Roll and stroll through Hercules, CA

A couple of friends and I have a joke about how you can take San Pablo Avenue all the way to Los Angeles.  Of course in truth it starts at the top of Contra Costa County and runs through all the cities along the San Pablo Bay, ending just a few blocks west of Lake Merritt in Oakland.  That’s two counties anyway, and an impressive stretch of boulevard connecting our historic Bayfront towns. For driving north

Blend of old and new architecture

Blend of old and new architecture

and south, I’m using San Pablo Avenue more often, rather than put up with the massive transit on Interstate 80.  Along the way I’ve discovered how this thoroughfare, which in fact is the historic and scenic Highway 40, is evolving with its well-defined bike lane, offering alternatives to being caged in our cars.

Along San Pablo Avenue in the city of Hercules, there are signs naming the bike lane, the “I-80 Bikeway”.  I love how that label seems to give more credibility to this alternative to commute transportation.  And the bike path through Hercules is safe and scenic; getting to school or work, or running simple errands can be pretty convenient throughout this city.  The Contra Costa Transit Authority has released a draft update of the Contra Costa Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.  Public workshops were held in June to engage the community in expanding the opportunities of bicycle transportation throughout the county.  More information is available on the City of Hercules website:  http://www.ci.hercules.ca.us/index.aspx.  As stated on the site, “If you are interested in the process and would like to read the draft plan or the previous Issues and Options Report, visit the Contra Costa Transit Authority website on the update to the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan at: http://www.ccta.net/EN/main/bike/cbpp.html.”

I have to say that the urban design of Hercules has made this city very bike and walking friendly; eco-friendly indeed!  When it’s time for a leisurely bike ride or stroll I recommend exploring the up and coming Sycamore Downtown district. At the junction of Sycamore and Railroad Avenues you’ll find a charismatic blend of old and new architecture.  From Railroad Avenue turn onto Santa Fe Avenue where the newer neighborhoods circle around to embrace the historic homes of Bay Avenue, Pinole Street and Talley Way.  Throughout the Sycamore area, the new architecture purposely invokes the feel of “small town America” with the inviting porches and “gingerbread” décor of over a century ago.   The urban design of connecting neighborhoods encourages people to walk about to shops and restaurants and enjoy the wide-open view of the San Pablo Bay.  While exploring on a weekday I saw several people walking their dogs, or on lunch-hour jogs, and kids making their way back home off the big boulevards through paved pathways into their neighborhoods.  Off the concrete sidewalks, you can make your way along the more rustic Railroad Avenue path all the way to neighboring Pinole with a continuous view of the San Pablo Regional Shoreline.

Parks and open space take up about one-third of the terrain in the city of Hercules; a generous portion to consider if the urban sprawl of the Bay Area has one concerned.  In the middle of Hercules is one of the prettiest city parks I’ve had the pleasure to dwell in:  Refugio Valley Park, located at junction of Refugio Valley Road and Sycamore Street.  With over sixty six acres, the park beckons with spacious lawns, unique and captivating sculpture gardens, sparkling water fountains and a calming lake complete with lazy swans a-swimming.  It’s the perfect place to get away on your lunch hour; but beware, I’m sure it’s going to be hard to return to the office!

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Carneros – Wide Open Spaces

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Carneros, Napa Valley

Sometimes I feel surrounded by traffic and noise.  All the progress and construction going on in Napa!   Maybe it’s good to just get away from it all, alone in wide open spaces to stretch our legs, our minds and perspectives.  I know just the place to do this, out on the edge of the Carneros.

The Carneros is the largest of the Napa Valley wine growing regions and shared, as well, with Sonoma County.  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are its most famous grapes, others include Merlot and Syrah and it was the first region to be designated an appellation in 1983. Continue reading

All in a day’s journey…

A “walkathon”. Remember that word? I guess a marathon is 26 miles, and then folks would do fund raisers by walking the 26 miles, so that everyone could participate. Well, this noble idea grew and the Susan G. Komen, 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer became a walkathon XXL. Sixty miles, over three days. I just completed this 3Day Walk last weekend. We started out on Friday, September 5th. No, make that Thursday night, September 4th. Because we decided to stay overnight in South San Francisco to get to the Cow Palace at 6:00am. So really, the event starts the night before, when you’re apprehensive, excited, buzzed and tired all at the same time. It takes a lot of logistics to get families and jobs wrapped up and put aside so that you can get off on your adventure. I slept just fine that Thursday night and got up with my roommate at 4:30am. Can’t eat breakfast that early, so granola bars were toted along. A long weekend of many granola bars lay ahead.

Our 3Day route was fantastic! I love San Francisco and lived there for many years, but never have I walked all over the city. All over the entire city and more. On Day 1 we started at the Cow Palace, walked through South San Francisco over to Westlake, down to the beach and along the Great Highway, up into Golden Gate Park, taking Arguello to Jackson Street and up into Laurel Heights, up, up into Pacific Heights and down, down to Lombard Street, crossing to the Marina District and out to the Marina Green stretching way out along the new (to me) trail into Crissy Field…our campsite for two nights. 20.4 miles and it was 88 degrees in San Francisco on Friday.

I trailed behind as our team made it in to camp. Now we had to find our gear bags (35lbs.), drag them to our tent site, pull out a pink pup tent and spread it out, hook up the poles. My tentmate and I just kept moving, plodding, feet burning, legs aching, but nothing mattered more than getting that tent up. And then the air mattress. “Whrrrr” as the battery pump puffed up our mattress; our eyes and fingers working in tandem, focusing on that pump like it was our last hope for survival. Oh what a beautiful sight! The mattress! Toss in the sleeping bags and phoof! Laying down!

A lot of the weekend is a blur to me. The grass at Crissy Field is long and lush and lumpy…a gopher cityscape! We plodded over the grass. Fifty some-odd yards to porta-potties and funny, little stainless steel shower trailers, and cafeteria style food lines for dinner and breakfast. I remember the amazing foot massage machines in one tent along the amenities “boulevard”; a life saver! Medical tents and kind and generous volunteers everywhere. It was roughing it with lots of hugs. On one morning, at about 4:30am I plodded through the cold, wet grass to the potty. As I made my way back to the tent I looked around me and saw others moving slowly through the fog and fuzzy semi-darkness. Hunched with arms hanging, methodically stepping, plodding over dirt clods with bruised and wounded feet. All I could see was a scene from “Night of the Living Dead”! I’m sorry! But that’s what we looked like…zombies!

Day 2: As we walked over the majestic Golden Gate Bridge at about 8:00am and marveled at how sunny and balmy the weather was, I knew we were in trouble. The GGB should have been shrouded in fog, with an icy wind. This meant heat and the temperature in San Francisco on Day 2 sizzled it’s way to 93 degrees. In Mill Valley, our halfway point, it reached 101. I didn’t make it all the way that day. I only got as far a the end of Sausalito; my feet burning and a particularly angry blister on my right foot. I got it cleaned and bandaged at the lunch stop. My tentmate got as far as our Mill Valley lunch stop, over 12 miles. But her feet were burning and blistered too. We made the woeful decision to be bussed back to the camp, to rest and hopefully heal enough to get all the way through Day 3. We had to! We had to do all of Day 3 and we would bandage our feet, stoke up on Advil and walk until we were bloody!

Now, my teammates will tell you that I am a complainer. Yes, I know it was said. But I don’t see it as all that negative. My complaining is simply thinking out loud, letting off steam, and telling it like it is! Ooh, ow, why so many hills?, this is just mean, my feet are on fire! And “Uff da” became my mantra. (Uff da is an exclamation of Norwegian origin that is relatively common in the Upper Midwestern states of the United States, meaning roughly “drats,” “oops!” or “ouch!” especially if the “ouch!” is an empathetic one. http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Uff-da) Up and down every curb…”Uff da!”

This beautiful walk, exciting stories and new women (and men) to meet and talk with. Wild and crazy “cheering sections” that greeted us over and over along the route with costumes, music, candy and wet wipes. “Pit stops” with water, food and porta-potties. Water, food and porta-potties. Water, food and porta-potties. That was our life for three days.

Day 3: Fog. Glorious fog! Cool, damp, fluffy, beautiful fog! No sun! We started out for our last 14 miles in loving fog and gray skies. We were all sore and beat; but the cool morning and anticipation of our achievement gave us strength. We walked together all the way. We made our first 6 miles and 2nd pit stop in about 1.5 hours. We were stoked! Piece o’cake! A little sun came through and we enjoyed our walk through magnificent San Francisco. The intricate architecture of Pacific Heights. The crowded downtown streets and glamorous stores of Union Square. Sax Fifth Avenue had all of its windows done in designer stilettos! Eek! It looked like a torture chamber to me! I hope I recover from the shock; I do love those shoes.

Advil is a wonderful drug. I took my doses every couple of hours and my nasty blister rested in peace. As we marched through the Financial District and up into North Beach we were closing in on our final destination. At 12 miles we all hurt. A lot. But we did it. We marched/hobbled together into Fort Mason, our holding area before the closing ceremonies at the Marina Green. We whipped on our victory t-shirts and sat on the asphalt to cheer the stream of walkers as they arrived. We cried at the site of their limping and pain, disabilities, sweat, red faces, huge smiles, whacky costumes, team spirit, war-whoops and laughter. We hugged. Each other, group hugs. And finally, we located our husbands and families and at the end of the ceremonies we scattered; anxious to start our final journey to home, bathtubs and beds.

My cast of characters? My team? The Tickled Pinks! Lani, Lorri and Tami – mother, daughter and granddaughter. Three generations of a family that knows the terror of breast cancer. Lani is our 10 year survivor and a beautiful 60-something! She has never camped in a tent, or walked miles and miles, just cuz. I think Lani logged about 12 to 15 miles each day; taking care of herself and using the “sweep vans” as needed.

