Santa Cruz Visitor Decathlon

Firstly, good work to all those that correctly identified last post's interchallenge: Trees Of Mystery near Klamath, CA on highway 101. In all the times I've passed by it, I've still never paid the $13 to do the tour. Maybe someday...

We just finished with a wonderful (albeit way too short) visit to Santa Cruz. Although it may have been short, we still managed to complete 7(ish) of 10 of the Visitor's Decathlon events.

1. Tree Platform: a platform 72 feet up in a redwood at the top of a ridge overlooking the Monterrey Bay.
2. frisbee golf: we played 9 holes on the world renowned frolf course.*
3. roller coaster: the Giant Dipper is the 3rd oldest roller coaster in the US. It is wooden, it is historic, and it is awesome. *
4. Saturn Cafe: quirky vegetarian cafe. We ate there. It was delicious.
5. Malobar's or Dharma's: this is one we missed. We only had a few meals to eat out and this missed the cut.
6. pier and sea lions: check.
7. surfing or watching surfers: this is the ish. The weather wasn't great so they weren't out in droves, and we had already stopped for a bit up highway 1 to watch the gnarl be shralped.
8. Tandem bike: missed it. Next time...
9. Mystery Spot: Alisa and I thoroughly enjoyed this one*.
10. Adult gymnastics: had we had more than 48 hours in Santa Cruz, this is one we definitely would have liked to get in. Instead, we played some beach volleyball*.

I had so much fun on this decathlon, maybe I should consider looking into the Olympics...
Thursday April 9 2009File under: travel, USA

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Changing Gears

For those of you who recognize where this picture is taken, you might be feeling a little confused. (For those of you who don't recognize the location of the photo, consider it an interchallenge*.) "I could have sworn Wren was in Japan." Well, I was*. Then I came home. For 36 hours. Then I left again. Wheeeee!!

I don't want to divulge too much about my current location because interchallenges are so much fun. But since a picture-less blog post is so thoroughly frowned upon, I have to add these little pictorial hints as to location of said road trip. Hint #1 Hint #2
Monday April 6 2009File under: travel, USA

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Biking Recap

Ten days ago, I bought a used bike in Baltimore. It was nothing fancy; just a couple of wheels, gears, and a rack. The whole idea was to show (both to myself and anyone else interested) that with very simple tools and very little preparation, biking was a viable semi-long distance transportation option. Five hundred miles later, I'm glad to say that I've presented enough evidence to myself, at least, to fully accept this premise (and therefore never have to prove it again).

As with pretty much all my little hair-brained schemes, if I was to do it again, I would do it slightly differently. For one, I would have spent more time on finding a bike better suited to me. Because of the size of this bike, I didn't get to exercise all the muscles in my legs, but just my quads*. Also, learning over the handlebars as far as I had to left me with a bruised palm and tingly fingers.

I also prolly should have spent a little more time in planning out a route, specifically planning overnight locations. When you are road tripping by car (or scooter, for that matter), you have the luxury of waiting until near dark and then starting to look for the nearest campsite, motel, or dirt service road. While riding, my legs had pretty much given up for the day around 5:30 and I was lucky if I could even find a place to eat dinner (usually a gas station*). This led to some need for creativity regarding sleeping spots, which I will address later.

The other thing that I would do differently is to bring sunscreen. Who would have thought that having the back of your hands facing directly up to the sky for 10-12 hours a day would cause them to get sunburned? Well, it does, and in a big way. By about the 3rd day, I was resorting to smearing mud all over the back of my hands to keep the sun off. It actually worked surprisingly well*.

All these little things aside, I think the whole thing worked out great. I'm extremely proud of myself* and this accomplishment. Biking 500 miles in just over a week is something to be proud of. On my long days (everything after Arlington, VA), I think I averaged 75-80 miles a day. Anyway, for anyone that wants to see a general route (with mileage), click here (please to note: this route mileage is somewhat of an estimate in places because I lost track of all the crazy back roads* I ended up on. Also, mileage is off because I did have to take a bus through a tunnel under a river/bay in Norfolk and I couldn't figure out how to dis-include mileage from the ferries.)

