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.


  1. Welcome! We moved here from Orange County over 20 years ago. My husband and I both grew up there, but have no desire to move back. I actually feel claustrophobic when I drive around in OC. Enjoy!

  2. Welcome...It is peaceful here and clean and good place you will enjoy it...I use to live in OC also about 15 yrs ago I won't go back...:) Have good time here..

  3. Hello Mr. Spoon
    I moved here 2 years ago from Temecula. I still love it there but Menifee has been good to me. How exciting to have a enthusiastic new member of our community. I am a HUGE animal person and work to reunite list animals with their owners or regime homeless animals. I am on facebook as 'Trejo Otis' trejo is my dogs name. I use thi site to network and fellowship with other animal lovers. From there you can find links to many great Menifeeians :)

    Sharon Otis

  4. We moved here nine years ago from San Diego and we love it here. Lots to do, (yeah I know we don't have a movie theater), but did you know about the radio controlled plane airport run by the Menifee Flyers, great place to take the family and see these people run their flying machines on a weekend. It is out on a hill opposite the Heritage Lake community. Just one of the little gems of this area.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Sharon, I'm a big animal guy myself. We have a red golden retriever who's my best buddy and two cats (who are not, but we have them anyway, LOL). I will look you up on Facebook and start connecting with the animal lovers.

    Thanks also to the other writer about the Menifee Flyers. I will check that out.

  6. Hi Im living in Co.and Im ready to move back to Cali.Im hoping that Menifee would be an excellent place to raise two young boys any comments/suggestions would gladly be appreciated.Thank You Beckie