Friday, July 17, 2009

Road trip - Part IV

There were a couple of snafus during our journey, none of which were incredibly painful. The day after our Six Flags outing, we were planning to go to the Santa Barbara Zoo. We left the hotel at 9:15 am and headed out only to realize we had neither directions nor map.

I called the hotel for directions while my partner negotiated the highway signs in an attempt to get us on the correct course. We had just passed the turn off suggested by the desk clerk at the hotel so I hung up and we got off at the following exit to turn around. At the end of the exit ramp, we found ourselves on Zoo Dr. Serendipity.

Following the signs, we meandered down Zoo Dr. for little more than 5 minutes until we reached the parking lot of the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. The kids asked if we were in Santa Barbara. For a moment they were disappointed until I told them that this zoo was much bigger and had big cats, which the Santa Ba
rbara Zoo doesn't have. We parked in the shade, put sunscreen on the kids and made for the gate. We arrived 10 minutes before the zoo opened so everything worked out great.

The zoo is also a botanical garden so there were many lovely bushes and trees in bloom. I looked at a few name plaques but keeping up with the kids (fonts of information about animals of all sorts!) and reading the information on the animals we were viewing was quite enough. I do wonder about the effects of the non-native plants in the collection.

The zoo is nicely laid out. Newer displays are impressive while a few of the older habitats, particularly for the jaguar, are sadly antiquated. It's apparent that the elephant environment will be a site to behold when it's complete. When I think of zoos, I always think of The Life of Pi - great book.

Among the favorite displays of the day were the koala, kimodo dragon, chimpanzee, orangutan, giraffe, tiger and kangaroo. There were a few critters I had never heard of, including: echidna, siamang (I thought it was a howler monkey but those were in a different habitat), babirusa, takin and serow. And while I have seen many tapirs, I don't recall seeing furry ones.

The aviary was nifty but stinky. The kids moved a little too fast to see any of the birds but I managed to spot at least five amid the trees and bushes.

It was very warm so we took advantage of the misting fans around the zoo at every opportunity. There was plenty of shade and lots of benches. The crowd was fairly small when we arrived but as the day wore on, it grew though not unbearably. We didn't have to wait for viewing at most habitats and got seats at the chimpanzee habitat immediately.

On the way out, the kids wanted one more mist so they went with their father while I went into the gift shop and got a floaty pen for my collection. I got to the car in time to open the windows and turn on the air so we wouldn't turn into fruit roll ups. As soon as everyone had drinks and buckled up, we were on the road for home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Road trip - Part III

We arrived at Six Flags just about opening time. It was already warm and sunny so the kids were covered with sunblock and we headed for the tram stop. Maybe it was due to the economy, maybe it was because it was a weekday, maybe most people went to the water park, whatever it was, the lines for the rides were so short, we rode on some multiple times before moving to the next.

We started easy with the carousel and then took the tram up the hill a
nd rode the first roller coaster of the day, the Goldrusher. We did that three times. After that it was a mad rush; Tidal Wave, Grinder Gearworks (we used to call it Roundup), Riddler's Revenge (coaster), Batman, a stop at the petting zoo, Sierra Falls (a raft ride in a tube in the Looney Tunes was fun!) and Log Jammer. Alex managed to do a couple of other coasters as my partner and I shared ride duties. By 3:00 pm, we had done one large loop of the park. It was getting hot and we were hungry so we went back to the hotel for lunch and a dip in the pool.

When we returned at about 5:30, we started with five rides on the Ninja (coaster) followed by Roaring Rapids. While we got wet, it was really fun to watch the other folks on our raft get drenched! Next was Terminator Salvation. The line was the worst, about 40 mins. The roller coaster was good but we couldn't afford to do it again. We later learned it was a new ride, hence the crowd.

We did Colossus a couple of times. During the ride, I looked over
at the little one; her jaw was clenched and she was sitting upright as she gripped the bar. After the ride, I asked her how she was and she said, "I want my mommy" followed by, "I want to do it again!" Definitely the best wooden roller coaster I've ever experienced.

Chair swings, called Swashbuckler and the pirate ship called Buccaneer were easy on and off rides. We ran over to the Looney Tunes area to see if Sierra Falls was still open. It wasn't. Then we decided to separate to complete our missions; Alex wanted to go on another roller coaster and Claire had other ideas. Both of them were fading so we had to move fast. Alex and I did Riddler's Revenge and the Batman ride again. With 25 minutes to go, we stood between X2 and Viper. We decided on Viper. There was absolutely no line and it was absolutely crazy. We passed on a second ride. Then we stood in line for the X2 until we rounded a corner and saw about 200 people in front of us. We bailed. Earlier in the evening, we had decided that the Tower would be our last ride; it was closed. At this point, 10 minutes before closing, the kids decided that was it (!?!?!).

