take a hike

merrell hiking boots

I nearly called this “Hike and Subscribe” but I’ll save that gem for a future post. These are my new Merrell hiking boots, I got them from REI. They are super comfortable, it’s like I have this massive protective cushion around my feet. I’ve had hiking boots before, I used to like wearing them years ago in England as regular shoes, but these were very much bought for the purpose of hiking. We planned a trip to Utah last year to go hiking around several National Parks that my son had done a project on for school, most looking forward to Arches. Then the Pandemic hit (I don’t know if you heard about that) and we had to cancel the trip, but we decided to book it again for Spring Break 2021, with me and my wife part-vaccinated and going by car instead of flying. So, we needed new gear. They went through a lot of different hiking boots and hiking shoes before they found ones they were kinda happy with; I pretty much bought the first pair I tried on. I don’t like trying on lots of shoes. These worked out really well. We went on a shortish hike to test out our new equipment, as well as our new backpacks (my wife got one of those hydration packs in hers; after our test hike I decided I should get one too, reaching back for the water bottle being a waste of energy). We went to Stebbins Cold Canyon, near Lake Berryessa (not that far from Davis, it’s a preserve actually managed by UC Davis, but we had never been there), walked along the easier hike, and I did a quick sketch, because I wanted to practice doing quick watercolour sketches for the Utah trip. It was pretty rapid, though I said to my family that I plan on doing quick sketches of 10-15 mins so that they can rest for a bit from the hiking, a good plan. So below is a quick sketch of the canyon; I’d like to do the higher trail next, overlooking the lake. It’s so strange to me that this is actually very close to Davis, but we’d never really been out here, except for a couple of drives up to Berryessa (to see the excellently-named ‘Glory Hole’). The Davis landscape is so flat that to be suddenly walking in all these dramatic hills is an eye-opener. In fact the preserve had only reopened a few weeks before, having closed during the terrible fires of last summer. Much of this area was severely damaged by the wildfires, and we could see the evidence of it all around. Such devastating loss of habitat, so many burnt trees and plants, but it’s encouraging to see that life returns; life finds a way. So, now we are officially Hikers, and I’ll post soon about our epic trip to Utah.

Stebbins Cold Canyon

things are moving along

Latest at the Teaching Learning Complex, UC Davis

Another one from the UC Davis Teaching and Learning Complex being built next to the Silo. They have put some glass over the front area now, so you can see the reflections from the buildings opposite. I didn’t have long to draw as I was on my way to a Zoom meeting so I did what I could and left it at that, rather than finish anything later. It seemed really important to include the sandwich board in the foreground. You’ve seen the Silo next to it a million times so no need to add all the details in there. Further down the road, Walker Hall is pretty much ready for use now, just awaiting opening. I’ll get to take a look around next week! I’m not sure when this building will be open yet though, but hopefully before Fall when we are planning a full in-person return to campus (fingers crossed). We’ll see. So it is April now, we’ve pandemic for over a year, I just heard that the Davis school board voted last night for kids to go back five days a week in a couple of weeks’ time – things are moving on. Our youth soccer team is now allowed to play friendly games against other teams, albeit masked up and with very limited spectator capacity. Cinemas are planning to open over the next couple of months, reduced capacity. Places are all going at different paces but this is where we are now, vaccinations are moving along well, but we know this ain’t over yet, and we’re working form home for quite a while yet.

Speaking of being at home, I got a Playstation recently (PS4; I’ve not had one since the PS1 mini I had in the late 90s, loved that little thing), and last night I finished the Miles Morales Spider-Man game. That was a really fun game. I don’t play a lot of video games but I do love Miles, and the graphics were incredible. I’m going to play the earlier Spider-Man game, but I’ve a few others I want to try out first; I got the 2020 Formula 1 game (full price, wish I’d waited a month or so) which is well hard, but I love Formula 1. Really enjoyed the first race of the 2021 season on Sunday, the Bahrain Grand Prix, great finish from Lewis and Max. I love football, but I bloody love Formula 1.  

