A hill (and a thrill) with a view.

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One of many familiar images of Austin is of the Pennybacker Bridge at Loop 360, overlooking a stretch of beautiful Lake Austin.   The 360 Loop drive and its Hill Country views are one of my favorite parts of Austin.  I crossed off one of my must-do’s by hiking up the cliff overlooking the bridge to take in the view for myself.   In the panorama above, you can just see the downtown skyline peeking over the hill on the left of the image.   I’m not afraid of heights, but I have to say my heart skipped a beat or two as I stood on the rock on the edge of the cliff.

For reference (from google streetview):

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I think I like this shot better.  It’s taken from a vantage point slightly farther west, down the trail along the top of the cliff.

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Just another gorgeous day in my little corner of paradise.

Sunpocolypse.

I know that my friends in the Northeast have been hit by a snowstorm today.  But what a BEAUTIFUL day here in Austin!  The Butler hike and bike trail around Town Lake (oops, i mean Ladybird Lake) is always a nice destination, with loops of varying distances depending on which bridges you choose.  Last year the boardwalk on the southeast side of the lake was completed.  I set out today to walk the Mopac / I35 loop.  The Butler Hike and Bike Trail maps say that loop is 6.9 miles, but I must have dilly-dallied, because I logged a bit more.

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It was a simply lovely day.  I leave you with a few pics from my lap:

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Start/finish at Zilker.

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A view from the new Boardwalk.

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Congress Avenue bridge.

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Looking south towards the Zach Theater from the Pfluger bridge.

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A rower making way.

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A peek inside one of the boathouses on the north side of the lake.

I would love to be able to come down here every day.

Land lubbin’.

This weekend has been a glorious January one for the books.   Yesterday we kind of got rat-holed by what should have been a 30 minute project at the house, but it ended up consuming the day.

Today, however, i was determined to get outside.   The level of Lake Travis continues to remain woefully low at 624′ above mean sea level.   Happily, though, the rain from last week raised the level about 9 inches.   We just have another 684 inches to go before the lake is full!

One of the features of the land that surrounded the original river that the drought has uncovered is the piece of land referred to by locals as “Sometimes Islands.”  When the lake basin is flooded, the peaks of this piece of land sometimes stick up; sometimes they are covered by water.  Well, for the last 3 or 4 years, Sometimes Islands has become For-the-Foreseeable-Future Peninsula.

We set out today to walk the length of the peninsula.   So we packed a few snacks for lunch, brought our GPSes, and tossed my Christmas present from Monte – a metal detector – in the trunk for its maiden voyage.

We stopped briefly at the historic site for the original Anderson Mill – the mill that operated near Cypress Creek in the 1800s – a NW Austin neighborhood and road still bear its name.  They have a museum here as well, but it is only open for a few hours on the 4th Sunday of every month between March and October.   We’ll have to come back for the tour.

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Then we headed for Mansfield Dam Park and started our trek.

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This is the old highway that used to cross over the top of the dam.  It is closed to ordinary folks these days, and Highway 620 is the throroughfare now.  I’d love to get a chance to stroll across the old road now, though.

I walked the length of the peninsula – about 2.5 miles out from the park – and found all the geocaches that didn’t require scuba gear.  Monte marked a couple of points on his GPS that will hopefully be boating hazards and/or navigable cuts once again at some time in the future.  This was the view from the park looking out over Sometimes Islands…the structure on the top of the hill in the center of the picture is the Oasis.

IMG_7587We also tried out the metal detector for the first time.  And I have to say:  “Pretty nice!”   We were able to detect and reliably find nearly every piece of metal (aluminum, lead, iron, steel, …) that it sounded on, even if we had to dig 6″ or more to get to it.  I’m looking forward to bringing it along on some of our cove-explorations when the weather gets warmer.  No treasure this time.   But it was fun.

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I go back to work a week from tomorrow.  This weekend was a nice adventure.  I’m hoping to squeeze in few more next week.

Kudos to The North Face.

I recently posted about Kohler being a great company to work with because of their customer service. Today, I’m posting a shout out for The North Face…. Several years ago I bought rain jackets for both monte and myself.  But recently my jacket’s waterproof lining began tearing at the neck, rendering it no longer waterproof.

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I remembered that The North Face has a lifetime warranty for their togs, so about 6 weeks ago I followed their instructions and sent my ruined jacket to their warranty department requesting a replacement.  Well, today with no other communication or notice, I received a brand new jacket from TNF. Its a slightly different color, but still the great North Face product.
THANK YOU North Face for standing behind your warranty. I’ll be back.

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Bull Creek flowing.

I took another trip to St Edwards Park the other day to explore some of the trails I didn’t get to on my last visit.   It was the MLK holiday, and a beautiful January Austin day – and everyone else had the same idea.  The parking lot was PACKED.

