Posts Tagged ‘Planning’


About 5 years ago I planned a road trip from San Diego to Big Sur.  We ended up going all the way to San Francisco and getting married along the way.  After we were done we knew we wanted more, so this summer for our 5 year anniversary we will head back up the coast for more!

On our last trip we splurged a bit and rented a Volvo convertible for the trip. This is nearly perfect road trip in July with a convertible. We loved it so much my wife’s next vehicle was a BMW convertible. We’ve had the car a few years and just feel like we have not taken advantage of the car, the sun, and the coast enough. This will put that situation back into balance as we plan to do most of the trip up the coast or on back roads through other beautiful areas. Perfect places to put the top down and fully enjoy the drive.

The coastal drive from San Diego to LA is awesome, with both Laguna Beach and Santa Monica being on our favorite places list along this part of the coast.  However, we can do that drive on any weekend, so to get the most out of this trip we will bypass the coast between San Diego to Los Angeles.  We will likely drive up that far the night before we start our trip and stay in the Los Angeles area so we can start our drive along the coast bright and early.

Day 1.

Driving Time:  3.5 Hours
Places to explore:
Beaches from Malibu to Point Magu State Park
Santa Barbara
Pismo Beach (Cool Dunes)
San Louis Obispo (A favorite local musician Damon Castillo here)
Moro Bay

We don’t go beyond Los Angeles as often, and want to drive through Big Sur and add to our experiences in that area on this trip, so we will stay near the coast north/west of LA.  My wife, Jenny, grew up in San Fernando valley and spent many weekends and summer days on the beaches north of Los Angeles.  On our last trip she shared some stories that driving past this area brought back for her.  On this trip I hope we can make some time to visit at least her favorite beach (probably Leo Carrillo State Park) so we can enjoy her reminiscences again.    For lunch I would like something fun and romantic, but new.  We’ve eaten on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara several times, so although I’m sure we would love it again, I want to do something different.  I’ve never been to Solvang, so that is an option.  We could do lunch and throw in some wine tasting, but will have to take it easy as we plan to drive a little further after lunch.  If we like a wine we can pick up a bottle or two for that evening.   Some of the best rated (on Yelp) wineries/tasting rooms in the Solvang area are: Carivintas Winery (they donate profits to animal charity, so part of the rating may be animal lovers), Shoestring Winery, Bella Cavalli Farms & Vineyard, or Cali Love Wine.  There are lots of other choices, but these are the ones that jumped out at me when looking at the reviews.

After Solvang we’ll likely be looking for a place to stay, the lodge at Vandenberg is the price winner, but I’ve stayed there a couple times and I’m thinking we could make it a bit further north.  So maybe we’ll look to stay in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo or what I think would be best, based on the goal of the trip would be to stay in Moro Bay.

Day 2.

Driving Time:  3 Hours (approximately… Google maps would not give an estimate in January 2017 as Highway 1 was closed due to a mud slide.  Hope that is cleared by July!)
Places to Explore:

Moon Stone Beach Park
Hearst San Simeon State Park
Hearst Castle (San Simeon)
Lots of stops along the way at: Elephant Seal Vista Point, Point Piedras Blancas, Ragged Point, Salmon Creek Falls, Willow Creek Beach, Limekiln Falls, and at least 50 view points.
McWay Falls

Partington Cove Trail
and either:
Tanbark Trail loop (at the same trailhead as Partington Cove)
Ewoldsen trail (Same trailhead as McWay Falls which would be nice to visit again)

Leaving Moro Bay in the morning we would be driving the final stretch of California Highway 1 before Big Sur. It will be a great stretch of highway to put the top down and enjoy the drive along the coast.

On our last trip to Big Sur we stopped and toured “Hearst’s Castle” or San Simeon. There are multiple tours to do here, but this trip is about doing different things, so again I think we will drive past San Simeon and look for a hike or two further up the coast. We could drive right through Big Sur and keep going, but depending on what the rest of the trip plan is, I think one good option would be to spend the night again, so that we have time to check out some things we missed last time. We stayed at Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park last time. It is a definite option again, but there are several other places in this area worth checking out too, like Deejens Big Sur Inn, Big Sur River Inn, or for a bit of a splurge Glen Oaks Inn, or if we want to spend a huge chunk of the vacation budget in one night… Post Ranch Inn.

With 2 days to explore we’ll have time to see some things we did not check out last time.

Day 3.

Driving Time:  Places to Explore:

High Bridge Falls
Andrew Molera State Park
Hurricane Point View
Bixby Creek Bridge
Rocky Creek Bridge
Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (lots of walking here too)
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Berwick Park
Casanova Restaurant Carmel by the Sea

We’ll have a second day to explore Big Sur. Many of the sights are quick stops, but I think we will want to spend more time exploring Point Lobos, and possibly bike parts of the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. I don’t think we will want to go too far up the coast after a full day exploring so our next night could be in Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, or if we are more ambitious Santa Cruz. Since we were married between Carmel by the Sea and Monterey, I think we’ll want to revisit some things there (especially the pretty little cove in Berwick Park where we were married) and explore some new things before we leave.

