family camping

For those who read this blog on a regular basis (all two of you), it’s probably pretty obvious that I don’t post very often about my family. I think the last post about family was from Christmas, when I went hiking with my parents. On that day I had resolved to go on a trip with my family, and this week it finally came to pass.

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We decided to go camping at Convict Lake. My parents recently bought an RV, so this would be a good chance to use it.

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We decided to take a trip out to Devil’s Postpile.

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Devil’s Postpile is pretty amazing–when you hike to the top of the rock formation you can see that the rocks are all hexagon shaped. It’s almost like hiking on a tile floor.

family pic. first one in like a dozen years

We hiked around the park a bit and took our first family camping picture in at least a dozen years.

rainbow falls from the base

We also went hiking to Rainbow falls.

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My mom really wanted to go to Death Valley, so we took a side trip to Death Valley. It was quite hot there– 112 degrees when we arrived, and it hit 116 during the hottest part of the day.

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My brother and I spent a good amount of time fishing, but we didn’t catch anything. We could see the fish and dropped our bait right near their mouths, but still couldn’t get a bite. Apparently we suck at fishing.

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Part of the reason why my family went camping here specifically was to visit the hot springs nearby. My parents are huge hot spring fans, and they really liked these Eastern Sierra natural hot springs. In fact, the main reason why my family got into camping in the first place is because of hot springs– we would take family trips to Grover Hot Springs park when my bro and I were kids. Nowadays my parents still go to Grover Hot Springs, though they usually stay in a hotel in Reno or Carson City. But actually now that they know about these natural hot springs, they might be spending more time near Bridgeport instead now.

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The great thing about camping with my parents is that they do all the cooking. Typically when I go camping with friends I get stuck on grill duty (though in truth I actually kinda enjoy it anyways…) But it’s nice just stuffing food in my face without getting smoke in my eyes.

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One last family picture at the lake before leaving.

It was nice spending time with my family. I honestly don’t spend much time with them nowadays, so it was nice to spend half a week with them relaxing in the great outdoors. I think now that they have the RV we might end up doing it more often.

on the road to nashville

I honestly thought I was done with these sorts of road trips.

I think for real this time though, this will be the last one.

Of course I said that last time when I helped Ray move to Colorado. And actually before that, when I helped Sam move back from New Jersey, I thought that was the last one.

But here I am again driving across country helping a friend move. This time it’s Jiro moving to Tennessee. Ironically it’s almost the route is almost the same as when I drove it with Sam, only in reverse. Also ironic is that our first stop was to visit Sam in San Diego, along with Paul, who’s also in San Diego, and Stanley, who lives in Irvine.

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One of the stops in San Diego was to a sea cave in La Jolla. It was recommended by Mr Paul Liu, and it didn’t disappoint. I think next time I’m out here I’d wanna rent a kayak to go explore these caves from the ocean side.

sd1Also in La Jolla is the Torrey Pines Gliderport. This is something I probably wouldn’t try– I’m too afraid of heights to jump off a cliff, but it’s cool to watch other people do it.

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There’s a trail from the glider port down to the beach below. The beach, we found out, is a nude beach. We walked around there from the nude part to the more family friendly part of the beach.

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San Diego’s always awesome, but more than the touristy stuff it was awesome to see old friends again.

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From San Diego we headed east out of California, across Arizona and into New Mexico. We stopped a night in New Mexico and visited Carlsbad Caverns in the morning. The size of this cave is amazing– there’s a trail that starts as switchbacks outside the mouth of the cave and then goes in a mile and down 750 feet.

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There’s all sorts of interesting rock formations in the cave, mostly vaguely phallic shaped, but there’s also one that looks strangely like a boob.

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At the bottom of the trail is the big room, a huge open area with many interesting cave formations. There is a little souvenir area there where you can take the elevators back to the top.

From New Mexico we drove through Texas, stopping one night in a small German town called Fredericksburg, and one night in Austin. Then we spent one night in New Orleans and a night in Memphis, before arriving in our destination of Nashville.

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The cool thing about all of these towns is they all have very lively music scenes. Austin has Sixth Street, where the highlight for me was Pete’s Dueling Piano bar. Unfortunately my phone ran out of battery so I didn’t get a picture there. New Orleans has Bourbon street, where there are some cool places to sit and listen to jazz. Memphis has Beale street, which is famous for rock and roll and the blues. Nashville has Broadway, for country and rock. It was a cool experience, probably something I wouldn’t have experienced if I weren’t doing a cross country drive with a friend.

