Tag Archives: travel

Thursday Doors: El Camino Real, Mountain View

El Camino Real is 600 miles long, linking cities up and down California. Sometimes known as the “Royal Road” or the “King’s Highway,” it has a storied history: between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of missions from today’s Baja California and Baja California Sur into what is now the state of California. Today’s El Camino links those 21 missions.

hb3x0nb5d7-fid5

In present-day Mountain View, however, El Camino a busy road with a lot of cars. I’ve done some Thursday doors posts about Mountain View before, highlighting it’s history as the geeky ground zero of Silicon Valley: Self-driving car, NASA Ames, HP Garage, Steve Jobs’ house, Stanford Medical Center. This post shows another side of the city.

Last weekend when I was at a friend’s house to play some string quartets, I drove my car into a curb. The tire didn’t go flat, but the rubber was damaged and it looked like there was a bite taken out of it. I could see some nylon. Another friend recommended a tire place on El Camino, and I took my car there this morning to find out that yes, the tire needed to be replaced. It would take about an hour and a half, during which I wanted to meet a group of geocachers for lunch at Panera Bread, a little over a mile away. I left my car there and walked.

“Caminar” is the Spanish verb for “to walk,” and as I walked down this camino I had a very different view of what I passed than I did when I drive every day.

First I passed this motel. Not sure I would want to stay there, but I probably would if the price was right.

01BudgetHotel
Budget Motel

This looked like someone’s house. The door was set back from the street and protected by bars and a gate.

02PrivateHome
Private Home

One of several medical offices and dialysis centers.

03MedicalOffice
Medical Office

An old-fashioned hardware store where you can find a lot of good stuff.

04TrueValue
True Value Hardware

Supposedly a personal trainer works here, but the building and parking lot are empty.

05PersonalTrainer
Abandoned Personal Trainer office

Never been in here, or seen this before:

06Vape
Vaping
07Vape
More Vaping

A restaurant that delivers

08Restaurant
Restaurant

Buy a new vacuum cleaner or get your old one fixed!

09VacuumCleaner
Vacuum cleaner purchase and repair

Sit on that weird bench while waiting for your car to be done?

10ForeignAuto
Foreign Car Service

Upscale apartment complex

11Apartment
Guest Parking Only

Even more upscale. We lived in a place similar to this one the first month we were in CA while we waited for our furniture. The balconies are either mind-numbingly or comfortingly similar.

12Balconies
Balcony Doors

The pool is visible from the street but no one is swimming today. Probably it’s too cold.

13Pool
Pool: Keep Closed

Painting a teddy bear blue makes me think of getting my hair cut, how about you?

14KidsHaircuts
Kids Hair Cuts!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by adding your post to the link over at Norm 2.0’s blog!

Thursday Doors: August 11, 2016

While participating in the Mundane Monday photo challenge by Trablogger, I happened on another photo challenge called Thursday Doors, by Norm 2.0.

Continue reading Thursday Doors: August 11, 2016

Book Review: Shining Ones, Legacy of the Sidhe

Author’s note: I read several books while traveling, on the plane, in the car, and otherwise between visits. I am also participating in an indie author promotion group for Science Fiction and Fantasy called Your Next Favorite Author (Twitter #YNFA), and some of the books I read come from that group. I will post reviews here once a week.

Shining Ones: Legacy of the SidheShining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe by Sanna Hines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shining Ones is a fun ride with lots of action and Irish lore. It is a daring, but not always successful, attempt at a modern quest fantasy using Irish mythology as a backdrop. Fans of the Percy Jackson series would enjoy this book, although it describes several adult situations that are not aimed at YA readers.

Continue reading Book Review: Shining Ones, Legacy of the Sidhe

Not ready to rename the blog yet, but . . .

There’s more than a week left in the year, but the “year in review” posts have started on Facebook. I mentally start my own year in review process in early December when I write our family’s holiday letter. I managed to get them out on time this year with only minor glitches: my printer had a hissy fit and printed more than I needed, so if you’d like one, email me your address :-). Continue reading Not ready to rename the blog yet, but . . .

Last POPS in Boston for Me

I didn’t plan to write this blog this way. When the rehearsal cycle started, I was combination-looking-forward-to-dreading POPS! the way I have come to do every year.

Looking forward because I really enjoy playing POPS music. Over the years my orchestra, the Arlington Philharmonic, has performed patriotic songs, medleys from “Titanic,” Wicked,” “West Side Story,” and “Chicago,” music of Disney movies, Leroy Anderson, Henry Mancini, and John Philip Sousa (some videos are online here). This music always has its unexpected challenges, and sometimes it has a solo for me. (I particularly remember the year I had a solo I affectionately called “Intonation is a Wish the Heart Makes.”) StrawberryFestivalWhen the weather cooperates (about 2/3 of the time) it really is a nice event. The strawberry and ice cream festival out in the garden near the Town Hall is fun for the whole family.

The concert concludes with a cascade of red, white, and blue balloons coming down from the balcony onto the Town Hall floor as the orchestra plays the Stars and Stripes forever.balloons

Dread comes from anticipating the amount of work that it takes for an all-volunteer organization like the Philharmonic society of Arlington to put on a POPS concert and strawberry festival event. Tables, flowers, strawberries, hall rental, baked goods. Online publicity. A clown. This concert is a good–but not great–fundraiser for the rest of the season. I think that over the years the fundraising aspect has ceased to be the main point. The main point is tradition, and celebration.

Between our last concert and this one, however, circumstances changed to make this my last POPS—my last concert of any sort–with this group. This summer, my family is moving to California.

We weren’t sure about anything until close to the day of the concert. My husband was in Mountain View CA, talking to the people who would be on his new team at Google Headquarters. He had also been looking at houses and we had been quietly reeling from the sticker shock in what may be the one housing market in the USA that makes the Boston area look reasonable.

Back in 2008 I showed up to the first rehearsal, rushing and late because I couldn’t find parking, with my violin/viola double case. The first person I met, a violinist named Noel, asked me if the large black case was a coffin. I showed up to this POPS concert at the last minute too, after first talking to my husband over the phone and then signing, snapping pictures of, and emailing documents for a loan approval to make an offer on a house. The parking gods smiled on me this time and I was able to get a spot after someone else pulled away. As I walked in to the Town Hall, carrying the flowers for our soloist that I’d been asked to procure, I was again met by Noel. “You’re here!” he said. “You missed the picture.” He’d been taking one for the Facebook page with our new conductor.

Drop off the kids, give them money for tickets, drop off the baked goods, plan how to deliver the flowers. Set up my folding stand. Note that even though we didn’t plan it, my stand partner and I (as well as two other first violinists, both named Rebecca) are wearing matching green tops. And then it’s time to tune. One Karen (me) signals to another Karen (the oboist) for the A.

Pops20152
Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra, Joan Landry, music director. Arlington Town Hall. (Picture taken by my daughter, since I missed Noel’s)

During the first third of the concert, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance #5, West Side Story, and Zigeunerweisen with the YAC winner, Caitlin Kelley, I was grateful for auto-pilot and muscle memory. The violin I orchestral part to Zigeunerweisen is a 19th-century Lumosity brain-training game: switching between pizzicato, arco, on-beats, and off-beats in a seemingly random pattern; keeping track of which sections are repeated and which are not and and which repeat you are on; staying with the soloist as she performs incredible feats of virtuosity and acrobatics inches from your music stand.

Near the end of the concert, we celebrated Snowpocalypse-Boston with a “Frozen” medley. I had a solo, “For the First Time in Forever.” I had sticky fingers to go with it. That too went by fast, and unlike my previous Disney solo, my bow didn’t shake. Early on I had changed a few of the printed bowings to something that made me feel more comfortable. I experimented with shifts vs. string crossings and decided that a little portamento was a benefit, not a liability, to keeping it all on the E-string. The solo comes on the heels of a particularly hair-raising part in “Let it Go,” so I didn’t have time to get too nervous. It was more of a relief than anything else. And the hot weather meant my vibrato didn’t freeze up.

I didn’t really have time to think, and I was grateful for that. If I stopped to think too much, I might cry.

A couple of days ago I announced the move on Facebook and here in my personal blog. There I framed it as a new, exciting adventure, which it is, of course. Although I won’t have time for any music groups this summer, I’ve already made inquiries into auditions for other orchestras next fall. And if anyone in the SF Bay area or Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, San Jose) has suggestions (or would be interested in getting together for duets/chamber music), please let me know!

But I also need time and space to say goodbye and to grieve for what I’m going to lose. As my daughter’s school principal says, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. I’ll get there. Eventually.

Gandalf’s Knock

Starfleet Academy, late 2300s, Sausalito
Starfleet Academy, late 2300s, Sausalito (wikipedia)

When I was 8, i didn’t find a wardrobe to Narnia.

When I was 11, my Hogwarts letter didn’t come.

When I was 12, my satyr didn’t show up to take me to Camp Half-Blood.

Gandalf, Im counting on you to take me on an adventure when Im 50!

Like many of us in “comfortable middle age,” Bilbo Baggins is described in the opening of The Hobbit as living happily in his cute little house in the Shire. He likes it there. He doesn’t want to go anywhere else. That could have fairly described my life here in Belmont, too. We’ve lived here in the Boston area since 1998, for almost 17 years. Both our kids were born here. We have jobs, go to school, have friends and hobbies. Our house in a quiet neighborhood, built in 1929, is a little cluttered quaintly overstuffed. Cup of tea, anyone?

Then, several years ago, Google bought my husband’s employer. That took some of the financial pressure off, and in 2012 I retired from my job as a project manager in a neuroscience lab and began working part-time in science education. Now, in a reorganization, my husband’s job is moving to Google HQ in Mountain View CA. And we’re going with it. I have complicated feelings about this move, but one of the perks of being middle-aged is perspective; I can choose how to respond. This can be a loss for me, an occasion for regret, or it can be Gandalf’s knock on the door. IMG_2664Practically, I think this move has the potential to be a great opportunity for my science education career. One of the organizations that I teach with, Science from Scientists, opened an office in the SF Bay area last year. I’m now looking into a transfer of my own.

California, here we come!
California, here we come!

But I’m also thinking bigger, or at least more broadly. Before I came to Boston for my first real job after training, I lived in California for 10 years, first in the Bay Area when I was getting my PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford, and then in Pasadena when I was doing a postdoc at Caltech. It was a tumultuous time in many ways: a melting pot of decisions and relationships, many of them good, some of them not. I got engaged in California–more than once. I also owned my first car: a beige VW beetle. I skied, I swam, I climbed half-dome. I discovered the internet, and re-discovered the violin. I became a Unitarian-Universalist. When I left CA, back in 1997, I wondered if I would ever be back. Now I know.

Gold im Mund

The past two weeks have been a . . . what? I’m tempted to lapse into cliches–“roller coaster,” “whirlwind,” or maybe “sh**storm” (as one friend from church described it).

My 12-year-old son had acute appendicitis, from which he now seems to be recovering nicely, thank goodness. And, while he was in the hospital, my German father-in-law passed away. While this was not unexpected, as he was almost 86 years old and his health had been declining, the timing was difficult. Thanks to my parents’ generosity in watching our kids, including our convalescent son, for a week, I was able to go to Germany with my husband, attend the memorial service, and help clean out old possessions. We’re back now. The 6-hour time difference between Germany and Boston has not yet fully worn off, leading me to wake up before the sun.

KlosterMy husband grew up in a small midwestern town called Mülheim an der Ruhr, in the “Ruhrgebiet” near Düsseldorf. “Midwestern” actually connotes some qualities in Germany that are similar to those it brings to mind in the US: modest, hardworking, family-oriented, industrial, not given to religious or political extremism, and possessing of an accent that is easy to understand. I learned Hochdeutsch (“high German,” a standardized dialect used in education and commerce) at university, and it stands me in good stead in the Ruhrgebiet, unlike, say, in Bavaria.

We decided early on in our life together, after a rather harrowing overnight flight on our honeymoon (which we still refer to as being MÜDE IN MÜLHEIM), that our later trips back to visit his family and friends would go through London, would include an overnight stay there in an airport or other hotel after a day flight, and would continue on to Germany late the next morning. “But you waste a whole day that way!” some folks have protested. Perhaps, but our experience is that the day is wasted anyway after an overnight flight, and includes a wholly unpleasant (and in my case unsuccessful) struggle to stay awake that precludes doing virtually anything else.

After arriving in Mülheim with our rental car, we went to his stepmother’s house to see what was left. She had already taken care of many things, including the Memorial Service arrangements for the following day. But there were boxes–many boxes–up in the attic, in the basement, and in a room that my father-in-law had used as a study after retiring from his job as an English and French teacher in the Gymnasium my husband attended. In truth, the thought of all this “stuff” made me a little anxious: my father-in-law’s difficult life circumstances had taken their psychological toll and had made him want to hold on tight to things. Taken prisoner in Pomerania by the Russian army when he was only 15 and sent to a Siberian labor camp, he had lost everything in World War II. After the war, he had come to Mülheim with “nothing but a blanket and two left shoes,” and found happiness with his teaching career and his wife and son, until his wife–my husband’s mother–passed away in 1989, before we ever met. He had since remarried, to a lovely and loyal woman, my stepmother-in-law, and it was she we came to see now. She herself wasn’t sure what was in all those boxes.

Anniversary ClockAs we talked, she pointed out a clock on the windowsill. We have a similar one at home, it is called an “Anniversary Clock.” This clock was a gift from him early in their marriage. It had stopped some time ago and nothing she could do–new batteries included–would start it up again. But the morning he passed, it had somehow mysteriously started again, and was still going. This clock now reminded us how late it was–already after 6 pm–time passed very quickly there up until the end of our visit, largely but not only because of the time difference.

We started going through some old folders and albums. Some of the folders were easy to dispatch: receipts from the 1970s and 1980s for furniture, appliances, and books; bank and insurance statements. These were no longer necessary to keep–the appliances themselves, and even the furniture, were long gone–but there were a lot of these papers, and they were pretty dusty and musty. We were looking for “treasures:” personal correspondence, photos, bank account and insurance verification that would make our task of closing out accounts easier. There weren’t many of these treasures to be had at the moment, so we took a break and went for a walk to look for some geocaches there in Mülheim around my stepmother-in-law’s house.

IMG_2523This search led us to an old school building down the street, which had some interesting carvings: “Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund,” reads one. I had to ask my husband what that meant. According to him, it’s a popular folk saying in support of being an early riser, kind of like “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” is in the US. “The morning hour has gold in its mouth.” I’m reminded of the sunrise itself, the early morning when the golden sun makes its appearance. I can’t speak to the relevance of the turtle or the butterfly, but they’re sweet.

The second geocache we went looking for was on the ground of Kloster Saarn, a Cloister museum in Mülheim. The weather was cool and cloudy, and the grounds were a nice place for a walk. Nonetheless, these grounds were completely deserted on a Monday evening. This helped us avoid detection around the area of the cache, which was magnetic and located on a downspout on one of the buildings. The trees were managed creatively and cut into the shape of crosses:

trees

There was also what looked on first glance like a large, green field. But on closer examination, this field was revealed to be a pond, complete with ducks swimming in it.

IMG_2529

My husband mentioned that, despite having grown up in Mülheim, he had never been here before. His stepmother lives in a different part of town from where he grew up. We planned to visit his childhood home in the coming days too. It was sold a couple of years ago and a new young family is now living in it.

The greenery, the museum, the ducks, the clock, the river, the advice from some 20th century architect-sage. These all helped us feel part of the circle of life as we prepared mentally for the Memorial Service tomorrow.

Geocaching GPS: My First Publication That Isn’t a Scientific Paper

HalliesCacheNaNoSince November 2012, when I wrote the first draft of my novel, Hallie’s Cache, for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been interested in writing about geocaching. My husband, who has over 10,000 geocache finds, is also better at logging his finds on the official site, whereas I, with <10% of his total finds, always seem to have a significant backlog.

I’d like to think that’s because I want to write more about each cache find, as I find it. I want each cache to have a story. But I can’t write a story–good or otherwise–about finding 20 or 30 caches in a single day. I just get overwhelmed. After a day like that, I can’t even remember what I was looking for that morning, let alone last week. So, like a lot of people, sometimes I make a template of 1-2 sentences about my caching goals, or a little summary of where we went and what we did, and then I just copy and paste it into the logs for all the caches I found that day. It makes logging easier.

Easier, yes, but more fun, no.

So, to see what others do, I’ve started reading fiction based on geocaching. It’s still a small genre, small enough that First to Find has not yet been totally overused as a book title. Morgan C. Talbot’s “Caching Out” series is a fun set of cozy mysteries based on geocaching. I read the first volume in the series with my husband in the evenings. I found the descriptions of geocaching to be very accurate. Her caching names are great–just as, if not more, inventive than those belonging to people I’ve met caching.  The characters in this series are also well-drawn and memorable: two women in a not wholly unlikely friendship, different enough from each other to be interesting, not so different that the reader can’t identify with them. And, in the course of the novel, she explains how geocaching works very well, without talking down to or boring more experienced cachers.

We also found another mystery paperback in a geocache recently: To Cache a Predator by Michelle Weidenbenner. I admit that I have not read this one yet, and my husband took it on a plane trip to California, where he’s planning to leave it in another cache after he’s finished reading it. It’s interesting to me, though, that the author wrote this one during 2011’s NaNoWriMo. I’m not the only one who does this when faced with a blank screen to fill with 50,000 words.

