My West Coast Journey

From October 2 to October 9 of 2014, I embarked on a 2613 mile road trip in the convertible.  I circumnavigated a large swath of the southern Cascades, the Sierra Nevadas, and the coast in my 2002 Boxster S. I’d been longing to make such a trip for years, and I’ve had plenty of vacation saved up to do it.

Itinerary
  • October 2 – Crater Lake
  • October 3 – Lake Tahoe
  • October 4 – Yosemite National Park
  • October 5 – Central California coast
  • October 6 – San Francisco
  • October 7 – Northern California coast
  • October 8 – Beaverton, OR
  • October 9 – Home to Bothell

For the first time, I used AirBnB to find lodging. Keeping my schedule flexible, I was booking rooms only a day or two in advance. That process worked out quite well! The weather was amazing for the entire trip. California was experiencing record high temperatures, which was a mixed blessing given the drought conditions. The weather chart from San Francisco is a good representative of the whole trip:

2014-10_SanFranciscoWeather

There were some stretches of road that I refer to as “sports car crack”, such as parts of CA – 1 and CA-128 where I could push the Boxster to accelerate or decelerate to take tight turns that felt like riding a roller coaster. I collected a bunch of driving data on my GPS, I need to see if I can decipher it with an app to come up with a map that I can annotate.

Naturally, I couldn’t have made this trip without having a solid base camp at home! Marie was very supportive of me going off alone. It’s kinda funny how many people asked both her and me  a variant of “You let him go off alone like that?”. I guess many couples may lack the depth of trust and respect for each other that we have and could feel insecure having their own spouse going on such an adventure solo. It also helps to have roommates like Paul and Liz to hold the fort when Marie and I are both out of the house.

Advertisements
Posted in Musings, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charlotte, day 3

Work
It was a slow day for working with product support. One customer in England was dealing with an error trying to migrate VMs which appeared to be related to a BITS configuration problem. I spent a fair amount of time working remotely to finish a big checkin I wanted to get done before going to Montana next week.
 
Pleasure
The other Front Line guys and I went out for dinner again. We avoided the greasy spoons and headed downtown to find a nice place. We ended up at Monticello, a quaint looking place that had a nice-sounding menu. We were a bit nervous because we were the only people in the place at 7 PM, but it turned out to be wonderful. The baked brie starter was great, wrapped in phyllo and topped with candied nuts and a bit of strawberry. The house salads some of the guys had were the first fresh vegetables any of us had eaten this week, and they were quite a step up from the standard southern bowl of iceberg lettuce and slice of tomato.
We had a nice 2006 Cuvetto red blend from California to accompany my lovely ribeye steak with a side of sweet potato and basil hash.
 
The consensus among the team was we’d extracted as much from the experience as we were going to get and we’re not sure how much value spending another day here adds for either us or the product support guys. We’re looking forward to heading home Friday.
Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Charlotte, Day 2

Ah, another fine hot and humid day in the South!
 
Work
 

Today was my second shift working with product support. I spent more time with David Kirchmer trying to track down the bank’s problem with an offline P2V. Unfortunately, it was likely a result of a product bug in VMM. However, we were able to offer them a satisfactory solution to achieve their goal by using an online P2V instead. Here’s a tip – it’s ok to use an online P2V of a domain controller if the resulting VM is the only DC or if it’s not going to be introduced into the same network as the source computer.

Pleasure

This morning I went to Eddie’s Place for breakfast. The preparation was simple but the food was good. I had the blueberry pancakes. I had the opportunity to try "liver mush" as my breakfast meat, but I played it safe and stayed with bacon. For some reason they didn’t have scrapple on the menu.

After work my fellow Seattle-ites and I went to a fine greasy spoon called the Penguin. We introduced Paul, an Englishman, to fried pickles and hush puppies. If you like cheap but tasty fried food in large portions, this is the place for you. The 5 of us ate for $50.

 

 

 
Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Charlotte, day 1

Work
 
I spent a few hours today on my first shift with product support for VMM. I had a great chat with Mike Briggs about various product issues, and I gave him and some other team members a demo of some of our UI features in our next version. I got to listen in and help with one phone call with David Kirchner – a bank was having an issue with our p2v feature which requires further investigation.
 
Earlier in the day we had a presentation from Ben McDonald on the structure of the CTS services and the various ways that we provide customer support for our server products. I found the presentation to be very enlightening. I hadn’t realized just how much hand-holding we now make available to customers (for a price, of course).
 
Pleasure
After work I made way to downtown Charlotte, which sits adjacent to the footbal stadium where the Panthers play. I was pleased to find a Starbucks to quench my need for a latte, which I carried with me and sipped while I scouted for a dinner place and shopping to find gifts for the family. I was disappinted to find  lack of shopping downtown; it seems to be mainly a business/financial center. There were quite a few nice restaurants to choose from, however.  Irish pubs, several Italian places, "bold" American, steak houses, seafood, sushi, you name it, they have it. I settled on Luce after seeing the menu, and I had a great dish – house-made ravioli stuffed with veal and swiss chard. Fabulous!
 
