Got first dose of COVID vaccine today.

End of a long wait? Light at the end of the tunnel finally or just the first hurdle crossed? Not sure how I feel. Not that I was waiting with baited breath to be vaccinated. I don’t have any plan of traveling in the near future and was kind of getting accustomed to the constraints of stay at home. Our HMO was falling woefully behind in vaccinating the different tiers ahead of us. Also the fact that my betterhalf won’t get vaccinated at the same time as me was another factor in my lack of enthusiasm to be vaccinated early with my age group.

However when we got an email from the CEO of our HMO that not even fifty percent of the age group ahead of us had been vaccinated and no dates could be estimated about our age groups and we may check other options to be vaccinated, my betterhalf started pushing me to register with the state and the county. Reluctantly I agreed but definitely did procrastinate as much as I could. The state site did not show any prospect but the county health services site did had an opening ten days after registration. All locations and dates prior to that were full.

Ultimately the date arrived today. The location was about ten miles from our house, a twenty minutes drive. As the place was unknown to me, I decided to be little early. The online registration asked to be there fifteen minutes before appointment time but I was forty five minutes before time. Boy, am I glad I did that. When I arrived at the facility and as I was entering the parking lot, I saw two long lines at ninety degrees to each other. From the car it was difficult to figure out which line was for what. After I parked my car, instinctively I moved towards the shorter line. It was also the line nearest to where I parked my car.

The sign near the end of the short line proclaimed “COVID vaccination by appointment only”. I felt good that I am in the right line. Then the elderly gentleman infront of me asked me when was my appointment. I said 11:45 AM. He said his was at 11:15 AM but he was in line for last fifteen minutes or so. Nothing that I could do. A volunteer came and told us to keep our IDs and appointment information ready for verification. A sign near by said Moderna vaccination only. However the volunteer informed us that the Pfizer vaccine was received the day before at the facility and therefore we would get the Pfizer vaccine. Till today, at that facility everyone had got Moderna vaccine. She also told that no fabric masks would be allowed inside the facility and to replace fabric masks with surgical masks that she provided if needed.

At the end of the line, ID and appointment information was verified and a clipboard and pen along with three pages of forms were provided to be filled up and on completion to go and stand in the long line to be ushered inside the facility. Here was the dilemma. There was no table and chair to sit down and fill the forms. People were sitting wherever they could and trying to fill up the forms. I decided to stand in the line and keep filling the form as the line moved. Thank God for the California sun. Though it was warm but better than be at the mercy of the weather gods like much of the US at present. The second line did maintain social distancing but to be honest, the first line fell woefully short in maintaining any semblance of social distancing. Once the forms were completed, staffs and volunteers checked them in the line itself and put a green sticker on top of the form. To the credit of the staffs and the volunteers, they were helpful and jovial and I must say, under the circumstances, they did and excellent job.

At one time only five people were allowed inside the facility. Once I entered through the main door, I thought the wait was over. Hah, it was not so. I think everyone had learnt well from Disney parks to hide the long lines inside from the people lining outside. One more station where the forms were checked and ascertained if people were there for the first or the second dose, those who were there for the first dose were made to stand in another line for registration. Those that were there for their second dose were sent in for vaccination directly from there.

There were six registration booths where the forms were taken, information entered into computers and a sticker with all necessary information was given to be pasted to the front of the shirt and then sent along to be vaccinated.

From that point onward, things moved fast. Health care professional who administered the vaccine to me was a really nice, young lady who answered all my questions thoroughly and before I knew it, it was over. She handed me a small card with the vaccination information and sent me to the appointment station for the second dose.

Following the well laid out yellow brick path, sorry the yellow arrowed path, I arrived at the appointment station, got my appointment date for the next dose, reminded to bring my card with me and I was done.

From the start of the process, that is standing in the first line till being done it took about fifty five minutes. Could the process be improved? Sure, everything can be improved. But without an iota of doubt, from the first encounter with the staff at the beginning of the line till the last person scheduling the second appointment, everyone did their job sincerely and in a jovial manner. My hats off to the health care professionals in the vaccination facility. Well done.

And thus completed my first dose of COVID vaccination. Five hours and still no signs of any discomfort. Soreness of the arm till now is non-existent. So far so good.

A Valentine’s Day Hike – Mount Umunhum beckons

Mount Umunhum, the highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains at 3488 feet is an ubiquitous presence in our life. The cube, an abandoned air force radar station and a relic of the cold war, on top of Mount Umunhum is clearly visible from our backyard. Our family had attended the grand opening of the designer trail, a 3.7 miles trail, from Bald Mountain to the summit in September of 2017. I was fortunate to get a guided trip down from the summit to Bald Mountain parking lot on that day. After that day, I had done the 7.4 mile round trip hike several times in different seasons.


However, the sixteen mile or so round trip hike from the Hicks Road parking lot up to the summit is a different matter altogether. I think the hike is moderately challenging, the nearly twenty two hundred feet elevation from the Hicks Road parking lot to the summit in about eight miles is OK except in few patches where the grade is steep and taxing. The hike, I should say, is more a test of endurance than being really challenging. Constantly changing microclimate of the mountain can be a challenge for unprepared hikers. For us, the day started cool but sunny at 40F. As we went up, we faced drizzle, light rain, warm sun forcing us to take off our jackets and howling winds at the summit. After about twenty five hundred feet, it was misty all through.


Sometimes in 2018, I along with my wife tried to hike up from Hicks Road but after about three and half miles and after hiking up a steep grade, she did not feel well and we returned back. Then sometime during the summer of 2019, I did that hike alone. But such a long hike in summer, unless, done really early in the morning, is not pleasant.


I was planning do this hike up to the summit from Hicks Road this winter. However my wife won’t allow me to do this alone and she planned to join. Something or other came up during few of the previous days we planned and ultimately everything fell in place on Valentine’s Day.
Thus we ended up on the trail on this Valentine’s Day and we did it our way, slow and steady. Started our hike up at about 8:45AM and at 6:30 PM, when we returned to the parking lot, ours was the only car there and the gates on Mount Umunhum Road were closed. Thank God that the exit gate opened automatically.

Cube on Mt Um as seen from the trail
Guadalupe River, just a stream here
What secret she holds down at the bottom of the gorge
At the summit. Cube was not tilted, my camera was.
Tree Arches
City lights seen from the trail during return trio

Valentine’s Day ended on a high note.
The body was sore but the spirits were high. To be on the trails with your valentine on Valentine’s Day is a reward itself.


Featured image is of Mount Umunhum from Hicks Road parking lot. Taken by author on February 14, 2021.

Five Years Old Today

I can assure you that when I got up today morning, I had no intention of writing this post. Forget the morning, even ten minutes back I had no inclination that this post was brewing. I was happily preparing my lunch, boiling lentils for the ubiquitous daal, staple of many Indian households for lunch and dinner, when suddenly popped up this announcement on my cell phone. Thank whoever is up there that my betterhalf did not see the announcement first. She would not have had the patience to scroll down and would have shot first. No, not with a gun, we don’t own one, but I dread more the treatment that would have been meted out more than the gun shot that I  am sure she would have missed.

To cut to the chase, I am five years old today. No, not in physical age, I don’t even remember being thtyat old any more. I am five years old by WordPress calender and that’s the anniversary note that popped up on my phone just few minutes back.

And what a wonderful five years it had been. Brought to social media kicking and screaming, I now relish the wonderful friends I have met across all the continents of the world except Antarctica. I have not met any of them physically yet but many of those friendships I cherish. They make life worthwhile through their writings and comments.

So without much ado, and before my dall boils over(and to spare myself from a tongue lashing), here is to friendship and a long, fruitful journey together in the world of writing in WordPress.

Sunsets, Sunrise and Nature’s Fury

Just ten days back, the sky was cloudy that by itself should not be a matter of concern to anyone. However in northern California, in summer, we are more accustomed to see clear blue skies during summer than cloudy skies, so much so, that to take a photo with the sky as a background one needs to have a good circular polarizer filter to get some contrast. So when the sky is cloudy, it is much easier to take photos with the sky as a background and normally we are rewarded with beautiful sunsets. So on August 13, Thursday, I was up on One Tree Hill near our house to capture a good sunset photograph. But even I was not prepared to see what nature presented. It was awesome.

Sunset from my backyard on the afternoon of August 13, 2020. Someone said that it looked like Martian sky. Maybe it was just the prelude to what nature had in store for us.

On Sunday, August 16, early morning, California was struck by an unusual dry lightning and thunder storm. Within a very short period of time several hundred intense lightning strikes were reported. As per report, during the next seventy two hours, the state was struck by more than ten thousand lightning strikes, though the majority of intense strikes were on early Sunday morning. As expected, fire started to light up around the state with majority of them concentrated in norther California. Rapidly burning fires forced evacuation as well as destruction of properties and natural wonders. The Big Basin Redwood Forest State Park, about forty five minutes drive from our house was burnt. The visitor center was completely burnt down to the ground. The fate of the old redwood trees, some older than two thousand years and two feet plus tall are not known yet.

Not sure if any of these behemoths are still standing after the fire. These photos were taken on August 1, 2015.

The fires are still burning without much of it being contained. For last four to five days now, the sky is covered by smoke from all the fires burning. University of California, Santa Cruz was evacuated. Thousands of firefighters are fighting valiantly to contain the fires. We pray for their success because in their success lies our safety. Please send your prayers for their safety. Already six people lost their lives. As I am writing this, lots of properties were damaged and many had to leave their homes to safety and others are packed and waiting for the dreaded evacuation orders.

As the state burns and the sky is covered with smoke, nature has presented her colors with beautiful sunsets and sunrises. It’s of little solace to all who are affected by the fury of the fire. We were staying at home due to COVID and now hoping that everyone can stay at their homes and not get displaced due to the fires. Though at first the smokes from the fires produced beautiful sunsets and sunrise, now it is only gray sky hiding the sun.

Sunset on August 17, 2020 from One Tree Hill

Sunrise on August 18, 2020 from my front yard
Midday sun on August 19, 2020 from my front yard. Sky covered in smoke.

Friday Babble

The internet medical sites have produced a group of self taught medical experts with little knowledge that is a dangerous thing for their spouses forced to bear the brunt of that faulty education creating a deep divide in society between the hypochondriacs and the others driven to near insanity by the well meant incomplete information.

Chinese privet- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 16

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

I just don’t understand who names plants.  No rhyme and reason at all.  Not sure why this is called Chinese privet unless the person in charge of naming this first saw this in China.  In fact this is so ubiquitous in our area that I would have completely missed it except for the loud humming of myriads of bees as I was walking by the side of a house.  People use it in many homes as boundary dividers or as ornamental hedge.  I walk by these every day and never give them a second glance.  But the humming of the bees made me look to my side and I found the hedges erupting with this beautiful and very mildly fragrant flowers.  Later on I read that the small berry like fruits that the plant produce are poisonous.  No wonder people use this as boundary hedges.

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thy sublime beauty

hides a mystery

fruits you produce, if eaten

will cause misery


A Rose is a rose

 

 

 

Spanish Broom- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 15

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

This may feel like cheating for three reasons.  First, it was not exactly a stroll, it was more of a drive. Second, it was not in the neighborhood, unless I could claim seventeen miles south from my house as neighborhood. And third and last, it’s not exactly a local flora.  This is an invasive species in California.  However these flowers captivated me so much along with the scenery that I hope my dear readers would forgive my transgressions.

Due to the stay at home restrictions we had been driving our cars very little now a days, using it mainly for grocery shopping once in two weeks.  Unfortunately one of the car’s battery died prematurely yesterday.  After a call to CSAA (California State Automobile Association) and getting a jump start, I was advised to take it for a long drive to charge the battery.  I chose to take a back road south of our home through the countryside.  Glad I decided to do that.  The two lane road goes through some low rolling hills and wooded areas with a few reservoirs by the roadside and couple of county parks.  Some seventeen miles south of our home, the beautiful vista near Uvas Reservoir County Park with its tranquil beauty was glistening in the afternoon sunlight.  I was afraid to turn off the engine, fearing that the car may not start again, and decided against a walk.  That did not stop me from enjoying the scenery from the roadside and nearly empty parking lot at the entrance to the park.

Can anyone imagine using these beautiful flowers as brooms?  Whoever gave that name must have a weird sense of humor.  Not the Spanish, I hope.

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tranquil and serene

lies the placid waters of the lake  

spanish beauties serenade

the entrance to take


A Rose is a rose

 

 

 

Aaron’s Beard (or Perforate St John’s-wort)- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 14

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

It was a misty morning yesterday when I took my dog Skooby out for a walk.  My wife accompanied me. It was a very pleasant morning, cool with a continuous drizzle that was mostly a fine mist than rain. Environment was surreal, like being transported back to a mystical land.  About a mile walk from our house is a small city park adjacent to the local elementary park.  Though the park benches are closed and cordoned off due to the corona virus preventive measures, the park itself is open to public for strolls. Whenever I take a walk that side with Skooby, I make it a point to go there for a mundane reason, the park has trash cans where one can deposit the dog poo bags and I make it a point to do that instead of carrying it with me all throughout the walk.  Imagine my surprise, as I was depositing the load and the sun came out momentarily from behind the clouds.  Right next to the trash can was this bush with the beautiful yellow flowers dazzling in the sun with leaves moistened by rain drops.  I must have seen that bush hundreds of times before but never did it look so magical.  However when I found out the name, only thought that came to my mind was that whoever had named it must be in the most inebriated state to name such a beautiful flower with someone’s beards or wort. What a calamity!  

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a misty morning brightened up

your mere presence filled the heart  

soothing like the moon

lighting up the night


A Rose is a rose