Archive for the ‘General Resources’ Category

Golden Gate Bridge view July 2012

We are planning a long weekend in San Francisco in July. We’re meeting another couple their, friends from way back, so planning will include agreeing on activities we all will enjoy. I have several bucket list things I want to do in San Francisco, but I know some of them are not going to work, but I hope we can check at least one thing off my list.

There are several sources of information when you search Google for things to do in San Francisco. Many of them either sell tours, or offer links to tours. I’m not big on guided tours. There are times when they are useful, especially when visiting historical places, but I don’t generally enjoy being led around places… I would rather do some planning and explore on my own.

We spent a couple of days in San Francisco in July 2012 on our Honeymoon following our wedding and stay in Big Sur. That trip was a road trip and we are planning to drive again, but we are not planning to drive from San Diego to Big Sur again this time. We’re taking a week off, but plan to spend half the time in San Francisco and the other half in Lake Tahoe, so no time for a long coastal drive on this trip.

We’ve arranged for a condo for the four days we’ll be staying in the city through Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). We’ve used this website for several trips and have always been very satisfied with where we stay. Be sure to look at the reviews before renting. I avoid places that have no reviews even if the pictures look terrific. It is too easy to make a place look good in pictures even if it has issues. In 2012 we stayed in a Hotel in the Market area, this time we will be a little closer to the center of things in Nob Hill.

We also want to do new things and things we didn’t have time for in 2012. So here’s the list so far:

1. Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had considered taking our bikes with us, but we are taking our car instead of the Jeep, so we will rent bikes if we do this one. There are several places to rent bikes, and we’ll be watching the local living daily email deal sites for bargains. When you are planning a trip it is a good idea to sign up, several months in advance, for emails for the places you are visiting from sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Goldstar. this one activity gives you a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, get unique views as you cross the bridge, visit Sausalito for lunch, and the ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco should give us plenty of great views of the city from San Francisco Bay.

2. Visit Alcatraz Island. The site of the famous prison is now a National Park. Anytime I visit a National park I start with a visit to the appropriate National Park website to the Plan Your Visit section. In this case it helped me avoid a lot of tour companies selling this tour in combination with other tours to get more money. The National Park website pointed me to the official tour company so I can get my tickets directly and skip any additional fees.

View of Alcatraz July 2012

3. Wine tasting day trip! We considered spending an overnight in wine country. This would likely be a good idea when sampling wines from multiple vineyards! But this part of the trip is short so we will make it a day trip and someone (likely me) will volunteer to be the DD. There are almost too many choices. I could do an entire post researching and planning even just a good day trip to this area. Since this will be my first visit to this area I think I’ll suggest the easy way out. We can start at Sonoma Plaza (about an hour drive from San Francisco), do some wine tastings there and then visit a couple wineries in the hills nearby. If we take a few bottles (or cases) home I’ll still get to have the full effect, just delayed a couple of hours!

4. Hike in one or more of the National Parks and Recreation areas in and around San Francisco.

  • Muir Woods. This park has a wide variety of trails from paved to challenging. This would be a great place to hang out for a longer visit on a future camping trip!
  • Marin Headlands area of the Golden Gate National Recreation area – In addition to the National Parks site the Golden Gate National Parks ConservancyGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy organization site is a good information resource for this park. This is my top choice for a hike with a huge payoff – views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco.
  • Mount Diablo is on my bucket list, but it is most likely for another less urban focused trip!

5. Take a scenic drive. The closest drive would be the Reyes National Seashore drive, but it is mostly through rolling hills but the first section to Stinson Beach looks amazing. If we do this one it would make sense to do it at the same time as a visit to the Marin Headlands area and to plan to do another couple few short hikes to lookouts like the Muir Beach Lookout and maybe a section of the coastal trail. The much longer drive to Santa Cruz would be gorgeous, but would take us away from San Francisco for too long and this is a visit to San Francisco…

6. See the 16th Avenue Steps. If we get ambitious maybe even walk up them! If we get really ambitious maybe continue up the steps to see the view from Grand View Park! Looks like a nice climb and I’m a sucker for a grand view!

