Archive for July, 2006

Not much happening

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Today was a typical Sunday. I did some housework outside this morning. It was in the mid to high 80s and quite humid. I had to cut the tree on the side of the house back so that it wouldn’t touch the house. When it does the carpenter ants make the leap and get into the house. After that I trimmed the front bushes. In years past they were almost five feet tall, but last year I hacked them back to about three feet. Today I evened them out and tried to make them round-ish. By the time I was done I was a ball of sweat. After changing my clothes, Katie and I went shopping for our weekly groceries. Other than the standards of bread, milk, etc, we got some snow crab legs for dinner tonight. Katie is in a crab-mood. We’ll probably make some baked potatoes with it. Now I’m just plunking on the computer.


Side tree and bushes after timming
I’m running, then I’m going to work each day. I have my running class where I’m training for Chicago Marathon on October 22. I’m taking it easy and not pushing so hard this time. I don’t expect any fancy results other than to complete it. At work I’m involved with SPU Overlay support for the Cell Broadband Engine. I’m working with a cast of characters from around the world which I’m enjoying. I’m the line item owner which means I’m the point man when it comes to status. It also means that I have to herd this bunch of feral cats that make up the development team. Not always an easy thing to do. These past few days I’ve finished some changes and shipped them to the crowd. Now I’m focused on unit testing the code, that is, exercising all the potential alternatives. After work when I get home I watch a bit of TV while on the computer. I keep up with my children through their blogs, but they, like me, have been posting less frequently. They probably think they have nothing to say, much like me, but I still enjoy hearing about their day-to-day stuff. I’m always wondering how they are doing. Then I head off to bed. I’m trying to get in 8 hours of sleep a night. So that means I have to bunk down about 10 PM for my 6 AM alarm. Overall life is quiet, but good. By this I mean it’s not all that stressful which is fine with me.

Movies, movies, movies

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

You would think that I’ve sat enough this past week with all the driving I’ve done. But I’ve been to three movies this weekend: two yesterday, The Devil Wears Prada and The Heart of the Game, and one today, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The first was all by myself since the rest of my family had already seen it. The second was with both Kathy and Katie. The third was with Katie. The first two were good, and the third was a bit slow for me. I liked The Heart of the Game, and would recommend it especially for those who enjoy sports movies. I’m movied-out now.

Texas or Bust -3; Home Again

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

After waking at 7:30 AM, brushing his teeth, going to the toilet, I got back on the road. Through Fort Worth and down I-35 I arrived home at 12:45 PM after 2071 miles from leaving California. I was exhausted, but very glad to be home. It was a wonderful trip. Now my life will get back to normal – whatever that means…

Texas or Bust – 2; Grand Canyon, to Texas

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. It has been a goal of mine for years. I don’t exactly know why. Nevertheless, today was the day.

The alarm woke me at 4 AM and I quickly got up and got ready which included lathering myself with suntan lotion. All my things were layed out from the night before and I left the hotel at 4:20 AM. The drive north on Route 64 in the dark with a few other cars took about an hour. The sun was just coming up when I paid my $25.00 entry fee and drove two miles to the parking lot. The weather was great – sunny, clear and cool. I got a few glimpses of the canyon once in the park, but I didn’t stop since I wanted to catch the bus to the trail as early as possible.

Upon parking I got my things including my new wide-brimmed straw hat, my backpack loaded with water and goodies, and my trusty walking stick [dear stick, we have been on many journeys together haven’t we], and then caught a bus to South Kaibab trailhead. Stepping out of the bus I then truely saw the canyon on an intimate level. Standing on the trailhead I could see across for miles and I could also see down. The sheer size and depth was awesome.

Two other hikers started ahead of me. Suddenly I because instantly aware of what I was planning on doing. My fear of heights staggered me and I wondered if I could do this. Oh my Gawd. My balance hasn’t been the same since my surgery. I could fall over the edge. I had to be kidding myself to even think I could do this. My palms began to sweat, and my legs felt weak. Should I stay at the top? Should I take the bus back? Should I give up? I steeled myself, and thought all I could do was try. If I couldn’t make it I would just turn around. But what happened if I just froze somewhere way down there. Petrified by fear, unable to move either down or up. What then?

