Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell


Posted from Culver City, California at 8:56 pm, March 31st, 2013

I live in a city with a space shuttle, and that makes me very, very happy. Yesterday the girl took me to visit it at the California Science Center, and there was much rejoicing. The supporting exhibits include a wealth of information about the mysterious “space potty”, computers from mission control, and a history of the shuttle program. The highlight, obviously, is the opportunity to visit up close with a vehicle that has traveled at 17,500 miles per hour, fixed the Hubble telescope and built the space station, cost $2.1 billion to build, and withstood temperatures of over 3000°F.

For reference, here are journal entries from past encounters with the spaceship:

The Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

This vehicle has been to space, repeatedly, which pretty much makes it the coolest thing ever built.

The Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center

While it takes rocket scientists to build a space shuttle, decorating one apparently requires a dyslexic flag painter.

Too Many Words

Posted from Boise, Idaho at 7:35 pm, February 18th, 2013

The recent journal entries have lacked in pretty pictures, so before boring my twos of readers with yet another verbose saga about the life of Holliday, here are a couple of pretty pictures from the December roadtrip. The first was taken early in the morning fog at Merced National Wildlife Refuge prior to a massive breakfast, while the second is from an afternoon in Death Valley.

Foggy Landscape in Merced NWR

Foggy Landscape in Merced NWR.

Foggy Landscape in Merced NWR

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.

The Valley of Death, Part II

Posted from Lancaster, California at 8:53 pm, December 30th, 2012

I hiked a couple of miles out into the Badwater salt flats early this morning, sat down in the snow-white crystals of a dried up salt pool, and the desolation was glorious.

After a good night’s rest the morning featured some sunrise photography, a hike through the Badwater salt flats, and a delicious burger for a hungry boy. Post-burger the itinerary included a visit to the yellow formations of Zabriskie Point, and a drive up to Dante’s View. I thought I’d been to this overlook before, but I don’t remember it, and it’s a memorable spot with a five thousand foot sheer drop down to the valley floor and a ridiculously great view of the awesome geology of the surrounding landscape – since that’s three superlatives, odds are that my memory is faulty and this is a spot that has not been on a past trip itinerary.

After leaving Dante’s View the trail led towards home via the eastern Sierra, with a brief stop to enjoy the Milky Way, and the current stop to try to get a journal entry written before it gets too late (aka 9PM) and my brain starts getting mushier than normal. Tonight will be spent in a real bed as this end-of-year trip sadly comes to its end.

Badwater Basin Sunrise

Badwater Basin sunrise. The color on the mountains was also impressive, although you wouldn’t know it from the pictures I took.

Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Badwater Basin salt flats. See all the people? No? Glorious!

A Day at the Refuge

Posted from near Buttonwillow, California at 7:39 pm, December 28th, 2012

In the 1800s there was wetland from Sacramento to Bakersfield, and a person could travel the entire route by boat. Today ninety-five percent of that has been converted to farmland or cities, so one can only imagine how insanely awesome the wildlife must once have been.

Wakeup was at 6AM to catch sunrise at the Merced NWR and to hopefully see the cranes before they dispersed for the day. It was ridiculously foggy, but the calls of several hundred cranes helped with locating the birds and I managed to grab a few shots as they departed to their favorite breakfast spots. Unfortunately the elusive “money shot” was not to be had today, so a crane photo remains on the bucket list.

The entire day was spent at the refuge, with a brief intermission to eat a massive biscuit and take a shower. Hawks, herons, and a few thousand snow geese were among the day’s other sights – if what I saw represents five percent of the historic abundance, the Central Valley must have been a wonder in its wildlife prime. Tonight will most likely again be spent sleeping in the glorious confines of the Subaru, with tomorrow’s plan (subject to change) being to meander along a route to Death Valley that I’ve never tried before.

Sandhill cranes at sunrise

A flock of about two hundred cranes dispersed in a matter of minutes when the sun came up, making for a frantic and fun photo shoot.

