Santa Clause then Santa Cruz

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Holiday Season – but today I needed to replace peppermint and pine scents with the fresh outdoors and turn down the Christmas music to hear the soundtrack of the oceans crashing against the shore.

Living in San Jose puts us at the base of the Santa Cruz mountains and just minutes from the California Coast!

This year I have really pushed myself to disconnect from social media and spend that time outside instead. Earlier this morning (while getting my hip flexors aligned – ouch) at my physical therapists, I learned about a state park with relatively flat and short trails in Santa Cruz that I immediately put on my To Do list for the day – Natural Bridges State Beach!

Fast forward 3o(ish) minutes and I was down in Santa Cruz looking for parking and peddling out along West Cliff drive – watching the surfers brave the cold water and taking in a calm stroll tracing the coast.

 If you haven’t driven along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, it’s 10 minutes that will make you feel like you’re in the “California” they talk about in movies. There are plenty of break offs and cliffs that allow for picture perfect moments and some pretty spectacular views.

If you head to the North tip of West Cliff Drive, you’ll come to the entrance to Natural Bridge State Park – and there’s a fee to park – unless you’re on a bike, then entrance is free! This is where the actual “natural bridges” stand out as mother natures monuments set just of the shore.

Today was bright and sunny in the mid 60’s which which made for a perfect day to be outside and at the beach. In a perfect world, swimming weather would have made it even better – but to be outside wearing shorts two-days after Christmas isn’t too bad!

Like I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of great views along West Cliff – and don’t be afraid to pose for a selfie… you’ll be in great company as I almost ran into a dozen people standing in the middle of the walkways and sidewalks taking selfies oblivious to the fact that other people needed to pass (at least I step away from the path of traffic to take selfies – because that makes selfies less terrible).

I’m less than 30 minutes from Santa Cruz and guilty of not visiting here more often. I hate that it usually takes having guests visiting from out of town to get me out there – so I’m grateful for days like today when I can enjoy whats I’m my backyard(ish).

The biggest selling point of Santa Cruz, isn’t the fact that its the beach.. or that its mountains… But it’s the fact that it’s the best of both worlds! I’m excited to get back here to see more of Santa Cruz! I already have a few more trails in mind set deeper in the mountains. Any other beginner mountain bikers up for a challenge?!?!

Thank you, Santa Cruz – it was a great afternoon and I’m sure I’ll be back soon!

And if you’re wondering what the Natural Bridge State Park looks like… You’re gonna have to make the trip and see for yourself – because I forgot to take pictures after I got sand in my shoes and had to carry my bike through the sand (whoops).

If you know a thing or two about Santa Cruz or have trail (or food) recommendations send them my way!

Yosemite: Day 2

Another early morning in Mariposa, greeted a star-lit sky and the sound of cattle in the distance! My morning coffee was replaced by the chilling bite of the 40 degree weather as I took our dog for a walk around the cabin. I have zero shame in being a hotel snob – but I really love the warm feeling of staying in AirBnB’s. The cabin we stayed in complimented our woodsy surroundings but kept our attention and spiked our curiosity with its “interesting” choice of artwork and decor (to each their own – no judgement here). Our temporary home in Mariposa was great for two nights in the woods but this morning we packed up our light gear and loaded up the truck onto our next destination.

And to make sure weather was still on our side, we called the parks hotline (209-372-0200, Hit 1, Hit 1) to make sure all of the main roads in the park were open – especially since Tioga pass was going to be a big part of our day!

Again, we made our stop at the “city-famous” Donut-A-GoGo – replacing yesterdays Apple donuts for cherry donuts and a cinnamon roll the size of a salad plate. And this time we skipped the wait at the local grocery to score breakfast at Burger King (sometimes you just need a croissantwich).

And the smartest stop of the morning was visiting the Mariposa Visitors Center at the tip of the main strip in downtown Mariposa. Here a friendly staff member helped us navigate and prioritize our to do list for the day! She made sure to let us know that today was the last day to get chili in Tuolumne Meadows (just past the visitors center) – so naturally we had to add this to our to do list! And after verifying our route and getting her expert advice, we were off to another day of adventuring in Yosemite!

