Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Remember when you were little and you got a new pair of Keds? Bright Red! Unscratched rubbery red tip! So hot, so...FAST! You put them on, laced them up and took off running. You were liquid lightning. Those magical shoes made you run at speeds never before known to man. A rocket-girl in fast shoes.

I don't know when you realize that shoes don't make you run faster - - or jeans don't make your ass look smaller -- but that ability to imagine and pretend does ebb with age. At some point you realize that no matter how much you pay for those running shoes, you ain't going to be hitting that 5 minute mile. Ever. And that no matter what the ads say, stretchy panel or not, if you have a big keester, no jeans in the world are going to camouflage that. Ever. Although yesterday I saw a woman in the line at the grocery store who may still live there in the fantasy land that is reserved for larger woman who believe that spandex leggings have an amazing slimming effect. They don't. Ever.

My point is, remember that feeling with the shoes? You ran faster, you jumped higher, you were amazing. Henry still knows that feeling. And you know how I know that? Here is a photo of Henry and his friend, Jack, only moments before leaving for their first volleyball game of the season. Moreover, it's their first volleyball game. Ever.

See their imagination at work? They've watched the Olympics. They know how it goes. They know what they are supposed to do. They have had one. single. practice. to prepare them for this game and they. are. ready.

I attended the game. George the Elder attended that game. He left work early to come to the inaugural game of Henry's volleyball career. We cheered. We tried to understand the new scoring system (so much for how it was scored in gym class in 1975. different now). We took tons and tons of photos. And while I am crap a shooting sports in an indoor venue (which I plan to address this morning by taking an on-line photo tutorial) - the following photo succinctly sums up the majority. Henry is damn fine at assuming the "ready position." There was no lunging, no diving for the ball. There was lots of "ooops" and backing away and ducking when the ball approached.

The final result? Game 1 - Loss. Harder to swallow? They played an all girls school. We aren't permitted to speak of that again. The final synopsis? Volleyball was harder than they thought. The ball hurts when you hit it. It comes at you faster than you think and you believe that someone will get it before you.

Henry wore his black sports shoes to the first game. Yesterday for game 2 he chose differently. You know why? Cause those first shoes didn't make him as fast as he wanted to be and didn't allow him to jump as high as possible. Even though they still lost the game yesterday to the Lycee Francais, the whole team played better. Henry played better. And in his mind it was due in large part to the white sports shoes he wore. He said as much. I didn't remind him of the several practices in between the two games. If he thinks it's the shoes - well, maybe it is. Because even though I know now that my red Keds really didn't have any magic - - maybe I didn't get tagged out at first base in kickball because I ran sooooo fast in my red shoes...

In the grand scheme of things, I decided to let him continue to believe that his shoes were going to have a noticable effect on his volleyball performance. I made that decision cause I simply didn't have the heart yesterday after game 2 to tell him that losing to a bunch of stinking girls was one thing. Losing to the French? Now that's embarrassing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CMR Update 26 Sept: We got Rebar and escape hatches

It's a Bee-u-ti-ful day here in the Bay area. Our summer has finally arrived and while we still needed to don our jackets and sweatshirts, it's sunny and blue and warm. So what that it's the end of September? Just the perfect day to head over to the time/money suck of our home remodel and check out the progress. The boys are getting expert at the human pyramid necessary to get in to the house, so we were in like lightning today. So what that there was a handy-dandy ladder sitting right there today? No need for ladders when we got boys!

The library is looking good. This space is going to be so wonderful with all 6 windows looking in. If you squint and look past lots of trees, you can see the ocean in the distance. It's a great deal of squinting, but it's kind of cool knowing it is there. This will be the view from George the Elders desk eventually. Not too shabby.

The electricians were apparently here during the week. They have written little love notes on the ceiling. This one says, "This'll cause the house FIRE." They're so witty and clever, those little electrician guys. Something tells me I have a change order in my future....

The atrium decking took more shape this week. We have DRAINS! I'm practically giddy with drain excitement. Soon there will be skylights, soon there will be the very cunningly designed system on which will eventually sit our very cool lava rock pavers.

But, if this photo is any indication, those cool little drains aren't exactly operational. In the interim, we have been provided with these efficient and disposable green plastic downspouts.

I wanted to try to get a picture of the wall that will be removed during Phase II: Kitchen remodel. You know, that second phase of the remodel that will happen when the UPS plane drops those bags of money right on to our newly drain appointed interior atrium? Well, I wanted to try to show how amazing that room will be with the open stairs once that wall gets the heck out of the way and the cheesy white cabinets are replaced with hip new St. John metal cabinets and stainless steel countertops and fabulous flooring and.... awwwwe, come on UPS...drop your load baby!!

