Driving Directions

I love google maps and mapquest, but if you are planning a multi-leg road trip — say for instance visiting 8 colleges and universities over 4 days — AAA triptiks are still pretty darn useful. They make it easy to specify multiple stops, save your plans and try variants, and they print out pretty well. I joined AAA for other reasons, I’m not sure I would pay the fee just for triptiks, but if you are already a member, worth trying.

Best of Yakima

OK I have no idea if this is the best of Yakima but it is what I found in 4 days there:

* Where to stay — we stayed in the Hojo’s, it was merely adequate. Locals tell me that the Red Lion and the new Marriott Courtyard are nicer
* Dining — Zesta Cucina was great! The find of the trip. Great atmosphere, and they handled our huge group (45+) well. We also dined at the Olive Garden — it was yet another Olive Garden — and at Tequila’s — standard chain Mexican but in converted railroad cars downtown so kind of fun. Both the Garden and Tequila’s also did a good job with our mob. In all cases, do the restaurant a favor — have one person pay and figure out how to break it up later.
* Lunch — El Grullense (near the Sundome) is a fine little taqueria. And Miner’s (also near the dome) is classic burger drive-in fare.
* Recreation — well of course if you are there for a high school state tournament or a state fair then you will spend a lot of time at the Sundome. Note that they have some fairly restrictive rules about fan behaviour for high school events so you might want to dig into it before you go – signs, bodypainting, too much standing, boomboxes — all prohibited. As is outside food of any sort.
* Other recreation — the riverwalk along the Naches and Yakima rivers is a pleasant walk. And you can get into the Cascades to the west in a half hour for hiking etc. The Naches Ranger Station on Route 12 is a great place to stop and get current condition info, maps, etc. Based on my experience – bring snowshoes if you are heading out in early march, because there aren’t many trails clear yet.

Keeping up with Rich

As usual Rich has been a posting machine during the last month. Some of the highlights I’ve noted:

* Iceland travel. I hear they have some fantastic river rafting there. I’m ready to go. Just added to my 43places goals.
* Grilling resource — I can always use grilling tips.
* Rich’s small camera recos. I’m about due.
* Tips on HT PC setup — sounds like zoomplayer is essential.
* NTFS resizing tips. I am sure I will need these some day.
* Rich is playing FEAR. I think I need a new PC.
* Rich on Gaming PCs. Having bought 3 and bult 2 others, I am inclined to buy from Falcon Northwest for my next. Debugging the assembly of a high end machine with 2 SLI cards, 10K sata drives, raid arrays, fast dvd/cd drives — well it is just a lot easier to let the Falcon guys burn their time.

Random observations on the road from Seattle to Phoenix

* What is up with the speed limits in Oregon? Vast stretches of empty country in the eastern part of the state, and speed limits set at 65. No other state in the west is stuck back at this level.
* I didn’t expect the bars in Salt Lake City to be so rockin’ on a Saturday night. They are wilder than Seattle bars.
* Littering is illegal, but trucks are allowed to leave huge horking pieces of blown tires all over the highway?
* The security at the parking garage at the Bellagio in LV was tighter than the security for driving over Hoover Dam.
* Prescott is a very nice town. Has to be my favorite spot in Arizona so far. The granite dells are beautiful.
* Phoenix on the other hand — LA, only hotter and without the ocean.

Cabin Life

So had to relearn a bunch of cabin life skills from my youth over the last two weeks:

* Power and heat. where is the propane turn on for the cabin? for the stove? for the grill? How do I check propane supply? Who do we get propane from?
* What is that munching sound in the wall? What do we do about it?
* Securing a boat. Installing an engine lock, storing the gas can and gas line separately during our absence, hiding the kill switch. Not a deterrent to a determined thief but the casual thief will be frustrated.
* Saltwater, 4-cycle engine maintenance. New to me, I grew up with 2-cycle Evinrudes. Flushing with fresh water, checking oil, spraying the engine to keep salt from getting a foothold.
* Garbage disposal. The joys of hauling your own trash to the dump. As someone on the island said, the dump is the great equalizer, sooner or later everyone has to go there.

Back from the dead

Back from two weeks of radio silence up on lopez island. Minor IT disasters on return — 3 power strips blown at home (can’t be a coincidence), one machine that forgot its hard disk config and was trying to boot off its 7200rpm data drive instead of the 10krpm raid0 array of system drives, and of course my web server had gone toes up for some reason (nothing in the logs??). All is well again.

Ridemax

Yet again this year we purchased a license to Ridemax prior to our disneyland trip. Recommended. It is not so much the great schedules it prints out that we love — but the general data on ride wait times at various hours of the day is incredibly helpful. Knowing that there is no need to wait in the Peter Pan line midday, you can get on the ride at 11pm with just a short wait, is incredibly valuable.

Lopez Island Visit

Spent a couple nice days there this week. Great weather. Here are some essential links:

* Getting there. WSDOT Ferry schedules — read the footnotes carefully as there are a lot of intricacies in Lopez service. If you don’t need a car on the island, Paraclete Charters is a great way to go — avoid the ferry lines, and they can drop you anywhere, and they are nice people.
* Staying. Lopez Farm Cottages are delightful — clean, completely invisible staff, lots of wild bunnies to entertain you.
* Eating. The Love Dog Cafe is great — we had a great halibut dinner, they do great pizzas, good crabcakes, pastas, etc. Holly ‘s Bakery is great for deserts and pastries. Isabel’s for your coffee fix. Vita’s for takeout sandwiches, food, and wine. All these are in the village, along with the grocery store. No shortage of calores in our two days there.

