Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Fabulous Fitbit Flex: Issues with iMac Syncing and Workarounds

It was January and I'd been eying the Fitbit for some time. My good friend and well-known walking writer, Wendy Bumgardner, had a habit of wearing several pedometers and measuring devices at once. And I, well... I just wore my ceramic wristwatch. I traveled and ate out. I really needed to walk more. I was convinced that measuring my steps would help me at home and on the road.

So in January I purchased the simple Fitbit Flex and hurried home to download the software to my new iMac desktop. I didn't have a smart phone so wouldn't be syncing on the run. With the software downloaded and my information entered I was ready to go. I hooked up the Fitbit to my computer to charge the battery just as the instructions told me to do.

I was thrilled to see that there was an opportunity to connect, also, with some of my friends on Facebook so that we could see each others' progress (or lack thereof). So I hooked up with three of them.

I walked the dog, I walked myself at the gym and I mowed the lawn. My Fitbit recorded it all and when I neared my computer, the distance magically appeared on my Fitbit dashboard. It worked!

I even decided to purchase a scale that would sync with my Fitbit dashboard and take a stab at losing weight. It didn't sync and I returned it. So much for a weight loss incentive.

I did find that I had quite an exercise incentive going. My friends were active daily and their steps were right there on my dashboard. My friend, Wendy, was always ahead. After all, she was a walking expert and she set her goals high. I kept mine at an achievable 10,000 steps per day. But my other friend and neighbor wavered from time to time so I found her a worthy opponent in the step race. Sometimes I was ahead of her and sometimes she passed me. This went on despite my growing technical difficulties with the device.

However, as the time passed, I found that my Fitbit was not syncing when I neared the computer. In fact, I had to reset it to sync it. This got worse and worse as the weeks went on. I took the Fitbit out of the bracelet so many times that it broke! I really wanted to keep up with my friends and so put up with this technological stressor.

Frustrated, I called the Fitbit Tech Support. They were very receptive and thought for sure they could help me. They walked me through all the steps needed to deal with the software and the Fitbit. I did everything they suggested (even checked my iPad to see if I could use that instead) and things still didn't work consistently. I think they spent about 45 minutes on the phone with me. At the end of the consultation it was suggested that I had some sort of wireless interference going on. Since I had a wireless mouse it was suggested I purchase a USB cord mouse to use instead. Hmmm. this was costing me well above the $99 I paid for the Fitbit.

I gave up using the Fitbit for a couple of days and sent for a USB mouse. It arrived and I switched out my "meeses." Things worked a little better. Notice I said "a little." I still wasn't pleased.

Things came to a head after a wonderful three day trip to the Long Beach Peninsula of Washington. I walked the beach, hiked the Discovery Trail and walked along the waterfront in Ilwaco. The Fitbit buzzed away, signaling that I had achieved (and often exceeded) my goal each day.  I was excited to return home and see how my achievement looked on my Fitbit dashboard! Wouldn't my friends be impressed!

I got home and did my usual workarounds (several times) to sync my Fitbit. The outcome? All the data was lost FOR THE PAST THREE DAYS! I was "fit" to be tied. I took off the Fitbit and left it, the dongle, and the recharging USB in the box. Meanwhile my friends racked up more and more steps. I lost interest in doing any more walking that normal. Perhaps a trip to the dog park, a walk around the block or a walking tour... certainly less than 10,000 steps per day.

I realized that not having my Fitbit was causing me to walk less. I needed to walk MORE for my health. On a rainy day, I took the Fitbit out of the box once again and wrote a long note to Fitbit Support. Within 24 hours they wrote back an equally long note. Although much of the advice was what I had done before (to no avail), there were a few tidbits of new information.

I read through it and decided to try deleting the old Fitbit software and reinstalling the latest version of the software. I walked a bit and then tried syncing the Fitbit. I found out that if I put my wrist almost next to the dongle in back of my computer it would sync... but only if I went to the Fitbit software and manually synced it. So, what once was a frustrating ineffective workaround has become a three step workaround:

1. Select the Fitbit Icon and access the software
2. Press manually sync
3. Put my wrist with the Fitbit close to the dongle.

That works!

I am now back on the Fitbit walking trail. I am now walking more! And, I have my friends to give me some incentive to keep walking.

It took a combination of advice from the Fitbit Tech Support and my own inventiveness to make things work. If you have an iMac and have difficulty syncing, you might keep these things in mind and, by all means, contact Fitbit Technical Support.

Purchase a Fitbit from Amazon

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Photo: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Just as the sun goes down, and when the tide is in, is a wonderful time to go to Waikiki Beach at the Cape Disappointment State Park of Washington, to photograph the light house. Cape D is a favorite place for hiking and camping. During the day, you can hike out to the lighthouse.

More Information

Friday, April 3, 2015

Visiting the Villages of Northern New Mexico: Chimayo for art, scenery and faith

Northern New Mexico is scenic, historic and a destination for people of faith. Taking a day trip from Santa Fe will bring you to the interesting villages and churches as well as beautiful scenery.

Visit the picturesque village of Chimayo and you will be taken back to the time of the colonization of northern New Mexico by the Spanish in 1610. Chimayo, a historic village in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, is known for the Chapel or Shrine, the Santuario de Chimayo, visited by pilgrims seeking benefit from the healing powers and for the Chimayo artisans and weavers of the area. Chimayo is not all that far from Santa Fe and I highly recommend a drive through the beautiful countryside to visit this quaint and colorful village.

Santuario de Chimayo (the Chapel or Shrine)

What a beautiful photo opportunity! The chapel, with it's adobe walls, wooden crosses and heirloom gardens is beautiful. But take a moment to reflect on what you will see. As you approach the chapel from the lower parking lot you will see a chain link fence dotted with makeshift crosses. Go a little further and you will see a shrine with little baby shoes and rosaries. You'll find out that this is an usual place with a powerful draw for the faithful who leave these momentos.

The church was originally built in 1814 as private family chapel for the Abeyta family. The chapel is built in the traditional adobe style. The ceiling is lined with large vigas cut from the forest nearby.

Santeros (carvers of religious figures) were hired to paint altar screens and figures which you can see today inside the chapel. Remember that this is a quiet place of reflection and prayer and that no cameras are allowed within the chapel.

Enjoy the religious carvings and art and make your way to the altar. What is very unusual and is a draw for both pilgrims and tourists is the room to the left of the altar. You will see religious pictures, photographs brought by the faithful and a figure of El Nino, the child Jesus, as well as crutches and other evidence of those who have come to this special place. This is a place of healing. Be sure and enter the small room to the right of this entrance. There are many who believe that the earth in this room holds magical healing properties. Hundreds of visitors come to this room carrying bags and small containers. In the middle of the room is a circle filled with soft reddish dirt (El Posito, the "sacred sand pit"). Visitors take a trowel and fill their containers with the dirt to take back to their homes, their families, and those who would benefit from it's healing properties.

When you visit the chapel, you will find the interior noticeably peaceful. Take a moment to sit and reflect on the history, the simple beauty, and the spiritual journey that many faithful make in search of healing. You too, may experience something special in this beautiful place of worship.

During Holy Week, before Easter, pilgrims can be seen walking to Chimayo, some carrying crosses.

The Village of Chimayo

When you finish visiting the chapel, climb the short hill and walk the little streets of the village. You'll notice the water rushing along in the narrow acequia (irrigation canal) typical of villages and ranches founded by the Spanish. There are a few places to get something to eat and a gallery or two. All are worthy of a photo as they are in historic adobes and are very picturesque.

I enjoyed the historic Vigil Store (El Potrero Trading Post). The store was established 1921 and remains in the family. You can purchase religious objects, tinware, local wood carvings or a soft drink. It is a good place to find locally made religious gifts.

