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Trail Tabby

Most days I’ve biked in to work this year I’ve seen a young tabby cat on the Stevens Creek Trail:

Trail Tabby

She’s a small cat (which is why I think of her as “she” though I don’t really know), and she’s usually lounging by the side of the trail. She seems (appropriately) cautious of bicycles, since the one time I tried to attract her she seemed to want to avoid it. I started thinking of her as the “trail tabby”.

Last Friday I saw her wearing a light blue collar, which was comforting because it meant someone was taking care of her. (She is small, but not thin.) There aren’t any homes nearby, but there’s a hotel so maybe she’s the resident mouser.

This morning, though, I stopped because a couple of guys on bikes were standing over her and she was lying on her side. Fortunately she was okay, just relaxing in the sun, but it turned out that the collar had been put on her by another passer-by, and it had a note asking if whoever received it owned the cat. So, apparently she’s not owned after all! One of the cyclists was considering taking her to a vet, and contacting the person who’d left to note. So, I decided to leave it to him.

While I’d miss seeing her on my rides, hopefully those folks can find her a good home, since she seems like a friendly little cat.

Anyway.

I continued riding down the trail and half a mile on was almost stopped by two other cyclists who was blocking most of the trail talking to each other. I rang my bell and said “Excuse me, coming through”, but they didn’t move or even acknowledge me. So I maneuvered between them…

…and saw a four-foot snake stretched halfway across the trail on the other side of them.

Thanks, guys, for doing nothing to alert me to it, just standing there seeming like jerks blocking the trail.

Monterey Bay-cation

It’s been a busy year, as my few (dare I say rarified?) readers know, and ultimately Debbi and I decided to take a low-key vacation this month to unwind a bit. We decided to go to Monterey for a couple of days at the end of last week, and then take a couple more days off this week to relax and catch up on things.

Thursday morning we loaded into Debbi’s car Flo, and headed out. We had breakfast at Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos, which was very tasty, although the portions were about twice as big as we expected. Then we drove down Highway 1 to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a seaside town about half an hour south of Monterey which we’d never been to. Its downtown is cute, although mostly split between upscale boutiques and touristy souvenir shops. Carmel Beach City Park is quite nice, though (albeit extremely windy during the time we were there).

We drove up to Monterey along the 17-Mile Drive and through Pacific Grove. The former costs $10 admission, but I much prefer driving along the latter’s coastline, a rocky shore whose character and ocean waves for my money easily surpasses the views on the ritzy private drive.

In Monterey we stayed at the Spindrift Inn, which is right on Cannery Row. We looked at several hotels along the street and decided on this one in large part because we were able to get an ocean view room for not much more than we could get a street-side room in other hotels. Plus they had free wi-fi, continental breakfast delivered to the room in the morning, and a wine and cheese social in the late afternoon.

So we walked in and found that the view from our window looked like this:

View from the hotel room

Yes, we spent plenty of time over the next two days sitting in that windowseat. And the rest of the room was pretty nice, too! We definitely recommend the inn to anyone looking to spend a few days on Cannery Row.

Of course we spent the next morning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is the signature sight in Monterey. We saw an otter feeding, their current exhibit on cephalopods (I loved cephalopods when I was about 10 years old, and I still think they’re pretty cool), and lots of jellyfish (which Debbi loves). Even a staff member who was carrying a tube with a bunch of small jellies:

Handheld Jellyfish

Plenty of good food during the weekend, too: Hula’s Island Grill, the Whaling Station steak house, and on the drive home Aptos St. BBQ. And a visit to the Monterey branch of Bookbuyers. Alas, despite Cannery Row having a zillion candy stores, none of them carried chocolate cordials, thus saving me from myself. Well, almost, since we did make a couple of trips to Ghirardelli for ice cream sundaes.

Saturday we drove home and stopped off in Santa Cruz to do some shopping, and we made it home to have a relaxing evening with Chinese take-out for dinner. And appreciated having air conditioning at home, since while it was nice and temperate in Monterey, we were having a high-80s heat wave at home, which has persisted the rest of our vacation.

While there’s not a tremendous amount to do on Cannery Row, and we didn’t want to drive around any more than we did, we definitely had a very relaxing and fun couple of days down there, and might do it again someday!

