Relaxing Stay in Eureka with Lulu

Rowing at the Eureka wharf.

Rowing at the Eureka wharf.

There is something about Humboldt County that equals relaxation for me. Somewhere past Willits the cares of the day fall away and I am breathing more deeply and slowing my pace. And no it is not aided by medicinal marijuana–although if you are into that sort of thing I am pretty sure by the smell that you can pick some up if you make a pitstop in Garberville.

The private Ingomar Club in the Carson mansion anchors Old Eureka.

The private Ingomar Club in the Carson mansion anchors Old Eureka.

I decided at the last minute to get out of town. Saturday nights are noisy in my neighborhood–add Halloween and daylight savings so bars can stay open until 3 a.m. and I knew my dog Lulu and I had to scamper. I jumped on the Internet and searched Google for “Pet Friendly Hotels in Eureka.” There were quite a few to choose from and they are all located along 4th or 5th Streets where Highway 101 splits into one-way avenues through town.

I chose the Quality Inn and it was sufficient. I will probably not stay there again but for this weekend Lulu and I enjoyed walking past the private Ingomar Club at the Carson Mansion, along the wharf, and past the other victorian houses in the upper end of Old Town Eureka. One challenge of traveling with a dog is that you cannot leave them in your hotel room. Fortunately Eureka is almost always cool enough to leave your dog for short periods in the car wtih the windows well cracked.

The Pink Lady is across the street from the Carson Mansion.

The Pink Lady is across the street from the Carson Mansion.

Lulu and I unwound and enjoyed the time away in the relative quiet. Most of it was spent further north in Arcata and Clam Beach in McKinleyville. Sunday morning before we left we met Harriet and Brian to check out a new restaurant for breakfast. The Greene Lily is named for the proprietor’s grandmother. The menu is focused on breakfast and lunch and inventive with a bacon stuffed waffle, omelettes and lots of “Bennies” or variations on Eggs Benedict. It’s Humboldt County so Brian knew the person at the next table. As I asked him how he liked his crab bennie I realized he had almost licked his plate and the answer was fairly obvious. He said the foundation crab cakes were especially good. It was also a bit pricey at $18.95. We did not try the Candy Bar Waffle–next time.

Romano Gabriel's sculptures are preserved in Old Town Eureka.

Romano Gabriel’s sculptures are preserved in Old Town Eureka.

The Greene Lily is also adjacent to the Romano Gabriel sculptures. They are like a two dimensional version of Disney’s Small World ride. The paint is faded but it is still impressive. He originally had it in his Eureka house garden. Apparently not all of his neighbors appreciated it. But then it was illegal for Italian immigrants to go close to the Eureka coastline during World War II. Fortunately, it was preserved.

It is a six hour drive from San Francisco or Sacramento–a real damper on tourism. With Ferndale and the Redwood National Park it is worth the drive.

Santa Monica on the Brompton


Ah, the view!

This Throwback Thursday I am remembering an adventure way back in March 2015. I was in SoCal for a Rob Bell/Richard Rohr event in Orange County. I stopped in Santa Monica on the way home to visit a friend. I spent the afternoon riding around on my Brompton and met my friend.

Flash forward: I just made reservations to fly to LAX and stay in Santa Monica for another Rob Bell event. Sarah Harriet and I are going to mooch around Santa Monica the next morning, and take in the Frank Gehry exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


Santa Monica sunset.

Santa Monica is one of my favorite places to spend time. This place has a small town feel. Smooshed between a big city and the Pacific Ocean, it is most famous for its beach. There is also unique shopping–different from the  world of same/same stores. Plus great food is found at all price points. I love the vibe.




Something Interesting Always Going on in Arcata, CA

The Alibi on the Arcata Plaza serves a great breakfast.

The Alibi on the Arcata Plaza serves a great breakfast.

