Thursday, January 20, 2011

#16 - See a Space Shuttle Launch (Getting Closer)

If you have checked out my life list, you will see that watching a space shuttle launch is one of the things on there. Number 16 to be exact. This is one of those items that can't wait much longer, as the space shuttle program is winding down. There are two scheduled launches pending. STS-133, which will be Discovery's last mission and then STS-134 for Endeavour.  My current motto is "STS-134 or bust".

Last week we booked our plane tickets to Orlando. Kennedy Space Center ... here we come. We are planning at least a week in Florida to give ourselves some cushion in case there are launch delays. We are putting our freebie Southwest tickets to use, so even if the launch is ditched before we leave California, we can reschedule fairly easily. (Incidentally, while getting the links to add to this blog post, I found out that STS-134 has already been pushed out to April 19. Looks like our first reschedule of tickets is going to happen straightaway!)

So, why is this on my list? As a kid, the space shuttle captivated me. The photos of the teams in their jump suits and space helmet, so proud and color coordinated! These people having the opportunity to see the earth from space ...  in my mind, it teetered on that fine line between  amazing and unbelievable.

I particularly remember the Challenger mission, when a teacher was scheduled to go up on a flight. All the excitement leading up to the launch, there was quite a buzz among us students. I remember thinking which of my teachers I would want to send to space (for either good or bad reasons), Ms. Von Uhlit? Mr. Demming? I still recall the details of how I learned about the Challenger disaster. It was 8th grade and I was in Mr. Christman's math class. Sometime during class, another student walked into the class room and handed him a small slip of paper. He read it to himself and then looked at us. He solemnly informed us that the Challenger had exploded shortly after take off and that we would all have a moment of silence. Until 9/11, I thought that was the "Kennedy Assassination" moment of my generation.

So, needles to say, I am pretty giddy about this. Even if we do not get a lottery seat at the Space Center, even if we are 10 miles away, across the water, with thousands of other people to witness this event, even if I have to stay up until 3AM ... I am all in and I can't wait!

What's on your list? What steps are you doing to make one of your "I want to do that someday" items completed?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Males on the Prowl

Every day I surprised in a new way by the lovely landscapes that surround me. Our side yard contains part of a hedgerow; two rows of closely-planted trees. Depending on the time of day, light falls through these big trees in the most dramatic ways. Other times it's more a subtle and dappled effect. Oh, how I  missed big trees while living in San Diego.

It was a marvelously clear day today on the north coast; big blue skies, strong sun and gentle ocean breezes. All that sunshine has woken up the boys of the various species around here. Driving home from the post office I saw a flock of wild turkeys. There is a flock that makes their way through the neighborhood on a regular basis, I see them every week or so. There were at least a dozen ladies and one male, following behind. His presence today appeared to be more of an annoyance than anything. His beautiful tail feathers open and fanned, strutting, trying to make a scene. The ladies really couldn’t be bothered, as they pecked along and stayed a good 10 feet out in front of him.

The young bucks are also testing the waters these days. Small groups of does with their growing spring babies roam the area. The lone males are starting to hang around these groups, testing the waters. The mamas seem annoyed, keeping themselves near their babies and out of reach.

Today on my lunchtime walk, I had my own little admirer. Not Bob, who was away for work in San Francisco. Rather, a curious scrub jay followed me along one or the riparian corridors. Hopping along the branches, playing hide and seek. He was a cute little fella.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Year-End Trip: San Jose del Cabo, Baja

Living in San Diego, I never fully understood the appeal of jetting off to a warm beach in the middle of winter. Well, that changed once we moved up here. The draw of family, sun and relaxation took us to Mexico for 10 days. Four years ago we made the full-on Baja drive in our 76 VW Westfalia. This time, we opted to fly from SFO.  On a side note, Virgin America just started non-stop service from SFO to SJD, so we gave them a try. This was my first time flying with them. I am a fan.

We spent the bulk of our time just outside of San Jose. The days blended together with  lots of pool time, beach lounging, book reading and naps.

Sunrise view from the condo.

Based upon a last minute recommendation from grad school friend Seth, we did a side trip to Cabo Pulmo to snorkel. It's an easy day trip from the Los Cabos area, with just the last 9 km of the road being unpaved. We took the dirt portions slow in our tiny rental car (aka: clown car).

Road to Cabo Pulmo. Totally manageable.
Cabo Pulmo is a tiny community, about 100 residents, on the East Cape. The draw is that this portion of the Sea of Cortez is a coral reef system with a large variety of fish and sea life. We rented some snorkel gear and hit the water. We saw several dozen fish ... lots of different colors and sizes. Quite lovely! Since we didn't have an underwater camera, you'll just have to trust me on that one. It was so relaxing to just slowly swim around, following fish, and bobbing up in the waves.  We broke up our snorkeling with some lounging. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Bob assessing the snorkel options.

And, on a nerdy geography note ... our day trip took us across the Tropic of Cancer, twice. This stretch of Mex. Highway 1 marks the point with a giant cement ball. On another nerdy geography note, we got up a 1:00 AM to see the lunar eclipse. Stunning deep red and right overhead, with the sounds of waves breaking in the background. Super cool.

At the Tropic of Cancer marker, Mexican Highway 1.