Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hawai'i - Another Conference-Vacation

Shortly after our August Denmark trip, Zack found out that a coworker had a talk accepted at an academic conference in Honolulu, Hawai'i but wouldn't be able to attend. He graciously offered to give the talk in her place ;)

Zack flew in on Saturday, gave his talk on Sunday, then spent Monday through Thursday learning science, networking, and doing some super-early-morning bike rides along the coast of Oahu. I had initially felt guilty about the amount of traveling I've done this summer and booked flights for Fri-Mon only, but then had a pretty crazy work-month in September so less-guiltily extended the flights for Thurs-Tues. It's not that cheap, but amazingly easy to get to Hawai'i from SF on ~5hr nonstop direct flights. 

We are staying in an airbnb 'apartment' overlooking Waikiki with a pretty nice view!
Thursday, I arrived around 11am (time difference in my favor!), and we walked around and tested out some snorkeling gear. The weather is pretty warm and humid; it would be uncomfortable if there wasn't always the option to jump in the ocean or eat shave ice. 

Shave ice has gotten much fancier than what I remember as a kid!

Honolulu is pretty city-like; lots of traffic, huge high-rises, and some crowded beaches. However, very close by it becomes more secluded and relaxing. The ocean itself is wonderful - warm enough that snorkeling without a wetsuit feels just perfect! 

Friday, we rented a car and drove up to the North Shore with another Stanford grad student. The snorkeling at 'Sharks Cove' was phenomenal and the highlight of the day; so many different fish and coral to swim near. 

Happy after snorkeling at Shark's Cove

Next, we looked for sea turtles at Laniakea Beach. We saw a bunch in the water right next to the shore, but it was hard to get a photo; you can sort of see one here.

After a lunch of garlic-shrimp and fresh pineapple, we visited Byodo-in Temple, a beautiful, serene Buddhist temple with the backdrop of incredibly steep jungle-mountains.
We drove down the east coast to the Byodo-in Temple, then did a paved walk out to a lighthouse, then wrapped up the day with a hike up Kuli'Ou'Ou Ridge


Hiking through the rainforest

Top of the ridge!

The hike was moderately technical, with some branches/rocks/mud and steep stairs at the top up into the clouds. We loved the view from the top, though it was almost a sunset view which meant we had to hurry up/down...

Today, we are worn out from that big day, likely to do some more snorkeling at nearby Hanuama Bay in the afternoon and make plans for kayaking/watersports and more hiking Sunday/Monday! I didn't bring a bike, since the riding in the Bay Area is arguably better but the ocean is much much better here ;) Very nice vacation, then back to work for a while, until we go see family at Christmas.

August - Denmark trip

I got busy with work and waited too long to write a blog post about Denmark, so here is a belated summary. In August, Zack had the opportunity to attend 2 weeks of "summer school" affiliated with his Stanford research group and DTU Physics in Copenhagen. Coincidentally, my company's global headquarters is in Copenhagen, so I could work from that office and learn more about my Danish colleagues/projects. Since the opportunity for subsidized travel without requiring many vacation days doesn't come up too often*, we decided to go to Denmark!

*It does seem to come up often, actually, one of the great perks of academia...which we hope to continue to take advantage of!

We traveled nonstop from SFO to Copenhagen, with bikes checked for free on SAS! Upon arriving, we took the train 5min to the Ramboll HQ, put together the bikes, and left the bike bags at the office for the remainder of the trip.

Departing the Ramboll HQ (by train; but I packed light and set up the
rack/panniers so could actually ride carrying everything!)

The first week was up north in Gilleleje, a tiny seaside town about 45 miles from Copenhagen. We rented an airbnb on the beach, quite lovely. The week was pretty uneventful, nice but not super exciting; did some nice bike rides in the rural countryside, ate some smorrebrod (open face sandwiches on hearty thin rye sourdough popular in Denmark) and pastries (almost too sweet for me, which is saying something!), and while Zack attended the conference from ~8am-8pm each day, I worked remotely after a bit of exploring.

