Okay, with that over, time to post about the past week or so. My company has a shutdown for the holidays, so effectively, between Dec 25th through Jan 1st; I’m off, sorta. I did have two days that I volunteered to monitor my projects production systems and I actually worked on those two days, but the rest of the time was spent doing holiday stuff. I had picked up a new Olympus E-P2 Pen camera that arrived on Dec 21st; so all pictures on my site from this point on will be a product of that camera. The camera arrived just in time for the holidays. Family and friend gatherings, as well as a little road trip up to Northern California. I snapped some new pictures of my corgis. And I was even able to squeeze some time in for work on a kit, the BearGuy. If you want to skip the post about my trip and go straight to the small blurb about the Bearguy, click here.
It has been at least 10 years since I last visited Monterey, and at least 7 since I was last in San Francisco – time for a little road trip. Earlier in the month, I booked the hotels for one night in Monterey and two nights in San Francisco. So in the wee hours of Christmas morning, Yuki and I woke up, said good bye to Hugo and Beanie, then started driving north. Weather was nice, a little cloudy, and by daybreak, we were in the middle of the grapevine, where I stopped to get some gas.
Over the grapevine pass and heading towards Lost Hills, we made another stop so Yuki can grab some coffee and I can grab a light breakfast snack. We followed a white camry towards the McDonalds for a few feet until I noticed that there were no cars parked around the place nor were there any lights on; oh yeah, it was Christmas day, so I turned around and just stopped at little market attached to the nearest gas station. The stupid white camry was still exploring the drive through of the McD to thoroughly validate that it was indeed closed. With restroom breaks taken, coffee in hand, and a little sausage cheese croissant in hand; we were on the road again.
At the hwy 46 junction, I got off I-5 and headed west on 46. We passed through wine country and the 101. The last time I was on hwy 46 was two years ago when a huge storm had closed off the grapevine and we needed to head over to the 101 as a detour. A detour that ended up adding about 5 hours to our return trip from the annual ski gathering in Tahoe. This time, we only traveled a few miles south on the 101 to continue with our westward trek on hwy 46 towards hwy 1. We get on hwy 1 in Cambria, and head north. It’s cloudy and windy, but we make our first photo stop here.
It was cloudy and fairly windy; a storm was definitely upon us, but no rain was falling yet so we took our time with a few pictures, and I’m still fiddling around with my camera as it’s still very new and I’m learning and adjusting to using it. We hop back into the car and resume our trek northward. Hwy 1 is definitely a fun drive especially with all the fun switchbacks that curve along the rocky coast. We past the path up towards Hearst Castle. Yuki has already been there and I had as well, so we skipped this little California Landmark. The next landmark we hit was Piedras Blancas Light Station, but the gate to the lighthouse was closed, most likely because it was Christmas Day. I would have liked to take a few pictures here, but I guess I can always save this for the next trip.
The next stop is GPS coordinates: 35.815787,-121.358779. Since I don’t remember the name of the spot or the trails here, and my searches haven’t turned up much; so all I have for a point of reference for now is the gps coordinates. There’s a nice little waterfall here and a few trails to explore. A very nice spot.
My camera has some artistic function where it does post processing for pictures. The features are damn cool and I have been using the “diorama” function the most. Gotta love on the spot post processing.
Not long after we left the area, the rain started in, and gradually got stronger and stronger. We pulled into Big Sur and I originally wanted to stop here and snap some pictures, but it was raining pretty damn hard. The park ranger at the entrance gate said they may be closing early, being it Christmas day as well as the storm, so we turned back around and headed on north. The next spot was Point Lobos, again, the wind and rain quickly extinguished any ideas of driving in for pictures. A few miles north of Point Lobos, we reached Carmel. So we stopped in and attempted to check out the beach, but only managed to use the public restrooms before heading back into the quaint little town. Most of the shops were closed. There were a few people wandering around, and we found a little diner that was open so we parked and headed inside. The waffle Yuki ordered was dry and fairly bland. My patty melt was decent. The fries were fresh and piping hot. The shop was an odd collection of Christmas day travelers, stopping in to hide from the cold and get a quick bite to eat. While Yuki used the restroom, I snapped some pictures from the one covered spot I found while standing outside.
