Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sebastopol, San Jose and San Francisco: more Cactus events

I will have quite a busy Cactus schedule for the next week and a half or so. In between freelance travel writinig and grading essays, I am preparing for events in Sebastopol, San Francisco and San Jose. Also, stay tuned for more urban hiking adventures and explorations, soon to appear in various publications. (I will be writing stories about some good places to visit close to home -- and when the weather warms up, I will be returning briefly to the Northeast for more travel writing.)

Here are the events so far, with a new event added to the list:

Rotary Club of Sebastopol
Speaking from 100 to 130 p.m. (and signing.
Friday, December 5

San Jose
Visiting Authors Seminar (classroom visit)
3-415 p.m., San Jose State University
Tuesday, December 9

San Francisco Public Library
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Event Time: 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Mission Bay Branch
Address: 960 4th St. (at Berry)

Here’s the link for directions to the branch (it’s right on the T-Line and near the Caltrain stop):

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rotarians Rock ....

This message goes out to all Rotarians (of the Sebastopol area.) I am looking forward to meeting you in early December. I will read from the book, bring a few trail artifacts that I've never shown anyone before, and answer any questions that you might have. Feel free to shoot me any advance questions via email. Also -- thanks for resending me the directions to the meeting place.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My upcoming reading at the San Francisco public library

Click here for an "Upcoming'' online blurb for that event. It's on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the SF Public Library's Mission Bay branch. (The event, of course, is free.)Here’s the link for directions to the branch (it’s right on the T-Line and near the Caltrain stop):

Also -- here's a windswept photo of the John Muir Trail (near Muir Pass) in honor of three readers who have written in, proclaiming their intentions to conquer the JMT next summer. Have a great time out there, but bring bug spray or mosquito netting when you go. (The skeeters will ambush you, especially at log crossings when you have to use your arms to balance yourself and can't swat them away from your face and legs. Insects are smarter than you think!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There is another book called "The Cactus Eaters''

I have just gotten a hold of other "The Cactus Eaters'' book, published 61 years ago. There are quite a few eerie similarities. For example, both books have two protagonists. In both books, the two of them leave their jobs and set off to a wild area in search of grand adventures. In the case of that first book, the explorers are two frustrated coffee growers (instead of frustrated journalists) who set off to explore the remote Goajira peninsula of northern Colombia and meet the Goajira people (instead of exploring the western states and meeting mile-bagging backpackers). The author is Julian Weston. Apparently, the book is recommended by the "Society for the History of Discoveries.'' Out of print and rare, the book includes monochrome photos and maps. I now have a copy, and am about a quarter finished with reading it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A great marathon in Sacramento (in spite of road-rage incidents)

Well, I finished the marathon. In fact, I ran the entire thing non-stop, and finished a lot more quickly than I expected. The route, along the American River, from Folsom to Sacramento, was quite beautiful. I've run two other marathons but have never seen deer charge across the route, or Canada geese flying overhead while honking their heads off. If you've never seen this part of California, you really ought to check it out. In fact, this marathon was so enjoyable that at one point, I even thought to myself, "What a great time. I don't want this to end.'' The only bummer was the road-rage incidents that started coming up about ten miles into the course. Often, when there's a marathon, the organizers arrange to close off the course. For this reason, veteran runners get into the habit of spreading out and using the entire road. In this case, the marathon course was open to other use during the race,. Bicyclists love this pathway, and justifiably so; it's a smooth, scenic ride all the way from Folsom to Sacramento. The vast majority of the riders were just out there having a good time. Most were incredibly supportive and kind. But things got sketchy when a few rogue elephants on wheels decided to take out their aggression on the runners. After seeing another runner get screamed at for straying too far towards the right lane, I obeyed the rules and stuck very closely to the left shoulder of the road. The trouble is, aggro bicyclists started buzzing into the left side of the road, too. One of them shouted "WAKE UP!!!'' at me and some other runners -- right while we were hitting the wall at mile 24 or so, making it rather hard to "wake up.'' I also overheard two bicyclists screaming obscenities at other runners -- some who had strayed into the wrong lane, others who were running squarely on the left side of the road. I didn't feel like having an altercation in the middle of a marathon, so at one point I moved off the paved area and stuck to the dirt path to the left of the route --- only to get scolded by a man pushing a baby stroller and telling me to stick to the "bike path.'' This was quite confusing -- considering that the bike path was the appointed, official route of an inaugural marathon! I would guess (very strongly) that there is a rather intense, pre-existing 'use conflict' situation on that bike path that precedes the marathon. Anyhow, I managed to finish the race and had a great time anyhow. I just hope that runners and bicyclists can share roads in the future. There is enough division in this world without recreational sports enthusiasts bagging on each other.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Marathon: I've reached a compromise

