Archive for February, 2020

I visit Ventura

23 February 2020

I went to Ventura yesterday with a group of Scientologists to attend the Grand Opening of Ventura Organization. That event is pictured below, in a photo provided to journalists for publicity purposes, and is otherwise covered at this church website:

ventura org grand opening

Needing to wait in line for a bathroom, I got there a bit late, and watched the proceedings from the side of this main area, located at the far right in the above photo.

Riding through the Central Valley

Wanting to get there in a minimum of time, but by car (a rented Dodge minivan), we naturally chose to rocket down the I-5. A typical stop along this freeway is pictured below.

freeway-side stop, central valley

This is a down-to-business freeway. Almost no major cities lie along this road. Fresno is to the east, on the older Route 99. To the distant west are the coastal ranges. Just before Los Angeles, these low mountain ridges turn inland, requiring a drive through a pass. The I-5 goes through Tejon Pass. The highest elevation on that pass is about 4 thousand feet, so not quite the same as crossing the Rockies!

This road is for people and goods that want a fast drive from southern California to northern California. And it really looks it. It’s an ugly road, unadorned by trees or flowers, or even many billboards. It goes “nowhere” except to the L.A. basin to the south and the Bay Area/Sacramento to the north. Of course it continues on further north; I’m just covering this section of it.

The ride south (and back, of course) takes a long time, several hours. And that is in good traffic (which we had). So we had to stop more than once in the valley. Our first stop was around 8:30 in the morning, at a little place about as far down the valley as Fresno.

fruit orchards

This area is dominated by fruit orchards, which I believe are mostly almonds (a fruit harvested for its nut, or pit). We also saw many citrus trees.

westside country store

The Westside Country Store is a somewhat famous business on I-5. But I didn’t know this at the time we stopped there, so didn’t go in.

Two hours later we were very near the Grapevine. We stopped again and I got this image of the electric transmission towers that help power Los Angeles.

electric transmission lines near Grapevine.

Right next to our parking space I spied the movement of a small animal. It turns out that this is a real gopher.

pocket gopher

We raced through the mountains, as we still had many miles to go to get out to the coast. Part of the road between I-5 and the coast is NOT freeway.

We arrive!

But the traffic was not bad, and we got to our destination around 11:30.

ventura org setting

The parking lot in this picture was reserved for special guests and event personnel. Some came in on big tour buses, which unloaded just a block away. The rest of us had to park at the fair grounds, which is up the road a bit.

I shared my spot during the proceedings with an interesting bush which I later learned is commonly called Desert Cassia. It was mad with flowers, so of course I had to take a photo.

desert cassia

As you might be able to tell from the top photo, there were a lot of people there. I met many people who I knew when I worked in Los Angeles, and recognized many more. I met Yoshikawa Wright, a stone sculptor who has an episode on our new TV channel, here: We spoke briefly, as I had made a few stone pieces (alabaster) in art class in high school.

The area had been rainy, but this lifted during the event itself, then returned.

freeway daisies

Being right next to Highway 101, the stands of “freeway daisies” were much in evidence. These are more formally known as Trailing African Daisies.

trailing african daisies

We left around 4:30 in the afternoon. It took us about 5-1/2 hours to get back. That’s a lot of car riding! The sun set as we were on the pass.


16 February 2020

Springtime is a period when things change a little faster than normal. If you don’t pay attention, those changes might whiz on by unnoticed and uninspected.


But most of us at least notice the flowers. Last week the flowering trees were just beginning to pop. This week they are all over the place.

Corporate flowering trees in Folsom last week.
Flowering tree on the bike path this week.

The slightly unusual greenery that always greets me at the beginning of my ride back to Sacramento has now been identified! It’s known as “Miners’ Lettuce” and apparently is edible when it is young like this.

Last week’s Miners’ Lettuce.
This week’s Miners’ Lettuce.

The ferns continue to develop and will probably enjoy a complete reproductive cycle before the summer heat causes them to die back.

Visitor-planted daffodils are growing better in some places than in others. Perhaps the big stand is being helped out with watering…

Daffodils last week.
Daffodils this week.

There is a unique species along the path, the “wattle” that is native to Australia. It blooms early and very brightly. It’s an acacia; there are many different varieties.

The wattle last week.
The wattle this week.

Another spring flower is oxalis. I don’t see much growing naturally in the woods, but it is in gardens everywhere, and at Pond Park there is a little hill totally covered with it.

oxalis (wood sorrell)


I haven’t spotted any pregnant deer but there might be one or two.

