Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Fire officials once again were called to respond to several fires along Highway 29 in the north Lakeport area on Tuesday.

The three small brush fires were reported shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Highway 29 north of 11th Street, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Lakeport Fire Protection District responded and contained the fires, according to reports from the scene. Cal Fire reported that it did not send a response to the scene.

Over the last week several fires have occurred in that area, including three fires that burned 22 acres on July 8 and another fire on July 11, as Lake County News has reported.

LOWER LAKE – A California Highway Patrol sustained major injuries and a Lake County Sheriff's deputy were hurt when they were each hit in separate crashes that occurred early Monday morning.


The identities of the two law enforcement officers were not released.

The CHP reported that the first crash occurred at 12:21 a.m. at the entrance of the DNA Rock quarry north of Diener Drive on Highway 29.

Officer Adam Garcia reported that the CHP officer from the Clear Lake area office was conducting a drunk driving evaluation at the quarry's entrance.

At the same time, the deputy was stopped on southbound Highway 29 preparing to make a left turn into the quarry entrance with his rear emergency lights activated, Garcia said.

As the deputy sat along the highway 58-year-old Edward Choroski of Clearlake struck the rear of the sheriff’s patrol vehicle with his white 1997 Volvo, according to Garcia.

Garcia said the collision pushed the patrol vehicle into the highway's northbound traffic lane.

The CHP officer attempted to give medical aid to the deputy who was standing adjacent to the driver’s side door, Garcia said.

At that point, the Sheriff’s patrol vehicle was struck head-on by a 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan driven by 65-year-old Mary Gomez of Lakeport, according to Garcia.

Garcia said the second collision pushed the sheriff’s patrol vehicle into the CHP officer, throwing him off the roadway and into some nearby bushes.

Kelseyville Fire Protection District ambulance transported the deputy to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, where he was treated for minor to moderate injuries, Garcia said.

Garcia said the CHP officer sustained major non-life threatening injuries and was also taken to Sutter Lakeside for treatment.

Gomez and Choroski were not reported as being injured, Garcia said.

CHP Officer Josh Dye is investigating the collisions.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Two people were flown to an area hospital after a collision occurred Saturday evening between a vehicle and a motorcycle.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred at Highway 20 and Harvey at about 6:15 p.m.

A Honda Civic and a motorcycle collided, leaving the roadway blocked, according to the CHP.

The CHP, Lake County Sheriff's Office and Northshore Fire responded to the scene. Tow companies also were called for the vehicles.

The motorcyclist and the passenger in the vehicle were both flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the CHP reported.

Major injuries were reported, but the names of the crash victims and their specific injuries were not available late Saturday.

The roadway was reopened at approximately 7:36 p.m., the CHP reported.

CHP Officer Kory Reynolds is reportedly in charge of the investigation.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Two people suffered major injuries and a third person was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol as the result of a Saturday collision between a car and a motorcycle.

Lynda Walker, 53, and Thomas Sperry, 50, both of Stockton, were hospitalized after the crash, which occurred on Highway 20 at Harvey Street in Clearlake Oaks at approximately 6:14 p.m. Saturday, as Lake County News has reported.

Alexandra Meagan Drew, 21, of Santa Rosa was driving her 2005 Honda Civic westbound on Highway 20 at 40 miles per hour, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Drew, who the CHP alleges was intoxicated at the time, let her vehicle drift onto the roadway's right shoulder, overcorrected and traveled across both traffic lanes while rotating counter clockwise.

Sperry and Walker were coming the opposite direction on Highway 20, riding a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle at 40 miles per hour, the CHP report stated.

Sperry, who was driving the motorcycle, hit the passenger side door of Drew's vehicle as it spun in front of him, according to the CHP report.

Both Sperry and Walker were ejected from the motorcycle. The CHP said Sperry suffered a compound fracture to his lower leg and Walker suffered major internal injuries.

