March 2, 2018

A Day at the Office

In a most peculiar concurrence, my daily route to the office connected me to my roots half a world away.

Here, along the waterfront, the Australian National Maritime Museum had mounted an outdoor exhibit on the container shipping industry: The Box that Changed the World.

An exhibit chronicling the industry that employed my dad, from its earliest days through the last of his days.

I wonder if he understood how revolutionary the indusry was? He didn't talk about it.

I think he would have enjoyed the exhibit, and he'd be awed by the massive container ships of the 21st century.

My workplace is very different. Very different. It so happened, for example, that folks from the zoo stopped by and brought some of the local fauna along. [What lucky timing!]

Not only could we observe and learn about the animals, we could pet them, too! Directionality is key with the echidna.

The fur on the ringtail possum was impossibly soft.

And all those spikes on the bearded dragon look intimidating, but its skin was really supple.

Someone generated a visitor badge for Zippy the tortoise, much to the delight of the zookeepers.

The short-beaked echnidna, though, was the crowd's favorite as it explored the room, waddling and poking about. A mammal? That lays eggs?!

March 1, 2018


My body was saying “Okay, I know you did something here, I'm not sure what, it's some kind of trick you've played on me” ... but I wouldn't call it jet lag.

Having successfully run the visa gauntlet, I have made my first trip to Australia (to work with our local team).

I discovered it was a lovely walk along the waterfront to the office in the morning.

And a lovely walk back to the hotel at the end of each day.

One of the first things I noticed was the sound of birds I'd never heard before. I was excited to spot an Australian White Ibis perched overhead. My colleagues laughed. “Bin chickens,” they scoffed. Like the Silver Gulls (but far less aggressive), they have adapted well to feeding on our scraps.

I spotted the occasional Australian Magpie, and a pair of Masked Lapwings one day when small piles of compost were being spread on a grassy field. I never did find the source of the unusual calls, though.

February 17, 2018

The Straggler

That was me, today: The Straggler.

Despite a healthy head start, the rest of the group soon caught (and passed) me. After I paused to peel off my jacket, I never saw them again.

I puttered along, pausing to enjoy the occasional view. Newly-planted trees were a sign that this is still an active orchard.

I wasn't up for the full route today, anyway. Without a leader to follow through Alum Rock Park, I strayed off course.

Enough, already. I took the direct route back to the start.

Seventeen miles, with 1,340 of climbing on a lovely blue-sky day.

January 13, 2018

In the Thick of It

I was excited at the prospect of exploring new territory. [Sort of.]

The skies were clear at home—unlike yesterday, when a winter fog had settled upon us.

My spirits sank as I got closer to the start for today's ride, in Livermore. Fog. Ground fog.

It's magical in the distance; here you can see the top of Mt. Diablo peeking above it.

Up close, it lends a mystical ambiance to field and forest.

The more we climbed, eastward toward the Central Valley, the denser it got. Droplets formed on my sunglasses and dripped from my helmet. Crosswinds buffeted the bike and made it wobble.

Near the summit, I was alarmed that I could hear an approaching car long before I could see its headlights. I knew I was near the summit thanks to my new gadget, a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt on its maiden voyage. Having pre-loaded it with today's route, it beeped reassuringly at key moments and counted down the remaining distance when I was close to the top. [Not that I was going to sprint, or anything.]

I could hear the rest of the group chattering; why would they wait for the last of us, in such conditions?

Change of plans, they announced. [Whew, what a relief!] It wasn't safe to continue on the planned route. (It wasn't particularly safe to ride as far as we did, but there we were.) I was more than happy to high-tail it out of there, back down the hill. The new plan was to head up to Del Valle Regional Park, another new place for me.

The beach was deserted, and we had the park nearly to ourselves.

Not much of a lake view, at the moment. We saw a couple of boats leaving the park on trailers; did they not check the conditions before making the trip?

An Aermotor!

Glad we were able to improvise, for a respectable 2,640 feet of climbing over 35 miles. It was worth it. And I suffered less than I expected, given that my last real ride was six weeks ago.

Not a big riding year for me in 2017: 2,977+ miles, 85,390+ feet of climbing overall. A new year has begun.

December 25, 2017

Go Tell It on the Mountain

I was having trouble summoning any holiday spirit in the Bay Area this year. No desire to hear the music. No interest in baking cookies. I even felt half-hearted about pulling out my treasured decorations.

My good friend and chief biking buddy, Ms. C, suggested a stroll through Christmas in the Park, which features many traditional Christmas trees decorated by groups large and small. As well as some non-traditional trees, California-style.

The last concert in the Season of Giving series at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph featured the Harpers Hall Celtic Harpists. The program ranged from the local to the traditional, with selections from around the world—almost as diverse as the faces in the audience. Children enthusiastically embellished Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (“Like a flashlight!”). I chimed in for Silent Night; luckily there were plenty of voices to carry Feliz Navidad (note to self: learn the words). We both felt drowsy at the same time, and agreed that the Carol of the Bells was the piece most suited to the instruments.

