Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014

I can't wait for 2014 to arrive. If my plans / wishes / procrastinated daydreaming come true, this is going to be a big year for me...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

US Trip 2013 Part 2: The Sightseeings

The first timers to Northern Colorado would head to the Rocky Mountains National Park via Estes Park. They would go to downtown Fort Collins and snap a lot of photos. If they are more inclined towards big cities they would head down to Denver and shoot more than 1000 photos.

I am not that. So I am not doing those stuff. Anyway because of the bad floods that destroyed the road leading towards Estes Park, you can't get there even if you had wanted to.

On weekdays there is nothing much to do. It is winter, and when you get off work at 5PM, this is what the sky looks like:


Forget sightseeings, you don't even feel like going to a restaurant for dinner!

Weekends I try to stay in the hotel, spending quality time with apple ale and Netflix and the hotel gym, but I did get some road trips packed in partly thanks to Avis who forced me to drive down to Denver Airport every Saturday.

Loveland Pass:

Well it is a mountain pass that goes parallel with the big long tunnel of the I-70 if you drive from Denver heading towards Vail/Grand Junction. Don't ask me to explain geography, go do your own read up on Wikipedia and whatnot.

The great thing about this pass is, there are 2 ski resorts that is located along this pass, and the Continental Divide cuts across right here.

What sucks was, the day I decided to hit this pass, it had been snowing. While the temperature warmed up enough to clear up the road, it did not clear up the ice on the side paths and parking spots. So I wasn't able to stop where the Continental Divide is. The only places safe enough to stop is when I got to the end of the pass and reached Dillon,


and somewhere that oversees part of the Arapahoe Ski Basin.


Well the story behind this photo, it was the one time I tried to stop at a snow covered side strip, and that was all it took to convince me that I should not be doing that ever again. You see I saw a spot where there were some car tire tracks, so I thought that place was safe to stop. So in I went,


took the photo, got back into my car, put the gear to D, turned the steering wheel left and tried to get out of that place. But what happened was the car turned towards the right instead. So I stopped, shifted down to L, depressed the accelerator fully and tried again. And the car turned right again. I spent 1 minute panicking, and then remembered, I could go out the way I came in. So I put the gear in reverse and re-traced my entry path. Thank god that worked.

It was the same at the Continental Divide area. Basically no cars dared to stop, so what we all did was slow down, capture the scenery with our eyes, and got on with life. I don't have a photo of myself to show for this place, but basically this is how it normally looks:


Colorado Springs:

This is another trip that I made while going to Avis to have my rental car issues sorted. I basically have 0 semi decent photos to show for this trip, because I spent 100% of the time in my car.

You see I had 2 places that I wanted to hit in this town. The first was a restaurant called The Airplane Restaurant. As the name suggested, it is an airplane converted into a restaurant. My GPS found the restaurant, so off I went, spent one and a half hours stuck in I-25 traffic jam (it gets as terrible as the ones on Penang Bridge, mind you). Upon arriving at the location highlighted by the GPS, I found myself staring at an empty field beside the airport! Spent another half an hour driving around nearby area to see if I can find the restaurant, and failed.

So I head off to the 2nd place in mind, the Garden of the Gods. Well this place I found all right, what I did not expect was the scarcity of parking spaces. I first tried the visitor center, no luck there. Then I drove into the rock garden itself, found no empty parking spots along the way, and discovered that when we got out of the garden, it was the other side of town and had to drive 3 miles back to the entrance. Superb! So back I went, for another 2 times, then I got so fed up that I left. So this is the only picture I got of the Garden of the Gods, taken from my car...


It was frustrating and disappointing, but the horrible jams on the I-25 (I've been told that it is normal) meant that no, if up to me, I would not be going to Colorado Springs for sightseeing ever again.

Benson Sculpture Park/Lake Loveland:

Loveland is famous for sculptures. I did not know that on my previous trips. This time I was suitably enlightened, so I went to the nearby sculpture park on 1 of the weekends. Basically it is a park next to Lake Loveland, and is covered with many lovely sculptures. It is free of charge and not crowded, so it is a good place to go for a walk. I walked all the way to Lake Loveland and back. It was about 3 or 4 miles of walk, good exercise.









Boyd Lake:

Another good exercise I had. This place is just like 5 minutes drive from where I was staying, trying to keep it close. The Boyd Lake State Park is actually surrounded by seven lakes, Boyd Lake being the largest. I parked at a small car park in a housing area overseeing one of these smaller lakes. It was another 3 or 4 miles worth of good walk.






So well, that's about as much as I have to show for my US Trip #4 sightseeing, and pretty much as much as I want to talk about of my trip this time.

Of course there are a few moments of "What happens in Colorado, stays in Colorado" that I shall only keep locked in my heart =P.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

US Trip 2013 Part 1: The Life

Last September - October, I was in the States again. Going to the same place, Loveland again. Difference was this time, I was there for 7 weeks.

Being there before, and then being there for semi-long term, life was... not as colorful as my first 2 trips. This time around I did not spend the jet lag period in San Francisco or Los Angeles, I shot straight to Loveland to get settled down.

