Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Ah, another beautiful sunny day in da Keweenaw. Woah, wait... it's winter! Though the little snow that we have is slowly melting in the sunshine, I'm not going to complain. I'm just going to take it as it comes, and sunshine is always welcome.

Yesterday, Aaron and I had our first cross country ski of the winter up at the Mt. Lodge. The trails were freshly groomed, and the sun rosied our cheeks. I enjoyed remembering how much I sweat during a good ski. No need to wear a lot of clothes for that!

While on that ski, we skirted around snowshoe/mountain bike trails, a terrain park, a disc golf course and a place for snowmobilers to park. Wow, I thought. The Lodge is really becoming a great spot for many recreational activities. That is surely what this town needs in order to thrive. So here's a special shout out to all those in the Copper Harbor Trails Club and the Mt. Lodge who are involved in building, maintaining and signing those areas. They will keep people coming back.

And tonight I get to serve drinks to snowmobilers and skiers at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill. Ah, yes, the winter work force. It's nice to make a few bucks this time of year, but I mostly appreciate the time I can spend at home to cook, read, write, make wine, go outside and do whatever else my little heart desires. So I guess the 4 1/2 months I work my butt off is certainly worth it.

Cheers to winter... even if it melts!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Cheer

Merry belated Christmas!

As I have gotten older and wiser (or perhaps just more cynical), I have really come to shun Christmas. For reasons I will not get into, I just don't think it's necessary to make such a big fuss over. BUT, I do enjoy Christmas in da Harbor.

Every Christmas Eve, half the town gets together, bundled up wearing Santa hats and each carrying the words to several holiday songs. We go caroling to the other half of the town who waits patiently for our arrival to feed us snacks and warm drinks. It's truly a magical experience, where people who are far from their families can get together with their community family, and spread the spirit to those they (somewhere deep inside) love like brothers and sisters.

Also, since I've been back in da Keweenaw, I've attended five other holiday gatherings. To me, that's more what Christmas should be about -- getting together with everyone (even if it's over and over again!) for a "cheerful" reason. People around here just really like to gather over drinks and good food. It's quite refreshing.

So the Scrooge in me is slowly being replaced by a little elf who just wants to make people feel loved. I know this is one of my goals in daily life, but this time of year, I want to go that extra mile -- even if I'm already with a group of others.

I don't give presents. I just don't, and I really don't need to receive them just because it's Christmas time. So I want to thank all the people in Copper Harbor for reminding me about the spirit of Christmas. I know that if I lived in any other town, I surely would not want to join in any reindeer games.

I now leave you with a few pictures taken out by the lighthouse shore on Christmas Day.

These are some icicles on the side of a rock. The bottom part that looks like it's dripping is as big around as my thigh.

Below is a view from the lighthouse loading dock straight down to the lake. Notice the log stuck in there.

Here is the dock covered in ice from Lake Superior's waves. It gets like this every year (and changes everyday!).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vote Copper Harbor!

If you have been voting for the Copper Harbor ambulance garage everyday, then Thank you! If you have not been voting, you sure can! Here is the link to the Pepsi Grant Copper Harbor page. You can also vote on facebook and your cell phone.

Come on, let's make December the last month we have to vote and give 'er heck! Please!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Double Take Lakes

This morning I woke up to a thin layer of ice sheeting this end of the Harbor. The water has been so still... it gets me riled up. I'm pumped for a frozen harbor to walk to the lighthouse on. I'll try to be more careful this year. I promise.

Another beautiful (and even more surprising) part of the day was Mr. Sunshine. He came to visit all day long! What a sweetie.

To celebrate, I took a walk to my favorite sunshiney-day lake: Fanny Hooe. She was frozen solid. She also had some unsnowy spots where I could run and slide across on my boots. Oh, I even got to lay sprawled out on my back right in the middle. I tell you, that never gets old -- especially for the first time this year!

