Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The road from Jackson, WY to Spokane, WA was a long one. Really long. I guess it became longer because of our journey through Yellowstone National Park. We were excited to take the road through this national wonder to see some of the great sights along the way.
The Grand Tetons towered to the west as we traveled north at 30-55 mph. The road through the park was snowy and slick. Good thing Aaron is used to driving in those conditions. We went through a few park entrances with no tolls to pay. “Guess we’ll just keep on going!”
We drove two hours north of Jackson through the national park until we literally couldn’t go any further. The gate across the only road north was barred: “Road Closed.” Okay, uh, guess we’ll turn back around.
When we looked at the map, we realized we had to take that same road all the way back down plus 30 miles south of Jackson. We looked at each other through crooked grins, shaking our heads. What else could we do? At least the view was great, and now we got to see it through the other side of the car window. Good thing we were on vacation!
Thirteen hours later we made it up to Missoula, MT, after passing through Idaho. There, in the frosty air, we checked in to a Motel 6, slept, got up and kept driving in the morning the last three hours to Spokane. Ahh, safe and sound at my little brother’s place.
Our second night there, we got to experience some big city night life: bouncers at the doors, girls all decked out in little outfits and high heels, hip hop music pounding over a disco lit floor and shelves of booze up to the ceiling. I ordered a Talisker single malt scotch just to see what the bartender had to climb up to get it. They have step ladders. It was so worth it.
The next day, mostly in the dark, we traveled southwest to Portland, OR. I-84 along the Columbia River really is a beautiful drive, but, like I said, it was dark, so we could really only see the silhouettes of the gorge looming above.
And today in Portland, moisture drizzles from the sky. My sister said it will do that until April. I tell ya, 20 degrees colder, and it would be snow! Here’s to the St. John Bridge... and the microbrews... and the bikes... and my sister!