Tag Archives: travel

Vancouver and SHUX 2018

Darlene joined me for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s very own, second annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’18).  I only discovered Shut Up and Sit Down and their most excellent and entertaining board gaming content last year.  I’ve since been hooked on their written and video reviews as well as their podcast. They’re also responsible for me being driven to buy a trunk load of additional games over the past year.  (As if my game collection wasn’t large enough already.)

We got to try out a bunch of games I’ve been meaning to check out, meet some new people, get to see Quinns, Paul, Matt and Pip live and even see a little bit more of Vancouver – including tooling around on some electric bikes for a few hours. It was a great trip and great convention, though I wish we had used our time a little more wisely and squeezed in a few more games as well as been prepared for the early closing of the game-lending library.  Also, would’ve been great to participate in one of the day-long megagames (if the convention were longer) or in a more involved version of Two Rooms and A Boom.  We only got to try the basic version with just a couple of people with roles.  We did get to try and got hooked on several great ones: Bunny Kingdom, Mystery of the Temples, Bårenpark, Great Western Trail, Sagrada, and Azul.  Not so great: Crows, Koi and Kodama: The Tree Spirits.  Terrible: Cat Lady, Nefarious.

I also wish I had thought to take pictures of all of the games we tried (and the folks we played with), but click through for the full gallery:

      

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Colorado National Monument

Continuing on our way home from Wisconsin, Darlene and I came across Colorado National Monument just outside of Grand Junction and decided to have a look.  I’d never heard of this place but the scenery was gorgeous and there were fantastic views and rock formations in every direction throughout the park.  We ended up spending a couple of days to check it out and do a little hiking – click through for the full gallery:

      

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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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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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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, I would have been 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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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.

Click through for the full gallery:

    

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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!

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and video.

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Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Heading south from Mt. Hood in late June, we stopped off at the Crooked River gorge in the Peter Skene Ogden State Park between Madras and Redmond.  We were a bit bewildered by how many people were gathering and setting up lawn chairs as if waiting for a big event.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of asking. ;-)  Turns out they were all there awaiting the passing of an historic steam train engine (Southern Pacific 4449) to cross the bridge.  It was due within the hour so we relocated the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and decided to wait.  After a couple of hours though, it became clear from news being relayed around that there had been delays and it was still an hour or so out.  So we bailed.

Our destination was actually the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and this proved to be a nice place to spend a few days.  We camped the first and last night on some forest roads and one night at one of the campgrounds in the caldera alongside Pauline Lake.  We had a crazy red sky sunset one night, enjoyed some early morning kayaking on the completely still water and a nice trail ride up to near the caldera rim on our mountain bikes.  We hiked the mile-long Lava River Cave lava tube and checked out the lava tree casts.  There’s actually plenty of other trails and caves to visit too but we had to move on.

    

Click through for the full gallery of pictures.

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Antique Flying and Driving Machines

While we were in the Columbia River Gorge area last month, Darlene and I had the chance to spend half a day at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River.  This place is only ten years old but it has a huge and fascinating collection of antique, but still operational, cars and planes.  They hold numerous events and classes.  For example, every second Saturday is a “play day” where they bring out and fly or drive a number of the cars and planes to let people experience them.  They also hold classes to learn about and get to drive antique Model T’s (which sounds very cool) or drive classic cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  They do restoration work on site, and they host an annual “fly-in” event where you get to see a lot of these antique planes in the air.

I particularly liked how they juxtapose old airplanes and automobiles from the same era.  And I thought it was pretty interesting how old cars look so different and so obviously antique; whereas airplanes from the same time period don’t look so different than planes today.  It was also fun to be reminded of how seat-of-the-pants flying and driving was back in the early days.

Click through for the full gallery, which is only a sampling of what they have on display.

      

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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.

Click through for the full gallery:

      

 

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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.

    

Click through for the full gallery.

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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.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and videos.

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