Eroica California: Déjà vu in the USA

Last fall, we went to Italy and spent a week in Tuscany with the touring company Ciclismo Classico. The pinnacle of the tour was “L’Eroica,” a two-wheeled nostalgiafest featuring pre-1985 bikes or replicas, wool jerseys, miles of gravel road, a relaxed pace (wine at the check-in/rest stops… really!), and lots of ’70s hairstyles and mustaches.

We both fell in love with Italy’s natural beauty, friendly people, and atmosphere, but Brent really got the bug. He got hooked on cappuccinos (never liked coffee before) and even this soda called “Chinotto” that I only tried once, upon which I wailed that it was “like licking a telephone pole.”

He not only tackled and survived the 80-mile gravel ride, but turned around and registered for the same event in California, to be held this month.

So here I am….
I got it made in the shade.

Ciclismo Classico owner Lauren wanted to have a booth at the California event, but couldn’t squeeze the weekend into her packed schedule. “Well, we’re going, and I’m not doing the ride….” So I volunteered to man the booth and hand out brochures and generally tell people how wonderful and fun our Italy tour had been. They sent the materials out and, just like that, I had something to do while waiting for Brent to grind over all that gravel.

We flew in to San Luis Obispo and got Brent’s bike from Foothill Cyclery, where he’d sent it to be put together. They were displaying the first event poster we saw…

And now I’ll let Brent share the photos he took on the tour.

First, a run down the coast to the first check-in.

Some of the roads were really nice!

Santa Rita Road summit. So green…

Then the death-defying downhill on rough road, complete with hairpin turns.
Brent was walking. The guy on two wheels must be a local.

Here he is at the finish, tired but triumphant.

Where did they get this old “Support Vehicle??”

Meanwhile, there was a contest between some of the antique bikes. Here’s a 1948 Raleigh being judged.

Well, that’s just a taste of our weekend. I hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading!

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When the Inn is Even Better Than the Event

Y’all… we just got back from “Eroica California,” a historic cycling event in Cambria, California. And did we EVER pick the best place to stay!

We’ve participated in big cycling rallies before, and Problem One is always parking. A little research turned up a B&B with its own off-street parking, maybe 400 yards from the rally’s start point and expo. Going the other direction, the main business district is about the same distance. We would pretty much never have to move the car.

Not gonna lie, that’s the biggest reason we chose Olallieberry Inn.

Yeah, but then we actually arrived. We found the house was built in 1865 and the front yard features a sequoia tree that’s probably a zillion years old (give or take).

A friendly staff member welcomed us and showed us to our room, which had its own window seat and gas fireplace. Travel stress started melting away on the spot.

After a comfortable night’s sleep, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast–a different one each of the four mornings we were there. The food was delicious, made with expert care by the cheerful staff.

Coffee, hot water for tea and cocoa, and fresh cookies seem to be on duty at all times. Then there’s the Happy Hour every afternoon. We sat out on the deck nibbling appetizers and sipping wine, and got acquainted with other cyclists who were in town for the event. Need a local’s recommendation for a dinner place afterward? You got it.

In the evening, we’d stroll in through the back, pausing to enjoy an impromptu chorus of tree frogs down by the creek and watch the birds stuffing themselves at two birdbaths generously filled with seeds.

Hm, those birds may have reminded me of myself at breakfast.

But never mind that… I think I’ve found my new happy place!

Next time I’ll tell you about the cycling event itself. Meanwhile, for more photos and information, click here to check out the Olallieberry Inn website.

Thanks for reading,

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Walking with Henry, by Rachel Anne Ridge

If you liked Flash: the Donkey, you will adore Walking with Henry. In this lovely book, Rachel Anne Ridge candidly tells her own story of the tragedy, struggles and questions she’s dealt with.

Rachel and Tom thought Flash needed a companion donkey, so they (sort of) jumped on the opportunity to adopt a rescued miniature donkey. Rachel watched and learned from Flash, “Henry” (the new kid), and their slow-growing friendship. Somehow, as she slowed down and gave her own heart some breathing space, these poky-but-gentle creatures helped her see her doubts and questions in a new light. Meanwhile, she discovered guidance in other unexpected places, until her bruised faith kindled again into a warm flame.

This is one of the most encouraging books I’ve read in a long time. No doubt Rachel’s transparency and delightfully engaging voice get much of the credit. Although I’m flagging Walking With Henry as a Great Weekend Read, I actually recommend reading just a chapter or two at a time. Then let each “settle” a while.

Tyndale, the publisher, sent me an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for letting me share!
Happy Reading,

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Ingredient-Free Baking

Since I’m trying to dial back the starch and sugar in my diet, and have a bunch of family members with restrictions, I often prowl for recipes. I found one especially promising dessert online. No sugar or grain? Why, that would work for everyone except the vegans! And it sounded really delicious. I give you…

Sugar-Free Pumpkin Brownies (Click here for the recipe!)

Photo credit:
Check out her website for this and more sugar-free goodness!

I made a few practice batches, adjusting to taste (interpretation: used more cocoa and stevia, what else?) after each try. These are seriously good–moist and chocolaty, especially after my tweaks!

Some of our church friends were to have a potluck at our house. Our group includes a grain-free couple, so I signed myself up for the Pumpkin Brownies along with the main dish.

Since there’d be a dozen of us, I decided to increase the small-pan recipe by 50%. I’m quite confident in my ability to do this, as you’ll know if you read my Banana-Bread Math story.