The Geocaching Writing Contest from New Frontier Books
The Geocaching Writing Contest from New Frontier Books

It was actually on Morgan C Talbot’s Facebook page–which I liked a couple of years ago–that I found out about the geocaching story contest.  The contest asked for a personal story related to geocaching, about romance, adventure, or connection. It had to be 1000 words or less, and it had to be true.

There were all of 2 days left before the deadline, and I was scheduled to go to a training for teaching OWL the day the stories were due. I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it. But I thought it was worth a try, and I started writing that day, worked on it for a couple hours, thinking of what to write about. It wasn’t that hard to think of an idea. We’d been caching in Hawai’i last summer, and found a diving geocache called “Bob.” I found it with my husband, and we’d been bickering a bit before we found it. But the afternoon had, in fact, had a little something of everything that the editor asked for: romance (two lovers in an exotic locale), connection (husband and wife bickering but reconnecting in the process of finding the cache), and adventure (it’s diving and it’s in Hawai’i).

KarenBob
Standing on the beach, ready to go for Bob.

But I was only about 2/3 done when I went to the training, and I had also arrived there late due to some teenage drama–all resolved, but still. After the evening session of training was over, we trainees went back to our rooms and settled in for the night. I ended up having a surprisingly passionate and somewhat prickly conversation with my assigned roommate, about music. I needed a break and I think she did too. So, I took out my laptop, and between 10:30 pm and midnight, finished the last third of the geocaching story. It seemed to end a bit abruptly, but I also know that I can be wordy at times without meaning to, and that I’m not always the best judge of when to stop writing. Regardless, it was exactly 1,000 words, and only a few minutes before midnight on deadline day.  I hit send and went to sleep.

It was more than another week before I found out that my story had been accepted. During that time I convinced myself that it was okay if it didn’t happen. I would still read the book even if my story wasn’t in it. Maybe there had been too much bickering at the beginning. Maybe it *had* ended too abruptly. Maybe my husband didn’t want to be in the story at all (even if he said he did). Maybe the title was dumb. Maybe she didn’t believe there really was a geocache in Hawai’i named Bob. But then I got the acceptance email. The book looks great! It will be launched at Geowoodstock, on May 23, 2015. I, the slow logger of caches, am now a published author! I can’t wait to read all the other stories too!

Diving for Bob
Diving for Bob

My first Thousand Finds

Recently my husband and I went on a geocaching trip to Washington, D.C. While I was there, I found my one-thousandth geocache. This got lost in the shuffle a bit, because the main event was my husband finding his ten-thousandth cache, and completing the Cache Across America series. That was the whole purpose of the trip, the reason we went. My husband ranks among the top ten geocachers in the state of Massachusetts.

The occasion made me think back to when we both started geocaching, back in late 2008. Back then it was just kind of a fun thing to do with the family, a way to get outside and see some local flora and fauna, and to hike with a purpose. We shared an account. And we helped our daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, Troop 71915, find and hide a cache of their own.

At the time he and I were more equal in our interest. I even sometimes found caches that he didn’t. I particularly remember one at an airport in Germany, where the rest of the family, following their geosense, were going to give up. But I followed the GPS, and, most importantly, looked at where we’d all been, unsuccessfully. And went a different way. I found it myself on the road less travelled.

In the intervening years, though, he’s gotten more serious about the hobby, and I’ve gotten less so. He started keeping statistics and lists, and completing challenges and goals. He didn’t let wasp stings, aliens, or his GPS ending up at the bottom of a river, deter him from these goals. But I did. For me, what had started out as fun became an unpleasant chore and a source of stress and even strife. I would occasionally tag along, grumbling, but then neglect to log my finds, deeming that a waste of time.

What I decided, on this trip, on the occasion of my thousandth geocaching find, was to try to change all that. I’d already given up anxiety for Lent, and decided I was going to shed this stress as well. Instead, I would embrace geocaching my way, without heavy-duty lists, challenges, goals, or stress. But what would be different this time? What would make the next thousand geocache finds better than the first?

I got the idea to blog from the last time I picked up a long-term project again after burning out. I re-started playing the violin several years ago as an adult, after not having played for a long time. It was hard to come back to it as an adult student, especially in an instrument learning culture that values an early start and has an obsession with prodigies. No cute little “Twinkler” on a fractional-sized instrument, I. But somehow, in writing about it, I was able to keep going, and enjoy the journey. Everywhere I looked, I found something new that helped me become a better violinist.

So that is my overarching goal for this blog: Geocaching as a metaphor for life. There are many ways to find what you seek. Just keep looking.

CAAMDKLA