The Weaving Traditions of Chimayo

Chimayó is known for the weaving traditions of the Ortega and Trujillo families, who have been
weaving in the early Spanish tradition since the 1700's. Their work differs from that of the Navajo weavers although the artists admit that there has been sharing of styles and materials. Their work is termed, "Rio Grande" style. Chimayo weaving is part of this tradition. I have visited both workshops and noted that they were part of the New Mexico Fiber Arts Trail

Heirloom Chile

When I was in the Vigil Store in Chimayo I notices people buying packets of dried chili. I soon found out that the town is famous for its heirloom chile (capsicum Annum Chimayo.) The Chimayo Chile Project works with local farmers, and artists in order to preserve the native strain of chile and to keep the cultural assets alive in the community. More on Chimayo Chile.

When You Go

Chapel Hours: October - April, 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM. June - September 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. See the chapel website for more information and times when mass is celebrated.

Location: Chimayó is located 40 miles south of Taos and 24 miles northeast of Santa Fe, and about ten miles east of Espanola on highway 76. Map

Pilgrimages to the Churches of Northern NM

Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Finicky Foodie: Portland’s Ol' Factory plays on the senses (weirdly)

I enjoy listening to the Right at the Fork podcasts. But the one I just listened to, was a bit over the top, even for our beloved Portlandia.

I learned about the new, Ol’ Factory “restaurant.” It’s a full sensory restaurant. You won’t find a sign out front. Diners are invited by scented, snail-mailed, hand-made cards. And the creativity goes on.

You’ll be seated on tanned, furry pelts. They think the goat will be popular. It’s all about the senses, including tactile and auditory, not just taste. You’ll be given choices of headphones to choose your own background sound. And the creativity goes on.

The first course of food is smelled, not eaten. And the adventure continues with “a walk in the meadow.” And the creativity goes on.

Special meals on Sundays include being blindfolded and being fed by your servers. And the creativity goes on.

You have to hear the podcast by Chris Angelus to believe it! Or maybe you won’t J

This finicky foodie is amused but not watching the mail for an invite!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Woodland's Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens May be in Bloom Early

It is March and after an unusually warm winter, the early lilacs at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens are already showing some color.   Garden volunteers believe the lilacs may be in full bloom by mid-April or perhaps earlier.  However, if there is a cold snap the bloom may be slightly later into late April. 

The gardens are certainly open for Lilac Days 2015 – April 18th to May 10th.
Hours are: 10am to 4pm.

Lilac Days are an event I look forward to. Visitors can tour the Hulda Klager home, spend time in the beautiful gardens and purchase plants, including established lilac plants to benefit the gardens. Be sure and bring your camera!

The Lilac Gardens are located off I-5 exit 21, 30 minutes north of Portland, Oregon or 2.5 hours south of Seattle, Washington at 115 South Pekin Road, Woodland, Washington 98674. The Gardens are open to the public most days of the year from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., with a $3.00 gate fee payable at the gate.

More Information
Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

Monday, March 30, 2015

Enjoy your National Parks with Small Group Guided National Park Vacations

The National Park Service and National Park Foundation will celebrate National Park Week April 18-26, 2015 by waiving entrance fees on April 18 and 19.  

To celebrate “America's Best Idea” Austin Adventures (Austin, TX - based company) offers these professionally guided, small group National Park vacations for 2015:

1.     Grand Canyon National Park – Round up the entire family and visit this mind-blowing, mile-deep canyon in the heart of Arizona’s high desert. Ride the Grand Canyon Railway across the Colorado Plateau, paddle board on Lake Pleasant, swim at Slide Rock State Park and end your 6-day/5-night vacation with a BBQ on the banks of Oak Creek. Starting at $2,158.

2.     Glacier Bay National Park – As no roads lead to Alaska’s Glacier Bay, guests embark on an 8-day small ship cruise that explores this remote national park. See majestic mountains, calving glaciers, narrow fjords, and more. In addition to wildlife viewing, activities include hiking, kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding. Starting at $4,395. 