Post-dinner I drove around for some sight-seeing and to find a shopping mall. I found that the prettiest buildings in town are the churches. The Methodists and the Episcopalians in particular seem to have a rivalry going for who can build the nicest church in every neighborhood. I ended up at th enormous South Park mall, which naturally had a gazillion high-end stores but nothing with goods that would be considered particularly "Southern" that I’d buy as a gift. I’ll probsbly end up hitting a dollar store, a Walgreens, or the airport shops when I leave on Friday.
 
Unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera on this trip, so this will be a rather boring set of blog entries this week!
 
Now if only I could get the AC unit in my hotel room to stay on all the time to provide constant white noise. The random power on/off cycles make it hard to sleep because of the dramatic switch from noise to dead silence. There’s not even a fan in the bathroom that I could turn on for white noise.
 
 
 
 
Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

This is where we’ll be staying for our August vacation

 

Quote

Bing Maps

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New career high bowling score!

Monday night in the Microsoft bowling league I bowled a 287 game as part of a 716 set. Both numbers are career highs for me, after 19 years of bowling.
 
It was a great feeling!
Posted in Hobbies | Leave a comment

My Experiences with the Diamo Velux Scooter

 

Per request from a few folks I’ll share my experiences with the Diamo Velux over the last 2 years.

Part 1 – The Sale.

I bought the bike new from Scooter Gallery in Seattle. The price was around $3600 which seemed fair considering other scooters with fewer features weren’t much cheaper. We opted for the 150cc engine instead of the 250cc because we don’t commute on the highway and only ride it over the 520 bridge when it needs servicing. The 4 main selling features for me were the retractable roof, the large storage space (which doubles when the roof is up), the radio, and the anti-lock brakes on both front and rear. It also comes with an alarm.

In retrospect I’d advise prospective buyers at Scooter Gallery to ask some more probing questions about the electrical systems on "feature rich" scooters like this one. It turns out that on this bike, the alarm will drain the battery if it sits idle for 3 or 4 days. I found that out the hard way. Alex at the scooter gallery could have shared this "known issue" at the time of sale and I would have had the alarm disconnected then instead of a couple months later when I got too annoyed by it.

Part 2 – Build quality

The bike is mainly built of cheap plastic, which seems to be the trend in scooters these days anyway. I’ve already broken off the fake chrome footwell fenders with accidental kicks. The core components seem pretty sound, though. The engine sounds good and runs well.

The electrical system (or maybe just the battery?) could use some improvement. The little light in the instrument panel doesn’t fully illuminate the gauges at night. As with some other low power bikes, when I brake, the headlight dims. When I use the turn signal, the headlight dims a bit in sync with the signal pulsing.

Also as I found out recently, even with the alarm disconnected, the battery seems to drain fairly quickly in cold weather. I’m gonna replace the battery and see if that helps. Failing that I’ll try to track down the drain; maybe the radio is doing it, although the radio doesn’t remember any of its settings between starts so it doesn’t appear to have any power then.

The speedometer is also wildly inaccurate. When it reads 50mph, the radar signs read 40mph.

Part 3 – The Ride

I like how the bike performs, it gets good gas mileage and the ride is pretty smooth. The shocks could be a touch firmer but they aren’t bad as is. The seat is nice and soft. Turning is nice and tight (especially with the fenders removed so I can get lower without scraping) for such a tall bike.

I’ve only reached 60+ mph on downhill stretches, it steadies out at around 55 mph peak speed on level ground. Of course the speedometer will claim I’m going 70…

By comparison, my Schwinn Graduate 150 is faster and quicker to accelerate, but the seat is rock hard and getting the bike into a tight turn is harder work than with the Velux.

I use a half helmet and glasses so I also prefer the Velux with its full windshield for most riding. The Schwinn doesn’t have a windshield at all. It can fun in the summer to have the wind in my face sometimes, though.

The roof is very effective when combined with rain pants at enabling me to drive in the rain. It acts a bit like a parachute when driving over the windy 520 bridge but I only make that drive a couple times a year. Naturally it doesn’t keep me totally dry.

Part 4 – Recommendations

Overall I’ve been happy with the bike but I advise interested folks to do the following:

1. Compare it with the new Tank roofed scooter, which costs less and has fewer features. The Tank is cheaper and has a longer warranty. Scooter Gallery in Seattle doesn’t sell Diamo anymore so you’d have to find a used one or go to Bellingham for a new one.

2. Disable the alarm unless you plan to ride the bike on long commutes 4 to 5 times per week.

3. Keep a battery charger handy

If you ride on the highway a lot or carry a passenger, try for a 250cc version. I give my 7 year old rides to and from school with no problems, but with my wife on board we peak out at around 45 mph

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments