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Sacramento, San Francisco, and Napa – March 4-9, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009 10:14 AM

Our plane to Sacramento - the Southwest Airlines 2009 SI Swimsuit Edition Our vacation continued with the flight to Sacramento on Wednesday morning, March 4th.  Lauren dropped us off at the airport in Phoenix where we had breakfast before heading through security.  We got out to the gate and found that our plane to Sacramento was the Southwest 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition plane.  The flight on the Boeing 737 "swimsuit model" to Sacramento was uneventful and we arrived right around noon. 

After collecting our bags and getting our rental car, we headed out towards downtown Sacramento.  Andrea's friend Sarah wasn't able to meet us for lunch, but recommended Ma Jong's Asian Diner by the capitol.  After lunch, we walked through Capitol Park and then took a tour of the California State Capitol.  The tour was really interesting.  The California State Capitol We saw the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger's office and learned a lot about the history of the building.  After the tour, we headed back to the car and hopped on the freeway to San Francisco.

Upon our arrival in San Francisco, we encountered a couple of frustrations.  The first was that we ended up driving around our hotel twice because of all of the one way streets and the fact that you can't make a left turn off of Market, leaving us guessing as to which way to go.  Then,when we arrived at the Holiday Inn - Civic Center, what had looked like a great deal at $54/night turned into a really average one when they disclosed that it was $33/day for parking, which wasn't mentioned on their website or on any of the communications from Hotwire.com or the hotel itself.  On top of that, the hotel staff was particularly unhelpful in suggesting restaurants in the area for dinner after we arrived, all of which led to a pretty sour start to our stay in San Francisco.  We ended up eating dinner at a little Middle Eastern restaurant, Gyro King, on the recommendation of a couple of the security guards from the theater across the street before calling it a night.

Looking up into the dome of San Francisco City Hall - the 5th tallest dome in the world On the morning of the 5th, we got up and had breakfast at the hotel.  We could see San Francisco City Hall from our hotel room, so we walked the couple of blocks over there to check it out.  We ended up taking the tour, which was very informative.  The dome of San Francisco City Hall is the 5th tallest in the world and the tallest in the Americas, taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.  They also told us how the dome had almost collapsed in the 1989 earthquake so the city had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to take the building apart piece by piece and retrofit it for earthquakes.  This is a tour I would highly recommend if you're in the area.

After the City Hall tour, we jumped on the historic F-Line streetcar down to the Ferry Building.  The Ferry Building has been renovated into a modern market specializing in local foods and was a lot of fun to walk through.  We got some really good chocolate and a white balsamic vinegar, then we had lunch there.  I had a crab sandwich and Andrea had an eggplant parmesan sandwich, both of which were outstanding.

Night in the Alcatraz cell blocks After lunch, we went and got back on the F-Line over to Pier 39 and wandered around there for a while, stopping to look at the famous sea lions before we went back to Pier 35 for our Alcatraz Night Tour.  The Alcatraz tour was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  We got on the ferry at 4:30 and headed over to Alcatraz Island.  Once there, we went through the audio tour of the prison.  We ended up in the outside portion of the tour by the lighthouse right at sunset, so we watched the sun set The Golden Gate Bridge in the setting sun behind the Golden Gate Bridge before heading back in to finish the tour.  The night tour also included a number of interesting items that aren't on the regular daytime tour.  They had a program about the one escape attempt that might have been successful and how they did it, and they also did a demonstration of the cell block doors, opening and closing an entire block to give us a feel for the "slammer."

After Alcatraz, we walked back down to Fisherman's Wharf to look for dinner and quickly settled on Bistro Boudin at Boudin Sourdough.  The food there was wonderful.  I had their crab feast since it was Dungeness crab season, and Andrea had french onion soup in a sourdough bread bowl.  They also gave us a huge plate of excellent calamari for free because we had to wait over 30 minutes for a table at 8:30 at night.  This was far and away the best meal of the entire trip; so good that we went to Boudin in Sacramento later on the trip.  After dinner we hopped back on the F-Line and went back to the hotel for the night.

