kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
It's been a hell of a trip, but we're back. I've got 95% of the photos uploaded to Flickr, arranged into bite-sized chunks for each town we were in or adventure we had. There's a some commentary, but we'll be happy to answer any question you have on here or over on Flickr.

kung_fu_monkey: (B&W profile)
Beemer and his co-workers had to attend a conference up in Estes Park at the (in)famous Stanley Hotel. Since I don't often get to tag along on these trips (and will be missing his trip to SF next week for AGU), he wrangled it so that I could tag along and stay at the hotel with him. Sure, the conference was off-limits, but that just meant that I had two days to explore.

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kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
With the test come and gone, I had foolishly thought I would have some spare time. Ha, no. Thanksgiving had us take a trip over to Nebraska to visit B's parents for the holiday dinner. They're currently living in a tiny town (population around 150) surrounded by miles of pretty much nothing, and I'm fairly certain I only saw 10 people moving about during our three day stay. Good socializing, but not a lot to do.

It's also that time of year when B finds himself frequently traveling to assorted conferences, leaving me to keep watch over the house as he heads off to San Fran, Austin, etc. Normally I don't get to travel with him as our schedules rarely sync up, but this week turns out to work in our favor; a quick 2 day trip up to Estes Park is in our future with us staying at the (in)famous Stanley Hotel! B will be busy getting his science on and being all professional which lets me explore the hotel, taking the hotel tour, and generally putting about the city at my leisure. Despite living in Colorado for as long as I have, I've never been there, so this will be a fun bit of exploration.

Today's temperature was around 29 degrees (F), leaving these poor monkey joints stiff and sore. I did manage one of my 2 mile jogs, but I'll have to pass on tonight. Ouchie.
kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
Oops, forgot to toss these up here.

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kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
And now the adventure pauses for... laundry. Yeah. Dangerous, I know. :/
kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
After a lengthy flight, we landed in Anchorage...

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kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
Another set of photos have been dumped into the Flickr account. This time we went down to Homer to see the pre-tourist season sights, saw many bald eagles, and met up with some friends.

kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
I'm going to toss a handful of photos on here regarding today's adventures. There may or not be commentary as I'm really tired right now.

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kung_fu_monkey: (Default)
We're heading off to Alaska for the week courtesy of a gift from [livejournal.com profile] dr_tectonic's mom. (Bob's watching the house while we're gone.) Tonight we're staying in Anchorage, tomorrow heading down the Kenai Peninsula, and stopping for a bit in Soldatna. Looking through some of the touristy materials, I foresee many options to fish, view dangerous animals, go boating, and other outdoorsy stuff. That's all well and good, but I'm especially going to enjoy the low altitude oxygen boost to my workouts! (Chumps down at sea level don't know how good they've got it.) I'm told that moose are far, far more dangerous than the bears up in that area, and I told SBN that I would bring home some antlers should I happen to win in a fight against one (highly unlikely).

Seriously, though, this should be a wonderfully relaxing trip with absurd amounts of breathtaking images that I'll be sure to upload when I get the chance.

In other news, today at the kung fu school, one of the TSD brown belts tested for her black belt, but since I was busy packing and such I didn't go and have no idea if she passed or not. She's a bit older than me and I'm always keen on seeing people 40+ earning that achievement, and it's always nice to have a few extra black belts/sashes at the school.
kung_fu_monkey: (animated)
Oooh! I did find tickets to PDX for $89 (one way) about two to three weeks from now. I might jump on that chance as I could really use the break. I'll need to find places to crash, but I'm something will come up.

I did grab a copy of Persona 2 for the PSP. I'll do a write up of it soon for you curious gamers.

Hi! Hope you're all doing well.
kung_fu_monkey: (Huh?)
Third, a WTF moment.

On my recent trip up to Seattle, I spied an odd ad which harkened to my inner geek. While I know nothing about the company itself, I must say that the image certainly captures one's attention.

*-Apparently they sell coffee, not jewelry. See, I actually knew *nothing* about the company. Thanks [livejournal.com profile] dcseain!

For myself (and those of you who recall the Golden Age DC Comics) seeing Wonder Woman's foe, The Cheetah, actually holding down a legit job as a model rather baffled me. She probably stole something on her way off the set (most likely the very jewels she posed with.)
kung_fu_monkey: (Angry Deer)
By-the-by, Messrs. [livejournal.com profile] rlegters and [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson, I duplicated the "toy-on-a-string" here at home only to find that Rusty the Cat pointedly ignored the toy and attacked my foot.

kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
On my last day of the vacation, [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson and [livejournal.com profile] rlegters took me off to Ballard to see the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. These locks allow large and small boats to switch from salt water to inland fresh water via a mechanism of increasing and diminishing elevations of water levels. It's neat to see it in action.

