Archive for December, 2012

Swan song to 2012: Mission Peak

December 31, 2012

31 December 2012

2012 departed with a series of nice days. One for running, one for cycling. Today, on a cold and crisp Monday, I decided to hike Mission peak. Up Peak Meadow and Horse Heaven trails, and down the standard route. I usually go down the backside to Sunol, but it has been quite rainy lately, and some of the flat area beyond the peak turns into a muddy mess. Without extras, the peak hike is only a bit more than 6 miles, but upward of 2000 feet of gain, some of it quite steep. Good way to get a little exercise, and I didn’t need gloves or jacket until I came out on the exposed ridge at the top and stopped working.


Although the hill is mostly open country, there are a few pleasant little wooded areas, this one dipping into a small stream valley fed by a spring.


A clear day. San Francisco in the background, with Mt Tamalpais on the horizon. I’m told that the Bay bridge is the world’s only fully independent double suspension bridge.


From the top, looking west across the bay.


Very little traffic on the way up, but by the time I got back down, a moderate number of people were out. The high-res version of this photo shows seven switches and backs before the trail reaches the pass at the top right. That’s the point at which the trail becomes mostly rock and ascends that last few hundred feet to the top.


The upper part of the ridge, right from the pass we see in the previous picture.


When I got home, I tallied the logbook statistics for 2012: about 3k miles, upward of 180 000 vertical feet (that’s the part that contributes to fitness), and 450 hours out there doing it.

What a glorious feeling — I’m happy again!

December 24, 2012

Monday, Christmas eve, 2012

The day dawned bright and clear, the first time since we’ve been here. Nice! We can see Shasta from our second-floor window, even the dim shadow of Shastina to its left.


After another great breakfast, we crossed the river and headed upstream. We’ll try to go at least to Keswick dam, and if there is time, perhaps some distance on beyond, toward Shasta dam.

Nice day. Fisherfolk in the river, a TuVu overhead, hoping to find something dead.


Very pretty trail. Paved all the way to the ribbon bridge, which is within sight of Keswick dam. Lots of walkers, runners, cyclists, everyone enjoying a break from work, a break from the rain.


At the ribbon bridge, we took the FB trail (no idea what FB means), up the hill to Keswick dam road, then down the road to the dam.


A lot of power gets generated here!



We walked across the dam, checking out as much of its mechanism as we could see. There are four spillway gates, suspended on mammoth bicycle chains!



Looking down from one of the gates.


To see the face of the dam, we have to peer through chain-link fence. The spillway gates are to the right, the generator house at the left.


We went no further; Jacky wanted to finish some Christmas cards to our Canadian friends, and get to the post office to mail them before the posties closed for the holiday.

The trail was pretty enough on our outward walk, but even better on the return.






We found one interesting mushroom, and a half-shredded pine cone, awaiting the squirrel’s return visit.



Jacky finished her Christmas cards on the back deck, in the sun, over a brew or two. We walked out and found the post office. Then we wandered around looking for a restaurant. Not the best of days to find an open place, however. Lots of restaurants closing early and probably remaining closed through tomorrow as well.

We were reduced to going back to the B&B and picking up the car. We thought it would be good to find a Thai restaurant, but anything better than fast food would be okay, and fast food would be better than starving.

But of course as soon as we started out, we drove past a Japanese restaurant that claimed to be open. By the time I changed lanes and parked, we were opposite a taqueria. Mex? Well, no: the taqueria was just at the point of closing. But the Kobe restaurant had sushi and pad thai, and we celebrated the conclusion of a terrific day outdoors in beautiful scenery.

Redding for Christmas

December 22, 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

We were offered a brochure on Redding trails at some kind of street fair last summer. Looked interesting, and our only previous involvement with this town at the north end of California’s central valley was during our tandem bicycle tour of northern California some years ago. So we booked five nights over Christmas. If the weather is unsatisfactory, we’ll read and seek out museums and such.

The weather certainly started out unsatisfactorily enough. There was a severe storm over the north bay over Thursday night, moving slowly south and east Friday morning. We left home reasonably early, hoping to at least get out of the metropolitan area before the heavy rain set in.

