Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

In honor of the end of 2017, we took the kiddo on an adventure ride to check out a pair of roads that washed out in last winter's storms and are still listed as closed.  As I had suspected, they are still a mess, but are passable by bike :)  Chad and I thought this was great fun; Nim was not so sure...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Merry Christmas Tree

Chad came to the conclusion this year that we should get our Christmas tree by bicycle.  I've been advocating this for years :)

On Sunday, we installed the trailer on the back of his bike and headed over to OSH to get a tree.  Alas, their tree corral was gone!  Apparently they had run out of trees, a full week before Christmas.  Argh.  Fortunately, there was an employee out on the sidewalk cleaning up the last remnants of their machine that puts the netting on the trees for easy transport, and she pointed out that there was a tree lot a couple of miles down El Camino that still had a few trees left.  I plotted a good bike route (as one does not, under any circumstances, want to ride on El Camino) and off we went.

Not many trees at the Pepperwood School Tree Lot, but there were a few, and all we needed was one. Unfortunately, they only took cash, and we only had a credit card on us, so I left Chad and the kiddo to guard our precious tree and time-trialed home and back to retrieve some money.  Gotta get back before it sells out from under us!

By the time I got back, they had tied the tree closed and loaded it carefully on the bike trailer.  I paid, and home we rode.  Nim led, Chad towed the tree, and I attempted to take pictures from the back while riding without dropping my phone.  (clearly a special talent)

There always is a bit of time between getting the tree home and getting everything decorated.  Nim's favorite part of that hiatus was getting new coffee beans.  The fact that we had completely run out was Chad's least favorite part.

The final result.

And, as usual, changes in the house leave the cat is quite concerned.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Our 10th anniversary was last month; we took that as an excuse to go down to SLO and ride our bikes.

There might have been a little celebrating with food and beverage too.  We stayed at a cute little B&B downtown; they were nice enough to have a champagne and chocolate tray ready for us when we arrived.

Since Chad had just built up his new commute/adventure/go-anywhere bike, we made a point of finding routes that normal people don't ride on bikes with drop bars,

and made it up to the Hi Mountain condor lookout despite the road supposedly being closed.  (only a little bit of hike-a-bike involved...)

It was an excellent weekend with many good views and lots of sunshine!

New word for the morning

Nim coined a word this morning that should make many of you grandparents smile:


Now don't you all feel grand?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday, Nim got out of school a little early due to the holiday.  I asked her what we should do.

"Go for a bike ride and get ice cream.  Maybe Montebello?"

See how high we climbed?

Not every kid would suggest a 2000 foot climb and then enjoy it :)  She rode almost the same speed that I would have on my own!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tree carnage again

Our loquat tree is diseased and on its way out with most of the bark having fallen off the trunk, and has lots of dead leafless branches up top as a result.  I'm not quite ready to give up on the tree quite yet, but am getting close.

Last year, my dad pulled out all of the dead wood out of the side of the tree that hangs mostly over our yard; the remaining branch fluffed out and looks somewhat better than the rest of the tree.  This new growth actually fruited this year too -- the first time I've seen that since we moved into the house almost 10 years ago.  Now the rest of the tall part of the tree hanging over the neighbors' yard is full of dead wood; clearly that had to go too.  Tree carnage, ho!

But how to do it without making a mess for the neighbors?  The first step was to climb into the tree with the loppers  I got pretty good at controlling the direction of fall either by flicking the loppers to the side as the branches started to fall, or by bracing one side of the loppers against my chest, using one hand to pull them shut and the other to hold onto what would become the loose end of the branch.  All while sitting in the tree or standing on the top of the fence.  Given that I climb a lot these days and am accustomed to much more precarious footholds, that wasn't as sketchy as it sounds.

After pulling out all of the truly dead wood, things were looking pretty pathetic and unbalanced,

so I kept lopping off smaller branches in preparation for topping the tree all to the same height.  This particular tree has fairly dense wood, so I tried to take things off in small enough chunks to handle.  It all has to be small enough to fit into the yard waste bin anyway!

