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Monday, 31 December 2012

Fats festive fatass Mt Nebo trail run 2012

I found out later that this year was the 10th running of this event. 
On the 27th December 2012, I joined many (about 40 or 50) keen runners on an unseasonal but welcome cool morning for my second attempt at Mt Nebo. 

Last year I turtled up to the 20k mark and then turned back for a total of 40k and nearly six-hour jog/walk.

This year I was aiming to go all the way and was hoping to at least do better on the 'up' lap to 20k.

The cicadas 'sang' and cheered us on almost every step of the way.

I remember thinking how incredible it is that such a small insect could produce more noise than my lawnmower. Apparently cicadas are amongst the loudest insects in the world and can make up to 120db (as loud as an ambulance and louder than a lawnmower). I did think they was a bit too loud for my liking. Thankfully I did not go back the same way, I would have risked hearing loss. I'll make sure to bring ear plugs next time. 

The rainwater tank and shed near 16km. I made sure I turned left at the junction here.

The beehives from last year were still there.

Young Simon caught me just past the 21k. He was kind enough to let me sit in his slipstream and pace me the rest of the way. 

At the finish I doffed my cap off to the mighty top 15 or 20. I think I made the top 10 in the ladies :-).

I tried knocking at the post office to send myself home, but Simon was even kinder to get me a lift back down to The Gap with his mates Ben and Dave. Thank you fellows. And do go well and run well in 2013. Might even see you down the road.

 The course had a net gain of about 400m (about 1300m up and 900m down).
Map details here.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I love LA

If my mem’ry serves me well
I was on the California Zephyr
And while ridin’ on that train goin’ west
I recalled some songs/ or tried.
Now I got mixed up confusion.
Take me down to California baby.
I’m not used to four seasons
California’s got but one/ San Francisco’s fine
But I’m goin’ down south/ ’Neath the borderline.
I love L.A.
Hate New York city/ It’s cold and it’s damp
left Chicago a week ago/ for the archipelago
From the south bay to the valley
Ahh love it.
Look at that smog/ Look at that sign
Sunset boulevard/ Vermont avenue
I love L.A. (We love it).
I hit the road of Kerouac, but unlike Jack, I didn't hop a freight train. I hopped off an Amtrak train one high evening in mid-November 2012. An ordinary itinerary for a hobo: Got on a shuttle then a city bus - Culver city bus 6 to Aviation/LAX station. TAP transit access day pass - Metro Green Line. Aviation Station then Metro Rail towards Norwalk.
I went on a 20-mile journey from the LAX precinct to Sunset Boulevard through the glamour strip to the Griffith Observatory. The tour included everything that the unglamorous Vermont Avenue (a microcosm of LA) had to offer. First up the places of worship - they worship more gods there than the ancient Egyptians or the Mayan and Greek pantheons combined. Here's just a few towers of babble that I saw :
Evangelistic world Tabernacle Manoah church of god Good hope Baptist Christian center Pray time Opportunity church Greater faith Shaddai Christian Holy temple Do right Christian Institutional church Christ is the answer New beginnings church Church of scientology Ever increasing faith Church of Christ Church Celestial church Christ is the answer Promiseland church of god Temple St Raphael’s Greater Bethany Nativity church Presbyterian Rock of faith Christ gospel prayer center Lutheran Mormons St agnes church Pray time mission Islamic center Iglesia christiana New Antioch church Nativity Tabernacle Our mother of god counsel church Gurdwara sikh temple Elysian Masonic lodge Church of Christ mosques.
As they say in the classics: Only in Hollywood...
I wonder what god makes of all the confused tongues of confused souls babbling confusedly in so many confusing pulpits, all purporting to worship him, praising her to the high heavens in their churchtowers full of hot air - a lot of gas bagging there - their church is the one true pathway to god and salvation., blah blah blah... Get a life people, or go and find god. May he so help you.