Since then we’ve spent a couple of days puttering around the house – paying bills, having dinner with friends, etc. – before heading up this morning for a trip to California Academy of Sciences (yes, we’re still members!), with the usual follow-up trip to Borderlands Books. And here’s my obligatory panoramic photo from the roof of the Academy:

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

They had a couple of new exhibits at the Academy, too: One on the use of color in nature, and one on whales. Honestly I enjoy their rotating artifact exhibits such as the whale one more than the long-term, permanent installations. Variety and rotation is what makes it worth going back multiple times per year (and, in turn, having a membership).

I don’t think we’ve taken a vacation to just have time off for ourselves since Disneyland in February, so this was long overdue. We’re both in a bit of denial about going back to work tomorrow, but life marches on – with or without us.

Good Samaritan

This morning I did my good deed for the week. Maybe even more than one, in the space of 10 minutes.

I was biking to work on the Stevens Creek Trail, when I came across a guy helping another guy up who had apparently fallen over while on his bike. I stopped to see if they were all right, and it turned out that the first guy had pulled over to change a flat tire, and the second guy had stopped to help, and somehow lost his balance and fallen over.

Fortunately, no one was hurt (the second guy said one time he’d fallen over on his bike and broken his arm – ow!). The second guy’s seat had turned 45 degrees and he needed a hex wrench to get it straight – which I loaned him since I carry one in my seat pack. The first guy had finished replacing his tire, but needed a pump to inflate it, and I have a frame pump on my bike, so I loaned that to him. In fairly short order they were both on their way, and so was I.

Then, just about a hundred feet up the trail a guy hit his brakes and came to a sudden halt, burning rubber on the pavement. So I stopped again and asked if he was okay. He was, but his chain had somehow slipped off his gears. I’m not sure why that required coming to a sudden stop on a downhill, but I suggested he continue along to where the other two had stopped since there was a turnout there, and where he’d stopped was just on the wrong side of a blind curve (bad enough that the city mounted a convex mirror at it). Since I was also stopped on the wrong side of the curve, I got back on my bike and continued on – hopefully he took my advice.

I don’t know if it was the short rest break or just feeling good about myself, but I powered my way through the rest of my ride and made up a little of my lost time. But hopefully I earned some karma points today.

House Band and House Fireworks

One nice thing that happened at our open house last week is that my friend John came down from his place on the upper peninsula with his wife Mary. John was one of the guys I played Magic with every Monday until the regular host moved to Texas. The game moved to a new venue, but also a new day – Wednesday – which is much less convenient for me, and John got a new job closer to home so coming down here to play on a weekend wasn’t convenient for him, either. So it’s probably been a couple of years since I saw him, and I hadn’t met his wife before.

He’d also invited us to his Fourth of July party, and so I was inspired after seeing him again for us to go. So we did!

(Aside: John is also one of my regular sparring partners at Ascension on iOS.)

The party was in a way their own open house, and in addition to seeing their home, his son C and his rock band Time Heist (named after the Doctor Who episode) played a couple of sets in their back yard. They’re quite good! C usually played lead guitar but switched with the bassist sometimes, and they’re a rare band where the drummer is also the vocalist. Their first set was a tad wonky because the guitar was mixed down below the bass and drums, but it seemed to get balanced out for their second set.

After a comment I made to John, they did a rendition of The Who‘s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which was quite good (even if it did perhaps show the limitations of the drummer also doing the vocals, as both parts are pretty demanding), and C did a chunk of the synthesizer part on guitar, which was nifty. Afterwards I reflected to myself that we’ve gone in less than 50 years from the song amazing everyone in rock music with its technical prowess to one that a high school trio can credibly cover in a back yard. And that’s why we’ll never see another .400 hitter in baseball. (Okay, that sentence only makes sense if you read the book on the other end of that link, Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House.)

(Sigh… why did I not take up guitar or piano in earnest when I was a kid? One of many things I regret not having had the discipline and/or interest to pursue when I was young.)

Anyway, a couple of other guys from the old Magic group came by, too, and now I have a couple more people to invite to next year’s open house.

The food was good, and John mixed some tasty cocktails as well. We hung out with everyone, and towards sunset came the other reason to stay: John lives in one of the few cities around here where it’s legal to buy and shoot off your own fireworks. So he set off a bunch in the street in front of hid driveway, and sure enough, two police cruisers drove by during the show and didn’t even slow down. A pretty nice display all in all.

We finally headed home an hour or so after sunset, and had a great time. I’m definitely glad we made the time to head up, and hopefully we’ll see them again before another year – or three – has passed.