Phew! What a day. It was really fun. Minor meltdown before return to hotel but otherwise, all was well. Oh, we bought one souvenir cup that was refillable. We had unlimited Powerade, lemonade, pink lemonade and 7-up all day. That was the best idea ever!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Road trip - Part II

I checked into the hotel while my partner went to get his kids. We stayed at Circus Circus for the night. The rooms in the Tower were nicer than those in the Manor, but we preferred the set-back location with direct access to the room as opposed to walking through casinos, gift shops and smoking areas.

The kids arrived with pizza. We ate and watched TV while the 7-year old raced between rooms and, playing with the key cards,
entered both rooms from the hallway. After baths, they were packed into bed for story time. I fell asleep listening to their giggles as their dad fluffed-up the text of whatever book he was reading.

In the morning, we ate breakfast, checked out and, while he took the kids for one ride in the Adventuredome, I walked around one of the gift shops and wondered - do people really buy this stuff? Then we started our 4.5 hour drive to LA.

We arrived in Venice without much difficulty. There was a little traffic, but not bad for LA. The kids were mostly well-behaved - there was a little tiff about who got to rea
d the Calvin and Hobbs book. We pulled up at my sister's apartment and after an introduction of all family members to the resident pug, they headed for the beach and I hung out with sis for a couple of hours. I've been to Venice many times and highly recommend walking the beach, checking out the flea market and strolling around the canals, but for today, I was on a mission to catch up with my younger, pregnant sister.

Before checking into our hotel for the night, we had dinner at Govinda's, a restaurant housed at the ISKCON Temple in LA. It was perfect. The food was delightful ($7 buffet for adults, $5 for children) and the momentary peace of the Temple gave me a sense of balance I felt for the remainder of the evening.
The chanting is always uplifting. The message I heard from the talk: Do what you love and do it for Krishna. Write, dance, sing, make art. I can easily exchange Krishna for God or Life or simply say "do it with a heart full of joy."

En route to Valencia, my partner and I talked Top 100 Riffs and Top 100 Guitar Solos as we crawled through traffic on the 5 at 8:30 at night. The kids watched movies on movie players with hard drives that they call gizmos. As we drove passed the Getty Museum; I made a mental note that someday, I will visit the place.

We checked into our room at around 9:00 and settled in fast. We had a big day planned the following day - Six Flags Magic Mountain. This amusement park has a ridiculous number of roller coasters (~14) and it's our goal to make the most of our one day visit, so off to bed we went.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Road Trip - Part I

Last week, we drove to Las Vegas to pick-up the kids. We got on the road at about 10:00 am and arrived in Las Vegas at about 7:00 pm. The drive took us through various mountain ranges, valleys, forests and towns that make up Southern CA.

Driving through San Juan Bautista and over Pacheco Pass provides a lovely view of the San Luis Reservoir and a scenic transition from the Central Coast to the San Joaquin Valley, the Lettuce Bowl of the US. The water level of the reservoir was extremely low. In the photo to the left, the green area in the foreground should be covered with water. The water from this reservoir comes from the Sacramento Delta and is fed into the California Aqueduct for irrigation.

The array of fruits and vegetables we saw on this trip was astounding. From blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and peaches to lettuce, cauliflower, radicchio, tomatoes and green peppers, we saw it all, or at least we thought we did as some of it was not identifiable at 55+ mph. While approaching a stop sign somewhere, the air was perfumed with cilantro; so fresh and sweet, we just about got out of the car to pick ourselves a salad!

Peach Grove near Bakersfield

After refueling in Bakersfield, we continued through the Tahachapi Mountains. The Tahachapi Wind Farm lines Tahachapi Pass, the connection between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. As you drive through the pass, the windmills dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. This is the second largest wind farm in CA and wind power provides 1% of all CA electricity. I have heard that bats can't sense the blades and that birds are injured in collisions with the windmills but that engineers are working to make this type of power generation less dangerous to these creatures. I hope they succeed.

Tahachapi Wind Farm

The Mojave Desert is vast and seemingly desolate until you see military aircraft fly overhead.
Further research informs me that the desert covers not only a large part of Southern CA but that nearly all of Nevada is in the Mojave Desert and that the desert boundaries are defined by the presence of the Joshua Tree.

As we move further into the desert we see mining facilities in the distance, approach 20 Mule Team Road and, finally, see a sign for Borax. Evidently, the world's richest deposits of borax are in the Mojave Desert and mined for cleansers and other household products. I've used some of these products.

