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Man, there’s nothing quite like sleeping in, plus sleeping in an extra hour. I finally feel well-rested for the first time in a couple weeks, though I’m sure all that will change tomorrow when I have to get up and go to work. Meh.

It’s been doing anything from drizzling to downright pouring here today, and so my plans to do some gardening–mowing, pruning, sprucing up–were put on hold. Instead, I sat around and watched TV and enjoyed a comfy day with the cats while listening to the rain fall on the sky lights. (Except for the couple hours at work.)

Not too bad, really. Would have been better with a fireplace and a husband at home, but all things considered, pretty good.

I’m not a super big fan of the cold and drizzle, but it certainly creates the perfect reason to stay curled up in pajamas on the couch for as long as I want.

It also means it’s time for cut hats and scarfs and long sleeved shirts. I’m usually perpetually cold, so I like this time of year. I no longer look like the weird girl who’s wearing fall clothes to work in the summer. Granted, they refrigerate our building in the summer, but still.

And it means we’re getting that much closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. Always a fun set of holidays. We’re not traveling for Thanksgiving this year, but instead are having a big dinner with friends here in town. Then it’s off to see our families for Christmas, which should be good times.

Yep, all things considered, I love this time of year. Fall colors and the promise of holidays. Huzzah! (The hockey and the college basketball help too.)

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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!

Life has been so full of stuff lately that I feel like I haven’t had a chance to sit and breathe, let alone do anything extra. There’ve been scuba classes to teach, research symposium applications to finish, weddings to help with and attend, plus all sorts of work.

The biggest thing John and I had on our plate lately was Elizabeth and Mark’s wedding. We’ve been having all sorts of lunch and dinner parties to help the happy couple make table center pieces or arrange favors or have bridal showers. We’ve been on a number of bike rides to help the bride tone her arms and back. It’s been really great to watch two people so clearly in love, and so right for one another. Plus meeting all of their other friends has been a blast.

Their wedding was last weekend, and it was beautiful. Hot as hades, but beautiful. Full Catholic mass ceremony, which was a bit much for a non-air-conditioned church (one of my friends from high school nearly passed out but made it through), and a great reception. We’d helped set up the reception area beforehand, so knew how nice it was going to be. There was also a post-wedding brunch, for which my oven was on at 400deg for 2 hours on Saturday, while the outside temperature was hovering around 100deg. Hot, but the food was oh-so-tasty.

Elizabeth and Mark are off on their honeymoon for the next couple of weeks, and I’m sort of sad to not have them around, and to have no more wedding party excuses for getting together, but we’ll be back to our usual routine the minute they’re home, I’m sure.

The other big thing that’s been taking up my time, and absorbing most of my words, is my paper, which was submitted Monday to a journal, and has been sent out for review. Such a relief. I went home Monday, sprawled on the couch, and didn’t move for hours. That may have been due to the heat, in part, but still. It’s done, or at least I don’t have to think about it for 4-6 weeks. Cross your fingers for me, will you?

I’m pretty proud of this paper. Yes, maybe it’s not as great as it could have been with massive more experiments (there’s always another paper, I suppose), and no, it’s not going to change the world, and yes, it’ll likely be one of two instead of a whole handful that I end up graduating with, but that work? It’s mine. I did it. I completed it, with lots of help, but it’s still mine. And I’m pretty proud of that, regardless of the comments that have been thrown at me in the past about it.

Now to just get a second paper out and aim to graduate sometime. Key word: sometime.

But hopefully with the paper done, I’ll be around a bit more. I’ve clearly kind of forgotten how to do this whole blogging thing, but hopefully it’s like riding a bicycle, which, hey, I’m allowed to do again! Here’s to the paper being sent off, and theoretically only 2-3 more months of physical therapy! Whee!

Each time I’ve talked to my parents lately, it’s been frigidly cold, possibly snowing. I don’t miss that about Iowa.

I am, to be sure, a cold-blooded person. I require external sources of warmth to maintain my body heat, since clearly my metabolism isn’t up to the job. Bah.

That said, when my sister Amy posts a pic of herself making a snow angel in beautiful new foot-deep snow on Faceb**k, and my mom sends me an email about how the sun dogs were out this morning, and I think of how nice it is to play in the snow for a bit before heading inside to sit by the fire and thaw, then I miss Iowa.

