December 24, 2010
IT LIKE IT IS:
It’s 5 a.m. on the morning before Christmas Eve. John and I are up early, as usual, to finish the week’s paper.
Our first conversation of the day turned into a heated argument. John told me of his decision not to include the names of the Three Rivers drivers and passenger involved in two separate DUI accidents this week (page 4).
I disagreed vehemently with this decision, because I think these drivers — who endanger us, our friends and loved ones, our property, and themselves — deserve to be called out and publicly identified for their life-threatening choices.
But I will defer to John this time and respect his decision. He is the one who mostly has to face the vitriol, hurt, and anger of those associated with the accused parties as he is the most visible around town during our day-to-day operations. Yes, the “shoot the messenger” mentality is especially harsh in a small town.
When making these difficult decisions regarding naming names, I always substitute my own children’s names with those in question. In both these cases, I would have named them; I have no tolerance for drunk drivers.
Someday, I’ll win this argument, so if you don’t want your name in this newspaper when you wreck your car, then don’t drink and drive.
Until then, if you absolutely must know the names of those involved, it’s public information, so just ask.
IT LIKE IT IS:
Keep computers virus-free
the season for online shopping
My computer decided to take a few years off
my life by succumbing to a virus a few weeks
back. During its healing process, I learned
a few things, including: a lot has changed in
the online world since I first became a regular
Internet user over 15 years ago.
The only way to have a completely
safe computing experience these days is to unplug
your Internet connection and never install any
software. Since that is probably not a viable
option, there are a few other ways to protect
In an effort to ensure that readers
don’t have to go through the stressful
process of having their computer refuse to cooperate
just when it is needed most, I will share what
I have learned recently and through the years.
First of all and most basic, exercise
common sense. Nobody is going to hand you a
million dollars because you have graciously
agreed to assist a Nigerian prince who contacted
you — and only you — to move his
money from one bank account to another. And
the Viagra really isn’t free. So keep
your day job and keep your computer safe by
not clicking on such obvious scams.
Be sure that all virus/spyware/malware
software is current and working. Install antivirus,
antispyware, and use a bidirectional firewall
to prevent unwanted inbound and outbound traffic
on your PC. The Internet is a heavily infected
environment, and it is essential that users
are careful about where they browse and what
they download. And run regular scans.
Currently being targeted are social
websites, popular websites, children’s
websites, and adult websites. Music and movie
downloads can also carry infections, so be sure
to scan all downloads prior to using to minimize
Watch what you click on. Those
pop-up ads can be more than annoying; they might
be infected, and clicking on either “Cancel”
or the red X to close the ad could instead activate
it. Instead, on your PC, hit ALT+F4 to close
Also beware of pop-up security
fakes that tell you to scan or disinfect, then
offer you a handy product to do so. It’s
adware. Adware, or advertising-supported software,
is any software package that automatically plays,
displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer.
Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some
adware may come with integrated spyware such
as privacy-invasive software.
Allow the auto-updates. Both Windows
and Mac operating systems constantly patch any
security holes they find.
files is hard to avoid, but be wary of those
emailed to you, whether from someone in your
address book or unsolicited. Trust the source
or don’t open it, and that goes for files
ending in .exe, .com, .bat, .scr, .doc, and
If you don’t have a router,
get one. They’re inexpensive yet offer
an additional layer of protection to your computer.
Make sure it supports network address translation
(NAT) and stateful packet inspection (SPI) and
the router will hide your computer from Internet
users scanning for open ports and can distinguish
legitimate network traffic from that which is
looking to infect. Most routers come with a
username like “admin” and no password;
change those defaults.
Use strong passwords. That means
instead of using “PASSWORD” as your
password, mix numbers and letters, and not in
alphabetical or numerical sequence. Even mix
upper and lower case and throw in some punctuation
marks. Stay away from proper names or, for that
matter, any word that is found in the dictionary.
Don’t use the same password
on every computer you use or every site you
visit. If memory challenged, write down all
your sites with their passwords so you have
a key or create a single, strong password, then
adjust it based on the name of the site or service.
Just as Macs are smaller targets
than PCs for viruses, Firefox is a smaller target
than Internet Explorer. The Firefox browser
also offers the option of a master password
that you must enter before you can access any
stored site passwords.
If using a shared or office-based
PC, disable the AutoComplete settings that store
your passwords and also fill them in for you
(Go to Control Panel>Internet Options>Content
tab, then go to AutoComplete settings to disable).
