Friday, January 16, 2009

Upstate NY - November 7-8, 2008

Mel and I headed up to Utica, NY in November for a visit with Michelle & Georgie.   It was sooo good to see my brother again, and I've never before seen where he lives.

(By the way, if you're going to be in Upstate NY and would like some insider information on great sights to see and places to eat, check out Michelle's blog)

They live in an adorable little craftsman style home in a nice neighborhood where you can walk all over the place.   I have to say though, I really don't understand it - it's COLD out there!   I had to wear my coat the whole time!    Georgie was laughing at me.   

Georgie & Michelle took us over to Cat Town where Michelle's great- grandfather had lived and showed us this cool barn that he had built himself!

I think old structures like this are even more interesting to me because you don't often see them in California.   Here, things like this are torn down to build condos.    It's pretty sad.

One neat thing about this barn is that it's built right along a creek, and I don't know if it was built this way, or just fixed up, but the creek actually flows a little under the barn, and a corner of the barn is propped up on stones to keep up from falling into the creek!

This area was really quite pretty.   Michelle & Georgie then took us up a little country road where we saw nice meadows and hay fields.   It's funny, I saw big rolls of hay in the field for the first time - I think the only times I've seen that before has been in artwork and movies!

And we saw some snow!    Georgie and I got out of the car and played in it  :-)

After a nice drive through the country, we ended up at Fly Creek Cider Mill.

I loved the Cider Mill. It has a cute little store and, of course, apple cider, but so much more than that. There were all sorts of apple food products - salsa, bbq sauce, salad dressings, wine... I bought a bunch of stuff and had it shipped home to make gift baskets for Christmas. There was an area where you could see how cider is made (it wasn't operating while we were there though) and outside the mill there were lots of things to see and do.

You could ride a tractor, for example:

And there was also an area where you could feed ducks and chickens.  This was pretty funny - you'd get food out of the dispenser and boy would they come running!     A few of them were eye-ing Georgie & me a little too hungrily for my comfort.

There were 2 ducks though that really cracked us up.   They had such a distinct "look"!    One had this top-knot that looked like an unruly thatch of hair - we named him Elvis.   And the other had these curly poofy feathers - they looked like one of those formal dresses we wore to dances in high school back in the 80's.   We named her the Prom Queen:

Elvis and the Prom Queen

On my last day in Upstate NY, Georgie took us over to Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.    I'm a big baseball fan, and so is my grandma who lives in Las Vegas, so I was excited to go there!    

Almost the first thing we saw was Doubleday Field!    This used to be the home of every year's Hall of Fame baseball game.   It was so neat!    It was also in the movie, "A League of their Own", which of course, I loved...

This is the Baseball Hall of Fame!   We got to go inside, but I didn't actually get to do the museum tour - we were just out of time.   I'd really like to go back and do that though.   I think it would be interesting!    But, we did manage to find time to check out the museum gift shop and I found lots of great Christmas presents there (for my baseball loving family!)

As we were leaving Cooperstown, we turned down a little side street and came upon the most spectacular sight.   This is Lake Otsego.    Enjoy.....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Queen Mary - October 11, 2008

Mel's cousin Karen came out to run the Long Beach Half Marathon in October, and she invited Mel to ride the Bike Tour at the same time.   Now Karen is the reason Mel started biking.   Karen started running earlier this year, and Mel was thinking, "Hey, if she can run, I can ride!"   And that's when the dusty old bike came down from the rafters and got fixed up.   So it was really fun that they could do this event together.   The City of Long Beach really goes all out - they have a full marathon, a half marathon, a 5k run/walk and a bike tour (which goes the full marathon route).   

Karen, Mel, & I stayed on the Queen Mary.   It's the real cruise ship that used to cross the Atlantic Ocean, served in WWII, and now is docked in Long Beach and is a floating hotel.   What a NEAT experience to get to stay on the ship!
Our room had 2 twin size beds, a nice closet and a decent sized bathroom.   It wasn't a huge luxurious hotel bedroom, but on the other hand, cruise ship rooms are not usually huge (unless you pay lots of extra money).   The walls were gorgeous wood (teak, I think, but I'm not sure about that) and there were all sorts of things in the room that were original - like an original ships fan and the faucets in the shower that gave you choices of hot salt water, hot fresh water, cold salt water, and cold fresh water  (those don't work anymore.   You have just plain boring hot & cold fresh water now).    The whole boat is done in Art Deco style, which is very beautiful.

