Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sierra Northern Railway Car

The Sierra Northern Railway, denoted by SERA, is the railroad maintenance branch of the company that owns the local "Skunk Train". They have been working to catch up with a great deal of repairs on the line since purchasing it a few years ago. The forty miles of track to the coast is quite steep in some places and, like any railway through these coast ranges, can be subject to washouts and slides. This car sits on a side track not far from the depot.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grange Building Entrance

This fine old building was originally an elementary school, built in the 1920s. It was sold in the 1960s to the local grange, and provides meeting space with a well equipped kitchen, assembly hall, and classrooms. A few rooms are rented to commercial and community enterprises. I understand that long delayed roof and subfloor maintenance is now urgently needed. I hope they can find the resources.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Flatbed Truck with Canine

Highway 101 is Main Street going through Willits, with its four light-controlled traffic junctions, where long-haul travelers mix with local errand-runners generating frustration for all. Here, a cattle dog braces himself for the changing of the signal at the corner of Commercial Street on Main. I wonder how far he's going.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heaven on a Platter

While Ardella's is famous for their soups (as I mentioned last month), they make equally prized breakfasts. Omlettes, blueberry pancakes, even biscuits and gravy. A specialty only available on the weekends is eggs benedict, using a spectacular Hollandaise made "lovingly" in-house. Variations include florentine, portobello mushroom, or, as you see here, smoked salmon. I asked for fruit instead of potatoes, and negotiated for extra sauce. Mmmm-mm-mm.
SmokedSalmonBenedi Jigsaw PuzzleSmokedSalmonBenedi Jigsaw Puzzle

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Waiting for the Wash

Someone watches the laundry cycle at Liu's Coin-Op.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Muffler Man? Is That You?

A bit of a shock to the eyes after yesterday's photo, but I was going to have to deal with this 20 foot high colossus of kitsch sooner or later. Some internet research reveals that fiberglass figures from the very same mold dot the landscape of America in many guises - lumberjack, astronaut, pirate, hippie, and Indian among them - but are called Muffler Men due to their original design for gas stations. This one stands at the entrance to the bleachers of the Frontier Days Rodeo arena, officially named the Jack Tharp Arena, and sports a Seabiscuit-emblazoned belt buckle and a Willits "W" branding iron instead of a muffler. So now we've talked about "the elephant in the room", and we can move on. That wasn't so hard, was it?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stained Wood Wall

This is actually the side wall of an empty row of storefronts which face to the left around the corner.
StainedWoodWall Jigsaw PuzzleStainedWoodWall Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Skating Is Not A Crime?

Helmet? - check
Elbow pads? - uh-oh
Knee pads? - well, not so much.
Despite extremely clear instructions, free spirited skateboarders yearn for the liberty to damage themselves. The identity of this little law-breaker has been obscured to protect the guilty. After years of fundraising efforts by a grass-roots committee of interested adults, this beautiful new skatepark provides an array of interesting runs at whatever level you can handle. It's another component of the cultural and recreational facilities on East Commercial Street near the eastern limits of town.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Old Power, New Power

This farmstead has its old windmill still standing on the left, while a solar panel soaks up some rays on the roof near the center. The pasture is alive with buttercups, while Red Hill looms in the raincloud darkness. The iron-rich soil giving the hill its name is just visible in a few places. Even harder to spot is the white "W" near the top of the peak. It lights up at night, reminding us we're in Willits.

Monday, April 21, 2008

California Bay Laurel

Another native evergreen tree, Umbellularia californica leaves are pungently aromatic, similar smelling but stronger than the mediterranean Bay Laurel used in cooking. I've read conflicting reports about whether the nuts were ever eaten, but these days the fresh leaves are popularly used, crushed, in sweater drawers to repel moths. Unfortunately, the California Bay is a prime host of Sudden Oak Death, a disease that can do serious damage to its arboreal cohorts. I'm suspicious of the dark spots seen here on a young tree along Route 20 just west of town.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Because of a cold wind and threatening skies, the Earth Day events were moved from the park across the street into the community center. The mural is actually there all the time, but it especially suits today's designation. I'm told this building was originally built as a supermarket, but now along with a community meeting space, it houses City Hall. I wish something could be done to spiff up the interior. Anyway, people seemed happy to browse the information tables between scheduled presentations.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Barside Advertising