At this point, the remaining branches were big enough to require the chainsaw, so I took a break.  Best not to be chainsawing while standing on the fence with no one home...

Finally, the weekend rolled around and I pulled out the chainsaw.  Muahahaha!
That bare stub that remains should fluff out like the other side next spring, if past patterns hold.

In case you are wondering why there is a rope tied to the tree trunk -- I had the other end tied to the last heavy chunk I took off in case it fell over the fence.  Good thing too, since I did need to use it to fish the branch back over to our side after it fell the wrong way.  (And yes, I did apprise the neighbors of my plan; they had no problem if some branches dropped on their side, but I still felt obligated to keep the mess on our side.)

The poor truncated tree gets one more chance; if it continues to ail I'm taking it completely out and letting the orange tree next to it grow to the height that it wants to.  I like oranges :)  And the chainsaw...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Umunhum Open!

On Monday, the summit of Mt. Umunhum, in Sierra Azul open Space Preserve, finally opened to the public after literally decades of political wrangling, site cleanup, and trail building.  This is the high peak on the ridge between us and the ocean topped with the big cube that was once the base for the radar tower at the former Almaden Air Force Station.  I've looked at the roads going up in that direction on maps for years, always stymied by the lack of legal public access.

Naturally, when my original Monday plans were cancelled, I decided to head up the hill for the first day it was open.  Since the open space district had gone to the trouble to put a nice new trail in, the mountain bike was the way to go.

Oh, what a wonderful mellow morning.  I parked at the Bald Mountain parking lot and headed up the ~4 mile new trail to the top.  And a beautiful trail for climbing it was -- they somehow managed to map out a low-gradient (5-6%) mostly shaded singletrack through what I think of as hot, rocky, and brutally steep terrain.  Magic.

There were an impressive number of people out enjoying the new trail, even on a weekday, but the trail was laid out with good sight lines so it was easy to avoid unduly surprising hikers or other bikes.

Oh, and the views were good too.  Really quite a pleasant little 1100 foot climb.

The last little section near the top has some stairs, so they detour bikes over to the road for the last short stretch.  You can see it is not far.

The cube on the summit is quite large -- see the little tiny people next to it?  There is also a ceremonial circle on the other side, put in to recognize the significance of the site to the local Native Americans.  A nice touch, and I appreciate that they've made it easy to see that the peak is not only home to good views, but has a bit of history to it as well.

On the way back down, I stopped at an interim viewpoint to enjoy the panorama once more.

The downhill was also pretty mellow -- this trail isn't really steep or technical enough to attract the crazy downhill crew, which is just as well to minimize user conflicts.  Not being a super hardcore mountain biker, I actually really enjoy the relatively easy trails when they go through interesting terrain.

That being said, I can't help but know that the "right" way to approach this trail in the future is to park at the lower parking lot (at the intersection of Hicks and Mt. Umunhum Roads), ride in on Woods Trail, and then up the brutal climb up (dirt) Barlow Road before hitting the nice new Umunhum trail. Unless one is feeling lazy or is otherwise wrecked from some previous ride...

One other thing nagged me when I got home, however.  Not only was that new trail open, but the road to the top was also open and freshly repaved, calling out to all road cyclists with any inclination to climb.  There were clearly a lot of folks out on road bikes on Monday, and I knew I needed to go back and do it too.

A bit of background to this road: to get up to the top, you first have to climb Hicks Road, and then the spur of Mt. Umunhum road to the top.  For years, cyclists were prevented from going above about 2800 feet by forbidding-looking signs and fencing put in to protect a piece of private property that the road ran through.  Rumors abounded regarding the horrible fate one would suffer if the wrath of the residents was invoked.  Even without making it up to the summit, the Hicks/Mt. Umunhum climb is said to be the hardest climb in the Bay Area, at least according to my reference book (Summerson's "Complete Guide to Climbing by Bike in California").  Some climbs like Hamilton are a bit higher and longer, but Hicks/Mt. Umunhum is brutally steep and not broken up with short descent sections on which one can rest. 

