Arts, Entertainment, Living

Me & My GPS

Sunday, 24 October 2010 01:04 PM Written by

MILL VALLEY, Ca. -- Daughter Michelle's House

Based on a couple of emails I've received, I may have given the impression that I am relying heavily on my GPS to guide me on this trip.

I'm not.DSC_2069_copy_copy

Following the Steinbeck Highway for 10,000 miles is as easy as following the signs of US 5, US 2, US 1, US 11, US 20, US 10, US 101 and US 66 (if you can still find Route 66's few remaining old signs).

 Most of the time my GPS has been turned off or on mute. But I don't know how many times I have rudely told my GPS Girl to shut up when she insists over and over that I make a right turn and get back on the interstate.

The GPS has been invaluable -- and worth its weight in silver -- when I am in a strange town like Bismarck or Seattle at the end of a long day and I'm looking for a Walmart Sunspot Inn or a motel I've booked through 

(The cheering and hooting you hear in the background is the local populace still celebrating the Giants victory over the Phils last night. Watching that great baseball game -- a game that meant so much to people here -- reminded me why I used to be a big fan of Major League Baseball.)

INTER-MEDIA CORRECTION: In my travel article about Montana in today's Post-Gazette, I referred twice to that beautiful state as "The Gem State." Everyone but me knows that Idaho is "The Gem State." Montana's nickname, of course, is "The Treasure State." 

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Road Warriors

Sunday, 24 October 2010 11:39 AM Written by

MILL VALLEY, CA. -- Daughter Michelle's house

 I thought I was roughing it because I've slept overnight in a bunch of Walmart parking lots. Then late Thursday afternoon in Oregon I came upon three road warriors named Scotty, Boris and Don.

I had been cruising at 70 mph along a rare straight section of US 101 when I slowed down to go through a few buildings called the town of Langlois, Ore. When I saw a trio of bicyclists and their heavily saddle-bagged bikes in front of the Langlois Market & Deli, I stopped and turned around.DSC_2042

All day I had been passing bikers along US 101 in ones and twos -- mostly lean young men, but also women and a father and young son. I figured it was time to talk to a couple of them.

Scotty Mathess, 32, was scarfing down a tube of Pringles when I pulled up. When I told him I was a traveling journalist and he was under interrogation, he cooperated fully.

He said he was on vacation, but actually he had quit his job at a bike shop so he could take a trip down the Pacific Coast route, part of the Adventure Cycling Association's network of bike routes.

The Pacific Coast route starts in Vancouver and runs 1,853.5 miles to Imperial Beach, Ca. The association's description of the 415-mile Oregon leg gives you an idea what a bicyclist  -- or even a motorist -- has to deal with in order to partake of the coastline's stupendous beauty:DSC_2043

"During the peak tourist season, there is heavy recreational vehicle traffic along U.S. Highway 101 along the coast, so cyclists must ride cautiously and defensively. This route can be ridden from early spring to late fall. Heavy winter rains can cause flooding and mud slides and may close roads, especially along the coast in the spring. Fog can also be a problem during any season. Due to changing local conditions, it is difficult to predict any major wind patterns."

Scotty left Denver by himself on Aug. 26 and biked through Yellowstone Park and Missoula to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

He was averaging 60 miles a day and was a few miles short of hitting 3,000.  His final target was San Diego or New Mexico.

His bike was draped with saddlebags holding all his camping gear, rain gear and clothes. He had been sleeping mostly at campgrounds and RV parks, where he paid a hiker/biker rate, or, when it was permitted, in city parks. Sometimes he slept in the bush -- off the side of the road somewhere.

Sleeping in the bush is what Boris Skrobek did a lot of as he crossed Canada.  Boris, 24, is from Europe -- Polish-born and living in Normandy, France -- so we'll use the metric system in his honor.DSC_2041

He rode 3,000 kilometers just in Quebec. He went as far north in that province as he could, then started west across Canada to Vancouver and turned south.

Boris, who budgeted his trip at $30 a day, worked for a year in Normandy to get the money he needed. He had been sleeping mostly in campgrounds in the USA and he'll stop pedaling in San Francisco.

Scotty and Boris each started out alone, but they met on the road somewhere, liked each other and paired up. They weren't really traveling with the third biker, Don, of Juneau, Alaska. Don was just taking a short trip -- 1,500 miles from Bellingham, Wash., to San Diego.

After I took some photos I sped off down the Steinbeck Highway, going as far in the next hour as the three road warriors would go the next day.DSC_2053


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Marketing 'Camper' John Steinbeck

Saturday, 23 October 2010 03:05 PM Written by

MILL VALLEY, CA. -- Daughter Michelle's house

The publisher of "Travels With Charley," Viking Press, did a good job of marketing John Steinbeck's last major work as a nonfiction book when it came out in July of 1962. It jumped to the nonfiction best-seller lists at the New York Times and Time magazine and stayed there for over a year. 

The famous illustrations by Don Freeman on the dust jacket and inside covers created the impression that Steinbeck and Charley spent three months on the American road, roughing it and camping out almost like hobos as they carefully documented the soul of a changing nation and its people.Travels_with_Charley

Though Steinbeck himself makes it clear in the book that he stayed at a posh hotel in Chicago (for four days) and at a fancy ranch in Texas for at least a week, the book's reviewers in 1962 generally liked "Charley" and bought into the romantic on-the-road story line.

In those innocent days, no one questioned the "authenticity" of the cast of characters Steinbeck said he met or the book's nonfiction designation, either.

But how often did John Steinbeck actually camp out or sleep in Rocinante during his 11-week circumnavigation of America? Not very often.

The book itself is little help. We know Steinbeck made up several of the big campout scenes -- on the farm in New Hampshire (when he reportedly stayed overnight at an exclusive inn) and two nights under the stars in North Dakota (which, unless the week of Oct. 9, 1960, had nine days, was an impossible feat).

I don't pretend to have seen every shred & shard of Steinbeck's massive archives.

But based on the "Charley" book, his road letters, Jackson Benson's biography and several newspaper articles, I'd say Steinbeck probably slept in Rocinante a maximum of three or four nights between Oct. 5, when he met his wife Elaine in Chicago, and early December, when he returned to New York City.

In those last 60 or so days of his trip, Steinbeck slept at the Ambassador East in Chicago four nights, at Adlai Stevenson's house near Chicago one night and at motels in North Dakota, Montana and Seattle (probably four nights).

He and Elaine stayed at motels and resorts for almost a week as they traveled down the Pacific Coast from Seattle to San Francisco, where they stayed at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco for four or five days.bu_francis

They then drove south to the Monterey Peninsula where they visited one of Steinbeck's sisters and stayed until almost the middle of November at Steinbeck's modest family cottage in Pacific Grove. 

After Elaine flew on to Texas, John drove in Rocinante from Monterey to Amarillo. For the first four days on the road, until Flagstaff, his old friend Toby Street traveled with him -- so it's unlikely Steinbeck cuddled up in the camper with Toby on any of those nights.

When Steinbeck reached Texas, he stayed in a downtown motel in Amarillo for three or four days, then spent Thanksgiving weekend at a nearby cattle ranch, then visited some of Elaine's relatives in Austin.

As Elaine flew home to New York, in late November Steinbeck drove to New Orleans for a quick peek at the daily circus of bigotry outside a recently integrated elementary school, then headed home as fast as he could.

The last reliable date and location I have found for Steinbeck on his trip was Dec. 3, when he mailed a post-card to his agent from Pelahatchie, Ms.

While he may have grabbed some sleep in Rocinante on his sprint home, Steinbeck -- road bleary and dispirited and out of gas -- certainly didn't do any leisurely camping or last-minute research into the American soul.ca_232_copy

Steinbeck was on the road for about 75 days in the fall of 1960 -- from Sept. 23 to about Dec. 5.

As far as I can tell, on nearly 65 of those nights he slept in hotels, motels, resorts, a cottage, a ranch or with friends or relatives. Twice he slept in his camper on the grounds of Eleanor Brace's house on Deer Isle, Maine; three of four times he slept in his camper at truck stops or "trailer courts" between Chicago and Seattle.

The number of times he slept in his camper in the middle of nowhere, as depicted in the book's illustrations? Once or twice. He told his wife he parked by a bridge overnight in the interior of Maine. And, though there is no corroboration, he says he slept in a canyon in New Mexico by the Continental Divide and near a lake between Buffalo and Chicago.

It's testimony to his great writing skill -- and the gullibility of the age -- that he was able to create a classic "nonfiction" road book around such a pedestrian journey.

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Home Is ... Way Over There

Friday, 22 October 2010 07:09 PM Written by

MILL VALLEY, CA.  -- Daughter Michelle's house

Somewhere in southern Oregon on US 101 I hit my home address by mistake on my GPS and here's what I got:DSC_2069_copy  

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Weekly Menu for the Week of October 25

Friday, 22 October 2010 09:23 PM Written by

Welcome to my weekly menu!!!

I hope you enjoyed last week's menu! This week we have another fantastic menu based on a few of the specials at Giant Eagle. However, if you do not shop at Giant Eagle you can still follow the menu plan. Following a plan will save you time and money in the kitchen. If you plan it according to your grocer's specials the savings are even greater! Costco has great prices on meat or if you visit a local butcher their prices are usually fantastic as well. Whatever you do – DO NOT go to the grocery without a plan!!!

If you would like to receive an email notification when the menu has been published please follow the link below and sign-up!

You can also follow the menu on Facebook and Twitter!!! Go to Kristen Kill Reisinger's Menus That Save on Facebook and click like!!! You will receive updates and pics throughout the week. Also follow the menu on Twitter - @menusthatsave.

ALWAYS check your coupons!!! Not only the ones we receive in our newspapers and mid-week mailers but also online! Check out

Follow the plan so you can save time, money, and a few calories! Remember – cooking our own food is healthier than ordering in and eating out any day!!! Your family, wallet and waistline will thank you!

I hope you all enjoy your week, the recipes and the savings!


Crispy Cod
Broiled Asparagus

Crispy Cod – Adapted from Allrecipes

1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 (3 ounce) fillets cod fillets
2 T. mayo
Squeeze of lemon

Preheat oven to 450°.

In a small shallow bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, cheese, cornmeal, oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper; set aside.

Coat the rack of a broiling pan with cooking spray. Place the cod on the rack, folding under any thin edges of the filets. Combine the mayo and lemon juice. Spread on top of each filet, then spoon the crumb mixture evenly on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is opaque all the way through.

Broiled Asparagus – Our favorite way to eat it!!!

One bunch of asparagus, with the ends trimmed
1-2 T. of olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Toss the asparagus with all of the ingredients and lay flat on a jelly-roll pan. Place under the broiler for 5-8 minutes.


Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Steamed rice (Make extra for Thursday night's dinner)
Sugar Snap Peas

Pork Tenderloin Marinade

½ c. Terriyaki
½ c. Soy Sauce
3 T. Brown Sugar
2 Green Onions, finely chopped
1 T. Sesame Seeds
½ t. Ginger
¼ t. Pepper
½ t. Minced Garlic
1 T. Canola Oil
2 – 1 lb. pork tenderloin

Mix all ingredients. Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade and pour the rest over pork tenderloin in a zip-lock bag. Marinate anywhere from ½ hour to all day. Place the tenderloins on the grill. You want to grill them about 10 minutes per side or until done. This will depend on the thickness of the tenderloin and how hot your grill is. PLEASE let the pork rest before slicing! This helps keep the pork tender and moist.

*** Leftovers will be used again in Thursday's dinner!***


Chicken Parmesan
Tossed Salad

Chicken Parmesan

1 t. minced garlic
¼ cup of olive oil
1 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
¼ cup of parmesan cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. of spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 jar of spaghetti sauce or 3 cups of homemade
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425˚. Combine garlic and olive oil in a microwave safe dish and heat for 35 – 40 seconds on HIGH until oil mixture is warm.

Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a shallow bowl. Pound chicken to ½ inch thickness. Dip chicken in oil mixture; dredge chicken in breadcrumb mixture. Place chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake at 425˚ for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, warm spaghetti sauce and cook pasta according to directions. Remove chicken from oven, top with 2-3 T. of sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over each chicken breast. Place chicken under the broiler until cheese has melted and is bubbly.

To serve, place the chicken on top of a plate of spaghetti tossed with sauce.


Pork-Fried Rice
Fortune cookies

Pork-Fried Rice

Leftover rice (at least 2-3 cups – cold)
Leftover pork – chopped
1 box of frozen peas and carrots – combo
1 small onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
3 T. Canola oil
¼ cup of soy sauce, more depending on your taste
Sesame oil, to taste

In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add the peas and carrots and pork. Sauté until heated through. Push the meat and veggies to the side and scramble the eggs in the skillet or wok. Combine the veggies, pork and egg, Add the cold rice and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Add additional oil if necessary – you want the rice to crisp a little but you do not want it loaded down with oil. Once the rice is heated through, drizzle with sesame oil and more soy sauce to taste.

My kids LOVE this!!! Try to find fortune cookies at your market. If you need this to be a "Meal on the Go" –pick up some Chinese take-out containers. They have basic ones at Michael's in their wrapping paper section.


Pizza Night – Any way you like it!

This night is all about your favorite pizza! You can either order in or make your own! Our favorite way to make "homemade" pizzas is to use flatbread. We buy our flatbread at Costco. It comes in a double pack – they call it "pocketless pita bread." We keep it in the freezer and pull out however many we need. They are the perfect size for individual pizzas!

Here are some ways to build your pizza:

Traditional toppings – pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. – you get the idea!

New idea - bush the flatbread with olive oil, minced garlic and sprinkle oregano on top. Cover with mozzarella cheese and bake in a 450˚ oven until the crust is crisp and the cheese has melted – about 8-10 minutes.
Suggested toppings:
- top with sautéed mushrooms (we like sliced portabellas), sliced caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, sliced, (in the jar is fine) and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese or feta. I will sauté the mushrooms and caramelize the onions early in the day so they are ready for assembly.
- after you have topped your pizza, place it back in the oven and broil until the toppings are warmed and the cheese begins to melt. Serve with a glass of white wine and enjoy the weekend!

And now for the shopping list. As always, double check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see if you already have any of the items listed below. This will reduce your spending and create less waste!bag-groceries-food



Asparagus – GE special
Green onions
Salad – GE special on bagged salad
Small onion

Parmesan cheese
Flatbread or pizza crust if making homemade pizzas
Pepperoni for pizza – don't forget all of your other favorite toppings! Mushroom and caramelized onion with goat cheese is yummy!

Olive oil
Garlic powder
Brown sugar – GE $1/bag
Sesame seeds
Canola oil

Canned Goods/Ethnic Foods/Dry Goods
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Fortune cookies
Rice – white or brown – Need enough for two meals!
Pasta – angel hair or spaghetti – GE brand $1/box
Jar of spaghetti sauce – or you will need about 3 cups of homemade – GE special on GE
Pizza sauce – GE special on Contadina $1/can

Seafood/Meat Case/Butcher
4 cod fillets – GE special
2 – 1 lb. pork tenderloins – GE special
Boneless, skinless, chicken breasts - GE special

Frozen Foods
Sugar snap peas
Box of frozen peas and carrots

Mozzarella cheese – GE special on Sargento – look for coupon for extra savings!
Eggs – GE special

Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs



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Why I'm Hounding Steinbeck

Friday, 22 October 2010 03:27 PM Written by

MILL VALLEY, CA. -- Daughter Michelle's house

Why am I driving around America in a 10,000-mile circle?

Why am I, an ex-journalist, wasting time and gasoline fact-checking John Steinbeck's classic road book?

Why am I spoiling a perfectly good work of literature by comparing what Steinbeck said he did in "Travels With Charley" with what he really did or did not do on his iconic journey in the fall of 1960?

Good & fair questions.

First off, I'm not following John Steinbeck's ghost for any of the usual made-for-TV docudramatic reasons.

I'm not going through a divorce or going through a delayed mid-life crisis at 63 -- which in Boomer years, by the way, is 17.

My beloved dog and I don't each have prostate cancer and only six months to live. I haven't even owned a dog since the great, unreplacable Alex ate something bad and died three years ago.old_stuff_004_copy

And, sorry Hollywood, I don't have a stuffed dog, a bobble-head dog or a locket of Alex's fur onboard my red RAV4.

The only dog-related thing I carry with me is my late dad's U.S. Navy dog-tags.DSC_0039





And they were attached to my car keys long before I dreamed up this crazy exercise in drive-by journalism.

The boring truth is, I thought -- naively, it has turned out -- that doing a book about Steinbeck's 1962 book/1960 road trip would be simple.

I’d plot Steinbeck's actual route, go everywhere Steinbeck and Charley went, take notes, take pictures and talk to people. Then I'd write a book about everything I saw/observed/thought and compare the differences between 1960 and 2010 America. My intentions were innocent.

Then I started my research – what we ex-journalists call reporting.

I had a lot of catching up to do on Steinbeck. I'm not a big literature guy -- just a C+ History major/ English minor.

I was not a huge fan of Steinbeck's writing, though I am now. And unlike Bruce Springsteen, my working-class consciousness hadn't been awakened in high school by "The Grapes of Wrath" -- or anything else.  

I did my Steinbeck 101 homework.

I re-read “Travels With Charley” and other Steinbeck works.

I read the Steinbeck biographies by Jackson Benson and Jay Parini.

I talked to scholars like Benson and archivists from the West Coast Steinbeck Industrial Complex.DSC_1013_copy_copy

I called up authors like Curt Gentry and Barnaby Conrad, who interviewed Steinbeck or partied with him in San Francisco during his “Charley” trip half a century ago. 

I read “Travels With Charley” for the third time.

I visited libraries to look for specific clues of time and place in the letters Steinbeck wrote from the road.

I read his handwritten "Charley" manuscript to compare what he originally wrote and what was edited or cut out of the final version.

Long before I went to this year's  annual Steinbeck Fest at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Ca., where the theme was Steinbeck and his lifetime of travels, I was in too deep financially and psychically to turn back. pics_of_golf_canada_steinbeck_fest_305

Plus, once you tell everyone you know you're going to do something crazy, you'd better do it or they'll think you're nuts.

Unfortunately for "Charley's" reputation as a work of nonfiction, I'm a naturally skeptical and curious ex-journalist. The more I learned about Steinbeck's actual 10,000-mile trip, the less it resembled the trip he described in "Charley."

For 50 years, America has been misled by the book. Most people, including me before I learned otherwise, carry around the impression that Steinbeck and Charley spent three months on the American road, roughing it and camping out most nights almost like hobos as the famous author carefully documented the soul of a changing nation and its people.


In fact, out of about 75 days "on the road," Steinbeck probably spent at least 50 nights sleeping in the best hotels and motels in America, at his family cottage in Pacific Grove or at a fancy cattle ranch in Texas.

So so what? 

“Travels With Charley” has always been classified as nonfiction but no one ever claimed it was a documentary.

Steinbeck himself insisted in “Charley” – a little defensively -- that he wasn’t trying to write a travelogue or do real journalism. 

And he said more than once in the book that his trip was subjective and unique, and so was its retelling. (Most of "Charley's" reviewers didn't pick up those hints in 1962.)travels_cove_copy

"Leave 'Charley' alone, you cranky old fact-checking ex-journalist," I can hear people say.

"Write a libertarian expose of the public mass transit racket or something else -- something that's important.

"You're ruining everyone's fun.

" 'Charley' is almost 50 years old.  It's a wonderful and quirky and entertaining book. It contains flashes of Steinbeck's great writing and humor and it appeals to readers of all ages. That's why it's a classic.

"Who cares if it's not the true or full or honest story of Steinbeck’s road trip? It was never meant to be. It's a metaphor, a work of art, not a travelogue.

"Steinbeck has enough detractors. Lay off.

"Who cares if he made up a few characters and stuck them in his little book?

"Who cares if he didn't really camp overnight near Alice, N.D., or in the Badlands or on that dumb farm in New Hampshire?

"Who cares if 'Charley' would not or could not be called 'nonfiction' today? All nonfiction is part fiction."

Those are all good & fair questions & complaints.

It's just way too late for me to answer them or apologize. I'm too far down this road to turn back or ask for new directions.

As Steinbeck said and knew from experience long before he left his driveway in Long Island, when you take a trip, you don't take it, it takes you.





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Healthy Sliders

Friday, 22 October 2010 12:33 PM Written by

Happy Friday!!!

We are finished with the week and I am one happy mama!!! Ready for a great way to kick off your weekend? Start with these Healthy Sliders - they are delicious!!! My kids gobbled these up and gave the recipe 2 thumbs up!!! We did change one thing about the recipe. We used ground beef instead of ground turkey. We had it on hand and hubby is all about the beef. I once tried to disguise ground turkey in a meatloaf - busted!

Don't you just love sliders? They are fun and the perfect size! And because they are so small, dinner is on the table in a flash! 

Healthy Sliders


Have a wonderful weekend!!!

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Striking Out in the Redwoods

Friday, 22 October 2010 10:49 AM Written by

MILL VALLEY, CA. -- McDonald's

I didn't find the big deserted resort in the redwoods Steinbeck and his family stayed at for several days on their way to San Francisco half a century ago.

I drove down the Avenue of the Redwoods yesterday afternoon, past thousands of trees so tall and thick they shut out the entire electromagnetic spectrum -- from the sun, Verizon or Sirius XM.


The avenue's narrow and snaky, and the tree trunks so monstrous they often touch the paint of the yellow line. It's impossible to believe that until the mid-1960s, when the bypasses were put in, the road was US Route 101 and a major truck route.2010-10-21_17.15.55-1

I pulled over at an organic fruit and veggie stand near Pepperwood, but I was never able to find the old resort that the people there said might be the place I was looking for: the Hartsook Inn, set in the redwoods at the southern end of the Avenue of the Giants.

The Inn is now closed and owned by the Save- the-Redwoods League.  A real getaway with 62 rustic cabins and no phones, it was once the place to go for celebrities like Steinbeck.H-CA8

I did find the Benbow Inn, another resort that might have sheltered the Steinbecks for several days. It's not hidden so deep in the redwoods, but it's still going strong. DSC_2012

I stopped for dinner last night in downtown Garberville, the prosperous capital of Marijuana County, and guess what? Everyone seemed stoned.

Demographically, everyone was either old and homeless looking or young and homeless looking (they were the ones with the overstuffed backpacks).

As I got back in my RAV4, a stereotypically solid citizen of Garberville was squatting on the sidewalk with his back against a building.

"Is that a 2010?" he said.

"Yeah," I said.

"I've got an '09."

"Sure you do, pal," I thought.

He asked me where I was from and I told him Pittsburgh.

"I've got an uncle in Pittsburgh -- and I went to a football game at Three Rivers Stadium in the '80s, when I was a teen-ager."

As I got into my car, he hit me with the closer that I should have seen coming but didn't:

"I've got some good weed if you're interested."

I passed on his kind offer, thereby missing a chance to contribute to the greater Garberville economy by buying locally.

I tried to make it to my daughter Michelle's house here last night, but didn't. Too tired. I slept in my car for about three hours somewhere along lonely, dark, twisting, dipping US 101 near Willits.

Then I got up, drove the remaining 100 miles and pulled into Michelle's driveway at 2. I slept till 6, breaking several dozen zoning laws in her fine upstanding community, I'm sure. 


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