Thursday, June 28, 2012

San Diego's Steep Streets on Bicycle: Cabrillo Tide Pool Hill

There was a time in my youth when I lived in Temecula Valley an hour or so drive north of here and found it 'fun' to pedal my mountain bike up the mountains surrounding it before turning around for a good hair-raising twisty descent (if you get really aero, you can zoom past cars on your way down the S-curving stretch of Rancho California from Santa Rosa Mtn, for example)... before turning around for second serving. I'm not a youth anymore, though, and, except for one particular hill that I am having a feud with (a blog post on that coming up in a bit), had been avoiding the many little (but abrupt) hills of San Diego since taking up cycling again a few months ago... That was until I decided to go for a morning group ride up to Cabrillo Monument (and down to the tide pool) a week ago.

Cabrillo National Monument with Coronado Island & Coronado Bridge in background. (Jun 2012)
It was great! Everyone was very friendly... and fit. They went up Canon St to Catalina Blvd at so crisp a clip that I was dropped like a lump of slow-moving slug halfway up the thing. They all waited for me at the top of the climb (which sort of made me feel worse. I'd rather not slow other people down with my lack of fitness), and one even rode with me all the way to Cabrillo Park. It was still early in the morning then, and so we didn't have to pay entry fee to get through the gate. Everybody took the 'optional' ride down the hill to the Tide Pool. I took a deep breathe and went with them (I had cycled up the Tide Pool Hill once before on a mountain bike, and it was not a pleasant ride!).

Cabrillo Tide Pool in the misty morning hours. (Jun 2012)
The morning marine layer was in, so the view was more mystical than spectacular. I stopped on the ledge of the tide pool and took out my camera to stalk the lone white egret fishing on the shore, figuring to hang around for a while while my super fit fellows did what super fit fellows do, repeatedly sprinting up and coasting back down that icky long 7% grader for fun, when one of the fellows good-naturedly asked me how many repeats I planned on doing. RepeatS! I looked up at the climb up to the top of the peninsula in horror and said; 'Me? Going up that thing more than once just for the fun of it? Are you quite mad???'
Yes, yes, I know I need to shed a few pounds to keep from getting smoked up the hills by folks who dance on their pedals when the road gets vertical!
And so I did... repeat. Hahaha... Well, it wasn't all that funny when I was still huffing and puffing up the spine of Pt. Loma. It also didn't help that I kept getting smoked every few minutes by cyclists who didn't seem to notice that the road was not as horizontal as decent roads ought to be! At the start from the bend near the new light house the climb is gentle enough, but about a quarter of the way up - just when you start to get a decent view of the coast to your left - it kicks up a percent grade or two... and there is no respite whatsoever to be had until the leveling out at the very top as the road merges onto the park's entrance road. I had to pause twice from sheer fatigue more from the length of it than the steepness.
Up the Tide Pool Hill during park hours.
I should like to blame my repeat climbs (featuring 4 rest stops a piece rather than two) on peer pressure... but I really don't know if that would be justified. I've been repeating up a few nasty hills riding on my own in town ever since. It's a sort of madness that I thought I had grown out of since my Temecula days going east across the San Jacinto Mtn, south through Rainbow into the hills north of Escondido and Fallbrooks, or west up the Santa Rosa Mtn or to twisty Ortega Hwy almost every weekend. I've been up to Cabrillo twice since last week, and repeating the Tide Pool hill a few times (the last two times without stopping, so I no longer have a feud with this slope). Hills rejuvinate you once you get on top of them on your own power!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Steak burger with fries and operatic arias

I took my bike out for a little de-stressing spin yesterday around noon. Spent an hour or so exploring around South Park/Golden Hill area before popping up on the frumpy part of University Avenue in (I think) Normal Height area ready for re-fueling when I spotted this burger joint on the north side of the street.

Canada Steak Burger. I don't know what the Canada part means, but being from the Midwest (and much addicted to Steak n Shake during my college years), I just had to check the place out! 

It's a small burger joint thingy, but it sure is a local favorite. The place is quite well kept and busy if not for dine-in customers then the ones that kept the phone line busy calling for pick-up orders. I didn't like the area that much and ordered the 6 oz deluxe combo to go, intending to cycle on to a park to get a better lunch time view.... That was until I looked up at the flat screen television in the corner to see Placido Domingo in a Neptune outfit on a dark operatic stage singing an opera aria in English!
Opera! On television at a burger joint in San Diego on a Sunday afternoon!
KPBS was showing the pastiche opera Enchanted Island that was live broadcast in HD from the Met to movie theaters back in January as part of the channel's 'Great Performances' series. I doubt that the staff had opera on on purpose, but the fact that they had parked the television on KPBS rather than the customary sport or soap opera channels really scored big with me.