Prescott, Arizona

After my forays this winter to Duluth and el paso, I wasn’t expecting much from the next stop in my tour of minor american cities — prescott, arizona.

Boy was I pleasantly surprised! Prescott is a gem. High desert country — great climate. Pleasantly treelined streets. Historical downtown which has largely been maintained. A little college influence. Lots of restaurants and arts for a small city. Biking, hiking trails abound. Great launch point for sidetrips to Sedona or Flagstaff.

I’d not be sad to go back.

Impressions of El Paso and Juarez

* El paso was dusty, hot, and windy. So brown compared to seattle.
* Stayed at a decent hotel in downtown el paso — the camino real. An oasis of higher income activity in the downtown.
* Downtown lively in day — every store rolls their wares out onto the street. But absolutely dead at night. And no one speaks English — I felt like a fish out of water.
* You need to head out to the northern or eastern burbs for restaurants, shopping. I ate dinner at the State Line BBQ — it was decent. Good potato salad.
* UTEP is on some hills overlooking the downtown. Banner year for men’s sports, both the bball and fball teams did well. The Sun Bowl is played here annually.
* You can walk into Juarez for 35 cents. I spent Saturday morning wandering into Juarez. I was wondering “why do people visit Juarez?”. I wasn’t 25 feet across the border before I had my first Viagra offer. The main tourist street was lined with pharmacies. At 100 feet a cab driver offered to take me to a woman.
* It took about 8-10 blocks of walking to punch thru this part of Juarez into the market area with more normal shops, bakeries, restaurants, etc. Much more pleasant.

Net/net, can’t say I’d ever want to come to a sun bowl.

Grey winter days in Seattle make me want to go to one of these places

In the northwest:

* On Vancouver Island, the Aerie or the Wickaninnish Inn. Ok probably cold and grey right now too but would be great in the summer.
* The Stephanie Inn has always been a winner for us. And we love Cannon Beach.
* Further south is the Tu Tu’ Tun, we’ve heard good things about.

Further afield:

* We love Kona Village but we may want to try the other islands. Turtle Bay Hotel looks like a good place to try on Oahu.
* The nice folks at Exclusive Resorts have recommended Miraval, and we’re game to try that…

Exclusive Resorts

For some reason my site is the top google listing for exclusive resorts, based on a simple old posting I did. Unclear why.

I recently refreshed the posting to have the correct url, after being contacted by one of the co-founders, a nice guy.

I’d really love to be a customer, their sites look great. It just doesn’t work for us now tho because a) we have limited vacation times, driven by conflicting school and scholastic sports schedules, and b) we just love a couple places — kona village resort, canyon ranch tucson — and don’t have the time or motivation to branch out.

But if we could, exclusive looks great.

Vaca Property

Spent some time this weekend looking at vaca property — goal is something a) on the ocean, b) rustic area, c) within a couple hours driving of seattle so that we will really use it and we can transport the dogs there.

Toured the hood canal area and the near olympic peninsula a little this weekend. South hood canal is way too developed for our tastes. North hood canal started to feel a little better, tho we didn’t fall in love with anything.

I had previously ruled out the San Juans because of the car ferry lineup — I love a ferry ride, but I don’t love sitting in the car queue on busy weekends. But I’ve started to rethink based on a new plan — drive to Anacortes, leave the car there, and take a water taxi out to a location — for instance Island Express Charters or Paraclete charters seem to offer taxi service, there are more in the yellow pages.

I know it is fairly routine up at my folks’ cabin in Pointe Au Baril for cabin owners to take a water taxi out 10-15 miles to their cabins, so I am sure there must be a similar level of service to the San Juans.

If so, this might open up a lot more choices to us. For instance the Windermere office on Lopez has a lot of interesting properties

Euro Vaca 2nd Half Hilites

OK here are some of the highlights from the remainder of our trip:

* Isola bella on lake maggiore. Previously blogged. Beautiful and the lake seems way cleaner than lake como. If we went back to this part of the world I think we’d stay on lake maggiore instead of como.
* Florence. My initial impression was ?gosh this is a butt ugly city”. But it grew on us — the beauty is clearly not in the streets but in the art, culture, interiors of buildings, etc. And it is a very manageable size.
* The Uffizi was much more to my liking than the Louvre — a manageable size, and I just prefer the style of painting. And of course David was just amazing. I just didn’t understand the scale at which these artists operated — when you see the size of the works and the level of detail, it is just amazing. I know, my fine arts education is woefully lacking, I am discovering all this somewhat late in life.
* Venice was of course beautiful, we didn’t have enough time there. We had one really great meal there at Osteria Oliva Nera, a family run place.
* Milan. Everyone told us ?ugly, no point in visiting?. But in many ways I liked even better than Florence and Venice. Florence and venice are ?cities in amber? — frozen in time, operated for the benefit of tourists. Milan is a living breathing city, I like a living vibrant city.
* Ferrari museum out in modena. Man this place is like a shrine. A huge number of “pilgrims” visiting, getting their picture taken with the Enzo on display. What a car.

Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore

We visited the gardens and estate on Isola Bella today. Stunning! I was not very impressed with the Lakes District at the start of the day but I was so won over. The estate and gardens here were stunning, more memorable for us than Versailles — because they are on a more huiman scale, and show the care of the designers and staff better. Every room in the estate seemed to make sense — we could see living in this structure. Whereas in Versailles it felt like the architect/builders used up all their energy just making it big, and they had nothing left for the interior, so they just filled up the building with innumerable square rooms. Anyway this isn’t about Versailles, this is about Isola Bella — worth a visit! And we like Lake Maggiore much better than Lake Como — the water is cleaner, the taxi boats are nicer, Stresa is a nice hopping off point.