Fans of boats will appreciate the variety of ships that come through here: tugboats, yachts, pleasure boats, etc. Fans of the guys on those boats will find a wide variety of seafarers to admire: stocky guys in Carhartts, slim guys in thermals, and of course the burly lock attendants. Those who enjoy marine life will enjoy seeing how the variety of fish in the area adapt to the presence of the lock as adolescent fish will pass through one side to reach the salt water, while adults will try to return to the freshwater to spawn. You can often see little fish being sucked (mostly harmlessly) through the powerful tubes which keep the waters balanced.

Should you decide that you've had enough of the salty air, you can head over to the Botanical Gardens and adore the variety of trees and plants which come from many countries. I eyed the Japanese and Chinese ones, naturally, but that's not all to see.

Afterward, we zipped over to Fremont to view the curious collection of artisan shops and soak in the local feel of the place. It strongly reminded me of Boulder, but without all the pretention and college kids. There's a rocket planted atop the entrance of a shop that has this lengthy and comical history that you can find under the following link. I'm told that it lights up and blows smoke at a certain time of the evening as if were lifting off, which makes for a great tourist event.


We wander around a bit more when we wind up under a rather tall bridge. I notice that the road is called Troll Lane, and I chuckle that this area would indeed be perfect for a troll to live. Actually, one does...

Oh, to see my own face light up with glee as R & T give me this final surprise, facing down one of America's own bakemono made real. I was instantly giddy, and my two infinitely patient hosts snapped a pic or two of the gentle giant while I performed my own version of Shadow of the Colossus.

We're home now, and I'm finishing up my packing for the evening while reviewing my itinerary for my return trip home to the guys. This has been a completely awesome vacation, and I thank everyone who offered me a hand or a place to stay during my travels.

Now let's see what I can't do about finding a career...
kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
Yesterday was mostly a lazy day, letting us loaf about to recharge after yesterday's trek. Okay, maybe I was the one who needed that as Troy was working on planting tomatoes and Ron was supplying us with never-ending mochas and lattes, but however you look at it, it was much more relaxing.

Chip, [livejournal.com profile] bearfuz, surprises us with a message that he secured three tickets to see the performance of Mary Poppins held at the Paramount theatre. We met with him at Blue C Sushi before heading out for the performance. I was told that the conveyor belt style sushi is a new addition to the area, which rather surprised me. These were virtually *everyhwere* in Japan, and I thought that they had long since been adapted for the Western market. I'm wrong, apparently. Anyway, I found that they has served a variation on what my CO groupies know as The Green Beans of Crack; it was far less sweet, had much more garlic, and was served hot. I'll need to experiment with this dish upon my return home.

I talked with Chip about what he was doing in the play, and he was on one of the two pianos in the orchestra. In fact, our seats allowed us to just barely see his face down in the pit during the performance. He's basically running about from city to city playing piano for performances, though at one point he did act as music director. It's all quite impressive, but I've definitely learned that I'm unable to be from my guys for such long stretches of time.

The play itself took from both the movie and the books, giving a different tale. I hardly remember the story as it is, so this retelling was novel and quite fun. The set had a distinct pop-up book feel regarding the buildings and rooftop scenes, while the park sections quickly adjusted to depict colorful, fantastic locales. Quite clever, truth be told, and the fun songs kept things moving at a quick pace.

Naturally, none of this could be captured on film, so here's a picture of the interior roof, which in itself is impressive and luxurious, though I can't quite shake the feeling of a giant teat of doom undulating above our heads.

While we wait for the crowd to clear out, I grab a pic of [livejournal.com profile] rlegters, [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson and myself using the numerous mirrors along the walls of the Paramount. I can see this place being the inspiration for Astoria's Liberty Theatre, but the Paramount maintains superiority with elegant wall designs, numerous crystal chandeliers, and major productions such as this one.

Afterward, we met up with Chip and his friend Faith for drinks into the wee hours. They were a fun pair to be around, and the drinks were quite good. I had some Acai Coladas, which were fruity and light though not too heavy on the alcohol. (Hey, I had to show *some* restraint.)

