Christmas Cactus

I’d like to say I did something special to get my Christmas cactus to bloom so full this year but I didn’t. In fact I only occasionally remembered to water it. But I started noticing buds on it around Thanksgiving and it’s bloomed nicely in the last couple weeks. I don’t remember it blooming at all last year.

Christmas Cactus

Sunset over the hill country

I had intended to get a few more pictures and notes from the Oregon trip up here over the weekend but somehow I managed to find a million other things that needed to get done.

But I liked this picture enough I wanted to post it today. Kem and some friends were over last night for dinner and we were treated to a very pretty sunset. Kem grabbed her camera and took several. I took a couple too. I snagged this one from that collection.

Sunset over Texas hill country

A Hike on Mt Hood

Continuing with notes from the trip to Oregon, I’ve included below a slide show of some pictures I took on the hike on Mt Hood.

We started at the Timberline Lodge. The long distance views are off to the south. If you look very closely you’ll see Mt Jefferson in the distance.

You’ll get a better sense in this slideshow too of how many flowers were along the trail. A beautiful day to be out for a hike.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sure Seems Like Spring

Texas Mountain Laurel

I managed to get out for lunch today and what a gorgeous day out there. Our dreary clouds and fog are gone and it’s all sun and warmth. Car said 81 degrees on the way back.

Just outside the door of our office building is a Texas Mountain Laurel in full bloom. Check out the picture to the right. Aside from just looking good, the great thing about these small trees is the scent they give off. Read the link above and they describe it as smelling like grape Koolaid. Well, I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely fragrant. Too bad there’s no scratch-n-sniff here.

Here’s to Hope

obamicon-me1Well I must say I’m glad to finally see BushCo moving on. The country seems to have been in a perpetual malaise under Bush – one that has only seemed to get worse in the final months of his presidency.

Like a lot of other people, I finally have some hope that things could improve. Perhaps it’s the same hope that we always feel at the start of a new administration, but somehow it feels different this time. That this guy could actually make a difference. I hope so!

3rd day: Loop ride from Tossa de Mar

Seven at the beach
Chas heads up coast of spain

Our 3rd day was an option day. You could pass on riding and just hit the beach if you wanted, or you could do a shorter ride with Jill, or you could do a longer ride with Chris. A couple folks did the shorter ride but the rest of us went with Chris on the longer ride.

The ride was 90K and pretty challenging. We started right at the beach across from the hotel and headed back up the coast road the way we’d come the day before and yes, you guessed it, rode back up the hills we’d come down the day before. It was a thrilling descent the day before and quite the workout to go back up. Great views along the way though. Then the 10K descent on the other side into Llagostera. We just did a quick water stop there this time though and then headed north.

I don’t exactly know what towns we went through on the way over, but eventually we crossed over the coastal range again and descended into Platja d’Aro. Eventually we wound our way down to the beach and found a cafe to have a snack.

The rest of the ride took us down the coastal road about 25K or so and back into Tossa de Mar. The route hugs the coast with great views along the way. Thankfully, though there’s a fair bit of traffic on this coastal road, the drivers are pretty darn courteous. Moreso than we would expect back home. You just have to keep single file and hold a line near the right side of the road.

Dinner was on our own Wednesday night and a few of us took the recommendations of the woman behind the reception desk at the hotel and headed up to Castell Vell. The food was good. I got the ‘Turbo’ (fish) special and some onion soup. I thought this place was over priced though. I didn’t get all that much – fish and soup – and still payed over 30 Euro. That’s about $45 for the folks back home.

The picture below is of the beach at dusk not far from where we had dinner.

Next up… on to Calella.

Tossa de Mar beach

Happy Fourth of July!

Uncle Sam on a Bike

I totally need to own one of these gadgets for my yard. As I was cycling with Jim this holiday weekend south of Burnet Texas we passed a house sporting one of these whirlygigs in the yard. With the stiff breeze we had today, old Uncle Sam’s wheels were flying! I had to stop for a photo op.

The holiday weekend has otherwise been just a relaxing mix of puttering around the house, barbequing and hanging out with friends. Kem came over for bbq on Fri and then later it was on to the Dennings/Floyds for the birds eye view of area fireworks. Their deck affords quite a view.

All in all, I can sum up my 4th of July weekend in the inimitable words of Peter Gibbons in the movie Office Space:

Peter Gibbons: Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be.

Road Trip: Wisconsin

My nephew graduated this spring but the celebratory event for friends and family was held this past weekend. Coincidently, Kem’s niece also graduated this spring and had a similar event on the same weekend. So we both took time for long weekends and headed north. Kem to Chicago, me to Appleton Wisconsin.

The weather was a welcome contrast to the heat wave we’ve been enduring in Austin, so I spent as much time as I could outside and on my sister’s deck. Sleeping with the window open and no A/C was refreshing as well.

I snagged my sister’s bike on a couple of occasions and tooled around town. Would have been nice to have a road bike to explore some of the country roads, but I wasn’t outfitted for that. The hybrid offered some comfy riding around town though. There are some really nice paved bike paths in and near the city. I connected up with one north of Meade past Thrivent Financial into the northern ‘burbs. Then a longer ride out College Street, past Lawrence College to Kimberly and then on to Kaukauna.