Sadly, we had about 45 minutes from the Visitors Center in Mariposa to the gates of Yosemite – which we spend searching for the $30 park pass we just purchased 24 hours earlier. So another friendly reminder – DO NOT lose your ticket into the park or you will have to pay another $30… On a positive note – even if you pay daily, it will be worth it!

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5312.

Our first stop upon entering beautiful Yosemite Valley was Tunnel View which was packed with tour buses, tourists and selfie sticks – but 100% worth the congestion, lack of parking and traffic! From the the Tunnel View stop, you can look into Yosemite Valley and take in the vastness of the valley and see El Capitan, Half Dome and appreciate how small you really are in this world next to the monumental structures surrounding you.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5332.

After experiencing Tunnel View we made our way to yet another waterfall – Bridalveil Fall. I wish I had more photos of this landmark – but I was on doggy duty and had to carry our dog through this stop since it was THE place to be if you were a dog in Yosemite Valley.  On a positive note, having to avoid other dogs took us on a rouge trip off the trail to a small creek for Caesar to play in the water and chase the running water in false hope that he would catch it.

But we did get to stop on the departing side of Cooks Meadow to take in more spectacular views of our surroundings from the valley floor.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5341.

I love this picture of Justin’s thumb… Luckily I have a lot of experience cropping photos – if not, this paricular thumb would be in almost every one of my photos! Haha, Best advice for anyone traveling in this lifetime – make sure you have a traveling partner who loved taking pictures as much as you do! Justin came in CLUTCH for almost every one of the amazing photos I’m lucky to share (and thank you to his thumb as well, for the laughs)! =)

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5349.

And like I had previously mentioned, I had Doggy Duty – which as you can see from Caesars majestic roar – was a pleasure! I don’t have kids, but this fur baby fills my heart with joy especially in moments like these when I can see him overwhelmed with new scenery and surrounding! #PuppyModel

If you think hes cute here – you need to check out his Instagram Account – Caesar – Puppy Model for Hire

 

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5400.

From the valley, we made our way north on Big Oak road – with elevated views of the Stantislaus National Forest – to 120- East which becomes Tioga Pass!

The previously mentioned snow fall, would have ruined our adventuring if it fell 24 hours earlier – but to our fortune we got to experience some spectacular views and sites still covered in snow.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5376.

Don’t let the photo fool you – Caesar loved frolicking through the snow. And FYI for all of you traveling with friends and loved ones, when you dress in layers – still make sure you aren’t wearing the same shirt as one another before you leave in the morning.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5425.

Tioga Pass exceeded our expectation with stunning views and amazing attractions. You can’t go a mile along this road without seeing cars parked and people taking in what mother nature has been dishing out for centuries.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5437.

You can’t see it the photo above, but from where I was sitting you can see the back side of Half Dome to my far right and the beautiful mountain reflections of Tenya Lake to my far left!

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5443.

My biggest regret on Tioga Pass was not bringing my Canoe (I’m a canoer these days – that’s a previous blog to catch up on). Mirror Lake was lacking both the “mirror” and “lake” feel and Tenaua Lake more than made up for it!

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5459.

I love this picture because I loved this moment. The water was crystal clear and the rock I was standing on sloped right into the water as if God placed it here welcoming you to swim and be one with the water – truly “diving” into the natural beauty of this place.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5452.

At this point we had climbed about 4,000 feet in elevation (by car) and there were still monstrous mountains surrounding us – these one frosted with chunks of snow and ice.

Looking back on our trip, I wish we would have built and entire day around Tioga Pass just to take the hikes we didn’t have the time to do and to really enjoy the views – and especially to take a dip in Tenaya Lake (canoe in tow next time)!

After Tenaya Lake and few more stops to take pictures we made our way to the Tuolumne Visitors Center where we did in fact take advantage of the Chili before they closed up the shop for the Fall/Winter season!

I couldn’t resist letting Caesar play in the snow again – which he appreciated it – and then we were back on the road and made our way out of Yosemite National Park!

GOPR5469.JPG

Thank you, Yosemite for the amazing memories – while we did so much – there is still so much more to see and do, and for that, we will be back!