At this point, we've had breakfast, coffee, and I'm about to shower before we begin today's sojourn to the Ballard Locks and Fremont.

Oh, piffle. It's my last day here, isn't it? I'll need to pack up when I get home tonight. :(
kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
My day started off in quite the nom-licious manner as I followed up a wonderful breakfast with one of the pieces of chocolate from Fran's. This piece, a smoky, salty caramel coated in rich chocolate, may or may not be from the collection allocated for my guys.

We left a bit early to reach the ferry which would take us across Puget Sound, and though there was a bit of a wait, it was nice enough out to let the windows be open and enjoy the air. The ferry can carry 122 cars across the water and were always filled to capacity. During the trip across you can wander around the decks to grab a bite to eat or stand outside for pics. This panorama is from our return trip, but it'll give you an idea of how nice the day was.

While being shuttled across, another ferry runs counter to our course, and we can just barely see others mulling about as we were. Personally, I like the pic as it shows just how pronounced the clouds were.

Suddenly, my Monkey Sense was tingling, and I turn to see [livejournal.com profile] rlegters and [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson chuckling at something. Clearly, they were plotting against me in some maniacal fashion which could only mean one thing: COFFEE.

Port Townsend is a nice town. More modern than Astoria, but it does maintain its historic importance at the same time. Lots of little shops and cafes line the streets, we heard bagpipes being played, numerous jugglers, and other festivities were being held, which we think was tied into Memorial Day celebrations. The town was lively, but not crowded, which suited me quite well.

One of the stores we ducked into was a Native American crafts store, and I found this little crab amongst the plushies. The face on the back of the crab reminded me distinctly of the Heike Crabs from Japan, where the shells of the crab have an uncanny resemblance to the scowling faces of the samurai masks. This ties into the end of the Tale of the Heike, where the Taira clan were forced to fling themselves overboard to drown rather than being caught and killed by the Minamoto forces, and those drowned souls were believed to have been reincarnated as these crabs. The crabs are real, mind you, and I was probably droning on and on at R & T about the story.

After having lunch at a cafe, we stepped outside to find ourselves accosted by a tiny white dog. This little guy was hopping on his back paws while his front ones bobbed up and down in the begging motion, all complete with a truly pathetic whimper. He got *everyone's* attention, but we had just enough sense not to feed him.

The return trip was uneventful, though quicker than the outset as we didn't have the wait at the ferry port. The breeze was much cooler, so our meanderings were cut a bit short. We're home now, relaxing and being entertained by cats. I think I'll teach R & T how to play Zombie Fluxx later tonight.

kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
[livejournal.com profile] rlegters and [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson, to my great surprise, had made lunch reservations at the restaurant in the rotating section of the Space Needle, so off we went to enjoy some wonderful cuisine.

The Copper Salmon season has just arrived, and at the guys recommendation, I tried it. Wonderful presenation, nicely prepared, served with small potatoes and a variety of sauces; I tried to pace myself but I still finished before R & T. Om nom nom nom.

While we didn't get any dessert, we did witness the spectacle of this creation; ice cream and what looked like a graham cracker served in a cup which sat in a bowl full of dry ice. Just before serving, water is poured into the ice to create the billowing steam effect. It was most impressive.

We walked along some of the outside balcony to grab some pics of downtown Seattle, though at this point we had seen it several times. Since the restaurant rotated at a slow pace (1 revolution per 46 minutes), we had seen all the landscape while eating. Still, it was nice to see it all without the window in the way.

Though we passed it on the ground, the view of the Experience Music Project from the air gave the odd hodge-podge of design styles a semblance of cohesion. [livejournal.com profile] rlegters commented that the design is akin to that of smashed electric guitars, and from up here I could sort of see that. Huh.

We caught the monorail downtown and headed down to the Pike Place Market, a lengthy string of shops of locals who sell hand-made crafts, fresh veggies, fresh fish, and much more. It rather reminded me of comparable markets in Japan that I was taken to, which immediately likened me to the area. We swung by a toy store that [livejournal.com profile] tbass's friend worked at, saw a rather impressive comic book store that had lots of cool swag for sale, and exhausted ourselves.

Oh, and the guys did point out the first Starbuck's store, which I felt compelled to at least visit. That is, until I saw the line out the door and down half a block, which then convinced me to merely take a picture from afar and move on. However, I was introduced to Fran's Chocolates, a Seattle local store with some exquisite sweets. I may or may not share these with my hubbies when I get home. Om nom nom nom * 2.

kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
I finally caught up with [livejournal.com profile] portlandpiglet at her home before departing Portland for Seattle and met up with her surprisingly verbose son. (Hubby was at work, so I missed him again.) It had been years since I'd seen her, and she looks quite content which, of course, makes me happy.

