Travel Theme: Glow

We did not go looking for a glowworm adventure. We were just looking for a place to stay near Tauranga on the North Island of New Zealand. The Mount Tutu Ecosanctuary popped up on Trip Advisor and my friend UK Sarah agreed that it sounded like a fun base camp for our girls road trip. Upon arrival our hosts Tim and Debbie Short explained that tours of the native bush and a night time glowworm adventure were part of our package. We said yes to both.

Tim Short guiding us on bush walk at Mount Tutu Ecosanctuary

Tim Short guiding us on bush walk at Mount Tutu Ecosanctuary

Tim led the bush walk in the morning after breakfast. I am glad that we did this first so we could see the kind of woods that we would be walking in at night. Our host’s enthusiasm was infectious and we found ourselves asking lots of questions about the trees, flora and birds that we discovered once we softened our eyes. When I am in New Zealand I am usually looking out to sea for penguins, seals, and albatross. Tim’s guidance really helped me appreciate the beauty of interior New Zealand.

After dark we returned to the dining area where Tim outfitted us for our glowworm adventure. We put on our headlamps and spent a little time getting accustomed to walking in the dark with and without our headlamps. UK Sarah and I both got a little giggly as it was a little bit scary and a little bit exciting.

Tim led us to the woods and down into a small ravine where the creek has carved steep banks about as high as my 5’3″ head. On this dry evening the creek was gently burbling.  It did not seem long before Tim asked us to stop and turn off our headlamps.

The utter darkness revealed the magical beauty of the glowworm. The trees blocked our view of the starry heavens, but this was like another constellation on the creek bank. I was filled with awe. And delight.

The little girl who delighted in lightning bugs on an evening in Iowa long ago reawakened. After a time of appreciation I began to get curious about how glowworms “work”.  In the Te Ara encyclopedia it explains: “In New Zealand and Australia, glow-worms are the larvae (maggots) of a special kind of fly known as a fungus gnat. Fungus gnats look rather like mosquitoes, and most feed on mushrooms and other fungi. However, a small group of fungus gnats are carnivores, and the worm-like larvae of these species use their glowing lights to attract small flying insects into a snare of sticky threads. One species, Arachnocampa luminosa, is found throughout New Zealand, and others occur in Australia.”

What other kinds of species attract prey using sticky threads? Spiders! Not long after our eyes grew accustomed to the dark and the glowworms, we began to see darker shadows on the creek banks. Really big spiders! The scare factor went up a few notches and it made the experience that much more thrilling.

Eventually we were ready to head back to the lodge. We were not able to capture the glowworms with our cameras and so we began to savor the experience to make lasting memories. Experts say that heightened emotions make memories stick. We will not forget this adventure.

A lot of visitors go to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to see the glowworms. But I do not do caves and so my cursor never lingered over this option. I am so thankful Tim and Debbie are willing to share their glowworms with us, and to lovingly preserve the ecosystem around them so the glowworms might continue to thrive.

Tim and Debbie Short with their three daughters have been managing these 16 acres of preserve for 25 years. We stayed in a separate guest house where the philosophy behind the decor seems to be “more is more”.  Debbie and Tim have given over a part of their home for the guest dining area and have a library of books to help identify the abundant bird life all around. They are generous souls and we felt the tranquility of the Ecosanctuary permeated our stay.

Our road trip began in Auckland, New Zealand. We drove to Tauranga, stopping at Hobbiton in Matamata (fun to say) for a pint of ale at the Green Dragon. We spent a full day in Tauranga, with a morning bush walk, a bit of shopping in town and a hike around the Mound, and some sightseeing, then back to the EcoSanctuary for our glowworm adventure. The next day we drove to Rotorua and checked out the hot springs and the museum before heading back to Auckland. It was just the right balance of driving and varied activity. It almost goes without saying that everything was beautiful–it is New Zealand.

Blog post inspired by Where’s my Backpack? http://wheresmybackpack.com/2014/04/25/glow/

Celebrate World Penguin Day!

World Penguin Day

To celebrate World Penguin Day, here is a roundup of penguin related links.

First, World Penguin Day began when the scientists at McMurdo Station in Antarctica noticed that the Adelie penguins return to nest every year on April 25th. They began to celebrate and it grew into World Penguin Day. Check out their webcam.

Now a shout out to my friend Mara V. Connolly’s blog. She guest blogged in this space about African penguins. Follow this link to a leadership lesson that these same penguins taught her.

Earlier I shared Dyan DeNapoli’s Ted Talk about penguins. Here is a link to her website: The Penguin Lady. Check out the links to other penguin organizations on her resources page. Or click on the “yellow sticky” on the home page that says Help Save Penguins.

Here are some basic facts about penguins and the scary future they face. Check out this link to Defenders of Wildlife’s penguin page.

