Sunday, January 13, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: American Wheat Beer Taste Off

What do you do when life gives you lemons?  Make lemonade, of course.  Or put a wedge in your wheat beer.

We taped the video below as a normal taste off and found when we went to edit it that the battery had died in the microphone, leaving us with no sound at all.  So what to do?  Make and old fashioned silent movie!

Watch the Video!

Go ahead and watch.  We taste test Sam Adams Coastal Wheat beer, which already has a splash of lemon in it, against the Widmer Hefeweizen from Portland, Oregon.

Which one do we like best?  Watch the video to find out.  I will tell you that we tried both with and without the lemon and found that we liked it with the lemon best in each case.



Friday, January 11, 2019


Although the state is criss-crossed with interstates, freeways, superhighways and is home to more millions of Americans than any other state, once in awhile you can find a seldom traveled stretch of asphalt that is actually a time machine.
One such road exists starting at highway 140 in the foothill town of Cathey’s Valley, about 20 miles east of Merced, California.
Turning north on Hornitos Road will take you through some spectacular rolling hill country dotted with happy cows. Green in the winter and spring, golden in summer and fall.

Watch the Video!

After about nine miles, you’ll start to see mounds of rocks scattered about the creek off to the side.  Dug up around 150 years ago, these are tailings left by the original Gold Rush miners.  Following that creek, you’ll end up at the little town of Hornitos, which was settled by Mexicans who were kicked out of the nearby town of Quartzburg.
The joke is on them because Hornitos soon pulled much more riches out of the ground than their unwelcoming neighbors.
A collapsed shack sits a few feet from the sturdy jail.  The remains of a brick building stand next to the community hall. Across the street from that is an old brick saloon with sturdy iron doors and a cafĂ© that saw its last customer half a century ago.  Overlooking all of it is a tiny, white, Catholic church manning the watch over the town’s graveyard which features dirt packed so hard that the original inhabitants had to put their dead in above ground mounds that looked like the ovens the women used in baking.

Because of the appearance of the graves, the town was named after them using the Spanish word for “little ovens.”
You’ll come to understand why Hornitos is listed as a Gold Rush ghost town on many websites, books, and articles.  Although much rough and rowdy history has happened in and around the streets of this village, it’s not quite correct to call it a ghost town…yet.

The Ortiz family still opens the saloon on the town’s plaza. Come in and have a shot of tequila…the bartender would like it if you chose the Hornitos reposado over the Patron…and chat with him. There’s him and one customer as the three of us have our shots.
Manuela Ortiz is the legend who would open the bar when she felt like it and hold court with her shot of brandy. A living link to the town’s storied past, Manuela is now suffering the memory loss of advanced age and living in a home down the hill in Merced.
Her son now stands in her place, giving us the update on her condition and pouring our shots…without lemon or salt…as he tells us he appreciates it.
The saloon sits across the parking lot from the tiny U.S. Post office. That comprises 2/3 of the remaining businesses in town and the post office is on the verge of closing. A gift shop operates out of an old general store at the north end of town.
Over $8 million dollars worth of gold has been pulled out of the ground here. The population grew to 8, 10, or 12 thousand people depending on which source you consider reliable.  Down to 65 now, it does seem the spirits outnumber the living here.
Ruins are mixed in with the private residences and the few commercial buildings. Across from the Ortiz’s saloon…next to an out-of-place looking, very modern handicapped parking spot…sit the collapsed walls of a brick building.  Here, back before statehood, Domingo Ghiradelli opened a store.

He would not be here very long, moving on to San Francisco, but the little plot of land is still owned by the company he and his family founded…the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company.
In the plot next door, whatever building had stood is long gone but a mound in the dirt is covered with assorted boards and corrugated metal. The barrier is to keep people out of the tunnel inside that is a danger for collapsing.

In its rowdier past, the town was full of saloons. Beneath the saloons on the underground level were bordellos. So that the customers could arrive without being seen, tunnels were dug to connect them
A couple of doors north, another old saloon sits. Across the street, a tree grows out of the hole another collapsed brothel tunnel created.
There are two handicapped parking spaces in town. One is a new, state-of-the-art concrete creation with multiple ramps for access adjacent to the Stagg Hall, home of the town's annual enchilada festival each March. The other is across the street at the post office.  We're almost the only people here so we just park in a regular spot in front of the old cafe...I don't think they'll be getting any customers today to block our ramp.

