Vacation photos

As promised, here are links to some of my better photos from my recent Hawaii / San Francisco vacation.

Akaka Falls and Hilo – mostly interesting plants.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – volcanic landscapes.

Miscellaneous Hawaii stuff.

Photos of the transit of Venus.

Miscellaneous San Francisco stuff.

The Golden Gate Bridge.

The Computer History Museum.

 

San Francisco

After our week in Hawaii, Frink and I spent two days in San Francisco on our way home, to see a few of the major sights and case the place out for a possible return visit later.

Our plans got a little upset when the Testicle Squeezing Authority held Frink back at the airport in Hawaii – apparently they had never seen a keyboard in anyone’s luggage before.  As a result he arrived at a ridiculous hour of the morning and in need of sleep, so we got off to a late start on our first day.

We had a list of restaurants we wanted to try, so the first order of business was breakfast at Gott’s Roadside at the Ferry Building downtown.  Their burgers and shakes are pretty darn good but not better than what we can get at home.

 

After that and a bit of walking around downtown, we headed out to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was nice – that’s all I can say about it really.  It’s a big, long bridge with some nice art deco detailing on it, and a plethora of anti-suicide measures.  I guess if you’re in San Francisco and you want to off yourself, it’s pretty obvious where to go.

Unfortunately that was pretty much it for the first day.  By the time we finished at the bridge and got back downtown, it was past 10pm and we couldn’t find any restaurants that were open.  I wasn’t having any luck finding anything with UrbanSpoon or Google Maps on my phone, so we just went back to the hotel.

The next day was a smashing success though.  Our main event for San Francisco was to go to the Computer History Museum down in Mountain View, and that we did.

I love museums, but this was the most enjoyable one ever.  It tweaked all my computer nerd nerve endings with exhibits on early mechanical computing, punched cards and the census, mainframes and minicomputers, memory technologies over the ages, robotics, Lisp machines, exotic I/O devices and of course video games.  We spent five hours in there because that’s all the time we had – I could easily spend five days studying the displays in detail.  Highly recommended.

Apparently we passed within 20 miles of The Woz while there, according to his twitter feed.

Riding the CalTrain to and from the museum, it was a bit surreal to realize just how many famous technology companies and tech-heavy locales are in the area – Menlo Park, Redwood Shores, Cupertino etc.

After the museum we went back downtown to try and score some good eats.  We ended up going to a highly recommended (and deservedly so) Mexican place in the Mission called La Taqueria.  I had a chorizo burrito, and man was it ever delicious.  Then we walked over to Mitchell’s for some ice cream.  The place was packed but the wait was worth it – it instantly became one of my top three ice cream parlours by virtue of its rich creamery goodness.

 

The next day I had lunch with friends from Vancouver who had moved down here recently, then got on a plane home.

San Francisco is a really nice city – it feels like Vancouver but is much prettier.  I definitely need to go back and see more.

 

Overall I really enjoyed this vacation.  Everything went really smoothly (for me, at least) and I did everything I wanted to do.  Got some relaxation in, had some great food, saw some good sights, and most importantly got out of my routine and had some new experiences.

Whereas my last vacation (my road trip across Canada last year) was about rehashing my past, this year’s trip was chock full of new experiences and new records for me:

  • Farthest west I’ve ever been: 157° 57′ W.
  • Farthest into the past (GMT-10) I’ve ever been.
  • Farthest south I’ve ever been: 19° 19’N.
  • Doubled the number of states I’ve visited, to four.
  • I realized I actually kind of like flying, so long as I can see out the window and there’s no turbulence.  It’s still cheating as a form of travel, but driving to Hawaii by road is admittedly a little difficult.
  • First swim in 30 years.
  • First swim in the ocean.
  • First time snorkeling.
  • First time in the US and A since 2004.
  • First shaved ice treat.
  • First burrito.
  • First malasada.
  • First visit to an active volcano.
  • Highest altitude I’ve ever been on the ground – 9000 ft.
  • First time in a tropical place.

Overall: A great success!

Back to Calgary

2011/09/28

Started the day with a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.  I was just there a few years ago, but it’s an excellent museum and worth revisiting, and as it turns out they did change a few exhibits since my last visit. A few pics:

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Then a short drive to Calgary (via a favorite back way that has very little traffic).

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Another new thing since last time: a large wind farm just south of the Drumheller canyon.  This dash-cam photo only shows three out of at least twenty giant windmills dotting the hilltops along the road:

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Highlight of the drive was catching sight of the mountain silhouettes before I had even reached the outskirts of Calgary:

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Got my room, then went to pick up Frink from Mount Royal – where I started my Comp Sci undergrad (it was only a college back then).  Wandered around the campus a bit taking pictures.  Dropped in on the CS department – the only faculty member I knew who was present still remembered me 15 years later, which was a nice surprise.

The Mount Royal campus has changed slightly since I was there.  Mainly in the addition of new buildings outside the sprawling central one.  But also some internal changes.  One of my favorite study areas is gone, replaced with more walled-in rooms.

This wall used to be all full-height window, and looked in on the tech services department that I worked in, repairing computers, when I was a student there:

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Although this was actually before I was a student here, there used to be a small arcade beside these stairs in the phys ed wing. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a Robby Roto machine, and got to play it after years of wondering about screenshots in Electronic Games magazines:

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But my high scores are still up on the board – my President’s Honor Roll plaques from the two years I was there:

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After that, went looking for the place I had planned to buy new tires for the Slaywagon, but it appears to have gone out of business.  Did some book shopping, then met Sean and Bud for sushi downtown and had some good conversation for a few hours.

Drove Frink home after that, and nearly hit a deer on the road.  For days now I’ve been internally grousing that I haven’t seen any moose on this trip (on previous trips we’ve had close encounters with meese in northern Ontario and in Riding Mountain Park), and here I nearly intersect a deer right in the big city.

to Drumheller

2011/09/27

I had originally planned a one-day layover in Saskatoon, as there were a number of museums I was interested in seeing.  Unfortunately the must important one, the Saskatchewan Railway Museum, is already closed for the season.  So I decided to only stay for one night, and start the day with a quick visit to the Saskatoon branch of the Western Development Museum.

It’s a decent museum.  I was most impressed with their collection of freakish antique farm equipment, many of which I hadn’t seen before.

Luxury tractor – unpopular because it cost twice what its competitors did, but it did sell because it had headlights, which enabled working at night:

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Tractor conversion kit for early Fords – flopped because the car didn’t have enough power, even with the gearing-down this kit applied:

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This thing is freakin huge.  Not even the modern 12-wheeled tractors they use in the mud near Winnipeg are this bulky:

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This contraption (a Saskatchewan invention, I think) was for stacking and binding cut hay.  There was a contract to mass produce it, but production was stalled by the Great Depression, and when that was over the modern type of combine had been invented and the job this machine did was no longer relevant:

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More random machines:

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“Why?” department: Of all the representatives you could have chosen…

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After the museum, drove to Drumheller.  Long drive, but not as bad as yesterday.

This scene:

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I snapped because it reminded me of this Valve concept art:

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And here’s the government mind control device near Alsask:

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And of course, you can’t go to Drumheller without visiting the hoodoos.  This must be at least the eighth time I’ve been here:

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My self-portrait for today:

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Middle Manitoba

2011/09/24

Today I took a little detour up to the region between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.  There was a property advertised for sale there in Dignam’s, and since it’s only an hour’s drive from Winnipeg I thought it might be worth checking out.

The land was advertised, if I recall correctly, as having a significant portion of marshland, possibly suitable for birdwatchers.  Well, I couldn’t even reach the property as all approaching roads were closed due to flooding.  I tried driving this one despite the water lapping at the edges of the road, but it got me no closer:

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So, not being able to reach the property because of water, I’ll have to assume the bit about it being marshy is true.

If it floods like this in the fall, I hate to think what spring must be like.  I know Manitoba suffered uncommon flooding this year, but I also know uncommon flooding is common for the flat part of the province.  Scratch this area off my buy list.

Since I was in the area, I decided to check out nearby Delta Beach and St. Ambriose Provincial Park.  My mother and I camped here once, and all I remember about it is that the park was filled with incredibly dense clouds of mosquitoes.  I thought it would be nice to see the big lake too, but all approaches were closed due to flooding, and indeed most of the houses in St. Ambroise were sandbagged.  Not a good sign.

Continued on via back roads to Riding Mountain National Park, where I took the less-used east entrance – it’s a rough gravel road, but really beautiful. Especially in the fall:

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Here’s the view to the northeast from the top of the escarpment.  Riding Mountain is very high for the prairies.

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I think the purple haze in the distance is from farmers burning stubble.

Riding Mountain is where I learned to appreciate the potential beauty of swamps.  They look best in the fog, but here’s a couple anyway:

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I’m staying in Wasagaming for the next two nights – taking a one-day break from driving. I plan to mainly sit on the beach and read my book.  Here’s the nice little cabin I have to myself:

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It’s not quite as fancy as the place I like to stay at Long Beach, but it’ll do in a pinch.

I was hoping to see a movie tonight in Wasagaming’s unique log theater, but unfortunately it’s closed for the season.

After sunset I sat on the beach and watched the stars come out.  That was enjoyable.

Minnows minnowing in the lake:

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Some more fall color shots:

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Generic beauty shots:

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From earlier in the day, a field of mixed wheat and drying sunflowers.  I think the sunflowers are the crop here – that green in the background before the trees is also all sunflowers.  Not sure why there is also grain here – maybe to distract birds from the sunflower seeds?

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And a couple shots of abandoned buildings:

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(That’s Riding Mountain in the background of the last shot; this building is right at the junction of #5 and #19, the road that goes into the park from the east.)

Passed through the town of Neepawa on the way – it’s a very nice town.  I’m impressed with how pleasant it is, and despite appearing quite small it somehow supports a Safeway, a Co-Op and a McDonald’s.  I also generally like the landscapes in and around Riding Mountain.  Too bad there’s no major cities nearby; I’d go crazy with boredom living in this area.

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