Archive for the ‘Roads & Highways’ Category

Idyllwild Arts Academy ‘Paints its Wagon’

June 17, 2012

Idyllwild Arts paints its wagon

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Paint Your Wagon,” is more than just a musical or a Clint Eastwood western, it’s good business advice.

In 1920, the founders of Snap-on, a tool company which has grown into a $2.9 billion Fortune 500 enterprise, advised its franchisees to “paint their wagons.” Paint your truck, van or any moving vehicle to help market your products, they said. And if you live in a big city with skyscrapers, paint the top of your vehicle too.

What Snap-on innovators Joseph Johnson and and William Seidemann preached nine decades ago still holds true today. Besides advertisements, social media outlets, and the like, it’s still smart to “paint your wagon.”

To get the word out locally, Idyllwild Arts Academy recently wrapped one of its GMC vans with its marketing message. They got professional help from Monster Media of Riverside.

“We print big!” claims Monster Media’s web site, which is an expert on large format printing. Monster Media received the artwork from a design company working with the academy, and wrapped the van.

'Your child deserves the best art education in the world,' is the message printed next to Paulina

“We can’t take credit for the design,” said Mark from Monster Media. “But we definitely did the wrap.”

Monster Media changed the all-white GMC van into a moving billboard for Idyllwild Arts. Most of it is covered in the school’s signature green showcasing five Idyllwild Arts students.

The images are larger than life, but tell the story of Idyllwild Arts in an instant. There’s Angelo, from Moving Pictures, behind his video camera; Paulina, from Theatre, singing in a red sequinned dress and a plastic wig; Alex from the Music Department, playing his viola; Paul, a fashion designer, building a dress on a mannequin, and visual artist Dean painting at his easel.

Next to Paulina’s image, there’s a message to parents: “Your child deserves the best art education in the world!”

"Can I wash the windows?" asks Raj from the Shell Station in Valle Vista. Monster Media said the wrap should last five years or longer.

When one of the drivers brought the van back from Monster Media, several students cheered and walked around the van, looking at the images.

“Dean doesn’t go to school here anymore,” noted Kevin, another visual artist. “Why did they pick him?”

The wrapped van is a prototype, and images on future vans (if they decide to do more) may change.

A special phone number and web site is listed on the van to help the Marketing Department track the progress.

Although it is certainly colorful on the outside, the inside looks like the other school vans with tinted windows.

Chuck Streeter, who normally drives No. 4, the wrapped van, said it’s no different than from before. The only difference is the attention he gets on the road.

In an instant, people can see what students like Alex do at Idyllwild Arts

“Chuck said that he gets a lot of looks,” said Tucker McIntyre, head of Transportation at Idyllwild Arts.

I even drove it around town the other day, and he’s right. It really attracts attention,” Tucker added. “I like the way it looks.”

Tucker even encourages his drivers to park the wrapped van where the public can see it.

During a field trip to Mulligan’s Fun Park in Temecula on Saturday, June 16, driver Wayne Parker, noticed that a family was gathering around the school van, admiring it. The mother was putting the contact information into her cell phone.

“That’s what we like to see,” Wayne said.

Raj, a worker at the Shell Station in Valle Vista, where Idyllwild Arts fills up, smiled broadly at the new wrap.

“That is really something,” he said, as he grabbed his squeegee to wash the front window.

“Is it OK to wash it?” Raj asked.

Mark from Monster Media said that the wrap should last five years or longer. He advised to wash the van as normal, even adding wax.

Paul, a fashion design major, dresses a mannequin.

“Just watch the seams,” said one of the Monster Media workers, as he sat eating his lunch. He and the others had put the wrap on the Idyllwild Arts van in one day.

The only thing that may wear out first is the words on the hood, Mark said.

“You see, the sun is beating down on the hood, and there’s also heat coming up from the engine,” Mark said.

“Idyllwild Arts” is printed on the hood in reverse letters.

“We put it in reverse, so that drivers can see it clearly in their rear view mirrors,” Mark explained. “That’s how ambulances do it.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.




A View of the Highland Fire from Hemet

June 16, 2012

Smoke from the Highland Fire reached Hemet

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the Target shopping center in Hemet, people were talking excitedly in groups, looking up at the smoke coming from the Highland Fire which began Saturday night, June 16.

According to news reports, the Highland Fire, which is beyond the Banning side of the mountain in Beaumont, reached 2,000 acres by 8:30 p.m., and was 10 percent contained.

An air tanker flew onto Hemet Field, which was on the other side of the Target store.

“I’ve seen the air tanker come in and land three times,” said Wayne Parker, an Idyllwild Arts van driver.

He had been there for about 20 minutes, waiting on ESL students to come out of Target.

“There must be water tanks with hoses on Hemet Field,” Wayne said. “But I can’t see over the store, which is blocking my view.”

The tanker took off and headed back towards the fire. Red and orange flames could be seen from the distance.

“The tanker’s doing a number on that fire,” Wayne added. “It’ll probably be contained by the time we reach Idyllwild.”

This crew from Mountain Center had just returned from fighting a blaze in Palm Springs

The ESL students, from China and Korea, were on their way home from a field trip to a fun park in Temecula. They were concerned about the smoke, but when they got to Hemet, they could see that the fire was a long distance from Idyllwild and relaxed a bit.

“I’m not afraid,” said William, an ESL student from China who is studying film.

Currently, nine of them are taking makeup classes at the academy for 8 weeks. However, today was a fun day, away from their studies.

Charles Schlacks, an Idyllwild resident, who returned from a film event in Orange, said the smoke from the Highland fire could be seen as far as Riverside.

“I was on the 215, and could see the smoke from there,” Charles said.

Wind was a big factor in other blazes around Idyllwild Saturday night.

At the Shell Station in Valle Vista, a fire crew from Mountain Center (BDF 56) was filling up and cleaning their windows. They looked tired, but said they weren’t returning from the Highland Blaze.

The brush fire they had been battling in Palm Springs was about five acres.

“Wind was a big factor today,” said one of the firefighters.

When asked about the Highland Fire, the firefighter said they had heard about it, but didn’t know why they hadn’t been called to assist.

“Maybe we’ll be called later on,” he said, as he put away the squeegee.

According to news reports, as many as 300 firefighters are are battling the blaze, including ground crews, helicopters and air tankers.

He laughed when someone asked if the Highland Blaze would be contained soon.

Smoke caused a haze over the setting sun. Mountain view of Hemet. Photo by William Liu.

“Not likely,” he said.

Driving up the hill towards Idyllwild, the smoke was casting an eerie haze over the setting sun. Several motorists had pulled over in one of the pullouts to take pictures.

Firefighters are expected to work though the night.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Cross Bearer Walks Along Highway 243 Near Idyllwild

March 15, 2012

Wes Maugh walking with his cross along Hwy. 243 Tuesday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During this Lenten season, the cross is often depicted on posters, signs and church banners. For Christians, it symbolizes everlasting life.

Yet, it was unexpected to find a senior citizen carrying an oversized cross along Hwy. 243 near Idyllwild on Tuesday evening, March 13. About 40 yards behind him was a woman carrying a Bible.

“God asked me to do it,” said Wes Maugh, 63, an Evangelical minister from Banning.

He had carried his 40-pound pine cross from Valle Vista to Mountain Center (about 17 miles), and was headed back down the hill again. His wife, Victoria Grace, 59, was walking with him.

Wes Maugh and his wife, Victoria Grace

They stopped for a minute in a pullout. Several motorists honked and waved at them.

Wes built his cross in 2010, and since then, has traveled along roadsides to 194 cities and towns.

“I’ve traveled from 29 Palms to Glendale and Devore to Fallbrook,” Wes said. “The cross is for everyone.”

Even though there isn’t much of a shoulder along Hwy. 243, Wes was free from worry about getting hit.

“I have two angels beside me,” he said, winking at his wife.

For better traction, his 8 x 5 1/2 foot cross was equipped with a roller at the end.

“Otherwise, it would split,” explained Victoria Grace.

Yet, the roller didn’t help ease the burden any. Wes let me rest it on my shoulders as I walked just a few feet. It was heavy and uncomfortable, and I was going downhill. No way would I want to walk 17 miles up and downhill with it over my shoulder!

Yet, Wes and Victoria Grace were in good spirits. They said that many motorists have honked and waved at them. Some have stopped and prayed with them, while others have given them water, money or slices of pizza.

Wes walks with his cross to help avert natural disasters

“Whatever they have in their car, they share,” he said.

Victoria Grace said that some motorists have shouted at Wes for carrying the cross.