CHP Officer Kory Reynolds arrested Drew at the scene about 45 minutes after the crash on a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Her booking sheet also showed a misdemeanor charge DUI charge, with bail set at $10,000. She posted bail later that day and was released.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

NORTH COAST – A local credit union has received $2 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which will allow it to expand key lending services on the North Coast.

Mendo Lake Credit Union was one of 59 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) across the country that was awarded almost $90 million in funding through a competitive grant process, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.

“In this tough economy, ensuring that families and small businesses have access to the capital they need to stay afloat is extremely important,” said Thompson. “Credit unions provide important services to the underserved in our community, and this funding will allow the Mendo Lake Credit Union to continue their important work.”

Mendo Lake was one of only two credit unions in California, and nine across the United States, considered for the funds, said Richard Cooper, Mendo Lake Credit Union's president and chief executive officer.

The grant is “very exciting for us,” said Cooper, who explained that ARRA doubled funding for the US Treasury's CDFI program from $50 million to $98 million.

The CDFI fund's mission is to expand financial services to underserved populations in the United States and promote economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to CDFIs, according to its Web site, . The fund was created in 1994.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mendo Lake Credit Union's chartering.

The nonprofit financial institution is insured by the federal National Credit Union Administration, and is owned and controlled by members. It serves more than 13,000 community members in Lake and Mendocino counties. Mendo Lake has 33 employees in three offices – six in Lakeport, five Fort Bragg and 12 in Ukiah.

Cooper said the funds will provide an important boost. He explained that Mendo Lake Credit Union is the No. 1 auto loan lender in Lake County. It also works with many small businesses – including many “mom and pops” – and offers free checking services to businesses and individuals.

The funding will allow the credit union to expand its operations back into real estate lending, he said, explaining that the credit union has had first-time homebuyer and manufactured housing loan programs for many years, and has been successful in getting people into their own homes.

“We had actually been out of the real estate market for a good 12 or 14 months due to the current situation,” he said.

Cooper said Mendo Lake does a lot of financial literacy and community work, and reaches out to people who don't trust traditional banks and have used high-interest check cashing and payday lending programs instead– including immigrants, tribal communities and some low-income residents. The goal is to bring them into the mainstream.

Unlike a for-profit bank, credit unions do not generate gains for shareholders. “We have to grow our capital as we grow our organization,” said Cooper. “It would take us years and years to save $2 million out of current earnings.”

This is the second time Mendo Lake Credit Union has received a sizable federal grant.

In 2005 the institution was awarded $1.3 million, said Cooper. That funding helped provide the credit union with the capital needed to grow from $50 million in holdings in 2005 to $75 million in 2007-08.

As a size comparison, he pointed out that Savings Bank of Mendocino – which he said shares a good relationship with the credit union – has $800 million in assets.

The 2008 funding cycle was the first time that Mendo Lake could reapply for more funds. Cooper said it's a “pretty arduous process,” with a six-inch notebook worth of paper as part of the federal application and reporting requirements.

He said the government was looking at organizations and institutions, like Mendo Lake, that offer core services to underserved, urban and rural poor populations.

The current economy has created challenges for the people Mendo Lake serves, particularly with auto loans, said Cooper. Delinquency was once very low and part of a strongly performing portfolio.

Now, delinquency has increased 100 percent, with it becoming a common occurrence to see people coming into the credit union with their car keys and a sad look on their face, Cooper said.

Cooper said the credit union has listened to peoples' needs and tried to work with them. That includes negotiating interest rates and modifying payment plans with a couple hundred of its car loan customers in order to help keep them in cars so they can search for jobs or keep the employment they already have.

“We have worked very hard and I'm so proud of the loyalty and the good intentions of so many of our credit union members,” he said.

In addition to its regular business functions, Cooper said Mendo Lake seeks to be a good corporate citizen through community involvement and support of nonprofits and education.

Their work locally includes offering scholarships for local at-risk students at Mendocino College. Cooper sits on the Mendocino College Foundation's board.

Cooper said Mendo Lake can do a lot with the federal funding.

“It provides that little extra that we need to maintain a really small bottom line,” he said.

For more information visit Mendo Lake Credit Union online, .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

BOONVILLE – Authorities in Mendocino County are investigating the death of a man whose body was discovered in a state park on Saturday.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that at 8 a.m. Saturday Boonville resident Deputy Keith Squires was contacted at his residence by a citizen.

The man stated that he had stopped to walk his dog on a trail adjacent to the Hendy Woods State Park and discovered a body lying alongside the trail.

Deputy Squires and the citizen went to location where he found a Hispanic male adult with a single gunshot wound.

Mendocino County detectives were called to the location where a murder investigation was initiated.

The man's body was found off a trail across from the entrance to Hendy Woods State Park. Officials said the body was located approximately 50 feet from the road along the trail.

It appeared the deceased had been dropped at the location as there was no evidence that this was where he was killed.

The man, whose age is estimated at between 20 and 25, was dressed in blue jeans, a t-shirt and a green camouflage jacket.

The sheriff's office reported that the cause of death appears to be a gunshot wound but this is to be confirmed by an autopsy.

The deceased's identity is not known.

Anyone with any information about the killing or the identity of the deceased is encouraged to call Mendocino County Sheriff Detective Eric Riboli at 707-463-4107 or the tip line at 707-467-9159.

LAKE COUNTY – The state's budget impasse is impacting state agencies that operate at the local level.

Late last month, with no state budget in sight, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed all state agencies to add a third furlough day each month for all state employees beginning July 1.

In December, Schwarzenegger had ordered two furlough days per month for employees as he tried to conserve the state's dwindling cash. Those furloughs started in February.

In response to the latest furlough order, Caltrans reported that their offices will be closed three Fridays per month. That went into effect on July 10.

Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie reported that highway construction projects will continue on furlough days and will not be impacted, but Caltrans highway maintenance staff will be furloughed on

these days.

Similar to weekends and holidays, staff will be on call to respond to emergency situations, he added.

“The furlough days are decreasing the number of hours our highway maintenance staff can work each month, which will reduce the amount of work they can accomplish,” he told Lake County News. “They will continue to prioritize their work load to ensure that the most important work is completed.”

State legislators' offices also are feeling the pinch.

David Miller, spokesman for Sen. Pat Wiggins, said that, effective July 1, all Senate staff had their vision and dental benefits reduced. In addition, all Senate staff earning $50,000 or more also had their pay reduced 5 percent via one furlough day per month.

How those furlough days might affect Senate staffs' workload isn't known yet; Miller said they won't being taking the furloughs until after the budget agreement is signed.

Miller said Wiggins already cut her own pay 5 percent, cut her per diem by 18 percent and gave up her car allowance.

He said Wiggins' offices are getting a steady volume of constituent visits and calls advocating one budget approach or another – for example, more cuts or more taxes. They're also getting requests for assistance. Many people also have called to thank Wiggins for giving up some of her financial benefits.

Miller said he expects few people will be happy with the budget agreement that eventually is passed and signed, so they'll likely have more calls then, too.

Andrew Bird, spokesman for Assemblyman Wes Chesbro's office, said the Assembly has approached the budget issues different than the Senate.

“The Assembly is not doing furlough days at this time,” Bird said.

The reason, he explained, is that, several months ago, the Assembly slashed its budget 10 percent.

Also maintaining regular working hours is the California Highway Patrol.

Jaime Coffee, a spokesperson for the CHP's Sacramento office, said that, due to the agency's “mission of public safety and the critical nature of every CHP employee,” it will maintain normal working hours, and that means remaining open during the furloughs on the first, second and third Friday of every month.

Uniform personnel are exempt from the state's furlough program, said Coffee, and there will be no reduction in patrol services or response time to public calls for service.

The CHP, Coffee added, is funded by the Motor Vehicle Account, not the state's general fund.

Still, nonuniform employees will adhere to the furlough directive, but schedules will be arranged so that it doesn't affect opening hours, Coffee said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



THE GEYSERS – The Geysers and Cobb area experienced two more earthquakes close to or above 3.0 magnitude on Sunday.

