Mom and Dad

Barb Phillips

Lila Ashby

Arlyn Fisk

Stan Fisk

Mike Preslar

Debbie Tarr

Randy Ashby

Jerry Ashby

Danny Ashby

Jack Ashby

Dale Fisk

Dana Kellerman

Venus Zook

Mandy Miller

Sweet Evie

Luna Belle

Onion Soup


Odds & Ends

Trivial Stuff

Hopes surged high in our hearts as my 7 year old daughter, Venus, and I left San Diego at 2:00 PM on July 19, 1979 for an excursion on a motorcycle. Plans had been in the works for nearly a year for this trip. I had recently bought a 4-man nylon tent for the occasion and my trusty old aluminum frame backpack was loaded to the gills. We planned to see as much of California as possible and, if riding conditions permitted, to journey on to Arizona and see the Grand Canyon and Aunt Velma.

The first day we left late because we planned to stop and see cousin Alberta in Encino, California, just north of Hollywood off Ventura Boulevard, a short 145 miles. There we received a hearty welcome, supper, some encouragement and a dip in their backyard pool. The sun grew hot as we neared Los Angeles so the pool felt terrific. Kathy took me to a local bar later, Kelley’s, and introduced me to some of her friends.

On Friday morning we prepared to set out on the main body of the trip. We said goodbye to Alberta after Venus enjoyed cereal with fresh-picked strawberries and took the Venture Freeway, Highway 101, North. It was 90 degrees when we left but it soon grew cloudy and quite cool as we neared the coastal region. The lands raised slightly and the clouds lowered until finally a thick blanket of fog surrounded us. Growing very cold we stopped at a rest area and donned our long-sleeved shirts to continue the ride. But the road had veered north, away from the coast and soon we drove through the fog and bright, hot sun once more greeted us. Shedding our long sleeves once again we ate a lunch at Buellton, gassed up and sped out down the road.

From there we drove steady for nearly two hours until we reached Pismo Beach. The sun didn’t stay long and most of the ride was under a low cloud cover and so fairly cool. We thanked God that Alberta had found an old pair of gloves that fit Venus and had supplied us with four safety pins to pin our jacket sleeves to the gloves and so keep out more cold air. We had heard that you can drive right out on the beach at Pismo so that is just what we did. But on the way off the beach I hit a patch of loose sand which turned the front wheel and sent bike and all onto the beach. No one was hurt as the sand is quite safe. Venus, however, chose to walk to the street and wait for me to drive through the loose sand alone.

We drove a short distance and tried to camp at a State Park near Morro Bay but it was full. The Ranger directed us to San Simeon, another 26 miles. There we found a nice spot at a $2.00 a night small campground next to the beach. We had deli sandwiches on onion rolls from town and walked to the beach where Venus gathered a collection of small stones for souvenirs. We watched the surf roll in as I enjoyed my first high of the day near sunset.

At camp, Venus played frisbee and hide-and-seek with our neighbor girl from Washington State. She gave Venus a glow-in-the-dark necklace that rejuvenates itself in the freezer. We both went right to sleep soon after sundown. This night was the first time Venus had ever slept in a tent, something I believe she is destined to do many, many times.

On Saturday morning we arose and drove to William Randolph Hearst’s castle to buy tickets for a tour of the place. The earliest time we could get was for 1:20 PM so we went back to town and ate pancakes at the Carriage Pancake House. Then we spent 3 or 4 hours at San Simeon beach. We climbed down a steep ledge to reach the beach and explored many hills of stone and dirt. In one low place we found two starfish, which I swore to transport safely home, and did.

By 1:00 PM we were on our way to the castle. This place was built by the great newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst and is truly a marvel of man-made beauty. I was quite impressed with what I saw and I believe Venus was also. We went on Tour #3 which is of the guest houses and rooms and outside part, not including the main body of the house itself. The grounds are now a part of the California State Park system and are so run to preserve the American-built castle for all to see and, of course, to make a little bit of money.