Very carefully I turned the corner and began to descend. I looked straight ahead at the path. I couldn’t look out or down. I had a death grip on my walking stick. I walked slowly downward keeping as uphill as I could. At times my legs would quiver. I felt I was going to fall over the edge. But I kept going – one step at a time. Eyes straight ahead. Down the uneven steps, down the sandy path, over the mule droppings, around the corners. At times I would stop, press my body as far uphill into the rocks as I could and look out with legs quivering. It was both stunning and unnerving.

Click on image to enlarge

I was doing it. Down and down I continued. Plant my stick, balance myself, step downward. Over and over.

At times the trail would zig zag back and forth, and at others it would start afresh in a new direction. However at all times I could feel the enormous height, the massive sheer rock cliffs, and the valley thousands of feet below. On I went. Eyes straight ahead. Plant my stick, balance myself, step downward. Over and over.

The path was uneven. Sometimes hollowed out with a sandy base, sometimes littered with mule droppings, other times formed of irregular solid sandstone, still other times filled with one or two inch jagged pieces, and all separated from the next by a sunken cedar branch steps. It forced me to concentrate on my balance. Plant my stick, balance myself, step downward. Over and over.

Turning one corner coming around a bluff the rest of the canyon came into view. From shadow to sunlit path. A slight wind could be felt. Boulders to the left sticking out into the void. I was 3/4 mile on my journey and half way from my turn around point which was to be 1000 feet down into the mile deep canyon. I had reached Ooh Aah Point. Yet I couldn’t say it – those weren’t the sounds I felt at the time. All I could think… Plant my stick, balance myself, step downward. Over and over.

At times I looked back up from where I started. The path was barely visible in the distance. The scale of the canyon is so great that where I had started now looks like a minature scene.

After 50 minutes of total concentration I arrived at Cedar Ridge, the turnaround. A much needed stopping point and a broad flat red sandy area. Others had arrived earlier and were still there. They had walked out on the bluff as far as you could go. Pictures were being taken to record our accomplishment. I had mine taken. Is that a smile I see? I had done it. I had faced my fear of heights. I had kept my awkward balance. They were still a part of me, a big part, but I had done something that was hard for me and I felt quite happy that I had succeeded. Inwardly I was beginning to relax. I sat, drank some water, ate some granola bars, and enjoyed the view.

After a 30 minute rest I began my ascent. The way back up was much easier. The fear of the unknown had disappated. I could see the switch backs ahead of me this time and now I know where the steep parts are. After 2 1/2 hours I arrive back at the trailhead. Instead of catching the bus I walked the rim path and stopped at various lookouts. Although many other people could walk right up to the railing. I could only approach it slowly and stand a few feet away. I was still very much afraid of the height. After 5+ hours of hiking South Kaibab trail, walking the Rim path, taking many photos I grabbed a sandwich and fruit at the park cafeteria, and left for points further east.

Back in the car, and back down Route 64 to I-40. Mile after mile, and hour after hour, I drove from afternoon to late night. Past Albuquerque, NM to Armadillo, TX and Route 278. I was getting very tired and tried to stop at 12:15 AM, but the trucks were too noisy so I left the rest stop. Next I stopped at a church, but again the trucks zooming by and finally at 2 AM the noise of a nearby freight train and it’s whistle scared me awake and again I started driving. At the next rest stop at about 4 AM I pulled as far from the trucks as I could, angled the seat back, pulled a blanket and pillow over my head to shield me from the parking lot light, and slept until 7:30 AM.

Texas or Bust – 1; Departure

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

I returned home yesterday night from the fireworks too tired to start on my drive so I unpacked my aero-bed, sleeping bag and pillows and again slept at Stephanie and Justin’s apartment. I woke once at 2:30 AM, and went back to sleep. Then I awoke at 4:30 AM and was awake enough to pack the remainder of my stuff, and get on the road by 5 AM heading south on 101 with two Coke Zeros helping. I had a very good time with them and shed a sad tear upon driving south alone. Stephanie has a very infectious fun-loving almost-quirky personality and is a special lady. From my viewpoint she and Justin enjoy each other’s company and it’s nice to see them sharing and working together as friends first and foremost. I will miss both of them.

