Thursday, October 31, 2013

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

SQUAT / PLANK Challenge

I was sifting through Facebook last week and came across this anatomical drawing of a person doing a plank exercise with all of the muscled affected in dark red.
It was meant to show how valuable and efficient an exercise it really is.
Which I agree with. I often include planks and/or plank variations in my workouts.

Along with the graphic was written:
The 30 Day Plank Challenge will send your core strength through the roof!
Day 1 - 20 seconds
Day 2 - 20 seconds
Day 3 - 30 seconds
Day 4 - 30 seconds
Day 5 - 40 seconds
Day 6 - REST
Day 7 - 45 seconds
Day 8 - 45 seconds
Day 9 - 60 seconds
Day 10 - 60 seconds
Day 11 - 60 seconds
Day 12 - 90 seconds
Day 13 - REST
Day 14 - 90 seconds
Day 15 - 90 seconds
Day 16 - 120 seconds
Day 17 - 120 seconds
Day 18 - 150 seconds
Day 19 - REST
Day 20 - 150 seconds
Day 21 - 150 seconds
Day 22 - 180 seconds
Day 23 - 180 seconds
Day 24 - 210 seconds
Day 25 - 210 seconds
Day 26 - REST
Day 27 - 240 seconds
Day 28 - 240 seconds
Day 29 - 270 seconds

I was intrigued and impressed. I am aware of the power of gradual progression and also aware that those planks at the end were for longer than I have ever held nor even attempted to hold a plank in my life. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would be able to do it.

So, of course I accepted the challenge anyway. And I even upped the ante by including a squat. I figured the squat would help balance out the program by having a strong focus on the back of the body while the plank focuses more on the front.

I shared the picture and posted this message on my Facebook JAG Healthy Lifestyle page:
This program is simple and doesn't look like much, but by the end of the month, if you're doing those four minute planks, you'll notice that you're incredibly strong. I'm going to start this today. It starts easy, with only 20 seconds and builds quickly. I'm also going to do a squat for the same time period. Feel free to join me.

Day Two
Today was easy, but an important part of the program overall.

I didn't film Day Three, but I was surprised  how much difference it made to add ten seconds. It still wasn't terribly hard, but I was a bit surprised at how much longer it felt.

Day Five
My video camera shut down during the session, but I posted what I got.

Day Six was a day of rest, which I enjoyed. 

I shot this one this morning, Day Seven

As you can hear me say in that last video, everything so far has been pretty easy. The only day that has even felt slightly weird was on Day Three, when we went from 20 to 30 seconds. Other than that, so far it's been smooth sailing and I'm eager for more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

“To market, to market to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.”

I remember this nursery rhyme from my childhood, but haven’t thought about it in a long while. But now that I think of it, is it saying that people used to buy whole pigs from the market? And then what? Take them home and kill them and cut them into steaks and chops? Wow. 
That same rhyme today would be more like “To market to market to buy some slabs of meat that I don’t associate as coming from a cute animal, placed on a Styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap.  Home again, home again, sitting in my SUV, grumbling about traffic.”

Anyway, yes, today was the last day of our epic journey.

We woke up in Centralia and were prepared to head to Olympia for our last gig and last night in a motel. But when I entered the address of the motel into my navigation, it told me I’d be there in 20 minutes!  Even though we slept in late and got a late start today, I wouldn’t be able to check into the motel in Olympia until 3 o’clock. I noticed that I’d have enough time to drive all the way back to Seattle and return to Olympia in that time. 

So, that’s what I decided to do. 

After stopping in Centralia for some local coffee at a shop recommended by a friend, we hit the road for Seattle. (Yes, the coffee was good, by the way. And VERY caffeinated. I think it was a lighter roast than I would normally choose, so after drinking 8 ounces, I was bouncing off the walls.)

River really took notice when we were in Seattle. He went into high alert sniffing mode. Of course I could project what he was feeling, but let’s just keep it at my observations. When we got back to the house, he quickly ran all over the place, sniffing and wagging his tail. 

I unpacked and went through a huge stack of mail. I then sat down and put together my playlist for tonight’s class in Olympia. 

I showered and got back in the car, which River was hesitant to do, but ultimately he complied. I allowed myself over two hours to drive the 60 miles from Seattle to Olympia, as I knew from experience that traffic along that route was particularly bad, especially in the late afternoon. 

I opted not to stop for food, even though I was hungry, because I didn’t want to use up the time. I figured, if I could make it to Olympia with time to spare then I could grab something before class. However, as it turned out, the traffic nearly doubled the time it should take to go those 60 miles, and I pulled into town and parked the car in just about enough time to arrive at the studio for the start of class.