The past two years have seen us exploring the coast in Half Moon Bay on Christmas Day; this year, Ms. C suggested we try something new: Montara Mountain. We followed the Gray Whale Cove trail first, for the coastal view. Although it didn't seem that we'd climbed all that much, we were soon looking down—way down—at the parking lot where we'd started. We saw lots of gray clouds, but no whales.

And while this would seem to be an unlikely way to spend Christmas, the parking lot filled up and many fellow hikers (and mountain bikers) greeted us sincerely with “Merry Christmas!”

The mountain lies within the expanse of McNee Ranch State Park, which (despite its size) is treated like a footnote to Montara State Beach.

There are no facilities. No posted trail maps. No pamphlets. A few signposts at some junctions, that's all. We asked some descending hikers how much farther to the top of the mountain, and were surprised when they said a few more miles. Having foregone a recommended short-cut, I wasn't entirely surprised; Google Maps confirmed our fellow hiker's estimate, so we soon chose to turn and follow a different route back to the car. The trail was steep, and sandy; challenging enough with our hiking boots and walking sticks. A trio including an older woman outfitted with ordinary running shoes hiked past us; we couldn't imagine how she'd fare on the way down. In the distance, the Farallons were just barely visible.

We were satisfied with our 5.2 mile hike. The mountaintop will wait.

December 11, 2017

Memories, Indelible

I'd walked through that tunnel on Saturday, transferring from the R line to the C. Like thousands of other people, that day and every day. (Except today.)

So many hotel dining areas have televisions running the non-stop news cycle. Honestly, I don't know why. At breakfast, or really at any other meal, the images are all-too-often disturbing.

I was the early riser this morning, the only guest in the room. Having scanned the news online while waking up, I was stunned to find the screen filled with flashing red and blue lights, the NYPD bomb squad, live coverage of an explosion in the tunnel connecting the Times Square subway station to the Port Authority station. Yet another disaffected, brainwashed young man. Fortunately, he killed no one—not even himself.

Within two hours, the hum of the city was already being restored. The bomber identified, surveillance footage of the blast on air, officials holding a press conference about the resilience of New Yorkers. Within two hours. Astonishing.

Crane hoisting concrete to the upper floors of a building under construction, 30th Street, New York, New York
Construction is a constant in the city. If I had thought about how concrete floors are poured two dozen stories above street level, I would have assumed the material was mixed there. I would not have expected to see it poured from a truck into a bin that was then hoisted into the sky by a giant crane.

The friend who planned to meet me in the city confirmed that NJ Transit was running normally and our lunch date was on.

Animated display featuring yellow taxis and New York landmarks, Lord & Taylor, Fifth Avenue, New York, New York
I strolled up Fifth Avenue, not wanting to miss the the animated displays in the windows at Lord & Taylor. I assured two visitors that they were on the right track and could not miss Rockefeller Center. This being a weekday, the crowds were a bit thinner than Friday night's crush.

Lion statue decorated with a wreath, New York Public Library, New York, New York
How many times have I seen the Christmas Show at Radio City? I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure it was an annual treat when I was a child. Back in the day when some of the seats were actually general admission. How my mom loved it! After we moved farther away, she'd take a bus tour each year.

Radio City Music Hall Marquee, 6th Avenue, New York, New York
Fifth row, virtually in the center, today. I wish you were here, Mom. (Though the 3D segment would make you nauseous!) They fully use this glorious space these days, projecting trains and dancing Santas on the arches high above our heads to complement the action on stage.

Red curtain on the main stage with giant snowflakes projected on the arches, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York
Confetti rained down on the audience, like snowflakes, in the finale. Even after walking 20+ blocks back downtown, stray bits fluttered off at dinner and in my hotel room.

High-kicking Rockettes in a line, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York
I love NYC at Christmastime.

Empire State building lit with green and white lights, New York, New York

December 10, 2017

Down the Shore

I'd reserved Sunday for a family visit. Perhaps, I suggested, we could take a walk on the boardwalk and enjoy an early dinner.

View of the beach and snowy boardwalk in late afternoon, Asbury Park, New Jersey
Yes, it does snow at the beach. Evidently the sand held enough heat to fend off any accumulation from this early storm.

Carousel House, Asbury Park boardwalk, Asbury Park, New Jersey
It was uplifting to see Asbury Park in its revitalizing state. I'm sure I rode the merry-go-round as a child; the building remains, though the carousel is long gone.

When the city slid into its deep decline, we'd stroll the boards through the neighboring town of Ocean Grove and turn back at the border. The line in the sand wasn't hard to miss; sketchy characters loitered on the Asbury side. It was no longer the town that Bruce romanticized.

Nautical motif and ship atop the south entrance to the arcade, Asbury Park, New Jersey
Things are turning around, these days. A jazz band played as we strolled through a fair inside Convention Hall, where artisans were selling their wares.

I never had the chance to notice the architectural details, before.

Carved banner with pair of fish atop a doorway inside the arcade, Asbury Park, New Jersey
The interior could use some more work, but somehow the building and its ornamental flourishes survived those sad decades of neglect.

Breaking waves at the beach under gray clouds as the late afternoon sky turns pink, Asbury Park, New Jersey
And the wintry waves of the steely gray Atlantic roll on.