Vegas

I don’t have a ton of photos to post from Las Vegas.  I was mostly just enjoying spending time with family there.  I do have a few though.  The first is a night time shot from the Stratosphere.  I thought this would make a good place to watch the sun setting and also a nice spot to get a night time picture of the Las Vegas Strip.  It is a terrific view, but the view is a obstructed by one unlit tower on the left edge of the photo.  Also, between the wind and the rides operating on the top of the Stratosphere, it really isn’t stable enough for time lapse photography.

We visited the Hoover Dam and walked across the new bridge.  I liked this shot of the bridge’s shadow on the dam.  It was a disappointing place to take pictures though, because no matter what angles I chose I seemed to always have a rat’s nest of power lines in the frame.

I loved the glass sculptures which we found throughout the casinos.  I can’t remember which casinos the individual photos are from.Parasols decorating a casino ceiling:

This was billed as the world’s largest chocolate fountain.  Mmmmmmmmmmm…  …chocolate!I couldn’t back up quite far enough to fit the whole thing into the frame–so the top of the fountain is cut off.  I really MUST get a wider angle lens.

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Red Rock Canyon

I drove to Las Vegas Thursday night, to visit my Aunt.  I arrived just as the sun was coming up.  I didn’t want to wake anybody, so I drove out to Red Rocks to take a few pictures.

There were a lot of yellow flowers in the park.

I looked, but I didn’t spot any tortoises.

First run-in with “The Man”

I didn’t get as much photography done this week as my loyal fans have come to expect.  I did however, have every intention of spending a night sleeping at the coast.  I traveled out to the coast on Sunday, took some pictures of the beach, and found what looked like an ideal spot to spend a quiet night listening to the waves crashing on the shore.

My ideal spot was a vista point, just off an incredibly remote section of Highway 1, with a sign indicating it was closed.  Closer inspection led me to believe that it was just the restrooms which were actually closed.  There was no gate blocking the road out to the vista point.  The parking lot and trails, while incredibly run-down, were all perfectly accessible.  There was just enough of a rise in middle of the access road to prevent traffic along Highway 1 from seeing a car parked in the vista point’s parking lot.  And when I scouted it during the daytime, I realized that the “closed” sign was deterring traffic from using the vista point.

I continued on down the Highway, planning to return to the vista later, and took some pictures of the sunset.

Later still I made my first attempt at taking pictures of the stars and Milky Way, before moonrise.  I still haven’t gotten a tripod, so I was just setting my camera on the roof of the Prius and using the delay timer to allow for a reasonably steady shot.  Clearly I will need a wider angle lens for really good shots of the Milky Way.

After I grew tired of struggling to get decent shots of the stars, and the traffic had dwindled to essentially zero, I headed back to the abandoned vista point.  At about 9 PM I fell asleep.  It felt like 10 PM, since we just changed the clocks, but still this was an early night for me.  I was thinking it would be a good opportunity to catch up on my sleep, listening to faint sounds of the ocean down below.

At about 9:45 I was awoken by “The Man” rapping a flashlight on my window, demanding to know if I had any weapons in the car, and demanding to see my driver’s license.  I was somewhat prepared for this, having read quite a bit of The Survival Guide to Homelessness.  Even so, being woken up this way did come as a bit of a shock.  Fortunately I wake up sweet.  And actually it wasn’t exactly “The Man,” it was a lady, park ranger, rather than a cop.  She was rather gruff looking, and very gruff sounding at first.  By the end of the conversation though, after running my license, she ended up sounding a lot sweeter.  Towards the end of the conversation, I suspect she was starting to realize how ludicrous it was to wake up a person who was tired enough to be sleeping in their car, insist that they leave an abandoned parking lot in the middle of nowhere, and drive in their tired out condition back to town.  It’s hard for me to see how that was “in the public interest” and I suspect she was questioning it as well.  At any rate, I got the impression that she was just following policy and not terribly enthusiastic about having to do so.

By the time that was over I really needed sleep a lot more than I needed further adventures, so I headed back in to town (a few hours driving), and slept at the standard Walmart parking lot.  I’m really developing a deep appreciation for Walmart’s policy allowing people to sleep there without any hassle.  And so far, I’ve seen the same RV in the parking lot every day, so I’m not the only one enjoying their accommodations.

I will have to seek out another place to sleep on weekends in the future.  The coast is looking like a bigger challenge than I would ever have guessed.

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A few random pictures in no particular order….

Oh My! Is that my mattress?

Today I celebrated another milestone in my car.  This afternoon I drove to Berkeley to pick up my new mattress from the Essentia store.

I am hopeful that this will make a significant improvement in the comfort.  Until now, I have been sleeping on some camping mats.  I was sleeping reasonably well, but the camping mats are narrow and not particularly soft.  I think this is going to be a major improvement.

