Sunday, July 06, 2008


Background Extra in 24

Just a post for posterity. I worked for the Fox TV show "24" in the fall of 2003, and I made it into a couple of the episodes. At a party last night we found the two episodes and I don't want to have to go back and look it up again. It was season 3, episodes "3PM" and "6PM". At 3PM, I was behind Tony when he's announcing to put all resources into finding Kyle Singer. At 6PM, I was an onlooker as Jack Bauer lands a helicopter in downtown LA, hops out, and pushes his way through a crowd to get into the subway. I had to move out of the way for him to get past the crowd, and I was wearing shorts (they wanted the show to be set in the Fall, so they weren't happy I wore shorts - I didn't know though!).
Here's the guides:
Day 3, 3PM
Day 3, 6PM

Friday, May 23, 2008


Mount Baldy Fire

There was a ~490 acre wildfire to the west of a town called Mount Baldy, which covers a portion of a trail I've hiked numerous times on my way to the summit of Mt. San Antonio (a.k.a. Mount Baldy, same name as the town, but it's a mountain peak a few miles away). Today I found a link which shows the perimeter of the fire:

The perimeter of the burned area.Looks like Bear Flats, a very scenic, green meadow about 1.5 mi into the trail was totally torched. After about 5 min crossing a stream and along the side of that meadow, then the trail goes up this steep hill to the top of a ridge. This portion of the trail has about 25 switchbacks, and the brush was about as tall as me, and had overgrown quite a bit making it tough to get through without getting scratched by the thorny growth. On a couple of my hikes, these bushes were all filled with bees working intensely with the pollen. Looks like that's all burned now, though! It will be interesting to get back up to that trail this summer if it is opened to see how it has changed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Independent, but want to participate in Republican primary?

If you are registered independent but want to vote to nominate a republican candidate during the upcoming Feb 5 primaries in California, you must re-register to vote with your county registrar (using a form here) as being in the Republican party. Form must be postmarked by Jan 22!

I know, this is stupid, but the Republicans have elected to have a closed primary this time around. Then, on Feb 6, you can re-register again and go back to Independent. Same form. Note, if you are Independent and want to participate in the Democrat party's primary, you do not need to re-register since they are conducting an open primary.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Baka Ball

Over holiday, my brother and I recalled the rules for a billiards game I learned while in Japan - the game is called Baka Ball. I told him the rules right after I learned it, and then working together, we remembered the rules. So, rather than forget again, I'll just write down the rules here.

The game is a twist on the standard billiards game, 9-ball, adding a bit of psychology into the mix. This game requires the first 10 balls racked with the 1 in the nose, counting backward to 10 to build a smaller triangle. From a standard deck of cards, the 4,5,6,7,8,9,10 of hearts is selected, shuffled, and put face down. Before the break, all players (from 2-7 players possible) draw one card, look at it, but keep the value secret. This number on the card is the player's ball.

The objective of the game is to be the one to hit in your ball, and not allow anyone else to hit it in. The lowest ball on the table must always be hit first (just like in 9-ball). If someone hits in a player's ball, the player must declare their ball eliminated, and exit the game. If a player hits in their ball, they declare themselves the winner, showing their playing card as proof.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Alaska Trip, Day 5, Juneau

(Day 05 Photos), Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is only accessible by airplane or boat. The highways in town all end in dead ends, visible at this link - yet there are tons of cars around Juneau. Well, we used our boat to get there! This was another full day excursion, and ES and I planned to join my bro and JK on a Bike and Brew which was happening later in the day. This ended up being the only excursion day that went as originally planned!

The town (West Juneau - not really where most of the populous is) had a bunch of gift shops of course - we checked out a couple, but really, they had the same stuff that Ketchikan had. JK got some turtles (a type of candy) from a candy shop which were wonderful, but overpriced. Something like $8 for two handfulls. That ended up being his lunch. We walked out of the main touristy area and kinda got a feel for how it might be to be there in the winter. DM mentioned that the kayaking instructor from the day before was saying it was really easy to study in Juneau during the winter. Can't really go outside much, and it's dark a lot. There were many lost and found signs around, and I photographed one that was particularly strange. Could have been some joke, or maybe a scam.

Dan spied a hill (er, mountain) and wanted to just, "climb right up it." But we eventually decided that'd take all day and maybe then some. Got lunch on the boat (free) and met up for our bike and brew. We rode in 15 passenger vans with bike trailers to a gravel parking lot and got our bikes. On the way, we got a very quick view of the Mendenhall Glacier, pretty much the main sightseeing attraction in Juneau. I wasn't quite sure what this bike trip entailed, luckily we got much better views later.

ES got a crappy bike - the brakes didn't work, and yet they tried to talk her into taking the bike anyway. Nuh uh, brakes are important, so she got a bike that was a bit better. I snapped a few shots in the parking lot while our folks were all gearing up with helmets. I tried to figure out how I was going to carry both the big and small cameras, but got them all hitched on my shoulder and or belt and we were under way. Almost immediately I found out that my bike did not shift into 3rd gear. I was stuck with 2nd gear, and half way up in the back gears, so I wasn't really getting much speed on this trip under pedal power. So basically, this tour had junk gear - either it has been overused, or just under maintained. The frames were pretty neat though - much lighter than the beast I ride at home.

I tracked the ride with the GPS as we went. Prolly 14 miles in total. We stopped at one chapel/church that had a big view of the glacier out the window. The bike ride mostly went around the lake to the south of the glacier. There were many houses in the area along with pretty dense trees. The floor of the forested areas were all a lush green moss. One hill we saw to the West of the glacier was all brown rock/gravel on the south, but it was that lush moss on the North which showed up as an odd shade of green.

We all stopped at various points along the route to regroup - some folks were pretty fast, but it's just as nice taking in the scenery. We arrived finally at the lake shore, and there were some small waves in the water. This was on the Western side ofo the lake, and offered some neat views of the glacier. Everyone was snapping pictures, then a gal from our group ran out into the lake for pictures. That's glacial runoff, so it's cold, maybe 48 degrees F the guide guessed. And also there was a lot of extremely fine sediment suspended in the water - a cup of the water in a glass wouldn't settle for perhaps multiple days. She survived though, so JK went out and got some funny pictures - not sure why he had his helmet on still.

We were eating some small (skimpy if you ask me) snacks and some tasty hot apple cider, and at the last minute decided I'd get out in the lake and have some pictures taken. The guides were still in a rush, but whatever. Took my shoes and socks off and had DM take the pictures. The bottom of the lake fell off very slowly, so I walked out maybe 10 feet into the lake. It was quite cold, but bearable for a short time. We took some fun pictures and I got out. But once I got out I could feel my feet tingling from the cold. I doubted I'd last too long out there in that cold water. I could feel the warm blood pulsing as it went thru my feet for the next 10 minutes or so. Tried washing the gravel off my feet, but we were in a hurry, so I just put socks and shoes back on and we got underway to our next biking destination.

Up to this point, we were all on roads and sidewalks by roads. But on the next leg we got to do maybe a mile or so on an "off-road" trail. Very well maintained though. It was just fun to be among the forest. This trail started South of the lake, and made its way up along the Eastern edge of the lake. We finished up at a parking lot and headed on foot up to a second, Eastern vantage point on the glacier. This was packed with people. There were many tour buses, RVs, cars. And we only had 15 minutes to check this place out. Not sure why this trip was in such a hurry.

On our way back to the vans, DM spotted a brown bear in some high bushes. But instead of informing me that a bear was headed towards me, he waved his hand motioning towards the lake with his camera. So I thought, "huh? He wants a picture of me by the lake? OK," and I headed towards the lake, and, towards the bear also. I jumped back when I saw the bear and got a couple pictures, but Dan's picture was much clearer. Ends up it was a cub the size of a large dog, and probably heavier than a large dog. The cub ran off into the forest pretty quickly.