stop right now, thank you very much

5th St Davis

I drew this one Saturday afternoon early March, one of those times I just needed to go out and draw something, stopped on Fifth Street because it’s usually pretty sketchagenic. I like the way shadows hit shapes. I’m also constantly amused by the ‘cross traffic does not stop’ signs, because I’m a dad and it’s a typical dad joke remark. “Annoyed traffic speeds up” and “furious traffic runs red lights” and so on. “Polite traffic says, no after you, please, after you.” Stop signs are fun. They literally say “stop” which is not really open to interpretation, though people sometimes read “unless you just slow down and roll through”, or in the case of half the cyclists in Davis, “unless it’s you because you’re special.” The other half of the cyclists do stop at stop signs and red lights; I’m one of them. The thing here though is that cars just assume you won’t, which I suppose is fair enough, college town with a lot of new cyclists, but it’s when I do stop at the stop sign, after the car has stopped, and I wait for them to go, and they don’t, they just sit there at the stop sign waiting for me, even though they got there first. I’ve already stopped and they decide not to go and wave me through, by the time I realize what they are doing, another car on the other side starts going and it’s all very, huff huff , grumble grumble, at least in my British head. I don’t like the roads. Sometimes at red light crossings on t-junctions, if I’m about to cross the road (by foot or by wheel), it’s green man (well, ‘white’ man) or cycle crossing light, you go out and suddenly a car or a bike has jumped the red light and is hurtling right at you. I suppose they figure, well I may as well go since I’m not turning, what’s the difference. As I say, it’s been as many cars doing this as cyclists on the junction near my house. There aren’t as many cameras here as in London, where if you stray into the bus lane for a couple of seconds you get a huge fine in the mail days later. One thing about Davis though, we are considered the cycling capital of the US (the US Bicycling Hall of Fame is right here on the corner of B and 3rd, so we must be) and this was the first town in America to get bike lanes, and our bike lane system is extensive and well maintained and signposted. In general cyclists and vehicles get along and share the road. It’s a cause of great smugness from me and other Davis people who agree (not the ones who don’t). That said, the start of the academic year is always a bit of a free-for-all – campus between classes is like the Tour de France on steroids (ie, it’s like the Tour de France) when you really just avoid all roads and roundabouts lest you want to be mangled in a pile of metal, oily chains, textbooks and limbs. Downtown though in October, it’s like an episode of “Cops” on steroids (ie, it’s like…). Well, that’s an exaggeration, but the local police do conduct little stings where they’ll have an officer waiting at certain busy cross-junctions to flag down and cite (or at least educate) cyclists who go right through the Stop signs. It can be pretty dangerous so it’s good to nip it in the bud, and word gets around. I remember when the campus police force would also stop cyclists who cycled at night without a light, and rather than cite them they would hand out bike lights. Education is always good. Things always calm down a bit more in the cycle lanes by the time November comes around.

This building on Fifth, I think I’ve sketched before but this is the one involved in the tragic shooting of a young police officer Natalie Corona in 2019 a block away, I think this was where the murderer came from, and went back to, and was eventually found by the police before taking his own life. It was a terrible event, and I always think of that now when I’m down this part of the street.

I needed a milkshake after sketching this. I had a delicious chocolate milkshake from Baskin Robbins downtown, and trundled home. I don’t get those milkshakes much any more so it was a treat.

at the desk job

Desk

Here’s a digital sketch from a recent UC Davis Staff Assembly meeting, with the Chancellor Gary May speaking on screen there. This is my at-home desk still. There’s a lot going on here. I try to keep it clear but things just keep showing up there. I would like a new desk, to be honest. Maybe one of those fancy ones that goes up and down so I can stand. One of our lecturers at work has one that I really like. Drew this on the iPad, took the odd note here and there, did half of it over lunch once the meeting was over while Barcelona played PSG in the background, a Champions League match on a Spanish language channel. This working from home thing is so done now. I do go into the office once a week to take care of something or other, I much prefer it. At home I am too close to the snacks in the kitchen. Part of this meeting was the discussion about our plan to return to campus this Fall, all in-person again. It’s still early doors yet, but I’m optimistic. But it’s going to be a long transition, for everyone. Let’s face it, we’re not going back to normal normal any time soon, this will all take a long time to get over.

