December in the Desert 

We had a break from our library performances in December, so we decided to take some time to see the deserts in southern California / Nevada. The contrasts, colors, geology & desert plants reveal a stark & prickly beauty.

Hiking in these deserts at this time of year has been really incredible.... showing us how diverse & beautiful the desert can be. 
We even saw our first tarantula in nature in the desert near the Salton Sea.
In the Anza - Borrego Desert, there are 6 types of rattlesnakes. 

We've seen a few rattlers on our hikes and we are relieved that they are not at all aggressive, and will not likely bite unless closely disturbed ie: if we picked one up or stepped on one...we hope to avoid both:)
We are practicing our mindfulness meditation walking in these deserts.

Our favorite areas to hike are the slot canyons, sand dunes and in or near oasis and wetland areas.

One of our favorite oasis areas so far is China Ranch just outside the SE corner of Death Valley NP. ( )

China Ranch has a fascinating history and walks both in the oasis and in the desert outside of the oasis are incredibly beautiful with a great variety of terrain & landscapes, including a slot canyon. 

The following picture we took looks almost like a mural, but this is how it really looks when looking out towards the desert from inside the date palm groves.

There are at least 12 types of dates grown on the organic date farm at China Ranch and we sampled each and everyone...umm...delicious sweetness!
China Ranch makes the best date shakes we've ever had and taste the best after our hikes in the desert!

Just outside this oasis, the desert floor is surrounded by mountains with rock falls that are carried down to the valley floors.
The incredible range of colors in the rocks of this area are outstanding.
We learned that many folks come out to these areas to look for rocks, crystals and we met amateur to professional geologists fascinated by this area.

The Amargosa River runs through China Ranch and Tecopa.
This area is one of the few places along the Amargosa where the river is above ground, except during heavy rains and floods.
It seemed as if we had this valley to ourselves as we hiked several miles into the valley until the trail was engulfed by willows & cats claw....ouch!

We were fortunate to find a desert bungalow near the town of Tecopa, CA with the help of our friend Dana back in Boulder.

The weather became chilly in December so we are very happy to have our little bungalow to stay warm and to use as our base of operations in exploring the surrounding desert & to have a place to prepare for our upcoming performances in January.

Tecopa area has several hot spring choices from natural pools in a wetland area of the desert to the county park hot spring pools which are currently offered free to the public.  How lucky can we get?

Tecopa is a remote little town and one of the most unique towns we've been through on this journey.
There is a tiny library, and a small community center where the spotty local wifi is centered.
There is no cell coverage in this area, so this month did remind us of what it was like before all our connectivity through the internet.
Unplugging was a nice change.

The only restaurant in town is Pastel's Bistro which happens to serve up great tasting food. 
John is the Bistro's chef extraordinaire and his partner Shelley is the hostess with the mostest.
They create a homey, comfortable environment, almost as if you are coming to dinner at their home.

The Bistro is part of Tecopa Hot Springs Resort which offers lodging, hot spring soaking pools, art gallery, labyrinth, camping, hookups for travel trailers and RV's, star gazing and campfires at night. 

We played a well attended concert towards the end of our stay at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort Art Gallery.
 - this pic was taken inside the gallery before the performance.
The Gypsy Time Travelers were holed up during our time in Tecopa.
We were happy to be able to see a couple performances, and we agreed that their vehicle was way cooler than ours.

"Michel Olson and Christy Horne are the husband and wife team who have history ringing in the ears of millions of people across the USA!
They travel all across the United States in "Florence" their Recreational Castle, Blacksmith Shop and Stage Rig. 
They combine fabulous storytelling with anvil accompaniment and have created an award winning Stage Show that has been called "The Best in Family EDUTAINMENT."

We traded travel stories with Michel and just as we were leaving Tecopa, Michael came over to our van and gave us one of his lucky horseshoes he had made to carry along on our travels.  Kindred Spirits!

Tecopa Public Golf Coarse
Ken developed this spot when he could no longer afford the fees @ Pahrump Nevada's golf course.
He shares the course with anyone who would like to hit balls out into the desert, as long as they will go and retrieve out for the scorpions and snakes!

