All Aboard the Pumpkin Patch Express

Story and photos by Shaunna Boyd  |  2018-10-31

The Pumpkin Patch Express pulls into the station, and riders retrieve their pumpkins.

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG) - At Sacramento Valley Live Steamers Railroad Museum (SVLSRM), a fully functioning railroad and steam engines are available for anyone to ride and enjoy. The main line is over 6,300 ft. and winds through trees, past water features, and over wooden trestles in a corner of Hagan Community Park in Rancho Cordova. The SVLSRM runs an annual Santa Train in December, but just started running a Pumpkin Patch Express train last year. The second year of this fundraising event was a great success, with many in attendance and long lines waiting for their turn to board the trains on October 6 and 7.

Andy Berchielli, SVLSRM president, said, “We had over 1,200 riders this weekend—a little more than 600 each day. During our normal run days we have about 200 riders. So these special events are always a big success for us. Our normal run schedule is the first weekend of the month from March to September with special events being the 4th of July, Pumpkin Train, and Santa Train.”

SVLSRM is a non-profit organization completely run by volunteers. “We all have different abilities that make the club what it is today.  From the machinist to the landscapers to those with a construction background and those that take care of us (feed us), we are one big family that enjoy sharing our hobby with those interested in trains and making this little piece of Rancho Cordova the best that it can be,” said Berchielli.

Stephanie Huntingdale, one of SVLSRM’s many volunteers, said, “We’re a 501(c)(3), so every donation goes back into the museum to repair tracks and engines…It’s really a labor of love.” They ran three trains for this year’s Pumpkin Patch Express, but Huntingdale said they wished they had four because so many people came out for the event and the wait times were longer than expected. Two of the trains are owned by the museum and one was brought in by a member of SVLSRM.

David Garner of Carmichael brought two-year old Charlie and four-year-old Jillian to the Pumpkin Patch Express. “Charlie is really into trains, so we wanted to do this to celebrate Halloween.”

“We’re having a great time here with the kids,” said Doug Foster, who came all the way from San Francisco to bring his kids to the event.

The mission of SVLSRM is to preserve the history, traditions, and lore of American steam railroading and nurture a love of trains in future generations. For more information, visit

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SOFIA Pilots Present to Standing Room Only Crowd

Story and photos by Trina L. Drotar  |  2018-10-31

“You can learn if you put in the effort,” said Ruth, adding that NASA is a team.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – A standing-room only crowd of adults, college students, teens, and children gathered Saturday, September 29, at the Aerospace Museum of California, a Smithsonian affiliate, to hear Liz Ruth and Ace Beall talk about what they say is the coolest job in the air – piloting SOFIA, the largest flying observatory in the world. SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) is a modified Boeing 747SP that once belonged to Pan Am World Airlines, was sold to United Airlines in 1986, then sold to NASA in 1997. The plane is stationed at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, not far from where Ruth grew up.

                She is currently the only female pilot to fly the SOFIA as an active observatory. After a career that included serving in the Air Force piloting the T-38 jet trainer and T-43 flying classroom; as flight officer for United on B737-300, B757, B767, and B777 aircraft; raising a family; and serving as a legislative assistant, she returned to the pilot’s seat in 2016 when she joined NASA. She earned her Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Embrey-Riddle Aeronautical University’s McClellan campus and was stationed at Mather Air Force Base.

                SOFIA flies just over 500 mph with a range of nearly 7500 miles. Flight and mission crews are joined by scientists, observers, or educators. Although up to 30 people can be accommodated, that is rare they said. SOFIA’s lineage dates to 1968 when a Learjet was fit with a one foot diameter telescope, replaced in 1975 by a modified Lockheed C-141A Starlifter with a 2 ½ foot diameter telescope. SOFIA was put into operation in 2010, boasts an 8 ½ foot diameter telescope, and flew its first mission in 2011.

                Beall, who didn’t let a technology glitch that interrupted the slide show keep him from discussing SOFIA’s telescope specifications, flew as a space shuttle carrier pilot during much of his thirty five year NASA career. His first ferry flight was in 1984, and the former Air Force T-38 instructor found himself, through a bit of luck of being in the right place at the time, working for NASA and as a pilot flying the T-38 again. Although he retired from NASA in 2005, he kept flying and flew SOFIA until last year when age restrictions took him out of the pilot’s seat.

