Tag Archives: Travel

San Diego – Day Two – We Lost Our Son at LegoLand

Getting out fairly early, after a breakfast of toaster waffles, we headed towards Legoland, which is 20-30 miles north of our hotel. First we had to stop at a nearby (to LegoLand) outlet mall and pick up our three-day passes to San Diego’s major attractions. While we were there I stopped, for the very first time, at Hot Dog on a Stick. Although I love corn dogs, and their name is fairly explanitory of what they sell, I was still rather surprise at their limited menu. Hot dog on a stick, cheese on a stick, hot dog on a bun, lemonade, fries… yep, that’s it. And they were turkey dogs to boot.

It was almost lunchtime and my justification for stopping for a snack was that food prices in theme parks are frequently akin to rape… and not just rape, but prison rape. My hope was to last through the day and then proceed to Shakey’s Pizza afterwards. (More on that later.)

LegoLand is… well, what can I say? It’s an amusement park, mostly just rides for smaller children (2-12) with lots of Lego statues. Their artwork is impressive – but I feel if I had access to an unlimited number of every Lego ever made, I could probably make an elephant, too.IMG_6378

I’m not very impressed by how the park is run, and I can give two examples. Although every ride has height requirement and they are posted at each ride; however, for some reason they don’t work very well. I saw no fewer than five instances where children (and their parents) were turned back at the boarding of the ride. Height requirements were enforced strictly at the last possible moment. The displays at the beginning of the line look like they ought to be clear, but at one point even we were scratching our heads over what the requirements were.

Considering how devastated the children who were turned away were, perhaps a re-think of their system is in order.

Second example: Children get easily lost in some of the play areas. There are large playgrounds where the parents and children enter, the children can play, the parents can watch, but in some places, the children can exit the playground out of sight of the parents.

In the first case, I saw a young asian girl (maybe 3 or 4) come down a ladder/slide thing that lead to the outside of the play area. Her guardian was obviously still inside, probably on the ground floor. Who would expect an exit on the second floor? The child popped out, looked around and had no clue how to get back into the play area, she headed off. At first she seemed to know where she was going. I kept watching her as she soon started to look worried, then started crying.

I got up to go help her when a woman came up to her and started holding her hand. Not her mother – just a kindly stranger noticing a child in distress. She hadn’t seen her come out of the playground, so I went to her to tell her where the child came from. They got her back to her mother – who never saw her leave the play area.

Second instance, different playground, same scenario, different child – ours. There’s a large playground with lots of ladders and climbing things and slides. The parents can come along, but not all the parts are suitable for adults. There are alternate paths up and down for the parents and kids. Michelle and James went up (to a third lever) to come down the slides and only Michelle came down.

I ran up, James wasn’t there. I ran back down, James still hadn’t come down. Then I look through the playground (we are standing at the back) and see a woman walking James towards the exit. He is crying. I shout to him, but he can’t hear me. I also can’t get to him because you have to go all the way around the playground to get there. Apparently there is another slide that leads to the opposite side of the playground.

I run around the front, pushing slow, old women with strollers out of the way and get to the front – they’re not there. I run to the guy “guarding” the entrance. I say to him, “I just saw a woman walking my son towards this exit. He may have gotten lost. Did she bring him to you?”

“No, what did he look like?”

“Small boy, four years old, brown hair.”

“Nah, I didn’t see anything. What kind of clothes was he wearing?”

“Blue shirt, pants, white hat.”

“What type of hat?”

“White, Gilligan hat.”

“Were his pants long or shorts?”

“Ummmmm, actually, I’m not sure.”

Now, mind you, he’s not the slightest bit concerned or even giving any impression that this is something he should even really give a rat’s ass about.

Just about then a woman (“the” woman) comes up behind me and says, “Was his name James?” After I confirm she says, “He went back in there. He seemed lost and I tried to help him but he wouldn’t let me take him anywhere.” She pointed in the direction he went and there he was.

Case solved, but I ask myself, “Would the LegoLand employee have actually tried to do anything?” The playground was designed in such a way as it was easy for him to go down a completely wrong direction, and then it was not easy to get from the front to the back. What if he’d tried to wander out of the area? Would the Lego Guy have stopped him? Are there even any basic controls in place to stop children from leaving the play area unattended?

The whole place seemed rather lacksidasical.

…and then we got hungry and had to eat. 2 slices of pizza, 1 salad, 1 cup of fruit, 4 breadsticks, 4 sodas…. Over $40!

Otherwise, LegoLand… ehhhhh, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not too keen on amusement parks to begin with.

So it was off to the highlight of the day: Shakey’s Pizza!

San Diego – Day One – iPhone 3GS on the road

It’s a bit of a fudge to call this “day one”. Any trip road trip to San Diego involves basically wasting all day on the 376.01 mile drive over. Even though we left at 8:30AM, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until 5:00PM.

It’s really one barren, desolate wasteland, with Yuma smack dab in the middle. It’s a lovely town, Yuma, and one that I’m sure most Arizonans would willingly cede to California, if only that darned Colorado River didn’t make such an obvious border. Personally, I wouldn’t cede Yuma to California. I’d like to trade it for the Imperial Dunes, where they shot the Dune Sea sequences of Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi.

To be fair, Yuma does have two things of interest: The last remaining Round Table Pizza in Arizona and the last remaining Village Inn Pizza in Arizona. On the way over, we stopped at Round Table for a bit of nostalgia for the taste buds.IMG_0083

We’ll be having Village Inn nostalgia pizza on the way home.