The US Geological Survey reported that a 3.0-magnitude quake occurred at 4:31 a.m. It was centered two miles north of The Geysers, five miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.That quake was later downgraded to 2.9.

The quake occurred at a depth of 1.7 miles, and was reportedly felt nearly 700 miles away in Claremont, according to the US Geological Survey's shake reports.

That quake was followed 18 minutes later by a 3.1-magnitude quake.

Occurring at 4:49 a.m., the second quake was measured at a depth of two miles, the US Geological Survey reported.

Its epicenter appeared to be in the same spot as the first quakes – two miles north of The Geysers, five miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, based on monitoring reports.

Shake reports on the second quake came from Middletown, Concord and San Francisco.

Over the last several weeks The Geysers area has seen a spike in quakes measuring 3.0 and above, as Lake County News has reported.

Two earthquakes occurred July 6, measuring 3.7 and 3.8 on the Richter Scale, which followed two quakes above 3.0 the previous week.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Manzanita Restaurant at Twin Pine Casino, 22223 Highway 29 at Rancheria Road, Middletown, telephone 800-564-4872. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. If the restaurant is full food can be served to you in the Grapevine Bar and Lounge.

When researching the Guenoc American Viticultural Area column I spoke to several people of the Middletown Rancheria and they all seemed to end the conversation with “You should come try our restaurant” I don’t get around Middletown very often but decided to make the trip to see what they were talking about.

The Middletown Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians operates Twin Pine Casino just south of Middletown on Highway 29. I’m not a gambler so I’ve never been inside the old casino but I have to say that the new one is very impressive.

The first surprise I had as I approached the casino was when I noticed there was a whole lot of improvement to it. The old military barracks-like tent is no longer in use, and there is a major hotel and casino standing next to it with a brand new parking lot. Wow, I really haven’t been here for a while!

Walking into the casino was quite the surprise. The décor is amazing! There are giant wooden beams, remarkable rock work and more brick than the Italian catacombs. The Edgar Allen Poe story “The Cask of Amontillado” popped into my recollection as I looked around. The quote, “For the love of god, Montresor!” kept repeating over and over again in my mind. It was all designed to accent the natural surroundings outside and was quite impressive.

The restaurant is located towards the back of the casino. A word of warning to anyone who hasn’t been in a casino before: smoking is permitted in the casino area so if you have sensitive lungs you may need to hold your breath a while to get to the restaurant. I’m personally pretty sensitive to allergens like smoke, and my throat was burning for an hour after leaving the building. Luckily the restaurant is sealed off from the casino with an obviously excellent ventilation system so the smoke won’t affect your meal

I arrived at 4 p.m. and the restaurant didn’t open until 5 p.m., so I went to the Grapevine Bar and Lounge to have a drink until it opened. The bartender Michelle can only be described as gorgeous and as hopefully my next wife. She is charming and attentive without being fawning.

As I sat at the bar I noticed that I could partially see into the kitchen. One kitchen staff member I have met before recognized me and waved, and all I could think was, “Oh no! I’ve been exposed by the very people who I will be reviewing.” Then I see several of the kitchen staff looking out at me, whispering and pointing. I thought then, “I’m definitely outed now,” but I had come all this way and I was still hungry.

When 5 p.m. came around I went into the restaurant and was seated immediately. I looked at the menu and saw that it had a little bit of everything on it, a nice well-rounded selection. Then my waitress Kim asked if I would like to hear the specials.

As she rattled them off they included a soft-shelled crab tempura on an Asian slaw appetizer ... I can’t pass up soft-shelled crab, ever. And for the entrée, they were featuring a seared ahi tuna. That’s another one I can’t pass up. Wine is available by the glass and I let the little sommelier in my head ask for the Langtry Sauvignon Blanc to go with what I ordered.