River started whining in the car when we got near the big park near the studio. If you have been following my saga, you may remember that this is the same park in which I learned that grabbing onto that nylon leash was a bad idea. River had no bad associations with the park, obviously. I interpret his whining as a longing and an anticipation. He makes the sound when he sees a big grassy field and usually when I’ve stopped the car and am undoing his seatbelt. Too bad there was no time for enjoying the big lawn.

The trip was in vain, however, as no one showed up. Julia and I chatted and played with River for about an hour in the studio before we packed up and left. We’ll keep trying to make something happen for us in Olympia. We’ve had successful events there in the past, so there’s no reason it won’t happen again. It just wasn’t in the cards this time.

So that wraps up the 2013 Great Lakes and Texas Road Tour. I had a great time, and I trust River did, too. He never gave an indication that he wasn’t enjoying himself. We met lots of lovely people and visited many beautiful and interesting places.  I will go ahead and speak for both of us when I say, ‘We’re looking forward to doing this again.” But for now, it’s nice to be home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Scenic Route to Centralia

Our destination today was only 90 minutes from Portland. So we didn’t rush getting out, but ended up hitting the pavement by about 11:30. We stopped for coffee at a Starbucks and it was such a nice morning, that we sat in the chair set aside across the parking lot for smoking. No one was there, so there was no smoking, but it was right in the sun. I took off my shirt and enjoyed my coffee while River sniffed around the trees and bushes that were in the area.

Once on the road, it wasn’t long before we were going over the Columbia River, on which there is a sign saying “Leaving Portland” and another saying “Entering Washington.”

I drove a few miles until I got to Vancouver and decided I wanted to take a detour. At the rate I was going, if I went directly to the motel, I’d arrive hours before the check in time. So we went east.

I didn’t have a plan, but ended up doing some pretty cool things. The first really cool thing I noticed was Mount Hood way off in the distance. Can you see it?
I'm sorry. It looks like in the translation from being emailed and then posted here, the video lost enough resolution to completely obliterate the mountain. But I promise, it's a spectacular sight.

We drove on a road along the Washougal River, and stopped at one point so River could get his feet wet in the same.
A bit later, we stopped for a picnic lunch near Dougal Falls.
We took the Lewis and Clark Highway back west after lunch, and passed by Cape Horn, which was all beautiful and worth coming back to see again.

We got to the motel at a little bit after four, which gave me enough time to do a load of laundry before heading out to teach tonight’s class.

So, with my newly washed patriotic shorts and white V-neck T-shirt that has become my official uniform of this routine, I headed to the space to teach ROCKIN once again. This time it was at the newly established Embody Movement Studio. Christina Mae Wolf is the proprietor and my producer for the class, and she has a gorgeous, spacious studio in what seems like ‘old town’ Centralia.

It is a brand new space and there hasn’t been much time to establish a Nia community, but we had a pretty good turn-out and those that were there had a blast. The reception was warm and passionate and we’re hoping to be able to do it again there, soon.

Lunch earlier today has a bit of a funky taste to it. Just the chicken. So I didn’t eat but that one bite of the chicken. I ate only the vegetables and didn’t take my chance on the meat, since it has been four days since I cooked it, and I may have gotten a bit lax on the changing of the ice in the cooler, so the temperature may have risen dangerously high.

Dinner, as well, had a funky smell to it upon opening the tupperware, so I didn’t eat any of it. I threw it all away and taught class on an empty stomach. Now, it’s almost 9:30. I hope it’s not too late to order a pizza in Centralia, because I’m famished!


So the first thing I wanted to do this morning was to pay a visit to Nia HQ in downtown Portland. I had actually intended to get up and make it to the 9:30 am Nia class, but at 8:00 am, I had a better idea; more sleep.

Plus I justified it by remembering how bad the parking situation is downtown, and how much of a shlep it would be carrying the cage and blankets to the building and up the stairs. I also thought maybe it wouldn’t be cool to just drop by with a dog, unannounced. So I rolled over and slept some more. 

I did eventually get out of bed (obviously) and did eventually work my way down to HQ. I peeked in the studio and saw the White Belt training going on. I was surprised at how few people there were. I guess I was expecting to see 50 or 60 people, but I only saw about four in there today. There could have been more, as I didn’t see the entire room.

Then I went downstairs into the offices and River met the two dogs that were there.  I said Hi to Debbie Rosas. We talked a little bit about my road trip and about why I wasn't teaching in the studio while I was here, and the upcoming First Degree Black Belt Intensive in February. And even covering all that, I didn’t stay long; she had work to do and River was excited by the other dogs and wanted to play and was starting to tear the office apart.

As we were leaving, the little dachshund was goading River all the way down four flights of stairs. I was afraid he was going to follow us all the way outside. But he ended up stopping at the top of the last flight of stairs. I guess he just wanted to be sure we found the door all right.

