Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 9 - To Siena

The hotel had some nice grounds with a view of Orvieta. Sharon went out on the grounds before breakfast to meditate. After breakfast, we packed up the room and loaded the car. It was a relatively easy drive to Siena.

Unfortunately, I got to spend two hours with the Italian police once we got to Siena, but that is a story for another day...

We eventually got to our hotel. We are spending the next two nights at the Hotel Athena. We have two ajoining rooms. It is very comfortable. The hotel was a 10 minute walk to the Piazza del Campo.

To my surprise, the Campo is set-up for the annual Palio [horse race]. It turns out that the horse race is Monday, July 2, but there are trials leading up to the main event. We didn't know this when we scheduled the trip. It does explain why we had some trouble finding a hotel room that we liked.

We had an expensive lunch on the piazza. They were literally tearing down the restaurant for the evening trial as Sharon and Morgan were finishing lunch.

Afterwards we wandered to the Duomo. I bought all inclusive tickets that covered a number of sites around the cathedral. I also got what I thought were audio tours. It turns out that they have multimedia guides based on Android tablets. We started in the Duomo and then headed to the museum. This took more than two hours. At this point, everyone was done. I felt like the guides were well worth the price.

We headed back to the hotel and lounged for a bit. We ended the day with a late dinner. After looking for one of the restaurants in the guide books that had a 20 minute wait, we picked a different nearby restaurant for dinner. I had risotto and osso bucco for the first time on the trip. After a couple of glasses of wine, the group replayed the events of our arrival in Siena...

Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 8 - To Orvieto

After three nights in Rome and three nights in Sorrento, we will be on the move more over the next week. We are planning to spend one night near Orvieto on the way to Siena.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, Sharon packed up the room, while I walked to pick up a Hertz rental car. I had a struggle getting back to the hotel with the car. The GPS seemed to want to lead me down into the port below the hotel. I finally headed out of town and then looped back towards the main square following the signs and ignoring the GPS. I think that part of the problem was that the GPS was set for North and a map display rather than a heads up display.

I finally found my way back to the hotel and we were on the road about 10:15 a.m. It was about a four hour drive to Orvieto. Once we got back to Naples, the drive was almost all freeway. We made two stops, including getting lunch at an AutoGrill.

The GPS led us to the wrong address, but we got back on track fairly quickly. We got to the hotel about 2:30 p.m. We are spending one night at the Hotel La Badia di Orvieto. The hotel was originally an Abbey built in the 6th century. We have a gorgeous corner room that looks out at the hilltop city of Orvieto. The picture above shows the hotel viewed from the hilltop city of Orvieto, while the picture below shows a view of the city and the Duomo from the hotel.

Sharon and I wandered the grounds and then had a cold drink in the bar. Jack had fallen asleep so we had a struggle getting him up and going. He was a bear for the rest of the day. We drove the car to a parking lot below the city and then took a series of escalators up into the town.

We toured the duomo. Afterwards, Sharon wanted to shop. I took the kids on a walk through the town to the fort and back. One of the lessons from the day is that we need a better game plan for Siena than we had for Orvieto. After a series of guided tours and scheduled days, the kids got restless when we had a looser itinerary.

Catching back up with Sharon, we took some pictures of the hotel from the city and then found a quiet place for some wine. We ended the night with a very nice dinner at La Palomba. Sharon had the "best pigeon ever," while the kids and I had ambricelli al tartufo for a first course and lamb and pork for a second course. The lamb that Jack and Morgan had was very good.

I really liked the hotel where we stayed, but will not be coming back to Orvieto.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 7 - Amalfi Coast

Up early, Sharon and I went to a week day Mass at Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful little Baroque close to the hotel. While the Rick Steve's guide book said that the nuns would be singing, there was very little singing in the Mass.

We arranged for a car and driver for the day. Our original plan was to drive down the coast all the way to Paestum, a Greek ruin. Over the last couple of days, we decided to adjust our original plan and stay close to the Amalfi Coast.

Sharon has been wanting to do some shopping for decorations for the new kitchen. One of the guidebooks listed a ceramics factory in Ravello that she was interested in visiting. We decided that we would make that our target destination for the day.

After breakfast in the hotel, we met the driver at 10 a.m. We made a number of stops for pictures heading south on the coast. After getting a chance to see the coast from the ferry yesterday, it was a nice complement to stop at a number of vista points as we wound our way south. We also stopped at one ceramics outlet.

The driver dropped us in Amalfi. One of the things that we didn't do on Wednesday was visit the cathedral. We took a quick tour of the church. The most interesting part of the church was the crypt of St. Andrew. The crypt contains a number of relics of St. Andrew brought to Amalfi in 1208.

Back in the car, we headed to Ravello. This is a hilltop town near Pontone where we hiked to yesterday. We had a cold drink on a terrace with a great view of the Mediterranean Sea; Ravello is about 1,000 feet about sea level.

While Sharon and Jack shopped, Morgan and I toured the Duomo (Cathedral) of Ravello and the Villa Rufolo.

Back in the car, we made a quick stop to buy some Limoncello. We then headed back north to Positano and had a very late lunch on the water at Chez Black. We were all starving by this point. I was surprised how big Positano was. Sharon had tried to get a room here, but couldn't find anything She liked. I would definitely come back to Positano at some point and then visit the Island of Capri; We skipped Capri on this trip.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was almost 6:45 p.m. Sharon wandered through the town to do a little more shopping, while the rest of us crashed in the room.

