September 2018
  • Day13

    Muir Woods

    September 27, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Today we have a small adventure at the Muir Wood National Monument. This park is a heaven for the tallest trees in the world, the redwoods. These guys can grow up to 112 meters high and 7 meters wide at their base and the trees can live up to 2000 years. We do a 5 km walk enjoying the view of these trees. Again it is impossible to get a photo the represents the colours and how big these trees really are. You will have to come and visit to see yourself :)

    After the park we drive to Muir beach to try and enjoy the ocean view. This morning is a challenge as there is quite a thick cloud cover. There is not much view so we decide to travel to higher grounds. We drive up top of Mt. Tamalpais. Halfway up to the top we pass the cloud cover whwre the sun is really hot. The difference in temperature is quite remarkable between under and over the cloud cover. At the top we get to see the cloud cover over the bay, it looks like a soft comfy duvet. Far far away we see only the top of a couple of high buildings in San Francisco. While we are up here we have a small lunch and head back down to our AirBnB.

    I have a quick nap and then we have supper at a nice Italian restaurant called Piatta. We get a nice table with a great view of the Bay. After dinner we packs our bags trying to ensure that everything fits for our trip back home.
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  • Day12

    Marin mountain biking

    September 26, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    I slept well and I am ready to go do some mountain biking 🚵‍♀️. We now need to go meet Marc who will have 2 Santa Cruz Hightower bikes ready for us. Marc sets us up and has a map ready for us to go do the Tamarancho loop. This loop is a 12.5 km loop with 44 switchbacks. Those switchbacks... Some of them are really technical or very tight. I was not able to do a good third of them. No worries, it's good practice. The trail is fun and not overly difficult. Some scary places where the track becomes very narrow with a big drop. The trick is not to look down as tempting as it may be. I was worried for Ben but he did it like a pro. At one of the intersections there is a picnic table so we stop for lunch. All we were missing were a couple of nice cold beers. I gotta remember to bring some along next time.

    After lunch we only have 1km left to get back to our starting point. We could have done the loop a second time in the other direction however my knee and hands are starting to feel it. It's not worth pushing too much and we had great fun with the first loop. We bring back the bikes and head back to our AirBnB.

    At the AirBnB we take a couple of beers and snacks and head off to a nearby park to relax and enjoy. We head to Cascade Park which is 10 minutes away, there is a small trek to do to get to a nice spot to have our drink. After the beer we decide to head over to McNears beach in San Rafael. This city is the next one north of Mill Valley. We find a couple of Adirondack chairs and chill there for a while. Upon our return to the car we notice a ticket in our windshield. When we initially arrived there was a booth but no one inside, we thought that it was late enough in the day and that you no longer had to pay. Surprise... We did. On our way out we see a guy that seems to work for the park. We ask for his help. He explains that when there is no one at the both we have to pay the machine. Both Ben and I missed the machine: it’s not obvious when you don't know it's there. The guy is kind to us and said that he would give us a chance and wave the ticket.

    For supper we head to an Indian restaurant called Bombay Grill. The place was empty. we were the only customers. The food was really good. I'm glad we gave the place a chance.
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  • Day11

    Sonoma

    September 25, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    We get up and have breakfast at a nearby cafe. Once done, I head over to pickup our rental car. I decide to take the subway instead of the bus. Wow... these subway cars are really fancy, they have nice comfy seats and lots more room than on the bus. That's probably why it's more expensive to take the Bart.

    Getting the rental was really quick. I have a blue Mitsubishi Outlander for this leg of the trip. It also has CarPlay :). I head back to the studio to pick Ben up. The itinerary does not look too complex. I was afraid that I might have to drive in some of the streets where it does not seem clear where cars are allowed to go with all the various public transportation there is in SF. Thankfully I ge an easy route.

    After getting the car we head to Golden Gate Bridge. There is a vista where we can stop and take photos. The fog is still present but we are able to get a couple of photos with an almost clear sky. We walk to the halfway point of the bridge to see the view and take more photos. We head back to the car and a cross. After taking photos on one side we have to take photos on the other 🙃.

