Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking for Oprah in Santa Barbara

                                      View of the Pacific from the home of my sister
                                               Kirsten and her husband Craig

        I had the opportunity to spend a couple of blissful days with my sister in beautiful
           Summerland, CA, a suburb of Santa Barbara. What can I say? It was heaven.

                                  OK, OK, it wasn't completely perfect, as there was some
                                                         cloud cover during my visit.

                                 Even under a blanket of clouds it was beautiful. We took a long
                                    walk along this lovely beach, only steps from their home.
                                 Notice the clouds reflecting off of the glassy ocean surface.

                           Ominously, if you look closely you can see that there was
                                               an oil slick on the water's surface.
                             Even in Santa Barbara, pollution always casts its shadow.

                There are several oil derricks off shore, which have been the source of
                 damaging leaks over the years. In the distance are the Channel Islands,
                                                 where we hope to sail next year.      

                                      We walked south to enjoy the non-oily section of beach.
                                      Also, I was secretly looking for Oprah. She lives here in
                                      Santa Barbara, you know. I'm sure Oprah loves to walk
                                                             on the beach. Doesn't she?

                               In a totally relaxed, Santa Barbara-esque way, these equestrians
                                 strolled by. Although I'm sure Oprah rides horses, she was not
                                one of the riders. Maybe that's her in that little sailboat offshore?
                                     Nah. Oprah doesn't do ANYTHING "little."

                                           A rare cloudy day as seen from Kirsten's deck

               After the walk on the beach, we popped over to the Santa Barbara Polo Club.

 Kirsten and Craig are members, and actually 
     have their own viewing box here

                                      Because I was Kirsten's guest they let me in.
                                       But they made me sit in the penalty box. :-)

                            Naw, just kidding. The staff was quite welcoming and gracious.

                                          We worked out in the official SB Polo Club gym,
                                      which opened out onto the lovely manicured grounds.
                                       Of course I was feverishly looking for Oprah from
                                      behind my shades during my visit there -- not to mention
                                      Barbra Streisand and Ellen DeGeneres, two other world
                                                 famous celebs who call Santa Barbara home.

                                       They were not in the gym, but I'm sure they have their
                                          own home gyms with their own personal trainers.

                                                    No sign of them at the pool, either. :-/

                                       I had to leave the Polo Club with the consolation
                                       prize of seeing photos on the wall PROVING that
                                            Prince William, Princess Kate and yes --
                                     Queen Oprah -- had stood on these very grounds.

                               We headed home to bathe after the fun workout at the Polo Club.

                                  Check out the size of their voluminous, luxurious bathtub!
                                   My legs are completely straight in this photo! Wow. :-)

                                       After my heavenly bath, I donned this super-luxurious
                                        Polo robe Kirsten and Craig leave out for their guests

                                              OK, OK, I could get used to this... :-)

                                              Craig came home from work and showed me his
                                    super-souped up full body Formula One racing video game.

                                                                         Marriage  ;-)

                                 I tried it out, and it was freaking awesome. It's a good thing my
                                husband didn't come with me on this trip. Odds are good that he
                               would have eaten, played and slept in this very spot for 48 straight
                                hours, never leaving the chair. ;-)

                      Since they have HBO, I selfishly hoped we would spend several hours
                      watching all the cool HBO shows we don't get to see on the mountain,
                     for hours and hours on end, until we fell into bed, exhausted.

                                   We turned on HBO where, coincidentally, the Ron Howard
                                    Formula One movie "Rush" was just starting. The movie
                                                                 was surprisingly good.

                                             The evening was a Formula One for Fun!  

                                    The next day they took me on a tour of the historic Granada
                                  Theatre, where Craig is the director. It was simply breathtaking.

                                   Surprisingly, Oprah is NOT one of the benefactors of the
                                        performing arts center. Oprah, your stock just feel an
                                                       eensy-weensy bit in my book.

                                           As if life here is not lovely enough, they have an
                                    avocado tree on their property, heavy laden with fruit!
                                           Kirsten graciously collects several of the tasty
                                                         morsels for me to take home.

                                                                Too many to pick

                                                               Guacamole Pac-Man

                                                    Kirsten and Jack, their adorable corgy

                                          Sadly, their chihuahua Kelly (seen here with Chris) 
                                               died suddenly only a couple of weeks ago. 