Just a teeny tiny bit, but enough.

However, it’s only worth it when you can play outside or stay wrapped up inside. The moment you actually have to go about your daily life, it’s not quite so fun. Alas.

I know some of you were or are getting pounded with blizzard conditions and beyond-freezing cold, and I don’t mean to brag, but we had lovely weather this past weekend.

Saturday in Monterey was sunny and beautiful and warmish (60’s, maybe?). It was a perfect day to be outside–not so hot that our students risked heat exhaustion in their wetsuits (and we in our drysuits) on land, and not so cold that they kept freezing when they got out of the water. Our winter classes are often very hit-or-miss: either beautiful or horrible. Luckily, this one was beautiful

Three years ago this class, John and I helped with our first class ever. It’s a class we kindly refer to as “Bowling for Students”. The waves were rolling in and crashing into the breakwater, causing reflection waves that kept rolling in, but from a different angle. Waves were crashing up onto the steps we normally seat our students on. We attempted an entry with our three students, but the waves came rolling in. You can guess what happened from how we refer to this class, I’m sure. Needless to say, we all changed into street clothes and went out to breakfast.

Upon arriving at the ocean Saturday (at 6am, I’m listening to John next time about when to leave–better to be a bit late than half an hour early!), we found the exact same conditions. Rolling waves paired with a predicted extra-high tide. We had 11 students, 3 instructors and 3 divemasters. Piece of cake, sort of.

James M, luckily, anticipated the needs of his instructor and DIDN’T show up. Ah, bliss. Especially since last weekend, he showed up at the pool several times but failed to do anything but stand there, despite the fact that Shelly and I were lugging around tanks and trying to help students and whatnot. I snapped at him at one point–“Nice of you to show up just in time to not help”–to which he replied–“I’ve got a cold.” I walked off without pointing out that Ben was so sick he wasn’t in the water, but was there nonetheless helping on the topside, or that I had a cold and couldn’t clear but was still in the water doing what I could. He just made me so angry. I think we’re all getting to the point where we just don’t want to interact with him at all in a scuba situation, and possibly just don’t want to be friends with him at all. Bah.

Anyways…

James F and I took four students–two little girls and two women, one of whom had to be done by noon in order to fly to Cancun the next day. John went with Greg and three other students, one of whom was our obligatory idiot. And that’s putting it nicely. John always seems to get stuck working with the idiots, no matter who he pairs up with. I tried to switch with him, but he was being all gentlemanly about it.

The entries into the water went fairly well–the girl I was holding had to be hauled to her feet at one point, but she muscled through, which was pretty much the theme of the day. (I think most of the students made it in and out okay–maybe a few went to their knees, but no one got bowled over.) Both little girls had problems on the first dive, which was fine with me as my ears were pretty uncomfortable once I got down. Instead of pushing it, I took the two of them into shore. Luckily, John had been “babysitting” students on the surface and was available to help me get the two of them into the beach. I spent my surface interval getting them warm and comfortable and sorting out all the students.

For the second dive, I did the obligatory “babysitting” on the surface, since I wasn’t going down again, and John got to go down and swim around with the girls and James F. Apparently there were lots of crabs out and about, but not much else. Good visibility, 20 feet or so, and beautiful weather made for good diving, and the waves calmed down after the high tide peaked around 8:30, but apparently no sea life was out and about.

After lunch with our staff and a lot of students, John and I headed home to wash gear and take a nap, then spend the evening doing nothing at all, which felt marvelous.

On Sunday, John had to work and I was off to help Cara shoot our friend’s wedding. She’d picked a super-small venue, and thus had a limited guest list, so she’d snuck in a few extra people by having them be “staff”. Now, Cara’s a pro photographer, so she makes sense, but I was there as her assistant purely to attend the wedding. We had another beautiful sunny day, and the view from the winery we were at was gorgeous. It was a bit windy, but Cara got some beautiful pics of our friend’s veil blowing out behind her.

