Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Heading toward the end of the school year, there are an awful lot of events. Here are a couple of pictures from Nimue's recent concerts:

The combined group at the big concert (blurry because I couldn't use the flash). Nim's the one near the middle with the two ponytails.
The crazed singer
Her adoring audience

Music links:

Here's a short clip from one of the songs "Three Quotes from Mark Twain".

If you can't make it out, this one says "Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."

Nimue's favorite song from this concert: "This Shall be for Music".

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mutant Strawberry

The strawberry has gone wild and grown itself a head. At least it's fresh!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A fine place for a picnic...or a bike race

On Wednesday, as many of you know, Stage 4 of the Tour of California came through our neck of the woods, going over Mt. Hamilton from the back, down the relatively technical descent on the front, and then up Sierra Road . Unlike last year, and much to our aethetic preference for bike races that end on a hill, the San Jose stage finish this year was at the top of Sierra.

Our original plan was to climb up Sierra earlier in the day to watch the finish and enjoy the spectacular view and people-watching, but alas, we had to be able to get off the hill in time to get Nimue to her singing group's concert that night. Drat. Also, Chad was feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather itself was a bit under the weather, with residual clouds and rain from the storm earlier in the week. Double drat. As a result, we decided instead to ride up the lower slopes of Mt. Hamilton and plant ourselves in a spot with good sight lines for the descent -- right at the entrance to Joe Grant County Park, at the beginning of the last little roller before the final drop into the city.

Since it was going to be a shorter ride, and would be sort of across lunchtime, of course I had to pack a hedonistic picnic spread in my backpack :)

This turned out to be a mellow, but entertaining place to spectate and picnic. The view of Hamilton was good (when the clouds opened up), we were in a bit of sunshine (again, when the clouds cooperated), and it just happened to be right next to a very talkative course marshal whose job appeared to be to wave over all the cop cars and photo motorcycles at the front of the train who came down ahead of the riders, so they wouldn't get too far ahead.

After seeing the conditions on the road (sort of cold, even where we were), we decided we had made a good choice of location -- before the Tour came through, there were a number of other cyclists coming down from the top reporting 39 degree drizzle.

One thing I noticed last year was that you can tell when the riders are getting close by the location of the helicopters. In this year's instance, I happened to glance up the hill and thought "My, that helicopter is down low!" A second glance showed the string of riders in the big lead group. (Click on the picture to blow it up, and you'll see 'em too.)

A close look at this shot as they went by reveals Chris Horner (the one with the funny all-red shoes in the center and the eventual winner of the stage with a most excellent performance up Sierra), Levi Leipheimer bent over behind him, and Andy Schleck next to Levi.

More riders in the lead group, looking focused and intent on the ride. We think the Rabobank rider (orange and blue) in the middle is three-time world champion Oscar Freire.

After this group went by, there were several more relaxed-looking riders trailing through on their own or in pairs -- some even chatting and looking like they were enjoying the ride. These must've been the guys deliberately dropping back from the serious lead group to the bigger peloton at the back.

Eventually the main group did show up; the most amusing thing to note here was that their facial expressions really told the story of having suffered up the HC climb (hors categorie, or hill of the hardest kind) only to encounter 39 degree mist and a treacherous twisty descent down pavement that could be described as having terrain-park-like features, knowing full well that they still had a wicked-steep climb ahead of them.

Another shot of suffering, this one with current world champion Thor Hushovd in the rainbow jersey.

Eventually, the entire parade including all the team cars and support people in the back passed through and we were able to roll down the hill and rush home, just in time to shower and head off to Nimue's concert. More on that later. We did avidly watch the Versus coverage of the stage when we got home -- it was a minor bummer that they went to commercial break when the riders passed us, and when they passed our truck at the bottom of the hill, but most impressive to see Chris Horner take off and leave everyone in the dust going up the final hill!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is this the trail?

I had another reasonably amusing mountain bike ride yesterday. The goal was to go up to El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve (aka Skegg's Point) and try not to get my tired legs into too much trouble. As usual, plans changed once the day got going.

