Labor Day Weekend 2015 at Disney: Day 2

There aren’t any early Extra Magic Hours on Sunday so we slept in a bit before taking the bus from the Wilderness Lodge over to Hollywood Studios this morning. We didn’t make it in time, unfortunately, for our Tower of Terror FastPass+ reservation, but did see the Frozen Summer Fun parade (complete with “snow”) as we were entering the park.

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Windows 10

It’s Windows 10 release day! The free upgrade for qualified devices is now available to the general public.

I’ve been using Microsoft’s latest desktop OS since the first Technical Preview was released for Windows Insiders last October, mainly on my old original Surface Pro 1 just to get a jump on learning the new software and seeing how it progressed. For the past two weeks I’ve been running the final builds on my new main home PC and the transition from Windows 7 has been pretty smooth. It’s definitely grown on me since that first tech preview.

We won’t be upgrading our Windows 7/8.1 PCs at work to Windows 10 anytime soon, but now that it’s officially released I’m sure we’ll start seeing new PCs with it pre-installed showing up soon. Luckily, so far it seems like Windows 10 will be an easy transition. Time, as always, will tell.

Intel NUCs

Since getting my standing desk at home last last year I’ve been thinking about getting a new, smaller PC that would fit on top of my desk instead of under it (like my old Dell Inspiron from 2008), eliminating cable clutter.  With the upcoming release of Windows 10 I had been thinking more about this and also replacing my Aspire Revo Linux server with a newer box. The nettop had the benefit of being small and quiet, although slightly underpowered, which made it a decent “server” to hide away in my networking closet. Using size, features, and cost as my guides, I decided to go with Intel NUCs for both replacements.

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West Coast Road Trip: Day 10

Our West Coast vacation is over.

This morning my sister drove us to Sea-Tac on her way to work so we could catch our flight back to Tampa. It was a little weird tagging our own luggage for Alaska Airlines but again our TSA PreCheck status made the overall process of getting to our gate relatively smooth. The flight was fine too … until we were waiting for our luggage. One of our suitcases came out right away, but there was no sign of the second. And of course, that one had our wine in it that we got four days ago. There were a lot of people also missing their bags but for some reason Alaska Airlines knew our bag was missing. Why they couldn’t have had someone at bag claim to tell us this I don’t know and the baggage agent was unfriendly and unhelpful. All he could tell us was our bag would be delivered to our house and gave us a $20 voucher. Ouch. And as of tonight, our bag hasn’t arrived.

At any rate, other than that slight downer at the end, our West Coast road trip vacation was a success! We had a great time, saw family and friends, did a ton of stuff, saw amazing sights, and visited 5 states (Nevada, Arizona (crossed the border at the Hoover Dam), California, Oregon, and Washington) over the past 10 days. Even so, it’s good to be home (even if I have to go back to work tomorrow).

West Coast Road Trip: Day 9

It’s our last day in Seattle … hard to believe we fly back east tomorrow.

What better way to kick off the last day of our west coast road trip than with brunch at Sky City in the iconic Space Needle? The rotating restaurant gave us a fantastic 360-degree view of Seattle, although Mount Rainier was hiding in the haze, barely visible on the horizon.

After brunch my sister drove us out to Everett, WA to see the Boeing Factory. The tour (which has extremely tight security: no bags, cameras, phones, etc. allowed!) takes you through the largest building in the world by volume where they manufacture and assemble the 747, 767, 777, and 787 (Dreamliner) airplanes. It was Sunday, so the factory wasn’t in operation but it was still damn impressive. We even caught sight of a Dreamlifter parked on the field (a plane to carry plane fuselage parts).

After the tour we drove back to my sister’s apartment in Seattle and started packing up for our return home tomorrow. For dinner we drove out to Ballard and ate at Hi-Life, a cool restaurant inside an old firehouse. Walking back to the car we decided we wanted some ice cream and stumbled upon Full Tilt, an ice cream place with pinball and arcade games … perfect!

Early bedtime tonight … we have to get up early to get to the airport. :-(


West Coast Road Trip: Day 8

So far on this trip we’ve been tourists-for-a-day in LA and San Francisco. Now it’s time for Seattle and it’s the Fourth of July!

The morning started off with an early drive down to Pike Place Market so my wife could complete her pilgrimage to the first Starbucks. While at the market we picked up some fresh Rainier cherries for later, some hot and fresh mini doughnuts for breakfast, and showed my daughter the gum wall (eww). My sister then drove us out to Snoqualmie Falls to do a little hiking. Unfortunately the parks service had locked down the trail leading down to the base of the falls so we had to settle with walking along the river instead (still very scenic). We also drove up to the top to check out the view from there.

On the way back to my sister’s place she swung us past the Fremont Troll for a photo opp. After cleaning up at her apartment, we walked to Seattle Center and had lunch at the Armory so everyone could pick their own meal. Since it was July 4th, it was crowded like we expected but there was also a very large group of people who had just taken the oath of citizenship and were registering to vote (congratulations to them!). After lunch we went to the Chihuly Garden (amazing glass sculptures) and EMP Musem (Star Wars costumes, indie games, and Chuck Jones special exhibits).

