For years, my husband and I denied ourselves the opportunity to go to rock concerts. We had small children with busy schedules and demanding jobs. One day we realized that our children no longer needed us and our jobs were not as time-consuming as they once were. We decided to go to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Fresno because it was inexpensive and nearby. This unleashed a desire to see more of our favorite bands, especially since most of them are aging and we don’t know how much longer they’ll be performing. Here is our rock odyssey over the past year or so with highlights from each one. They are in no particular order.
Greta Van Fleet
We were driving home from dinner and an unfamiliar song came on the radio. My husband asked me to Shazam it. It was Heat Above by Greta Van Fleet. Never heard of them. My husband often listens to music while he’s working and began playing their songs until we pretty much knew most of them. Turned out they were on tour and would be in nearby Sacramento, California soon. We bought tickets and secured a room at a nearby hotel. As we came down to the lobby to walk to the Golden 1 Center, we were shocked to see several other people in the lobby who were also preparing to go to the performance. How did we know? The band had produced a video of Heat Above (linked above) where they were all dressed in drag. The hotel lobby was filled with women dressed similarly. As a marketer, I began to analyze the demographics of the concert goers and realized that, while there were many our age, there were an equal number of young girls and women as well. This band transcended age more than any I had seen previously.
The concert was good. The lead singer, Josh Kiszka, has a voice that is instantly recognizable. To hear the nuances in his vocal gymnastics is the lure for us. The volume of the concert was so loud that it distorted his voice, and his unique sound was lost. Disappointing, but still a good concert. Their showmanship was simple compared to what we’re used to seeing, but we weren’t there for that. I assume that as they get more experience performing, they’ll be able to improve their sound and visual issues.
When lead singer Steve Perry could no longer sing as expected, many counted Journey as defunct. However, a Filipino singer named Arnel Pineda caught the attention of the band when he recorded covered Journey songs. In 2007 he became the new lead singer and has toured with the band ever since. Not bad for a kid that was homeless at the age of 13. Can you imagine what it must be like to go from homeless to international rock star?
Their concert in Fresno, California was sold out, especially because former lead singer Perry was from Hanford, California, only a few miles from the venue. Pineda did a good job sounding similar to the original recordings, but not quite. Still, it was a good concert and nice to hear the beloved songs. The synergy between Pineda and the original Journey band members didn’t seem to be there, but whatever.
One of my husband’s two favorite bands is The Cure. I didn’t know a thing about them so was just along for the ride. He knew this tour was going to sell out quickly so both of us manned our computers and prepared to attempt to secure tickets. Within minutes the only tickets available were in New Orleans, Louisiana. We got them and didn’t care that they were in the nosebleed section of the venue. I spent the next few days creating a complimentary itinerary of the area including flights, hotel and excursions. We were all set. Weeks later, The Cure added more concert places and dates, one being in Mountain View, California – only three hours from our home. We could drive up and back on the same day. We once again manned our computers and snagged great seats in the front row of the second tier in what turned out to be handicapped access (unbeknownst to us until we arrived). We had plenty of room and an unimpeded view. It took hours to unravel our New Orleans plans. Thanks to Lead Singer Robert Smith’s stance that there be no dynamic pricing, Ticketmaster allowed for reselling of tickets at the original price minus a small fee. We were successful in selling them at almost the same price that we had paid.
I don’t dislike alternative music, but it’s not my favorite. Robert Smith was intriguing. His unique flamboyant style is entertaining, and his voice has a unique, plaintive sound. Many people dressed in signature Smith-style attire. Most of them were older people. I found it amusing to see older people dressed in 80’s punk garb, many not even able to walk or use stairs easily. My husband was on cloud 9 with a decades-old bucket list item now in the books. @TheCure #TheCure
U2 at Sphere
In 2017 I purchased tickets to the U2 Joshua Tree concert in San Diego, California as a gift for my husband. U2 is tied with The Cure as his favorite band. He absolutely did not want to go. He didn’t want to drive there, take off work, or incur the expense of travel, food and lodging. I tried to sell the tickets on Craig’s List. I only had one person interested, but he only wanted to purchase one ticket, which I agreed to since some money back was better than none.
On the evening of the concert, I began receiving text messages from the buyer. He was at the concert and realized that he had paid more for the ticket than face value. I tried to explain that face value is if you purchased at the venue, not if you use a third party such as Ticketmaster. During and after the concert he continued to text me, his messages becoming more and more aggressive and finally threatening to have me charged with a crime. The next day I sent him a copy of my receipt showing that he paid what I had paid. His response, ‘then we’re both stupid.’ I wish I would have had the Ticketmaster resale option for this one!
Since then, my husband has been remorseful that we didn’t go. When it was announced that U2 was going to perform at Sphere in Las Vegas, he was committed that we would go. Once again, we manned our computers and were successful in securing tickets to one of the first few shows. We’ve never paid so much for a concert as we did for this one. With the high demand, nearly all Las Vegas prices were jacked up. The least expensive item was our flight tickets for three (one of our sons came with us to experience Sphere).
The Sphere spectacle did not disappoint. To read more about the concert itself, refer to my October Blog on the experience. We decided that if we had gone to their San Diego concert years ago, we wouldn’t have travelled to Las Vegas and subsequently missed out on Sphere, which was amazing. Seeing an amazing band in a state-of-the-art venue made it one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had.
Queen + Adam Lambert
Bohemian Rhapsody is one of my favorite songs of all time. When Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury, died of AIDS in 1991, Queen’s touring days were over. That is, until Adam Lambert appeared on American Idol. Lambert’s voice was powerful enough to do justice to Mercury’s songs. We saw them in concert at the Chase Center in San Francisco. The sold-out concert atmosphere was palpable. Lambert’s wardrobe changes make any diva’s look amateurish. His flamboyance emulated Mercury’s. Great concert all the way around.
We also noted that their stage visuals were excellent, almost as good as Sphere’s, which prior to the Queen show I would have thought impossible.
