Tahoe Gaming Weekend

Darlene and I joined Roland, Charles, Mark, Jon and Steve last weekend in South Lake Tahoe for a couple of fun filled days of gaming – thanks again for hosting, Steve!  We had adventures in Welcome to the Dungeon, Bang! The Dice Game, Sidereal Confluence, Raptor, Crazy Karts, Viva Java, Category 5, Chameleon, Codenames, and Ladies and Gentlemen.  Click through for the gallery:

      

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New Years Eve Gaming Day

We got a fun crowd together for gaming on New Year’s Eve day with Roland, Troy, Rachel, Dan, Kevin, Vanessa and myself:

And we got in games of Terraforming Mars, Raptor, Deception, Viral, Splendor, Bang! – The Dice Game and King of Tokyo!

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Christmas in New York City

Darlene and I enjoyed a weeklong trip to New York City over Christmas this year just doing a lot of sightseeing.  It wasn’t a first visit for either of us but there was still plenty to go see and do.  We started off with a midnight visit to the top of the Empire State Building – and discovered that’s the way to entirely avoid any lines or crowds.

We enjoyed thoroughly exploring the lower half of Central Park and we walked around mid-town a lot, taking in the Christmas shops at Bryant Park, visiting the gorgeous Grand Central Station as well as the New York Public Library – home to specters from the movie Ghostbusters, which kicked off a hunt to seek the other filming locations including the Ghostbusters firehouse HQ, the “spook central” apartment building on Central Park West, the Tavern on the Green, Lincoln Center, etc.

Of course we visited Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas displays there and along Fifth Ave.  We also saw two musicals on Broadway over our visit: The Lion King, which was just completely fantastic and amazing, as well as a repeat of Cats which happened to be the first musical each of us had ever seen.  I found I didn’t care for Cats at all this time though – I guess my tastes have changed a bit in 30 years!

We did the VIP tour (tip: not worth the extra) at One World Observatory and stayed for dinner after sunset.  The ride up the “time traveling” elevator was very cool (see YouTube video) but over too quickly to enjoy all the detail!  We saw the 9/11 memorial that night as well – really well done.

    

We walked the High Line (an elevated rail line converted to a green space) and walked around the financial district and down to Battery Park where we discovered and rode the wonderful Seaglass Carousel.  We slipped in a visit to the art collection at the Frick museum and we finished off with a lovely trip on the Staten Island ferry on our last crisp cold day.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and video clips.

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Geminids over Pinnacles

Darlene and I went down to Pinnacles National Park for dark skies to watch the Geminids meteor shower Wednesday night:

Time-lapse of Geminids meteor shower

That’s a 20-second time-lapse I made looking south towards Orion about midnight, covering about 90 minutes that didn’t include any light trails from passing airplanes.  And here’s a still shot.

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Pre-Movie Gaming Day

  

Clay, Roland, Vanessa and Kevin joined Darlene and me for some board gaming ahead of the full crowd we had for last Saturday’s BBQ/movie night.  (I should’ve taken a couple of pics of the full house.)  We got in a long game of “Power Grid” followed by trying a few rounds of the cute new “Cheaty Mages”.

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Frie Family Halloween Gathering

It was Darlene’s turn to host her family’s holiday gathering this year in Wisconsin – Halloween-themed this time.  Click through for the full gallery:

      

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October Road Trip

I made a number of additional miscellaneous stops on my October road trip with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, including along a section of historic Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, on the road in northern Arizona and southern Utah, mountain biking outside of Zion National Park, and taking the tour of Hoover Dam.  This was over the course of two weeks (October 4th-19th, 2017).

Mojave Desert outside of Baker, CA

Looking down Hoover Dam

Click through for the full gallery:

     

Here are the other separate galleries for this trip:

And here’s a video montage of my drone flights over the trip, including my last flight where I lost control, crashed and was forced to leave it behind:

What happens when the Mavic Pro doesn’t have GPS lock and you’re too high for the down-facing optical sensors to work is that the Mavic becomes unable to hold its position and it starts drifting all over the place.  I was trying to compensate and keep it away from the walls but I was not at all successful.  It almost crashed into one wall but halted itself when it’s forward-facing sensors detected the wall.  As it started drifting towards the opposite wall, I had just decided to try to get it up and out of the shadow of the canyon entirely to hopefully gain GPS lock and regain control but it was too late – and this time it wasn’t facing the wall and didn’t detect it.  It crashed and fell to a point immediately below me.  While it was only like 35 feet down, it was a sheer drop with only a couple of narrow soft ledges.  Without rope and climbing gear, it just wasn’t worth risking my neck to try to retrieve it.  Yeah, very sad to have to leave it behind, though it looked pretty busted up anyway.

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Vermilion Cliffs / Paria Canyon

The Vermilion Cliffs / Paria Canyon National Monument in northern Arizona and southern Utah includes a huge area of amazing rock and sandstone formations, including what may be the longest slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch (15 miles!).  During my October road trip, I got to experience a little taste of the canyon from the Wire Pass trailhead but it would take an overnight trip and gear to do the whole thing.  (Here’s some details on what it involves.)  I would definitely like to come back and do that as well as try to get a permit to go visit “The Wave” (restricted to 20 people per day via a lottery system) and some of the other formations in the Coyote Buttes area.  I tried to get out to the White Pocket formations but the road turned out to be too sandy for mountain bike access, too far for day hiking and certainly too much for the current incarnation of the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle.  Some serious 4WD required.

 

Another cool multi-day adventure trip in the area is backpacking all the way through Buckskin Gulch and following the Paria River Canyon out to Lees Ferry and the Colorado River over 4-5 days.  This whole wide area is a really cool region to explore and there’s plenty to come back and see.

Click through for the full gallery, including hiking a canyon wash above Soap Creek (and losing my drone!), visiting Lees Ferry and the start of the Grand Canyon at Marble Canyon, checking out Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam and a couple of little detours into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

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North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Continuing my October road trip and coming straight from Bryce Canyon National Park, I was lucky to be able to snag the last remaining campsite on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon without a reservation – otherwise I would have had to drive all the way back out of the national park bounds to camp somewhere for the night.  The North Rim is pretty cool though in that it gets only 1/10 as many visitors as the south side of the canyon.

I was surprised to find that the North Rim campground is right on the edge of the canyon – not a good place to go sleep-walking! ;-)

On arrival that evening, I hiked the Transept Trail over to the viewpoint by the Grand Canyon Lodge as the sun went down. The next morning I made it out to Bright Angel Point before returning to break camp and spent the rest of the day checking out all the amazing and varied vistas along the Cape Royal Road.

Click through for the full gallery.

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Bryce Canyon Visit

As part of my October road trip to Utah and Arizona (with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle), I finally visited gorgeous Bryce Canyon National Park.  I stayed a couple of nights at the Sunset Campground and walked or biked to the nearby viewpoints and trailheads to avoid the packed parking lots.  I definitely suggest that the prime hike to experience is the Peakaboo Loop trail (and I suggest going clockwise).  It was fantastic!  And you should combine it with the Navajo Loop trail (don’t skip “Wall Street”) and/or the Queens Garden trail.

   

Click through for the full gallery.

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