Visit the Old West in Paso Robles: Harris Stage Lines

First published in REVEAL The Central Coast of CA Magazine


“Come to Paso Robles to enjoy the wine and shopping then experience Paso as it used to be.”

 Tom and Debby Harris find themselves extending this invitation often as they travel the USA. Harris Stage Lines is invited to special events and parades to haul grand marshals in their replica 1860s Concord Stage Coach built originally for Wells Fargo. Appropriately the Carmel Valley Centennial Committee invited them to “haul” the U.S. Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank in their celebration parade. Wells Fargo had the contract to deliver mail throughout the Old West. In 2014 during Paso Robles’ 125th Celebration year, the 1862 Coastal Route between Salinas and Los Angeles was relived hauling the mail from San Miguel to Paso Robles by horse-drawn coach. Monty Montana invited them to Texas for his wild west show with Jack Palance (City Slickers), Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), and James Drury, (The Virginian) the guest passengers. Tom and Debby drove their team of horses hitched to the #20 Concord Stagecoach built for them by famed Texas specialty vehicle builder J. Brown in the 2016 Rose Parade. By appointment the public is invited to experience over 26 one-of-a-kind horse drawn vehicles at the Harris’ working horse ranch four miles from the heart of Paso Robles.

“We’re in the entertainment business – your horse riding, driving, party and event headquarters,” said Tom. Not only will they take their “nostalgia for the Old West” on the road, but Debby, Tom and their son Cactus spent 22 years creating the hospitality venue. “We purchased acreage with an 80-year-old house and built the rest. Every piece of farm equipment we display is operational. Our party facility is perfect for western themed special occasions, weddings or group barbecues.”

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive a buckboard with a single horse or a stagecoach with multiple horses? How is it possible to control a team of four or more horses?  Debby and Tom were raised on ranches. They spent years participating in rodeos and won multiple awards for their showmanship, including Outstanding Display of Western Heritage and The Chairman’s Award for the Ft Worth, Texas Stock Show & Rodeo All Western Parade. They are respected worldwide for their horsemanship – and now love to share their expertise giving riding or driving lessons. “We also train farming with the horses,” said Tom. “We grow forage mix (oats, buckwheat & barley) and use a grain binder for haystacks that look like teepees.”

Tom explained tour buses driving through Paso Robles on Hwy. 101 will book an evening barbecue or locals have been known to surprise visitors with a picnic and tour after a day of wine tasting. Harris Stage Lines details their many visitor options for groups up to 200 guests at Check out the unforgettable birthday parties for children or adults hankering for an experience the way it was when horse power wasn’t under the hood.

Party headquarters includes amazing sounds from a 1922 Wurlitzer of the West 1000 Pipe Theater Organ in the Music Hall. A Pole Barn accommodates indoor and outdoor catered barbecues. Ride a horse or atop a stagecoach or book a throw-back surrey ride with the fringe on top. The “Real Horse Power Show” includes Belgium Draft horses either hitched or hitch-ready to unique vehicles that helped populate the American West.

The Harris family and Stephen Robertson Yergers partnered to create SRY Coaches, a unique horse-drawn vehicle collection and driving school. Each vehicle was chosen for the role it played in the American West. Used for filming commercials, special promotions, weddings, funerals and parades, Tom will also train entrepreneurs to operate an Amish Road Buggy, Ben Hur Racing Chariot, authentic BBQ Chuck Wagon, hay wagon — even a 1906 Hearse built by Johnson & Sons in NY, NY.

But there’s more! “I’ve learned the church organ and the theater organ are completely different,” said Tom describing the mammoth set-up that operates the Wurlitzer organ. Besides musical reviews, the theater organ was the sound depicting the action in silent movies. At age 90 Dr. Ruth Dresser saw Cactus Harris in concert and invited him to her home in San Francisco to play her 1922 Wurlitzer with 1000 pipes knowing he would treasure its value and unique sound. He purchased it, disassembled it, and reassembled it at the ranch. The sound is breathtaking, but seeing the garage-size room full of the equipment in action creates a heart-pounding appreciation for the music from days gone by. And if you are lucky Cactus will be home to create ivory magic, otherwise, Tom, with a gleam in his eye, will set the computerized music on play and recount stories about his son, the world-touring professional organist.

Call Harris Stage Lines at (805) 237-1860 and book a visit with Debby. She’ll be the first to tell you, “We love to create fun, western environment events!”




PAWS for A Cause Thriving with New Name Pawsabilities for Veterans

PFV Journey TM-01Author of A Dog’s Journey, W. Bruce Cameron wrote, “You can usually tell that a man is good if he has a dog that loves him.” Dogs have predicted earthquakes, detected cancer – signaled the early stages of labor.  Thus, Rotarian Gil Igleheart became an instant advocate when U.S. Marine Captain Jason Haag spoke at a Rotary District 5240 meeting about a Florida group’s success rate training “man’s best friend” to help America’s War Veterans cope with combat-induced demons known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is far from fake news that 22 veterans commit suicide daily; 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer PTSD annually, and nightly over 50,000 homeless in America are Veterans. Igleheart decided if it worked in Florida, then it would certainly work in dog-friendly San Luis Obispo County. He enlisted fellow Cayucos Seaside Rotarian Dick Mellinger to help him gather the necessary pieces and players.

Critical to the success of the program was a certified dog training partner. Jack Gould’s nonprofit New Life K9s had graduated and placed support dogs with Veterans based on training taught at Bergin University of Canine Studies. Igleheart and Mellinger partnered with New Life K9s to seek more awareness and funding to train more dogs. Recently, their nonprofit foundation Paws for a Cause was renamed as Pawsabilities for Veterans.

