BNP Paribas at Indian Wells

March 15-17, 2015

What a great trip to Palm Springs and Indian Wells with my mom! We arrived on Sunday and after getting a tour of our boutique hotel, Hotel California with bikes, a lounge area, pool, fountains, and public kitchen, we toured the streets of Palm Springs. It didn’t take long to find the candy store. I’m not sure why we decided we needed a bunch of salt water taffy and “old-timey” candy, except we were hungry. We were trying to just eat a few pieces to tide us over before a very early dinner at Spencer’s, but that wasn’t enough as we stopped for a snack at one of the restaurants on the strip.

Downtown included an old theatre, a variety of stores (most of them touristy), restaurants, and a sidewalk of stars. I have to say, while enjoyable for an afternoon stroll, I’m not sure what I would do after a day in this town, but that is OK as that is all the time we allotted. The cool art gallery made it worth the visit.

On Trip Advisor, I found Spencer’s, a restaurant off the strip at a hotel and tennis club. It is ranked the #6 overall restaurant in Palm Springs, and if I filtered restaurants for just dinner, it would have ranked even higher. We were very excited about this dinner as it was going to be our only real meal since the next two days and nights we were spending at the tennis tournament. Much to our dismay, we found our dinner to be mediocre at best. Don’t order the seafood platter, white fish, or duck!


The tennis was a different story than dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed the event. Indian Wells Tennis Garden is both compact and gorgeous with trees providing much needed shade in the central area. Temporary restaurants and stores lined the back side of the center.

We had an extremely easy time finding the $20 general parking, passing through the bag check within ten minutes, and finding our way around the center for an hour before we entered stadium 1 to watch the first match at 11am. The ticket takers at the stadium are extremely diligent in making sure we deserved to be in our courtside box seats. They were also extremely strict about only leaving during odd games…a much different experience than the US Open.

The first match in Stadium 1 was between Genie Bouchard and Coco Vandeweghe. Bouchard, a Canadian, has been playing great tennis as of late, and she did not disappoint. The line up only improved as the day continued. So many big names were playing in the main arena, it was hard to leave to see the other fantastic lineups on courts 2 and 3. I have to say, general admission guests were treated to great tennis too on these outside courts.

The second match on the main court featured Andy Murray vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber. Men play the best 2 out of 3 in this tournament, and it took Murray three sets to get the win. While I enjoy the five set matches for the majors, three set matches are great because we got to see more players compete.

It was excruciatingly warm by mid-day. I try not to complain about the heat since I’m stuck in the cold all winter, but Denver was having record highs (mid 70’s and low 80’s) while we were cooking in 95 degrees which felt warmer being so close to the court. I tied my jacket to the railings to block the sun to my left and flattened out a popcorn box to cover my legs. It also became very noticeable that pink and neon are the new colors among players and guests.

I can only imagine how Madison Keys and Jelena Jankovic felt while playing the third match of the day around 3:30. I expected Madison Keys to pull this match out as she played really well as she took the first set 7-5, but Jelena was the ultimate winner in three sets. Getting all these three set matches were such a treat. Personally, I think the 3rd round is a great time to go to the tournament as there is still so much tennis to choose from and there are several upsets as the competition equalizes.

The fourth match of the day was a men’s doubles match. Rafa Nadal and his partner Busta beat Granollers and Lopez. I have been trying to see Nadal play tennis in person for two years. He is may favorite, so it was very exciting to actually see him play doubles as I hadn’t even seen him do that on television. While he and his partner won in straight sets, Nadal didn’t seem like he was quite up on his game. I know he had a wrist injury and his appendix taken out at the end of last season, so perhaps he is still knocking off some rust. I still liked seeing his speed and effort.

The day matches ran into the night session as the matches took longer than the two-hour time slots. We took a quick break for dinner, though were surprised by how fast the stadium is turned for the night session. The night matches featured Sharapova vs Azarenka and Djokovic vs Ramos-Vinolas. Azarenka put up a good fight but lost in straight sets and Ramos-Vinolas gave Djokovic a run for his money in the first set, but Djokovic got his groove going and came away with the win.

I don’t think we got back to our hotel until after 11 pm Monday night. While only 15 miles away or so, I’d probably stay at a hotel closer to the tournament since Palm Springs didn’t excite me too much.

