P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll – Phoenix, AZ

In my last post I mentioned Patricia and I were taking on the challenge of running 11 half-marathons this year. Our first stop on the tour was on January 19th, in sunny Phoenix, AZ for the P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. For this particular trip we did it as a whirlwind overnight trip.

Phoenix Airport

We flew into Phoenix Saturday morning, the flight on Southwest was relatively short so we didn’t leave until around 9am. Our first stop in Phoenix after the airport was the expo in downtown at the convention center. To get there we hopped a light rail train from the airport to downtown. The first thing I noticed as we headed to downtown was just how desolate and well, brown everything was. The entire town seemed to be made up of 2 story brown buildings.

Arriving downtown we picked up our race packets at the fairly packed expo then went hunting for some food.

Cartel Aricha

We ended up checking out Cartel Coffee Lab at their downtown location. There we sampled some pretty tasty coffee’s that they roast, along with some tasty food bites. If you’re ever in Phoenix or passing through the airport be sure to check out Cartel as they know what they’re up to when it comes to coffee (see my coffee review for one of the coffees at: ).

Cartel Croquets

For food we got some beef croquettes which were pretty tasty. If I’m ever back in town I’d love to check out some more of their food options.

After a bite to eat we headed to the Hotel which was located in Tempe, AZ home to Arizona State University (ASU). To get there we hopped back on the light rail where we journeyed by even more short brown buildings. So far Phoenix wasn’t really looking like a place I’d want to live. ASU itself didn’t really give a very good impression either, on getting off the train we saw a guy take a piss on the shelter for the tram stop. He couldn’t be bothered to water a bush directly behind him.

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start Line

The race itself was pretty fun, we got up early and walked about a mile to the start. The start line was pretty packed, once we got around to the starting side. The race itself ran through Tempe, then headed north into Scottsdale. Most of the race ended up running past more of those short brown buildings. Sadly the parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe we journeyed by didn’t really give us anything to look forward to.

Top of the race

There were a couple of scenic parts at the end. Mile 10 was an uphill battle and put us at the top of a butte overlooking downtown Phoenix. This was probably the best view of the entire run, my iPhone picture doesn’t really do it justice. On the way down from there we ran through the desert botanical gardens which were pretty in a desolate sort of way. We also ran by the spring training facility of the Oakland A’s which is in Scottsdale.

Ra Ra Riot

The band at the end of the race was one of the best I’ve seen for a Rock and Roll run. The end of the race band in this case was Ra Ra Riot whom I saw last year at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Oddly no one was into the band and it was possible to get right up in front. I felt sort of bad for them since they flew all the way out to Phoenix from New York just for this event. Patricia had a lot of fun and found some energy to dance around despite having just finished a 13.1 mile run.

Four Peaks Brewing Sampler

After the race we made our way over to Four Peaks brewing the local microbrewery where I had a sampler of beer and a sandwich along with some “beer bread”. While the food was  pretty good the beer was nothing to remember. In fact their flagship beer is a scotch ale, one of my favorite styles but the one in the sampler was pretty meh. I thought their best beer was Peach Ale which was as advertised a peach flavored ale. Even that wasn’t top of the heap as I prefer the fruity beers from Lost Coast up in NorCal. In the end none of the beers were really bad, but nothing was particularly stand out either.

Phoenix Castle

Patricia has a friend living in Phoenix and we met up with him at Four Peaks and after dinner he took us on a brief tour of greater Phoenix/Scottsdale. At this point we saw the “rich” side of town which looked a bit less run down than what we’ve seen so far. We saw some multimillion dollar homes, and he took us up a ridge where we saw a castle and the sun setting over the city.

Sunset over Phoenix

After checking out the rich side of town we went looking for some good coffee and ended up back at Cartel Coffee Labs, this time at the original location. Turns out the roastery itself is also a small nano brewery with a tiny 10 gallon brew sculpture.

Cartel Coffee Porter

Cartel Coffee Labs Brew Sculpture

There I had a coffee brown ale which was excellent. It was a nice nutty brown ale with some cold brew coffee flavors. It was definitely on par with Surly’s Coffee Bender which is one of my favorite brews. I also tried a taste of their F.Y.T.I.M. which was a not too hoppy (but still hoppy) imperial IPA. It was probably on par with some of the west coast DIPA’s such as Pliny the Elder.  These guys seem to know what their doing with both coffee and beer which is an interesting combination. Finally we hitched a ride with Patricia’s friend to the Phoenix airport and headed back home to the Bay Area.