In 2014 five support dogs were graduated. By 2016 eighteen more dogs were in training with the development of an inmate training program. Now in 2017 six dogs are due to graduate and at least seventeen are training.

A recent video of New Life K9s innovative program at San Luis Obispo’s California Men’s Colony (CMC) was created with footage shot by Dan Hartzell’s Coast Union High School students and can be previewed at  Moving testimony demonstrates the concept is functioning as it was hoped. Training recently began at the Correctional Training Facility at Salinas Valley Prison near Soledad, CA.

Gould said, “Our mission is saving lives through human-canine relationships. We are the professional trainers, but credit must also go to Warden Josie Gastelo, Sheriff Lt. Nolan and our contributors for their support. The bonus for the inmate trainer has been a new sense of purpose.”

Nolen, a San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Search & Rescue senior member, led the effort to approve the inmate education program at CMC. He said, “I’m a Vet and all over this program. Some inmates haven’t petted a dog in twenty years. This has the potential to help the inmates as much as the veterans.”

New Life K9s Director of Training Nicole Hern explained, “A dog helps decrease levels of anxiety by supporting numerous specific needs for their Veteran owner/handler. Dogs can wake him up from a nightmare — even turn on lights, remind him to take medications on time — bring the medication to him and bark on command to warn off a potentially threatening stranger.”

With the addition of the California Corrections Department’s Training program Hern reported, “The success rate for graduation of more dogs has proven much higher.” The inmates volunteer. There are two fulltime trainers with the dogs 24-hours a day. A separate dormitory houses the trainers with their dogs. “This is their job and they have the time.” Weekends additional volunteer trainers take the dogs home for socialization they cannot get in prison.

Several inmate trainers testified the impact it has made in their lives. Wesley Bird states, “I don’t want being a murderer to define my life…Having Rusty is great…gives me some self-worth…” Frankie Castillo believes he is “…not so selfish…” and he wants to “…help other people…” Rufus Williams admits his “best teacher” has been “…a little dog named Nicole…” The New Life K9s training has been “…instrumental to help me become a better human being…” and he’s developing skills so “I can go back out in society and get a job in an animal shelter.”

Hern confirmed, “I wanted to work in the prison program because I believed the dog could save more than one life.”

DSC06156Army Veteran Bruce Hulin received his dog Nichols at a Los Osos Rotary Club presentation after Igleheart had presented at a previous club meeting and Past-President Shirley Hulin realized help for her husband’s PTSD symptoms. Through a grant from the Nichols Foundation, wheel-chair bound Bruce thanked all who helped. “Nichols will nudge me when I feel anxious. He picks things up that I can’t reach and opens and closes doors with an attached rope. If I’m rolling around with bad dreams I’ll feel Nichols’ wet nose waking me up.”

“We have more plans in the works,” said Mellinger. For more information contact or Pawsabilities for Veterans at PO Box 955, San Luis Obispo, CA. For questions or presentation contact Dick Mellinger at (574) 532-1291or










Along Comes Home

First Published in Inspired Health Magazine – Volume 1 – 


Picture: CEO Founder Jenny Mulks Wieneke with Hope the Bear modeled by her son, Gabriel Wieneke.    

A staggering 15,000-plus American children will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Each child and family will be emotionally and financially overwhelmed. At 30-something, Jenny Mulks Wieneke was devastated by her cancer diagnosis experiencing comparable pain, fear and depression that simple pleasures would soon be taken away. But maybe most difficult — separation anxiety while away from her son, Gabriel. 

“Children should be playing games and going to school. They shouldn’t have to face a life and death diagnosis or sign medical papers for doctors to amputate a limb,” she said. “I was in-shape and financially secure with good insurance. Co-workers and family were my strength. Many children don’t have these resources.” 

Her personal journey inspired her to create ALONG COMES HOPE, a nonprofit that would support children with cancer. Seeds were planted when her son was three months old. “We spent several months taking Gabriel to Stanford Medical to stabilize the ventricles in his head,” said Jenny. “While there, I’d see other children by themselves and realized not all parents could take leave from their jobs or duties at home to stay at the hospital.”  

Jenny was a top pharmaceutical sales representative and valued manager. “My co-workers were my other family,” she said. The company allowed her flexibility throughout her son’s earlier health issues, her divorce, her mother’s cancer and then her own battle with cancer. At the top of her sales productivity Jenny was regularly experiencing stomach pain. Testing unfounded, the diagnosis was stress. “I could push through my pain,” she said. At a sales meeting in Monterey Jenny’s competitive nature became a blessing in disguise. She strained her neck winning a hula hoop contest and was forced to call a friend and chiropractor, Dr. Peter Reese. Never having treated her, he was bound to take full body x-rays.  “He showed me the big egg on my right lower abdomen.”

More tests and an ultra sound discovered one liver lobe wasn’t working and the other was barely functioning. She and her Mom were joking when the doctor came in to confirm a massive cancerous tumor and recommended she put her life in order. She might live a year. “I was stunned as much by the diagnosis as the doctor’s attitude. I had never experienced the patient side of my business. I realized how a child might feel with a sudden death sentence. I had to become my own advocate.” 

The battle for survival began locally with diagnostic radiologist, Dr. Stephen Holtzman, and oncologist, Dr. Thomas J. Spillane. “They were wonderful, but advised if I wanted a chance to win the fight I needed treatment outside the county. I didn’t want to leave Gabriel. He was only four, but for Gabriel’s sake I had to.” 

She chose M.D. Cancer Center in Houston. “Immediately I felt I had made the right decision. A lot of miracles come out of that place.”