The Painted Ladies of San Francisco On Friday, March 6th, we got up, had breakfast and then walked over to the San Francisco Tourism Office at Market and Powell to get our one day Muni passes, then we went and got onto the bus to go to Alamo Square and the famous Painted Ladies (Full House anyone?).  After that, we went back down and got on the cable cars and took them over to Lombard Street to see the curvy street.  We then got back on the cable car and went down to the end of the line at Beach and Hyde.  We wandered through the visitor center of the San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park before we went and grabbed lunch at Pompei's Grotto near Fisherman's Wharf.

Ghirardelli Square After lunch, we went and took a walking tour of the Hyde Street Pier and the ships of the San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park.  After the tour, we went up to Ghirardelli Square and had ice cream sundaes in the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop.  We then went over and spent quite a bit of time in the Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon where they gave us a number of tea tastings trying to find a tea I would like, without much success.  We then walked back down through the Fisherman's Wharf area and stopped into Musee Mecanique, which is a huge museum of coin operated games and amusements dating back to the early 1900's.  I played a couple mechanical baseball games dating back to the 1920's and we played a bunch of other stuff too.  The museum was a lot of fun. 

After Musee Mecanique, we wandered around Pier 39 a bit, getting our picture frame for the trip before heading back over to the cable cars.  We took the cable car back to Chinatown and had dinner at Gold Mountain in Chinatown.  It was an excellent dinner, although it was way too much food for both of us.  After dinner, we jumped back on the cable car, where I got to ride on the outside step all the way back down to Market and Powell.  We then jumped on the subway back over to Civic Center and our hotel before calling it a night.

Andrea and I with the Golden Gate Bridge On Saturday morning, March 7, we got up and checked out of our hotel.  On our way out of San Francisco, we stopped by the Painted Ladies again because the light was much better and then continued back over to the bay, where we drove through the Crissy Field area, stopping to get out, walk around and take some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We then jumped back in the car and drove north across the Golden Gate Bridge and headed on our way to Sonoma and Napa.

Our first stop in southern Sonoma was the Jacuzzi Family Winery (yes, it's the same family as the hot tubs!).  They were a lot of fun, but we decided that more of the wineries that we wanted to visit were in Napa, so we left Sonoma and headed over to the Napa Valley.  Once in Napa, our first stop was at the Benzinger Family Winery.  The guy doing the tasting there was a lot of fun and gave us some good recomendations for lunch.  After Benzinger, we went and had lunch at the Bluegrass Cafe in the Jack London Village.  We then continued on to Imagery Estate Winery, where we had a free tasting from Benzinger.  Although owned and operated by Benzinger, Imagery wasn't nearly as good. 

Tasting at Cakebread Cellars We then continued north to check out a couple of my mom's suggestions, Robert Mondavi and Cakebread Cellars.  We didn't end up doing a tasting at Mondavi because they wanted $25 per person for the tour and tasting, which we thought was completely insane.  We went across the street to Cakebread Cellars instead.  When they asked if we had an appointment, even though there were only a couple of cars in the lot, we were thinking "Who do you think you are?"  But this was due to a Napa county ordinance that required tasting by appointment only if your tasting room hadn't been in that location prior to 1993, so they had an appointment for us in 10 minutes.  I'm definitely glad we stayed because they had some of the best wines on the trip.

After Cakebread, we hurried back to Sacramento for Sarah and Liz's open house party.  We hung out at the party for a couple of hours, catching up with a number of Andrea's friends from DU before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.

Welcome to the Napa Valley On Sunday morning, March 8, we got up and headed back to Napa on Sarah and Liz's recommendation.  Our first stop was another of my mom's recommendations, Sterling Vineyards.  This one was another stop that was definitely worth the time.  The Greek monastery style winery was at the top of a ridge and you had to take an aerial tram to get up to it.  From the top, the view was stunning.  They also had some of the best wines on the trip. 

After Sterling, we went across the valley to a castle that we had seen from Sterling.  It turned out to be Castello di Amorosa.  Castello di Amorosa is an amazing 121,000 sq. ft. Italian renaissance castle built over 14 years from 1993-2007.  The castle would be Looking out at the vineyards from Castello di Amorosa. completely at home anywhere that we visited in Italy and was a truly amazing piece of architecture.  Their wines were Italian style wines using Napa grapes, and their Gioia, a sangiovese rose, was truly outstanding.

