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Thank goodness because we were teaching another scuba class, and if something had gone wrong, that’s a lot of paperwork to file!

Especially good because I didn’t break myself, which I’ll get to.

I didn’t even break anything Friday, unless you count breaking my broken dish streak. 🙂

Anyways, the class rocked. Seven great students, a new instructor for Greg to keep an eye on (he’s a QA guy) who did pretty well, and good things to see.

4:30am came awfully early, as it always does, but Monterey this past weekend was a nice mix of gray clouds and bits of sun, and not to warm but not to hot. I never remember to put on sunscreen, so this at least saved me from looking like a beet. Plus, just fun times and friends.

My students spent most of the first two dives working on just figuring out the whole “I’m under the sea” thing, which is pretty typical. The did well on skills, enjoyed the dives, and had a good time. We did have one who got horribly seasick (underwater, even), but she handled it well and made it back to land safely.

We didn’t see much other than some decorator crabs. Above water, it was pretty clear that it was sea lion pup weaning time, as the little ones were everywhere. There was a lonely little pup up on shore, where most of them end up if they’re hungry/stressed/tired/sick. Of course, it’s where people can easily harass them. Sad. Animal rescue people came and got him eventually, but he was cute to see from a distance.

Shelly and I kept an eye on him whenever we were on or near the beach, and had to ask several people to not get up close and personal with the little guy, which is against the law here in sunny California–it’s harassment. One guy was pretty rude about it, and told me I was breaking the law too by being within 10m (or whatever the distance is) to the pup (I’d say I was 15ft away, about as far as I could get with students exiting the water), but he was within 1-2 feet. Idiot. James defended me, but the guy’s response?

“I’m an experienced diver!”

My response, had I not walked away in a huff, would have been, “That doesn’t mean you can be an asshat!”

Bah. Thank goodness the pup was taken into animal care. We saw a ton of them out on the rocks along the breakwater wall, but only the one sick one on the beach.

The only downside to the day was that both times I exited the water, I had students but no staff, and since I couldn’t leave the students alone, I had to head out with them, carrying my gear. All 80-ish lbs of it. Which I’m still pretty much forbidden to do by all sorts of people with medical training. Thankfully, not a lot of pain, and I only went as far as I absolutely had to. Here’s to not making the problem worse! (Sunday, James and John both forbade me from giving a repeat performance, but we all surfaced with our students at about the same time, so it worked out.)

The afternoon was filled with pizza, hot tubs, the usual Safeway run to buy gallons of water and Dove bars, plus some free chinese food from one of the other guys who dives through our same shop. Nice! We had a student stay with us in the room, but he didn’t seem to mind all our strangeness, which Greg pointed out made him good staff material. Plus, he was pretty damn good for a new diver.

We also watched “Pineapple Express”. Can’t say I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I suppose it had it’s moments. It also had it’s low points. Maybe I’m just not cut out for that kind of humor.

Sunday was also cloudy and about the right temperature. We were sort of hoping that the dense cloud cover would trick all the little octopi into thinking it was dark enough to come out and hunt, but alas, none were to be found.

My student and I had two pretty good dives. Not anything specific on the first dive other than just a good dive. On the second dive, however, we saw a good number of rainbow nudibranchs, these big reddish guys that climb up the tube anemones and eat them. Some were perched on top of stalks, having already eaten, and some were on the sand, but none were in the process of “hunting”. Or at least as much as a snail-like creature can hunt a non-moving creature. It’s apparently pretty cool to see the moment of capture.

We also saw a frilly white nudibranch that I’ve been trying to identify for a year or two, but to no avail–he’s still around, and frilly and white, but still without identification. Also lots of fish, as well as people. Tons of people out kicking around, specifically kicking the sand around. The visibility wasn’t as good as the day before. Just as we finished the sun came out, which made for a beautiful afternoon on the beach.

All in all, a great weekend, and John and I agreed it was really nice to be down there teaching with the whole staff, just like old times. I may have even convinced him to start Assistant Instructor training sometime soon!

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There is little in a not-so-good week that a good meeting with the boss, leaving work a smidge early, a trip into the city, a visit to the Nightlife at the Cal Academy of Science, a gin and tonic, good friends, a glass of red wine, some Thai noodles, and a lot of good conversation, not to mention some very cool exhibits, can’t fix.

Not even an anaconda in the tropics tank can bump all that! Or the baby snakes in the aquatics area!

Here’s to Friday and a lovely weekend!

The special thing about our trip yesterday, compared to many of the boat trips we go on, was that it was on a different boat, a slightly larger and more powerful boat, and thus we were able to head to farther dive sites. Our group also filled the boat, so we knew and trusted (for the most part) every person aboard.

We headed far south for the first dive, south of Point Lobos, in the Point Conception. The swells were a bit big–12ft–and they weren’t too bad in the bay when we were heading into them, but as we left Monterey Bay and turned south, they were coming at us sideways.

I went to the doctor Thursday to get the scopolamine patch to combat sea sickness, and having looked at the wave models that were predicting storm threshold-sized waves, I was very glad I did. On the way down, there were one or two moments when I had a bit of nausea, but overall I felt really normal. Also no noticeable side-effects from the drug, either.

Our first dive was at a site called Honeymoon, and it was a gorgeous pinnacle starting at about 110 feet. We meant to go down in a group with Nate and Shelly and Rae and Aaron, but Rae was underweighted and had to go back to the boat, and Nate and Shelly ended up waiting for Greg, who was helping Bob with a leaky suit. That left us sitting in the water waiting, so eventually we went down.

We followed the anchor line down to abut 110 feet–the captain had told us he tried to drape the anchor over the pinnacle, but it had clearly bumped over the pinnacle. Luckily, it had snagged a small rock and stuck. We swam around the front of the pinnacle for awhile, looking for stuff in all the nooks and crannies. The visibility had opened up beautiful below 70-80 feet.

There were a lot of rock fish out, as well as a bunch of Monterey Dorids. The kelp is fading with the oncoming winter, but there were still a good number of plants out, waving in the surge that followed us down to about 80 feet before abandoning us. There were also patches of metridiums, but they were all closed in the swell and tucked down tight.

After we got back on board, the sea sickness started to hit a number of people–there was not quite enough room along the sides of the boat at one point, which was pretty gross. A lot of these were people that don’t normally get seasick, and I was grateful to the scopolamine that I felt normal.

We motored back up the coast to Carmel for the second dive, and dove just offshore of Pebble Beach at a place called either Outer Pinnacle or Pescadero Pinnacle. About 10-15 minutes before we hit our hour-ish surface interval, I started to feel a bit queasy. Not horribly, but noticeably. As soon as the “pool was open”, John strapped me into my BCD (looking around for the buckles and what not was not something I was capable of doing) and all but threw me overboard to get me off the boat.

He followed shortly thereafter, and we descended along with Bob, Matt and Nate. Shelly was sick, as was Kasey, so there was a lot of buddy switching going on.

