Monday, November 30, 2009
PP is off to a road trip for her next to last week at MCC. She's wielding her chain saw somewhere near Rochester.
So today, with the weather still decent and no snow yet on the ground, I went to check out the beaver dam that I was watching before my trip to the high desert. The beavers have been working on the ash trees near Upper Lake. I found one tree that was gnawed through, but had not fallen. This was a fresh casualty of the beavers, gnawed through recently and hung up on another nearby tree..
I walked around Upper Lake, hoping to see the animal of the day. After once around, I sighted a brown head swimming in the lake. I think it's one of the beavers, but I could be wrong. I tried to get closer for a better view and the creature went under water and never came to the surface again. I think that he may have retreated to his lodge, but after waiting about five minutes, I went on my way. It was definitely a wildlife sighting, however.
Incidentally, on my trek around Crosby Farm I sighted two guys on bicycles, and one was helmetless. It seemed to be too cold to bike without a head covering, but maybe it was just a hardcore guy.
No tennis today. I had the day off after three straight days of doubles with various groups. My timing is back - after the altitude problems in Tucson - and I'm playing pretty well. It would have been nice to have been in this zone while the tournament was going on. C'est la vie.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
We had a small, but hungry crew. We ate, watched some uninspiring football, and some after dinner walking occurred. Then we ate some pie - PP's apple pie with home made crust, and some savory pumpkin pie. There was some playing of Nintendo Wii and another Thanksgiving is in the books.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This photo is from Gates Pass on the way to the Desert Museum. I guess I was celebrating the fact that the tournament was over and we'd had a good time in the desert. I climbed to a minor peak in the pass and stood near a precipice to try to show the dramatic landscape in the photo. No animals were harmed in the production of this photo.
I took this at the Tucson Zoo. It's a small zoo in the same mammoth block that contains the Randolph Tennis Center. Jerry and I walked there on Thursday after our practice session. It's the first time I can remember being in the presence of rhinos. They are large animals. I also like to feature some wildlife on my blog from time to time and these creatures seem to qualify.
This shot was taken at the Desert Museum, west of Tucson. It shows some of the beauty of the desert and the mountains in the background.
Prof Bill called and invited me to play some tennis today, so I went to Fort Snelling to continue the wars with the rest of the geezer tennis association. We had some hard fought points and managed to finish a 7-5 set and part of a second one before our 90 minutes on the court elapsed. It was nice to get back to indoors tennis where the sun is never a factor and the wind never blows. My tennis game seems to be back after being thrown off beam by the altitude and the elements in the high desert. I had to play with a borrowed racket because I seem to have left both my rackets in Unky Herbs car after he picked me up at the airport, but the adjustment seemed seamless.
It's time now to start to get Thanksgiving plans in motion. I bought a turkey last night at Kowalskis - a 12.5 pound bird that is not frozen. I think feasting will begin in earnest the day after tomorrow if I can manage to get it roasted.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The picture below is of our number one team, Becky of the hardcore girls and her husband, Terry, are the team on the left. They are about to call the coin toss before starting the first match on Friday against Wichita. Becky and Terry had a bad day and lost the match
A point of interest is on the grounds of the Randolph Park Tennis Courts. The Little Joe memorial court graced by the bust of Little Joe. We played our matches very near this spot.
I personally played twice at the number two spot. Friday afternoon at 3:30, Becky and I lost to the number 2 team from Medford, Oregon, 6-1, 6-1. We played in a spirited manner but altitude related mistakes and a superior team took us down. The guy on the other team was another older guy, and remarked when I met him, that I was glad to see some gray hair on the other side of the net, and he laughed and agreed. He was 57. And had very consistent strokes.
I played Saturday morning with Barb (the other hardcore girl) against a couple of pleasant folks from New Jersey, both in their 30's or 40's. We did a little better, losing 6-1, 6-3, but I was able to hold my serve 3 times - point of pride for me. Our tournament was over and we spent the afternoon being tourists and rationalizing our lack of success.
Some of us went to the Desert Museum and took in the sights of the desert and the Saguaro cactus. (They are everywhere). The is Jerry, our captain, goofing around, pretending to ride a statue of a javelina, which he called a wild pig, and for which he was corrected by one of the Museum's employees. It's a nice museum, mostly outside, and which has a lot of animals which are not native to Minnesota, including big horn sheep and rattlesnakes.
