Monday, November 1, 2021

~ The White Line ~




"It's never crowded along the extra mile." Wayne Dyer.




My jacket goes with me everywhere.
Thanks, Anthony's for the quality repair of my zipper for this trip.
Greg, your extra effort means a great deal.



There I am, peacefully riding my motorcycle across the wide-open roads of New Mexico. The speed limit on this two-lane road is 65 miles per hour. There is very little traffic so I'm not particularly concerned by the semi-truck heading towards me. It was merely 100 feet from me when the nightmare unfolded.




Highway 60 pointing towards La Joya, NM.



The white line saved me.





A sedan, directly behind the eighteen-wheeler, abruptly begins to pass the big rig. I'm terrified. "Didn't the driver see me?" I ride with bright lights during the daylight. Moments seem like minutes then everything appears in slow motion.


The semi-truck driver drastically veers to the far right and blows its horn to warn the passing car. I move over within inches of the shoulder. The passing-car driver appears frozen, unable to slow down or speed up in the face of danger. I see the terror in her eyes. 


Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the white line.


The white line saved me.


While taking driver’s ed in high school, my teacher offered this driving tip. “If you are ever blinded at night by the headlights of an approaching vehicle, look down at the white line for balance.” It wasn’t at night, but in the blink of an eye, I saw the white line. I steered my motorcycle alongside the white line, precariously near the soft shoulder. The car, within inches, passed an instant directly between the semi-truck and my motorcycle.


Life is a journey, and for me, never about the destination.


My mantra “The Wind, the Open Road, and My Motorcycle,” is a constant in my pursuit of wildness.


It’s been about 1,100 miles since leaving Three Rivers, CA and I love the wide-open vistas as I continue my journey towards my birth village — La Joya, New Mexico.


There is a poem by Robert J. Hastings that has always rung true for me. I love it and share it with you.


I thought about shortening his poem for this article but after the “white line episode,” it wouldn’t be right:



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



The Station

By Robert J. Hastings




Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We're traveling by train, and from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of valleys, of city skylines and village halls.


But uppermost in our minds is our final destination -- for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the station with bells ringing, flags waving and bands playing.  And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true.  So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.


"Yes, when we reach the station, that will be it!" we promise ourselves.  "When we're 18 ... win that promotion ... put that last kid through college ... buy that 450 SL Mercedes-Benz...pay off the mortgage...have a nest egg for retirement. From that day on, we will all live happily ever after.


Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all.  The journey is the joy.  The station is an illusion -- it constantly outdistances us.  Yesterday's a memory; tomorrow's a dream.  Yesterday belongs to history; tomorrow belongs to God.  Yesterday's a fading sunset; tomorrow's a faint sunrise.  Only today is there light enough to love and live.


So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away.  It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather the regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow.


"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24:  "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad of it."


So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.  Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars.  Laugh more and cry less.  Go barefoot more often.  Eat more ice cream.  Ride more merry-go-rounds.  Watch more sunsets.  Life must be lived as we go along.  The Station will come soon enough.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




The adventure begins as I cross the Colorado River from California into Arizona.




Paying respects to a fallen biker along Highway 66, near Kingman, AZ.
The full story about Danny Cypert, Mile Marker 88 at My Motorcycle Tales.com.




Historic Route 66, Williams, AZ.



It's getting dark when I see a small grocery store near a place called Forest Lakes, AZ. I'm concerned with the many puddles of water everywhere. It is not safe to continue forward as evening brings out the deer and elk. 

The country store is about to close, so I quickly buy my supplies for tonight's dinner. "Ma'am, I see water puddles everywhere. Do you think it will rain tonight?" She rings up my supplies then thoughtfully replies. "I don't think so. Last night, it rained hard along with golf ball hail and it got pretty cold. On your motorcycle, you should take care." 

Ok, that concerned me as I headed off to find a cozy spot on USFS land for the night. The wet ground makes it hard work to get a fire started. My dinner, beef stew and soda crackers, is perfect. 

