Archive for the 'Trips' Category

Employees Must Pretend to Wash Hands

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

On our way back from Las Vegas we stopped in Barstow. Many places were closed because it’s Thanksgiving Day. We pulled into a gas station that looked like it was open and there were about 15 people milling about outside the restrooms (which were located on the side of the building). We decided that there had to be something better than that, so we drove to a Circle K down the road. There were only a few people at this gas station, so we stopped. I went inside to look for a pen light and a restroom. On the wall next to the restroom doors was a sign: “Closed for cleaning for 20 minutes. Sorry.” I saw a customer come out of the restroom while I was walking toward it, so I went inside.

It was immediately obvious that the sign outside the door had been there for a long time. I tried to hold my breath as I walked past the filthy sinks on the right and the two stalls in use on the left. As I rounded the turn I expected to find at least one urinal, but there was only a trash can where porcelain should have been mounted to the wall. I turned around as a man in a black leather jacket exited one of the stalls. I was not excited to be there.

Inside the stall I twisted the locking mechanism. As my fingers met the cold metal handle I had to remind myself that I would be able to wash my hands on my way out. There was used toilet paper on the floor surrounding the toilet. I’ve never been able to understand this. The toilet is right there, for the love of Pete! If anything it takes more effort to see the toilet and then make a decision not to throw the used toilet paper into it. Someone had also managed to miss slightly when they were sitting down and the remainder of this mistake was still on the back of the rim. The toilet seat was up, and I was glad that I didn’t have anything substantial I wanted to get rid of. When I was done, all I could think of was washing my hands and getting out of there.

At the sink I turned on the water and wet my hands as I looked around for the soap dispenser. It was on the wall between the two sinks. It was covered with dried streaks like someone had brushed their teeth and spit on the top of it and let the foamy toothpaste and spit run down the sides. I pulled the handle below the soap dispenser toward me. Nothing happened. I pulled again, and still nothing. So I started wiggling it back and forth more violently hoping to get a drop of the last bit of soap out. I resigned myself to pretending I was washing my hands, rubbing them together under the water for a while. I figured that was better than nothing. Then I looked for the paper towels. All I could find was a heated-air hand drier. I raised my foot above waist-level and lightly kicked the start button with the front of the sole of my shoe. It took two cycles to completely dry my hands. Then I waited for about 15 seconds for someone to come in the the restroom so I didn’t have to touch the door with my hand.

I decided to skip the hot dogs behind the cash register.

Ghirardelli Chocolate, The San Francisco Treat!

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

After the mud run we decided that we ought to take a trip out to San Francisco since I had never been there. Tommy and Elizabeth have become quite adept at touring the major spots in San Francisco since they’ve taken so many of their family and friends out there. The drive is not all that interesting. Much of the drive is waiting for your turn to fork over $3.00 for the privelege of driving over the bay bridge into the city. It seriously took an entire hour just to get to the toll booth. After that things moved rather well.

Confusingly deceptive San Francisco intersectionParking is horrendous and some of the streets are crazy with incomprehensible intersections. Once we parked we tried to figure out how much we would be charged by reading the ticket they gave us. The parking garage had all sorts of confusing pricing plans based on the time of day, the length of your stay, and whether or not you had eaten at any of their partner restaurants. Once we got out of the car, though things started to get interesting.

A man singing and playing the guitar at Pier 49There is no shortage of street performers in San Francisco. Some people were singing or break-dancing, and others were acting like robotic statues all painted up in silver or gold. Many of the performers looked like they were making about $100/hour. Maybe I just saw them at their best time of the day. In any case, it certainly appeared that one could make a living off of performing and relying on donations from passersby and onlookers. I didn’t take their picture because I assumed that they would expect money for capturing their poses.

AlcatrazWe didn’t go out to Alcatraz, but from the area around Pier 39 there is a pretty good view of it. Nearby there are seals that have some protected area where they sunbathe. A few of them were in what appeared to be a rather playful mood. I couldn’t tell if they were wrestling for fun or to actually hog certain areas and claim them as their own territory. The wind was so strong that the pelicans in the area were unable to always fly in the direction they desired. Many of them were not even flapping their wings and were just hovering in the air above our heads waiting for a break in the wind.

Nearer Fisherman’s Wharf there are about five different restaurants with street-vending open on the outside of their restaurants. They all sell about the same food, but they are fiercely competitive with one another often competing on one or two cents difference from their neighbors. Elizabeth was trying to find the cleanest looking setup while the pigeons, no longer afraid of humans, dive-bombed my head. I didn’t actually get hit by any of them, but they were not making me feel comfortable. Once Elizabeth and the rest of us agreed on where we should go to get ourselves some fish and chips we walked around to see their display cases. The cleanest one appeared to be selling minced fish shaped, breaded, and fried. It looked like it came out of a box and it wasn’t what we were after. We walked along and stopped at a moderately less clean-looking stand run by a group of Asians. They had the best looking food, so we decided to order from them instead. While we were waiting for our turn a man asked for a sample of their soup. The cook, who was very busy, took a plastic spoon and, without looking up, dipped it right in the large cooking vessel and handed it to the man who was very surprised and started telling his friends about it immediately.

