More Mountaineering

I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me.

“I don’t think this is getting easier,” were Helaine’s words as we approached the halfway point in our march upward. I was huffing and puffing too much to respond.

The trail is wide enough that a car could fit… if it was allowed up there. You’re walking through a forest, so there’s little direct sunlight that hits the trail itself. That makes summer walks a little easier to handle.

Nearly all of the trail we walk is on an incline. It has to be. In the 1.6 miles to the top, you’re gaining nearly 700 feet.

“They’ve tilted the Earth, haven’t they,” I asked? “It’s steeper than it was last week.”

Today, for the first time this season, I made the trip in one fell swoop. There was no stopping for a sip of water on a convenient boulder at the midway point. My hair was matted and sweaty under my New York Times hat (a Father’s Day gift) as we got to the stone castle at the summit, but we got there.

It’s a good thing this is Sleeping Giant Mountain and not Sleeping Giant Canyon. Who’d do it if the uphill part was last!

We got home, I took a shower and got ready for work. And then, a wonderful thing happened. I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me. I think the mountain hike is responsible.

Is it possible our walking has brought me a runner’s high?

From Wikipedia: Another widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called “runner’s high”, which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen. Workouts that are most likely to produce endorphins include running, swimming, cross-country skiing, long distance rowing, bicycling, weight lifting, aerobics, or playing a sport such as Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, rugby, or American football.

Does this mean I’m out-of-shape enough that walking brings to me what running brings to others? Whatever it is, I want more. We’ll probably be back on the mountain Saturday.

Greetings From Palm Springs

Helaine and Steffie are sitting on our little patio here at the hotel in Palm Springs. Of course, if you would ask them, they’re on the lanai.

Palm Springs is beautiful. We have certainly had less than optimal Palm Springs weather. It has rained, a little, each day. But, as soon as the rain ends, the sky clears.

Last night was a perfect example. We had been indoors during the evening. We had obviously missed a shower or two. The roads were wet. Yet when we looked up, the sky was full of stars with no clouds in sight!

I know what happened overnight in Connecticut. Snow! Where I live, there’s around 6″ of snow. Her, today, we’ll hit the mid 60&#176s, with the temperature getting into the 80s over the weekend (alas, we’ll be gone).

We got here on Tuesday and checked into the Hyatt. We had made a conscious choice before we got here to stay downtown, on the main drag. The reviews for this hotel were actually quite lackluster with people complaining that the hotel looked tired and shabby. We have not found that to be the case.

It is a suite hotel, and though this is not the ‘classic’ suite you might see in the movies, Stef now has here own ‘room’. The suite is significantly larger than our room in Century City.

Before we left Helaine had found a deal to get the room plus free breakfast every morning – even room service. Helaine’s diligence has saved us a lot of money, because she spent a lot of timing shopping and comparing before we left home. We changed our hotel and car arrangements more than once as new, better deals became available.

Speaking of cars, we had originally reserved a full size car. As I became more attuned to our baggage needs, I started to think an SUV might be a better idea. I believe the rental description called for a Chevy Blazer or similar. We ended up with a Chevy Trail Blazer.

I am used to driving a Ford Explorer. This Trail Blazer is significantly larger. That makes it tougher to park and get around in traffic. I’m sure this is the kind of thing that gets easier with time.

Tuesday, when we got in, Helaine and Steffie headed to the shops in Palm Springs as I headed to the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. Palm Springs is surrounded by tall, steep mountains and the tram is the only easy way to the top of one of them.

To get there, you drive out of town, past the wind turbines, and into the mouth of a canyon. As you drive further, the road steeply pushes upward. I believe the mile or two of canyon road climbed over 1,000 feet in elevation from the valley floor. I have attached all the tech specs for this tramway. Only click if you’re really geeky.

The tram climbs up the mountain in a little over 10 minutes. The car rotates slowly as it rises, which is good for most, but was bad for me. Every time I got to where I wanted to take a picture, I moved… or was moved. There are some open, tilt out windows, but most of the vantage is through glass or something like it.

As air rises, it cools. It was in the low 70&#186s at ground level. It was in the upper 30&#186s on the mountaintop, and the clouds often drifted over the observatory. There was a reasonably large snowpack (measured in feet) surrounding the paths and patios to the vantage points.

The interior of California unfolds below you. The horizon is wide and very far away. The sky itself is so blue that I took a picture of it!