                Although Beall never flew with Ruth, they both discussed various missions which change nightly. A typical mission, Ruth said, might take her up to Canada and back, then to Mexico and back, then to the East Coast and back. SOFIA crisscrosses the air for the duration of the ten or so hours that crew and scientists are in the air.

                “The flight patterns drove air traffic controllers crazy,” she said, showing a map of North America with what might have passed for a toddler’s scribbles or a Jackson Pollock painting.

                Missions, which begin at sunset and end before sunrise, are driven by the scientists on board. Two or three scientists with specific and different projects each need to be at specific locations at specific times. It is the pilot’s job to make sure that the flight takes off at exactly the right time and arrives at each location at exactly the right time. That isn’t as easy as it might seem. The 2015 Pluto Occultation was an example, as Beall explained, adding that it was sort of like an eclipse

                “The trick was to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “SOFIA was the only one to get to the center of the occultation.”

                The plane typically flies above the Earth’s water vapor line because the telescope needs to be in dry conditions and permits scientists to study the hidden aspects of space, to learn about the birth and death of stars, and to figure out how it all works, they said. SOFIA uses over 200,000 gallons of fuel per flight and weighs more than one half ton at takeoff. Ruth and Beall responded to many audience questions who wanted to know how SOFIA could be improved, what the pilots eat during the mission, why they wear those uniforms, whether safety belts were used, and how to get on one of the flights as a teacher. “You have to apply,” Ruth said.

                “You can learn if you put in the effort,” said Ruth, adding that NASA is a team effort with jobs in many fields – accountants, public affairs, photographers, mechanics, and is not just for astronauts or pilots.

                Beall suggested finding something you love to do, do a good job, don’t make enemies, and admit when you’ve messed up.

                The lecture, on the heels of the museum’s first teacher night, is one of eight events at the Aerospace Museum between now and Christmas, said Tom Jones, the museum’s director, which include a three day tribute to veterans, a visit by Mad Science, movies, and its newest exhibit, “Our Solar System: An Interactive Journey Exhibit.”

                For additional information on Aerospace Museum of California, visit: For additional information on SOFIA, visit:

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For the Glory Days

Story by Trina L. Drotar, Photos by Rick Sloan  |  2018-10-31

Athletes, teams, and coaches have been honored in football, baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, swimming, cross country, golf, running, basketball, boxing, rugby, soccer, and mixed martial arts.

4th Annual Sports Hall of Fame Inducts Eight Women

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – The 4th annual Sports Hall of Fame inducted eight female athletes this year, the largest number yet, 46 years after the ground-breaking Title IX. Good Day Sacramento’s Ken Rudolph, Cordova High School alumni and self-proclaimed “Lancer for life,” returned as the sold-out event’s emcee.

                Shelly Blanchard, Cordova Community Council’s executive director, said that the event was “a true homerun, with more than 250 attendees and plenty of Cordova Lancer love.” It was, she added, a mix of awards event and Cordova sports reunion.

                Athletes, teams, and coaches have been honored in football, baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, swimming, cross country, golf, running, basketball, boxing, rugby, soccer, and mixed martial arts. Nominations come from the public and are reviewed by a panel of sports experts for recognition in three categories – athlete, coach, and heart of a champion.

                It’s the “Heart of a Champion” category that sets this hall of fame apart. This category, wrote Blanchard, recognizes and honors Rancho Cordova athletes like 2016 inductee Eppie Johnson, founder of Eppie’s Great Race which ended a 45 year tradition in January, “people who made huge contributions to local sports in other ways.”     

                John McFann, one of three inductees in this category, played baseball and basketball at Cordova High School but chose the Air Force over professional sports. McFann attained rank of three-star general, received numerous medals including Humanitarian Service and Distinguished Service medals.

                Thelma King, the lone woman in this category, coached soccer teams for Cordova High School and other groups beginning in the 1970s. First introduced to soccer while at Mather Air Force base, she passed her love and passion for the sport to numerous young women, including three generations in her family.

                One of the younger athletes is Angie Matheu, who was honored as “one of the most successful female swimmers to emerge from Cordova High.” She set records in butterfly, freestyle, backstroke, and relays, and she received the 2002 Athlete of the Year while at American River College.