We dropped down onto the pinnacle around 70-80 feet, and just hung out in one little area. I saw my first Monterey cowry–a Chesnut Cowry. I excitedly showed John, only to realize, when I started looking, that they were all over. It was pretty cool. There were also some gorgeous painted greenling fish, and a beautiful Hermissenda nudibranch. More kelp filtered the light down into a greenish cathedral light setting, and the “atmosphere” of the dive was just gorgeous.

There was a lot of surge movement during the dive, but the key to surge is to just go with them. First you’re here, then you’re 6 feet to the left, then you’re here, then you’re 6 feet to the left. That’s 6 foot surge for you. And you’re not going to hit that rock, because the water will lift you up and over with it. The key is just to not fight it. And if you’re swimming with it, kick while it’s pushing you forward, then just pause while it pushes you back. You’ll get where you’re going eventually. So there was just a bit of movement during the dive, but we still could hold still long enough to look at the small stuff.

Around 20-25 minutes, I was pretty cold. The water was a balmy 51°F, and my toes and fingers were losing feeling. However, I knew going up meant getting back on the boat, and that wasn’t something I was eager to do. So we tooled around until 30-35 minutes before heading back up. Plus, the time underwater was nice.

Lunch was served back on the boat, and I think that less than half the boat ate it. There was soup and sandwich makings, and many of us, me included, kindly if forcefully requested that those with food stay down in the cabin area and leave those of us to whom food was stomach churning outside in the fresh air. Most people complied, but I did discover, much to my horror, that my chosen perch was just below where one of the boat divemasters had stashed his sandwich. No wonder I couldn’t avoid the smell of cheese and meat and mustard. Ugh.

Our third dive was just north of the second, off the rocks of the houses that are north of Pebble Beach. It was at a dive site called Lingcod reef, and this was the site that convinced me to spend the money to buy John and myself drysuits. When we first dove here, the water was a cool 47°F, and the air temp was even lower and mixed with rain. It was a beautiful dive, but we drove home with the heater on high and never even got warm, let alone broke a sweat. This was followed by turning the heater on high and piling all our blankets on the bed, then huddling. It took us hours to get warm–this was likely slightly more than mild hypothermia. So we decided we needed better exposure suits if we were going to continue this sport.

Our dive Saturday was gorgeous. Still chilly, but not as bad as the first time. We followed Bob, Greg and Nate down, exploring among the rocks. We found a small little swim-through, and lots of strawberry anemones and little orange polyps all over the rocks. I came a cross a couple of abalone shells, likely abandoned by octopi after they were done feeding on the contents. One was not much bigger than a quarter, but I accidentally broke it while I was holding it at some point. The rest survived, though, and will be run through our dishwasher soon.

We crossed a sand channel after awhile, and headed into some kelp beds, where the filtered light was beautiful. Not much to see but kelp fish and snails, but still lovely. When we turned around, Greg apparently didn’t have his bearings quite right. Eventually, about the time we all had a couple minutes left of no-deco time, we ascended despite not seeing the anchor line for the boat. Bob and Nate popped up to the surface after our safety stop, and John and I followed. The boat was only 200 yards away or so. John dropped back down to tell Greg, who was finishing his stop, and they two of them did eventually find the anchor line. In the meantime, Bob and Nate and I swam to the boat through the kelp on the surface, doing the infamous and exhausting “kelp crawl”, where you basically swim on your stomach, using your arms to push the kelp beneath you. It’s an awesome workout, let me tell you.

Magically, once back on the boat, I was fine. And thank goodness because we had to get back to Monterey. The only bit of queasiness was when the crew set our a platter of oreos and my stomach protested that while it felt fine, it wasn’t ready for food. So the journey back was fairly uneventful. The wind had shifted around to blow from the northeast enough that the ride was smoother, and even the sick people among us felt better.

We probably didn’t get back to the dock until 3pm or so, so it was a long day (we had a dinner date and didn’t get to bed until 10pm), but it was gorgeous diving, and lots of fun with a few exceptions. I love warm water diving in many ways–warm, easy of diving (not as much gear or heavy weight), many colorful things–but Monterey diving on a good day rivals anywhere else I’ve ever been. And this was one of those days. Well worth the 4am wake-up and the slight seasickness.

To go to the football game or not to go to the football game?

It starts in 10 minutes, and we have tickets. John gets home in 30 minutes or so, and we’ll easily be an hour late to the game. And there’s parking to deal with. And I’m on the couch, in comfy pajama pants. And I’ve been up for 12 hours already. But it could be a good game, and we’ll get to see our friends, so it’s worth it. Sleep can wait a few more hours.

It’s been a long week, with work every day, and then scuba stuff every night. Last night we taught the free class the shop offers to entice people to come learn, and we had about 15 people (maybe more–that was the number when I went off to collect and assembly gear for all of them and the staff) show up to take it. That’s a gratifyingly large number, given the usual turn out of a handful or so.

A girl from work came and took it with me. I don’t think we’ve yet brought her to the dark side, as she’s a bit apprehensive about being in the ocean with sharks and all (a respectable reluctance, I’ll admit), but she was super excited about the pool stuff. We’ll see. I meant to work with her in the pool, but ended up working first with a woman who was clearly terrified of the whole experience, then with a little kid. Being a small female, I tend to work better with those sorts than James or Ben or Greg.

The woman kept needing extra reassurance that she could stand up out of the water at anytime, or redo skills, or have them re-demonstrated, or ask questions. Despite the chorus of “I’m not sure I can do this”, she did every skill. After each, she kept pointing to her husband and saying how he didn’t think she’d be able to do it–my response was, “Isn’t it nice to prove him wrong?” She even came and swam around the deep end, although she didn’t stay long. But she still did it!

She was, in the end, justifiably proud of herself for having done it all. It’s always a super nice feeling to help someone face a fear–even if she never takes a class, she’s shown herself that she is capable of swimming around in 10 feet of water on scuba, or clearing her mask, or her regulator. It’s very rewarding.

The kid, on the other hand, was just cute and fun all rolled up into a sweet little 11 year old package. He was adorable and very shy, and I ended up working with him privately since everyone else in his group was an adult. James led them, and the kid and I did our own thing over on the side of the shallow end. He mastered all the skills quickly, with few if any words, and off we went to the deep end.

It took some coaxing to get him down, and we ended up holding hands quite a bit around the pool–you’d be surprised how often I end up holding hands with people in the pool or in the ocean, and not just women and kids, but grown men. It’s a comfort thing, and scuba can be a bit overwhelming at first. Someone had dumped a couple little rubber torpedo toys in the deep end, and he and I played with those for quite awhile, and that really helped him see he could play and swim and still breathe. Eventually, the rest of the people entered the deep end, and we headed out to be first in line for the hot showers.

It was one of the best free classes I’ve ever helped with, I have to say. And having Thai food afterwards (though the waitress took my “mild, little spice” to mean “maximum heat level danger will robinson”) was super tasty, given the way my stomach had been growling in the pool.

If it hadn’t been for my work friend, John and I might have stayed south last night, as we had to be back down there ridiculously early, but coming home meant our own beds.

We met up with James F and Cara freakishly early this morning–we were running late, but she was still curling her eyelashes (to look good for the players), despite James’ insistence on leaving (and that’s pertinent later on). We all headed out for coffee and donuts, then John went off to work while the three of us headed to a public practice for the San Jose Sharks.

Upon arriving, we followed Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek into the parking lot. Hence, the good timing about not leaving when James wanted to, but when we were all ready. James got their autographs (potentially elbowing a couple kids out of the way to do so) and was incredibly excited for the rest of the morning. The practice was actually pretty cool–we watched 3 teams practices (they’ve split up for training camp), a goalie practice, and a skirmish between two practice teams. There was even a fight! We were standing right up against the rink, near the goals, and every time a puck smacked, the entire wall would shake. I kept waiting for it to shatter, but it never did. Too bad. A lot of adrenaline was induced, let me tell you!

Cara and I had a blast looking over the players–most of them are really good looking, although I do wonder how many of them have their real teeth still. James was just like a little boy in a candy store. It was pretty cute, really. And totally worth the 6am wake-up call. Which, you know, got us out of bed at 6:30. Okay, okay, 7. No wonder we were late. But if we hadn’t been, James wouldn’t have had two more autographs.

But John just called and he’s on his way home, so we’re off to see Stanford potentially, hopefully wallop San Jose State. May or may not happen, but might it’ll be a good game.

The two highlights of my week so far right there.

Saturday was a mostly lazy day, with nothing much happening other than a lot of productive football watching. We gave up on the USC-Ohio St game at half-time and headed to James and Cara’s place for the night, where much grilling and Xboxing was done by all.

Sunday, we went diving, and it was easily one of the top 4 dive days I’ve ever had in Monterey. Flat water, partly sunny, no swell or surge, beautiful visibility. Best of all, we were helping Nate and Shelly with their “supervising certified divers”, the last requirement for their Divemaster candidacy. This means we’ve helped them go from Open Water divers and in the ocean for the first time ever all the way to professional divers. It’s a super cool feeling.

The diving itself was pretty awesome, too. We’d planned to head out to the Metridium Fields (think super large white anemones that look like bunches of cauliflowers), but as we kicked out, we realized we were about 20-30 feet from a mother and baby dolphin, who were splashing and playing and possibly fishing right beside us. There were a lot of schools of fishes, so that may be why they’re in the area, but they’ve been reported at Breakwater beach for about a month now. We just floated in the water for quite awhile, letting them swim around us. Then, instead of heading to the Metridiums, we dropped and headed in the direction of the dolphins, hoping to see them under water.

No such luck, but we still got to play with a friendly harbor seal, and saw a ton of fish and crabs, including one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen at Breakwater. It looks like the marine protected area restrictions are working out–there’s a lot more life at Breakwater now then I’ve seen in the past. We swam in and around the kelp, enjoying the dappled light and just being underwater, for about 45 minutes.

Our second dive was out along the Breakwater wall. We swam freakishly far out before dropping, and ended up in the 30-40 foot depth range along the wall, where the visibility opened up to probably close to 50 feet, which was pretty amazing. We had another harbor seal come play, and also saw a ton of fish and crabs, lots of nudibranchs–Sea Lemons, Mimics, and San Diego Dorids. A lot of the nudibranchs were pretty big, as in the size of a sub sandwich. It was pretty cool. We saw what we thought might even be a crab eating a nudibranch. Or they were just getting up close and personal. John and I also found a 2.5-foot cabezon (lingcod maybe?). Those suckers are ugly, but damn tasty eating.

All in all, an awesome day, and Nate and Shelly are officially Divemasters–the lowest rank on the Professional totem pole, but easily the hardest rank to earn. This is what John and I are, although we’re working on Assistant Instructor. Good times.

We also learned, upon arriving home, that our white cat, Tubby McFatterson, can hold his bladder for at least a 24 hour period. Poor guy snuck into the bedroom, and then got locked in there while we were gone. This also means that it is definitely the gray cat, Baldy McSkinny (I’ll post pics soon), is the one pooping on the bed when he gets upset with us leaving him alone. Mystery solved.

Then, Monday, Bob arrived! My new computer is shiny and fast and wonderful and I love him. He’s all that I hoped he could be. And best of all, I can check email at work now (or, you know, blog a bit) without worrying about using one of the public computers. That said, it’s been a bit of a crazy week, with lots of stuff to do during the day, but also something diving related every damn night. I’ve headed south (or will head south) all 5 nights this week–twice for meetings, twice to take a class, and once to teach a class.

I only hope something else super good happens–good things come in threes, right? If I could pick, it’d be a successful visit to the reptile house at the SF Zoo on Sunday, but I’m not holding my breathe. We’ll see if the phobia therapy has paid off. Cross your fingers for me, eh?

4:45am dawns gawdawfulearly when you go to bed after 12. I’m just sayin’. James F’s float sprung a leak, so we had to take a field trip to Greg’s house late Friday night to get his float, and between that, John getting off work at 10, and having to figure out if we could fit James’ stuff in our car (no) and then packing his car (bah), it was a late night.

But we were off. This class was Advanced Open Water, with 4 students, 3 guys and a gal. Advanced class is basically the first dive of five different specialty courses, with mandatory navigation and deep. I think. Maybe mandatory boat? There used to be a mandatory night dive, but they nixed that awhile ago. Dive plan for Saturday was to do Peak Performance Buoyancy (PPB–where you learn not to smash critters on the sea floor or shoot to the surface like a missile-propelled grenade), then Navigation (can you swim a square with a compass?), and finally either Search and Recovery (there’s a weight belt out there, kids, go find it or you owe us one) or Night (ooo, dark! hope you’ve got your lights to see the octopi!).

For staff, it was myself and John as Divemasters, Nate and Shelly as Divemaster Candidates, and James and Ben as Instructors. James and I were going to take Nate and two of the students, and leave the other two to Ben, John and Shelly. Brilliant plan. We were all off to have fun, right?

Then James threw his back out putting on his BCD. He thought he’d be all right in a minute or two. Nope. Then he thought he’d be all right if he could just get into the water (no weight from the BCD). I told him to sit on his tailgate and move his legs like he was kicking. His expression? Priceless. You use your back muscles for a lot of things, apparently. Including deep breaths–he could only breathe shallowly, which isn’t so good for diving.

So he was left behind with copious amounts of ibuprofen, and students were rearranged. I got Nate and Shelly and two students, John got two students, and Ben watched us all. We went down to do our skills, Nate and Shelly each taking a student, and then Nate toured us all around. (By default, whoever looks the least comfortable, leads the tour–it’s good practice, and instills confidence in the leader that s/he can do it. And I was following right behind, no worries.)

We saw nothing, and had chunky viz. Lots of big particulate matter. However, it was beautiful day for diving–sun was out, it was warm, light breeze, very nice. The lack of wind and water movement meant the particulate matter just hung in the water column. Thus, sucky viz.