I've decided to run this thing after all --- but I will definitely walk part of it, or waddle, crawl or stagger if that is what I need to do. From everything I hear, the route is quite scenic and flat along the American River, and part of the course actually goes downhill. (yippee!!) I'm resting up and carb-loading today.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sacramento marathon: thinking of chickening out anyhow

The big event is only two days away. The other day I was driving toward work and started playing with the odometer. And I realized, "Wow. 26.2 miles is a really, really, really long way to run.'' There is still a small chance that I might turtle. More later.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cactus events updated

On Saturday I will run the Run the River Marathon up in Folsom (and will run non-stop to Sacramento if I can, following the American River all the way.) The other day, my father asked me, "Why on earth are you running a third marathon?'' "Because I blogged about it,'' I explained. "Oh,'' he said, and that was the end of that. If you happen to be running this thing, and if you have a nice, slow pace, then look for me in the line-up. I'll be wearing a blue hat with a Nike swoosh.

This coming Monday, I will be going on the radio in the Atlanta area. I will be speaking with Ann Lombardi of "Travel Talk Escapes'' at 3 p.m. eastern standard time. The radio station is 1120 AM.

Other upcoming events:

Sonoma County, CA
Dec. 5
private event (Rotarians)

San Francisco Public Library
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Event Time: 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Mission Bay Branch
Address: 960 4th St. (at Berry)

Here’s the link for directions to the branch (it’s right on the T-Line and near the Caltrain stop):

Also, I will lead a nature walk/writing class in the Santa Cruz area in early spring. Give me a heads-up if you want to be part of the list.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Squid-jiggin' in Seattle

During my whirlwind trip to Seattle, I explored neighborhoods I'd never seen before and met all kinds of interesting people. But I packed so much into three days that I missed out on a few things. One of them is the mysterious lost art of "Squid Jigging.''
"Squid jigging'' means catching live squid using a baited line while standing out on a pier on Puget Sound (or elsewhere) in the middle of the night. Chances are that you've never heard of this unusual sport, but as you will see, it even has its own hair-raising theme song, complete with a line about "poor Uncle Billy'' getting spattered with "squid-juice.''
I found out about squid jigging while visiting the friendly people at the Hostel Seattle in Ballard -- which must be one of the few lodging places in the world where squid-jigging is an optional activity for guests.
Hostel owner Lee Kendell explained how the whole thing worked.
“This is a squid jig,’’ he said, holding up a sparkly lure covered with barbs. In fact, it looked a little bit like my old nemesis, the prickly pear. “In the middle of the night, when the squid run in schools, you drop it in with a line and you go like this.’’
He lifted the line up and down to show me how it worked. “When the school of squid come by to attack, they catch on the barbs.’’
I did not have a chance to practice any squid jigging -- in part because I was overscheduled, and in part because I'm a little squeamish (even regular fishing freaks me out a little bit.) But if you're ever in Seattle, you can try it out yourself, so long as you buy yourself a fishing license for the day.

Friday, November 07, 2008

It's less than a week away! Running my third marathon (don't let me chicken out.)

I hope to see at least some of you at the Run The River Marathon and Ultramarathon along the American River next weekend. I'm mentioning this in my blog only because I want to be held accountable if I chicken out and don't do this. The last time I ran one of these road races, I had no clear goal in mind, except to beat Puffy's time in the New York Marathon. These days, I would be happy just to beat Simon Pegg's time in Run Fatboy Run. When I hit the wall at the mid-point, I will think of Bob Holtel, who completed the Pacific Crest Trail by running the equivalent of a marathon on it almost every freaking day. That should put this thing in perspective.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I keep trying to wean myself from blogging about weird goings on in and around Golden Gate Park -- but I found it hard to resist this one. I was walking through the Haight on Halloween and saw some guy asking people to smoke his thumb. Indeed, when I looked closely, I could see a plume of smoke rising up from beneath his thumb. One person actually stopped and smoked it, and then the guy started smoking his own thumb. Apparently he'd wedged a tiny, still-burning roach in there somewhere. Eventually it burned down and singed the inside of his finger. "Ow,'' he said, and then the demonstration was over.