chevy on oak

chevrolet truck oak ave davis

I like these types of truck. There’s something very ‘Pa Kent’ about them. I’m not a fan of modern American trucks which are more along the line of macho monster truck take up as much room as possible macho nonsense, the ones that stick out too far at parking lots and have their headlights up higher so they can blare directly into the windscreens of more normal-sized vehicles. Everything’s bigger in America, and if it isn’t, then GM have a way to help you overcompensate. I love this one though, especially as it’s all nice and shiny, and the shade of cerulean blue, slightly teal, is lovely. It was parked out on Oak St a few times and I cycled past thinking, I must sketch that some time. So in mid-February I did. Those are the sports fields of Davis High School in the background. It was another of those windy days we had a lot of in February.

Vaccine’s feeling a lot better today, two days after second shot. Yesterday the body was feeling very fatigued, but the seasonal allergies were kicking up as well. Hopefully the rubbish-joke side-effect has cleared up now. I thought I’d post this sketch since things are starting to pick-up…

shots away

UC Davis lunchtime

I drew this one quickly on a late lunch at the Silo on campus after going down to Kaiser Vacaville to get my Pfizer vaccine. Yes, I got the Pfizer at Kaiser, from someone called Eliza, while drinking Tizer, and I was none the wiser. I hate getting injections usually. I get nervous, then I feel a bit of a prick. Sorry, I should have sounded the “old joke about injections” alert. Still I was in and out just like that. Had to wait fifteen minutes to see if there were any side effects, but there were none, except I went straight to best Buy Vacaville and bought lots of Microsoft products. Sorry, I should have sounded the “boring joke about having a strange desire for Microsoft stuff after getting the Covid vaccine because stupid people think Bill Gates is trying to implant microchips in you” alert. It’s internet law that you have to say that joke at least once. My arm hurt a bit. Now I’m just after having the second dose and my arm hurts again, and I feel a bit fatigued all over, and I keep getting pop-ups saying “there’s a problem with your Microsoft account”. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. It’s not even funny (not that that has stopped me telling a joke before, I hear you say). There are better jokes. For example, many places are offering drive-through vaccinations, so when I tell people back home that I got shot in the arm in a drive-by they’d think I’m all gangster. No, no they wouldn’t. That one wasn’t very good either. In Britain they call them ‘jabs’, which after sixteen years away sounds odd to me. Unless it’s Steve Jabs, and when you get the vaccine you want to buy an iPad, and oh, no don’t bother with that one either. Honestly the best I’ve been able to do is say I got Pfizer at Kaiser, and rhymes aren’t necessarily that funny. The woman who gave me the shot wasn’t even called Eliza, and they don’t have the drink Tizer over here. Nobody in America knows what Tizer is, or Lilt, or Tango, or even Vimto (but Vimto’s disgusting). Tizer is a sweet red fizzy drink I can’t fully explain, but it reminds me of Vic Reeves as Noddy Holder. I could have said I was drinking “Crystal Geyser”, but that wouldn’t work for me because as a Londoner we pronounce it “geezer”.

Ok here’s one. “I got my vaccine the other day; they kept the needle in there for ages, several minutes. I asked if that gave me a better chance of not getting the virus. They said, well it’s a long shot.” Hey that’s not bad, is it, I might use that at a staff meeting or something. Maybe not. That’s the sort of joke you tell at the dinner table at Christmas, and pretend you read it on a piece of paper in a cracker, because you’re too embarrassed to admit you came up with it yourself.

Still, it’s better than the other ones. This Pfizer vaccine isn’t too bad for the side effects, apart from this fatigue, and the bad jokes. If I’d got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, well that’s only one dose, so I’d be just calling it the “Johnson”. If I’d got the Moderna vaccine, that’s the one Dolly Parton helped fund, which is “nine-to-five” percent effective. Yeah, these jokes are awful. This must be one of the side effects (what was my excuse before?). The last time I felt this bad the day after doing shots was one night in Vegas. (And so the run of bad jokes continues…)

the longest march

4th and F St, Davis

And so March 2020 finally ended and March 2021 began. It’s what it felt like, right? That’s what we all say. That super long March, remember back in May 2020 when we’d say “oh, today’s date is March the 70th” or stuff like that. That’s what people say, in their Tweets and their Witty Remarks. I am writing this in late March 2021, the day after receiving my second Covid vaccine, over a year after the pandemic officially began. I’ve learned of a word (from Rick Steves), “vaccication”, the first vacation you might have after being vaccinated. We had a road trip to Utah last week to go hiking in Arches national park (I’ll post the sketches soon, what a place), but flying international might still be a way off for us, with how things are, though I hope it’s not too long before I can get back to see the family in London. In the meantime, more Davis. This is Cooper House on the corner of 4th and F, I have drawn it before, but I really liked how the shadows were falling on the white wood as the sun was setting. What was I listening to when I drew this? Probably something about football, or history. There is so much football these days. I remember this time last year when the football stopped, the floodlights went out, and football podcasts were suddenly free to be more creative, and not just go on about the latest VAR incident in Newcastle vs Crystal Palace or whatever. they would talk about old seasons, great teams from history, they would have fun football quizzes, and maybe talk a bit about the Belarus league which was still going on. When the German Bundesliga restarted, earlier than other leagues, we all became Bundesliga fans and far more interesting in the goings on at Schalke or the tactics of Julian Nagelsmann than ever before. Now it’s game after game after game after game. As for history, well I suppose there is just as much history as ever, but last year we would get more episodes about the Black Death, or the Plague of Justinian, or the 1918-19 Flu Pandemic (given the misnomer at the time ‘Spanish Flu’, as they were the only ones reporting on it since other European countries suppressed their news during World War I; in fact the flu outbreak apparently began in Kansas). Just what you want to hear. Speaking of which, who is looking forward to all of the films or TV dramas set during the pandemic? No, me neither. In fact I suspect there won’t be that many. Looking back to Shakespeare, there were disease outbreaks in his time, when people were quarantined, theatres closed – the plague outbreak of 1592-1594 for example, and another one between 1603-1604. Some of his plays like King Lear may have been written while on lockdown, though they didn’t have Zoom in those days so thankfully he never got his company of actors to sing “Imagine” line by line, or whatever was the equivalent back then, “Greensleeves” or something. Shakespeare may have made plague references that his audience would well have understood, but he didn’t come right out and make a Plague Play. Though if he did, perhaps it would have involved social distancing or self-isolation: The One Gentleman of Verona, for example. Richard ill. Julius Sneezer. Coriolonavirus. “The Comedy of Errors” speaks for itself with how certain governments handled things last year. Thinking about it, Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene was pretty well socially distanced. Shakespeare was also a fan of masques of course. I did watch a number of the Globe Theatre’s productions on YouTube during the early months of the pandemic, they offered them up free (I did send donations). Back then, FIFA were also posting a lot of full-length classic football matches on YouTube as well, which I watched gleefully (that Argentina-England 86 game, well not as much of a close classic as I remember, England were dreadful and deserved to lose, even if Maradona scored with his hand). I also watched a lot of old Formula 1 races, while the motor races were also stopped. Sport is back, but theater not so much yet. Cinemas are starting to return, slowly, tentatively, and I can’t wait to get out to the movies again, as much as I love being sat on my couch. I also sketched a lot at home, drawing every room in the house, but now at least I’m back drawing outside and glad for it.  

