Saturday, August 7, 2010

summer trip 2010 - Del Mar (again)

Well, this morning we completely changed our schedule....for a chance to see Zenyatta run at Del Mar.
She is my favorite horse currently training and probably my favorite horse of all time. I would rather watch her run live than to see any other sporting event, including the SuperBowl or the BCS title game. Zenyatta has a perfect race record 18 starts, 18 wins - 16 of those were Graded Stakes races. She has a closing running style which means that she races far off the pace, usually last until she starts her move about mid-way through the final turn. Here's a great Youtube clip showing her last 17 stretch runs:

Surprisingly the girls were ok with our change of plans (this was supposed to be day 2 at Disney). I extended at our Homewood Suite stay one more day and moved the Springdale, UT (Zion NP) reservation forward one day. I was able to get four reserved seats in the second level of the grandstand. Del Mar was also giving away Zenyatta glass tumblers. The track was packed, as in about 32,500 people packed; easily double their normal attendance....all because Zenyatta was running. We all had a great time....I got see Zenyatta in the paddock and on the track.

Here's an HD video I created on my iPhone 4 using iMovie - everything was captured and edited solely on my iPhone.

After the race we attempted to eat at Fidel's in Solana Beach but the wait was over an hour. We decided to head back toward  LA. Pizza at Oggi's next to our hotel was where we ate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

summer trip 2010 - Disney day one

Our first day at Disneyland...I look so forward to visiting; and, the main reason is the girls love this place, what kid wouldn't? (I like it, a lot, too)

First ride up was not a ride but a visit to Pixie Hollow (youtube). The girls had their picture taken with Tinker Bell.
Girls with Tinker Bell

Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland

The Alice in Wonderland ride was closed about 3 weeks before our Disney visit. The California division of OSHA said the ride needed handrails for maintenance worker safety. This was very odd considering the ride had been open for 52 years without an incident due to missing rails.

Here was the rest of our day with links to ride information and youtube ride thru's:
Matterhorn Bobsleds -  official, wiki, youtube
Finding Nemo - official, wiki, youtube
It's a Small World - official, wiki, youtube
Princess Story time - official, wiki, youtube
Mickey Mouse House - official, wiki, youtube
Minnie Mouse House - official, wiki, youtube

Big Thunder Mountain - official, wiki, youtube
Pirates of Caribbean - official, wiki, youtube

Soarin' over California - official, wiki, below is my own iPhone 4 ride thru video

This is easily the family favorite-we have to ride it everyday we are at the park. Imagine yourself lifted up into the middle of an IMAX screen with the POV of a hang glider soaring through the Californian skies. Your feet dangle in the air as your seat pitches up/down and left/right. During several scenes the air is scented to match what is on the screen, for example through the orange grove scenes you actually smell oranges....and, the musical score is incredible.

Monsters - official, wiki, youtube
Muppet 3DMovie - official, wiki, youtube

We used two different iPhone apps while at Disney to help us track ride wait times. The first app was called Mousewait and the second was Walkee Wait Time.  Both of these make great use of crowdsourcing on the iPhone 4. These apps show the ride wait times based on other park attendees input. Although not 100% accurate it was reliable enough to use. Since I was using it I also felt obligated to contribute by posting ride wait times as I experienced them. AT&T 3G service was not good in the park. The Mousewait app did not run if 3G service was not available so we mostly used Walkee Wait Time. After about 10.5 hours at the park it was time to head back to the hotel and eat dinner. We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Garden Grove. They have a shuttle service (very reasonably priced) to Disneyland and there are 4 restaurants conveniently located next door. This evening's meal was at Outback Steakhouse. It was a unanimous choice, except the girls refer to it as Backout.

After dinner we started something that would become a habit....we visited a frozen yogurt (aka froyo) store called Tutti Frutti. I don't know how we have missed out on the froyo craze but, I think we started something with this visit. There were 16 yogurt flavors so the girls had a tough time making a choice. This was a dual-concept store that was also housed an O' My Buns! The coffee roti buns were absolutely incredible.....and extremely addicting.