Afterward, I had to return the rental and catch the light rail down to the Amtrak station. The train was pleasant, zipping along the sylvan woods of OR and WA with its rhythmic movements. I chose to spend most of my time in the lounge with a beer reminiscing about the shinkansen and the local trains in Japan. As I absent-mindedly munched on some nori, I became acquainted with a retired woman who was on her way up to Alaska to care for her parents. We swapped stories, had some laughs, and I offered her some of my snack as she'd never tried it before. She wasn't a fan, but I assured her that it was an acquired taste and goes well with green tea.

After arriving in Seattle, my generous hosts [livejournal.com profile] tdjohnson and [livejournal.com profile] rlegters whisked me off to a burger at Red Robin and then a fun evening of karaoke at The Cuff (the event affectionately called 'Bearaoke'). You should know that [livejournal.com profile] rlegters is an *amazing* singer, despite his quiet persona, and deserved his roaring applause.

While there we encountered the charming [livejournal.com profile] tbass and his effervescent hubby [livejournal.com profile] shirtlifterbear!

Also, the irrepressible [livejournal.com profile] bearfuz arrived on-scene to join us for the end of the event.

At this point the lot of us were completely exhausted, so my hosts took me home for the evening. Today, we're planning a trip off to the Space Needle, a few other local scenes, and other fun events.

Yes, I'm quite happy right now, but I do need to give a shout out to my boys at home. *ahem* I LUVS YOUS!!

The locals

May. 24th, 2011 08:53 pm
kung_fu_monkey: (timmy)
Mom and I are the only ones who get up early, which in this house tends to mean "before noon." She was itching to pull some weeds along the fence and I needed a cuppa joe something fierce. I run an errand for her to drop off some mail at the post office, which I somehow forgot was in the needlessly huge, terribly historical building showing off its marble floors in defiance of any modernization effort. I forget how recalcitrant Astoria can be when it comes to updating anything as the town takes so much pride in having a rich history that it often simply refuses to move forward. Yes, that's part of its charm, but it also makes you feel really out of touch if you're a visitor.

After procuring my liquid ambrosia, I headed across the bridge to Warrenton's Fred Meyer to look around. The surrounding shops had changed since I've been here last, but this business giant stands as a sentinel of the supply chain for the area. I'm not much for the layout of the store, but I do a quick browse anyway. (Why on earth would you place toys next to bedspreads?)

Returning to downtown Astoria, I find that the Amazing Stories comic shop still stands as strong as ever, feeding the young and old geeks with continued tales of heroism and gaming supplies. I might have been a stranger, but they knew one of their own when I stepped foot in the store. A young man who was a bit on the heavy side but boasted a killer smile and boyish charm made sure I was finding everything I was looking for. Ah, if only to be just a few years younger again.

Mom called, citing her victory over the ever encroaching threat of malevolent flora and stating a desire to explore the shops with me. I zip back home, pick her up, and return downtown. We begin by exploring the 14th St. Bistro, a coffee/sandwhich shop that was connected to the lobby of the Commodore Hotel. It was a nice shop, but the real allure was in the lobby of the hotel for us. The seats were next to large walls and shelves stacked with numerous oddities which demanded my examination.

The lobby also boasted this perception-altering entryway into the rooms upstairs, with an odd chandelier and strange mural which had me twisting my head for so long that my neck began to ache. Of course, this means that the designer just acquired a complete victory from this curious monkey.

Following this, we meandered over to the Fort George Brewery. It's a new restaurant with it's own brewery within the walls, giving lunch customers the alluring odor which wafts from the store. A good selection of alcohol was available, though I chose not to partake at the moment. I should have though, as a cute ginger guy was behind the bar and I'm sure he would have made any meal interesting.

If you think that the above image suggests that something caught my eye, you'd be right. No, it wasn't the red-headed eye candy, but rather a little painting which immediately capture my attention. I'm unsure exactly what Vortex Monkeys is all about, but I can assure you that if my life was presented in a cartoon-like painting, it would probably look an awful lot like this.