We weren’t about to try and brave the crowds at Gas Works Park for the evening’s fireworks so instead we went grocery shopping and grilled dinner up on the roof of my sister’s apartment building (with sunset views of Elliott Bay and the Space Needle). We weren’t able to see the Lake Union fireworks from her roof, unfortunately (though we could obviously hear them) so we ended up watching on TV with the windows open.

Happy Independence Day!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 7

We made it to Seattle! The rental car has been returned after 7 days and over 1,940 miles driven. Our vacation isn’t quite over yet though.

We left Roseburg this morning and passed through Portland around lunchtime. “Lunch” turned out to be standing in line for Voodoo Doughnuts then it was back onto I-5. We made another off-highway side trip to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where the visitor’s center offered a great view of the volcano that tragically erupted 35 years ago (I was 8).

Arriving in Seattle, we returned the rental car that had served us so well for the past week and transferred to my sister’s car that she had left at the aiport when she flew to meet us in San Francisco four days ago. We dropped off all of our luggage at her apartment and then drove downtown to have dinner at Veggie Grill (my vegetarian daughter’s new favorite eatery). We walked around the South Lake Union area a bit but a lot of the waterfront was fenced off in preparations for tomorrow’s fireworks show. So we drove up to Kerry Park instead to get some sunset views of downtown and Mount Rainier instead.

West Coast Road Trip: Day 6

Today was our longest driving day: from American Canyon, CA to Roseburg, OR (almost 500 miles).

It started out with a beautiful scenic drive through wine country (and Petaluma, home of the TWiT podcasts I listen to) back to US-101. We also made a quick stop at the Benovia Winery for my sister and picked up some of their wines. We grabbed breakfast a bit further north at the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg and then it was back onto US-101 for the long trek north.

But wow, what a trek! Cell service may have been spotty (like, non-existent!), but the views were 100% incredible. Our first redwood experience was at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree (and yes, the CX5 barely fit, but it made it through). A few more miles north we diverted from “current” US-101 to take the Avenue of the Giants. Driving through those huge trees was an amazing experience and we had a picnic lunch in a quiet area in the Williams Grove area.

We continued on US-101 up to Crescent City and eventually hit the Pacific Ocean, cold, foggy, and windy. That didn’t stop my daughter from getting her feet wet in the ocean, though! We crossed the border into Oregon around 8:30pm (our first border crossing since Saturday) and spotted the somewhat confusing Sweet Cron signs. It was later than we expected but after a brief stop for a fast-food dinner we made it to our hotel in Roseburg.

Tomorrow is our last day of major driving! Seattle here we come!

West Coast Road Trip: Day 5

Today we were tourists in the City by the Bay, and we saw/did a lot!

Our morning started with a walk to Ghiradelli Square, which turned out to be mostly closed that early. There was heavy fog out on the bay and the breeze was brisk, another nice change from the high temperatures we had seen so far on the west coast. We had breakfast at Starbucks and then walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Based on a recommendation from our friend last night, we sought out the Musée Mécanique, an amazing antique arcade that has everything from coin operated puppets to classic video games like Pole Position. My sister, daugher, and I, re-enacted Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals on a classic domed table hockey pole game (and the “Blackhawks” scored at the buzzer to win).

We didn’t have the time to dedicate going to Alcatraz (and the tickets were sold out anyway) so next we walked to Pier 43 to take a bay cruise on the Red and White Fleet. The boat took us out on the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz Island, and back, with narration of the sights via a walkman-like device. Back at Pier 43, we walked across the street to Boudin’s and took the bakery tour, watching their famous sourdough bread get made. The restaurant itself was crowded so we walked down to Pier 49, got a glimpse of a single sea lion on the docks, and had lunch at the Boudin’s there.

Next we wanted to ride a cable car so we walked back to Hyde Street. The cars were stacked up and the line was loooong so we decided to try and walk up Hyde to Lombard instead. It was quite a workout but we made it and showed my daughter one of the most crooked streets in the country. We waited and took the Hyde/Lombard cable car line back down the hill (which was kinda like a roller coaster ride except your standing, crowded into a small space, just hanging onto a single handrail, and it costs $7/person).

Now it was time to drive around to the places outside of walking distance. We had already checked out of the hotel so we packed up the car and started driving. Our first stop was the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park, another famous view. We also drove past the Full House house for my sister. All of this driving reminded me of why I don’t like driving/parking on the hills of San Francisco! By now it was time to move on so we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and caught one last view of the city from Vista Point.

The traffic on US-101 and CA-37 to our next hotel in American Canyon was terrible and we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go gridlock for about 2 hours! We finally made it and after freshening up drove to downtown Napa for dinner at Kitchen Door in the Oxbow Public Market, which was excellent. On the way back to our hotel we snagged some ice cream at Baskin Robbins (hadn’t been to one in ages) and then it was time to turn in.

Our vacation is half over. Tomorrow is our longest driving day but it promises to be a scenic one!