Passed Barstow to the Nevada border, the road climbs in ascent to the high desert plain on which Las Vegas sits. It's hot, it's dusty. The car motor revs to maintain cruz control speed while climbing to 3,000, and then 4,000 feet. In the distance, I see a mirage. It has a roller coaster. My partner explains that it's actually Primm Valley at the Nevada border. There's a golf course, a few hotels and casinos and a small amusement park. Huh. I'm not into superfluous use of resources, so I'm not impressed. Forty miles to Vegas - the journey continues.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fitter, Faster, Stronger

Fitter, Faster, Stronger; one of my new affirmations for running. As of late, I've been doing most of my workouts on the treadmill. Basically, it's just more convenient but running for over an hour proves challenging. During one of my recent runs I had to remind myself why I'm doing it. This affirmation is my answer; because I want to be fitter, faster, stronger.

To enhance my training prgram, I've started going to the track. I'm new to tracks, but as tracks go, this one is great. As I run around the oval, I look out over a small ridge to another in the distance and when I make the turn, I'm surrounded by the Fall Creek Unit of Henry Cowell, used for training by the school's cross-country team.

In the morning, the sun comes up over the ridge in the distance and warms the air quickly so starting early is imperative. Usually, there are other people running or walking on the track. Now that school is out, it's generally serene except for the occasional flock of crows fighting over garbage.

At the track, I continue my fitter, faster, stronger regimen, my goal being to utilize the facility during the summer break to attain a higher level of fitness. I have about 7 weeks and I'm doing things I've never done before. I'm also experiencing aches like I never have before. So, I just keep reminding myself why I'm doing it: to be fitter, faster, stronger!

Oh, and when I need inspiration I watch this performance by a local runner, Maggie Vessey, at the Prefontaine Classic. Hopefully, she'll make it to Berlin for the World Championships. You go, girl!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Medicinal Herbs and Edible Natives

Last weekend, we attended The Smart Gardening Faire at Skypark in Scotts Valley. There were about 20 tents filled with native plants, medicinal plants, orchids, gopher control solutions, hand-crafted goods and other things garden-related. There were also two tracks of presentations on topics such as cooking with native plants, composting and bee-keeping.

I sat in on a presentation on edible native plants. The speaker, Alrie Middlebrook from the California Native Garden Foundation, talked about several commonly known edibles such as mushrooms, blackberries and a variety of nuts but also espoused the importance of native varieties because of the impact on the soil (microbes) that non-natives have (could I give up jasmine?).

Other edibles mentioned included huckleberry, elderberry flowers and fruit and pine nuts. She informed us that the pine nuts we buy at TJ's come from South America but there are two varities in CA that can be easily harvested.

After picking out an orchid at the SC Orchid Society's table and admiring the bonsais at Pet Plants Bonsai, we talked to the gopher control folks at Gophers Limited (ha ha). Then we were off on an herb walk lead by Darren Huckle.

Mr. Huckle is really knowledgeable and gave me the sense that he is a great healer. He had us eat lavender flowers (calms) and fennel (stimulates the liver) and talked about making tinctures or teas from stinging nettle, California poppies (for relaxing) and the flowers of the mimosa tree.

I'm always looking for natural remedies that are easily accessible. Based on his presentation, I will likely add yarrow and stinging nettle to my future garden as replacements to store-bought goldenseal and arnica. I have already started a lavendar plant, having cut a few sprigs from a park in SC and sticking them about 5' in the ground. Two have rooted and are going strong. If I can come up with a replacement to store-bought lavender oil, I'd be thrilled! So much to learn.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

W. Cliff Drive

In our efforts to do more cross-training, we've been walking quite a bit. We usually walk in the neighborhood, at Henry Cowell or hike at Wilder Ranch. The past couple of weekends, we've parked near the entrance to Natural Bridges and walked along W.Cliff Drive to the Boardwalk and back.

On one trip we went on a few rides and had a veggie burger at our favorite place on the pier, Andy's End of the Wharf. We returned to the car at dusk having enjoyed a lovely sunset over the roof tops of the beautiful homes on the drive.

I took this pic with my phone just before we reached the end of our walk. It was just about dark, so it's blurry, you get the idea.

This w
alk is so picturesque; people from all over the world, locals walking their dogs, colorful gardens, thick clouds of jasmine in the air, children on skates, musicians, cyclists, surfers, the homeless, the partiers, they're all there. The scenery is magnificent and the microclimates varied at every turn on the road. Dolphins, sea otters, the light house, sea lions, birds, tide pools, the Boardwalk...ahh, Santa Cruz...ya gotta love it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Isotope Rap

I love when I can learn something new, maybe a little complex, in a fun way. So, today's find is a song about rare isotopes. So creative, so geeky, so informative...