As an aside, the tired legs stem from last weekend's Tour of the Unknown Coast up near Eureka. Gorgeous ride through interesting country on roads with lousy pavement and resulting scary descents. I could gloat about being the first of our party to finish, but it wouldn't be fair as it only happened because one guy had the bad luck to get not one, but FIVE, flat tires.
Plus I took a 40 mile recovery ride on Monday. Not much self control in May with the upcoming summer vacation/ all-kid-stuff-all-the-time arrest staring me in the face.

At any rate, when I drove up to the ridge yesterday morning and turned toward Skeggs, the marine layer was still pretty thick, and got thicker and darker and damper the further I went. Wet road, thermometer reading 43 degrees. Yuck. Who wants this in May??

Good sense took over, and I turned around and headed back toward Russian Ridge. It was still foggy here, but at least it was a bright fog, with the promise that it might break up, and the ground wasn't soaking wet. Plus, the wildflowers are often good this time of year.

I took off into the bright white impenetrable fog. After getting over the initial heebie-jeebies of not being able to see very far, I quite enjoyed zooming down the singletrack Hawk Trail in the fog. The bird song seemed magnified as the visibility decreased, big patches of two-toned tidytips and other blooms covered in dew periodically loomed seemingly out of nowhere, and a giant deer with big fuzzy antlers boinged over the trail right in front of me. It was a sufficiently amusing distraction from the tall grass whipping my ankles with wetness in the narrower sections. Come to think of it, that was rather jolly too.

As the trails took me further south, the visibility got much better. I actually started seeing shadows when I hit the southern end of the preserve and headed across Alpine Road into Skyline Ridge. Woo hoo.

Normally I dislike Skyline Ridge on the bike. I usually come in from the other side, after riding up from home, and there are several ugly steep ramps on the #$&$@#$@ Sunny Jim Trail (actually an ugly exposed fire road) that come too far into the ride to cause anything other than intense misery. I always look yearningly off the fire road onto the singletrack Ipiwa Trail (bikes not allowed), and rue my law-abiding tendencies. Feh. This time, however, as I came in from the north side and wasn't tired, I finally had the motivation to explore the dead end stub of the Old Page Mill Trail. It's only a mile and a half, but I hadn't ridden it before, and if you look at it on Google Maps, it looks like there might be a way to go further than what the official park map indicates. My delight in looking for the obscure route through kicked in.

Obscure this was. Punishing, it was not. Unlike many trails in this preserve, the Old Page Mill Trail is a relatively uniform old dirt road reverting back to skinny trail, with a gentle grade, through some gorgeous woods. Just what my tired legs needed. It dropped maybe 500 feet over that mile and half, getting gradually more overgrown (see picture at top), until reaching a creek.

At this point, the path had clearly been washed out at some point in the past, and it was clear from the map that I was at the "official" end. It looked possible to bushwhack across the creek and continue down the other side, but 1) I was trying to keep it mellow, 2) didn't want to turn into a mud monster and send a bunch of sediment down into the creek, and 3) the theoretical way out would involve going through some closed parts of the preserve and a tiny bit of private property (that darned law-abiding thing again...). One can only hope that the open space district's long term plans might include opening this up -- especially in a manner that would allow one to pop across Alpine Road after riding to Mindego Hill on the other side, so you could ride back up Old Page Mill on the way out.

For once, self-control and common sense won. No major epic -- just a bit of fun for the morning :) Surprised?

On the way out, I rode back into the fog, through clouds of bugs, and over Borel Hill. I need to come back here in a week or so on a day when the marine layer has broken up, as the flowers are just starting to get good!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mystery on my camera

Nimue had my camera during the recent garden club day, ostensibly to document her plant project, and actually took a decent shot of me while I was showing a weird burred seed to one of the other students. It's good to know I don't always look like Mutant Ma.

The Scan Pile

Heartless evil mom that I am, I occasionally scan a giant pile of Nimue's papers so I can recycle them, lest we end up buried in paper. Here are a few for you to enjoy:

I love her vocabulary pictures from school.

Occasionally she gets bored with just doing "her" vocabulary word, and tries to incorporate the whole set of five or six words into one sentence.

Lots of good pencil cartoons that I don't see until she cleans out her room and says "Please scan these before you recycle them." I happen to like Space Kitty.

Many, many cats...

And I had totally forgotten about "S day". Funny kid.