Tag Archives: Slow_Happy_Travel

Activity streaks, blogging friends, and other wonders of life

2013 is starting out to be quite the interesting year.

The thing about an activity streak — as with any sort of conscious behavioral change — is that the longer one is able to maintain a new behavior, the more psychologically painful it is to contemplate breaking the streak. I didn’t plan to start 2013 with an activity streak, but I did set some ambitious goals with respect to running, hiking, walking, and biking mileage for the year. About five days into the year, I realized that something quite new and exciting was happening, and that I needed to pay attention.

Now here it is 14 days into 2013, and I have logged 55.63 miles, of which 30.38 have been running miles; the rest are mostly walking miles. That’s almost 4 miles a day! I haven’t yet missed a day. When I had a couple of hours at SeaTac airport before my flight last Wednesday, I walked the length of all four main terminals several times, a distance of at least 4 miles. I have walked in the rain and run in the wind. I wake up in the morning thinking about how I will work my activity into my day.

So while I was in Santa Barbara I ran barefoot on the beach. I walked all over downtown. I kept moving because moving felt so much better than sitting. I kept moving because somehow, unbeknownst to me, I had made this commitment to myself to keep moving every day.

We’ll see how long the literal streak will last, but this new habit of waking up in the morning and planning for how I will be active each day seems to be well on its way to being an integral part of who I am becoming.

On my last morning in Santa Barbara I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting one of my blogging friends face to face. There is an inherent irony to this statement — I had come to Santa Barbara for the national winter session of Fielding Graduate University, where I had completed my PhD by writing a dissertation exploring how people who work from home for large global corporations experience and interpret place. I had spent the last dozen years of my corporate career learning to be entirely comfortable working closely with people whom I had never met. Still, I knew that there is a certain satisfying something about those rare moments when you do actually meet and spend time with someone who until now has been, at most, a voice on the phone.

In the case of blogging friends, it’s more like having a pen pal than being co-workers across distance. Someone comments on a post. I reply. I decide to follow their blog. We begin to exchange comments regularly on one another’s posts. At some point I realize I have a friend out there — a real person who has an interesting life, a person with whom I’d like to spend time in the real world if the chance ever arises.

By a timely coincidence, Debra of Breathelighter and I realized that we were going to be visiting Santa Barbara at the same time! My daily exercise for my last morning in Santa Barbara was a one-mile walk down the beachfront street to a restaurant where Debra, her husband Jay, and I enjoyed a long, leisurely breakfast. It was like reconnecting with an old friend — albeit one whom I’ve never met before! We talked for so long that Jay finally took a walk while waiting for us to wind down. He then kindly returned to take this photo, which Debra graciously shared with me.

I think you’ll find a similar shot on her blog post about the day. I love the synchronicity of our getting together and then both writing about it!

It was a great week, but I’m happy to be home in the Pacific Northwest.

CFL and I will be doing some more traveling very soon, and I expect to regale you with news of beer tourism. We have some long driving days planned and it will be a challenge to figure out how we’ll get our daily activity in, but I have a feeling we’ll both manage to do it. It’s a new habit, but a decidedly sticky one.

I’m definitely packing my running shoes!

How much slow happy living can we fit on the calendar?

Ten months after I left the corporate world, I still marvel at how busy my days are. One of the things I’d hoped to do was write more — a lot more.  But CFL and I have been so busy doing that the block of time I try to set aside each day for writing gets wedged in between other calendar entries, and then somehow squeezed out. I’ve got a whole lot of “happy” going on but not so much “slow.”

One of the big post-corporate life changes for me has been turning off the alarm clock. I’d jolted awake to an alarm most days of my life since high school. It takes a while to catch up on decades of lost sleep and develop a natural wake/sleep cycle. Most days I awaken around sunrise, which in the Pacific Northwest is earlier than 5:30 AM between mid-May and mid-July. When your summer day starts that early and stays light until 10:00 PM or so, it’s easy to pack in lots of activities and still find time to write! But now, with the sun rising around 8:00 and setting around 4:20 (and when entire days go by without much sign of the sun), it feels like the day is already half gone before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

Currently my “morning” runs are turning into noon-ish runs or no run at all. I run outside as often as I can and use the treadmill when the weather outside is frightful, but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be time for either. CFL follows a similar regime: hiking or biking on nice days, climbing stairs indoors when it’s stormy, and sometimes foregoing his exercise completely.

In addition to the seasonal schedule adjustments, we’re finding that brewing beer can be time intensive! We spend a lot of time reading about, discussing, planning for, and producing our beers. Then there is beer tourism.

