Our Outlandish Oregon-Tastic’ Trail Towards ‘The Great West Coast’ Took Us: 4 Weeks and 3 Days, 3,624 Miles and Cost Us Roughly $760.57 in Gas……

…..And Only 3 Hours and 1 Minute to Arrive Right Back Where We Bloody Started.

 We landed into the Minneapolis airport via LAX for a quick ‘10 hour’ layover before flying onto London on Friday, June 24th. Some would look at this as a major Buzz Kill. Not I… Major BONUS when your family lives just miles from the airport and you have a Grandma that makes wicked deviled eggs, however for the poor bugga’ sitting next to me on the flight onward to Gatwick, well, he may have gotten the worst of my ‘MN family feast layover.’ Nevermind. 😉

 But I must admit, we did have quite a laugh as we screeched to a halt into the MSP airport that Friday morning…. as ‘this portion’ wasn’t even suppose to BE the adventure. Just a quick trip across country to get out all the bumps and bruises out of the VW-Vanny now coined our beloved ‘DIVA’ before we were Europe-bound. Turns out, we needed a few more bandaids then we thought. …..We could buy us stock in first aid-kits, mind you. 

But then it also made me marvel more and more at the simplest of quotes…. Like: “its not the destination, its the journey….” Ain’t that the truth on this Oregon Trail Trek! It made me realize that I get so focused in on obtaining ‘the goal’ that I forgot to put my hands up on that roller coaster of life and just enjoy the pure ‘clickity-clack’ of its uphill climb.  I certainly have found that the thrill of the unknown can sometimes help you overcome the fear of what may be around the next bend…. And with our Diva? You never knew from day to day what she was going to bring our way. We just kept our hands up and tried to enjoy the 48 ‘MPH on avg’ ride. Well, selfishly I did anyway…. Ray had to keep his hands on that wheel and concentrate on driving those 3,624 miles. Each and every last one of em,’ that is. :)

Its all about the journey.....

 This video montage of our ‘Life in the Diva’ couldn’t say it ANY better….. take a peak, 4 minutes later and you will be smiling, guarenteed.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v​=B3wWgtQNerU

But lets get back to the last bits and bobs of our adventures in California (before I get too ‘English up in here…. its already happening, I apologize). We still have a long way to go on HWY 1 before I can tell you how I arrived into my sweet spot. My lawn chair in Ray’s Mum’s garden in Hastings, England.

"Ray, you're in my sweet spot."

The sun is shining (shocking) the clothes are on the line pinned out before me and swaying in the wind, the scent of the laundry detergent is in the air, and it certainly couldn’t be more peaceful…. I even just had to ask what the date was (June 29th) as I feel as though I am on summer holiday, out for the summer on school break losing track of the days of the week….

But this time, school is most certainly out, forever.



Grass Valley, California~ Thursday, June 4th:   This vision lasted for about 24 hours, tops.  It was long enough to dream up what our farm house would look like beside our precise and ‘perfectly’ plotted fields of vegetables, strawberries, olive trees and array of flowers that would permeate all around us with a few grape vines dimpled in the background in the backhills of Tuscany, Italy.


We would eat off our land and tend to the fields each day….. we would make money from selling our produce at the nearby markets and local village restaurants and it would be a simple life….. I had it all sorted.

 I have had many dreams ‘of what I want to be when I grow up.’ And this certainly was one that I couldn’t wait to try on….. and had the absolute pleasure of being a part of when I visited my cousin Paul and his girlfriend Molly at a magical place where chickens roam free, strawberries taste like heaven and produce looks like works of art.

 We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, June 24th straight from snowy Lake Tahoe…. and what a difference a 2 hour drive- even- in -Diva- doth’- make. With a makeshift address sign on the rustic farmhouse, the sun was just peaking through and you could already feel the peacefulness of this place wash over you…..  And we so happened to be just in time to experience our first harvest of chickens. And of course, being as though I thought I was going to be a ‘farmer when I grew up’ — I was ready to embark in full force on this first challenge. Chicken heads and feet and ALL…… GULP.

Cousin Paul and me getting ready for market

SIDENOTE: At Dinner Bell Farm they raise their birds in quite a fantastic way, one that we truly got to experience and see first hand. (and of course taste the difference, too). They do hatch their eggs elsewhere in another facility, however they do all the work of raising these shipments of 650 ‘chicks’ every 4 weeks on the farm. And then they are harvested at 9-12 weeks or so.  Once the ‘chicks’ are big enough to make it out of the barn and into the pasture they have a foraging area where they eat a diet of seeds, grasses, legumes and perennial and annual plants and grubs. 

