April 27, 2019

A Touch of Cold

It was inevitable, really. Sharing a road trip and hotel room with my ailing biking buddy last weekend all but ensured that I would get sick, too.

Dry air, I told myself when I detected the first hint of a sore throat. [Wrong.]

Luckily it didn't hit me quite so hard, and I really did want to ride my bike today.

From the highway, I saw the fog capping the Santa Cruz Mountains. [Uh oh.] Warm enough for a vest and arm warmers, I'd thought. [And I should know better.]

I could always do the first climb and turn back. [Right, like that's gonna happen.]

The redwoods rained big drops on us, at the top. The road was thoroughly wet. Visibility was fine, as the fog bank was above us.

Kind of mystical, really. And I think all that moisture helped me cough out some of my cold.

A brisk 23 miles with 2,320 feet of climbing.

April 21, 2019

Black Chasm Cavern

I have my biking buddy to thank for introducing me to the wonders of caverns; that was something my family never explored.

Before returning home, we headed for the nearby Black Chasm Cave near the town of Volcano, and ... wow!

This is no run-of-the-mill cave (which, still, would be fascinating).

Look closely at that photo above, and notice the thin white crystalline structures poking horizontally out of a seam in the rock.

But ... but ... gravity, you say? How can this be? Well, evidently, scientists haven't quite figured that out. [Yet.]

This is a cave filled with bizarre, delicate helictites. [The things you learn!]

 They grow every which way, sometimes spiraling into curlicues.

Far, far down, there's a lake. [Keep a tight grip on that phone.] And thank you, Night Sight; this place was meant for you.

The cave is a National Natural Landmark, an official designation that was unfamiliar to me—despite having visited six other sites in California.

Twenty-nine to go ...

April 20, 2019

Sierra Century

Plymouth, California? Not Massachusetts?

When my chief biking buddy suggested a new adventure, I signed right up.

A somewhat quirky place, which also happened to be hosting a gathering of military aficionados.

The view from the room at our nondescript roadside motel was unexpectedly, and spectacularly, pastoral.

Despite an untimely injury and an even less timely cold, my cycling buddy still made the trek (and, completed the short route).

As for me, well, with all the rain and recent travel, I questioned whether I really could complete a (hilly) metric.

As it turned out, yes, I could.

The first twenty-one miles were essentially flat, and the last seventeen—downhill!

It had been unseasonably hot the day before, but conditions were just right for the event.

We started together, but our routes eventually diverged. Mine headed into the forest.

The wildflowers and green hills will soon fade away.

Sierra snowmelt will keep the streams rushing for some time, though, given our historic winter.

I never expected to see a Civil War cannon in California, but there it is: the Old Abe Volcano Blues Cannon.

The last rest stop was across from the Daffodil Hill ranch, where a few late-bloomers lingered in the garden. When I walked over to look for the noisy peacock, I was surprised to find him perched right at the fence.

My longest and hilliest ride, to date: 67 miles, 4,250 feet of climbing.

Thanks to Captivating Sports Photos for some awesome action shots! Rounding a curve, at speed, I thought ... good luck with that. They delivered!

April 18, 2019


I am a creature of habit. And so it is that, when stopped at a traffic light, you will find me thus:
Standing over my bike.
Right foot planted flat on the ground.
Left foot, unclipped, resting on the pedal.
Right hand engaging the rear brake.
I don't know why or when I developed this habit, but there it is.

And so it was this morning, when I learned that my bicycle can stop a rolling car.

Positioned on the bike sensor at the least-favorite intersection of my commute, I had noticed a minivan stop a few feet behind me.

Waiting at this seemingly interminable light, I thought no more about the minivan. Until ...

WHAM! The nose of my saddle punched my lower back.

What the ... did some cyclist just slam into me? I certainly didn't expect to find my rear wheel wedged [WEDGED!] under the front bumper of the aforementioned minivan.

Unable to free my wheel, I motioned (angrily) to the driver to BACK UP.

The wheel, and the tire, were fine—the latter despite being severely pinched by the minivan.

My habitual stance, whatever its origin, saved me from being (at best) knocked to the ground.

And while yes, this might have happened at any intersection, I have a new habit: Bypass this intersection, where the long wait drives people (literally) to distraction.

Pro tip: When stopped, keep your foot (or your hand) on the brake!

April 14, 2019

Aloha, Kauai

And now the time has come to say farewell ...

to wild surf and rocky shorelines,

to Ocean Rescue standing by,

to silvery fishes

to colorful geckos,

and fiery flowers.

Farewell to the resident hyacinth macaw

and pineapples growing in the lobby.

I adored my view.

I think I shall not wait so long again to return.

April 12, 2019

Okolehao Trail

Let's get muddy!

We headed north to the other side of the island, and first stopped to visit the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The dots of white speckling the hillside on the far side of the cove are not flowers, but birds. Thousands of nesting shorebirds.

A stately nene took a break from dabbling in the dirt, perhaps to admire the view.

Lured by curious noises near the parking lot, I spied a couple of juvenile birds in their nest—wedge-tailed shearwaters, I think.

The Okolehao Trail is part of another National Wildlife Refuge (Hanalei). We were fortunate to arrive as another hiker was exiting. “Take a stick,” she advised. There was an ample supply at the trailhead.

We wouldn't have gotten far without them. The trail was steep and slick; for some stretches, a mesh “carpet” afforded just enough traction.

Something rustled in the brush and paused to peer out at me—an immature gold dust day gecko.

We met a few hikers on the trail, including one barefoot guy with a baby. I marveled at those without walking sticks. (The guy with the baby finally turned back when he reached a particularly gnarly stretch.)

We did climb high enough for a clear view of Hanalei Bay, but not high enough to reach the summit (much to the regret of my hiking companion). But I'm in it for the sights, so I was happy.

Not many flowers, but this fungus was a lovely color.

It all comes out in the wash.

We managed to cover a little over two miles, round trip.

April 11, 2019

Waimea Canyon

Let's go exploring!

A friend was keen to show me the first part of a route he'd planned, having judiciously stepped back from his intended pilgrimage to the summit of Kauaikini. A key skill for off-roading, I learned, is to tilt forward a bit and let your body sway freely as the vehicle bumps and bounces along.

We made it as far as the Kauaikoi Stream, and stopped; although he'd driven through yesterday, rain had since swollen the creek considerably.

Lots of greenery, lots of mud, very few flowers.

Back to the main road, we enjoyed sweeping vistas of Waimea Canyon.

Clouds blocked our view at the Kalalau Lookout, but we were rewarded after waiting out the rain. (Flood damage has closed the Kalalau Trail.)

The foraging bird in the foreground is a (non-native) Erckel's francolin. But you had your eye on the sea, didn't you?

There are only so many roads here, so of course we headed down Makaha Ridge for a look-see.

I'll never forget a local's reaction to a spectacular rainbow the first time I visited Hawaii: “Well, it rains in the hills in the afternoon, and the sun is in the west, so ...”

“Oh, wow!” Should I pull over? “Yes!”

There's a double rainbow here, if you look hard enough.

Waimea Canyon, a waterfall, and a rainbow. Kauai.