This is the Almond O' My Bun - Easily my greatest
food find of the year. D loved them even more than me.

summer trip 2010 - San Diego Zoo

Today was our final day in San Diego. D and I always find it sad to leave our SD hotel. The weather and city are just amazing. This day was spent at the San Diego Zoo. On the way we stopped at Sport Chalet to pick up some end-of-season discounted swim gear for the girls. When we arrived at the zoo the parking lot was quite full to our surprise - in fact, the zoo was packed. Once inside we found out the entire week was Panda Birthday Week. Three pandas celebrating their birthdays in the same week. Great. The panda line was about 30 minutes long. But, this was must do item on our list. We have figured out the 3 things the girls enjoy most here are the Skyfari aerial tram, the koalas and the pandas. After doing this things they are pretty much done with the zoo. This kind of makes the zoo not worthwhile because of the steep admission prices. The zoo setting is absolutely beautiful and not just because of the animals - the plants and trees are amazing.

Here's a short video from our koala visit-check out the koala in the background (not foreground) attempting to jump over another koala.

One more weather detail in case you missed this in my previous post:

Keller, TX Weather = Bad

San Diego, CA Weather = Perfection

We found these cute white tigers at the zoo!

After 6.5+ hours at the zoo we were ready to make our way to Anaheim. On the way we stopped in Solana Beach (just north of Del Mar) to eat at Tony's Jacal. We ate on the patio and the food was awesome as usual. D and the girls were shivering and actually asked to have the outdoor overhead heater be turned on.....I relished the coolness of the air knowing that I would be going back to a heat wave in Texas. When we finished eating we hit the I-5 for the hour long trip to Anaheim. Next Day - Disney!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

summer trip 2010 - free day

La Jolla Children's Pool

This was originally planned as our third day at the beach but we needed a break from 3-4 hours in the sun and salt water - A, for the third year in a row, got some redness around the bottom of each of eye from the sun and water. So, we decided to head to La Jolla again, but without getting into the water. The first stop was the La Jolla Children's Pool Beach. This is a great area to just enjoy the sound of the surf while spotting seals or looking for shells. We spent a couple of hours here, including a visit to an ice cream truck.

Digging for shells

Sea Lion coming up for air

D could stay here all day

"No more pictures, we're digging for shells"

Cave excursion - at the northern end of the Children's Pool there is a small cave. I decided to go through the cave wearing my "street clothes" and take video with my fairly new iPhone 4. I almost dropped the phone as I misjudged the surf twice.....

Here's a short video of the La Jolla surf

From here we headed to downtown La Jolla to for some shopping. We went through several "not high-end" stores. I walked a block over to the La Jolla Smashburger just to see how busy it was packed! Every table was taken and the line was way too long. It was about mid-afternoon so we headed over In and Out on our way to Coronado. On the way we stopped at the San Diego Seaport to look for some San Diego branded souvenirs for the girls. M picked out a San Diego nameplate and A wanted a cool looking shell. We drove over the bay on the Coronado Bridge. This was formerly a toll-road but, unlike all the toll-roads currently being built, tolls are no longer necessary since the construction debt has been paid - my guess is that the large Naval base on the Coronado Peninsula has some influence on this as well. Although it is over 200 feet at its peak over the bay, it does not allow for passage for the current Nimitz-class carriers.

Unbelievably, there was no one by us at
the park to take a family picture

We finished the day back at the hotel. Our hotel is in the revitalized Liberty Station area. This evening Liberty Station sponsored an outdoor movie night, Movie Mania. There were booths sponsored by local businesses giving away freebies before the movie started. At dusk they showed "The Blind Side" on a 12 foot outdoor screen. Right before it started I got carryout from Pizza Nova for the family. Our hotel even loaned out outdoor picnic blankets to lay on. There were about 200 people on the lawn between the hotel and the bay trail.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

summer trip 2010 - beach fun

The next couple of days were spent at La Jolla Shores Beach. We had a blast at the beach...D got some serious sunburn on her shoulders, as usual.

Both of the girls really got the hang of the Boogie Board on the first day. Here's M on the board with her sister cheering her on....

Here's A on the board....

Both of them were having blast in the sand and the water. M decided she had enough when I spotted a jellyfish floating about 10 feet from us; and, then an unidentified fish that was about 20-24 inches scared the crap out of me (which scared M). A went back out into the water with me later and a seal swam right by us.

Here they are taking a break from the sun....
We packed lunches both days. After leaving the beach we made stops at the hotel pool both days....the girls have lots of energy and wanted to keep going. Our hotel, Homewood Suites-Liberty Station is awesome. Monday thru Thursday they have an evening reception which includes dinner and beer/wine. On Monday night I took advantage of the draught beer before walking across the parking lot to Oggis Pizza and Brewing Company. For some unexplainable reason I ordered a pitcher of their Torrey Pines IPA....bad move as I left half of the pitcher - it was very hoppy. Maybe I just had too many beers from the hotel. Anyways we had a couple of appetizers and walked back to the hotel.

We hit the beach the next day - about 100 meters south of the spot from the previous day. By the end of the day D and I were both exhausted....but, the girls still wanted play at the pool when we arrived back at the hotel. About 45 minutes of pool time it was time to get ready for dinner. D stayed in the lounger by the pool and looked up Mexican restaurants on her phone. It really is hard to find non-taqueria mexican food restaurants in San Diego and, after our recent taqueria experience with the kids I really wanted something not like that. D decided that Casa de Loma looked promising after reading about it on It was very close the hotel and sounded good. The entrance was on a main road with parking behind the building. When walked up the door was open and there was not one single person eating here....hmmm, not a good sign so we left. This threw everyone for a loop - what to eat now? After our second beach/pool day we were tired and hungry. Everyone but M agreed to grab a quick bite at the world's greatest hamburger spot - In-and-Out. M just about threw a fit to get some pizza. We caved and got her mini pizza to go from Chuck E. Cheese which was in the same parking lot as In-and-Out. She ate her pizza at In-and-Out while the rest had burgers. Looking back on this I think M had the right idea....not that In-and-Out was a bad idea....we should have made one more trip to Pizza Nova because there would be other In-and-Out opportunities in LA and Las Vegas.

Later that evening I walked over from our hotel to Los Primos Mexican Restaurant (a taqueria style place) to get an Orange Bang. What is an Orange Bang you ask? Well, if you've ever had an Orange Julius that's pretty much the same thing. This place also Horchata, Jamica, Tamarindo and Pina drinks. For $2 I got a 32oz drink....couldn't finish it, though.

Monday, August 2, 2010

summer trip 2010 - Del Mar

After waking up and eating breakfast at the hotel we headed up the bayside trail for about a 1/2 mile. We encountered a playground that the girls really enjoyed. In the video clip D is having a good time with backhoe while the girls are swinging.

On the walk back we spent time on the shore of the San Diego bay. Here's what happens to a jellyfish near the shoreline when the tide drops....

On the way out to the Del Mar race track I wanted try California's version of a taqueria. My choice was Adelberto's Mexican Food since it was actually near our hotel and on the way to the track. The girls decided to try the chicken quesadilla. It looked promising when we saw it...check out the size of this monster.
The only problem was that the chicken was not was sautéed in tomato sauce - dark and white meat. The girls didn't eat much after tasting/seeing the chicken. D and I split a California burrito and carne asada fries-both of these items are very popular in southern California.
This was too much food...probably a pound+ of french fries, cheddar cheese, guacamole, carne asada and a crumbled mexican white cheese. It was surprisingly good-we just couldn't finish it, especially considering we were also splitting the California burrito. The burrito was the size of a Chipotle burrito (no rice in this burrito, yay!). This burrito was loaded with carne asada, cheddar cheese, french fries and salsa. It was good, too. I did feel bad about the girls, though...they just didn't like the place.