I mostly did a lot of people herding to get them ready for group pics that Cara was taking, as well as a certain amount of small things–carrying extra cameras and film (backup to the digital, smart girl!) and taking a few group candids with Cara’s small camera. All in all, helpful, I hope, and it was so lovely to see our friend get married. She had a beautiful location and ceremony and reception, and we were both so happy for her.

There was a bit of sadness–this is the same friend who’s little brother was killed back in August, and I handed out tissues to various people for both happy tears and sad tears. I know it was hard on my friend to get married without her brother present, but I’m sure he was there with her in spirit. That may not have helped a whole lot, but she got through the though moments.

It was a long day, as we were there from 11:30 to 6 (not including the drive there and back!) to capture her getting ready all the way to getting in the car and driving away at the end. I can see why Cara says it’s such a good workout! Plus, Cara and I got in a nice amount of gossip time both on the drive there and back, and at the points in the day when we took small breaks.

So that was my weekend–long and full, but I got to be outside in the beautiful weather quite a bit. The weather is nice all this week, though I’ll be mostly enjoying it via the windows at work, but I’m hoping for a bike ride or something fun this coming weekend. Best of all, I may finally be kicking this cold’s butt. Cross your fingers for me, eh?

(Because I’m needing some warm, happy thoughts right about now, and because it’s about damn time I finished my story…)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Day 7, Friday

Our last morning to wake up and go diving. Sad, but part of the reason vacations are so great is that they’re different from the same old, same old, right?

It began to rain during breakfast, but being the hearty, intrepid diving souls that we were, this didn’t phase us. After all, we were headed out to intentionally get wet, right? I will admit, though, that there’s a difference to getting into the ocean and getting wet versus getting caught in a rain storm.

We boated in the opposite direction the last morning, heading to a nearby island instead of to the far side of our island, where all our previous dive sites had been. This island was a private resort, and we were going to be diving off of it for the morning.

Our first site was a place called Fantasy. Or maybe Fantasea. It was supposed to be covered in large sea fans, including some gorgonians. Indeed, there were tons of them, some bigger, or wider as the case may be, than us. It was pretty cool to swim along and look at them stretched out beside you as you passed. We also found some more “magic coral”—the stuff that changed colors if you touched it (gingerly!!). Towards the end, one of the divemasters found a tiny popcorn shrimp. While looking at it, John found several other miniature shrimp (is that possible? Smaller than what we were used to seeing, at least) nearby. The site was also covered in many beautiful red anemones, which made a splendid backdrop for all the Nemo-like clown fish. There wasn’t anything truly spectacular or outstanding that we saw at this site—nothing special like the octopus, but just a generally great site where the whole dive was entertaining and fun.

During our surface interval, we motored in towards shore and anchored there. Some of the guys from the private resort came out to hang out with our guides, and we all went off snorkeling.

The very first thing we found, or John found, was a giant scorpion fish, just sitting in a little hole in the rocks in about 10 feet of water. He looked suitably grumpy and mean, so other than diving down to view him, we mostly left him alone.

Instead, we went off to play with some of the striped black-and-white fish that were clustered on the coral heads. John dove down to grab a coconut at one point, and after we tossed it back and forth a few times, we tossed it in the ocean. To our surprise, every little stripped fish from yards around came dashing over to inspect the coconut, probably hoping it was food that had been dropped from heaven. This was repeated numerous times, right up until we had to go get on the boat again. Fun little fish games for you, I suppose.

The second dive was at a place called Golden Arches (I know, I know, bah), and it was simply fantastic. There were a huge number of swim throughs/unders/betweens in the coral, adding a sort of acrobatic atmosphere as we swam along. Many of these were decorated with all sorts of soft corals, mostly in shades of yellow (hence the ‘golden arches’–much more appropriate than in reference to a certain greasy local), hanging down towards us, making for beautifully framed views of blue ocean surrounded by hard and soft coral.

At one point, we found a hug moray, greenish-brown and speckled. He was easily over a foot, maybe two, in diameter, and probably 6-8 feet long. He was in a hole, and when the divemaster poked at him, he swam out right and John and myself! Eek! Thankfully, he took an immediate left into another hole, although this meant he disappeared and only ourselves and Nate got a good look at him. Gigantic!