“Why are you doing that?” they’ve demanded.

“Why not?” Victoria Grace retorted.

Over the past two years, Wes has racked up 4,175 miles with his cross to help his fellow Californians avert natural disasters.

“God told me that if I carried this cross, then He would turn away catastrophes in California,” Wes said, mentioning storms, fires and earthquakes.

“God is not into death and suffering,” Wes said. “This cross is no burden; it’s a blessing.”

Wes added that the cross was a symbol that should be seen out in the open.

“It has a voice,” Wes said. “It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Although Wes and his wanderings are not associated with any particular religion or church, it’s not an original idea.

“For 38 years, Arthur Blessitt racked up 38,102 miles around the world with his cross,” Wes said.

Arthur’s cross was a bit bigger than Wes’, 12 feet x 6 feet. Arthur made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and they wrote a movie about him (‘The Cross’).

“I saw Arthur walking with his cross along Hwy. 101, and it changed my life,” Wes recalled.

The message that Wes wanted to impart was simple:

“Jesus loves you, and He is coming soon,” Wes said. “But it will happen in a twinkling of an eye, so you have to be ready, and stay ready.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.





Strong Winds at Ontario Airport Sunday

January 9, 2012

Strong winds welcomed travelers to Ontario International Airport at 9 a.m. on Sunday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Sunday morning, Jan. 8, the overhead hazard sign on Hwy. 10 near Riverside read: “Strong winds ahead. High profile vehicles not recommended.”

There weren’t many trucks on the highway at that time because they could “fishtail” all over the road. At area rest stops, many trucks were parked, likely waiting for the winds to subside.

Palm trees blew and Acacias bowed in the wind. Debris blew across the road.

Just then, the school van moved to the left without me turning the wheel. That was really scary! So I slowed way down. I was glad that no students were in the van then because they would have been nervous.

At 9 a.m., I entered Ontario International Airport to pick up students from Idyllwild Arts Academy who were coming back from Winter Break. Classes would resume on Monday, Jan. 9. However, with the strong winds in Riverside and Ontario, it was debatable if all the planes would land.

Strong winds near Riverside and Ontario kept large trucks off of Hwy. 10

According to, a national weather website, winds at Ontario on Sunday were strong at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., gusting to 37 mph.

However, after the 6:57 a.m. sunrise, they diminished to approximately 22 mph at 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. when most of the students were arriving.

“United cancelled a lot of flights this morning,” said Janet, a volunteer at Ontario Airport. “We’re not sure if it’s because of the strong winds or bad weather at another airport. They don’t give us the details.”

However, Wilma, another volunteer, said that travelers had been stopping by their booth all morning to get vouchers to go elsewhere.

(from L) Ontario Airport volunteers Wilma and Janet said many flights were cancelled earlier Sunday

“One poor guy over there has been waiting nine hours to get home,” Janet added.

Wilma said that the cancelled flights seem to be connecting through Denver.

Janet looked at the newspaper she was reading and said it was 34 degrees in Denver with snowfall.

Many of the Idyllwild Arts students expected to arrive were coming from northern California or the southwest, with no connections through Denver.

They arrived on time without much mention of the wind. Siryah’s direct flight from Oregon was an hour late because of another plane delay, and not the wind, she said.

However, others students coming from northern California complained about the wind’s turbulence around Ontario, even when the winds supposedly had diminished.

“That was not fun,” said Will, a music student, about his 2 p.m. Southwest plane’s landing. “We heard that you guys had some wind on the ground here.”

The shuttle driver at Ontario Airport said that the winds were pretty strong around 9 a.m. when he arrived for his shift, but everything turned calm around 1 p.m. That was about the time that, reported that the winds had subsided.

Ontario Airport still bustled with activity on Sunday, in spite of the strong winds

“I’m sure if the winds got too bad, they’d close down the airport,” the shuttle driver added. “But I’ve worked here three years now and it hasn’t happened yet.”

He went on to say that fog was a bigger factor in closing down area airports, such as San Diego and Longbeach.

“They’ll land over here if there’s fog in San Diego,” he said. “Pilots can’t see anything in the fog.”

By 5 p.m. when the last van headed toward the San Jacinto mountains from Ontario, the winds had diminished to 9 mph, hardly worth mentioning. However, the nearly full moon was looming large and beckoning us home.

