danvk.org » travel http://www.danvk.org/wp Keepin' static like wool fabric since 2006 Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:59:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Cliff House and the Sutro Baths http://www.danvk.org/wp/2008-05-06/cliff-house-and-the-sutro-baths/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2008-05-06/cliff-house-and-the-sutro-baths/#comments Wed, 07 May 2008 05:52:59 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/2008-05-06/cliff-house-and-the-sutro-baths/ First off, apologies for the Craig- and Ryan-like pace of updates to danvk.org.

On Sunday, Ryan and I rode out to the far Western edge of San Francisco, just north of Ocean Beach. While it’s only six miles from my apartment, this felt like a much longer trip. There are no freeways in this part of the city, so our route was stop and go through neighborhood after neighborhood: Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Pac Heights, Laurel Heights, Inner Richmond and Outer Richmond.

This is the land of Adolph Sutro, a former mayor of San Francisco who I learned about from this Sparkletack episode. Sutro’s two claims to fame in this area are:

The second Cliff House, which lasted from 1896-1907. This must have been especially dramatic back then, when this area was completely uninhabited. Nowadays we’re on the third Cliff House, a swanky restaurant with spectacular views. I’d love to eat there someday, but that degree of swankiness requires a special occasion.

The remains of the Sutro baths, which Sutro once hoped would be his great legacy. It’s a shame that these public baths no longer exist. I can only imagine how nice it would be to relax here with a magnificent view of the ocean and feel the sea breeze coming in. The rocks you can see peeking out of the sea were covered in mussels, which made the waves slowly drain off them, rather than crashing. It was a sight to behold.

Here’s what the baths used to look like. I believe you can see the lack of a Cliff House in the background.

I was disappointed to find out that the baths were enclosed. While it is a spectacular building, I liked the idea of catching the sea breeze from the baths. I also find it amazing how very old these ruins look, even though the building only burned down in 1966.

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Virgin American http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-11-24/virgin-american/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-11-24/virgin-american/#comments Sun, 25 Nov 2007 00:25:26 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=236 I flew Virgin America recently and, since they’re getting a lot of buzz, I figured I’d write up my experience.

First off, you have to be flying amongst San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York JFK and Washington Dulles. Those are the only cities Virgin flies to. The good news, though, is that they’ll almost certainly be the cheapest option if you can use them. A cross-country ticket cost me $130 each way, though I see that their rates have recently gone up to $170.

When I got on the plane, there was mood lighting and really energetic music. Virgin really advertises the mood lighting, but I think it’s just silly. It’s not as though the lighting turns it into a party plane (now that would be cool). Seriously, when was the last time you were bothered by the lighting on a plane?

Another difference is that, instead of having a “beverage cart” go through the plane once or twice per flight, you order drinks and snacks through your in-seat computer. Non-alcoholic drinks are free, and snacks cost some small amount ($1 for cookies). You can also order a meal if you’re so inclined. This lets you get drinks when you want them (good for someone who likes to sleep on flights) and frees up the aisles.

The in-seat computer is the main difference between a Virgin flight and one on any other airline. Their very-trendy interface is called “Red (BETA)” and lets you listen to music, watch TV or movies, chat, play games, and order food, as I mentioned earlier. It must really be a beta, since it crashed on me at least once. The pilot made a friendly announcement at the start of the flight that it would “crash and need to be restarted, just like your computer at home!” I find it incredibly amusing how folksy this sounded when he said it. For what it’s worth, these things run Linux and X11. You can tell by cursor and background, but it’s most obvious when you restart and see a command line. =)

The music selection was fairly random. They picked a few popular artists from several different genres (pop, rock, hip-hop, classical) and had between maybe 7 and 15 songs from each. This led to some unusual picks. While 15 songs probably isn’t enough for the Beatles, seven is too much for a current artist like Justin Timberlake. Another oddity: songs were listed in reverse chronological order. That’s fine for JT, but it led to a really weird playlist for Bob Dylan. I was surprised to see “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee” as his top song.

The full movies were $8/view, and I just don’t care that much about Shrek the Third. There were also free shorts available, but these looked thrown together at the last minute. They seemed like some sort of “best of YouTube” collection.

The games were pretty cool. I played Doom for about half an hour on my flight home. I assume it was under emulation, since it was pretty sluggish. But it was playable, and reminded me why I never got into first-person shooters as a kid. I’m terrible at them! With some more games and a larger controller, this could be a good way to pass a flight.

There was also seat-to-seat and group chat, but I didn’t see the point of this. Do I really want to chat with a random person on the plane using an undersized keyboard on the back of my remote? The person sitting next to me sure did. She was pretty into it. To each his own.