In my last post I mentioned the winter beer festival that we’d planned to attend. It was quite enjoyable and extremely educational. About 35 local microbreweries were there, pouring more than 60 beers — each beer meeting the general description of “winter beer.” There are basically two different types of winter beer: (1) spiced beers and (2) high-alcohol beers like “old ales” and barleywines meant for sipping in front of a crackling, cozy fire. CFL and I share a belief that the only truly proper ingredients for beer are barley, hops, yeast, and water. We’re not enticed by orange peels, coriander, cinnamon, peppermint, coconut, or any of the other weird things that some brewers put into their “spiced” winter beers. But a nice English-style barleywine? Bring it on! It suits us well up here in the seemingly endless PNW winter. So we sampled lots of barleywine, talked to a bunch of friendly brewers, and had a great day! (I do approve of the current trend of aging barleywine in bourbon barrels…)

This past weekend we managed to fit beer tourism into a weekend trip that we’d already packed with events. We made a quick jaunt down to Las Vegas to see the Moody Blues!

I’ve lost exact count, but I’ve seen my favorite musical group the Moody Blues about 40 times since 1974. They usually tour the west coast about every other year, so I guess I’ve managed to catch two shows on many of their tours. About a third of the times that I’ve seen them, it’s been in Las Vegas. I have made a bunch of trips to Las Vegas over the years.

This year’s show was their last one of 2012, winding up their “Highway 45” tour commemorating the 45th anniversary of the release of “Days of Future Passed.” High energy and enthusiasm and great musicianship made for a wonderful show as always. These guys aren’t that young anymore, nor are we, but we all still know how to rock.

While in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of introducing CFL to my brother and his wife, who’d come over from southern California for the show. The four of us spent an afternoon with an old friend and her husband. He’s become a bit of a celebrity as a regular in a popular reality show filmed in Las Vegas (I’d tell you the name of the show, but I’ll keep some privacy for my friend’s sake). As it happened, he was scheduled to make an appearance at the show’s location for a fan meet-and-greet.  The four of us got the “celebrity” treatment as well — we bypassed the line outside, hustled through the door with my friend and her husband, and spent a couple of hours onsite checking out the ensuing madness. Given that I watch almost no TV, I haven’t seen more than a few episodes of this show. So I was honestly surprised at what a big deal this is!

As for Las Vegas beer tourism, we hit a couple of brewpubs, one a franchise restaurant and the other a truly local place called Ellis Island Brewery and Casino. It looked rather dubious (read “local dive”) from the outside, but inside it was authentic vintage Las Vegas, with polished concrete floors, low ceilings, and a cave-like bar. Their beer was decent (and a dollar a glass during the football game!), the service was prompt and courteous, and the locals were friendly. The world needs more places like this!

I intended to show you photos from our trip, but I never took the camera out of its case. I was having too much fun to stop and take photos.

Yesterday we bottled our 8th batch of beer and purchased the ingredients for batches 9 and 10. We’re now tweaking recipes and trying to improve on previous beers. I’d like to get us on a schedule of brewing every two weeks, but with everything going on it’s tricky to fit so much slow happy living on the calendar.

I guess that’s not such a bad problem to have, but in this busy holiday season, I’m trying to create some white spaces on my calendar and make a little more room for sloooowwww and happy.

I hope you can find a little slow and happy too. Cheers!

Playing tourist in Seattle (and online)

Yesterday we took a day trip to Seattle to have lunch with a family member and take in the sights and sounds of the big city. CFL worked here several years ago, but I (LKS) don’t know Seattle very well. Most of my previous visits downtown have been by car. I haven’t seen much of Seattle at street level.

We parked the car at the Bainbridge ferry dock, walked onto the ferry, and walked through downtown, looking into a few of the interesting stores along the way. I was casually looking for a pub table — the old-fashioned rustic kind with a solid wood round top and a sturdy base, the sort of table you can safely spill a few drops of beer on. I didn’t find it, but the hunt was fun.

When we found ourselves with a few minutes to spare before lunch, we strolled through the Olympic Sculpture Park. Yes, I’d seen this before — from a car! I was not prepared for the experience of walking through Richard Serra’s immense five-piece metal sculpture, “Wake.”

My iPhone photo does not begin to do it justice. Two of the pieces are hidden in this shot. That’s a rather huge building behind it.

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After a lengthy and enjoyable lunch, we did a bit more walking and exploring. Of course, we couldn’t leave Seattle without sampling at least one microbrew. Our brewpub du jour was Pike, which is located right at the Pike Place market. En route to the pub we dodged a few flying fish (if you’ve been here you know what I mean) and also took in the Gum Wall — another landmark (albeit slightly icky) that you can’t experience by car.

The Pike ales were good but (in our opinion) not world-class. Our favorite was the pale ale, which was their first beer when they started in 1989. The brewpub was large, a little touristy but then what would you expect given its location? We had no complaints, and from there it was a short walk back to the ferry. We dodged the first raindrops of the day and called it a successful excursion to the big city.

