It has begun

Several months ago my wonderful wife agreed to let me turn our shed into a workshop.  It came as a result of discussion that I wanted to start building new armor and other props for Star Wars costumes as well as other themes.  She said if I was going to do that I couldn’t take over a room in the house, I should do it in the shed.  I think she was partially joking, but I latched onto the idea and suggested we have power run out to the shed.  

A local electrician came out to give us a quote on not only running electric to the shed, but also upgrade our circuit breaker panel as we had been having some issues.  After some back and forth we finally settled on a date for the work, and agreed that I would be digging the trench for the lines to be placed in.  Unfortunately there were some complications and my install date was moved up.  Normally getting something done sooner isn’t an issue, but when digging a 50′ long trench at least 18″ deep through the mountain soil is involved all the time is important.

I got in touch with a buddy on the mountain who has a tractor with a backhoe attachment.  Even though it is Memorial Day weekend and he would miss out on time with his family he swung by this morning to help with the lion share of the work.  The backhoe made quick work of the rocky soil and he quickly had a lot of the trench done.  Unfortunately with the location of the trench he couldn’t get it completely dug, but in just under 2 hours he was able to do what would have taken me all day.  Once he headed home I got to work on the rest of it.  Another 3 hours of playing in the dirt and the trench is all ready for the electrician tomorrow.  It should be at least 18″ deep the entire length, although with the piles of dirt on either side it feels a lot deeper.

501st Legion

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  There has been a lot going on and I’m going to try and get better about posting.  Late last year my wife green light the financial leap for a lifelong dream of mine.  I reached out rspropmasters across the pond and submitted my purchase for authentic Stormtrooper Armor.  It took a while to get through all the logistics of getting them all my measurements and such, and then it was just a waiting game.

Finally the big brown box arrived and I got my first look at my new uniform.

I had purchased the complete commission so there was no putting anything together for me, just figuring out how to put it all on.  The first couple of times it took a long while to get everything figured out and realize the best order for putting it all on.  I snapped a few quick pictures without buttoning everything up just to taunt a few friends, and then called it a night.

A couple weeks went by before I could find time to work on my official pictures to submit to the 501st Legion for review and acceptance.   I took the whole kit into my office and asked our receptionist to help me out with getting the armor on and then taking my pictures for me.  It was a lot of fun doing it there in the front lobby, everyone that saw me got a kick out of it.  A couple of people came in naming themselves Han Solo and Chewbacca, and mentioning they had a meeting with Darth Vader.   After getting it all on we went out into the building lobby to get the pictures.  While out there a bunch of people came up to get pictures with me.  I even worked the reception desk for a short time.

Unfortunately I didn’t pay complete attention when I was getting the armor on and messed up some of the details, like forgetting to put my holster on, and not having the belt in the right position.  The GML for my local garrison told me what I needed to work on, but it would be another week or so before I could get the retakes done.

Finally I got the retakes done and got all my information submitted.  The GML confirmed that everything was in order and congratulated me.  I submitted my official application that night to the 501st, and was assigned my legion ID a couple days later.

Introducing TK-11310, the latest addition to the 501st Legion Vader’s Fist!

Culpeper International Triathlon

My first triathlon post epic road trip was the Culpeper International distance with VTS/MTS.  Unfortunately Tracy wasn’t feeling great the morning of so I headed down on my own at 4:45 in the morning.  My stomach was going through it’s typical race day uneasiness, but this seemed worse than usual because I couldn’t even get down a pop tart.  I did manage to get a breakfast shake down on my way to the race, but that was it.

I arrived at the parking lot just before 6, and headed down to the registration table to pick up my race packet.  I didn’t have time to come down the day before so it was a morning pick up for me.  Once I had all my stuff I headed back to the car to get changed into my tri suit.  I still couldn’t get any food down, and after getting changed I grabbed all my gear to get set up in transition.

They had a strange set up this time where as you were bringing your bike into transition they did your body marking there.  It just seemed like an odd way to do it since you have a bunch of people with all their gear on them trying to get set up and you stop them to do body marking.  I got through it rather quickly though since I was early, and then got my transition area set up.

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Getting there early allows you to pick the better spot on the end which gives you just a little more room should you need it.

While we were all waiting around for the swim to start they made the announcement that the race start would be delayed, but I didn’t hear why.  They also announced that the olympic distance bike course would be shortened due to road conditions.  Apparently the storm the night before had washed out a couple of roads on the course.  This meant we were doing the exact same bike course as the sprint distance racers.

I was in the first wave of swimmers which I liked since there wasn’t time sitting around on shore watching the waves ahead of me go, and giving my nerves time to act up.  At the sound of the horn we were off and going.  I still haven’t gotten completely comfortable with mass starts in open water so I did my usual and hung back a little to give myself some room.  My arms did feel a little off at the beginning of the swim, but just before the first turn that went away.  After that it was just a matter of keeping the sighting the buoys and churning away at the yards.  I’m not the strongest of swimmers so a lot of people passed me as we went, but I am proud to say that no-one passed me once we hit the final turn buoy and headed for shore.   After getting there it was a short run into transition to get my bike and head out.

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My one complaint about the race has to do with the bike out exit area prior to the mount line.  You had to run up this steepish hill to the road and mount there.  The problem was that all that rain the night before that washed out part of the course also drenched the grounds, and that made for a very slippery hill.  I stumbled a couple times on my way up, but got mounted and on my way.  Unfortunately my clips were caked in mud and grass so it took a few tries to get clipped in so I could put any power down.

The bike course was a little rough in spots, there was a semi washed out spot along the course, and there was one hill that was a bit of a pain.  Other than that it was a nice and enjoyable course.

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I passed a few people, a few people passed me, and before I knew it I was closing in on the dismount line.  There was a downhill that led into a right turn and back up another hill to the dismount line.  I was already out of my shoes and pedaling on top of them when I got to the downhill.  I downshifted and powered right up the next hill to the dismount line.  I got a good semi flying dismount done and stepped onto the grass to jog the bike down to transition.  That’s when things went sideways, or more accurately down.  I slid on the wet grass, went down and my right foot went into the front wheel.  Let me say it’s rather painful to have your toes split by the spokes of your wheel and your knee to get banged against the fork.   I took a couple seconds to collect myself while disentangling from my bike and then walked/limped my way back to transition.

I racked my bike, ditched my cycling gear, and threw on the stuff for the run as I limped my way to the run exit.  It took a couple hundred yards before my foot was either numb or feeling better, (I’m still not sure which it was) and I could get into my stride.  Despite the pain in my foot I was really enjoying myself as you can see from the pic one of the photographers got on the grassy section just before we hit pavement.

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I could feel that I was just on the edge of cramping so I made good use of the water/gatorade stations to stave that off.  Thankfully I stayed on the edge or was totally fine and didn’t have a repeat of my cramping at Kinetic.

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About a quarter of the way into the run I found myself next to the gentleman that I did the run with at Kinetic.  His plantar fasciitis was feeling much better, so we stuck together and did the remainder of the run together.  We didn’t stop at all the same water/gatorade stops, but we both would catch back up to each other after one where the other didn’t stop.  Since I had finished just ahead of him at Kinetic we agreed that he’d get to edge me out here.  He had started in one of the waves behind me, so he’d already beat me time wise, so I wasn’t worried about the finishing position.  As we hit the grass we both picked up the pace and crossed the finish line in full stride.

I can say without a doubt this was my most enjoyable triathlon to date.  I wasn’t injured, sick, or had a serious complication during the race.  I was able to put it all out there, and at the end definitely needed a couple of minutes to collect myself.  Next race will be my second half iron of the year, and I’m hopeful based on this one, that I’ve figured out my nutrition and won’t have to deal with the cramping issues again.

Epic RV Road Trip Day 14

The cold had hit me full force by Saturday morning and I was feeling like death so I texted my teammates to see what we could do.  Bill knew of a coworker that was a swimmer so he sent him a message to see if he wanted to do the race.  We didn’t hear back from him so I decided to head down to Marina Green to meet up with Bill and Paul to check in.  If Bill’s buddy got ahold of us before the check in he’d just check in instead of me.  Kishore volunteered to drive me since I apparently looked like death.

When we got down to Marina Green we still hadn’t heard back from Bill’s buddy so I went ahead and checked in with them.  The swag this year was much nicer than the previous year and the whole check in process went a lot smoother.  The fresh air and the general atmosphere of the race had me feeling a little better, but I still had some serious concerns about the race on Sunday.  I talked it over with Paul and Bill and they weren’t concerned about their finishing time.  Since we couldn’t swap swimmers at this point I told them that if I was still feeling horrible in the morning I’d take the ferry out, jump in the water, and then take the kayak ride in.  They were fine with this and were more concerned about my health than the race results.  We parted ways after that and Kishore drove us back to his place.

I napped a bit in the afternoon before having the amazing dinner that Pooja had prepared for us.  Since I wasn’t feeling good I couldn’t have nearly as much as I wanted, but what I did eat was great.  Shortly after dinner I turned in for the night.

Epic RV Road Trip Day 13

Since it was going to be impossible to get around the city in the RV, Kishore ran Andrew and I over to the local Enterprise in order to get rentals.  He’d used his Costco membership to secure us much better prices than we could get through other perks.  Because Kishore’s car is only a two seater he drove me over first.  They gave me a Mini Cooper which was a huge adjustment to drive after the 30′ RV for nearly two weeks.  Having a throttle and steering that responded immediately took a little getting used to.  I stopped off at CVS in order to get myself some Dayquil, Nyquil, and vitamin C to do battle with the cold.  Kishore and Pooja had to get to work so I drove Andrew back over in order to get his car.  Afterward he put the booster seats in his car and I put 2.0’s car seat in the Mini.  Then the whole group headed over to the BART station in order to head downtown for some sight seeing.

The intention was to see a bunch of my coworkers for lunch but due to how long it took us to get ready we didn’t get downtown until well after any reasonable person would want to have lunch.  Ginny headed off to see her other mission while the rest of us grabbed a late lunch at the Ferry Building.  When lunch was over I convinced everyone to head over to the Exploratorium so the kids could have some fun.  Abby and Tristan had an absolute blast with all the hands on exhibits.  We could have spent even more time there but shortly after 5 we met up with Kishore and Pooja for some dinner before we all hopped the BART back out to San Ramon.

When we got back to Kishore and Pooja’s it was another evening of socializing and relaxing.  The cold had gotten worse as the day went on and everyone said that I looked horrible so I turned in a little early.

Epic RV Road Trip Day 12

When the office opened up in the morning I headed over to make sure everything was taken care of.  I’d filled out the night registration form when we arrived, but with the lack of contact from them I was a little concerned.  I guess when it comes to money they take care of things quickly because the woman behind the counter had my receipt all ready for me to sign.  She also answered two phone calls while I was standing there.  I guess Andrew and I just had really bad luck because between the two of us we had gotten the answering machine at least 20 times over a period of 3 hours.  We talked briefly and I mentioned that they were out of toilet paper in both the men’s and women’s rooms over by where we were parked.  Apparently their delivery company had dropped off the wrong type of paper and they were just putting out rolls whenever they could.  She even asked me if I could put a few in the bathrooms on the way back.  I obliged and shortly after that we got on out way.

The final destination of the day was my friends Kishore and Pooja’s house in San Ramon.  They had graciously offered up their place as our base of operations while we were in the San Francisco area.  It was going to be a pain trying to get around the city for any sight seeing we wanted to do not to mention my race so I accepted their offer.

Ginny had two missions she wanted to see while we were all in San Francisco.  One was in the city itself, but the other was out in Sonoma.  Since it was only slightly out of our way while heading to San Ramon, and it would have been an extremely expensive cab/uber ride for her to get there we agreed to take the slight detour.  We got there a little after lunch time and while Ginny headed over to the mission the rest of us checked out the town square.  There was a history museum that Tracy, 2.0, and I checked out while Andrew and the kids entertained themselves on the playground.  After a little while we all met up for lunch at a nice little restaurant and had a relaxing meal on their back patio dining area.

We headed on to Kishore and Pooja’s after that arriving a little after 4pm.  We found a spot in their neighborhood to park right across the street from their house thankfully, and then they welcomed us to their home.  Sleeping arrangements were figured out, a tour of the house was given, and then pizza was ordered for dinner.  Kishore and Pooja mentioned how a lot of our coworkers lived around the area so calls were made and eventually we headed over to my former manager Rachna’s house to hang out for a bit.  By the time we got back everyone else was asleep.  I felt a bit of scratchiness in my throat so I loaded up on orange juice and vitamin c in order to try and combat it.  After that I turned in for the night as well.

Epic RV Road Trip Day 11

I had planned to do a nice and easy scenic drive through the southern part of the forest after doing a light hike in the northern part.  Unfortunately Ginny had talked to a couple while doing laundry at the KOA who said that they had really messed up their RV doing the drive I was suggesting.  I’d done a lot of reading though and was sure that they had their facts wrong.  We headed over to the Hiouchi Visitor Center in the morning in order to get the kids their Junior Ranger books as well talk with a ranger about the scenic drive.  The woman we talked to was really nice, saying that our RV would have no problems on the road, and also to not bother with the hikes we were considering in the northern part of the forest.  Basically our RV wouldn’t fit on any of the roads leading to the hiking trails.

We had seen some pretty massive trees heading into the Hiouchi Visitor Center, but they were nothing compared to the ones on the scenic drive.  I had to pull over at one to get a few pictures of us in front of it.

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We headed over to the Prairie Creek Visitor Center in order to get some additional information about hikes as well as see about some stuff for the kids Junior Ranger Books.  The ranger there suggested based on our restrictions checking out the Big Tree hike which would take us to the third largest tree in the park.  We headed over, parked the RV and then the whole group headed out on the trail.  The tree was very aptly named, and the hike was very easy if a little short.  We all snapped a few pictures at the tree and then continued on another short hike before heading out of the park.

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We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner in a cute little town called Trinidad.  It was right on the coast and after finishing our meal we headed over to the lighthouse so Andrew could get a few pictures.  There was a trail right by the lighthouse that headed down to the beach along the harbor.  It was a bit steep for Ginny so the rest of us went down to enjoy the view.

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After heading out we encountered our first issue with a KOA so far on the trip.  All the others were fine with 7 people at the site.  The limit was 6, but since one was an infant they would allow us there and just charge us for an extra person.  The KOA in Willits though was having none of that and said they would charge us full price for an extra site.  That was ridiculous so we decided to push on and try for the next KOA down the road.  Unfortunately they refused to answer their phone.  We opted to roll the dice and headed for it anyway arriving rather late at night and finding a vacant spot to pull into.  We all turned in shortly after getting there and got some much needed rest.

Epic RV Road Trip Day 10

This day had us driving down the coast of Oregon. I had found a place called Thors Wells on the places to see webpage and had thrown that on our agenda. The KOA staff also recommended Sea Lion Caves if we could squeeze it in.

Thors Wells is on Cape Perpetua which is a beautiful spot if you have a chance to check it out. Unfortunately I had not done all my homework and to get the most out of it you should go at high tide, and we got there during low tide. It was still really cool to see and walk around, but we didn’t get the most out of it. Andrew and I ran all over the area taking pictures, the kids got to climb around on the rocks, Tracy and 2.0 came out to see things, and Ginny came down as far as the beach. After messing around there for a bit we loaded back up in the RV and went on our way.

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We were making good time on our way to the Redwoods KOA, so when we saw the sign for sea lion caves we decided to stop. It was pretty cool, but we were hitting it at the wrong season. Once you got your ticket you could head down the elevator to the cave, or go to the overlook. Because of the time of year most of the sea lions were out of the cave, but we still did that first. There was one big bull on a rock in the center of the cave so that was cool.

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An offshoot of the cave had a really cool view of a lighthouse so that made Andrew very happy.

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They had these cute little masks for helping with the smell we had to make the kids try on.

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After we got our fill of the cave we headed back up topside to the observation area. Lots of sea lions were down below in various stages of activity. We even got to see a few jumping in and out of the water.

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It was a nice distraction, and in the right season where they are mostly in the cave it would have been really cool, but all in all a little disappointing.

After a stop for dinner we set up for the night at the KOA right outside Redwood National and State Parks.

Escape from Alcatraz Tri Relay (Epic RV Road Trip Day 15)

As was bound to happen, I caught the bug that was going around the RV, and as my luck goes it happened just as we got in to San Francisco. Friday night as Kishore, Pooja, and I went to visit my old manager Rachna my throat started to feel a bit scratchy. As soon as we got back I loaded up on vitamin c and drank several glasses of orange juice hoping that I wasn’t getting sick.

Saturday morning came and there was no doubt that I had caught the bug. My head felt like gnomes were running around inside it pounding away with hammers, and it suddenly was a million pounds. Breathing deeply was impossible without having a coughing fit, and I had Kleenex as my constant companion. I texted my teammates to let them know that he situation and see if they knew anyone who might want to do the swim. Bill reached out to a buddy, but didn’t get a response so I told them I would meet them at check in. I must have looked how I felt because Kishore volunteered to drive me into the city. Bill still hadn’t heard from his buddy when we all met up so I went ahead and checked in with them. Just being out in the fresh air and being around the race atmosphere had me feeling a little better, but still had me wary. After discussing it with them I said that I would do the swim if I felt up to it, or would hop in and then after a short swim take a kayak in. None of us were in this to win it just for the fun and accomplishment so the delay the kayak ride in would take was fine. Kishore and I headed back to his house after that and I napped a bit in the afternoon and went to bed early after a light dinner.

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Tracy woke up with me in the morning and her, 2.0, and I headed into the city around 4am. After finding a parking space I dropped my bag in transition and hopped in line for the shuttle to the ferry. Just before getting on I kissed Tracy good bye, she wished me luck, and I promised her I would play it safe. Once I got on the ferry I couldn’t tell if my stomach uneasiness was due to the cold or my normal pre-race jitters. I found a spot to sit down and worked on my mental prep for the swim should I end up doing it. I had done the swim the year before so knew what to do as far as sighting and the swim exit. I had experienced the mass exit of the ferry, and the strong current. All that was left for me was to calm my nerves and get ready the make the jump.

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The announcement that the pros were far enough away that amateurs could start was made and the mass exodus began. I hung towards the back since I was still unsure of myself and didn’t want to get in the way of the serious competitors. As I hit the water I felt everything compress at the chill of the water and struggled to take a breath as I reached the surface and took a few strokes to clear the jump area. I still was unsure if I could take deep breaths so I started breathing every other stroke instead of every third or fifth which is my normal. The announcer on the boat had mentioned the strong winds coming in and had suggested if possible to breath from the left. He wasn’t kidding there were very heavy swells coming in against the current and an improperly timed right side breath gave you a mouth full of bay water. My breathing started to come more easily so I mentally rejected the option of the kayak, and focused on the swim to shore.

The swells coming in were so high it made sighting so challenging for me that I had to stop several times to see where I was going. The trajectory seemed like it was a little off to me based on my elapsed time, but I chalked that up to a tired sick body and pushed on making what I thought were proper corrections based on the previous years conditions. I kept seeing a lot of other swimmers around me for the majority of the swim, but as I got closer to shore I saw less swim caps and started worrying I was way off course. As I got close to shore I realized my mistake, the swells coming against the current had somewhat offset their pull and I landed much further up shore from the swim exit. Hundreds of others had done the same because I saw a lot of confused faces as we turned and swam along the shoreline to the swim exit. I even saw several racers hop up onto shore and run along the ground before re-entering just before the swim exit beach.

I had decided not to put a “run” bag in for the half mile run from the swim exit to transition and just did it barefoot and in my wetsuit. After a short distance my breathing became labored and I slowed my pace though. I reached the relay corral, gave my timing chip to Bill and then collapsed on the ground. After catching my breath I gave Paul a hug, and saw Tracy and 2.0 on the other side of the railing. Just seeing them had me back at 100%ish. After that it was just waiting around for Bill to finish the bike, and then waiting at the finish to cheer Paul on as he got all the glory for our relay team.

So glad that I went through with it, and we even pulled out 10th place in our division of 18 teams.

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Epic RV Road Trip Day 9

Ginny, Tracy, 2.0, and I partook of the KOA’s breakfast again while Andrew and the kids did their own thing.  After that we got on our way.  It was going to be a long day.  The only planned thing on the agenda was Multnomah Falls.  It was another one I got from the “places in America you must see” webpage.

We made a target run before we got out of Seattle to restock a few travel essentials as well as pick up a few things we discovered we needed along the way.  Then we pointed the RV south again and made our way into Oregon.  We got to the falls around 3 in the afternoon.  Waze took us in a historic highway that ran right by the falls which would have been great if not for the fact that we were in a rather large RV.  Several times we had to stop in order to let cars come by us in the opposite direction when the road was about to get very tight.  We went right by the falls looking for parking, but there was nothing available.  There were several turnouts past it but they were full as well.  When we were about a mile past the falls we turned around and made a pass again.  Unfortunately there were still no available spots to park the RV.  We had resolved ourselves to just seeing it from the road as we passed when we found a spot just barely big enough at the neighboring Wahkeena Falls.  There was a .6 mile trail that led from Wahkeena to Multnomah so we hopped on it and started to make our way over.  That was when things started to get a little amusing and Andrew and I proved ourselves to be horrible sons in law.

Ginny doesn’t do well with heights, slopes, or uneven ground.  The trail had all of these in plenty.  At first she had a death grip on Tracy in order to make her way along the trail.

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After a while Andrew hung back to help her out as well.

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When the trail got really bad for her Tracy couldn’t help anymore so even though I had 2.0 in the ergo baby I took Tracy’s place to help Ginny out.

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I had her hold onto the waist strap of the ergo.  She was concerned about falling and taking me and 2.0 with her.  I told her not to worry I had my hand on the waist strap quick release she was holding onto, she wasn’t taking us anywhere.  That actually made her feel a lot better.

We finally made it to the parking lot of Multnomah and Andrew, the kids, and I got our pennies and stamps while the ladies hit the bathroom.  When all that was taken care of it was up to the falls.  It is absolutely amazing, and well worth all the stress of getting there.  If you find yourself in the Portland area, definitely stop off to see it.

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After snapping a few pictures at the base of the falls we made the short walk up to the bridge for a closer look.  I took a few pano shots to try and get the full falls in.

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Since Andrew and I had already done the silly photo with Ginny and she opted not to go up to the bridge we had to take another silly photo pointing out where she was.

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When all that was over with we were headed back down and Tristan lost his hat over the edge.  As expected of a 4 year old he had a meltdown, but thankfully the rangers office had a long claw for just such an occasion.  While Andrew ran back up the trail to get the hat, I ran back along the path to the RV so that I could drive back and pick everybody up.  We all agreed that it was safest for everyone involved that Ginny not try to make it back on the trail.

Unfortunately as we got on the way we hit rush hour traffic.  I remembered that an old friend of mine had moved to Portland a while back, so while we were in standstill traffic I snapped a pic of it and sent it to her complaining about her city, and advised her it was driving us crazy.

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As it turned out we were only a couple exits away from her.  Since traffic sucked and it was dinner time we found a spot to eat and Molly joined us.

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After dinner Molly headed home and we got on our way to the next KOA destination.  Fog had rolled in on the 20 and the 101 so it was slow going and we didn’t get there till very late.  Most of the passengers were already asleep so it was some careful maneuvering of the kids to keep everyone asleep after we got hooked up to power.