Friday, June 29, 2012

Hike #6 - Cliff Canyon Trail to Waipo'o Falls

This is our second hike in Kauai and started just inside Kokee State Park on the west side of the island.  The hike started at over 3500 feet and the terrain is a lot different from the tropical rainforest hike we did just a couple days ago.  Hiking on the dry side of Kauai made the 3.6 mile loop feel like we were in somewhere in California or Arizona.  (There is good reason to call Waimea Canyon the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.)
 About 1 1/3 mile into the hike, we found out why this is call the Cliff Canyon Trail.  No guardrails or any other barrier between us and a steep 2000+ foot drop to the bottom of the canyon.  The terrain has that American Southwest / desert feel as we scaled the side of the canyon to Waipo'o falls.
Once we got to Waipo'o Falls, we were somewhat disappointed that it wasn't more than a 20-foot waterfall -- given some of the waterfalls in Kauai, this one is more of a stream drop.  The hike back was mostly uphill but the kids were tired enough to sleep all the way down the 15-mile drive to the town of Waimea.
Tired enough to nap but not too tired to skip Brennecke's Beach on the way back.  Our fourth time boogie-boarding/body surfing in as many days was a 2-hr session.  I, we, can get used to this life.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brennecke's Beach (Poipu, Kauai)

Brennecke's Beach is in Poipu and we've been there 3 times in as many days.  About 15 miles from where we're staying in Kapa'a, Brennecke's is the best boogie boarding and bodysurfing spot we've seen in Kauai.  They call it for beginners but given our skill level, it is more than what we can handle.  I can stand out a hundred yards in the water and it is only waist-deep but the backwash could be nasty and shoot anyone up about 10 feet in the air.  JJ lost a pair of goggles and I lost a pair of sunglasses while in the water.  But Brennecke's is 100% fun.
Above is JJ on the left and Sam on the right, bodysurfing Brennecke's.  I didn't have my telephoto lens the first couple time but brought it on our third visit.  I did get a few other riders below.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hike #5 - Kuilau Trail, Kauai

We missed our Sunday hike last week since we were literally on a plane most of the day so we had to make it up today.  This is our 5th hike for the summer and it is a short one, about 3 miles in a tropical rainforest also known as the Kuilau Trail.  This is the kids' 2nd hike through a tropical rainforest, the first one being Manoa Falls in Oahu last year. 
Being in this part of Kauai is no different than being in the Jurassic Park movie set -- which happened to have been filmed in Kauai.
I did not expect to see too many hikers on this trail -- and we only saw about 10 others on this humid Tuesday.  Not too many animals either considering the island is littered with chickens.  It's also a change from all the dry hikes we've been doing back home in California.

Facing East

One of the things different about Kauai compared to the other Hawaiian islands is that most of the resorts are east-facing.  What that means is the golden hour for taking photographs is early in the morning.  I finally got a good night's rest and was up at 6am local time today -- which is really 9am PDT.  While the kids slept, I peeked through the room-darkening blinds and I had completely forgotten about sunrise in Kapaa.  Hoping for a good day of hiking, swimming and boogie boarding.

Garden Island Greetings

The first 24 hours in Kauai had been a nightmare so far.  Two things I've learned. One, never stay at the Pono Kai Resort again.  Not all units have air conditioning.  Yep, that's a fucking bad assumption that maybe 100% of Americans make -- that is every hotel room in America has A/C.  Not goddam true.  Pono Kai condo we got did not have any A/C of any kind so I had trouble sleep in the humid island air. Second, screw Expedia for travel reservations.  Bastards did not have any warning of any kind that my hotel, which is estimated at $1500 for 10 nights did not have A/C.  So I was rebooked to a very nice Marriot about a mile south of Pono Kai.  But something that this whole fiasco has taught me is that American Express is probably the best friend a consumer can have these days.  I called AMEX and after I told them of my situation, they said I have the right to dispute any charges that both Expedia and Pono Kai might improperly put on my card.  But after getting the whole hotel room sorted out, we did drive to Poipu to boogie board at Brenneke's Beach and it was a blast.  We'll be returning to hit the waves again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Story Behind These Vinyl Finds

Been going back to Dr. Strange Records every week since I found it.  Here's the disclosure.  They cater mostly to punk music.  Some thrash, some DIY, some metal but for the the most part punk.  So after I found another one of these 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett LP for 50c, I asked the guy behind that counter what's the deal because the story obviously doesn't make any profit off these.  Not only can I score them for less than a buck, I also have to pay into a jar -- which turned out to be a donation box for the local humane society.  I was told that people come into this (punk) record store wanting to sell their old vinyl collections for whatever they can get.  A store employee would tell them that it's really a specialty store catering to a very specific genre of youth-oriented music, i.e. punk.  These would-be sellers would be frustrated and really just want to get rid of their old "stuff" so they would ask if they can just leave them there.  And on my last visit, there were about 4 crates of discards that I sorted through to find this vinyl.  I also found 3 more George Benson LPs.  I like it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Packing Basics

