No More Excuses

Compared to most of the Northern Hemisphere, the weather in NorCal has been balmy. For this weather wimp it has been too cold to ride… in my current bike kit, in this wind, and so on.  I opened up the January-February issue of Bicycling magazine and read several inspiring stories including “Conquer Your Mountain” on page 18 by James Herrera.

Step One is to identify your goal. My big goal is to follow the Tour de France and to ride on a Trek Tour through the first stages in England.

Step Two is to make a plan. I have the tour and hotel reservations done for the Tour de France. The harder part is learning to ride well enough and be fit enough to enjoy the experience.  July 2014 seems so far away, so I am making a lot of excuses and not riding any miles lately.

Step Three is to tell the world.  Okay, so this blog is not the world, but you are willing to stand in for “the world”, right?  I realized that I needed to set some very short term goals, like 2 weeks at a time, to stay on track with my big goal. Even before I could do that I had to go to the bike store and buy some winter riding gear. I do not like trying on kit because it is all so unfamiliar. It feels like just yesterday I bought my first pair of bike shorts; and with the long Indian summer they worked well until about mid-November. Off I went to B&L bike shop in Davis because they have a good selection without an overwhelming number of choices. Jenna helped me find tights, a long sleeve jersey and a windbreaker. I also bought mountain bike shoes for another short term goal: learning to use clipless pedals. I made my purchases on Wednesday, so when do you think I tried it all out?  That same day? The next morning? Not until Saturday morning! I will not bore you with all the reasons.

Never been too worried about being matchy-matchy; more interested in visibility on the road.
Never been too worried about being matchy-matchy; more interested in visibility on the road.

Finally I got on my bike and I rode from 8:45 to 9:22 a.m.  I planned to be out the door at 8:00 a.m. but the sun was still creeping up and it was bitter cold. So I waited a few more minutes and then coached myself. How important is my Tour de France goal? Very big deal. So get on your damn bike and get cold.

Step Four is track your progress.  There are so many apps to do this. I like Map My RIde for knowing how far I biked and then I make notes in my old fashioned paper journal.

Step Five is be present. I did enjoy my time on the bike today. I am not very fast. I hope that as I drop weight I will see my speed pick up.  I am still trying to identify interesting routes of varying lengths near my home depending on my schedule. I picked my way down an olive tree lined path toward the airport, then toodled along a quiet road that serves the University farm, then punched it on a busy county road with a short stretch without a shoulder, then enjoyed the sunshine as I headed back towards home. I noticed a big crow eating walnuts, a lot of runners out pushing themselves hard, and groups of dog walkers with their coffee mugs enjoying a more leisurely pace. I could hear an airplane preparing to land, and cars a long way off on the road (prompting the thought: what will it be like to ride when more and more cars are silently electric?)

Finally, step six to achieving success is put in the effort.  Okay, okay. No more excuses.

Attending Storylines Conference, GW

Quakers of old said “God willing” after stating plans as a reminder to the speaker and listener that we do not control the future–it is in God’s hands. Bringing it up to date…GW in social media parlance.  I recently made reservations for two big events in February and I am looking forward to both, GW.

The view from St Heliers Bay in Auckland, New Zealand
The view from St Heliers Bay in Auckland, New Zealand

First, I am traveling with my mom and her friends to New Zealand. I do not want to tell you their age, but I am happy to admit I am 51, so you can do the math. It is a great honor to share my favorite people and places in New Zealand with my mom and her crazy (in a good way) friends, and to see new places. As soon as I hit the tarmac in San Francisco, I will drive them home and then meet my daughter at the airport to fly to San Diego for another kind of adventure.

Sarah Harriet and I are registered for Donald Miller’s Storyline conference at Point Loma College in San Diego. I am excited because if Air New Zealand is on time, and Southwest Airlines are faithful, then I will be sharing dinner with Donald Miller and Anne Lamott.  My daughter is looking forward to the Ben Rector concert on Friday (guess I will learn about a new artist).

