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Mt. Diablo

This weekend I had high hopes of catching a glimpse of the Orionid Meteor Shower at Mt. Diablo. I imagined streaks of light flying through the night sky, maybe even flashes of red or blue. At least, that’s what Vicky led me and D– to believe would happen. We set off late Saturday afternoon and made it just in time to catch the sun gently set behind the rolling hills. The tall blades of dried yellow grass waved in the breeze around us. From another peak, we could see thick fog roll in from the bay in the horizon, filling the valleys and troughs until all you could see were the dark peaks of hilltops that managed to stay above the haze. They looked like floating mountains on a sea of white.

We set up camp and hunkered down next to the fire pit, waiting for the spectacular stargazing experience. Meanwhile, we distracted ourselves with Phase 10 and s’mores-making. I’ve learned that when you’ve spent 10 minutes patiently toasting your marshmallow to perfect gooeyness, it’s a damn near tragedy when it falls off the end of your stick before you could catch it between your graham crackers.

Midnight rolled around, and somehow Vicky roped me into climbing the hill beside our campsite to see if we could see Orion on the other side. Between the three of us, we had one headlamp, one rapidly dying flashlight, and one iphone. The lack of light wouldn’t have been so bad if the slope wasn’t so steep. And frankly, I am terrified of climbing down steep downward grades–memories of bad biking accidents relived. To my relief, the path plateaued nicely and we were rewarded with the most beautiful night view of the bay area.

Did you know that the moon can set too? It was a crescent of soft red light, hovering low above the horizon. Beneath us, the city lights flickered soundlessly, ceaselessly. Just like the multitude of stars above us. We laid down on the path and watched the sky, mesmerized by the thousands of celestial bodies turning and traveling through space. Burning bright in the eons before and the eons to come. When you look up into the stars, you see eternity marching onward even as we are caught up in our light and momentary troubles.

Unfortunately, I only saw one shooting star that night. We thought we could sleep until the hour before dawn for better visibility. But the next morning saw a cloud-filled sky and gone were our hopes. Still, everything else more than made up for it.

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Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa

After spending one very cold night on Mt. Diablo, we drove to Napa to enjoy wine and warm sunshine. We went to Frog’s Leap, an organic winery that also has cheerful vegetable patches and thriving flower gardens. I think I enjoyed admiring their grounds more than the actual wine itself, which was also delicious.

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They had cornhole set up on the lawn for guests to play. It’s harder than it looks, especially when your’re motor functions are enhanced by wine.

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We also made a short visit to Mumm Napa for some champagne. I didn’t quite enjoy that place as much as Frog’s Leap. I will definitely have to go back next time I’m in Napa.

Most Adorable Kitten in the World

Also, on our way to Mt. Diablo, we stopped by a free cat adoption at a pet store. That is where I found the most adorable kitten in the world. Seriously, I don’t think I’m a cat person. But I was quite taken by this little charmer’s bright blue eyes. They really stand out against her/his snowy white fur. Ah, kitten! If only my landlord allowed pets, all the memories we could have had!

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Napa in December feels like autumn.  The fields are a blend of rich, warm colors–red brown from the bare vines, and underneath the branches, a sea of bright yellow flowers and green grass.  When the late afternoon sun hits the fields, everything seems to glow.

Originally, we had planned to ride a tandem bike through the vineyards and stop at various wineries en route.  Not only would it be romantic, but I figured it’d be safer for me, knowing my terrible track record with biking.  But my hopes were dashed when we mounted the tandem and realized that our legs couldn’t touch the ground, our feet dangling ridiculously as we struggled to rotate the pedals.  So we traded the tandem in for individual bikes and hoped for the best as we made our way on the Silverado trail.

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It was a easy ride once I stopped thinking about flying off my bike.  I loved the clicking sound of the wheels as we sped down the road, the chilly breeze numbing my bare knuckles and filling my unzipped jacket.  The fields stretched out from us in both directions, ending in dry, brown hills studded with shrubbery in the distance.  The flatness was broken by occasional vineyard fans that look like tiny wind mills meant to prevent frost by stirring up the cold air from the ground.  We zipped by the rows of vines, stopping to admire farmhouses, victorian mansions, and even a large winery that looked like a giant fort.  For the first time in years, I actually enjoyed myself on a bike.

We visited three wineries.  At Napa Valley Company, we were intimidated by the uncomfortable silence and the absence of other visitors.  We spoke in hushed tones like intruders trespassing on a private party while one of the staff poured our drinks without making much of an effort to engage us in conversation.  Maybe that colored our perception of the wine, but we decided that it wasn’t worth purchasing and promptly left.  At Mondavi, we found bigger crowds–which isn’t necessarily better–but better wine and a lighter atmosphere.  We tasted my favorite Moscato dessert wine, which manages to be sweet without being cloying.  At Silver Oak, we tried some heavy and thick cabernet sauvignons, the strong scents of which filled our nostrils, leaving behind a feeling of rawness on our tongues after each sip.

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We didn’t have time to visit smaller wineries.  Instead, we decided to ride back to the rental shop, pedaling hard so that we can return our bikes before the shopkeeper left.  The sun set behind the hills and the air seemed to drop 10 degrees.  My thighs were burning as I strained to keep up with Juan.  I imagined that I was flying as we passed by more vines, cows, fences, and mailboxes.  We made it back just in time, and when we walked back to our car, my sore butt let me know that it felt every rock and bump on the road.  I can’t wait to go back next time to experience what biking in Napa would be like in a different season.

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