California Wine Country 2019

2019 marks 30 years Claudine and I have been married. To celebrate, we decided to take a couple of vacations this year. The first was a trip out to California wine country (Napa and Sonoma). We’ve visited both a few times but only as daily jaunts up from San Francisco. We also share our anniversary date with some friends (Vic and Kim) who visit wine country more often than we do so we booked a trip together letting Victor coordinate the lion’s share of the trip.

The following are the highlights of our trip along with some tips and suggestions should you find yourself out in wine country.

Historically we’ve stayed in San Francisco, San Jose, or some other part of the state, usually extending a business trip. Staying in wine country is the way to go. For this trip we opted for a luxury boutique hotel. The olea hotel to be precise. Vic found this hotel, and while it was pricey, it’s right in line for what it offers and have no buyers remorse from staying there. Future trips will likely be at a VRBO or something less hotel like, but I would absolutely stay at the olea again if the price and conditions were right.

The Olea Hotel

If you’re looking for a private boutique hotel with; gourmet breakfast, a good view, fabulous staff, great outdoor places to relax, wonderful pool and hot tub, on-site spa services, crazy comfy rooms with heated bathroom floors look no further.

The Olea was our home Monday – Thursday for our trip. Claudine and I actually came out to California two days earlier and spent those days in a nondescript Marriott in Walnut Creek. We stayed there on points because we thought we’d be bums and hangout by the pool. Turned out the hotel wasn’t all that great so we ventured out on Saturday to Mt. Diablo and the surrounding area and a trip up to Glass Beach in Ft. Bragg and some shopping in Mendocino on Sunday.

Downtown Walnut Creek was nice, lots of great restaurants including http://kaiwasushi.com/ for awesome “hole in the wall’ sushi. We also rolled the dice for an off-airport rental car through Sixt. While our experience was great; there was no line to get our car, and we returned it late at night on Friday. It turns out that’s usually not the case. Our car, a full size Chevy Tahoe was great, even though it was a Chevy.

Wine Country 101

If you’ve never been to wine country, or are new to wines and winemaking do take a tour or two. After that, all the stories are the same, the wine making process is the same and usually goes something like this:

Our winery was founded in the <late 1800’s, early 1900’s> we have always made wine here in some form or fashion. We survived prohibition by making wine for the Catholic church or for pharmaceutical use, or we turned into an orchard, and back into a vineyard after prohibition. In 1976 it was <our wine, or one of our closely related wines, vines, winemaker, father or grandfather of our winemaker> who was responsible for beating the french at their own game and putting California wines on the map. We still have those vines today, in a corner of our vineyard.

We <insert winery name> are focused on making world class <insert wine type>. Our micro climate here in (Napa/Sonoma) is the best for <insert one type of grape> because of our unique soil/sun/fog/coastal breeze/non-coastal breeze> and our <flat/hillside/north/south/east/west> facing vineyard is the best for <insert wine type>. We use only the finest barrels from a cooperage in the <USA/France/some other location> and only use <new/old/american/french> oak. We tightly control the char in the barrel better than anyone else and age the wine in our <warehouse/cave> and bottle it at exactly the right time every year. As you explore our wines through this tasting you’ll discover why we are the very best at what we do.

While a little tongue in cheek, it’s not far from the truth. There are, depending who you ask, between 400 wineries in Napa (600 if you include Sonoma) with tasting rooms and upwards of 2000 different wine producers in the region. Even google doesn’t have a solid count.

Over the course of our trip we visited (10) wineries for tastings or tours. Which is a lot over 4 days, as almost all involved a tour or considerable tasting time. 3 per day is a lot unless you’re going to taste and spit, or have a dedicated driver.

Day 1:
Clod Du Val
We didn’t have a scheduled tour or tasting. We dropped in and they were able to accommodate us for a tasting. Newly remodeled or added tasting room was fabulous as were the wines. We liked it enough to join their wine club. They do distribute some wines although the story is always “What you get here is not what we distribute”

Trefethen
We were set up with a tasting here by a co-worker. We opted to taste the red flight in their recently renovated barn tasting area. Trefethen is known for their Pinots and whites that we didn’t taste. Their reds weren’t our favorites but I did like the Dragon’s Tooth Blend quite a bit.

