Monday, August 2, 2010


(RVs line the bluff of the SF RV Resort)
JUNE 27th, 2010

"San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth."

William Saroyan, Author

Now that surfing was done and the sun was beginning to slip down the seaside cliffs of the San Francisco RV Resort, it was time to revisit the pages of the past in my ol' college town, San Francisco.

Oh, Heart of the World, I have missed you!

When I moved to the City to begin film school, I just KNEW I was finally coming home. Ironically, it was a place I had never even visited, but one where I felt I would be amongst true friends: artists, poets, musicians, and activists. It's a delirious city, where beautifully insane people are never more abroad than when
they are at home.

So, excited to have an adventurous blast from the past, I drove to the BART station and took the next train from Pacifica into an area of the city called "The Mission"; the footloose stomping grounds of my college days.

Unknowingly, I had booked my stay during the "40 and Fabulous" Gay Pride weekend. I had already missed the performance of the Backstreet Boys (so sad), as well as the big parade, but as I stepped off the train, the city was still roaring with celebration.

Traveling without a plan, as I like to do, I picked up a discarded SF Weekly and began to read. Two "ragtime blues" bands where playing at a bar called "Amnesia."

(The Amnesia Bar, Mission District, San Francisco)
Lucky me because this show was utterly fantastic!

First up was Frank Fairfield, from Los Angeles, although I'd never heard of him. He's a street musician who plays the claw hammer style of banjo, fiddle and guitar. His live performance is awe-inspiring; he seriously channels an old mountain man or back porch blues singer from the 1900's.

I have to admit I developed a huge crush on Mister Faifield, but I think he's married. Rats!

Next was Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, and I fell in love all over again. Sorry Frank! (Can ya'll guess which one of these cats caught my eye?)

I had so much fun at the show that I refused to leave at midnight to catch the last BART train back to Pacifica (15 miles south). I regretted this foolishness as I closed the place down and prepared for a hellish ride on an overfull city bus to the "end of the line."

The folks at Amnesia said it would be no problem to then catch a taxi for the remaining five miles back to Pacifica, they even said there would be cabs lined up and waiting, but I began to get nervous when I was the last and only passenger dropped off on a dark and deserted street by an indifferent bus driver. There wasn't a taxi to be seen, in fact, there wasn't a single restaurant open or even another human anywhere!

Luckily, I wore comfortable shoes as I hitched up my skirt and began hiking up and down those remaining San Francisco hills towards Pacifica.

A novel on every hill, indeed!


(P.S. I didn't walk back the entire five miles. Eventually, I found a "by-the-slice" all-night pizza joint open and I had a piece as they called me a cab. It was the best pizza I've ever had!

Monday, July 19, 2010


The day after my harrowing trip down Manor Drive, I grabbed my board and headed out to Taco Bell Beach in Pacifica, so named because of its beachside fast-food restaurant.

With weathered wood decking and a prime location directly on the sand of San Francisco's most popular beginner surfing spot, the Linda Mar Taco Bell is arguably the cheapest sunset dinner on a beach anywhere!
I learned from a local old-time surfer, Jerry, that the restaurant began its life as an A&W Root Beer stand in the 60's and I felt a deep sense of nostalgia. It was somehow very wrong that Taco Bell was here.

But nostalia didn't grip me long; I had some surfing to do...Apparently, I found Taco Bell Beach on the best surf day they'd had in months.

This sheltered beach break (it's a cove) had perfect peeling rights and lefts. It was warm, sunny, and a Sunday so there were literally hundreds of surfers in the water. (See above for a photo of the crowded line-up at Linda Mar Beach)

I was a bit nervous being a newbie in a highly localized and busy spot. I also had my surf camera attached to the end of my board. Many of the local surfers questioned me about the camera and I began to feel how awkward it is to surf with it.

On one hand, I wanted to document every new surf spot I'm experiencing, on the other, I find it distracting as I'm constantly fiddling with the camera and worrying that other, better surfers are mocking me for the folly of recording my less-than-professional abilities.

But, I tried to put all that out of my mind and concentrate on surfing my best...and I had one of the most wonderful surf days of my life. The waves were so beautifully shaped and other surfers were friendly and willing to share. I caught several long rides that took me all the way to the shore.

