2020 – NaNoWriMo – Walking

There is a global pandemic, and we are, largely, sheltered in place. We had a fitness plan at 24-Hour Fitness near us, but that closed half a year ago. That was a hard hit because my son worked there before the pandemic. Travel to places such as Japan from California are on hold.

But we still have walking.

I revisited this site because my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge book is called Blogged Down, and it is largely based on blogging. This is not my longest blog, nor is it my oldest blog, but it is, in many ways, one of my most-loved blogs. It’s one that makes me happy and hopeful and nostalgic and wistful. The last entry was 2014. Prior to that I had neglected this old friend since 2011. So if not the oldest, it is definitely the blog that I have had alive and running longest. I hope not to leave it for six more years until the next entry, but part of the book I am working on is about how things lead to things while other things don’t get done. I am here now, and I love the feel of this place.

So, walking.

2020 has not been a kind year to most of us. My sister died of cancer on February 2nd, the day between my birthday and my brother’s. A few months back my high school best friend died (multiple cancers, not Covid-19). The pandemic is spiking, and keeping in shape in southern California amongst “the young invincibles” wandering around without masks is a challenge.

There is always running. When I water the roses early morning, the familiar runners pound by with fierce determination. When I walk the dog in the evening, the late crew is out running along the bike lane in the street. I have not run since the 1980’s. But I do still walk. Mainly I catch Pokemon.

Our friend Keith worked with Niantic (then a Google Project company) when they designed Ingress, a phone-app game that leveraged key locations (a mural in Venice, a Santa Monica church, Johnnies Pastrami in Culver City) plotted on the Google Maps backbone. It was (and still is) an game of blue Vs. green area domination, and it set up a global base for Pokemon GO (and later The Wizarding World of Harry Potter). For me Ingress was fun, though the options were limited. Harry Potter feels like work to me. Pokemon GO is just right, and I’ve been playing Pokemon since Red, Green, Yellow came out on the original GameBoy. I played the TCG with the kids,, and I’ve seen many of the shows and movies. On my Canvas site, which hosts the discussion boards and some other things in my online classes, my avatar is a member of the Squirtle Squad (not the leader).

The game is simple. You walk around, find Poke Stops (which you spin on your phone’s screen to get poke balls and potions and berries and gifts), and you spot Pokemon which you try to catch by lobbing (or curving) those poke balls at them. There’s more to it, but as in the show you “Gotta Catch ’em All!” There aer a lot of them, and with my maxed-out character my main goal is to fill my pokedex and find the rare and coveted shinies.

Early stories about the game, which launched July 6, 2016, told of players so fixated by their smartphone screens as they searched for Pokemon that they routinely walked into lamp posts or off the curb into oncoming traffic or even off cliffs.

I can see that happening.

The game also spawned a series of funny gifs and memes that showed out-of-shape youngsters turning into strapping, buff youths as they left their TV and computer screens, got up off their collective duff, and embraced walking, and lots of it.

Before and After Pokemon GO... | Pokemon go, Funny memes, Funny workout  pictures

Well, I don’t seem to have turned into the After photo after walking with my phone the past five years, but it may be doing me some good, and it is fun, and it is another thing I share with my daughter, now working on her PhD in Florida.

I am not walking Japan’s eastern coast road. I do still hope to some day. Time is a tricky thing. I did not imagine six years had passed since I last posted here, for example.

Sometimes, though, my Pokemon quest takes me along California’s coast road, especially along the Santa Monica strand between Shutters on the Beach and The Santa Monica Pier. Early mornings the strand is not too terribly crowded. Before sunrise the air is crisp and chilly, and the lights of the Pier’s famous Ferris wheel spin and shift in a pretty LED dance (eco-powered by solar arrays and batteries). The pier itself is a favorite spot for Pokemon GO enthusiasts, who walk the timbers stretching out into the sea where the air smells of salt and ozone (which actually isn’t ozone at all; the ocean actually absorbs much of the world’s ozone; that seaside smell comes from dimethyl sulphide, or DMS, but I prefer to hang onto the myth that it’s health-inducing ozone). Simply, it smells like much of my childhood, the childhood where Pacific Ocean Park stood on this very pier, where surfers and Z-Boys zipped along waves and sidewalks.