7. Eat some terrific food from Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and maybe some of my favorite Italian dishes in North Beach. We can also take time to explore these areas before and after we eat!

8. Cable Car Museum. Of course we’ll ride one, but this might be a cool place to check out too.

9. Explore the Nob Hill area on foot. Since we are staying in this area it makes sense to check it out. The area has Grace Cathedral, Union Square, several historic hotels, and lots of high-end shopping…

10. Visit the James Lick Observatory. This is a bit geeky and probably for a future trip, but wanted to capture the thought here, because I would love to check this place out. Might be good in combination with a visit to one of our newest national parks Pinnacles National Park.

View of St Peters and Pauls Church from Lombard Street July 2012

San Francisco is one of the great urban areas in California. It has a unique location, a unique history, and a unique population. We are looking forward to spending time exploring the city and finding even more things we have to do next time.

The more I research things to do, the more I wish we were spending more than 4 days in San Francisco. I’m sure we will be very busy, have a great time, and that we’ll be ready for at least one day of rest and relaxation when we head over to Lake Tahoe for the rest of the trip. However, there will be tons to do there too, not to mention Hot August Nights going on in nearby Reno while we are there!

Posts for the trip:

A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill)

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iGoogle

iGoogle has been my homepage since 2005! It’s been a terrific 8 years together. I don’t even remember what my homepage was before iGoogle… probably the minimal Google search page (how boring). I’ve grown used to the never-ending distraction of news, email, calendar, and other reminders (like what deals I have to use before they expire), and frankly I have not found a replacement yet. This morning the reminder that Google was “killing” my old friend iGoogle in 13 days popped up and I felt a little sad, a little panicked, and a bit ticked off!

I’ve read Google’s help topic, What’s happening to iGoogle?, more than once and I still don’t get it. Maybe that’s because I’m thinking of this more from what I want as a user of Google’s products than from their grand strategic point of view as a company that makes lots of money. Of course software companies that lose sight of “what the customer wants” have paid a price in the past. Think of RIM and the Blackberry, Microsoft and… well you can “take your pick” of several failures. Do I expect Google to lose customers or money based on this decision? Not really, they have the best search engine in the world and as far as I have seen no one else is close. That is their “bread and butter” product like Windows is for Microsoft. You can afford to be wrong about a lot of things when you have money pouring in from a cash cow like that. Google’s suggestion is to use Chrome, you’ll love it! This is a good strategic move for them. This could lead to a bigger share of the browser market for them, resulting in increased interest in creating 3rd party apps for Chrome, which also run on their Chrome operating system, and more recently on your Windows desktop.

So what does Google really want? Of course they want to take Microsoft’s cash cow from them. Microsoft has been trying to take the search cash cow from Google for years, so this is only fair right? But as a very satisfied iGoogle user I really don’t care! I just want my iGoogle. So Microsoft, please create iBing, if you could also create an iBing Chrome app, and an iBing Android app I would appreciate it. If you put Bing search on it I might even use it – occasionally! But if you put Google search on it… I’ll be telling all my friends – “iGoogle is dead. Long live iBing”!

Honestly, the one iGoogle alternative I haven’t looked at yet are other portals like Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN. Yahoo offers a configurable home page – myYahoo and so does Microsoft at myMSN but they revolve around Yahoos and MSN’s offerings and I’ve grown attached to my Google things. However, these sites are options and if you want something like iGoogle from a company you trust, they are better options than Google is offer at this point. I have looked at some of the alternatives put forth by other companies including a Chrome app called iChrome – it is not even close.

NetVibes

There are some sites like ProtoPage and igHome that really try to be just like iGoogle. I haven’t tried them yet, but I’ll say that one issue I would have with them is trusting them with all my choices and my personal info. That may seem funny when I trust Google with the same info, but it is an issue for me. I guess it is because, besides the news the only things I had on iGoogle were Google widgets and Google already had that info. I’ve been using NetVibes for a couple of months, just to have a place to “see multiple news feeds” and it works but it is not the same as iGoogle. NetVibes does have Google search though.

