Wildflower part two: the glass is half full edition

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So, when we last left our intrepid author, she’d just finished crying on the boat ramp and was getting ready to head back to camp. I went back to transition and gathered up the majority of my gear. I left Slim there because the shuttles for bikes wouldn’t be running until later in the afternoon and I did not have the wherewithal to lug him up the steep walking trail back to camp. Todd was kind enough to carry my pack and I started my mental shift toward the new agenda for the day by looking forward to a hot shower.

As we got into camp, I ran into numerous team mates who were surprised to see me and had to tell the sad tale of what happened. Everyone was so unbelievably supportive and kind, which really lifted my spirits. My shower was magnificent and after a little chilling at camp, we packed up a lunch cooler, my little portable chair, some cowbells and pom-poms and staked out a good place to cheer for Catherine when she came by on the bike.

It was really awesome to cheer for the other cyclists out on the course. (And, to be honest, seeing how miserable some of them looked really took the sting out of not being among them.) I had an idea of when Catherine should be coming by and before we knew it, there she was. She looked surprised to see me and when I cheered her on, she said something to the effect of pulling the plug after the bike. I told her she was absolutely (effing) not and then Todd and I powerwalked down to the transition area.

Because I still had my race numbers, I could go into the transition area and found her fully changed into her run gear, standing in front of her spot. Having been in this situation so many times myself, it was easy to see that she just needed a little nudge and she was going to be just fine. So, I coaxed her onto the run course with a “just go out for the first mile, if it really sucks you can come back. Besides, what else do you have to do today?” And just like that, she headed out.

I texted our OTC teammate Betsy the situation and told her I was grabbing my bike and then would meet her to cheer Catherine on the run course. Todd and I rode the blessed shuttle up the hill and I released him to go nap/chill in the campground, grabbed my hydration pack full of anything Catherine might want when she came by, my chair, can of wine and cheering supplies and joined Betsy to wait for Catherine at approximately the halfway point of the run. There was a long hill that Betsy was planning to run with Catherine and I said I would do the same. After a little while a few more team mates joined us and we made quite a commotion when Catherine finally came into view. This picture says it all:

She looked so strong and steady, we were all amped up with pride and excitement for her. Betsy and I headed to the next viewing spot, right before the one-mile descent back to transition. It was great to chat with Betsy and get to know her better. Some more of our teammates joined us to high five her as she came by, all smiles.

The only bummer about the set-up was that there was no real way for us to get to the finish line in time, so we left Catherine to her well-earned triumph and headed back to camp for a group photo:

Clif was hosting an 80’s party, so soon our camp was filled with all sorts of rad fashion:

One of our teammates brought his costume box, so those of us who weren’t as prepared as Ms. Erica here could still join in the fun:

So. Much. Awesome.

I hadn’t really brought a full costume for the party since I figured I’d just finish racing about the time it started. But I did find some crimped colorful hair extensions that I tucked into my bag. There was one black one that I pinned on Todd as a makeshift rat tail. So stylin’!

Sadly, the 80’s party was a little bit of a disappointment when we got there. They turned off the 80’s music for some country western band (?!?) so a lot of us abandoned the party to go spectate an impromptu beer mile happening in another part of the campground. It was fun to cheer on that insanity and then we headed back to camp. By that point, we could hear that the 80’s party had ramped up, but we were too tired to go back.

The next morning, Todd and I had a leisurely morning at camp and then headed down to cheer on the sprint and olympic athletes. It was such a blast to cheer for everyone and see OTC kick some major ass. We stationed ourselves in the same bike course spot as yesterday and got to see most of the olympic distance folks pass by on the bike. Then, we went back and packed up camp. Originally, we were told that the roads were closed until 3, so I was planning to pack up and then go down to the finish to cheer. But, after we’d packed up, we noticed cars leaving the campground and decided to press our luck. I had to catch a plane to North Carolina early the next morning, so any extra time to pack my suitcase and be at home was too tempting to pass up. I was super bummed to miss the finish line antics and hear everyone’s race stories, but I will plan better for next year and not have a stupid business trip right non the heels of this race.

As you might imagine, I am already planning ahead for next year. I definitely have unfinished business with this course and a head full of plans on how to improve. Stay tuned for Wildflower: the redemption edition post in 2019! Huge thanks to all of my OTC peeps. This would have been such a huge bummer of a weekend without you!