Now on a concert roll, we decided to travel to Paso Robles for a Styx concert at the California Mid-State Fair. While not big fans of fairs, we were surprised at the crowd there. By far, most wore cowboy boots and hats. I would expect to see this in Texas, but not in California! I guess I don’t know as much about this state as I thought.
The stage is outdoors in what appears to be an arena, maybe designed for bull riding. In the middle there are tables which you reserve in advance. Many of the tables are theme-decorated by the host of the table. It would be fun to reserve a table, trick it out and invite your friends to come with you. It’s obvious that this is a time-honored tradition here. I’ll have to remember this for the future.
It was nice to listen to their music with a light breeze and a starlight sky. We were in bleachers which were a bit uncomfortable and somewhat difficult to get in and out of, but the band made the jaunt and steel seats worth it.
This is a cover band for Pink Floyd. My husband is a veteran, and free tickets are offered to vets via the website Vettix.org. Since the concert was local and the tickets were free, we decided to go. Never going to a cover band concert, our expectations were low, but we love Pink Floyd music.
We were pleasantly surprised at how good the band was. If the original and the cover band’s music were presented to me side by side, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So happy we went! Thanks @VetTix!
This concert was held in Fresno’s Grizzlies Stadium. We wouldn’t’ have gone if it wasn’t so close and the tickets were so reasonably priced. We enjoyed their Southern rock music with popular songs like Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama and Simple Man.
Our 23-year-old came along. Later, we realized that he had added their music to his play list, which was a pleasant surprise. Maybe we've got a young rocker after all.
Don Felder from Eagles
The best and most surprising part of the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert was the appearance of Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles. One of my favorite songs is Hotel California, which he sang. I would have gone to an Eagles concert just to hear that song. Now, I didn’t have to. I was glowing for days. That I could experience the song live, unexpectedly and so close to home was truly a gift.
Leonid & Friends World’s Greatest Chicago Tribute
To be honest, we wouldn’t have gone to this cover band concert but for our wonderful experience with Brit Floyd. They were good, but not great. The brass, of course, made the performance. To my surprise, the Visalia Fox Theater appeared to be sold out. We had front row seats and they played all of the Chicago’s greatest hits except the one I wanted to hear the most; ‘Color my World.’ Oh well, for the price, it was a lovely night out.
Looking back on our parade of concerts, I do have some overall observations:
Many bands had solo performances from either the drummer or guitarist. This is fine but I felt they were too long and self-indulgent.
Opening bands are unnecessary. Except in rare cases, the audience is there for the lead act. I didn’t hear one opening band that I would go see on their own merits.
Breaks in the middle of a performance are unnecessary. Queen’s guitarist and drummer are both in their 70’s and didn’t need a break for their 2+ hour concert. If they can play through, these younger artists should be able to as well. The break pauses the momentum and diminishes the overall vibe of the performance.
I think we’ve seen just about all the bands we’ve wanted to see. The only exception for me is AC/DC. They are rumored to be planning a tour in 2024 so here’s hoping. Fun fact - when they first performed in Fresno in 1978, they opened for Aerosmith. One of the band members, Bon Scott, was so inebriated that the audience booed him off the stage. I was one of them. Fast forward decades later and they’re now my hands-down favorite band. Sorry guys, I didn’t know my future self would enjoy your music so much, it just took awhile to get used to it.
#TheCure #ACDC #Queen #AdamLambert #U2 #DonFelder #Styx #VetTix #ThanksVetTix
The minute we heard the iconic rock band U2 would be playing in Las Vegas, we prepared to purchase tickets. The venue was something called ‘Sphere.’ Whatever. We just wanted to see U2. Once tickets were procured, we began researching hotel and restaurant options near Sphere. The more we learned about the venue the more our interest piqued for the event.
According to www.thespherevegas.com, there were at least 24 formulas and mathematical laws used for the design coupled with current engineering and technology practices. In the website’s FAQs it provides further detail: “Sphere is a next-generation entertainment medium that is redefining the future of live entertainment, allowing the foremost artists, creators, and technologists to create extraordinary experiences that take storytelling to a new level and transport audiences to places both real and imagined. The venue is powered by cutting-edge technologies that ignite the senses and enable audiences to share experiences at a never-before-seen scale.” True that.
From the outside, it’s something to behold. The graphics are top notch and changing constantly to reflect the seasons, special occasions, and anything else to surprise Las Vegas Goers. Examples include a giant eyeball, a jack-o-lantern, jellyfish, fireworks, and a basketball. All easily seen even from the land and air.
Once inside, there is futuristic music playing with the atmosphere bathed in blue. It’s cool, but not extraordinary. We walked inside the main arena and took our seats. I remembered the warning we received via email prior to the concert:
This event may include immersive elements such as seat haptics, movement sensations, flashing lights, intense lighting, visual effects, loud noises, and atmospheric simulations. Such elements may aggravate certain medical or physical conditions, and guests should take into consideration these elements, including if they have a history of discomfort or physical symptoms when experiencing them. Visit the Sphere FAQs here and the U2 event page on thespherevegas.com closer to your event date for the latest event information.
We were on the first tiered level, only feet away from the band. There were several tiers, and I imagined the folks on the top would have a better view of Spere, but also be more prone to vertigo. It looked pretty steep up there. In my pictures embedded here you can see the top tier of the sold-out crowd had the optical illusions closest to their purview. One of the first visuals, and my second favorite, was a series of colorful numbers and letters that filled the entire Sphere. They turned into a box and the lid of the box began descending to the point where I felt the urge to duck so it didn’t hit my head. As it was descending, the stage where U2 was performing looked like it was ascending to meet the numbers and letters. At this point the warning email made perfect sense. I felt dizzy and had to hold on to my arm rests to keep my balance.