Copyright 2o12 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 9, 2012 @ 9:08



Illegal Target Shooting on Hwy. 243

October 15, 2010

Rocky terrain along Hwy. 243 near Banning was the site of potential target shooting recently

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Mile High diner’s sandwich board along Hwy. 243 read, “Welcome Hunters,” and outlined a few specials. Welcoming hunters seemed out of place for a tree-hugging town like Idyllwild that’s situated in a national forest. Yet, it’s legal to hunt deer this time of year–in restricted areas–which means away from civilization, and certainly not from the road.

Still, coming around a bend towards Banning, a hunter appeared in dark camelflage gear with a rifle slung over his shoulder.  He had the bearing of a military man (trim with good posture) and wore a camelflage hood, instead of a cap. He was walking towards his car parked in the pullout. There was another guy in the driver’s seat.

For that split second when I passed, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that gun. It had such a long bayonet, almost looked like a sniper rifle. It scared me a little because it was broad daylight and I had teenagers from China in the car. I didn’t want to field any questions of why a strange man was carrying a rifle along the road.

Certainly it was legal to hunt in these parts, but this guy was hunting (or scoping out his territory) at 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon about a half mile from the Zen Mountain Center, a buddhist retreat, and a popular RV park a little further beyond. It didn’t seem right, so I called the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Banning.

They immediately connected me to the Riverside County Sheriff’s dispatch operator. She wanted to know what the hunter looked like, what he was wearing, his race, the make of the car, who was with him, and how long ago that this happened. Of course, I couldn’t remember much because I was so mezmerized with that rifle.  All I know was there was another guy with dark hair driving, and the car was pointed in the direction of Idyllwild.

A buddhist retreat is located 1/2 mile from where the hunters were spotted

However, one good thing I remembered was mile marker 2o:15. A CHP assigned to Idyllwild once taught me to look for mile markers when reporting accidents or anything along highways. Better than landmarks, it helps them pinpoint where events have happened.

I asked the dispatcher if it was legal to hunt there.

“Yes, in certain parts,” she qualified. “But not from the road and certainly not near civilization.”

She said she’d send someone right out to investigate.

On my way back from LA the next evening, I saw a neon Caltrans sign by the Zen Mountain Center flashing these warnings: “No Target Shooting, and no campfires in yellow posts.”

Out of curiosity, I pulled over in the same pullout by mile marker 20:15. The sun was just setting and there was still some light left.

Looking over the edge of the pavement, I was shocked. The terrain below was so rocky and steep that not even a Bighorn Sheep could make it through there without difficulty. There were piles of rocks and sharp, yucca shrubbery. The few, bare trees were still blackened from the fire that swept through there three years ago. Anyone with any sense would never attempt to walk through that terrain. You could twist an ankle and easily lose your footing and fall a ways down.

So those hunters must’ve been survivalists to come up from that terrain. And what could they possibly shoot from there? No deers are out mid-day, and it’s particularly bleak terrain. There would only be ground squirrels, snakes and hawks around. However, quail and doves could be a possibility, but they usually like to be around water, and there was none in sight.

A Caltrans "No Target Shooting" sign went up immediately near the Zen Center

Target shooting is likely, but reckless so close to a highway and near people in the canyon. The road to the Zen Mountain Center was clearly visible from the pullout, and you could see the large water tower from the RV park nearby.

Now I know why the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department acted so quickly to apprehend those hunters, and order the Caltrans sign. Naive or arrogant hunters need to know the rules around here. The terrain is dangerous for them, and their recklessness disregard is dangerous for us.

For more information on hunting in Southwest Riverside County, visit the California Department of Fish and Game’s web site at There is a 64-page “California Hunting Digest” that outlines all the rules and requirements. For reference, Idyllwild, Palm Springs and Hemet are located in the D-19 hunting area, while Banning, Morongo Valley and Joshua Tree fall into the D-14 hunting area.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Cleaning Up for Society

October 12, 2010

Construction crews along Hwy. 243 appear normal

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Be Prepared to Stop,” a familiar bright orange sign, warns motorists of a construction crew ahead. CalTrans, Idyllwild’s savior during inclimate weather, is preparing the roads for the rain and snow. Today, Oct. 12, there’s a slowdown on Hwy. 243 from Idyllwild to Hemet for about a three-mile stretch (from mile marker 74:53:25 to mile marker 74: 55:50).

