Eagle Flying Overhead

Going to Alaska

Seattle has had beautiful weather over the past month. Summer arrived early and we have been trying to make the most of it. We have had long days with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Beautiful views of the mountains and lots of wildlife from the Briny Beach Cabin.

What do you do when you are in the perfect place at the perfect time of the year with perfect weather? Well, you go somewhere guaranteed to rain. We are going to Alaska. Specifically, we are taking a National Geographic Lindblad Expedition Cruise. We will be exploring a portion of the Inside Passage for eight days. Check back here, TwitterInstagram, and Youtube for regular updates and ultimately a review of the experience.

We are excited for the adventure.

The main walkway in Cars Land.

How do FastPasses Work at Disneyland

Crowds at Disneyland can be a deterrent. For most of us, it is difficult to go when the park is not completely full. School and work schedules generally make it tough to go during off-peak times. However, it is still possible to get onto all of the top attractions during your visit.

The first way to maximize your ride time and minimize your time spent standing in line is to plan your day and go first thing in the morning. We have found that you can get up to ten rides done, including several popular rides before lunch. The parks get very crowded by 11 AM, but if you are there at rope drop, you can really get a lot done.

Now the key to making the most of your visit is understanding how to use the FastPass system. FastPass is Disney’s way to allow guests to make a reservation on a ride. When you have a FastPass you bypass the majority of a given ride’s queue. Less time spent standing in line means more time on rides. The most popular attractions can have lines in excess of an hour. That is a long time spent standing in line.

The FastPass Entrance next to the Standby Entrance for Indy

FastPass Entrance for Indiana Jones. This bypasses the entire exterior part of the queue.

A few key points to remember. Not all rides have a FastPass available. Make sure you know which ones have them and where they are. There is a limited number of FastPasses for each ride per day. You can hold one FastPass until your FastPass return time, then you can get another one. This is key. If you do it right you should always have a FastPass in hand.

Here is how it works. Find the FastPass Distribution. They are near the ride entrance but you may have to look around a little bit. You will want to know what the FastPass return time is, there is a sign near the distribution. As the day goes on, the FastPass return time will be later and later from when you retrieve your FastPass. You have an hour in your return window. Be sure you will be in that part of the park when your return time rolls around.

Matterhorn FastPass Distribution across from the Matterhorn entrance

Matterhorn FastPass Distribution across from the Matterhorn entrance

You have found the FastPass Distribution. Go up to one of the machines and have your park tickets ready. Put your park ticket into the top slot.

Insert your Park Ticket in the top slot

Insert your Park Ticket in the top slot

Your FastPass reminder ticket will come out of the bottom slot. Take it with you to remind you when to return. It’s also a nice memory of your trip.

Waiting to get your FastPass Reminder

Waiting to get your FastPass Reminder

 

FastPass Reminder of your Reservation

FastPass Reminder of your Reservation

Now you have your FastPasses in hand. They tell you when to return for your reservation. They are linked to your park ticket, you do not actually need the reminder. When you return to ride you go to the FastPass entrance instead of the Stand By entrance. You scan your park tickets and go on in, bypassing the bulk of the line.

FastPass Reminder tickets for Indiana Jones

FastPass Reminder tickets for Indiana Jones

You will want to be strategic. If the return time is an hour from now, you will likely want to stay in that part of the park. Plan what you are going to do. What rides nearby have a short line, or maybe get something to eat, catch a parade or a show. If the return time is hours from now, just be sure you have planned a few things to do between now and then.

A couple of quick notes. There are also FastPasses for shows. You can get a FastPass for Fantasmic! in Disneyland and Worlds of Color in California Adventure. It is best to get these right when you get to the park. You can hold FastPasses for shows and still get FastPasses for rides. Also, your FastPass reservation will show up in the Disneyland mobile app if you use that. That is a nice way to check your reminder without having to pull out pieces of paper.

Here are the rides that currently have FastPasses available.

In Disneyland

In California Adventure

Give the FastPass system a try on your next trip.

 

The Boosted Board Remote

150 Miles on the Boosted Board

It has been two months and I have put over 150 miles on my Boosted Board. I was not sure how quickly I would adopt to riding the board, but I have used it to commute to and from the train almost daily since getting it. That is a little less than 2 miles each way. The board has delivered everything I was hoping for.

Someone’s first ride on the Boosted

First the quality of the ride and the remote connection has been perfect. The board has disconnected from the remote exactly once so far. It was right after I started it up, so I assume it probably never paired. It goes over bumps, cracks and obstacles very well. As my confidence has grown I find myself maxing out the speed more and more often. I graduated to Pro mode within about two weeks of first riding it.

The board has proven itself to be useful not only as a last mile commute option but real transportation. I have used it to go to run errands. I have used it to open up myself to taking the bus where it is hard to get close to my actual destination. I can use the board, with the extended range battery, to comfortably go around 10 miles.

The most interesting part is how much of a conversation starter the board is. At least twice a week I have had perfect strangers come up and ask me about it. Many have seen them around and are genuinely curious about the utility of the board. Almost all of them have been very friendly. I did have one woman come up to me and tell me that “those things should be banned from going 50 mph on the sidewalk and running everyone over.” I had to agree with her on that sentiment. But since the board doesn’t go anywhere near 50, nor could I imagine that, I decided she did not mean me.

At any rate, the quality has been excellent. After 150 miles the board still looks pretty much brand new. I have jumped off a few curbs so they are some scrapes on the skid plates. However, the board itself is perfectly fine, other than a little dirty. Overall, I totally recommend it as the last mile solution. Plus it adds a bit of fun to each end of my workday commute.

New Electric Skateboard in the shipping box.

New Board is Here!!!

Yep, the board is here. I decided to get an electric skateboard back in December then spent a few months researching until I picked a board. I had narrowed my choices down to three, and ultimately picked the Boosted Board. The only negative against the Boosted was the seven mile range. Ease of use, reliability and weight were all much better than my other two choices. However, price is what drove me over in the end. Boosted dropped their prices by 20%. I have to assume they are blowing out inventory in anticipation of their next generation of boards. Since this is my first board I’m happy to get a deal on a proven board. They have also allegedly solved the range issue. They are shipping extended range batteries that should push the range up toward twelve miles.

New Boosted Board in the box

Brand new Boosted Board in the box and my daughter's feet.

Brand new Boosted Board in the box and my daughter’s feet.

Here is everything that comes in the box with the Boosted Board.

Here is everything that comes in the box with the Boosted Board.

The Boosted Board Remote

The Boosted Board Remote

Someone’s first ride on the Boosted

I of course had to take it for a spin as soon as I unboxed it. It as simple to ride as I was hoping. The acceleration and braking are smooth. I have no problem imaging myself riding it in the city. I graduated from beginner mode to eco mode in about five minutes. It blasts up the very steep hills around here even on eco mode. Finally, it is fun. I hadn’t quite realized how fun it would be to ride one of these compared to a regular longboard. It is like going downhill all the time.

Choosing my First Electric Skateboard

This year, I have decided to experiment with an electric skateboard to solve the “Last Mile Commute Problem”. Step one is picking my first electric skateboard. There are lots of resources for learning about these devices. You can read Reddit, lots of videos on Youtube, vendor pages and generally search the Internet for reviews and opinions. The first thing I learned is that electric skateboards have been around for a long time. Even with this long history the technology is rapidly evolving. The second thing I learned is that there is no perfect all-around solution for everyone. Each board has good and less good stuff about it.

My first decision I realized was to determine if I wanted to go the DIY route. Seems fun but not at this time for me. That sent me evaluating production boards. The next interesting tidbit was that there are lots of boards manufactured from Chinese parts. It is easy to buy a complete board from a Chinese company, or you can buy a Chinese board that has been marketed by an American company, just for a significant markup. Some of these boards were compelling. However, in the end I wanted a board that would come with good customer service from a company that was clearly trying to build a brand and move the technology forward.

Next up I had to figure out what traits were important to me when I was evaluating boards. This boiled down to range, speed, weight, ease of use and reliability. The downside of my EUC is that it is difficult to get started going uphill if you don’t have something to hold onto. My EUC is 25 pounds and you do not want to carry that for long distances. After the EUC experience I knew I wanted to get under the 25 pound mark. My ride is only about 2 miles each way and I can charge the board at the office. I also know that I’d like to go on longer rides on the weekend so I was looking for something in the neighborhood of 12 miles of range. I do not need the fastest board, but I also do not want the slowest board. I assume I will get more and more comfortable and be able to increase my speed as I do. I wanted a remote that had smooth acceleration and braking and had a reliable connection. This was how I began to evaluate boards.

I wound up with three interesting boards. First, the Boosted Board, which seem to be very common and it is a US company out of the Bay Area. Second, was the Evolve Carbon or GTX. They have a US distributor for an Australian company. Finally, I was very intrigued by the One Wheel. This is from another US company out of Santa Cruz and the board embodies the snowboard/surfboard style. Boosted Boards are available at several shops in town. They have had a great marketing campaign and several YouTube VLogers have made them famous, especially Casey Neistat. The Boosted comes in around 15 pounds, 7 mile range, 22 mph top speed and reviews all claim it is one of the most user friendly boards and remotes. The range was the only negative on this board, but if I can charge it at the office maybe this is not such a big deal. Price for the board around $1400.

The Evolve boards have an all-terrain wheel option which is compelling given all the cracks and bumps in the pavement on my way to the train. The boards come in around 21 pounds for the all-terrain option, 17 pounds for street. They have an amazing range of 18-31 miles depending on the wheels you are running. A top speed in the 22-26 mph area. The remote is reportedly twitchy especially in GT mode. Their v1 remote had an issue dropping the connection to the board quite often. That is supposed to have been fixed by the v2 remote that boards ship with now. I like Evolve because they appear to be innovating and the option of street or all-terrain would be nice. Price for the 2 in 1 Evolve Carbon $2160.

Finally, the One Wheel is not exactly a skateboard. There is no remote, it looks more like a balance board with a large wheel. I have watched a guy in our neighborhood rip on one and it looks fun. The original One Wheel has a 5-7 mile range, the new model claims 12-18 miles. Top speed of 12 mph and no remote to deal with, your body is the remote. This one will have a learning curve since it is another self-balancing device, but you ride it much the same as you ride a snowboard so that makes sense to me. However, it rolls in at 25 pounds and looks like it might be more awkward to carry than my EUC and I anticipate some similar hill start issues, or maybe not. The One Wheel come in at $1500 to $1800 depending on the version you get.

Well that is it, I narrowed it down to three and finally picked one of these. Which would you pick? Next time we will unbox my new board and then see if an old guy can learn to ride one of these and eventually commute on it.

Me on my Electric Unicycle

Let’s talk commuting

This site is, generally speaking, about doing fun things, not anything related to work. I prefer to focus on the weekends and vacation time. However, I am making an exception and today we are going to talk about commuting to work. Now hang in here with me for a moment. I know, the commute is worse than working sometimes. I don’t think it has to be that way. Why can’t we add some fun to our daily commute to ease the pain of having to work in between enjoying the weekends?

Let me explain what I mean about adding some fun to your commute. We live in a moderate sized city with adequate public transportation. Traffic can be, and usually is, horrible everywhere around Seattle. Geographically speaking building roads in Seattle is a challenge. The greater metropolitan area is bounded by mountains to the east, and Puget Sound to the west. Between that the land is punctuated by lakes. Needless to say, many commuters that use cars spend up to an hour or more in traffic each way, every day. For several years I was one of those sitting for hours in my car. Then I made a change.

Today, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. For the past 11 years I’ve been working in downtown Seattle. I have had various commuting strategies over the years. I have driven of course. I have also ridden a bicycle, walked a few times, taken the bus, light rail and had a sort of hybrid commute. This brings me to my point of introducing some fun to your daily commute.

My commute is around 6 miles each way. I am able to fairly easily use transit to get to and from work each day. I have two transit options. First there is a bus stop at the end of the block where I live. The bus goes downtown, very close to my office. It takes about 35 minutes door to door.  However, my bus is infrequent. It is scheduled every 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, I can take the light rail which takes about 10 minutes and there are trains every few minutes. Unfortunately the train is almost 2 miles from my house and there isn’t parking at the train station. I can walk, but that adds a significant amount of time. I can get a ride but then that I need to rely on someone else. This is the “Last Mile Commute Problem”. Last year I did some experimenting to solve this problem.

Riding my Longboard on Whidbey

Riding my Longboard

Last year I rode my longboard to and from the bus station occasionally. Yep, I am a middle aged man riding a skateboard. Now that added a measure of fun. Unfortunately, I can only ride it about a mile because we live up a significant hill and I wind up walking up and down the hill. Then I got even more creative and I learned to ride an Electric Unicycle. Now the EUC works, more or less. I can ride it both downhill and uphill. The Segway Ninebot One S1 that I bought has a top speed of around 12 miles per hour. It is fun to ride and solves the “last mile” commute problem. However, it comes with some challenges.

Me on my Electric Unicycle

Me on my Electric Unicycle

The major problem with the unicycle is that starting is tricky and if you need to start going uphill then I need to find something to hold onto. You start by kicking like you would on a skateboard then stepping on. With a hill that is a no go. Between navigating traffic and the hills I wind up starting and stopping a bunch, if I have to go uphill I wind up needing to walk. Verdict on the Electric Unicycle is that it takes about the same amount of time to get home as it would if I just rode my skateboard.

The past year, learning to ride the EUC and doing some commuting on it has intrigued me about solving the last mile commute problem. The EUC might be the solution but there are other vehicles out there that are electric and compact and light enough to carry onto transit. This year I am going to try to solve the problem with an Electric Skateboard. Since I skateboard already this feels like maybe a good solution. We are going to find out together if this old guy can learn a new trick or two.

Riding my Longboard down the road

Riding my Longboard down the road

The next article we will examine how I have selected the Electric Skateboard that I am going to use to learn and commute aboard. We will look at the different features and how I made my decision.