Photos1Another thing to experience during a drive through the South is the food. I’m especially a big fan of the food in New Orleans, which is probably obvious because half of these food shots are from that city. The New Orleans food shots include Po Boys, smoked oysters, a Sazerac cocktail (which was apparently invented in New Orleans), coffee and beignets from Cafe Du Monde, and gumbo. In Memphis we hit up a barbecue joint, where I had a rib and fish combo, and also chicken and waffles from Miss Polly’s. At Nashville we had hot chicken from Hattie’s hot chicken, and my last meal of the trip was a pulled pork platter at the airport.

I think this is my last cross country roadtrip to help a friend move. For real this time. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, I do, and probably would do one again if the opportunity came up. It’s that I am close to running out of friends that are doing these cross country moves.

Anyways, best of luck to Jiro at Vanderbilt. It’s been fun, and thanks for the great (and fattening) experience driving cross country.

davis to san francisco

One of my biking buddies, Jiro, will be leaving Davis soon. We’ve done quite a lot of biking together over the few years that I’ve known him– probably more than a dozen century rides and even a few overnight bike trips. As sort of a bucket list item, he wanted to bike from Davis to San Francisco before he leaves, so I decided to ride along with him. The timing worked out well since it’s Mother’s day this weekend, and I wanted to be in SF for lunch with my family anyways.

Warning: This is a very picture heavy post– even more so than usual…

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Mile zero for me, my weed filled front yard. From here I rode to Jiro’s house in West Davis.

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First stop, Winters, for breakfast at Steady Eddy’s coffee shop. We’ve stopped here for fuel on so many rides over the past few years…

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The first major climb of our trip was up Cardiac. Cardiac would actually be four climbs for us on this trip, the first of which climbs to the top of Monticello Dam.

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Past Monticello Dam we rode along Lake Berryessa for a bit.

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There’s a reason why I don’t climb Cardiac often– the shoulders are narrow and there’s a fair amount of fast moving traffic on this road (which is actually highway 128.)

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At the juction of highway 128 and 121 is a little area called Moskowite corner.

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We stopped here for a short rest. It’s a pretty well known stop for all sorts of bikers.

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There used to be a small restaurant and general store at Moskowite corner, unfortunately it went out of business. I had stopped here once a few years ago when I last rode from Davis to SF. Back then Paul and I were unprepared for how difficult the ride would be, and the little general store basically saved our asses. So it’s sad that the store is closed, but this time around at least I’m a bit better prepared for the ride.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot too long after Moskowite corner is the final climb of Cardiac. There’s a small winery at the top. From here we would descend down into the Napa Valley.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpring riding in Napa is quite awesome. The roads are quite bike friendly too, with nice wide shoulders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur route took us over Oakville Grade. The Eagle Cycling club in Napa maintains a web page that lists the toughest climbs in Napa. Oakville Grade is number one. I had done numbers ten and fifteen on their list as part of the tour of Napa. I thought those were pretty significant climbs– but they’re not even close to the same league as Oakville Grade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe climb up Oakville Grade was pretty freaking ridiculous. It was steep. Steeeeeeeeep. We ended up walking a good portion of it. Bicycling.com mentions Oakville Grade as one of a trio of Napa hills that will “turn sinewy steel bands of muscle into tapioca.” That made me feel better about walking. 

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The descent from the top of Oakville Grade into Sonoma County was pretty scary. It’s hard to see from the picture, but the sign says 12% grade over two miles. So yeah, it’s a steep descent. On top of that, the pavement wasn’t very good, and there were some sharp corners. I had to stop at a driveway in the middle to cool my brakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur destination for the night was Petaluma. By the time we had ridden into town I had ridden a bit less than one hundred miles, with about 50 miles left to ride the next morning.

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Petaluma is famous for its rolling green hills. The Windows XP ‘Bliss’ background was photographed nearby. It actually might even have been this hill.

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The next morning we rode from Sonoma county south into Marin County. I didn’t take many pictures of this part of the ride. But suffice to say it was nice riding through the bike friendly communities of Fairfax, San Anselmo and Larkspur. From there we hit the Marin County bike network and followed the signs towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The end is in sight. From the shore of Sausalito you can see our destination across the bay.

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The Golden Gate bridge. The home stretch.

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It was such a beautiful day to ride across the bridge. Despite having grown up in San Francisco, I’ve crossed the bridge by bike or by foot less than a dozen times. I really should do it more often because it really is quite awesome.

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After crossing the Golden Gate bridge we rode through Crissy field into Aquatic park. I had my brother pick me up here (I still hate riding through SF), while Jiro took the train back home to Davis.

Aquatic park is basically where I learned to bike. My dad used to work at the SF Fire Department’s pumping station here, and during summer he’d often bring my bro and me to his work, where we’d spend our vacation days biking and wandering around the piers. It’s a fittingly nostalgic place to end, right where it all started.