LHC rapper returns to drop knowledge about rare isotopes

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Seymore Marine Discovery Center and Jane's

Let's see...well, we've been going to a lot of races. I've been enjoying taking pictures, watching the finishers come in (I don't get to do that when I race because I'm at the back of the pack) and watching the kids races; these pictures are from recent races in Salinas and Santa Cruz.

I've been running the courses as a workout while I train to improve my 800m time. As far as training goes, I'm doing two speed workouts a week, a long run and two easy runs. Yesterday was long run day and I did seven miles. For xtraining, we did a 5.5 mile hike @ Wilder Ranch Monday. It was lovely. We spotted another snake on this trip and loads of wildflowers. The fog was low but a blue sky overhead provided warmth that softened the cool ocean breezes.

My partner came in second place at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center 5k a couple of weeks ago. The winners received a basket of gourmet cookies, a mini tour of the facilities and viewing of tanks not accessible to the general public.

The Discovery Center is located on the coast on the northern most edge of Santa Cruz. The location is adjacent to Wilder Ranch so it feels remote. The collection of tanks is small but the focus is on education and there is a lot to take in. They have a touch-pool with star fish, anemones, urchins, sea cucumbers and more. There's a nice collection of tanks that house sunstars, leopard shark, eels and many other critters.

The tour took us to a building across the driveway from the Center, through a hallway lined with laboratories and out to an area with two holding tanks. The tanks held two resident bottle-nose dolphins who are helping researchers learn more about the effects of sonar on dolphins (I'm a little wary about what that entails). The guide told us that they are trying to find out if they can create a warning system for the dolphins and other ocean dwellers who suffer from "the bends" as a result of naval sonar. I hope they can figure something out.

The researchers/trainers had the dolphins run through a few exercises for us and we each had a photo taken with one of the dolphins.

The Center has a beautiful path on the bluffs with benches and places to enjoy a lunch or just take in the view. There is an admission fee, parking is free.

After the award ceremony we went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The weather was amazing and there were plenty of people picnicking on the beach and strolling on the promenade. Even with so many people the lines for the rides were short. I was feeling brave and went on Double Shot. It's not just a drop ride, it zips you up so fast you leave your seat when it stops suddenly and then down you go to a stop and then up again. It's really thrilling and extremely fun! On the beach stage, there was a preview of an acrobatic act that is scheduled to perform this summer. The events on the stage are entertaining, they're free and the line up for the Friday night concerts is interesting.

As the fun continued, we went to the Jane's Addiction concert at Shoreline. I'm not a big fan of Jane's but the drummer is my brother-in-law; he's a talented, smart and funny guy whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years, so a visit was in order. We were able to visit for a few minutes after his show before the band boarded the bus bound for Washington.

Back-stage access is always fun. I met some interesting folks including an Olympic runner and a inventor who came up with a nifty streamer for emergency rescue. The back-up band was NIN (I was a big NIN fan in the 80s) and the performance was loud and intense. It was a great night overall.

We're taking it slow this week, I've started another writing journey and hope to finish it by the end of the month. But we'll be hiking and tending our new and improved garden and I'll post updates here, on CA Dreamin'.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Healthy Beaches, Desal Plant and Closing State Parks

Living on the coast makes one more fully aware and appreciative of the cycles of nature and the interconnectedness of life. So, here, I would like to share with you some of the recent news topics about life on the coast and beyond.

1. State of the beaches: a report that grades the health of coastal beaches. There is some good news (SC beaches are clean) and some irksome news; run-off from various business endeavors continues to contaminate ocean water along the coast.

2. San Diego Desalination Plant: the largest such project in the world. In my mind a necessary evil. My biggest concern: Pipes will suck in 100 million gallons (!!!) of sea water a day. What kind of filtering system do they have? Can it filter out even half of the microscopic life forms it will suck in? In a previous post I show a photo of the Pacific Seahorse. It lives in the San Diego area. The babies are tiny. Can the life cycle of local inhabitants maintain a healthy community if they are losing x% of their offspring?

3. Marine Science Institute: one of the coolest things I have ever done. I was offered the opportunity to tag along on the boat with a college-level marine biology class. We pulled water samples, put them under a microscope and viewed contents on a large screen. A drop of water held an abundance of life. We used nets to gently catch critters such as leopard sharks and released them and we learned about temperature stratification and the effect on life in the bay. It was fascinating and I highly recommend taking the trip.