Day 4.

Driving Time:  3 Hours
Places to Explore:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Natural Beach State Park
Coast Dairies State Park
Shark Fin Cove
Pescadero State Beach
Half Moon Bay State Beach
San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
Muir Woods
Wineries near Santa Rosa and Sebastopol

Leaving the Monterey area it would be nice to drive along the coast as far as possible, but even better to take the fastest route past San Francisco to Muir Woods just north of San Francisco to explore. This has been on my list for a while, and I would love to be able to hike some (or all – it’s only about 6 miles) of the trails in Muir Woods. We had lunch in Half Moon Bay five years ago and really liked the vibe of the place. But then there are lots of cool places around here. Sausalito was another favorite on that trip and during our later visit to San Francisco when we bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Either place would work for lunch before hiking in Muir Woods.

Then it would be good to head up the coast for a ways then turn inland to explore the Russian River wine country. Maybe dinner at a winery and then spend the night on the east side of this area, say in Sebastopol.

Day 5.

Driving Time:  3-5 Hours
Places to Explore:

Russian River Area Wineries (Iron Horse, Gary Farrell Winery, Korbel Winery, and others)
Highway 116 along the Russian River back to the coast
Sanoma Coast State Park
Fort Ross (Historic Russian Compound)
Stillwater Cove Regional Park
Salt Point State Park
Bowling Ball Beach
Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum
Point Cabrillo Lightstation
Westport Union State Beach Park
A beautiful drive by the coast with the top down!
Drive Through Tree Park

Then the next day take California state route 116 back to the coast along the Russian River. There are tons of places here to eat lunch. All of them are rated well, so we’ll just stop somewhere that looks cool once we get hungry. This day will mostly be about driving along the coast but I’m sure we will be stopping to check out some things along the way. That evening it would be nice to get to an area just south of Redwood State and National Parks. I think Myers Flat would be a good stopping point so we can enjoy the Avenue of the Giants drive the next day. There is an Inn and camping available in this fairly small town. Depending on how far we want to drive, we may want to stop sooner, either along the coast maybe Fort Bragg, or at a forest area before Myers Flat like the Redwood River Resort.

Day 6.

Driving Time:  3-4 Hours
Places to Explore:

Avenue of the Giants
Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Humbolt Redwood Hikes)

Del Norte Coast Readwood State Park (Damnation Creek Trail, Mill Creek Trails)

From Myers Flat it is only about 3 hours or less drive to Crescent City, but there are lots of places to explore. I would like to pick a couple easier hikes rather than one tough hike so we can explore different areas of the Redwood State and National Parks.

That night we could stay in Crescent City or continue on through some more Redwoods to Grants Pass Oregon.

Day 7.

Driving Time:  8-14 Hours

The next day the top would go up for what could be a very long drive on I-5 all the way down to San Diego. Optionally we could spend the night in Sacramento to break it in to a two-day trip.

Update (2/22/2017):  Highway 1 through Big Sur is not looking good for the summer of 2017.  So I’ll be updating the plan.    Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge has been condemned.  I’m pretty sure it will take more than a few months to replace that bridge.

Update (6/30/2017): I have posted a new plan to adjust for the road closure and other things that have come up: Updated Planning for a California Coastal Road Trip (2017 Revised Big Sur Plan)


Last year, 2014, was not quite “to plan”. It was a very busy year, we had a lot of fun, made some progress on goals, but at the end… it also brought a lot of heartache and sadness. I covered most of the fun parts of the year in my recent End of Summer 2014 post. Before the summer started there was also a work trip to Canada, a getaway to Las Vegas with Jenny’s kids, and a lot of local hiking.

To keep myself honest I should probably review the 2014 top 10 countdown from my post Happy New Year – 2014!

10. Weekend project – install surround sound speakers! (Done)

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play. (Nope – I’m slacking…)

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)! (I say no, but my wife gives me partial credit for some of the things I did to make it a little better, but the big improvements will have to come in 2015.)

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium. (YES – we had lots of fun!)

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County. (Sort of a yes – cumulative, but I think I really missed the spirit of this one. we did not hike at the end of 2014. It was very dry until near the end of the year and then we were booked.)

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike! (Not quite… we hiked from the North to the South rim, but the a rim to rim to rim will have to wait until next time.)

4. Check at least one item off my Bucket List in the travel section. Need to coordinate this with a few people so I’m not picking one now… (Not from the travel section “per say”, it ended up being from the California section – see the first post for this trip – A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill).)