We wander around town. Technically, it’s not too accessible with just a few feet of sidewalk, but the traffic is so light Tim can drive his wheelchair on the road without problem.
It’s a block or so to the north end of town where the gift shop sits. We wander in, buy some candy and beads, and check out the art work. I can believe that we were the only sale that day.

We drive up the hill to the graveyard. Someone at some time must have gotten access to some earth moving equipment because all the graves are now below ground.  The dirt is very hard, though.
There’s an admirable view fromup here high above the town. We spend a few minutes wandering the graves, seeing dates going back to the Gold Rush days along with some wooden markers whose inscriptions have long worn off in the weather here.

Going back down, we navigate through a flock of wild turkeys mingling with the ghosts in the town. Past the old school house on the outskirts of town, and then back towards the highway.
It would be wrong to call it a ghost town now but the town is hanging on the edge.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

PHOTO ESSAY: Outtakes from the Gold Rush

Here are some photos that didn't make the cut on this week and last week's articles. Not because they're bad pics but just because they didn't fit the narrative for some reason.  Still, they give you some insight into other things that were going on during this trip.  Above, the Restful Nest B&B in Mariposa really has modern plumbing...this outhouse hides one of their water wells.

A Woody club joins us on the freeway on our way across the Grapevine.

This guy doesn't belong's really a VW beetle made up to look like a Woody. Imposter!

Our state flower is starting to paint the hillsides.

Hummingbirds gather at the feeder at The Restful Nest.

The pond at Butterfly Creek Winery, just east of Mariposa.

Goldfinches on the thistle sock at The Restful Nest.

Graves in Hornitos.

Daffodils at The Restful Nest.

And, finally, I found this little plant while hiking near The Restful Nest. Lois told me what it was but I forgot. Anyone know?

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick and Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 4, 2019


The Fishing Pond at the Restful Nest

It was the summer of 1999 when we first navigated these roads. According to the directions the innkeeper gave me, if I got to town on highway 140, I’ve gone too far but I found the Yaqui Gulch turnoff. When I got to the old highway, look for the brick water well house, Buckeye Road would start right next to it…don’t turn right, don’t turn left. Just sort of go cockeyed straight onto it. Past the three mailboxes on the left, slow down and look for Buckeye Creek Road and turn left…if you get to Ben Hur Road, you’ve gone way too far…

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It is a challenge the first time you try to find the Restful Nest but once you do, you’ve found bed and breakfast paradise.  We’ve come here several times over the years to recharge, visit the area’s many sights and attractions, and…most of all…to visit with the owners, Jon and Lois Moroni, who have turned into friends.

Watch the Video!

It’s been too long between visits, however, as we haven’t been here since Tim went to college. Their lab mix, Casey…who’d fetch sticks long after the stars came out…has since died. Jon has gone through a bout of cancer, successfully thankfully, and Lois no longer smokes.

Still, it’s the same bed and breakfast we came to know and love.

With only three rooms (there’s actually four but Lois only rents three at the most) set on 11 acres, it’s a bit of heaven sitting five miles away from town with hiking trails, fishing pond, great stargazing, wild animal sightings, and a pool and spa.

It’s not technically accessible. The toilet is in a narrow space and the small shower is also too cramped for a chair to use but there is a smooth path to the room and, since we notified them ahead of time about the chair, Jon build a ramp so Tim’s wheelchair could ascend to the upper balcony and dining room.  (If you need a fully accessible room, you might try the Best Western or Comfort Inn in town)
We spend some time catching up with the Moroni’s after dinner and then head down to our room to rest up. There is a TV in the room but you’ll only get three channels here in these rural hills.
In town, we find a place to park uphill from the main street so it will be easy to roll down. We do a little window shopping  and souvenir hunting on the old sidewalks. Mariposa is an old Gold Rush town so access can be spotty. One end of the block is ramped but the other end is stairs so you’ll need to double back to get to the other side of the street.  Some of the shops in these old buildings do not have access but many do.