The Marathon Project

In August of 2013 my then girlfriend, now Fiancé, Patricia and I decided to take on a crazy endeavor, run 11 half-marathons in a year. Why might you ask are we running 11 half-marathons this year?

Good question, I’m not sure myself. Partly because I wanted all the Heavy Medals from the Rock and Roll marathon series; but probably more I wanted to push myself to try some feat of physical fitness. I also wanted a way to work some vacation/travel in and this gives us a bunch of excuses to visit different places around and outside the country.

It should also force me to whip myself into shape, or at least I hope it just falls out from all the running.

I plan to update this blog with some of our adventures from the runs and what we see along the way.

The Land of the Rising Sun (2.0)

Starting early tomorrow I’m taking off for the land of the rising sun for my second time. This time around I’ll be spending two weeks in Japan though I’ll only be visiting Nikko, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo this time. I sort of wish that we could travel a bit more, but I’m meeting my brother who’s studying abroad and he doesn’t qualify for a Japanrails pass. Without the pass a lot of train travel would be prohibitively expensive, especially since he’s on a college budget.

But it should be fun in any case, I’m excited to see more of the Temples in Kyoto, actually make it to Nara, and see the National World Heritage site in Nikko. I’m also looking forward to some shopping in Akihabara, seeing the Tokyo National Museum, and the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Everything is booked/lined up for us except train tickets, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a ticket to Nikko from Narita with little hassle. My biggest concern is that the Hotel I’m staying at says the front desk closes at 10pm and the earliest I’ll be able to make it to Nikko is 9:42pm.  Hopefully everything goes well and I can catch the right train connections.

Anyways I plan to take a few notes of my adventures and take lots of pictures. Maybe I’ll post a summary of the trip here when I get done.

Blizzcon 2009 Day -1: In Anaheim

I have successfully made the 395 mile trip south from Santa Clara, CA to Anaheim, CA. This is my first time down in the LA area. Coming into LA on I-5 you cross a small mountain range, and head to Angeles National Forest, which is more of a National Scrub Brush Area than a forest. Once we hit the Los Angeles side of the mountains I almost thought I was in the Seattle area except the mountains had deciduous trees instead of evergreens. That changed shortly as we headed towards Pasadena as that’s when I noticed the horrible smog haze which seems to have settled itself over LA. Back in the bay we’ve had a couple of days where they suggested people with asthma not go running outside, but even on those days I didn’t see such a brown haze as I saw today.

The other outstanding thing out here was the traffic. Traffic was jam packed especially as we were coming into LA around 5PM. It took us a couple of hours to navigate our way around the worst of the LA traffic through Pasadena to Anaheim. Once we got checked into the hotel we walked over the the Anaheim convention center to pick up our Blizzcon registration info and our goody bags. I got a little Raynor marine statue, and a key to get a murloc pet in World of Warcraft. The one item the bag was missing that I really wanted was a Beta key for Diablo III. Sadly there wasn’t one included in the bag. But I did get some official Blizzcon hand sanitizer. Since I left home without my USB camera cable, I’ll post a few pics of the line (long, but it moved fast) and the goodies once I get back to the Bay area.

Travel Time

Tomorrow morning at 9:05am I fly out of SFO on my way to a 10 days in Rome and Venice, Italy. If you couldn’t tell from my lack of blog updates I’ve been pretty much just working long hours, sleeping, and occasionally studying Japanese since my last post. I’ve also taken up playing Dungeon’s and Dragons every other weekend which is suprisingly fun, and not too nerdy (I hope).

So right now I’m looking forward to the trip and spending time away from computers and work! (Sorry I doubt I’ll blog while there, but I might bring a notebook!) Even so I’m not going totally tech free on this trip, while the laptop will stay at home, I picked up 32GB of CF cards for my dSLR  and 4GB of cards for my point and shoot camera so I should be taking lots of pictures. I’m also bringing my PSP for some entertainment while on the airplane. Hopefully, I’ll have some fun photos or stories to share about my trip when I get back. I also might actually beat more than 2 mission in Final Fantasy: Tactics.

Also besides this big trip to Italy tomorrow I have a few other exciting trips planned. I’m going to a friend’s wedding back in WI in the middle of July, and in August I’m taking a couple days off to go to Blizzcon!

Nerdfest 2008? Should I go?

It looks like Blizzard has decided to host a Blizzcon convention for the year 2008 down in Anaheim Oct 10th-11th. As I’m currently fairly active playing WoW at the moment I’m tempted to go to learn about their upcoming games, try out Starcraft II, and maybe meet some WoW guildies in real life.

I’ve never been to a convention like this and I’m not sure I want to go by myself. My “real life” friends who play WoW are all still at school and hitting up a convention is probably out for them. Anyone out there ever been to something like Blizzcon (Comic Con, GenCon or some other ConCon)? Is this something that’s worth going to by oneself or does it need to be experienced with friends. Something tells me it’s not worth going unless I can drag convince someone to come with.

Day 1: Japan 7am-4am

I have safely arrived at my Hotel in Kyoto. I got to take my first train ride in Japan and overall it went pretty well consider I can count to 10, say thank you very much, and know a half dozen other Kendo terms which don’t really apply in normal situations.

I started my trip this morning by getting up at 7am and taking care of some minor last minute stuff. The real journey started at 9am when a friend gave me a ride to SFO. I made it to SFO around 9:45 and entered the ridiculous queue United had for international flights. The queue when through this huge maze, and then spilled pretty far out of that. Of course since I had a paper ticket I had to wait in that giant line to check in.

Almost an hour and a half later around 11:00 I had almost made it to the front of the line when United employees let all of us bound for Osaka and Kansi International Airport cut ahead so we could make our flight. After that I boarded a 747-400 for the longest airplane ride of my life. First the seats seemed a bit more comfortable than domestic coach, but not 12 hours more comfortable. The flight goes on for much longer than one would imagine. At several points I wondered if we were getting close, and then I realized we still had a couple thousand miles to go. There was enough time to show four feature films, Transformers, No Reservations, Ratatoulli, and The Ultimate Gift. Of those “The Ultimate Gift” was the biggest surprise and was a pretty enjoyable movie, one I would recommend watching.

Finally, after what seemed like forever the plane landed I was adrift in a foreign land with no real understanding of the language. After a bit of confusion as to what the purpose of my trip was at immigration I entered the country and cleared customs. After messing around with an ATM to try and get some currency (only took me 3 tries), and a short line to pick up my rented cellphone (probably shouldn’t have bothered). I was on my way to Kyoto.

I picked up my Haruka train pass from a ticket sales person (I wasn’t ready to try out the automated machines yet), and started my trip to Kyoto. The one train I rode on so far was very nice. The system reminds me of a combination of the CalTrain and Bart in the Bay Area. Only the seats are comfortable and clean which cannot be said of some Bay Area transit options. After a very smooth ride through what appeared to be one giant connected city, I arrived at Kyoto station.

At Kyoto station I managed to get a pretty decent walking map of Kyoto and then wandered around the station unsure if I should attempt the subway or hire a cab. Being somewhat adventurous I decided to brave the subway and after making my way there took 10 minutes to figure out exactly what ticket I needed to buy for my fare. I then got to ride the Japanese subway which is also a pretty clean and neat system. So far I’m pretty impressed with the whole public transportation system here. It’s TONS better than back in the States.

Anyways I checked into my hotel which has a service level I’m not used to as I usually stay in some of the cheapest hotels around (this one isn’t TOO bad.) My room is fairly small but clean and neat, and the feature 100MB/s internet access. The only other exciting feature is the crazy toilet with heated seats and way more buttons than a toilet should have.

Well that’s it for now as I think I’m going to hit the sack so I can get up early tomorrow and start with the sightseeing.

Land of the Rising Sun

Tomorrow morning I start my first trip out of the country to a place other than Canada. My flight will be leaving SFO at 12:05pm Saturday and arrive around 4:55pm Sunday. With a flight time of just over 11 hours.

Considering how comfortable flying coach domestically is, I really don’t look forward to spending 11 hours sitting in one of those seats to cross the ocean.

In any case this should be an adventure and I plan to take and post a bunch of pictures.

Heading to the Frozen North

Well I’m leaving the bay area today to head home for Thanksgiving. I’m journeying from this land of sunny weather (70°), back home to the land of frozen lakes (35°). While I’m happy to be visiting my family I don’t know if such cold, cold, weather is going to be tolerable after CA has weakened me.

I also get to have my first fun adventure taking the Caltrain/Bart to SFO. I’ve never done the airport trip before so hopefully this is exciting.