Along the coast

Our last days on this trip were spent with one of Casey’s best friends from Florida.

We spent the previous evening playing board games and noshing on charcuterie while gaps were filled in.

Waking up we hit the road to Half Moon Bay and drove down Highway 1 along the coast, popping in to a handful of beaches to get a glimpse of the ocean.

The last time I was on this particular route was 2003.

It was great to revisit from the passenger seat.

We deemed the Santa Cruz Boardwalk too busy for the moment, but that didn’t deter from the overall success of the day.

A largely empty beach on an overcast day
San Gregorio State Beach
Three friends in jackets pose for the camera
Chris, Casey & Amanda
A man and woman regard the ocean
Amanda & Chris at Pomponio State Beach
A lighthouse on a gray coastal morning
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Stickers along the back window of a VW Squareback
VW Squareback and flowers
Orange poppies along a fence
A teal and yellow metal framed roller coaster against a blue sky and a single palm tree
Undertow roller coaster at Santa Cruz Boardwalk
A teal sky lift goes across the sky along a coastal boardwalk amusement park
Sky Glider at Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Larry was a dog person

If you couldn’t find him at a social engagement, he was probably wherever the pets were hanging out. He often preferred the company of dogs, but there were exceptions.

Larry was a husband.

Marrying his best friend and partner of many years in Massachusetts the summer it became legal in 2004 and celebrating the expansion to all states in 2015. Larry and Tom were inseparable.

Two men face each other during a marriage ceremony
Larry and Tom wed – June 28, 2004

Larry was fired up.

When it came to social issues and politics, he championed causes that favored liberty and justice for all. He never let up and inspired others to be aware and act.

Larry was sober over 30 years.

One day he up and made the decision and stuck with it. He became a supporter with a calm and relentless understanding for any who wrestled with addiction seeking help.

Larry was an advocate of fitness.

He found his calling in life and changed the lives of many, introducing folks to exercise for the first time or helping those already in good shape to achieve higher goals. He framed working out in a context of listening to, nourishing, challenging and honoring one’s body.

A man in a red shirt walks through a sunny day at a street fair
Tom and Larry at the Northside Art Market – August 2015

Larry was a survivor.

He overcame two bouts of cancer, the second during the height of the pandemic in 2020. After he started to regain his health, it was time to sell their beautiful Victorian home in the Gaslight district of Cincinnati and move to sunny shores.

Larry was a man that lived a dream.

Once in Florida, Larry and Tom eased into a life of retirement, walks along beaches, caring for their family of cat and dogs and a network of friends and family that spanned the globe.

Larry was a friend — a friend I loved dearly.

He changed how I consider my self, my capabilities and potential — as he had with so many others.

I would not be the person I am today without his guidance.

And as it pains me to write about Larry in the past tense, it is his stubborn, delightful and supportive spirit I carry forward.

He left us too soon.

Please be considerate. Get vaccinated, love everyone a bit extra and take time to pet the dogs.

Larry Johnson 1951-2021

Two men at a party
Larry and Tom at a pride party – June 7, 2014

Last day on the mountain

Charlie stopped by on his way out this morning and Darla was her normal adorable self.

Otherwise I didn’t use my cameras much on this last day up here—making mental images instead of this moment in time, this place.

It’s been such a wonderful experience.

I hope the rains come back this winter and to visit again.

Making Tsa-Tsas

I always wanted to get mom out to the mountain. She loved nature and wildflowers… and sorting through rocks, selecting favorites to keep. She marveled at moss and the cycle of nature.

She would have dug it out here.

But being this remote and angled can be a bit treacherous, so it was a trip we only talked about in hypothetical and somewhat magical regard.

I decided to bring some of her ashes on this trip to spread along the creek. Brent took hold of the idea and made it better. His experience in Tibet and with Buddhism presented the concept of making tsa-tsas – sacred objects to memorialize a spirit.

Brent gathered clay and flowers and we kneaded ashes into the foundation, putting them in a metal form of Tara.

Once dried, we placed one of these tsa-tsas on a moss-covered boulder by the creek. Surrounded by beauty, it will slowly make its way back into the earth.

The base mixture of clay and flowers
Hands holding a metal tsa-tsa form of Tara
The metal mold of Tara
Ashes on the clay mixture
Mixing in ashes
Kneading the clay mixture for tsa-tsas
Kneading things together
Erik kneads the clay mixture
Erik prepares clay for the form
Tsa-tsa metal form
Tsa-tsas of Tara dry in the sun
Ready to dry
A man holds a dog and another man stands by them
My thanks to Brent (and Bandit) for this lovely experience

Akin to meditation

I thought that having time on the mountain would fuel some sort of creative flow. What really happened were days filled with friendship, and appreciation of nature. Sitting outside these nights was a calm, quiet wall of being. There was no noise from data, just an acknowledgement of this powerful, magnificent and delicate world.