    After all those photos we drive to Sonoma for some Vineyard visiting and wine tasting. We make our first stop at Schug and take the wine tasting. They specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They were very good 🍷.
    We then go visit a couple more, some have locely gardens and others great terrasse setups for wine tasting. I forgo the wine tasting at these other vineyards as the first one has already started making me feel the alcohol.

    There is a big difference in temperature between here and SF and it's only 30 minutes away. They say the hot air from this area sucks in the cold from the ocean to SF. The real warm summer days in SF are end of September and October.

    After visiting enough vineyards for the day we head to downtown Sonoma. There is a fair today and people are allowed to drink in the park in front of City Hall. We get there and the fair is getting setup. There will be live music. I however start feeling nauseated and am no longer interested in being in a large group of people. Maybe it's the heat... We decide to head back to our new AirBnB in Mills Valley. I need to rest as we have a full day of mountain biking tomorrow. I will bring lots of water and snacks to eat.

    That's all for today
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  • Day10

    Alcatraz aka The Rock

    September 24, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Another interesting adventure awaits us today. We are going to take a ferry and get a guided tour of Alcatraz. First super max prison and considered the most secure in USA. The ferry ride is nice, the weather again is great. On our way we have the opportunity to take great pictures of the city and attempt the Golden Gate bridge. Since we have been here the bridge has always been covered with fog. We will try again tomorrow on our way into Napa Valley to see if we can get a clear one.

    Once we arrive at Alcatraz we walk toward the cell block where we are offered a headset with a self guided tour recording. It's pretty well done, we get to hear stories and witness the remnants of the escape attempts made from The Rock. Alcatraz today is now a National Park. It has however started off as a lighthouse, a fortified military site, a military prison, a federal prison, a native American occupation and finally national historic landmark.

    After the tour is complete we take the ferry again, this time we head to Angel Island. This island is now a State Park. It started however for military use, then as a quarantine station and finally an immigration detention facility. To visit the island we ride on a tram where an audio track and a tour guide provide us with the history of the island.

    We take the ferry back to pier 33 riding in the waves. The wind is stronger than this morning and the boat is rocking more than what I expected. It's not bad to the point where we have to hold on for our lives but bad enough that you have to hold on all the time while walking around.

    Once we arrive back on land, Ben decides he would like to go visit Coit Tower. Getting to the tower is a bit of a challenge as you have to find the various steps and they are hidden in behind people's yards. People living here must see lots of strangers in their back yards. Once at the tower we have another great view of SF. We decide not to go up to the top of the tower as the landscape is foggy and we do not think there will be a better view up there. Plus you have to pay to take an elevator to the top. There are no stairs that we are allowed to take.

    From there we decide to visit the cable car museum. It is not far away. It's not a big museum bit it is interesting. All the cables that pull the 4 cable car lines start from this building. You see the motors and pulleys that run at a constant speed of 9.5 mph. I also learn that the brakes are made of pine and that they change them every 2 to 4 days. You do smell the wood burning while riding the cars.

    We start heading back to our studio but first make a stop for some local food. We have to try the burritos from Pancho Villa Taquerilla. We order in advance as the reviews indicate that there are usually lineups here. When we arrive are order is in the queue. We take a couple of the salsas to go and head back to the studio. I was not disappointed, the burrito was great. I was not able to finish it all.

    Another great day ended, tomorrow we head north.
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  • Day9

    Another fun day

    September 23, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    Today we have another fun filled adventure from the activities in out City Pass. We make a lunch and head over first to the Aquarium of the Bay. We decide to try the street cars for our commute. It's a nice ride, they seems new but have an old fashioned bubble look to them. We see many different models of these cars as we cross them from the other direction.

    The Aquarium of the Bay is nice, this place has an immersive tunnel aquarium. We are under the fish and see lots of interesting species. It is really hypnotizing to see a school of fish all around you move so quickly and also synchronized. There are also sharks in the tank, they are ones that are naturally present here in the bay. We see various types of jellyfish, again watching these creatures is hypnotic. It amazes me that these things are alive; they are translucide and seem to be a blob of floting gelatin.

    After the aquarium we head to Pier 39, this Pier is full of places to eat and shop. We head to the end of the Pier as there are sea lions that come to take a sun bath. The odour of these guys is pretty strong and not the most pleasant. Most sea lions are there resting and tanning, from time to time one of them gets a power trip and tries to knock everyone else off. It is quite the show to watch.

