Tag Archives: cats

Early Summer Gaming

 

Lots of gaming over the first half of the summer already: Darlene and I started Pandemic Legacy Season One in the early spring, and things were going pretty smoothly with my pilot/medic Hudson and Darlene’s quarantine specialist Zoe, despite the plot twists over the course of the game year.  Glenn and Michele even joined us for an episode, though Michele’s character turned out to be a traitor against all of humanity – we should have known – or at least Glenn should have warned us!  Anyway, despite the rioting in parts of North America and Eastern Asia, and the loss of some medical centers (including the CDC headquarters early on), things were more or less under control with no total failures… that is until October and November came around.  (Hence Darlene’s convincing sad face above.)  But ultimately, we persevered through December and the world was saved from ruin!

Darlene and I also enjoyed trying Memoir’44, the simple but engaging WWII battle simulation game and the new, deck-building race game of The Quest for El Dorado (safari hat not included).  I introduced Darlene to Suburbia and Suburbia Inc and we worked to partially solve the connected crimes in the second chapter of  the “Power Behind” scenario from Chronicles of Crime.

At Nacho’s place and the local library, we had an epic game of Cutthroat Caverns, a few games of the ever popular Quacks of Quedlinburg, the challenging Tiny Towns, the fantastic open trading game Chinatown, the surprisingly fun Wits and Wagers trivia-based betting game and I finally got Container: 10th Anniversary Edition to the table and it was well received – the huge container ships are amusing to move around but it’s just too bad that the artwork is so incredibly dull.  I was introduced to the very pretty bird-themed Wingspan, which I though was just okay – it seemed to lack an exciting build up or pay off to getting your game engine going.  Darlene enjoyed A Feast for Odin (which I have yet to try), while I taught classic Cosmic Encounter to Nacho, Dan and Elizabeth.

In mid-July, I joined Roland, Charles and Tom at Roland’s place where he introduced us to the great little brain teaser Century: Eastern Wonders and the gorgeous-looking Call to Adventure which turned out to be rather abstract pattern matching rather than much of a promised adventure.  I dragged them into a game of Chinatown and Charles and Roland stuck it out to face the zombie-infested, cooperative adventure Dead of Winter with me.

I was able to get in a few more games of Dead of Winter, including a two-player, pure co-op play in “difficult” mode with Darlene (we failed!) and a five-hour long epic play with five of us at the library meetup: we had to try to survive for eight rounds while stockpiling fuel, keeping the hordes of zombies at bay, feeding our growing colony of survivors, and managing one difficult crisis after another.  We lost a few survivors along the way and it was looking like failure toward the end but we just barely squeaked through with a win on the last player’s very last turn with minimum morale, food and supplies.  Fantastic!

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A Covey of Quail

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Flying Around Mono Basin

This little road trip to the Eastern Sierra got off to a rough start as I experienced a breakdown in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle far from any service help.  I was on US-395 just past the intersection with CA-108 (still closed from snow on Sonora Pass) when I suddenly felt multiple and ongoing jerking motions from the transmission as it seemingly tried to jump between gears.  I was luckily right in front of a pullout (which are few and far between) and was able to pull off the highway and try to figure out what was going on.  I ended up waiting about four hours as Mercedes roadside service tried to find a tow service before I found I could get the vehicle moving and head back towards Gardnerville and eventually Reno to get the vehicle looked at the next day.  (For more play by play on what happened, see this thread in the Sprinter-Source forum.)  Anyway, after losing a couple of days to dealing with that and then another day back at the Tahoe house fixing the RV’s refrigerator (which had also started acting up), I eventually headed out again.

I was going to meet up with Hoan and his family in Mammoth Lakes but they ended up bailing out and so I spent a few days in and around the Mono Lake basin.  The first night was a little off road on the way up to Virginia Lakes after discovering the dirt roads any higher were still blocked with snow.  Still it was looking to be a lovely high altitude spot for star gazing with my telescope – until after setting everything up I realized I had forgot to pack my counterweight – making it mostly unusable.  D’oh!  Still it was a nice spot to fly the drone around a bit with Mono Lake visible in the distance.  And Pan caught himself a mouse. ;-)

  

The following day I dropped down into the Mono Basin and went off roading a bit to get near the Mono Craters to go exploring on foot and in the air.  (I wasn’t going to try take the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle up the slopes of the craters!)  My cross-country hike turned out to be much more difficult than expected as it was really tough just getting up a step or two without slipping back on  the steep scree slopes.  But my, such a lovely and fascinating view over the top by flying the drone!