Unless you have a friend or family member associated with Humboldt State University, you may be among the many Californians who confuse Arcata in NorCal with Arcadia in SoCal. The towns could not be more different. Over 30 years ago my best friend started University at HSU and I began visiting the area. Everytime I visit it seems like I experience something new: Kube, saunas, Samoa Cookhouse, geocaching in the Arcata Marsh, organic ice cream, Crabs baseball, farmers markets and more.

This last visit was over Halloween weekend so it offered a few new surprises. I started my Saturday at Harriet and Brian’s where we determined the best place to eat breakfast and watch the Rugby World Cup championship game was at the Alibi on the Arcata plaza. The farmers market was going full steam so we parked a couple of blocks away and walked. The Alibi is an institution–mainly a popular bar but known for a great breakfast. They had just opened a much larger dining area and there were a few bumps for the wait staff. We had the same great service but they looked a little frazzled.

Watching championship World Cup Rugby game at The Alibi

Watching championship World Cup Rugby game at The Alibi

I was a little nervous about the rugby match actually being on NBC since the station was showing cartoons until 9:00 a.m. Brian’s information was correct and we were soon watching the All Blacks Haka. At first we were the only ones in the bar interested in the game. Harriet and Brian were also unfamiliar with the sport. Soon quite a few people were enjoying this very competitive game. For those of you who watched you know that the Kiwis had some breathing room in the first half and then the Wallabies came roaring back. The announcers were proclaiming the momentum with Australia. Then the Man of the Match Dan Carter kicked a goal and you could almost watch the air go out of the Aussie balloon. Soon I could relax a little and enjoy the game again.

If you are interested in checking out a rugby match, many of the World Cup matches are on YouTube. Definitely recommend the Japan VS South Africa, New Zealand VS France, and the final between New Zealand and Australia.

Pumpkin skeleton on Arcata Plaza

Pumpkin skeleton on Arcata Plaza

We did a bit of shopping at my favorite plaza shops: the Garden Gate and Top Knots.  Later in the day we returned to the Plaza at the end of the trick or treat event where merchants hand out candy to smaller children on the Plaza. We saw some great costumes including an adorable Scooby-Doo. My favorite was a Curious George whose Dad dressed up as the man in the yellow hat. Brilliant.

It was not hard to convince me to go for pie for dinner. There is a new restaurant called BitterSweet that is a shared space for the Slice of Humboldt Pie and The Local Cider Bar.  We enjoyed meat pies for dinner and apple pie a la mode for dessert. I enjoyed the pumpkin cider. I hope this idea of shared spaces catches on in the same way the organic ice cream has become popular.

The Local Cider Company in BitterSweet

The Local Cider Company in BitterSweet

Seeking a Little Comfort on the Morning After Paris Attacks

Stanely Donuts at 3710 J Street can be counted on to serve up yummy donuts.

Stanely Donuts at 3710 J Street can be counted on to serve up yummy donuts.

I had been making good eating choices all week and even before I knew of the terror attacks in Paris I had decided to get a donut in the morning. I was up early finding solace in a email chat with my daughter. Eventually Lulu’s woeful looks got me up and I took my dog for a walk.  Then I went to the Midtown Farmers Market. Usually the Sweet Dozen food trailer is there serving up donuts. Not today. Then I remembered they were supposed to be at Chocolate Fish in East Sacramento. I was too hungry to bike there on an empty stomach. So I warmed up leftover Thai food and watched a comfort episode of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having on  I watched the Paris episode and prayed for the citizens of this great city: may they find comfort today too. Though I watched Phil dive into fussy pastries and pull apart a messy croissant and it only deepened my craving for the humble donut.

I jumped on my bike and headed to East Sacramento. By the time I arrived the Sweet Dozen trailer was shuttered. No donut. I got in line for one of Sacramento’s best flat whites and I realized what I really wanted was a donut. I plugged “donuts near me” into Google Maps and up popped Stanely Donuts at 37th and J Streets. I could check my P.O. Box, and then stop on my way home.

