Monday, August 25, 2014

California magical (and natural) history tour

Last week K and I took a short camping trip. In the past we've done camping trips of a week or longer, but we've both been busy with work and other commitments and scaled this year's trip down to four nights. We split that between two locations, Manresa State Beach near Monterey, and Pinnacles National Park, near, well, not much of anything most people have heard of.

It was an amazing trip. Near Manresa we saw dolphins, whales, otters, California brown pelicans, quail, and various seabirds and shorebirds, including endangered snowy plovers. We also spent a lot of time just walking along the beach, watching the waves, and lamenting the the lack of bear boxes as we watched some raccoons eat the rest of our lasagne that was supposed to be lunch on day 2. After two nights there our reservation was up, so we headed to the east side of Pinnacles National Park. Our route went through historic San Juan Bautista, so we stopped to check out the mission and had a great vegan lunch at the Natural Wonders Health Food Store Deli. San Juan Bautista was also on the route of Juan Bautista de Anza and his historic journey leading some of the first European settlers to the Bay Area.

Once we got to Pinnacles, we picked out a campsite, set up our tent, and got the lay of things. It's not a big park by national park standards, but there's a lot to see. Even just around our campsite there were tons of birds to watch, including quail, wild turkeys, acorn woodpeckers, and turkey vultures. The next morning we drove further into the park and went on a short hike. A relatively short hike took us through caves that are home to several species of bats, and California red-legged frogs, and to a small reservoir where we got an amazing treat. While we sat on a rock enjoying the view, a juvenile peregrine falcon landed 10-15' from us and looked us over for a while before flying off. There are only two nesting pairs in the park, so they're even less common than the 25 or so California condors that call the park home. Seeing one is a treat; having it land next to you for a close look is unbelievable.

We hiked around more and enjoyed the views, then returned to our camp to relax during the worst heat of the day. At dusk, we got another treat as we watched a bobcat stroll 25-30' from where we were sitting. After dinner we waited until full dark. We could see a lot of stars and the Milky Way galaxy from our campsite, but the light from the campground was a bit of distraction, so we went to a nearby viewpoint where we could get true darkness. My attempts at astrophotography were OK, but I really think seeing the Milky Way live in the night sky is something everyone on earth should see.

It wasn't until we hit some traffic in San Jose that we turned on the radio and heard about the earthquake in Napa. It's always a bit jarring to return from extended time in nature to the metropolis of the Bay Area, but it was doubly so with the strange news.

Lots more pictures from the trip:

Monday, August 18, 2014

photo of the week: outside looking in

The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy with work and other commitments. While I haven't been out cycling and walking around Oakland as much, I have gotten in some Oakland-y goodness like a private Oakland Urban Paths walk (as a fundraiser for another non-profit), a trip to the Oakland History Room, a Black Panther history walk in North Oakland (post coming), dinner at The Dock at Linden Street (post coming), talked with Tina Tamale about Oakland history and my upcoming book (post coming), and a few other things, but I've had almost no time to write about any of them. This shot is returning from Alameda on Sunday. K and I went to see her niece perform as Donkey in Shrek: The Musical. It was a lot of fun, but left me wishing for a longer weekend to do more writing. This week won't see a lot of Our Oakland posts, either...we're taking a longer weekend and going camping. Oakland, country, world: please be nice to each other (for a change) while we're gone. #thatisall

Thursday, July 31, 2014

upcoming Oakland events

Festival season in Oakland is in full swing with the Art and Soul Festival, and tomorrow is a First Friday, so there's tons of stuff to do. Note that Friday is a Spare the Air day, so while it's always a great idea to walk, bike or transit to Oakland happenings, it's an extra good idea on Friday. Bike East Bay will be providing free valet bike parking at Art and Soul on Saturday and Sunday.


Start things off with dinner at my favorite food truck gathering, Bites off Broadway. Friday is a First Friday, which means it's time for Art Murmur. Art Murmur has spread all over Oakland, from Uptown to Temescal to Jack London Square. There's also Jack's Night Market and Dancing Under the Stars (electric slide, anyone?) at Jack London Square.

Hanging out in Uptown for First Friday? Join The New Parkway Theater for a celebration of the completion of their new facade, with pizza, beer and live music from local gospel rap group Team Zoe.


The big event is the annual Art and Soul Festival, with food, fun, music, dance, family activities, and more. On Saturday, there's a special event, the Oaktown Throwdown BBQ Competition, featuring local BBQ celebrity Tanya Holland.

Saturday there's the annual Urban Wine Xperience put on by the East Bay Vintner's Alliance (get some pro tips from East Bay Dish's Christina Mitchell).

Art Murmur too busy for you? The Saturday Stroll is a chance to check out the art without the big crowds. There's also Baycation Day at Classic Cars West to celebrate the first Saturday Stroll of August.

There are also numerous art receptions at various Oakland galleries, including one for the artists of Project 275 at Gray Loft Gallery in Jingletown.


Sunday is the second day of the Art and Soul Festival, and its special event, The Whiskey Rebellion, a chance to taste a wide variety (60+) American whiskeys. It's a fundraiser for Oakland Grown and the Sustainable Business Alliance. Drink for a good cause!

Coming Up

Shakespeare in the Park at Peralta Hacienda, The Town's Half Marathon, Oakland Triathalon, and more!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nerd Nite East Bay

Last night I attended Nerd Nite East Bay at the New Parkway Theater. What, you may ask, is Nerd Nite? Two to three speakers provide 18 to 20 minute long fun and informative presentations across a wide variety of disciplines. It's a bit like a TED talk, but can be about anything. You eat and drink and listen, and can ask questions at the end. What that doesn't tell you is how fun and interesting it is.

Last night's talks were:
  • Great Moments in Pedantry: The Modern Girl's (Or Guy's) Guide to the Seventh Century Easter Controversy by Alice Handley
  • How to Fix Climate Change for Free by Dan Miller
  • Crazymaking: The History of Mental Illness in the U.S. by Sharon Osterweil
As you can see, a wide variety of disciplines. What they have in common is that they're subjects the speakers are interested in. The results were sometimes funny, sometimes sobering, but in all three cases informative and interesting.

It's well worth the $8 admission price (plus any food and drink you consume). The New Parkway is a great location not just for movies, but watching sports and events like Nerd Nite. Nerd Nite is held the last Monday of every month, so check it out. Who knows? I may be speaking about Oakland history at a future event...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

signs: Foothill Square

Idon't have any pictures of the old Foothill Square shopping center sign, but it's great to see activity there again in any event. And I want to get a picture of this at night, too.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks with work, but I took a couple of minutes on the way in to take this picture and a couple of others for the Oakland Wiki, like this of Fire Station #26. Tomorrow I'm hoping to work on my book and maybe do another blog post, but we'll see...