It is all still there. Maybe not the running. But there’s the walking, and Tokaido is still there, and life is still here to be lived.

And just maybe even to be written about. And shared. With whomever stops by to visit my blog.

Getting me back on the road…

Thanks to several people who have asked about walkingtokaido and my progress. Many have traveled the path before me, and all of your prods and tips are welcome.

I have not really vanished, nor has my resolve to walk the old sea road vanished either. I have been sidetracked by lots of things (isn’t that just the way life works?). I’ve put up a couple of other blogs about trips across country (relocating my kids to different universities. My favorite is http://2002civic2universities2012.wordpress.com/ . More recently my daughter and I drove up to her next University–U.C. Davis–to get her acclimated before she starts grad school.

She would like to travel with me on the Old Tokaido, and she would make an amazing companion. We (rarely) right on trips, and she actually speaks some Japanese and has been to Japan before.

Work (gotta pay for things), jury duty, plumbing–life stuff–has kept me busy, and it may be that I won’t get on the road until Michelle is through with her studies. I will be that Sgt. Pepper’s song age by then, but I’m still walking (the Santa Monica beach is my usual trail; it faces Old Tokaido…thousands of miles across the Pacific).

pilgrimageThere are still those serendipitous “things” that keep me energized. The latest is a novel by Rachel Joyce called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Without giving too much away, Harold Fry, retired and in a dead marriage, receives a letter from a woman, Queenie, who had been his co-worker in a brewery decades earlier. She is dying of cancer, and she is just letting old acquaintances know, not expecting anything from the old acquaintances. Harold writes a wholly-inadequate reply, the briefest note, to Queenie, and he sets off to the corner postal box to mail it. Somehow he can’t bring himself to just drop it in the box, and he determines to walk to the next box, then the post office, and so on. Walking outside Kingsbridge, in the south of England, he just knows he has to walk to see Queenie in her hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, in the north of England. Thus, a pilgrimage to save Queenie begins.

A reproduction of Hiroshige’s prints and Patrick Carey’s book hooked me on walking in the first place. Rachel Joyce’s fiction, Alan Booth’s non-fiction, and other works keep it alive.

i did get some walking in

This posting is going to have two parts (1 & 2)

          Part 1:  Sequoia National Forest

One of the things Michelle most wanted to do before going off to college was to re-visit Sequoia.  We took the kids twice; both times they were very little, and the second time was the first time they’d actually been in enough snow to make snowmen.  We’d been cabin camping around Grant Grove then, but most of my memories of Sequoia were tent camping in Lodgepole (quite primitive when I first went to Sequoia many years ago, revamped a decade or two ago so that there is now a nature center, small store, even laundry facilities by the campground entrance.

Rio Mortal

The Deadly River (Rio Mortal), Kaweah River, Sequoia, CA

It’s a big campground that straddles the north fork of the Kaweah River.  Yes, there are some flush toilets, and an impregnable steel bear-proof box is in each campsite.

Here’s the problem:  Sequoia fills up 4-8 months in advance every year, and Michelle mentioned this with a little over a month to go before we bundled her off to Pennsylvania.  Still, nothing ventured.  I kept at the online registration site, and someone must have eventually canceled because two nights at just one tent site opened up, and I grabbed it.

We loved the peace, the change from Los Angeles (Santa Monica). The weather was clear and warm (tending to hot), the air so rich with evergreen that, matched with the thin air over 6,000 feet, it prompted the rangers to post an air warning (not from smog but from possible allergies). The river (main visual entertainment along with the flickering fire at night) rushed blue and green, and Michelle was a bit miffed I told her I wasn’t bringing a swim suit. Now my reasoning was this: last time I’d been to Sequoia, signs about river deaths were posted at the trail head. This time new signs shouted, “Deadly River – Rio Mortal” (with the last wave from the hand of a drowning person sinking beneath the water).

Then we saw groups of kids swimming in the clear pools.  It really did look inviting.  I offered to give Michelle my spare shorts to swim in, but we both settled on dangling our legs in the water.  COLD DOES NOT DESCRIBE IT.  And we saw the reason when we hiked up the trail to Tokopah Falls.  There are still patches of snow and ice in the shadowy parts of the mountains; the river is ice-fed.  With ice-numb feet we decided that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing we didn’t bring out suits.

