Monthly Archives: June 2016


27 Jun

Through Unusual Channels Part I

Posted by on June 27, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Although Jas and I will be going on a more glamorous vacation later this summer, we couldn’t let our anniversary pass without some sort of excursion. As it was his turn to plan our anniversary celebrations, Jason arranged a getaway to Santa Barbara, somewhere neither of us had been. It was a trip of some noteworthiness, with all the beauty and danger that trees and rocks can provide. Plus, it offered plentiful opportunities to partake of mankind’s architectural and culinary achievements.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is captivatingly ornate.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is captivatingly ornate.

The Spanish Colonial Revival Style features Moorish architectural and design elements.

The Spanish Colonial Revival Style features Moorish architectural and design elements.

I was up past 3:00 AM the night before we left for Santa Barbara working on my last paper of the semester but I still managed to get ready for our departure on time. The universe took pity on me in my weary state and we got upgraded to first class on our flight out. Thanks universe!

The bell tower atop the courthouse offers views in every direction.

The bell tower atop the courthouse offers views in every direction.

If you don’t know Santa Barbara from Santa Bill, Santa Barbara is located about two hours up the coast from Los Angeles. It’s famous for its Mediterranean vibe and distinctive architecture. On our first day there, we sought out some of that cool construction.

The Santa Barbara Mission is a vivacious piece of history.

The Santa Barbara Mission is a vivacious piece of history.

Visiting a courthouse while on vacation may sound about on par with studying government regulations for kicks but the Santa Barbara Courthouse is not your typical law and order. Built in 1929, this historic structure was designed extravagantly in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. We explored its bell tower, which afforded 360-degree views of the town’s urban sprawl and marine splendor, and went on a guided tour of the entire complex.

This lion-head spout is thought to be the oldest public sculpture in California. It was created by Chumash artisans for the Old Mission's washing basin.

This lion-head spout is thought to be the oldest public sculpture in California. It was created by Chumash artisans for the Old Mission’s washing basin.

We next stopped by the Old Mission. The Old Mission was founded in 1786 and is still home to a group of Franciscan friars. Sadly, we were just a couple minutes too late to do a self-guided tour of the building and grounds but we made ourselves feel better by wandering along Butterfly Beach. As far as consolation prizes go, Butterfly Beach was pretty fantastic.

Butterfly Beach is a favorite of romantic wanderers.

Butterfly Beach is a favorite of romantic wanderers.

A major perk of being a photographer is getting suave pictures of your spouse everywhere you go.

A major perk of being a photographer is getting suave pictures of your spouse everywhere you go.

The next day, we boated out to Channel Islands National Park and kayaked around Santa Cruz Island. The events of that adventure deserve separate attention, which they will get next week. So, for now, I will move forward in time and back to land.

I was rather saggy and soggy in the pants department at this point thanks to too many wave encounters.

I was rather saggy and soggy in the pants department at this point thanks to too many wave encounters.

Our final day in Santa Barbara, Jason and I went on a 90-minute tour of Lotusland, a charming 37-acre garden with unique ambiance. It was once the personal park of Madame Walska, an opera singer from Europe, and therefore exhibits more drama than one usually gets from flora. Lotusland is famous for its cycads. It has over 900 specimens of these rare evergreens, which are the dinosaurs of the plant world. But the cycads weren’t the only vegetation that wowed us. Lotusland was exotic, striking, and serene. We loved it!

Lotusland cultivates several species of cycad that are no longer found in the wild.

Lotusland cultivates several species of cycad that are no longer found in the wild.

The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, a private beach club, was where we spent the rest of our afternoon. I must admit, it was rather uppity but, pretentiously posh or not, it was the perfect place to be on the beach without being subject to the wind’s whims. Panes of glass, which blocked the little-too-enthusiastic breeze, were the only things between us and the enormity of the ocean. And I actually got to read words in a book that weren’t assigned to me while we lounged. Yippee!

Delicate blooms offered vibrant relief to the bristly greens in the Cactus Garden.

Delicate blooms offered vibrant relief to the bristly greens in the Cactus Garden.

The Cactus Garden was one of my favorite spots at Lotusland. It features 500 plants from 300 species.

The Cactus Garden was one of my favorite spots at Lotusland. It features 500 plants from 300 species.