After leaving Castello di Amorosa, our next stop was at Trinchero Family Estates.  This was one of our favorite places to taste because they weren't busy at all and we were able to chat with the girl working at the tasting counter.  We then moved on and made a quick stop at Beringer Vineyards, home of the famous White Zinfandel, before having a quick lunch at Taylor's Automatic Refresher in Saint Helena and then driving back to Sacramento for the wedding.

Sarah and Liz's wedding That night was Sarah and Liz's wedding at the Arden Hills Country Club.  It was a very nice ceremony.  We had no idea what to expect since it was the first time we had been to a wedding with two brides and no grooms, but it was a ceremony that was virtually indistinguishable from any other wedding that I had ever been to.  It was a really good time and we got to catch up with all of Andrea's friends from DU.

On Monday, March 9th, our last day in California, we got up and checked out of our hotel and then walked a block over to the historic California Governor's Mansion.  We took the tour there, learning about the house and the last couple of governor's to have lived there.  We also got to walk through the top floor that is still being renovated, which is not something most tour groups get to do. 

Looking down into the California State Railroad Museum After the Governor's Mansion, we walked down to the California State Railroad Museum.  The Railroad Museum is located near the terminus of the original Central Pacific Railroad and is definitely worth the stop.  It is probably the best railroad museum that I've ever seen.  They have both the first and last steam locomotives ever to run on the Central Pacific as well as the oldest operating steam locomotive in the world.  They also had one of the two "Golden Spikes" created for the joining of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific at Promontory Point.

Sunset on the Wings - a beautiful shot of sunset over the Sierra Nevada After leaving the Railroad Museum, we walked back to our car then drove over to the Boudin SF cafe for lunch and then drove out to the Sacramento airport for our flight back to Denver.  The flight home was about an hour late, but was uneventful, ending a wonderful trip.

Pictures from San Francisco, Napa, Sacramento, and Sarah and Liz's Wedding are in the photo album.

 
By: Shane
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Blizzard of March 26th

Friday, March 27, 2009 2:13 PM

Snow blows off our roof Yesterday's forecast proved to be very accurate.  We ended up getting 15 inches of heavy, wet snow here at the house.  About 10 of those inches fell between about 9 am and 1 pm.  It was pretty crazy.  I ended up clearing the driveway three times yesterday and once more this morning.  I've got a couple of huge piles of snow on either side of the driveway from clearing enough so that Andrea and I can get out to the street.  But being typical Colorado, the sun is shining today and the melt is well underway.

Photos from the blizzard are in my Photo Album.

 
By: Shane
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Blizzard!

Thursday, March 26, 2009 7:09 AM

Blizzard! - March 26, 2009 I turned on Stirling Weather this morning and saw a forecast that I've never seen before out of the National Weather Service's National Digital Forecast Database: 100% probability of a blizzard.  Right now we're on track to get our biggest snow of the season and they're calling for 8-16 inches of snow today in Denver.

 
By: Shane
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Live.com visits Alcatraz

Monday, March 23, 2009 8:00 AM

Live.com features Alcatraz - March 23, 2009 As I'm working on writing my blog post on our trip to Sacramento and San Francisco this morning, I opened up Live.com to do a couple of searches and found that the picture of the day is San Francisco and Alcatraz.  It will only be there until midnight Pacific time tonight, so take a look!

 
By: Shane
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Rockies Spring Training – February 27 – March 4, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009 5:56 PM

Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, AZ - Spring Home of the Colorado Rockies Friday night, February 27, Andrea and I flew down to Phoenix for Rockies Spring Training.  Our friends, Lauren and Cora (who had driven down from Denver), picked us up at the airport when we got in and then we headed back to the Hilton Scottsdale Resorts and Villas for the night.

On Saturday morning, Lauren, Cora, Andrea, and I got up and drove down to Tucson to watch the Rockies play the Dodgers at Hi Corbett Field.  We got down there a couple hours early to get the player t-shirt giveaway and then walked over to the side fields and watched the players do some drills up close.  It's pretty amazing how close they let you get to the players in the spring.  We then went inside and watched the prep for the game and got some more autographs.  The Rockies ended up losing 13-5 but we had a great time at our first spring training game.

Sunset at Saguaro National Park After the game, we drove out to Saguaro National Park on the outskirts of Tucson.  We drove the main tourist loop of the park right at sunset, stopping a few times to mug with the cacti.  The saguaros are a lot bigger than you would think!  We then drove back into Tucson, stopped at Target for some supplies, and had dinner at Chili's before driving back up to Phoenix.

