Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Cool Sensation

Saturday, August 30th

I got it in my head to go white water rafting ever since I saw a photo of my mom doing it somewhere.  Lo and behold, a few months ago, I was walking on campus and came upon a poster for a white water rafting adventure with a student organization.  Holy Toledo, a sign if ever there was one!

I was the only non student and the oldest of the group of 21 others -- international students from Australia, Germany and Norway as well as locals ranging in age from 20-30 years old.  They welcomed me and asked lots of questions about what I did at the library.   The students were fabulous and I loved the opportunity to hang out with them in a social setting. 

We drove in two vans to Coloma, near Auburn for our adventure on South Fork on the American River.  This section of the river is for Class 2 and 3 rapids, 4 and 5 being for advanced skilled people only.  I learned a lot about how the river is regulated.  Our trip began in Coloma and we would end in Folsom Lake, a 10-12 mile run on the American River.  The photos I'm sharing are from last year.  I'm hoping to get the pics and video of our particular boat....  Oh my God, the life jacket.  They strap you in tightly.  My boobies were flattened.  My rib cage could barely expand.  But, this is for our protection.

Our guide's name was Don.  He's 61 years and a super cat.  Loved him.  So, first up, getting into the boat.  I slipped and fell into the river.  Sigh, not a good start.....  Don gave us the drill about how to row with our oars, and what to do if we ended up in the river or our boat capsized. 

All of the rocks and other bits of scenery on the lake have names that reflect what they look like.  10 minutes into the ride, we would encounter Dildo Rock, and anyone who hits Dildo and blows it is a real dildo.  Guess what we did ... you got it, we hit the rock, a Class 2 lame ass rock.  As Don would tell us repeatedly on our journey, this hasn't happened in 30 years ... sigh.

Guess what happened next.  We frigging blew it.  You see, we hadn't gotten our groove yet.  It's all about teamwork.  So, Mr. A out in the front, slipped but his leg was still in the boat, so, the uneven weight balance threw all of us, and we plunged into the water.  Oh, let's talk about the water temperature.  While not freezing, it was frigging cold.

What happened next is a blur.  I was completely disoriented.  And panicked.  I thought I might die of a heart attack. I swallowed water.  I know I hit some rocks.   Don yelled at me to go under the boat (it had capsized).  So, I did.  And then, I remembered what we had learned.  Become an otter with your feet above the water and float down the river.  So, I let go and relaxed.  Except.  Oh my goodness, I seemed to going down the river at 10 mph.  I began to feel like a rag doll.  Oh lookey ahead at the big boulder sticking out of the water.  I'm going to smash right into it and die.  These are the sorts of things that goes through one's mind.  Oh lookey, the sky is really blue and pretty.  And then, once again, it kicked in, the training they gave us, bend your legs, hit the rock with your feet and shove off.  And that's exactly what I did.

Ahead, maybe a half mile down river, I could see that my teammates had all been rescued by another boat.  Hello, what about me.  I spun around and heard Don yelling at me.  You see, there were rapids ahead and well, I didn't want my body parts to be pulverized into hamburger, and I remember him yelling swim, so that's what I did, or tried to do, swim cross current to the river bank.  At first, I didn't go anywhere and then I was at a shallow section.  Don caught up to me and told me to get into the boat.  I said, "Make me Mister."  I was frigging done. I wanted to go home.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  I got into the boat and we formed a lifelong friendship.

We rounded up our crew, no easy feat.  And we became one raunchy team referencing the Dildo experience throughout our 4.5 hour journey.  At first, everyone had the same thought as I did, "I want to go home."  But, we found our groove, determined not to capsize again.  We frigging rocked as we rode the river.  We conquered.  We blew the rapids.  We kicked ass.  We rode up and down rocks.  It's like being in the ocean riding waves by the way.

I did smash my hand against a gigantic boulder and worried that I broke my hand but it was just a bad ass blood bruise.  Our raunchy bunch simply took it all in as part of an incredible experience.   Would I do it again?  Undecided..  It is a mental and physical challenge dependent upon a team.  And exhausting.  But I loved everything moment of it despite discovering cuts and bruises the day after.   Here's to you, Mom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buffalo and Bison

Friday, August 22nd

After the bike ride, we popped into this saloon in Hill City for a bite to eat.  I had the best sweet potato fries ever.  Plus a glass of wine.