I'm not going to make 15 or 20 posts of my trip this time, just a couple for my personal record and maybe for you to waste your time going through.

FOOD:

Nothing special about the food, it's not like American food has changed. I still had burgers, omelettes, and some Asian food.





I also did a bit of cooking myself because 1) Almost 2 months of meat and eggs and semi decent Asian food is kind of depressing and 2) my suite in Residence Inn has a built in kitchen so it was a waste not to utilize it.

I mostly made soup (the Asian ones which Americans would probably call broth) and boiled vegetables, with a couple of half ass-ed attempt at DIY western platter.




Oh I also discovered a new cafe in downtown Denver. That place is called "Makan". You get the idea what kind of cafe that is =P. It's kind of bloody expensive though, if you ask me. I mean, it is actually quite normal for a plate of food to cost $10 in the US of A, but for that price you usually get an overflowing plate of food with lots of meat/chicken/shrimps that you can usually eat half and pack half to go. Well I had a Malaysian portioned basic Nasi Lemak with no rendang or curry chicken for $10 also. The taste is up there though, so if any Malaysians in Colorado who is desperate for a taste of home, you can give this place a try: Makan Malaysia Cafe, Denver.


Oh and I also discovered liar product packaging DO happen over here too. See I bought this pack of Lay's one day from the office's vending machine because of the product name and picture.


But the inside:


Same old bloody potato chips!

RIDES:

Avis was pretty frustrating this time. They made mistake after mistake after mistake, stuff like mis-charged credit card, wrong car information in the contract, gave me a car that leaks gas, gave me a car that was overdue for service, and so on. I had to drive back and forth between Loveland and Denver Airport (45 minutes drive one way) almost every weekend. And I had to drive 3 different cars.

First up was a Chevrolet Impala. I don't think they sell this in Malaysia. Malaysia has the Cruze and Optra. Honestly I don't know why they bother with so many models. Cruze, Optra, Impala, Malibu (and who knows if there is more) are 4 models of the same segment and look more or less the same. Why won't they just focus on 1 specific model? Beats me.

I had this car for 3 weeks. It is actually a good car, make no mistake. It has decent power and corners fairly well. At first I was really pleased with this car, but belatedly, after 2 weeks, when I switched the front panel display to Fuel Range, I discovered that whenever I leave the car some place for more than a few hours, I lost 20 to 30 miles of range. Bloody hell. I once had those big 5.6L V8 Mercury, and it does 450 miles on a tank. This car gave me 220 miles tops. So off I went back to get a car change.


My second car, a Dodge Avenger. This is actually also a decent car. It doesn't come with fancy stuff like seat heating, the interior is pretty basic, but it goes like a rocket when you want it to. I pushed it to 110 mph at the I-25 (highway) once. Problem: Avis called me 1 week later telling me that this car was supposed to be sent for service and somehow was mistakenly given to me. Wonderful...


So I got my 3rd car. I did not take a photo of it, it is a car that you can see easily in Malaysian streets. Here's what happened when I asked for a car selection though:

Me: Can you give me something with AWD? It's been snowing on and off and the road is slippery now. Maybe something like a Japanese or Korean SUV?
Avis: Oh I'm so sorry, we don't have Japanese or Korean makes here. It's all American. We do have some lovely SUVs though.
Me: Ok. What have you got?
Avis: I have with me right now, a Mitsubishi Outlander, a Hyundai Santa Fe, and a Kia Sportage.
Me: ...... (3 seconds)
Me: I'd take the Kia.

Amazing right?

SNOWING:

Seriously, mates, it is NOT FUN AT ALL! When it snows means it is damn cold and the road is very slippery and dangerous to drive on. That is after you painstakingly clear the snow and ice away from the car.


Although in hindsight, I guess I am lucky I came back at the right time. As I am writing this, Colorado is hit by Siberian freeze. From what I read in the weather alerts that is still being e-mailed to me, the temperature this time will hit a 20 years record low. It is expected to go down to -25 degrees Celsius. And they expect to see more than 1 foot of snow. Take care, all the Coloradoans.

SHOPPING:

Didn't do much shopping, and especially didn't frequent the outlet stores much this time. In fact, I did most of my shopping online this time. I find it much more convenient as most of the stores (like Macy's) have their own websites, and the choices on the web is more extensive and almost zero risk of out of stock. And the prices is the same as the store. The discounts you get from the store, you get online too.

Not gonna talk about the clothes, shoes or Levi's that I bought. I did buy an interesting pair of shoes though. Ladies and gentlemen, say hi to my pair of Vibram FiveFingers.


I also bought some awesome Barney Stinson inspired merchandise from the TV series How I Met Your Mother. It's an awesome series by the way.


 OTHERS:
 
Other than that, life was pretty routine for me on weekdays. Go to work, come back from work, buy/cook dinner, eat dinner while continue to do Penang side works, watch How I Met Your Mother (8 seasons of awesomeness) or the circus show called the News on the Government Shutdown.


 Accompanied by cheap booze. I'm officially in love with Apple Ale by the way.