Tag Archives: features

McCarran Ranch Preserve

Man Restoring Nature Restoring Man

Southern Pacific Railroad bridge on the Truckee River in MCcarran Ranch Preserve
Southern Pacific Railroad bridge on the Truckee River in McCarran Ranch Preserve

The McCarran Ranch Preserve is a swath of land running below the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along the Truckee River in Lockwood, Nevada. Our research indicated that while the preserve is small in size, it’s big on getting away from it all, even if only for a few hours. Of course, it also helped that many of the trail reviews by past visitors said they had spotted wild horses. We do love our wild horses here in Nevada. So, we grabbed our cameras, the dog and went to check it out.

The trail running through the preserve is a nice easy hike along the riverbanks of the Truckee River. It offers mirror glass views of the surrounding scenery in the calm sections of the Truckee River, as well as wildlife viewing. On our hike, we spotted wild mustangs, mule deer, Canadian geese and mallards. The preserve also offers some interesting trainspotting vantage points where the tracks cross the river over a steel truss bridge.

When you think of a “preserve,” what usually comes to mind is land protected from development and set aside to be enjoyed for generations to come.  The McCarran Ranch Reserve had to work a little harder to protect that natural beauty. Over the years, the Truckee River’s natural course had been straightened in the name of progress. Altering the water course wiped out a lot of the natural vegetation as it lost its source of water. In turn, this forced much of the wildlife to seek out new homes. The result left the area looking rather desolate.

The Making of a Preserve

A wild mustang munches on grass as the last rays of daylight set on the McCarran Ranch Preserve.
A wild mustang munches on grass as the last rays of daylight set on the McCarran Ranch Preserve

Upon acquiring the land, The Nature Conservancy worked to restore the natural course of the river. This allowed the vegetation to recover, restoring the scenic beauty to the area. With the vegetation again providing the food and shelter necessary to support an indigenous population, wildlife returned as well,. The end result is a small oasis bordered by I-80 to the north, Sparks, NV to the west, and an industrial complex to the east.

We only headed out with our cameras and dog, but we came back with something more. The real beauty of this preserve is visitors, like the animals who call it home, can immerse themselves in a land restored to its former glory. They can restore themselves in the same way. The preserve affords an opportunity to forget about the hassles of life for a short time. In a world where progress so often intrudes on nature, its refreshing to see the tables turned. Here one can see nature being allowed to take back a little of what we stole in the name of progress. Now that is REAL progress. Hopefully, those who also visit, bring some of that REAL progress back with them as well.

Grand Canyon National Park Photo Gallery

Where Millions Come to Stare into a Hole in the Ground

Fall on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Fall on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

I’m not going to say a lot here because, well… Grand Canyon, DUH. You had to have been hiding in the biggest hole in the United States if you hadn’t heard of it. Therefore, you had to be in the Grand Canyon to begin with, so what do you mean you haven’t heard of it? Continue reading Grand Canyon National Park Photo Gallery

Wildflowers of O’Neil Regional Park

Stopping to enjoy the sweet smell of freedom among the wildflowers

Honey Bee in a California Sunflower in O'Neill Regional Park
Honey Bee in a California Sunflower in O’Neill Regional Park

For Memorial Day, in addition to taking the time to remember those who gave their all for our country, we also took some time to stop and smell the wildflowers. Even this late in the season, wildflowers can still be found in the hills surrounding Orange County. Continue reading Wildflowers of O’Neil Regional Park

La Tour at Victoria Beach, Orange County, CA

The Pirate Tower Lies at the Center of Some Terrific Orange County Legends

La Tour: The Pirate Tower during a stormy sunset
La Tour: The Pirate Tower during a stormy sunset.

