I’ve been organizing active Tuesdays with a decently large group of friends. We’ve done a lot of pickleball, and over the last two weeks I’ve also organized other activities. Two weeks ago we went kayaking in the canals around Foster City. This past week we had a ‘field day’ where we hung out in a field, had a picnic, and played some games. I had never played spike ball before and I was amazingly bad at it. I was amused that Clarissa refused to move, but she had amazing reflexes and accuracy, so she was actually surprisingly good. We threw the frisbees around, and had two going at the same time really quickly and it was a lot of fun to keep an eye out for each one. We had a few good catches at the same time, and I managed to get one decent double throw to two different people at the same time. We had 12.5 people show up (with Alexander counting as the 0.5). I had a great time, and we’ll have to do it again.
Steph and I took Russel out for fishing in Half Moon Bay. We found a place where the beach was walkable a long way out along the jetty at low tide. We got two rockfish and one big monkeyface eel. We also got a smaller monkeyface, but we threw it back. There were a ton of people there when we arrived going for clams. In the food picture that is the prepared eel, plus some tomatoes and blackberries from our garden. Afterwards we met Elaine at Drakes in San Carlos for a nice lunch.
I got into Cancun without major issues. The bags took nearly 45 minutes to come out, but that didn’t matter much as Steph was delayed in coming to pick me up at the gas station. She was nice enough to come and get me, which I really appreciated. Puerto Aventuras, where we were staying, is about an hour drive from the airport. She had been diving that day, so I didn’t impact he schedule too much.
I worked Wednesday, and then on Thursday I had a free diving class. We did classroom and pool work that led to me doing a 3:30 static breath hold to pass the class. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was manageable. I’m pretty sure I could have made it a minute or so longer, but it is pretty uncomfortable.
The next day we went to Cenote Maravilla, which has a small opening, but is a single huge open cavern underneath. at about 40m there is a strong hydrogen sulfide layer that is opaque more than cloudy. I was able to get to 20m, which is the deepest they can go in the first class. Rodrigo was a great guide and teacher. He loves talking and was able to demonstrate everything clearly.
We had dinner with Rory and were able to talk Survey Down as well as general diving things that are in the area.
Saturday we did a guided cavern dive with Martin, who is one of the old guard of the are for cave divers. He talked about all the history of cave diving in the area, and how he took a step back when his child was born. We did the Barbie and bat cave lines in Dos Ojos. I’ve done those before, but they are great lines, and open enough for me to be comfortable since it has been a while since I’ve been in an overhead environment while diving. I could tell I was pretty rusty as the tips of my fins were tapping the walls in a few spots. I think a lot of that is that I rest with my legs slightly apart.
Sunday we slept in a bit and then headed to the ruins in Tulum. We walked around the ruins, which were more open and hot than we were expecting. After an hour or so there we headed to Burrito Amor which is a place that has unique burritos and smoothies. They had a lot of the same ingredients in their smoothies as I have, but they added a lot more sweet to make the more palatable to most people.
After the burrito we headed to the very southern tip of Tulum, where we met with Rick who guided us in the mangroves. We started by snorkeling. The area had lots of dead plan material, which would get bubbles from the decomposition and float up until the bubbles popped and it float back down. There were a lot of fish in the lagoon, and I got to do a little freediving again. I used the techniques and was able to stay under for about a minute without any issues.
We then went a little further south into the nature preserve and had a quick picnic before kayaking around the reserve. There were a lot of pretty birds: Blue Herron, Ibis, Magnificent Frigate, Redwing Blackbird, Brown Pelicans, and Cormorants. We kayaked around the mangroves until sunset, and then headed back to the dock before the light went completely. It was a long drive back, and I appreciate all the driving that Steph has been doing on all these small rough roads.
I took Monday to myself while Steph did more diving. I didn’t do all that much, and it was nice to just relax.
Tuesday and Wednesday morning were dedicated to work, but Tuesday evening we did get a dinner with Lexi, which was nice. She is one of the people in the Bay Area that goes to cave dive.
We made it back on Wednesday evening with pretty much no issues, and the kitties were so happy to see us. Irene was great at taking care of them.
