November 2016

East Fork Adventure

Matte fiddled (with his camera) while America burned.


OK, i couldn’t stand it.  Having learned of the existence of the East Fork of the Russian River and that it’s now the primary source of water for the upper three-fourths of the Russian River, i had no choice but to drive back up there and photograph the bridges over the fork.  And while i was at it, i thought i’d go ahead and photograph some non-bridge bits of the Potter Valley Project and try to get better shots of some of the bridges i photographed so badly on the previous expedition.

This time i set out at 6:00 AM in heavy fog, so heavy that it was barely lifting by the time i got to Ukiah.  Let’s get smart here, i thought, and let the fog dissipate while i kill a little time having breakfast.  So i took the downtown exit for Ukiah in the expectation of finding a quaint little cafe where i could bash Hillary with the natives while i nibbled some scrambled eggs and toast.

Ha!  I drove all over downtown Ukiah and spotted nothing open but a Denny’s.  Oh please, so i dove into this little donut shop, where i was pleased to see along with the indifferent donuts some croissants stuffed with ham and cheese.  Great.  And then the guy asked if i wanted it heated up, and thinking of my fondness for sticking Lola’s flaky croissants into my little toaster oven, i said yes.

When he handed it over, i discovered that he’d stuck it in the microwave.  Do you know what happens to a ham and cheese croissant that’s been microwaved?   Gummy.

So back on the road to the CA-20 exit, where this time i found a tiny little dirt road leading down to the river from which i got a slightly better shot of the CA-20 bridge while fretting over getting stuck down there and having to call USAA road service and then explain to the tow truck driver what the hell i was thinking when i took the Prius into the quagmire.

Russian River bridge on CA-20

And a closeup.

Russian River bridge on CA-20

And here’s a shot of the very beginning of the bridge from the east end.

Russian River bridge on CA-20

Then i headed a few miles east on CA-20 to get the first bridge over the East Fork, but since i’d resolved that on this trip i’d stop periodically to smell the scenery, here’s a shot of Lake Mendocino, which they formed by damming the greatly enhanced East Fork just west of Ukiah.


It’s low now since it’s drawn down severely in the summer and recharged in the winter.  That blue thing is some stuff stuck on the fencing.  Crop it out?  Naw, truth in photography.


Here’s a shot of the bridge over the East Fork just west of the lake.    Ansel would have waited around until the sun came over the mountain to the east, but he had patience.

East Fork Russian River bridge on CA-20

Closer.  You can see from the water mark that when the lake fills, it extends an arm under the bridge.

East Fork Russian River bridge on CA-20


And now, off north onto East Road for the next bridge.  I took this shot on the way back down after the sun was higher.  Truth in chronology.

East Fork Russian River bridge on East Road


Now lets drive north on East Road and hook a left into Potter Valley, where on Main Street we find this splendid small bridge over the East Fork.

East Fork Russian River bridge in Potter Valley

The other side, a better shot.

East Fork Russian River bridge in Potter Valley


Then north on Eel River Road and off to the east on Gibson Lane for this cute little bridge.

East Fork Russian River bridge on Gibson Lane

Other side.

East Fork Russian River bridge on Gibson Lane


Since i was on Gibson Lane, i figured i’d take Powerhouse Road north to get a shot of the powerhouse.  What powerhouse?

Well, that link i provided on the Potter Valley Project tells the full story, but the short version is that back in 1900 the Russian River Valley was already running short of water, so somebody figured out that all they had to do was put a dam on the Eel River and stick a mile-long, eight-foot-diameter straw under the watershed divide to draw lots of water into the Russian River valley.  And since the Eel River was some 450 feet higher than the upper end of the East Fork of the Russian River, there’d be enough head at the bottom end of the straw to generate some electricity.  Thus, the powerhouse and my excursion to see it.

Alas, there was an unfriendly gate, and i couldn’t get onto the grounds, so here’s all we can see of the powerhouse.

Potter Valley Project powerhouse


On the other hand, the countryside up there is lovely.

Potter Valley





Then i wriggled up Eel River Road over the divide and down to the river, where i was fortunate to find a vantage from which to shoot the Cape Horn Dam.

Cape Horn Dam on the Eel River


And since it was only five miles out of the way, i went ahead and got this shot of a bridge over the Eel River.

Eel River Bridge on Eel River Road


That’s it for the bridges and points of interest for the East Fork of the Russian River.


On the way home, i discovered that that burger joint on the right side at the south end of Hopland has, alas, a new cook.  However, on this trip i was able to get a much better shot of the old bridge on US-101 south of Hopland.

Russian River bridge on US-101 south of Hopland


Not to mention these Tillandsia usneoides just hanging there where i was only moderately illegally pulled onto the shoulder.

