Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why not let your inner child loose. Snow Tubing at Kingvale.

Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December Days

Click to view some Facebook photos. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vietnam Tour 2009

Vietnam - thirty five years since the war. Today the enmity is gone, and they say it is a country with a unique and rich civilization, spectacular scenery and highly cultured, cordial people - the inspiration for our trip. Through an organized trip by Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), eleven of us (from California, New York, North Carolina and Maryland) along with our trip leader, Tuan, traversed the entire country from north to south, covering seven cities. From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, stopping en route to explore the idyllic seaside retreat of Nha Trang, the French-flavored hilltop town of Dalat, and much more. We hope the pictures give you a sense of the country and the people. Here's our route through Vietnam.

Hanoi: The eleven of us met up in Bangkok, Thailand. From there we caught a flight on Vietnam Airlines into Hanoi to meet up with Tuan. The city of Hanoi with its French colonial legacy is a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks. The streets are packed with traffic and motorbikes, and no signal lights. For pedestrians to cross the street - find a small break, put your foot out and start walking at a slow even pace. Never change your pace and the motorbikes ingeniously maneuvers around you. Throughout the city are a zillion cyclo rickshaws for hire. Being rickshawed through the narrow streets of the Old Quarter area showed us the city's rich cultural heritage. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Halong Bay: From Hanoi we drove to the magnificent Halong Bay, with its 3000-plus limestone islands rising from the clear emerald water. After spending the day cruising the bay, visiting fishing villages and exploring a cave, we spent the night on the junk. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Hue: The next morning we returned to Hanoi to caught a flight south to Hue. The city lies along both sides of the Perfume River. There we visited the Duc Son Orphanage, which the OAT foundation has donated funds to help the orphanage. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Hoi An: A picturesque riverside town south of Da Nang, a place to go for custom-tailored clothing. The city was relatively untouched by the war, and serves as a museum piece of Vietnamese history. Here are beautiful Vietnamese and Chinese temples. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Nha Trang: After a quick flight from Da Nang to Nha Trang, an seaside city along the South China Sea with a beautiful beach. We got to go to a beautiful island beach for relaxation (finally)! Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Dalat: After days of hot temperature and high humidity, it was a nice change of weather upon arriving in Dalat. The city is considered the jewel of the Central Highland with lakes, waterfalls, evergreen forests and gardens. It was once called Le Petit Paris with a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower behind the central market. Local industries include growing garden vegetables and flowers. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Ho Chi Minh City (HCM): After catching a quick flight to HCM, which is still called Saigon by some Vietnamese, HCM is the country's capital of commerce. Here is where you find the same designer shops as here, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and more. It is here that the economic changes sweeping the country are most evident. Here in HCM are the historical hotels. We were lucky to stay at the Rex Hotel, which during the war American Information Services made its base at the hotel, and was the scene of daily press briefing to foreign correspondents, or "five o'clock follies", as they were called. Click on photo below to view a PICASA slideshow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Along the Russian River

Kay and I spent a few days with friends, Jim and Yuki, in a house builted along the lush Russian River near Monte Rio. Even though the first major storm of the season plowed into Northern California with both barrels on Tuesday, we had a great time relaxing and just hanging out. All was safe and secure back home, so no worries. Jim, Yuki, and Dolores, thanks for doing all the cooking and everything else. You really gave us a break.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Small Wheel Society

The wheels may be small, but there's nothing small about these bikes. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: The Small Wheel Society

Caples Creek Fall

It's a cold morning in the Sierras in the middle of fall and all is quiet at Kirkwood Lake but for a few people milling about including ourselves. Gone are the summer crowds and cars. Cabins now sit empty with curtains drawn and boats lay idle along its shores. It's a beautiful time in the mountains as tinges of yellow begin to wash over the surrounding landscape. There is a stillness, a quietness as if the mountains have been abandoned with the coming of winter. Only a few lingering birds could be heard in the trees as the sun's warmth slowly replaces the morning chill. Alas, it's a good time to come. Perhaps the last time for this season. We are here to hike to Caples Creek Fall. It is less than a mile by trail, but we decide to find our own way through the steep granite maze. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Caples Creek Falls Scramble