And I couldn’t resist the opportunity for another photo opportunity as we made our way through Inyo National Forest on our way to Bishop, CA where we would spend night three of our adventure!

There really aren’t any places to stop on Tigoa Pass (unless you like chili) so I strongly suggest you have enough food and water to get you through the day if you plan on adventuring on 120! And if you make it to the end of 120 where it meets 395 – there is an awesome convenience store with pretty awesome stickers, post cards and souvenirs to commemorate your Yosemite Experience! And if you have a pet, they have a massive lush and green park to run that any animal can appreciate!

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5482.

After the pit stop it was South on 395 and through Mammoth Lakes toward our next destination!

If you want to see the whole day under 2 minutes, check out the days “highlight reel” on vimeo:

Sending my love to Yosemite…

I've spent the last seven days with hours of riding in the car, early morning wake-up calls and a strenuous schedule of places to be and things to do… Sounds exhausting – but when the to do list is packed with excursions and hikes at major national parks it immediately becomes less work and more adventure!

Earlier on this adventure (which I'll share in detail later) I had the pleasure of witnessing the natural wonder that is "El Capitan" in person – the beautiful and expansive rock formation that welcomes visitors into Yosemite Valley.

This natural attraction takes your breath away and the stone seems to extend to the heavens.

We were lucky to visit the park at a slow time and had most of the trails and a lot of the attractions to ourselves. On multiple occasions walking into the Yosemite Valley meadows with no other tourists in site – and occasionally a few roaming deer.

I was so impressed with the climbers suspended hundreds of feet from the ground making their ascent to the top of El Capitan. With our feet planted in the meadows of the valley we would search for specs if color against the muted colors of the mountain to spot a climber or group of climbers making the climb. Bravely saying that I would totally attempt that climb one day (while simultaneously questioning if I had the physical and emotional strength to handle it).

I found out while leaving Zion National Park today about the rockslide that happened in the Yosemite Valley today. My stomach sank and I immediately started searching the Internet for more news.. Where did it happen? How big was the impact? And finally, was anybody hurt?

Now I'm taking a break from my adventure to reflect on the other adventures and travelers who also ventured to Yosemite Valley this week – and especially those climbing and visiting El Capitan today. I'm sending my sincerest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the climbers, visitors and now the rescue workers involved and affected.

I can't imagine the search and rescue mission that is underway in the park to find (potential) other climbers and others caught in the landslide.

Much love to Yosemite and all those affected today.

The Work Won’t Do Itself…

For my entire professional career, I have defined myself as a ROAD WARRIOR.

My typical commute involves an Uber or Airport Parking Garage, the TSA Pre-Check Line, an Economy Plus (or last minute Coutresy upgraded First Class Seat on a good day), a Coast to Coast flight, a rental car shuttle and a (preferably) Hilton Hotel… followed by a Convention Center / Conference Room / Hotel Ballroom / Gym / Studio.

Workout, Recover, Repeat…

It’s been two months since I slid on ice and fell injuring my neck, back and race confidence (thank you, Pacific Northwest – for nothing).

I have had five different doctors who I see atleast two to three times a week all while not missing work and still making my way across the country or up and down the California coast. And if you’ve ever flown with a sore neck – imagine the discomfort with your neck, back and shoulder area all out of wack… but back to the point – Being injured sucks!

Every year I sign up for a race to keep me motivated to workout while I’m traveling. This year my race destination of choice is Oceanside, CA! Months and months ago I signed up for the IRONMAN 70.3 Triathlon as a weird and twisted reward to help my work/life balance (who rewards themselves with 5:00am workouts?!?!?). This will be my 4th half-IRONMAN in the last 4 years which should make me a pro (or atleast not an idiot on the course), but unforeseen circumstances have thrown a total wrench in my training plans.

I had to listen to my doctors and had to take time off of training for my back and neck to recover. I wasn’t expecting it to take almost 2 months – but apparently my back specialist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, acupuncturist and general practitioner know a thing or two about the human body (who would have guessed?!?).

Fast forward to today… I made my way to the pool for a swim workout. I could clearly tell I had been away from the pool as my arms and legs were burning in the first few minutes of the workout. And there is no reality check as cruel as throwing on a speedo after a long break from the gym… but none the less I made it through a slow and steady 1600 meters.