In my experience the best donuts in California are made by Cambodians. I learned this from friends who work in Cambodia and seek out donut shops run by Cambodians to practice their Khmer when they are in California. Turns out there is a bit of a Cambodian donut cartel once you step outside of the “gourmet” donut world. These are fresh, yummy donuts offered in super clean stores with regular hours. Stanely you have my loyalty!

After a lovely chat with the proprietress (who gave me an extra free donut!), I walked across the street for a Starbucks coffee in a controversial cup and free wifi. Next up: a quick stop at Geographica, a delightful map and art shop where I always seem to find a great gift or something I cannot live without.

I am so thankful for the relative peace in my little part of the world today. Praying for all those caught in conflict around the world today. Peace be with you.

Machu Picchu Not Overrated

Machu Picchu

My photos are all pre-digital and in a Creative Memories photo album. This snap is from Wikipedia.

Many people have Machu Picchu on their list of places they plan to go before they die. I had the good fortune of going before I was 40 years old almost by accident. The that we worked for went bust and my colleague and I were gifted a trip to visit the parent company in Peru as a sort of consolation prize. It turned out to be a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous experience in Lima, Pucallpa, Cusco, and Machu Picchu.

One of the Satellite Sisters recently went with girlfriends to Machu Picchu and recommended reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. I downloaded the book and marveled at what I did not know when I saw these amazing ruins. I recommend that do read the book if you plan to go. And know that you will still enjoy the experience very much if you do not because it is so profoundly special. Machu Picchu cannot fail to make an impression. Mark Adams book

People sometimes ask if I will go back. Alas, probably not. I am susceptible to altitude sickness and I became very ill in Cusco and felt better at Machu Picchu because it is a little lower. There are just so many places to see and things to do. If I am going to risk feeling miserable on an adventure it will be seasickness to see penguins in Galapagos or Antarctica.

On this Throwback Thursday I am looking at my photo album and remembering meeting German tourists at the back of the tour bus and staying at the amazing Monasterio Hotel in Cusco, swimming in the hotel pool and experiencing an amazing Christmas party in Pucallpa, disappearing after one Pisco Sour in Lima, and meeting people from Sacramento on the terraces of Machu Picchu.

Crazy About Peanuts!

Mom had fun pretending to be Lucy in the "photo booth."

Mom had fun pretending to be Lucy in the “photo booth.”

I feel like I have loved Snoopy my whole life. I grew up reading the Peanuts comic strip. My grandparents lived in Santa Rosa where Charles Schultz was the most famous person after Luther Burbank died. My bestest stuffie was a Snoopy (and I still have him). We skated in Schultz’s ice rink. I have so many ties to Peanuts that I was determined to see the Peanuts exhibit at the California Museum before it closed January 3.

California Museum is like the People magazine of museums. It mainly has a hall of fame for people who have made major contributions in the arts, business, science, sports and other fields. Their connection to California is permissive since so many people move here from somewhere else. For example, David Hockney who is British born and educated, but painted for many years in Los Angeles, has an exhibit. You can see Kristi Yamaguchi’s tiny skates. Or Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman costume.

The Peanuts comic strip is still relevant. The focus of this exhibit is on Lucy’s long fall tradition of pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute. It also provided a window into how some of the characters evolved. None more so than my beloved Snoopy.

My mom and I arrived at the museum on Saturday at about 1:00 p.m. and we had the museum almost to ourselves. Mom’s senior admission was $7.50 and my adult fee was $9.00. Parking on the street is easy on the weekends (free on Sunday).

The exhibit is on loan from the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa. It is worth a visit too.

My Christmas cards will have Peanuts this year!

My Christmas cards will have Peanuts this year!

Most exciting news: I learned I can get a special California license plate with Snoopy for my Mini Cooper. It is a fundraiser for museums in California.

Has anyone seen the Peanuts movie yet?