Two days ago, I hiked out to the lighthouse to see how everything was doing out there. When I got to the shore facing north, it struck me. I was once again relishing Lake Superior's majesty. Oh, just hear those waves roll in. Gaze into the open waters -- the only sight below the sky! I really didn't realize how much I missed her until I stood there and appreciated it all. I had a bit of an emotional moment.

I was so overjoyed to be back on that shore that I even steadied my way down the icy rocks to dip my hand in her fresh glory. Ohhhh, so pure and revitalizing. We had another little moment.

On the way back, I walked through the 3 inches of settled snow that lay upon the ground. I sure hope we get more of that soon! I should be snowshoeing and skiing by now!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9,000 Miles and 14 States Later...

Home again. Home again. Jiggity jig.

Last night brought many moments of excitement as we worked our way north: the Portage Canal lift bridge (ooooh), the Hancock hill, Calumet (oh, boy!), Mohawk, Cliff Drive (getting closer...), the Phoenix church, Delaware (Delawhat?), the covered stretch (almost there!), Lake Medora, the Mountain Lodge (all downhill!) and finally, finally the blinking light in front of her majesty, Lake Superior.

Oh, it sure feels nice to be home. I even got to look at all the Christmas lights in the park as we drove by.

For my Harbor updates, there's not as much snow as I would have thought. Really, only a few inches right in da Harbor. We even have bare spots on the driveway. Some snowy ice is floating on this East end of the Harbor, but it's definitely not frozen over. My friend the bell buoy is gone. Good thing I said goodbye before I left! The rest of the summer businesses are boarded up. I saw a handful of snowmobilers, but otherwise, the town is peace and quiet. I love this place.

Otherwise, things seem pretty much the same as when I left. I'm looking forward to a lovely winter this year.

Before I close the trip thoughts, I must say thank you to Barb, Dan and the girls in Bayfield, CO and Abbie and Karilynn (sp?) in Avon, CO for putting us up for days in a row while we visited. That's what friends and family are for! I can only expect to have lots of people crashing at our house after this trip -- it's crashing karma.

Oh, props to Mr. Butters, who was such a good boy the whole way. He is happy to have his couch back. So am I.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finishing Colorado

One cool thing about the Colorado skier life in the Vail area (besides the great snow and long runs) is the entertainment. This weekend presented "Vail Snow Daze." What does this mean? Lots of people and free outdoor concerts.

Free concerts? Oh, yeah. On Thursday night we watched Mix Master Mike, the dj from the Beastie Boys, spin the records on the decks. What a great show with lights, screens and bass. Spine tingling bass -- something I haven't heard in the Keweenaw -- ever. It was, um, really awesome. We danced the whole time.

Sunday night was Weezer. I've heard Weezer tunes since high school. And there they were, playing in their goofy sweaters and hats while we bounced around in our ski pants and boots. The show ended a little too early, and we were pretty sober, but hey, it was a free concert! We made the best of it. After all, it was our last day in Vail.

But before that last day, we had one more powder day. Some places had 15" of fresh snow to cruise on. Really, another great day in Vail with two more that followed. It made me look forward to Mt. Bohemia. Is it snowing in da Keweenaw? I don't know... I hope so!

For five days we ripped up the Rockies. One special trip was the Minturn Mile. This Mile, which is actually seven miles, drops off the back side of Vail mountain and into the town of Minturn. The first 20 turns are glory powder turns. I mean, thick, solid, steady snow fit for surfing on. Oh, it was deep and glorious -- hence glory powder.

The rest of this "Mile" was gradual descents on a single track path of snow. I actually did okay for a snowboarder without any poles to push myself through the flat sections. It was a unique experience that ended in a luge-type style where I had to curb my speed and not fly off into the creek. I made it out dry and proud.

The social aspects and snow in Vail surely made that part of the trip a cool experience. The other thing that, surprisingly, always took me by surprise was the fact that whenever I went outside I saw mountains. Mountains all the time. Everywhere. I guess I'm just not used to that. But they were snow-covered beauties. Here is a picture of them from Denver. I even took it myself.