Assorted smorrebrod
Dramatic seascapes out the back door of the airbnb in Gilleleje 
The second week, we spent near DTU in Lyngby, 10 miles north of Copenhagen. Over the weekend, we explored the city and saw museums, landmarks, and various festivals. Copenhagen is a really nice city, and it had a great "walking-city" feel downtown, with so many people out and about walking or biking around and not many cars. We ran into the Gay Pride parade, Copenhagen Fashion Week, IronMan Copenhagen, the Risotto World Championships (self-named), and other generally festive activities.

Bike-traffic jams
I bike-commuted each day to the Copenhagen office, which was an interesting way to learn about the city. The bike infrastructure is really incredible; raised, separated bike lanes/paths with their own signals nearly everywhere. Old women in high heels and pushing carts full of children felt totally comfortable/safe riding bikes around; an indeed, it was probably easier than driving! Not actually a great place if you want to bike places fast, but fascinating to see how it was just a
classic mode of transport rather than a spandex-clad-young-male-death-wish-race. Ramboll does work helping design bike infrastructure and solve bike traffic-flow issues, e.g. in Copenhagen, and I tried to pick the engineers'/planners' brains to learn whether there are ways we can improve in the US.

Walking around Copenhagen
Altogether, a worthwhile trip! We saw lots of sights, and Zack learned some science. The food was expensive and just OK compared to Italy, though the pastries were great. August is a great time of year to visit, with long days and fairly nice weather (similar to SF; usually 50s-70s, a bit of rain).

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Last Legs: Lake Garda, Padua, and Florence

I didn’t manage to write a post for just the Lake Garda section, so this one may be too long with too many details – but skimming the photos should at least be entertaining.

Sunday morning looked like a storm coming, so we did a quick ride up Monte Grappa again, and I abandoned Zack (who didn’t feel great) to summit alone. Sad memories from that, so will say no more ;)


We spent Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning in Lake Garda (Lago di Garda). This is a huge lake in the PreAlps coming against the northern border of Italy. With beautiful mountains (known for hiking and mountain biking), wine and olive country, and water sports, it is a popular vacation destination for Germans and Swiss – and the price is much lower than similar areas in Switzerland!

Rain starting to come in over Garda

The first evening, we met up with my high school friend Lauren in a town Desenzano del Garda on the southeastern side of the lake; she is teaching elementary school in Brescia, and by chance saw on Facebook that we were in Italy – small world! Desenzano is full of cute restaurants and gelaterias, and gave us a nice first (and really only) experience walking along the lake’s edge.

On our way to Desenzano, we stopped by an Esselunga supermarket and stumbled upon delicious chocolate – coarse-made like Taza, for those familiar with the Somerville MA factory. We bought 3 random interesting-looking chocolate bars, and one of them was style “di Modica”. After, we scoured the internet and searched along the rest of our route in hopes of another supermarket selling these bars at a reasonable price to bring back to the U.S.

The plain package with the cinnamon sticks is the winner.
We are semi-seriously considering setting up a double-boiler
and trying to make this ourselves when we move to Pittsburgh –
surely CMU lab equipment might suffice?

Monday was raining hard from the start, so we decided it would be a good relax-and-explore-by-car day. Our Airbnb was in a remote place mostly chosen for its nice swimming pool, so weather was unfortunate and we ended up driving a lot on this leg of the trip. There were 2 cute farm dogs, though! We visited 2 ‘museums’ and learned about historical and current techniques to make wine and olive oil, and enjoyed free samples of both:
  • Zeni Wine Museum                                                               
  • Olive Oil Museum (how did they get the website

We also managed to cook ourselves pretty good authentic
Italian pasta – Bigoli with truffles and bigoli with duck sauce

