Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Slowly Unraveling Vacation

Well, the plan was to fix up the Westy a little bit and head off down the coast. The plan started unraveling pretty quickly when we started trying to replace some of the rubber parts in the suspension. A pretty critical bolt sheared off, and then a piece of the suspension fell off as we were driving. It had been broken for a long time, judging by the heavy corrosion on the broken part of the metal.  So, the beast was now mostly un-driveable with no hope of getting it on the road in a short period of time.

Maybe I can use it as a monocle. 

Next, Sherry's mom had to go to the hospital, so we drove Sherry to the airport so she could head home. The boys and Mike made a plan to head down the coast in Casey's Mazda, stay in LA for a day, and then continue on to Joshua Tree. We tried to get out of Casey's house in Groveland but we got stuck on a snowy road and had to head back. 

Stopping for sandwiches was our mistake. If we had kept going, we probably could have made it out of town.

Too many stuck cars to make it up and over the hill out of Groveland. 

Three hours later, we followed a plow and made it out!
 We went to San Francisco for a day and had Christmas Day in Casey's apartment.

The day after Christmas, we headed south to LA, stopping at Pinnacles National Monument for some rock climbing along the way. 

Hunter "hanging out" in Pinnacles

Somebody has to be belay slave and rack stand. 

The boys at Pinnacles
 We finally made it to LA late that night and went out to see the new Star Wars movie. The next day, we went to the beach, went to the La Brea tar pits and tried to see Hollywood but the traffic was insufferable, so we bailed on that one.

Mike in LA

Even of you don't like Gehry, you have to admit that this is an impressive facade. 

Hunter in Santa Monica
Sherry was sounding overwhelmed because of her mom, so Mike flew home and left the boys to finish the mission. They drove out to Joshua Tree and, after looking for an open campsite for hours, they found a hotel. The next day, they scored a good campsite and are, as I type, climbing rocks in Joshua Tree. I hope that they are taking pictures!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Road Trip in California Over Christmas

Getting ready for a road trip in California. We are flying into San Francisco and then driving out to Groveland where Casey has a rental house. From there, we are going to work on the old "Westy" for a few days and then meander south. The big picture is to head down the coast towards Joshua Tree and spend some time there, and try to visit some friends and family along the way.

Casey bought a 1982 VW Westfalia Vanagon  a few months back and we are half owners. So, we are going to help fix it up, and use it when we can. The van lives in Groveland, Ca.

Here is the Westy (short for Westfalia) somewhere near Lake Tahoe. 

Another shot near Tahoe.

Monday, November 23, 2015

C&O Canal 3-day Trip via Amtrak in mid-November

Amtrak is finally allowing bicycles to be transported on the Capitol Limited train, so I rode up to Cumberland with one other person, and two were coming down from Pittsburgh on the Gap Trail to meet us. Here is what the bike accommodations are on the Amtrak.

Bart, Mike and Dave in Cumberland ready to ride. 

This is actually from a training ride we did before the C&O trip.  We are coming over White's Ferry from Leesburg to Maryland

The new trail along the "Big Slackwater" area of the canal. There used to be a big detour around this area but the construction on the trail is now completed. 

Where we stayed in Harpers Ferry - a member of the Tuesday hiker club that let us stay at his place. 

Bart and I took the ferry into Leesburg to take the bike trail home instead of staying on the C&O Canal into Georgetown. 

Goodbye Dave - have a nice ride back into Georgetown. 

Philadelphia in November in a Yurt

We went to Philadelphia to attend the Philly Bike Expo. Sherry's idea, of course. After a quick drive up I-95 and some negotiating for a parking space in Chinatown, we were in the Expo. Lots of bikes, bike stuff and bike nerds. When we were full to the top with bike stuff, we went to find our yurt in the western suburbs. 
Not quite what we had expected based on the Airbnb profile, but it was cheap. 

Wood stove not really hooked up, wind drifting in from the open hole in the roof. Absolut Mongolia. Fortunately, it was a nice warm night for November and the bed was plenty comfortable. 