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Wildflower part one: the “what happened” edition

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For those unfamiliar with triathlon culture or who haven’t had to listen to me yammer on about my doings (you lucky bastards!), Wildflower is an iconic race that’s been around for ~35 years. It bills itself as the “Woodstock of triathlon” which is pretty accurate. It’s this weird combination of hippie festival and Type A sporting event. And I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I’ve known about it – approximately ten years or so. But logistics of flying to a race where you need to camp combined training for an early May half ironman in the Pacific Northwest were too daunting. Then, after we moved back to CA, the drought had taken it’s toll on the event – the lake levels continued to drop until last year when they had to cancel it.

So, when the announcement came that Wildflower was coming back, I decided this was a sign from the universe and pulled the trigger pretty early. I’d been wanting a big goal to train for and now I lived close enough to be able to drive my ridiculous amounts of stuff there. Plus, as an added bonus, OTC announced it as a club race, so there were a ton of people to train and camp with. Huzzah!

Spring rocketed by and, before I knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head to Lake San Antonio!

I wanted to get there early so that we could settle in and not do a big three hour drive the day before the race. I was very glad I did, because there was a little bit of drama with our camping sites. The club had been promised ten reserved sites, but between the event organizers not really marking them and mis-communication over which campgrounds were first-come/first-serve, we only had three. Thankfully, our president carries caution tape in his truck, (WTF Charlie?) so we hastily marked off some open space:

But, thankfully we got that resolved and we could settle into the serious business of glamping. Charlie’s hammock got the party started:

Then Todd raised the ante with his inflatable couch and travel bar:

And then it just went from there. Todd and I have met our match!

The next morning we went down to the festival/race start. I knew this was a big race, but looking at the transition area was the first solid indication:

The swim start/finish. The long concrete hill to climb after swimming was an especially nice touch…

There were these cool steps with the winners’ names on them. It was basically a greatest hits list of racers in this sport. It reminded me of the bricks at Ironman Canada in Penticton – such a sense of triathlon history.

They also had these big cut-outs of famous past racers (I assume?) set up around the park. It was pretty cool.

It was hard to stay off your feet and rest before the race. There was a huge expo to look at, packets to pick-up, food trucks, music, etc. But I finally tore myself away and went back to the camp site to put my feet up and watch Erica hang the disco ball:

You heard me, disco ball!

The majority of the group had shown up by this point, so we had a great afternoon/evening of hanging out and chatting:

Then it was time to go to bed because the next morning was race day! (I have butterflies just typing that.) Ear plugs and melatonin helped me get a few hours, but I did my usual tossing and turning, followed by the butterflies/pit of dread in my stomach when it’s time to get up. It’s weird that I choose to do a sport where I don’t actually enjoy competing. I love to train for a goal, but the actual racing – not so much.

So, as I gathered my backpack of race gear and headed down to the start, I was doing my usual pre-race warm-up of breathing/trying not to cry/going to the porta-potty a million times.  The transition area now looked like this, so I had LOTS of company:

Photo credit: Erica Hruby

I hadn’t really planned well for a bright and sunny start line (note for next year, bring cheap sunglasses… ) and was generally feeling rattled. They said that transition would be closed at 8, 45 minutes before my start time and I didn’t know if I would see Todd beforehand with the huge crowd, so I had to leave my watch and wedding ring in transition instead of giving them to him. By the time I saw him, I was a little bit of a mess. He’s seen this movie before, to he hugged me and helped me into my wetsuit and generally calmed me down.

We found a place to sit on the dock and watched the swim waves start. It was good to take a minute to chill and gather myself. I was still super nervous, but feeling okay. Way too soon, it was time to put on my hot pink swim cap and join my wave. I gave Todd a final hug good-bye and headed over.

The swim start is super narrow and I’ve heard many stories of getting punched and kicked, so I started way in the back of my wave. As usual, the adrenaline of the race start had my heart rate through the roof, so I did my customary stop/breast-stroke for a couple of strokes to look at where I was heading, get my breathing under control and find my rhythm. I’ve done this so many times and while I’m not a fast swimmer, I am a steady one. I usually settle into a nice stroke, find a line a little off the buoy line, so I’m not getting swum over by faster swimmers behind me and get it done.

