Every summer thousands fill the old wooden grandstand at $12 a ticket to see hours of car carnage. Weeks prior, derby cars appear in driveways throughout the the county, prepped for the big show: glass and flammables are removed, doors secured shut, and more often than not, all dampening and muffling exhaust pipes are stripped or modified.
The finishing touch is many cans of spray paint declaring ones gratitude towards a family member, auto salvage store, local business, or beer of choice. Taunting graphics surface more often than not, but good ol’ humor is usually present on a few cars — this year Scooby-Doo’s mystery machine made an appearance.
Mud, shredded flat tires, and an overheated or seized up engine later, one person gets to take off their snowmobile helmet and claim the top prize of $500. Admittedly, barely enough to cover the spray paint and gas but certainly worth it.
It’s fair week here in Lewis County, making it an enjoyable place to entertain the cousins, see a few old friends from growing up, and eat deep-fried oreos. Friday night I took to meandering through the dairy barn, reliving memories from showing 4-H cattle there for many summers — each one structured around preparing for and then spending an entire week at the fair.
I caught the end of the dairy show, saw who [with their prize cow] won Grand Champion of the show, then enjoyed an appropriate vanilla milkshake. With so much at the fair being old and familiar memories, it was great to come across something new. [atleast to me] Perhaps we were always to involved in the ‘barn party’ on Friday nights, but somehow I’d never been over to listen to or watch the polka band in all of their glory.
Young and old took to the dance floor (slanted pavement next to the grandstand) to dance out the tried, true, and familiar 3-step. For hours, the crowd never died down or dwindled — many were repeat-attenders to the dance floor for all of their favorites, especially to the tune of ‘Pennsylvania Hills.’
I took the red-eye back to the east coast to find an incredibly green landscape. Turns out that while I was taking in burning California sun and ocean breeze all month without a drop of rain, Northern New York had been getting hit with showers daily and rarely reached into the 80′s.
Needless to say, it’s been a pleasant and relaxing change of scene and climate. We’ve often gone swimming and canoing in the lakes with younger cousins and nephew. When I do get back on the bike, the ride on rarely traveled country roads are quite mild and pleasant except for the occasional bug to strike you in the face — something we didn’t have on the coast.
Daily rain bodes well for plant life and despite the intense heat to drive growth the corn still managed to reach “knee-high by July” status. Plus, the blueberries are starting to ripen for their hay-day in August; time to eat up and enjoy garden meals, 0ne of the many perks of late-summer.
Next to fish tacos from El Zarape, the highlight of our down-time [and off-bike time] in San Diego was finally seeing a Body Worlds exhibit. Sure, it’s been almost a year since I first stepped into the anatomy lab in Upstate, but what was shown was still incredible and fascinating –this time there was no studying or memorizing involved and I enjoyed marveling in the complexities of it all as well as an admiration turned to the creative ways the human body was presented aesthetically. Right brain, meet the left brain.
No pictures were allowed, but I found some from a press collection online. They happened to be the same ones that struck me as particularily interesting and engaging. I strongly recommend the exhibit to anyone and everyone. Never before or anywhere else can you so easily see and be amazed at what lies beneath our skin.
Alethia gave us an early start to the metro system on her drive to work and we went straight to Gate 3 at Universal Studios to wait in line to get standby tickets for the Tonight Show with Conan [of which I'm a huge fan]. Our early start paid off, and through a series of waiting in lines with anticipation, we filled some of the last seats in the back left corner of the studio.
No cameras or phones allowed (we were watched closely by security and pages) The studio was amazing [built only months ago] with no bad seats and bright with soft blues and art deco wood trim. The band was solid and the brass players roamed through the audience during the pre-show warmup.
During the show, it was fun to sit back and enjoy the show without commercials, although you couldn’t laugh or comment whenever you wished – we were all part of the production in a way. During breaks there was a surprising amount of activity and meetings and huddles between Conan, Andy, the producers, managers, head writer, guests, etc. It all goes towards a consistent comedy production I suppose. Venus Williams was strikingly tall and beautiful, handling the spotlight well and then serving up and taunting Conan with some of her fast serves while wearing heels nevertheless.
The show’s over and I’ll certainly remember it. However, It’s time to hit the road and finish this ride. Two more days.
Friends took us in while passing through LA, giving us a day to rest, walk around and be entertained. We also did our best to help finish crockpot lasagna and not one but two leftover chocolate birthday cakes. It was delicious and our easiest feat yet. Thank you all.
