Friday, February 27, 2009

Last post from California

I'm getting ready to fold up the laptop and pack for tomorrow morning's plane ride, so this is the last post from California.

We had a great, great time. This was the first time that we've taken off two weeks in a row -- other than the winter holidays, which have their own hectic schedule -- in years and years. So it's amazing to me that we didn't do half of what I thought we might do or track down half the folks out here in California that I wanted to see. But it was good. We did lots and lots of stuff, and saw a ton of old friends and some family members. And yet we still had time to relax.

I can predict one thing for sure: I am going to be great at retirement. (I also suspect I'll quickly end up as one of those guys who wonders how I ever had time to work before that.)

Just another 25 or 30 years to go. Sigh.

We closed out the vacation with a fun day around the Bay. Monique stayed here and had a nice long walk and lunch with my aunt Carol. I BARTed across the Bay and attended the first day of San Francisco's big comic convention, the WonderCon. I had no idea it was happening while we were out here, but the temptation proved irresistable once I found out about it. It was a good time: lots of colorful folks in colorful costumes, lots of dealers selling all sorts of comics and sci-fi memorabilia, lots of well-known artists and writers, and a huge small press section with lots of really interesting independent comic creators.

The big comic companies are having their financial woes, but the actual creation of comics seems to be healthier than ever. It makes it an interesting time to follow the world of comics.

One of the celebrities who will be attending the con this weekend is Carrie Fisher. She was not there today, so I don't have a picture of her. I do, however, have a picture of Carrie Fisher's key ring:

Why do I have a picture of Carrie Fisher's key ring? Therein lies a future blog post filled with intrigue, gossip, drama, and what is undoubtedly the closest brush I will ever have to Star Wars fame.

(In other words, keep readin' the blog in future weeks, you mugs.)

We wrapped up the vacation by going to the Cartoon Art Museum's fundraiser party, which featured Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons and a genial fellow named Stan Sakai, who writes a really interesting comic called Usagi Yojimbo, which follows the adventures of a Samurai rabbit in the Japan of a couple-hundred years ago. I must confess that I had never heard of Usagi Yojimbo before coming to the museum, but they just opened a great display of his work. I'm going to get to know his work quite a bit better because I won the best darn prize in the whole raffle, an autographed copy of a limited-edition hardcover release of one of his books.

Stan then very kindly drew a very cool extra sketch in it:

I was also a winner in the silent auction, where I picked up a piece of original art by Ryan Claytor from his And Then One Day series:

It's worth clicking on that one to read it. Go ahead. I'll wait ....


... I really like what it says about the duality of trying to be an artist while also meeting real-world commercial obligations. This is all the more tangled in Ryan's world, since he is his own publisher and his work is autobiographic.

And now, away goes the laptop. Michigan, here we come!

Yeah, back to haiku...

Vacation dwindles.
Sun here, snow in Michigan
The blog? Cold storage.

Yup, it's the last day of Sun before we hop on a plane and head back to Michigan tomorrow morning. So, um, sorry about the lack o' blogging the last few days, but now that I'm back up and about after the virus, we're vacationing like heck in our remaining hours. Thus it is that you, my plucky followers, are reduced to the status of reading this little haiku that I thought up while I wait for Monique to get out of the shower.

Next post? Probably from back home in the land of ice and snow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hurrah! Hurrah! The Top Came down on the Convertible Today! Hurrah!

Just a quick post. After eleven days in California, we finally got to take the top down on the rental convertible today. Today was sunny and not too terribly cold -- at least it wasn't too terribly cold by vacationing-Michigander standards -- so Monique and I took the top down and went for some scenic drivin' all day before going to eat dinner with Lloyd and Justine in Half Moon Bay in the evening.

At this point, I could probably a handy Google Map display, like the one that Susan installed on her blog to keep take of my travelin' parents, but vacationing Magee fans will just have to get their own map and follow along. For those of you scoring at home, here was our convertiblin' route:
  • Departed Berkeley a bit after noon and headed West on 580
  • Crossed over to Marin County via the Richmond-San Rafael bridge
  • Drove South on 101 and over the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Bumped over to the very ritzy and scenic Seacliff neighborhood.
  • Parked and walked around China Beach a bit.
  • Drove out past the Palace of the Legion of Honor to Lands' End.
  • Drove South along Ocean Beach.
  • Drove South on Route One through Pacifica and past Devils slide.
  • Stopped at Moss Beach and walked a bit along a cliff and a bit out on the beach at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
  • Drove further South down One until we stopped in San Gregorio at the San Gregorio General Store, where my very own little sister bought her wedding dress for our joint wedding.
  • Drove up 84 to La Honda, where we tooled around my old neighborhood in the redwoods.
  • Drove back through Loma Mar and Pescadero to the coast via Pescadero Rd.
  • Drove South on One just past the Pillar Point Lighthouse almost all the way to the entrace of the Año Nuevo State Reserve, home of a really large elephant seal colony. (It all comes back to elephant seals, doesn't it?) Alas, it was too late to hike out and see my marine-mammal twins. Instead we...
  • Turned around and drove North up One to Half Moon Bay, 'cause it was time for dinner with Lloyd and Justine.
For those of you who are not following along via a map at home, but are reading this from a Northern locale, here's the point. We drove around with the top off the car and we didn't get sleet or snow or ice pellets or freezing drizzle or any other form of frozen precipitation in our faces, just sunshine.