Tecopa Community Church.
Tasty selection of draft beer @ Death Valley Brewing.

We were fortunate pick up a gig at Death Valley's Inn @ Furnace Creek about 70 miles NW of Tecopa.
What a beautiful old hotel!

We were treated to a 2 night stay, including food and spirits for 2 performances.
One for the managers holiday luncheon and one for Christmas dinner.

Wow, lovely old hotel & beautiful gardens in this oasis paradise.
The historic Furnace Creek Inn was built in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company as a means to save their newly built Death Valley Railroad.
The Inn opened for business on February 1, 1927 with 12 guest rooms, a dining room and lobby area. Room rates were $10 per night and included meals.

All materials were local and workers came from around the area, including Shoshone Indians, who made the tiles for the roof of the Inn.
For us, it had the feel of Timberline Lodge, not in architecture certainly, but in the feel of the place and artisan touches.
Old rail tracks were used for much of the rod iron work made into light fixtures and beautifully designed rod iron fences.

Travertine Springs were tapped for electricity and water for the swimming pool.
The spring water is still used for irrigating the Inn’s gardens and flow-through pool.

We had this beautiful pool to ourselves.  The water reminded us of Eldorado Springs Pool back in Colorado, but warmer.
Of course we made use of the saunas right next to the pool.

After Furnace Creek Inn , we headed back to Tecopa for our last week in our desert bungalow.
We waited for the coldest morning to go to the natural hot springs just outside of Tecopa, it was 15 degrees out.
The water was nice and warm - the sunrise was beautiful, a great way to start our last day in Tecopa.
Time to move on down the road!

Happy Holidays! 

Wishing you a Joyous Holiday Season and A Very Happy and Peaceful New Year!Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley, December 25th, 2014

Ojai California 

Down the coast we went.

As the coastline becomes more populated with one town after another, we hug the coastline until we find ourselves in areas we have not traveled through previously.

We were surprised to see a number of oil rigs off the coast near Santa Barbara & the Channel Islands. 
In fact, our friends from Ojai say that the petro industry has a huge presence and long history in this area of California.  

As we leave the coastline, we head up into the rugged coastal mountains between the coast & Ojai and notice significant areas of agriculture here in the valleys and on hillsides.  

We are told that this is one of the few areas with it’s own water supply due to a good water table and lots of springs.
The town of Ojai is quite old & beautiful with mostly Spanish architecture set against mountain ranges & canyons.

We played in the tasting room of an organic vineyard, Casa Barranca, in downtown Ojai on the day we arrived in town.
We were happy to see Dana, Colleen’s niece and her friend Mike @ Casa Baranca.
They graciously hosted us for an overnight stay after our library presentation @ the Ojai library, Thanks Dana & Mike!!

During our 2 sets, there was a friendly gentleman who appeared to be an avid & appreciative music listener sitting right in front of us.
To our pleasant surprise, he happened to own the ice-cream shop right next door and his tip was to give us 2 ice-cream waffle cones whenever we chose to come in and ask for them.
Of course we took him up on it the next day - it was warm and sunny and when we were just hot enough, we walked in and ordered our waffle cones & then crossed the street to enjoy our cones in the beautiful courtyard across the street.
We also met up with Meg who is a sister to one of Chris' childhood friends.
Meg is the proprietor of  "Nutmeg's Ojai House", a very fun and interesting store with great cards, crystals, and per the stores info:  "offers American-Made, Fair Trade, Recycled, UpCycled, Spiritual, Organic, Green & "Functional Art."


Next stop - Salton Sea!


Arroyo Grande Library 

Arroyo Grande library is a beautiful library, very busy, and we played in their main room.

They have an area with comfortable big chairs in the center of the library where we performed.

We felt like we were joined in a circle with everyone as the chairs were arranged in such away that we would complete the circle with our instruments.  

This was the best set-up we’ve encountered so far.
It provided a space and intimacy for an inclusive performance, as if everyone there were part of the performance.

The librarians did a great job promoting this event as evidenced by the turn-out and enthusiasm of the folks attending.

Next stop - Ojai, California!


