Friday, October 17, 2014

Bike Loads

I ran across Chad putting together an amusing load for the bike trailer the other morning.
What wasn't immediately apparent was that he was towing another entire bike in the trailer attached to the back of one he was riding!

Spider hike

A couple of weeks ago, I signed us all up for a docent-led hike that would allow us into Montebello preserve after dark (normally not allowed).  As an added side bonus, it was a spider-themed hike, which was a topic of interest for Nim.  As an added incentive, I picked up a bucket of fried chicken on the way over, so there was a promise of greasy crunchy goodness for dinner up on the hill.

We started in the sun, with characteristic views of oak grassland:

At this point of the day, one can find holes belonging to tarantulas and their close relatives.  I would have dismissed this as a rodent hole, not knowing otherwise.  However, the white thing is the remnants of an old egg sac that the arachnid (just below it) had cleared out of her nest.  If you pick apart the old egg sac, you can actually see the skins from the initial molt of the baby spiders, as they grow a bit and molt before they head out into the big wide world.

Another member of Family Theraphosidae.  We enjoyed our chicken right next to this one's house,

while also enjoying the sunset.

It was dark for the hike back,

so we used red flashlights, which made the orb weavers look particularly Halloween-y.

It is still kind of a spooky spider under normal light:

Most entertaining, however were the scorpions. I did not previously know that: (1) there are scorpions in the area, and (2) they fluoresce under UV light.  One of the docents loaned Nim his flashlight so she could search for the eerie glimmer of glowing scorpions on the bank adjacent to the trail.

 (Chad gets credit for this most excellent photo)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alien Hitchhiker

Leaf fell out of a clear blue sky, hit me in the face, and latched on to my jersey for the next five miles, almost all the way home.  Welcome to fall.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Riding around in the dark

I woke up excessively early on a recent Saturday morning, and decided to squeeze in a quick bike ride.

4:50 am: Roll out of bed and put on clothes.

4:55 am: Fill water bottles and attach flashlight to front of bike and freshly-charged taillight to back.

4:58 am: Roll down the driveway into the dark.

5:10 am: Marvel at the complete lack of traffic.

5:20 am: Turn off of Foothill up El Monte towards Moody.  Note that flashlight being used as headlight has started blinking of its own accord despite being supposedly in a different setting.  Still quite dark yet, reset setting to constant light.

5:22 am: Headlight blinking again.  Weird.  Its brains must be scrambled.

5:25 am: Wait -- last time flashlight was scrambled, it had a dying battery.  While taillight was carefully plugged in the previous night, flashlight lasts a long time and I didn't bother to charge it.  When was it last recharged?

5:27 am: Aha!  Last recharged before we went to New Zealand.  Lots of cave exploration and general use since then.  Uh oh...

5:35 am:  Blinking seems to be slower than it was.  Hmmm.  Heading into dark canyon.  Count seconds.  One second on, five seconds off.  Look ahead while light is on, remember that section of road and ride through it until the next blink.  This works going up, but won't be enough going down.  Clearly, I must climb until it gets light. 

5:40 am: Really quite dark back in the canyon.  Reassure myself that it will be lighter once I hit the top of Moody and am on the ridge rather than down in a hole.  Taillight working fine, and there aren't any cars on the road anyway.

5:42 am: Darkest part of canyon before climb gets steep.  One second in every eight illuminated.  Neat night sounds in the dark.

5:48 am:  Top of Moody.  A bit lighter here now that I can see the sky.  Good thing too.  Only one second in ten light.  Head up Page Mill.

5:55 am:  Slight descent.  Still kind of dim out.  One blink per 12 seconds.  Be careful.

5:56 am: Heading back up.  Easier.

6:00 am: Really enjoying the dim climb.  One blink in 14 seconds.

6:05 am: Down to one blink in 16 seconds.  Plausibly enough light from the sky that I don't need headlight to see.

6:08 am:  Bright light approaches.  Looks like an oncoming cyclist.  Hope my light blinks on as he passes so I don't look like an idiot riding around in the dark with no light.  It doesn't.  

6:12 am:  Enter the marine layer.  Hope I pop through it. One blink in 20 seconds.

6:15 am:  Trees precipitating drips from the fog.  Who needs it??

6:20 am:  Wait -- these new drips are sweat coming off of my hair.  Not the fog any more.

6:22 am:  Deer in the mist, staring at me.  With horns.

6:25 am:   Oooh -- out of the fog!  Gently colored pre-sunrise sky.

6:27 am:  Bunnies!  Many bunnies streaking across the road.

6:29 am: Los Trancos parking lot -- what I consider to be the top.  Looking pretty light, though sun not yet risen.  Enjoy looking down on the fog bank blanketing the Bay Area below.  2100 feet climbed before sunrise.  Definitely light enough to descend now.

6:30 am:  Good thing, too, as light is down to one blink per 25 seconds.

6:34:  What a goofy ride.  Clearly I must now ride the dirt trails up and over Black Mountain to make a loop.  Alas, trails don't open until sunrise.  Have snack to kill time.  (By the way, when is breakfast?)

6:42 am:  Official sunrise.  No longer against the rules to be in the open space preserve.  Roll down to Montebello entrance and head onto trail.

6:47 am:  Pretty.  Not pictured is the coyote pack that sounds like it is having a party in the drainage below.
 6:55 am: Look back at the sea of fog to the west.
7:00 am:  Look forward at the tongue of fog to the south.  Enjoy the residual heat from yesterday afternoon radiating out of the hills.
 7:05 am: Enjoy the low angle morning light near the summit of Black Mountain.
 7:10 am: Anticipate easy descent down to breakfast at home.

7:13 am:  Ack, ack argh!!!!!  Sun shining directly in eyes, squirrelly dirt descent.  Can't see loose patches of gravel.  Descend gingerly to paved road.

7:20 am: Hit paved road.  Sun still in eyes.  Can't see giant bike-eating potholes in the ugly top section of the road.  Oh bother.

7:24 am: Hit main road, better pavement.  Yay!

7:27 am:  Hit fog layer descending.  Brrrr....

7:31 am: Out the bottom side of the fog layer.   Start seeing other cyclists going up.

7:45 am: Near bottom of descent.  Cyclist count up to 13.  Quite a number to be climbing Montebello before 8am on a Saturday morning.

7:50 am:  What are all of these car-things doing out so early??  Bleah.  Welcome to civilization.

8:15 am: Roll back into home driveway.   Nim playing on the computer.  Chad still in bed.  Time to make breakfast.

A most enjoyable morning.


Nim now 5 feet, 2.5 inches.  She heads off to 7th grade every morning,
  and comes home and diligently does her homework, sometimes with feline help.
 When there is no school, she goes on bike rides with Ma
 even when there are big oak branches across the road,
and I just let her ride her bike to the park by herself.  "I'll be back by 5," she says.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer residua

Summer is good for:

4th of July picnics (note the hanging bottle opener that Nimue used to give herself a black eye),

birthday cake (Chad),
 hamburger parties,
art museum visits,
 going off the high dive,

 zoo trips,

 foggy CA beach trips,
 finding obscurities like the old Davenport jail,
 mountain biking near Downieville,


and yet more birthday cake.
School starts tomorrow.  (Yay.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What a difference Five Years Makes

On August 3, Nim and I went to the zoo.  I find this tween stage to be amusing.
Vaguely remembering a similar picture from a previous trip, I looked and found this one, taken on Aug 3, 2009.  That's five years previous, to the day!  Nim wants me to be clear that she had to bend her knees a lot in the recent shot, whereas she was just the right height in the little kid one.
She still likes the zoo.

If you want to see the comparison between that 2009 trip and one when she was even smaller, look here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cousin fun in Australia

I realized that while I though I had put up the cousin pictures, I hadn't.  This is the last vacation post....really.

As an aside, I just finally figured out how to disable the annoying autocorrect feature that appeared after our most recent operating system upgrade.  A very devious feature, as it would just decide after I typed something that it wasn't right, and "correct" it for me -- after I had already watched the letters appear on the screen as I wanted them.  Easy to miss until the next day, and it took me a while to realize what it was doing.   If you have noticed random words that were just plain flat wrong in the last few posts, it was the computer out to get me.  Hopefully better now...

Back to Fun with Cousins in Australia

The Towle cousin pack, doing many and varied things:

One morning, Chad and I took the older kids on the climb up the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Pretty fun, as we got to climb under, over, and through the bridge, all the while clipped in to their safety system.  Aren't you envious of the oh-so-stylish jumpsuits they made everyone wear?

The day we were there, it was crazy-windy -- when I asked the guide if it was normally like that, he mentioned that he had only ever see two or three days that wild.  The members of the party over the age of twelve thought it added to the fun (eleven-year-olds not so sure).  Notice that the flags on the top (where we were) are standing straight out.

The younger boys, Addison especially, enjoyed Chad's willingness to talk about spacecraft, campervans, and other conveyances.

This was much aided by characteristically excellent Chad-doodles.

Kids were good sports about taking walks.  Sometimes the terrain was benign.

Sometimes less so.

We tried not to lose anyone to this,

so sometimes I had to chase.

Kids find the best spots to sit.

Even the little guys eschewed the paved walkway.

Hard not to, when the rocks are so cool.

Chad was jolly.

Eleven-year-olds can be crazy and fun,

and I'm encouraged that the next stage might also be good.

I never knew poinsettias could manifest themselves as giant bushes. 

But it was winter, even though the harbor resorts to faking displays to show it.

Off to the zoo.

Nim tried her hand at taking pictures of things she thought were cute.

Echidnas are funny animate rolly-polly pincusions.

Is the cassowary looking at the captive Austin, or is it the other way around?

There was much fighting about the statue on the part of the eleven and under set, though the photographs don't show it.

The tasmanian devil runs around and around in circles just like the kids do.

We did find occasional moments of focus.

Spare moments draw eleven-year-olds to computers.

The girls liked the convertible.

Uncles give good hugs

And cousins, piggyback rides.

Random ibis in the park.

Parks are good.

Opera houses

can be used as parks.

At least these were not our kids.

But these were.

Uncle Andrew can be a kid too.

Sunsets are nice.

Kids appreciate the view,

and are still willing to turn around for a picture.

Thanks to all for a great visit!