But still, before I allowed River his playtime, I needed to get some coffee and some food. I poked my head into the Elephant cafe, which is near the Pioneer Square Park and had outdoor seating. The girl that worked there, saw me come in. We made eye contact. And then, it seemed, she was intentionally hiding her face from my view behind the bottles of coffee syrup. I stopped at the door because I had River and it was a small and empty place except for some people sitting on the tables outside. So I called in, “Hi. Excuse me! Is it ok if I walk in with my dog to take an order?” No, she said. Only service dogs were allowed. “Can I give you my order from here and go sit down and have you bring it to me?” She hesitated at that. Mind you, I had JUST seen her taking a tray of food out to another table, so I know they do the table bringing thing. But her reply was “Can you tie the dog up to a post or something?”  “Never mind, I’ll think of something else. Thanks!”

Some places that were listed on my Bring Fido app as having a patio, didn’t have their outdoor furniture set up, I guess due to the cold weather. After almost giving up on the downtown area, I ended up at the famous Portland Food Trucks. Normally, I’m not into eating food from a ‘truck’ but I wasn’t having much luck finding dog-friendly restaurants downtown, so the idea started to appeal to me.

We walked around the trucks and checked them all out, which gave River an opportunity to practice walking at my side through crowds with dogs. I went back to the one that stuck in my head: A grilled cheese place that made a carne asada grilled cheese sandwich with green chili and spicy pepper cheese and this side of spicy dipping sauce.   I ordered that and as it was cooking, I walked over to Ole´ Cafe, at the recommendation of the cheese griller who told me it was the best coffee he’s ever tasted.

 The coffee was good, but the sandwich was amazing. I enjoyed it, but about half an hour later was having heart burn, so I probably wouldn’t get it again.

I took the food and coffee to a nearby park to sit on a bench and eat.

I find that Portland is very strict city. They like to enforce their rules. It is the only city in the world that I’ve ever been stopped by a police officer for jay walking in an empty intersection. That was many years ago, when I still lived in New York and had honestly forgotten that in most of the world, pedestrians wait at the corner for a green light.

And today, I was playing with River in the park on our 50 foot leash. Now I had a bag of treats in my hand and was working on River’s obedience commands. So, if you know River you can imagine that he was never more than four feet away from me. He was glued to me and right on top of everything I said. The only time he was more than a few feet from me was when I asked him to stay and backed away. But he was on high alert and as soon as I said COME, he bolted straight to me.

So two park rangers came over to me and very politely told me that I was breaking the law and that they were legally able to cite and fine me, but that they’d just give me a warning. I explained that I was from out of town, so they happily gave me a map of off-leash dog parks.

So I went to the one that was near the river front, because I know how much River loves to frolic in the water. As usual, I was leery of exposing him to the off-leash dogs, but I know that I can’t keep him sheltered forever, so I thought today was the day.

He actually did pretty good. He's very nice with smaller dogs. He tends to play dominant aggressive with dogs his own size or slightly larger, which will piss off many dogs. He doesn’t really do the give and take as much as he just dominates all the time.

The park was actually beautiful. I wish I did take pictures. It was a huge green lawn and then at the other end, some stairs down to a sandy beach. And with no waves, just like River prefers. There was also a little dock.

At one point, River was running along with some other dogs and reaching the end of his leash. I stupidly, gripped the leash, but was quickly reminded that when I do that it causes heinous finger burns.  So yes, I have one more tiny burn on my newly healed hand. The damage is MUCH less severe this time. 
It's hardly noticeable.

I also noticed that this nylon leash rubs against River’s legs and can really burn and chafe him up good. So, I’m maybe getting soured on the training leash? I’m not sure. I do like it, but maybe I'd like one of hemp so it doesn't burn so much. What to do, though. For now, we’ll continue to use it with caution.

I don't know why, but I didn't take any pictures or videos today. I know that makes for a dull Internet experience, so here are some pictures....
This was taken at a different Motel 6 in Portland, April 2013

At our friend Cheryl's house in Boise, July 2013

"Come on Eileen"

Corpus Christi

Divas and Rockers

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How I Ended up in Portland

We slept late again and didn’t leave Coos Bay until after our coffee and walk, so it was about noon.

Bridge leaving Coos Boy
The plan was to make a direct path to Lincoln City. I was motivated by coming across this story a few days ago:

Since delicate green and blue Japanese glass fishing floats first washed up on Oregon beaches in the early 20th century, beachcombers have scoured the sands for these prized finds. The number of Japanese floats has decreased over the years, but Oregon’s artists keep the tradition alive by planting a crop of handmade floats each fall.
Beginning in mid-October, local glassblowers conceal brilliantly colored, signed and numbered glass floats along the 7.5 miles of public beach in Lincoln City, stretching from the Roads End State Recreation Site area to Cutler City. This year a total of 2,014 floats will be hidden along the coastline for lucky beachcombers to find.
Glassblower Bob Meyer, owner of Ocean Beaches Glassblowing & Gallery in Seal Rock, will make 150 floats this year, each in a kaleidoscope of vibrant color.
When looking for floats, train your eyes above the high-tide area and below the beach embankment. That’s the zone where the floats are hidden. And if you find one, it’s yours to keep. Each float is signed by the artist and numbered. Contact the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau for a certificate of authentication and information about the artist who crafted your float."



We passed so many tempting sites and sights on the way, but I didn't stop. I did make a vow to come back often to the Oregon Coast and to devote a day or two to just going to all the campsites and recreation areas, scenic viewpoints and beach access trails. It seemed like every 50 yards there was another place I wanted to see. 

But, driven by our glass treasure hunt, we pressed on.

We did stop here, for lunch,
but only stayed as long as it took to eat.
I could have lingered here, as well as many of other gorgeous places along the way, but I wanted to have plenty of daylight left for glass hunting and playing on the beach when we got there.

It was about 3:30 by the time we pulled into Lincoln City.
videoIt was foggy and cold. The temperature hadn’t reached above 55 degrees all day, in fact. It was quite chilly. And it was kind of a mad-house. It was mobbed with people. Everyone, his brother and their dog, it seems were also coming on a glass hunt today.
Suddenly, it wasn’t nearly as appealing as I had imagined it being. The last time we were in Lincoln City, we had the beach to ourselves. I guess this Finders Keepers Glass Treasure Hunt was a success in getting people to come to Lincoln City from all over. 

However, considering the time of day (still early), the weather (cold and grey) and the scene (packed), I decided to keep driving on to Portland, where I was planning to drive to the next day. It seemed like taking the extra 90 minute drive was a better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the Motel 6, dealing with the crowd on the beach or walking through Lincoln City. Portland was much more interesting a city to walk through, and it would mean tomorrow is a no-driving day.

So now I’m in Portland.
I will say this. It is definitely dinner time.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

West Coast Farms, Mountains, Forests and Ocean

We slept in late and were leaving Medford at about noon. It was a doleful drive through town on the way out as I passed Marco’s Pepper Grill. It was vacant, with a For Lease sign on the window.

We went south at first, because I wanted to drive through Talowa Dunes and Cape Blanco and was in no hurry to get to the motel in Coos Bay. Most of the drive was through California on winding roads through an autumnal forest.

We stopped after driving for a couple of hours and found ourselves at this rest area near a long tunnel. 


We explored a little bit and then exercised,  playing tug and push and chase and then we practiced some heeling. I was using the 50 foot leash and not giving him physical corrections, but just using my voice to make him walk at my side all the way to the trash cans and all the way back to the car. He did a great job.
Then we had lunch.

Jedediah Smith State Park was awesome. The size of some of those giant Redwood trees was staggering; not to mention all the lush ground cover growing wild. And the leaves were just starting to change so there was a lot of green and a lot of big swatches of yellow, orange and red.

We drove over this bridge over the Rogue River.

What was interesting as we went into Oregon and got near the coast, we hit a layer of clouds. So some of the drive was sunny and some was cloudy, but my favorite moments were the ones with both. They were rare, but sometimes the sun would shine through the fog and make this cool, eerie glow.

At one point, driving through Oregon, I noticed that I could see cows grazing on a farm on my right side,  and sandy dunes and the waves of the Pacific Ocean on my left. Straight ahead were mountains covered with dense, green forest.

We stopped near a River at the bottom of a steep embankment. For no reason except that I had reached Intense Natural Beauty Overload and had to stop and just be still in it for a moment to take it all in. River seemed to be digging it too, even though at one point I thought I was going to lose him. video

We pulled into Coos Bay just about sundown. It was a flurry of activity with kids and dogs and trailers and ice chests. River was ready to join into the frenzy, but I had to stop in the car and take a few moments to redirect his attention and calm him before we went out to the office to check in. I always take River in with me to the office to check in. I like to demonstrate that I have a well-behaved pit bull so that there is no question about it.

This room has a microwave, so I was able to heat up my dinner, which was, just by chance, the second half of that new york steak I had for lunch. But this time it came with whole beets, sauteed beet greens, goat feta on a bit of radicchio and an apple cut into slices and drizzled with coconut oil and cinnamon. 

After eating I washed River’s paws in the tub and then took my shower. Now I’m going to start putting together the playlist for Seattle’s Annual Fall Nia Teachers Jam.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I-5 to Medford

The sun woke us up today. I had planned it that way, by leaving the curtains open. River slept the whole night in his crate, and only crawled into bed in the morning when we saw the sun. Then I closed the curtains and slept for another couple of hours.

Two nights ago, in San Francisco, he also seemed to be gravitating toward sleeping in his crate. Typically, he’d always get in bed as soon as the light was out, but in SF, he was already in his crate when I turn out the lights for bed and he stayed in there for maybe half an hour in the darkness before climbing into the bed. He didn’t stay, either. After just a few minutes, he hopped down and got back into his crate. I have to admit, I felt a bit jilted, lol, even though it makes me happy that he’s feeling comfortable and confident enough to sleep in his cage in a strange room.

This morning, before leaving the room in Willows, I put all the foods I had cooked last night into tupperware, arranging them in meals with a couple of vegetables and a protein in each one. Some had cheese, some had pumpkin seeds, some had eggs, some chicken, some beef, etc. I ended up with eight meals. I spent less than $50 at the store yesterday, so that’s pretty good for eight healthy meals. I also like the fun of reaching into the cooler and pulling out a meal without knowing exactly what I'm going to get.

Before we left Willows, I drove us to a park that was around the corner called Central Park. We played vigorously on the grass for a good half an hour, and then relaxed in the shade for another half hour before we actually hit the road. videoRiver was nice and exhausted for the drive and slept most of the way.

All of the trip was on I-5 today. I was surprised how long it took just to get to Redding. Because Redding was my original stopping point scheduled for yesterday. I changed it at the last minute to Willows when I learned that this Studio 6 had kitchens. (Which was why I was so upset when they wouldn’t give me pots and pans.) And as we pulled into Willows, I guess partly due to the stressful start to that drive, I felt like I was quite done with the whole driving thing for the day. So, in retrospect, going all the way to Redding would have seemed like a miserably long haul.

The scenery was pretty much flat and similar to what I was calling ‘hay country’ from yesterday’s drive. Until, that is, we got through Redding. Going north, it started getting really good. Mount Shasta and Shastina, which is a nice sight to see; twin volcanoes, frosted with snow. And then, going through the Shasta National Forest was fun.
Lake Shasta (or what's left of it) as seen through the window of my car on the VFW Memorial Bridge
Also, in Oregon all of the trees were very colorful due to the season. video
Also, in Oregon all of the trees were very colorful due to the season.

I pulled into Medford around 4:20 pm. I chose to stay again at Medford mainly because of an experience I had had at a local restaurant the last time I was through. This incredible Cajun/Creole/Soul Food place called Marco’s Chili Pepper. It gets great reviews on Yelp, and one of them was mine! I was looking forward to it all day. The first time I had gotten the jambalaya and some bread pudding, and it could be the best I’ve ever had. I wanted to get something different this time to see if Marco would again blow me away.

I got online as soon as we were in the motel room to look up the address, and found, much to my horror that it was closed! A Yelp review dates two weeks ago mentioned that she met the owner, Marco, as he was sweeping up and told her that they were closing.

Well, I guess now there’s no reason for me to ever come back to Medford.
Hopes dashed. Good thing I have my cooler stocked with food.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rockin Walnut Creek and Butting Heads in Willows

The word for today is “frustrating”

It started out fine, though. I woke up early and took River for a walk around the block. It was hard to find a tree in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, but we found some, which he ignored. He was much more interested in the corners of mailboxes and certain buildings. For a long time I thought maybe he was going to be too stimulated by all the activity of the city to be able to poop, but he finally did. Right at the curb in an intersection. So I guess he wasn’t shy.

I hit a little bit of traffic on the way to the studio in Walnut Creek. It is a half hour drive, so I allowed myself an hour to get there. I didn’t have my coffee before taking off, though, because that would have eaten into my one hour and it was more important to get there on time than to be caffeinated. 

Making it through the traffic, I arrived at the studio with about twenty minutes to spare. So I started looking around for some coffee. I found a deli with an espresso sign, so I parked the car and walked over to it, but it didn’t open “intill 10:00” (I suddenly felt like I was back in New York). 

So I went back to the car and asked Siri to find me a Starbucks. She found one right around the corner. So, back into the car. While finding another parking spot and waiting in line, I was trying not to get worried about being late. I kept reminding myself, ten minutes is a long time.

So, of course, I made it back to the studio and got set up in plenty of time. Class went very well. It was the highlight of my day, easily. It was so much fun and there were lots of teachers in the room, as well as some people fairly new to Nia. We all rocked out and had a great time.

My next project was to hit the market. But it was over 80 degrees and sunny, so I couldn’t leave River in the car. I asked some of the students who were still in the studio if anyone could baby sit with River while I shopped. Luckily, about five of them were glad to help. It was a strange feeling saying “good bye” to River and watching him be walked away on leash by someone else. But I kept it together and went to the store while they all walked to a local coffee shop to sit and wait for me.

It didn’t seem to me like it was taking a long time, but I noticed it was after 12:30 when I was driving back to the coffee shop with my groceries. When I arrived at the coffee shop, they were all ready to leave, so River and I got in the car and headed for our next destination.

So this is where it starts getting really frustrating:

My Mini Navigation system is set to avoid toll roads, so she was going to take me all the back into the city in order to go around I-80. So as I was headed back toward SF, I hit MAJOR traffic. Like stand still traffic. And I couldn’t get Mini to give me any other options. Fortunately, I had my heinous iPhone and Siri and it turned out that she could give me a more direct route.

As all this was happening, I got an alert that I needed to fill up with gas. I didn’t want to mix that into the trial and tribulation of getting out of town, so I just plugged onward. Siri gave me some directions that didn’t seem to match with the landscape, so I went around in a few circles until I could finally figure out how to get on the right highway out of town. 

I was hungry. I hadn’t had breakfast before class, and now it was many hours after class and I still hadn’t eaten. This was making everything seem more urgent.

Eventually I was able to navigate my way out of Walnut Creek, using a combination of Mini, Siri and my own logic and intuition. It was well after 1:30 pm before I was going 70 MPH on the highway. And now it was time to look for gas. 

Spotting a sign with a picture of a gas pump on it, I got off the freeway in Concord. Well, apparently Concord has some kind of sign ordinance requiring all signs to be hidden by trees, so it was impossible to see where anything was. I had to resort to Siri once again. “direct me to the nearest gas station” I ordered. “Yes, Sir!” she said and proceded to direct me to a Chevron. “You have arrived” She finally said. But I couldn’t see it. There were trees, more trees and a car dealership. I drove around the block and didn’t see it.

I figured it was once a gas station and is now a car dealership, so I asked Siri for a list of local gas stations. She opened up a google search that showed Gas Buddy. She was basically telling me to open up my Gas Buddy app. (sigh) which I did, and finally found a Shell station was down the street. Even though Shell makes my car run slower, I went.  And of course, if I hadn’t known it was there, I never would have found it without proper signage.

Anyway, so I’m filling up with gas and I look over at River and I see a spot on his penis. I look more closely and see it has legs. So I grabbed it and it crawled along my finger. It was brown, and I figured it must’ve been a tick. I threw it far away. It didn’t seem like it had lodged in his skin yet, but of course it added to the stress I was feeling. I imagined he was covered with them and was getting Lyme disease as I sat there.

So, with all my groceries on ice in the cooler and a tank full of gas, I was finally able to speed out of town. Yes, speed. And I’m not a speeder usually. But I just felt the need to drive 80 MPH the hell out of that area!

The toll that Mini was trying to save me came soon and hard. It was $5! to drive over I-80. Geez. But it was worth it to not have to detour through traffic, to San Francisco and back. I happily paid it.

The ride was long and dull. There were lots of trucks hauling hay, which was spilling out all over the highway, and lots of plumes of smoke as everyone seemed to be burning piles of something on their farms. It was bright and sunny and I was squinting.

River seemed particularly clingy and was pawing me a lot. I guess it was because I had left him earlier, but it was getting annoying. I didn’t let him know I was annoyed, though. I just kept gently moving him away.

So we finally get to the Studio 6. Well, actually, at first, the Mini Nav led me to the wrong motel. And I waiting in line behind two people before I got my meeting with the desk clerk who told me Studio 6 is two buildings over, just before the Denny’s. 

Back in the car. Drive 50 yards. Wait in another line. Double check, this is Studio 6? Yes it is. OK, Checked in and went to my room only to discover there was no kitchen. So we walked back to the desk and I explained how I had reserved a room with a kitchenette. The poor girl at the front desk was so stressed and flustered already by the angry person in line ahead of me. (Even River was upset by her rantings).

When I told her I needed a kitchen she said they didn’t have any. I wasn’t going to accept that, since I reserved one on the Internet just two days ago. So she did some switching around (I think she may have cancelled someone else’s reservation to get me in) and found me a room with a kitchen. It was on the other side of the grounds, so BACK IN THE CAR (by this time it was getting harder and harder to convince River to get back in).

Finally we got to room 106 and I was pleased to finally be able to shower. I unpacked my groceries and cleaned out the cooler and was going to start cooking when I discovered all of the cupboards were bare. No pots and pans or plates or utensils. I figured it had to be a mistake so I called up at the front desk and described my problem. She said she’d call me back in half an hour.

