Archive for the ‘Mythical Creatures’ Category

Exploding kittens expansion pack

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

A new expansion module is available!!

Riding the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
1-559-683-7273 *
56001 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623

Angie and I took a weekend trip to Yosemite National Forest. We have been wanting to go there for many years and ride the Sugar Pine Railroad. The last time we were in Yosemite, we passed by but didn’t stop. Neither of us knew anything about this railroad, so we were excited to learn. We decided to take the morning trip at 9:30am. We arrived early so that we could watch them hook up the engine. If you check out the San Diego Garden Railway club’s Instagram and FaceBook pages, you can see some additional photos and videos.

Rider note: Usually, the first train out for the day pulls the train forward so you will want to check with them before you book (if you have a preference). 

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad operates two Shay locomotives. The Shay locomotive is the most popular of all the geared locomotives. It was designed by Ephraim Shay who was a school teacher turned logger. He really knew nothing about building an engine, but he needed a better design that would work for logging. He basically built a truck that sat on a geared wheel platform. What makes the Shay so powerful is that all the wheels are geared together and turn as one providing a tremendous amount of power. Most of the Shay engines were built and used for companies in the US; however, some were shipped to approximately thirty other countries. Currently, there are only eight left in operation around the world with two of them at the Sugar Pine RR. The Shay locomotive is designed to ride on narrow gauge rails which allows tighter curves in the track. When you get into the mountains or higher elevations there is less room to create sweeping curves, so it is ideal for tighter curves.

Shay locomotive No. 15 came from the West Side Lumber Company railway. This engine was in the shop when we arrived, so we didn’t get to see it in operation. Number 15 was really number 9 when in operation at West Side. The front plate was donated and made by Glen Bell (the founder of Taco Bell), who was a huge train enthusiast. 

Shay locomotive No. 10 was built in 1928, also a former West Side Lumber Company locomotive. No. 10 is the largest narrow gauge Shay locomotive and one of the last ever constructed. According to the Sugar Pine Railroad, they have yet to find the upper limit of this engine. It has done everything asked of it without any complaints.

The YMSPRR pulls two log cars and four covered cars. The log cars are tree logs that are cut out one-quarter, so that you can sit in them. The covered cars were nice to sit in and provided shade from the sun. The log cars are clearly the most popular, but I like to be under the cover.Past experience with steam and coal engines have taught me that you may get peppered with water or coal debris if you are in the open. 

Rail Cars

The train travels about four miles through the sugar mountain heading downhill. During the trip, the engine will burn about forty gallons of oil and boils about 400 gallons of water into steam. At the halfway point (in the middle of a reversing loop) we stopped to take on water.

taking on water

We got off the train at the halfway point. Everyone had a 15-20 minute layover. Walking around, we got some cool views of the train, and you could see the firebox. It was quite impressive during the day and at night it was even more spectacular. We walked around the area. There was a nice stream here as well as a sitting area for their camp sing-a-long in the evening.

As a garden railroad enthusiast, you are always told that engines never climb more than 3 degrees. This railroad has climbs that are 9 degrees or more. This is doable because of the Shay design. The engine also carries sand at the back of the engine that can be dropped onto the track to improve the traction. 

During active logging operations they cut down over 1.5 billion board feet of wood. If laid end to end, it could go around the earth about 11.5 times. Over 30,000 acres were cut down, but they just pulled up stakes and didn’t replant any trees. The current state of the forest after 90 years is the result of natural seeding of the forest. It was impressive to see how the trees came back. 

A huge thanks to Scott McGhee who gave us a personal tour of the shop along with more in-depth history to the railroad. Scott is the general manager and all around knowledgeable guy. He provided us with an hour long tour. The shop tour included seeing engine number 10, which they had just put in the shop a few days earlier to do maintenance. After two days, the steam lines were still slightly warm to the touch. They really hold the heat. The shop is filled with spare parts. Many are for the engine, but lots for the railroad.