One day before we leave for Kauai!  Packing only the essentials.  Packing for what we need to do is easy based on this simple routine.  Wake up, eat, swim, hike, snorkel, boogie board, kayak, nap, read a book, draw, eat, sleep.  Repeat for 11 days.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moebius Bench, Pasadena (2006)

Q: How do you sit across Sam at the Moebius bench?
A: Sit on the same side.
This photo was taken in 2006 at the shopping center on Lake and Del Mar.  We used to go to that Trader Joe's when we lived in Pasadena and this Moebius bench sculpture was where the kids would play for a few minutes every time we went.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Virgin Vinyl

I compare it to the nostalgic sensation when Will Smith put on a fresh pair of Chuck Taylor Converse in the futuristic movie "I Robot".  Something about the analog past just appeals to those who were fortunate enough to live it.  The sensation I'm talking about is cutting through the plastic shrink wrap of a vinyl LP, taking out the inner sleeve and handling the disc for the first time, putting is on the turntable as carefully as I can.  I must have done the routine hundreds of times since I was a little kid all the way to the early 90s when I last bought new vinyl.  Sure, I've been buying used LPs for years but last week, I found this unopened JFA album.  (JFA is Jody Foster's Army, punk/skate band whose guitar player is a good friend of mine.) Virgin vinyl.  What makes this JFA even more pleasurable is the unexpected surprise of blue vinyl.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hike #4 - Big Horn Mine Hike

It was a short drive (30 minutes from Rancho Cucamonga) to get there and I had to get a wilderness pass so I can park within Angeles National Forest but it was worth it.  Kids and I spend Father's Day hiking to Big Horn Mine, a 4-mile roundtrip with a total elevation gain of 1000 feet.  Not much total climbing except, the trailhead started at 6565 feet at Vincent Gap.  But the views are definitely worth it.
Several parts of the trail were washed away from rockslides but there was enough to get us through.  Some of the drops were pretty dramatic, which I estimated to be around 500 feet in the worst part, just a quarter mile from the first mineshaft.  Although it was around 95F in Rancho, it felt no more than 70 up here, given the elevation and the mountain breeze.
 Our reward at the end of the trail was this abandoned mining structure which took us 30 minutes to fully explore.  The majority of the steel structured building was gone but there was enough to allow us to climb up to the second mineshaft.  The views were even more stunning once we got there, where the mountain drops about a couple thousand feet below.
Below is Sam climbing up from the structure to get to the platform entrance to the mines.  In contrast to last week's hike to Eaton Canyon where we ran into hundreds of people, the trail to Big Horn Mine had less that a dozen people on it during the 2 hours we were on it.  I'm really hoping to use this high elevation hike as a primer for the kids taking on Mt. Baden-Powell.  We'll see.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Planning Hike #4

Can't believe this is the kids' 4th week of summer vacation.  Tomorrow will be our 4th hike in as many weeks and I decided we drive a little bit past Wrightwood to do a 4-mile roundtrip hike to see an old mine.  Elevation is well above 6000 ft but the hike itself, according to my topographic map is relatively flat -- yes that's right, an analog map, although I will charge my GPS watch tonight.  We'll make a day of it and explore Wrightwood a little bit.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett

The name of the artist alone caught my attention.  The second time in as many weeks I went to Dr. Strange Records in Rancho Cucamonga and at the first bin I found has these old vinyl for 50c each and 2 for 75c.  How can I resist?  I browsed through all the junk, Streisand, Croce, America, etc. until I found these 3 albums by "The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett".  Anyone who has 50 guitars is my hero (for the record, I have less than 20) but this is vintage instrumental music that is the basis for a lot of covers by classic surf bands.  The days of instrumental music is over and these vinyls belong to a very specialized genre amongst record collectors.  After listening to these 3 albums, I'm now on the hunt for more 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett (I've seen a list of at least 18 releases doing a quick online search).  Although it's doubtful I can get them for 50c each again).