An hour later, no call. So I called back and they told me that they only supplied pots and pans for guests staying over seven days. I told them that it was silly to rent a kitchen without pots and pans and she said, “yeah.” So I was stuck. 

I wrote a complaint on Motel 6’s facebook page and I also made a phone call to corporate guest relations, who agreed with me that it was an odd practice not to stock the kitchen with cookware. She offered to call the front desk, but explained that she didn’t have much authority as the property was an independently owned and operated franchise.  She also said she would register a formal complaint with corporate headquarters.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was the manager of the property. She repeated the policy that the desk clerk had described and I repeated how strange it was, saying, “People who stay here for one day need to cook, too.” I explained to her how I was passing through town and that I had purchased groceries in San Francisco and was intending to cook them in this kitchenette and live off it for the next few days on the road. 

She offered to bring me a set of pots and pans if I were willing to put a $250 deposit down. I was in no mood to make waves when I was this close to getting them, so I agreed to the deposit, but made sure to ask twice if the deposit would be returned if the pots and pans were not damaged.

She asked if I was here for ‘the race’ and I said no, just passing through. So then she decided to waive the deposit and eventually brought me what I needed.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I checked River all over for more ticks. I didn't see any, even in his ears. He's acting very mellow today, which could be due to getting up so early this morning, but of course, I'm worried that he's got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Which is silly because the tick wasn't even attached to him, I just knocked it off him and had to pick it up off the blanket. At first I thought it was a little spider. It looked like this...
  Which, according to the website I looked at, is a harmless Brown Dog Tick. Not even noted for carrying disease.

Now it’s nearly 7pm and I am so freaking hungry that I can hardly muster the energy to cook.

But I will. So do you see now why I say that the word for today was ‘frustrating’?  I do love to cook, so I’m hoping that once I get the burner on and start peeling and chopping, that I’ll feel much better. 

On a more positive note, this motel has a back yard!  River loves that. It’s shared by all the guests, but how nice it is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

San Francisco

Patiently waiting for his morning walk
We woke up today in Monterey, knowing we were only two hours drive from our final destination in San Francisco, so we found a local beach. The waitress who was complimenting his behavior at the bistro yesterday mentioned that she liked taking her dog to Del Monte Beach, so I found that one and took River.
It seems this beach was also a bit of a wildlife preserve. And one of the creatures being protected was a legless lizard, which is different from a snake.  I had no idea such things existed.


Time flies when we’re at the beach, and before I knew it, we had been there for two hours and it was time for some lunch.
Let's go eat!

So, after a quick consult with my Bring Fido app, I found a dog friendly bakery/cafe with outdoor seating and had lunch there. I ordered a basil burger, which was supposed to come with pesto, but it didn’t seem to have any pesto on it.  And it had a funny flavor like meat that has been in the refrigerator for a day or two too long.  But I ate it anyway, because I flaunt death on a daily basis like that.

In fact, just last night I had thought I was going to have to order out or go pick up something for dinner, but when I rummaged through my cooler, I found that I still had one meal left from my cooking stint in Las Cruces, five days earlier. I thought I had finished all of them so I wasn’t diligent about keeping the ice fresh for that last day. The avocado had turned mostly brown and there wasn’t any meat in this meal, although there were eggs. I didn’t smell anything funky, and the avocado didn’t have that rancid bacon flavor that indicates it’s not good, so I ate it. Yum. But then about half an hour later, my stomach started to hurt. Not terribly, but just like it tensed up and stayed that way for an hour or so. No other symptoms. I’m fine.

Jason - 2; Death - 0

After lunch, we headed to San Francisco.

In Santa Cruz, we hit the 9000 mile mark for the trip.

It’s amazing how familiar I am with most of the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco as I took that trip growing up more times than I can count. But there are certain pockets of highway that I seemed to miss. Down in LA, for example, I had never explored Palos Verdes nor Marina Del Rey, but I saw them both on this trip. And the section of CA Highway 1 between Monterey and Castroville was also unfamiliar territory. I’ve been to Santa Cruz scores of times, but usually opted to take US 101. Mini Navigation oftentimes takes me on routes that are shorter, but that require me to go off the main highway and take more local type highways. So I got to drive through Los Gatos, which is another place I’d often heard of but never been.

We arrived in San Francisco and checked in and then I took River for an urban walk. It was the most urban place he’s ever been, and he seemed to really enjoy it. In fact, according to River, “This place is great! There’s urine on EVERYTHING!”

Staying at Motel 6s across the country has exposed me to some of the lower rent districts in many of the cities and towns we’ve visited and this was no exception. The motel is on the corner of Geary and Larkin, which is the heart of the Tenderloin district. 

