Rachelle Parker

Board Operator

Rachelle received her first radio at the age of ten and slept with it under her pillow for many years. As a teenager, she dreamed of being a disc jockey. In the early nineties, she began engineering the evening news broadcast at KALX in Berkeley and eventually became producer and co-anchor for the Tuesday evening news broadcast. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1999 with a degree in Sociology. She is a winner of the Judith Stronach Prize for prose and contributed a story to The New City magazine in 1999 under the tutelage of Clay Felker. In 2001 Rachelle began volunteering at KPFA and was briefly employed there as a volunteer coordinator. After moving to Butte County in 2003, Rachelle hosted her own comedy radio program for the low-power FM station, KRBS. In 2010, Rachelle was asked to cover health stories from South Butte County for KQED as one of their bloggers for Health Dialogues. She continued writing the blog until she was hired at North State Public Radio in 2011. During her time at NSPR, Rachelle has worked both on the air as host of some of her favorite NPR programs including Car Talk and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me and as an engineer/editor for Nancy's Bookshelf

Albert Lam

This week we head up the road to revisit Joshua Tree, about an hour north of Coachella Valley and party-central Palm Springs. Temperatures are 100-plus most of the summer, so this isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal summer retreat, though on the plus side: in summer, you can grab a prime camp spot even on weekends without a reservation. In winter it’s crazy-popular (meaning, congested), so spring and fall can be the best for Joshua Tree.

Jim Dollar

We visit Death Valley this week, the lowest point in North America. Death Valley’s depths are all the more impressive when you consider that the highest point in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney, is just 100 miles away, in the southern Sierra Nevada near Lone Pine.


To stargazers, Death Valley is the closest thing to heaven in light-blinded Southern California. To rockhounds, it’s a timeless monument to very grounded geologic grandeur. To botanists and bird-watchers, it’s a study in successful adaptation. Its vast spaces sprinkled with petroglyphs, ghost towns, mine ruins, and other enduring marks of human aspiration, to hikers and history buffs it’s one endless discovery trail. 

Sharon Mollerus

We visit Mission San Juan Capistrano this week, the seventh California mission, first claimed by Spain in 1775 but officially founded in November of 1776. It’s still a bit hard to believe that a schmaltzy 1939 song by Leon René, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano—recorded by everyone from Gene Autry and Glenn Miller to the Ink Spots and Pat Boone—is responsible for the excited flutter here in spring. Every year on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day, tourists flock to town to welcome cliff swallows as they arrive from their annual 6,000-mile migration from Goya, Argentina.

Ken Lund

We head up the road this week to Mission Santa Barbara, “Queen of the Missions.” Not only did Saint Barbara lend her name to the city, her namesake mission generously shared what we now recognize as Santa Barbara style. This was the social capital of Alta California, even when Monterey was its political capital. But the presidio came first, in 1782, and the mission, California’s tenth, was built four years later.


This week we stop off in once-sleepy San Miguel, a spot in the road just north of Paso Robles, not quite so sleepy now that Central Coast wineries have attracted fame, fortunes, and the fortunate.


Centerpiece of the tiny town is Mission San Miguel Arcàngel, 16th of California’s 21 missions, originally built in 1797 and still an active parish church. The mission has been brought low before, by fire or earthquakes and their aftermath—and early on, first in 1806. The rebuilt church, with tiled, not thatched roofs this time, rising again in 1821. As an agricultural enterprise Mission San Miguel was immensely successful, like others in the area. Its holdings extended 18 miles to the south, 18 miles to the north, 66 miles to the east, into and across the great Central Valley, and 35 miles west, to the Pacific Ocean.

Anita Ritenour

The largest mission complex in the state, now situated on 1,000 unspoiled acres just east of Lompoc, Misión de la Concepción Purísima de María Santísima (“Mission of the Immaculate Conception of Most Holy Mary”) once covered some 470 square miles. La Purísima was the 11th in California’s chain of coastal missions when it was built in what is now downtown Lompoc in 1787. Almost all of the original Mission La Purísima was destroyed just before Christmas Day in 1812 by a devastating earthquake and deluge. Another traumatic year was 1824, when rebellious Chumash, angry at their exploitation by soldiers, captured the mission and held it for a month. Ten years later, the mission was essentially abandoned, after secularization.

Ed Bierman




We head up the road this week to another Spanish-era mission—Mission San Juan Bautista, or St. John the Baptist, California’s 15th mission. One of the most intriguing stories about San Juan Bautista is almost invisible. Tucked away in the mission museum are a couple of original choir books from Father Pedro Estevan Tapis, which demonstrate the Spanish technique of using colors or textures to teach polyphonic music. And teach it he did. The fame of the padre’s boys choir in the early 1800s earned San Juan Bautista the nickname “Mission of Music.”

Andy Cross






We head up the road this week to San Francisco, and that city’s official beginnings—its modest Spanish mission, California’s sixth, and The Presidio, its military companion. Today’s spectacular, Yankee-style military outpost is nothing like the original, a structure built of adobe and sticks that first housed a few dozen soldiers. What remains of the city’s original El Presidio is buried beneath the Main Post and inside the walls of the Presidio Officers’ Club, now a museum and cultural center.

Kenneth J. Gill




We visit the Carmel Mission this week or, more properly, Mission Basilica San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo, the second Spanish mission established in Alta California by the Franciscan Father Junípero Serra. But you could be forgiven if you came to think of the Carmel Mission as California’s first, because Monterey, where it was initially established, quickly became both the cultural and military capital of Spain’s settlements here. It was definitely “first” for Father Serra, who primarily served here, died here, and was buried here, in the chapel.



Think July 4, 1776, Independence Day for the United States, and sights and sounds crowd the imagination—the Liberty Bell, American flag, George Washington, fifes and drums, smoking muskets, and fireworks. Red, white, and blue, rat-a-tat-tat. Clear across the continent, colonial life in California—with its missions and modest military outposts—was just beginning. It would be almost 75 years before California would join the first and subsequent United States, as the 31st state in the union. But foreign exploration had been underway since at least 1543, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his men rode at anchor in San Diego Bay.