3.     Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks – See the “most colorful park in America” and the “land of rainbow canyons” on this 6-day/5-night vacation in two of Utah’s most unforgettable national parks. Bike through Snow Canyon, hike among the hoodoos and wade in the Virgin River between the sheer rock walls of the Narrows. Starting at $1,918. 

4.     Yellowstone National Park – Trust your guide to show you how this place looks even more magical from “behind the scenes.” Hike backcountry trails for access to the best views, learn the secrets of the resident wildlife and rest assured, through Austin Adventures’ relationship with Xanterra Parks & Resorts®, you’ll have some of the finest rooms in the park on this 6-day/5-night award-winning package. Starting at $2,298. 

5.     Grand Teton National Park – Paddle and pedal in the shadow of the most striking mountain range on both sides of the Mississippi. The Grand Tetons are the crown jewel of Grand Teton National Park—the setting for this 6-day/5-night multisport (hiking, biking and kayaking) vacation. Starting at $2,318. 

6.     Yosemite National Park – Rappel down a granite wall, explore by horseback, raft the mighty Merced River and hike to the park’s highlights including Vernal Falls and Sentinel Dome. It’s all included on the itinerary of this 6-day/5-night vacation in Yosemite which celebrates its 125th year as a national park in October, 2015. Starting at $2,558. 
7.     Glacier National Park – Revered as the “backbone of the world” by the local Native Americans, Glacier National Park should be at the top of any bucket list. Activities on this 6-day/5-night adventure include biking Going-to-the-Sun Road, trekking among the towering evergreens on the Trail of Cedars and plenty of wildlife watching. Starting at $2,398. 

8.     Utah - Arches & Canyonlands – Marvel at the more than 2,000 natural stone arches in Utah’s Arches National Park, ride along the scenic Island in the Sky route in Canyonlands National Park and raft a playful stretch of the Colorado River. Base camp for this 6-day/5-night multisport vacation is in the heart of downtown Moab. Starting at $1,998. 

9.     San Juan Island National Historical Park – Consisting of 172 islands, this archipelago in Washington has a lot to offer when it comes to waterfront adventure. Search for orcas while kayaking the scenic bays, bike to historic sites which were once water boundaries and dine on the freshest seafood in the Northwest on this 6-day/5-night vacation. Starting at $2,998. 

All vacations are all-inclusive and more details including departure dates are available in the Austin Adventures adventure vacation catalogs and on its new website, www.austinadventures.com. Both scheduled group departures and custom trips can be booked by calling (800) 575-1540 or emailing info@austinadventures.com.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's Garden Tour Time on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula

A seasonally inspired Rhododendron Tour, including a lecture with breakfast and garden tour, will take place on May 2 at the peak of the hybrid rhododendron season on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. The new event, one of three garden tours offered this coming year, is presented by the Water Music Festival Society, originators of Music in the Gardens.

The Rhododendron Tour will lead off with a Rhody presentation by Steve McCormick, John Stephens and Steve Clarke. They will trace the heritage of hybrid rhododendrons on the Long Beach Peninsula stemming from the work of Dr. J. Harold Clarke, his connection to the American Rhododendron Society, and regional legacy of his Clarke Rhododendron Nursery. The lecture will take place at Seaview’s landmark Shelburne Inn at 10AM. Cost is $15 per person including a sumptuous breakfast. Early ticketing is advised as seating is limited to 40 persons. For online ticket sales and more information, please go to http://watermusicfestival.com/rhodie-tour/.

The Rhody Garden Tour is a self-guided, mapped, motor tour of several historic gardens including portions of the former Clarke Nursery. Gardens will be open for ticket holders from 11AM through 4PM. Tickets are $10 per person and are available online now  and can also be purchased a week prior to the tour at The English Nursery, Seaview, and Bay Avenue Gallery, Ocean Park. Both locations will exchange tickets for tour maps.

“We have great history in rhododendrons to share on the peninsula,” said Steve McCormick, whose home is located on a portion of the former Clarke Nursery. “Dr. Clarke was well respected and renowned for his contributions regionally and nationally.”