At one point lead singer Bono whispered very quietly into the microphone, ‘Can you hear me?’ We could. The acoustics were spot on. His voice’s inflections, whether bold or subdued, resonated as if he was standing next to us.
My favorite display was toward the end of the performance. Bono said we were going to ‘open up Sphere.’ Suddenly, we could see outside of the structure as if we were looking out of a window. It showed the casinos, hotels, Ferris wheel, the Strip, and cars driving on the streets. Then, large cranes appeared and began dismantling the hotel/casinos and other structures until they were no longer there. The cranes continued to dismantle structures until all that was left was sand and brush. It felt like we were watching the concert in the middle of a desert. The sun set in the west and the sky turned dark except for the multitude of stars. All the time, U2 was performing. My eyes were vacillating from the band to the scenery, back and forth. The sun rose again in the east. Off in the distance there was movement, as it came closer, rather quickly, it was realized that it was a large body of water, maybe an ocean. It roared right up to the stage then settled so that it appeared the stage was floating on water, making it seem like the audience was also floating on the water. Off in the distance we could see an object. So far away that it was indistinguishable. As it gradually came closer, it was discernable as a very large egg-shaped object. It was taller than the stage and when it reached the stage it cracked open and inside was a kaleidoscope. The audience was visually hurled inside the kaleidoscope being tossed around as if we were a part of it. Vertigo set in again.
That’s all I’ll give away now. As best as I can describe it, as good as video or photos are, there is nothing that can capture the experience more than actually being there. Right now it’s expensive and tickets are hard to come by. But keep trying. You will not be disappointed.
If you go:
Sphere (notice it’s usually not called The Sphere) can be accessed through the Venetian. The Venetian is very expensive at this point. We stayed next door at the Best Western to save quite a bit of money. Best Western is nestled between the Venetian and Harrah’s. Since we only slept in our room, it didn’t matter to us. If you join their rewards club, you get an even better rate.
The Venetian has a U2 immersive merchandise store, called Zoo Station, where you can not only purchase merch, but also have three photo ops that are U2 related. At Sphere, there were long lines for merch. We had no line at the Zoo Station with the same selection.
We had two delicious dinners. The first was Mott 32 in the Venetian. Make reservations as far in advance as possible and preorder the Peking Duck. For more details on the ambiance and cuisine, visit my previous blog post.
The next evening we dined at Gordon Ramsay’s Ramsay’s Kitchen in Harrah’s. We are Gordon Ramsay fans and enjoyed eating some of his signature dishes that we previously only saw on television. We opted for the 5-Course tasting menu. The risotto and beef wellington were excellent, but our favorite was the salmon crudo appetizer.
Inside Sphere, your cell phones are out of service, but unprofessional photos from cell phones are allowed.
There is seating that has limited visibility due to the tiers above them. I suggest you purchase seats in the 3rd or 4th tier up for an optimal experience. Regardless of what tier you end up in, try to get seats that are closest to the stage. The ones that are further away from the stage are visually limited because of the overhead from the tier above them.
I don’t bother learning actors’ or singers’ names. I can’t tell you the name of a song or the lyrics. And yet why I was so intrigued with Lady Diana Spencer I have no idea. I hear it said that ‘every girl wants to be a princess.’ Not me. I didn’t identify with her at all, and yet she captured my attention and holds it till this day. The 26th anniversary of her tragic death reminds me of where I was when I heard the news. In 1997 my husband and I went to a nice restaurant and left our young son with my dad and his wife. When we picked him up, they both came to the door and told us that Princess Diana had died. It was that big of a deal to me and everyone knew it. I stayed up to watch her funeral. I even cried when they showed an envelope on her casket that was addressed to ‘Mummy.’
When she first came on the scene in 1981, she was so authentic and seemingly innocent. I watched as the media too became enthralled with her every move. We all witnessed the transformation of a young lady into a Princess who used her position to work on making the world a better place. I was away in college when she married Prince Charles. Back then, we didn’t have DVR’s so I stayed up all night to watch the wedding live. The spectacle didn’t disappoint. Her dress had a 25’ train and a tulle veil attached to her tiara that was 153 yards long. It was epic.
When the Princess Diana doll in her wedding dress became available in 1987 by the Danbury Mint, my mother purchased one for me. I still have it. After she died, my husband mentioned that the doll would be more valuable now. And it is, but not so much so that I would sell it.
When she gave birth to William in 1982, a friend from college who was from England said, ‘Another mouth to feed’ while rolling her eyes. She was unimpressed with the Royals, not even Princess Diana could soften her heart.
As she matured, Di became more and more confident. Even when she no longer was a Princess, the media still followed her and she continued to increasingly be more savvy with the world platform.
Relatively recently, her clothing was on display on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. We happened to be there for a soccer tournament, so my husband drove me to the ship and stayed in the car while I walked through the display. This is another instance where I’m deviating from my usual behavior because of her. I’m often the one that opts out of museum-type excursions. I was hoping the wedding dress would be there, but it wasn’t. It was still fun to see many of her outfits. She had a remarkable flare for style.
Side note. I titled this blog ‘Let Di be a Lady’ because while at a bar someone told my friend to act like a lady. Lady Di had just been introduced to the world and my friend retorted, ‘Let Di be a lady!’ That became an inside joke for years.
I woke up this morning thinking that the paparazzi had taken pictures of her as she was dying. Those have never been revealed, but someday surely they will be. Not something I would want to see. But it’s probably inevitable. It is so sad that she left this world early, but as Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu rightly said, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
I’ve always had 20/20 vision, until I didn’t. My eyes blurred everything up close and I ended up placing reading glasses in every room so that I could grab them if I needed to read. I tolerated this for about ten years. At my recent annual checkup, I asked the doctor about Lasik surgery. She said that instead, I was a candidate for cataract surgery and could have corrected lenses inserted at that time under my insurance. The caveat was that my left eye would see far and my right eye would see close up. It would take my brain time to get used to this and about 60% of the people who had it done liked it. Or, I could pay about $5,000 to have both eyes see the same. Whichever procedure I chose, would be final. I wouldn’t be able to undo the lenses. I opted for the free insurance surgery. There would be two surgery dates, first for the left eye, followed by surgery on the right eye three weeks later.
