Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nimue's masterpiece

We are having Todd and Sarah and their kids over tonight for a belated birthday and Easter celebration (late, since first they were on Spring Break, and then we were, along with all the other normal scheduling difficulties).  Nimue decided she needed to create a cake masterpiece.

One fears that letting the book "Cake My Day" into the house was a dangerous thing...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Break Torture

We had a pretty low-key week while Nim was on Spring Break last week due to the need to conserve Chad's vacation days for later in the year, but I did drag everyone out for a quick trip out to do some backpacking at Henry Coe park.  No advance reservations required, for once -- the place is big enough that you just show up and register at headquarters before going in.  We were planning to camp in the zones closest to the entrance, so we had to let them know exactly which site we were aiming for, but going in on a Thursday, there was no competition for the good spots.  (Quite a contrast to the stupid "reserve your site online at 9am six months before you go" routine that has become the norm for developed campgrounds around here...clearly backpacking needs to become our new norm.)

The first day was about five miles down, down, down into the Coyote Creek drainage.  The twelve-year-old was grumpy about being  forcibly dragged away from her computer.  Parents were deemed to be excessively cheerful.

Things started looking up after we found a nature guide for one section of trail, and got even better when we made it down to our campsite by the swimming hole in the creek.

Naps were had.

I stalked fish and bugs in the creek with my camera.
(Find the water strider, and his shadow!)

Little fishies (big ones kept swiming away from me)

Chad taught Nim about filtering water.

The next day, we hiked a short way on a lovely trail along the creek, trying to dodge poison oak, until we got to the site of the old Madrone Soda Springs resort.  There is not much there any more (old buildings have had all useful things removed and have since been washed away downstream by flood waters), but back in the 1880's there were apparently four stagecoach trips a day back into the springs here, with several buildings, a dance hall, entertainment, and the whole nine yards.

Now there is an overgrown rock stairway.

And a lovely spot to camp.  Nim and I read for a while,

and played hangman.

Always bring the stuffed tiger. (note the paw sticking out of Nim's pack)

I stalked bugs instead of fish at this campsite.
one of a veritable cloud of ladybugs 

variable checkerspot

I find it amusing that Chad and I independently took pictures of the same dead snag,

from entirely different viewpoints! (yes, the monster mouth one is mine...)

Chad got the superior shot of the lichen-covered oak at the edge of the site.  It was really just a lovely spot to hang out and relax.

Despite the minor complaining on the way in the first day, by the time we got to the steep climb to get back out on the last day, the kid was clearly enjoying herself.
smiling partway up the first mile out, with 800 feet climbed in said mile

Nim's thought at the end: "This is really fun, but sort of pointless and painful."  I take that to mean that she liked the trip!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Band for you

Chad had open house duties last week since I was gone at rehearsal, and actually made a video of the band, so you can *see* Nim play her piccolo.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Murphy's Law Meets Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is supposed to be good.

There is an organized bike ride called RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day) that I've been wanting to do for a while.  Circumnavigate a volcano in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with food/beverage support -- how cool is that?  The volcano that I associate with hiking and outdoor adventures of my youth, at that.   At the end of July, which it should be gorgeous, too.

Never mind that it historically has been 150+ miles, with about 10,000 feet of climbing; the exact route varies somewhat from year to year due to winter road damage, construction, and the like.

The RAMROD organizers can only allow something like 800 people due to road safety considerations imposed by the park service, so there is a lottery every year to allocate the spots.  For a long time, you couldn't enter the lottery as a group, which pretty much ruled us out, as we wouldn't plan to do it unless we could both get in.  However, they started allowing small group lottery entries last year, which pulled the ride into the realm of possibility.

This summer was already looking pretty full, and our riding so far this year, while regular, has not especially been planned out as training for a big event.  I entered us into the lottery anyway, figuring that some of the 800 spots would go to last year's volunteers, and the odds of actually for this year being picked were not high.  You see, their lottery is weighted to favor people who have entered and failed to be drawn in previous years.  My thinking was "We want to do this next year, or the year after, so I'll essentially just be getting in line by entering this year."

Yeah, right.  Of course our names got drawn.  (You saw this coming.)

Now we're committed.  They haven't announced the exact 2015 route yet, but there is hope that it will be the "traditional" ~150 mile route.  It has a giant climb up Cayuse Pass about 100 miles in to the day.  Chad has had minor panic about setting up and following a training plan; I merely looked back at my old ride spreadsheet and decided that because I've been riding at least as much as the year before the STP (longer, but flat) and the year we did the Death Ride (a little shorter, but hillier), that we are in pretty good shape as long as we keep to our normal habits.

[Insert denial about the two and a half weeks in June that we will be in Utah hiking rather than riding, and the fact that I don't have as much opportunity to ride once Nim is out of school.]

It'll all be all OK -- we can do it.  Without too much suffering.  I think...


Every year, I ride Mt. Hamilton on or around my birthday.  The year, the weather was gorgeous and I had plenty of time, so I drove over to the hill after breakfast and headed up.

Very slow to warm up.

Total and utter lack of motivation.

Really didn't feel like doing it that morning.  

Just rode up it last month.

Booooooring.  Crave variety.

As a result, after the first thousand or so feet of climbing, I made a right turn on Quimby and started exploring.  Despite the fact that this section of road climbed a little more, and more steeply than I had previously been doing, the bicycle ennui disappeared and everything immediately felt better.  Yay.

Of course, following this route meant I had to navigate without a map, ride some roads I had never been on, and ride some others in the opposite direction than I had previously done.  How fun!

But, yikes,  the steep part of Quimby looked like it would pitch me off the edge of the world.  I can't believe they are going to *race* down this on the Tour of California next month.  Some of the twisty switchbacks have an 18% grade, and despite the fact that the pavement looks ok to the eye, it actually has some weird undulating ripples to it that pitch you around.  Still, the views are pretty good :)
And yes, of course I've ridden *up* this before, just never down it.

After plummeting back down into San Jose, I turned south onto San Felipe Road, and discovered a gentle, rural, shady green climb that I had never climbed before.  Aside from a few suspicious cows at my snack stop, I didn't see much of anyone for miles.

San Felipe runs into the top of Metcalf Road, which was still covered in wildflowers despite the fact that many of the other hills are starting to turn brown.  I must have hit something weird on the phone with my sweaty fingers, resulting in a funny "old photo" effect being applied -- somehow appropriate to the atmosphere of this very rural, gorgeous section of road.
Another steep descent back into civilization, and then a bike trail along Coyote Creek, followed by some minor navigational challenges due to my lack of map, and I made it back to the starting point having covered more miles and gained more elevation than would have happened doing the normal Hamilton climb.  A most entertaining morning! (Happy Birthday to Me)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter

Fun with chemistry: Vegetable-dyed Easter eggs.
Red onion skin
Grape juice
Yellow onion skin
Really pathetic leftover beets
(I quite prefer these to the artificial candy colors of traditional dye kits....even if a few of the colors just dyed white eggs brown!)

Kid hiding behind her bunny loot.

I sang a Palestrina double-choir mass as a singer added at the last minute for the church choir directed by the guy who does Early Music singers, and was almost asphyxiated by all the incense.

Hope you all had a good Easter.