Dan and Hannah Hike the Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara

Jes weather channel

Let’s be real.  And I’m not proud of this, but…as Hannah and I prep to hike in the mountains above Santa Barbara in early February, I turn on the Weather Channel.  I have no shame.  I want to see how much snow and ice are coming to New England.  I take no pleasure in the dismal winter weather, but…I do smile to myself so no one else can see.

Jes national parks map

Some of the national parks where we’ve hiked

As Hannah and I start 2018, we are in a traveling/hiking transition.  Having hiked throughout the West, in national parks in nearly every Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast state over the last ten years, we are evolving in our physical activities of choice.  Let me explain.

As we each turn 70, we are pickleballing more and hiking less when we travel.  Have paddles, will travel!  Pickleball, be it Moab, Utah, Beaverton, Oregon, or Eureka, California, has combined our love of being active with getting to know others.

Jes map of trail

Rather than driving, often a thousand miles or more to hike in national parks over two weeks, this year we are nesting in Carpinteria for the month of February.  Not abandoning hiking at all, we still have local trails as well as trails up the coast at Montana De Oro State Park  and Big Sur.  But pickleballing in Santa Barbara and Ventura now drives our bus.

Jes 4 cool jesusita sign

Yet, after three mornings of pickleball this first week of February, we are ready to hit the trail.  Driving north on The 101 for the Jesusita (pronounced HAY-SU-SEE-TA) Trail within the city limits of Santa Barbara, we have one of the few local trails at our disposal.  Many trails are closed since the Thomas Fire (December 2017) and the Montecito debris and mud flows (January 2018), especially some of our favorites in the San Ysidro and Romero Canyons.

Jes 1 H at start

Parking at the Cater Water Treatment Plant at the end of San Roque Road above Santa Barbara, I strike up a conversation with three hiking women to learn from the locals about the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2A view to sea

Jesusita Trail view to the Pacific Ocean

Willing to direct us to the trailhead and describe the first few turns of the trail, the women feel it is a good hike, but they are not buying the inspiring part of Inspiration Point.   True, Inspiration Point has views to the Pacific Ocean, but there are also many spots along the trail with ocean views.  They themselves are all turning around before they get to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2 H on trail

As with many trails in the Front Country of Santa Barbara, they are rocky and climb steeply into the San Ynez Mountains.  The seven-mile round-trip Jesusita Trail with 1200′ of elevation gain fits nicely into our three-hour preference for the length of our hikes. As usual, Hannah leads because (1) she is a stronger hiker and (2) it allows me to focus on photo ops while she blazes the trail.

Jes 1B - cracked mud of trail

Parched trail

 

Due to the drought of the last seven years, the creek bed beside the trail is as parched as a bleached cattle skull in the Mojave Desert.  The trail itself is shaded for the most part with dappled sunshine coming through the trees.  A little more than a mile in, there’s a water fountain with covered picnic tables.  While mountain bikers rest and brag, we motor past toward Inspiration Point.

Jes 1A H on trail beginning

Today is the first Santa Barbara hike for Hannah since her precipitous fall off the San Ysidro Trail just one year ago this month.  (Click here for that blog.)  Though she feels no ill effects from her slide down the rocky ravine that landed her in the ER at the local Cottage Hospital, we are both psyched that today there are no sharp drop offs on this trail; that said, we step carefully on the inside of the mountain trail.

Once past the mountainside McMansions, the trail rises steadily enough to get me breathing heavily.  Hannah seems unbothered on this trail that is very well marked whenever we are uncertain which way to go.

Jes 3 H on switchbacks

Southern California Edison power towers in the distance

Soon, we do the back and forth on the switchbacks up the mountain towards the Edison Road with its high-tension wire towers in the distance.  When we eventually arrive there, it’s just another half mile to the uninspiring Inspiration Point.  But I have not only been hiking but scheming to keep our hike to our three hour limit and have us turn around at the Edison Road at the three-mile point before we get to Inspiration Point.

Jes royal flush

As we approach the towers, I dazzle Hannah with a royal flush of persuasion if we keep hiking: (ten of hearts) that we’ll push us beyond our three hour hiking, (jack of hearts) we’ve been to Inspiration Point four years ago and know it is no big whup, (queen of hearts) we have had inspirational views of the Pacific on the trail already, (king of hearts) we don’t want to be wasted for tonight’s walk to the harbor seal rookery or tomorrow’s pickleball, and (ace of hearts) she just might miss her sunshine at our local Carpinteria Beach.

