California Railroad Museum

For Darlene’s birthday this year, we went to Old Town Sacramento for the weekend and stayed on the steamboat-turned-hotel “Delta King”.  We spent a good part of Saturday checking out the fantastic California Railroad Museum which makes up almost all of the pictures in my gallery:


No pictures, but we also spent time wandering around Old Town and checking out the shops.  That afternoon we participated in another “escape room” and successfully solved “The Study” at Escape Sacramento and then, after dinner, went to a fun play put on by the B Street Theater in town.  (Take note: skip the Suspects Mystery Dinner Theater option on the Delta King – it gets terrible reviews on Yelp and TravelAdvisor.)  Sunday was filled with a long bike ride out and back along part of the 30+ mile bike trails along the American River.

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Tahoe Ski Season

This is a handful of pictures and some video from this season of skiing (and an afternoon of sledding).  Featuring… Darlene, Mike, Nanci, Rick, Maxine, Greg, Erin, Jon, Bill, Kat, Jim and myself.

Click through for the gallery:


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Cordless Garden Tool Stress Test

I recently researched the available cordless power gardening tools (string trimmers, blowers, mowers, etc) to see what might be worth buying.  Many companies are now offering 40V and 56V lithium battery systems and Greenworks now has even an 80V system (though higher voltage doesn’t necessarily mean more power is provided in the tool). There were a few reviews here and there and a few video demos but nothing that showed how well these newer, more powerful tools could handle more challenging tasks in the yard, like cutting down yards of tall, thick thistles.

I eventually decided to try both the string trimmer and blower from Ego Power+, based on their 56V battery system.  And so I’ve put together a little video demonstration of a more serious test of their capabilities that might be useful to anyone else considering upgrading or switching over to cordless:

So I read a lot of reviews and settled on trying the Ego Power+ 56V system.  From someone’s takeapart video, they seem to have designed their battery layout well, and they have a very good rapid charger that keeps the batteries cool while charging.  I was going to try the Greenworks 40V system but I came across a number of complaints about build and design issues.  For what it’s worth, I’m definitely happy with the Ego Power+ system so far and I recommend checking it out!

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In Memory of Gina Grandolfo

I’m posting here to share a collection of images of Gina that I’ve gathered together in this photo stream:

I’ll add to it if I find more pictures.  Here’s information on her memorial life celebration, this Sunday, March 20th.

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Death Valley Super Bloom

Death Valley is in the midst of a rare “super bloom” of wildflowers right now.  Darlene and I were able to drive down there for a brief overnight visit, camping along one of the backcountry roads.


Click through above to view my gallery of pictures.  For more info on the current status, see the week-by-week wildflower update for this year’s bloom.

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Skiing/Gaming Week in Tahoe

Here’s the pictures and video from our annual week of skiing and tabletop gaming, this year back in Tahoe again with Jon, Jim, Bill, Kat and Brin. We were unfortunately in a bit of a very warm and dry spell for California at the end of February. This kept us to the freshly groomed runs, rather firm in the morning, soft in the afternoon and refrozen over night, but we hit up Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Sugarbowl and Northstar over the course of the week.


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Dancing Chicken Show

Last month Darlene and I finally made it over to the Glaum Egg Ranch in nearby Aptos during open hours to pick up some eggs and see their dancing chicken show:

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Merry Christmas

… and Happy Star Wars to all!

Merry Christmas  

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Walking with Polar Bears

I joined Glenn and Michele last week on another segment of their extended, six-month travels (Glenn and Michele’s Most Excellent Adventure™) – this time flying up to Churchill, Canada, to stay at a small remote lodge along the Hudson Bay and go out on guided walks to see and hug polar bears!  Well, not so much hugging really.  (But they do look so huggable!)


Click through for the full gallery of photos and video clips from the trip.

We stayed three nights at Dymond Lake Lodge, one of three small “eco-lodges” operated by Churchill Wild, looking for polar bears and other wildlife during the day and enjoying the wonderful meals and the stars and the aurora borealis at night.  We lucked out with weather.  At this time of year we should have encountered daytime highs no greater than the teens or single digits (in Fahrenheit) even before any wind chill (as in seriously cold, the primary reason Darlene didn’t join us), but we lucked out with temps way up in the mid-20’s!  Yes, below freezing, but really relatively balmy!  Just ask the polar bears!

Speaking of which, we were able to see lots of bears and even watch an unusual encounter between two different mama bears and their cubs.  The guides are very good at approaching and reading the bears’ behavior and working to keep the experience safe for everyone, including the bears.

After several amazing days of walking out amongst the bears, we returned to Churchill for an afternoon of dog-sledding with Bluesky Expeditions and then a full day on an arctic tundra safari with Frontiers North Adventures in one of their massive custom-built “tundra buggies”.

A video montage of our polar bear encounters and other activities near Churchill.

Click through for the full gallery of photos and video clips from the trip.  Here’s a separate gallery of pictures from just the dog sledding excursion.

Michele wrote a great detailed post about our Churchill trip in her blog:

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Halloween Night 2015


Mike & Nanci hosted a Halloween party at their place in San Jose this year.  Mike showed he was practicing to be a member of the Blue Man Group and Nanci tried to make rain as El Nino but it was more of a dribble.  I showed up as an Arabian desert prince with my lovely genie-of-the-lamp, Darlene.

Click through for the rest of the picture gallery.

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