We then swung by the Liberty Theatre, which has underwent numerous restoration efforts during my absence. When I was here, this theatre was almost always closed to the public due to leaking roof, lack of heat, and other repair issues. Astoria had to choose between tearing down the building or restoring it. It should be clear which path Astoria took, and true to Astoria's M.O., the Liberty Theatre is now a fully functional art center, capable of hosting plays, dance recitals, concerts, weddings, wedding receptions, and much more. The frescoes along the inside walls were restored, returning a sense of granduer to this location.

Man, I think I look quite tubby in that photo. :(

Anyway, we looked at the upstairs reception area and its limited view over the Columbia river, and the downstairs area where concessions would have been sold. It's nice and all, offering restrooms for Women and Me.

Yes, Me. All mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.

At this point, I'm just about to dive into some of Mom's homemade blackberry cobbler a la mode and go into a food coma for the rest of the evening. I should look into the drop-in/visitor rates at the gym at the entrance of town tomorrow; Mom's cooking, while completely scrumptious, is NOT helping me get back into shape to earn that black belt.
kung_fu_monkey: (animated)
While Astoria has its 200th celebratory thing going on, I went down to the pier at the Columbia Maritime Museum to see what's going on there. The were some old ships just pulling out of the dock, and I tried grabbing a few pics. While they were sailing off, I got to have some of the large freighters in the background for contrast.

The Museum has had numerous additions since I visited it last about 10 years ago. Several exhibits, a movie room, and some neat displays make it worth a look now, but there was an additional gift shop which captured my attention. It promoted some sort of tough sailor look in gifts and whatnot, but amidst the tacky Steve Hurley-esque designs, I found at least one gem worth acquiring.

The normal gift shop does have the typical local goods with flavor text about the Columbia River, but I found that they had actually managed to make octopi plushies that were fairly cute!

Truth be told, though, I've never been one to celebrate nautical heritage, so I went back outside to appreciate the mossy logs which marked the remains of a once larger pier. I found it rather striking, seeing these logs and their bright, sylvan green coloring against the dark water and the dull grey sky.

I'll be introducing my family to Japanese curry tonight, along with fried, breaded chicken cutlets. It's generally appreciated by most everyone who tries it.
kung_fu_monkey: (animated)
Monkey's Log: Monkey Date 052211.4.38.

Woke up yesterday at 3:30 AM to gather up stuff and head down to DIA for my 6 AM flight. My loverly [livejournal.com profile] dr_tectonic took me to the airport, smooched me goodbye, and departed. The flight down to PHX was fine, but there was an hour delay due to plane maintainance, which made us all grumpy.

After *finally* landing, I meander over to Enterprise to find a line of 20 people wanting a car, and only ONE person behind the counter. Ugh. By the time I reach the counter, I was nearly out of patience and they were out of economy cars. However, as I had reserved one, they upgraded me for free.

I was supposed to have some Aveo, but I'm running around in a Kia Soul now, which is a wonderful car despite the boxy exterior. Quick acceleration, decent gas mileage, tight control, and USB connection to my iPod for tunes (which, I believe, can be controlled via voice command.) Quite pleasant.

When I met up with TJ, we went out for lunch at McMenamin's Chapel Pub. He had a Mahi Mahi burger, but his fries wound up being pretty soggy. I had a regular cheeseburger, had equivalently icky fries, but had a Diet Rite (which I haven't had in years.)

He happens to be a well known artist in the Portland area, with his recent work focusing on lots of negative space and odd angles of architecture. It's quite interesting work.

This guy, however, is a *total* mooch.

He led me off to several spots in Portland: The Fox and Hound Pub, the Japanese American Historical Plaza along the Willamette River, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and the Uwajimaya grocery store in Beaverton. It wasn't all about me, though, as he had his moments of joy.

I picked up ingredients for simple sashimi, miso, and a sampling of sake. The best of them was this gentle, feminine-style sake that was lightly sweet, very little bite, and went down quite smoothly.

TJ countered with his own creation; Cherry soda ice cream on a chocolate sweet roll topped with chocolate nibs and a chunk of soy chocolate. It was *very* good.

I had hoped to see Portland's Eagle, but by this time I was nearly passing out from exhaustion. We called it a day.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes, and I hopped in the Soul to take the 2 hour trip to Astoria. The city happens to be having its 200th anniversary, but I'm not at all sure that I have the energy to participate in any events today. So far I'm just chillin' at home, but I did get to wrestle with Mom's 100 lb Labra-poodle and earn the trust of Dad's cat, the Maine Coon called Jade.

All is well, and the next few days are going to be low key.


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