I usually don’t pack a tent but the weather, on an October ride, can be unpredictable. It is surprisingly warm inside the tent.

During the night, I hear in the distance a loud coughing sound that awakens me. "It's likely a deer, elk, or bear," I tell myself, half asleep. In the morning while sipping on hot coffee, I hear the coughing sound again. The sound comes from a nearby meadow and there in the distance, peacefully grazing are three free-roaming horses. One has coughs and the mystery is solved.



This mess kit was given to me by Vince Roleter who used it in WWII.
Once he heard about my adventures, he knew the perfect gift.
He lived a full 95 years in Three Rivers.




Dispersed camping near Forest Lakes, AZ.
The night temperature dipped to 32 degrees.




Karl Guthe Jansky, Very Large Array (VLA) near Magdalena, NM.




Historic Boys Ranch sign.
6 miles to La Joya, NM.





I was born in the village of La Joya along the Rio Grande in New Mexico.
La Joya, like a magnet, is always pulling me back to my roots.





I was born in this adobe house built by our dad, Sebastian Griego.
Our mom, Nancy Moya Griego raised Paula, Leo, and Robert Griego here.
Today, we camp directly behind this open door.
We call it, Jewels Camp.



Robert Griego at home in La Joya, NM.



Ready to enjoy breakfast, La Joya style.
Our family friend, Stanley Esquibel warms up the stove.
We feast on spam, eggs, tortillas, green chile, and coffee.




Stanley Esquibel at his home in La Joya, NM.



Love the artwork in Mountainair, NM.




Abó Ruins, NM.
The full article, Abó Ruins
 at RoadRUNNER Magazine.





I love El Morro National Monument in northwest New Mexico.
The full article, El Morro National Monument at RoadRUNNER Magazine.





El Morro National Monument in the evening.



It's hard leaving the Land of Enchantment and the clear blue skies over New Mexico. I think quite a bit about The Station as I brace for heavy rains across Arizona back to California.


The journey continues.



Friday, October 1, 2021

~ The Bixby Bridge ~


"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." - Jacques Cousteau.


Favorite motorcycle rides are precious, and for me, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) along some of California's most rugged and beautiful coastlines is it -- Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, San Simeon, and Morro Rock -- a buck-list-ride to be treasured.

I've never camped here before but it is a perfect spot to stop for the night after leaving Three Rivers, CA for Monterey. There are twelve primitive camping sites at Los Banos Creek Reservoir State Park just off Highway 152. Site number 12 sits near the lake and appears to be a quiet spot. 

There is no cell reception. I hike up the ridge some 100 yards to see if there is a signal. There are two bars. Later, I would climb this ridge many times for the signal needed to send messages across the airwaves to Denise.


Campsite No. 12.


I'm not a dog lover but his sad eyes tell me that he is hungry as he slowly walks towards my campsite. I had seen him earlier licking a piece of discarded paper that must have had the scent of food still on it. I offer him a granola bar and it is gone within seconds. The hollow stare pleads for more. In my saddlebag, there are two cans of sardines meant for lunch. It is an easy decision. He licked the oil with gusto and then feasts on the sardines. Satisfied, he laid down and the hungry glare was gone. I later saw him chasing a dove and then a squirrel with renewed energy.

The moon is peeking at me as I start a fire for company. The splash of a fish in the lake catching a tasty fly breaks the silence. I'm not sure why but cell reception pops up and I talk with Denise. 

Tomorrow, I'm off for Monterey and the infamous Bixby Bridge.


Los Banos Creek Reservoir.


ON TO THE BIXBY BRIDGE

The curves come quickly. The ocean breeze hangs over the ocean like a soft blanket. My bike leans left, right, then left again. All in perfect rhythm. The view towards the ocean is mesmerizing.


Pacific Coast Highway.

