shirenomad: (wtf)
I'm up with family this week and the next: there's a mondo reunion for Mom's side of the family (although that part doesn't start until Sunday; right now I'm just catching up with the local family, etc.). Internet will likely be limited next week.

Those who remember my last trip up may think that was the reason I decided to take Amtrak this time, but while that might have been a factor, other issues included:

1) Gas prices. I don't need to say more there.
2) Had some Amtrak vouchers after canceling a leg of my law school tour.
3) Long-term parking at the local Amtrak station is free for customers.
4) I can't read on planes because it makes me nauseous, I can't read in the car because I'm driving. I can read (or watch movies on my laptop) all I want while seated on a train, so the fact that it's longer than either driving or flying doesn't bother me, since I can still keep busy.

Which is just as well, because if the Amtrak choice were just to avoid delays I would have been disappointed. The train had to stop for a full hour because some moron decided the train tracks looked like a good parking space. You heard me. There was a car sitting on the tracks that they had to tow off, then the inspectors had to check the tracks carefully to make sure there was no damage, because you really don't want 1000 tons of metal and 200+ people racing over damaged tracks at 60+ miles per hour.

There was no word on whether the car on the tracks was a Delorean.

Marty: Doc, Doc, why are we trying this again? We're in 2008, not 1885!
Doc: Exactly, Marty! There's no WAY we can afford to refuel!
shirenomad: (sulk)
Yesterday I made the long trek up California to my parents' house for the third time in as many months. The reasons I will save for tomorrow, because that's not what I feel like talking about right now; what I feel like talking about is what happened on the way. And what happened on the way is this.

The most direct route from the LA Basin to, well, just about anything north of the LA Basin is straight up Interstate 5 through that mountain pass. As I approached said pass, the alert signs on the road warned that there was snow in the pass which may lead to delays. I thought, "cool! (no pun intended)." I thought the same when I actually entered Tejon Pass (around 4:30pm) and the showers that had been keeping my windshield wipers busy stopped dripping and started flaking. Yeah, I had to slow a bit, but we SoCalers don't get to see snow under most conditions, so it was, at the time, a novelty.

But let me point something out: that article I linked earlier described the conditions at 1pm Wednesday. Around 5pm, still 15 miles from the north end of the pass, things started really slowing down. I gave Dad a call as we temporarily stopped, filled him in, and let him know I may be arriving at 10pm instead of 9, depending on how long it took to work through the gridlock.

That temporary stop? Wasn't so temporary.

The plows worked their way back to my place "in line" at 11:30pm. Despite the late hour and the whopping four hours of driving I still had to do, turning around wasn't an option, since the opposite direction was doing just as bad and by then they were turning away anyone hoping to add to the mess. Finding a route around to get back south would have taken just as long as completing the trip. So as soon as I got into the Central Valley, I pulled off to the nearest stop, got a very late dinner and a tasty dose of high-concentrate caffeine, and floored my way up the lengthy but flat and empty interstate at Delorean speeds.

At 4:30 am this morning, I arrived at my destination, dragged a couple essentials out of the car and let myself into the house, then crawled into bed and slept until past noon.

I suppose, however, I should thank God for the following small blessings:
  1. I had brought both water and a bag of nuts. Originally so I wouldn't have to stop as often. Now they made up for my delayed meal.
  2. I also had books in the car. No, the intent wasn't to read them IN the car, but that's what I wound up doing; got through the last two volumes of Sandman while we sat there.
  3. My car's near-final resting place was five minutes walk from an off-ramp. There was no getting my vehicle out of that grid-lock to reach it, but hey, not like my car was going anywhere, so around Hour 3 or 4 (after the snow stopped) I got out, hoofed it back there, used the facilities at the gas station, and bought some jerky to supplement my nut diet.
  4. I had packed for several days, so there were socks that weren't soaked in the trunk when I got back.
  5. My car still had more than half a tank when we stalled out, so I was able to keep my motor -- and the heater -- running most of the time.
  6. I wasn't even further back down the pass.