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Gran Fondo – My Cycling Waterloo

This summer with all of my cycling including RAGBRAI, I was feeling like a cyclist and an athlete. I was not able to keep up my training routine in September because of all of my travel. Nevertheless, I had signed up for two Gran Fondo’s more than 5 months earlier.

Misty morning start for the Jensie Gran Fondo  at Stafford Lake in Marin County

Misty morning start for the Jensie Gran Fondo at Stafford Lake in Marin County

First up was the Levi’s Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa. This is one of the most popular Gran Fondos on the west coast. Former pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer started it in his hometown to raise money for local charity. Santa Rosa is my home town too, so I liked the idea of learning more about the roads between Santa Rosa and the coast. The longer routes include my favorite all time road:  Coleman Valley Road between Occidental and Highway 1.

I knew I was not going to be able to manage that uber hill, so I signed up for the most modest route “Piccolo”.  Apparently I also bought the full kit way back in February, although for a bunch of reasons I did not receive it until end of August. And then it was sized for petite Italian women. So I decided I would drive over on Friday to register and exchange my kit for a larger size. Since I needed to be home Friday, my plan was to drive over early on Saturday morning.

Beautiful redwoods lined the route on Nicasio Valley Road.

Beautiful redwoods lined the Jensie Gran Fondo route on Nicasio Valley Road.

A bunch of stuff went sideways on Friday so I was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the time I arrived at the park where registration was set up. I successfully nabbed the last bits of kit in my size and got my number. I enjoyed the few vendors set up on Friday (there was the promise of a much bigger expo on Saturday) including the Petaluma Pie Company. But then I stopped to ask for advice about parking the next morning. I would be driving 2 hours early in the morning. Alas, the volunteer said the small amount of parking would be full by 6 a.m. so he suggested I park at Santa Rosa Junior College and ride my bike to the start. This would add a 20 minute ride on bike-unfriendly roads. Really?

Suddenly I just felt overwhelmed. I called Sarah Harriet as I drove home and she gave me permission to not go. I decided I was just not up for it and immediately I felt a flood of relief. And then I started my period, so that sealed it. I am not a woman who shuts down her life once a month, but I know my body well enough to know that doing a challenging ride–thousands of people, hills, tired–was going to be a bad experience all things considered.

Plus I still had the Jensie Gran Fondo the next Saturday.  I stayed the night at my Auntie J’s house and drove through the dark of night to Mill Valley–a town that does not believe in lighting–to register. It made for a long day of driving in traffic, but I was fairly confident that this Gran Fondo was going to be a better experience. It is the first year that the Marin Bicycle Coalition was sponsoring a Gran Fondo and they partnered with Jens Voigt to make it even more great.

I love the Point Reyes area so I loved the opportunity to do something associated with my favorite former pro-rider Jens Voigt and ride my bike in this bee-uu-ti-ful part of California.

My ultimate Waterloo: Sir Francis Drake Boulevard feels much steeper than it looks.

My ultimate Waterloo: Sir Francis Drake Boulevard feels much steeper than it looks.

I got up early the next morning and whizzed over country roads in the dark to Stafford Lake. Parking was plentiful and I had my $10 handy to pay the park fee but they waved me through and never asked for it. I needed to check the air in my tires and I made my first mistake–I pushed my bike through the newly mown grass and collected a lot of grass on my tires. I found a tire pump and coffee and had a delightful conversation with a woman from London who was in NorCal on business and decided to do the Century loop. Good on her!

Jensie's brand new Trek Madrone parked right next to my humble Trixie.

Jensie’s brand new Trek Madrone parked right next to my humble Trixie (also Trek).

I also spied a woman I knew was from Sacramento because of her “Hot Italian” jersey, which is a Midtown pizza place that is a huge cycling supporter. We moved to the way back to start so we were out of the pack. Within the first 100 yards I realized my computer wasn’t working and in fact the sensor was broken. This meant I would have no idea how fast or far I was traveling. Uffda.

