Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sometimes, things happen

Yesterday, a couple of friends of mine and I decided to take a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail west of Wrightwood, CA.  Those of you who know me well, know that this wasn't just a planned hike, but also a geocaching excursion.  We do this all the time.

We started our hike, heading up to the first geocache.  There were some high clouds in the sky, but they weren't really blocking the sun much so it was a warm day, perfect hiking/geocaching weather.  

The first cache took the most time, mostly because we didn't find it right away and so resorted to the hint which threw us off of our game.  At one point, I spotted a rattlesnake in a rock crevasse near the cache.  I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at, at the time, but once it moved and rattled, I made a hasty retreat.  Eventually we spotted the cache and moved on down the trail.  I took the first shot from that cache spot.

As the day went on, we found a variety of caches, stopped for a quick bite to eat and to allow one of my friend's dog to rest her feet in the shade.  The sun had heated up the trail and it was rather hot for her out there.  At the next to last cache, we ended up soaking her feet quite extensively, then started back down the road that paralleled the Pacific Crest Trail.  By taking the road back, we shaved about a mile and a half off of our return hike, still getting a nice 5.34 mile hike in.

There was a cache alongside the road and by this time, we could tell it would be better to rest the dog here.  Her owner stayed with her while my other friend and I hiked the rest of the way along the road to retrieve the car.  By the time we got back to the pullout, our friend had found the last cache.

In reality, this wasn't planned to be our last cache, but it worked out that way, because sometimes things happen.  When we go geocaching, our unwritten rule is, whoever retrieves the cache needs to replace it.  We do this because that person knows where it was exactly hidden.  I've been in a group where another person re-hid the cache and we accidentally lost it because he put it where he thought I'd found it and ended up dropping it down a hole where it was non-retrievable.

As our friend returned the cache, he decided to place a rock on top of the cache to keep it in place and to add an additional layer of camouflage to the hide.  Had he not done that, I wouldn't be writing this story and we would have gotten a couple of more cache finds before we called it a day.  

The rattlesnake, lying nearby, took exception to my friend placing that rock there, and bit my friend on the hand.  The snake had been there all along, but for whatever reason, didn't make its presence known when he retrieved the cache, nor did it rattle when he replaced the cache.  It just bit him when he tried to place the rock and then rattled.  Biting and then rattling, I think, is fairly typical of baby rattlers, which this one was.  The photo is not the rattler in question, just another rattlesnake that I've encountered while out geocaching.

Our first order of business was calming our friend down and then getting him to a local hospital.  We decided to take him to Loma Linda, which was the closest and also the best equipped hospital in the area to handle snake bites.  Coincidentally, my other friend with us had been bitten by a rattlesnake a couple of years ago.  I mentioned it, in this post from my other blog.  

Needless to say, we got him down off the mountain and at the hospital in 45 minutes without having to drive recklessly in the process.  And it is amazing how many people you get to bypass at the emergency room door by say those two magical words, rattlesnake bite.  We got pushed to the front of the line very quickly, they took his vitals and got us into the emergency room right away.  As of this writing, he's still in the hospital, undergoing treatment but appears to be improving.

What this leads to is a public service announcement.  Snakes are out there and they are common.  I overheard a nurse in the ER say the hospital is getting between 1 to 2 snakebites victims per week.  And I have to say we're fairly careful, yet one of us still got bit yesterday.  Things happen, so be prepared, be calm should it happen and seek medical attention right away.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bike lanes

When I've been geocaching in the past, especially with my friend Jim, he's always been quick to point out that you can't park in a bike lane.  I've always heeded that pronouncement, since it made sense.

But I wanted to see exactly what the wording was regarding bicycle lanes, especially since I've taken to riding my bike again.  The reason?  Yesterday, while taking my morning ride, I encountered 5 cars parked in the bike lane.  Only one, according to the California vehicle code was legally parked.  I've quoted the specific code regarding bicycle lanes below.
Bicycle Lanes 
A bicycle lane is a designated traffic lane for bicyclists, marked by a solid white line, typically breaking into a dotted line ending before it reaches the corner. Different from a simple white line showing the edge of the road, a bicycle lane follows specific width requirements and is clearly marked as a bike lane. 
Treat a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes. 
Do not turn into the lane if there is a bicyclist in the bike lane 
Do not obstruct bicycle traffic by reducing the width required for safe bicycle passage, typically 3 to 4 feet.  (bold my emphasis)
When you are making a right turn and are within 200 feet of the corner or other driveway entrance, you must enter the bicycle lane only after ensuring there is no bicycle traffic, and then make the turn. Do not drive in the bicycle lane at any other time. 
You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.  (bold my emphasis)
Drivers of motorized bicycles should use bicycle lanes carefully to avoid collisions with bicyclists.