The tournament is done. The team from Northern California, San Jose, I think, won the 8.0 tourney. It's a travel day for most teams. We stayed around and played a couple of sets on the courts after the action was complete. This group, Marsha, me, Jerry, and Carol are are members of the Minnesota team. A group picture of the whole team is probably forthcoming in a few days. Watch this spot.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A couple of photos follow from a brief, but very scenic stop at Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountain Range on the way back to town. The first is a picture of the place where I took the second photo, and the second is a photo of the place where I took the first photo. It is a quite dramatic place to visit, but the photo probably fails to do it justice. There are a lot of cactus in the valleys and cliffs around this pass.
This next photo was taken next to the stone building in the above shot, a building that was apparently erected in the 1930's by the WPA.
Jerry, our tennis team captain, is town for the tournament at Randolph Park. Tomorrow at 10 a.m. we, the parts of the team in town, are having a hit around at the tourney venue. There will be a team banquet in the evening and then Friday we begin the action. Newt is not expected to attend.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
My host led me on a hike to Ventana Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Tucson is completely surrounded by mountain ranges and the range to the north is the Santa Catalina Range. The climb starts at an elevation of 2950 feet and we ended at about 4200 feet at the place pictured below. Tucson is in the distance and a dry creek bed cuts through the mountains in the center. We crossed the creek bed several times on the way up. It took us just over three hours for the round trip. Notice the cactus.
There is a sign near the bottom of the trail saying that this is a bighorn sheep management area, but we didn't seen any sheep or, happily, any of those mountain lions or rattlesnakes. There were several nice vistas on the way up (and down) which show the prevalence of saguaro cactus in this part of the world, Cacti are everywhere. During the 3 hours on the trail we ran into 25 other hikers, by our actual count. We had a short discussion with a group of four hikers who were discussing their common home base - Minnesota. Stillwater and Rochester, I believe. It must have been Minnesota Day at Ventana Canyon today.
Because there has been some interest in the bike that I rode yesterday in Saguaro National Park, I have included a photo of the lender and the bike that I rode. Also pictured is a yucca tree, I believe, and Raggedy Andy. I had some difficulty with the shift mechanism until I got used to it, but, what the hay, no one got hurt. The borrowed helmet is not pictured.
After the hike we came back to the Stebbins Hotel, a place with great service and quite good food for dinner and to get ready for some tennis. I actually made my second batch of five bean salad in the five days since my arrival on Thursday. It's pretty popular with the host. And I must say he makes a mean grilled salmon as demonstrated last night for dinner.
Tennis went pretty well. I played three sets and managed to be on the winning team in two of them. The schedule for the tournament has been posted. We play matches beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday at Randolph Park Courts. My first match is at 3:30 at the same site. The fat is in the fire.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Part of the day was spent on a ten mile bike ride on a borrowed bike and wearing a borrowed helmet. Rich lives about two and a half miles from Saguaro National Park, named for the prevalent cactus type, which appears to be everywhere. The ride was a little hilly and it took me a while to get used to the shift mechanism, but in the end, worth the effort. This was taken outside the park after an up and down ride through the picnic areas. There were no mountain lions to be seen, but there were cacti and various other wild creatures not seen elsewhere. My total mileage in Arizona reached double figures.
Javalinas. They have found a home in Rich's front yard. These two were napping when we encountered them and didn't mind the photo taking. They are somewhat protected by cactus here and are relatively tame. They are native creatures and not wild hogs. I took several other photos of members or this band of javalinas that numbers about 15.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Rich took me for an afternoon trek through Sabino Canyon, a few miles from here. We walked about two miles up into the canyon, then two miles back and I took some photos on the way for the blog. It's quite a beautiful natural area.
This shot is at one of the WPA bridges that cross the creek that winds through the canyon. The creek was mostly a dry creek bed. There are trees and more mountain vegetation as we went up the mountain, and saguaro cactus plants are mixed in.