Willits has a brand new sports bar called Busters, in another completely renovated building on Main Street that had stood underutilized far too long. They have the big screen TVs showing squads of men in cute matching outfits done up in pretty color palettes running about chasing balls and feeling emotional - harmless catharsis until somebody pokes an eye out or breaks a leg. Even more notable is the availability of highly regarded, small scale North Coast Brewing Company beer on tap. Scrimshaw is a pilsner style brew from those Ft. Bragg artisans, located about 35 miles from here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Barnside Advertising

This barn has seen better days. Clearly it was once prized for it's proximity to Highway 101 just as it enters the north end of Willits. If I read the project maps correctly, it sits right where the northern junction of the proposed highway bypass will rejoin the current route. It doesn't seem to matter if you are pro-bypass or anti-bypass, the community has expected it to come for about half a century, but the money is never there. This year came close, but Marin out-lobbied the local proponents and made a successful grab of the Willits allocation in the Caltrans budget. This barn will fall down long before it needs to be cleared away.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Redwood Sorrell

First described for science by English botanist Thomas Nuttall in the early 19th century, Oxalis oregana is native to the deep shade of mature coast redwood forests. If hit by direct sunlight, the leaves will fold downward to reduce their exposed surface, then rise again as shadow is regained. While edible, they are loaded with oxalic acid, so are very tart and should be avoided by people vulnerable to kidney stones.

I'm fortunate to have these in my front yard, sheltered by the north-facing porch. It looks like somebody has already had a nibble on them.
Oxalis Jigsaw PuzzleOxalis Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blue Phone Booth at Brown's Corner

Brown's Corner is a small complex of businesses marking the southern start to Willits' "Miracle Mile" of strip malls and asphalt - a stark contrast to northern Main Street's walkable promenades. This phone booth is one of the last full sized ones I've seen anywhere in the area, and they are rapidly disappearing in the age of cell/mobile phones. I didn't try it, so I don't know if it works.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Putting the "Lake" in Little Lake Valley

The watershed of Little Lake Valley flows north to a bottleneck called Outlet Creek. Rainfall comes in the winter and spring, and if enough happens quickly, a lake forms from the backed up water making its way through a gap in the hills. All that remains of the "lake" this year can be seen in the vehicle track through this marshy area. You can see the water glimmer if you click on the image for a larger view. I'm surprised that these oaks grow on such saturated ground, but they know what they're doing.
NorthLittleLakeVal Jigsaw PuzzleNorthLittleLakeVal Jigsaw Puzzle

What Happened Here?

This is the back wall of a dry cleaners' building that closed about seven or eight years ago. I never noticed this damage until today. The break seems to have come from the inside, not from, say, a car in this parking lot behind it. I have no information about what happened.

I've been doing this blog for a month now, and the challenge so far has been having more pictures than I have days to post. I'm thinking that feeling could change after a year passes, especially since this is a small town.
WhatHappenedHere Jigsaw PuzzleWhatHappenedHere Jigsaw Puzzle

Sunday, April 13, 2008

St. Francis in the Redwoods

This Episcopalian church was consecrated last year, and they are still working on the landscaping. It sits beside a firestation, at the intersection of Commercial Street and Highway 101, so it has high visibility as well as a noisy environment. The design solution was to use straw bale construction for the walls. Dozens of community members responded to the call for helpers in the bale portion of the work, and were educated in the process. Information on line about the church indicates it is only the third straw bale one in the country.

I wanted to stand further back to get this shot, but that would have meant getting hurt by traffic. I was in the gutter as it was. The moon always seems so much bigger when seen with just the eyes.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Homage to Abraham

City Daily Photo Blog booster, and generally a spreader of goodwill and avuncular humor, our own Abraham Lincoln of Brookville, OH, has a tremendous ability to capture bees and other splendid wildlife in minute detail and glorious color. He is our Bee-Whisperer.

Alas, I am not. But I tried. And tried. Yesterday was spectacularly warm and springlike, so the minute I got off work, I went searching for bees. I found them, but they tend to move around a lot. And I can't hold my camera that still for very long. So out of all of the day's attempts, this one actually got focused on the fine little hairs on some newly sprouting apple leaves, which, up until about a second before I clicked the shutter, had a little ladybug on them. He ran to the blossom. Out of focus. *sigh*

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dr. Raymond Babcock House

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, this was home to a man whose influence is felt in Willits even today, nearly half a century after his death. He was a "country" doctor only in the sense that he served the needs of a rural area in whatever medical capacity was required - pediatrics, obstetrics, general surgery, oncology, internal medicine, emergency trauma, you name it. But he kept very up-to-date on the latest developments and techniques of his time, and was superb at diagnosis, and, in short, was the driving force behind the creation of the hospital in town. He had served as a medic in World War I, and as a member of the American Legion, helped organize the original annual Frontier Days Rodeo as a community fundraiser. There's a book coming out about him soon; I can barely mention all that could be said. I will add that he "knew" the racehorse Seabiscuit personally, and cared for his jockey Red Pollard after a severe injury.

