Just dormant

Not dead yet, just dormant. Visiting my birthplace, making new friends. Keeping busy. But all good things, actually all things must come to an end. Now it’s time to return in two days.

What is life if not a flowing river rushing to meet the ocean and merge. New banks, new course. Bone dry in summer heat, replenished and rejuvenated by the monsoon rains. What is carried in its bossom is for others to decipher. It just flows oblivious to the joy and pain it spreads. Not indifferent, it does not even know the meaning. Never returning to its source, it just explores.

photo of river Brahmaputra in Guwahati by author

Ubered in the City of Joy

Uber Experience in Kolkata: April 13, 2022

I am in Kolkata for the last few days as part of my travel to India during March – April of 2022 staying with my friend in New Town, a planned satellite town being developed for last so many years with wise streets, modern amenities, highrises and the town being near the airport makes it a desirable place to live. Infact residents of New Town do not have to go to old town Kolkata unless visiting friends and relatives. And that’s where the issue arise. I was here about four years back when the metro connection was being built. That metro is still not completed. So to visit family or friends in other parts of old Kolkata one has to depend on app based taxi services unless someone is brave enough to take the public bass services. I was not that brave to face an overcrowded bus in the oppressive humidity for which Kolkata is well known.

So come evening yesterday I and my friend found ourselves just outside the gates of the housing society waiting for the UBER driver who was supposed to be there in a few minutes. Well, after few cancelled reservations by UBER drivers and multiple calls going unanswered we were finally graced by the visit of an UBER driver. With a sigh of relief we sat down expecting the comfort of air conditioning to dry off the drenching sweat that had bathed us by that time. Well, we expected too much. Our merciful lord, the UBER driver, gave us all the excuses under an invisible moon hidden by the smog or cloud that had been hiding the sun for last few days in Kolkata why he would not allow us the privilege of an air conditioned ride to the City of Joy except agreeing that he was contractually obligated to turn on the air conditioning. To make a long story short, we had the pleasure of listening to his running commentary of how UBER was responsible for the devious ploy of depriving us of the pleasure of having what we have paid for and how and his fellow cohorts are going to ensure that we get our dues in some not too distant future because they were hard (or was it hardly) at work to serve their customers to the best of their abilities.

So one part of the ordeal was over. We had a good time with our friend and now it was time to come back. And then the fun started. If during coming it was couple of cancelled bookings now it was one cancellation after another. For every booking there would be about ten or fifteen minutes waith time. On your cell phone phone app you see the car moving a few blocks and then a permanent stall with calls being answered by a voice message saying that the caller was not reachable. We must have waited about an hour before an UBER driver picked up the phone and the app showed a constantly moving car.

Hallelujah! So we were finally on an UBER car about to be driven back home. But oh, wait! More surprises were waiting us. As we sat down on our seats the driver shut off the engine and asked my friend for the fare agreed upon by UBER. We were surprised. My friend asked whythe driver needs the fare. It’s between him and UBER. However the driver refused to budge and ultimately my friend gave in. We were simply too tired. More surprises waiting for us. Now my lord the driver wanted to see the cellphone of my friend and he really insisted. My friend asked the driver if he didn’t believe what my friend said but the driver just was insistent. Finally my friend gave his cell phone to the driver who took one look and gave the phone back to my friend. The driver said that he cancelled the booking and we could give him the agreed fare once we reach our destination. We were shocked but what to do. Get down and start the whole process again? What guarantee was there that we would get another one and if we get one how much time we may have to wait. We agreed and finally the car started moving. What a relief! We asked the driver to put the a/c on and lo and behold! another surprise. That would be an extra fifty rupees. This time my friend lost his patience and gave the driver a most profound sarcastic tongue lashing in perfectly chaste Hindi with due emphasis on the appropriate words to drive his point home. The result was that the sullen lord graced us with some cool air from the car a/c. The rest of the journey was made in dead silence.

When we reached home my friend asked me to take a photo of the license plate which I did. The driver was visibly upset and asked why we took a photo of the license plate. My friend responded that there was nothing further to talk and the driver would come to know the consequences soon. The look on the face of the driver as he drove away was enough to sooth some of our pains being ubered in the city of joy. Neither UBER nor it’s drivers care for the customers. They are there in this business to make money and customers conme last.

