Monday, July 20, 2009


Following Anna's description of the assorted birthday-related bike adventures, I thought I'd elaborate a bit.

At summit Old La Honda with @bikeboy on Twitpic

Dave wanted to do a ride of some significance, as his birthday was a nice round number (divisible by 5, 10, and 25) so on Friday we left from his house in Menlo Park, and rode over Old La Honda, down the other side of OLH to Highway 84, to the historic stage stop in San Gregorio. There we re-filled bottles, split a yummy turkey sandwich, and relaxed in the pleasant sun and slow pace that prevails in San Gregorio.

Arrivee San Gregorio on Twitpic

We then rode up Stage Road to where it intersects with Highway 1 -- exactly where the chill marine layer was blowing in that day. On with the jackets for a quick descent into the fog, heading north on 1... then a right turn onto Tunitas creek, and instantly back into the balmy warmness of that little agricultural canyon. A quick stop at the Bike Hut, and then up the Tunitas climb -- so pretty you can almost forget what a climb it is! Over the top and down Kings Mountain, thence through Woodside and back to Dave's for espresso. A fine birthday ride indeed!

The girls are heading up Old La Honda, I will follow shortly.... on Twitpic

Sunday, we started out with Stephan and some friends, and again headed over OLH. Anna and Nimue rode out a little ahead of the rest of us, and I kept thinking I'd catch them as I went up the climb. They were practically at the top! Nimue was in an excellent mood, and was a good little stoker all the way up the hill.

The girls had an afternoon engagement to go see a play, so they headed back down the hill. Stephan and crew continued on the same Tunitas loop that Dave and I rode Friday (including the requisite stop at the Bike Hut) while I rode over to Memorial Park and found the old Haul Road that connects to Portola Redwoods State Park. I had long wanted to check out this intriguing road... it runs along the creek under the lush redwoods for about 5 miles, at a very gentle grade, and even though it is dirt is quite passable on a road bike. However, up at the Portola Park end, they're stuck in an unfinished construction project to re-build a bridge across the creek. It's hikable, but the park has plastered "no-entry" tape and cones all over the place, and has signs up at the visitor center... coming in from the Portola side, it would be fairly obvious that they don't want you to go through the construction area (presumably for liability reasons; it's quite passable on foot, if not so much on a bike.) From the Memorial Park end, though, there's absolutely no indication anything might be amiss on the other end. There's also no mention of the access issues on the (useless) Park website, nor did a thorough Googling turn anything up.

By the time I got out of Portola Park, the afternoon heat was in full blast. I had forgotten how steep the climb out of the park is -- and parts of it are really exposed to the sun. You get a brief respite where the road meets Alpine, but then the rest of the climb up Alpine is just unrelentingly hot. I went through 2 bottles by the time I got to the top, and was quite happy to coast down Page Mill and roll home. Not the longest ride, but it felt hard enough!

Here's the route profile from Sunday's ride:

The alien creature inside the house


With our last wedding present cash, we recently got a Roomba to partially counteract our collective mediocre housekeeping skills. It gets rid of crumbs on the floor. The cat fur dust bunnies are no more. Sand tracked in from the garage is just gone. What a fine little beastie!

On its maiden voyage around the house:
Nimue followed it around curiously.
The cat followed it suspiciously with her eyes from the safety of a chair.
Chad followed it around analyzing its path-choosing behavior.

Almost like a new pet :)

The Alien Creature on our Roof


Click on the picture to enlarge it and better appreciate the antenna alien's cute face. Nimue appreciates his ability to enhance her TV viewing experience.

See Chad's other blog for details.

Birthday celebrations


Yes, another birthday around here, thus another cake and another photo. Chad, as the recipent of the cake, specified chocolate, and Nimue wanted to be the decorator, so I made a dense, rich, yummy chocolate cake covered with chocolate ganache.

One of the dangers of living in this house is the constant campaign to reduce the number of leftover whosi-whatsits that accumulate in the fridge -- the two tablespoons of leftover carrots, lefttover lamb-braising sludge that seemed too good to throw out, and the like. The cake got off relatively easily, merely being drizzled with leftover cream cheese glaze from last week's cinnamon rolls. (Sadly, I couldn't quite finish it off, so the remaining glaze lives on tucked away in a small bowl next to what is probably some really scary strawberry buttercream from last month.)

The decorator was somewhat random in her candle selection and arrangement; the recipient was slightly offended by the decorator's arbitrary choice of 45 candles rather than the more accurate 42. Much discussion of proper candling of a birthday cake ensued while the chocolate-starved cook looked on hungrily. Eventually, there was enough flame on the dinner table to satisfy the local pyromaniac tendencies, cake was devoured, and the pile of gifts in the living room was opened and appreciated.