This gives an idea of the prevalence of the cacti all the way to the top of the nearby peaks. This is the foothills, and the mountains go much higher than this, It was a beautiful cloud free day and the temperature was in in upper sixties. A very nice day.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I managed to find the Randolph Park Tennis complex with the help of my host. He knows the city pretty well, and also where most of the tennis courts are. At these courts next week there will be 3 mixed doubles national tournaments, pretty much in unison - the 8.0 leagues, the 6.0 leagues, and the 2.5 leagues. The 8.0's where I'll be participating are composed of three doubles duos, wherein the ratings of the players adds up to 8.0 - quite often two 4.0 players like me, TTT. The courts are ready and seem to be quite playable. There are 25 of them in a mile square park containing several other athletic facilities.
I think I may be one of the first to arrive. I played on one of the courts, number 24, this afternoon on a windy day. There were even some raindrops falling on my head, a rarity here.
I've played at two other tennis facilities in my three days here. One was a dude ranch - Tanque Verde - with nice courts and the smell of horse offal in the air. The other was a country club with a swimming pool near the courts that makes most of its profits by catering wedding receptions. The courts were adequate.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Below is another cactus in Rich's yard. Cacti are everywhere here. There is even a National Park in town named for a cactus, Saguaro National Park. We drove through it today and it is filled with cactus plants. Cacti are everywhere here. There is a bike trail along the rode that could be used for a Tour De France mountain stage. There were no riders on it, but Rich says that there are plenty of accidents here each year on a particularly steep section of the road with a hair pin turn at the bottom. No place for a great flatlands rider.
There will be tennis news in the days ahead.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I checked out the butterfly garden near the Conservatory, too. Nearly all the color has gone from the site. The fragile flowers are long gone, but there are some plants with a cabbage like appearance that are still thriving. They must be an import from Siberia or the North Slope of Alaska to have come through October in a green frame of mind. There were no butterflies to be seen. But there were people out and about, enjoying Veteran's Day with a walk in the park.
The sports section has been reporting on Andre Agassi's new book where he admits to quite a bit of recreational drug (crystal meth?) use back before he hooked up with Steffi. Apparently he has never liked tennis that much, having been forced into the sport by a pushy, ambitious dad. He had a pretty good career and won a lot of money in the sport, so I suspect he enjoyed himself a little bit. Marat Safin thinks that Andre should give back the money and the titles. Martina also came down pretty hard on the guy. I guess his actions kind of stink, but at least he wasn't using performance enhancing drugs, in fact quite the opposite. He's older now and seems to be doing good things with his money. And he can't be too bad a guy if Steffi still loves him. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
As the St. Paul city site says about Hidden Falls, "The park dates back to 1887, when it was selected by Horace Cleveland, a nationally known landscape architect and park planner, as one of four major park sites for the City of Saint Paul. ..."
We played outdoors tennis today, the second time this month, beginning at about 3 pm and finishing as dark overtook this part of the state at about 4:45. The sun presented some tricky challenges, Because the trees are leafless and only branches blocked light, the shadows were blotchy. It was harder to see and accurately predict the path of a ball when the sun was up than it was after it had gone down leaving only ambient light. The cooler than normal temps made the balls less resilient and one had to hit the balls with much more gusto to get the usual result. And the little bit of wind required each player to more closely watch the ball to be able to hit it in the abbreviated sweet spot of their racket. All this made for some frustration, but also for some long and closely competed points. We managed two complete sets, 6-4, 6-3. This was preparation for the Tucson tournament. As I told Tennis Dennis, "now I'm ready to play tennis in cold weather." Not Tucson weather.
It was, however, a very fine September day in November.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I also managed to get the group to pose for a picture. They are funny people and the joking and laughing was out of control, but you can see by the photo that they were enjoying themselves. Then I went off to Hidden Falls for a walk in the wilds while the young'uns socialized. They're an entertaining bunch.
Funny story. My patio furniture rotted away a couple of years ago and I haven't replaced the table. PP and I thought we should have a table for the cookout, so we went to Menard's yesterday to buy some patio furniture. The signs indicated "Patio Furniture" above the department where they used to have patio furniture. They apparently moved that all to storage a couple of months ago and filled the space with Christmas decorations. There was not a single patio table to be had. We improvised for the cookout and it worked okay. I had an old card table and we used upside town waste baskets for coffee tables. I'm getting a new table next spring while there is a selection.