On a hidden beach in South Orange County, CA, visitors are treated to a sight that has even the most skeptical hoping to stumble upon buried treasure, scanning the horizon to try and spot a distant galleon bearing the skull and crossbones, or perhaps craning their neck in hopes of spying a fair maiden in need of rescue. The cause of these fantastical fancies of the imagination is almost as magical as the musings themselves, a tower, known simply as La Tour, or The Tower. Resembling something straight out of a fairy tale, it stands on the shoreline reaching for the sky as it stretches up the cliff face, enduring crashing waves and the harsh salt air of the Pacific Ocean.

La Tour has long been on my bucket list of places to see, and I have little excuse for not seeing it as it is practically right here in my own backyard. I chose sunset during a stormy weekend to add as much drama to the story as Mother Nature could muster, and my camera could capture. I think I lucked out in both respects. Hopefully the images compel you to read on, or at the very least, see La Tour for yourself.

Getting to La Tour

Victoria Beach at Sunset
Victoria Beach at Sunset

To see this come-to-life story book portrait for yourself, pack up your beach gear and head to Laguna Beach at low tide. La Tour is inaccessible during high tide. As you head toward South Laguna along Pacific Coast Highway, watch for Victoria Drive. Don’t worry if you miss it, you can also access the beach from Sunset Terrace, or McAuley Place. The real trick is finding parking. You will find none on any of the mentioned streets, you’re best bet is on PCH or in the neighborhoods on the inland side of the highway. Once you find parking head down any of the aforementioned streets, the beach lies below the houses on the cliff along Victoria Drive. There is a staircase to access the beach just a few feet south of Sunset Terrace on Victoria Drive. It’s a little steep, and a hike back up, but worth every step to come face to face with the stuff of dreams.

If you enjoy the romance and magic of pirates and magic castles, read no further, or risk having the magic hijacked by the pirates of knowledge and reason as the real story of La Tour is revealed below.

The Magic of The Pirate Tower Shattered

Taking the light from the magic of The Pirate Tower
Taking the light from the magic of The Pirate Tower

I’m sad to inform those who have read this far, that the tower never housed any damsels in distress, was not used to watch for pirates, and never even served as noble a purpose as a lighthouse. La Tour is nothing more than a fancy staircase built in 1926. It was built as access to the beach for the private residence of state senator William E. Brown on the cliff above.

In 1940, Brown sold the home to a retired naval officer named Harold Kendrick. It may have been Kendrick who lit the imaginations of area youth with stories of lost pirate treasure, and the need to keep a sharp lookout for the scourge of the high seas. It seemed Kendrick rather fancied dressing up as a pirate himself and hiding coins in the cracks of the tower for visiting children to find. But Kendrick’s kindness and imagination were the closest thing to real pirates to ever scale the hidden staircase.

Preserving the Real Treasure of La Tour

I don’t like this explanation for the towers existence. It steals everything we love about La Tour from our hearts and souls. To lose the magic of La Tour is to lose something much more valuable than losing all the buried treasure ever plundered or pillaged in the name of rogue privateering. I prefer to think the stories of state senators and retired naval officers are the real fairy tales; told to pesky visitors to throw them off the track, while treasure hunters continue their search for the very real buried treasure. And I know that if I listen carefully and watch the high window in the tower, one day I’ll see the imprisoned damsel seeking her hero, and she’ll tell me where the treasure is buried as soon as I rescue her… or warn me if the pirates are returning to claim their buried fortune.

I know the truth of the treasure of La Tour. Believe what you will.


California Wolf Center

Saving the Rocky Mountain and Mexican Gray Wolf at the California Wolf Center

Watching the visitors to the California Wolf Center from the safety of cover.
Watching the visitors to the California Wolf Center from the safety of cover.