The second dive wasn’t much better. It was navigation, and the student’s had to swim lots of lines and squares and whatnot. Same plan as the first. The viz was, if possible, even worse. Like pea soup. Fun. And John and I were left behind to pull up the augers that we’d used to tie down all the guide lines. That’s not easy underwater. At least there wasn’t much to look at to distract us. Bah.

We went off to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, and crammed our gullets full of clam chowder. Mmmmm. Then back to do Search and Recovery. The viz was such that we’d nixed a night dive. However, by the time we got in the water, it was late, late afternoon. 6ish. And the light was coming down at such an angel that in the upper water column, we had beautiful rays of light lighting up all the pea soup. And in the lower water column, it was just dark. There was some minor confusion with the students (when we tell you to come down the anchor line, we mean come down the anchor line, not swim 25 feet away and sit there until someone finds you by freak happenstance), but eventually everyone did what they were supposed to do and found what they were supposed to find.

So, after 13 FREAKIN HOURS at the beach, we packed up and headed out. Some hot tubbing, gallons of water to drink and dinner later, and life was looking pretty good. Except for James and Ben being all tetchy with one another, which may have been partially due to James’ back. Poor guy. End of the day summation: beautiful day to be on the beach, and great diving if you don’t mind being able to see anything.

Sunday was the boat dives, so we got up at the not-quite-as-early hour of 6:30, and were at the docks by 7 to prep the students and ourselves. We headed down to Carmel, and did our first dive off of Pebble Beach. Yes, that Pebble Beach. There’s some good diving there. Anyways, it was a bit…choppy…on the way down, to say the least. I took dramamine the night before and that morning, and still ended up staring fixedly at the horizon for the second half of the trip down.

However, the dive was amazing. Beautiful 30-50 foot viz, nudibranchs out (we saw a San Diego dorid), kelp blooming, just lots of neat stuff. Our first dive down was the deep dive. I took Nate and the same two students, and had them do a “stupid human trick” at 88 feet–we demonstrate nitrogen narcosis by showing them how difficult stuff becomes at 88 feet.

I was a bit nervous, since the second-to-last time I did this dive, students got low on air and had to be taken to the surface on James’ and my octos, and James wasn’t there. New ground rule: when a student’s used up 1/3 of their tank, we’re heading up. No ifs, ands or buts. The dive is done. And we actually hit a decent amount of time underwater. All in all, it was definitely an awesome dive, despite the shortness.

At that point, some storm was sweeping into the Monterey area, and faster than predicted, so the boat people made the decision to head back into the bay before the second dive, hopefully resulting in less waves on the way in than their might be in an hour. We were glad they did–if it had been an hour worse, we’d probably have had more than 2 people feed the fish. Ugh. I stared fixedly, and basically refused to talk to anyone, and made it in safely.

The only exception came when John wiped the powdered donut powder from his hands on my drysuit, leaving white finger prints. I managed to get up, get a donut, and smear it all over his legs. Yes, we’re 6 like that. Good thing we love each other. (Side note: Diving does not remove powdered donut powder from drysuits. Bah.)

The second dive was the opposite of the first dive in many respects. We were diving in emerald green pea soup, with very short viz. I led my students around, with Shelly following close behind them. We saw some more nudibranchs, a huge anemone, and lots of other creatures on the rocks we were on, so long as we were within a foot or two of them. One of my students was not having a good dive–mask leaking, disoriented, just not having fun. So about the time we hit 20 minutes and found the anchor line, I called it good.

There was, however, one more obstacle. Stinging jellies. They get blown in on the wind (which we had) and they feed on the plankton that make the water so emerald (which it was). They’re actually very pretty–yellow mushroom tops, long red tentacles that sting, shorter clear ones that may or may not sting.

Last 4th of July, we went out, and there was pretty much a solid mass of them from the surface down to about 20 feet. This time, there were enough to cause problems, but not so many that you couldn’t dodge them. We still spent the safety stop whacking them away from one another. At the surface, while letting all the students get back on the boat, I realized that what I was holding was not my regulator, but was, in fact, a jelly. And I now had tentacles all over my gloves. Bah.

We made sure to rinse everyone off in fresh water–makes the singers fire–and made it back into harbor without incident. All in all, again, good diving out at Carmel but a crummy trip there and back, and good diving in the bay, but crummy viz.

Ah well, Monterey is never going to be like tropical diving, but it has it’s own rewards. Especially the teaching part.

We need to talk. And not in a good way. We have some issues to sort out. Just a few…

Ok, so.

Amelia and I headed off to Chico around 1pm on Saturday, which put us there right around 5pm. Not too bad. We went and checked in, and were given pretty bags with all our swag, mostly lots of advertisements, but also a water bottle, our jerseys, and our shirts.

The water bottle? Was white. Which means you can’t see the level of water left. Which can be a problem. But it did have a Sierra Nevada logo on it, which was a plus. It was supposed to be our ticket into the rest stops. The jerseys? Were pretty. The shirts? Were not. Bah. And while the jerseys apparently run small, a medium shirt was meant to fit a herd of people. I kid you not.

We were also given arm bands to get into dinner the next night.

Nowhere, on nothing, were we given any sort of rider identification. Yes, we carry IDs, health insurance cards, etc, with us. But what happens when there’s a 19-bike pile-up and I’m separated from said identification? To get around this, the Cinderella Ride provided a number to be twist-tied onto your bike, and an arm band (the kind you get when you go into a bar) with your name, rider number, and emergency contact on it. Awesome.

The name bands we got from the CVWR people? Green with yellow smiley faces and no information on them. Which was rectified with a pen. If I’m going to be possibly injured, I want people to know (a) who I am and (b) who to call.

Minor details, apparently.

Speaking of minor details, there was the map. Yes, it had the pertinent route information on it. If you don’t mind a complete lack of detail. It had distances, but they were approximate at best.

But we took our map and went off to drive up the infamous Honey Run Hill. Not too bad for the first 5 miles to the covered bridge. And then we started climbing. With lots of switch backs. And we just. kept. going. for. ever.

Until, there, in the middle of the road, giving a very ill-timed flop, was a snake.

Keep in mind, people, that I am rediculously terrified of snakes. And I was driving.

So what did I do? Nothing more (or less), than slam on the brakes, duck my head down where I couldn’t see the road, and start screaming and crying. Luckily, given that the road was about a car-and-a-half wide, there was no one coming. And the whole “brace yourself for a crash” panic that set in kept my foot locked on the break.

Amelia was smart enough to put the car in park and then proceeded to hug me and tell me it was okay. And it was. Eventually, I lifted my head long enough to see open road, and started driving again. And this time, instead of scanning the road for oncoming cars, I was scanning it for oncoming snakes. Fortunately, there were none. Unfortunately, my brain was now wired to think of Honey Run Hill = Terrifying Snakes.

(You can’t see me, but I’m totally having full body shiver freakouts as I’m writing this. I swear.)

At the top, we made the colassal mistake of not going to drive Table Mountain Road. We figured Honey Run was supposed to be the hard one, we were short on gas, and hungry, and thus Table Mountain would just sort itself out. It wouldn’t be as bad as what we’d just driven.

Right? Right…..

Off we went to get pizza at Woodstock’s Pizza, which James had told us was not to be missed. On the way, we swung into one of the local bike shops and came away the proud owners of (clear) Sierra Nevada bike water bottles. Awesome. As was the pizza. Very tasty. Then it was off to our hotel, some 30 minutes away, to prep ourselves and our bikes.

We did have one snafu in that Amelia’s tire, the one that went flat on the Cinderella and was pumped up by a helpful Prince Charming, had the valve break off. We hoped it was in the ‘closed’ position, but figured if it went flat, it would do so early and we’d know.

In the morning, after loading everything and eating breakfast, we headed back to the course. It opened at 6, and we were ready to go and on the road by 7. We opted to bring arm warmers, given the bit of chill in the road, but leg warmers were left behind. This, by far, was the option of choice for most riders who were leaving, so we figured we were in good company. Mine, however, rubbed off a nice ring of sunscreen, and I ended up with a lovely little circle burn around the tops of my arms, which has turned into a lovely little circle of deep tan in the surrounding light tan…

Moving on.

Heading off down the road, our first complaint was the crummy course markings. There was a small orange arrow on the road at one point, and if we hadn’t known to turn on 9th, we would have missed it. As it was, the other people with us only caught it because they noticed us turning. And that was the only arrow we saw. Instead, we got a cutout man pointing in random directions. Helpful. And usually with little warning, to the effect of “shit, shit, turn, turn”. Fun times. Bah.

So we headed out into the country for the first hill. Approximately 700 feet of climbing, on a bumpy, bumpy road. I would not have taken my bike, with road tires, on this road by any sort of choice. A number of people commented that they usually skipped this road for exactly that reason. I swear it hadn’t been paved since the dawn of time. Amelia and I decided the road upkeep was the responsibility of a local bike shop (not the one we frequented) that was camped at the top selling new tires for $5. Which was helpful, given the number of people I saw with flats. Amelia didn’t get one, and neither did I, thank goodness. Her tire actually held for the entire ride. Woot.

However…. The road was bumpy enough that it rattled the water bottle cages off the back of my seat. Which meant I had to stop in the middle of the climb, get out my bike tools, and spend 10-15 minutes putting them back on. Which meant first disassembling them. It sucked. And wasn’t easy. And meant that a worried Amelia waited somewhere up ahead not knowing what was going on. And no SAG support went by to help. In fact, I only saw 2 of them on this part of the road, but figured they were off helping people with flats.

And of the 50 or so people that passed me? Only 3 asked if I needed help. Which was about par for the day, given how few people were kind enough to announce things like “on your left” when they went to pass you. Bah. Etiquette, people, etiquette!

We made it up to the top, and then had a straight, fun downhill. I hit about 33.4mph top speed. Wheee!

Then through some country roads and on some local bike paths (where some shit was kind enough to try to run Amelia off the path, given that he was special enough to be traveling with his bike groupies and we were two single riders and thus clearly beneath him), and off to the covered bridge on Honey Run Road.

So far, so good. We goo’d. We drank. We peed. We were off and climbing. And it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. For one, no snakes, which I was insanely grateful for, especially since my climbing mantra was “Please no snakes, please no snakes, oh god was it right here? Please no snakes!” And the road was nice and shady, which was great when you needed to stop and rest. And it often had little flatish spots where you could get going again and clip in easily. It was a long-ass climb (6 miles, 2000 feet), but we later decided that, with respect to the other hills, it was fine. Not fun, but fine. And we both made it to the top just fine, slowly but fine, and were off to the first rest area.

Where the food was crap. It either looked or tasted unappatizing, and if it hadn’t been for the bananas, we wouldn’t have eaten at all. Then it was off to Table Mountain. At this point, there were some rolling hills, and I didn’t have a whole lot of gas left after Honey Run. And my knees were hurting when I climbed, probably from standing. But I made it to the downhill. Which was fun. And terrifying.

I hit, at one point, 37.7mph on my bike, and was on a road with signs warning cars to take the curves at less than 35mph. Thus = Me. On a bike. Going way to fast. I love downhills, and I love the rush, but not when they’re twisty downhills. Then they’re just sort of terrifying. As in, “grip your bike handles for dear life and hope your breaks don’t give out” terrifying.

Amelia and I met up again at the point where we turned off for lunch (65 miles) or Table Mountain (100 miles). I didn’t know if I had much left, and was hesitant to do it. I didn’t want to wimp out, but I didn’t want to get in over my head. Amelia’s point was, “What do you want to tell the internet you did?” Ah, the power of society’s judegement. (You guys aren’t judging me, are you? Right?) A chick we asked about the climb said it was only 2.5 miles of hard climbs. She said it was steeper than Honey Run, but more fun. So off we went.

Some light climbing under the baking sun, and we made it to the next rest stop, where I accidentally discovered, when faced with a large Park&Rec sign detailing how to “identify my friendly neighborhood snakes”, that the one that scared the shit out of me on Honey Run was a gopher snake. Oh joy and rapture! No screaming and crying, but my bike was parked in front of the sign, and Amelia had to go get it for me. My bike, not liking the snakes, attacked her in the process. Sorry!

((People! This isn’t necessary! I thought I was done with the snakes!))

More crap food, and thus only more bananas for us, and we were off to climb. 11 miles, according to the map, from the turn onto Cherokee road to lunch. 11 miles. I can do 11 miles. And only 2.5 miles of it was climbing, right? According to the girl, right?

Right up until there was a giant snake on the side of the road after a couple miles.

LUCKILY(!!!!!) my brain realized that the snake was not a part of the living world and managed to insert the word ‘dead’ before the word ‘SNAKEOHDEARGODAGIANTSNAKEPANICPANICPANIC’.

And yes, that is one word, why do you ask??

I screamed. Good practice if someone ever attacks me. I got about 100 feet down the road and stopped. It’s hard to bike when you’re mildly hyperventilating and crying and screaming. There was no one else around, for which I was thankful for (I’m not real proud of this rediculous reaction), but if a SAG guy had driven by about then, I would have asked for a ride back to the start. I was ready to be done. With the road, with the ride, with the snakes, with Chico in general. I was not having fun. (Poor Amelia noticed the snake, but when she asked other riders, no one had, so she spent the whole hill (MOUNTAIN!!) hoping I hadn’t seen it either. No such luck.)

I walked my bike a quarter of a mile or so while I calmed down, and eventually got back on it and resumed climbing. Up. And up. And UP.

2.5 miles, right? Around mile 2, by my count, I’d walked only about a third of a mile for the 1.7 miles of climbing I’d biked. I figured, my bike and I could still make it to the top, but I needed to use different leg muscles at times. A bike climber I am not, apparently.

