Sacramento Reflections

September 19, 2007

I am, in fact, back from my trip to Sacramento.  Not that you could tell from my blogging output, or lack thereof.

I usually manage to get a post or three done while I am on the road.  Something about being alone in a hotel room with my laptop, a high speed connection, and no distractions.  But, for a variety of reasons, I was nearly post-less last week, and haven’t done any better since I’ve been home.  I’ve missed it, and will do better.  

A few Sacramento reflections:

The highlight of my week was a side trip to Oakland that I took on Thursday night.  Oakland, you say?  Of all of the places that I could have visited in California, why Oakland?  The answer is that is where my brother Brian lives. 

While I would not have forgiven myself if I had spent a week within 100 miles of Brian and had not made an effort to see him, I honestly did not feel like making the trip. Thursday had been a long day near the end of a long week, and what I really wanted to do was go for a run, get some dinner, and crash. Instead, I gassed up the rental car, chugged some caffeine, and headed southwest to Oakland.

After surviving an 80-mile journey that featured my introduction to Bay area rush hour traffic (including the idiotic California custom known as motorcycle lane splitting and a uniquely California traffic report that warned motorists of a guy who had stopped his car on the freeway, taken off his shirt, and was running wildly through traffic), I finally made it to Brian’s place.  He and his girlfriend are living in an industrial part of town (I assume that there are non-industrial parts of Oakland, although I didn’t see any) in a warehouse building that is being converted into funky apartments.  Lots of space for him to rehearse, which he enjoys.  

We had a good visit.  We went down to Berkley (and now I have a better idea why they call it “Beserkley”) and had sushi for supper.  After I managed to put all thoughts of hook-baiting out of my mind, it was actually quite good.  I brought Brian up to speed on the latest goings-on of his East Coast Fan Club (his nieces and nephew), and was able to get a better sense of what he’s up to than I’ve had for a while.  We have chosen different paths in life, but I’ve come to realize that it’s OK.  Brian is happy, does no harm, and spreads goodwill wherever he can.  That’s more than most can say. 

As I said, my visit with Brian was the highlight of my week.  I had a couple of 6-mile runs along the American River Parkway that were good workouts, but not the scenic jaunts that I had hoped for. Things were looking good as I veered off of the asphalt walkway onto one of the many inviting singletrack trails leading off into the woods, but after running into one homeless person’s campsite after another, I concluded that the trails weren’t exactly runner-friendly. I have a soft spot in my heart for homeless people as a result of my involvement with the PACEM ministry, but I wasn’t comfortable getting up close and personal with these guys in the woods. It’s one thing hosting homeless men as guests in your church, and quite another to run through their living room without an invitation – even if their living room is a hidden clearing in a public park. So, it was back to the asphalt paths for me.

What else? Oh yes, work – the reason I was there in the first place. Apart from one missed meeting where my customer had sent me an Outlook appointment that saved as 3 hours later on my calendar due to the time zone differential (so she was expecting me at 11:00 a.m. while my calendar told me it was a 2:00 p.m. meeting), my appointments went well, on the whole. People are people, even if they don’t share your accent.

So there it is. A rather disjointed post, but at least I’m back in the saddle. More to follow.  


On the Road (Yet) Again

September 11, 2007

I’m in Sacramento for a week-long business trip.  I had originally scheduled the trip for a couple of weeks ago, but we had a variety of unrelated household emergencies erupt on the eve of my departure (I’ll spare you the details but the net result was no water + no air conditioning + standing water in the basement), so I rescheduled.

A couple of weeks and several thousand dollars later, we have water, we have A/C, and the basement is (temporarily, at least) dry.  I can now travel in good conscience.

Sort of.

My job has always had a rather significant travel component, but it has been, on the whole, manageable.  (This is the cue for my wife to say “easy for you to say”).  However, travel is becoming an increasingly defining aspect of my work, and it’s wearing thin. 

For most of my colleagues, travel doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.  Over the past few years we have hired a number of hard-charging young 20-somethings with no kids, no spouse, and lots of ambition.  Business travel is still an adventure for them, and is simply a fact of life as they work their way up the ladder. 

The situation is a bit different for those of us who have been around longer.  Most of my peers do leave a spouse at home while they rack up the frequent flier miles, just as I do.  While absence may make the heart grow fonder, I doubt that many relish the separation.  However, no one has ever had to worry about their spouse growing up while they are on the road. 

Not so with kids….


Planning for Sacramento

August 19, 2007

I’m traveling again the week after next. This time it will be 5 days in Sacramento, California.

Sigh.

I’m not looking forward to being away, but at least I’ve found a running route that looks promising – the American River Parkway. If you have any other Sacramento running routes (or anything else about the city) to recommend, please leave a comment.


Beach

July 22, 2007

Winding down our week at the beach….

Growing up, our family would vacation at North Carolina’s Outer Banks – Nags Head, Duck, Avon.  My earliest beach memories are of staying at one of the many modest oceanfront motels along Route 12.  Typically family owned, weather-worn and showing their age, these accommodations were nondescript at best – but they rated 5 stars to my little brother and me.  Come on, we were at the beach.  What’s more, we were on the beach!  What could be better than that?

I found out a few years later, when our vacation lodging changed to a pop-up Starcraft camper.  This made a good thing even better.  Not only were we at the beach, we were camping at the beach!  Sometimes, if our campsite was close enough to the ocean, we could even hear the crashing of the waves through the screen windows of the camper.  I remember walking past the fancy motor homes and hearing the hum of their air conditioners, and wondering why people would want to seal themselves off from the smell of the salt air.

These were wonderful times.  My brother and I would stay in the water as much as possible, riding the waves on our canvas rafts until our nipples were worn raw.  I suppose there was probably a television in the motel rooms, but I don’t remember watching it.  We had no tv or air conditioning in the camper, so it wasn’t much of a refuge, apart from shading us from the sun, and we weren’t interested in being shaded.  This was the 1970’s, after all, and stores sold a lot more baby oil than sun block.  We would compete to see who looked the most Indian-like at the end of the week.    

Fishing was another favorite activity, especially as I started to get a bit older.  I worked hard to emulate the studied yet casual pose of my Dad and my Granddaddy C., holding my surf rod with one hand, with the butt of the rod resting on my hip, tracing with squinting eyes the clear monofilament line as it left the tip of my rod and disappeared into the ocean past the breakers.  I learned to tell the difference between the sharp tug of a fish on the line and the gentle pull of the current against my rig.  I learned how to clean what I caught, and reveled in the morbid fascination of little kids as they would watch me go through the process of turning fish into fillet.  The year that my Dad took me deep-sea fishing and someone on the dock mistook me for a deck hand had me flying high for days.      

My brother and I would collect other prizes from the sea as well – shells, skate egg cases, jagged tails from horseshoe crabs.  One year I made a special find that stayed in my room for several years – an old liquor bottle that still had its screw-on cap.  I filled it with worn sea-glass, colorful shells and ocean water and pretended that the colorful kaleidoscope was pirate booty.

I was enamored with ocean lore in general and the legends of the Outer Banks in particular.  Tales of Blackbeard the Pirate, the mystery of the Lost Colony, and stories of the many shipwrecks that gave the Outer Banks its nickname of “Graveyard of the Atlantic” were fodder for my active imagination. I was convinced that one day I was destined to discover a shipwreck – either that or a trunk full of buried treasure.

As a teenager my beach interests began to change.  I started to spend more time eying the bikini laying three towels down from me on the beach than I did scanning the horizon for pirate ships.  I stopped wearing my old fishing hat when I learned that putting lemon juice in my hair would turn it blond and hopefully attract the interest of the aforesaid bikini.  However, my love for the beach remained constant, and I remained just as excited about opening the car window to get that first lungful of ocean air as we crossed the bridge over from the mainland as I had been as a little boy.  I was just careful not to show it.

My college beach trips were a bit different.  My fraternity (and seemingly most of the others in the southeast) would head down to Myrtle Beach for a post-exam week of … well, you know.  The highlight of the week was our Momba Suiti party, featuring plastic trash cans full of the namesake beverage.  I don’t remember what was in it other than grain alcohol and fruit punch, but I do remember the strict rule that it had to be stirred with a 9-iron.  These beach trips were fun, certainly, but featured little in the way of actual beach activities.    