Of course there are all the sights I saw (a surprising amount of wildlife, actually) and interesting characters that I met along the way that made this little trip such a grand adventure, but this post is too long as it is. You'll have to hear about that stuff in real life.
Thursday April 17 2008File under: travel, USA

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OBX North Carolina

Have you ever been to the Outer Banks* of North Carolina? If not, you should check them out. I've never gotten too much exposure to the treasures that the south has to offer in terms of "Hey, you should go visit [insert cool southern place name here]", but I had at least heard of the Outer Banks. That was reason enough for me to check it out*.

Although I only spent a brief day and a half there (and most of that was in the saddle), I can definitely say that it was worth the visit. If you can look past the rampant tourist/consumeristic overtones (that weren't in full force yet by the time I was there, luckily), there is a ton of history and natural beauty. As for history, there are all sorts of pirate stuff (ship wrecks, museums, etc.), civil war place markers, nautical landmarks, and of course Kitty Hawk, location of the first heavier-than-air, self-propelled manned flight. The natural beauty of the area comes in the form of gorgeous beaches and dunes, back water channels, and great wet lands. There are birds galore as well, but I would only be showing my ignorance if I tried to identify them. The area protected in the National Park/Seashore/Whatever looks as if it has been that way forever, which is so interesting to see. When cars weren't flying by, I sometimes would just stop* and marvel at how calming that bit of gorgeous nature was.

Yep, next time I pass this way, I will allot much more time for beach sitting, nature walking, and pizza eating*. (Oh, and for all you schralpers, there is plenty of gnar to be shralped*.)
Wednesday April 16 2008File under: travel, USA

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In the Saddle

One used 12-speed bike on craigslist: $65
Used bike accessories (bike rack, lock, helmet, etc.): $30
Chance for a little adventure: Priceless

Day one: Baltimore to Annapolis. 20 miles (after a ride on the light rail). Almost completely on a paved bike path. So nice. But having not ridden much in the past couple months, I was really feeling it. We'll see how my legs (and ass) feel tomorrow. Perhaps buying the first bike I came across (that turned out to be too small, kind of rusty, and fully ghetto) was a bad idea. Time will tell, I guess. Tomorrow is the Annapolis to D.C. leg. Prolly about 30 miles, unless I wuss out and take the metro for part of it. But that's okay. I shouldn't overdo it too much. I've got a long way to go.
Monday April 7 2008File under: travel, USA

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Straight Forward Philly Post

At the risk of receiving more flak for making somewhat sterile posts not filled with reflection and insight, I'm going to tell you about my all too brief time in Philadelphia. (You are, of course, welcome to not read and skip ahead to all the pretty pictures.)

I really really enjoyed my time in Philly. I'm not a city person, but I can appreciate a good city when I see one. The first thing that I noticed was how incredibly walker friendly it is. There are lots of people who live downtown, so the city doesn't shut down on the evenings and weekends like many other cities you see. Plus, there are produce markets, grocery stores, and other functional stores* interspersed. As a corollary to the walking, I noticed a big presence of car sharing. I'm sure this walkability had a huge influence on my impression of the city.

Another great thing the city has going for it is history out the wazoo: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell*, lots of churches, and brick everywhere. I tried to take this picture to show the great balance of modern and historic, but the settings on my camera were all wonky so it didn't turn out great*. I could have easily passed the whole day wandering around the historic district and looking at all the firsts: the first bank, the first free library, the first place that Benjamin Franklin took a poo, etc. Unfortunately, I had a strict schedule to keep.

Other activities (which I will mostly gloss over because this is getting wordy) were a visit to Love Park*, a tour of the U.S. Mint*, and the discovery of some very interesting crosswalk art*. Yeah, 24 hours isn't really enough to do this wonderful city justice, esp. if you are recovering from an all night drive on a tire you expect to blow out at any time with a complete (although, it turns out, very nice and generous) stranger*. City of brotherly love, I'll be back.
Saturday April 5 2008File under: travel, USA

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Good Friends

Traveling solo can get lonely. Even if I am* keeping busy with viewing cathedrals, finding geocaches, eating the local cuisine, etc., there are hours of downtime to pass. When waiting for the bus, winding down time in the hotel/hostel*, or even strolling through some historic something or another, I have only my own thoughts. On the one hand, this can be a good thing: I am in charge of my own schedule, I don't have to take the minor criticisms that even the best friends can offer, and I have time to work out thoughts, unhampered by interruptions. On the other, it can get lonely. With no one to distract me from my own thoughts, I can sometimes get overly drawn in. Plus, who is going to offer those little criticisms that are good, like that I've got lettuce in my teeth. All this is to say that traveling solo can get old.

Enter friends. Sometimes I meet folk along my travels that allow a respite from the solo traveling thing. Maybe it is just someone to sit next to on the train or maybe I will pass many days together. Other times, I have friends along the way where part of the goal of the trip is to visit them. I've been lucky in having both.

Passing time here at the Richards' household has been great. They've taken me into their home, fed me, and entertained me*. I couldn't be more thankful to have had this time to catch up with old friends and be openly welcomed into their life. Good friends are good things. Anyway, keep your eye towards IHJ for pictures of the time*. (I often neglected to bring a camera or slacked on taking shots, but luckily Jenn had my back.) The pictures (and maybe even video) of the slide are not to be missed.
Wednesday April 2 2008File under: travel, USA

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Indianapolis Layover

Due to unforeseen complications from traffic, weather, and time zones, I found myself with the need to pass a night and then some in Indianapolis*. Although the complications made for a change in schedule, it wasn't unpleasant; adventurous, even. Plus it gave me time to get to know some lovely people with whom I got a ride from Chicago. And now I can say I've "done" Indianapolis. It also made me realize that I have a very formulaic way of approaching a new city. I seek out the same things. Kind of interesting to note. I hope that doesn't make me a boring traveler.

Anyway, in Indianapolis*, after passing the night at the Indy Hostel (hostels vs. hotels and how much awesomer hostels, including the Indy Hostel, are is a topic for another post) I had until 2:00pm to see what I could see. In that time, I found 2 geocahes (so I can now add Indiana to states successfully cached in), found a great walking path (with some more of that random, inspirational art that I love so much), checked out the hip neighborhood of Broad Ripple (I'm sorry I wasn't around to check it out some Saturday evening, as I'm sure it is even more hip then), and rode the public transportation. Gorsh, geocaches and alternative transportation...those aren't topics done to death on BdW.

Anyway, when I travel, it is sometimes nice to stay in a place long enough to really get a feel for it and other times, it is nice to just get a sneak peek. I can now say that I've peakied Indianapolis. Next time I pass through, I'll surely peek it again.
Saturday March 29 2008File under: travel, USA

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Naperville Riverwalk

Every place has its thing, the park/mountain/bridge/building/museum/plaza/viewpoint/historic marker/etc.* that, when people come to visit the town, the residents all say "Have you seen ______?". (Many places, like Anacortes*, have multiple things.)

For Naperville, the 'burb of Chicago where I am currently hanging out, that ______ has got to be the Riverwalk*. I've mostly been exploring solo while my gracious host has been at work, so I don't have a guide to point this and that out, but the place is so cool, everywhere you turn is something neat. It is what you might expect from its name, a path along the river. At places, it is heavily landscaped with concrete and stone banks on the river, and gazebos, benches, parks, and more. Further along, it is a simple path that winds right along the banks of the river. Both parts are beautiful, tranquil, and oh so great.

This evening, in search of a geocache, I went all the way to the east end of the park (the river, of course, continues). I was so inspired by the magic of it all that I had to come back and post about it. Tomorrow, I plan to cruise all the way to the west end of the park. Yep, this Riverwalk is quite a thing!
Tuesday March 25 2008File under: travel, USA

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Giant Metallic Jelly Bean

(Since I kind of dropped the ball on the whole Easter thing this year*, I'm going to give this otherwise non-holiday post an pseudo-Easter theme.)

Yesterday I made my way into Chicago proper from my temporary base in the 'burbs. (The trip was made via commuter rail, which only served to increase my love of rail travel.) The goal of the jaunt was the Chicago Art Institute and all the culture it could spare. It oozed with culture in the form of Hopper, Van Gogh, [only one] Mondrian, etc. etc. Now that I've got my culture quota filled, I can go back to my routine of Simpsons and crosswords for at least a week.

As an added bonus, on the way back to Union Station, we side-tripped through Millenium Park. The prize discovered there was a gigantic metallic jelly bean. I have no idea how the Easter Bunny go that moved in. He must have had help from union labor. Anyway, the bean was fun to take pictures of. See? Me and bean; Sara, Me, and bean; disorder; and just the bean.
Monday March 24 2008File under: travel

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