Mike in the yurt.

Yurt door and a good view of the construction details. 

The outhouse

The hammock needs some work. 

Next stop, the Mutter Museum, to see a lot of creepy body parts and anatomy stuff. Kind of like the Walter Reed museum in DC. 

The "Soap Lady" at the Mutter. 

Next stop, Philadelphia's "Magic Gardens" at 

One earthquake away from a total collapse. 

The artist is in. 

Mike studies the atrium.

Sherry, blending in with the mosaic mural. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015

As I did last year, it is time again to take up the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Essentially, this involves riding your bike to seven different coffee shops over the course of seven weekends.

Week 1: Mom and Pop in the Mosaic District

Mom and Pop is a small coffee space that is run by the Dolcezza gelato shop which is located nearby.

The shop is in the middle of the Mosaic District, just outside of the Anjelika movie theater. It is a small space, with a number of seats and tables outside. It is only about 2.5 miles from my house, so it just barely qualifies as a Coffeeneuring trip. 
Week 2 - Cafe Amouri in Vienna

Right next to the bike path, close to the Whole Foods that I bike-shop at. Whats not to like? I have the grocery bike in this photo with a truly huge Swift Industries bag in the front. It can hold two full shopping bags.

Week 3 - M. E. Swings downtown

A 12-ounce whole milk latte and a nice blueberry danish.  Breakfast of champions. The Surly is waiting patiently outside of the shop.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Burning Man 2015

Lots of photos HERE so feel free to browse them.

Sherry and I went to Burning Man this year in “Black Rock City”, Nevada and this is our fractured tale.

First, we were completely taken aback at the scale of this event, and it took us a few days just to pull our jaws off of the desert floor. Holmes Run Acres, including the park and the pool, is about 130 acres. The entire Burning Man site is 3500 Acres, and the semi-circular camping and living area alone is over 1000 acres. So, take 7.5 HRA neighborhoods, join them together into one unit, and fill it with tents, RV’s and all manner of theme camps, music and art, and you will have the Burning Man living area. Next, fill it with loud 24/7 sound systems, people in crazy clothing (or no clothing at all) riding around on things that resemble bikes, then sprinkle it with completely inappropriate and heavily armed BLM storm troopers and K9 units. Maybe that will begin to form a mental image.

Second, we were clearly mentally unprepared for the physical environment. The event takes place on an old lake bed where all of the water is evaporated and what is left behind is an incredibly alkaline salt flat where nothing grows. If you pour vinegar on it, the lake bed fizzes like baking soda in vinegar. The lake bed is mostly hard-packed, but randomly covered in dust dunes that move with the wind. When we say dust, this is the kind of super dry and powdery dust that poofs around your shoes as you walk. Imagine walking through a 1” deep layer of baby powder and you will get the idea. Now, start the wind blowing so that this powdery dust causes a white-out and invades your tent, your shoes, your underwear, your nose, your sleeping bag and your, … well … you get the idea. Remember also that it is really, really alkaline so it causes mild chemical burns and irritation and corrodes anything that you have brought. The wind blew hard all afternoon for our first full day, and it blew most of the next day, too. Now, try sleeping in a tent filled with dust and the “Midnight Poutine” camp next door blasting techno music all night and the sun that turns your tent into a greenhouse by 7:30 am.  It all overwhelmed our senses for the first day or two (or three). Fortunately, we were there during a cooling trend and the daytime highs were in the 80’s instead of the usual high 90’s so we weren’t also assaulted by withering heat.

So, what were the good parts? The most astonishing outdoor art that we have ever seen (not to beat a dead horse, but the distance from our tent to many of these art installations was the same as from HRA to the Target at Mosaic), the sheer spectacle of the whole thing, the best people-watching on the entire planet (Paris, Rome and LA are now relegated to the Little League), not having to know where your wallet is for an entire week, no advertisements or corporate branding of any kind, sitting at night watching huge structures burn dramatically to the ground, wandering around the “deep playa” at night and finding random art and a movie theater and an isolated bicycle-drawn bar, the completely over-the-top art cars that roamed free on the plains, the knowledge that you can do or wear almost anything at all without judgement, and just standing in the middle of the desert trying to take it all in. Where else in the world can you be completely naked, waiting outside in line for a sauna, and not be a sideshow or something worth attention?