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oregon Trip 2009

Whenever I travel to Oregon, thoughts of living there often comes to mind. This time was no exception. In the places we visited, Eugene, Hood River, Bend, and Pendleton, there are many appealing qualities that make the areas attractive to me. Several of these cities I describe as "little big cities". In other words, they offer much that is available in major metropolitan areas but without the real big city crowds and traffic. Venture several miles out of town and you can find open spaces with mountains, valleys, rivers, trails, and quiet roads. For the outdoors person, this is a great situation. There you can get a mosaic of city scenes and your open spaces without driving too far. From our place in Bend, it was 5 miles to downtown, Bend and 14 miles to Mt Bachelor with numerous trail heads along the way. Ride your bike several miles south of Hood River and you can find quiet roads where only a handful of car will pass you. Such is the Oregon we encountered in the places we visited. Perhaps that is the reason we've traveled to Oregon more than a dozen times over the years. From the rugged coast to the snow capped mountains and beyond, Oregon offers beauty and the space to roam. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Oregon Trip 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eastern Sierras 2009

Spending a week east of the sierras has become an annual event for us with this being our fourth "Campo Velo" in four years just off Highway 395. A "Campo Velo" is Geno's term for a campout in a specific area for the sole purpose of biking and hiking. Despite Kay's retirement and an already busy summer of activities, I was able to join the guys for five days of biking and hiking based out of the New Shady Rest Campground in the Mammoth Lakes area. Over the week, about 15 people participated staying for either part or all of the action. More specifically, our activities are about biking (climbing) roads up the eastern-side of the Sierras Nevada Mountains and hiking high mountain passes and peaks. I missed the first ride, but I did participate on the bike ride up Rock Creek Road and another around the Mammoth Lakes. I also did three hikes: Devils Postpile to lower Rainbow Falls, Lake Mary to Duck Pass, and South Lake to the top of Mt. Goode "Enough". Mt. Goode "Enough" is the name we gave to the peak we ascended after we realized we had missed Mt. Goode and climbed an adjacent peak. It wasn't 13,085 feet, but darn close. Either way, it was a great challenge to be appreciated, but not nearly as difficult as last year's climb up Mt. Morgan. In hiking the John Muir Wilderness, I am reminded of the stark beauty of this desolate landscape hidden in the high Sierras. Nearly bare to bone, it is a fractured granite landscape in varying shades of gray with life at the fringes. More like a fictional moonscape than the familiar places closer to home. We broke camp a day early after the big hike. Just in time, since it started raining. The weather forecast when we departed was for two days of rain. What great timing! Hope you enjoy the pictures. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Eastern Sierra 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kay Retires

After 34 years of employment, mostly with the California Department of General Services, Kay has finally retired joining me in this new phase of our lives. Who knows what the future will bring, but it certainly won't involve awaking at the crack of dawn, commuting in horrid traffic, or the stress that comes with managing an office. Hurray to that! To start things off during Kay's first week of retirement, we decide to head to Calistoga for several nights staying at the Calistoga Spa & Hot Springs, a first for us. Of course, we also brought our tandem bike-for-two so we could cycle the region. We rode to St. Helena the first day and Healdsburg the next. It was a lot more hilly than I remembered; so much for the flat riding I mentioned to Kay. She was a good sport! Soaking in the mineral hot springs was a real treat after the riding. Something I've gotten use to after bike touring in Japan. There're few things better than soothing hot water after a physical workout. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Calistoga Hot Spa 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mount Shasta Summit Century

Another first! For me, this has been the year for lots of “firsts”. First time for the SW Calistoga Zodiac, SW Guerneville Zodiac, Anderson River Park Century, Bicycle Tour of Colorado, Mt. Evans climb, and now, the Shasta Summit Century. It’s a challenging 100 mile ride up the mountains surrounding Mt. Shasta City with a final 14 mile ascend up Mt Shasta to 7,730 feet during the hot part of the day. Total elevation gain for the century ride is 10,500 feet. If you are really feeling strong, you can do their Super Century which covered 138 miles with 16,500 feet of climbing. Two from our group of five, Geno and Clayton, completed the Super Century. Way to go!