Trees against the last remants of sun against a deep blue evening sky

Rocks, boulders and grilled meatloaf

Erik bought a new propane grill as it’s a much safer alternative in the dry summer months. Fired it up after a hike down to the creek and closed out the day with grilled meatloaf.

A red bearded man in sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat sits in an innertube
Casey at the creek. These aren’t rocks, they’re boulders.
Dinner table set with meatloaf, deviled eggs, mac n cheese and cole slaw
Our midwestern meal of grilled meatloaf, deviled eggs and cole slaw. Oh, and some “emergency” Mac n Cheese.
The frame of a roof against an evening sky
Night time at the guest house


Casey brought out Trails for our hosts and we thought it would be a good idea to break it out and see how other companies articulate game rules. The 15 page booklet was daunting. Luckily there was a Youtube video that cleared up all the confusion.

There’s some complexity to the game, but once you get the hang it’s fun enough. All the artwork is quite excellent as it draws from the Fifty-Nine Parks Project.

Casey arrives

He got up at 3am Eastern Standard to make the long, double-masked trek. We picked him up at the airport, popped into Costco and were back on the mountain in time for dinner.

The Golden Gate Bridge
I can’t not snap a photo of Golden Gate Bridge every time I cross it
A white Ford F-150 with a large American flag off to the side of the road with a police car behind it
A slight slowdown for who knows why
Red trees in bloom in California by the side of an In & Out Burger drive-thru
Red Crape Myrtle Tree outside of In & Out Burger, where the fries are awful

A night on a boat with takeout

Erik’s has been super accommodating to make the long trek back and forth from mountain to airport over nd over. On this trip we headed to his boat to get there early for the arrival of Casey the next day.

It was on this evening that we had takeout food on a boat and published a TikTok video. The footage was from earlier in the week when Todd was visiting. His dance moves synchronized so well to the song… That handclap… That tap on the hip…

Oh and that takeout above? Super tasty, from Anh Kitchen in Richmond, CA.

Two bearded men wearing sunglasses in a car with a tan interior
Back in cell service and sending selfies to friends to let them know I’m alive
Low lying mountains in California
Leaving the foothills of Northern California
Traffic approaching a multi-level bridge
Richmond San Rafael Bridge

The gradual changes

There aren’t hard lines between seasons, but an amalgamation of changes constantly in motion. I’ve been here long enough on the mountain to see one such change – the turning of poison oak from green to red. It outlines paths and covers the hills, climbing on rocks and clinging to trees.

The bright red color is a welcome warning indicator to steer clear of the problematic leaves.

There are other signs that the days are growing shorter and the next season is around the corner… The buckeye leaves are starting to drop from the trees. The soap root plants no longer flower at night.

It’s been lovely to slow down and catch a glimpse of the gradual changes.

The Reality Bites Soundtrack, lasers and a failed TikTok recipe

The day started with brunch that included delicious carbohydrates that were intended to be breakfast quiche stuffed bagels, but ended up just being toasted bagels with salmon, cream cheese and capers.

Then it was down to the creek again to enjoy this observed holiday of Independence.

The night ended with a throwback DJ set by Todd complete with laser show and singing They Might Be Giants songs really loud.

Poorly carved out bagels
When TikTok recipes fail
a butterfly rests on a backlit leaf of a tree
Butterfly down at the creek

as the parade rolls along

If I had to rank holidays from my mom’s perspective, the Fourth of July would be on top of the list (though she found joy in every celebration.)

Independence Day was intertwined with so many things she loved… a garden in bloom, bright decorations, and a parade that began right in front of her porch – filled with the colorful characters that make up our neighborhood of Northside.

There’s been only a single parade since she passed. The last two, cancelled for reasons.

Yet pieces of the holiday tradition manage to be present wherever we are and up here on the mountain. 

I made deviled eggs and whipped up a good approximation of mom’s cole slaw thanks to a few key ingredients delivered by Todd, pictured above waving an American flag inspired handkerchief.

Throughout the day, family shared texts, snapshots and videos of their celebrations. So even though we’re all spread out, we find a moment to stand next to each other and wave as the parade rolls along.