Shortly after we checked into our room at the Woodfin San Diego, which seems like a nice hotel, situated right next to a huge Qualcomm complex, the fire alarms sounded and we had to evacuate. As the fire trucks arrived, we decided to go to dinner. Michelle, who had to leave her toys behind was in tears, worrying that one of her favorite toys was going to be destroyed in the fire.

We browsed a nearby shopping area and found Luong Hai Ky, the Original Chinese Noodle Shop and had a decent batch of noodle soups. I had beef, the kids had duck and Irene tried the seafood. All agreed that it was good, but was more Vietnamese than ChineseIMG_0092

Our room has a kitchenette, so we stopped by the nearby Fresh & Easy to get some supplies for the morning and headed back to the hotel. The hotel was still standing and there was no sign of a fire, so we turned in early.

Looking back at my previous San Diego trip, I commented how incredibly helpful having my MacBook was. In that instance, we’d return to the room and could make all our plans with everything at our fingertips each night. This time, I’m on my first “real” trip with an iPhone, which should extend my information store to 24X7 and geo-aware. So how well did it do on the first day?

We lost the 3G signal just before we reached the last major housing developments on the west side of Phoenix – about 20 miles out from home, leaving me with the older, slower Edge connection. Since this was just like my original iPhone – well, it was disappointing, but I was used to it – and, I’d rather have slow internet than no internet – even if all I did was just continue to receive e-mail from work.

We never got 3G back until we arrived well into the suburbs of San Diego.

After you leave Yuma, you travel very close to the Mexican border. The new border fence is often within sight of the freeway, At one point, at a gas station that doesn’t even seem to appear on Google Maps, you’re so close that both my iPhone (on AT&T) and Chu-Wan’s phone (T-Mobile) started receiving SMS messages saying, in effect, “Welcome to Mexico”. The iPhone message included a note that said, “International Data Roaming rates are in effect at $19.97 per megabyte.” Youch! Luckily I have International Data Roaming turned off – as should everyone, unless they intentionally are planning to use it. What would have happened if we’d driven past the border just as a bit e-mail with attachment had arrived?

Inside San Diego, the iPhone Maps application gave different directions than did my Garmin GPS. We went with the GPS directions only because traffic was looking a little ugly on the Maps route – although we had to travel through the only “solid red” traffic problem in San Diego no matter which route we took.

At the room, we quickly used the iPhone to locate a nearby shopping area, and were easily able to check out restaurant reviews before we chose our dinner location. So far, that’s all good.

Now the bad: battery life. It’s appalling. When using GPS features, even plugged into the car for charging the battery is being drained at an incredible rate. Using the GPS while plugged in for over an hour and the battery only charged 2%. It was literally draining as fast as it could charge. I kept the phone on the charger for much of the drive. It was 100% charged in Yuma. 53% when we reached San Diego 3 hours later. It was charging in the room when the fire alarm sounded and was back up to 75% and was down again to 50% at bed time.

On Day Two (which is actually today) at Legoland, I’ll try to conserve a bit. Typically, at home, I get one day out of a charge and typically have 25-30% charge left. Here’s hoping 3.1 OS will improve this!

It’s a big world out there…

Darn it, I never get to do Internet memes! So I’m just going to do one on my own:

This is where I’ve been in the world, and when you put on a map, there’s a whole lot of world left to see:

visited 7 states (3.11%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project

And this is the US

visited 19 states (38%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or try another Douwe Osinga project

Where to go in the UK?

So, the world’s in financial turmoil, and things are likely to get a lot worse before they get better. My employer (and technically speaking, my wife’s, too) is $1 billion over budget this year. People are worried about their jobs. Prices are up. Sales are down. Fuel Prices/Airfare are outrageous. The UK is one of the most expensive places to visit.

But, dammit, I promised my daughter a cricket match and a trip to the British Museum of Natural History for her birthday, and I aim to keep that promise. At least it is still 8 months away.

(Video after the jump…)

Continue reading Where to go in the UK?

Fast Passport


How often do I get the chance to compliment someone on a job well done? It seems all I’m ever doing is pointing out the flaws. Well, today is different.

Kudos and thanks to (of all people) the US Government, passport office!

I submitted my expired passport, by snail mail, Friday June 6th. My replacement passport arrived, by mail, today, June 14th. Subtracting out one day each way, they got that processed in 7 calendar days. They haven’t even cashed the check, yet!

Not only did I receive my passport by priority mail, but, in a separate mailing, standard mail, I received my old passport back, too. That has a postmark, so I know it was mailed two days ago. They must have processed my passport in 6 days. Amazing.

That’s nowhere near the 6 weeks they tell you to expect. I pity the people who pay the extra fee for expedited service.

Once again, I’m free to roam the world, and my new passport book is rather sad because it’s empty…

Looking at my old one, I have all those stamps and visas:

  • Taiwan 15 May 1998 to 24 May 1998
  • Taiwan 15 Dec 1998 to 20 Dec 2000
  • Singapore 20 Dec 1998 to 26-Dec-1998
  • Taiwan 26 Dec 1998 to 05 Jan 1999
  • London Gatwick 21 Jul 2000 – No exit stamp – I guess I never left
  • Taiwan 26 Mar 2000 – 22 Apr 2000
  • Tokyo Narita 01 Jun 2001 to 05 Jun 2001
  • Taiwan 05 Jun 2001 to 25 Jun 2001
  • Taiwan 15 Jan 2003 to 20 Feb 2003
  • Taiwan 29 Sep 2005 to 07 Nov 2005
  • Taiwan 05 Jun 2007 to 25 Jun 2007

They’ve all been fun, but looking at the list, I think we’re in a bit of a rut… and that’s why we’re UK-bound in Jun 2009…