So I figured I was within spitting distance from the top. Well, can you spit 2.2 miles? That’s how far a guy who was stopped in the shade said it was. And about then the road started getting steeper, and my walking to biking ratio switched to more like bike 2/10ths, walk 8/10ths instead of the other way around. I rode the flatter or less steep bits, and walked the more steep bits.

The third SAG guy we saw was driving up and down the mountain. He kept asking if I wanted a ride, and warning me it only got steeper each time he passed me. The guy who’d told me it was 2.2 miles and I were walking together by this point, and talking. The company was nice to have on the walk, as bike shoes aren’t meant to be hiked in.

About 0.5 miles from the top, I’d been walking for over a mile, and I decided it was stupid. I was clearly going to walk the rest of the way. The SAG guy asked, and I accepted, a ride. So what if my bike and I didn’t travel that last half mile under our own power? We could have, with me pushing it, or we could be driven and get there that much faster. The SAG guy said that he’d been doing support on that part of the road for 15 years and had never seen (a) so many people stopped and walking or (b) so many people accept a ride.

When we got to the top, it was 100 degrees!! And I was sure there were still snakes around!! So I thanked him for the ride, said so long to my car companions, and took off for the downhill. We get to go down now, right?

Well, turns out that Table Mountain is rather flat on top. Who would have guessed, right? And that I had to go through about 5 miles of flats or ups/downs before getting to the down? My legs were pooped at this point. And the twisty, turny downhill didn’t help. Especially when my phone rang, and I, assuming it was Amelia wondering where the heck I was, slammed on my brakes. Turned out to be someone from my college, wanting me to donate money (and money involving a number plus zeros at that) out of my miserly grad student salary. I told them it was a horrible time to talk, hung up on the poor girl, and resumed my downhill race. Again, with the poor markings, I nearly missed the turn for lunch.

And when I got there? About 2:30, maybe? 3, maybe? They were packing up and THROWING OUT THE LEFT OVER FOOD!!!! Because, clearly, the 30-50 riders still behind me clearly didn’t need lunch after climbing over 4000 feet and biking more than 60 miles. Fuck you, CVWR. That was not a nice thing to do. It was totally not necessary to throw an entire tray of sandwhiches in the dumpster. I got lunch because Amelia grabbed food for me, but what about all those other people? I was highly unamused.

And the lunch pickings? Were as dissmal as the other food choices. Pre-made sandwhiches, bananas, cookies. Unlike the Cinderella, where they put out a smorgasboard of culinary treats, let you make your own sandwhich (PB&J, meat, veggie, all three, whatever your little heart desires), plus have cookies and M&M’s and pretzels and goldfish and windmill cookies and fig newtons and all sorts of snack food to replenish your energy with. Bah.

So, with 40 miles to go, we headed out. I was tired. And hot. But it was 40 miles, and I can do 40 miles. Especially of rolling hills and flats. I lost Amelia on the first couple rollers–she’s a much stronger biker than I am, and I was still a bit beat from the climbs. But I was moving along at 16-18mph, doing well.

Now, I will admit that, on this ride, I did something I never do. I set my bike computer to mileage. Usually I watch time, or average speed. Anything but mileage. This time, I needed the mental “only x more miles” to get through the damn thing. Which, given that there map said 11 miles to lunch and it was more like 14? Was highly unhelpful. Because on this stretch, I was checking my mileage every mile or so. Which wasn’t good.

Anyways. About mile 70, I was going along, pedaling fine. Hot and tired, but not too bad. Then, the tingles started on my skin. And when the wind cut out for a moment or two, I felt chilly. People, it’s not possible to be chilly when it’s 90+ degrees out. Umm…yeah, that’s one of the first signs of heat stroke.

Now, I hadn’t seen a single SAG guy since the hill, and let’s face it, he was only the 3rd one I saw altogehter. So I figured my choices were to make it to the next rest stop, or to make it to the next rest stop. I did, at one point, begin to consider flagging down a random car and asking them to take me to Chico, but sanity (and the whole I’m a woman and afraid of doing shit like that) prevailed and I didn’t.

And then a SAG guy drove by. I threw up and arm, and thankfully (and I may have become briefly religious at this point), he noticed and stopped. My mileage hit just over 70 by the time I rolled up to his car.

And you know what? 70 miles in one day is admirable. 4000+ feet of climbing, even if some of it was walking, is admirable. Dammit, I was proud of what I’d done. And not stupid. I didn’t need 30 more miles to validate myself. Sort of like I didn’t need to have heat stroke to validate my supidity.

Turned out it was the same SAG guy from Table Mountain. And here’s the thing that still gets me. If some girl hadn’t gotten to the next rest stop and given up (my plan, remember?), he wouldn’t have been driving past. And he wouldn’t have seen me. And I still had 5 miles to go. Again, fuck you, CVWR, for having such shitty support. I appreciate that guy and his services, but overall? You failed completely.

By the time we got to the rest stop, I’d sucked down an entire water bottle, enjoyed a bit of a breeze from the open window, and was feeling a bit restored. We picked up two girls, and about the time we did, Amelia rolled in.

I told her how I was feeling and that I was done. I felt bad for leaving her alone, and apologized, but she told me not to be stupid and that I was doing the right thing. I’ll admit that the better I felt, the more I felt like I’d given up. After a couple hours, though, I was just back to being proud.

So the plan was to go back to the fairgrounds and get dinner for the both of us and be waiting for her. Given that dinner closed at 5pm and all. Yes, that’s right. 5pm. As in, you’re not back, too bad for you. Dear god, do these people just hate anyone who doesn’t bike professionally and rediculously fast???

So I got back, opened up the car, and sat on the trunk sucking down more water for awhile. Eventually, I got the bike loaded, packed up my shower stuff, and headed into the fairgrounds. I did find the showers, after asking 4 or 5 people and hiking around a bit, and I think I’ve never felt so good in my entire life. Seriously.

Then it was off to stand in line for dinner. They were nice enough to let me take a second plate for Amelia, which I piled high with some of everything. Including the pizza. Because they’d run out of the promised tritip and were now serving pizza. Bah. Having made friends with those in line around me, I ate with them, and Amelia rolled in about the time we were getting to dessert. Thus, ice cream sandwiches started off her dinner, which is a great way to go.

She did all 94 miles of the damn thing. And I don’t think she walked the hills. So proud of her!

And yes, 94 miles. Not the 100 miles we were promised. CVWR, you can’t claim it’s a century and then only provide 94 miles. We were robbed! Well, she was robbed.

Anyways, we ate, then she showered, and then we went and got pizzas from the famous Woodstock Pizzas to bring home to John and James. And were off for home. We stopped at one point to get coffee, and the act of getting out of the car and straightening legs that had been bent for an hour was not fun. However, back in the car, and off we went. We made it home about 11:30, chucked my bike in our apartment, grabbed John, and went off to IHOP for the most delicious meal I’ve ever had.

Thus, to ring my birthday, I could be found in IHOP burying my face in a plate of hashbrowns. Never, ever, have I tasted anything more delicious.