Towards the end, I saw a small little octopus, about the size of my hand, come out from one whole and swim to another one. He sat at the entrance, changing colors form reddy-brown to rock-colored, but as soon as I tried to get John’s attention, he ducked off into the hole, never to be seen again. But! I spotted my first octopus by myself!

At the end of the dive, as we hung out on top of the coral head, it was funny to watch all the bubbles filter up through the rock. They were from our out-breaths when we’d been going through the swim-throughs below, and were taking their sweet time to filter up and out towards the surface. Pretty cool.

About the time we started to head for the anchor line to ascend, it occurred to me I was getting out of the water for the last time. I signalled “tear” to John, and waved good-bye to the reef. Sad times, but some of the best diving I’ve done in my entire life. And hey, we’ll be back.

On the way back to the resort, it was commonly agreed that these two sites were two of the best of the whole week, along with Three Thieves and Glory H*ole. Not that any of the dives was “eh”, but these four were even better than the rest. I highly recommend them to anyone heading there!

We spent a lazy afternoon swimming in the pool or reading in the lounge chairs. The rain in the morning had disappeared while we’d been on our first dive, and it was bright and sunny and warm—perfect lounging weather. John and I did head off at one point to do some packing and to lay out all the wet dive gear in the hopes that the sun would dry it before we had to pack it home.

There had been an afternoon activity of traditional Fijian cooking lessons, which we didn’t attend (too drawn to doing nothing at that point), but we did get to partake of the food afterwards, and I have to say, I’ve never had such delicious fish in my entire life. Apparently all you have to do is soak it in coconut milk, wrap it in leaves, and cook it in a pit in the ground for a couple of hours. Delicious!

In the evening, just before dinner, we had a Meke Night. Many of the resort workers, as well as a number of the local villagers, came and sang and danced for us. The women did a traditional song and hand dance routine, the children all sang for us, and the boys did a dance with spears, which was way cool. It created a very party-like atmosphere, which pretty much banished the “how sad, we’re leaving” mentality. The school teacher that we’d met on our tour was there, and we were able to give her an envelope with the money we’d collected for the track meet that the kids were going to, and her gratitude and thanks were very touching–it made us feel like we’d really made a difference. At dinner, the chef outdid her self, and we all gave her a round of applause when she came out to wish us well on our trip home. A beautiful last day of diving and a beautiful and tasty last night to remember our trip by.

Day 8, Saturday-Saturday

We woke to have our last fresh fruit and toast and pancakes with our resort friends on Saturday morning. It was drizzling a bit, befitting our mood, but the food was as tasty as ever. After the boats were loaded with our luggage, it was time to say goodbye. In particular, one of the waitress came to say goodbye to me—we’d become friends over the week—and I nearly cried. That’s how warm and friendly these peole were! The people at the resort came and serenaded us as we headed off to the boat, just as they had when we arrived. Cara did cry then, and I definitely teared up. The boat and bus ride back to the mainland were somewhat subdued, but we still talked and joked along the way.

Back in Nadi, we all had day rooms rented for the six hours before we headed to the airport. Nate, Shelly, Rae, Aaron, John and I got a cab to one of the shopping centers, where we did some last-minute souvenir shopping and sat around with our last fruity cocktails of the trip. Then it was off to the airport to catch our 11pm flight home to LA, where we arrived approximately 10 hours before we left, at 1pm. By 6pm, we were back home in our own little house, suitcases full of dirty clothes and damp dive gear, and greeted by the general disdain of our cats, who were not impressed with our prolonged absence.

However, there’s something to be said from coming home from a trip and being in your own house in your own bed. Lovely.

And all in all, by far the best diving I’ve ever done, and in general, the best trip I’ve ever been on with some of the best people I’ve ever traveled with.

The only real, true downside? Never, not once, did I see a sea snake. All that therapy, all that preparation, and I’ve got no idea how well it worked. Oh well, there’s always next year!

To quote James F upon arriving home: We need to do this more often–this traveling together thing.

James? We’re all coming on your honeymoon when you go back, dude. Hope you don’t mind!

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.

All it takes is one or two asshats, some rain, and some massive motion sickness. For details, read on:

When you go to bed at midnight and your alarm goes off at 4:45am, life doesn’t seem particularly rosy. That said, it was our fault we went to bed so late–we spent the evening with James F and Cara, talking and hanging out. They let us sleep at their place most nights before diving. Means the alarm goes off at 4:45am instead of 4:00 or 4:15am. And, really, we probably wouldn’t have gone to bed much earlier at home. We never seem to, despite the best of intentions.

