Saturday, November 10, 2012

Autumn comes to California

 I drove home from Utah on Tuesday, which allowed for twelve hours of guilt-free election monitoring courtesy of NPR. Although I despise campaign season as much as everyone else, I love election day. It's like watching an elaborate game unfold with all the emotions and surprises that go along with it. It also reminds me of the good old days in the newsroom, where election day was often the hardest, most stressful, and yet most fun day of the year. Election Day is the endurance race of community journalism. And even though I was behind the wheel of a Subaru shuttling a bunch of dirty bicycles home from the desert, NPR provided a welcome escape into the frantic numbers crunching and anticipation of the outside world.

Fatigue set in again after the drive. Or, really, not so much set in as settled back in. I'll be honest — it's become an interesting personal experiment for me. Where is my edge, and does it, in fact, exist?   Or is equilibrium possible? What I learn could prove to be very helpful in future long-distance challenges, or so I tell myself when the fitness guilt returns. On Wednesday and Thursday, I went running on my regular 6.5-mile trail loop in Rancho San Antonio, and during both runs I posted times near my best times on that route (although, to be fair, the 6.5-mile loop isn't the one I typically "race" myself on. It's the one I run when I'm tired.) On Friday, our friends Dan and Amy came to visit us from Anchorage. Thanks to their vacation research, I discovered there's a new touring-specific bicycle shop located a half-mile from my house (!!!) And since Dan and Amy are already knee deep in snow and single-digit temperatures up in Alaska, we wanted to give them a small taste of California dirt before they set out on their wine country road tour next week.

I was under the impression that coastal California didn't experience much if any autumn-related change, but maybe that's because I spent so little time here in November last year. We saw a lot of color on our Steven's Creek loop, from sprigs of new grass on the previously summer-toasted hillsides, to yellow trees, to sienna leaves carpeting the trail. I admit that I'm so drawn by the intrigue of travel that I often forget about the beauty in my own backyard. I had more fun on this routine loop than I've had in a while. Dan was sprinting ahead to capture photos of Liehann bunny hopping big air off the leaves, Amy told funny stories, and Beat and I happily donned our puffy coats while the Alaskans rolled their eyes at us wimpy Californians. But it's cold here, even if ever so slightly, and this makes me happy.

The four of us are headed to another race tomorrow. It should be, uh, interesting. But the race was Dan and Amy's idea, and I want my friends to enjoy their vacation. Or, as Amy called it earlier today, "Beat and Jill's beatdown boot camp." At the time, she was talking about our fun little three-hour mountain bike ride. Oh, Amy, you should know us better by now. 


  1. My corner of coastal California doesn't see much change at all, but you're in an entirely different climate zone than I am. The only color we get here is green. With abundant rains, after a bone dry summer, everything returns to a rich emerald hue. I miss having the whole world change into vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges...I miss, you know, seasons.

  2. So pretty! Makes me miss California. It looks like a great time of year to get out and bike and/or run.

  3. weird to see you in bare legs with autumn leaves, our trees are at a similar stage in Scotland but we're hovering at a few degress above freezing and were out today in long tights, overshorts and jackets!


    Just in case you didn't know about this race in Homer.

  5. Can you please share with us the name of the touring-specific shop you refer to? It would be good to know of another resource. Thanks!

  6. Jill, the Yellow leaved tree in your picture is a Bigleaf Maple = Acer macrophyllum. There are also a few other tree species that turn yellow in this area: Sycamores and Cottonwoods hang out along creeks, and Black oaks in the uplands. Also, there are Dogwoods along the creeks that turn dark red, and of course, the red-leaved Poison oak.

  7. Despite the undeniably gorgeous weather, I do feel wistful this time of year, when friends are experiencing first snows, ski trips, and snow biking, and I come to terms with the fact winter doesn't come to the place where I live. Of course I can't complain because I really get the best of both worlds right now — year-round dirt and winter visits to Alaska.

    The bike shop is called Undiscovered Country Bike Tours. They mainly rent bikes and conduct guided tours, but they also sell maps, some touring gear, and self-guided tours. They've set up their new Los Altos location as a hang-out with coffee and plans to organize local day rides, which I'm excited about. They also seem to be a wealth of information on touring in California.

    Tom C — thanks for the info. I always appreciate fall color around here because it's the one time of year I can definitively pick out the poison oak. Now it seems like the leaves have mostly fallen off the plants, and the bare twigs have returned to being an more stealth and sinister threat.

  8. Jill -
    Your pictures and blog leave me with a longing to ride on some of these trails. It reassures me I need to be on my bike more.
    I road cycle, but the more I read your blogs I find myself wanting to take the mountain bike off the hooks and take off to find some trails.
    Thanks for blogging- Your stories are briliantly fun and whitty.
    I must admit when work is slow, I steal away for a good read. Thanks again - Sher'ee

  9. Your second picture it really awesome!


Feedback is always appreciated!