White-fronted geese and the full moon

A shot from yesterday of white-fronted geese flying past the full moon. I thought this was a neat shot although perhaps a bit too odd for the journal, but Audrey gave her approval.

Chasing Cranes

Posted from Concord, California at 10:46 pm, December 24th, 2012

Last night was spent sleeping in the back of the car on the side of the road. It felt good to be a vagabond again.

Today’s adventure was a tour of several wildlife refuges to scout possible locations for the sandhill crane picture that has eluded me for so long. While the birds were again uncooperative, there’s hope. The morning’s first visit was to Merced National Wildlife Refuge, home to a ridiculous number of cranes and the new number one contender on the crane photography list. Arrival was too late for good light, but this is a place that will be re-visited.

The second planned stop was the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, but Apple’s new map tool calculated a route that went from sketchy country road to potholed mess to muddy quagmire. I was skidding all over the place, tearing up clay, doing my best to avoid sliding into the irrigation ditch next to the road without reducing speed to the point where I’d get trapped in the muck. When eventually I found a place wide enough to turn around I was absolutely positive that the car would get stuck, but a Christmas miracle occurred and the Suby dug its way out and I escaped without a call to AAA. After this mini adventure there were disconcerting squealing noises coming from the front of the vehicle, so I headed to the nearest town where it took a full twelve minutes of power washing to get all of the clay/mud out of the wheel wells and axles.

After finding a new route that followed actual roads I arrived at San Luis NWR, which was scenic, as was the day’s final stop at the Isenberg Crane Reserve. However, Merced NWR was clearly the winner and a spot that will see another visit on the post-Christmas trip. In the interim the plan calls for spending a couple of days at Ma & Pa’s for the annual family Christmas, feasting, and misadventures with my brother.

Red-tailed hawk at Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Red-tailed hawk at Merced National Wildlife Refuge. My copy of the Sibley guide is at home, so I’m basing this identification on the fact that I generally assume all big hawks are red-tails.

The Hoya

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:07 am, December 23rd, 2012

As of the 21st I have twelve glorious, work-free days. Life is quite good at the moment.

To start the vacation extravaganza Audrey and I went down to San Diego to greet the Mayan end of the world with her sister, mom, and mother’s husband. We drove down Thursday night, woke up to find the world still in existence Friday morning, then roamed La Jolla for a bit before joining her family members for lounging and steak in a three bedroom bungalow at the very cool (both figuratively and literally) Lafayette boutique Hotel. There was a game involving dominoes and Mexican trains that I confess to not fully understanding, a broken heater, a hairy cousin, and plenty of other shenanigans to make for a fun journey.

Tonight will begin the annual holiday trip, with a few nature stops planned before a Christmas spectacular with the family in Concord, followed by the annual post-Christmas road trip – there should be much car camping, early rising, and random journeying to end the year.

Brown pelican in La Jolla

Brown pelican in La Jolla. This was one of the few birds who agreed to stay in focus and in frame.

Sea Lions in La Jolla

Pile o’ sea lions in La Jolla. Despite the fact that this may look like a morbid heap of deceased pinniped, all of these guys were very much alive.

Brown pelican in La Jolla

Money shot.

The Giving of the Thanks

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:31 pm, November 30th, 2012

This year’s Thanksgiving saw Audrey and I make our annual trek through traffic and up to Ma & Pa’s residence in the Bay Area, arriving Wednesday night with pies (plural) in hand after more than seven hours on the road. Aaron is again living in the Bay Area and working at Nordstrom, and by “living in the Bay Area” I mean “living with my parents” and doing so by choice since economics are not really an issue. Dolphins and parrots supposedly stay in family units for years and years, so younger Holliday’s living arrangement is apparently not without precedent.

Aaron and I set off on a muddy hike up Mount Diablo on Thanksgiving morning, saw two flocks of wild turkeys on the trip home, ate the world’s largest biscuit, and then joined everyone else in lounging the day away before eating massive quantities for dinner. The following day Audrey and I were off to meet her best friend Krissy in Moss Beach, with a stop along the way in the Marin Headlands to fight for parking and enjoy a view of the Golden Gate. The next morning Krissy took us up into the hills to hike amongst big trees and banana slugs before a very tired pair made the long journey back to LA.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.

