June 2011

Bears and bears and bears, oh my.

Some day, someone is going to drag Yellowstone (kicking and screaming all the way, no doubt) into the 21st century.

Specifically, there’s no public wi-fi anywhere in the park.

Before we left, I found a website that tells you what animals have been spotted where. Pretty useless if you don’t have web access.

Anywayz, so we drove up through Grand Teton from Jackson. First animal we saw was a large bear, identified by us amateurs as a grizzly.

Of course the place is infested by bison, can’t turn around and there’s one blocking the road looking at you (as Robert Ruark remarked about African buffalo) as if you owe it money.

Also saw elk does and calves and a coyote who was completely oblivious to people getting in our opinion waytooclose taking pictures.

(As mentioned before, pictures are a PITA, go look at Tanya’s blog for eye candy).

This morning we got up two or three hours before sparrow’s fart, piled into the car, and headed off to the Lamar Valley (where they supposedly keep the wolves). Got there and there was a chain across the road with a sign saying “closed 8 miles”, so we headed north with sleep in our eyes looking for wolves.

Didn’t find any.

Did however find a swamp donkey (they’re more scarce thanĀ  thought they would be). And of course the inevitable bison. Decided to head back, but to investigate the 8 miles of Lamar valley before the road closure, found more bison and a nice herd of pronghorn. By now the kids were mostly asleep, so we had to show them pictures to prove that we ran into a second coyote right in the middle of the road.

Got to camp, had a shower, stuck washing in the machine, which Tanya watched while I crashed, hard, for 40 minutes. Headed off again, saw the waterfall and the canyon, drove all the way around to Mammoth via a huge traffic jam because there were… bears. Two of them, as far as we can tell a brown and a grizzly. Strange.

Mammoth had the mother of all pileups and a large herd of elk in the middle of town, with tourists being silly and the park ranger lady shouting at them. Got ice cream and fuel and headed of.

Found another brown bear. Then found another brown bear. Ho hum.

Back to camp, where there was a power failure. So we decided to head to the lake to shop there, maybe get some meat. No luck. There was a coyote off in the distance on our way there though. And we spotted a grizzly on the way back.

So tomorrow we’re off to Cody.

(This post brought to you by the extremely slow but free hotspot at Salt Lake City airport).


Absolutely stunning scenery.

The Virginian Lodge is on the budget side of things, but in Jackson that’s still pretty upmarket. Impressed. Kids are in the heated swimming pool, Tanya’s in the bath, and I’m sampling the Grand Teton Brewing Co. Sweetgrass American Pale Ale.

Been a long day, we left the kids in bed while we headed back to Salt Lake City to a scrapbook store Tanya wanted to visit. They were closed. Back to Ogden and the Browning Museum, which rocks. They also have a nice collection of classic cars.

Found Tanya & kids having breakfast, ate half the leftovers.

Took the scenic route via Bear Lake and Freedom Arms (got there five minutes before they close at 16:30) and picked up a T-shirt and some spares for my 22 revolver.

Mechanical marvels

As mentioned before, we visited both the Pacific Pinball Museum and the Musee Mechanique in San Francisco.

The former is great, you can play for free all day for the cost of admission, and they have a lot of machines.

The latter can get expensive, but you won’t get a chance to see something like this anywhere else in the world*. While some pinball machines take 75c for one game, the player pianos are one, maybe two quarters, and while I love pinball machines, I straight out adore the players.

The Wurlitzer is also way high on my want list You’ll hafta tilt either your head or the computer screen for this one, I don’t have the software or the patience to rotate it right now.

(And yea, it doesn’t start from the beginning since you hafta put the money in then step back and hit the shutter.)

*If you can, I want to know about it, please.

Outside Michaels

Utah is a relatively religious place, to the point where the dinosaur museum is closed on a Sunday. Pity.

The Cabelas, however, is open. Wow. Nothing there for me to buy though, residency required to buy shootty things.

Then Tanya spotted a Michaels from the highway, so it was short right short right, and now we’re in the parking lot vamping off the Barnes & Noble free internet waiting for her.

Various calamities

Managed to flood a hotel room and get attacked by the local wildlife, but for the rest all is well.

Vegas is… Vegas. Hot, lots of people and lots of light and lots of bling.

The pinball place was slightly disappointing, but only because we visited the Pacific Pinball Museum in San Francisco and that rocks.

Drove to the Grand Canyon (which is as big in real life) via Route 66, made camp, and missed sunset. Got to see the sunrise however. Others have posted pictures, Tanya resizes pics and blogs while I drive, so I don’t get much blogging time.

Continued on to Green River, where I was most impressed with the Robber’s Roost Motel. No wine for sale in town, got some pretty good IPA (Moab Brewery Scorpion Pale Ale). Had to buy a sixpack so there’s some left.

Life’s good. Expensive, but good.


Poppet* guided us to the airport, where there’s expensive burgers ($9.95, good though) and beer ($6, SNPA, very good).

There’s also 45 minutes free internet.

