Finding Fun in Tha Fee (mostly surrounding regions)

Southwest Riverside County conjures images of Travis Barker motocross bros tatted out, big box shopping centers, lifted trucks, and dusty hot winds.  For most of my life I shit talked about my hometown, Menifee, CA.  Honestly, Menifee did very little for me.  My education sucked and I witnessed a lot of racism.  After-school activities included walking over to target or driving to the mall 20 minutes away.  The transit infrastructure is non existant. If you don’t have a car you’re screwed.  In fact, I attribute normalizing myself by moving out of Menifee and Southern California.  After thrusting myself into the grips of non-stop adventure, I am forcing myself to be at home as an exercise in self-control.

I am having a difficult time adjusting to life not being on the road, but every now and again you have to stop.  Stopping gives perspective.  Stopping let’s you fully appreciate life on the road.  Stopping reminds you about the excesses in one’s life and the need to simplify.  So betwixt adventures I cannot let fun stop.  Menifee and the surrounding region can be fun.  Adventure can be found anywhere.  Even in the land of tweakers and tanned bro hoes there lies hidden treasures.

The Big Skies of Menifee.


Santa Rosa Plateu

Approximately 15 miles from my house is the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  Driving westward on Clinton Keith Rd. the monotony of stucco houses and golf courses suddenly stop and oak woodlands begin.  The 9000 acre Reserve is home to 200 species of bird and 49 endangered, threatened, or rare animal and plant species.  The Reserve boasts miles of hiking trails which take you through vernal pools and even to the two oldest standing structures in Riverside County, the Moreno Adobes, which once served as bunkhouses for cowboys.  I have made trips out to the Plateau part of my weekly routine.  The trails have been perfect for getting into trail running.  They are not too steep, and there are a number of different trails so you can diversify your routine.

The van admires an Engelmann Oak at the Santa Rosa Plateau.

Unnamed trails behind Oasis Housing Tract and Adergate Park

A series of buckwheat covered hills separate Menifee from Sun City.  A network of informal trails can take you to the top of many of these hills.  I’m not sure who is in charge of taking care of the trails or who made them in the first place.  Almost everytime I’ve hiked up the hills I have gotten to see red-tailed hawks.  There are great views of the Menifee Valley, although I can’t say this is very interesting other than to take in the pattern of the man-made landscape.

Cleveland National Forest

Not quite within walking or biking distance to Menifee is the Cleveland National Forest.  Just outside of Lake Elsinore, on the Ortega Highway,  is the closest camping and hiking area, the Blue Jay Campground.  I have yet to explore much of this area because I just got the van smogged and it’s been too hot to drive my vessel up steep grades.


Reading Cinemas, Murrieta

I hate bad movies.  I really hate bad movies.  I think most movies are bad.  Thankfully there is one theater in town that seems to recognize most movies suck.  The Reading Cinemas off of California Oaks Rd. usually plays one critically acclaimed, lesser known film amongst the sea of big budget shit storms.  Ok, not quite lesser know, but the current pick is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.  Aaaaaand once a month Reading does something called Fourty Foot Films where cinematic classics are screened.  For $7.50 you get admission to the screening, a chance to win prizes during trivia time, and free pizza!  I just went this past Sunday and reconnected with my Jewish heritage while watching Fiddler on the Roof.

Old Town Temecula

In an area lacking in arts and entertainment, the clear winner in this area is Old Town Temecula.  Old Town T-Mac is of particular interest to me because it is the only place in Southwestern Riverside County that is creating successful mixed-use, walkable, urbanized environment.  Because it was built far before the automobile was invented, the streets in OTT are narrow and the storefronts are right on the street.  It’s straight out of New Urbanist handbook.  A number of art galleries, fine restaurants, and theatrical and musical entertainment are located in this less than a mile strip of Front St.

During the summer, the city is hosting a free concert series in different locations in Old Town.  Check out the above link to see the line up for each week.



Since returning from the bike tour and acquiring the van, I have undertaken locating dumpstering spots in the area.  The prognosis is grim.  Many of the dumpsters in the area are militarized.  Often dumpsters are on lockdown or have security cameras pointed right at them.  I have yet to check out the Trader Joe’s in Temecula since I am seldom there at a decent dumpstering time, but I’ve checked places in Menifee and Murrieta out with no luck.  If someone has a hot tip, please let me know.  My dirty inner hippy is weeping.