Unless you are 200 percent certain,
never click links in email. Even though a message
may look like it’s from PayPal, Amazon,
eBay, your bank, or a friend, if you’re
at all suspicious, use common sense. Don’t
click on any URLs in a suspicious email. Instead,
type the URL for your bank or PayPal or whatever
it might be directly into your browser. And,
remember, real financial institutions and legitimate
businesses won’t (or shouldn’t)
ask you to verify accounts via email.
Beware the holidays. Online greeting
cards are great for phishers. Disreputable sites
can collect information from people who send
cards and then again from the recipient who
clicks to watch one. Stick to the old-fashioned
paper versions of holiday cards.
Update your audiovisual software
because the stealing of information is no longer
limited to the Web and email. It is now happening
on Skype as well. To avoid spam on Skype, don’t
list your username in the provider’s public
Deactivate ActiveX controls (Internet
Explorer), which is the technology that lets
the browser automatically run software components.
(Control Panel>Internet Options>Security
tab, then update your settings to either “Prompt”
or “Disable” ActiveX. These settings
can be readjusted as needed.)
If you are going to send personal
information via a website, make sure the site
encrypts that traffic. Do not provide any information
—such as credit card number — unless
the address in the URL begins with “https”
(the “s” means secure) and there
is a lock icon in the address bar or status
bar. (But remember, just because it’s
secure doesn’t mean you can trust it.
Bad guys have encrypted sites too. Again, use
Never, ever send a reply to a spam.
Even if it’s for a product you want; even
if it’s to tell them to quit sending mail.
Doing so confirms you received it, and your
address goes on the spammers’ lists for
Set your email software —
even if it’s web-based (gmail, Yahoo!,
etc.) — to not show images. It prevents
web “beacons” that tell a spammer
you’ve viewed the message, which once
again confirms your address.
Use email with a spam filter. And
the more complicated your email address (or
username in instant messages), the more you
can avoid spam and spim (spam in instant messages).
In the world of computing, all
of the above is simply reactive to whatever
the cyber-thieves are currently doing. It’s
impossible to stay ahead of them and they are
relentless in their quest for your information
and/or money or to simply disable your computer,
so until passwords consist of your fingerprints
or retinas, stay informed, defensive, updated,
and be very, very cautious.
26 , 2010
On the right track —
Typing on the train
Everybody should take Amtrak at least every
once in awhile. That's how I can get a little
extra time to read, write, and think. If schedule
permits, I opt for Amtrak over driving, which
is what I did on a recent trip to Sacramento
Training through this great Valley heartland
always gives me a renewed perspective on where
I've been and where I'm going. It's something
akin to hitting the refresh button in real time
on the computer.
I've been thinking a lot about hitting my refresh
button lately having recently marked my 60th
birthday. That milestone makes me a Boomer;
not the oldest nor the youngest.
A huge batch of Boomers is poised to turn 65
at year's end. Don't even think about raising
the retirement age in this country… most boomers
who have a plan are thinking of their golden
years with a different idea in mind. For many,
that includes some part-time work at least or
perhaps a continued role in business.
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go
awry. One thing is for certain: Baby Boomers
know about injustice.
It's the legacy of our generation. Maybe not
our greatest generation, according to Tom Brokaw,
but definitely these Boomers are the most engaged.
How could it be possible? It seems like only
yesterday that Boomers were questioning whether
the U.S. should be in Vietnam . Then President
Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the biggest saturation
bombing in the history of mankind.
The conflict ended eventually with nearly 50,000
U.S. war dead and hundreds of thousands of Southeast
Asians killed. Involvement in the Vietnam War
is not something of which most Americans are
it's a different decade. We still raise the
same old questions on Iraq and Afghanistan and,
evidently, we still haven't learned the lessons
Most of the kids of Boomers are grown adults
now who have moved out of the nest, some in
college, others with careers of their own. The
empty nest is the single most difficult thing
for me in growing old — I miss my kids terribly.
We exchange text messages daily so at least
I know they are doing fine. When there's news,
good or bad, most parents in the digital age
are instantaneously informed.
So let's return to this train ride I'm on and
think about what lies ahead. What kind of a
world will our college-age kids have to look
It's a given that California must remake itself
as a state government, a culture, and as a people.
But be careful what you wish for this newly
reconstituted U.S. Congress to do as the backdrop
to our efforts.
To cut spending drastically, as some would have
us do when unemployment is in double digits
is a huge mistake. The last time we did that
was under Herbert Hoover, and the U.S. plunged
into a deep, dark depression.
