We went to yosemite this weekend.

Got up at 5AM, and left the hotel around 6:30AM. USA is criscrossed by highways - and makes it quite fast to travel by road. There is almost no public transport apparant, and everyone travels by their car. So, whatever road you take, there is always a lot of vehicular traffic no matter what the hour.

After an hour of driving, we entered a zone of ... fog ! We could not see much ahaead - and yet the cars were moving at insane speeds.

Its quite boring driving in a fog. Just like driving at night - not much to see around. Well, that really does not make much of a difference. You see, most places you cannot even stop the car and get out to stretch your legs. You need to turn off from the highway and stop. Frankly - gives me a captive feeling. Feels like a captive !

That's when I saw this biker ... and man, was I homesick for my bikes.

On a bike, you always are in touch with the elements. You feel the fog - not just see it as in a car. You can smell the smells. As you pass from sunshine to fog, you feel the chill. But in a car - its like TV. The only difference being that you can feel the viberations in the car. But, apart from that - there is no adventure in a car.

Around 10AM we were out of the fog and moving up mountain terrains. We stopped for a photo shoot at a 'vista point'. These are places where you are 'allowed' to stop and see the scenery. No doubt these places are well chosen - but what about the scenery I saw a couple of miles back which I wanted to capture ? Nope - you cannot stop there... cause thats the way it is !

We reached yosemite park at 11:30am. The entry fee there is $20 for a weeks pass. There is no such thing as a day pass. I thought that now we were in a forest, it would be different from the places we had just left. How wrong I was. The so called 'forest' is picturesqe no doubt - but there is no wildness left in it. It could be a well maintained park - nice smooth roads - freshly painted lane markers. clean roads - with no leaves on them also. Deer crossing signs - man the deers here are smart - they know exactly where to cross the roas ! Sheesh !!

There was some snow around the road edges as we entered Yosemite. Shrirang got quite excited (he is the big guy in the pic below), and wanted to touch the snow ! Just like a small kid ! So, we naturally had to stop for a pic !

Our first view of 'Half Dome' a cliff shaped like a half dome came soon after. But we could only stop a few turns later at another of these vista points. There was a chinese couple there who obliged us by taking a group photo .

Nice perfect winding roads brought us down from the mountains into the Yosemite valley. We stopped at a point where we could go to the banks of a stream. A group of cyclists came there. I guess that would be best way to go around the park - on a cycle. This park is quite tame !

Finally reached Yosemite Falls.

Went to the Yosemite Village - a supermarket by another name - where you can also get trinkets. Picked up a few for remembrance. We also hiked to the base of the yosemite falls - it was overrun by visitors there. We started back quite soon. I wanted to go go to see the giant redwood trees, but the one grove on our path was a hike of 1.6 miles - which was more than what the other guys with me wanted to do. So, i guess I will see someother time.

Dont get me wrong. The place is magnificent. The beauty is gorgeous. But, its too civilized and over run by people. Its like Lonavla but with better roads, no public transport and cleaner air.

Not a jungle if you are used to the Indian jungles. Places like the Corbett National Park would blow you away. You get the 'feel' of being in a jungle which Yosemite just never did. Kind of Disappointing.

Shiver me Timber !

Its tough being a pirate king. That's what I have been for the last 2 days now. And its quite a chore having your island all shipshape for the pirates to share their booty with you !

DISCLAIMER : If you are the politically correct types , or dont like pirates - dont read after this point.

What am I talking about ? I bought a new computer game last weekend - which has become very addictive very fast. The game is called TROPICO 2 : Pirate Cove

I had heard about this games precursor - TROPICO, where you were a dictator who had to set up his island economy for people to spend their hard earned money . But T2 changes the premise entirely. What really caught my attention about this game was the text on the back of the box - " As a Pirate King, rule a secret pirate island fill of despicable 17th centrury Sea Dogs. Fuel your ecomomy by plundering wealthy merchant ships and taking prisoners back to the island as captive workers. ... Argh, there ain't nuttin like bein' a Pirate King!

So, I ended up being a Pirate King of an island. There are 2 types of people on my island - the captives - who do the work i tell them. And the Pirates, who get plunder for me. To keep the pirates happy, I need to have good food and grog for the pirates ... and some entertainment in the form of Gambling dens and .. uhum... a few wenches ;)!

To keep the pirates happy, and keep the captives resigned to their fate ( make them quake in fear !) is the toughest part of the game, but as a good Pirate King - its something that I do with aplomb.