Surgeries were done in Houston while chemotherapy treatments happened in San Luis Obispo until she was too weak to travel. While recovering in Houston she was encouraged to walk the 7-acre campus. She’d wander the two children’s hospitals and realized how scary it was for the them to be away from home battling cancer.  She also realized she needed to involve Gabriel in her survival quest. “Children are born with intuition,” she explained. “If children are not encouraged to follow their hunches they grow up not trusting their instincts. My bedtime story was ‘Mommy has a poisonous bubble and needs liquid gold and holy water in her stomach.’ One night Gabriel said he could tell the bubble was getting smaller and it was.” 

Meanwhile, another lesson Jenny learned was to accept help from friends. Co-worker Jill Whitebook rallied friends to donate $17,000, which Jenny didn’t think she needed, but discovered several incidentals are not covered by insurance. And although the company welcomed her back once recovered, in 2013 she was compelled to resign and dedicate her time and resources to create and operate ALONG COMES HOPE. “God left me here for some reason,” she decided.  

 ALONG COMES HOPE provides financial and emotional support for pediatric cancer patients. “No child should have to face cancer alone, and no family should be away from their child’s side.” The nonprofit has helped more than 223 children and their families and over 25,000 more have been exposed Jenny’s educational programs. Financial assistance for travel and accommodations have been provided if treatment is away from home. Music and art therapy programs are offered while the child is in the hospital. And Jenny conducts advocacy presentations in Washington, DC and whenever invited.

Hope the Bear, a soft, cuddly plush toy with a button in its paw to record messages by family and friends, is her most effective comforter for both children and families. It’s also popular among donors. Colors of Hope is an 80-page coloring book and journal allowing the child time for whimsy and creativity that inspires their journey to recovery and becomes a keepsake. Personal gifting and company advertising is available.

Jenny’s major funding has been her personal savings, however, now she is expanding her network to reach more donors to join her cause, including NASCAR drivers Joe Nemechek and his son John Hunter Nemechek. The website and social media sources like Facebook have details and updates about opportunities and purchasing HOPE merchandise.  

“God drops angels into my path every day,” says Jenny. “Just when you think it’s no longer possible…ALONG COMES HOPE.”  








The Ultimate Tan Not Your BFF…

Published in Inspired Health Magazine Volume 2…(


Dr. Charles Fishman checks Tamara Ferdon for Skin Cancer.


In the 45 years Dr. Charles B. Fishman has practiced dermatology, he has witnessed major improvements in treatments developed for patients with skin diseases. And although he believes people are more aware and even diligent about regular check-ups, he is not surprised by the increased incidences of Melanoma Skin Cancer.

Dr. Fishman identified the obvious culprits were sun burning at an early age, our quest for a golden tan, and the invention of the tanning booth. “The main changes I see are a lot of skin cancers — more and more diagnosed with malignant melanoma,” he said. “Five years ago it was an automatic death sentence. Now with early detection there are new drugs to block the cancer and keep it under control for months – even years, but patients are still dying from it.”

Dr. Fishman is well known among colleagues and patients for his quick wit and positive attitude. All the same he’s no-nonsense when he advises basic skin protection and regular check-ups for skin disease prevention. “As early as the late teen years, the best protection is to catch it early. Fair skinned (people) need to be checked every three to six months especially if a mole looks like it is growing. With darker skin three to five year checks unless there is history of skin cancer in

Meanwhile, Dr. Fishman is adamant we avoid exposure to ultraviolet rays all the time – even on a cloudy day. “The best sun protection is clothing. Wear a hat,” he said. And he’d most likely want it repeated. WEAR A HAT! “I’m seeing more incidence of women over 50 with thinning hair having issues with scalp melanoma.” He recalled one patient he’d seen for years while providing cosmetic botox treatments. One day she asked him to check a growth on top of her head. Luckily the huge melanoma was caught in time and treatments have extended her

Applying sun screen should be part of our daily routine. Dr. Fishman advises that the longer we plan to be out in the sun the higher the SPF rating should be. “When sun screen trials are done they lather them on thick,” he explained. “Since we don’t, make sure you have 30-SPF to 50-SPF if only running out for errands. If you’re hiking or on the golf course all day, use 85-SPF to 100-plus-SPF.” He suggests women apply sun screen before their make-

Dr. Fishman admitted San Luis Obispo has a doctor shortage, but advised, “If a mole is growing or something doesn’t look right call and tell the receptionist. I hope any office would fit you in. I know our office

If new to the area or need to establish with an office, but the wait seems too long? Dr. Fishman suggests scheduling with a licensed physician assistant. “Today they are well trained and often have many years of experience.  For example, “Gary (Westbrock) has been with me for eleven years. He’s very good.”

Forty-two years ago, Dr. Fishman opened his private practice in San Luis Obispo. He is the owner of Skin Enhancement Center of SLO, which offers a full spectrum of services for the skin, including mole checks, treatment of rashes, skin cancer surgery, treatment of veins of the legs and  face, VBeam laser for broken blood vessels, facial fillers, and Botox/

With multiple certificates and industry recognitions, Dr. Fishman remains active in numerous dermatology educational societies. He founded the California Central Coast Dermatological Society in 1976 and continues as its president.

An 1968 graduate from Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Fishman interned at Wadsworth-VA-UCLA in 1968-70. Originally, he thought he wanted to go into Internal Medicine but once he discovered Dermatology he knew it was his preferred specialty. He liked that he could examine, diagnose, treat, even perform surgery, and the reporting was clear-cut as he continued to monitor his patients. After two years as a doctor in the U.S. Army, he completed his residency training in Dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver in 1975.

