Tag Archives: adventure

Free Ride on Smart Train

Free Ride on Smart Train


Martha joined me for the June 29, 2017 Preview Ride on the SMART train from the Rohnert Park station to the Marin Civic Center station and back. The whole thing took two hours — from 10 a.m. to noon. Finding the parking lot was a little dicey — it is not well marked and Google maps did not have pinpoint accuracy. The entrance was in a curve of a small Rohnert Park street, and it was not really wide enough for two way traffic. I was lucky to find a parking spot in the small lot — I wonder how they are going to use it for commuters. It does not seem to be designed for easy access by bus, and is too far away from SSU to walk.

Martha snagged us seats at the table right behind the pilot cabin, so we chatted with the 50-ish driver who let us peer into the “wheelhouse.” It looked like a console for a river ship, something that is mainly designed to go forward in a single plane. There were plenty of security personnel, but they were friendly. A man in his 30’s came onboard with his bicycle and 10-year-old son, also with a bicycle. Even though the man was tall and strong, he had a hard time getting the bike on the gleaming, brushed stainless steel bike hooks that hung from the ceiling right behind where I was sitting.

He hung it handlebars-up and that was clearly wrong — I wouldn’t be able to get past the bike to get out the door. A security guard pointed to the directions, which were on the wall behind where the bike was hung so they were hard to see. The cyclist re-hung the bike handlebars-down, but the front wheel was flopping around.

The instructions were images-only, no words, and did not address where the handlebars should go. The security guard interpreted the images for the cyclist, saying that the bottom cleat first had to be slid up vertically, then folded forward to create a cradle for the bicycle tire. There was a lanyard to secure the wheel to the cradle, but the lanyard was clipped under the assembly. There was no room for the man to squeeze down to the floor between his bicycle and the back of my seat, so his 10-year-old son had to crawl in, release the lanyard, raise and flip forward the cradle, then thread the lanyard through the spokes to secure the tire.

When the boy crawled out backwards, it was clear that there was not enough room for his bike to be hung on the second ceiling hook. They put his bike in a separate bike compartment. Each bike compartment had two hooks but only room for one bike. A uniformed, pretty woman in her 30’s came by handing out literature and I asked if she worked for SMART. Yes, she was in marketing. I explained to her the inadequacy of the signage for securing bicycles. She said they had worked with the bicycle alliance to come up with this design.

Martha and I did not get to chat much because the train sounded its horn three times at each rural grade crossing. It was silent only in Novato and Petaluma but quite noisy everywhere in between. The ride could be a little bouncy when we moved onto a short parallel track. There were toilets in our car and a snack bar in the corresponding section of the back-to-back attached car. It was easy to walk between the two cars, but of course we could not walk to the third car which was attached nose-to-nose.

The SMART train is single-track for much of the trip, with sidings so trains can pass, and one double-platform station (Petaluma). We got on the train, rode to the end, stepped out so they could sweep it, then stepped back into the same seats on the same train and rode back to where we started. It is hard to see the commuter possibilities for this right now, but when they build the spur from San Rafael to the Larkspur Ferry Landing, it will be much more useful.

Fingers crossed.

Woman Lives Undersea for 8 Days

Woman Lives Undersea for 8 Days


Here I am with Dr. Dawn Kernagis, a member of Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, who spoke at SRJC today about doing biomedical research on the effects living underwater for eight days as part of NASA’s NEEMO 21 crew. Here is a video of her talk, “Dr Dawn Kernagis talks about life undersea during NASA s NEEMO 21 Mission.” So impressive! This was part of Women’s History Month.

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Hike Springtime

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Yesterday, Wendy Gross led us (group shot below) on a four-hour, seven mile hike on Sugarloaf Mountain that was very steep. Halfway through the hike we were on a beautiful, seldom-used trail that was steeply up-and-down alongside a flowing creek. There were several stream crossings which were easy, even though Laura Tighe just walked through the water and skipped trying to balance on the rocks. She said, “it cools my feet.” She also commented that the entire group standing on a wooden bridge (below) was an interesting test of the strength of the bridge.