Next the van took us to the Alaskan Brewing Company. I thought this portion of the trip went a tad long - I'd have rather had more time on the bikes or at the visitor's center. The brewery had 6+1 beers of all different types light to dark. I tried them all, then tried the amber a few times after that. There were empty beer cans and bottles from all over the world on the walls. We noticed that there were no beers from Nebraska, but they did have Quilmes (aptly pron. "kill-mes") which we drank in Argentina. Side note, but at some point I ate some trail mix which was generated by Snak Club, Inc., located only a few blocks from where I work. Small world, which is neat.

We got the van back to the boat and decided to do a late dinner. We were to leave port right around sunset, so we got into the hot tubs on the back of the ship to watch the sun go down as we made way overnight for Skagway.


Disneyland Half Marathon

Just finished the Disneyland half marathon this morning with ES. It was a hot race though - the officials suggested over the PA system that they may have to cancel the race if things got too hot which included disabling the timing systems. Clearly they didn't want to get in trouble if someone got hurt from heat exhaustion, etc. We woke up at 3a, and got to Disney by 4:15a. At that time it was probably 73 deg F or so already, and it was pitch black. I emailed into the race beforehand with my 10K results - I didn't want to get relegated to the last wave or anything.

The race organizers took my pace from my Brentwood 10K and placed me assuming I could keep that pace up for the entire half marathon. That didn't happen, so I was getting passed through the entire race. ES, on the other hand, was much more conservative in how fast she said she could run the race, so they placed her in the third wave in the back, so she was passing people during the whole race.

Anyway, race started a little after 6a, and by then it was easily > 80 deg F, and everyone was sweating before we even ran the first step. The race started by heading through California Adventure and then Disneyland before we headed over to the Honda Center (formerly the Pond). Next was Angel's stadium, and a pretty direct route back to Downtown Disney where they had the finish line.

I wore my camelback the whole time despite there being water stops. I knew I'd want a lot of water and I didn't want to have to wait until I got to the water station. But the backpack did get hot - not sure if I'd wear it again if I did this race again.

Along the route they had high school marching bands, flag teams, cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, girlscouts - a lot of people showed up just to stand along the route which was neat. I flashed the Boy Scout sign a few times, so hopefully they found that cool (recall, I'm an Eagle scout!). They had all sorts of costumed characters in the park (goofy, captain hook, monsters from monsters inc.). Some pirates on the (new) pirate island fired a canon at us and the cannonball splashed into the water just in front of us (heh - neat).

I took pictures during the race, and a video too as we exited the castle:

Then as we exited the park on Ball to the East, we were running uphill and straight into the sun - that was where I first walked. I wanted to be sure I had enough gas to make it the whole way, and I knew there'd be no way I could run the whole thing. Once we got to the 10K (~ halfway mark) I was doing a decent amount of walking - not really sure how my pace decreased as I went along, but I'm pretty happy with my time given the heat. I could have definitely prepped with longer runs, too! Well, should be easy to PR on my next half marathon, whenever that is.

Back to the race - once we got outside the park, a mariachi band was setup, and they had some hawaiian dancers and musicians playing also. During the race they suggested not listening to an iPod, however I always run with mine so I brought it. I listened to 1.5 hrs of Radio Lab shows - one was about "the placebo effect" and another about "sleep". When the marching bands were along the side of the road though I just paused the playback - enjoyed the race ambiance :) After too much of the "sleep" episode though I was getting really sleepy myself! I switched over to some techno for the last 2 or 3 miles of the race.

The 10 mile mark was in Angel Stadium - we ran in from the East through Tunnel A, and then in along the edge of the field (coming in from 1st base to home, then around to 3rd). They had a camera setup so everyone running got to be on the jumbotron, and then we headed past 3rd base and out of the stadium. I did a lot of walking during that last leg along Disney Way. But once we got to Downtown Disney, the home stretch, I decided to run the rest. So I think I ran the last 1.1 miles. A WHOLE BUNCH of people were in Downtown Disney. Some cheering on with things like, "Only .1 miles to go!" but I heard one wise guy with something like "1 mile go go!"

I ran across the finish at 2:21 official time, and was happy to find things were running pretty smoothly once I got in. I hate races where they funnel you down after the race - I need to cool down with some brisk walking, and there was plenty of room for that. I got some snacks and then walked around to recover, and when Emily showed up, we got some pictures.

I had no idea how long the race would take me let alone her, so I was relieved to see that she made it ok afterwards. Without any real idea how long it would take me, I was guessing a pace of about 10 min/mi, putting me at a 2:10:00 finishing ballpark. Even that was a little optimistic, it turns out! However perhaps with cooler temps I would be able to pickup that 10 minutes. It was certainly 90 deg F by the time the race was over, though, and there was not much shade to be had at the end. Add that to some black asphalt and we were really ready to get out of there. I think we made it home by 10:45a (after a McDonald's breakfast feast!).

All in all, beautifully executed by Disney - they just couldn't have controlled the heat wave though.

So here's my race stats:
Bib 1399
Div 25-29 M
ChipTime: 2:20:12
Pace: 10.7 min/mile
Official Time: 2:21:05
Overall Place: 2851 (out of 9768 finishers, 2851/9768=29.1%)
Sex Place: 1669 (out of 3984 finishers, 1669/3984=41.9%)
Divison Place: 164 (out of 445, 164/445=36.8%)
5K Split: 29:05
10K Split: 1:01:32
15K Split: 1:36:51

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Alaska Trip, Day 6, Skagway

(Day 06 Photos),
We had a very long excursion day in Skagway, so there was no rush to get off the ship, or back on it either. The plan was to pickup our rental car (reserved) and then drive up the White Pass. Once we got to the "rental car place," we noticed that the parking lot was empty. Yes, that was a bad sign - they were having mechanical problems with two of their cars and, sorry, they couldn't fulfill my reservation.

I was bummed since this was another cancellation following our Ketchikan cancellation, but again, things turned out OK. We got a referral to a small tour shop around the corner. People taking the train were paying between $100 and $200 - and they don't let you get off the train to walk around and see stuff. And to top it off, the train is likely going to be rolling around the whole time. This tour we took was only $40 each, and in a nice van with plenty of stops along the route. Both the train and road take similar paths due North to the White Pass.

We had a couple hours to walk around before the tour bus was going to leave. So the 4 of us (parents plus ES) just walked around the town a bit. The population of this town (soon to be a borough) is ~860, so when 3 cruise ships pull in, the town just gets overrun, probably increasing in size by an order of magnitude. The sidewalks were packed with people, and I got sort of sick of the crowds. Did a bit of shopping, and got some lunch to eat on the bus.

Headed out on the bus - the driver was just another bonus to what would have been a great tour (at a great price). He wasn't a Skagway native or anything, but he seemed to be sort of a naturalist, interested in the history of the town. He had a lot of stories to tell about the "old days" when Skagway was a major gold rush port for the Klondike.

We drove around the town for a bit for starters. He parked at one nondescript point on the street, and we got out to see, in the gutter of the street, there was a little stream and there were 4 or 5 salmon in there swimming upstream. Seemed improbable at the time. There are no doctors in Skagway, only a nurse. He said if you get injured or sick, it's a $300 ambulance ride to see the nurse, where she will tell you that she's not a doctor and that she cannot treat you. Then you take another $300 ride to the airport, where it's a $300 ticket to get to Juneau, and one final $300 ambulance ride to the Juneau hospital. Doesn't sound too wonderful to me! I asked him if anyone goes to Whitehorse for treatment, but he said that would be unwise.

Skagway is right at the mouth of a fjord where a glacier carved out the valley, and the deep water port. The water is 2000 ft deep at the center of the fjord, which was surprising since it is not very wide. And since the land Skagway was built on used to be under a glacier, the ground had significantly compressed under the glacier's weight. They have noticed that the ground is slowly uncompressing now as much as 8" upward per year. I have to assume that makes for tough times keeping your house from breaking apart.

Then we headed up the White Pass along the highway. This highway connects Skagway into the Alaskan Hwy system, so you could feasibly drive to Skagway from, say, California, but not sure why you'd do that. Along the drive we saw a handful of hanging glaciers, or ones that are just on the side of a mountain but not touching water. All of the peaks along this drive were rounded at the top except for a few very jagged ones. The jagged ones were higher than the ice that flowed through here X years ago, so the jagged ones would have just been islands in a sea of white at one time. Now, they look like saw teeth, so they are aptly named the Sawtooth Range.

We also saw a narrow waterfall coming down the mountainside. This waterfall is flanked by a pipe - the driver used to work for the power company, and part of his work was on that pipe. The pipe concentrates the water into an electricity-generating turbine (turbines are just so apt to generate power, aren't they?) which primarily powers the city, including during the winter. He flew with a Vietnam Vet chopper pilot to get to the top of that pipeline. Apparently the pilot was pretty risky in the way he flew.

So I asked the driver how he found his way to Skagway. I think it surprised us all that he was originally from New York City, and he drove cabs. Then once he got a fare that told him about Skagway: a city where there wasn't any crime, and they needed drivers. So he says he packed up and headed to Skagway - now he drives tour buses. Really seems like he found a good job match.

We drove into Canada along the pass - this border doesn't even have a guard shack for the Canadian side. The U.S. side has a newish building as part of an effort post 9-11 to tighten up border security. But there are plaques around at the pass commemorating the trust the two countries have over this porous border. Not sure how to connect that to the new guard shack on the U.S. side, but OK. The new border patrol agents are recently up from San Antonio. Sort of a change in climate for them.

At our turn around point, we were in a pretty wide valley that had some water flowing Northward. Water north of the border flows north. We were reminded by the stories of the gold towns that people had taken the route he just described on foot carrying hundreds of pounds of gear over weeks. One trail was called dead horse trail back in the day. They weren't too creative at naming things - the names were more warnings than anything else.

On the drive back, the driver read us two poems actually. Seemed out of the ordinary, but the guy had it all memorized and practiced. One was "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert W. Service - Google it to read it - it's a tall tale. There are lots of stories from this area, and we heard that folks like to tell them. I hate to link sites from here since I have no idea how long they'll be around, but here's one with lots of tales: Overall, Skagway was interesting for its true tales also - it's a very colorful bit of history.

We did a quick trip to the cemetery - heard more about the town's history, and then headed up a hill a ways to see a waterfall. Along the way I noticed a plastic box in a rock crevasse. I uncovered it, and found out it was a geocache. Cool - forgot to mark it, so not sure if it's listed on the main geocache website. Looked new. My mom got interested though - we put in a business card from our hometown and then re-hid the box. Too bad we didn't have anything better to put in there, but we never expected to see a geocache.

Once we ended the tour, ES and I shopped around a bit. I saw a guy that had been in the same shop about 6 hours earlier sitting at a table selling his photo book of the Norther Lights (a.k.a. the aurora). I had no interest in buying the book, but seeing that he hadn't moved in 6 hours I thought I'd ask him a bit about how he takes the pictures. I could tell that it had to be brutal to get the shots. The best time to see the aurora is during the winter, and as close to the Arctic circle as possible. He told me that he uses 5-30 sec. exposures, and the pictures form this book happened to be mostly from around Skagway. He liked to get the landscape illuminated by a full moon to compliment the aurora. And since it gets so cold, he only uses mechanical equipment - batteries immediately die in that kind of cold.


Alaska Trip, Day 4, Ketchikan

(Day 04 Photos), our time in Ketchikan was very short, but based on the excursions available, it seemed like the most interesting. In hind sight, that was probably biased since we planned on doing our flightseeing in Ketchikan as my aunt and uncle had done. Flightseeing is a single propeller plane (de Havalland Beavers) which has pontoons allowing it to take off and land on the water. Lots of land in Alaska and Canada nearby are only accessible by this type of airplane. You can rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere, hire this type of plane to fly you and your buddies + gear + food to the cabin, and then stay out there until whenever you want them to come pick you up (1 or 2 weeks, say). Sounds like fun, if you're into fishing (I'm not). Lots of folks freakin' love fishing though, especially in Alaska.

So the problem with our flightseeing was that we had booked it through the cruise line, however due to a crash the company had 1 month prior with 4(?) fatalities, the cruise ship canceled those bookings. We were quite unhappy the day before when we found this out - if we had been informed sooner by phone or email, we could have rearranged for another excursion before leaving on the trip. But now we were stuck with no planned excursion in, what I had thought to be, the city offering the most interesting excursions! Frustrating. DM and JK had planned on doing kayaking anyway, so they were alright. But my parents and ES and I decided we'd just try to get off the boat as early as possible and hire a plane.

We found some tours right off the boat really easily, signed up, and headed out to see the town a bit - we had something like 3 hours before the flight. Got some coffee and breakfast on a hillside restaurant, and poked around at some of the gift shops.

Long story short, we had to fly separately, 2 and 2. We could have flown in the morning, but we opted for a later flight. The main area that these plane tours cover is the Misty Fjords national forest, due East from Ketchikan. The morning was definitely misty.... downright foggy. We went for the later flight thinking some of the fog would burn off. Actually all of it did and we had essentially clear, blue skies. Going in the mist would certainly make for a completely different experience. As it was, we all still saw some neat stuff.

A van picked us up to take us to the "seaplane port," I suppose you'd call it. The driver's boyfriend (significant other, she said) was going to be our pilot. Nice people, actually. The flight was 70 minutes, which included a landing in a remote lake. The landings and takeoffs of these small planes was so smooth. Our pilot landed us in the middle of a lake, while my parents, flying with a different company, actually got off the plane onto the shore of some other lake. I assume there are many lakes out there where these planes land. Our pilot, Brian, let us out of the plane and onto the pontoons, though. That was neat - and he got some pictures for us. The water was quite clear, but I still didn't want to fall in. Then we loaded up and headed back to town. The pictures from this tour are must-see.

We were back on the boat by 1p, I believe, as we departed for Skagway around that time. I took some photos as the boat navigated away from the mooring using its side thrusters until we got under way. The boats have quite a bit of manuverability. Used to be this type of mooring would only be accessible with tugboat assistance, or a craft would have to launch smaller boats to ferry people to shore. Neat engineering to simplify the process.

Then by 3p, we had signed up for some wine tasting. This went quite slowly - everyone but me at our table wanted to slam back the wine and get on with the day, however the guy M.C.'ing the tasting insisted on a slow session. He introduced each wine with many memorized details on the wine's properties, describing how to properly approach the wine, smelling, visual inspection, tasting. And he had some good jokes, too. I didn't mind drinking the wine slowly - it was basically relaxing and probably better pacing for a vacation, vs. the go-go-go attitude. Anyway, fast tasting makes everything blend together. In total, it was 4 wines and 1 desert wine. We kept the desert wine glasses (pictured) - they were nice. I mostly liked the wines they offered, all but one I think.

Finally we ended the day with dinner and drinking. JK had some cold soup that was beef broth. It was congealed, with a jello-like viscosity. He said it wasn't bad tasting, but he'd prefer it warm. I have to say that the food was quite unique, and well presented. The flavor wasn't unbelievable, however there was some good variation to make it interesting - service was good though. We had heard to not expect much RE: the food quality, and that was pretty accurate.


Alaska Trip, Day 3, At Sea

(Day 03 Photos), Not a whole lot to say about this day since we were at sea the whole day with not a lot going on outside the ship. It was mostly relaxing. We explored the ship and got familiar with what was where.

I was looking out the balcony and noticed an animal in the water. I got ES and my mom out there and I got some pictures of what ended up being some dolphins. Lots of dolphins, really - perhaps 30-50 of them that we could see on our side of the boat (port side? The left.). At first I was too slow with my camera, but I tried some other settings and got the burst mode going - 5 frames per second. Then I was able to get some neat shots.

We had the formal dinner that evening - see pictures for what we wore. Some people really like the formal dinner, however I didn't think it was any better than the normal dinner nights. Great dinner rolls though - had bleu cheese infused. Dan got a "to go" order of them wrapped in an aluminum foil swan.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Alaska Trip, Day 2, Leaving Vancouver

A continuation of the day-by-day blog of my trip to Alaska. A link to pictures is included below...

(Day 02 Photos), Woke up at a reasonable time to go on a morning tour of the city. We thought this would probably be the best way for DM and JK to see Vancouver a bit since they only had that morning before we got on the ship. A tour bus took us to see a few sights in town like a tall building with a look-out deck, Stanley park, and to a fish-market shopping area. We spied the Sapphire Princess from the tall building, n' got some pictures. Stanley park is pretty nice, but we saw a lot of that the day before. This time we saw a suspension bridge which connects Vancouver to North Vancouver, and apparently that's the road to get to Whistler, too.

The fish market / wharf area was fun, though we were really rushed there. One could certainly purchase some fresh vegetables, fish, meat, or anything there, seemed to me. It was a busy area, though I couldn't tell if it was locals or tourists that made it busy.

Finally we got dropped at the dock to get on the ship. Customs went quickly, and we got on board. I had never seen a cruise ship up close before - and it's big. They had huge cranes loading many pallets of food. I could be mistaken, but it appeared that the whole week's worth of food for everyone was loaded right there in Vancouver as most-if-not-all of the other ports we stopped at had no such facilities.

Everyone quickly navigated to their staterooms - our luggage was right there in front of the door, so that made things very easy. If they hadn't shuttled the luggage as they did, I think it would be a huge hassle to get everyone's bags to the right place. When people just get on board, they don't know where they're going, and the hallways are narrow, and they've got a ton of stuff they need to move. This was very smooth. My parents had the room on the left, ES and I had the center room, and then DM and JK had the right most room, all in a row. The balconies were connected, which was really cool. It made it easy to hang out with everyone since we could just run next door and enter through the sliding door vs. knocking on the front door. After everyone assured that their liquor made it through in the checked luggage, we breathed a sigh of relief and headed to the safety meeting. They just covered what to do in emergency.

Finally, at 5p, we embarked towards Ketchikan. They had a party on the top deck as we were leaving Vancouver. Live music, booze, it was a lot of fun. We were all really caught up in the excitement of getting the trip started. I snapped some pictures until we got to the Burrard inlet when it got a bit chilly and I headed back to the room. We had dinner all together plus a couple from Oregon/Arizona.


Alaska Trip, Day 1

I decided to post a series of entries for the recent Alaskan cruise I went on with family + ES.

(Day 01 Photos), got up at 3:30a to make a 6a flight to Vancouver. Flew on Alaska airlines, everything went smoothly. Checked in 3 bags; I usually avoid checking bags, but we needed a lot of stuff for this trip. We got stuck in line at baggage check behind this family with 4 kids, all under 6 - ES later accurately identified it as a litter. They just had a mountain of luggage, and the kids were all clamoring for various amounts of attention. Took them nearly 20 min to just get their bags checked.

Arrived at 9:15a, and had the whole day to see Vancouver. Took a cab from the airport, and the driver was the nicest guy - told us all about Vancouver. He'd lived in many cities around the world, but Vancouver was where he was staying. First song when we got into the taxicab: something by Celine Dion. Oh Canada!

My parents met us as we arrived at the hotel - it was a very nice place with views over Coal Harbor. There was a sea plane company running flightseeing tours with take-offs every 10 minutes or so. It is really a sight to see those planes land and take off from the water - actually every single stop we made on this trip had sea planes. 1 in 6 people in Alaska have a pilot's license, and 1 in 34 owns a plane.

We all took a little walk, and split ways. ES and I hiked around Stanley Park - it's a nice park area within walking distance of the west end of Vancouver, as it's called. Swans, geese, ducks, were all in there. There is an area called "seawall" on which a mason supposedly worked for 36 years of his life. Then we saw signs that it was "closed" since it was "unsafe." Bummer for that dude :)

Found a bike rental place - too bad we didn't find that sooner, since it would have been fun to bike around and see even more of the city.

Saw a tree growing on what looked like the 25th floor of a condo - BIG tree, too. Then had some lunch at a bar looking out into English bay, and headed back to the hotel. Went out to dinner - couldn't convince my parents to try Brazilian BBQ, so we had some great food (and superb service) at a place called, the keg, i think.

ES and I walked around town after dinner - it was a Friday night, and the streets were packed with people shopping. Got some liquor to take on the boat - 3 flasks of rum!

Brother and his friend made it to town after dinner, so after saying, "hi," ES and I called it a night.

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