3. Visit family and friends in Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, and even here in California! (Yes!)

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.) (Yep! Not one but two engagements in 2014!)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms! (Over and over again!)

However, 2014 was not all “fun and games”. Throughout the year there was an underlying theme of significant illness, and uncertainty. Some of this turned out well and some did not. There were also some terrible surprises at the end of the year. In November and December we lost several members of our immediate and extended family. Regardless of all the fun we had throughout the year I will always remember the end of 2014 as a time spent reflecting on past joys, feeling lucky to have known these people, and feeling the full brunt of their loss. One of my key philosophies on life is that joy and happiness would not be as sweet if grief and sadness did not exist. I will carry that as hope into the new year along with the wonderful memories I have of those we lost.

Now to continue the tradition I started last year… here is my Top 10 Countdown for 2015.

10. See at least one singer/act that I’ve never seen before from my Bucket List.

9. Do at least one item from the Adventure, Travel, or California sections of my Bucket List.

8. Eliminate my electric bill! (This one is already planned – so it’s an easy “done” for next year’s review.)

7. Leave room in our schedule for opportunistic travel and adventure and take advantage of at least one of these opportunities.

6. Complete at least one of the following home projects:
– Expand the storage area of my garage by at least 50% to give us more room for fun and games – ping-pong and darts anyone!
– Finish painting the remaining “contractor white” walls and woodwork in our home.

5. Plan and complete a family camping trip to Yosemite. This may be challenging with all our kid’s busy schedules this year.

4. Complete at least 20 new hikes in San Diego County to check off a few more trails on my page tracking the progress on my bucket list goal to hike all the trails in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego County.

3. Focus on healthy living. I will lose the weight I’ve gained over the past couple years by eating better and exercising more.

2. Spend lots of time with friends and family.

1. Walk my oldest daughter down the aisle!

I hope your 2014 was everything you hoped for and then some, and that your 2015 exceeds all reasonable expectations! Happy New Year!

I am not good at routines. I’m forgetful, easily distracted, and I would rather do something new or entertaining than follow a routine. However, I know that I owe a lot of my happiness and good fortune over the past several years to well established beneficial routines. When you have physical goals like a marathon or long hike routine training schedules are what make it possible. I’m not a neat freak, but I like to stay on top of thing around the house. And I have a lot of projects around the house that I want to do, and I really dislike leaving anything half-finished. A solid daily and weekly routine helps me keep these things on track. If these things are taken care of, it’s much easier to focus on planning fun things and doing them!

Over the past 8 years I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with my daily and weekly routines. However, after I completed the Marine Corps Marathon last October, I fell off on many of my routines. It started as a conscious effort to let my body heal, my hip and both Achilles tendons were very sore and the constant training was not letting them heal. So letting up on the work outs is explainable, but a lot of my other daily and weekly routines suffered too. My blog posting dropped off and I wasn’t as much on top of chores around the house. We’ve been busy, but I have the time I need to do these things.

In addition to slacking off on good habits, some bad ones have gained ground. Too much TV, too much couch time, and my diet has taken a turn for the worse. So far there has been no big difference in my life due to these changes, but over time, if I let this trend continue, my life would change and not for the better.

There is a well-known saying that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I would like to paraphrase this proverb to state one of my strongest held beliefs, “all play and no work makes Jack a bad playmate”. In addition to the preparation required so that you can truly “enjoy play”, you have to do “the work” on yourself and your situation before you can be a good play partner. You need to be financially prepared, you have to be physically prepared, you have to be well rested, and you need a stable orderly living situation before you are really ready to put all that aside for some worry free and well deserved fun. You have to do be prepared before you can be a good playmate.

Establishing beneficial routines and sticking to them is an essential part of living a full life. Do the work to prepare yourself for life and you’ll never regret it! If you don’t have good routines life will eventually overwhelm you and then start to pass you by.

Golden Gate Bridge view July 2012

We are planning a long weekend in San Francisco in July. We’re meeting another couple their, friends from way back, so planning will include agreeing on activities we all will enjoy. I have several bucket list things I want to do in San Francisco, but I know some of them are not going to work, but I hope we can check at least one thing off my list.

There are several sources of information when you search Google for things to do in San Francisco. Many of them either sell tours, or offer links to tours. I’m not big on guided tours. There are times when they are useful, especially when visiting historical places, but I don’t generally enjoy being led around places… I would rather do some planning and explore on my own.

We spent a couple of days in San Francisco in July 2012 on our Honeymoon following our wedding and stay in Big Sur. That trip was a road trip and we are planning to drive again, but we are not planning to drive from San Diego to Big Sur again this time. We’re taking a week off, but plan to spend half the time in San Francisco and the other half in Lake Tahoe, so no time for a long coastal drive on this trip.