PIsmo Beach - Week 14, November 10th - 15th 

At this point, We still have another week before our next performance in Arroyo Grande, just east of Pismo Beach.

We were glad that an old school friend had a place in the area and had invited us to stay in their guest house.

Unfortunately, as time grew near and several attempts made to reach this friend failed, we thought, well, this is another part of the experience of being out on the road - and what could we do but go find some hot springs - just south of San Luis Obispo - near Avery Beach.  Ahhhhh - just what the doctor ordered.

Then on to Pismo Beach area where we found a place to camp for  about a week.
We found a a great camping spot with spacious campsites just south of downtown Pismo Beach at a really nice State Park called North Beach Campground.
Our spot had a short trail from our site over a low grassy sand dune which led right onto the beach. We could walk to town easily from here.  

We had stayed in Pismo Beach on another tour many years ago, and remembered we had liked this town.
We still like it!

Pismo has an air of the 50’s about it.  Lots of neon signs and some art deco styled buildings mixed in with newer buildings with Spanish architectural influence.

Pismo has a nice sandy beach, great for long walks.They have many affordable restaurants, wide streets with lots of room for bicyclists and pedestrians.
We walked on nice boardwalks over sand dunes and into groves of coastal eucalyptus.

We were fortunate to see hundreds if not thousands of Monarch Butterflies clustered and hanging off the Eucalyptus leaves which they use for protection from the wind and colder weather.

We learned from a State Park Volunteer that Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountain Range overwinter in California along the coast. There are many roost sites along the California coast. The coastal forests provide a similar microhabitat to the mountains in Mexico where the monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains overwinter.We learned that the west coast Monarchs are not as threatened as Monarchs which migrate up from Mexico east of the Rocky Mountains.

Our week in Pismo seemed to go by quickly as we prepared to leave for our next performance.
But before moving on, another observation since being in California.

We’ve noticed through California that there are still a lot of folks camping in tents compared to anywhere else we have been.  Maybe it’s the better & generally warmer weather, but we have seen more tent campers than RV’s in many areas.

It’s been heartening to see young people i.e. college age students and young families out there setting up their tents, cooking over camp stoves and kids playing in the great outdoors with no cell phones, computers or such to distract them.


South of Big Sur 

Heading out of Big Sur we came to an area where several cars were pulled off Hwy 1 viewing ‘something’ on the beach & in the water.
We decided we wanted to see what was up, so we pulled off the road into a small parking area above a narrow beach and, woooo, here’s what we saw:

The ones snoozing on the beach appear to be quite lazy, but we learned that most of the time, elephant seals are in the water and working very hard to catch their food.  The snoozing on the beach is needed to rest up to go back at their way of living.  Male elephant seals are much larger than the females and they make deep — guttural sounds.

Hunted nearly to extinction for their oil-rich blubber, elephant seals have made a remarkable comeback. Protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, they are expanding their range outward from remote islands and are now colonizing selected mainland beaches such as Piedras Blancas in the southern range of Big Sur, near San Simeon.

Elephant seals come ashore and form colonies for only a few months of each year to give birth, breed, and molt. The rest of the year the colonies disperse and individuals spend most of their time in pursuit of food, a quest which involves swimming thousands of miles and diving to great depths.

For more info elephant seals, check out the following link:


Big Sur 

We headed down highway 1 into the Big Sur coastline of central!

We've driven through Big Sur a couple times in the past, but did not take the time to fully immerse ourselves in this wild part of the California Coast.
This part of the coast is even more dramatic than the northern coastline along Hwy 1.

We spent 5 days camping our way down this coast and spent our 1st night in a pull - out along Highway 1.
We had been informed by a retired trucker that this is allowed along this section of coastline and 'relatively safe'.

We had one of our best nights camping along the coast with an awesome view of the ocean.
The evening was warm, no wind and as we had prepared to be out for several days, our food selection on this 1st night was close to gourmet.

We listened to music into the night from Chris' carefully selected tunes & compositions. ( Now numbering into the thousands:) 
This music is stored on a hard drive we carry with us.  On some evenings, the random selections seem to be a perfectly planned sets of music as one piece flows into another.