But what has been harder than the actual workout – is the recovery. I’m not one who likes to sit still – in fact my attention span runs out by the time I’ve decided where to sit and have already rearranged the furniture in my head – twice.

So this swim workout was followed by a 3 mile walk back home (conference calls are the perfect time to squeeze in some miles) and then a good stretch when I got home.

Recovery followed – not running, swimming or biking… or lifting or moving or anything else for that matter. All in an attempt to not over due it and risk further injury.  And the next day I headed to acupuncture – a forced therapy that I didn’t believe in until I actually tried it.

And here we are, three days from my race and on shaky ground if I will be able to finish or if I will even make it to the starting line. Listening to my body and trying to put common sense in front of stubborn pride. My doctor says I am able to give it a shot and has confidence that I am able to do it in my current physical condition – so let’s see how the next 48 hours go! Wish me luck!

It’s feels good to step outside!

When being outdoors is one of your favorite things – having a backyard of your own is a dream come true!

We are six months into our first home and our outdoor living space finally feels like an extension of the inside! We finally decided on a patio set that felt warm and inviting but also doubled as a lounging and dining space. And because the California temperatures drops significantly when the sun sets – we had to have a fire pit!

The furniature had to have plenty of seating for friends, it had be comfortable enough for working outside on a sunny day and it had to be a place we could kick back and even take in a siesta! Caesar has already given his two paws up approval for nap-ability.

We planted a lemon and orange tree and added some pops of color with the pots. And the added greenery helps make the space feel lived in! The concept of an outdoor rug seemed ridiculous – but it makes a big difference in the look of the space and helps define the area.

Who would have known that my favorite thing to do at home would be mowing the lawn?!?! I had no idea I could get so much satisfaction from cutting and trimming grass I thought would never grow. And apparently I planned Winter Rye grass and it’s all going to die soon, so if anyone has suggestions for the Spring/Summer seed I should be planning soon, please let me know! Now that the grass is taking off I need to reevaluate my landscaping attempts from Dec/Jan as the border I installed between the mulch and grass only looks great from a distance (the closer you get you realize I have very little experience as a landscape architect). And we need to add more trees or shrubbery along to fence for privacy and also to dress up the space a bit!

And there’s nothing better than being able to light up the grill and spend the evening cooking and hanging out under the stars – this may have only happened once, but will definitely be happening again and again soon!

We still have a lot of work to do and our vision for the backyard isn’t totally clear… but atleast we have a comfortable place to think about it and stay warm until then!

HGTV – I’m still waiting for my pilot episode! 🌱🌿🏠🥂

Crazy to think that a big open space could transform so much in a short period of time!
A little TLC, a lot of shoveling, plenty of seed, crazy amounts of rain and pretty sweet patio set make the world of difference!

Follow The Directions and Don’t Burn Down the House!

In an effort to eat healthier and also save some money, we signed up for Blue Apron! Blue Apron is a service that delivers fresh pre-planned meals for the week! About two months ago we signed up (honestly just to use the coupon a friend gave us) and have been hooked ever since. Every Monday we know a box will be left on the doorstep with three meals for the week. I was worried at first thinking “How long can it sit outside?!?! What if we are late coming home?!?!?  What if a neighborhood cat attacks the box and gets into our food?!?!? – all reasonable worries any mature adult can come up with in their heads – but we’ve had ZERO issues so far!  The package that arrives has an insulated lining that is carefully taped shut and inside are all of the ingredients clearly labeled and everything is kept cool with two large ice packs. They even keep the meat and poultry items packed between the two ice packs to keep the items at the correct temperature! My favorite part – they also include the meal cards for each of the meals you have that week. The cards are in full color and give you pictures of the ingrediates you’ll need (a nice reminder for us visual learners even though the items are listed as well).

For us – Blue Apron is about $60 a week, which breaks out into 3 meals for two – or $10 per individual meal. We can’t grocery shop for fresh food and create a meal under $10 each so this is a HUGE cost savings for us! We have also enjoyed the variety of menu ingredients and meals that have forced us to venture out of our comfort zones.

