Friday, January 8, 2021

Turning the Calendar on a Most Unusual Year


What can we really say about the year that just was? 

This would usually be the time we'd present an article, or more, on the best things we saw during the past year but, let's face it, there was little to be happy about in 2020. We took only one trip since the COVID-19 lockdowns began here in Californa...a four day getaway to Oregon in the fall...when things looked better and restrictions were loosened for a bit.

Other than that, it's been mostly stay at home save for an occasional foray out to have a picnic, take a hike, or just a drive to get out of the house.

Luckily, we had the foresight to move to our favorite vacation area so our days out are kind of like going on vacation and, up here in the Sierra Foothills, the restrictions have been just a little looser than they are in tightly-locked down Southern California where we came from.

Still, what a year...


Who knew that a trip to Costco would be a day out we'd look forward to? Instead of going out for a weekend getaway, a trip down the hill to stock up on toilet paper would make a great change of pace from looking at these four walls.


And what was that with the run on toilet paper? Who knew it would become such a game and challenge to keep stocked up. I even saw advice online as to the best, shall we say "wiping strategies", to make sure you didn't use too much.


We even drove over the mountains one day to shop the Costco and Trader Joe's in Nevada (a 2 hour drive each way) just so we could have some scenery and a day out. Also, we could pick up about 2 months worth of supplies so we didn't have to go out so much.

Speaking of shortages, there were some other weird ones. Like many people, my wife increased her bread baking many fold, making 3 or 4 loaves of sourdough per week. As the shopper of the family, I'd go out with instructions to pick up bread baking supplies for her. Then, it was a game of what I could get.

Flour was almost non-existent for awhile. Then, I could find all-purpose but not bread flower. Unbleached wheat flour would be out conveniently when she needed it. The flour supply would correct itself and then I couldn't find yeast.

Eggs would be unavailable and then the next week, there'd be a glut. Soda...especially diet...would be problematic. We drink Coke Zero, diet Sunkist, and diet 7-Up.  Each would go through periods of being unavailable and we'd substitute root beer, ginger ale, and more.

Chips went through phases. I like Fritos but they're too salty for me. Luckily, there's a low sodium version...which suddenly became unavailable. Tortilla chips would be substituted.


It was a strange year for shortages and, suddenly, I felt like I lived in 1970's eastern Europe.


Cooking at home became the standard. Before the pandemic, we'd cook about 3 days a week and eat out or get take out the rest of the week. Now, we're challenging ourselves as to how many days in a row we can make our own dinner before we break down and get restaurant food. I think our record is now 6 days in a row...we got to the point of calling our kitchen the Lockdown Diner.

I've always enjoyed going for a walk, even when the only place to stroll was through downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row. I've amped that up a bit doing at least 3 miles a day up here in the Foothills where the scenery is much nicer and the atmosphere more serene. I even get Tim to join me at least once a week. Our local paper even did a profile on me when I did an extended walk up to Sutter Creek.


Since dining rooms have closed and, at times, even outdoor dining was banned, we would take the opportunity to go up to the mountains and have a picnic. Even that was a challenge at time as the state would shut down parks and discourage even outdoor activities. Thankfully, that is no longer the case although outdoor dining at a restaurant is still banned in most of the state.

Even with our lockdowns...and California had some of the strictest...our Covid numbers went up, especially towards the end of the year. A new scheme was instituted where the state was divided up into five regions. When the ICU capacity would drop below 15%, the region would be put into a minimum of three weeks of heavy shutdown. As of this writing, four of those regions are shut down with less that 700,000 Californians free from that strict regime in the furthest northern part of the state.

It seems like the only way we can go is up especially now that vaccines have been developed and distribution has started. We'll be cautiously optimistic and we'll look back in 52 weeks and see if life has returned to normal.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

COVID 19 - Note to Our Readers

Although we here at The World on Wheels exist to promote travel, especially travel for special needs, we realize that this is NOT the time to go out and travel this fascinating world. We will still be running new posts and rotating previous posts and encourage you to enjoy vicarious travel from your armchair.

We are confident that all will be well and this will pass but, for now, please stay home and make plans for your trips after this has passed. In the meantime, please enjoy our travel posts (which have all taken place before this blew up) and stay well.

Monday, January 4, 2021

CALIFORNIA MOTHERLODE GHOST TOWNS: Hornitos



(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) 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. (Note: Manuela sadly passed away in 2018 - Ed)
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.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Cocktail Hour - Martini

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Ken30684 under CC-BY license

Gin or vodka...a classic martini.  Sometime in the 19th century, probably in New York, someone put some gin into a glass of Martini vermouth and the martini cocktail was born.  I'm not a real fan, can have one in a pinch, but I dig the fantasy of having your wife waiting at the door when I get home from work with a cold, stiff, drink. 


Watch the Video!

My wife can't take gin too well, so we'll be doing it with vodka.  If you like gin, just substitute for the vodka.

MARTININI - 1 drink

2 oz. vodka or gin
spray of olive oil spray
1 olive
1/2 oz dry vermouth

Fill a shaker at least half full of crushed ice.  Put a quick spray, very light, of olive oil on the ice.  Pour in the vermouth.  Shake and strain out...we just want to coat the ice with vermouth and olive oil.  Pour the vodka or gin in the shaker, strain into a chilled cocktail glass with the olive on the bottom.

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Cheers!

Darryl