On Sunday, March 1st, we got up and had a little bit more leisurely morning since we were going to Rockies-Indians game in Goodyear.  We slept in a bit and ate breakfast in the room before driving out to the game.  Phoenix is speed camera happy on their interstates so it took about an hour to get from the hotel in Scottsdale over to the ballpark in Goodyear. 

Goodyear Ballpark - Spring Home of the Cleveland Indians This year was the inaugural year for the Goodyear Ballpark and it was a truly beautiful site to watch a game.  The game was another Rockies loss, dropping them to 0-5 on the spring, but we had a great time sitting right behind home plate. 

After the game, we headed back to the hotel and all four of us went out swam in the pool for a while before it was time to go meet my mom for dinner.  We met her at the Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale where we had an excellent dinner before heading back to the hotel for the night.

On Monday morning, March 2, we got up early again for another drive back down to Tucson.  We got there early again for the autograph day promotion which turned out to be Rockies minor leaguers Shane Lindsay and Ryan Mattheus.  After getting their autographs, we headed back over to the practice fields and watched the catchers work on footwork and throws to third.  After that, they didn't have time for autographs, but Michael McKenry, a AA catching prospect, did throw me a ball and promise to catch me later for an autograph.  We then went back over to the stadium and hung out outside the locker room where we got a ton of autographs, including McKenry who recognized me from earlier. 

Lauren, Cora, Andrea, and I enjoying Spring TrainingThe game turned out to be another disappointment as the Angels shelled Franklin Morales and the Rockies lost 12-3.  It was unbelievably hot as the stadium scoreboard showed the temperature as high as 96° F during the game.  We were all pretty fried afterwards, so we got back in the car and headed back to Phoenix.  On my brother's recommendation, we had dinner at Oregano's in Scottsdale before heading back to the hotel and relaxing for a while in the hot tub before going to bed.

Tuesday, March 3rd, was our final spring training game.  We got up and went to breakfast at The Breakfast Club in Scottsdale before heading out to the Brewers' complex at Maryvale Baseball Park.  Maryvale also put the Rockies' complex at Hi Corbett to shame, illustrating why the Rockies are looking to leave Tucson.  This game was the closest of the bunch with the Rockies actually having a lead for the first time while we were there.  Unfortunately the Brewers hit a HR in the bottom of the 8th to win 8-6, completing our 0-4 run in Spring Training.

Joe Koshansky rips one versus the Brewers After the game, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for a while before we went to meet my mom, brother, aunt, and uncle for dinner.  Dinner was at Los Dos Molinos in downtown Phoenix, a New Mexican style restaurant.  The food was ok, but not great.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Wednesday morning, March 4th, we got up early, and Lauren took us over to the airport to continue our trip in California while Lauren and Cora drove back to Denver.

Photos from Spring Training

 
By: Shane
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Windows Mobile 6.1 on the T-Mobile Dash

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:19 PM

I've been running Windows Mobile 6.1 on my T-Mobile Dash for a little over a week now. Thus far I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with it. I downloaded the ROM from xda-developers.com, and the process to set it up was very straightforward. The only thing I haven't been able to find yet is a birthday plugin for the new home screen.

Instructions for the upgrade are here. Note that this upgrade is not supported by T-Mobile, so if it goes wrong, you're on your own. Enjoy!

Posted using Stirling Blog on Windows Mobile

 
By: Shane
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Southwest Airlines SI Swimsuit Plane

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:06 AM

Our plane to Sacramento from Phoenix is the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition plane with Bar Rafaeli on the side. Right now we're sitting on the plane in the wing exit row. See you next in Sacramento!

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By: Shane
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Farewell from Spring Training

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:54 AM

Our time at Spring Training is over. As I write this, we're in the Phoenix airport waiting for our plane to Sacramento. We watched the Rockies los to the Dodgers and Angels in Tucson and Indians and Brewers in Phoenix on their way to a MLB worst 0-7 record. The Indians new park, Goodyear Ballpark, and the Brewers' Maryvale Baseball Park were both beautiful. The Rockies' complex at Hi Corbett Field is definitely showing its age at this point. We had a great time watching and getting a ton of autographs. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Until next time, Go Rockies!

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By: Shane
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