Jes 4A hearts on Edison Road

At the Edison Road tower, we see the rocks arranged in a heart shaped pattern.  When the universe speaks, we pay attention!  My royal heart flush triumphs as we head for our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria.

The shaded creek trail into the high desert chaparral gives the Jesusita the feel of a forest hike, not some aimless walk in the desert under a blazing sun.  In addition to a heart-pumping workout, we are not in Maine where eight inches of snow blankets our house, our yard, our driveway, the wintery lives of our neighbors, and any dreams of an early spring.

Given that context, this is not just a good hike, it’s a fantastic day on the trail.

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Dan at the March for Our Lives Gun Law Rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Over coffee at Lil’s in Kittery, Maine this morning, my friend Steve mentions that he is going to the anti-gun rally in Portsmouth this afternoon.

Concerned about another horrific mass killing, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (40 miles north of Miami) five weeks ago, I decide I want to be counted as one of many who stands against the proliferation of guns in American society.

Of late, I have been hopeful that this will be the time in history when students everywhere (as well as their parents and many of us Americans) will seize the opportunity to bring about sensible gun laws.  These students will no longer wait for the adults, who have failed them, to get it right.

Are you as stunned as I am that the mass murder of first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT more than five years ago didn’t spur action for sensible gun laws?  I remain appalled.

Time cover for 4.2.18

But maybe this time is different.  Now high school students across the country are making their voices heard.  Parkland students are on the cover of the Time magazine that arrived at our home today under the headline of Enough.  Perhaps, it finally is Enough!

I remain hopeful that 2018 will be like 1968 when protesters took to the streets against the War in Viet Nam, which led to its end.

M 8

I am so sick of politicians who, after a school shooting tragedy, say our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.  And then nothing is done.  It’s time for action.

At least, we can all vote this November.

Has this latest gun violence in schools motivated millennials (18-35) to register and vote in November?  In recent elections, millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.  You see what that got us in 2016.

Will this year be different?  I remain hopeful.  It happened in 1968.

Below are some signs from the March for Our Lives in Portsmouth, NY on March 24, 2018.

 

 

 

M 1

 

 

 

M 6

 

 

M 5

 

 

 

M 3

 

L 1

Sign held by high school student

 

L 2

 

 

M 9

 

M 10

 

M 12

 

M 13

 

M 14

Owen and Max, this is for you!

 

M 15

 

M 16

 

M 18

 

M 19

 

 

L 3

 

M 21

 

M 22

 

M 23

21st Century Weapons  18th century laws

Dan and Hannah and the Harbor Seal Rookery in Carpinteria, California

HS quiz

I have a ten-question quiz for you.  There are no grades.  By the way, I have taken this quiz myself and scored zero for ten.  These ten questions deal with opportunities within walking distance of where you live.

Can you walk to the grocery store?

Can you walk to the library?

HS Alcazar

Can you walk to a movie theatre?

Can you walk to the beach?

Can you walk to the local farmer’s market?

Can you walk to the post office?

Can you walk for a morning cup of coffee and sit outside in winter?

Can you walk to fast food (e.g. Taco Bell or Subway)?

Can you walk to upscale restaurants (e.g. Slye’s in Carpinteria where Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi went for their anniversary dinner last month)?

Carp 2A H by Carp State Beach sign first day

Can you walk to a state park?

You must be thinking, I don’t live in Mayberry, Dan!

Even so, how did you do?

Many of us live where not one of these is an option.  If you have ever been to our place out on Chases Pond Road in York, Maine, you know that though we live in one version of paradise, we do not have much chance to walk to anything but Chases Pond itself.

Ah, but Hannah and I have found a winter home-away-from-home in the walkable small town of Carpinteria, California; a mere ten miles to the south of Santa Barbara that checks all the boxes.

You might be thinking, lucky ducks.

Indeed, we are quite the fortunate waterfowl.

HS 1B daytime at rookery

Harbor seals in the early morning

And by the way, there is a number eleven in this walkable town – we can walk the local oceanside trail to the harbor seal rookery.  More often than not, each evening this past February, Hannah and I made the three-mile round trip to see the harbor seals during their birthing season.