Today we drove all the way to Omaha, Nebraska. We're on the way home. We are ready for da Harbor once again. My little slice of da West has come to an end. Thank you for coming with me!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vail Mountain

Tuesday morning we woke up to eight inches of fresh powder on the ground. Sa-weeeeeet! We even got up at 7 am to take full advantage of our powder day in Vail.

We ended up skiing with about the same size group of people as we did on Social Sunday. A big group on a powder day? I'm used to hearing, "No friends on a powder day," which translates into, "It just snowed 8 inches, and if you can't keep up with me on the hill, I'll see you at the end of the day."

But not that day. The skiers all waited for little Amanda on her snowboard to make it to the bottom of the mountain. Wow. Thanks, guys. That's a noble amount of patience.

We rode from 9 am to after 2 pm. Oh, man. That was a fun day of work. All of our legs were so tired that we each had to drink a 24 ounce PBR before the bus came to pick us up. Mmm, PBR. The pain went away before I even finished mine.

The next day we woke up to a sunny (and lazy and tired and sore) morning, but decided to do it again. The snow would still be good, right? Right. The conditions were really perfect for a sunny day: some choppy powder, some freshies and, my favorite that day, smooth groomers.

I was hoping for a day riding groomed runs, but our adventurous leader took us back to the thick stuff. I tried my best to twist and turn my way down. I really did. But after a few runs, I had to admit that I was a hazard to myself and those around me. Luckily, half the crew felt the same, so we stuck to the easy runs for the last couple. Oh, thank you again.

Tomorrow promises a hike, but I have to believe it won't be an easy one.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I could tell that Barb and Aaron wanted to ski the day after our low oxygen mountain climb through the thick snow. I racked my brain for another adventure idea, so that could be avoided.

"Aren't ski passes $31 at Wolf Creek on Wednesdays?" I asked. Yes, they were. And it was Wednesday. We geared up for our first real afternoon of skiing... without climbing up.

The sun rosied our cheeks on the way up the lift. The way down in the snow was phenomenal: soft and strong! We got fresh tracks all over that hill... and hardly anyone else was there! We all agreed that it was a great day of riding down the mountain... and an easy day for Amanda.

Two days later we left for Denver to have a social time with a couple other friends that could easily get to the there. A night in Denver... good thing we stayed in the hotel most of the time!

From there we scurried West to the Avon/Eagle area, where Aaron's cousins live. Our first full day there we rode Vail Mountain. Vail!? Vail is the mecca of ski hills in the country, they say. And we rode it for four hours.

The long, smooth runs were nothing like I have ever boarded before. I mean, some of the runs were s0 long and smooth that I felt like I was cheating somehow! What was the challenge? Snowboarding couldn't really be that easy. But it was. The snow was a little crusty and wind-blown in spots. Since most of the runs we skied were groomed, we really didn't get much for fresh pow, but the fast-paced action made it all worth it for me.

The coolest part of the day was that it was "Social Sunday," which meant that at a couple points throughout the day we were all in a group of about 15 other skiers. We drank PBR on one of the decks on the hill while grilling hot dogs. What a sweet little break! "Social Sunday." An all new experience for this girl.

Today, since we were waiting for more snow, we hiked up a mountain with the dogs. Up and up until, finally, someone mentioned that going back down would be a good idea. My sweating pits agreed.

All is well in winterland. I suspect we'll be making our way back home a week from today. I will be ready to return to da Harbor.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

South to North

I just realized that my last post was the 100th since I started 'A Little Slice of da Harbor' at this blog spot. If you are one of the luckiest people in the world, you have read all 100! Thank you so much! If you haven't yet, get crackin. : p

Phoenix Area
On Saturday we traded the poshness of Sedona for the 60 degrees of Phoenix, well Mesa, technically. My heart was set on an afternoon of sunbathing at our campsite. All we had to do was find a campsite. None here. (20 miles later.) None here... there's got to be one by this lake. Nope. Okay, how about here? Good gracious! Where is a place to camp?