4. Potential State Park Closings: The Gov was on about this a few months, with fewer parks listed and no conclusion. With the results of the special election indicating that voters don't want to shoulder any more of the budget shortfall responsibility, it's been mentioned again. The list of parks due to close is unfathomable. I don't believe it will really happen as currently reported but some action will likely occur. Here is a list of the parks listed for closing. I'm going to have to protest this somehow. Will post news as it arises. Photo: Lookout on Wilder Ridge Loop Trail at Wilder Ranch, about 3 miles round trip.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Life Should be Like a Vacation

I am a student of Kriya Yoga and used to go to the temple and listen to the weekly inspirationals on Sundays. At one of these talks, the speaker spoke about being happy where you are. He said that if you couldn't find happiness where you are now, you wouldn't find it anywhere. He continued to say that you shouldn't wait until you go on vacation to have fun; find fun, make fun, everyday. It affected me strongly because I was tired of the snow and the cold and I was miserable. I thought the grass was greener in California (as it turns out, in December, it is!) and was certain I would be happy there.

About a year later, my life long vacation began in November 1999, when I moved to Half Moon Bay. Riding my bike on the coastal trail or walking the beach before heading to work was a great way to start the day. On the weekends I hiked at Burleigh Murray Ranch ( I saw more bobcats there then any place else on the coast thus far), Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, Montara Mountain, Pillar Point (I actually saw an octopus, picked it up and put it in the water while tide pooling), Sweeney Ridge (accessing the trail from the Shell Dance orchid greenhouse parking lot in Pacifica) or hung out at Poplar Beach. Camping at Butano and Sanborn County Park with friends and family w/little ones was loads of fun.

After a couple of years, the summer fog weighed on my spirit. I don't mind some fog; hiking or walking on the beach can be just as nice and the cool respite much appreciated, but come mid-July, it was tough. When I needed a dose of sun, I
would drive to Santa Cruz. Driving down Hwy 1 is a joy in and of itself; stopping at the farm stands, buying strawberries in Pescadero, getting a treat from Whale City Bakery in Davenport or hiking at Wilder made a trip to Santa Cruz a mini-vacation and helped recharge my batteries.

Circumstances prompted a move back to Chicago for a year (maybe I had lost the "vacation" mentality). After the karma was burned, I returned to CA and lived in Monterey for a year and then Carmel for a year and a half. Boy, that was fun! Garland Ranch, Del Monte Beach and Pt. Lobos (If you're a hiker, park on the road outside the entrance and walk'll save a few bucks
, you're more likely to see deer and maybe a bobcat on foot and the scenery is outstanding. There's a map posted just past the entrance near the restrooms to plot your walk.) became my workout venues.

When I wanted a more rigorous worked out, I went to Garrapata State Park (the spring flowers are *stunning* as are the views) and did the Rocky Ridge Trail.

I usually did it early Saturday morning but on one occasion I did it after work at about 6:00pm and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a slightly scary descent into dusk. Another rugged trail with a great payoff is Snively's Ridge at Garland Ranch. Both are real glute-busters. So, yeah, vacation includes exercise, and in a beautiful location, how can you lose?

Since I'm short on pics,
you'll have to check out the links. In lieu of photos of the places mentioned, here is a pic of a dolphin at the Seymour Marine Lab (topic for upcoming post). Also, I add to the phone wallpaper collection a pic of Ganesha taken at Ambrosia in Monterey mid-May when we chowed at the buffet. Pure bliss:)

I'll end with my hiking tips and a wish that you enjoy your California Dreamin':

1. Check weather in advance and dress appropriately. Most of these places have trails that are well maintained so you can safely wear shorts. Cloud cover, tree shade and traversing through canyons can cause dramatic shifts in temperature. Wear light layers to peel off or put on as needed.
Bring sunscreen, water, snacks and wear appropriate shoes. Vaseline on toes/heels before socks prevents blisters.
3. I like to go early; it's not as hot. I don't like to carry anything, don't like camel backs or back packs.
I prefer to leave water and food in car if hike is two hours or less. I have a small fanny pack for phone, lip balm, a small bottle of water and a snack for slightly longer hikes. Hikes over three hours require a back pack, pbj sandwich, apple, and at least a liter of water.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


As I mentioned, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few weeks ago to see the new seahorse exhibit. I've been to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the National Aquarium in Baltimore (really cool!), several aquatic parks in Florida and I'm confident in saying, there has been nothing like this, anywhere, before.

I trailed far behind our group and did not make it half way through the exhibit, it was so mesmerizing (we purchased a family membership, so I'll be back). I took many photos but lighting conditions and glass made it difficult to get great shots. I managed to salvage a few decent pics to post, to provide a glimpse of the unique and mysterious collection on display until 2012!

