Photo of the month

Roni and Ben share a hug along the trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Our Oct. 10 walk was meant to give us some exercise after two weeks visiting the southern states. We didn't get a lot of exercise, but the view of the redwoods was superb. Photo by Glenn.

November 2004

In Big Basin you really can see the forest through the trees — you just have to crane your neck a little more than other places. Photo by Glenn.

Ben poses by the Big Basin sign near the park headquarters. Yep, we were there. Photo by Glenn.

No, it's not a West Nile virus-carrying mosquito, but Glenn has picked up an unusual hitchhiker on the trail. Photo by Roni.

Here's a closeup of Glenn's insect friend. It's probably some destructive redwood tree borer bent on taking down the entire forest, but isn't it cuuute? Photo by Roni.

Ben pauses during a walk along the trail. Better not rest too long, Mom's getting ahead of us! Photo by Glenn.

This is the trunk of a very twisted redwood tree. Big Basin is near the Pacific coastline and they get some unusual wind conditions that lead to such unusual growths. Photo by Glenn.

The strongest man in the world uses his super powers to separate these two tree trunks... Well, the trunks were already separated, but Ben demonstrates just how far apart they are. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn is not winded, but he is taking a break at the fork in the trail as we decide whether or not there is enough time to venture farther. Photo by Roni.

There weren't too many bridges on our trail walk through the woods. This one crossed a small creek. Photo by Glenn.

The rainy seaon came early this year. This storm on Oct. 17 took us by surprise, leaving our cul-de-sac filled with puddles. You can see our Halloween lights lining the cobblestone path. Photo by Glenn.

A string of mini skeletons casts an eerie glow on the wisteria vine on our front porch. Photo by Glenn.

Our trip to New Orleans left us longing for some of the great food we ate there. Glenn found a recipe online for French Market doughnuts, also known as beignets. Photo by Roni.

The recipe wasn't exactly like the original pastries we had in the Big Easy, but it was pretty close. We had oodles of leftovers. Photo by Roni.

Glenn doesn't appear to be ready for a visit from the grim reaper. Fortunately, the rest of the neighborhood welcomed the skeletal one on Halloween night, lavishing him with a bagful of candy. Photo by Roni.

It was just a little foggy at 6:30 a.m. Nov. 14. Radial ground fog — also known as tule fog — is common in the morning hours this time of year along the Delta. Photo by Glenn.

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November 14, 2004

The rainy season has arrived earlier than usual. The big Pacific storm that greeted us in the middle of October kicked off what we suspect will be a wetter than normal winter here in northern California. Perhaps not on the scale we saw with El Niño back in 1998, but wet nonetheless. That first big rain usually signifies the transition from what in these parts can best be described as "summerfall" to "fallwinter". Our autumns tend to be brief, but then so do our winters, and the result is that the late seasons all sort of blend into one. We are already seeing fog in the early mornings and late evenings that is typically reserved for December and January. It is 7:30 on a Sunday morning as this is being written, and the street outside our house is barely visible, shrouded in a blanket of tule fog.

The past month has been interesting, to say the least. Fresh off of our mega trip to the Southern states, we decided to embark on a short-lived fitness program aimed at taking walks to maintain the momentum we had developed during all the walking we did on our travels. Our lone excursion into exercise excellence came Oct. 10 when we decided to take a "hike" in the woods. Being that we have few woods on hills near us that would qualify for a hike in the woods, we had to look to the Bay Area for help. That took us to Big Basin Redwoods State Park north of Santa Cruz. It had been some years since any of us had been to that neck of the woods (so to speak) and we had forgotten several things about it that we quickly rediscovered: First, Big Basin is not all that close to Oakley. The drive time was close to three hours and more than a hundred miles. Second, there are two roads into the park — one is the bad way and the other is the worse way. We, of course, chose the latter option, which took us through Los Gatos and up a steep, windy, narrow state highway that qualified as such only because it had state highway markers on it. It was two-way traffic all the way into the park, yet there were plenty of places where only one vehicle could pass at a time. And to think that they use this as a logging road!

We got a late start from Oakley — after noon, to be exact — so by the time we got to Big Basin to enjoy the picnic lunch we'd purchased in Los Gatos, it was already after 3 p.m. The park was crammed with Sunday tourists and there were few places to eat. We found a table near the park store, where we were harassed by the hungry honeybees that swarmed around the nearby garbage cans. Poor Ben couldn't stand being in their proximity, so we gave up on the picnic idea and decided to take our hike instead. The trail we took went a lot farther than we had time or energy to follow to its end, but we did get a decent taste of the deep woods that one only can get in California.

