Travel Log, early 2020

I am on the road, and naturally, I have an observation to make about the Hotel I am staying in. I am in Barcelona, Spain and attending Cisco Live (actually, I am doing a whole lotta booth duty). But this isn’t about the show, the city or anything else.

It is about the Hotel.

Nothing wrong with the Renaissance Fira. It is funky architecture, and some oddities of the layout, but the bed is comfortable, the room is quiet, and I have pillows that “work” (n.b.: As I get older, the firmness and ‘give’ of the pillow is crucial to my ability to sleep.)

But what bothers me is their policies around environmental concerns. For at least 15 years now, it is common for hotels world-wide to have a hander in the bathroom asking guests to help them conserve water by not having to wash their towels daily. Since I regularly use the same towel at home for a week before it becomes ‘funky’ this is a no brainer. The tag hangar just says to hang the towel up to indicate that you will use it again.

Of course, many hotels don’t have good places to hang towels, but I can get creative.

None of this bothers me. What does though is that when I go through the effort to hang the towel, and then housekeeping takes it and replaces it ANYWAY with new towels.

Is that environmental policy hanger just for looks? Does it make the hotel feel ‘woke’?

Ok, I am off my soap box.

Mexican Vacation – Drive down the Coast

Recap: We finally arrived in San Felipe late on Tuesday. After a long and exhausting day, Wednesday was a “chill” day, with a simple drive around the El Dorado Ranch development, and a quick, light lunch by the Cabana. Then we swung by the championship golf course, and met one of the Crawford’s friends, El Vira.

A lazy afternoon (some windows were being delivered and installed for the enclosed patio), and a delightful dinner of gulf shrimp and brisket for impromptu surf ‘n turf.

Thursday, we were far more adventurous. The goal was to see the sights, to take in lunch at a little fishing enclave, Papa Fernandez. Continue reading →

Mexican Vacation – The Trip Down

We have had a long open invitation to visit one of my wife’s friends who retired to San Felipe, Baja California, but the timing never worked out, so we begged off. But with recent life changes, we had no excuse remaining, so last week we visited the Crawford’s in San Felipe.

The trip down was uneventful. We split the drive into two days, stopping in Palm Desert as a good stopping point. The second day, we needed to knock around until our hosts picked us up in El Centro, so we went down by the Salton Sea. I had never been there (or if I had, I was too young to remember) but had flown over it about a million times. Continue reading →

The Joy of Travel

For the last week, I have been pretty much offline, enjoying the sun, surf, and unlimited outdoor enjoyment offered by San Felipe, Mexico. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and we are back over the border, and headed for home.

Instead of our usual slog through the LA Basin, we grabbed 215 to 15 to 395 to 58 and came in to Bakersfield via Victor Valley and the Tehachapi Pass. A much more pleasant drive, albeit longer.

Our plan was to crash for the night at the truck area at the junction of I5 and 58. A known distance from home, it makes for an easy 3 hour drive back home.

There are several hotels there (well, now I think there are only 2) and we really didn’t care for extravagant, just cheap and clean. Continue reading →

San Diego trip – Coda

It was a wonderful weekend in San Diego, and apart from some serious rain Sunday morning, the weather was exemplary. About what you expect from the historical experience.

We trekked down to visit my folks for my dad’s 83rd birthday celebration. My sister and myself were the family, as alas, our brother was tied up and unable to make the journey from Seattle.

Tom Ham's LighthouseAs I documented, Saturday was jam packed with excitement, and capped off with a fabulous meal at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse restaurant, with probably the best view of the San Diego Skyline.

Their menu was also exquisite, with my pan seared yellowtail being absolutely delightful.

Sunday we awoke to some rain. Not torrential, but enough to make us think of indoor activities for the day.

We started with an unusual breakfast. My sister recommended this small 24 hour Mexican restaurant. It was clearly housed in an old Taco Bell establishment, and my Machaca breakfast burrito was quite good (and way over-filling).

Since Trader Joe’s opened at 8:00 AM, we took a quick trip there to pick up munchies for the return trip on Monday. It was the one time I had no trouble finding parking at a TJ’s store. Sunday at 8:00 AM.

Our plans were to meet at the folks at 10:00 AM, and our likely destination was the Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla.

