Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A flowering

31 March 2019

Facebook recently informed me by email that I was tagged in a photo. It turned out to be this picture taken in North Carolina last year, and recently posted by Ryan Prescott. It’s a beautiful communication of how people can come together when the need arises and help each other.

friendship-in-north_carolina-by-Ryan_Prescott

This photo includes at least two people from California, several from Florida, one from Venezuela, and the women in sunglasses who I believe are from New York or that general area. We were all in North Carolina to help clean up after flooding and damage caused by a hurricane.

Sacramento Flowering Trees

Meanwhile, here in the Sac area certain fruit trees are very much in bloom.

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I noticed the incredible profusion of these flowers when I went shopping yesterday. I went back today to photograph them at the light rail station where they are most prolific, Sunrise station in Rancho Cordova.

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In this part of town some streets are lined with these trees. I am not sure of the exact species; they seem to be maybe an ornamental plum.

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Many trees and plants in this region are flowering or leafing out right now. They know they have a relatively short window of time between when there is some rainfall and when that stops and it gets really hot.

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These flowers won’t last long. The wind blows them away almost as fast as they can bud and mature.

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On this trip I also noticed the redbuds blooming very strongly. We don’t have a lot of redbuds here; I don’t think they are native to this area. But they do grow well here.

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Springtime is perhaps the perfect time to reflect on the importance of creative activities in the games of life. Where would we be without creation?

 

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St. Patrick’s Weekend in Sacramento

17 March 2019

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“St. Patrick’s Day? Who cares about St. Patrick’s Day?” the lizard seems to be saying. Well, he lives in Folsom, so missed out on all the excitement.

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I wasn’t the only one out with my camera.

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The new businesses at 7th and K used the sunny, mild weekend to seek new customers.

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Three bars in a row…the fate of modern downtowns?

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Lots of people came out to see what was going on. Across from these shops, at the little square, the local more-established pub had an outdoor stage set up with a band playing. This happened both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

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Look at the crowds walking to and from DOCO (Downtown Commons)!

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Police have a lighter load with these mostly well-behaved crowds. Some ride cars, some ride bikes, and some ride horses!

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The K Street “canopy” is not even green yet, but Sunday was quite warm, with most choosing summer t-shirts and tops.

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Cars, trains, people and dogs are all part of the downtown scene. This is the crosswalk at 8th and K, right next to my building and home to two different light rail stations.

I sight a special bird

3 March 2019

I’ve been going to Winco in Folsom almost every weekend, as it’s such a nice store compared to anything near downtown, it’s near a light rail station, and food costs much less there than in town.

Last weekend I spotted this special bird, but I didn’t remember to look it up and find out what it was until this weekend reminded me. It was swimming in a creek that I cross over when I walk to Winco.

Known as the Hooded Merganser, this duck winters in no-freeze zones, then returns north during the summer. It is absolutely unmistakable when you see it; the appearance of the male’s head is so striking. This photo was borrowed from Wikimedia Commons, and kindly provided to them by scientist/photographer Ken Billington.

Pictures From Recent Travels

4 November 2018

It’s finally time to sit down and share some photographs. These start in the hot days of August this year.

ICP redding

Our tent at the Incident Command Post near Redding.

20 Aug 2018 Redding scene

Open land near freeway in Redding. This is the same type of ecosystem that was being burned in the fires. Grass under scrub oak.

Redding dried flowers

Naturally dried asters in Redding.

bird on a wire

Dove on a wire near the Orland ICP, near Redding.

Redding Trader Joes

Smoke masks for handout in Redding.

By the following month I was back at another disaster site, this time in North Carolina.

storm damage removal

Storm damage removal site near Jacksonville, North Carolina.

fallen tree

Example of storm damage before the removal process.

after removal process

Example of what is left behind.

little lizard

Small lizard comes out to watch us at a park near the shore.

toy loader

Toy loader at one of our work sites.

boiling spring lakes

Clearing storm damage from a back yard.

damaged church

Work party at a church that suffered water damage.

tents at boiling spring lakes

Our setup at Boiling Spring Lakes, 6 October.

washed out dam

Washed out levee (dam) at Boiling Spring Lakes. This was an earthen structure constructed like a levee but functioning as a dam. The steel side rail to the road that used to run across the top of the dam can be seen hanging in midair. Behind, the lake that this dam used to create has completely emptied. The water drained into an area that is mostly a nature preserve, but did flood some houses.

