Sunday, August 30, 2015

Local Tourists - Fort Point

You know how when you get back from a really great vacation, you get the post-vacation blues? I got hit hard after spending a glorious week in the Keys. Back to the daily grind.... and no more snorkeling. (Snorkling isn't something you can do in the Califronia Bay Area. Visibility is 0 and anyone who can stand more than 2 minutes in the ocean without going numb should be scientifically studied.) To combat the reality that we probably won't be going to the Keys again any time soon, Connor and I have decided to be local tourists and do some aggressive sight seeing here at home. We started out with Fort Point.
Thank-you to the nice lady who took our picture

I didn't even know Fort Point existed until about a week ago. I was researching a possible hike by the Sutro Baths when I came across it. (I was looking to see where to get a Golden Gate Bridge patch. Who's surprised? Probably no one. It's a new obsession.) And I think I know exactly why. It's located under the Golden Gate Bridge. Unless you are walking along the bay side of the bridge it just isn't very visible.

It was a really neat place to see though. Fort Point was built around the American Civil War to defend the bay. Connor and I noticed that it had many architectural similarities with the Dry Tortugas' Fort Jefferson. The brick arches were laid similarly and the number of levels on the building were identical. Or would have been if Fort Jefferson had been completed.

We ate lunch by Fort Point before deciding to walk across the Golden Gate. It looked like there once was a path from Fort Point to the bridge path. That is closed, so there is a longer route to take instead. We walked 2.6 miles (4k) from Fort Point to the vista point across the other side of the bridge, then another 2.6 miles back. It was a lovely day and we both shed our coats part way through the walk. But we were both ready to sit down after all our exploring.
No fog in Fogust? That would be my storm-like superpowers coming into play.

Through my research, I had found several possible shop locations with patches. The Fort Point gift shop ended up being the only one we went to that we could find what were were looking for. (And that included the Warming Hut and the Golden Gate Pavilion.) We chose a Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, and Alcatraz patch. Connor and I have been to Alcatraz independently of knowing each other. I figure we earned it. After walking the bridge, we also picked up a magnet for the fridge and got one of those state park stamps on a bit of paper from the pavilion.

I'm excited about the idea of being a local tourist. There are many places that are within 4 hours of us and could be done as a weekend trip. Has anyone else been doing local tourism? Are there places you've been dying to go but just haven't yet?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sheep May Finally Safely Graze

What's this? Miracle of miracles, the Sheep May Safely Graze Socks are finally all knit up. And they fit!!! The white Cheeky Merino Joy matched perfectly with my handspun. The handspun is the sock roving blend by Greenwood Fiberworks in the Enchanted color way for those who may wonder.

I'm really happy with how they turned out. All the ripping paid off and I'm certain that they are going to be a favorite pair just as soon as we hit sock weather again.

As for the pictures, Connor and I went out for an evening hike and I thought I'd bring along the camera and the socks to see if we could find a good place for pictures. At the top of the hill is a bench, which was the only place where I could put the socks on and not immediately get them dirty.
Not pictured: The swarm of bugs that immediately landed on us as soon as we stopped moving

We waited for everyone to leave so we could take the pictures. It's always a little hard to do sock pictures in public if I'm the model. I feel weird and people always stare. I mean, I would too if someone was taking socks pictures. But probably because I'd want to know what pattern they had knit.

Friday, August 21, 2015

In The Florida Keys - Pt.2

We got up bright and early to make it to the Key West airport in order to catch our seaplane. Today we were going to Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. Garden key is one of the last islands in the Florida Keys and is home to Fort Jefferson.
I learned to snorkel on the beach just behind the trees on the left front of the fort

There is only one way into and out of Fort Jefferson. And although it was never finished, it was still used as a prison and a base of naval operations.

As if the fort wasn't difficult enough to enter or leave, there is a moat.