We finished the night watching the Italy versus Germany European Cup semi-final game in the restaurant at the hotel pool. Italy won by the score of 2 to 1. Afterwards, Sharon and I walked out into the central square of Sorrento. The town was going crazy. Sharon has a couple of videos that I will post later. It was another late night...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 6 - Hike from Amalfi to Pontone

Both Jack and Morgan slept late while Sharon and I wandered down to breakfast. The hotel has a very nice breakfast and something resembling American coffee. The kids eventually wandered down for breakfast about 9:15 a.m.

The original plan for the day was to go to Amalfi and do a hike. After talking to the concierge about the different options (bus, taxi or ferry), we decided to grab the 10:30 a.m. ferry to Postino and Amalfi. It was a beautiful hour and ten minute ferry ride along the Amalfi Coast. The cliffs are a limestone and look very different than the California coast.

Once we were on the ground in Amalfi, we got off track a bit. The directions in the Rick Steven's Italy book for the hike past the paper mills were vague at best. We got to the starting point of the hike, but had trouble figuring out which way to go. After a couple of starts, including trying to ask directions at the Paper Mill Museum, we thought that we were going the right way, but ended up back in the town. I have to admit that I got a little frustrated.

Using the directions on a map that we bought, we started off again. This time we got on the right track, although I don't think that we actually took the hike recommended by Rick Stevens. We climbed steadily along the terraced lemon orchards for about 1.6 miles. The climb was over 900 vertical feet. We finally reached Pontone and had a nice lunch in a restaurant overlooking the ocean down a different ridge. While Amalfi was packed with tourist, there only a couple of people on the trail. Pontone was very quiet.

Going back down the mountain was a lot easier than going up. Google Earth views and maps of the hike are here.

While Sharon and Morgan shopped in Amalfi, Jack and I found a shady spot close to the Mediterranean Sea by a cold drink. We are planning to come back to Amalfi tomorrow and tour the church.

We caught a 4:35 p.m. ferry back to the Sorrento. Dusty and hot, we went for a dip in the pool after we got back to the hotel.

Getting cleaned up, we had a drink on the terrace of the hotel watching the sunset. We then wandered into town. Sharon didn't like the restaurant that the hotel recommended and we couldn't get into the restaurant on the top of the guide book. We ended up having a nice late dinner. I had an interesting seafood pizza.

The main square near the hotel has been packed with people whenever we ventured out. South of the square, the town is made up a number of a number of narrow streets that date from the old Greek city.

It was again after midnight by the time we were in bed...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 5 - Pompeii

Up before 6 am, this was moving day. We packed up the apartment and wandered down to the cab stand. We caught a cab to the Roma Termini Train Station. After a bite to eat, we caught the 9:00 a.m. high speed train to Naples.

Sharon had arranged for a car to pick us up at Naples, but when we got off the train no one was there. After a couple of phone calls, it turns out that the driver was late and stuck in traffic. The driver eventually met us and we got everything loaded in a van.

From there, we headed to Pompeii. Sharon originally thought that we had arranged for a driver and a tour of the ruins. It turned out that it only included a stop at the ruins. The driver scheduled a tour guide as we were heading to the Pompeii. We took a two plus hour tour that included all of the high points of the site, including the Roman baths and the brothel. Although we had a little trouble understanding the guide, she moved quickly through the site and hit all of the major points of interest. I looked at the guide books afterwards and was amazed at how well she followed the their path.

When we were done, we had a quick glass of wine and a snack. Back in the van, the driver took us to the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento. We will be spending the next three nights at hotel exploring the Amalfi Coast.

Getting settled in the room, everyone headed to the pool. We hung out around the pool for the rest of the afternoon; something that we rarely do. Sharon had be threatening to head straight to the pool all day. After a hot, dusty afternoon at the Pompeii ruins, the pool felt particularly good.

Getting cleaned up, we had a drink on the balcony overlooking the ocean. We finished the night with a long dinner at the hotel restaurant. By the time I got back to the room and down for bed, it was after midnight.

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Code Expiration: September 18, 2012

Starbucks Pick of the Week - Lianne Havas - Dont' Wake Me Up

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
Starbucks Pick of the Week - Lianne Havas - Dont' Wake Me Up

Code Expiration: September 18, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 4 - Vatican City

It has been hot with temperatures peaking in the high 90’s. Although we had a late night, I was up even earlier than yesterday. I couldn’t sleep much pass 6 a.m. I got more pastries from the bakery around the corner.

The plan for the day was a guided tour of the Vatican Museum tour ending with the Sistine Chapel and continuing into St. Peter’s Basilica. After talking about walking, we decided it was just a little too far and caught a taxi just behind the apartment.

Sharon had booked the ancient Rome and Vatican Museum tours with the company that the Wackman’s used last year. In a twist of fate, we ended up with the same guide as the first day: “Elvis.” Totaling twelve people, the group was twice as large as the previous day.

The Vatican Museum was literally packed with people. I believe that the guide said that 5.5 million people visited last year. One of the advantages of being with the guided tour was that you got to use a much shorter line. The line to get in the museum was more than an hour long, while the line for the tour groups was about 15 minutes. Once inside, the group got headsets so that we could hear the guide amongst all of the other people. We wandered through a good part of the museum catching a number of the highlights, including the Laocoon. Sharon had poked him at the beginning to make sure that we were going to visit the Raphael rooms. The School of Athens in the Room of Segnatura is particularly impressive.

I really enjoyed the Sistine Chapel. Although the room was packed, we spent quite a bit of time there. The guide did a very nice job of describing the features of the room. Given that we were wearing earpieces, I could wander fairly far from the group while listening to him talk.

Exiting the Sistine Chapel, we went into St. Peter Basilica and finished the tour. Highlights included the Main Altar (a seven story tall bronze canopy) and the Michelangelo Pieta. The church is huge!