The above photo is of the Pacific Seahorse which is found south of Los Angeles all the way down to Peru. It's a fairly large specimen, measuring in at 12" unfurled. Who knew we had seahorses on the west coast, even if for just a meager stretch?

The other photos are of much more exotic species; weedy and leafy sea dragons. I saw them in a nature program on television years ago, but watching them move in a tank was hypnotizing. Unlike many other beautiful fish, they don't zip around. Instead, they float about, propelling themselves with tiny fins.
In fact, I left the exhibit feeling so relaxed, I was certain that the purpose of seahorses and sea dragons on Earth was to bring us momentary relief or respite; to calm us.

And a funny thing happened while I was viewing a dome-shaped enclosure of seahorses. A tot pushed me to the side, not only to view the seahorses, but she had decided she had to share her Sponge Bob candy pellets with me which prompted her brother to also share his. My horoscope said I would receive a non-life altering windfall, I guess that was it:)

While I've not been posting, I've been at my niece's b-day party, running the Big Sur 5k (and a couple of others), enjoying the blooming honeysuckle that has replaced the wisteria in our yard and marveling in the crazy weather. Today, the weather is warm and humid. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Whatever it is, bring it, I say!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cell phone Wallpaper

We did two races last weekend, one in Fairfield and the other in SF. We had a heat wave with temps in the 90s and now, thankfully, temps are back to normal. I've been running outside more often and did a 5-mile loop in our neighborhood earlier this week. Yeow, it was hard. Decided to do the loop because once you're out you can't change your mind.

Anyway, I've been on a cell phone wallpaper kick, taking pics with the phone. We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a week ago. Here are a few samples.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


April 1 we went to the Presidio10 - 10k & 10 Mile race across the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn't run the race, I'm not doing 10k until I can do it without walking...shooting for June. I went with my partner since I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to go somewhere I haven't been.

The morning was brisk but the sun rose in a bright blue sky and the weather was stellar.
The race ended and started at Chrissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco. As I walked/jogged the course to get pics, I saw lots of trail signs and made a mental note to come back for a hike sometime. I got this shot of the Golden Gate with my phone; it's the perfect phone wallpaper.

I've wanted to walk the bridge for years. I guess the Human League put the idea in my head back in 1980-something. It's 1.2 miles across. I walked about 1/4 mile before I turned around to meet the front of the packers on the other side but not before I took in the coast and played photographer for the stragglers who brought cameras on the run.

My partner was close to the front of the pack so it was fun to see him up there on the bridge. While I waited for him to pass, I directed runners at the hairpin turn just off the bridge. It was poorly marked and a few runners headed up the path under the bridge. After shouting out to them and rearranging some cones to define the turn more clearly, I jogged back to Chrissy Field to find him. He was in line for a beverage after coming first in his age group; he was Grand Master and, boy, did he rake in the bootie.

After a few beers, some food, camaraderie, cheering some of the finishers and watching the award ceremony, we took a stroll down the beach past the multiplying hordes out for a stroll, bike ride, run or dog walk. People were fishing off the pier and the shore. It was a perfect day in San Francisco.

We entered the courtyard of Fort Point located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The brick structure is well preserved and has winding staircases, rooms entering into rooms, turrets and artifacts. The rooms are big and bright and the place feels solid and strong. There weren't many people around as we wandered the large edifice. Most of the space we explored was empty but there was a bedroom and an office with furniture and accessories. On the top of the building, we clambered on the old gun mounts, taking in the view around the bay and under the bridge.

On the way back to Chrissy Field, we marveled at the throngs out enjoying the day, the beauty of the environment and the blush of purple in the marsh as wildflowers bloomed. The tents were the only signs left of the race earlier that morning. We returned to our car, fulfilled by the events of the morning, and went to Russian Ridge for a wildflower hike.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Running, Hiking, Gardening, Reading

Boy, time flies! Here's the short of what's been going on since St. Paddy's Day:

1. Ran 2 5ks - March 21 & 22. Ran both w/o walking, won 2nd place in my age group and got a medal! Yea!

2. A gopher has decimated our lettuce and something was pulling out the little carro
ts and letting them dry out in the sun. So sad. I don't think I have felt so discouraged in...well, I can't remember. We've put out 2 packs of Juicy Fruit gum and have tried flooding the tunnels. We may have to resort to more drastic measures.

3. Joined the Tamalpa Running Club - not exactly in the neighb
orhood but these folks are an inspiration and we look forward to running with them. It's my first team and I'm excited!

Mom came out for a visit. Went to Capitola Beach, had lunch at Paradise Beach Grill, walked the Big Basin Redwood loop, and went to Henry Cowell and Wilder Ranch. The weather was great and we had a lot of fun.

