Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winding Up the Search for Sun

We’re home. At 11:00am it’s about 35 degrees out. Today’s high is projected to be 43 degrees; at least it’s not raining. I could not help myself; I have the weather for San Luis Obispo bookmarked, so I clicked over. It’s 68 degrees in SLO, supposed to get up to 78 later. Ah well, I can imagine what that would feel like that, …. Really, I can.

We left Avila Beach Wednesday morning before the sun came up. It was a good morning to be at the ocean. Quickly, the night turned to a pastel predawn watercolor. The water turned purple, the low line of clouds on the horizon shaded to peach, and the sky above faded from azure to butter. A thin crescent moon hung low in the blue part of the sky and midway between it and the line of rosy clouds the North Star shone brightly.

Though it was still and dark, the air was warm and there was no dew on the ground. It appeared that Avila Beach had a beautiful day in store for the vacationers who came for a midweek get away between Christmas and New Year’s. I meant to go out on the veranda and take a parting shot of that sunrise, but the camera was already packed; in the tote bag on the floor behind the driver’s seat with the other electronic gadgets.

We stopped in SLO for coffee, tea, and road food. We made good time and before noon we were in Walnut Creek where we stopped at Rivendel Bicycle Works to see where all the magic happens. That was a very interesting stop and quite apart from any of the scenarios I might have cooked up. Ask me about it some time.

I inquired about a front rack and bag which I had on back order. Turns out they now had them in stock, but had somehow lost my order. Seems they are in the throes of a new computer system. So picked up these little trifles to spiff up the Qickbeam. I like the paint scheme (Olive Drab with Cream accents) for the new version, renamed the Simple One. I’m sorry Grant, but ‘The Simple One’ as a name for a bike model just doesn’t work for me. Sticking with the Riv theme, perhaps Strider or Ork might have been better choices.

After a brief stop there we spent a couple hours motoring around Fairfield, about a half hour north. Mrs. Dr. C showed me the HS she attended and her old ‘hood’. We took pics of the house and low; the same next door neighbors came out and we had a nice chat with them: who’s come and gone, married, kids, grandkids, etc. Nobody I knew but that same story plays out millions of times when folks take a little side trip in the way-back machine, about 35 years in this case.

We ended the long day’s drive in Red Bluff. It was going dark and once again we experienced flocks of thousands and thousands of small birds, (maybe grackles) swarming, swooping, diving and dodging as fewer large birds (presumably crows) dove in and out and around the huge flocks. Also lots of geese, Canada’s, snow geese, and swans in the rice paddies. And one of my favorites, of the trip; the Snowy Egrets that make blue herons (another of my favorites) look positively drab.

The next day, Thursday, (the next-to-the-next-to-the-last day of the year), we were again on the road before daylight. We wanted to cross the finish line before dark. Mostly to avoid night driving as much as possible, but also to get a daylight look at Mission San Rocky Acres upon arrival.

We encountered the first hint of rain through the Siskiyous in Southern Oregon. It was overcast and we were getting just a few drops,…more than mist, you know, intermittent wiper weather.

By Medford it was rain, Springfield, 20 foot rooster tails off trucks; Albany, car wash showers from SUVs, and from Portland on, direct attack with fire hose, white knuckle and floorboard it past the big rigs. Ahh, home.

Our time and timing were pretty good, except this was a Friday and rush hour, some of those dedicated Portland bike geeks must have opted for the four wheel cage of death, Portland was a crawl at times. The Columbia was wide, high, and muddy; must have been wet recently.

The sky offered us that remarkable phenomenon we get here some of the time: it was raining, pretty seriously, and yet no clouds were discernible above. we are just driving along beneath a saturated grey flannel sheet strung from the horizon in all directions, dripping cold water on us. A formless, grey sky, wringing wet.

It is what it is, this is the feed stock for all those great Raymond Carver novels and short stories.  I can already feel that cold gritty street spray soaking through my neoprene booties into my wool socks as I pedal along on my new year’s day ride.  Mmm, so good to be back home.

The place was in order, no evidence of Chairman Meow having invited the neighbors and strays in for cigars and sardines over poker, In fact, Mr. A. Loof was actually clingy …. For about five minutes and then it was a bee line to the food dish. I made a quick check of the pond; no one doing the back float but the behavior was decidedly different than when we left. The water temp was slightly above 50 degrees, more than 10 degrees warmer than when we left. At 38 degrees the fish are closer to dead than alive; They lie on the bottom, fins clamped in a cold induced torpor. At 50 degrees they rise to the surface when they see me, and follow me around the pond like a gaggle of puppies begging food. Though they are more alert and active, feeding is not advised and won’t be for another four months or so. All things considered, they looked hale and hearty given the conditions.

On the flip side of whiney, I would say we had a great vacation, maybe a 10 but without doubt the very best vacation Mrs Dr C and I have taken together, maybe ever. Let me explin The only other times we have taken vacations together were out trips to France to ride the big Ol brevet. While those were very special times, as vacations they come with their own peculiar twists: First and perhaps most obviously, there is a moth eaten hole in the middle where I go for a long bike ride and she doesn’t. Her way of bemoaning my absence is to hop the ‘Train à Grande Vitesse’(TGV) to San Sebastian on the Spanish sun coast while I ply the back roads of Brittany via the ‘vélo de vitesse lente’. I must say, when we compare our ‘vacation’ pics afterwards I have on occasion wondered who had more fun. Add to that the joys of international air travel ... with bikes, across oceans and continents and it becomes easier to see why these two experiences don’t compare so well.

In the case of our 2,000 mile quick step in search of the sun we did most of what we did together. For sure I went on some longer bike rides and she spent a little more time lolling by the pool, but there was no 4 day separation. We marveled at the attractions together, shared bites of each other’s gastronomic finds and on more than a few occasions sat together arm in arm and watched the big blue Pacific swallow up the sun.
I checked out the definition of ‘vacation’ and … Orbitz or Bing aside, I think we had a good one.

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