The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

by Bob Sparrow

Chuck inspects a propeller blade

It was windy, very windy, but that was to be expected, we were in the middle of a ‘wind farm’.  Yes, after years of driving by all those windmills on our way to Palm Desert, we finally stopped to take the tour and learn exactly what was going on with all these giant propellers.  Perhaps you wondered as well, well wonder no more.  Also, in case you’re hungry after your tour of the wind farm, I’ll give you three good recommendations for restaurants that we tried for the first time and found to be quite good.

First, why are these windmills where they are?  The Gorgonio Pass, which not only has a lot of wind going through it, but also a waterway, a railroad, an Interstate freeway and the San Andreas Fault, sits between the  two largest mountains in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto, both stretching over 11,000 feet.  Those mountains create weather patterns that help make California one of the top three windiest states in the US, trailing only Texas and Iowa.

Notice the ‘bus’ behind the propeller

The first windmill was put in place there in 1982 and there are now over 1,200 windmills of various sizes, some are taller than the Empire State building and some have propeller blades over 200 feet in length!  To put their size in perspective, if you’re driving on the freeway, at the top the windmills you’ll see a ‘little box’ behind the propeller blades, that ‘little box’ is the size of a bus!  This wind farm supplies a year of electricity for 250,000 homes.  These things are huge, and the ones that are out in the ocean, are MUCH bigger!

As we were wending our way around and through several of the windmills in a six-passenger golf cart, our guide pointed to a large building in the distance and told us that that building held the largest pot farm in North America.  So, I guess when the wind is blowing just right, Palm Springs gets a little high!

Walt & Patty enjoying the evening

The three restaurants I’d recommend, two for food and one for entertainment are, for food, Waldo’s Ristorante & Bar; where’s Waldo’s?  The corner of Country Club and Cook; it has great Italian food in a comfortable setting, indoor-outdoor seating and a cute bar – call many days in advance, it’s packed!  The second restaurant is La Brasserie Bistro & Bar, a French restaurant in La Quinta, with a diverse menu and excellent French Onion Soup.  For great entertainment, we were turned on to this next place by Patty & Walt Schwartz, who live in the area and know how to have a good time as well as where to find one.  We met them at the Paseo Hotel, off El Paseo across from Tommy Bahama’s, the restaurant in the hotel is called the Larkspur Grill, and the food is good, but the music on Thursday nights is awesome, provided by ‘Fun With Dick & Jane’ – a great band that plays all the great hits from the 70s & 80s. You could go just for the ‘people watching’,  – it is truly a show!!

Linda’s sister, Starlet and her husband Donnie, drove out from Arizona to join us for three nights, and our son, Jeff came out and played a round of golf with us.  So it was another great week an hour and a half away from home, but in a whole different world.




By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


In 1975 I purchased my first house, which to me, was less about a roof over my head more about having a yard for a dog.  A couple of months after settling in, I ventured to the county dog pound (as they were called in those days) and bought a cute little fluff ball for $6.00.  I named her “Carrot”.  The people at the dog pound didn’t know much about her background, so they suggested that I take her to a veterinarian to have her checked out.  Unfortunately, she had kennel cough and for a few stressful days I thought I would lose her before I ever really had her.  But she improved and was my faithful companion until her demise in 1983.  So why am I writing about her now?  Because as part of our conversations with the vet during that time I asked him if he could tell me her breed and age.  He said she most likely was a cockapoo-terrier mix and fixed her age at about eight months.  I think about that conversation every time I stop to talk with someone about their dog. Somehow the owner always manages to blurt out some version of, “I really don’t know much about the breed or age because I rescued him/her.”  Sheesh!