I first enjoyed Donald Miller’s blog, then his personal growth tool, Storyline 2.0.  I have also tried his time management tool, and that has not been so helpful. All the same, I am looking forward to recovering from my jet lag in this high energy, positive spirit-filled conference, GW.

Swatch: Harriets’ Yarns and Pagewood Farms

I needed some needles to stitch up the Diamond Lace Mitts so I went online to find a yarn store in the Palm Springs area. There was not a lot to choose from and the one called “Harriets’ Yarns” in Palm Desert was an obvious choice–my bff is named Harriet. On the map it looks like Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert are close together, yet when you are driving down Ramon Avenue and then Bob Hope Drive and then Country Club Drive, stopping at all of the lights, it feels a lot further. At last we found it in a large shopping area. (Just noticed the apostrophe seems to be misplaced or there is more than one Harriet!)

77-780 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, CA
77-780 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, CA

The shop offers a good selection of quality tools and some interesting pattern books I had not ever seen (hardly happens!).  I picked up a fun book for my small friend Claire called, “Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf” that helps to teach young people how to knit. I drooled over Botanical Knits also by Alana Dakos.

Pagewood Farms "Garden Party" wool in color Sante Fe.
Pagewood Farms “Garden Party” wool in color Sante Fe.

Then I found this beautiful hand spun wool by Pagewood Farm called Garden Party.  The color is called Sante Fe, yet reminds me of the colors of the sea. I have a good friend who has a group of friends that call themselves the mermaids and this particular yarn looks like something a hip and chic mermaid would wear.  I bought the large skein and some size 19 needles.  I found a pattern on Pagewood Farms website and knit it up quickly. I hope she likes it.

Peace and Beauty at Joshua Tree National Park

Posing with Joshua Tree and rocks at Quail Springs
Posing with Joshua Tree and rocks at Quail Springs

It takes a moment or two, and a couple of deep breaths, to acclimate to the beauty of the desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Then the peace of the place begins to seep in my bones and I can quiet my mind and appreciate what an interesting place this is. And I can hang out here for multiple days for the low entrance fee of $15 (per vehicle)–one of the bargains of our National Park system.

The Cahuilla people lived here for centuries, then after World War I, veterans with lung damage from mustard gas sought relief in the desert climate. By the 1930s, the human pressure on this special place was increasing and activist Minerva Hoyt persuaded Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare it a national park in 1936.  Today we can enjoy these special 794,000 acres where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge under the careful management of the US Park Service.

Hemingway Buttes are another climbing spot.
Hemingway Buttes are another climbing spot.

It is ideal to visit in winter as the temperatures are much milder than the 110 degrees+ of summer.  The days may be shorter but the night sky is glorious.  You can backpack, rock climb, horseback ride, walk, hike, and camp. The park is open 365 days a year, except when the government is shut down.

The famous Joshua Tree (thanks U2), is a member of the agave family with the latin name Yucca brevifolia. It is most associated with the Mojave Desert but it can be found in the Sonoran Desert and in the San Bernardino Mountains.  The Cahuilla used their tough leaves for baskets or sandals and ate the flower buds or seeds.  The plants are protected so if you want to plant a Joshua Tree when you get home, ask the visitor’s center about sourcing seeds.

There are a lot of wild critters that enjoy the Park. On our drive from the West entrance to Quail Springs, Hemingway Buttes and back, we saw a red-tailed hawk and common ravens. Spend longer in the park and you may see roadrunners, Bighorn sheep and desert tortoise.

Climb on Auntie J!
Climb on Auntie J!