The wait lasted approximately seven minutes, however, it must’ve seemed like eternity for the group that was waiting to go next.

You see, I was the last car in the caravan behind the “Follow Me” truck.  Just for fun, I lagged behind so that the car ahead was well out of sight. By doing this, I made more than a few motorists wait longer, I probably made a few guards sweat.

Where is the last car? Why is she taking so long? Why did she wave at the prisoners? Is she really taking pictures?

Wait a minute, what prisoners?

Dressed in neon orange and green, looking just like CalTrans workers, are select members of the Bautista Fire Crew. They’re not construction workers or firemen, but inmates from the Larry D. Smith Correctional Center in Banning. They travel in a bright red fire truck that has “Bautista Fire Crew” printed on the side. They are heavily guarded by wardens from the same prison, also dressed in neon green and orange and impersonating CalTrans workers, except that they’re carrying radios and rifles.

“Nope, they’re just CalTrans managers,” you might argue. “Look at the logo on the trucks!”

That’s right, when the Bautista Fire Crew is working, there are always lots of CalTrans trucks around. Most of them are situated at various points along the road, not to observe the work in progress, but the convicts.

Long lines of motorists wait patiently for the clean up crews

Are they whacking the weeds like they should? Are they talking to any motorists? Are they going to escape?

If  you want to make those “CalTrans” guards nervous, try taking pictures of the Bautista crew as you drive by. After all, you’re a citizen, and it’s a free country! You can take pictures of the scenery, and anyone working in it if you’d like. But those guards are likely having silent fits (and memorizing your license plate number!)

In exchange for manual labor, such as weedwacking, shoveling, raking, or even fighting fires, these guys likely will get a reduced sentence. Keep in mind, these are not hardened criminals who have killed anyone or set any place on fire. They’re awaiting arraignments, hearings, trials, and sentencing, or they’ve been sentenced to serve a county jail term.

These are inmates from a medium-security prison that are deemed eligible to work and interact with the public.

Because for a brief moment, when you drive by today, you’re interacting with them. Dressed up in their neon CalTrans vests, these 15 prisoners look like normal workers. But normal workers don’t look right into each car, and straight into your eyes as you pass by. They’re busy working on the road. But these guys, for their free labor and payback to society, are also checking you out. Because, for a very long time, all they’ve seen are the same bunch of guys from the same correctional center.

There’s been a long history of inmates working along Hwy. 243, according to the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility web site. In fact, it proudly mentions that prison chain gangs built Hwy. 243 in the 1930s.  That makes sense now. As you loop back and forth along Hwy. 243, from Idyllwild towards Banning, you can’t help but get a scenic view of the prison every time. It’s as if the road was paying homage to it.

The first time I heard of the Bautista Fire Crew was about three years ago when I covered a brush fire on Hwy. 243. I was a freelance writer for the Idyllwild Town Crier at the time, and eager to please. Covering a midnight brush fire was front-page material, I thought.

There must’ve been 15 trucks in all. The fire was under control, but still burning a little. I reported on what I saw, took a lot of dark pictures and even talked to some of the firemen. In the last paragraph, I mentioned that the Bautista Fire Crew, that was still battling the blaze, appeared to be working the hardest.

Motorists obediently follow the "Follow Me" truck past the convicts

The next day, my editor took out the reference.

“Why did you do that?” I asked. It didn’t seem fair that the other firemen should take all of the credit.

“Because no one wants to read about convicts,” she answered.

I walked away in silence, shocked that the state would use convicts to fight fires.

“But, why not, if they’re willing?” I reasoned later.

Apparently, a lot of people in Idyllwild know about the Bautista Fire Crew, and are OK with it.

“They get out of prison for the day, and California gets some free labor,” they’ve said. “Who else wants to whack weeds and shovel dirt along the highway?”

So now you know. The next time you see one of those bright orange “Be Prepared to Stop” signs along Hwy. 243, you’ll be looking at the situation with new eyes. Where you once only saw CalTrans workers, you’ll now notice the guards, the inmates and the trucks.

It’s not prudent to lag behind the “Follow Me” truck, or take pictures of the convicts. The CalTrans crew, or prison guards, won’t like it. And you don’t want to make those carrying guns nervous.

For more information, contact the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, located at 1627 S. Hargrove Street in Banning, (951) 922-7300.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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