After driving for two extra hours, we asked a host at a National Park lot where we could pitch a tent. 45 minutes after that, we were finally parked at a campground. Since the sun was going to set in an hour and a half, my dream of a suntan (or sunburn) was long gone. At least I got some sun through the car window on the way....

Camping was peaceful. I was awake a bit during the night, so I got to watch the moon pass through the sky and Orion ascend overhead. The skies were supposed to be clear, so we skipped the rainfly on the tent. As Murphy's Law would have it, it rained all morning. We waited in our sleeping bags for a break in the drops as we slowly got leaked on from the nylon above.

So much for Phoenix. We weren't even going to try to go for a bike ride. We snapped our pictures with some saguaros and drove north -- where we entered snow-and-ice-on-the-road land. At least the trip wasn't monotonous! Here is Duce and me with a couple big saguaros. Arizona trees, baby!

Southern Colorado
After passing cars in the ditch and driving an average of 15 mph in a long line of cars, we spent the blizzard of a night in Cortez, CO... our 12th state of the trip (we passed through New Mexico on our way up to Colorado). In the morning, we made our way to Durango to see our yooper friends who moved west.

Goodbye summer and hello winter! On Monday Barb, Ryan, Aaron, Duce, Teva and I hiked in 3-4 inches of snow up the Telegraph trails. The nostalgic part about this was that we biked those trails three Octobers ago. I vaguely recognized my surroundings, but it slowly came back to me. Everything looks different when its covered in snow, you know?

That was a perfect hike in the sunshine. We got a sweat on but didn't have to work too hard. Today was a different story.

You know, I keep realizing, more and more on this trip, that I keep getting physically and mentally tested. Most of the adventures I've had have been really trying on me. I rarely make it through a whole escapade without thinking, Cripes, why am I doing this to myself? I don't think I'm going to make it. Whimper, whimper.

This back country snowboard adventure for me was a tough one. Aaron and Barb skinned up the hill (skiing uphill with sticky stuff on the bottom of their skis, so they don't slip back). Ryan hiked up in boots using his snowboard as a pole. I snowshoed with a backpack and my board strapped on the back.

Oh, let me say that we started this climb at an elevation of 10,640 feet. Um, can I get a little oxygen, please? Yes, I could, when I stopped every five clumsy steps to catch my breath. I climbed part of that hill on my hands and knees. Their ski trail they packed was 2/3 the size of a trail I needed to keep my outside snowshoe from sliding down the hill.

After a while, I found myself walking zombie-style, with my hands out in front of me for balance and acceleration. Good thing everyone else was way ahead, or they might think I'm a little weird.

Two hours and two rubbery thighs later, we reached the top-enough where we were to ride down. My fingers were so cold that I almost wussed out of taking a picture, but I though of you, and got one. That's Ryan in the brown and Barb back in the green. You have to really look closely.

The powder was thick and soft. If I had the strength and the wits to ride my board down skillfully, the trek up would have been worth it. I struggled with my turns and balance. But alas, I surfed down the snowy slopes with a smile for at least part of it. They want me to go again tomorrow. Oy. We'll see....

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Adventures in Sedona

Our real adventures in Sedona started Thursday. We started with a hike around some of the great rock structures, so Duce could get some exercise. Avoiding the cacti and other prickly brush, we found our way to the bottom of Courthouse Rock. I have the little cubby hole eyed up as a nice place to sit and rest in.
In the picture below, it’s 4/5 of the way across toward the right. See those two shady vertical lines toward the top? It’s the one on the left. The rounded out spot is the one I picked out to sit in some day. Just because. However, I never expected to really ever be up there.

At the base, I gave the climb a try. I made it up a couple rocky spots. Before I knew it, I had a foot in a dent in the stone and my left hand gripped around a flake of face rock. As I threw my right hand up into an iffy spot, I hoisted my weight up. That flake of face rock broke off in my hand, and my bottom foot plummeted back to the rocks below. Okay. Guess that wasn’t my rock to climb, and nowhere else in sight looked feasible. At least I tried!