My “congratulations” to everyone in our group, which also included Peter and Saxon, for doing what they did. Not many people could ever imagine a feat such as this. Unless you are physically gifted like the top competitive cyclist of the world, climbing uphill is hard work. For hours I watched riders slowly churning the pedals up Mt. Shasta, the last and longest climb of the day, with their gaze fixed on the road ahead and lost in their thoughts. At that point, it was all about determination and perseverance. Upon the road’s end below the majestic peaks of Mt. Shasta, I felt only satisfaction. What a great challenging ride! This was not something I was seeking to do, but once it was presented to me, I couldn’t pass it up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sea Ranch

Here are some pictures from a recent trip to Sea Ranch with family in July. Sea Ranch is a coastal home development just south of Gualala off Highway 1 along the picturesque shoreline of northern California. Fifty miles north of there is the quaint town of Mendocino, a day trip during our stay. For most visitors, the remoteness of Sea Ranch makes it a good place to settle back with family and friends, or just a good book. It’s a quiet place great for walks along beaches and the buff overlooks. With patience and a careful eye, you can easily spot wildlife moving quietly about the natural flora of the region. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Sea Ranch

Monday, July 6, 2009

Colorado 2009

During the latter half of June 2009, a group of us traveled to Colorado for the purpose of riding the “2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado”, BTC, which immediately follows the well known “Ride the Rockies”. Of these two supported bicycle tours, this was considered the more difficult endeavor with a total of 512 miles over 6 riding days and 31,000 feet of elevation gain. Per my recent memory, which is getting shorter as I get older, this was probably the most challenging event I’ve done in sometime. The tour simply packed a lot of riding and climbing into a week with one rest day. Needless to say, I rode at a touring pace intent on completing the day with sufficient energy to survive the week. With such an approach, I found the tour challenging, but fun and enjoyable. The people who supported the tour as well as the riders were great and the scenic route through the Rockies of Colorado was stunning. Two of the mountain passes, Cottonwood and Independence, were above 12,000 feet. Breathtaking is the best way to describe the landscape surrounding the Rockies. I can understand why Colorado draws so many visitors and new residents.

In summary, seven of us, Geno, Peter, Bob A, Dennis, Frank, Bob T, and I, made the trip to Colorado leaving on June 16th. We departed for the BTC early so we could get better acclimated to the high altitudes in Colorado and to spend time visiting the Colorado National Monument outside Fruita. After a great BTC tour, three of us, Geno, Frank and I, took a rest day in Glenwood Springs to recover. We basically slept, eat, and used the opportunity to soak our tired bodies in the famous Glenwood Hot Springs. With a little rest under our belts, we then drove to Idaho Springs to bike the highest paved road in the U.S. on top of Mt. Evans ending at 14,100 feet. As Dick F. would say, “there’s no better time then now”. We’re in great physical condition and we’re in the area. Again, the landscape and views throughout the ride were outstanding, a must see if you’re in the area. Note that most people drive to the top. Biking is optional. During our drive home, we also attempted to hike the 13,100 feet Wheeler Peak within the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. But, after two miles of hiking, we decided to abort due to rain and thunder. A wise move! No need to push our luck as Geno would say.

Many thanks to Geno for organizing the group and for leading us through the necessary training to prepared for this arduous trip. It was great fun and a challenge. So what can we do next to top this? Until then, I’m simply glad to take a break from all the hard training rides.

My trip pictures are divided into four groups: Colorado National Monument, BTC, Mt. Evans, and Wheeler Peak. I hope the pictures give you a sense of our experiences during the trip. Use the link below each picture to link to the photo set.

Colorado National Monument
Link to Photo Album: Colorado National Monument
2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado
Link to Photo Album: Colorado 2009 BTC
Riding Mt. Evans
Link to Photo Album: Colorado Mt. Evans
Wheeler Peak
Link to Photo Album: Wheeler Peak

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On the Road Again

Restlessness prevails and I’m again on the road. With our bikes loaded, Geno, Dennis and I headed out on another short bike tour on May 29th. In total, our 6-day self-supported bike tour covered 252 miles with 12, 500 feet of elevation gain. We ended in San Francisco catching the ferry to Oakland followed by a train ride back to Sacramento. Plans are made but you can’t control the weather and spring 2009 has been unpredictable, too hot or cool. We started with temperatures in the high 90’s and ended with 4 days of foggy weather. “June gloom” as Geno described it referring to the beginning of fog season along the coast. However, the gloomy weather did nothing to lessen our spirits for its always adventurous fun to be out on the road touring by bike. Life on the road is simple; ride, eat and sleep. We certainly did our economic duty supporting the local eateries along the way.