I first started noticing the trend of “rescue virtue-signaling” about ten years ago.  Let me be clear, I think it is terrific to rescue dogs.  If you saw the 60 Minutes episode about dogs a week ago you were probably not surprised to learn that dogs have a “kindness gene”.  None of them deserve to be locked up in a cage.  All they want is a little love, a scratch behind the ear and some food and shelter.  In our family we have had a variety of dogs over the years, half rescue and half purebred.  But here’s the thing: when someone asked us about the rescue dogs, we always gave an answer that was as close to accurate as we could get.  Veterinarians are actually very good at assessing the breed and age of a dog.  I have a hard time believing that people who spend hours looking at dog videos on Instagram Reels or dress their dog up like a ballerina, don’t have the time or inclination to ask their vet for an opinion on the breed and age of their dog.

On my walk around the neighborhood last week, I met a woman walking her dog and stopped to ask her about the dog.  She told me all about how she rescued the dog but couldn’t tell me anything else about it.  I suggested that she purchase a dog DNA test.  She was stunned at my suggestion.  “Why would I do that?”, she asked.  I told her it would provide more information about the breed of the dog, which could be helpful in preventing or understanding future medical issues.  I left our encounter convinced that she had no intention of finding out more about her canine companion.  Because – and here’s the reason I find this trend so annoying – I think this woman finds more self-satisfaction in telling people that she’s rescued a dog that she would in saying, “She’s a Malti-poo mix and she’s about three years old.”  Where’s the fun in that?  How can the world possibly know what a wonderful person she is if she gives such a straightforward answer?

I’ll get off my soapbox now.  But I’m still going to tell people to get their dogs tested.  If people want to feel virtuous, they should donate time and money to the local animal shelter.

Water Falls & Banana Pancakes

by Bob Sparrow

Akaka Falls

I have just returned from the Big Island of Hawaii.  As always, it was great friends, great golf, great cocktails, great weather . . . great time!  Those who read last year’s blog about our trip to the Big Island may remember that I had planned a ‘Water Falls Tour’ to the Hilo or wet, side of the island, but no one else was interested in going, so the trip was aborted.  I made a similar offer this year, and again, no one signed up, but a car was available this time and the group encouraged me to go by myself; apparently, they were looking for a way to get rid of me for half a day.  So, please come join me on this mini adventure, so I don’t get too lonely.

It’s about an hour and a half drive from where we’re staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare in Waikoloa on the west side of the island (Kona), to Hilo, on the east side of the island, where most of the big waterfalls are.  The drive takes you through the historic Parker Ranch, which at one time, with 130,000 acres, was the largest cattle ranch in, not just Hawaii, but the U.S.  Yes, bigger than anything in Texas, but that’s another interesting story, maybe for my next visit to the Big Island.

The difference in weather between the two sides of the island is night and day, or rather I should say, dry and wet.  Except for the lush environs of the hotels and golf courses on the west side, the terrain there is mostly dark, rocky unhospitable lava.  Conversely, the Hilo side is incredibly lush green, as it gets lots of rain, averaging about142 inches per year!  The reason for the vast difference in climate in such a small distance, I’m told, has to do with the trade winds and the two huge mountains in the middle of the island, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both above 13,000 feet and spectacularly snow capped at this time of year.

Snow-capped Mauna Loa

OK, we’ve got the geography and meteorology details taken care of, let’s move on to why I made this trek – water falls!  I’m not sure where or when I became enthralled with waterfalls, but I’m guessing vacationing in Yosemite growing up might have had something to do with it, but they’ve always intrigued me.  To think that a waterfall starts out as a small drop of water, either from rain or melted snow, then unites with other drops of water as they journey to wherever gravity takes them; and when they reach a cliff, they joyously and beautifully cascade over it. What’s mind-boggling to me is that it just keeps going, never seeming to run out of little drops of water!

Rainbow Falls, complete with rainbow

I headed out to the other side of the island around 7:00 am for my solo ‘Waterfall Tour’ which focused on three main waterfalls, Umauma Falls, Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls.  But I must say, when I got to the eastern coast of the Big Island, the views were breath-takingly beautiful of a rugged shoreline and spectacular foliage, the likes of which I’ve never seen – just amazing!  Every time I saw a ‘Scenic Route’ This Way sign taking me off the main road, I took it.  I’d be hard pressed to find anything more scenic than my diversions on these ‘scenic routes’!  I stopped just outside of Hilo at a small, out of the way café, where I had the best banana pancakes sprinkled with macadamia nuts ever.  I heard Jack Johnson singing “Banana Pancakes” the whole time.

