Benji has never been in deep water if any sort, not a pool, the ocean, or a lake. I’m sorry to say that swimming doesn’t hold much allure for me, and although Ian enjoys it, usually mommy ends up being the one responsible for this kind of activity. But on this trip, Ian has patiently been spending many hours in the pool, helping Benji slowly get comfortable in increasingly deep water.
This slow introduction to water actually started at a very fun pirate ship toy that has 6″ to 1.5′ of water around it, and water shooting out of various places. We took pictures of that on a “waterproof” camera that leaked and broke the next day. Wonderful.
Anyway, after that Ian got a floaty vest for Benji, and they went into the deeper pools. The pool they have gone to the most has big, shallow steps that slowly progess from about 6″ deep to 3′ deep. The first day, Benji stayed on the first couple steps.
The next day, they went to another pool where the steps were slightly deeper, and Benji floated a bit where his toes could only barely touch. We also went to the beach and Benji really enjoyed going in the waves with Papa Gary.
Finally, today (February 25), Benji went floating out where his feet couldn’t touch at all, and he didn’t hold on to Daddy at all. We were all so proud! Benji isn’t adventurous, but he was persistent in stretching himself and finally got there.
Now, he’s having a ton of fun paddling himself around with his feet. I foresee many more days of fun swimming at indoor pools in our area.
We got to Hawaii Sunday afternoon late. That’s another story – a long story, to go with an extra-long flight – but I wanted to note that today, Ian heroically made it possible for me to do the Cycle to the Sun, the big ride up Mt. Haleakala. This blog post is a summary of my impressions and highlights, and is not intended to be a blow-by-blow account of each stage of the ride.
The night before, I slept really badly, and kept waking up, thinking it was time to get up. I was concerned about waking up Benji and Ian when my alarm went off at 4 am. So I ended up waking up at 3 am, dozing lightly until 3:45, and finally getting up. On the bright side, my alarm didn’t disturb my family; on the downside, I didn’t rest very well before a big ride that I really wanted to go well.
I’d gotten most things ready the night before – measuring sports drink powder, sorting and selecting what food to carry, that kind of thing – so in the morning I just bagged all my bike gear and a spare set of regular clothes up to take to the car with me. We got a free rental upgrade that resulted in our driving a Nissan Murano, which fits my bike easily in the back when the seats are down. Nice!
Just as I finished eating breakfast (an ungodly volume of instant oatmeal and yogurt), Ian got up, so he helped my carry my bags while I managed the bike.
About 40 minutes of driving got me to the proximity of the start, but I wasn’t sure about parking and such. The guys at West Maui Cycle, who have been all-round helpful, mentioned a public parking lot in Paia, the start town. I found that, parked, got ready, and was rolling at 6 am.
Now, the thing about 6 am in Hawaii at this time of year… It’s pitch dark. Driving over there, I literally had no idea where the water was and where the mountain was. It was DARK; oh, and cloudy, so sadly no nice stars. Fortunately, I had brought my small blinking front light and my bright rear light, for just such an occurrence. Unfortunately, I hadn’t envisioned riding in complete dark. I brought lights for dusky conditions, when I could see but it was still dim out. I turned my little light on solid, which did almost nothing to illuminate the road but was better than blinking, and went carefully, hoping there weren’t any hazards in the road. Happily, aside from some bumps, I didn’t hit anything.
I heard a lot of very active exotic birds just before daylight, and rooster crowing accompanied me for a couple hours.
It felt like a good hill pretty much right off the bat, but I couldn’t see enough (actually, for a good while, couldn’t see anything) to really tell. I made sure I was following the route I’d made for my Garmin, and just found a pace I could sustain (this worked out to be 8.8 mph going up and 23.7 mph going down). After about an hour, I reached another little town, and topped up my bottle. I’d read details of the route and where to stop beforehand, but of course couldn’t remember once I was on the road.
Spoiler: Water actually wasn’t an issue at all. I had plenty to drink the whole time, unlike when I do the West Maui loop. I topped up once more before the visitor center; nothing interesting about that.
Anyway, I rode uphill for a long time. Eventually the sun came up, and a while later there were spectacular early-morning views of West Maui. This was at about 3,000 feet. I switched from thinking in miles to thinking in feet climbed for this ride.
