Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

A downright therapeutic trip

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ever since we honeymooned in Kauai, Shirley and I promised ourselves that we’d make it back to Hawaii. It took a little longer than expected for us to make it happen, but it was worth the wait. Our condo was literally 20 feet from the ocean, and we watched the whales from our windows every day. We sailed, snorkeled, surfed, and toured all over Maui. And we enjoyed some truly memorable meals.

Even the few things that didn’t happen according to plan have worked out great. When the tsunami warning shut everything down on the island, we managed to explore some of the high mountain areas while most other people were trapped in a few crowded areas because the roads were closed. When a huge storm moved in for a couple days, we enjoyed spectacular waterfalls that resulted from the torrential rainfall and the heavy surf that the storms brought in.

In short, the trip was everything we could hope for, and I doubt it will be our last to the area. The only downside is that it’s completely eliminated my willingness to be cold and wet. If I’m cycling or skiing, I often don’t wear a jacket even when temps are below freezing. I thought I’d fully converted to Oregon weather, but I’m really ready for some warm sun.

Home alone

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I just returned from a short visit with Shirley after a conference in Boston. For those of you who didn’t know, she’s been working on a project there since August and will return on November 22.

It was a great trip — it’s been a long time since we just took a trip to get a couple days away together. One of Shirley’s old friends came down to see us in Boston. We went to New York City to see a show and take in the sights. Even the weather cooperated. Things worked out as well as we could possibly hope.

Since Shirley being away changes my normal routine, one thing I’ve been grappling with is what I should be doing now that I can theoretically do anything.

So what have I actually been doing now that I’ve had time to think about it and come up with something worthwhile to do? Basically, it’s the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Here’s to inertia…

A good weekend ride

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

I’m a sucker for tough rides, but sometimes it’s fun to go to an event where the scenery is the primary motivation for going and the ride is only a secondary (albeit important) benefit. With that in mind, I went with Bryan this week to take part the Crater Lake Century.

Historically, the Shasta is the ride I look forward to all year because it’s challenging and has fabulous scenery. However, the Crater Lake beats every other ride I’ve been on in the scenery department. And with only a tick over 7500 feet of climbing in 100 miles, the Crater Lake is more civilized and much less of an endurance contest.

I took the new bike Eric built for me. Part of me wondered how I’d do on old school steel since most other riders have crazy light rigs made from carbon fiber or titanium. I was also curious how my new steed would handle at speed on patchy pavement. I figured my geometry and heavy wheels would improve stability considerably. I guessed correctly — I left some good riders in the dust on a 44 mph descent over pavement rough enough to shake my computer mount apart. I’d never be able to take my racing bike over such a crummy surface at a speed like that.

The day ended on a very positive note. I rode the last 8 miles solo on the flats at 19-21mph into a slight headwind. No body parts hurt, and the only physical problems were some nausea issues I always have when I exert myself at altitudes over 7000 feet. Afterwards, Bryan and I soaked in a hot tub for about an hour and went out for a steak. The restaurant was good, but the service was slow — however, they more than made up for it by only charging for one glass of wine when I drank five.

Live and learn

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Every time I attempt a difficult ride, I learn something new. Despite the fact that I’ve done the Shasta several times, it’s still an educational experience every time. For those of you who like to cut to the chase, the most important lesson I learned is that hyponatremia is serious business.

This year, I’d done no training and only fun rides — the most I’d climbed in one day this year was 6,000 feet, and the most I’d ridden at once was barely over 100 miles. I figured that tagging on another 10,500 feet plus 40 miles in arid heat would make things interesting.

The riding plan worked better than expected. Although my pace was much slower than in the past, I was feeling great as I passed the 100 mile mark with over 10,000 feet climbed. As I approached the end of the final ascent, I was feeling the best I ever had at this point in the ride.

Suddenly, things fell apart. I started puking my guts out (there was only water in my stomach). I couldn’t perceive my surroundings properly or hold a straight line. One mile before a checkpoint 3 miles from the finish, I knew that if I didn’t stop immediately, I’d black out. I lay in the gravel at the side of the road and fell asleep.