After the tour, we wandered into the local neighborhood to get some lunch. I walked back to the front of the Basilica to get a couple of pictures. Eventually, we hooked back up at a store where Sharon was buying Jack a Roma jersey.

We passed by the Castel Sant’Angelo. Unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays. We crossed over the Ponte Sant’Angelo and started looking for a store that Sharon wanted to find.

Back at the apartment, everyone took a nap for the third day in a row.

With Jack still sleeping, Sharon and I headed out. Sharon wanted to go back to shop near the Spanish steps, while I wanted to get to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. When we were in Rome the first time, Sharon lead us to this church, but it was closed. It contains two Caravaggios: The Conversion on the Way to Damascus and the Crucifixion of St. Peter. Catching up with Sharon afterwards, we enjoyed a glass of wine before heading back to the room.

Jack has fallen asleep and slept for a couple hours every afternoon. Twice, he was woken up thinking that it was the next morning. When Sharon and I got back to the room, Jack woke up thinking that he needed to pack.

We wandered back by the restaurant that Patty recommended, but it was still closed. We finished the night with a very nice dinner near the apartment. Although we were trying to get to bed earlier, it was still after 11:30 p.m. by the time that we got to bed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 3 - Ancient Rome

I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and was up and moving before everyone else. Prowling for somewhere to get breakfast, it was very cool to wander the Piazza Navona when it was completely empty. I wandered as far as the Piazza di Floria. I found a pastry shop that was just opening and carried a bag full back to the apartment.

The plan for the day is a guided tour of ancient Rome. We caught a taxi to the street near the Colosseum. We had a quick cappuccino and another pastry before meeting up with the guide. Unlike Spain, it turns out that there are no Starbucks in Italy; I would kill for a cup of American coffee…

We met up with the guide at 9:30 a.m. The group included the four of us plus one other couple. A guided tour is not something that we have done before. We have typically relied on guidebooks and walking tours. Sharon felt that Jack and Morgan might get more out of a guided tour and be more engaged.

The tour started in the Colosseum. A lot more of the amphitheater is open than when Sharon and I were there 16 years ago. We walked around lower and upper levels and stopped at a number of exhibits.

From there, we headed to Palatine Hill. The palaces of several emperors and the original village of Rome are located on this hill. Sharon and I had walked part of this before, but we covered a number of new areas.

We walked down ancient subway to the Roman Forum. This included a tour of the Curia, the Senate House. Overall, the guided tour lasted just over three hours. While I was initially skeptical, I felt that it was a worthwhile investment.

We had lunch at Enoteca Cavour 313, a place that the guide had recommended. After lunch, we walked up to the top of Capitol Hill and toured the Capitoline Museums. High points of these museums include: the She-Wolf; Marcus Aurellus on horseback; the Dying Gaul; and two Caravaggios (The Fortune Teller and another version of the young St. John the Baptist).

We walked back to the apartment past an excavation of early Rome that was near where Julius Caesar was murdered.

After a short nap, Jack and I headed out to a find a Roma jersey. He had seen a team store on the walk on the first night. Unfortunately, they did not have anything in his size. The season ended a couple of weeks ago and looks like they purposely let their stock of jerseys shrink. On the way back to the hotel, Jack and I stopped at a ATM and a grocery store.

For dinner, we went looking for a restaurant that Patty Wackman had recommended. Just off Piazza di Floria, I finally found it after one false start. Unfortunately, it was closed. We needed up going to a nearby restaurant that was listed in the Rick Steven’s book: Trattoria der Pallaro. It had a different atmosphere; their motto is “here, you’ll eat what we want to feed you.” Afterwards, Sharon, Jack and I headed back to the same gelato place as the first night.

Jack and I ended the night watching the Italy versus England European Cup soccer match in a restaurant off the Piazza Navano. Italy won on penalty kicks after the overtime. It was another late night. By the time we got everyone down, it was after midnight.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 2 - Old Rome

With the delay getting off the ground in Philadelphia, we got to the Rome airport after an uneventful flight about an hour late. We hit the ground about 9:30 a.m. rather than the scheduled arrival of 8:40 a.m. We breezed through customs. I am frankly surprised how quickly we got our luggage and were looking for taxi.

At this point, we realized that we had made a tactical error. Typically, we stop at an ATM and get local currency when we hit the ground in a foreign country. We couldn’t get any of the ATMs to work. I ended up gathering up our US dollars and went searching for someplace to change the dollars in Euros. After passing a bunch of exchange kiosks before we went through customs, it took some work to find one in the arrival area. As I noted in Spain two years ago, it is odd to have another voice (Jack’s) with input into the discussion about how to deal with these bumps.

We finally got some money, caught a cab and headed into the city. We will be spending the next three nights in Rome. We have an apartment right off of the Piazza Navona. Morgan spent a couple of weeks on the Greek Island of Cor fu, took an overnight ferry to Italy, spent a couple of days with a friend and then got to the apartment in Italy last night. She will be traveling with us for the next two weeks.

After some initial confusion, we finally got into the apartment, found Morgan and got settled. We had a bite to eat in a pizza place that Sharon had found in a magazine: Pizzeria La Montecarlo.

From there we headed off to explore. We wandered through the Piazza Navona and headed towards the Pantheon. This is the only Roman temple to survive the last 2,000 years virtually intact.

From there we wandered through Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola. This is a Jesuit Baroque church built in 1685. When Sharon and I were here before, it was filled with scaffolding.

The next stop was Galleria Doria Pamphilj. This is described as the best of the private collection galleries in Rome. It includes three of Caravaggio’s works: Mary Magdalene; Rest of the Flight into Egypt; and, Young St. John the Baptist.

