Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The waves lazily rolled onto the beach as fluffy white clouds drifted through a light blue sky during my afternoon in Ventura. My pasty skin blended into the white sand but was burning quickly enough to have me stand out as a painful pink mess before too long. Some of my friends played volleyball by the water while my other friends and I sat in the shade and watched the water. Palm trees swayed in the breeze, people jogged down the walkways to the pier, and fanny pack wearing tourists shouted at one another in languages I didn't understand. All in all, it was a typical great day at the beach.

The next day I drove back to my hometown to visit my parents. While I drove along the east side of the Sierras up Highway 395 I watched blue-gray clouds rolling over the peaks to either side of the Owens Valley. Lightning flashed as cloudbursts opened up in the rolling mountainsides of the Inyos, and the granite walls of the Sierra Nevada to the west stood purple and menacing against the thunderheads above them. I sat with my father and watched rain spit on the valley below and the sky turn a menagerie of colors above my old hometown, and when I mentioned the change of scenery I'd had over my weekend he simply said, "Welcome to California."

I take my home state for granted a lot. I've been in just about every corner of it, from the freeway mazes of Los Angeles to the winding narrow roads through the redwoods up north, from the flat agricultural expanses of the Central Valley to the mountainous regions of Eastern California that I've lived in for years. It has its economic and political faults, sure, but it's so diverse and interesting that it never ceases to keep me interested in exploring it. Deserts, forests, plains, coastlines, alpine territories, the list goes on and on; even if I forget sometimes, I realize now that I get to live in a pretty cool place.

I still need to make my way up to Lake Tahoe soon, and I'd really like to see Eureka again. I've explored Southern California two weekends in a row, and I plan to be in Mammoth Lakes again Saturday I think, so hopefully this California adventuring trend continues north some more. My backyard has a lot to explore, but if the whole Eastern Sierras are my backyard then the state of California is the whole neighborhood, and I wouldn't mind exploring all of it.

Basically I want to keep driving and hiking and exploring, but that's nothing new. I'm just realizing again how stoked I am with how much California has to offer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Inyo County, California, has a handful of highways; 6, 168, 136, 190, and the main road of 395. Highway 395 through Inyo County is a scenic route, skirting along the east side of the Sierra Nevadas, through high desert, rolling hills, grassy fields, and sleepy small towns, and it's easy to stare out into the scenery and take it all in. Traffic isn't heavy on any of the roads in the county most of the time, and there are occasions where even the busiest of the roads have no cars driving on it for hours at a time. Growing up in the town of Independence meant watching cars lazily drive through the lazy small towns, and learning to drive meant braving the tamest roads in the thinnest traffic imaginable.

Fast forward to last weekend. It'd been awhile since I'd been in Los Angeles traffic, but I remembered what kind of a challenge trudging through that maze can be. The entirety of Southern California is a jumbled web of major freeways and perpetual road construction, and anyone that has to navigate it can tell you it's a pain in the ass the majority of the time. I drove 640 miles collectively last weekend, a fair chunk of it through Los Angeles and San Diego, and while zipping by concrete dividing walls, road debris, and people who suddenly decided they didn't know how to drive, all while trying to find the right exits to take and lanes to be in on a part of the map I'd never been on before, I was tense. Anxious. Feeling alive.

I really enjoy driving.

Freeways, dark desert highways, and back roads appeal to me because they can take me places. Even if where I end up isn't the most ideal (like the time I ended up lost and in a rough neighborhood in Oakland on accident) I occasionally find myself surprised and pleased with what I see (like the time I ended up lost and found myself in Santa Cruz on Highway 1 the day after I ended up in Oakland). Watching the scenery change, the miles roll on, and finding myself somewhere else is like hiking-- but quicker, over greater distances, and with a better stereo system. It's not a means of reconnecting with nature and the world like hiking is, sure, but there is a connection with something within the self that comes from driving solo for hundreds of miles.

Combine long solo road trips with long solo hikes and I flip out with happiness.

However, the weekend trip I took was just driving, but it did take me to a lot of places. I started out in my quiet town, then through the desert, then through mountains into the Los Angeles basin, then through rolling hills and to the coast. I woke up in my modest apartment in a small town, and spent the evening out on the town in downtown San Diego. By the next evening I was back in my modest apartment after going a different route than I'd originally taken. I spent a bit over 11 hours behind the wheel, keeping myself company, watching the lines on the highway roll on by and the traffic thicken and thin.

It had been awhile since I'd last driven somewhere I'd never been before. I'm glad I did.

I want to do it again soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Running (pt. 2)

The pennant was pinned crookedly on my shirt, so I redid it while waiting for the starting call. The sun wasn't too high yet, and the early morning sunlight threw long shadows from the houses and trees of my old hometown. People in running shorts and shoes mingled and stretched on the pavement. I made small talk with a few people-- mostly making plans for later in the day-- but the thought of being at the starting line of my first race in fifteen years lingered in the back of my head.

It wasn't going to be a long race, really; 4K. Why not a 5K like most races? Having it short didn't bug me too much since I had the rest of the day to do whatever afterward, and I'd only slept a couple hours the night before because I'd gotten off work really late so I wasn't a huge ball of energy to begin with. I wasn't worried about placing anything significant either, since my goal was "better than second to last place" and easily attained if I even just walked at a brisk pace. Success was just giving it a go as far as I was concerned, so hanging out in Independence, California, a couple doors over from Dehy Park was enough of a win for me.

The announcement was made that the race was going to start, and the list of places of where the proceeds would go, the explanation of the track, and thank-yous was stated. The countdown started from three, two, one--


And I began to run. I overtook some people but figured I'd see them again soon enough. I made my way through the streets of town, listening to some tunes from my high school years to bring back some nostalgia of when I used to explore the side streets and alleyways as I retraced one of the many paths of my younger days. At the first mile the shin splints I'd decided to ignore before the race decided to make themselves known and make every slap to the ground pretty painful, so I slowed down a little bit. The people I'd passed passed me, and I watched them sweat and go while I sweated and went.

After a little while the race went through the woodlot. Making my was around a corner, enjoying the shade of the trees in the quickly warming day, I saw a man walking in the opposite direction. Behind him was a collie dog walking along and a six-year-old boy walking and taking a breather from the race. The dog thought the kid looked interesting and decided to run up to smell him. The kid freaked, considering a dog he didn't know that was twice his size was getting a bit too close for comfort, so I stepped in and shooed the dog away before the owner finally called it over to him. The kid stood for a second, looked at me, and asked, "Why didn't he try to attack you?"

"I dunno," I shrugged, "I'm a bit taller than you are I guess."

The boy and I walked for awhile, him wondering why a dog would just run up to him like that one had, me wondering why an unattended six year old was running a footrace. He asked questions about the weather, how long it'd take to run "a million billion miles" (his answer was "about ten days" which, y'know, good for him, he's got gumption), and how much longer the race was because he was tired. I told him we were just about done, so when the threat of any unleashed dog was gone, I tuned to him and said, "I'll see you at the finish line, bud," before running off.

After getting back onto pavement and on the last quarter mile, I thought about why I bothered doing the run in the first place. I could have saved my money and ran my usual track back home, but I remembered; I had redemption to think about. It's not like it honestly mattered, and it's not like I really cared that much about it, but it was something to do-- something easy to succeed in, and if I was going to be active I'd might as well have lazy goals to go with it. I crossed the finish line, a number of people who were actually in shape cheering me on, and I got a gift bag with a bandana and an Independence Day pin.

16th place with a time just over twenty minutes or so. Not stellar, but not that bad considering I smoke, had shin splints, and spent a chunk of the race walking with a six year old.

It was fun, I wouldn't mind doing another short race sometime.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


The morning provides little comfort from the heat of the day this time of year. Even before the sun crests over the eastern horizon it begins to get hot, and before long the burning ball of light in the sky and the unforgiving wind sap the life out of a anyone stuck outside. Dust kicks up in the breeze, the suns rays stab down to the earth, and a person ends up feeling dirt-peppered beef jerky if exposed to it too long, salty with sweat but not very tasty. The simple act of being outside is bad enough; in this kind of heat I don't mind shutting myself up inside, under the cooler, with a cold drink and Netflix, or maybe retreating into the high country to have it a little more pleasant.

But, of course, I've been running in the oppressive heat because I have a thing I want to do in a couple of days (a 4k, one whole k less than expected) and I'm an huge idiot.

Sweating bullets like a perspiration pistol has been reminding me to keep hydrated, especially while I'm kicking up dust trotting through the desert in 80 to 90 degree heat like a moron. I know I don't drink enough water under normal circumstances, and I know I'm usually kind of dehydrated anyway, so exerting myself in natures big convection oven has me very conscious of my water intake. Between a Camelbak, a couple Nalgene bottles, and countless glasses of water, I'm taking in a LOT, and if I wasn't sweating it all out I'd probably be in a constant state of peeing. Luckily for me, I feel pretty good despite the heat and the sweating, because there's been at least one instance where I've been hospitalized for not drinking enough water.

A number of years back I'd gone hiking in the Inyo Mountains with my father. The mountain range is notoriously arid, and I was younger and dumber than I am now, so I didn't drink nearly enough water. The day itself was a lot of fun; seeing the Sierra Nevadas off to the west, quality time with my dad, and poking around the desert was a hoot, but after doing that all day, spending most of the evening drinking soda and eating salty foods at the movie theater, I ended up having to go to the ER. They ran a full battery of tests, from blood work to a CT scan to a freaking spinal tap at three in the morning, just to be certain the headache and nausea I came in with wasn't anything serious, but I think it was simply dehydration from being stupid in the desert and loving junk food.

We'll never know.

It's going to be hot for a few more months. It makes me wish for winter every year because I'd rather curl up with a cup of coffee by the fire than desperately guzzling a gallon of water and a couple liters of Gatorade under a cooler vent. I have to relent to obsessively maintaining proper hydration, being soaked in sweat like I've been sitting in the worlds grossest splash zone, and wishing for sweater weather to come around again for the time being, but the challenge of not feeling mummified will at least keep me occupied.