HS 3 lots of seal and pups late feb

As the sun sets on the harbor seal rookery

From any of the local neighborhoods, we can jump on the coastline trail that is in sight of the sandy Carpinteria Beach and soon climbs above the cliffs of the Pacific.  Once past the pier, we first see Harbor Seal Watch volunteers before we spot the seals themselves.  Recording new births and total number of seals, the volunteers have street-size stop signs warning people away from the beach where the harbor seals lay.

Protected by federal law, the harbor seals are not to be disturbed by humans or animals.  On one of our late afternoon visits, we saw a dog (coyote-like but it had a collar) come to the nesting area.  Immediately, the seals and their pups, scared and shaken, flopped from their sandy beach into the waves and deeper water.  The dog didn’t aggressively approach any seals and interestingly didn’t bother the one pup who couldn’t make it to the water.  That pup was in the throes of dying as nature took its course.

HS 2 dog chasing seals

Zero in at the center of the picture of the dog that chased that harbor seals (upper left) into the ocean

HS 2A close up of dog

Close up of the dog.  By the way, the seal watcher asked me to take this picture and send it to her phone so she had evidence of the disturbance

To support the Federal Marine Mammal Act, the volunteers staff the cliff above the rookery from 7A to 7P, seven days a week for one 2-hour shift from December through May.  Click here for more information about the Carpinteria Seal Watch.

Weighing in the range of 300 pounds, harbor seals mature in 4 to 7 years and live to a ripe old 40 years of age.  When they dine, they prefer fish, squid, clams, and shellfish.  Ranging from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California in Mexico, the harbor seals come ashore in the rookery areas like this one, known as “haul outs.”

HS 3A close up of seals late Feb

Look carefully and you can see many of the harbor seal moms with their pups

Every week, the local Carpinteria Coastal View News tabloid has a review of the past weeks news from the rookery.  At the end of February as we are leaving California, there are 150 seals and 25 pups.  They note 1200+ Visitors from across the country and the world, and no surprise that Maine is listed due to our many drop-ins.  They list the Disturbances when harbor seals were chased into the ocean by a balloon, a jogger on the beach, a fishing boat, and a helicopter.

HS mom and pup 2

The review includes National History Notes.  Carpinteria harbor seals typically give birth to a single pup between mid-February and mid-March.  In the womb for eight to nine months, the pup at birth, usually on land, gushes out suddenly.  Gulls are attracted to the scene, which is usually how volunteers and visitors know there has been a birth.

Twice Hannah and I were there minutes after a birth of a pup, which typically weighs 8 to 20 pounds.  Perched high above the sandy beach, we could see the blood red of the afterbirth that the seagulls were clamoring for.  Soon, after shooing away the gulls, mom nurses her pup, which she will do for six weeks.  At that point, she leaves town and the pups have to fend for themselves.  Talk about Dragon Mothers.

HS 5 gulls and afterbirth

Minutes after giving birth, the mama harbor seal protects her pup from the seagulls who want the bloody afterbirth

After checking out the latest pup counts, we return by way of the shoreline trail, through the Carpinteria State Park, popular with the RV and tenting crowd, and head home by way of the quarter mile state park boardwalk fifty feet from the high tide line.

As a latter-day Crabapple Cove (of Hawkeye Pierce of MASH fame), Carpinteria checks all the boxes for a walkable small town.

Dan and Hannah Explore Ojai, California with an Assist from Penny

Unity of SB

Rev Larry of Unity of Santa Barbara speaking on Collateral Beauty

When we travel, the hikes are cool, the scenery beautiful, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But the best part are the people; whether here in California or elsewhere in the United States.

During our stay on the Central Coast of California, pickleball has been ideal for meeting people in Ventura and Santa Barbara; in addition, becoming a part of the Unity of Santa Barbara connects us with kindred spirits.

Mitch with take out

Mitch

To build further connections, I have a brilliant idea for your consideration.  My best friend from my childhood in Fair Lawn, NJ was Mitch Kaplan.  We played Radburn Rec basketball as sixth graders together, took the buses and subways to Yankees games across the Hudson River into the Bronx, played dice baseball, had our hearts broken by the young women in high school, and even played on the high school tennis team together.