Alas, our noble goal of taking regular walks fizzled after that. Ben and Glenn signed up with the East Bay Regional Park District to take a mid-week nature walk on the Marsh Creek Trail near our home a few days after our Big Basin trip, but the walk was canceled for lack of signups. And on Oct. 23 we went to nearby Jersey Island for the grand opening of the new Ted and Helen Halsey Trail, hoping to get in a good walk on the unpaved 3-mile levee trail, but Mother Nature refused to cooperate and doused everyone assembled with a steady downpour. It's the wrong time of year for outdoor activities. We may get in a few walks this winter when the weather stays dry for several days on end, but you can never count on that.

We had a somewhat harrowing experience Oct. 25. We were on our way to Walnut Creek for a Monday class that we participate in with Ben when Roni's car began making funny (not-so-funny) noises while we were cruising along busy Highway 4 in rush hour traffic. The noise suddenly grew louder, and before we had time to assess its source, her right front tire blew out in spectacular fashion. The NASCAR guys would have been impressed. We were in the fast lane doing the limit, but fortunately she maintained control and got the car off to the lefthand shoulder and out of harm's way. The problem was that there was very narrow clearance between us and the freeway, so neither of us wanted to risk life and limb trying to change the flat. We called AAA for a tow. They told us it might take up to an hour. Yeah! But not five minutes later, a tow truck pulled up behind us and a driver with the Freeway Service Patrol offered to change our tire free for nothing. Apparently the patrol is a service of the CHP and we were just lucky that he'd intercepted AAA's dispatch on the radio and was in the neighborhood.

After the flat tire was exchanged for our dummy spare it was too late to make Ben's class. Instead, we dropped the car off at Sears to have them put on a new tire and did some shopping at the mall while we waited, grabbing dinner at Sbarro. Not exactly how we had planned to spend our evening, but at least we got to do it as a family.

Halloween was sort of a downer this year. Despite it occurring on a Sunday night, there were few trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. Either they were all off at parties or they've mostly given up. More than half of the houses we visited on our block were dark, and of those that were passing out treats only a few had gone to any effort to decorate. Our meager effort of putting out a few lights along our front walkway and in the wisteria vines on our front porch was more than a lot of folks did. We didn't get around to getting a pumpkin this year, so no jack-o-lanterns for us except for the plastic ones we got from the thrift store some time ago. Ben dressed as the grim reaper again this year. He liked the costume so well in '03 that he didn't have to think twice when asked who he wanted to go as. We bought a new skeleton outfit and mask for him, but we were able to reuse the scythe from last year's costume. Even with the lack of candy-givers, Ben still had more than enough to frighten any dentist. He traded most of it in to Mom and Dad in exchange for Pokémon cards.

Election Day turned out to be one for the ages, unless you were a John Kerry supporter. We weren't, as was at least 51 percent of the rest of the country. Roni voted in the morning after dropping Ben off at school. Glenn went to the polling place after noon. The turnout was unusually high, which reflected the trend across the nation. If you believed all the early exit polls it looked as though Kerry was a shoo-in to win a trip to the White House. Being a member of the media, Glenn was at least a bit skeptical. He had to participate in election coverage at the newspaper that night and says the atmosphere in the newsroom grew progressively gloomier as it became apparent that George W. Bush had won re-election. California is decisively a "blue state," but we have yet to hear of anyone seriously bent on moving to Canada as a result of the election.

It is November, and that means it is time once again for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is known affectionately in literary circles. We are taking part for the fourth straight year, and as of this writing are currently about halfway through our respective projects. Roni's novel is titled "One Day In September." She has been plugging away on it in 3,000-5,000 word bursts whenever she has a free evening. Glenn's novel, "Blowdown," has been eked out at the pace of a few hundred words a night, although he has been found sitting in front of the computer in the late mornings and early afternoons as well. You can track our progress by doing an author search under "Gehlke" at the NaNoWriMo website between now and Nov. 30.

That's it for now. Have a pleasant Thanksgiving and don't get crushed in the holiday shopping rush.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 at 02:17 hrs.

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