May 25, 2020

Nowhere Ride

With the possibility of record-breaking temperatures over the next few days, there was only one way—get up, get out, and get back before it gets too hot.

To the post office, and then a little ride before the work week resumes tomorrow (just 15 miles and a mere 300 feet of climbing). A ride to nowhere in particular, a ride to pick up a few more selfies for a bingo challenge of my own design. Leaving just one more to collect, maybe mid-week.

But then, what?
He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

May 24, 2020

WFH: Week Eleven

Ten years ago this week I pedaled up a difficult hill to watch a stage of the Tour of California. The organizers pulled the plug on this year's race, long before COVID-19 emerged.

This was a short week (thanks to an extra day off) during which ... nothing remarkable happened. And, like so many others, I'm feeling a bit housebound—despite getting out and biking 59 miles.

I found that free day to be surprisingly unsettling. Is this what it would be like to retire without a plan? Wake up with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to visit? Sure, there are plenty of chores I've endlessly deferred, but at some point I'll work my way through all of them. [It will take a while, truth be told.]

But then, what?

My life has been pretty structured for a long time. Monday through Friday, work (and sometimes bike). Saturday, bike. Sunday is typically reserved for chores and puttering around. (And sometimes for biking.) Special events, weekend getaways, and longer trips are plotted on the calendar.

Now, what?

The week opened with a confirmed 2453 cases of COVID-19 in our county, and closed with 2617 (a 6.7% increase). That's trending in the wrong direction, but a consequence of more testing or more viral transmission?

May 23, 2020

A Pace of Teslas

Here was a sign I'd never seen before. There wasn't anything obviously treacherous about the road surface on this residential street, and of course it was completely dry.

A bit of searching confirmed that it is indeed meant to convey “slippery when wet,” which I reckon should be sometime around November, or October if we get lucky.

So many signs, so many rules (five four). There is no fifth rule; whatever it was, it has been obliterated with duct tape. My bike buddy and I are safely staying six feet (or more) apart, which means we aren't required to wear face coverings. Social distance or face coverings, we don't need both. Seriously.

“Please use another table that has not been marked NOT AVAILABLE FOR USE.” (Of course, there are none.) Your type is not wanted here.

Thankfully, though, the park's restroom was available for use, with soap, water, self-flushing toilets, and that most precious commodity, toilet paper.

The strangest observation of the day came at the end of our ride, when we spent some more socially-distant time chatting in a parking lot. A parking lot that was, of course, essentially empty. A Tesla drove through. After a while, another Tesla drove through. And another. And then the same one, recognizable by the dirty splatter on its windshield. (And on, and on.) There are electric charging stations in the lot, for public use, including Tesla Superchargers, and most were not in use. Were the cars in so-called “autopilot” mode, compelled to circle around the nearest Supercharger site until they do need to juice up?

After 32 miles and 1,965 feet of climbing, I was ready to refuel. Yogurt with a dash of granola and some cherries for me. Plus some chocolate. I earned it.

May 22, 2020

Free Day

My employer generously gave us an extra day off, unexpectedly extending the holiday weekend from three days to four.

If only we could .... go somewhere.

Evidently, many people decided to do just that: the highway leading to the coast was clogged almost as badly as on a hot summer Saturday, and our streets were gridlocked with drivers who cut through town because they think it will save them a few minutes. Either way, they crawl through 3-4 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Essential trips? For the doggie peering out the rear window of that Hyundai Tucson?

I had a mission to complete: just two more photos, and I would have collected all 34 images (!) for our bike bingo challenge. Yes, I'd already “won” with five squares in a row on one card. But ... but ... there are six cards.

Those last two photos were a bit of a challenge to collect without traveling on busy thoroughfares. I'd decided that the surest way to find a white Nissan Versa was to visit a dealer's lot. I headed out, made my first turn, and ... stop! There was the elusive vehicle, one block from home.

I took that as a sign to scrap my original route, opting for the nearest Target instead.

For bingo, it seems only fair not to re-use any image to complete a line on two different cards. On the way home, I decided to collect a few extra photos (plus this unplanned scenic vista).

Not to mention photos for a seventh card of my own design ... keeping the traditional “bike shop” in the center, I'd plotted twenty four new images. Places that people miss visiting right now, places that might take people a bit farther from home, and places they might not otherwise have noticed.

Didn't seem like much, but somehow I managed to climb 500 feet and cover 20 miles just noodling around.

May 17, 2020

WFH: Week Ten

Friday morning my heart sank when I discovered that my clock had stopped. How would I get it repaired, now? Wait a sec ... 4:05 (give or take, the clock had been running a little fast) ... I woke up during the night and thought it was odd that the window blinds were rattling, ever so slightly. The windows were closed, no breeze ... was it an earthquake?! [Yup.] Evidently it woke me, though I didn't feel the wave; yet it was strong enough to interfere with the swinging pendulum of my clock, the epicenter more than 250 miles away.

During my morning workouts, I have been exercising my brain by watching the original Cosmos series. Sometimes I need a break and listen to a contemporary podcast, instead. And sometimes, I get stuck. I've watched episodes 8 and 9 two or three times.