I rushed around the kitchen, adapting the amount of each ingredient in my head… on the fly… including some odd amounts, like 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

The only way to accurately increase 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons by half is to convert the measurement into teaspoons, add half the number of teaspoons, and convert the resulting (large) number back into cups or fractions thereof.

I was on that math like burnt sugar on a pie pan.

Took me FOR. EVER.

At long last, I popped the brownie pan into the oven and hustled the main dish together. The brownies looked slightly flat when I removed them from the oven, but I chalked it up to the different size pan. Maybe 50% was a little short. Whatever.

Everyone arrived, we ate dinner, then it was time for dessert.

I opened the fridge to grab the whipped topping and there, on the same shelf, was a partial can of pumpkin. The pumpkin I was going to finish off before I opened the new can.

For the brownies.

Uh-ohhhh… (Checks pantry. New can has been put back.)“AAAAH! I left out the Pumpkin!

They weren’t terrible, but they lacked a certain something. Like the main ingredient.

Later, I reminded Brent about the newlywed Tuna-Noodle Casserole (no tuna) that I’d been trying to live down since 1979.

That reminded me of the Chicken Pot Pie with my freehand chicken cutout in the top crust instead of the usual three slits. You guessed it–I forgot the chicken. Ha, that was in 1999.

“Now it’s 2019. So, every twenty years….”

Brent: “That’s creepy. And did you notice the missing ingredient is always in the name?”

I can hardly wait to see what I come up with for 2039.

Thanks for reading,

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The Keeper, by T. F. Allen

Image credit:

I’ve never read a book like this before.

I don’t even know what to call it. Thriller? Mystery? Supernatural / Paranormal?

Um…. yes.

I may not know what to call it, but I sure couldn’t put it down. Here’s the gist, from

Angel, spirit, or ghost–the Keeper doesn’t know exactly what he is. But he knows he needs to protect Michael Delacroix, a famous artist who is kidnapped and locked in a windowless room deep beneath a Napa Valley vineyard.

Desperate to save the only person who knows he exists, the Keeper uses his abilities to convince two strong-willed women to search for Michael: a reporter who thinks her visions are signs from the Universe, and a nun who swears she hears the voice of God. …

This story is narrated in first-person, from The Keeper’s point of view. But since he can also enter people’s minds, we sometimes know what other characters are thinking.

What makes this story a Great Weekend Read is the over-the-top creativity of the story line. I’ll even forgive Allen for my elevated pulse and blood pressure as the two women raced to rescue Michael. I mean, they had no idea what they were dealing with.

If you like thrills and shivers with a strangely satisfying ending, I highly recommend The Keeper.

You can get the book for Kindle or in paperback by clicking here.

Want to know more? Visit Allen’s website,

Thanks for reading!

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What IS This, Anyway?

When I saw this… thing… in an antique store, it stopped me in my tracks. Normally, a large ceramic figure that’s really a two-part container functions as a cookie jar. But…

First, cookie jars don’t come with salt and pepper shakers. Plus, I found these particular salt and pepper shakers rather creepy.

Second, I would not put my perfectly good chocolate-chip cookies inside a dead bird.

Even a fake one.

So if you know the story behind these whimsical works of art, do tell! There’s room for you in the “Your Turn: Comments Welcome Here” box below the post, and I am truly curious.

After all, everybody has a story… even fake dead birds.

Thanks for reading!

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Over-Charged… or, Night of the Zombie Phone

Just in time for the new year… another terrifying tale about my maladjusted appliances. Or, in this case, electronics. Whatever. They’re all in cahoots.

I don’t turn my phone off very often. Instead, I just silence the ringer when I charge it overnight. But not long ago, the thing was acting kind of squirrely so I turned it off.

Minutes later, I turned it on and waited for the little Apple symbol to light up, showing that the phone was waking up, then left it to do its boot-up thing.

Half an hour later, the little Apple symbol still showed. No home screen.

I tried turning the phone off, holding the button down for several seconds.

It wouldn’t turn off.

Unplug it and turn it off again?

No change.

I picked it up. “Oooh, it feels kind of warm.”

Brent said, “Better take it to the AT&T store.”

They’d be open for another 45 minutes, so off I went.

Went inside and told the guy “My phone won’t turn off.”

He took it and immediately dropped it onto the counter. “That thing is hot!

Sure enough, the phone had begun to warp.

The AT&T guy nervously wrapped it in a shop towel. “Is it okay with you if I set it outside in case it blows up?”

“Be my guest,” I told him. I mean, I didn’t want to die by phone shrapnel, either.

After duly buying another phone and getting everything set up, I took the barbecued unit, still in its towel, home for disposal. But what was I gonna do with it? I wasn’t about to put it in the wastebasket and start a house fire.

The one time I’d dropped my first smartphone into water, it went dead in about two seconds. So I got a bucket, ran a few inches of water in it, and gave the phone a burial at sea, only on the driveway. Then I waited respectfully for its light to go out forever.

And waited.

A whole minute went by… It was still looking up at me from its watery grave.

This was ridiculous. Clearly, I had a Zombie Phone on my hands. What can you do but go inside and hope it gives up?

Three minutes later… Yep, I’ve still got a luminaria out here. Stomped back inside, this time stubbornly staying away until nearly bedtime. You cannot imagine my relief when I went outside and found… darkness.

Free at last!

I fished the phone out and let it lie in state on the kitchen island until morning.

Next day, when I went to view the remains, I saw…
(Cue “Psycho” music)

“chaaarrge… meeeeee…” it seemed to be whispering.

Yeah, right. I may not be as smart as my phone, but I’m not about to fall for that again.

Thanks for reading,

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