It’s nice to see a bit of water in the creek.  It is supposed to rain again tomorrow, thankfully.

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Looking upstream from a point along the red trail north of the park.

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Standing in the middle of the creek bed on dry rocks – not a good place to be after a rain!

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Winter creek-scape looking upstream, taken from the concrete wall/dam on the southside of the park.

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A view of concrete wall/dam taken from the south bank.

I’ll be back.

Simply. Amazing. (you’re welcome)

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Football fans are superstitious.  Especially this Seahawks fan, who has experienced heartwrenching, emotional ups and downs over a lifetime of football seasons:  the emptiness of too many vacuous losing seasons, then the joy of making and winning playoff games, then the devastation of playoff games lost in the final seconds, then a Superbowl disappointment that strikes at the very heart, then FINALLY an intoxicating Superbowl victory.

So it is that over all these years, I have come to believe that something as simple as my decision to either watch or not watch a game can, and has, affected the outcome.  It’s just a superstition that I must live with.  It’s a burden.

I have a friend who sits in the same blue recliner to watch every game, and if he’s not able to do that, he carries a picture of the blue recliner with him… all because once when he didn’t the Seahawks lost.

So, this morning when I found that my mylar Seahawks balloon, which I bought for Superbowl XL and have reinflated since then, had lost its helium and was dragging on the ground, I felt the first twinge of superstition:   if i don’t refill it and we lose, it could be my fault.  Sooo, we refilled it before the game.

Then, after experiencing those 55 tortuous minutes of highs and lows during the NFC championship game and the Hawks down 19-7, my emotions took me back to that helpless, superstitious place….   I couldn’t take it anymore.  They could lose, and it would be my fault! 

So with a little over 3 minutes left in the game, I left.  I went for a walk.  I took my iphone/earbuds and listened to the NFL.com audiocast of the game instead.  And then magic happened.  I was less than a football field’s length away from the house when we scored.   And i kept walking.  Then the beautiful onside kick happened.  And i kept walking.  Then we scored again to take the lead!  ohmigod.  I started running.   Then we made the 2 point conversion to force a tie if we could hold Greenbay to only a fieldgoal – and we did.  I kept running.  Then we won the coin toss in overtime.  Then the TOUCHDOWN for the win!  OHMIGOD!  I ran all the way back to the house and celebrated with Monte.

I’m so happy for my team.  And I can’t help thinking, just a little, that this 12th man in Austin made it all happen :)

GO HAWKS!

Worth the view.

Trying not to waste the few remaining days I have before going back to work , I took advantage of a wonderful, sunny day to explore a park that I have not visited before. I checked out St. Edward’s park, on the Bull Creek greenbelt. What a great bunch of trails!

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It was beautiful. I only made it throughout the brown trail, which I found pretty challenging. I’ll definitely be back to explore the trails north of the creek.
Here is a shot looking across the creek over the canyonlands.

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Yet another little luxury.

Monte and I are thankful for many things – very fortunate and blessed.

Annddd, with that being said… we indulged this Christmas in a 12V television & DVD player for the boat.   Actually, each of us bought the other a TV and wallmount for the boat, heh heh  :D   That was worth a chuckle on Christmas morning.  We picked the best of the two and returned the other.  And today we went to the boat again so that Monte could finish up the wiring, and we brought a DVD to try when we fired everything up.

It works GREAT!   I’m looking forward to trying it out while at anchor in our favorite cove.

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A walk in the woods.

The cold and rain finally let up here in Austin, after a week. So, I set out to explore the new North Walnut Creek trail that was supposed to be recently finished. I was looking forward to a 6+ mile walk on the new trail. The nice, new trailhead at Balcones Park:

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The lovely paved sidewalk ended about 100 yards later and the rest of my walk was through muddy, rocky trails. Walnut Creek was flowing pretty good due to recent rain, so I wasn’t always able to cross where the trail crossed. My shoes and feet were wet before too long. I got pretty messy, but it was great!

I was taken aback by the amount of trash near the trail. We’ll have to rally the troops to clean it up. This was one sight – the tire has been there a while…the tree has grown up through it.

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And, I guess if you must deface things with spray paint, the least you can do is make it pretty and add a thought provoking statement…

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AND While I was out and about, I found 7 geocaches. :)

A fun Sunday!

Playing hooky.

It’s COLD in Austin today!   And since we are both off work, we decided to make it an adventure.   We took the Austin MetroRail train downtown to check out the Austin Boat Show at the convention center.

