California Vacation

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When we visit a beautiful place, it’s always hard to come home, no matter how good it does feel to be safely home. The long lines at the airport and the inconsiderate person who jams their seat back into your knees on the airplane is all worth it when given the opportunity to visit California.

We stayed in the Sonoma area for four days, followed by three days in San Francisco. This was my second trip to California, having been to San Diego about two years ago. I really enjoyed California on my first visit; this trip would also prove to be rewarding. However, I much prefer San Diego weather. I didn’t realize how chilly northern California was in late May to early June!

We landed in San Francisco and drove a rental car to a beautiful home rented through Airbnb. It turned out to be a really nice area with a spectacular view of the valley below. Although not technically in Sonoma or Napa, it was within reach after a drive equivalent to the distance across Houston—minus the chemical plants and smog of course.

I was looking forward to the next few days in which we would tour the area, and of course drink some wine! I didn’t bring my bike on this trip, but I did bring my gear so that a bike rental was possible.

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Delicious and oh so bad pastry from Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville is a quaint little town nestled between Napa and St. Helena where we enjoyed fine dining and delicious pastries at Bouchon Bakery. I can highly recommend the cream cheese blueberry jam pastry which I had already begun to devour as the picture here shows. North of Yountville, we toured several wineries, including Beringer and Inglenook. I personally love a red zinfandel, so it was quite pleasant to relax outside with a glass of wine on these beautiful vineyards.

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Obligatory picture of grapes!

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It was hard to contain my excitement about the chance to ride in California again. I had mapped out a challenging route that included a lot of climbing. The ride was a blast, but some of the climbs were extremely hard and very steep, which caught me by surprise when I struggled to get over them. I rented the bike in Yountville and rode to our house in Novato. It ended up being 60 miles with about 4,800 feet of climbing. You can view my ride data here and watch a video of my ride below. The following picture gives you an idea of the elevation and gradient profile over the route, with the hardest and steepest sections at the beginning.

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On Monday morning, we packed up and drove into San Francisco. This was quite an experience to see such steep hills in the middle of an urban environment. After settling into a new house, also rented through AirBnB, we headed out to explore the city. Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a panoramic picture of the Bay Bridge.

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IMG_3260We walked 4 miles observing the diverse cultures throughout the city, though admittedly I was more excited to reach the bike shop! I finally reached my destination after what seemed like 20 miles of walking to rent another bike, this frame fitting me much better than the first. I planned to ride 100 miles down to La Honda the following day. While riding the bike to the house that evening, I found Filbert Street, one of the steepest in the city at 31.5% gradient.

lombard6This seemed like such a cool challenge to climb. I was pedaling in the smallest gear I had while standing up and leaning as far forward as I could, yet the front wheel was STILL lifting off of the ground as the bike rocked from side to side! It was a unique and scary experience. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to or else I would have crashed right there, and then likely slid to the bottom of the hill. You know it’s steep when the side walk has stairs in it!

Although it was great seeing San Francisco that first day, I knew the entire second day would be spent on the bike as the ride out to La Honda is quite a haul with a lot of climbing. It was definitely worth it though, with stunning scenery and challenging mountain climbs and descents. I rode 105 miles and climbed just over 9,000 feet. You can see the route and data here and the elevation profile below.

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.56.40I tried to stop and take pictures and video often, but I also had to navigate with my phone. I felt good for the first half of the ride and over the mountains, but I was really struggling on the trek home. The wind kicked up adding insult to injury as I attempted to finish the ride. I was determined to do it, even though I haven’t actually gone 100 miles in quite a while…not to mention with all of that climbing too. At the end of the day, I was tired and my legs hurt bad, but it was totally the good kind of hurt.

Reflecting back, you could say that I missed out on some of the touristy things to do in San Francisco, but I’m having a hard time believing that I truly missed anything. I look forward to seeing more of the state in the future, but for now I can say that once again California has been good to us and provided a wonderful vacation experience.