The night before the race, the Queen Mary hosted a "Carb Load" dinner for the participants.   We had all sorts of pasta and garlic bread and could eat to our heart's content.    Actually, the only bad thing I have to say about staying on the Queen Mary was the food - none of the restaurants we tried had good food and the service was terrible.    But other than that, we really enjoyed our stay!

Both the bike tour and the half marathon routes took us right past the Queen Mary.    The bike tour started before dawn, so as we went past the ship, the sun was just rising - making for a beautiful scene:

The next day, after the races, we took an audio tour of the ship.   I highly recommend doing this.   It's self guided - you get an audio system and it tells you where to go next.    We learned a LOT about the ship's history and even how it functions today.   Did you know the radio room is still in use?   They allow a local amateur radio club to operate the radios and they talk to people all over the world from the ship!    I thought that was kind of cool.  (Incidentally, if you want to take the tour, I highly recommend doing it BEFORE you run a marathon, as there are a lot of steps for sore legs to handle!)

Some other things we saw....

A beautiful inlaid wood picture of the Queen Mary:

And the life boats  (they were totally rotted - good thing there's no chance of the ship sinking now!)

It was a great opportunity to get to re-live a little history and enjoy the nostalgia of staying on the Queen Mary.    There are flaws, like some repair work that desperately needs to be done, but all in all, we were very glad we stayed there.

Harvest Ride for Literacy - October 4, 2008

One of the really nice things about getting places by bike is that you get to see some really pretty places - you see them so much better than you do when you're speeding by in a car!

In October, Mel & I and a couple of her friends participated in the Harvest Ride for Literacy.   This was a 30 mile ride to help raise funds for adult reading education in Ventura county.  A pretty cool cause, I think.

The trail went along the Ventura Coastline - an absolutely beautiful area:

When you go on these organized rides, there's a route all planned out for you.  They give you a sheet of paper with directions, and they also paint little symbols along the route for you to follow - like this:
Our route took us along the coast, riding up Pacific Coast Highway for a ways, and even getting onto the 101 freeway for part of the ride!   That part was really scary!!    We rode past the La Conchita landslide area.   It was so strange.   People still live in the community, so it looks like it's part ghost town, part still lived in.   It was kind of creepy.    I hadn't been up in that area since the landslide happened, so this was the first time I had seen it.

Our halfway point was at Rincon State Beach.   There was a nice rest stop set up for us, with snacks and water.

This is Louise & me at the rest stop.

The view from the rest stop was beautiful - right out over the Pacific Ocean.   It was a gray and gloomy day though, and visibility didn't go out that far.

As we turned around and headed back for the last leg of the ride, disaster struck in 2 forms....   First, it started to rain.   We expected maybe a little drizzle, and had jackets for that.  But this was a DOWNPOUR.    We were getting pelted - and since it was also slightly downhill and we were riding pretty fast, those rain drops actually stung!     And then, Louise got a flat tire.   Now she's had lots of flat tires (I keep telling her she needs to slime her tires!) so she can change them pretty fast, but nothing seems fast when you're getting soaked!     She got the tire changed, and off we went again, then we found a family from the same ride sitting along the side of the road.   Apparently Junior had crashed and had a skinned knee.   Well, since Mel is a bit of a klutz (she admits it!), she was well prepared and she gave the family some Neosporin & bandaids and they got Junior fixed right up.    Off we went again...   within one mile - Louise got another flat!

That was IT!    We called SAG support, which are very nice folks who ride around in real cars and help the bikers who have trouble.    The vehicle that stopped only had room for Louise & her bike, so Maureen, Mel, & I were preparing to finish the last soggy 7 miles of the ride, when finally another SAG vehicle stopped and offered us a ride.   After a very short battle with our pride, we very gratefully accepted the offer!

So we didn't finish the whole 30 miles, but then this is supposed to be fun, right?   And we decided getting pelted with rain, soaking wet and cold is really not that fun.    But we're still planning to sign up again next year.....