We repeated our process on Tuesday with a few changes. We arrived at 10am like normal but this time we were greeted by a bagpipe player and given green beads in honor of St. Patrick’s day! That was fun. We also figured out late last night that box seats earned entry into the Emirates club which had air conditioning, a nice lunch, and free cushions. We visited there for lunch and in the meantime enjoyed the shade of the trees before we entered the stadium for the 11am match. The day started with Berdych defeating USA’s Steve Johnson who had a very entertaining fan club in the bleachers. I believe he was from the area.

We really enjoyed the second match of the day. Two USA women, Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams, battled it out. Serena was a bit off in the first set losing it 7-6 in a tie-breaker, but took the next two sets. The score would appear that she won the latter sets decisively 6-2 and 6-2, but the tennis played by both women was top-notch. Sloane is fast and could return Serena’s serves! I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

Much to my excitement, I got to see Nadal play again…this time in singles against Donald Young! I suppose I should have rooted for the American, but I just really admire Nadal’s drive, athleticism, and never quit attitude. Admittedly, he still didn’t play his best tennis, but it was fun to watch him and his pre-serve ritual…pick butt, adjust both sleeves on shirt, swipe his forehead, tug on both ears and his nose, bounce the ball 9 times with his racket and 7 times with his hand…then serve. His second serve ritual isn’t quite as involved. He is one energetic guy and I was pleased to see him pull off a two set win.

Since we had already seen Sharapova play multiple time between Indian Wells and the US Open, we decided to go for an early dinner so we wouldn’t miss any of the night session. We only missed the first few games of this match which I thought would be a quick two-setter and boy was I wrong. Sharapova won the first set and then Pennetta, from Italy, played lights out! She is the defending champion and these girls put on a show. It didn’t matter where Sharapova placed the ball, Pennetta returned it and eventually won point after point as she forced Sharapova into errors during the last set. Great, great tennis.

The night matches featured the men’s singles first and then the women’s. I believe the tournament was expecting Wozniaki to play, but she was upset, so the women’s singles were lower ranking players (Lisicki vs. Garcia) who didn’t draw much of a crowd at the end of night despite playing good tennis. I felt a bit sorry for them, and we stayed through most of the match but admittedly made a slightly earlier night. Federer breezed through the men’s match while defeating Seppi 6-4, 6-3.

While it was two long days in a row of nearly 24 hours of tennis, it is the best way to schedule seeing a tournament to ensure seeing all the tennis players. I planned this trip so long ago, I had no idea who would be playing when, but I knew many times players have a day off between matches so two days in a row promises variety. We sure enjoyed our trip. I can’t wait to see the final results this weekend. ETB

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Fallbrook, California

June 2012

Well, after an 8 month hiatus from blogging, I am back!  I almost don’t remember how to do this, despite positing every day for a year!

I just recently took a weekend trip to Fallbrook, California to celebrate my dad’s cousin’s 60 1/2 surprise birthday.  Many of my dad’s cousins, who I met for the first time on my trip around the USA, came for Bill’s birthday as well, so it was like a family reunion!  We enjoyed a nice dinner outside in Bill and Pam’s backyard with beautiful weather.

While the family wasn’t congregated together, I took a short drive, winding along narrow roads that cut through hillsides of avocado orchards on my way to Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  I would call it farmland, however, each orchard included a decorative gate adorned with seasonal flowers opening to a long driveway which led to Mediterranean mansions.  No wonder avocados are so expensive!

img_8977 avocado 3

Actually, due to droughts and water restrictions, many of the avocado trees in the area are being replaced by grapes.  Someday, the entire state of California will be a vineyard.

It was a little weird not to have VANilla and my mutt as climbed up 18% grades and looped around blind turns, though I still ended up with a Volkswagen from the rental car company…kind of spooky.

Upon arrival at the Reserve, I took a 4.5 mile hiker along the Vernal Pool Trail and the Adobe Loop Trail.  The Vernal Pool Trail led me through golden grassy plains that shimmered in the breeze like a rattlesnake’s tail.  In fact, I had my eyes peeled for the three different species of rattlers that reside in the Reserve.

In addition to rattlesnakes, mountains lions travel through the Reserve and warning signs seemed to be posted at every fence post.  When I wasn’t busy watching for snakes, I was hopping over mountain lion feces that peppered the trail.  At first, I thought disrespectful dog owners frequented the trail, but dogs weren’t allowed and there was way too much.  I found myself thankful to be hiking mid-day, in warm weather, and sharing the trail with others, so that I did end up as a cat’s dinner.