Tuesday was likely our last big bike ride. Weather looked OK for the morning, with high chances of rain in the area starting sometime between 11am and 3pm – an unfortunately broad range. I decided to be versatile and made up 3 routes of varying degrees of mountains using the Strava heatmaps, where we could change directions mid-ride if the weather turned. First we climbed another huge mountain, Monte Baldo, complete with a ski area and a bit of snow at the top. It was really beautiful, and the scale is hard to show with photos. After descending in a bit of mist, we decided not to risk the next peak (90% chance of rain, apparently, by then) and wove our way back on some beautiful bike paths that went through olive groves. While the riding is great in most of our Italy experiences, the bike paths were generally pretty terrible (often nice paved surfaces that abruptly ended after about…200 meters). The paths by Lake Garda were great, though. We could see the rain off behind us, but Lake Garda itself was still nice, so we added in a little loop and an extra gelato stop at the end and returned home about 15 minutes before it began to pour rain! Success.[Route]


Wednesday we had to return the car in Padua by 4pm, so I planned a brutal up-and-down shorter ride on the way to Padua in Parco Regionale del Colli Euganei. By mid-way up the first climb, my legs told me they’d had enough and didn’t feel like riding, so we stopped for a long pasta lunch instead of doing the last 2 hours. Still a success. [Wed little route]. In Padua we did a little evening walk in the rain through the university and along the river. We got dinner at somewhere that would have fit right in in San Francisco but seemed very unusual for Italy – they served farro, chickpeas, all sorts of healthy non-oily vegetables and whole grains, all organic (‘bio’). It hit the spot. Good sign the vacation might be long enough!

Thursday was a big walk-and-transport day; Padua all morning, then train to Florence. It was also an Italian national holiday - Festa della Repubblica – so we stumbled on a ceremony on our morning walk, which was neat.

I also got my first (and only?) morning gelato.
I call it ‘brunch’ since it was around 10:30am
 and not my first food of the day, but Zack insists it is breakfast.


We had to pack up our bikes into the bike bags to take them on almost all trains, which was annoying/cumbersome but accomplished (and free; the unofficial rule is you can bring as much well-packed luggage as you can personally carry up the train stairs). We had this vague idea we would reassemble them in Florence and do a little bike-exploration of the city Friday or Saturday, but after packing them up and seeing more rain in the forecast, decided it made much more sense to do some big walking tours of Florence instead.

Zack had the great idea that rather than try to pre-purchase museum and entrance tickets, we should just pay the 72 euros and get the 72-hour “Firenze-Card”, which allowed entry to all sites and to take the ‘priority’ lines. This worked out incredibly well; we definitely would not have waited in the long lines for many places otherwise, and having already paid made it mentally very easy to pass through ‘lower-priority’ museums and places we might have otherwise hesitated over entry fees. Like in Rome, we were very successful and had an action-packed 45 hours in Florence (4pm Thurs – 1pm Sat). Zack’s dad drove nearby and stayed with us for this time too (and we made a successful hand-off of the Saris bike rack back to him). List of main sights in the order we visited below, with some highlights:

Uffizi GalleryThursday evening we spent ~2 hours here, huge collection of artwork and sculptures, including some Da Vinci and Michelangelo. We both really liked the marble sculptures that have been restored over time, and sometimes show several different types of rocks:
One of many impressive sculptures

Ponte Vecchio – our Airbnb was right next to this wooden bridge full of expensive jewelry shops and tourists. Location was easy for sightseeing.

Friday in Florence we filled with sightseeing. [Walking route]

We started with the Duomo; this was totally unexpectedly fantastic to me, and basically impossible without the FirenzeCard (and likely a long wait on weekends/more popular times of day). They should have signs and warnings like to avoid for people with heart conditions, claustrophobia, fear of heights, tendencies to twist ankles, etc! They allowed only around 20 people per ‘wave’ into the building, and I thought we were just going to see inside a (nice, impressive) cathedral, but we actually blindly followed the people in front of us up about 500 very steep narrow dank steps in a dark stairwell that felt like a cave, with 2 vista points: first halfway up the wall of the Duomo, to look at the the paintings and stained glass windows inside; and second all the way at the top on a platform that looked outside.

View from mid-way up the Duomo
View from top of Duomo

After Duomo, we considered going into the Academic Gallery where the famous David statue is, but there was a long line even with the FirenzePass for that, and while it’s a “checklist” kind of item, I was more interested in some nerdier museums.