We arrived at Breakwater beach around 6:45am and began to prep for the day. The staff (ourselves, James F, Greg, Ben, Nate and Shelly) all sorted out the plan of attack for the day. Then we spread out the tarp and began to direct students to set up gear and to prep for the dives.

The plan for the day was pretty ambitious. We were supposed to just be teaching Advanced Open Water, which is a fun class. It’s 5 dives long, and is basically composed of the first dive of five different specialties. Navigation and Deep are required dives, and in addition, we almost always do Peak Performance Buoyancy, Night, and Boat. All in all, it has less skills and more fun diving than most other classes.

However, Ben had invited along 2 Open Water students to come and finish up their ocean dives. As we were going to have to teach the two of them anyway, James F agreed to take on 3 additional open water students from another instructor. Open Water is a much more rewarding class-getting to introduce students to the wonder that is scuba diving, but it’s a lot more work (both for us and them) and a lot less fun diving, mostly because of the “more work” component.

Ben, additionally, had talked one of the AOW students into taking Drysuit, since one of the 5 dives could be his first drysuit dive, and if he did a 6th additional dive over the weekend, he could also be certified to dive a drysuit.

Finally, Greg, as one of the instructors for a local dive club, had agreed to finish supervising the two remaining certification dives for some club members for Night diving.

So, in the grand scheme of things, three instructors and four divemasters were teaching four different classes.

Ben took Nate and Shelly and went off to do the first two dives with three of the four AOW students. He’d (conveniently) told the fourth guy that he didn’t have to show up until noon. (WTF?)

Greg and James F took myself and John and the five open water students and set off to do their dives. We were planning on doing three on Saturday to lighten the load for Sunday. That, among other things, may have been mistake number one.

Dive one went fine. After covering the surface skills required, we took off on a dive. James led and John and I looked after the three students, mostly making sure they didn’t wander off or shoot to the surface or anything. James F found a couple of nudibranchs, a cute little white one and a hermissenda. There were also lots of sanddabs out, and plenty of decorator crabs. All in all, a fairly pleasant twenty minutes or so. The students, however… One liked to star (and stare and stare and stare) at creatures in the sand, and while I’m all for having them enjoy things that they see, we usually like our students to, oh, say, respond, when we signal “follow me” and start swimming. Another showed classic signs of impending panic–he constantly was trying to clear his mask although it wasn’t flooding. The third was okay, for the most part.

Afterwards, we talked amongst the three of us–consensus was that it had all the signs of a Very Long Day about it. But off we went on Dive 2. And miraculously, our students seemed to have woken up or returned to awareness or something, because all of them did well on the skills and on the tour afterwards. Maybe Dive 1 was a bit of a “good gracious this is all new hey shiny lookee” thing, but it was a nice turnaround. Not much to see on this dive other than more crabs and sanddabs, but good visibility (about 20 feet) and pleasant lack of swells or currents or surge or anything.

We sent our students off to get their tanks filled while we wandered down to the deli on the dock. If you’re ever in the area and want some fairly good food from a very angry Russian lady, that deli is the place to go. We were surprised to learn that someone must have mentioned the words “customer” and “service” to her since our last visit, as we actually got smiles to go with our bagels and cream cheese. AND they were homemade bagels–delicious!

I hung out with Cara for a bit–she was trying to do homework, as well as planning on wander the beach locations in Monterey for wedding spots. Mostly I think she was sleeping. I was a bit envious. Rae and Aaron were also there fun diving, and we chatted with them for awhile. We’re all wishing that they’ll decide to do Divemaster and will come work with us, which would be awesome.

Dive 3 was a bit longer and bit more tricky. Ben’s AOW noontime student showed up, and instead of taking him out himself, Ben foisted him off on Greg and James F. So we had 5 OW students and one AOW student. And a float to pull in from the dive site. But we had fun. I pulled up the float while the instructors did the skills, and then took two students off on a tour of the area. We most found lots of crabs and snails out, nothing new and exciting, but I’m sure it was all new and exciting to the two students, and they enjoyed it.

