Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Memory of Chiquita (2000-2015)

What a special little dog you were, Chiquita. You will be missed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Brrrrr

One thing for sure, the Phoenix-metro area of Arizona is a land of extremes. According to the weather app on my phone, it got down to 28 degrees last night in Gilbert, proof of which is the frozen hummingbird feeder I found on my patio this morning.
Chilly breakfast for my hummers

Saturday, December 6, 2014

San Tan Mountain Regional Park

Located approximately 15 miles from my home is San Tan Mountain Regional Park. 10,000 acres of gorgeous Sonoran Desert, just waiting to be explored. On this cool and overcast morning, my daughter and I enjoyed a nice loop hike through the southern end of the park. We decided to trail blaze and headed to a beautiful red rock outcropping.
San Tan Mountains as viewed near my home
Our destination -- Rock Peak
Majestic Saguaro Cactus at the base of Rock Peak
Spectacular view of the San Tan Valley
View of the valley looking through a Chain Fruit Cholla cactus
Cholla Cactus Skeleton
I am so very fortunate to live near such a beautiful place.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Happy 5th Swim Anniversay

Five years ago in November of 2009, I made the life-changing decision to join United States Masters Swimming. Within a short time, I had amassed quite a few "mementos" and just as I had done as a teenager, I started a collection board. My "Swim Board" commemorates milestones, friendships, and many of the things that I have enjoyed through Masters swimming thus far.
My Swim Board
Here's to the first 5 years, with the hopes of many more to come!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

26 Miles Across the Sea, Santa Catalina is A-waitin' For Me

For my 60th birthday, I made plans to visit Catalina Island, which is dubbed "The Birthday Island". Not only can you get a free Ferry ride from the mainland, going on your birthday earns you tons of free and discounted stuff! As a child, my family would take trips to Catalina on our boat. I have many great memories of those trips and was excited to see the Island again as I haven't been since I was a teen.

My first stop on the trip from Arizona to Catalina was my hometown of Long Beach. As usual, I have to dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean upon arrival. I spent many wonderful summers with my Mom and younger sister, Pam, swimming and playing in Alamitos Bay.
After a Swim in Alamitos Bay
 The night before traveling to Catalina, my friend and I enjoyed a night at the downtown Marriott, which has a very nice restaurant, the James Republic. During breakfast on my birthday, I mentioned it was my birthday, and after finishing my meal, I was presented with a birthday muffin. I liked their coffee mugs so much I purchased four of them. Each mug has a different sentiment printed on the inside lip.
My Birthday Muffin

The Ferry ride over from downtown Long Beach was pretty quick. I opted to upgrade to the Commodore's Lounge and am so glad I did. It was quiet and you can't beat the view from the upper deck.
A view I hadn't seen since my teens -- the Casino at Avalon
Avalon Harbor
Welcome!!
Located in the center of Avalon is a beautiful fountain that showcases some of the gorgeous, and famous, Catalina Tile.
Avalon Fountain -- my friend and I dubbed it the "Bird Bidet"
 For lunch, we opted for Antonio's, which is located right on the water. Besides enjoying the best Fish & Chips I've ever had (the house specialty), we enjoyed a gorgeous harbor view with our lunch.
View looking north from our table at Antonio's
An eclectic display inside Antonio's
No visit to Catalina is complete without checking out the famous and historic Casino. Along the way, and at the Casino we enjoyed more of the famous Catalina Tile artwork.
Catalina Casino
View from the shade vestibule on our walk to the Casino
When You See It! :-) Someone decided to "embellish" this mural
This next piece of artwork is the results of an amazing restoration to the original Catalina Mermaid. I think the artist did a wonderful job.
Catalina Mermaid
The entire time I was on the island, many people enjoyed parasailing. I was happy just to watch this time around. If you click the following image to open the full resolution, you can just make out a Jack-O-Lantern face on the sail.
Happy Halloween
Avalon offers many great restaurants and lots of shopping. I really enjoyed the play on words for the "Buoys & Gulls" sportswear shop. Two doors down is Maggie's Blue Rose restaurant, which is where I enjoyed my birthday dinner with my friend, Maggie. Given it shares her name, we had to give it a try and were not disappointed!
Avalon Shops and Restaurants
Saying Farewell to the Carnival Inspiration
While in Avalon, a Carnival cruise ship, was anchored just outside the harbor. My friend and I sat watching it leave just as the sun was setting. Avalon was practically a "ghost town" once it left.

All good things must come to an end, so we said our farewells to Avalon and boarded the Ferry for our ride back to Long Beach. I just had to get a shot of the Queen Mary on our way back to the dock. I remember when she first arrived back in the early 70's, which was a pretty big deal, and the beginning of some good change for Long Beach.
The Queen
Before heading back to Arizona, my last night was a short stay in Seal Beach. While walking the pier, we came across this photogenic Brown Pelican who was all decked out in his breeding plumage. Before flying up onto the railing, he was on the pier trying to steal bait from the fishermen. He was pretty fearless and allowed me to get very close.
Brown Pelican
All-in-all, I couldn't have enjoyed a better 60th birthday celebration. Hopefully I'll be in good shape to do something just as fun for my 70th.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Never say "Never"