I will likely search for options with Chrome and try to get used to Google’s icons to a single page interface for a bit. If that works Google gets what it wants! If it doesn’t work, I will try to get used to myMSN or myYahoo and I’ll just set the browsers search engine to Google. In that case Google still doesn’t lose… the cash cow keeps mooing and that at least has to be reassuring to them.

Update 22 Oct 2013: I’m trying out My Yahoo. It actually has instructions to help you export your iGoogle settings and import them into My Yahoo. I was able to do it, but the calendar events are showing up on the wrong day. I’m sure this is due to a time zone preference setting, but I’ve corrected it everywhere I can find it and the issue is persisting. My Yahoo can be set up to show gmail and Google Calendar events though. So far it is very similar!

Room Panorama San Francisco
For the last part of our honeymoon we decided to spend a little time in the big city – San Francisco! We had reservations for a high room in the Union Square area with a balcony and views of the city.

We had spent the past 3 days in Big Sur (2-5 July). We got married in Pacific Grove on the 3rd of July and spent the rest of the day hanging out in Pebble Beach and Carmel. On the 4th of July we went on a couple hikes in Big Sur, and drove California Highway 1 on the spectacular Big Sur coast. But now we were ready for a change of pace.

View south from Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point LighthouseWe left Big Sur early on 5 July so that we could arrive early and have at least an extra afternoon in San Francisco. We did stay along the coast on the way and stopped to check out the Pigeon Point lighthouse about 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay. The lighthouse is in decaying condition and has cables that hold it upright. However, the views of lighthouse and the surrounding area are terrific. We decided to stop in downtown Half Moon Bay for lunch and had a couple of terrific sandwiches at the Garden Deli Cafe in the San Benito House historic inn. There is a nice little garden area beside the hotel, so we took a seat at a table and enjoyed our lunch. Half Moon Bay looks like a great place to spend a couple of days.

The drive, with traffic, was a little longer than we expected and we arrived around mid-afternoon. After getting settled in we headed out to check on bike rental places by Fisherman’s Wharf. A search of “Things to do in San Francisco blogs” had produced several blogs that highly recommended biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the ferry back from Sausalito. After a quick check with the Hotel Concierge to get directions to the nearest public transportation and the Ferry Schedule, we headed out with at least a little hope of taking a bike ride.

F-Line Trolley to CastroUnfortunately a bike ride wasn’t going to happen on this trip. We were already running late, then the San Francisco public transit let us down. From our location in Union Square the transit ticket booth recommended a F-Line Trolley car as the fastest way to Fisherman’s Wharf. They were probably right on most days, but on this day it would be over 30 minutes before the first overcrowded, barely able to get on, not even going all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf trolley car would arrive.

Another F-Line Trolley to Castro in San Francisco

Trolleys heading in the other direction toward Castro passed us every 5-6 minutes. The line of people waiting to get on grew, and we were concerned we would not even get a spot on the next car. Some how we squeezed on, but it was tight, uncomfortable, the ride was jerky, and the conductor kept talking and laughing at his own jokes. The speakers were not very good so I could only understand one word out of five. It may not sound like it but I’m glad we decided to ride on the trolley and I’ll do it again. There was an interesting plaque on the inside wall of the car. It gave a history of the style of car we were riding on. It also said that the trolley car we rode in was painted with a San Diego exterior paint design. I had seen a San Francisco Railway Museum on the attractions list but it hadn’t interested me. After seeing the variety of paint designs, and reading some of the history of trolley cars, I will add this and the Cable Car Museum to a list of things to do next time.
Trolley to Pier 39 with San Diego Paint design