Penguins are awesome. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Taking Napa Valley for Granted

I live just 45 minutes from Napa Valley. Lucky me, right? Yet I rarely take advantage of the amazing food and beautiful landscapes. Mainly because I am not a big drinker, as in hardly ever. When I do enjoy a glass of wine I pay dearly that night or the next day. So when I go wine tasting with friends I am the designated driver.

Wine crusher statue greets visitors to Napa Valley

Wine crusher statue greets visitors to Napa Valley

Over the years I have had many, many great meals in Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga. Recently I participated in 2014 Global Co-Active Summit at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. I took my Brompton bike to be able to ride everyday. The Meritage is located in an industrial park right on the other side of the hill that the Wine Crusher statue. There is a great walk through a vineyard to a pretty view once the morning fog burns off.

Meritage Resort pool area from hill walk.

Meritage Resort pool area from hill walk.

The cycling opportunities are a little less readily available from the Meritgage. The Summit kept me busy and my riding was limited to the industrial park. I having been thinking about driving back to the Valley to ride some hills.  I found this great blog post on 7X7 SF offering 6 bike routes.

The Meritage is staffed by exceptionally friendly and capable people, but the food service was limited for some mysterious reason, so I jumped on Trip Advisor and Yelp looking for a Mexican restaurant. The first place I looked for did not appear to exist. I drove a few more blocks to an address for another taco place by another name. Instead I found the Hacienda Taqueria at 1851 Old Sonoma Road. It was very authentic and affordable. The freshly made chips are delicious. The hot sauce on the tacos is very spicy and the chicken enchiladas very delicious. Went back two nights later with friends when we needed some quick, filling, tasty food to go.

I will share when I try one of the routes from the 7X7 SF blog post.

 

Prepping for Le Tour

I rode out towards Winters about 8 a.m. The sun was shining and the farmers were already plowing and planting transplants. A welcome site in this drought. A red wing blackbird perched on the fence sang in full song as I whizzed by on my new bike, yes NEW road bike. I quietly passed wild turkeys grazing along the side of the trail as the spring sunshine caught the beautiful colors on their feathers. My new Trek Lexa is super fun to ride.

Trek Lexa S in Platinum

Trek Lexa S in Platinum

I bought the bike from Joe at the Freewheeler Bicycle shop in Davis. He did a superb job fitting the bike to me and his colleague helped me learn to use the clipless pedals on the trainer when I picked up the bike. They adjusted the pedals so they are easy to clip in and out. I am still nervous about all of my bike handling skills and gaining confidence with every kilometer.

I am 10 weeks away from my departure for Le Tour de France. I am using Bicycling magazine’s Simple Plan to get in shape. The Simple Plan is a six week training plan by Selene Yeager and Leslie Bonci. It is living up to its name and it pushes me on my gear shifting skills.

In March I set a goal of riding every day for 30 minutes. It was an achievable goal and it motivated me to take Black Beauty to Seattle so I could keep riding. At the end of the 30 days I felt much stronger and comfortable on my bike. I made the pledge to ride everyday in April with the 30DaysofBiking. So 3 days a week I do an interval training ride and the other days I ride to commute or to relax.

Davis Adult School offered a bike repair class and conversational French class–both on Tuesday evenings. I decided that knowing how to repair my bike would be a useful skill for the long haul and not just this summer. We work on our bikes at the workshop at Martin Luther King Continuation High School. I had to laugh though, when I told one of the women who is an accomplished bike mechanic why I wanted to take the class she laughed and said, “You don’t need to know how to change a tire. The ratio of men to women in cycling is so great that all you have to do is wait by the side of the road and someone will fix it for you.” Hmmm. Not my style. Then I met a woman from Montreal who speaks fluent French and she said, “Well you can’t really learn much French in 10 weeks.” All I can say is Theo, our instuctor is a great teacher and I am enjoying the class.

People in my class are fascinated by my Brompton foldable bike. As soon as I am done overhauling Gidget (my beach cruiser) I will watch some more videos on the Brompton website and take it in and practice changing tires and other repairs. I found a great bike shop in San Francisco, Huckleberry Bicycles, that carries Brompton Bikes and parts.

It is getting real.

 

San Diego and Storylines Conference

Even when it rains San Diego is still beautiful. I registered my daughter Sarah and myself for Don Miller’s Storylines conference even though it flying from Auckland and going straight from San Francisco Airport to Sacramento to fly to San Diego. It was worth the effort to hear Anne Lamott talk about her writing practice that same evening.

General Session at Storylines Conference, San Diego

General Session at Storylines Conference, San Diego

We quickly checked into Humphrey’s Half Moon Bay Inn and the desk clerk announced that we got a free upgrade to a suite. Lovely, at first. Our room was super roomy and had a plethora of televisions and a view of the marina. We had no opportunity to enjoy it as we spent the next couple of days at Point Loma Nazarene University for the conference. We were let down by housekeeping, including finding sand in my bed (and I never went to the beach!)

