Archive for the ‘Port Keys’ Category

New project on the Horizon

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

So I am starting a new project. I have decided to start a YouTube channel. My primary focus is going to be on system administration ‘tips and tricks’ and some IT training videos. I will also be doing technology review, how-to videos as well as start doing travel vlogs.

Those of you that know about my previous travel blogs:, it will be a lot like that only video. I have watched hundreds of travel vlogs over the last 3 months and they are all missing things I feel I can bring to the table.

My new website for the channel will be at: and my YouTube channel will be at:

Currently, there is no content. I am in the process of getting my office cleaned up and ready, so I can start recording. I am also testing out a lot of recording equipment and editing software.

If there are subjects or topics you are interested in seeing, please leave me a comment here or on the channel, or send me email.

Sea World San Diego opened too early

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

Today, we decided to check out the food event at SeaWorld San Diego. Food notwithstanding, I would recommend that nobody go at this time. Having been to Downtown Disney and seeing how well the organization handled crowds, social distancing and enforcing masks, this was the COMPLETE opposite.

What I witnessed was ridiculous. When you enter private property, you agree to abide by the rules. I witnessed the following:

1) A guest refusing to wear a mask in line for food and started yelling that he didn’t care and he would do what he wanted. Nobody was doing anything, so I had the employee contact manage and security before a fight broke out. I didn’t stick around to see how it was handled.

2) Silk veils are NOT appropriate face coverings.

3) Neck gators are not appropriate face coverings. They have 1 layer and do nothing. I saw one woman I could tell the color of her lipstick on the other side of the fabric. Most of the trainers were also wearing them.

4) Many Many people were just walking around with no masks.

5) At the shows, they had every other row labeled to not sit (which did nothing). People still tried to sit there. Also 3′ markers so people know to stay 6′ apart. There was almost no enforcement. No security, no employees, nothing…. I ended up leaving the show. Talking to an employee at the entrance did no good. I told them they need more people trained and security to handle the crowds.

6) Indoor activities are supposed to be closed, but they had the Penguin, Sea Turtles and Shark encounters open. I believe this is in direct violation to state orders.

7) Attendance should be 25% of capacity, but it was definitely higher than that. I would guess closer to 50%

Basically, IMNSHO SeaWorld San Diego opened too soon. They are not prepared to handle the crowds. The way Knott’s Berry Farm and Downtown Disney District has handled crowds should be a lesson to all the others. So, I would avoid this park until the entire state is back to normal (if ever).
During our visit, I never saw a single security person or any park janitorial service. Almost every trash can was full and we saw trash and debris all over the park.

I have tried my best to socially distance everywhere we go and I have never felt uncomfortable anyplace until today. If anyone from SeaWorld San Diego sees this, I would be happy to have a constructive discuss about what should be done to make your guests feel safe.

Again, this is not a debate about if you should wear a mask, or if they are effective. This is basically, you entered private property and agreed to the conditions of admission. You have no rights when it comes to not following the rules or not. If you don’t follow the rules GTFO.

KUDOS to the temp scanners., they were mass scanners that you just walked by.

Now for the food:
We had mixed review on the food.

Mama Stella’s Kitchen:

* The fish and chips were really good and I would recommend them

* The bbq chicken quesadilla was horrible. There was very little cheese and there were exactly 4 small cubes of chicken. The tortilla was hard and dry.

* The pork Sliders were just ok.

We wanted to go to Calypso but the lines were huge. So we went to Shipwreck Cafe:
* The salmon was excellent

* The chicken sliders were way too spicy and went right in the trash

* The Brisket slider was good, but the bread was stale. So we ate the brisket only.

* Chocolate cake, well it’s chocolate cake.

The Sea World Zoo Days is a good idea and I look forward to going back once the park is back to full operation and we are no longer required to socially distance. But, until then, we will be avoiding the park.

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.