I went to find something to eat... Next on the things to see in L.A. are the places to eat in:
Jim dandy fried chicken Burger joint Church’s chicken Pizza Bakery Tortillera Seafood Pizza restaurants cafes taco bell fast food joints.
And then the rest:
Inn Motel Liquor market Meat market Fish market Discount store Bakeries Towing Auto parts Auto sales Warehouses Banks Fashion Pet fish; Fitness and beauty Wellness center Pharmacy Beauty parlors Drug treatment center Health center Children’s hospital Eye center Dental clinic Optometry Orthopaedics Reflexology Health services Mental health Medical Optical Mortuary; Supermarkets Laundromats Laundry Dry cleaning pawn shop Computer shop Gaming amusement store Braille Money changer Instant tax Martial arts; Council constituency office Social services Fire department Chidren’s center Library Post office Community centers Police Salvation army Hospitals medical centres clinics boticas Government offices Parks Sports fields Schools Fire dept; Carparks Oil and fuel Discount Hardware Bike shop Tyre Thrift Travel Furniture; Universities piedmont wcu and usc Colleges academies high schools; Hotels inns motels Apartments South Vermont ave Korean businesses.
I got out of these jungles and dashed out up to Observatory hill.
Griffith Observatory

Parking is free up on the observatory but I went on foot there anyway, by bus and train and bus again. From the Griffith observatory I observed the worst smog area in America – metropolitan LA. It rivals Beijing and the other contenders for the heavyweight crown of smogtown.

But apparently the smog season had finished. I must just have missed it. Yes I missed out on seeing the world-infamous sight of smog over LA. Luckily there was still a bit of smog hanging around. But something was in the way- a monstrosity. A monstrous city was blocking the view. The cityscape, the highrise and other man-made features blocked my view of the smog from every angle (L.A.'s susceptibility to atmospheric inversion is made so much worse by unabated human and mechanical activity producing extremely high levels of ozone pollution and other undesirable externalities). I lowered my sights to somewhere below the smogline and found some crooked lines.
I was planning to run these trails above but missed out on registration for the 2012 Griffith trail half-marathon. I blame it on my mates, the border guards up in Sarnia.

I looked to Hollywood for some entertainment.
I could not find the forest for the trees.
Nor feel the wind for the breeze.

I did see the sign neath the skyline.

Went to roam near the dome.




Here in California, soot hang heavy in the air.
I was enjoying the view of L.A.'s world famous smog, when some apparition started blocking the view. A massive sprawling panorama of a metropolitan city emerged and tried to outfog the smog. Didn't I say this before? I must be getting high.
But this was hollywood and the good smog eventually prevailed over the invading bad green trees and vegetation.
Yeah! Go smog!
It took decades but LA has got its act together. It still has smog and that's due to geography and location (LA is a natural pollution trap) made a lot worse by temperature inversions and vehicular emissions. Some rain fell during the afternoon but I found refuge and coffee at the Roosevelt golf course. Then at sunset I dashed to the Dash Observatory Shuttle for the short drive back to Sunset Boulevard of broken dreams where I caught another bus down Vermont Avenue.
Vermont Avenue is one of the longest north/south streets in Los Angeles. Going north from Athens Station the road is three-lane wide with a tree-lined wide median right through South L.A. It goes through El Salvador Community Corridor then passes the western end of the USC and Exposition Park in South Los Angeles. It passes next through Koreatown west of historic Filipinotown. It passes Little Armenia north of the Hollywood Freeway (US 101). It then goes past the eastern boundary of the East Hollywood district of Hollywood then Sunset Boulevard at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles through the intersection with Hollywood Boulevard into Loz Feliz. Vermont Avenue passes to the east of the Barnsdall Art Park, and then the intersection with Los Feliz Boulevard. It becomes Vermont Canyon Road narrowing down further to a one-lane divided road until the Greek Theatre in the Los Feliz neighborhood portal to Griffith Park.
I took this route before, but my memry don't serve me well so I went the other way. Vermont Avenue has the most Metro rail stations of any street in the system. I think I got on the Red Line from the Children's Hospital on the corner of Vermont and Sunset off Silver Lake.
Later I hopped back on the metro to Aviation Station where I found my feet and walked to ‘The Proud Bird’ steakhouse where I saw a few proud birds. These birds ain't no songbirds but I recalled a couple more tunes.
My country, 'tis of thee, 
In America, every man is free 
You'll be as happy as a monkey 
Sail away 
Asia's crowded and Europe's too old 
Africa is far too hot and Canada's too cold 
And South America stole our name 
Let's drop the big one, 
there'll be no one left to blame us...
We'll save Australia 
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo 
Ahhh I love a sunburnt country 
A land of droughts and flooding rains...