We spent our first half hour of our 2.5 hour stay looking at the museum and talking to one of the park staff, Neil, at the giftshop. Neil had great stories to tell about his past life as a Wallstreet tech guy. After a bit, he asked us why we were still talking to him. We should go have a look around the island!
After getting a recommendation from him over which way we should go, Connor and I had a grand time walking alternatively between the top and middle tier of the fort. 

After walking out of the fort, I could tell Connor was getting antsy. I hadn't realized that we had spent a whole hour touring! We only had an hour to snorkel. It turned out to be a really well used hour. After Connor gave me the basics on how to not drown whilst snorkeling, we worked our way from south beach to the first turn of the fort. In that time I saw many, many fish as well as coral. I never thought I'd ever get to see anything like that because I'm not a strong swimmer and I have a fear of being in the ocean. I took to snorkeling, well, like a fish. Three times we swam from the beach out to a destination. The second place we looked at was the seagrass that was out a ways. Connor spotted a huge conch shell. It must have been nearly as big as my head. We called to some people on the shore and found that we had about 15 minutes left before we had to get back to the plane. With that information in mind, I swam as fast as I could to the pylons. Our pilot, John, had recommended going to the pylons, choosing one, and staying still for a moment. Sure enough, groups of colorful fish soon appeared and did fish stuff. I was pleased to have swam out much farther than I ever thought I could. But we had to head back. We ran to the beach where the plane waited for us.

I encourage Connor to ask to be co-pilot, which he did. I stayed in the back and enjoyed the sights. Our pilot pointed out wrecks and the different undersea geographies. I saw a pod of dolphins, sharks, and a million sea turtles. The ocean was made of them. 

Upon leaving Key West, we headed towards Key Largo, where we would be staying with Connor's family at the Key Lime Sailing Club. Since we had missed things on our way down, we did our best to make up for it on the way back. At Big Pine Key we stopped at the Key Deer visitor center and got some recommendations on where to look for Key Deer. There were no guarantees, but we did end up seeing a bunch. Full grown, they are the size of medium dogs. We stopped at the end of a road that dipped into the ocean and ate our sandwiches, all the while watching white ibis hunt and lizards chase each other. It wasn't long before we headed north again, this time stopping by a scuba shop to get me fins before we snorkeled in Bahia Honda. (I know. I hadn't snorkeled in my life and this is the day I snorkel in two different locations.) Feeling confident, I swam, nay, raced Connor to a far out buoy. I won. Along the way we saw cow fish, a crab, and tarpin chasing after schools of tiny fish.

The next day we went kayaking (saw an iguana, but no manatees) and snorkeled even more after tying our kayaks up part way back. I saw upside down jellyfish and even had the pleasure of getting some of their stinging goo on me. Connor pointed out three parrot fish to me. And I watched a small barracuda chase after even smaller fish. Everyone was tired after the adventuring. But with only one more full day to enjoy after this day, Connor, his father Jeff, and I went out on a sailboat. 

Connor has his sailing license and the three of us cruised around Buttonwood Sound for two hours. I'd never felt so relaxed. As we came back in, I took a wee nap. When I woke up, we were closing in on the dock and saw some dolphins swim by. I took a few more snaps before sitting back and enjoying the view. This picture is a poor substitute for how beautiful it was out there. 

On our last day, the whole family went on a charter boat and snorkeled 4.5 miles off shore. Before we had come to Florida, I told Connor that it would be a cold day in hell before I'd ever do something like that. (Actually, I said "Maybe not this time", but I was thinking "Cold day in hell" in my head.) By the end of the trip, I told Connor I'd be disappointed if we didn't go. I am so happy we did. I was sure that I'd never see Brain Coral (my favorite coral) or a moon jellyfish (my favorite jellyfish) in the wild before this trip. We saw a large stingray hiding in the sand. A parrot fish decided to swim up to and stare directly at me. But the highlight, which Connor and I were the only ones lucky enough to see, was the saga of the octopus. Connor spotted an octopus being harassed by some fish. We thought it was neat to even see an octopus. After fighting a bit, it hid under a rock. We both floated nearby, just enjoying all the fish. All of a sudden, a nurse shark just as big as me (!) swims under me (!!!) and starts aggressively pushing the rocks with its snout. That poor octopus suddenly got sucked up by the shark! I attempted to say to Connor "Did you see that!" which sounded more like, "Aoooouuuaaa!" with some pointing. Of course he had. After an hour and a half we all headed back to the boat and the first mate asked everyone what they saw. He told us that in the 20 years he's been out there, he's never seen anything like what we saw.