VM team

Our hygiene kit handout team on 7 October.

sunset scene

We worked into the sunset at this site.

Then Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle, so we went there to see how we could help.

mom helps kid

Scene at a rest stop on our way to Florida, 12 October.

bent steel beam

Storm damage in Panama City, Florida. This beam used to hold up a billboard.

I didn’t stay very long in Florida. We still have a team working there.

When I returned I decided to take my bike on the light rail north towards Folsom, do my grocery shopping at the Winco there, then ride back home through the American River Parkway. These photos are from the second week I made that trip.

buckeye

A mysterious tree near Folsom, American River Parkway.

buckeye fruit

The buckeye produces a large nut which is unfortunately inedible.

river confluence

View from bike trail where the American River flows into the Sacramento.

bike trail near old Sac

Trail / walkway between the American River Parkway and downtown Sacramento is squeezed in between roads and the river bank.

dia de los muertos

Stage decorations at a Dia De Los Muertos celebration in Old Sacramento (3 November).

ice rink

A winter-season ice rink adds some enjoyment to downtown life.

After the Fire

11 September 2018

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Redding is a town of about 100,000 people located in northern California on the Sacramento River. Near the end of July this year, a forest fire started west of the city, caused by sparks flying from a vehicle wheel scraping the pavement after its tire went flat. The fire entered the city – the first time this had happened, per some residents I spoke to – and destroyed about 1,000 homes. The fire was contained by the end of August.

I arrived in Redding for the first time on the 29th of July. I was with a group from my church volunteering our help as part of our disaster response program.

It is reported that 38,000 people were evacuated from their homes during this fire.  Those who could not find motels or friends to stay with went to one of several evacuation centers, one of which was set up at Shasta College.

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I spent most of the afternoon here sorting clothes that would be given out that evening. The organization in charge of that operation was the Salvation Army.

When I returned in early August, we hooked up with Bethel Church, a large Christian organization headquartered in Redding with several years of experience in disaster response work. They had teamed up with the Salvation Army to create a large distribution center for food, water and other necessities at their facility, and we helped them with that for several days. I took no pictures of that, though. I was there to work, not to observe. On Sunday the 5th of August we went to their church service. Visit their Facebook page for more data on their work, including a full video of that 5 Aug service.

The Incident Command Post (ICP)

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Our group also tries to help disaster response workers (in this case, fire fighters). However, we were not allowed into their command post, set up at a nearby fairgrounds, so only managed to hand out some cold water and Gatorade, talk to a few people, and wave to the guys coming and going in their trucks.

Ash-outs and smoke mask distribution

We had a lot of donated smoke masks and found various ways to distribute them. Meanwhile, some of us (myself included) helped with sifting through debris at burnt-down homes looking for valuables and mementos. I have no photos of this; we were usually prohibited from taking any in respect for the privacy of the home owners. However, you can see some photos and videos of those activities at Bethel’s Facebook page.

Ash-outs are somewhat physically demanding. They are done in Tyvek suits which make it very hot and sweaty work. They also result in contamination of clothing and skin with house ash. Though the amount of dangerous contaminants in this ash is debatable, it requires multiple changes of clothes and/or visits to the laundry to stay “clean.” This leads most to volunteer for just one ash-out a day, but we were doing two, one in the morning and one in the evening.

The smoke mask distribution was a lot less physically demanding.

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Especially after we got a temporary OK from Walmart to set up next to their store. We handed out hundreds of these masks.

Rising from the ashes

If my numbers are correct, about a third of the people in this region were affected by this fire. Yet a much smaller number actually lost their homes. I experienced, for the most part, a resilient people. Most knew the difference between living and life. The fire was an experience of living, but it did not threaten life itself. Most could see that. Most who were directly affected could see this as an opportunity to start afresh, or take a new direction in living. Many, of course, were not directly affected and thus were not so challenged.