We travel a lot, and in most of the places we have been, you can look around and think to yourself “I could be almost anywhere right now”. Many places have a certain sameness to them. One extreme exception is Jerusalem. When you see Coptic, Franciscan, Hassidic, and Muslim, all in full regalia, walking in narrow and crowded passageways, you realize that there is nowhere else in the world that you could possibly be. Burning Man has the the same nowhere-but-here feeling. Standing in the playa late at night, with music and lights and craziness all around, there is nowhere else that you could possibly be other than in Black Rock City in early September. There is truly nothing like this anywhere on earth. It did remind me in a way of New Orleans because you can go to New Orleans to get passed out drunk on Bourbon Street and earn beads in the time honored way, or you can go to New Orleans to experience the music, food and deep cultural roots. Lots of people at Burning Man, especially the “Sparkle Ponies” were there to just party party party. However, there is a much deeper cultural side to Burning Man based on the “10 Principles of Burning Man” and this culture lies just under the sparkling surface of the event.

If we go back to Burning Man in the future, it will be as part of a camp. Most people at Burning Man are associated in some way with a camp like the DC “Home Rule” camp. Camps are social groups that apply to the Burning Man organization and request a camp space and also describe what the camp will bring to the Burning Man experience. Camps bring music, bars, skate parks, towers, midnight poutine, saunas, sex dungeons, art installations, bike repair tents, you name it. Based on the camp’s contributions and reputation and general awesomeness, they are assigned a camp location and size and a number of guaranteed tickets. Camps generally provide a lot of the basic infrastructure for the camp members like large shade structures, shared kitchens, showers, couches and hang-out areas, shipping containers, and so on. Life in a camp seems a lot more pleasant than life in a tent.

On our way home, the further we got from Burning Man, the more we would find people staring at us. No shower for a week, covered in dust from head to toe, my dyed-bright-yellow beard and Sherry’s pink poodle jacket - we kind of stood out at BWI. It took us about two days to clean everything, including ourselves, and to unpack and re-group. A week later, I think that we are both still trying to process the experience.

A week in Yosemite before Burning Man

Before going to Burning Man, we took a detour through Yosemite. Logistically, this is a good trip because Casey lives in San Francisco, but also has a weekend house in Groveland, which is just outside of Yosemite. Mike signed up for the Green Tortoise 3-day Yosemite trip which, coincidentally, goes right through Groveland on its way to and from Yosemite. After the trip, on the way back through Groveland, Sherry met the bus and the two of us stayed at Casey's house in Groveland for a few days.

Our basic itinerary, once Sherry met the bus on Thursday night, was:

Friday - Go play tourist in Yosemite. We rode the big tourist tram around the valley, had drinks at the Ahwahnee Lodge, and then actually burned some calories by hiking down to see the Merced Grove of giant sequoia. We had not seen this grove before because it is more remote than the other groves.

Saturday - Go meet Casey and Dorothy in Tuolumne Meadows and walk with them to the start of their rock climb. Drive slowly back enjoying the views.

Sunday - Go back to the valley and then take the shuttle bus up to Glacier Point and do the 8.5 mile Panorama Trail.

Monday - Rest, recover, drive to Berkely and stay in an Airbnb.

Tuesday - Wake up and get on the Green Tortoise to go to Burning Man

Scenes from the Tortoise Trip: view of the campsite from my hammock

Scenes from the Tortoise Trip: The campsite we stayed at in the Inyo forest

Scenes from the Tortoise Trip: On top of Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows

Saturday in Yosemite: the Merced Grove of Sequoias

Saturday in Yosemite: the Merced Grove of Sequoias

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb
Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb
Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite: the Cathedral Peak climb

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike

Sunday in Yosemite - Panorama Trail Hike