Archive for the ‘Food and drink’ Category

A Brief Sonoma Vacation

July 4, 2017

Saturday, 1 July 2017, Sonoma and Santa Rosa

We haven’t been anywhere for a while, so the long weekend seemed like a good opportunity for a brief getaway. We have been through Santa Rosa, hiked Annadel state park some years ago, but thought it could be a base of operations for a few days.

These pictures from the view area at the north end of the Golden Gate bridge. Millions of people have taken these same pictures, but the views are still pretty classy, and we haven’t even been here for quite a while.


Rather than going directly to Santa Rosa, we spent much of the day in and around Sonoma. Definitely a tourist town, but pretty nice for all that.

Sonoma city hall, embedded in a large shady park on the edge of which we were able to park for a few hours. They were enforcing 3-hour parking restrictions today, so we moved the car later on.

A pretty town. We’re not much interested in the wine tasting routine, not least because the right amount of alcohol when we’re driving is zero. But the historical district is right here in the middle of town, easy for walking.

The mission, which is said to have been intended to be temporary. Once the natives’ souls had been saved, it was to become a parish church. Lt Vallejo was responsible for the secularization, a name we will see again, though later prefaced with the title General.

These wide overhangs are always cool and pleasant, ideal architecture for California summers.

The roof beams and stick lattice are both held in place with leather thongs. Drainpipe tiles above, and as long as it stays dry, it should last pretty much forever.

Inside the mission church. Glad we’re not religious. Imagine spending any noticeable amount of time here?

There was quite a little community here. This building was the servants’ quarters. Six of the servants were employed just making tortillas.

We decided to walk out to General Vallejo’s house, accessible to pedestrians via a rec trail, and quite pleasant.

Although this was also a private single-family dwelling, it was also a mini-community of its own. Not stupid, these people: the cookhouse was a separate building, so that the family would not be inconvenienced by the heat and smoke of food preparation.

A volunteer sold us tickets here, good for several other state park venues today as well.

The Vallejo house itself.

Even today, one could imagine living pretty comfortably here.

Well, the absence of indoor plumbing would detract from the amenities.

Not far from the main house, a guest cottage. Up the hill was another building, very small, where Napoleon Vallejo, the general’s oldest son, lived according to his preferences for isolation.

The pond between the upper and lower houses was chock full of turtles. All we had to do was stand at the edge and several would come swimming up to us, hoping to be fed. But when they got nothing, they wasted no time on us.

And then we went for a short hike in the hills. Hot and dry, but nice to get a little exercise. We came down into the local cemetery, thence back into Sonoma and the car.

Drove to Santa Rosa, where we’re staying at an airBnB. Quick and easy to get checked in, and the room is fine. We wandered out, thought we might stop at the Russian River Brewing Co. But it had a line down the block, not at all our kind of thing. We ended up at Wilibees, a liquor store with a bar. Over our brews, we talked with several very nice people there, then adjourned to El Coqui for a good Puerto Rican dinner.

Spoiled again.

Sunday, 2 July, Sonoma redwoods and coast

Up early enough to walk down and help Adel’s open up at 6. Then we drove to Guerneville and north to Armstrong Redwoods, where we’ve never been. Very nice, and because we were early, not too crowded.

We took what was essentially a flat course to the picnic area, decided to return to the car via the Pool Ridge trail, which started off as a seriously steep climb.

As we grunted up the hill, we met a millipede coming down.

I think this is the largest millipede I’ve ever seen.

With that as a trophy, we returned to Guerneville, where we wandered around for a while, had a look at the Russian River, chock ablock with swimmers and kayakers. We felt as if we weren’t getting enough fruit, so we found a grocery store and bought a bag of cherries. Great!

Then out to the coast, where we turned south on highway 1 and stopped at Shell beach. Our hiking book recommends two hikes here, one of them inland up the hills. So that’s where we started. Cool and breezy, very nice day. Fog intermittent over the ocean, sometimes completely gone, sometimes completely opaque.

We reached a local maximum, decided to call it enough and turned back. Open, dry grass, not a whole lot to see.

Back at the shore, however, there’s the other hike, the Kortum trail toward Goat rock.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether these people were daredevil rock climbers, but when I blow up the photo on the big screen, it’s clear that it wouldn’t be all that much of a challenge to get up there.

Jacky says one of the rocks here is called the Sphinx. My guess is that it would be this one.

But it might also have been this one. Jacky thinks this looks like Queen Elizabeth I, and I agree.

We drove around through Bodega Bay and Bodega town without stopping, but we did stop in Sebastopol for a quick wander about. There was a historical museum, open, and free of charge (our important criteria), so we stopped in. Turns out this area was home to a couple of the summer-of-love hippie communes. I had no idea! Cool!

As best we could tell, no one was being held here involuntarily, and no third parties were being damaged or injured. But the Powers that Be, of course, invoked building codes and bulldozers, and that was the end of that. Too bad people can never just let other people alone.

Back in Santa Rosa, we walked north this time, to Steele and Hops brewpub, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed the late afternoon.

Monday, 3 July, Annadel and Luther Burbank gardens

We had a recommendation for the Omelette Express, which opened only at 6:30. So we drove there and headed out for the day’s adventures after a big breakfast.

Today’s adventures started with Annadel state park. We parked at the foot of Cobblestone trail and hiked up the hill to Ilsanjo lake, some 700 feet of gain. The paper map doesn’t align all that well with the trails on the ground; we agreed that should be described as “based on a true story.” Glad we had GPS as a cross-check.

Cool day to start, but hot enough by the time we got there.

We hiked most of the way around the lake.

Stopped in a shady spot on the dam for munchies.

And a shot of a little bird that would have been happy to get fed (sorry, little guy!).

Down Spring Creek trail, a quite pleasant route mostly through forest, until we got into the county park at the bottom, where there was a busy swimming hole, a lake with boats, canoes, kayaks, and people, people everywhere.

Much of the rock along the trails here is clearly volcanic, but there are patches at the bottom that are bare of soil and vegetation, and unmistakably volcanic.

Back to the BnB, where we left off the car and went out again.

We take various different streets through the neighborhood, looking for interesting things. Interesting things, such as, for example, a cow?

Our primary objective was the Luther Burbank gardens. Very nice, an impressive achievement.

I recall artichokes being only waist high, or thereabouts, the these are taller than we are.

Water spilling from a fountain; what attracted me is the chaotic dynamism of the flow. Pretty impressive.

Among Burbank’s achievements: white blackberries (above) and thornless blackberries (below).

The home is often open, but not today (Montag Ruhetag).

I was delighted with the camouflage of this little fly.

I wonder whether the lotus sundial has always been in the shade, or whether the trees grew up after it was installed.

Diagonally opposite the Luther Burbank garden is a little stream, complete with a river walk rec trail.

Along the water, a black crested night heron.

At the same location, a sprayground. I unloaded all my electronics, everything that might object to getting wet, including my glasses, and challenged the spray. We see here a pretty bedraggled Dave.

Then we adjourned to the Third Street Aleworks where we sat outside in the shade and enjoyed a couple of oatmeal stouts at a very reasonable price. Finally, a visit to Paradise Sushi, where Jacky had tempura and I failed to bankrupt them with the all-you-can-eat option.

Tuesday, 4 July, Napa

We walked to Adel’s for breakfast again, left early before our hostess was up and about. Drove over the hills to Calistoga, and down highway 29, hoping to visit the Bale grist mill. But it was too early in the day, and possibly not going to be open at all today, so we went on.

We had not explicitly planned to see a 4th of July parade, but the street was closed for staging as we came into town. We left the car and wandered the town. Another pleasant tourist trap venue. Plenty of time to stroll before the parade started.

Lots of candy was being given away in one way or another.

Before the parade started, I had suggested that people should climb to the upper levels of the parking structure for better views. I guess a thousand of my best friends heard me!

I first noticed this little girl when her basket was empty. She had such a forlorn expression on her face, but quickly ran up to the car that was her support vehicle for a refill, then got back down to business.

This little guy was out collecting candy and (below) a balloon, with a little help from Dad.

By the time the horses came along, we were about ready to call it good. A seriously long parade; there was quite a bit more to come.

The most important guy in the parade! following along behind the horses.

Then a straight shot down the east shore and home. Good to be gone for a few days, very good to be home again.

Scottsbluff, again

July 23, 2016

Saturday 23 July 2016


There is a second museum here, the Farm and Ranch museum, FARM, so we stopped to see what there was to see. Much is under construction, not really advisable for unrestricted public access, but a pleasant young woman was kind enough to show us around.


The first attraction is a house, donated by a local family and restored to authenticity as certified by the family itself. Not completely antique; the phone has a dial.


Notice the heat exchanger atop the refrigerator. The range was electric, with coiled heater wires exposed in the grooves of the burners.



Outdoors, the first attraction is a jail cell, manufactured by a company in Detroit and available to those who might have need for such a thing. We presume it would normally be installed indoors somewhere.


One of the larger of many tractors. The ambition is to restore as many machines as possible to working order, but it is a self-funded volunteer effort, so it’s completely open-ended.


Not even sure what some of these things are.


This one is a combine, actually never used, but donated by the manufacturer to the museum.


There’s a big equipment shed, whose star attraction is arguably this big steam tractor. Our guide wasn’t sure this one would be possible to restore.


The hearse is sometimes rented out, and not just for movies. Supply your own horses and enjoy a stylish final trip.



A kit tractor made by Ford, parts from model T or model A, our guide wasn’t sure which.


A smaller steam tractor, with some of its gubbins, below.




This is a bullboat, a buffalo hide stretched over a frame. Big enough for one trapper and his load or furs, or a smaller version big enough for the man and his gear but not a load of furs.

We went to Dorthey’s for lunch, but we supplied the lunch. We get far too few veggies on these trips, so we stopped at the grocery store and bought a package of broccoli slaw, some blackberries, and in a concession to the inevitable, fried chicken.

Then off to a tour of the new high school, under construction. They had only enough hard hats for half of those who signed up, and we were in the group that toured the existing high school under the guidance of the principal. My reaction was great relief that I will never again (I fervently hope) be associated with such a place. We bailed out after the first part and never did see the new construction.

After saying good-bye to Dorthey, we stopped at a liquor store for some porter, a couple of bottles of which we enjoyed on the balcony of the B&B. This evening, the formal reunion dinner at the Country Club, and tomorrow back on the road.


July 22, 2016

Friday 22 July 2016

Up at 5, out to the monument for a beautiful sunrise. We hiked all of the trails that were open from below and got back to the B&B in time for breakfast at 8.




After breakfast, we stopped again at the monument, went through the visitor center and drove to the top. Very impressive 3D model of the terrain. The entire ridge was originally called Scotts Bluff, but the term now pertains only to the rock beyond Mitchell Pass, above the gap in the photo.


In answer to my question: why did the pioneers come over the pass instead of going around the end, the answer is the extensive badlands below the bluff (the service road was built much later), and the quicksand further down into the North Platte flood plain.


As to the rockslide that closed the trail, here it is. The signs warn about the upper surface having been undercut, so there could well be more risk than just loose rock fallen across the trail. We were able to hike only to a point on the near side roughly below where I stood to take the picture.


I dropped Jacky off at Dorthey’s and went out to explore a little. High 90s again, so I’m not too ambitious, but then there’s not a lot to do around here anyway. Walked the main street of Scottsbluff, enjoying the uses to which the old theater has been put.

Jacky is completely down on Runzas, refuses to eat at Runza restaurants. So I tried one for lunch, just to form an independent judgement. It was okay, but we do a far better hamburger and cabbage pie ourselves at home. Not least because we would use red cabbage.


Went to Lake Minatare, which has a lighthouse. No idea why. Tight spiral staircase to the top, where there is a view that’s pretty much the same as at the bottom. But it was something different to do.

Found a spot under an awning to read my book until the afternoon thunderstorm blew up. Rained pretty hard while I was in the car looking for trees to get under in case of hail. There were reports of big hail in the area, but none where I was. That’s fine with me.


Back to Gering to pick up Jacky, and we went out to the reunion picnic, well out of town, but at a very nice meadow with a pretty pond.


Of course, I didn’t know anyone, but several of the significant others banded together and talked about topics unrelated to the good old days. Probably upward of a hundred people, bluegrass band (without excessive amplification!), the usual picnic fare, and a good time was had by all.

Logan, Utah

July 17, 2016

Sunday, 17 July 2016


Above, our home from home in Boise, an apartment above a garage, a shady yard well suited for a brew. A good experience.

It was about 8 by the time we rolled out of Boise. Freeway speed limit is 80 here, which is about as much as this little Kia Soul is comfortable with. Some dry desert country, but a lot of really pretty scenery along the Snake River valley. Irrigation monsters everywhere. UPDATE: Wind was the problem. On a subsequent day without gusty cross-winds, the car was just fine at 80.


We have no desire for marathon days on the road; 250 or 300 miles is plenty long enough, thank you. We didn’t really stop until we reached Tremonton, whose one claim to fame, I guess, is the mural above. We wandered a few minutes, got back in the car and came on to Logan, a pleasant town we visited before under quite different circumstances.

Left the car and walked some more. Sunday is not the day to come to Utah; lots of things closed, pretty much no one on the streets.


I’m not really up on my religious mythology, but I think Zion may not mean the same thing to Mormons as it does to Jews. But don’t quote me.


A Mormon town, though, and no mistake. This is the tabernacle.


And standing on a hill above the town, this is the temple. What’s the difference, you ask? And so did we. Well, there are very few tabernacles; apparently they are no longer being constructed or consecrated, but the great unwashed are welcome in tabernacles. Temples are only open to those who follow the Way. No idea whether there is a certification of some kind that you need to produce to get past the temple gates.


Missionary attire? That kind of town. Not a lot of graffiti here, as you might expect.


Otherwise, it’s a nice enough little place, or would be if everything were open, if the sidewalks were crowded with people making their way past those sitting at sidewalk tables enjoying the day.


One thing you can say about Mormons: they are not big on poverty. And good for them.


For those who are old enough to understand this, it’s highly apropos!

We discovered that my smartphone is prepared to give voice directions to navigate via GPS (most places I go, I don’t need directions, so never had occasion to find out!). Very handy; thank you Mr Android and Mr Samsung and Mr whoever.

From the B&B, we wandered out again, looking for something to eat. The fast-food places are open; there’s Denny’s and Sizzler and … and we ended up at The Old Bull (El Toro Viejo) for more Mex than we could have eaten in two days. Pretty good.


July 15, 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

Almost every business in Nevada has some kind of gambling. The motel restaurant was on the far side of the casino. Breakfast was good and  very inexpensive; they figure the Scylla-Charybdis ordeal of the slot machines will make up the difference. Not for us, but thank you for the exceptional food value, anyway.

We took highway 95 north out of Winnemucca, a road that runs absolutely straight as far as the eye can see, until it needs to go over the low pass between a pair of mountain ranges. Then it jogs a little, comes down the other side and makes a beeline for the next pass. If the phrase basin and range didn’t already exist to describe this country, it would have to be invented.

Deadly dull, most of it. Sagebrush. Further north, we get into the volcanic lava flow, presumably from the Yellowstone caldera, which is phenomenally ugly where it is exposed at the surface.

Eventually, we got to the junction with highway 78 in Oregon, and turned east. Almost immediately the country got better. There is still a thin layer of hard volcanic capstone, but it has collapsed in many places, exposing sedimentary underlayers that have eroded into pretty formations.


These are called the Roman columns, naturally located at Rome, Oregon.

But the pretty sedimentary formations don’t last long, either, and we’re back to dreary scrub desert. Better as we approached the Snake river, at Marsing, where we pulled off for a very welcome look at water, grass, trees. Wonderful!





Suitably refreshed, we went on into Boise. It was only within the last ten years or so that I realized what the name of this town really is; having lost the accent off the trailing e, and anglicized its pronunciation, it was not as obvious as it certainly ought to have been. Better late than never: now we often pronounce it the French way, just for grins.

Found our airBnB without a whole lot of trouble. Our hostess is away at the Grands Tetons today, so we’ll meet her tomorrow. No worries; we dropped off our things and went out to explore.









Found the Double Tap pub, where I enjoyed a Moose Drool and Jacky found a porter that she liked.


Then we walked back over to this building, which houses an Indian restaurant. Spoiled again.

On the way back to the BnB, we stopped at an Albertson’s grocery — turns out to be the same site as the first supermarket opened by Mr Albertson in 1939 — and bought breakfast fixings. Saves us some money and will be healthier and very likely better too.

Big Trees and Ebbetts Pass

July 14, 2016

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Big breakfast at Hillbillies restaurant, Murphys. Then we headed on up highway 4. First stop, Calaveras Big Trees state park.


We have been here before, of course, but not for a long time. Pretty classy.








Not everything here is gigantic. By the way, the understory is mostly dogwood. We need to come back here some time when it’s in full bloom; it must be spectacular.






Cyclists heading uphill, most likely training for the Markleeville Death Ride. Good to see them out. The road is wide and good as far as the ski areas, then becomes challenging. Good pavement, but too narrow for a center line, sharp, blind curves, steep grades. We stopped several times for scenery breaks, but were happy when we bottomed out along the east fork Carson river going into Markleeville.







From the junction with highway 88 north of Markleeville, we took the same route that we rode on our trans-continental bicycle tour, through Fallon and then to Winnemucca. Found a motel and dumped our stuff.

Very hot day, but of course we went out looking for a brew and a meal. Maps on our smartphones are not very helpful, but we did find a cool quiet place for a couple of beers — then saw another couple places later on. We decided on Martin’s Hotel, a basque restaurant. You order your own entree, but the rest is family style. We shared a long table with a couple from Hanford Ca, and three from near Tampa. Good food, nice to talk with some new people.

The Mother Lode

July 13, 2016

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

We’re off! Also, we got started on a vacation trip to Nebraska. Go figure! (Maybe that proves that we’re off.) I just signed up with AirBnB, and our first experience will be tonight in Murphys. The software is a bit flaky, but we hope the room isn’t.


First sight to see was the wizard of Oakdale. And we know nothing more than what you see right here, so don’t ask.


The water tower from Petticoat Junction. In fact, we are at Railtown, the museum at Jamestown. We’ve been here before, but not for quite a number of years, so it’s nearly new. We aren’t much interested in train rides, especially behind today’s Diesel offering, but of course signed up for the guided tour of the roundhouse.



Of course, Shays are the most interesting Loks of all, because you can see all the gubbins doing their gubbing. Also because they are the real workhorses of rough country, grades, agility, anything you want, except speed. Max is about 15 mph, with a brave engineer. Our guide says they shed parts; whenever they take this one out for a run, they have a patrol to sweep the route afterward to collect the bits and pieces that get left behind. Great toys!




One of the guys on the tour was a volunteer at another rail museum, and was kind enough to explain the speed and reversing mechanism in terms that pretty much most of us could understand. I even mostly understood it myself.


This was another interesting artifact. It’s called a blind driver, a drive wheel without a flange. It rides between fore and aft flanged wheels, and cannot have a flange itself because it has to mediate between its neighbors on curves. I don’t think I knew about these before.


The wheels themselves are cast iron, too soft and brittle to stand up to the load, so they have tires. Above, a tire ring, a loop of gas jets that heats the tire red hot, which causes it to expand enough that it can be slipped over a cast iron base wheel. The tire can be machined down a few times as it wears, and is eventually replaced with another. Replacing a tire was a good job to complete just at quitting time, so things would be cool enough to work with come next morning.


To ferry VIPs to the Hetch Hetchy dam construction site, this White truck was turned into a rail vehicle. A couple of interesting things: behind the cowcatcher and between the leaf springs is the crank start. That must have been tricky.

The steering wheel remains in place, because the throttle and such were mounted on the steering column. So they adapted the wheel to apply the front brakes.

But most interesting of all is the square frame visible midships below the vehicle. It could be put down onto the rails. The vehicle was jacked up so that the wheels cleared the rails, and spun around to go back the other direction. A built-in turntable!


As well as bits and pieces for the Loks, they made tools here. A complete machine shop, and with overhead shaft power. Unfortunately, the buildings have shifted to be out of true, so the shafts cannot safely be run today.


Some of the pulleys are wooden laminates.


The roundhouse was round, of course, because it at least partially surrounded a turntable.


The turntable is (now) driven by compressed air.

It wasn’t so hard to turn the table, but stopping a swinging Lok required finesse as well as brute force.


I liked the little locking slider here.


These artifacts have a long and colourful history in the movies. Several of the Loks and cars are half length, which was convenient on tight mountain turns, but also in wide-angle views of trains in western movies, where pretty much no one ever notices.


Smokestack cosmetics, to make the Loks look like whatever they wanted. By the way, westerns typically show the tenders piled high with firewood, but wood hasn’t been used for two hundred years. All of these Loks burn oil, even during their stints in the movies.


The freight room; I especially like the good-sized crate containing an Underwood typewriter.

Enough! We went on to Columbia, a state historic park. Real gold rush history here, a place where the placer washes undermined the houses of the town; not a problem, houses can be rebuilt.


Popular and picturesque place.


We saw serious industrial blacksmithing this morning. Here’s the other side of the coin, the smith busy at work making ornamental horseshoes and other tourist merchandise.



Time for lunch, enough that we really weren’t hungry this evening.


A real Wells-Fargo office. Their scale was accurate enough to weigh the signature in pencil on a piece of paper.


And real horses. Not sure how much of the rest is real, but it’s a good time for all.


And panning for gold is probably a good lesson in how dirty, thankless and unprofitable most miners discovered their lives to be.

Enough! Time to go to Murphys. Parrot’s Ferry road is a good route. I had this road in mind some years ago when I took Wards Ferry road into Sonora from the south. The worst drive I ever had in my life. Steep grades, vertical on both sides, less than one lane wide in many places. Well, today was much better.




Murphys’ unique claim to fame is its E Clampus Vitus wall of comparative ovations. Sometimes humorous, but always on point.


Sir Francis Drake, above, not eligible to be a Clamper because of a tendency to piracy (an understatement), being presented with a fish by Hi-Ho the Indian.



The Lok driver, alleged to be the only teetotal Clamper, a scurrilous rumour that was found to be untrue.


And down the street is the Pourhouse (great name!), with a plaque for Michelson (think Michelson-Morley experiment) at curbside.

We went out to check in at the BnB (no breakfast; does that just make it a B?), have a nap, and mellow out. Walked back into town, enjoyed a couple of dark brews at the Pourhouse.


If we lived here, this might go far to becoming our Local.

Busy day. Good day. Good night.

Christmas, San Rafael

December 25, 2015

Christmas, Friday, 25 December 2015

We are getting away for a few days. But not being the type to spend all day in the car, we only came to Marin, specifically San Rafael. We haven’t been north of the Golden Gate for years.

No point in getting there early, so we turned off at Tennessee Valley road to explore the Golden Gate national recreation area. Chilly day, but sunny and clear. We wore jackets until we had gained a couple hundred feet of elevation and warmed up.


Views of the north bay area in pretty much all directions. Very nice!



Not so nice, San Quentin federal prison. (They call it a penitentiary, but I have my doubts about the penitence of its occupants.)


Not crowded, but there were others on the trail, mostly hikers but a few mountain bikies as well.


Mt Tamalpais over there.


The trail down into Muir Beach is called Green Gulch. We thought about driving over there later, but it turned out that left turns are not permitted from Tennessee Valley road onto Highway 1, and it wasn’t worth the trouble to find a place to turn around after having turned right.


Great texture on the ocean.


And this is probably the clearest view I have ever had of the Farallons. Very clear day.


Downtown San Francisco visible through a gap in the hills.

Beautiful day, beautiful hike.


We had parked near the stables, where a couple of women were training a couple of horses. I’d say the horses were having a terrific time.

The hotelier phoned to see what time we would arrive, so the staff could knock off early. Because we couldn’t easily drive over to Muir Beach, we just went on to San Rafael. Staying at the Panama Hotel, a funky, strange place. Our room is called Honeymoon, but the room two doors down is called Bordello. Bathtub-shower in the corner of our room.

Of course, we went out to explore the town. By and large, the restaurants that are open today are Asian of one kind or another. We stopped in a pub, but it was crowded and loud, not our kind of thing. Walked and wandered, came upon some wonderful shell sculptures at a store called Namaste.





The upper-crust Thai restaurants closed at 3 and didn’t re-open until 5, and we were hungry. Eventually found a durchgehendes Thai restaurant, hole in the wall, pretty good, pretty inexpensive. Stopped at a 7-11 on the way back to the hotel for a Lagunitas Imperial stout, which we enjoyed in our room.

Nice day!

Puerto Vallarta

November 15, 2015

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hot and sticky when I arrived in Puerto Vallarta a few minutes after 3. After checking into the hotel (seaside resort), the first thing I did was change into shorts. Then out for a stroll. Being thoroughly a tourist area, I’m not expecting a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad. (And no, the photo below is not the hotel. It’s far fancier than that!)


There’s a marina, lined with restaurants of various types. Not likely to starve this week.


I was not expecting that sign!


Looking for crocs, but the only one I saw was bronze.


However, along the water’s edge in the marina, lots of crabs. We see some around our area, but not this many, and I think our cold-water crabs are not this colourful.


The hotel is on the beach, so I wandered down there later, and found the really, really, really best crabs.


I never would have seen these little guys at all if they hadn’t moved. Amazingly fast, they look like little puffs of lint blowing along the sand. Of course, we know they can’t possibly be little puffs of lint…


Indeed! Wow!



Tourist area. People happy to take your money for whatever you might fancy. I guess the local industry is turning sunlight into cash.


Wandered the hotel to see if there were any old friends I wanted to dine with. Didn’t see any, so I went to Mikado, a Japanese restaurant in the hotel.


Started with hot/sour shrimp soup, then a sashimi plate, then a teriyaki appetizer. (I hadn’t eaten on the plane and was pretty hungry.) About that time, my friend Marta came in, so I ordered a set of rainbow sushi to keep her company while she ordered and ate. Good conversation.

And tomorrow, we work.


June 28, 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

We arrived in Monterey mid-morning, stopped at the Estero park, across from which there is a bury patch. Wandered around for a while, but not a lot of interest in these stones.

Across the street is a playground with an old Lok that the kids love to play on.


Much to our disgust, it’s closed off until the city figures out how to comply with the California mandatory minimum standards for playground safety. We wandered around the rest of the playground, and were even more disgusted. Not just the nanny state protecting kids from the real world, but parents, too. Chastising a kid because he was climbing up the slide! Fortunately, fortunately, kids have imagination and courage, and will probably find a way to experience the real world despite the best intentions of the suffocator state.

Ask me what I really think about all this!


We parked near downtown, in a slot that isn’t subject to Sunday restrictions, and walked down to the marina, and eventually to Cannery Row and back.



Sea otters, above, and harbor seals, below. The seals like to lie out on rocks that are only just submerged, or maybe not quite, and it gives the appearance that they can lie on the water’s surface. Cool!



At the whale-watching ticket office, a couple of gull chicks up on the roof. Didn’t see mother, but they certainly aren’t equipped to fly yet.


And a bird rock, complete with pelicans.


A little further down, a beach where the divers go. Divers in training, that is. There were far more here than we would ever see if they were serious divers. Weekend trainees, all of them. Maybe one in a hundred, or one in a thousand, will get interested enough to take it up as a hobby.



Jacky’s leg is still giving her trouble, so we stopped to sit here and there. Hungry; I went back to the car and fetched the apples and carrots we had brought from home. Later on, we stopped at a Nob Hill grocery store and  bought calories to tide us over. The best were the no-salt  beet and sweet potato chips. Now we won’t feel guilty about having a real meal tonight.


The historic old town was having an arts and crafts weekend. Lots of people around. Live entertainment, and the best of it was that the amplifiers were reasonably quiet; we could hear ourselves think.


Stopped at Britannia Arms pub for a little refreshment, then went on to the Stevenson house motel for check-in. A mile from Cannery Row, 30% less expensive.

There are two Thai restaurants within about two blocks. A good part of town! We ate at the Siamese Bay, and it was fine. Then a stroll to see if we could be irresistibly tempted by something decadent — even tried Trader Joe’s, whose prices are an order of magnitude better than a dessert shop — and manfully resisted.

Vacation begins

June 26, 2015

Friday, 26 June 2015

After a couple of confcalls this morning, we loaded the car full of far more than we would have taken along, had we been traveling by air, and headed out for a week of vacation of some sort. Temperatures predicted to be at or near triple digits inland, so we’ll stay along the coast. The day was mostly overcast, and we often needed sweaters or jackets. Just right!


First stop, Fitzgerald Marine preserve, Montara, north of Half Moon bay.



The tide was receding, but still high, so there wasn’t much to see in the way of tide pools.


I had forgotten about the nasturtiums that grow all along here. Delicious as a light snack!


From up on the cliff, we had a good view of the sea lions, mostly on the beach but also playing in the water. Life is easy.


The monterey cypress forest, tinged with red algae.



Drove to Half Moon Bay, the town, wandered around, went to the Mex place across from the art deco middle school where we always like to eat.


This is said to be the world’s largest marble run. It wasn’t in operation when we went past, probably worth seeing when opportunity presents.

Over the little hill to the Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve, where we wandered along the creek for a few minutes. Jacky has a sore leg, so we’re walking neither far nor fast. It will be a strange vacation if we can’t spend it on our feet.


Next stop, Bean Hollow state beach, a pebble beach with letterbox tafoni sandstone liberally surrounding the area. A little better tide pooling, but the water is still fairly high.




And then to Santa Cruz, where we wandered the main drag, found a brew.


The sign above is dedicated to Loren.

We had a bag of cherries from home, so we ate those, then wandered down to the beach boardwalk and found clam chowder. Out on the wharf, where we saw three sea otters nearby. Unfortunately, the light and distance were inadequate for photography.


June 13, 2015

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Checked out of the hotel after breakfast, walked to the Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof through a cool, gray morning. Claimed my reserved tickets from the automat after fiddling around a while. You get the tickets by entering an identifier number; okay, that’s fine. I had a confirmation number — nope. Well, there was an order number — no. And then there were distinct numbers for the two legs of my journey. Those worked. I’m glad; I was just about to run off the end of the integers I knew about.

Short hop from Darmstadt to Frankfurt Hbf, where I had time to wander a little before boarding the ICE train to Aachen.


How often do you suppose a train overruns the end of the track?


… at speeds of less than 15 kph? I’d like to see their test bed.

By the time we reached Aachen, the sun had come out, and it was a cool, pleasant day. Pulled up GPS and the local map on my iPhone and found the hotel. Deviated slightly from the shortest route to get there, but it’s okay. Dropped my things and went out to explore the town.


First thing (well, the first thing I photographed) was a vocal rehearsal in a church. Nice. I especially liked the passage where one of the men in the back row (off the picture to the right) whistled the background accompaniment.


Cherries for sale, and enthusiastic customers. Busy town, people out enjoying, shopping. Setting up stands for craft or flea markets later on, planning some live music.


Marktplatz, though it isn’t full of Markt today. The Rathaus fronts one side of it.


The view from the Rathaus.


Dom in the background, a whimsical fountain in the foreground.


I didn’t see any indication that there is a story to be told. Just whimsy, I guess.




Continuing the wander, I came to the Elisenbrunnen, a sulphur spring and spa. Been here forever, I understand; several signs about the world’s rich and famous who deigned to spend time here.



The space in front of the Brunnen, and a little girl who knows exactly what it’s all good for.


More wandering. Nice town; I like this.



Not yet performing, just getting ready.


Beautiful things for your dog. This Foto dedicated to Eve.


Further along, a Doctors without Frontiers stand, and next to it, Engineers without Frontiers. Unfortunately, their schtick seemed to be growing beans to save water, in comparison to raising beef and pork and things of higher value. A bit disappointing: engineers ought to be able to compare values. But they also had flyers about helping with earthquake remedies or prevention in places like Nepal.

Back to the hotel for a short crash, then out for … dare I admit it? After wandering out to the Pont Tor, near the Technische Hochschule, I returned to the Marktplatz and had fajitas at Sausalito’s. I like all cuisines, and it has been a while since I had Mex. Especially since they had Dunkelweizen, which is not at all Mex.


Late sun on the Rathaus as I left the restaurant. Just after shooting this, I bumped into a colleague, with his wife. They were going around enjoying the choral festival that’s happening in half a dozen churches this evening. Small world, ties into the rehearsal I heard earlier today. Nice.

The rest of Dublin

September 26, 2014

Friday, 19 September 2014

The serious conference meetings finished yesterday. They always reserve spillover time on Friday in case it’s needed, but even if it is, I rarely have the stamina to attend. So Jacky and I went out and walked all day. Yes, really. We do that.


We started by watching a crew install a street clock on Grafton street.


Then past Temple bar, which is a neighborhood as well as this particular pub.


Even for Ireland, that’s a lot of beer for one night for one pub! Well, maybe he’ll stop at more than one pub. You never know.


We continued upstream along the river Liffey, with the idea of eventually reaching the large park off to the west of town. Meanwhile, there were things to see, things to enjoy.


I would say what church this is, but I don’t recall. It doesn’t matter. Well, I suppose it does matter, to someone.



This seems to be Dublin’s motto: an obedient citizenry makes for a happy city. Preposterous!



From the days when instruments of death were also works of art.



A spare roller wheel? Yep! Do you suppose they go flat? It would be more than a lot of work to change one out in the field, but I suppose it would be better than walking all the way back to Dublin.




We finally reached the park, only to find that most of it is really off limits, resorts and sporting clubs and the like. The zoo is here, but about 3x as expensive as we were prepared to consider. Nice day for a walk.


On the other side of the river lies the war memorial park, a little hidden from casual discovery, but well worth seeking out. Then it was time for the walk back into the center city.



We passed the giant Guinness brewery, but didn’t stop for the guided tour. What? A whole week in Ireland and not a single pint of Guinness? Yes. Beer, yes, just not Guinness.



The museum and galleries allow photography, albeit without flash, except for a few works that are on loan from other venues and are copyrighted or otherwise restricted. Nice. I especially liked the way some of these artists captured the light. The one below is, of course, by Vermeer.


Got rained on a little, really the first rain of the week. Hardly a problem. It has been a cool, mostly cloudy week, a very welcome change from the hot, dry California weather we left behind at home.


And finally, the well hidden statue of Oscar Wilde, in a shady corner of the park, behind a wrought-iron fence. You could walk past here a hundred times and not see it, except that there is also a picture of it attached to the fence.

Near the canal, we found the Waterloo pub, where we got a table well away from the distractions and enjoyed yet another fine meal.

We enjoyed Dublin, but a week is enough. More than ready for the homeward journey tomorrow.

Buena Vista and Nathrop

July 4, 2014

Friday, 4 July 2014

Having gotten up early (of course) and sampled the motel’s breakfast, we went wandering around some of the side streets, and found a deer in the middle of town. Our friends later told us the deer are real problems here, especially when the apple trees ripen.


Any number of festivities are planned for Buena Vista today, but we are mostly destined for Nathrop, Pat and various friends and family. We ate breakfast at the motel, wandered past the Optimists’ pancake breakfast in the park, but balked at paying another $7 apiece for not a lot more than we had already eaten.


Jacky wanted a picture of a happy Dave. Well, I’m always  happy, but here’s a completely frivolous shot.


There is an art fair in the park. Vendors were busy setting up their displays. Here’s one that’s totally politically incorrect!


We found Pat’s place in Nathrop, right near the river. She took us across the private bridge to the hot, open country of Ruby Mountain across the river, for a brief hike. Pretty country, but I think I prefer the lush green of the exposed watershed further north.


Here is the bridge. By rhythmically jumping on it and pulling on the suspenders, I was able to rock the bridge, enough to get a protest from certain accompanying females.


This bridge leads into a story, so bear with the pictures. Here are the cables that support the span.


And the span itself, a plank deck flanked with chain-link fence.


The story is that a small child fell through an opening in the Golden Gate bridge some time ago, a gap that was thought to be too small to pass even an infant. When that happened, Pat noticed that this private Nathrop bridge had big gaps in the chain-link bordering the deck.

The good part of the story is that, instead of lobbying Washington for a billion dollars, Pat and a few volunteers got some strapping material and secured the chain-link to the deck themselves.


Maybe it’s standard practice in this kind of construction, but we also noticed that the bare ends of the suspension cables have been torch-melted into soft ends, no protruding sharp wires. Good for them.

Going over to Gary’s, we passed a grow house, where Colorado’s state herb showed every sign of thriving. Gary had a couple jars of herb on his coffee table. I asked about the rock-ribbed conservatives who believed in substance control, along with any number of other violations of individual rights. The answer: “We told them their opinions were no longer popular here!” Don’t really know how widespread this atmosphere of tolerance is, but it is certainly an encouraging sign.

We have seen dark afternoon clouds on several occasions, but today it actually rained, sometimes fairly enthusiastically, for a couple hours. Glad we weren’t on the trail this afternoon, but ensconced in Gary’s place instead, soaking up blueberries, cherries, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, crackers, hummus, chips, and conversation.

After Dorthey and Maggie and Roy and all their friends and families and kids had showed up, we spent some time talking, then made our excuses. Brews at Eddyline in BV [the real locals call it Buni!], then to the Asian Palate, where I invited them to make it spicy and they obliged. Good day, good show.


It rained again, beginning as we reached the motel, and after an hour or so, the sun shone under the clouds and produced a pair of wonderful rainbows!



To Buena Vista

July 3, 2014

Thursday, 3 July 2014

We enjoyed Steamboat Springs, but it was time to go. Time to gas up the car, as well. We got 38 mpg on the first tank, not bad at all (Hyundai Elantra). On the new tank, the first day came out to about 42 mpg, mostly because I kick it into neutral and coast whenever I can. The habits of a cheapskate who grew up with stick shifts!

We took the western route south, through Yampa and Woolcott. Saw a herd of six or eight pronghorns, but we were going fast and they were too far away for good photography anyway.


Stopped in Leadville, a picturesque little town, but definitely less interesting than Steamboat Springs. It’s a mining town, although today’s lode is molybdenum, not lead.



We stopped at the local ranger station, where we got a couple trail maps, one of them the Interlaken resort trail near Twin Lakes.


This is a trail along the shore of the lower lake. It runs through forest, but nothing at all like the lush forests we have become used to. The 14 000 foot mountains to the west create a massive rain shadow for this area.


There has been a lot of volunteer effort in restoring the buildings of the old resort. What I found amazing was that the door was unlocked, and visitors were invited to come in and look around.



Getting on into the afternoon by the time we got back to the car and drove to Buena Vista. People here insist on calling it Boona! Maybe we’ll just call it BV.

Jacky called Pat, who told us about a new area of town out at the east end of Main street (it turns the corner, so it’s called South Main), full of new Victorian houses (but with corrugated steel roofs), and the Eddyline brewpub.


It’s a license to print money. We had to wait a few minutes, but the food and beer were pretty much worth it.


The weather had generally deteriorated, and we got a few raindrops as we wandered back along the Arkansas river, through town and to the motel.

They say this town will be hopping with festivities tomorrow. That’s fine, but maybe we’ll try to spend some time elsewhere as well. We’ll meet Pat in Nathrop tomorrow morning.

Once again, Steamboat Springs

July 2, 2014

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

We thought it would be good to avoid driving anywhere today, and that pretty much left Emerald mountain, just across the Yampa River. We had nothing much in the way of maps, but with a GPS, we figured we couldn’t get too lost.

As it turned out, we went up the hill to the quarry stop on the open, steep, boring fire road. But at each of the trail intersections, there was a little graphic map sign, and by the time we were ready to come back down, we had figured out the code. The whole hillside is criss-crossed with trails. Too bad we didn’t know that for the ascent.


Much, much better, the descent. Lots of single-track trails through beautiful aspen forest. We could have done without the mountain bikies, but it wasn’t really all that bad, except for the hard climber as we neared the bottom who slammed into my arm. I was mellow enough not to yell at him about maintaining control of his bike.


We found several varieties of caterpillar. Don’t know what sort of butterfly or moth they will become.


We started the descent on the Blair Witch trail. This is where it comes out at the lower end, joining some other trail whose name escapes me at the moment, maybe Prayer Book trail.


I thought it was exceptional to get a back-lit view of a couple of insects busy chomping down grains of pollen.



And this bumblebee was the size of a small hummingbird!

The trail down ended at the rodeo grounds, where they are clearly preparing for a festival. Lots of brahma bulls in pens here, and we later saw trucks bringing in hay. We stopped at the ice rink to refill our water bottles, then went on up into the town, where we stopped at an upper-class grocery store for a pound of strawberries. Delicious!


We have seen lots of swallowtails, both yellow and white, but they have been reluctant to pose for pictures. This one was so busy nozzling up nectar that it didn’t mind.


Back to the motel to pick up various things, then to the library, where we sat on a terrace and mellowed out. I edited the day’s pictures; Jacky read a Kindle book. Around 4, we headed off to Mahogany Ridge brewery and grill, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed an early dinner.

Nice town. We’ll come back someday. Or not.

To Steamboat Springs

June 30, 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

We were not that impressed by breakfast at the motel yesterday, so after collecting coffee, juice and bananas from the motel’s spread, we went down the street to a place that’s half library, half restaurant. I bet it’s a great social location on a miserable winter’s day.

Just west of Granby is a wildlife viewing area at Windy Gap reservoir. We stopped for a look, but the waterbirds were much too far away for anything less than a powerful telescope.

We did stop at Hot Sulphur Springs a few miles yet further down the road, walked along the Colorado river. From there, the road goes through Byers’ Canyon, a pretty stretch of a few miles. The map also showed wildlife viewing at Kremmling, but we didn’t see a sign. Stopped briefly near Wolford reservoir, but didn’t see anything more than sagebrush.

And then we climbed into a whole new ecology, over Rabbit Ears pass.


I have no idea whether that rock is the Rabbit Ears; it is far from the pass by that name, but it also looks like an obvious appellation.


It was so pleasant and so much cooler that we stopped at an arbitrary turnout along the top. It turned out to be Bruce’s trail, only a few km long, well suited for high altitude hiking as a brief interlude.


I have no idea what these little yellow flowers are, but they were everywhere. Very nice!


Steamboat Springs is back in the valley, a mere 6700 feet above sea level.


Hard core yuppie vacation land. We may end up paying an arm and a leg to stay here. Left the car and wandered around. Eventually tried the Nordic Lodge motel, and were pleased enough to sign up for two nights. Dropped off a few things and went out for a walk.


There are many springs here. We visited a few of them, some smelling fairly bad. There is a rec trail along the Yampa River, which we took in the direction of the botanic garden.


Along the way, we watched a couple of rafts navigating the rapids.

Quite a way to the botanic garden, and it was a hot day. But definitely worth seeing. Unlike many horticultural venues around the world, this one seems to specialize in local vegetation, albeit some of it from high mountains or desert.


There were also a few small animals of note.



Back into town, where we stopped at a downstairs sports bar for brews. Then back to the motel for naps and showers, and almost next door to Sumatera, a very small restaurant hidden in the back of a building occupied by a much larger Italian restaurant. Only half a dozen tables, walls screened with bamboo, friendly people, and great food.

We had half an hour before the library closed, so we stopped and enjoyed it. Nice town, this. A little out of our way, but I’m glad we came here.

Ready for vacation

June 27, 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

From a couple days ago… At the top of 16th is a bridge over the railroad tracks. There is a sign:


As to who might try to ride a bike on the stairs:


By Friday, I had had more than enough of conferring, I bailed out about noon. About 75% of my colleagues had already bailed, so this was nothing special.


Jacky and I wandered over to a nearby Mediterranean place for lunch, then went back to the hotel to be conscientious and do a few more work-related things. After some time, we went out strolling, through the university and eventually over to the Elitch amusement park. Just as we arrived in the vicinity, it began to rain, so we ducked under an overhang at Centennial park for a few minutes, then went on. Should have brought along jackets, but we didn’t expect more than sprinkles at most.

We thought we might find a brew along Platte street, but the only one that appealed was not yet open — that’s why it seemed quiet! Eventually we ended up at McLoughlin’s, where we found a table looking away from the TVs and watched it rain pretty hard for a while.


When the rain let off, we went on down 16th. It began to rain again just as we got to the Tattered Cover bookstore. An excuse, as if we needed one. They mix new and used books, which is nice. What I especially liked is their machine that allows self-publication!


Having once again outlasted the rain, we continued along the mall.


What’s a puddle good for, if not splashing around?

We noticed a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant off on the side street, the kind of place where you load up a bowl with some of everything and they cook it up on a grill. Jacky had chicken from the menu, and we neither of us starved. All this hard work, and now we begin vacation!

Bozeman and the M

July 14, 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

While waiting to start the day’s festivities, we went across the street to the laundromat, where Jacky took the opportunity to shoot me with her cell phone, and I took the opportunity to shoot the steel buffalo next door.




The idea was to hike to the M on the hill, M referring to the local university of Montana.


Here, we see the M, embarrassingly low on the mountain, considering how much work it was. (Actually only about 800 feet of gain, but steep and hot enough in the sunny parts.)


Jacky and I walked to Andrea’s house, where Pat and Gary met us.


Here are Gary, Andrea, and Pat. Andrea is a strong hiker; I could not have done this hike at her speed, while carrying 30 lb of  backpacked Bentley.


Bozeman from the M.


One of the interesting small animals to be found on the hill was a large caterpillar. I actually saw two of them, and these photos are of the two different individuals.


I like the way it wraps its hind legs around the vegetation, while it snarfs up lunch with the aid of its forelegs.



We took a wrong turning on the way down, and found ourselves scrambling around the end of this knife-edge formation, very steep, and a challenge for those who don’t like steep downhills and those carrying babies in their backpacks. Let’s see… one way or another, that would be all of us.

Our friends dropped us off at the library, which turned out to be Sunday closed. We found a place for some lunch, wandered back to the motel for afternoon naps, then took Pat and Gary to dinner at the Montana Ale Works, pictured in the M photo above. I can recommend the Hippy highway oatmeal stout.

Uvas canyon county park, SLO

April 26, 2013

Friday, 26 April 2013

I took a vacation day and we made a long weekend of it. We made good time as far south as Morgan Hill, where we turned off onto the side roads and wended our way to Uvas canyon county park, on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz mountains north of Mt Madonna. I have been here before, but it was years ago.

Its claim to fame is several waterfalls, and though it was a dry winter, we’re hopeful of seeing some water and maybe a few small animals.


The first small animal was not really all that small: a deer at the parking area. But there were thousands of smaller animals, mostly insects. This one was dining; it was in the minority. Most of them were interested in sex. Well, I can understand that.


And not twosome sex, but threesome!


We saw half a dozen waterfalls, and didn’t get around to all of them. Nice.


Not large falls, not lots of water, but pretty anyway.


The one above is called basin fall, for obvious reasons.


And not only threesomes but three couples! Orgies! Pretty shocking!



Looks like fun.

By early afternoon, we had seen enough for today, got back in the car and drove to San Luis Obispo, a nice little town that we visit every year or two, just to get away. We stayed at the Garden Street Inn.


After dropping off our things, we went out in search of brews — Anchor porter — and calories — unCornish pasties. Pretty good! Then a wander around the town, checking out a used book shop, and back to the hotel for naps and showers, and good night.