The volunteer experience was new for me. Not only did I meet many Scientologists that I didn’t know, I met many other people, too. The constant interaction was a challenge for me, but probably the highlight of the experience. We only worked about 8 hours a day, and had our meals more or less cared for. So the big problem became filling the idle hours between knock-off time and sleep time. The younger guys all sat with their phones. I would try to use my computer, over a usually weak wi-fi connection, or do a bit of writing or some such. And I would think, sometimes, what if something like this happened to me? Not total death, but something close to it; loss of all one’s valuables. Potential financial ruin. Would I pull through OK? You might want to ask yourself that question, too.

 

 

 

April Showers Bring May Flowers…

12 May 2018

…at least, that’s how it works here in Sacramento.

jasmine bush

Jasmine bush growing in my backyard.


columbine flowers

Columbine in garden just down the street.


catalpa tree

Catalpa tree next to the school.


Dietes - African iris

African iris – genus Dietes – in a school parking lot.


bottlebrush flowers

Bottlebrush in parking lot of a suburban shopping center.


flowering tree

Flowering tree in the neighborhood.


evening primrose flowers

Evening primrose – genus Oenothera – spilling onto the sidewalk.


privet bush flowers

Privet bush in Howe Park.


honeysuckle flowers

Honeysuckle in Howe Park.


wild iris also known as flag

Wild iris – also known as Flag – in Howe Park.


lobelia flowers

Lobelia in native plants garden.


yarrow

Yarrow in native plants garden.


lupine flowers

Lupine. This is near the volunteer center at William B. Pond park.

These next three are the most profuse flowering plants in American River Parkway. You can find fields full of these plants. The major larger plant in these areas is the Elderberry – see previous post.

vetch flowers

Vetch photographed in Michigan in 1971.


cow parsnip flowers

Umbels of cow parsnip flowers.


yellow rocket flowers

Mustard family plant – probably yellow rocket.

The following plants can be found along the bike path in large quantities. They enjoy full sun, but will also grow in shady areas.

blackberry flower with bee

Blackberry flower being visited by a bee.


thistle flower

Thistle.


hawkweed

Hawkweed grows closer to the ground.


wild rose

Wild rose – not that common in the parkway.


california poppies

California poppies.

You may have to leave the bike path (as I did) to find these plants. They are better known as woodland wildflowers, and the bike path runs along the edge of the riparian (riverside) woodlands, but not so much through them.

st john's wort

St John’s wort.


mint

A less conspicuous mint.


mint-related plant

A mint-related plant favoring shady areas.


fleawort

The homely plantain, now called fleawort to reduce confusion with the banana. Genus Plantago.

Museum Day

3 February 2018

fruit tree blooming

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that here in the middle of California Spring would start a little earlier than it does in Pullman, or Seattle. But this is the beginning of February, and the fruit trees are blooming and it’s over 70 degrees outside, and I am a little bit surprised.

On top of that, today is “Museum Day” in Sacramento. (I’ve never heard of anything like that before!) On Museum Day many museums in this area forego their usual admission price and just let anyone who walks in look at their exhibits. Well, I thought I’d take advantage of this day, so I decided to go back to the Aerospace Museum of California out near the old McClellan Air Force Base, which I visited when I was here last summer. It’s not my favorite museum, but there’s lots of cool planes there, I used to be into model planes, and I like to collect photos of planes, so it seemed like an ideal opportunity for me. It’s also not too far from where I am living, so I could ride my bicycle out to it.

I was a little surprised, also, that so many others also took advantage of this day. The place was very crowded.

crowds at the museum

Outside in the “yard” there was almost a festival, or carnival, atmosphere. Kids waiting to look into plane cockpits, or sitting eating “Hawaiian Ice” or asking their parents questions about these huge machines. I got lots of photos.

outside in the plane yard

If you are actually interested in plane engines (they have a ton of plane engines), planes, jets, flight trainers, cockpit instrumentation or similar, this is a great museum to visit. I suggest you wait for a more normal day, though, and go ahead and pay the $15 admission.

