December 31, 2018

Closing Out 2018

I've admired this homeowner's display for the past few years, and each season I think “I should take a picture,” but I'm usually more keen to get home than to stop. And then, right after Christmas, the lights go out.

This year, I remembered. This year, I stopped.

Another year has passed. I managed to bike to (or from) work 62 times. Not bad, considering that each trip is 18+ miles. And overall, I biked more than 2,385 miles, climbing more than 105,172 feet along the way. More than last year. Less than next year? [We'll see.]

December 25, 2018

Coastal Perspective

The winter sun sits low in the sky.

The sea calms me. I doubt that I could be happy living far from the shore, though of course so many people do.

Memories of Christmases past give way to the present, and a newer tradition of hiking on this day. We wandered along the Half Moon Bay Coastal trail, and some spurs, for a nice 6-mile walk.

My gift today was to enjoy the beauty of this world, the clear skies and sunshine, and the company of a good friend.

December 20, 2018

Ghost Bike Dedication

Winter rains have started to green the hills, but today the sun shone upon us.

We gathered in memory of Jon. His wife and son, his friends, members of his congregation and our bicycle club, and the folks from the ranch who graciously gave space on their land for a ghost bike.

Memories were shared, prayers read, tears shed.

From there we rode the familiar Cienega Loop in the unfamiliar direction (northward), rolling in at 33 miles with 1,480 feet of climbing.

In the afternoon, we bore somber witness in the courtroom at the final hearing. When Jon's widow read her statement about the impact of Jon's loss on their family and the community, it was as though everyone in the room froze in place: no one stirred, no one made a sound. The judge, having accepted the defendant's plea of “no contest” to the misdemeanor charge for killing Jon, sentenced the driver to a jail term of 150 days. He will return to his life. To his wife. To his children.

Jon is gone forever, and we will never know why.

December 15, 2018


I was non-committal about riding today. Did I really want to set the alarm to wake up early enough on a Saturday morning to haul myself to the start of a bike ride? [No.]

If I wake up naturally, I told myself, I will go. [And so I did.] It was also convenient that this particular ride would start at the leisurely hour of 10 a.m.

This is a route that the club rides regularly, and I fully intended to join the group earlier this year. I had pulled myself together that day, loaded up the car, drove down to the starting point, and just as I pulled into the parking lot I realized ... I had left my bike shoes at home. [Sigh.]

I would not make that mistake today.

'Tis the season; an ambitious homeowner was working on his Christmas holiday display. I wonder if Santa and a sack of presents will materialize in that sleigh two weeks from now?

Blue skies to the east, gray skies to the west. A storm is approaching from the south, which blessed us with an uncharacteristic tailwind for the return leg. Woo-hoo! I looked forward to that reward as I faced the modest headwinds on the opening leg.

What a treat to sail along at an effortless 18 mph for the last ten miles! 40 miles, 1,085 feet of climbing for the day.

December 2, 2018


More time off the bike. Five weeks, now. Not a single ride in November. [Well, not counting three miles most weekdays, to and from my commuter shuttle.]

My chief biking buddy and I were determined to get out for a ride today, and I opted to join her on one of her favorite outings: to Alviso, mostly on trails. To keep the distance manageable, I shortened my trip by hopping on the light rail to reach our starting point (and, to return).

Having learned my lesson last time, I definitely needed something less taxing.

I was delighted by the full-size sculpture of Lupe, the Columbian mammoth, along the Guadalupe Creek Trail (near where her remains were discovered). After that story faded from the news back in 2005, I had forgotten all about it.

I have never seen the surface of San Francisco Bay so still. In addition to black-necked stilts in the shallows, we saw a floating flock of white pelicans (and a few egrets and great blue herons along the way).

It rained yesterday, which helped clear out the smoke from the catastrophic Camp Fire that had choked the region for weeks. Even though the fire burned about 200 miles to the northeast, our air quality was (at times) hazardous. Even though all my windows were closed, I smelled the smoke in my house the morning after the fire started.

We didn't get too far on the levees before the trail became too muddy for us to proceed. We met another woman cycling on her own and invited her to join us. We parted ways on the return trip, opting for the unpaved trail on the opposite bank of the Guadalupe River.

The principal part of the ride was 24 flat miles (okay, okay: 320 feet of climbing), which I extended another 10 miles (and 200 feet of climbing) biking to and from the light rail station. Looking forward to repeating this ride in other seasons!

October 27, 2018

Use It

I struggled up Mt. Hamilton today. My heart rate was higher than it should have been. When I'd pause, it wouldn't drop as quickly as it should have, either.

But it was a beautiful day, and I kept going.

I wondered whether I should keep going. But I kept going.

[Stubborn? Who, me?]

I wanted to take advantage of what might be the last warm day of the season to head for the summit. I've descended it in the teeth-chattering cold before.

I was alarmed at how hard the climb was; I wasn't trying for a speed record. It was the usual 4,895 feet of climbing over 39 miles.

Maybe that sounds daunting? But it shouldn't be, for me. How many times have I climbed it? [More than 35 times.]

The reason it was hard today was not mysterious: My last bike ride was four weeks ago. [Yikes!]

Use it, or lose it.

October 19, 2018

Exteriors, Familiar and Not

Where to, next? Central Park!

Ms. C was keen to see Belvedere Castle, but alas it was shrouded in scaffolding and closed for renovation.