World War II came along and fueled an eventual
economic recovery. In this instance though,
history best not repeat itself.
we have learned any lessons of the past it is
that a World War III is unthinkable.
So for a time longer, the feds must continue
to invest in states like California who need
to re-tool and become more lean and smarter.
We need water for the Central Valley to restore
jobs and build a sustainable economy still rooted
in agribusiness. But this time it must be a
smarter, healthier agriculture.
We cannot do that without the cooperation of
the federal government. Nor can we grow a commitment
to build the bullet train and restore and extend
Investment in agriculture or mass transportation
is not going to be profitable in itself but
it will fuel jobs, new industries, and smart
Funding for the things we have done well in
the past like education and health care need
to be expanded not cut. Why do we kid ourselves
by believing the government should not be in
the business of doing either?
Hello! The federal government is already in
the education and healthcare business. Of course
we need to encourage small business partners
for they, until recently, fueled much of this
Somewhere in between the two — more government
spending and less restraints on small business
— will be the world of our children. We can
never go back, we can only look forward.
That's what I like best about Sacramento right
now — its trains. If we lose training, we lose
touch with our past and that's not smart or
IT LIKE IT IS:
Measure V deserves support
No, it’s not a good time to be asking
voters for money. But for the Three Rivers Union
School District, it is a critical time.
With its budget stretched to the
breaking point due to a declining enrollment,
and income from the state uncertain, the single-school
district is struggling to meet its day-to-day
expenses. Help from the taxpayers at this juncture
Measure V, before TRUS district
voters on Tuesday, Nov. 2, deserves passage.
With schools throughout the nation currently
asking for millions of dollars from voters in
this election cycle — and bailouts to
banks and auto makers in the incomprehensible
trillions — TRUS is, in comparison, asking
for a small raise in its allowance: $56 per
parcel annually for five years. Then it’s
done. Gone. Off the tax rolls.
Three Rivers School isn’t
asking for money to build additional facilities
or for capital improvements and hasn’t
for a quarter of a century since the McDowall
Auditorium was built, which has proven to be
an indispensable Three Rivers venue. The school
simply wants to remain solvent and maintain
its current programs and is asking the community
to support those prudent objectives.
Currently, the district can barely
pay for teachers and curriculum development
with its scaled-back budget. There’s nothing
left in the larder and no end in sight to the
Three Rivers voters have historically
recognized the importance of local education
and have supported bond issues and parcel tax
measures. Past measures have not only added
important campus improvements at College of
the Sequoias, Woodlake High, and TRUS, but have
spurred the local economies and created jobs
while ensuring continued access to quality education.
Yes, the timing is not the best,
but the need is real. And, remember, while the
recession is temporary, the investment we make
in the education of our children will pay dividends
for decades to come.
Whether as parents or community
members, we have the power to keep Three Rivers
School under local control. Remember, voters
who support their schools typically have the
And where there are the best schools,
property values trend the highest and families
choose to relocate. As a result, businesses
are successful and the economy is strong. It’s
a healthy, vibrant cycle.
The best money a town can spend
is on education. As such, Measure V deserves
our overwhelming support.
Film, eclipse, the midterm
Sarah and I had the good fortune to attend Homecoming
at Cal-Berkeley a couple of weeks ago. Now that
our daughter Jennie graduated last May, and
actually found a job in the Bay Area, Parents
Weekend is an excellent excuse to visit her
new digs, but just as importantly, keep up on
what’s going on in academia.
As former “Cal Parents,”
we now find ourselves “Friends of Cal”
who can still buy a class pass for two days
each October to sit in on faculty seminars.
This year we attended the Art of Narrative Film
Technique by Marilyn Fabe. Fabe is a founder
of the new Film Studies degree for doctoral
students at U.C. Berkeley and was also one of
Jennie’s favorite professors in her communications/film
After several years of trying,
we finally got two seats in Alex Filippenko’s
extremely popular astronomy lectures. Professor
Filippenko, a national Professor of the Year,
has brought the astral world’s attention
to the Cal campus and been voted the most beloved
professor on campus several times by the students.
His lecture “Glorious Total
Eclipse” was just that – glorious.
He showed us the Bailey Beads (beads of light
that can look like a wedding ring visible briefly
as the moon obscures the sun), Prominences (loop-shaped
light projected outward in space), and features
on the Moon’s surface like its valleys
and mountains, all visible for a fleeting few
minutes during a total eclipse.