But, let's focus on the work that's been done in the basement to lift our spirits... Here's the framing of the mechanical closet that will hold all things radiant floor and water heating. This is where the stairs used to come down from the kitchen above. The joists in the "ceiling" make the climbing in to the house more fun for the boys. I'm wondering how we will get in next week if they put the actual plywood on the top?

And it's rebar central here in the lower level!! The floors are all covered with it. All the vapor barrier has been laid, all the heat catching material stuff that helps keep the radiant floor heat from going down instead of up in to the floors, and a fresh layer of sand are all done. Now we wait for the concrete and the radiant tubing.

This is a view from the North side of the rumpus room looking directly in to the pool room. You can see how grand the lighting will be in this room, as well as where the railing will be between the two levels.

This is the view from the South East corner of the pool room looking up in to the Rumpus room. You can see the wall in the rumpus room where our wine closet is going to be. Right now it's just a big plywood plank! We got the plans from Steve the Wine Guy on Friday and we are over the moon about them. It was fabulous working with someone who got the whole "mid-century vibe" right away. He's a keeper!

The view right outside the pool room door looking towards where the stairs will be and in to Henry's room and the bath.
Taken from the South East corner of George the Younger's soon to be teenage lair (which will be complete with alarmed windows with locks - we weren't born yesterday you know!). This room is going to be HUGE. Much bigger than I had imagined. I was briefly considering changing this to my office / guest room. But, I think that the dye has been cast there. I'll just have to wait until he's off to college before I requisition it :)

And finally, when the plans were initially being conceived for the CMR, we had considered putting in a laundry chute from the upper floor down in to the basement. Man, those are handy things, ain't they? But in the end, we couldn't do it properly. Henry suggested the installation of a slide from the kitchen down to the lower level parallel to the stairs. This was nixed as well. In essence, all the "boy" ways down to the lower level have not panned out.
Today, Henry noticed something intriguing... Turns out that the old air return from the forced air heating system was located in the back of the upstairs hall closet. This return hole and grating are still there. Henry figured out that this hole would/could lead directly into his bedroom closet. With the opening left alone and a small ladder installed in the back of his closet, Henry would be able to get from his bedroom to the upstairs hallway without using the conventional method. The stairs.
H contemplating the entry..
Henry contemplated the exit.

It got me to thinking... I wonder if it's possible to really do it? I mean if you were 12 and you had a cool secret escape hatch to the upstairs how great would that be? Don't know if it can be done - but I think I will ask the architects....just for fun.
Cause isn't it all about fun? And waiting for money to drop in to your atrium? Fun and money. Good combo if you can get it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

CMR Update Sept 19th: HALFWAY!

The Cool Mid-Century Remodel (CMR) continues to move steadily forward. We are getting so jazzed about it. Rooms have dimension, the upstairs is going to be a open as we had dreamed, and our team just keeps working together nicely. Can't complain. Oh wait, I CAN complain (just a little - actually more of a whining than a complaint)... Now that the kitchen stair "hole" to the basement has been opened up, George the Elder and I are just a little blue about not being able to finish the whole kitchen remodel in Phase I. Like a double-edged sword we can see how cool it is going to be - and we can't do it yet. Patience Grasshopper. Patience....

We headed over last Sunday just as it was starting to get dark after dinner. Other Sunday "stuff" kept us from getting there earlier. It was a wee bit eerie being in the house in the semi-dark - but we still got to poke around and see what was new.

As before - we still can't get in the house-house without a little chinese acrobatics. This weekend, George the Younger was the boosted. Here's a picture of him grinning down at us after making the climb...

The H-man (who generally isn't a man prone to great adventure, especially in the dim of the evening) volunteered to wait upstairs, lock the back door, and wait until we could come around and fetch him from the garage. I was nearly certain that we would hear him yelling "Where are YOU????" long before we could make the 50 yard journey, but he had his "brave hat" on that evening and shimmied down like a champ.

Before coming down, Henry perused the plans in Luke the Foreman's makeshift office now located in our dining room. He's got quite the little command-central going on there - shelving, desk and all his Foreman kind of stuff. His plans are nice and clean. The plans that used to be in the basement had reached the end of their economic life. Too much wet concrete around down there I guess.