We checked out the reservoir, the lake, and the turtle pond (where yes, we saw some actual turtles swimming).

Another request: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Why not, from Brooklyn? I don't think I've ever taken the subway to Brooklyn before, but Google Maps led us to the right station.

We made our way to the World Trade Center site.

To the North Tower Pool.

I know where to find Paul's name. This is not something I would forget.

We walked along the High Line, from Chelsea to the north end overlooking the tracks at Penn Station.

On to Grand Central, to admire the nearby Chrysler Building by day.

A day to reflect on the old and the new, on what is here and what is not, before heading home.

October 17, 2018

The Art of the Subway

I had passed through the station many times before this little fella caught my eye, perched on a beam overhead.

Was this a rogue artistic statement? [No.]

There were more figures dotted about, and a larger installation below a staircase.

The subway system has a budget for art, I learned. We had some fun on a tour underground with a bona fide subway railfan.

Sure, I'd enjoyed the fossil replicas in the station below the Museum of Natural History. And I'd noticed the full-sized mosaics of revelers in the passages near Times Square. But there is real history throughout the system. The original lines were private, and the tile banners in each station followed their distinct color schemes of their owners.

More importantly, each station had a theme (localized to the neighborhood, in some fashion) to help riders recognize their stops. Not everyone could read, back in the day.

The Statue of Liberty is just barely visible beneath the bridge in the design at the Chambers Street station. The white tiles lining the walls were chosen to counteract the subterranean darkness. Despite layers of grime, they still reflect a lot of light.

A beaver, at Astor Place. It seems lucky that these pieces have endured in situ—not having been pried loose and stolen, nor defaced.

Our enthusiastic guide led us to some uncommon sights, like this intimate view of the tracks curving out of a station. We were standing, comfortably, behind a railing on the platform (not, as it might appear, on the tracks).

He made sure that we passed below the Roy Lichtenstein mural at the Times Square Station.

(A Roy Lichtenstein mural, in the subway?!)

Oh, the things you see when you take a moment to look around!

October 16, 2018

Interiors, Unfamiliar

It's easy to be overwhelmed by New York, with endless options for places to go and things to see. Sure, I have my favorites ... but when I visit with friends, it's the unexpected finds I relish most.

Like The Church of St. Francis Xavier, tucked into a neighborhood near Chelsea. I'm sure the area looked very different when it was built more than a century ago.

How many commuters, bustling through the corridors of Grand Central, take a moment to gaze up?

So many years ago, I would stay at the Plaza— a single room was (dare I say) a bargain during the summer months. Today, we eyed the Palm Court.

We're staying at an “affordable” Pod hotel, where they have refined the art of packing the maximum number of rooms into the available space. (“Affordable” is relative, I might add ...)

We explored a few galleries at the Metropolitan Museum, but popped into the Guggenheim just to admire the building.

One of Ms. C's “must-visit stops” was, of course, the New York Public Library. With some planning, we could have enjoyed a tour. The Rose Main Reading Room was packed (and very quiet, despite the prevalence of electronic screens).

The building is a veritable palace of books (though the stacks are hidden away). Nothing like this would be built today. Nothing.

An exhibit presented the work of Anna Atkins, the first examples of photographs (of seaweed) in a book. Remarkable, and ... who knew? (Not I.) For those who will not have the rare opportunity to study the physical pages, the library has shared them online.

From cyanotype, to high-resolution digital, to ... whatever the future holds.

October 14, 2018

Scenes of the City

Autumn in New York.

Staying in Manhattan is an extravagance, but so worth it.

Surprises await around every corner.

Work has brought me here for a few days, and of course I've extended my visit.

The skyline is less familiar to me now.

A dramatic new tower has risen somewhere beyond the New York Public Library, but ...

Will it age as well as the Chrysler building?

Or St. Patrick's Cathedral?

It's a transitional season—holiday trimmings are beginning to appear. The Christmas tree is weeks away, but skaters are already circling at Rockefeller Center.

October 13, 2018

Playing Around

Was I visiting during the off-season? Or is it the Disneyfication of Broadway? The pickings seemed slim.

I landed first at an Off-Broadway revival, the musical Desperate Measures, which turned out to be hilarious.

The story was fresh for me, as it seems I have never seen (nor read) Measure for Measure.

Next up was the play at the top of my list, Come From Away.

Last year, I couldn't bring myself to see this one. My chest tightened and my eyes brimmed when the passengers discovered what brought their planes to Gander. It was a few blocks from here, so many years ago, that I saw Evita with Paul.

Taking a break from musicals, I scored a ticket to a preview performance of The Lifespan of a Fact.

Seated next to a woman who had partied at Studio 54 back in the day, we were both puzzled about the venue. Evidently it began as a theatre, and to a theatre it has returned. The play was thought-provoking and funny, up to the (abrupt) end.

Late in the week, my chief biking buddy Ms. C joined me for a few days. “Pick a play, any play,” I said.

Kinky Boots, said she. And I'm glad she did. J. Harrison Ghee as Lola was amazing, and I had no idea that the concept was inspired by a true story.

The architectural details in these old theatres, lovingly restored, are a treat in themselves.

But why, oh why, are modern musicals so over-amplified? The lyrics were clever ... when I could make them out.

Four plays in one week—a new record for me, despite the slim pickings.

New York, New York.