On our way back North we finally pulled over at Bean Hollow State Beach and put the top back up because the Sun had gone down and it was getting a wee bit chilly. After an outstanding dinner and visit, we headed on back to Berkeley, where Monique is now snoozing contentedly in bed.

Special kudos go to today's driver, the aforementioned sleeping wife. I've recovered quite a bit of my pep, but I have to admit that it was a joy to relax in the passenger seat all day and let her drive.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vacation Pictures, Part 4, Big Sur to Monterey

With the rain relenting we were able to occasionally stop at some of the overviews and snap a few more photos. This is probably a good time to mention that if you want, you can click on the individual photos to get the large-format version of the photo.

With all of the rain, runoff, rockslides, and mudslides, the sea water took on a great variety of color, depending on what specific pieces of California had washed away:

And then, we were back in the car and back on the road:

We finished up this chunk of the drive by stopping in Monterey and eating lunch at one of the restaurants along Cannery Row with a great view of the bay. Bucking up for the tourist-priced lunch turned out to be worthwhile when a big rainbow came out across all of Monterey Bay. I didn't really get a good picture of it, but did catch this bit of the base of it lighting up the coast:

And finally, a few more photos of your humble photo-documentarians:

That's about it for photos of the drive up Route One. After lunch we finished out the drive by continuing up Route One through Santa Cruz and San Mateo County and into San Francisco, but didn't really take any more photos since it was raining more, but we did see a couple more great rainbows. It might be a couple more days 'til I post more photos, but hopefully this big batch o' photo-laden posts will hold you all for a while.

Vacation Pictures, Part 3, Movin' on up Route One in the Rain

Next stop to the north on Route One? The Ragged Point Inn. I feel the need to provide them a click-through link because they're the first good pee stop north of the elephant seal colony in San Simeon. And while I always take advantage of their facilities, I don't always reciprocate by purchasing something from their food stand or gift shop:

I might like to stay there one day. They have a great view from their lawn:

You might have noticed some rain clouds looming in the background. Sure enough, once we got back in the car, the rain moved in. This leads us to a series of photos that Monique took over the next couple of hours. I like to call this "A Passenger's-Eye View of Route One in the Rain."

... oooh, look. The Sun! Photos taken outside the car coming next! But first, before you think that Monique's view of our drive in the rain was all that scenic, let me show you the view to her immediate left:

Ugh! Who let the elephant seal drive the car?!

Vacation Pictures, Part 2, Elephant Seals in San Simeon

Whenever we drive up the coast, one of the places that Monique and I like to stop is at the scenic overlook just North of San Simeon that overlooks an elephant seal colony. When we drove through a few years ago, the mating season was in high gear, which meant more fornication-laden drama than even the steamiest of afternoon soap operas. Aside from seal sluttiness, I also like the fact that when we visit the elephant seals I feel downright svelte for months afterwards.

This year all seemed quiet on the mating front, but the birthing season was just wrapping up. So there were three sizes of elephant seals scattered about: pups from newborn up to two- or three-months old, which are already as big as the average seal; assorted mama seals, aka "cows"; and bull elephant seals, which get 16-feet long and weigh in at three tons. (According to the Wikipedia article on elephant seals, the biggest bull elephant seal ever measured was 22.5 feet long and weighed 11,000 pounds!)

Without the drama of mating season in full swing, it was a pretty quiet day around the colony, with the young 'uns squawking and nursing, and the old ones basking on the beach.

Monique took this picture of a newborn nuzzling its mother. Just before she snapped the shot they were rubbing flippers in just the same way that a newborn human baby reaches out with its fingers for its mother's hand:

If you kids can't be play quietly I'm going to send you to bed without any regurgitated squid:

I'm just kidding about the regurgitated squid, though I have to say that a couple of tons of regurgitated squid would probably improve the overall smell of the beach. My best advice to anybody thinking about visiting an elephant-seal colony is to try to visit when the breeze is blowing offshore. In truth, the pups nurse for up to a month on high-fat milk, and then live off the fat they produce from that for another couple of months until they are ready to go out into the ocean on their own. The mothers have already fasted. After giving birth they don't go back to the sea to eat until the pup is completely weaned

This fellow is my new role model:

More nursing. I'm sure Facebook would find this entire blog post to be horribly obscene:

It's important for the pups to learn all the important skills that are involved in being an elephant seal from their elders. Here a bull teaches a youngster the most important skill of all: lazing about on the beach.

This is what passes for an "action shot" in this series:

Tragically, some pups are born with obsessive-compulsive disorder and can only laze about in neat little rows. Please, please give from the heart to help prevent this tragedy. For just pennies a day you can stop the heartbreak of TESD (Tidy Elephant Seal Disorder):

And now, a couple photos of the stars of our show (I'm the person walking down the boardwalk in the top photo):

... and no, Monique wasn't making a fashion statement with her wool scarf and warmest winter hat. It was windy, spitting just a bit of rain, and downright chilly on the beach. The elephant seals weren't bothered in the least, since they were protected by one of the thickest layers of blubber in all the animal world. Let this be a lesson to you all: I'm not fat, I'm just built for northerly climes.

And finally, a picture that I took just for Katie the Beagle. Though she would find plenty to smell in the stench of an elephant-seal colony, there was only one item nearby that would really interest her: