Day Zero – Ready to Go!

Posting on Wednesday morning – still at home – about Monday and Tuesday, May 29/30

Preparing – packing – open mat – last minute rush – getting to sleep – getting up on time – heading out

Monday and Tuesday were intense! But I’m finally ready to hit the road.

For weeks I piddled along, getting ready — handling pre-trip car maintenance, setting aside things to pack, catching up on laundry and chores, and stocking up on cat food so Michael doesn’t have to run to the store while I’m away. I felt pretty good about jumping on things early. My goal is to be on the road by 9 AM. Any later and I risk losing the afternoon and evening light, when I hope to be seeing the Kern River and Tulare Lake.

So no staying up to 3 AM the night before I leave, finishing all those last-minute things, right? Right?

My Aiki Road Trip 2023

This post is part of a series: My Aiki Road Trip 2023. For about two weeks I’m sharing my adventures and photos on my way to the Aikido at Granlibakken retreat at Lake Tahoe, insights and fun during a week of great Aikido training with dear friends, and the trip back. I’m driving through the Mojave Desert, San Joaquin Valley, California’s Gold Country, and High Sierra, exploring the historic water situation — rivers, reservoirs, dams, flooding, and Tulare Lake, plus gold rush history, and amazing nature and scenery.

At the bottom of each post I include resources for further exploration about each day’s adventures – books, videos, maps, links, images, etc.. For the trip in general, here are more California History Resources for Road Trips.

I mostly posted these from my phone, with limited Internet access. There may be typos and glitches. I’ll come back to fix them later. You can email me at [email protected].

Taking a Day to Chill

On Sunday, Michael and I went to ScottishFest, where the Costa Mesa Highland Games are held. It was my first time just going to see the games and enjoy the festival, and Michael’s first time seeing a Highland Games competition. Last year (2022) I’d gone to the San Diego Highland Games to scope out the heavy athletics competition, to see if it was something I might be interested in doing. It was! Since then I competed in the Scottish American Athletic Association (SAAA) Season Opener in February 2023, and the Valkyrie All-Women Games at the end of April 2023. I’m having a blast with it. This time we listened to the bands, browsed the vendor booths, ate some interesting foods, and ran into a bunch of friends! Oh, and we took tons of photos and videos.

Michael got some beautiful shots of the competitors! Here are just a few of them:

We had a great time — a lovely, relaxed day, topped off with dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant on the way home.

A Writing Frenzy!

I had gotten a lot done, but there was so much more to do! One big incomplete project was getting myself set up to write every day from the road. Thankfully, I’d already gotten familiar with using WordPress from my phone. That works very well! But on Monday I still had ahead of me the huge task of creating each day’s placeholder post, with all the minutia those need, so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch each day. That took most of Monday, with breaks for more laundry, gathering up things to pack, and sharing our photos from the games on Sunday.

Aikido — Teach, Learn, Run

For several months I’ve been leading a weekly Focus on Fundamentals class at the dojo. Naturally it is on Tuesdays! So I went to the dojo to teach last night, as usual. I had an idea for a topic, but the folks present were gung-ho to work on exam prep, so we had a lovely open mat session. After rushing around getting ready all day it felt good to just relax and move. Next week one of the class regulars, Amy, will be teaching while I’m away. I hope she has fun!

The next class was taught by Marco Martinez, another of our senior students. We are really fortunate that Sensei provides opportunities for us to teach. It’s a great way to learn, and we all benefit from hearing things from a variety of perspectives. Unfortunately, I still had too much to do at home, so I cut class.

I handed off the mat cleaning supplies to a friend who will handle that chore while I’m gone, got changed, and headed home. As much as I love training with friends at the dojo, last night’s priority was to get to sleep as early as possible — a real challenge for night-owl me!