Final days in paradise

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I was able to sleep in today because our ferry didn’t leave for Maui until 2pm. Once I got up, we packed up for our trip back to Maui. We checked out of the hotel and then walked around the rest of the town we had not seen yet. After we finished our walk we sat and relaxed on the porch of the hotel and I finished reading the book I started on the way over.

The shuttle arrived and we headed for the ferry. We boarded and it took about 30 minutes to get down to the harbor. Once there the ferry was just arriving so we didn’t have too long to wait. We boarded and sat inside this time so that we stayed out of the sun. The ride back was just as smooth as the ride over and took about 45 minutes. After we disembarked we had to wait for the rental car shuttle because the reservation was not properly made, not the first problem, but hopefully the last. Fortunately, I was able to call them and they arrived in about ten minutes. We picked up the rental car and then drove back to the hotel. We checked in and unpacked and had our stored luggage sent to the room.

Angie was hungry so we went over to the Hula Grill for food. We sat and listened to music while we ate. After we finished lunch we went to the pool for a swim and hung out for a while. We sat in the spa for a little while and met some people from Riverside. His eldest daughter was starting at Point Loma University this Fall. We were graced with the presence of a woman who was a bartender from Las Vegas and was way more than three-sheets by the time she entered the spa. She definitely had way too much to drink. It was more comical than anything because she was one of those Meer drunks. She had an opinion on everything, especially the weather in Seattle. She kept saying how much she hated it, but later we found out she had never been there.

We had left overs for dinner. We figured after carrying them around between three islands we should finally eat them.

The next day we got up early for breakfast and drove into Lahaina. We parked and walked to Cheeseburger in Paradise for breakfast. I guess this is a Jimmy Buffet themed restaurant, but for some reason they were playing Hawaiian music. The food was good, but the employees really know how to cross and up sell you. If you are weak, you may not want to go there. 😀

After breakfast we walked over to Hilo Hattie’s so that Angie could do some shopping. As it turned out I ended up spending more money than her ;-). I bought a shirt and she bought some pineapple earrings. We also bought some candies. We headed up the coast for some snorkeling. We went to Honoluka Bay on the advice of several people at the hotel. The best advice was to not park on the right side of the road as they give people tickets. We lucked out and got a spot just as someone was leaving. We walked down the steps to the beach and found a place to lay our stuff.

The water was not too cold and Angie and I went in to do some snorkeling. I am not sure that snorkeling is something that she is ever going to get the hang of. I think she needs to spend a lot of time in the pool first. I was able to swim out to some rocks and saw a lot of fish and even one eel. Because I didn’t have flippers or a life vest, I got pretty tired floating and treading water so I came back in and we laid out on the sand.

We went in the water a few more time and enjoyed the water and waves. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel. We drive along the coast through some of the older parts of the town. This is the road I remember from twenty years ago. We even drove by the China Boat restaurant.

We returned to the hotel and hung out at the pool. We tried several times to flag down the waitress for drinks but she just refused to come by. We finally just went up on our own and got the drinks. We got a little burned laying at the pool, but not too bad. After swimming and relaxing we got dressed for the Luau at the Sheraton hotel.

We walked about ten minutes to the Luau. They gave us drinks and took our picture while we waited to check in. After checking in, we were seated at our table. We went to get some drinks , we took a look at some of the local artists works. I ended up buying a mask for my collection. They had some demonstrations of native Hawaiian games and skills.

We watched the unveiling of the pig from the IMU. The pig looked fantastic once it was revealed. I need to figure out a way to put on in my back yard. Perhaps the pool needs to go?

Once the pig was revealed it was taken in to be shredded and dinner was served. Dinner consisted of potato salad, pasta salad, purple sweet potatos, Mahi Mahi, teriyaki steak and the kulua pork. The food was really good, although neither of us was willing to try the poi. We finished eating and enjoyed the sunset.


At sunset (our last one on Maui :() we watched the lighting of the torches and the cliff diver jumping into the ocean. The sunset here never gets old. After the sun set, the luau show started. The dancers came on stage and the show started.

The show was amazing. The dancers performed many traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian dances. We both enjoyed the show a lot.