Here's a photo of the new decking for the atrium. It's nice and easy to see where the big bank of skylights are going to go to provide all that lovely exterior light in to our lower level. These are going to be operational, so not only will we get lots of light, but we'll be able to get a great deal of fresh air to boot. I have no idea how we're going to get them open and closed since they are located a bit high off the floor down there - - but I'm sure there's some kind of plan for that - like a big stick or something?

This is now the big hole for the stairs. To the right, where you see the 2x4's there's also going to be another big window that looks out in to the atrium. We're going to have more sun in our kitchen than Ian McSun of the McSun clan. Tres cool.

The header over the descending stairs has been changed to a nice sloping ceiling....

And in "downstairs" news: The pipes are in for the bathroom and laundry room plumbing and the entire lower level floor is almost completely covered with a heavy white plastic sheeting, which will then be covered with another kind of insulation material, which will then be covered with radiate floor tubing, which will then be covered with cement for the floor. The only thing holding us up here? The cement finish for the floor. This decision is turning in to one of those epic decisions. Arghh. We thought we had decided on the exposed aggregate, but now we are leaning towards a colored smooth trowel finish (with the possibility of a higher grade polish) - but the bottom line is that we need to hop on pop and get the damn decision made. I can't tell whether we are going to be the cause of our own construction delay.

And finally, in the setting sun of San Francisco, we arrived to our back patio to find nestled among various construction materials, a large piece of art work. We figured either someone was using our backyard for some bizarre satanic ritual over the weekend, or some teenager's mom finally put her foot down and said, "Get that spooky thing the heck out of my house!" and our back yard was the repository. Turns out that Foreman Luke's friend was the artist, wanted Luke to take the painting, but after viewing Foreman Luke decided against. Smart move Foreman Luke....

16 weeks of construction down...16 weeks to go. Wow! Halfway done.... In some ways the time has flown by and in other - well, I'm pretty gosh darn tired of this temporary apartment, it's temporary-ness and the temporary feel to our every day lives. But - when I look back at the photos from June 8 when they rolled the first little back hoe in our garage... well, dang. That's some construction!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Shadow Knows

This morning was George the Younger's first "shadow visit" as part of High-School-Search-2010.

For the uninformed (or those lucky enough not to have to perform the drill of the high school search), most of the schools here in SF, both private and public, have days when perspective students come to hang out for a while and "shadow" a current student at that school. These visits are not mandatory, but given the wide variety of schools, it makes sense to give your kids a chance to take a look around and get to experience what the school is all about from the adolescent point of view.

We are casting a nice wide net regarding the kinds of schools that we are considering. Parochial, hippie-dippy-alternative, preppy and public charter are all on the list in some form or another. George the Elder and I already have a pretty good idea of what we are looking for for George The Younger. We are hoping that he will fall in to line and we will agree on the "right place." We are also prepared for the you-got-a-lot-of-opinions-mr-got-no-job-got-no-prospects conversation should he be unable to see the light.

Although, if this morning is any indication, I am coming to believe that he's a better judge of himself than we have been giving him credit for. See, George The Younger would not be considered as a man of deep introspection. At least in any obvious ways that we could see. During our recent HS Hunt Parent Meetings the guidance counselor asked parents what some of the things their kids were "reflecting" upon at home as it came to the search for schools. I couldn't add much there. George the Younger's deepest reflection, as far as I knew, was that he just needed to know if they had a good baseball team and did they have a decent school lunch.

But this morning after his visit he seemed to understand the things that would work for him at that school and the things that wouldn't. It wasn't as if he was purposefully making a pro/con list - and much of it came out just in what he saw and the adjectives he used to describe them - but he definitely knew himself and what he wanted. Shocked the shit out of me frankly. Could it be that my single syllable boy is maturing? Could he be a still-waters-run-deep kind of man?

Today's school was BIG. Big in the kind of way that none of my kids have attended. It was amazingly appointed - sports fields to die for, a pool, weight rooms, two theaters, and the whole building was clean clean clean. Almost a kind of stepford clean - weird? It wasn't as big as the HS I attended myself lo those many years ago - but I've acclimated to the smaller learning institutions - and it seemed so vast and busy and so, well so, High School. George The Younger's first thing he said when I saw him? "Do you know how many English courses there are for 9th graders???? EIGHT!!!" So he felt the big of it too. I don't think he could imagine himself finding his way. I know that he would if it came down to it. But, it wasn't something he was enthusiastic about - as in - WOW, so many different things to do and people to meet and ways to get involved.

In the end, I think the Shadows are a good thing. He has many to go yet before we are done. There are also the open houses and parents visits and applications and decision trees. But, in the end - come March - my boy will know where he is going to HS. And, fingers crossed, he will know that that school is the right one for him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Force

Molding boys into presentable young men has its challenges. There are times when I whole heartily believe that the amount of effort it takes to rid them of their tendencies to revert to a simpler form of ape man is not only insurmountable, but a flipping waste of time.

It's as if they are surrounded by a fabulously large invisible force field that allows the initial instruction to filter through (hence the ability to "get it right the first time", but then that information is immediately reversely purged back out in to the cosmos. And strangely, it is as if that force field does not allow any part of those instructions to be permanently stored in long term memory or (even more frustratingly) even semi-permanently in short term memory. It just up and disappears. I often find myself standing there, head tipped to the side in the huh-what-confused-dog-way, wondering where am I going wrong. Most of the stuff just isn't that difficult. I don't often use big words to explain stuff. It should be sticking. It honestly should be....

Here are some select examples of things that are unable to be retained as a result of the super magnificent force field surrounding my boys:

  • Urine, if left in the toilet for several days without flushing becomes putrid, disgusting and has the uncanny ability to make my gag reflex unstoppable. Please, for the love of PETE, flush. Urine will not evaporate and leave fresh toilet water in its place. It is scientifically impossible.

  • If you do not wash the BACKS of the dishes, the food that was on the FRONT of the dish from when it was stacked before washing does NOT come off. Putting it in the dish drainer with the dirty side towards the wall does not make it go away either. It just dries on like cement.

  • When you use the last of something, putting the empty cereal box, milk carton, or OJ container back in the fridge or cupboard empty is NOT effective. Not for you. Not for me. Not at 6:00 when dinner is being prepared and I nearly hit myself in the face with the milk carton because I am expecting to pick it up full and not e.m.p.t.y. (It's a similar movement to using too much force to pick up a realistically looking "glass full of beer" and realizing only a moment too late that it's really a "plastic glass full of beer" - - never a good scenario).

  • If you do not rinse your toothpaste laden spit out of your sink when you are done brushing your teeth, it will harden in to barnacles that no Clorox pop-up cleaning product can touch. A chisel is required.

  • Your shoes in piles in front of the front door are NOT a fun obstacle course for me. This is especially true while I am carrying full bags of groceries in the door and my vision is impaired. Yeah, right. Laugh it up smarty pants. Wait until I put little Lego's and jacks in front of your bed in the dark. Let's see how funny it is then.

  • Your dirty socks and underwear will not supernaturally move themselves from the floor to the laundry basket no matter how much you wish it to happen. If you could move that crap off the floor in to the laundry basket with just your mind, I would absolutely take you out of school immediately and have you do all sorts of other magical things with your amazing powers - like cook dinner while I read People and eat chocolate covered pretzels.

  • If you do not put the lid back on your Axe-clean-cut-pomade it does make the bathroom smell better. However, it will also harden in to a product that looks strikingly similar to that of the water holes of the Serengeti after rainy season is looooong gone.

And these, my kind readers, are ONLY things that I noticed between school drop off this morning and - well, exactly three hours later.

I have to believe that they can be taught. If I lose my faith I know that they will go to college and be those boys who's rooms smell like socks and jock straps. And all the other boys' mom's will walk by their rooms on parent visiting days silently tsk-tsking how those boys must have not had a mom to teach them applicable life skills.

And I will continue to wonder how the hell those other mom's were able to defeat the dastardly force field that keeps my boys from embracing the truth about urine evaporation. Argggh.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CMR September 15 - The team and The work

See the smiling face of this nice man? This is GC Paul. He smiles like this even though it has taken us way to long to determine what we want to do with doors and windows. Who knew that sticking, casing, hardware and wood type would cause such angst? He still smiles even though we continue to urge him to finish on schedule while we screw around with the delivery dates of doors and windows cause we can't get everything we want with a single manufacturer. Good guy.

This is the smiling face of Foreman Luke. He joined the project a few weeks ago and I love having him around. He is there on site everyday keeping everyone motivated, working and on task. He asked a guy to stop sawing something this morning while we were there meeting this morning so we could hear ourselves talk. We turned and all yelled together, "Keep working!!! We will talk louder!" - but Foreman Luke sent him off to do a quieter activity while we finished up talking about the merits of Oak, Fir and Pine.