Heading on down the coast the next day, we stopped at one of the few Inns along this part of the coast.
Lucia Lodge.  These little cottages hug the cliff a few hundred feet above the ocean.

The day was brilliant and warm.  We talked with a couple folks who work there and they asked if we would like to play on their deck in the afternoon in exchange for dinner and drinks.  "YES", we said, "of course! " What a day it was.  And their food was exceptional.

We also met a a group of people either taking part in and or supporting a bike ride from Canada to the tip of Baja to raise awareness for a specific child developmental disability.
We turned down another invitation to play the next day to spend a day in the area of Kirk Creek where we were camped.
Kirk Creek Campground is right above the ocean, each site is spacious, some are very private, and all have great views of the ocean.

Our last stop in Big Sur was @ Plaskett Creek - we camped here for a couple nights and had great access to the beach and nice hiking along their headlands.
The person who camped next to us had just taken his first solo hang gliding flight.

He told us he was a bit nervous because he had just completed his hang gliding lessons the previous weekend where he had witnessed another hang glider fall to his death while testing a proto type of a smaller hang glider.

We actually saw our neighbor on his first solo flight gliding above us while we were out taking a walk on the headlands.

It turns out that he has a program on TV with his brother which is partly sponsored by Disney & National Geographic.

The program is called "Motion"  "Motion started when two unlikely worlds came together. Two brothers with completely different backgrounds -- one was a TV producer and photographer and the other was a pro-mountain guide -- created a unique kind of outdoor show that captured America's wild places."

We were able to take a look at a couple programs - and really enjoyed them. 
If you would like to take a look, go to:

Headlands near Plaskett Creek


Cesar Chavez Library - November 4th, 2014 

Caesar Chavez Library, Salinas California

Before heading down the Central Coast on Highway 1 through Big Sur, we went inland to Salinas to play @ the Cesar Chavez Library.
This library is more modern and architecturally more interesting than the other libraries we’ve played in.

The library is packed with kids & adults and seemed like a beehive of activity.
Most folks here speak Spanish, so we felt a bit ill-prepared to offer a relevant program.

Our listeners were mostly from the after school program, kids about 6-12 and a few mom’s and a college student writing a  review of this performance. 
( hmmm, we wonder what she wrote: )

The kids always love the improv of Gary Snyder’s poem “Wave”, especially with Chris on box drum and the part about “racing zebras”.

There were also some great questions asked about the instruments, the vibes in particular.
Most folks everywhere we have been do not seem to know what the vibes are.  
Most seem to know about the xylophone and and some know about the marimba, but not the vibes.
This gives Chris a chance to talk about these instruments and distinguish one from the other. ( he loves this )

During the performance, some kids giggled, but a few were so intent in their listening and response to the music through their body movements.

Chris can rarely look up from the vibes to see responses, but Colleen always loves watching the uninhibited responses of children and could see that a few of these kids were blossoming musicians and or dancers. ( perhaps poets too! )


San Francisco Bay Area  

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco always feels great!

We played 3 libraries in the Bay area, 2 in Santa Rosa, the Downtown & NW Regional Library and  one library in Pacifica CA which is just south of San Francisco along the ocean.

Central Santa Rosa Library - Downtown

Pacifica Library

NW Regional Library - we played in the Children's Section:) Wonderful responses and questions from all libraries!

In 1986, we lived a short while in Bolinas, but we made life long friends here, one of whom we stayed with while in Bolinas - thanks Jim!

Folks who live in Bolinas are proud to take down the town's sign, hoping that people will not find the town.
There is a good chance for that to happen since you need to take a road off Hwy 1 which is not that easy to find if one is unfamiliar with the area.

Scenes from Bolinas

Humans in the back row left to right: Jim,Colleen & Chris, Front Row, Stella & Rain, in front of Jim's guest cottage.
We loved staying here, sharing many meals with Jim and taking walks daily, often times with our sweet dog companions. Jim's dog Stella is cousin to our son's dog Charile.  Charlie comes to "camp Jim's" to spend time in paradise, free to run and play with Stella.   Much reminiscing went on over a couple weeks about the 'olden days' and life in Bolinas.  