The morning had been clear sunlight but by the time we reached the castle on top of the hill the clouds were beginning to fill the sky once again with dull white. We left there at about 3:30 and made the 73 mile ride to Big Sur amidst the misty, low-hanging fog of the coast. The hairpin curves and abrupt sides of the two-lane highway added to the increasing altitude and majestic expanse of water at my side caused in me a great meeting of two sides of nature; the rough, ever-pounding gale of the ocean against the awesome stone cliffs of the mountains. I knew the feeling of organized maelstrom.

The ride was a thrilling adventure around the curves and leans of the road but for Venus, at the end of a long, exhausting day with a lot of walking, it was very tiring and she soon complained of being sleepy. So I stopped and put her in front of me where she was so uncomfortable, I found out later, that there was no way she could go to sleep.

We camped at Ventana Campgrounds for $4.00 for a walk-in site and I promptly tipped the bike in some loose sand trying to park it and broke the right front blinker cover. Small loss. We walked to the small store nearby and got fixings for a deli supper again which we ate by our first campfire. The campgrounds are part of the Los Padres National Forest and consequently wood for the fire was very easy to obtain.

We had an intriguing conversation while stoking the fire about planets and our universe and about time and distance. We also talked about her feelings about living in San Diego with me. I skirted the subject in order to get a true picture of her feelings and decided to let her think about it awhile before I brought it up again.

At this hilly, wooded, walk-in campsite Venus suffered her first injuries of the trip. All the sites were set in the steep, woody hills and on her way down hill, shortly after we arrived; she slipped on the ground cover and fell headlong some twenty feet landing on her elbow and her lip. She was very upset and ran to the bathroom to put cold water on her wounds. When she came sniffling back to camp I wiped her with alcohol, gave her a bandage for her arm and a kiss for her pride. She would heal quickly.

Early next morning I awoke and proceeded to enjoy a hot shower but when I got there I found there was no hot water that morning so I suffered through an extremely cold shower instead. Venus passed up the shower and soon we had covered the short distance to Carmel, again under cloudy skies, and ate a much welcome breakfast at the Village Inn. We sat near the circular outdoor fireplace to warm our bones before exploring the sundry old shops of the quaint city.

We strolled leisurely through town buying post cards and gazing at the sites. Venus was attracted by two squirrels begging for food who managed to pause long enough, one at least, for a picture. We drove to the white sand beach and walked up and down the shore admiring the view. A stately old, gnarled tree offered a brief repose and a climbing picture for Venus.

We left Carmel as the afternoon waned and, being Sunday, came upon trouble finding gasoline. We passed many stations that were closed and many had signs saying "No Gas". We were travelling east on Highway 156 having left behind the coastal gloom and upon scaling the road through the first set of mountains, the sun appeared in all her hot, radiant glory, much to Venus and my delight. Off came the jackets that had been nearly standard wear for three days and on went the search for an open gas station.

Nearly empty, or so I feared, we finally came across an open station in Hollister and I quickly pulled up and joined the rear of the line that was taking advantage of this saving grace. Oddly enough this lonely station charged less per gallon than any other place I stopped on the entire trip. Only 91.9 for premium. I paid an average eof a buck a gallon and one place charged $1.09.

By now we were in "wine country" and billboards enticed travelers to stop and take a wine tasting tour. To break the monotony and to cool us off from the now intense heat, we stopped at the Casas de Fruitas and I tasted some wine. We ate a peach and relaxed, then began a steady ride towards Yosemite Park. We ate hamburgers at a small drive-in in Merced. Venus was amazed at the busload of Orientals who came there also and carried on conversations with a "jab, jab jabber" as she would remark.

Nearing Mariposa at twilight we once more needed gas to get the rest of the way to Yosemite. We stopped at Midpines at a KOA Campgrounds, the price, $6.00, I thought abominable but it afforded Venus a cool swim in a pool which she took advantage of as soon as I had the tent up. She began to practice diving headfirst with my help and did quite well, having no fear of the water at all. Sleep came easily as we topped off the night with another episode from "The Hobbit".

