Sunday, June 19, 2016

A day in Oslo .. airport

Norwegian Air is a fairly new airline, with decently priced routes from the Bay Area (Oakland Airport) to Europe. It boasts an all Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet. On my trip to the South of Spain, I connected via Oslo, where I was to spend a few hours, awaiting my connecting flight. A few hours became more than 7 hours. That was plenty of time to people watch. (I wish I would have taken a trip to the city instead).

A few things struck me while sitting here:

I never experienced this much daylight. It is 10:30pm, and only now the sun is setting. Officially, sunset is not until 10:45pm. I can only imagine how the dark winter months must be.

Listening to Norwegian, it sounds like I language I should be able to understand (but clearly don't). A few words here and there sound so similar to Dutch. When the lovely lady announces in Norwegian that "all passengers should be boarding now", I understand it all.  Though I don't understand a thing of the casual conversations near me. Also counting in Norwegian is something completely foreign to me (except for the nul).

Norway strikes me as a very well organized and civilized country. People are friendly, and courteous. The keep the airport clean and recycle their trash. Bathrooms in the airport included digital cleanliness meters. There is power to recharge your phone or computer everywhere, and the airport has free wifi. I admit these aren't the best point of reference for a country, but it's all I had to go on.

Norway has a reputation of not being cheap. That seems to be especially the case in the airport. A few slices of Pizza Hut pizza is about $20. A Carlsberg beer is $10.

And it is true that almost all women are blond.

Spending a long afternoon and evening in Oslo airport wasn't that bad. It made me more curious about the country. Hopefully we can make a vacation here (in a future summer).

Sunday, June 05, 2016

2016 hike 9: Mount Tamalpais

Over the past years, I have hiked several trails in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, but I never made the trek to the top. Earlier this year, I hiked the Matt Davis trail from Stinson Beach to Pantoll ranger station and back to the beach. This time, I started at Pantoll and hiked the 10 mile round trip slow grade to the West Point Inn hiker lodge, and then to the top of Mount Tamalpais.









With this hike, only one peak of the Rim Rovers peak is missing. I've covered already the Pinnacles, Mount Wittenberg, Mission Peak, Mount Diablo, and now Mount Tamalpais. Missing is Mount St. Helena.

California State Flower: Poppy

California State Rock: Serpentine

See also: Gurmeet's blogpost on this hike.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Cure in concert

The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheater, in Mountain View on May 26, 2016

A Forest, The Cure


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dutch oven cooking

In recent years, I discovered dutch oven cooking. My fellow old goat patrol members are excellent dutch oven chefs, with dishes such as impossible cake (with flan and chocolate cake), double chocolate cake, soup, lamb shanks, beef stew and lots more. One of my favorite recipes is chicken pot pie (recipe).



Last weekend, I was in charge of breakfast for about 10 campers. On the menu was a traditional mountain man (recipe) meal, with meatballs, hash browns, lots of peppers and onions, cheese and 12 eggs.





Sunday, May 15, 2016

2016 hike 8: Henry Coe State Park

This weekend we set of with a small group of backpackers for a two night stay in Henry Coe State Park. Little by little, this place has become of our of favorite places to backpack. It is the second largest California state park (after Anza Borrego). It is located in Morgan Hill, right in our backyard.

Backpacking in Northern California: hills, fog, sun and poppies
We started from the North Gate and backpacked to Manzanita point. This is a short hike only, over rolling hills. Manzanita point became our home for the next two nights. It is a great campsite, where we have stayed before. It has running water and a toilet not too far.

The next morning, we set out to do a day long hike into the park. This 10+ mile became a lot more than just a hike. First of all, it was still spring and many wild flowers were on display. Secondly, the return path brought us through The Narrows to China Hole. The Narrows is a section where the trail crosses left and right of the river. There was plenty of water in the river, which made it a lot of fun.










Sunday, April 03, 2016

Skid Row, Los Angeles

I've heard a lot about this place. I still recall the scandal from a few years ago, when hospitals would drop of homeless patients at Skid Row.

On a recent visit to the University of Southern California - USC, I was  in the neighborhood. The USC campus is downtown, and only fifteen minutes from Skid Row.

After my presentation at USC was over, and I had a chance to explore the campus, I had a little time before my flight. I decided to take a trip downtown.

Los Angeles is a confusing city. I am not even sure I call it a city. It is more continuation of houses and buildings, many many miles long and wide. And somebody called this congregation of millions, a city.

I found it. Skid Row is the downtown section between Main Street and the Alameda. It is only a few blocks from the Los Angeles City Hall. Although you do need any street markers to know you have arrived. You will immediately recognize the encampments on the side walk.

Then it got just very sad.  Skid Row is not a single block. I originally thought is was a single strip of a block of two, where homeless people hangout. I imagined something similar to the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with perhaps 50 or 100 homeless people.

This is nothing like that. This is block after block. Street after street. Tents and tarps. People sitting on the curb. People wandering around. Pushing a cart. Wikipedia mentions there are somewhere between 3000 and 6000 homeless people living here.