 

The last day involved some more exploring and flying near Grant Lake – and I found myself pushing the vehicle climbing on some just barely passable rough dirt roads.  Once again, I’m really looking forward to downsizing to a much smaller and more capable off-road van.  After getting out of there without mishap, the return trip involved backtracking north on 395 to highway 88, Monitor Pass and Markleeville.  Tioga Pass was still closed and Sonora Pass and Ebetts Pass would be a really bad idea for a 25 ft. RV!  Carson Pass was lovely and snow capped all over on the way back though.

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Fresh Powder in May

We got a couple more storms in mid-May along with a nice cold snap to bring fresh powder to the slopes… yay!  I was able to head up with the cats and hit Squaw the morning after each storm and even just happened to catch Granite Chief moments after it opened on Sunday:

  

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Gaming in March

Darlene and I got in another game of Great Western Trail – not withstanding Pan’s attempt to thwart us.  That picture was after having just finished setting up the starting game state – the first time.  We had to herd him away from the table mid-game a few times after that to avoid disaster.

Later, with my local gaming Meetup group, I tried out the cold war espionage, item-collecting game Covert (and cleaned up like a super-spy! ;-)

At another gaming meetup, I finally got the hidden traitor game Dark Moon back to the table again and incorporated some of the Shadow Corporation expansion into play with six players but it went very strangely.  All of our dice rolls were so lucky that we completed all four events in just one round and a half of play – without really any intrigue of trying to suss out the infected players.  Lame.  Will have to try again.  Meanwhile, others were engaged in a multiple-hour, six-player, three-stage bike racing series championship with Flamme Rouge. Darlene and I were introduced to the dice-rolling Space Base game and we introduced others to a quick three rounds of Cheaty Mages.

  

On a Wednesday night, five of us attempted to summit K2 (via the board game, K2) and alas, one of my climbers and somebody else’s were caught up top in a blizzard and died.  Very sad.  Kat came through though with maybe just a little frostbite to win the game.

At a Saturday gathering, I introduced the group to Quacks of Quedlinburg, in appropriate costume of course! Several of us managed to max out our potion-brewing cauldrons – but then I did forget a rule about when you’re allowed to use the neutralizing agent.  Oops.  After that I tried a game of Whistle Stop for the first time – that one was interesting, but a bit slow with five players.

Darlene and I also introduced her niece Joslyn to some board games while she was here for a week visiting from Wisconsin.  Besides Quacks of Quedlinburg, Bärenpark and Evo, we made a first run on the new spin on cooperative, crime-solving detective games, Chronicles of Chrime.  This game uses an app to allow you to explore a crime scene and related locations in virtual reality and has you prompting characters with the various bits of evidence you find to gather more clues and eventually piece together a solution to the criminal mystery – all while consuming in-game time that allows the situation to evolve.  Pretty cool!

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Passing through Colorado

On our return trip from Wisconsin, Darlene and I made our way down through Iowa and Missouri and across Kansas with one overnight stop and then into Colorado stopping off in Denver but failing to find anywhere nearby to grab a campsite.  (Ended up in a motel parking lot north of Boulder.)  We stayed a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking.  The long views weren’t all that great because the smoke from the huge California wildfires were filling the skies even in Colorado.

  

Heading south, we found a spot to camp for a couple of nights in national forest land outside of Winter Park and got in some high altitude (10,000′) mountain biking.  We visited Dave and Martha at their new home in Evergreen before continuing west on I-70.  We camped out a couple of nights and did some trail riding in the hills above Eagle and had to wait out the mud in the morning in order to get the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle™ safely down the mountain again.

We also took some time to ride along Glenwood Canyon and tried to hike up to Hanging Lake late in the evening but ran out of time.  We came across a mama bear and her two cubs climbing in the trees near the trail though:

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Minnesota/Wisconsin State Parks

Continuing our road trip out to Darlene’s mom, we hit up a bunch of different parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin – some on my own (with Pan and Hera) while Darlene helped her mom during her hip surgery recovery and some together both before and after.  We got in some mountain biking, kayaking and sightseeing all around as well as a two-day photo shoot for Carlyn’s high school graduation.  However, I forgot to take any pictures while camped out with the cats in her mom’s driveway for a couple of weeks!

      

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Mud and Snow in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden came up to the Tahoe house in mid-April to get a couple of last days in before Homewood and several other Tahoe resorts had their closing weekend.  Definitely spring skiing conditions with slush (and mud) at the bottom and, up top, overnight frozen snow turning too soft mid-way through the day.  But then, as they headed back to the Bay Area, the temperatures dropped and we got another snow storm Sunday night.  Jon joined me at Alpine Meadows and then Squaw Valley to enjoy a last couple of powder days for the season!

Troy got a friendly visit from a bear overnight.  He woke to find all four doors on his truck open and the evidence of a bit of ransacking from a dirty bear – so lucky it was unlocked or the bear might have broken in:

  

A cute little video of Pan falling asleep at the wheel:

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And Then a Lot More Snow

March really came through for snow in Tahoe!  We got one storm after another including some nice cold ones for some great light powder days.  I also closed on the purchase of a house in Tahoe Vista and with the help of Darlene, Resi, Troy and Aiden, we were able to put it to great use right away!  Troy’s brother Rick and his son Grayson also joined us for a few days at the… “Moose Haus”? “Moose Lodge”?  Even Pan and Hera came up for a couple of weeks.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures from our five various days of skiing at Homewood over a couple of weeks in mid- to late-March:

      

 

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On the Mendocino Coast

Last week, Darlene and I were able to spend six days following the Mendocino Coast (with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, of course), continuing north from where we left off on the Sonoma Coast in December, just north of Fort Ross.  We discovered that all the state park campgrounds were full going up the coast for the coming days but we kept managing to find something.

We stayed the first night at Stillwater Cove and then snagged a spot in an overflow area at Salt Point State Park, where we spent an afternoon mountain biking up to the top of the park and part of the morning flying the drone around.  We visited the Point Arena Lighthouse, which turned out to be more interesting than I expected and we snagged a nice spot in another overflow area on the beach at the Van Damme State Park.  We were able to grab a vacated spot in the park the next morning and then headed out to explore the Mendocino Headlands.  We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park.

This area around Mendocino has a lot of cool sea caves – we’ll need to come back some time and book a guided sea kayak tour to check them out.  Fort Bragg turned out to be pretty uninteresting and we just passed through, stopping at MacKerricher State Park instead for lunch and to walk around.  Our final and fifth night was at Westport Union Landing State Beach overlooking the bluffs.  At this point, Highway 1 turns inland and you leave the coast for good.  Our last day was essentially spent just getting back home to lots of traffic jams.

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Layover on Mt. Shasta

Last stop on our return from Oregon was a couple of nights near and on Mt. Shasta in California.  We enjoyed a lazy morning after camping out off a forest road an hour north (with Shasta in view) and then drove up to Bunny Flat on Mt. Shasta at 7000 ft. and spent the afternoon hiking a couple of miles up to the Sierra Club climber’s hut (built in 1923!).  We found a nice spot to camp afterwards just below Bunny Flat.

  

This ended Pan and Hera’s longest outing in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – three weeks!  They seem to have adapted quite well to traveling in it and it seems like we could go indefinitely now.  Yay!

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Columbia River Gorge

After picking up Darlene from the Portland airport, we headed over to the Columbia River Gorge for sightseeing, hiking and mountain biking.  There was certainly a lot to see and do and we ended up spending over four days in the area.  We started with the road up to the Vista House on the historic highway 30 (west to east) and enjoyed the view.  The campgrounds were full that night on the south side of the river so we had to cross over to the other side to find a place for the night.  We snagged a spot back on the south side at mid-day and hiked the lovely loop trail from Multnomah Falls up and over and down to Wahkeena Falls (and various falls in-between).  We started the next day with a shorter hike from the campground to Upper Horsetail Falls before heading out to go tour the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and then the visitor’s center at the Bonneville Dam (both very cool and interesting).

We stayed at a great county park outside of Hood River for the next two nights and enjoyed a full, long day of really fantastic mountain biking trails at Post Canyon.  And then, on the last day, we burnt up half the day checking out the huge number of old airplanes and cars at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River.  (I’ve put up a separate post and gallery for this place.  We both thought it was really great.)  By afternoon, we had made it up to the Mt. Hood ski area for a rest stop for the kitties before heading onwards and south for new adventures.