Then we went over to Turtle Town for coffee and chocolates.  Afterwards we drove along Iron Mountain Road.  Here's a nice video from someone of the drive.   I wanted to see the caves in the area but we ran out of time, specifically Wind and Jewel.

Oh my God, it finally happened, and let me just say how could our vacation be complete without having to stop for a family of buffalo crossing the road!!!!  I practically peed in my panties.  Okay, not really, but, I had to call my brother and tell him.  I was so excited.

There were at least 6 of them.  This fella was right in my window.  I locked the door.  Loved it.  By the way, these animals are actually bison.  We like to call them American Buffalo but truth be told, buffalo are only really in Africa and South Asia.  And so our adventure came to an end on a big bang.  Yay!

George S. Mickelson Trail, Part 2

Friday, August 22nd

We returned to Hill City to pick up our rentals from Rabbit Bicycle and this time, we went in the opposite direction on the Mickelson trail towards the town of Custer and Crazy Horse.

This tunnel was fun and to the right, cars traveled to see Crazy Horse.

You can't go wrong in The Black Hills of South Dakota.  It's all beautiful no matter where you are.

Pretty scenery.

We encountered some horseback riders and also a few cyclists.  It was quiet and lovely.

A lovely 30 mile ride with ever changing scenes.  We stopped in Custer for coffee and scones.  Time to head back to Hill City and bid farewell to our bike adventure.  But the day was not over.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bear Country USA

Thursday, August 21st

After the bike ride, we visited Bear Country USA.    "A drive-through park featuring North American wildlife roaming free in their natural habitats."  Loved it.  Totally worth it. 

"Bear Country USA, located 8 miles from Rapid City, features the world's largest collection of privately owned black bears. Take a leisurely 3 mile drive through this spectacular wildlife park nestled on 200 acres of Black Hills beauty where you'll see black bears, grizzly bears and over 20 other species of North American animals like buffalo, wolves and elk all from the comfort of your vehicle."

It began to rain but the animals were not bothered.  Here we saw reindeer.

An arctic wolf.  Beautiful.

A grizzly.  It was an amazing journey seeing so many animals close up.

Lookey, the bobcat is in the midst of spraying and marking his territory.  My kind of animal....

Adorable.  We also saw an arctic fox (like the wolf, he was all white).  We also baby bears and other animals but this blog entry would go and on with all that we were fortunate to see.  A nice way to end the day.  Til tomorrow....

George S. Mickelson Trail, Part 1

Thursday, August 21st

As some of you know, most trips with The Boyfriend involve biking.  Aka, exercise.  You call that a vacation!  As some of you know, this is my idea of exercise:

1.  Lying in bed reaching for bonbons.  What a work out for my arms....
2.  Spending 2 hours going up and down the aisles of DSW trying on shoes.  Working those legs....
3.  Sex.  Let me tell ya, it's exhausting lying on my back....
4.  Reading or daydreaming.  Exercising the brain....
5.  Sipping a drink with an umbrella at my pool.  Working the jaw muscles....

Oh alrighty, time to get physical.  We rented bikes from Rabbit Bicycle in Hill City.  Great store, nice people.  I got a hybrid, The BF got a crossbike.  They swapped out the pedals so we could clip in with our bike shoes.  The store is also right next door to the famed Mickelson Trail.  How convenient!  We also brought our own helmets (something I recommend).

From Biking in South Dakota:

The premier trail within South Dakota’s state park system, this 109-mile jewel stretches the length of the Black Hills. It follows an abandoned railroad bed, and climbs gently into jagged cliffs and pine forests. The Mickelson Trail has a crushed limestone surface and wide path. It tops out at 6,100 feet but rarely exceeds a 4-percent grade (making it perfect for leisure riders). Trestle bridges and railroad tunnels add to the trail’s charm. 

It was simply beautiful.  Not 5 minutes into the ride, 2 deer darted in front of us on the path. 