                Hub Morphew is one of two coaches inducted this year. He spent nearly four decades coaching at Cordova High School and American River College. He had signed a professional baseball contract with the Orioles but decided basketball was more to his liking. He was inducted into the LaSalle Club Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame in 2014 and is currently enjoying retirement as is Dave Andreotti whose accomplishments include founding the Dusters youth track club and Cordova Rugby Club.

                This year’s athletes have competed in volleyball, softball, football, soccer, golf, basketball, track, pole vault, swimming, and baseball. The single baseball athlete is the 1984 Cordova High School baseball team. That year, the team was ranked as fourth best nationwide and first in California with a record of 35-5-1. Several team athletes went on to pursue professional sports careers.

                Basketball, football, and soccer were represented by the male inductees. David Crouse began as a Little League pitcher but soon found himself, because of his 6’10” height, playing basketball. He played professional basketball internationally for twelve years in numerous countries. Jeff Allen earned numerous awards, and played professionally for Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, making a game-changing interception in a critical game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

                The eight women inductees include Kelly Crawford who played on Cordova High School’s golf team in 1981 and 1982 as the only female golfer and who made a name for herself in the world of golf. Ugo Eke, St. John Vianney School, and Bryson Stately, Cordova High School, share Olympic dreams. Eke set numerous records in track and hopes to represent Sierra Leone in the 2020 Olympics. Stately’s record includes a #2 nationwide ranking in pole vault, high school All-American in 2005, and she retains the record she set in the San Joaquin Section pole vault. She hopes to represent the U.S. in the 2020 Olympics.

                There was no particular effort by the Rancho Cordova Athletic Association or the jurors to select the women inductees, wrote Blanchard, saying that “the stars did align that way.”

                Since 1972 women in sports have gained more opportunities for development and in professional sports, which is where many of the hall of famers end up, she added, and the past quarter century has seen more accomplished female athletes in sports.

                “It’s a sign of the times that they are finding their way into the Rancho Cordova Sports Hall of Fame and other sports hall of fame recognition programs around the country.”

                For additional information, visit:

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Hawaiian Chieftain Returns to Sacramento

By Zachary Stocks  |  2018-10-31

The historic vessel to offer tours and sails at Old Sacramento, Nov 1 - Nov 24
Hawaiian Chieftain, photo by Rick Horn

The historic vessel to offer tours and sails at Old Sacramento, Nov 1 - Nov 24

Hawaiian Chieftain, photo by Rick Horn

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - History will come alive in Sacramento this October as
the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain makes her return trip to town. The tall ship, part of the Aberdeen-based nonprofit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, sails the waters of the Pacific each year along with its companion vessel Lady Washington, offering educational programs, free deck tours, and sailing trips.

From November 1st through the 24th, Hawaiian Chieftain will be docked at Old Sacramento, (1210 Front St.). On weekdays schools can reserve a trip aboard the tall ship for the Historical Seaport's one-of-a-kind maritime heritage field trip Voyage of Explorers. On weekday evenings and weekends the tall ship is open to the general public for stationary dockside Vessel Tours for a $5 suggested donation. Hawaiian Chieftain can also be Chartered for private events including weddings and workplace team builders.

The steel hulled Hawaiian Chieftain was launched in 1988 in Lahaina, Hawaii. Together with Lady Washington, the tall ships are among the most active educational boats in America, visiting approximately 40 ports each year. The tall ships offer a glimpse into our historic past, introducing people of all ages to the sights and sounds of 18th and 19th century maritime life.

Grays Harbor Historical Seaport is an educational non-profit based in Aberdeen, Washington. In addition to school programs and public sailing, the tall ships are also active sail training vessels. Anyone over age 16 is eligible to join the crew through the Two Weeks Before the Mast volunteer sailing program. Those pursuing a career in the commercial maritime industry can also consider enrolling in the Historical Seaport's Sea School Northwest, a job training program to provide knowledge and mentorship for professional maritime fields.

If you're ready to run away to sea, or want to know more about the tall ships and their programs, please visit


Sacramento Schedule: Public Tours (Weekly) Tuesday - Friday, 4:00 - 5:00 ($5 suggested donation) or Saturday, 10:00 - 1:00 ($5 suggested donation) VESSEL TOURS UNAVAILABLE: November 10 (Saturday) and November 17 (Saturday)

The vessel will be docked at Old Sacramento, 1210 Front Street, Sacramento CA 95814. For directions and schedule information, please call (800) 200-5239.

