rpm separating more sediment from the oil.

5_26olv5

The oil is poured into large plastic containers and stored in a temperature-controlled room. Any remaining sediment drops to the bottom of the container. The oil is then siphoned from the top down in the final bottling process.

Since Lucero owns their own orchards, all of their olives are transported less than 25 miles before processing. They place a big emphasis on freshness.

Young olives on a Sevillano olive tree in front of the Lucero mill

Donna examines young olives on a Sevillano olive tree in front of the Lucero mill

After our tour, we went into the Lucero retail store and had tastings of oil, tapenades and balsamic vinegar. We bought lemon agrumato olive oil, garlic-infused olive oil and white (blanco) balsamic vinegar along with a lemon artichoke tapenade. It was a fun tour and I learned a lot things about olives in general and olive oils.

After the tour, we rode the Spyder into town and stopped at The Olive Pit. We hit their tasting room where Donna had red wine samples and I had local beer. We had a plate of crackers with salami, white cheddar cheese and olives to go with the tasting. The server lived in Corning her entire life and was talkative. She convinced us to go to the New Clairvaux Vineyard and Abbey. It’s a Trappist monastery in nearby Vina – they make wine and have daily tastings. I asked about the signs referring to Corning as the Olive City. I remember signs here in the past that claimed Corning was the Olive Capital of the World. We were told they can no longer make that claim as a town in Italy now produces more olives than Corning.

I bought a bottle of wine for Donna and also picked up four cans of the Key Lime Gose beer that we liked so much. They have a limit of two cans per customer, so Donna bought two and I bought two.

Last night, I tried another beer I found at The Olive Pit that’s unusual. It was brewed by Six Rivers Brewery. It’s called Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale. Sour beer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it for a change of pace every now and then.

Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale

Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale

Donna tried a new recipe for dinner – turmeric chicken with artichokes, green olives, chick peas and lemon. It turned out to be a complex process but the results were good. She probably won’t make it again as it was too labor intensive and used a lot of dishes to make. She keeps saying she has to start making simpler meals! She served the chicken with steamed green beans, fresh from the farmers’ market.

Boneless turmeric chicken thighs with artichoke and lemon

Boneless turmeric chicken thighs with artichoke and lemon

Today’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 80s and breezy winds out of the northwest. We plan to go to the Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese company for a tour then we’ll hit the Clairvaux wine tasting. Tonight we have a dinner reservation at Timbers Steakhouse to celebrate Donna’s birthday – it’s also my youngest daughter Shauna’s birthday. Happy birthday, girls!

Things to do Around Corning

If you’ve been following our travels, you might remember that we attended the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I met a few vendors and received a few product samples, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out – until Tuesday. Donna’s dining table chair was coming apart. The horizontal wood back rest is attached to vertical uprights that extend from the rear legs with dowel pins. The glue had failed and the pins were loose.

I had a sample of a product called Wonderlok ‘Em Tite Chairs. It’s a cyanoacrylate adhesive. The liquid glue has very low viscosity and is as thin as water. To use it, you hold the parts you want to join together and apply a bead of adhesive. It runs into the joint and sets up in a few seconds. It’s that simple.

Tite Chairs adhesive

Tite Chairs adhesive

The small bottle of adhesive came with reusable applicator nozzles, making it very easy to use. It worked like a champ.

On Tuesday, Donna worked on an article she had to submit by the end of the week. I rode the Spyder to town and had a look around. I picked up a few items at Safeway, then rode over to the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center to see what’s happening in the area. This area is mostly agricultural – olives, walnuts and almonds are the main crops along with cattle ranches.

Our location, outside of Corning, is in the northern end of California’s central valley. The central valley extends north-northwest to south-southeast around 450 miles. It’s 40 to 60 miles wide for the most part. The coastal mountain ranges border the west while the Sierra Nevada range is on the east. It’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

North of Sacramento is the Sacramento River watershed. This area is sometimes referred to as the Sacramento Valley – a subset of the central valley. South of Sacramento the valley is the San Joaquin River watershed. The southern central valley is likewise called the San Joaquin Valley.

The Sacramento River flows from north to south down to Sacramento while the San Joaquin River flows from south to north. They meet in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and empty into the San Francisco Bay. These watersheds are the reason for such fertile land.

It turned out there wasn’t much in the way of special events happening in the area for the Memorial Day weekend. But I did find information for some things to see and do. We’ve found that no matter where we are, there’s always something interesting. I also stopped at The Olive Pit – a local point of interest that sells olives of every type imaginable and also has a good selection of wine and craft beer. I bought a jar of anchovy stuffed olives for Donna – she loves them as a snack. I found a few interesting beers as well.

After I came home, I poured a couple of glasses of Key Lime Gose from New Glory Brewing for Donna and me. We sat outside and enjoyed the refreshing beer. It’s a sour wheat ale flavored with coriander, sea salt and fresh squeezed key limes. It’s almost like lemonade but not as sweet and it has a slightly salty aftertaste. We both loved it. I’ll buy more – The Olive Pit limits each customer to only two 16-ounce cans. Apparently it’s in short supply.

Key Lime Gose

Key Lime Gose

We took a stroll and watched the sunset. There were clouds to the west making a colorful sky at sunset.

Colorful clouds at sunset

Colorful clouds at sunset

Clouds moved in overhead and we had rain falling by the time we went to bed.

On Wednesday morning, the clouds were gone and the ground was dry. After breakfast, we hopped on the Spyder and rode east to US99 and followed it south to Chico (map). I had mapped out a couple of routes to a shopping center in Chico where they have an open air farmers’ market on Wednesday. We love shopping for local foods at farmers’ markets.

Chico Wednesday farmers' market

Chico Wednesday farmers’ market

The produce at this market was so fresh and Donna said the prices were the best she’s ever seen anywhere.

Colorful table of produce

Colorful table of produce

Another table of fresh produce

Another table of fresh produce

We bought a few items and checked out just about every display. They have another farmers’ market in downtown Chico on Saturday. We plan to go to that one as well.

While we were at the shopping center, we went into Sportsman’s Warehouse. I like this store! It’s kind of a poor man’s Cabela’s. I found a bag of fruitwood wood pellets for the Traeger and Donna bought a pair of shorts. I also bought a couple of shirts.

We had lunch nearby at Mekkala Thai restaurant. I’ve had a hankering for Thai food lately. It was good but very spicy! Great service, I’d eat there again for sure.

We also made plans to do some touristy things. Donna made a reservation for a tour at a farm that makes cheese – we’ll go there on Friday. We also have a reservation for a tour next Tuesday at the Sierra Nevada brewery. Speaking of beer, I opened another interesting bottle last night. It’s from Mad River Brewing in Humboldt County. It was a double brown ale called Humboldt Brownie. It’s flavored with chocolate nibs and has a very balanced blend that belies the high alcohol content at 9% ABV.

Humboldt Brownie

Humboldt Brownie

Last evening we took another walk around the park. We met a couple that have been on the road for 25 years! Their rig was even longer than ours – their coach and trailer were about 70 feet long. We also saw what I believe is the shortest class A motorhome I’ve ever seen. It was an Itasca Reyo built on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter F50 chassis. It’s about 25 feet long and powered by a 3.0 liter diesel engine.

Short class A motorhome

Short class A motorhome

The weather forecast for the coming week calls for warmer temperatures – upwards of 90 degrees – with zero percent chance of rain. Today we plan to go to the Lucero olive oil mill for a tour. It’s located less than two miles away from us.