23 June, 2018

Where I wanna be with the surfers, sand and the sea

This post is the sequel to my trip along the Pacific Northwest coast. After my first week in a largely humid environment, my second week was spent in a largely dry Mediterranean climate. The limit from one ecosystem to the other was rather sudden. It had rained hard all night in Eureka, California. I drove South along Highway 101 among the tall redwood forests: every thing was dark green. At Redwood Valley, I turned on Road 20 towards Clear Lake and suddenly the landscape was very much drier, small brush on grey stony lightsoil. In Lakeport, I was already among the grapevines announcing the Napa Valley further South.

My first highlight from the Southern part of my trip was my lunch in Lakeport. The chef at the small Park Place Restaurant had upgraded the concept of the fish burger by replacing the battered fish with a battered whole soft-shell crap. Yuck factor: it looked a bit like eating a giant spider. But it was deliciously. I very seldom take photos of my food, but this original treat was worth keeping a trace of.

I then drove through the Napa Valley and its vineyards. However, I did not stop there to sample wine, preferring to taste a glass of wine here and there with my meals. Ironically, I drank a lot of water in Calistoga because I stopped in one of the local spas for a thermal mud and hot spring bath. Immersing myself in the thick hot mud bath was a strange experience, and I must say, rather oppressive after ten minutes with a very hot mud cask all around my body. This was followed by a HOT bubble bath and then a HOT humid hammam. I drank a lot of cold water to stay hydrated and avoid overheating.

I did not stop to visit San Francisco. I preferred to stay in rural and natural areas. I met up with my old university friend Martin Jambon who is now a programmer in one of the Bay Area start-ups. We spent a whole day trekking 18 km up and down the Muir Woods to Stinson Beach and back. However, the ocean was still too cold to get into the water.

Driving on further South, I visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and the following day dove into the bay with an 8-mm thick wet suit. My dive computer finally explained to me why I could not get into the ocean up to now: it was only 12°C at the surface and 10°C 10 meters deep! I cannot say it was pleasant dive: it took more than one hour for my fingers to be fully prehensible again. I was nonetheless delighted to see in their natural habitat most of the sea creatures I had seen behind glass in the aquarium, including a curious sea lion at the surface coming to see other large bobbing sea mammals.

In Central California, I was struck by the beautiful landscapes of the Big Sur coastline. The constrast between the ecosystems from one valley to the next was very sharp. When the coast was very dry and windy, just a stream going through a narrow protected valley was enough for a lush humid redwood forest to emerge. Further inland, the temperature rose dramatically to 38°C. I really wondered why the Spanish missionaries decided to establish San Antonio di Padua mission in the middle of such a hostile environment.

I finished my trip with the city lights and stars in Los Angeles and Hollywood.

This is where I finally managed to get into the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the surf at Santa Monica Beach!

Beaches in mind
The beach boys. That's why God made the radio, Capital records

15 June, 2018

On the range where the deer and the antelope play

I have gone on a road trip again. After the Australian West coast in 2016, I am now making my way down the United States Pacific coast in 15 days.

This blog post is also a way to circle the full circle. I started this blog eight years ago after following a course on knowledge management tools and methods. Our course coaches had encouraged me to start a blog and I did so. I have also taken every opportunity I could to facilitate knowledge sharing events, as I have related in several of the posts in this blog. So after all this time finding my own way in knowledge management with help from various friends, I was delighted to be greeted as I alighted from the airport train in Seattle, Washington, by knowledge management guru Nancy White. Nancy had been the principal facilitator of the knowledge management course I had taken so many years ago and she has managed to keep some links with many of her followers all these years, providing helpful advice and pictures of chocolate goodies all along. I started my road trip by settling in for a few restful days in the cabin Nancy and her husband Larry have purchased overlooking Skagit Bay, very close to the Canadian border.

The first week of my trip has been through damp, humid, even wet terrain in the North West and Northern California. I actually consider I have been pretty lucky with only one day and a half of actual rain. I only got really wet when hiking in the North Cascades national park, but I think it was mainly because of my own moisture staying trapped under the waterproof jacket, and the fact that my ten-year-old hiking boots had lost their waterproof powers! Otherwise, I have had glorious sunshine or only cloudy skies.

Here are some notes from this first humid part of my trip:
I have been amazed by all the beautiful landscapes I have passed through.

When the navy jet fighters would pass over Skagit Bay, I felt like I was in a Star Wars movie with space ships zooming past a wonderful natural landscape; only that today's jet fighters do not screech like in the movies.

I have encountered orcas just five meters away from me during a whale-spotting boat trip.

I have not managed to get into the Pacific ocean: it is too cold!

I have soaked several hours in the Sole Duc hot springs in Olympic national park: they are soothingly warm.

The giant redwoods of Northern California form a natural awe-inspiring cathedral.

I can only eat French fries four days in a row. I had to switch to pasta on my fifth day in the US. Despite all the variations on bread type and filling for my daily sandwich lunch, despite the differences in types of fries I had sampled, my stomach needed a break from deep-fried food. However, I happily went back to burger and fries when something really interesting was placed within the bread bun. Read more next week to find out more and for my highlights from the second drier half of my road trip.

Home on the range
Traditional, Roy Rogers, Home on the range, Vanilla OMP