The Hikes

Sequoia has changed a lot.  In an attempt to lower the footprint of so many thousands of tourists they now have shuttles from one meadow to the next, and that’s a good thing (unless 44 Chinese hikers are piled into an already-full shuttle that says, “Maximum Occupancy 25).  But day one we took the shuttle to the General Sherman tree, walked through the pudgy, orange giants and came back to the campsite for a bite.  Then the trek up to Tokopah Falls (leisurely as long as you are in shape, used to the thin air, expecting the switchback scree near the end) tested our city legs.

Tokopah Falls, Sequoia

Michelle and I reach Tokopah Falls

We actually saw a mother bear and her two cubs on the trail (they didn’t seem to bother with the hikers who snapped a gazillion photos), a pretty rare sight.  And we did make it to the falls where we took pictures of parties who took pictures of us and so on.

The trail head is deceptive, though.  It’s so gentle (100 feet of blacktop leading to duff and then a variety of trail types), that this hike attracts kids, aging great-grandparents, mai-tai-toting couples in flowered shirts and muumuus, and people decked out in K2-ready backpack gear.  On the way back down the trail, a few groups asked, “Are we almost there?”  Michelle and I would try to assess the general condition of the group, and we’d give a heartening, “You’re almost there” or “You have an easy walk for about a quarter mile followed by some switchbacks over some loose rocks for the final quarter mile.”  One couple with their kids had walked about 2/3 of the way in flip-flops, and they were tired.  They asked us how much farther it was to the falls, and we told them.  They looked crestfallen; they’d come so far but were just too footsore and unprepared to go the final bit.  “But you can actually see the falls if you go about 100 yards around that bend there.”  We actually walked them to the lower view of the falls, and they were happy they’d not hiked so far just to miss seeing the base of the falls.

The next day (our last full day; it was a quick trip) saw us indecisive.  There was a lot of roadwork going on in the park, and we’d wanted to go up Moro Rock, but that road was closed.  That also kept us from another hike we’d planned-Crescent Meadow.  We sort of ambled to Giant Forest area, and Michelle noticed the “Road Closed” sign was gone.  So we drove past the Auto Log (you can no longer actually park on top of it for photos) to Moro Rock.  this was one of those “I’m pretty sure I’m not in any shape to make this climb” moments.  There are over 400 steps carved into the rock surface that allow tourist to toil up to the top where there is a spectacular view (more spectacular if the smog/fog doesn’t obscure the San Joaquin Valley in the distance) of the mountains ringing Sequoia.  We were the second people on the rock (the first was a tourist who’d side-stepped the sign (which was there when he started) and hiked three miles in (impressive since he had about forty pounds of camera equipment strapped to him).

Moro Rock

Michelle on Moro Rock, Sequoia

And we had no problems; we just chugged up the steps and inclines and turnings and were there!  Yes, we each went through a bottle of water on the way up, but water’s good stuff, no?  And we took pictures of Castle Rock and the valley below us before we headed back down (the first shuttle was just arriving when we were about 1/2 way down.

Our last Sequoia hike was a sedate ramble around Crescent Meadow.  Well, sort of.  We were going to do the 1 1/2 mile loop to look at what John Muir called, “The Gem of the Sequoias” and end up at Tharp’s Log (a hollowed-out, fallen log with rough-hewn table and fireplace and bed that was used by a rancher when he brought his cattle up to the meadow from the valleys below in the late 1800’s).  Uncharacteristically, I did not look at the trail maps.  I was sure I remembered the route.

Well, I didn’t.  We ended up taking a side path that had us dragging around  muddy, mosquito-clouded Log Meadow.  Tharp’s Log is not actually on Log Meadow; though there are plenty of other logs on this path which had not been hiked in some time (if the overgrowth covering the trail were any indicator).  Hiking while batting away mosquitoes is not my favorite activity, and I was tired and grumpy when we reconnected with the trail to Tharp’s Log.  Still, we made it (yes, with some mosquito bites), saw the rustic log-home, hiked the simple trail back to the parking lot.

It was a wonderful trip.  It showed me I need to walk more, and it reminded me just how much fun I have traveling with my daughter.