Dr. Fishman strives to be a good example for his patients maintaining an active lifestyle to stay healthy. He intends to keep working. At this stage in his life, he plays more golf than tennis. If he plays all eighteen holes, you can be sure he’s applying 100+SPF several times.




























Morro Bay Has Best Dog Friendly Dog Park at Del Mar Park


Meet CJ and Sasha basking on the front porch in Morro Bay waiting to go to the Dog Park. Sasha is our “day dog” belonging to our daughter Jody & son-in-law Mike.

Welcome to my world today. Today’s blog comes from my Then & Now column published in area print products and online by in February 2018. Raising CJ, our 7 month old LabraDane, we have rediscovered Cayucos’ Dog-friendly beach, enjoyed puppy socialization and CHARM school at Woods Human Society, but by far CJ is happiest when at Morro Bay’s park park playing with they guys and gals — canine and human.

This submission was a personal flashback to a story I wrote in 2006 soon after Neil Farrell, Managing Editor for THE BAY NEWS, jumpstarted my Central Coast writing career. I was invited to cover a neighborhood meeting of a group of dog-lovers trying to establish an enclosed, permanent dog park. Just recently our family experienced the fruits of their 10-year quest, The Jody Giannini Family Dog Park, which opened in January, 2010. A well-earned high-five goes to the neighbors, who created the nonprofit, Morro Bay Pups. Many thanks for developing and maintaining an amazing facility at Del Mar Park in Morro Bay.

My husband, Bob, and I now have relief from puppy-zoomies, those harrowing minutes of running in circles and bouncing off furniture. Our LabraDane rescue puppy, CJ, is six months old and 55-pounds. He loved Woods Humane Society’s Saturday puppy socialization classes and romping at the beach with his classmate, Luna, until her parents had to go back to work after the holidays. He’d take us on wonderful walks downtown and along the Embarcadero, but come home crazed. He needed fast-break running, tackling, and slobbery dog-play with dog-friends. And yes, we’re signed up for Woods CHARM School – the acronym for basic training.


An excerpt from that BAY NEWS article follows: “Since the Morro Bay City Council approved a permanent off-leash dog facility at Del Mar Park, members of Morro Bay Pups have worked non-stop to prove to each council member their vote, indeed, has widespread community support…to proceed to the next step in the development process for a future Del Mar Dog Park…As of Sunday, April 2 more than 800 signatures have been gathered in support of the Dog Park…As reported by member Gina Gaughn, appropriate paperwork will soon be filed to establish non-profit status in the name of Morro Bay Pups so the group can begin to raise the necessary funds to prove to city leadership that development and maintenance of the Dog Park would not be a financial burden to the city…In an effort to be good neighbors Morro Bay Pups notified and invited all the adjacent neighbors, particularly on Island Street, to an exploratory meeting hosted by Anita and Sam Ayoob to discuss and resolve issues impacting their neighborhoods…Karen Robert said, “We’ve had a dog park for six years at Del Mar Park allowing dog owners to exercise their dogs off-leash at Del Mar Park.” There were 1,527 registered dogs in 2004 and the recreation department allowed by permit the use of the park. “Our dogs need a place to go and our group believes a permanent location dedicated for our dogs’ enjoyment will offset the current problems and issues neighbors usually bring up. We intend to police ourselves and dog park users, beautify the area selected, and develop and maintain the dog park with funds we’ll raise from supportive dog owners in the area wanting such a facility.”

Indeed, Morro Bay Pups endured. What the City of Morro Bay and Morro Bay Pups built together must be the envy of the county. The romping room is a dog’s paradise plus an owner’s secured meeting place while watching their furry children play. Fenced enclosures separate the smaller dogs from the larger dogs. Playtime is on the grassy mounds and level stretches. Large water bowls with hoses near for replenishment are provided along with sponsored poop-bag containers sponsored by individuals or community groups managed by Mutts for the Bay, a Morro Bay National Estuary Program. Used tennis balls from the adjacent tennis courts are often available to throw and retrieve. It’s well maintained by docents checking morning and evening if owners have left the park as clean as they found it. Nice people who love their dogs have one rule – control your dog if he/she is not playing nice and pick up messes.

Check out their website for their history, board, and how to get involved. It states that in 1995 Virginia Hanigan and Jane Von Koehe took their dogs to play together in the mornings at Del Mar Park. More joined so they called themselves “The Del Mar Doggies Social Club” (DMDSC). They found the area west of the basketball/rink area was out of the way, and most suitable for off leash dog play. Karen Robert, a member of the Morro Bay Recreation and Parks Commission, obtained a yearly permit to use this area.

When city officials questioned liability issues they withdrew the permit, but the group pressed on. In 2006, Morro Bay Pups formed as a non-profit organization. A retired attorney, Steve Eckis, joined the board and guided efforts and permitting process to establish the dog park. The City of Morro Bay donated a large area that was under-utilized at Del Mar Park. The group fund raised with garage sales and bake sales before a major capital campaign in 2008. Board member, Naida Simpson, produced a widely distributed brochure. Coast Veterinary Clinic was an honorary co-chair and Elaine Giannini and family made the significant donation to earn naming rights in honor of Elaine’s brother, Jody. Other major donors were: Nancy Mellen, Jack E. Robinson, Morro Bay Beautiful, Virginia Hanigan and Bob Ransom, Duane and Seta Stephens, Carla Borchard, Jean Code, Sally & Bob Young and Cynthia Chavez.