So all in all, its a great game. The stuff I like about the game are :
* A lilting carribean music background. You feel like getting up and dancing.
* A pirate sidekick who helps you in figuring out what to do next with witty comments like "Can't shiver me timber - without any timber" - which tells ya that your wood supplies are quite low. You need wood for most of the building your build on the island as well as the pirate ships you would need to build.
* Chimps and cats on the island. You move your cursor over them , and you are rewarded with their thoughts . Thoughts like 'Server me human' from the cats, and 'Bananas . I need bananas' from the chimps !
* You stash your booty in - what else - a Skull cave.
* Your piratey captains become better if you gift them with stuff like peglegs or a parrot !
* and ummm.. the wenches ;)

righto now. I better get back to bettering my island economy now !

May the Force be with you

You know, sometimes thing stare you into the face and you dont e ven see them - until some event triggers it. I recently bought the box set of the StarWars DVD selection. ..

And while rewatching the series, I discovered that the Force is with me. And I am a Jedi. Jedi Vibhu.

For the uninitiated , the website http://www.jedism.com , gives an overview of Jedism. Now, the information is quite accurate except for the fact that they mistakenly identify Jedism as a religion. It is not. Jedism is a way of life .

Just driving through !

Yesterday we went on a drive. The destination was a town called 'Big Sur' - which was nothing in itself - the drive was through some very scenic locations.

We stopped by the shoreside and there was this old chapel just off the road.

The seashore was nothing great. Small beaches set admist rocks.

View from the car. Mostly you just can't stop the car where you would want to. That luxury is not there . Only places where the roads have a big enough shoulder can you stop the car. So, you miss out on most of the picture opportunities that are there as they just whizz past going at 50mph (80kmph). The car which we have has automatic transmission. Now, this is great for most people - but for me and my friend Nikhil (who did most of the driving), it has serious disadvantages - especially on twisting roads. If you really want to know how to drive , get a non-automatic car - or a 'stick shift' car as it is called here.

The route we followed was highway 1. Quite scenic. Blue seas ... ooops ! That is the Pacific ocean :D .

The route goes over quite a few bridges. This is the Bixby bridge ... The wind was quite a lot here, and felt quite nice ruffling through my hair.

We went as far as the Big Sur Tourist information center. There are quite a few trails from here if you are interested in hiking around. The fall colours ( or autumn as we know it) are quite nice.

Leonardo Da Vinci - robotocist ?

Ever since reading the 'Da Vinci Code', I have become facinated by this genius. Here is another link I got today about the person.

Napa Valley and SFO

This Saturday we had gone to Napa Valley (famous for vineyards - hic ! ) and San Francisco (SFO).

It being a holiday, there were a lot bikers on the roads. These 2 harley chaps were chugging along merrily making a huge rukuss on their bikes...

We took the longer route to Napa - which went through SFO and the Golden Gate bridge. We lost some time in SFO due to traffic and because we took a wrong turn. The city map of SFO came in handy there - and we reached the Golden Gate bridge - which was shrouded by fog ! The interesting part was that the fog was only around the bridge - while elsewhere the sky was clear and sunny !

We reached Napa Downtown around 2 and had lunch there.

Then we went to the different vineyards ... for wine tasting. What a missed opportunity for me - since i was the designated driver , and being a non drinker ! For $5 you get to sip 4 differnt types of vines ! The following pics are of Napa...

We only got to visit 2 wineries - Rutherford and Beringer.

Return was also via SFO - though this time we took another route (880 south, 80) into SFO. We reached well after dark and went to union square , before going to Stinking Rose ( its a place where all the food has tons of garlic in it - to keep the vampires away ;) ).

The following pics are of the ceiling of Stinking Rose !

Returned back around 12:30 am. But that was fun !

Bikes !

We have a new car on rent now. Its a Ford, which my friend calls "laal raani" !

Went to check out some motorcycling gear. The place stocks mostly Firtgear stuff , and I was drooling allover the Leather jackets. Unfortunately they cost around $500, so quite out of range for me. So after Drooling over the jackets, I decided to drool over the bikes there.

Trying out the jacket.

From left to right, The Honda Goldwing. The ST1300. The Ducati 999s. The Vulcans.

Halloween at the office.

Friday we had a halloween party at the office. While everyone was expected to wear costumes and come, only a few were brave enough.

Here is Ed - the shark got him

and here is the Sumo Wrestler .. "John San"!

The complete lineup of the contestants :

And this pumpkin won the pumpkin prize !!