We’ve arranged for a condo for the four days we’ll be staying in the city through Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). We’ve used this website for several trips and have always been very satisfied with where we stay. Be sure to look at the reviews before renting. I avoid places that have no reviews even if the pictures look terrific. It is too easy to make a place look good in pictures even if it has issues. In 2012 we stayed in a Hotel in the Market area, this time we will be a little closer to the center of things in Nob Hill.

We also want to do new things and things we didn’t have time for in 2012. So here’s the list so far:

1. Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had considered taking our bikes with us, but we are taking our car instead of the Jeep, so we will rent bikes if we do this one. There are several places to rent bikes, and we’ll be watching the local living daily email deal sites for bargains. When you are planning a trip it is a good idea to sign up, several months in advance, for emails for the places you are visiting from sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Goldstar. this one activity gives you a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, get unique views as you cross the bridge, visit Sausalito for lunch, and the ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco should give us plenty of great views of the city from San Francisco Bay.

2. Visit Alcatraz Island. The site of the famous prison is now a National Park. Anytime I visit a National park I start with a visit to the appropriate National Park website to the Plan Your Visit section. In this case it helped me avoid a lot of tour companies selling this tour in combination with other tours to get more money. The National Park website pointed me to the official tour company so I can get my tickets directly and skip any additional fees.

View of Alcatraz July 2012

3. Wine tasting day trip! We considered spending an overnight in wine country. This would likely be a good idea when sampling wines from multiple vineyards! But this part of the trip is short so we will make it a day trip and someone (likely me) will volunteer to be the DD. There are almost too many choices. I could do an entire post researching and planning even just a good day trip to this area. Since this will be my first visit to this area I think I’ll suggest the easy way out. We can start at Sonoma Plaza (about an hour drive from San Francisco), do some wine tastings there and then visit a couple wineries in the hills nearby. If we take a few bottles (or cases) home I’ll still get to have the full effect, just delayed a couple of hours!

4. Hike in one or more of the National Parks and Recreation areas in and around San Francisco.

  • Muir Woods. This park has a wide variety of trails from paved to challenging. This would be a great place to hang out for a longer visit on a future camping trip!
  • Marin Headlands area of the Golden Gate National Recreation area – In addition to the National Parks site the Golden Gate National Parks ConservancyGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy organization site is a good information resource for this park. This is my top choice for a hike with a huge payoff – views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco.
  • Mount Diablo is on my bucket list, but it is most likely for another less urban focused trip!

5. Take a scenic drive. The closest drive would be the Reyes National Seashore drive, but it is mostly through rolling hills but the first section to Stinson Beach looks amazing. If we do this one it would make sense to do it at the same time as a visit to the Marin Headlands area and to plan to do another couple few short hikes to lookouts like the Muir Beach Lookout and maybe a section of the coastal trail. The much longer drive to Santa Cruz would be gorgeous, but would take us away from San Francisco for too long and this is a visit to San Francisco…

6. See the 16th Avenue Steps. If we get ambitious maybe even walk up them! If we get really ambitious maybe continue up the steps to see the view from Grand View Park! Looks like a nice climb and I’m a sucker for a grand view!

7. Eat some terrific food from Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and maybe some of my favorite Italian dishes in North Beach. We can also take time to explore these areas before and after we eat!

8. Cable Car Museum. Of course we’ll ride one, but this might be a cool place to check out too.

9. Explore the Nob Hill area on foot. Since we are staying in this area it makes sense to check it out. The area has Grace Cathedral, Union Square, several historic hotels, and lots of high-end shopping…

10. Visit the James Lick Observatory. This is a bit geeky and probably for a future trip, but wanted to capture the thought here, because I would love to check this place out. Might be good in combination with a visit to one of our newest national parks Pinnacles National Park.

View of St Peters and Pauls Church from Lombard Street July 2012

San Francisco is one of the great urban areas in California. It has a unique location, a unique history, and a unique population. We are looking forward to spending time exploring the city and finding even more things we have to do next time.

The more I research things to do, the more I wish we were spending more than 4 days in San Francisco. I’m sure we will be very busy, have a great time, and that we’ll be ready for at least one day of rest and relaxation when we head over to Lake Tahoe for the rest of the trip. However, there will be tons to do there too, not to mention Hot August Nights going on in nearby Reno while we are there!

Posts for the trip:

A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill)

2013 Collage

Last year, 2013, was a very good year for me. Although it will be hard to beat I’m hoping for an even better 2014!

In 2013 I checked a major accomplishment off on my Bucket List, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and had a great time in Washington DC that weekend! In order to make that happen I ran over 500 training miles including two half marathons, the San Diego Half Marathon in March 2013, and the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in June.

