Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bluffs, Birthdays and Bikes....

Looking west along the Ellwood Bluff...

Shades of gray....

Post- rainstorm puddles!
Hi all,
It’s a quiet Saturday morning here; another beautiful day. Last week’s torrential rain is just a memory. Of course, we missed most of the worst weather as we were out in Santa Barbara celebrating Sue’s birthday.
Happy Birthday, Sue!
After I get done blogging this morning, I’ll head outside with my shovel to refill the ditch around the new pipe drains. Last Saturday’s rain washed all of our hard work away!
Walking back to Sue's...
Our Santa Barbara trip was great. We enjoyed family time with Sue, Nan, Muhsin, and Dana. Along the way, we had rain, wind, and some nice sunny weather on Sunday morning. We celebrated a birthday, did some shopping, told old family stories, discovered a Monarch Butterfly Preserve, and on the way home captured a few cacti (do you recall the original Cactus Hunter blog 4 years ago?)

An old seawall, slowly being reclaimed by the surf...
And of course, one of the activities we never fail to miss when we are out to S.B. is a walk on the Ellwood Bluffs near Sue and Dana’s house. This wonderful preserve has been protected from development, and is a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors in peace and quiet.
Bird of Paradise...
In riding news, I was able to commute to work twice this past week. It’s still a bit odd, being able to ride to work in December, but, it’s better than ride commuting in July when it’s 110 degrees! I have added a new handlebar bag to the Surly LHT , which has made carrying all my basic stuff for work a lot more efficient. The security guard at the center still gives me quizzical looks when I pull up, but perhaps, he’ll eventually get used to the idea. With over 400 controllers assigned, I have never seen another bicycle on the property since I arrived last August. My workmates seem to think it’s utterly crazy to ride one’s bike to work when it’s 35 degrees! But of course, the lovely 58-degree afternoon ride home is the payoff.
I will no longer have to go hunting cactus, I'll just walk out to the backyard!
That’s all the riding and traveling news for today. Now, to go shovel some sand!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

500 Miles, 500 Miles...

The 2009 Freeze and Wheeze...
500 Miles…500 Miles…A quite appropriate old lyric from a Peter, Paul, and Mary CD I have been listening to this week. In reality this morning, it felt like 500 except it was only 9 miles. Of course, when was the last time you walked 9 miles! Kathy, Leena, and I did this morning.
On our way to the nasty hill up to the Start Line...
We had signed up to participate in Palmdale’s 2009 “Wheeze and Freeze;” a 5km or 10km walk/run along the California Aqueduct. We of course, intelligently signed up to do the 5k, then, not so intelligently, walked right past the 5km turnaround, and walked the whole 10k! Add in the fact that we walked from our house to the start line, and we made a tidy 9 miles out of the morning.
Note the streamers blowing in the wind!
A nice turnout of all age groups!
I would also like to add, that after 10 days of lovely fall weather, Miss Wind made her reappearance in the Antelope Valley. Was it windy? Well, watching the “Portaloos” rolling down the hill was a clear indicator. The wind made it feel quite chilly, and the stronger gust just about knocked me down!
The runners have all left, and now the walkers can enjoy some peace...
A check of the local weather site showed temperatures around 45 degrees and wind gusting to 35 kts. So yeah, it was kinda breezy! Did we overdo it? Yes. Did we have fun? Yes. Do we have sore tootsies? Yes. Are we proud of ourselves? Absolutely!
The Surly parked outside my portable at work...
In other news, I have been doing some bike commuting to work the past two weeks. I have to say it’s kind of weird to be able to ride in December. The mornings are a bit on the chilly side; right around freezing, and the afternoon ride home is nice, about 55-60 degrees. The local wind is a bit of a downer, but the riding is phenomenal! It's only 7.5 miles each way, and I am finally getting all the bike stuff together to commute regularly.
A typical Palmdale road; note the bike lane!
That’s all for today; I need to go soak my blisters some more!
See you next week,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Big Picture...