A Santa Cruz Vacation

house under fumigation

to vacate was the instruction

arranged a quick vacation

looking forward to relaxation

to Santa Cruz with anticipation

hoping to get rid of my affliction

from the disease tion(I am afflicted….)

We went  for a quick vacation to Santa Cruz for two nights. Santa Cruz being less than an hour’s drive from our house, we go there quite frequently but normally always on a day trip. This time we decided to take a midweek break and booked a two nights stay at Ocean Echo Inn and Cottage.  The small Sunny Cove beach was just next to the inn.

 

We arrived at the inn at about three in the afternoon, so we spent the afternoon in the beach. We were rewarded with one of the most stunning sunsets I had ever seen.

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We had dinner at an Italian Argentinean restaurant and hoped to call it a day early. Unfortunately once we put the TV on, before we realized it was past mid-night.

Next day after breakfast we drove to  Natural Bridges State Park. It was a beautiful day and we were rewarded with an amazing vista.

After spending some time at the Natural Bridges State Park, we walked towards the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk along along West Cliff Drive by the side of the ocean.

The long walk of about five miles certainly made us hungry and we had an excellent lunch at Crow’s Nest restaurant in Santa Cruz harbor. The walk and the good lunch had a relaxing effect and we decided to have an afternoon nap followed by a walk on the beach.

As we were leaving for home in the morning and my better half was driving directly to her work, we had an early dinner and went to bed early. By morning the weather had turned cool We had our breakfast at the inn patio and after a last look at the beach and ocean headed home, sure to be back again.

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A spur of the moment trip to Big Sur

Yesterday I became temporarily homeless for the day.  Contractor had told me a few days back that the floor guys would come and apply the final stain coating to the floor yesterday.  I need to go out of the house for the day.  Based on my experience from the initial two coats that were applied a few weeks back when we had to leave the house for three days, I thought if they apply the coat by early morning, I should be able to be back by the evening.  What I forgot to account for was that the same guys were supposed to stain the fireplace mantel also and that added hours to the schedule.  based on my earlier assumption I had no made any arrangements to stay anywhere.  First I had to make arrangement for my dog Skooby for an overnight stay at the kennel. By the time I made the arrangements and dropped Skooby off, it was 12 noon and 91 F, sizzling.  I had no plans, no place to go and decided to hit the beach and drove towards Monterrey.  As I was filling gas for the long drive, I realized that I had not been to Big Sur for a long time, specially after the coastal highway was closed during 2017 – 2018 for nearly fourteen months due to land slide.  So in a spur of the moment, I decided to drive to Big Sur, about ninety miles south of my house.  Boy, was I glad that I made that decision.  Coastal weather was fantastic, sunny but cool 64 F, not much traffic and the beautiful, scenic drive.

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Carmel from Monastery Beach

BIXBY

Bixby Creek Bridge – most photographed land mark on the west coast

By around 4:30 PM, the temperature had dropped to about 58 F as fog was rolling in from the ocean. I decided to head back home but before I could call it a night it would be 3:00 AM in the morning after a late night movie, Avengers : End Game, and a late night or early morning dinner at Denny’s. The bed never felt so good.


All photos by author on June 5, 2019

Windy City

I am visiting Chicago for a week with my wife and then drive to Iowa City to attend a wedding. Landed in O’Hare Airport late Saturday night and stayed overnight at the airport hotel instead of driving to the city late at night. Rented a car on Sunday morning from the airport and drove to Chicago Botanical Garden. It was a cold, gray day with forecast of rain. It was also Mother’s Day and place was full of visitors. The Botanical Garden is simply fabulous. Colors galore. Will share (or try to share) photos with my next post. My cell phone simply started acting up from the evening and going into a perpetual restart mode. Somehow or other I am keeping it working and hope it survives the trip.

From the Botanical Garden drove noth to North Dune State Preserve by the shore of Lake Michigan. बाद decision. Wind was howling and our bay area attire for cols simply could not stand up to the wind. It was chilly to say the least. Forgot our idea of exploring the shores of Lake Michigan and drove back to our hotel for the night. Evening was damp, windy and it started drizzling. We abandoned the idea od driving to Devon Avenue in search of a good Indian dinner and settled for a local Italian steak house. Best decision of the day.

A Walk along Los Alamitos Creek

I did a 8 mile walk along Los Alamitos Creek today.  It had been raining here continuously for last few days. Even as I am writing this post, the house windows are being rattled by gusts of wind. The constant drip drip sound of the rain on the roof is putting me to sleep.

Los Alamitos Creek is about eight miles long, originating in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flowing along the eastern side of Almaden Valley.  The creek joins the Guadalupe River after Almaden Lake. Los Alamitos Creek Trail along the creek is about ten miles long.  The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed.

As I started from my home, it was cloudy with the sun trying to come out from behind the clouds .28e63dac-bd6b-436e-816f-d5a6c5d0b956 The hills including Mount Umunhum in the west were hazy, covered in rain clouds.  The trail itself is well paved for bicycles, hikers and joggers with small detours that lead from the paved trail to the creek banks in many areas.  I entered the trail after walking about a mile from my home.

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Winter rains had turned the meadows near the creek bed verdant green. Trees, bare naked in winter, against the green meadows and a darkening sky was a sight to behold.c46fbf2c-d2cf-40ff-b804-80e8365237e1_resize

 

The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed. It was full with gushing waters and looked like a small river.5a7199c0-bb35-46d4-916f-d872776fe193_resize

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As I was about to return, the rains started. It was a slow drizzle at first but became a driving rain by the time I was about a mile from home. Then just as suddenly a huge gust of wind blew the rain away though I could still see the heavy rains on the hills.  I hurried home as fast as I could praying my tired legs would not slip on the wet pavements.  Though I was extremely tired after the long walk, my heart was full and satisfied.

Vacation Time: Wrap Up

Nine days passed quickly and before we knew it, we were back home December 15 at around 9:00 PM.  I had missed posting about day two and day three. So I will summarize here day two and day three along with day seven through day nine.

Day Two, December 23, in Las Vegas went in a blur.  The day was spent mostly resting after a tiring  fourteen hour drive from San Jose, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on day one. Normally it should not have taken more than ten hours. We had a good dinner at Mount Everest India’s Cuisine in Las Vegas. Lines were long and the place felt little cramped but the food was delicious.  I will definitely recommend the restaurant to any one looking for alternative to buffets on the strip.  After dinner we went to see a Ka, a Cirque du Soleil show at MGM Grand. It was a grand show but I must have slept through much of the show as I remember my daughter nudging me continuously during the show trying to wake me up. I just crashed after coming back to hotel.

Day Three, December 24,  Christmas eve, drove from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam. It was a bad decision.  Traffic to Hoover Dam was terrible.We had been to Hoover Dam before but my two younger kids had no memories of those visits during their childhood.  We lost more than three hours of time and due to Arizona being one hour ahead of Nevada, by the time we arrived in Grand Canyon it was already evening and we missed viewing sunset over the Grand Canyon.  So we ended up having an early dinner at the Yavapai Lodge restaurant and retiring early to ensure not missing sunrise over Grand Canyon. Glad that we did it as we were rewarded with incredible sunrise view next morning.

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Sunrise over Grand Canyon, December 25, 2018

I posted already about day four through day six, so I will continue below with a summary of day seven through day nine.

Day Seven, December 28, started bright and sunny at Bryce and bitterly cold.  Our rental car did not have a scraper, so we had bought one on our way  to Grand Canyon.  It came handy as the windshields were completely covered with thick layers of ice.  We were planning to leave Bryce early to Zion National Park but by the time we left our hotel it was nearly 11:00 AM. The road from Bryce to to Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful.  Nearly every turn on the road presents travellers with vistas that can only be carried in one’s heart.  Camera can not do justice.  I am sure that if the creator is not a cruel one, I will have another chance in my next life to visit Zion again. One visit, no one life, is not enough.