Shuttle Endeavour in LA

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:09 am, October 21st, 2012

The shuttle Endeavour arrived in LA a short time ago, and last weekend was moved from the airport to its new home at the Science Center. The route involved a maximum speed of two miles per hour over twelve miles, with numerous stops, massive numbers of utility workers on hand to pull down electrical wires and traffic lights, and enthusiastic crowds all along the route. Aaron was in town, so of course the Holliday Boys set off on an adventure, eventually finding a spaceship parked next to a donut shop.

The Holliday Boys and the Shuttle Endeavour in the streets of LA

The Holliday boys next to the business end of the shuttle. Photo by Aaron.

Shuttle Endeavour in the streets of LA

Shuttle Endeavour in the streets of LA. The “oversize load” banner is necessary for those who might have otherwise been confused as to whether this was a normal-sized delivery.

Shuttle Endeavour in the streets of LA

A sight that no astronaut would have ever foreseen.

Tooth Peak

Posted from Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho at 7:13 pm, September 29th, 2012

While looking at a woodpecker near the lodge today an older British couple walked up to us and started chatting. While talking about birds that they’d seen, the lady mentioned that she hadn’t gotten any pictures of hawks, but “there was this lovely hawk right outside of our cabin window yesterday, but just as I got out my camera someone walked under the tree and he flew off.” She paused, looked at me more closely, furrowed her brow and asked “Was that you?”


Today’s other adventures included a leisurely four mile hike along Fishhook Creek, ending at a meadow with a great view of the Sawtooths and a beaver dam across the creek. Along the way the trip’s first wild bald eagle made an appearance, thus fulfilling my eagle-finding pledge to Audrey. Since Northern Idaho requires at least two adventures per day we then rented a canoe and cruised around Redfish Lake, at all times exercising impeccable watercraft handling and perfect canoeing technique while also making sure to touch lots of logs and rocks. The plan for tomorrow includes getting up for sunrise and then searching for cranes in the Stanley basin before eating the lodge’s delicious breakfast buffet and making the scenic loop back to Boise.

Fishhook Creek, Sawtooth Mountains

Sawtooth Mountains, Fishhook Creek, and a beaver dam, not necessarily in that order.

Canoeing in Redfish Lake

Canoeing in Redfish Lake. I am that awesome. Photo by Audrey.

Last Flight of the Endeavour

Posted from Culver City, California at 6:43 pm, September 23rd, 2012

When a three year old sees a rocket, for inexplicable reasons that kid is likely to start screaming, and he will then start running around in circles while also perhaps punching himself in the head due to uncontrollable excitement. As he ages the kid will calm down and learn to control himself, eventually growing into a normal adult who admires rockets but manages to do so in a mature way.

When it comes to spaceships, I never grew out of the three year old stage.*

The shuttle Endeavour is making the LA Science Center its final home, and on Friday it arrived in Los Angeles on top of its 747 carrier plane after touring Sacramento and San Francisco. The flight plan called for the pilots to pass by Venice Beach (as well as many other local landmarks), so I took some time off from work and joined a few hundred people there to watch the final flight of the spaceship. As it turned out, the pilots had free reign to fly anywhere they chose in LA, and they used that freedom to make an unannounced pass over LAX at two hundred feet, Top Gun style, and then turned up the coast and made an unexpected second pass over those of us who had already begun to leave Venice Beach to get back to work.

The next part of the shuttle’s move occurs on October 12 when it will be put on a transporter and slowly taken to its new home at the science center, and I’ll more than likely be stationed somewhere along the route, screaming, running in circles, and punching myself in the head as it passes by.

*In fairness, many people have specific things that elicit Pavlovian responses that turn them into three year olds – witness women at a KISS concert or men in the bleachers at a Packers game.