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SPCA Comes to the Rescue

By Sarah Varanini, SPCA  |  2018-10-31

The shelter transport arrived back at the Sacramento SPCA Friday evening. Photo courtesy SPCA

Welcomes displaced dogs affected by Hurricane Michael

SACRAMENTO Region, CA (MPG) – Hurricane Michael recently displaced more than just families. It also displaced many pets in need of immediate care. On Friday, October 19, the Sacramento SPCA received fifteen dogs transferred from shelters in Florida impacted by Hurricane Michael.

Employees from the Sacramento SPCA drove their new animal transfer vehicle, which was purchased through a grant from PetSmart Charities, to Kettleman City on Friday morning to meet staff from San Diego Humane Society.  In collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, the San Diego Humane Society arranged for a transfer of 93 dogs from three shelters located in Florida to create space for animals displaced by Hurricane Michael.

The shelter transport arrived back at the Sacramento SPCA Friday evening.  “After the dog’s arrival, our priority was getting them comfortable and settled into their new housing,” said Sacramento SPCA Animal Services Practice Manager, Karalyn Aronow.  “Medical assessments and close observation of the animals will continue over the next week to determine when they will be available for adoption”.

The dogs are medium to large-sized mixed breeds, primarily consisting of lab, pit bull, and hound mixes under five years of age.  Ten of the fifteen dogs are Heartworm positive and will undergo Heartworm treatment.

The incoming pets are not direct victims of Hurricane Michael. They are adoptable dogs who have been in animal shelters in the Florida Panhandle area. They were transported out of the area to create room for pets who have been lost, strayed or abandoned due to the hurricane.

“The category 4 storm that recently devastated the Florida Panhandle and the record-setting wildfire season in California are harsh reminders of how important disaster preparedness is for us and our pets,” said Sacramento SPCA CEO, Kenn Altine.  “I witnessed, first-hand, the devastation and displacement of families and pets impacted by natural disasters while helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005, and even closer to home this August, while assisting Haven Humane Society with relief efforts during the Carr Fire”

These reminders come just as the California Department of Water Resources encourages communities to participate in Flood Preparedness Week.  Local preparedness events and exercises are being held throughout the state to educate communities on what to do during extreme weather events.

A Flood Preparedness Funfair will be held in Sacramento at the Miller Regional Park on Saturday, October 27 from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm.  In partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), event attendees will learn how keep their family and pets safe during an emergency, fill sandbags, find evacuation routes, sign up for emergency alerts, and watch rescuers in action as they perform water rescues.

Founded in 1894, the Sacramento SPCA has been providing homeless animals with individual comfort, shelter, and love for more than 124 years.  They provide compassionate medical care to tens of thousands of animals annually and offer a variety of programs and services designed to keep people and pets together for life.

More Information:

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Building Sustainable Community

Story by Shaunna Boyd  |  2018-10-31

The mission of Fair Oaks EcoHousing is to create a community-focused, environmentally friendly neighborhood right here in Fair Oaks. Construction on the community began in December 2017 and should be completed in spring of 2019. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

Building Sustainable Community

Fair Oaks EcoHousing Is Under Construction

Fair Oaks, CA (MPG) - Construction is underway on the Fair Oaks EcoHousing project, located at 4025 New York Avenue. The mission of the project is to create a community-focused, environmentally friendly neighborhood right here in Fair Oaks. The community will integrate private homes into a cohesive village atmosphere with shared amenities and green spaces. Construction on the community began in December 2017.

Marty Maskall, founding member of Fair Oaks EcoHousing, said the community focus is “smart growth and green design.” The project is transforming 3.7 acres of land (which originally had just two homes on it) into a sustainable neighborhood of 30 homes. In December 2013, Maskall had a contract, contingent on project approval, to purchase the property. The purchase closed in June 2015. And next year, in May or June of 2019, families will be moving into the community. Of the 30 homes, seven are still available for purchase.

Maskall leads monthly introductory meetings and site tours for anyone interested in becoming a member of the EcoHousing community. The meeting includes a short video featuring the Nevada City Cohousing community, which is the inspiration for Fair Oaks EcoHousing. Both communities share the same architect and have a very similar design, with rows of private homes facing each other, large porches on the front and back of each home, a shared pool, a club house, and a side area for parking.