Filippenko said that the next really
big total eclipse show — where the Moon
will be close enough to the Earth to completely
cover the Sun — will occur off the northeast
coast of Australia on April 8, 2012, so make
your travel plans now. You can even book a special
cruise with the entertaining Filippenko as your
guide — who has 11 total solar eclipses
from around the world under his belt —
for a vacation and four to seven total eclipse
minutes you will remember for the rest of your
It was Dan Schnur’s lecture
“The 2010 Midterm Elections: A User’s
Guide” that was most timely. Schnur, a
political science professor at Cal and the current
chair of California’s Fair Political Practices
Commission, explained that he is somewhat of
a political oddity at Cal being a career Republican.
But to all his students and parents like us
who attend his lectures, he requires “that
you leave your ideology at the door.”
Having been intimately associated
with the campaigns of Gov. Pete Wilson and Sen.
John McCain, Schnur is often asked these days
to make election predictions but cannot, he
said, because in his position as committee chair
it would not be appropriate. However, he believes
he can decipher both the mood of the country
and where California is headed on November 2.
“To do that we need to analyze the electorate,”
Schnur said. “At this time in our history,
the voters are far more interesting than the
What are voters thinking and feeling?
The dominant sentiment, according to Schnur,
is anger, and he compares the depths of the
anger in this election with 1992 when briefly
Ross Perot was the frontrunner for the presidential
Voters are angry with Washington
and angry with Wall Street. That angers boils
down, Schnur said, with the Republicans being
angry with career politicians and the Democrats
being angry with corporate fat cats on Wall
So what’s a California voter
to do in the race for governor where you have
Jerry Brown, a career politician, vs. Meg Whitman,
a Wall Street corporate type?
“California voters are actually less angry
than in other parts of the country,” Schnur
said. “Much of our anger was spent during
the Gray Davis recall seven years ago when we
had our political revelation.”
Now the political mood of California is tending
more toward despondency, Schnur said.
Unfortunately, much of California’s
optimism of the past — derived from the
Gold Rush, real estate frenzy, aerospace excitement,
Hollywood’s glamour, and the high-tech
boom — is now just a memory of the good
“Perhaps it is Green Industry —
not necessarily the Proposition 19 kind! —
that can restore the jobs,” Schnur said.
“That is one area where Californians are
leading the way for the world and one area where
we can all be optimistic.”
'Where the River Meets
If you have haven’t visited the Slick
Rock Recreation Area lately I’ve got a
neat way to get reacquainted. Come to the parking
lot area adjacent to the new boat ramp on Saturday,
Oct. 23, at 7 a.m. On that eventful day —
the Centennial of the Kaweah Post Office —
a number of your friends and neighbors will
be gathering to participate in the inaugural
10K run and 5K walk, the first event of what
a host of fitness-oriented folks hope will be
a series of run/walk events on area roads and
Next Saturday’s event (Oct.
23), which is a benefit for the Kaweah Postal
Foundation, is not the first-ever race in the
area. For several years, David Bronzan, the
COS cross-country coach, brought his runners
up each fall for a five-mile run along Old Three
Rivers Drive and up the South Fork and back.
There were some memorable performances by the
COS runners in that race and local runners were
always welcome too.
Some outstanding performances come to mind by
locals including Barry Proctor, who at age 51
and at the 5K (3.1 miles) distance, is still
one of Tulare County’s top runners. Last
year, in the Springville Apple Run 10K, Barry
covered the 6.2 mile course in 41.21 and finished
Other local runners who participated
in those Kaweah races of yesteryear were Jim
Entz, Dyann Graber, and Heather Woods as a pre-teen.
It remains to be seen who might turnout for
this revival race/walk but one thing is for
certain; there is lots of local talent and folks
who run and walk to keep fit.
At age 59, I count myself in the
“run to keep fit” category. I’m
not fast or slow, and although I’ve only
been running regularly for three years, here
are some of the basics I’ve learned.
—Running helps shed unnecessary weight,
strengthens the immune system, and makes you
feel and look better.
—It’s fun to run with other runners
but in reality it’s about running solo.
—If you enter a race (enter this one because
it’s for a good cause), you should run
against yourself, not the other runners. Trying
for a personal best is always a challenge, but
no matter how fast or how slow you go there
is always somebody faster or slower. Just have
fun and enjoy the time with others who also
run and walk.
—Walking regularly has many of same health
benefits of running. You have to walk before
you can run, or just walk like Jana Botkin,
a Three Rivers resident, who can sustain a walking
pace in excess of five miles per hour and has
entered walk marathons.
Whether you run or walk to compete
or just for fun you are a winner because you
will live a strong, healthier lifestyle.
