General Blog
India - Day Zero - Worries, worries PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 21 February 2016 00:00

ey, blogs can be therapeutic. I think you can write stress away. Anyway, hoping so.

We've been getting ready for our big India trip, twelve days on the other side of the world. I'd name this work Passage to India but that's already taken. But it's been no less an ordeal.

Our travelers include myself, my wife and my sister. We came up with this a half year back - I pitched it to the wife and managed to get her to agree (you can refer to my other blogs to know just what happened to her in Amsterdam - hint, it made a noise like a stick breaking. So she's a little timid about the entire deal.

But the troubles. We had to go get our GOES cards (so we can hopefully get around the worst of security - I don't know if this will work at all). Then the travel visas (India demands them). Here we got a close look at Indian bureaucracy when they shut the payment site down as I completed my wife's request (mine took an hour to do with my sister's guidance). This added three days to the process and we tried and tried to simply pay for her request, and finally had to do the entire thing over. Then the tickets to NYC (where we'll catch AirFrance to India). And the various pill regiments we've had to start (for typhoid and malaria).

I don't know how this is going to pan out. Right now I'm having to do 90% of the trip prep, and this sucks since my wife is retired and I'm very busy. There is the hassle of getting to the airport. And as of the time of this writing, our departure date is looking like its being held in conjunction with a winter storm coming through NYC. We have something like a 6-7 hour layover (we learned that from our trip to Switzerland), but I'm still worried. If you want a mental picture of me right now, imagine me pacing. That's pretty much it.

More details on the way. I hope to update our trip report either on a plane somewhere out over the Atlantic, or perhaps in an airport hotel room in New York, snow swirling down. More to come.



Last Updated on Monday, 22 February 2016 18:51
San Francisco - Day Four - Rain on the Leaves PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 27 December 2015 19:51

ast day and then I can get back to my crazy work and life.

Rainy all day, but just drizzly in the morning, which was good – went out to the Muir Woods (with all those majestic redwoods). JB and I did the long trail and I was gratified to see her keeping up (even in the parts that were flooded or muddy). I hid under my umbrella and she her hood and we got through everything just fine.

The ride back (combine a massive passenger van, twisting mountain roads, driving rain, fog, dragons, whatever) was a nail biter. We finally got into Sausalito in a driving monsoon. The first place we tried for was takeaway – not a good idea for today. Then, finally, a pretentious burger joint (your slider comes with salad, not fries) (what!?!). A long island iced tea drink really took the edge off things. After that, a ride over the Soaken Gate Bridge, home and a long rainy-afternoon nap.

Tonight was the final dinner, a tie-wearer at the Cliff House, where sunsets are rumored to be amazing (we were under IFR rules I’m afraid). Dinner was great, I enjoyed the interesting table conversations, and it was up-town enough that everyone kept their damn iPuds in their pockets.

So now we’re done. Tomorrow I’ll be home (late tomorrow, and work comes early!). But it was a great trip funded by a great mom. Thanks!


Photo Credit: My own Mom shot me in the back!

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 December 2015 20:14
San Francisco - Day Three - Tea Leaves PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 December 2015 21:11

ith day-long rains predicted (where’s that drought I heard so much about?), our first trip (stepping around the sing-along hobos outside) was down Haight to Robert’s (aptly named) Hardware where we bought a tiny flash light (for late-night suitcase digging) and an umbrella (duh!). As we came out, we realized that right across the street was a cool looking bookstore.

After taking the place apart brick by brick ($150 later) we returned back to the apartment to drop off our swag (the ‘boes had drifted off to their day occupations, leaving their gin bottles and urine stench behind). Then we embarked on a casual trip, walking north to Panhandle Park (double meaning in this town) and then tracking it west to the Golden Gate Park. A little drizzle but a nice walk all the same. The park closes its primary road on Sundays so no traffic, just joggers and cyclists and shoe-leather-burning tourists.

We would have gone right by the Conservatory of Flowers save for the banners announcing a garden railroad currently on display. Hey, that sounded cool. It turns out it was about as threadbare a display as a circus animal, just a loop of track in mistmatched scenery buildings (pried from other uses, it looked like). Still, the rest of the plants were nice – sectional areas in the cold greenhouse, each at its own temperature and humidity. Really neat.

After that, we walked through the largely empty park (like the Omega couple in the rain) over to the Japanese Tea Garden. Had a nice lunch, tea and small Japanese sandwiches (are there such things?). Watched an egret fish in the pond below our seats. Then we went for a free tour of the place with a guide (and his dog), a nice hour spent learning the story behind the garden. By the time it was done, it was starting to come down cold and wet. JB and I made one more loop of the gardens to collect photographs and then headed for the art museum next door.

This turned out to be a bad idea – apparently every citizen in San Francisco decided to go to the museum on this rainy Sunday. JB and I decided it was cold and wet enough. As we are not clever, tech-savvy and urbane enough for Uber, we walked the mile and change back. Actually, nice walk, just strolling down the middle of an empty four lane highway, the rain tattooing off the umbrella. Cold, yes. Wet, yes. But enjoyable.

After we got home (the other parties were coming in, everyone drenched) we went next door (how convenient) to the coffee shop. Sat in sunken comfort in a thick sofa, sipping our steaming brews and listening to the rain come down.

After home, naps and reading, it was time for dinner. Turns out pretty much everyone (with the exception of the gentle tea-gardeners) stuffed themselves sick on chowder for lunch. So, following the house’s guide, JB and I took an umbrella and went out looking for a nearby Thai restaurant.

Two problems with this. The restaurant was no longer in existence – a sad Thai legend. And secondly, the driving rain filled Haight with dozens of tramps, bums, junkies and runaways. JB and I went up and down the drag, even calling my sister for an exact address. Hacking wreckage cramped in doorways. Raving lunatics screamed into the rain. It was like walking through a live shot of Blade Runner. Finally JB and I decided to just head home – going five blocks through this artistic and eclectic tenderloin district after all the shops closed didn’t seem like a good idea.

At the time of this writing, we’re waiting for a pizza to be brought in. So, that wet day is behind us.


Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015 21:29
San Francisco - Day Two - Gates and Lights PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 25 December 2015 19:07

oday was a big off-site family deal, everyone into the van and go. And for this, we wheeled out Moby Dick (the massively unwieldly van) and headed out towards the bay. Best yet, the weather had broken gloriously and the sky was a radiant blue.

After a three-point turn-around or two, we finally got ourselves dropped on the Golden Gate Bridge’s south side park. From there, we snapped our pictures of that massive bridge (the same ones you’ve seen everywhere, even here) and then started out across it. Now, the west side, it’s only for bikes. Our side is pedestrians. Now, this was exacerbated by the fact that they were running some sort of cross-and-back-and-cross-again foot race (the same joggers in the same blue shirts). But out we went, wind crackling, traffic blowing by. And I’ll say this, if the devil of vertigo occasionally rides your back, you’ll feel him hanging from your shoulderblades on this walk, whispering about how high it is, and look up at those towers! Gulp!

But we got across. By the second tower, I was pushing this troublesome genie back into its bottle, actually leaning back to look up (gulp!) at the high towers and even take a couple of pictures. Eventually we got to the other side and picked up our van again (my brother had ferried it across). And off we went to the Point Reyes lighthouse.

Now, nobody had asked my opinion on how far forty or whatever miles was really when you were driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (my wife and I’d had our own experience some years back, south of the bay, when it took hours just to cover crow-fly distance). So I just read Moran’s Earth Winter (review pending) while getting shaken like a bean in a can as we hamfisted about on the narrow twisting roads. Yeah, I have issues with vertigo, but motion-sickness, no problems.

We finally got there and it wasn’t quite what we expected. Sure, you had to walk a long windy half-mile just to get to the site (JB and I had a large deer cross our paths as we walked under the wind-wrenched Cyprus), and yes, there were 30 flights (no exaggeration) of stairs to get down to the actual light house (a little dinky thing). The wife remained topside with the older ladies while I descended. Got some nice pictures and tried to record the sound of the fog horn with the camera (the wind noise turned out to be too much). And then I climbed that long slope, puff puff puff. But I made it, pretty much in one go.

This evening, everyone else went off to see StarWars. Now, yes, we’ll probably see it soon, but the thought of riding a bus to an opening release in a strange city, fighting for a seat and all that, no, not fun. Instead, JB and I had our own nice little evening; quick walk down Haight (I’ll use colorful here as a euphemism for seedy) and dinner in a nice little burger place. Interesting meal – we chatted while all sorts of strange people came in and the homeless circled about in the darkness like wolves. Ice cream afterwards. So Haight’s really become the new tenderloin district with gentrification crushing it from all sides – all sorts of colorful counter-cultural shops, every alcove filled with a crumpled human being, every sidewalk clotted with smoking, ill-used men, every cross-street lined with million-dollar houses. When we came home today from the outing, we found a guy literally passed out on the sidewalk – we weren’t sure if he was alive or dead. And now, when we came back from dinner, we found our own hobo jungle out against our garage door, at least three guys with their bundles, blankets and bottles spread about. So, yes, this isn’t the best place to stay. Even as I write this, I can hear one of the tramps yacking away profanely just under our window, a very colorful backdrop for our vacation. I could find this sort of ambiance just outside a rail yard. Great. Can’t wait to see what’s down there tomorrow.


Last Updated on Friday, 25 December 2015 19:30

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