Tillandsia usneoides


A bit farther south, i found a legal turnout from which i could get a shot of the river at the foot of the cliffs.

Russian River south of Hopland


Oh, but it was not all triumphs.  When i got down to Healdsburg to photograph that big bridge that i’d unaccountably missed in my previous excursion, i found that despite my carefully drawn map showing possible vantages, none worked out, and this was the best shot i could get.  Grrr.

Russian River bridge on US-101 south of Healdsburg

The good news is that i can make another trip to Healdsburg with the Segway in the car and use it to ride out onto the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge, which gives a great vantage.


So then it was off toward Guerneville on the little back road from Healdsburg so i could stop for a better shot of the Wohler Bridge.

Russian River bridge on Wohler Road


Finally, to end this post, one last scenery shot up near Porter Valley.



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Russian River Bridge Expedition

The great joy of writing for fun is that i get to violate the rules i vigorously enforced forty years ago when i was teaching freshmen composition.


OK, so much for the politics.  Let’s do something fun instead, like an expedition to photograph the bridges over the Russian River.  Well, why not?  My rough count yields only 22 of ’em, so the scope is doable.

I set out at dawn on Thursday, 17 November, grinding up US-101 to Redwood Valley, a dozen miles north of Ukiah, and then taking little back roads ten miles north to the point where Tomki Road crosses the Russian River, the first bridge over it.  Not much to it here.

Russian River bridge at Tomki Road


Then i retraced my route south to capture the East Road crossing, the second bridge.

Russian River bridge at East Road


Then back down to the East School Way crossing in Redwood Valley, the third bridge.


Russian River bridge at East School Way


Another shot of this one.  Sigh, there was no place i could access to get a good shot.

Russian River bridge at East School Way


After that, it was back onto US-101 south to CA-20 east, just north of Calpella, for the fourth bridge. This is a big bridge, but again i found it damn near impossible to photograph owing to there being no good vantage i could get close to in my car.  Here’s the best i could get.

Russian River bridge at CA-20


There is also a railroad bridge immediately north of this one, but i couldn’t even see it.  Any of it.

Then south into Calpella and east on Moore Street for the fifth bridge.

Russian River bridge at Moore Street in Calpella


The sixth bridge is on Lake Mendocino Drive, north of Ukiah.

Russian River bridge at Lake Mendocino Drive above Ukiah


The seventh bridge is bit farther south, Vichy Springs Road east of Ukiah.  The river has become much larger at this point, partly owing to numerous creeks flowing into it from the west but largely due to input from the East Fork, which has been greatly enhanced by the Potter Valley Project.  This engineering work featured a dam on the Eel River and a diversion tunnel under the drainage divide into the headwater area of the East Fork of the Russian River, thus making the East Fork a much greater source of water than the main branch i’ve been photographing.

I’d not learned these facts about the East Fork when i did the photography.  Hell, when i started tracking down the locations of the bridges, i hadn’t even noticed the existence of an east fork.  I added the east fork bridges to the Russian River Bridges photoessay.

But for now, here’s the Vichy Springs Road bridge.



And then, the Talmage Road bridge just a bit south. At this point, i’m boring even myself by counting bridges, so i’ll stop.

Russian River bridge at Talmage Road east of Ukiah


And then, i turned east in Hopland on CA-175 for a couple of miles for this one.

Russian River bridge at CA-175 east of Hopland


Another shot of the above.

Russian River bridge at CA-175 east of Hopland


Then, a few miles south of Hopland, US-101 crosses over to the east bank of the river. This is a big old bridge, but it’s hard to see from any point at which you can stop your car, and i couldn’t get a good photo.  Grrrrr.

Russian River bridge at US-101 south of Hopland


There’s also a railroad crossing just north of this that i couldn’t see.


For ten miles south, while the road is running on the east bank, there are gorgeous glimpses of the river at the foot of often sheer cliffs to the west.  Alas, i found no turnout at any point where i could see down into the river.

US-101 crosses back over to the west side of the river at Geysers Road, another bridge that’s real hard to photograph.  I need a drone with a powerful camera.  Not a problem to buy one, but whether i could learn to operate both it and the camera is an issue.

Russian River bridge on Geysers Road


Down to Cloverdale and east on 1st Street a couple of miles we find the Crocker Road Bridge from 1938, a metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Pony Truss.  This is a good place to point out that, while we’ve had a couple of light rains that have greened the fields, the winter rains haven’t started.  Otherwise, those gravel bars would be covered with muddy water.

Russian River bridge on 1st Street east of Cloverdale


This bridge is on CA-128 east of Geyserville.

Russian River bridge on CA-128 east of Geyserville.


The next one south is the Jimtown Bridge from 1949 on Alexander Valley Road east of Healdsburg.  This is a highly unusual continuous Warren pony truss that also has cantilevered girder approach spans.