An actual section of the Berlin Wall..
Hi All,
As you have probably noticed, most of our weekend routine is spent in the yard, moving dirt, rocks, walls, and creating landscaping. But, when we lose the motivation to work in the yard, we head out in the car, or on foot, and explore our new area. We have enjoyed several lovely hikes and car outings over the past few weeks.
An exact replica of the Oval Office. Even the 18 ft. ceiling!
A Saturday or two ago, we ventured out to Simi Valley. As the locals describe the highways, we took the 14, to the 405, to the 118. When we were in Utah, no one ever described I-15 as “the 15”. But here, it is the norm. Also, up here in Palmdale, the LA Basin is described as: “down below.” It’s interesting how different areas of the country have different vernacular.
The Boss's chair; aboard Air Force One.
Anyhow, we went to Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library. Kathy and I have a goal of someday checking out all the presidential libraries in the country. It will be a great way to visit new parts of our country, and also we might learn something in our travels!
What a view!
The Ronald Reagan Museum and Library is a vast and magnificent structure. The highlight is the VC-137 inside, facing outwards to a magnificent view. You might ask; VC-137? Why yes, otherwise known as Air Force One. Ronald Reagan had the retired ‘137 installed inside the museum. It’s really a sight to see. We think the aircraft came first, and the building was built around it!

In other local news, the traveling Vietnam War Memorial just completed an exhibit here in Palmdale. Actually, the exhibit was at the Heritage Airpark, right across from where I work. I took a few moments early one morning to visit, take a few pictures, and reflect on really how thankful I am this Thanksgiving.

Visiting both of these sights brought into focus what it must be like to be the one "Who's in Charge". I can't begin to imagine the reponsibility saddled upon any president in our history. Just looking at the replica of the Oval Office made me think about what it must feel like to be in charge of this whole operation.

Want your name on the bottom line?
Even more telling in black and white...
Visiting the exhibit sort of re-aligned my view of the world. I would go on from here, writing an editorial about Afghanistan, or Iraq, or the pointless loss of life in Vietnam, but this blog is normally not the venue for that. Instead; perhaps you can take a few moments and reflect on your own; no stern editorial will be necessary.
See you next week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dirt and Bikes...

Sunset on the Aqueduct, My contest entry (see the last paragraph)
Hi All,
It has been a busy few weeks since my last post, and it is time to bring you up to date on the on-going adventures here in our new home. I have been working on several projects that relate well to conditioning and physical fitness; working on the back yard landscaping project, and actually spending some time repairing and riding my bikes.
Shovels anyone? Kathy, our neighbor Leena, and I moved this 6 cubic yards to the backyard in a little more than 4 hours!
Mmmmmmmm, Sprinklers, topsoil, and fresh sod!
The main thing I have learned is that I am getting much stronger from all the physical labor of landscaping our yard! Kathy and I have spent many Saturdays looking at the world from the working end of a shovel and wheelbarrow. And I have to admit a great sense of satisfaction every time we finish another part of the project. We work on the project together, enjoy the fruits of our labors, and get wonderfully dusty and dirty in the process!
After.... Come visit and sit on the patio!
I worked on all 3 bikes!
And, speaking of bike maintenance let me mention right here that adding a cycle-computer to the Surly LHT was a bad idea. Yes, it tracks the miles I have ridden, however it also shamelessly indicates the woeful average speed I am riding these days. This is the penalty I pay for basically being off the bike since last spring.
Brian's very own dump truck....
The fact that I am in poor cycling shape needs to stay in perspective; yes, I am not riding a lot of miles, but in the great scheme of things it has been a great few months. Amy and Jon keep us smiling from their adventures with Andy K, and Paul and Christina’s son, Brian calls often to tell of his view of the world. Just ask him about dump trucks and he will tell you all about it! So, my miles will come eventually. One day at a time. I just keep plugging along.
The naughty hill I climb to get to the Aqueduct...
Speaking of riding; tonight I am heading out on a group ride sponsored by a local bike shop. I happened across this shop in search of new tubes for the Surly. Block Bikes of Lancaster; from the outside not the fanciest shop around. But, once I went inside I found a vast inventory of all classes of bikes, and friendly knowledgeable folks who RIDE. Their emphasis is getting people on bikes! A nice place. I found out that Block sponsors a group ride every Wednesday evening. It’s a local fun ride, not a race, and not a “Critical Mass” type of ride. More a family outing geared (pun?) towards people spending time on their bikes. We’ll see how things shake out. I am taking the Virginia GT for the ride – 20-25 miles at a leisurely pace. Look for a report in a few days.

Moonrise over the desert...
And lastly, my friend Alan Barnard, web genius of, is sponsoring an Endless Summer photo contest. Check out this link; Here, and enjoy some wonderful cycling photography. I will be submitting my entry today. Who knows, maybe I’ll win a doorprize!
See down the road…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Unexpected Surprise...

Sunset along the aqueduct...
Hi all,
Once again, a planned route turns into an unexpected pleasure. This evening, as Kathy was headed off shopping with a neighbor, I was inspired to take a quick evening spin. It was a lovely outside, not too warm, not chilly, and the usually ever-present Antelope Valley wind machine was taking a break. So, off I went for what was supposedly a quick neighborhood spin.