My favorite aspect of traveling is experiencing new things, including new food. So I was thrilled that Santa Barbara did not disappoint our taste buds. We ate at an unpresumptuous Mexican joint called Los Agaves and got served the best mole enchiladas we’ve ever eaten. At The Palace Grill, a place with Mardi Gras pizazz, I consumed more crawfish in one meal than I’ve devoured the rest of my life combined. At Bouchon, we sampled French cuisine with local flair. The strawberry mouse and blueberry-lemon upside-down cake were our favorite parts of that meal. On our actual anniversary, we dined alfresco at Bella Vista and stuffed ourselves to the rhythmic incursions of the ocean.

Lotusland's Japanese Garden is full of graceful curves and tranquil waters.

Lotusland’s Japanese Garden is full of graceful curves and tranquil waters.

Santa Barbara was peaceful, classy, tasty, and… completely nuts. I will get to the nutty side of our trip next week. Try not to explode with anticipation before then. I hate having to pick up the pieces of too-eager readers.

14 Jun

Rachel’s Ten

Posted by on June 14, 2016 at 4:09 pm

I, The Mastermind, recently led the unachievable. Due to my ability to organize huge and seemingly impossible undertakings out of chaos, I directed a breakout of legendary proportions. Here’s how I Eskaped with nine of my buddies.

The Mission

Trapped inside a vintage 31-foot Airstream trailer, my prudently-selected team had 45 minutes to crack puzzles, poke props, and analytically unravel a series of clues to access the key to our release.

I played around with a number of the items in the trailer and did a few useful things.

I played around with a number of the items in the trailer and did a few useful things.

The Team

Jas: The Escape Artist

Jason played Houdini as a kid with his siblings and broke free every s.i.n.g.l.e. time. During our Airstream undertaking, he was particularly skilled at discovering hidden hints by fiddling with everything.

Cam: The Cognitive Genius

Cam can solve a Rubik’s Cube faster than anyone WITHOUT removing the stickers. We ended up using both his mental and lung capacities since he took it upon himself to provide the pedaling power for some of our operations.

Fran: The Illusionist

Fran can hide massive green pipes from everyone’s eyes! You aren’t seeing those pipes right now are you? Yup, magic. She was responsible for unsealing some of the trailer’s most hush-hush compartments.

These three got to the bottom of the books' enigmas.

These three got to the bottom of the books’ enigmas.

Drew: The Pontificating Instigator

Drew is willing to discuss and dissect any situation or problem. He’ll happily scrutinize your issues for you anytime. He spent most of his 45 minutes deciphering a series of codes found within a set of books.

Simone: The Collaborator

Simone has the ability to transform the nonsensical into the sensical. After all, somehow she makes sense of Drew. She too was instrumental in the book decrypting.

Jim: The Wizard

… has a beard… must be a wizard and wise… Jim figured out some brain teasers that were perplexing the rest of us. Thanks Wizard.

Cindy: The Competitor

Cindy is willing to conquer any challenge. Oh, and she can leap buildings on a snowmobile. We knew her daring nature would come in handy. She bounded right into cracking some tough conundrums.

Rachel's Ten proved to be a successful collaboration.

Rachel’s Ten proved to be a successful collaboration.

Jeremy: The Memory Master

Jeremy can remember every rule to every board game and sometimes other stuff too. He did recall a few helpful things during our stay inside the Airstream.

Rebecca: The Wrangler

Rebecca has the ability to make The Memory Master focused and useful. She also proved valuable in the book decoding department.

Thanks to my wisely-selected band of solvers, we retrieved the key to our freedom in the nick of time. With less than a minute left on the clock, we breathed in the sweet whiffs of success… and fries. Thanks Jason for the puzzling gift!

*Jason co-wrote this post and, therefore, deserves recognition (or disdain) for such.

7 Jun

My Manic Mountain

Posted by on June 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm

This winter, Utah had a manic boarding season. The snow seemed intent on shrouding its fluff in mystery. For the flurries came when they weren’t expected and no-showed when they were. Jason and I only boarded five days at our usual haunt, Brighton, due to inconsistency of the storms yet some of the season’s surprises were rather inspiring. Here is my faithful report of our experiences with the snow’s highs and lows.