After the dive, around about 2:30pm, we changed into street cloths (just as it started to pour rain, so much for DRY street clothes) and went down to the deli for lunch. Greg had told the Night Dive students to meet at 3:30 so we didn’t have time to go elsewhere. I ate about five bites of clam chowder, a good chunk of breadbowl, and then headed back to the car to curl up in the drivers seat for a cat nap. The car wasn’t warm, but it was out of the wind and rain, and I had a couple jackets on/over me to keep warm.

It came time for the night dive with both the AOW and Night classes, and I’d reached my limit. Despite the coats and the nap, I was shivering and exhausted. John and Greg pretty much ordered me back into the car, and I was pretty happy to sit out the dive. Of course, whenever I don’t do a night dive, John sees fabulous things on it, so that may have been part of his rationale.

It also worked out, as one of the AOW students was pretty distraught about an argument with her boyfriend, and she sat out the dive and we talked and I calmed her down. *sigh*

When I’d gotten her talked through it all and feeling better, I encouraged her to go out on the second night dive with the Night class students. Ben and Nate hadn’t gone out, with the rationale that they’d help Greg on the second dive, and they ended up taking this student out on a private Night dive. I don’t think they’d have gone out otherwise, but oh well.

In the meantime, Greg and John and James completed the first night dive, then James took the students back out for a second one while Greg went to pull the float.

It was a looong day. We finally left the beach around 8:45pm. FOURTEEN hours after we’d arrived. Loooooong.

John and I were delegated the task of buying a bunch of cheap pizza at Little Caesars and Nate and Shelly were given the task of buying lots and lots of water and other drinks for everyone. The instructors, meanwhile, finished debriefing the students.

Back at the hotel, we all met up and crammed ourselves with pizza and crazy bread, followed by a long soak in the hot tub. Ahh, warmth.

The only marring of the evening, other than the late hour and exhaustion and rain, was James M. James M is an assistant instructor, and theoretically on our staff. However, he hasn’t worked a class with us in probably over a year and half. He keeps saying he’s going to come back and help, but he keeps finding excuses. This time, it was that he’d agreed to help another instructor, which was pretty much the last straw for most of us. I mean, we had four classes and all those students, and he’s not helping? This is pretty common–he can’t say ‘no’ to anyone but us. And then he had the nerve to come to us and complain about having to do three damn dive. And how tough it was to work with someone else.

To which I wanted to reply, I’ve done three, John and Greg have done 4, and James F has done five. Shut up. And it was your choice to go work with someone else.

But in the spirt of playing nice, and the fact that we were all sharing the hotel room, I just kept my mouth shut and pretty much didn’t acknowledge his existence most of the evening. Interestingly, Greg was pretty much the only one who did, and as Greg, being the Head Instructor, has always been the peace keeper, that’s pretty normal. *sigh*

Sunday dawned at 7am, thanks to the race being run in Monterey, and it was a drizzly dawn. We packed up the cars and headed down to the beaches, aimlessly driving around the Monterey downtown area until 8am when the barricades preventing us from getting to the beaches were taken down.

John and I had pulled rank and chosen to go on the boat with the AOW students and Ben, leaving Nate and Shelly to help Greg and James F with the OW students on their last dive.

Big mistake. While Saturday was flat and calm and beautiful, Sunday was rockin’ and rollin’ out on the bay. We didn’t even attempt to go down to Carmel, although since the boat crew couldn’t make it to the ramp any earlier than we could, I don’t think we’d have had the time even if it had been good weather.

That said, I’d have been fine diving in the damn harbor. The moment the boat started moving, I was staring fixedly at the horizon. I can handle the up-down or the side-to-side, but when you mix them? I go all green. And not in an eco-friendly way, even if the end result does attract more fishes.

We had two dives to do–Deep and Boat–and I don’t remember much of them. I did both, as it was preferable to be off the boat than to be on it, but there were other people on the boat who weren’t teaching and thus took their sweet time, so we ended up waiting post-dive each time. Nothing spectacular on either dive, and nothing horrible beyond a completely ADD student who’s attention was seemingly focused on anything but the staff who was trying to get his attention. Repeatedly. GAH!