We had a great time camping near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park with family. Although I’ve been many times, this was my first trip to Idaho with Jenny. We spent our first anniversary enjoying downtown Boise, went white water rafting, and biked the Boise green belt on the 4th of July, then headed north for a couple days in beautiful Stanley Idaho. For my birthday we had a terrific weekend on Santa Catalina Island. the trip started out fast with my first zipline experience, and we also had a terrific time hiking in the hills around Avalon and just relaxing in our hotel and at the Descanso Beach club.

We enjoyed our third year of Green Flash Concerts at Birch Aquarium and lots of other live music including a few of my favorites Sara Barelles and One Republic at the SDSU Open Air Theater, John Mayer and Phillip Phillips at Sleep Train Amphitheater, Steve Miller at the fair, and Fleetwood Mac at one of my favorite venues – the Hollywood Bowl.

We closed on our new house on 31 December 2012, so we had all of 2013 to get settled in. This inspired me to start a new category for my blog: Weekend Project. Although I got a good start on the house, there are plenty more projects to tackle over the next few years.

For 2014 I will do this a little differently than last year with a top 10 count down of predictions for 2014!

10. Week-end project – install surround sound speakers!

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play.

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)!

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium.

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County.

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike!

4. Check at least one item off my Bucket List in the travel section. Need to coordinate this with a few people so I’m not picking one now…

3. Visit family and friends in Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, and even here in California!

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms!

I hope your 2013 was unbelievable, and your 2014 is unstoppable! Happy New Year!

Part of our group crossing a bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

I started planning this trip in a post during December 2012. Plan A fell through when I was unable to get through to make Phantom Ranch reservations at the beginning of May 2013 for the last two weeks of May 2014, so I was very concerned that I would not get through again for June. Also the size of our group increased from 4 to 5, then to 7. On June 1st I started dialing a minute or two before the phone lines opened, and got through finally 45 minutes later. I already had North Rim lodge rooms for the first week of June so I had a set of primary days that would allow us to spend 2 nights on the North Rim and then start our hike. By the time I got through to an actual person none of the primary days were available, but luckily a day on each side of that range still had spaces. I jumped on the those rooms, dinner, and bag lunches for the next day. This would have left us with only 1 night in the North Rim with no real time to explore, so I checked right away to see if there were additional rooms available. I was able to get two pioneer cabins for the two nights before we would start the rim to rim hike. The reservations for the South Rim are always easier to get this far in advance.

With all the reservations in place we now just need to do more detailed planning. We have people from 3 different states all coming together to do this trip, so the logistics may become complicated. Some of the seven people have changed to tentative, but we have back-up folks already lining up. On the 2010 trip we camped at the Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch, this time we will be staying at Phantom Ranch. On the last trip the dinner reservations were all gone by the time we started planning, but for this trip we have reservations for dinner at Phantom Ranch. We were also unable to stay at the North Rim lodge last time, which made riding the shuttle to the North Rim impractical. That meant we drove to the trail head in the morning and started the hike. We also had to drive back around the Grand Canyon after the hike to pick up our vehicle. This time we will be able to take the shuttle and we’ll be staying at the North Rim for 2 nights giving us a full day to explore.

View of the black bridge crossing the Colorado

I’m hoping to add one other major change to the hike this time. I’m hoping that a portion of our group will skip the shuttle ride to the North Rim and hike from the South Rim to the North Rim while the rest of the group takes the shuttle. I’m definitely in, but my wife won’t give her blessing unless at least one other person goes with me. Frankly I have no intention of doing it alone. At this point in the planning I have one other person for sure and another maybe, so I’m feeling pretty confident that I will be doing a “somewhat modified” rim to rim to rim hike in June 2014. Instead of doing it in 2 days, it will be hiking 3 days in a 4 day period. What I will love about it is the chance to hike down the South Kaibab trail and across the black bridge. Of course the physical challenge of hiking 23 miles in one day is the main reason for skipping the shuttle ride! Since I’m training to run 26.2 miles in under 5 hours, I’m pretty sure this will be doable. It is just walking after all! This does change our planning a little though. The original plan was to stay close to the South Rim the night before we started, the trans-canyon shuttle doesn’t leave the South Rim until 1:30 PM. However, if 2 or 3 of us plan to hike across the canyon we are going to want to get an early start. It is likely that we will have more than one vehicle, so the three of us could leave early in the morning to drive to the canyon. I really don’t like the idea of an hour or two drive before starting the hike. The optimal plan would be to stay at a South Rim lodge the night before and be ready to step off at sunrise. Plan A will be to stay at the South Rim.

Looking out over Grand Canyon the day before our rim to rim hike in October 2010

We will need to do some final planning for this before the end of 2013. I need to do some research on the Trans-Canyon shuttle reservations and dinner reservations at the North Rim. We’ll need to coordinate travel plans, and figure out if anyone has a something special they would like to do. Even though the main hikes are planned there will be time to fill, especially at the North Rim. We’ll need to come up with a gear list for the hikes, including food and drink mixes. Since we are staying in lodges every night, the list will be shorter, but no less important. Although this is still more than 9 months away, I’m sure we’ll be looking out over the canyon in anticipation of the hike before we know it. For me training for the long hikes will start late this fall, after the Marine Corps Marathon. I expect I will be in pretty good shape even before I start this training!