Friday we had a number of people showing up. I got up and made some amazing french toast from the left over brioche hamburger buns. They were way better than they had any right to be. We had a pretty relaxed morning, and waited for Tim and Hannah, then Michelle and Michael to show up before heading off on a hike. We just went out the back of the house like we did with the first weekend crew, but started the other direction and did a shorter loop. I think we could have done the longer loop and it would have turned out just fine.
When we got back to the house we started prepping for the tea time. As people rolled in over the evening we had lots of finger foods for them to try. We ran out of bread, but were able to improvise a pretty good set of dishes. It was all delicious.
Adam, Tim, and I played some Tapestry. It was a pretty fun round, with Adam taking the victory.
That evening we broke out Drawful and then Just One for some of the social party games.
Saturday morning I dropped Adam off at the Truckee airport, but it was too bad for him to fly. He managed to make it back with commercial flights and car rentals.
We then had breakfast and headed to the water to get in. Unfortunately the rental places weren’t renting because the weather was pretty questionable. Steph, Tina, and I put together out craft, but as Tina was getting in the pin for her paddle broke. Steph and I decided to make it a very short paddle and took about 20 minutes to go a little ways along the West side of the lake. Then we turned around and the wind carried us back to the put in spot.
We then went to a state park to do a short hike. We found a number of different mushrooms, and when we were most of the way back to the car, I spotted a morel mushroom poking up through the pine needles about 30 feet off the trail. I got everyone’s attention and they all spread out to find a pretty good haul of morels.
We then went to the Magic Carpet Mini Golf course. We chose to do the Dinosaur course since it was the most empty. George took it seriously and ended up winning by one stroke over Paul, who beat Michael by 2. The course had some great holes, one with a cannon, and another with a spinning disk that had the hole. There were also some really annoying ones where the hole was up on a plateau or in the middle of a slope that the ball wouldn’t stop on.
George was nice enough to set up his karaoke system, and I embarrassed myself quite a few times. I was having trouble hitting the high notes more than I had in the past, which just went to show that it had been a long time since we’d done any singing.
More games were had that evening, with a very late game of Mars to cap the evening. The Mars game was an especially interesting one. Tim and Tina had powerful engines, and tons of cards. Myself and Yutong/Paul didn’t play as many cards, but got a lot more points. I needed one more points per Jovian card to win, as I ended with 8 Jovians. I also had a microbe card with 25 microbes, which was fun.
Sunday we walked down to the water to see if they were renting or had a pin to fix Tina’s paddle, but no to both. We had a breakfast then a round of games before lunch. Right after lunch we did the miracle fruit tasting. Clarissa said that it didn’t do anything for her, and Paul said it got rid of all his taste. The rest had the typical reaction of it making sour into sweet. We did another round of games, including some VR.
We then went to the East side of the lake to watch the sunset over the lake. It was gorgeous and I made a fool of myself scrambling over the rocks. We shuffled the cars around a few times because of the 20 minute parking limits, but didn’t end up having any issues there. We watched the sunset then went back to the house. I got people to play some Acron, then we had an intense game of Spirit Island with level 5 Prussians plus defending the heart of the island. I was feeding all of the others with energy, as I had two cards that did that. I was also able to get a set of inexpensive cards that let me activate my ultimate and do 2 damage to each invader in a single land. That plus the ability to push invaders around made it a powerful nuke. The others were also able to do large plays based on all the energy I was feeding them. I think we had a lot of things go just right, as that combo is supposed to be one of the hardest to play.
Monday we all grabbed what we could. Lost of left overs were split or thrown out, and we finished with about 30 minutes to spare before checkout time.
I had a fantastic time, and will likely do something like this again for my 40th.
On Tuesday Steph and I went to the Caldor burn scar to look for some morel mushrooms. We found about a pound, but they were pretty sparse, and there had certainly been someone coming by before us who took the best ones. We also had a hell of a drive, with large logging crews shutting down sections of the road for long periods. There were four one way sections for logging. The area we harvested morels in was a pretty steep hill, which is why we might have found the ones we did. Most people probably wouldn’t have braved that hill to get the mushrooms.