 San Marco Museum (~45min) – serene place with some amazing old manuscripts. It’s crazy to me how many different portrayals there are of Jesus on a cross.

Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure: (~30min) This is a lesser-known museum, less-funded since it is secular, but totally cool. It showed the tools and methodologies used to make mosaics and some brilliant examples of mosaics from the 15th century-ish.

So many rocks and minerals with different colors and textures used in just
the right way to make art.

They reproduced some paintings as mosaics – pretty neat.

(Not a sight) – We deviated from sightseeing and walked
out of the center to an Esselunga, where we succeeded
in our mission of acquiring more Modican chocolate!!
If they’d had more on the shelves, we would have bought more.

Mercato Centrale for lunch – lots of vendors selling food and other leather and trinkets.

Museo Galileo (~1hr) – This used to be the history of science museum, which I think was a more appropriate title than Galileo, since it doesn’t talk much about Galileo. However, scientists/engineers that we are, we both really appreciated seeing old astrolabes and sundials and rudimentary electric machines and old maps and globes. They also had some really nice videos explaining scientific phenomena that would be understandable to non-scientists.

Palazzo Vecchio (~1hr) – We looked at frescoes and more nice artwork and learned about the old powerful families of Italy. There are also some Roman gods and mythological scenes mixed in with the Jesuses, which intrigue me rather more. Fun fact: The Medici family included a few Popes. One was designated for the church at age 1, became a cardinal at age 13, and as Pope led the papal armies to conquer some towns then gave those towns to his cousins/family…

Saturday we did a nice walk for a few hours in the morning, passing through the Rose Garden, Piazzale Michelangelo, near a Fort and through the Boboli Gardens then ending with some excellent panini [Walk Route]. Now back near the Rome airport, and flying out early Sunday then back to work!

Some overall takeaways:

Overall, this was a great vacation! Very little went ‘wrong’, and a lot went right. I have gotten really spoiled compared to how I felt going into our first trip 2 years ago, given that we’ve done a few big trips now and especially since our every-weekend riding in California can be as good as these exotic routes – but still can’t wait to come back (in another 2 years, maybe?)

Just a few cultural takeaways related to food:
  • Lunch and (late) dinner are a big deal, take a lot of time, and dishes are either cooked correctly or are wrong.
  • Espresso and wine can both be drunk at nearly any time of day, but coffee does not come alongside a meal or snack, rather afterward.
  • Breakfast for most people is coffee and a brioche, if anything (which is ridiculous. I can’t wait to eat some eggs and some oatmeal/yogurt). Well, I will say it and defend it to death:
    If Italians don’t approve of big nutrient-balanced breakfasts, then I will eat gelato in the morning. Breakfast is an area where the Swiss, Germans, Brits, and Scots surpass the Italians,  in my experience and opinion.

Next up, we head to Denmark in August for a ‘working trip’ – Zack has an academic conference, and I will work at our company’s head office there, but we should get some good sightseeing and will post again then!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bassano del Grappa

From Teramo, we drove north through Bologna to Bassano del Grappa

The drive was uneventful, though slowed down at the beginning

The town is known for its proximity to Mount Grappa, for distilling the alcohol Grappa, and for being on the fronts during portions of the World Wars.

Bassano del Grappa and its wooden pontoon bridge Ponte Vecchio

We arrived in late afternoon and went for a walk around the town, stopping at a bike shop, a gelateria, a famous bridge, and doing the free tour of the Poli Grappo Museo . The museum was pretty neat, showing a history of distilling apparatuses and methods and discussing grappa.

Zack intrigued by some chemical engineering/chemistry in action.

At the end we tasted some grappas – too strong for me, but apparently popular in morning espressos for some Italians as ‘CaffĂ© corretto’ or ‘corrected coffee’…

The chocolate with grappa inside is pretty good.

Friday we did a ride around Mount Grappa (but not up it, saving our climbing legs for Saturday!) [Route] The hope was to get discounted Castelli clothing at the Castelli-Sportful factory store, mid-way through the loop. Alas, the prices were all higher than those on the internet.  Oh well, we had a lovely ride, and saw lots of other cyclists out there. Afterwards we had a full 2+ course lunch at one of the top-ranked restaurants in the area for 22 euros total, amazing.