But this time, I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I stopped and breast-stroked a few more times and it just wasn’t working, so I finally stopped at one of the safety kayaks and paused for a little while trying to figure out what to do. (The poor 20-something on the kayak had no idea what to do with me, so thankfully my only real option was to keep swimming – either back to shore or to finish the course.) I started to feel better and so I headed out again.

The swim course is a big triangle and my kayak stop was probably a third of the way up the first side of the the triangle and I was finally starting to feel better and get into my groove a little bit. Then when I made it to the turnaround point (the top of the triangle) it felt like someone stepped on my chest. I moved over to the side, so I wasn’t in the way of all the swimmers, but I was seriously freaking out (which didn’t really help things). I was wheezing and thinking about all of Todd’s pre-heart attack symptoms and various bad scenarios.

So, when the second 20-something kayaker asked if I was okay, I was like “I don’t think so?” Like the first one, he didn’t really know what to do once I said I thought I needed to stop, but thankfully he found a lady with a radio who did. I cried on his kayak for a bit while the medical team came over to give me a ride back to shore. They handed me off to some nice paramedics (one of whom made my day by asking my age and then doing a double take when I told him. It’s the little things, right?) The paramedics checked me out, ran an EKG and listened to my lungs. They asked me a million questions and didn’t really have any explanation for me, but at least I could rule out my horror scenarios.

I walked up the ramp to meet Todd and had a good cry saying good-bye to the race day I wanted and accepting the one that I got. I was full of doubts that I’d done the right thing. (Was it lack of fitness? Was it an anxiety attack? Would it happen again?) Thankfully, my many years of doing this sport kicked in and I had to accept that even if I’d “toughened up” and made it back to shore, I was in no shape to tackle a long, hot, hilly bike ride and would likely have not made the bike cut-off. That mental picture went a long way and helped me be thankful that I could listen to my body, even when I didn’t like what it was saying. Plus, having my race end on the swim meant that I could still cheer Catherine on the bike and run. Stay tuned for part two!

Easter weekend adventures

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This weekend was an Easter basket full of awesome. On Saturday, Todd and I went out and rode with Oakland Tri Club on a beautiful Marin ride. It’s a recovery week for me, so it was a nice relaxing ride followed by a lovely brunch. Then we had a few hours to relax before meeting up with Erik, Nerissa and their friends Janis and Dave for our Intro to Curling class. (Yes, you read that correctly… )

For those who are unfamiliar, curling is that sport you may have seen during the Winter Olympics where people try to slide these big weighted stone pieces into a bullseye on the ice, while their team mates frantically smooth the ice in front of it with brooms. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot harder than it looks. First we learned how to launch the stones. You press one foot into this little starting block looking thing anchored into the ice, place the other foot onto this little Teflon slidey-thing and then put one hand onto either your broom (if you know what you’re doing) or a plastic beginner version and the other hand on the stone. Then you basically crouch down and kick off with the foot on the starting block, hoping to move into a graceful lunge forward…

But often ending up in a crazy mess:

But we eventually got the hang of it:

After they taught us the various skills/techniques, they had us play a game against another group of people. Every junior high P.E. anxiety flooded through me, but I tried to play it cool. The first game, my stone had to get a pity push from one of the instructors, but the second time it shockingly not only made it all the way to the other side, it actually landed inside the bullseye and was the only point we scored. Here I am with my winning stone:

It was really fun. Even for a girl who hates ice and slippery surfaces. 😉 Many thanks to Nerissa for organizing!

The next day was Easter Sunday. My typical Easter plans usually involve me realizing it’s Easter about half-way through, usually when I’m trying to go to a store that’s closed. This year, Erik & Nerissa invited us to join them on their traditional Fancy Easter Brunch at the Ritz in Half Moon Bay. The weather was PERFECT:

Brunch was ridiculously awesome. Words cannot describe it, so here’s a picture of Nerissa with the world’s tiniest carrot:

Nerissa was rocking the bunny ears and even got Erik to participate:

Todd and I had to rely on Instagram filters for our Easter spirit, but I hope you all had a great Easter holiday!

March musings

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The rains have finally arrived in Northern California. I know we need the water, but man, I don’t know how I ever lived in the Pacific Northwest! I truly hate the dark skies and cold water dripping down from above. Add the omnipresent darkness of current events and it’s really hard to find stuff to write about that isn’t just ALL CAPS PSYCHOTIC RANTING. But lord knows there’s enough of that on the internet already, so I’ll confine myself to random tidbits from my life.