My Surly Long Haul Trucker...
The Barcroft Virginia GT is non-op, awaiting a new rear tire, so I took the Surly LHT. I have the bike configured with lights, so if it got past twilight I would be reasonably safe riding home. I headed west towards Highland High School to revisit some of the roads we had walked last Sunday up towards the Joshua Ranch Trailhead. While we had been hiking last Sunday, I noticed a short, VERY steep little hill off to the north. As I rode near this hill, I was inspired to try and ride up it, and see what was up there.

The road follows the aqueduct for miles! I started my ride in the lower-right corner, near the High School...
Well, after 200 yards of gasping, wheezing, down- shifting, and minor swearing, I discovered a lovely surprise; The California Aqueduct. Now, I am sure that some of you are pondering why I would be so overjoyed at a man-made river, lined with concrete. It wasn’t the Aqueduct, it was the beautiful smooth road that followed it, disappearing into the distance! So, for 200 yards of gasping, I was rewarded with miles upon miles of perfectly smooth, unpopulated, quiet, peaceful riding.

Just look at that beautiful road to ride...
Suffice to say, I rode home in the dark! What a pleasant surprise, going out for a routine spin, and discovering new road, and a safe place to ride. One never knows what to expect from the seat of one’s bike!
More news later this weekend,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Hike and Bike Weekend

Looking north, towards Lancaster with Mojave in the distance...
Hi all,
Yesterday, I took the Surly LHT out for a spin. I had intended to test ride my route to work, double-checking the shoulders and other assorted safety issues. But, as I got to Palmdale Blvd, I stopped to take a picture, looking west towards Leona Valley. As I got back on the bike, I had to wait for another cyclist who was coming up the bridge. As he passed, we chatted briefly, and after a short discussion about not having any particular direction to go, we decided to head west together, towards Leona Valley, not east as I had planned.

Looking west, and Elizabeth Lake Road and miles of gentle climbing...
This turned out to be one of those good news/bad news situations. The good news was that the ride towards Leona Valley was lovely; a nice sunny day, not too much traffic, and nice country cruising. The bad news was that I am woefully out of shape and as I climbed west up Elizabeth Lake road, I was wheezing and shifting to easier gears. I guess due to moving, and all the work travel, there hasn’t been a riding season for me, and it feels like I have wiped the slate clean, and am starting over again.
Joshua trees and Juniper trees, just west of our house...
In the long run, it was a lovely ride. I met a new friend; Dave, a contractor/engineer who lives close and works up north in Mojave. He likes to ride brevets and enjoyed not being in a particular hurry as we rode. The scenery was lovely; the company pleasant, and that’s all you can ask for on a bike. I will test ride the commute to work route later this week. Who knows, I might just ride in and see how it works!

Today, Kathy, our neighbor, Leena, the pup-dogs, and I went for an early morning hike into the foothills near the house. We hiked the Joshua Ranch trail, and climbed about 400 ft. above the valley.
Looking east, towards Palmdale Airport and Plant 42. Our house is down in the lower right corner...
A nice hike! great views of the valley, and a nice mix of Joshua trees, Yucca trees, California Junipers, and pleasant friendship. Now that the weather is tolerable outside, it was great to get out and enjoy some more of the local area. Nice to be outside when it's not 110 degrees!

A hot husky!
More news and pictures next week.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Random Collections...

Fall Leaf, Cactoctin Mountain Park...
Hi all.
Fall is here in the desert. I never expected it, but it’s here. Mild days, breezy cool evenings. The air conditioner is finally taking a break from the usual heat wave that we have enjoyed since moving here.
Louis XVI (Perhaps), The National Gallery of Art
I was spending some time this evening looking through my 2009 picture folders. It occurred to me to publish a set of pictures that have never gotten the chance to be seen by anyone. I have had a lot of travels this year, and as I have always taken pictures along the way, I find I sometimes never edit, publish or even share them with anyone. They tend to end up in random folders labeled; “May09” or “DC2009” etc.
Thomas Jefferson
So, for your enjoyment, here are a few of my favorite, but yet, unpublished pictures from the year. No, I do not have any new pictures of Brian or Andrea. You will just have to be patient, and wait until I travel to see everybody this winter. For now, enjoy my humble efforts.
The Air and Space Museum; Washington, DC
Renoir's Signature...
My impression of the Wall...
One of my favorite RAAM portraits; Larry Cleveland...

A color we don't see often here in Palmdale...
Ok, what's a blog without a random frog portait, too...
Sunrise over the Missouri river, RAAM, 2009