Sometime during our stay at Ventana I lost my sunglasses. I rode Sunday without them, having my back to the afternoon sun, but Monday morning I decided to pick up another pair. So we drove 7 miles down the mountain, ate breakfast and found a replacement pair of sunshields. I purchased gas and 3 quarts of oil, which I changed later on the road to the Sierra National Forest, and we returned to camp for a final dip in the pool before leaving at noon for Yosemite.

After much riding through the confusing one-way roads in the park, I managed to find an available campsite at Sunnyside Walk-in Camp. Yosemite Valley is so crowded that the full flavor of the place escapes perception for want of avoiding the crowds. The campsite was less than ideal. Very far to carry our supplies and very crowded and noisy, but at least it only cost us $1.00. Venus decided she didn’t want to ride anymore today so we dined on a frugal supper of cherry pies, potato chips and cokes from the nearby gas station vending machines.

We walked to the creek nearby and cooled off quite considerably in its icy mountain waters. We waded into the water in stages, very slowly adjusting our bodies to the cold and eventually managed to get in up to our necks for a few fleeting minutes. A short talk with a Stanford girl working for a doctor in Mariposa and her hitchhiking German friend topped off the afternoon. As the sun set below the highest tip of the mountains, the Yosemite Valley soon lost its sweltering heat and we returned through the meadow to our crowded campsite, leaving behind Venus’ long road in the sand next to the creek.

In the early evening Venus discovered an area of the campgrounds that had a rope for swinging off a large rock and she spent an hour or more playing there with other kids. She returned to camp holding the same elbow she cut earlier with a new cut. She barely let me tend to it with alcohol, it stung, and she also had accumulated many bug bites on her small, charming body. Some foot cream supplied by Alberta before leaving worked well on these and we topped the evening off by playing cards in the tent.

These times of quiet togetherness at the close of the day came to be times I looked forward to with joy. For these were the times when we truly communicated with each other on the same levels. These peaceful times of relaxation before sleep, shared with a kindred soul, did more to produce tranquility than anything else I know. I wouldn’t miss them for all the world’s gold!

Tuesday morning found us uncomfortable and unrested. The campers were rowdy and noisy ‘til late, and the ground we had to put our tent on was very slanted causing us to slide away into a corner plus we both went to bed hungry. Anyway, we had a marvelous breakfast at the Loft in Yosemite Village. After much debate at breakfast on the subject of packing up and moving on, we decided to hit the road again.

Venus has grown weary of riding on the motorcycle and wanted to camp another night where we were. I didn’t like the campgrounds because it was too crowded, too rowdy and too far away from the bike. So what we managed to do this day was mostly sightseeing. Yesterday we relaxed, today we explored.

On our way out of the park we climbed a stream of rocks to Bridal Veil Fall where Venus just had a blast exploring and daring the stream in its cool misty breeze. We also stopped at the Wawona Visitor Center and saw the old Yosemite Village and original park headquarters in Galen Clark and John Muir’s days. All the old buildings are still intact including the tiny, tiny jail. A jail that once housed two youths who took a piece of the bed and, wearing away the mortar between the rocks, so made their escape only to be caught again later. We crossed a covered bridge and played awhile on the rocks in the stream below. I dropped Venus sock in the stream and recovered it.

Our final stop in Yosemite Park came at the Mariposa Big Tree Grove of giant Sequoias. Here we first came face to face with the oldest and largest living things on our planet. We rode a tram with unobstructed view, as on a motorcycle, and saw the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree that became so famous as an attraction early in park history. The 260 foot long giant fell in 1969. The California Tunnel Tree still stands as living proof that a tunnel large enough for vehicles to pass through a live tree does exist. I took a picture of it from the ground looking straight up the massive trunk.

We had wanted to camp at a quiet, streamside park campgrounds but it was full so we left the park after the Mariposa Grove excursion. We hadn’t traveled a mile outside the park when we spied a sign for a campground so we traveled the winding road to the foot of the hill and were immediately attracted to the quiet atmosphere of Sunnydale Campgrounds. It was located between Yosemite and the small town of Fish Camp. We found an ideal spot right next to the creek and promptly decided to stay for two nights, so we settled in good and began to explore our surroundings. Last night, Sunnyside, tonight, Sunnydale.