Gary Kramer: Living Large Yesterday & Today

An Article Published in Living Lavishly Magazine, February 2018 –

The Kramers Discover California’s Central Coast Wine Country

Overlooking valleys of vineyards and olive groves The Gables at the Rockin’ K majestically rests — pondering the bountiful agricultural regions of Paso Robles and San Miguel in San Luis Obispo County. In 2009 Gary and Laura Kramer traded a hectic lifestyle in Southern California for new beginnings—repurposing their priorities in the heart of California’s Central Coast Wine Country.


They would spend a year living onsite in a motorhome remodeling their 5,500 sq.ft. homestead primed with “good bones” waiting for for a loving touch. One of Gary’s first projects was intended as decorative landscaping.

Leading up to a welcoming circular drive and southern-style veranda porch complete with Amish-styled rocking chairs, he planted Syrah grape vines in the shape of a heart for Laura, his wife, sweetheart and business partner. He would later admit he stumbled into selecting the perfect acreage with optimum sunlight to ultimately produce exquisite Syrah wine that would become the first vintage and catalyst for establishing the Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars Tasting Room and Guitar Museum at 825 Riverside Avenue in Paso Robles.


But in the Beginning….

First one needs to understand the Gary Kramer backstory—the twists and turns of his amazing entrepreneurial career. In the 1970s he was making good money selling cars when he recognized the company’s lead mechanic had engineered an all-aluminum guitar neck that could be revolutionary in the rock ‘n roll music industry. Kramer bankrolled a start-up guitar manufacturing company, Travis Bean Guitars. Groups like the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead ordered instantly, but production could not keep up. One frustrated dealer awaiting shipment was Bernie Gracin, owner of New York City’s Gracin’s & Towne Music. Ultimately, Kramer would leave the Bean company and collaborate with Gracin to develop a new guitar and partnership. It too struggled at first. Then a break-through — an endorsement from Eddie Van Halen launched Kramer Guitars popularity internationally.


Before Kramer Guitar’s popularity, Kramer was already seeking his next career. He moved to Marina del Rey in 1977 and got his real estate license just in time to cash in on the Southern California housing boom.

“The real estate lifestyle found me smoking too many cigarettes, drinking too many cups of coffee, and doing other things that you shouldn’t do. I just got burned out.”

Kramer walked away from the business that made him rich. He spent two months reconnecting with himself in Italy, his birthplace, and visiting with his mother in Naples. When he returned, “I had no game plan for what I wanted to do next. I had money and time, but I had no game plan.”

It wasn’t long before he discovered his next big idea: Marina Packing, which ships oversees large items like furniture and fine art. Today the company generates more than $3.5 million annually.

“Not bad for a guy whose friends said I was nuts for going into the packing and shipping business!” Kramer said.

As both companies expanded in the 1980s, mismanagement sent the guitar company into bankruptcy. It would sell to Gibson and Kramer’s royalties stopped.

But he stayed in touch with friends in the industry by attending Kramer Conventions where Kramer guitar enthusiasts would gather once a year and share music, stories, and guitars. “As I walked around looking at all the old Kramer guitars, I realized that there hadn’t been any real change in guitars in 30 years. And I thought everything else changes so why not guitars?”

Itching to create another guitar company, he met an over-the-top Kramer Guitar fan, Leo Scala, a Russian immigrant and “…the most creative luther — that’s one who repairs string instruments — I have ever met.” They partnered to manufacture Scala’s ergonomically correct and futuristic-looking Delta Wing guitar and called the company Gary Kramer Guitars. But after four years, Kramer was done and ready to live a new life in San Luis Obispo County. He sold the company to Scala in 2009 for a mere dollar.

“I had achieved everything I envisioned in the world of guitar building and decided to retire.”

The Road to Living Lavishly in San Miguel 

What Gary and Laura Kramer have created on their hilltop oasis in San Miguel is dazzling—and like his serendipitous career path, it comes with its own metamorphic story. Once committed to leaving the hustle of SoCal they found their dream property in San Miguel. For a year, they lived in a motor home they purchased to travel the USA while remodeling their dream home. At the same time they have ultimately planted more than 4,000 decorative, fruit and olive trees and untold acres of vines producing Syrah, Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Laura’s latest tasting room favorite, Alicante Bouschet.

Then the property adjacent to them was placed on the market. Protective of their privacy and view-shed, they purchased it and decided to convert the original home-site to an in-demand vacation rental, The Gables at the Rockin’ K ( The rental sleeps 10 with 5 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, offers an infinity pool and outdoor barbecue area, gourmand’s kitchen, and party-hearty game room with a pool table, wet-bar and it is all accented with classic Kramer guitars. An attached “bunkhouse“ overlooking the pool offers more living space for guests.


Kramer Gives Up Some Toys for Laura’s Next Big Idea. 

Gary has always loved to collect unique vehicles. His favorites were housed in a Paso Robles warehouse until the garage in San Miguel offered space that vacationers didn’t need. He downsized to five: his favorite Bentley, his prized ‘69 Camaro with leather interior, his 606HP Corvette Calloway with twin turbos, his 1915 Ford Hack, and his all-terrain customized Bronco-mobile, the one he uses most to check the readiness of vines and brix and Castelvetrano Olives.


It was Laura’s turn for a big idea. With a leased up empty warehouse in Paso Robles, she knew there was a marketplace need for a commercial kitchen that Farmer’s market vendors and cottage industry foodies would love to use. The space was converted to industry standards and instantly booked up 24/7.


Meanwhile, the original Syrah vines produced 75 cases of full-body grapes. With sage advice, the couple tested their luck at winemaking, which was an instant hit. Additionally, Gary Kramer Guitars’ success had created a need to display three evolutions of an iconic guitar produced featuring Gary Kramer’s name and financial backing.

