Cowgirl for a Day

Wendy on Elvis the horse

Rusty horse riding photo collage

When I mentioned to my Grama that I’d like to do some horse riding whilst visiting her this summer, I had no idea she’d go and book a trip for us all to stay on a ranch.

For two days we had our fill of ranch life, complete with horses, wranglers and a hint of NRA support. (This corner of California is definitely a far reach from the slick silicon valley, beach bikini babes, or 70s throwback hippies lining the coast. And when you think of the size of the state, the variety is no surprise.)

We were saddled up and rambling through deserted mountain tracks before you could say ‘yee haw cowboy’ (no points for guessing my cowboy knowledge is entirely based on Toy Story).

Rusty outside the horse riding office

Wendy standing by a horse

Given my Mum’s childhood of riding horses, I can’t believe I’ve never ridden with her before. I loved hearing her stories of wild horses, bareback riding and parading her horse through town. She looked so comfortable with these beautiful animals, I felt a pang of the classic eight year old’s yearning to have a horse of my own (as a child I had to settle for a hamster!)

Rusty chilling by the pool

Rusty panning for gold in the river

When we weren’t riding we were living a deliciously all-american cliche: ghost stories by the fire, complete with s’mores and popcorn, feasting and laughing with the other guests, and even panning for gold. Given what I found I don’t think I’ll be a millionaire any time soon…

View up at redwood trees

A Note from Humboldt

Humboldt holiday photo collage

Summer days spent at Grama’s are always wrapped in that delicious lazy disregard for time, where the big event of the day is going for brunch, and the only decision is which old friend we’re going to visit.

I adored my two weeks in California, so quickly settling back in to the American twang that I worked hard to soften as a young kid new to England. It felt good to drive on those redwood-lined roads, passing familiar signs to Arcata and Trinidad. I soaked up on family time, be it out on the porch with a beer, or down at the logger bar with a tequila.

Humboldt holiday photo collage

I dipped in mountain streams, cycled the back roads of my mum’s home town, and developed a serious addiction to root beer floats. We baked pies, swapped stories and watched the seals and otters in the bay.

It felt so good to reconnect with my family out there, and to enjoy the good aspects of American living. Lots of sweet memories to hold on to as Autumn falls in to our laps.

Selfie of Wendy, Rusty and Marlene

Back on the Bike

Rusty sitting by a bike at Arcata Plaza

My bike was in the shop for my first few days here.  It felt so good to finally pick it up and whizz down the hill in to Arcata, its streets lined with colourful indie shops and the bay stretched out beyond.

Mum and I sat on the plaza and watched the world go by. Nowhere else but Humboldt could I imagine this mix of characters, who fit so naturally amongst the redwood trees, with the smell of grass and good coffee.

Quiet California road

I ride home on the long flat stretch past the lumber yards and pine dust.  The back road to Blue Lake passes through a small valley surrounded by redwoods.

Deer amble across the road, blue jays and swallows swoop amongst the old barns and telegraph wires. The farm gardens grow tall with hollyhocks, sunflowers and tomatoes.

It is ridiculously picturesque. And it’s the route to the nearest town. Not such a bad holiday commute.

Old barn on a quiet road

American Homecoming

Oakland Bridge

It’s been seven years since I was back in the place of my birth. As I consider myself pretty soundly British, it’s funny how quickly I slip in to little Americanisms once I’m here: the pavement is quickly replaced by the sidewalk, and I learn that no one will understand my request for water unless I pronounce it with a twang.

Public viewfinder by Coit Tower, San Francisco

I’m reminded that crossing the road outside of a designated pedestrian strip alarms people greatly, and that it’s easier to get your hands on a margarita than a cup of tea. I’m bowled over by people’s friendliness, be it a chat in the brunch queue, a glass of wine with a table of strangers, or the bartender serving those margaritas.

Grapes and bikes at Rust Ridge winery

I’ve driven automatic and had some rather dramatic reminders that the left side is definitely the wrong side of the road round here. I’ve eaten my body weight in french toast and Triscuits, and heard my first live Mariachi band.

The days have been full, and I still have another fortnight of American snapshots to fill up on; hopefully more of the friendly-chats than the bad-driving variety..

Vineyards at Rust Ridge