5. Partner's kids are visiting us now. They can be so much
fun but are definitely the products of older parents who've already raised two older children. The youngsters are still getting used to the new life of traveling for visitation which is challenging for everyone. At our house, the youngest one asks questions like; whose tablecloth is this? When I listen to her, I wonder, which words are her voice and which have been planted.

The Gopher Eradication Crew

The other day, I got a little freaked out thinking about the fact that I'm 46 and they are 8 and 10...started thinking about the teen years. Then I realized I'm going to have to visualize something warm, fun and relaxed.

6. Did surgery on the treadmill. It has been either not starting or shutting down unexpectedly. Since we moved, the walking belt slides to the right more frequently and has sliced the motor hood. Also, we found that the front roller was scraping against the bottom casing causing wear on both the roller and the casing. The amount of plastic dust everywhere was amazing.

The screw tunnels had cracked off in the past and the entire motor housing unit was loose. We sawed off the part of the case the walking belt had cut into, tightened the screws on the lower casing and vacuumed all the dust. I stretched electrical tape across the corners of the motor
hood so it would sit on top of the lower casing without slipping. It's been used last night and this morning without a problem. Fingers crossed that it continues to work.

In the gaps, I'm reading Dancing Mind, Thinking Body, a book about applying the Taoist philosophy to sports and business. I am practicing the techniques chapter by chapter and have changed my running affirmation. On a side note, there is a quote from Mark Allen, an Ironman winner, in the book. I came across it after I applied for a job for an organization he works with in Santa Cruz. When he emailed me about the interview, I didn't know who he was. Interesting.

I've also watched the Giants season opener, LOST, Marley & Me and A Family That Preys. I'm training, looking for freelance opportunities, hiking in search of flora and fauna, went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for a day of amusement park FUN (we got our season passes. It's a great deal... the location is fabulous, the Fireball and Wipeout are much better here then at Great America, the roller coasters are just enough and, when you avoid high traffic days/times, the lines are a breeze), thinking about running a series of seminars and trying to figure out how to co-exist with a voracious gopher. Ahhhh, life.

Monday, March 30, 2009

St. Paddy's Day Weekend

Wow, we packed it in! I did 2 5ks, celebrated St. Patrick's Day both Saturday and Sunday, went cabbage bowling and hiked Mission Peak.

The first race was in Stockton. While Stockton is inland, it's connected to the bay-area by the San Joaquin River and the Stockton Deep Water Canal. The u-shaped race course hugged the marina and park in the downtown-area. The boats and sails, the greenery of the park and the new buildings in the marina and in the downtown-area were pretty amidst the ag-industrial surroundings of Stockton.

The race was made up of a nice sized crowd of about 300 participants. My goal was to get a better feel for running a 10-min mile and I succeeded. After the race, we bowled, had our complimentary beer at the festival and watched the award ceremony. After a stroll around the festival and a bite to eat, we got in the car and went to Mission Peak for a hike.

We arrived at Mission Peak to find it surprisingly crowded. It was overcast, windy and cold but that didn't stop the throngs. And neither did the elevation gain on the trail! It was rough! After looping around the lot until we got a parking space, we did a 3.2 mile loop that took us up to an old oak with a great view and past many cows who roam the park. There were a few spring flowers peeking out, some milk maids and buttercups but the rest were waiting for more sunshine and warmer weather.

The next morning we headed back to the East Bay, to Dublin, for the Shamrock Fun Run 5k. There were more runners for this race. Runners were staged by mile times and there were a lot of dogs. The course went through downtown Dublin and down a few streets in surrounding neighborhoods. It finished on a trail along the Alamo Canal where runners entered the festival after collecting their goodie bags.

Runners were served pizza and cake while being entertained with live music followed by the awards ceremony and raffle. We usually stay for the awards because my partner generally wins something. Today, I got my first ribbon:).

The town of Dublin turned out for the festival. The park area, flanked by fountains, was in front of the City Council Chambers Building. It was Sunday and the building was open to the public (nice warm bathrooms!). I was looking at the display of gifts from foreign dignitaries and was momentarily fooled by the sculpture in the corner. Ha!

There was another stage on the other side of the building and the parking lot was filled with vendor booths. By the time we left, folks were appearing in droves.

The drive home is always a little challenging because the body gets stiff. We've been up since 5-something in the morning, and this weekend we pushed even harder by doing 2 races and a hike, oh, but it was fun. A little sleep, some food, some water and we'll be ready to do it all again next weekend!