Spent yesterday touring the town, L Caravelle to Chinatown, walked down to the waterfront, had lunch, took photographs of Alcatraz and the sea lions, bought huge surprisingly nice strawberries with chocolate sauce for dipping, went to the Musee Mecanique which has gorgeous gorgeous player pianos, including a Wurlitzer I sooo WANT, stood in a one hour queue to get on the cable car back to Market street, and took the L Caravelle back home.

Drove into town early this morning, Poppet took us past the Golden Gate bridge, but we were in a hurry. Eventually found some parking, went back to Chinatown to find a handbag Jessica saw yesterday, and a bloody huge bag to stuff four sleeping bags and three pillows into.

Back to the bridge for photos, after eventually finding a parking spot. Then took the scenic route to the airport, where we had to spend $75 to get our three x luggage on the plane. Ah well.

Forgot to stick my swiss army knife in the check-in, so gave that to the baggage handler before security (rather him than TSA, I figure).

* The Hertz GPS navigator girlie, otherwise known as “I do what the voices in my dashboard tell me”.

Well, that was a bust

Yesterday we drove up from Los Angeles via the Big Sur. Gorgeous, stunning, indescribably wonderful views… hidden by a thick mist. They tell me I should come back in winter.

Nepenthe is high enough so that we could sit and drink a beer while enjoying the view of the cloud bank from above. (Excellent) beer at $8, (OK) wine at $12/glass. Didn’t stay for seconds.

Big Sur Campground is excellent. Recommended for a longer stay. We were in campsite #6, right next to the river, but if you do get the choice I’ go for site #8.

Went back to the Big Sur Bakery for supper and, as others have said, it’s good but pricey.

Struck camp this morning, got breakfast burritos at the Big Sur Deli, and continued to enjoy the mist-shrouded scenery.

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town is excellent, so it’s always a toss-up on whether any given aquarium is worth visiting (i.e. better than Two Oceans). The Monterey aquarium qualifies. It’s neatly build into what used to be the canning factory, and they are really capitalising on the whole John Steinbeck thing. It works, and they have sea otters. Neat. (We also said “hoezit” to the expat penguins, they just stood around looking bored).

It’s a long road so we were late (I’d aimed to get there at their 14:00 opening time) at the Pacific Pinball Museum, W000t. Lots of machines all set to “free”. Didn’t enjoy Electra as much as I’d wanted to, but I think Fireball (the first one) is a lot of fun. The Stern Orbitor 1 is amazing. Realised, once again, how much I like the old EM games. Pity they don’t have a Top Score, would love to see how a good one plays.

So then we headed up to Casa Loma Hotel, which we booked online via booking.com, only to find the place boarded up. Fsck. I’d been worried about this because they didn’t reply to an email last week and I’d only been able to reach an answering machine on their phone number… not find the place. It’s right next to a boarded up shop, and since they had not replied to my emails nor answered my phone calls, we assumed that they were in fact bust*.

Anyway, there are not that many problems that can’t be solved by applying the universal spanner, being… money. Found a parking spot (difficult), grabbed the Rough Guide, and started phoning (did I tell you that I bought a $9.99 cellphone at Best Buy?). Found a place on the other side of town (it’s right next to the zoo) at twice the price, but it’s beautiful in a fifties Art Deco meets Japan way and the WiFi is fast and free and there’s a Deli around the corner sells sarmies for supper and all kinds of beer so all is not too bad. Of course I had to extend the rental car by two days, which is not a bad thing ‘cos we can then drive to SFO instead of humping suitcases on a train… life is sooo easy if you fling gobs of cash at it.

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale: excellent.

Anchor Steam Beer: Not bad at all, but I won’t take seconds.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Torpedo IPA: TBD Not bad at all.

Mad River Brewing Co. Steelhead Extra Pale Ale: Foamy light mouthfeel. Maybe a good breakfast drink, but I’ll pass.

Anchor Porter: TBD Bloody good.

* And of course, with us being a no-show, I now hafta pay them $110 cancellation fee.

Los Angeles

So guess who woke whom up *this* morning.

Bought a Samuel Adams variety pack and a sixpack Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as well as a couple of bottles of Cali Sauvignon and a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon and some red and sampled and sampled and sampled…

Air is incredibly dry, my sinuses are complaining.

Of course now our hosts want to feed us again.

Bunch of wuss-esses

Get all sunburnt and footsore at four in the afternoon. ‘cmon, the museums are open ’till five!

Balboa Park zoo is magnificent. Definitely worth it.

The Natural Sciences Museum is well thought out, well laid out, damn interesting, but IMO not that interesting. Kids enjoyed it, so hey.

Aerospace Museum is, like last time, great. This time they also have one of the Apollo crew capsules on display. Three people went to the moon and back in that thing. Dayumn. The rest of the NASA display is not worth the surcharge, I don’t think.

I was still game for a visit to the automotive museum, but the wuss-esses they were not. Headed to the car via the carousel which is fluppin gorgeous.

Hit the corner store for beer and bubbly. The beer is good :-)