The visibility to the valley is somewhat reduced. I noticed that from the mountain and I have noticed it from ground level as well. The culprit – blowing dust.

Sometimes the dust is in discrete little storms, so you can see them from a distance. Other times, often when looking down from the mountain, the dust is less defined but obvious in the lack of sharp focus at a distance.

There is one very strange thing I saw at the base of the tramway. The parking lots are named after local animals in much the same way you might park in a Disneyworld lot named “Goofy” or “Pluto.”

Let’s just say the local animal names are less cutesy than Disney’s!

I met up with Helaine and Steffie and, in showery rain, we headed out to dinner. We stopped at Kaiser Grille, a nice looking restaurant on Palm Canyon Drive. Even with the rain, we sat outside on a covered, open air, patio.

Dinner was very tasty. I had pasta with shrimp and scallops. It came quickly and was piping hot. The service was attentive.

It was still early, so while Stef chatted on the computer, Helaine and I headed to one of the Indian casinos here. A few years ago, there were restrictions on these casinos that made blackjack and other games different from the same games in Las Vegas or Connecticut.

That’s changed for the most part, though I understand craps is played with cards instead of dice. Very strange. I have a bad reaction to people, or businesses, that follow the letter, though not the spirit, of the law. That seems to be the case with diceless craps.

I ended up going to two casinos while here, playing poker at both. This was not my finest moment as a poker player.

Of the two, the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage was more to my liking. It is small as casinos go. The poker room didn’t have many more than a dozen tables. The dealers and other players were friendly. There was more drink service (I don’t drink alcohol, but do drink coffee, water and soda) than I’ve ever seen in a poker room. That’s no small thing!

The other casino, Morongo, was larger and adjacent to a huge outlet mall where Steffie and Helaine spent an afternoon. I just didn’t like it as much. I was also amazed to see the age limit there was 18.

I was playing poker with 18 year olds – and I didn’t like that. It is only my opinion, but 18 seems much too young. You’ll notice I didn’t get up and refuse to play. But, it is part of the reason I won’t go back.

There is one more thing of interest we did here in Palm Springs. We went house shopping.

OK – maybe that’s a little drastic of a description. We went and ‘window shopped’ a development in Rancho Mirage. The thought is, maybe when we retire, this would be a nice place to go.

The homes, on small parcels of land, but often with amazing views of the mountains were more expensive than similarly sized homes in Connecticut. We did find one design, with an immense open space encompassing a gourmet kitchen, family room and breakfast area to be very appealing. There was even s small swimming pool out back.

This is a very attractive lifestyle in a beautiful place. Desert living isn’t for everyone. It is astoundingly hot here in the summer… and the summer is very long. Temperatures of 115&#176 for days on end is not uncommon. Yes, the humidity is very low, but it is still hot like an oven.

On the other hand, the only snow you see is looking at the mountain peaks while drive dry roads in the sun and warmth.

The Olympics

I have found myself watching very little of the Olympics. I know it’s the greatest achievement in sports – but they’re mostly rather esoteric contests with people I don’t know.

The men in the Olympics look just like the guys I didn’t get along with while growing up: tall, muscular, good looking. As a rule, my friends could not throw a ball.

In the few events I’ve seen, the stands were empty. That’s sad. Considering what Greece has paid, and will continue to pay, empty seats give a bad impression. There’s also the implication their peripheral businesses are not doing well on anticipated Olympic revenue. Restaurants and hotels which put up with the massive construction until now face no payoff.

I read this evening that the International Olympic Committee is encouraging the Greek Olympic Committee to paper the house. That’s sad.

ATHENS (AFP) – IOC (news – web sites) officials, worried by the television images being flashed around the world of athletes competing in near empty stadiums, have told the Athens Games organisers to give tickets away for free if necessary.

For years I’ve heard a story about ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 60s and 70s. When they would cover swimming, track and field, or other events that weren’t well attended, they’d make everyone sit together opposite the cameras. In this age of handheld shots, that wouldn’t work.

I’ve seen Olympic coverage on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. I think there’s some on Bravo too, though I’m not totally sure.

I wonder how the ratings will be? Will the lack of fans in the stands along with the poor showing of the USA basketball team and dashed hopes for a record number of records in swimming turn people off? What about the ability to watch events on multiple channels? Will the affiliates get hurt?