I’ll spare those who aren’t interested in waterfalls, which apparently is the vast majority based on my travel group, by just saying that Umauma Falls is in a great recreation area where you can ride horses and do a zip line over the falls.  At Rainbow Falls, I actually witnessed a rainbow created by the fall, and Akaka Falls, the Big Kahuna of waterfalls, is in a Hawaiian State Park and provides a scenic circular trail through the rain forest to the falls, which are spectacular . . . if you’re into waterfalls.

I was back on the ‘dry side’ by noon, and enjoying that, but with a head full of amazing images.  Thanks for joining me, for your efforts please enjoy this eye-full of banana pancakes, sprinkled with macadamia nut!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

     My Kindle

I was sitting in a waiting room the other day, reading a book on my Kindle, perfectly content and engrossed in the story.  A woman next to me was fidgeting and antsy, alternating between chatting to anyone who would listen and pacing the floor.  Finally, she looked at my Kindle and asked, “What is that?” I explained the concept of the e-reader and how convenient it is to carry around hundreds of books in a small device. She stared at it, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I don’t read books.  You’re lucky to have something to occupy your time.”  She doesn’t read books??  I have previously met people who have no interest in picking up a book, who think the Cheesecake Factory menu is great reading.  I feel sorry for such people.  They are missing out on the magic of being transported to another place and time, the escape and education that can be a part of reading a good book. I thought about her comment.  Yes, I AM lucky that I love to read.  But it had nothing to do with luck – I had help and encouragement along the way.

         The Weekly Reader

First, my parents viewed reading as an important skill.  Of course, they owned and published a newspaper for many years, so they encouraged everyone to read, especially if it was the Novato Advance.  Our home was filled with books, and I cannot recall a time when they didn’t each have a book by their bedside.  My second influence, like many people, came in the form of great teachers.  In grammar school we were fortunate enough to receive the Weekly Reader, a magazine that published every Friday and contained fun stories, games and cartoons.  Mrs. Larson, my fifth-grade teacher, started a book club in her classroom.  We ordered books and when they arrived, we gathered around a table to unpack the box.  I still recall how excited I was to get a new book, especially if it was a Nancy Drew mystery.  She taught me how to read a book, about topic sentences, and themes.

         Bette Reese

But the greatest influence on what and how I read was my high school English teacher, Bette Reese.  Until I landed in her class, I was a middling student.  I was more focused on boys and socializing than schoolwork.  Ms. Reese was a task master, constantly correcting grammar, spelling and composition.  She taught me about symbolism and metaphors and introduced me to Hemingway, Camus and Dostoevsky – pretty heady stuff for a high school junior.  Her teaching philosophy was to teach to the highest standards.  If some in the class got left behind, so be it.  She wanted to instill an appreciation for good writing and classic authors.  To this day I credit her for my distaste of romance novels and sci-fi fiction. I can’t speak for everyone who was her student, but I do know that she influenced a great many of us.  Two years after I left high school Ms. Reese took a professorship at a local college.  She eventually became the faculty advisor to the student newspaper, where no doubt she used her magic on many aspiring journalists.  Sadly, Bette Reese died in 1979 at the age of 44 from pancreatic cancer.  I wrote a piece about her for a Marin County site and received many comments from former students who were similarly impacted by her.  Each year the college awards the Bette Reese Memorial Scholarship to a talented journalism student.  I can only hope they are maintaining her high standards.

  The Libby App

So, am I lucky that I love to read?  Undoubtedly so. I can be entertained anywhere as long as I have a good book to read – airports, waiting rooms, even on the treadmill.  And nothing is more soothing to my soul than to curl up in bed on a cold night, my husband and dog beside me, engaged in a good book. My friend, Patsy, introduced me to the Libby app, where I can download books for free from the local library directly to my Kindle.  A love to read and free books? Now that is luck.