Trying to work off the jet lag, we headed back to the room and slept for about two and a half hours.

While Jack took a shower, Sharon, Morgan and I went to the San Luigi del Francesi. This is France’s national church in Rome. It contains three large Caravaggios: The Angel and St. Matthew; the Martyrdom of St. Matthew; and, the Calling of St. Matthew. They are very impressive.

After getting cleaned up, we headed off on a walking tour. We used one of Rick Steve’s book to take a “Heart of Rome” walk. I really enjoyed this. Starting in the Piazza Navona, we went by the Pantheon and made our way to the Trevi Fountain. There were two interesting moments along the way. We passed an Egyptian obelisk taken by Augustus after his victory in Egypt over Cleopatra and Mark Antony. I just finished reading the book—Cleopatra—that talks about this battle. We also passed a huge second century column depicting the victories of Marcus Aurelius over the barbarians. Jack watched Gladiator on the plane on the iPad which portrayed these battles.

From the Trevi Fountain, we headed to the Spanish steps. We eventually found a place to have a late dinner in the neighborhood. After dinner, we found our way back to the Trevi Fountain and back to the hotel. We stopped at Giolitti’s for gelato. By the time we got back to the apartment and to bed, it was after midnight. All in all, a very successful first day in Italy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Italy - Day 1 - To Rome

In 1996, Sharon and I spent two weeks in Italy for our honeymoon. Although there are lots and lots of places in the world that are on my list to visit, Sharon talked me into heading back to Italy for the next two plus weeks. Frankly, she did not have to twist my arm much. We are going to cover some of the some ground that we did 16 years ago with a mix of new spots.

Up early, we caught an 8:20 a.m. five hour flight from Sacramento to Philadelphia. With a short turn around between flights of about an hour and a half, we scrambled to get a bite to eat. Once we got on the plane and out on to the taxiway, the plane sat for almost an hour due to thunderstorms. We finished the day somewhere over the Atlantic at 40,000 feet and 600 mph.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nevada Historical Marker #163

Wandering home after this year's Petersen Shootout, this is one of the places I stopped. I visited five Nevada State historical markers [Buckland's Station #192, Camels in Dayton #199, Halls Station #200, Chinatown #163 and Dayton #7] and three Pony Express Markers [Nevada Station, Dayton and Fort Churchill] and wandered through the Fort Churchill ruins.

Nevada Historical Marker #163

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This landmark is located at the southeast corner of Highway 50 and Dayton Valley Road in Dayton, Nevada. There are 18 other historical markers in Lyon County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 39° 14.175 W 119° 35.357.

You can log your visit to this landmark at

Nevada Historical Marker #163

Early Name of Dayton

The first Chinese were brought to this site in 1856 to build the "Reese" ditch from the Carson River to the entrance of Gold Canyon. The ditch was used for placer mining. The Chinese soon began reworking the placers. Earning a living from those abandoned by the miners, so many Chinese followed (200) that the settlement was called Chinatown. The name was changed to Dayton in 1861 in honor of John Day, who laid out the town and later became General of Nevada.

State Historical Marker No. 163
Nevada State Park System
Dayton Historical Society

Nevada Historical Marker #163

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Virtually Biking Across America - Day 20

On day 20, I rode 13.9 miles across Eastern Nevada. Continuing on Overland Road, I rode southeast pass the Bates'/Butte Pony Express Station [N39 56 05.1 W115 12 10.2]. I ended up at the intersection of Overland Road and White Pine County Road 19. The grade topped out at 6%.

I finally loaded the Google Earth plug-in. This provides a really nice perspective of the terrain as you are riding along. I should have been using this view for much of the ride across Nevada.

The trip log for Virtually Biking Across America is here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Milo Greene on Letterman!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Jack Johnson (with Paula Fuga) - Better Together (Live)

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

A live version of the superstar singer-songwriter's 2008 hit from the Jack Johnson & Friends Best of Kokua Festival album.

Code Expiration: September 11, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Day 5

After beating the Denver Pirates on Saturday, the Outlaws advanced to the quarter finals against the White Sox Ace from Chicago, Illinois. The 11th seeded White Sox Ace beat the 3rd seeded Gulf Coast Gurus in an early morning game on Sunday. The game was played at the La Vista Sports Complex in La Vista, Nebraska.

At all levels, baseball is about pitching. Giving up 11 runs to the White Sox in the first two innings, the Outlaws dug a huge hole for themselves. Josh pitched the first two innings. I worry about Josh. While he was the work horse of the Outlaws/Gunner pitching staff for most of the last four years, Josh has struggled in the last year. His nine inning ERA for 13u was 7.81.

The fences at the field were 275 feet. This plays right into one of Jack's blind spots; he wants so bad to hit one over the fence. He has hit a number of balls further than 275, but always on a larger field.

In his first at-bat, Jack got just under the first pitch and hit a high fly ball to right center for an out. Jack hit a 1 and 2 pitch deep into left field for an out in his second plate appearance. He didn't miss either of those pitches by much.

The umpire's strike zone included a very low outside strike. In his third at-bat, Jack took ball one and then two very low and outside called strikes. Trying to protect, he struck out swinging on a low outside pitch that probably would have been called a strike. oy vey... He ended up 0 for 3 on the day.

In the field, Jack played three innings at third, one inning at first and two innings in center field. Jack actually went to the coaches and said that he wanted to play center field. He has talked about playing center field at Jesuit. Jack had three nice put-outs in center. He went to the wall and made a catch on a long fly ball. Jack literally had one hand on the wall. He made a catch on a high pop-up in shallow center field and threw home to hold the runner at third. Jack also made a nice diving catch on a dying line drive.

After getting down early, the Outlaws lost the game by the score of 13 to 4 and were eliminated from the tournament. The box score is here. The White Sox Ace lost in the semi-final game to a very good Frozen Rope Tigers White team by the score of 11 to 0.

After lunch, we headed to the Embassy Suites where one of the families was staying. The boys spend a couple of hours in the pool. We headed to the airport in the late afternoon. Catching a flight from Omaha to Phoenix, we had a light dinner at the Fox Sports restaurant where we almost always eat breakfast on our way home from Spring Training. Following an uneventful flight from Phoenix to Sacramento, Sharon picked us up at the airport. It was after 1 a.m. by the time that we got home and to bed.

It was a very successful tournament for the Outlaws. I am having a hard time figuring out the path forward for Jack and baseball over the next five months. After four years with essentially the same team, there is a chance that this is the last tournament that he will play with Outlaws...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Day 4

After a lazy morning on Friday, the Outlaws had another 8 a.m. game on Saturday morning. Dragging Jack out of bed at 6 a.m., we headed out back to Council Bluffs. The 6th seeded Outlaws played the 11th seeded Denver Pirates.

At the plate, Jack was 0 for 1 with a walk, a hit by pitch and two runs scored. In his first at-bat, Jack ran the count full and drew a walk. He stole second and scored on Breyton's triple to right center. Jack was hit by a 0 and 2 pitch in his second plate appearance. He stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error by the catcher. In his third at-bat, Jack hit a 0 and 2 pitch for a grounder up the middle. The pitcher made a nice play to reach backwards, stop the ball and throw Jack out at first.

In the field, Jack played all six innings at third base. He had two put-outs and two assists. Jack handled two grounders to the left side and threw the runners out at first. Josh had a nice dig on the second throw. Jack also handled a high pop-up to the left side and a line drive hit right at him. I am always amazed at how quick and soft his hands are; I am sure that if it had been me the line drive would have bounced off my chest before I could have gotten my glove up.

The Outlaws gave up a couple of cheap runs to the Pirates in the second inning, but the Pirates turned around and gave a bunch of runs back in the third. The Outlaws won the game by the score of 8 to 2. The box score is here.

With the win, the Outlaws advanced to the quarter finals of the D1 bracket. They were scheduled to face the winner of the White Sox Ace and the Gulf Coast Gurus at 1:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the thunderstorms moved in.

After lunch, the group headed back to the hotel. The plan for the afternoon was to see a college world series game. We went to the early game between Kent State and Arkansas. The Razorbacks won the game easily by the score of 8 to 1.

The boys got antsy about the 6th inning and wanted to head to the water park at the hotel. They ended up spending a couple of hours playing in the water park. I went out for a six mile run on the Keystone trail before catching up with the rest of the adults for cocktails.

At some point, Jack wandered up and said that he was starving. He and I went to a late dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Margaritas near the hotel. About the time that we finished eating, a large part of the rest of the group wandered in.

With the Outlaws not scheduled to play until 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jack and I watched some of Saturday Night Live before crashing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Day 3

After two very early mornings, we had a lazy morning on Friday. Jack slept late. I went out for a run from the hotel. The Ramada Plaza has no work-out room!?! Heading down the street, I stumbled upon the Keystone Trail. I ended up running for about an hour and 6 miles along a very nice trail.

Back at the hotel, I spent an hour in the "lobby" with Rod listening to people complain about the hotel. There was a jackhammer running in the background. We are staying at the Ramada Plaza in Omaha. This is the worst hotel experience that I have ever had; the place is a mess. Essentially, it is under construction and should not be an operating facility.

The group finally rallied to meet for lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Council Bluffs. From there, we rushed back to the hotel and got the boys ready for the game.

The Outlaws played the Oswego Cobras from Florida in the third and last pool game. The Cobras had lost both of their first two pools games.

At the plate, Jack was 2 for 3 with two runs scored. In his first at-bat, Jack hit a 1 and 3 pitch into the hole. Shortstop got to the ball, but was not able to find the handle and Jack was safe at first. He stole second, went to third on a passed ball, and scored on Breyton's single. Jack had a great second plate appearance. He drove a 1 and 2 pitch into right field for a single. Jack stole second and scored on Breyton's double. His third at-bat was odd. Behind in the count 1 and 2, Jack swung like he was trying to kill the ball. I found out later that Scott told Jack to swing for the fences. The fences were only 270 feet. Jack was trying to hit a home run!

In the field, Jack started and pitched three innings and played two innings in left field. This was probably the best outing that Jack has had on the mound in recent memory. He threw 47 pitches: 28 strikes and 19 balls. Jack walked one, give up one hit (a medium grounder to the left side), and struck out three. He picked the batter who got the single off first. Several Outlaws parents commented how much they liked Jack's swagger on the mound.

Jack had one put-out and four assists. In each of the first three innings, he handled a grounder back to the mound and threw to Josh at first for the out. One of these was a very athletic play. On a soft roller to the right side, Jack chased the ball down, scooped it and flipped it to Josh with his glove. Jack also came in from left field to participate in a run-down between second and third and applied the tag.

The Outlaws jumped all over the Cobras starting pitcher. They scored six runs before there was an out in the inning. The Outlaws won the game by the score of 11 to 0. The box score is here.

The Outlaws finished pool play with 3 wins and no losses. They were seeded 6 out of 52 teams. For pool play, the tournament divides the teams into three brackets. The Outlaws will play the 11th seeded Denver Pirates in the 13u division 1 bracket at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Heading back to the hotel, the team had a group dinner at Anthony's Steak House.