Jim is a master wood worker / artist & builder.  We hope someday, when the time is right, he may agree to complete the inside of our van with galley kitchen, cupboards and special touches that Jim brings to his artisan work. So, what will it take Jim?  How many meals??

Highway 1 - Northern California Coast 

Highway 1

One of our favorite roads to travel in the US is Highway 1 along the rugged & beautiful California coastline.

The northern part of Hwy 1 starts in Legget California and heads west winding it’s way through the hills and beautiful northern California forest before reaching the coast at which point it turns south, closely hugging the Pacific.

For those who have the time, are willing to drive slow and are looking to be out of range of cell towers and wifi….this is the road for you.

The California Coastline along Highway 1 is spectacular, wild & mostly an unpopulated area through the northern California Coastline.
The exception to this is the San Francisco area.

Sometimes these areas will take ones breath away, from both the spectacular views / scenery, but also the steep, high cliffs and narrow, windy road which seems to take up much of this coastline.

The road follows the contours of the land, so every inlet needs to be gone around, i.e. no overpasses or straightened roadway.

Every river crossing means coming down off the cliffs, winding down to the river and crossing a small bridge before going up the other side, winding your way up and around the next series of rocky precipices.

For those afraid of heights, we would recommend not taking this road.

Most of the little towns which dot Hwy 1 can be quite quaint and unique with a rich history.
One of our favorite little towns along Hwy 1 in northern California is Point Arena.

The day we drove into Point Arena, we stopped on their main street ( one block long there abouts ) to admire the old architecture, character and quaintness of this little town.

We parked in front of a sweet little pub named after it's address: "215 Main". 
There was a closed sign on the door, but Colleen decided to have a look at the menu and to see what it looked like inside.
As she was leaning against the front door, the door opened and she stumbled into the pub.

“Can I help you?” a very kind voice asked.

Colleen apologized for ‘breaking in’ in such a manner and introduced herself & Chris to Barbara who asked where we were traveling from and what we were doing.

We gave her the short version of our travels & playing music in libraries around the west, and Barbara quickly asked if we would like to play at the pub later in the afternoon / evening.  We asked if dinner may be a possibility, and she said sure, and added to drinks would be thrown in.  

The food was delicious and choice of California wines were exceptional and greatly appreciated.
215 Main is a Primal Mates pick for best pub!

Before we left the pub, Barbara invited us to stay in her guest room for the night in her house up on the hill.
( Her house was truly a lovely old, craftsman style bungalow with beautiful gardens & privacy.
It was another nice respite from camping and we thank Barbara for being such a kind, welcoming spirit in this world. )

Across the street from the pub was the old beautiful refurbished Point Arena Theater.
A few musicians invited us over to play at their jam session after playing at the pub.
We were completely awestruck by the beauty of the interior of this little theater.

Etched glass with scenes from the town, back lit to provide lighting on the stairs going up to the balcony along with many other pieces of artwork on the walls.  An airiness & beauty of the theater surpassed any previous theater going experience.

So, we most heartily give a thumbs up to the Point Arena Theater and are happy for the local musicians to have such a beautiful and inclusive place to play. 

Point Arena Pier

Point Arena Lighthouse, north of town.

Moving on down the coast, the following site took us by surprise!

This obelisk seemed to be reaching towards heaven, crowned by the sun!

Looking south from the Obelisk

What does it all mean?

Searching back in our memories and looking on the map, we remembered that this is named Bufano's Obelisk in the Timber Cove area of the Sonoma Coast.

The information below is from a Sonoma County website:

"Also known as “Madonna of Peace” and “The Expanding Universe,” the 93-foot sculpture dominates the cliff to such a degree that it’s visible far down the highway and from all nearby beaches and bluffs. The work is made of concrete, mosaic tile, redwood and lead.

Bufano started working on the obelisk in May, 1962, a few months before the Cuban missile crisis galvanized the world.
The reality of Soviet and American ballistic missiles poised for global war doubtless influenced the look of the sculpture (which does, indeed, resemble a huge missile). But Bufano’s missile—decorated as it is with the Madonna and child and topped by a huge open and welcoming hand—is all about peace and world harmony."

Our kinda guy!

- See more at: