Recent Entries in Travel

  Like A Vagrant

Finally made it back safely, without having to cab it. Now, I'm waiting for my brother and his family to return from the grocery store. Apparently after agreeing that I'd be at their place at 6:30, they went shopping, and I've been stuck outside their place for the past 15 minutes now. I feel like a vagrant (and I'm getting some pretty sour looks from other tenants).

So, let's talk about this interesting scotch I heard about from some techs at the convention. There was this rumour about a black scotch, whose name translated to "dark lake" in Gaelic. I couldn't find many references to this Loch Dhu on the Web, but just enough to keep the rumour alive.

Well, I found a bottle of this, if you can believe it. There's a bottle for sale at the House of Edgar (it's a Scottish shop) in San Francisco. They're asking $500 for it -- not because it's a particularly good scotch, but it's because all bottles were recalled and ordered destroyed. Apparently the distiller broke the rules for making scotch whiskey, and continuously re-charred the casks to make the colour as dark as possible. Also, they added a good deal of caramel colour to the whiskey.

So you're not likely to find any Loch Dhu out there, and if you do, it'll be really expensive.

  North on Laguna

Had some lunch at Isobune, which purports to be the original sushi boat restaurant. It's this big elliptical table with the sushi chefs in a compartment in the middle, and said compartment is ringed by a little moat. In this moat is a bunch of small boats, which float endlessly around the table. And the boats have little colour-coded plates of sushi on them. It's really great if you want sushi, but can't wait for it to be made. It's a bit of a problem, however, if you eat a lot of sushi and are bad at math. Luckily, I was able to keep my appetite in check, and the bill came in at only $20.

I finished up some work, and headed back out, this time heading north on Laguna, with the intent of getting to Fisherman's Warf and catching a cablecar. I'm currently sitting at The Coffee Roastery on Union, drinking the most expensive apple juice on the planet (we'll, I'm exaggerating, of course -- $2.00 for 296ml).

  Fillmore St. Breakast

I had a coffee and a muffin at The Grove on Fillmore St., and am now sitting in Tully's Coffee, reading the print version of The Onion.

For a while, I was thinking I'm not stylish enough to be on Fillmore. I either needed to get some really expensive hiking clothes, or a dog of some kind, or maybe a little kid in a high-tech buggy. But now that I've sat for a bit, I've seen about ten 30-something bald guys with jeans and hoodies. Maybe I just need a pair of sunglasses.

I was going to drag my laptop around, but with all the walking, my BlackBerry should be fine if I feel the need to get on the Web. Besides, unlike all the guys here, I don't have a murse or courier bag.

  Waiting in a hotel lobby

Just sitting in the lobby of the San Jose Hilton, waiting for something to happen. Everything's done, and I'm borrowing the wifi signal of the City Bar and Grill, where I just finished my breakfast. And at $15.95 for breakfast, I think I'm entitled to leech off their wifi for a few hours.

I'm deciding how to proceed at this point. I could catch a bus up to SF, where the next leg of my trip lies. Or, I could get a cab or a limo, but it all sounds pretty expensive. The other option is to get a series of shuttles: from the hotel to the San Jose airport, and then to the SFO airport, and cab it from there. Further checking suggests that this would be both expensive and time-consuming. My brother's working today, otherwise, he'd drive down and pick me up directly. I don't want to put him out, but it would be nice to see him early. Perhaps the best option is to rent a car for a day, then drop it off in SF and get a cab to my hotel.

I'm booked in at the Miyako, in Japan Town. Interesting coincidence: one of our partners lived in the Miyako when she was married to the owner. She says it's a nice place, and I can't wait to see it. Apparently I've booked a room with an extra deep tub for herbal baths. Going to give that a try the moment I get in.

With a generous application of Vicks NyQuil I'm doing much better this morning. The cold is gone, but my voice is still a little husky.

We had tickets to the Sharks-Red Wings game last night. I was rooting for the Red Wings, despite wearing the Sharks' colours, and they ended up winning in a fairly exciting game. The Sharks crapped out by the third period, and ended up pulling their goalie for the final couple of minutes. The whole experience seemed a lot more visceral, and the fights (at least 3 fights in this game) were a lot more real; more vicious, and more contextually relevant. You saw retaliation for actions taken immediately earlier, and it made a lot more sense when you were present as a spectator.

  Watch out Ponch!

I'm about 80% sure I saw Erik Estrada today while walking up South Market St. We had just finished breakfast at Il Fornaio and were walking around, when this guy starts crossing San Carlos St. with us. He was wearing a baggy black cotton vest, with a police badge over the left breast pocket, and those reflective aviator glasses that cops wear. I figured "weirdo", or "bounty hunter", or "paramilitary", or something. He also looked kind of like Ponch from CHiPS, but then again, maybe a lot of people look like Ponch. He was towing a wheeled carry-on bag, with an overnight back fastened to the handle, and headed towards the Fairmont.

I would have thought nothing of it; chalked it up to another Elvis-type sighting. Except, that as we were about half way across the street, this other guy waved at him and said "Hey, Erik!" They high-fived, and the new guy made a joke about "that million dollar cheque being in the mail."

Of course, I didn't have my camera with me. Once the surreality of the moment passed, I thought, "Hey, this is my first encounter with a TV star!" Well, except for that time I met Harry Anderson, and Steve Allen at the NBC studio in Burbank. Steve Allen was cool.

  ISPCon 2

Spent the better part of this morning walking along West San Carlos St., trying to find a camera store. I was thinking this would be the best time to pick up a new Sigma lens (a cute little Sigma Normal 30mm F/1.4) which normally runs over $400 at Henry's in Waterloo. Walked something like 2 miles west of the hotel only to find said camera store was no longer there. I did find several auto-body repair shops, a couple of pornography stores, and a great little Ethiopian restaurant. It's true that no one bothers to walk anywhere in San Jose, but there's precious little in-between metropolitan centres.

ispcon_mission_control.jpg

I didn't find the lens I was looking for, and instead settled on a much, much cheaper Canon EF 28mm F/2.8. Also, I picked up a cheap Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera. A classic.

Apparently they're serving beer and wine at the opening of the convention, and there's nothing worse than a bunch of drunk nerds (trust me on this one). There's currently a party going on at the concourse level, and several people have moved into the bar/restaurant to watch the Cleveland-Boston game.

The hip, young, dynamic people from Google appear to be recruiting.

  ISPCon

I've been sent to this convention as part of work. I'd like to see it as part of some fantastical boondoggle that takes me down to San Jose, California, but I get the impression that it's going to be a lot more work than I hoped. Sure, it's all about marketing, and putting on a nice face for the company, but I'm not really good at any of this marketing jazz. The technical abilities that make me a good product manager also detract from the same product management role, since I have a hard time getting enthused the same way marketing people can.

Yesterday was all about flying and airports. We left Toronto, and got stuck on a cramped flight into Denver for a short layover. The in-flight movie was, get this, "Beetlejuice". I honestly didn't know there were any copies left of this film, except the one owned by A&E. I got stuck in the left wing emergency exit chair, so there was plenty of leg room (about 5 feet or something), but no stowage for my carry-on. I kept having to crawl up behind the guy in front of me, so I could dig around in the seat pocket to his left. Sounds dirty, no? Felt dirty.

The layover was longer than we expected, and we were stuck in Denver for 3 hours. If the airport is any indicator of Denver, the city's full of zombies, endlessly wandering around a large, overpriced mall, with a garish sculpture installation in the middle of it all.

The Airbus out of Denver was delayed a bit longer, and we found out why -- the thing was falling apart. Also, none of the cabin was actually cleaned prior to our departure. It was like coming into a movie theatre just after the last show got out, complete with popcorn littering the sticky floors. I hesitated to get into my assigned seat, because it was coated with ... glitter ... a whole lot of glitter. My pants must have looked like an under-aged disco chick when I left.

The Airbus was indeed falling apart. In the cabin, at least, they had two seats with armrests that were missing the padding, and they called an emergency tech in to help repair the armrests with gaffer's tape. It really didn't help that the tech was going on about what a piece of junk the Airbuses were -- that really didn't help things.

To further punish us, they showed "Evan Almighty" as the in-flight movie. Then, they interrupted it periodically to announce the Cleveland-Boston game. I don't know which was worse.

  Infiltration Magazine

Online magazine of urban exploration. What's even better is that these guys are based out of Toronto. They've got cool articles and images of places they've broken into explored.

infiltration_mag.jpg

Infiltration

Infiltration offers a mix of the practice and theory of urban exploration in areas not designed for public usage. This site is the online companion of the paper zine about going places you're not supposed to go. All 25 issues of Infiltration remain in print for your offline reading pleasure. It's black and white, but you might like it anyhow.

Very cool website with information on how to scope out those "interstitial places."

urban_exploration.jpg

Web Urbanist - Urban Exploration: Beginnerâ..s Guide to Adventures in Building Infiltration

Have you ever been drawn to the calm beauty of abandoned buildings, or even tempted to explore forbidden structures in the urban landscape? For some, urban exploration is a hobby or even a mission. Many urban explorers are also adept photographers who create amazing images showing the beauty of abandoned spaces.