Castelli factory store was disappointing...
...but the view on the ride over were well worth it

Today was Monte Grappa Bike Day (facebook page). What a fun “non-competitive” event! ~10,000 riders of all ages and styles showed up around 8:30 to ride up the famous climb, which was closed to cars. 

My legs felt good, and I felt a bit competitive with all these men as we rolled out; several seemed to be talking about me (making fun?) or my bike in Italian (and I wasn’t sure what they were saying, just caught some key words like ‘Canyon’ and big laughs). I went hard, weaving through hundreds of people as we started up the 5,000 foot climb – my first long ‘interval’ in a long time, unsure what I could do…thinking it seemed possible to get the Strava QOM (Regina della Montagna?) based on Matt Redmond’s TT optimizer that predicted a time within 1 minute of the previous QOM time.

~10,000 people rode up the mountain today

Fueled by coca cola, I made my way up the mountain, dropping the laughing man who shouted a surprised “Canyon va!” I found a few ‘friends’ who spoke some English, one who made my day by saying “you bike for your job”, to which I laughed and shook my head no, but he insisted “they pay you to bike”. Ha, hardly, but it was fun to feel fast after not racing for a while. [Ride]

Cloud over the top of the climb

After a satisfying, fun, motivated long climb, Zack and I slowly descended back down the switchbacks and attended the ‘pasta party’ then took an ice bath in the river. Pretty good day. 

The next few days look like thunderstorms and rain, which might put a damper in our 3 days by the lake at the Airbnb with a pool…but we should still have a nice relaxing time, fingers crossed for some sunny periods!

No one else seemed to be in the water...reminded me of the Snake River in temperature ;)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teramo - Riding and Eating in the Valle

We spent the last four days in Teramo, riding and eating and experiencing Italian culture with Zack’s parents and their friends. The region is stunning – big foothills (a bit reminiscent of Temecula, CA) backed by huge snow-capped mountains a few miles to the west, and the Adriatic Sea sparkling off 10 miles to the east. Weather is perfect this time of year, with lows around 55 and highs around 75, slightly cooler in the mountains but never requiring more than wind vests and arm warmers.


Stefano has a little house in a small town called Valle San Giovanni (Casale:, around 2 hours east of Rome by bus. He spends a fair bit of time there and has some good friends, who entertained us for a delicious lunch at their home when we arrived at the bus station on Sunday. They also were package-receivers/caretakers to my new aero road bike, ‘La Machine’ Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 di2.

As a result of 2 separate bike-thefts this spring (which made me very sad), I had a lot of insurance money for ‘actual replacement value’ that could only be spent on a new bike; Zack told me that this is the nicest bike in the world for the price, and I think I am convinced. It flies on the flats and descents, and is light for climbing too (though Zack still drops me, which is unfortunate since I know I can’t blame the bike).

New bike sitting in Valle San Giovanni
After our lengthy lunch with courses of cheeses, olives, timballo, homemade salami, salads, breads, 2 types of cake, and wine (wine at lunch always!! So strange), we put the bikes together and rolled an hour to Valle San Giovanni. (Route). Bike seemed to fit. Great, because day 2 was a big one:

Monday we did a monster ride up through Castelli (known for its ceramics, not the cycling clothing) and around the back side of the Gran Sasso, through el Parco Nacionale dello Gran Sasso e Monte della Laga. (Route). We had a dinner party starting around 6:30 so planned the route/timing to be back for then, and despite some epic headwinds made it OK, because there was sooo much descending. The amount of time and miles we ate up descending in the second half of the ride really put into perspective the amount of climbing we had done J

Headwind false flat at 5,000 feet

After a hungry hour before dinner guests all arrived, we feasted on more local specialties: Arrosticini, olives, veggies, cheeses, breads, wine. It was pretty fun (but exhausting) trying to understand and converse in Italian-ish; about the best I can do is Spanish with a few changes in pronunciation, and Zack seems to understand most of what people say as long as they use good hand gestures/context. Very satisfying day. I hope we come back to Teramo again in future years and can convince a few other cyclist-friends to join – it’s perfect for riding, but really what distinguishes it from a pretty place in the US is that Zack’s parents have these friends and the culture and food. [I realize I don't have any photos of any of these feasts. Google them?]