We have done various iterations of this route in the past. This time, our overnight destinations were Lake Solano County Park, Calistoga Fairgrounds, Bodega Dunes SP, Olema Campgrounds, and the Marin Headland Youth Hostel. We encountered some new roads on the way to the Bodega Dunes SP. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: May 2009 Bike Tour

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another Outing from Geno’s Perspective

On May 11th, friends and I joined the Sacramento Wheelmen on their Zodiac Trip to Guerneville, Calif. After 4 days of hard riding around the region on roads such as Coleman Valley, Joy, and Kings Grade; we departed for the city of Anderson just south of Redding to do the Anderson River Park Century. Unfortunately for us, the weather in the central regions was predicted to be in the 100’s. The six in our group all completed the century safely and in good spirits regardless of the 105 temperature during the last 20 plus miles. In all, it was a challenging week of riding and a great outing with friends. See story and pictures on Geno’s blog. By the way, all of this hard training we’ve been doing is in preparation for the upcoming Bicycle Tour of Colorado during the last full week in June. A group of us will join 1,000 plus riders on a fully supported tour around Colorado covering 513 miles over 7 days with the highest pass being 12,326'. Wish us Luck.

Santa Cruz in May

Kay and I managed to squeezed in a short 4-night trip to Santa Cruz during May (2 thru 6) staying in a one bedroom studio one block from West Cliff Drive along the coast. The small studio was located on the backside of a residential home on a quiet neighborhood street. While there, we were joined by family for a day out and about ending with dinner at the ever popular Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery in Moss landing. Although Kay and I had hoped to spend several days riding our tandem bike around the region, a persistent light rain curtailed our plans somewhat. We did, however, get in a 50 mile bike ride to Watsonville one day. It was a little longer than I expected, but Kay was a good sport and we met a local rider who showed us some shortcuts back to Santa Cruz. As always, Santa Cruz is a wonder area with pleasant temperatures, a picturesque coastline, and an eclectic collection of folks. Always struck by the colorful flowers seen along the coast, Kay wishes they would grow in the central valley. Alas, she’ll just have to enjoy them when we visit. Other activities include downtown browsing, quiet walks on the coast watching surfers and wildlife, and visiting the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab which is free the first Tuesday of each month. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Santa Cruz 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sacramento Wheelmen’s Spring 2009 Bike Tour

On April 20th, I joined the Sacramento Wheelmen on part of their week long loaded bike tour organized by Dave Clifton. Nine people rendezvoused at the Solano County Park campground 6 miles north of Winters on the first night. It was a loose set up with people fitting in what they could time wise. Five people stayed with the group for the entire tour which concluded in San Jose with a train ride home. I left the group after Santa Cruz intent on riding home through the East Bay. The busy East Bay is a conglomerate of adjoining cities with San Jose in the south and Concord to the north; and lots of development and traffic between. In the end, with the help of an East Bay Bike map and the knowledge of other riders like Ralph and Dave, I was able to make it home over 3 days via the Antioch Bridge. I’m guessing that my 7-day bike tour covered about 400 miles. My daily destinations were the Solano County Park, Skyline County Park in Napa, Montara Lighthouse Youth Hostel on the coast south of S.F., New Brighton SP in Capitola, my brother’s home in East San Jose, motel in Clayton, and my home in Sacramento. In conclusion, it was great to spend some time with other club members and to explore areas by bike at my own rhythm. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Sac Wheelmen Spring Bike Tour

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hopes and Dreams

"I didn't come here to do the same thing we've been doing or to take small steps foward. I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November. That is the change this budget starts to make, and that is the change I'll be fighting for in the weeks ahead"


Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's a Blur, the 2009 Amgen Tour of California

For 2009, the Amgen Tour of California held its opening Prologue, a 2.4 mile individual time trial, in Sacramento on Valentine’s Day featuring some of the biggest name in bike racing including Lance Armstrong. The crowds came early, in mass estimated at 70,000 plus, and with plenty of enthusiasm for all the racers. Luckily for the racers as well as the fans, there was a miraculous break in the bad weather just in time for this event. Other than wind and cold, the road conditions were dry throughout the Prologue which lasted two and half hours.