 The two portions I've bolded above are the parts where I feel these particular vehicles were in violation of the law.  Their cars completely blocked the bicycle lane, forcing me to move into the regular traffic lane.  Only the last car I encountered on Towne Ave, just east of where I live didn't do that and that's because the bike lane there is wider than normal allowing me the 3 to 4 feet for safe passage.

I think because there weren't "No Parking" signs on the street, the owners of the vehicles felt they could park there.  A reasonable assumption, but one that puts bikers at risk.  I doubt any of the violators follow this blog, but if you decide to park in a bicycle lane, please be aware that you are blocking bicycle riders and putting them at risk for injury.

That's my soapbox for today.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Round is not a good shape

I've hear jokes in the past from various people stating, "I'm in shape.  Round is a shape."  Yes it is and while I'm not round, I'm rounder than I'd like to be.

Last year, we changed our health insurance and I decided to take advantage of that and get some things looked at that have been sort of sitting on the back burner for a couple of years.  The justification was I was busy, or it can wait until summertime, etc., and then summertime would roll around and I'd find other things to occupy my time and it wouldn't get done.

When I was donating blood on a regular basis, I knew my blood pressure and weight.  Donating platelets every other week, I had a handle on those two things.  Because of a lab snafu, where I tested false-positive for something I don't have, I cannot donate blood anymore.  That happened about five years ago which meant I no longer had access to my blood pressure and weight on a  regular basis.  That's when things started to go south.

With the various appointments I've had this spring and summer, I've heard one recurring theme, which was bothersome to me, "Has your blood pressure been this high in the past?"  Yeah, that's not something I want to mess around with, so I made another appointment to talk to my doctor about a sensible way to bring my blood pressure down.  Obviously, the best way would be to lose some weight.

When we used to live over in Rancho Cucamonga, I could see my work from the back yard of my house and I used to bike to work.  I'm not sure why I stopped doing that, but once we moved, the commute ended that.  I held onto the bicycle giving myself all sorts of incentives to get back on it, but that never panned out until this week.

My doctor gave me three different options - swimming, running or biking.  I have never been a good swimmer and I have never enjoyed running either, but I have enjoyed biking in the past, so I dusted the old bike off, took it in to get it serviced and Sunday went out on my first bike ride.  Nothing spectacular, but I have a slight uphill grade for half the ride and the first day I traveled 5.78 miles.  Day two, on Monday, I did the same ride, but the GPS said I did 5.83 miles.  Yeah, I didn't zero the GPS out on the first day until I was a little ways away from the house, but I have a pretty good readout of how many miles I'm traveling if I take that standard route.

Tuesday, I took the day off as my thighs and rear end was barking a little bit, but I was back on the saddle again today for another run.  So in three days, I've traveled almost 17 and a half miles.  I'm sure the mileage will increase as I work my stamina back up, but for now, it's baby steps to get back in shape, bring my weight down and hopefully, my blood pressure as well.

I've decided to make this one of the regular occurring features in this blog, so if you don't want to read about my success, or lack of success on the road, feel free to skip it.  I'll post the same photo as I've posted above to alert you ahead of time that this post will be a fitness post.  

Here's to a thinner me in the future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (June 2014): Vehicles

Well, once again an entire month has passed and I haven't written anything about anything and yet I have a wealth of material to write all sorts of pieces.  It's a good thing P.J. puts out his monthly challenge, otherwise I wouldn't be posting anything here.

The month of June has closed and last month's challenge was vehicles.  In reality, I wasn't sure if I'd see 5 different kinds of vehicles over the course of the month, but I figured I'd give this a go.  Many times, I'll not even think about the theme and then when it comes time to put the post together, the photos just jump out at me.  That's pretty much what happened this month. identifies the word vehicle as 

"any means in or by which someone travels or something is carried or conveyed; a means of conveyance or transport: a motor vehicle; space vehicles."

I decided to take this literally, which means you're going to see some traditional kinds of vehicles and some non-traditional vehicles as well.  So, without further ado, here's my contribution to the theme of vehicle.