After the show we walked back to the hotel and went to the spa to relax. We met some people we had chatted with the previous night. We talked about what we all did during the day. They had actually been at the luau but we didn’t see them there. After soaking for a while we went back to the room and went to sleep.

Today is our last day on the Islands. We got up and packed for our flight home. We checked out of the hotel (seriously, they charged me $2.00 to make an 800 call?). This really has to be one of the most nickle and dime hotels we have ever stayed at. Overall, I have to say all of the hotel are overpriced but at least at the Marriott on Kauai they provided some quality service. The Westin doesn’t seem to know how to really provide quality service. I normally don’t book package hotels and probably won’t again…well with the exception of the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas.

We drove into Lahaina and found a place to park. We went to Longhi’s Lahaina for breakfast, the food was good, but really really slow service. Angie’s food didn’t come out for quite a long time because they burned it the first time. After breakfast, Angie wanted to go back to Hilo Hattie’s because she didn’t get her free shell necklace. We then had to return to the restaurant because she left her hat there. Fortunately, it was still there. We walked back to the car and headed back to the airport. As we drive out of town there was a lot of traffic. Apparently, a canoe event had just finished so a lot of people were crossing the roads at random causing the traffic to stop to let them cross. This caused about a five mile backup. Once we passed the beach area it was smooth driving the rest of the way.

We stopped to fill up on gas and then I dropped Angie off at the airport with the luggage while I returned the rental car. I made it back to the airport and we checked in. The check in terminals all had 404 browser errors running IE. Ah, welcome back to reality. The line for security was really slow, but the X-Ray seemed to go quickly.  We had to pass through two agricultural inspections. All they do is X-Ray the luggage, because I guess fruits, vegetable and flowers show up on the X-Ray machine?

Our plane was a little late arriving but it finally pulled into the terminal. Alaska apparently does something interesting, if you have luggage you are willing to check, you can board early if you choose to check it through baggage claim. The gate attendant said it was because they had $24k in fines last year. I find that hard to believe, but I did find a lot of other fines they have received with a quick Google search. I am not so sure I want to be flying on this airline 😉

The flight home was uneventful. We arrived a few minutes later than planned but it was good to be home. We picked up our luggage and went to get a shuttle home.

The private island

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Today we got up and checked out of the hotel. They had our reservation all messed up. They thought we were leaving a day later than we had planned. I will probably have to contact the agency and see if they over charged us for one night, since the hotel was prepaid. We left our large luggage with the hotel so that we didn’t have to carry it to our next destination. We are returning to the same hotel after a couple day trip over to Lana’i.

We headed down the road and had breakfast at Lulu‘s. We both had french toast. Angie’s was plain and mine was macadamia nut with bananas. After breakfast, we drove to the car rental place to drop off the car. They then gave us a lift to the Lahaina harbor. We checked in with the ferry office and waited for the ferry to arrive.

We boarded the ferry and grabbed a seat on top of the boat. The seats were a lot more comfortable than the ones we road in to Moloka’i. Plus there was no sign of any soot around 😉 After a recorded safety message the ferry left the harbor. We noticed a lot of surfers in the water just near the departure channel. There are quite a good amount of waves that break just outside the harbor on both sides. The ride over to Lana’i took about 45 minutes and it was nice and smooth. A big change from the ride over to Moloka’i. The water is protected from the winds by the island, so the crossing is quite smooth.

We sailed into the harbor on Lana’i and disembarked. There were a number of shuttles waiting for us. The island has a pretty good transportation system, but it does cost $35 a person. The cost is for your entire stay, so the longer you stay, the better deal it is.

The shuttles run from the harbor, to the airport and all the hotels on the island. They do not all run to each location, so you have to be careful of which one you get on or you may end up not going where you had planned to. Several people had this problem while we were there. Our shuttle took us to our hotel. We chose not to stay at one of the main hotels on the island, but instead at a bed and breakfast in the main town of Lana’i City.

The hotel’s name is Hotel Lana’i. They have several rooms from small to full cottages with front porches that overlook the city. The hotel is situated on a small hill above the city and has a lot of Norfolk Pines on the property. The walkway to our room was lined with pineapple plants. Two of which had fruit on them (very tiny, but cute). Our room had a nice living room, bathroom and bedroom. There was a refrigerator and cooler in the room. We unpacked and decided to take a nap. The hotel has a nice restaurant but they are only open Weds-Sunday and since this was Tuesday, we had to wait until tomorrow before we could eat there.

After our nap, we walked down to the main square of the town. We checked out some of the stores. We noticed that pretty much everything closes at 7pm. The subtleties of a small town you forget about. Most of the dinner places were open until 8 or 8:30pm. We decided to eat at Pele’s Other Garden. A small Italian deli that was serving pizza, pasta and salads for dinner. Angie had cheese ravioli and I had the cheese tortellini with garlic pesto sauce. It’s very odd eating a pesto sauce without pine nuts in them, but I guess they don’t get them on the islands. I ordered a side of meat balls. They were good, but they didn’t say what type of meat and we didn’t ask. 😀

After dinner we strolled through their park area and back to the hotel. Although we had not done that much today, we still felt beat. It was off to blog, some reading and then bed as tomorrow would be a busy day. Well, as busy as you can get in a very small town.

The next day we got up and had a continental breakfast at the hotel. Wow, this is a rare thing in Hawaii. The fact that food was included for breakfast makes this the best priced room on all the islands we stayed at. After breakfast we decided to rent a 4×4 Jeep. We got lucky that they had one available as the next day they were all booked up. We walked down to the rental place which was about two blocks from the hotel. Another reason I am glad we stayed at this hotel is it was close to everything. The other hotels would have required us to catch a shuttle first.

The jeep they gave us looked like it had been through the wars 😉 But this was because of the dust and sand on the island. The sand is a reddish color and it gets into everything. The jeep was originally black interier, but now it’s a dull black with red in every seam and crevice. We learned later that our hair, clothing and bags all came away with a red hue. I had to sign tons of waivers and disclaimers that I would not drive on the beach, deep sand or on any unmarked road. I was warned of towing fees and fines. I guess they have a lot of trouble with people doing the wrong things on the island. It ruins it for everyone else.

We headed out to the first stop on our trip. Out on Route 1, we turned right at the end of the paved road towards Naha to see the fish pond. The drive was about 90 minutes with a church at the half way point being built. When we reached the end of the trail, we had arrived at Naha. We got out and changed into swimming suites. There was absolutely nobody around except for a few boats about a half mile off shore sailing by. We went into the water which was nice and warm. This would be an excellent place to have a picnic lunch. If you plan to do this drive, go to shipwreck beach first, then come this direction and have your lunch.

We turned around and headed back to shipwreck beach. After about an hour we reached the turn off point for the trail. We continued along the road until we reached the end. About 100 yards is a soft patch of sand. It may look OK to drive through, but I recommend that you do NOT even with a 4×4 unless you know how to drive in soft sand, you WILL get stuck. Note, you have been warned. When we rented the car, a lady was calling in that she was stuck and when we left the beach another couple was stuck.

We walked to shipwreck beach and found the remains of the lighthouse. The remains of the Liberty are sunk on the coral reef in the distance. This area also has petroglyphs, but we were unable to find them. Another couple was looking as well and we seemed unable to find any trace of them. I know they are there, we just must have been looking in the wrong location.

Both of us were hungry and decided it was time to go back to the city for lunch. We wanted to try the Lodge at Koele. On our way back to the car, we ran into a couple stuck in the sand. They did a really good job of getting stuck. I am not sure who was driving, but they got stuck because they were not using four wheel drive and pretty much burried the rear wheel 2/3 of the way into the sand. Nothing they could do but call for help. We gave them a lift back to the car dealership because it was lunch time and nobody was answering the phone.