Lombard Street: The least-straight street in the world.After we ate we got back in the car and headed over to Lombard Street, the windiest section of street in the world. There was a terribly long line of cars waiting on the incline leading up to the summit where the famous snake-like section begins. Tommy looked at the map and saw that there are three directions one could approach that particular intersection from, so he headed the direction that looked the least congested. When we got to the top and prepared to make a left on the street we were disappointed by a sign reading “No Left Turn.” No one was going, and Tommy was already sick of waiting, so he made a left anyway and we wound our way down to the bottom. We, the three passengers, were incredulous.

We visited the free sample-laden Ghirardelli Chocolate Company store. Tommy demonstrated that the people that hand out free samples either don’t care or don’t notice when the same person exits and reenters with an open palm. I think he got a total of four free samples of their dark chocolate filled with caramel while we were there. If it hadn’t been so crowded I would have enjoyed getting an ice cream sundae for dessert after our meal, but the Ghirardelli place was packed, so we headed out to our next stop: The Golden Gate Bridge.

Tommy enjoying taking pictures at the Golden Gate BridgeIt was overcast and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge was obscured by the low clouds. It was still an amazing sight. At a prime photo spot a large group of people of Indian descent was trying to get their picture taken together. Tommy negotiated a camera swap and he and Krissy took pictures with their cameras, then we switched. Tommy gave his camera to a man who appeared to be the Father or leader of the group. I gave my camera to a 16 year-old girl from the group. The Father went first. He took about 20 seconds to take the first shot. Then he spent another 20 seconds trying to figure out how to get the zoom to work on Tommy’s camera. Tommy helped him get it figured out. Then it took him another 30 seconds to finally take his second picture. When the girl with my camera’s turn came up she took the picture in about 2 seconds. The pictures on Tommy’s camera cut off Elizabeth’s chin. He had sacrificed us to frame the background perfectly. The picture taken with my camera came out almost perfect. We wanted a picture of our group, not the bridge. I guess he didn’t understand that the bridge was only there to incidentally show where we were at the time.

No Missiles Allowed.  It's only a misdemeanor though.We had a lot of time on our metered parking space so Tommy convinced us to walk across the bridge. I’m glad he did! It was amazing to feel the strong winds out there. Many people from all over the world were taking pictures as they walked across this California landmark. Tommy demonstrated that it took almost 30 seconds for spit to reach the water below. The wind was so strong that after you spit over the side and after it had fallen below the level of the bridge the wind would carry the spit far out away from you and you could watch it fall all the way to the water’s surface. Right after we both did this a few times I noticed a sign that said it was a misdemeanor to drop anything from the bridge. I assumed that included spit. Strangely, the sign specifically included missiles. I would have thought that dropping missiles from the Golden Gate Bridge would have carried felony charges, but what do I know. It was now getting late in the day, but there was one more spot we wanted to see.

The steps to Coit Tower must have been funded through donations.There is very little parking at the base of Coit Tower, so we parked a little way down the hill and walked up some stairs, the construction of which appeared to have been funded by donations. Tommy and Elizabeth had never been up to the top of Coit Tower. It’s not free, but Krissy and I wanted to go, so we took the four of us up to the elevator to the top. Although there are some amazing views up there, I was more fascinated by the international coinage that had been dropped through the edges of the windows and that had landed on the sills of each port hole. I also found a soccer field at one of the ports which seemed oddly out of place and somewhat suspicious. By the time we had seen all there was to see and had taken nearly a hundred pictures of Alcatraz trying to time it when the light from the lighthouse was facing us, it was starting to get dark.

I’m so glad that Tommy was driving because I was pretty tired. We had just driven for nine hours the previous day and were looking at a total of six for today. I don’t know why it is that sitting in a car makes you get tired when all you really have to do it not move much for hours on end, but it sure takes the energy out of me.

It was great to finally visit San Francisco even if it was for only a whirlwind tour all over the city. That’s one more place I can check off my list of places to visit!

Tommy, Elizabeth, Krissy, and Shawn at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Running Mad at the Mud Run

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Tommy and Elizabeth wilfully ran two laps around a mile-long obstacle course that included a mud pit through which the runners had to crawl on hands and knees. Krissy and I went along to watch and I waited along the sidelines to take pictures. I got quite a few good shots and they seemed to have had a lot of fun. They are trying to convince us that we should form a team and participate together next year. I’m leaning toward maybe having Krissy do it, but someone has to take the pictures. Right?

The Mud Run Before and After

The Road To Folsom Prison

Friday, August 25th, 2006

We traveled the eight-hour trek to Folsom, CA to visit with Tommy and Elizabeth. They live relatively close to Folsom Prison. We were exhausted when we arrived. We had planned on leaving at 2am, but we didn’t get to bed until after midnight. The alarm went off, and we just kept on sleeping. We ended up getting on the freeway at around 5:30am. We arrived in Folsom at around 2:30pm. We hit some unforeseen traffic around Sacramento.

