Sunday, September 17, 2023

The National Mall (D.C.)


IMG_9904I nearly let the summer pass without posting pictures from my summer visit to one of my favorite parks: The National Mall. I wish that I could reflect more. But I’ve been busy. On the Run is very fitting at the moment. No excuse for not reflecting.

The National Mall (Located in DC) is a national treasure for sure. I’m grateful that I got to see it once again this summer. It was sweltering hot but I loved it anyway. And then we got rained on. Poured on actually, like a giant bucket tilted over and drenched us in a split second. I loved that too (though a bit uncomfortable).  Everyone ran to the Lincoln Memorial, and there hundreds of us looked off at the Washington Monument as lightening struck in the distance. It was a beautiful day that ended with dinner at a steak house (Medium Rare) in Arlington, with my husband, my oldest and middle son and his girlfriend.



Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Arlington National Cemetery, Va


20230626_162601The first time I visited Arlington Cemetery (back in April 2021), I didn’t go inside the gates because I wouldn’t have been able to pass security check. Stupid me, I didn’t think there would be an airport style security check at a national cemetery. My problem was: I had a stun gun on me at the time and couldn’t put it back in a car because I didn’t have a car. I had taken the subway to Rosslyn, Arlington and walked to the cemetery (which was the reason for the weapon – I was a girl alone in the city). Well, this time (June 2023), I made sure that I was Arlington National Cemetery ready. I was with my family and we drove to the cemetery, nice and proper to pass the security check.

It was hot as hell this time around. Wretchedly hot. My husband and I were on a mission being that we only had an hour or so before the park closed. So, we high tailed it out of the airconditioned Welcome Center and made our way through the rolling hills, along the path through the gravesites. The mood was solemn with people talking only in hushed voices.

A little history of the cemetery: The land that it sits on belonged George Washington Parke Custis who was  the grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. George’s daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis inherited the property, and she was Robert E. Lee’s wife (Confederate general during the American Civil War). Just before the Civil War, the Lee family vacated the property and shortly after, troops used the land as headquarters. The first military burial took place in May 1864, and as the DC area graveyards filled up with Civil War dead, more and more soldiers were buried on the Lee property. That June, the US War Department officially set aside about 200 acres to use as a cemetery. By the end of the Civil War, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried in Arlington Cemetery. Today it has about 400,000 gravesites.

Our main goal on that hot day in June was the top of the hill: The Lee Family residence. But along the way, we came upon the JFK’s gravesite (as well as, his wife Jacqueline and brother Robert Kennedy). We stood before the Eternal Flame for a bit with a few other strangers. No one spoke. The seriousness of the spot is enormous. The importance: still not known. After the Kennedys, we continued up the hill along the beautiful green lush path in heavy muggy heat.

IMG_9845IMG_984120230626_16144520230626_16282120230626_163042The view from Robert E. Lee’s house is tremendous. You can see a straight view to the Capitol, there’s the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, a beautiful spot high above the swamp. (DC, as many of you probably know, was built on a swamp). The giftshop behind the home was closed. But there was a drinking fountain! I had finished my bottled water long ago.

We toured the kitchen garden, which was poorly kept. Then made our way down the hill stopping to look at sculptures and detail along the way.

Lee Residence:
20230626_16351520230626_163410View between the pillars on Lee Residence front porch:20230626_163345

Down the hill from the Lee Residence, and then up another, we made our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arriving just a few minutes before 5, we stayed until closing so that we could witness the changing of the guard.Though the spot was packed (I know it doesn’t look it in the pictures) the place was silent. If there was talking, it was in whispers.

Not sure what I’m doing here, maybe getting in position to take a photo:

The entire process of changing guards is lengthy, a little over ten minutes. It’s an amazing ritual, standing guard over this tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like this. It’s kinda of maddening though to sit there and ponder the number of unknown soldiers. Breaks my heart.

IMG_9868IMG_9861Leaving Arlington National Cemetery as it closes:

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Central Park, NYC

355478574_10232828641036969_2732602052579055285_nCentral Park, New York City: 843 acres of park in the midst Manhattan Island, New York City. A quick online search says it’s the most visited urban park in the US. I had never been but it sounded like a cool place to visit. I after all have been a lover of parks my entire life. . Sounded like a cool place to visit since I am a park connoisseur. But I  but never planned on it. First opened in 1858, Central Park was completed in 1876. I visited Central Park in 2023.

I remember learning about Central Park in college, and even knew the landscape architect’s name at one point (my husband also is a landscape architect). The only things I knew of the park came from the television Sitcom Friends which was set near Central Park, in an apartment above a coffee shop named Central Perk, and also of course, sadly, the Central Park jogger brutal attack back in 1989 (when I was only 24 years on this planet, so of course it left quite an impression on my brain).

In June 2023, when I stayed in Harlem, NYC for six nights, I was about a ten minute walk, 13 blocks,  from Central Park (specifically the Harlem Meer near the northeast corner of the park).

355297875_10232820555434834_2993091659882333092_n (1)

355299788_10232836753519776_4277668132274639360_nMy husband and I visited Central Park on at least three occasions during our stay in NYC. I can’t be sure. I recall our first morning, we made a deliberate trip to the park, stopping at a deli on the way back to our brownstone. Another time we bought some Cajun fried calamari and made it lunch in Central Park. And on another day, we set out to see the park in it’s entirety (or at least skirt by its entirety).

NYC has Citibikes every few blocks (possibly less if you know the map and locations). We rented said bikes. I can’t tell you the cost because I don’t recall. It’s so much a mile, and you must dock every thirty minutes. What I mean by dock is, you need to find a Citbike rack, park your bike and check it out, or another again. For a standard bike, the cost is only $19 for 24 hours (but I believe you do  not need to dock every 30 minutes). I opted for said standard bike and mistakenly rented a pedal assist bike for my husband. I was okay with that because, hey, even though I’m old and out of shape, I’m strong (famous last words?).

Well, that dang standard bike was fun for at least one additional dock. After that, with all the gentle slopes in the park, I was fricken exhausted Still, I wanted to tough it out because I’m that stubborn. Thankfully, we had to park our bikes through the tranquil botanical gardens. That bought my heart some time. But after that, I had more hills to cover before I was absolutely exhausted.

355690702_10232836735759332_5646522460900561915_nEventually, during one of our every-thirty-minute dock, I traded my conventional bike for a pedal assist bike so that I could keep up with my husband, and Central Park opened up. We took in as much as we could, traveling along paths through meadows, along green lakes lined with weeping trees. We rode alongside horse drawn carriages and through traffic jammed roads of NYC for 51 blocks, and pedaled around the entire perimeter of the park. Even with pedal assist bikes there was too much to see. It was all green, lush and a little muggy with a cool breeze – pretty perfect for a ride around the park. If we had more days, we would have definitely returned for some more detail trips.


Friday, July 14, 2023

A Quick Preview of Harlem

Not much running or hiking this summer (in fact, none). But there’s always an adventure, right? My first adventure for the summer is that I got to visit New York City. New York City (or even NY for that matter) was not on my bucket list. But it quickly made the list when my middle son was accepted into an orchestra for the Guitar Federation of America at the Manhattan School of Music.

IMG_9347And so, thanks to my son, off to Manhattan was I. It was a little surreal flying over that Manhattan Island skyline. We landed in LaGuardia on a Sunday evening and shuttled to a lovely historic brownstone in Harlem. It was like a bed and breakfast, without the breakfast. But we had a small kitchen in our room, which included a loft for our son’s girlfriend. We were a little less than a mile from the Manhattan School of Music which was perfect being that our son stayed at the dorm there on most nights.