I listened to books on tape to help the miles go by. From US-101 to I-580 to I-5 I drove on. I stopped several times along the way for gas and bio-breaks, but otherwise the trip was uneventful.

Finally I was on I-40 until Williams, AZ where I arrived at about 5 PM after 790 miles. My body was tingling from the massage of the road vibrations. I checked into the HoJo hotel (this was the first time that I stayed at a hotel). After dinner at McDs I took a much needed hot shower and prepared for my adventure to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. I layed out my clothes, packed my backpack with various things, set the alarm early and went to bed at 7:30 PM knowing that I would be getting up at 4 AM to travel up there.

Day four in CA; Fireworks

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Just before bed yesterday I made a reservation for a room on Wednesday night in Williams, AZ just south of the Grand Canyon. This means that I’ll sadly be leaving on July 5th and heading home. Although we’ve been together the past 4 days without a break it’s been fun. It also means that I’ve got to get prepared for this next leg of my trip, and possibly hiking down into the Grand Canyon – things like backpack, hat, water, etc.

Although I have friends and relatives in the area – Mike Milley, Christine Watt, and Christy Rodgers, I’ve not phoned or visited them this trip. For that I’m sorry, but there just didn’t seem to be time.

Today we’re finishing up Stephanie’s apartment and putting the last things in her storage closet. This requires Stephanie and Justin to get up early (8 AM) so they can be at the storage closet at 9 AM. They said this would be a challenge. Ahhh youth, since I woke at 6:15 AM and tried to get back to sleep and couldn’t. For breakfast I again had Raisin Bran but now topped with Stephanie’s praline pecans from Trader Joe’s – yum! Instead of being underfoot, I played “gopher” and got things at the store some of which were for the next leg of my trip and other times it was stuff to clean her apartment. I even stopped at Goodwill and got an old backpack and wide-brimmed hat for the Grand Canyon hike in two days. During one of my trips I picked up water, chips and some pre-made sandwiches which we gobbled down while sitting at the pool after all the work was done. Then we left to go back to their apartment and the youngsters took a nap while I continued to post to my blog about the events of the trip. Since I’ll be leaving early tomorrow and driving a lot I think we’ll have a quiet time tonight to wrap up these intense 24×7 days of togetherness. They’ve been real troopers especially watching Justin and Stephanie work together and get all this work done.

After their naps we got ready for fireworks at the Sonoma county fair grounds. A few extra layers sounded like a good idea to Stephanie who suggested that Justin and I also bring extra layers. Later I’m glad we did. We caught a bus near their house to the grounds and listened to Summer of Woodstock (partially named for the Charles Schultz Peanuts character and partially for the oldies music that was played).

We got dinner from one of the food vendors, placed our blanket (actually two towels) near the stage, and ate together while remarking how bad the bands were. Then several of Stephanie’s friends joined us along with their very cute 1 1/2 year old daughter. We all munched on kettle popcorn together and talked. At about 9:30 PM we ooh’ed and ahh’ed while watching the fireworks.
When it was over we bid adieu to Stephanie’s friends and found the bus lines long so we walked home and crashed.

Day three in CA; Moving Day

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Today was moving day for Stephanie. I woke about 8 AM and went running. I’m glad that I slept in a bit having woken in the middle of the night with a headache – less wine for me! The weather was cool and wonderful – typical California weather. Back at the apartment Stephanie was leaving to continue packing her apartment. I ate breakfast (this time Raisin Bran with peanuts – not the best combination), worked on my computer and then took a shower. Justin did the same. At about 1 PM we left for her apartment to help her. First we ate lunch, a salad with grilled chicken, sitting cross-legged on her living room. Afterward I packed, unscrewed shelf brackets and towel rods, took down shower curtain, patched wall holes, carried out boxes and loaded the cars with things for Goodwill, her storage closet, or their apartment. By 6 PM we were all exhausted, but she was almost done and her apartment was looking nearly empty unlike when we arrived. Next we drove back to their apartment to unload and get some dinner. We walked over to the AleWorks on Third, had a burger, a brew, and talked. Arriving back to the apartment we chatted, looked at photos, and then called it quits for the day.