All in all, Virgin was pretty cool. It’s not worth going out of your way to get the “Virgin American experience”, but if they’re the cheapest option, the by all means, go for it!

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D.C. and Hawaii! http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-11-20/hawaii/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-11-20/hawaii/#comments Wed, 21 Nov 2007 06:46:49 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=232 I had a busy week of travel last week. First there was D.C. Gras, where I met up with many college friends and some high school friends too:


They’d get links, but they have no web presence. Come on, guys!

After a great weekend in D.C., I flew back to San Francisco and then to beautiful Maui for a work-related off-site morale event:


Here’s one of my favorites, from the Haleakala National Park:


I’m staring up at a 400 foot waterfall from a nearby hill. Ryan (who has a web presence) has all his wonderful photos from the trip here.

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San Jose Exploration (aka Dan decides to use his camera) http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-06-17/san-jose-exploration-aka-dan-decides-to-use-his-camera/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-06-17/san-jose-exploration-aka-dan-decides-to-use-his-camera/#comments Sun, 17 Jun 2007 07:09:29 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=175 I’ve been enjoying the Hellyer disc golf course down in San Jose of late, so I was excited to discover that it had a sister course just across the creek. When I found out there were geocaches and a bike trail in the area, it was Saturday road trip time!


That’s the new disc golf course. It really is new, only a few months old. The cups were still shiny (you can see one in the mid-right of the picture). The course is flat, long and heavily wooded, which makes it the exact opposite of the old course:


Playing solo, nine holes go by pretty fast. I played through a group of five guys along the way, and of course the one hole I had an audience for was the worst. I hit three trees, fell over, and missed a putt for a six.

After that, it was off to find access to the Coyote Creek Trail. This part would have been a heck of a lot easier if I hadn’t left my GPS at home. I’m going to have to come back to the trail later. There are at least three small caches along it, as well as a fun-looking four-part multicache. Eventually I found a small park and found a bridge in the back. But not before seeing this dramatic illustration of what Ryan considers society’s greatest menace:


Yes, that would be IRRIGATION.

Fulfilling moment #1 on the Coyote Creek Trail: discovering that it synced up with the old disc golf course and I’d even seen it before. Fulfilling moment #2: finding Hellyer lake:


Awwww, a tender moment caught on camera! Also, some generic waterfowl forever preserved for posterity:


I got excited when I saw this:


Usually when there’s one disc golf hole, there’s at least eight others. But this one had no markings, no visible tee and I couldn’t find any more holes in the park. So it’s an enigma.

Cool moment #3: Stumbling across a velodrome and snatching this:


You can’t tell it from the picture, but those guys were going FAST! I wasn’t even sure they’d be in the frame when I snapped the photo, so I’d say it turned out surprisingly well. The guy in charge said that there’d be time trials there tomorrow and there were races most weekends. I’ll have to make another trip for that, too.

Finally, I made it all the way to the Coyote Creek trailhead:


and started back. Through various detours and turns, I wound up passing the same jogger four different times. I wonder what he thinks of me? There was still time for one final cool moment: snapping this shot.


Click for a larger version. It’s an argument for the militantly anti-irrigation folks (see above). That hill has a sort of austere beauty. It just wouldn’t be the same if it were covered in green. It would be an even better shot if there weren’t that stupid light pole in the middle!

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Voucher frustration http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-06-13/voucher-frustration/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-06-13/voucher-frustration/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2007 04:54:17 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=166 Sorry Craig, not those vouchers.

United offered me a pretty sweet deal last winter: in exchange for taking a flight six hours later, they’d give me a hotel room (it was midnight), a bump to first class, and a voucher for a free round trip anywhere in the continental US.

I finally got around to claiming that voucher today. I figured I could just use it online, but that would have been far too easy. I searched around a bit and found this page, which told me to call a 1-800 number. So I went through the automated phone system until I got a human, who immediately told me that I needed to go to the airport! And so I jumped in the car for a surprise visit to the San Jose airport this morning.

The whole voucher business strikes me as the pinnacle of mindless bureaucracy. My voucher said that it was applicable to tickets of classes W, V, and Q. Huh? There’s no way to tell which is which from United’s web site. I wanted to go from San Jose to Newark, but the lady at the desk quickly ruled that out (there was only “Class H”). Then there was San Francisco to Newark, but nope, that was class H, too. Eventually she found some class Q tickets from San Francisco to New York JFK. After another fifteen minutes of fighting with the system, the tickets were mine. Ugh.

The real lesson learned here is that I should book tickets with these vouchers more than 18 days in advance of a holiday weekend. But I still came out well ahead. I got direct, non-stop flights each way and a $608.80 ticket for free.

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My drive out west http://www.danvk.org/wp/2006-09-16/my-drive-out-west/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2006-09-16/my-drive-out-west/#comments Sat, 16 Sep 2006 08:06:18 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=6 Having spent a month out here in sunny California, I figured it was about time I made a post about my trip before I forgot everything.

Speaking of which, it was about two hours after I left that I realized what I’d left at home. I remembered all my books, all my CDs, all my clothes, even my racquetball glove. But the AAA maps of every state on the trip? Of course not!

My original plan was to take I-10 out west to El Paso, head up to Flagstaff the second day, then hit the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Santa Clara over the course of the next two days. Does this sound vague? Yes, those maps would have helped…

My route out west. I would have used Google Maps, but it couldn't draw a complicated trip like this!

My days ended at B, D, G, and H. E is the Grand Canyon and F is the Hoover Dam. C is Albuquerque, which isn’t exactly in a class with either of these, though I did get to try a vanilla frosty there. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Day 1 Texas is big
Left at ~11 AM. I’d been to San Antonio before, en route from Austin to Houston, (don’t ask) so I didn’t feel as though the trip really began until I made it into West Texas. Seeing mile markers in the 700′s wasn’t good for morale, but this sign sure was

My route out west. I would have used Google Maps, but it couldn't draw a complicated trip like this!

I really had no idea it was coming. This sign seriously made my day. The miles tick by so much faster when you can go 80-90. That being said, 85-90 MPH is just plain scary when driving conditions aren’t perfect. At one point I saw some haziness up ahead. One instant it was dry as could be. The next, I was hit by a complete wall of water and visibility went down to zero. Two minutes later and it was clear again, though the road remained slippery. I guess those transitions happen quickly at 85 MPH.

West Texas was wonderfully rugged compared to Houston, and this part of the trip made me wish I’d visited Big Bend while I was at Rice. It’s easy to forget just how completely empty most of the United States really is. I’d say that Indiana is largely “empty,” but when I say that, I think of “empty” as enormous corn fields. West Texas is seriously empty. Nobody’s ever done anything with that land. I imagine that if you went a few miles off the road, you’d be the only human in an x mile radius.

Day one ended about 10 PM and 700 miles into the trip in Fabens, TX, a small railroad town just SE of El Paso. I stayed at the Fabens Inn, the only motel in the area. It was run by an Indian family that lived on the premises. They must have done well for themselves, because there was a spectacularly huge TV just visible in the living room. It must have been at least 60″ and looked completely out of place in the smallish cement buildling. The room wasn’t particularly nice and the bath/shower didn’t really work, but it had free wireless, so I couldn’t complain.

Day two blah
I got off to an early start and finally left Texas. New Mexico seems like a singularly dull state. It looks a lot like West Texas, except it doesn’t have the rest of Texas to offset the austerity. The most intriguing signs I saw were for the Very Large Array and the future site of the New Mexico Spaceport. Cool, sure, but not as cool as leaving New Mexico!

The highlights of the state were checking it off my list (I think I’m up to ~35 states) and trying out a Vanilla Frosty in Albuquerque. The Vanilla Frosty is a bit strange, since chocolatey goodness is part and parcel of the whole Frosty experience. It wasn’t bad, exactly, it just wasn’t that exciting. I assume that they introduced it to complement frosty mixins. A Vanilla Frosty with M&M’s mixed in competes more directly with the McFlurry and Blizzard.

I ended the day in Flagstaff, AZ, a city that I’ve always associated with the space race and growing up in the fifties or sixties. Those are strange associations for me to have, so after some sleuthing (i.e. visiting that Wikipedia page I just linked to) I discovered why. The main character in 3001 grew up in Flagstaff and reminisces about his childhood in the book. That wasn’t a typo, by the way. 3001 is the third sequel to the more famous 2001. It’s one of my favorite sci-fi books by one of my fave authors, Arthur C. Clarke.

While I was there, I visited the Lowell Observatory, where the erstwhile ninth planet was discovered. The sky was overcast, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see, but I certainly had a fun time finding the place, as Doug and Cait can attest. I’ll put the over/under at 50 miles out of my way.

Day three nature is cool
As I wrote at the time:

Today was the “scenic” day of my trek out west. I began by heading up I-180 to the Grand Canyon (the scenic route, of course). It rose to about 8,000 feet in a national forest before cruising through an enormous, picturesque valley. The Canyon itself was magnificent. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering whether I’d find the right place to see the canyon, with the views that are always on postcards. But I shouldn’t have.. as soon as I went through the gates, I could see people up at the rim. When I caught my first glimpse of the Canyon, I was completely blown away. First impression was just the sheer immensity of it all, then all the cool formations (mesas) and colors.

I walked around the rim for about an hour before putting my bike together and going along the Hermit trail. It was only about a 10-15 mile bike ride, but it was definitely one of the hardest, if not the very hardest, I’ve ever gone on. For some reason, it never occurred to me that the canyon rim might be just a bit hilly. The trail answered my question “why would anyone use this low a gear?” many times.

Next I drove back down to I-40 and took it to 93 and the Hoover Dam. Highway 93 in NW Arizona must be the most boring highway ever created. It went at least 40 miles without any noticeable changes in elevation or turns. I took the opportunity to do a few reckless things.. first I burned a CD on my laptop while driving (Tupac’s Greatest Hitz) and then there may or may not have been a speed test…

I was rather nonplussed at the Hoover Dam. Compared to the Grand Canyon a few hours earlier, it just didn’t have much going for it. At least I can say I’ve seen it.

I took 93 up into Las Vegas, and then took I-15S. Those two roads took me right through the heart of Vegas, so I saw all the big casinos from the highway, including the Bellagio. My goal was to take I-15 into California (about 30 miles or so from Vegas) and grab the first motel I could find. How simpleminded of me. Situated right on the Nevada-Cali border is none other than the Mojave Indian reservation! It was 50 miles to Baker, the first city. Due to some confusion, I wound up skipping BOTH Baker exits (I thought there’d be three) and had to turn around on none other than Zzyzx road.

I’m staying in a super-sketch motel tonight ($49) but amazingly, it has free wireless!

That super-sketch motel was called “Arne’s Royal Hawaiian.” I guess the theme was lost on me in the dark. This picture makes it look way too good. Picture it dark and dirty, with that “O” flickering in the most stereotypical manner imagineable. According to Yahoo, it “May be the worst motel in the US.” When I walked into my room and flipped the switch, nothing happened. I eventually found the bathroom light, which revealed that the shower door was held together with masking tape. Seeing as I’d just watched Psycho for the first time the previous week, I had a pretty bad feeling. But of course, it had free wireless.

Day Four The home stretch!
Gas prices would be another reason not to spend a night at Arne’s Royal Hawaiian. I paid $3.599/gal in Baker, CA. Premium was $3.80, which is far and away the highest price I’ve ever seen for gas.

The debacle of night three made for a fairly short day four. I left about 8:30 AM and wound my way up along I-5, eventually pulling in to my temp housing around 4:30. Things there got of to an inauspicious start. I couldn’t open the door! I eventually had to get the maintenance to come out and show me the special technique. Then internet and cable didn’t work. But whatever, I had a bed and a shower, and I was in Cali!!

For the stalkerish among you, Jack inspired me to keep meticulous track of mileage on our drive home at the end of freshman year:

August 7, 2006
Depart ~11 AM, started mileage counter in the Village
11:42 AM, 37.5 mi 9.267 gal/$27.05=2.919
3:45 PM 306.8 mi 9.479/$29.38=3.099 (Segovia)
6:32 PM 516.6 mi 7.483/$23.79=3.179 (Ft. Stockton)
End day one at 10:00 PM, 726.5 mi, $58/night (Fabens, TX)

August 8, 2006
9:00 AM 726.5 6.809/$21.10=3.099
2:08 PM 1,032.3 9.707/$29.69=3.059 (Albuquerque, NM)
5:03 PM 1,302.6 8.414/$25.49=3.029 (Winslow, AZ)
End day two at ~9 PM 1,456.5 mi, $80/night (Flagstaff)

August 9, 2006
8:15 AM Depart Flagstaff
8:37 AM 1,426.2 4.003/$12.00=2.999
10:37 AM 1,509.5 arrive Grand Canyon ($25 entrance)
3:30 PM Depart Grand Canyon
4:24 PM food in Williams
6:25 PM 1,688.3 7.446/$22.18=2.979
11:00 PM 1,899.9 arrive Baker, CA, $49/night

August 10, 2006
8:24 AM 1, 900.0 6.686/$24.06=3.599 (!)
12:30 PM 2,170.9 8.360/$27.58=3.199
4:20 PM 2,352.8 mi ARRIVE!!!

Total gas gal: 9.267+9.479+7.483+6.809+9.707+8.414+4.003+7.446+6.686+8.360=77.654 gal
Total gas $: 27.05+29.38+23.79+21.10+29.69+25.49+12.00+22.18+24.06+27.58=$242.32
Avg price: 242.32/77.654 = $3.12/gal
Gas mileage: (2170.9-37.5)/77.654 = 27.47 miles/gal
miles/$: (2170.9-37.5)/242.32 = 8.804 miles/$

I got 32 mpg on the drive from South Bend to Houston at the start of the summer, so 27.47 isn’t spectacular. Then again, my car was stuffed to the top with heavy stuff on this trip, and I’d guess my average speed was 5-10 mph faster.

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