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John Day River Basin

  

After dropping off Darlene at the Portland airport, Pan and Hera and I headed east for a week, to follow the path of the upcoming total eclipse and find a nice possible campsite.  We checked out the countryside from Madras to Unity and in the process discovered the gorgeous, extensive and richly varied landscape of the John Day River basin.  Along the way, I visited portions of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, including the Painted Hills area and the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.  I certainly was not aware that central Oregon had such an important mammal fossil record.

I decided not to try to capture the constantly changing landscape in pictures as I would’ve been trying to pull off the highway every few miles.  So this gallery consists only of pictures and video from the places I stopped overnight, or where I went hiking or biking.  One frustrating aspect of this area though is how much of the John Day River basin is private land and not accessible to the public – no trespassing signs everywhere, even on county roads that lead to public lands.

    

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Road Trip to Portland

In early June, we packed up the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and headed north to visit Glenn and Michele in Portland for what would end up being a three-week road trip with the cats on board.  We took a leisurely three days to get to Portland, stopping overnight at Lake Shasta, spending an afternoon in Ashland, staying at a campground along the Rogue River west of Grants Pass, visiting the surprising Applegate Trail museum along the I-5, and overnight at the Waterloo Park riverside campground before finally reaching Portland in time to greet Glenn and Michele as they finished a half-marathon.  Somehow we took practically no pictures on the way up there.

  

For the weekend with Glenn and Michele, we went out and found the first ever official geocache and discovered that Pan likes to geocache (or, really likes forests anyway), did some hiking and more geocaching in Forest Park, and went flying the drone around Saint John’s Bridge on the Willamette River.

Darlene only had a few more days before she’d have to return to work, so we spent an afternoon in Oregon City, including visiting the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center (fascinating place to visit!), and then two nights at Silver Falls State Park where we enjoyed a really fantastic day-long hike on the spectacular “Trail of Ten Falls”, before returning to Portland to put her on a plane home while I continued the adventure with Pan and Hera.

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Escape to Death Valley

When we set out on our mid-May, nine-day adventure in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, we headed for the Eastern Sierra because a very cold storm front was dominating everything more northerly.  Well, with just a few days left, we saw the storms and cold weather were now reaching Bishop so we decided to turn south and escape the storms by heading to Death Valley National Park.  With 95+F degree temperatures, we certainly escaped the cold front.

  

Coming into the park late, we struggled to find some dispersed camping the first night and ended up settling for a space at the Stovepipe Wells “campground” (aka, a parking space).  Over the next two days we got to explore some fantastic slot canyons up Sidewinder Canyon, checked out the Artists Palette Drive, hiked up Golden Canyon, camped out in Greenwater Valley, and drove the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle all the way to (and through) Titus Canyon.

Oh good grief that was terrifying: driving the 24-mile Titus Canyon Road in a 25 ft. Sprinter-based RV.  I’ve driven that dirt road decades ago in a compact 4WD and it was fun and uneventful, but I couldn’t remember what the entire road was like.  Mind you, we checked with the ranger beforehand for advice on appropriate roads but there clearly must have been some misunderstanding.  As it turns out, it starts out merely annoying with miles of washboard dirt road and the finale in Titus Canyon itself is easy and gorgeous but in the middle you have miles of narrow, very steep and twisty unpaved road with sheer drops on one side or another in a tall, heavy, long-wheelbased RV that teeters side to side over every little uneven track no matter how slowly you try to creep forward and the gravel gives way and the vehicle slips forward under the 10,000 lbs of weight when you try to stop your forward momentum.  And Titus Canyon Road is technically a one-way route!

At a couple of points, we had to stop to fill in some large potholes with rocks to keep the vehicle from tilting any more dramatically.  I regret not taking any pictures or video while in the truly scary stretches but at the time all I wanted is to just get through it without falling over or slipping over the side.  I’ll never do a road like that again in such a vehicle!

We survived though and Titus Canyon itself was marvelous.  In hindsight, it would’ve been more pleasant to park at the exit of the canyon and ride our bikes in (which is allowed).  A mighty dust storm punctuated our evening departure but we found a place to stop and sleep off a dirt road outside the park.

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Around Bishop

  

As part of our road trip up through the Owens Valley in mid-May in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, we spent a few days in the Bishop area.  I showed Darlene around Bishop (where I went to high school), we drove out to Mill Pond and up to Lake Sabrina and then ended up camping out for two nights in the Buttermilk area after going for a hike.  We also visited the Laws Railroad Museum and had a nice afternoon down at a warm spring along the Owens River.

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