On the way back, Ben started complaining about having to do another dive to catch up AOW student who’d showed up at noon (Ben told him he could, thus it was Ben’s fault he was a dive behind) and to finish off the drysuit student (again, it was Ben’s suggestion for him to take the extra class/dive). I was a bit tired of all of James M’s “eh, eh, life is hard” act and wasn’t feeling good enough to placate Ben, and pretty much said so. GAH! AGAIN! Especially when he started ragging on Greg and doing the Night diving class. First of all, despite his suited-up state, Ben wouldn’t have done that dive at all if the girl student hadn’t needed some consolation over her argument with her boyfriend and had missed her own dive. Second, Greg offered to do all the work himself–it was kind of James F and John to help out. Third–James F and John had already done 3 dives, while Ben had only done 2. WTF? Fourth, Greg had a responsibility, and he took care of it. That’s commendable, not something that should be ridiculed. GAH!

After we got back, Ben bailed on the dive (of course) and Greg had to do it all by himself, meaning he was teaching two students two different sets of skills on one dive with no help. James F was already out of gear, I was too sick, John was trying to get me out of my drysuit and into the car, and Nate and Shelly had already left. Sorry Greg! It was about par for the course for Ben, who’s a great guy, but not much fun to teach with. He’s a poor planner when it comes to logistics, he can’t make a decision to save his life, and he’ll opt out of any work given the choice. Not that he’s lazy, but he’s just lacking the authoritarian manner that’s necessary for an instructor to make people pay attention. It’s frustrating to work with him at all, especially compared to the competence that Greg and James F both display.

To top it off, James M was hanging out at the docks–turns out his instructor had cancelled the class. There was 2 foot visibility along the beaches, so this was probably prudent. Although why he was hanging out and annoying us by STILL NOT HELPING, I don’t know.

Between the motion sickness and the pissed-off-ness at Ben and James M, I just wanted to get the hell out of there. My day had pretty much been ruined at that point.

It was salvaged a bit by some seafood burritos with James F and Cara and James F’s parents, followed by a nap all the way home, followed by a three hour nap, followed by awareness long enough to unload the car, rinse the gear, put stuff away, eat chicken noodle soup and toast while watching the end of the Giants game, followed by 11 hours of sleep.

Ahh, sleep. In a warm bed. That can make anything better.

So it was a good weekend of teaching in the sense that we got all the students through all the classes and most of them had a good time. Not so good in the sense that most of us wanted to murder James M, several of us wanted to murder Ben, and it was an exhausting experience.

It will be a long time before I pull rank again to get on a boat. Nate and Shelly can have it for the foreseeable future. And I may not be willing to talk to James M or work with Ben for quite awhile. Gah.

I turned on the TV this morning while I was eating breakfast, and when I saw that MSNBC or whoever was doing political commentary, promptly started channel surfing. Don’t get me wrong, I care, I voted absentee already (and for the right people and things!), but I’m so sick and tired of this election that I just want Tuesday to come and be over already. Especially if my candidates win.

I ended up finding a show called “Yellowstone: America’s First National Park” or some such thing. It seemed light and airy and mindless and good for breakfast time watching.

Four and a half years ago, John and I drove through Yellowstone. We went on a 6000 mile road trip, starting in Iowa, heading through Wyoming and Montana to Washington (to do wedding stuff and visit my family), then down Highway 1 along the Oregon coast to the California Redwoods, on to the Bay Area (to visit Stanford and look for an apartment), and finally home through Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches and back home. It was an awesome month, and the fact that we got along in a car and while camping for that long definitely made me believe that, regardless of what came our way, we could get through it.

The Tetons and Yellowstone were supposed to be our first stop after staying with family in Cheyenne. However, we threw in the towel to get to the Tetons after we’d been backpacking in the Wind River Mountains just south of there a year earlier. Instead, we went to Thermopolis to see the Hot Springs State Park and the local buffalo herd. Many years ago, my family went through there and we all gathered and stayed for a day or so before going on to Casper to bury my grandparents , so while my previous visit was for a sad purpose, the Thermopolis part of it was pretty cool.