One of the first things we did was to rinse out some clothes, as nearly everything we had by now was filthy. We played in the water to cool off and Venus sock escaped down the stream again to be rescued. We bought enough food for two days in town and decided also to skip the Grand Canyon this trip. So we relaxed quite easily and adjusted to the fine, slow life we found ourselves in. On an exploratory trip for firewood, started out by a frisbee toss, we happened to see a crawdad in the stream. Not so big a deal to me, but Venus had never before seen one and was much excited over it. We watched him until he tired and went under a rock. This is the first of four animals she saw in four days that she had never before seen in their natural surroundings.

We ate cereal for breakfast on Wednesday and decided to hike back along the creek to a waterfall we had heard about. We gathered everything together, taking along some clothes to wash out and shampoo for our hair, and headed for the hills. The cloudless forebode another scorcher and as we walked the sweat poured out profusely. We rested in the shade on a boulder in the stream and Venus spied a snake crawling onto a sunny rock. This was her second animal in its natural state. We watched him for many minutes before he had enough sun and slithered through the bushes and out of sight.

We found the waterfall and soon all our clothes were washed and laid out on the rocks to dry. I dropped our brand new bar of soap into an eddy just above the falls and never got it back. We watched it bob up and down in the cool water but it never came within grabbing distance. Venus panned for gold a long time and we enjoyed a very relaxing day in the sunshine turning slowly brown.

While starting our campfire, a couple from Israel pulled up in a car and asked to share our spot for the night as everything was full. I said sure, so they backed in and set up their tent. They had flown to Seattle, rented a car and were going up and down the western United States seeing all its elusive beauty. They had been travelling for six weeks and had two more before they ended up back at Seattle. The man was an English Teacher in a Naval School in Israel. They had never before seen marshmallows, which we were roasting on our fire, and the lady thought they were cotton. She tried one, though, her very first time but decided they were too sugary. In the morning when we got up, they were already gone.

We left our casual setting about 11:00 AM and rode to Fresno through the 100 degree heat of the Central Valley where we cooled off in an air-conditioned restaurant with ice-cream and coffee. Heading east on California 180 I had the misfortune to get in the way of a bee while I was riding shirtless. The little devil crashed into my armpit and stuck his stinger in deep. I brushed him off but it hurt badly. I was able to remove the stinger while riding but the pain was so intense that I had to pull off to the side of the road and put on the foot cream that Alberta had said was good for anything. As soon as I put it on the pain disappeared but I still bear the mark of the stinging bee.

We cruised through the desert lowlands loving the feel of the hot air as we breezed toward the fast approaching foothills of the Sierra Mountain range. The ride into the mountains was a thrilling, fast-action tour up the forested slopes overlooking widespread valleys dotted here and there with houses. There was little traffic and the curves were bearable easily at 45-50 so we made real good time while drooling over the view. The air became increasingly cooler as we rose up gradually to over 6000 feet and the tall trees already were making an early evening on the forest floor.

We entered Canyon-Sequoia National Parks and, resting in the shade, decided to camp at Stony Creek because I liked the name. The map also showed a gas station, store and restaurant there so it seemed like an ideal place. What I didn’t bargain for was a gas problem in the park, which there was. After setting up camp, at which Venus is becoming quite good, we learned that two of the three stations in the park itself were out of gas and the third had a 5 gallon limit. We had to travel 13 miiles one way to fill up at Grant Cove at the lonely open station which we did after eating supper. We ate at the Stony Creek Village Inn and Venus saw her third natural animal, hummingbirds. The inn had feeders hanging all around it and Venus saw dozens of the tiny birds taking advantage of them.

We walked on creek rocks again and Venus fell in today four times and was quite upset at me for laughing at her clumsiness. We met a girl, Alison, from Laguna at camp who was travelling with her friend, Dave, on his Yamaha XS-11. We played cards at their campsite under an ingenious contraption of flashlight and aluminum foil in the twilight. It turned very cold quickly after the sun went down and our night’s sleep was very poor because we were so cold. We tossed and turned and cuddled together all night but could not get warm or comfortable.

I talked Venus into moving on again Friday morning, she wanted to stay two nights at Sequoia Park but I felt it was too cold to sleep there again. Also, she had wanted to be at Alberta’s by Saturday and I thought it would be better to travel some of those 280 miles while sightseeing on Friday. There would be less to travel on Saturday and we could camp down the mountains where it would be warmer. So we packed up camp once again and began our tour of the big trees.

We saw the Lost Grove and spent a long time at the Auto Log where Venus climbed her heart out on the fallen giant and its noble roots. We took walks through the groves at Giant Forest and saw the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth by volume. It stands 275 feet tall, weighs 1385 tons, is nearly 3000 years old and its largest branch, which is 130 feet above the ground, is larger than any single tree east of the Mississippi! The best memories of the trip came from beneath these living age-old giants. I bow humbly to these magnificent works of nature. Truly are they inspired from Heaven!

We played awhile on the Tunnel Tree, drove through it and towards the beginning of the High Sierra T rail, which leads to Mount Whitney. Up the road we spotted a deer feeding and got a picture of the fourth animal in four days in its natural habitat. We walked to the start of the High Sierra Trail where the sign said 70 miles to Mount Whitney. At an elevation of 14,496 feet, it is the highest point in the 48 contiguous states and stands nearly two full miles above its valleys.

We ate lunch at the Giant Forest Lodge, a quaint spot among the sequoias. The Giant Forest is open all year round, for skiing in the winter, while most other sites in the park are closed from October to May. After seeing two more deer together and one more alone by the road we bought souvenir Sequoia Tree playing cards and started out of the park and down the mountains.

We had a leisurely descent, very lovely down the mountains, and cruised into Three Rivers, California in the late afternoon. We asked directions from a fellow on the street and he sent us to a state parked where we camped for free! As I expected, it was quite hot away from the heavily forested mountains so we strolled to Kaweah Lake Reservoir and waded in its warm, muddy waters. A young girl of five came over and chatted with us awhile. She was very hard of hearing. Kept sayng, "What?"

Venus and I rode into town and ate a pizza at a small pizza shop. We both took hot showers at the campgrounds and we played cards at our table before residing to the tent for another episode of " The Hobbit". This would be the last night we spend together in the closeness of the tent. Many very good memories were made within it and I was to lie awake several hours this night thinking about them. They were such fun to make! Soon we would be back to the city we know and the kind of life we temporarily escaped from, and the thought of our travels being over brought a feeling of gloom over me as the end of travels usually do. Our relationship had deepened since we left because we shared feeling of being one with nature all through our exploits on the road. Our brief interlude was drawing to a close and I silently mourned its passing.

Then came Saturday morning and we arose before the sun had tiptoed past the eastern peaks overlooking our camp. We rode 26 miles to Visalia for a hearty breakfast at Denny’s and were leaving there by 10:00 AM. We stopped to cool off from the Mojave Desert heat at Bakersfield and again after crossing the Angeles National Forest at Castaic where Venus had a huge chocolate malt and I had a cold, cold Coors. We drove very steadily except for the three pit stops and logged 209 miles by the time we reached Alberta’s in Encino at 2:30 PM.

Venus went straight to the pool and began practicing her dives right away. I soon followed and the water felt tremendous. Kathy was there alone, sunning in her favorite chair beside the pool. We spent Saturday night and Sunday there and Venus got to be very adept at swimming floating, diving and lost her fear of deep water. She jumped in alone from the edge at the deep end and from the diving board with Kathy and me. Quite an improvement from a month earlier when she was afraid to go in up to her waist.

We grilled steaks and potatoes outside for supper. Kathy’s unnurtured boyfriend, John, joined Kathy, Alberta, Walt, Venus and I and Kathy beat me at a game of backgammon. After washing Walt’s vintage 1965 Mustang show car, Kathy treated Venus and I and John to ice cream at Swanson’s on Ventura Boulevard. Venus and I shared a giant banana split. Monday morning found us on our final leg of the journey to Ocean Beach San Diego. We ate a Jack-in-the-Box at San Clemente and pulled into the gate at our courtyard at 1:30 PM, weary, sad to be home, and yet, glad to be home, too.