Dinner: Glen Ellen Star
This place was amazing, pricing was steep but amazing 5 Star food.

Day 2:
Del Dotto Cave Tour (Historic), the have 3 different locations and tasting options. We chose the cave experience with barrel tasting and it was excellent. They have a certain reputation but we enjoyed their wines and bought some. I also bought a checkable wine case for the trip back home from Del Dotto.

Favero
Fred Favero winery. Fred’s estate is also his home. Our friends met Fred back in 2009 and insisted we return on this visit. They weren’t wrong. Favero winery is perched atop a ridge that straddles the Sonoma and Napa borders. He makes 3 reds, an estate Sangiovese, a Monte Di Sassi, and an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. He only produces around 500 cases a year and you must buy direct. His prices are very fair for the wine quality, in fact, he could charge 65% more just by labeling them Napa wines but he chooses not too. If presented with an opportunity, don’t miss a private tasting at Favero on his patio overlooking the valley.

Dinner: The Girl and Fig
Excellent food, great service.

Day 3:
B. Wise
B. Wise was a recommendation from Olea, in fact it’s one of the wineries that has an agreement with Olea and promotes a free tasting. The story is unique, there isn’t a winery visit, but there is a tasting room just north of Sonoma. We had the place to our self, they have some really powerful and unique reds. Highly recommend a tasting here. We bought a few bottles and will likely order more from B. Wise.

Kunde Mountain Top
We had pre-booked the Kunde mountain top tasting before we came out to California and we thought it was pre-paid. Had we realized it wasn’t pre-paid we would have cancelled it simply because it made getting to Repris on time a bit tough. The mountain top tasting was OK, not horrible, not great, just OK. You start in the main tasting house, board a shuttle to a perch at the top of the winery overlooking the winery for a handful of tastings, then ride the shuttle back down. Maybe 45 minutes at the top. It is a beautiful view, no question. The wines though were not to our liking. I did enjoy the reserve wine at the end. Same spiel as most, join our wine club for exclusive deals you can’t get in distribution. We didn’t join, nor did we purchase wine. Wade our tour guide was fine, a little too Mr. Rodgers like and they are living off the view and the fact that parts of Bottle Shock were filmed there.

Repris
Repris was a recommendation from Fred (Favero). He called Repris and set up the appointment for us. This was my second favorite private tour behind the time with spent at Favero. We beat feet from Kunde and got there just in the nick of time. It is also up on a mountain and takes time to get there. We arrived were greeted with a white wine for tasting, then another for our ride in a 4×4 side-by-side for a ride up to the top of the vineyard for a spectacular view. We stayed up top for a while getting the backstory for the winery then taken back to the caves for more tastings. We bought wine here, their reds were amazing as well. They too only sell direct.

Dinner: The Salt and Stone
Good food, great service. Likely our most forgettable meal though. Steaks were overpowered by the sauce or all would have been excellent. Mac-n-cheese with mushrooms and truffle oil was amazing.

Day 4:
Napa Wine Train:
This was a vacation check-box item. We’ve done it, we’ve checked the box, and that’s that. We are not group tour people. We don’t do cruise ship excursions we book on our own, direct and private (usually for less). So why in the world would we do a group train tour to take group wine tours and tastings? Because trains are cool that’s why. The wine train isn’t cheap initially, the Estate tour itself is about $375 per person, but when you break it down, 3 tastings at say $60 each is $180, the meal is a $75 meal, that gets you to $280, a driver for the day at $120 bucks is a deal. The train is nice, fairly cozy and thankfully for our tour only half full. I probably would have lost my mind if it was 100% at capacity as it was the tours seemed crowded.

The food was good, but not awesome. Portions were smaller than I expected and we got stuck with one winery that no one in our group would have chosen to visit. But again, box checked. I just wouldn’t do it again.

The wineries we visited from the train:
Domaine Chandon
Bubbles, nobody in our group cared for bubbles. I did enjoy a mixer and the grounds are spectacular. If you like bubbles, this is a no brainer stop for you.