Even before we arrived at the bike rental stand we had decided it would be more of a fact finding quest. The guy at the desk agreed, it was too late to head toward Sausalito with plans to ride the ferry back. We’ll add riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to the bucket list and make it happen next time. Luckily we had plenty of other things on our list. We decided to get a bite to eat near Fisherman’s Wharf and then see some of the other sights on our list.
Cable car on Hyde Street San FranciscoThe start of the Powell-Hyde cable car line was very close to Fisherman’s Wharf on Hyde Street and we knew the other end of the route was near our hotel, so we decided to try that out next. It was a very busy/crowded day in San Francisco and the lines for the cable car were extremely long. Waiting an hour or more to get on the cable car didn’t sound good so we decided to move to the next thing on the list, the “crooked” section of Lombard Street. This is where our luck finally started to change, of course first we had to hike up a very steep Hyde Street toward Russian Hill. It is only 5 blocks from the start of the cable car line to Lombard Street along Hyde Street, but is is one of the steepest 5 blocks you’ll find anywhere. We watched a couple of completely full cable cars pass us by on the way up. If the lines were not so long, the Cable car would definitely be the way to get up this hill. When we got to the top we decided to walk down Lombard Street. The views of Lombard Street from the top are not as impressive/classic as the ones from below, so back down we went.
Cars coming down Lombard Street San Francisco

Riding a San Francisco Cable Car up Hyde StreetWe had not given up on riding a cable car so we walked back up Lombard Street to the cable car stop. There were only a couple people waiting there and we figured that there would be at least a few people getting off each cable car to check out Lombard Street. We were able to get a couple spots on the next cable car that came along. I definitely recommend the top of Lombard Street as a good place to catch the cable car. The cable cars are crowded, so stand on the running board instead of sitting if you can. If you sit someone can and probably will stand in front of you which will spoil the view of the city. Keep your hands in the car, there will be temptations to point, but the cars from the other direction come up fast and close! My wife pointed at a bad time and only a quick warning from the Gripman on our car saved her from getting hurt. He followed up with a dirty look but we were grateful for the timely reminder/warning.

Once we got back to the Hotel we decided to drive out to the Golden Gate Bridge, and cross over to Sausalito for dinner. The sun was setting by the time we got to the bridge and I was worried that we wouldn’t get good color in the pictures because of the lighting. My new camera’s low light capability came through again and we got a few really nice pictures of the bridge and of us.

Eric and Jenny Rial at the Golden Gate Bridge near sunset

Sausalito is a cute little town at the first exit on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It has a lot of options for shopping and food, but it also closes down early. We were down to one option by the time we got there, but enjoyed the meal and walking along the bay. I took an interesting picture of the moon rising above San Francisco after dinner before we headed back for the night.

Moon rising over San Francisco from Sausalito

On the 6th of July we had a sailing tour of San Francisco Bay planned for the early afternoon. This gave us time to sleep in… it was a honeymoon after all. We decided to drive to The Presidio, and after wandering around for a while we parked by Crissy Field. My favorite picture from the Crissy Field area was at the Lita Vietor View point. Lita Vietor was the wife of John Vietor, an heir to the Jell-O fortune and founder of the San Diego Magazine. The Golden Gate Bridge is “in the clouds”, but I love this picture.

Lita Vietor View

We left our car parked at Crissy Field and took public transportation back to Pier 39 for our Sailing tour. We sailed with the San Francisco Sailing Company and thanks to Groupon we got a great deal. The Captain and crew were friendly and it was the most fun that we had during our time in San Francisco. I sail small boats in San Diego harbor, but this was a whole different thing. The Captain said it best… “an average day in San Francisco Bay would be considered a raging storm in San Diego.” I don’t think he was exaggerating. Although it was over 70 on the pier, the jackets were essential on the sail boat. Although my camera’s battery died early into the trip I got some great shots on the way out past Alcatraz.

Sailing tour view of Alcatraz

After the sailing trip it was time to make our way back to the car, by way of “that cool dome that was in Bicentennial Man, you know the park where Sean Connery meets his daughter in The Rock”. Well I didn’t really know, but my wife did and this place was at the top of her list. I was clueless, I had seen both movies, but didn’t remember seeing this place. She was right it is a very cool place, the Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition. The paths around the reflecting pool are a great place for a walk. The park is well laid out to have a picnic with a veiw, and the dome in the center of the structure defies description. I’ll just say that the dome is so much bigger than it looks in pictures. The scale of this place is over the top huge, built to impress. It succeeded!