I’ve posted one last planning post: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Hike (June 2014) – Final Planning

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Nice Double Waterfall near Stony Creek Campground Sequoia National Forest
We’re heading up to do some camping in Sequoia National Park again this summer. It’s been a couple of years since our July 2011 Sequoia National Park trip and I’m more than ready for some more camping, hiking, exploring, and family time. We’re camping with my wife’s brothers family, but plan to get there a couple days early, so we’ll have some time to explore. On our one full day I would like to do some hiking and see some new places. I’ve spent less time in Kings Canyon National Park, so I’m focusing my planning on that park. The drive from Stony Creek Campground is long, but should be very scenic. We’ll get an early start. Cedar Grove is my first preference for hiking, we could easily tackle a couple of medium length hikes in one day. Zumwalt Meadow trail appears to be both scenic and easy hike, as does the very short Roaring River Falls trail. I would also like to see the canyon so the Cedar Grove Overlook trail is appealing. However, I love hiking by water though so the Sheep Creek Cascade may replace the Cedar Grove Overlook trail, especially if it is a hot day!

General Grant Tree - Kings Canyon National ParkWe should also have a couple of partial days to explore. It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from San Diego, but we may go at least halfway there on a Friday night so we have more time on Saturday to set up camp and enjoy the park. We have family just north of LA and heading there Friday will be close to half way plus bonus time with family! If we leave Friday we’ll have almost a full day on Saturday. If we’re eager to see some big trees we can go a little out of the way and visit Grant Grove on the way to the campgrounds.

Stony Creek Campgrounds July 2011When we stayed at Stony Creek Campgrounds a couple of years ago we loved it. It’s a beautiful location with a stream running through the camp grounds. We’ll be staying close to the same spot we had last time, but closer to the creek.

Crescent Meadows Trail July 2011There are a couple of hikes I would love to do in Sequoia. I want to take the short trail to Moro Rock, it should be a great view. Last time we visited I notice a sign for a trail from there to the Giant Forest. There are actually a couple of trail options from Crescent Meadows to the Giant Forest. I would prefer hiking back down rather than riding the shuttle, especially if it gives us a chance to see a few more Sequoia. One of the trails, the longer way, takes you past the Washington Tree, which would have definitely been worthwhile before 2005, but it lost half its height between the lighting strike in 2003 and a hard winter in 2005. Still it may be interesting to see a tree that used to be one of the top 10 largest trees in existence that was just recently brought down by natural causes.

Buck Rock Lookout July 2011A favorite from our last visit was Buck Rock. Since my wife has never been there, I would definitely be up for another climb to the top. Based on what I learned on our last visit, I may skip the walk around the decking around the cabin though unless it looks like it has been replaced. If it’s not new, it is somewhere around 2 decades since they replaced it… and it’s a long ways down!

On Monday some family is arriving so we’ll be doing things together, and having a great time at camp I’m sure. I’ll post the details of this trip when we get back.

Until then, if you’d like to see some more info on our last trip to Sequoia see my post: Sequoia National Park (July 2011) – (Part 2 – Buck Rock Lookout and Grants Grove)

Running at Sunset at Pacific Beach

Update 29 Oct 2013: The Marine Corps Marathon 2014 registration will be by lottery! The lottery will start accepting entries on 19 February 2014 and end on March 15th 2014. This will be a much fairer system than they have been using for the past few years. So my suggestions below for getting in under the old system will thankfully not be necessary. There are other ways to get in besides the lottery… an automatic entry is available to anyone completing the Marine Corps 17.75K run, there will still be charity spots available, and if you’ve run at least 5 previous Marine Corps Marathons you are guaranteed another race if you sign up for the MCM Running Club.

Original Post:

I’ve been planning on running the Marine Corps Marathon 2013 since March 2012. I’ve run hundreds of miles to train and finished two half marathons, but the toughest day of the last year was 27 March 2013, the Marine Corps Marathon Registration day. I clicked the Register button at 0900 and immediately got a server error page. I probably clicked the register button along with thousands of others at almost exactly the same time. Fifteen or twenty minutes later I got to the registration page… sort of. However, there were only 3 fields, no labels for the fields and no visible buttons. The registration page was obviously going to have major problems! I kept trying, this was a bucket list thing for me. I managed to get logged in after a few tries and eventually got to a registration page. However, ultimately even though I started the process at the moment registration opened I did not get a spot for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon during the open registration period. What a mess!