Louis M. Martini
We entered this winery with low hopes. Their wines are average, and we think we’ve visited here before the renovation when the grounds were quite plain. The renovation is amazing, and the wines were surprisingly better than expected. I would visit here again, for a private tasting or tour, but not for a group tour.

Inglenook
Francis Ford Coppola makes Inglenook great again! We visited this estate many years ago and had, honestly a not great experience. The wines were good but the tasting server just didn’t want to be there that day. This time we took a broader tour, got the story of the winery from inception in the 1800’s to now. We even bought a bottle. Well worth the trip!

Dinner: Glen Ellen Inn (late evening dinner after the train)
This might have been my favorite meal, certainly right behind the Glen Ellen Star if not the favorite. Killer Cucumber Martini, and a great Salmon filet. The fact that I had just come from a couples massage at the Olea has nothing to do with my assessment 😉 don’t hesitate to eat here or the Glen Ellen Star.

Day 5:
We wrapped up our wine country time after breakfast at the Olea we checked out and headed south for a day in San Francisco with a mildly successful whale watching tour, dinner at Alioto’s, and a sunset cruise around the bay. The latter was my favorite. Awesome new boat in the Red/White fleet, all electric, very clean and quiet.

I loved every moment of this trip with good friends as phase 1 to celebrate our 30 years of marriage. I’ll post more photos later when I have time.

Working from home, what it’s really like.

Getting up and going to work

For the majority of my career I have gotten up every day and driven into an office somewhere.

I have also been fortunate to work for good companies that worked hard to keep employee morale up and endeavored to provide good working conditions. I’ve lived in my fair share of cubes but I’ve been fortunate. Digineer prided themselves on a great working environment with good 10×10 cubes with high walls and large desks with great chairs. Seapine as well, while the cubes weren’t as large, they at least had tall enough walls to provide some privacy. I was also fortunate to have a closed office for a good portion of my time, though it was rare the door was ever closed. It was invaluable when it was, either for time to focus or time to collaborate in private, without searching out a huddle room or some other hard to schedule resource. Open offices vs cubicles vs closed offices is a debate that will never end. I’ll tee that up for another day.

During this time I’ve always had the ability to work from home occasionally but not as a primary work method. Being on call 24/7 sets you up for that. I’ve always had a virtual office at home, with a full VPN tunnel to HQ, VOIP phone for calls, etc. But the times I used it were rare and more for off-hours coverage working with folks over seas in different time zones.

Bottom line, my go to the office life has been a good one, with manageable commutes, and for the most part great working environments.

The grass is always greener

Throughout my career I’ve interfaced with a lot of users, mostly vendors and consultants who “Worked Remotely” and I’ve supported my fair share too. This usually meant; working from home, car, hotel, someone else’s office, starbucks, or gate B-17 at their local airport.

I admit at times I was envious. Usually when I was heating up my lunch in the cafeteria/lunch room in the microwave, or when the weather was especially nice.

In 2016, I made a career change to the other side of the table. After spending nearly 30 years running an organization or infrastructure, I’m now the guy working from home, traveling, creating solutions, and supporting sales. I’m now that guy who works from “where ever”, but mostly from home.

It’s awesome right?

Yes, it mostly is, and I’ll likely never go back to a 9-5 office but there are some drawbacks and if you’re considering a change like this there are some things you need to know.

Pros to working from home

  • Your office is what you make it. Nobody gets to tell you what your office will look like, how tall the walls are and if you have to share a desk or cube cluster with that person who’s perpetually sick, or is, well, just gross.
  • While you might be given a laptop, your choice in monitor, keyboard, peripherals is usually up to you. Of course you might get to pay for that, but you get to choose for the most part.
  • You have access to the coffee you want to drink, not what’s provided which usually sucks. Speaking of coffee, if you make it, you get to drink it. No more making a pot, walking away to let it brew, come back to find an empty pot.
  • You get better toilet paper 🙂
  • If there is rotten stuff in the fridge, it’s your stuff, for sure, and nobody’s stealing your lunch.
  • If there’s a mess in the kitchen it’s yours. You pretty much know if the dishwasher is clean or dirty, and you don’t have to scowl when you’re the only one that cleans up the kitchen.
  • Work attire, while I mostly worked in a t-shirt and flip-flop software environment, most people don’t and now they get to work in comfy clothes if they want.
  • It’s quiet (usually).
  • I get to move about the house, work from the porch or pool area and get to hang out with these co-workers:
  • Travel, can be nice, it is what you make it. Getting out of the home, out of the office, visiting customers is where it’s at for most of these jobs. (Requires a wardrobe change though). I probably could not work from home all day every day.
  • I’m fortunate that my travel is mostly local, within a 150 mile radius for the most part with limited air travel. That does mean overnights in Toledo, Findlay, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington. Those can be good and welcome from time to time just for the change of scenery.
  • When you’re traveling you normally get to eat pretty good too.
  • You are pretty much immune to office gossip and when it does circle around it’s easier to stay out of it, and/or not perpetuate it.

The Cons to working from home

  • Your at home, a lot.
  • There are no lines of demarcation. This is fundamentally the biggest issue, especially if you’re prone to be a work-o-holic. Work doesn’t start when you get there, and it doesn’t end when you leave. I’m not saying that people who go to the office every day don’t work outside the office, they do, and I did, a lot. But there is a mental switch that happens when you show up and when you leave. Your world changes, and your attitude can change just by changing your environment. When you have a bad day at work, it’s a lot easier to leave most of that behind when you when you walk out the door. It’s a lot easier to “Not take work, home with you”, and likewise to “Not take home into work”. When you work at home, and wake up at 5:30am, you are at work. 8pm at night, you’re still at work especially when the company you work for is headquartered on the left coast. You have to consciously make the decision to turn off work and it’s harder than it sounds, at least for me.
  • The amount of impromptu conversation and collaboration is minimal. Sure you can pick up the phone can call someone, or skype them, or slack them, but it’s not the same. Not even close. It is really hard to keep your pulse on the office vibe. This is a double edged sword, when the vibe is negative you’re not subject to it and that’s generally good. But you’re also out of the loop, a lot more than in an office environment. There is no water cooler to hang out near and just have casual conversations with peers or others in the organization. From a management perspective, those candid discussions with people are invaluable.
  • The phone, you live on the phone. Conference calls, video calls, webinars, Skype, WebEX, zoom, etc. Good thing cellular is pretty much unlimited these days. I used to have a phone plan that provided 500 minutes a month and never used them all. Now my phone usage is counted in days, not minutes. 79 days and 1 hour of phone calls at the time of writing since July of 2017. That’s, 113,820 minutes over a 24 month period, or about 215 minutes a day (22 working days per month) puts that at 3.59 hours on average. Keep in mind there are days when I’m on-site with a customer all day, days where I’m in meetings most of the day. So there are days when 7 of 8 working hours is on the phone. (There’s also no such thing as an 8 hour day, never has been, even when I worked in an office). But that’s a lot of phone time and I am on the phone less than a lot of guys in sales or sales management. Bottom line, I’m on the phone more in 2.5 days (on average) than I used to be for a whole month. (Oh, and regardless of the products ability to use computer audio, I always dial into conference with my phone when possible. It allows me to not be tethered to my desk).

Video/Conference call realities:

  • Collaboration, despite all the tools, just isn’t the same as getting in a room with a whiteboard and working through it.
  • Nobody sees how hard you work. Nobody sees how hard some people don’t work either.

All joking aside. Working from home, or remotely has its challenges. It’s good way more than it’s bad that’s for sure. But it’s not for everyone. It is unlikely that I will ever go back to a daily office job.

Grand Cayman | Anniversary and Dive Trip, Sept 2018

A couple of things happened to make this possible.  Our wonderful daughter Maggie gave us a week of babysitting so that we could take a vacation without any kids, thank you Maggie. When the opportunity presented itself for us to rent the same condo in Seven Mile Beach Resort in Grand Cayman that we did in May of 2017 so we jumped on it.  The earliest we could book a vacation for me, at the time, was in September.

We also decided that if we’re going to spend the bucks to get there and dive, might as well maximize the opportunity and decided to extend  it a couple days, three to be exact.