The tunnels were so much fun.  We encountered other cyclists as well as meeting a young man from China biking alone across the U.S.  I gave him my banana. 

We stopped in a tiny town for refreshments.  The sky threatened rain that didn't materialize until much later (thunderstorms, lightening and hail), long after we were done with the ride.  We did 46 miles.  Afterwards, we got a coffee at Turtle Town on Main Street in Hill City.  Oh oh, chocolates....  The day is not over, more adventures await.


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Walk Around the Lake

Wednesday, August 20th

A brilliant librarian, that would be me, at the general store wearing a buffalo hat, can miss a great opportunity in her research, namely Sylvan Lake.  As our tour of Needles winded down, we kept seeing signs for the lake, and thus, I knew, we had to take in this sight.

It was yet another spectacular encounter.  Here is a video a tourist took. 

Lookey, wildlife, aka, The BF.

I love angles that capture different views.

The walk around the lake is about a mile and offers so many views.  Loved it.  And that concludes today's adventure in South Dakota.  Til tomorrow....

Custer and Needles

Wednesday, August 20th

After taking in Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we continued on with the splendor of the Black Hills by driving through Custer State Park along the Wildlife Loop in search of, you got it, wildlife.  Of course, one might say that I need not look for wildlife given that I had an animal already within sight, namely, The BF.

The drive was nothing short of spectacular, prompting The Boyfriend to exclaim, "We must return and ride through the park on our road bikes."  We were exposed to grasslands, to greenery, to forests of pines, to rolling hills, or as the website says:  Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the park is home to a variety of wildlife and magnificent scenery spanning 71,000 acres.

We did in fact see a few buffalo and as the photo above shows, I was able to get out of the car and snap a pic of some wildlife.  The park was breathtaking and I simply couldn't capture it on film. 

As Miss P will attest and as The BF knows so well, I like to research (being a librarian it comes naturally) all that one might do when going somewhere not been before.  So, I knew that we simply must experience Needles Highway.  Here is a lovely video from Carol to give you an idea of our drive.

Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, the Needles highway—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922 and includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels, and impressive granite spires. The road lies within the 73,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City.  Credit to Rapid City webpage.

One tunnel we went through.  Fabulous.

And another tunnel.  Glad The BF was driving....

But we're not done yet with our day, more to come....


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Wednesday, August 20th

Today was spent taking in as much as possible.  Absolutely overwhelming and surreal taking in not only the monuments but the beauty of South Dakota. 

Gutzon Borglum began drilling into the 5,725-foot mountain in 1927. It took 14 years.  It's a lovely walk around the monument through ponderosa pine with many different views. 

Next up was Crazy Horse.  

"My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too."

"These are the words Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1939 urging him to come back to the Black Hills and carve a mountain sculpture honoring American Indians."

This is what Crazy Horse will look like one day.  In terms of share size, Mt. Rushmore is but a blip in comparison.  Learn more about Crazy Horse and the "educational and cultural programming to encourage harmony and reconciliation among all people and nations"

Meanwhile, the day is still young and we have more to take in of our South Dakota adventure.

Another movie location

 Tuesday, August 19th

I love Alfred Hitchcock movies.  Living in the Bay Area has allowed me to visit locations for The Birds in Bodega Bay and for Vertigo many locations including Mission San Juan Bautista and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. 

I remember being enthralled as a young girl with Hitchcock's North By Northwest.  First, because I was in love with Cary Grant and second because of Mt. Rushmore.  Sometime in the last year, I got it in my head that I simply must go to Mt. Rushmore.

I needed a Cary Grant stand in -- enter The Boyfriend -- to my Eva Marie Saint.  We'd make our own adventure in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Speaking of adventure ... let's talk getting there.  Not a whole lot of options.  The flight to Denver was delayed an hour and that meant we'd miss our connecting flight to Rapid City and would probably end up spending the night in Denver, hoping to catch another flight the next day.  Turned out that all sorts of plane delays happened on account of the weather in other cities.  Our connecting flight was delayed 40 minutes!  And then, it was delayed some more.  And then some more.  And then some more.  3 hours in total for a one hour flight.  We arrived in Rapid City at 11pm, hours and hours after our original scheduled arrival.  Kudos though to United for keeping us informed and giving me 2500 bonus miles.  You know what, shit happens, right.