On the day of the surgery, I had to fast for eight hours. Not even allowing for water. At the office were several other people. Each of us had a designated driver that had to stay in the waiting room for the entire three hours it would take to complete the procedure. Oddly, they had televisions in the waiting area and the channel was set for an animal station where polar bears were chasing, killing and eating baby penguins. Anyhow, when it was my turn, I was taken to a small room where I was asked a lot of questions and a purple X was placed on my skin above the left eye. Then I was taken to a staging area where there were four gurneys lined up with curtains separating each one. I laid down as was directed and I placed a hair cap on my head to keep the hair away from my face. The doctor came by and confirmed that I wanted to do this, which I confirmed. Then an anesthesiologist came in and inserted a substance into an IV that was in a vein in my left hand. I was told that I would be awake but the substance would make me not care about anything. After a few minutes I was wheeled into an operating room where they taped my eye open. I saw two bright, small lights in the shape of squares. But I felt nothing, and I didn’t have the urge to try to blink. Just a few minutes later I was wheeled out into a recovery area and helped to get up from the gurney to a recliner-like chair. I was offered crackers and water. My husband was called and drove the car to a side door that led to me. When I got up to leave, I was a little dizzy and held onto his arm for balance. I was given sunglasses that shielded light from all sides. He asked where I would like to go for lunch and I selected Chili’s Grill & Bar as I was craving their chicken tortilla soup. The lights were so bright that I had to keep my sunglasses on inside.
Everything looked very bright and blurry. But amazingly, I could read the menu at Chili’s without my reading glasses! At home, I looked in the mirror and realized the purple X was still on my forehead, it took a while to get it to come off. The next day I was able to drive myself back to the doctor for a checkup. He said everything was fine.
Three weeks later I went in to repeat the process for the right eye. This time, I asked for rubbing alcohol to remove the purple X before going out to eat afterwards. This time my husband took me to Westwood’s BBQ & Spice Co which is a delicious locally owned restaurant.
I was able to get rid of all my glasses and can now see clearly without them. I would totally do it again knowing what I know now. However, I would also have paid the $5,000 for 20/20 in both eyes because there are times when something (like the head of someone sitting in front of me) is blocking one eye and that’s the one I need to use at that moment.
At my follow-up appointment, she gave me a new prescription for glasses for times when I needed both eyes to behave the same. The person who fitted me said that I should wear them all the time to protect my good eye. She pointed out that if the good eye was damaged, I would only have the bad eye to see. Hmmmm, that would have been good to know before I’d done all this. But I don’t have any intention of using glasses all the time, that was not the point of this procedure. It’s been over a month now and I still find myself reaching for glasses when I want to read something. I had seven pairs of glasses placed in strategic places throughout the house. Now, they’re in a bag tucked away in a closet. I’m sure they’ll be donated to charity once I stop mindlessly reaching for them.
In the heart of California’s Central Valley lies a remarkable story of nature’s resilience and human ingenuity. Tulare Lake, once a thriving natural lake for thousands of years, succumbed to the demands of the growing agricultural industry and gradually transformed into agricultural land. However, due to an extraordinary confluence of factors, this dry expanse has experienced a spectacular resurgence, reclaiming its former glory as a majestic lake. This blog explores the captivating journey of Tulare Lake and its recent revival.
Tulare Lake holds a significant place in the history and ecology of California. For millennia, it served as a vital water source for indigenous communities and a vibrant ecosystem for diverse plant and animal species. The lake covered an expansive area, supporting a thriving ecosystem and attracting a variety of migratory birds.
As California’s agricultural industry flourished, the need for controlled irrigation systems became apparent. Dams and canals were constructed to divert water away from the rivers that fed Tulare Lake, gradually depleting its water source. By redirecting water for agricultural purposes, the lake dried up, leaving behind fertile land for farming. The agricultural expansion came at the cost of the natural lake’s disappearance, severing a vital connection between the region and its ecological heritage.
Over the years, the dry lakebed of Tulare Lake found new purpose during periods of intense weather events. In 1969 and 1983, it served as a controlled flooding area, safeguarding surrounding communities from potential disaster. These managed flooding events demonstrated the area’s capacity to absorb excess water, but they were incomparable to the scale of transformation witnessed this year.
The current year brought an astonishing turn of events for Tulare Lake. Unprecedented snowfall in the surrounding mountains resulted in a massive influx of water into the region. Combined with the imminent arrival of hot weather, the excess snowmelt posed a significant risk of flooding. In a stroke of visionary planning, authorities made the bold decision to allow Tulare Lake to reclaim its natural state temporarily.
As our family embarked on a journey to witness this extraordinary phenomenon, we were greeted by an awe-inspiring sight. The newly restored Tulare Lake stretched out for miles, its immense expanse reflecting the sun on its surface with wildlife already preparing for their new habitat. Partially exposed structures peered out from beneath the shimmering surface, serving as reminders that this land has had a varied life.
Tulare Lake’s revival serves as a testament to the resilience of nature and the potential for environmental reclamation. The rapid transformation from an agricultural landscape into a resplendent lake is a testament to the power of nature and the potential for human intervention. This extraordinary event serves as a vivid reminder of the importance of responsible development coupled with preparedness and flexibility with land use.
Our family explored the North Coast of California. I started to write a blog about our experiences, but thought I’d see what the AI (artificial intelligence) ChatGPT would come up with. Below are my instructions, the initial writing I gave it and finally, what the AI came up with in two minutes. The only thing that wasn’t true was the cheese factory in Loleta. I guess we’ll have to try that next time we’re up there!