The guy in the black is our newest team member - now officially named Wine Guy Steve. We found him in Napa (lucky us that the CA wine valley is so close!) and he's going to design for us the coolest (double meaning) and quietest wine closet ever. It's going to be a combination cave/ cellar - but will be disguised as a pretty closet so we can see our stash. Discussing the details of soffits, placement of condensers and remembering NOT to put floor heating pipes under the wine cave is Foreman Luke, George the Elder and our architect John in the red shirt.

After the meeting with Wine Guy Steve and GC Paul about the windows and doors, we got to take a look around. So much progress over the past week. It's so incredible to see it all coming together. It makes writing those bi-monthly checks a tad more palatable.

This is a view of the pool room towards the kitchen upstairs where they are dismantling the wall to widen the kitchen for the stairwell. I need to retract the thought that the stainless steel piece was the "moment frame" from a couple o' updates ago. That nice shiny piece is just a steel shear wall. The big expensive piece of steel is it's ugly step-sister now in place right to the left of it to which that large piece of wood with head-sized bolts has been affixed in the horizontal to start the ceiling/floor in the atrium.

All the waterproofing on the interior walls has been completed and they are starting to level all the floors and fill in all the pits and spread lots of gravel around. It makes the rooms look more like rooms - you know - a floor really helps with the visuals! This is looking in to Henry's room from the pseudo hallway by the rumpus room.

It challenging to get back in to the pool room and George the Younger's room now. The wall and framing is up to separate these rooms permanently from the garage and the new stairs that connect the two halves are not completed. You need to walk the plank in the pool room to get there - and this morning the plank was not usable. So, here a photo from the top of the imaginary staircase looking towards The Younger's room.

See how the wall to George The Younger's Room and the Pool Room now separate the garage from the rest of the house? They were using a great noisy dirt-patter-downer in there yesterday to press the dirt down. Loud, but effective...

A view from the kitchen and demolition in process of the kitchen wall. You can also see the top of the Moment Frame where the new floor/ceiling joists are attached. The space between the moment frame and the house/upper windows? That's where the ultra cool, light producing sky lights will eventually be installed.

And the wall in completely gone!! The library is now just one big room. I think this is going to be a great space.

And that's all the news that's fit to print. We did finally figure out that all the trim in the upstairs was a variety of Oak, so we're going to go with Oak downstairs for the windows and the casing. I never much thought of myself as an Oak Gal - but it seems that there are a few stain colors associated with Oak. Who knew? So - Oak it is. At least that's one decision that will no longer be keeping me up at night. And yes, these are the things that wake me up and keep me up. The thought that I am not getting enough sleep because I cannot seem to get a bead on the polished nickle versus polished chrome is distressing. Who knew?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not my Prius

Dear Target Parking Planning Person,

I have been a loyal customer of the Target Franschise for several years now. I like the stuff you have. I like the prices I pay for it.

In fact, I like it enough that over the last 6 months, while your store has been under constant and unrelenting construction, I have continued my patronage even when I have absolutely no idea where the Ladies Speedstick is going to be from day to day. In fact, how the hell do you move it so often? It's like magic and a never ending practical joke all rolled in to one! And, don't your employees finally throw their hands up and say, "enough already!! I'm not going to move it ANY MORE!!" ? It's like a puzzle I need to solve every week while trying to get a great deal on Vitamin Water.

But, I now I have a problem. You've repainted the parking lot spaces. And, while we are in San Francisco - - where a lot of ecologically minded people like to putt around in their hybrid Prius' and Hondas - it might come as a shocker that - well, not everyone here drives an economy sized car. This might have been a good thing to check out. Since now the entire load of parking spaces front of the store entrance are now marked "Economy." 10-12 rows across. 30 spaces deep. You want non-economy parking? Try those closer to Chipotle. I will speculate that someone mis-read the parking lot analysis report.

Yesterday I noted that the preponderence of vehicles parked in these spaces were not, in fact, economy cars at all. Most of them? SUVs. Taking up 1.5 parking places and throwing the whole system in to pandemonium. A couple of prius' and mini's were there - but mostly they were being crowded out by what regular folk drive. Regular sized cars or bigger.

And, no - if you're hoping that the wee tiny spaces will provide some incentive for people to downsize to wee tiny cars - you might be underestimating the power of Target to influence people outside of what you sell in your stores. Or is there a master plan for Target to roll out it's new Up&Up hybrid economy vehicle??

Has it occurred to you that if you down size the parking spaces and your consumers downsize their cars to fit in to them, it is possible they will also down size the amount of shopping that they do in your establishment? Where, in a Mini, do you think Mom's going to stash her 1,000 roll package of Charmin?