IMG_7409 IMG_7416Commuter rail is really only in its infancy in Austin.  It doesn’t go to too many places, but it’s a start.   People can and do debate the pros and cons of what Cap Metro has implemented.  We have never tried it though, til today.   Here are some things I observed:

– no park & ride parking lot at Kramer station.  we had to drive around to find a free spot on a street nearby.
– a day pass is $5.50 per person (actually valid for 24 hours), easy to purchase at the kiosk.  though one of the 2 machines was out of order at that station.
– trains don’t run into the evening (i.e. past 6:30 pm) on weeknights.  but, since today was Friday, trains do run til about midnight.
– the train was nice, on time, and warm.
– the cars have wireless for passengers to use.
– there are bike racks inside the train car.
– there were not many riders – each train appeared to only have 2 cars.
– the ride from Kramer station to downtown station, which is right outside the convention center, took about 25 minutes, with only a handful of stops.
– overall, it was a nice commute.   I’d ride it again.

After we got downtown, we were only 2 blocks away from one of my favorite restaurants, Chez Nous.  And they had just opened for lunch!  So, we had to go in.   Delicious, as usual.

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The boatshow was nice.   Lots of power boats, travel trailers, and our favorite vendor:  Texas Sailing.  Go check them out!  The show runs through this Sunday.

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From Zihua with love.

After her graduation last month, Julie spent a week in Zihuatanejo, Mexico with a friend – a well-earned treat after 2 1/2 years of hard work.   She brought us back this painted, wooden bowl as a gift.   She painted it herself!   And, I think it’s beautiful.

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She packed up her things and drove back to Washington State this week and is now back in God’s country.  She starts her dream job next week and has a limitless future ahead of her.   Well done, Julie!   We miss you already.

Ever heard of Zihuatanejo?   It’s a town on the southwest coast of Mexico.  I’ve never been.  I only know of it from Julie’s trip.  And from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  Great movie!  Anyway, at the end of the movie, after Andy escapes from prison, he finds his freedom in this beach town and his buddy, Red, meets him there in the closing scene, after making parole.   Great quote from the flick:  “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”    Amen.

Treasure trove.

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I recently discovered OpenCulture, a website that touts itself as “the best free cultural & educational media on the web.”  And i’m a fan!

They have compiled a listing of free audiobooks, movies, massive open online courses (aka MOOCs), and bunch of other interesting tidbits to enlighten and amuse.   I’m currently listening to a dramatized reading of Brave New World, narrated by its author, Aldous Huxley back in the 50s.   I read this novel in a mind-expanding and life-changing English literature class when I was in highschool.  It’s a treat for my brain, now that I have reached such an advanced age.  :)

OpenCulture also has daily posts that usually are clickworthy, you can add them as a blog (using their url) to follow via your WordPress Reader page or another RSS reader, or like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Check it out!

I ♥ Kohler.

When we remodeled our house 5 years ago, we put in a beautiful Kohler Simplice faucet (model number K-647-VS) at the big kitchen sink.

I love it.  A few months ago, though, it started leaking water from under the single hot/cold control handle.  There was always a puddle around the faucet.  It drove me NUTS.

Google showed me that Kohler has really great documentation on how to fix this on their web pages here and even a short video here.   And I eventually dug out and read the owner’s manual/guide that came with it  – yes… i keep those things :)   I read about the Kohler Faucet lifetime warranty.   You can read the fine print here, but Kohler basically says:  “if the Faucet should leak or drip during normal use, Kohler Co. will, free of charge, mail to the purchaser the cartridge necessary to put the Faucet in good working condition.”   Yes, free.   I can’t believe anyone does that anymore.

So, I called Kohler’s customer service line (1-800-4KOHLER) and described the problem to a real and knowledgeable person and they said with all likelihood it was a bad valve.  They sent me a replacement valve in the mail for free.   It arrived over the weekend, and I installed it.   VOILA problem solved!

I just wanted to give a shout out to a company that still provides great customer service!

Read on for a few comments on what was a little more difficult than described in my experience of changing the control valve.  Good Luck!  My DIY photo:

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The documentation and video online are pretty much self-explanatory.   There were 2 steps that took a bit more effort than I anticipated.

1) It took a significant amount of effort to get the Hot/Cold water control handle off (after removing the set screw) – more than I was capable of, so I enlisted Monte for that job.  It took a while, but it did come off with a sustained, firm, upward pull.   The problem was the black, plastic sleeve on the valve was stuck in the handle, creating loads of friction.  The new valve comes with a replacement black sleeve, so I had to remove the old one using needle nose pliers after the handle came off.

2) the decorative “bonnet” under the handle was hard to unscrew.  But, I used one of those rubber, grabber pads that helps unscrew the lids from jars.  And with some perseverence, it did the trick.  After those two steps, everything else went as advertised.

The replacement kit came with a teeny capsule of grease, which I spread around the new valve’s o-ring.  The video doesn’t mention that.

Yay KOHLER!