From the website
Tommy Garrett was "Snuff" Garrett, A&R director for Liberty from 1958-1966, producer of numerous early 60s hits by white rock-n-roll artists such as Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, and Gary Lewis. Garrett also gave Phil Spector his first job in the business, as A&R man in New York for Liberty. He produced a series of LPs for Liberty under the name of "The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett," one of the least adventurous and most easy-listening guitar groups, usually arranged by Ernie Wilkins and with Tommy Tedesco as lead guitar. Garrett also produced a number of exotica recordings by "The Midnight String Quartet" and Jonathan Knight on the Viva! label.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hike #3 - Eaton Canyon, Pasadena

We used to head out to Eaton Canyon after every major winter storm just to see the water flowing down the riverbed into the reservoir.  When we lived at the house on Harding Avenue, the park entrance was a half mile away and taking into account the 1.5 mile hike, we effectively enjoyed a great 30-foot waterfall about 2 miles away!  That was a benefit I didn't really realize until we moved to Rancho Cucamonga.  As soon as the kids could walk on their own, we would explore the canyon and spend several hours just hanging out.
In the photo above, taken in Nov 2004 shows just how clear the skies over the San Gabriel Mountains could be in the fall.
Last weekend, we decided to hike up to Eaton Canyon, our first hike since moving to Rancho Cucamonga in 2009.  We got a late start and I knew it was going to be crowded but it was worse than I expected.  When we got there, entire families were making the trek on that hot June Sunday afternoon.  Babies, grandmas, kids, dogs, strollers, coolers, bags of potato chips, burgers, etc.  We saw it on the way up, at the destination, and on the way back.  At the waterfall, there must have been over 150 people alone, which surprisingly enough kept the area relatively free of debris and other signs of human presence.
My best memory of Eaton was our hike in Jan 2008 when Maura and I decided to enjoy the winter's day outdoors.  We ran into less than 5 people the entire time and we each picked up these walking sticks along the way.  We must have crossed the water over 20 times as the water level typically rises during the rainy months.  The photo above was taken using my camera on a timer sitting on top of a boulder.

Monday, June 11, 2012

They Reign From Pasadena

Going to the Van Halen concert at Staples Center last Saturday with the kids was quite an experience.  This is the third rock concert I've taken the kids to and they seem to be getting the hang of what it's like to feel the energy inside an arena.  Unlike the U2 concert or the LA Rising music festival last year, this one almost felt like a throwback to the way concerts used to be in the 80s and 90s at the Forum or Long Beach Arena.  I cannot think of a bigger band from Pasadena (or Los Angeles) in the last 30 years than Van Halen and while I wish I had seem them at their peak, this was still a great concert.  As long as brothers Eddie and Alex are playing, Van Halen will be great.  David Lee Roth back singing is more about showmanship and nostalgia than talent and vocal range.  But it really doesn't matter because he was still doing those jump kicks (at age 57) and obviously in good physical shape.  Eddie's son, Wolfgang had replaced Michael Anthony on bass but I don't really have a point of comparison playing live.  The band played 24 songs -- every hit from the David Lee Roth albums were played and at the end of the 2 hour set, I could not even think of a song I wanted to hear -- because I heard them all.   And that is how the concert ended.  No encore necessary.  Just rock and roll that way it was meant to be played and heard. Loud.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Doctor Strange Records

Finally, some cool music store in Rancho Cucamonga!  Interesting how a split second changes the whole chain of events that follows.  Wednesday night, I decided to do a short 1-hr ride around the city and was undecided on what route to take -- so I just headed down the Pacific Electric Bike Trail, westbound into the stiff afternoon headwind.  I usually head back via Lemon taking Beryl Street north but for some reason, I decided to head up Amethyst Ave instead.   I could have easily missed it if I hadn't glanced left for a second as I was pedaling about a block or two from the bike path.  It was past 7pm and all I saw was the store sign that said "RECORDS".  Hmmm.  A record store in a somewhat residential area of Rancho Cucamonga?  I pedaled home but just kept a mental note to drive by Amethyst on Friday, when I need to kill a half hour as the kids were taking music lessons at Alta Loma Music off Carnelian.  Doctor Strange Records is one cool place that sell vinyl, mostly punk but also a great selection of prints, t-shirts, stickers, magazines, etc.  Finally, I don't have to go to LA or Pasadena for vinyl.  I bought this signed poster by silkscreen artist John Miner for $10!  I only browsed for about 10 minutes since they close right at 7pm but I'll be back for more.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Two Weeks Into Summer

Took today, Friday off.  Walked around Old Town Pasadena and found this ultra cool luchador bottle opener at Paper Source.  With summer here, there is the temptation to cram every single day and week with activities to make full use of the kids' 11 week summer break.  But I know I need to enjoy each day and that could be as simple as browsing through a couple stores for interesting stuff.  San Francisco done, Kauai, San Clemente and a to-be-determined July destination to go.  I really wish I could take all summer off and just do stuff with the kids but someone's got to work around here.  And on most week nights, that reward for a full day's work is a beer that I will be opening with my luchador.