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Boston Marathon and Vacation

While boarding the plane, I have to admit to the excitement of taking my first trip to the east coast. We flew into Boston with plans to pick up a rental car, then drive to New Hampshire where we would stay with some close friends for a couple of days. boston-landing

One thing to consider if you go to Boston and get a rental car: as soon as you leave the airport, you’re ejected right onto a tollway that goes through a long tunnel. GPS signals typically don’t work underground—go figure, so don’t make the mistake we did! Be sure you know what exit you’re taking before going into the tunnel.

We stopped at a bike shop before leaving the city to pick up some CO2 cartridges since I was able to bring my bike on this trip, but naturally compressed gas is not allowed on the plane. After the quick detour, we made it up to New Hampshire without any major problems; except for the the fact that it was still WINTER up there! Bear in mind that I am a native (south) Texan who can wear flip-flops year round. The next morning dropped down to 25F; nevertheless, I was determined to ride. I put the bike together and headed out on a 60 mile ride through New Hampshire, just crossing the state line into Vermont before turning back. Because it was still so cold, the trees didn’t have leaves on them yet, and in fact there was snow on the ground in some places!

There was a good amount of elevation with some decent climbs along the way which was a nice treat for me. Overall it was a great day on the bike exploring a different part of the country. Below are pictures from my adventure.

 

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Picturesque!

 

 

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Just to prove it was cold, obligatory snow picture.

 

 

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Nice climb here with a flowing creek on the left side.

 

 

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Love historic covered bridges.

 

 

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Bienvenue to New Hampshire. On my way back from Vermont.

 

 

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Fitzwilliam: The quaint small town we visited with friends.

After a couple of days, we drove back to Boston and moved into our hotel room for the remainder of our stay. Kristine was getting really excited about the marathon. We used the subway to get around the city, but we mostly just took it easy until race day. We spent some time at the running expo, which was big and exciting as you might expect for such a big event. Kristine got all taped up with KT tape hoping her hip would hold out through the race which was still causing some pain. We also did the pasta dinner the night before the race. I wouldn’t recommend it. The food was bland—basically noodles and spaghetti sauce. Although it was included for runners, family members had to pay to join the dinner. Topping that off, we stood in a line that wrapped around 3 blocks for nearly an hour just to get our food. Next time we’ll make reservations for sushi.

 

The day before her race I was lucky enough to get a ride in around Boston in the morning. I just wanted to explore the city, so I went easy and took lots of pictures. The route traversed through downtown, MIT, Harvard, and back to the hotel. Here’s some pictures from that ride.

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Race day!

RacedayAfter all the training and hard work, the big day had finally arrived! The morning air was crisp and cold, but the afternoon forecast was expected to be warm and sunny. Kristine had to wear some old warm clothes over her running outfit which could be discarded at the start of the race. The classic ‘California Raisins’ sweater was the choice of the day. Sad to see that one go!

Unlike Houston, the runners are transported on school buses from Boston Common out of town to the starting point in Hopkinton. They run a direct route back into the city, so it wasn’t practical for me to see her during the race. Although I had my bike with me, we opted not to try that this year. As they were loading the buses, I gave her one last kiss and wished her the best of luck. I told her she had this, and this was her time to shine. Just enjoy the moment.984056_10152065093421631_8095361839667973647_n

All I could think about as I watched her leave was how proud of her I was. I said to myself, “my sweetie is running in Boston!!”

After seeing her off, I met up with our friends from New Hampshire who had come in to the city to watch Kristine race. We made our way near the finish line where we must have stood there for over 3 hours waiting to see Kristine finish. It was simply incredible to see how many people get involved in this event. It’s like nothing else. The streets were jam packed with people!

We finally got a spot right on the fence where we could practically touch the runners finishing. It was shortly after when we saw Kristine coming across the finish line. What a sight! She made it, and faster than we expected! She’s now a Boston marathon finisher!! How cool is that!?

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That night we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner with some sweet treats from Mike’s Pastry. We relaxed and planned to explore the city together the following day.

After nearly a week away from home, we were looking forward to getting back. It was really a positive trip and already we’re thinking about returning to visit our friends in New Hampshire this fall to see the changing colors. What a sight that must be!