In 2016 they converted the commercial kitchen space into Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars. Laura manages the tasting room sales and food offerings. She’s also been known to sell a Gary Kramer collectible guitar. Someday they plan to schedule wine club pick-up parties at the Gables at Rockin’ K and invite musicians they’ve met over the years to come jam for a weekend. What a bonus that will be for their new wine club friends.


Indeed, Gary and Laura Kramer have found their sweet-spot – loving what they do each day while snuggling into another lifetime.  When asked how did you and Laura meet? With a faraway gaze and a smile, Gary will answer, “She found me.”


Thus, the story continues…



Morro Bay’s John Weiss Governs California’s Rotary District 5240

Early in June 40,000 Rotarians converged on Atlanta, Georgia for the annual Rotary International (RI) Convention to celebrate and introduce the new leadership for RI zones, regions and districts worldwide. Onsite and digital networking introduced over 1.2 million members to current hot topics: world peace, the scourge of human trafficking, and a celebration noting polio impending eradication.

Encompassing China Lake to Westlake to Cambria, District 5240 has 74 clubs with 3,285 members. Approximately 170 members explored the Atlanta Zoo welcoming its newest District Governor (DG), Morro Bay’s John Weiss. San Luis Obispo County Rotary Clubs have produced at least seven DGs: Brenda Cressey, Paso Robles (2001-02), Frank Ortiz, Santa Maria (2012-13), Loretta Butts, Atascadero (2014-15) and from Morro Bay: Mac Little (1978-79), Walt Milburn (1983-84), who proudly promoted voting to bring women into Rotary his year, and Chungsam Doh (1998-99), a transferred member to Morro Bay from Bakersfield by way of South Korea.

Professionally, Weiss has owned and operated Coast Electronics, a consumer electronics retailer focused on customer service in Morro Bay for 39 years expanding recently to San Luis Obispo and Buellton. “I joined Morro Bay Rotary in 2001, which led me to serve on the Chamber of Commerce board in 2003.” Weiss was Chamber board president 2006-7-8 and 2011. “When you give back to your community your business, family and community will benefit.”

A three-year training program prepares DG’s to provide leadership, motivation, and guidance to Rotary clubs under the general supervision of the RI Board of Directors, but first they’re trained to serve as club presidents before consideration to serve at the district level. Weiss was club president in Morro Bay 2009-10. A few highlights of his year were creating the ongoing Public Heroes program recognizing non-Rotarians serving Morro Bay, reinvigorating a golf tournament to include high school golfers, establishing Eco Rotary Clubs in Morro Bay and Pismo, and chartering a college Rotaract and a high school Interact club. His focus on youth and membership services was noticed by District Governor Deepa Wellingham, who invited him to serve on her team in 2010-11.

Based on a record of service, a district governor candidate must be invited. Campaigning will disqualify a nominee. After serving at the club level, then four years at the district level, Weiss was nominated by Morro Bay Rotarian Jeff Jones. He was interviewed by a panel of twelve, RI’s parliamentarian and two past DGs. Once selected training intensified. Weiss explained 535 global DG nominees convened at an International Assembly in San Diego. “It was five days nine to five and they take roll daily.” He has also participated in district training sessions for the 74 club president nominees for the past two years. His team plans the training meetings for 2017-18.

By the end of his DG year he will have presented at all 74 district clubs, chaired an October celebratory District Conference and inaugurated an Interact Conference as well as attend numerous club socials and fund raising events logging untold miles and time away from business and home. “Most DGs have completed their club visits by November,” said Weiss. “With an active business I’m a working district governor so I’m scheduling them out through the year. Luckily I have a scheduler, Deb Linden, to get me where I need to be, who I’ll see and what to wear.”

The good news is a DG selects a staff of 50 to help plan, executive and support district activities. Weiss’ SLO team members include Deb Linden, Michael Boyer, Connie Henley, Jeanne Potter, Mike Pond, and Melinda Thomas. “Assessing the president nominees, it was huge that 75% wanted to focus our year on Youth Services, which has been my passion for two years.” The better news is “My staff is amazing.” Their goals include networking millennials and baby-boomers to refine ideas and future action plans.

The best news is the support Weiss has from his wife Christine McDonald Weiss, “You need the support of your partner before going down this road. Christine has been at my side during all the training while running her successful realty company. She’s picked up so much, which is a testament to Rotary’s training for leaders and their partners.”

Now ready to serve, Weiss advocates, “The business of Rotary is to bring smiles in our community – our world — and that’s all the payment we need.”


Celebrating Love Connection in Cayucos

In 1997 Doug and Diane Pankey were first time visitors to the annual 4th of July celebration in Cayucos. She had no idea Doug had planned something she would remember for a lifetime. They had only been a couple for six months, but their January first date proved they had much in common. And while busy in their San Joaquin Valley careers – she a polymer chemist and he a flooring contractor — Doug knew he was thinking marriage to Diane.

He shared their story and his upcoming plans for a return visit to Cayucos 20 years later. “I found myself falling in love with Diane but I wasn’t sure if she felt the same until Diane’s sister Brenda and best friend Lori spilled the beans that Diane was also in love. To be truthful,” he admitted, “the idea of marriage scared me in the past but felt natural after meeting Diane.”

Once he figured out how he might afford to buy her engagement ring by selling his “prized” jet ski and working extra jobs, he puzzled about how he might pop the question. Diane had graduated from Cal Poly and they regularly visited her parents, Jerome and Marilyn Dowling, who lived in Paso Robles. “They often talked about the great fireworks show in Cayucos. It seemed logical to me that July 4th should be the day I pop the question, but how?” he wondered. “Finally, I came up with the idea of declaring my love for Diane to everyone at the fireworks show that would include her sister, parents and a few close friends by integrating the question into the fireworks show.”