We visited the California Wolf Center on Sunday, November 16th. It’s an education center, and wolf breeding program aimed at recovering the endangered species from the brink of extinction and reintroducing them into the wild. Two of the three types of wolves found in the United States can be viewed at the California Wolf Center, both are species Continue reading California Wolf Center

Car Content Now at www.BrakingforCars.com

The Last Car Post | From now on go to www.BrakingforCars.com

1963 Ford Galaxy Convertible rear and side view - 2014 Route 66 Cruisin Reunion
1963 Ford Galaxy Convertible rear and side view – 2014 Route 66 Cruisin Reunion

I started BrakingforCars.com in 2009 with rather over ambitious intents: All things breaking for cars, and all things about cars worth braking for.  This endeavor became even more difficult to achieve as my freelance career boomed. Soon after, I unexpectedly found myself committed to a full time position with TKCarsites aka KPA aka Digigo (long story, don’t ask!). BrakingforCars.com also competed for time with another side project, ItCamefromtheMicrowave.com, which I quickly realized was going to kill me with the increased intake of cholesterol and sodium as I performed the “research” required to do an in depth review of those quick and easy meals. So, with time at a premium, this blog, Braking forCars.com and ItCamefromtheMicrowave.com, went dormant in 2010.

Recently, I have once again found myself in a position where I am able to dedicate  a little time to writing and photographing the things that interest me, so I started by relaunching VernonHeywood.com. Dedicated to showcasing my talents by posting about SEO strategy, demonstrating my writing ability, and highlighting the best images from my photo portfolio, it soon became apparent that posting pics from every car show I attend, or editorializing on the world of cars is less about my talents, and more about my obsessions! Since I want this blog to reflect my skills and expertise, I have relaunched BrakingforCars.com and will be posting future car related content there.

I will still occasionally post galleries of my more exceptional automotive photographic work here, but for a complete rundown on anything I am working on in the automotive realm, please visit www.brakingforcars.com.

P.S. Don’t hold your breath on ItCamefromtheMicrowave.com being relaunched anytime soon, because I have no intention of taking my last breath any time soon either!


New Sculptures at Civic Center Park in Newport Beach

Outdoor Art Exhibit in Newport Beach

Cub Triptych - Newport Beach Civic Center Park
Cub Triptych – Newport Beach Civic Center Park

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed some new additions joining the white rabbits inhabiting Civic Center Park in Newport Beach, CA. It turns out that what looked like some origami bears raiding a trash can along MacArthur Blvd. and a colorful tiki doll watching the sun go down in the west are part of nine new sculptures scattered on display throughout Civic Center Park  that made their Grand Opening debut on  Saturday, September 13, 2014. A tenth sculpture is set to join the exhibit in 2015. Continue reading New Sculptures at Civic Center Park in Newport Beach

Knee Defender: Ban or Barn?

Knee Defender, or Barnyard Riot Inciter?
Knee Defender, or Barnyard Riot Inciter?

Knee Defender, a device designed to save knees from reclining seats, makes hogs and jackasses out of cattle.

Just because you are flying coach and have been herded aboard your plane and crowded in like cattle, doesn’t mean you need to act like a hog. It’s not pleasant for any of us: the battle over the arm rests, staking your turf in the overhead bins, and being continually stepped on or having to get up to let those with weaker bladders make multiple trips to the bathroom during your two hour flight are just a few of the things we all contend with. But common courtesy Continue reading Knee Defender: Ban or Barn?

Photo Gallery: 2014 Temecula Rod Run

I really like night time photography. Each photo takes on a quality all its own. But I especially like shooting old cars in historical districts where the buildings provide an era appropriate photo backdrop. The Temecula Rod Run has long been a favorite car show for me for this very reason, with Friday nights being my top choice for taking photos. Here are some of my favorite photos and cars from the 2014 Temecula Rod Run.


Yellowstone – June 30, 2014

In this post, we continue this summer’s adventure trip to Yellowstone with day 2. This leg of the journey we traveled north on the west side of the loops from Madison Junction and stopped at Gibbon Falls, Artist Paint Pots and spent the majority of our time in Norris Geyser Basin.

The below gallery contains the best images captured on our second day in the park. The slideshow should start automatically, if you see an image you like, you  can mouse over it to show the parts that don’t display in the viewer, or you can click on it and the full image will pop up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.