December 23rd

New Snow: 78 inches

Weather: Who cares? Did you not read that last line?

Commonness: This was the best snow Jason or I can remember encountering in the recent past. It was almost too much powder, if such a ridiculous thing could exist. If you lost your speed, you basically had to tunnel out. Being buried repeatedly in a motionless avalanche was exhausting yet intoxicating. I wish we had gone a few more times while the getting was good.

Trailblazing through powder that deep is quite difficult on a board but we decided to try it with our friends Kelsey and Zac anyway. We almost made it.

Trailblazing through powder that deep is quite difficult on a board but we decided to try it with our friends Kelsey and Zac anyway. We almost made it.

On many of the runs, one could only escape certain powder death by staying on a narrow band of compacted snow. Kelsey and I converged in an unplanned manner on one such band.

On many of the runs, one could only escape certain powder death by staying on a narrow band of compacted snow. Kelsey and I converged in an unplanned manner on one such band.

I fell on one slope and sunk this far. Wow! Incidentally, as demonstrated by this photo, iPhones do not take as good of pictures as regular cameras, despite what their fans claim.

I fell on one slope and sunk this far. Wow! Incidentally, as demonstrated by this photo, iPhones do not take as good of pictures as regular cameras, despite what their fans claim.

January 17th

New Snow: 30 inches

Weather: Warm and sunny

Mountain Pack: Crowded! We literally got the last parking spot in the entire resort.

Conclusion: Brighton broke their previous parking records several times during this season. I believe the winter tourists have finally discovered my little slice of the powder pie. Drat! Unfortunately, based off the number of times I heard “Wow! You don’t see that at home!” uttered by out-of-towners as they gawked at the Heber Valley from the top of the Snake Creek Express, it seems unlikely that they are going to forget about their new finding. Frankly, I feel a little conflicted about my resort’s latest fans. I’m pleased Brighton is getting the appreciation it deserves but can’t it be appreciated from a distance?

This is one of my favorite powder fields at Brighton.

This is one of my favorite powder fields at Brighton.

March 4th

Weather: Mid-fifties and cloudless

Complications: Even though we were heading down to Moab that evening, we decided it would be nonsensical to forgo a chance to board in conditions so pleasant. So we went from riding on white to riding on red within a few hours. I threw a rib out and injured my rotator cuff and neck on the slopes. Still, I biked the next day. Pain is for the people that pay attention to it.

That's at least a solid inch of air.

That’s at least a solid inch of air.

I am tiny but I'm not quite as minuscule as I look in this picture.

I am tiny but I’m not quite as minuscule as I look in this picture.

March 16th

New Snow: 12 inches (AKA powder enough)

Weather: Mid-thirties (AKA warm enough)

Cohorts: We treated my dad to a day on the slopes for his birthday. I think if he had had any birthday wishes left he would have used them up wishing we hadn’t, at least on his first few trips down the mountain. After not skiing for a decade, he was a bit clumsy initially but his muscles, like his mind, have a good memory. By the end of the day he was plowing smoothly.

I am no boarding expert but I do go fast enough that you can actually tell I'm moving.

I am no boarding expert but I do go fast enough that you can actually tell I’m moving.

Mountaintop or otherwise, spending time with my dad is always a pleasure.

Mountaintop or otherwise, spending time with my dad is always a pleasure.

The reasons there are lots of pictures of me snowboarding and not so many of Jason aren't egotistical but technical. I can't board and take pictures at the same time; Jason can.

The reasons there are lots of pictures of me snowboarding and not so many of Jason aren’t egotistical but technical. I can’t board and take pictures at the same time; Jason can.

Jason and I like to live on the wild side of the ski boundary. That's a full foot of danger there!

Jason and I like to live on the wild side of the ski boundary. That’s a full foot of danger there!

April 3rd

Weather: Mid-fifties and mighty springy

Mountain Pack: Practically vacant

Conference: Thank you!

That smile should be self-explanatory.

That smile should be self-explanatory.

This boarding season started out like a superhero but it must have lost its lucky tights in one of the drifts or something because it took a rather ordinary turn in the middle of January. Still, we caught enough powder and sunshine to put big smiles on our faces and a little lament in our hearts over the approach of spring.