  Dad's Travelog

My mother and father have decided to squander my inheritance the fun way -- by taking a cruise. They're doing a stint aboard one of those enormous floating hotels out of Barcelona and touring the Mediterranean. I think this would be an incredibly fun thing to do myself, though I would pick a much smaller boat, preferably one powered by wind. But what can you do? It's their trip.

What's really interesting (and kind of funny) is that my dad's sending email updates to me -- a sort of travel blog. Here's the two entries I've received so far:

Finally on board, now half way from barcelona to nice. big ship!!!! Waves are 9 feet so we can feel the ship movements. have to hold on to handrails. food is top notch. have booked some land tours at several ports. some we will go on our own. No seasickness so far. take care we will keep you posted.


Wed 9/19/2007 5:36 AM

we're at sea today somewhere between athens and corfu. Spent the afternoon in athens at the acropolis and parthenon (still under construction), day before we stopped at santorini. Nice, but why would anyone chose to live on the edge of a volcano? Mum's looking forward to stopping in dubrovnik. there are a lot of eastern european staff on board and by now they all know mum. food's great but have to watch the calories. they do have a gym but is seems to be rather empty. hope all is well at home. take care.

My only wish is that there was more. More description, more scenery, maybe a photo or two. Though, I'm sure I'll get all the pictures I need when they're back, and hey -- at least he's writing. I'm not even sure I'd do the same if I were on a cruise.

  Not so hidden parking lot

I was cycling the other day -- it was warm and I'd just tuned up my bike. I drove down to the south end of the Iron Horse trail, and got on the wrong fork near Stirling Ave., ending up in that hidden, overgrown parking lot I snapped a couple of years back. It was still overgrown, and one of the lamp posts had collapsed. I took another picture just to compare it against my older pics. Still as desolate as ever.

cycling_hidden_spot1.jpg

Well, it's actually not as remote as you'd think. Several houses surround the old lot, and people who live in the area appear to park their cars here occasionally. Also, there's an unmarked entrance to the lot from Stirling Ave., so the lot could have several uses, such as storing cars for a used auto dealer, or parking for the high school across the street. But it appears to be simply forgotten and unused, the weeds breaking through the asphalt, the trees growing wild, and the lamp posts rusting away until they collapse.

cycling_hidden_spot3.jpg

Of course, when I look it up on Google Maps, it appears full of cars, making me look like an idiot. Maybe someone was having a party that day. Or maybe some used car dealer is storing cars there. Or perhaps it's a hiding spot for stolen cars before they're taken to the chop shop... the imagination tends to run wild in a place like this.

cycling_hidden_spot4.jpg

I found this excellent picture of San Andres on Google Maps. It's such a hard island to find on the satellite maps, and such a beautiful picture that I sutured several images together to get this one. I also included a distance legend to remind myself just how small this island is. We were able to drive around the entire island in a gas-powered golf cart in about 2 hours. You can see the airstrip just at the top of the island, and it barely fits across the island's width. Our hotel was a stone's throw (literally) from the right end the runway.

san_andres_satellite.jpg

A buddy of mine went down to Curacao for a holiday. I haven't heard from him in a couple of days. I hope he's OK.

This was the last email I got from him:

The fish and reefs here are excellent. On another note...this seems ominous.. "...Tropical Depression Six approaching the Windward Islands...

A tropical storm watch remains in effect for the northern coast of Venezuela from Cumana to Pedernales including the island of Margarita...and for islands of Aruba...Bonaire and Curacao"

Update: Naw he's OK. Just sent another message talking about carbon emissions/carbon credits because he flies all the time. Here's his follow-up report:

I did survive, it went from a tropical storm watch to storm warning, to category 1 hurricane to category 2 hurricane after I emailed you. Luckily it was centred a few hundred miles north, so apart form lots of rain overnight and rough water it was all good. The beach was kind of crazy though, where the surf met the sand was a ledge carved out up to my knees, so almost 1.5 feet of beach lost. My flights got cancelled too, so I had to leave the next day. On the plus side, fish and reefs were great, very plentiful and healthy. beaches and islanders were very nice. Saw 10 or so squid that were pretty neat, constantly changing colour, hopefully my pics of them turn out.

Or, "How I crashed my Porche Cayenne".

How I crashed out of the rally

As we drove toward the crest of the hill, Kees eased onto the Cayenne's brakes to slow the car down â.. I'm not sure how fast we were going â.. not knowing what was on the other side.

We expected to drive down the other side; we did not expect the ground to drop out from underneath us.

All four wheels left the ground and we paused to hold on in mid-air before the front-left corner dug into the ground and tipped us forward.

There was a moment when Kees looked over from the driver's seat to ask if I was okay, only to be cut off by the final impact.

It shattered the windshield into a million pieces, which sent my watch flying from my tensed arm and also detached the engine from the car, skittering off to a landing spot many metres away.

I hate these people.

Say, has the butler cleaned the trout yet? - Los Angeles Times

The Bondicks, who live in a sprawling home on the edge of a state park outside Boston and hire a personal chef at home, shelled out $595 a night -- plus an additional $110 per person per day for food.

It's a hefty price to sleep in a tent, but the perks include a camp butler to build their fire, a maid to crank up the heated down comforter at nightfall and a cook to whip up bison rib-eye for dinner and French toast topped with huckleberries for breakfast.

The number of visits to U.S. national parks is declining, but "glamping" -- glamorous camping -- is on the rise in North America after gaining popularity among wealthy travelers in Africa and England, where luxury tents come with Persian rugs and electricity to power blow dryers.

Huh. It should say "top 10 most expensive outdoor activities. Here's one -- I bet it doesn't include the price of a kayak.

Top 10 Outdoors Adventures - MSN Travel Articles

3. Kayaking in Greenland It doesn't get much more remote than the inner fjord systems around Kulusuk Island, East Greenland: this is terrain you can only explore for about one month a year. Mountain Travel Sobek has crafted its trip to make the area accessible to the mere average kayakerâ..the 8-day voyage includes 6 days of moderate paddling plus camping on pristine islets. From $3,290 for 8 days, all-inclusive, with airport transfers;

  More on the Bayfield 32

Some neat resources for Bayfields here and here. The latter one is where I borrowed the layout image from.

  Chartering a Bayfield 32

I've been meaning to post some pictures from this sailing charter trip we did a few weeks ago, out of Scarborough. We chartered a Bayfield 32 for 4 hours for an evening picnic cruise, which took us out to Pickering and back to the Scarborough Bluffs. This was really an attempt to glean information about the Bayfield 32 model, which we were looking to purchase at some future date. This trip would give us an idea about how it sails, and what to expect with the boat.

bayfield32_specs.jpg

The weather was great for sailing: clear, 15 knot winds, with gusts to 25 knots. Smaller boats might not handle as well in these winds, but they were perfect for the Bayfield 32, which are said to handle poorly unless given a strong wind. This rumour has some good grounding, since the Bayfield (this Bayfield, at least) has a shorter mast than one would expect on a boat this size. The Bayfields are traditionally cutter-rigged, but this one was sloop-rigged, with a 130% Genoa. The boat had a lot of weather helm with this rig, and it wasn't until the main was reefed that it started balancing properly. I imagine having the staysail in place would have balanced it out. Even with the reefs in place, we were able to get a good 7 knots on our return trip. Don't listen to anyone who says these are sluggish boats.

bayfield_bow.jpg

We packed a picnic basket (yes, a picnic basket) with cold cuts, cheese, and antipasto. We made our own sandwiches in the galley, to test out the functionality of the living quarters while underway. The owner had extended the cupboards so that access to the icebox was a little difficult, but we managed quite well given the heel of the boat during gusts.

r_on_bayfield.jpg

The captain was more than happy to get us helping out with the boat duties; he was generally not used to having experienced (heh) skippers on charters. We helped in the raising/lowering/reefing of the sails, and assisted in driving the boat under power and sail. We also took her out and docked the boat with little problem. One point of note on docking: you really get a feel for the disproportionate LOA versus LWL, as the Bayfield has an enormous bowsprit (making a boat that's 24' at the waterline 32' long overall). During docking, we were able to get the bowsprit to completely block the walkway on the marina dock. Some clever adjustments got it nestled in its proper place.

bayfield_bowsprit.jpg

Using the head while underway was a bit of a problem for us. Apparently while the boat is on a starboard tack, and heeling in high winds, the head is impossible to flush. I had to level out so the head could refill with water. I'm not sure, but this may be a problem for boats in general.

bayfield_evening.jpg

We had a great time on the boat, and were impressed by its solid handling. R's pretty convinced that this is the boat to get, but we're shopping around for a proper marina space first, so we'll have a place to put it. Kitchener's not known for its ready access to the Great Lakes.

Cute blog from a couple who fixed up and sailed their boat around the Caribbean. Some good tips for maintaining a Bayfield 32.

BRIAN & JEANNETTE'S ADVENTURES ABOARD PUFF!

We sail our Bayfield 32C to various places in the name of exploration and adventure, so far we have cruised the Southeastern US coast, the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean. We're hoping to explore Central and South America next! We've been doing this on and off for about six years now and our interests include sailing, surfing, spearfishing, free-diving, hook & line fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving; as well as learning the language, history, ecology and culture of the people and places we visit.

Their sailing blog is here.


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