I soon recovered to the point that I could advance to the checkpoint. I was still weak and disoriented, and the organizers suggested I cut my ride short. But given how fast I’d deteriorated, I figured that something was just out of balance.

A couple riders speculated I had a sodium deficiency due to the fact I’d been drinking plain water and hadn’t taken in any salt. It was hot, and I needed about 3 gallons of liquids to stay hydrated. If I force down more than a gallon of anything other than plain water, chances of puking are very high.

I ate some things containing salt, took in some more fluids, rested awhile, and felt good as I finished the last few miles in good form. In other words, had I simply taken a few salt tabs like some of the other riders, the day would have been flawless. Live and learn.

Taking time to smell the roses

Monday, May 11th, 2009

One thing that had been driving me crazy lately is the fact that when I travel for work, I never actually get to see the place I’m visiting. I normally start working almost immediately upon arrival and then I get down to business. Even offline time inevitably gets consumed by work.

After leaving the fine city of Boston last month without getting to see anything, I promised myself that I would give myself at least one day to look around the next time I went someplace. As luck would have it, that place was Bozeman, Montana — a destination within spitting distance of Yellowstone Park.

National parks are possibly America’s greatest contribution to the world’s cultural heritage. Many countries have excellent national parks now, but Yellowstone was the first, and it remains an embodiment of the concept at its best.

Great parks like Yellowstone help us renew our bonds with the planet and remind us that we are all just a small part of something much greater worth preserving. They demonstrate what we sacrifice when we develop areas without conscience. In the day and a half I was there, I saw bears, wolves, bison, antelope, and other wildlife too numerous to mention. The variety of plant life is amazing, and the natural wonders are simply awe inspiring.

There is even something for people compelled to think of priceless intangibles in terms of countable money. Yellowstone attracts three million visitors requiring a wide array of services every year, and you don’t have to go far beyond the park’s boundaries see how much value is left after the lands have been logged, mined, and relegated to low cost development.

I typically don’t take many photos when I travel, but I made an exception this time. You can either see all of them in my photo database or you can see the short version posted to my facebook page.

New photos and broken resolutions

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I’ve finally uploaded a large number of photos from the India trip. To see them, just go click on the photos link above and type “India 2008” in the search box. There’s still a bunch more to do, but you can browse at least 2/3 of the pictures that we have. I’ll also try to update the India page for my travel section sometime soon, but that might take awhile if I don’t get that done this coming weekend.

On a completely unrelated matter, I wound up dumping my New Year’s resolution before the New Year even started. Originally, I planned to not work nearly as hard on cycling next year — the idea was to do the same rides, but just have more fun.

However, being off the bike for a month has left me in pitiful shape. I lost 6 lbs during our trip (most of it muscle from my legs as far as I can tell), I’ve been hopelessly weak on my commute, and there’s no way I have a chance of completing the more challenging rides that I like.

I’ve kept my goal of having more fun, but the rides are only enjoyable if you’re in good enough condition to do them. I’ll spend the next couple months getting back in shape. Hopefully, I’ll be ready once the real rides start in the spring.

A good trip

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Last night, Shirley and I returned from a one month visit to India to see relatives. I’d been to India three times before, and I plan to return. Nonetheless, this trip was particularly special. This was most likely my dad’s last trip to India — so he will never see his brothers and sisters again. Most of my favorite aunts and uncles are in their 70’s and 80’s, so I need to hurry back if I want to see them myself. As we left, I faced some of the hardest goodbyes of my life.

Technology allows me to yak with the Indian side of our family several times per week via chat, email, SMS, and Skype. However, there’s just no substitute for being there. Many times, I wondered why it took us 10 years to return. I have no intention making the mistake of waiting so long before going back.

I could easily fill several volumes with my impressions of our trip, so I won’t share them here. However, I will say that it was a humbling experience, and I’m glad we went. I’ll post photos as soon as I can.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like bananas…

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Groucho Marx had it right, so I’m stealing his quote for the title of this post. I’ve been on vacation for the past week while I wait for my new job to start. It’s really flown by, but I must say it’s the strangest vacation I can remember.