Monday, March 9, 2009

I decided that instead of moping about job hunting, I was going to make the most of our yard and get a full-on veggie patch going. After pulling some weeds and outlining a planting plan, I came in and talked to my partner. In a flash, we were out there turning over soil. We put in a couple of hours and continued Saturday when we got home from a 5k in Union City.

The weather in Union City was perfect, the gravel trail along the levee was scenic enough. There were only 37 participants. I got up late, didn't want to go, didn't get enough warm up time and performed poorly. It was great to get out and get some exercise even though it didn't seem much like a workout. I ran another half mile to cool down, walked, did some stretches and then we were on the road.

Back at the house, I started to tear out some of the succulent in the front yard that was too leggy while my partner amended the soil and turned the compost heaps. I sprinkled some wildflower seeds in the areas we won't plant veggies and put some sweet pea seeds along the fence. What a day!

Sunday, my brother and his family came over for a stroll in the redwood grove and dinner. We've hiked and camped many times over the years but the redwood grove loop at Henry Cowell was perfect for the little ones. We spotted a few deer, some banana slugs, squirrels and heard lots of song birds. The puddles were just about dried up so we were able to go inside the hotel tree. (Mental note: next time bring flashlight). There's a redwood that had been hollowed out and used as a room with a bed, wood-burning stove, bookshelf and other accoutrements. After a stop in the Visitor's Center, we walked over to Roaring Camp. The kids love trains, so we climbed on the cars and sat on a wagon car by the duck pond and munched on snacks in the warmth of the sun.

Dinner was baked spaghetti squash with sauteed kale on the side. I baked the squash, scraped the meat into a baking dish, mixed in some Parmesan cheese, covered it with a nice layer of home-made spaghetti sauce, a thick layer of grated cheese and baked it for 30 minutes. It was really yummy.

Monday, I planted starters for the garden; tomatoes, marigolds, nasturtium and spearmint. Once these are in the ground, I'll start bush beans, summer squash and herbs. I'm going to start two bush beans and two tomatoes and start two more in about two weeks so we're not over run with them. When we moved in last fall we had more tomatoes then I knew what to do with until I learned how to freeze them. We had fresh tomatoes for our spaghetti and enchilada sauces into January! After we harvest the lettuce and carrots, we'll plant a Three Sisters garden with beans, corn and pumpkins.

Just got back from a short run around the track (my first attempt at running in the morning before school starts - got to get there earlier, ugh) followed by a walk around the neighborhood. It's a little brisk but sunny, great weather for spring chores. Gotta put the seedlings on the porch and get to work on my California Dream!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Keepin' My Head Above Water

In so many ways...

The rain keeps coming. This is my first winter in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it is wet. The river at Henry Cowell is flowing strongly. The grass in our yard is soggy. The sun peeps through the clouds a few times a day, and even then, it can be raining.

On the up side, it looks like spring. The red buds and other flowering trees are in bloom. I was sweeping oak leaves off our front porch and got a whiff of thick perfume. Following my nose, I was lead to a bush practically tucked under the porch (we rent, so I have no idea what will bloom). I have since learned it is a Daphne of some sort. The leaves and petals are thick and the flowers are tiny but the fragrance is heady and profuse.

We also have some grape hyacinth blooming in the boxes on the porch. They add a touch of purple to the mostly red and pink flowers in the yard. They have a light, lovely scent that can be experienced up close so it's a good thing they're up on the railing, otherwise, I'd miss it.

The garden is coming long, albeit, slowly. The sun came out for a few days some time back and the lettuce perked right up. At the rate it's growing, I guess we'll have lettuce in April. Better late then never.

The rain has kept me from spending much time outside. I run on the treadmill once in a while and walk in light rain but mostly, I have been spending more time reading, reflecting, searching the internet, reading about running and sending out resumes. As far as the resumes go, I know in my heart I will find the right opportunity, it's just going to take time. Like many other people, I have been here before, having been laid-off in 2003 and unemployed for over a year.

A few days ago, I went to Henry Cowell for a walk in intermittent rain. The redwood grove was nice. The moss is bright green, ferns cover the ground and the little creeks are gurgling. It's the perfect time to spot salamanders and newts and, indeed, we found a couple.

The arboreal salamander was under our trash bin and the rough skinned newt (just eating the tail could kill a person!) was at Henry Cowell. I also saw a white-tailed kite hunting over the pasture at the entrance of the park. Simply writing about these things seems to be lifting my spirits, hmmm, guess I should do it more often:)

It hasn't rained for a few hours now and there is more sunshine breaking through then we've seen in a few days. I'm planning to go to the track and get in a workout. I'm hoping it doesn't rain until after I get started. Getting started in the rain has been harder but once I'm going, let it fall! After all, it is winter in California.