In more recent years, I recall seeing Dr. Babcock's son-in-law, George Akins, out in this yard. He would trim these hedges while wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, thin dark tie, light wool suit trousers, and a fedora. Another decent and intelligent man, honoring the legacy of his esteemed father-in-law. George died not long after his wife, Jane Babcock Akins, several years ago.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Drifters in Recreation Grove

Willits is one of the few places, like San Francisco, where Federal Highway 101 still goes right through town. Travelers from points south, like Santa Rosa, going to points north, like Eureka, all funnel through our main street with its four traffic signals. That's my theory of why we have so many young drifters, with their backpacks and dogs and skateboards, stopping to stay a while in the shelter of Recreation Grove, with its stage for sitting and sheltering from the rain. Sometimes more than a dozen will congregate here, especially in the colder months when residents aren't using it so much for events and parties.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ornamental Grace

This ornamental cherry tree struggles to survive behind the supermarket and self-service laundry at Evergreen Shopping Center. The soil is cruelly compacted and dumped with broken concrete and waste lumber. Last year, a sack of what looked like plaster broke open and was left abandoned at its roots. Soon the rainy season will end, and no one will think to irrigate here. Whole limbs have blackened and fallen from it, and yet this little tree persists in living, offering its springtime beauty to this dreary, forsaken patch of earth.
OrnamentalCherry Jigsaw PuzzleOrnamentalCherry Jigsaw Puzzle

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hot Chicks

These brown Leghorn chicks are ready to revitalize your laying flock. J.D. Redhouse staff say more will be coming in, of varieties requested by customers.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Harmless Lichen

I know it's been just over a week since I mentioned this stuff, but as the King Crimson lyric goes, "The more I look at it, the more I like it. I do think it's good!" And as you can see, the tree is happily sprouting leaves for the new season.

I looked lichen up on Wikipedia, and was astonished to learn that it is actually two species in one. The fungus part of it provides most of the structure, and draws water and minerals out of the air without any root system. The algae, or in some cases bacteria, part of it performs the photosynthesis to convert solar energy and carbon dioxide into food for the two organisms. How cool is that! And it can even survive the vacuum of space because of its ability to go into stasis for periods when its nutrients aren't available! Pshaw! The lichen pictured here is "fruticose" with a relatively shrubby form, rather than leafy or crusty. I could go on and on, but I'll let you read about it for yourself:

I usually follow the rules of the City Daily Photo, and post just one photo a day, but I can't help myself. After all, lichen is such an exciting subject:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Windsor Mill

Windsor Mill, with the corporate name of WindsorOne, is a major employer in Willits, and produces high quality specialty plywood and molding products sold internationally. They often operate around the clock to meet demand.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Action Packed

The site of the future Frank R. Howard Hospital building has already seen a great deal of preparatory work. Besides the sparkling new infrastructure of water mains and curb & gutter paving, seismological study trenching went deep down to determine the structure of the earth below. The geologists discovered an ancient standing forest, apparently covered with mud or ash in a sudden, overwhelming event eons ago. Oddly enough, this lot sits astride the Mayacama Fault - a northern extension of the fearsome Hayward Fault on the east side of San Francisco Bay. I missed seeing it, but the engineers have completely excavated the footprint of the future building, down a full 20 feet, laid in gravel and a "geotextile", then filled it over again. Surface construction should begin later this year, after the soil has finished re-compacting. So there's action here. Let's watch!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Peaceful Demonstration

These brothers have been standing beside Highway 101, near its junction with Route 20, for several years, most days of the week. They've used various signs to express their position on the invasion of Iraq, and it's an efficient spot for it considering the slow speed required of the all traffic through the center of town. These guys don't use computers, but gave me permission to post this on the internet. More on the Willits Arch some other time.