                                                     Kelly's doghouse, now sitting empty  :-/

                        After bidding them a gigantic thank you and farewell, I headed
                         on down to check out the marina and waterfront before starting
                                             the long drive back to the mountain

                                          The lovely main beach at Santa Barbara

                           We're planning on sailing up here next year, so I was relieved
                                             to see the anchorage appears calm and safe

                                                The beautiful, spacious marina is just next door

                                       In case bad weather makes the anchorage untenable,
                                          overnight slips are available here. Good to know.

                                   Well, time to start the long drive home. Somewhere, up in those
                                 hills, Oprah sits, alone in her lofty mansion tower with only her
                                  dogs and a few gardeners and personal assistants for company.
                                 Looks like my search for Oprah continues. Until the next visit...

                                 Thanks again to Kirsten and Craig for their amazing generosity.
                                You two have a lovely life here. You're welcome at the cabin anytime!

                           A mere three hours later, I'm back home in Green Valley Lake.
                                           Ya gotta love Southern California...


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Deep under Los Angeles, to the Space Shuttle

        We took a big adventure from Green Valley Lake to San Bernardino, then onto the Metrolink train into downtown Los Angeles. From there we took the NEW SUBWAY to the LA County Museum to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Exciting, huh?

                                     First stop, the Metrolink train. It was our first time aboard!

                                           Our travel partners were our friends the Huckabys.
                                         We played cards on the train, and I was the champ.
                                  That means you must call me "champ" for the next 24 hours.
                                                           Those are the house rules. :-)

                               Next stop, the historic train station in downtown Los Angeles.
                                    It's been used in hundreds of movies and TV shows.
                                   On this day we caught the guy at the left going deep in
                                 the nose department. Unfortunately he's not famous,
                                     or I'd be pocketing some cool cash from Us Weekly.

                                          Then it was down, down, down for our inaugural
                                                   visit to the new Los Angeles subway

                 How cool is this! I've been on the tube in London, and the famous
      NYC Subway...and now, finally, we have our own right here in Los Angeles!

                                    There's even a big hopscotch spot for kids to play. :-)

                                 Our own cool LA subway, with our own cool subway riders!

                                  This young musician followed the subway tradition of popping
                              open his violin case for tips. It's good to know that if times get tough
                                  financially, our old timey group Grits 'n' Grady will have
                                                  a place to peddle our musical wares...

                                                                  Sandi minds the gap

                       Next thing we knew, we were on the subway. OUR cool LA subway!

                                 The train also goes above ground, and we passed right by the
                                 home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center. Here's a tip:
                                   if you ever go to a Lakers game, bypass the $20 parking
                                                         and take the subway instead!

                      The train dropped us off at Exposition Park, site of the USC campus,
                                            the Coliseum and the LA County Museum.
                  I thought the "Suicide Crisis Line" sign at the train crossing was a sad sight.
                               An engineer there had been a few suicides at this spot. Yikes. :-/

        Exposition Park was built in 1932 for the LA Olympics. The architecture is lovely.

                                                First stop: the African-American museum.
                                             Sandi, an honorary African-American, poses next
                                              to her hero Frederick Douglass, who visited
                                                              Los Angeles in the 1860's.

                                My favorite thing at the museum was this photo of
                                    African American Jews in NYC in the 1940's.

                            And finally we reached our destination: The Space Shuttle Endeavor!

                          I was pretty bummed that we didn't get to go INSIDE the Space Shuttle.
                             Ah, well. It was still pretty amazing just to be so close to it,
                                         knowing how far it had traveled, deep into space.

                                 It was a good day in Los Angeles. Now that they actually
                         have a working subway, I think life in the city can only get easier.
                                    Who knows? Maybe I'll live there again someday.

              It's possible, but not likely. Why would I move back to the craziness of
                    Los Angeles when I've got my beautiful Green Valley Lake,
                             where the leaves are turning even as we speak?

                             But, never fear, Los Angeles. You're a great place to visit.
                             And thanks to your new subway, we'll definitely be back!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Catalina Adventure: Kiss of the Sea Monster

Beautiful Long Point on Catalina Island 

    Chris and I sailed to Catalina Island over Labor Day with his brother
 Scott, down from the Bay Area for our annual Catalina sailing adventure.

Long Point is about halfway between Avalon and Two Harbors.

    A gorgeous orange starfish crept around the dock to say "Ahoy" to us as  
      we threw off the dock lines in San Pedro for our Catalina Island sail

A large pod of dolphins swam off of our bow wake during our sail to Catalina...

...and then they moved on. See ya later, boys!

     We scored a mooring at Hen Rock beach, and after a light
 dinner, the brothers did some stargazing and catching up
 under the crystal clear sky

The next morning, Chris bravely (or crazily?) decided to climb Hen Rock

  Master of his domain. To my relief (and with a wifely eye roll) 
      he quickly jumped in the water after conquering the great
 peak (LOL). Boys will, apparently, always be boys! 