After the lecture and tour, rhododendron admirers might also enjoy a leisurely stroll through the towns of Oysterville and Seaview to view additional rhododendrons in full bloom.

On July 18, the enchanting Music in the Gardens Tour will open a variety of local, private gardens to ticket holders.

“Gardens are selected to provide a glimpse into how each garden has been creatively adapted to the particular needs of beach or bay sides,” said Nancy Allen, tour organizer. “Settings vary from windy waterfront climates to more sheltered spaces and garden plantings, from robust vegetable beds to equally lovely showcases of annuals and perennials.”

Many Music in the Garden hosts provide small bites and refreshments; all invite lingering to enjoy the live musical entertainment. Tickets are $20 per person and will be available online April 1 and at two peninsula locations – The English Nursery and the Bay Avenue Gallery. Tickets can be exchanged at these locations after July 11 for a tour map. For more details, please access http://watermusicfestival.com/music-in-the-gardens-tour/.

The Edible Garden Tour, a benefit for local food banks, is scheduled for August 9, and shares the benefits and beauty of growing one’s own food as well as sustainable ways to do so. Admission is $7 or five cans of food. For details and updates nearer to the tour date as well as images from previous years’ tours, please visit https://www.facebook.com/PeninsulaEdibleGardenTour.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Truly Get Away from it All: Unique Ways to Explore Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah is known as one of America’s greatest (and most remote) natural playgrounds. Here beyond the limited network of roads which generally keep to the perimeter is the true wilderness of two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, plus Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park.

Escapists can immerse themselves for days at a time in these backcountry regions with the proper equipment and guidance from the staff at Moab Adventure Center, the region’s go-to source for outdoor adventure. They offer a variety of ways to experience the parks that are suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.

For active adventurers, fat tire mountain biking is a great way to fathom the mysteries of millennia ensconced in the iconic red rocks that symbolize the area’s parks. Those new to mountain biking may opt for the Courthouse Loop trail with commanding views into Arches National Park ($95 for age 5+).  The Intrepid Trail inside Dead Horse Point State Park is one of Moab's newest routes and features countless vistas of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park ($95 for age 12+).

One way to explore Arches National Park is on a guided hike into the maze-like Fiery Furnace (Adult: $89, Youth 5-15: $67). Best accessed in the company of an experienced guide, this hike twists and turns among contorted orange-tan fins, towers, spires and arches. Moab Adventure Center guides lead two-hour hikes in this trackless area, pointing out hidden attractions such as Surprise and Twin Arches. Although the hike is moderately strenuous in places, it can be enjoyed by anyone in reasonably good physical condition.

 “But when it comes to pockets of true isolation, Canyonlands is it,” says Pearce. “For example, to get to the park’s Maze District, most people take a long, arduous hike following a long dusty drive to the trailhead. However, by raft on a four-day Cataract Canyon trip (Adult: $1395, Youth 10-15: $1045), you can access a site in the Maze called The Doll House via a scenic hike from the river. The trail is steep, climbing over 1,000 feet from the river to the top of the canyon, but certainly beats the 7.5 hour drive from Moab to get to this location.”

When it comes to exploring Canyonlands, visitors should keep in mind that in this wilderness of stone there are no roads that link from one “district” or iconic point to another. Although these points may appear close on a map, the distances are between two to six hours by car. For this reason, most visitors find it impractical to visit more than one area in a single trip.

One solution is a scenic flyover based out of Moab (tours start at Adult: $123, Youth 3-15: $123, 2 & Under: Free). In a high-wing Cessna aircraft equipped with voice-activated headphones passengers enjoy conversations with the pilot who is also the tour guide. Everyone has a window seat to take in views of Arches, Canyonlands or Monument Valley, depending upon the tour. The pilot will describe the geology and dynamics of the Colorado River and Green River, the Island in the Sky, and the rugged Maze and Needles Districts of Canyonlands, the Windows of Arches and more.

Moab Adventure Center can also arrange for a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the Moab backcountry. Flights last about an hour and are priced at $300 for participants age 6 and up