From the time I entered the restaurant to the time I received my wine and appetizer was 15 minutes, much faster than I was expecting. The plate was full of slaw and a whole soft-shelled crab with a Panko tempura crust, the crab being cut in half to make it a little easier to work with. The sweet sauce that came with the crab complemented it very well and the slaw was mildly dressed.

If you are a small person this could be a full meal all by itself, but luckily for me I’m not a small person, and I wolfed it all down. The crab was so crisp that when I cut off a claw the snap that occurred in the action shot the crab claw across the table and I quietly acted as if nothing happened.

At exactly 30 minutes after entering the restaurant my entrée arrived. I looked at it and immediately thought, “I can’t eat this. This is a work of art. If I eat this I will be destroying a thing of beauty.”

Seriously, this looked like something that you would find in a Michelin-starred restaurant. The ahi tuna was leaning on a tower of rice covered in a light sauce, and I could see nori and at least two different types of tobiko (flying fish eggs) and a couple of types of cabbage. There were colors and flavors everywhere.

I always enjoy dishes that match the protein with the garnish and sides in some karmic way, like rabbit and carrots, duck and rice, venison and everything in my garden, so the fact that the tuna was combined with fish eggs and seaweeds made me love the dish all the more.

“Well,” I thought, “A person's gotta eat,” so after a few moments of admiration I tore into the dish.

The exterior of the tuna was lightly seared and the interior was still rare, just the way it should be. I felt dirty eating it (but dirty in the good way), like I was getting a thrill out of destroying the artistic picture it was and reveling in its obliteration.

After dinner I went back to the bar (I had professional questions to ask; this has nothing to do with going back and staring at Michelle again with big Precious Moments figurine eyes). I asked her to find out the executive chef’s name and she came back with his card.

His name is Jeremy Peckham and he lives here in Lake County part-time and Hawaii part-time. Dinner was well worth the trip and I decided I would definitely return; you don’t get a meal of this caliber at many places around the county.

I think this really proves that Lake County is DEFINITELY becoming a food AND wine destination. I was so impressed with my experience that I returned a couple weeks later with my wife.

We walked through the entire casino and she agreed that the amount and structure of brickwork in the Grapevine Bar was very evocative of Poe. Michelle was there so I introduced my current wife to her eventual successor … no, no, not awkward at all, it’s all just part of my unique charm. Truthfully, my wife is very indulgent of my sense of humor.

After a couple of drinks we went to the restaurant. We each had a great meal. My wife ordered the spinach and artichoke dip for her appetizer, and I had the crab cakes, both of which were quite good.

The smoked rib-eye with peppers and béchamel sauce I ordered was so rich and thick that I couldn’t finish it. My wife had the double jack chicken sandwich with steak fries, and she made several comments about the portions being very generous.

She likes to have dessert when we go out, so she only ate about half her meal and asked for it to be boxed up so she would have enough room. Since rhubarb is in season right now she ordered the strawberry rhubarb crisp a la mode. It was sweet and tart at the same time, and a very comforting way to end her meal.

Prices are more reasonable than you would expect for a meal of this caliber, so I have another good reason to return to Middletown regularly.

In addition to the new casino, hotel, bar and restaurant, I learned that they will also soon have a wine tasting room that will feature Lake County wines, so Twin Pine Casino is becoming a very complete destination to visit.

To the people of the Middletown Rancheria: You have a wholly impressive facility that you can be very proud of, and as Montresor said to Fortunato, “... I drink to your long life.” But I say it to you with much more goodwill than he did.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Authorities in Mendocino County are continuing to investigate the discovery of a body in a state park this weekend.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that a body was discovered early Saturday morning at Hendy Woods State Park in Boonville.

The body has been identified as that of Salvadore Alfonso Aguilar, 20, of Fort Bragg.

On Saturday, the same day as Aguilar's body was discovered, Mendocino Sheriff's Dispatch received a phone call from one of his relatives, who stated that she had been contacted by another family member who told her that the victim had shot himself and friends took him to a park and dropped him off.

Detectives contacted the family member in Fort Bragg and learned the victim had been dropped off in the park by his girlfriend and two others.