I finished the evening in the lobby with a small group of parents. This included more running amok about the accommodations and an interesting run-in with the general manager.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Day 2

The day started early. We had to be at the fields in Council Bluffs, Iowa at 7 a.m. for a 8 a.m. game. The Outlaws played the Panthers Black from Littleton, Colorado in the first game of the day.

The boys brought their bats to Omaha. They jumped on the Black Panthers for 10 runs in the top of the first.

At the plate, Jack was 2 for 2 with 2 walks, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs and 3 runs scored. In his first at-bat, he popped a 1 and 1 pitch into short right for a double. The right fielder had a long run but couldn't get to the ball. Joe scored from second for the RBI. Jack scored on Breyton's double. He walked on four pitches in his second plate appearance. Jack ended the inning there. In his third at-bat, he ran the count to full, fouled off a pitch and then drew the walk. He stole second and scored on Breyton's single. Jack crushed the first pitch of his fourth plate appearance into right center for a double. Cooper and Trevor scored for two more RBIs. Jack tagged up and went to third on Breyton's fly ball out to center and then scored on Josh's single.

In the field, Jack played five innings at third base. He had two assists. In the bottom of the first, Jack started a 5-4-3 double play on a ground ball to the left side. He fielded one other ball to the left side and threw the runner out at third.

After scoring 10 runs in the top of the first, the Outlaws gave up 10 runs in the bottom of the third. The Outlaws won the game by the score of 17 to 10. The box score is here.

The Outlaws turned right around and played the Frozen Rope Tiger Reds from Omaha, Nebraska in the second game of the day.

Again, the Outlaws jumped on the Tigers. They scored 4 runs in the top of the first and 5 runs in the top of the second.

At the plate, Jack was 3 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, two triples and three runs scored. In his first at-bat, Jack hit a 3 and 2 pitch for a hard grounder down the first base line. The first baseman was able to knock the ball down, but Jack outraced everyone to first base. He went to second on Breyton's single, to third on Josh's walk and then home on Chance's walk. Jack crushed a 3 and 2 pitch for a hard fly ball to right field in his second plate appearance. With the wind blowing out, the ball sailed over the fielder's head and Jack motored to third. He scored on Josh's single. In his third at-bat, Jack popped the first pitch up to the second baseman for the out. He walked on 5 pitches in his fourth plate appearance. Jack went to third on Breyton's double, but ended the inning there. In his fifth at-bat, Jack crushed a 1 and 0 to right center for a triple. He scored on a passed ball.

In the field, Jack played seven innings at third base. He had one put-out and three assists. Jack handled a high pop-up to the left side in the first inning. He handled three grounders to the left side and threw the runner out at first. Jack owes Josh and Breyton on two of the throws. The throws were offline and they came off the bag to get the throw and tag the runner out.

Giving up five runs in the bottom of the seventh, the Outlaws held on to win by the score of 13 to 11. Trevor made a great diving catch at second base on a line drive to get the last out of the game. The box score is here.

Jack had a great comment. Coming home, Jack slid to pitcher's side of home. Walking off the field, Jack said thank you science class. He noted that the catcher was in motion to catch the thrown ball and would continue in motion. He saw the catcher moving to the right, slid to the left and was safe at home.

Most of the group had a late lunch at an Italian restaurant near the hotel.

There is a water park attached to the hotel. Most of the boys spend the afternoon at the water park. The adults spent the time in the lobby visiting.

We finished the night with a group dinner at Chipotle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Day 1

Outlaws in Omaha

Up at 3:30 a.m., Sharon took Jack and I to the airport to catch a 6:05 a.m. flight from Sacramento to Denver. We are traveling with Rod, Julie, Jillian and Cooper. After a short layover in Denver, we caught a flight to Omaha. The Outlaws will be playing in the 2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Baseball Tournament over the next few days. The 13u division has 52 teams.

A number of the families are staying at the Ramada Plaza. I got a rude shock when the GPS led me to the front of the hotel. The hotel looked like it was under construction and not open for business. It turned out that there was a temporary lobby at the back and part of the hotel is open for business. I don't ever think that I have had a comparable experience; the situation seems completely unacceptable. I shudder to think what would have happened if Sharon had been traveling with us.

After getting settled in the hotel, Rod, Julie and I went to a Super Walmart. Again, I don't think that I have ever had a comparable experience. I was dumbfounded at how big the store was.

From there, I took Jack to an Outlaws practice. The team was assigned a field for an hour and a half to work out.

The group headed to an Embassy Suites after practice for happy hour. The Riveras are staying there. I wish we were staying there!

The group went to dinner at Fazoli's. Continuing the experiences of the day, it was a very different Italian restaurant. It was essentially a fast food Italian restaurant with a drive-up window.

With some early games on Thursday morning, Jack and I crashed in the room after dinner.

2012 Omaha Slumpbuster Tournament

The Outlaws Baseball team is heading to Omaha, Nebraska to play in the 2012 Triple Crown Omaha Slumpbuster and Omaha NIT. They will be playing games on Thursday, June 14, Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16. If they advance far enough in the elimination round, the Outlaws could still be playing on Sunday. The schedule is here. There are 52 teams playing in the 13u division.

The pool games include:
  • Thursday @ 8:00am CDT versus Panther Black from Littleton, CO;
  • Thursday @ 10:30am CDT versus Frozen Ropes Tigers Red from Omaha, NE; and,
  • Friday @ 1:00pm CDT versus Oswego Cobras from Oswego, FL.