    From here we get our tickets on the Rocketboat, an "unforgettable ride" if the advertising is accurate. We will ride on a speedboat in the Bay with rock music blasting over the speakers... I have to say, it was pretty fun, we were able to sit right in front and enjoy the view. The captain like to make huge 360 turns and jump the waves, lots of fun for me. It was very windy in front, I was glad that we brought our wind breakers.

    After the amazing ride we go back to the Aquarium to see the feeding of the otters. These guys are so cute. Did you know that they have as many hairs in a square inch of their body as the total amount of hair on our heads. Quite the hairy little guys... They also need to eat 10% of their body weight every day.

    Exploratorium is next, this place is a museum where you get to touch everything and try everything. It is really well done, the instructions are clear on what to do and then they give an explanation of why or how it works. You can probably spend the whole day with kids or big kids in here. After my brain has been saturated with new science facts we take another street car back to Market and Powell street.

    From there we head over to the cable cars as we have to try it at least once while we are here. The line up is pretty long but hey, there is lots of entertainment while we wait. A couple of guys are playing street music keeping us happy. LPT. There is a trick to beat the lineup if you come to SF: go one or 2 stops further and you can get on if you don't mind standing up 😉. Doing this ride standing is lots of fun, you have to try it.

    The cable car brings us to fisherman's wharf. There are lots of restaurants here. We chose to visit Cioppino's. It's an Italian seafood place. Their bread is sooo good and we order roasted olives to go with it. It is really yummy, I need to try this at home. For dinner I have a fish and chip as that was what I was craving all day. I know, I can have this anywhere, I was not disappointed. It was really good and there was not too much batter on the fish.

    The cable car was lots of fun so we decide to take it again. Before hoping on we take a detour to go see Lombard street, this street is a popular one where everyone drives down on it. I am not sure why but it zig zags and has a view of the Bay. We gotta climb up this street to catch our cable car. Once we catch the cable car without having to do the long lineup, we head back downtown which will allow us to take the bus back to the loft. I was wondering why they call it a cable car as you do not see any cables. While waiting for our cable car I notice that there are two tracks and a third one in the middle. I look down the crack and see the cable. Ah ha, that's why they call it like that. There are three levers for the driver. One to brake, one that grips the cable and the third is for emergency braking. Now I get it 🙂.

    What a fun day. New memories to keep for sure.
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  • Day8

    Up and Down Town

    September 22, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today is a tourist day, we have our City Pass ready and head downtown. First we however stop at the Apple store to pickup my new phone. I was able to reserve one without having to wait in line. The process at the store was very quick. 📱

    Once everything is setup we head to the California Academy of Sciences which is California's oldest museum. This museum has interesting sections to see. We visit the rainforest, the various aquariums and enjoy a nice show at the planetarium.

    After filling our brain with interesting visuals we head over in the park and find something to fill our bellies. After lunch we decide to continue walking in the Golden Gate Park enjoying the various vegetation and activities people are doing on this lovely September day.

    We then head over to the Castro but first we walk through the Buena Vista Park which is a hill in the middle of the city and is the oldest city Park in San Francisco (1867). It's nice to walk in the various neighbourhoods and see the various style of homes. I do not know how they build all these houses with only a couple of inches separating each other.

    In the Castro area we see interesting individuals, some were naked wearing only a small piece covering their most private part. They get lots of looks which is probably what they were looking for. We also see some drag queens all pampered up. No one seems to be taking photos however. We continue walking on the streets in this area and find a nice wine bar where we have a bottle and some snacks to enjoy. Once we are done we walk back to our studio. Lots of hills here... Up and down everywhere we went. 25,000 steps today.
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  • Day7

    San Francisco here we come

    September 21, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    Woke up early today, I did not twist and turn all night 😁. We have breakfast, pack our gear and head to the Apple Store. I was curious to see if they had any new shiny iPhones. Unfortunately the store only had phones for people whom had reserved in advance. We try a mall 10 minutes away but the line up is longer than what I am ready to wait. Getting the phone here is cheaper with the cureen dollar and the tax rate at 8%. I will see if it is available in a couple days.

    While returning to the San Francisco Airport we stop by a couple of points of interest. We first stop at the NASA Ames research center. There is a free exhibit, we spend 20 minutes there as there is not a ton to see but hey its was free😉.

    We then stop at a pizzaria nearby for lunch. The pizza was great and the crust was excellent. We have some leftovers for snack later😋. After pizza we visit Google an go take photos with the various statues they created for e different versions of Android.

    We then go fill the car with gas and bring it back to the rental place. Our next challenge is to get to our AirBnB. We decide to take Uber instead of the subway as the price is not much higher and we have lots of bags to carry. Trying to find the place for our Uber to pick us up was a bit of a challenge. Depending on what Uber service you take there are different places that you have to go. Of course we pick the wrong places and have to keep changing locations. Finally we get to where we think is the spot and order our Uber. The driver tells he gas arrived but does not see us... again we missed something as we are on the wrong floor... We head up to the correct floir and finally get in our Uber. The driver is really kind, he gives us tips for our trip in SF.

    We arrive at our AirBnB, it's a nice place. We have a smal studio with a kitchenette for doing some simple cooking. We mainly wanted a mini fridge for getting some cold beer and some other foods 😉.

    After settling in we take the Muni (SF bus system) downtown to pick up a city pass that we purchased which will allow us free transportation for 3 days and give us access to 4 attractions. We are planning to make full use of the pass.

    We then decide to walk around town and go for a couple of drinks. On our way back we stop for food before heading back to our studio.

    We have heard the unfortunate news about the tornado that hit Gatineau today. We are sorry for all who are affected. We chat with our friends are relieved to hear that they are safe.
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  • Day6

    Travel to San Jose

    September 20, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    Today we get up, have breakfast and pack our gear. It's a 4 hour drive back to San Jose where I found a nice AirBnB right beside Apple Park. It is a coincidence I swear.

    Before heading out of Yosemite Valley we make one last sightseeing spot, the Bridalveil Falls. We get there and are greeted by a small bead of water falling from the sky. It is not the best time year to see the Falls, we are told that spring is the best. We take a couple photos and get back on the road.

    The drive back out of the valley is nice and the roads are A1. They seem to have all been redone recently. There are still some spots where we are asked to stop and stop as there are still some work to do to recover from the fires.

    We arrive at our AirBnB and are greted by Carolyn. She is an excellent host and is very well organized. The whole home is lovely. We take well deserved showers and head out for dinner. We have supper at a Austrian restaurant where I have delicious schnitzel.

    That's it for today, my knee is still resting. It is Thankfully getting better 🙂

    Also on a positive note, the weather seems to be sunny for the next 14 days.
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  • Day5

    Glacier Point

    September 19, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    I did not sleep very well last night. I turned from side to side feeling the pain in my knee every turn. Thankfully we can sleep in again today. Today is supposed to be a FOR REAL light day 🤨.

    Our original plan was to do a visit of the Yosemite Village and do a 4km loop however, after heading out my stomach feels upset again, I'm really feeling nauseated, it comes and goes quickly. It's not to the point of having to go to the restroom but I'm not feeling top shape.

    We look at our options and change our plans. We decide to drive up to Glacier Point. It is a scenic 1 hour drive. We could have also trekked to the top if I was in better shape but decided to do the easy way up. The drive to the top is very nice, you have to be careful and attentive as the road has many tight hairpin turns. I was afraid that it would worsen my predicament by thankfully I am not feeling worse. I feel bad about changing the plans Ben made for hiking it originally. I try to comfort myself by thinking that this situation is out of my control and that I should make the best of what I can do today.

    At the top we are welcomed by a majestic view of the valley with the Half Dome shining in the sunlight. Lots of pictures as usual. Interestingly there is a naturalisation ceremony taking place up here with the amazing view as a background. A nice place indeed for welcoming new US citizens.

    After absorbing the picturesque view we head back down to the valley. We first go to the market to get some Gravol and rub cream for my knee. We then take a stroll to the small Yosemite falls which are also dried up at this time of year. It's a nice flat walk, my knee is thanking me for my kindness today.