Unfortunately, when I returned to the RV park, I found that all the files on my surf camera were empty! The camera looked like it was recording, but it never saved the file. I figured out later that I have to use very specific batteries in cold water (it was 50 degrees) and I solved the problem, so look for later surfing videos!



Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I was in high spirits as I motored up Highway 101 from Morro bay towards Pacifica, California, a town just outside of San Francisco.

Clear blue skies graced the drive as beautiful landscape morphed from central California scrub to the fragrant pine forests of Northern California.

Since I don't believe in GPS, I carefully plotted out the routes for my trip using Mapquest.

This is where I made a serious and dangerous mistake.

My friend, Mapquest, directed me off the comfortable highways near Pacifica towards a quiet residential street called "Manor Drive." (See photo to the left)

The photo shows the top of Manor Drive, shortly after you make the turn. So far, this street looks innocent enough. What you can't see hidden behind the fog is that the street basically drops off the face of the earth around that corner.

As I made the tight left turn onto Manor Drive, the atmostphere suddenly changed in a most surreal way; wind began to whip the trees, fog swirled in eddies around the trailer and a cold grayness began to grip me.

I don't have much experience pulling trailers and as far as trailers go, Lucy is very heavy. Three tons heavy...

So, when I saw this:

I became very nervous. The sign stated the downgrade at 19%! I don't know if you've ever been down a 19% downgrade, but it might as well have been a complete vertical drop.

But, at this point, I didn't have much choice since there was no way I could turn the trailer around, and I knew the RV park (and place of rest) lay at the bottom of the hill. So, down I went, slowly. Very slowly.

Soon, frustrated cars were tailgating the trailer and laying on the horn. The smell of burning brakes made my eyes water; I knew my face looked something like this...

(see the video, especially around 4:26)

I continued down the hill wondering why those jerks behind me couldn't see what trouble we were in. I was laying my full weight on the brake pedal, but the trailer wasn't slowing down...I ran a stop sign. And then a second stop sign. I could not stop the trailer!

I envisioned overturning Lucy in a beautiful mangled golden mess at the bottom of the hill; it was such an inglorious end to my trip. I don't believe in God, but I think I prayed-just a little bit...

Luckily, the side streets were empty and Lucy and I white-knuckled it to the bottom of the hill into the San Francisco RV Resort.

I found out later that whole sections of that residential area have been flattened by runaway vehicles. It happens all the time...and there's a nice, gently sloping freeway that leads right to the resort. I think it would have added a quarter mile to my trip. Thanks Mapquest!


(P.S. I didn't get more blogging done when staying near the family...Today, I am on the Oregon coast where I have to drive 25 miles to McDonald's just to get an internet connection. I will be playing catch up for a long time!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Shortly after arriving at Morro Bay, I discovered this strange and delightful building. Asking the locals about it, I learned it was built in the 80's, although there is much friendly debate about this detail.

Originally the home of some kind of tool manufacturing company, it is now empty and for rent. What you can't see is that just behind the elaborate facade is a quonset hut used as warehouse space. It's just so weird and wonderful!

Wouldn't this be the perfect home for Lucy?

On my last night in Morro Bay, I treated myself to a delicious dinner at the Great American Fish Company. It's a touristy little spot, but right on the water.

Nature treated me to a beautiful double rainbow for my trouble, which is very hard to capture on my little snapshot camera; you see only one rainbow, sadly!

After dinner, I began packing. It's been three nights in Morro Bay, the first leg of the trip, and I discovered something I guess I already knew, but didn't take seriously until this night: it takes about six hours to pack up all my precious belongings.

Most people, when RV'ing, take paper plates, a cooler and a few canvas fold-up chairs. Not me!

I have about a thousand chalkware chinoise ladies to pack up, then there's the vintage Hull pottery, the Vernon Kiln dinnerware set, plastic tupperware for me, it's all Pyrex and vintage sugar canisters.

Each item has to be removed from the cupboards, walls and shelves, bubble-wrapped and stowed carefully on the floor of the trailer. Any shifting or unevenness in weight of this "stuff" while on the road could lead to a dangerous fishtailing of the trailer or even tipping over, I suppose, in a sudden swerve or tight corner.