I was ready for the hike to end around noon, our usual stopping time, but it took until 1 p.m. to finish and we reached an altitude where the deciduous trees thinned out and we were seeing healthy conifers with cones so big Jason was marveling at their size and robustness. We thought Jason and Frances would join us afterwards at Midtown Cafe, but the 2 p.m. closing time was fast approaching, so they opted out. To give you an idea of how taxing the hike was, Jill ate the entire Duck Confit she ordered, and Ezra ate everything, too. He enjoyed the strenuous hike, but next time I will make sure that Wendy has actually hiked the trail previously before I follow her.

There were lots of pretty spring flowers in the cool, foggy weather, and we had a vigorous discussion about penstamen. Wendy finally opened up a flower and counted the stamens — five.

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason Foreground: Frances, Ulla

Back: Diane, Jill, Ned
Middle: Wendy, Ezra, Jason
Foreground: Frances, Ulla

My Tick and Rash

My Tick and Rash

CDC  Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

CDC Lyme Disease Rash Pattern

Yikes! I just discovered a tick bite, about 24 hours after the hike. This is what was left after my friend broke off the body, which I will submit to the County for testing for only $31. My doctor dug out the tick’s head on Monday morning and prescribed doxycycline for me, reminding me that the rate of infection of Sonoma ticks is low. She searched the web from the computer in her office to show me the distinctive “target” rash for lyme disease, so I am including the image from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I am told that Ezra got a tick, too.

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

Black Mountain Two Night Kayak Camp

BlackMtn360wFor our traditional Mothers Day Campout, Lori Parmalee selected Black Mountain, a boat-in only campground in Lake Sonoma which was full for the first time in several rain-sparse years. She booked all four of the campsites on the peninsula and we had six campers on Saturday night. Friday morning, Lori and I paddled in with Liam O’Flaherty and had the lake to ourselves. It was raining lightly when we launched but it stopped quickly and the water was smooth as we crossed the four miles to Black Mountain in about an hour.

The drizzle began again when Lori took this picture of Liam and me at the table in the distance. I am on the left in my green plastic poncho I bought 25 years ago when I started boating. This is the first time I have used it. I also purchased my tent at that time, and on this trip, the raccoons tore a three-corner hole in it to get to my sun-block lip-gloss. Grrr. But they greedily went after my headlamp first which got stuck in the hole, so they didn’t get the lip gloss.

The table in the foreground was probably moved from my campsite which is the farthest away. Liam theorized that it was moved when the water was low, last Autumn, then inundated by the Spring rains.

ViewFromLatrineIt was great having the entire campsite to ourselves. One of the reasons Lori likes Black Mountain campground is that this is the view from the latrine (left).

Even though it was raining lightly on Saturday morning, we were joined by Brent, Deb and Louie and had a great campfire on Saturday night. I left my little chair in my car because I was (unnecessarily) worried about a too-heavy boat, so I had to stand for the campfire. Won’t make that mistake again. We had fun sharing food and an excellent bottle of Gundlach Bundschu wine compliments of Liam. Louie shared some excellent craft stout. My massaged kale salad was not the show-stopper I hoped.

It rained briefly both Friday and Saturday nights, which served to keep the weekend very restful and meditative. I enjoyed the women’s magazines Lori brought to leaf through and use as kindling. They stayed dry while my cotton pants sopped up the condensation in my tent.

Lori and I paddled back on Sunday morning while the others explored farther up the water. I learned her trick to find her way back to the boat launch — stay to the left on return and always take the left choice. Many of the openings are hard to see until you are right upon them. Even though Sunday was Mothers Day, there were few speed boats on the water and our paddle back was uneventful.

I had been fretting about organizing and preparing for a two-night campout, but it was very successful. I am tired but happy. Here is my picture on Friday afternoon after the three of us arrived.
BlackMountainKayakCamp

Paddled The Gualala River

Paddled The Gualala River

In 2000, I was looking at houses in Sea Ranch and discovered a steep road to a put-in on the Gualala River.  This hard-to-find road leads to the fabled “hot spot” and I learned that the river is runnable when the water is high in January and February.  At a planning meeting for North Bay Kayakers, we decided to plan a trip and I reserved Campsite 10 at Gualala Regional Park, the first time I have ever been able to get this prime site, and was delighted to discover it had a little beach.  Paul Hutchinson and Louie Mattarelli had already arrived and taken an adjoining campsite.  I shared my site with Lori, Liam and Howard.  We all drove up in the rain on Friday went to dinner at the Gualala Hotel.