Nov. 28th, 2006 03:47 pm
shirenomad: (together)
Obviously, Thanksgiving break was well appreciated, especially since Dah Boss was able to grant us a couple extra days ("we've earned it," he informed us). Spent Wednesday driving home... unfortunately, LA County was maddening, even at 1 in the afternoon (and 2, and 3...) Thanks to an accident and a couple stretches that were painful for no particular reason, it took four hours to clear the basin (normally takes half that); then I hit the Grapevine and managed to get from there to Santa Clara County in the same four hours.

Andrew was deployed and JW was just stingy (just kidding), so it was me, the parents, and my grandmother for Thanksgiving dinner. Still glad to see Grammy, although she wasn't up for staying long. But since it wasn't Thanksgiving without some more noise, we swung by some friends of the family (yes, invited) afterwards and ran through a game of Munchkin with them. Winner, as is often the case, was Mom, who always pretends she doesn't know what she's doing with these games and then kicks our butts anyway.

A friend of Mom's was performing this week, so we caught A Christmas Twist at a nearby theater. The play can basically be described as what would happen if a playwright wrote a Dickensian play while stoned. Concluding line: "God help us, everyone!" Much amusement.

Monday morning was spent at the family dentist. I was sure going in there that I had a cavity, but to my pleasant surprise it turned out to be nothing more than a cracked dental sealant, which is much easier (and less painful) to deal with. Due to the stupid system of my dental insurance, I'm not covered for another appointment for another six months and one day, so hope they got everything, because they won't hear from me again until Memorial Day at the earliest.

Trip back was much better; the same stretch of LA County that took four hours going up took one going back when I hit it about 7:30pm. Probably used between 20 and 25 gallons of gas round-trip (yay for fuel efficiency!), which cost me $60 tops as opposed to the $100+ for round-trip airfare. Whether that, unlimited carryons, and departure time flexibility made it worth the extra 10ish hours of travel time is another question, but I really didn't feel like hunting down a flight at the last minute when I had no clue what my weekend schedule would look like less than 24 hours before I left.

There was, incidentally, some entertainment from Mom's new cat, but that deserves its own entry (largely due to photos). Patience until then...


Nov. 28th, 2005 07:05 pm
shirenomad: (memorable)
How I spent my Thanksgiving vacation, assuming you care. )

Oh yeah, and I found out my City of Heroes month expired today. Hence my current mood. *scowls* I thought I had another couple days, otherwise I would have made more of an effort to sign on one last time last night... not that I would have been a very good player given how tired I was.
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CMZero: In Wheaton! )

Speaking of the flu, feeling better but still tired (which explains the delay in this post). Sleeping now, talk tomorrow.
shirenomad: (Default)
Got back from the East Coast and our family trip to see Navy play Army on the gridiron, among other things. Time for a "how I spent my summer vacation" entry.

A little history, first, just 'cause... )

On to Annapolis! )

But enough about all that! The real reason my parents and I forged our way eastward was, of course, to see Andrew march out with the American flag on national TV. And there was that little football game afterward, while we were there... Read on... )

Anyway, 34-6 Navy. Go team. We flew back Sunday after celebrating and slept for half a day.
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For those who didn't notice, I've been gone all week. Been keeping myself busy, and it's taken me a full day just to wind down. For the curious... )

But anyway, back, caught up on things... now if you'll excuse me... *passes out*
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I arrived back safe and sound, jet-lagged but otherwise fine, Wednesday morning. If you're curious about my lack of online appearances since then, well, I've been kept occupied dealing with ten billion people here who want to see me (as well some last minute shopping for stuff I won't have to pay duty on). Managed to poke my head online a couple times over the past few days -- you may or may not have noticed -- but anyway, I'm back in business. Sort of. Much of my luggage remains partially packed, since I'm going to have to move it all south again in about two weeks, but that makes it a pain to find stuff sometimes. Also, I may still be a bit hard to find for another couple days, until the festivities are over. Anyway...