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We entered Zion National Park through the east entrance and drove along the scenic road to the visitors center at around 2:00 PM.  Parking lot was full and signs posted asked cars to be parked in town ( Springdale ) just beyond the south gate. Luckily we got a parking spot just near the visitors center as some one left .  We took the shuttle to the last stop on the forty minute shuttle ride to Temple of Sinawava. It was a pleasant ride with grand vistas. After getting down from the shuttle, we took the trail along the Virgin river to the narrows. As we did not rent equipments to walk on the river ( also that it was freezing cold and late in the day), so would leave that to our next visit.  It was magical.  As we did not want to miss the last shuttle and face the daunting task of walking back six miles to the visitor center in dark and freezing cold, we reluctantly trekked back to the shuttle stop and drove to our hotel in Springdale just outside the south gate of Zion National Park.  After dinner at a Thai restaurant ( many of the restaurants in Springdale close for winter for two months from January to March), we called it a day as we had planned some long hikes the next day.

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Virgin River

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Icicles hanging on the cliff walls- reminded me of  a Shakespeare sonnet “Icicles hanging on The Wall” – a poem from my high school textbook

Day Eight, December 29, I got up early as I wanted to go to the park to view sunrise over the majestic canyon.  Alas, my family members prefered the warmth of a comfortable bed over the cold morning. So I was left to satiate my wish with the view of sunrise from the hotel walkway.

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After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove the short distance from the hotel to the visitors center and took the shuttle to The Grotto.  We did a short hike to the picnic area and then went to the Emerald Pools.  These hikes were not very strenuous but some portions of the trail to Emerald Pools were icy.  At shady areas, icicles were hanging to the walls and in places where sun rays had heated the cliff walls sufficiently, ice melt water was streaming down the walls.

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We finished our Zion trip with a hike up Watchman Trail.  The elevation gain on this trail was three hundred and eighty four feet. However by this time in the afternoon the sun was up and the heavy jackets we were wearing made the hike up quite uncomfortable. The view of the valley below including the town of Springdale was majestic.  We bid adieu to Zion in late afternoon to Las Vegas for the last part of our trip but left our hearts at Zion.

Day Nine, December 30, Time to return home.  Dropped my son at Las Vegas Airport for his return to his workplace, packed and started our journey back to San Jose.  Completely uneventful return trip except for a stop at Barstow for lunch.  The fake railroad station, Barstow Station, that houses many fast food restaurants inside look alike railroad cars is intriguing but the food is same as other franchises.

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As we were driving down California 46 to Interstate 5, we were greeted with the view of a magnificent sunset.  By the time I managed to get a picture from the back seat of the car, sun had already gone down the horizon.  It was an appropriate end to our trip with my last sunset photo of 2018.

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All photos taken by author.  Equipment: Canon XSI and Panasonic LX10, except the sunset photo that was taken by my cell phone.

Vacation Time: Day Six – Winter Wonderland

Our plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and also to catch sunrise and sunset there on December 27.

The day started with snow flurries in Bryce. While it was great to look at from inside the warmth of the hotel breakfast room, it also became quite clear that viewing a Bryce Canyon magical sunrise was not in our destiny in this trip. By around noon it was clear that the flurries were not going to end and we decided to brave it. On driving down to the visitor’s center, we came to know that thanks to the partial government shutdown, only a small portion of the park was open, mainly due to financial help of the state government of Utah. Big thanks to UTAH.

Completely covered from head to toe due to the cold with temperatures in low 10 (F) and with wind chill around 4F and blowing snow flurries, hiking was not easy. My glasses fogged within few minutes and I had to take it off. Fingers were getting cold inside gloves but technology helped in this case. My eldest son had got some hand warmer packages. These little packages worked so well that I was able to take off my right hand gloves that helped immensely in using the camera.

I am thankful that we decided to hike though my wife was quite apprehensive due to the slippery trail conditions. Using crampons under shoes helped in hiking. What amazing vista’s. Though we were deprived of the colorful display of sunlight firing up various sand stone formations, we were rewarded amply by the display of the magical winter wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We arrived the Sunset point after about three and half hours of hiking hoping to see sunset but a grey sky and falling snow flurries dashed our hope.

Hopefully will be able to see sunrise tomorrow and then drive to Zion.

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