Later that day, we went for a bike ride. Do you want to know what I saw on our way to the single track? People up on Bell Rock. Walking around! I’m going up there tomorrow, I promised myself. That is my rock to climb.

The ride that afternoon was really pretty fun. The single track on most trails seemed like it was made for mountain biking. The trails were smooth with some rocky technical spots. A nice challenge without all the climbing -- or cliffs -- just body-sized cacti waiting to catch someone who misses their sharp turn. Luckily I only had to pick one spine out of me (the rest stayed in the cactus).

We ate our Thanksgiving dinner at the Tara Thai restaurant. Oh, man. We got Thanksgivingly stuffed, and loved every bite. I have some new ideas for cooking now. Mmmm!

The next morning I was excited to hit up that Bell Rock. Aaron, Duce and I hiked to the base and started climbing up the Northeast side -- where the cliff bands slide out to more step-like structures. It definitely was climbing, however. Not just a hike. Mountain goat Duce leapt up some scary spots until he turned around and saw that he had to go down. “Whimper, whimper,” he said.

We made it to just below the vertical juts that I would have needed climbing gear to ascend. That was the best we could do that day, and it was acceptable, though I’m still not satisfied.... Aaron said he would like to bike on that stuff. I said no way to that.

But then we got the bikes out. On the Chapel Trail around the Twin Buttes. It was all safe enough until I realized we were actually riding on those buttes. Right on the edges that teeter over the lower edges that teeter over the ones below them and so on. Edges of slick rock that slant toward the bottom. Holy buckets on the hill, did that scare me. I truly tried to get past the fear, but I wanted to make it back to da Harbor some day, so I walked most of that. Yeah. So that’s what it’s like hiking that stuff in mountain biking shoes. The opposite of secure -- no grips on those plastic soles. I just may haven been safer on my bike. Nah.

And to add that ride to the rest of them that we didn’t learn a lesson from, we came back out of the trail system in the dark. Dark, I tell you. The trail could only be seen in 2D for the last 15 minutes. But hey, I lived through it again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in Sedona, AZ

I jinxed myself. Remember how I gloated about not going to any‘” fancy places” like Vegas or L.A.? Well, it turns out that Sedona, AZ is pretty stinkin fancy. Psychic, jewelry, art and masseuse shops are on every block. There are even boutiques for pets! All the buildings are designed to match -- adobe style. Landscapes allow no stone out of place. We were lucky to find a motel room for under $80 a night. Yeah, so we opted for the motel. I thought we were going to camp until the night promised 20 degrees, and gray clouds sprinkled snow. Call me a wuss.

But hey, now I get to write to you! That’s something to be thankful for!

Let me tell you a little about Sedona so far. The rock structures are really quite amazing. Here are a couple examples.

And tomorrow, we hope to ride our bikes around those rocks. Let it not surprise you, however, that I want to climb those bundles of earth. Most look pretty impossible with their vertical juts. But I am an idealist. I have no climbing gear, and Aaron shakes his head when I look up at them with starry eyes and a drool string, but I don’t care. Heck. I don’t even know if I’m legally allowed to climb them. I’ll eye them up and see if I find a feasible one.

Before I have too much news for you, I want to catch you up on some of the quirks I’ve forgotten to tell you along this journey thus far. Here’s a random list.

I get to smell roses. Roses! Other flower species too, of course, but that’s the point. Flowers galore are still blooming in WA, OR, CA and AZ... did you know I’m 80 miles away from Mexico? I guess it stays just warm enough down here for me to smell the roses. Ahh, I’ll sniff one for you.

The wildlife is different in the places I’ve been. Notably, some of my favorites are the elk and the quails. I don’t see those guys in da Harbor. Man, quails are so squeezin cute with their little plumes bobbing around on their heads. And elk, well, elk are delicious.

I did a cartwheel on the Golden Gate Bridge. Tee hee!

The geography changes so rapidly when we’ve been driving across the country. I haven’t been keeping track of just how much elevation we change in a day, but it can be thousands of feet. One moment we’re in the mountains, then we quickly descend into the desert plains. This is definitely a drive to stay awake for!

