January 10, 2016

Poor Pitiful Pep

The bad thing about promising to meet up with a buddy for a ride is that the weather might be less than enticing, when the time comes.

The good thing about promising to meet up with a buddy for a ride is that you need to show up, anyway.

Rocky cliff along Calaveras Road, Santa Clara County, California
And so it was this morning, gloomy and gray at home. But not so in the east bay, where skies were clear and blue. For a while, anyway.

Moss-covered tree trunks near a stream running above Calaveras Road, Santa Clara County, California
Winter rains have returned, at last, greening the landscape. In this break between storms, I was mindful of the road surface—pockets of wet lingered from yesterday's storm. This moss-wrapped tree was a sign.

So were the emergency vehicles, sirens wailing, that passed us on the climb up to the canyon. With no evidence of a car wreck, almost assuredly some cyclist had gone down—as had a veteran of our club, yesterday, on this very route.

The road surface was almost entirely dry today, with a few mini-landslides on the fringes. More roadkill than I've seen here before; skunks, mostly. With the low volume of traffic on this road, that's truly a puzzle.

We were headed for Sunol, but ominous clouds rolled in over the hills as we got closer. I had the legs for it, but not the toes. The wind picked up, and it was not a warm one.

Clouds gather beyond a sunlit hillside along Calaveras Road, Alameda County, California
We turned tail and hoped to avoid the rain that surely was falling on some not-too-distant hills. How fast that blew in!

28 miles with 2,550 feet of climbing tuckered me out. I'm in poor shape, a pitiful pudgy pep.

I took care not to get carried away on the descent. There is that stop sign, at the bottom, after all. Where's that clever electronic speed sign? [Ah, partially obscured by a bush, these days.]

36 mph. Oopsie.

January 1, 2016

Ham, or Turkey?

In 2015, I climbed more than 149,000 feet and pedaled more than 3,575 miles. Time to reset the cycle computer.

Sun rays break through the clouds over the foothills of Mt. Hamilton, Santa Clara County, California
It's a Bay Area tradition to climb Mt. Hamilton on January 1st. One of my biking buddies invited me to join her, and ... well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It seemed like less of a good idea this morning, with the thermometer at my house reading 31F. In other words, -0.5C.

Why do this? Maybe she'll bail out. [Nope.]

Who am I to cancel, then? Some sort of cold-weather ultra-wimp?

The climb was comfortable enough; it's the descent you have to keep in mind. The road was wet, in places, just as I expected. My toes were numb, despite wool socks and booties. It was a challenge to brake with stiff fingers. I've come down from the top before, with teeth chattering.

A pair of wild turkeys strutting through the grass along CA 130, Santa Clara County, California
Sensibly, we opted for half-a-Ham today, declaring victory at the entrance to Joseph D. Grant County Park. The sun was determined to hide in the clouds; the summit was just not enticing.

Let's get this New Year started: 17 miles, 2,030 feet of uphill.

December 25, 2015

Half Moon Bay on Christmas Day

I heard the birds on Christmas Day ... Oh, wait—that's a different song.

Pelicans swoop around a cliff at Mavericks Beach, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California.
How would I spend this day, the first Christmas not celebrated with Mom? This, our favorite time together.

Cliff reflected in a tide pool at Mavericks Beach, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California
Answering the innocent question “What are you doing for Christmas?” has been hard, this year.

I thought and thought. I thought some more. A hike, I'd decided. Something local.

Then a good friend suggested that I join her for a walk along the coast near Half Moon Bay. Low tide exposed the rocky beds, and cliffs basked in the rays of the afternoon sun.

Heron silhouetted at low tide near a pier at Mavericks Beach, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California
Egrets and gulls hunted their dinners, children and dogs scrambled and splashed. A stately heron stood apart.