I drove by the Midnight Mission. It was about 6pm and people were already in line, looking for a meal or a save place to sleep.

You can easily imagine how an apocalyptic future looks like as you drive around Skid Row. No need to create a movie set or hire extras. Here it was.

I didn't take any pictures. It didn't feel right to be a tourist. Just use Google Images and search for Skid Row Downtown LA, or better, check it out yourself.

It is ironic and mostly very sad that hell is located, right in the center of the city of Angels.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 hike 7: Joshua Tree National Park

This weekend, I am taking a break from walking up hills or in the desert. It is the first break since the new year. I do have some time now to write up this blog about our adventure in Southern California. I also made time to pack my backpack for next weekend's trip to Wild Cat campground on the Point Reyes peninsula.

Last weekend, we made the seven and a half hour drive from the Bay Area to Palm Spring and Joshua Tree National Park. I did not know much about this park. It doesn't seem to be very popular among my friends or family either. Only the rock climber type among them has visited the park.

We entered the park from Yucca Valley, and drove the Alta Loma Drive to the West Entrance Station. In doing so, we completely missed the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. Nevertheless, the rangers at the station were very helpful to point us in the right direction.

 

Road to the Cholla Cactus Garden
We stayed one day in the park and were able to see quite a few things. However, it is worthwhile to come back one time and actually sleep in the park. There are many campgrounds all over the park.
  • We posed along many Joshua Trees. Duh. 
  • We hiked the nature trail in the Hidden Valley. 
  • We hike to the Barker Dam, which still had some water in it. 
  • We snapped pictures of some many rock formations, including Skull Rock. Almost all the rocks give you the impression as if they were piled up by some giant. However as the geology guide explained, they were formed due to cracks during the cooling of molten granite and erosion. 
  • We walked among the cacti in the Cholla Cactus garden. 
  • We saw the sunset over looking Coachella Valley from Keys View at 5185ft. 
Joshua Trees, near Hidden Valley
Cholla Cactus
Skull Rock

Joshua Tree


Barker Dam







Coachella Valley, from Keys View. In the distance you could see the Salton Sea

I hope to visit and camp in Joshua Tree in the future. Spring is a great time as the weather is not too hot yet. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

2016 hike 6: Rancho San Antonio

Today's hike was a part repeat of a December hike. This time I was joined by my wife. Following the lower meadow trail, we hiked to Deer Hollow Farm at Rancho San Antonio. We returned via the Coyote trail. It was a short hike.





Sunday, February 07, 2016

Stop the bicycle ghostrider


Dear San Jose city council and SJPD, 

Over the last few year, you provided us with many new bicycle lanes. You even painted entire sections of the street green to clearly mark these bicycle lanes. Cars sometimes had to give up an entire lane, allowing a buffer space between cars and cyclists. I love that our city is more bicycle friendly. As I cyclist, I appreciate it.  

But yet, something is not working. Too often do I see cyclists ride against traffic. This is hazardous for me, as a cyclist, who now needs to share my lane with oncoming bicycle traffic. Worse, it is also dangerous for the car driver. Yes, you need to be aware that danger could come from all directions. However, there should be general expectation that people traveling on the right side of the road, are all going in the same direction. 

Today, in the short time I was on the road, I counted three such bozos going against traffic. 

I wonder if the problem is that there aren't enough safe crossings. As a result, a cyclist may prefer to stay on the side they started. Surely, SJPD isn't doing enough to police this type of behavior. There may be other reasons. I encourage you to look into what can be done to keep it safe for cyclists and cars. 

A concerned bicyclist, and car owner. 

2016 hike 5: Alviso Slough Trail

South of Highway 237 is busy Silicon Valley. Marvell, Arista Networks, Samsung Semiconductor, Brocade and KLA Tencor all have big buildings here. From the highway, you can also see the brand new Levi's stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers NFL team. This weekend it is also home to Superbowl 50. Santa Clara police blocked have various street. Big party venues have been erected in the stadium parking lot. And lots of #sb50 events are going on this weekend, all over the bay area.


I opted to leave the busy valley behind and went for a hike along the bay. North of Highway 237 is the small town of Alviso (wiki). The town is part of the city of San Jose. Steamboats once arrived at New Chicago port.

I started my hike of the levees of the Alviso marshes and salt ponds in the Alviso Marine County Park. You can still clearly see the hangars at Moffett airfield, the tent-shaped Shoreline concert venue and the big buildings of Silicon Valley. But yet, you feel far away from it all. It is quiet here. There are few hikers. Yet, there are tons of birds. Only occasionally do you hear the engines of a small boat of fishermen or the horn from the Amtrak train heading to Oakland.

 




The Alviso slough trail is about 9 miles. It starts along the marshes near the boat launch. The first ponds you encounter, were nearly empty. Further along your hike, you end up walking along the Coyote Slough on one end and large full ponds on the other side. In the distance you can even see the Drawbridge ghost town.








Far out in the bay, I came a cross an odd structure. A friend mentioned this is a NOAA hydrologic gauging station.