Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

Category: California

How to Survive a Trip to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome

Note from Kevin Nelson: This piece won recognition in a travel writing contest sponsored by Dave’s Travel Corner, which drew entries from around the world. It’s about an adventurous trip to the top of one of the world’s most remarkable peaks. Here’s the start of the story, with the jump switching you over to Dave’s to read the exciting finale. Enjoy!

The plastic water bottle skidded off the granite and disappeared. It wasn’t the sound the bottle made that disturbed me. It was the silence that followed its rapid disappearance.

Along with twenty to twenty-five other people I was perched on the east face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, the world-famous granite slab that John Muir called “the most beautiful and most sublime of all the wonderful Yosemite rocks.” We were climbing the cables that lead up the backside to its 8,842-foot summit. The message in the bottle needed no translation. It was as clear as the pale blue sky above us.

Hug the cables tight, and we’d all be fine. They meant safe passage up and down. My problem was that I was feeling woozy and lightheaded, unsure if I should—or could—take another step upward. To read more, please click here….

My Adventures with Pixar Studios

It was one of those phone calls you always love to receive as an author. Pixar Studios was on the line, and they wanted to take a meeting with me.

“Sure,” I said. “Love to.”

            The meeting occurred ten days later at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a small city across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and about forty-five minutes by car from my home. The studios are behind a gated entrance. I parked and walked into a lovely amphitheater and open space where Pixar employees take lunch and hold company events and meetings. In a courtyard was the famous lamp, which is the company symbol and always makes an appearance in the credits at the start of every Pixar movie.

      Continue reading

Ziplining through the redwoods

There is a wealth of things to do in California’s wine country. Here is an activity you may not have thought of: Ziplining through Sonoma’s coastal redwoods.

A boy in flight.

My son and I took a “flight” through the forests of Occidental in Sonoma County, about two hours north of San Francisco. I’d heartily recommend it for families or anyone who is looking for something a little different than the usual Sonoma and Napa Valley pleasures of wine tasting and dining. Continue reading

Visit Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank was to plants what Steve Jobs was to computers. A creative genius who could take a thing and combine it with another thing, and in so doing make the original thing better and even sometimes new.

Luther Burbank, left, and Henry Ford.

At the time of his death, in 1926, Burbank was one of the most famous men in America, certainly the most famous horticulturalist. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Jack London, John Muir, and other luminaries of the time visited him at his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, to see him and a few of the wonders he had created such as the spineless cactus.

Continue reading

How I Sold Operation Bullpen to the Movies

It’s Sunday afternoon in the banquet room of a hotel in West Hollywood. I’m sitting across the table from a Hollywood producer pitching her on why my book, Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History, will make a great movie.

“It’s all true,” I tell her. “I’m not making a word of this up. It all happened.”

“Great,” she tells me. “I love true stories.”

“It’s about a group of people who basically start with nothing and create a $100 million forgery ring, the biggest in America.”

Suddenly the producer looks puzzled, like she ate something bad. “How? What are they forging?”

“Fake autographs. You know, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, superstars like that. And they’re forging these autographs on baseballs, jerseys, photos, posters—you name it. They produce hundreds of thousands of fakes and sell them on the home shopping channels, eBay, stores, all over the place. And they make millions in cash.”

“Okay,” she says, finally getting it. “What’s the story?” Continue reading

What the heck is he thinking about?

People have been asking this question ever since Auguste Rodin’s monumental sculpture, “The Thinker,” debuted in Paris in 1904.

Is he contemplating the great questions of God, existence, mortality? Did he get jilted by a girl and is wondering how to get her back? Is he trying to remember what he needs to pick up for tonight’s dinner?

Although a formidable six feet six inches tall (not counting the pedestal), The Thinker is a kind of Everyman. Like all great art, what we see in it is a reflection of ourselves. Our own lives, our own thoughts. Continue reading

Fastest Cars at El Mirage, Then and Now

The races at El Mirage, circa 1948, compliments of the SCTA.

Fastest Car” is an entertaining automobile racing series that premiered on Netflix in the spring. Each hour-long episode pits a production supercar such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini against three “sleeper” cars built by garage mechanics. The cars square off in side-by-side drag races with the winners meeting up in the climactic finale at El Mirage dry lake in the high deserts of southern California.

During my research a few years ago for Wheels of Change, my friend Bob Newlon and I ventured out to check out the scene at El Mirage. It’s a fantastic place, and if you’re into cars, it’s worth a trip to see one of the SCTA-sanctioned races held there. The Southern California Timing Association has been running races there for half a century, and it is a first-class organization. The day we were there, we saw a car  break the 300 mph barrier. It was…MOVING!

The heyday of El Mirage and racing on the dry lakes was the 1940s and ‘50s when teenage hot-rodders such as Dean Batchelor and his buddies were running their fast cars there. From Wheels of Change, here is a little taste of the dry lakes scene back then: Continue reading

Travel, and Other Writing

Besides writing books and blogs, I have a reporting background. I am a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor. Additionally I have contributed to a variety of online and print media.

In recent years I have done a lot of travel writing. My travel pieces for Examiner.com were consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally for writers contributing to the site. And FlipKey By TripAdvisor rated my Napa Valley-Sonoma blog as a top Wine Country site. Continue reading

© 2019 Kevin Nelson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