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Vince Kreger, a great leader, and his cousin Andy grew up in the area and knew the water.  The Gualala River separates Sonoma county from Mendocino county.  We put in at twin bridges in Annapolis.  There were 10 boats including our tandem.

GualalalRiver

 

The rain had been steady all winter and we had three days of good rain immediately prior to the Saturday paddle, so there was very little “paddle and drag.”  Howard and I are in the tandem at the bottom of the photo below.

HGS-AKD-GualalaRiver

Even though our canoe was missing the whitewater flotation, we did fine and stayed dry.  The boaters in the little kiwi boats did best, slipping lightly over the shallow sections and avoiding the boat-flipping elbows in the river.  Kathy Turner and Amy (photo below) had good, small boats.

KathyAmyAnet

I want to buy a little kiwi and use that next time I paddle the Gualala which I am told is the cleanest river in California.  It was beautiful, like the upper Russian River, but much cleaner water and riverbanks.  A fine day.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

station11The
\NYTimes
loved this bestseller which opens with “King Lear” and moves on to a traveling Shakespeare company with a Star Trek line painted on the truck, “Survival is insufficient.”

The line is from a Star Trek: Voyager episode written by Ronald D. Moore. I enjoyed the book. It’s interesting to read a book that isn’t structured as a movie.

NPR review,

author’s website.

Martin Walker: Bruno, Chief of Police

Martin Walker: Bruno, Chief of Police

brunoIn Sept, 2012 I read book three in the Bruno Series, The Dark Vineyard. It has taken me this long to get to the first book in the series: Bruno, Chief of Police. It is a quick read and I love the way Martin Walker writes.

As a working journalist, 13 of his books have been non-fiction, with many about the Soviet Union. When he retired to the Périgord region of France, he embarked on his first fiction book, The Caves of Périgord which was very ambitious with three intertwined story lines. The first, in the prehistory of the area, described how the caves may have been created. The second story line dove deeply into the French Resistance in the Périgord region during WWII and the third story was set in present-day London and Périgord. It was very interesting but complex and sometimes hard to follow.

His next fiction book, Bruno, Chief of Police, is much lighter and more playful. The caves get only a few paragraphs and we meet Bruno who embodies the world-renown charm and discretion of Frenchmen. It also touches on the horror of war and the toll it takes on the bodies and souls of men, women and children. In this book, it is Bosnia as well as WWII. Martin Walker really has a reporter’s eye for detail and he moves us quickly through the mystery, but it is the charm of the people we meet through Bruno’s detective work that is the real pleasure in this book.

I am really looking forward to the next one. Thanks for loaning it to me, Russ!

Divergent: Young Adult Fiction

Divergent: Young Adult Fiction

Divergent200w
My friend Beth loved the “Divergent” trilogy of Young Adult dystopian-future science-fiction novels with a 15-year-old heroine. They are being made into movies and the second installment, “Insurgent,” is due out on March 20, so I read the first book, “Divergent” and watched the movie on HBO.

I am fascinated how our mythology teaches young adults how to act in the face of danger, and how to be courageous and to take charge of their own lives and safety. Beatrice grows up in the Abnegation faction, which is like a clan, where selflessness is paramount.

At 15, everyone in her society chooses the clan where they will spend the rest of their lives. Beatrice truncates her name to Tris and leaps into the Dauntless clan, where bravery is prized. Tris must fight for her own life and the lives of those she loves.

The message of Divergent is similar to the indoctrination I received:

  1. I am on my own, no one will help me
  2. Trust no one
  3. Be selfless (like Abnegation)
  4. Be brave (like Dauntless)

“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”
— Tris in Divergent by Veronica Roth

Tris starts to realize that the differences between the clan of her birth and the clan of her choice may vanishingly small, and that treachery may lie beneath the efforts of others to pit the two clans against each other. Now that I have lived so many years trying to be a hero and a savior, I am starting to realize that this loyalty/bravery/sacrifice indoctrination may serve others who do not have my best interests at heart. It may actually serve those in power, at my expense. What would REALLY benefit women and children is working together. But in this book, ambitious and resourceful youngsters are pitted against other, with the top performers being destroyed by the second best.

