Sunset on Venice Beach
Another Amtrak ride, another blog post.
Rolling out of Los Angeles after a fantastic 2 weeks in Venice Beach.
Last we left, I was on the train to Houston. I had a great time there. Continuing my role as the cousin ambassador, I got to see many but not all of the Texas Cousin Clan. Got to see some good stuff in Houston: The Museum of Art is excellent and had a fantastic Art Deco car exhibit. The Museum of Natural History has a world class dinosaur exhibit and the finest opal I have ever seen. Then I headed up to Wimberley, just south of Austin to spend time with cousin Barbara. Turns out South by Southwest was starting then so I spent a weekend with cousin Robert and his family. I went into town to the SXSW job market which was interesting but nothing spun my beanie. Had some world class BBQ at La Barbecue. Beef ribs: $17.95/lb. One rib= 1.5lbs.
By this time, I found out about the beach house that cousin Linda has. So rather than make my way west through NM and AZ, I flew from Austin to LAX and ensconced myself in the sweet house on Venice Beach.
So for the past two weeks, I have been ‘busy’ with reading, eating amazing tacos and having my soul changed by world class doughnuts. Spent hours on the front porch, watching the bikers and skaters and all sorts of characters roll on by. Went to the Science Center to see the local Space Shuttle.
Got to see cousin Greg Booth a few times, visiting his office at Google and getting third place in pub trivia…twice.
Finally I was within walking distance of the Santa Monica REI, so I made a few trips over there to stock up for the hike at hand: warm things, new trekking poles, water bottles, etc.
It was great to see old California friends: Jan my old SF roommate and his family. Alice and Nick met me at the Getty Villa for a lovely afternoon. The Getty Center is also a spectacular visit and a great example of what should be done with great wealth. There is currently a fantastic Mapplethorpe exhibit and a nice one on Daguerrotypes, so it hit my photography buttons nicely.
But mostly I enjoyed the nice spot and appreciated the civilization around me: the good food, plentiful water and comfy bed.
Because now, after a couple days in San Diego gearing up and getting food, it’s off to Campo, CA and the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The PCT is Same Same but Different than the AT. At ~2600 miles, it’s longer than the AT by 300ish miles. But because it’s graded for animals (not as steep, path is wider), people tend to do more miles per day and therefore tend to finish more quickly. Instead of 5 months on the AT, this will take you 4 months.
It’s more open and exposed: More to see, more sun. The temperature gradients are steeper. The first month is in the desert. Super hot and not a lot of water but I someone reported snow on the ground last week. Highest point on the AT is 6600 ft. PCT is around 12K and you spend a lot of time over 6K. After the desert, you hit the High Sierra and spend the rest of the walk in them or the Cascades further north.
Most people start northbound in April because you want to be in the desert before it gets too hot but into the Sierras after the snow stops. So I have to plan for desert heat and then transition to snow and ice before the summer is in full bloom. THEN you have to get to the Canada border before winter starts up again in late Sept/early Oct.
In the desert, I will have to carry up to 7 liters of water at a time (VERY heavy) and then in the mountains, I can drop back to 1 or 2 liters at a time.
So I am going to hit the San Diego REI one more time to make sure I have what I need.
Next post should be from the desert!
Sunrise on Cocoa Beach
Sunrise on Cocoa Beach
Today marks one year since I left home and work to go hiking and once again, March 1st finds me on the move with a backpack, heading to a trailhead. Seems like a good time to get caught up, as I have time to kill on the train from Lafayette to Houston.
My last update was from last summer, while hiking in France.
After hiking 1200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, I got bored of walking in the Green Tunnel. Once I found out how strong the dollar was against the euro, I booked a ticket to Paris and spent a very nice two months hiking in France and spending time with friends and family. It was lovely to walk through the south of France, through impossibly quaint villages, meeting pilgrims on their way to Spain and getting to know the country better.
But all things must pass and I was back in Newport for the family reunion in late August, a week before I was supposed to start work again.
Long story short, I had walked myself out of my job. Things were running swimmingly without me it seems. So I found myself in a position with no job, no apartment and no car. It’s a strange position to be in and if your place in life is such, it can be seen as alarming or liberating.