Mitch above waist shot

Mitch

While I moved away to live in California, Arizona, and then eventually Maine for 35 years, Mitch returned to our childhood home in Radburn (section of Fair Lawn) after earning his BA from Antioch College in Ohio and his MFA at NYU.  Despite the distance, we stayed in touch; in part thanks to my frequent visits to see my mom and dad, who for many years still lived across the park from Mitch and Penny’s house.  Which brings me to Penny.

Mitch skiing

Mitch on the slopes, an athletic passion I did not share

Meeting in California, Mitch and Penny later married in Yellow Springs, Ohio with Mitch in a Boston Bruin jersey.  The cliché fits – he walked to the beat of his own drum and orchestra.  As we each approached retirement (he from a successful career as a writer and me after a run as a school and college teacher), golfing together loomed big in our future.

And then, damn it; he died from leukemia and its treatment.  He was 61.  That’s now more than eight years and counting of double bogeys and three putt greens we missed.

Ojai map

Carpinteria is ten miles south of Santa Barbara on the coast

After he passed, I kept in touch with his wife Penny who remained near to their two kids in the East.  Having grown up in Fillmore, CA, Penny came to mind when Hannah and I began traveling to California in winter; I soon realized how close Fillmore was to our month-long condo in Carpinteria.

Ojai 2 D and H with Emma and Theresa at Cafe Emporium

Dan, Hannah, Emma, and Theresa at the Cafe Emporium, Ojai

So, here’s where the brilliance comes in.  (I think you’ll soon see that I’ve checked that box.)  I asked Penny if she had any old (as in dear) friends in Fillmore that might like to have a cup of coffee with Hannah and me when we explore the town for a day.  It turns out she has a high school friend in nearby Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) and sends me Emma’s email address.

Ojai 2B foursome at Libbey Bowl

At the in-town, just off the main street, Libbey Park

I email Emma, who responds enthusiastically that they are early risers and would love to have breakfast with us this early February Friday.  Encouraged to try the Ojai Café Emporium just off the main drag in Ojai, Hannah and I meet Emma and Theresa in a nook of the cafe.  Filling us in why they like living in Ojai, they tell us of their joy in walking to town to get coffee, the pleasure of being away from the cold of New Mexico, and their love of the temperate climate.

After learning their backstory, I mention, in response to their question about mine, that my first teaching job was in Anaheim, 35 miles south of Los Angeles; it was a short-lived job because the US military was clamoring for a piece of me.  Suddenly, I find myself opening up to two women I just met about the fact that I was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War years.

That said, the government didn’t quite see eye to eye with my self-assessment.  Let me explain how I dealt with our difference of opinion.

Ojai draft lottery

After graduating from Arizona State in 1970, I lost my student deferment; in addition, the Selective Service was no longer giving deferments for teaching positions like mine in Anaheim; I was reclassified 1-A.  That was the first year of the draft lottery, which it turns out I lost in a big way.  Out of 365 dates in the year, my December 27 birthday was chosen #78.  Since everyone from #1 to #195 was to be drafted, my goose was cooked.

Ojai conscientious objector

In the summer of 1970, I informed the Selective Service I would not serve because I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.  Basically, my local draft board said, no you are not; you are not a Mennonite or Amish, and anyway you need to be against all war.

Having the right to appeal, I petitioned the New Jersey State Selective Service Board to hear my case.  Fortunately for me, government bureaucracies can work slowly; it took them 10 months into 1971 to decide unanimously (5-0) that I was not a c.o. in their minds.  There is a federal appeal but only if the state board is divided.  So, I waited as an eligible and vulnerable 1-A.

Ojai make love not war

Going to Canada was not an option for me.  Too cold and too faraway.  My resolve was strong that I would never shoot a weapon.  And I waited.  Out of the blue in early 1972, I was reclassified 1-H.  That meant that every 1-A had to be drafted before I would be drafted at all.  Essentially, that meant I would not be drafted.  I never got an explanation why I was reclassified, and I never asked.

With my future noticeably brighter, I got a full-time teaching job in Tempe, AZ in February 1972, proposed to Hannah later that month, and after five years of off and on dating, we were married on July 1, 1972 in East Penfield, NY, at her father’s Christmas tree farm.

Thank you, Ojai ladies, for asking.