Mariposa was known for pulling a lot of gold out of the ground. Today, it’s not as touristy as other Gold Rush towns farther up highway 49 in the Motherlode but more of a real town. People here work regular jobs and there’s a sense of community here.  Kids belong to 4H or the FFA and the fairgrounds are busy with local celebrations and festivals…we like to show up on Labor Day weekend for the county fair.

John C. Fremont, the soldier and explorer, called Mariposa home. At the end of the sidewalk, Bett’s Silver Coin restaurant sits in the adobe building he constructed…the only three story adobe building in the Motherlode.

At the north end of town, next to the Burger King, is the Mariposa Museum and History Center with its mining stamp mills and historical dioramas of local history.

At the south end of town, in the parking lot of the fairgrounds, is the California Mining and Mineral Museum.  With a recreated mine tunnel and hundreds of examples of gems, it’s a real treasure to see. The star of the show here is the largest intact gold nugget ever found in the state, a real whopper at 13.8 pounds.
Both museums charge $4 for admission.

Jon and Lois serve a huge breakfast to guests everyday and we don’t get out to eat too much in Mariposa but there are a number of good places to eat when the hunger does eventually strike. Our favorites are the Nachos at Castillo’s and the pizza just a few doors down at the Pizza Factory.

Mariposa is part of the Sierra Foothills AVA and has a few up and coming wineries in the area.  While Silver Fox is open by appointment only and Chappel Winery has a storefront downtown, you can visit the other two wineries…Casto and Butterfly Creek…for tastings.  If you like friendly dogs, be sure to visit Butterfly Creek, located on Triangle Road on the way to Yosemite, just east of town.

All Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting can take you on 1 or 2 day trips down the Merced River, which is just a few miles north of town.  Yosemite is 35 miles to the east and one of the best day trips you will ever do.

Old gold towns abound in the area and are fun to explore. For a more hands-on experience, you can pan for gold at the mining museum or at Paystreak on highway 140 just west of town.  Many shops in the area also sell pieces of gold mined in the area…one mine is still operating commercially.

Not as well known as the other Gold Rush towns farther up highway 49, Mariposa will give you that Gold Rush feeling without being overwhelmed by tourists. Give it a try next time you’re headed towards Yosemite…we think you’ll end up in love with it like we are.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Caregiver Chronicles: In Praise of the Mighty McNugget

One of our duties as caregivers is feeding. Tim is very limited in his ability to feed himself so Letty and I have to step in to do it.  It's not because Tim has a special diet, it's because of his limited motor skills that he has problems using utensils and keeping the food either on the plate or in his mouth instead of everywhere else.

We've graded each food on how easy it is to feed, hot dogs, penne, and macaroni are among foods that are easy. Burgers, depending on how elaborate the toppings are can be easy or a pain in the ass.

God forbid if Tim wants to eat a chili cheese burger.

The Holy Grail, however, are the foods that Tim can feed himself.

Not too messy finger foods, like grapes or fries, can be handled by him. I can cut up a banana or an apple and he can also feed himself using a special OXO grip fork we have for him.

For breakfast, I'll alternate between a banana, apple, grapes, or maybe another seasonal fruit put in a little compote bowl for him where I can just sit it on the table and let him go to town (Tim's never been a big breakfast person so he doesn't eat or care for the egg dishes I cook).

Sunday, in particular, is a day I like to take it easy.  Of course, that's a relative term around here.  On the Day of Rest, I still have to cook two meals, feed him dinner, get him dressed, help him with his bathrooming, put him in his recliner for his evening relaxing time in front of the TV, get him undressed and put him back in bed (yes, that's the easy day...).

Since I'm trying to relax and take it easy, Sunday is also a lunch treat for Tim and myself.  I'll go get him the ultimate feed-yourself lunch...a chicken nugget meal from one of our local fast food restaurants.

The nuggets are the perfect size for Tim to pick up, dip in the sauce, eat, have a few fries, and wash it down with a strategically placed soda and straw.

For those fifteen minutes, I'm in my happy place where Tim can do something for himself and I can have a little time to not worry about it.

Yes, I will always praise the Mighty McNugget for the small weekly break it gives me.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved