Monday, August 13, 2007

120 Mile Benefit Bike Ride

They've done it again - the kids have shown me why I need to trust in them. I am at least learning to keep my mouth shut. This time I kept my worries mostly to myself, though my friends could read it on my face. Our team did a pledge ride a 120 miles long. When I heard that we would do this I had not actually expected many of our kids to be able to do it. However, half of the 22 riders completed the entire course, including Ethan. I had been interested to see how it would go since he had not been on his bike for a month due to his cast. At one point I think he wanted to give up. Several things pushed him on, not the least of which was his coach, Ryan.
But, I am ahead of myself. Let me back up and tell you how it all worked. The kids were asked to get pledges. It was a goal that each cyclist raise $500. The prize list was excellent. You could win anything from a pair of team socks (sounds dork, but they are actually pretty cool. I would like some!) to your team dues paid for next year (which includes a new uniform) to a new bike frame, expensive special components like wheels, gadgets to help you track your progress and so on. The top prizes included special custom made-to-fit bikes (worth $12,000). Ethan wanted that. He had hoped to raise $2,000 for that one. All things considered, I think he did pretty well. The fund raising aspect was more difficult for her my strong-willed, powerful girl also has a shy side.

At practice the cyclists shared their goals. Both of my kids wanted to go the who distance. I was proud of them for that. It would have been easy to say something smaller. However, I was a little surprised as well. The farthest Ethan had gone in one go was about 50 miles. Ellie had only ever gone about 25 in one day. I simply felt like cheering for them. It is wonderful that they still have the power of a dream and that the self-doubt voice has not edged that out.

On the day of the race we all met at 6:00 a.m. They were put into groups of similar ability riders. Each group had at least two adult riders. We had five aid stations set up to encourage the kids to rest, eat and rehydrate. Next time I think we need a few more aid stations. There were also three sag wagons who follow between the groups and picked up kids who were tuckered out. I was one of those drivers. The route went through neighborhoods, through farm country and into a few cities. The cyclists were very popular. It seemed that the cows and horses were happy to have a nice distraction. They sort of cheered in their own way.

Ellie got all of the way to within one mile of the third rest stop. This was the 65th mile. The group was intimidated by the mountain switchback that lay ahead of them. I think that if it had not been there, they would have kept on. I must admit that I would be put off as well. It is not that they can't do hills. In fact, that is one of Ellie's strengths, but she had already put in 65 miles and the temperatures were in the high 90's. They called for a ride and waited for me to pick them up. They did not realized I was already transporting another group who made it to 57 miles. My return would not be for about an hour. Kindly people in cars and on bikes stopped often to make sure they were okay. Upon reflection, Ellie wished she had rested before calling for a ride. In her heart she knew she could do that mountain. However, I think it was an excellent ride and a valuable lesson. Later, when she was exhausted she cried her way home for the fact that she had not gone farther. My heart broke for her sobs. I was so proud of her. I wished she could appreciate the accomplishment she made - I certainly did.

Ethan had a different path. When I arrived at aid station #3, the one on the mountain switchback, he looked tired but fine. Jo and Morgan looked like death warmed over. They were thinking about throwing in the towel and I understood why. Amazingly, they rested up enough that they peddled on. During a difficult part Ethan wanted to quit. His coach told him that section of road was too tight for a pick up. The only way he could get a pick up is if his tire exploded (as had happened to a few adults earlier in the ride). Coach Ryan even joked that Ethan had better not take out a pin and cause that explosion. This joking prod kept Ethan on the course for the rest of the time. There were many times when he wanted to quit, but did not. At the end of the race, exhausted as he was, he "high fived" Ryan for helping him see what he could do, just how far he could go! We all had a BBQ party and waited for the rest to roll in. Two friends, Jordan and Skyler, rode out to find them on the path, greet them (like you see in an old western movie) and ride them back in. The most amazing feat was the fact that Josh and Miles, both just 9 years old, finished the entire length. Bug bitten and tired we went home with a sense of accomplishment. Well, most of us did at least. A few were too tire to appreciate their accomplishments. They are already planning for next year. Ethan can't wait. Ellie says she is going to speed up that mountain!

California Postcards - Coronado Beach & Fulfilling a Dream!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

California Postcards - Point Loma, San Diego & Cousins

When we got to San Diego, it felt like we were on a different trip. We were staying in a hotel that turned out to be kind of gross and right next to the fast food joint that was really popular with the local homeless street folk. The restaurant had a unique scent that one does not want associated with a place where their food comes from, so we stayed away. The room we had was recently a smoker's room which had been heavily perfumed to cover up that odor. The bathroom sported a wet mold decor, so you had to wonder, "If I shower in here, will I end up clean or more dirty than when I entered?" Seeing how we were there for three days, we had to endure that. However, after arriving we dumped out stuff and set out for more adventures. First up was to go see the Spreckles Pipe Organ concert that was taking place in Balboa Park. The organ was beautiful, which you can see by the photo I've included here. The weather was perfect. It was just what my husband had hoped for. The music was nice as well. Some of the pieces were calming while others were stirring. Too bad I did not remember to keep track of the titles.

The next morning we were off to Point Loma with hopes of going tide pooling. The low tide was actually too high for tide pooling and the hours of the park would not work for that activity, so we simply enjoy the views, took in the historic video at the visitor's center and such. It was such a dramatic coast, with waves crashing upon the rock and splashing you. A fog hung over the distance as we watched the fishing boats go by. The guys were feeling adventurous so they climbed down and found interesting little cave like spots in the rock and the cliffs. Ellie was tired, so we zoned and semi-napped on the edge of a nice rock. Later we learned about Coronado Island and the fact that you could find good tide pooling there, so we were off again.

Coronado Island is a fun little place that is connected to San Diego by a very long, high bridge. The beach we visited is next to The Del Coronado Hotel, a stunning, historic place where movies like "Some Like It Hot" were filmed. It seems that the beach is public, but the hotel keeps it nice. We found rock outcroppings and went to work looking at what we could find. We found a few sand dollars and a lot of anemones, both large and small. We also found Katheryn, the local tide pool conservation volunteer who told us about the tide pool and that it would be better to come early the next morning. We left knowing we would return before sunrise the next morning. Once it was dark we also explored the hotel a bit. They have a lot of fun little shops that we visited. Ellie got a spiky, glow-in-the-dark ball and Ethan thought he needed to wear it.

That evening we had dinner with Cousin Jean, her husband Greg, Claire and Ingrid. Larr and Jean were great buddies when they were growing up. We had a casual dinner of Mexican food from a local restaurant and lots of good conversation. Ellie and Ingrid got out Prince Yaz, also known as Mr. Bunny. He got a good grooming, a romp on the porch and lots of homemade food containing tons of parsley. Prince Yaz seemed to enjoy it all. Ethan and Claire stayed for much of the conversation as we plied Greg for stories of his bike riding adventures. We recounted the tales of those we saw riding in Encinidas. Seeing those riders made up miss our bikes. Greg is getting ready for the Paris Brest Paris ride in the fall. This is a major ride that is something like 720 miles long. We are looking forward to hearing how it goes for him. We all had such a good time that we did not want it to end. We were headed back to the beach the next day. They lent us a table, chairs and boogie boards and agreed to come play with us on the beach the next day, our last night of the trip.
It was a good end to a busy, diverse day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