More than a century and a half has passed since Longfellow penned those words, hauntingly apt in our time.
For hate is strong,
and mocks the song
Sun rays extend from the Doppler radar sphere at Pillar Point, Princeton-by-the-Sea, California
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
It was, for me, a day of peace.

December 23, 2015

Ho, ho, ho!

A day off from work, my cold behind me, and the sun shining ... time for a bike ride!

The holidays are upon us, ready or not.

The local park is bedecked in lights for a nightly show. By day, the sun teases a glow from bulbs here and there.

It's fun to cruise through the show at night, headlights off (!). Some displays are animated, like this penguin who slips down the roof of an igloo.

Our group headed for a chilly canyon, its road wet and slick with fallen leaves. Recent rains have revived its dormant creek, a most welcome sight (and sound).  I will admit, though, that tackling 39 miles with 1,920 feet of climbing after six weeks of slothfulness feels more like “Ow, ow, ow” than “Ho, ho, ho.”

November 26, 2015

Thanks for the Snow

The Low-Key Hillclimb series concluded with the traditional Thanksgiving-morning climb to the top of Mount Hamilton. Snowfall would close access to the mountain, and rain would cancel the climb.

The Low-Key Hillclimb finish line at Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
For the fourteenth time, the weather cooperated. [So to speak.]

Ice-encrusted pine needles, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
The morning sun slipped icicles off the exposed pine tree at the summit ... but not all of them. It was that cold.

Bracingly cold (32F), with snow lingering from Tuesday night's storm. The roads were clear. [Mostly.]

Snow-covered shrubbery at Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
Ninety-one souls were brave enough to tackle the climb—a little more than half the number who turned out last year. The urge to stay nestled all snug in one's bed can get the best of anyone. [Not me.]

November 22, 2015

Sunday Morning, New York

After a proper Sunday breakfast [it's New York!], there was one more visit on this trip's agenda. A place I hadn't visited since December, 2001.

Salvaged support columns from the World Trade Center, New York, New York
Names are stamped into the borders around the waterfalls that pour into the open footprints of the twin towers, a ceaseless cascade of tears. Thousands of names. I needed no hint from the computerized directory. The North Tower. Flight 11. I found Paul's name.

Name of Paul J. Friedman etched at the North Tower Memorial, World Trade Center, New York, New York
I toured the museum, but it was too much. Fourteen years, it seems, is not long enough.

Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, New York, New York
Fluctuat nec mergitur.

November 21, 2015

More New York Minutes

Most of the team headed back to the Bay Area (and to their families) on Saturday, but I opted for more, more, more.

In years gone by, I spent so many Saturdays in the city. Equipped with a list of the plays I hadn't yet seen, I'd head straight for a box office (almost always scoring a ticket for my first choice). Then I'd bide my time at a museum, taking in some exhibit I hadn't yet seen. The possibilities are endless, but this visit was limited.

Booth Theatre marquee for Hand to God, New York, New York
I was heading for the play I'd chosen, when ... I passed the marquee for a different play I'd considered. [It was a sign.] I circled back and bought the ticket. Bob Saget did a convincing turn as Pastor Greg, but Alex Mandell's performance was phenomenal. Phenomenal.

A typical crowd was circling counter-clockwise on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. In the midst of the chaos, a slender guy skated to the music in his ears, twirling and jumping and gliding effortlessly through the Brownian motion of hockey skaters, stiff parents, and fallen kids.

Angels with trumpets, lit at night, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York
‘Tis (almost) the season, and after such a dark-but-comic afternoon, I'd reserved a fine Saturday night seat for a sentimental family favorite, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. How many of these have I seen? Always with Mom. Always ... There were new tricks—a 3-D video journey from the North Pole, fireworks, streamers shot into the audience, and ... giant, drone-powered snow bubbles that rose from below the stage to float high above the audience (and, return). The Rockettes, kicking high and toppling as toy soldiers. The Living Nativity, complete with camels, sheep, and a donkey.

High-kicking Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, New York, New York
Mom would have loved it.