Community members will own their own homes and be part of a homeowners association to fund the operating costs and maintain the shared spaces. Members will be able to participate in shared gardening, and prepare meals in the club house made from ingredients grown in the community gardens. Maskall said that prices for new homes in the Fair Oaks EcoHousing community are comparable to other new homes on the market that utilize green design and construction, ranging from approximately $360,000 up to $680,000. 

At a recent introductory meeting and site tour on October 13, attendees all shared similar motivations for considering membership: a sense of true community.

Cisca van Beek is originally from Holland, and she said cohousing communities are very common there and in many other places across Europe: “There are countless benefits; the communities are great places to raise kids.”

Scott and Joyce Hedges explained that people are so busy these days that it’s difficult to create a sense of community. They are looking for a sense of belonging and a connection with others.

Erin Huff currently lives in Oak Park with her husband John and their two-year-old daughter. Huff has been interested in cohousing and pocket neighborhood ideas for quite a while. She is considering Fair Oaks EcoHousing because of the “intentional cohesive community building.”

Current members also attended the meeting to share their reasons for joining the community and to get a look at the progress on their homes.

Lorri Reynard, who is originally from New York, chose to join because “the community aspect really resonated with me; I want to know my neighbors.”

Denise Knight lived in Fair Oaks in the past and loves the area. In addition to the social aspect, she said she became a member in order “to have all the amenities but share the work.”

Roslyn Eliaser said, “I love the idea of having the privacy of my own home but within a community…You can accomplish so much more together.”

Both the members and prospective members share a strong desire to become part of a collaborative community where neighbors know each other and work together. For more information, visit

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SMUD and D.R. Horton Agree to Build All-electric Homes

SMUD Special Release  |  2018-10-31

Electric utility aims to reduce greenhouse gases through “electrification”

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - SMUD and top national homebuilder D.R. Horton are teaming up to build 104 all-electric homes in two new neighborhoods. These “all-electric communities” – “Juniper,” which is planned to include 66 homes, and “Independence," which is anticipated to include 38 homes, are both located in North Natomas and will be priced for first-time homebuyers. The homes are included in the SMUD Smart Home program and are part of a broader electrification effort by SMUD, the first of its kind in the USA.

Groundbreaking for the subdivisions began earlier this summer. The model homes are completed, and the communities are open for sale. Construction will continue through 2019. If built as planned, SMUD will provide $466,000 in incentives to D.R. Horton for including appliances and equipment to make the homes all-electric. These include heat pump heating and cooling, heat pump water heating, and induction stoves—appliances that are typically more energy efficient and can deliver lower overall energy bills.

Heat pump water heaters can reduce electricity use by up to 60 percent compared to electric resistance water heaters. Instead of using electricity to create heat, heat pump water heaters use a refrigerant cycle to transfer heat from surrounding ambient air into the hot water tank. They also cool the area where they are located, usually in the garage. Induction stoves may cook 50 percent faster than electric resistance stoves, and often as fast as gas. They also use less energy than traditional electric stoves and offer digital control of the temperature, and they have no open flame. The absence of combustion in all-electric homes may result in greater occupant safety.

These homes will help community-owned SMUD meet its aggressive commitment to reach 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and surpass the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals of 80 percent by 2050.

These D.R. Horton homes are part of the SMUD Smart Home program, which offers incentives to builders and developers of up to $5,000 for new single-family homes, and up to $1,750 for new multifamily units, built to be all-electric. The homes must have all-electric appliances and mechanical systems—no gas line in the home, and no gas service at the property—in order to meet the minimum program participation requirements.

SMUD customers who own existing homes in the SMUD service territory can also qualify for up to $13,750 for existing homes that convert from gas to electricity. For example, owners of existing homes may receive up to a $4,500 incentive to replace an existing gas furnace by installing an electric heat pump space heater. A homeowner may receive up to a $3,000 rebate to switch out an existing gas water heater for an electric heat pump water heater.

There are also rebates available from SMUD for traditional efficiency measures such as duct sealing, insulation, and windows.

More information about SMUD’s all-electric conversion incentives and other energy-saving information is available at

Source: SMUD Media

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