This website obviously has design issues, they aren’t able to handle popular events that sell out quickly. Although I think it is possible to design a website that can handle this kind of surge traffic with ease (think Ticketmaster) or at least handle it much better than they did, I’m not sure a first come, first served approach is the best way to select who gets to run. If there are going to be 15,000 people who all try to click the Register button at the same time in order to get 7,000 spots, then this is definitely not a fair way to distribute the spots. A lottery is a much more fair way to do this. Have the individuals or teams submit applications in advance of a cut-off day. Hold a random selection process and notify those who are selected, and let the others know they have not been selected. I’ve done other events that have lottery selection (Mount Whitney), not been selected, and at least felt the process worked as intended. This did not feel fair, did not feel professional, and I’m sure there are a lot of ticked off people! With a random drawing there will be disapointed people, but that is better than ticked off people.

Although I did not “get in” via the Marine Corps Marathon registration, I didn’t give up. This is a bucket list thing for me, and I’m not getting any younger! I knew there was a possibility to get registered via authorized charity organization. Although I could not find a prominent link on the Marine Corps Marathon page I did a search and found a page that had the answer to my problem. They have a MCM Charity Partners page. The Marine Corps Marathon has set aside registrations for these organizations that are available to anyone but require a minimum donation pledge. I went with the charity Finish for Kids, they are doing good things, have a well working website, and have a reasonable donation minimum.

Although I’m almost certain the Marine Corps Marathon will make significant changes to the registration process following this debacle, here are a couple things that might help if they don’t. Be sure to be logged in to before the event opens for registration. Logging in later could cost you time, and that could cost you a bib! Don’t close your browser window, just keep refreshing, this could preserve you a place in line. Although the site was so tragically messed up this year I’m not sure that would help. If the site says “try back in a few minutes” don’t wait a few minutes, hit refresh. Beyond that the only hope we have is that they change the process.

Since I got in this year via a Charity team, I’m hoping that I will achieve my goal to finish, as well as my time goal. If not I’ll be back at this again next year.

My Posts preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon 2013:

Marine Corps Marathon (2013 – Very Early Planning)
Marine Corps Marathon 2013 – Training Plan and Registering
26.2 Miles of Music
Americas Finest City Half Marathon (Aug 19 2012)/
Marine Corps Marathon 2013 (Updated training plan)
San Diego Half Marathon (March 10 2013)/
Evolving M Marine Corps Marathon Training Plan/
Marine Corps Marathon Training Plan (Over 50, Over Trained, and “A Little” Over Weight)
Marine Corps Marathon 2013 – The Final Training Push

And my training log and results for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon:
<”>MCM Training Log and Results

Moon rising over San Francisco from Sausalito

San Diego Half Marathon near 10K mark
I’ve completed 2 half marathons since I started planning for the Marine Corps Marathon 2013. My early planning and research started in March 2012. I had just decided to do a Marathon, and my first post was really about making the decision, thinking about what it would take to go from my average run distance of 3-5 miles to running 26.2 miles. The next post focused more on what it would take to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon, actually more complicated than I thought as this is a very, very popular race. It also covered a more serious look at some training plans and training advice for “older runners”.

Although there have been some glitches in the system, including a 5 week gap in training for my first half marathon due to a back injury, I’ve followed the original plan fairly closely. I have made adjustments to the “published plans” due to my age. Most of those call for running 4 days a week. I run 3 days a week when I’m in serious training. I run a shorter run at the beginning of the week, then add a couple miles 2-3 days later, and do a long run on Sunday. If I get sore I stretch, get on the elliptical in the gym to work out the soreness, and get in a hot tub to help with my biggest issue tight muscles.

Crossing the finish at Americas Finest City Half Marathon 2012

My first half marathon result was OK, but I did not achieve my goal for the Americas Finest City Half Marathon last August. Unexpected heat left me drained and dripping sweat near the finish of the AFC Half MarathonPart of the problem was the unusual heat… I was not the only one dripping sweat on this race. The other issue was my training plan, not enough long runs and no hills during training. So I adjust my training plan to ensure I had more long runs before the San Diego Half Marathon, and to make sure I ran plenty of hills, not all flat training runs. I recorded those training runs on a new MCM Training Log page (transitioned to a post after the marathon) to keep me honest, and so that I could see how well the training adjustments would work. I have started a new table at the top of the page to record the training runs for my next race. The adjustments to my training plan and the training log both worked better than I expected. Even though I was sick with a cold on the day of the San Diego Half Marathon, I exceeded my goal easily and had my best pace on a long run with or without a hill. With a goal of 10 minute miles and a result of 9:25 minute miles, I felt good about my training plan, and it started me thinking more aggressively about my goals for the next half marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. But to have more aggressive goals, I’ll need more a more aggressive training plan.

