Mar 032011
 

It has been about two weeks since my last update post. Not because I’ve stopped work on the Saz, but because I went on my annual ski trip vacation to Lake Tahoe. The vacation was longer than previous years as I added a side excursion to Monterey to the end of the trip. I got back to LA last Wednesday and was back to working on the Saz by the weekend. Progress on it has been a little slow as I was still recovering from the week long vacation. This should be a fairly long post. The Saz progress will be at the end of the post so click here to skip down.

2011 Ski Trip

Brian and Ciprian flew out to LA from the east coast the Wednesday prior to the start of the trip. We left the house around 5 in the morning. The poor dogs remembering the annual tradition kept trying to hop into the car while we were packing. This is the first year I’ve left them at home; and the reason was because I rented a house that wasn’t “pet friendly” so at home they stayed this year. I’ll probably bring them up next year. The four of us, Brian, Ciprian, Yuki, and I left the house and headed up the 5 to pick up Brandon. Once we grabbed him, I messaged Angel who was picking up Dave and Erin. We set a meeting point near Magic Mountain. There was a starbucks and we hung out there for about 45 minutes until Angel’s group arrived. We gassed up and headed towards Sacramento.

The drive was pretty tame, with exception to our decent from the town of Lebec at the top of the grapevine. We were doing about 90 down off the peak when Brian spotted a highway patrol sitting and waiting for a target. I pumped the breaks but as soon as we passed, the patrol car pulled out of it’s spot and moved towards our caravan. It crept up behind me so I figured I was going to get tagged, but then it slowed and Angel passed, so knowing I was safe, I worried that now Angel was going to get tagged. The entire van was eerily silent as we watch the patrol car move behind the car following Angel’s CRV. Bingo, the patrol car’s lights go off and the car following Angel gets tagged. The tension inside the van is immediately released. I send a quick text over to Angel saying I needed to now change my pants. Angel pulls next to me, and both him and Dave give the sign for wiping sweat off their heads. This is the most excitement for the first part of our journey towards Tahoe; the drive to Sacramento.

Once passing the fork between heading towards San Francisco and Sacramento, the weather darkened and our drive was wet with rain. As we got closer to Sacramento, the weather got worse with heavy rain and strong winds. From this point, I’m fighting the aerodynamics of the van with each strong gust that buffets the vehicle. We get into Sacramento around noon and head straight toward Tower Cafe for lunch. Joe and his crew are set to meet up with us there, so while we wait for them to arrive, Angel stays in the car to get in a quick power nap.

Rain is coming down pretty hard and it’s cold. Everyone is bundled up. This will definitely be a different drive than the previous year.

After lunch, we head up to the Costco in Folsom to gathering our main supplies of food and alcohol for the trip. We picked up two slabs of pork chops, a huge slab of bone in ribeye, several bottles of alcohol, and random other supplies. We also picked up some 2 for 1 tickets to Kirkwood that, from our perspective of the trip, were only good on the following Friday before the holiday weekend. Joe and his crew met up with us there and we packed the cars in the drenching rain then went to get a quick gas fill before heading up the mountain.

Getting into Placerville, about the half way point between Sacramento and Tahoe, it was already snowing here. This isn’t a good sign. Traffic is slow due to the snow. I believe we chained up the car around only a few miles north of Placerville. This is definitely the lowest elevation for which I’ve ever had to put on chains. The chaining process was fairly quick, following the cue of another car, we pulled into the overpass area to shield us from the weather while we chained up. Angel hung out and in the middle of our chaining process, Joe’s camry pulls in and they get their chains on. With the chains on, we head back out into the heavy snow downpour.

The drive up was definitely a little trickier than past years. This is the second year I used my mom’s minivan for the trip. The snow and Angel’s first experience driving in snow dropped my aggressiveness in climbing the mountain down a few notches. I had passed a few cars, but ended up pulling over to wait up for Angel. The van is slipping all over the place but I’m used the fun winter driving when I had my camry and made these rough weather trips when I lived in the area. The drive up was slow, but steady; until we hit the little town of Strawberry. We’re less than twenty miles from our destination and we come to a complete stop. According to the traffic alerts, the top pass is closed for avalanche control with no estimation for when it’ll open. Time for a break to write our names in the snow or just make a nice yellow hole. People up and down from us are doing the same.

