A Doug's Life: The Adventure Begins

Hello, Menifee. It's nice to meet you.

Actually, we've met before. My daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren moved out here a little more than a year ago. I figured that if I ever wanted to see them again, maybe I should drive out here for a visit. So I've done that several times in the last 15 months.

I always made it back home alive, so I decided Menifee really wasn't the wild frontier or the end of the earth. Honestly, I kind of liked it. It's different from my old stomping grounds -- in a good way.

We all grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. You know, that place just east of Los Angeles where you can see (and chew on) the air. The place where a three-bedroom house in a run-down neighborhood will cost you somewhere around $700,000. It wouldn't impress you out here, but they do have wide-open spaces in the SGV. They're called parking lots at 2 a.m.

Anyway, I grew up in a little town called Temple City, in the shadows of Pasadena (you know, the Rose Parade and all that). I got married, raised two children there, got divorced, got remarried, inherited three stepchildren, and was pretty darn satisfied with life.

For nearly 30 years, I worked as a sports writer and sports editor for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, including the Pasadena Star-News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune. You talk about horrible working conditions. They paid me to watch Dodgers games, make road trips with the USC football team to Notre Dame, cover the Super Bowl, interview Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammates... Sheesh. I don't know how I did it, but somehow I survived.

For a couple seasons, I sat next to the beat writer from the Riverside Press-Enterprise in the Dodger Stadium press box. I used to marvel at the fact that every night after the game, he made the drive all the way back to Riverside -- only to turn around and make the same drive again the next day.

Why? I asked. "It's nice out there," he said.

OK, so I knew there was a rustic appeal to certain parts of the Inland Empire. I just wasn't sure I'd ever want to live there. Maybe I was just too settled in my comfort zone out there in suburban L.A. But gradually, I began to yearn for a change of scenery and some wide-open spaces other than the parking lot at Santa Anita Racetrack. I also began to realize that I had a little bit of the adventurer in me.

My explorations really began when I got interested in American history and in researching the family surname. I discovered that there are actually thousands of people in the U.S. with the last name Spoon. So there. In fact, if you go back far enough, you can trace the family line to Germany, where the surname was Loffel (German for spoon).

My research took me back to rural North Carolina, where my ancestors lived in the 1700s. I was fascinated. I could drive forever on winding country roads, passing a farm house every quarter-mile or so, with green farmland in between. There were small, very old cemeteries behind every church -- many filled with giant headstones bearing the name Spoon. I walked creek beds looking for the ruins of ancestral homes, crawled through underbrush to find the crumbling remains of a long-deceased cousin's house, and hiked the grounds of another cousin's 300-acre farm, first established in the early 1800s.

All around me, there was history. I was in heaven. My wife, Kristen, kinda felt like she was in the other place, but she put up with me.

She and the kids even put up with me when I would drag them to remote locations throughout California, exploring ghost towns and listening to cowboy stories. Apparently, the city boy was changing as he got older.

Eventually, I left the newspaper business, maintaining my love for journalism by teaching news reporting at my alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona. Eight years later, I'm still there. But my 15-minute commute turned into 50 minutes because the appeal of Menifee finally got to me.

Every time we would visit the kids out here, the drive seemed a little easier. Not only that, I began to fall in love with the unique combination of vibrant, attractive modern communities and historic charm. Menifee is a place you can live in comfort, experience economic growth, raise your family in safe surroundings and still walk just down the road to pet a horse.

Yeah, I decided, Menifee was for me.

Two weeks ago, we found a lovely home here, packed up our belongings and headed east. Now we have two daughters, a son-in-law and three grandchildren living out here, plus some close friends who had already relocated here. So far, we love it here -- but we have a lot yet to discover.

That's where you come in. As you read about my experiences as a newcomer to Menifee, tell me what you think. I love reader comments. Am I judging your community fairly? What am I missing? Where are the good "cowboy" hangouts? What's a good day trip for the grandkids? What do you like about Menifee?

I'll be posting columns regularly and hope to hear from you. If you run into me around town, please say hello. I won't bite. I'm just a semi-retired city slicker, trying to settle into a new home on the range.

Growing Gains, Not Growing Pains

Because content is still king, we've expanded Menifee 24/7 by creating our new column section.

Doug Spoon, a long time sports writer and editor for San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and who currently teaches journalism at Cal Poly Pomona, recently moved to Menifee and will be featured here with his view on life as a new resident under a new column called "A Doug's Life".

With nearly 80,000 residents, its about time Menifee has its own columnist who can offer a unique look at life in the city that we think will one-day become the economic capital of Southwest Riverside County. And Spoon, who spent 26 years covering Los Angeles sports teams, seems to have the talent to make it happen.

I'll plan to chime in with my column from time to time talking about how Menifee 24/7 is growing and what influence we're making into the community.

And with that said, we're happy to announce that we've hired some new writers and sales people. That brings our staff up to ten people. It's feels good to know that we've created some jobs in this city.

We also hope to use this new section to feature opinions from guest writers, perhaps elected officials or other community leaders.

Thanks for following,