Other points of interest. Yesterday was Sunday and the weather was even better than today. So the GTA geezers played two sets of tennis outside, in the wind. Outdoors tennis on November 8. And we're scheduled to do it again tomorrow. We're starting later, about three pm and, given the shortness of the days lately, we'll be lucky to get in one set before the sun deserts us. But it will be outdoors tennis in November in Minnesota.
The order of months has apparently changed this year. Now it's August, September. October, and September again. I am not against it.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
There was mixed doubles at Wooddale tonight. The hardcore girls and Jerry are nearly ready for the Tucson trip. The schedule of play has been posted and we are all committed to the trip to the desert. It should be a nice adventure.
We played three sets tonight and then I was off to Yang's for their Singapore Rice Noodles. I'm thinking about asking for their recipe for posting on the family food blog.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I also learned that in the 17th century the Catholic Church ruled that the beaver is a fish for purposes of the dietary law. Thus, in Lent the faithful can eat beaver - also otter, if the truth be known. I am amazed at the things one can learn from Wikipedia.
I decided to walk around Crosby Lake. I have been by the lake on my bicycle many times, but the side that runs along the cliff has only foot paths, and rudimentary ones at that. It's a good size lake, but I set out into new territory. New territory is always a little exciting. I first found this deep crevice cutting into the cliff below Shepard Road. It looks dangerous and alluring.
There is also a previously unknown (to me) cave cut into the cliff. See below.
I only met one person during the wild part of the walk. It was a young woman walking with her Springer Spaniel. As I met her I observed that I hadn't expected to meet anyone on the trail. She responded that she had that same expectation. I then said that it was a pretty area. She said that she agreed and said that I shouldn't tell anyone about it. You are all thus sworn to secrecy.
On Crosby Lake there were more signs of beaver activity. There were some gnawed trees, an elevated beaver pond, and this large beaver lodge in the lake itself.
I have included a google maps reproduction of the area where I spent part of my day. I managed to circumnavigate both Crosby Lake and Upper Lake before I came home for a late lunch, maybe four or five miles.
Lastly. The Highland Villager, our local newsy paper reported some info about the deer hunt in Crosby Farm Park last week. The deer herd was estimated at about 24 members, and 5 of them were taken in the first three days of the hunt. There were 14 bow hunters who joined in the doe-only hunt. The same 14 will be at it again next week in the final three days of the attempt to trim the herd to a more manageable number. They hope to salvage some of the shrubbery in the yards of some Highland Park homeowners.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
This is PP entering the voting building. Somehow the photographer got caught in the frame. So be it. The voting area was not busy. No lines strung out of the room as they did last November in the presidential election, and we were able to get in and out in about ten minutes - including voting and getting our "I Voted" stickers.
I played some tennis at Fort Snelling this afternoon, just as the weather was turning wet yet again. We played a couple of sets and came out at 3:30 to a pretty good storm. One cannot count on a full day of pleasant weather, but at least the morning was sunny.
Monday, November 2, 2009
The interesting development at the lake is the activity of a group of beavers. They seem to be building a lodge for the winter out in the lake. They have been chewing down trees in the area. I took this shot of an ash tree that was recently felled, but there are others in the area. They bite quite large chips out of the tree trunks and the pile next to the trees is pretty impressive. We walked around the area, hoping to encounter one of the lodge builders, but it wasn't to be.
It's a wild spot in the middle of a metropolitan area and the beavers are doing what beavers do. This is the same area that had a deer hunt for archers last month and they'll be doing it again next week.
It was a sunny day, more like a nice October day than November.
A full moon is out tonight, the one known as the Hunter's Moon. The season is changing.
There was no tennis today, but I'm scheduled for tomorrow afternoon with three other geezers.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
PP went to a Halloween party last night and I'm including a photo of her costume. She went as a pirate, complete with a parrot and a sword. [Not a real sword or even a real parrot.] She managed to survive the party and is safe again from the demons of Halloween. I guess she learned a little about her coworkers and the evil firewater.
November is here. And immediately it warmed into the fifties. I feel somewhat encouraged.