Palace of Fine Art San Francisco

We had dinner that evening with family at the beach. It was a relaxed place and we had a great time. Travel and bucket list stuff is good fun, but family and friends are what life is all about. The next morning we got up and headed back home on Interstate 5, a long hot drive, but it was the fastest route. A few things were different when we got back… we had a lot of great memories, several hundred pictures to sort through, and we were married!

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from San Francisco:

Sitting back enjoying the ride on San Francisco Bay

Sitting back enjoying the ride on San Francisco Bay

Sailing toward the Golden Gate Bridge

Sailing toward the Golden Gate Bridge

Jenny and Eric Rial in front of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Jenny and Eric Rial in front of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The largest Bougainvillea I have ever seen

The largest Bougainvillea I have ever seen – about half way down Lombard Street

Finally, not the “best” picture, but I love it:

Jenny came out clear but everything else is a blur

Jenny came out clear but everything else is a blur

If you get a chance check out the two earlier posts for this trip:

Post 1: Road Trip – San Diego to Big Sur (July 2012)

Post 2: Big Sur and Carmel California – Wedding, Hiking, Dining, and Driving (July 2-5 2012)

Sailing in San Diego Harbor Jan 2011
There are several places in San Diego to take sailing lessons, or to rent small to large boats. I’m going to assume you want to do this since you are reading this post, so I won’t sell you on the beauty, peacefulness, and fun of sailing in San Diego harbor. It was always something that I had wanted to try, and I was not disappointed. I’m a retired Marine so I have access to lessons and boats on base which can save a lot of money. But you can also save money by looking for deals or by joining a sailing meetup group.

Sailing in Jan 2011 with my cousin and my youngest sonI took a basic sailing course at Fiddlers Cove Marina in 2007. The two-day course led to a certification for small sail boats. Since then I have been able to rent sail boats for very low fees on the two Navy Marinas in San Diego. I don’t go out as often as I would like to, but a couple of times a year I get the urge and head down to the harbor. At Fiddlers Cove I usually rent a 16 foot Catalina, these are small but very stable boats and are fun for sailing with 2-3 people. At the U.S. Navy Sailing Center Point Loma (April 2016 – which is now closed) I usually rent a 23 foot boat which has room for more people but it needs a lot more wind and is not as fun to sail, unless the wind is really strong.

If you can’t use the Navy Base Marinas, there are several other choices in San Diego to get your basic sailing certification. I’m listing the schools that seem to have reasonable prices. If you know of others, feel free to describe them in a comment.

Enjoying a July day sailing in San DiegoMarina Sailing – On Harbor Island – ASA Certification
Harbor Sail Boats – Harbor Island – ASA Certification
Mission Bay Aquatic Center – Mission Bay – USSAILING Certifications

Regardless of your level of experience level Meetup.com is another way to experience beginning to advanced sailing in San Diego. I haven’t tried this yet, so I won’t make any recommendations. Just search for sailing on the site and read the group’s description. I’ve had very good experiences hiking with Meetup groups in San Diego, so I would expect sailing would be great too.

National Garden DC Mall
This is related to my other posts for the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon:
Marine Corps Marathon 2013 – Training Plan and Registering
Marine Corps Marathon (2013 – Very Early Planning)

Washington Monument blocks the sunPicking out enough unique music to play during a marathon seems like a big task, but it really won’t be that many songs. Somewhere between 60 and 100 songs depending on the length of the songs and how fast I run! I have an 8GB IPOD nano, so I’ll have plenty of storage space. The battery is supposed to last 24 hours. I will be very disappointed if it takes anywhere near 24 hours to finish the marathon. My favorite workout music is hard rock but my workouts are usually an hour long. I may not want to listen to AC/DC and Aerosmith for 4-5 hours straight! So the task is to pick the best 4-5 hours of running music I have and put it in the right order to make my ears happy for the whole 26.2 miles.