Watching Michael Phelps win 8 Gold medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics was the spark that got me back into swimming. Sure, I'm no Michael Phelps, but watching his meteoric rise to becoming the greatest Olympian, if not the greatest swimmer of all time, has inspired me to do and to achieve things I never thought were possible at my age. When he retired after the 2012 Olympics, he vowed to never race again. We were all hoping he would change his mind, but after a year and a half, it appeared he truly meant it when he said "never".
After months of rumors and after 18 months of playing golf and hanging with his friends, he decided to throw his hat back in the ring and I couldn't be happier. I attended his first meet, the Mesa Grand Prix, in April of this year. For someone who hadn't been training that much, it was nothing short of incredible.
And now, just 4 months after his "comeback" meet, Michael won his first gold medal in international competition at the 2014 Pan Pacs in Australia. Truly amazing and inspiring. 
When I swam in the early 70s, you were considered "old" by the time you were out of college. Michael turns 30 in a few months, and I can't wait to see what he pulls off in Rio in 2016!
Michael Phelps of the U.S. holds up his men's 100m butterfly gold medal at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Gold Coast, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. RICK RYCROFT — AP Photo

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/08/22/4083078/sideways-rain-no-problem-for-phelps.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, May 10, 2014

California, comin' home...

Whenever I head back home to California, I always listen to "California" by Joni Mitchell, and "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. There is always a bit of "ache" in my heart when I return. This time I returned to the Bay area, which I consider my second birth place. Even though I was born and raised in Long Beach, the "Silicon Valley" holds a very special place in my heart.
The reason for my visit was to compete  in the 2014 United States Masters Spring Nationals swim meet. It's funny that I lived within walking distance of the George Haines International Swim Center, but I never swam there. Well, happily, that has now changed. The GHISC has been home to a host of famous swimmers, among them, Mark Spitz. During the course of the Masters meet, we were graced with fast swimming by several past and present Olympic swimmers such as: Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Darian Townsend, Josh Davis, Matt Biondi, Misty Hyman, and the list goes on.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. Since I decided to drive to the swim meet from Arizona, my first order of business was to take a little stroll down memory lane. After all, I spent 20 wonderful years in the Bay area and my two girls were raised there. No car trip to the Bay area is complete without a stop at Casa de Fruta.
An old farm truck now being used to display Casa de Fruta's wares

One of the many gorgeous peacocks that stroll the grounds
The view from from the back entrance of the main produce store
My girls loved riding through this tunnel when they were small
View from the pond
One of the peacocks perched in a nice sunny spot
After Casa de Fruta, I drove through Morgan Hill and San Jose before reaching my final destination of Santa Clara. I stopped off at the pool to sign in and pick up my swimmer's packet.
Swimmers loosening up for Friday's races
Later that day, I met up with some of my teammates for a loosen up swim. As expected, Taylor did not disappoint with his custom "Nats" suit, which was made complete with some "flashy pants" for some extra drag.
Taylor and his 2014 Spring Nats attire
Later that evening, several of us headed out to Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale, just a short drive from Santa Clara.
Jonelle, Kate, Emily, Katie, Dave, Marc, Aung Sann, and Taylor
(this fine group represents about one-third of the Arizona team participating in Spring Nationals)
My first events took place on Friday. I swam the 50 Freestyle, the 100 Breaststroke, and participated in the 55+ Women's 200 Medley Relay in which my team took 5th place.
Another "Shiny" to add to my growing collection
On Saturday, I didn't have any planned events to swim, so I headed up to the Santa Cruz mountains for some hiking and exploring. I'll never forget the first time I laid eyes on this beautiful area back in 1980. Fortunately, some things don't change.
The trail beckons.
This trail head is located right off Highway 9, just a short distance from the "Gap" (intersection of HWY 9 and HWY 35).
Can you believe it, this place is less than 20 miles from Santa Clara.
If you click the photo for the full size view, the Monterey Bay and peninsula are visible in the distance.
Say "Hello" to my little friend, the Banana Slug. Well, not so little. This guy was at least 8 inches long!
If you didn't already know, the Banana Slug is the official mascot of the University of California Santa Cruz.
I found some very large Owl pellets.
You can see the bone and hair from whatever it was this particular owl had caught and digested.
Wild Azaleas in Big Basin State Park
A nice solution to a fallen Redwood along the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail in Big Basin State Park
I got lucky. Not only were the wild Azaleas in bloom, so were the wild Fernald's Irises.
After my mountain adventure, I headed back down to the pool to cheer on my team. While walking from our team tent back to the stands, I noticed someone I have heard and read about for years. It was none other than Robert "Bob" Beach. Bob was one of the first Masters swimmers when the organization was founded in 1970 and his life story is quite unique. He was raised by a single mother in 30s Hollywood and they basically lived and slept in their car. Needless to say, at the age of 83, he is still traveling to USMS meets in his car, and yes, he actually sleeps in it. I spent a good 20 minutes having the greatest conversation with him. He is a true gem.
The legendary Bob Beach and his West coast car
After the meet, we headed to San Pedro Square Market in San Jose for some wining and dining. If you're ever in San Jose, you have got to pay a visit to the "Square" -- it will not disappoint.
Dave, the Breaststroker on the left, and Kate, the Freestyler/Backstroker on the right in San Pedro Square
I spied this beauty parked nearby in the Square.
As mentioned by the wall plaque, we were just feet from the old Peralta Adobe.
I was scheduled to swim one last event on Sunday, the 50 Breaststroke, but I decided to blow it off and head down to southern California to see my family. I'm so glad I did. I spent some time with my mother and sister and the following day, I drove to Vista to see my cousins before heading back home to Arizona.
Another successful USMS Nationals meet is safely under my belt.