After breakfast in Ojai, we walked the in-town Ojai Valley Trail, a former railroad paved for bicyclists, runners, and walkers.  The mountain trails around Ojai have been off limits due to the decimated hillsides caused by the burning brush and trees of the Thomas Fire two months before.

Ojai 3 H on Ojai Valley Trail

On the paved Ojai Valley Trail, which goes all the way to Ventura on the coast

Randomly as we walk the Ojai Valley Trail, I stop what seem to me to be welcoming faces and ask why they like living in Ojai.

The first, a dental hygienist raises her arms out, and beams, the weather.  But she, too, has a story to tell about the Thomas Fire.  After the first flames could be seen in the mountains, all four roads out of Ojai were closed, sealing the town off from the outside.  Scary was her word since she and the other townspeople didn’t know if the fire would come down to their valley to destroy their homes as it had for whole neighborhoods in Ventura the day before.

Ojai 3D OVT

Ojai Valley Trail

Another thirty-something, says she likes the small-town nature (7,400 residents) and the climate.  A gentleman in his 80s adds that he appreciates that the town council wants to keep Ojai the way it is, they don’t have an expansionist mentality.  He agrees it is expensive to live here.  A lower end house in town can go for $600,000.  Ouch, California real estate.

With four miles of in-town trail walking in the books at near 80F, Hannah and I return to 63F Carpinteria 20 miles back to the coast, pleased that my checked box idea produced such dividends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Mix Pickleball with Chinese Foot Massage

There are big T truths (e.g. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) and there are small t truths (e.g. one’s personal beliefs).  I have two of my small t truths for you.

Don’t wait for friendship.  Though introverts by nature, Hannah and I roam beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to meet others wherever we go.  Relationships and friendships are possible.

Chinese Yes

Importance of saying yes.  Previously, I would do a cost/benefit analysis in my mind for new activities.  Worth my time?  Would I really like it?  Today, I generally make no calculations, and just say Yes, and sort out the details later.  Let me explain.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo

Today, Hannah and I swim past our comfort zone into the deep end and drive 18 miles south from Carpinteria to the pickleball courts of Ventura to a place where we do not know a soul.  There, Leonard, the pickleball ambassador, greets us.  Ambassadors our usually genial, welcoming, and supportive, and Leonard is certainly all that.  Then, John steps up, introduces himself, and gets us into a game.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers

Throughout the morning, I pickle on the outdoor courts at De Anza Middle School with the guys, among them Bruce, Leonard, Jessie, Rodrigo, Jim, and Mark while Hannah slices and dices with some excellent women players.

Chinese image of loungers

Ready for action at Bamboo Creek Spa

As the morning of play wraps up, Mark says, some of us go to Ojai for lunch and then get a Chinese foot message.  Would you two like to join us?

That would be a quick Yes.

Jump forward to our final outdoor pickleball Saturday during our California month of February away from home.  As exclusively indoor pickleball players back in Maine, we learn of the challenges of playing in the open air.  Rain in the drought-stricken Central Coast is not one of the issues.  In this winter “rainy” season, we have had barely a tenth of an inch of rain the entire month.

Chinese windy palm trees

The winds of California under blue skies

Wind and sun are another matter.  Always checking my Weather Channel app for the wind speeds, I have learned that five to ten mph is fine for outdoor play, with little effect on my game.  Above 10 mph gets tricky and 20 mph is insane.  Being in California, we have the ever-present blue skies.  On one hand that makes for excellent tans for the New Englanders; on the other, hitting lobs into the sun becomes a roll of the dice.

Today, with the wind picking up throughout the morning, games become less about skill and more about dealing with the elements.  Players with the wind must temper their shots while those against the wind must muster all their power to get the pickleball (like a wiffle ball) over the net.  The comradery and sunshine trump the wind, as play wraps up for another Saturday.

Chinese 2B Mark and Lynne at BL

Lynne and Mark at Bonnie Lu’s

Looking to mix the pairs for our drive to Ojai, I suggest to Mark that he drive with me and Hannah drive with Mark’s wife, Lynne.  Just another stepping out of the comfort zone moment for us introverts.  For the twenty-minute drive, which turns into forty because of roadside power line repair, Mark and I learn of our north Jersey connection (he Hohokus and me Fair Lawn [I know it’s I instead of me, but I don’t like the sound and flow of I.) and learn of each other’s families and past working lives (both public school employees, he a business manager and me a teacher).