Aikido Off the Mat

As you probably know by now, Aikido is not about fighting. Not fighting people, not fighting circumstances. It’s not about winning, or dominating others. Instead, the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, said “True victory is victory over oneself.” We train to improve ourselves every day, to control or overcome our automatic reactions and habits, to become better versions of who we are.

For months leading up to this trip and retreat my mind was full of wonderful aspirations. I was going to lose weight, start running again to build my endurance, eat better. I was going to start getting to sleep earlier (not at 3 AM, as I often do), so I could be up and ready to go at sunrise on my trip.

Did I do those things? No. No I did not.

This “victory over oneself” thing isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s a daily (or hourly) matter of reassessing, recommitting, and starting over. Maybe I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight.

Staying Well

Somehow I’ve had a pattern of getting sick on my way to retreats. Uggh!

One time I went from “feeling like I might be coming down with something” to coughing uncontrollably within the span of a few hours as I was driving north to a camp I’d been looking forward to all year. I stopped and picked up vitamins, zinc lozenges, and any cold remedy I though might help. But the time I got there I was clearly sick. Drat.

I didn’t feel horrible, but couldn’t train, of course. I kept myself away from everyone else and got a good night’s sleep. That didn’t help at all. So I packed up in the morning and headed right back south. At least I was able to salvage a decent road trip out of that one. I went down the California coast on Highway 1, adding a couple days to make up for the missed camp. I could cough and sniffle all I wanted in the privacy of my car. Might as well enjoy the scenery.

Another time I managed to get food poisoning en-route – from a national fast-food chain, of all places. That was no fun! Two days of Gatorade, topped off with an urgent care visit to be sure it wasn’t anything contagious. I was mostly over it by the time the retreat started, but was so wiped out that I only did photography for the first few days.

So I’m paranoid now. For the past few days I’ve only eaten trusted foods from trusted sources. Just before a road trip is no time to check out that sushi place that just opened. And I’m literally avoiding sick people like the plague. Masking in public and in class, running from anyone who so much as clears their throat. Nope! Not getting sick. At least that’s my plan.

Leaving the Kitties in Good Hands

Michael and I have two “intentional” kitties. Indoor kitties who are pets: Charlie and Minion. Both are highly sociable. Every time we come home Charlie will not stop meowing until we set our things down and pet him. And Minion spends a lot of his days curled up between my feet while I work at my standing desk. They will likely be perturbed that I’m going missing for almost two weeks!

And then there are the outside cats: Alice (he/him) and Girlfriend. We’re pretty sure they are siblings. Girlfriend had four kittens in our garage, and then moved them under the neighbor’s office outbuilding a few days later. All we can do is feed her everything she’ll eat, and trust that she’ll deal with the kittens OK. She drops by a few times a day, snarfs down at least a whole can of food each time, and heads back to her little ones. They are just over 6 weeks old now — adorable kitten stage. The neighbors spotted them out and exploring a few days ago. I expect they will begin showing up for meals with their mom any minute now.

The Art of Packing

“Packing is an intricate art. To put a load of baggage on a mule and make it stay there, and at the same time not hurt the mule, is a great art.”

Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer

Unlike Whitney’s geological survey of California, I’m not using pack mules for this trip, thank goodness. I love mules, but I’m glad I have my trusty Subaru Crosstrek, AKA The Adventuremobile, along with an assortment of plastic bins and modern luggage.

Packing a car is less of an art than packing mules or horses, but there still some tricks to it. Sure, it’s just one road trip, but there are a lot of parts to it. There are things I will need in motels along the way (instant oatmeal and coffee, electric kettle, …), things I will only need once I get to the retreat (uniforms, training weapons, …), plus things I might only need in an emergency (spare tire, tools, blanket, …). Some things need to be accessible in the car, but never need to be unloaded (snacks, paper towels, binoculars, …). Packing everything in the right groupings, and loading it all in the right order is an interesting puzzle. Getting it right will make everything go more smoothly.

And then there are activity-specific things. Swimming things, for pools or lakes, can be packed together, and only need to be unloaded if there will actually an opportunity to go swimming. I’ll only need my dry bag and life vest if I go kayaking or rafting.

For two days our hallway has been lined with bins, boxes, and bags, each with a bright yellow PostIt Note: “motel pantry,” “retreat only,” “kitchen kit,” “office supplies,” etc. I just need to load it all up. It had better fit!

The Adventuremobile

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten my awesome Sunrise Yellow ‘Trek in good shape for the trip: oil changed, tires rotated and wheels aligned, brake fluid flushed, smogged and registration renewed, plus a fresh battery. I detailed the interior (what a chore that was), too. And check out the new branding graphics for my business, Go You Fitness! They are reflective, so really glow at night – a nice safety feature. This time I added a mention of Aikido and this site, too.

Where Am I Off to Today?

Today I will be heading north from home in San Diego County to my first stop in Fresno. I’ll go north on I-15, and then 395, over the Cajon Pass and down into the Antelope Valley. Next is west on 58 through Boron and Mojave, and over the Tehachapi Pass, which is beautiful this time of year – grassy hills dotted with oaks. There should still be wildflowers, too.

That first part is all familiar terrain. I’ve driven it many times. I’ve stopped at the visitor center (highly recommended) for the huge mine at Boron, where “U.S. Borax operates California’s largest open pit mine in Boron, California—one of the richest borate deposits on the planet.” I’ve driven the back road between Keene and Tehachapi watch a long freight train circle over itself in the Tehachapi Loop (click for video), a civil engineering landmark that enables trains to climb the steep grade.

I’ve seen those things before, so I’m skipping them in favor of some new and rare sites.

First, I’ll be stopping just east of Bakersfields to see the very full Kern River, bringing snow melt down from the Sierras (video) to the San Joaquin Valley. There should be rapids. I rarely get to see big rivers, so this is exciting! And no, I won’t be getting close enough to fall in. It’s called the Killer Kern for good reason.

Second, I’ll set out to find Tulare Lake, which shouldn’t be difficult considering it now covers a vast tract of land just west of Highway 43. Tulare Lake once had a surface area of almost 700 square miles. It was a rich marshy ecosystem for waterfowl and fish, and the major source of food and shelter for the indigenous people of the area. After the Civil War Tulare Lake farmers and land developers starved the lake of its supply of water, drying it out in favor of agriculture. It is now, as it does from time to time, reasserting itself and flooding the fields as the Tule, Kings, and Kaweah Rivers bring massive amounts of spring runoff down from the Sierras to the east of the valley.

My route pencils out at just under 400 miles, with a driving time should be about 7 hours, plus stops, so it’s going to be a long day, but it should be a lovely drive.

Further Exploration for Today’s Adventures

A few more links, if you want to dig further:

If I have time I also hope to visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, an important part of black history in California. “Established by Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was the first in California to be founded, financed, and governed by African-Americans.” [Wikipedia]

An excellent YouTube channel, @Corcoranb20, with dozens of videos of drone footage of the lake and the rivers that feed it: 

NASA Earth Observatory images of Tulare Lake, comparing the “before” state of the lake with the current surface area.

Flow rates for the Kern River at various locations.

Also be sure to check out my post, California History Resources for Road Trips, where I share several excellent books/audiobooks, tours, videos, and more.

About the Author — Linda Eskin

Linda Eskin began practicing Aikido in 2009, at age 46. From the beginning she was inspired to explore how Aikido is taught and learned. In addition to mentoring adults, and now teaching a weekly Focus on Fundamentals class for students of all ranks, she assisted in the children’s programs for over eight years.

Linda loves Aikido both from the technical perspective, and as a practice of awareness and embodiment. She is completing her forthcoming book, Aikido to Zanshin – 26 Essays on the Martial Art of Peace.

Linda’s passion is encouraging people to begin, and supporting new learners of all ages.

Linda trains with Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego, in California, and holds the third black belt rank, sandan.

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