I didn’t take many pictures after that, because I was riding up, and up, and up, and up. It was like the longest, hardest trainer ride ever. It was also like riding up Mt. Baldy and Mt. Ashland, but just on and on several times. Actually, Mt. Baldy was really similar in another way, too – both Baldy and Haleakala end with soul-sucking 15% or steeper pitches.
First, however, I’ll say I stopped at the visitor center at 7,000 feet. I went through periods of feeling kind of lousy and then back to feeling OK again, and through the lousy times I kept thinking of the visitor center. Not coincidentally, the lousy feeling often happened when I went around a switchback and went from having a tailwind to a headwind (I’ve never seen so many switchbacks in a road before; maybe somewhere in the Alps has more, but seriously, I think I spent over an hour switchbacking). The wind became an increasing factor over the ride, and I’m glad there wasn’t more of it. What I had was ample.
The visitor center was closed, but restrooms and water remained open, and the water was delicious! It came from some cloud precipitation system they had, and therefore skipped steeping in sulfur and all those other deliciously volcanic minerals most of the Maui water contains. I was diligent about eating and drinking frequently, and had no significant trouble with cramping. But I did make sure to fill my bottles, because there was no water from there to the top, another 3,000 feet.
Here’s me, happy to have tasty water; and the view.
By the way, here’s me a couple hours later at the same spot on the way down.
Notice anything? Yep, while I climbed the last 3,000 feet, some serious clouds rolled in. I missed riding through them on the way up, fortunately, but couldn’t miss them on the way down. It took a long time to get through the clouds even going down, and I did feel pretty cold for a while.
However, you may have spotted that I have a vest on in the second picture. That’s because I followed the advice of many people and brought a vest, warm arm warmers (I actually wore cool arm covers to protect from the sun on the way up), and long finger gloves. These made it bearable to descend the 10,000 feet all in one go, even with getting rather wet from going through the clouds.
Oh, another thing about the visitor center: They had some displays up about the nene, an endangered Hawaiian goose probably evolved from the Canadian goose. They live in the Haleakala park area and on the big island. I learned a few things about it, and thought, “huh.” But then, riding a while later, I saw a large grey bird fly across the road and hide in the heather (or heather analogue) off to my right. My first impression was “turkey!” but then I realized it was (a) flying better than any turkey I enter saw; (B) do they even have wild turkeys in Hawaii?; and (c) duh, it was probably a nene. Cool!
Anyway, I had a goal of taking less than 4 hours to do the whole climb. Despite what I can honestly say was my best effort, I took 4:05 to reach the very top. I actually got to the lower summit parking area just before 4:00, and it actually took me another 5 minutes to climb that last maybe 1/4 mile at a 15% grade into the wind the whole way. I probably would have been faster getting off and walking, but darn it, I was going to finish, no matter what! I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, 100%.
A nice, if rather inept, lady took my picture at the top. Also, many, many people stopped to tell me that they had passed me on the way up, and were impressed I made it. Me, too. A couple guys from Colorado wanted to know if it was harder than Colorado mountains, but sadly I couldn’t weigh in on that, never having ridden in Colorado. What was hard was around 8,000 feet and thereafter, I started getting dizzy, especially during harder efforts. That’s one reason I was so slow on that final little kicker. I’ve never been that high before, and the air was noticeably thinner.
The views were spectacular.
Now I wish I’d taken a picture of the way I came up. Oh, well. Next time? Some people asked if I’d done it before, or would do it again, and at that moment, at the top, I said no. That could change if I forget how gruelling it was, or if I had a riding buddy.
Then I rode down. One of my legs had stiffened up as I ate and recovered at the top, and it was pretty painful to start. By the end I actually felt decent, considering. I actually felt more anxious about my safety on the way down than up, so I kept the speed very moderate and went around corners carefully. Twice I passed the long lines of people on beach cruisers doing a ride down the mountain. There are companies that ferry people and cruiser bikes to the top, and they then all ride a guided ride down. I saw lots of such groups coming down as I went up, and many vans passed me. They were descending very slowly, however, and I quickly left them behind.
It took me 1.5 hours almost exactly to ride down, excluding my stop at the visitor center, and with one slight route confusion due to a road that closed for construction after I went through in the morning. It was odd coming into Paia at the very end: I didn’t recognize anything, because I’d come through in the dark on the way up.
And that was it! I made it. I’m grateful for the training rides Dad and I did the last month or so; I’m also grateful the weather cooperated and the wind wasn’t worse; and that Ian and my family here made it possible for me to do it.
Now I’m going to go sleep, hopefully for a very long time.
Sometimes if I’m not sure it’s raining, I’ll check the “weather porch” to see if drops are actually falling (ie, making splashes on the porch), or if it’s just standing water left over from a previous rainshower. Today, however, that isn’t a problem.
I have to admit – I’m looking forward to leaving this weather behind for a week.
Today I got word that the bike shop on Maui received my bike and they’re putting it together. I’m getting over my brief cold, and hoping that won’t set me back too much when I try to ride Haleakala. My goal is to do it as soon as possible after we get there, Monday or Tuesday, to be sure I do it. After all the logistics and cost of figuring out how to bike there, and all the extra baggage of bike gear, and all those thousands of feet Dad and I rode, I’d better do it!
So here’s the rest of what happened on vacation: We read books, went for walks and hikes with and without the baby, my parents arrived (much to Benji’s incredibly cute astonishment), Deborah left, Ian and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, and we all drove home. Here are some pictures from all that stuff.
With Grammy (not pictured) at a county park near Seaside, seeking sun. We found it for a little while, but clouds advanced relentlessly and we eventually had to concede defeat.
Gee, the similarity between my mother and the model is striking.
Mom had lots of fun reading with Benji. He’s a masterful flap-opener in those types of books, and the peek-a-boo book with farm animals is his very favorite. He gets so excited he has to lick the pages. That’s a lot of excitement.
I’m so glad I went to the bathroom at the bakery in Gearhart. Otherwise I would’ve missed crocodiles in the bathtub, and that would have been sad. Makes me wonder what they did in the men’s room.
Dad and I rode across the Highway 101 Business route bridge from Astoria to the west-ish on our slightly-longer 50-mile ride. Aside from this bridge we had a nice ride, but the bridge had that pointy, criss-cross metal decking not rideable by bikes. Fortunately a sidewalk did offer an alternative… a 4-foot-wide, 2-foot-high alternative bordered on one side by logging trucks (as you can see from my picture) and the other by Youngs Bay. We walked across.
Ian, Dad, and I went to Oswald West State Park on Friday morning and hiked to Cape Falcon/Falcon Cove/Point/Ridge/whatever it was called. This turned out to involve standing at the edge of a precipice with nothing but rocks and ocean below… but rewarded intrepidity with gorgeous (if misty) views.
One evening, after a long day of dense clouds, the evening fined up and we got some lovely clouds and sunlight just at sunset. I tried to do a panorama shot with my camera but the accelerometer seems damaged, because it lost where I was at in the circle and I ended up with discontinuities in all my attempts (this problem continued for other panorama shots after this point, too). Bummer. I really like the panorama feature, and can’t easily replicate it with my nice digital SLR.
On Friday, August 9, Ian and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary (I know, we’re so old) with an afternoon in Seaside and dinner at Newman’s at 988. I’ll just say that I had no idea you could get such amazingly delicious food in a tourist town. For our gift to ourselves, we bought a large (open edition) giclèe print of a Jeffrey Hull watercolor we really liked, called “Out to Sea”:
Our last morning there, we went for our morning walk and, lo and behold, sun! …at least, brighter light, anyway. It was nice not to finish our walk covered in dampness from the heavy mist.
Then we drove back, and the least said about that the better. Suffice it to say, Benji and I will be taking a break from the car as much as possible this week.
Day’s Verse: God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.
Here are pictures of the day for the last few days.
Sunday: None, because I didn’t bring my camera with me at all! Also, we spent almost the whole day reading, with the occasional walk thrown in to keep our limbs from ossifying. I read almost the entirety of Three Musketeers. All for one, one for all! And thank goodness Milady was killed in the end, that b*tch.
I went for a really nice bike ride on Tuesday, over to Oswald State Park. Here’s the route:
I mention this because there were some AMAZING views on the hill above Manzanita, and I took some pictures with my cell phone (which has the equivalent of a pinhole camera, so the best I could hope for is blurry-but-recognizable). Unfortunately, those will have to wait until we get home because I have no way of getting them off my camera here.
I’ll probably post some more pictures from today. Dad and Mom came down yesterday afternoon, and Dad and I are going for a ride that’s supposed to have some nice views. We’ll have a better camera along, so I hope to capture some of it.
Day’s Verse: I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
Here we are in lovely Seaside, Oregon, compliments of Ian’s parents. We arrived yesterday evening, and after unpacking the car naturally went straight to the beach, where we reveled in the atypical sunniness (clouds have since moved in, but should clear by the afternoon). Expect more pictures than words for vacation-related blog posts.
Ian’s first step onto the beach for this vacation, with Tillamook Head in the background.
This is what vacation should be.
Ian immediately wanted to go touch the water. Handily enough, he had worn his waterproof hiking boots and stomped fearlessly right into the waves.
Check out my flickr photo set for more pictures. I’m posting more pictures on flickr than I’ll be putting up here, so it’s worth checking out each day we’re on vacation.
Day’s Verse: My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
1 John 3:18-20
When the only way to go is up, things do start getting better. No, our floor isn’t miraculously fixed, nor is the dishwasher back to normal. But after Christmas my parents, my sister and brother in law, and Ian and I — and Carmel, of course — piled into two cars and made our getaway. We took a ferry across to Kingston, drove a long loop around with a stop at Dungeness Spit, the longest natural spit in the world (I think). Some time I’d like to hike the whole thing — 5 miles each way — but that wasn’t the day for it. We just fooled around on the beach for a while, continued on, but only after reading about Brant’s Goose (“The Goose With Problems,” the sign’s subtitle said). This intersection we found particularly humorous. Anyway, we made it to Kalaloch Lodge with no problems and settled in OK. It had two bedrooms and one hide-a-bed in the living room; Ian and I drew the short straw and ended up in the living room. The bathroom was only accessible through one of the bedrooms (it had two doors, a source of endless potential embarrassment), an interesting and awkward feature. However, it also had a little kitchen and dining space for all of us, which was a nice redeeming feature. It also had a sign warning us about the KILLER LOGS on the beach, ample fodder for jokes the rest of the time.
On our only full day on the Peninsula, we went to Ruby Beach but didn’t find any rubies. We did find lots and lots of paving stones; lots of logs washed ashore; sea anemones colored purple, white, green, or mint green; a few snails; limpets; big barnacles and little barnacles; some kelp, whose species I should know but don’t; seagulls; and Least Sandpipers. Poking into tidepools never gets old, no matter how grown-up I am. Then we went to the Hoh Rainforest, where we split up. Colleen, Jordan, and Mom did a couple shorter hikes around the visitor’s center while Dad, Ian, and I did a 6-mile roundtrip hike. We saw a ruffed grouse on the trail and watched lots and lots of salmon in a creek, but no elk, despite numerous signs warning us of frequent elk sightings and to stay 100′ from any elk. The same sign said that “Dogs are the natural enemy of all woodland creatures,” so it was a good thing we left Carmel back at Kalaloch. Amazingly, the entire day remained dry: It started sunny and got a bit cloudier later on, but we never got rained on. That’s a small miracle on the rainy side of the Olympics in December.
On Wednesday morning we played a game of Gloom, a card game Caitlyn gave us for Christmas. The best part about it was the stories people told as they played these disastrous happenings on their characters. There wasn’t any “Overcome by Kitchen Floods” or “Rattled by Rats” in there, though.
We packed up and drove to Lake Quinault Lodge (their rain gauge for 2010: 13 feet, more than 2009 but nowhere near the record 17 feet), where we did a nice, pretty hike — lots more hanging moss, this time glowing in the sunlight — and then waited…and waited…and waited for lunch at the restaurant there. We entertained ourselves by watching the roofer right outside the window as he climbed up and down and engaged in all sorts of really risky-looking feats. When the food finally came, we scarfed it down, then made our getaway. Carmel had worked her way out of her box and into the back seat, where she startled Mom when Mom glanced into the back. We ate Pirouettes and drove on small roads through tiny towns. Wind cut our last stop, at Copalis Beach, short. It was amazingly windy, almost enough to lift me off my feet. We worried about Carmel getting sand in blown into her eyes, and so kept the visit brief. Also it’s a pretty boring beach, just tons of flat sand as far as you can see. Good for those beach buggies, though. And that was really the end of our little Olympic Peninsula. Ian and I still have a ruined kitchen floor and broken dishwasher, but at least we got to have a fun break with our family before worrying about it too much.