So. Yes, that was the ride. And we did it. And we’ll never do it again.

To recap:

  • No one checked us in or out. What if we’d been stranded out there? Who would have known?
  • No identification was provided. What if we’d been in an accident? (Amelia, we totally need to look into getting those rider arm bands.)
  • Very poor course markings and maps. Who knew where we’d end up?
  • Very poor course support. What if that SAG guy hadn’t been driving past? What if I’d needed help elsewhere on the course? I’d’ve been SOL.
  • Very poor roads at times. Not the sort of road you want to be biking on. Please pave it. Or pay to replace all the tires it punctures.
  • Very bad food. We’re riding far and climbing high. Calories are needed. Edible calories. Yes, I know this makes us picky, but still.
  • Packing up rest stops and dinner before people get to them is very poor form. We saw some poor guy bike into the parking lot at 6:30. No dinner for him, and I bet he didn’t have lunch, either. Oh, and I didn’t mention, they told us they were running out of food at lunch. So they why the fuck were they throwing the food away?!?!??!
  • There were no wildflowers. Or, more accurately, there were more wildflowers on the table at dinner than there were anywhere on the ride. Bah.
  • The course was 94 miles. If you advertise a century, you should provide 100 miles. It’s only fair. And truth in advertising and all.
  • There are too many snakes in Chico. And I haven’t even mentioned the many that were flattened and nearly unrecognizable on the road, but that still get my heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing a bit.

A day or two ago, Amelia got an email telling her they’d like feedback. You just opened up a can of worms, people. Here’s some of the things they plan on improving for next year: “changes at the rest stops, porta-potties, after-ride dinner, course markings, course signage, course monitors, rest stop timing, coffee and many other other area.”

Get ready for an earful, CVWR–I’m gonna be sending you a long letter detailing how you can improve.

Anyways. Go us! We biked far and climbed high.

And Chico Velo Wildflower Ride? You can bite my ass.

Now let us never speak of this again.

So Saturday morning, after sleeping in and then lounging around (it was another return to the hotel at 1am for us), we went straight to guest services. A very nice guy by the game of Gary basically said he didn’t have seats to move us but he’d do his best. He also said he’d talk to the usher people and all the security staff, and he said he’d put security cameras on the kids so that if anything like what happened Friday night happened again, they’d be able to catch all parties involved, not just those who the kids accused. Awesome.

It was, however, with resignation we went and took our seats, waiting to see how drunk they’d be when they showed up. One girl immediately needed a mixed drink to calm her nerves, and another couldn’t sit still she was so nervous. It’s just a game, people! However, the head of the 6th Man did offer to switch so we were sitting in front of them. I think he realized he’d pissed us off, and I think they’d seen Amelia and I talking to ushers. Good. So they switched, which meant we still got the rudeness and the abusiveness and the loudness (all well and good when you’re cheering, not jeering), but it was behind us and we could actually see. Also, they were surrounded by UCLA people, all of whom had been pissed off the day before, and I think the threat of murder kept the kids in line a bit. Additionally, a lot of them drove back to the Bay Area last night, and it’s hard to be stupid drunk when you’ve got to drive and/or have a 6 hour ride ahead of you. Sweet.

Well, so, Stanford’s band sat next to us (strike 1), UCLA scored first (strike 1 on them), Stanford was the lower seed (strike 3), and UCLA held Stanford to 64 points (strike 3–not 75). This doesn’t bode well, can you imagine?

It was a good game. One team would pull a bit ahead, and then the other would catch up and pull ahead. Back and forth. And Kevin Love injured his back. I felt bad for him–I have enough back problems that I can sympathize–but I figured it would help our chances immensely. However, in the middle of the second half, they pulled ahead and managed to prevent our comeback by going on a 22 and 8 run. That’s why they’re UCLA, the number 2 (?) team in the country. Anthony Goods had a good shot at a potential game-tying 3, but missed.

The game was basically for who got a good seed, so it didn’t matter too much. However, it so stressed out the one girl, and the other actually cried over the loss.

Now, I’ll fully admit that if Arizona had had to win that game to make it into the NCAA tourney, I might have teared up a bit. But I wouldn’t have bawled. It’s a game, people! Just. A. Game.

So we high-tailed it out of there. Any other team and we might have stayed to see them cut the nets, but it was UCLA and their ego doesn’t need stroking.

We took ourselves out for a nice dinner, then watched The Incredibles on TV.

And this morning, it was again up and on the road, though not quite at the crack of doom that it was on Wednesday. We made good time, despite the horrible winds, and dropped Rhiannon off. Then Amelia, John and I headed to our place to watch Selection Sunday.

Stanford’s a 3 and plays Cornell (awesome battle of the brains, that).

Arizona’s in (thank goodness for their SOS of 1), and a 10 seed to play West Virginia. Enough people on ESPN gave the game to Arizona, and I think if they play well, they can win. However, they have to play well. Chase Budinger has to be able to shoot and score. Jordan Hill has to not foul. They have to shut down West Virginia. If they don’t bring all they have, they won’t walk away winners.

Sadly, if they win, they’ll play Duke. Whom they lost to in the championship game in 2001. Whom I hate. With a passion. Because of that loss. Still a bit bitter, apparently.

I think I’m off to sit in a corner and rock back and forth chanting “Arizona” until late Sunday.

But at least I can sleep in my own bed if I choose.

Friday, Rhiannon went off with some friends she had in the area, and Amelia, John and I slept until noon. Then we went off in search of breakfast, and ended up at a wings place. Yes, we ate wings for breakfast. No, we did not eat particularly well at all this trip. But we had fun.

Wings and coffee (to prevent the caffeine headaches) downed, it was back to the Staples Center.

The semifinal game from the “morning” bracket was USC v UCLA. The UCLA fans definitely outnumbered the USC fans. It was another good game. Mbah a Moute from UCLA got injured, which maybe made it closer that it should have been, but it was a good game. We were next to USC’s band, UCLA scored first, and UCLA was the higher seed. Thus, they won.

Apparently only Arizona bucks trends.

The second semifinal game was Washington State v Stanford. It, too was a good game, or at least what I could see on the jumbotron thingy. We sat next to the Stanford band, Washington State scored first, and Washington State was the lower seed. However, despite the band and the scoring, Stanford won. Then again, they scored 75 points. Trend? Me thinks.

So far, you win if we sit next to the other band, you’re the higher seed, and you score first. Unless you’re Stanford, in which case you have to score 75 points in order to be able to buck the band/scoring trend.

There were two problems with this game. The first was in my head. I basically didn’t cheer against Stanford in the Arizona v Stanford game by blocking out that it was Stanford playing. I focused on the boys in navy blue. It worked pretty well, but in the game Friday, I ended up again sort of blocking out the Stanford boys. Also, I was just a wee bit bitter. Not that I wanted them to lose, but I was bitter. Very very bitter. *sigh*

Second, the undergrads came back. And they were, if possible, drunker than they were Thursday night. We got yelled at for not standing up (none of us wore our 6th Man shirts Friday, since we in no way wanted to be associated with them), and we got rudeness in return when we asked them to sit down. And yes, by sitting, we could only watch the game on the TV screen overhead, but even then we couldn’t see that that well. We’d talked to the ushers before the game, and a bunch of the kids got kicked out of the section since they didn’t have tickets, which was vindication and really only fair. Also, the ushers did a good job of trying to get them to sit. However, they were again fighting a loosing battle to a drunken mob.

To me, the worst part was that the students basically jeered at other people from other teams, taunted them, swore, yelled at the refs (big no-no in my book), and stood. Again. Very annoying. And they were drunk enough that they were climbing up onto the chairs to cheer, and then usually falling over onto other kids or onto us. One girl was so drunk she toppled her beer, but luckily some other kids went and bought her more. Though I’d never do it, I’ve never wished for some Visine more in my entire life!

What’s more, any time people in the crowd jeered back, the kids went and complained to the ushers. They got a UCLA guy kicked out. They were throwing food and balled-up napkins and other stuff at him, and taunting him. He’d probably had a bit to drink, judging by how he was responding to their taunting, but still. When they did it, it was funny. When he did it, they got strikes called against him. Eventually security got called.

Then, at the end, they would just not sit down. At all. In frustration, one of the Washington State people threw beer at them. Frankly, the Washington State people were totally justified. We didn’t appreciate it much, since we were caught in the spray, but still. Unfortunately, that got them kicked out. And the students celebrated. When we asked security and all the guys in suits who immediately showed up to please make the students sit down and be less rude and all, they basically said they couldn’t, and apologized to all the kids like they were little angels. Bah.

The kid in charge of the 6th Man actually sent out a congratulatory email. I’ve never been so dismayed and embarrassed and angry to be a Stanford person in my entire life. Really? Last year we were told we were classy fans. This year, we were the most unruly people there. I almost wanted Stanford to lose in the hopes that the kids wouldn’t come back.

We went to guest services and both (a) wrote a compliment to the ushers for trying, and (b) complained about the kids and asked to be moved. They told us to come back in the morning.

Game plan: screw the undergrads any which way we can. Or at least make it so we can enjoy the game.

We got up early again Thursday, though not quite so early. There were four games, which frankly was a bit much.

We had Arizona State v USC up first. Arizona State was playing for a spot in the NCAA Tourney, and they nearly pulled it out against USC. However, I think the “home game” situation for the UC schools helped USC win in the end. It was a good game. Again, we were next to the Arizona State band, and USC scored first. And Arizona State was the lower seed.

Notice a pattern here?

Next up was Cal v UCLA. UCLA basically buried Cal. We tried to cheer them on, but were surrounded by way too many fans in baby blue and gold to make a difference. Guess who’s band we were next to? Cal’s. Guess who scored first? UCLA. Guess who was the lower seed? Cal.

Granted, Cal bucked that last trend (lower seed loses) in the game against Washington, but they’re band wasn’t next to us and they did score first. So, 2 out of 3.

Game 3, or the first game in the other half of the bracket, as Oregon v Washington State. We wanted Oregon to win, mostly because Taj Porter is an amazing player, we talked to some of the guys last year, and the Washington State fans were really annoying. Last year, there was this obnoxious girl who sat near us who screamed profanities and was just incredibly rude about whoever Washington State was playing. We were so glad when Washington State lost. Go back to Pullman!

Then this year, there was an incredibly obnoxious couple sitting behind us. There was a lot of swearing, especially at the refs–the faulty calls in the recent Pac-10 games may have been faulty, but I don’t like the way it’s given the viewers leave to question every single call. The officials are just trying to do their job. Sometimes they mess up, sometimes they don’t see things, but most of the time they get it right. Leave them alone.

Based on the language and actions, I expected someone vaguely our age, who just recently graduated. Nope, they probably could have kids in college. Maybe they did, who knows. We did meet a guy who’s daughter was on the Washington State dance team, which left us wondering (a) how he could come watch his daughter gyrate like that, and (b) why you’d ever let a teenage daughter leave the house in this day and age. Anyways, the Oregon boys got behind a bit, but made a good run for the money in the second half and nearly caught Washington State. They lost 70-75. (Important!)

As we were heading to get dinner (mmmm….Staples Center food….repeatedly….for four days….ewww), the rude/loud Wash St people stopped us and asked why we cheered for Oregon. As much as we made comments to ourselves to counteract a lot of what they yelled, and as much as we thought they were, well, rude and loud, we just couldn’t be mean enough to tell them that. Instead, we told them we didn’t really care much and so we rooted for the underdogs to make it interesting. Le sigh.

Next, and final, game, Arizona (swoon!) v Stanford (swoon!). OH NO!!! I was so afraid this would happen, and it did. The Stanford undergrads all showed up, most of them rip-roaring drunk already, and they continued to drink throughout the game. Most of them had trouble making it down the steps to our seats.

Turned out, we were seated a bit back because the 6th Man (our student section) organizers saved all the seats for themselves and their friends. Which, fine, but we’d been there since Wednesday. I think we deserved the better seats. Plus, they stood. In front of me. And my boys were playing.

So I, wearing my Stanford sweatshirt but my navy blue shirt, moved across the aisle and made friends with the UCLA people who were cheering for Arizona. I think they were mostly motivated by the annoyance that was the Stanford student section, which was loud, drunk, unruly, and rude. They also stood, like I mentioned, which pretty much blocked the view of those behind them. The Staples Center folks tried to get them to sit, but it was a losing battle.

And, as great a Arizona was against Oregon State, and as good as their defense was in the first half, they left something behind in the locker room for the second–a combination of the shooting ability of Chase Budinger and the defensive ability of Jordan Hill. And they just couldn’t quite pull it out. I so wanted them to win, and it sucked. I wasn’t unhappy with Stanford’s win, and regardless it meant that one of my teams moved on, but Stanford’s win meant Arizona’s loss, and I wasn’t okay with that part.

They’re my boys. They’re Arizona. They’ve always been my boys. Stanford’s only been my boys for 3-4 years now. And I’m not switching loyalties–I’d think less of myself if I did.

But!

I think I did a very good job of cheering for Arizona without cheering against Stanford. For instance, I cheered when Arizona got the rebound, not when Stanford missed the shot.

And! We were next to the Stanford band! And! Arizona scored first!

However, Stanford was the higher seed. Also, they won 75-64. So that’s both the winning teams in the “afternoon” half of the bracket that won by scoring 75.

Can you tell I’m incredibly superstitious when it comes to sports? Lucky underwear and all!

In order to drown my sorrows and feed everyone else, we found an all-night diner, where I promptly ordered a hot fudge sundae and listened to Amelia and John reassure me that Arizona would still be in the NCAA tourney and it would all be okay. Of course, they were coming off their team (Stanford–I cheered by myself for Arizona) winning, so it was a bit two-edged, but never in a malicious way. They’re good like that.

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