Russian River bridge on Alexander Valley Road east of Healdsburg


Another.  Love the trusses on this one.



Then, on Healdsburg Avenue in downtown Healdsburg, the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge from 1921, a metal 10 Panel Pin-Connected Pennsylvania Through Truss.

Russian River bridge on Healdsburg Ave. in Healdsburg


And immediately north of it, this railroad bridge from 1921.  It’s unusual in that the two spans are of different construction.  The larger is a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss, while the smaller is a metal 4 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Through Truss.

Russian River railroad bridge in Healdsburg


And now, a geographic interlude.  Just south of the above bridge, the river, after flowing down the valley pretty much straight south for nearly a hundred miles, takes a sharp right turn and heads west, wending its way tediously through the hills for twenty miles until it finally reaches the ocean.  Oh please.

If i’d been in charge of things a few hundred millennia ago, i’d have dropped a big landslide onto this path, forcing the river to form a lake covering the area that is now occupied by Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Rohnert Park until the lake grew deep enough to overtop the pitiful little hundred-foot ridge west of Cotati and could then become the source of the Petaluma River.  And then in a mere millennium or so, it would have carved out a channel deep enough to drain the lake, leaving behind all that rich farmland.

Better yet, as it increased the volume of the Petaluma River by thousands fold, our current sinuous estuary would have been scoured out into a nice, straight shot at San Pablo Bay, making Petaluma a thriving port city rather than the sleepy little farm town it is now.

We can dream, can’t we?


As it is, on the morning of 18 November, i headed west on River Road toward Guerneville and turned off on Wohler Road to shoot my first west-bound Russian River bridge.  The Wohler Bridge from 1921 is a metal 10 Panel Pin-Connected Parker Camelback Through Truss.  It’s a one-lane bridge, so you have to pause at your end and see whether someone has already started crossing from the other end.  On a foggy morning like this one, you need to look carefully.

Russian River bridge at Wohler Road

Actually, i have some history with that bridge.  On summer weekends in the late seventies, hundreds of people would park their cars in the space at the north end of the bridge and go down to a secluded beach on the river, where they would frolic in the warm water and take breaks for picnicking on the beach and screwing in the woods.  Some of ’em may have even marveled at the bridge.

Now down to the far end, where there’s some sun burning through.

Russian River bridge on Wohler Road


Next up, on River Road, the Hacienda Bridge from 1914, a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss.  I know it’s possible to get good photos of this one, both from beaches on the river and, using a telephoto lens, from hilltops to the southeast.  Didn’t have the patience to track down either this morning, so here’s all i could get.

Russian River Hacienda Bridge


It’s such a handsome bridge, though, that i’ll cheat and throw in this unattributed pic from the website.

Russian River Hacienda Bridge


Westward to downtown Guerneville, where there are two bridges over the river.  The historic steel bridge from 1922 is a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss.  It’s no longer fit for vehicular traffic but still in use for pedestrians.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


From its roadbed.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


And here’s the new bridge, as seen from the old bridge.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


Now west to Monte Rio for the Bohemian Highway Bridge from 1934, a metal 6 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Full-Slope Pony Truss.

Russian River bridge Monte Rio


Finally, on out to the coast, where we find this CA-1 bridge over the mouth of the river.

Russian River bridge CA-1 at the mouth of the river


That’s it, folks, all the bridges over the Russian River.

Ummm, well, as i was writing this i discovered that while i was doing my meticulous research, i’d unaccountably failed to list a major bridge in my notes and thus didn’t photograph it.  I went back later and got it, but i inserted it only into the Russian River Bridges photoessay, which also includes the bridges over the East Fork.

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The End Is Here

We survived eight years of Dubya, so we can make it through four years of Trump.


I am saddened to report that after a ten-year run the most excellent blog, Some Assembly Required, has come to an end.

It was a marvelous source of news, entertainment, and insight for all those years, and my great regret is that i didn’t plug it often enough or vigorously enough.

Not, of course, that CKM needed any recommendation from me, as his closing the blog disappointed thousands of avid followers.

I certainly understand his quitting.  I’m feeling stunned and discouraged myself now, and the only reason i can keep working on this site is that my focus is almost entirely on froth and entertainment rather than the serious issues that our nation and world face.

It is a testament to CKM’s integrity and strength that he was able to bash away at the forces of darkness for so long.

We wish him well.

English Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale

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The Government We Deserve

It will probably remain legal to drive an electric car.

After all my bashing of both candidates, i have to admit that i’d hoped that Trump wouldn’t win.  Could my praise for Clinton be fainter?

It’s over.  And since we’re a democracy, we’ve got the government we deserve.  Well, i’m being too harsh there since i don’t really think we deserve Trump even though we voted for him just like the Germans voted for Hitler, and who in hell thinks the average German deserved all that.  Still, like the Germans, we’ll have to face the consequences.