The years since having left me older and hopefully somewhat wiser, things have come full circle.  We now pack up our minivan and take our own kids to vacation at the beach.  It is wonderful to relive childhood beach experiences through them.  Seeing their eyes wide with excitement after they have ridden a wave into shore, hearing them giggle as they dig up sand fiddlers and let them scuttle around in their cupped hands, watching them jump up and down as they realize that the tug on the end of their line really is a fish, and maybe a big one – these are all moments that I remember from my own childhood, and I hope that they will become fond memories for them as well.

My parents retired the Starcraft camper many years ago, and have taken to renting a beach house at at Emerald Isle.  This has allowed our kids to have the special blessing of being able to share their formative beach experiences with their Grandmama and Granddaddy, as we join them for a week every summer.   

This year, we have had an embarrassment of beach riches as we have also been able to join two other families for a week in Duck.  Three families with a total of 11 kids sharing one house could have made for a very long week, but it’s been great.  The kids have all enjoyed having non-sibling playmates, and the adults have all been easy-going and family-focused.  We are fortunate to have friends such as these.   

It may be true that a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office, but I wouldn’t know – I’ve never had a bad day at the beach.   


Only in Alaska….

June 29, 2007

Coming soon to a streetcorner near you?
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Alaska Wrap-Up

June 29, 2007

I’m homeward bound, sitting in the Juneau airport waiting for the redeye to take me back east.  I spent the last two days in Anchorage, which was underwhelming.  That’s no slight against the city; apart from my business meetings and meals, I was a slave to my laptop and didn’t get out of the hotel. (Contrary to popular opinion, or at least the opinion of my family and friends, I really did have work to do in Alaska).

Maybe my aspirations of getting up to see Denali were a bit unrealistic, but I did hope to see some of the backcountry. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with a population of over a quarter million, but I wasn’t really interested in sampling the culture or nightlife of the big (relatively speaking) city. The Alaska that I was interested in seeing was the Jack London Alaska.

Next trip.  For now I’ll have to savor the memory of my Mt. Roberts Trail adventure. I can also look back on the photos of the amazing mountains and glaciers that I took on the flight from Juneau to Anchorage, and imagine what it would be like to be down there….
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Mt. Roberts Trail – Juneau AK

June 28, 2007

I almost bit off more than I could chew.

I had arrived at the Mt. Roberts trailhead full of anticipation, but without much of a clue about what I was getting myself into. 
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Had I known, I probably would have started up the trail at a hiking pace, rather than at a run. Nevertheless, I set off, eager for adventure and exercise, and basking in the joy of having shed my business suit and donned my running gear.

At first, the trail wasn’t too different from what we have to offer in central Virginia.
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Before long, the trail got steep, and and my run soon turned into a hike. Every now and then I’d get a break in the trees and gain some perspective on the elevation change.
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The cruise ships didn’t look so big anymore.
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While I wanted to keep moving, I couldn’t help stopping from time to time to soak in the scenery.
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A few miles miles in, I came to this sign:
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I didn’t have water, and that concerned me a bit.  I resolved to knock my pace back, and kept going.

How could I not?  The views were breathtaking, and each one was better than the next.  I had to make it to the top.
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I pushed on, but I was getting dehydrated and was starting to fade. I came upon two hikers who were sprawled out in a grassy area, soaking up the rare Juneau sun. I noted their backpacks, gaiters, trekking poles, and other gear, and felt woefully unprepared. Some Eagle Scout I am. One of them, apparently reading my mind, said “Hey, you’re traveling light. That’s the way to go. Until you need water. Or food.” I mustered up a laugh and told them that I was going farther than I had originally intended, but that I was fine and wouldn’t do anything dumb. Their silence told me that they thought I already had.

I rounded the next bend and, making sure I was out of sight of the hikers, scooped up a handful of snow to eat. I kept heading up.
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Before too long, the trail forked and I was at a literal and figurative crossroads. To the right was my intended destination – Gastineau Peak.
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Or, I could go left, to Gold Ridge.
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I turned left. The line between seeking a challenge and being foolhardy is sometimes a blurry one, but I felt pretty sure that tackling that snowy ridge in running shoes wasn’t a risk that I ought to be taking.

I headed up to Gold Ridge. Here’s the view from the top:

Definitely a good afternoon.