I was excited to see the pools, as I prefer hikes near water, only to find out they were seasonal and dried up in June!  In order to entertain myself, I decided to see if there were any geocaches around – another activity I haven’t done in ages.  According to the earth cache description, the vernal pools are the only known examples of Southern Basalt Flow Vernal pools.  The basalt is the key to the large number of pools as it is nearly impervious to water (perhaps the water evaporated in the heat).  There are only 14 pools in Riverside County, 13 of which can be found in the preserve.

The flat, dry trail passed by prickly pear cacti and then dropped down the hillside through some shrubs before it led me to the oldest adobe structures still standing in Riverside County.  I stopped for a few minutes near the barn and adobe house to enjoy the shade as I expected the rest of the walk would take me across more sunny plateaus.  Not so: I ended strolling beneath enormous trees that lined the narrow Adobe Creek as birds rustled in the leaves.

After half a mile of shade, I returned to the car on the open trail that was used by cattle ranchers in the 1800’s.

I had a final chance to see my relatives Sunday morning for breakfast before returning back to Denver.  While half the state seems to be on fire, currently I am safe and sound and preparing for the MS150 bike ride to Fort Collins next week.  If anyone feels like donating, it’s not too late!  I’m only $225 away from raising $4,000.  Any amount helps…



Day 291 – Sequoia National Park

Day 291 – Sequoia National Park, October 3, 2011

So this morning I left Kings Canyon National Park and headed
south to Sequoia National Park.  On the
way, we passed by the world’s largest Sequoia Grove.  The grove covers five square miles and contains
over 2,100 sequoias larger than ten feet in diameter.  I wonder who counted that.

As we continued on through the forest, we eventually reached
the General Sherman Tree which is the largest tree in the world in terms of
volume, 52,500 cubic feet.  There might
be taller, wider, or older trees, but no other tree in the world has more wood
in its trunk than the Sherman Tree.  Its
top is dead, thus the trunk no longer grows taller, but it still grows wider
adding wood equal to another good sized tree every year.

Its girth is 103 feet, it weighs 1,385 tons and it is
approximately 2,200 years old.  Its first
branch is 180 feet from the ground and its largest branch is 6.8 feet in
diameter.  If its trunk were filled with
water, it would provide for 9,844 baths or one every day for 27 years.  Looking up at the tree for a six-foot human
is about the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a six-foot human.  The General Sherman tree is about 1,000 years
younger than the oldest known sequoia, but is larger simply due to its location
and ideal growing conditions.

After taking the mile roundtrip to the tree, we moved on to
Hospital Rock.  Hospital Rock is
decorated with painted designs by the Patwisha Indians.  Their meaning is unknown.  Hospital Rock was given its name in 1873, 10
years after the Indian village was abandoned.
Alfred Everton was hunting with George Cahoon, when Everton was shot in
the leg upon stumbling over the rifle-set they were preparing for bear.  A doctor treated Everton at this village
site, thus the rocks namesake.

Nearby Hospital Rock is another large rock full of mortar
holes.  Indian women ground acorns with
five to ten pound pestles in these holes.
The tribes in this area depended on acorns as their primary source of
food.  Each family collected one or more
tons of acorns each year.  Before the
acorns could be safely eaten, they had to be leached to get rid of the poisonous
tannin.  Hot water was poured over the
acorn meal in a leaf-lined sand pit until the meal no longer tasted

Since 1865, no Patwishas have lived in this village.  They seemed to have vanished with their
past.  Causes other than war such as
small pox, measles, scarlet fever, loss of hunting territory, and broken spirit
killed or dispersed the Indians.  In fact,
the impact of civilization on Indian cultures and most tribes was
disastrous.  From 1770 to 1910, the
Indian population of central California declined from 32,500 to 3,125.

After our morning in the park, we headed south to
Bakersfield, took advantage of the showers at 24 Hour Fitness, and then turned
east toward Barstow…on my way home. Many thanks to all my followers…I will be sure to make a
final post upon arriving in Texas…ETB,


Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park

Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park, October 2, 2011

Over the past year, I heard that Kings Canyon and Sequoia
National Parks are as pretty as Yosemite, but without the crowds.  Before returning to Texas, I thought I would
see about that and drove 50 miles east from Fresno to the Northwest entrance of
Kings Canyon National Park.