This is the instruction I gave to ChatGPT:
Please add personalized fun or interesting details to this blog:
Exploring the North Coast, California
Getting there and back is the hardest part. Arcata has a small airport but there are no direct flights from Fresno to Arcata. You have to fly into San Francisco to catch the Arcata flight. By the time you’ve jumped through all the hoops, it’s just easier to take the 7 ½ to 9-hour drive, depending on traffic and the time of day. We stayed at a VRBO in McKinleyville. The house sits right on the Hammond Trail which was perfect for both the walkers and runners of the family. It boasts wooded areas, beautiful vistas of the Mad River and Pacific Ocean and a variety of terrains along the 5.5-mile path. On the trail, right in front of our house, we saw joggers, walkers, bicyclists and horseback riders. We even caught a glimpse of a skunk, which thankfully ran the other way.
We ate at Renata’s Creperie and Salt Fish House and shopped at the North Coast Co-op which a truly a super market. A fabulous place to explore. We found a vast selection of local hot sauces where the hardest decision was how to pick only seven bottles as we’re all hot sauce connoisseurs.
Hiked in the Arcata Community Forest, also nicknamed Fairy Forrest behind Cal Poly Humboldt.
On Saturday’s Arcata has the most wonderful Farmer’s Market.
We ate at a variety of places in Eureka including Pile High Deli, Brick & Fire Bistro, Lost Coast Brewery, Smoke House Bar & Grill,
We visited the Sequoia Park Zoo & Redwood Sky Walk where we saw otters, spider monkeys, red pandas and, my favorite, the bird known as the Crested Screamer. When the bird belts out its cry, the entire area can hear it. Despite our efforts we couldn’t get the one at the zoo to scream for us. Until my husband found them on You Tube. When he played it the zoo bird went nuts and screamed at the top of its lungs. Hilarious highlight of our day.
Humboldt Botanical Gardens
Old Town & Waterfront Eureka
We hiked the Trinidad Trail and frolicked at the Dry Lagoon Beach where the rocks are mostly flat and make for a perfect competition for how high can you build your rock tower but the water is too rough to swim or surf so there are fewer people here.
Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge
This is what it provided me in less than two minutes:
Exploring the North Coast, California: A Personalized Adventure
McKinleyville: A Serene Retreat
Getting to McKinleyville can be quite an adventure in itself, especially if you're coming from Fresno. With no direct flights available, the journey involves a stopover in San Francisco before catching a flight to Arcata. However, for those seeking a more scenic route, the 7 ½ to 9-hour drive offers stunning coastal views, making it a worthwhile option. Our stay at a charming VRBO in McKinleyville provided the perfect base for our North Coast explorations.
The Hammond Trail, a Hidden Gem
Nestled right next to our McKinleyville abode was the Hammond Trail, a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. This 5.5-mile path meanders through wooded areas, offering breathtaking vistas of the Mad River and the vast Pacific Ocean. We were delighted to encounter a vibrant mix of walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and even horseback riders along the trail. Our most unexpected encounter was a skunk scurrying away, providing us with a memorable wildlife sighting.
Arcata: Culinary Delights and Enchanting Forests
Our culinary journey in Arcata was nothing short of delightful. Renata's Creperie and Salt Fish House satisfied our taste buds with their delectable offerings. However, our most exciting find was the North Coast Co-op, a supermarket paradise. As hot sauce connoisseurs, we were overwhelmed by the vast selection of local hot sauces, leaving us with the challenging task of narrowing down our choices to only seven bottles.
To immerse ourselves in nature's enchantment, we embarked on a hike through the Arcata Community Forest, fondly referred to as the Fairy Forest by locals. Its lush greenery and tranquil ambiance transported us to a fairy tale realm. On Saturdays, we indulged in the vibrant and diverse offerings of the Arcata Farmers Market, immersing ourselves in the local culture and flavors.
Eureka: Eclectic Dining and Unforgettable Zoo Moments
Eureka greeted us with a plethora of dining options. The Pile High Deli, Brick & Fire Bistro, Lost Coast Brewery, and Smoke House Bar & Grill catered to our varying culinary preferences, leaving us craving for more. However, our most unforgettable moment occurred at the Sequoia Park Zoo & Redwood Sky Walk. Amongst the otters, spider monkeys, and red pandas, the Crested Screamer stole the show. The bird's powerful cry echoed throughout the area, captivating everyone. Despite our failed attempts to make it scream, a hilarious discovery awaited us. After finding a YouTube video featuring the bird's call, we played it, causing the zoo's own Crested Screamer to join in, resulting in a chorus of laughter.
Trinidad: Hiking and Rock Tower Competitions
Trinidad beckoned us with its natural wonders. We embarked on the Trinidad Trail, immersing ourselves in its captivating beauty. Later, we found ourselves at Dry Lagoon Beach, a paradise for rock tower enthusiasts. With mostly flat rocks at our disposal, we competed to see who could build the tallest tower. Although the rough water prevented swimming or surfing, the absence of crowds allowed us to relish this serene coastal haven.
Loleta and Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge: Nature's Oasis
Our North Coast adventure continued in Loleta, where we marveled at the Loleta Cheese Factory, sampling an array of artisanal cheeses. The Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge provided a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a chance to observe various species in their natural habitat.
The North Coast of California has much to offer for adventurers seeking a blend of natural beauty, culinary delights, and unforgettable moments. From the tranquil trails of McKinleyville to the enchanting forests of Arcata, the eclectic dining scene of Eureka, and the serene havens of Trinidad, Loleta, and the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, this region promises an unforgettable journey for all who venture here.
Kingsburg and Reedley California are significantly haunted places. So says Ghost Hunter Josh Rodriguez. Josh has investigated over 30 places throughout California, but most predominately in the South Fresno County area. It all started when he was two years old. His family was living in a home on Elkhorn Road and Josh was playing in the living room when all of a sudden his body flew across the room, according to his mother, Rosa. While the experience was painful, the bigger effect was that Josh was traumatized and it took him years to develop his speech. In addition Josh began having the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. As he grew older, he began researching and studying everything he could get his hands on regarding the spirit world. The more he learned, the less frightened he became and the more confident in his abilities to ghost hunt.