And no - if you were hoping providing spaces for folks to park their super-sized cars park further away would result in them actually using them - you'd be wrong. They don't care. They're going to squeeze that Escalade in to the closest space to the front door as they can. They will gleefully open their gargantuan doors right smack into those little economy guys. It's a Ding City free-for-all.

Please re-pave and re-paint.

Yours truly,

A San Francisco Station Wagon Owner

Friday, September 10, 2010

CMR Update: Work moves Upstairs!!

I've been remiss in recent updates on the progress of the incredibly BIG and complex remodel project we've got going on. Sorry homies. The week school starts is generally one of those i-need-a-few-days-to-get-my-sea-legs-under-me-kinda-times.

We went over on Labor day to check out the place while no labor was going on. George the Elder noted that one of neighbors, who also appears to be excavating something of epic proportions under her house, had HER crew working on Labor Day. I just decided to ignore his indignant comments.

Work continues to progress in the lower level. We got some new interior wall footers poured - - very nice! And, while you can't see it, much work was done waterproofing said walls. Still using that cool shot filled plastic stuff. Also, the pipes were laid for the rest of the underfloor drainage.

Work has started on the upstairs over the last two weeks. See how all the doors have been replaced with the very stylish plywood?

I've visited the upstairs during my weekly visits with GC Paul, so I had been up there already. Shannon and George the Elder were keen to get up there and gander about - but there was a little problem. Can't reach the front door and the back door is locked from the inside with keys. We could go up through the old basement door, but all the ladders were locked and chained to a big strong steel beam. What to do? Obviously, channel our inner circus performer. So, George the Elder and Shannon created a human ladder and - we were in!

Isn't George the Elder's posture amazing? It's clear he's a descendant from a royal polish acrobatic family...

Demolition is ALWAYS the place to start and the upstairs is no exception. Here is the kitchen wall that is in the process of being removed. The wall, rectangular window to the left and all will be removed and the new wall will be built to the left of the rectangular window creating the space for the new stairs to head down to the lower level. You'll go down the stairs from the upper-upper level and then just wrap around to head down to the upper-lower level. Are you confused yet?

Here's a view taken from the top of the upper-upper level. Window on Right will be gone gone gone and the stairs will be directly where the broom is (but wider). There will be a large window that looks out to the atrium by the stairs. Yeah!! Sunlight streaming in to the pink kitchen!! Just kidding. Even though "kitchen" is phase II - I will be taking down the beautiful shiny pink wall paper in the interim. Don't cry too hard.

Next we move down the hall to the beginning of the new "library." We are combing two rooms in the front of the house - the boys' old bedroom and a little nook of a room that in the original 1949 plans for the house is called "The Bindery." Who knows if anything was ever bound in there, but there was some truly nifty old green linoleum in there and some kind of white panelling that, sadly had to go. This is the door way to the new "library." Eventually, all traces of "door" and "jamb" will go and it will just be a smooth entrance.

This shot is taken from the boy's bedroom into the now demolished bindery.

And finally, I wanted to show you the very cool electric wiring system we have in this bad johnny. We are going to leave it as it is. It has a cool vintage name like "rack and pinion" or "spool and thread" (and the minute I publish this I'm going to remember....). Everything is moved to circuit breakers - so no more fuses - and there's no compelling reason to change the whole wiring of the house, so we're not going to.

GC Paul, and his new assistant, Foreman Luke, report that all is going well. Some minor decisions to be made like hardware for new doors and windows, installation of a drain in the garage, replacement of the last remaining vestiges of galvanized plumbing and the never ending search for the right concrete floor finish for the lower level - keep me from getting complacent about the progress.

4 more months they tell me. Keeping up the good fight and hoping we have one of those amazing success stories to tell about how much we LOVE our architect and our builders and how every thing worked out on time and on budget and we continue to send them Christmas cards every year cause we just love 'em so dang much. It's warm in my fantasy world - wanna come and play with me??

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Hike

Shannon made a visit to SF over the week of birthday-pallooza and the first days of school (I know I need to get those birthday pics up). The nice thing about Shannon visiting is that she has the ability to get us up off our duffs and do touristy things that we wouldn't normally get up off our duffs to do. Last year she motivated us to do the bike ride over the GG Bridge. This year we went to Muir Woods.

Muir Woods is described as the home of the "giants" namely the California Redwoods. A nature lovers dream. The touristy part of the park is designed with placards chock-full of interesting factoids about the trees, about the park, about FDR and the National Parks, and about lots of other fascinating Muir Woods topics. Website says it's perfect for a little stroll through history surrounded by nature's glory on a lovely San Francisco Sunday. Sounded perfect for us!

Muir Woods website also touts it's "miles and miles" of hiking trails. But, since we're not hikers, I read this part as : "Interesting information, but not applicable to us since we are just going to go and stroll through the little park area, take some photos, commune with nature and then go have a great lunch on the water in Sausalito." (cue the evil laughter...cause you know that's not the way it turned out...)

I prepared for the day by filling up a 12oz bottle of water and throwing the following in my backpack: the camera. 2 small bags of sunkist fruit snacks (about 8 little fruit shaped morsels per bag). 1 sesame cracker plank. 2 Oatmeal Raisin granola bars. We were heading out before lunch, so I thought maybe the boys would get cranky before we could get to the restaurant. You should never be unprepared for snackage when it comes to two growing boys. I smugly threw the backpack over my shoulder and away we went.

We arrived at Muir Woods at around 12:30. A little later than we wanted to get started - seeing as we were having lunch afterwards - - but still plenty of time to see some trees, fill out the Junior Ranger Quest Map, and take some great family photos. We planned on about an hour. Plus, I still had snacks for the restless indians.

We saw pretty trees:

We saw beautiful streaming sunlight through humongous redwoods:

We took kitchy photos of the children standing in the tepee doorways of massive bits of nature:

We posed for silly shots of Mom and Dad. We were smiling even though Mom had to buy the most expensive long-sleeved t-shirt EVER as it was frickin freezing in there among all that nature! Why I can't seem to get the hang of carrying polar fleece with me at ALL times here in SF is beyond me. It's as if I can't be taught.

It was grand. It was fun. We were pronounced JUNIOR RANGERS as a result of our ability to follow the craftily designed treasure hunt provided by the national park service. We were on a roll. We were high on our achievement when we happened upon a little map located at the end of the "for tourists wearing flip flops and carrying cameras" part of the national monument.

We studying the little map. We looked at our watches. We questioned how hungry we were and how long we could wait until lunch. We looked at our shoes. George the Younger and Henry - tennis shoes - good. George the Elder and I - chucks - not so good. Shannon - little oxfords by J Crew - least good. We counted our remaining snacks. 2 bags of fruit snacks. 2 granola bars. 1 bottle of water. We studied the trail maps some more. We decided a little hiking would be grand.

The map below is NOT representative of the map at the end of the "tourists with flip flops trail." Had we seen THIS map, we may have chosen more wisely. What we saw was a cute wooden plaque with an etched little line that said "Ocean View Trail: 2 miles. Some Steep sections. Allow for 1.5 hours." The little etched line looped right back to the visitors center. It seemed harmless enough. It seemed adventurous. We headed off leaving our wooden boardwalk (and every other person that was visiting Muir Woods) behind and took on soma-dat real nature. We were S.T.U.P.I.D.

There are a couple of things we should have known before we headed off. First: It became abundantly clear that the verbiage "Some Steep Sections" has a different connotation to "real hikers" than to laymen.

Here is the beginning of our ascent up the "Lost Trail" - not so bad, right?

Then we encountered this. This should have been our clue to TURN BACK NOW! Any incline that requires a person to claw upwards with their bare hands is no longer considered a PG slope.

But, then it "sorta leveled off" again and we thought - this isn't too bad. Except the "this" went onward and upward relentlessly 10 solid miles. Okay maybe it was only about 1.5 miles, but it felt like about 100 miles - so I'm rounding down. All I knew was that at one point, my heart was beating so loudly in my chest that I couldn't even hear nature. Unless you consider that reaching that physical stress point where the sound of your aorta rupturing is considered a pleasant sound of nature. In that case, I was hearing nature. Loud and CLEAR.

We stopped to catch our breath a couple of times and had a few sips of water. At this point, we realized that we were unprepared. 1 bottle of water for 5 people walking straight uphill to "see the ocean view" above 300 foot redwoods = unprepared.

But, HUZZAH!! We reached the top. Refer to above map and see spot where "Lost Trail" meets "Panoramic Highway"? There we are! Gazing over the tops of untamed forests. George the Elder is taking the photo. Too bad, cause this would have been a GREAT Christmas card, eh?

So, now all we have to do is loop back down to the visitors center, right? Remember the little etched line? Remember the little loop? 1.5 hours and we were going to get lunch. Yummy. Not so fast there Tonto. Sometimes life doesn't work out in the little etched loop. Or so I've heard said.

Which brings us to the second thing we needed to know before heading off the tourist boardwalk. What the little signs say out there in nature are not reliable. Not reliable AT ALL. What we needed was a GPS and a compass. At an absolute minimum, an Eagle Scout might do the trick. We had nothing. Nada. And then I spied a group of folks with a big ginormous map.

I decided to confer with real hikers with a big official map. We discuss. We decide to follow them. They say "THIS IS THE WAY" back to Muir Woods visitors center. In hindsight, these people were sent up from the underworld to lead us astray. This is where things went from bad to worse. This is where the Made for TV movie starts to get interesting. No food left. 1/2 bottle of water and we start down what is marked as the Ocean View Trail - but later we realize is the "Redwood Trail". Please refer to map. Please note we are heading in the WAY WRONG direction. We have just been seriously denied "the loop." Damn Daddy.

We trudge along. More silently than before. The jovial nature of our quick hike has turned to I-am-hot-and-i-want-some-lunch mantra. And for Pete's Sake!! MORE UPHILL? Aren't we supposed to be going down? And where is the blasted Ocean View?????

We finally connect with the Sun Trail. We didn't mean to connect with the Sun Trail. We wanted to connect with the Visitor's Center!! The Sun Trail could be described as permanently moving out of the moist calm and cool chewy center of the redwood forest and biting in to the hard hot dusty pit of misery. You are walking on a path about 16 inches wide cut through the impossibly steep incline of a big tall mountain where some where 100s of feet below you is the unobtainable visitors center where water runs like - well, - - water! Also, one errant foot hold and you were taking that Princess Bride roll down the steep steep slope yelling "As You Wish!!!!"
It was hot. It was sunny. We were out of water. And, we were now really cranky. Those Mysterious Satan's Minions - the ones who told us to go this way - were never ever seen again. Coincidence? Unlikely. They had morphed in to tiny red beady-eyed lizards and were laughing their tin sounding devil laughs while pointing at our miserable crew. At least the stroll was downhill in the blazing sun of the aptly named "Sun Trail"...

Remember that we have no map. We only know that we are on a trail that leads somewhere. We are starting to blame each other in that half-kidding-but-really-serious-way-that-families-do - - - who's idea was this little hike anyway??? We're Hungry! This is All. Your. Fault. When finally we saw a sign for The Dipsea Trail replete with pointing arrow and with Muir Woods Visitor's Center as a subtitle. We were optimistic - but guarded. We had recently spent a good portion of the day following a trail that said "Ocean View" where we saw nothing but trees and more trees (an ocean of trees, perhaps??) We likely would have been more guarded had we known at the time that we were not actually on the Ocean View Trail. At this juncture we remained naive to exactly how lost we truly were. That was a good thing.

We follow the Sun Path in our thirsty and sweaty state. We come to a Road!!! Where we are met with a sign that says - - wait for it - - - "Dipsea Trail CLOSED"!!!! Just as we were about to just sit down and cry on the edge of the road - we were met by a real hiker. You know the guy in the right clothes, with the camel back water pouch and the two walking sticks. We hated him immediately. But, he pointed down the road and said we would eventually connect with the Dipsea again. No worries. Yup. Right. We heard that from the Map People.

So, we had hiked up mountainous paths, schlepped across sun drenched arid inclines and now we get to trudge down a asphalt road to "hopefully" find another entrance to Dipsea. Wahoo.

The good news, since I am here to write this entry, is that eventually we did find our way to the entry of the Dipsea Trail. We made it back to the parking lot. We drank a great deal of water. We actually high-fived each other like we'd been lost in the woods for days with little more than a pack of Mentos and our keen wits. In reality it was 4:30 pm. We'd been hiking for about 3 hours. Time stretches when you have no friggin clue where you are. Really, it does. It just stretches right ooooouuuutttt.

Once in the car, we headed over to Sausalito to our favorite fish place - starving!! We arrived to find out that they are closed for exactly one thirty minute period in a day. 5:00 - 5:30. Yup. We arrived at 5:10! Luckily, they were still serving appetizers - so we scarfed down some cerviche and clam dip in much the same way that wild dogs would have. Henry nearly lost a finger to George the Younger during an especially heated cerviche incident.

But, you know what? Turns out that a little food and a couple of Arnold Palmers go a damn long way to improving the mood of most anyone.

And so, our adventure ended. Hardly the stuff of Chilean Miners. But, exciting nonetheless. I have promised to carry large quantities of water with me at all times from now on. Edna Mode still had it right, "Life favors the prepared Darling!"
We. were. not.