John in Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park

John in Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park

So we stayed in a hotel there, and swam in it’s hot spring pool, then headed for Yellowstone. I don’t remember where all we went, but we drove around the lake, did all sorts of hikes along the boardwalks, and had an amazing time. John especially loved it. I’d been all over the Western US when my family lived in Arizona and did road trips, but John’s family is from Iowa and the East Coast, and most of our trip was a first for him.

My favorite part of the day was when we went to see Old Faithful. It was snowing and gray and freezing out (it was only late May), and when Old Faithful finally erupted, we had to work hard to distinguish water and steam from the cloud backdrop. It was, in some ways, more spectacular than seeing it on a clear day, and all our pictures have giant snowflakes in them.

Old Faithful erupting in the snow

Old Faithful erupting in the snow

We’d meant to camp, and had reserved a spot in one of the camp grounds, but by late afternoon, it was still snowing and cold and blustery. The weather radio in my parent’s car (NO idea how we talked them into letting us take it for a month, but we did and they did and it was awesome) told us that nighttime blizzard conditions were expected for all elevations in the area above 7000 feet. Well, most of Yellowstone is above 10,000. I may have the numbers wrong, but you get the idea. And our tent was not meant for blizzards. Nor were our sleeping bags. So we toured the park until the last amount of daylight could be found, then headed north and out into Montana, where we drove until midnight or so and stopped in a cheap hotel for the night.

It was the first of such instances where Mother Nature laughed in the face of our camping plans, but it was still a neat day.

So I’ve signed up again this year. Somewhat foolishly, perhaps, but as the saying goes, I’ll try anything twice.

Hey, last year I made it all the way through 1/3 of the month! Then, I just forgot to post. So this year, while the overall goal may be to post every day (and we all know how well that’s gone in the last two weeks), my perhaps more realistic goal is to post for at least 20 days straight.

Work my way up to 30, you know?

I’m guessing there may be a certain number of posts containing pointless drivel or small random observances, but I’ll do my best to be entertaining.

I can pull off “entertaining” for 30 days, right?

So, how was your Halloween? Ours was pretty good.

We went to Shelly and Nate’s house, and actually got to help hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Okay, fine, we missed the trick-or-treaters, but we did try to give candy to the Chinese food delivery man. Sadly, he refused any.

Shelly, Cara (dressed as Princess Leia in her pajamas) and I (dressed as a cat disguised as a human–I had cat ears and plenty of cat hair, so it seemed natural and required little work) also went and toured Shelly’s neighborhood, where a bunch of people had decorated their houses up for Halloween the same way some people do for Christmas. It was pretty cool, and there were a lot of cute kids out and about. Our respective boys stayed back at the house, lounging.

We spent the rest of the evening playing Guitar Hero World Tour (I officially have no rhythm, and thus having me play drums was a baaaad idea) and Killer Bunnies. Guitar Hero never sounded like all that much fun to me, but it’s growing on me–I think it’s mostly the time with friends and the laughing that ensues, but I’m beginning to see the appeal. Granted, I should never be allowed to do anything but Bass Guitar, and only on Easy, but still. And Killer Bunnies was as fun as ever. Crack, I tell you.

Also, for the first time in a week, I managed to eat a complete meal without gagging and leaving to go to bed. Whoohoo!! Still not feeling completely normal, but I’m on my way back.

After a long night’s sleep, the plan was work for a bit, then tailgating and then the Stanford football game. Of course, my stomach rejected coffee, so the plan was changed to couch for a bit, make it to the tailgate just in time to walk to the stadium, and then the Stanford football game.

Where it rained like cats and dogs. Stupid rain. I’m not even all that excited about football, and the tickets were free. Don’t ask me why I went, I didn’t have a good reason. Rhiannon and Sam bailed at halftime, and as the score was 31-0 to us, I was sopping wet (Cabela’s jackets are apparently only waterproof until they get wet), and still had to go into work to check on plates, I bailed with them.

I just checked to score upon returning home, and it’s now 51-0. I’m glad I left. So not worth it.

So now I’m going to sit here on the couch with some hot chocolate, thawing, and waiting for John to get home. We’ve decided the ending to this day should involve chili and cornbread.

It’s definitely now the time of year for cosy sweatpants, fleece jackets and warm comfort foods.

How goes your November first?

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