Success. It was rainy, but not all that bad. I5 was closed to semis north of Redding because of snow, and autos were required to have chains. Because we were only going to Redding, there were no restrictions, although the bit of slush that was starting to accumulate on the road required attention.

We had good directions to the Bridge House B&B, right on the river. We had phoned from a Starbucks in Woodland and predicted noon arrival, and so it was. We unloaded massive piles of junk from the car — when we’re not flying, we can indulge ourselves — and went out to find some lunch.

Our hostess Janelle suggested some restaurants, the nearest of which was  Clearie’s. Busy but good. As we departed, we stopped in the shelter of the building to don our rain gear, and noticed a brochymena. The first small animal of the trip, surprising at this time of year and in this weather, and very welcome.


Today is expected to be the end of the world, depending on whom you believe. Not a whole lot of people are taking it seriously…


When it was time to dine, we went out again, still in the cold rain. Ended up at Shameless O’Leery’s [sic!] pub. More crowd and more noise than we really care for, and far too many TVs, but the food and the beer were okay, and the weather didn’t encourage a long process of exploration.

Saturday, 22 December

The world did not come to an end yesterday.

The morning dawned without rain, without snow. There was even a bit of blue in the sky. During a great breakfast, we got recommendations for hiking trails. Janelle thought we would need to drive to get anywhere useful (other than the river trails: but we intend to save them for Monday, when the weather may improve enough for a serious hike of some distance).

But we like to walk, and it appeared that we could at least follow the route of the bike map to the Churn creek trails, maybe 2.5 miles away as the crow flies. We started by crossing the river and walking downstream along the trail on the far side.

The first landmark was of course the sundial bridge. Very impressive, a glass deck, and it really is a sundial. Among its impressive features is the fact that its final cost was about 8x the first estimate. Just as an example, we read that the architect was adamant that all exposed concrete be tiled over… not his money, after all. Foundations and taxpayers.



We climbed the hill to Hilltop drive, which crosses over I5 and goes into what was a major shopping center area. Just about the time we reached Old Alturas road, whence we could go east again to the Churn creek area, the skies opened up. Hard rain, small hail, even thunder and lightning. We decided to declare victory and abandon the field!


Of course, by the time we had retreated a little way, the storm blew over and the day turned bright and sunny again. That’s fine.


We walked down Churn creek road to Mistletoe, then over to the southern extension of Hilltop, which parallels I5. Turned west again at Cypress, which would lead us into the neighborhood of the library, where we thought we might spend a little time.


The civic center has a goodly collection of topiary and strange sculpture.


I liked especially the windows of this building against the dark of the sky.


And in the library, what looks rather like a Mark Twain, although there was no sign that said so.


We walked back toward the B&B as it got dark, stopped at a pub for a brew and enough to eat that we won’t bother going out again later.

The two-hamster household

December 12, 2012

Jacky’s and mine, looking as nicely washed as they ever will.

2 Hamsters

Some adventures are less fun than others

December 9, 2012

… but it is always an adventure.

Friday, we went to Capitol Kia, where Jacky bought a red Soul+ (mine is white). The dealers swap cars on demand, and they had to get this one from a dealer in Concord, so even though Jacky concluded the transaction today, the car wasn’t instantly available to drive home. No problem; we can go pick it up Sunday. Sunday, because I want to go out for a long hike on Saturday.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

I was driving up to Grant Ranch when I blew a tire. Entirely my fault: It’s a narrow road, and I let a wheel go off the edge of the pavement on a hard right turn. My previous car, a Subaru Forester, would have just laughed at that, but when the Kia came back up onto the asphalt, the hard edge of the pavement compressed the tire against the rim and that was the end of that. I considered the Kia for my new car because the Forester was clearly overkill for the kind of driving I need to do… but maybe it wasn’t that much overkill after all!

Much of Mt Hamilton road offers no option to get out of the traffic lanes, but as it happened, there was a convenient pull-out just ahead. So I got the car safely off the road.

Unfortunately, the Soul+ does not come with a spare tire. There is a compressor and a can of goop, and you are supposed to be able to seal a nail puncture well enough to at least make it to wherever service is available. But the sidewall was badly damaged in two places on the lateral surface, and very likely two more places on the medial surface, and nothing less than a tow truck was going to get me back on the road.