I met some wonderful women and we talked menopausal stuff and had ourselves a good laugh. I've never flown on a tiny jet plane and that was a tripper.  Lookey at the enormous car we were given by Avis.  We're so used to traffic congestion, hectic lifestyle and bouts of smog in the Bay Area.  Nonexistent in Rapid City or at least that was my impression. 

Next up, the vacation begins. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mr. Bill's Hike

Today, I met up with Mr. Bill along with three of his friends to do a hike in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  I snapped a thousand photos but capturing the beauty of this park is best left for the memories in the mind.  Haven't been here since The BF and I did it back 2003.  We began the climb to Buzzard's Roost.  My body was a river of sweat. 

We had a wonderful adventure and much of the conversation can not be repeated.  Save of course for my ramblings about the aliens  in the forest ....  yeah, sure those are "restoration" projects.  We all know that's where they live... and the cobwebs in the redwoods are really pods for the baby aliens.

8 miles later and one last hurdle to surmount, we returned to the parking lot.  We escaped the aliens.  This time....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's All About the Scenery

Today's ACTC club ride included one of my favorite roads to bike -- Lobitos Creek.  But first, we climbed Kings Mtn and then descended Tunitas Creek to The Bike Hut.  I shivered going down Tunitas.

Flowers on the start of Lobitos Creek.  Very pretty biking.

These orange flowers shone brightly, a nice contrast with the trees and gray sky.

Lobitos Creek, with its coastal hills and rural look is simply lovely.  We came across goats who entertained us by frolicking with one another.  As I left, they stopped.  I returned.  They started up again.  Adorable. 

Back on Tunitas Creek to climb we went and this tree caught my attention.  The weather was ideal today not too hot, not too cold (save for the freeze my tushy off Tunitas Creek descent) .  We encountered lots of other cyclists as well as runners doing a Trail Run in Huddart Park.  Another memorable ride with friends.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summits and Plummets

Lookey, lookey, lookey what Miss P. gave me!  A velcro gadget thing to clip route sheets.  Oh, I do so love gifts.  Note to The Boyfriend:  Oh, I do so love gifts....

Miss P led a club ride today taking me to places I've not been before.  Oh, I do so love being taken to places I've never been before.  Note to The BF:  Oh, I do so love being taken.  Oh wait, to places I've never been before.

First, we climbed Kings Mountain in Woodside.  Done that but not in a long time.  I steamed up it, well, for the most part, racing (sort of) with this guy I did not know.

We went along Star Hill (up and down) and Native Sons (up and down) as well as tackling Swett and returning to Kings Mtn via Skyline and back to the start at the Pioneer Hotel.  I've never done Star Hill all the way nor Native Sons.  I lagged behind the group, having stopped to take photos and such, so, I was alone as I got to the bottom of Native Sons.

Let's set the scene, shall we.  We're in the middle of nowhere, deep in the woods.  I had just finished watching True Detective, a series about devil worshipers and killers in Louisiana.  I get to the bottom of Native Sons, a road that seems to get narrower and narrower.  Room for only one car for sure.

Remember I'm all alone.  I'm in the wrong gear and trying to figure out how to climb out of Native Sons.  Suddenly, a bitch and her dog, or should I say a bitch and her owner appear in a big pick up.  She starts saying blah blah blah to me.  I'm thinking to myself, "Hmm, I don't think my Tom Cruise grin is going to work with this woman."  I'm also wondering if she has a shotgun on the seat.  So I hightail it out of there.

I actually had to walk my bike since I was in the wrong gear.  I was looking for a flat enough place to get back on the bike and go.  When, this geezer of a guy appears in a pick up truck.  He starts saying blah blah blah to me and I'm thinking one word, mind you after the previous encounter, one word, wait, wait for it, Deliverance

Lordy, seriously, look at me, like I'm a threat, and the amount of time you wasted with your blah blah blah when I had every intent of leaving.  Sigh.

I loved this ride.  It was beautiful.  Thanks Miss P.  Oh yeah, for The BF, unable to join us -- this is for you.