Starting with some Aerosmith is a must. I want some inspiration to get started at a good pace. Seven or eight good hard rock songs should get me off the line and moving. Then maybe some Dave Matthews to put a smile on my face and keep the legs moving. Once the going gets tough some Ray Charles and some other good blues should remind me how tough things can really get and keep me going. Around 20 miles I think some fun mellow music may take my mind off the desire to STOP! Maybe some Ben Taylor, James Taylor, or Jack Johnson. Songs like The Frozen Man, or Banana Pancakes should cheer me up, take my mind off the pain and keep me moving! I have plenty of training ahead to try out some of this music and see how it makes me feel during longer runs.

I’m definitely open to suggestions. I’ve gotten on suggestion already, Boston’s song Smokin, that will make the initial playlist. Post a comment if you know of some good running music, or any good music that can inspire, distract, or just put a smile on my face. Whatever it takes to check running the Marine Corps Marathon off my Bucket List.

Near the Crystal City entrance to the Mount Vernon Trail
Note: I happen to be in DC this week so I went on a couple runs and got some nice pictures that I decided to share in this post.

See the completed playlist on my post: 26.2 Miles of Music – Playlist

I’ve rarely used eBay.com in the past. I have used their site Half.com to buy and sell text books. I was using this site before eBay bought it in 2000, and have kept using it even after the buy out. eBay considered dropping the Half.com brand altogether which would have been a shame because I like the way it works (no bidding); however, they decided to keep the name and the way it works. The “Buy it now” concept is similar, but I like the way you see a long list of books to choose from after putting in the ISBN. I’ve never sold anything on eBay, but I have bought a specific and obsolete software product for my work. I also have friends who had remodeled their kitchen a few years back and bought all of their high-end appliances brand new on eBay for half price or less. Recently I was looking for a couple of additional handsets for a phone system that I bought at Radio Shack a couple of years ago. When I found that they were no longer available at Radio Shack, I Googled the model and found a few systems available on Ebay. I ended up buying a set of 3 additional phone handsets for my phone system; but more about that later.

After that experience I started to think about how I could best use eBay to get better deals on the things I planned to buy. There are definitely things that are better to look for on eBay than on Craigslist. When you have very specific needs and the item can be shipped, eBay is a better place to find what your looking for than Craigslist. I have been looking for a used tow bar for my Jeep Liberty for several months on Craigslist, but the only one I saw listed seemed pretty pricey for a used part. A quick search on eBay found several options for new parts that even with shipping were only slightly higher. For now I mostly want the tow bar to put a bike rack on, so I don’t need a wire harness. Without the wire harness I can buy a new tow bar for about 20 dollars more than the used one on Craigslist. I have also been looking for a beverage cooler to buy as a house-warming gift for my son’s new home. The previous owners took the one from under the bar. I’ve found a much larger selection than available in Home Depot, or any other brick and mortar store, and for a new one from eBay, even with shipping I’ll pay about half the price.

VO5 Extreme Style partial listingIf you are looking for a specific obsolete item, eBay is much better than Craigslist. In fact so far that is all I have bought on eBay. I started using a specific hair product, VO5 Extreme Style Reworkable putty, a few years ago because it worked exactly like the one I had used for several years, but was 1/3 the price. I like it because in the morning, wherever I am, I can just throw some water on my head, run my fingers through my hair, and it looks as good as the day before. Almost as soon as I switched I noticed that it was getting harder to find. VO5 had quit making it. I’ve been able to buy it from online drugstores for the past 2 years, but when I looked a couple months ago there was almost none available, what was available had Spanish labeling, and price had gone way up. While working on this post I decided to check on eBay. There were several suppliers, the price was what I had come to expect, and I also notice that a new VO5 product was showing up in the international sellers listings. So there may be hope that I can keep using this product after all current supply is gone from the warehouses!