Wildflower is looming large on the horizon. Thankfully, a good-sized number of folks from my tri club are doing it, so there is a training plan to follow and group workouts I can join when I need company/ass kicking. Especially for getting out on the bike when it’s cloudy and cold:

(Photo by Charlie Keen. I’m in the back on the left. I think you can see my arm… )

But little by little I’m finding my mojo again. It’s been a LONG time coming. I’ve been getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get on the bike trainer or go to the pool, which I never managed to do consistently before. On Friday, I made it for my pre-work, outdoor swim in the actual rain. (I was feeling like such a badass about this, until the aquacize ladies rolled in and showed me what hardcore really was. It’s one thing to do an activity where you’re largely under heated water during a cold drizzle. It’s another thing altogether when you’re treading water with your full torso out there. Mad respect, ladies!)

Yesterday, I went out to do a long, hilly bike ride. Originally, Todd was going to join me, but he had some work stuff and his back had been twingy, so he stayed home. I decided to ride out near where I worked and tackle a climb that I’d bailed on the only other time I’d attempted it – Patterson Pass. I figured it would be a good confidence builder, assuming I could do it, and a chance to bump down to a shorter distance if I failed.

Patterson is a long, somewhat relentless climb. It seems like it goes on forever. I generally like climbs like this for training because they build mental strength, along with the physical.

And, of course, there was a ridiculous little steep section before the last part of the climb where I had to stop and take a wheezing/panting/recovery break…

But, I made it to the top and the view was AMAZING:

It was crazy to look down on all of those windmills, completely the opposite of the view I usually have. That climb was followed by many miles of screaming fast/slightly terrifying descents and then some lovely riding through the country. I was feeling so good that I decided to take on a second climb that had eluded me – the road up to Del Valle regional park.

My brother and I have ridden part of it as part of lunchtime and weekend rides, but we’ve never made it all the way to the top. Usually, it’s a million degrees and we have time/fitness constraints, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never finished it. It’s another long, relentless climb with about a million switchbacks that seem to go on forever. It was the end of my ride and I was tired, but I put my head down and basically willed my legs to get me there. All in all, it was 40 miles of confidence boost. I was tired, but also really proud of myself.

Aside from all of that craziness, life has been work stuff and random adventures with this guy:

And this one…

Even when the weather is bumming me out, I know I’m so deeply blessed to be able to do this crazy athletic stuff and have such wonderful people (and dogs) in my life.

Adventures in Waimea Canyon

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After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon – aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

WC_CanyonView

A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

WC_TandICanyon

There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

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But this is what made it onto Instagram:

WC_BabyPig

We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

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Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5–2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

WC_StartOfHike

We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

WC_CanyonView2

The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

WC_View

But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

WC_trailheadWaterfall

Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

WC_BigRonLocator

Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…

Return to paradise

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A while back, there was discussion of a repeat of our awesome trip to Hawaii. Originally, we were going to return to the awesome Lana’i house, but apparently the entire island is closed due the the Four Seasons undergoing some substantial renovations. So, we had to make due with Kauai. (I know, we suffer so… )

We got a better rate for flights if we left on Friday morning vs. Saturday, so we booked a single night at a cute little hotel in Kapa’a. Here’s the view from our lanai:

ViewFromRoom

The sign for the beach club pictured above:

LavaLavaSign

We headed into town to grab some lunch and explore a bit. We went to Mermaids cafe at Erik & Nerissa’s recommendation. Should you find yourself in Kapaa, definitely go. It’s insanely delicious. We got to see our first (of many) free-range chickens/roosters, courtesy of Hurricane Iniki.

FirstRoosterSighting

Afterward, we wandered around and looked at the shops. We also tried out a local delicacy we hadn’t had a chance to have during our previous trip, Hawaiian ice. I’m officially obsessed:

HawaiianIce

Plus, the fruit stand where we bought it was utterly charming:

FruitStandSignFruitStandBananas

While we were sitting out front and eating our ices, the lady delivering avocados asked us how long we were staying and offered us some. We, of course, said yes. Score! This vacation was already off to a fantastic start and we’d been there for about three hours.

We headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit. I mean, you have to take the “Mai Tais by the beach” picture to post on Instagram:

MaiTaiswithView

Followed by the obligatory “we’re on vacation selfie”. I know, we’re the worst…

BarSelfie

Mostly, we just enjoyed looking at this:

BeachTime

Erin and David had arrived a few days prior and were staying on the north side of the island, so we drove up there to meet them for dinner. Naturally, there were some stops along the way to gawk at the beautiful scenery:

RicePaddyView

We had a magnificent sushi dinner, at a place recommended by the friend they were staying with. Then it was off to bed, since we’d been up since 5 am PDT. (Stupid early morning flights and time zone changes… )

The next morning, we went to check out a breakfast place that had good enough Yelp reviews for me to overlook the fact that it was called Kountry Kitchen. (I hate “cutesy” misspelled words in restaurant names.) But it was great, quirky and charming inside:

KountryKitchenInterior

With really great food. We split orders of mahi-mahi & eggs and macadamia nut french toast & homemade coconut syrup. So. GOOD.

KKBreakfast

After breakfast I made T take my picture in front of the Lava Lava sign:

MeLavaLavaSign

Then it was time to pack up and meet Erin & David at the rental car place. They dropped their car off, we added her as a driver to our car, shoved all of the luggage in the back and headed off to lunch and then the condo for check-in. Jenn & Bryan were arriving about the same time, so we text-coordinated and arrived at the condo at roughly the same time.

As usual, we were really roughing it:

LanaiLanaiView

The view from the lanai was especially ridiculous:

LanaiView2

The Bird taught a seminar is how to chillax:

TheBirdChillin

We took a little evening beach walk and met some local celebrities – the monk seals that hang out on the beach. I particularly liked that they are so lazy that this sign is needed:

SealSign

They are super cute though. Like big beach cats:

MonkSeals

And then we finished the evening with lots of wine, laughter and a beautiful sunset:

FirstSunset

Not bad, Kauai. Not bad…

A rebuilding year

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I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but I’ve always liked the phrase “rebuilding year.” I’ve heard it invoked when a team gets a new coach or a bunch of players graduate or what-have-you and I just really like the idea of it. I’m in the middle of a job search – a process that, for me, requires a lot of reflection as I examine what I want to be doing and how to present my skills, etc. and I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be a rebuilding year for me. I’m cutting myself some slack and just working on making small sustainable steps to change the things that I want to improve in my life. It’s hard work, but feels like I’m on the right path.

Otherwise, life here is pretty great. We spend a lot of time with these goofballs:

DogParkAntics
AustinGoofballWally

We also added a few members to the “extended pack”. Erik & Nerissa adopted this handsome fellow:

Finn

His name is Finn and while they’re still getting used to having a young, exuberant dog after only having an older dog, I think they are enjoying him. Austin is certainly a big fan:

NewDogPackWe also dog-sat for Todd’s boss’ dog Natasha, a.k.a. Austin’s boss. (T’s office is dog friendly, so Austin goes in a couple of times a week.) It’s pretty crazy watching this tiny thing lay the smackdown on two big dogs. She’s fearless and apparently indestructible:

NatashaBoys

She also spent a lot of time stealing bones and hoarding them on the couch

NatashaAustinAustinNatashaSleeping

We’ve also been enjoying our new surroundings. In February, I took a PTO day and tagged along on one of T’s trips down to Santa Cruz. Yes, you read that right – FEBRUARY:

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I’m a sucker for a cool lighthouse:

SClighthouse

There were also these cool things shaped like giant jacks along the jetty. I’d love to know what they were originally:

SCpilingsSCpilings2There have been some lovely hikes:

Hike1HikeCaveHikeScenery

And some urban excursions around Lake Merritt (which reminds me a lot of our old neighborhood in Seattle):

LakeMerritt

And, of course, lots of culinary adventures. Such as a fancy ice cream place that makes your ice cream to order with some crazy nitrous-using mixer:

SmittenMachineSmitten1Smitten2

Brunch research (It’s important to know what your options are!)

Brunch

And one of my personal highlights was finding this guy while wine-tasting. Meet Clarence, the wine-barfing unicorn. He’s pretty much my favorite thing ever:
Clarence

So, that’s my update. We leave for Hawaii in a little over a week, so get excited for a super obnoxious play-by-play of our awesome vacation! 🙂