We originally asked the condo folks for a special rate to extend because, well, honestly, we like to be frugal like that, and we also have a boat load of Marriott points so we could technically stay at the Marriott resort for free. Initially the resort said “No” and quoted us standard rates which were ridiculous.  Anyone in Cayman in the offseason (August-September-October) an paying list price is not doing their homework.

So we looked around.  The problem with the Marriott for us, was simply that it’s basically a standard hotel room, an when you’re diving, you have a lot of wet, sometimes stinky gear to deal with.  There’s no good place to store it at the Marriott and they don’t have their own dive company to take it off your hands.  We also like to have the opportunity to cook a bit and save some money when we can and you can’t do that when all you have is a Microwave. Well, I suppose you can, but we can’t.

Additionally we wanted to experience other parts of the island, not just Seven Mile, which can be busy like Gatlinburg only with a beach.  If you don’t know how busy that is, just know that it’s crazy busy.  It turns out, in the offseason, that’s not a problem.

After some research, we selected a condo on the north side in Old Man Bay.  Originally we rented On The Bay Unit #104 via Grand Cayman Villas & Condos.

As we did our pre-travel research we were a little bummed about the number of things that were down/closed for the off season.  Island population is certainly lower, it is hurricane season after all. A few of the dive companies we planned to dive with told us they would be down for maintenance and when I tried to get reservations at one of the all you can eat lobster nights and they were like, “Yeah, uh, no, we’re closed in September.”  But we soldiered on.

We eventually booked diving with EPIC divers for the 7 days we’d be staying on 7 Mile because of their stellar reputation on Trip Advisor. We figured we’d just snorkel, shore dive, or find someone on the North side when we got here.  We also planned to check out the Morritt’s resort and Ocean Frontiers as potential places to stay next time.

Unit #310 On The Bay @ Old Man Bay on the North Side –We had originally booked On The Bay Unit#104, upon arrival we were told there was a problem with that unit. It had recently been sold and some of the utilities weren’t turned back on.  Cayman Villas moved us to Unit #310 and we were very pleasantly surprised when we got there. On The Bay Unit #310 (Third floor ocean view) was an upgrade for us from unit 104, (ground floor, no view).  Kudos to Grand Cayman Villas for upgrading us.  The On The Bay condos are nice and spacious. The unit we stayed is was an owner occupied rental so it was extremely well appointed versus a condo that’s 100% rental and filled with the bare minimum. We essentially had the entire 12 unit complex to ourselves.  It really couldn’t have been any better.

Starfish Point –Did someone say starfish? What a great little corner of the earth. Named Starfish Point for a reason. We stopped out there on our first night to check out the sunset, then followed up with a poor attempt to snorkel there the next day.  Worth going for the starfish but it’s not a great place to snorkel despite what you may read. Super shallow to a 10 -15 foot deep sea grass area to a deep drop off.  Not a ton of life outside of some basic fish and the starfish of course.  We’re told you sometimes see turtles grazing there and the current was strong when we visited.

Over The Edge Restaurant – Great place on the north side for a relatively inexpensive meal. Inexpensive as far as Cayman goes. Good food, locally sourced fish, etc, with a bit of a french flair.  We stopped here for dinner the first night on the porch over the water.  Wonderful view.

Friday morning after snorkeling at Starfish point and stopping off to see Rum Point (not real sure what the attraction is there) we headed around the east end of the island to see what Ocean Frontiers had to offer and to inquire about diving with them on Saturday.

Ocean Frontiers –This dive resort is now on our list of places to stay in the future. Something about rolling out of bed and onto the dive boats really appeals to us. The facilities were super well organized and the room that they showed us was very clean with a good view.  Sad that the pool is located across the street in the other part of the complex but we’d manage.  We booked our first dive with them for Saturday morning, with a penciled in spot for Sunday if we could coordinate the move out of the north side and into 7 mile in a way that would work out.

The Brasserie –What can I say?  This is our go-to night out in Grand Cayman.  Their food is amazing as well as the atmosphere.  This is our second trip.  I made reservations for The Brasserie as soon as I knew we were coming.  We opted for the Chef’s selection.  A five course tasting menu that was out of this world.

We started with their Tuna Ceviche with plantain chips, followed by the Prince Edward Island Mussels, Swordfish, Steak, a sample of some magical cheese, and our desert sampler.  All of it was amazing@

Saturday morning we dove with Ocean Frontiers, and loved every minute of it. It’s a larger boat for sure, but there was PLENTY of space.  I liked having the room, and the service and attention to detail spoiled us.  Everyone had their own dunk tank next to their two tanks of gas. 3 Dive masters on the boat, two in the water with every dive.  We were fortunate, there weren’t any newbies, or anyone that required any attention.  Two stellar dives, enough to get us to book again for Sunday.

Dive logs were captured using my new dive watch/computer. The Garmin Decent MK1 (in addition to our normal computers/gauges). This little gem logs not only the dive particulars but my heart rate as well.  Additionally it logs the GPS location of your entry and exit.  SWEET.  (Click any of the links below for the details)

Dive 1: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 2: Iron Shores Garden | Single-Gas Dive

Rum Point  –I don’t see the attraction to Rum Point, sure it might be quieter, there’s a Rum Point beach area with a bar or two, bar food, and a restaurant (which was closed except for dinner).  The beach there was small, and full of seaweed.  Clearly party central though if that’s what you’re looking for.  That’s to say to buy overpriced buckets of beer and play sand volleyball. No kidding, I paid $28 Cayman for two Mango Coladas and I don’t think there was any alcohol in them to speak of. Worst investment of the trip. We did however enjoy the hammocks for a bit, but that was only possible because it was essentially empty. I see no need to go back there. In all fairness, we didn’t get out to the western part of the beach, and if provided with the right opportunity to stay in one of the condos at Kai Bo, or that part of the island for a reasonable price we would consider it.

Sunday
Two more dives with Ocean Frontiers

Dive 3: Lost Valley | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 4: FantaSea Land | Single-Gas Dive

Again, exceptional service, and great overall dives. Same boat, completely different and equally great crew.

On the bay was kind enough to allow us a later than 11am check out so that we could dive on Sunday.  We were told by 7 mile we could check in after 4pm, maybe early but 4pm for sure.  After our dives we took a little pool time to wind down before packing up and moving to 7 Mile Beach Club and Resort.

Upon arrival (at 4:10) we noticed that the office closed at 4pm.  Fortunatly the manager lived in unit 1 and was able to accommodate our check in. That certainly didn’t jive with the “You can check in after 4pm for sure story we got the day before.  But no harm, no foul.

Seven Mile Beach Club – We really like 7 Mile beach club for it’s short, less than a block walk to the southern end of 7 mile beach just below the Marriotts portion of the beach. We also like the ability to walk to a number of restaurants including Coconut Joe’s across the street.  Our request for a ground floor unit was honored.  Similar to up north, the place was almost empty.  If you can get a ground floor unit, do it.  There’s no real view to speak of, and the ability to walk out your back door to the pool (vs a screened in balcony) is an added bonus.  However, this is our second visit and we’re 0-2 in the ability to use the pool.  It was broken the first time and being worked on.  It was up and running on Sunday when we got there, but closed on Monday to have a drain installed, so it was down the whole time. They did work out an arrangement for patrons to be able to use the pool at the facility next door (@ Comfort Suites), but it’s just not the same as right out your back door.  It’s this kind of thing that really turns me of to ever wanting to own a timeshare.

Epic Divers –After checking in and getting settled I sent an email to Epic Divers, whom we booked with, confirming our arrangements. I had stumbled upon a post/article about the owner having a party with Guy Harvey and read that they were winding down which had us a little concerned. They confirmed our pick up time and that all things were a go. Long story short, there are rules about how long an expatriate can live and work on the island (9 years to be exact in 2018). When that happens you have to be off island for 1 year before you can come back.  Both owners of EPIC aged out or rolled over within the same year. Had things been managed differently they could have kept it going but they never found a 3rd partner/wheel they trusted enough to do that.  I wish I had met them a year ago. EPIC is (or was) certainly the type of company and class of people I’d consider investing in.

EPIC more than lived up to their name and reputation.  For the most part Claudine and I had the boat to ourselves with Pete (one of the owners) and his parents (Shirley and Collin).  What a distinct pleasure it was to meet them and dive with them. We did pick up another couple divers Thursday, Friday and a full boat for their final run on Saturday.