I got in the arse-end of a sleeping plane, back to the arse-end of the world, I mean back to the land of sweeping plains...
Nice video here: I love LA
But perhaps an even better song:
Well if I can just get off of this L.A. freeway
Without getting killed or caught
Down the road in a cloud of smoke...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Coast Starlight

Another train ride in California.
San Francisco and Los Angeles are two of the more popular travel destinations in the USA and two of the biggest cities in California. The route between the two cities is much-travelled and there are several transportation options: bolakbol (amble), trail, pedal, paddle, aerial or automobile. I thought to toss a coin - heads ocean liner or tails air liner. Well I ain't got a nickel and I ain't got a lousy dime, not even for a coin toss. So I chose rail.
An 11-hour train ride on the Coast Starlight is a great option for budget travellers. It is cheaper than a pair of trail shoes, trailbike, bus fare, airfare, or filling up the gas tank. I’m told this train trip has great coastal views, but at journey’s end I will have seen more mountains than water and more mountain ranges than the coastline of the Pacific. Coast Starlight starts in Seattle and goes all the way to Los Angeles. Part of the route passes along the California coast including Emeryville in the Bay Area where I embarked.
I arrived in the ‘Bay Area' region around San Francisco Bay, the day before. Last evening I commuted downtown across the bay, over the Oakland-SF Bay bridge on the Amtrak thruway bus, to the Embarcadero to soak up a bit of the Financial District, the waterfront and night lights of San Francisco.
Pier 39 at the Fisherman’s Wharf district. The Pier has two levels of dining, entertainment, shopping,  attractions and views. Then there's the restaurants, a video arcade, street performances, Marine Mammal Center, bay aquarium, virtual 3D rides, and the docks on the marina.
Pier 39 is on the northern end of the eastern waterfront of the Port of San Francisco. From the pier, there are views to the Golden Gate Bridge on the West, and on the north to Angel Island and Alcatraz. Across the bay to the east is the faint outline of Berkeley, and the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge is to the southeast.
The Golden Gate Bridge spans the waterway entrance (Golden Gate) to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.

After a bit of window shopping at the Embarcadero east marina I then sauntered over to the west marina to see a sea of sea lions on K dock.

Alcatraz island
As night came falling I escaped from Alcatraz and found a corner cafe with wifi. I went online and booked a seat on Amtrak's Coast Starlight for the next day.  From the Aquarium, I bused back to Berkeley for the night.

Berkeley is one of the most politically liberal cities in the United States. It is well-known as a center for free speech and academic achievement, science and the arts. Wedged between Oakland and Emeryville, Berkeley is the site of the oldest institution in the University of California system, the UC Berkeley. This flagship institution of the UC system occupies just under 500 hectares, slighty larger than the UP Diliman campus. I only stayed overnight in Berkeley but found time early the next morning for a quick ikot jog to the University.
It was still quite dark at UCB western portal at University Avenue, and I doubt they will accept me as a freshman anyway. I was too stale. It must be the shoes or the clothes. I do have a huge pile of laundry from the three-day journey on the California Zephyr awaiting some attention back at my accommodation. Trotting back from the University to do some laundry, I saw some of Berkeley’s homeless sleeping on streets and railway stations.
Betty sings a song that no one hears
The wind begins to freeze her tears
...
When the final line unfolds
It don't always rhyme
Later on at Emeryville station, by 0900h I had already boarded the Coast Starlight Train 11.
It's another brand new day, ain't talkin' with no lady, bye to San Francisco bay.

The route of the Coast Starlight follows the old Spanish mission road “El Camino Real” from Oakland to LA. The Royal Road or the King's Highway is a historic 600-mile (966km) overland trail connecting 21 former missions from southern to northern Alta (New or Upper) California. The Mission Trail was used by Spanish explorers and missionaries and early Mexican settlers.
Today, many streets throughout California on or near the historic route still bear the "El Camino Real" name.
The Cal train California commuter train stops in San Jose.
San Jose the first state capital of the republic of California is now the capital of Silicon valley and notable for its affluence and high cost of living.