As always the weather here is just amazing. You feel the heat of the sun but the continuous light breeze is like an air conditioner steadily blowing on you.

This is the reason why we love San Diego....and this is what we dislike about Keller (Texas). You can see that today was not the exception in either location if you look at the forecast. The low in Keller is significantly higher than the high in San Diego, ugh.

We arrived at the track in time for the first race. Everyone made betting selections through the 5th race....we made winning selections but were slowly losing money since favorites that came in were not returning the money we were betting.

In the paddock prior to the first race

The girls sporting their HM hats at Del Mar

As Trevor Denman the track announcer says...
And away they go.....

Zenyatta, one of my favorite race horses of all-time, is scheduled to run Saturday at Del Mar. I mentioned her on blog two years ago; predicting she would become a superstar.....that was an understatement. She is currently undefeated with a 17 win streak against graded company. She is a very exciting horse to watch run-she's closer which means she runs at the back and charges at the end. Here's her Breeders Cup 2009 race were she took on the boys....

We are considering completely rearranging our schedule to watch her run....this will be probably be her next to last race before retiring.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

summer trip 2010 - the drive to...

Another summer trip has arrived, yay! The two day drive went by quick with the exception of the last hour which dragged on and on. First night we stayed in a Deming NM La Quinta. First time I have stayed in that chain. It was clean but I was not impressed. On the second day I started making some interesting road observations: first - their are lots of prisons. I think we passed a total 6 in TX, NM and AZ. This shouldn't surprise me...a podcast I was listening to a few weeks ago mentioned that about 1 out of every 30 U.S. adults is either incarcerated, on probation or on parole. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. Makes you wonder, are US citizens more "bad" than citizens of other countries or, is the US system broken?

And, what's up with these "Safety Corridors" on the freeway...."speeding fines doubled." Are these just dangerous sections to travel on or, is it an easy way to enforce (concentrate) speed trapping efforts in rural areas. I do have to mention that we saw no mobile speed trap cameras in Arizona this time-I guess they were ramping up their anti-immigration efforts. And, fortunately we didn't have a run in with these fools. I wonder if they would the have cojones to stop these prison breakers whom authorities believe are making a run to the border? Hmmmm, my guess is absolutely not.

Ok...enough political banter.....the driving weather was great and surprisingly mild (low 70's because of some light rain) until Yuma, AZ - 100+. While driving I realized how much of a tech gadget dependency the entire family has....for example, at one point the girls had the DVD going while playing on our old iPhone's, D was streaming General Hospital on her MacBook while I was streaming a podcast I forgot to download before leaving. We also streamed Pandora to the iPad for hours on end. Pandora rocks.

While driving on IH10 in far west Texas I guess my cell phone automatically switched to a tower from Mexico because of this text message....
Almost $20 per MB, unbelievable
unless that's in pesos.

Just south of Las Cruces NM I took this shot of the sun & clouds with my iPhone...

We made really good time the second day and arrived in our San Diego hotel at 4:30pm local time. Here's the awesome view from our room....
That bridge on the right is actually not a road,
just for pedestrians and bikes.

After resting for a little bit we made our way to Pizza Nova. This is a must stop for us every time we are in San Diego - the best salad ever and some awesome pizza.

Just outside our Pizza Nova table

The girls had enough energy hit Sea World after dinner. We arrived around 7pm and it was packed to my surprise.
Apparently this is supposed to motivate Sea World
visitors to buy VW, I think Shamu would be offended

We were able to watch the Shamu Rocks and Sea Lion show - these were both night time versions. The Sea Lion show was very good - funny thing, though, it was great because one of the actors stole the show (actual person, not sea lion). After those two shows, a couple of rides and the fireworks finale we were spent.