I personally find the excitement in advanced weapons delivery systems a bit disturbing. It is similar to our fascination with action movies and in general lives filled with tragedy. That this is par for the course on this planet should be understood by now (if not very understandable), but I am glad to know, from a personal point of view, that it is more understandable now than it once was.

A bit of magic in this day

Here’s an image that seems to convey the spirit of this Museum Day here in Sacramento. I shot a picture of a helicopter I had toured, and when I reviewed my photos I found this image of a boy jumping in excitement. Per his shadow, both his feet are in the air in this image. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I dream of lifting off the ground and just flying around wherever I want to go with my feet just a few inches off the surface. So this image has a little magic in it, as far as I’m concerned.

boy jumping

The bees were out today, too. A good sign.

Bee on a fruit tree flower

A happy bee makes a happy life.

Bike Trip East

12 October 2017

I took this trip on the 24th of September. Got busy and almost forgot to write about it!

yellow asters

These hardy yellow asters thrive in an otherwise very dry landscape.

I have taken the American River Bikeway (also known by other names) west into Sacramento many times, but never east, so that’s what I decided to do one recent Sunday.

wild growing grapes

Here is another plant that grows in dry areas. But the fruit needs shade.

I have already written about the plants that grow along the river, but I never tire of photographing them – always hoping for a better shot than the last one. The jimsonweed with its huge white whorled flowers is always interesting to take pictures of.

jimsonweed

The trail east (towards Folsom) goes through drier land than that found downriver. And at one point the soil becomes almost 100 percent large gravel. This is a deposit from an ancient glacier, as far as geologists can tell. The stones are very worn and rounded. You will see these boulders in gardens; there is so much of it around here.

There is also an area of cliffs upriver. I took some pictures, but they didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t really want to go on about geology, as it’s not my subject. There are also some really fancy houses up on top of those cliffs (other side of river). The views from up there must be pretty darned good.

Meanwhile, down on the trail a little group riding horses pass by. Horses are allowed along most of this trail, but they have their own paths they are supposed to follow, so they won’t interfere too much with the bike riders. These paths weave in and out along the river bank, sometimes using the bike path shoulder. This time of year you can often tell if there are horses ahead because their passing stirs up dust.

horse riders

Egret

egret by the trail

About a week before I made this trip, I saw a very large bird – probably a blue heron – land on the roof of a nearby house. It reminded me of seeing large birds following the creeks of Pullman down to wintering grounds closer to the big rivers, where it stays warmer and the water doesn’t freeze over.

But the fish eaters in this region don’t need to migrate. It never freezes here. Yet these birds do move around, and I am sure they are joined by more birds that summer at higher elevations were it does freeze in the winter. So there was one, one day, standing on a rooftop in Sacramento.

And then on this trip I saw this bird, an egret, by the trail. Myself and another photographer got pretty close to it before it took off. She had a fast camera and said she got a picture of it flying. It is really quite a large bird so seeing it in flight close to the ground is quite dramatic. My attempt to photograph it in flight captured only blue sky.

Lilacs

An another subject, there is the question of the “California Lilac.” Someone decided to call a bushy tree that somewhat resembles the traditional Lilac of the northwest, midwest and east coast by this name. The Lilac we are used to in “temperate” areas originates in the Mediterranean region (or Asia) and is in the Olive Family and rather closely related to the Privet (which does grow in the Sacramento area).

northern lilac flowers

Real lilacs are in genus Syringa

However, the plant found in drier climates named after the Lilac is in the Buckthorn Family, which has a somewhat unusual flower structure. Many of these species are native to California and are seen all over the place, including in many yards and urban plantings. They can be white, pink, violet (purple). A have seen plants that seemed to have totally red flowers, but those were perhaps a different plant, as Ceanothus flower colors apparently don’t include red. In gardens they do appear much like traditional Lilacs. However, the larger plants remind me a lot of mountain-ash (rowan). This particular specimen was hanging over a fence and getting dried out, but the shot shows its flower very well, with its showy frilled petals seated atop rather long slender stems. This plant was probably bred to have flowers this showy.

california lilac flower

California “lilac” is in genus Ceanothus.