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Here’s the route for day one.

Chrome Legacy Window 6172014 13504 PMThe second day’s route.

south FART

It’s been a while since I’ve written a bike trail post. I bought a new mountain bike as a sort of birthday/Christmas present to myself at the beginning of winter, but haven’t really ridden it much. Now that spring’s here it’s time to come out of hibernation and start biking again. So today I took the bike for a spin on a trail that I recently discovered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail uses the same parking area as the Salmon Falls trail– in fact you can see Salmon Falls trail cut into the hill in the upper left of this picture.

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The South Fork American River Trail, or South FART as I call it, is on the other side of the river from Salmon Falls.

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The trail starts with a big climb up and away from the lake.There’s a fair number of switchbacks and a good number of fairly steep rollers.

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But it’s well worth it. After the climb there’s some nice flowing singletrack, my favorite kind of riding.

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There’s one creek crossing, which I couldn’t clear both times I tried it. The trail basically u-turns into the creek, so it’s hard to carry enough speed to clear the creek.

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After about four or five miles the trail crosses into the Cronan Ranch area. Here there’s a fairly large network of trails– mostly fire roads though, not a lot of singletrack. There’s a picture of a map of Cronan Ranch on this old post about biking in Cool.

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Here’s a friendly group of horse riders I met in Cronan Ranch.

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They were leaving the ‘Hollywood Set’ area of Cronan Ranch.

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It’s called the ‘Hollywood Set’ area because they filmed a movie here. “Love Comes Softly,” doesn’t sound like the kind of movie that I’d watch. Scenery’s nice here though.

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There’s picnic tables nearby, good place to grab a bit to eat and rest for a bit.

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Instead of heading back I decided to ride a bit further into Cronan Ranch. I saw this sign and decided to ride down towards the river.

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Nice spot by the river. Apparently there’s several trails that lead down to the river in Cronan Ranch. I’ll definitely need to come back and explore some more.

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I peeled off my bike shoes and socks and decided to cool my feet (and pollute the water running into Folsom Lake) before heading back.

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In the past I’d only use MapMyRide for road cycling or jogging, but nowadays it’s pretty good for mountain biking as well. From the map I can see that the trail’s not too far from water for most of the ride– it’s good to know that I can bring a filter to refill my water bottles in the summer.

rome

From Milan I took the night train to Rome. I shared a two bunk room with three strangers, one German traveling solo (at least I think he was speaking German) and two Japanese guys. It wasn’t the most comfortable accommodations– the bed was pretty hard and narrow and the ride was bumpy and noisy, but with earplugs and an eye mask I was able to get some sleep. I woke up to the conductor tapping my shoulder. I probably would’ve slept through my stop if it wasn’t for him.

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Probably the most famous site in Rome is the Colosseum. It was amazing finally getting to see it in person.

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The Colosseum ticket included entrance to the Palatine hill and the Roman forum. I spent hours wandering around the ancient Roman ruins here.

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The Trevi fountain. It’s amazing. I don’t there’s any way to take a picture that does this any justice. It just needs to be seen in person.

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The fountain was quite popular. This is supposed to be the low season in Rome, I’d hate to see what it’s like during the peak season.

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The Pantheon. Another crowded tourist site.

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On Saturday I went to the Vatican city. Despite the rain a crowd had gathered to hear the Pope speak. Apparently he was ordaining a new set of cardinals. Unfortunately that meant I couldn’t enter St Peter’s Basilica until after he was done.

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So from there I went to the Vatican museums. There were many incredible rooms, including the Sistine chapel. No photos were allowed in there, and the Swiss guard was pretty vigilant in stopping any would be photographers. The Rafael rooms were almost as amazing as the Sistine Chapel. Here photos were allowed.

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After the ordination ceremony was over Saint Peter’s square began to clear out (and thankfully the weather began to clear too), so I stood in the incredibly long line to enter Saint Peter’s Basilica.

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According to Wikipedia this is the tallest dome in the world. This is more subjective, but I’d say it’s probably one of the most beautiful in the world too.

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The view from the top of the dome is amazing.

When I look back at the last couple of weeks, I’m amazed at how far I’ve traveled. I’ve stayed in nine different cities in seven different countries. (Actually it’s ten cities in eight countries if you count the Vatican as a separate country– which I guess it technically is). I’ve traveled thousands of miles by train (thank goodness for high speed rail). I’ve seen many amazing sights and spent way too much money on food. It’s been an awesome journey and with this final stop in Rome it’s coming to an end. In some ways this trip has been too long– I miss the comforts of home and I miss friends and family. But in some ways it’s been too short– the more I travel the more I realize that there is so much more out there to see and experience.