The rocks are more fascinating than the wildlife. These piles of granite have been left behind after centuries of erosion.  One of our party kept saying, “Who piled up all these rocks this way?” Um, God. Or time.  Officially the rocks were pushed up from below by volcanic activity eons ago. “As the granite cooled and crystallized underground, cracks (joints) formed horizontally and vertically. The granite continued to uplift, where it came into contact with groundwater. Chemical weathering caused by groundwater worked on the angular granite blocks, widening cracks and rounding edges. Eventually the surface soil eroded, leaving heaps of monzogranite scattered across the land like careless piles of toy blocks.” (National Park Service brochure)

I have visited this park many times and I never tire of it.  It is a must see and do If you are visiting the Palm Springs area.

Swatch: Diamond Lace Mitts in NZ Wool

I was given a skein of “Cocoon Amethyst” by Rare Yarns of New Zealand when I was in Dunedin in September. (Remember the lovely ladies of Twisted Stitch?)  I left New Zealand without a pattern, so recently, as I looked at the gaps on my Christmas gift list, I logged onto Ravelry website and found a pretty project for my young friend Grace Julie.  It is called “Diamond Lace Mitts” and can be found in a Rare Yarns publication and only requires one skein. I could not find the book, so I emailed Rare Yarns and they sent me the pattern–complimentary.

Wool and pattern from Rare Yarns, NZ
Wool and pattern from Rare Yarns, NZ

These mitts are relatively easy and fast to knit. I made these up in two evenings of knitting while lounging with the family immersed in Thanksgiving holiday conversation.  I sewed them in about 20 minutes on the plane trip home using my Auntie’s small hands as my model. I like how they turned out and they will keep Gracie’s wrists and hands warm during her German winter. The yarn is delightful to work with and quite strong and the overall effect is very pretty.

I really like Rare Yarns, yet there is only one yarn shop in Maryland (USA) that sells their wool. So I guess I will need to stock up when I am in New Zealand in February.

Art and a Holiday Weekend in Palm Springs

I remember when I was a kid people talked about “low brow” art and “high brow” art. I thought about this today while in Palm Springs.  First we went to see the 25 foot Marilyn Monroe statue on the corner of Tahquitz Canyon  and N. Palm Canyon streets. There is a continuous line of people waiting to take their picture under Marilyn’s skirt and almost always one pose is looking up Marilyn’s skirt and mugging.

Marilyn Monroe by Seward Johnson
Marilyn Monroe by Seward Johnson

The sign for the statue says that Marilyn Monroe was “discovered” by an agent in Palm Springs and loved visiting with her second husband Joe DiMaggio.  She also owned a bungalow in the 1950s in Las Palmas. The sculpture is by Seward Johnson inspired by the famous photo from the film“Seven Year Itch”.

Yes, we can be tourists!
Yes, we can be tourists!

The sculpture was supposed to be temporary and the time in Palm Springs has been extended several times. It is hard to imagine how the Chamber of Commerce can let her go.  Palm Springs already has a walk of fame on the sidewalk with television and film professionals that have a connection to Palm Springs. We also sat beside Lucille Ball’s statue on a bench.  There are also multiple tributes to late-Sonny Bono, entertainer, mayor and congressman.

Then we turned our attention to the Palm Springs Art Museum just a block and a half from Marilyn.  It is a beautiful building tucked up against the mountains. We were keen to see the “George Caitlin’s American Buffalo” exhibition.  It was worth the $12.50 admission price. We were delighted at the anthropological-like precision of the paintings. It was also art–the horses looked afraid as they approached the buffalo in a hunt, and the white wolves looked ghost like.  George Caitlin was born in Pennsylvania and travelled to the prairie states in the late 1800s to capture the Indian way of life before it was destroyed by Europeans. Within about 20 years time, the 30 million buffalo were destroyed and with it the livelihood and spiritual connection for Crow, Blackfoot, and many other tribes.

Bull Buffalo by George Caitlin

As a bonus, we also gazed at the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit, “The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966.” We did not enjoy that as much as the buffalo, yet I could see the influence he must have had on Sacramento-area artists like Wayne Thieibaud and Greg Kondos.