We wait for another 45 minutes of so before the cars start to move slowly. The really difficult thing with driving up a mountain in such weather is to just not stop. Slowing down too much invariably causes more trouble than just moving along at a steady pace. The loss of traction and too much torque when starting off from a stopped position is just causing accidents all up and down the mountain. We made it into Tahoe around 7 or so. The first stop was the rental place to check in, then we split the group leaving Angel to pick up dinner for the evening at a local pizza joint. Getting to the house, I discovered why I was slipping so much, one of the chains popped off. Not too big a deal, I’ll just get another set the following morning. Joe arrives at the house in short order and we’re all unpacking. I assign rooms; and Angel arrives; and after grabbing a quick slice, he and I head out in the CRV to go pick up Keith and Justice from the Nevada side.

The long drive up the mountain, horrible weather, and going to the wrong hotel to look for Keith and Justice break me. My patience is gone and I’m just aggravated and pissed. Finally getting Keith and Justice, my anger completely dissipates with the two drunks. We hit up the local market on our way back to get breakfast and other supplies and then head back to the house. It’s a nice house; six bedrooms, a pool table, hot tub, decent sized kitchen and a decent, albeit oddly designed dinning area. The only down side is that the house isn’t dog friendly. Keith doesn’t mind this at all.

With everyone settled in, the drinks start flowing, and of course the little nerds have the PS3 hooked up and are already gaming.

People start to crash around 12 to 1 and we wake up the next morning very lazily. Angel and I make breakfast with the help of Joe and Nicky. Eggs, hashborwns, bacon, and juice.

It’s a beautiful morning, still snowing and cloudy; so it was a very lazy morning.

The first day we hit up Kirkwood to use our tickets we grabbed the day prior. We stopped by a local shop to pick up rentals and ski pants. Justice and I both forgot our ski pants. Unfortunately, the shop only had one set of large ski pants. I was in sweats and Justice was in jeans. Justice ended up giving me his jeans and using the ski pants. Since I was on skis, I wasn’t overly worried about falling, so I used Justice’s jeans. Holy crap Justice is a fat bastard, I fit perfectly into his jeans. *sigh* We replaced the chains on the van and then headed out towards kirkwood. Much to the chagrin of the folks in the van, I had forgotten to get gas in all the fuss with the chains/rentals/etc. No biggie, I had enough fuel to get to the resort and I know that there’s a gas pump there. Still, I’m glad Nicky wasn’t with us, she would have threw a complete fit. There were enough guys with us to push the van, so why worry. We get to kirkwood around noon and are on the slopes by one or so.

Damn nice day with nothing but fresh powder that was chest deep in some areas. Skiing over such conditions is a sensation of what I imagine floating over clouds feels like. We all went up the nearest blue run and I spent the the first run with Yuki. Brian, Justice, and Brandon went off. Joe and crew were slowly making their way down as well.

I ended up doing a few runs alone then running into Brian and Brandon, and did a few more runs with them before calling it a day. This is the first time we’ve successfully taken an easy first day. Additionally, the weather was starting to pick up and visibility was dropping rapidly as the sky darkened. We found Yuki sitting at the lodge enjoying some carnitas nachos and a cup of hot chocolate.

Returning to the house, I cooked the chicken, heated up the ribs, sliced up some duck confit, and made the bbq sauce. Angel and Dave went to pick up Keith and Ciprian from the casinos as well as stopping off to get more supplies from the market. Dinner went by fairly quickly.

After relaxing for a little bit, we got some drinks and taught some of the new folks the fine art of playing Beer-a-mids, as well as the ever popular side games of thumbmaster and the BM club. Such an entertaining night. Angry drunk Monica is pure entertainment. We crashed around midnight again but set ourselves to wake up around 6:30 so that we could get up, eat, and hit the mountain much earlier for a fuller day on the snow.

Getting up, we had a fairly quick breakfast and then headed out. We did another quick stop at the local ski shop to get some ski pants that were too damn tight for me, I should have just stuck to using khakis or jeans. Oh well, serves me right for leaving my bloody ski pants AND gloves at home this year. I decided to use my small point and shoot dive camera for the pictures this day. The battery was fully charged, but I had forgotten to stick in a memory card. So as beautiful a day it was, with clear skies and an amazing day on the slopes, I have no proof, well, very little proof. This allowed me to focus more on the wonderful conditions. I did half a run with Yuki and she released me to run with the boys. And we just did run after run. Conditions were amazing.