Old tandem

No, that’s not my sister’s bike. (Hers was in good shape.) The bike pictured here was among a collection of similar old rusted out relics I happened across. They formed a fence along a little side path off the main bike path to Kaukauna that lead to a really nice bike shop named “Recyclist“. I pulled in for a look-see.

The ride I did to the north was shorter but had some streams and fields of clover along the way. Scents have a way of evoking past memories like nothing else and the fields of clover reminded me a lot of past rides along country roads in Iowa and Minnesota. That, and the ever present sounds of Red Wing black birds.

Clover Red Wing blackbird

Misty morning

River Valley view - Austin TX

Amazingly enough, the rains have continued here in Austin. Is this July or what? This year we’ve already received our usual entire annual quota.

Sunday the clouds parted for awhile though. The result was a bit like a sauna, but hey, at least the roads were dry even if the air was heavy laden. I got out for a ride. Between work and being couped up I was really sucking wind though. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the humidity, maybe it was the late night before. Maybe all three. Regardless, I looked down while climbing Big View and I was going all of 3.3mph. Not so good.

This morning, much better, and really pleasant out. I snapped this photo at the top of the hill looking down over Lake Austin (the Colorado River south of Mansfield dam). Click for a larger version. I had neglected to bring my camera on my ride and the view into the valley was even more impressive when I initially crested the hill. I returned later after showering up and some breakfast and on my way to the office to snap this picture. Still was quite misty and scenic. Very interesting to descend into.

Memorial Day Americana

Memorial Day Americana
Originally uploaded by chas.

The long Memorial Day weekend is coming to a close. Back to the work week tomorrow morning. Early.

I remember being in the high school marching band for the memorial day parade – long ago. I remember practically dying of heat stroke in that horrible band uniform. It couldn’t have been that hot, could it?

Not much around here today to note that this was a national holiday. I don’t think there was a parade. It rained again. A lot! So it seemed there just weren’t that many people out and about.

I did snag this picture of at my neighbors house though. The weather cleared this afternoon and it was a good time to get out on motorcycles – and bicycles. The juxtaposition of the flag and the Harley caught my eye though and thought I’d post it.

The guy that owns this bike is a veteran of the war in Iraq, a fireman and is battling cancer. If I were him, I’d be out on a bike too.

Final words for the day from Mark Twain.

Out of my routine

Daytona Beach

Not much in the way of cycling in the last week. My routine has been altered somewhat in the last week. I’ve taken a new job and started it on Monday. Gone is my short bicycle commute to work. In its place, a commute more like the rest of the working world that does the regular 30 minute slog by car.

The good news though is it stands to be a more interesting position so despite the longer commute, overall positive. The first order of business was to pack my bags for a meeting in Florida. Daytona to be exact.

As you can see from the picture here, my room for the week has a pretty nice beach front view. Not a bad office to start things off. Short lived of course.

For a city with as many big high rise condos/hotels, the streets seem amazingly free of people.

The wind has been howling here along the beach. In the morning’s the sand and seaspray covers the car to the point it’s hard to even get it off with the windshield wipers/spray.

Sure wish I could find a decent cup of coffee in this neighborhood.

New web address:

I was actually kind of surprised to find that the domain name “” had not been taken already. It seems like every time I’ve ever looked for a domain name someone’s already taken it. But, not this time. Cool. So, I’ve snagged it and now this ‘blog is set up as just plain old

The free WordPress subdomain URL I’ve been using for this has been quite sufficient for my purposes but I figured what the heck, why not. Fiddling with this stuff is fun and I like keeping some of my notes here so why not settle in and do things properly.

The Willow City Loop

This past Saturday I had planned to ride the Pedal Power Wildflower ride. Turned out though that the winds on Saturday were blowing at a sustained 20-30mph most of the day. I opted out of riding in that. Getting pushed all over the road and slogging against the wind for hours isn’t generally my idea of a good time.

Sunday, on the other hand, was absolutely perfect around here. Sunny, little or no wind, and temps a comfortable 73. What a difference a day makes. A perfect time to go out and ride the route that we were supposed to have done on Saturday. The route map was posted online (see the route map) so Kem and I drove out there on Sunday morning and did the 62 miles. It’s really a beautiful route. Yeah, it’s hilly and the roads are kinda rough in places, but it just has such great views.

The whole ride had lots of great wildflowers to see, but the Willow City Loop part of it was particularly prolific this year. Most noticeable right now of course were the Bluebonnets. We encountered several other bicyclists doing the route on the same day. Mostly though, there were a LOT of Sunday drivers just out poking around the Loop. The number of cars, trucks and motorcycles easily out numbered the cyclists by a couple orders of magnitude. Thankfully, everyone was going slow.

One of my favorite rides.

TX wild flowers

TX wild flowers

Originally uploaded by chas.

I can’t seem to get enough of the flower pictures this time of year so thought I’d post another one. Part of it of course is just the fun of messing with the camera to see what I get. Close-ups with this particular little camera I’m using don’t always pan out. Then there are ones like this one that turn out great.

The walk from the office to my place takes me through what’s essentially an unmaintained part of the office park and there’s a carpet of different flowers that have been sprouting like weeds there.