Jenny Car
So many parts

We went back to our hotel for lunch and to relax. Our next adventure was to go back for the “Moonlight Special” Train & BBQ Dinner. We arrived early to spend time in the museum. There were a lot of antiques. The most interesting piece was a small iron smith forge.

old fashion iron forge

We sat down for dinner at picnic tables (properly socially distanced) and listened to the Sugar Pine Band. They entertained us with songs while we ate. I met up with a high school friend I have not seen in over 25 years and her son. During dinner and the train ride we caught up on what we have been doing since we last met.

The Sugar Pine Band

The “Moonlight Special” ride was pretty neat. The sun was going down and the mountain had different coloring and lighting than the morning run. When we reached the halfway point, we disembarked and made our way over to the fire pit and found a bench. For the next hour we were entertained, under the moonlight, by the band. They sang campfire songs and everyone joined in. It was like being back at camp as a kid. There was a full moon, so it was nice and bright and we had amazing views of the moon through the trees.

After the festivities, we boarded the train again for our return trip. The views and feeling was very different from the morning train. The white smoke that we had in the morning was black. Not really black, but it looked black because it blocked out all the light. We could see the fire under the engine which lit up the forest ground. It was an incredible sight.

This is one of my favorite narrow gauge railways. Riding a steam engine through the mountains and trees is the best way to travel. They also offer 30 minute rides on the Jenny Railcars. They use them first thing in the morning and last car out to pick up anyone that missed the train ride back. 

If you are looking for a train related activity near Yosemite, I highly recommend it.

So long and thanks for all the Cheese

Thursday, April 25th, 2013


Pekoe Kitty – Can’t believe she was ever this tiny.

Today we say good-bye to our oldest baby. In 1996 Angie and I adopted two wonderful kittens. Angie picked out a lovely orange kitten. She picked because her because of her beautiful blue eyes. We named ‘her’ Orange Pekoe (after the tea). The funny thing is that everyone thinks ‘she’ was a ‘he’. Apparently, most orange cats are male. ‘Pekoe’, as we nicknamed her was a curious little kitten who loved to explore and get into all sorts of trouble.


Pekoe about to pounce on our heads on the couch.

Because of Pekoe’s orange color, she would blend into a lot of things in the house. Sometimes she would lay on a blanket that we had and you could not tell she was there. I remember the day we ordered our dinning room furniture. After they were done delivering the furniture we could not find her. As over protective parents we panicked trying to find her. We even called the delivery drivers and made them stop the truck and look in the back to see if she got scooped up in all the plastic wrapping they took away. After a very stressful 30 minutes, we found her sitting on one of the chairs, where she had blended in.


Pekoe chewing on Earl’s tail (nom nom)

Pekoe loved playing with her brother Earl Gray (yeah another tea name). She would seem to be the passive one when playing and appeared to be dominated by Earl. But, she was the stronger of the two. When she was tired of playing, she would lift Earl up and body slam him over, push off and walk away. That was her way of saying “I’m done playing now”. It was quite hilarious to see.

pekoe basket2

pekoe_basket A basket full of kitty.


Pekoe loved boxes, baskets or anything she could climb into. We found her hiding inside a cupboard once. She blended in perfectly because they are a honey maple color.

pekoe_shelf pekoe_fireplace

Pekoe loved to lounge next to the window, door and fireplace. Anywhere she could get warmth. She especially loved the fireplace. She would come over the second I started to make a fire and lay down all night enjoying the warmth.


Pekoe taking over the chair to relax by the fireplace

Pekoe wasn’t really a lap cat until later in her life. She also didn’t really have much of a meow. She would sort of make a grunting sound. She came out of her shell after her brother passed away meowing up a storm and demanding to be held and petted. In fact, if you didn’t pet her, she would head butt you until you would pet her.

pekoe_angielap pekoe_angie

You brought so much love and joy into our life and we will miss be missed. We know Pekoe is now in heaven with her brother, chasing each other and playing until exhausted and cuddling together.


Avatar Review

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Last night I went to see Avatar. I purposely prevented myself from seeing any previews or reviews so I could draw my own conclusion on this movie. We choose to see the IMAX 3D version. The theater was quite crowded, but we were able to secure front-row seating of the main part of the theater.

If you have not seen an IMAX movie before, it’s nice to not have previews or commercials and the movie starts on time.

The movie required us to wear extremely uncomfortable glasses that left an indent in our nose for almost a day. This will be the last 3D movie I watch, specifically because of the quality of the glasses and the uncomfortable experience. My eyes started watering almost immediately because of the material the lenses are made of (a very cheap plastic material). In IMAX, it was impossible to see the whole screen with the glasses on and only the part of the screen in front of us was in 3D. The region outside the area was blurry and impossible to see. I give the movie kudos for not stooping to the cheesy 3D tricks (except in two scenes).

It was about 15 minutes into the movie that I realized this story appears to be familiar. My first observation was the re-worked mechs from the movie Aliens (another Cameron movie). The minute I saw that, I started comparing everything I saw to Cameron’s other movies I saw. This was disappointing because I could never get to the point where I just sat back and let the movie happen. I was anticipating what would happen next. The movie was the most predictable movie I have ever seen. I knew what would happen in every scene.

The movie story line, while unique in its setting was just a retelling of several stories as well as smacking the viewer in the face with anti-mercenary and anti-war (specifically IRAQ) messages. The destruction of the “HOME TREE” was a representation of every deforestation battle played out in the news.

Anyone who thinks this story is unique or groundbreaking has not seen “Dances with Wolves”, “Enemy Mine” or “At Play in the Fields of Lords”. I can not believe that this movie won a Golden Globe for Best Drama. It shows that the foreign press doesn’t have a clue. Several other film’s previews were better than this movie.

I found several parts of this movie enjoyable, but I kept getting frustrated with knowing what was going to happened. The effects are amazing and the beauty of the world sucks you in. So, I am torn between giving this movie a D (and ask for your money back) and a B-. It’s definitely worth seeing, but I would avoid the 3D-IMAX. I am not sure I will pay again to see it as a regular IMAX or a 3D standard screen.

The critics were slamming Sigourney Weaver for smoking in just about every scene. It’s quite clear that Cameron was showing an homage to Ellen Ripley. The bad-ass version of her from the second+ movies. Even the air-fighter pilot was a similar character from the second movie. There were several parts of the movie that I was remembering quotes from Aliens:

When the Na’vi attack the aircraft: “They’re coming outta the walls. They’re coming outta the goddamn walls. Let’s book!”
When the Na’vi Avatar starts shooting the weapon: “Remember: short, controlled bursts.”
When they pull the plug on the Avatar tanks: “That’s it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”
When Jake is about to take a hit and Neytiri attacks: “Get away from her, you *bitch!*”

What’s really sad is I remembered these quotes while I was watching the wrong movie 😉

So, go see this movie, don’t pay full price and think seriously about wanting to see it in IMAX-3D, you might enjoy it better in another format. Don’t expect an original story, but be prepared to be blown away by the effect and landscape.

Happy Birthday to ME!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

For the last year I have been drooling over the Piaggio MP3 (NO this is not a music player). I learned they planned to make a hybrid version that would get 145 MPG! After more than a year of waiting, I needed to make a decision. I also have a friend that was getting her motorcycle license and the stars started to align….

I decided I would get my license and start looking at the inventory and pricing for the MP3. I made a reservation with the DMV for December 26th to go down and take my written test. I also started looking for safety classes. There is a place near our house that offers training. is the place. I called them and got a really bad vibe from the woman I talked to on the phone. She contradicted things on their web site, and did her best to convince me I should not take the class. She was helpful enough to refer me somewhere else.

I found out that if you take the 15 hour class from: you don’t have to take the skills test at the DMV. I was all for that and signed up with my friend. I am scheduled to take the class next weekend.