Here’s a closer look at the
course that has been dubbed, “Where the
River meets the Lake.”
The distance between the two recreation
areas along the lake bottom is nearly a perfect
5K (3.1 miles) so up and back makes a comfortable
10K or 6.2 miles. The average runner completes
the 10K in about 60 minutes; the average walker
will complete the 5K in the same time.
The 8 a.m. start for runners is
at the gate (just 50 yards or so down the ramp)
in the Slick Rock Recreation Area; the turn-around
is a loop just before where the road to the
Kaweah Recreation boat ramp descends its last
hill westward. The loop turn-around will be
clearly marked and staffed by volunteers.
Just after the runners start, the
walkers will be escorted approximately 300 yards
down the ramp for an 8:05 start. The turn-around
for walkers will be at the old highway bridge,
1.55 miles from the starting line.
The entire route has plenty of
scenic views of the river and lower lake area.
The return for runners and walkers includes
some stunning up-canyon views of the meandering
mouth of the Kaweah River and the nearby mountains
of Sequoia National Park.
Here’s a useful tip for all
who are planning to enter. Walk/run the course
at least once to get the feel of the trail’s
surface. All participants will encounter stretches
of smooth asphalt, soft sandy loam, and hard-packed
dirt, ruts, and just about every surface in
The varying surfaces are actually
one of the benefits of this trail. For those
who return here to run/walk again and again,
your feet experience what running experts call
varying foot strikes. Your feet actually become
stronger by adapting to the different surfaces
and that helps cut down on soreness and injury
incurred over time.
All entrants will need to pick-up
a sign-up sheet at the office of The Kaweah
Commonwealth or download one from the home page
on this website.
After filling out the form, return
the paperwork with a payment of $20. Any registrations
received on the day of the event will cost $25.
For those who want to enter kids in the event,
ask about the family discount.
Perks of the event include a custom-designed
event T-shirt and prizes to be awarded to the
top finishers in multiple categories.
An aid station with water and Gatorade
will be located at the 1.55 mile mark for use
by walkers and runners. All entrants must complete
the course by 10 a.m. as there is an equestrian
event scheduled for the same day. Awards will
be presented at the Slick Rock start/finish
line at 10:15 a.m.
Proceeds from the event will be
donated to the Kaweah Postal Foundation in honor
of the centennial being celebrated by the Kaweah
Post Office on the same day. Questions and requests
for run/walk sign-up sheets should be directed
to Lee Goldstein (561-3204) or John Elliott
The riches of Mineral
The passing of Ora Kay Peterson (1929-2010)
in Visalia On July 31 certainly brought back
some wonderful memories for me. The multitude
of friends and neighbors who gathered for her
memorial service at St. Paul’s Church
in Visalia was evidence of all those lives she
touched in her lengthy career as a dental hygienist
and community activist.
Her greatest passion was for things
historical, and that is how our paths first
crossed nearly 25 years ago. It was in the company
of this great lady that I made my first trip
up the Mineral King Road on September 25, 1986,
to visit the Peterson cabin in East Mineral
The trip was an inspection tour
of the cabin community and its associated historical
sites to see if I might be interested (in my
capacity of public historian) in coming up with
a plan to convince Sequoia National Park officials
of the historical significance of the cabins.
My first impression in driving through the old
rustic cabins was that this place indeed had
the makings of a special historic district.
But there was also an interesting
backstory as to how this memorable life-changing
visit came together. That part of the story
involves the Mineral King District Association,
founded in 1975, of which Ora Kay was a board
member. Ironically, it was another longtime
member of the Mineral King community, Jean Koch,
who I first met in Garden Grove at an Auld Lang
Syne luncheon in 1982.
I was the speaker at that luncheon
with a slide show on historical sites along
the old railroad tracks that hadn’t been
used to haul passengers on the Red Cars since
1940. At the time, the Orange County Transit
District was proposing to bring back a light-rail
passenger service to help mitigate the mess
of the snarled freeway system.
“There is a group of cabin owners up in
Mineral King that could use someone like you,”
said Jean Koch, who came forward when my talk
had ended. “Here’s the address of
Ora Kay Peterson in Visalia who is in charge
of getting us someone to help. Maybe you could
write a letter to tell the board what needs
to be done.”
In truth, I wasn’t even sure
where Mineral King was located. As soon as I
got home that evening, I pulled out a map. I
found the spot east of a little blip called
The map read: “Road to Mineral
King is closed in winter.”
To me, that sounded like one of
the most intriguing places on the planet. By
the next afternoon, I had a rather detailed
letter explaining that the Mineral King cabins
should be listed on the National Register of
Historic Places… and I’m the guy
that can get the job rolling. I can start as
soon as possible, I wrote.
All that year, and the next one,
and the next one, and the next one… I
never heard a word. Then, finally, in September
1986 the phone rang at my house in Costa Mesa.
When I first heard the voice on the other end
of the line it took me a moment to get my bearings.
“Hello, this is Ora Kay Peterson and I
am calling on behalf of the Mineral King District
Association. You wrote us a letter a while back
and we were wondering if you might still be
interested in our historical project.”
Of course, I answered.
"Could you come up next weekend to take
a look at Mineral King and see if you might
want to get involved? It’s important we
go up right away because anytime now we could
get snow up there.”
After pondering the possibilities
for a split second I answered: “I can
drive up Friday morning and meet you in Visalia
“That’s just fine,” Ora Kay
replied. “That will give us plenty of
time to drive up to the cabin.”
That was the beginning of something
really incredible for all of us who, in any
way, shape, or form, enjoy the wonders of Mineral
King. Now fast forward to Saturday, Aug.
7, 2010, when there were more than 100 community
members, Sequoia National Park officials including
Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich, and other
mountain folk who gathered at the Barton Cabin
in West Mineral King — as they have for
more than three decades — for the annual
meeting of the Mineral King District Association.
There were folks in attendance
who have been coming to Mineral King for more
than 80 years; most had been there for 40 or
50 of those summers. Jean Koch, my original
Mineral King connection, attended on what was
her 90th birthday.
One beloved Mineral King personality
that was missing was Ora Kay, who has done as
much as anyone to ensure that this unique community
is still extant and will be preserved. But that
is another part of this epic story.
Kaweah Commonwealth's plea to keep
safe from the Kaweah River...
Three Rivers Visitor:
We would like to talk frankly with you about
our town’s namesake: the three rivers.
Most likely, the Kaweah River is why you are
here. It is certainly the principal reason why
we live here. Read
There's gold in these
In my role as president of the California
County Planning Commissioners Association, I
attended the Central District Spring Conference
held Friday, April 16, at Jamestown, Tuolumne
County. It was an intensive all-day program
entitled: “Bound for Glory: Promoting
Prosperity in Your County.”
Tuolumne County is situated in
the heart of California’s Gold Country,
a huge magnet for tourists. It’s difficult
to imagine the county’s smallish size
(pop. 60,000) because the typical visitor is
so impressed by all that the area has to offer.
The county’s historic Gold
Rush towns with nearby state parks are alluring,
and Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National
Forest offer limitless outdoor recreation. The
locals have embraced their mantle as a tourist
region and realize it’s a challenge to
remain viable in today’s economy.
The conference sessions featured
several speakers who looked at the various assets
of Tuolumne County and their relationships with
Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Each session
had a motion picture-inspired title from a movie
that was filmed locally.
Tuolumne County, with its string
of charming gold rush towns and historic parks
has been the setting for many famous flicks
and TV serials. Here, every visitor is reminded
of Hollywood’s immortal stars and Wild
West settings that complement the local interpretation
of California’s Gold Rush.
Some of the richest strikes in
California were made here in 1849 and many of
the biggest nuggets ever found came from Tuolumne
County’s gulches. After an El Nino season
like this one, good paying dirt may still be
found in newly eroded places in the area’s
rivers and creeks.
Learning about gold panning at
Columbia State Park remains one of the area’s
premiere attractions. But more gold today is
found in the pockets of tourists and investors
who come seeking to experience or develop one
of these tourist-related assets.
Shuttle v. trolley—
There are some interesting comparisons to be
drawn between Tuolumne and Tulare counties.
The cluster of Gold Rush-era towns in Tuolumne
County are linked by a new trolley that transports
visitors back and forth with stops also at the
Riding on the new trolley from Jamestown to
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park reminded me
of the potential for a similar experience in
Three Rivers. Our Sequoia Shuttle from Visalia
could be so much more, yet Visalia and park
officials cannot see beyond their own self-interest.
The Sequoia Shuttle, now approaching
its fourth season does a great job in Sequoia
National Park. Outside the park, it has failed
at what it was proposed to do in the first place;
get folks out of their cars and improve air
For an array of reasons, the City
of Visalia cannot cooperate with county transportation
officials to make the shuttle more viable. At
times, they act as if Three Rivers doesn’t
Visalia officials claim they never
intended to collect fares and make any more
stops (than Comfort Inn and Memorial Building)
as the main reasons as to why they cannot fill
the hundreds of empty seats that go through
Three Rivers from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Three Rivers and Tulare County could do well
to learn a thing or two from Tuolumne County.
A step in the right direction would be to establish
a town center/transit center in Three Rivers
for busses and shuttles to serve more passengers.
There is no good reason why all
those shuttles should return with empty seats
to Visalia; all that would be needed is for
a few vehicles to return daily and be stored
overnight in Three Rivers. Instead, Visalia
officials view Three Rivers as a rival for tourist
business and not as a partner in this much needed
progress. With no town leadership, Three Rivers
remains without a voice.
The shuttle advertisements even
go so far as to claim that they (Visalia) are
the gateway to Sequoia National Park. Anyone
who has ever visited Visalia/Three Rivers knows
that gateway part is simply not true for Visalia,
nor will it ever be.
Part of the responsibility for
this misinformation must reside with Three Rivers
businesses for not embracing our true gateway
identity and collectively insisting that Visalia
at least include Three Rivers in the tourist
Steve Frisch, president of the
Sierra Business Council, told the Jamestown
conference that the new generation of visitors
is seeking small communities just like Three
Rivers to spend their tourist dollars.
First, they want to get out of
their vehicles so they prefer those places that
are walkable and have lots of healthy recreational
Second, they want to experience
a place where some remnants of the past have
been preserved and the residents have a sense
of their own history.
And finally, they appreciate a
vibrant local arts scene both of the visual
and performance variety.
There is no doubt that there is
plenty of potential for Three Rivers to cater
to these new tourists and we are headed in the
right direction. All we need is a trolley —
or shuttle — to take us there.
Welcome to the Hotel
To think just two weeks ago I was exploring
the Los Cabos coastline of Baja California Sur.
After all this recent winter weather, the balmy
80-degree temperatures and the Baja breezes
seem like a fleeting dream.
A couple of years back, I promised
my family that whenever possible we would try
to spend part of each January someplace warm.
As I pondered the options, it became apparent
that warm place would be somewhere in Mexico.
Traveling south of the border makes
sense. It’s relatively easy to get to
(lots of direct flights from California) and
an affordable place to stretch those travel
dollars. If you have time but are on a tighter
budget, it’s a camper’s paradise.
Mexico really is a safe, family
destination as long as you steer clear of those
drug-crazed border towns.
In 2008, we tried Puerto Vallarta
and explored the Pacific Coast of mainland Mexico.
This year we focused on the southernmost part
of the Baja peninsula and were very impressed
by the traditional Mexican culture that still
may be found there in spite of those expatriates
who are encouraging Mexican investors to build
condos, tacky mini-malls, and all-inclusive
We opted to stay in San Jose del
Cabo, the quieter of the two Cabos. Both San
Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are towns of
about 50,000. Cabo San Lucas is a bit more raucous,
is a cruise ship port, and is located where
the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez 20
miles to the west.
About 60 miles east of San Jose
del Cabo is Cabo Pulmo National Park. Cabo Pulmo,
in the Sea of Cortez, is the antithesis of the
all-inclusive resort and is home to the Mexican
equivalent of a U.S. National Park. It is so
remote that the government is finding it extremely
difficult to enforce the laws enacted in the
1990s to protect this unique marine resource.
At Cabo Pulmo there exists the
last living reef of the region with plenty of
excellent diving, snorkeling, and miles of pristine
beaches. The fishing is among the best in the
world so it’s tough barring guides and
local fishermen from the Parque Nacional who
are looking to feed hungry families and make
a few pesos.
It’s the mañana lifestyle,
and recently relaxed immigration laws are appealing
to an increasing number of gringos coming south
of the border in search of “Hotel California.”
Hotel California to some retiring boomers is
wherever they find their extension of the idyllic
California lifestyle; to others it’s simply
a very cool vacation at the property by the
same name that inspired the number-one bestselling
Eagles album in 1977.
This autentico Hotel California
is an inviting, recently remodeled 11-room inn
on Avenue Juarez located adjacent to the old
mission in Todos Santos. Todos Santos is about
an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas
on the Pacific Coast.
The sleepy, old Baja town was discovered
in the 1960s by California surfers, hippies,
and coastal aficionados looking for that perfect
sunset. Among those 1960s visitors was Don Felder,
an accomplished guitarist and studio musician
looking for a little peace and quiet to write
songs and escape life in the L.A. fast lane.