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Pre-foot massage lunch at down home Bonnie Lu’s

Once in Ojai, we dine on the king-size sandwiches at Bonnie Lu’s and leave with half our BLT and Rueben for tomorrow’s lunch.

Properly nourished, we four head to the Bamboo Creek Spa in a store front just off the main drag in Ojai.  Learning that there is no talking during the massage, we also only whisper in the waiting area, which makes us three deal with life on Hannah’s terms (she with the hushed voice).

Filling out the registration, we sign-in with our first name, select the service wanted (i.e. foot massage), and decide from 1 to 7 how much hand pressure we prefer on our feet.  Being a first timer and soft, I opt for 3.

Chinese 3 H massage

Hannah mellowing out at Bamboo Creek Spa

First, Hannah and Lynne are taken to a side room, as I trail behind with my ever-present iPhone.  My blog does not wait.  Being as little annoying as possible, I snap and retreat to the waiting area to, well, wait and whisper with Mark.

Mark and I are soon taken to the front room and seated in adjustable lounge chairs with remotes.  In front of each of us are two-foot square ottomans; soon a towel is draped over the lower half of our bodies.  Removing my sandals and socks, I wait.  (nota bene – may I remind you that my socks have played two hours of pickleball)

Chinese 3D D zoned out massage

Soon, a bathroom size waste basket is brought out with warm herbal water in a plastic bag.  The foot soak begins my 30-minute massage ($21 per session seems like quite the bargain).  The theory is that massaging reflex points in the feet restores natural energy flow.  While Mark, a veteran of the foot massage, zones out, a woman approaches to dry my soaking feet and wrap each one in a towel.  She then squirts soothing oil into her hands and let the massaging begin.

Chinese 3C workng on my feet

My masseuse

After two hours of pickleball and a reasonably big lunch, I am ready to nod off, but I have a stronger need to see what she does.  Ever the photo journalist, I take pictures of the masseuse in action.

At times when she is working the sole of my foot, my foot involuntarily spasms as she goes from the front pad of my foot to the arch.  Ever the pro, she senses my tic and continues gently.

Fifteen minutes on the left foot and then fifteen on the right.  Delightfully refreshing, the massage has Hannah feeling that her sensitive and aching feet have never felt better.  Thankful and mellow, we tip our masseuses.

Chinese 3E D and H in waiting area

The look of foot massage mellow

Walking back to our cars with Mark and Lynne, I appreciate the new experience; the feeling of being among new friends made this one of the highlights of our month in February.

Our best experiences are always about the people, which happen more often when we head to the deep end and simply say yes.

 

 

Dan and Hannah Come to Ventura, California for Pickleball Magic

Every so often, Hannah and I talk about the words we’ll put on our tombstones.  It’s not a heavy at all, in fact, ironic and light.  Truth be told, upon cashing in our chips, we will donate our bodies to the Medical School at the University of New England (Maine); ergo, there will be no headstone.  Still, we think what words would capture our legacy.  Recently, Hannah’s latest thought is There.

BA he tried

For me, my latest is He Tried.  Let me explain.

Since coming to California, Hannah and I have been transitioning from a focus on hiking to one on pickleball; as we turn 70, we are focusing on growing relationships over the physical challenges of climbing mountains and hiking to waterfalls.  When hiking, it’s just the two of us, with the occasional brief conversation with others along the way.

On the other hand, pickleball opens doors for new relationships.  At new pickleball venues, we have two to three hours of playing, talking between games, and finding out what we have in common, athletically and individually.  Longtime readers of this blog know of the magic we had in north Georgia with the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.  That association led us a pickleball club party and overnights with two couples in their homes.  Click here for that blog.

BA ventura map better

Last year during our February month in California, we played afternoon pickleball in Santa Barbara.   Though we made no connections, I reached out and gave it a shot.  Though I came up empty, one could reasonably say, He Tried.