Sunday brought yet more birthday celebration of a sort -- Stephan had organized a coast ride to celebrate his birthday, of which we joined part. Nimue and I rode up the first hill on the tandem (her first time up Old La Honda!), talked with the group as everyone regrouped at the top, and then rode back down to the car to our next activity of the afternoon (I got take Nimue and her friend Cathryn to see a youth theater production of Aladdin; Nim taught Cat how to act like a zombie at intermission. oh joy...). Chad also rode up OLH with the group and followed them down part of the descent down the back side. He diverged from Stephan's loop near the bottom to explore a new road on the way home, as he had just done Stephan's planned loop on Friday with his friend Dave, to celebrate both his and Dave's birthdays.

Confused? Birthday = bike ride for many people of my acquaintance. Funny how all of them also line up with the usual dates for the Markleeville Death Ride, the STP, and the Tour de France.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Satisfied another ride notion


A couple of days ago, I had a few hours free to take a long-ish ride and uncharacteristically didn't feel like doing any hills. I have, however, an endless store of odd notions about where it might be entertaining to ride stored in the back of my mind, and this time the time seemed ripe to check out the bike lane across the Dumbarton Bridge.

After following the Stevens Creek Trail out to Shoreline, I skirted the edge of the bay through Palo Alto Baylands and East Palo Alto to the base of the bridge. It was quite interesting to note all the new development in East Palo Alto -- I used to live there back in '94 when the whole area was much more scruffy; now there's a bizarre juxtaposition of newer (mostly soul-less) chain stores and higher-density houseing developments along with the more run-down small weed-infested lots of yore. There was, happily, a good bike lane leading out to the bridge.

Even the old salt ponds out in that neck of the woods appear to be receiving some restoration. The view along the run-up to the bridge showed an interesting melange of mud, salt, a bit of brave vegetation, and large construction equipment.


For a brief moment, it looked like the bike trail was going to go along the old lower bridge.

Alas, that was not the case, but there was a comforting large cement barrier separating the bike lane from the fast-moving traffic. One nice thing about being on a bike is that you can stop and look at the view as many times as you want. (The presence of the small indestructable camera in my bike bag means you all get subjected to a small fraction of the view as well...)


After dropping off the bridge, I followed my nose across the wildlife preserve (Don Edwards) and wound my way over to the Alameda Creek Trail, which turned out to be a delightful flat paved bike trail along a relatively wide creek drainage. The creek still had quite a bit of water in it; it was quite peaceful and there were a lot of birds to look at on the way over to the base of the hills.


It was so gorgeous out, I took the long way home, heading into the hills along Niles Canyon and Calaveras Road before rejoining civilization. I ended up doing about 70 miles, of which only about 2 miles was in icky traffic. Pretty good for an urban area!

Despite the new territory, typical Anna habits still manifested themselves:
1. Missing the entrance to the bridge the first time (mmm, snack time)
2. Passing the same guy in the red shirt and his buddy 4 different times after getting off the bridge and due to lack of knowledge of the area, choosing a clearly indirect route over to the creek trail
3. Missing the turn from the trail onto Niles Canyon Road and ending up in a dead-end park (mmm, snack time)
4. Accidentally turning off of the main road at Sunol (How the heck did I get here? mmm, snack time)
5. Foolishly not getting more water when stopped in Sunol
6. Remembering too late that there's a bit of climbing to get up to the reservoir along Calaveras road (remember I forgot to refill the water bottles...)

I'd do it again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Art Show

     Nimue insisted on having an art show in the atrium last night, to show off all of her creations from the last couple weeks of camp.

The description of the foil-maskingtape-foil-maskingtape-plaster-paint-paint process used for the "Desert Wonder Cat", her favorite piece, is shown below:

(Sneaky Ma)

Friday, July 10, 2009

National Feline Radio

As I've transitioned away from the car and to the bike for the vast majority of my around-town travel, the one thing I miss most is having the radio on in the background. No more KCSM (the local jazz station), no more KQED (the NPR station), no more switching to and away from KDFC wishing it were a more interesting classical station. I particularly miss KQED, as it was my primary news source aside from the Economist.

Coming back from art camp on the tandem today, what I got instead was Nimue vocalizing in what sounded like a reporter-style cadence, except that every word was "meow". After I asked, she explained that it was "National Feline Radio" and that the story was about a 1000-cat demonstration. Apparently the cats are clamoring to have all of the people transferred to China, so that full kitty liberty can be achieved. Things I would never have known had I been driving the car.