(to be continued)

OK, I’m back…

Moving Michelle to College did take a lot of attention and time, and the month leading up to it was packed with to-do items. She’s off at Penn State where the Forensics Department has the niftiest van ever:

PSU Forensics Van

PSU Forensics Van

I’m going to catch up on a few quick items here:

  • I finished George Meegan’s book; now I need to apply myself to learning some Japanese
  • To that end Ito sensei gave me some more books and tapes; they’re a bit daunting, but if I just approach it a bit at a time…
  • Ito sensei also loaned us two movies–the incredibly sad-but-good Nobody Knows and the fun-uplifting-if-you-shut-your-eyes-at-the-end Densha Otoko (Train Man);  in the latter the Otaku (a pun?) does say, “I love you,” as was posted earlier on this board:  “suki desu” and “daisuki desu” (literally, I like you a lot)
  • My nephew Hayden has expressed an interest in joining the trip down The Old Tokaido
  • Realistically, I may have to move the start date to summer 2013 since this year will have me looking at colleges with Chris and then moving him next summer; we’ll see how it goes (and, heck, 60 and 61 are, percentage-wise, not much different)
  • I’ve managed to code well about 2/3 of my new online Film & Lit. class, but I’m still chugging away at it
  • School begins Monday; classes are crammed to overflowing (including the Film & Lit. class I’m not quite finished with
  • Chris’s football games begin the following week
  • I did get some walking in; that will be the subject of my next posting

another hiatus? really?

Busy, hectic times.  I’ve nearly finished George Meegan’s book; I’m learning teensy bits of Japanese (trying not to cross my eyes when I hear the variations which MAY occur and reminding myself that English is hardly a stranger to this; my daughter was pointing out words which sound alike but which have very different meanings which must be determined from context, and I thought about homophones in English (which and witch, there and they’re and their–that sort of thing; she says that in hiragana they will be spelled the same, but the differences are plain in kanji).  I really think I need to buckle down and learn AT LEAST hiragana or katakana so that I can sound things out.  I’ve also discovered that so many American-adopted words can be figured out with a bit of effort:  boo-rou-soo for blouse, for example.

I’m trying to get back to my t’ai chi practice to add to walking, and I’m now seriously looking at “stuff” at REI and other shops.

But, really, the only walking-related progress I can point to is coming up next week when the kids and I are going to Sequoia for a last camping trip before Michelle goes away to college 😦

We’ll have lots of nifty hikes there.  I’ll post…REALLY…I WILL!


Oh, and I have to include a link to a site that may be a rich source for me to pore over pre-trip.  It’s a tourism site encouraging strolls along sections of the Old Tokaido inShizuoka Prefecture.  There are maps, tips, historical notes, and so on, and they’re available both in English and Japanese.  Now I realize this only sees through less than 1/2 of the posts on the Old Tokaido, but that’s still a great start:

 Attractions on the Old Tokaido Road, Shizuoka Prefecture


OK, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here.  I plead…well…busy-ness.  Michelle and I have been shopping and making up the itinerary for her soon-move to Pennsylvania.  My neighbor whose husband works for Google has added me to the Google+ beta, and I’m seeing if that will be a good way to talk to my daughter when she’s away at college.  I’m trying to get a jump on my new Film & Lit class (I’m only on lecture 3, but I have the framework of the class all set up).

On the learning Japanese front, I’m still not the wunderkind that would make a language teacher beam.  Ito sensei has saved some conversational Japanese cassettes (and accompanying books) for me, and that’s a blessing, but I”m still distractable by the little things.  I was reading episode 23 of Hikaru No Go, and I came across henohenomoheji–doodling with Japanese characters.  Michelle remembers Kazumasa showing her simple nonomo face drawings when he stayed with us.  Here’s a simple site with some information:


And I’m been reading George Meegan’s book The Longest Walk in bits; he’s reached Central America at this point.  Aside from feeling that I’d really not enjoy the hardship that even a yoshikart could not make up for, I’m struck by how the walking diary is really a love story.  And putting this together with Kintaro Walks Japan (Kintaro is in love with Ayumi, George and Yoshiko Meegan’s daughter), the whole thing washes over me with joy and relationship.

It’s a very busy time, but I’ve not vanished.