Friday, July 27, 2007

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

About 9:15 Wednesday morning, Jenny and I took off on approximately this route to Big Basin. Google maps seem to think that it's 14.5 miles or so from our house to Woodside and Skyline; I thought it was about 15. Let's say it was 14.5. And about 1400' elevation gain. That was about 10:55am, and we bought a BALT sandwich (that's BLT plus avocado), a pork tamale, a lemonade, and a bag of evil crispy salty snacks (Cool Ranch Doritos® if you must know). We started riding again at about 11:30.

The "paddle markers" on Skyline read about 10.19 when we started, then went down to 0 and started down again from 17.05; there was a lot of climbing -- at least 1000' (punctuated by some downhills -- i.e. 1000' of climbing, not necessarily 1000' net). We pulled off the road at a CDF fire station -- Saratoga Summit, it said, because there was a vending machine that had water! A friendly young man came out, and asked where we'd been. We said we'd had a lot of climbing, and he told us, "Well, you're at the top here!" (Is that what "summit" means? Cool!!)

I told him we were looking to refill our water bottles. He said, "There's some here," indicating the vending machine, "but they'll charge you." A dollar! He pointed over past the driveway. "There's a tap over there by the picnic table." I drink from the tap at home, so why not here? We thanked him and investigated the water spigot. My bottle was about ¼ full of warm (not yet hot) water, which I dumped before refilling it.

There was one more brief hill, and where the mileage markers would have said about 14.00, we made the right-hand turn onto highway 9. Highway 9 was nice, and we made some 5 miles in what felt like 5 minutes, but was probably more like 10 or 15. Once onto 236, there was a lot more uphill -- I think the map warned us about 600' elevation gain (climbing, not necessarily net) -- from about 18.3 to about 14.30 on the paddle markers. The next 5 miles were a lot easier, and we paused somewhere on route 236 to eat some almonds and あられ-and-peanut mix I had packed.

It was about 6 hours from garage door (the lovely Carol closed the door for us) to finding her welcome note on the message board at Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters. But before we did that -- ice cream! The camp store, across Highway 236 from Park Headquarters and a little to your right, has $3 bars and $2 bars. I chose a neapolitan sandwich, and Jenny took a banana fruit ice. They were certainly cold enough. Yum!

Over to the campsite, and we had a happy reunion. (Carol, Sheri, and Keith had left the house about noon and drove down to Big Basin.) I popped a couple of ibuprofen pills, took a shower, and pretty soon it was time to start dinner. I set up our propane stove and connected it to our least-empty canister. I found the rice that I had packed in a plastic container, dumped it into a pot, then rinsed it in the pot, ending up with what seemed like enough water. (At sea level, this formula usually works: get the height of the rice, then add enough water so that the water level is twice as high as the height of the rice. So for example, if the rice level is about 1cm from the bottom of the pot, make your water about 2cm from the bottom of the pot. This is over twice as much water as rice, because there's also water between the grains of rice.) The rice pot went onto the stove's left-hand burner, covered, on high heat.

Next I poured a little oil into another pan, dumped in the kielbasa that the lovely Carol had sliced up at home, and added the sliced cabbage, also lovingly prepared at home by The Gorgeous One. The cabbage and the sausage took quite a bit of stir-frying. Not to cook the sausage (already fully cooked) but to soften up the cabbage. Every once in a while I peeked into the rice pot to see if it started boiling yet. As soon as I saw a respectable rate of bubbling, I cranked the heat down as low as it would go.

I kept stir-frying the cabbage and sausage, sampling the cabbage frequently. "Boy, there's a lot of cabbage," I said. It was a little bitter. I kept cooking it, and someone suggested adding butter and salt. That would have been a good idea, but I didn't know where the butter was. I sprinkled some salt on it.

Meanwhile, I looked at the rice. When there was no visible liquid, I sampled a few grains of rice from the top. Bah! They were rock-like in the center! I guesstimated about another ¼ cup of water, tossed it in, and covered it again, meanwhile stir-frying the cabbage and sausage. When I could stand it no longer, I turned off the sausage pot.

In another 10-20 minutes or so, I sampled the rice again. Perfect! I killed the heat under the rice, and left table-setting for others.

I should tell you about our campsite. We were at #153, Blooms Creek. A terrific site! It was separated from the road by some bushes, unlike the other sites in the area. Some people call it the "honeymoon site" だそうです. I wouldn't go quite that far, but it was nice.

Keith made a fire, using the teepee method. I might have heard about this 20-40 years ago, but I didn't remember it. It really works well.

I won't give you all the details of Thursday, except that we went on a short (maybe 2-3 miles?) hike and had lunch on the trail; we had burgers for dinner. This morning we made it out of the park by about 11, driving through Boulder Creek (where we bought sandwiches at about 11:40 and filled the gas tank) and Felton. We continued on 17/880 into San Jose, exited at The Alameda, and after just one wrong turn, made it to the Caltrain Depot, due south (I should remember that next time) of the Fee-Arena (aka HP Pavilion). I walked my bike into the station about 15 minutes before the next departure.

The lovely Carol took the kids over to "Raging Waters" for fun in the sun, while I headed home to try to fix the washing machine, which would completely fill the tub and never get around to the "wash" cycle -- regardless whether we told it small, medium, or large load.

On the train, the bike car was practically empty! All the way to Menlo Park (34 minutes) I think I saw maybe 3 other bikes. Now that's the way to take a bike on the train!

I pedaled home, making it in under 15 minutes (I'm feeling stronger every day!) and found everything in perfect order -- except of course that the washing machine was still busted.

I'm thankful that fixing it went well. God is good.

Everyone returned while I was writing this entry -- all reported good times at Raging Waters.

For dinner, I was the chef de cuisine again: rice (this time in the rice cooker), "ma po tofu" from a mix (just add oil, ground pork, and tofu), and left-overs:
  • lamb and spinach casserole
  • Chinese broccoli and Polish kielbasa (Now that's international!)
  • Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce, served cold
So no dishwashing for Collin tonight.

An outstanding mini-vacation!

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