Tokyo trip went well, if you were curious. Signed up for a tour: saw the Tower, the Emperor's Palace (from the outside of the walls, anyway), Akasaka Temple, and a brief viewing of the Diet, as well as general views from the bus of other locations. Really good tour guide too; spoke good English, and had a lot of interesting info about the history and sites of the city, as well as a few jokes. ("The tour bus cannot wait here for you due to parking rules. So if you come back before the pick-up time, you will not see the bus. If you come back AFTER the pick-up time, you will not see the bus.") Also, on my own power, visited TouCho (the Tokyo Metropolitan Area government offices: great view from the top, all the way to a faint but visible Mt. Fuji) and Akihabara (premiere tech equipment shopping district, where I picked up a discounted TM Revolution CD and an expensive but high-quality Japanese electronic dictionary, complete with handwriting kanji input).

The Kitais surprised me by giving me a lift to the airport and saving me about 4000 yen train fare (though I think they spent MORE than that on tolls; just about all the highways in Japan are turnpikes). Mr. Kitai even took the afternoon off to see me off. They also tried to pump me full of presents for myself and my family, but my baggage was already overloaded, so they wound up having to put most of it in a box and ship it from the post office that was conveniently right in the airport. Hasn't gotten here yet. *shrug* Anyway, it was really nice of them, although it also stretched out the goodbyes...

*sigh* I'm really going to miss everyone... When I head back and forth between Irvine and Campbell, that's not a big deal, because I know I'll see the people I'm leaving again in six months tops. But I have no idea when I'll be in Japan next, if ever... ...honestly, I'm getting a little teary-eyed right now just thinking about it.
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Long commentary about spending the weekend at a temple. )
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Hiroshima, Part 4 )
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Hiroshima: Part 3. )
shirenomad: (depressed)
Blech. Spent the entire morning writing and typing up a two page essay (in Japanese!) because I'd been putting it off and it was due at 1pm. Just barely made it under the wire, and I didn't have time to go online this morning as a result. My apologies if I missed anyone.

This delay will not, however, stop me from posting Hiroshima Update Part 2! )
shirenomad: (Default)
I am back; I've just been taking a breather and catching up on things before filling you all in. Time to do that. Due to the length, I think I'll chop this up into four bite-sized updates. First one...

Which is actually still kinda long... )

More tomorrow. Same LJ time, same LJ channel!
shirenomad: (Default)
As yesterday was a national holiday (Japan has a lot of these, not that I'm complaining), the Kitais thought it might be fun to take me somewhere for the day: namely, Tokyo Disneyland. Fun, and I'm grateful for the opportunity... but I'll admit to coming home a little disappointed. Anyway, the following not only describes the park but kinda assumes you're familiar with the version in Anaheim, so if that's not true, or if you just aren't interested in reading, feel free to skip it. )

Final review: if you've never been to the Anaheim park, you might want to check this one out when you're in the neighborhood. If you have, and especially if you've gone within the past year (for those who forgot or missed one of my older updates, I went just this July)... well, you've seen one Disneyland, you've seen them all. Go to the sister park (DisneySea) instead.

Got home, wiped, with full intent to crash early even for me.... and was prevented from doing so for an extra half hour due to fireworks in the near vicinity. >_< Wasn't aware this was that big a holiday. Must keep better track of these things.
shirenomad: (frustrated)
I may have conquered the mountain today, but I think I still lost the war. Mt. Fuji, for those who aren't aware, is about two miles high (3700 meters). That much I knew. My first mistake, then, was not to bring enough water. I was a little worried about conserving weight, so I only brought a liter. My pack was indeed light as a result -- I barely even felt it for most of the trip -- but by the 8th stop I had completely exhausted my supply. No problem! They sell water (and other supplies) at the stops! ...for 500 yen a bottle. At this stop, anyway; it gets more expensive the higher you get. I can understand some of that goes into the trouble of getting the water up there in the first place, but I think it's also partially just because they can. Incidentally, for the same reasons, you're supposed to pay 100 yen to use any toilet. Again, I can understand that indoor plumbing is probably nonexistent at that altitude, so they've got to go through the effort of cleaning it out and disposing of the mess properly, but that still hurt.

