I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is W for Willits.
Back and Forth
Until Annie took a place in Willits last September, I was never much of a fan of this town of close to five thousand people, an hour south of Bell Springs Road. Willits is in a valley, so it gets bitterly cold in the winter, and the 101 runs through the center of it, bringing unlimited amounts of traffic all year round. But one can adjust to the cold, and the bypass that is causing so much controversy, will help the traffic congestion, so I am getting to like Willits more and more.
The reason Annie needed to be off the mountain, is because of health concerns; it is just too rigorous up here for her, and she needs to be closer to her health-care provider. As a result, I go back and forth, because I need to be up here to work, but I want to spend as much time with Annie as is possible.
One thing I especially like about this town, is that Annie and I walk every day that I am there. On days that I am not there, she still walks, because part of her regimen specifies the need for daily exercise. We go out for an hour, most days in the early morning, trying to either go before the school rush, or afterwards. We take the same route each time we walk, and I am gaining an appreciation for Small-Town, USA.
In addition to walking with Annie, when I am down in Willits, most of the time I have Dozer with me, our English bulldog, so I also walk him every morning and evening, dutifully bringing along my plastic baggy, so I can dispose of his business, and not alienate the neighbors. The other evening it was unseasonably warm and I was pleasantly surprised to see that many folks were sitting out on their front porches, or on chairs on their front lawns.
There was a conversational hum in the air, and I got a glimpse of what it would be like to be here in the summer, when it’s California hot, and there is no breeze. Up on the mountain there is always a breeze, keeping it mild in the summer. And because of our elevation, it often stays warmer in the mornings, than it does in the valleys.
The other day, we walked over to the video store, to return a DVD of “Downton Abbey” and decided to give the new Bistro a look-see. Formerly Zha-Zha’s, it changed names and menus recently. However, after talking to a couple of folks and looking at a menu, we settled on The Loose Caboose, which has been open since 1979, and has a chicken salad that Annie is partial to.
That is what Annie likes about Willits. She likes to be able to walk practically everywhere she needs to be. We walk past the little Village Store every morning to get newspapers, sort of a Seven/Eleven, country style. We walk to Mariposa’s, the only hippie store in town, so that we can get the organic groceries that we forgot to get while up in Eureka or down in Santa Rosa. And, of course, we walk to the Book Juggler.
We walk to Benny and Holly’s house, our son and daughter-in-law, and we walked to the pub last week to see the show put on by Pato Banton, a reggae artist of some renown, who performs in Willits periodically, because, it would appear, he simply likes the venue. We can walk to Safeway, if we are of a mind, and we walk to the Owl Rexall Pharmacy. We have even walked across town to see my mom several times, a good stretch of the legs, if ever there was one.
Many couples we know, who have lived up here on the mountain as long as we have, are taking places in towns off the mountain, just to have a spot for when the snow threatens to keep them pinned in for days at a time. So I am not unhappy at having a place in town, and am getting to like it more and more, as time goes by.
I guess that’s what folks do, in order to be able to cope with the changing of the seasons. Though the changes are not as dramatic as they are back East, they are still rugged enough to have us looking for an alternative to life on the mountain, as time goes by.