Surrounded by the Mendocino Coastal Range and just a short jaunt to the Pacific, the freethinking spirit of Ukiah California is as unruly and expansive as its valley. Let your hair down and take it all off — it’s time to let your freak flag fly in Ukiah.
Raised in Ukiah, California, Robben Ford has played electric guitar with some of the greatest names in blues, jazz and rock – from Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Charlie Musselwhite to George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and Kiss – and was a member of the L.A. Express and the Yellowjackets. In 2007 he released his 13th solo album, Truth, which quickly became the #1 blues album on the Billboard charts and was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Blues Album. The best-selling single from that album, One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor, is Ford’s cover of the Paul Simon song from 1973. We’ve selected that song as this week’s Listen Up, with vocals and guitar by Robben Ford joined by singer Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Robben Ford is currently on a worldwide tour following the release of his March 2015 solo album Into the Sun. In addition to performing, the master guitarist teaches guitar clinics, Robben Ford Guitar Dojo, in the cities and towns he visits while on the road.
In the baths, bathing suits separate newbies from nudies while sulfur stings the cavities of every nose. A meditative state – genuine or suspect as affected – is uniformly adopted by the bathers: long and lean, roly-poly, peachy-keen; brown as a berry, a flash of white, some bottoms saggy, some bottoms tight. Old lovers rest at ease in the water’s warmth, close but not touching, a word here and there. A young woman curls into the comfort of her lover’s arms. He kisses her closed eyes, stares into the distance.
The masters of the hot springs are fluid, slowly moving from tub to steam, emerging from the sauna, gracefully arching their bodies to plunge into the cold pool without hesitating, without testing. The rest are restless – it takes time and concentration to relax – seeking the right key, the right combination of movement and stillness, hot and cold, wet and dry. Our transitions lack the smoothness of the masters.
One visit to Orr Hot Springs in Ukiah is not a miracle cure for stress and tension. But now that we’ve seen how it’s done, I’m sure that with repeat visits we could master the art of relaxation.
It seems that everyone in Ukiah begins their day at Schat’s Bakery and Café, making it the ideal place to order a hot beverage and a freshly baked pastry or muffin and eavesdrop on the colorful parade of locals meeting up with friends and colleagues. Paisley prints on bandanas and granny skirts clashed with bureaucratic blue business suits and neon bicyclists’ gear while we enjoyed a flaky finger-licking sticky bun.
After breakfast, take a walk through town and head to the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House. Grace Hudson (1865-1937) was a Mendocino painter who lived in Ukiah with her husband John, a doctor and ethnologist, in a home they built and named the Sun House. The Sun House was designed in the Craftsman style by local architect George Wilcox in 1911. The Hudson’s lived in the home from 1912 until the late 1930’s and it is full of their personal design touches and many of their books, furnishings and collections of artifacts from around the world. Next door to the house, the museum features a permanent display of Grace Hudson’s paintings, a well-told visual history of the family, and an excellent exhibit of Native American baskets that are only a sampling of those accumulated by Grace and John Hudson. Hudson’s paintings are depictions of the local indigenous Pomo tribe, the one subject to which she devoted her entire career. The gardens surrounding the buildings are currently undergoing a major renovation and reconstruction, reflected in the title of the museum’s current temporary exhibit In the Construction Zone: Mendocino County Assemblage Art. Seven fantastic assemblage artists are featured in the exhibit which runs through April 17, 2016.
Make one stop just two miles outside of town at the City of 10,000 Buddhas, a buddhist community and monastery. Established in 1976 on the grounds of the former Mendocino State Mental Hospital, it is arguably the largest Buddhist community in the Western Hemisphere. The walls of its temple, the Jeweled Hall, are lined with images of 10,000 Buddhas. Jeweled Hall is open to the public.
Make Orr Hot Springs Resort your final destination. Roughly 30 minutes outside of town, the intimate clothing-optional resort is hidden in the lush green Mendocino Coastal Range surrounding the Ukiah Valley.
There’s always something new on Zippertravel’s Pinterest. This week you’ll find 130 images on our new board “Ukiah, You Called?” at www.pinterest.com/zippertravel.
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