You start at 5th Stop, where the bus drops you off. (That's as high as they've managed to get a viable road. Nothing stopping you from hiking all the way from Stop 1, but I don't recommend it.) First stretch of the trail is combined, but at the 6th stop it splits into three parts: the trail to the top of the mountain, the trail from top of the mountain (for those staggering back to 5th stop after a long hike), and the trail around the mountain (for the sane ones). We took the first one (my second mistake :p). The incline remains fairly slight until Stop 7, when it suddenly shifts to about 45 degrees. At that point this stops being a hike and you're officially climbing Mt. Fuji. At Stop 8 it levels back down to about 30 degrees and stays that way until you almost reach the summit (noticed how steep the last part looks in all those photos? It's true.) That's also when the air starts getting thin. 9th Stop actually has a small lodge. Not sure what services they provide (besides expensive food and water for climbers) but evidently you can call in, reserve a room, hike/climb up to that point one evening, spend the night, and then leave early to watch the sunrise at the summit (Stop 10). Stop 10 also has more souvenir vendors than a mountain peak has any business having (and thankfully, plenty of areas to collapse on benches for an hour). And no, I didn't buy an "I climbed Mt. Fuji and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." There were plenty of things I might have been interested in, but I didn't have enough money for any of them (wouldn't have brought ANY money if the Kitais hadn't informed me about the waypoint stores).

Somewhere just before Stop 8 I managed to pull a muscle in my leg. Up until there I was making decent time, but at that point it officially became a solo climb for me as the others left me in the dust. Nonetheless, I had gotten that far, and I wasn't going to quit there, so I hiked as best I could on it (had to take a LOT of breaks), briefly caught up with everyone at the next two stops, and managed to clock in at the top, dead last, at about 6 hours. Thankfully, whatever muscle was aching didn't get any pressure on it on the (less rocky anyway) downhill trail, so I was doing fine until the end... when about half a km before Stop 5, the trail sloped up again, and I was ditched once more to come in dead last at just under 3 hours. That plus the 45 minute rest break at the top... well, you do the math, but basically the climb took up the entire day.

So to sum up... my feet are sore, my right leg is a wreck, I'm sunburnt on both arms and the back of my neck (sunscreen! why didn't I remember the sunscreen?), I'm exhausted, and between bathroom use, water, and bus fare I'm out 2600 yen. In return, I got a great view and a lot of photos (which had BETTER come out). Not that I didn't enjoy both of those, but the next time I get it into my head to climb a mountain that tall, chain me up until I'm better. >_
shirenomad: (Default)
And for those who don't feel like hearing about it, feel free to skip to the end for my current status. )

I've got an ISP from my apartment, but it's by the minute, so I don't expect to use it too often. More likely I'm going to bring my laptop with me to the university on a regular basis and go online after class... except I can't get the settings right at the moment to jack into the network. (Win ME is such a piece of junk...) If I can pull it off, expect me online between 9:30pm and midnight, Pacific Daylight Time (Japan doesn't have DST, so adjust those times an hour back come fall when all you North Americans switch over). Weekends are likely to be a bit more erratic... my host family and I may or may not be doing something elsewhere.

Regardless, drop by here often to hear more of my wacky adventures in Japan!
shirenomad: (Default)
Try none. The main house computer was constantly occupied by my father or brothers for some reason or another. The second computer had been replaced by a new one that was stronger! Faster! Better! ...and had no modem. Brilliant. I had access for a brief half hour at a friend's house late Friday, during which I checked LJ and my mail. Other than that, nada.

At least I managed to enjoy myself in other ways, even if my schedule was kind of packed... Mercifully trimmed for those who don't care about How I Spent My Summer Vacation. )

Going to be around for a couple more weeks, then I'm packing up, leaving the apartment, and off to Japan. It snuck up on me, somehow...
shirenomad: (Default)
Or, how I spent my randomly-placed vacation )
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