There have been major repairs along the Pacific Highway south of Big Sur. I begin to frequently see other bikers, a sight that never gets old. The Bixby Bridge is a must-stop for pictures. If you walk across the road to the east, you'll be rewarded with unique vistas of the bridge. 

I stay here for a good hour absorbing the moment before continuing south on towards San Simeon. I stop frequently at overlooks and gaze out to sea.


Historic Bixby Bridge est. 1932.




Bixby Bridge.




View of the Bixby Bridge across the road to the east.


 

Incredible views continually stop me.




Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.




The ocean views are mesmerizing.




Hearst Castle is nearby.



Off to San Simeon State Park, Washburn Campground.




Best pizza in Cambria.



Sea Lions are a must.




Morro Bay at sunset.




Thursday, July 22, 2021

~ Our Desert Jewels SADDLEBACK BUTTE STATE PARK ~








Our Desert Jewels

SADDLEBACK BUTTE STATE PARK

Text: Robert Griego
Photography: Denise and Robert Griego





The desert comes alive as the sun dips below the horizon. The silhouette of the Joshua Trees paints surreal images. I’ve always loved the high desert – this is our first visit to Saddleback Butte State Park. 

The new campground host warmly welcomes us: “I just arrived last week and I’m settling into my job but if you need anything, please let me know. I’ll be going into Lake Los Angeles for groceries — about four miles away.” Her name was Lori, and she smiled when we said that our daughter is also named Lori. Kind words from a stranger set the stage for a memorable visit to this unique State Park in the Antelope Valley. 


Welcome!

There are two routes to Saddleback Butte – from either the campground or the picnic area. The picnic area route called the Little Butte Trail is a bit longer, but spectacular and a 2/12 mile round-trip. It’s best to hike in the evening or early morning. 

We select the picnic route in the cooler evening. We stop frequently for pictures of the sweeping desert vistas. Along the sandy trail, we see hundreds of tiny animal tracks that likely came by last night. The far-reaching vistas are rewarding as we allow our imagination to wander. The giant Joshua Trees, with sweeping arms, encourage us further. 


Soft evening sun, perfect for hiking.


Majestic Joshua Trees.



Hiking on the Little Butte Trail.


The desert is alive at night.



Saddleback Butte summit is near.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
- John Muir.

 





These desert views are memorizing.


I love the desert full of wonder as we take deliberate steps towards Saddleback Butte. Scientists say that this area was once a massive lake with creatures from a period long ago. Now, that has my imagination running wild as we move forward in the warm sand. 



One feels connected to nature.

I’m a country-western music fan at heart. With each step along the sandy trail, I hear and begin to hum the lyrics to the song, “Cool Water” by Marty Robbins: “…Keep a-movin, Dan, dontcha listen to him, Dan. He’s a devil, not a man. He spreads the burning sand with water. Dan, can ya see that big, green tree? Where water’s runnin’ free. And it’s waitin’ there for me and you...? 

A Roadrunner breaks my concentration as it darts in a flash after a lizard or mouse. As the temperatures drop, the desert comes alive. Nature takes center stage.


Priceless views abound.

The summit is within reach and the sweeping views push us further. It’s not a hard trail but it is work as the sandy trail slows us down. Think about walking on a sandy ocean beach and you’ll get the idea – great exercise. We’ve never been here before and the 360-degree panoramic vistas are breathtaking. 

The view of the valley below, framed by the towering San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains, is priceless. The cool breeze is comforting. In an odd way, I’m not eager to descend. Being able to see for 50 miles or more is rewarding. I hold my breath, breathing in the view as long as possible, before exhaling. Magical. Timeless. Thankful.


Summit views are 360.


ON TO THE “DIC”DOWN NATURE TRAIL

This handicap-accessible ½ mile trail is a must. 