Ideas like “You can do anything.” are tossed about all the time, but it’s fascinating when it is actually occurring. What is ‘anything’? It takes a while to liberate your mind to allow any idea to be considered. I could travel, I could get some crazy job, I could volunteer, I could anything.
But leaves would be dropping soon and at this stage, I was still working out of my hiking backpack, with tent and sleeping bag and my limited wardrobe. Turns out that my mother needed her car driven down to Florida, so I offered to take it, with the idea that there were a couple of empty beds down there I could use for a spell.
So after 4 weeks in summery Newport, i jumped in the car and headed south. I worked out an arrangement with my employer to work on computer/web stuff for them until the end of the year. This would afford me some pay and health insurance for a nice transition period.
Took 3 or 4 days getting down there. Stopped in DC for a spell to see the museums. DC is always a great stop and was happy to have my friend Mike Byrne and his charming boys join my at the new Air and Space museum and the excellent Space Shuttle exhibit.
A couple of days of bad road food and side-of-the-highway motels had me rolling into Cocoa Beach, FL in good shape. It’s a quiet beach town on the east coast of Florida, a stone’s throw away from the NASA launch pads.
Being a lifelong space nerd, I was happy to be on the Space Coast and was looking to get a job in the space industry, if possible and otherwise relax and figure out what was next. My aunt that lives there was great at hooking me up with her space connections but then two things happened: Space jobs tend to be narrow and deep: highly specialized and focused. I, on the other hand am not that. I am more shallow and broad and it wasn’t clear where someone like me would fit in. Second, it turns out I didn’t feel like getting back to the workforce just yet. The idea of jumping back behind a desk again wasn’t spinning my beanie. So I hung out with my auntie, worked on art projects, got tacos and lattes and puttered around the beach.
Due to my mothers’ arrival and other guests showing up, the bedrooms dried up for a spell so I got myself a bicycle and headed out on a ride. I headed west and visited my friend Tom Peterson and his family, went to Hogwarts for some magic wands and butter beer. Then it was on to Tampa where I spent a week with cousin Clara and her wonderful family. I spent a week at her work, helping with database things and working on Halloween candy.
Sunset on the West Coast
Then was time to take a left and head south down the west coast: Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Naples. It was nice riding. Florida has an impressive amount of bike lanes and empty sidewalks that go for miles out of town. And due to the direction I was heading, I spent a lot of time riding along the beaches on thin islands and keys, so no traffic coming from my right.
Longest day was 60ish miles from Everglade City to the indian casino on the outskirts of Miami. Most days I would do 4ish miles. Not bad but I hadn’t ridden in years and I was weighted down with my tent and such. I was planning on tenting but it turns out that Florida doesn’t really have campgrounds…they have RV parks. So the trip was more hotel-laden than I was hoping but there weren’t many options.
Once in Miami, I once again took a left and started heading up the east coast. Got to visit Kevin and Scott, cousins on my maternal side and then the next day, cousin Kathleen on my paternal side. Then it was straight up the coast and back to Cocoa Beach, bringing to an end a 4 week, 700 mile bike ride.
I passed the holidays in Cocoa, getting to see more family and having a good, quiet time. But once again, more guests were showing up and beds were getting scarce. It was time to move on.
By this time I had decided to try hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I decided to take the direct path, but long time there.
Early January, I rented a car and drove to Pensacola, where I got to visit Aunt Judy and her family for a few days. Then I drove to New Orleans, with a quick stop at the NASA engine testing facility in Mississippi.
I liked New Orleans, with all it’s music and art. I could see spending more time there for sure.
Mardi Gras Outfit
Then I spent the last 6 weeks in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a small town just outside of Lafayette. I was there as a Helpx helper and I spent my time building and fixing things for my kind host. I built shelves and finished up a big bathroom closet, built fun shelves and a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, installed molding, etc. Moved the TV and cleaned up the wires, helped with computer stuff, fix this, move that. Spent this last week putting up these huge, beautiful planks on cypress on the studio walls.
Shelves and cabinet
And now I am on the train, heading west.
Going to visit MORE cousins in Houston and Austin and then find a helper gig further west and plan on hitting San Diego in 5 weeks or so to prepare for hiking.
But enough about me. What have you been up to?