Doug contacted the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce and run my idea past them. “They loved the idea and referred me to Mark Sylvara of Pyro Spectacular. Mark and I came up with the plan to create multiple six-feet tall letters on the end of the pier so that when ignited, it would be visible to all attendees of the show. The letters were created to ignite one at a time and continue to burn until all letters were burning at once revealing my proposal – “Marry Me Diane.”

He admits to being nervous not because he was worried about her answer to his marriage proposal, but because he wanted the entire plan to go perfectly without Diane being tipped off. His only confidante except the entire Cayucos Chamber of Commerce board and the staff of Pyro Spectacular was Diane’s sister, Brenda. He described his biggest challenge, “Just before they were ready to ignite the sign, a guy decided to stand directly in front of Diane. I asked him to move so Diane could see the display. At first, he was reluctant to move but I remember ‘persuading him’ in short order. At the time, Diane was kneeling on the beach and wasn’t really paying attention to the fireworks. Finally, I picked her up and said, ‘Look at that!’ pointing to the pier. As the letters ignited, it started to sink in.”

“Everyone on the beach was going crazy and cheering as the question was revealed,” he recalled. “I also remember the look in Diane’s face as she turned around to look at me to see if the display was for her. I was down and one knee with the ring and said ‘Well……will you?’ And SHE SAID ‘YES!’”

Today the couple lives in Ripon, CA. Diane has been a Real Estate Appraiser since 1998 and Doug has “had many job changes all in the real estate field…currently Realtor and Real Estate Investor.” They have two children, Daniel, 16, a “computer whiz who is on the Ripon High golf team and already has a few colleges lined up” and Kayla, their busy 7th grader who “cheers for the Ripon Chiefs, plays soccer, softball and has multiple hobbies.”


The family returned to celebrate during the 2017 Cayucos 4th Independence Day festivities with both their parents and siblings. Doug contacted Bill Shea, currently serving on the Cayucos California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and discovered Mark Sylvara and Pyro Spectacular is still providing the fireworks off the Cayucos pier. “It will be 20 years ago this July 4th when I asked the love of my life, Diane Dowling, to marry me at the Grand Finale of the Cayucos show in 1997,” said Doug. “Twenty years and two kids later, I have not been back to Cayucos beach, but thought it would be pretty cool to re-celebrate that moment 20 years later.”

The community agreed as thousands and thousands meet in the California Beach town on the Pacific Highway 1 coastline to make their family memories during the Cayucos 4th Celebration. For 2018 details check out the Cayucos Lions Club, Cayucos Lioness Club, http://www.cayucos, and the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce



Tribute: Arley Robinson, Cayucos, CA

Cayucos lost a crusader and best friend April 27. After a brief illness Arley Robinson peacefully said goodbye at his Cayucos home to friends and attending family members, including daughters Lorraine Mackewich, Charlene Underbrink and grandson Jeremiah Hobbs.

Like clockwork dressed in his signature black capped ensemble, Arley made his community rounds collaborating on untold projects to benefit and beautify Cayucos. Friends and associates appreciated his get-it-done spirit, work ethic, fiscally responsible management, and entrepreneurial vision. Locals knew if you wanted to get something done in Cayucos, Arley Robinson was the go-to guy to join the team.

San Luis Obispo Supervisor Bruce Gibson said, “Arley was a wonderful friend and a quiet, constant presence in the community life of Cayucos. He spoke softly and was always willing to help support people, ideas and projects. That spirit has a lot to do with the strong sense of community evident in Cayucos today.” Gibson lauded Arley for his longtime efforts representing the Cayucos Lions Club managing the Veteran’s Hall operations and scheduling – successfully while turning a profit.


Thanks to Tom Jasper, Cayucos Senior Club and Cayucos Lions, for photo of Arley Robinson on the Cayucos, CA pier.

Arley was born in Mountainair, New Mexico in 1936. “While growing up on a small farm,” he said, “people pampered anything green.” Once he saw the beautiful green hills surrounding his new retirement community, he wanted to get involved in its preservation. In 1999 he too was inspired by Roger Lyon. He helped charter the Cayucos Land Conservancy, which has preserved lands from the Cayucos to Piedras Blancas. For 20 years he served as CLC’s Director of Finance and recently was designated Director Emeritus, the only member ever to receive such a distinction.

Used to working hard while owning restaurants in New Mexico, Bakersfield and Kingsburg, he remarked, “Whenever we find something we have a passion for, we’re never tired.”

The Cayucos Seniors Club might have been his foremost community passion. “My wife Edith signed me up. She knew I always needed something to stay busy.” He’d just completed a successful fund raising campaign working with Allyn and Lee Arnold on the Cayucos Pier Plaza & Dale Evers Sculpture so he volunteered to help the “ladies” with the annual rummage sale to help pay off the mortgage on the group’s Ocean Avenue properties. Arley realized an opportunity to fulfill a community need for a retail thrift store that would generate revenue for senior services all year long and provide opportunities for retired Seniors to utilize their talents.

Since 1990 Arley has served as President or VP for the group, including designee to serve on the replacement committees for the playground equipment at the park and beach and the Cayucos Pier Reconstruction Committee. While the club’s representative on the Commission on Aging, he said, “We’d tour numerous senior centers throughout the county and I was always proud our center was operated entirely by volunteers, members took care of business and watched out for each other. Active minds and bodies had purpose — contributing to their community and the quality of their own lives.”