Some more about buying things on eBay:

If the item is not a “Buy it Now” type item, have a bidding strategy. If the item is not a popular item, or if there are lots of similar items available with no initial bids, don’t bid above the minimum required bid. For the phone system I bought there was no “Buy it Now price”, and the same seller had three identical systems, so I decided to make the minimum bid on one of the systems with no set maximum bid above my initial bid. A couple of hours later someone bid 5.24 on the same system even though there were 3 other systems available with a 4.99 minimum bid and no initial bids. The systems were identical. I immediately assumed that the seller or an associate of his made the second bid to see if I had an automatic maximum bid. To avoid paying more than the lowest price possible I stopped bidding on the first system and bid on one of the other two. This time there was no second bid. It was actually fun “winning” the auction and completing the purchase.

Be sure to look at total price when searching for items. If it doesn’t say “Free Shipping” on the listing, it won’t be free. In my searches for a tow bar I found a used tow bar for about half the price of the new ones. It was in a pretty beat up state, but it’s a tow bar! The big problem was the $75.00 shipping fee! With that type of shipping cost a used, beat up tow bar actually would have cost more than a new one.

I haven’t bid on an item that is low availability and sought after. I imagine there are tips to doing that to, but that type of purchase, at least up until now in my life, has not appealed to me.

I see eBay as a way to find good deals on specific items that I’m looking for. I won’t only look there, and I probably won’t even look there first because it’s nice to now what the other options are first, but I will look there when making a major purchase for something specific or something that in no longer available in stores or from the manufacturer.

We’re leaving for Kauai in 12 days!  The planning for this trip was fun, and the whole trip is costing me less than 400 dollars for airfare, 7 nights lodging (on the beach), and a full size rental car!  But I don’t want to have to spoil a great evening on the lanai watching the sunset just to get a good Mai Tai.  So it’s time to practice a few different tropical drink recipes and find a good one.  I’ll make a quick trip to BevMo after the gym tonight and try out an interesting recipe I found on allrecipes.com there are several others claiming to be the best on the original at drinkmixers.com. I’m going to try out the recipe from allrecipes first, it is rated 4+ stars, plenty of good reviews, it looks interesting and sounds good.

The allrecipes.com Mai Tai I tried was good, like most tropical drinks, it was sweet and you could get feeling pretty good without realizing it.  It called for pineapple juice, was very sweet, and possibly a little weak tasting even though it had two shots of rum in a small tumbler.  Some of the comments I saw on the drinkmixer.com recipe definitely put down making a Mai Tai with any recipe including pineapple juice.  So I’m going to give one of the purported “original” Mai Tai recipes to compare the taste, so Trader Vic, the inventor of the Mai Tai doesn’t haunt me while I’m feeling no pain but drinking too fruity, too sweet, concoctions that should not bear the name Mai Tai!  The only juice in a Mai Tai should be lime juice, who knew…

Update:  Could not find a ready source for a Martinique rum, and the point of this is to be able to make these Mai Tai recipes on Kauai, so I decided to look for other rum choices.  I found a great page/post that investigates that very topic:  http://www.amountainofcrushedice.com/?p=1692

Update: On Kauai had to pick a light and a dark rum, and couldn’t find a Jamaican or Martinique rum, no Orgeat syrup, and no orange curacao so standard substitutions led back to Mai Tai like drinks and then we just started improvising tropical drinks. For more info on our trip see Kauai – Part 1

Horsethief Canyon Hike with Meetup Group

Horsethief Canyon Hike with Meetup Group

If Facebook is for staying connected to old friends then Meetup is for meeting new friends, enjoying activities you love, and getting off the computer chair and out of the house.  If you have an interest, you can find a local group that is all about it, or you can start one of your own.  You have no more excuses about not having anyone to go out with, go to a movie with, go on a hike with, or just about anything else you can think of.  It’s easy to join a group.  It’s easy to RSVP.  Then all you do is show up and enjoy the event.

This is my favorite site for getting out of the house and meeting people. As of today there are: 1,665 Meetup Groups near San Diego, CA, which is where I live. I don’t think I will have time to check them all out. There are coed groups, women only groups, men only groups, groups with a few members, and groups with thousands of members. This is not a dating site, but people do meet people and end up dating. Whatever your intention you should add Meetup to your list of resources.