Turning 50 was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, of course, better to turn 50 than not (!) and all the usual keeping-things-in-perspective stuff. On the other hand, 50 sounds really old! I don’t feel 50. Turning 40 didn’t bother me, but 50 did. But, time rolls on.
I did have a great day. I got a new bike which I’m very excited about.
Bruce and Finn picked out flowers and a cake. Emmy and Sophie love having fresh flowers in the house.
And the four of us had a lovely dinner at Sundance (a local steakhouse we’ve been wanting to try). We all ate so much there that we didn’t get to the birthday cake Finn had picked out for two days! So, the celebration continued.
For Thanksgiving this year, we were juggling a hockey tournament and dinner. Finn only had one game on Thursday and it was actually at a pretty good time (11:00 am), so I was able to get a morning walk in before the craziness started. We’d had rainy weather, which thankfully cleared out the smoke, and there were spectacular rainbows for quite a bit of my walk.
Everyone was cooking something for dinner so we had some scheduling to do.
I took Finn to the game alone so that Bruce and Ezra could stay home to cook. When we got home, Finn worked on his twice baked potatoes. Cooking class at school finally got him to wear a ponytail in the kitchen.
Ezra’s contribution was buttermilk biscuits, which are another bread in the ROPE project he’s doing. And, luckily, his mentor was with us for Thanksgiving so he got some hands on instruction.
It was a busy kitchen, as usual!
I really need to do a better job of insisting on family photos. This is all I managed and obviously not everyone is in it.
In mid-November we briefly escaped the terrible air quality in the Bay Area for a previously scheduled set of games in Tahoe. The Camp Fire in Paradise was still raging, and the death and devastation was profound, so we really have no room to complain about air quality. However, it was awful. We’d been limiting our time outside to our commutes and wearing masks whenever we were out.
On the drive to Tahoe we went through areas that were so much worse than ours — Sacramento, Davis, and Vacaville were particularly bad. But Tahoe was clean and cool. And very blue.
Finn’s team tied the Saturday game and won the Sunday game. It wasn’t very conducive to picture taking but here’s one of Finn. He was trying to keep himself in the game because his team was mostly playing at the other end (generally not a bad thing!).
We reluctantly came home into the smokiness on Sunday. Here’s a shot from our drive home. The fire engines from several south bay cities on their way home are in the distance.
As I mentioned before, September and October were super busy for me. Unfortunately, that translates into zero photos of the Halloween costume making process this year. But the boys did end up with super cool costumes. Ezra was a “Prawn Suit” from the game Subnautica, and Finn was a vending machine. My only real contribution to them was to get snacks for Finn’s vending machine. He wore it to school and made $7! Here are some photos.
They both trick-or-treated with friends this year all by themselves. It was strange to be home, giving out candy while they were both out but nice that they are so independent.
In October Bruce and Finn headed to Vegas for the annual tournament there. Since I’d taken Finn there in the spring, it seemed only fair that Bruce handle this one. (While I love to watch Finn play, the whole Las Vegas thing is a bit much for me and I was happy to escape the madness this time.)
I don’t recall any scores but I’m pretty sure his team lost all their games. As it turns out, his club had signed them up (again) for a tournament above their level. I’m not sure why they keep doing this but it’s frustrating. The BB tournament was the next weekend; I’m not sure why we went to the A one.
At any rate, the photographers there captured some great shots, a few of which I’ll put here.
Ezra’s in a different program at school this year called Connections. It has a more hands-on, project based learning philosophy and there is an 8th grade project called ROPE (Right of Passage Experience). Students are meant to choose something to learn about, find a mentor, and then present at the end of the year on all that they learned. Ezra decided to do bread baking and asked his Uncle Bob to be his mentor. His first item to bake was banana bread, and he made his first loaf on October 14th.
It turned out pretty tasty!
He is going to have to learn a little more about cleanup though …
He’ll continue to make some additional quick breads and then move to yeast breads. He’s looking forward to cinnamon rolls which I think are the last item on the list.
Most of September was a blur for me. The LCI seminar took up a lot of time for prep and then the actual weekend itself. Also, I’d been working on the third grade bike rodeos which are throughout September and October. I was working very long hours, so not much else happened besides that and shuttling Finn to hockey practice.
Finn was very excited on September 20th when his jerseys came in. Games were about to start so it was good timing!
My other main activity during the past few months was Bike Palo Alto. I joined the steering committee and put in quite a bit of time working on publicity and other things. It was a great event. I worked at the Safe Routes to School table that day and talked to quite a few participants who wanted information about biking to school. Here’s some of the team that helped with the event.
In mid-September I took an LCI seminar to become a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor. It’s a lot of work and time — two full weekend days plus several hours on Friday afternoon/evening. Each participant is assigned two topics to teach — one solo and one in a group. Luckily I’d prepared curriculum for students before so I had some experience. However, my solo topic was drivetrain maintenance (!) which is not something I’m an expert in. It all went pretty well though and was really interesting. We had a really supportive group of participants and a chill lead instructor. And my neighbor and friend, Maria, was also in the seminar so that helped. Here’s a picture of the two of us the day we accidentally wore matching shirts.
I have a few pictures from the on-bike portion of the training, where each of us took turns leading a ride as if we were teaching a group of students.
Here’s our whole group including the instructors and newly-minted LCIs.
After last year’s birthday that Bruce spent in the hospital, I was keenly aware of how lucky were are to celebrate this year. We celebrated early and late and I thought it was a pretty good day! First, breakfast cake and presents.
In the evening we went out for a fancy-ish dinner at Los Altos Grill. I don’t know about Bruce, but I had a super nice time. The boys were great — funny, personable, well behaved. We must be hitting that sweet spot between little kid and sullen teenager where they’re just a joy to be around. I took a few pictures but they’re all terrible because the light was so low. I’ll share one blurry one because it’s the birthday boy blowing out his second candle of the day.
On August 19th we went across the bay to visit Vanessa, Thomas and Reba in their new digs in Piedmont. After a visit at their house, we went to Cat Town in Oakland since all of us are cat lovers. Ezra, the cat whisperer, had the most success interacting with the cats.
Also cat related, earlier in the month, Bruce had installed the swinging backyard chair we’d gotten for Ezra and I snapped this photo of him and Emmy.
On a quiet Saturday night in mid-August, I thought I saw something scurry through the living room. In fact, I did see something scurry. It turned out to be a juvenile possum that found its way into our house and managed to go undiscovered by our [useless] cats. I surmise that the possum had been in the house all day because first thing in the morning I’d discovered one of the cats sitting in the backyard when one of our screen doors was accidentally left open.
Anyway, regardless of how it happened, we now had this scared possum in the house and needed to get it out.
Bruce devised a plan to prepare a route for it that led to the backyard. We stacked up couch cushions and camping mats to block its path into the rest of the house and got ready with brooms and hockey sticks to gently help it along the path.
I wish I could have videoed the production but my poke-checking abilities were in use to get the possum out of the house. It almost escaped through the camping mat (much too flexible to properly do the job) but I managed to scoot it out with Finn’s goalie stick.
It was a lot of excitement, and I endured hours of teasing afterwards for what was erroneously claimed to be a “slap shot” to get the possum out. But, all worth it as calm and normalcy were restored.
Believe it or not, both boys are in middle school this year. It’s nice to have them in one place, although they bike to school separately with their friends. After the camping trip, we spent a little time getting the bikes washed and ready for the first day of school.
And before I knew it, they were ready to go. I managed to stop them long enough for some morning photos before they left.
As a newbie, Finn had Panther Camp for the last two days of the week, which served as an orientation for the sixth graders. A friend of mine volunteered and sent me a cute photo of Finn and some friends.
And with that, the school year is off and running.
Addendum: I have a photo of Ezra from the second week of school which I’ll include here. He went to a sleepover on the 25th and the birthday boy’s mom sent out a couple of photos of all the boys. Big 8th graders!
We decided to squeeze in one more trip before school started, so in between Jump Start Day on August 7th and the first day of school on August 14th, we drove north to explore the real Northern California. We had a campsite reserved at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, but since it’s quite a ways north, we decided to drive only part of the way and do a little sightseeing. First though, we had to get through the incredibly smokey area near Ukiah due to the Mendocino Complex Fire. It was a huge fire:
We stopped in Ukiah for lunch and saw a massive tent city set up for the firefighters who had come from all over the state to fight the fire.
After lunch we hopped back on the road and eventually got out of the smoke. We decided to take the scenic route at one point, veering off the main highway onto Avenue of the Giants near Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Absolutely gorgeous. We also decided to stop for one of those “drive your car through a redwood” attractions. I’ll let you see for yourself how well that went:
We finally did get through the tree with one broken mirror, and we spent some time hanging out in the play area. The boys (all three of them) enjoyed trying to balance on a log.
After that adventure, we drove another hour or so to a mostly uninhabited day campground near the South Fork Eel River. We walked from the parking area to the river, and spent some time skipping rocks and enjoying the scenery.
We finally reached our first day destination, the Best Western in Eureka, and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning, it was chilly and foggy but we set out on foot to find breakfast. It was a little tough because Finn had just had his braces put on two days earlier and he was really suffering and mostly unable to chew. I can’t remember exactly, but I think he had a smoothie of sorts. Poor kid.
We walked around Eureka for a while taking in the early California architecture … and a chocolate shop!
After breakfast and the short tour, we loaded up the car again and headed north. We made one more stop along the way at Patricks Point State Park, where it was foggy and cold, but everyone had a good time playing on the beach.