When we got to the aquarium, we were met with the not unexpected crowds. The main parking lot was overflowing, so we drove down the hill to an overflow lot, and hiked the 1/2 mile or so to the aquarium entrance.

The aquarium wasn’t huge, like the fabulous one in Monterey Bay, but it was interesting. It is laid out in two main exhibits, one a traditional tank environment, and one that is more kid friendly, with activities, and interactive displays.

loggerhead sea turtleThe highlights were the kelp bed tank, a huge display of the ecosystem around the floating kelp, the loggerhead sea turtle that they rescued from a power station intake in New Jersey, who was too damaged to release back into the wild, and was approaching the age when its gender would become evident (apparently, around the age of 35 years, the length of the tail increases for male loggerheads).

There were other notable sights to see, including the view from the back patio where the touching ponds were, and a fascinating display of sea horses and sea dragons.

After the aquarium, we needed a lunch place, so Siri directed us to a nearby sandwich shop where we found parking (I was stunned that we easily grabbed two spots in the small parking lot), and were treated to a quite delicious sandwich.

From there, we returned to our hotel to rest, with the plan to meet up again around 5 for a quiet evening watching a classic movie, and scarfing on Pizza.

The Pizza came from Oggi’s Sports and Brewhouse, and was more than adequate. We then settled down to watch “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

I have seen the movie many times, and while it is at a deep level a very (very) disturbing story, it also is quite enjoyable, and was even spoofed by American Dad in an episode. One time, I need to count how much alcohol is consumed during the film. My liver hurts everytime just watching this movie.

Around 10:00 PM, the evening wrapped up, and we said our goodbyes, knowing that we had a long drive home the following day.

On Monday, we departed at 7:30, and as we approached Temecula, we caught some heavy rain. Fortunately, the traffic wasn’t too bad, and we made it through without incident.

Finally, we got home at 4:30PM, picked up Garrett from the sitter, and the pack is complete again.

San Diego Diary – day 1

Marina behind the Bay Club

After a sluggish start, we decided that we would go to Torrey Pines Preserve. Alas, when we got there, the parking situation was, uh, abysmal, so we regrouped and headed to the Carlsbad Flower Fields.

The Flower Fields were touted in a blog on Sandiego.org, so we asked Siri to get us there. Fortunately, it was only 20 minutes from Del Mar when we passed the Torrey Pines crowds.

Karen had been there before, but not for a long time. In the interim, it had become quite well developed, with a lot of support structure, and sprouted an Outlet mall next door. It is hard to fault the description from the Blog post so I will quote it here: Continue reading →

San Diego Travel Log – 1

As a follow on from my post on visiting Napa to buy some of the yummy V Sattui Madeira for my dad’s birthday party this weekend, we are now in San Diego.

Friday – Travel Day

As airfares were ridiculously expensive, even a month in advance, we decided to drive. Save the airfare, and the cost of a rental car. Big win.

Of course, that meant driving the 9 hours (with pit stops) from San Jose to San Diego. Mostly smooth, we were against the commute on the way out of Silicon Valley, and the trip down I5 was boring. Continue reading →

Three Generations

I recently renewed my passport. As I didn’t need it immediately, this time I chose to go though the proper process (fill out the form, mail it in with a check, and wait for the State Department to return it).

It was to expire on March 19, 2016, so it was indeed due. Of course, whenever I open my passport, I think of all the trips, both business and pleasure, I have taken over the last 20 years. Perhaps, I will catalog all my entry/exit stamps, but for now, they will remain memories.

As the last time I needed my passport in a hurry (and I had an employer who preferred we use the expediter service), I was somewhat insulated from the process of renewing. Fill out the form, pay the service, and 3 days later I had my passport in my hot little hands. This time, I got the passport, and the passport card (recommended by our hosts we will be staying with in Mexico, as it greatly reduces the time at the border), and paid the expedite fee, as I don’t like being separated from my passport, even when I am not traveling. Also, as 2006, when I last renewed, was when they began requiring passports for trips to Mexico and Canada, there was a crush of applications at that time that led to long delays in processing, and now it is 10 years later, and the threat of the RealID rules are causing another goldrush on the passport services, I felt it prudent to expedite.

Less than 2 weeks later, I got my new passport book, and a few days after that my passport card. But I was bummed that I didn’t get my old passport back. I, like many, enjoy thumbing through the visa pages, remembering my trips.

Yesterday, in an non-descript envelope, my canceled passport was returned. Yay!

Travel Log – Stardate 21.378 – Jet Lag

Having been on an international travel hiatus, I had almost forgotten about the joys of Jet Lag. Boy, what a laugh riot.

Crossing many timezones wreaks havoc on the circadian clock. On both ends. There is the initial adjustment when you start the trip, and then the hammer falling when you return. Couple that with the amount of time in the new timezone, and you can add several days of misery to a trip.

When I was younger, I used to try to tough it out. Shorter trips (like 3 days in the timezone) can pretty much be ignored. Effectively don’t change your sleeping habits, and while it will still be a little screwed up, you can bounce back quickly.

However, as I try to make the most of each trip, I will often fly the weekend before, spend a whole 5 working days in region, and then fly back the following Saturday. That is about worst case, as unless you are ironman, you will need to shift your sleeping schedule, lest you fall asleep during a meeting ;-).

Still, an uncomfortable day or two when you return home and you are close to being back to normal.

Where you are totally screwed? When you spend two full weeks on the road. That is impossible to gut out, and not fully adjust to the local time. You will need 3-4 days to recover at the return.

How to combat?

Advice from hundreds of trips, not always effective, I will still share:

  • Sleep aids – Melatonin is often recommended. I use it, and it does help start a sleep cycle, but unlike many claims, it isn’t a miracle drug for jet lag. I also use Benadryl. The combination of those two helps initiate a sleep cycle when you aren’t ready to sleep (useful on the return). I personally avoid prescription strength sleep aids, but it might help you.
  • Sleep on the return flight – If at all possible, try to get some quality sleep on the flight. I know it isn’t easy, and as a guy who never gets to fly business class, it can be difficult, but even a few hours of sleep in the cabin can help.
  • Get back on the “end time” your your sleep first – It is difficult to fall asleep when your lagged, so you will find yourself staying up long past your normal sleep start time. Unavoidable. However, you should set your alarm, and get up at the regular time immediately. As difficult as this sounds (and oh boy, it is difficult), you need train your body to get back into a rhythm.
  • Avoid alcohol – When I whinge about jetlag, someone always recommends a couple of adult beverages. While it may work for some people, I find that the dehydrating factor of alcohol makes it difficult for me to get a sound sleep. It is also why I don’t drink on airplanes either.
  • Exercise – do your normal penance. Bike, run, walk, gym, whatever. Go out and burn some calories. Not sure what the physiological effects are, but I do know it helps. Of course when you come back to 3 days chocked full of meetings, well I feel for you.

This last trip, the lag was awful. First night, I stayed up until almost 9:00PM, then BAM, woke up at 12:45AM and never went back to sleep. Second night, could NOT get to sleep at all. Was up well past 1:00AM before dozing, and up again at 5:30AM.

The third night was better, but still not right.

Japan Strikes Back – Hirohito’s Revenge

Yesterday I flew back from a 10 day business trip to Japan. It was a huge success, with great results. However the end of the trip was brutal.

After two long days of training at our distributor, their senior manager took us out for dinner. A small sushi place, walking distance from their office, and Tokyo station.

The food was excellent, fresh, and delightful. As a long time traveler to Japan, I have always enjoyed the sushi and sashimi there.

As a westerner, I even enjoy the “odder” items, much to the delight of my hosts. This place started with an appetizer of tuna cheeks (with the eyeball).  Not a shock to me, I dove in and ate it.

We also had uni (sea urchin roe). This is probably where I got into trouble. I had 4 pieces of it. It tasted OK, but one of the pieces was a little “off“. But hey, when in Rome (or Tokyo)…

Bad idea.

Starting about midnight, the vomiting began. I hit the bottom, drank water, lost it, a few times.

About 9:00AM I tried to head out to eat some breakfast.

Bad idea. Had to run back to my room for another round.

Finally around noon, just before the shuttle bus to the airport came, I began to feel human again. I even ate a light meal on the plane ride home.

I am feeling like dogshit today. Back in the office though.