But this year in addition to pickling in Santa Barbara, we are branching out by playing in Ventura (18 miles south of Carpinteria on The 101) Saturdays on the outdoor pickleball courts at the De Anza Middle School.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers with the Mainers

Arriving in Ventura on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we have a mix of men and women, mostly seniors.  Hannah and I eventually find our level, she with the women and me with the guys.  As indoor players, we are learning to adjust to the wind as well as hitting overheads with the sun in our eyes.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo on the Ventura pickleball courts

Encouraged and sensing a good vibe, Hannah and I return the following Saturday for more play.  After our two hours, we sit in collapsible patio chairs, shooting the breeze with the other players.

BA 2 ventura pickleball design

Pickleballers Bruce and Anneli with the club logo

As Hannah and I walk from the courts, I spot Bruce and mention how much I enjoy his dinking soft game (i.e. hitting short shots just over the net) and thank him for welcoming us.  Exchanging business cards, we go our separate ways.  Later on the ride home after mentioning my conversation with Bruce, Hannah mentions her play with his wife Anneli, with the summation, She’s good.

With Bruce’s business card in hand and only two and a half weeks left in our stay in Carpinteria, I shoot off an email to add substance to my legacy of He Tried.

Hey Bruce and Anneli, 

Thanks for you all including Hannah and me in your Saturday pickleball games.  It’s been a treat.  We wonder if you and Anneli would like to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the coming week or two at our condo in Carpinteria or we’d drive to your place.   Just a thought, no pressure.  Look forward to pickleball again this Saturday.   Dan

(The next day, we get this email from Bruce.)

BA 1 at Snapper Jacks counter

Anneli, Bruce, and Hannah at the Snapper Jack’s counter

Hello Dan and Hannah,

 It is very nice to have you two playing with us while you are visiting California.  We would enjoy an off-court visit. Will your schedule allow a lunch time visit next week?  Since you offered to come to Ventura, perhaps a stop at our office next week followed by a walk into downtown Ventura? We have several preferred spots for fish or steak tacos if you like.   Bruce

It’s always easier staying home, sitting on the couch reading, watching television, or wasting time on the computer or smart phone; there’s no risk.  Ah, but there’s often little reward.  I want more than being homebound and gagged and give it a shot.  Hence, He Tried.

Ten days later, driving down The 101 right on the Pacific Ocean to Ventura, we meet Bruce and Anneli at their office.  Intrigued by his career as an architect, I find his explanation of the houses and businesses he designs fascinating.  Fortunately he has Anneli to run the show as the business manager.  In addition, Bruce volunteers to teach 3rd graders architecture (i.e. perspective drawing).

BA 1A Snapper Jack's sign

Having recommended fish tacos for lunch, Bruce and Anneli walk with us to Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack a few blocks away on Main Street.  Rocking at 1P, Snapper Jack’s is where we’ll have our very first fish tacos.  As you know, when in Rome…

Following Bruce’s lead, I order one soft corn and one crispy flour fish taco with a side of rice and refried beans with tortilla chips to boot.  Already, I am thinking we must bring our grandsons, Owen and Max, here when they visit next year.

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Al fresco in February with Bruce, Anneli, Dan, and Hannah.

Similar to our walk and talk in twos to Snapper Jack’s, the conversation over lunch flows easily as they are both interested in us as well as share their interesting, active lives.  A cliché works here.  Two hours fly and it’s like we have new old friends.  It’s magic.

Returning to their office, as they do have jobs, we hug good-bye, and part as Bruce says, Thanks for reaching out.  He gets it.  He appreciates the effort.  It’s always worth trying, especially if I am going to earn my epitaph He Tried.

BA 3B H on pier

Hannah a way out on the Ventura Pier

Taking Ash Avenue to the walkway across The 101 to the Ventura Pier and Ventura Promenade at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Beach, we see a lone female surfer, head to toe in a wet suit.  On a windy afternoon, we walk out the pier and celebrate another sunny day during the “rainy” winter season in southern California.

BA 4A D on ventura promenade

Palm-lined waterfront Ventura Promenade

Taking the stairs down off the pier, we have a wide waterfront walkway along the Pacific Ocean with the Ventura Fairgrounds to our landward side.  With the wind up, we are still comfortable in shorts knowing in two weeks winter is going to slap us in the face.  March is still real winter in Maine.

I wonder, were the fish tacos really that good?  Or was it the company while eating the fish tacos the reason why they tasted so good?  I’d go with door number two.

As a long-time believer in Davy Crockett’s Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you, I am content with my epitaph, He tried.