This peaceful demonstration brought to you in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated on this day in 1968.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dog with Koi Pond

This trompe l'oeil koi pond is my favorite bit of public art in Willits. It's been on this concrete step up to a pair of shop doors for years, but the fish are still vivid and delightful. Click on the image for a larger view.
DogWithKoiPond Jigsaw PuzzleDogWithKoiPond Jigsaw Puzzle

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Abandoned Railcar with Doe

These Northwestern Pacific Railroad cars haven't moved in years, and generations of black-tailed deer know it. Can you spot the doe grazing beyond this manzanita bush?

A couple of these cars have caught fire from squatters trying to keep warm. It's extremely dangerous for the volunteer firemen to go in when they are burning, but they do if they think there's a chance someone is inside. I'm not one for naming names, but today I salute Willits-born Fire Chief Jeff Smith, now on his second day of retirement. One of the most gracious, capable, and committed people you'll ever want to know. He's earned some rest after 31 years of service. [edited for more years of service than I originally heard!]
AbandonedRailcar Jigsaw PuzzleAbandonedRailcar Jigsaw Puzzle

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Theme Day: Water

The City of Willits Municipal Pool is situated next to the high school along Highway 101 at the north end of town, and serves both students and the wider community. It is home to the mighty Willits Otters swim club, provides master swim times, family swim times, and is available for pool party rentals during certain hours and by arrangement. On this chilly day, new swimmers received instruction.

The first day of each month is a special theme day among participating City Daily Photo bloggers around the world. CDP bloggers are a wonderful community who like to take a day like this to share what the others are doing, and each month the list grows longer. Take a look at any of the 178 links below to see a variety of worldwide interpretations of the "Water" theme on April 1st (and no, this is not an April Fool!):