    About my knee...I can't go down any stairs, this is the first time this happens. Is this what happens when you get near 40? I hope it gets better as we are heading to San Francisco where there will be lots of walking up and down the hilly streets.

    On a good note my stomach finally feels better after supper. I won't question the placebo effect but I had a ginger ale just like my mom would give me as a kid when I felt sick. Thanks mom 👍

    My birthday cake was a dark chocolate mousse cake. Mmmmm, it was delicious.
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  • Day4

    Yosemite Falls?

    September 18, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Slept in this morning and got up around 7am. Today will be a light day so we take our time. We have breakfast and coffee. We fill water to the maximum in our packs; It's going to be a warm day and we will be in the sun for the whole ascent and most of the descent.

    Today we choose to go to Yosemite falls and then head to Yosmite point. Ben had originally planned this as a longer trek as there is another peak we could have also added to this day. We will have a 14km hike instead of another 24km like yesterday. Should be easier...

    We decide to take the SUV to Yosemite village and take the bus from there. It's free and the buses have hidden routes that cars cannot take. It would have been a long detour to the trailhead if we would not have taken the bus. We get a nice bus driver who provides information as we ride. At some point she talks about the Yosemite Falls and explains that the falls only flow from the melting snow from winter. This time of year it's dry and they call it the Yosemite Wall... Something that we did not see anywhere in looking at this trek. Oh well we had planned this trek, let's go up.

    The mornings are cold, it went down to about 7°C last night. You gotta wear layers but once you start the ascent it does not take long for the layers to come off. The elevation gain for this trail is about 1300m, it was a lot harder than what I would have thought. At the start of the trek my body was already aching from the trek we did just yesterday. I decide to go down a couple of gears and decide to climb using the first gear. Slow but strong. I am again thankful for poles as they really help with the way my body is reacting this morning. I tell myself that this is a short day and we should make it to the top quickly.

    The steep ascent is really tough and I feel noxious. I'm not sure if it's from the altitude our from something else. Also my sinuses were feeling pretty stuffed up, I wonder if I caught something. I hope I feel better soon. Going up on this trek is like climbing stairs non stop the whole way up. I keep telling myself to go slow but steady. We make it to the a couple nice views before we make it to the Yosemite point. At the top we see the distance that we had to make for our trek yesterday. It is quite the ride that we completed.

    At the top we, as usual, have a bite to eat. I am still feeling weird but I am still able to go. They say that over 2km in altitude is when you can start feeling the effects of less oxygen. Maybe this is also the reason I'm not feeling great.

    Going down we meet lots of people, more than yesterday. They also are more curious on how much longer it will take them to the top. We see lots of people who do not seem pepared for this hike. Some with only one small bottle of water, some in sandals. Sandals.... I'm wearing boots and so glad as you are walking on large rocks almost the whole trek. I guess some are okay with this type of shoe for hiking.

    As we head down my right knee start to hurt a lot. I am almost not able to bend it. I try different things to ease the pain but it's brutal going down. I find a hop movement that I make instead of bending the knee. This "lighter easier" trek is not as light as I thought. I tough it out and continue going down. We continually see people going up with nothing but a bottle in their hands. We tell them how long it will take to make it to the top and some take our advice seriously and decide not to go to the top. I finished my 3.25 litres on this trek, the sun was really cooking us.

    Finally we reach the bottom. My legs are happy. We take the bus back to the village. We stop at the store for a well deserved ice cream. As we go to pay for our stuff the employee tells us that the price is 47$. My mind does not see how our stuff could add up to this amount. We have a couple beers, Gatorade, the ice cream and nacho chips. I look at the bill and see a 23$ amount that I do not recognize. The guy somehow charged us for a T-shirt. We thankfully get a reimbursement and head out to enjoy our ice cream. End of trek. I really need to reajust the meaning of light and try to find something flat for tomorrow... I hope a good night of rest with help my knee.

    Today I learned that I do not need to tie my boots extremely tight. My internal logic told me that having the boots tight would minimize movement to reduce blisters. However I would always feel hot spots, feel uncomfortable due to the boots being so tight and still get blisters. To my great surprise it was better to use less force, my feet were fine for the whole trek and almos no hot spots 😎.
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