Well, Kia offers no-charge roadside assistance for this kind of thing. But there was no cell coverage, and my cell phone was already showing low battery. Not good.

After a few minutes of irrational optimism about a patrol car maybe coming along, I donned my backpack and started walking. I thought I might be able to use a phone at the entrance station to Grant Ranch park. After a mile and a half, I came to a roadside call box at the Quimby road junction, so I called from there. By then it was about 9:30.

I had recorded the 800 phone number of Kia’s roadside assistance people in my cell phone. The operator patched me through to that number. I read the Kia support operator the VIN from my insurance card, he confirmed that I was eligible for a tow, and told me that D&M towing would have a vehicle there within the hour. The Kia operator also asked for my phone number, and I gave it to him, after warning him that it was useless — no signal and dead battery. I told him I would meet the tow truck at the call box.

An hour passed. Moomph. Another half hour passed. No tow truck. I used the call box again. A different call box operator patched me through to the CHP, who told me they didn’t show any dispatches for D&M towing at the moment, but they would check. I again confirmed that I would wait at the call box — this is the only place I have any kind of communications capability whatever.

Another hour and a half passed. No tow truck. I got on the call box phone again, to of course yet a third call box operator, who connected me again to Kia roadside support. Just as we began that conversation, a CHP officer pulled up in his black-and-white.

He didn’t know anything about Kia’s contacts or contracts with towing companies, but told me he could order a tow on his own behalf, and I could argue with Kia about who pays what later. The current situation was certainly not productive, so I said okay. I rode in his patrol car (there’s a first!), front seat, and we drove back up the road to where I had left my car.

It was gone.

Somewhere in the process, the fact that I was expecting to meet the tow truck at the call box got lost. They picked up the car and disappeared.

The CHP probably couldn’t just leave me out there in the boondocks, but he certainly could have taken me no further than the nearest bus stop down in San Jose… instead, he drove me all the way to Capitol Kia. At speeds I associate with air travel (takeoff and landing), rather than road travel, but who’s going to stop him? No complaints — it was very nice of him to do it, and I told him so.

And there sat my car at Capitol Kia. They have just started opening their service department on Saturday, so I was able to talk with the service manager, and maybe get back on the road, even though it’s a weekend. He sent his parts man off to see whether they had a tire of the right size in stock. He also told me they sell a mini-spare tire kit that fits into the Soul. Definitely something I want. Did they have one in stock? The parts guy would go find out.

While waiting, I went out to my car, connected the USB charger from the dashboard to my completely dead cell phone, and tried to call Jacky, just to let her know what was going on. No answer at the home. That’s okay: she could be shopping or at the gym or whatever, and it later turned out that I didn’t have her current cell phone number in my contacts list.

While I was doing that, Jacky’s salesperson Elizabeth came past, completely coincidentally, and recognized me from yesterday. She thought I might be there with Jacky to pick up Jacky’s new car. I told her I was not there to pick up Jacky’s car; I had just been towed in and was not having the best day of my life. Moomph, moomph, moomph.

The parts guy: they did have a mini-spare tire kit, but they didn’t have a tire to replace the damaged one. They could order one, but it wouldn’t arrive until Monday. Still, if they install the mini-spare today, I can at least drive away.

At this point, Elizabeth returned with the service manager. Keeping in mind that we have bought two new cars in the last two months, they wanted to be sure I was happy, or at least no more unhappy than necessary. So they offered me the mini-spare tire kit at no charge. Well, moomph, moomph, mumble … well, ahem, that’s exceptionally nice, thank you very much, and maybe today isn’t as bad as I thought. Certainly beyond the call of duty!

And just to put icing on the cake, because they didn’t have a replacement tire for my car, they suggested I leave my car there until Monday and offered me Jacky’s car as a loaner. (I couldn’t just take delivery of it then and there because Jacky still needs to sign one more piece of paper, and my offer to sign on her behalf was not good enough.)

When I got home and told Jacky about the day’s adventures, she called Capitol to see if they can order a mini-spare kit for her car, too.

It is always an adventure. Some adventures are less fun than others. At the end of the day, it turned out far better than it might have.

Oh, and by the way: a shaggy dog story is one in which an infinite sequence of minutiae lead up to the punch line, and it turns out not to have been worth it. You get to decide whether this is a shaggy dog story.