My first stop was to see the General Grant Tree, a giant
sequoia.  In fact, it is the widest known
sequoia, forty feet across, and the third largest tree in the world in terms of
volume.  It stands 268 feet high, weighs
1,254 tons, and its circumference is 107 feet around.  Its largest branch is 4.5 feet in diameter
and its first branch is 129 feet from the ground.  A few interesting facts about the tree:

  1. If its
    trunk were a gas tank on a car that got 25 mpg, you could drive around the
    earth 350 times without refueling.
  2. It would take 20 people holding hands to circle
    its base.
  3. If its trunk were filled with basketballs, it
    would hold 159,000; and 37 million ping pong balls.
  4. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the General
    Grant Tree to be the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926.  In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower designated it a
    National Shrine; a living memorial to those who have given their lives for our

After taking the half-mile walk through the sequoia grove, I
steered VANilla along what seemed like an endless road…up, down, sideways,
left, right, snaking, winding, curving.  It
wound thirty miles through the forest and skirts the canyon’s edge all the way
down to the river.  The best way to
describe the road is to post a picture of the signs attached to water troughs
that say “Do Not Drink…For Radiators Only”.

The cliffs reflecting a myriad of shades; browns, greens,
greys, were dotted with trees and towered above the river below.  I followed the river all the way to Roaring
River Falls where I took a short walk along a paved trail through the trees to
a waterfall that surged between granite walls.

After visiting this waterfall, we retraced our steps toward
the entrance and stopped at handful of overlooks on our way.  Many of the overlooks are actually in the
Sequoia National Forest as the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway passes through forest
land to reach the park.  One of the stops
in the forest land was Grizzly Falls.
Because it was in the national forest and not the national park, Petey
got to take the short fifty foot walk to see the water bounce and spray over
the rocky ledge.

From this waterfall, we briefly stopped at a cave, but it
required guided tours which left on the hour for $13.  I’ve seen enough caves over the last year, so I
opted out of waiting half an hour.  At
the gift shop; however, a sign stating “You Break It, You Buy It” caught my
eye.  At first, I thought REALLY.  They have posted a sign like that for junky
souvenirs?!?  Then I saw geodes and a
vice.  People who want a geode can pick a
rock and break it open…and of course buy it.
I thought it was clever.

It seems like signs entertained me today.  I found another that said, “Caution Ice”.  The one beneath it said, “Cream Ahead”.  The sign was in the shape of a double dip

While the park was lovely, I wouldn’t compare it to
Yosemite.  Kings Canyon’s peaks are
jagged, while Yosemite’s are smooth, polished, and very unique.  I’ll be curious to see Sequoia National Park
tomorrow.  I have found a campground
close to the border of both parks.  It is
an ideal location except for the fact two forest fires are burning within the
park…one very close to the campground.  I’m
not too excited over the smoke!  Oh well,
it’s my last few, fulltime days in nature…I’ll make the most of it.  ETB,


Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 5)

Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond, October 1, 2011

Well, I survived the forest fires, fear of active bears, and
camping roadside last night, though VANilla reeks of smoke and dead animal
smell.  Whew, I hope it goes away
soon.  I returned to Yosemite for one
final visit.  First I swung through the
valley to take advantage of the only shower facilities in the enormous
park.  I couldn’t believe how low the
Merced River was flowing.  In May, it was
swelling out of its banks.  Today,
sandbars were poking up in the middle of the river.  Many of the waterfalls appear to be seasonal
as well, as I didn’t notice some of them today.
For a waterfall lover, the best time to visit Yosemite would be as soon
as all the roads open.  I believe this is
generally in May, though this year due to the heavy winter, I believe it was

After my shower, I headed toward the southern portion of the
park where we followed Glacier Point Road 17 miles to Glacier Point parking lot.  A four-mile, round trip trail that changes
over 3,000 feet in elevation each direction leads to Glacier Point.  Under different circumstances, I would have
opted in, but with a late start, Petey in VANilla, and a wound that still needs
more time to heal, I chose to enjoy the vista just fifty yards from the parking
lot.  The overlook provided a remarkable
panorama of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls even on this smoky day.

Just as I was preparing to leave the parking lot, a Ferrari
Club pulled in.  At least ten different
Ferrari’s hummed to the end of the parking lot.
I hope they didn’t have to follow an RV up the winding road.  That wouldn’t have been any fun for the
drivers!  On our way back down, we made a
final stop at Washburn Point before making our way to Fresno for the evening.

I see why Yosemite is always full.  It isn’t very far from large California
cities and frankly its commanding and unique landscape is inspiring.  In Fresno, VANilla is going in for some TLC
before we make two unscheduled visits to Sequoia and Kings Canyon as we depart
the Golden State.  Technically, I have
completed all the scenic road trips listed in my Reader’s Digest book with the
exception of the ones in Alaska and Hawaii.
My blog and adventures will be coming to an end within the week…ETB,


Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 4)

Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond, September 30, 2011

From Reno, I followed Highway 385 south to Mono Lake,
located just east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park.  Mono Lake, nestled in a basin of sagebrush
bordered by volcanic peaks is over 760,000 years old, making it one of the
oldest lakes in North America.