Lorri and Tami, mother and daughter, a vision of determination and fortitude. They walked the entire 3 days. I am truly inspired by them.

Rachel, our road-side warrior. We met her during our training walks and she was alone, ready to do this crazy thing all on her own. We scooped her up into our team and she walked the entir
e 3 days. Her husband, two kids and mother showed up all along the route to support her, and us. A beautiful family, a continuous beam of love throughout our journey. And Sally and Christine. Often they walked slower than us. Not always with us, but…always with us. Smiling faces, hugs and support. We all gave and gave and gave.

My tentmate? Linda! Apparently we were separated at birth. Such an odd story. She is Lorri’s aunt and Linda and I have been connected all our lives through our extended families; beginning in Vallejo, CA. I babysat her niece and she babysat mine. We both graduated from high school in 1971; but across town from each other at “rival” high schools. All my life I’ve heard, “you know Linda, right?” No, I had never even set eyes on her. And she has the same story. For some reason our paths would not cross until we were 55 years old. For me it was like a scene from “The Parent Trap”, seeing my twin for the first time at camp! We had an instantly great time. We laughed and laughed and made wonderful jokes about how miserable we were. I whole-heartedly thank God for Linda!

I’ve got two things, two gifts of life, that came from my 3Day experience:
1. The magic of an all out physical challenge and exertion for a cause exclusive of oneself is a stress and anxiety purge. Whatever projects and problems were festering and nagging at me just the week before are now simply my stuff to do. I am calm, restored and harmonized. It has to be a challenge that is for and about someone or something other than yourself. The fortitude it takes to keep going and push through real and imagined pain to finish just because you said so. A commitment, a promise and an achievement that will make a difference to someone, some world.

2. I am now awake and present to the importance of fighting cancer. Over the 3 days I was immersed in the loss and longing for family members and friends that lost their battle with breast cancer. Any cancer; it’s all an unnecessary evil. Cancer is mutated cells. In a sense there will not be any cure for cancer, it’s not a bacteria or virus we can inoculate. But there is research and science that is developing cellular health through glyconutrients and more. I’m a novice at this, but I want to know more and I want to support it. http://www.glyconutrientsreference.com/whatareglyconutrients/scientificvalidation.html

Will I do this 3Day walk again? I don’t think so. Uff da. BUT, I will be a cheering station! I will jump up and down and dance along the route and bring joy, laughter, love and Kleenex to the walkers. What a great bunch they were, the Cheering Stations!

It’s Wednesday and I’m still in flip flops. You couldn’t pay me to put on a pair of shoes yet. The blister was really ugly, but healing. I had a massage on Monday, more healing. I’m walking normal again, not hobbling. I so had my doubts a few weeks ago. I thought I had made a mistake with all this stress of fund raising and training walks. But last February a message came through my mind that said I needed a physical and spiritual challenge. I chose the 3Day and I got everything I asked for! (wink)

www.the3day.org, www.komen.org, www.nptrust.org

Who Knew?! Making a great connection…

I’m in training for the Susan G. Komen 3Day Breast Cancer walk. My team, The Tickled Pinks, will be walking in the San Francisco Bay Area walk, September 5,6 and 7. Well, this is indeed a commitment. And the walking is arduous. No doubt about it. We’re training at about 12-14 miles now. That’s about 4 hours of walking. I’ve been a bit of a whiner too! My Sundays are kaput! Walking at 7:30am on a Sunday! Phooey! But, in my heart, I knew there are good reasons for this and some hidden benefits…I just knew it…Today, I happened to look at a photo I took in Florence, Italy.

It was a photo of the plaza around the Uffizi museum and gallery. My hubby and I traveled there just last October, 2007. The walking!! All over Florence, Rome and Venice. My feet felt like pounded beef! In fact, I had to trick my husband into walking to this plaza in the photo. “Oh, there’s something I want to see just over here”; “just around this corner”; “oh, just a little farther down this street”; “um, just over there”…really! I kept him in suspense until we were there because he had dug in his heels and said, “I can’t walk anymore!!”

When I reminisced over this photo a connection sparked! WALKING! Oh my! After all this walking we’ve been doing, to get to the 3Day event in San Francisco, I could walk ALL OVER ITALY!! I could frickin’ walk from France to Italy! Bigga deala!

So, think of it! How great this walk is for raising money for breast cancer, and how it effects our lives in ways we never expected. I’ll get back to Europe, or any other magnificent destination, and I’ll be able to get myself around in the most intimate way without feeling like my legs are lead. This is like a gift! New feet, new legs! Who knew?!

And here I present you the opportunity to be a part of this widespread joy and gratitude. Make a donation to the Susan G. Komen 3Day Breast Cancer Walk here.