The Storylines conference attracts mostly “Jesus people” though not exclusively, and mostly 20-somethings though not exclusively. We connected with another mother-daughter pair from Oregon who offered transportation to a Denny’s to get something approximating dinner on Thursday night. We connected with other people over meals in the campus dining hall including two young woman who left for a New Zealand vacation the next week! It is not easy to generalize about why people were there, (Read Raechel Wong’s guest blog) I would guess that it was for spiritual growth and inspiration to live a more adventurous life. Most people had a more “millennial” attitude toward their faith–faith in action, not a spectator sport. One of the clear favorites at the conference was Bob Goff who had a line of people waiting for a word and a hug everytime he attended a session. My curiosity overwhelmed me and a I bought and read his book Love Does. Wow.

Sarah and I enjoyed our time in San Diego so much that she and her husband decided to return for a fun weekend. She is giving Humphrey’s another chance. It is a great location–near airport, on the shoreline.

 

Eat, Sleep, Bike in Seattle

Seattle skyline from ferry

Seattle skyline from ferry

A blue sky day like this one is the kind that suckers Californians into moving to the Pacific Northwest. Of my three days in Seattle I had this stunner, and rain, and clouds and rain. I traveled to Seattle for a combination of personal and business reasons. I have not been to Seattle in a few years and it has increased its cool factor in my absence.

Eat

Pizza from Serious Pie

Pizza from Serious Pie

I ate so well that I am glad I took my Brompton to get some exercise each day. And it was Pi(e) Day on my last day there!

Dahlia Bakery

“Bite” of Pie at Dahlia Bakery

I stayed in the hip and chic Hotel Andra, centrally located in the heart of downtown and surrounded by a number of Tom Douglas restaurants. My colleague and I had a great meal at Serious Pie. I ate a tasty greek salad at Lola, although the slab of feta was a challenge to eat in bite size pieces. And after seeing the Pi(e) Day reminder, I started my day with a slice of coconut cream pie and coffee at Dahlia Bakery.

Starbucks Coffee

Drinking local means Starbucks

I also enjoyed coffee guilt free at Starbucks. Where else can you drink local coffee, at Starbucks? My colleague and I had an adventure trying to find the Pike Street Fish Fry that UrbanSpoon said had amazing fish and chips. We started at Pike Place Market and walked most of the way to Capitol Hill before we found it. It was worth the effort.

Pi(e) Day inspired me to seek out a berry pie at A La Mode Pies across from the Woodland Park Zoo. If I did not already have my heart set on Marionberry Hazlenut, I would have been torn between Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart and Star-Spangled Sour Cherry.

Slice of Marionberry Hazelnut

Slice of Marionberry Hazlenut

Sleep

I received an email from Stash Hotels telling me about Hotel Andra. I looked up the reviews in Trip Advisor and then making my reservation via Booking.com. I enjoyed every aspect of my stay. The staff especially excelled in making my stay a success. the bellman especially offered great advice about biking routes. My room was very comfortable and the wifi very fast. I will gladly stay here again.

Bike

Bicycle and jogging path through the Sculpture Park.

Bicycle and jogging path through Sculpture Park

I brought Black Beauty along so I could be sure to keep my commitment of riding my bicycle every day for 30 minutes. I had a terrific ride along the shoreline one morning. Another day I rode to the Seattle Center and around downtown. Seattle has invested in bike paths and there were large numbers of bicycle commuters on the street. Impressive considering the inclement weather.

 

Tiburon: More than a Saucelito Alternative

Last month when the rest of the nation was in the grip of the polar vortex, I found myself driving across the Golden Gate Bridge on a glorious blue sky day.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge in winter (ha!)

My beautiful friend Ray was visiting friends in San Francisco for the weekend and called me to join them for lunch in Tiburon. I used the jaunt to the Bay Area to take care of some bike business and so found myself crossing the Golden Gate to get to Tiburon in Marin County. The mid-day traffic was moving and I was making good time, so I pulled off at the popular vista point on the Marin side of the bridge. Every family visiting San Francisco that weekend seemed to be here to take photos. It was worth the effort navigating a parking space.

Continuing on past the turn off to Saucelito, I was not sure how difficult it was going to be to get to Tiburon, yet I was thankful Ray did not choose a restaurant in Saucelito as the last couple of times I have tried to drive through I have been caught in seriously slow traffic on the main drag.  Soon enough I was zipping down a beautiful road that hugs the bay to Tiburon.

What a gem of a place! I passed a large gathering of bicyclists to park in the public parking (not free). We met up at Guaymas Mexican restaurant next to the ferry terminal. We could watch people coming and going from our outdoor table. Climate change stinks except when you can eat outside on a winter’s Saturday and worry about getting a sunburn.

Tiburon, California in Marin County

Tiburon, California in Marin County

The food was good. The company made the lunch great. We had fun talking and trying each others food. I asked about all of the cyclists and Ray and friends explained that a lot people ride from SF, across the bridge to Tiburon and then take the ferry home. Brilliant.

Afterward we walked around the corner to Caffe Acri for a coffee and dessert. Perfect accent to a beautiful day with my beautiful friend Ray.