I arrived early by bike just in time to take a spin around the course with other fans alongside real racers as they warmed their legs for the short arduous ride. The mood was festive and the people were friendly with excitement and anticipation. Beside the time-trial event, there was amble opportunity for fans to see their favorite racers up-close and to get autographs and pictures. I only wish I knew the who’s who of the racers. Besides the likes of Armstrong, Hincapie, and Landis, I’m guilty of knowing some big names but not the faces that go with them due to the nature cycling with its cool helmets and sunglasses that hide the face. I roamed the event checking out the course, the vendors, and the many cool high-tech, feather-weight bikes made of carbon-fiber. Along the way, I encountered exuberant fans and friends, some of whom I’ve not seen in years. I guess it’s once a cycling fan, always a cycling fan.

When the time-trial finally started, they proceeded quickly through the 136 riders at 1 minute intervals. Each of the rider invoked cheers and encouragement from the fans as they passed with the loudest being for Armstrong, on the comeback trail after a 3 year absence. People need their heroes, someone to look up to and to admirer, and Armstrong, with his 7 wins at the Tour de France and his efforts to highlight cancer is a hero to many. In the end, Armstrong placed 10th behind the winner Cancellara. Not bad considering this is only his second major race since coming back. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Amgen 2009 Tour of California

Monday, February 9, 2009

Panoramic Pictures

Through the Internet, I discover Microsoft ICE, a great easy-to-use tool to stitch individual consecutive frames into stunning panoramic pictures and it's free. Below are some samples of the results. It's magic. Here's a link to all my panoramic pictures:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blue Ridge Loop Trail

On February 3rd, Geno, Dick , Don , Bob and I hiked the 5-mile Blue Ridge Loop Trail overlooking Lake Berryessa. It was another warm winter day, great for outdoor activity, but horrendous for the California due to the lack rain and the threat of a third consecutive drought year. Traveling counterclockwise, we climbed to the top of Blue Ridge and hiked along the ridgeline at about 1,300 thru 1,500 feet elevation enjoying great views of the valley and Lake Berryessa. We then descended into Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve and hiked the thick woodlands along Cold Creek back to the start. Normally the creek crossings would be a challenge according to Geno, but this year, the creek was dry. It was a great way to spend the day. This hike was listed in Dick’s “60 Hikes within 60 miles” of Sacramento. Something we’ve been doing this winter is hikes within the region closer to home. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Cold Canyon Hike

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sac Wheelmen 2009 Calistoga Zodiac

From January 27-29, I joined fourteen riders with the Sac Wheelmen Bike Club on a short three-day bike trip. The first day’s ride went from Winters to Napa over Cardiac Hill, about 52 miles. Next we did an out ‘n back day ride from Napa to Glen Ellen climbing Trinity Grade and Cavedale Road for about 42 miles with 5,000+ feet of elevation gain. On the third day, I limped back to Winters. In all, it was an outstanding time with great rides and wonderful weather. Members of the Sac Wheelmen certainly know how to have a good time. Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: SW Calistoga Zodiac 2009

Trip to Waikiki, Oahu

Imagine, caressed in tropic warmth
Ocean breezes and emerald blues
Crashing waves and deep blue skies
Swaying palms and easy living
Electric Streets and endless shops
So portrays O’ Waikiki, Isle Oahu

Need I say more! Kay and I got away for a week in January. Once there, we wandered the island over. Besides roaming the lively streets and endless shops, we hiked Diamond Head, snorkeled Hanuama Bay, and traveled the northern, western and eastern shores spotting humpback whales, seals, and birds. It was an active time. Our place was nicely located at the edge of Waikiki, an easy walk to popular local down home eateries off the beaten path. That’s the way we like it. Aloha! Use the link below to see all the pictures.
Link to Photo Album: Hawaii 2009