It would have been neat to have pictures of the snorkeling, but I had a far better time just experiencing it all. And what might be a poor substitute for shark and octopus pictures is a picture of the fun doodads we collected. I thought the Dry Tortugas patch would be the rarest one we would find, but because a strange sequence of events and because Connor is the luckiest man alive, we were given a Florida Park Service patch. 
We bought two luggage tags, a few magnets, and a heap of patches

I'm hoping to get going on my patch project soon. I'm still researching the best way to go about displaying them, but I have a pretty good idea of what I might do. In the interest of adding more patches to the collection and seeing places I might not have otherwise, does anyone have any recommendations of places to go check out? I'm better versed in what can be found in the west coast of the US, but am open to any and all suggestions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In The Florida Keys - Pt.1

A strange sequence of events lead me to visiting Florida and the Florida Keys last week. Connor and I had planned to go to the Keys for our honeymoon. (It was a place full of vacation memories for him that he wanted to share with me.) It ended up being too overwhelming to plan around wedding, so we started looking into what it would take to go at our 1 year anniversary. But after learning that: 
1. He had previously gone only in May or August, which would guarantee warm water
2. His family was going to be there this August 
3. I had promised to see his family again sometime this year (Which would have been to Kentucky)
I told Connor, "I have this crazy idea."

The beginning of the trip was full of issues. (I've just deleted my long rant about what happened, but Expedia's customer service is non existent and we won't be using the service again. We felt taken advantage of and lied to. Jet Blue, however, was awesome even though it wasn't their problem to fix. We will be using them again.) We took a red eye out and upon landing I got teary and said, "I want to go home." Connor took me to a breakfast place at Miami Beach and my attitude improved. Then we walked out and I touched the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I had never seen the Atlantic before and I was skeptical that an ocean even could be warm. I wanted to stay in it.
A wave hit my leg and went up underneath my shorts. But it was a warm wave, so I was ok with it.

From Miami Beach, we drove to the Everglades and took a fan boat tour at Buffalo Tiger's. Buffalo Tiger was the chief and as such, this tour company has more rights as to how deep into the Everglades they can go. He passed away this year at the age of 95, but we were told he was one of the last to be born on the tree filled islands that are in the everglades.
Our tour was 30 mins as opposed to the usual 60 mins due to low water, but that was more than enough for me. Our guide was wonderful. He also was able to give a demonstration with one of the male gators that swam out to meet us.
He told us he was keeping an eye on this guy's tail because the tail would tell him about the gator's intentions

We drove to Big Cypress before doubling back and going to the Biscayne visitor center. It had close a few minutes before we arrived. Luckily we weren't far from our hotel in Homestead. We popped out to a Cuban restaurant two doors down and Connor asked the waitress what she recommended. Connor likes fish, but he wasn't expecting to have it still look like one. I got a steak. It didn't still look like a cow.
How will I eat this?