My new rideI was hoping to rest, tinker with my bicycles, and goof off. In particular, I really wanted to ride my new bike pictured here.

Things haven’t quite worked out that way. I spent my first day of vacation attending a committee meeting. The past two days have been spent working at a conference (I made the commitment before I had any idea I would be changing jobs or going on vacation). And it turns out that this new book I’m writing requires more revision than I expected. If someone had told me a year ago that this would be how I’d spend my vacation, I would either would have told them they were insane or that I hoped they’d have the decency to have me committed.

The good news is that things are starting to return to normal. In a few hours, my work at the conference will be done. And I will ride my new bike tonight. Tomorrow, we go to the beach for a whole week — we’ve never been for more than a couple days before. And I’m hoping to be bored, because the only way to be bored is if you have nothing to worry about.

Back from the holidays

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Regardless of your religious affiliation (or attitude towards religion for that matter), I expect most people would agree that among other things, the holiday season shakes up the normal routine and reminds us of what is real and important.

Its a stressful time, but it’s also a good time to see people at their best. Rather than worrying about what’s going on at the office, we think about others and spend time with people we don’t normally find enough time for. We think of good things people have done in the past and aspire to be better ourselves. People are more generous and tolerant than they are at other times of the year. And it’s just plain fun.

I’ve always been fond of saying that beer tastes best when you’ve earned it. If you work hard and do some good, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in kicking back and enjoying yourself. However, there’s a time when it’s time to get back to business. According to the body fat monitor, I gained several pounds during the holiday season, all of it fat. A publishing deadline on a book I’m working on is looming. And there’s plenty waiting for me when I return to my desk.

In all honesty, I’m looking forward to getting into my regular groove and eating normal food for awhile. Not thinking about work for a few days has been great. However, as much as I like goofing off, I also like to do something useful on a regular basis, if only to keep balance in my life.

Home again….

Monday, September 18th, 2006

The night before last, Shirley and I returned from a 3 week trip to England and Scotland. Both of us had been looking forward to the trip for a long time, but for different reasons. I studied at Leeds 18 years ago and wanted to see how things had changed. Shirley had never been before and just wanted to see what it was like.

England and Scotland are English speaking countries, but they are very different from the US. One thing that immediately jumps out at you is that you get a real sense of history just about anywhere you go. Although it is true that most parts of the United States have been inhabited for thousands of years, practically all traces of the original inhabitants and their lives were wiped out long ago. Besides, today’s dominant culture has little in common with that of the people who were here more than 500 years ago.

a brand new building occupied by an insurance company and the Tower of LondonIn contrast, the culture of today in the United Kingdom descended directly from that of the people that have been there for thousands of years. It’s not hard to take a picture of a skyscraper next to a thousand year old building. For example, this picture is of the Tower of London (a thousand year old fortress) and the “Gherkin,” (a building primarly occupied by an insurance company). Even Windsor Castle — one of the Queen’s official residences — has been occupied continuously for about 1000 years.

Rather than write a post that goes on forever, I’ll add information about this trip and time I’ve spent in other European countries to my travel pages as soon as I find the time. If you want to see pictures of the trip in the meantime, just click on the “Photos” tab above and type in the searches “England 2006” and “Scotland 2006” and you’ll see every picture that was taken.

I wanted to make one quick observation before ending this post. As you would expect in a country that has produced many monarchs as well as people who have made great contributions to the arts and the sciences, the United Kingdom is full of monuments, statues, etc honoring various people.

History judges us by our deeds rather than inherited or purchased status. One of the most popular monuments I saw on the entire trip was a statue of a dog named Bobby. Bobby’s claim to fame is that after his owner died, he stayed by the gravesite for 14 years until he also passed away. I passed by his monument many times, and it is clear that Bobby’s loyalty and devotion really touches a lot of people. There was always a line of people waiting to take pictures of him. There were always fresh flowers on his grave even though he died over 100 years ago. The inscription on his grave is one of the more impressive that I have seen — “May we all learn from his example” — an epitaph that few of us can hope to be worthy of.