December 26th rolled around and I went to the DMV for my appointment. This is the first time since 1988 that I have been inside a DMV. Everything I have ever needed to do I could do via AAA. I went to the line that said “START HERE”.  I told them I had an appointment. I was handed a clip board and told fill it out and come back. Other than wanting my SSN it was a standard application form, I didn’t know that paying social security was a requirement to get a license? I then went back in line to turn in the form and she handed me a scrap of paper with a letter/number on it. I then had to wait again. I waited almost 20 minutes. My number was then called and I went to see what the next step was. I handed the man my license and he did an eye exam. He then printed some papers and ask for my money. (good thing I had cash with me, as I forgot I needed $28 fee). He then told me to go somewhere else to wait in line.

I got in the new line and waited almost 15 more minutes. They took my paperwork, a new photo, digital signature, thumb print and returned me “TWO!” tests. I had to take the class C test as well as the class M test. Fortunately, someone warned me about this so I did all the sample tests online. I spent a while on both tests because I wanted to make sure I did well. I can’t stand multiple choose tests, I always do bad. I finished both tests and returned the test and “waited” again for the test to be graded. Another 20 minutes later, I was called up and given my permit and told I passed.

I was at the DMV for over 2.5 hours. What a frustrating time. When I got my car licenses way back, the permit/driving skills test combined didn’t even take 2 hours. I wonder how long it would have taken without an appointment. Last time I visited the DMV with an appointment, I went to a special room and was in and out in 15 minutes. My, how things have changed.

Ok, with permit in hand I decided it was time to go visit the Piaggio (Vespa) dealer. I went to Vespa of Poway. I had a hard time trying to find the place because it’s not a separate building. Apparently they are part of a Mitsubishi dealership. I pulled into the lot and found the place closed <sigh>. There was a sign that told me to go to the main lobby. I popped into the showroom and spent some time chatting with the salesman there. I found him quite knowledgeable. I explained that I was interested in buying by the end of the year and asked if there were any specials or deals. He said there were not. I walked away disappointed because I would have been willing to purchase right then. But as I mentioned, the stars were aligned and it was a sign not to buy there.

I spent the next few days doing a ton of research online and ran across the modern vespa boards This was the single most helpful sight about Vespa’s and the MP3. I made a decision that I was not going to purchase from the Poway dealer. I didn’t get the warm fuzzies from them and several people pointed out to me they are a car dealer that has Vespa’s and not a real active business in the scooter community. I noticed on the vespa board several people highly recommending Vespa of Oceanside, I even noticed some postings from people who work at the store.

I shot an email to the Vespa of San Diego, sister store to Oceanside as it was closest to me and asked them about deals on the Piaggio. I corresponded back and forth for a little while and we worked out a good deal. I was very impressed at how fast they replied and their willingness to deal, unlike Poway who would not extend their own special that just expired a few days earlier or seemed to care if they sold me a scooter or not.

Other than the horrible parking down on University avenue (I ended up parking two blocks away and walking to save my sanity) the entire experience was quote pleasant. I arrived at the store, a small botique store on University, between 4th and 5th streets. When I arrived, my sales person Jyson was busy with someone else, so I browsed around the store. They had three MP3’s there. A 500 (all black) and two silver 400’s. (So anyone looking for some, hurry and get down there). I also saw a few really nice Vespa’s I would consider buying for Angie if she decides to get her motorcycle license and ride with me. I spent a little time trying to make my final decision on the 500 vs the 400. Ultimately, I settled back on my original decision to get the Passion Red MP3-500. I do this to myself all the time, but I feel I am making the right decision when I finally do decide. I think I tend to drive sales folks nuts because I come off as indecisive, but I am just trying to make sure I am making the best decision for myself. This has worked for me for over 30 years, as I rarely ever return anything or have buyers remorse after a large value purchase.

We wrote up the sale, took care of my financing with USAA and did a brief walk through of the 500 he had on the show room floor. I then scheduled delivery of my new scooter for Friday. I am really excited about this purchase. I feel the same way the first time I purchased a car. (and pretty close to the same price, LOL). I now need to clean out the garage so I can fit it in there.

[update] I have posted photos in my gallery