California Postcards - LegoLand

Monday was the perfect day for going to LegoLand. After having spent so much time at Disneyland and California Adventure Park, we were geared up for that volume of park. LegoLand was a welcome relaxation from that pace. We found out that Burger King had 2 for 1 coupons and a friend, Curt, picked up many of them for us. We used two and gave the others to people in line. The funny thing about that is that I had looked at bidding on some of the very same coupons on ebay. When I called LegoLand to make sure that would work they told me that they have many of those coupons out there. There was no need to bid on some. Also, they told me that LegoLand does not blackout any dates on their coupons. However, they are only open 5 days a week. I was glad I called. I had assumed that they would be open 352 days a year. Once there we found that the rides were fun, but not the thrill we got from the roller coaster at Disneyland. It is clear that LegoLand is geared more towards the younger set. We have an entire Lego loft, filled with eight years of Legos we've gotten as gifts or purchased, yet I was amazed at what were the favorites. Ethan loved the "Mindstorm" activity. This is a programmable robot that hooks up to the computer. The kids have a mission that has four or five levels and a bonus level if you work fast enough. You have to allow 45 minutes to 1 hour for this and you have to reserve a spot in advance. We signed up for this as we walked past it the first time. Ethan has access to a "Lego Mindstorm" but he still found it lots of fun to take on their challenge. He was bummed when he could not get in a second time due to our schedule. They both loved the spot where you make a Lego car and race it. Again, we can do this at home, but somehow it was still more fun at LegoLand. Ellie liked this programmable ride where you are strapped in to this thing that looked like an arm from a Technic. You then tell the ride operator what level you want - 1 to 5, five being the most wild. When the ride operator asked for my glasses I knew we were in for a intense time. Once was enough for me on that one. I think Ellie did it a second time. The Volvo Driving Range was neat since you could drive anywhere you want to go on the course. Ethan also loved the minifactory that makes Lego bricks on the spot. He bought some of those. And I can't forget to mention the Brick Store where they have the bricks and Lego sorted by color, as well as by shape. You buy what you want by the pound. Some people even sat down, built something and bought that. All of us loved the MiniLego Land where major locations (cities, famous sites, etc.) were made in Lego to a 1:20 scale. It was SO COOL! We all left with a burning desire to go home and build! The other rides were great, too. We never had to wait in line too long. It was a nice, not so stimulating day. Thanks, Lego!

Monday, August 06, 2007

California Postcards - Encinitas, Moon Bay Beach, Quil Gardens & Scripps Birch Aquarium

It was hard to leave Hemet. It is funny how you can only know someone in for family for a very short time and yet be sad to part so quickly. We hope that they find their way to our neck of the woods some time. The next stop was a Bed and Breakfast, Sea Breeze B&b, in Encinitas. It was a very nice, homey place with hostess named Kirsten, a cat named Missy and a little girl who had just had her fourth birthday, named Whisper. The B&B was only three short blocks from the beach. Breakfast was a serve yourself deal and the cost was very affordable. She even let me use her washing machine and lent us beach towels. I would highly recommend looking her up if you need to stay anywhere near her end of California. Anyhow, we dropped off our gear, taped up Ethan's cast and sped off to the beach. He was quite a hit with the surfers. One group of teens who were stopped at a light leaned out and said, "Hey little man, is that a cast? That is so totally awesome - I wish I could sign it!" He also got some strange looks at the beach. I am not sure what people thought was under all that duct tape. I am just thankful that we figured out a good system. We found that if you put a towel towards top opening and another around his hand, then covered that with a trash compactor bag and covered that with a few layers of duct tape, that he could still enjoy the beach. There was no way a little fractured wrist and bent bone was going to keep that boy out of the water. Ellie entered the water with glee. Thankfully, the water was warm and inviting. They played until it began to get too dark to see well. Then they collected kelp and made a bump. They had the idea that they could use it to make a floating island that they could perch upon. This did not really work, but it was fun.

We had intended to go to Legoland the next day, but decided to put it off until Monday, a wise suggestion on Kirsten's part. It was much less crowded then it might have been. Instead, we visited Quail Gardens. We love gardens and this one sported a bamboo garden, along with subtropical plants. It was beautiful and diverse. The kids pretended that they were in certain movies in the different sections. In the bamboo forest they were in a Chinese movie we've seen, jumping from tree to tree in their imagination. In the Australian forest they pretended that they were Indiana Jones and his Sidekick. I hummed the music and they skulked through the undergrowth. It was much more fun going this way, than the traditional adult way. I am thankful that we have kids to remind us how to have fun.

Next up was the Scripps Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. We had opted for it instead of Sea World for money reasons. It was a lot of fascinating fun! They do a great job at that location. It is not large, but the select of what to do and see was great to us lock-lander folk. It was "Shark Week" and that added even more interesting fun. We got to pet some friendly sharks, "dog fish sharks" I believe they were called. Did you know that a single shark will loose thousands of teeth over the course of its life? The teeth are modified scales and as teeth fall out, other just move up the line. We also got some great tips on tidepooling. La Jolla is a great place to tidepool. It is important to know when low tide is. During our visit the best time to go was very early in the morning. I will write about that later. As part of "Shark Week" there were PHD candidates working tables, talking sharks and sharing some of their neat samples. It was a real hit with our family.