So, let me tell you about Harlem. I loved it. It’s full of history, intricate architecture, excellent food and Central Park! The owners of our brownstone were great and gave us total privacy. The whole place was in fact private. I occasionally would see another tenant open or close a door but that was it. It was lonely inside the brownstone. But Harlem, it was not lonely. It was lively, reeking of marijuana and countless food joints. Many streets were lined with food carts (Jerked chicken, pork, warm nuts, etc.). I had my first New York pizza in Harlem. And I bought a blue paisley dress for $20 on the streets of Harlem. Harlem was not what I’ve heard about New Yorkers. Everyone talked to us. Everyone was friendly, regular people. We stayed six nights in the brownstone, ate at more than one deli (as there were about three deli’s on every block), plus enjoyed many other great eateries, including a gem that we ate at twice, Sylvia’s, Soul Food Restaurant (in business for 60 years!). Harlem is part of the big city though, so I was cautious and mainly stayed on the beaten path, especially after dark. I have to say, I very much enjoyed my time in Harlem, more so than any other part of New York City I visited  – I’ll try and preview some of those spots in my next post.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Covid Hike

I am just now catching up with my life after my Covid hike back in April (2023). The Sunday before Good Friday, I decided to head out for a 13 mile, lackadaisical hike up Black Star Canyon. Unbeknownst to me, I had Covid – my first bout. It didn’t dawn on me that I was sick. The symptoms were so weird. I felt emotional, worn out and cold. Of course, I put in some extra effort on this lackadaisical hike because that’s who I am. I took a detour down to the creek just above the falls, and then after that, I found a couple more detours up on the plateau. It really was lovely out. The skies were optimistic! Of course they were, it was the season of Lent. I had a stations of the cross hike coming up, and after that, my favorite service of the year: Good Friday. Alas, I was off on this hike up Black Star. Really off. But as I mentioned, the skies were optimistic. Wildflowers covered the hillsides. Water flowed in every creek. So, at the end of the day when I felt like I could lay down and die, I chalked it up to being out of shape. I remember stopping by the grocery store on the way home and bundled up, shivered down the aisles. I still didn’t think I was sick. No cough, sore throat, not even the sniffles.

Monday morning, I dragged myself out of bed for a much anticipated phone meeting with the USFS about race permits and dates. I got through the meeting but afterwards wondered if I was indeed ill. Still no normal symptoms, just extreme fatigue. Nah, it was the hike. So, I went to work (but I didn’t take the bus as I had been). Then on the way home I stopped by The Irvine Spectrum, a wonderful, beautiful . . .  mall!! I’m sure you can imagine the reason for my exclamation points. The thought that I had Covid never even crossed my mind. (I still cringe Disappointed smile.)  No one in my family was ill, and to my knowledge I had not even been exposed. I just kept blaming the hike and other issues in my life. It never crossed my mind until I stumbled through the front door Monday evening and went straight to bed, shoes, clothes and all. Several hours later, I took a Covid test. After setting up class cancellations for the week, I went back to bed aching and shivering. I remained there for a couple days.  

I’ll tell you! It’s been a long time since I’ve done absolutely nothing. When I wasn’t asleep, I was laying in bed still because I had no energy. Never lost my taste, never had many of the classic symptoms. Mainly, I was lethargic, achy, cold, and emotional. When I finally got well (along with my family because we all got it), I was one of the last to regain my energy. It took several weeks in fact after testing negative. During that time, it seems like all the things that I normally do in my life went out the window – hiking, piano, reading, writing, chores – all of it took too much energy. My guess is that the Covid hike didn’t help matters much. I think I got sicker than I would have, had I skipped the hike.

In all, I thankfully didn’t really get that ill, though it wiped me out a great deal. I’m fine now. And I’m finally caught up. The spring semester has just ended. I’m all prepped for the summer session just around the corner. Looking forward to some local hikes and travel in June! Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a race date as well for the 2023 Saddleback Marathon by then too (just waiting on confirmation).