Tuesday was another ride day, destination: Agriturismo Macine. (Route). There’s a Canadian cycling touring group in Valle (which is strange since it is such a tiny town, but there you go), and while saying hi in the piazza the owners recommended a climb up to the town of Cortino as the most beautiful in the region. So, we did that, then descended the backside (through a bit of surprise rain!) and made our way to another late lunch/early dinner feast.

Top past Cortina

We tried more Abruzzo & Italian specialties, such as Pappardelle con sugo di papera and Y. Yum.
Wednesday we rode to the Adriatic Sea to pick up a rental car for the next week. (Route). We zoomed down some flat roads, then Zack bonked because I didn’t stop for gelato early enough, after which we slowly meandered through beach villages and got gelato twice over the last 10 miles. We met his parents for lunch near Pescara in Montesilviano.

There were miles upon miles of empty beaches where later in the summer thousands of beach-goers sunbathe and swim; the strange thing is that the weather was actually really good (~75 degrees/sunny) and the water surprisingly warm (~75 degrees), so I would have expected more crowds.

We have too nice of a car, because we tried to find an automatic transmission SUV (to carry bikes/etc), and the only option was ‘BMW X3 or equivalent’, but it turns out the ‘equivalent’ just means expensive, not with a big trunk…so it will work, but a little bit stressful/strange to drive something so fancy. I think Zack will accelerate too quickly for my nauseated self to appreciate.
Tomorrow we drive north to Bassano del Grappa for a few days of exploring and riding in Monte Grappa Bike Day. Weather looks great through Saturday then maybe bad after that (hopefully not!), so we are postponing Venice trip either until Monday/Tuesday or another future Italy trip.

Friday, May 20, 2016


After a long (but uneventful) 22-hr travel stint, we arrived in Rome the night before last. We are staying with Zack's parents in an airbnb right in the center of the city, within walking distance of most of the 'must-sees', and our first 2 days of vacation are for sight-seeing.

Day 1: Most of the sights in one day
Route (missing first section and anytime we went in/out of buildings)

Just some normal buildings wandering around Rome...
I didn't really sleep on the plane, so found it easy to fall asleep by 10pm local time (1pm CA time), but woke up quite early. This is backwards of how jetlag should go this direction, I think, but is good for planning the day and getting to the Coliseum by opening time (a leisurely 9am). We purchased tickets ahead of time, and there wasn't much of a line, so it was really easy to get in and walk around. We rented the audio guides to hear about the different aspects of the Coliseum history, construction, and events.

Strangest fact: They used to flood the Coliseum for sea battle shows
The Roman Forum, right next to Coliseum, is a sprawling site with a huge amount of history and preserves. We spent a few hours there, looking at well-preserved blocks of marble, structures, ruins, frescos, etc. The weather is perfect for walking around (~60-75 degrees and mostly basically what we are used to back home)

View from near the top of the Roman Forum

Stefano has a lot of Italian connections, so we stopped in what we thought was a random restaurant we 'happened upon', and as friends were served coffees and homemade tiramisu. Fun to walk around with someone who knows what he's doing ;)

The Pantheon; photo does not do justice to the amazing marble walls or the occulus at the top
 I am blown away by the marble and travertine everywhere; it is so nice (texture and look). It's interesting to think about how (at least in the touristy parts) this city being >2,000 years old, each person to conquer would tear down all but the nicest/best places, and now basically only the nicest buildings and ruins remain.

Rome's famed wild cats hanging out near the Spanish Steps
Finished up with some classic Roman food (pasta, ultra-thin-crust pizza, roasted veggies, etc)

Today, it's on to Vatican City, eat some more good food, and try not to get the legs too exhausted for the upcoming 4-days-of-long-rides block!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Training for Vacation (and the last 6 months)

We haven't posted anything in ages! I suppose reading about pretty bike rides and weekend trips every post would get boring, although we certainly have had a variety of said rides and trips since last October. Cliff Notes version of the last half-year then I'll get on to the real reason for the post: Upcoming vacation.