The pack was nothing as large as the crush at the start at Levi’s Gran Fondo. (Auntie J saved the Press Democrat photos). I realized fairly quickly that I had a lot of grass wadded between my fork and tire interfering with my wheel. I stopped and tried to address it myself but I could not undo my wheel. So when I spotted the Mavic roaming service guys I pulled over and asked for help. They took my wheel off  and when they put it back on it must have been crooked. I did not realize it because they are pros–they do not make mistakes, right? Immediately I had to go up a hill and I blamed my weak legs on, well my weak legs.

I was a little unnerved that in the time it took me to take care of all of that I was at the very back of a dwindling pack. And even without my computer I could feel that I was not going to catch them at the speed I was going. So I did my best to enjoy the scenery and the ride. I stopped and took pictures in quaint Nicasio. And then again when we rode into the redwood trees.

Jens Voigt talking to riders and fans about his bike.

Jens Voigt talking to riders and fans about his bike.

I was also dealing with serious hills. Though my legs felt better, I  still felt like I was riding through sand. I realized that I was moving slowly downhill too. I had to pedal on downhill slopes where normally I’d be braking. At one point going uphill I dropped my chain. So I pushed my bike uphill and then down a little to where there was a wide enough space to accept help from a cyclist going the other way and put it back on. By the time I got to the first rest area at Lagunitas they were already breaking the stop down. This is really demoralizing. I was so frustrated with my bike and this stop did not have any mechanical support. I chewed on some Fig Newtons, recovered as much as I could, and learned that there was only “one big hill” between me and the next stop at Point Reyes Station.

I set off again thinking my whole route is 40 miles. This is like riding to Sunrise Boulevard and back only with hills. I can do this. The road kept dropping down, down, down and my dread went up, up, up. No downhill goes unpunished. There is going to be an uphill. And then it began. I dug deep and started to ride very slowly uphill. I worked hard and then I started to have a hard time breathing. I stopped and tried to catch my breath and could not and meanwhile 5 big vehicles with horse trailers or surf boards or kayaks whizzed by closely. So I got off to walk my bike and realized that I need to move across the road where there was an actual shoulder. Still I could not catch my breath. So I stopped to rest and still I could not catch my breath.

I have never had a challenge with my breathing, so I did not know what to think other than “this is bad.” I struggled into Point Reyes Station and went straight to the medic station. I was their first patient so they were a little over excited. They took my pulse and listened to my heart. I learned that a great first aid tool is a bag of ice. They had me breath into it and it did provide some relief.  After about 15 minutes my color came back and I started to feel better. They also made me drink lots of water.

The upside of all of this is that all of this delay meant that I was at the medic station when Jens Voigt rolled in after about 80 miles of his Shut Up Legs century route. He parked his bike right next to mine and immediately went up to the medics and thanked them for their participation in his Gran Fondo. They were so cute because they did not know who he was and they were doing their best to try to figure out why this Tigger like man with a heavy German accent was enthusiastically thanking them. After he walked a little bit away to take pictures with riders I explained. The one woman medic said admiringly, “My he has great legs.”

The ride management did not have the swag wagon organized very well so I waited about an hour to catch a ride back in the big rental truck. I am glad I did not try to finish since it turns out there is at least one more hill fondly called the “leg breaker” by locals. I loaded my bike into my Mini and headed for home. I drove straight to my bike shop to figure out what the heck was going on with my bike. Turns out the wheel was rubbing on the fork the whole time. The young cheeky mechanic said, “Good resistance training.”

The next day I was completely wiped out and still not able to take a deep breath. I also felt completely demoralized. Honestly, the whole experience has been discouraging. I do not think of myself as an athlete. I am not sure if it was a histamine attack or exercise induced asthma. Will it happen again?

I am still riding my cruiser around town. I got back out on the bike trail once. I will push through this lack of enthusiasm and find a new ride routine. But I do not think Gran Fondos are for me. At least not alone.