Soon after he moved to Cayucos he was elected to serve on the Cayucos Citizens Advisory Council. Current chairman John Carsel said, “Arley was our institutional knowledge.  If there was an issue that involved Cayucos, Arley had background and inside information about it. His wisdom, polished manners and respect for others set a standard for all members of the CCAC to emulate.  He is so sorely missed already.”

Gregg and Mary Bettencourt told how Arley understood kids needed positive outlets to release their energies so fought a prolonged struggle to develop then keep the Skate Park next to the Veterans Hall. Always a patron of the arts, he was helpful establishing the Cayucos Art Gallery and regular community art classes inside the Vets Hall offered by his friend Al Musso. The sea-life mural on the pier’s public bathrooms, a permanent home for the Lost at Sea Memorial, clustering the Sea Glass Festival in and around the Veteran’s Hall and becoming a Charter Member of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum were more of his projects. He was honored as one of the Cayucos Education Foundation’s Men of the Year and loved planning his Grand Marshal “ride” in the 2014 Lion’s Club Independence Day parade.

Arley recognized hidden talents in people and gave them the chance to bloom just like the flowers he loved to grow. He recognized my mom, Pat McKaye, was primed with skills to manage the volunteer staffing to help him run the Cayucos Senior Center. From age 81 until she passed away at 92 he encouraged her passion, which gave her purpose, friends and the respect of a community called Cayucos. I’ll love and miss Arley forever for being her best friend in her later years. As will his friends in Cayucos, CA.

“At the Hop” Songwriter & Performer John Madara Living Large in Cambria, CA

A life well lived and still going strong at 80, Cambrian John Madara continues to build his legacy. “At the Hop” not only earned him a gold record, but is the title of the movie he plans to produce about Philly’s musical heyday. Why not? He lived the dream before he conquered La La Land.


“I grew up in the projects. Billy Jackson (future Columbia Record producer) was my best buddy,” he said. “We were ‘po’ not poor. I’d walk to the store and offer to carry groceries home for folks for tips. Seventy-five cents would buy ingredients for Grandma’s pasta Faggioli.” His Italian parents stressed a strong work ethic using one’s best talents. “My voice was my best instrument.”

The first-born of six, Madara had three jobs by age 17 – messenger for the Philadelphia Inquirer, gas station attendant and at a record shop. “My friends were my neighbors. I never knew color. Everybody’s colored. I marched with them in DC and Mississippi in the fifties and met Martin Luther King and John Lewis.” He’ll meet up with Lewis again this May in Philadelphia.

“I never planned a career in music,” he admitted, but when his first record “Be My Girl” reached national charts, his path showed potential. Madara’s R&B and Gospel roots struck “gold” in 1957. “That same year I co-wrote “Be The Bop” with Dave White. American Bandstand with Dick Clark had just gone national. He suggested bop was out and “At the Hop” was a better title.” Clark was right. Performed by Madara’s group Danny and the Juniors, the song went “gold” and was #1 for 7 weeks. A classic today, it was the first record to achieve that level of success. “I bought a record shop and met distributors picking up records. When I added a piano, the kids would play and ask about the gold record on the wall.” For many of those kids he would launch their careers – including Carl & the Commanders (“I Need Your Love”) and Maureen Gray (“Today’s the Day”). Madara co-wrote and/or produced mega hits like “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” for Danny and the Juniors, “The Fly” for Chubby Checker, “1-2-3” for Len Barry and “You Don’t Own Me” for Leslie Gore.  (

Madara also discovered future talents. Leon Huff was performing with The Lavenders in a nightclub. Huff later teamed with Kenny Gamble to become one of the most prolific songwriting teams in Rock ‘n Roll history. Madara and White co-produced many of their songs, including “Western Union Man.” The Spokesmen formed by Madara released the controversial answer song to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” titled “The Dawn of Correction” – both featured in Time Magazine.  

Madara’s publishing company created in 1965 signed talents like Hall & Oates until he sold it to Michael Jackson in 1984. “Everything you learn you keep up here,” Madara said pointing to his brain.” He anticipated technology would change the sound of music – provide options never heard before. He’s been called an industry futurist. Certainly, his 60-year tenure is testimony Madara’s musical offerings are contemporary – “speaking clearly of given eras, but have equal impact on all eras.”

When Hollywood was where the record industry was growing, he moved his company west. Instantly, he launched into movies producing the soundtrack for “Cinderella Liberty” and accomplished prolific projects in television including music supervisor for the “Sid and Marty Kroft Comedy Hour.” With Quincy Jones, he arranged “You Don’t Own Me.” Still a classic, the song has sold over 400 million records internationally, been used in television shows, commercials, covered by multiple recording artists and was the theme of the movie “First Wives Club.”

Madara worked with greats like Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, John Williams, and the Beatles. While dating Joey Heatherton he toured as Bob Hope entertained the troops. His songs and productions have appeared on some of the biggest grossing soundtracks of all time, including “Hairspray,” and “Dirty Dancing.” More than 60 television shows have featured his songs, including “Donny and Marie,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Sonny and Cher,” and most of Dick Clark’s productions.

“At the Hop” was voted into the top 100 songs of the century by the Recording Industry Association of America and in 2013 Madara was inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

Madara’s youngest of three sons, San Francisco-based photographer Jason Madara suggested he and Christy relocate to Cambria fourteen years ago. He practices and touts healthy living for keeping him young.

Besides producing his movie “At the Hop” what else is on John Madara’s bucket list? “I’ve never done a CD of my own voice,” he said. “I have six new songs. If Tony Bennett can do it at 90, I can do it at 80.”