Remembering the two hour time difference, it is possible to follow the games on-line at:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Virtually Biking Across America - Day 19

On day 19, I rode 26.3 miles across Eastern Nevada. Starting at the intersection of the Elko Hamilton Stage Road and White Pine County Road 6, I rode northeast to the site of the Ruby Valley Pony Express Station [N40 02 52.8 W115 29 42.2]. The station building was relocated to the grounds of the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko in 1960. I then followed the Overland Road southeast pass the Mountain Springs Pony Express Station [N40 00 54.2 W115 20 22.5].

It was a nice challenging ride with two climbs. The grade topped out on the second climb at 7.5%.

The trip log for Virtually Biking Across America is here.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Where's My Water?

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

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Code Expiration: September 4, 2012

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The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

A New Chapter Begins...

I dropped Jack at the Jesuit High School gym this morning at 6:45 a.m. He is starting twice a day work-outs three days a week with the Frosh and JV football teams. Freshman football is a cut sport this year and he is hoping to make the team.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Outlaws Baseball Scrimmage versus Laguna Creek High School JV

Outlaws Baseball Scrimmage versus Laguna Creek High School JV

Looking to get ready for Omaha, the Outlaws scrimmaged the Laguna Creek High School JV team. There were two players on the other team that Jack has played with before. Niko played with Jack on the Gunners, Outlaws and Laguna All-Stars, while Nick played with Jack in Cal Ripken AA and AAA.

At the plate, Jack was 0 for 1 with a walk, hit by pitch and a run scored. Jack popped up to the shortstop on a 2 and 1 pitch in his first at-bat. He walked on five pitches in his second plate appearance. Jack scored on Breyton's bases loaded triple after being hit by a pitch in his third plate appearance.

In the field, Jack played two innings at third, an inning at shortstop and an inning in left field. At third, he made a nice play on a ground ball to the left side and threw the runner out at first. Jack had some adventures at shortstop. When Cooper is pitching, they have been using Jack at shortstop with mixed results. He has not played there regularly in over four years. Jack had a grounder hit at him that took a big hop; I would have scored it an error. There was also a dying line drive hit to his right that I thought that he should have been able to handle, but got under his glove. Jack is just not as comfortable at shortstop as he as first and third.

Pitching five different pitchers, the Outlaws lost the scrimmage. I did not keep score, but someone said that it was 6 to 4.

The Outlaws will be playing in the Triple Crown Slumpbuster and Omaha NIT tournament on June 14, 15 and 16. They play two games on Thursday morning and one game on Friday before being seeded for elimination play on Saturday.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Jillian's Graduation Party

Sharon, Jack and I spent the evening at the Renteria's at a high school graduation party for their daughter Jillian. Jack has played baseball on the Gunners and the Outlaws with their youngest--Cooper--for the last four years. Cooper and Jack will both be freshman at Jesuit starting in August.

We had a nice time socializing with the Borjas. Rod did a great job putting together a video of Jillian's life. I need to do some similar projects.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Nevada Historical Marker #200

Wandering home after this year's Petersen Shootout, this is one of the places I stopped. I visited five Nevada State historical markers [Buckland's Station #192, Camels in Dayton #199, Halls Station #200, Chinatown #163 and Dayton #7] and three Pony Express Markers [Nevada Station, Dayton and Fort Churchill] and wandered through the Fort Churchill ruins.

Hall's Station
Nevada Historical Marker #200
Pony Express Marker

See this location on Yahoo Maps in Flickr
See this location on Google Maps

This landmark is located at 225 Pike Street, Dayton, Nevada. There are 18 other historical markers in Lyon County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 39° 14.149 W 119° 35.548.

A list of Pony Express Waymarks that I have visited can be found here. You can log your visit to this landmark at

Spafford Hall's Station was the first Pony Express stop in Dayton. The Union Hotel now occupies the second site for the remount station.

Nevada Historical Marker #200


Spafford Hall built this station and trading post in the early 1850s to accommodate emigrants bound for California. Hall, who was the first permanent settler here, was severely injured in a hunting accident in 1854 and sold the station to one of his employees, James McMarlin. It became known as McMarlin’s Station. Major Ormsby bought the station sometime between 1854 and 1860. The title was still in his name in 1860 when he died in the first battle of the Pyramid Lake War.

A special niche in Nevada’s history is accorded this site as the place where the first recorded dance was held on New Year’s Eve, 1853. The exact site was destroyed by an excavation for building materials.


Nevada Historical Marker #200

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sleepaway Camp: The Musical

From Sacramento Live: UC Davis dance, Graham-a-rama and Peter Case

You're not coming back

The ubiquitous musical director Graham Sobelman and a crew of local musical theater all-stars will perform a concert reading of "Sleepaway Camp: The Musical," an original adaptation of Robert Hiltzik's 1983 horror slasher classic "Sleepaway Camp."

Based on Hiltzik's original story, the musical's book is by Fredrick Wolf Molitch, Rob Bean and Hiltzik with music by Andrew Heringer and lyrics by Heringer, Molitch and Bean.

The cast includes Heringer and Marlana Sheetz (both of Los Angeles-based band Milo Greene) and Tyler Robinson of NBC's "The Voice."

The new musical receives a three-day tryout in advance of a fully staged production in the near future. Shows are 7 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Wm. J. Geery Theater, 2130 L St., Sacramento. Tickets are $15. Go to www.grahamarama. com for more information.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jesuit High School 2012 Football Orientation

Running on fumes, I went to the 2012 football orientation at Jesuit High School on Tuesday night. They introduced the new coach and passed out the training schedule for the summer. Twice a day practices three days a week for frosh and JV players start on Monday, June 11.

