As members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we have visited multiple times a year most years. Last year, as we all lived through the lockdowns and the global pandemic, the aquarium remained closed and we were unable to visit one of our favorite destinations.
This trip wasn’t quite back to normal (we had to book tickets for the aquarium ahead of time – actually back in April) and we had an assigned 30 minute window when we could enter. Once inside, a few things were different too, though much of the experience was the same. Outside of the aquarium, our trips normally include at least one night in our favorite hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn) where we love the cooked breakfasts, the sheltered outdoor pool and hot tub and the s’mores by the firepit each evening. We also typically enjoy local restaurants for dinners, visit the Dennis the Menace park and perhaps the beach or boating lake. This time we did a day trip, mainly focused on the aquarium visit, though we did get manage to get some other activities in too.
About two hours east of Alameda, in the foothills of the Sierra mountains is a small town with a big focus on trains. Not modern trains though. Steam trains mainly, and one old diesel loco.
Railtown 1897 is part of the California State Park system, but the trains are operated by volunteers. Entry into the park comes with a ticket for a train ride, and includes a walking tour of the roundhouse, the old machine shop and part of the train yard, as well as a brief history of the Sierra Railway system, and its relationship with Hollywood for both movies and TV shows.
This week’s road trip was originally planned to be another state park, but we were invited by some friends to join them cherry picking in Brentwood, so we combined that with a visit to the nearby Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.
After an unusually early start, we reached the cherry picking farm just after 9:30am (we had a reservation for the 9:30am to 11am time slot since they are limiting the number of people in the orchard for COVID). The drive was mostly uneventful, at least until we got near to the CA-242 split to head into Pittsburg. As we drove by a temporary roadside sign indicating that CA-242 would be closed until 10am (for overnight construction work), the Taycan’s navigation also announced that the road ahead was closed, and that it did not have an alternative route. Then it immediately repeated the announcement, but rather than not having an alternative route it worked out how to get around the closed section of road.
The second road trip in the Taycan is a little more adventurous since the round trip distance exceeds the vehicle’s range. This is the first time we will be required to charge in order to get home.
This was originally going to be our first road trip, replicating the first long trip I made in the first car I bought in the US, back in 1998 the I first arrived here. We moved it to the second for scheduling reasons.
The trip started with the battery at 100%, thanks to our JuiceBox at home, and an estimated range of about 240 miles. The direct route to the park would have been about 130 miles, but we had a stopover in Davis, CA which added a few extra miles to the trip.
The majority of the route was straight freeway driving, but when we turned onto CA-49 for the final few miles into Coloma, CA, the road narrowed and became windy, giving us a chance to see what the Taycan could really do (it is an incredibly impressive machine, and an absolute blast to drive).
The first road trip in the new Taycan was meant to be up to Gold Country (similar to the first longer road trip I took in the first car I bought here in the US). We had to make a small change in the plans though as we were also planning a visit as part of the trip, and that person was unavailable this weekend. So, as a replacement, we went to Bodega Bay, on the Pacific coast here in California.
Over the weekend, Uber’s escalations team replied to the ongoing email thread, though the reply was basically the same as all their others. At least this one did not try to say that it was because I had explicitly opted not to use the credit, but their position is still “tough luck – we changed it, didn’t tell you and we don’t care.” Not a great bit of customer service.
One of the benefits that comes with my American Express card is a monthly $15 Uber credit. I don’t use it often, but on our recent trip to Florida, the timing worked perfectly for us to make use of it for both our trip to the airport at the very end of September and on the return about 10 days later in early October.
It appears that during our trip Uber made a change to the way this scheme works (although at least some of their support people seem unaware of that).
As part of our recent trip to the UK we took a three day excursion to Paris to let the kids experience something a little different, and see a new country. It is also a city I love having spent a year living there back in the 1990s.
For various reasons, it worked out simpler for us to fly into Paris from Gatwick on Easyjet, but on the return we had a choice of flying back or taking the high speed Eurostar train. Given that the kids have not experienced high speed rail before, I opted for the train. The timing was also a little better for the kids, getting them home before their normal bedtime, even with the train ride from St Pancras across London and down to East Grinstead, the nearest train station to where we were staying.
Our recent (extended-)family trip to Europe meant booking a group of eight people, including two small kids, for flights from San Francisco to London. Virgin Atlantic has recently split their economy class into three tiers: Light, Classic and Delight. Since eight Premium seats was not an option, we thought we’d try the Economy Delight, and using miles to pay for part of it made it basically the same price as Classic.
While in Hawaii, we rented a Jeep Compass from Hertz. Partly because when traveling with a three year old there are lots of extra things to lug around, and partly because it was priced so competitively. Sadly, the week we had with it only served to convince me I would never buy a Jeep Compass.