Archive for October, 2013

Mellow weekend

October 20, 2013

Saturday, 19 October, 2013

I hadn’t been out on the bike for quite a while — I blush to think how long it’s been — so I did a little sport ride, 52 miles, 2000 feet of gain. Nice to be outdoors, nice to get an endorphin high.

Sunday, 20 October


I had some work to do, so cut today’s hike down to a minimum, 9.75 miles, 1900 vertical feet. Windy Hill, with a nice view over silicon valley and out toward the coast.




When first I saw this chunk of log atop a fencepost, I thought it was a joke. But I have seen a couple more here and there, and finally figured out that they are intended as perches for raptors. If the result is a reduction in the overpopulation of ground squirrels, more power to them!

Pain is weakness leaving the body

October 13, 2013

Saturday, 12 October 2013

After a week of conferring, with zero exercise, I needed to move the stress points from the mind to the body.

Jacky and I had volunteered for an open space project, which turned out to be way the hell and gone down the side roads on the far side of the ridge, Star Hill road and Native Son road, places I never explored even during the heyday of my cycling career.


Very pretty redwood country. There were four or five volunteers, along with two or three from the open space district. We went to an area that’s closed to public access, where a couple of forests of acacia are taking over. They may have been planted intentionally by someone who had a house there, but they have spread.

Small ones can be pulled up with gloved hands. Those whose trunks are up to maybe an inch in diameter can be pulled up with weed pullers. I had never seen these before; they comprise a clamp and a fulcrum at ground level, and a long handle up to hip, waist or shoulder level (three sizes). The long lever arm allows the trunk to be jacked out of the ground. They work very well, except that lateral roots sometimes refuse to come out and require extra effort.

Acacias larger than an inch in diameter — some of them were 20 feet tall — come down with saws, and the open space people then girdle the stump to be sure they die. The saw is obviously the way to build a big pile of debris in a hurry, but all sizes need to come out. To be sure all upper body muscles were equally sore, we used all of the tools ad hoc.

Sunday, 13 October

I had been thinking of doing the Rose Peak hike for a few weeks, but it has been pretty hot. This weekend was cooler, so it was a good opportunity. Rose Peak is the trek that prompted me to originate the term killer hike a few years ago, 19 miles, 5000 vertical feet.


I like to climb up inside my own head for hours on end, and hiking alone on deserted trails is a good way to do it.


Cooler weather is one thing, but today was almost too much! Stiff wind in the exposed areas, and chilly! I love it.


It’s the middle of tarantula season, and I have seen none so far this year. There are tarantulas on the peninsula, but the probability of finding one is lower because the ratio of grassland to forest is so much lower. The Ohlone wilderness is the best venue I know of: here is where I saw six in one day a few years ago.


Their population waxes and wanes. I think this year is a sparse year. One, only one, and very glad to see him. He started off into the tall grass, where the camera can’t track, but I put a boot in front of him, and rather than climb over my toe, he turned back out onto the trail.


Beautiful big guy!


Only a few minutes later, I found a small gopher snake, only about a foot long. It’s not a big year for snakes either.

There are several areas with large new burrows in the ground. When I came past the first, a raptor flew away, and landed some distance away on the ground. My imagination immediately suggests burrowing owls, which I have never seen outside the artificial mounds built up in the city park to attract them (mostly unsuccessfully).

I was hoping to see some owls at the burrows, but didn’t. It would be great if they took over the wilderness and reduced the overpopulation of ground squirrels!


The wind sweeps an arc with this plant, which is probably not broom. Cool!

I spotted a small lizard darting across the trail, on an absolute rendezvous course for dead center of my descending boot. I held the downstroke for a quarter second with a bit of a stumble, and the lizard darted through. That’s my good deed for the day.

Pulling down the overhead, but not on my head

October 7, 2013

In yesterday’s post, I described some of the excitement in the back yard rebuild project, but without pictures. Today, the pictures.

DSC06814 before

First, a picture from some years ago, before the house was as shockingly pink as it is now. There was a substantial overhead structure, a frame covered with lattice, and overgrown with wisteria.

But over the years, the wood deteriorated, and it eventually became time to replace the overhead, as well as the deck itself. I have already blogged about the deck project.


Looking from the back door out toward the vantage point of the above picture. I have been pulling down the secondary structure for a while now, the lattice and the non-supporting crossing boards. What I did Saturday was remove the final supporting cross beams between the posts. The two I did not pull down are the ones attaching to the house itself.


Here is the same corner we see in the first picture above.


The other side of the overhead, also tied into the house.


A close-up, showing how the beam is anchored in with a bolt. It needs to come straight out, to avoid damaging the rain gutter above it, or the drain to the right.


The same beam, supported on a post until I figure out how to get it down without destroying anything, especially the house. Especially not myself.


The ears were braces against the crossing boards. I would have pried them loose, but they were really nailed in tight, so I ended up just cutting them out. Turned out to be a good thing, because I used these remaining ears to support the beams as I took them down.

The T-brackets are bolted in. All of the bolts are rusty, and many have damaged threads, so it was a lot of work loosening and removing them. They are just loose in the holes now, while I figure out what to do next.