We found out they were from Seattle by way of Alaska, and knew how to drive in snow, but not sand. They were on their honeymoon so at least they have a story to tell their friends and family when they get back.

The ride back took about 30 minutes and we dropped them off at the renal agency. We then headed up to the lodge for lunch. The lodge didn’t have a lot of guests and seemed quote empty, although about five tables were seated for lunch. We sat and ordered lunch. I had the Venison Chili and Angie had the asian chicken salad. I also tried their rasberry lemonade, it was pretty good but a bit sweet for my taste.

After lunch, we walked around the grounds. They had some nice fish ponds and waterfalls. The gardens were well kept, except for a hole in the grass that was covered by grass, that I had the misfortune of stepping in. I semi-twisted my ankle. Let’s hope it don’t get in the way of futher hiking. We walked back to the car and continue on our driving/hiking tour around the island.

Our next destination was to go to Polihua Beach and Keahi a Kawelo Garden of the Gods. This was a much better road than the previous route, it was quite wide and smooth, although there was red dirt all over the place, and the winds would blow our dust back at us in some places. This is probably the main reason there is so much dust in all the jeeps. We took a wrong turn and ended up on a side ride that went to the resevoir. Once we realized our mistake we turned around and made it back to the correct road. We traveled along the road until we reached the Garden of the Gods. Here was a lot of rock formations. As we traveled past the rocks the road turned very bumpy. The road remained bumpy all the way down to Polihua Beach.

We reached the beach and parked just short of the soft sand. We walked over the sand dune and down to the water. There was not a single person in sight either direction on the beach. The beach was unmarked by any footprints. We walked to the rocky point which is the northern most point of Lana’i. This area of Lana’i is not a good place to swim as the ocean currents are really strong. They call it the Tahitian express, because of you get caught in the currents, you will not get out until you reach Tahiti.

We braved sticking our feet into the water, but didn’t go swimming. On the walk back to the car, we had to walk into the wind. It was a lot harder going back and every once in a while we got sand blasted when the wind picked up a lot of sand. As we headed back the beach had a few more people, so we had it to ourselves for just a little while. The sand was really hot so I had to put my shoes back on as my feet. We drive back up from the beach, the ride up didn’t seem as bad as the ride down. I think gravity and speed had something to do with it. The trip back was a lot faster since we didn’t have to make an unscheduled detour. When we got back to town, we drove down to the Kaumalapa’u Barge Harbor. This was a completely paved road and went by the airport. The road are lined with Norfolk Pines and really make it stand out. There is something abotu a long tree lined road that makes you feel like your in the country. But country that is being well maintained.

After we reached the harbor we turned around and headed to the Four Seasons at Manele Bay. We parked in the parking lot, which was at the top of a pretty steep hill. We could not find anyway to easily walk down the hill to the hotel, so we decided it wasn’t in our stars today. We drive back to the hotel and returned the rental car. The entire day we drove about 100 miles, but when I filled up the gas tank it took over 14 gallons of gas. The car should get at least 20 miles to the gallon (I still need to look it up online), but at 20 miles to the gallan, that would only be five gallons of gas. The rental agency was willing to credit me and we settled on about $30. At
$5.18 a gallon it was quite a lot of money. We walked back to the hotel and changed our dinner reservations to an hour later. We showered and tried to get rid of all the red dirt and dust from our body and hair. I decided to take a nap before dinner. One forgets how much walking around in the sun drains you.

After a few hour nap, we dressed for dinner and went to the hotel dining room, the lana’i city grille. It seemed to be the happening place. The bar was full and just about every table was occupied. Although we were a few minutes early, our table was ready and we were seated.

We ordered the crab dip appetizer and some drinks. I tried the spicy lobster and coconut bisque, which was good, but I think a bit too much coconut. I ordered the Venison Loin and Angie ordered the Meatloaf. The Venison was quite delicious and had a prune reduction sauce that I really enjoyed. Again, we didn’t ask what type of meat was in the meatloaf, but it was pretty good.

After dinner we went back to the room and crashed. I was beat from the day.