NFC Playoffs

This past weekend we had a happy bit of circumstance smack us in the face.  Us being my wife and I.  I was offered two tickets to the NFC playoffs between the San Francisco 49’ers and the Green Bay Packers at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

* Stunned silence *

Image result for 49er nfc championship

Yes, sure I’ll take them!

And took them I did.  But it was more than just tickets, it was preferred VIP parking right outside the gate.  It was also in one of the Blackhawk Casino Suites which as fully (and freely) catered.  We didn’t have to pay a dime for food, parking, or seating.  It was like winning the lottery.

We showed up just as they opened the parking lots.  Traffic was a huge snarl as you can imagine but once we got to the parking lot the attendants directed us to our parking lot quickly.   We ended up waiting at the gate for about 45 minutes but there were other fans to talk to so the wait wasn’t that bad.  When the gates finally opened and we got to the entry gate, here is where one of the headaches I had with the whole process started.

They do not issue paper tickets, you MUST have a smartphone to show your ticket on.   Now, if you have an iPhone you can load the ticket into your Apple Wallet and show that.  If you are a lowly Android user (as Cristy and I are) you must use the Levi Stadium or 49er App which is just a web front-end.  So basically you have to go to the ticketing website every time, log in, select your event, select your seat, and then show them your ticket.  Since there were so many people there, cell towers were swamped and cellular data was moving …   …   …  s  .   l   .  o   .   w   .   l   .  .  .   .   .  y.

We had to step aside and wait for our tickets to load.  Once we were in the park we had a hard time finding our seats.  The ever helpful Levi Stadium staff did not know where the Blackhawk Suites were so they directed us to the 49er merchandise store.   That was hell on earth.  It took us another 30 minutes to find the suite.  When we did we had to load our tickets again.  This took more time.

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Finally…

We got to the suite and what a pleasant surprise that was.  There were two rows of comfy seats up front, there was a row of barstools at a bar behind the seats, in the middle was a buffet bar, and all along the side were more buffet foods.  The refrigerator was stocked with beer, whine, champagne, soda, and water.

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All free.

img_20200119_140752027We claimed our seats and then set about having lunch.  Beef brisket nachos, lobster macaroni and cheese, pineapple bacon cheeseburgers, the most tender pork loin, and hot dogs if you wanted them.  It is a ballpark after all.  After eating we got an opportunity to go stand on the field and get our pictures taken.  Pretty cool but pretty crowded.  While we at we watched the Kansas City Chiefs win their game against the Tennessee Titans.  Good, I like Kansas City, my mother was from there.  I hate Tennessee.  My wicked stepmother was from there.  True story.

img_20200119_152404766_hdrJust as the game was about to start my wife heard from a very old friend of hers that was also at the game.  We snuck her into the suite and visited for a while.  Then kickoff happened and the noise was deafening!  I’ve never been to a professional ball game of any kind so I really wasn’t prepared for the noise level.  I brought ear plugs just in case.  We wore them for a while and then just gave up.  Since this was our first football game I found it hard to keep track of what was going on.  I really miss those fake lines they use on TV to show you where the line of scrimmage is, and the 1st down line.  We had a pretty good view of the field but it was still hard to figure out who did what.  The stadium announcer was nowhere near as descriptive as the TV commentators are.

Early on in the game it became apparent that the 49’ers were going to the Super Bowl.  They ran and ran and ran the ball.  They intercepted, they sacked, they recovered a fumble.  It was the 49’ers I remember.   And that last fumble recovery… game over.  Green Bay gave up and the 49’ers won, and Levi Stadium went crazy.

So needless to say, I CANNOT WAIT for this Super Bowl, the 49’ers vs the Chiefs.  Red on Red.  I love both teams so really, it’s a win-win situation for me.

The final downside to the trip came as we were leaving.  You see, I didn’t really keep track of where we were parked.  I knew what parking lot we were in but not really which gate it was or how to get there.  I saw some friendly looking security guards near one gate and asked them if they could tell me how to get to the Red Lot.  One of them immediately got in my face and asked me how come I didn’t know where I was.  He interrupted as I tried to explain… “How did you get here?  How can you not remember how you got here??!!”  Luckily one of the non-security officers piped up and told me that was the right gate to get to the Red Lot.

Geez, that’s all I was asking.

We quickly found our car, warmed up a bit and when traffic on our aisle died down headed home.  The trip home was MUCH faster than the trip to the stadium.  It only took 2 hours to get home from Santa Clara.  Trust me, that’s not bad at all.

So after all that would I go again?  You bet!  As long as the tickets are still free. 🙂  But personally for the most part I will just enjoy watching from home.

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The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

   

In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.

 

In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edgey Technology

Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s next gen browser.  It’s slated to take the place of Internet Explorer.  I’ll believe that when I see it.  Be that as it may, I was surprised to learn that the next major release of Edge will be based on Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome.  If you’ve ever run Linux, you’ve probably downloaded Chromium and I don’t need to explain what it is.  Or you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Firefox devotee and could care less.  But for the curious, Google Chrome is a commercial product supported by Google.  Chromium is pretty much the same product except that Google has released the source code to the public.  Various interested parties can use the Chromium source code and compile it for use on their particular platforms, mostly Linux variants.

Microsoft has always held it’s technology pretty close to the vest which is why I’m so surprised that they are adopting Chromium as the base for their browser update. You can read more about it here.

https://www.pcmag.com/news/371746/chromium-based-microsoft-edge-browser-launches-in-january

I’ve been using a beta-release version of the new Edge for a few days now and I have to admit I like it.  It’s like having a version of Chrome that plays nicely with Office 365 which I use at work.  It already has a section of the Microsoft App Store devoted to Edge (Chromium) extensions, bits of code you can load to expand the functionality of the Edge browser.  And more surprisingly, it allows you to load extensions from the Google Chrome store.   I’m still deciding which I like better, Chrome or the new Edge.  I’ve been a long time Chrome user but Microsoft might just ‘edge’ it out with their new offering.

 

Generally Speaking

One of my hobbies is Ham radio.  It’s not one of those hobbies I was just dying to get into but slid into sideways.  When I was flying my powered paraglider a lot of the other flyers used Ham radios to communicate.  I wanted to be able to communicate with them too.  So knowing you need a license to operate a Ham radio I went and got the bare minimum you need to operate a Ham radio; a Technician license.  Well, the joke was on me.  After receiving my license I found that none of the other powered paragliders had Ham licenses and were using the radios illegally.  After finding out that I was licensed they stopped using Ham radio, fearing I would report them!

*Sigh*

Instead I used my license to talk to local Hams.  I joined the local club and talk on the radio every day coming home from work.  It’s a great way to pass the time.  Just like talking on 122.75 Mhz Air to Air when I’m flying the plane with my buddies.

That all being said there are three levels of licensing for Ham radio.  The lowest level is the Technician license.  It’s easy to get and lets you talk on the most common bands.  If you put this in terms a pilot can understand it’s like when you solo your airplane.  You can now fly without an instructor but you can really go anywhere.  You have to stay near the field.  Once you pass your flight exam and get your Private Pilot’s license, then you can go anywhere you like all by yourself.

This is what the second level of Ham license is like.  This is the General license.  You can talk on any frequency available to Amateur Radio.  Like the high frequency bands that will let you talk to someone in Europe from North America… if the conditions are right.

I took my test for the General license yesterday and passed!  It was a grueling all-day study session followed by the test.  Not exactly how I’d like to spend my Saturday but in the end it was worth it because I passed.  I had TMJ when I got home, probably from studying SO… HARD.

There is a third level of Ham license, the Extra license.  This only gets you a few more bands to talk on.  Mostly it just gets you street cred in the Ham community.  In the airplane world this would be like building your own airplane and flying it around.  I’m not there yet.  I’m just going to enjoy the General license for a while.  Slowly start looking for a cheap radio that will let me talk to Argentina. 🙂

More 5th Wheels

Today Cristy and I drove to a near by RV dealership who carry Grand Design RVs.  We wanted to check on the build quality in their latest models.  I also wanted to check out their newest model.

Solitude 310GK

While we had really liked the 344GK from my previous blog posting we decided that the dinette being on the driver’s side of the coach was not what we wanted.   We prefer the dinette on the passenger side.  This is the side of the coach which, when you are parked, becomes your “front yard”.  With the dinette on the driver’s side you overlook your neighbor’s “front yard”.  It makes for somewhat a lack of privacy.  We are also less enthralled with the small desk of the 344GK.  If we wanted to add a desk we could do so in the 310GK by removing the rear couch.  The dinette could also make for quite a useable desk.  The 310GK is also somewhat shorter which makes it easier to tow and maneuver.

Solitude 390RK

The Solitude 390RK is the newest model to roll out of Grand Design’s doors.  From the standpoint of livability this one suits us best.  Dual his and her bathroom sinks and a HUGE rear kitchen are what really appeals to us.  The kitchen has an amazing amount of counter space; almost as much as my current house.  There is also a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen.  Not to mention the HUGE under kitchen storage bay.  The only drawback is the length; almost 42 feet long.  Anyone can learn to tow a trailer this long but it does limit your destinations.  We would be pretty much limited to newer RV resorts.

At this point all I can say is that I’m glad we have more time to decide!

5th Wheel Comparisons

Right now we are considering a few different 5th wheel floor plans from a few different manufacturers.  I’ll list them here and what we like and don’t like about them.  Our tastes are changing and so the floor plans we are entertaining are also changing.  I’m glad we still have several years to consider all our options before we commit.

Solitude 344GKR

UVW 12600 lbs
Carrying Capacity 4200
Hitch Weight1 2500 lbs
GVWR 16800 lbs
Length2 36′ 11″

So what do I like about this unit?

I like the shorter length at 37 feet.  Not too big, not too cramped inside.  It has generous kitchen counter space and huge basement storage.  It has a place for a washer and dryer and most of all, it has a desk.  Cristy loves to study and would love to have a desk to do her reading, do bills, a place to put the laptop, etc.  I also love the huge cargo carrying capacity; over 2 tons!  One detail that I really do appreciate is the telescoping TV in the living room.  It can retract behind a cabinet when not in use thus revealing a window making it more light and open inside.

So what do I NOT like about this unit?

The bathroom sink and counter space are somewhat cramped.  And it’s a little weird having the dinette on the driver side of the coach.  Traditionally they are on the passenger side.  It’s not a deal-killer, it’s just weird.  The pantry is also a bit shallower than other Solitude models and doesn’t have the pull out drawers as in the other pantries.  That’s pretty much all I don’t like.  That’s why this one is near the top of the list.

Montana 3561RL

 

Shipping Weight 13071
Carrying Capacity 3429
Hitch 2560
GVWR 16500
Length 38′ 5″

What do I like about this unit?

Well, in short, the desk.  This model has what they call an “executive desk” in the rear living area.  It is incorporated into the TV cabinet such that the TV can be used for a large computer monitor.  This is something Montana has done in several of their models for several years.  I’m happy to see it back.  I also like that it has a somewhat larger bathroom sink and counter than the above Solitude model.  Also the washer/dryer closet is somewhat larger and square with the closet rather than angled as in other manufacturers.  It also has a more standard floor plan layout.

2020 Keystone MONTANA 3561RL2020 Keystone MONTANA 3561RL

What do I NOT like about this unit?

I haven’t been in one.  I really need to check out Montana’s build quality.  I have also heard dubious reports of Keystone’s product support.  Some manufacturers go out of their way to make sure you get repairs and parts in a timely manner, I have not heard of this happening with Keystone.  They are more “traditional” in their support model.  I’ll have to learn more about them.  It’s also slightly larger than the Solitude and carries slightly less cargo.  Not a huge deal but still something I think about.

Vilano 385RD

385RD Floorplan

  • GVWR : 18,500
  • Dry Weight : 15,100 *
  • Cargo Carrying : 3,400
  • Length : 42′ 4″
  • PIN Weight : 3,500

What do I like about this unit?

This coach has better color schemes, better furniture, and better interior design.  The Franklin couches and recliners are SO comfortable.  There is a lot of counter space in the kitchen.  We like the well laid out bathroom.  I also like the telescoping TV in the living room that retracts to reveal another window.  I’m not a fan of the “TV wall” that some 5th wheels have.  I really like the open feel of this one.  I also love the HUGE storage space and pull out storage tray under the living room.  If you look at the floor plan above, the area under the living room is ALL storage.

What do I NOT like about this unit?

Frankly, the construction seems like it could be a little better.  The walls sound very hollow and cheap when I knock on them.  It doesn’t come with dual pane windows.  Much is made about how the cabinets are all built at the factory.  Frankly the cabinets seem somewhat cheaply made.  Not bad but I think they could be better.  On other coaches the drawers are very solid and firm as compared to the Vilano where they feel light and shaky.

So where do we stand?

At this point it’s still hard to beat the quality of Grand Design units.  We’re certainly going to keep our eye on the other coaches we listed here but when it comes down to build quality, cargo carrying capacity, and even tank capacities, Grand Design still comes in at the top.