March update

So, what’s been happening here ?

We’ve just said goodbye to Kevin and Andy who stayed with us for a couple of weeks. They spent the first week with us and did some touring. I got to go with them.

I took some days off from work, which was a bonus.

The first day, we went to Gilroy to the outlet stores there. I’m of the opinion that most of these places are just extended department stores except there is no permeating odour of the perfume counter around the whole store.
The second day, we went to the Golden Gate bridge so that Kevin and Andy could take pictures from the Marin headlands. There are some really good views of the city and the bridge from there so, if you’re touring, don’t just stop at the viewpoints either side of the bridge, head to the headlands. The photo session at the bridge was followed by a 2-hour drive through to Napa and wine country. The point of destination was Calistoga where there was a geyser known as California’s Old Faithful. To be called Old Faithful you have to have regular eruptions. I know a few people who could have that moniker.

Now, if you look at the brochures with all the pictures, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a mammoth jet of water shooting, from the centre of a lake, high into the stratosphere.

In reality, it is a garden pond with a kettle in the middle that costs $8 each to see.

If it wasn’t for the fact there were llamas and fainting goats, the whole trip would have been a complete waste of time.

We headed from Calistoga back to wine country in an attempt to get a wine tour but we got there too late. Instead, we stopped at one of the winery shops and bought a bottle of port and a bottle of white wine.

Friday saw us head into the city and play on Pier 39. It was raining a lot but not proper rain. This was the sort of rain that’s too light to be called rain but too heavy to be called drizzle. So, we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and tried to get tickets to Alcatraz but there was nothing until the weekend but we had other things to do so we got tickets for the following weekend. We caught the cable car to Union Square but it was standing room only.

It’s an interesting experience standing on the footplate of a cable car in the pouring rain/drizzle where the water from the roof of the vehicle is falling onto you as well.

The day was a washout for taking pictures so we spent some time in the Apple store and headed home. Later that evening, there was a leaving drink for a colleague so I took Kevin and Andy along. We had fun playing pool and darts in a bar. After that, it was decided we’d go round to someone’s house to play poker for the evening.

Poker is becoming a tradition for us. For a number of weeks, we’ve been playing poker after work on a Thursday and I’ve been doing nicely out of it. It’s a $20 buy-in with a maximum of 3 buy-ins for the night. We play Texas Hold ’em and 7 card stud. This week, we were introduced to Omaha. For some reason, we are consumed by this game and talk about nothing else or the hands that could have been.

So, we played until 1am and I fleeced everyone 🙂 Kevin and Andy weren’t impressed because they lost their $20 quickly but what was worse was that they were heading to Vegas on the Monday so I think I may have ruined the experience for them.

On the Sunday, they took us out for a meal to say thanks for having them to say. It was most appreciated and very tasty.

When they left for their week of touring Nevada, we didn’t do too much, just regrouped.

One item of note is that the parent-teacher conferences happened this week and Rachel and Joanna are meeting or exceeding all the standards that have been set. We’re very proud of them for that. Joanna is the youngest in her class, is in the top 3 and is reading at a first-grade level. Rachel has exceeded almost all of the things that she is being monitored on.

On Friday, we awaited the re-arrival of Kevin and Andy from their tour but they got caught in snow near I80 in Tahoe and didn’t make it back until 5am the next morning. Problem was, we needed to be back in the city to get to Alcatraz by 1:15pm.

We missed the boat by about 10 minutes but we got to stand in the stand-by queue.

That was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. The best bit was having one of the attendants go up and down the line asking “Who’s got tickets for 1:15 ?”. Thinking we’d get onto the next boat, we put our hands up only to have her say “Well you’ve missed that one.”. Thanks. We needed that.

We got a boat at 2:15 and stayed until the last boat back at 4:30. It’s a great tour with a bit of a climb to get to the cell block. Included in the cost of the ticket was an audio tour where you have a set of headphones with a commentary to allow you to walk around the cells for about 35 minutes. Contrary to belief, there is no electric chair there. The only people executed were the prisoners who were involved in an attempted breakout which killed a couple of guards. Also, only 3 people have actually escaped but it’s unsure if they survived the current of the water around the island.

There were a very large number of tourists around but, surprisingly, the audio tour was well paced and you could stop and start it whenever you wanted which meant that nothing was overcrowded to look at. The cells are very small with little room to even walk around but the whole place was light and airy, there were lots of windows to look out of.

I’m surprised that anyone wanted to escape.