duel of the freights

030121 train tracks sm

We get long freight trains rolling through Davis. Those really long ones like you see in movies set in America, that roll across the country, miles long, maybe with a hobo in one of the cars warming his socks on a fire and ripping yarns and tall tales. In fact you might say Davis exists because of the railroad; the Union Pacific railroad build a railway triangle here after getting hold of the land from the farmers Jerome C. and Mary Davis. They are who Davis is named after actually; originally it was ‘Davisville’, but the town’s first postmaster, William Dresbach, decided ‘Davisville’ was too long for the very small envelopes they had back then, and shortened it to ‘Davis’. That was over a hundred years ago; presumably it will be shortened again someday to just ‘Dave’. It’s ironic then that old Billy Dresbach’s house, which is still standing downtown, now has the ridiculously long name of ‘Hunt-Boyer-Dresbach House’, which was ok because they developed the technology to make larger envelopes by then. This particular stretch of railroad is near my house in north Davis, where the big metal rail cars are parked for a while so that graffiti artists can finish what they were doing last time. I sometimes run along this way in the mornings. The trains aren’t always here; I came back a couple of days later to draw another section but it had gone. It’s been a while since I drew the trains, but I was just so into all the colourful graffiti I couldn’t decide which cars to draw, so I did a panorama. Workmen clanged about by a rail car further to my right, welding this and that, while I listened to an Adam Buxton podcast, an interview with Torvill and Dean. If I had interviewed Torvill and dean I would not have been able to stop myself from doing the music, pa-paa-pa-paa-pa-paa-papapa, the one they did for the cinemas. And then there would have been an awkward silence, and Torvill and Dean would have said, um, yeah, this is awkward, um, that wasn’t us. And then I would realize that I was thinking of Pearl and Dean. Which would be embarrassing, but at the same time would make a funny story to tell people later. Especially if it was true. I would have asked Dean if he still heard from Pearl, and for balance I would have asked Torvill if she still saw Keith Harris. Look I was a kid when they were famous, yeah. There were lots of double acts when I was a kid, it was hard to tell them all apart. I was always drawing, I was too busy to lift my head up to actually pay attention to anything, unless it was Tottenham, or Formula 1. Oh how times have changed. But there were a lot of double acts, you had Rod Hull and Emu, you had Rod Jane and Freddy, you had Little and Large, you had Cannon and Ball, you had Hoddle and Waddle, you had Dempsey and Makepeace, basically everyone was a double act. At this point in my pretend interview with Torvill and Dean they are getting ready to walk out, but I convince them to stay, that I would take it seriously. And as soon as they do I’d say, I’m skating on thin ice now eh. I have personally only ice-skated once in my life, when I was 15 years old, in Austria while I was on a school exchange trip. I couldn’t do it. It was cold, I fell over a lot, I had absolutely no idea how people actually moved. People would get on the ice and suddenly off they went. I actually took my skates back and said the batteries need changing. I also had Gluhwein for the first and last time then too, I think it was more glue than wine. 

The graffiti looks good on the side of these trains though, adds a lot of colour and turns them into a moving art gallery. I don’t live so close to the railroads that I hear them at night any more, but when I lived in south Davis I was a little closer to the main line that runs east-west and at 1am when the big long mile-long cargo train would roll through it would make my apartment rumble slightly. Even here though we do feel the vibrations of the earth moving slightly, it’s not earthquakes, it’s those long trains. Or maybe it’s bears or something. I liked drawing this panorama though. Click on the image for a closer view. 

alright del boy

hotel del coronado

We spent a couple of days in Coronado, San Diego, at the amazing Hotel Del Coronado (commonly known just as the “Del”). We stayed pretty socially distanced – we got a fantastic room that opened right out to the ocean, with a firepit for toasting marshmallows (we made delicious s’mores). It was a once in a lifetime type of hotel room, not huge, but pretty spectacular. Coronado is pretty spectacular. The weather was beautiful (February and in the high 70s), the sunsets incredible. I didn’t draw much; we relaxed, had cocktails, looked at the sea. I did do a little sketching – I went out to the beach and looked back, and did a quick sketch which I added to later, of the Del itself. It’s a historic building (the movie Some Like It Hot was filmed here), and one that my wife has wanted to stay in all her life. This was her birthday trip and we all enjoyed it here. The Pacific Ocean was cold but we still splashed our feet in it. The sand itself glistened with a strange metallic golden sheen, I think there must be a lot of shiny minerals in this particular sand. It was also full of these strange little round objects I had never seen before, but that my son told me are ‘sand dollars’. Beautiful, delicate little things, so I drew a few of them. Apparently there are legends about these things, also called sea biscuits, that they are the currency of mermaids or from the lost city of Atlantis, I mean they might be I suppose.

sand dollars coronado beach

On the way to san Diego we did stop at one historic Mission, the Mission San Juan Capistrano. It’s pretty big with a lot to see; it’s pretty expensive too, and cost almost $40 for the three of us to go in. I had to get at least one sketch. Much of the older parts are just rubble, destroyed by an earthquake not that long after it was founded (they must have known even then not to rebuild those bits, so they could charge people a lot to have a look at them years later). Still, these historic places need a lot of upkeep and we want them to be open for us to see and learn from, so it’s worth it I suppose. I had been reading a Bill Bryson book on this trip, and he regularly infuriated me whenever he would turn up at a museum he had taken a while to get to, then baulked at a small entrance fee and refused to go in, before going off to a cafe to complain about their sandwich prices and moan at serving staff for not understanding punctuation, or something. Seriously, Bryson.

mission san juan capistrano, south of LA

two jags in laguna beach

Jaguar XJS sm

Recently we decided to finally get out of Davis for a bit and took a pre-birthday trip to Southern California, pre-birthday for my wife that is, post-birthday for me. Roughly equidistant between the two. We were headed to San Diego, but on the way there we spent a couple of nights in the lovely seaside city of Laguna Beach. We hadn’t been there since before my son was born, and the very first time we went was back in 2002 on y first trip to the US, and it was perhaps the prettiest place I had ever been. Sunset over the ocean from the cliffs is like something you wouldn’t believe (and something I cannot draw). Lot of rich people live here though, so a lot of flash cars. I personally love to see a Jaguar (there’s a house near us in Davis that has three old Jags outside, one of them, an E-Type, is kept in a special inflated plastic presentation box, I kid you not). Well there was a cool looking Jaguar sports car parked opposite out hotel, an XJS, that I just had to sketch. It was a schoolday when we were there so my son still had to go to remote school, taking his classes on the balcony overlooking the Pacific, with that Jag on view below. I was working too, inside the hotel room on my laptop, eager to get stuff done and get down to the beach in the afternoon sometime. After we took a long walk downtown, I spotted this incredible old Jaguar Mark 4 parked along the Pacific Coast Highway. It looked like something a 1940s gangster might drive. “Meeeah, sheee, wise guy huh?” I said to myself over and over while drawing. People stopped and took selfies with the car. More than one person asked if it was mine, and I laughed hahaha, no, because obviously I don’t look like a 1940s gangster. I did like Bugsy Malone when I was a kid (my big sister used to watch it a lot) but I’m not sure I could pull off the look. I can do the voice though, “Myeeeeaahhh, sheeee?” Because that is how 1940s gangsters all talked, as we know. This was a pretty beautiful vehicle though and had some little metal British logo thingies below the grille, ‘RAC’, ‘AA’, ‘BARC’ and a special one for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. But the car’s steering wheel is on the left so this is definitely a car for the US. What a beauty, not something you sheee too often.

Jaguar Mk 4 sm

Laguna Beach panorama

Now this is part of the very long Pacific Coast Highway that stretches all along the west side of America. I like the quirky looking architecture along this road in Laguna Beach, so I had to stop and draw some. Click on the image to embiggen it for a closer view. I have to say this road was very noisy. Cars zooming up and down, it felt like a bit of an adventure when we drove downtown to pick up our dinner later that evening. I think I listened to a podcast rather than to the sounds of the city, but I can’t remember what it was I listened to now, probably something to do with Formula 1, which would have been quieter than this road. I do really like Laguna Beach though (despite the fact it sounds like the word ‘Gooner’ and we can’t talk about that since Arsenal beat Spurs this weekend, grrr), and here is the sunset from our balcony. I’m not quick enough to paint sunsets like this, so I just looked out and enjoyed it.

Laguna Beach Sunset 2021