Ah, Trinidad (California)

Is there a more beautiful coastline than Northern California? I think not. Walking to the beach everyday is such a luxurious way to bring in the New Year.

View of Trinidad Head from Memorial Lighthouse
View of Trinidad Head from Memorial Lighthouse

Pinch me. A large variety of hikes in the redwoods and on beaches, miles of paved road to ride on Black Beauty, and several terrific restaurants makes Trinidad a great vacation destination. High speed internet at the rental makes it possible to get some work done.  I have even done some baking–both macaroni and cheese and slab apple pie to take to holiday parties.

Trinidad is just 20 minutes from Eureka on Highway 101 and even closer from the Arcata airport (located in north McKinleyville). Alas it is a long drive from San Francisco and Sacramento–between 5 and 6 hours, so I do not visit as often as I would like.

I love Trinidad, California in Humboldt County. Over the years I have visited often for a meal or for a beach day at Patrick’s Point. Back in the day the kids and I stayed in one of the Trinidad motels on an overnight but it was musty and lacked charm. I am splurging on a vacation rental for 10 days. It is a combined writing retreat, vacation break and visit with my oldest friend Harriet and her family, I searched the internet for rentals a few months ago in search of a 2 bedroom, pet friendly place. Trinidad Retreats offered just what I was looking for on Parker Creek Road. My home away from home is right at the trailhead to the beach. It is a 5 minute walk to a beautiful beach called “Old Home Beach” on the official Trinidad’s Coastal Treks map.  I am not paying extra for an ocean view; however, Radar has a large fenced yard to roam in and it feels secluded with the beach very close by.

Old Home Beach in Trinidad, California
Old Home Beach in Trinidad, California

Trinidad is the home of the Humboldt State University Marine Lab and has a small, quiet bay. Each day you can watch people launch kayaks from the Old Home Beach. Radar and I have walked the 80 or so steps down to the Old Home Beach from the Memorial Lighthouse (watch out, the steps are falling apart at the bottom) or to same beach from the Parker Creek trail (fewer steps and easier on Radar’s old joints). Yesterday we checked out the Trinidad State Beach with Harriet and her dog Ted. It is also a few minutes walk to the other side of the village and down to the beach.

Parker Creek Cottage managed by Trinity Retreats
Parker Creek Cottage managed by Trinity Retreats

I have had several days when I have not used the automobile at all. I can walk to Murphy’s Market for groceries and firewood; or to the post office or library just 2 blocks away from my place. I attended the a lovely, intimate Episcopal worship service on Sunday at the Saints Martha and Mary Mission on Trinity Street. Check out the beautiful religious paintings by Kathrin Burleson. (She typically does watercolors, whereas her religious paintings are more like traditional icons.)

Check out the Trinidad Museum in a historic home across from Murphy’s Market. The hours are limited to afternoons as it is staffed by volunteers, and offers a glimpse into how the Yurok tribe lived in Trinidad before the Spanish “discovered” it. Like much of California, Trinidad’s modern history is shaped by efforts to find access to mining fields–in this case, an easy route to Trinity County. A more sustainable economy was established around logging. Today it is a quiet village that caters to full time residents who work in Arcata and visitors staying in rental homes or Bed and Breakfasts. It is an incorporated city that feels like a village and a perfect spot for a retreat.

Oh, and if you plan to be here to ring in the new year, do not be alarmed when they fire the cannon off at midnight!  Happy New Year.

My Travels with Radar

On Christmas Day I loaded up the car with my luggage, writing projects, computer, and coaxed Radar into the backseat of the Passat. We had a 6 hour trip ahead of us and I wanted to get to our rental property in Trinidad, California before dark. I packed for various contingencies because I was not sure if anyplace would be open. The weather was cold but dry. I tuned the radio to public radio and hit the road.

Radar in the backseat of Passat
Radar in the backseat of Passat

I have not traveled much with my old dog Radar. He’s a 13 year old German shepherd mix that we adopted when he was 11 months old. He was untrained and full of neuroses. He can handle new experiences more gracefully now; however, he struggles to jump into the car and won’t use the ramp we tried. Still I did not want to be away from him for 10 days and who knows how many road trips I might be able to take with him.