According to Josh, “I know how it feels to be made fun of, so when I heard people talking about seeing things that they couldn’t explain, I knew that I was meant to help them. You need to be respectful of people, but at the same time skeptical. You don’t want someone trying to trick you. But at the same time, you want to help people. My phone rings constantly now with people wanting me to help them to understand what’s going on.”
Rodriquez explained that ghosts reside in places, not necessarily structures. If a house has a ghost in it and the house is torn down, the spirit will remain in the same area regardless. He also asserts that despite popular belief, there are very few ghosts in cemeteries. Instead, they tend to be where the living are because they prefer activity to silence. Poltergeists are entirely different. They are evil spirits who require specialized, and possibly dangerous, techniques to properly deal with them.
In order to further understand the anatomy of a ghost hunt, Josh took my husband Robert, photographer Danny Valderrama, and myself on a hunt in the Kingsburg area. The house is currently occupied by Berta Torres and Jose Barajas who have seen at least four different spirits on the property. According to the couple, there is a large man wearing a cowboy hat, a lady who wears white linen, and two men. They say that the two men are mean and often play tricks on them and push Jose from behind. The lights flicker, the lady in linen was seen by Berta and a guest walking through a wall, then look at them and continue to walk through the house, loud bangs, doors slamming and trees shaking for no apparent reason. Strange and unexplainable things have happened on the property throughout the 15 years that they have lived there. The couple told us about their experiences and then left for the evening so that we could begin the investigation.
Josh had been to this home before with a psychic. The psychic got scared and abruptly left the area. This would be Josh’s second attempt at communicating with the spirits at this location. He began pulling out his equipment which was held in a large duffle bag. The first test would be with an Electric Voice Phenomena (EVP) device. The EVP can be any recording device including a microcassette player. When trying to capture an EVP sound everyone must remain very, very still. Creeks, shifting of feet or any movement will be recorded and could be misinterpreted later. Asking the ghosts questions will prompt them to answer back if they are around and willing to cooperate. Josh asked the female spirit which decade she had died in. She responded “yes” when asked if she had died in the 1970s. We did not hear this, but when we reviewed the tape later, the recording device had picked it up.
Next we used a Ghost Box where a device and amplifier are used to establish white noise. Questions are sometimes answered at frequencies we wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise. Here is the dialog we heard with Josh asking the questions and a spirit answering them:
How many spirits are here? 7
What is your name? Ruben
How old are you? 10
Where did you die? Kingsburg
And then; Please stop
Danny Valderrama brought two additional devices. A parabolic microphone and an electromagnetic fields (EMF) meter. These scientific devices are popular with ghost hunters. The EMF meter is popular because ghosts will often cause a spike in the EMF which becomes a ‘heads up’ for the ghost hunter that they are nearby. The parabolic microphone picks up sounds that might not be heard under normal circumstances. There is a trailer house on the property where the spirit with the cowboy hat is said to have died. We decide to go to that area with our devices. While we talked about who should go, the device spiked to its maximum when Danny said he would go. Josh asked, “Should Robert go?” No response from the meter. “Should Jolene go?” No response from the meter. “Should Danny go?” The meter again shot to its maximum. Brave Danny volunteered to venture to the trailer along with Robert. Not-so-brave Jolene stayed a safe distance away, ready to report what news the others brought back. While there, Danny and Robert picked up more readings on the EMF meter. Danny felt a brush against his ear when there was no one nearby.
Pictures were taken with several different cameras. There are times where an orb or other image will appear in an area, but is unseen by the human eye. Tapping was done as a form of communication as well. Josh invited the spirits to tap if they were present. We did hear tapping but agreed that it was inconclusive. As we finished our hunt, Josh had each of us put a special powder and oil on our bodies to ward off any spirit who might want to leave with us.
Josh says that ghost hunting is done predominately at night because there are less distractions and other sounds than there are during the day making it easier to see and hear spirits. However, spirits are active all the time. He says that people call him when they’re at the end of their rope, feeling frightened and wanting to move away from the dwelling. His goal in these instances is to become the liaison between the two worlds where he can explain to the homeowners who the ghost is, or was, why they’re doing whatever they are doing and in some cases, to attempt to get them to leave the area. He does not charge for his expertise because he considers it more of a calling than a profession. He looks forward to the day when he can meet again the spirit who threw him across the room when he was a toddler. He has a few things he’d like to say to him. For more information about Josh’s services, visit his website, www. http://paranormalcrys.webs.com/ .
As popularity for the creature grows, so does media coverage
It’s the strangest thing. A few years back, if I told someone I was going Bigfoot hunting, they would have scoffed. But now, as I told just about everyone I came into contact with, the standard reply was, “Oh, I want to go!” or “My (family member) would LOVE to do that!”
What has happened recently to change public opinion about Bigfoot? Perhaps it’s the internet, where more and more people turn for information. It used to be that the major networks controlled information. Not so much anymore. Now there are websites dedicated to Bigfoot such as bigfootencounters.com
Shows like radio’s Coast to Coast AM (originally with Art Bell and now with host George Noory) have enjoyed great success with paranormal topics that include Bigfoot on a regular basis. Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot follows a team that includes a scientist on Bigfoot hunts based on reported sightings. There are even apps for Bigfoot. Download Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy to keep updated on Bigfoot news. The History Channel’s show Greatest History’s Mysteries goes into detail about the sightings reported all through history along with theories on their existence. Giving traction to the Bigfoot phenomenon is England’s Oxford University where scientists there have called for people to send in any DNA that is believed to be from Bigfoot so that they can test it and determine more about the beast. There is a Bigfoot Museum in Felton, California, a Bigfoot Symposium was recently held in Visalia and even an unofficial Cryptozoology Boy Scout Merit Badge (which includes Bigfoot).