The Rock and Roll Half Marathon – San Diego on 2 June 2013 will actually have very few uphill sections and finishes lower than it starts. This will help me get a personal best, but it may not be a good test for the Marine Corps Marathon. I’ll have nearly 5 months after that race to train for the Marine Corps Marathon. This is almost too long for an old guy like me to keep running weekly runs between 10 and 20 miles. So I need a good plan to train and recover multiple times during that 4 months. So I’ll divide that time into 2-3 different training cycles of about 6 weeks with time (1-2 weeks) to recover in between the training cycles. So possibly a build up to 16 mile long runs in the first cycle, 18 in the second, and 20 in the third. Of course plenty of stretching and soaking in the hot tub will help keep me loose and hopefully injury free.

Finally, it is time to get serious about losing 15-20 pounds. I expected my weight to drop when I started running 20 miles a week, but it has not dropped at all, not 1 pound. Nothing magical here, I just need to eat less, and more health foods. Less sugar, less fat, more fruits and vegetables! I don’t think my legs will be happy with 15-20 mile runs at 215 pounds. They may not be ecstatic about 195 either, but they will be happier!

OK, it’s time to put it out there! What are my goals?

San Diego Half Marathon: average of 9 minute miles and well under 2 hours.
Marine Corps Marathon: Nothing novel here, I just want to beat Oprah’s time! She ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29:15 with 10:16 minute miles. So my goal… 10 minute miles and around 4:20.

I’ve witnessed a few people in the midst of a midlife crisis but have not suffered from a full blown one, or at least not that I know of, so my perspective is one of a person who has observed this from the outside. At 52 I may be a little beyond “midlife”, but I don’t feel that I’m out of the woods yet. In fact I watch for signs, not in my actions, but in my thoughts.

I guess I should talk about what I think causes a midlife crisis first. Alright, maybe not “the cause”, but at least one serious contributing factor. Nothing makes a person question their life more than when they begin to face their mortality head on. When you reach a point where there is more life behind you than ahead of you death starts to seem much more real. At the same time you are likely to be experiencing loss of grandparents, parents, or other friends and relatives from earlier generations. Dealing with the death of others you are close to can definitely force you to face your own mortality. This can go beyond a shallow acknowledgement that “we are all headed to the same final destination”, to wondering when it will come and almost more importantly… how will I handle it? Will I become angry, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, or lose all zest for living? What will be important to me at that point, my memories, the people around me, my children, or will all the things I care most about now become meaningless once my death is eminent. Will it really matter that I hiked across the Grand Canyon. A couple hundred years from now who will even know I was here? Even if they know I was here they won’t really know me, the people who know me will all be long gone too. Once you start thinking about it to that level be very careful because the next thought will be “what’s it all for”, “why am I here”, or more importantly why don’t I buy a convertible sports car, chuck my marriage, and live a life of debauchery!

Me loving the Volvo in Big Sur

If you start down a path of obsessing about death, even occasionally, you are on a slippery slope that can lead to a full blown midlife crisis. I’ve had hints of the types of feelings that come with such a crisis. Every want or desire becomes a source of dissatisfaction instead of a goal. Every dissatisfaction takes away from the happiness of all the terrific things in your life. The focus shifts to what you don’t have, what you haven’t accomplished, what you need to be happy. Patience goes out the window. You want a plan – right now. Once you have a plan, you want the reward, right now! If you can’t have what you want with the person you’re with, you want out. It doesn’t matter whether you can afford something or not… “you only live once – right?”. When you do achieve one of your goals, there that nagging feeling… what was the point!

But if you really think about it, death is harder for the living. Those who are left behind have to deal with death, not the person who died. The experience of dying can range from peaceful, to horrible, and it’s not something we should be happy about, but it does end. Death is the end of life, but also the end of dying. Regardless of what you think is next… heaven, hell, reincarnation, or nothing you will no longer be dealing with death! If you can look at death in that way, then you can focus on the cure, the inoculation for a midlife crisis… life! Life, even though it is fleeting, even though it will end, is an absolute miracle. Just walk to a window and look out, look in any direction and be amazed at what you see. The world is an amazing place to live. Check it out, take a walk, take a drive, go for a run, a swim, a paddle, a sail, a hike and look around you. Pause to watch a sunset, walk up to the edge of the ocean and take a deep, deep breath. Bask in the world around you, take it ALL in, because this is what it’s all about!

First Part of Na' Pali Coast

First Part of Na’ Pali Coast

If you focus on living more than on the end of living you should be able to avoid or pull out of a midlife crisis. Live your life, share it with the people you love. Happiness is not a gift from others, it is a gift to yourself. No mater how much you love someone, no matter what you are doing, you can choose happiness or you can choose to be unhappy and dissatisfied. It is your choice, choose life, love, and happiness, or let fear, uncertainty, and dissatisfaction rule your life. I know what I’ve chosen up until now and I don’t plan to change a thing!

On the Mist Trail Yosemite