6 oz cheeseburger deluxe combo at Canada Steak Burger
And, oh, the steak burger was awesome, too! Even better than the Midwestern Steak n Shake burgers. The fries was fresh and well spiced (rather than just salted). And the combo only cost $7 (tax included and rounded up). I'm telling you. If you ever find yourself in North Park, Normal Height or City Height area of San Diego during meal time and feel a craving for a good (and very reasonably priced) burger, you have got to check Canada Steak Burger out. I'm definitely going back for more!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beethoven & Shostakovich with the San Diego Youth Symphony & SD Master Chorale

We have got smashing young classical musicians here in San Diego. I rode Downtown to catch the San Diego Youth Symphony and the San Diego Master Chorale in their 'Ovation' concert at Copley Hall with a couple of my buddies on Sunday afternoon. We had quite a blast!

Kanga at Copley Symphony Hall
For a junior group, the SDYS sure are ambitious. I mean, there are complicated music, and then there are things like Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and just about any of Shostakovich's symphonies!

Do these guys look like they'd compose anything that's easy to play???
The first half of the concert starred Reece Akana as the piano soloist. The young local pianist-golfer-ace student from Chula Vista recently won first prize at the 2012 California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Contemporary Musical Festival in San Mateo, and played both the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto  and his Choral Fantasy like a pro. The tempo on both were quite slower than I would have preferred, but he managed to not let it drag (which was quite an accomplishment!). I was even more impressed at how sensitively he listened to the orchestra and the chorus during the Choral Fantasy. Hat's off to him and to maestro Jeff Edmons for keeping everyone in good sync. Kudos to the violin and the flute soloists, too, they were quite gorgeous (music-wise)!

I've got to needle maestro Edmons a bit for letting the symphony railroad the Master Chorale a bit, however. They are an excellent amateur chorale, but they haven't got strong soloist voices and got quite drown out on key moments by the adrenaline-driven orchestra. That was a bit jarring considering the text that they were singing!

With the fabulous Choral Fantasy capping the first half of the show, it was hard to imagine following it with another half hour of music, but maestro Edmons and the SDYS pulled it off in style with their convincing performance of Shostakovich's fifth symphony. The piece isn't as turbulent (and complicated) as his later works, but it still is a big play for a band of teenagers!

That was a good program, I think... It made me, as I walked out of the auditorium, think about the difference between Beethoven's time and that of Shostakovich. But perhaps the times weren't all that different at all. After all, Beethoven lived in the time of revolutions and Napoleon's marches across Europe while Shostakovich lived in constant suppression by the Stalinist regime and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. Many people I know today are convinced that we are living in the worst of time, but I doubt it. We have better and faster access to news, so even though there's no town being bombed a few miles away (or no high-fatality disease epidermic on the scale of the European plagues or the Spanish flu, etc), we somehow feel close to the war/epidermic/disturbances happening far away... which give the impression of our time being worse than it really is.

Anyhow, it's interesting that my buddies (who aren't used to classical music) were more enamored of Shostakovich's dissonance-fest music than they were of Beethoven! 

San Diego Youth Symphony's Chamber Strings Group in Copley Hall lobby.
PS: It pays to get to the symphony hall a bit early when you go to performances. You never know what goodies might be available to early birds. I got there 1/2 hour early and got to listen to the SDYS' Chamber Strings Group serenading us symphony-goers with some really nice playing of Mozart pieces. That was some cool appetizers!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Off to ogle at Venus...

Right, I'm taking the two dogs out for a walk before getting on my bike for a wild ride around town that will climax on top of Mt. Helix (hopefully before 3:30PM) to catch the transit of the planet Venus across the sun. 

Alas, my good camera (the one with 10x zoom) fell off the wagon the other day... literally, so I'm left with the not so good camera (the one with 4x zoom and a few dust spots on its lens) to try to capture some good shot of the rare phenomenon with. That, and the eclipse glass I bought from the North Star Science Shop at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park, of course (if you're in San Diego and don't have a good #14 welder's shield or don't know (or can't be bothered to know) how to make a pin hole projector to safely watch the transit with, they're selling eclipse glasses at Fleet Sci Ctr for only $2).

And here's a little prayer to Venus...

Offenbach's Helen may be a bit flaky, but she has a point; Venus is a bit airy and hard to catch.... I hope you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the transit, if it is visible in your area. The alignment is so rare that if you miss this one you most likely won't live to see the next one in 2117. If you are in South America or Africa, though, I'm afraid the transit happens at night your time, and so isn't visible... though you can watch the event live via the NASA Edge Program at Mona Kea, Hawaii.

Edit: Well, well, it's nice and sunny outside (I was expecting at least partly cloudy today)... think I'm heading to the beach instead of up the mountain to catch Venus (after all, who wants to ride down wiggly Alto Dr after sunset anyhow? Besides, the sun will look bigger as it sinks into the ocean!).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Feeling like a seguedile...

My brain was going a bit addled with many shifty equations shuffling in my head. Must have a good and demented break!

Juliette Galstian to the rescue...