Adam stuck around past the weekend and we did a hike together around one of the lakes in the Tahoe National Forest on Wednesday. I wanted to see if there were any morels in that area, and the answer was a definite no. We did get to see a nice set of waterfalls and some pretty lakes. The hike also featured two rattlesnakes that rattled at Adam as he approached. He wasn’t in front the whole time, but he happened to be in front when the rattlesnakes were in the path. The lakes were interesting in that they had a giant pipe going between them with the lower lake having a power station situated in an isolated spot on the shore. The pipe was about 8 ft in diameter. We had to go under it a few times, and each spot had a sign that said “This area may flood with no warning.” We also tried to take a short cut on the way back, but the bridge had been taken out o the shortcut led to a set of rapids with no wait to cross. We turned back and went the normal path back. We could have gone a little off train to cross the stream on a log, but even that would have been a little overly risky.
That evening we went to the restaurant that everyone had recommended, Gar Woods, and the food was good. I wouldn’t say it was anything special. It was solid food, decent drinks, but generic fare.
Tina and Amit arrived Wednesday after the cleaners were supposed to clean the house. There must have been a miscommunication from the host and the cleaners as they didn’t come. I reached out and they apologized, refunded, and send the cleaners over for a quick clean. The main thing we wanted was a change of sheets, which they did.
We sat outside by the fire pit while the cleaners cleaned. It was nice to relax outside and chat.
Thursday morning I went out on the Lake with Steph, and he wind picked up make us have a pretty hard paddle back to the put in spot. I was going as hard as I could for about 15 minutes which wore me out a good bit.
Paul and Yutong showed up and we played some Castles and Mars.
For weekend 1 we had a lot of people drop out of coming. Originally there were going to be 16, but only 8 made it. I was more accepting of it from the friends who thought it through and let me know ahead of time, less so for those who messaged me while I was driving up. Either way I still had a great time. We got in after hitting the grocery store.
Ricardo and Irene came in shortly after. Steph cooked some delicious tom yum and we chilled for the evening. Ricardo taught us how to play dominoes, the six dot version, and we had a good time playing. It was a simpler game then I was expecting, but still a decent amount of strategy. In some of the games I felt like there wasn’t ever a real decision, but most of the time I did get a few interesting choices in a round.
Brian, Brittany, and Ethan came in shortly after that. Ethan was a great kid. He was communicative and only ever had the problem that he didn’t want to put on a life jacket. That led to Brittany hanging out with him in the car while the rest of us went kayaking, but we made sure she was able to get a little bit of time on the water later.
We went kayaking from Sand Harbor Beach, and made it down to Thunderbird Lodge. Many of the attractions and rental places weren’t open until Memorial Day weekend. This meant we went to a rental place that wasn’t as convenient and we had to load the kayaks on the car. They had just opened for the season, so they weren’t fully ready. Even so we didn’t have any issues with the rentals, and since they weren’t prime placement it was much more affordable. That was an interesting place. We looked it up later and it is a rentable private area for extremely wealthy clients. The annual fee for being a member that can reserve time there is $20K. The kayak trip was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. The snow capped mountains across the lake made for a beautiful backdrop. The sun was intense and I got some sunburn on my knees. We also found a little cave, but it was so small that we would have had to army crawl, and nobody was up for that. Ricardo and Irene were in a tandem, and they struggled the whole time to find a rhythm. They made it out and back. I think a large part of their issues was that Ricardo wanted to control things from the front, where he needed to really just keep a rhythm.
We did a long hike out the back of the property where we are staying. This had a really nice loop that started about 250 feet away from the house and returned 250 feet on the other side. It was a great hike and we saw a lot of mushrooms, and some interesting flowers. The flowers that were the most interesting were the fleshy blood flowers. They are parasites that feed off the trees in the area and are related to asparagus. They can also be cooked like asparagus but are protected. In the middle of the hike we got an amazing view of the lake with a large rock slide of large boulders. Ricardo and Irene were having trouble with the hike, but made it without complaints. Irene was nervous at parts, where she had a really hard time with being near a ‘cliff’ that was more of a slide of boulders. She also had a hard time with some rowdy dogs that came by. I think she enjoyed getting out of her comfort zone, and away from the work computer. Ethan was amazing on the hike. Brian and Brittany went to get a backpack for carrying him around. He took a nap while Brian was carrying him up the hill, and then he was quiet and taking in the sights and sounds for the rest of it. He even hiked a little. While we were on this hike Steph was out picking some morel mushrooms.