Day two in CA; Salt Point State Park

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

I again woke up early, but sat and worked on my computer doing miscellaneous things until the others awoke. When I took a shower they went to the store. It felt so good after three days of not having one. When they arrived back I had my typical breakfast of Raisin Bran, but this time topped with nutty trail mix. It was good in a Califronia way.

Our adventure of the day was to go see the coast. On the way there I got to see O’Reilly where Justin previously worked. The weather was clear, but on the coast it was very very windy. On the way we stopped at a few turn-outs to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Pacific.

We planned to hike at a state park called Salt Point. When we arrived there weren’t any trail maps. So Stephanie and Justin used the next best thing, a digital photograph. This came in handy several times during the hike to figure out where we were.
I’m glad I bought my walking stick with me. It helped to catch me when I stumbled across the rock outcroppings and to prop me up against the constant onslaught of that wind.

Afterwards instead of driving the coastal road, Stephanie drove the Fort Ross road over the mountain. It was a very twisty narrow road. One time we had to stop and pull off the road to let another car by. We stopped and ate a restaurant called Dawn Ranch Lodge in Guerneville. Surprisingly it was my Christmas present. Justin reminded me that he had never given me a Christmas present and had promised that if I had come out he would take me to the Oyster Bar in San Francisco. Well his debt has been repaid with a good dinner with local wine, dessert, and late harvest wine. Needless to say when we arrived home I set up my bed (aero-bed and sleeping bag in the middle of his living room) and was out for the count.

Day one in CA; Pasta Dinner

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

After arriving I helped carry Stephanie’s and my things into Justin’s apartment. It’s a lovely apartment, but with all the new stuff it’s getting smaller and smaller. Next we walked a bit around Santa Rosa to get some exercise and stretch my legs. The weather is warm but not uncomfortable. We stopped for brunch and then headed back to the apartment. Stephanie took a short nap while Justin and I talked about his job and technology. He also mentioned that Casey’s Mom his here from Texas, and Jackie and Ryan also from Austin are in Santa Barbara and will arrive here in a few days. Seems like a major Texas migration is taking place. After her nap Stephanie left to do more closing up of her old apartment. I sat and wrote up my trip blog while Justin cleaned up his place – primarily his bathroom. Upon her arrival back we continued to unload more things into Justin’s apartment. A quick but very tasty pasta dinner was thrown together by Justin and Stephanie. I could only watch their ballet in the kitchen – there was no space for me. After dinner we chatted some more and soon it was late. We were all tired. But the computer beckoned and I did a few more things while they headed off to bed. Then it was my turn to bunk down with my old “friend” the Aero-bed and sleeping bag. Good night all…

California or Bust – 3; Arrival

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

The night had been cooler and I awoke at 8 AM PST (6 AM CST). Somewhere along the way the timezone changed twice and I didn’t even know it. My body clock finds it hard to change. I’m still on Central Time. A pickup truck and trailer had arrived unheard next to me last night. Time to continue on my journey. Travelling north the golden hills of central California are to my left and the furtile plains to my right. Dotted with millions of citrus trees and grape vines. More canals could be seen heading where I do not know. Stock yards with thousand and thousands of cattle. I snap shots on my camera whizzing by at 75 MPH. Dunno if any of them come out though the bug slattered windows.

Stopping for caffeine, gas and bio-break I notice the weather has broken, no longer the dry high heat, but now the more pleasant cooler breezes of California. Only a few hundred more miles, only a few more hours of driving to be there and to see him.

Into the Oakland area and onto I-580 I feel I’m getting closer. The bay area fog is burning off. Every so often I see the water – the Bay. It’s late morning and it’s Saturday. The traffic is busy, and it’s a holiday, but on I continue. At the San Raphael bridge I phone, “I’ll be there in an hour” I say. I’ve just paid my $3 toll and the water is below me. Careful to watch the van in front of me I don’t see San Francisco on the left in the distance. Turning north the traffic slows and stops as it has done several times during the trip. I wait until it merges, and on I continue. Only 40 more miles. I think about the trip. The miles I’ve driven. The time I’ve spent. The new things I’ve seen. But the best of all is seeing his smiling face, getting a big hug, meeting Stephanie, and knowing that I’m here.