Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Climate Change?

Today was a good day not to be in Fairbanks. This was nowhere near the high temperature for the day which I think was somewhere around +46°F. There were a lot of comments about the coming apocalypse when talking about today's Alaska temperatures. Warmer in Alaska than many areas in the lower-48. Here in Illinois, it was below freezing, but there was never an expectation for warm weather.

It was snowing this morning and the temperature dropped all afternoon. But the traffic didn't seem anywhere near as bad as it was in Los Angeles. Maybe most people around here had figured out that cars slide on ice. The main problem for me is losing my way. Everywhere looks the same to me. Lots of shopping centers that all look alike.

We spent the day shopping for Christmas presents with our grandson plus I picked up some groceries to make dinner. After all of the eating out for the last couple of weeks, it was nice to spend some time in the kitchen again. Nothing new or exciting.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Weather Delay

Early this morning, we left Los Angeles headed for Chicago. The first leg of the trip was a flight was into Salt Lake City and I just noticed that it is colder here than it is back home in Fairbanks. Right now, it's 19°F here and 25°F back home. Chicago has sleet and hail but it's supposed to be decent weather for the rest of the week. It is nice to see snow on the mountains and to be in a much less congested airport than LAX. With the weather in Chicago, I suspect that it'll be a zoo.

Update - While we were having lunch at Cat Cora's Kitchen, a nice restaurant at the SLC airport, we received notification from TripIt that the flight from Salt Lake to Chicago was just cancelled by Chicago ATC (Air Traffic Control) probably due to weather related traffic overload. Delta automatically rebooked us for a flight tomorrow morning and gave us a coupon for a discounted room (i.e. not free) at a local hotel. So we have an unexpected day near the airport (and very little else). There is a small lake behind the hotel with a very thin layer of ice. The other end of the lake is still open water. Not sure what all these little posts are for. Maybe they have a deck which extends out into the lake.

And, I received a notification from the Fairbanks PD that the roads were extremely slippery due to the warm weather following extremely cold weather. Perfect conditions for frost and black ice on the roads. Nice to not be there...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Last PBC Video

Well, at least the last one for a while. I had recorded all of the 23 PBC videos during the first half of December by splitting up each ride into multiple videos. I was trying to record enough segments to make it through the trip but as the date for leaving approached, I decided not to be so obsessed about making enough. In the process, I did learn something new about YouTube. You can upload videos and schedule their "release" and the date shown on the video is the release date not the upload date. To do this, you need to enable "Monetization" in case it isn't set. Once I did this, Google set the flag to monetize all of my videos. I then needed to un-monetize all of the videos except two. The two that don't have any music. I haven't read the fine print on the Google Royalty Free audio files but I suspect that they are for non-monetized videos.

You will now be able to select "Scheduled" as one of the options in addition to "Public" and "Private" when uploading a video. You can then select a date and time for your video to be released on the unsuspecting public. This feature allowed me to upload all of the videos before the trip. Actually, I used the wi-fi in the Anchorage airport to upload the last couple of videos. The "Share" button isn't active until it's been released. At that point, I just needed to log into the PBC site and put in a link to submit the video. Easy to do when just using the cellular network but expensive to do while on the ship.

After getting back home in the beginning of January, I leave for Barrow after only one day at home. So here is PBC video #23. The next video won't be recorded until sometime around mid-January.

Saturday evening update - We went out to dinner at Max's Restaurant in Glendale for Filipino food. It was an incredible dinner with way too much food. It was an opportunity to meet Bridget's oldest son's girlfriend's family. Quite an interesting family history. And for treating us to an incredible dinner.

Here are a couple of pictures of the desserts. The first is halo-halo. A blend of tropical fruit preserves, beans, and milk in shaved ice. Topped with a scoop of purple yam ice cream and rice flakes.

The second is Buko Pandan. Young coconut mixed with pandan leaf (screwpine) gelatin and tapioca in a fluffy cream sauce, with coconut ice cream and rice flakes. Both desserts are unlike anything I've had before and very tasty.

The specialty of the restaurant was fried chicken. And each "piece" of chicken was half of a chicken. They also had Filipino spaghetti which resembled Japanese spaghetti. I'e. pasta with a sauce of ketchup and topped with hot dogs. The difference here is that the ketchup had bananas as one of the primary ingredients.

After dinner, we walked through the Glendale Galleria shopping mall into the Americana shopping mall. One of the oddities was the cupcake atm. Essentially, a cupcake vending machine delivering designer cupcakes packaged one to a box for about $5 each.

Here is the "Cupcake ATM" but as you can see in the lower section, there wasn't much inventory there. But then again, the shop was still open for business. The malls were really crowded with boxing day sales and it was a zoo.

This is the Americana Mall at about 10pm. Stores were still open and doing a booming business. It seemed strange to see all the people dressed for cold weather (stocking hats, gloves, scarfs, down jackets, etc.) even though the temperature was in the low 60s.

We then headed back to Culver City back to where we are staying this time around. A wonderful home of a friend of my cousin. Since she is out of town, she made her home available to them for any visiting relatives. Thank you Carolyn even though we've never met you!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday ended up being the "day at sea" since the weather was very windy. But it also made for a rough day on the boat especially if you have a tendency to get motion sickness. The schedule originally had us in Catalina Island for the day but since tenders are used to transfer passengers from the boat to the shore. It was deemed too rough for the transfers.

Wednesday wasn't much better and after going in circles all day and night, the ship decided to skip Catalina headed south for Ensenada. We arrived around 3pm (only 6 hours later). And, like most on the ship, we took the opportunity to wander around a bit on solid ground.

Ensenada seems really run down and it was more than a little depressing. Every 10' or so someone is waving something in your face to buy. Not pleasant. Once we got to the tourist shopping district, there were shops with familiar names such as Starbucks and MacDonalds. After all, you wouldn't expect the tourists to try something new and different.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, we went on a tour of the wine producing areas outside of Ensenada. I figured that I would want to get out of town for a while and this seemed perfect. It turns out that due to our delay of a day, we were the only ones on the tour. Talk about personalized service! Instead of riding a bus we took a Ford Expedition. We visited two wineries on the trip the first was a smaller winery that also produced olive oil and plain and spicy jams. The guide did a fantastic job.

The second on the tour was the largest winery in Mexico and produces about 90% of all the wine in Mexico. They provided samples of not just the wine but also cheese, olives and olive oil. I didn't realize that Mexico produced any olive oil as what I see in the store is typically from the Mediterranean region. In addition to these barrels, they used smaller oak and some unusual oval barrels for their premium wines.

At the second winery, this cat was being friendly and is just slowly flowing off of the bench where it was enjoying the sun. It was a very friendly cat and came by to visit while we waited for the winery tour to start.

Anyway, that was the cruise. Just four short days. Too much good food. A little bit of motion sickness. A little bit of wine tasting. And a little bit of limoncello (to get the tiny cup, right?) We are now back on our way to Long Beach harbor and disembark before 8:00am tomorrow. We will be in L.A. For a few more days before heading to Chicago. Brrrr! Getting cold just thinking about it.…

Since we're by definition at or above sea level, this (circled in red) iPhone GPS elevation shouldn't bother me?


Monday, December 21, 2015


Today, we turned the rental car back in at the Long Beach Airport and we picked up a shuttle to the cruise dock. After going through security and more than a few lines, we are now on board. This is just a shot of the atrium in the center of the ship. The cabin has an ocean view (big surprise) and is more than the little port hole we had on the last cruise.

The cruise ship port is right next to the Queen Mary which is permanently docked here and I believe that it is some sort of tourist attraction. The Spruce Goose used to be in a hanger here as well and I think that is the terminal that we went through to board the ship. The cruise is a short 4-day trip with stops at Avalon and Ensenada. So, I don't plan on posting anything until we get back on Christmas Day.