One of the major routes across the central California mountain ranges (from north to south) is US Highway 101. This major arterial is one of the last remaining and longest U.S. Routes.

Significant portions of this highway between the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area follow El Camino Real. We raced the traffic on the highway south to LA from San Jose.

The Santa Clara Valley is sandwiched by the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range (Devil Range).
It was somewhere here in Santa Clara Valley that John Steinbeck cultivated the vineyards of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.
Running along the The Santa Cruz Mountain range is the San Andreas Fault - the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. We crossed the San Andreas Fault at Pajaro Gap near Watsonville.
Somewhere here near Castroville is a wildlife lake - the Elkhorn estuarine reserve.

Salinas valley has a perfect climate for farmin includin grape-growin for wine-makin. Somewhere near Salinas, bored, a lette slipped away...
We passed the southern section of the Diablo Range then followed Salinas river for many a mile. The Salinas River is a wildlife corridor and the principal source of water for the farms and vineyards of the Salinas Valley. The river flows past many small towns through the Valley before emptying into Monterey Bay.
After passing through King City at the south end of Salinas valley we come to San Ardo where a plague of grasshopper-like pumpjacks swarm the oil fields.
In San Miguel I asked for some san miguel. Instead they gave me a glass of wine from the vineyards of Paso Robles.
El Paso de Robles is a town nestled in the coastal mountain range.


The train was climbing up the mountains and I was getting giddy. The attendant offered me another glass of wine. I said ‘pass’, and he said ‘we’re there soon.’ I mulled that over a bit. The attendant looked sharp and he had a point I guess, but really I was not thinking of anything like Tirad Pass. So anyway the next minute we were crossing Cuesta Pass. This pass is a major topographical feature on the historic El Camino Real, traversing the Santa Lucia mountains and connecting the Salinas Valley to the north and the San Luis Obispo Creek Valley to the south. The train next negotiates two sweeping horseshoe curves where we can see the both the front and tail ends of the train.
Photo of the front end of the Coast Starlight train from within the train.
San Luis Obispo with its ocean misted farms was the first city to ban smoking in public places back in 1990. From here the sand dunes of the pacific, and the long white beaches and the spectacular views of the sunset of Pismo Beach, all come into view. Pismo is a beach town on California's central coast along the Pacific Coast. Here we split with Highway 101 as we went beachside. And so without changing trains I changed from the Mountain Range Starlight to the Coast Starlight. By my reckoning the route of the Coast Starlight train is only less than a quarter coastal. It doesn't really matter because at that time in the early Winter, night had already fallen.
So I did not really see much for the remainder of the trip. We did go past Vandenberg air force base and Santa Ynez mountains. And in the oil fields west of Santa Barbara, there are new housing developments sited on areas formerly occupied by pump-jacks, derricks, and oil storage tanks.

It was late in the Fall and the missin' lette is still missin'. With the sunlight fadin' and the free wind blowin', an' the season's cryin' no despair, I could see Ventura - Highway 101 agin. The days are shorte indeed, e'en in t sunshin' or t beach's an win'ries.
The first earth day was in Santa Barbara. The "American Riviera" city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

After some dinner (nachos pasta and wine) the agreeable climate and fertile soils of Oxnard greeted good evening. Oxnard is one of the wealthiest areas in America and part of the larger Greater Los Angeles area.
In the evening, we go inland again and climb to Simi Valley situated 30 miles from Downtown Los Angeles.
The Santa Susana Mountains 
We tunnel through the Santa Susana pass and come out to the San Fernando Valley encircled by the Transverse Santa Monica mountains and the San Gabriel mountain Ranges. The Transverse Ranges are mountain ranges oriented east–to-west, or ‘’transverse’’ to the general north–south orientation of most of California's coastal mountains. The San Gabriel mountain range lies between the Los Angeles Basin and the Mojave Desert.
Nice Van Nuys flashed past in the night, and likewise Burbank the "Media Capital of the World", northwest of downtown Los Angeles. But the lights of LA county didn't look like diamonds in the sky...
And so I arrived at Union station in LA, one of the last of the great Union stations.