We have been so far south, that at one point, the only radio stations we could catch were in Spanish. All of them. How cool! Here we were in America, and we couldn’t get an English-speaking station! I’ll never refuse a little culture.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Joey in Glendo, Matt and Sara in Spokane, Katie and Ben in Portland, Rich and Nancy in Nevada City and Pat, Gary and Mike in San Jose. All these fine folks graciously let Aaron, Duce and I crash their pads during our stay. We would like to thank them for making this trip feel a little more like home.

Lastly, hello to all my friends in the Keweenaw! I miss you and think of you often! Keep the snow on the ground til we get there!

Okay... Feliz Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

San Jose, CA

After Nevada City we traveled farther south, which was not in the plan and which made us slightly nervous. But Aaron’s cousin, Michael, lived in San Jose -- not Tahoe, like we thought. So San Jose, there we went. If you are not familiar with that area, which I wasn’t, it’s about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco. San Francisco? That’s a big town. And we were going to see it.

But the drive there was full of vineyards, nut plantations and other orchards. That was cool to see. We even saw orange and persimmon trees! Oooh, tropically. But despite the exotic fruits, the first thing to really tell me that we were in a big city was this.

An actual building for YAHOO!? I thought YAHOO only existed on the internet! But there it was in all its concrete reality. Oy.

Night one in San Jose, CA we had a lovely dinner at Mike's (thanks, Pat!) and sampled some mighty brews.

And the next day, it rained. We sat on the couch all day and watched 8 movies in a row. More movies than I have watched in the last eight years. But it was a good day for it. We didn’t have to feel so bad. Our heads did that for us.

Sunday was sunny San Francisco day (which I hear is quite rare for SF). I was taken aback by the drive from San Jose to San Fran on Hwy. 280. It was all green and hills and trees! Oh my! It was peaceful and pleasant for half and hour in between cities. That was refreshing. It’s nice to see so much land preserved around there.

In San Fran, we walked over the Golden Gate Bridge, and checked out a couple overlooks to get views of the ocean, bridges and city. Nice, but uh, the Mackinac Bridge is a way bigger suspension bridge. Yeah. Go Michigan!

Soon we parked and walked to Pier 39 which is like a circus! Cotton candy, rides, music -- all that entertainy stuff. We headed to Fisherman’s Wharf from there where we grabbed a quick lunch. Then to Buena Vista for one of their world famous Irish coffees. They use Tullamore Dew. It really was that good.

From there we tinkered around to China Town, but it was dark by then, so we found our way to the car and went back to Mike’s place.

Monday, we finally got to ride our bikes at Soquel Demonstration State Park. I’m glad Mike didn’t tell me what kind of ride we were doing because I probably wouldn’t have gone. After driving around the area for an hour, we finally found the trail. Ha ha. Ha.

So we got a late start. But we were feeling all revved up and ready to climb. And climb we did. Up and up 4.2 miles on a fire road. It really wasn’t too bad, though. Thank goodness. Then we had our half an hour descent on the singletrack. I mean, this was a-a-a-all downhill. We hardly had to pedaled at all. And steep! I spent a lot of time clutching my brakes over those wet rocks and roots. What a technical challenge! Then up again. I don't even know how far, but man, I was tired after that climb. Then downdiggity down.

But wait! Trickery! Up one more time? It’s already getting dark! That MIke, he got us good. But at least we were climbing up fire roads in the dark, so we had more of a margin for error. We made it home alive -- unscathed.

And today? Today we made it to Kingman, Arizona through mountains and the Mojave Desert. Here is a sign we saw on our way to grab dinner that evening. We loved it because we were not going to any of those fancy places. See you after Sedona, AZ!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Last Week

You might want to grab a beverage or a snack for this one. I haven’t had internet access since Portland, so I have a lot to say. I apologize if you felt neglected. I did too.


Portland was a Portland time. As they say in Portland, “We drink and eat.” That’s really the jist of what we did, and it was nice to try some local brews -- not to mention cook the most amazing fajitas I’ve ever eaten with my sister. Yeah, we rock. The cherry and toasted almond chipotle truffles were pretty amazing too.

We grabbed some coffee and part of the Bears game at the ‘Fixin To’ on Sunday before our journey south in the fog. The gloomy rain and fog. I know I couldn’t live in Portland this time of year... and they say we’re hearty up in da U.P.!

The neatest part of this journey was the drive from Eugene to Florence on 126. The moisture in the air keeps the moss thick, green and lush. It really looked like a rainforest through there! The ferns were amazing too. It was all just so thick. Yes, thick, green and lush. Luscious.

In Florence, we finally got to our long-awaited Hwy. 101, which follows the Pacific coast from Canadia to California. So there we were on 101 -- in the fog. “Is that the ocean behind those trees?” We couldn’t tell. We could hardly see a football field’s length away. Darkness was upon us anyway, so we banked on a sunny tomorrow and sought shelter in a little motel in North Bend, OR. I think all that dark and wetness got to us because we each ate a pint of ice cream before bed. It was delicious.

But Cookie Dough and Huckleberry Swirl didn’t bring any blue skies the next morning. We had the same limitied visibility through the fog. Nodda. How were we going to see the ocean through that? We were used to our streak of bad luck by now (which I will spare you), so we just added it to the list of things we have endured and conquered.

But really. Where was that stinkin ocean? Does it even exist? I’m looking west and see mist. Just mist. And no, it wasn’t in my eyes.

Before leaving Oregon completely, we turned the corner in a little town to read, painted right on the road: “OCEAN VIEW.” We took that little turnoff because it sounded promising.

Sure enough. There she was -- the Pacific Ocean. We got out and took pictures. We were proudly tourists.

Oddly enough, most of 101 after that showcased the ocean... when we could see it. Sweet. And not so oddly enough, about 15 miles before California, the clouds parted, and the sun blazed through the car windows. I mean, it was hot! California, here we come!


Appoximately 4 miles before the Cali border, I got my camera ready. I wanted a shot of the “Welcome to California” sign. I didn’t know what it looked like, I just knew that I wanted a picture of it because I never thought I would be in California. After what seemed like 10 minutes of watching every sign that passed, there it was!

I turned my camera on, aimed, pushed the button... and missed completely. Aw crud. So much for that.

But, in beautiful, sunny California (I still can’t believe I’m in California) there was a giant piece that didn’t let me down. The Redwoods.

Pretty big, hey? Oh, yeah. Like monsters. Tall, beautiful, red and green monsters. I felt even smaller than I already did. Dwarfed. Dwarfed in awe, I tell you.

We even drove partially on the Avenue of the Giants just to bask in their glory a little closer. And when we got tired of driving 35 mph, we ducked back onto 101.

We stopped quickly in Arcata for advice on where to ride our bikes. Lots of hippie-looking people walking around. We were in California, man.

Then we furthered on south toward Shelter Cove on the lost coast, where we were going to camp for the night. In beautiful, sunny California. Ooh, is it fun to say that! The road to Shelter Cove was like driving a car on the bike trails. Slow, tight, curvy and hilly. It took us a good hour to get the 20-something miles to our camp site on those roads.

But we got there just in time to pitch camp before dark. By 5:30 pm we were sitting in the dark with a bottle of delicious wine and a waxing half moon. Stars popped more and more as the night went on. I saw two shooters. Ahh, just like the Keweenaw! I felt wonderful... maybe my wishes will come true....

In the sunny morning (because we’re in California), we set out to ride the Paradise loop by the Tolkan camp site we were at. We checked out the newly built skills park first, and that was awesome! Even I tried my mad skills (which are -- no, not really anything skillful. Sorry.). Then we were ready for the real ride. Our first real ride since Curt Gowdy (don’t ask).

The trails were just how I like them: smooth and flowy. But, uh, Aaron’s bike was broken. That ended that ride. Chalk that one on the list too. Oy.