I attended a Finding Bigfoot Town Hall Meeting at the Shaver Lake Community Center earlier this year. Stunningly, it was standing room only in the large hall with several local people getting up and telling their Bigfoot stories. Being a paranormal fan since the days of Fright Night, Night Gallery and Twilight Zone, I found the experience to be fascinating, if not bone chilling, as some of those stories were startlingly detailed and terrifying. The people giving their accounts were residents from Shaver, Fresno, Oakhurst, Kingsburg, etc.
Moving backwards in time, Native American Indians from a variety of tribes in several U.S. regions have told tales of Bigfoot sightings and interactions. The local Tule River Tribe have pictographs actually showing what resembles Bigfoot on large boulders in their Reservation. National media has shown the drawings which have been dated back to approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago.
How does one go about hunting for Bigfoot? First, you find out where there have been sightings. Jeffrey Gonzalez, founder of the Sanger Paranormal Society, says that there have been sightings all over the Sierra Nevada. There are even reported sightings as close as Zediker and Ashlan Avenues in Sanger, the Kings River south of Reedley, and at Herndon & Highway 99 in Fresno on the San Joaquin River. Gonzalez has taken my family along with the Valderrama family of Kingsburg on two Bigfoot hunts. We’ve been in two areas where there have been frequent sightings and spent the night there. Part of me thinks it would be amazing (to say the least) to see a Bigfoot. Another part of me hopes to never see this creature. I guess that’s the fun. It’s especially unnerving when it gets dark and everyone turns in for the night. Every little sound is magnified and sets your heart pounding.
Here is the anatomy of a Bigfoot hunt. Once you’ve established where you’re going, and who is going with you, two very important factors, then you should pack up. Include apples, as Bigfoot apparently likes them, some sort of protection, in case someone or thing in the wilderness wants to be aggressive, motion sensors so that you’ll know if Bigfoot is around your campsite, a motion sensor camera/recorder or video camera, which is capable of night vision recording, so that if you see him, at least you’ll have proof. You should have binoculars to look for him in the daylight and night vision binoculars for the evenings. Bring a parabolic sound amplifier to let you hear sounds far away, so that perhaps if you can’t see him, you’ll at least be able to hear him. Bring women and children as Bigfoot seems to be lured by the sounds of their voices. Once you’re at your destination and have set up camp, start looking in the woods where there are shadows. Bigfoot is an expert at observing unnoticed. Stay together as you explore your surroundings as a single person is much easier to bother, and more susceptible to abduction, but that’s another story, than a group of people. Take the apples and throw them on the outskirts of your campsite. Go to youtube and search for Bigfoot Tree Knocking to listen to how Bigfoots talk to each other. Bigfoot hits a stick on a tree in a specific way. Bigfoot hunters use this tactic, along with calling (also available on youtube) to catch his attention and perhaps head your way. Set up your night time equipment. Have a nice dinner (in case it’s your last), enjoy some story time around the campfire to enhance your sensitivity, and turn in. Hope that your motion sensors go off, or that your cameras catch something. Gonzalez occasionally sets out food, away from camp, and positions a motion sensitive camera facing the food in hopes of capturing a hungry Bigfoot on film.
But be careful for what you wish for. One local seasoned Bigfoot hunter came face to face with a Bigfoot when he ventured away from his group. He came back and told them what he had seen and then determined that he had seen enough, never returning to hunt again. Another, who is a high school principal in the area, has collected photos, videos and other proof that Bigfoot exists. He is keeping it until he writes a book regarding his encounters. Gonzalez even has DNA that he believes is from Bigfoot. One of the reasons people with Bigfoot proof tend to be careful with their proof is that in the past when they’ve given it over to be analyzed, the specimens have become lost. These stories have added fuel to the government conspiracy theory that they’re suppressing Bigfoot information. Hunters tend to be very guarded with their findings.
Gonzalez says that people sometimes see things that they don’t understand and they want to talk about it and receive explanations for what they saw. His 24 hour hot line is designed to be the local support to any paranormal sighting, from Bigfoot, to UFO’s, ghosts, and anything else that is unexplained by traditional means.
Whether Bigfoot is a missing link, an alien, a figment of people’s imagination, or something else, the fascination continues to grow and the topic has entered the mainstream culture. Naysayers are fast becoming the minority. Who would have thought…
To report sightings of any kind, call Jeffrey Gonzalez at 559-287-8367.
Oh, and by the way…..happy hunting
Over the summer, my husband and I travelled to Southern California with friends and stayed on the Queen Mary (QM). We were actually down there to NASCAR race in Irwindale, but decided to stay a couple of nights on the Queen Mary just to make a weekend out of it. We reserved spots for the “Dining with the Spirits” tour which included dinner at the QM restaurant, Sir Winston's, followed by a late-night guided tour of the ship's paranormal hotspots. Unbeknownst to my husband and I until that weekend, the couple we were travelling with were seasoned paranormal travelers and had brought equipment to use during the tour.
We checked into the Queen Mary and got to our rooms. If you ask at the front desk, they’ll give you a list of all of the paranormal sightings both in the ship and in the hotel rooms. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), our room had no record of any unusual observations.
We unpacked and left with our friends for dinner in Long Beach. When we returned to the ship, we said good night to them and walked toward our room, which is much further aft than theirs. Because the corridors are very long and narrow (we are on a ship after all), my husband pulled out his iPhone and started taking pictures of me as I walked down the long hall to our room. It made a photographic shot that he thought would be unique. He took four shots in total. When we got to our room, he looked at his photos and asked if there was anyone in the hall with me. I replied, “No. No one. Why?” He asked, “Are you absolutely sure? No one was in the hall with you?” Of course, being that we’re on a documented haunted ship, I thought he was teasing me, and answered, annoyed, “No. I already said no.” He produced his iPhone and I noticed that his hands are trembling. His hands trembling made my blood turn cold. I looked at the photos. Me. Walking down the hall toward our room. Again, me further down the hall. Then, me, further this time and a bell hop, in a complete bell hop uniform, is walking towards me with his head tilted as if he’s helping me find my room. Next shot, just me, no one else in the hall.