               After the great white hunter returned from his grand adventure (really, 
              we're too old to be doing such crazy things...aren't we? Wait...don't
                answer that), the 3 of us jumped in the dinghy to do some exploring.
           After all, it was a gorgeous sunny day!

  The giant waves and swells of Hurricane Marie destroyed this 
dock at a nearby Girl Scout camp merely days before. Wow...

       We took Scott on a dingy tour of the area.
 The sun was so bright, and the sea was so crystalline blue...

Can you believe this is only 30 miles away from Los Angeles? 

       We had heard of a cave at Long Point that goes all the way through 
        and comes out at the waters edge on the other side, but we had never 
           explored it. If you look in this photo, you can see the tiny sliver of blue
            sky at the other end of the cave. Victorious after his Hen Rock climb, 
          Chris said: "Come on! Let's explore it!" Scott took the helm of our
      dinghy, dropped off Chris and I at the entrance of the cave, and motored
   around to the cave exit to retrieve us.

               We climbed through the dark cave and emerged on the other side, 
with Scott waiting in the dinghy. 

        The cave exit on the other side. You can see the light of the entrance
       side at the top of the cave. Unfortunately the exit was not as easy as
       the entrance. As this photo shows, it had a very surgy slot tunnel 
       about 10 feet deep and 20 feet long that we had to traverse in order to 
           enter the open sea. Waves were surging in and out of it, over and 
      around the sharp, craggy boulders that lined it on all sides. 
   Chris traversed the slot easily, with the waves only coming up to
 his waist. He entered the ocean safely. And now it was my turn.

      I had a decision to make. I considered signaling to the boys that 
         I would turn back, and they would pick me up at the original cave 
          entrance. Bright red warning flags were firing off in my brain all 
      over the place. But Chris made it through easily...

and I am the brave first mate...

So I decided to go for it, and began easing myself down into the slot.

Almost immediately, larger waves started surging through. 

                 I took a deep breath, grabbed crags of rock to stabilize
                myself and tried to move through the slot. Another much 
                  larger wave barreled through and tossed me back deeper into
                  the cave,  then sucked me back to my starting point, as if to taunt:

 "Ha, ha...not so easy, is it? Wanna try again?"

By the way, we later named this cave the Sea Monster. 

                 I sensed I was losing control, but there was little I could 
                      do at that point. I quickly tried again to exit, but the Sea Monster 
                      was having too much fun to let me go so easily. Another wave,
                    the largest one yet, crashed into the cave, enveloping it and me, 
                     tossing me into the depths of the slot like a dirty kitchen towel. 
                         Now completely powerless, she began sucking me out and I knew
                       I was going for the ride of my life. There was nothing to do but hope
                        for the best. The thundering waves were now over my head,  and I 
                   was sucked completely under. I could see nothing.
                  I was at the complete mercy of the sea and the rocks.

The Sea Monster

              Suddenly, I was in the open ocean. My hip wracked with pain. 
            Chris and Scott were about 50 feet in front of me, 
      encouraging me to swim. 

                            But the Sea Monster wasn't through with me yet.
                         Smirking (I'm sure she was smirking...), she began sucking 
                me back into the cave for another go.

                             I swam and I swam and I swam like I've never swam before. 
                                     I think I broke the free-style speed record for my age group,
                               because after about 10 frenetic pumps of my arms (during 
                             which time I basically stayed stationary against the sucking 
                          power of The Sea Monster) she finally let me go.
  For real this time.

  My legs were covered with cuts and bruises, 
but that wasn't the worst of it...

         I received this lovely parting gift from my adventure.
      I call it the "Kiss of the Sea Monster." 

                    We returned to Espiritu and I nursed my wounds while the 
                           boys went for a swim.  It's not smart to be in the same water as 
                      great white sharks when one has weeping, bloody wounds. 

          One encounter with a Sea Monster was enough for one day. :-) 

Scott plays on the flopper stopper 

           After the swim, the boys went off for more exploring of the island

            We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing aboard playing cards, 
music and just laughing about old times

                       Well, all things considered, I was very, VERY grateful to have made
                          it through the weekend with only cuts, bumps and bruises and no
                fractures or paraplegia. My encounter with 
               the Sea Monster could have really been catastrophic.

       Maybe we'll take it easy and act our age during next year's annual Catalina Adventure.

Maybe...or maybe not.   :-) 

"Live your life and forget your age." -- Anonymous