Long weekend in SLC; Zack had a conference,
I worked from the local office, went for a nice 'wintery' ride
 with a colleague, and hiked/hung out with my mom and Phelan.
Thanksgiving: We stayed in the Bay area, did some 'Low Key Hill Climbs', and hosted 'Friendsgiving' (successful turkey-making!)

Christmas: Visited Bethesda and spent the week with Zack's family, worked out of the Arlington office a bit

New Year's: Nina, mom, and Phelan visited us. We did touristy SF fun things for a day then spent the weekend in Santa Cruz

MIT training camp: Went down to Temecula for a long weekend and caught up and rode bikes with friends! 

Spent a week in LA for Zack's faculty search, worked out of the Irvine office a bit, stayed with Kate and Chris and did some lovely riding around Palos Verdes

Went straight from LA to a weekend in Jackson, got my yearly fix of skiing and snow-biking with the fam

I gave Zack a bread maker for his birthday, and he gave me a cheese smoker for Christmas, so we have been eating well.

March: We spent a really nice weekend in Tucson for Adam's 30th birthday, with the MIT-cycling/alum group. I don't seem to have any group pictures, though! (just a picture of a big cookie from the top of Mt Lemmon)

Pittsburgh and Charlottesville trip:

Zack considered faculty offers from schools this spring! Top choices were Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and UVA in Charlottesville. As this is a big decision (the next ~10 years of our lives, at least!) we took a longer trip out east to fairly explore both places (with a weekend + a couple weekdays in each location). I wrote some extensive emails recapping the trips and posted a lot of photos on Facebook, if you're curious.

In the end, we chose CMU, to move/start ~August 2017!

The air quality is worse in Pittsburgh than Charlottesville, which is better for my career ;)
Half-joking aside, although I love the Bay Area (climate, people, terrain, air quality/GHG regulations), it will be fun to go somewhere we can afford a house, ideally really close to one of the big parks and soon followed by a puppy.

Ha, writing it out puts things in perspective -- for all my worrying about vacation days, we do manage a lot of trips when balanced with some working remotely! Zack had even more travel with interviews and collegiate bike racing, and we are also going to Denmark in August for a conference & work! Good thing I'm trying to mitigate other people's greenhouse gas emissions through the course of my work...

And now...
I think we're finally all caught up. We are going to Italy in less than a week, for 2.5 weeks of sight-seeing cities and mountains and scenery. I'm very excited, having only dipped briefly into Italy in our trip 2 years ago. Itinerary is something like:

  • 2-3 days in Rome sightseeing (with Zack's parents)
  • 3-4 days in Teramo biking and eating good food (with Zack's parents)
  • 1 day driving up the east coast and some sightseeing
  • 2-3 days in Bassano del Grappa, potential day-trip to Venice
  • 2-3 days in Lago di Garda area
  • 1 day Padua
  • 2-3 days Florence

We're taking buses/trains for the first and last segment, and renting a car in the middle.

I have a saga of bike drama that could easily take up its own blog post, but suffice to say I have a new beautiful bike waiting for me in Italy, paid for by renters insurance! 

As I started planning routes/working on the itinerary, I realized I needed to 'train' for this vacation; in my post-bike-racing career, I have been riding a reasonable amount for fun but have gotten lazy about going 2 days in a row, etc. One could say that vacation should just be relaxing, no training necessary, but the riding looks so incredible that it would be a shame to have to just sit around relaxing ;)

Well, in Italy we have ambitious routes (followed by ambitious pasta-eating), so hopefully a few weeks of extra-riding will be enough! The QOM on Monte Grappa looks attainable...we will be riding there on Monte Grappa Bike Day!

My dad visited a few weeks ago, and I did some long MTB rides (and a MTB-commute!)

Today was 'Bay Area Bike to Work day', and I rode in with a few others then got some bonus riding on the way home