We called our friends and we all attempted a reenactment. We figured out where I would have been in all four shots and there really is no explanation for how someone would have appeared in one shot that took place in between three others without either my husband or I seeing him. In the reenactment, the bell hop was about five feet away from me. So creepily close.
The next morning, we showed the photo to the front desk, and they confirmed that the uniform in the picture is not a uniform that has been worn on the Queen Mary by their staff.. Later, I looked through a QM coffee table book in our room and discovered a photograph taken in the early 1900’s of the bell hops who serviced the ship back then. They are wearing the same uniform as the man who appeared in our photo. Gloves, cap, brass buttons, everything.
I am somewhat happy that I didn’t see him in the hall that night. Although it’s unsettling because it begs the question of what else don’t I see?
Oh, and as for the Spirit Tour? That’s another story…..
While I was on vacation, my dad stopped texting me. I tried calling but his phone was off. I called his neighbor and asked if he could go over and check on him. He called me back and said he was fine. Two days later I returned home. The next morning, I drove to his house to check on him. He didn’t answer the door. I had a key, but he owned five dogs, two of them were pit bulls who had been aggressive toward me in the past. As I rang the doorbell, they tried everything in their power to breakdown the door to get to me. I called 911 and explained the situation, explaining that I didn’t know what services I should ask for. Within minutes two police cars were there. One of the officers asked how I was doing I answered that I was nervous. Soon thereafter animal control showed up along with the paramedics. By now, many neighbors were standing outside watching. The first responders and I huddled and determined that the police would go in first. As they’re unlocking the door I said, “Wait! I just remembered that he has guns in there, not sure how he’ll react if he thinks he’s being broke into.” With that, we huddled again. The officers suggested that I go in first and call out to him. I agreed but asked if I could borrow their mace if the dogs attacked me. They said no. I remembered that I had mace in my car. I got it out and explained that I didn’t know how to use it. One of the officers showed me how to do it, then let me practice. He said that I should spray it toward the ground and away from the dogs. They would run off without needing the spray to hit them directly. As I’m practicing in the front yard, more neighbors came out to watch.
We line up at the front door, first me, then the officers, animal control and the paramedics last. I unlocked the door, turned the handle, then turned back toward everyone and said, “I’m going in!” Which made all of us laugh. I cracked open the door and yelled “Dad, are you ok?” He yelled back from the back bedroom “NO!” It was a huge relief to know that he was alive. But the dogs were going crazy. With my mace, I go as quickly as I can through the kitchen and out to the garage. The dogs followed. When they were all in the garage, I ran back into the kitchen and closed the garage door. I yelled to everyone that the coast was clear. Immediately, the officers stepped aside making way for the paramedics to get to the back bedroom. The house was too small for me to be in a place where I could see what was happening. I waited in the kitchen, looking around. I realized that the dogs had been locked in the house with him. They had no food or water and there was feces and urine everywhere. The smell was nauseating. My dad had become a hoarder and his house was disgusting to the point where I hadn’t gone in for several months. But this was a new level of revolting.
They ended up taking my dad out in a gurney. He looked terrible, pale, and weak, his hair all over the place, his beard matted. They took him to the hospital for evaluation where he stayed for a few days. I remained at the house to feed and water the dogs. The animal control person said that I could be charged for elder abuse for letting him live like this. I turned on the lights and locked up the house before heading to the hospital.
The prognosis was dehydration. Nothing broken, nothing else wrong with him. A miracle. When I finally got to see him, he said that he fell off the bed and couldn’t get up. His phone was on the other side of the room, and he was too weak to crawl to get it. I asked why the neighbor had thought he was fine. He said that the neighbor had asked if he was inside and he said yes, thinking he would come to his aid. Instead, the neighbor assumed he was ok, thus delaying a rescue.
I had known this day was coming. Earlier in the year he and I had toured assisted living places. I found out that he was getting lost when driving around town, a town he had lived in since he was 15. He liked Oakmont of Fresno the best but refused to go because of his dogs. I asked if I could begin trying to rehome them which he wouldn’t consider. I said that there would be an event that would force him to move. This was the event. I called and made the arrangements to have him moved directly to the facility from the hospital.
I had taken pictures of all the dogs and posted on social media that they needed new homes. After two days, I gave up and was left with no choice. I called the SPCA and asked if they could come pick them up. They met me at the house and together we managed to get them all into their vehicle. Again, I had the neighbors standing in their front yards watching the scene. And believe me, it was a scene. I told him I was thankful for his help, without him I would have had to just open the front door and let them out. My next problem was his house. With the dogs there, no one would dare break in, but now they were gone, and everyone knew it. I asked my mother to help me get all the valuables out before dark. We took the guns, ammunition, jewelry, etc. We agreed to come back the next day with her cleaning lady and my husband to go through the massive amount of junk to make sure there wasn’t anything else of value. When we arrived the next morning, we realized that the house had been broken into but there was so much clutter that it was impossible to know if they had taken anything. We worked all day and determined that we had found anything of value. We then hired a contractor to come in, clear everything out and pull up the carpet. After about a week, and four full size roll-offs filled, the house was in condition to renovate or sell. We sold it without having to list it. With the dogs and house out of my care, I had more time to focus on settling him into his new home. There was very little in his house that was salvageable. Over the years he had amassed collections of magazines, toys, etc. Unfortunately, he hadn’t stored anything properly rending all his collections useless. I had to purchase nearly everything for his apartment at Oakmont. Just as he seemed settled and content, COVID came along and forced him into quarantine. I was grateful that he was safe, being cared for and eating well. I don’t think he would have fared well otherwise.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.