After Patricks Point, it was just about an hour and a half drive to our campsite at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. When we drove in we were stunned to see a bunch of elk casually lounging around. (At the time, we didn’t know if this was a daily occurrence or really out of the ordinary. Over the next few days, we never saw them in the campground again, so we felt pretty lucky to have caught them when we did.)
One of the first things on the to-do list (after trying out the chocolate we’d bought in Eureka) was fixing the broken mirror. Bruce had bought some supplies at a Eureka hardware store and promptly got the mirror glued and clamped.
The rest of the day was mostly spent getting the campsite ready, having dinner, and a little light exploring. Here’s Bruce at Prairie Creek:
The next morning we had breakfast and then set off on our big bicycling adventure. (Little did we know just how big an adventure it was going to be.) There was a trail that went in a big loop around the area, so we first headed south from our campsite. Quickly, the wide trail narrowed and was a little dicey for our commuter bikes, but we carried on.
After a while, the narrow trail led to a wider road.
And then finally, we could see the ocean.
After a while on this road, we stopped at a campground for a snack/water break, and then we locked up the bikes and explored the beach for a while.
There were these huge sand dunes that the boys had a great time jumping around on for quite some time.
After a long time at the beach, we grabbed the bikes and sauntered off, thinking we would just pick up the road and keep going. Not so much. The road had ended, and the trail was nowhere to be found. Here are some shots of us exploring the area, trying to figure out which way to go.
Finally we decided on a plan and we headed into the bog.
It was impassable on bike sometimes, and a little muddy. (Bruce got us through some parts by carrying the bikes.)
We finally made it out of the mud and it was spectacular.
Although still rough going …
We didn’t heed that warning though.
But Bruce got all of us and our bikes through that obstacle, and we trudged on. I hadn’t really grasped the enormity of the elevation gain we were heading into (I’m a bit map-challenged), but at this point, it was either keep going (and we were pretty sure there’d be a big payoff at the end with a scenic downhill), or turn back and go through the mud again. We kept going forward.
Finally, we made it to the other side. This is the last photo I took — the entrance to the trail we’d just completed. At that point, we had a glorious downhill ride down the paved Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. We didn’t stop, just enjoyed coasting down among the giant redwoods.
Our final tally according to Strava was 19.6 miles, 1868 ft elevation gain, and 3 hours 10 minutes. Here’s a shot of the map.
After that adventure, we had a well-deserved relaxing afternoon/evening at the campsite, enjoying the last of our chocolate and a hotdog camp dinner.
The next day we’d booked a joint mountain biking and kayaking trip at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, about 30 miles north of our campsite. I’m so glad that Bruce pre-booked this trip, because we were all pretty worn out from the previous day’s biking and we might have canceled otherwise. It turned out to be a spectacular day. We woke up to a gorgeous morning at the campsite to get us going.
And the Smith River and surrounding park were breathtaking. Once we met our guide and got our bikes, we were off. The biking was actually mostly on roads and not very strenuous (which was fine with all of us on this day!) and we stopped a couple of times to walk through the woods and explore the area around the Smith River.
The end of the biking part left us at the Smith River, where we puttered around for a bit, picked blackberries, had lunch, and then kayaked down the river to where we’d parked our car.
It was the most beautiful day with the bluest sky I can ever remember seeing.
Finally, the kayaks arrived and we got ready for the last leg of our journey. I don’t have any photos from the kayaking itself since my phone was in the watertight bin. It was super fun but a lot of work as these inflatable kayaks performed differently than other kayaks I’d used. But we all survived and enjoyed some mild rapids and more beautiful scenery.
I’m thankful to our guide who thought to take photos of all of us. Such a rare treat to have the whole family in the photo!
After we dried off and packed up, we decided that since we were only about a half-hour south of Oregon we had to go since none of us had ever been there. Our guide suggested visiting Brookings, just across the border, and so we did. We managed to stumble upon some crazy pirate festival thing, so we picked up some ice cream cones and roamed around for a bit.
I don’t remember much about the evening after the Smith adventure, probably because of exhaustion. What a day!
The next day we packed up and headed home. I can’t even remember if we made any stops on the way back, other than the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland where we had lunch. (It was good despite the Trump banner in the window, which I didn’t see until we were on our way out.)
We had a day to recover before school started. Really, I think this may have been the best camping trip we’ve been on, both relaxing and adventurous. I’m so glad we were able to fit it in before the chaos of the school year started.
On August 7th, just before school started (and on Picture Day!), Finn got braces. Of course, we need a shot of his new mouth:
As I write this on December 26th, I am amazed at how much straighter his teeth are already. They moved pretty quickly, but his jaw is all catawampus and he has these huge apparatuses in his mouth that are helping to realign things.
He’s making progress though. I think it’s expected he’ll have them on for two years. At his most recent checkup, they said he’d probably get the big things off in May and then they’d put on the bottom braces.