Williams-Sonoma Free Classes (Look at Complementary Technique Classes)

Fun at the mall!  So I’ve talked some mad shit on Williams-Sonoma over the years.  Mostly because it’s the kind of place my mom loves.  Now that I’m getting older and enjoy cooking I realize the fun in nice cutlery and cookware. Besides what they sell, they offer free classes in a number of cool topics.  I just went to a class on canning jams and preserves.  Next week they will offer classes on canning tomatoes.  A full list of the complimentary classes can be found on the website.  They also give out samples with their classes.  Woohoo!  Beware they try to sell you shit and offer 10% off, but if you’re poor you shouldn’t have any trouble not buying anything when you look at the price tags.

Saturday Temecula Certified Farmer’s Market

One of the saving graces in completely not dreading my time back at home is getting to wake up Saturday Morning and riding my bike out to the Saturday morning Temecula Farmer’s Market in Old Town Temecula.  It’s a nice cross section of people.  Because we are fortunate to live in a Mediterranean climate the market boasts a robust selection of produce.  Most of the producers are from North County SD, Temecula, and Murrieta.  The Sunday Menifee market is a sad affair.  I’m hoping over time the number of growers and vendors will increase.  Sometimes I wonder if I should invest time in making this happen, but alas I will not be here long enough to make an impact.

Wolfee Donuts, Canyon Lake

Last night I discovered a hidden gem among gems.  Quite possibly one of the most creative donut shops I have gone to in some time, Wolfee’s is open 24 hours 7 days a week.  The owner really loves donuts.  Besides the usual maple bar or old fashioned, the proprietor offers gummy bear donuts, almond joy donuts, and a really damn good chocolate croissant that is glazed with chocolate, sprinkled with chocolate chips, and filled with chocolate.


Menifee Lake

Remember when you were a kid and you really enjoyed walking around the fake lake?  Remember when you grew up and you realized how the lake is really fake and you got really grossed out by it.  Remember when they required you to carry an ID card to run around the lake because you also realized most of Menifee is under the totalitarian rule of Homeowner Associations of Master-planned communities?  Well I don’t know if all Menifee kids feel the same way, but I fall in and out of love with the lake all the time.  Like most aesthetic features of suburbia, it’s a bastardization of features of large European estates (i.e. lawns).  I could say Lake Menifee or Menifee Lake is a representation of the lakefront villas of Italy.  Anyways,  the lake can be fun to run around if you don’t get grossed out by the artificial nature of the lake.

Temecula Wine Country

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of going on long runs.  In trying to be a conscientious driver, I try to chain my trips so I’m not just driving all over the place.  Because I frequently have to go to Temecula to take care of bidness, I’ve enjoyed doing longer runs in Temecula wine country.  Head east on Rancho California Rd. and park in the Baron’s shopping center parking lot.  From here you can run eastward for miles, turning on one of the many roads that turn out taking you towards one of the many wineries in T-Mac.  You can even stop and drink and keep running if you please.  You’ll get drunk faster this way.  Opportunavores Tip:  Once you get back to the Baron’s parking lot (except Sunday) this place called Great Harvest Bread Company, hands out free samples of bread.  This isn’t just a run of the mill sample.  They’ll give you a fat slice of bread.  Good amount of carbs to give you some post run fun.  The bread is pretty damn good, but it’s a little pricey.  I’ve ended up buying a lot of bread there because I cannot resist.

Menifee Summer Nights

It was really fucking hot today.  There’s a lot of ungodly hot days out in these here parts.  Just serves as a little reminder that human beings are not meant to live in these areas.  I can’t wait for one of the typical summer days where the grid is overloaded and the power goes out.  Gonna sweat it out.  I’m a really sweaty person.  I hate being indoors.  These times are tough because it is really so hot you can’t do anything outside.  You’ll have a heatstroke like Martin Lawrence in the Fat Momma outfit.  In attempting to find the positive in the unbearable heat, the summer nights are quite pleasant.  I’ve found myself walking the quiet neighborhoods at midnight.  The clear skies are full of constellations.  You might run into other weirdos who wander Menifee at night.  I just met a fellow who is trying to start a company decking out beach cruisers and rims in LED lights.

Typical bro litter found on the streets of Menifee at night.

Life in tha Fee ain’t so bad.  I will continue to search for new funportunities