There are always a few egrets by the river.

Here’s another try at capturing an image of the elusive woodpeckers.

New Growth

Of all the photos I took of branches leafing out, this one of catkins (willow, probably) is the only one that came out.


Time and Change

If you inspect the situation carefully, you might realize that the only time you have actually directly experienced is present time. The past can only be experienced through memory, and the future through imagination.

The changes we make to present time are all that make it appear that time is passing. We can count the changes that appear to be cyclic (rotation of heavenly bodies, vibration of atoms) and thus “measure time.” The physical universe changes in such predictable ways that this works for us.

Yet all of existence actually only exists in this instant. This fact has been used in our spiritual work to help us understand how to gain more control over our present time, and thus, the future.

29 February update

It’s not often I get to write a post on the 29th of February!

We have basically had zero rainfall this whole month, which is a little unusual. The plants which rely heavily on surface water are suffering under these conditions.

wilting ferns

The ferns I have been following are obviously now wilting, even as their spore sacks are almost mature.

The daffodils planted by park lovers are doing better, but they are bulb plants so have a mechanism to store some reserve moisture. Even so, you can see some wilting in these flowers.


A new flower has appeared, also a bulb plant. These are almost certainly Allium (onion family) though the flowers are a bit showy, suggesting the possibility that these are horticultural escapees.

allium - onion - new flower
allium fully open flower

The low rain levels also showed up at this holding pond next to a newer development. This is usually full this time of year.

Meanwhile, the early-leafing trees continue to green out. This is a buckeye, which I tried to photograph earlier but failed to get my focus right.

buckeye new leaves

The Miner’s Lettuce I have been following is still going strong, probably due to the shaded locations and thicker soils it seems to prefer. I tried a little bite this time and it is very palatable.

The fruit trees continue to flower. The earliest ones were very showy, but now many more have appeared. I was interested in how many of them appeared in the understory of the wooded area along the trail. These reminded me of the flowering dogwood I used to see in Michigan forests in the spring. These trees get sunlight until the canopy leafs out, though in this particular forest the summer canopy is less dense than it can get in a Midwestern deciduous forest. I don’t think fruit trees are the normal thing in mature forests, so these could be escapees from cultivation.

fruit trees flowering in a riparian forest near a population center

7 March update

Some rain finally came today. I didn’t believe it would be much when I got the news on my weather app, so I didn’t take my umbrella, but went without my bike.

The rain wasn’t hard, but it was persistent. I got wet enough that I decided to go into Goodwill and get an umbrella. Or, maybe, an umbrellita. It was a kid’s umbrella, but I thought it was kinda cool. Dory from Finding Nemo.

Dory from Finding Nemo

First of February

2 February 2020

In California, February often marks a warming period before the rains of March hit. In a place like Sacramento, where the winters are mild, you may even spot an occasional fruit tree blooming in February.

After missing my usual bike trip last week so I could have time to volunteer at the Pig Bowl (Police versus Firefighters charity event), I again cycled the 18 or so miles down the American River from Folsom to downtown Sac this Saturday.

Pig Bowl

signing the pledge

At the Pig Bowl we push living drug-free during the little pregame “Kids Safety Fair” for people who come early.

Various law enforcement and first responder groups have booths and encourage young people to think about joining up. Even the FBI was there. I caught this moment where the California Highway Patrol’s “Chipper” is posing with a girl. It’s possible they know each other.

Chipper and friends

Last year the Star Wars people (Rebel Legion Endor Base, a “Star Wars costuming group”) entered right through the booths area, but this year they came in some other way. I did see them exit, though.

Rebel Legion Endor Base

Spring begins on the American River

With the assistance of wet weather, new growth for this year’s regrowth of all the various perennial plants has started. Some young leaves look good enough to eat, and possibly are.

new growth

I revisited the ferns, but they seem only a little more mature than they did the last time.

fern fronds

Fishermen were back out in the salmon spawning grounds. It’s possible fishing is not allowed during spawning season, but the regulations I found were too complex for me to know for sure. Note the heron in the distance, also fishing or looking for frogs.

fishermen below the dam

Next I went by a place where I’d seen a young buck before. “Wonder if he’ll show up today…” Sure enough he did. He was wary of me, but when I knelt down he came up and crossed the bike path.

Somebody has planted a few garden flowers along the path. My closeup lens didn’t work perfectly, but this little daffodil protected by a circle of rocks really caught my eye.

narcissus variety