It’s 2,668 feet above sea level in the high desert. My wife, Denise grabs a brochure and immediately takes charge of the tour. She is a naturalist at heart, an avid hiker, and a nature lover. “Did you know that we are walking among one of the oldest living plants on earth, the creosote bush?” was her first observation. That caught me by surprise, as I thought the giant Sequoia Trees were older. “No.” She continues reading from the park brochure: “…some creosote clone rings have been dated at almost 12,000 years, making them among the oldest living things on earth…” 

I thoroughly enjoyed this nature trail, learning more about a prehistoric lake that covered the valley 10,000 years ago. We were encouraged to imagine animals such as mammoth-like Gomphotheres, saber-tooth tigers, and dire wolves who roamed the area.

Having worked 35 ½ years for the National Park Service, I consider this one of the best nature trails in California.


The Dowen Nature Trail is a must.





Views of Saddleback Butte from the Dowen Nature Trail are priceless.





The #6 post tells the story of the Creosote Bushes.






The Creosote Bush, one of the oldest living plants on earth.




Creosote Bush.



MOAH – MUSEUM OF ART & HISTORY 

I’m not an artist but I was blown away by the featured artist, Cudra Clover: Historia. This was our first visit to the Museum of Art & History, a prime attraction along Lancaster’s BLVD.


MOAH is a must along the BLVD.


Cudra Clover: Hysteria. Wow!


The friendly MOAH staff explains the art.


Cudra Clover is a mind-blowing amazing artist.


Love her free-spirited art.



PRIME DESERT WOODLAND PRESERVE

The Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, within minutes of downtown Lancaster, is ideal for families wanting to learn about the animals, plants, or simply to enjoy nature. This nature trail flows along nearly three miles of trails among Joshua Trees. The preserve encompasses an area of more than 120 acres of a desert landscape. I loved the nature quotes along the trail, by the likes of John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, and other conservationists. 

It is a great place to introduce kids to the wonder of nature and capture amazing Joshua Tree photographs along the trail



Welcome to the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve.


It's a great family trail.



We love all the conservation quotes.



TOWNE PLACE SUITES 

There are ample places to spend the night in Lancaster. Tonight, after a long day of hiking and sightseeing,  we select the Marriott TownePlace Suites. 

It’s attractive, spacious, centrally located, and staffed with people who speak friendly.  We select their dinner recommendation – Complexity Restaurant. It is within walking distance. It’s nice to not have to drive to an exceptional, dining experience. I loved the fish dinner as we sampled their fine wines.

Lancaster, CA surrounded by some awesome State Parks is more than a place on a map - it’s a destination.


TownPlace Suites are beautiful accommodation.



OK, I'm envious as this H-D biker arrives from Arizona.


OVERVIEW: PLANNING YOUR VISIT

Saddleback Butte State Park, established in 1960 to protect the butte and examples of native Joshua Trees and other plants and animals is located in beautiful Southern California, 70 miles north of Los Angeles, and a hop-skip-and-jump from Lancaster, CA – 17 miles east on 170th Street East, between East Avenue J and East Avenue K.

Saddleback Butte (3,651 feet) in the western Mojave Desert overlooks an alluvial plain that has been used by indigenous people for at least 10,000 years. Imagine huge lakes that covered large portions of the AntelopeValley.


THINGS TO DO

The best time to visit is in the spring or fall. The sun can be intense in the desert so always carry water, bring a hat, snacks, and the park brochure that contains a map.

Activities: Visitor Center, picnicking, hiking, camping, equestrian use, bird watching, star gazing, and wildflower viewing in the wetter spring months. The “Dic” Dowen Nature Trail is great for everyone, especially the elderly and children. 

Saddleback Butte Campground is first-come, first-served with 37 sites containing a table, BBQ grill, and fire ring. There is potable water and restrooms. About a mile from the campground are 27 picnic sites with great shaded ramadas, tables, barbecue grills, potable water, and restrooms. Our cell phone reception was good throughout the area.

 

HOURS

Saddleback Butte State Park is open from sunrise to sunset for day use. The campground is open 24 hours.

 

FEES

Day-use picnic parking is $6, camping is $20 ($2 senior citizen discount).


For more information, see www.parks.ca.gov