I was a teenager in a simpler time, the 1950’s, that heyday of the middle class when a working man in an ordinary job could support a family and even buy a modest house for it.

A time when our income tax rate on the upper earners was either 91 or 92% for the top bracket and we had an estate tax with teeth:  77% of assets over approximately $100,000.

And yet, somehow, it was a time of unprecedented prosperity for the entire nation, not just the 1%.

We need economic policies that will lead us back to that situation, and Trump’s won’t.  His tax proposals give pennies to the lower quartiles and shower riches on the top earners.  For all his talk about NAFTA, American manufacturing is not coming back.

My guess is that Trump will abandon all that silly populist talk, govern as a hard line Republican, and throw his working class supporters under the bus even though his proposal to pour money into a massive upgrade of our infrastructure sure would provide a lot of jobs for them.

And his proposal to greatly reduce the overseas deployment of American military forces would be a great thing if he can pull it off.

Still, i fear the economy will tank under him and bring even more misery to the lesser quartiles, especially if he’s able to defund the Affordable Care Act and undermine Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The silver lining is that since California’s Proposition 64 swept to victory, all of California can now sit around crosseyed stoned, looking at the autumn leaves and saying “Oh, man” at the lovely colors.

I’ve networked and found a candy man, so i’m ready.

Meanwhile, some good news is that California’s winter rains arrived unprecedently early this year, and for the first time in my memory, the fields are green at the beginning of November.

Green hills in November


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Epiphyllum Update

Overheard in the locker room: “I’m afraid one of ’em will win”.


I wrote last year about my little Epiphyllum bearing delicious fruit, but as carefully as i watched it all summer, not a blossom appeared, and hope yielded to despair.

Shouldn’t have.  At the beginning of October, i glanced at it and noticed a bud…and then a close examination revealed four more!  So i hovered over them for three weeks, watching one drop off while the remaining four came to maturity.  Here’s one nearly mature.

Epiphyllum anguliger bud


My anticipation grew as they fattened, but somehow i forgot to look at them in the early evening of October 18th.  However, when i stepped onto my patio on the morning of the 19th, all four buds had opened.  Here’s a couple.

Epiphyllum anguliger blossom


And a closeup.

Epiphyllum anguliger blossom


And after they’ve wilted in the early afternoon.

Epiphyllum anguliger the afternoon after blooming


This event inspired me to attempt to determine the species.  Fortunately, there are only 19 species in the genus, and i was able to find sufficient descriptive information and photographs to feel confident that the Epiphyllum that would perfume the whole house twenty years ago on Noe Street was Epiphyllum oxypetalum and that my current one is Epiphyllum anguliger.

Actually, some descriptions were quite detailed, as in this description of the E. anguliger flower.

Flowers 6–20 cm long, 6–7 cm wide, nocturnal, strongly sweet-scented *; pericarpel with podarium; receptacle 8–16 cm long, 4 mm thick, pale yellow, greenish or pinkish, bracteoles few, minute, linear and green, adpressed; outer tepals 10, linear to linear-lanceolate, acute, spreading or reflexed, 4–5 cm long, lemon yellow to brownish yellow; inner tepals lanceolate to ovate, acute or acuminate, white, sometimes toothed, as long as outer tepals; stamens in two rows, white, erect to subdeclinate, nearly as long as tepals; style longer than inner tepals, white; stigma lobes 8-11, linear.

Whew.  Shoulda studied botany.

I think the flowers of all members of the genus open at night, but these are distinctive in that instead of wilting as dawn breaks, as is typical, they remain open until noon the next day.

Also, they are not nearly as fussy about pollination as most of their brethren, some requiring specific species of insects and others needing pollen from a simultaneously blooming adjacent specimen.  No, these are the whores of the genus and will apparently take pollination any way they can get it.  After all, mine set fruit year before last as a house plant in my Noe Street flat.  Consequently, i’m examining it daily now that it’s on my patio, and i’m thinking that i already see the formation of fruits.



Let’s pray for the harvest.  In the process of getting the damn pic above, i managed to knock off one of the four possible fruits.

Thus, i cannot resist crowing over a success.  For decades i’ve been making minor edits to Wikipedia entries as an anonymous contributor, and when i first discovered it, the entry for Epiphyllum anguliger had no information about the fruit other than a botanical description of its form and a note that it tasted somewhat like a gooseberry.  So i got in there and added a description of the appearance of the interior and that it was delicious.

But then i realized that i had a photo of one of mine that i’d cut open last year, and after only a moderate amount of hacking and cursing managed to get myself fully registered as a certified Wikipedia editor, jump through all the wikihurdles, and stick my photo in.  ta da.  Check it out.

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