So until then, Merry Christmas!

One last PBC video that I posted this morning. It is the continuation of a morning ride after I noticed that it was feeling a bit cold:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Museum Visits (Still in LA)

Today started out with public transportation (subway) to the Museum of Natural History. Since we arrived about 30 minutes early, we spent the time wandering through the rose gardens. I took quite a few photos and really liked the water droplets on the roses.

I thought that this was the entrance to the museum but it was actually around to the left which faced the L.A. Colosseum. The rose gardens were huge. On my left is the science museum that we visited about 18 months ago when we saw the space shuttle.

Another rose photo. Most of these photos were taken with the DSLR. It seems that trips are about the only time I use the camera. I like being able to have a little more control of the exposure, focus, aperture, iso, etc. It gives me something to do. I wish that the sensor had better low light performance. It may be time for another camera.

We went on a tour of the mummies special exhibit but not too many photos as it was dark and photography was controlled. This is from the dinosaur exhibit.

Afterwards, we took the train and bus to the La Brea Tar Pits. In all the time that I used to live in the L.A. area, I don't remember ever going into the tar pit exhibits. I remember stopping there once and my dad deciding that there wasn't anything worth seeing. This was a long time ago. Something like the early '60s. There was an observation pit and that's where this photo was taken. I was trying to get a shot of the asphalt bubble.

There was also a museum with some good displays of some of the things found in the area. Such as this mammoth. The height is around 12' high.

We then went back to the Farmers Market/The Grove for dinner. We went to an upscale burger place called Unami. Very delicious offerings such as my truffle beet salad. One of the tastiest salads I've had in a long time.

We tried walking around the shopping area a bit but there were helicopters buzzing over the mall and a lot of police running around. There was a peaceful protest going on and it looked like the authorities were over reacting. Time to leave...
We took the bus back to Farifax and Wilshire and I remembered that I had never taken a photo of the outside of the Peterson Auto museum. Nice looking flames around the building. This metal sculpture is set off of the building and looks pretty impressive. From here, we caught another bus back to the hotel.

And here are the next couple of PBC videos.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Peterson Automotive Museum

Here is a sample of the photos that I took today at the Peterson Auto Museum on Wilshire in downtown Los Angeles. They pointed out that all of the vehicles are operational.

Classic Indian

An aerodynamic scooter.

Rig for camera work in the film industry.

Batman and Robins sidecar rig.

Note that the sidecar can be driven off on its own.

BMW Airhead

V8 powered bike

Part of the scooter display

Turn signals

Can you guess what this is? There is one on each side of the car.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Korean Food and Downtown Disney

On Friday morning, I headed out of the hotel to look for some interesting breakfast. The only actual breakfast food I found was Denny's and they had a huge line running down the sidewalk. Too many people and it didn't qualify as interesting.

After a bit of wandering, I went into BCD Tofu House on Wilshire. No breakfast but definitely interesting food. I ordered the small mackerel and tofu-vegetable stew (medium hot). It came with all of the side dishes above including the small fried fish. I think I would've been happy with just that. If you look carefully, you'll notice the raw egg on the left. The soup came bubbling hot meaning it was still rapidly boiling at the table. I cracked the egg into the stew and it cooked and cooled the broth down enough to try. It was really good.

They also brought a sizzling hot stone bowl of rice and it developed a nice crispy crust when served. Very tasty.

This is the mackerel and it was deep fried and really good. Most of the bones were nice and crunchy as was the skin. It was as good as expected. I passed on most of the pickled jalapeno peppers and the hot pickled garlic. but the fried tofu, kimchi and pickles went really well with the hot rice.
After breakfast, we picked up David and Alexa and headed for Downtown Disney. I have been here a couple of years ago and had written this post. This is a Lego creation outside of the Lego store as is the dragon in the next picture. We spent a couple of hours walking around and I managed to not purchase a single thing except lunch for the group. I'd call that a win.

It was another beautiful day with clear blue skies and very pleasant temperatures of ~70°F. What we did find surprising is how early sunset was. Something like 4:30 or so. The building is a Build-A-Bear store. We didn't even go in there but I liked the contrast with the sky.

After lunch, we finished off Downtown Disney at the huge Disney store. I really like this sculpture above the entrance and had taken a similar picture two years ago.

We then headed for Dave's Island Instruments, a steel drum/ukulele shop in Lakewood where Bridget picked up a ukulele after playing around with the hand pans that he makes. It was a slow slog back to the hotel in downtown L.A. with way too much traffic for me. The 20 mile drive took over an hour.

We had a late dinner at a Korean BBQ place called Ahgassi Gopchang. It was right next to the hotel and had a lot of positive reviews on Yelp!. The food was fantastic and your meal gets cooked in the middle of the table. And just like this morning, there was a great selection of side dishes.

And no PBC videos for a change...

Looks Kinda Grim

From the smoggy sunset you can tell that I'm still in Los Angeles. In fact, We're staying dnowntown in an area known as Koreatown for the next several days. Even when I lived in Southern California, I rarely ventured into the downtown area and wasn't even aware of Koreatown. This evening we had dinner at the food court in the FIGat7th shopping mall. I had the "Happy Hour Special" which was a cold, spicy soba (buckwheat noodles) with a side of tempura. Very tasty though they put the tempura in a to-go container so it started to get soggy just on the couple minute walk to a table.

After dinner, Bridget went to see the new Star Wars movie with her son and his girlfriend at the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood. A ritzy place with assigned seating and was complete with prop and costume displays (so I'm told). I'll just wait until it comes out on "video". I've been up since 5 am and didn't feel like staying up all night just to see a movie. I'm starting to sound like a cranky old guy.

PBC #17 is just another ride starting from Ballaine Lake. This has been one of my normal starting spots for the videos since, being a lake, it is in a low spot and probably a bit colder. The pre-dawn skies are wonderful and this could be called a typical Fairbanks winter day.

PBC #18 was a search around the perimeter of town for the temperatures being reported on the weather apps. I never did find it though maybe I wasn't paying attention.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Non-Snowy Post

Some non-Alaskan pictures way above freezing photos for those who don't care for snow covered trees (Conchscooter). After a 22 hour trip, mostly sitting in airports, I arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport. The flight arrived at 5:30am, 45 minutes ahead of schedule, and we had to sit on the ramp for almost 25 minutes while a parking space was cleared for the Alaska Airlines jet. After picking up my checked bag, I waited for the shuttle bus to the Long Beach Airport to pick up my rental car.

There were several reasons for renting a car in Long Beach but the major one was roughly ¼ of cost! Until Bridget arrives, my cousin and his family are letting me stay with them. This morning we walked around a park. The weather was wonderfully warm at 61°F with a lot of other walkers. We then went to a noodle shop for lunch and they had pork/squid/egg okinomiyaki. Since I never had any except my own attempts, this was a great opportunity to try it. It was pretty tasty and the shaved bonito and Japanese mayo was a great addition. I need to try and find some of that mayo.

We then went to the Huntington Beach pier and walked down to the end. More spectacular weather and not too many people out and about. This is right at the beginning of the pier looking out towards Ruby's, a diner on the end. A few folks were fishing but I didn't see any fish. There were a handful of folks surfing. According to the lifegaurd station on the pier, the water temperature was a chilly 59°F. A little too cold to be in the water in my humble opinion.

A pelican was surveying the water looking for dinner but I didn't see him budge from his perch. Looking north from the pier, we could see the Long Beach port and Palos Verdes peninsula. Looking west is Catalina Island barely visible in the HDR picture below.

Just for a little bit of moto content, I saw this older Goldwing rig parked at the beach. It looks like a really wide car maybe for a couple of people.

Here are also the next two PBC videos both recorded on an evening ride to the Airhead "meeting" at the Silver Gulch microbrewery last week. It was a nice ride out and back though it was a little slippery on the way back.