I wish Pete and his family success in whatever it is they decide to do and plan to keep in touch.  Pete’s family lives in a part of the UK that I’ve never visited and I look forward to having them show us around one day.

The first two dives with EPIC were on the western 7 mile side. I enquired about diving the north wall as we were unable to get to the north side during our last visit. Turns out it’s a bit choppy in the summer as the weather comes from the north. 

EPIC boat on the West Bay Dock:

Monday’s dives:
Dive 5: Knife | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 6: Ono Verde | Single-Gas Dive

Tuesday’s dives:
Dive 7: Big Tunnels | Single-Gas Dive – Drift
-= Followed by a move to the North Sound
Dive 8: Lemon Reef | Single-Gas Dive

Wednesday’s dives:
Dive 9: Leslie’s Curl | Single-Gas Dive
– Surface Interval at Stingray City Sandbar.

Dive 10: Ray’s Bedroom | Single-Gas Dive

We got to spend some time with “Hook” about a 5 foot reef shark, that once had a huge hook in his nose (note the scar) which was removed a while back.

We had originally planned to take Wednesday and Saturday off to shore dive, but because the service was so good, and the weather on the north wall was cooperating we elected to dive both Wednesday and Saturday as well in the end.

We also took our Sunset Snorkel trip off Cemetary beach this evening.  Good stuff.

Thursday’s dives:Dive 11: Main Street | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 12: Blue Pita | Single-Gas Dive

Shore Dive @ Macabuca
Dive 13: Macabuca | West Bay Single-Gas Dive

Friday’s dives:
Dive 14: 7 Fathoms | Single-Gas Dive
Dive 15: Sturgeons Domain | Single-Gas Dive

Shore Dive @ Sunset HouseDive 16: Sunset House | George Town Single-Gas Dive

Yes, we found the mermaid. This was the first time I needed to navigate to something. 320 degrees from our drop in point, then 310 from there to a wreck (which we didn’t swim too). 

The way the mermaid is situated with her back to a larger coral formation, it’s easy to swim past on the way out and we did exactly that.  After consuming about 30% of our air we turned back, and found her on the swim back (heading 140 degrees). After the shore dive we cleaned up and had dinner on a patio all to ourselves.

Saturday’s dives:
Dive 17: Hammerhead Hill | Single-Gas Dive
Surface Interval at Stingray City Sandbar again
Dive 18: Monet’s Garden | Single-Gas Dive

At the end of the trip, these are all the dive sites we hit in 10 days, 8 of them diving.

There are supposed to be 365 dive sites between the 3 Cayman islands.  We have only scratched the surface, with 18 this trip and 11 the last trip, with the only duplicate so far being the shore dives at Macabuca. Daryll told us that the island decided on a marketing campaign “Cayman, dive a new site every day, 365 days a year”.  The put it all together and published it only to realize they didn’t have 365 sites.  They only had 359 or something, so a few of the dive sites are somewhat suspect, (or complete ass as he called them).  But there are 365 moorings today.

Some Stats from this trip:
10 Days on Island
18 Dives, 16 by boat, 2 by shore, plus some snorkeling
13 and a half hours under water during the dives
We put 410 miles on the rental car (that means we spent at a minimum of 11.5 hours in said rental car at an average of 35 MPH)

Video –Disclaimer: This is a quick chop down of over 40 hours of video captured during the trip.  I am not a professional videographer or video editor.  You may be about to spend time on the internet that you’ll never get back.

Video 1:  Photos, Sharks and Eels

Video 2: Fish and Stingrays

2018 Makers Mark Mini Man Camp

~7 years ago, on another motorcycle trip, Alan (Dad), Kyle and I stopped at Makers Mark for a tour.  We were introduced to the Ambassadors Program, became ambassadors, put our names on a barrel, and followed it from birth to maturation.  

Fast forward to 2018 and our Bourbon was ready to be picked up.  It had probably been almost 4 years since I’d had a motorcycle trip that was more than a simple day ride so I was well overdue.  We put together the group, and added another friend (Carter).

