Just Us Guys

Juliette has been out of town for the last few days, which meant that Jason and I got to spend the weekend together by ourselves. Mainly in order to keep Jason occupied (and therefore not cranky), we went out a lot.

We went to the carwash:

And the park:

And the La Jolla Cove:

And even the zoo:

A good time was had by all.

The rest of this week's set:

Here I'd like to take a moment and prove that, like the Temptations, I ain't too proud to beg. I know that I don't have a whole lot of readers, but I hope that those of you who do stop by enjoy what I do here. If you do, please consider doing me a small favor. I've included some handy buttons at the bottom of every post that make it easy for you to share any post via Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Delicious, or Digg, so if you like what you're reading and think other people might, too, why not spread the word? It's easy and just takes a few seconds of your time.

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Of course, if you're just kind of so-so about Sakeriver or don't feel like helping out, that's cool too. I'm just glad that you're here at all.

Baker, CA

Yesterday, as I was driving home from Las Vegas, I decided to stop in the little town of Baker, California. (For those keeping track, yes, this was the second consecutive weekend that I traveled to Las Vegas. The first was for Juliette's birthday, the second for the annual get-together of my college friends during the NCAA basketball tournament.) This wasn't the first time I've ever stopped in Baker, but it was the first time that I stopped for the express purpose of looking around and trying to see what was really there.

For those of you who have never driven Interstate 15 between Southern California and Nevada, Baker is a tiny little town about halfway between Barstow and Vegas. I say "town," but in most ways it seems like more of an overgrown truck stop--the main "drag" is just a few miles long and mainly consists of gas stations, fast food, a couple of seedy-looking motels, and a few diners.

And, of course, the "world's tallest thermometer," which isn't actually a thermometer at all but rather a 134-foot-tall electric sign:

There's not much else. Lonely desert stretches out for miles in every direction, broken up by a few volcanic hills.

I had always assumed that Baker really was just a truck stop, and that the gas stations and diners were staffed mostly by seasonal temporary workers. It caught me off-guard, then, when the first thing to greet me at the end of the off-ramp was a bunch of teenagers waving a carwash sign that read "Support the Class of 2010." Suddenly, this little spot out in the middle of nowhere seemed to be hiding a real community, and I found myself extremely curious to know what life there was like.

It turns out--as I was able to find via a little Googling when I got home--that Baker has a small, but apparently close-knit permanent community. There's an entire school district serving just that town, with about 200 K-12 students. And a community services district that manages things like garbage collection and water, as well as a public park, swimming pool, and community center. I drove around a bit and, sure enough, I found a teeny little public park where five or six kids were kicking a soccer ball around. I found a fire station, a post office, a ramshackle little church, and a whole bunch of trailers and small, run-down houses.

As I drove up and down the cracked pavement of the side streets, questions kept running through my head. Like "What do the kids in this town do for fun?" and "What do people do after work?" "What else am I not seeing?" I wish I had been able to stop and get my car washed, just so I could have asked some of the students what it was like to grow up there. Unfortunately, where they were set up was before the end of the very long off-ramp, where the road was still one lane, and I would have had to backtrack at least ten or fifteen miles up the freeway to try to come back around.

So, I guess I'm stuck wondering, for now, what life in Baker is like for the locals. Maybe some day I'll have the chance to stop in again, with the time to look around more to see if I could get anyone to talk to me. It seems like such a depressing, isolated life, but something tells me there's a story there.

The rest of my photos from this week's set:

Vegas, Baby

In celebration of Juliette's birthday, the two of us took a little trip to Las Vegas this past weekend. We ate some great food, won some money, and just generally enjoyed the heck out of ourselves.

I haven't been to Vegas in a couple of years, and it was interesting to see how things have changed in that time. In a lot of ways the city seemed a little darker, more seedy. I've been there seven or eight times, probably, but before tonight I can't recall seeing any homeless people on the strip--this time they were everywhere. And the crowds walking up and down the sidewalk seemed a little meaner, maybe. I've come to take it for granted that most everyone walking along the strip at night will be drunk, but the general mood before has always seemed pretty convivial. This time, though, it seemed like there were a lot of people who, if I had accidentally bumped into them, might have tried to take a swing at me like belligerent frat boys might.

You might be able to chalk all that up to the recession, but, on the other hand, there's also been kind of an astounding amount of new construction since I last saw it. At Juliette's dad's recommendation, we took some time to check out the new city center, which was really interesting architecturally:

The crowds inside the casinos, too, seemed just as lively as ever, though perhaps a bit less densely packed. What all that adds up to, I'm not really sure. I can say, though, that I don't know if I'll ever stop thinking it's funny to see people drinking 100-ounce margaritas out of plastic guitars that they have hanging from their necks.

Today being Juliette's actual birthday--and it's a big one this year--I'd like to take a moment to say a few things that maybe I don't say often enough. Juliette is the best thing that's ever happened to me. She's a loving, caring, beautiful, wonderful person, not to mention an amazing mother, and I count myself more than lucky to get to spend my life with her.

Thanks for everything, honey, and happy birthday.

Race for Literacy

Yesterday, Juliette and I walked five miles in the rain with some friends (and 2,108 strangers) in order to help find a cure for literacy. I placed fourth to last in the "Male 30-34" bracket (just barely beating out a blind woman, a woman nine months into her pregnancy, and an 89-year-old man), picked up two new blisters, and had the skin worn off the back of my left ankle by a shoe that is sorely in need of replacement. And a fun time was had by all.

All kidding aside, we had a great time. It was, indeed, raining, but it felt good to participate in something for a good cause. We opted to walk instead of run, which meant that we got wetter and colder than we might have otherwise, but it also meant that it wasn't particularly strenuous, and we spent the time talking and laughing, which is a pretty good way to spend a Sunday morning, if you ask me.

Between the event and the weather, Jason had to stay in the stroller the entire time, and all things considered he stayed in a pretty good mood the whole time. Maybe he found the prospect of walking on the freeway as exciting as the rest of us did, I don't know. But for the most part he seemed pretty content, though he did keep trying to find ways to stick his feet out from under the big umbrella that we propped up in between him and his friend Amalea (our race partners' daughter). For her part, Amalea wisely chose to spend most of the race asleep.

Two years ago if you'd asked me if I would ever participate in an event like this I'd have looked at you like you were out of your mind. At breakfast after the race yesterday, though, I was talking about training for a marathon or a century bike race. Most likely I won't be doing either any time soon, since the training requires a bit too much of a regular time commitment for me at the moment. Still, old me would likely be smacking new me upside the head.

Anyway, I'd just like to say thanks to our friends James and Melanie for getting us to come along and walk with them (and to congratulate Mel for doing this just five months after having had a fibrosarcoma removed from her thigh). Also thanks to Emily and Ari for the loan of their stroller. Right on!

A Friendly Visit

A couple of friends from out of town came and visited this weekend, prompting a trip to an Indian restaurant for dinner, followed by a dim sum lunch the next day. Quite a successful weekend, in my opinion.

Another Afternoon at Lake Miramar

Jason has been a little sick for the last couple of days, so we've kept him home from day care. I was home with him today, and I thought it would be fun for him to get out of the house, so we went for a little walk at Lake Miramar again.

I'm trying to teach myself how to use photo editing software.  Can you tell?  I'll try to find some new locations, so that it's not just all pictures of Lake Miramar.

Miramar Lake

Sunday afternoon it was a little cloudy and threatening rain, so we mostly hung around the house. But before we went out for dinner, Juliette and I decided to take Jason to Lake Miramar so he could look at the ducks. I took a few snaps of the lake:

Miramar Dam

Miramar Dock

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