My brother worked for a few years at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum while he was getting his PhD, and I always found this small gem of a museum worth a stop.  Most visitors to Palm Springs probably are not aware that the town settled on lands occupied by the Cahuilla people.  They are known for their bird songs, which are not imitations of birds singing but ancient tales sung during community celebrations.  They still own and lease a lot of the land in Palm Springs and their economic tide has turned since the mid-1900s when they lived impoverished alongside movie stars.  The museum is right in the heart of downtown and a short walk from Marilyn and offers insight into this tribal community.

I enjoy Palm Springs, but I never think of it as a fun vacation destination. It has always been my brother’s neighborhood so I think of visiting my brother first, and then as a resort.  Watching people from the sidewalk table at Peabody’s on the main drag suggests that lots of couples and families enjoy a holiday weekend here.

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Jo Tree

I am back in Jo Tree (the high desert communities of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and 29 Palms) for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house.  I collected my auntie J on the way to San Francisco Airport and flew into Palm Springs via Alaska Airlines. (Shout out to Alaska Air for the most complete boarding pass ever:  includes destination weather, points of interest, Sodoku, crossword puzzles and a packing list.)  We had the best kind of flight: uneventful. We checked out our rental car from Enterprise where the young man attending was very pleasant and thorough–and gave us a free upgrade.

My brother lives at the Yucca Valley Airport.
My brother lives at the Yucca Valley Airport.

Jo Tree is about a 30 minute drive from Palm Springs airport up into the mountains. We are at about 3,000 elevation and, like the Spring,s the climate is very dry. Yucca Valley is the first of the three communities that string like beads on the 29 Palms Highway.  Yucca Valley is the practical town of the the three with the most restaurants, grocery stores and such. Joshua Tree boasts the National Park, and then 29 Palms hosts the US Marine Corp base with about 19,000 soldiers training for desert fighting.

Our hotel, the Best Western Joshua Tree (in Yucca Valley) is very pleasant and affordable.  It does have the weirdest plumbing in the bathroom with jet streams that attacked us the first morning. You know the plumbing is overly complicated when they leave a diagram of how to use.  The hotel provides a free hot breakfast, which provides some relief to both guests and hosts over a long holiday weekend. At least my brother and his lovely wife do not have to cook us breakfast.

Our Best Western guest binder in our room says this for points of interest: “Here in the heart of our downtown business district, National Park Drive leads visitors South to the park Headquarters and main Visitor Center of this magnificent National Park, where golden eagles soar above massive heaps of boulders and groves of Joshua Trees reach towards the blue vastness above with arms clothed in clusters of dagger shaped green leaves.” Wow. I guess it is not just sports writers who get carried away with hyperbole.

Desert tortoises are struggling to survive in diminishing habitat. This little guy was adopted through a rescue org.
Desert tortoises are struggling to survive in diminishing habitat. This little guy was adopted through a rescue org.

Joshua Tree National Park is 794,000 acres in two large ecosystems depending on elevation:  the Colorado and the Mojave Desert.  The Mojave section is slightly higher, cooler and wetter (all relative) and is the home of the Joshua Tree, so named by Mormon visitors to whom the groves of immature two-armed plants reminded them of the biblical Joshua reaching up to God.

There is an attraction called Pioneertown nearby. Founded in 1946 to film “B” western movies featuring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Cisco Kid.  We will have to check it out on our next visit. Apparently there is a fun bar and restaurant, Pappy and Harriet’s.

Tomorrow we are going to spend time in Joshua Tree National Park. It is definitely the main attraction in this part of the high desert. Yet, we are also only 30 minutes from Palm Springs. We are also going to take a break from leftovers and eat at Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Yucca Valley. (Yum.)

Pack layers if you do visit the desert in the winter. The temp in the afternoon may be in the 70’s but as soon as the sun goes down, so does the temperature. It is really great to spend a holiday with family in a place that is so different from home with lots of interesting things to do besides shopping. It is a major bonus when your sister-in-law is also a fabulous cook!