The town is small and tightly knit together, which adds to it’s charm. The storm killed any potential fun for us in town, so we acquiesced to heading up to Monterey. Not 2 miles into that trip, and we pulled off and headed into Pebble Beach to check out the 17 mile drive. The rain and wind limited our photography, so most of the shots here were taken from inside the car. The seas turbulence is a great reflection of the storm’s power.
I spotted a Great Egret sitting alone on top of the rocky cropping. My lens is limited on it’s zoom capabilities, and the weather was preventing me from exiting my car to chance a closer shot, so this is the best of what I could do with what I had. Great, now I just want to get more lenses for my camera.
The one picture I took outside of my car, Yuki held an umbrella for me while I snapped a quick shot of The Lone Cypress, which is official symbol of Pebble Beach. A nice late afternoon shot, but the clouds blocked the sun. Again, something to remedy on a future excursion to the beautiful green California north.
Leaving the 17 mile drive, we headed into Monterey and checked into our hotel. Getting settled in, Yuki climbed into bed and takes a short nap while I process the photos taken thus far. After watching the Lakers get utterly stomped by the Heat, I take a short 45 minute nap before being woken by my alarm. Off to dinner.
We headed out and drive to Cannery Row for dinner at the Fish Hopper. It was Christmas Day and this was one of the better restaurants that I had found was open. I was not about to break my streak of never going to a Bubba Gump restaurant. But down in Cannery Row, there were quite a few restaurants that were open, but I stuck with the Fish Hopper as I had reservations there. The food was excellent. Great clam chowder. After dinner, we wandered around the area snapping a few pictures.
Here are some pictures from my fiddling with the various artistic settings.
We returned to the hotel and just crashed out for the evening.
We woke up around 8 in the morning, packed our things, checked out, and headed back out to Cannery Row for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Inside, a great number of the aquarium’s tanks are filled with fish and wild life that I’ve seen up close and personal on numerous dives from Laguna to Catalina. So I concentrated on taking pictures of things that I haven’t seen. Very odd to see eels outside of their hiding spots in the wild, so seeing a full eel out in the open is a very cool thing.
We wander around the aquarium for about an hour before heading over to the Sea Otter exhibit. At 10:30, it’s feeding time for the otters; so we head over there around 10:15 to get a nice viewing spot. I snap a few pictures of the otters at play. Again, more adjusting my camera settings to grab non blurry pictures of these fast moving sea borne mammals.
At 10:30, feeding time, and the otters are given food for a few tricks.
After the feeding, they are given frozen plastic tubes with frozen fish inside. The otters shove their hands inside, slam the tubes against the walls of their enclosure, and even use a green play ball as a makeshift hammer to beat against the plastic tube in hopes of breaking apart the ice and getting at the fishy goodness that lies inside.
I snapped a few pictures of one otter slamming their frozen tube against the window with all it’s strength. Very amusing to watch and definitely cute as all hell.
Done with the otter feeding, we head off and explore the rest of the aquarium. Sea horses and sea dragons.
Then the pink flamingo and penguins exhibits.
It’s an amazing day, the sun is out, there are a few clouds, but for all intents and purposes, the storm is gone and it is such a difference from the previous day. I snap some pictures outside the aquarium and around Cannery Row.
After about three hours, we had explored the entirety of the aquarium. Originally, I had allotted the entire day for the aquarium visit. So with several hours of daylight left and such a nice day, Yuki and I headed back down to Point Lobos and entered the park. Parking was a little tight and I found a spot, so we grabbed our camera gear and headed up the northern trail through a cypress forest.
We hiked around the Allen Memorial Grove section of Point Lobos. At the most outer point along this trail, we saw a few humpback whales in the waters just off cypress cove. An amazing sight. The beauty of the area alone was something to behold, but adding in some whales, just topped everything. Again, I’m more inclined to get another lens for telephoto purposes. Time to save up I guess.
We completed the this one trail loop and decided to head up to Carmel. We could have easily spent an entire day here. It would also have been nice to stay later and have the sun dip down slightly for some dramatic lighting, but we had to get to San Francisco before it got too late. One day, I would like to return here during the week and scuba dive here as well. I guess I’ll just have to see about teaching Yuki to swim, then have her get an open water certification. Diving here will definitely have to be a summer time attempt.