There were also toenails between beam and post, and under the T-brackets. So once I got the brackets loose, I had to get a hacksaw blade into the gap and cut the nails.

The original beam here was twice as long — reached almost to the gazebo — but I cut it in two, and as we see, there is not a whole lot of overlap. The rope sling is just in case it should move a little, I don’t want the whole thing to come crashing down. Even if this end didn’t damage anything important, the pivot around that bolt at the other end would surely damage the house.

What happened today was that Roger climbed up on the roof above the beam, we looped a rope sling around it, and I cut it near the house with a handsaw, whereupon he lowered the cut end to the ground. We then went to the post above (we had removed one of the two bolts, so it just pivoted down), and brought down the other end, safely. Good to have it done.

With no leverage and no weight on it, the remaining stub under the rain gutter was easy.


Here’s the other beam connecting to the house. Same arrangement, but no roof to sit on while lowering it, and it’s right over the edge of the new deck and its framing, so a little harder to place ladders. But it should be possible, one of these fine days.

Catching up

October 6, 2013

I haven’t updated the blog for a while now. Apologies to my faithful followers (and the spammers, too).


Go all the way back to September 15 (it really has been a long time, hasn’t it!). On a little sport ride out Cañada road, I noticed this mailbox.

Then last weekend, I decided to do a killer hike on the peninsula, maybe a little cooler than going inland. Montebello, Stevens canyon, Saratoga summit, and back along the trails west of Skyline, 19.3 miles, 3400 feet of gain.


Well camouflaged. For some environments, that is. Not quite right for here, but at least I didn’t eat him. I can’t speak for the bird population.


And horseshoe lake, near the end of the route. About 50 trail runners started from here today and ran 30 miles. These are the people who think a marathon is too wimpy to bother with. When the leaders passed me, somewhere around the 12-mile mark, they were still running faster than I can go in a sprint! Good for them.


One reason I have been less active on the trails lately is that I am pulling down the overhead trellis structure over the rebuilt deck. The idea is to eventually rebuild something there, preferably something that won’t be full of termites and carpenter bees. Poking around up there, I met a big garden spider, just hanging out.

Removing the lattice was not a really big deal. Removing the cross braces was a little more technical, because they are heavy, and toenailed into the support beams. I left the two final cross braces for last; once they are down, the overhead beams just run out straight from the house, with not a whole lot to keep them from tipping over sideways.

Saturday, 5 October, I spent an extremely stressful morning pulling down the last of the cross braces, and three of the five beams. They are heavy enough to be beyond easy control, everything was wobbly, there were hidden toenails that I needed to cut ad hoc with a hacksaw blade, and once loose, they wanted to shift a little. A little is okay!

The two final beam sections are the ones attached to the house. They are pinned to joist hangers with bolts too large for the wrenches I had, and I was glad enough to leave them for later anyway. Not much later: they also need to come down. It will be tricky: they are longer, therefore heavier than the others, there is no good place to put a ladder on one area that’s being framed in for the new deck, and a misjudgment could damage the house as well as the deck.

Sunday, 6 October

This yard work has been anaerobic, and I have the sore muscles to prove it. But I need some aerobic exercise as well. So I hiked Mission peak to Sunol and back, 15.7 miles, 4000 vertical feet.


Street parking below the preserve is bounded by eucalyptus on one side, houses on the other. Eucalypts are generally disliked here because they are not native Californians. I am not very sympathetic to that view, because I’m not either.


A cool sunny day as I hiked up the secondary route. Dozens of hikers across the way on the main route; I’ll go down that way five or six hours from now.


Half a dozen cows, each with a freshly minted calf. Not completely fresh; the ones I could check out did not still have umbilical stubs. But their mothers were in aggressive defense mode. One pair blocked the trail. I advanced very slowly, enough to stress the mother but not enough to provoke an attack — at least that was the idea. After a few minutes, she moved aside and I didn’t have to spend the day camped in the middle of the trail.

Hours later on the return trip, most of the cows had moved along to find the shade of a tree or three, but one calf had crept through some loose barbed wire, and was separated from mom. There was a nearby gate, but locked, so not a whole lot I could do about it. Everything was calm for the moment, but when Junior got hungry, I figured things might become a little stressful.

As it happened, there was cell phone coverage out there, and the parks guy I talked to said he would let the rangers know. So I hope I did a good thing today.

Stopped at Home Depot to buy two 1 1/8 inch box-end wrenches (that would be about 29mm for my metric-literate friends), the tools I need to detach the final beams from the house.

Good-bye to old friends

October 1, 2013

We donated the bikes that took us across the continent to the Mike’s Bikes Africa campaign, along with accumulated components from over the years, everything from wheels to saddles to cranksets to shifters to ….

My Richard Sachs bike had something like 90,000 miles on it, all over California and Germany, as well as across North America. But in this day of carbon fiber, there’s not much interest in fine custom-built steel frames. Even I, stalwart as I am, bought a carbon fiber bike a year ago. I rode the Richard Sachs once since then to see if it was a candidate for an alternate bike. No, sorry.

We went through lots of pain together, lots of pleasure. It was a good friend for many years. I hope these bikes will be appreciated by their new owners as much as we enjoyed them. Good-bye, and good luck.