The detectives were able to contact the girlfriend and the two males. After interviews detectives were able to determine that Aguilar had been working in a marijuana garden in a remote part of Fishrock Road, Yorkville.

Aguilar was said to be despondent over a breakup with his girlfriend. He had walked off when the other four subjects heard a gunshot and found him dead.

They carried the victim up to Fishrock Road where they were met and transported Aguilar to the area where he was found.

Detectives are attempting to identify the location of the marijuana garden crime scene and recover a firearm.

The case remains under investigation the victim's family has been notified.

The cause of death will be determined by autopsy.

Cal Fire firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on a grass fire in the north Lakeport area on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – Firefighters quickly contained a fire Saturday evening in the north Lakeport area.

The fire was reported shortly before 6 p.m.

Michael Selmi of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said the blaze, measuring an acre and a half, was located in the area of Hill Road and Snyder Drive.

An estimated 40 firefighters – from Cal Fire, Lakeport and Northshore Fire – were on scene for the evening blaze, which came close to area homes. In particular, it burned right up next to one home sitting on a small ridge.

Numerous engines – including five from Cal Fire – responded, along with a bulldozer and a hand crew.

A helicopter and three air tankers were dispatched to the fire, with the helicopter making several water drops.

One area resident, Jack Baxter, looked out his kitchen window, saw the fire and went right for his tractor. Baxter took the front loader with a drag box and headed straight up the hill from his house toward the flames.

He drove into the burning grass and used his tractor to cut a fire line on three sides, which may have helped save the nearest home from fire as well as protect other homes in the immediate area.

Neighbors and firefighters credited his fast action for helping stop the fast-moving fire from reaching other homes over the hill toward Walnut and Lakeshore Boulevard.

The fire was contained just before 6:30 p.m., Selmi said.

Selmi said the fire's cause was a bird that flew into a transformer, a cause which he said is pretty common.

Area residents at the scene indicated that, before the fire, they had experienced a power surge at about 5:45 p.m., followed by a brief blackout.

This is the fourth fire this week reported on the north Lakeport area.

Last Wednesday, three fires amounting to about 22 acres burned along the Highway near the Lakeside Heights subdivision, as Lake County News has reported.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




Jack Baxter brought out his tractor to help fight the fire. Here he stops to talk to firefighters on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.






An onlooker watchers as firefighters work to fight a fire in the north Lakeport area on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

Sugar Pie DeSanto, one of blues' all-time greats. Courtesy photo.

I’m sitting next to the legendary Sugar Pie DeSanto on a (gulp) US Air flight still on the tarmac at the Oakland Airport.

Obscured in the pages of blues history is the fact that she was the only female artist on the 1964 American Folk Blues tour that featured Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Willie Dixon, among others.

She was one of many artists on the Chess Records roster during its heyday. Her duets with Etta James were certifiable, charting hits. Prior to that, Sugar Pie was the opening act for Soul Brother No. 1, The Godfather of Funk, Mr. James Brown.

Sugar Pie kept James on his toes in more ways than one. She set the performance bar very high for James and anyone else who has drawn top billing behind her since. It can safely be said then and now; you have to be great or foolish to dare to perform after her.

In the summer of 2007, I was able to witness the “kidding on the square” banter between Sugar Pie and rhythm and blues veterans, Ruby Andrews and Cicero Blake. They were debating who was going to open, follow and close their performance at the Chicago Blues Festival. Neither Andrews nor Blake dared to follow the Sugar!

It is just past nine in the morning and we have a long flight day ahead of us. Sugar is booked to close the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival on Friday, July 3, at 9:30 p.m., approximately 36 hours away. Our itinerary calls for us to change plans twice, in Phoenix and Chicago. We are scheduled to layover a total of three plus hours and our travel time to our final destination of Moline, Ill., is close to 10 hours.

The flight leaves the terminal on time and we settle into our seats. As we taxi down the runway at a speed that seems to me to be close to 100 miles per hour, we are suddenly thrown forward with a collective gasp as the pilot slams on the brakes.