When Tommy got home we decided to take a 5-minute walk to an area where you can see part of the prison.

Later we went to the Sacramento Temple Open House and afterwards went out to eat at In-N-Out Burger.

Folsom Prison Courtyard

Phireworks Photography

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Mesa Arizona has excellent fireworks shows. Thanks to some tips from Digital Photography School on taking pictures of fireworks I was able to get a lot of great shots of fireworks. I had to rely on a one-second photo timer to get shake-free shots. Despite this I was able to time most of the shots rather well. The shots range from 1.3″ to 2 seconds shutter speed.

Red White and Blue Firework

At The Wallgreens (GCTJ42)

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

Dawn was really excited and didn’t want to go home even though we had already found the caches that I had brought information on, so I fired up the search tool on the GPS and had it point us to the nearest cache. With no details, not even a name, I was surprized that we found this one as quickly as we did.

As with other caches we found today, this one’s logbook was damp, but still signable. I woundered what people thought as the four of us milled about the front of the Wallgreens for no apparent reason and then walked away without going inside.

The Cache and the Hounds (GCJCZE)

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

This was a fun cache that we could practically drive right up to. The ammo box was right in someone’s yard. As the name implies there were two dogs that came and barked at us quite a lot. Dawn said she wanted to hide a cache in her yard when she gets a house.

The cache owner came out and asked Christopher if we were geocaching. In the least enthusiastic voice he could muster, he told him we were.

Let Freedom RING (GCN6NQ)

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

We had some hours of daylight left after General Conference on Sunday. We statyed home to watch it because we didn’t have tickets for any of the Sunday sessions. Dawn wanted to see what this geocaching thing was all about, so off we went!

This was the first cache I was able to take my Aunt Dawn and my mom on. This one was hidden well and was a lot of fun for them to discover. I guess I hadn’t talked to them much about stealth around muggles because even though there were people criscrossing the area Dawn got really excited and was making all kinds of noise. In the excitement of it all people were staring at us, but none of them seemed very curious as to what we were doing.

I explained the importance of stealth, and we were able to proceed further without incident. Dawn took some ugly buttons that she had with these clouds and a rainbow. There were pretty big for buttons and we could only fit one in the cache. I guess one is enough.

Temple Square Virtual Cache Tour (GCHZZ1)

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

This was the last cache of the morning that we were able to find. Well, since it was a virtual cache there was no physical box to find, but it was still fun. I’m confused as to how there could be a travel bug on this cache since it’s a virtual cache, but that doesn’t matter.

Running away from the Bagpipe Man

This cache consists of fifteen questions about temple square that you can find out if you walk around to the various buildings, statues, and monuments. Christopher and I had a lot of fun walking around Temple Square finding all of these. I overheard a conversation between a Sister and two men visiting from Germany. I was tempted to join in, but thought better of it.

It was on this tour that I came across the statue of Joseph and Emma Smith. Someone had put a bouquet of fresh flowers is Joseph’s hand as if he were giving them to Emma. I don’t know if this is something that people always do every day or if it was just for this occasion. Geocaching takes you places you wouldn’t go on your own, and I wouldn’t have seen this if I hadn’t been geocaching.

Joseph and Emma Smith Statue

Salt Lake City Travel Bug Hotel (GCQF8F)

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

This one was an unusual cache to say the least. Christopher was getting thirsty already from hiking all around Temple Square. This was only our second cache of the morning, but I had forgotten the batteries on for my camera and was looking for a store that was open at 8:30am in the malls south of Temple Square. Well, I didn’t find any, and when Christopher saw that the description of this cache said there was free ice water, we just had to go here next.

This cache is placed in the Salt Lake City tourism office. The cache is out in the open with a lock on it. It has a description of what geocaching is and why the box is there. In order to open it you have to solve a little puzzle given in the description of the cache. Christopher got his ice water, and I got a few travel bugs. I took a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a matchbox car called bluebird. Chrstopher said that the model of the car is Bluebird, so I guess that makes sense, even though the car itself is red. The car wanted to go to Japan, so I thought I would bring it to San Diego and see if I could help it along. The next day while traveling around the city I saw banners for a Japanese Culture Festival in Salt Lake at the end of April, so I am having Christopher take it back for me. The Ninja Turtle, on the other hand, is going to end up right near my apartment in San Elijo Hills. I left the Insanity and travel bug and the LLOT Selective Service geocoin.

There was a guy that worked at the tourism office who came over and talked to us for a bit about the cache. He said they get about 12 groups per month coming in looking for the cache.

Christopher took some silver earrings with some Navajo artwork on them to give to Dawn, and I put in the Yankee Stadium keychain from Heber’s Heavenly Hideout. There is a gift shop integrated into the travel office and I was able to get some overpriced batteries for use in my camera.

Christopher at the Salt Lake Tourist Center