1.  Train show

Nearing the end of the school year, I was approached by one of my students who gave me some tickets to a model train show which was held at the Ontario Convention Center, just south of our school.  Model train owners take their vehicles very seriously as they strive to make realistic layouts in which to run their trains around.  This engine was being run on a modular layout, which means each module had to conform to certain standards so they would all connect together to form one large layout.

2.  In flight

I will be the first one to admit, that I just got plain lucky on this shot.  There are times when I want to believe that I'm a great photographer, but I know my craft and skill pale in comparison to many other photographers I've seen on Flicker and elsewhere.  The wings of the bee are the vehicle in this shot and I've been hoping ever since I took this shot several years ago, to replicate it.  I have had varying degrees of success over the years and I finally was able to get this bee hovering near the flowers.  

The trick is your depth of field and a fast shutter speed.  You need a fairly large depth of field to make sure everything stays in focus and you also need a fast shutter speed to slow down the beating of the bee's wings.  I felt, with this shot, that focus was more important and so the wings are just a blur, but I got the bee hovering near the flowers, so I'll count that as a victory.

3.  30s era Packard

I love old cars.  If I had an unlimited supply of funds, I think I'd own several different cars from various time periods.  But I'd own them so I could drive them around.  Nothing's more depressing, I think, than to know that people own classic cars like this and then they just keep them housed in warehouses or in their garages for only themselves or a few select friends to enjoy.  

I think half the enjoyment of vehicles like this is the stares you can get as you drive around town in a car like this.  I know I'm very guilty of doing that exact same thing.  I've pulled out my camera from time to time to take photos and I've had people actually slow down so I could get a good shot of their car.

A couple of years ago, when my son and I were camping in Zion National Park, there was a group of car aficionados who belonged to a Franklin car club.  They would drive their cars around to promote the club and to enjoy their cars and for others to enjoy them as well.  That particular year, they were doing a circle tour of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

I spotted this 30s era Packard in the parking lot at out local community center when I went to vote in early June.  I didn't have my camera with me when I went to vote, so I voted, went home, then came back and it was fortunately still there.

4.  Abandoned truck

In early June, I helped a friend with his trek on the John Muir Trail.  I'm not in shape to hike 211 miles in 14 days, but I was willing to help him shuttle his truck up to the exit point for the hike and then take him around to the starting point in Yosemite National Park.  

After we dropped off his truck at Whitney Portal which is at the base of Mt. Whitney, we then worked our way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, camping near Mammoth Lakes, CA and Lee Vining, before camping the last night in Tuolumne Meadows, in Yosemite.  

One of the days was devoted to geocaching and sightseeing.  One of the places I'd never been before was Bodie, CA, which is the official historic ghost town of California.  It's located out in the middle of nowhere off of Highway 395, close to the California/Nevada state line.  The ghost town is kept in "arrested decay" meaning they don't let things get too bad that they collapse.

As I look at this shot,  you can't help but wonder what kinds of stories this old truck could tell.  It's not conveying anything today, cargo-wise, but it probably helped someone out in the town of Bodie many years ago.

5.  Friendship

The vehicle for this shot is the Internet.  This is my friend Steve on the left and that grizzled old fart on the right is me.  Steve and I met in the fall of 1984 when I started teaching at Cucamonga Middle School, so we've now known each other for 30 years.  

About 14 years ago, Steve left the school and moved to Visalia, California to pursue teaching at the community college level.  Had this happened 100 years ago, the friendship would have probably ended.  Postal service might have conveyed some letters back and forth, but we probably would never have seen each other again.

Because of instant communication now available to us, friendships like this can continue on.  Through my travels around the state, mostly while camping, I've been through or near Visalia enough times that we've been able to see each other several times.  I can count four times for sure: once when my son and I were camping in Sequoia National Park, once when I was taking my daughter up to school in Stockton, CA, once when my wife and I were coming home from Stockton after visiting my daughter and this weekend after I finished helping my son move into his new place in Merced, California.

Steve and I have maintained our friendship via email, and will continue to do so in the future.  I spent an hour and a half with him and his lovely wife Joan Monday afternoon having lunch while we caught up on what all of our kids were doing.  It might have been longer, except that Steve had a class to teach at his school, but I'm sure there will be other opportunities for us to get together again in the future.

And that's my addition to P.J.'s photo blogging theme of vehicles this month.  Please stop by his blog page and see how others interpreted the theme vehicles.