We do a final loop to the southern end of the park before swinging around and leaving the area. We head a few miles north and return to Carmel. The little town is now teeming with people and parking is considerably more difficult to find, but I find a nice spot and we park. We headed over to Le Bicyclette and had a late lunch.
After lunch, we wandered around town slowly heading west towards the beach all the while taking pictures of the lovely town. A huge difference from the previous day where the sky was dark with clouds and the streets and everything wet with rain. A clean crisp day, perfect for photography.
We sat at the top of the beach and watched the sun set.
With the sun down, we headed out up hwy 1 to nwy 156, then to hwy 101 on our way to San Francisco. We made one stop on the 156/101 junction for gas, but didn’t stop until we got into San Francisco. It was dark, and Yuki was tired from the day’s activities. We got into San Francisco around 7:30 or so and checked into our hotel which was right on the boarder of the financial district and china town. Settling in, we rested for a short while then headed down and grabbed some hyper msg laced food. All the tourist trap souvenir shops were still opened, but all the other shops such as the markets and such were already closed.
We walked a little, then got into the car and I took her down to the Richmond china town area. Most of the shops here were also closed for the day, but there were a few restaurants, cafes, and bars open. Stopping in at the local Gengki, I picked up some egg puffs (eggetts) which is a street snack food from Hong Kong. Yuki really likes these and all the places in LA that make them don’t make them anywhere near how they taste and feel from Hong Kong. Upon her first bite, a huge smile envelops her face and she’s jumping up and down like a little child on Christmas morning. Her mind is so occupied with the crispy eggy treat, she completely forgets about snapping a picture of them. We wander the area a little more finishing off the egg puffs and return to the car.
It’s a fairly clear evening, so I head up to the Twin Peaks park area above San Francisco. There’s little to no wind so it’s a perfect night high atop San Francisco. I set up my tripod and start snapping pictures. Here we get an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and all of San Francisco between these two bridges.
We head back to the hotel. Yuki is completely exhausted and passes out while I’m busy off loading the day’s pictures onto my computer for some processing. I’m up until about 2 am before I crash out. With not much planned for the following day, we sleep in for the first time the entire trip. The view from our hotel room:
We woke up around 11 or so, and lazily got ready. We headed downstairs and just walked into china town for lunch. The cafe style food is very reminiscent of Hong Kong cafes, so Yuki is happy. We stop by the Golden Gate bakery for their famous egg tarts and a few other baked goods. We wander some of the shops that were closed when we arrived. I picked up some tamiya enamel paints from the local gunpla shop, Sun Entertainment, and then we headed off towards Japan Town.
Granted it was a Monday and some folks were at work, but the streets were still fairly crowded and it took us about twenty minutes to find parking, circling around the little area like sharks on the prowl. Finally parked, we allot ourselves about an hour to wander around before heading on to the next stop. It’s been 7 years since I last been here, and a few things have changed, but a great deal has stayed the same. The wait for crepes was about 30 to 45 minutes so to Yuki’s dismay, we left Japan Town without crepes.
The only thing I had scheduled today was the cruise to Alcatraz, and we needed to be at the pier 35 by 4:50. It was about 3 so we still had plenty of time. We headed to the Richmond china town and wandered around a bit here. We dropped by Hero’s Club for which, 10 years ago, the shelves were full of gunpla kits and the display cases had tons of Master Grades built and painted. Long gone are those days and everything on the shelves and on display are action figures. There are a few model kits but they are old and more niche than gunpla. We wandered back down to Gengki to get a crepe and some more egg puffs. Yuki now has her crepe fix dealt with and we return to the car and head towards Fisherman’s Wharf.
We headed towards pier 39. I was going to try getting by that one section of Lombard street to snap a quick photo, but the traffic, cable car, and stupid hippy in the 1976 bio diesel running mercedes 300D pretty much thwarted that idea.
Not remembering exactly what pier the cruise was launching from, I just parked near the Wharf. Getting out of the parking structure, we see pier 45, and we head up towards pier 39. There were all sorts of cruise boats launching from pier 39 but none were with the company I booked with, so a quick look at my email told me that we needed to be at pier 35. It was about 4:30 so we were cutting it pretty close. We briskly walked towards pier 35 and got our tickets and got into line for the 5:05 tour of Alcatraz. As far as I can remember, I don’t believe I’ve ever been on Alcatraz. I’ve heard that this is one of those tours that anyone visiting SF should do, and that the night time tour was definitely a level beyond that; so tripod in hand we get onto the boat.
The sun is just about setting when the boat starts off towards the island. I snap a few pictures of the skyline as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.
We get on this island and walk up the long steep ramp up towards the prison. It’s definitely got a nice eerie feel to the place.
We make a few stops with the tour guide giving bits and pieces about the history of the prison. At the top of the ramp, we reach the actual prison and are given free reign on wandering the place. I set off and start snapping pictures of the cells.
There was a tour that showed how the doors to the cells closed. The sound of the cells slamming shut and echoing off the cold walls sent chills up and down our bodies. It was both fascinating yet frightening just hearing the noise and imagining what life was like when the prison was operating.
The prison vising area.
The administration building.
The kitchen, watch tower, and building 64
While on the island, I a few photos of San Francisco, the city, the Bay bridge, and the Golden Gate.
Getting back to shore, we take our time walking back to the area where I had parked the car. Snapping pictures all along the way.
It is fairly quite with a majority of the tourist gone to dinner or just out of the cold night air. Yuki and I snap a few more pictures as we get closer to the car and then leave, heading towards the next spot.
We stop by city hall. Normally, the hall is decked out in gold and looks amazing during the day. For the holidays, they lit up the hall using green and red lighting. We snapped a few pictures and Yuki uses my mini tripod and leans a little more about how to use her camera in manual mode.
After spending some time here, we got back into the car and I took her to Union Square and we snapped some more pictures. I got a few shots of some cable cars and the surrounding area.
We head up to the place where we had lunch earlier that day for a light late dinner. Our feet were hurting and we were fairly tired so we just drove to the place instead of walking. During dinner we plan out our next monring, some of the places we needed to hit and grab things before driving back home.
We woke up around 8, packed and put most of our stuff into the car and took the car out to do our morning errands and to eat breakfast. We don’t have to check out until noon so we left a few things in the room. Our breakfast was less than $5 bucks. We wandered around watching all the stores open and getting stocked for the day’s sales, as well as dropped into a few places to pick up last minute items.
The drive back was fairly simple, although I accidentally added about an hour to our drive by taking the 101 south through Gilroy route to the 5, but it provided a different view that Yuki hadn’t seen before. Leaving just shy of 11:00 am, we got back to the house around 6:30. Angel and Nicky came over for dinner. A very fun trip. The corgis apparently missed Yuki.
New Corgi Pictures
So this past week I’ve been home so every now and then, I snapped a picture of the little monsters in the daily activities.
Hugo chewing on a compressed rawhide I gave him.
During the December build gathering, I actually started working on the Bearguy late into the gathering. I was a little tipsy, but decided to work on the kit. Rockband had died down, the gift exchange was over, so why the hell not. I had seen several bearguys built up on FG-Site, so I have a general idea on what I want to do, and the paint scheme. Since the head is so large, it just lends itself for a LED mod. So my time during the build gathering was spend planning and soldering the LED assembly. Using two blue LEDs , I soldered them with wires and assembled them in parallel.
I originally tested the assembly with a 3v button battery, but only one light was being powered up fully. Later researching the issue, I learned that the LEDs I’m using require 4v, so my solution is to stack 3 1.5v button batteries together as the power source. The assembly is glued to the back of the bearguy’s head. A reed switch is added to complete the assembly. And using a magnet, the assembly is tested out.
Next up was the sanding of nubs and filling of seams. As this is an HGUC based kit, there are seams here and there that needed addressing. I’m also filling in the middle area first by gluing plastic into the cavity, then using putty to fill in the spaces and level everything out. Everything is sanded and ready for the first layer of primer to check my seam and sanding work.
So here’s what the little bugger looks like, hopefully I’ll get some time tonight and spray on some primer to check for mistakes.