After playing flag football for the last six years, Jack has his sights set on making the Jesuit Freshman Football team. After being a no-cut sport in the past, the frosh team will be a cut sport this year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

2012 Disneyland Day 3

After getting to bed about 1:30 a.m., I got up just after 5:00 a.m. and took a cab to the Orange County Airport. I caught an early uneventful flight back to Sacramento and headed into work.

Sharon and Jack spent another day at Disneyland with the SEAS Class of 2012 kids and parents. They both had a great time and for the second straight day closed down the park. It was almost 1:00 a.m. before they got back to the hotel room.

Sharon and Jack will be flying back to Sacramento on Wednesday.

Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 Disneyland Day 2

Up fairly early, Sharon, Jack and I had breakfast at the hotel and then headed to Disneyland. Sharon and I grabbed a FastPass for Star Tours and then the three of us jumped into the stand-by line. Afterwards we headed to Frontierland and rode the Pirates of the Caribbean.

At this point, several of Jack's classmates were getting to the park. He took off and Sharon and I got in the line for Indiana Jones. The line moved pretty fast, but the ride broke down for about 10 or 15 minutes just before we got on before starting back up again.

Using FastPasses effectively, Sharon and I were able to cover a lot of ground before lunch. We went on Star Tours twice, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain all by noon.

I would like to be able to ride the Star Tours ride a few more times to be able to see all of more variations. The ride has four components: a beginning (storm troopers or Darth Varder); an initial planet (Hoth, Kashyyyk or Tatooine); a hologram (Yoda, Ackbar or Leia), and; an ending planet (Coruscant, Naboo or Death Star). All of these combine to make 54 different variations. This year I saw Storm Troopers, Hoth, Ackbar and Death Star and Darth Varder, Tatooine, Yoda and Coruscant. Last Year, I saw Storm Troopers, Hoth, Yoda and Coruscant and Storm Troopers, Tatooine, Leia and Couruscant. There are still two segments that I have still not seen: Kashyyyk and Naboo.

Sharon and I had a nice lunch at the Uva Bar in downtown Disney. Heading into California Adventure, we rode the Grizzly River Run. Soaking wet, we headed back to the hotel. While Sharon took a nap, I ran 6 miles on the treadmill.

Getting cleaned up, We bumped into Denise in lobby and grabbed a cab to the Grand California Hotel. We had a drink in the bar and then joined everyone at the ESPN Zone for a group dinner.

While the kids roamed the parks, Sharon and I finished the night with a group of parents having a glass of wine at the Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure. We had intended to ride the Tower of Terror, but the line was 95 minutes long when we went there the first time and the ride was closed when we wandered back the second time. Eventually, the group wandered to Disneyland and rode the Jungle Cruise.

Sharon and I did some shopping in downtown Disney. I wandered back to the Disneyland entrance to meet Jack, Joe, Eric and David. They got there about 12:15 a.m. We caught a bus back to the hotel. By the time, we got back to the hotel and down for the night it was 1:30 a.m...

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Instapaper

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Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Michael Kiwanuka - I Need Your Company

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!
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Sunday, June 03, 2012

2012 Disneyland Day 1

2012 Disneyland Day 2

A large part of Jack's class headed to Disneyland for a couple of days to celebrate their graduation. We flew out of Sacramento to Orange County on Sunday morning and got to the hotel about 11 a.m. Some of the families are staying at the Embassy Suites. After checking into the room, we headed to Disneyland with the Laskins.

The boys immediately took off to meet up with some of the other boys. Sharon, Julie and I rode Soaring over California. From there, Sharon and I had a light lunch at Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure.

The two of us wandered over to Disneyland and rode Nemo, the Monorail and Big Thunder Mountain. Heading back to the room, we got cleaned up and had a late dinner at the Napa Rose Restaurant in the Grand California Hotel. Sharon had lamp chop and loin, while I had Copper River Salmon.

With Jack feeling under the weather and back to the room early, we headed home and all three of us crashed fairly early.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Small Graduation Party

We had a small family graduation party for Jack on Saturday night including: Tom, Becky, Eric, Tim, Kathy, Eileen, Jim and Liz. We enjoyed the back patio, barbecued hamburgers, had some cake and did presents.

Friday, June 01, 2012

2012 SEAS 8th Grade Graduation

A very long, but extremely satisfying day. Up early, Sharon, Jack, Drew and I left the house about 7 a.m. for the Baccalaureate Mass.

The Mass included a ceremony where the 8th graders gave candles to each of the 7th graders; a literal passing of the torch.

Afterwards, there was a brunch in the Parish Hall. We sat with the Hassets. The brunch included a very nice 18 minute video with pictures covering the last 9 years; all of the families got a copy of the video. There was also an awards ceremony. Jack made the honor roll all three quarters and received highest honors in all of his classes. By the time we got home from the brunch it was after 1:00 p.m.

We turned around and headed back to the school at 4:00 p.m. Tim, Tom, Becky, Eric and Liz joined us for the graduation ceremony at Good Shepherd Church. We have known for the last two weeks that Jack was the valedictorian and that he would be giving the valedictory address at the graduation. Nevertheless, for both Sharon and I, it was pretty emotional. We are very proud of what Jack has accomplished. He did a solid job giving the speech. I was surprised that his classmates gave him a standing ovation after he was done and was walking back to his seat.

After the graduation ceremony, our group celebrated in the parking lot with a bottle of champagne. Sharon, Jack, Drew and I headed back to the parish hall for dinner. We sat with Laskins; their son David will be going to Jesuit with Jack next year. I took Sharon and Drew home, while Jack stayed for a grad night celebration. We got home about 10 p.m. and then I turned around 30 minutes later and went back to pick up Jack. It was almost midnight by the time I got home and in bed. As I said, a very long day...