I was glad to learn that Steinbeck also had the problem of overpacking on his RV'ing trip, but I still felt foolish when it became clear that out of every four days, I was spending a day and a half of that either packing, unpacking or driving.

It's gunna be a long, long road...


Thursday, July 1, 2010

DEAD or ALIVE? (Morro Bay, CA and Beyond)

Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to post while on the road. The RV parks I'm staying in advertise "free wi-fi," but I've only been able to actually connect and work two or three times during the trip, thus the delay in updating the blog.

So, in case you were wondering, I am alive and well, and have had many adventures so far. Currently, I'm stationed in Humboldt County, near Trinidad Bay, preparing to leave for the next leg of my trip-a ten day stay in my hometown, Roseburg, Oregon.

Hopefully, I'll be playing catch up with the posts over the next few days. There's the "Long, Long Trailer" incident to tell you about (almost lost Lucy!), some videos from two really great bands I caught in San Francisco during the Gay Pride celebration, and several ice-cold surf sessions to check out.

For now, here's a video of my birthday surf session in Morro Bay. Just be warned: photos and even video don't do this magical place justice. Someday, you will want to visit "the rock" and see it for yourself.


Thursday, June 24, 2010


Apparently, it's a little difficult to speak to a serial killer.

I didn't think I'd just walk right through the prison gate and have a cup of tea with Mr. Norton. I did know that for this to work, he'd have to agree to speak to me and then there's the whole "Silence of the Lambs" thing.

How am I going to react to coming face to face with my friend's killer?

I have learned that not only am I required to undergo a background check that can take up to 60 days to complete, also, I am not allowed to speak to a prisoner if affected by his crime.

I'm not sure what that means, but I'm afraid if they find out I was that close to his victim, they won't allow me to visit. So, do I tell the truth?

"Media access" takes only 24 hours as opposed to 60 days and I would have much more access to the prisoner. This status is given to: reporters, freelance writers, producers, book authors or independent filmmakers.

My book is about the very drastic impact the crime had on me personally, so I can't say "I'm a freelance writer writing a book about this serial killer that changed my life" because I can't be impacted by the crime.

Another option, tell part of the truth-"I am a writer who used to live in the area and heard about the crime."

I don't know. I'm a horrible, horrible liar. What do you think?


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The Popular Aviation magazines were kept hidden in the barn under an old feed sack. This way, I could tinker privately with the lawn mower in my quest to turn it into an airplane like those pictured in the back of the magazines. Someday, I was going to fly out of Oakland, Oregon. Any...way...I...could.

I guess I've always had the wanderlust, or, it has had me.

I did eventually fly out of Oregon, not in my own homebuilt Ultralight, but in the family car. The rest of them soon tired of California and moved back to Oregon, but I continued on, exploring San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, London, Berlin, Madrid and Rome.

Yet now, for the first time, the desire to "get away" is taking me home rather than further from it.

From June 23rd through the end of July 2010, I will be traveling up the California Coast to my hometown in Oregon pulling my 1957 Airfloat travel trailer, Lucy. I'll be surfing along the way in spots like Morro Bay, Pacifica, and Santa Cruz, but the main point of the trip is to reconnect with my family, whom I usually see briefly only at Christmas, and also to research an event that changed our hometown, my family and me forever.

The death of my best freind, Kelli, at the hands of a serial killer made me question at fifteen what it meant to be female, the very nature of men, good or evil?, what community means, and whether I could have saved her.

I have spent my life trying to save her.

First, there was my friend B. I drove from Los Angeles to San Diego to protect her when she asked her boyfriend to move out. A few hours later, he had me pinned to the floor with his hands around my throat, squeezing until I passed out. A's boyfriend was slightly less bold. He was only vaguely menacing until he shot himself in the head. When that wasn't enough, I found a violent man of my own, who I would save with only the force of my own true love.

Steinbeck says "We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." I'm ready to take my trip. Perhaps I'll never find peace, but maybe I can finally do a little to save myself.

At the very least, it will make a good story.