Shuttle Endeavour

In the words of Scott: “That’s one badass shuttle pilot to be able to land the shuttle on top of a 747 in mid flight.”

Shuttle Endeavour with Chase Plane

The shuttle and one of its two chase planes.

Preparing for the Kayak of Doom

Posted from Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii at 8:13 pm, August 27th, 2012

Aaron and I are doing a seventeen mile kayak along the Napali Coast tomorrow, so if there are no further journal entries after this one, that’s the place to tell the rescuers to start searching for bodies.

After plunking down deposits for tomorrow’s eight hour death march we did a snorkel in murky, turbulent waters and followed that up with three trips down the hotel’s water slide – surprisingly a request from two grown men for the wristbands that allow repeat trips down the slide did not elicit even a raised eyebrow from the hotel staff, so they’re either really well trained or we weren’t the only ones who appreciated the mad g-forces on the turns. After the watersports Ma and Pa joined us for sunset and a few chases of the local chickens before we headed to bed at the late hour of 8PM.

Sunset in Kauai

Sunset in Kauai.

Travelin’ Man Part 2

Posted from Culver City, California at 1:31 pm, June 23rd, 2012

The month of many travels concluded with a long weekend spent driving with Audrey from the Bay Area back to LA along the coast.

Thursday July 14

After working in Berkeley I picked Audrey up at Oakland airport and we then headed to Ma and Pa’s for the evening. The night concluded with a viewing of photos of young Ryan in an awesome Superman outfit, and questionable shots of a younger Skipper in a speedo.

Friday July 15

After bacon at the Hick’ry Pit in Walnut Creek we visited the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, because girls like to see cute animals and go “Awwwwww!” The museum’s eagle was calling, the hawks were hawking, and the owls were owling. Following that excursion we headed to Moss Beach under amazingly non-foggy skies to meet Audrey’s best friend Krissy, who is now a docent at the state beach across the street from her home and thus empowered to yell at anyone who gets too close to the seals. She gave us the beach tour, then took us on a walk that ended at a restaurant with amazing views and awesome Pisco Sours – everything after the second drink is a bit of a blur.

Saturday July 16

The next morning Audrey and Krissy went stand-up paddle boarding in Half Moon Bay while Krissy’s husband and I went kayaking. I got the sleek red kayak with flames on it ’cause it was super awesome, and jetted off to chase baby seagulls, loons, and other critters for the next two hours. Following that adventure we met JB at his new place, which somehow has a 1500 year old redwood in the middle of it. He gave us a tour in the back of a Polaris ATV before we had to drive down to Carmel for the evening. Audrey took me to a fancy restaurant with beautiful gardens for dinner, where I ordered a meal of buffalo chicken strips in an effort to keep things classy.

Sunday July 17

The trip through Big Sur involved many stops, including a visit to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park where we were visited by five red-headed acorn woodpeckers. Further down the road we stopped in Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals, made a visit to Hearst Castle (although sadly it was too late for a tour), then had the following encounter further south on Highway 1:

Me: “Why are all of those cars stopped ahead? What are they looking at?”
Me: “There are zebras on the top of that hill.”
Audrey (not wearing her glasses): “C’mon! Tell me what it is, really?”

As it turned out, the last remnants of William Randolph Hearst’s private menagerie now roam the Hearst ranch, and it was indeed a herd of zebras grazing by the road. Definitely not something you expect to see on the California Coast, and yet another reason why road trips are such awesome endeavors.

Audrey in Piedras Blancas

Audrey being pretty in Piedras Blancas.

Our Little Grey Friends

Posted from Culver City, California at 3:07 pm, March 25th, 2012

New house, similar visitors. It took less than a day for the finches to find the feeder, and the squirrels followed shortly thereafter. Feeder #2 is currently en route from Amazon and will double the size of the bird buffet.

Squirrel on the bird feeder

The squirrels haven’t yet resigned themselves to the fact that this is a squirrel-proof feeder, so rodents flying through the air and slipping off of plastic tubes have been a common sight over the past days.