Can you see them smiling?

Then every day Paul, Molly or Cooper (the other farmer that also runs the 30 acre land with them) have to move the birds shelters to a fresh foraging area so its clean of droppings and so the grass and land can then be restored. The chickens can be found almost smiling as they fluff about feeding as they please, drinking water or taking dust baths. It certainly makes you look at how chickens should be ‘brought up’ and put on our plates and into our bellies. Simply marvelous, indeed…..

More info. @ www.dinnerbellfarm.com/main

 So after my first chicken de-head. (mind you, they were already de-feathered and DE-DEAD, the hardest part was over) we bagged them up and priced them out. These nummy chickens are either sold locally at markets, on the farm or they also sell 85 chickens per week to the Slanted Door in San Fran. (Very well known Vietnamese restaurant in the bay area) That night we were treated to dinner in the town of Auburn at Cooper’s and his wife’s gorgeous new home and then ‘they’ were up (again I stress THEY) 😉 at the crack of dawn on Friday morning to see that harvesting of the produce for ‘market day’ on Saturday morning was under way.

One for me....one for the green basket.... one for me.....

Ray and I had the pleasure of ‘flitting about’ the farm that Friday and picking strawberries here, and scapes there and putting together their market arrangements for Saturday morning….. Mind you, farmers have a LOT on their plate. And this farm is massive. Their is LOTS of produce (salad greens, arugula, peppers, okra, onions, scapes…..), strawberries, flowers (that can even specifically be grown for your wedding, fancy!), chickens (HUGE job), pigs (Taters and Tatters are so very special indeed)

Molly with Taters and Tatters 'bums.'

apple trees…. The list goes on! With 80+ work week, there is always something to be done or a tractor to be fixed. 7 days a week…. and their is no Holiday or sick pay. They do take a month or 2 off in the winter from the chickens, but that is just to breathe.




 SIDENOTE:  Of course, we must make a note of thanks to Molly for putting up with the Wyatt’s ‘extra special plotting style.’ Oh how I do hope her poor flowers do blossom this summer! She would tell us to plot one way, and the holes we would dig would just do another down the row….. We were worthless! But I do hope we at least made her laugh. (and laugh hard sometimes we did) Ray did talk to each and every ‘flower runt’… “You little one, you will fight the hardest and grow the tallest!”

Ray in a field of beautiful scapes

We also half expected to have Paul out there at the crack of dawn fixing all our ‘plotting’mistakes, as well…. Or did he?? :)  

…..I think it was after the long day on the Friday eve of ‘day #2′ at Dinner Bell Farm that I turned to Ray and pronounced…….“I no longer wanted to be farmer when I grow up.”   

Imagine his surprise. (or lack there of) :)

 But what a wonderful opportunity to live in someone else’s shoes, if even for a day or two and see what living ‘fresh’ and beautifully truly means in a hidden little world called Grass Valley. But we didn’t leave without a feast, not with Ray in the farm house~ of course. Before we left Ray made us all roasted vegetables with potatoes and a creamy wine and leak sauce (all taken fresh from the farm) and two gorgeous pasture raised chickens.

I like to think the chickens were smiling down at us from ‘chicken heaven’ that night never happier to have gone into our bellies just… like… they….did.

Dinner Bell Farm FEAST



Thank you so much Paul, Cooper and Molly for our Dinner Bell Farm Adventure.




 SIDENOTE:  And of course, this is also the first town (and only town we hope) in our great nation of the good ol’ US. of A. that Diva got pulled over and ticketed. We always joked that “Hey, at least we will never get pulled over for speeding….” But I guess we never figured getting pulled over for a ‘rolling through a stop sign’ in the small town of Colfax, California?

Hastings, England… Present Day.  Thursday, June 7th:  And to close, I must end with the best words of advice for the day.  Sometimes (perhaps ALL the time) its the simple things in life that carry the most weight.  And today, that meant the ‘weight in my belly’ after a fish and chips lunch that left me with a ‘food como’ with Grandma and Grandad before I published this blog. 

Napping after fish and chips lunch on my Grandad

And that very advice was straight from Grandad’s mouth…. “Don’t eat too much, it will make you sleepy and you’ll look like a drip.”  

Next up…. Sonoma~ HWY 1~ and Long Beach to COME!

Comments are closed.