In researching the Richard Serra sculpture online today, I chanced upon this 360-degree image of it. And that happy discovery led me to 360cities.net .

WOW! What a great way to lose yourself for an hour or three online! Think of a famous place, an amazing building, or a beautiful view, and someone has probably done a 360-pano of it and posted it on this site. Have fun looking — and please tell me about your favorites in your comments!

Chasing whales and ales in Victoria BC

This past weekend we made a quick trip of approximately 20 miles across the strait to Victoria BC. I like being able to see Canada from my house! Victoria is a lovely and very English city. Although it’s much larger than my home town, Victoria’s downtown area is very walkable. It’s entirely possible to walk from my house to the ferry dock, walk onto the ferry, cross the strait, walk off the ferry, have a nice lunch, and then turn around and walk all the way back home.

We went to Victoria with a couple of specific things in mind to do. The main thing was the Victoria half marathon that I (LKS) planned to run on Sunday. You can read about how that worked out for me here (I had a great day!).

Before Sunday, however, we had other plans. As it happened, it was my birthday weekend. I’d been wanting to go whale watching for a while. I usually try to go at least once a year, but with all the running, hiking, biking, and brewing, the summer had gotten away from me. So soon after I’d picked up my race packet on Saturday morning, we were out on the water in a 74-passenger whale watching boat.

I belong to a Puget Sound area whale advocacy group called Orca Network. Their email, Facebook, and Twitter updates keep me well informed as to the general whereabouts of our local orcas, gray whales, humpbacks, and the occasional minke whale. I knew that our Southern Resident orca population (the salmon-eating orcas) had gone out to sea a few days before, but that there were a couple of transient groups (the marine mammal-eating orcas) hanging around. These two groups both frequent our local waters, but never intermingle and are in the process of becoming separate species.

When we headed out of Victoria harbor and went straight east toward the San Juan Islands, I figured that the captain was aiming for an area where orcas had already been spotted earlier that morning. Once we saw a tight grouping of stationary boats on the horizon, it was obvious exactly where they were. All of the whale watch companies do a great job of working together and informing one another of any whale sightings — they all offer some sort of guarantee, so it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that everyone sees whales. The whales we were about to see were apparently the only ones in our local waters at that moment — so everyone was there to see them.

So here we were — nearly a dozen whale watching boats all slowly following (at a barely-legal distance) a small and leisurely group of orcas. The on-board naturalist quickly identified them as transient whales… specifically, the T49s and (I believe) T36s. In transient orca nomenclature, “Txx” is the matriarch of the pod and her children (who stay with her for life) are designated as TxxA, TxxB, etc. Therefore, what we had here were a couple of moms and their children, traveling together. Positive ID is made from the individual differences in the markings near their dorsal fins, and from any nicks or scars on those fins.

These orcas had apparently eaten recently, as they were traveling slowly. The average transient orca eats one seal a day, but these guys weren’t hunting at the moment. While we watched them, they continued to slow down and tightly synchronize their dives. We were watching whales in the process of going to sleep.

How do orcas sleep? Half a brain at a time. They can never go fully to sleep because they must maintain conscious control of their breathing at all times. While one brain hemisphere sleeps, the other hemisphere is making constant decisions to dive, surface, and breathe. Later, the sleeping hemisphere will awaken and the waking hemisphere will sleep.

I felt a little sorry for these poor whales trying to grab some shut-eye while leading a parade of boats, but as the naturalist pointed out, if they were really bothered by us they would have moved quickly away from us. All of the boats maintained a respectful distance and posed no threat to the whales.

I took a bunch of photos, but it’s tough to photograph a moving and diving whale from a rocking boat. Here are a couple — both substantially cropped (we weren’t anywhere near as close as it seems). If you look closely at the first one, you’ll see a young calf spouting, very close to mom’s head (on the right side of the photo).

We probably spent the better part of an hour watching these whales (time flies when you are in their amazing presence) before heading back to Victoria.

Now that we’d seen the whales, it was time to go hunting for some ales! Victoria has several brewpubs, with half a dozen located right downtown near the waterfront. Given that it was my birthday weekend, I wanted to celebrate! But with a half marathon coming up at 7:30 AM on Sunday, I couldn’t go overboard. I limited myself to one brewpub, at which I consumed half a sampler (CFL and I shared) and a pint of the lovely pale ale that won the sampling contest for me. I was back at the motel and sound asleep before 8:00 PM! What sort of birthday is that???

(It was a great one!)

We did manage to hit another brewpub after the race on Sunday, but I think we’ll be going back to Victoria again to check out a few more. The Victorian microbrew scene is subtly but distinctly different from here in Washington — a bit less hoppy, a bit more focus on lagers versus ales. It’s amazing what a difference a few short miles across the strait can make. The pints are bigger too! What’s not to like about that?