We sort of found a park.  Well, it is marked as a park on my GoogleMaps, but it seems more like the cement courtyard of a government building with some decorative grasses near the sidewalk.  But decorative grasses are one of River’s favorites, so he was in a little bit of heaven.
We’ll rest a little bit and then go out again later to find something to eat for dinner. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monterey and Carmel

Today as I was enjoying my coffee, I noticed a big dark cloud forming outside. I was saddened because I was hoping to enjoy the beach today, and didn’t want to deal with rain. 

At one point, I walked out to the car to grab River’s bag of food for the day. Only to discover some of the maintenance crew had pieces from another room laid out on newspapers in the parking lot in the space next to my car. “Are those in your way?” One of them asked. I told him that it wasn’t, grabbed the bag of food and went back inside. It was a nice day, so I left the door open. Soon afterward, I heard a spraying sound and noticed that they were spray painting the items. So I went and moved my car to a spot well out of the range of the over-spray.

As I moved the car I noticed that it was covered with ash. It was then that I realized that the cloud I saw wasn’t actually a rain cloud, but a huge cloud of smoke. videoI later learned it was a controlled burn at Fort Ord to clear space for a veterans cemetery. The whole town smelled like a camp fire all morning and the sun shining through the cloud was a really cool bright crimson color.

After coffee, we headed to Carmel. Carmel is about ten minutes from Monterey, and there were plenty of dog-friendly beaches there. The first one I passed looked really interesting, so we stopped and got out to play at Carmel River. video Which wasn’t really a river at all, but more like a bay. And quite a deadly dangerous one at that.

We played for a good two hours at that very entertaining beach. videoI learned that the reason River was licking his leg last night was not due to a musculoskeletal injury, as I had suspected, but because of an abrasion. I would be willing to bet it was a combination of the sand and the nylon leash rubbing against his leg. It can be brutal, as my right hand will attest.

After the beach, I was hungry, so checking my Bring Fido app alerted me to a Bistro in Monterey with outdoor seating. River chilled on the ground as I had an incredibly delicious burger with mushrooms, roasted red bell pepper and jack cheese and a side of carrot ginger soup. We got plenty of compliments by fellow diners and even by the waitress on how well behaved River was.  I was proud. Or, as a friend of mine put it, River was proud of me.

While we were playing at Carmel River, I dropped my phone on the rocks. It was submerged in the sea water for a few seconds and the glass cracked on the rock. So I asked Siri and found out that there was an Apple store less than three miles from me.

We spent well over an hour there at the Apple store, only to eventually be told that I could replace the phone. The price they quoted me was more than I originally paid for the phone, so I decided not only not to repair the phone, but to not buy another iPhone. I started asking my friends for their recommendations on good phones I could use instead.  So far it looks like I’m mostly interested in the Galaxy S 4 Active. It’s rugged and waterproof and seems to have all of the same functionality of the iPhone. Or at least the parts that I care about.

So we made our way back to the room and I slathered both River and I with coconut oil. My skin was feeling dry and River was itching and licking his legs. I don’t know about him, but I felt wonderful afterwards. Coconut oil is so refreshing.

I had one last meal left in my cooler, so I ate that, but I don’t think it was big enough. I feel like I could eat another meal. Maybe I used up a lot of energy playing at the beach and being frustrated by technology.

I haven’t taught a Nia class in over a week, now. I’m missing it. I’m also missing home, which I haven’t seen in over a month.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Up Southern California

I didn’t want to leave the beach this morning, but it was time to leave L.A.

I had some friends that I was entertaining dropping in on; one in Santa Maria and one in Bakersfield. But the thought of going back to the desert after being in it for so long lost out to the feelings I have for the ocean. So, Santa Maria it is!  I headed for the highway closest to the water and drove north.

It took us through Marina Del Rey and Venice. videoThe former is shown here in the video, and the latter is one of my favorite, quirky L.A. beach cities, and mostlyI was too busy looking at everything to get the camera out.
I stopped in between Ventura and Santa Barbara at Emma Wood state beach. We ran around for a while, then we ate lunch and then played in the water. 
As we played, I heard from my friend in Santa Maria that we couldn’t use her condo for the night after all. So I decided it would be worth taking the long haul all the way up to Monterey, which is where we were going to be the next night, so that we could enjoy a two night stay up there.

We stopped briefly just past Santa Barbara for a pee break in the Los Padres National Forest.

We pulled into the Motel 6 in Monterey just after sunset. Luckily, they had some vacancies so we could stop driving and settle in. Tomorrow is a non-driving day, YAY!

The mileage on this trip is just below 9000 now, at 8926. I wasn't sure if this was going to happen, but now it looks pretty likely that we'll go over 10,000 on this one trip. 

No What?
In Oxnard, CA