Why did the nuclear force sound like magic, to me? Protons, electrons, and neutrons I remember from basic chemistry, but (alas) I never studied physics. I was reminded of a time—long before we had the world of knowledge at our fingertips [thanks, Google]—when I approached a colleague with a physics degree: “I abase myself before you, but ... I realized today that I don't remember how gravity works.” He laughed. [cf. Gravitation]

And speaking of Google, of course I was familiar with the origin of the name. But I had never before heard the term googolplex (Episode 9), and now I see just how clever a name is the Googleplex.

The dissonant yellow blossoms that pop up on my red salvia bush seem out of place, but remind us that the world is imperfect. I'm grateful to be working, grateful to have work as a distraction, and grateful to be able to work from home. This is my life in 2020, and I see no change on the horizon.

Ten years ago this week I enjoyed one of my favorite organized rides, Strawberry Fields Forever. This year's edition has been postponed, optimistically, to October.

Five years ago, I lost my mom. It has been five years, already? I was fortunate to spend most of her last day with her. That morning, I knew. Somehow I understood that day would be her last. Both of her children were at her side, bringing her whatever comfort and peace of mind might come from knowing that she was not alone when she took her last breath that night—a privilege that all-too-many heartbroken families cannot have, today.

Long before I heard Carl Sagan intone “We are made of star stuff,” I absorbed it from Joni Mitchell:
Well maybe it's the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man ...

We are stardust
Billion-year-old carbon ...

Life is for learning.
The week opened with a confirmed 2339 cases of COVID-19 in our county, and closed with 2453 (a 4.9% increase).

May 16, 2020

Bernal Bingo

Rain in the forecast might yet reawaken some green in those golden hills.

I mapped out another modest ride to share with my chief biking buddy, with some bonus miles for me.

Some of my coworkers have set up a challenge, which I hear is making the rounds: a bingo game to get us outside and (in our case) onto our bikes. Easy-peasy: last week I filled one row (bingo!) with less than five miles of riding. [Which, you know, is not much for me.]

They've set up six bingo cards, so ... why not tackle all of them? [Overachiever ...]

If nothing else, I guess I'll get better at taking selfies (which, is really not my thing). Here's one square: a lake (Calero).

I'd strategized which photos I'd need to “win” a line on each remaining card. But then, when we met to start today's ride, I realized I was looking at five squares, right there! Why not go for all (34) of them? [Overachiever, x2]

To make it more challenging, I won't re-use any photos to fill a row: That is, I will use a unique photo if I pick a row on a card that repeats an image I've already used (e.g., two different churches, gas stations, crosswalk signs).

Fire truck and helicopter are not part of the game. (It was a training exercise, there was no actual emergency in progress.)

I could contribute a more challenging card, but it wouldn't be fair for me to play it. Coffee shop. Historic marker. Little Library. Museum. Town limit sign. Windmill. (An Aermotor, of course.) Hmm ...

Another personal best on a hill this week (1,520 feet of climbing overall). I hadn't planned to ride quite so far (48 miles), or be out for quite so long. I had plenty of water this week, but I was hungry. Very hungry. So hungry that I thought I had captured all of the shots I'd planned for today before heading home, but rode past three of them.

Must. Ride. Again.

May 10, 2020

WFH: Week Nine

How about some local fauna to go with the local flora? Anna's hummingbirds enjoy my feeders as well as my garden.

One bonus of spending all this time at home is catching sight of some less common visitors. I've spotted a single Bewick's wren and Nuttall's woodpecker this spring. California scrub jays are common, including one that briefly perched with a stem or twig that looked to be a good 15 inches long; they must be nesting nearby. The crows can be quite pesky. I wondered what set them off yesterday at 6 a.m., when I woke to the most raucous ruckus I've heard to date.

The house finches have been flitting about; they had been nesting in the attic (!) but disappeared after I moved into the house, many years ago. (And after a determined squirrel took up residence, counter-measures were taken to screen off all favored points of entry.)

Most days, I take a break to enjoy my lunch outside. Western fence lizards quickly scurry for cover in the bushes when startled. Honey bees busy themselves with the lavender in my garden, while the bumbling black carpenter bees have better luck with the red salvia. (They're too heavy for the pliable lavender stems; I wonder how they manage to fly, at all.)

Ten years ago this week I conquered Fremont Peak, a climb I have rarely repeated.

One year ago I celebrated Bike to Work Day with like-minded colleagues; this year, the event has been pushed out to September ... but we may still be working at home.

This week, I ventured out on my first bike ride in ten weeks.

My victory for the week was upgrading my Internet service. Over the past two weeks, it had degraded to the point of being unusable (upstream, 600 kbps). To head off an expected disagreement with my service provider, I invested in a new modem, first. So far, so good ... 10 Mbps upstream. [Yes, that sounds pathetic to those of you who live in places with modern infrastructure.]

This week's entertainment included the rarely-seen By Jeeves. Sure, it wasn't a critical success; but, you know what? It was goofy. It made me laugh. And I haven't laughed in a while.

The week opened with a confirmed 2231 cases of COVID-19 in our county, and closed with 2339 (a 4.8% increase).