The lake has no outlet.
For thousands of years, streams have carried their minerals into the
lake and evaporation has removed water from it.
As a result, the mineral content has risen to almost 10 percent.  The salty waters afford swimmers a delightful
sensation of buoyancy.  While fish can’t
survive in these alkaline waters, it is still one of the most productive lakes
in the world.  It supports millions of
brine shrimp, alkali flies, and migratory birds.

In fact, Native Americans who lived in the Mono Basin
collected the abundant alkali fly pupae and used them as one of their main food
sources.  The Kutzadika’a traded with the
Yokuts for acorns.  The Yokuts called the
Kutzadika’a the Monache meaning “fly-eaters”.
Monache was shortened to Mono by the early explorers in 1850 and it is
how the lake got its name.

A picture of the lake’s tufa is what attracted me to the
area.  Much to my chagrin, due to the
snowy winter, I believe the lake’s high water level covered much of the tufa, but
there was still some to be seen on its southern shores.  These strange calcite formations are formed under the water’s surface when carbonates in the water combine with calcium from fresh water springs that feed into the lake.  Over time, the hardened minerals pile up
forming knobs and spires.

After visiting Mono Lake at 1,951 feet above sea level, I
followed Tioga Pass road through the eastern entrance of Yosemite up to 9,945
feet, the loftiest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada.  The drive led me through golden meadows, past
numerous alpine lakes, beneath the shade of evergreens, and offered spectacular
views of some of the park’s many granite peaks and domes.

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We made brief stops at a handful of pullouts along the way
including a visit at Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point.  Tuolumne Meadows is the largest subalpine
meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Numerous streams wind through the golden
grasslands attracting a handful of deer.

Tenaya Lake, once named Pywiak (lake of the shining rocks)
by Native Americans, is surrounded by massive granite domes, a rock climber’s
paradise.  Its blue waters and sandy
shores offer a lovely place for picnicking and fishing.  Petey and I simply admired the view.

Olmstead Point is named for famed landscape architect Frederick
Law Olmsted (1822-1903) when Tioga Road was opened to automobile traffic in
1961.  Olmsted is best known for his
design of New York’s Central Park.  He
was the chairman of the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley.  The overlook affords commanding views of
Tenaya Lake and its surrounding peaks.

In addition, a geologist pointed out to me the most
fantastic part of the view from his perspective; the glaciations evidence and
a checker board pattern.  Chambers of
magma deep within the earth slowly crystallized over 100 million years to form
hard granite rock.  Over time, erosion by
rivers and glaciers formed and polished the rock.  In addition, large rocks toppled down on the
bedrock as ice melted away.

From the overlook, we continued west to a spur road leading
to a trailhead to May Lake.  The poorly
maintained, narrow road wound through the forest two miles to a parking area
which led to a variety of trails.  I took
the trail to May Lake which basically ascended 1.2 miles up to the lake.  The view of the lake was somewhat
anticlimactic relative to the views the zig zagging trail provided of the
granite peaks blanketed in dark clouds, yet reflecting still reflecting light
from the sun in the west.

I had planned on making May Lake my final stop before going
in search for a campsite outside the park.
The ranger at Mono Lake suggested that the park was full and that I
could camp anywhere along Evergreen Road just outside the northwestern entrance
for free.  As I headed west along Tioga
Pass Road, I came to a screeching halt.
VANilla was one of many cars in a line that ended up stretching more
than three miles.  The road became our
parking lot for three hours as firefighters and rangers managed a forest fire
that was started by a lightning strike a week ago.  Park visitors threw Frisbees, skateboarded,
and even jogged in the open lane while we waited to be cleared through the
smoke and flames.  Others skipped into
the woods to relieve their bladders while some drivers simply gave up and
turned around.  I guess they didn’t need
to get to the western side of the park, as exiting and going around the park
would have taken longer.  After I edited
some photos and read a bit, Petey and I had dinner in VANilla and took a short
walk before we were finally directed in the dark through the burning forest.

We eventually made it outside the northwestern edge to
Evergreen Road where we found a spot to pull over.  It was not exactly how I had pictured
it.  Others were pulled over as well, but
we were more or less stretched out along a two lane highway.  With the thought of active bears, a fire
burning, and on a roadside, I expect it will be a restless night…ETB,