I didn’t mind too much because then we got to do what I really wanted to do -- hike on the Black Sands Beach along the King Range coast. Yesssssss, a beach walk!

Besides the fact the “black sands” were actually black rocks and pebbles, it was everything I hoped for. Aqua-colored waves crashing into white foam on the shore, salt, sunny sunshine and even a 30 foot boulder for yours truly to climb up. Plus, I fulfilled my goal of putting my feet in the ocean. Yeah, and then I had to run out before I got swallowed! It was so worth it. So was the 10 minutes I took to just lay there on the beach. Except for the salt, it could have been Superior.

Riding in California

A beautiful, sunny Wednesday promised our first full ride in California along the Pioneer Trail, a trail along the ditches the pioneers built to canal water. Unfortunately, Aaron was not able to get his bike fixed, so he stayed behind to look for other options while Rich (in Nevada City, where we stayed) and I ventured out.

The trail was really cool. I liked riding on the berms next to the ditches. It gave a little excitement while still feeling safe. We rode through a “rock garden” which required much focus to stay on my bike. We rode under sugar pine trees, which I wouldn’t have known until my tires weaved through 14” long by 5” wide pine cones. Most definitely the biggest cones I’ve ever seen! I wanted to gather some, but they were really too big to stuff in my pack. Hopefully I’ll find some more around here....

Overall, it was a fun and peaceful ride. We only saw two hikers on our 12 mile ride. Wait, that was only 12 miles? I was beat by the end of it. But like I said, I hadn’t ridden for a while. Not bad for a couple cripples.

Luckily, Aaron got his bike fixed, and, since we knew we were all ready for a good ride, we attempted the 19 miled Epic South Yuba River Trail the next day. This trail zigs and zags along the South Yuba River on a mountain side. I mean, really carved in the side of these hills the whole way. Death was always on the left... all the way down to the river.

I’m not goint to lie, that kinda freaked me out. And the fact that I had come close to the edge with my tires multiple times in the first two miles of singletrack really wore on my nerves. Not to mention that some of those climbs were so steep that I ended up walking most of them. Not to mention that I couldn’t make it over hardly any obstacles on the trail.

But the sun was shining, and my body was feeling good, and I was out with two nice boys and my handsome pup (though they were always way ahead), and I was riding along the beautiful Yuba River. Sounds pretty nice, hey? Yeah. It does. And after I tried to concentrate on all that to turn me back into happy, smiley Amanda Wais, I would almost fall off the edge again. God f*$%!#& d@##!% exclamation point! Noooooo! I hate this! I don’t want to be a mountain biker any more! I want to get out of here now! I wanted to throw my bike into the river and lay on the trail until the animals ate my carcass. Twice I had to convince myself that this was not an option.

Whoo. So there’s my dark side for you. But I really wanted to make it through the trail. I wanted to say I did it.

Luckily, shortly after those first few hellacious miles, we stopped for a snack. My psychologists, Rich and Aaron, talked me out of my emotional tantrum and made me feel better about it all. Turns out that they were having a slightly rough time too. Okay. I can do this. Only 12 1/2 miles to go. Whimper, whimper.

Once I got my head out of my head, I really had an enjoyable time. The trail seemed a little safer. I didn’t mind that I had to walk up some of those hills. It was hard to keep traction while pedaling over a carpet of bay leaves and acorns. But, gosh darn it, I was going to finish the Yuba Trail.

We saw some cool sights along the way. Most mentionably, purple-capped mushrooms, waterfalls, quails, thick moss covering whole treas, a gathering of thousands of ladybugs huddled together (pictured below) and a ruby-red sunset. The latterest was bittersweet. Yes, it was an amazing color, but it also meant that it would be dark soon, and we were still in the woods.

Soon the leaves and rocks on the trail were all the same color. Oh, why did I take so long to cry on the trail when I should have just been pushing my bike? Now it’s getting dark! So I tried my tired legs tried to pedal a little faster. And just before I could hardly see my handlebars, I pushed my bike up the last hill... to the car. I did it. I rode the Epic South Yuba Trail.