The final run of the day was the Wall. We had pretty much convinced Justice to go up with us. We had him turned. But when he mentioned that his legs were getting tired, we let off the pressure and at the first mention that he should rest, he bolted towards the lodge and met up with Yuki. The Wall was left to be conquered by Brian, Brandon, and I. After taking the long chair ride to the peak, Brandon manages to fall and take me out with him on the hard wind worn ice at the top of lift. Recovering, I pop down and start my decent. Brandon is with Brian and as he peaks over the ledge, Brandon suggests that it may not have been such a good idea to come up this run; and admits that he’s a bit scared… just as a pack of 5-6 year old kids run by and pop right down the wall. So I guess that little situation was enough to give Brandon a little boost of courage and he popped in. I found a ski sticking out of the wall, and pulled it and dropped a few feet down to where the owner was sitting against the side of the wall. Giving her ski back, she thanked me and we were off. It was a damn nice run. The mogels were soft so bouncing in and out of them wasn’t too difficult and when my legs started to wear, cutting through them was like a hot knife through butter. Smooth. Getting to the bottom, I was beat. Brian felt that his legs were getting soft on him as well causing a bit of slop while riding down, so we called it a day and headed into the lodge. Brandon went up and did another two runs. Joe and Kevin showed up as Brandon returned.

Sitting at the lodge, we also ran into Dave, Erin, Angel, and Nicky. Their tubing excursion was cut as the tubing side of the mountain was closed. We caravaned it back to the house. Brian’s board and my ski pants I rented for the day were returned and we headed back to the house. Tonight was steak night, so the big slab of bone in ribeye was brought out and butchered. I cut the meat while Angel deboned and removed the fat.

The meat laid out and resting until cook time. And this was the perfect time to soak in the hot tub.

The steaks were cooked, and Angel grilled up one bag of asparagus, along with bread and the salad. We opened up the Silveroak and it was quickly polished off. Lisa and her girl came over and we had 19 of us at dinner that night. The left over steaks were refrigerated for the next morning’s breakfast. After dinner, everyone set to relax watching movies. I headed upstairs and spent the evening relaxing with Yuki and the random folks that came and hung out in the room. We’re definitely sleeping in the next day.

The Sunday was a very relaxing morning. It was another clear and beautiful day. A few people with thoughts about skiing slowly faded as they were sore and tired from the previous day. We made a quick breakfast of frittata and hashbrowns and headed out to town for the day.

Nicole and Kevin dressed into their snow gear and went outside to make a “snowman”.

Lunch was at the food court inside Harrahs, Fatburger for everyone. Keith, Brian, and Ciprian were meeting up with Lisa to gamble and the rest of us, Angel, Nicky, Dave, Yuki, Brandon and I went up the Heavenly gondola.

I had only ridden the Heavenly gondola once, and it was on the very first ski trip in 2001 when my hands were freezing as I had lent my gloves to Helen. It was a pretty bad storm and I used to Gondola to get off the mountain. This is the first time riding up the Gondola, so we stopped off at the midway point for some pictures. Damn nice view from this spot.

After snapping our pictures, we got back on the gondola for a short ride to the top and hearded towards the lodge for some hot coco.

Outside, we found the Heavenly tubbing, and snapped a few pictures here before heading back to the lodge for a quick restroom break then getting on line to head back down on the gondola.

Back down the mountain, we wandered a few shops, picked up some chocolate, and took a few more pictures. Nicky picked up a ninja mask at the local Northstar shop. I’m wearing a tshirt and a vest and the poor girl’s freezing.

We head back to the casinos and meet up with Keith and Brian. Angel and crew head back to the house to get dinner working. Yuki stays with me and I gamble for about an hour at the paigow table. I drop 200 here in the hour. Considering that I won about 400 last year, there’s some sort of balance. Back at the house, Angel and Nicky are butchering the pork chops and seasoning everything. They picked up some red potatoes, seasoned them and baked them in the oven. I had gotten home just in time to help out with cooking the chops.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to finish the rest of the alcohol and just relaxing with movies and games. The morning came and was a bustle to pack everything and clean up the house according to the rules set forth by the property management. With everything done, we did our annual group picture then parted ways.

Joe’s group took off and Cameron and Monica were able to drop off Keith and Justice at Mont Blue for their ride to Reno. Angel’s group and mine dropped off the keys at the management, pulled off the chains as the weather had been clear for the past few days so the roads no longer required them. We gassed up and pulled in with the traffic heading out of town. We stopped into Placerville and at at Zpie, a place for gourmet pot pies.

Downtown Placerville is a quaint little town that I rarely ever stay long enough past the quick breakfaast on our way back home after the ski trip. The nice day and with folks that like photography, we wandered the town for a little bit before heading down to Sacramento.

Monterey

We dropped off Dave, Erin, and Brandon at the Sacramento International Airport to get their rental car. Erin and Brandon have to work the next day so they headed back down to LA. After dropping them off, we headed down to Monterey. The drive including bits of traffic here and there took about 3 and a half hours and we got into Monterey around 6. After settling in, we headed to the Sardine Factory for dinner. I had originally wanted to come here on my last visit, but they were closed on Christmas. A very nice restaurant.

After dinner, we strolled through cannery row. A very nice evening. We called it an early evening as Brian and I were going diving in the morning so we needed the rest. Especially after the ski trip and all the driving we did. I spent some time formatting and uploading the weekend’s pictures before crashing out.

The next morning, we headed out to the nearest dive shop. They were not opened yet so we went up to the local CVS so I could pick up some vitamin water, snacks, and a memory card for my camera. Heading back down, the shop was still not open yet, so we went to the local Mcdonalds for breakfast. The shop was opened when we returned. The properitor was a bit on the cranky side and wasn’t overly nice to us until we started chatting a bit more and he understood us to be seasoned divers. He gave us some tips on where we should do our drop and with two tanks for each of us, weights and a 5mm hooded vest for Brian as well as a lycra skin for me, we headed out to Point Lobos.

Getting to Point Lobos, we parked and then hiked up the ridge to scout out our dive area. An amazingly clear day, the water was calm and ultra clear. I twitch with anticipation.

Brian and I geared up and headed into the water.

Brian and I kick out to our drop point. I take a look around to get my bearings and after a short rest, we drop into about 40 feet.

Immediately we see a sunflower starfish and large anemones. Simple amazing. I’d never seen these on any other California dive.

Sea lemons

We save a few fish, most were sleeping under or on top of rocks. The fish numbers were definetly smaller than that I’ve seen off the coast of Catalina. But the anemones and other nudibranchs were completely new to me. Some of the sponges and small corals. Very colorful and just amazing. We surfaced after about 40 minutes. I had told Yuki that our dive would last about an hour. Unfortunately she misunderstood me and thought it would take us an hour to get to our drop point. Additionally, she had gotta little lost while wandering the areaa. So we were on the surface for about 45 minutes before she returned with the keys. I was fairly upset, as Brian was freezing his ass off. I’m built to withstand the cold so it the surface time didn’t bother me. But Brian was shivering. He ended up stripping down and warming up in the car with the heater blasting. Poor bastard. After warming up, our surface interval was aboiut 2 and a half hours and we headed back into the water.

We dropped in at a different location. The water was definitely more surgy and the clarity had decreased considerably. It was still a very nice dive. There was a harbour seal pup that followed us and got as close as 10 feel from us watching what we were doing. The pup also followed us back to our entry point. This dive lasted about 49 minutes. We were using steel tanks that were filled to 2600 psi. The water temperature was between 52-54 degrees. Pretty damn cold. Click here for all the pictures I took on these two dives here. I will definitely be returning to this spot to dive, there’s just so much more to see that our two little dives just gave us a small taste of what’s out here.

We surfaced, cleaned off our gear and headed out of the park. calling up Angel, we learned that they’re just getting into the hotel from their day at the Aquarium and that Ciprian had taken a taxi out to Point Lobos. Brian checks his voice mail to confirm that Cip was indeed back at the park. I called Nicky back and told them to get ready to go for a little hike. Brian and I had to return the tanks and the weight belt. Upon returning the equipment, the shop keeper noticed that one of the weights was missing. Not finding it in the car, we figured it was lost during the dive or somewhere in between. The keeper lost his friendliness towards us that we had carefully built earlier that morning and was now back to the crotchety old bugger we saw when we first entered the shop earlier that morning. Guess we’ll rent from a different shop next time we’re in town.

We headed back to the hotel and I changed my clothes and then we headed back out to Point Lobos. Meeting up with Cip, we wandered the place taking pictures. There is a small cove with a bunch of sea otters floating on their backs and eating off their bellies. Before my next trip, I definitely need to invest in a telephoto lens. No luck shooting photos of wildlife, but I can get great landscape shots.

I definitely need to return and hike around the other areas of this place. Simplly beautiful.

Silly pictures we took.

All the while watching the sun slowly make it’s decent below the horizon, absolutely stunning.

After teh sunset, we meet back at the van. I make reservations for a restaurant in Carmel called Casanova, which is a fairly large yet quaintly designed restaurant. Another restaurant that I had originally wanted to visit on my previous trip. With the reservations made, we headed in towards Carmel. Stopping along the side of the road to snap a picture of the wild boar crossing sign that Brian was just all giddy about.

Getting into Carmel, we park and walk to the restaurant. It’s French/Italian cuisine, and one of the highest rated restaurants in the area.

The little dining areas are very interestinly designed. It’s a very cosy feeling and perfect date or small dinner party gatherings.

Dinner was fantastic and topped our dinner the previous evening. I had taken some pictures of our dishes as we all conferred while deciding what to get so that we can all get a little taste for the majority of the menu. I was refraining from using my flash, but by the the time dessert came, I aquesed and pulled out the thing to snap some clear shots of our wonderfully made desserts.

After dinner, the Maitre D took us on a tour of their underground wine cellar. 30,000 bottles of wine, and there was a cage with a selection that is locked up. Their most expensive wine is a $10,000 pinot noir. The cellar is damn impressive.

After leaving the restaurant, we wandered the empty streets of the town just enjoying the cool night air and the quiteness of the little area. Heading back to the hotel, we make it back in time to change and do a little soak in the hotel’s spa. Brian and I jumped into the pool first before boiling ourselves in the spa. Angel joined us shortly. A very relaxing end to the ski trip that helped shorten the usual recovery time from the weekend of driving/cooking/skiing/drinking. We crashed out and woke up around 8 the following morning. Most of us were checked out by 9 and we headed out towards Salinas on our way to hwy 101 to head home. We stopped at the Mcdonalds in Salinas for breakfast, where Brian came to the realization that he didn’t check out. After the quick breakfast, we got on the 101 and headed southward towards home. We were going to pass by Paso Robeles which is an up and coming wine area, so we called over to Angel to see if they were interested in a short stop for some wine tasting. They were not, so when we got into the area, they continued homeward when we stopped off at the first of two vineyards, Meridian.

Yuki and I did the chocolate and wine while Brian and Ciprian did the cheese and wine tasting. Not too bad. I’m not too big a fan of Meridian wines. No tours here, so we just did a little shopping and snapped some pictures before heading to the next vineyard.

Pictures of the Meridian vineyard.

We back tracked westward to reach the Eberle winery.

They have an underground storage facility for keeping their wines and had free tours as well as free wine tasting. The tour was pretty cool even though the tour guild wasn’t all that knowledgeable in regards to the place. I had been on much better winery tours, but hell, it was free, you get what you pay… And I was here more for the pictures than anything else.

There is a little dinning area and dinning hall inside the cave. Pretty cool, yet kinda creepy.

I ended up picking up a bottle of Muscat and a bottle of Port. This shop keeper was also kinda short in his attitude when I asked for the price of the Port. Guess far too many Asians come in for the free wine tasting and never buy anything. Brian purchased a case of the Muscat and had it shipped back to his in-laws. Back on the road, we continued homeward and did a small stop by the Chevron oil fields to snap a few pictures.

Reaching the grapevine, I texted Angel to see where he was, and they had just got home. Our little winery stop made for a nice break in the drive home. We ended up getting into LA around 5 and hit up the Daikokuya in Hacienda Heights around 5:30. We got home around 7; a very relaxed day of driving; a nice contrast to the drive that started the trip. Click here for all the pictures taken by Yuki and I on this trip.


Work continues on the Saz

Ok, with the ski trip/Monterey trip post out of the way, back to the Sazabi. I’ve been working on the kit since I got back. Progress is a little slow as it tends to get towards this area of the build. I still had about 30 or so pieces that needed to be cleaned up and painted. The weekend was spent sanding and priming these parts.

After the primer dries over night, the parts were base coated in the gloss black then the detail areas were painted with shades of alclad metallic paints. The thruster bell internals were painted with polished brass and the exterior painted with finisher’s titanium.

After a few days of curing, the detail areas were masked off using masking tape and/or blue sticky tack. Then painted with another layer of alclad. The foot and other internal pieces received alclad magnesium.

Decals are applied to the front skirts as well as the propellant tanks. Micro sol is applied carefully this time to the surface of the decals and the decals are left to sit for a few days while the micro sol fully evaporates.

Last night, I did the wiring for the shoulder pieces. It was a little complicated since I’m making everything in parallel, but all the negative leads for each shoulder was connected together and a single negative and positive wire was threaded from each shoulder assembly. Then the entire assembly is tested to make sure all four lights were functioning.

The shoulders were then mounted onto the main torso and the wires threaded through the body. The torso’s wires from the mono eye and backpack are combined with the shoulders to create single postive and negative contacts

And the completed torso wiring is tested; everything works. So far so good I guess.

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