Putting his bed and a blanket on the back seat increased his comfort and when I looked back as we approached Williams on I-5 he seemed to be snoozing. Whenever I slowed down he sat up and looked around to see if he could tell where we were. McDonalds IS open on Christmas, and most gas stations. I stopped to get a diet Coke and a cup of water for Radar. I only wanted to let him out once in Willits so I could keep his struggles to jump into the car to a minimum. Heading towards Clear Lake on Highway 20 the road is windy and when I looked in the rearview mirror I thought Radar might be getting a little carsick. I cracked the window and he immediately moved to that side and began sucking in the air.  Fortunately that was enough to revive him.

Eventually Highway 20 straightens out and joins Highway 101. Lots of CalTrans projects over the years has made this road safer and faster. We stopped in Willits at the Safeway and then the park near the Skunk Train depot.  Radar hopped out and sniffed many blades of grass before drinking a little water.  I was able to park right next to the curb and this made it easier for him to reenter the Passat.

The last bit of our trip was beautiful as we wound through redwood groves. The main challenge was the setting sun right above the tree line. I shoved my sunglasses onto the top of my head when we went into the shade and then suddenly the sun was blinding and I would grab my glasses and return them to the bridge of my nose.  As we reached Eureka I began to get nervous that we would not make it to Trinidad and the lock box before the sun went down. We pushed on and pulled into the driveway just as darkness fell.

I used my cell phone to read the lock box code and then could not find the lock box. I did not want to disturb the property managers but I did not know what else to do. Just as the manager answered the phone I spotted the lock box on a one of the porch pillars. Relief. I apologized for disturbing them unnecessarily and opened up the house.

I unloaded Radar and he explored the yard while I unloaded the car.  We settled in and I started a fire in the wood burning stove and found HGTV cable station on the television.  I ate a bowl of soup and relaxed for a bit, then Radar indicated he wanted to go out. I grabbed my coat and his leash and we went out the front door. He took care of business and we returned to the porch. I tried the door. Unfortunately It was locked. I thought I was only using the deadbolt and did not grab the keys. No keys, no phone. I felt so foolish. We checked all of the doors and windows and learned that this rental is locked up tight.

Unfortunately I did not have the property manager’s phone numbers–I could see the paperwork and the keys through the glass slider. I needed to get back to the village and hope that the gas station was still open so I could use their phone. It is less than a 10 minute walk but seemed longer in my anxiety and in the pitch black. I kept hoping that Radar’s eyesight was better than mine in the dark. I was never so thankful to see an open Chevron station in my life.

Unfortunately The mini-mart clerk was not excited to see me and Radar. He let me use the phone (had to remember how to use a landline) and phonebook (maybe they are not relics afterall), but he made it clear that he wanted Radar out as fast as possible. There was nowhere to tie Radar up near the door, so I hurried.  Unfortunately Trinidad Retreats had their phone switched to fax. The loud beep raised my anxiety. What next? Fortunately I have friends in nearby McKinleyville and Arcata.  I called Brian and Harriet; unfortunately I got their answering machine. Next I tried the Bickfords where either Brian and Harriet were celebrating Christmas or Michael and Deb could help. Fortunately Kate Bickford answered and was able to catch Harriet and Brian as they were leaving. Brian jumped on the Bickford’s computer and found a better number and fortunately reached Reed the property manager.

Radar and I hot footed it back to the rental to meet Reed. I was feeling sheepish and apologized profusely for making Reed come out to rescue us on Christmas night. Fortunately he was very gracious about it and told me a funny story about a couple that locked themselves out whilst stark naked!  I gave silent thanks to God that I was clothed with a jacket and shoes.

After all that excitement, Radar slept soundly. In the daylight I discovered the rental has a fully enclosed dog friendly yard when you close the driveway gate, which is terrific for Radar’s calls of nature. He has settled in and likes going to the beach a short walk from the house and playing with Harriet’s dog Ted. It is totally worth the effort to bring Radar along.

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.