theme day id=13

Adelaide, Australia by Gordon, Albuquerque (NM), USA by Helen, American Fork (UT), USA by Annie, Anderson (SC), USA by Lessie, Ararat, Australia by Digger, Arradon, France by Alice, Ashton under Lyne, UK by Pennine, Athens, Greece by Debbie, Auckland, New Zealand by Lachezar, Austin (TX), USA by LB, Bandung, Indonesia by Guntur Purwanto, Barton (VT), USA by Andree, Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro by Bibi, Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro by Paja, Bellefonte (PA), USA by Barb-n-PA, Bicheno, Australia by Greg, Bogor, Indonesia by Gagah, Boston (MA), USA by Sarah, Whit, & Leyre, Boston (MA), USA by Cluelessinboston, Boston (MA), USA by Fenix - Bostonscapes, Brighton, UK by Harvey, Brookville (OH), USA by Abraham, Budapest, Hungary by Isadora, Budapest, Hungary by Zannnie and Zsolt, Canterbury, UK by Rose, Cape Town, South Africa by Kerry-Anne, Chandler (AZ), USA by Melindaduff, Chateaubriant, France by Bergson, Cheltenham, UK by Marley, Chicago (IL), USA by b.c., Christchurch, New Zealand by Michelle, Clearwater (FL), USA by Smaridge01, Clearwater Beach (FL), USA by Smaridge01, Cleveland (OH), USA by iBlowfish, Coral Gables (FL), USA by Jnstropic, Cypress (TX), USA by Riniroo, Dallas/Fort Worth (TX), USA by A Wandering Soul, Dunedin (FL), USA by Smaridge01, Durban, South Africa by CrazyCow, East Gwillimbury, Canada by Your EG Tour Guide, Evry, France by Olivier, Glasgow, Scotland by Jackie, Greenville (SC), USA by Denton, Grenoble, France by Bleeding Orange, Guelph, Canada by Pat, Gun Barrel City (TX), USA by Lake Lady, Hamilton, New Zealand by Sakiwi, Hampton (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Haninge, Sweden by Steffe, Helsinki, Finland by Kaa, Hobart, Australia by Greg, Hyde, UK by Old Hyde, Inverness (IL), USA by Neva, Jackson (MS), USA by Halcyon, Jakarta, Indonesia by Santy, Jefferson City (MO), USA by Chinamom2005, Jogjakarta, Indonesia by Jogja Portrait, Joplin (MO), USA by Victoria, Juneau (AK), USA by Gwyn, Katonah (NY), USA by Inkster1, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Edwin, Kyoto, Japan by Tadamine, Lake Forest Park (WA), USA by Azure, Larchmont (NY), USA by Marie-Noyale, Las Vegas (NV), USA by Mo, Lisbon, Portugal by Sailor Girl, Lisbon, Portugal by Maria João, Lodz, Poland by ritalounge, London, UK by Mo, London, UK by Ham, Mainz, Germany by JB, Maple Ridge, Canada by Susan, Marseille, France by Alex, Mazatlan, Mexico by Kate, Melbourne, Australia by John, Melbourne, Australia by Mblamo, Memphis (TN), USA by SouthernHeart, Menton, France by Jilly, Mexico City, Mexico by Carraol, Mexico City, Mexico by Poly, Minneapolis (MN), USA by Greg, Minneapolis (MN), USA by Mitch, Minsk, Belarus by Olga, Monrovia (CA), USA by Keith, Monte Carlo, Monaco by Jilly, Montego Bay, Jamaica by Ann, Monterrey, Mexico by rafa, Moscow, Russia by Irina, Mumbai, India by Kunalbhatia, Mumbai, India by Magiceye, Mumbai, India by MumbaiiteAnu, Nancy, France by yoshi, Naples (FL), USA by Isabella, Nashville (TN), USA by Chris, Nelson, New Zealand by Meg and Ben, New Orleans (LA), USA by steve buser, New York City (NY), USA by Ming the Merciless, Niamey, Niger by Dinabee, Norfolk (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Norman (OK), USA by Chad & LaCresha, Norwich, UK by Goddess888, Nottingham, UK by Gail's Man, Odense, Denmark by ania odense, Omsk, Russia by Nataly, Orlando (FL), USA by OrlFla, Oslo, Norway by Lothiane, Paderborn, Germany by Soemchen, Paris, France by Eric, Paris, France by Gordio, Pasadena (CA), USA by Can8ianben, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia by Murphy_jay, Pilisvörösvár, Hungary by Elise, Pont-à-Mousson, France by Tintin-j, Port Angeles (WA), USA by Jelvistar, Port Elizabeth, South Africa by Sam, Port Townsend (WA), USA by raf, Port Vila, Vanuatu by Mblamo, Portland (OR), USA by NWgal, Portland (ME), USA by Corey, Portsmouth (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Prague, Czech Republic by Honza03, Quincy (MA), USA by Cluelessinboston, Riga, Latvia by Prokur, Rotterdam, Netherlands by Ineke, Saarbrücken, Germany by LadyDemeter, Saigon, Vietnam by Simon, Saint Louis (MO), USA by Strangetastes, Saint Paul (MN), USA by Kate, Salem (OR), USA by jill, Salt Lake City (UT), USA by atc, Salt Lake City (UT), USA by Eric, San Diego (CA), USA by Felicia, San Francisco (CA), USA by PFranson, Seattle (WA), USA by Kim, Seattle (WA), USA by Chuck, Seguin (TX), USA by Thien, Selma (AL), USA by RamblingRound, Sequim (WA), USA by Eponabri, Sesimbra, Portugal by Aldeia, Setúbal, Portugal by Maria Elisa, Shanghai, China by Jing, Sharon (CT), USA by Jenny, Singapore, Singapore by Keropok, Sofia, Bulgaria by Antonia, St Francis, South Africa by Sam, Stavanger, Norway by Tanty, Stayton (OR), USA by Celine, Stockholm, Sweden by Stromsjo, Stouffville, Canada by Ken, Subang Jaya, Malaysia by JC, Suffolk (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Sunshine Coast, Australia by bitingmidge, Sydney, Australia by Nathalie, Sydney, Australia by Sally, Székesfehérvár, Hungary by Teomo, Tacloban City, Philippines by agnesdv, Terrell (TX), USA by Jim K, Terrell (TX), USA by Bstexas, The Hague, Netherlands by Lezard, Tokyo, Japan by Tadamine, Toruń, Poland by Torun Observer, Toulouse, France by Julia, Turin, Italy by Livio, Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina by Jazzy, Twin Cities (MN), USA by Slinger, Victoria, Canada by Benjamin Madison, Vienna, Austria by G_mirage2, Virginia Beach (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Wailea (HI), USA by Kuanyin, Washington (DC), USA by Rachel, Wassenaar, Netherlands by Rich, Wellington, New Zealand by Jeremyb, West Paris (ME), USA by crittoria, West Sacramento (CA), USA by Barbara, Weston (FL), USA by WestonDailyPhoto, Williamsburg (VA), USA by ptowngirl, Willits (CA), USA by Elaine, Yardley (PA), USA by Mrlynn,