Dad planned the weekend routes starting in Cincinnati, OH down to Lexington, a good ~400 mileish loop for Saturday in KY back to Danville, then Sunday to Makers Mark, then back home.  All via back roads.

Sadly when we departed on Friday the 20th the weather essentially consisted of this:

So, while maybe not the smartest thing we’ve ever done, we decided not to wimp out and went anyway.  Pretty much our entire ride from Cincinnati to Lexington on mostly back roads was completely wet.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “That’s just dumb”, and “That had to suck”, and it was, and mostly did.  However.  Riding in the rain on a motorcycle isn’t nearly as bad as people think provided you can stay dry with good rain gear and have good tires.

We made it to our intended destination only to find that a large majority of the area was without power, including the hotel we we intended to stay. We didn’t check in, headed for dinner hoping that maybe they’d have power in an hour or so.  That turned out to not be the case.  We moved our accommodations to a Marriott on the north side of Lexington.  Everywhere was busy as lots of travelers were seeking alternate accommodations.  Marriott Platinum status won the day, though all-in-all the Marriott folks were more than accommodating for a large number of folks considering they had no internet, an no way to actually confirm reservations or charge credit cards.  As far as I witnessed, no one was turned away.

So Friday evening we spent drying out our gear, drinking bourbon, and catching up.

Saturday morning started our dry with a Ferry ride across the Kentucky River, on 169. Weather for the day was 80 percent chance of rain and it lived up to that expectation.

We spent the rest of Saturday around various back roads in KY, all of them great motorcycle roads, and some were even dry.  A Video of some of the excitement is below.

Full disclosure, I only spent about 15 minutes cobbling this together.  The audio sucks and watching people ride in the rain isn’t super exciting.  You’re about to lose 12 minutes of your life you will never get back.

Footage was captured with a GoPro Session and GoPro 4 mounted to my helmet.  This was sort of a test as I purchase these for use while scuba diving in an upcoming Grand Cayman trip.

Did I mention we got rained on? A lot? During one downpour we did embrace our inner Harley rider and hid out for 15-20 minutes.

More Video (if you’re willing to lose another 14 minutes of your life) of some of the smaller back roads, and mostly a dry section:

We finished up in Danville, and had a great meal at Guadalupe Mexican restaurant.  Saturday evening was filled with more bourbon drinking and story telling.  We of course evaluated some Jefferson Ocean that was quite good.

Sunday we slow played it trying to avoid the rain but that didn’t work out either.  Our trip from Danville to Makers, while short was also completely wet.

But we made it, took our tour, collected our bourbon, dipped our bottles and were happy ever after.

The rain stopped about long enough for us to take the tour and walk from building to building.

The tasting room, from left to right: White Lightning (pre barrel Makers), Makers Mark, Makers 46, Makers Cask Strength, and Makers Private Select, recipe #3.

The dipping of the bottles…

And More Rain…

All in all a very successful motorcycle trip and we’re looking to put together another one for the fall.  Hopefully a little drier.

 

This Old House, Pool Deck Replacement.

This blog does a number of things for me, one of which is my own personal time capsule or library.  When we try to remember when we did something we often turn here.  With that in mind this year we decided to replace our pool deck.

We have our own special FAUX in-ground pool.   It’s an above ground pool built into the side of what was at one point the Summer kitchen for this 1800’s farm house.  From there a deck wraps around it.

It was here when we moved in, and quite frankly needed replaced about two years after we moved in.  In 2009 we had our pool replaced, you can see how bad the deck was in the photos on that post here.

Part of the problem was that the new pool wasn’t put as close to the deck as the old pool, so we had to build up a little extra trim to get by.

In 2010, instead of tearing up and rebuilding the deck we used “Restore” deck paint, which was awesome and got us to where we are today.  That product worked so well we intend to put it on this deck from the start, or next year.

Over the memorial holiday weekend this year (2018) we gutted the deck, rebuilt a bunch of the foundation, and replaced the surrounding fence too.

The fence still needs painted and will be in the fall.

Final results:

Lumber and materials were purchased at Menards, though if I had it to do over again I might try Lowes or HomeDepot.  I ordered online, and they delivered it pretty quickly.  However, I didn’t go pick out the wood and there was a lot of low-quality wood in the decking that got delivered.