This was all much more entertaining, though just as distracting, as the commentary on the way into camp this morning, when she deemed herself "Little Peep" and me "Big Peep". Little Peep started out making little high-pitched squeaky peeps every time a car went by. After Little Peep decided that she was afraid of cars, the gentle peep squeaks turned into shrill peep shrieks. This was all quite disconcerting as I tried to wend our way through morning commute traffic; I finally had to lay down the law and threaten to stop the mobile coop if the Peep didn't chill out.

Chad is the Rooster, by the way.

As entertaining as this all is, I still yearn for a handlebar mounted bike stereo, for which plans are fomenting in the Rooster's brain. Car-less transportation bliss will yet be achieved.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Another one down


Nimue showing off the latest version off her smile, after her other front tooth popped out while she was reading. Note the giant tooth growing into the first hole.

Tooth falling out on holiday = crazo child
Happy 4th!

Ma's Beauty Salon

Nimue wanted me to cut her hair at home this time, instead of having someone else do it at the haircutting place. Makes a precision-impaired Ma nervous. Good thing she's cute no matter what one does to her hair!

The World's Clumsiest Cat

She wonders why she regularly falls off of the chair...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tuesday night fun

Sadly, I have no rehearsals on Tuesday nights for the summer. No singing for Ma. Boo, hiss, waaaaaa! Fortunately, that meant I was free to sign up for a Tuesday night glass fusing class offered over at the Sunnyvale rec center (about a mile from the house); the cheery creature below was the result of the first pile of glass I sent into the kiln. Nim now has a new piece of 6" x 6" wall art :)

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face

I hate squirrels. They are not cute and fuzzy, despite what Nimue may say; rather, they are voracious pestiferous thieving rodent spawn.

Case in point: our apricots

Last year, we moved into new house, anticipating a plenitude of yummy fruits off of the apricot tree, as the tree was laden with green apricots when we took possession. Two weeks later, the fruit at the top of the tree started to turn yellow and we discovered the true villainy of the members of genus Sciurus.

Their evil modus operandi:
Pick apricot when first blush of color appears. Eat one bite. Eat another bite and realize most of fruit is still green. Shred fruit in disgust and throw it all over the lawn. Proceed to the next fruit and repeat until there is no more left on the tree. Admire large pile of shredded fruit on the lawn, cavort on the back fence, and go have babies.

Now that just sucks. There was enough fruit on the tree that I wouldn't have minded sharing if they had at least left some of it for us. What was worse, they didn't even wait until it was ripe enough for them to fully enjoy. Argh.

This year I climbed up into the tree and netted the most heavily laden branches while the fruit was still green. I figured this stood a good chance of working -- the same net has kept the varmints out of the strawberries. For good measure, I liberally booby-trapped the net and tree with clear packing tape, sticky side out (an occasional tape booby-trap does a remarkably good job of deterring the cat from jumping on countertops inside; I thought maybe squirrels wouldn't like getting tape stuck to their fur either).

The result (from the squirrel's point of view):
Look at apricot when first blush of color appears. Study netting. Use freakish dexterity to cast net aside. Laugh at silly humans. Pick apricot. Eat one bite. Eat another bite and realize most of fruit is still green. Shred fruit in disgust and throw it all over the lawn. Proceed to the next fruit and repeat until there is no more left on the tree. Admire large pile of shredded fruit on the lawn, cavort on the back fence, and go have babies.

They got through most of this process while we were up in Downieville a couple of weekends ago; we came home to find nets tangled everywhere and most of the fruit shredded on the ground.

This meant war.

The tree still had a few apricots on it, as the squirrels hadn't quite gotten through all of the nets. It also had clearly not been pruned in several years, and was badly tangled in the wires going into the house.

I have an excellent pole pruner and a genetic disposition toward tree carnage. And a rodent-induced rage that needed to be dispelled. Much hacking of innocent tree ensued.

All the while, I could hear the local squirrel population chittering and growling with rage. (Yes. Squirrels growl when they're mad. I kid you not. Go search on "squirrel growl" on youtube if you don't believe me.) I was armed with a 16 foot stick with a pointy bit on the end, so they dared not approach.

I salvaged the remaining apricots off of the pruned branches, let them ripen on the counter for a couple of days, and tossed them into a cauldron of sugar syrup (aka the enormous stockpot), and froze the mess for use in desserts and smoothies for the rest of the summer. And I made a delicious apricot pastry with the ripest ones, so some immediate gratification was had.

I've probably destroyed any chance of an apricot harvest next year with the severe pruning, but the tree is no longer touching the roof, is no longer tangled in the wires, and is no longer casting its ever-growing shadow across the squash and cucumber in the veggie bed. And even if I don't get any fruit, the detestable varmints won't get any fruit next year either. Ha.

Sadly, the squirrels appear to have implemented their next sally in the urban garden battle: the first tomato of the season off of our plants that was almost ripe has disappeared. Gotta go plan tomato tactics...