Not wanting to navigate 50-some-odd-turns from the coast up to Pasadena, we familiarized us with LA’s mediocre metro and rode up into the foothills. Well worth it, and it later gave us easy access to Hollywood, Michael Jackson’s memorial, and delicious Chinatown restaurants — heh, my fortune was ‘Pursue your wishes aggressively’ and my Chinese lesson of the day was ‘mae yao jeh huan’ meaning ‘still single (not married).’ True true.
Bill moved to the Nipomo area in the 60′s as a biology teacher and found something to devote his life to, preserving Point Sal. His involvement in protecting the coastal dunes habitat grew along with his grey beard as he took on teaching, eco-activism, and writing a column in the local paper. A bright man full of energy, he opened up his home as a hobby hostel when his children moved out, offering solar powered hot showers, optional chores in exchange for your room and board, and plenty of roosters in the yard to wake you up in the morning. Your stay also includes a free postcard from the stack that he had made from his favorite photos. (His dog, Jake, and the Point Sal Dunes are in many, if not all)
Being 84-years old doesn’t slow him down much — as he still joined us for a bike ride that morning to show us a shortcut back to the main road. Each day he still jogs for an hour (and was running marathons back in his 60′s!) soaks in the hot-tub and tends to his backyard livestock. It was Saturday so we also got the bonus of listening to Prairie Home Companion.
I’ll remember his giddy laugh while biking and his passionate advice to us the night before, telling us to “enjoy life and die young! don’t get old like me!”
After doing the ‘climb, coast, repeat’ dance all day, we were glad to have the road open up and go kansas-style. Never before or since have rolling, straight roads been so welcoming as I used my top gear for the first time in the trip. We got to our site in time and while setting up I was approached by a kind and amazingly well-travelled German.
Manfred’s trips were too numerous to count, traveling often with his job as a skilled fabricator for Siemens. He’d biked the coast in the past, but was now on a little adventure retracing the route on his Vespa scooter. He invited us to eat with him the predictable german breakfast, lunch and/or diner of a hearty bread, meat, mayonaise, and a brew. Prost!
He had a kind and soft way of engaging in conversation, and was certainly up for spontaneity. That next morning he followed us into the nearest town on his Vespa to join us for coffee and pastries before we pedaled on in our whole-grain breadbasket landscape next to the ocean.
Talk to anyone about Highway-1, and they’ll be sure to mention Big Sur. Its steep grade and corners overlooking the ocean waters meeting a still green lush landscape is one to remember. We climbed for almost an hour that morning, passing a hitchhiker or two on our way up in the quaint little vacation towns and outposts.
Once we broke into view of the ocean, winding roads with or without guardrails were the name of the game for about 30 miles. Sweat going up and then enjoy cool breeze and adrenaline going down. It took on the rhythm of a roller-coaster ride drawn out for many hours. Be sure to keep your eyes and tires focused and aimed on the road though. With the amazing views off (and down) to our right, it was often a challenge.
Halfway through our day and this repetition, we again crossed paths in Lucia with a hitchhiker we’d greeted while climbing the hill that morning. While eating our cliff-bars and guzzling gatorade, the conversation was intriguing and a refreshing reality check from the land of vacation-ers staying close to their air conditioning and digital cameras. An expressive hand-talker, he was headed to San Luis Obispo, in no hurry, and certainly enjoying his cup of coffee.
Fighting a headwind for the first half of the day, we got in later than desired to our camping area at Andrew Molero State Reserve. They operated on a no-reservations, walk-in-only policy — not a good thing when arriving in the late afternoon.
The entry-guard was a friendly older man wearing a state park volunteer cap. The sites were all taken, but we decided to refill on water before heading on to a private site miles down the road and uphill. Note: always give yourself these moments of opportunity, because he came over to the water spout and told us of how he thought he could squeeze us it at campsite “7-point-5″ ambiguously next to site 7, whose patron was almost definitely not returning that night.
It did the trick and we stayed to enjoy a large shade tree, reflecting on the different sounds accustomed to the days biking. For one, I have shifters that I have to adjust every time I change gears (they don’t click into place) so I’m quite a-tune to the sound of the chain rubbing or being cross-pulled. I also don’t use my iPod much, and when I do it’s only with one ear. I find listening for the cars to be easier than seeing them, unless it’s a quiet Prius that sneaks up and startles you while rolling through town. (true story) The surfaces also have their different tones on the tires, from the white gravel pavement, to the blacktop, or even the painted smooth white line if you can ride it steady enough. Of course, the best sound is none at all when you’re coasting down a steep hill on new smooth blacktop, preferably with a tailwind whipping at your ears.