Saturday, August 27, 2016

San Diego Weekend: The Non-Beer Portion

Our friends Lee and Laura live in San Diego and have suggested we visit during the Stone Beer Festival. We decided we would plan to visit in 2017 since they were going to host another couple this year and we did not want to add any further logistics. The other couple decided not to make the trip and we got 3 weeks notice they were open and tickets available for us. Airfare looked good, hotels downtown were reasonable, and we had a vacation day floating around we were trying to figure out how to use. It seems like that day found its purpose.

Our plan was to fly in Thursday night in time to hit The Gaslamp Quarter for dinner and drinks (we stayed in the Hilton Gaslamp). What actually happened: we had a 4 hour flight delay and landed at midnight. We were up against heavy plane traffic at O'Hare, an expiring flight crew/returning to gate for a new pilot, staggered take-offs due to weather, and the San Diego landing curfew. At least we did not have to come in Friday and miss out on more of the fun. As Holly put it, we just missed going to bars (and Dave's argument back was we missed a chance to view a turn-of-the-century historic district in poor lighting).

Lee and Laura picked us up Friday morning for a fun-packed day. The first stop was the world famous San Diego Zoo. A volunteer took our photo at the welcome sign for the price of taking his survey. Arg! Holly had 3 must-sees today: koalas, pandas, and otters. We were able to accomplish all three quickly. We had some other great viewing opportunities of polar bears, elephants, lions up close, meerkats, and weaver birds actively building nests. Lee marshaled us to the zookeeper talk at the maned wolf exhibit which was quite enjoyable.

We decided to save nearby Balboa Park for a future trip in favor of lunch. We hopped in the car and headed to Ocean Beach's Pizza Port location. The slices were NY style with excellent crust. They make their own beer as well as feature many guest taps. Perfect lunch pick! Afterwards we walked over to the beach and hung out for a few minutes watching the crowd take in some of the last days of summer break.

Next stop was Cabrillo National Monument for an incredible view of San Diego, Coronado, and the sourrounding area.

Our next stop of the day was Coronado Brewing's production location/taproom. Great dog-friendly place in an out-of-the-way industrial area. Across the street was Christmas Warehouse. You like to decorate for Christmas? This is the place. Lee got some inspiration for this year's outdoor display.

Next up, a visit to Ballast Point Brewing at their Home Brew Mart location. Another nice location (more on beer in a future post). We then headed to a Thai restaurant for dinner before our tour guides dropped us off at our hotel. We wanted to take in a bit of Gaslamp District activity before bed so we went out for a drink at Cat Eye Club. It was a small well-themed tiki bar very close to Petco Park.

The next morning we traversed the Convention Center steps to make our way to the Embarcadero. We browsed a few Seaport Village shops, took in the WWII memorials along the walkway, then spent some time on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. We explored the brig, engineering and communications section, toured the Admiral's Quarters and pilot ready-rooms, and browsed all the aircraft top-deck. Holly declared we were going to watch Top Gun when we got home.

The rest of the day was dedicated to beer so we will leave that out for another post.

On Sunday we decided to Uber over to the Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island. The town looked charming enough to spend a few hours exploring. "The Del" is one of the grand resorts built in the Victorian era. We are not sure if Disney ever states it's the inspiration of their Grand Floridian Hotel, but it is pretty darn obvious. We were surprised at the use of dark wood in the lobby and commons area. We walked the grounds and the connected beach before settling in on a bench with a breakfast cocktail.

We headed back to the mainland to meet up with our hosts Lee and Laura (thanks Lee for all the driving over the weekend). Our first stop was Karl Strauss Sorrento Mesa for their craft beer brunch. This is a hidden treasure of a location with a Japanese garden tucked in the middle of a corporate park. Many food items were made using beer including pancake syrup and beer-battered fish. All the food was excellent and the price of admission included either one pint of beer, a pre-selected flight of four IPAs (we all passed on that one), or bottomless mimosas. We were lucky enough to get a table against the koi pond.

Our next stop was Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Lee was nice enough to drive us up the windy hill road vs. making us hoof it up like so many hikers were doing. At the top of the hill was a visitor center with some small displays and great views of the valley, ocean, and plants; including Torrey Pines. We honestly had no idea there was such a thing. Dave thought Torrey Pines was a town or just the golf course named for someone - like Pottersville in It's a Wonderful Life.

Lee braved traffic and nearly-dead jaywalkers to show us the town and beach of La Jolla. Lots of beautiful homes were packed together to form streets of architectural mish-mosh creating almost a new style of Modern-Spanish-Craftsman.

It was time for another beer stop. We arranged to meet Dave's cousin and her husband at Intergalactic Brewing. This no-fuss taproom has a nice selection of unique beers with sci-if inspired names.

Our final stop was at Liberty Station for dinner at Stone Brewing's World Bistro and Gardens. This is the standard all brewpub restaurants will be held to. Beautiful courtyard beer garden, bocce courts, high-end fixtures and lots of natural materials. The beer list is a balanced mix of Stone's products along with many other guest beers. As the sun was setting the air definitely got cooler and the patio heaters started clicking on. It was approaching the time for us to get to the airport and depart on our red-eye home. Sleeping on the plane was not too difficult.

We are anxious to return to San Diego because we didn't even scratch the surface of all the area had to offer. Maybe next trip we can convince Lee and Laura to take us to Tijuana.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Desert Lions Update

One of our favorite aspects of a trip to Africa is the chance to see a lion while on a game drive. We've had some pretty exciting encounters over a few trips. We've witnessed a pride feast on a Cape Buffalo near our camp's gift shop. We watched cubs play tug-of-war with a giraffe's intestine. We've followed lions on the hunt and had them no more than 4 feet from us while in open-air jeeps. We saw a pride of 18 lions filled with cubs, then on a return trip 30 months later, we found the same pride and saw the cubs all grown-up.

A memorable encounter was on our recent(ish) trip to Namibia where we got to see the famous 5 Musketeers. There are approximately 70 desert-adapted lions in the world. These 5 brothers/cousins were the subject of the documentary Vanishing Kings that started airing under the name Desert Warriors: Lion of the Namib on Smithsonian Channel. The documentary focuses on the young five male lions and their struggles to survive and perpetuate the species in a vast location with so few of their species around. At the end of the movie they show two unrelated females nearing the 5's territory. Will they meet up and breed?

We follow the website Desert Lion Project to keep up with the boys and to see some incredible photography. Good news is the lionesses and the males did connect. We do not have information on their success in breeding opportunities. They have encountered each other several times over the last few months. The biggest news of all though is that the lions have been in some unfortunate encounters with farmer/herder settlements. Corralled goats and cows are tempting. The foundation, government, and villagers worked on methods to chase the lions away, including firework trip wires. They worked for a bit. Read the rest of the story in the screen shots below taken from the Desert Lion Project website.

13 Jun 2016. Conflict. When the five male lions (the “Musketeers”) moved past the temporary cattle post (12 km west of Tomakas) two days ago a human-lion conflict incident occurred somewhere between the cattle post and Otjizeka spring (15 km further west). The exact details of the incident are still unclear. Deep inside a Salvadora thicket at Otjizeka spring Xpl-89 “Harry” died of a mortal bullet wound to the chest during the early morning hours on 12 Jun 2016 (photo: bottom right). When the remaining four lions were observed at sunset, two of the males showed signs of injuries. Xpl-92 “Adolf” had a new wound on his right cheek (photo: bottom left) and Xpl-91 “Ben” appeared to have a bullet wound. The photos below suggest that he may have been shot in the lower stomach (photos: top middle & right and bottom middle). It would appear that the bullet passed straight through. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism was informed of the developments. The Purros Conservancy, MET, IRDNC, Okahirongo Elephant Lodge and DLP are all working together to defuse the tense situation.

14 Jun 2016. Xpl-89 "Harry". Finding the carcass of Xpl-89 inside the Salvadora thickets was challenging and required crawling for approximately 30 metres through the thick undergrowth (photos: top row). An autopsy was performed on the carcass and biological samples were collected. The lion died quickly from a single gunshot to the chest. The bullet passed through the heart and lungs. The remaining four male lions were monitored closely and the bullet wound to Xpl-91 “Ben” does not appear to be serious. Two Okongwe lionesses joined the males during the night and after sunrise they were all observed scaling the tall mountains to the south of the Gomatum valley.

19 Jul 2016. Cow. At 03h20 the four adult males approached the Ondudupi village where the cattle were inside a rudimentary corral made of Mopane branches (photo: top left). The lions responded immediately to a display of bright flashing lights / fireworks and they moved away. However, one kilometre south of the village, the lions unfortunately encountered and killed a lone cow that did not return to the corral. At dawn the lions moved to the safety of a nearby gorge.

3 Aug 2016. Tomakas Situation. The human-lion conflict situation at Tomakas and the Gomatum River has become unmanageable. A few days ago a man encountered the four adult males (the “Musketeers”) in a narrow wash 3.5 km north of Tomakas whilst riding on donkey. The man fled into the mountains and walked to Tomakas. The incident was investigated and it was confirmed that the lions killed the donkey. They dragged and left the saddle under a tree (photo: below middle). The saddle was returned to its owner. Thereafter, on 2 Aug 2016, the four males moved past Tomakas and killed two goats. The people of Tomakas have been patient and tolerant of the lions disrupting their lives, but they cannot continue living under these conditions. Removing the lions from the area is necessary. The lions have expanded their range into an area of human settlement that is not suitable lion habitat. Our efforts to deter and cause the lions to vacate the area have failed. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism are being consulted to find an amicable solution.

5 Aug 2016. Xpl-93. The adult male lion Xpl-93 left his brothers and moved to Okongwe Waterhole. The remaining three “Musketeers” yet again approached Tomakas village between 02h00 and 03h00 this morning. They nonetheless responded immediately to a display of flashing lights/fireworks and moved off in an easterly direction along the Gomatum River.

10 Aug 2016. Tragedy. On 6 Aug 2016 the Ministry of Environment & Tourism approved the translocation of the four “Musketeers” from Tomakas to the Uniab Delta as a last-resort effort to solve the on-going human-lion conflict. Several parties participated with the planning of this operation: an aircraft was secured to transport the lions from Purros to Terrace Bay, vehicles were gathered to take the lions from Tomakas to Purros and finally from Terrace Bay to the Uniab Delta as we waited for the three males to return from the mountains and reconnect with Xpl-93.

However, the three males encountered a new and previously unknown cattle post of semi-nomadic pastoralists. The lions killed a donkey and the people (previously from Omiriu and then Ondudupi) retaliated by poisoning the lions. The carcasses and the satellite collars of the lions were then burnt. With this tragic development a difficult decision had to be made about the fate of the lone survivor. With the Ministry of Environment & Tourism we darted Xpl-93, loaded him in the Desert Lion Project Land Cruiser and started the long journey to the Uniab Delta. The convoy of three vehicles struggled through the Floodplain and dunes that were covered in thick fog. We finally reached the mouth of the Uniab River at 05h25 and found a narrow wash with some protection to off-load Xpl-93 (photos below).

11 Aug 2016. Uniab Delta. The last survivor of the “Five Musketeers”, Xpl-93 also known as “Tullamore”, has recovered from the ordeal of translocating him to the Uniab Delta (photos below). The lion was kept sedated for 14.5 hrs and transported in the back of the research vehicle for 279 km from Tomakas to the mouth of the Uniab River. He is currently feeding on an Oryx carcass and his movements will be monitored closely. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism must be commended for their leading role in the operation and thanks also go to Namibia Wildlife Resorts and Wilderness Safaris for their support. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism and the Namibian Police Force have launched a detailed investigation into the killing of the three males (Xpl-90, Xpl-91 & Xpl-92) 12 km north of Tomakas. The developments over the past few days may generate reactions in the published press and on social media. The Desert Lion Project would like to: a) state that the problems of human-lion conflict are complex and b) call on everyone using the information presented on this website to remain objective. The daily movements of Xpl-93 will now be posted under “Obab Lionesses”.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beers from Around the World 2016

In our house we celebrate the start of the Olympic Games with a tradition we've kept for over 16 years. That tradition is "Beers from Around the World". On the night of the Opening Ceremonies we'll order out some food and have beers from different countries (as the name implies). We buy a variety and share each bottle. Rules: Sample the U.S. beer when the U.S. Team comes out (did not do that this year) and be sure we have a beer from the host country.

A few years ago friends asked us to film this experience. In 2014 we did it from a hotel room. This year we were home, but Holly had a 20 mile run the next morning. We decided to save the American beer for last just in case it got too late (and it did). This year we used Facebook to broadcast live two times.

This year's country line-up: New Zealand, Japan, Scotland, Denmark, Czech Republic, and the host country Brazil.

Here are all the videos in order. At the bottom is a link to a playlist to see them all continuously. Enjoy!


Playlist format:


Monday, August 1, 2016

Randoms: July 2016

It's been a while since we had a random topic post. Let's see how this goes.

Chicago Weekend

We spent a weekend in Chicago with a bunch of friends from all over the place. The Chicago Rock & Roll Half Marathon Weekend has become a tradition for Holly (legacy runner with all 8 under her belt) and our friends. On Friday Dave hosted lunch at Howell's & Hood, then took his friends on a tour of his office on the 76th floor of the Aon Center - the country's 7th largest building. Later that evening bar stops included 3 Dots and a Dash, the Renaissance's new rooftop bar, Miller's Pub, and dinner at Stout Barrel House.

The next day 14 of us took to the Chicago River in kayaks on a tour from Urban Kayaks. Our 2 hour private tour was perfect for novices and included a lot of Chicago historical facts along the way.


On race day there was a bit of lightning and rain during the event, but it cleared out quickly. A few of us a couple of songs from the headlining band - Echosmith. They were very good and so young (ages ranged from 15 - 21). We had lunch at a Printer's Row favorite: First Draft. Later that night was date night with drinks at Siena Tavern and dinner at RPM Steak.

Summer TV

TV for us this time of year means a few hours a week dedicated to Big Brother and movies we've DVR'd during the year. We caught up on the 4th season of Orange is the New Black and found a few other gems this season:

Stranger Things on Netflix is a well-done eight part Sci-Fi series set in 1983. The story follows several pre-teens and their families as they try to solve a mystery surrounding some disappearances. The 80's theme is everywhere: toys, clothes, Trapper Keepers, TV commercials, and background music fitting an after school special. The entire season is available.

The Night Of on HBO is not as family-friendly as Stanger Things, but it's a story that draws the viewer right in. Without giving too much away it's about a good college-kid that has a chance encounter changing his life forever. Episode 1 lays out the premise and the rest (so far) is dealing with the aftermath and trying to determine the truth. Episodes are released weekly and as of this post four have aired.


We tried Pokemon Go. We liked the initial concept, but the game is not fun for those of us in the rural suburbs of Chicago. There is no way for us to progress in the game. There are no Pokestops near the house and the nearest gym is miles away.

Dave has been enjoying the other recent Pokemon release: Pokemon Trading Card Game for the iPad. You collect cards, win decks and other rewards through trainer tournaments to create your own decks. You can join Online tournaments and play against others.

Jackson Hole

Our next big trip is coming up in a few weeks. We are going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for their marathon. We're going to be joined by 3 other couples and enjoy our time visiting the area including the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

Olympics and Beers from Around the World

This was the year Chicago was supposed to host the Summer Games, but the city lost the bid to Rio. This will be a fun year to watch for Dave since he works closely with many Brazilians and will enjoy their POV on how their country is portrayed.

Our Olympic tradition continues this Friday: Beers From Around The World. This is when we buy a bunch of international beers and film our review while watching the Opening Ceremonies. We may take advantage of some of the new broadcasting tools like Periscope to bring a segment or two live.

Link to 2014 video

Link to 2012 videos