Essentia is a manufacturer of organic mattresses.  They agreed to build me a custom mattress, designed to be very low profile.  I need a low profile mattress in the Prius, because I don’t have very much head-room in the back of the car–a standard height mattress just wouldn’t leave enough space.  I also needed something that doesn’t smell up the car.  Initially I tried a cheap memory foam mattress “topper”, but the smell was so horrendous I couldn’t have it in the car with me.  I am hoping the organic mattress won’t have a horrific chemical stench.  So far the Essentia mattress hasn’t been bad.  There is a slight smell and I’m not sure if it’s the mattress itself, or just the plastic it came wrapped in.  I hope it dissipates quickly.
Other than being low-profile, it’s a standard full-sized mattress.  I initially thought about customizing it further to cut around the wheel wells.  As I thought about this further though, I decided it would be nicer to roll over at night and bump up against a nicely padded wheel well with the mattress curving up over it.  You can see in the picture above, how the wheel wells are covered by the mattress, and the mattress contours to fit them.  Am I crazy for thinking this looks remarkably roomy?  …  Don’t answer that!

Behind the wheel well is a nice spot to keep my “library” of books that I’m reading or plan to read in the near future.  Here’s a quick shout-out to Stacey Martin, whose debut book finally arrived from Amazon.  Congratulations on getting your first book published, Stacey!  Your book just went to the top of my stack.

Here’s the mattress all made up with standard full-sized sheets, a pillow, and a toasty warm down comforter.  I’m ready for winter now.  Bring it on!

By the way, Dad, if you’re still reading this…  …it’s NOT looking good for your bet.

Finally, it wouldn’t be right to end this post without a shot of the Essentia store in Berkeley.  Once again, I would like to thank all the good people at Essentia for going way above and beyond the call of duty in building a custom mattress for my Prius!

EDIT:  Adding a link to the Essentia blog, which now features a post about little ol’ me….

One Week In.

I’m now at the one week point, living in the Prius.  It is going very well.  I’m learning to be comfortable sleeping in the car.  I’m adjusting.  I’m figuring out a routine, for surviving during the work week and taking care of necessities such as laundry on a schedule.  It’s important for me to stay extremely organized, because there’s no extra space for clutter.  After a week at this, I really think it’s going to work.  It was a difficult decision, but I still think it was the right one.  I had a good week, and an extraordinary weekend.  Dad, if you’re reading this, you better get ready to cover your bets!

I celebrated a week in the car, by taking a long weekend off work and shooting some pictures around the Bay area.  I spent the weekend wandering and walking about a number of areas in the Bay area.  I’ll post a few of my favorite shots.

This is probably my favorite shot, as it really shows off the fine detail that the D800 can capture.  Also, I just have a huge amount of respect for honey bees and the work they do.  This picture was captured on some flowers (rosemary?) at the little park on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.  A really pretty spot to stop and take in the view.

The bridge, with fog blowing over it and a blimp flying overhead, admiring the view.  One of these days I will have to go for a ride in that blimp!

View of the downtown area.

An old crumbling barn, south of the Bay.

I’m not exactly sure where the firehose is here.  But I thought the tiny shed looked interesting with its paint all peeling off.

I was really straining the resolution of the D800 to get this shot, as the birds wouldn’t cooperate by flying up close.  I believe this is some sort of woodpecker.

A long string of locks, hanging from an open park gate.  I’m not sure what system was in play here, but it sure seemed like an interesting and rather excessive number of locks for a single gate.

View point, overlooking Monterey Bay.  It’s a bit too hazy to see the bay very well, but still I thought the view was beautiful.  Truly a magical place!

A relaxing stroll down a little trail through the oak strewn hillside above Monterey Bay.

Moonrise over the oak trees.

Again, straining the limits of the D800 and 300mm lens.

Sleep is for Sissies!

I wish I could claim ownership for that title but I can’t.  I saw it on a bumpersticker today–something advertising the Robert Ferguson Observatory I believe–a good tagline for astronomers as well as for people who are in the middle of a move.  If you google that title it will also lead to an interesting facebook page (again not mine).

I finished up the moving last night.  Well, finished as best I could.  I’m pretty sure I got everything important into my storage shed, and that was my goal.  Many trips in the Prius were involved, but it’s done now.  I finished and left the house at about 3 AM.  It was a little scary, saying goodbye to the house and moving into the car.  Towards the end I realized I had gotten everything important and I was dragging my feet.  That’s when I decided it was time to go.  Once I left the house though, the “scary” wore off and it felt quite liberating.

I parked next to a like-minded RV driver in a Walmart parking lot.  That seems to be a community parking area for people who are living on the road.  My first night (or really just 1/3 of a night) in the car didn’t involve much sleeping.  My brain was still churning quite a bit.  It usually takes me a few nights to grow accustomed to new sleeping quarters, even under the best of circumstances.  But I did manage to sleep.

It was raining and cold, and I was concerned that I would freeze so I planned ahead and bought two warm down comforters.  That turned out to be overkill.  I was roasting hot, and had to kick off the comforters to avoid cooking!

Down sides…  I couldn’t open the windows very much, because of the rain.  I did crack one open slightly and got a tiny bit of rain in the car as a result.  But it really fogged up inside the car.  I must get some side window deflectors, so I can open the windows a little, even when it’s raining.

I have one more item on the way, which I hope will make a HUGE improvement in the sleeping arrangements.  But that’s a story for another day.