American River Parkway Introduction

7 September 2017
american river parkway map

Parkway on-site map

The American River is the waterway that flows down from California gold country and joins the Sacramento River at Sacramento.

Due to the fact that flood protection is necessary in these areas, levees have been erected on both sides of the American River. I would guess they are maybe 25 feet high. Anyway, on the river side of the levees you just can’t have houses (not normal ones, anyway) so it is all parkland. There are paved bike trails that extend from the Sacramento River up to Folsom.

I have been spending a lot of time on a particular section of this bike way, as it is on the way to downtown, which I visit often. I get on at Watt Ave, and exit to the north and east at Fair Oaks Blvd. Between Watt and Howe – the next big street before Fair Oaks – is an old oak grove that the trail goes through.

parkway grove evening

Oak grove illuminated by the evening sun.

At first for me this was just a picturesque spot. Then one morning at about 11AM, two deer (bucks with three-point antlers) showed up along the trail, nibbling on underbrush. Later that day I saw them again. The next day I saw a doe with one of them, as well as three turkey hens at another spot. This got me more interested.

These were very tame “wild” animals. Humans don’t bother them that much. A lot of squirrels are the same way. The turkey may even be escapees from a domestic flock. But the point was that these animals were showing up in what otherwise is considered a very urban area.

deer buck

Buck wanders through his temporary home.

I can only guess that the hot weather extending out for many weeks has been pushing some animals towards waterways, and a few ended up in the parkway. So I started looking at this section of the park more closely, as it seemed to be providing adequate shelter for these larger animals as well as countless other smaller ones. I spent most of my time on the north side of the river, where I spotted the deer.

elderberries

Elderberries are seen everywhere along this trail.

The land itself in this area is of some interest. On the north side of the bike trail, undergrowth consists mostly of dry grasses, not counting small trees like elderberry. Something on that side is preventing other plants from taking over there. On the levee itself the grass is being mowed, but not down here. Maybe the soil is just very poor.

forest understory

River-side forest and understory.

On the other side of the trail, the land is “foresting out” as I call it. The grasses that dry as the summer progresses are being replaced by plants that are staying green. It is more or less obvious that the soil is more moist there. Tree cover, presence of mulch and its thickness, understory plants, as well as the structure of the soil layers themselves all contribute to soil water content.

forest floor mulch

Forest floor mulch; this found right by the trail.

In any case, plant diversity and greenness increase as one gets closer to the water, but seeing it so starkly just across the width of a bike trail was a bit unusual for me. Seeing rushes growing is evidence of much wetter soil. I noticed these in only a few places.

parway rushes by trail

Rushes indicate a spot with wetter soil.

The area is also undergoing a “second flowering” at this time (early September) which sometimes happens when the weather has been a bit unusual, and seems to be up to individual plants or even individual buds. I saw a huge lily plant reflowering, plus some of the elderberries – which I know of as spring-only bloomers – and possibly some of the asters, which are known as late summer bloomers (think sunflowers), but I was seeing evidence on some of them for one bloom cycle already done this year.

asters in a field

Aster family plants grow tall in this field; very sun-tolerant.

There are a few other plants in this area that are persistent bloomers, such as the Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) and a few others with very good heat tolerance. Jimsonweed is native to Mexico and is dangerously toxic, though has been used for a long time for medicinal purposes. It is related to tobacco, nightshade, tomatoes and potatoes.

jimsonweed flower

A jimsonweed flower beginning to wilt.

Sharing the canopy with the oaks in this region are the walnuts. California black walnuts are native in this area, but do not produce nuts as edible as the cultivated English walnut. I have also seen some cottonwoods, but not many sycamores, which are widely planted along the streets and in parks.

walnuts fruit and nut

Walnuts look like fruit; the nut is inside the husk.