Now, one can go to the top, so it's even more the hardest climb around.  I had to go do it yesterday :)

The profile below is misleading, as it doesn't quite convey the steepness of the first mile (14% average, with locally steeper bits!).  After that it eases up a bit, but throws in more steepness every time a rider starts to relax.  I found I was riding pretty comfortably up to about 13%, and had to slowly grind for the parts that were more than that -- but this was surprisingly better than I expected given that I'm still working back into riding shape after summer vacation disruptions.

For reference, the "old" climb ended at about mile 9 on this map, about 600 feet in elevation below the actual summit.  One should also note the flat stretch near the top; this is where the best views out to the ocean can be had.  It's one of the more scenic patches of road I've ridden recently.

See, the second bike up to the top in a week!

As an aside, the open space volunteer coordinator pointed out on Monday that I submitted the first trail report ever for Umunhum, and after hearing that I went up the second time this week on another bike then wanted to know if I was going to scooter up the hill next.  I figure I should go up on foot first before moving up to anything more exotic.

The views in all directions are pretty amazing.  Here you see the cities of the South Bay, behind the ridge with the dirt climb to Mt El Sombroso.

Fine fall-ish colors on the vegetation looking over towards Lexington Reservoir (in the hole behind this hill).  Incidentally, I know there is a road that theoretically goes along this ridge and connects in with Soda Springs Road, but it's all fenced off from both sides.  Darned private property... I don't want to bug anyone, but really don't see the harm in letting bicyclists ride through.

Looking out over Lake Elsman over towards Monterey Bay.  This is territory that you don't have a view of from very many accessible places.  Incidentally, being up there on a bike means it is easier to stop and look out towards the ocean than it would be in a car -- no real pullouts for the cars here.

Looking out over towards Loma Prieta.  There's also another dirt road that goes out in this direction that eventually connects in to Summit Road, which also isn't currently open to the public due to intervening private property (I asked the ranger).  Ugh.  I want loops.  One step at a time, I guess -- at the end of the day, I am quite happy to see the new area at the summit opened!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall comes finally

It's finally feeling a bit like fall this week, having cooled down.
The last few weeks have been so hot that the cat couldn't cool off without looking pathetic,

and then we had a night last week with crazy lightning storms.  It was warm enough that we just sat out on the back patio watching the sky flash.  It felt oddly like Phoenix.

The next morning, I went mountain biking up at Russian Ridge; from there I could see the fire that had been started by a lightning strike over by Skeggs, which had been my alternate destination for the morning.  I got to watch the Cal-Fire planes fly back and forth to the fire down the ridge, and was quite glad I hadn't unknowingly headed over there.


We had pie for breakfast this morning.  Or, rather, we had square pi for breakfast this morning.  This came about after a dinner discussion in which Chad tried to give Nim a math problem about areas of telescope lenses when she was tired; the end result was kid repeating "Square Pi" to every question, which then led to me thinking about pie, which then reminded me that the new season apples are starting to come in, which then just necessitated the production of a square apple pie.

Picture not complete, since we devoured part of it before I thought of taking a photo.  Really, it *was* square.  This remainder of the square pi is what we ate this morning.

In case that leaves you wanting, here is the complete and circular pie that was Nim's birthday dessert. Mmmm...lemon meringue.

And speaking of birthday desserts, I'm not sure I ever posted Chad's 50th Birthday Cake of Many Flames.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I think this plank is done.

Salmon grilled on a cedar plank is yummy.  Being a cheapskate, I use the same plank over and over again.  The current one split in half a while ago with no actual functional problems, but I think after last night it is just completely done...

Plank smoldered during cooking, despite having been pre-soaked

Bottom side of plank after final use

The salmon itself was delicious, given that it was wild-caught Coho with a mustard, bay-caper-infused vinegar, rosemary, honey, and lemon zest marinade.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Many Faces of the Kid

Last, but not least, the many faces of the kid on vacation.  Notice that she is much more smiley overall this year -- maybe just not as hungry as last year...