The next day we got up bright and early and headed back to the Biscayne visitor center to grab a patch and walk around. It was beautiful out there, but most of the park can only be accessed by boat. I hope we get to visit there again in the future.
Much of this day was spent in the car as we took the Overseas Highway to Key West. We got caught in some traffic though, so we started singing silly songs to the tune of the Beach Boy's "Kokomo." My favorite was:

In the Florida Keys
There's a place we'd like to go
But the traffic's really slow
It's not moving at all
7 mile bridge towards Marathon Key

We skipped a bunch of what we had planned to see on our way down in order to get catch a late tour at the Hemingway House. It was worth it. Our guide was informative and entertaining. The house is full of cats descended from Hemingway's polydactyl cat. All of them have the gene, but only about half have the extra toes. Our guide also had a pocket full of cat treats, so some of the less shy cats followed us around. He also let every lady on the tour feed the cats, much to Connor's disappointment.
Me: "If you want to feed that cat, ask him for a treat." Connor: "I don't want to break the tradition."

After the tour we walked all around Key West. First we got me fitted for a snorkel mask. I had never been snorkeling and would be trying for the first time the next day. We decided that it was worth the investment because the best way to ruin a snorkel experience is to have an ill-fitted, leaky mask. As we passed by Key Lime Pie Co. Connor insisted on going in. I am not a pie person, but I was more game after I saw that they had a gluten free version. (Being gluten free is pretty trendy these days. I, unfortunately, am not doing it to be trendy....) The pie was amazing. After my first bite, I said, "Oh no!" then preceded to consume the rest of the pie in an unladylike fashion.
They marked by pie with extra whipped cream so we wouldn't mix the two slices up

We wandered around a bit while looking for a few more landmarks. Here is mile marker 0 at the beginning of US Route 1. (Not to be confused with California's Highway 1.)

Then we waited in an enormous line to take a picture by the Southernmost point in the continental USA. I have to admit, I'm a big fan of cheesy tourist destinations. 

After the picture, went to a nearby cafe that touted itself as the "Southermost" and watched the sunset while eating tasty seafood. After filling ourselves to the brim, we waddled back to the inn and passed out.
(A big shoutout to Chris at the Cabana Inn. He prepared us a breakfast to take to our room because we were going to leave before breakfast was served the next day.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Little Buddy And Big Buddy

Hey Scooter, today is your 13th birthday. I know that lots has changed this year for you. I'm no longer your roommate. But I'm glad we are still buddies.

I'm also glad that you and big buddy get on well. I know big buddy really likes you. And judging by how you snub me when big buddy is around, I think you like him too.

Here's to many more years of cuddling.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Onopordum May Safely Graze

The Onoprodum socks have been completed! I am so pleased. I talked and talked about making them. So much, in fact, that when I started them, no one at my knit group needed to ask what the pattern was. 

I had agonized (and probably driven everybody nuts) over the color choice. In the end, I'm satisfied. All the yarn came out of my stash. And I think having a dark and light purple with a dark and light green worked really well.
Thanks for taking the pictures, Connor

Meanwhile, I also managed to finish one Sheep May Safely Graze sock. It's a miracle. Four whites and several rippings had severely tested my patients. I've started the second one and am into the second row of sheep. Hopefully the second sock goes without a hitch.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Daily Comic Lives Again!

A while ago, I worked on a daily comic. Every day I'd draw a three panel comic that showed highlights of my day. Eventually, I gave it up because it wasn't fun anymore. Life is too short to have hobbies that don't fulfill you. Well, a few months ago, someone who was featured heavily in the comic asked if they were available to read. I never did scan them, so I started to look into what it would take to publish them. (I'm still looking into it.) Then something happened that I didn't expect: I missed drawing my daily comic.

Connor wasn't in the old comic, so I thought it was high time to draw one where he was featured. I hadn't drawn much since the old comic ended, so starting up again, I was surprised to see that I was able to pick it up pretty easily. I also feel like my story pacing is far better than it used to be. That being said, it still is difficult to be disciplined about drawing the comic each night before going to bed. I still have memories of the comic becoming much less consistent when I would put off drawing for a day. One day typically became a week, became a month, until the comic finally died.

I have stuck to it for two weeks now. I don't know how long I'll draw it, but for now it is fun.

Is anyone else experiencing renewed interest in an old hobby?
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