There are also areas of the park “infested” by grape vines. The grapes seem to the casual observer to be a problem, as they grow over and seem to smother other plants and trees. But ecologists are hesitant to control them as a weed, because they do produce food for the animals. Humans could eat these grapes, too (I tried one), but I don’t think many do.

grapes

Grapes hide under the shade of their leaves.

blackberries

Blackberries dry out quickly in the summer heat.

peas drying in the sun

The weather is too hot and dry for these peas; they bloomed in the spring.

Blackberries are also widely seen in open areas and in the understory, and I even saw some pea vines which came from goodness knows where. So animals that venture here can be quite well fed. I have managed to photograph some of them.

turkey hens

These turkeys seem happy here.

rabbit

I found this rabbit further up the trail.

quail

Quail are more skittish than some of the other animals, so a bit harder to photograph.

rose hips

We know rose hips as a source of vitamin C. I have not seen them eaten much by animals, though.

Though this section of the parkway is an important commute route for me (and for many others), it has also developed into quite a rich habitat that supports a lot of different life forms.

Biking to TAP Plastics

6 August 2017

TAP Plastics Sacramento storefront

The challenge this Sunday afternoon was to bike north through the Arden-Arcade suburbs to the location of TAP Plastics on Auburn Blvd. (old U.S. 40).

The data I had from the city on bike paths in the area did not look promising. Their map showed large discontinuities.

In my travels so far, I have learned to rely heavily on residential streets in the suburbs. Even though not officially bike-friendly, people use them and drivers know to be aware. The “bike ways” are on the main streets. They are usually narrow and there is lots of traffic. This is not ideal for a bicycler. There are some areas of the city that are serviced by purpose-built bike trails in parkways. These are the best choice for most bike riders. But downtown and in the suburbs, these disappear. (Pullman was an exception, with a nice path close to downtown that followed the creek. It could have been wider, though.) In Pullman I also relied heavily on sidewalks. But I have not always been able to do that here, as in the unincorporated areas, most streets have no sidewalks.

So I looked up the area on the now-trusted Google Map web application:

Google map of north Arcade neighborhoods

My destination was the red star at the top. My origin point, the blue star at the bottom. Some parks and an interesting pathway are noted with yellow arrows.

My focus was on Pasadena Ave. And it kept coming up during my ride. It turned out to be a key element to a fairly safe and interesting ride north.

Getting out of my neighborhood and across Marconi was the first major step. I found on my way back that looping around to Eastern where there is a sidewalk to the corner is the best way, as there is no such sidewalk on Marconi. On my initial study of the map, it looked like Norris would be the best way to go north. But I passed it without seeing it, and took a street called Montclaire, which got me to Auburn Blvd at Watt Ave. Auburn is sidewalked on one side, so that was not a big problem. But it was a long way around. I also noticed Pasadena coming out on Auburn at a place I didn’t expect. Turns out Pasadena starts at Auburn, loops down (south) into the suburbs, then turns north and returns to Auburn much further east. So on my trip up Auburn, I turned over on Winding Way and ran into Pasadena again. However, it appeared to end at the Creek. From the other direction, you get this sign:

road ends sign on Pasadena Ave.

But there was as footpath – which shows up on the map. I followed it and went past a big back yard where two horses were standing under a fig tree. Then I came to a footbridge across the creek. And from there the road started up again, appearing as a narrow piece of asphalt like you’d find in the mountains. And with all the old pines in the area, it smelled like the mountains, too.

foot bridge across the creek

This is an area where people are allowed to keep horses – and they do.

horses grazing in back yards

I had made it to TAP! But I wanted to go back a different way. I didn’t have the map with me. I just knew I needed to head south. I went past the bike-laned Edison Ave, attracted by a man selling watermelons, and found a park. Parks (when they aren’t crowded) are another good bike path resource. At least you don’t have to worry about cars!

Gibbons Park playground

I found my way to Mission Ave. It is not officially bike-laned like Edison, but it was not busy, so OK to ride. The way back along Marconi was actually more favorable for bike riders than the section above my neighborhood, though no official bike lanes.

On my next trip I will try the Mission-to-Edison-to-Pasadena route. It should be more direct, though this trip was not very time-consuming, either.

Next trip: All the way downtown!