Maybe we could evolve into something that works better. Let’s find out What Self-Loving People Do Differently. Could this strategy lead to young people working together instead of ruthlessly competing against each other?

  1. They welcome all their emotions, including the difficult ones
  2. They learn to be self-responsible rather than blaming others
  3. They feed their inner hunger for novelty with creative pursuits rather than drugs
  4. They embrace mistakes as an important way to learn, and refuse to be shamed for trying

I don’t think I will read the second book, even though my friend Beth said it was her favorite of the three. I understand the philosophy. I look forward to watching the Insurgent movie when it comes out.

Teardrop Trailer – Gualala Glamping

Teardrop Trailer – Gualala Glamping

Last summer I didn’t get to go camping at all, and I got very little camping the summer before in 2012 because Howard complained that he didn’t want to sleep on the ground anymore. I still want to camp and I love sleeping on the ground, so for his birthday, I rented a Teardrop Trailer from Vacations-In-A-Can and made a reservation at Gualala for mid-September, the soonest I could get.
teardropCamsite600w
This is what the little rental trailer looked like in the campsite, and if you click on the image you will see how it is presented on the rental website. The L’il Bear model we chose expresses this motif mostly in the bedding, but the trailers are rented without linens, so I had to provide the appropriate masculine environment for Glamor Camping, or Glamping.

We brought cozy flannel covers for the interior

We brought cozy flannel covers for the interior

I used high-thread-count cotton bottom sheet and down comforter in gray glen plaid flannel duvet with coordinating red flannel pillow cases. The awning-style windows opened on both sides and there was a vent on top so the cabin could be as airy or cozy as desired. A very tall person would not be comfortable here, but Howard said the 79-inch long sleeping area was just right — especially for reading when the temperature drops, as it tends to around dinner time. It’s funny — it’s usually warmer at dawn than at sunset on the coast because of how the warm inland valleys draw the cool water ashore at the end of the day.

A galley kitchen is built-in to the back of the trailer but it was not very useful because the campground has all the amenities like a picnic table, flush toilets and a shower, but if I ever made a teardrop trailer for myself, I would make the back a desk where I could write or paint, and simply close the teardrop to keep my work in place and dry until I could pick it up the next day.

4 pin connectorThe rental was not exactly plug-and-play. Howard’s Toyota pickup has a trailer hitch (a requirement for rental) but the rental also requires a 4-pin flat connector so that the tail lights, brake lights and turn lights work on the trailer. powerSupplyHoward stopped by the rental place a couple of days before we were scheduled to pick up “L’il Bear” and discovered that the 4-pin connector he already had was obsolete and that he had to replace it with an updated model to for safety compliance. Although the rental guy told him it was a simple replacement, it took Howard a couple of hours of lying on his back under his truck to trace all the wires and connect them up under the bed of the truck so that everything worked properly. It also required hooking a power unit to the battery as well (photo at right). Howard said the trailer tracked well on the road and, at 700 lbs., was very easy for his 4-cylinder truck to pull up the twists and turns of Highway 1.

totemFinial150wThe Park Ranger told us to check out the Ceremonial Hitching Posts which had just been dedicated a few months earlier on the Summer Solstice, 2014 as part of the Sakha Cultural Festival. They were carved by the visiting master carvers from Yakutsk in Siberia, the Sakha people first came to the North Coast of Sonoma with the Russia American Company to work at the settlement at Fort Ross from 1812-1842. The “serge” (pronounced sayr-gay) honors these Yakuts. There was an interesting exhibit horse-centric Yakut culture in the nearby Visitor Center.

The installation included three totems with the serge. The ranger told us that the local artists had offered the visiting Russian carvers a superb redwood for the totems but that they rejected it in favor of Douglas fir. That might reflect their far-North culture that does not have redwoods.

The weekend before we went camping, we visited a Petaluma gathering of Teardrop enthusiasts that meet every year right after Labor Day. They invited us to come by next year during their “open house” hours because they love to show off their wheeled domiciles.