Greyfriars BobbyBobby may only have been a dog, but he clearly inspires more people than most kings, queens, or nobility. I’ll square with you — I’m not a big fan of the monarchy or hereditary aristocracy. Although there are many good individuals in those groups, my impression is that most of them spent their lives throwing money around to show how important they were. Fortunately, people know the real article when they see it.

Wandering the desert

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Oregon for over 10 years, there are still many parts of the state that I’ve never had a chance to see. However, my parents have been in town for the past week, so I used the occasion as an excuse to take a few days off and visit the Warm Springs Indian Reservation among other places.

I’ll spare you my ruminations about indian reservations. However, I would like to make one observation before continuing with this post. Where I live, people often use the expression “native Oregonian” to refer to a person who was born in Oregon. In common usage, the term implies that the person has more right to be here than those who moved in from other states (especially California) and countries. However, Oregon is a very new state. In fact, it is so new that many people alive today have met individuals who took part in the Indian Wars that displaced the inhabitants of lands that were populated thousands of years before Christ was born or the invention of the wheel for that matter. I’m not suggesting that we try to turn the clock back — historically, solutions that attempt to right perceived wrongs of the past by assigning entitlements or punishments based on genetics or geography have not worked well and in extreme cases have led to devastating wars and genocide. I just find it interesting how often people develop a sense of entitlement based on factors that reflects no effort on their part such as where they were born or who their parents happen to be. However, I’m breaking my promise to not yammer on I’ll get off my soapbox and continue with the post….

If you’ve never been there, Warm Springs is worth the trip. There’s a great museum, casino, and resort, but frankly my favorite part was just hiking in the high desert. Shirley couldn’t come and my folks didn’t feel like taking a long hike in the high desert, so I went by myself. I didn’t see another person the entire time I was out.

When you don’t have to worry about anyone else, it’s much easier to feel your connection with nature. Even the desert is full of life. Insects look for mates and meals. Small mammals and reptiles wait motionless or quietly move away as you approach. The wind rustles things in its path and makes a sound I could never tire of.

By the time I’d climbed a mesa a few miles from where I’d started, it made me remember why I enjoyed camping so much when I was growing up. Shirley doesn’t like camping because you spend a lot of time hungry, roasting, freezing, and/or getting eaten alive by insects. I know there are ways to camp without experiencing those things, but for me it just wouldn’t be the same. I like to camp to get away from my normal creature comforts.

Having said that, I must admit that I really enjoyed taking a nice long soak in a hot mineral bath the day after going on the hike. Aside from the fact that the heat really felt nice on sore muscles, it helped relieve the itching from all the many things that had stuck me as I wandered along my path and climbed the mesa. Next time, I think I’ll wear hiking boots rather than tevas.

Vegas baby!

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Just before 4am yesterday, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas so that I could serve as best man in a wedding. I’m the type of guy that sometimes likes to burn the candle at both ends, but when that alarm went off at 5, I was thinking that maybe lighting the middle as well might not have been the smartest thing to do.

Despite the fatigue factor, I’m glad I went. Weddings may be an industry in Vegas, but these things are what you make of them. There were only 3 people in the wedding party (bride, groom, and myself) but the cermony was as moving as any I’ve seen and the sheer amount of energy in the room was incredible.

While we were having cake and champagne afterwards, the bride commented that she felt as if the wedding had 100 guests in attendance. Curiously enough, I had the same sensation.

Experiences like that help me maintain my faith in humanity. I am under the impression that many people treat marriage like a business transaction. They basically figure out what they want, and if the deal turns out not to be what one or both of them bargained for, they bail. Even if things turn out OK, people wind up feeling unfulfilled.

While I was talking with the bride and groom after the ceremony, all 3 of us agreed that we never would have done the most worthwhile things in our lives had we been told in advance what we’d have to go through to achieve them. The value comes from what people invest in the process, not in the end return.

It’s very possible that this marriage will also work out that way, but given the attitude of the bride and groom, I think they are doomed to succeed. I wish them the very best.