Adam showed off his plane one day, allowing people to see it and get in the cockpit. Ethan loved being in the cockpit and was hitting all the switches, under close supervision by Adam. Ricardo and Brittany also got some time in the cockpit. The next day he took me up for a tour around the lake. It was amazing to watch him fly and see how different it is from the grounded methods of travel. He chatted with the different towers of the airports we were flying next to. Some of the interesting things were the South Tahoe tower reaching out to the unknown plane flying south along the west side of the lake. Apparently that is the normal way for a tower to reach out to a plane, assuming as little as possible. The Reno tower reached out directly with the call sign asking us to stay left. That was to let a Southwest flight climb normally, which we got to see come pretty close by us on our right. There was another high performance jet, that Adam thought was military. The jet went from behind us and 1000ft below to in front of us and 1000ft above in about a minute. It was pretty close on our right side. From the air I got a great view of the Caldor burn scar as it came into the Tahoe area. We also could see all the extra lakes around Lake Tahoe. We had a little bit of turbulence around one shorter hill that didn’t have snow on the top, so thermals were able to form and push us around a bit. On our approach for landing the tower first told us to keep speed, because we had a plane behind us. They then must have told the plane to circle once, as we then were able to slow down a bit. They also contacted us on our final approach to let us know there was a coyote in the runway. Adam had to do a double take as he was concentrating on landing, and was probably trying to remember what kind of plane was a coyote. The coyote was fine, and most of the way down the runway. We didn’t pass it, but I did see it happily trotting around the runway as we were on the taxi way. The Sasquatch quality photo below is the coyote in the runway.
We played a round of codenames and had most people get a chance to be codemaster. We did codenames pictures as that seems to be slightly better for non-native english speakers. The games were all pretty close, and the new codemasters got a good understanding of how hard it can be to give good clues.
We also played a few rounds of Drawful 2. Everyone really enjoyed it and Brian was amazing at both the funny aspects and the guessing correctly. Steph as usual was the best artist, but that doesn’t always help in getting points or likes.
We played one game of Spirit Island with Adam, Steph, Brian, and myself. Brian and Adam were pretty new to it, but both did really well. We played a harder scenario and it turned out pretty well.
I had a great time, and will probably do another outing like this for my 40th.
After getting back from Bath, Steph and I grabbed our luggage from the excess luggage counter with 80 seconds to spare before the 48 hours had elapsed and we would be charged for a third day. We grabbed a taxi into the heart of London, mainly because I wanted to ride in a Taxi while in London at some point, and it can be a pain to move around the Underground with large luggage. We got to the Rathbone and it was a lovely hotel in a fantastic spot. They had our rooms ready despite checking in around 10am, and we took some time to settle in. We then walked around central London, and saw all the major sights. We had tea at The Library and had a evening of work.
The next few days I worked while Steph went to some of the other museums during the day.
On Friday we had a day in the British Museum. We hit the highlights of the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, Egypt, and the Ancient Wonders. We also stopped by the clock room as that is one of my favorites. I see the old clocks as one of the best examples of historical machinery and many of the clocks that are put on display have some kind of automation to the striking or ticking. The clocks were next to the Sutton Hoo exhibit, which Steph and I had seen a documentary on. Steph was impressed at the intricate detail in the gold work for the jewelry, which was much smaller than it appeared on the show.
We did a wizard themed afternoon tea, which was unique but not really targeted for us.
Saturday we made our way out to Hampton Court Palace and spent the day taking a tour of the palace and a walk through the gardens there. Steph enjoyed seeing the palace and watched videos on it for the next few days. We got to see a lot of art that was displayed there as well, although not the pieces Steph was most looking forward to. We also got to experience a proper hedge maze, which was a lovely and singular experience. We didn’t get caught in any wrong turns, and made it trough without any issue. Our biggest disappointment with the palace was that the kitchen display was only two pieces of roasting meat.