And even though we have had this life changing service for months now, tonight was the first time I accepted the challenge to make dinner… To set the scene- I am not a great cook. I would say I’m not even a good cook. I see not burning the kitchen down or not sending anyone to the hospital a “good meal” in my book.

So today, after a long work day and a late evening dentist appointment I dove into this weeks package and had to pick between the three dinner choices. We have a “Beef-Chicken-Vegetarian” menu selected each week, and I bravely chose the vegatarian option.

First thing to do: Separate the ingredients and make sure you have the correct pans, dishes, bows, pots, etc…
Just when I felt overwhelmed with the number of ingredients laid out in front of me, I opened the small packaged labeled “knick knacks” and my list of ingredients double! Oh boy…
Luckily we own this chopper (pretty sure that’s not what it’s called – but you get it) which helped me chop my garlic into the perfect little bits to blend into my tomato sauce! I even browned them on the stove and cut down my tomatoes into sauce size pieces!
I really enjoyed cutting the fresh produce! Cutting the lemon into pieces and then using the diffident halves into making the ricotta stuffing and then as part of the salad dressing really helped pair the two dishes together!
I was really worried about making the ricotta stuffing, but the directions were easy and I feel like I can repeat this recipe again!
Fast forward one hour from pulling the ingredients together we had a delicious meal thanks to Blue Apron – and a very underrated Chef (myself)! I’d say pretty close to the picture and two thumbs up in the taste department!

Things to keep in mind – you will use a lot of dishes in the process! You prep and prepare multiple things at once so be ready to have the oven preheating and water boiling while you slice and dice the veggies! I was very intimated to cook the pasta and roll my own cannollis (hence the lack of photos of that process) but the step by step ingredients really made it idiot proof (this time) and the end result was delicious! The ability to add salt/pepper/chili flakes/garlic allowed me to flavor the dish to the perfect intensities I wanted and it felt very gratifying to have some of the process up to me and not entirely laid out on paper.

If you can manage to be home for dinner a few nights a week (I’m lucky to get to enjoy 2/3 of the meals each week) then you should give Blue Apron a try! We love it and I look forward to helping out in the kitchen even more in the future! Blue Apron- my secret weapon to kitchen success!

Shut Up and Workout…

Tough love is pushing through when your mind and body are both working against you… I’ve been MIA in my posts lately because of an unexpected setback – an unfortunate work injury (womp womp)…

My training has been swapped out with physical and occupational therapy and my optimism has been chipped away day by day – but I haven’t given up.

My runs have turned into uncomfortable walks, my bike has turned into a hanging rack in the garage and my swims… well let’s just say I haven’t drowned…

But today my aches were louder than my alarm and I was wide awake squirming for comfort at 5:30am and my mind started down the path of “I can’t, I won’t and I shouldn’t…” and then I thought about the fourth IRONMAN 70.3 medal that I DON’T have… I’m not (that) materialistic, but I own the fact that I live for race medals. I’ve gone as far as to cancel races because the medal (or lack of medal) didn’t get me excited for the race. And while I am very pleased with my collection of Sprint/Olympic Tri and 1/2 Marathon and 5k/10k medals – the IRONMAN 70.3 medals take priority – and one day the 140.6 medal will reign supreme (if I ever take it off). So I started thinking about what the medal would look like and more importantly how it would make me feel. That medal would be the token of accomplished that said “the work injury couldn’t stop me” and that “I overcame reguardless.” And then I realized that this medal would mean a little bit more and I wanted it more!

My race kit is black and blue and I wear it only for 70.3 races (it’s like my battle-armor) so I crawled out of bed and grabbed my Nike suit that’s the same color (competitors mindset or something – it just felt right) and my goggles – essentially the only thing I needed to swim – and I drove to the pool. It was 48 degrees and raining – not the best conditions but I worked out anyway.


It. Was. Cold… It was a slow warmup and an even slower workout – but I did it. And I feel better now that I did! The medal is 58 days always and now it’s not about the strength or the endurance, now it’s about the mental strength.

I’ll keep caring for my injury, keeping my eye on the prize and remind myself when I feel self doubt – to shut up and workout! 🙂

Thanks for listening and feel free to comment! 🏊🏼🚴🏽🏃🏻