“Don Felder frequented Hotel California
in those days but in truth, the Eagles as a
group never actually stayed here,” said
Debbie Stewart, the owner of the venerable property
for the past eight years. “It was coming
here that inspired Felder to write his part
of those famous lyrics.”
Felder was not an original Eagle
but when he sat in on a 1974 tour he so impressed
Don Henley and Glenn Frey that he was asked
to join the band. Felder is credited with being
a co-writer of the song “Hotel California,”
the title track on the album that has sold more
than 10 million copies, placing it among the
top two or three bestselling albums of all time.
In recent years, it also surpassed
one million digital downloads. Here is an excerpt
from the lyrics of Hotel California that won
the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1977.
a dark desert highway,
cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas
rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance,
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and
my sight grew dimmer
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
‘This could be Heaven
or this could be Hell’
Then she lit up a candle and
she showed me the way
There were voices
down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…
Welcome to the
Such a lovely place
(such a lovely face)
Plenty of room at the
Anytime of year
you can find it here...
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out
anytime you like,
but you can never leave.’
—Felder, Henley, Frey
So if you are in need of a break from winter
head south to BCS, Mexico. There are beautiful
beaches, whales to watch, lots of water sports,
and nine missions including San Jose del Cabo
and Todos Santos to explore.
Today, you can check in or out
at Hotel California anytime you like but you
better make a reservation: www.hotelcaliforniabaja.com.
IT LIKE IT IS:
No matter when you think the
recent millennium began, there is no denying
that there are 10 years of the 2000s that are
now in the past. As of today, we enter 2010
(pronounced twenty-ten, not two-thousand-ten
But let’s look back over
the decade, which started when gas was $1.25
a gallon, but at least didn’t end with
it eclipsing $4 per gallon, as it did in ‘06.
Way back when, when postage stamps were 29 cents
and lickable, and now are 44 cents and mostly
We’ve bid goodbye to floppy
disks, cassettes, yellow pages, and our rolodex,
and embraced iPods, Blackberries, and iPhones.
We are now entertained by reality TV, social
networking, weblogs, and YouTube. CDs have come
and mostly gone; DVDs and downloads have replaced
We’ve added new verbs to
our vocabulary: googling, blogging, texting,
friending, and tweeting. We have new “conveniences”
in our lives like automated phones (press 1...)
and online banking. But use those wireless devices
wisely, because we also have identity theft.
We certainly can’t look back
on the decade without knowing that it will forever
be defined by 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
We’ve dealt with SARS and
H1N1, but the worst epidemic is that the majority
of us are fat — and there are categories
for our stages of fatness: overweight, obese,
and morbidly obese — which is also our
nation’s leading cause of death. Our “Western
diet” is infamously known throughout the
world, loved and hated at the same time.
In 2000, it was peacetime. Now
we are fighting two wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq. There are no WMDs, Saddam Hussein has
been hanged, more than 5,000 troops have died,
and airport security lines are the new norm.
The decade began with the presidency
hinging on hanging chads and a ruling by the
Supreme Court that sent George W. Bush to Washington,
D.C., and ended with lots of political scandal
— John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Mark
(“hiking the Appalachian Trail”)
Sanford. John Kerry challenged Bush mid-decade,
but “Swift Boat Captains for Truth”
sunk that presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton almost became the
first female president, Sarah Palin was the
first female Republican vice-presidential candidate,
and Barack Obama was elected the first African-American
Enron, the energy trading giant, collapsed amid
scandal; we watched as the Columbia space shuttle,
with its seven crewmembers, fell apart in the
sky; an Indian Ocean tsunami killed thousands;
and Bernie Madoff “made off” with
millions of dollars of our money.
There was a recent financial collapse, and no
one escaped that global-wide tsunami. While
unemployment climbed into double digits, the
Dow dropped below 10,000.
There are heroes — Captain
Chesley Sullenburger and the Hudson River landing,
Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong campaign
— and ethical and moral duds — Martha
Stewart, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Tiger Woods,
Octomom, Balloon Boy, and wardrobe malfunction.
Here at home, The Kaweah Commonwealth
published its first digital photos in 2001,
eliminating the weekly run to the one-hour photo
lab. In 2003, we launched a website, taking
Three Rivers global. In 2004, DSL came to town,
which meant that the newspaper could now be
electronically processed to the printer instead
of hand-delivered, again eliminating a 120-mile-plus
According to my long-term goals,
John and I won’t still be preparing these
pages at the end of the next decade, but I certainly
hope The Kaweah Commonwealth will be
serving Three Rivers for millennia to come.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!