Sunday’s plans for Blenheim Palace got interrupted by the tour company cancelling. We were looking forward to seeing a proper joust there, but it seems that they didn’t have enough interest to run the trip. We instead went back to the British Museum and saw much of the rest of it, although still not all.
The next morning we were on our way to the airport with no real issues or delays. It was nice to be back home with the kitties.
This afternoon tea was probably the best food of the teas, and the environment was very nice. The only downside was it was in the center of the building, thus didn’t have any views or much natural light. I was amused as it drifted towards evening that they brought in some faux candles to light the tables, even though the light that we had was already coming from the electricity instead of the outside. They had some really amazing sandwiches, which Steph got a second helping of. There was some excellent live music on piano, that was playing covers of pop music. The tea selection was also one of the best, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.
The Pump Room, Bath
The Pump Room is in the building that houses the old Roman baths in Bath. This room is used in many period pieces as a meeting room, as it is picturesque and immediately recognizable. The food was very good, and the second best of the trip. The tea was also good, but nothing special. We enjoyed touring the baths afterwards and the live music.
The Library was a place we expected to be a good spot for a quiet afternoon tea. The young child that was at the table next to us made that not the case for the first half of our experience. The food was decent and the tea was the best of the trip. I also think the atmosphere, minus the child, and view was the most to my liking of all the places we had afternoon tea. The view out over the River Thames to see Big Ben was unique, and a highlight of the experience. I was amused by the haphazard placement of old books around the shelves that surround you. There were some encyclopedias next to medical journals that then had some Shakespear and accounting books on the same shelf. It felt like they had purchased old books in bulk, and mixed them up for some variety on the shelves.
Steph went to this while I was stuck at work one day. She said it was excellent, hold for another young child that was being loud. She noted that the father was the one taking care of it instead of the mother, who got to enjoy her afternoon tea. Steph thought the environment and food was top notch.
The Wizard Experience
This experience, that was in no way connected with Harry Potter, despite being just around the corner from the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theater was interesting, but not really worth it. It was clear that much of the setup was for either superfans of Harry Potter or younger children. They had some well done mechanisms and triggers, but the overall experience was a little lacking. I still enjoyed it, but it was at the bottom of the list for afternoon teas by a large margin.
Steph and I grabbed a morning train to Bath from Paddington Station. We had a lovely train ride and got to view the countryside. There were rolling green hills and lots of sheep and cows. Little row houses broke up the landscape as well. We got to Bath and were able to check into the Airbnb immediately.
The Airbnb was fantastic. We were staying on a boat just below the weir. It was such a nice location and a lot of space in a unique room. We spent a good bit of time just relaxing on the deck of the ship.
We had a few food plans in Bath and they all turned out really well. The food here was just fantastic. The only disappointment was the Bath Bun, it was too sweet and the sugar crystals were not my favorite. On the other hand the Sally Lunn Bun was delicious and it was one of my favorite dinners in the UK. We also had afternoon tea in the Pump Room at the Roman Baths.
We took a tour of the Roman Baths after the afternoon tea. Before that we also walked around Bath and saw the Circus, the Royal Crescent, and the botanical gardens. That was a nice walk, but the walks that I enjoyed most were the ones up into the orchard and along the canals. The canals are high up and have lots of narrow boats along them. They have great views and are themselves lovely. I would love to do a month long trip on a narrow boat along the canals, as long as I could ensure I had internet for work in the evenings.
We also went to the Thermae Spa. It was a decently nice spa with a lot of hot rooms and an ice room that I used a lot between the hot rooms. There weren’t any hot tubs, but the warm pool at the bottom was plenty nice to spend time in. There were a lot of hen parties there, but since it wasn’t drinking time yet they were fine. In the evenings while walking around some of the hen and stag parties were a little obnoxious. There was also a rugby game nearby one evening that had a lot of rugby enthusiasts drinking into the night.
We got up early and grabbed the train back to London without any issues. I really enjoyed my time in Bath, but two days was just about right to see everything that we would want to see.