“Ladies and gentleman, we have a computer malfunction and will be returning to the terminal to get it repaired before takeoff …”

They couldn’t repair it. Three hours later, we are hustled onto a shuttle to San Francisco. It’s 12:10 p.m. and we are trying to connect with a flight that leaves San Francisco at 1:30 p.m. I express my concern to the driver who seems noncommittal about getting us there on time.

“Oh, I don’t know whether we’ll make it or not. I can’t be speeding. I got two tickets last month and I have to observe the 65 mile per hour speed limit.”

This is not good. If we don’t make the San Francisco connection, the gig is on the line. There are no more connections to Moline that will make it in time.

My distress is soon put to the test as the driver proceeds to do 85 and 90 miles per hour all the way to San Francisco Airport. Shockingly, we arrive in just enough time to go check in, go through security and board. Yes, I did tip the very slick driver!

We have been advised that we will be staying in Chicago overnight after transferring in Las Vegas.

When we get to Las Vegas, Sugar Pie gleefully entertains herself with a couple of rounds with the one-armed jack machines stationed around the Las Vegas airport. She convinces me to drop a dollar in the penny machine. With our carryon luggage under her watch, I slip off to grab an overpriced bite.

We make it out of Las Vegas and land safely in Chicago. Bleary-eyed, we check in to the Hilton about midnight. With a 20-hour day (at least for me) concluded, we check into our rooms to grab four hours sleep for me, five for the Sugar (I have a morning routine that takes me about an hour).

The alarm hits at 4 a.m. I do my thing. I’m supposed to call Sugar Pie at 5 a.m. for her wakeup. My phone rings at 4:55 a.m. It’s the Sugar.

“What time we leavin’? Can we get some coffee?”

“I’ll be there for you at 5:45,” I reply.

We check out of the Hilton in reasonably good shape and head for the airport by foot. It’s only about a five-minute walk. We have to recheck our luggage, get boarding passes and go through security again for the puddle jump to Moline.

We grab coffee and breakfast sandwiches and are headed to sit down at our boarding gate, when we are confronted by a situational orange alert.

“Excuz meh plez. Can you help meh?”

A man with an accent out of somewhere in Africa is panhandling us with a story about having only Chinese money (he shows us a fistful of strange currency) that they won’t take. He claims massive hunger.

Partly because I empathize with his plight, partly because our food is getting cold, I give him a dollar. Three or so minutes later, it occurred to me that all he really had to do was go to the currency exchange. Did I get taken? Maybe. Was it worth the price of admission? I think so.

We finally land in Moline just before 9 am. on July 3. Our Hotel is in Bettendorf, Iowa. The hotel van swoops us up and we are checked in before 10 a.m.

We have time for a quick nap in our respective rooms. The Sugar has a radio interview scheduled for noon. Rehearsal with the band is at 2:30 p.m. The gig is at 9:30 p.m. At 9:15 the mayor of Davenport is presenting her with the key to the city as the Mississippi Valley Blues Society awards her with a Lifetime Achievement Plaque.

End of part I; to be continued next week.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

Upcoming cool events:

Sax-O-Rama, Sunday Brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 12, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake; telephone 707-275-2233.

Tutu Jones, Andrews Jr. Boy Jones, Sherman Robertson, Caravan of Allstars, Russell City Memorial Blues Band, Alvin Draper, Mike Osborne’s tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Consonance, Blues Boy Willie, Preacher Luke Scott , Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 12. 777 “B” St. at City Hall Plaza in Hayward. Telephone 510-836-2227.

Side of Blues, Blue Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 13, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake.

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake.

The Lost Boys, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 17, Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Greg Allman in Concert, 8 p.m. Saturday, July 18. Cache Creek Casino, 14455 Hwy 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77-CACHE, online at .

Smokey Robinson in Concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone 800-660-LAKE, online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Hwy 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77 CACHE, online at .

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .

Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.